MachineMachine /stream - tagged with bruno-latour en-us LifePress <![CDATA[Abject Materialities: An Ontology of Everything on the Face of the Earth]]>

On the 5th of October I took part in the ASAP/4 ‘Genres of the Present’ Conference at the Royal College of Art. In collusion with Zara Dinnen, Rob Gallagher and Simon Clark, I delivered a paper on The Thing, as part of a panel on contemporary ‘Figures’. Our idea was to perform the exhaustion of the Zombie as a contemporary trope, and then suggest some alternative figures that might usefully replace it. Our nod to the ‘Figure’ was inspired, in part, by this etymological diversion from Bruno Latour’s book, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods: To designate the aberration of the coastal Guinea Blacks, and to cover up their own misunderstanding, the Portuguese (very Catholic, explorers, conquerors, and to a certain extent slave traders as well) are thought to have used the adjective feitiço, from feito, the past participle of the Portuguese verb “to do, to make.” As a noun, it means form, figure, configuration, but as an adjective, artificial, fabricated, factitious and finally, enchanted. Right from the start, the word’s etymology refused, like the Blacks, to choose between what is shaped by work and what is artificial; this refusal, this hesitation, induced fascination and brought on spells. (pg. 6)

My paper is a short ‘work-in-progress’, and will eventually make-up a portion of my thesis. It contains elements of words I have splurged here before. The paper is on, or about, The Thing, using the fictional figure as a way to explore possible contradictions inherent in (post)human ontology. This synopsis might clarify/muddy things up further: Coiled up as DNA or proliferating through digital communication networks, nucleotides and electrical on/off signals figure each other in a coding metaphor with no origin. Tracing the evolution of The Thing over its 70 year history in science-fiction (including John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella and John Carpenter’s 1982 film), this paper explores this figure’s most terrifying, absolute other quality: the inability of its matter to err. The Thing re-constitutes the contemporary information paradigm, leaving us with/as an Earthly nature that was always already posthuman. You can read the paper here, or download a PDF, print it out, and pin it up at your next horror/sci-fi/philosophy convention.

Fri, 19 Oct 2012 06:36:00 -0700


In THE THIRD TABLE, Harman gives a brief summary of the principle themes of his object-oriented ontology. It is a little book, published this year in a bilingual (English-German) edition, and theEnglish text occupies a little over 11 pages (p4-15). The content is quite engaging as Harman accomplishes the exploit of presenting his principal ideas in the form of a response to Eddington’s famous “two tables” argument. This permits him toformulate his arguments in terms of a continuous polemic against reductionism in both its humanistic and scientistic forms. All that is fine, so far as it goes. However, problems arise when we examine his presentation of each of Eddington’s two tables, and even more so with his presentation of his own contribution to the discussion: a “third table”, the only real one in Harman’s eyes.

Thu, 20 Sep 2012 07:35:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Hacking Critical Theory]]>

My question is thus: Can we devise another powerful descriptive tool that deals this time with matters of concern and whose import then will no longer be to debunk but to protect and to care, as Donna Haraway would put it? Is it really possible to transform the critical urge in the ethos of someone who adds reality to matters of fact and not subtract reality? To put it another way, what’s the difference between deconstruction and constructivism?

Fri, 17 Feb 2012 00:35:46 -0800
<![CDATA[We live in a "more-than-human" universe]]>

The new political ecology is thus emerging from a call for greater humility toward the world and all the life forms it may hold, both literally and figuratively. Rather than contrasting mankind to nature and the rest of the world, this perspective consistently perceives humans as relays in a dynamic mélange of relations that can be more or less open, inclusive, and stable over time, but without any preordained knowledge about how these relations may develop or change.

Mon, 13 Feb 2012 02:09:31 -0800
<![CDATA[Digital Autonomy]]>

“Is an ephemeral image, a moment in a streaming video, a thing? Or if the image is frozen as a still, is it now a thing? Is a dream, a city, a sensation, a derivative, an ideology, a decay, a kiss? I haven’t the least idea.” Extract from David Miller, Materiality : An Introduction [1]

In A Thing Like You and Me, Hito Steyerl plays out her ongoing obsession with the copy, skirting briefly over her wider, yet more implicit concern: the digital. Echoing the work of Bruno Latour, Steyerl acknowledges the materiality by which images are created, scarred and destroyed in order to get to a much deeper, ontological question about autonomy. Avoiding the kind of subject/object purification Latour warns about, Steyerl asks us to consider images as something we can participate in, even model our autonomy on. Is it possible to become a thing? And where does Hito Steyerl get off calling us ‘things’ in the first place? Continue reading this essay here…

Sat, 11 Jun 2011 04:02:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Art and Thingness, Part Two: Thingification]]>

by Sven Lütticken

In a text written in response to the upheavals of the Russian Revolution and the early Soviet avant-garde, Carl Einstein claimed that tradition “piles up in the object”; that the object is a “medium for passive thinking,” bound to tradition and bourgeois property relations; and that in order to “assert the human person, objects, which are preserve jars, must be destroyed.” Going so far as to state that “every destruction of objects is justified,” Einstein proclaimed a “dictatorship of the thingless.”

In a Latourian manner, one might present the recent turn to the thing as a break with the project of modernity: after all, isn’t modernity in theory and in praxis the desperate attempt to (re)form the world in accordance with the will of an autonomous, imperious subject that turns things into ordered and emaciated objects?

Mon, 19 Jul 2010 08:08:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Beware, your imagination leaves digital traces]]>

by Bruno Latour

’Who would know how to love without having read novels?” This saying seems to take on a new meaning with the multiplication of virtual worlds, even though the adjective “virtual” may be greatly misleading. It would be very odd to say, when thinking of the young hero of Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, who spends whole days utterly absorbed in the fictional landscapes painted by his favourite novelists, that he resided in a “real” world, while a youngster of today who buys rather expensive equipment to play with buddies on the other side of the planet through wireless and satellite connections would be said to be living in a “virtual” landscape. It would be much more reasonable to argue that it was Proust’s narrator who lived his adventures “virtually” while his 21st-century counterparts have to embed their imagination in so much hardware and software paraphernalia that they clearly end up in a more real, more connected, more technical world. Or rather we

Wed, 19 May 2010 07:18:00 -0700