The Standing Reserve

For this post I’d like to focus on the moment in Global Frequency when Sita Patel is patched through to the global frequency. Within moments of the initial call, she is first introduced to the threat at hand, biological warfare. She is told that she only has twenty minutes to disable the bomb and within seconds is off and running. She treats the city as an obstacle course and navigates through, all while being briefed on the impending doom.

This brief comic can be related back to enframing, which is described in detail by Martin Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology.” He states “It is precisely in enframing, which threatens to sweep man away into ordering as the ostensibly sole way of revealing, and so thrusts man into the danger of the surrender of his free essence.” This quote illustrates the fear and danger of becoming enframed. While that fear may be legitimate, i.e. Sita is very hesitant about being dispatched to disable the biological weapon but goes along nonetheless, there are also some positives. Global Frequency enlightens the reader by exposing a favorable side to enframement. In Global Frequency, the standing reserve, i.e. enframed party, can be thought of as everyone on the network. In this case, the network is so extensive and wide ranging that it seems there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved by someone or some group on the frequency.

The two narratives described above use very different form to convey the message. Heidegger tends to use fear of the unknown to convey his message of fear and wariness of enframement. The sentence structure includes very elegantly constructed phrases with sometimes concealed meanings. Contrarily, Warren Ellis utilizes common, basic conversation to describe his view. Ellis seems to explore both sides of the issue by showing not only the instant response demanded of the Global Frequency, but the slight hesitation to the response. Members answered the call of duty, but they were not always completely in agreeance. This response can be compared to a common soldier’s response to his commanding officer, i.e. if he tells you to jump, the overwhelming response should always be, “How high?” That kind of enframement is the way in which our world is trending. Examples such as slavery, the Nazi concentration camps, and now even Facebook and ISIS all are examples of enframement. A global frequency which can solve all of the terroristic issues of the world is one thing, but when enframement is the root cause of, or propagates into, terrorism, issues arise.

Now, how exactly did Warren Ellis relate narrative and technology? Well, Global Frequency accomplishes narrative through technology. This comic is novel in that brings to light multiple, complex issues through a laid back, conversational approach which takes place over the airwaves. This approach is critical because the comic appeals to a different audience than Heidegger. They both bring to light the issues regarding enframement but the differing structures allow for a larger overall population’s enlightenment. If more people are not aware of society’s daily attempt at enframement, we will all become the standing reserve for something, whether we admit to it or not.

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5 Responses to The Standing Reserve

  1. djs125 says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your argument of the Global Frequency being the standing reserve. All the agents in the Global Frequency are enframed by it and are the standing reserve. You did a fantastic job relating Heidegger’s piece to this and comparing and contrasting the ways in which both narratives represent and explain the standing reserve. I did a similar post to yours using the agent Sato as being the standing reserve and how he escaped it but nonetheless he was still apart of the standing reserve. Also, your way of explaining how narrative and technology in Global Frequency was spot on. I looked at it in the same way, as the narrative was described through technology. Very good insights to both readings and a great post!


  2. dfw1alskare says:

    I really like your take on how Warren Ellis relates narrative and technology. As you said, Ellis creates narrative through technology; that is, the entire central system that Aleph runs in the heart of Global Frequency is usually the beginning of every episode in this graphic novel. As readers, we may additionally perceive the graphic novel itself to be a piece of technology as we notice ourselves responding to the text and images we are seeing as we read. In many parts of the comic, I noticed myself reading faster, flipping through the pages quicker, almost as if I was watching a movie on a page or looking for that visceral and cinematic experience. This is a really interesting effect a graphic novel has on its readers and certainly creates a more unique experience than if Global Frequency were just in novel (i.e. text) form.


  3. useltime says:

    You bring up a few very nice points throughout your response that led my thoughts to the ideologies of Heidegger. In regards to the Sita part of your post that, “She treats the city as an obstacle course and navigates through, all while being briefed on the impending doom” really reminded me of the essence of what Heidegger was getting at with the challenging-forth mode of thinking. To most, the buildings, rooftops, windows, etc. that Sita traveled across were purely that, buildings, rooftops, and windows, but to Sita they were something more, they were seen as passageways, corridors, and opportunity to get to where she needed to be as quickly as possible. This then follows that it is not merely the agents who are the standing reserve but that the entire world and everything it contains is capable of being part of a standing reserve. Anything can potentially be “exactly” what a person needs “when” they need it and the only true obstacle lies in being able to see it as just that.


  4. tspace22 says:

    One aspect of this chapter that I found really interesting was the ending but also the setting of the ending. The final confrontation with the bomb takes place on the London Eye, which I feel is meant to act as a stand in for modern technology, as well as the aspects of Heidegger you discuss. The London Eye is enframing the Thames River for tourism, so it isn’t likely that this setting was chosen happenstance. When Sita finally gains access to the pod containing the bomb she is able to disable it by jumping into the river. I find this interesting because in this case, technology wasn’t able to disable the bomb in time, the water pressure from the river i.e., nature, was able to.


  5. danwillisdan says:

    I don’t necessarily believe that Global Frequency is a flashier repackaging of Heidegger’s thinking for a different generation/audience. It’s more an exploration of the shape that standing-reserve takes in the 21st century, which is often the expertise and potential for labor of humans as network nodes.


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