Deconcrete has posted an entry entitled Scaled Infinite on Lewis Carrol’s The Hunting of the Snark – An Agony in 8 Fits. The accompanying image of the map of the sea used by the sailors seems the perfect combination of the striated and smooth, concepts developed by Deleuze and Guattari in Plateau 14 “1440: The Smooth and the Striated” from A Thousand Plateaus. (These terms play an important role throughout the book, even before they are “officially” introduced and contrasted, especially in Plateau 12, “1227: Treatise on Nomadology—The War Machine.”)
Carrol’s map serves as a heuristic device (but never a representation) for the process whereby “the two spaces in fact exist only in mixture: smooth space is constantly being translated, transversed into a striated space; striated space is constantly being reversed, returned to a smooth space” (474).
The perimeter of the map is occupied by the striated logos of the compass points, which surround an otherwise blank, or smooth, page. The compass points can be drawn and organized, while the blank space of nomos remains non-representable, expressing the smooth space of the ocean.
The date, 1440, ascribed to smooth and striated spaces, is developed within “The Maritime Model” in which late Medieval/early Renaissance seafaring technology changed the way sailors navigated the seas. “For the sea is a smooth space par excellence, and yet was the first to encounter the demands of increasingly strict striation” (479). Bearings and maps with intertwining latitudes and longitudes creating a metric and homogeneous grid striated the formerly smooth space of the forces of sonorous and tactile intensities of noise and winds as forces of magnitude.
If the sea was increasingly demarcated by the sky above and its derivative measurements, the developments of commercial cities, especially by the State, soon followed suit, acting as a territorializing force. The stasis of dwelling, of architecture, becomes crucial, while smooth space in turn changes the dynamics such that “The dwelling is subordinated to the journey” (478). D&G continue, “In contrast to the sea, the city is the striated space par excellence; the sea is a smooth space fundamentally open to striation, and the city is the force of striation that reimparts smooth space, puts it back into operation everywhere, on earth and in the other elements, outside but also inside itself” (481). The city accomplishes this re-smoothing by developing points of tension and intensity, through sprawl and disjunction.
Temporal and spatial movement are defining qualities of the smooth and the striated. Striation allows for a certain predictability and workability within space, while smooth space operates via speed differentials, delays, accelerations, (dis)(re)orientation, variations and so on. Movement here also operates via thinking and the images of thought created through the striated and the smooth. “To think is to voyage” (482), but this movement in conscious experience is not to be conflated with dreams and hallucinations.
D&G employ other models, including the technological model in which striated fabric weaving, especially as used by Plato as a metaphor for the State apparatus, is contrasted with felt as a smooth “anti-fabric”, a heterogeneous “entanglement of fibers.” The role of the material object is as important here as the process by which it is created. Material and process belong equally to both striation and smoothing. When extended to clothes and shelter, smooth materials serve to integrate interior and exterior (intensive and extensive), while striated ones annex and segregate. In nomadic space the whole is neither given nor giveable. Similarly, patchwork quilts serve as any-spaces-whatever, Riemannian spaces in which connections and relations can be made and reconfigured at will, a provisional (but never absolute) whole arising from the chaos of scraps.
The following musical model employs Boulez’s compositions in which smooth space operates without counting, while occupying striated space requires a metronome. In addition to making space sonorous, the musical model also introduces intervals as the rational and irrational gaps constituting the locus of intensities within striated space. These “modules” or interstices are important because they permit the “and” (as opposed to “then”) of serial composition. That is, within (or without) a scale or atonal system, notes can be organized in any fashion rather than in concert with strict, linear causality. The variability of these gaps is vital because the space and time of music must be created to operate at different speeds and with variable rhythms. The speed and rhythm of space, time, music become vital. Smooth space can exist, alternatively, without these gaps or composed of nothing but gaps (think Cage’s silence).
D&G develop the mathematical model to elucidate multiplicities, as well as to remind us that the two spaces require each other and operate simultaneously rather than in a dialectical fashion. That is, they are typologically and topologically related, the distinction between them becoming indeterminate and forming “zones of indiscernibility”. The intensive magnitudes of the smooth can be translated into the extensive distances of the striated and vice-versa, the values, scope and signs of space changing each time. Perhaps, most importantly, this is a ceaseless process. “Nothing is ever done with” (486).
They then turn to the physical model to apply laws and processes and theories of physics to issues covered elsewhere in this chapter and throughout the book of which it is a part. They also tie physics to sociology, two disciplines that developed anew in the nineteenth century. They write, “society furnished an economic standard of measure for work, and physics a ‘mechanical currency’ for it” (490). This relationship in which science guides the disciplining of humans and the industrial production of weapons, striates humans via work and surplus labor, as well as the war machine through stockpiling and abstraction. They extend this analysis to the present consumer culture of “machinic enslavement” in which, “Not only does the user as such tend to become an employee, but capitalism operates less on a quantity of labor than be a complex qualitative process bringing into play modes of transportation, urban models, the media, the entertainment industries, ways of perceiving and feeling—every semiotic system” (492).
Their final model relates to the aesthetics of nomad art in which they distinguish close-range vision from distant vision, and haptic (which for them combines the tactile and optical) with purely optical space. Distance allows for striated views of the whole and the stasis of entities, while close proximity allows for smooth views of intensities and movement (think in terms of viewing a painting in a museum). Striated space reveals context and the background against which space emerges, while smooth space, which lacks a background context, allows for connections to be made.
Deleuze and Guattari devote a lot of effort to setting up a rigorous binary, which they continually and productively undermine, between the two spaces in which Smooth (left)/Striated (right) can be respectively associated with the following characteristics:
nomad space / sedentary space
war machine / State apparatus
directional / dimensional
non-metric / metric
events and haecceities / formed and perceived things
affects / properties
haptic / optical
intensive / extensive
Spatium / Extensio
BwO / organism and organization
deterritorialization / territorialization
qualitative / numerical (quantitative)
fusional / homogeneous
continuous / discrete
acentered / centered
rhizomatic / arborescent
flat / numerical
directional / dimensional
of packs / of masses
magnitude / distance
frequency / breaks
striated / smooth
nomos / logos
However, they close, after mentioning other undeveloped possible models, by reminding us of the role of excess in which smooth space must continually be made new, deterritorialized and decodified, and in which this space in turn must be striated anew to eschew the unproductive or unmanageable madness of absolute chaos. They write:
What interests us in operation of striation and smoothing are precisely the passages or combinations: how the forces at work within space continually striate it, and how in the course of its striation it develops other forces and emits new smooth spaces. Even the most striated city gives rise to smooth spaces: to live in the city as nomad, or as a cave dweller. Movements, speed and slowness, are sometimes enough to reconstruct a smooth space. Of course, smooth spaces are not in themselves liberatory. But the struggle is changed or displaced in them, and life reconstitutes its stakes, confronts new obstacles, invents new paces, switches adversaries. Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us (500).