On Modularism / Science and Capitalism in Louis-Ferdinand de Céline’s “Death on the Installment Plan”


img[1], Diagram of OSCAR from The Modular Body (2016), an “online science fiction story” by Floris Kaayk 

001—The Modularism of Blogging

Blogging is characterized by MODULARITY. (It is the medium of modular modernity, or modularism.) Blogging takes individualized snapshots of life that can be linked to one another, reordered or otherwise reorganized, individually deleted or repeated (reblogged, annotated, etc.)… The blog is always-already a collage or a palimpsest, but what must be recognized at this juncture is that if the blog is a collage or a palimpsest then it is one that is spread out in a line, composed of many dots held together by a loose and entangling thread. Modularism refers not only to the discrete and recombinable, but also to the becoming itself—modularism is a temporal paradigm, an emphasis on the processual nature of the life of bodies. Modular machines and organisms are those that can chop themselves up and reorder themselves into new shapes. Modular bodies are those that can throw out individual components of themselves into the garbage heap and upgrade them with new versions. Modular bodies are those that can replace their various parts without ever going through an ontological switch into becoming-something-else—or, is that right? The paradox of the Ship of Theseus is alive and well, and perhaps more relevant than ever (c.f. Oliver Laric’s Versions, Floris Kaayk’s The Modular Body), but the thing about modularism is that it seems to provide a clear if ideological answer to this classic problem. Sure, things are always changing, but they change piece-by-piece according to ability and need. Things become Different, but things do not become Different Things; things remain themselves as they adapt to new conditions.

Modularism is schizoid rhizomatics as processed by the neoliberal machine. Modularism preserves the sovereign stability of the individual even as it is revealed to be composed of a seemingly infinite set of components connected by a set of entangling threads. Transformation becomes fixed to an individual and made legible through cataloguing and version documentation—here is Jimmy, and now here is Jimmy 1.1, Jimmy 1.2, Jimmy 2.0, Jimmy 3.0, and so on and so forth…they are all different versions, sure but they are all still “Jimmy”… But what am I talking about? Am I talking about a blog, or am I talking about a résumé? Hegemony absorbs every gesture made against it, and so it is no surprise that we would feel slippage between the form of blogging and the form of the résumé. Modularity allows bodies to adapt to any condition, and late capitalism is a constantly fluctuating condition that demands that bodies adjust themselves to it. Modularity and late capitalism go hand in hand, like means to an end. Blogging does not have to be a capitalist activity—modularism is not a necessarily capitalist paradigm—but its architecture is very well-suited to the condition….

the information covers

Img[2], Three possible covers for Beck’s 2006 album The Information, which was sold with sticker sheets that allowed listeners to assemble their own album art