A potential visible effect

February 16, 2012

Trying to summaries those readings about affect, I first felt like Gregory Seigworth that read for the first time Laurence Grossberg: “The piece was written in a vibrant but rather unwieldy theoretical language that detailed this passionate thing called “affect” in ways that I could not always quite follow, (…)(G. Seighworth and M. Gregg, the affect theory reader, p.19). No doubt that this idea of affect has a really wide meaning and is touching a wide range of disciplines. I will try in the following paragraphs to depict it.


My first thought was to link it with the idea of feelings or sensations, the affect as something that affects you. I was wrong according to Brian Massumi quoted in Eric Shouse’s essay, the affect is not a personal feeling it is prepersonal in the way that it is un-conscious. Shouse gives us one definition (one of the definitions) of affect:An affect is a non-conscious experience of intensity; it is a moment of unformed and unstructured potential” (Eric Shouse, Feeling, Emotion, Affect, chap.5). There are three elements in this only sentence which could summarize my understanding of the affect.


The first one is the non-consciousness. We are not aware of the affect itself, we can only look at it’s result through the modifications of a body, in the case of a human body it would be the expression of an emotion or a feeling. That was for me an issue, how can you deal with something that doesn’t exist in itself? The only way to know about it is probably only to look at it’s manifestations. Therefore the affect we are talking about is even more blurry, a same result could be produced by different affects (the inverse being also true).


An other notion that is often coming in the texts is the intensity. “Affect is found in these intensities that passes body to body” (G. Seighworth and M. Gregg, the affect theory reader, p.1). It seems that the forces moved or touched by affects can be really strong, powerful. I say can because it’s still hypothetical.


This leads us to the last point: the affect is about potentiality. I would refer to Spinoza and it’s not yet. It is not existing in the present. However the affect can give the spark that leads to an answer from the body and then could produce a result or an effect. And as said before it can lead to intense strengths that can have huge results, as this example of the woman that can control her leg after making musical therapy (Oliver Sacks’ experience described in Eric Shouse, Feeling, Emotion, Affect, chap.7).


Through this really brief understanding of what an affect could be I wanted to emphasize it’s really volatile and undefined aspect, but also the great power that is into it. As soon it could be exiting to see if we can find examples of effects of affects produced by architecture but how can we know where it comes from? What do we finally perceive instead a mixture of personal feelings sometimes deformed by the emotions?




One Response to “A potential visible effect”

  1. Be careful, it’s not that affect does not exist, it does, it’s just that it is non-conscious and pre personal. And yet it has an after effect on us through our sensations, feelings and emotions. Focusing on the three themes of non-consciousness; intensity; potentiality is a good move, perhaps further refine your definitions.

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