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Clarifying Relational Affect: From Process Ontology to Social Critique

Our contribution has two aims. First, we will outline and explicate a philosophical model of relational affect that is centered around the notion of relational individuation. Second, we will put the model to work in sketching an approach to the study and critique of affective arrangements in the corporate workplace.
As a philosophical concept, ‘affective relationality’ crystallizes a conceptual field that includes the concepts individuation, resonance, efficaciousness, ontogenesis, intra-action, becoming a field that as a whole coalesces into a process of ontological understanding of reality. By relating this approach back to the seminal work of Gilbert Simondon, we will disambiguate the relevant sense of ‘relational’ and delineate the – often unacknowledged – framework on which important strands of contemporary affect theory are based. This will help to clear up some misunderstandings that have played a role in recent controversies about the viability of affect studies.
Building on this, we will then turn to the study of affective arrangements in digitized and networked work environments. We will illustrate how the relational understanding of affect can illuminate processes of subjectification and complex power relations in the technosocial ambient of the information workplace, and how it might be employed as a tool for critique of exploitative settings.

Jan Slaby’s work spans the area between the philosophy of mind, social philosophy and philosophy of science. Part of his research lies in developing a non-mentalist phenomenological account of personhood (with affinities to enactivism, extended mind, embodied mind approaches); a central focus is on emotion and affectivity (esp. on the affective dimensions on selfhood and on affective disorders such as depression). A further orientation is toward the affective dynamics of social interaction and toward a ‘political philosophy of mind’. This relates to another research interest in the methodology of interdisciplinary affect studies, and on bringing philosophy in conversation with recent work in cultural studies, including postcolonial, feminist and critical race theory. Jointly with Suparna Choudhury (McGill University, Montreal), Jan is the initiator of the Critical Neuroscience initiative (www.critical-neuroscience.org) that has the aim to develop a multi-perspectival critical contextualization of the alleged ‘neuro-revolution’ in the human sciences, the humanities and in the academy at large.
Jan did his PhD in 2006 in the Institute of Cognitive Science at University Osnabrück. Before taking on his current post at Freie Universität, he worked for two years as a teaching and research assistant at the philosophy department of the University of Marburg (2008-2010).

Rainer Mühlhoff is a post-doc researcher in philosophy at the Collaborative Research Center "Affective Societies" at Freie Universität Berlin. His research interests are located in the areas of social philosophy, political philosophy of affect and critical theory of the digital age. Specifically, he is working on the crossroads of theories of power, affect and subjectivity. Under the label of "immersive power", he has been analyzing an emerging technique of governmentality at work places based on constellations of affective resonances, life style elements and engineered social bonds, set up to exploit the subjects' productive and innovative potentials. As a part of this, he is researching on current forms of authoritarian psychologies. With respect to feedback-based social media and consumer spaces, he is seeking for a critical theory of subjectivation in affect and network based contexts. Part of this is formulating a notion of subjectivity connecting to the enlightenment tradition of Spinoza, Nietzsche and Foucault, while at the same time being applicable to the unique dynamics of resonance and amplification (rather than disciplination and identification) in modern network topologies.