plateaus = awesome

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of plateaus (From "Introduction: Rhizome"), and specifically about how we can grasp them in our minds that so very much latch onto structure (like you, Bumpkins, I feel need structure in my life in most things, and am quite lost without it, so the idea of plateaus is both tantalizing and infuriating at the same time). The way D&G write is in plateaus, as they claim, "each plateau can be read starting anywhere and can be related to any other plateau." (22) What a brilliant, non-linear way to write . . . albeit one that might render the reader completely inept at locating her/himself in the text, in much the way Jameson claims our bodies are utterly unable to map themselves in Postmodern "hyperspace."

So, I have been trying to visualize plateaus . . . three things keep coming up for me: (1) my initial envisioning of plateaus was a funny toy I had as a kid: check it out at http://www.baby-wise.com/images/images_big/10-2451-01.jpg except this is a finite example, but nonetheless, it was one that was initally useful for me; (2) then I started thinking about a book composed of plateaus as a work of hypertext writing; (3) and then I couldn't get the notion of the internet as an infinity of plateaus out of my brain (which, ironically, may be the site of most personal interaction with the concept of plateaus as D&G write about how the brain is flowing with memories, and short term memory is rhizomatic, and plateaus are made of rhizomes).

So how about the hypertext? Is it something that is approachable in our tree-loving/structure-craving frame of mind? I think for some theory, the hypertext encapsulates the perfect mode of communication. Just as D&G took issue with various linguistics models for not being abstract enough (p. 7)--indeed some ideas are far better off elaborated upon and explored in a hypertext scenario in which one can weave in and out and not follow any order of events in particular. But is it always the best way to get at the meat of things? I say no, but I also say a structure of plateaus allows for more reader freedom, personal choice, and depth.

Moving to the idea of the internet as a landscape of plateaus, nothing seems to explain the very structure of internet better. Once this comparison popped into my head, (even though D&G were NOT writing about the internet) I had immense difficulty departing from it. There is no beginning or end of the internet. It matters not whether the links of the internet are severed from one another (in the way D&G describe tearing apart of rhizomes) because they can be reestablished along old lines, or new ones can form. There is no natural order of events to explore the internet. (Interesting it would be, however, to have the capacity to map and chart one's journey from one plateau of the internet to the next, hmmmm.)

Basically, I like the idea of plateaus, but I wasn't really sure how they pertained to anything in "real life" until the very end of the reading . . .

I was really intrigued by the last paragraph of this piece, on page 25 . . . It struck my in a very strong "hell-yes!-this-is-how-I-want-to-live-my-life" type of way. Very unexpected, but very exciting! I absolutely loved the idea of continually viewing the matter at hand in the context of the middle. There is no need to see where one has been, where one is going, what one is heading for. It is about the "and . . . and . . . and," the relationships from one plateau to the next, and in this idea lies for me (or perhaps I am imagining it) the essence of meaning in life: celebrating the ties we all share with one another, and continually viewing our interactions as in the thick of it, in the middle, at the center of the plateau.

What do you guys think about plateaus??

Am I out on a tangent with my (for some reason) very excited reading of them??

After reading 3NT's comment on my other post about how the internet is not strictly rhizomatic, I wanted to clarify what I meant by my above explanation . . . I think the internet, in raw form, sans issues of corporate ownership, censoring, etc. IS in fact a sea of plateaus. BUT once you throw all of the issues of money and who controls which sites, preference given to which size of bandwidths, etc. into the mix, it becomes clear that the internet is actually a tree-like hierarchical structure masquerading as rhizomatic plateaus.

I just wanted to clear that up :)

I don't see corporate ownership or censoring as limiting the extent of the internet as a rhizome. These companies can never really control anything more than they own; consider all of the information on the internet is constantly evolving without their permission or by their accord. They have their own plateau amongst the rest of the plateaus that are each particular web pages. The "ill effects" of a few do not ruin the structure of the entire beast.

I also appreciate this post immensely as it finally gives me a visual of what a rhizome could actually look like. I get so lost trying to translate and place what the are saying into a greater context of things that I can't grasp all of the meaning. The visual aid is key to interpreting, for me, all of this mess of information that doesn't stem from a "tree" like center. I'm starting to realize I'm too conservative, in the sense of old school, to fully grasp everything postmodern. I'll stick to The Office and a sense of ignorance, I like bliss more than G&D.

Does our mutual interest in the Internet as a rhizomatic network count as tag-teaming? If so, *air high-five*

I also get the “hell-yes!-this-is-how-I-want-to-live-my-life” vibe from D + G, particularly in moments such as the "Don't be one or multiple. Be multiplicities!" injunction. I think you'd like the chapter entitled "How Do You Make Yourself a Body Without Organs?" as well - it was life-affirming for me in the same way as the intro.

*air high-five* right back at ya.

Do you have any ideas about how this could be more possible considering the business model of the internet??

I saw this BBC article today, and thought it showed something positive and hopeful, and possibly rhizomatic . . .
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7073664.stm

Basically, a couple of Yale students created a site (to be launched on Sunday) called Scoop08 that will pool together video clips, podcasts, and blogs all to do with the upcoming election. They want to spotlight issues that don't get attention in the mainstream media so as to get at a more diverse slice of things. Beautiful.

I think this is a great way for people our age to try and rhizomatize (is that a word? who cares, I'm going with it) political debate and issues using the medium of the internet.

I will be interested to see if and how this site (and perhaps other grassroots kind of sites) will challenge big media in the 2008 elections.

Hey, at least this is a starting place.

can you please stop the virtual PDA :)

- The rest of the class

This project looks awesome - and also aesthetically pleasing, which is paramount to political efficacy (but frequently overlooked). In terms of its rhizomatic potential, I think the power of Scoop08 lies in the possibility of legitimizing (or re-legitimizing?) certain rhizomatic strains of discourse / social networks / political strategies / etc. that have been marginalized by mainstream systems of representation. I tend to think that structures - particularly in this period of transnational capital - *are inherently* rhizomatic, and that arborescent models are ideological superimpositions which attempt to (violently) contain the explosive, chaotic capacity of rhizomes. Perhaps, then, "rhizomatization" is not the struggle to produce new, decentralized networks, but rather, to unpack, or (I like this term) "excavate," the always-already rhizomatic quality of existing networks? In other words, the project might be as *simple* as exploring the disavowals and displacements necessary to make rhizomes appear arboreal. Along these lines, I would read Scoop08 as refusing the disavowal of young people as a political force on which the discursive hegemony of mainstream journalism (an oxymoron?) relies. High school and college students - as well as many other marginal groups - are already part of the rhizomatic networks that define social and political life; Scoop08 simply brings that to light. And it's excellent. What do you think of its rhizomatic possibilities?

In more general terms, I'm big on opensource programs that enable symbiotic sharing of creative and intellectual content, as well as peer-to-peer networks (e.g. limewire) that subvert anti-democratic intellectual property laws. I know it sounds quixotic, but I have hope that online collectives in which people support each other by exchanging their content according to volition instead of coercion (go Radiohead!) could lead to widespread social change in the material world. Maybe?

The whole rhizome idea and especially how it pertains to hypertext is very very interesting to me. I agree with your statement that the internet is the closest one can get to a/the (when the medium is taken to its limit, I would assert that the distinction becomes meaningless) hypertext in this day and age despite the various aspects of the internet's construction and function that are centered and controlled. Probably the coolest thing about the internet, as opposed to other experiments with hypertext, is the degree to which it evades a unitary authorship. Granted, there are lots of factors that determine access, and stating that the internet is a truly egalitarian space open to all would be naive, but few other texts can claim such a diverse and explicit group responsible for their construction. It would be interesting to know what Deleuze and Guattari would have to say about whether or not this is an example of an "open ring" (9).

Based on our reading, I cast my vote fully support rhizomes, and so also plateaus and your excitement about them. I can make a lot of sense of rhizomes by thinking about hypertext and fixed kind of things like that, but it gets trickier for me when motion gets involved, which is the situation you seem to address at the end of your post. I guess the way that I would see rhizomatic living wouldn't be one that was history and memory-less, but that fought the narrativizing tendencies in human thought (i.e. that was when I was young and happy and free, now my life is complicated as I have been thrust into the world and I am no longer carefree, and everything in between can be read as the footnotes of a journey from A to B and a struggle backwards). I guess this is what you're saying too, and it seems like a cool idea. The only thing that makes me a little uncertain is the difference between thinking in vectors and thinking in lines; it seems like it would always make sense to have some idea of how your relationships to things and events will change as a result to the forces of causality in your life, but is this the same as viewing your life in light of an overall totalizing narrative? Either way you're just anticipating events and making guesses about what you'll experience in the future based on the past. To live rhizomatically, do you have to try and avoid placing the future and past in relation to each other, in explicit relation to each other, or something else entirely?