4 September 2018

Scrap Metal and Fabric: Weaving as Temporal Technology

The city is the force of striation that re-imparts smooth space, puts it back into operation everywhere, on earth and in the other elements, outside but also inside itself. The smooth spaces arising from the city are not only those of worldwide organisation, but also of a counterattack combining the smooth and the holey and turning back against the town: sprawling, temporary, shifting shantytowns of nomads and cave dwellers, scrap metal and fabric, patchwork, to which the striations of money, work, or housing are no longer even relevant.
—Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

Since this is only going to be a short fifteen-minute talk, I'm going to present my argument very simply, and in form of a philosophical conspiracy theory.

It begins, like all good conspiracy theories, with a mysterious prophecy.


In the enigmatic closing line
of Zeros + Ones, Sadie Plant refers to Ada Lovelace's quiet development of the world's first working, fully-implementable, computer program — which Lovelace related to the invention of the Jacquard loom insofar as both realised a form of weaving — as 'a code for the numbers to come'. On the surface, the import of this sentence is simple enough. But it is more than just a superficial reference to the history of computation, time and the complex entanglements of both with women.

Ada Lovelace, who has only moments prior, called herself a prophet, cannot recognise the mark of either a woman or a man in her own writing. She has also just evoked in her assessment of her work's relationship to history, a temporality that any reader of Nietzsche would immediately (and not unironically) recognise as the 'untimely'. The 'numbers to come' is a deliberate echo of the Deleuzean 'people to come' which is an intentional remixing of two passages from Nietzsche, the second of which is the most intriguing for us (from Zarathustra):

Wake and listen, you lonely ones! From the future come winds with secretive wingbeats; good tidings are issued to delicate ears. You lonely of today, you withdrawing ones, one day you shall be a people: from you who have chosen yourselves a chosen people shall grow — and from them the overhuman.[0]

The 'code for the numbers to come’ is an enciphered premonition of the overhuman, one coincident with the intrusion of the untimely into linear history behind the mask of Lovelace's algorithm.