Buying and Selling in a Greengrocer’s Shop: Zone of Intensity Example 1

Utterances tap into and set up or attempt to set up value gradients that organism- persons can tap into and exploit in the process of constructing their own and others’ self-organisation before the gradient is dissipated back into the environment to make way for the next cycle of the self-construction process. Utterances are explorations of and atonements to some facet of the enviromnent that the utterance serves to couple organism-persons to in order to realise values that are perceived to be available or potentially available in that environment. Consider the following example:

Customer: Can I have ten oranges and a kilo of bananas please?

Seller: Yes, anything else?

Customer: No thanks

(Borrowed from Hasan, 1989/1985)

Languaging is an undivided melodic flow or field of movement rather than a succession of discrete instants (Vol. I, Chapter 3). The enkinaesthetic experience of this flow includes a retention of what has just passed, the current moment, and a protension (anticipation) of what is about to come (Husserl, 1964). I am talking here about the felt enkinaesthetic preconceptual underpinnings of lan- guaging (Stuart, 2010; Stuart & Thibault, 2015), not the extensive products that tend to be the descriptive focus of our transcription practices. In other words, languaging is not a set of discrete instants of time, the one following the other, but a temporally extended horizon of actual and potential. It is a becoming, not a thing. A verbal transcription obviously masks and cannot do justice to the lived temporality of the enkinaesthetic enfolding of agents to each other’s neural and bodily dynamics that underpins and generates experience when persons language together.

The orthographic transcription above is a reified product in the form of a textual record that effectively cancels out the intensive processes that generated the original event of which the transcription is a very partial record. Nonetheless, the transcription interests me because it leaves some traces of those intensive processes in the reified extensive product that is the transcription. I will now discuss some aspects of this.

Following Protevi's (2009) account of affective sense-making, we can say that the situation is structured by Deleuze’s three-fold ontology of virtual, intensive, and actual. First, the actuality of a situation unfolds from potential to actual and is deposited in consciousness as extensive properties, i.e., entities—actual or virtual—with metric properties that are generated by the digital semantic categories of lexicogrammar, by habitual perception, and so on. The seller enters a fruit and vegetable shop and senses its actualities: Displayed fruit and vegetables, a shop counter, a cash register, the greengrocer, other customers, and so on. The acmalities of situations have the capacity to affect persons at the same time that acmalities can be affected by persons, for example, by paying attention to them and therefore bringing them into the current horizon of interest and value (Vol. II, Chapter 2, Section 8). In this way, organism-persons are animated by and switched on to relevant aspects of situations. From the customer’s perspective, the seller and the fruit are acmalities in this sense—they have extensive properties and can be apprehended as “objects” of particular kinds.

The intensities of the situation are “composed of tendencies, sensed as approaches to switch points, as anticipations of triggers to thresholds” (Protevi, 2009: 51). Intensity is felt positively or negatively, as attracting or repelling. One such intensity is of course the customer’s interest in and attraction to the desired fruit. Intensity therefore is about the feelings that structure our evaluations of situations. In the customer’s opening utterance, oranges and bananas are specified as intensities of the situation in the following sense: The customer's utterance sets up a values-realising gradient that anticipates the presence and availability of a particular value (oranges and bananas). The intensive refers to the virtual: The virtuality of situations is the phase space of differential patterns and thresholds that structure intensive (form-creating or morphogenetic) processes. They both drive and structure the unfolding situation. The virtual has real effects: It is sensed, Protevi observes, “in our feeling for the genesis and future of situations; our intuition of how we got here and of what could happen next” (2009: 51).

The intensive is also about realising values: The body’s feeling that an encounter with a particular sensed object is good, bad, indifferent (Protevi, 2009: 52). These bodily feelings are proto-modal evaluators that can operate in realtime and evaluate how you feel about a sensed object now, or they can proceed by as-if loops, activating somatic markers (Damasio, 1999; Vol. II, Chapter 3, Section 2) that enable the self to feel what it would be like to live through such and such a situation. The bananas and oranges are a desired value. The server’s utterance "anything else?” is a nice example of the speaker's sensing the immanent virtualities of the unfolding situation. This utterance marks the server’s sense of another switch point: Where will things go next? In making a bid for another sale, the server is sensitive to and animated by the felt virtualities of the situation, by the server’s sense of where things are now, and where and how they might go next.

The customer’s opening utterance sets up a value gradient that brings the customer into relation both with the server and with the desired commodities (oranges and bananas). The value gradient is established by virtue of the fact that the customer wants the fruit but is not yet in possession of it at the time of the utterance. The lexical specification of oranges and bananas in the customer’s opening utterance serves to coordinate the attention of the customer and the server and thus to bring into joint awareness the particular aspect of the current situation that interests the customer. The customer’s utterance thus anticipates the potential future development of the situation. The utterance evokes and anticipates a possibility space of thresholds and potential future actions that structure the unfolding situation. The virtual is therefore sensed in the customer’s sense of where she is now and what is likely to happen next. Her utterance is the crossing of a threshold, as distinct, say, from merely browsing the fruit on display without articulating an intention to buy. Once she crosses this threshold by addressing the seller, new possibilities open up.

The third aspect of Deleuzian sense-making identified by Protevi is the directionality of action. An utterance has vectorial qualities of orientation and direction that indicate a path to be taken. From this viewpoint, the field of movement of utterance-activity can be seen to be emanating from the two speakers and extending along multiple lines out into the world that the customer and server couple to and follow as a particular pathway that they forge together in the process of exploring the actualities and the virtualities of the situation (Ingold, 2011: 70; Vol. II, Chapter 4, Section 2).

Two value gradients drive the interaction—one subjective, the other objective. The subjective gradient concerns the customer’s desire to acquire the goods and the vendor’s desire to make a sale and thus to increase profits. In the present case, the specification on the part of the customer of a certain quantity of oranges and a cextain quantity of bananas indicates where in the subjective possibility space of desirability the preferences of the customer are located. Another customer may be indifferent to oranges and bananas; someone else may prefer apples and pears, and so on. The customer makes her choice because she is not indifferent to the ways in which not all choices are equally desirable. If, on the other hand, the customer were unable to choose between oranges and bananas, on the one hand, and apples and pears, on the other, because both were equally desirable, then those points in the possibility space, being equally desirable, would yield an indifference curve that tells us something about the subjective possibility space of the customer.

The two subjective gradients—one for each agent—are driven by satisfaction. The customer is satisfied when she acquires the desired oranges and bananas at a price she is willing to pay. On the other hand, the seller seeks to increase sales and hence his or her profit. As the transcription shows, the seller makes a second sales bid, which is declined by the customer. In this way, the subjective desirability gradient is dissipated by the buyer’s "no thanks.” Therefore, the satisfaction obtained by each agent remains unequal: The buyer has acquired what she wanted; the seller on the other hand did not get to make another sale. It is this dynamic modal disequilibrium which drives the interaction.

Two objective gradients must also be considered. The first of these is the availability gradient: The seller has an available stock of fruit that is dependent on fluemating market conditions that are not under the control of the seller, e.g., a drought or a bad storm can make a particular product scarce and therefore more expensive. On the other hand, the price-sawy customer has a certain amount of money together with a good knowledge of the going price of particular goods. These two factors determine what can be sold and bought. One agent has a range of fruit products subject to conditions of supply and demand, glut and scarcity; the other a certain amount of money. Possible quantities of a particular commodity (oranges, bananas, etc.) can be traded at particular prices. The objective gradient of the quantity of goods and the subjective gradient of desirability define possible combinations of goods, as the buyer’s initiating act shows: She specifies a desired quantity of the two goods that can be integrated with the availability and price gradients. This brings us to the second objective gradient.

The second objective gradient is the price of the goods. The price is a singularity that enables the transaction to proceed: The seller sells a given quantity of the good at a certain price that is stabilised by the competition with other sellers. The buyer is willing (or not) to pay that price. This dynamic establishes a competitive equilibrium in which the prices of given quantities of goods provided by sellers’ and buyers' willingness to set and to pay the price are stabilised around a singularity that enables the transaction to proceed.

The two objective gradients also embody the institutional roles and respective competencies of the two agents. With respect to the availability gradient, each agent is endowed with specific capacities. The seller has the capacity to provide the good; the buyer has the capacity to pay for it. The respective competencies of the two agents also entail the different skills and knowledge that each possesses for the transaction to take place. The seller must be knowledgeable of the products he or she sells and the prevailing market conditions. The buyer is on the lookout for quality products at the right price and is prepared to change customer loyalty or to shop around in order to obtain this. Furthermore, the customer is alert to dishonest salespersons who may try to sell inferior goods, overcharge, or otherwise rip off the customer.

 
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