A Different Temporal Politics ?

Lightly pressed, zig-zagging, and non-confident is the line I want to ever so cautiously draw to distinguish the sort of informatizing that 1) engluts the “inforg” from the sort that 2) revitalizes familial, cultural, and community shards, enshrouding them with metadata and re-siting them for a while maybe longer (if max-accessibly, or openly, all the better). In Non-Things, Han writes “This terrestrial order is today being replaced by the digital order. The digital order de-reifies the world by informatizing it” (1). The short book goes on to deliver on this premise. “Inforg”, according to Han, comes off the bench, subbing in for Dasein. And we humans are changed; for me, Han’s language—his theory made as art—pointilates felt senses, impressions, and hunches that have visited. I want to scrawl that line between 1) and 2) above because the informatizing, as much as it fuels estrangement from the terrestrial realm (Are those kids outside playing soccer I hear? No.), we still have rhetorical non-things (e.g., memories) that may be informatizing while at once mediating many of the human effects Han also values: community, sited culture, and old things. Thus, I am making sense of Non-Things with full acknowledgement that, yes, for the most part, material culture is losing the hold it once held; but, with this, there do seem to be at least a few exceptions (archives, languages, artifacts, recipes, etc.). Perhaps informatizing is nevertheless a seductive postponement, or a kind of rain delay; gones still go gone, but at a slower clip. Not tooooodaaaaay, inforg. Not today.

Time again! On page 7, Han writes, “Everything that stabilizes human life is time-consuming. Faithfulness, bonding, and commitment are time-consuming practices. The decay of stabilizing temporal architectures, including rituals, makes life unstable. The stabilization of life would require a different temporal politics” (7).

I have not yet read Adrian Little’s book, Temporal Politics, though the table of contents has me nodding with curiosity. And that I was re-reading Han for class while Jenni Odell’s Saving Time sat on the couch next to me—a book I’ve only just begun—suggests I have more work to do with fanning out this idea of temporal politics, reading more on the heels of others who have built upon or with this idea. In consideration of first principles, I associate it with a cosmological tension we discussed in ENGL6344: Rhetoric in Digital Environments a couple of weeks ago: Do you conceive of time as a line? A circle? Or both? And it reminds me, too, of the U.S. voter suppression efforts that have shifted from redistricting and gerrymandering as a spatial phenomenon to, in recent years, a temporal phenomenon (i.e., gerrymandering time as yet another push to discourage certain kinds of voting). As a third arrow, I considered who do we know whose temporal politics is already different. Besides yogis and ghosts and chickens, I don’t feel especially sure. Cicadas, black walnuts, crows, earthworms1I pose this casually and playfully but don’t mean for it to be flippant. Here I am not wanting to take nematode politics far, but celebrate these kin whose living burials, growth layers, and durative patterns are refreshingly mysterious.. There are plenty of examples of time figuring into politics (the deeply gray prospect of octogenarian presidential candidates, lifetime appointments for supreme court justices, the dinky leadership terms in low-level orgs like condo associations, boards of supervisors, and higher ed admins, and so on). I mention this not to plant a flag in the matter but instead to wonder aloud, to write, an intransitive verb.

Recast with discplinary prefixtures, the passage from Han also surprises with a dismount of a different, potentially also-heavy, gravity: “Everything that stabilizes [disciplinary] life is time-consuming. Faithfulness, bonding, and commitment are time-consuming practices. The decay of stabilizing temporal [disciplinary] architectures, including rituals, makes [disciplinary] life unstable. The stabilization of [disciplinary] life would require a different temporal politics” (7). List decays. Note gones. This is [disciplinary] living.

I set out, above all, to underscore just how personally appealing is this different temporal politics. I like the idea. I’m already learning how, listening to the seasons, senses halved, senses doubled, groundward and skyward.

Notes

  • 1
    I pose this casually and playfully but don’t mean for it to be flippant. Here I am not wanting to take nematode politics far, but celebrate these kin whose living burials, growth layers, and durative patterns are refreshingly mysterious.

Keyhole, Threshold, Breach ?️

Han’s Hyperculture ends with

The human of the future will most likely not be crossing thresholds, his face contorted in pain. The human of the future will be a tourist, smiling serenely. Should we not welcome that human as homo liber? Or should we rather, following Heidegger or Handke, remain a homo dolores, petrified into a threshold? In his Phantasien der Wiederholung, Handke writes:

When you feel the pain of thresholds, then you are not a tourist; the crossing is possible.

Hyperculture, p. 83

Oh, there in the how-long-from-now human future, these threshold-crossers, their dispositions, their expressions. Are they in pain? Are they joyful? Are they free? Are they sorrowful? Are we them, and they us? Hyperculture, published in German in 2005, then in English in 2022, hints at cultural accelerationism, and I truly have not resolved how I feel about that. Like, it’s going this way, so let us cut out the lollygagging. I admire, and also sympathize with, the sorrowful threshold-crosser more than with the tourist, perhaps because I have known them, or have believed sites harbor something not available in the same ways with the hyper-/siteless. Something elemental.

I suspect I’m not the only one.

And yet. The serenely smiling tourist, being-in-the-whizzing-flatlands-or-whatever, maybe is more carefree-casual than free, per se, liber leaving room for nuances, and maybe the smile, then, is from the prevailing winds at sea combined with flacid risorious muscles. “It looked like a smile.” And, too, smiles have been known from time to time to shield sorrows. I don’t know. I am not looking for trouble. But sitting with the puzzle, Han’s questions, and enjoying the time they take to think through—this puzzlement is its own kind of tourism, I suppose.

With this point about the sorrow known by threshold crossers, Mieville’s The City and Eht Ytic (2009) comes to mind, and especially the contingencies and strangely doubled boundaries of cross-hatched zones (notably not contact zones, despite their co-occupancy and shared coordinates) and the breach, who are able to exist across the dimensions. With cross-hatching and the breach, I am more or less satisfied with these models for a both-and response to Han’s questions: yes, to the tourist smiling serenely, but yes, also, to the sorrowful capacity of the human who still carries a key to a home that is no longer, or whose shoes carry imprints of pebbles underfoot whenever ago. The both-and, liberdolores, the breach, in an indefinitely cross-hatched and continuously redistricted world makes for a more interesting human, and a more openly possible future.