Speed and becoming in the urban public sphere
Concerns about speed and politics focus on the loss of the self-present political subject, whose critical will can direct and legitimate political discourse. The hope of sustaining such a subject is understood to be threatened by the erosion of the ideal-normative grounds that are said to support critical subjectivity (e.g. the city, the community, public space). While the concerns about the character and control of public space are certainly to be taken seriously, it is not clear why we should attach these concerns to a loss of a critical political subjectivity and an erosion of public debate. The argument here begins by acknowledging that speed is an ambivalent quality in politics, both creating a potential to open debate to new identities, and posing the risk that oppositional politics will stall in hard oppositions, or in a failure to recognize that which is truly novel in an event. Both of these risks require that recognized identities begin to 'leak', and become open to a world whose potential exceeds the recognized permutations of the possible. This thesis explores how a public, and its implied subjectivities, are maintained 'at speed', within the multiple timespaces of the contemporary city. Instead of an objective speed that comes from without, and overwhelms the subject, time is conceptualized as duration; an immanent view of time in which speed is characterized as repeated disruptions. A public can form around these repeated disruptions. The public is understood to be an assemblage, in Deleuze and Guattari's use of the term, which is sustained by the circulation of texts. A public actualizes wherever, and whenever, there is a successful conjunction of text and context. These conjunctions are not determined, but are only determinable in the event of their actualization. However, it is possible to create a diagram of the assemblage which highlights the potential that exists for the formation of a public, as well as the potential to go beyond recognized subjectivities and open the assemblage to a process of becoming. This thesis creates such a diagram for the smog-event in Toronto, Canada, and engages in an 'experimental critique'. An experimental critique seeks to explore how the event has been placed into circulation in the public sphere, and to encourage experimentation with the limits of recognised identities and possibilities that are sustained in the public assemblage.