3. Affirmative Speculation

Affirmative speculation is founded on a paradox: it functions and thrives by concerning itself with an uncertainty that must not be reduced to manageable certainties. By definition, affirmative speculation lives by thinking in the vicinity of the unthinkable (rather than by asserting that the unthinkable is in principle always thinkable, knowable, calculable, and so on). As a mode of radical experimentation with the future, it experiments with those futures that are already here and now and yet are different from the here and now. Paradoxically, in affirmative speculation—and hence at a moment of potent self-affirmation—what we affirm is something that has the potential to undo us: this is not, in other words, a self-congratulatory affirmation of what we are; it is, rather, an affirmation of what we might become.

If firmative speculation produces, exploits, and forecloses potentialities, what does affirmative speculation do? Another recursive formula: affirmative speculation sabotages the exploitation of potentialities, produces the common, and opens up innumerable possibilities (unpredictable and, therefore, singular). An affirmative speculation also parleys in potentialities, but it does so somewhat differently. Prototypes, for example, whose context of actualization has not fully arrived, or may never arrive, are forays in affirmative speculation. The prototype, the alpha version, is made to test a concept with the expectation of bugs, kinks, failures—knowing that the thing itself might not be actualized, and hoping that it will. This is hyperbolized in the work of the Hypothetical Development Organization, which devises alternative plans for derelict buildings in order to generate stories about implausible or impossible futures.[1] Science fiction, too, is a way of opening up the future, affirming the possibility that things could be otherwise—its various scenarios and conceits less often about the future as such than about the present estranged from itself, released to uncertainty and the potential for radical difference.[2] So let us now consider a sampling of speculative practices that materialize such affirmative knowledge—creative, plastic, and playful. From these examples, we will see how affirmative speculation potentiates, virtualizes, concatenates, and worlds.

Speculation Potentiates

If potentiality were, for example, only the potentiality for vision and if it existed only as such in the actuality of light, we could never experience darkness (nor hear silence, in the case of the potentiality to hear). But human beings can, instead, see shadows (to skotos), they can experience darkness: they have the potential not to see, the possibility of privation.
—Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities

What is this withholding, this darkness? It does not cohere with popular understandings of potentiality. He had the potential to become a CEO, a poet, an architect, or a scientist. There are measurable probabilities of success—the capacity, the sheer talent! And appositely, failure: What happened? Why was his potentiality never actualized? What a waste! But Agamben’s close reading of Aristotle’s De Anima (“On the Soul”) suggests otherwise: to have the potentiality to write a poem means to be capable of writing but also to be capable of not writing. A sense of latency, a withholding, even recalcitrance; a not acting, a not sending of inherent force down well-charted pathways, Agamben argues, is central to Aristotle’s notion of “existing potentiality” (as opposed to the generic potentiality for anything to change). One might have the potential to see the color of light and also its absence, darkness. An architect has the specific ability (knowledge, skills) to build and possesses this ability even when it is nonactualized potential. This faculty can be perceived as latent and unrealized: the “presence of an absence,” potentia qua potentia.[3] Such a faculty is expressive everywhere: in stem cells, pluripotent cells that have the ability to specialize in manifold ways; in workers trained to act, who withhold action, scuttling that which demands actualization; in certain technological prototypes with unrealized applications that are never mass manufactured; and so forth. The latency signals proliferating possibilities, a sense of the full abyss, darkness. We have named this “the unknown,” an abyss that some see as threatening: remember Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous “unknown unknowns”? A firmative speculation tames potentiality, measuring and harnessing both potential threats and potential opportunities. But there is also open speculation, affirmative speculation, the sense of unrealized potentiality that routinely sabotages efforts to measure, constrain, or limit.

Take a preeminent articulation of open speculation in our times: the romance with potentiality in the biosciences. The promise of immortality bristles within the turbulent force fields of our cellular life: genomics, molecular biology, synthetic biology. Indeed, biochemists engineer cells; microbiologists defy the limits of mass cellular death with immortal cell cultures; geneticists assemble enormous digital databases of the genome; biotech researchers clone sheep and recombine DNA sequences for enhancing seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables.[4] The gene lures biophysicists, biochemists, molecular biologists, geneticists, information theorists, and artists alike. They produce the gene as a complex epistemic object, embodying speculations on inheritance and the desire for surplus life. Depending on your poison, you focus on the physical architectures, chemical compositions, or informatic models of the gene: a “fuzzy concept,” as Hans-Jörg Rheinberger maintains, that eludes final epistemological capture.[5] Popular figurations, such as the famous staircase replica of the double helix in Gattaca, index the drive for immortality. Could humans have the potential to live forever? There is gene mapping, regenerative medicine, and cell plasticity; the answers are imminent but as yet not here. But that uncertainty is, precisely, the engine for cutting-edge research.

In this domain of the marvelous, there are protocells. Biochemists and molecular biologists are the new cool. They can now manufacture very basic protocells, simple cells made of oil, salt, and water but with no DNA. Those cells demonstrate lifelike behaviors in their attractions, in their deaths, and in their merging with other cells—indeed in their liveliness as “vibrant matter.”[6] Researchers argue that building these cells, rather than DNA databases, will reveal more about complex cells, about “life itself” and its unrealized potentials. And so protocell chimeras abound, as cultural practitioners speculate cellular potentiality. One celebrity practitioner who has popularized the futures of protocells is Rachel Armstrong, a part of the London-based Advanced Virtual and Technological Architectural Research (AVATAR), who insists we think of the potentiality of the inorganic: dead habitats that can repair themselves, new synthetic materials that can adapt to variable weather patterns, shoes with “proto-soles” sustainable to every foot (figure 13). Her playful film (codirected with Michael Simon Toon) Protocell Circus introduces us to these strange organisms, even as the first protocell buildings hit the platforms for architectural innovation.

Figure 13

Figure 13. Protocell shoe. Shoe design, construction, and photography by Michael Wihart, 1998. Reproduced with permission. © PBAI Michael Wihart.

“Imagine getting up in the morning and seeing the decorations in the halls of your home flutter, shiver and convulse as you walk to the coffee machine. A coating on the walls would lock the carbon dioxide you exhale into carbonate salt and change color as you passed, as if it could ‘smell and taste’ your presence,” runs one account of the living architecture that is made of protocells.[7]At the Venice Biennale in 2010, the architect Philip Beesley and the engineer Rob Gorbet created a junglelike environment bristling with protocells titled Hylozoic Ground (figure 14). Could such living environments repair the sinking reef beneath the sinking city? Could the living shoe be singular to its owner, fluidly interacting with the foot that presses on it? Such marvelous tales from the near future generate a sense of boundless possibilities. With dynamic interactive protocells, all contexts for anticipating chemical processes become singular: that is, all possible actualizations of what the protocell could become cannot be imagined and, therefore, cannot be generalized. And so probabilistic forecasts based on inferred future states disappear; one might even say they become unnecessary in light of this affirmative speculation.

Figure 14

Figure 14. Hylozoic Ground. Philip Beesley, 2010. Reproduced with permission, © PBAI.

In these scenes potentiality seems to belong to the future, always to come. But it is equally the case that past events, unrecognized or ignored, can be the locus of potentiality. Historiographies of subaltern insurgencies or wildcat strikes, those causally unconnected events that will not yield to conventional linear histories, often disclose emergent life forces. Another plotting begins, opening to immeasurable possibilities that might have been, a future anterior that was not—a withholding, a latency. Wildcat strikes are famously undertaken without the sanction of unions; often unofficial industrial action, they are only regarded as strategies in retrospect (as is now the case with the actions of May 1968). These refusals, a leashed holding of skills in reserve, appear as early as the late nineteenth century in the twilight of industrial utopias. In 1894 there was the Pullman Strike in Chicago, launched against the Pullman Palace Car Company’s reduction of wages, when three thousand employees brought the great city to a halt.[8] Such industrial actions are popular among the keepers of the law as well. The blue flu, a wildcat strike when the police force calls in sick, persists in our time. One of the earliest instances was the Victoria Police Strike of 1923, when a sizable contingent of the police force in Melbourne went off work during the Spring Racing Carnival in response to poor workplace conditions made worse by the inclusion of management spooks. Riots and violent clashes between civilians and the remaining police on duty necessitated the induction of thousands of volunteer constables. Many who had refused to work were discharged, but a Royal Commission in the aftermath of the strike led to increased pay and the establishment of a pension.[9] Only looking back does the historian’s eye gather these scattered eruptions as parts of a multileveled emergence whose “causes” require reading gaps in the record or following clues lodged in popular memory (lore, legend, tale, rumor). For historians such as Ranajit Guha who, following Antonio Gramsci, complicate the conception of the proletariat as the historical vanguard, the eruptions of subaltern violence approximate these industrial actions; a reflexive historiography recasts them as precursors to revolution.[10] Georges Bataille might call these outbursts unproductive expenditures of energy, signs of the unconstrained general economy. These outbursts subtract labor power from the productive circuitries of capital, a history of not doing—a not doing that constitutes a doing otherwise.

Among activist intellectuals these insurrectionist actions are outlined in manifestos, prescriptions for alternative futures. This genre encompasses Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1985) as much as the pamphlet guide “How to Protest Intelligently,” which circulated among Egyptian citizens before the fall of Mubarak. As a speculative genre, the manifesto renders unstable the distinction between the prescriptive and the descriptive, what might be done and what has been done. Consider the circumstances surrounding the Invisible Committee’s The Coming Insurrection (published in 2007 in French and officially translated into English in 2009).[11] On November 11, 2008, twenty French youths were arrested in Paris, Rouen, and Tarnac on trumped-up charges of premeditated terror activities, held on suspicion of sabotaging high-speed train lines. A crucial element of the prosecution was their alleged authorship of The Coming Insurrection. Julien Coupat, the last of the so-called Tarnac Nine, was released from “preventative arrest” in May 2009; charges against him were never filed. By July 2009 twenty-seven thousand copies of The Coming Insurrection had been sold. These happenings occupy our imagination when we recast them as precursors to current occupations, particularly those that do not aim to occupy territory as such, but rather to render it unusable through the massification of crowds. The Invisible Committee puts it so: “For us it’s not about possessing territory. Rather, it’s a matter of increasing the density of the communes, of circulation, and of solidarities to the point that the territory becomes unreadable, opaque to all authority. We don’t want to occupy the territory, we want to be the territory.”[12] Territory as darkness; territory as becoming, a creative mondialisation.

There are methods to sensing potentiality, conjectural methods that resemble preprobabilistic speculative practices such as divination or tracking. The great diviners read events (omens, portents), practiced augury (reading animal innards), or sortilege (throwing the die); they noted shapes, relations, and patterns passed down from teacher to student, a priesthood of futurologists. In his essay “Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock Holmes,” the historian Carlo Ginzburg maintains that the divinatory impulse persists in the most rational of analytic methods: detection. Detection relies on testimony, on reading scattered signs, on common lore, in order to intuit microhistorical forces not accessible in macroindicators.[13] Such historiographies of potentiality give rise to speculative archives that achieve evidentiary status under conditions of political repression. The Speculative Archive is the name of the collaboration between the Los Angeles–based artists Julia Meltzer and David Thorne. Engaged in poetic revision of official state-sponsored or corporate efforts to “project and claim visions of the future,” the duo made a video in 2006 about an unfinished building in Damascus, Syria—a large unfinished structure at the center of the city (in Martyr’s Square) slated to become a shopping mall built on a demolished Mamluk mosque. The idea was to explore popular claims over the processes of urbanization, a global “right to the city,” David Harvey notes, expressive all over the world as megacity projects mushroom.[14] Named Marquez Bassel al-Assad, after the son of late president Hafez al-Assad, the Damascus building commenced in 1982 (even though the first plans go back to 1967) but remained unfinished until 2006, the year Meltzer and Thorne released their film, We don’t like it as it is but we don’t know what we want it to be. In twenty-four interviews, including one from which the title is taken, we learn that Bassel Al-Assad was tragically killed in 1994. At that point the Syrian government decided to name the building after him. And yet the building sat unfinished, withheld, a maw at the heart of the bustling city; by 2005 rumors that it was sinking had begun to circulate. There was speculation that only the planned mosque attached to the shopping mall would be finished, and the rest would become dust; in fact the weight of pilgrim feet coming to the new mosque, crisscrossing Martyr’s Square, would prevent the building from ever rising. In 2006 the debate ended when the Assad government placed a banner atop the structure facing Martyr’s Square: “Syria is breathing patriotism.”[15] But a speculative archive endures and, with it, evidence of urban aspirations and desires for the city yet to come materialized in urban networks. In the Meltzer and Thorne video, the building becomes a network in the collective work of open, creative speculation. Future anteriors abound, but there are no goals, outcomes, or programs. Those are left to the rich and to the state. The popular claims are indeterminate, neither avowedly religious nor fully secular; without any secure ground, all that remains is to intuit an imaginary city unavailable to official histories. In the context of the present political repression in Syria, the work of the Speculative Archive appears especially significant as a microhistory: one that documents popular antagonism toward the Bashar al-Assad government that had been fermenting for years before the Syrian chapter of the Arab Spring began in 2011.

Where causality will not hold, one senses connections. Aristotle regarded this as a faculty, a presence of absence: in their experience of darkness, humans intuitively know they can see. The point cannot be missed, for there are those who will return to intuition to elaborate a sense of cosmic connection. This is a different speculative science, one that opens into an abyss without fear. Baruch Spinoza pursued this cosmological sense in his work on intuition as a “third type of knowledge”—the highest sense.[16] Consider Spinoza’s taxonomy: there is a first knowledge that he calls imagination (that is, all representational knowledge based on sensory perceptions and semiotic systems, hence language of any kind); then a second knowledge that he calls reason (nonrepresentational knowledge based on common notions, that is, based on general or universal concepts); and finally a third knowledge, namely, intuition (nonrepresentational knowledge that understands the essence of things by deducing them from the essence of God). Importantly, here the essence of things in their power, their potentiality, is always singular. That is, no two things may share an essence in common, and hence this is a specifically nonessentialist notion of essence. Like the diviners who sought a transcendental guarantor for their foresight, for Spinoza the third type of knowledge cleaves us to God, but a God now reconceptualized as immanent substance, the concatenation of all things, the ontological connectivity of everything. Hence, intuition is also the highest kind of knowledge: a knowledge that is not abstract, uninterested, indifferent knowledge; a knowledge that is no longer simply, merely knowledge, but rather a knowledge that affects us profoundly and transforms us radically, which is why Spinoza calls it the love of God. We shall return to concatenations shortly, and to love, expanding the sense of ontological connectivity into a secular register. But to underscore the point we are making here: an affirmative speculation relying on intuition senses the networked materiality of all things. It apprehends something latent, something unexpressed but possible.

A creative speculation potentiates knowledge, learning to learn from other human and nonhuman actors in this cosmic drama.[17] When the tsunami hit Sri Lanka in December 2004, government officials involved in the staggering human body count wondered at the lack of animal carcasses. Many of the animals and birds, such as the flamingos that nested near sites hit by the tsunami, had fled to the hills three days before.[18] Scientists now hope to harness that potential, that knowledge of coming dangers. Those who are preoccupied with wars against nonhuman agents attempt to mimic their faculties. The United States Defense Advance Projects Agency (DARPA), for one, has launched Operation Prophecy to simulate thinking like a virus. In these scenarios the human no longer seems the central protagonist of cultural, social, or political life. To intuit the future is to move beyond human faculty. On this point, however, the uncertain commons are not agreed. There are those among us who are inclined to think with the sciences and move beyond the human: to the posthuman, or the nonhuman agents of history. There are others among us for whom imagination, reason, and intuition are inimitably human categories, for whom intuition as capacity to sense ontological connectivity is a human yet impersonal quality—a potential to sense connections, to feel the density of bodies as they intermingle in communes, at festivals, on dance floors. What all of us do agree on is that modernity has systematically devalued intuition and that intuition has an affinity with what we have been calling affirmative speculation.

Technology in this equation has an uncertain status. As Heidegger suggests, it can harness the power of nature with terrifying consequences, or it can materialize possibilities in a tool, especially in the prototype. Consider the controversial Transborder Immigrant Tool, a collaborative hack of used cell phones that converts them into GPS-enabled devices that migrants can use to locate highways and caches of fresh water while crossing the U.S.–Mexico border. It was fashioned by Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0 (composed of Ricardo Dominguez, Brett Stalbaum, Amy Sara Carroll, Micha Cárdenas, and Elle Mehrmand). Planned for distribution to immigrant communities (built on a Motorola i455 phone, available for under forty dollars and requiring no service for GPS functionality), the project met with substantial legal and political resistance in the United States. Critics alleged that the tool “encouraged” illegal immigrants to undertake risky crossings, while admirers celebrated the simple tool’s life-saving potentialities (for example, directing border crossers to water sources in the desert). Designed as a poetic rather than strictly functional entity, the tool is a prototype, a thought experiment, an idea. Even as an idea the tool has disturbed, provoked, and inspired, and the realization of that idea has been vigorously policed. In the name of the abstract ideals of human rights, hospitality, and justice, the artists took a speculative leap of faith, in the process making themselves available to very real risks. In the right conditions, the tool could reform the experience of the journey through the desert and even save lives; as a prototype its potential has not yet been fulfilled, not because of a withholding but because it is perceived as too radical a technology, so its context of actualization (patents, manufacturing licenses, distribution rights) must be blocked. It has not yet gone into legitimate production, though it might. It has not yet been conceptually captured by political agendas, though it might. The Transborder Immigrant Tool certainly emerges from a deeply critical view of the apparatus of state security, but its point (goal, program) is not strictly defined. It dares however to make legal threats into opportunities, to insist upon poiesis rather than rational explanation, and to imagine more hospitable and illicit worlds in which we live in common.

Quite another scenario is in play for nuclear energy technologies. Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986) circles the vexed epistemic object, atomic energy, the light inside that is invisible but that can kill humans, animals, and plants. Known for his ecological allegories, Miyazaki names a fabled castle in the sky once powered by nuclear energy Laputa, after Jonathan Swift’s marvelous flying island in Gulliver’s Travels (1726/1735), written in the first gasp of modern capitalist expansionism. In Laputa, a rambunctious adventure, the two child protagonists learn that the castle fell into ruin because the power hungry sought to steal, harness, and profit from the fire of gods, nuclear energy. Uncle Pomme, an old miner, recounts the tale of the mysterious, forgotten element called aetherium, a pure (unfissured) crystal that Sheeta, the girl protagonist, wears around her neck. In its natural form, the rock is benign, even magical. Its power once lit up the kingdom of Laputa. But it can become a catastrophic weapon when actualized for profit. The film’s melancholia responds to a disenchanted modernity: the potential for a technological civilization in harmony with nature once existed but was lost, shattered by human violence and myopia. Atomic light blinds. Yet in the darkness of the old industrial mine the children find an atomic priesthood: the old miner who remembers the lore of the resplendent Laputa. He passes this knowledge to the children, a speculative giving that potentiates a different future—a reenchanted lifeworld, an ecological utopia yet to come.

If Miyazaki’s atomic fantastic suggests an occulted potentiality that might yet be uncovered, Michael Madsen’s speculative documentary Into Eternity (2010) probes the hubris of secrecy. It takes the spectator into the belly of the earth where the state plans to lock away the detritus of human civilization and excessive consumption: nuclear waste. A state-of-the-art facility, Onkalo (Finnish for “hiding place”) is a nuclear waste storage site to be located under granite and to be sealed by concrete for the hundred-thousand-year duration of active radiation. Lighting a match in the cavernous facility, Madsen addresses a future “you” who might not be able to read the signs of danger that “we,” humans of this present, leave behind (figure 15). The wavering flame is both the light inside you, who might disregard the warnings, but also ironically reminiscent of the potentially radioactive flare that “lives” for a hundred thousand years. It is not the atom, Miyazaki’s pure undivided beautiful crystal, that is the threat in this speculative documentary but the impossibility of imagining futures at this geological scale of deep time. In what context will the messages and warnings of danger from the present be actualized? Madsen suggests it is not possible to anticipate whether or not human secrecy, the efforts to occult what should have remained untouched, will hold. The greatest threat is human intrusion, the human curiosity that might make “you” uncover Onkalo and open those gleaming copper canisters full of waste. The human potentiality for knowledge—the drive behind opening the pyramids when entry was forbidden, Madsen explains—can be dangerous, much like the living fire inside the canisters. The spectator intuits danger, especially when told that the Finnish facility is a transposable one, the model for all nations struggling to contain their nuclear waste. The director’s voiceover is of the present, but the camera that ventures tentatively into the dark tunnel is the vision of someone in the future. The “documentary” becomes the conjectural, partial knowledge that the present human collective leaves behind. Projected into a time when human languages may well be lost, perhaps all that is left is apprehension of a dangerous presence. Affirmative speculation passes on this sense in oral speculative media: in legend, lore, and story. Like Miyazaki, Madsen, addressing a younger “you,” admonished future generations not to enter the void: “do not come here,” he repeats in desperation to the abyss, “there is nothing for you here.” Perhaps common knowledge passed from generation to generation, like the knowledge passed from Uncle Pomme to Sheeta, is the only means of protection, Madsen might argue—in other words, an atomic priesthood. In this way, the speculative documentary becomes a vernacular archive not found in the annals of history. It enriches our sense of darkness, so that we come to know the costs of light.

Figure 15

Figure 15. Into Eternity. Directed by Michael Madsen, 2010.

Speculation Virtualizes

A life contains only virtuals. It is made of virtualities, events, singularities. What we call virtual is not something that lacks reality but something that is engaged in a process of actualization following the plane that gives it its particular reality. The immanent event is actualized in the state of things and of the lived that make it happy.
—Gilles Deleuze, “Immanence: A Life”

At the end of his own life, Gilles Deleuze writes of a remarkable character in Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, a most disagreeable man on his dying bed. Everyone who has hated the man feels sympathy and concern toward him, fleetingly. Achieving “beatitude,” he too experiences sweetness. At this moment in between life and death, he is neither external nor internal, neither object nor subject, Deleuze explains; he is purely “life” experienced in its raw, untranslatable singularity. As he returns from the brink of death, the people who had hated him again grow cold; he is that man again, the object. He too withdraws into himself, as hard as ever, once more a subject actualized as an individual, once more the usurer, the charlatan. The parable forwards Deleuze’s rumination on life, every life with its own immanence. For Deleuze, a life is made of events in the process of actualization, always a becoming.[19] It materializes along a surface, a “plane of immanence” encountered, occasionally, through the senses: “virtualities, events, singularities” always in the process of becoming, vitalities that have not been used up, potentialities that have not yet been exploited.[20] To find such a life, it is necessary to look for those in-between moments.

We have been arguing for the touch of the unknown, the touch of events still coming. This portrait of the virtual, of its always unfinished communication, forwards our thesis regarding media. Speculation depends on mediation, as we have seen with risk media. A singular life is firmly directed toward probable states, generalized, estimated, measured, and constrained. But perhaps affirmative speculation opens to these singularities, these virtualities, its practices “hitting” the body in affect and percept and countering the entire history of speculation in its prioritizing of vision and the visual at the expense of other sensorial experiences.

Artworks, for instance, synthesize the sensible.[21] Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s 2010 Recorders exhibit at the Manchester Art Gallery performed the work of sensory intensification by staging an encounter between the continuous scanning of our bodily experiences and movements on the one hand (CCTV, biometrics, biomedical imaging) and the impossibility of a totalizing capture on the other. Recorders brought together a set of his recent installations that rely upon the tropes and techniques of surveillance—“recorders” that appropriate the vital signs and pocket contents of the gallery visitors as media.[22] These installations involve literal crowdsourcing, the blinking heart-rate sensors, motion detectors, scanners, microphones, and face recognition software recording personal data that is amalgamated for each respective installation—for example, a collage of fingerprints or video images of previous visitors lingering as ghostly traces behind the shadows of those experiencing the work in the present. Pulse Room features hanging light bulbs attached to heart-rate sensors that twinkle as the public walks, stands around, dances, or sits, while Tape Recorders features motorized measuring tapes, regulated by motion sensors, that unspool to mark the duration of an individual visit, the length of time a body is physically present in the present. Rather than foregrounding calculation, and thereby the management of bodies, security and medical technologies interact with the crowd’s movements and stillness, desires and discomforts, and the intensities and flows of the visitors who move through the art space.

These thrills and sensations harness the “play drive,” that primordial life instinct that is organized as culture: dance becomes choreography or specific dance styles, and improvisatory beats become harmony, as Johan Huizinga explains in his groundbreaking Homo Ludens (1938). Play precedes normalization, the establishing of rules, and the firming of actions into contest. A speculative, otherworldly activity, play is uninterested in permanence and teleological structure; it is its own purpose. Modernity degrades play, and yet it persists, for civilization “arises in and as play, and never leaves it.”[23] Jacques Derrida revises Huizinga’s melancholic observations, which were written as Europe hovered at the brink of war, into a “freeplay” that underwrites and constantly undoes logos, a law-bound presence.[24] Free playing thus necessarily inhabits the most structured and scripted of game environments. As Huizinga suggests, echoing Georges Bataille’s theorization of unproductive expenditures, both the contest (a structure with iterable formulae) and play (the free play of elements, singularities, within it) exist together within the space of the game.[25] There is no firmative horizon in these speculations of a world to come, in these lifeworlds rendered sensible, for example, in massively multiplayer games or alternate reality games that depend on the contingencies of play. Risk and venture, after all, share their connotative field with that of adventure and play, just as piracy shares its claims with crime and the breaking of the law.

The virtual may be understood as a rigorous free play against binding structures, acts of sabotage that constitute participatory networks. In this light the iconic moment of the demonstrations at the University of California, Davis, in November 2011 was not the image of students facing the pepper spray attack by campus police, remarkable as it was to see such a powerful expression of a generation’s willingness to put bodies on the line and directly confront militarized authority. True, this happening had all the markers of an event: it occupied the singular space and time of the spectacle, its incalculability (in spite of the surplus of recordings) lending itself to mystification and spiritualization. But what instead became iconic was not so precisely situated: the pepper spray cop meme that exploded in the wake of the event, parodying familiar scenes from cultural history and classical artworks alike, some just for fun (figure 16), but some harnessing a longer political history of free play that changed the world (figure 17).

Figure 16

Figure 16. University of California, Davis, pepper spray cop meme. Parody of Jacques Louis David’s The Death of Marat (1793).

Figure 17

Figure 17. University of California, Davis, pepper spray cop meme. Parody of John Paul Filo’s Pulitzer-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio in the aftermath of the Kent State Massacre (1970).

The pepper spray cop meme is an illustrative instance of the use of free play to unsettle the firmative, providing the grounds for improvisation and invention. Play need not necessarily be humorous (witness what Jimi Hendrix does to “The Star-Spangled Banner”: feedback, distortion, dissonance). Rather it produces affirmative futures because it does not foreclose the expansive range of potential latent within the system.

And here we return to Anonymous, which after all was instrumental in the uncovering of the name of the police officer directly responsible for the pepper spray attack.[26] On January 21, 2008, Operation Chanology began with a “declaration of war” against the Church of Scientology, and the Anonymous movement launched as a movement out of the merry pranking of 4chan. On February 10, Anonymous members emerged in public with Guy Fawkes masks for the first time and started to realize the magnitude of the international community that had formed. As one member describes the day:

I remember thinking, am I going to be the only one in the park? Am I going to walk to Scientology with fucking six or seven people, which totally defeats the entire purpose of this because now they can single me out? Then I get up and I start walking around and I see there is a lot of green balloons over there for some reason, on the other side of the park. There was like fucking 200 people. There were Guy Fawkes masks everywhere and I’m like, holy shit, this is huge. . . . I had no idea how many Anons there were until we started moving.[27]

The potential of Anonymous as a collective is precisely this uncertain aspect: it can be anything and everything. Thus its ironic logo mimics that of the UN, extending a promise of future solidarity premised upon the actions of the faceless protestor whose touch would reorient the “state of things” (figure 18). Its predominant technique is still the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, which it has used in various operations, including against the Australian government and the Motion Picture Association of America in relation to censorship and piracy issues, as well as in operations against financial companies that have refused payments to Wikileaks (Visa, MasterCard, PayPal). But the political project the movement has claimed for itself is the identification of the exploit, the Achilles’ heel of any given network, with a particular investment in cracking systems that themselves exploit, as well as capitalize upon and control.[28] In their pranks and DDoS attacks alike, they refuse state and corporate information monopolies and work to sabotage all attempts to foreclose the multiplicities of the singular event. In an age when information is the dearest good, the mythologized figure of the hacker emerges as a heroic protagonist engaged in creative destruction, in “producing the new out of the old.”[29]

Figure 18

Figure 18. Anonymous logo.

Hackers may exploit the possibility of spaces but they are not inherently or necessarily utopian.[30] We know of malevolent worms that monitor, spy, or steal in illicit economies of data mining and data commerce. And then there is hacking that simply aims to destroy—no occupation intended, no identifiable security breach for economic or political gain. As early as 1971, Bob Thomas’s Creeper worm copied itself into the remote system of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) with the message, “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can.” Similarly, with the dawn of the new millennium came the Love Bug, also known as the ILOVEYOU worm, written by Onel de Guzman, a computer science student, for his thesis. These too are free play. The touch of the worm across its plane of immanence is felt as it becomes. An affirmative speculation that parleys in the new, a setting in motion, is not attached to social values, to good or great things. Nevertheless, a virtual community, open in form, appears in the linkages between workers, with no or minimal net access, and an indeterminate number of hackers united in illegality—a distributed common, but not one demarcated by protocols that determine membership.

There are age-old forms of sabotage known to revolutions, age-old technologies such as word of mouth. Open speculation—rumor as a form of doing or making happen—has long gathered a possible communitas. Recall Ranajit Guha’s analytic of the rumor as the trigger of peasant insurgency. Fleeting, anonymous in its source, intersubjective, and fueled by an uncontrollable impulse to pass on, rumors were codes for political thinking that put to rest any notion of peasant irrationality. Their transmission exposed the multiplicities of decolonization obscured by the Gandhian shadow. The rumor potentiates a possible social to come, as yet virtual, an event, or the potential for an event that has not yet been actualized. A more chilling corporeal sense, this time of bare life where one does not even own one’s organs, is produced by the rumors from the poorest sections of Brazil’s population: rumors of blue-and-white taxis kidnapping the children of the poor; rumors of the children’s bodies found on garbage heaps the next morning, sans livers and kidneys.[31] Rumor is received as real and expands what is known, thereby opening up sites for critical reflection, in this context a virtuality that senses the structural violence of disposability.

A dissolving, a making new, is at hand in the demands for new linkages, new concatenations with transformative power. People meet in the streets; sudden crowds united in social relation before (or to create) public spectacles, sensibly unified by touch, sight, or sound. These concatenations virtualize speculative globalities, unformed and becoming, open to unfolding vicissitudes, open before history.

Speculation Concatenates

One day this kid will get larger. One day this kid will come to know something that causes a sensation equivalent to the separation of the earth from its axis. . . . This kid will be faced with electro-shock, drugs, and conditioning therapies in laboratories. He will be subject to loss of home, civil rights, jobs, and all conceivable freedoms. All this will begin to happen in one or two years when he discovers he desires to place his naked body on the naked body of another boy.
—Text from David Wojnarowicz, Untitled (1990)

The incantatory text surrounds a black-and-white image of the artist as a young boy, groomed, in a white checkered shirt and suspenders. Short hair, cute overbite. The prophetic subjunctive, the “will be,” conveys the irrevocable violence of the social segregation the smiling boy will experience as a cosmic shift. And he will resist it with all his vitality in this memorable expression of biopotenza (politics of life) constrained by biopotere (politics over life).[32] There have always been controls over biological existence, a politics over life; but then there has always been the politics of life, vital surges against controls, ungovernable emergences. Here it erupts in this all-American boy. Here, a memory of biopotenza in the sumptuous productions of David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992), painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist, and activist, prominent in the New York art world of the 1980s.

The image from 1990 of the probable life (“one day”) of the paradigmatic white American queer boy serves as a fitting answer to Ronald Reagan’s refusal to speak of the “unclean” virus until the death of Ryan White (a nine-year-old child who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion). The piece also mourns the “queer” as nonnormative sexual practices, lifestyles, and epistemologies. Eschewing the fixing of identity, by the early 1980s queer had stabilized as the ground of unbounded possibilities. But in Wojnarowicz, those are foreclosed with violence: the child with only one future, invisible to national projects of social reproduction. It represents a different time. Yet notably, the figure of the kid living the subjunctive has also featured prominently in the national conversation on bullying that followed the sensational suicide of Tyler Clementi in 2010.[33]

Against genocidal silence, the visceral implosion of boundaries—body, social world, religious affiliation, city space—in Wojnarowicz’s writings, paintings, videos, and performance art invited opprobrium and censure. His video Fire in My Belly, featuring the operatic performer Diamanda Galas, with its sequence of ants crawling over a crucifix, so offended the Catholic League and the U.S. Congress that a predictable controversy over public funding of art erupted (figure 19). (In an uncanny replay of the controversies over Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe, House GOP leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor were instrumental in overseeing the expulsion of the work from the Smithsonian.)

Figure 19

Figure 19. A Fire in My Belly. Directed by David Wojnarowicz, 1986–1987.

The screeching soundtrack, with Galas wailing “unclean” a thousand times, made the replication and spread of the virus palpable—the screams, the crawl, the needle in flesh, a sensorial cavalcade against the presidential silence on the new plague. In retrospect this piece from 1987 appears prophetic in its performance of embodied connection to bodies at risk, linking the spectator with the spreading sonic reverberations of the avant-garde aria and stitching, stapling, cutting, burning the body to disperse it into the communitas. The film came out the same year Surgeon General Everett Koop sent out an eight-page advisory with details about safe and unsafe sexual practices to 107 million households across the United States, offending both conservatives (including his boss) and gay activists (for the stereotyping). Two signals, artwork and memo, both speculations on concatenation and unassailable connectivity: the memo evoking prohibitions on bodily contact, and the film opening into hitherto unknown bodies, as no immunizing regime could contain HIV, as was imagined, to the East Village or the bathhouses of San Francisco.

Much has been said of HIV/AIDS activism of this period; much has been criticized and mourned. It is not as if activists would not call for security against the virus; indeed, the fight for funding AIDS research was long and bitter. It is still ongoing, now particularly against the patenting of drugs. But there is an affirmative speculation in the insistence on love, bodily pain, and pleasure against prohibitions and abstinence: biopotenza against biopotere, a living-in-common marked by the possibility of loss. The present debate of the common as a mutuality of interests has been fierce and expansive. There is the common of well-demarcated coteries (of humans, of species, of all living organisms) who are believed to share essential traits, goals, or interests, a closed circuit of actors, and then the common of “those who have nothing in common,” a sense of ontological connectivity with others, virtualities not yet here, or instead, here and not yet recognizable, representable.[34] Those others place demands on what appears as mine: my liberty, my property, my security, my protections. Modern social contracts turn us away from this perception, confirming individual rights protected against loss. They immunize against that loss, against “others” who might take what “I” have, and therefore against community. Those others might be vulnerable populations whose precarity threatens, or it may be other living organisms, microbial life, viruses, pathogens, struggling to survive just as humans do; the touch of the other feels uncanny, an uncommon sense of the common.[35] As we have seen, the socializing force of firmative speculation secures against the common, turning the other into the enemy. There are quarantines, camps, security zones, guarded ports, and borders; they register a weird sense of connectivity, even while immunizing against a more radical sociality.

There is a word for such sociality: concatenation, the ontological connectivity of all things. Speaking of memory, in part one of Ethics, Spinoza notes: “If the human body has once been affected by two or more bodies at the same time, when the mind afterward imagines any of them, it will straightway remember the others also.”[36] Concatenation, he suggests, is embodied connection, and to sense such connection is a kind of love. This concatenation is also God, simultaneously its own cause as well as the cause and the essence of all things. To sense one’s singularity or potentiality in this schema is also to sense what inheres in all things, that which binds them together—in short, to sense their concatenations. Another way of putting it: to sense the concatenation of all things, including all human bodies, is to love. In religious thought, as in ethics and philosophy, such reason informs human empathy and motivates community. That reason persists, if in different guise, in secular humanism and later in posthumanism: that sense of noncausal, associative relations that can be explained not as the touch of divine essence but either as the founding logic of the communitas or as an eco-logic of living in a networked system.

On these logics, we, the uncertain commons, are also not in agreement. There are those among us who remain committed to the human as the subject of politics and therefore to concatenations that speculatively open us to a greater social, a multitude whose horizons cannot be foreclosed as a village, nation, world, or community.[37] And there are those for whom distributed subjectivity, a network of living organisms, of cybernetic and human assemblages or of organic and inorganic matter, are the forms of the collective. But we are all agreed that we live in a distributed mode. We live “in common,” shaped less by a shared trait, goal, or project than by networks, human and/or nonhuman.

Affirmative speculation is not speculative science that seeks methods, procedures, or norms for all seasons; rather, it is a type of contingent knowledge found in practices of speculative living. Memories that smell like gasoline, as Wojnarowicz evocatively noted, provide one example of living concatenated, living distributed in a common marked by the loss of individuation, during the (by now well-documented) HIV/AIDS epidemic of the precocktail era. Activists, writers, and art practitioners privileged informal networks of information and care against institutions ready to “let die” disposable populations. The major push for social change, as the history of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) reveals, targeted public policy, the funding of HIV/AIDS research, as well as preventive (clean needles, condoms, advertising) and care (counseling, hospices, alternative medicine) technologies.[38] Scholars reflected on the macabre biopolitics of “letting die,” following Michel Foucault’s provocations, even as artists speculated on living with radical loss, not immunized, not protected, but among the seropositive, the bereaved, and those made destitute by the virus.[39] The radical concatenations explosive in their works are too many to explore; Wojnarowicz will have to suffice. These works, expressive experiments with concatenation, coexist with far more mundane efforts of the period, such as the harvesting of “care networks” and harm-reduction programs. Not the packaged care of the wellness industry, these were communally funded efforts that facilitated the flow of goods (needles, food, hospice spaces) and information. Starting in the mid-1980s, programs like Clean Needles Now moved quickly from being underground mobilizations to vital health services by the early 1990s. Their presence foregrounds the inevitable connectivity of drugs, bodies, or viruses, those vital circulations that modern societies take as their primary target—to be regulated, reconfigured, and controlled. Public health services, state run or activist, calculate and intervene in these vital circulations, trying to secure them for collective futures but unable to eliminate those social behaviors on which human societies depend. The key question circles the constitution of the collective: Whose future is at stake?

Concatenation is not only a “linking together” or the “state of being joined,” as its etymology tells us (from the Latin concatenare), but also an ensemble of actions we might characterize as “circulation” or “communication” that facilitates flows—goods, people, information, energies. Working against the forces of regulation, affirmative speculation engages the ungovernable capillaries and networks of a circulatory system. Biomedical and social control mechanisms seek the obliteration of viral emergence, while the vaunted freedoms of the Internet face daily attempts at curtailment. And so the return of biopotenza as creative sabotage. Open collectives such as Anonymous invite all hackers to mobilize their expertise against acts of censorship, security initiatives, and punitive measures, tracing lines of flight that hope to evade state or corporate controls. They crisscross, move over, under, across, or parallel to the legal, the institutional, and commercial pathways; they appear and disappear, lie fallow or erupt unexpectedly. They emerge as the unhomely within.

The ubiquitous sharing of pirated media offers another instance of concatenation. The anarchic, lawless pirate, hostis humani generis (“enemy of the human race”) of first-century BC Roman law, is ever an ambivalent figure, at once a verminlike and visionary hero who maintains parallel sovereignties threatening to monarchies, empires, and nations. Pirates surf the open waters of ambiguous jurisdiction and occupy places they do not own; they circulate goods, people, and information across borders and boundaries.[40] They concatenate. At once threatening and fascinating, pirates challenge consensus on what counts as legitimate or as the collective. Sir Francis Drake looted the Spanish Armada for his queen and was knighted for his pains. Pirates were often mobilized as proxy armies for wars between European empires, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean waters. Operating outside normative social structures, pirate communities were known for their camaraderie, horizontal organization, and profligate sexualities. In most accounts—historical, folklore, or literary—pirates are linked to exploration, adventure, and enterprise. No wonder writers have waxed lyrical about piratical formations as the underside of capitalist modernity. These pirates of yore still inhabit the waters; they still make the news. But in our times, the pirate has a dominant avatar: the media pirate who trespasses on intellectual property.

The problem is not new: in the wake of the wide dissemination of the Gutenberg printing press, the first attempt to codify copyright was the Statute of Anne (1710), which prompted a series of legal battles all through the eighteenth century to determine its applicability.[41] In the nineteenth century, the New World was the site of the most egregious copyright infringements. When Charles Dickens visited America in the 1840s, pleading for the enforcement of stricter copyright regulations against the illegal distribution of his books, his protestations fell on deaf ears. Fast forward to the end of the twentieth century: the United States, along with a handful of Western nation-states, finds itself at the head of the global war on media piracy, pitted against countries such as Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia.

With new technologies of reproduction and distribution, new emergences, new concatenations, we have new protocols such as TRIPS, in the aftermath of which there is a good deal of debate over whether or not media piracy, and specifically cheaply reproduced DVD markets, actually constitute revenue loss for Hollywood and other commercial culture industries, including those centered in Hong Kong and Mumbai. Some point out that the expensive multiplexes in India make it impossible for the lower middle and working classes to attend film screenings: an auto driver who rents his three-wheeler for 500 rupees a day is hardly likely to pay 150 or 200 rupees for a single admission. It is therefore not surprising that he would rather purchase a pirated DVD with as many as five or six feature films on it for 30 rupees (or rent it for 10 rupees) and enjoy the films with his entire family (and neighbors, most likely) for several days. If this option were not available, he would probably skip the screenings altogether. So there is in fact no revenue to be had from this segment of the market. Rather, piracy appears as a distribution system that maintains the flow of images, stories, and entertainment across multiple lifeworlds: it concatenates. Cheap pirated DVDs are sold alongside regular market fare—snacks, cosmetics, dried fish, clothing—in local bazaars, markets, and malls all over the world (figure 20).

Figure 20

Figure 20. Pirated DVDs sold at local markets, Imphal, India.

The documentary filmmaker Paromita Vohra’s recent work Partners in Crime (2011) tracks the nexus of media pirates, consumers, producers, distributors, and sellers. Among her many interviewees is an eloquent, young DVD seller who regales us with hilarious accounts of his negotiations with consumers, film distributors, and the police. Not blinded by any reductive economic determinism, his explanation for the flourishing underground markets is, first and foremost, pleasure: “Everybody loves piracy!” With remarkable perspicacity, he notes society’s deep imbrication in the networks of piracy: “we are all in this together.” The camera pans to the full moon benignly looking upon these “gray” circulations, quotidian fare for the poor of the Global South. From the other end of the social spectrum, scholars remind us that piracy can be archival practice for media connoisseurs searching for out-of-distribution movies or live concert recordings: another manifestation of love for the movies or music, another market, another romance.[42] In these accounts piracy appears as efficacious sabotage that creates expanded markets, illicit archives, and sensual worlds.

Working at the interstices of social sanction, legal regulation, and institutional protocols, piracy as affirmative speculation tunes one to vectors, circuits, and flows that are often illicit. Buying and selling remain lively business as media commodities are copied, recycled, and exchanged in mobile transactions. Elsewhere there are subversive worlds of physical momentum: the movement of bodies across segregated spaces, across proliferating security zones and gated communities. In this regard the urban practice of parkour elaborates concatenation as embodied technique. Initially developed as a part of military education, parkour is an energetics (vaulting, rolling, running, climbing) that enables its practitioners, traceurs, to navigate natural or urban environments with incredible speed and efficiency. Popularized by David Belle in France (figure 21), and globally in his star turn in Pierre Morel’s hyperkinetic film District B13 (2004), parkour is the physical prowess to scale, navigate, and cross the borders that separate urban centers from poorer suburbs (the Paris banlieues).

Figure 21

Figure 21. David Belle in action, District B-13. Directed by Pierre Morel, 2004.

The skilled, muscled, lightweight, swift body of the young dissident who refuses containment and vaults over concrete, steel, and glass in search of a dexterous freedom concatenates urban spaces. The thrill-seekers who practice this art form embody a cool urbanity at once elegant, tough, and resourceful. Now the subversive use of localized space in Paris has become a global dynamic cultural form (not unlike hip-hop) practiced on the street, featured in films and theatrical productions, and discussed among online communities. Origin myths, adventures, techniques, and philosophies are exchanged across far-flung locales, war wounds and triumphs compared. There is a spreading, uncontained: volatile bodies suspended in midair, without absolute moorings or affiliations, a sense of raw and dynamic potential driving urban youth, countering their disenfranchisement.

Outlaws, pirates, and urban youth: these figures are sometimes utopian; at other moments they loom as the fearsome multitudes that threaten my liberty, my property, the sovereignty of my state. One looks for cover, for security, craving immunization against a communitas where nothing is mine.

The energetic movements of parkour open a vein into risk socialities, high dangers and still higher thrills. At the same time, it would be a mistake to equate spectacular high-risk “feats” with only the subterranean worlds of urban sabotage. Risk socialities or risk-taking cultures are not always open to all.[43] Quite the contrary: membership into a social group capable of high-risk ventures is often policed, regulated, controlled. Stockbrokers fiercely guard entry and exit to their proverbial “boiler rooms”; subcultures of inveterate surfers and other extreme sport coteries protect their turfs (and parkour is no exception). Consumers of media spectacles—from action films to daredevil stunts to visceral magic—are enthralled with high-risk skills, an incredulous chasm yawning between the common “us” and the extraordinary “them.” And so the slack-jawed spectator celebrates Tom Cruise, in his waning forties, scaling Dubai’s epic Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world in Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol. His giant shadow eclipses those anonymous construction workers who skillfully negotiate the high scaffolds of Dubai, braving hostile desert winds and a scorching sun—workers living the daily possibility of death without the meticulous safety measures that secure celebrity stunts (Human Rights Watch calculates thirty-four on-site deaths per year).[44] These discontinuous worlds pass each other without contact. When they touch, inadvertently, coincidentally, they shiver at the concatenation. That too is affirmative speculation, that sense of precarious life, of radical occupation by the other—the discomfort of unwarranted propinquity, of living-in-common.

Speculation Worlds

In a sense, the real challenge today is not finding a new or improved version of the world-for-us, and it is not relentlessly pursuing the phantom objectivity of the world-in-itself. The real challenge is confronting this enigmatic concept of the world-without-us, and understanding why this world-without-us continues to persist in the shadows of the world-for-us and the world-in-itself.
—Eugene Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet

There is mounting evidence of radical uncertainty, of a world where disasters, accidents, or catastrophes recur at unprecedented scales. Scientists describe its mechanisms, a world-in-itself of energies, movements, and flows. We have characterized this world as nonhuman; for Eugene Thacker it is “Earth.” There is also the world we have made, the world-for-us.[45] This too cannot be comprehended in all its totalities, despite all dissembling cognitive maps; this is the “World” in Thacker’s formulation. If life today is lived at the interface, speculatively encountering the “Earth” from the edge of the “World,” that unsettling place is the “Cosmos,” Thacker maintains, a strange experience of the world-without-us materializing across domains of knowledge. Not so far from Martin Heidegger’s “surrounding world” that discloses itself as subjects move about in a “common world,” trying to manage that ambient encounter by distinguishing the world as external to humans.[46] Both thinkers provoke us to think the world as an ensemble of actions and interactions, a constant becoming that is always sensed as both mutual (relay, feedback) and mutable (contingent, changeful). A time-honored philosophical perception, one might say. But newly resonant, we might add, amid this speculative turn where the unknown presses upon us across domains of knowledge and practice, from the ecological to the cybernetic, the biological and the social.[47] Where a firmative speculation, aggrandizing all possibilities in the name of the human again, remains resolutely in the world-for-us, an affirmative speculation ventures out on the ledge, looking into and touching the abyss that unsettles in full realization of our insufficiency of knowledge. More daring are those ventures that speculate on potentialities, vivifying them in speculative practices. These acts open worlds, something not known but to come, contingent and ephemeral. We write of these worlds in the spirit of speculative living.

But before the excursion, you will notice we persist with “the world,” despite its historical articulation as irrevocably human, constituted by a mutuality of human interests. This, too, is a sign of differing views within the uncertain commons. For some the most urgent task at hand is to attend to what the sciences tell us, what technologies can achieve without the human; for others, the incommensurable human worlds that “we,” the subject at any given location, encounter as shadowy, ungraspable, are the world-without-us, a subtraction, a differential. We agree that our sense of ontological connectivity to the nonhuman or the human other unsettles and therefore locates us in an ambience, a surrounding. We agree that there have been many attempts to manifest, describe, and vivify this shadow world; we agree that it mandates a constant becoming, a sense of unfolding; and we agree that the world is not an object but an ensemble of actions. But this theoretical feeling toward a common task makes this book a speculative exercise, written in solidarity with the forms we collect below.

It is best to begin with affirmative speculation in social worlds. We have dallied in them already, pausing on stalled projects in Damascus or the energetics of parkour amid new urban segregations. If parkour sabotages constraining exits and entries to metropolitan centers, the speculative historiographies of the “city yet to come”—to echo Abdou-Maliq Simone’s evocative phrase—bring news of possible worlds that the urban denizens sense but cannot fully articulate.[48] The speculative capital of urban development (malls, parks, housing, highways, monuments) meets another speculation, affirmative speculation, in the actions of city residents who seek to make architectures and infrastructures anew.[49] They hedge their bets, deploying contingent vivifications of the city that they “live” virtually, a city that is navigable, hospitable, and woven around existing communities. There are stories of many cities in Simone’s account of popular participatory speculative living, not the least of which is an imaginative occupation of urban spaces. Such occupation is motivated by the collective perceptions of shadowy forces, regional and multinational corporate collaborations, surreptitiously at work. An evocative testimony to popular spatial agency lies in a story Simone tells about the huge sculpture La Nouvelle Liberté hoisted at the center of planned modern downtown Doula, a city of 3.5 million. It remained unfinished for a lengthy period, in light of massive, heterogeneous protests about intentions, aesthetics, inconvenience, and a number of other criticisms. There was no one point of opposition to be found, but a concatenated mutuality of interests that sabotaged the statue’s completion—an uncertain common born of contingency. In such stalling, in incompletion, there is evidence of incommensurable worlds, temporally distinct, the one racing to play catch up to shining megacities and the other struggling to mold concrete and tar to everyday habit.

Unmaking, in this African story, is imaginative work, as creative as graffiti, perhaps the most cited form of expressive sabotage. In the Kreuzberg and Neukölln neighborhoods of contemporary Berlin, graffiti memorials for the victims of neo-Nazi hate crimes habitually repudiate the official record of acts cataloged as “politically motivated crimes” (figure 22). Activists cite as many as three thousand dead since the reunification of Germany, while only two hundred are found in police files. In a city of resplendent memorials—of which the Holocaust Memorial, the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism, and the Soviet War Memorial are the most famous—there is a striking absence of official effort to acknowledge the hate crimes of the last two decades. The graffiti are constantly painted over; yet they keep reappearing, potentiating a defiant politics of memorialization. An open invitation for endlessly proliferating these acts of remembering for future participants, the graffiti situate these hate crimes in relation to the long history of atrocities. At the same time, the curious but uninformed Berliner or the tourist is reoriented to urban forces that pulse beneath the surfaces and façades of the city. Mobilizing a network of social relationships around mourning—concatenating, in other words—these artistic engagements push for a more hospitable urban space. Such accounts of urban speculative living disclose an occulted world, the touch of the other that we find across artistic articulations of fast-changing urban environments.

Figure 22

Figure 22. Commemorative graffiti in Kreuzberg, Berlin, 2012.

And then there are technologically sophisticated media platforms that allow for creative speculative praxis, a playing with worlds that are resonant with the imaginative urbanism featured in tales from contemporary cities. If artists once had hands, Play-Doh, and the imagination, digital tools now facilitate world making in an array of online platforms, making sensible an alternative concatenation of embodied knowledge and social relations.[50] The artist Cao Fei’s installation of RMB City in the online world of Second Life is an exemplary instance of materializing speculative living through virtual environments (see figure 23).[51] A critical engagement with rapid urbanization launched in 2008, RMB City incarnates contemporary Chinese megalopolises. Informed by Cao’s immersion in electronic entertainments, pop culture, and advertising, those who visit RMB City as avatars with magical powers can live urban fictions they cannot live in their actual environments (for example, Cao visits the city as China Tracy). A baroque, recognizably Chinese but insistently artificial urban landscape greets those avatars who visit: a Ferris wheel rotates atop the Monument to the People’s Heroes, water from the Three Gorges reservoir gushes out of the Tiananmen rostrum, and aerial supermalls and floating statues of Mao Zedong materialize on the horizon in this parallel world. Their immersion, an embodied intimacy with the space, becomes a reality that unfolds as creative experimentation.

Figure 23

Figure 23. RMB City. Cao Fei, Second Life, 2008.

Like “play,” the literature on creativity as a life force is vast. But this manifesto has cast its lot with certain thinkers, especially to elaborate affirmative speculation—which is so much more difficult to do than just critique predatory speculation! In this regard we might foreground Henri Bergson’s theories of the élan vital, the original, common impulse to change that inheres in all living organisms. Humans experience this life instinct temporally as duration, Bergson explains, even as we analyze, comprehend, and spatialize that flux as discrete units of time dictated by practical necessities. Intuition once more recuperates the tendency to change: we sense an unfolding even as our potentiality for change is measured, assessed, harnessed—altogether foreclosed—as we have argued, in the practical organization of the world. A pragmatic intelligence that speculates quantitative multiplicities (the planned uses of parks and malls, for example) precludes the touch of qualitative life, an instinct. Between intelligence and instinct lies that third knowledge, intuition, so critical to “creative evolution,” to the constant breaking into the new.[52] In the cities we have touched upon, the blueprint diagrams the global city as managed space, precisely manifesting such a will to analyze and organize, while speculative occupation opens into other possibilities for living the urban. An affirmative speculation that senses potentiality lives it, virtually, and creatively materializes worlds yet to come.

Following Bergson, if the worlds we make, partially actual and partially virtual, are necessarily plastic, malleable, and mutable, they often materialize in the experimental form. The new media artist Marcos Novak, for example, works with 4-D algorithmic architectural forms that are “liquid” in their temporal mutations. For a traveling exhibit, Turbulent Topologies, Novak created a loop between actual urban life and a digital simulation to capture “turbulence,” both the condition and the formal principle of life in the global metropolis. One of the pieces in the exhibit that traveled to several cities, including the Eleventh Venice Architecture Biennale, consisted of a 4m cube containing an “invisible sculpture/invisible architecture” fashioned by motion-capture cameras.[53] When visitors enter the installation space with a sensor and “touch” the invisible shapes, they trigger a sound field and initiate behavioral changes in the projected display. With this piece Novak sought to indicate the hidden currents, sudden, unexpected connections, unseen networks, and spontaneous associations that constitute lived urban space. The resultant “strange geometries” were formed by the visitor’s effort, imagination (what the visitor “saw”), and action (how the visitor “traversed” the cube), as much as artistic and technological craft.[54]

But urban spaces are not the only gatherings that attract speculative practice, far from it. Speculative worlds are found at the planetary scale: there are resplendent computational models of climate change, not just for Earth but also for Mars (for example, the NASA Ames Mars Climate Change Modeling Group); the UN hosts an Office of Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), whose mission is to prepare for the possibility of an “alien” visit, to speculate on what earthly responses would be instantly mobilized. In these ventures, speculation worlds on a planetary scale; the imagination is ecological, straining beyond the great outdoors. And of course, there is space prospecting and space tourism, the affluent anticipating the new frontiers of land speculation and “safe” leisure spaces far from the hostile multitudes. Such enterprises metastasize the present, repeating patterns of privilege in outer space (anything from $95,000 to $150 million).[55] As we have been arguing, these are evolving forms of firmative speculation. But we have also insisted that the story does not end here. There are planetary worlds lived as affirmative speculation, when continuities between land, water, animals, plants, soil, and pathogens become expressive in the ecological popular. That popular is manifest in the direct action of popular struggles across the globe. One may remember the primal scene of the Chipko movement against deforestation in South Asia in the 1970s, where sixty men contracted to cut trees floundered in the face of the original tree huggers (chipko literally means to squeeze tightly), assemblages of twenty-seven women and trees. Led by the legendary Gaura Devi, the Reni forest encounter in 1974 became a part of oral lore, speculative media first sung by the admiring head contractor.[56] On the other side of the world, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a transnational leaderless movement, whose members are popularly known as Elves, would wreak phantom destruction on those who attack the earth. A haunting image featured on the ELF website—the blue planet locked under a rusting industrial grid, secured by firmative speculation (figure 24)—signals their targets of critique: all institutions engaged in resource extraction and environmental degradation. Their agitprop actions, labeled as “terrorist acts” by the FBI and “ecotage” or creative “monkey-wrenching” (after Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, 1975) by sympathizers, express solidarity with all things living: animals, plants, soils, and waters. These resonant histories of creative sabotage affirm planetary continuities, new collectives of the human and nonhuman concatenated against globalizing schemes.[57] Such loosely chain-linked efforts are “frictions” along the well-charted pathways of globalization, transformative processes that intervene against foreclosures.[58]

Figure 24

Figure 24. Prison Planet. AZRainman (Mark Rain). Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.

The question is that of framing a world adequate to these praxes. In search of another mode of world making, Jean-Luc Nancy turns to mondialisation, a term drawn from the French Resistance, as a bulwark against realpolitik: a space of possibility, of becoming.[59] Such a world is no longer grasped as representation, and no worldview can represent it. Mondialisation begins with the negation of the finite: as the world unfolds to our senses, we move away from the world as object and experience it as coming into existence. In the contingent occupations we have explored, these acts of creative sabotage, the sense of lived planetary continuities, we witness such creative mondialisation. Unlike Chipko, contemporary ecological mobilizations are often transnational and fueled by new media technologies (ELF has no fixed membership but undertakes actions under the moniker in seventeen different countries). Like the Occupy movement, such contemporary ecological actions are strange hybrid assemblages of direct action (gesture, voice, bodies flooding space) and social media. They are “open” not only in their mutable goals, agendas, or demands but also in their form as emergent, fluid networks, often anonymous, certainly invisible, festering, unsettling. In short, they make worlds.[60]

The desire to make worlds, of course, is an ancient one. We are not so presumptuous as to imagine that we are the first (or the last) to burn with such a desire. World-making aspirations and vocations, for example, drive all discourses and practices of utopia: from Thomas More to Ernst Bloch to Octavia Butler and beyond, there extends a network of visionary utopians, whose alternate worlds, parallel universes, and virtual realities are always rooted in the actual materialities of the here and now. Or as Samuel Butler put it: Erewhon, that is, no-where but also now-here. (Even thinkers as vehemently anti-utopian as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari acknowledged and paid homage to the materialist vitality and revolutionary impulse of the utopian tradition.)[61]

Such world-making practices scale. Whether community gardens or transnational ecological movements, acts of speculative living affirm our being in common. They are commonist in the sense of affirming social relations not mediated by markets, collectives within which the production of goods and knowledge is organized.[62] Peer-to-peer networks and participatory scholarship is not far behind, with conglomerates of critical thinkers sharing and writing together in collaborations, collectives, and loose cultural formations. We have already expressed solidarity with particular formations. And equally, we have expressed dissensus. In the subsequent collision of objects, histories, and scales, our intent is not to agree upon a language or description for how newness, the radically unknown and unforeseeable, appears in the world but to develop the epistemological conditions of possibility for that emergence. The modes of affirmative speculation offer a schematic for what it is we do when we see or touch the edge. At the very least, we hope these propositions will occupy your imagination.


  1. The Hypothetical Development Organization, Implausible Futures for Unpopular Places (San Francisco: Blurb, 2011). On prototypes and design fictions, see Julian Bleecker and Nicolas Nova, A Synchronicity: Design Fictions for Asynchronous Urban Computing (New York: Architectural League of New York, 2009); Johanna Drucker, SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009); and Anne Balsamo, Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).
  2. Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979); Samuel R. Delany, Starboard Wine: More Notes on the Language of Science Fiction, 2nd ed. (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2012); Carl Freedman, Science Fiction and Critical Theory (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2000); Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (New York: Verso, 2005); Brooks Landon, Science Fiction after 1900: From the Steam Man to the Stars (New York: Routledge, 1995); and Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2008).
  3. Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy, ed. and trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), 179. See also Enrique Dussell, Twenty Theses on Politics, trans. George Ciccariello-Maher (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008).
  4. See Lily E. Kay, The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Richard Doyle, Wetwares: Experiments in Postvital Living (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003); Hannah Landecker, Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Sarah Franklin, Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007); Luis Campos, “That Was the Synthetic Biology That Was,” in Synthetic Biology: The Technoscience and Its Societal Consequences, ed. Markus Schmidt et al. (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer, 2009), 5–21; and Robert Mitchell, Bioart and the Vitality of Media (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010).
  5. Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, An Epistemology of the Concrete: Twentieth-Century Histories of Life (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010). See also Evelyn Fox Keller, The Century of the Gene (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000); Judith Roof, The Poetics of DNA (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007); and Jackie Stacey, The Cinematic Life of the Gene (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010).
  6. Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010).
  7. Matthew Van Dusen, “Living Architecture: Rachel Armstrong Wants to Replace ‘Dead Habitats’ With Protocells,” Txchnologist, February 8, 2012, http://web.archive.org/web/20120211043650/http:/www.txchnologist.com/2012/living-architecture-rachel-armstrong-wants-to-replace-dead-habitats-with-protocells.
  8. Almont Lindsay, The Pullman Strike (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1943), 123.
  9. Gavin Browne and Robert Haldane, Days of Violence: The 1923 Police Strike in Melbourne (Victoria, Australia: Hybrid Publishers, 1998).
  10. Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (Delhi: Oxford, 1983).
  11. Selected translated pages of “How to Protest Intelligently,” including the “demands of the Egyptian people,” are available from San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia, https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/01/29/18670645.php.
  12. The Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2009), 108.
  13. Carlo Ginzburg, “Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock Holmes: Clues and Scientific Method,” trans. Anna Davin, History Workshop 9 (1980): 5–36.
  14. David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (New York: Verso, 2012).
  15. Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, The Speculative Archive, New York Foundation for the Arts, 2006, http://www.nyfa.org/level3.asp?id=516&fid=6&sid=17.
  16. Benedictus de Spinoza, Ethics, ed. and trans. G. H. R. Parkinson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  17. Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  18. Mark Bendeich, “Elephants Saved Tourists From Tsunami,” Reuters, January 4, 2005, http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/28783/story.htm.
  19. Gilles Deleuze, Pure Immanence: Essays on a Life, trans. Anne Boyman (New York: Zone Books, 2001).
  20. Steven Shaviro, Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009).
  21. Elizabeth Grosz, Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).
  22. Recorders: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer,” Manchester Art Gallery, September 2010–January 2011, http://www.manchestergalleries.org/whats-on/exhibitions/index.php?itemID=73. On the speculative politics of Lozano-Hemmer’s surveillance work, see Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli, “Shadowed by Images: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and the Art of Surveillance,” Representations 111 (2010): 121–43.
  23. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1949), 173.
  24. Jacques Derrida, “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Human Sciences,” Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (New York: Routledge, 1978), 278–94.
  25. Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy (New York: Zone Books, 1991).
  26. Anonymous Operations, “DOX: UC Davis Pepper Spraying officer, Lt. John Pike,” November 20, 2011, http://anoncentral.tumblr.com/post/13023795840/d0x-uc-davis-pepper-spraying-officer-lt-john-pike.
  27. Brian Knappenberger, dir., We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (Venice, CA: Luminant Media, 2012).
  28. Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker, The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).
  29. McKenzie Wark, A Hacker Manifesto (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 4.
  30. Alexander R. Galloway, Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004).
  31. Nancy Scheper-Hughes, “The Global Traffic in Human Organs,” Current Anthropology 41, no. 2 (April 2000): 1–59; and “Parts Unknown: Undercover Ethnography of the Organs-Trafficking Underworld,” Ethnography 5, no. 1 (2004): 29–73.
  32. Cesare Casarino and Antonio Negri, In Praise of the Common: A Conversation on Philosophy and Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008).
  33. Now Wojnarowicz’s Untitled is brought out from museum archives and displayed once again; see Tyler Green, “Wojnarowicz ‘One day this kid . . .’ to Come Out,” Modern Art Notes (blog), Blouin Artinfo, November 10, 2010, http://blogs.artinfo.com/modernartnotes/2010/11/wojnarowiczs-one-day-this-kid-to-come-out.
  34. Alphonso Lingis, The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994). For the discourse on postcommunity, also see Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community, trans. Peter Connor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991); Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993); and Jacques Derrida, Of Hospitality: Anne Dufourmantelle Invites Jacques Derrida to Respond, trans. Rachel Bowlby (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000).
  35. Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (New York: Verso, 2004).
  36. Spinoza, Ethics, 97.
  37. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000); and Paolo Virno, The Grammar of the Multitude, trans. Isabella Bertoletti et al. (New York: Semiotext(e), 2004).
  38. See essays in Leo Bersani and Douglas Crimp, AIDS: Cultural Analysis, Cultural Activism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988); Paula A. Treichler, How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1999).
  39. On the (im)possibility of gay subjectivity in that era, see Michael Warner, “Unsafe: Why Gay Men Are Having Risky Sex,” The Village Voice, January 31, 1995.
  40. On piracy and community structures, see Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations (New York: Zone Books, 2009); Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates, and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700–1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); and Sebastian R. Prange, “A Trade of No Dishonor: Piracy, Commerce, and Community in the Western Indian Ocean, Twelfth to Sixteenth Century,” American Historical Review 116 (2011): 1269–93.
  41. Adrian Johns, Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).
  42. On the potentialities of media piracy for the Global South, see Ravi Sundaram, Pirate Modernity: Delhi’s Media Urbanism (New York: Routledge, 2010); and Lawrence Liang, “Porous Legalities and Avenues of Participation,” Sarai Reader 5 (New Delhi: Sarai Media Lab, 2005): 6–17. On the politics of copied media, Laikwan Pang, Cultural Control and Globalization in Asia: Copyright, Piracy, and Cinema (New York: Routledge, 2006); and Ramon Lobato, Shadow Economies of Cinema: Mapping Informal Film Distribution (London: British Film Institute, 2012). On bootlegging and archival practices in North America, see Lucas Hilderbrand, Inherent Vice: Bootleg Histories of Videotape and Copyright (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).
  43. Randy Martin, The Financialization of Daily Life (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002).
  44. “Building Towers, Cheating Workers,” Human Rights Watch, November 12, 2006, http://www.hrw.org/node/11123/section/6.
  45. Eugene Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy, Vol. I (Alresford, UK: Zer0 Books, 2011), 6.
  46. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Albany: SUNY Press, 2010).
  47. Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman, eds. The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (Melbourne, Australia: re.press, 2011).
  48. Abdou-Maliq Simone, For the City Yet to Come: Changing African Life in Four Cities (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004).
  49. See Swati Chattopadhyay, Unlearning the City: Infrastructure in a New Optical Field (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012).
  50. On the imagination as the terrain on which revolutionary insurrections are to be waged, see David Hugill and Elise Thorburn, “Reactivating the Social Body in Insurrectionary Times: A Dialogue with Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi,” Berkeley Planning Journal 25 (2012): 210–20.
  51. Cerem Erdem, “RMB City: Spectatorship on the Boundaries of the Virtual and the Real,” Interventions, January 26, 2012, http://interventionsjournal.net/2012/01/26/rmb-city-spectatorship-on-the-boundaries-of-the-virtual-and-the-real.
  52. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, 1907 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975).
  53. Marcos Novak, Turbulent Topologies, Media Arts and Technology Graduate Program, UC Santa Barbara (2008), http://www.mat.ucsb.edu/res_proj5.php
  54. Koh Won-Seok, “Interview with Marcos Novak (Monthly SPACE, Art Talk),” (September 2009), http://curatorkoh.tistory.com/26.
  55. The price tag depends on the company and its anticipated amenities; see Jesse McKinley, “Space Tourism Is Here! Wealthy Adventurers Wanted,” New York Times, September 7, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/travel/space-tourism-is-here-wealthy-adventurers-wanted.html.
  56. Vandana Shiva and Jayanto Bandyopadhyay, Chipko: India’s Civilisational Response to the Forest Crisis (New Delhi: Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, 1986).
  57. For visionary ecotopias, see Kim Stanley Robinson, ed., Future Primitive: The New Ecotopias (New York: Tor, 1994); Alex Steffen, ed. Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century (New York: Abrams, 2011); Bruce Sterling, “The Manifesto of January 3, 2000,” Whole Earth 97 (summer 1999): 4–9; Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto (New York: Viking, 2009); Terreform1 (http://www.terreform.org); Mitchell Joachim, “Envisioning Ecological Cities,” in Ecological Urbanism, ed. Mohsen Mostafavi and Gareth Doherty (Baden, Germany: Lars Muller Publishers, 2010), 224–29; Ramachandra Guha, The Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Nik Gaffney and Maja Kuzmanovic, “Luminous Green,” in Transdiscourse 1: Mediated Environments, ed. Andrea Gleiniger, Angelika Hilbeck, and Jill Scott (New York: Springer Wien, 2011), 131–43.
  58. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).
  59. Jean-Luc Nancy, The Creation of the World, or, Globalization (Albany: SUNY Press, 2007).
  60. Maurizio Lazzarato, “From Capital-Labour to Capital-Life,” ephmera 4, no. 3 (2004): 187–208; and J. K. Gibson-Graham, “Diverse Economies: Performative Practices for ‘Other Worlds,’” Progress in Human Geography 32, no. 5 (October 2008): 613–32. See also the Creating Worlds Project from the European Institute of Progressive Cultural Politics, which works toward the “political imagination and invention of new lines of flight, new struggles, new worlds” (European Institute of Progressive Cultural Politics, “Projects: Creating Worlds,” http://eipcp.net/projects/creatingworlds/files/about).
  61. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).
  62. Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006).