Postmedia Affect
the Internet before the Internet

The Italian radio movement, and particularly the experiment of Radio Alice, which expressed a Dadaist, schizo impulse, had an influence on the start of the Parisian free radios, and Félix was very active in that history. In France, the free radios had an even greater disruptive meaning, if that was at all possible, than in Italy. The traditional State centralization in France reacted with great suspicion to the blossoming of a multiplicity of voices and, for the first time, minority and under- ground cultures were able to have a voice. Radio Soleil broadcast music from the Maghreb, and Radio Tomate reported the ecological battles and the occupation of houses by young proletarians in the Parisian suburbs.

In 1977, there appeared the French edition of the small book Alice is the Devil, Free Radio Alice (Alice è il diavolo Radio Alice Radio Libre), and Félix wrote its preface, entitled Des millions et millions dAlice en puissance(Millions and Millions of Potential Alices). In the radio experiences, Félix saw the proliferation process of enunciative agencies destined to cause the explosion of the mass-media model. When Félix died at the beginning of the 1990s, the fever of the World Wide Web had just begun that would, in the following years, transform the global communication system, introducing a rhizomatic notion that eroded the centralistic principle of the twentieth-century mediatic system. Conceptually, the free radio movement had anticipated the post- mediatic tendency that the Internet is today bringing to maturity.


Guattari had always played fearlessly with technology, yet he person- ally did not use a typewriter and wrote with a cheap ball-point pen that can be found in any Parisian cigarette shop. Machines, gadgets, assemblages and bodies without organs were at the centre of his thought; they were the code informing his language, the surrealist décor of his imaginary.

European critical thought has always had problems in its relations with technology. Benjamin was able to introduce a philosophical per- spective regarding the techno-communication machine, and he could recognize that the industrialization of culture modified the very condi- tions of aesthetics. But the main current of critical thought has always considered communication technologies to be an instrument of social cultures subjugation to the dominant ideology or as messages induc- ing consumerist and conformist forms of behaviour.

Not Guattari. His lookout post had always been the net, even when the word did not have the meaning that it has for us today, even before the World Wide Web existed and the Internet started making newspaper headlines.

In a small pamphlet entitled The Holy Fools, Richard Barbrook insults Deleuze and Guattaris thought in the name of labourist and statist orthodoxy, arguing that rhizomatic thought is akin to Californian ideo- logy, that is, to the kind of neo-liberalist thought that sings the praises of high-tech capitalism.

Rhizomatic or techno-nomadic thought does, in fact, have one thing in common with the apologies of high-tech capitalism: it takes a per- spective of becoming and not one of conservation, and thus it succeeds in understanding the logic of mental labour typical of network tech- nology and of pan-capitalism, in seeing things from the inside and not from the viewpoint of the State, national sovereignty and past identities.

Deleuze and Guattaris techno-nomadic thought analyses con- temporary capitalism as a semiotic flow and situates the task of critical thought on this plane. Thus if today we wish to reason in terms of the molecular self-organization of neo-labour against capital- flow, we need to refer to schizoanalytical not Marxist-Leninist concepts.

Techno-nomadic thought is the determined and specific subversion of high-tech ideology, a kind of thought that is able to spread out along the same lines and same rhythms of semio-capital.

Félix Guattari wrote:

The democratic chaos […] conceals a multitude of vectors of re- singularization, attractors of social creativity in search of actualization. No question here of aleatory neo-liberalism with its fanat- icism for the market economy, for a univocal market, for a market of redundancies of capitalist power. (Chaosmosis, 117)

For Guattari, the free radios were a general rehearsal for the emer- gence of these resingularizing vectors, of these attractors of social cre- ativity. And in fact, in reflecting on this phenomenon twenty years later, we see very clearly that the free radios were an anticipation of the Internet model now representing the incarnation of what Félix called post-mediatic civilization. The experience of the free radios (and parti- cularly of Radio Alice, which from start to finish expressed the aware- ness of specific techno-mediatic linkages represented by radio in its continual interaction with listeners) anticipated a process of techno- communicative self-organization prefiguring the end of the mediatic era. This awareness made Guattari a precursor of libertarian cyber- culture.

Pressed by the diffusion of electronic communication technologies and, in particular, the Minitel experience that became prevalent in France during the early 1980s and represented the first example of a European telematic network, Félix managed to speak about the post- mediatic civilization starting to appear on the horizon. This would be a civilization in which communication flows are no longer directed from above toward a passive public and instead function as the densest framework for rhizomatic exchange through emitters situated on the same plane.

The police got rid of Alice its perpetrators were pursued, condemned and imprisoned, and its premises ransacked but its work of revolutionary de-territorialization still goes on unabated, even affecting the nerves of the opposition,Guattari wrote in the introduction to Radio Alice Radio Libre (Des millions et millions …, 241).

Radio Alice can be considered as the first experiment of deterritorial- ization of the telecommunication system, and of attack against the cen- tralized media system.

Thanks to the free radios it was possible to understand for the first time a principle that the Internet has today propagated: the networked diffusion of communication is the privileged plane of social self- organization.

This seems to me the meaning of Guattaris words: Radio Alice was not an instrument of information, but a device for destructuring the media system, the trigger for a destructuring of the social nervous system that continued in the following decades, with liberating but

also catastrophic and panic-inducing results.


The becoming of communication is in a close relationship with the becoming of social perception and of aesthetics. In Chaosmosis, Guattari speaks of the new aesthetic paradigm(le nouveau paradigme esthé– tique): the theme of his study is the mutation of the epidermis, of the contact zone between bodies, of sensibility.

What is aesthetics? In contrast to the prevalent understanding of Western philosophy, aesthetics is not only the science of an objects beauty. Aesthetics is also (and this is what is of greatest interest) the science of sensibility, of perception, the science of the contact between epidermises, and thus the science of the projection of worlds by sub- jectivities in becoming.

There is no social question any more essential than this one, because cognitive capitalism is an affection of sensibility more than anything else. In the sphere of globalized capitalism, the essential site of work, of economic exploitation, of psychic suffering and affective solicitation is the human mind and, more precisely, the body-mind relationship undergoing the pathogenic effects of informational overstimulation.

Capitalistic acceleration, the rarefaction of the contact between bodies, replaced by communication, planetary ethnic deterritorialization, the disagregation and collapse of traditional anthropological models: all of these act on the modalities of elaboration of the social mind and, above all, on sensibility. The emotional body is the site in which the most delicate and extreme of battles is being waged.

The mediatic bombardment of social attention produces brutal effects on sensibility. The imaginary is invaded by hyperfast mon- sters, mutagenic viruses of the collective psyche. And meanwhile, the unleashing of the mediatic epidemic taking the name of AIDS, a contagion that is essentially spread in the human psyche, goes hand in hand with the virtualization of relations among conscious organisms.1

This is the sphere of interest of schizoanalytic aesthetics: its problem is not beauty as an object of contemplation, but the way in which bodies perceive each other in the social field. In an era of displacement and migrations, of contaminations and integralisms, of nationalisms and aggression, an essential political problem is that of the semantics of social proximity, and thus of aesthetics.

In a certain sense, we can say that the semantics of social proximity are the privileged object of Guattarian aesthetics. And to understand how these social semantics are transformed, one must understand how art acts in communication, and how communication acts on the collective mind.


Art is a semiotic action of a deterritorializing kind. Gestures and semiotic signs modify the relation between the sign and its context, its func- tion, and the conditions of common interpretation. In traditional soci- eties that are strongly territorialized, the artistic gesture is exceptional and sacralized. But in the twentieth century, when the inflated weath- ervane of generalized aestheticization became unhinged, something broke forever in the status of art. The loss of the aura is the disappear- ance of the exceptional and unique character of the work of art. The industrial reproduction of the artistic sign opened the door to semiotic inflation. Cinema, sound recording, television, advertising, digital- ization and finally the automatic creation of artworks all dispersed the authorial aura.

With the dynamics of new economycapitalism, the whole process reaches its term and its reversal. We were used to thinking that art deterritorialized and economy reterritorialized. Now we see that eco- nomy has subsumed art as a factor of perpetual deterritorialization and of valorization without territory. Chance, once a model of commun- ication available only to the artist, has now become the predominant semiotic regime. Economic values are exchanged according to rules that change from day to day, while in the past this was granted only to aesthetic values.

The problem that Guattari had proposed in the chapter of Chaosmosis devoted to the aesthetic paradigm has to be revisited within this new framework.


I have always been struck by the way in which Félix approached works of art and artists. Félix followed a great number of artists through their different efforts: Enzo Corman, François Pain, Gerard Fromanger, Jean- Jacques Lebel, Jean-François Léaud, Annie Raati, Tonino Guerra, Laura Betti, and many others, more or less noteworthy.2 He was someone who was casual in the way that he looked at a work of art because he did not distinguish the work from the flow of existential events in which it was situated. Only at times did he instead stop in a slow sus- pension, a sort of meditative sinking, before an artwork.

I remember the visit to the Jean Tinguely exhibition held at the Beaubourg: Félix sat down on the ground at a certain point, in one of the rooms, and for a while, I had the impression that he had fallen asleep. He had not done so, but rather had let himself become drowsy by the cogwheels and the whirling rhythm. The aura was definitively forgotten in this way of getting closer to artistsactivities. What had the most value for him instead were the environment, daily life, urban space and the way in which the artistic gesture put into movement new possibilities of existential assemblages within this environment, this daily life, this urban space. Félix took as given reality the becom- ing true of the Dadaist revolution, its definitive realization in daily life. But in his attitude there was none of this somewhat snobbish and nos- talgic irritation against the effects of banalization caused by that gener- alized aestheticization that intellectuals often have. The banalization, the diffusion, the popularization were a given, they were taken as such and were no longer an object of discussion, and especially not a source of scandal. For Félix there was no nostalgia for the aura. Rather, the problem of art for him was completely located in the possibility of putting in motion assemblages of enunciation, housing, urbanism and technologies.


The aesthetic paradigm in Chaosmosis comes to assume an essential role in redefining the historical and social perspective, and it is fully integrated into the problem of ecosophy.

Ecosophy, an environmental consciousness adequate to the techno- logical complexity of late modernity, is based on the decisive character of aesthetics in the prospect of ecology.3

Aesthetics is the science that studies the contact between the derma and different chemical, physical, electromagnetic, electronic and in- formational flows. Hence aesthetics has much to do with the modern psychopathology of contact, and also with its psychotherapy.


The rhizomatic vision conceptualizes the universe as a continuum of diverse, irreducible and yet juxtaposed entities in epidermal contact with each other. It is both an organic and inorganic continuum, animal and machinic, mental and electronic. One event does not approach another one through logical reasoning, nor through historical con- sequentiality, or through dialectical attraction-repulsion.

There is no necessary consequentiality in juxtaposing one event with another, nor any implicit logic in juxtaposing one sign with the next, nor any necessity for isomorphism between a composition and the world.

In any composition there is only the pleasure of the conjunction, me and you, this and that, the wasp and the orchid. The part is not com- pleted thanks to conjunction with the part, nor does placing one next to the other cause any totality to arise. The conjunction is the pleasure of becoming other. From this arises the adventure of knowing, the adventure of erotic pleasure and of artistic creation.

A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb to be, but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, and … and … and …. This conjunction carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb to be. … To establish a logic of the AND, overthrow onto- logy, do away with foundations, nullify endings and beginnings. (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 25)

There is nothing other than conjunctions, conjunctions of signs and corpuscles.

Signs acquire meaning in conjunctions and corpuscles acquire form through conjunctions. One mode of conjunction is sense, and another mode is pleasure.

Art seeks its contact point in sense and pleasure.