Mieke Gerritzen and Geert Lovink (eds) Style First, Birkhauser  
Publishers, 2007.

‘The Contagion of Style’ [with apologies & thanks to Akseli Virtanen  
for my plagiarism of 'communication without ends']

Ned Rossiter

Did you catch it? That wonderful virus of style? Don’t look for any
handbook or how-to-guide. There is none. Invent your own. No point
in hiding away – you’ll find nothing there except your mirror-image.
Narcissism needs an audience.

There’s a trick to all this. Remember: the best place to catch a cold
is on the airplane. It’s all about relation. And so is style.

Can there be an economy of style? Sure, if you’re some whacko who
believes the latest creative economy directives dished out by the
policy-wonks and cultural commissars desperate for investment
pensions. But let’s think of counter-economies, modes of infection and
distribution that enable collective transmissions of style.

We’re talking about modalities of life here. And who, really, wants to
find themselves grid-locked on termination street? Style, then, is one
of many kernels of ‘difference which makes a difference’ (Bateson).

Remember childhood? The time of high-style, to be sure. I don’t know
about you, but for me style was always something kids a bit older than
me possessed. By association, style travels. This is regeneration.
I’m next to you, hanging out, and filter your style (aesthesis as
sensation) through relation. And turn it into something else.

Copying is the technique of invention. Mimicry is not about fidelity,
it’s a process of individuation. Just as a virus adapts to its host,
so style is reproduced in singular ways.

No proprietary control here. As much as culture is up for sale these
days, the best check-out chicks will still say: ‘here, have it for
free’. They know that culture only excludes if you’re the idiot who
asks ‘how much’?

So is there such a thing as non-style? Well, read a policy document
on the Creative Industries. This is a version of copying without
creation. And that means: no contagion.

It doesn’t matter that fashions are recycled. It’s the register that
counts. Not the cash-register, but the palpability of sensation.

And what about uncertain style? This is style in its embryonic phase.
Yet can it even be called style? The primary element of relationality
is operative with uncertain style: it has to be sensed, after all. But
the expression of the relation is still to become concrete in a way
that makes one style distinct from another.

Here we find perhaps the most exciting moment of style generation.
This is the time of experiencing experimentation. Communication
without ends coupled with action predicated on outcomes.

An antagonism subsists within the meeting between experience and
experiment. I consider this tension as ‘the political’ of style.
Here is the basis of a political theory of style that is still to be

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