Archive | Vol. 9/2016 | Nr. 1
Koch, Lars; Nanz, Tobias; Pause, Johannes [Publishing editor]
Imaginations of disruption : a concept
Koch, Lars; Nanz, Tobias; Pause, Johannes
The article is concerned with the current security policy paradigm of precaution, which tries to be prepared for a completely unknown („unknown unknowns“) situation of danger. Within this political security regime, imaginations, both of disruption and security, gain center stage: They enable – at least approximately – the preparative handling with a yet unknown or even unthinkable future catastrophe and simultaneously serve as media of societies self-description. To be able to grasp the political role of imagination analytically, after a short historical and theoretical introduction, the article presents a model that shows the transformation of diffuse anxiety into specific scenarios of fear infused with implications of values and actions to be the central function of collective imaginations of danger. Based on this, a typology of disruption is developed that distinguishes between predetermined disruption, adaptive disruption and overstressing disruption.
From disruption of order to rescue of life : reflections on the relationship between narrative and politics (before and around 1800)
Lehmann, Johannes F.
The paper reconstructs the semantic history of the word ‘disruption’ (Störung). It shows that the modern use of the term, established around 1800, replaces the former exclusive opposition of disruption vs. order by the inclusive opposition of disruption vs. life. In this context, the paper reconstructs both the historical semantics and the historical political implications of the word and inquires into the possibility of regarding disruptions as narrative. The resulting thesis is that the term ‘disruption’ always implies the possibility of a turn towards disaster, creating a space for the potential expansion and escalation of the disruption, i.e. a dramatic lapse of time stretching from disruption to disaster, which becomes a space open for narratives of rescue. Finally, by demonstrating how governments at the end of the 18th century establish programs of Livesaving, it is made evident how narratives of rescue implement a (political) time structure of action that spans the lapse between the disruption and the disaster/rescue and is conceived as present time.
A Room with a ‘Colossal’ View : War Rooms and the Imagination of Disruptions
During the Cold War numerous fictional scenarios featured War Rooms and bunkers as control rooms. In these places we witness how a head of government is negotiating with a political opponent in times of crises and deciding on war or peace. In this paper, I will discuss three literary and cinematic treatments that focus on crises situations that broach the issue of atomic war. I consider the War Room (and its environment) as an experimental laboratory. It tests the decision-making ability of any political leader and his skills to handle technical or human failures that threaten to cause a nuclear war. As I will argue, in fiction human control and sovereignty were replaced by computers that had taken command. This loss of human agency was caused by the medialisation and mechanisation of the nuclear weapons control. Drawing on these deliberations, this article aims to introduce a typology of disruption. Based on the analysis of Cold War fictional treatments, this typology identifies different ways of handling incidents caused by human or technical agents as well as different ways of solving (or failing to solve) a nuclear crisis. The paper concludes with an outlook on fictional scenarios that discuss current Situation Rooms at the time of “War on Terror”.
Heart of Darkness : blackouts and the Catastrophic Imaginary
The article is concerned with pop-cultural imaginations of wide-spread power failures and asks which political, ethical and aesthetic implications can be carved out from them. The imagination of the blackout, so the argument, can be read as a pop-cultural examination of the complexity of the high-tech world. The respective narrative actualizations of this paradigmatic disruptive incident of networked societies react to real events, historically varying discursive constellations and affective engagements with the future. With these qualities, the blackout can be regarded as a crucial element of societies sense of danger since the 1970s, and its analysis allows drawing conclusions about the prevalent orders of the visible, expressible and representable at a particular point in time.
The Transitional Subject : disturbance in Transit Spaces
This paper introduces the concept of a “transitional subject”. It is the name for a new cultural type by reference to Donald Winnicotts famous concept of a “transitional object”. Such an object, a teddy bear or a piece of cloth, allows an infant to let go of the mother and to develop a more independent existence. Being transformed into a mental structure the transitional object enables the imagination of the child to create new things. The “transitional subject” however concerns the imagination of the present security-institutions. Any passenger, customer or visitor of the cyberspace leaves his data at airports, railway stations, public spaces etc. and allows secret services to establish a database to profile disquieting persons. Following David Riesman’s analyses of different cultural types, the tradition-directed, the inner-directed und the other-directed, the transitional subject is data-directed. In comparison with tradition-directed protagonists like the pilgrims in Dante’s Divina Commedia or the inner-directed wanderer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the transitional subject like the disquieter Edward Snowdon is described as a data-directed multi mobile passenger in transit spaces. However, the legal fictions of modern states force this representative of our political reality to carry the mask of the 18th century.
Under Water within Thirty Years : the Prophetic Mode in True Detective
Holm, Isak Winkel
“Place is going to be under water within thirty years,” detective Rustin Cohle says while driving through a disaster-stricken landscape in south Louisiana in the mid 90’s. The first season of True Detective, a HBO crime series authored by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga, is tensed on the verge of disaster. In grammatical terms, it depicts a social life in future perfect, a life that will have been above the surface. In this paper, I explore the prophetic as an aesthetic mode of True Detective. According to Maurice Blanchot, prophetic speech “is not just a future language. It is a dimension of language that engages it in relationships with time that are much more important than the simple discovery of certain events to come.” Following Blanchot, I define the aesthetic mode of the prophetic as a way of feeling, seeing and thinking that makes the viewer experience the fictional world in the shadow of a catastrophe to come. This prophetic mode, I contend, has important consequences for the show’s treatment of the question of justice. Like the prophetic books of the Old testament, True Detective shifts the perspective from the content of law to the force of law. Thus, focusing on the prophetic is a way of approaching a specific configuration of aesthetics, disaster, and justice.
Hulking out. Disruption, Exception, and Normalisation
Self-descriptions of society aim at giving a picture of the significant whole of our culture. Since every one of these images creates a sense of society and leaves out a lot of social textures at the same time, each hides blind spots and each is contingent, omitting alternative tableaus as well as forgotten and suppressed details, which do not fit as proper parts in the whole represented. It is worthwhile to look for these blind spots, and these are observable, if one compares alternative formulas of self-description. Mass media are proliferating diverse versions of formulas of self-description, and often these versions differ from expectable academic portraits of society. Therefore, popular media can offer important insights into the situation our society believes to live in. In the case of the Hulk- and Avengers-movies, this situation is interpreted as permanent disruption or perpetual state of exception. Current academic concepts of disruption or exception fail to describe what happens in these blockbuster movies. The society that surrounds the Marvel-super-heroes has changed dramatically. In analogy to Dr. Bruce Banner, who uncontrollably transforms himself into the incredible Hulk, the society described in the Hulk- and Avengers-movies is hulking-out as well, changing back more and more rarely, until finally it stays constantly in an “irregular” mode. The paper explores the self-description-formulas of society, which are negotiated in these movies.