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Masamune’s Blade

A Proposition for Dialectic Affect Research


Peter Zuurbier and Frédérik Lesage

Affect is so powerful and represents such ripe territory for study that, in its infancy, conventions of research need to be established that attend to its particular motion and shape. Masamune’s Blade: A Proposition for Dialectic Affect Research outlines an original research method for the study of affect known as affect probes, and proposes the establishment of a new knowledge project based in affect. The book begins with a call to discursively reshape research using affect, after which the authors develop a unique conceptualization of affect, one that brings it into the realm of Frankfurt School Critical Theory. The theoretical foundation sets up the affect probe method, which involves giving participants a package of small activities that require fun, easy, and creative participation. The activities are intended both to inspire affects and to mark their presence. Strategies for analysis are outlined and a series of critical interventions are woven throughout the text to situate the ideas.
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A Call to Arms

“A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.”

—Brian Massumi in A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia

“Ideas are always reusable, because they have been usable before….”

— Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus

We all find ourselves caught up in the moment once in a while. Why is it when we find ourselves this way, so often we continue on, even though we know we shouldn’t? Consider that perhaps affect takes over. Affects come from deep inside our own minds and bodies, swaying us toward one particular course of action over all other possible alternatives. Affect inundates rational thought, sparking seemingly illogical action that when looked back on is often still identified as such. But in that moment, the payoff seems overwhelmingly worth it. There is something undeniable about affect, so how illogical can it be?

We find ourselves caught up in all sorts of affective moments that last all measures of time, from a quick instant of excitement, to a long-held perspective, to a perception shared by whole populations over centuries. Affective ← 1 | 2 → resonance can be so convincing, most times we don’t realize an affective moment has happened until the moment has already passed.

Affects are embodied circuits of resonance, the experiences that occur at a level beyond...

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