Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sampling as Causation

Over at Timothy Morton’s blog, he has a few posts up developing his notion of sampling as a form of causation (and it appears, interaction, if I read him correctly) of objects. For Morton, objects sample each other but in doing so, retroactively change or effect themselves:
Every sample is a translation, in that it chops a sensual slice out of an object and thereby creates another object. To that extent then, causality is a kind of sampling. Thus when we observe a phenomenon, we are always looking strictly at the past, since we are observing a sample of another object. To sample is to posit retroactively.
In other words, any quality found in an object is an uncanny return or a moment of retroactive causation. For example, the table in front of me has a certain hardness to it, a phenomenon or effect of some other object(s), but what withdraws from my interaction with the hard table is precisely this cause – that is, those tiny dense particles. Therefore, according to Morton – and I think I understand him correctly – this hardness works retroactively to color over the table and perhaps its surroundings. Effects, then, are often so surprising that they cover over the everyday work that causes them.

Objects interact with other objects at all levels of scale. Morton’s sampling proposes that objects are both samples of other objects and are themselves constantly being sampled by other objects. Perhaps this is another way of discussing the active or productive nature of objects in OOO – like I argued for in my last post with Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of machines as products/producers.

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