Response – The Autonomy of Affect

February 29, 2012

The more I read about affect and intensity, as in The Autonomy of Affect, the more I find it difficult to see how I can use it in my architectural practice. Massumi describes intensity in one passage as: “It is outside expectation and adaptation, as disconnected from meaningful sequencing, from narration, as it is from vital function.” (p. 25) What are we doing (as a society, as humans) if we focus on something that don’t have meaningful sequencing, narration and vital function? In the way I would like to practice architecture these things are quite important and necessary.

Another problematic issue I find in the readings on affect continues to be the idea that intensity would be entirely “prepersonal”, before thought, and with no connections to our autobiography and previous experiences. Couldn’t many of the things Massumi ascribe to intensity also be ascribed to feelings? As for instance the example with the three versions of the story about the snowman. How do we know that the different reactions to these stories are not connected to what the children have experienced earlier in their lives? I continue to wonder if is it possible to have an impression before thought, before it runs through your backpack of things experienced, felt, and seen in your life, once you have started thinking (as a human) in the first place?

About feelings or emotions Massumi writes: “An emotion is a subjective content, the sociolinguistic fixing of the quality if an experience which is from that point onward defined as personal. Emotion is qualified intensity,” and he goes on: “It is crucial to theorize the difference between affect and emotion. If some have the impression that affect has waned, it is because affect is unqualified. As such, it is not ownable or recognizable and is thus resistant to critique.” (pp. 28) So for me the question remains, in our practice as architects, how can we make use of something, that is not personal or social, and that is resistant to critique?




One Response to “Response – The Autonomy of Affect”

  1. michaelglyon Says:

    I had the same issue thinking about affect. i thought the ‘missing half second” section made things a little clearer, i think by suggesting that between affect and feeling is not a direct connection but a massive generation of possible feelings of which only one eventuated. like picking a feeling off the ‘today’s specials’ menu…

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