Schizoanalysis of PokemonGo.
The cybernetic revolution, the famous 'third wave' that promised to liberate us, often seems to be synonymous with poverty for the most deprived and intellectual indigence for the most privileged. (Chatelet & Mackay, 2014, p. 149)
In response to the critical spirit found in the above quotation, this contribution to what might be designated an applied Guattari studies of cognitive capitalism builds on previous research on the fourth ecology of the media (Bradley, 2018; Ueno, 2016; Zhang, 2016). It is aided by the suggestion of an interological turn in media studies (Zhang, 2016). My argument is that as an essential component of Guattari's ecosophy, media is vital to the understanding of not only virtual worlds and augmented realities but also the reality of machinic enslavement, mental pollution and the saturation of images in our lives. The concept of machinic animism (Lazzarato & Jordan, 2014; Melitopoulos & Lazzarato, 2012; Ramey, 2012) is therefore invoked and applied to contemporary social phenomena to eke out points of escape, deterritorialization or rupture, as well as points of capture, reterritorialization and control. I demonstrate this archaeologically, under the nose as it were, with a focus on the ephemeral fad of PokemonGo, the online app and augmented reality game which involves finding virtual, fragile, elusive monsters in real world milieu. I argue that a more nuanced and critical treatment of "animism" is needed if we are to comprehend new semiotic arrangements of perception and affect. To show this, the first part of this disquisition sets out the contours of the fourth ecology of the media. The second part adopts a Guattarian approach to PokemonGo, animism and augmented reality (AR).
Part 1: From third to fourth ecology
How the ecology of media (the fourth ecology) is interfacing with, affecting, and redefining the environmental, social, and mental ecologies is a pressing issue in our age. The interality between these ecologies is an interality of a higher order. (Zhang, 2015, p. 63)
With concepts drawn from what we might term ecosophy 4.0 and acting as a prolegomena to identifying the production and crisis of subjectivity in the contemporary moment, a schizoanalytic map of mobile media is set out to address critically the limits of research on the so-called third digital revolution (Web 3.0). Principally, this is to extend the three ecologies thesis (environmental, social and mental ecologies) of Felix Guattari using the fourth ecology iterations of Japanese philosopher Toshiya Ueno (2016) and media philosopher Peter Zhang (2015, 2016; Zhang & McLuhan 2016). Differentiating these perspectives from the integral "fourth" ecology of Brazilian philosopher Leonardo Boff (2001) and the transversal, ecosophical phenomenology of Korean-American philosopher Hwa Yol Jung (2011), the overall aim is to question the Guattarian-inflected sense of techno-animism or machinic animism (Jensen & Blok, 2013; Melitopoulos & Lazzarato, 2012; Packer & Wiley, 2012). It shall be found that it is Guattari (1995, 1996, 2000, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016; Guattari & Rolnik, 2008) who is the theoretical precursor of a fourth ecology of the media, especially given his examination and critique of passive modes of subjectivity, mass media pollution, and the control and manipulation of what we might call mobile desire in advanced industrial societies.
Here let me explain briefly the role of mental ecology in Guattari's ecosophy of dynamic flux. Alongside the environment or Nature proper, we have social ecology, which I take to mean relationships between men and women, adults and children, able-bodied and disabled people, the domination of one group by another and so on. Interrelated with this is mental ecology, the idea which is concerned with the mental ecology of ideas, good or bad. Gregory Bateson (2000) and his ecology of "bad ideas" is of course significant in this context. In the contemporary moment, mental ecology pertains to the distinct way in which mental life is affected by internet use, gaming, pornography, smartphone addiction, the gig-economy, the production of subjectivity as selfie-culture and narcissism, GPS tracking devices, and indeed ephemeral fads like PokemonGo and live streaming (Bradley, 2018)--that is algorithmic life in all of its insidious articulations. Such ephemeral realities necessitate the extension and reapplication of Guattari's three ecologies to understand the ncreasingly precarious lives of young people and how micro technologies are affecting the mental life of many people across the globe, exemplified for example in the global phenomena of shut-ins (severe social withdrawal or hikikomori) - (Furuhashi, 2012; Harding, 2018; Horiguchi, 2014; Saito, 2005; Wong et al., 2017). The concepts of interality ([phrase omitted]), schizoanalysis, and transversality here are important tools in the critique of new processes of collective subjectivation, which is to say how one becomes a subject. On the importance of transversality, Guattari writes: "In order to comprehend the interactions between eco-systems, the mechanosphere and the social and individual Universes of reference, we must learn to think 'transversally'" (2000, p. 3).
However, the picture of the contemporary world is incomplete if we do not highlight the importance of emergent media formations. It is right to look, as Peter Zhang does (2015, 2016; Zhang & McLuhan 2016) at how the ecology of the media--what we are designating the fourth ecology - is interfacing with, affecting, and redefining the environmental, social, and mental ecologies. For Zhang this is a contemporary and pressing issue. For him, it is the interality between these ecologies which must be stressed. Zhang responds to the question of how to think transversely about these relations by invoking the notion of interality. He writes: "Given how far humanity has overreached itself, the human condition is now totally over-determined by this fourth ecology (after Guattari's environmental, social, and mental ecologies). The interality between humanity and technology is necessarily one of the most pressing ethical problematics today" (Zhang, private communication).
The radical nature of Guattari's ethico-aesthetic project must be distinguished from attempts to combine Eastern philosophies and Western philosophy into new forms of pacifism. This has been undertaken in the integral ecology of Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian philosopher and theologian who constructs an ecological vision with concerns about the environment, social ecology (democracy, violence, consumerism and so on), as well as deep ecology. It is argued by advocates that as deep ecology investigates the origins of the ecological crisis through an engagement with peace and social justice, ethical praxis is correlative to spiritual transformation, that is, to a root and branch change of attitude, belief, and way of being in the world. This can be construed as a fourth spiritual ecology. However, deep ecology's embrace of the One is not at all present in Guattari's work. While Boff searches for a new vision of the earth, Guattari is not offering a planetary ecological vision in this respect, that is, opposition to the colonization of the earth through another one-dimensional planetary ontology. While Boff's integral ecology presents a totalizing transcendent vision as it combines Nature, the social and psychical with spiritual or cosmological dimensions, for Japanese philosopher Toshiya Ueno this is clearly at odds with Guattari's insistence upon atheist and materialist immanence. Indeed, Ueno writes: "[Ecosophy cannot embrace the ideal of a horizontal, mutual-helping solidarity of equals and must instead ground itself into a fragile, temporary, and vanishing relationship marked by double turning of absolute betrayal. Guattari's ecosophy is not a philosophy of planetary civilization" (Thouny, 2017, p. 161).
In his Francis of Rome and the Ecology of Saint Francis of Assisi, Boff seeks to find harmony in the array of different ecologies including Guattari's but admits to uncertainty as to how to proceed: "External violence is a sign of turbulence in our interior ecology, and vice versa. We do not know how to harmonize the ecologies described by Pierre-Felix Guattari and by myself: the environmental, social, mental and integral ecology." Although he calls for a "new vision of the earth" following Pope Francis, Boff is equally aware of the difficultly in unifying different ecologies belonging to different traditions and eliminating the problem of violence. Indeed, the Pope writes in the "Encyclical Letter 'Laudato Si': On the Care of our Common Home" (2015) that integral ecology is a means to break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness: "An integral ecology includes taking time to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating the Creator who lives among us and surrounds us.... An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness." However, Deleuze and Guattari's philosophical materialism (1983, 1987, 1994) is very much concerned with thinking the philosophy of nature immanently, that is affirming this earth as such rather than taking a perspective of someone like Boff who is trying to get out of the earth in his kind of transcendental cosmology. For Deleuze and Guattari, atheism is the philosopher's serenity and achievement (1994, p. 92). A more critical aspect of fourth ecology of the media is therefore less focused on this cosmological or mystical aspect and more on the mental ecologies or mental pollution that one finds in abundance in the media--both molar and micro. This critical dimension is concerned with the effects of technology and the internet on young people and what is being done to the brain. What needs to be said here is that this is not necessarily a moral or conservative position because, following Bernard Stiegler (2018), it is a position which is trying to spell out the consequences of technological use, for example, the deleterious effects of the internet since it became widespread and available in the early 1990s. This view also questions the perceived passivity of deep ecology which is seen as failing to address the underlying social ecological problems, largely driven by global capitalism, at the heart of the current ecological crisis.
Complicity in the production of signs
Many writers continue to question how capitalism successfully internalizes in people the desire for the incessant production of subjectivity. Put another way, they probe how our current mode of globalization forces or entices people to participate in the production of signs, symbols and knowledge; in cognitive labor as such. They ask: how are we co-opted to engage in, to self-consciously engage in, the very production of subjectivity? Michael Peters, a philosopher of education, picks up on the question of transversality and the production of subjectivity in Guattari's work and especially the critique of integrated world capitalism. He writes of Guattari's idea of a fourth-stage of capitalism:
His object of criticism is what he calls Integrated World Capitalism (IWC) that, through a series of technoscientific transformations, has brought us to the brink of ecological disaster, causing a disequilibrium of the world natural environment from which the Earth will take many generations to recover, if at all. Integrated World Capitalism, as Pindar and Sutton explain...is 'delocalized and deterritorialized to such an extent that it is impossible to locate its sources of power.' IWC is now, above all, a fourth-stage capitalism, no longer oriented to producing primary (agricultural), secondary (manufacturing), or tertiary (services), but now oriented to the production of 'signs, syntax, and...subjectivity'. (Porter, Mackenzie & Dillet, 2014, p. 77)
Meanwhile, Graham Harman, an American philosopher with connections to object oriented ontology discusses the prospect of a fourth-generation metaphysics, that is, a philosophy that must catch up with technological innovation and acceleration. Though writing on Paul Virilio's apocalyptic vision, Harman is primarily interested in the non-correlationism and speculative realism of Quentin Meillassoux and the rethinking of the non-correlated object. He writes:
The history of philosophy might conceivably limp several decades behind military history. Third-generation maneuver warfare is still being taught in military academies even as a new reality begins to overshadow it. Philosophy is even further behind, since second-generation correlationism remains so dominant that the third-generation thinkers...are not even recognized as a coherent school, despite their shared affinity for rhizomes, networks, pulsions, fluxes, affiliations, and their lack of respect for perilous epistemological leaps between human and world. What, then, would a fourth-generation philosophy look like? How close are we to seeing the outlines of a fourth-generation metaphysics? (Demenchonok, 2010, pp. 156-157)
What is interesting about such third and fourth generation thinkers is that they are questioning the link, the boundary, and the limit of the human and natural world, which is an interest shared by interality studies. Again, a fourth ecology of the media then must remain committed to an analysis of the production of subjectivity. And it is capitalism which is concerned with the production of subjectivity as such. The question of transversal understanding then pertains to what a fourth generation philosophy or fourth ecology of the media might look like against a backdrop of integrated world capitalism. And to rephrase the question of Harman slightly: are we close to seeing the outlines of a fourth ecology of the media?
Hwa Yol Jung
At first glance, Hwa Yol Jung is a thinker who appears to have much to offer a fourth ecology of the media. The Korean-American philosopher has been writing consistently on phenomenology and transversal modes of thinking for nearly 50 years (1997, 2002, 2009, 2011, 2014; Park & Jung, 2010) and has much to contribute to interality studies because he explores a multiplicity of sources, from Japanese Buddhism and Vietnamese Buddhism, to Western metaphysics and philosophy (Bacon, Maritain, Vico). In his extensive oeuvre one can find treatises on Merleau-Ponty, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Deleuze and Guattari, Husserl and other Western thinkers to Watsuji Tetsuji, Wangyang Ming, Mao Tse-tung in Eastern thought. Yet, for Hwa Yol Jung the East-West dichotomy is a false one. As a thinker interested in questions of transversality and the sense of interbeing derived from Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, his sense of interbeing clearly connects with the ideas of the rhizome, intermezzo and intermonde picked up by Deleuze and Guattari and Paul Klee. This is important because this issue returns us to the question of animism and who or what can access or hallucinate so-called spiritual worlds. Paul Klee will say it is children, the mad and primitives who have access to this interkingdom. This requires a particular mode of comportment to the world. Paul Klee writes of the profundity of this "power of seeing":
I overstep neither the picture's nor the composition's limits. But I do stretch its content by introducing into the picture new subject matter- -or rather, not so much new as barely glimpsed subject matter. Obviously this subject matter, like any other, maintains its ties to the natural world. By natural world I am not referring to nature's appearance (as naturalism would) but to the sphere of its possibilities: this content produces images of nature's potentiality...I often say...that worlds have come into being and continuously unfold before our eyes--worlds which despite their connection to nature are not visible to everybody, but may in fact only be so to children, the mad and the primitives. I have in mind the realm of the unborn and the already dead which one day might fulfill its promise, but which then again might not--an intermediate world, an interworld. To my eyes, at least, an interworld; I name it so because I detect its existence between those exterior worlds to which our senses are attuned, while at the same time I can introject it enough to be able to project it outside of myself as symbol. It is by following this course that children, the mad, and the primitive peoples have remained faithful to--have discovered again--the power of seeing. (Lyotard, 2011, p. 231)
It is thus evident that animism is an essential sphere of interest for media ecology studies. One finds more and more examples in the literature. For example, animism is reconsidered in Eduardo Viveiros de Castro's (2017) and Philippe Descola's respective anthropologies (see Kuper 2006), in Achille Mbembe's work on African philosophy and animism (2008; Mbembe & Dubois, 2017), in Isabelle Stengers' work (2012), and the many others who draw on Deleuze and Guattari to redefine the notion of animism. One of them is Brazilian philosopher Peter Pal Pelbart (2014, 2015) who has also developed a unique theory of non-human subjectivities, proto-subjectivities or infra-subjectivities which draws not only on Deleuze and Guattari's philosophy but also anthropological and psychoanalytical research. Going forward, these thinkers are essential for interality studies and the study of the fourth ecology as they explore a particular interworld excluded by traditional dualistic thinking. It is indeed true that the topic also fascinated Guattari, who studied the Capoeira (music-dance-sport-play activity) and the Candomble (a hybrid African religion practiced in Brazil), and held a certain view on Japanese animism and the Shinto religion. On this point, it seems clear that a fourth ecology of the media cannot but remain a robust critique of the flattening of subjectivity. This is to say a fourth ecology of the media must be protective of those precarious subjectivities crushed by the powerful organs of the mass media, by advertising, by the collective apparatus that produces the subject like cars, shoes, mobile phones and so on, to paraphrase Guattari. In this respect a fourth ecology of the media is a philosophy of virtual ecology, which is to say, concerned with Nature qua machinic assemblage, concerned with music, cinema, media, art and so on and how these formats interact with other ecologies. In this way, a fourth ecology of the media affords a way to think transversally and interalogically about the mental pollution disseminated by the mass media.
On the possibility of a fourth ecology of the media
I am more inclined... to propose a model of the unconscious akin to that of a Mexican Cuandero or of a Bororo, starting with the idea that spirits populate things, landscapes, groups, and that there are all sorts of becomings, of haecceities everywhere and thus, a sort of objective subjectivity, if I may, which finds itself bundled together, broken apart, and shuffled at the whims of assemblages. The best unveiling among them would be found, obviously, in archaic thought. (Guattari quoted in Melitopoulos & Lazzarato, 2012, p. 240)
Thus far, a distinction between several paradigms of thought has been made to better understand how a fourth ecology is tied to the notion of interality and the notion of the in-between. By contrasting the social ecologies of Guattari, the integral ecology of Boff, the phenomenology of Hwa Yol Jung and the Guattarian-inflected "quadruple ecology" of Ueno, the main argument of this section has been to consider the interality as a means to access the intermundia of the world (as articulated in Klee, Lyotard, Deleuze and Guattari). It is argued that interality is the fecund prism through which to refocus thought on these differences. A fourth ecology thesis aims to take into account new technological realities and to provide a theoretical underpinning for how we might make sense of the rapid changes in societies across the planet. In the context of media studies, a fourth ecology thesis is invoked to account for how changes in communication technologies create opportunities for vampiric, info-semio forms of capitalism to extract "the surplus value of life itself". The project of a fourth ecology of the media is to speculate on how media ecologies can foster a sense of something other, a becoming other, a way to create the world afresh, which is to say, a world severed from the stinking, everyday immonde (unworld) of the overly-mediated present. Yet in developing a form of applied Guattari studies the goal is not only the dry and abstract exegesis of Guattari's oeuvre but to use Guattari's concepts to rethink contemporary social phenomena. It is important to use the rich array of concepts in Guattari's work to analyze the present world and the experience of everyday life within it. It seems essential to question how an obsessive work ethic, isolation, depression, burnout (Han & Butler, 2015), endemic indifference and a certain sense of infantilism are escalating out of control.
The argument running throughout this treatise makes the case for a critique of what we might call the Deleuze-One assemblage. This means that what a fourth ecology of the media cannot be is a mere form of integral ecology like the one proffered by Boff. The fourth ecology then is a timely concept to account for new technological realities and to provide a theoretical underpinning for how we might discern something beyond exploitation, voyeurism and exhibitionism, narcissism and psychical illness, which are realities disseminated more and more through molar, semiotic apparatuses. Schizoanalysis, transversality, and the fourth ecology are thus crucial theoretical tools for determining the nature and politics of media ecological enslavement, the mechanisms of social control, and "the normalization of collective labor power" (Guattari, 2011, p. 89).
Part 2: On the possibility of counter-mobilization
We are no longer the only actants in the cosmos--protosubjectivities swarm everywhere, and even what seemed a mere object of techno- scientific manipulation, such as nature itself, leaps onto the stage, claiming its own means of expression. (Pelbart, "Towards an art of instauring modes of existence that 'do not exist'," in Beltran, Enguita, Esche & Eilat, 2014)
This section looks at the "logistics of perception" of augmented reality (AR), media technologies, ephemeral fads or memes. To speak in and with multiple Francophone tongues, Deleuzian, Virilian and Baudrillarian, we shall ask to what degree can the current iterations of mass media allow for "creative, affirmative, counter-mobilization," which is to say an escape route from the estrangement from the real. Or as Genosko says:
The question is to what degree can this accommodation of the war's hijacking by mass mediation allow for some creative, affirmative, counter-mobilization, an escape from this estrangement from the real. Genosko, Baudrillard. This is the Fourth World War. (Baudrillard, Smith, Clarke, 2015; Genosko 2004)
By considering the concept of in-betweenness or aidagara ([phrase omitted], between things), this next section will address the question of animism in everyday life. It looks at PokemonGo in terms of milieu, relational space, and atmosphere, and asks speculatively: can PokemonGo be understood through the coming into being of the world as Zwischenwelt or interworld? Is the Umwelt or "surrounding world" of PokemonGo "a unique possible world" in Deleuze and Guattari's parlance? Do we find there schizo voices, a plurality of perspectives, a new perspectivism? In the Umwelt, can we discern a series of different perceptual apparatuses or worlds, a new kind of chaosmosis? Do entities see things differently? In this virtual, mediated, and animistic space, it is clear that conventional ways of thinking and seeing the world are decentred by multiple perspectives and vital beings such as Yokai ([phrase omitted] or the supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons found in Japanese folklore). If PokemonGo can be considered a specific mode of existence, a different mode of mediated animation, a heterogeneous way of life, a blurring of human and non-human modes of existence, can we understand it from a fourth ecology of the media perspective? If so, PokemonGo then is neither in nor out of this world but part of an ecology and politics of extimacy, that is, somehow between inner and outer realms, somehow lodged between different planes of existence. It is thus distinct from established hegemonic ontologies and thereby contributes to a plurality of existential reality. In this ecology of extimacy there is a virtual coexistence between the user, the virtual monsters and AR striated landscapes. The user, subjectivity is ex-centric, uncanny, both of the "I" and not--a node in and of proto-subjectification. The eccentric user, an assembled subjectivity, is outside and ex-centric, hypnotic, hallucinatory, part of new arena of machinic eros (Guattari, Genosko & Hetrick, 2015). The question arises here: How can we re-engineer PokemonGo for the purpose of individual or collective re-singularization?
Scales of existence
It is possible that capitalism, or biopower, or eurocentrism, or our outdated ontology invest precisely in a split between the two [human- inhuman modes of existence], thus interfering in the very possibility of other ways of living, just as they invest in sabotaging, monitoring and profiting from certain planes of existence (to use a 'childish' example, the growing production of electronic games and their ubiquity in childhood and adulthood). In order to counter this trend, it would be necessary to become an advocate of those modes of existence that (from our perspective) 'do not exist'. (Pelbart in Beltran, Enguita, Esche & Eilat, 2014)
To understand animist ways of thinking, we should appreciate the "scales of existence" and distinguish between different modes of existence. Do we not need to protect threatened or disappearing modes of existence? How can we preserve, defend, experiment with these different modes or planes of existence? Are Yokai a disappearing mode? Is the mode of existence of PokemonGo a "weak form" of existence, a different "scale" of existence in the language of Etienne Souriau, who writes in L'instauration philosophique?:
You suppose, children, that you exist and that the world exists, and you deduce from it your knowledge of that which is, as a simple combination, as a simple mutual adaptation of these two things. Now I am not saying that you do not exist at all, but that you only exist weakly, in a muddled way, half-way between real existence and this lack of reality, which may even entail an absence of existence. For existence itself needs reality in order to be real existence, in order to be the existence of something or someone. Or at least there are many sorts of existences. (Souriau, Beranek, & Howles, 2015, p. 30)
To grant the third ecology of the media a fourth dimension demands we ask the following: What is the relationship of animism to the fourth ecology? How can interality studies inform this relation? Our conclusion shall be that it is by thinking a fourth ecology of the media through an interological approach that we can come to understand the space or place of the intermundia, the inbetweenness of worlds. Do we need to bring into existence uncanny fictional, virtual beings which drift in and out of consciousness? Do we need a new materialist philosophy to understand the "virtual force within things and objects" qua "monstrous substances"? (Ueno, 2018, p. 57). What are the new compositions of life which can come into the world through new AR experiments of movement and intensity? What modes of existence inhere on this plane of immanence? To what degree are these virtual worlds pregnant with possibility? The challenge thrown down by Deleuze, Pelbart and others is to discover a mode of existence on the plane of immanence "exorcised" of transcendence.
With the fusion of animism into late-capitalism, it is the argument of Achille Mbembe that through ever more conspicuous consumption patterns, commodity fetishism has become a dangerous form of animism, and because of this a kind of commodity animism occurs. Mbembe argues "the cycle of capital moves from image to image, with the image now serving as an accelerant, creating energy and drive" (Mbembe & Dubois, 2017, p. 4). Capitalism has become "a religion of objects," insists Mbembe, a religion which believes in animated objects with a soul through which "we partake" (Blaser, 2013) in consumption. He writes: "The domain of objects and machines, as much as capital itself, is increasingly presented in the guise of an animistic religion" (Mbembe, 2016, pp. 23-24). Interestingly, Mbembe suggests people desire to become such objects, to become objectified, to bask in reification and alienation. Why? Because becoming so is somehow more appealing than being treated as human. Mbembe explains that the effect of capitalism is to make objects assume a spectral, phantasmagorical character; objects summon forth a virtual dimension in and of ourselves precisely in our relations with them. Desire in the age of animism is defined by the desire of subjects to become animist objects transiliently. The antidote to widespread alienation is a perverse becoming object, a plunging ever deeper into commodity fetishism and reification. Can we say that the animated worlds of PokemonGo, Yokai characters and so on offer some form of escape from such alienation?
Deleuzian research on PokemonGo
Much interesting work is already being done on the work of Deleuze and its interconnection with media studies (Cremin, 2016; Packer & Wiley, 2012; Savat, Harper, 2016; Surin, 2016; Wallin in Jagodzinski, 2018). Ramey for example finds a "generalized necromancy" in Deleuze and Guattari's "weird spirituality" (Shults & Powell-Jones, 2016, p. 92). There is a certain trace of "animism" haunting Deleuze's ontology (Ingold, 2000). With respect to Deleuze's comrade, Guattari, there is substantial scholarship on his solo schizoanalytic works on animism (Glowczewski, 2008; Glowczewski in Alliez & Goffey, 2011; Hetrick, 2014) and their interconnection with media studies (Alliez, & Goffey, 2011; Berardi, 2015; Berardi, 2017; Berardi, Mecchia, Stivale, 2008; Fuller & Malina, 2005; Genosko, 2018). But little of late has been specifically on Deleuze and Guattari and how their work may explicate upon the nature of PokemonGo and AR. Yet, Grandinetti and Ecenbarger (2018) in their Deleuzian, non-deterministic approach to PokemonGo and augmented reality have made such an attempt. They ask of the possibility of AR "disconnected" from the production of capitalist subjectivity. They inquire into the potential for political action and find in Deleuzian ontology the possibility of affirmative political intervention. While they note that AR is part of a capture and axiomatization of desire operative on local, global, glocal, translocal networks, the parameters of which draw the subject ever more inextricably into regimes of control, they find in Deleuze's thought a way to think beyond "outdated and unproductive" ontological dualisms, a way to map new assemblages, with the potential "for critical play and perhaps even the creation of AR entertainment not concentrated around capitalist subjectivity" (2018, p. 11). They write of AR as a machinic assemblage, a machinic animism: "[A] Deleuzian approach to AR, through schizoanalytic mapping and an ontological conceptualization of the world in a state of becoming, eschews unproductive determinism to instead view AR as a machinic assemblage" (Grandinetti & Ecenbarger, 2018, pp. 2-3).
This research is most timely and much more must be undertaken in this domain but a caveat must be added. A Guattarian approach to AR and the ecosophic object of flows, machine, value and existential territory has a very different emphasis as it delves into the existential territory of the AR user, a territory at once actual real, actual possible, virtual possible and virtual real (Bradley, 2018). In this complex diagrammatic cartography, the user and the monster form "unnatural participations or nuptials" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 241). In this unholy, unnatural participation, the AR user is always already double - a radical plural interbeing, located inbetween, sited in an indefinite space or aidagara. In the atmospheric ambience of PokemonGo ontological boundaries are porous. The user coexists with Yokai spirits in plural, "ambient spaces" or atmospheres, in the language of Toshiya Ueno (Wake, Suga & Yuki, 2018, p. 99). Furthermore, monstrous objects coexist in the AR milieu with one another in styles of worlding. And that AR milieu coexists with other sites, objects, things and spaces.
A different grammar of existence
Possible existences, virtual states, invisible planes, fleeting appearances, sketched out realities, transitional areas, inter-worlds, in-between worlds, can all be combined into a whole different grammar of existence. (Pelbart in Beltran, Enguita, Esche & Eilat, 2014)
In this Guattarian animistic approach there is a sensitivity to different worldviews, planes of existence, to different mediatic forms of existence. The Guattarian question concerning the virtual coexistence of animus and humans asks whether the user can skirt across this Umwelt, or experiment surroundings and synaptic connections, to become less "poor in world" (Heidegger, 1995), and therefore more immersed in intensive modes of existence. In these teeming zones of nonhuman becoming, the user's animist unconscious is transversally crisscrossed by specters, apparitions, spirits, souls and ghosts. The user flows in a world of becomings of ayakashi ([phrase omitted]), mononoke ([phrase omitted]), mamono ([phrase omitted]) and is metamorphosed as such. The user is becoming-PokemonGo, becoming-Yokai, part of a relational, transilient ontology of bakemono ([phrase omitted]), ghosts ([phrase omitted]), tengu ([phrase omitted]), yurei ([phrase omitted]), kappa ([phrase omitted]) and so on. The haunted world of the user - filled with witchcraft, sorcery, alchemy - is transversed by all manner of inhuman becomings - primitive, folk, savage, animal, virtual, monstrous. A Guattarian approach asks of the possibility of a transmonadism, that is to say, a way to think beyond hermetic, isolated entities, a way to think of movement across existential territories, transversally and transiently, and therefore to incorporate universes of values or what Ramey considers the spatial fourth dimension in Deleuze's metaphysics (see Shults & Powell-Jones, 2016; Ramey, 2012). This is the political task of schizoanalytic and ecosophical philosophy, a means to think of the spiritual automata set in train by PokemonGo.
From a Guattarian schizoanalytic perspective, we understand the life of the PokemonGo user through diagrammatics (Watson, 2011), metamodelization (Watson, 2008) and the use of "a-signifying semiotics". Why and how and where are young people walking around urban centers looking for monsters? The answers to this are numerous but I agree with Toshiya Ueno that orthodox, empirical approaches to media studies struggles to explain such bizarre and perverse forms of entertainment or mental pollution (Allison, 2006). It seems necessary to use and update Guattari's work on post-media to precisely and critically codify the contemporary daily rhythms of youth - the music, and gestures, the translanguaging and the comportment to the world. Baudrillard too is right to suggest that we have become professional producers of our own subjectivity. He writes: "We have swallowed our microphones and headsets...We have interiorized our own prosthetic image and become the professional showmen of our own lives" (Baudrillard & Zurbrugg, 1997, p. 13). If the ontology of PokemonGo is productive of so-called transindividual polysemic animist subjectivities, the question at root is whether such subjectivities enrich the world or not. Here, media ecology must be concerned with the possibility of the re-singularization of subjectivity, which means to say, it must critique how the a-signifying semiotics of different music modes, bodily rhythms, clothing styles, dance innovations, gaits, postures, gestures, non-Western subjectifications pulverize or recreate the world afresh. At our most optimistic, media ecology suggests that as PokemonGo and other AR apps are a-signifying immanent modes of expression and it is through them that youth can deploy molecular, sub-human figures of expression to form new desiring machines--to experiment in decolonizing the self. Conversely, a fourth ecology of the media must query the endemic infantilization of subjectivities generated through homogenous, global, and standard modes of expression.
Objects in a-signifying semiotic systems
In exploring heterogeneous semiotic worlds (religious, social, magic, animal, animistic), a-signifying semiotics focuses on the interality, the inbetweenness of dominant codifications, the folds within them and the imbrications between hybrid and mixed reality spaces. The object in this interkingdom acquires animistic characteristics, an animist nucleus. Guattari writes in Chaosmosis:
Objects constitute themselves in a transversal, vibratory position, conferring on them a soul, a becoming ancestral, animal, vegetal, cosmic. These objectivities-subjectivities are led to work for themselves, to incarnate themselves as an animist nucleus; they overlap each other, and invade each other to become collective entities half- thing half soul, half-man half-beast, machine and flux, matter and sign.... (1995, p. 102)
The emphasis for Deleuze and Guattari on becoming and forms of non-dualistic thinking is important. On this point Deleuze and Guattari further discuss the dimensions of becoming, again questioning any simple dualism between inner/outer, inside/outside: "We are not in the world, we become with the world; we become by contemplating it. Everything is vision, becoming. We become universes. Becoming animal, plant, molecular, becoming zero" (1994, p. 169). This emphasis seems to capture very well the becoming-PokemonGo of the AR user.
Four Ontological Functors (F, T, [PHI], U) of PokemonGo
"I" flow within the incorporeal whatever-flow. Immersed in the video flow, the whatever-flow, attuned to my device, in data streams of uncanny experience, I sub-exist; I inhere in the intersection of an intoxicated perception drawn to the luminous animations, the strange proto-subjectivities bombarding my sensorium. In this hyponotic state my eyes are transfixed by GPS signals, a vast battery of a-signifying semiotics of GIFs, effigies, monsters, [phrase omitted] (incorporeal Universes). In this grey ecology (Virilio, 2010), the eye--a remodeled technological prosthesis--assumes new weaponry functions. I hear the sounds of the cars and buses rushing by but my eyes are drawn inward ever more into this new virtual realm. I hear a phone call. Off. I see an email. Off. Ditto for the other apps. All off. My eyes are trained to capture and hunt monsters, to be part of a precarious and elusive world of fantasy and folklore, engaged in a semiotics of translocal, animist intensities. This preoccupation replaces daydreams of the future (existential Territories). When I sleep I dream immaculate, digitally-designed monsters. My personal identity is schizzed, torn, slashed to pieces.
In this pre-signifying or symbolic semiology, PokemonGo changes my experience of the ordinary world. Suspended between different realms, the affects created change my perception of the world. My usual comportment to the world is affected. I create new coordinates in space and time. Yet I struggle to make sense of this new reality as the algorithms have taken away the necessity to do so. In this strange world of a-signifying semiotics, I am bombarded by impersonal, algorithmically-driven advertising campaigns. I pay for the time online, for the latest expensive phone (sustained by complex machinic Phyla or technological lineage). In this field of transnational capital, there are liquid flows - flows of money, credit, payment for bespoke design of avatars. I download the app, I receive packets of data, the GPS on my phone connects with nearby phone masts and distant satellites whizzing around the earth. I interpret this phantasmagoric world through images, sounds, icons and information. I search for Togepi, Machamp, Smeargle, Metagross, Gardevoir, Jigglypuff, Pikachu, Mewtwo through virtual maps, vectored diagrams, logistics, GIFs, refrains, vibrations, collaborative dialogue and messaging (constellation of values and reference). None of this is simply symbolic or signifying. My phone beeps, vibrates, flashes when monsters are near (affect, pathic, virtual).
Fully absorbed, flowing through this interworld, I do not occupy a central subjectivity as such as I am captured by a dominant, incorporeal refrain, a collective enunciation with manufactured storyline and history. There is no easy escape from these relationships and structures of top-down ordering. Suffering from the pollution of distances, I cannot find a way out of the high-definition screen. Weighed down by virtual prosthetics, I cannot fathom a way to remake freedom, to experiment, to bring something new into the world, to engage in cosmic processes of individual and collective subjectivation of an altogether different order. My attention captured, in a form of real-time mediatization, I am complicit as pre-subjective and pre-individual elements (such as affects, emotions, perceptions) contribute and function in the semiotic machine of capital (flow). I love this mediated enslavement. In this territory, I survey and am surveyed, I monitor and I am monitored. At its most sinister, systems of a-signifying semiotics impinge upon the body (through affects, desires, emotions and perceptions) by means of signs assaulting one's sensory apparatus. A whole non-human network
of images, sounds, words, intensities, movements, rhythms are at work, in unison. I am blissfully aware of my complicity but micro-technologies do not call upon my consciousness as such. Rather, at the level of the unconscious, they have short-circuited my consciousness, my language and individuation as Stiegler says. They leave me disindividuated: desire is expunged, exhausted, burnt out. The a-signifying semiotics of PokemonGo assault my nervous system, engendering impersonal affects, impersonal emotions. A-signifying semiotics function then as a system of machinic enslavement as Lazzarato says. They modulate the pre-individual and pre-verbal elements of subjectivity. Moreover, they affect the infrapersonal and infrasocial world through a molecular economy of desire. Affects, perceptions, emotions are a key functional part of this machinic enslavement. Machinic enslavement activates the molecular, pre-individual, transindividual dimension of nonhuman subjectivity (I am no longer I, no longer a subject, no longer an individual, I am not me). An entire network of deterritorialized, machinocentric enunciation and circulation of signs is constantly engineered through machinic devices (TV, cinema, internet, advertising). The PokemonGo screen is a vibratory, modulating system composed of specific impersonal diagrams and feedback loops, guiding the user, enticing the user, seducing the user. I move, I flow in the whatever-flow, according to intensities, vibrations, rhythms of this non-human, inhuman world. But movement and flow, tracing, tracking and circulation as such are organized by a-signifying machines which engineer the images, words and sounds. I am captured and I love my fantasy. I am truly enslaved. Others ask: How can I utilize this micro technology to escape the contemporary control societies? How can I develop new "practices of freedom" or processes of individual and collective subjectification? But I am skeptical. I care little. I love my virtual interkingdom. Collective subjectification seems impossible when the screen is inches from my eyes. But the critics continue: How can disindividuating effects such as dreaming and delirium--a-subjective deterritorialization - change the way of the world? What is the nature of the virtual possibility of the realm of incorporeal universes such as PokemonGo? To them I answer I care little of changing the way the real world is.
Diabolical intelligence/L'intelligence diabolique
In a conversation with Kuniichi Uno entitled Chaosmose, vers une nouvelle sensibilite, Guattari writes of a peculiar form of animism and ontological pluralism. For example, a shaman of Okinawa constructs the world from other categories. This is not a question of Being once and for all, a sense of Being which crosses all other beings, but rather ontological production, through universes of reference, through practices, social, analytical, aesthetic. Being, Guattari says, is an evolutionary process, caught in accelerating machinic and historical processes. One can consider this in the context of the plasticity of collective subjectivity (plasticite de la subjectivite collective) (Guattari & Nadaud, p. 98). At the planetary scale even, Guattari is searching for new ways of thinking to counter the chaosmic plunge towards abolition. In this face of this risk and tendency, he calls for collective courage (un courage collectifs). He calls on youth to respond. The plasticity of this collectivity, its body without organs, is capable, he says, with great intensity, great velocity, to leave the old world behind, and rebuild the world anew. It is for him a question of determining the conditions of possibility of change and transformation (determiner les conditions de possibilite ) (Guattari & Nadaud, p. 92). Guattari insists is necessary to "reinvent youth" in an aging, hardened and rigidified world - a world of evil. The reinvention of youth is a permanent commitment and a continual questioning of emergence. On the question of the conditions of possibility of an ontological approach, Guattari says, it is contrary to the phenomenological model, as it is necessarily a question of metamodeling, a question of the machinic, creative unconscious. Resistance to planetary catastrophe is not only the resistance of social groups, but of people who rebuild sensitivity, through poetry, music, and people who rebuild the world through a romantic relationship with other urban systems and other systems of education. Guattari's point is that resistance and recovery stems from the processual reappropriation of world production, rather than from a preexisting world of universal values. This is therefore more a question of radical ethical and pragmatic responsibility. Guattari says of Japanese capitalism that a form of "diabolical intelligence" (l'intelligence diabolique) (Guattari & Nadaud, p. 97) is at work which preserves archaic and even feudal forms of sociability and sensitivity. This produces an unstable balance between traditional forms and highly developed forms of mechanization. Youth especially are caught in the psychopathology of TV watching, internet and mobile phone addiction, more and more cut off from the world. The consequence is the death drive - people "abolish" themselves psychically in work ([phrase omitted]/Karoshi or death from overwork in Japan). The result is that social relations deteriorate and youth suicide escalates. This puts to the test the persistence of traditional forms of sociability. Yet even in this chaosmic dive and abolition, there is a possibility that other modes of sensibility and other forms of political and ecosophical intervention will manifest. With the acceleration of history, such a plasticity of collective subjectivity can emerge imperceptibly. The process of building a new sensibility, a new aesthetic paradigm, is something that can emerge very quickly. Optimistically, Guattari says the litmus test will be the speed with which women are emancipated in Japan, which may not take decades. Kuniichi Uno, his interlocutor, is more skeptical, looking at the generation of Japanese in the 1980s and 1990s. insisting that in Japan, all movements are twofold: to emancipate and continue with the same order of things.
PokemonGo therapy for the psychopathological syndrome of social isolation
The hikikomori problem is the psychopathological syndrome of social isolation. In simpler words, this is the concern with the widespread "withdrawal" of young people from society. Although medical research suggests that PokemonGo may have benefits psychological and physiological effects, we should be cautious and situate these claims in terms of Guattari's notion of postmedia or micromedia and his critique of "the worst kinds of mental pollution". I find little to celebrate in PokemonGo. I know Japanese youth suffer. I know from reading Teo (2010, p. 184) that: "Japan is in the midst of an epidemic of adolescents and young adults who have retreated into their bedrooms, in effect vanishing from the eyes of society." I know [phrase omitted] /Kodokushi or "lonely death" (Kato et al, 2017a, p. 206) is a worrying phenomenon. I wonder about their connection with the outside. Yet, I hear the positive interpretation from the psychiatrists and psychologists that PokemonGo might open up a new field, a new field of possibility, perhaps a new universe of reference in Guattari's parlance but I struggle to accept it completely as I am concerned with the "ontology of withdrawal" (Ueno, 2018) and therefore interested in thinking hikikomori precisely in terms of the "withdrawal of objects" as such.
For example, Tateno et al. (2016) argue that the PokemonGo may help to reduce the prevalence of the hikikomori syndrome. They note that PokemonGo may have a "potential role as an adjunct to conventional psychiatric interventions aimed to reintegrate individuals with hikikomori into society." But to tell the truth, I have no idea how this fad will be incorporated into cognitive therapies. Elsewhere, Kato et al. express the hope that PokemonGO will act as a "novel therapeutic tool enhancing the motivation of patients with hikikomori to venture outside" (Kato et al, 2017b, p. 17; Yang, 2017). A relation with the outside? This is intriguing. A walk in the open air? It is hoped PokemonGO, as a therapeutic tool to counter social anxiety, will become a means to reduce "psychological distress" (Watanabe et al, 2017, p. 1). From a Deleuzian perspective, and positively expressed, perhaps this "evolutionary therapeutic" tool (Kato et al, 2017b, p. 9) may become a schizo motivation to form a new relation with the outside. Continuing, Kato et al. insist that intervention using PokemonGo may guide hikikomori to go outside and join support organizations. One of course welcomes this "adventure" outside as it is indeed a first step in treatment (p. 9). Indeed, Tateno et al. (2016) claim that for some hikikomori, PokemonGo could have a role in rehabilitation therapy. In the virtual world of PokemonGo, they suggest placing PokeStops at hikikomori support centres as a supplement to other psychiatric interventions. Seen in this way, "hikikomori Pokemon" is a way for social recluse to find a new way to comport themselves towards the world. The problem is while PokemonGo may have motivated the hikikomori to get out of their homes en mass during the early days of the game's release, the fad, given its nature, soon fades away. What is left? Hundreds of thousands remain entombed within their homes. Moreover, while PokemonGO continues to be cited as a means to help people with autism, depression, and social withdrawal, it remains to be seen whether mobile games like PokemonGO can create an enduring impact on social life and interactions in the public realm (Adlakha et al., p. 89). It could be the case that the effect of playing PokemonGO could be limited to psychological distress - "Pokemon GO might be more strongly associated with psychological and emotional aspects of private lives than physical aspects and work among players" (Watanabe et al., 2017, p. 5)--but one wonders about the long term effects on society. While PokemonGO may be used as interventions linking active mobile games (exergames), from anything from fitness games to health regimes and therapies, the consequences of the "gamification of health" has yet to become fully clear (King, 2013). Adlakha et al. claim: "Pokemon GO players can incur some musculoskeletal benefits by breaking up sedentary activity with brief bouts of movement from playing the game...as well as improve mental well-being by being outdoors, exploring and connecting with the environment and other people" (p. 91).
Furthermore, to compound matters, hikikomori is no longer thought of as limited to Japan. It is known that hikikomori-like cases have been reported in countries such as Hong Kong, Spain, India, South Korea, Malaysia and the US. Kato et al. argue that hikikomori has crossed the limits of a culture-bound phenomenon to become "an increasingly prevalent international condition" (2011, p. 1070; 2018, p. 106). Kato et al. also argue: "Our case vignette survey indicates that the hikikomori syndrome, previously thought to exist only in Japan, is perceived by psychiatrists to exist in many other countries" (2012, p. 1073). And again: "Patients with the hikikomori syndrome are perceived as occurring across a variety of cultures by psychiatrists in multiple countries. Our results provide a rational basis for study of the existence and epidemiology of hikikomori in clinical or community populations in international settings" (Kato et al., 2012, p. 1062) They report that what is important about the global phenomena of "primary hikikomori" is that it acts as an indicator of "a pandemic of psychological problems that the global internet-connected society will have to face in the near future" (p. 1070). More research must be undertaken to clarify the differences between "primary hikikomori" (social withdrawal not associated with any underlying psychiatric disorder) and "secondary hikikomori" (social withdrawal caused by an established psychiatric disorder). There is another worrying dimension. In its rebellious iteration, young hikikomori are seen as a counter-cultural deviant subject, a form of passive protest, "an imploded form of refusal of social norms and expectations" (Berman & Rizzo, 2018, pp. 12-13) rejecting the constraints of Japanese society. Again this is a worrying tendency.
Molecular possibilities in youth culture
For Toshiya Ueno, in the present moment it is not easy to find any positive sense of the "cyclotron of production of mutant subjectivities" of which Guattari spoke of in the 1980s during his visits to Tokyo. Why? Because for Ueno, in the contemporary moment, the "Japanization" of soft power has rendered Tokyo "the capital of anti-revolution or a 'cyclotron' for a regressive subjectivity" (Ueno, 2012, p. 191; Guattari, Genosko & Hetrick, 2015). This failed cyclotron haunts not only the archipelago but countries across the globe. In Japan, such "cyclotronic" existential symptoms are complicated by recession, mental stagnation among workers, and compounded by the effects of the earthquake and resultant nuclear crisis in 2011. Ueno describes Guattari's "vertigo of another Japanese way" (2012, p. 190) in the contemporary moment as a "regression or involution in the form of infancy through a series of info-aided addictions and mental illnesses" (p. 190). In the Japanese context, Ueno refuses the standard way to do media ecology (Allison, 2006), which is to say to focus on the fetishism of commodities and the techno-animism of micro-technologies. Both Nihonjinron (Japanese essentialism) and narcissism are avoided. Thinking beyond the stereotypes of Japanese youth as Uber-trendy techno-wizards, Ueno wants a more critical examination of the kind of molecular changes taking place in Japanese society. He claims it is insufficient to merely examine how young people are using gadgets. Ueno writes skeptically of this molar approach and pessimistically about the prospects of political liberation in molar media technologies. In his "quadruple ecology" (2016) Ueno claims he is not interested in reproducing orthodox media ecology models which lack a critical examination of the kind of molecular changes taking place in Japanese society. He demands we must think differently about how young people use gadgets and how new media is affecting Japanese youth. Again, a fourth ecology of the media has this focus. Ueno writes (private correspondence):
Unfortunately I do not find any molecular potentiality in Japanese youth at this moment in time, aside from the underground techno scene etc. Guattarian ecosophy should not be seen as a kind of boring media studies, which can be satisfied with describing empirically how Japanese youth are using new gadgets, applications, because such desires and the usage of media technologies generally are highly 'molar'. If there can be something molecular possibilities in Japanese youth in terms of new media, I would really like to see the example.
And elsewhere, he adds: "Info-semio-capitalism...forces us not only to participate in the production of signs, symbols, and knowledges in our cognitive labor but to engage in the very production of subjectivity" (Thouny & Yoshimoto, 2017, p. 143). We know that in the post-media era, the production of subjectivity is the number one target of capitalist societies (Lazzarato & Jordan, 2014). This critical sense of a fourth ecology of media connects not only with the notion of transversality in Guattari's work (2015) but also the more recent work on capitalism and signs (Lazzarato & Jordon, 2014). While Guattari's understanding of Japanese animism appears increasingly dated, his Marxism and philosophy of Nature is essential to understanding the contemporary moment. Guattari's work is thought-provoking as he finds in machinic animism--in African, Brazilian, Indian and Japanese traditions and cultures for example - a transindividual and transversal means to explore different formations of subjectivity. According to Guattari - "animist cartographies of subjectivity" should take account a nonsubjective subjectivity that is distributed in a multiplicity of relations. This considers subjectivities beyond the distinction of the living and the non-living. As such animism is a fundamental ethical and political problem (Ramey in Shults & Powell-Jones, 2016, p. 92).
As we know, as the dimensions of symbolic semiotics are "transitional, polyvocal, animistic, and transindividual" they cannot be assigned straightforwardly to individuated subjects, persons, to "I" or "you". Guattari's schizoanalysis therefore is steadfast in its commitment to creating new forms of experimental futurally-oriented subjectivity and human sociality. Schizoanalysis thinks the unconscious as futurally oriented. Such an emphasis needs to be made more explicit in future research. Schizoanalysis is essential to understanding contemporary media technologies as it is a tool which effectively explains the logistics of perception and the way technologies insinuate themselves into everyday life. Schizoanalysis is important for decoding, as Guattari says in Chaosmosis, "polysemic, animistic, transindividual subjectivity" in the worlds of "infancy, madness, amorous passion and artistic creation" (Alliez & Goffey, 2011, p. 46). It asks for the AR user to shake off a detachment to hermetic virtual worlds for a moment, to become a war machine, a different kind of seer, a "seer" demanding the multiplying and amplification of an entangled, planetary world, demanding new modes and relations of existence, unheard of heterogenic becomings of subjectivity, healing the rift between objects and spirit, invoking the possibility of inaugural bifurcations and a "different grammar of existence"--for those yet to come.
Note: The arguments above were delivered in various formats in Akureyri, Iceland, Beijing, China and New Delhi, India and elsewhere across the planet in 2018.
Joff P.N. Bradley
Teikyo University, Hachioji Campus Otsuka 359
Building 5 Floor 1 Office 110
Hachioji, Tokyo 192-0395, Japan
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Joff P.N. Bradley, Teikyo University, Japan
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|Author:||Bradley, Joff P.N.|
|Publication:||China Media Research|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2019|
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