The Autonomy of Affect

February 29, 2012

Brian Massumi’s text on “The Autonomy of Affect”, talks in the first chapter about Intensity, and frames it here as equated with affect. (Massumi, p. 27) Massumi talks about intensity as an arousal, but presses that this arousal does not specifically equal pleasure, but purely indicates the evoking of an uncontrolled reaction. (Ibid, p.24) Massumi further on emphasise the apparent gap between content and effect when it comes to affect, suggesting that an image alone – potentially on an affect level – can be perceived at a far different intensities depending on the package it’s presented in. He refers to an example of imagery being presented with different verbal narrations as creating a different intensity. The imagery presented without verbal narrations does in turn bring another intensity. – He suggests that the human subconscious mind reads the entire situation as supposed to fragments and that the impact of one factor can be significantly altered one way or the other depending on the factors that accompany it. Mussami further suggests that this intensity excludes what is “normally indexed”, and instead depicts some kind of heightened image that we are not constantly presented with. Mussami introduces language as one of the factors that can alter our affect of an image, referring to the example of that the gripping images story of the snowman had a dampened intensity when accompanied with a Matter-of-factness through a verbal narration. (Ibid, p.25)

– VN

One Response to “The Autonomy of Affect”

  1. michaelglyon Says:

    I found it interesting that there were the two scales used in the snowman experiment, the pleasentness and also the memorability, and how the combined film with the visual and the emotional language enabled a better retention of the material. Did you also find the text itself became much easier to read and remember when we were able to emotionally connect with the snowman story?


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