Ming the Mechanic:
Rhizomes

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Rhizomes2004-10-15 23:59
2 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

Rhizome: expanding underground root system, sending up above ground shoots to form a vast network. Difficult to uproot.
Deleuze & Guattari seems to be the folks who've evangelized it a model for organization and for the Internet. Well, they sort of predate the popularization of the Net, but it seems to be a natural fit. Seems to be most popular with an assortment of alternative art collectives. Deleuze & Guattari wrote a lot of stuff which seems inspiring, but not easily penetrable. So let me just pick out a few things from what others' quote, like here or here, to elaborate on the rhizone meme.

Note first of all that rhizome is often meant as contrasted to or opposed to the model of a tree. A tree in this context representing hierarchy and linear thinking.
We're tired of trees. We should stop believing in trees, roots, and radicles. They've made us suffer too much. All of arborescent culture is founded on them, from biology to linguistics. ...

Arborescent systems are hierarchical systems with centers of significance and subjectification, central automata like organized memories. In corresponding models, an element only receives information from a higher unit, and only receives a subjective affection along preestablished paths. ...

Accepting the primacy of hierarchical structures amounts to giving arborescent structures privileged status ... In a hierarchical system, an individual has only one active neighbor, his or her hierarchical superior. ... The channels of transmission are preestablished: the arborescent system preexists the individual, who is integrated into it at an allotted place. ...

Many people have trees growing in their heads, but the brain is more like a grass than a tree.
So, the rhizome is the alternative. A more organic structure without any centralized, hierarchical organization.
Any point of a rhizome can be connected to any other, and must be. This is very different from the tree or root, which plots a point, fixes an order. ...

The rhizome is an anti-genealogy. ...

The rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model. It is a stranger to any idea of genetic axis or deep structure. ...

The rhizome is an acentered, nonhierarchical, nonsignifying system without a General and without an organizing memory or central automaton, defined solely by the circulation of states.
So, they invite us to become rhizomes. Something that infiltrates and subverts tree structures. Something that sprouts transformative connections everywhere, but which is impossible to pin down. Something that can't be reduced to a managable simplicity.
To be rhizomorphous is to produce stems and filaments that seem to be roots, or better yet connect with them by penetrating the trunk, but put them to strange new uses. ...

Form a rhizome, increase your territory by deterritorialization, extend the line of flight to the point where it becomes an abstract machine covering the entire plane of consistency.
Cool, count me in. I'm a rhizome. Here's some poetic advice from them:
"Write to the nth power, N-1, write with slogans: Form rhizomes and not roots, never plant! Don't sow, forage! Be neither a One nor a Many, but multiplicities! Form a line, never a point! Speed transforms the point into a line. Be fast, even while standing still! Line of chance, line of hips, line of flight. Don't arouse the General in yourself! Not an exact idea, but just as idea (Godard). Have short-term ideas. Make maps, not photographs or drawings. Be the Pink Panther, and let your loves be like the wasp and the orchid, the cat and the baboon. As they sing of old man river:
He don't plant tatos
Don't plant cotton
Them that plants them is soon
forgotten
But old man river he just keeps rollin
along.
A rhizome doesn't begin and doesn't end, but is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo."
One could discuss whether the Internet really is the perfect substrate for rhizomes. Like, see Robin B. Hamman: Rhizomes and the Internet. Despite that the Net seems to give space to all these subversive activities and free networking and peer-to-peer, it is in many ways designed as a hierarchy. Think about DNS and the Registrar system. Authorities hand out authority to lesser authorities. And think about that most of you have only one access point to the Net, your DSL or dial-up provider, who routes everything you do. Related to that subject, see Questioning Protocol. Even after widespread decentralization, control remains. Doesn't matter how much IBM splits into decentralized teams, it is still IBM, with essentially the same hierarchy. Doesn't matter how many P2P networks you set up, they still run through a few central routers run by a handful of agencies.

But, hey, it can all by rhizomized, I suppose. Might be worthwhile to pay close to attention to which structures and technologies are inherently hierarchical (even if they aren't used as such) and which ones aren't. And consistently choose the ones that subvert unnecessary hierarchies.


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2 comments

19 Oct 2004 @ 22:30 by Mike @141.156.128.147 : and stigmergy?
Hmm, I was thinking stigmergy after reading the definition of rhizome. Googling, I found 4.5k hits for stigmergy and 350k for rhizome, but only 5 for rhizome + stigmergic. A new access point isn't that hard to get, I think of it much like electricity (but then I'm not in Baghdad).

For poetry, one of google's 5 hits had:

Bup-Bup:
macrotermitine lexicone
_/\_
yields
distributed pythia
of
stigmergic
intertwingling


and also

autoplectic backpropagation
in semiotic coupled-map lattices
describes a nativity scene
of lyapunov exponentiality

(from [link])

I also recall, (pre-web), of browsing thru _A Thousand Plateaus_ at a Borders bookstore. I never bought it, it seemed interesting but way too dense. So, thanks for the links :-)  



23 Oct 2004 @ 18:07 by george dafermos @82.212.61.24 : what i like best....
about deleuze and guattari is this little snip from capitalism and schizophrenia: "everything is rational in capitalism, except capitalism itself". in a few words, the essence of capitalism.

personally i didn't very much like "a thousand plateus". not that i actually got to read the entire book.... but i very much liked "anti-oedipus" which is much more readable and powerful in terms of the syntheses it produces. a good read for sure.

and as regards to galloway's piece, i don't think it says anything new. i remember reading it when it first got published at "rethinking marxism" (in the form of a 10 pages essay...), and i just felt it was a rephrasing of malone's and laubacher's "the dawn of the e-lance economy" (harvard business review), albeit from a supposedly "revolutionary" perspective. the idea that open standards, or actually commonly agreed standards, enable decentralised networks and exchanges to flourish is nothing but new. international trade has been based on that premise for a couple of centuries, and the ISO (international standardisation organisation)does exactly that, however, those standards and open protocols have yet to destroy capitalism (which is, bluntly put, galloway's main argument). Hmmm.....  



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