Aleph: Standing-Reserve and Reversal of Roles

The dynamic between Aleph and Miranda Zero throughout the episodic adventures of Global Frequency is one of the most deep and interesting of the series to say the least. It is highlighted most clearly in the chapter “Aleph”, in which the particular moment of crisis directly involves the titular character. Quite bluntly, Zero treats Aleph like the other 1,001 members of the Global Frequency: she is a component of a system that requires the special skills of the individuals to function. In other words, Zero enframes Aleph as standing-reserve. In their “natural” state, these individuals may have used their abilities independently for good, evil, moral, immoral, or even relatively neutral causes. To use Heidegger’s vocabulary, Zero challenges each and every member in order to accomplish her immediate goal. Aleph is no exception, and is often the most objectified as a center of communications.

I chose to look at this chapter because of the inversion of roles, the irony, which has Aleph enframing Zero as a type of standing-reserve as well. Aleph initially panics when Zero notifies her of the intruders. After all, she is used to talking people through crises instead of experiencing them first hand. Like usual, Zero begins to direct Aleph: “We backed up central computers to the secondary system in Zurich…Aleph, the priority is getting you out of there safely.” Zero focuses on Aleph’s safety in the same thought as the data from Central. Instead of taking out the intruders, it is much more important for Zero to conserve all of her resources, Aleph included. On the other hand, Aleph is both emotionally and physically closer to the crisis and promotes the protection of Global Frequency’s reputation to the top priority.

As Aleph descends from Central and into the sewer, there is also a shift in communication. The color scheme makes a shift from red to green/gray and Aleph begins to take the mission into her own hands. While tripping safety measures and navigating the sewer, Aleph demands information from her superior, Zero, and exploits all the resources that are normally at her fingertips. Out of the context of the chapter, the form of this story would lead you to think that Miranda Zero is “central command” and Aleph has just been activated on the Frequency. Zero’s voice replaces Aleph’s in the special “transmission” word bubbles and she is only able to chime in intermittently between gunshots, while Aleph is central to nearly every panel in a different action pose.The once valuable resource that required the utmost care has taken an active role in protecting the organization that has enframed her as that resource. This inversion of roles really caught my attention because it broke so many of the serialized themes that were present in the earlier chapters. Not only does it enforce the fact that Aleph is just as capable of an agent as the other 1,001, but it also makes the reader conscious of her identity within the organization.

Looking from the outside in, Zero cannot conceptually differentiate between Central’s data and Aleph: one was backed up, but the other still needed to be extracted from the sewer. Zero fears the loss of this great database. In a way, it reminds me of the aleph from Borges’ story. Those looking from the outside in were overwhelmed by everything they saw at once. On the “inside”, Aleph has always confronted such a vast array of information and realizes that the true danger lies in the destruction of what is intangible to her: the overarching reputation of a global organization that is expected to diffuse any crisis almost instantly.

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5 Responses to Aleph: Standing-Reserve and Reversal of Roles

  1. I found your analysis very interesting. I also wrote about the idea of standing reserve. When I wrote about it however, it was exploring Janos Voydan (Bombhead from Bombhead) and why he was standing reserve. I briefly discussed people being standing reserve as parts of a larger order, but since my focus was on Janos being turned into a standing reserve object I did not dwell on that. Yous post made me realize that even within the order that strives to counter that type of enframing, the people could still be categorized as standing reserve.


  2. univerrse says:

    This issue was interesting to say the least. I enjoyed your analysis of the role reversal between Aleph and Miranda and it fits well with how you analyzed the color and narrative decisions made. I think you could expand a bit more into what Ellis is trying to say in this issue. What do you think the relation between his narrative and technology is and how does it come through in this role reversal?


  3. hamiltonjonesii says:

    I really enjoyed your discussion about this chapter of the book. I was really intrigued by this chapter as well, because it was so unlike the others. Your discussion on the irony of the situation hit on the cool portrayals of the other side of these characters we have come to know. MIranda Zero and Aleph certainly showed that they are capable of acting in different roles and adjusting to different situations.I thought that it was interesting that Ellis set this episode only a short time after Aleph was hired onto the Global Frequency. I would be interested to here if you this that played a significant role in how this episode played out. Very well written discussion.


  4. soc19 says:

    Great analysis of the chapter! I think the irony of the role reversal is definitely one of the highlights of the whole book. It’s fascinating to think that a network like the GF could hinge so critically on two people. Furthermore, I think Aleph’s realization of the importance of the GF’s reputation as “infallible” is really profound; any word of Central being vulnerable would rattle the people’s faith in the organization. There is something poignant in the idea that the public puts such faith in this network of anonymous individuals, an organization formed by the people, for the people, all in the name of resolving crises against humanity.


  5. danwillisdan says:

    Good work. It might also be important to note how personal the conflict is in this issue. Aleph’s life’s work is about to be compromised, so she operates out of fear and anger (“I am focused. I’m just getting over being scared and I’m starting to get pissed, okay?”), in spite of Miranda Zero’s protestations. A lot of the feeling of ‘role reversal’ I think has to do with this rogueness and emotionality.


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