Experimentações teóricas, fichamentos e outros comentários descartáveis

Modulação depois do controle

Rafael Gonçalves
Yuk Huimodulaçãofichamentoamplificaçãocontroleredes sociaisGilbert SimondonGilles Deleuze

Fichamento do artigo Modulation after control1 do filósofo (e engenheiro da computação) Yuk Hui partindo das noções de sociedade de controle de Deleuze e amplificação moduladora de Simondon.

Sociedades de soberania, disciplinares e de controle

The passage from the society of sovereignty to disciplinary society is characterised by the shift from direct commands (e.g. to tax, to rule on death) to a disciplinary mode of production (e.g. prisons, factories, or other enclosures of space). In control societies, Deleuze proposes, we can observe a new form of operation that is no longer about the enclosure of space. To be more precise, it is no longer a control that explicitly and directly imposes its violence or force on individuals; and nor does it archive their obedience according to its institutional and social code, as we can see in the example of prisons. Rather, this new type of control is characterised by creating a space for the individual, as if he or she has the freedom to tangle and to create, while their production as well their ends follow the logic of intangible forces. (p. 75)

Moldagem x modulação

If we understand the first form of control - direct intervention - as moulding [moulage], then this second form of control can be understood in terms of modulation. In Deleuze’s own words: ‘enclosures are moulds, distinct mouldings, but controls are modulations, like an auto-deforming mould that would continuously change from one moment to the other’. (p. 75)

Esfera do trabalho (controle por modulação)

Deleuze’s description of modulation can clearly be understood in terms of changing labour conditions: under Taylorism, workers worked according to strict codes and followed well-defined instructions in the factory; towards the 1980s, a new mode of control began to appear, which the French sociologist Philippe zarifian calls a ‘control by modulation’, which ‘gave the worker a certain freedom to manage his time, displacement and a good number of his actions’. (p. 75)

Analógico x Digital

Deleuze made another comparison between disciplinary society and control societies in terms of the analogical and the numerical. Retrospectively, the word numérique, has a double meaning according to the common translations of this word today: firstly numerical, as number for management; secondly digital, which is closely related to the digital networked technologies used for management and surveillance, recently amplified due to the Snowden affair. (p. 75)

O conceito de modulação

The concept of modulation was introduced by Simondon in his principle thesis L’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information (Individuation Considered in the Light of the Notions of Form and Information) in order to resist the idea of moulding, which has been central to Western ideas of the relationship between form and materiality at least since Aristotle. (p. 76)

O hylemorfismo

Moulding is the paradigmatic example of what Simondon calls ‘hylomorphism’. hylomorphism is his name for the theory of matter and form first posited by Aristotle. This model understands being in terms of form and matter, conceived as absolutely distinct categories, from which we can derive the essence of any entity’s being: an object of such and such a form [morph] and consisting of such and such matter [hyle] is what an entity is. (p. 76)

Simondon understands hylomorphism as an obstacle that prevents thinking about the nature of becoming; worse still, hylomorphism opposes being and becoming, for becoming - a processual condition of ongoing immanent transformation - destroys individuality when the latter is considered only in terms of a relationship between form and matter. Concerning the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Simondon wrote ‘becoming remains conceived as movement, and movement as imperfection’ (p. 76)

Ser e devir como complementaridade

Instead, Simondon proposed, ‘becoming should not be opposed to being; it is a constitutive relation of being as individual’ (ibid). (p. 76)

Dialética x disparidade

If we can say that hylomorphism operates dialectically (form+matter=synthesis), then modulation operates in terms of disparation [disparity], a word used by Simondon to describe internal tensions within any given being. (p. 77)

Modulação como resistência (Deleuze)

Modulation for Deleuze serves as a form of resistance, not only against moulding or cohesive forces, but also against a certain history of philosophy (e.g. the Aristotelian - Kantian tradition). (p. 77)

Modulação como operação de poder nas sociedades de controle (Deleuze)

however, it is interesting to note that in the later works such as the ‘Postscript on Control Societies’, the concept of modulation becomes the paradigm of capitalistic production, or more precisely the operation of power in control societies. (p. 77)

Molde (essência) x modulaçã (devir) (Deleuze)

In the idea of moulding we encounter an essentialist conception of the object conceived in terms of a rigid distinction between form and matter; in modulation, the mannerist concept of the object understands becoming as an event in which certain immanent properties of matter are expressed. (p. 78)

Deleuze sobre a TV (curso sobre pintura)

Deleuze derived three results from this understanding of modulation: (1) there is a passage from moulding to modulation which one should distinguish; (2) all code is in fact a ‘grafting’ of code onto an analogue flux, meaning that analogue is the background to the digital; (3) the analogue, in its most strict sense or in an aesthetic sense, can be precisely defined by modulation. (p. 78)

The discussion on modulation aims to redefine painting neither as modelling nor as moulding, but as modulation of colour and/or light. (p. 78)

Painting Modulation
Canvas Surface/background
Light and color Wave
Space Signal

Ser como devir em modulação

By bringing Simondon and leibniz together, Deleuze went beyond their descriptive scope, and constructed an ontological understanding, which includes not only technical objects (Simondon) or curves (leibniz), but also all kind of objects as well as subjects. his discussion of painting further demonstrated the profundity of his modulative thinking, which cannot be reduced to a simple opposition between moulding and modulation, but rather implies a totally new ontological ground for understanding being as modulated becoming. later Deleuze deploys this metaphysical framework to understand the nature objects as well as subjects. (p. 79)

Efetivamente modulação e moldagem coexistem (hibridos)

Conceptually one opposes modulation and moulding; in reality, modulation and moulding co-exist, and consists of a hybrid mode, which Simondon calls modelage. (p. 79)

Ontogênese, amplificação e cibernética (Simondon)

We can understand modulation as a constant becoming according to certain measures and constraints. Once being is understood in terms of relations, then being can be imagined as an amplification in which different relations are modulated according to respective causes and effects. This ontogenetic understanding of being opens the way not only for a new metaphysics, but also a new politics that proposes new models of organisation based on feedback, namely cybernetics. (p. 80)

Amplificação transdutiva (Simondon)

Transductive amplification could be exemplified by the process of crystallisation, in which the propagation of information is ‘transductive’, meaning that it is robust and multiple, involving a transfer of information from one phase-state to another. As a model of information-exchange, transduction has to be distinguished from classical logic, which is based on step by step inference of propositions. In the crystallisation of a supersaturated solution, for example, once the nuclei are formed they release energy that triggers the crystallisation of the surrounding solution and propagates until the solution becomes metastable. For Simondon, a social metaphor would be the spread of rumours, which does not follow a linear propagation, and relies upon the affective potency of the rumours and their implications more than any rational cognitive logic. (p. 80-81)

Amplificação moduladora

The second type of amplification effect, the modulative - named after modulation - has a more specific meaning here, and is our central focus. Simondon gives the example of a triode to explain the effect of modulative amplification. The triode is the basic form of electronic amplifier that powered electronic devices prior to the invention of microchips (which are still based on its principles). The glass valves which powered mid-twentieth century radios, TVs and stereo amplifiers were all based on this model. A triode works by adding a positive-feedback control to a diode. In a diode, there is a cathode with a negative charge, and another with positive charge. The cathode is heated to emit electrons, the positive charge of the anode attracts electrons towards it, and a current is produced. The triode puts a grid between the anode and cathode: a small potential charge applied to the grid can greatly amplify the current. The grid between the anode and the triode effectively modulates the current. (p. 81)

With the concept of relay (e.g. the employment of a smaller voltage difference (e.g. the grid) to trigger a larger voltage difference (between the anode and the cathode), Simondon claims that ‘the model of the triode is the functional analogy of a social structure’ (ibid). We can imagine the social group as a unity, in which the sub-ensembles have a common polarisation constituted by norms, for example moral norms. The polarisation allows the group to be amplified by certain determined information or patterns of conduct, just as that of the anode and the cathode is effectively modulated by a grid (p169). (p. 81-82)

Amplificação organizadora

The third model of amplification, or amplification at the highest level, is organising amplification, which is the synthesis of both transductive amplification and modulative amplification. Th difference between it and modulative amplification is that it is more about auto-regulation (p168). Simondon gives the example of the perception of retinal images. The right eye and the left eye receive two different images, which are incompatible. Organising amplification is the resolution of the incompatibility, giving a final single image as the synthesis of the two. Simondon writes: ‘transduction, modulation, organization are the three levels of amplification of information process, through positive input [recrutement], limitation, and the discovery of a system of compatibility.’19 (p. 82)

Amplificação técnica -> social

In pursuing this last point, we might further characterise these three modes of amplification, in terms of (1) crowd effect - e.g. crowd sourcing or crowd funding - characterized by transductive speed; (2) the repetition of behavioural patterns, or of particular units of information, which act as a relay to create more significant effects (e.g. marketing); (3) the self-regulation of social systems, for example the self- regulation of local neighbourhoods. (p. 82)

The substitution of hylomorphism based on moulding with a theory of information and intensity based on modulation, renders visible a social and political reality of our time: the emergence of new patterns of regulation and governance which Deleuze ultimately names with his concept of ‘control societies’. (p. 83)

Due to the lack of rigid regulations (which would equate with moulding), the subject conceived in terms of modulation and modulatory processes seems to have the freedom to act, even if such freedom is already anticipated by regulatory systems, and the free acts themselves are modulated in such a way that they take on a self- regulatory character. (p. 84)

David Savat em "Deleuze's Objectile: From Discipline to Modulation"

Nonetheless Savat makes some interesting observations concerning technological modulations under contemporary conditions. he summarises three mechanisms of modulation: (1) the recognition of patterns; (2) the anticipation of activities; (3) the responsibility of individuals for the organisation of working time. The first two mechanisms clearly correlate with key processes of regulatory control that we have already discussed, and the third mechanism refers back to zarafian’s observations, cited at the beginning of this essay, to the effect that giving individual workers the freedom to organise their time may be more ‘productive’ (whether in terms of strict efficiency or of profitability) than following a strictly defined division of time, as in the classical Fordist/Taylorist model. (p. 84)

Alexander Galloway em "Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralisation"


Galloway compares the three models of network proposed by the RAND scientist Paul Baran (namely centralised network, decentralised network and distributed network (see Figure 2)) and recognises that ‘… the distributed network is an entirely different matter. Distributed networks are native to Deleuze’s control societies [italics added]’.22 Galloway suggests that the distributed network fully demonstrates the logic of Deleuze’s control societies. (p. 84)

Governamentalidade algoritmica (Ruvroy)

Following on from Galloway’s analysis, the Foucauldian legal scholar Antoinette Rouvroy goes deeper into the subject and proposes that the neoliberal mode of governmentality, as described by Foucault, Deleuze and Galloway, has been already overtaken by what she calls algorithmic governmentality. The logic of modulation does not only operate through infrastructures such as networks, but is rather embedded in all types of apparatus (for the purpose of data collection, recommendation, restriction). This means that as digitisation has pervaded into different institutions (be they local or international enterprises, government or non-governmental organisations) it has made the operation of algorithm central to any form of governance. (p. 85)

Data behaviourism (Ruvroy)

Like Savat, Rouvroy acknowledges the use of mechanisms such as pattern recognition and anticipation of user activities as fundamental to such operations, and identifies them all as elements of what she calls ‘data behaviourism’. Data behaviourism, advanced by technologies of data-collection and processing

  • now often referred to as ‘big data’ or ‘machine learning’ - has re-oriented neoliberal governmentality into an algorithmic process. All patterns of behaviour are monitored and registered as information that can be used to trigger social interactions on a larger scale. (p. 85)

Produção de sujeitos fragmentados (Rouvroy)

For Rouvroy, the use of algorithms in governance no longer produces subjectification, which means that the subject, instead of being conceived as a type of mini-enterprise, or defined by its income (as Foucault described the neoliberal subject in the Birth of Biopolitics23) instead enters into a process of de- subjectification, where the subject is fragmented and can no longer maintain a coherent identity. Rouvroy’s understanding of this modulation process is in fact closer to Simondon’s than Deleuze’s. That is to say, she assumes that human existence is modulated in such a way that it can be amplified and controlled, producing a significant effect when it is demodulated, meaning that these modulations lead to actions in everyday life. Rouvroy writes:

Algorithmic government thus contrasts with what we know about a neoliberal mode of government which produces the subjects it needs. Through the ubiquitous injunction - and its internalisation by subjects - of maximisation of performance (production) and enjoyment (consumption), neoliberalism produces ‘hyper-subjects’ having, as their normative horizon, the continuously reiterated project of ‘becoming themselves’, and passionately engaged in ‘self-control’, ‘self-entrepreneurship’ and ‘self-evaluation’.24 (p. 85)

Infra-indivíduo e supra-indivíduo

Rouvroy observes that this form of governmentality does not address the subject, but rather the infra-individual (which are numerised relations) and the supra-individual (meaning the profile automatically constructed by machines through pattern analysis). (p. 85)


We can probably also understand this in terms of what is called disindividuation, meaning that the individual has lost its capacity to individuate both psychically and collectively. (p. 85-86)

For Simondon, disindividuation is one of the phase of individuation, in which the preceding structure dissolves in favour of a new one (hence it is neutral and necessary); (p. 86)

for Stiegler, disindividuation implies an inability to individuate both psychically and individually due to the destruction and dissolution of desire (hence it is a destructive phenomenon, or in his terms, a short- circuiting of desire).25 Consumer society, for Stiegler effectuates a psychic and collective disindividuation, consequently transforming individuals into mere buying-power, and the ‘we’ to the ‘they’. (p. 86)

Capacidade normatizadora da sociedade algoritmica

For Antoinette Rouvroy, this disindividuation has a destructive effect, in that the potentiality-possibility of the subject is replaced by the actuality-probability of algorithmic operations. For example, online marketing effectively uses user information and data to propose recommendations and decisions, which the user can take for granted. (p. 86)

Rouvroy sees the disastrous effect of algorithmic governmentality as being that the subject loses the possibility to doubt what is given and to develop his or her own judgment. This type of modulation is also destructive of groups, since it only creates groups according to their behaviours. living beings have the capacity to modify themselves and create norms, while in the algorithmic modulation, norms are created by objective data. (p. 86)

Relações sociais e ordens de magnitude (modulação como controle)

The first is that modulatory processes of social control operate through a particular set of mechanisms which seek to understand and select social relations according to specific orders of magnitude, for example: inter- individual relations, individual-group relations, group-group relations, which can then be represented by corresponding technical apparatuses, or more precisely by corresponding data structures. The way in which such processes divide and classify such orders of magnitude reflects the basic assumptions on which their technical implementations are based. For example, with online recommender systems, what is understood as fundamental is individual-group relations, since they are fundamental to the logics of social ‘contagion’, group- formation, identification and cultural influence that are central to mechanisms of marketing and promotion. (p. 87)

Auto-regulação (modulação como controle)

Secondly systems of self-regulation which operate through modulation are always characterised by some teleological end, whether it be profit-making, the promotion of internal competition between group members, the preservation of the social group, etc. This teleological end is inscribed in the algorithms, which recursively modulate the social relations with precisely defined orders of magnitude and attempt to move the system toward ever-greater efficiency. Or more precisely, they promote a kind of frictionless collective and personal individuation - in which there is no tension experienced between different modes, sites and scales of individuation - by producing logical effects which recur at various social scales. For example, one-click shopping on Amazon based on recommendations, or the ‘like’ button of Facebook as a symbolic form of participation, are precisely mechanisms which seek to replicate particular types of personal interaction in coded forms and at ascending social scales. (p. 87)

Multiplas ordens de magnitude e uma não fixidez teleológica em Simondon

The key point here is that Simondon’s concept of individuation necessarily involves relations between multiple orders of magnitude. At the same time it is not necessarily defined by a teleological end, but rather it moves towards an undetermined end driven by the tendency to resolve tensions and incompatibilities, as Simondon illustrated with his discussion of the concept of organising amplification. (p. 88)

Aporia em Deleuze e sua resolução

The aporia that we set up at the beginning of this article, namely that between the role of modulation in Deleuze’s thinking in general and the specific function of modulation in Deleuze’s conceptualisation of control societies, can also be resolved by moving from modulation=control to modulation=individuation. (p. 88)

Invenção de novas formas de modulação como tarefa analítico-política

At the same time, this move opens up a political-analytic task for the theory of modulation. For if modulation is identified with control societies today, then the task for those who wish to find ways to supersede existing forms of social control will be to invent new forms of modulation that are not limited to them or by them. The current understanding of ‘modulation after control’, which we have encountered in the analyses of Galloway and Rouvroy, is one that lacks any understanding of tensions and incompatibilities as inherent to processes of personal and collective individuation, since the only modulatory process that it can imagine is one motivated by the cybernetic goal of maximum efficiency. The question now is: how can the profound concept of modulation in Deleuze and Simondon’s thought (e.g. its intention to re-found a metaphysics), and the analytical tools that they developed around this concept, be helpful in thinking through this political objective and its implication? (p. 88-89)

Cartografia sociométrica para Jacob L. Moreno

His belief in the value of representing social relations by ‘charting’ them prompted Moreno to write that, ‘as the pattern of the social universe is not visible to us, it is made visible through charting. Therefore the sociometric chart is the more useful the more accurately and realistically it portrays the relations discovered.’ (p. 89)

These relations are materialised as lines and numbers on a map. We may also observe that in Moreno’s methodology, every individual was considered a social atom; the society represented on this basis is a network composed of social atoms linked together by numerical relations. here we see a clear instance of neglect of the question of the ground, as forms are taken for totality. Individualism is promoted through technological networks. (p. 89)

Redes sociais como Facebook estão no paradigma sociométrico

Social networking websites like Facebook stay within the sociometric paradigm by materialising social relations in terms of digital objects, and allowing new associations based on different discovery algorithms to emerge. If we look at the Graph API that defines the core data structure of Facebook, we can immediately see its relevance to Moreno’s sociometry. (p. 89-90)

Desindividuação em redes sociais

Under the guise of being free and friendly to use, we can see in this example that the modulation of social relations can actually lead to what we have called ‘disindividuation’, which is not a condition of collective empowerment or mystical oblivion, but one in which, personally or collectively, agency as such is rendered unobtainable, as the coherence of personally or collectively individuated entities is disrupted. (p. 90)

To take the universe of social media as an example, just consider the ways in which the attention of each social atom (or ‘person’) is sliced into ever smaller pieces and dispersed across networks via status updates, interactions, advertisements for marketing purposes. One can spend hours on Facebook out of curiosity without achieving anything. The ‘collective’ on Facebook becomes a distraction, a cause of the dissolution of structures within individuals, but not a site of new modes of empowerment. (p. 90)

Ideia alternativa de rede social

The introduction of the idea of collective individuation into the new model involved an attempt to reintroduce incompatibility and intensity into the modulation process. In this conceptualisation, projects - which must also be understood here as projections instead of telos - are prioritised instead of being subject to the random status updates of individuals. (p. 90)

The question which emerges here is: how can we transform individuals into groups capable of actually achieving social ends? One of the answers that we proposed was that this could be achieved through finding mechanisms to modulate their relations, by deliberately setting up creative constraints, which would act as the grid of the triode modifying the dynamic of the flow of electrons. (p. 90)

For example, after registration, the user can only use the full functions when he or she participates in a group or creates a project; the other example is to limit the number of tags one can add to an object to five, so that adding a tag means one has to delete the less relevant one: by doing so the object can be described in the most updated and accurate way. This rearrangement of relations makes the group and project the default instead of the individual.`G The groups become the places where incompatibilities arise and also the place where they can be resolved according to the progress of the projects. (p. 90)

  1. HUI, Y. Modulation after Control. new formations: a journal of culture/theory/politics, v. 84, n. 84, p. 74–91, 2015.