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Vibe is Jouir
Cyrus Saint Amand Poliakoff 

Words occasionally name the style of jouissance particular to a cultural moment.(1) Culture used to imply a certain time and place. Digitalization produces culture everywhere and nowhere, much like the universal gaze it forms and responds to. Today one name of jouir is vibe. Vibe is jouissance organized by gaze. This word has been around for a while, so has the gaze. What is particular to both in our time?
Style captivates bodies 
Sean Monahan, a trend forecaster based in Los Angeles, used the term “vibe shift” during the post-lockdown social return: “This sense of timeliness is, ultimately, what I was referring to when I coined the term “vibe shift” in an article on my Substack in June 2021. Why does something feel in or out of style? Why does one cultural object feel representative of an era while another doesn’t? The US supreme court judge Potter Stewart refused to define obscenity, saying in 1964 rather: ‘I know it when I see it.’ Trends are a bit like this. You know them when you see them—you just have to have your pattern recognition goggles on.” (2) Vibes depend on the dynamics of social recognition that imply a modality of the gaze specific to each era. A vibe is hard to capture without the “knowing by seeing” condition. Who watches and who is seen is less relevant than what looks and what is seen. Pattern recognition goggles are algorithms.
Vibe is already post-cliche. Some sample usages to give a contextual lip-gloss:
“We were vibing” (Patient speaking about hanging out with a new date)
“It’s not a vibe” (Patient complained that her girlfriend always uses this phrase)
“I love his vibe” (Anyone said about someone)
“What’s the vibe there?” (Someone asks before going to a party)
Vibes play out most clearly in the function of the imaginary: images organize bodies. When someone is vibing, they are enjoying, they are enjoyed, the body enjoys its own image. When someone asks about the vibe of a particular scene, they are inquiring about the style of jouissance at stake. There are different vibes in different scenes, that are always seens. A vibe depends on the principle that I am seen enjoying/I enjoy by being seen. (3) There is jouissance styled by the gaze. Subsets of jouissance lifestyle profiles are curated by the vibe seen. The enjoyment of the image of the body proffers scenes as social bonds. In 1953, before writing the Rome Report, Lacan introduced his triad in an address called “The Symbolic, the Imaginary, and the Real.”(4) He demonstrated a fundamental principle of the symbolic—speech as an intermediary between two images. Language can intervene in between the body-contra-body, image to image relation. Today, the jouissance of image-contra-image runs the show. The element of speech in between two bodies takes a back seat. 
Jouissance lifestyles
Style is lifestyle, jouissancestyle.(5) Brands depend on marketing a lifestyle through social media influencers. Why do millennials have the same taste? Algorithms determine what you see, and what you buy sees you and returns your seeing back to you in an ever-narrowing closed loop. This pertains not just to fashion and consumer products, but also to streaming music, movies, and political ideologies. The infinite regress of like-minded content is an effect of the gaze in our digital networks. The often disparaged social media “echo-chamber” is really a gaze-chamber. (6)



Version française..  Read more… 


[1] Cf. Miller, J.-A., “Lacan Clinician,” The Lacanian Review 12: American Lacan, Paris: New Lacanian School, 2022. I find J.-A. Miller’s remark from 1984 especially pertinent thirty years later: “Indeed, in its most general definition, culture is what accommodates, tames, softens the impossible to bear; it is a set of artifices that allow one to bear the real, to endure it, patiently. I would even say that styles and fashions respond more and more to what is unbearable in an era.” (p. 121).
[2] Monahan, S., “I predicted the ‘vibe shift’ – and watched it sweep the world. Here’s what it actually means.” The Guardian, 19 December 2022.Available online
[3] Cf. Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, ed. J.-A. Miller, lesson 19 February 1964, New York/London: Norton, 1981, pp 74-75.
[4] Lacan, J., “The Symbolic, the Imaginary, and the Real,” On the Names-of-the-Father. Cambridge: Polity, 2013, p. 24.
[5] Miller, J.-A., “The Economics of Jouissance,” Lacanian Ink 38, 2011, pp.6-64. J.-A. Miller places the two signifiers, jouissance and life together after developing Lacan’s movement from Je suis to Se jouit in this masterclass lesson on jouissance.
[6] Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book X: Anxiety, ed. J.-A. Miller, Cambridge: Polity, 2014, p. 241. 
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