"To get avatar you have to do the exercise, not just read about it. It is not a psychological but an ontological subject." (36)

Jason Helms is responsible for this page, but feel free to make edits!

Chapter OverviewEdit

Whereas Prudence gives an introduction to the book, this chapter offers the methodology: CATTt (Contrast, Analogy, Theory, Target, tale). Ulmer's methodology is one part Deleuze, one part modernism, one part post-modern sublime. By the end of the chapter, the internet has become the contemporary site of judgement. Modernism shows us how to navigate. Deleuze offers us a theoretical background. The take away is grammatology: you can't understand it until you experience it. Or maybe it's jazz: "Man, if you have to ask what Jazz is, you'll never know."


Literally, an evocative description, hypotyposis (see more here) relies on sensoria to describe something. This section is really a summary of Kant's third critique. Wysocki spent some time on this as well. In fact, one great description of the difference between continental and analytic philosophies is where you stop reading Kant (analytic stops at the second critique). It's not entirely accurate, but the continental tradition does place more emphasis on the third critique.

I think the key phrase here is "Concept avatar takes after reflective judgement." There's a lot going on there. First off, concept avatar, the phrase he has been reusing, is a transition form between literacy (concept) and electracy (avatar) (see page 26). Second off, takes after works in at least two ways: imitation and succession. Concept avatar imitates reflective judgement by also taking part in the third voice. Judgement is the Kantian jumping off point for Ulmer. However, he is also going to move further, so concept avatar succeeds reflective judgement, imitating it, but going elsewhere as well.

Judgment is also the moment of prudence in Titian's painting and hence the way of dealing with NOW. Whether the events being discussed are past (forensic), present (epideictic), or future (deliberative), judgment happens now.

The key take away is this: affect grounds thought, not vice-versa.


The bittersweet feeling is two-fold: the joy of thinking and life against death. Thinking gives us joy. Trying to find something out.
The chocolate orgy ended in love
However, even in that joy, we know our finitude: we cannot reach an end of knowledge. The academy is in no danger of putting itself out of a job by studying too much. There will always be more. This parallels the eros/thanatos forces about which Freud writes. Knowing we must die, we live and embrace life. One reaction, nihilism, is to say that it is unknowable, so don't try; we will die someday, we might as well die now. Ulmer has no time for this reaction.

Ulmer connects this also to chora, which we have seen in Derrida, Stiegler, and Rickert.


Emergent Robots
Coleridge apparently invented the word as a description of symbols: "The base, of Symbols and symbolical expressions; the nature of which as always tautegorical (i.e. expressing the same subject but with a difference) in contra-distinction from metaphors and similitudes, that are always allegorical (i.e. expressing a different subject but with a resemblance)." (taken from the OED). It's made by changing allegory (allos = other) to reflect the resemblance of symbols (tautos = same). Ulmer uses it to discuss the sublime.

As opposed to beauty, the sublime is always absent, always more than what is there. Hence, Edmond Burke said that the difference between painting and prose was that painting can only give us beauty, while poetry can show us the sublime.

The key here is JF Lyotard's adoption of Kant's analytic of the sublime to discuss ethics. Here ethics has no ground, no higher rule to appeal to (God, country, Kant, etc.). Instead, ethics is "grounded" in an abgrund (abyss) as a sublime experience. It cannot be communicated, but communication can lead others to it. In place of categoric hierarchy, we have tautegoric singularity. In this sense, perhaps this wiki fails as it is too hierarchical?

Theory: PersonaEdit

This section takes after Deleuze's concept of philosophical persona in What Is Philosophy? I refer to Deleuze instead of Deleuze and Guattari because Deleuze is the one who actually wrote the words. Nevertheless, since the ideas behind the words had come from his long relationship with Guattari, he considered Guattari a co-author, and the work bears both of their names as authors. Deleuze wants to rethink philosophy from the (ab)ground up. During his later years he told students that his last book would be called "What Is Philosophy?" They all laughed along at his delightful joke. Then he actually wrote it.

It's a great book, and a great introduction to Deleuze's thought. It presents itself as though nothing new is happening, but it's really a radical rethinking of how philosophy works. For Deleuze, philosophy is based on concepts. These concepts may be created by one person (a body) or a group, but they generally carry on and change after that particular thinker has died. Plato's core concept, we might say, is the theory of ideas. He crafts this theory across a variety of works. The body called Plato died, but we still talk about the persona of Plato. So conceptually, Plato still lives and does stuff. His concept has been honed by others, some whose names have been forgotten, others who have retained their names and coopted his concept for other use
Deleuze (De)Logic

Ulmer also introduces his CATTt methodology here. He first presented CATTt in Heuretics but it's similar to his Mystory methodology. Basically, throughout his books Ulmer has played with a bunch of schemata for thinking in electracy. Instead of a nice hierarchical structure, these are invention techniques that ask us to blur the lines between various areas. The mystory asks us to tell a story that links personal, professional, and public aspects of ourselves into a single image of wide scope. Later in this chapter he will tell Albert Einstein's mystory around the compass as image of wide-scope (52-3). The image acts as a way of linking, a mnemonic, a punctum that elicits a complex emotional reaction.

He later labels the image as a "Frog," a way of organizing personal reflections and scholarly references and "the anchor or grouding of theories and emotions in the maker's own material existence" (196). 

So for the rest of this chapter, Ulmer is going to create a CATTt: Contrast, Analogy, Theory, Target, tale. I read the Bachelor Machine as the tale section, but this is up for debate. The tale basically inherits the duties of the image of wide scope from Ulmer's mystory.

Ulmer picks out four terms to summarize Deleuze's theory of the concept.


The name is what we will call the concept. It's important, but it's not the whole concept, just a tag for reference, but still an integral part.


The problem is spoken in the middle voice. It occupies the chora between event and plane of immanence. In fact its the emergence (emergency) of the event from the plane of immanence.

Conceptual personaEdit

This is the person to which the concept or its articulation is attributed. The anecdotes have as much to do with the concept as its elements.


The concept has to be delivered in some way. It's key that this is not representation (which Deleuze critiqued most fully in Difference and Repetition). Instead, it's an actualization of several virtual threads. The concept makes a mark on the material of the world and thus perpetuates itself.

Here Ulmer also takes us back to modernist art, a favorite theme of his. In his "The Object of Post-Criticism," Ulmer argues that post-critical scholarship inherits the methodologies of modernism: collage, montage, etc. How is he performing that methodology in his own work (i.e. he's not making a movie or a painting, but what is he doing?)?

Contrast: CommerceEdit

Advertising has implanted itself as the chief concept producer in contemporary society. In order to take back concept production we can work within the predominent framework, turning capitalism against itself. It's a bit of a rehashing of the old
Marxist nugget: capitalism makes possible its own critique.

I'm a little wary of Ulmer's move here. Deleuze is very clear in WIP that concept is a philosophical pursuit, as opposed to scientific or aesthetic. Not only is Ulmer merging philosophy and art -- a move about which Deleuze would likely be ambivalent --, but he's also reappropriating concept to discuss advertising, a move I would expect Deleuze to reject. It's fine to do that, but to pretend he's just repeating Deleuze is false.

The last part on Augustine is (to my reading) more about the nature of contrast (a turning away) than about advertising. In it, though, there is the interesting idea of a present that sees the future already complete, waiting. This is an Augustinian, Calvinist, Benjaminian point-of-view (each of whom articulated it in very different ways). For Benjamin it's the present moment shot through with messianic NOW time. Perhaps that's the connection to advertising. Act now, operators are standing by.

Analogy: CabaretEdit

It's a fascinating move to make 19th Century Paris the cradle of electracy. Benjamin's immense study of the 19th Century, The
Moulin Rouge
Arcades Project
, argues that the 19th century flaneur was a material invention as much as a cultural one. New technologies allowed for the erection of collosal glass and steel structures. The structures then demanded arcades, shopping malls where people would browse instead of simply exchange.

Baudelaire is the Socrates of electracy. Flaubert the Plato, and Duchamp the Aristotle. Baudelaire's prophetic voice echoes across our own time. Flaubert's incisive wit creates philosophy in narrative. Duchamp's grounded, experimental mind shows us what it can do.

The basic attitude of electracy (which here acts as a fill-in for modernism) is a serious anti-seriousness. Dadaism is this movement at its height, rigorously pushing against the expected, poking and prodding to find a way out of the end of reason.

"Avatar personifies attitude." (43)

"Avatar takes thought (as birds take flight)" and as a thief takes a wallet (44). Flight as theft is enowning.

Bachelor MachineEdit

And here's the basic formula (which is why I argue that the Bachelor Machine is the CATTt's tale):
Bachelor machine1

Make a readymade. Take what's already there and turn it on its head. Not just for a nihilistic negative deconstruction, but to make space for life against death (the erotic function of the Bachelor Machine).

The Bachelor Machine is the moment of judgement: what will be chosen and for what purposes, the readymade artist asks. Instead of having the purposes precede the chosing, however, the artist eschews intention and begins judging right away, only later trying to figure out what the point was. The artist is the first audience. The Bachelor Machine opperates one the pleasure/pain axis as a replacement for dialectics (51).

Duchamp's fountain serves as an exemplum, and it's a lovely one for its uncertain history.

PRESS RELEASE: Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was originally filmed in the 1980s and has since earned a cult reputation as one of the most terrifying and radical television programs ever made. Despite this, none of the episodes have ever been seen before now (although the show enjoyed a brief run in Peru).

Cool it Sanchez.. or You'll get a knuckle supper

Cool it Sanchez.. or You'll get a knuckle supper.

Target: JudgementEdit

While 20th century continental philosophy seemed obsessed with metaphysics, the 21st century is a return to aesthetics, but not aesthetics as good, true, beautiful: aesthetics as surprise, disfigurement, jokes. Fine a way to allow our unconscious to enter the judgement seat, but not by becoming conscoius. Wo Es war, soll Ich werden.

Experience OntologyEdit

"Concept avatar must be not only understood, but undergone" (page?). Similarly, ontology must be experienced. This has some parallels to Stiegler's (and Derrida's) notion of grammatology (remember, Ulmer's first book is called Applied Grammatology, which one reader laughingly called the American version of Derrida). Like in grammatology, we can only describe a phenomenon in retrospect, that is, once we've experienced or undergone it. Oral cultures are not great at describing literacy. Similarly, literate cultures aren't great at describing electracy.

The experience Ulmer is describing is a direct, bodily interface with information (the new sublime). Allowing ourselves to become computers (which we already do, see Helms), we can interface our affect to the database. The computer becomes an extension of our body and our emotions become an extension of information, judging at light speed (flash reason) based on gut impulse. Jump in and try it out, Ulmer seems to say. But is it so simple?

Other sections in which concepts are discussedEdit

Prudence introduces it (5).

It is also followed up on in Joke as the idiot (63-7), Descent as Odysseus (83-4), and Memory (118-9) and Measure (139) as Daimon.