This chain of distributive differences is complex, but we don’t need to look into all of its ramifications. Retracing one line will do, one set of dis/connections.

Gust response, G, was fixed. It was fixed in a relation of materiality, material heterogeneity, the absence/presence of the sweating pilots. And Mach number, M, it turned out, was also fixed—because OR 339 said so. And why did OR 339 say so? In order to minimize the effect of enemy defenses. And the final set of dis/connections? The enemy turned out to be ‘‘the Russians’’ and the defenses ‘‘an efficient low level surface to air guided weapon.’’ Which means that ‘‘fear’’ and ‘‘the Russians’’ are not simply outside the formalism but also within it.

None of this is empirically extraordinary. In tracing this chain we’re not learning anything startling about the design of the P.17A. But we have learned something more about heterogeneity. We’ve learned that the enemy is within, that it is within the design, within the formal­ism. And the chain spells out one of the ways in which the enemy has been incorporated and assimilated.

This is another form of heterogeneity, another oscillation in differ­ences that are both absent and present. For the enemy and its surface – to-air guided weapons are a part of the formalism, a part of the wing design, rigorously present. At the same time, like the extended for­malism and the bodies of the pilots, they are just as rigorously absent. So this is a third form of heterogeneity, the heterogeneity of tellable Otherness. The enemy excluded, the foe that is necessary, necessarily included, necessarily a part of the center, necessarily Other.

Подпись: FIGURE 5.5 Подпись: Present/ Absent Подпись: Absent/ Present Подпись: Russians


Подпись: Enemy Defenses
Подпись: Surface- to-Air Guided Missiles
Подпись: They deserve to be forbidden, excluded, kept at the periphery. Or, in the language of defense, they deserve “interdiction.” So Otherness is a dangerous absence. But, at the same time, it is a promise, a seduction, a necessity, an incorporation, a need incorporated in its absence into the semiotics of presence. It is incorporated, for instance, into speed, M, and into the formalism linking gust response, G, to M. For without this incorporation, M might take any value. The wing of the P.17A might take a different shape. And the RAF's need for “a new aircraft'”? Well, this too would look different, would disappear altogether. Heterogeneity/Otherness. This is a third form of heterogeneity. It says that the forbidden, the abhorrent, sometimes even the unspeakable, is both present in and absent from whatever is being done, de-

“The Other”: this is a threat. The air force officers who write opera­tional requirements talk in just those terms. In their work they speak of “the threat.” “The Russians and their surface to air guided weapons” are like Edward Said’s Orientals (1991). They are necessary to the West, to its making of itself because they are dangerous, different, and antithetical. They play a similarly ambivalent role. For they are indeed a threat, a danger, something apart and something to be kept apart.

Подпись: Otherness
Подпись: The Other.7 That which cannot be assimilated. That which is essential. Constitutive. Where is the Other? How is the distribution between self and Other made? Perhaps it is denied or repressed? Perhaps it is a technical problem waiting for resolution? Perhaps it is beyond the borders? For instance in the heterotopic places in Foucault's large schemes. The Palais Royale in pre-Revolu-tionary France. But suppose there were no large schemes, no big blocks. Suppose instead that there were lots of little schemes. If there were lots of little schemes then there would be lots of little Othernesses. Othernesses within. Many of them. Interfering with one another. Perhaps this is what absence/presence is about. In part.

signed, or said.8 Fear is distributed as an absent presence in the center, in the formalism.



Earlier I suggested exhibit 2.1 is perspectival in character. But so too are exhibits 2.9 and 2.10. It is clear to all but the naive reader that these are pictures of the same object. In other words, we are justified in de­tecting the operation of yet another strategy for coordinating possibly different objects—that of perspectivalism.

I shall have more to say about this later, so let me just note for the moment that perspectivalism assumes a world that is Euclidean in character; that is, it assumes that the world is built as a three­dimensional volume occupied by objects. These objects, which in – Objects 21

EXHIBIT 2.10 Front View (British Aircraft Corporation 1962, 2;

© Brooklands Museum)



elude a variety of positions for viewing, have locations and (at any rate in the case of objects) themselves occupy three-dimensional vol­umes.

This is why when we look at individual perspectival drawings of the kind in exhibits 2.9 and 2.10, we tend to see a three-dimensional object, for instance an aircraft, rather than some lines on a sheet of paper. The theory of linear perspective holds that we project the lines that appear on the paper in such a drawing back into a Euclidean vol­ume of space. That volume is occupied by a three-dimensional object that would, had it been located in such a space, have traced itself onto a two-dimensional surface in a way that corresponds with the lines on the sheet of paper. Thus in linear perspective a viewer or subject position is made that ‘‘sees’’ an ‘‘object,’’ the aircraft, even though it sees only a sheet of paper. Or, to put it differently, what is on the sheet of paper tends to produce the sense of an object because it helps to reproduce a Euclidean version of reality.

Furthermore, and an important part of this strategy, different per- spectival sketches are easily coordinated within the system. There is a formal projective geometry for saying this, but let me put it infor­mally. One of the Euclidean assumptions of perspectivalism is that a single three-dimensional object can generate multiple two-dimen­
sional perspectival depictions. Objects, the same objects, simply look different if we look at them from different standpoints. And this is what is happening here. The coordinating assumption is that there is an aircraft, the TSR2, and that it is fixed in shape. That singular fixity will generate all sorts of possible two-dimensional perspectival configurations. So long as the depictions conform to these configu­rations and do not demand an impossible three-dimensional object, then we tend to see the same three-dimensional object when we look at different perspectival drawings, as we do here.

To End

I started this chapter with two beginnings. One had to do with multi­plicity, indirection, and the coherence of subject positions. The other concerned the reflexive problem of the personal. Now it is possible to say that they overlap and interfere with one another.

Some observations.

I want to assert, against the purifying tropes of modernism, that whatever is personal is also social. Always. Whatever we conceal, we think is shameful, inappropriate, self-indulgent, uninteresting, what­ever we conceal is also social. Elias tells us this.

It may, of course, also be shameful, inappropriate, self-indulgent, or plain, downright uninteresting at the same time as being as social.

All of these are real possibilities which we watch being performed every day. They are, indeed, performed in one way by Elias and Fou­cault in their writing—if only because they choose never to talk about their own “repressions,” their own subjectivities. But if we assume, as I have in this chapter, that narratives perform subject positions and object positions, then there is, at least in principle, the possibility that subject positions, those positions that constitute us as knowing sub­jects, are relevant if we want to understand the performativity of nar­ratives, to understand how distributions are being made, if we want to understand what is being said and what is not.

So that is a first possibility. There is continuity between subjects Subjects 61

and objects, and we are lodged in, made by multiple and overlap­ping distributions, which shuffle that which is made ‘‘personal’’ and that which is rendered ‘‘eternal’’ into two heaps. And that process of shuffling is worthy of deconstructing in a contemporary version of the vanitas because it performs obviousnesses. And in particular be­cause it performs obviousnesses.

This is where, having journeyed almost all the way with the semi­otics of Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser, I finally part company from them. This is a methodological point. For I would argue that the body is a particularly sensitive instrument in part precisely because the semiotics of subject-object relations don’t come in big blocks like ideologies, discourses, or epistemes. Let me be more cautious. They may come in big blocks in certain respects. Perhaps the conditions of possibility are, indeed, in some ways uniform, singular. But they aren’t that way all the time. For smaller blocks, narratives, semiotic logics, distributions—these are multiples that are also capable of in­terfering with and eroding one another. At any rate they are capable of doing so under certain circumstances, in particular places or insti­tutions. They can produce multiplicities that do not effortlessly coa­lesce to make singularities. In, for instance, the practices within a building, the intertextualities that pass through the body, the hetero­topic space within that makes us, interpellates us and our materials in multiple ways.32

Lighten our darkness. Deliver us this day from the obviousness of our simplicities.

This is why I am more optimistic than Louis Althusser. There is mileage to be gained by attending to interferences that make multi­plicities. And it is also why the body is so important. For it is a de­tector, a finely tuned detector of narrative diffraction patterns. It is an exquisite and finely honed instrument that both performs and detects patterns of interference, those places where the peaks come together and there is extra light. And those, such as the place I found myself in the summer of 1989, where there is dark, where there is some­thing wrong, where the energies cancel one another out. Where multi­plicity is not reduced.

This suggests that there is a place for the body, not only as the flesh and narrative blood that walks in what we used to call ‘‘the field’’ 62 Subjects bringing back reports, reports of how it is ‘‘out there,’’ but also that

there is room for the body, for the personal, in the narratives that are later performed, that perform themselves through us as we tell of nar­rative diffractions and interferences. For the personal, when we come to sense it in this way, is no longer ‘‘personal.’’ It is no longer nec­essarily personal, however it may be constructed by the modernist – inclined heirs to the civilizing process. It may be understood and performed rather as a location, one particular location, of narrative overlap. A place of multiplicity, of patterns, of patterns of narrative interference. And of irreduction.

Whether we tell stories about ourselves as we perform our situated knowledges will depend on what we are trying to achieve and on the context in which we are seeking to achieve it. The performance of re – flexivity and diffraction does not necessarily demand the immediate visibility of a narrator. But the issues are situated, specific, rhetorical, and political in character rather than great issues of principle. For it is itself wrong, a confusion, a self-indulgence, to forget that the body is a site, an important site, where subjectivities and interpellations produce effects that are strange and beautiful—indeed sometimes ter­rible. And these are effects that might make a difference if were able to attend to their intertextualities.

For instance, there are moments—I lived through one that I have already described—when the possibility of performing coordination between narratives is lost and it is no longer possible to link subject positions together in this way or that, to make a single story; when it is no longer possible to create, perform, and be performed by an ob­ject that is turned into a singularity; when it is no longer possible to work, as it were, perspectivally. In such moments, the interferences and overlaps perform themselves into ‘‘a’’ subject that is broken, frag­mented, and decentered; a subject that is therefore interpellated by— and interpellates—a multiplicity of different objects and thereby sud­denly apprehends that the failure to center is not simply a failure but also a way of becoming sensitive to the multiplicities of the world. At that moment, failure to center is also a way of learning that objects are made, and that there are many of them. It is a way of learning that objects are decentered—aset of different object positions—and a way of attending to the indirections of interference. It is also a way of ap­prehending that knowing is as much about making, about ontology, about what there is, as it ever was about epistemology. Subjects 63

Подпись: A White Bird
Подпись: Years later, in March 1996,1 looked at a videotape of the first flight of the TSR2, a version of the publicity film issued by the British Aircraft Corporation in 1964. The result was unexpected because it was thrilling. It was thrilling to see it start down the runway. And then, with a gap (for the film was not technically outstanding) watch this aircraft take to the air like a great white bird. Perhaps it was the music, for they played the theme from the film Chariots of Fire. Perhaps.

A final question. Could I have done all this without introducing the personal?

The answer is no. Perhaps I could have made arguments like these and told it otherwise in some version or other of the god-trick. But this is not how the method of bodily interference produced its effects. So I’ll finish with another question. If we are constituted as know­ing subjects, interpellated, in ways that we do not tell, then what are we doing? What are we telling? What are we making of our objects of study? Or, perhaps better, what are they making of us?

The question is real, isn’t it? At any rate it’s real from where I stand. For finally, in a study of the TSR2, it turns itself into something spe­cific that is also not specific. If those of us who study military tech – nologies—and those who dream of them, design them, fly them—do not reflect on the aesthetics of our interpellations then we are not at­tending to a way of living stories that runs through us. A way of living stories that is arousing, in some ways dangerously so, that effaces the ontological in favor of the perspectival, and that makes a difference and continues to strain toward the singularities of military and tech­nological discourse.33 This is the power of a reflexive technoscience studies: it can attend to, and learn from, dangerous arousal.

Multilingualism is not merely the property of several systems each of which would be homogeneous in itself: it is primarily the line of flight or of varia­tion which affects each system by stopping it from being homogeneous. —Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues

Подпись:So there are multiplicities. There are multiple distributions of sub­jects and multiple distributions of objects. And these distributions overlap. Sometimes the overlaps work to make patterns of light, somewhat singular narratives. Sometimes they consolidate them­selves to make coherences, simplicities. And sometimes they do not —and then we find that we are left in the dark places, turned into a fragmented set of subject positions confronted by an equally unco­ordinated set of object positions.

No doubt this is uncomfortable. But, if we can work it right, per­haps in those dark moments it is easiest to learn about the making of objects and the making of subjects because in those moments it is easiest to attend to the work of distribution and coordination. And, in particular, those are the moments when it is easiest to avoid being dazzled by problems of epistemological authority and deal, instead, with ontology: with the making of what there is or there could be, with the conditions of possibility. With the performances that other­wise tend to reenact singularity. This, then, is the interest in interfer­ences, that they allow us both to rethink and survey the character of distribution—with how it is that matters are made and arranged in the world.

In this chapter I follow Sharon Traweek and tell more stories while looking for the distributions that they make. I also follow Annemarie Mol by attending to the ways stories describe and make links: con­nections and disconnections or similarities and differences—that is, by attending to their interferences.11 argue that to tell stories is to per­form ‘‘cultural tasks.’’ It is to distribute, to say what exists or does not. And it is to coordinate, to saywhat goes with or does not go with, what else. This means that I’m assuming, as I have above, that storytelling is performative: it makes or may make a difference in the multilingual world mentioned by Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet. Talk may, as it were, talk itself into being, and the stories told may shift their ma-

terial form, may perform their logic from texts or voiced words into bodies and architectures, into other forms of flesh, and into stone. So the echoes here are also with that material version of semiotics called actor-network theory and with the understandings in cultural anthropology or cultural studies of the ways in which, for instance, communities may be imagined and told into being as different stories overlap.2

Sixth Story

Let’s go back to the fixing of parameters. Remember: ‘‘If the gust re­sponse parameter, G, is fixed to give a certain response level, and the operational Mach number and the aircraft weight are also fixed, then from (1) it is clear that at-S becomes constant.’’ So G and Mare fixed.

Now let’s turn to W So why or how has weight been fixed? This is another paper chase. It takes us to a document that we have come across before:

It is desirable both from the point of view of development time and cost, that a proposed aircraft to any given specification should be as small as possible. For any project study the opti­mum size of aircraft is obtained by iteration during the initial

design stages. The size of aircraft which emerges from this itera­tion process is a function of many variables. Wing area is deter­mined by performance and aerodynamic requirements. Fuselage size is a function of engine size and the type of installation, vol­ume of equipment, fuel and payload, aerodynamic stability re­quirements and the assumed percentages of the internal volume ofthe aircraft which can be utilised. (English Electric/Short Bros. 1958, 2.1.8)

So there are many variables, too many for us to magnify. Let’s stick with engines. For aircraft size (and therefore weight) is not simply a matter of the ‘‘size and type of installation.” It’s also, and even more immediately, a function of the number of engines. Here is OR 339 again: ‘‘The Air Staff require the aircraft design to incorporate two en­gines’’ (Air Ministry 1958, para. 9). Two engines. But why? Well, we already know the answer because we looked at the English Electric brochure in the previous chapter. Pilots don’t like flying supersonic aircraft with only one engine when that engine fails.9 So the pilots are back again. This time they are not being frightened by oscillation or nauseated, but they are worrying about something else. Another dif­ference that is absent but present: the worry is that supersonic aircraft are more likely to crash, and the OR 339 aircraft has to travel a long way from home.

But there are other possible differences. We know that Vickers Arm­strong wanted a single-engine aircraft: ‘‘From the very beginning of our study of the G. O.R. we believed that if this project was to move forward into the realm of reality—or perhaps more aptly the realm of practical politics—it was essential that the cost of the whole project should be kept down to a minimum whilst fully meeting the require­ment. This led us towards the small aircraft which, by concentrating the development effort on the equipment, offers the most economical solution as well as showing advantages from a purely technical stand­point.’’10 And these were the arguments: it would sell better; it would be more lethal per pound spent; and it could interest the Royal Navy because they might use it on their aircraft carriers (Vickers Armstrong 1958c, 2-3).




Sixth Story





Sixth Story


Aircraft safety, pilot worry, the need to fly far from base. This set of considerations tends to fix W at a higher value and thus make the air­craft heavier. Cost, cost-effective lethality, naval use, practical poli­tics, sales, this second set of considerations tends to fix W at a lower value and thus make the aircraft lighter.

So there are two sets of connections, two sets of relations of differ­ence. This is old territory for those who study technoscience. It’s a controversy. As we know, the Air Ministry is going to disagree with Vickers and stick with its large, twin-engine aircraft: ‘‘The reply by D. F.S. to D. O.R.(A)’s request for a study on the single versus twin en­gined aircraft was received 16th July. It showed fairly conclusively that the twin engined configuration is the less costly in accidents’’ (AIR8/2196 1958b, para. 43).

But if it is a controversy, it is something else too. It is another form of absence/presence. For controversy and disagreement are absent from W. They are absent from the formalism. There is no room for con­troversy in formalisms. Trade-offs, reciprocal relations, all kinds of subtle differences and distributions yes, but controversies no. And noncoherences not at all.

For, if the arguments about the size of the aircraft, about W, about the number of engines it should carry, are a form of controversy, they are also an expression of noncoherence, dispersal, and lack of con­nection. For the Air Ministry is talking about one thing while Vickers

106 Heterogeneities

is talking about another: ‘‘We must be perfectly clear as to what is the principal objective of the design. It is to produce a tactical strike sys­tem for the use of the Royal Air Force in a limited war environment, or a ‘warm peace’ environment, and should thus be aimed at providing the maximum strike potential for a given amount of national effort. It is not—emphatically not in my view—to produce a vehicle to en­able the Royal Air Force to carry out a given amount of peace-time flying for a minimum accident rate’’ (Vickers Armstrong 1958a, 1). Vickers is talking about cost/lethality, and the Air Ministry is talking about accident costs. This is a dialogue of the partially deaf. It is a dialogue in which the ministry decides—in which it ‘‘has’’ the power. But there is something else, a point to do with the absence/presence of noncoherence. For what is present encompasses, embodies, con­nects, makes links that are absent—except that such links aren’t con­nections at all. They aren’t connections because they aren’t coherent and they aren’t joined up into something consistent. Except that they are nevertheless brought together, in their noncoherence, in what is present. (Present) coherence/(absent) noncoherence. Like the perfor­mance of jokes in Freud’s understanding, noncoherent distribution or interference is a fifth version of heterogeneity.


Perspectivalism is only one projective strategy for visual coordina­tion; there are many more. For instance, art historian Svetlana Alpers writes: ‘‘the Ptolemaic grid, indeed cartographic grids in general, must be distinguished from, not confused with, the perspectival grid. The projection is, one might say, viewed from nowhere. Nor is it to be looked through. It assumes a flat working surface’’ (Alpers 1989, 138).

Thus cartography is another strategy—or better, a series of strate – gies—for coordinating disparate specificities.7 We have already come across one of these in exhibit 2.6. Exhibit 2.11 is somewhat similar. Both are maps drawn, like all maps, to a particular projective con-

EXHIBIT 2.11 Operation (British Aircraft Corporation 1962, 24;

© Brooklands Museum)



vention that (at any rate here) ‘‘flattens’’ a world which (as with per – spectivalism) is taken to occupy a three-dimensional volume. Spe­cifically, it unwraps what is taken to be the surface of a spheroid (in the case of exhibit 2.11, a part of that surface) and to flatten it onto a two-dimensional surface. In doing this, it locates, juxtaposes, and interrelates geographical features to generate what, as Alpers notes, is a view from nowhere—nowhere, that is, in the kind of Euclidean perspectival space generated in exhibit 2.1. This is because the eye (and the projection as a whole) is located outside Euclidean space, even though it is generated by transforming that space.

The view from nowhere is thus made in a way that sees things that could never be seen within perspectivalism. Or, to put it a little differ­ently, it makes a centered viewpoint, a centered subject, using a flat­tened working surface that coordinates objects taken to be out there. It is like the table except that the relations performed by the two work­ing surfaces, the contents and the map, are different.8 In the former case we were dealing with objects that were being related together into a hierarchy, whereas here we are dealing with the performance of spatial relations.

But we’re interested in the aircraft. So where is the TSR2 in these projections? The answer is that it is located on the working surface of the map—but also that it is invisible. Quite simply, if it were de­picted in terms of the scaling conventions used in these projections, it would be submicroscopic in size. So the aircraft is there: it is as­sumed that it is indeed located on the surface of the map, which is also the surface of the globe. But because we cannot see it, we need to mobilize further conventions or strategies if the maps are to do useful coordinating work.

Let’s say first that the two maps are multiply connected. As I have indicated above, they represent the operation of similar cartographic conventions. Second, they appear in the brochure, so for physical rea­sons they both presumptively have to do with the TSR2. Third, that presumption is strengthened by the fact that they are bound together on facing pages. But we need more than this. In particular, we need to make the TSR2 visible. So how does this work? The answer is that the two maps mobilize different conventions.

24 Objects Exhibit 2.6 works because there is an understanding that mobile

objects traversing geographical space may leave huge cartographic traces in their wake, traces that here take the form of thick lines and arrows. These traces disrupt the scaling conventions, being in those terms several hundred kilometers wide. However, this disparity is no problem for the informed reader. This combination of conventions, which applies just as well to the movement of buses in a public trans­port system, makes it possible for the viewer from nowhere to ‘‘see’’ movement on a cartographic surface. Specifically, what the viewer sees or learns here is that the TSR2 is a global traveler. Or, to put it differently, that the same object may move around and be found in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Exhibit 2.11 undoes the invisibility of the aircraft in another way. Again the surface of the map is covered with lines that must, in terms of cartographic understanding, be fifty kilometers wide. However, this time convention tells us that these have nothing to do with imagi­nary traces left behind by flying aircraft. Instead they represent the boundaries of areas—areas, as is obvious, that may be overflown by the TSR2 in its sorties if it is based at one or other of the locations named on the map.

In all this we are unearthing a series of cartographic and carto­graphically relevant strategies for depicting the geographically rele­vant attributes of objects. But we are also learning something more about the ways in which these intersect and coordinate with one another to produce a singular object with particular properties. Thus, though the naive reader was denied this knowledge, I started this essay by noting that the brochure was aimed, perhaps in particu­lar, at the senior members of the Royal Australian Air Force. Now it becomes clear that in their juxtaposition and their mobilization of several different cartographically relevant conventions, these maps bring together two features of the TSR2 of great potential importance to Australian strategists: first, its ferry range, and second, its opera­tional range. The aircraft that can fly round the world is coordinated with the aircraft that can undertake very long-range missions into communist China. The triangulation between the conventions of car­tographic projection, the traces left by moving objects, and the depic­tions of areas interact to ensure that we are here dealing with one and the same machine.

English Electric

English Electric: in the 1940s and 1950s this was a proudly indepen­dent company based in and near Preston, a large town north of Man­chester in Lancashire in the UK.

A brief history of English Electric? The company was a success­ful Second World War aircraft manufacturer. It worked by taking the designs of other companies and producing them under license effi­ciently and on time. This was fine for wartime because the United Kingdom needed all the aircraft it could get, and it needed manufac­turers even if they didn’t design their own aircraft. But at the end of the war, the directors could see that if the company was to survive as an aircraft manufacturer, it would henceforth need to create its own aircraft from scratch. So in 1945 it created its own design team.

The new team knew that they only had one chance. If they got it wrong, English Electric would have to make do with manufacturing industrial machinery or domestic appliances. So it needed to design an aircraft that would be attractive and would sell. This meant, in par­ticular, that it should be cheap, flexible, reliable, and simple. So, bor­rowing the technology of the defeated Germans, the company built a light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. Straightforward, subsonic, but immensely versatile, it was code-named the Canberra and turned out to be a world-beater. It sold in thousands, both to the Royal Air Force and overseas, and was manufactured under license in large numbers abroad.

The gamble had paid off. English Electric was successfully estab­lished as a front-rank aircraft manufacturer. But what should follow?

At this point there was a disagreement between the English Electric designers and the Whitehall civil servants who were responsible for British military aircraft procurement policy. The mandarins thought 66 Cultures that supersonic technology was risky, that it wouldn’t pay off, so they

continued to order subsonic aircraft. At English Electric they thought differently, and putting their money behind their ideas, they designed and built a prototype supersonic fighter aircraft, code-named the P1.

In some ways this was a tricky machine. It wasn’t easy to service, its move into production was beset by delays, and it carried little fuel so its range was very limited. But in other ways it was extremely suc­cessful. In particular, it flew brilliantly. In the end Whitehall came around and bought a developed version of the P1, called the Light­ning, for the Royal Air Force. And, though it didn’t match the extraor­dinary success of the Canberra, the P1 also went on to sell very well overseas.3

Two out of two: the Canberra followed by the P1 Lightning. English Electric had become a very successful aircraft company. But what would follow the P1?

We have reached 1955 now and find that the Royal Air Force was thinking hard about its future aircraft. Here’s an excerpt from a con­fidential government memo:

The Canberras, with the ability to deliver the tactical atomic bomb and trained to operate at low level, must continue to pro­vide our tactical strike and reconnaissance force for some time to come. It is difficult to say how long they can continue to be re­garded as an effective tactical force. However, operated strictly at low level, they might perhaps continue to do so until the enemy can develop an effective low level surface to air guided weapon.

At best this might be until 1963. (AIR8/2014 1955)

So there was a gap, a space for a Canberra replacement. It was a space defined by the threat to subsonic, medium-altitude bombers flying over Russia posed by antiaircraft missiles which might shoot them down. And it was a space that gradually took shape between 1955 and 1957 when it was specified in a document called General Operational Requirement (GOR) 339. This is what English Electric was after: the contract to design and build the GOR 339 aircraft, the Canberra re­placement.

It’s possible to tell a story about the evolution of that design, the steps the English Electric designers went through.4 By 1957 this de­sign had stabilized in a particular proposal code-named the P.17A.

This design was described and justified in a long brochure written Cultures 67

in response to the Whitehall requests for designs for a GOR 339 air­craft. Most of the brochure is given over to technical description of one point or another. But it also contains a history or perhaps it would be better to say a genealogy of the P.17A, which was, so to speak, a description of its antecedents.

The value of the Canberra experience cannot be over-estimated.

It is the only modern tactical strike and reconnaissance aircraft in service with the R. A.F. and many other Air Forces. More Can­berra aircraft are in service with foreign countries than the Vis­count, which holds the record for British civil aircraft. This is due to the flexibility of the Canberra in its operational roles and per­formance, and is a factor which has been kept in mind through­out the P.17A design development.5

In this excerpt from the brochure we’re not only being reminded of the history that I have just recounted but also (in a version of the policy genre discussed in chapter 3) of its relevance. For the Canberra, or so the document is going to tell us, is an excellent test bed for all the tactical equipment needed for the new aircraft—the radars, the bombing equipment, and all the rest. The Canberra also has the virtue that it does some of the same jobs that the GOR 339 plane will do: ‘‘the Canberra is being used for low level strikes with delivery of tactical atomic stores by L. A.B. S. manoeuvres” (English Electric/Short Bros. 1958, 1.S.3). LABS is an acronym. It stands for Low Altitude Bomb­ing System, which is a term that describes the maneuvers the plane goes through in order to avoid destroying itself as a result of delivering ‘‘tactical atomic stores.’’

So the Canberra was some kind of progenitor. But in many systems of kinship, offspring have two parents and the P.17A was no excep­tion. So we move to more history, or more context.

Meanwhile the P1.B is the only aircraft under operational de­velopment having high supersonic experience and appropriate auto-pilot and instrument systems. Moreover, it is the first air­craft under development as an integrated weapon system with all-weather equipment and a reasonable degree of automaticity.

Perhaps most important of all, it is the only aircraft in the world known to have flown with satisfactory controllability up to a

Mach number of 1 at very low altitudes in very rough air. (English Electric/Short Bros. 1958,1.S.3)

So the argument was that the P1.B already flew like the OR 339 aircraft, very low and very fast, and it did so well. The promise was there. The experience of the P1.B would be built into the P.17A. More lines of descent. And what this particular passage doesn’t mention (though it crops up in the narrative elsewhere) is that many of the techniques used to design the P1.B were also being used for the P.17A.

The P1.B stress calculations, for instance, were run on a big com­puter, the DEUCE, which was purchased for the P1.B project. Now the same computer was being used to design the P.17A, not to mention the high-speed wind tunnels and all the accumulated design office experience.

The brochure adds the following:

It will be seen that the P.17A represents a completely straight­forward application of our design experience, as of 1957, just as the Canberra was a conventional application of aerodynamic and structural design knowledge in 1945. This is for the same reason; to guarantee that the R. A.F. have a practical aircraft in service as near as possible to the desired time scale.6

Seventh Story

Gust response, speed, weight, these are fixed. We are left with at, lift slope, the slope of the curve that tracks variations in lift against changes in angle of attack. We are left with this and the hope that its slope will be flat. But there is more. For instance, the stories are about transonic flight: How will the wing behave at roughly the speed of sound? And there are other questions; for example, how will it act at low speeds? So here’s another complexity, one that I earlier chose to ignore. This is the quote again, from the English Electric brochure: ‘‘The essential design compromise implied by O. R.339 is between high speed flight at low level, and operation from short airfields. The intermediate choice between a high-wing loading with a low aspect ratio to minimise gust response, and a large wing area assisted by high lift devices to provide plenty of lift at low speeds, must be resolved’’ (English Electric/Short Bros. 1958, 2.1.8). So gust response is impor­tant, but so too is take-off—which requires plenty of lift at low speeds. The brochure says:

Another convenient parameter is one which gives an indica­tion of the relative response to gusts while achieving a given take­off distance. This may be expressed as P say, where

Подпись:P =


where CLf is the maximum trimmed CL, flaps down, in touch­down attitude. P must be a minimum for good design. (English Electric/Short Bros. 1958, 2.1.9)

We’ve met these terms before. A reminder:

— CL is lift coefficient, roughly the lifting force of a wing: here, the lifting force of the wing as the plane comes into land with its flaps down.

—And at is lift curve slope, change in lift against change in angle of attack.

P therefore quantifies a hybrid relationship, the hope that it is pos­sible to find a wing with low transonic gust response and high lift at landing.

But how to find a wing of the right shape? Of the right planform. This is a technical term and it is one of some importance. The bro­chure continues: ‘‘In the absence of comprehensive data on the effects of flaps on low aspect ratio wings, a comparison replacing CLf by CLmax indicated that delta wings were superior to trapezoidal and swept wings’’ (English Electric/Short Bros. 1958, 2.1.9). The terms here?

— CLmax is the aerodynamicist’s way of designating maximum lift. —Low aspect ratio wings (a reminder) are wings that are short in relation to their area.

—Delta wings are triangular, like those of a paper dart.

—And a trapezoidal wing is shaped like a trapezium. That is, though the wing tip is parallel to the root of the wing, the leading and trailing edges converge toward that tip.

The paragraph then discusses planform:

Since it was thought possible that by using leading edge flaps on trapezoidal wings, higher values of CLf might be obtained

than those from delta wings, wind tunnel tests were carried out using a trapezoidal wing-body combination. In the event, these tests confirmed that the delta gave higher values of CLf. The delta planform was also expected to have better transonic char­acteristics, and again high speed tests in our 18" tunnel on a family of aspect ratio = 2 planforms confirmed the unsatisfactory characteristics of trapezoidal wings, with sudden large aerody­namic centre movements at transonic speeds. This confirmed the choice of the delta planform. (English Electric/Short Bros. 1958, 2.1.9)

A further explanation. This time about aerodynamic center. As it moves through the air a wing lifts, but it does so by differing amounts in different parts of the wing. It’s useful to simplify, however, and sum the effect of all these separate parts to create something called the aerodynamic center. Roughly, this is the place in the wing where the

Seventh StoryFIGURE 5.7 Trapezoidal Wings

changes in overall lift occur as it flies faster or slower or its angle of attack changes. Above stalling speed the aerodynamic center doesn’t shift much. At subsonic speeds it’s about one quarter back from the leading edge for most wings. But at around the speed of sound the aerodynamic center tends to move backward. This isn’t a disaster un­less it moves quickly and jerkily, in which case the aircraft can be difficult to control—which would take us back to pilot sweat and fear.

So the English Electric engineers were looking at two things. One was aerodynamic center. Here the trapezoidal wing was a problem because the movement was ‘‘sudden’’ and ‘‘large.’’ The delta wing was better. The second was CLmax (max, here, means maximum lift). Here

Подпись: FIGURE 5.8 Delta Wings
Seventh Story

there was a surprise: the delta wing was better again. On both counts the trapezoidal wing came off worse.


Exhibit 2.12 takes us to the navigation system and to an example of another strategy for coordinating object positions: discursive (and, as we shall shortly see, pictorial) monitoring and self-correction.

How does this work? The strategy coordinates object positions in a way that suggests monitoring and self-correction will put each other right, indeed perhaps rebuild one another, should the links between them or the positions concerned start to weaken. Such is the point of the term “correction” in exhibit 2.12 and the rationale for talking of a ‘‘weapons system’’ in exhibits 2.2 and 2.13.

These terms and this strategy are both less hierarchical than those built in the table of contents. On the other hand, they echo a substan­tial literature on large technical systems in technoscience studies, a literature that lays stress on the interconnected and interlocking char­acter of technical innovation.9 The argument is that large technical systems—and here TSR2 is being treated as an exemplar-look at and talk to themselves reflexively.10 That is, they bring themselves into being and sustain themselves because they build, or take the form of, feedback systems.

Exhibit 2.13 generates components—let’s say object positions— that are coordinated to perform and stabilize the ‘‘complete TSR2 weapons system.’’ ‘‘In-built test facilities, pre-checked packages for armament, etc.,’’ such are specific objects that work together in this discursive strategy to secure the stability and continuity of the TSR2 object through a series of different positions.

The strategy takes different forms in different places. For instance, exhibit 2.13 works by colonizing alternatives, by simply obliterating them, or by rendering them irrelevant. This is the point of the talk

EXHIBIT 2.12 ”Fixing consists of comparing the computed position of the fix point with the actual positi on of the poi nt as shown by radar. Both these positi ons are shown on the navigator’s radar display and his action in comparing these pro­duces a signal proportional to the displacement between them. This signal is fed to the digital computer where it is used to correct the computed dead reckoning position and may be used to feed an azimuth correction to the inertia platform if necessary.” (British Aircraft Corporation 1962, 26)


Подпись: of rapid deployment, in-built tests, and pre-checked packages. If airfields are unreliable and cannot supply support-and-test equipment, then these too can be re-created as a part of the system.11 This means that what is being constituted as a single aircraft, like the experiments described by Karin Knorr-Cetina in high-energy physics,12 ends up interacting with itself rather than with the outside world. In this way a number of different aircraft—the aircraft at a fully equipped airfield, but also an aircraft at a primitive airstrip somewhere in the forests of Germany—are coordinated: they are made substantively, but also functionally, coherent. We are dealing, in all senses, with ‘‘the same’’ aircraft. Подпись: EXHIBIT 2.14 Turn Round at Dispersed or Primitive Airstrips (British Aircraft Corporation 1962, 20; © Brooklands Museum)

EXHIBIT 2.13 ”The complete T. S.R.2 weapons system is designed for mobility and flexi bi lity i n operation, reversi ng previous trends towards reliance on major base facilities. It can be deployed rapidly throughout the world with nominal support and is then ready for immediate operational use to an extent depending on the level of support. In-built test facilities, pre-checked packages for armament, etc., and an auxiliary power plant for operating aircraft electrics, cooling and other systems, are used during the turn round, thereby avoiding reliance upon complex support equipment. All support equipment is air-transportable.” (British Aircraft Corporation 1962, 5)

The looplike and self-sustaining character of this strategy of co­ordination is visible in exhibit 2.14. This (or so the caption tells us) is to be understood as a diagram of ‘‘turn round at dispersed or primitive airstrips.’’ In this depiction the loop starts (and ends) with landing and take-off, moves through icons that depict towing, replen­ishment, rearming, and standby, using (as the text observes) “self – contained facilities [which] can be used for normal operations.” Many coordinating conventions are being deployed here, textual and icono – graphic. But in the present context it is the arrows that are most sig­nificant. The conventions for reading these generate a viewer who is not naive but understands that the five icons for the aircraft stand not for five different aircraft but rather for one: a singular aircraft that is being displaced through time, and perhaps (though this is less clear) through space. A singular aircraft is being made that will be returned to the sky even though it is far removed from major base facilities.

A version of the same systems singularity is also deployed in one of the maps discussed earlier—the ferry-range map of exhibit 2.6. We have discussed the cartographic practices mobilized here, and also the conventions for tracing the movement of small objects onto mapped surfaces. But the latter with its lines and arrows also per­forms a further version of systems coordination. As in exhibit 2.14, this takes the form of lines and arrows which go round, in loops. The particular rhetoric of TSR2 singularity here thus not only performs an aircraft that can fly long distances once it is fueled up, but also per­forms a TSR2 that can go out, for instance from the UK, but that can also come back. This, it should be added, is not the trivial matter that it might seem, given prevailing headwinds and the need to plan for adverse conditions when seeking to land on tiny islands in the middle of the ocean.

Each of the exhibits I’ve touched on in this section contains loops. Each performs loops. And the strategy for coordination depends on the successful manufacture of loops. For, in a systems world, the world of cybernetic self-maintenance, properly built loops are re­assuring. They correct themselves. They secure an environment in which coherences may sustain themselves and that does not distort what is passed round the loop. So it is that such loops, or the connec – 28 Objects tions that afford such loops, generate what Bruno Latour (1987) calls

immutable mobiles. Objects remain ‘‘the same’’ even as they move and displace themselves.

Continuity and Culture

I will shortly take this story one step further, but it is time to pause for a moment and reflect. Let’s start by saying that this history as told by the brochure writers at English Electric is perfectly plausible. No doubt as an expression of the coordinating potential of what in the previous chapter I described as ‘‘plain history,’’ it might be incorpo­rated into an account offered by any historian of the English Elec­tric company, and I suggest, its general style feels comfortable in the context of technoscience studies. So what is the nature of this plau­sibility?

The answer lies in the fact that one thing leads discursively to another. Somehow or other, events go together, distributed onto a line, a time line, a line ofinfluence, the teleological means-ends line that is the guiding thread of a project. It is, to be sure, an interested history. It would be easy to tell a debunking story about the concerns of those who wrote the brochure, noting that they sought to make as Cultures 69

much as possible of the readily available cultural materials. And it would be equally easy to tell a story that did not debunk but merely noted the operation of social interests as well as the existence and ma­nipulation of a prior set of resources in the form of skills, materials (such as wind tunnels and machine tools), and texts.

I’ll discuss interest narratives in a later section of this chapter. But such ironicizing or contextualizing doesn’t necessarily reduce the plausibility of the story about English Electric. Note, for instance, that it conforms, at least in broad shape, to the form of much narration in technoscience studies, sociology, or anthropology. It does so, in par­ticular, because it is an example of an origin story.7 The narratives re­tell how one (cultural) thing leads to another, influencing it and shap­ing it, as one passes through time. So it is a narrative in a plausible form, in one or more of the versions of that form (‘‘plain history’’ and ‘‘policy narrative’’) — or their closely related if more esoteric cousin, the social shaping of technology. It makes a reader who knows how to handle and assess it, who knows the strategic moves. In addition, that reader knows the kinds of issues that might be highlighted if one wanted to set about undermining it: ‘‘We need more detail’’ or ‘‘No, the similarities between the P1.B and the P.17A are overstated if we look at this other material.’’ And so on.

So, let’s say that this form of narrative is a coordinating strategy, a method for the cultural ordering of what might otherwise be discon­nected objects. It takes the form of a plausible historical narrative, a plausible origin story. It makes a culture (we perhaps should remind ourselves again) that ramifies into and is performed through material objects and procedures such as genes, skills, jigs, and power presses, a culture that somehow or other may be said to shape the events that it contains, in this case historically.

So what about this term, culture? It would, to be sure, be possible to write a book about this. Indeed a library. Several have been written. I want, however, to approach the term in a particular way by linking it to specific lines of writing in technoscience studies. With this in mind, it is helpful to cite Sharon Traweek, who tells us that ‘‘a com­munity is a group of people with a shared past, with ways of recogniz­ing and displaying their differences from other groups, and expecta­tions for a shared future. Their culture is the ways, the strategies they 70 Cultures recognize and use and invent for making sense’’ (Traweek 1992, 437-

38). So we have strategies for arranging, for making sense and (to add to her definition) creating similarities and differences, including the similarities and differences that constitute community.

But how are similarity and difference made? As I suggested in chap­ter 2, there are various strategies, methods for distributing or order­ing such continuities and ruptures. And here we are dealing with another: that of chronology or genealogy, the tracing of descent, the insistence on commonality through the generations. This strategy comprises at least one of the tropes used by those who wrote or (we might add) performed the English Electric brochure; by those who worked in the test facilities and factories of English Electric in the north of England at Warton and Preston; by the material embodiments of English Electric, precisely in the form of those facilities and fac­tories; by the story, by the lineage, that I built for the company at the beginning of this chapter; and by technoscience students as they seek to make sense of the way in which things follow things to produce what we might think of as shaped continuity. For this is one of the great distributive tropes, methods, or mechanisms of culture. It is not surprising that we should find it in our materials. It is not surprising that we should use it ourselves in our technoscience studies: the nar­rative of the world as genealogy and chronology. More time lines. A project doesn’t need to be made in this way. No doubt it cannot ex­clusively be made in this way. But surely this is one of the elementary mechanisms of project making.


Подпись: Wind Tunnel Подпись: Aerodynamic Center Подпись: FIGURE 5.9

So there are two sets of relations: the link between planform, the shape of the wing, and CLf; and the link between planform and aero­dynamic center. The delta wing is better-better, that is, in the wind tunnel.

The wind tunnel is another instance of heterogeneity/materiality, of distribution between absence and presence. On the one hand, there are the flat surfaces of the drawing office that work to pull every­thing together, to center it; and on the other, there are the three­dimensional models, materials, and measurements of the wind tun­nel. So the wind tunnel is absent from the formalisms of the design office and yet they are present too. But there is something more subtle

about the differences that emerge in that distribution. This is the fact that they are produced in movement, in a continuing process of dis­placement between materials and sites.

Perhaps one way of saying this is that it isn’t possible to ‘‘sum up’’ the wing in the design office. The representation that appears in the design office, sets of formalisms, drawings, is incomplete, unfinished. It is not centered, it is not drawn together, because it needs the wind tunnel. It needs the differences that will be generated in the move to the wind tunnel. But the version of the wing that appears here is also incomplete and needs further attention, further attention by the de­sign office, by stress engineers, machinists, metallurgists, and later by maintenance engineers and mechanics.

This is another oscillation of absence/presence. For the wing is present, all there, drawn out. But those lines also embody absence, the absent/presence of differences that are deferred and relations that are still to come. So the distributions here, the absent/presences are differences in movement. They involve displacement, displace­ment through time, in what Jacques Derrida calls difference. They involve an oscillatory distribution between the present/now and the absent/future. Or the absent/now and the present/future. In the het­erogeneous interferences of time. In heterogeneity/deferral.11