Michel Serres and Protest Movements

“In a living system, a message passed from A to B consists of a mixture of signal and noise. From the perspective of A, the noise is extraneous, a threat to the successful reception of the signal. But from the perspective of B, this mixture of signal and noise need not necessarily be grasped in the same way. Noise ‘cuts’ the signal in such a way that what is received is very different from what was sent. To put this in a different context, when we listen to what another says, we also take in the hesitations, the changes in emphasis, the slips of the tongue in what they say. For the speaker these are all just ‘noise’ to be overcome. But for us, as listener, these may significantly alter our understanding of what is being said. Noise and signal are differentially distributed depending on the position one occupies in a communicative set up.”

The stories we think with

“Historians and archaeologists sift through whatever they can confirm as facts and tend to seek some sort of meaningful pattern in them–chronologies and more complex matters. This is essentially the opposite of the traditional Indian way. Indians’ history is a story as well, but story comes first–that is, the meaning of a story is originating core. The facts follow the meaning.”

No science of science

Spencer was wrong. There can never be a science of science because there be can be no single, unifying observation–or an observation without a blind spot. All observations are partial, and they all reduce the complexity of whatever they are supposed to be observing. All we can ever have is a plurality of partial knowledges, and these ways of seeing can not be harmonized.

Wicked Problems & Second-Order Science

” The problems that are most in need of interdisciplinary cooperation are
“wicked problems” such as food crises, climate change mitigation, and other resilience and sustainability problems (Klein 2004). Wicked problems are complex problems where there is disagreement on what the problem actually is, there are different interests and different perspectives involved that frame the problem differently, and proposed solutions often contradict each other.”

The Prison-Industrial Complex/Rhizome

One common view is that the prison-industrial complex (PIC) is an intentional, goal directed operation–that there is a design behind it. Cleary, there are, in fact, particular actors with particular goals. But from a systems theory perspective there can be no single, grand design, designer, or primary purpose behind this thing that has evolved. There is no single Prime Mover. We can point to particular corporations or sectors of the economy such as for-profit prisons or particular people or political parties, but all of these efforts to pin blame inevitably simplify this issue.

The “failure” of the prison system

Penality would then appear to be a way of handling illegalities, of laying down the limits of tolerance, of giving free rein to some, of putting pressure on others, of excluding a particular section, of making another useful, of neutralizing certain individuals and of profiting from others. In short, penality does not simply ‘check’ illegalities; it ‘differentiates’ them, it provides them with a general ‘economy’.

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