maandag 16 december 2019

Parasites and Self-Organization

The change agents were very fashionable and hip --- they professed to postmodernism and/or to Deleuzian generativity. But they did not shift CO(M)POSITIONING out of its mode of communication. Their own universe of consciousness never connected generatively with CO(M)POSITIONING's. The change agents were hermetically enclosed in their own assumptions.
Organization has become a social order unto itself, capable of defending its functionality, no matter what people feel and think. Thus for consultants or change agents, organizational change is no mean task. In Opusclum, the consultants entrusted their project to a strategy of noise, irritation and differentiation. If the various work groups all developed communication of their own, there would supposedly have been enough differentiation to destabilize current redundancy. But organization always includes functional differentiation --- the project groups were interpreted as if they were just another dimension of an already existing functional differentiation. Hereby, they produced no noise, but just more complication
The problem is that organization tends to develop towards increased redundancy --- that is, to more tight, institutionalized, rationalized, and formal order. Organization tends to reject noise and to embrace control, efficiency and order. But if one wants the structural complexity of the system to increase, one needs irritants, difference and change.
If organization is characterized by self-enclosing boundaries, operationalized in communication, how can we critically know, observe or change organization?
To be a change agent or researcher, one has to be able to be an active outsider, or (in effect) an outside insider. Luhmann observes that this is a paradoxical position.
Luhmann introduces the parasite or irritation as the principle of difference. Without parasites or irritants, there is only repetition --- that is, more of the same, produced via the recursivity of closed systems. Parasites produce difference --- they are a principle of change, innovation and creativity.
(But) Parasitism is both radically dependent, and has far-reaching possibilities.(..) Parasites cannot become insiders or outsiders, without loosing their identities. Parasites remain a source of noise for the communication process(es) with which any system self-creates. By keeping the self-organizing generative process (a bit) out of balance, parasites insure that communication continues and does not settle into entropy. But can the parasites fulfill this function, while observing themselves and the system all at the same time? In Serres' terms --- can one be a successful guest in regards to one's host, and fruitfully observe the process all at once?
Where Serres sees relationships (..)Luhmann sees disparateness. For Serres, organizations can be studied, albeit from a parasitical position. Researchers introduce noise into the system by assuming the outsider's position. Researchers have to ingratiate themselves on the system in order to do their work. Though the system probably will not and cannot acknowledge it, good researchers provide just enough noise, that the systems studied become more alive thanks to the relationship. For Luhmann, parasitism creates difference and difference destabilizes communication, but to little or no positive avail. Parasites add options and exploit the decision space, multiplying metalevel or process alternatives.
In Luhmann, individual consciousness is outside the organizing process; in Serres consciousness is outside organizing but inside the noise that influences (perhaps indirectly) organizing.
In Serres, the link is not assured, but it is at issue.

Parasites and Self-Organization
Or is Self-Organization Researchable?

Hugo Letiche
University of Humanistics, Utrecht

parasites as ecosystem engineers

Diverse effects of parasites in ecosystems 

Community ecologists generally recognize the importance of species – such as pollinators – that have clear positive effects within ecosystems. However, parasites – usually regarded in terms of their detrimental effects on the individuals they infect – can also have positive impacts on other species in the community. We now recognize that parasites influence species coexistence and extirpation by altering competition, predation, and herbivory, and that these effects can, in turn, influence ecosystem properties. Parasites and pathogens act as ecosystem engineers, alter energy budgets and nutrient cycling, and influence biodiversity.

Effects of parasites on network structure. (a) Connectivity measures the proportion of possible trophic links that are realized in the food web. Adding parasites to the web can boost connectivity substantially if all the realized links (parasite–parasite, parasite–predator, and host–parasite links) are included. In this example, including parasites (in red) more than doubles the number of links in a simple network, even though parasite species number only half those of free-living species (basal resource species: green; herbivores: blue; predators: black). Provided these interactions are generally weak, increased connectivity increases community resilience by increasing dynamic stability. (b) Nestedness describes how consumer–resource links are organized in a network. Well-nested
communities have a core of strongly interacting species (shaded) around which other, less connected species associate, so generalist consumers use strongly and weakly connected resources, and specialists tend to consume the dominant, well-connected resource species. Well-nested webs tend to be less vulnerable to secondary extinction, and food webs involving parasites tend to be strongly nested.

Melanie J Hatcher , Jaimie TA Dick , Alison M Dunn (2012)

maandag 9 december 2019

Media Parasites in the Early Avant-Garde

Dadaist and Futurist parasites did not provoke the bourgeois society of their time from the outside, but contributed to the modern media ecology that they inhabited and used as their host. The avant-garde artists were not simply freaks at the periphery, but constituted an integral part of the media economy of the early twentieth century. (..)

Der Dada 3 1920 John Heartfield mont..
The avant-garde (..)produced feedback loops that fed the products of modern media systems back into the emerging media channels in order to parody, irritate, and accelerate established media practices.This aesthetic of feedback is fundamental for the avant-garde’s parasitic nature, because feedback is parasitical. It is not an original production,but feeds something already existing back into the point of origin, thereby amplifying or modifying this event without adding anything new to it. As Serres also underlines, feedback is a parasitic or mediating circular function.
The parasitic irritations of the avant-garde did not establish a new revolutionized and utopian world (..)The true value of the avant-garde movements does not lie in their radical transformative agenda, but in the fact that they were relatively unimportant agents within a greater cultural industry and nonetheless constantly injected small irritations into the public discourse

 Arndt Niebisch (2012)
Media Parasites in the Early Avant-Garde: On the Abuse of Technology and Communication

dinsdag 3 december 2019

Parasite Lottery (Wok the Rock 2016)

Parasite Lottery
A collective experiment proposed by Wok The Rock and Casco

Parasite Lottery is initiated by Yogyakarta-based artist and cultural activist Wok The Rock, and was developed in collaboration with Casco. It is a pilot version of a collective lottery system for art organizations in the Netherlands and their communities. Parasite Lottery adapts and fuses a lottery—a model for art funding that has remained stable, despite dwindling cultural funds in the Netherlands—and a commons-oriented micro-crediting system popular in Indonesia, arisan. It invites arts organizations to be bidders through a lottery drawing system. The winners will receive a sum of money to be used as a “fee for deviation,” whereby the funds can be spent on something that the organization would not ordinarily be able to achieve. For example, “the art of not working,” or funding a project that would be impossible without extra financial resources. Beyond the prize itself, Parasite Lottery is a collective exploration of chance effects, not just in the thrill of winning, but also through a series of gatherings that will take place around it, including talks, food, and music.

maandag 25 november 2019

Social Parasites; the Soviet Anti-Parasite Law

"Social Parasites: How tramps idle youth, and busy entrepeneurs impeded the Soviet march to communism"
 Sheila Fitzpatrick (2006)

About the Soviet ‘anti-parasite’ law of 1957.
The law cited two major forms of parasitism:” people who have jobs only “for the sake of appearances” since they actually live off non-labor income; and people “who carry out no useful work either in the society or in the family but engage in vagrancy and begging and often commit crimes” .

The concept at the heart of the anti-parasite law was : “He who does not work, does not eat.” But “work” had a specific meaning in Soviet discourse of the Khrushchev period : it meant employment in a Soviet institution, either as a wage- and salary-earner in a state institution or as collective farmer or cooperative artisan. (..) Those citizens who did not hold jobs and have a workplace -- even for fully-legitimate reasons, like pensioners, or quasi-legitimate ones, like housewives -- were in practice treated as second-class citizens. Working for oneself outside the state and cooperative structure did not count as work, for it implied a lack of commitment to the common project of building socialism/communism(..)

Artisans and craftsmen (outside cooperatives) were always an object of suspicion : these were difficult categories for Soviet authorities, who tended to regard non-factory production as both outmoded and potentially capitalist.(..)

Men living off wives, mistresses, and parents while making drinking a full-time occupation make frequent appearances in the anti-parasite reports from the localities,(..)

It was very striking, too, just how many kinds of parasites there were when one looked closely, (..): it was as if a “second society” of parasites coexisted with the “first” society of toilers (or, even worse, that every toiler was a potential parasite). The discussions surrounding the anti-parasite law gave a vivid and informative picture of the great variety of stratagems and social niches developed by individual citizens, reminding one of Fred Starr’s observation that the great thing one learned as a foreign student in Russia in the 1960s was that everything that mattered went on not in the formal structures of the society but in the interstices between.

(the soviet anti-parasite law has recent;y been reactivated in Belarus

The Coevolutionary Romance of Social Learning and Parasitic Behavior

"The coevolution of parasitic behavior and social learning is analogous to a romance, in which behavior wants the learner to fall in love, but the easiest path to the learner’s heart may transform the behavior and have unanticipated consequences for both parties. Either or both behavior and psychology may wind up frustrated or rather elated."

"In this model, parasitic behavior can become prevalent and substantially reduce host fitness. However, it may also evolve to be mutualistic and raise the mean fitness of the host organism. When this occurs, natural selection may favor psychological susceptibility to parasitic behavior. Both social learning and socially learned behavior can enjoy a happy ending. "

"Social learning entails a dilemma: Learning from others requires some credulity, and so our psychology may be defended, but a clever idea can nevertheless penetrate it. "

"Just like breathing entails exposure to pathogens, social learning entails exposure to manipulation, either by other individuals or by behavior itself. "

"This argument does not suggest that brains are helpless victims of parasitic behavior. Any psychology capable of sophisticated social learning must have coevolved in the shadow of such parasitic behavior. And so the design of social learning, whether innate or rather developmentally acquired, reflects a tradeoff between the acquisition of adaptive behavior and defense against manipulation. "

“when “manipulative” behavior successfully guides a learner to adaptive behavior, the situation seems less manipulative and more mutualistic. Thus under the right circumstances, it may be evolutionarily advantageous for a social learner to be susceptible to parasitic behavior.”

The Coevolutionary Romance of Social Learning and Parasitic Behavior McElreath

(about rogers paradox "Rogers (1988) considered a population of individual learners tracking a temporally varying environment. Because social learners acquire information cheaper than individual learners, they are selected for when introduced. However, this eventually results in there being too few individual learners tracking the environment for up-to-date information to spread. Consequently, social learners’ fitness declines until an evolutionary stable state (ESS) is reached, with the population becoming a mix of both types of learners." )

woensdag 20 november 2019

Post-human Parasites

"To claim that man is parasitic, rather than a predator, and that this occurs in a life of parasitism in general entails several consequences for humanism, post-humanism and the ‘disciplines’ that might be adequate to thinking the inhuman. If one abandons the concept of predator then one also abandons the concept of the good and just relation: "
Let us accept that humanity is and must be parasitic: it lives only in its robbing and destruction of a life that is not its own."
" To live and inhabit is to be parasitic, to pollute, to alter the clima, to effect an inclination that cannot be remedied or mitigated by some return or retrieval of the proper."
" The emphasis on parasitism and pollution precludes any nostalgia or restoration; in the beginning is defilement. This then yields a far more positive conception of a natural contract, which would not be man becoming one with nature as one living and symbiotic whole. Rather, it is precisely the supposedly ethical position of man as an interdisciplinary animal—man as assembler and negotiator of a single field of knowledges—that would give way to a natural contract that is a multiplicity, with divergent rather than harmonious lines of inflection. Climate change in a positive sense, following on from this parasitism and pollution, would occur as a negotiation or natural contract of the infinitely multiple."

Claire Colebrook ; Post-human Humanities;view=fulltext

zaterdag 16 november 2019

The Politics of the (Greek) Parasite


 self-control and moderation were not exclusively or even particularly aristocratic values. Indeed, as we shall explore in more detail, they are frequently seen as central civic virtues in the polis, playing a key role in uniting citizens across class. So too, I agree with those who argue that pederastic homosexuality and its proprieties belonged to the culture of polis citizenship generally, ratherthan being specifically aristocratic. I shall argue that the parasite stands in con-tradistinction not to the aristocrat but to the citizen, that the social boundaries,relations, and values that define the parasite are those of the middling civic society of the polis


over time the discourse increasingly emphasized the moral rather than material aspect of the hanger-on at table. At the heart of his condition was a lack of autonomy with respect to want, and this might be want in its sense either of need or of desire. And even neediness in the parasite was a consequence of self-indulgence. The pathos and pity that is present in Homer, where thebeggar may speak of the universal fragility of human fortune, disappears fromthe later discourse as parasitism comes definitively to be seen not as a productof circumstance but of a particular pathology of moral character. Where the parasite is poor, this is owing to his softness and indolence. And he may not be poor at all, no longer the hungry beggar, but the incontinent seeker afterpleasure and profit. This development, I believe, must be understood in thecontext of the development of the polis.
In the polis ideal, each citizen shared an equal political status over and abovetheir socio-economic differences, as free, self-determining men. The commitment to self-determination precluded the separation of government from citizenry, so that each citizen was master of himself and of his household, and together with his fellows constituted the city and shared in direct, collective self-government. In the famous Aristotelian formulation, ruling implied also being ruled.


As an ethical ideal of self-mastery, the middle could be shared in by all citizens, from the smallholder to the socio-economic elite, uniting them as free, self-determining men in contradistinction to non-citizens, to the dependency of the landless, women, and slaves.


 Parasitism is concerned with class incidentally; it is, in essence, a discourse about citizenship: more specifically, about freedom in a citizen-state. The very commitment to independence on which the polis was predicated implicated the citizen in strong bonds of interdependence and community. To be a free means to share in the city, but how is one to be autonomousand yet live a shared life? How may one submit to others and yet be free, whereto be free among other free men is to rule and be ruled?


The parasite is the anti-symposiast, defining the terms and boundaries of convivial society. He is nominally a guest, but does not make a contribution and lacks an invitation. He does not participate in the reciprocity of association.He is admitted to the banquet circle but only for his services, and so he performsthe role of servant and entertainer, slave and hired help. He consequently finds himself the object of laughter and abuse.


 His anti-type is not the aristocrat but the middling man. A servile free man and a false fellow, not master of himself but living only for himself, the parasite is the bad citizen.

 Sean Corner (2013)

Parasite on Parade - Glasgow West End Festival 2010

Parasite Project

  "A few months ago my friend Jamie approached me with an idea he'd be harbouring of participating in the Glasgow West End Festival to help raise public awareness of the work he and his colleagues do researching tropical parasites at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Molecular Parasitology.
The plan was simple, but definitely crazy: to build a giant trypanosome float for the festival's parade, and to hand out comics to explain what was going on."

"On 13th June 2010 a giant fabric trypanosome joined the Glasgow West End Festival Parade.
 The project was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Glasgow University Wellcome Trust Centre for Molecular Parasitology, as well as the Glasgow University Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences.
A free comic was distributed at the event, which can be downloaded for free from here:

Parasite Rex

“Here was a new meaning parasites could have for us--one that could take the place of Lankester's degenerates, Jewish tapeworms, and the old myths of failed evolution. One that could be biologically faithful without turning life into a horror movie, without having parasites come bursting out of our ribs.”

  1. Nature's Criminals; How parasites came to be hated by just about everyone
  2. Terra Incognita; Swimming through the heart, fighting to the death inside a caterpillar, and other parasitic adventures
  3. The Thirty Years' War; How parasites provoke, manipulate, and get intimate with our immune system
  4. A Precise Horror; How parasites turn their hosts into castrated slaves, drink blood, and manage to change the balance of nature
  5. The Great Step Inward; Four billion years in the reign of Parasite Rex
  6. Evolution from Within; The peacock's tail, the origin of species, and other battles against the rules of evolution
  7. The Two-Legged Host; How Homo sapiens grew up with creatures inside
  8. How to Live in a Parasitic World; A sick planet, and how the most newly arrived parasite can be part of a cure

vrijdag 25 oktober 2019

Robin Hood and the Parasite Algorithm

"(..) this is what we do – we just imitate. We let the bankers do all the work and we just imitate. Why? Because, as Michel Serres writes, the one who plays the position will always beat the one who does the content. The latter is simple and naïve, the former complex and intelligent. By playing the position we dominate the relationship. It means that we have a relationship with the relationship itself. It is the meaning of the prefix “para” in the word “parasite”: to be on the side, not on the thing, but on the relationship. A parasite has relationships; it makes a system out of them.
Like Serres’s parasites, we hook to the brains of the financial elite on Wall Street, and they don’t even know it. We appropriate the most important knowledge and capabilities of financial capital and its representatives and put them to work for us – just like capital normally puts to work our abilities and knowledge for the increase of its own value. This is minor asset management. Another way to occupy Wall Street."

the Parasites: Hazel Vivian Campbell

“Mr. Fuller the government is going to put you to work.”
 “What????” Lanny stood up straight and did not try to conceal the deep frown that came to his forehead.
The investigator, mistaking that frown for a well-earned surprise, smiled. Shaking her head, she went on. “Yes, Mr. Fuller, you are to be put to work. I know you think it is about time, and I am glad for your sake. I know how you all long to be independent of the government, and—” 
“What kind of work?” Lanny snapped, looking first from Cozie to the visitor. 
“Why, Mr. Fuller, you are not angry?” “Well, I ain't mad, but I got to know what kind of work I've got to do." Lanny did not change his tone of voice. “I can't do everything.” 
“Why, of course not, Mr. Fuller, but you will try and do what will be given to you."
"Is everyone getting jobs?"
"Why-no, not everyone, but as many on the relief as can be accomodated."
"Have all the taxpayers got a job?" Cozie spoke up her voice not concealing the anger she felt towards the woman.
"Taxpayers?" the woman frowned.
"Yes, taxpayers," spoke up Lanny.
"Why taxpayers?" she asked.
"They have to work more than we do. They have to support the government, and I think they deserve all the help they can get."

Hazel Vivian Campbell: the Parasites. in;
“Tell It to Us Easy” and Other Stories
A Complete Short Fiction Anthology of African American Women Writers in Opportunity Magazine (1923–1948)

donderdag 24 oktober 2019

In Human – Parasites, Posthumanism, Papatūānuku

(..)"up until that point, the sensation had been that I was an individual subject with bounded and inviolable borders. What the parasite demonstrates is that this frame of reference is insufficient. In actuality, what we perceive as our self is only a part of the ecology. We think of ourselves as individuals operating within a static and passive environment – the parasite allows the understanding that we ourselves are the environments in which other ‘individuals’ may also operate. There’s a sense of fractalisation here – that we are Papatūānuku writ small. We are in her, parasites are in us, and (as I found when I crushed one) we are inside them. The parasite collapses these constructed borders and opens our impressions of our bodies to deep new understandings of interconnectivity – moves us into a posthuman conception of the self as ecology. Under liberal individualism, a dialectic is formed between self and environment. The parasite poses a synthesis to this model – that the self is an environment, and conversely that the environment is a self. I am not (only) in me but in everything with which I share whakapapa.
From a liberal individualist perspective, we are all distinct units, but from Papatūānuku’s perspective, or from the perspective of one embracing Papatūānukutanga, we have always been one system."

 In Human – Parasites, Posthumanism, Papatūānuku
by Emilie Rākete


maandag 21 oktober 2019

the synchronicity of feminist parasites (2019)

(..)"the history of feminist publishing and thinking is in some ways a testament to how the synchronicity of parasites reveals the instability of the position of host and parasite. At the same time it uses a range of strategies to bolster the validity of parasitic tactics, while engaging in the long term project of building entirely new hosts."

(Anna Poletti; 'the Synchronity of Feminist Parasites' zine made for the #synchronicityofparasites event at Motel Spatie/Zinedepo 17 may 2019)

zaterdag 19 oktober 2019

Parasite; Reckless Sleepers (1994)

Parasite is a 45 minute performance/installation. The five performers exist within a wooden, box-like room, where we, the audience, become the flies on the walls. Placed around the edges, we sometimes absorb, and sometimes laugh at the tensions which escalate between the performers in this limited ‘living space’. As the performance builds, the set is brought further into play – whole sections of wall are brought down and the performers rush in and out of doors and windows, placing the audience literally at the centre of the action.