ESR 5 Blog January/February2023: Claude Nassar

De-particularised Winters

Experiencing winter from the window of a studio in Reykjavik while writing my dissertation, the wind, the rain, the snowfall, the clouds, appear and disappear between an hour and the next. Since the periods in between weather transformations in Iceland do not linger longer than individual psychological shifts. Instead of containing individual processes, the rhythms of the weather go in and out of phase with mood changes, affective shifts, and the dissipation of bodily energy during the day.

This juxtaposition of the temporality of the transformation of the weather and subjective cycles of thought, while being in a state where I am often trying to verbalise and textualise my thinking, led me to think about the ways the flows of natural processes are interviewed with subjective flows of significance; how cycles of stormy weather and relative calm affect my ability to focus, to write, and my ability to hold a thought without being distracted.

I became curious to see if there has been any scientific correlation between changes in atmospheric pressure and behavioural changes. The logic being that atmospheric pressure is a metric that varies in an oscillating manner, representing an environmental phenomenon sensed (by a barometer) as part of the weather changing process, rather than the measured effect of weather changes in terms of temperature, precipitation and wind speed; something similar to the effects of air pressure on people diving or hiking at high altitudes, but more subtle.

I did not get too invested in this investigation, but this interest initiated a few reflections on the desire to synthesise actionable knowledge from patterns of correlation. It was a reminder of how how easy it is to become interested in isolating and simplifying complex social, psychological, and environmental inter-connections. How the desire to understand and transform the ways my mood is affected by the environment, orders my affective experience in de-particularised cycles devoid of contextual substance, in relation to a closed system of reference. An order that, rather than yielding intended benefits to a lived experience of mood and weather transformations, creates a framework for behavioural prediction only possible in the abstract isolation of theoretically coherent forms.

In the particular example of plotting mood or behavioural shifts according to changes in atmospheric pressure, such ordering might allow patterns of correlation to emerge, but these patterns would be recorded without the particular social, political, and physiological dynamics that give subjectively signifying content to such patterns – a de-individuated, or de-personalised order, where the accumulated recordings of interactions between two self-coherent abstractions allow a logic to emerge. This is a logic that can used to extrapolate linear projections backwards towards the past, and forwards towards the future, always informed by the particularity of the moment of analysis.

Such methodologies of producing patterns of significance and the reformulation of pasts and futures through them, operate according to onto-epistemologies where knowledge is often unable to take into consideration the social and political source (of discomfort, discontent, or drive) that underlies the desire to know (to observe patterns of correlation, to formulate the accumulation of these patterns into self coherent concepts, to extrapolate possible patterns of interactions).

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