working together on working together

February 29, 2012

The reading of Joel McKim’s interview with Biran Massumi, directed me in a concrete dimension of affect. For the first time, I had a glimpse of this (or one of these) “great potential(s)” that we evoked many times before. How this in-between stage that is affect could act and how we could try to use it? To be direct this is a great potential to work together, interacting, exchanging and always re-questioning the established. But how is it linked to affect?

The notion of event becomes really important within his description of affect “an event or a dimension of every event” (Joel McKim with Brian Massumi, Of Microperception and Micropolitics, p.1). He describes effect as a coming event preceded by a shock or a microshock, of course, “that is felt without registering consciously”(idem, p.4). This microshock is the departure point. I would characterize it as a destabilizing point that leads to a movement (to the better or the worse). This movement, this transition is what we could qualify of affect; “a power to affect and be affected governs a transition, where a body passes from one state of capacitation to a diminished or augmented state of capacitation.” ( idem, p.1) For me then the beginning of a questioning and re-thinking process that could lead to new ideas.

But the event also contains this idea of gathering, exchanging. Massumi also talks about symbiosis, mixing different fields and different people. How to make groups? How do they interact? How can we guide them to certain unexpected results? How to keep them motivated? “We wanted them to bring not the work, but what made the work” ( idem, p.15). There is here a notion of self consciousness of what is happening, he explains this idea brought from Spinoza: “In Spinoza, it’s only when the idea of the affection is doubled by an idea of the idea of the affection that it attains the level of conscious reflection.” (Brian Massumi, The autonomy of affect, p.31)

Therefore I want to make a parallel with participative architecture. Participative is a really wide term, but we could interpret it in a team planning not a building but the process of planning with people. How do they frame the participants, how do they lead the discussion to the right points and keep them involved so that the new ideas and propositions seeds. Some practices as the Rotterdam based ZUS are working on that front ( They are developing locally based solutions, by interacting with the local people, creating a community or a network (for instance they created a website to sponsor and build a bridge). They are growing projects step by step, starting from the micro scale. We could easily compare this with the Sense Lab and the experiences or events they try to develop ways to interact and work together. As they should make the work “compelling enough that you are moved to do it again, differently, bringing out another set of potential” (Joel McKim with Brian Massumi, Of Microperception and Micropolitics, p.18).


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