Marie-Luise Angerer: Affective Knowledge
Affective Knowledge
(S. 103 – 118)

Movement, Interval, Plasticity

Marie-Luise Angerer

Affective Knowledge
Movement, Interval, Plasticity

Übersetzt von Nicholas Grindell

PDF, 16 Seiten

For some years now, the notions of neurodiversity and neuroleadership have been linked with promises of magically transforming Homo economicus into Homo emotionalis who (in economic terms, of course) will be more effective and more easily deployable as a worker. The concept of neurodiversity is based on the assumption that people are “triggered” by behavioral patterns (both conscious and unconscious) that take shape over the course of their lives as connected paths in the brain that work like highways. In this process, the brain proves astonishingly malleable (plasticity), strengthening synapses and developing new ones in a matter of seconds. The system of rewards and punishments, the limbic system of the emotions, and the system of memory all play a part in this.1

This increased interest in the plasticity of the brain has been accompanied by a surprising revaluation of the moving and especially the dancing body – and I argue that the two are closely related. “Today,” writes philosopher Boyan Manchev, “we are witnessing a gigantic transformation in which the fate of the world is at stake, and dance is at the epicenter of this transformation: it is a symptom, an exemplary consequence.”2 How is it that philosophers today claim to identify changes taking place in the world by looking at dance? How is it that philosophy is now discovering (or rediscovering) the dancing body, after a long period when it was often cited by philosophers and historians as the epitome of transgression and symbolic withdrawal?3 Manchev’s main point here is that no critique is possible as long as it makes use of language or understands itself as discursive. Instead, mind and body must come together to enable resistance – resistance understood as a mode of existence.

I would like to take these two aspects – the recent focus on brain plasticity and the dancing body as a mode of existence – as my points of departure in order to underline the double nature of the timing of affect: on the one hand, the “golden age of affect” we have been seeing for many years now and, on the other, the aspect of time inscribed into affect itself. According to a basic assumption of Timing of Affect, these forms of time and their specific movements (technological, physical, economic, political) constitute the central context for identifying epistemological affection in contemporary thought. Inscribed into this movement time is the interval (what Bergson refers to as the “zone of sensation”) which has now gained significance both with regard to definitions of affect and concerning the neural activity of the brain and the timing of digital media technologies.

In 2007, in my book Vom Begehren nach dem Affekt (Desire After Affect),4 when I first spoke of an “affective dispositif” to suggest a broader shift in conceptions of the human that was taking place beneath the surface of the remarkable hype surrounding affect, I could not have foreseen the scope or depth of this notion. Today, in the context of a politics of control, neuroplasticity and the material movements of the body and brain (often measurable and recordable only by means of technology) constitute the central topoi in a redefinition of what “life” under the conditions of (media) technology will be or might become.

The time/timing of the interval

In the mid-1970s, students of media and communication studies in the German-speaking world heard from Hertha Sturm and her team that they had discovered the “missing half-second.” In Sturm’s view, television needed to broadcast slower image sequences; audio and video needed to be more congruent; the text or spoken language should follow the images or vice versa, rather than supplying additional information. For as the researchers found, their test subjects (mainly children) were unable to process the excessive amount of information “properly” and their reactions were quite simply too slow for the abundance of images. As a result, children reacted “happily” to sad image sequences and “unhappily” to cheerful ones. The test subject’s mood was gauged by measuring pulse, heartbeat, and transpiration, giving a curve of physical arousal indicating mood (or rather allowing it to be deduced) with low frequency pointing to a depressive basic mood and high frequency pointing to high spirits. 

The reason for the anomalous moods measured, according to Sturm and her team, was the “missing half-second,”5 an amount of time that passed between perception (signal, stimulus) and reaction without it being clear what occurred during this lost time.

Twenty years later, however, this out-of-synch or lost time made a comeback in Brian Massumi’s theory of affect, contributing to a veritable affective turn within cultural studies and media theory. “The skin is faster than the word,”6 wrote Massumi in the mid-1990s, paraphrasing his definition of affect as an intensity belonging to a “different order”: “Intensity is embodied in purely autonomic reactions most directly manifested in the skin – at the surface of the body, at its interface with things.”7

In A Tenth of a Second,8 Jimena Canales reconstructs the history of the search for and research into this missing space of time, documenting a huge interest within the disciplines of experimental psychology, astronomy, physics and metrology. Sigmund Freud was taken with it, as was Wilhelm Wundt at his institute of psychology in Leipzig. Others like Frances Galton saw the study of the missing split-second as a continuation of craniometry on a different level: those who react slowly have a sensitive personality; those who react quickly are aggressive, more intelligent. Gradually, this interest in measuring individual reaction times, “personal equating” or “personal error”, also began to appear in art, with noteworthy early examples including Marey’s chronophotography and Muybridge’s proto-cinematography. All this began with Hermann von Helmholtz, who wrote in 1850: “I have found that a measurable amount of time passes as the stimulus exerted by a momentary electrical current on the lumbar plexus of a frog is propagated to the place where the femoral nerve enters the calf muscle.”9 Helmholtz was a student of Johannes Müller who, in 1826, formulated the law of specific sensory energy which states that each sensory organ always reacts to stimuli in its own way, whatever their nature. The eye, for example, reacts to mechanical pressure with a sensation of light. From this, Müller concluded that objective reality cannot be recognized, and that perception is something highly subjective, based as it is on and in the body. In his Techniques of the Observer,10 Jonathan Crary accords a prominent place to Müller because he defined the eye and sight as being dependent on physical stimuli, thus, as Crary emphasizes, overturning the hegemony of a neutral visual apparatus.

What Helmholtz had discovered with his measurements, however, was not only the disappearance of time but also and above all the delay of energy – the energy in a muscle is not exerted completely at the moment of the stimulus, “but to a large extent only after that stimulus has already ceased.”11 Between stimulation and contraction, then, time (and energy) passes – not much, but enough to be clearly identifiable. The immediacy on which previous assumptions had been based turned out to be “an interval, a period, a space of time both circumscribed and empty – an interim, du temps perdu.”12

The definition of affect as an intermediate zone, an image of contact and interruption is linked in particular to Gilles Deleuze’s first cinema book, where he productively applied his adaptation of Bergson to film. Henri Bergson understood the world as an image in which we move, ourselves a special kind of image. “There is,” he writes, “no perception which is not prolonged into movement.”13 But precisely this moment of not-yet-movement, the interval placed by Bergson between one movement and another (which he referred to as “affection”) indicates a movement that is not yet action. Out of this, Deleuze developed the image type of the “affection-image,” a close-up that interrupts the logic of narrative and overrides depth of focus, causing the film image to bring forth a singular space – “any-space-whatever,” – neither geometric nor geographic nor social in any strict sense. This “any-space-whatever” is marked by visual or acoustic situations that credit the film (image) with affect of its own.14

As I explain in Desire After Affect, Mark Hansen has criticized this,15 accusing Deleuze of having read Bergson in a way that is, if not actually wrong, unacceptable for today’s media (art) context. Hansen introduced the concept of the “any-space-whatever” into digital art praxis. There – now outside any cinematographic framing – it combined with autonomous affect. This difference is important insofar as the autonomy of affect in Deleuze’s reading of film is qualitatively different from anthropomorphic emotions. In Hansen’s version, on the other hand, it combines with a neurobiological view that has generally abandoned the question of the subject. Digitally generated space is no longer connected with any kind of human activity. Its singularity and its potential are autonomous, neither understandable nor occupiable in human terms.

Today, following Hansen’s reintroduction of Bergson into recent debates on media technology, updating the body as a central image filter for the (immersive) visual world that surrounds us (as well as giving renewed credence to an essentialist view), attempts are being made, mainly using Alfred N. Whitehead’s process philosophy, to conceive of perception and sensation without the categories of consciousness or a fixed subject. Whitehead defines physical perception as always emotional, calling it a “blind emotion” that is “received as felt elsewhere in another occasion.”16 This involves not an accumulation of data but always a data relationship. The perceiving subject does not pre-exist the perceived world, but emerges through and in the process of perception. For Whitehead, the tradition of metaphysical theories of perception is marked by a fundamental misunderstanding whose central cause he sees in their privileging of visual perception. “I see something, so I simply perceive it” – this would be the classical description or basic theory, which Whitehead criticizes by pointing out that this seeing must always already be preceded by a process of abstraction (“prehension”), as a result of which “the feeling is subjectively rooted in the immediacy of the present occasion: it is what the occasion feels for itself, as derived from the past and as merging into the future.”17At the end of the perceptive process stands the “superject” that generates itself out of data received from the senses. In contrast to Kant, for whom experience also begins with affected contemplation that sets the activity of reason in motion, Whitehead assumes that consciousness is a negligible aspect of subjective experience. As constant perception, experience takes place for the most part below the threshold of consciousness, as the physical sensation that precedes every subject. In this “theory of sensation” the subject as superject is “the purpose of the process originating the feelings.”18 This process of subject generation centers neither on language nor on the subject, but on (physical) sensation, on (always already abstract) prehension or grasping, and on processes of affection by which matter becomes form and form becomes data.

This linking of Reality and Process is exemplified by thinking about affect, for if affect is conceived of as a force that brings forth a form, then there can be no body without affect; instead, a body is always the result – the event – of affective modulations. According to Deleuze, writing on Spinoza, affect is bound to the body; the more affections a body has, the greater its power. Decisive for Massumi, however, is the transition from this virtual power to an embodied event; and how this embodied event can be grasped conceptually. Terms such as “experienced qualities,” “sensations of life”, “oceanic experience” represent attempts to name what Massumi brings together in his concept of “intensity”: “By that I mean the immanent affirmation of a process, in its own terms. This is […] an activity. It’s when a process tends to the limit of what only it can do. It’s not mystical to call that self-affirming ‘life’.”19

Later, in the discussion of neuroplasticity, we will return to this affective modulation – as auto-affection or auto-modulation – and to the question of how the movements of the neurons can be translated into what Jaak Panksepp20 has called “subcortical affects.”21

From a not-yet-movement to small and swiftest movements

No longer small but not yet large22

Unlike René Descartes, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz denied that the mind was always active, insisting instead that there were moments and stretches of time during which consciousness registers (perception) but without conscious perception (apperception) of such overly small movements. According to Leibniz, consciousness as understood by Descartes and his followers always necessarily misses something, as something is always happening but not everything passes the threshold of conscious perception. With Spinoza, Deleuze explains the affectivity of the body by saying that each body defines itself by its length and breadth, by its longitude and latitude of power. The length of a body here refers to ratios of rapidity and slowness, of rest and motion between its particles, while its width comprises the sum of its affects, all of its intensive states.23

Leibniz uses the monad as the smallest particle, representing the universe. As every monad supposedly expresses the totality of the universe, it follows that the universe is expressed in a gradually complete sense. This means that not everything is expressed in the same way but on a scale of conscious to unconscious, from clear to less clear perceptions. One often-quoted example of this is Leibniz’s description of the sound of the sea, which he says we only hear because we hear each single wave, which we hear in turn only because we hear every single drop of water. But it is clear, Leibniz explains, that no ear can really hear this:

The impressions (effects) made on our ear by the individual waves, but which we are unable to distinguish between (discern) (because they are such changes in the external world as are not accompanied by changes in our bodily organs), are a typical example of petites perceptions. All significant changes within our bodies are soon noticed, thus leading to contents of consciousness.24

Leibniz distinguishes between three kinds of perceptions. Firstly, those that cause no changes to the organs, although it should be emphasized here, as Richard Herbertz writes, that they produce no “noticeable change,”25 but they certainly do produce changes, just ones that go unnoticed. Secondly, perceptions that occur in too large numbers, thus not capable of being registered as separate by consciousness. And thirdly, those where weaker perceptions are obscured by more powerful ones.26

Whereas Leibniz still viewed his monads as being driven by a Creator God, Spinoza’s “impersonal uniform substance” is characterized by infinite modes that can be understood as affections. Both Spinoza and Leibniz refer to affection, connecting it with the idea of the self-unfolding of the substance and therefore within time so as to define this substance as oneness and multiplicity at the same time.

From the mid-19th century, these small movements – sensations – started to be measured, produced under experimental conditions in laboratories, captured and recorded using early forms of photography, as mentioned earlier. And then, with the advent of film around the turn of the century, it became possible not only to intervene in the recording of movement (as life), but also to bring it to life as something existing in time, as a temporal sequence of images.27 These media techniques (of recording and playback) convey the movement of the living as something living, presenting it as permanent delay, as something always already deferred, although visually transparent. This is a procedure that can be mapped onto an existential life praxis that installs the delay in time (of life) as the space of the now – as a sequence of intervals: movement at a standstill – stasis as movement.

A similar moment can be identified in the cybernetic debate of the mid-20th century, where the phenomenon of time emerged as the gap between signal and movement of the machine/automaton. Norbert Wiener borrows Bergson’s concept of “duration” and applies it to both living humans and machines: “Thus the modern automaton exists in the same kind of Bergsonian time as the living organism, and hence there is no reason in Bergson’s considerations why the essential mode of functioning of the living organism should not be the same as that of the automaton of this type.”28 In 1951, Max Bense elaborated on this, claiming the time interval as the basis of the commensurability of machine and man in general terms. Except that, unlike humans, computer machines are capable of using (and exploiting) even the smallest interval. The interval in the human organism, empty according to Hertha Sturm or too full according to Brian Massumi, is filled by cybernetic computing machines with a speed of task fulfillment that surpasses human comprehension: “Cybernetic machines exhaust the smallest interval. An addition takes place in five millionths of a second; in five minutes, it can perform ten million additions or subtractions of ten-figure numbers.”29 However, Bense explicitly associates this mechanistic-sounding operational capacity with Bergson’s “duration” and sets it apart from steady, Newtonian time. 

Neuronal and affective (time) gaps

Que faire de notre cerveau? asked Catherine Malabou in her 2003 book of that title, in which she introduced the “field of action of an open plasticity of the brain.”30 In 2007, her next book The New Wounded31 bore the telling subtitle: From Neurosis to Brain Damage. Her central questions here included: What if psychoanalysis was only able to identify certain illnesses? What if at the time, in the early 20th century, it could not assess the brain correctly, leading it to examine only mental illnesses whose main trigger was repressed sexuality? And what if this sexual eventality were to be replaced within a future psychopathology by cerebral eventality?

And what, I would further ask, if this plasticity of the brain were to prompt us to rethink the connection between body, affect, and media technologies?

By substituting the brain for sexuality in this way, Malabou further confirms my theory that the dispositif of sex is shifting towards one of affect.32 But this also involves a reordering that shifts mental self-reference as the narcissistic ego ideal (mirroring) towards the technically controlled relationship of autoaffection. For, as Malabou goes on to explain, cerebral autoaffection displays a paradoxical blindness: “An inability of the subject to feel anything as far as it is concerned.”33 So although the brain is the reason why we touch ourselves, the brain itself does not appear as part of our body image. “The brain absents itself at the very site of its presence to self. It is only accessible by means of cerebral imaging technology.”34 One might of course object that the unconscious as defined by psychoanalysis can also be neither felt nor integrated into the body image – revealing itself instead in the famous Freudian slips, in dreams, as displacement and condensation. Freud also used the example of the Mystic Writing Pad to explain the functioning of the unconscious: Every trace ever scratched or inscribed on the pad is preserved, even if it is no longer visible, revealed when light shines on the wax from a particular angle. With this image, Freud described the unconscious as something that is atemporal, beyond time, but that also intervenes in subjective time (the time of the speaking, forgetting subject). The new unconscious entity, however, the “cerebral unconscious”, does the opposite, operating as pure time. It comes as no surprise, then, that affect appears in this context, introduced by Malabou as follows: “Within the brain, affect does not detach from itself; it does not deprive itself of its own energy; it does not delegate itself; […] Indeed, the self, at its very core, is not gathered; its manifestation is fundamentally temporal.”35 This means that affect and the core self are one. But it also allows Malabou to define affect as the center of a new libidinal economy, thus not only altering the relationship of body and mind, but also radically questioning the division between the human and natural sciences.36 This in turn means that besides forming the basis for a new libidinal economy,37 affect itself will be redefined.

When Antonio Damasio published Looking for Spinoza,38 his interpretation of Spinoza as a neurologist avant la lettre could be dismissed as a presumptuous exaggeration. Today, Damasio has long since been accepted by the humanities, where there is now a striking readiness to use his interpretation of emotions and feelings, of patterns and representations of the body in the mind, and, more generally, to accept a new affective ontology.39 In Spinoza’s refusal to view body and mind as separate entities, understanding them instead in terms of different intensities, Damasio sees the first step towards a biological definition of consciousness, the exploration of which is now driving the development of computer technologies. The aim of these new computer simulations is not only to visualize the active brain, but to translate brain activity directly.40 Here, neurology, media technologies, and affect have entered into a powerful alliance whose impact is now becoming increasingly clear.

Plasticity and Affects

In 1958, Gilbert Simondon made a distinction between the plasticity of the machine and that of the human brain. While the first refers to the plasticity of the carrier, in the case of humans it refers to the plasticity of content, of memory, as Simondon emphases. “The memory of the machine triumphs in the multiple and the disordered: human memory triumphs in the unity of forms and in order.”41 The reason for this is the lack or absence of integrative plasticity on the part of the machine, a crucial aspect of the human. Whereas human memory reforms itself with every new input, so that every new content means a new formatting code, the form of the machine is stable/static, with plasticity limited to its software. “In humans, and living beings in general, content becomes encoding, whereas in the machine encoding and content remain separate as the precondition and that which it shapes […]: the living is that in which the a posteriori becomes a priori; memory is the function by which this takes place.”42

Here, Simondon also refers to Bergson, who saw this capacity for storage – which interested him primarily in its function of temporal compression – as the key factor for change: human beings, and living beings in general, are by definition agents of change: “The living being is that which modulates, that in which there is a modulation, and not an energy reservoir or an effector.”43 But what if this distinction from 1958 can no longer be upheld? What if form and content – as Bruno Latour, among others, has prominently asked44 – can no longer be kept apart? What if, instead, self-modifying machines with their evolutionary programs alter and recode themselves – in ways that may be similar to the brain – making it possible, conversely, to utilize the plasticity of the brain by means of media technology and pharmacology?45

The term “neural plasticity” was introduced in 1949 by the Canadian neurologist Donald Olding Hebb.46 Catherine Malabou takes it as a basis, adding two further forms of plasticity: that of brain development and that of brain renewal (neural renewal, secondary neurogenesis, resilience). The fact that we now operate with the image of brain plasticity, rather than using comparisons with a telephone exchange (Bergson) or the hard drive of a computer (cybernetics), may have less to do with actual advances in neurological research and more with economic and political developments. Nonetheless, the parallel between the affective interval and the cerebral space, described as consisting of cuts, gaps and jumps, is unmistakable: “Nerve circuits consist of neurons juxtaposed at the synapses; there is a break between one neuron and the other,” as the French neurologist Jean-Pierre Changeux put it in the early 1980s.47 In their countless movements, then, these unconnected neurons, equipped with a specific time, translate matter into feeling, into a “blind emotion,” in the words of Whitehead, who also, with respect to the brain, defined subjectivity as a zone of lost time, as the “life […] in the interstices of each living cell and in the interstices of the brain.”48

Affective Knowledge

When media art began to be widespread in the 1990s, interest grew in the interface as the link between humans and machines. Immersion in virtual worlds was often compared with the early stages of infant development where the lines of orientation and distinction have not yet been clearly drawn. As well as Deleuze and Bergson, Daniel Stern’s approach was much discussed in this context. According to Stern, subjectivity develops out of a transsubjective character, emerging from the body’s zones of intensity as the overlapping of “sharable” and “non-sharable affects.”49 Later, Stern’s interest increasingly shifted to the moment of the now. And it might be considered as no coincidence that Stern’s more recent analyses of this present moment name a specific time: the present moment lasts between one and ten seconds. Why one to ten seconds, Stern asks himself, what happens in this time, what eludes us in this interval? This brings us back to the findings of Hertha Sturm, but we can also see links to the description offered by Leibniz with his “petites perceptions.” Stern now also argues that we are only capable of perceiving larger units: “We are bombarded with almost constant sequences of such small units. If we considered each such perceptual unit as a potentially important and meaningful event requiring attention and awareness, it would be like continually being under the fire of a machine gun. These sequences must get chunked into larger units more suited to adaptation.”50 Stern even goes on to explain how each holistic happening of the present moment can be broken down into component parts (affects, cognitions, a sequence of actions, perceptions, sensations) but that for the individual it constitutes a whole that is temporally dynamic. He calls these dynamic time-shapes “vitality affects,” described using terms such as accelerating, fading, exploding, unstable, tentative, or forceful. Stern further explains that these micro-temporal dynamics, what he calls the “temporal contours of stimulation,” play upon and within our nervous system and are transposed into “contours of feelings” within us.51

This description certainly corresponds with the “hard” facts offered by neuro-science when it assumes that consciousness is based on affect, making it impossible to grasp fully in terms of cognitive faculties alone. These affective layers are defined as subcortical structures that are active long before any consciousness, making consciousness appear as something far more widespread, not limited to human consciousness. Cognitive psychologist Jaak Panksepp thus argues that “we should remain open to the possibility that the fundamental ability of neural tissue to elaborate primary-process forms of affective experience evolved long before human brain evolution allowed us to think and to talk about such things.”52 And biochemist Nick Lane insists that even if feelings are physical, they are not material, but merely a neural construct: “But if feelings are no more than neurons doing their thing, why do they seem so real, why are they so real? […] because they have real meaning, meaning that has been acquired in the crucible of selection, meaning that comes from real life, real death.”53

This kind of affective knowledge can be now found both in fictions like Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo54 and in a positive valuation of autistic persons in real life.55 In the novel, towards the end of his successful cooperation with Lisbeth Salander (the eponymous girl with the dragon tattoo), Mikael Blomkvist remarks that she must have something like Asperger’s syndrome: autistic as far as people and her surroundings are concerned, but brilliant at identifying patterns and structures, brilliant at hacking networks and computers, and even more brilliant at following clues.56

But such an emphasis on pattern recognition capabilities is not new, even if they are now being placed within a new context regarding their usage. Susanne Langer, a student of Cassirer and Whitehead, is one of the recently rediscovered philosophers who anticipated the “affective turn” by formulating a critique of what they saw as a misunderstanding of philosophy of language, defining the language of the arts, especially that of music and dance, as forms that are not discursive but presentative. Whereas Russell, Carnap, Frege, and Wittgenstein understood the logical beyond the unspeakable as a sphere of subjective experience, assigning it to psychology and no longer considering as part of the realm of the semantic, Langer took a radically different position. Borrowing from Cassirer, she introduced a concept of the symbolic that also includes what is generally understood as the “affective gesture” or expressive articulation of emotion. In Langer’s view, then, there is a world that does not exist outside of the physical world or beyond time and space, but which nonetheless does not fit in any grammatical scheme of expression. In the spirit of Whitehead, she therefore insists that “an object is not a datum, but a form construed by the sensitive and intelligent organ, a form which is at once an experienced individual thing and a symbol for the concept of it, for this sort of thing.”57 For Langer, this bundling and recognition of patterns is an innate ability that she sees as the root of our entire capacity for abstraction and “which in turn is the keynote of rationality; so it appears that the conditions for rationality lie deep in our pure animal experience – in our power of perceiving, in the elementary functions of our eyes and ears and fingers. Mental life begins with our mere physiological constitution.”58


If sensory perception of the world takes place prior to all consciousness, one might ask, finally, what this “prior to consciousness” means – is it an unconscious or rather a non-conscious? Who is dancing when dancers dance? Who is moving when bodies process stimuli? For Freud, the notion of the drive was a transitional concept bridging the divide between the somatic and the mental. I think that today, for various reasons, it is possible to replace the notion of the drive with that of affect to obtain a similarly transitional concept. But as I explain in my theory of the affective dispositif, this concept is one that no longer follows the movement of desire (for the Other) but which, with a focus on movement, interval, and plasticity, leads to surprising parallels (synchronizations) between the socio-political and the somatic.59 In this context, the “not-yet-movement” of affect often mentioned here can be understood as a form of auto-affection,60 as self-moving in the sense of a first difference (to be moved by motion). Against this background, brains, bodies, dancers, crowds,61 and even financial markets62 can be understood as fields of movement with different timings. This auto-affection is not a question of consciousness, but is deeply connected with the un- or non-conscious, making it all the more necessary to link it with the consequences of the cerebral unconscious as introduced by Malabou and others. As already mentioned, the cerebral unconscious is one in time – more than this, it is time. This unconsciousness or now non-conscious is no longer produced by and through language (as seen in psychoanalysis), but through movement and its intervals: real movement, smaller movements, or “embodied simulation,”63 as described in neuroscience today. This shift not only makes it possible to draw parallels as described above, but also points to new forms of relatedness – towards the self and to others (including non-humans). There is increasingly strong evidence of an affective mode of existence focusing on the use of media technologies (of control and surveillance). Brain scans, Google Glass and smart gadgets for home and travel promise constant updates on one’s own personal mood status in an environment that is algorithmically rendered transparent to a similar degree. This means that the great interest in dance and the findings of neuroscience really is due to an inkling that body and brain now find themselves bracketed together in a new category that would like to encompass both the smallest and the biggest movement.

1 See: (retrieved April 7, 2014).
2 Boyan Manchev, “Der Widerstand des Tanzes,” Corpus,, (retrieved January 9, 2013: trans. Nicholas Grindell) 
3 Margaret Wetherell describes the case of a dance epidemic that is supposed to have taken place in Strasbourg in 1518 and that can be read as an example of the affective, dancing body that will no longer be calm, see: Margaret Wetherell, Affect and Emotion. A New Social Science Understanding (London/Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2012), p. 5.
4 Marie-Luise Angerer, Vom Begehren nach dem Affekt (Zurich/Berlin: Diaphanes, 2007), English translation Desire After Affect (London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2014).
5 Today, the half-second is attributed primarily to Benjamin Libet, who calls it the “short delay.” See: Marie-Luise Angerer, “Vom Lauf der halben Sekunde,”–1/angerer-marie-luise-6/PDF/angerer.pdf (retrieved March 4, 2014).
6 Brian Massumi, “The Autonomy of Affect,” in: Paul Patton, ed., DELEUZE: A Critical Reader (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 1996), p. 217–239, here p. 219.
7 Ibid., p. 218f.
8 Jimena Canales, A Tenth of a Second. A History (Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press, 2009).
9 Quoted in: Henning Schmidgen, Die Helmholtz-Kurven. Auf der Spur der verlorenen Zeit (Berlin: Merve, 2009), p. 74 (trans. Nicholas Grindell).
10 Jonathan Crary, On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century (Cambridge, Mass./London: MIT Press, 1992).
11 Schmidgen, Die Helmholtz-Kurven, p. 93.
12 Ibid.
13 Henri Bergson, Memory and Matter (New York: Cosimo, 2007), p. 111.
14 Gilles Deleuze, The Time-Image (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), p. 5–6.
15 Mark B. N. Hansen, New Philosophy for New Media (Cambridge, Mass./London: The MIT Press, 2004).
16 Alfred N. Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (New York: Free Press, 1978), p. 162.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid., p. 222.
19 Brian Massumi, “The Thinking-Feeling of What Happens: The Semblance of a Conversation,” in Inflexions 1:1 (; last retrieved April 25, 2014).
20 Jaak Panksepp, “At the Interface of the Affective, Behavioral, and Cognitive Neurosciences: Decoding the Emotional Feelings of the Brain,” Brain and Cognition, 52 (2003): p. 4–14. I would like to thank Frank Pasemann for drawing my attention to this neuroscientist.
21 Although the work of Donna Haraway may not appear to play a role here, her concept of coshaping is evidence of the degree to which she, too, has been influenced in her thinking by Alfred N. Whitehead. She explains for instance how, during agility training with her dog, their bodies, her body and that of her dog, began to adjust to one another. “In recent speaking and writing on companion species, I have tried to live inside the many tones of regard/respect/seeing each other/looking back at/meeting/optic-haptic encounter. Species and respect are in optic/haptic/affective/cognitive touch: they are at table together; they are messmates, companions […]. Companion species – coshapings all the way down, in all sorts of temporalities and corporealities – is my awkward term for a not-humanism in which species of all sorts are in question,” Donna J. Haraway, When Species Meet (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), p. 164.
22 Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Inner Touch. Archeology of a Sensation (New York: Zone Book, 2009), p. 209.
23 See: Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza. Practical Philosophy (San Francisco: City Lights, 1988), p. 127.
24 Richard Herbertz, Die Lehre vom Unbewussten im System von Leibniz [1905] (Hildesheim/New York: Olms, 1980), p. 45 (trans. Nicholas Grindell). 
25 Ibid.
26 See: ibid.
27 See: Christopher Kelty and Hannah Landecker, “Das Schauspiel der Zelle. Unsterblichkeit, Apostrophe, Apoptose,” in: Marie-Luise Angerer, Kathrin Peters, Zoe Sofoulis, eds., Future-Bodies. Zur Visualisierung von Körpern in Science und Fiction (Vienna/New York: Springer, 2002), p. 21–47.
28 Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics. Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1965), p. 44.
29 Max Bense, “Kybernetik oder die Metatechnik einer Maschine,” in: Ausgewählte Schriften, Vol. 2: Philosophie der Mathematik, Naturwissenschaft und Technik (Stuttgart/Weimar: J.B. Metzler, 1998), p. 429–446, here p. 440.
30 Catherine Malabou, What Should We Do With Our Brain (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008).
31 Catherine Malabou, The New Wounded. From Neurosis to Brain Damage (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012).
32 It should be underlined here that this shifting or replacement of sexuality has been underway since the mid-20th century. One prominent example is Silvan Tomkins, whose affect model contributed to the affect hype that set in within cultural studies in the mid-1990s. See: Angerer, Desire After Affect; and idem, “Affekt: Scham und Paranoia,” in: Angelika Baier et al., eds., Affekt und Geschlecht. Eine einführende Anthologie (Vienna: Zaglossus Verlag, 2014), p. 111–130.
33 Malabou, The New Wounded, p. 42.
34 Ibid., p. 43.
35 Ibid., p. 44.
36 Catherine Malabou and Adrian Johnston, Self and Emotional Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), p. 3.
37 A new libidinal economy following on from that of psychoanalysis, parallel to Parisi’s “biodigital conception of desire,” Luciana Parisi, Abstract Sex (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2004) and Guattari’s “ecological libido,” Félix Guattari, Les Trois Écologies (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1989).
38 Antonio Damasio, Looking for Spinoza. Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain (Boston: Harcourt, 2003).
39 See for example: Grant David Bollmer, “Pathologies of Affect. The ‘New Wounded’ and the Politics of Ontology,” Cultural Studies, vol. 28/2 (August 2014): p. 298–326; thanks to Bernd Bösel for the tip.
40 (retrieved February 18, 2014).
41 Gilbert Simondon, Die Existenzweise technischer Objekte (Zurich: Diaphanes, 2012), p. 113 (trans. Nicholas Grindell).
42 Ibid., p. 114.
43 Ibid., p. 131.
44 Bruno Latour, “A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design (with Special Attention to Peter Sloterdijk),” (retrieved March 6, 2014). 
45 See: Luciana Parisi’s text in this volume.
46 (retrieved February 2, 2014).
47 Jean-Pierre Changeux, Neuronal Man (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1997), p. 83.
48 Whitehead, Process and Reality, p. 105f.
49 Daniel N. Stern, The Interpersonal World of the Infant. A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology (New York: Basic Books, 1985), p. 37–68. See also: the texts by Bernd Bösel and Chris Salter in this volume.
50 Daniel N. Stern, The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life (New York/London: Norton, 2004), p. 42.
51 Ibid., p. 36.
52 Panksepp, “At the Interface of the Affective, Behavioral, and Cognitive Neurosciences,” p. 7.
53 Nick Lane, Life Ascending. The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution (London: Profile Books, 2010), p. 259.
54 Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Toronto: Penguin Group, 2011).
55 In May 2013, for example, the software company SAP sent out a press release announcing plans to hire autistic staff on account of their unbeatable qualifications with regard to error detection in production, (retrieved March 7, 2014).
56 “Asperger’s Syndrome, he thought. Or something like that. A talent for seeing patterns and understanding abstract reasoning where other people perceive only white noise,” Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, p. 399.
57 Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key (New York: The New American Library, 1962), p. 83 (emphasis original). 
58 Ibid.
59 John Protevi, Political Affect. Connecting the Social and the Somatic (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), p. 17.
60 See: Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1976); Patricia T. Clough, Autoaffection. Unconscious Thought in the Age of Teletechnology (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000).
61 See also: Sebastian Vehlken’s text in this volume.
62 See also: Brian Massumi’s text in this volume.
63 Simulation here indicates something beyond the realm of action, a “functional mechanism, used by vast parts of the brain. […] Its mode of operation is unconscious, automatic and pre-reflexive,” Marc Jeannerod, Motor Cognition (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 148.

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Marie-Luise Angerer

Marie-Luise Angerer

(1958–2024) war zuletzt Professorin für Medientheorie/Medienwissenschaft an der Universität Potsdam, geschäftsführende Direktorin des Brandenburgischen Zentrums für Medienwissenschaften (ZeM) sowie Sprecherin des Forschungskollegs Sensing: Zum Wissen sensibler Medien. Ihr Forschungsschwerpunkt war die Verbindung von Affekt- und neurowissenschaftlichen Theorien, Medientechnologien und die sich hieraus ableitenden Reformulierungen psychoanalytischer / poststrukturalistischer Begriffe (Unbewusstes, Begehren u.a.). Zu ihren Publikationen zählen u.a. Affektökologie. Intensive Milieus und zufällige Begegnungen (meson press, 2017), Vom Begehren nach dem Affekt (diaphanes, 2007), das 2014 mit einem neuen Kapitel unter dem Titel Desire After Affect in englischer Übersetzung erschien, Timing of Affect. Epistemologies, Aesthetics, Politics (mit Bernd Bösel und Michaela Ott, diaphanes 2014) sowie aktuelle Aufsätze zum Nichtbewussten und zur Neuverteilung von agency zwischen humanen und nonhumanen Akteur_innen.

Weitere Texte von Marie-Luise Angerer bei DIAPHANES
Marie-Luise Angerer (Hg.), Bernd Bösel (Hg.), ...: Timing of Affect

Affect, or the process by which emotions come to be embodied, is a burgeoning area of interest in both the humanities and the sciences. For »Timing of Affect«, Marie-Luise Angerer, Bernd Bösel, and Michaela Ott have assembled leading scholars to explore the temporal aspects of affect through the perspectives of philosophy, music, film, media, and art, as well as technology and neurology. The contributions address possibilities for affect as a capacity of the body; as an anthropological inscription and a primary, ontological conjunctive and disjunctive process as an interruption of chains of stimulus and response; and as an arena within cultural history for political, media, and psychopharmacological interventions. Showing how these and other temporal aspects of affect are articulated both throughout history and in contemporary society, the editors then explore the implications for the current knowledge structures surrounding affect today.