Swarm of Butterflies

February 20, 2012

The notion of Affect, the phenomenon of a body’s perception of an action before any recognition or reaction is made by the body’s processing ability. A slim concept, perhaps like defining the space between my clothes and myself, the space between two pages in a closed phone book. As Seigworth and Gregg describe, it is a study of inbetween-ness, however much study and theory one can prescribe to the area between zero and the next smallest increment above zero is anyone’s guess – no one yet knows what a body can do.

Nevertheless, in organisms, the moment of sensation known as affect, before reaction, before emotion, before feeling, before even knowing, the moment simply when the wires connecting a sense to the brain fire to life in an unorganised mass of ‘shimmers’ is something that may link us all, since before the interpretation and comparison with our vast collection of experiences and knowledge, the signal is the same.

Yet while there is a moment where two bodies may be affected by the same (third) body, the subtle variances between the two experiences, the angle at which they are seen, the distance from which they are heard and myriad other factors ensure that no body will experience a single moment in quite the same way as any other body.

And so, at the moment of affect, between the vast range of sensations falling on every body at every scale, and fracturing exponentially for every microsecond beyond, there is a singularity where every sight, smell, bump, taste, point, punch line, realization and experience is instantaneously comparable and shared across every body, human, animal, material, non-material at every moment that has ever and will ever exist.

The symmetrical nature has no beginning and no end, as the moments fracture infinitely and continuously, defining affect in terms of cause and effect is as if trying to define the start of a swarm of butterflies.

-Michael Lyon

2 Responses to “Swarm of Butterflies”


  1. The analogy of the butterfly is also helpful in relation to the chaos theory and the butterfly-effect…that the smallest micro-shift in an environment (such as the movement of a butterfly’s wing) can produce large scale impacts, or seemingly disconnected effects elsewhere. I’m not sure what you mean by symmetrical nature though? And I’m not sure either whether the idea of sensation falling on bodies, as though from above is helpful? But your account is clear and thoughtful!

    • michaelglyon Says:

      ‘the symmetrical nature’ refers to the multitude of sensations coalescing to a point of ‘affect’ then fracturing out to a multitude of feelings/emotions and responses in turn becoming more sensations, i felt the shape of the butterfly showed this ambiguous converging and diverging from and to a point quite well as well as being something fun to colour in. perhaps falling is not yet the right word, i thought about ‘impacting’ but this sounded too violent.


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