‘Boys Calling Girls, Boys Calling Boys’
‘There is the Tiger,’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari observe in ‘Balance Sheet – Program for Desiring-Machines’, first published in January 1973; ‘it is rumoured that there is even an Oedipus in the network; boys calling girls, boys calling boys. One easily recognises the very form of perverse artificial societies, or a Society of Unknowns. A process of reterritorialization is connected to a movement of deterritorialization that is ensured by the machine’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1977: 119; emphasis in original). Appearing at the start of a year that marked the unravelling of President Nixon's cover-up of the Watergate burglary, their essay can be seen as an attempt to transcend the physical logic of machinery at a time when the Leader of the Free World found himself deeply engaged in fighting a Cold War both at home and abroad. Emerging from an assemblage of phone lines and switches, recording and playback devices, microphones, spokesmen and secretaries, Nixon's war machine swiftly became a network of repression and marginality: operating through such strategies while at the same time extending them to such a degree that the president's staff were busily compiling an ‘enemies list’ of his political opponents.
In opposition to this, the ‘perverse artificial societies’ described by Deleuze and Guattari were the random ones thrown up by Paris's unstable telephone system in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where crossed lines, misdialled numbers and bad connections created an entire phantom network of voices: ‘a Society of Unknowns’, which is to say, young people operating the system mainly through exploiting its eccentricities, malfunctions and weaknesses. As they did so, early models of online communities came into being with a large number of participants adopting aliases in order to remain anonymous within them.
Having previously informed its existence, ‘Oedipus’ would never have had the need, or indeed the opportunity, to be on Nixon's ‘Enemies List’. He was already a functioning part of it. So how is his presence within the deterritorialised network described by Deleuze and Guattari to be interpreted? Perhaps as a text that can never complete itself, a fiction that remains unresolved, or even as an act of communication without informational content.