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The Concept of Infrastructure – Harman

Graham Harman — The Concept of Infrastructure

Heidegger’s Tool Analysis 

  • Theories about things are always not the things 
  • Things are not exhausted 
  • This is not a distinction between theory and practice — it is a distinction between humans and objects. It is not pragmatism — our relations to things comes through our use of them. This has nothing to do with consciousness and unconsciousness. Theory and practice both distort the thing – as it withdraws. 
    • Derrida comes out of Heidegger — trying to push against onto-theology
  • It’s not just that human’s can’t get the thing 
  • Islamic philosophy — fire burning cotton 
  • Any two things are not going to be able to make exhaustive contact with one another (from the black into the black – Fludd)
  • The trick of German idealism — you can’t think the unthought because it turns it into a thought
  • Noumenon / Phenomena is actually internal to the phenomena

Objections — Against Objects

  • Undermining — by going downward to its pieces (atomism)  — cannot account for emergence. We can speak of things that are able to exist with their composite elements changing. (Emergence: When sum have some retroactive effect on its parts)
  • Overmining — More common in modern and post modern philosophy. Everything is language, socially constructed, power, event, effects… No substances. You cannot explain change this way: the real must be different from the actual. 
  • Latour — there is nothing hiding behind things — everything is relations (Whitehead, Dewey) 
    • Unformatted mass with no articulation … committed to the idea that things are determined by their relations
    • Industrial metaphor of truth — the ‘circulating reference’ between a line of actors which translate differences from one actor to the next.  Usable truth…
    • Occasionalism
    • Pandora’s Hope — Jolio links politics and neutrons — 
  • Tristan Garcia
    • The difference between the constituent and its effects is the thing
  • Harman
    • The thing is between constituent and its effects is the thing
    • The Third Table — Eddington
    • Artwork is not reducible to its physical constituents
    • The artwork is also not how it makes you feel 
    • Even when you create the object itself — 
    • The aesthetic works are better guides than the science — as they exist between undermining and over mining philosophies

Other Object Philosophies

  • Aristotle / Liebnitz 
    • Not good at dealing with nature / machines … complex elements 
    • Liebnitz — man is a substance, but a circle of men is not?
  • Kant
    • Tragedy of ‘not being able to access’
  • Latour / Whitehead tradition
    • Being able to talk about anything of any size 
    • Objects last instantaneously — the is no durability
  • Phenomenology 
    • Brentano (Freud’s Prof) — any mental act has a object, immanent objectivity ()
    • Kasimir Tardovski (Poland) — double up realities: copy in the mind and a real thing outside the mind
    • Husserl — didn’t like Tardovski’s mapping, as he wanted absolute knowledge. He kept Tardovski’s dualism but he pushed it all into experience (phenomena) 
  • Hume / Kant — they give the mind the notion of causation instead of God
  • Latour — secular ‘mediators’ allow — Frederick Jolio and the connection of neutrons and politics. There are different kinds of 
  • Not tearing things down — food criticism — Daniel Dennett makes fun of wine tasters — you need to get at things elusively in order to capture the spirit of things
  • Naive epistemology? No – relations. (Pan-psychic?)
    • Kant’s epistemological problem is a badly formulated ontological problem
    • Epistemology should be the rift between two relations, not a human problem
    • There should be one relation between entities – a general causal problem
    • Epistemology assumes that people and things is a radical rift
    • Just because I’m human and I have more access to the interactions between myself and objects, doesn’t mean I can’t access 
  • Latour’s politics
    • Latours a Hobsian
    • Never any court of appeal outside of the network 
    • Human society is mediated more by non-human entities than human ones (institutions, materials)
    • Carl Schmidt — there is no transcendence 
    • Publics emerge on an issue by issue  

After the Media… — Zielinski (2013)

“But even if we managed to promote not only heterogeneity, but diversity articulated into a mesh- work, that still would not be a perfect solution. After all, meshworks grow by drift and they may drift to places where we do not want to go. The goal-directedness of hierarchies is the kind of property that we may desire to keep at least for certain institutions. Hence, demonizing centralization and glorifying decentralization as the solu­ tion to all our problems would be wrong. An open and experimental attitude toward the question of different hybrids and mixtures is what the complexity of reality itself seems to call for.” — De Landa (1997), available online at: meshwork.htm. – p. 196

Not all pro­ cesses of centralization inevitably lead to dictatorship. “Hence, demonizing centralization and glorifying decen­ tralization as the solution to all our problems would be wrong.”154  — p. 211

The theoreticians from the USA’s East Coast differ markedly from the one-time computer hippies of the West Coast who with their metaphysics of telecommu­ nication, their strange theologies of absence of the body while at the same time propagating hedonism and drug use, dominated the 1960s and 1970s and to a large ex­ tent also made Silicon Valley possible.

Once again, allegories and metaphors of living organisms have to serve as technological products. Organismic analogies surface at regular intervals in the­ oretical discourse at junctures where things threaten to get seriously unclear. Life serves as a concept for harmonization — is not nature the model realm which is full of differences and at once identical with itself in its heteroge­neity? 

Clouds & Twitter

The techno-imaginary clouds, as linked offerings of computer hardware and software resources, do not fos­ ter cloudiness but instead its opposite: the transparency of the actions that take place in its environment.

In the same way birdsong (Twitter) is a singularly inappropriate com­ parison for an activity and a service in which online ac­ tivists consent to the compilation of statistics about what they like to talk about the most, their political and cultural interests, what they spend their money on, and so on. In a popular variant this concept of a collective culture of databases, generated by swarm like superorganisms, disas­ trously draws from a model of society which was believed to exist among ants. p.199 

Social and cultural daily life is now replete with fractures, fragmentation, and discontinuities. It is high time to considUer NdiffIeVreOnt fiCguAreLs of therapy.

Artistic processes or media works do not really interest the aforementioned French authors in contrast to Derrida or Deleuze. In his profound study of the painter Francis Bacon, The Logic of Sensation (1995), and in his treatment of individual photographs or philosophical thoughts on time and cinema, Deleuze has written an exquisite and implicit theory of art and media. The only explanation that occurs to me as to why aesthetics, as a vague field of activity, has become so en vogue for certain thinkers is that, above all, art is again being celebrated as a refuge in which insurrection can still take place and unfold. Nan­ cy’s concept of vestigium, of “residue,” in which possibly Rancière’s “undecidability” finds itself, corroborates this assumption.159 

For now one is certain with a curious determination of one thing; namely, the breakup of all dependabilities, gravitas, consistencies — especially with regard to the subject. Although it has lost “its last bastion, namely, to be the fundament of knowing” at the latest with “the objectification of German idealism.”160 Self-disempower­ ment and self-flagellation. 


His formulation “pure means,” as the “inviolate place of expression,” we could substitute with the notion of pure media — with­ out causing any epistemic break — which determine the “new condition of objects.”  

“What hampers communica­ tion is communicability itself.”169 Agamben refers to the ongoing work of separation of artificial connections in his later text on the dispositif as a process of “desubjec­ tification.” This is now so far advanced that the prob­ lem with dispositifs cannot be “reduced to the question of their correct use.”170 Those who argue that it can merely reveal they are the products of the media dispositif in which they are captured. 

An Exact Philology of Precise Things

We are thus sketching the concept of a philology of precise things that is as exact as possible. To the extent in which it already exists as a practice in the concrete form, our philology did not come out of nowhere. Our philology maintains certain indispensable links to the tradition of individual elements in this edifice of ideas, which I have outlined above for approximately the last fifty years. A very basic idea is the notion that language can also be understood as an artifact and that artifacts themselves are eloquent. Things thing, as Heidegger says, including technical things. Depending on their degree of complexity, technical devices of communication can speak volumes. That was one of the basic ideas that was always floating around in the Berlin Institute for Language in the Technological Age. A Steenbeck was not just a film editing suite for 16mm and 35mm film, but also an aggregate for complex narratives. In the course of discovering Structuralism, the idea that technical things can be “read” arose; not as an ideology but as a source of ideas for a basic method of working. The intense in­ terplay between the act of taking apart and putting back together again is not merely a possibility to make linguis­ tic systems transparent and transformable. If we master this technique it can help us to understand “the game of generating new knowledge” upon which “experimental systems” [the systems in which experiments are con­ ducted]174 are based, which in a variety of disciplines are referred to as research. Naturally, the arts that take up the challenge of experimenting are included here. 

For then we find ourselves in the midst of a cultura experimentalis, whose components are technological media.

In the course of discovering Structuralism, the idea that technical things can be “read” arose; not as an ideology but as a source of ideas for a basic method of working. The intense in­ terplay between the act of taking apart and putting back together again is not merely a possibility to make linguis­ tic systems transparent and transformable. If we master this technique it can help us to understand “the game of generating new knowledge” upon which “experimental systems” [the systems in which experiments are con­ ducted] are based, which in a variety of disciplines are referred to as research. Naturally, the arts that take up the challenge of experimenting are included here.

I advocate a philology as exact as possible of nonperfect precise things, which will be devised and developed to support communications with others, to facilitate them, to make them a sensational, even perhaps scandalous happening. This philology is not interested in the systemic function of things.

Heiner Goebbels used them as the springboard for his production Stifters Dinge (Stifter’s things) of 2007.

Coro Spezzato: The Future Lasts One Day (2009) the Sicilian artist Rosa Barba 

Yunchul Kim — Epiphoria

Yunchul Kim — OK

Borelli — astrolabe — mathematical, technical, philosophical aspects… 

It is above all Rheinberger’s achieve­ ment that an expanded conception of what science un­ derstands by an experiment has been developed at this institute. The research projects that the biologist and translator of Derrida’s Grammatology into German has initiated and implemented revolve around an idea that makes all the difference. Here the experiment is like a “search engine” that facilitates what could be described as a fortuitous finding. Starting from the premise that at the beginning of a project “one doesn’t know exactly what one doesn’t know” (otherwise one wouldn’t need to do the research anyway), Rheinberger sets up the lab­ oratory as an open and adventurous space of possibilities where provision is made “for producing unpredictable events.” By following a specific plan, differences or vari­ able aspects, are produced.

The idea of a space of possibilities where both the inputs and out­ comes are not unequivocally defined is as far as possible from a policy of cybernetic short-circuiting that distin­ guishes the cultural technique of testing. 

A history of science and technology that is open, via the culture of experiment, for issues of communication and aesthetics, is one of the possibilities in the immedi­ ate future to advance theories of the media. Perhaps the proponents of such implicit media theories will not be accredited historians of science, but is that important? For whom would it be important? 

David Link — Scrambling T-R-U-T-H

Today media technol­ ogy pervades nearly all scientific processes on a massive scale, particularly experiments, as well as other prerequi­ sites for producing, evaluating, and disseminating scien­ tific findings. To know one’s way around at the interface with media conditionality is no more scandalous today than it was to engage seriously, as a philologist-to-be, with Spaghetti Westerns, comics, or audiovisual maga­zines in the 1960s and 1970s.

Such an envisaged expansion can also have effects in the opposite direction. Media theory that is not only open to the history of science and technology but also deploys its philological expertise within these fields will likely be in a better position to understand communi­ cative processes and much more. For centuries, science and technology have played a pivotal role in these pro­ cesses. Media theory can also provide communicative processes with thought-provoking input and particular­ ities that are valuable additions in an age of undecid­ ed identities, of horizontal vagueness, of over-colorful and blatant spectacles. With regard to technical things of communication they could also be understood from the perspective that the best way to critique a book that has been written is always to write a better one. 

Jake & Dinos Chapman — If Hitler Had Been a Hippy How Happy Would We Be 

The Media Have Become Superfluous*

Detlef B. Linke, professor of clinical neuro- physiology and neurosurgery rehabilitation, whose life was, with tragic irony, cut short in 2005 by a brain tumor, said that criticism is no longer effec- tive because people are far too occupied with surviving the crisis. However, I am quite willing to accept its relative ineffectiveness, by which I also acknowledge my powerlessness. The position from which I believe it is still or is again possible to formulate criticism is located on the periphery, not in the center. This position can be found every- where new ideas have been developed, before they are celebrated as fashions and trends in the metropolises and centers, before they are matured as products and marketed as commodities or services. Let’s take a chance and try to reactivate a profoundly dislocated point of view again.


Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam – Latour (2003)

Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam – Latour

  • Military metaphor of being ‘late for every war’ — are the tools of critique no longer working? 
  • Climate change debate — Latour expresses worry that the arguments he made regarding the ‘lack of scientific certainty’ in one sense are now being ‘used by the enemy’ 
    • “Of course conspiracy theories are an absurd deformation of our own arguments, but, like weapons smuggled through a fuzzy border to the wrong party, these are our weapons nonetheless. In spite of all the defor- mations, it is easy to recognize, still burnt in the steel, our trademark: Made in Criticalland.”
  • Instant revisionism — conspiracy theories 
  • Scientia est potentia — DARPA slogan
  • “What if explanations resorting automatically to power, society, dis- course had outlived their usefulness and deteriorated to the point of now feeding the most gullible sort of critique.”
  • “Is it an another case of the famed power of capitalism for recycling everything aimed at its destruction?… the new spirit of capitalism has put to good use the artistic critique that was supposed to destroy it.”
  • The project of contructivism was never to show that the construction of truth was relative: “The question was never to get away from facts but closer to them, not fighting empiricism but, on the con- trary, renewing empiricism.” The idea was to understand how facts work in order to allow people to trust them more.
  • Critique should be a ‘new empiricism’ that looks in the world to reduce the gaps between theory and practice by analysing and reopening questions — questions of representation, questions of language: Media as first-philosophy. 
  • The enlightenment used ‘facts’ to get us out of the trap of ‘beliefs’. Now ‘beliefs’ are again being used ‘against fact’.
  • Can we design a descriptive tool that adds to reality instead of subtracting?
  • But “when we accompany them back to their gathering, we always appear to weaken them, not to strengthen their claim to reality.” 
  • Critique of critique in social science, as it exists now, is a pharmakon (a cure and a illness in Stiegler, recall) — self-satisfying: 
    • First the object of the naive society’s fetish is revealed to be something who’s power is only projected by the society itself
    • Second, the origin of the fetish is explained in terms of some external ‘fact’ – “social domination, race, class, and gender, maybe throwing in some neurobiology, evolutionary psychology”
    • Also — the ‘realism’ of the critic’s life is reserved for passionate interests
  • “We explain the objects we don’t approve of by treating them as fetishes; we account for behaviors we don’t like by disci- pline whose makeup we don’t examine; and we concentrate our passionate interest on only those things that are for us worthwhile matters of concern.”
  • “critique is also useless when it be- gins to use the results of one science uncritically, be it sociology itself, or economics, or postimperialism, to account for the behavior of people”
  • “a multifarious inquiry launched with the tools of anthropology, philosophy, metaphysics, history, sociology to detect how many participants are gathered in a thing to make it exist and to maintain its existence. Objects are simply a gathering that has failed—a fact that has not been assembled according to due process.”
  • “The critic is not the one who debunks, but the one who assembles. The critic is not the one who lifts the rugs from under the feet of the na ̈ıve believers, but the one who offers the participants arenas in which to gather. The critic is not the one who alternates haphazardly be- tween antifetishism and positivism like the drunk iconoclast drawn by Goya, but the one for whom, if something is constructed, then it means it is fragile and thus in great need of care and caution.”

“Machines take me by surprise with great frequency. This is largely because I do not do sufficient calculation to decide what to expect them to do, or rather because, although I do a calculation, I do it in a hurried, slipshod fashion, taking risks. Perhaps I say to myself, “I suppose the voltage here ought to be the same as there: anyway let’s assume it is.” Naturally I am often wrong, and the result is a surprise for me for by the time the experiment is done these assumptions have been forgotten. These admissions lay me open to lectures on the subject of my vicious ways, but do not throw any doubt on my credibility when I testify to the surprises I experience.” – Computing Machinery and IntelligenceAuthor(s): Alan Turing — Source: Mind, New Series, Vol. 59, No. 236 (Oct., 1950), pp. 433-460

Michel Serres & Bruno LaTour – Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time

“A unique style cornes from the gesture, the project, the itinerary, the risk-indeed, from the acceptance of a specific solitude. While using the same board, no surfer ever takes the wave in the same way, but each one accepts the eventuality of crashing beneath that unfurling wall of water or of drowning un- der its rolling. Repetition of content or method entails no risk, whereas style reflects in its mirror the nature of the danger. In venturing as far as possible toward nonrecognition, style runs the risk even of autism.” — M. Serres, Conversations on Science, Culture and Time, p. 94


An Inquiry into Modes of Existence – Latour (2013)

The Modes of Existence Project


  • Story about the scientist being questioned about his authority regarding global warming – and resorting to explaining ‘how science works’ as his defense
  • “If people don’t trust the institution of science, we’re in serious trouble”
  • Latour takes this “appeal to trust,” this shared “concern for a fragile and delicate institution
  • It is concern for the institution, not belief in, that sustains it
  • Trust arrises through transparency – through being ‘honest’ about the processes, materialities and encumbrances that go on ‘behind the scenes’
    • This is what Latour was trying to do with STS – not ‘relativise’ science, but render the values there more transparent, so people could trust science
    • After all, “we have the same enemies and we have to respond to the same emergencies”
  • Certainty versus trust / science versus Science (capital ’S’)
    • “When have you pleaded loud and log that scientific practice must be understood as a fragile institution that has to be carefully maintained if people are to trust the sciences?”
    • But Latour and STS have been “poor diplomats” – “The very worlds “network” and “fabrication” are sometimes enough to shock our interlocutors”
  • This is an example where the “values that people are seeking to defend” have been separated from the “account that has been given of them throughout history”
  • The project overall is:
    • sketching out how the Moderns should present themselves to the rest of the world, knowing what they are
    • the “West” seeing itself — becomes accessible to others
  • Method: Inquiry into the “category mistakes” bearing on “modes of existence”
    • “By comparing conflicts of values in pairs — scientific versus religious, for example, or legal versus political… — we shall observe very quickly that a large proportion of the tensions stem from the fact that the veracity of one mode is judged in terms of the conditions of verification of a different mode.”
    • Pluralism of modes
  • Similar to the ‘Felicity’ and ‘Infelicity’ conditions of speech at theory — i.e.: the context / support / infrastructure that must exist for a speech act to work
  • Occam’s razor should be more delicate — a small wooden box full of little surgeons tools, not Alexander slicing through the Gordian Knot
  • Modes of existence allows for a real diversity of cultures, a new look at the division between words and things, language and being
  • Rearranging – re-designing – “In other words why not transform this whole business of recalling modernity into a grand question of design?”
  • Economy to Ecology —> How will we present ourselves to Gaia?

Chapter 1 — Defining the Object of Inquiry

  • An anthropologies in search of the moderns, discovers ANT and realises that ‘network’ in he sense of a material infrastructure is the “belated result of the ‘network’ in the sense that interests our investigator.”
  • “We must be careful not to confuse what circulates once everything is in place with the setups involving the heterogeneous set of elements that allow circulation to occur” (Kittler’s horse, McLuhan’s medium)
  • The real network is a Le Carre style novel, not a technical infrastructure
  • This is noticed when something falls apart or fails — the ‘material’ network and the ‘network network’ converge when there is a crisis or breakdown
  • This is always a surprise – that the discontinuous series of heterogenous elements is always behind the continuous circulation of something else
  • ANT follows the principle of irreduction
  • ANT allows the investigator the same freedom of movement that the informants have
  • A user experience study in reverse — “the notions of surprise and trial, if we shift them slightly in time, can also serve to define how the informants themselves have had to learn, in their turn, through what elements they too had to pass in order to prolong the existence of their projects.”
  • Surprise as fundamental to research… but things are always surprising in the same way
  • [NET] for network — the technical sense of network as in actor network theory
    • Networks shock and surprise in the same way — and seem to extend to inherent boundaries
    • These inherent boundaries appear to correspond to domains — but this must be because of values of the actants within them because “fields don’t organise themselves into contiguous domains”
    • The values which constitute this internal domain resilience is difficult to study. Something “has something scientific about it”, or “sounds religious” — all “je ne sais quoi” of the domain
    • There is also another “internal boundary” that can’t be explained by domains — a “fluid”, a “pass” a “connection”, an “association” that we have to learn to qualify
    • There is “something legal” in Law, “something scientific” in Science
  • Boundaries are all treated as [NET]s and a list is created of all the associated, mobilised, enrolled, translated and participating beings
    • the ESSENCE of a situation arises from the list of other beings that allow it to endure, prolong, maintain, extend
    • the TRIAL is a reconstitution of a network: the investigation, the innovation (intervention?), the crisis
  • Why is it that the values of a domain are so difficult to uncover? What do appeals to institutions avoid?
    • “In short, why is theory so far removed rom practice among the Moderns?”
    • Theory is not just a “thin veil” over practice — there is a relation — if is not just “false consciousness” of ideology
  • We arrive at a method:
    • Network analysis [NET]
    • The detection of values [PRE]
    • Accounting for the fluctuating relation between the values and the institutions which are supposed to be harbouring them
    • + Diplomacy: It is difficult to learn to speak well to someone about something that really matters to that person

Chapter 2 — Collecting Documents for Inquiry

  • Differentiation between first (observational, sensed, ‘des sense’) mistakes and second order (direction, value, ‘de sens’)
    • 1st order: of the senses
    • 2nd order: of ‘sense’ (as in orientation)
  • Category mistake example: Law is not formulated for the resolution of psychological/emotional resolution, but people expect a ‘successful’ legal decision to provide this for them. There are differences between “legal truth”, “objective truth,” “scientific proof,” “intimate reparations” (emotional truth), “fairness” (social truth)
  • What we try to distinguish here are internal mistakes to the ‘path’ (of, say, LAW, or SCIENCE) and 2nd degree mistakes which “produce hesitation about the path it would be appropriate to follow. It is sort of like “what do we expect from Law?”:
    • Felicity conditions (speech act theory) will be used to designate the verification conditions that must be met to avoid “mistakes of law,” “mistakes of the senses”, etc
    • Preposition mark the position-taking that comes before a proposition is stated — what constitutes its ‘interpretive key’. These are a little like “genres” of books (memoirs, essays, etc.,) that ‘colour’ the reading of a book. It would be a ‘category mistake’ to read a ‘document’ as a ‘novel’. The key signature of a score ~ interpretive key of a story, account, fact, document, etc. = preposition. The pre-position.
    • p.58 — “Let us recall that in “category” there is always the agora that was so essential to the Greeks.” – i.e.: “kata-agorein”
  • Early concern for the ‘fluctuations in the relations that the different modes have maintained amongst themselves” is exampled through [REL] and [LAW] — as each of these has “resisted the test of modernism” in different ways. Religion is mocked and scorned, and Law (although often made fun of) is still “Dura lex sed lex
  • Situations can be grasped
    1. in the [NET] mode —> as an unfolding of the network of associations (as far as necessary?) <— this gives the ethnographer the same freedom to manoeuvre that its objects of study do
    2. in the [PRE] mode —> as a set of qualifications of the type of connections that allow extension <— this is a recognition / respect for the values that informants cling to strongly
  • [NET] · [PRE] is a crossing that authorises the entire inquiry — from [NET] all networks are the same, but [PRE] gives us the pre-position from which to examine values which allow extension of a [NET]
  • Actor Network Theory retains some of the limitations of critical thought – it cannot distinguish the value to which informants cling
  • The intent of linking [NET] and [PRE] is to be able to ’speak well’ to the informants:
    • To describe network in the [NET] <—> TEST: faithfulness: is it factual and empirical?
    • To verify with actors that the [NET] is accurate <—> TEST: restitution — have we made ourselves understood by those we have shocked?
    • To explore the gap between the description and the account of actors <—> TEST: historical and speculative: Have we accounted for the historical fluctuations between value and network?
    • To propose a formulation between PRACTICE and THEORY that closes the gap between them and redesigns institutions that harbour the real values of the Moderns <—> TEST: diplomacy, architecture and design: are the future inhabitants more conferrable than they were before?
  • On Reason
    • “Each mode has its networks that Reason does not know” — so Reason (capital ‘R’) can only be known as designating the verification mechanism proper to any network
    • Rationality becomes the step-by-step tracing of a network, with a trajectory of veridiction and malediction, with a separate preposition.
      • “To understand rationally any situation whatsoever is at once to unfold its network and definite its preposition, the interpretative key in whicht has to be grasped”
    • Logos: Originally a word meaning “a ground”, “a plea”, “an opinion”, “an expectation”, “word”, “speech”, “account”, “to reason”
    • This transformation of Reason is perhaps why descriptions of networks are so funny / shocking / fetishised – as they defy ‘normal reason’. ‘Normal reason’ of modernism is upended the moment we look at the actual networks — but normal reason part of this strange decoupling of ‘what we do’ and ‘what we think we do’ of the moderns. I.e.: You mean there are actually ‘cables’ under the sea?

Chapter 3 — A Perilous Change of Correspondence

  • Focus on “the assurance that scientific results do not depend on the humans who nevertheless produce these results at great cost”
  • Correspondence – p. 71
    • adequatio rei et intellectus — Truth is the conformity of the intellect to the things
    • Reality and truth — the world and statements about the world
    • “Scientific” as a mode of verification (amongst others)
    • Inherent contradiction to the claims of science:
      • It’s methods are ‘outside of nature’ — objective and relating as a ‘mind relates to a thing
      • It’s results are correspondent to nature
  • “Practice will always stay in the foreground rather than disappearing mysteriously along the way.”
  • What does adequatio rei et intellects “reveal (as a symptom) and conceals (as a theory)”
  • Inquiry bears on the identification of a type of trajectory whose seeming continuity was actually obtained by a particular leap over discontinuity (with its [PRE], values or prepositions)
    • It is precisely because the map does not resemble the territory that we are able to ‘know’ anything:
      “It is precisely because the map does not resemble the signposts, which do not in any respect resemble the prominent features, which in no way resemble the cliff of Mont Aiguille, but because all of them refer to the previous and sub sequential items by remaining constant across the abyss of the material dissimilarities, that I benefit from the comfort of this network.”
  • Differentiate between…
    • Reference (mediated ‘knowledge of’) — [REF]
      • “The work of reference, as we now know, relies on the establishment of a series of transformations that ensure the discovery and the maintenance of constants: continuity of access depends on discontinuities.” – p. 107
    • Reproduction (existence, self-sustaining) — [REP]
    • the attempts to solve the question of reference (adequatio rei et intellects) through maximising the two simultaneous requirements of mobility () and immutability (objective truth, unchangeable over time)
    • This is a vaguely derogatory term for Latour – an immutable mobile is something which covers over (like barnacles, obscuring knowledge) the CHAINS OF REFERENCE he seeks to uncover
    • “An object capable of being transported across distances without changing its shape. Immutable mobiles can be found in many forms: as inscriptions, machines, apparatuses or sometimes as people who have been trained to carry out a predictable sequence of actions.” – Glossary, “Latour: Hybrid thoughts in a hybrid world”
    • Perhaps like ‘prototypes’ or ‘stereotypes’ in Flusser
  • “No question: to refer, as etymology tells us, is thus always to report, to bring back.” p. 79
  • “Even the splendid view that one embraces from the Vercors plateau fascinates me less, in the end, than the humble effectiveness of map 3237 OT.”
  • Correspondence then is the production of the subject and the production of the object – which both arise simultaneously through the extension of networks, the identification of immutable mobiles
    • “Don’t we associate snakes with knowledge? — whose heads and tails grow further and further apart as their bodies grow longer and stouter.”
  • p. 81″Is there a mode of description that will allow us to consider existents and the map at one and the same time?”
    • We know that ‘maps’ are changeable and as such establish continuity through their discontinuity with the thing itself, but is there a way of allowing the ‘existents’ (the presumed ‘reality’) also “as a particular manner of establishing continuity through discontinuities.”
    • [REP] Repetition — existents maintaining themselves
    • “Not at all because the known ‘eludes’ knowledge in principle and resides in a world “of its own,” forever inaccessible, but quite simply because existents themselves are also going somewhere, but elsewhere, at a different pace, with a different rhythm and an entirely different demeanour. Things are not “things in themselves,” they belong “to themselves” — a different matter altogether.”
  • p. 85 — “The ethnologist finds something almost comic in the endless complaint invented by critique:
    • ‘Since we accede to known things by way of a path, this means that these things are inaccessible and unknowable in themselves.’
      She would like to answer back: ‘But what are you complaining about, since you have access to them?’
      ‘Yes,’ they keep on whining, ‘but that means that we don’t grasp them ‘in themselves’; we don’t see them as they would be ‘without us.’’
      ‘Well, but since you want to approach them, if you want them to be as they are ‘without you,’ then why not simply stop trying to reach them?’
      More whining; ‘Because then we’d have no hope of knowing them.’
      An exasperated sigh from the ethnologist: ‘It’s almost as though you were congratulating yourselves that there is a path to Mont Aiguille, but then complaining that it has allowed you to climb up there . . .’
      Critique behaves like blasé tourists who would like to reach the most virgin territories without difficulty, but only if they don’t come across any other tourists.”
  • Correspondence is then to “co-respond”
    • Risks taken by existence in keeping-existing, and risks taken by constants (immutable mobiles?) in order to maintain themselves
    • “… it is meaningless to speak of co-responding unless there are two movements in the first place, each of which will respond to the other — often multiplying their missteps.”
    • “What the canonical idea of objective knowledge [complete, continuous, contiguous, gapless] never takes into account are the countless failures of this choreography”
      • Reminscent of the Zizek story about the programming of reality being incomplete (without a programmer)
    • Dance of agency – Pickering
  • Double click — the Evil Genius — is the ignoring of networks as they pass — and the point from which ‘relativist’ criticism is levied

Chapter 4 — Learning to Make Room

  • [REP]·[REF] is an amalgam often called The Material World — which obscures the individual modes by claiming them identical (static, material world) — also “Nature” which is a premature amalgamation of all existents
    • Latour later names this ‘res ratiocinans”, a strange amalgam of “res extensa” [REP] and “res cognitans” [REF]
  • Repetition is swarming with difference — “It is hardly probably that this world obeys laws, for there is not yet any law and still less any obedience”
  • “But the grasp of existents according to the mode of reproduction is not limited to lines of force and lineages; it concerns everything that maintains itself: languages, bodies, ideas, and of course institutions.”
  • “Subsistence always pays for itself in alteration”
  • “We have to de-idealise matter in order to arrive at immanence and find the means, at last, to follow experience” – p. 106
  • FORMS are…
    • …what is maintained through a series of transformations
    • …an object that allows putting into form, or shaping
    • …formalisms that take isolated documents for the entire (this last sense is bad!)
  • P. 110 — “all, necessarily had to pas though a series of discontinuities [REP] to achieve continuity. To obtain being, otherness is required. Sameness is purchased, as it were, at the prince of alterations
    • Because I am always changing, altering in order to keep existing [REP], for something else to seem to me like it is not changing, it must also be changing, altering [REP] through hiatus. This is the co-respondence given to science, and what produces contestants, immutable mobiles, and what is revealed by chains of reference.
  • We must not confuse the ‘raw materials’ of technology, economy, etc., with ‘matter’ in the sense of [REP]·[REF]

Chapter 5 — Removing Some Speech Impediments

  • [REF]·[POL] — A dangerous amalgam between knowledge and politics. “The moderns are those who have kidnapped Science to solve a problem of closure in public debates.”
  • Critique of Double Click [DC] requirement of straight talk, about facts, etc.
  • Double Click values: Literalness — where language correspondents directly to reality
  • Double Click critiques full chain-of-reference descriptions as figurative, ordinary, incomplete
  • Experience starts to ring false through [DC] — “Experience will have been lost from sight, and with it, of course, any possibility that the Moderns may be ‘empirical’, that is, may draw lessons from their experiences.”
  • Res ratiocinans is Latour’s name for the thing that Double Click wishes to turn everything into — that is, an ontology wherein “all distinction between what the world is made of how one can know this, and how one can talk about it vanish.”
  • [REF]·[POL] — is the res ratiocinates — space where ‘straight talk’ allows [POL] to close off debates by dismissing those who do not engage in straight talk, who “express themselves more or less awkwardly: poets, rhetoricians, common people, tradesmen, soothsayers, priests, doctors, wise men, in short, everyone—and of course scientists, whose ways and means will cruelly disappoint the Double Click sectarians…”
  • The prohibition on speech that explains the gap between theory and practice:
    • First — make claim that speech and reality are inseparable
    • Second — require that the world (ontology) and words (epistemology) be complete separate
  • The term articulation better describes the world and words — “If we speak in an articulated manner, it is because the world, too, is made up of articulations in which we are beginning to identify the junctures proper to each mode of existence.”
  • Magritte’s Pipe: “This is not a pipe either — just one of the segments along the path of a pipe’s existence. The articulation of the pip with itself, then the articulation of this first articulation with the word “pipe,” then the articulation of these first two articulations with the picture of the pipe…”
  • Everything ‘passes by way of others’ in order to exist — hiatuses and articulations — so everything that is a sign is also a signification

Chapter 6 — Correcting a Slight Defect in Construction

Chapter 7 — Reinstitution the Beings of Metamorphosis

  • Freud was wrong: “Demons do not exist any more than gods do, being only the products of the psychic activity of man.”
  • Psychogenic networks are not produced by the human mind
  • “The infrastructure that authorises them to possess a psyche seems to escape them completely.” 
  • “Everything happens “in their heads,” because of the radical, essential, distinction between Object and Subject.
  • “…the networks that gnaw, burrow, and shore up psyches?
  • “The anthropologist has one advantage over this Evil Genius (and perhaps also a capacity not to curse and thus not to kill) quite simply because she can now take advantage of several ontological templates, rather than just two.” [subject / object]
  • In a way this chapter is about the post-human … ecological psychology – the idea that our ‘selves’ do not instaurate solely from within us
  • The beings of [MET] are those invisibilities, peculiar aliens, bad vibes… 
    • Burroughs: My concept of possession is closer to the medieval model than to modern psychological explanations, with their dogmatic insistence that such manifestations must come from within and never, never, never from without. (As if there were some clear-cut difference between inner and outer.) I mean a definite possessing entity. And indeed, the psychological concept might well have been devised by the possessing entities, since nothing is more dangerous to a possessor than being seen as a separate invading creature by the host it has invaded. And for this reason the possessor shows itself only when absolutely necessary.
  • “As if there were something diabolical in the Moderns’ insistence on the internal origin of their emotions: this division between the most constant of their experiences and what they allow themselves to think about it. Whence the anxiety of our anthropologist: aren’t the Moderns dangerously alienated? Wouldn’t that explain a large part of their history? As if there were a madness of the Subject after that of the Object.”

Chapter 8 — Making the Beings of Technology Visible

  • [TEC] is hidden by Double Click and the form-function relation
  • Confusing technology with the objects that it leaves in its wake
  • Key notion of ‘shifting’
  • “‘The modernisation front allowed the Moderns to represent themselves,’ we speculated, ‘as the people who put an end to superstitions and finally discovered the effectiveness of technologies.’ “
  • “Gilbert Simondon had already broken the path in his book On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, a text as famous as it is little read.”
  • Its more surprising that Moderns ‘grant so little room’ to the beings of technology (metamorphosis is contaminating, gods and religion have not managed to keep their ‘ontological ranking in the face of the sciences’) – but technology?
  • And yet for a thousand books on the benefits of objective knowledge—and the mortal risks that challenging it would entail—there are not ten on technologies—and not three that signal the mortal danger one risks by not loving them. Even political philosophy, less prolix than epistemology, can still flatter itself that it has engendered more books than the philosophy of technologies; we could count the latter on our fingers. The proof of this decline is that in the word epistemology we still hear knowledge about knowledge, whereas in the word technology, despite the efforts of André Leroi-Gourhan and his disciples, we fail to remember that some sort of reflection on technology lies imprisoned.

    We don’t hesitate to say about the most modest washing machine full of chips that it is an instance of “technology”—even “modern technology”—but we don’t expect to learn any lessons from it. We ask a “technician” only to come repair our machine; we don’t ask him for an in-depth reflection on it. What would we do with his philosophy? Everyone knows that technology is nothing but a heap of convenient and complicated methods. There is nothing to think.

  • Links to [REP] – persistence hides the gaps of something which continues to exist
  • Links to [REF] – “because once we reach remote entities, we are in danger of ultimately forgetting the instruments that have allowed us this access.”
  • Trancendence: 
    • Speaks of ‘transcendence’ here almost like ‘interpolation’ — “there is nothing more transcendent… than geodesic reference points with respect to the readings jotted down by a surveyor-geometrician in his notebook” [REF]
      • Reminds of Justin Joque’s story about researchers asking him for a map of France and then handing him/her a hand-drawn map of a triangle. “AT WHAT RESOLUTION?”
    • Other examples of ‘micro transcedence’ — 
      • nothing more trans- cendent than the question of a single line of text proposed to the jury in a trial in relation to the thousands of pages of a heavy dossier rolled on a trolley all the way to the court reporter [LAW]; 
      • nothing more trans- cendent than the relation between the lukewarm character of a perfunc- tory prayer and the gripping effect of grasping its meaning for the first time [REL]; 
      • nothing more transcendent than the relation between the papier-mâché stage setting and the exuberance of the characters that seemtoemergefromit[FIC]; 
      • nothing more transcendent than the distance separating what you were from what you have become after being seized by a psychogenic being [MET].
    • “Transcendences abound, since between two segments of a course of action there is always a discontinuity of which they constitute, as it were, the price, the path, and the salvation.
    • “… that are all slightly transcendent in relation to the previous stage of their particular paths.” p. 211
  • Continuities / Discontinuities & Controversies
    • Tracing an apparently continuous technological practice uncovers the countless discontinuities which compose it — and when a controversy (spaceshuttle Challenger) occurs, these discontinuities become very apparent (Heidegger) 
    • “The more one studies technological arrangements, the more one considers their ins and outs, the less chance one has of unifying them in a coherent whole.”
    • Technology, as different from Science, is in this way, more transparent and accessible to constructivism [TEC]*[NET] — as there are no problems of to relativism
      • BLACK BOX. It may be hard to penetrate these places that have been made secret, but it is never because we would come across chains of indisputable necessities
  • A caution against seeing everything as technology, if we take materialist approaches only: “because if we begin to follow the list of beings necessary to the maintenance of any being at all then everything, on this basis, becomes technology” p. 214.
    • Technology is different because it is new on the “order of alteration”
    • Beings of reproduction (living things, I guess?) do not have this alteration, they do not have the opportunity to start over. [REP] beings cannot start over, they cannot turn back, there are no ‘versions’ 
    • [REP · TEC] —> reading ‘reproduction’ as technology would be misunderstanding (cybernetics?)
  • Beings from different ‘orders’ of [REP] become intertwined in [TEC] – their networks do intertwine… this is ‘ingeniousness’ (bringing things into these encounters — application, tinkering, moving wood and steel together to produce a hammer — “There’s a trick to it”
  • Story of getting your card fixed — “you have felt the breath of technology pass over you, but— here is the whole difficulty—only for a brief moment.” — “Technology, for its part, seeks to be forgotten.” p. 217
  • Technology is the best place to look for the “measure the gulf that the Moderns are capable of digging between practice and the account of their practice”
  • Instrumentality
    • Effectiveness denies instrumentality, and is an “unworthy way to treat technologies… lies in believing that they are means toward ends”
    • “Effectiveness is to technology what objectivity is to reference”
    • “The scorn with which people view technologies comes from the fact that they are treated according to the same model that we saw used to misunderstand the work of reference. Just as there was, in epis- temology, a theory of objectivity as “correspondence” between map and territory, there is in technology a theory of effectiveness as correspondence between form and function. Technology is believed to be an action stemming from a human being—most often male, moreover—that would then bear “on” matter itself conceived through confusion between geometry [measurement] and persistence [existent] [REP·REF]. Technology then becomes an applica- tion of a conception of science that is itself erroneous!”
    • Ends and means <—> Objects and subjects — they are ‘invented simultaneously by the actions of [REF] and [TEC], respectively
  • Ingenuity
    • “For ingenuity, everything in materials is food for thought. How have we lost this contrast to the benefit of a dream of control and domination?” p.221
    • ” in Greek, a daedalion is an ingenious detour away from the direct route.” p. 223
    • invention and ingenuity comes from the ability of [TEC] to extract from the beings of [REP] (living things, subjects, people) through the power of [MET] (and maybe [FIC]?)
      • This is where [TEC] begins to extract from [MET] (psyches) and [REP] something of their obstinacy and insistance – which makes them appear as human actants
    • “”If Ulysses is “crafty,” if Vulcan limps, it is because, in the vicinity of a technological being, nothing goes straight, everything is done on the bias—and sometimes, even, everything goes askew.”
    • [TEC] also embodied proteiform speed and static persistence —”Technology appears in a first approximation as a mixed mode: proteiform speed on one side, persistence on the other. It’s hardly surprising that Prometheus’s fire has been seen as something that liquefies all things and at the same time gives them new durability, solidity, consistency.” p. 225
      • Technologies transforms the world quickly but then stick around forever….
  • Relationship between Science and [TEC] 
    • Science could not hold together a steam engine
  • “There is nothing more “heteromatic” than a robot, an AUTOMATON.”
    • invisibles / discontinuities keep an automaton automatic from the inside AND
    • “they can never remain alone and without care” – p. 223
  • Technological being is not ‘at’ the object, but outside and inside it
    • We shall never find the mode of technological existence in the object itself, since it is always necessary to look beside it: first, between the object itself and the enigmatic movement of which it is only the wake; then, within the object itself, between each of the components of which it is only the temporary assemblage.
    • Transistors / Transducers / Transformers — Despite what is often said of cold, smooth technology, in it there is never anything but breaks in conti- nuity; things never quite connect. [e.g.: The transistor!] 
  • “We need to see “TECHNIQUE” and “TECHNOLOGY” not in their noun forms but as adjectives (“that’s a technical issue”), adverbs (“that’s tech- nically/technologically feasible”), even sometimes, though less often, in verb form (“to technologize”). In other words, “technology” does not designate an object but rather a difference, an entirely new exploration of being-as-other, a new declension of alterity. Simondon, too, made fun of substantialism, which, here again, here as always, failed to grasp the technological being. To borrow from Tarde one of the fine words that he opposed to the exclusive search for identity: what is the avidity proper to the mode of technological existence?” p. 223
    • The beings of technology’s veracity condition is the quality of conditioning, the relation between form and function and it’s “FOLDING” — 
      • “It is this displacement, this translation, completely original every time, that artisans, architects, engineers practice day after day, and that Double Click no more manages to grasp than he does chains of refer- ence [REF]; and for the same reason he mistakes the final result—yes, it is adjusted, yes, it works, yes, it does what it’s “made to do,” yes, it “holds together”—for the movement that led to that result [TEC · DC]. This side- ways, crablike motion, this perpendicular movement of rummaging around, exploring, undulating, kneading, which so obstinately misses the relation between form and function and the relation between ends and means, is precisely the motion that will perhaps (but not neces- sarily) produce forms or means corresponding to functions or ends. To say that technologies are effective, transparent, or mastered is to take the conclusion for the pathway that led to them. It is to miss their spirit, their genesis, their beauty, their truth.”
      • “There is technical folding every time we can bring to light this second-level transcendence that comes to interrupt, bend, deflect, cut out the other modes of existence, and thus by a clever ploy introduces a differential of materials.”
        • Simondon’s ‘internal logic’ [my phrase] of the technical object, as it’s exhaust (for example) becomes folded back in on itself
        • “Sweet Solutions”
        • Quality – Persig
      • Think for example of what it is to “support an argument over a somewhat heavier and more cumbersome metaphor by using what is rightly called ‘literary technology.’”
      • FOLDING results in gradients and resistance which constitute the veracity of a technology — i.e.: what sticks around (televisions, iPhones, etc.)
    • From semiotics we get the idea of ‘shifting’
      • “Let us recall that for semiotics, shifting—we shall come back to this in the next chapter—makes it possible to grasp a quadruple trans- formation starting from a zero point.” p. 229
    • “If we always have to maintain the ambiguity of constructionism without ever believing in the assured existence of a builder, it is because the author learns from what he is doing that he is perhaps its author. In the case of technological beings, this general property is of capital importance, since technologies have preceded and generated humans: subjects, or rather, as we shall soon name them, QUASI SUBJECTS, have sprung up little by little from what they were doing. This is why we had to be so suspicious of the concept of “action on matter,” which threatened to place the point of departure in the depths of a human subject instead of waiting for this human subject to emerge from his works—though the possessive adjective is quite unwarranted, because the human subject does not master “his” works any more than he possesses them.”
  • “If gunshots entail, as they say, a “recoil effect,” then humanity is above all the recoil of the technological detour.”
  • “all humans are the children of what they have worked on.”
  • The Pasteurization of France – Page 176
    • “There has never been such a thing as deduction. One sentence follows an- other, and then a third affirms that the second was already implicitly or potentially already in the first. Those who talk of synthetic a priori judg- ments deride the faithful who bathe at Lourdes. However, it is no less bizarre to claim that a conclusion lies in its premises than to believe that there is holiness in the water.”
  • Harman, Prince of Networks – Page 30
    • “Thinkers do not deduce, critique, or build reality out of first principles or foundations. Instead, they simply work, negotiating with actants in the same way as butchers, engineers, technicians, carpenters, and clowns.”
  • Notes
    • Why have the moderns not celebrated the beings of technology with appropriate institutions? (Open Source? Choas Computing? etc.?)
      • ““why have they not known how to celebrate them with appropriate institutions?” p. 232
    • I don’t understand this bit: “Science is merely an avatar of Technology, after the latter has already been misunderstood as Gestell: a masterful misunderstanding about mastery; a fine case of forgetting being as technological; a quite cruel lack of ontological generosity!” p. 220
    • I don’t understand this bit: “”Let us recall that for semiotics, shifting—we shall come back to this in the next chapter—makes it possible to grasp a quadruple trans- formation starting from a zero point.” p. 229

Chapter 9 — Situating the Beings of Fiction

  • Materiality (no signification) and Language (2ndary qualities) are bifurcated 
  • It is world itself that is articulated 
  • Laclau – chain of signifiers 
Chapter 10 — Learning to Respect Appearances

  • Occidentalism — what does Latour mean here? 
    • “But in order to fight all exoticisms, including Occidentalism, one cannot be content with the negative conclusion that “we have never been modern” 
    • From Politics of Nature East and West Perspectives 
      • Be reassured, I am not going to indulge into exoticism. I will not oppose ‘Western secular materialism’ with ‘Eastern wisdom’, nor contrast ‘Cartesian dualism’ with ‘Asian spirituality’. No, as an anthropologist I have always been interested in combating all exoticisms, and especially the one that has fell so hard on my European compatriots, namely Occidentalism. The ravages of Orientalism have struck very hard due to the difficulty of describing the so-called West without attributing to it virtues and vices it never had. In fact, the first exoticism was about the West*what they believed they were doing*and has only after struck on the ‘others’. Hence, Orientalism is in a way the exportation of Occidentalism.
             So the first task for anyone engaging in the risky enterprise of comparing East and West perspectives is to not mess up the standard that is chosen as the baseline for the comparison. Unfortunately, the problem is that almost everyone has messed up the definition of the West by taking it as its face value, taking up its own Master Narrative about having been modern; a narrative suggesting that the West was the place where a ‘scientific revolution’ had occurred in such a way as to reveal the universal necessity of nature. It is my contention that this is the source of exoticism that would render impossible any cosmopolitics. I know I am treading on dangerous ground here and that the ugly head of ‘relativism’ might make you flee in panic. But bear with me a while longer.

  • Inquiry’s purpose — identifying for each one the inflections that come up throughout what it would be appropriate to call their ontological history
  • “MALIGN INVERSIONS” – Ivan Illich
    • the malignant expansion of institutional health care which is at the root of the rising costs and demands and the decline in wellbeing.
    • “Exclusion of the malignant tool and control of the expedient tool are the two major priorities for politics today.” — Ilich (his example was the health care system
  • pharmakon
    • at high doses, the remedy becomes a poison
    • “drowning in a tea cup”
    • “too much of a good thing can kill you…” 
    • The concept of pharmakon proposes an understanding of technology as being simultaneously poison and remedy, rather than positing it as a form of enframing that reduces humans to raw material. As Stiegler demonstrates in the first volume of Prendre Soin, the exteriorization of knowledge in the machinery (of warfare, of apparatus) serves to render the individual as an exploitable life source, in Marx’s words as work-force and in Stiegler’s brilliant play on words as mineur (both a miner and minor) (228). In this sense, technology is bio-power as Virilio’s account clearly demonstrates, yet at the same time, by the logic of pharmakon, it is the location of a possible source of resistance that will remedy social ills. – Issue No. 17 2009 — Bernard Stiegler and the Question of Technics
    • “There would then be a whole system of dosages and dietary advice, a whole pharmacopeia of modes of existence with which we would have to familiarize ourselves in order to avoid speaking too harshly about category mistakes—while running the risk of being mistaken about the moments when these errors become truly toxic.” Latour, p. 261
  • [HAB] is… 
    • The mode of existence of essence
    • “The most widespread, the most indispensable of the modes of existence, the264one that takes up 99 percent of our lives, the one without which we could not exist, obsessed as we would be with avoiding category mistakes.” p. 264
    • “Existents are not constantly preoccupied with their descendent”
      • reminds of ‘paranoia’ in the sense that Johannes and Jamie developed / link to the class perhaps?
    • Useful passage: 
      Look around. Existents are not constantly preoccupied with their descendance; most of the time, they go about their business enjoying existence [REP·HAB]. The beings that produce psyches do not always make us vibrate in the anguish of surfing on metamorphoses; we simply feel“comfortableinourownskin”[MET·HAB].AslongasIamunskilled at putting up cinder-block walls, I feel the rapid passage of the techno- logical upsurge, but once the subtle arrangements of muscle and nerve reflexes in relation to each tool and material have been established, I line up the sequence of works and days without even being aware of it, as if I were totally adjusted to my task [HAB · TEC]. A priest who is converted at every Mass at the moment of transubstantiation would remain like Saint Gregory, so stunned by what he is celebrating that he could never get beyond the first words of the Canon [HAB·REL]. A researcher who is exclusively concerned with understanding by what miracle of corre- spondence she manages to maintain a constant across the dizzying trans- formations of distinct inscriptions would never succeed in reaching remote beings [HAB · REF]. p. 265
    • Is a VEILING … a veiling that is necessary p. 270:
      • “Without omission and veiling, it would be impossible to engender the existents, these cross- ings between habits and prepositions [HAB · PRE].”
      • Veiling’s function can be overlooked in two ways:
        • by thinking we can actually ever unveil something (too much [NET], undermining)
        • by thinking that because we can’t unveil, we should just ‘stay on the surface’ (too much aesthetics, overtiming)
    • … allows us to smooth over the discontinuities in a relation 
  • Immanence v transendence
    • So we now have to recognize two different senses in the notion of category mistake: being mistaken about the mode on the one hand and on the other limiting ourselves to the search for the right mode without advancing toward what it indicates. But would this not mean abandoning our own definitions, since each mode has been identified up to now thanks to a particular form of hiatus, of discontinuity, of TRANSCENDENCE?
           Habit, in fact, seems to have the characteristic of no longer needing transcendence at all, of leaping over obstacles so well that there is no more threshold, no leap, no discontinuity of any kind. True; but this proves that even immanence needs to be engendered by a mode of existence that is proper to it. If it is true that mini-transcendence is the default position, that it is thus without a contrary, immanence is not going to be introduced in this study as what is opposed to transcendence but only as one of its effects, as one of its ways—a particularly elegant one, to be sure—of adjusting the junction points without splices and without any visible break in continuity. Habit has the peculiar feature of smoothing over, through what must be called an effect of immanence, all the little tran- scendences that BEING-AS-OTHER explores.
    • Animated film / Flip Books / Zoeotropes — History of Animation
    • “continuity is always the effect of a leap across discontinuities; immanence is always obtained by a paving of minuscule transcendences.” p. 267
  • Driving on the left / driving on the right – your habit allows you to switch… 
  • [HAB]*[TEC] describes the AUTOMATONS
    • never fully automatic  
  • As if it managed to extract Parmenides’s world on the basis of Heraclitus’s.
    • Parmenides: existence is timeless, uniform, necessary, and unchanging
    • Heraclitus: insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in the famous saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”
  • [HAB] is kind of a way of returning to ‘doxa’ or common wisdom – the wisdom of experience – and differentiating ‘what habit’ it is coming from (if it’s good or bad, as a habit)
    •  “Let’s say that bad habits are to good ones what spam is to electronic messages.”
    • Whatever you may say or do, specify at least the preposition, or, to extend the metaphor, the IP address from which you are sending the message.  
  • Respecting appearances:
    • Appearances are not ‘surfaces’ behind which something resides
    • ““Behind” appearance there is not “reality,” but only the key that allows us to understand how reality is to be grasped—and this key does not lie underneath, but alongside and ahead.” p. 271
    • Example of the ‘provisional report’ or ‘novel’ (used as examples of [PRE]) which kind of ‘situated’ the rest of a reading… PAGE DE GARDE 
  • [REF] is implicated here because…”We owe this ambiguity between being as SUBSTANCE and being as SUBSISTENCE to what habit leaves behind in its wake, since habit—this is its virtue but also its danger—obtains effects of substance on the basis of subsistence.” p. 272
  • There is something ‘behind’ the thing, but it’s not something solid, substantial, substinative… “As if sameness had to be guaranteed by sameness.”
  • “It is here that, to “save appearances,” philosophers began to invent the scenography of phenomena and reality, the world and the world beyond, immanence and transcendence. From a legitimate hesitation between “upstream” and “downstream” with respect to the same flow of beings, they created an incomprehensible and sterile scenography of a world that would collapse if it were not held together by an other world. Yes, this is one saying we can’t argue with: “Appearances are deceitful.”” p. 273
  • [HAB] at one extreme, is Double Click:
    • Double Click, too, can be justified: this is what happens when habit has so well aligned the discontinuities that everything takes place as if we were seeing transports without deforma- tion, simple DISPLACEMENTS.
    • MOUSE example: Without a restart, it’s a catastrophe; there’s only an automatic pilot in the plane now. Will we succeed in saving Double Click from himself? Can we make him aware of the dizzying quantity of mediations required for a mouse click to produce any effect at all? Can we reconcile him with his real ethology, that of the thousands of lines of code that had to be written at great expense so that a double click could actually produce an effect?
  • [HAB] at the other extreme, is too much [NET]? or too much [REP][REF] (science)
  • Example of the electronic music – p. 276
    • Someone signing & computer filtering that signing… each has its own  


Chapter 11 — Welcoming the Beings Sensitive to the World

  • D
Chapter 12 — Invoking the Phantoms of the Political
  • D
Chapter 13 — The Passage of Law and Quasi Subjects
  • D
Chapter 14 — Speaking of Organisation in Its Own Language
  • D
Chapter 15 — Mobilising the Beings of Passionate Interest
  • D
Chapter 16 — Intensifying the Experience of Scruples
  • D
Conclusion — Can We Praise the Civilisation to Come?
  • D


  • Beings from different ‘orders’ of [REP] become intertwined in [TEC] – their networks do intertwine…
  • Story of getting your card fixed — “you have felt the breath of technology pass over you, but— here is the whole difficulty—only for a brief moment.” — “Technology, for its part, seeks to be forgotten.” p. 217

 they can never remain alone and without care

We owe this ambiguity between being as SUBSTANCE and being as SUBSISTENCE to what habit leaves behind in its wake, since habit—this is its virtue but also its danger—obtains effects of substance on the basis of subsistence. 

ideas readings to read

What is a Dispositif

Or better that we must find now better ways in order to profane. If to profane means to return to common use of man that which has been separated to the sphere of the sacred or of consumption or spectator we could say that the capitalist religion in its extreme phase or stage is created something absolutely unprofitable, which can never be given back to use.

So I have to stop here in order to respect our limit of time. Let me just say, in a kind of semi-ironic, or better semi-paraodic, but finally serious statement, that the profanation of the unprofitable is the political task of the coming generation.

What is a Dispositif

What is an Apparatus

ideas readings

Signals & Signaletics

Signaletics (Deleuze  – ‘Signaletic Material’)

  • Transmateriality Toward an Energetics of Signal in Contemporary Mediatic Assemblages
    • Drone cam clips — the driver loses control, but “signal is not lost at all. Something persists unassisted by the human controller; an affect of signal simply being to transmit. We discover, then, that there is not just one signal but instead a multiplicity—the one controlling the drone, the one powering the drone and camera and the one that ensures the image persists.”
    • “What returns—whatis on display for usin the YouTubedronecamgenre—is what has been persistently with us since at least the end of the nineteenth century: signal”
    • “Signal, … is fundamentally beyond, before and above the human”
    • Verilio – “machine vision” 
    • “not firstpersonpointofview ornarrativeactionbutinsteada sense ofbeingin themidst of transmission,buoyed by a network of multiple signal flows, subject to fluctuations, transitions, instabilities.”
    • Tendencies towards instability (unlike ‘code’ which tends toward control (?))
    • Douglas Kahn – “transmission”
    • Karen Barad
    • Variability is immanent to signal
    • “Oscillatory capacities”
    • Lazzarato’s “Time-matter”
      • “All digital modulations of flow… become information—presents an increasing deterritorialisation, not remediation, of flow.”
    • Signaletic material — nexus between signifying and asignifying flows 
    • Transmateriality as the metastable process that precedes a given individuation (e.g.: the non-visual resonance signal in NMRi precedes the visual individuation of that signal into an image)
      • Signaletic material and transmateriality give us ways of getting outside of ‘digital’ and ‘analog’
      • Transmaterial relations are virtual (difference) and actual (individuated)
    • Simondon — shifting through transduction
    • Nam June Paik 
      • “He experimented with transductive processes so as to rediscover variability or difference as the metastable plane of ontogenesis for the electronic arts. And this rediscovery could only take place in and as process; there was for him no originary signal, no place, no idea to start from—there was only the ‘WAY’”
    • Nicholai
      • Unmistakeably ‘digital’ in its tools and sensibility, Nicolai’s work in pieces such as telefunken and m6re from 2006, like Paik’s experimental television, subject us not to codification but insert us into the (re)becoming signaletic of media.
  • Deleuze, Peirce and the Cinematic Sign
    • Deleuze uses Peirce to develop semiotics as ‘expressions of semiotic matter’ — that is immanent (arising a “modulations of the object itself”
    • Signaletic material is the bas stuff of the image — ‘movement-images’ — meaning resides in this embodiment not in some ‘indexical’ codification (the image’s meaning structure is more subtle than this)
    • The signaletic material of the movement-image is therefore virtual — its real but not actual
  • Making Sense of Matter in Deleuze’s Conception of Cinema Language
    • The critique of Metz by Deleuze — pre-linguistic notions: Prelinguistic as amorphous and syntaxic matter, according to which a conception of language is based on the formation of this matter into substance AND (Deleuze’s matter-sense from which signs are  product)
    • In a sense this is an account of language that is top-down (matter is based on the formation of substance from matter) and bottom-up (matter-sense is where ‘we’ get language)
    • Substance here is like meaning — or the way that form and matter arise into (things like) language


  • Signal — For Simondon, the signal is distinct from the signification:“Signals are spatial or temporal; a signification is spatio-temporal; it has two senses, the one through relation to a structure and the other through relation to a functional becoming…According to this manner of seeing individuation, a definite psychic operation would be a discovery of significations in an ensemble of signals, the signification prolonging the initial individuation of being, and having in its sense a relation not only to the ensemble of exterior objects but also to the being itself. As it contributes a solution to a plurality of signals, a signification has a bearing towards the exterior; but this exterior is not foreign to the being as a result of individuation; because before the individuation this being was not distinct from the ensemble of being that is separated in the milieu and the individual” (IPC, 126-27).
  • Signification -Simondon writes: “language is the instrument of expression, vehicle of information, but not the creator of significations. Signification is a relation of beings, not a pure expression; signification is relational, collective, transindividual, and can not be furnished by the encounter of the subject and the expression” (IPC, 200). Earlier in the book, Simondon will write:“According to the distinction between signals and significations, we will say that there is an individual when there is a process of real individuation, i.e. when significations appear: the individual is that by which and that in which significations appear, whereas between the individuals there are only signals. The individual is the being that appears when there is signification; reciprocally, there is only signification when an individuated being appears or is prolonged in a being that is being individualized; the genesis of the individual corresponds to the resolution of a problem that could not be resolved by means of prior givens, because they did not have a common axiomatic: the individual is the auto-constitution of a topology of being that resolves a prior incompatibility through the appearance of a new systematic; that which was tension and incompatibility becomes functional structure…the individual is thus a spatio-temporal axiomatic of being that compatibilizes previously antagonistic givens in a system to a spatial and temporal dimension” (127).



phd readings

computer graphics: a semi-technical introduction – kittler (2001)

Kittler Computer Graphics: A Semi Technical Introduction


  • “The generation of 2000 likely subscribes to the fallacy – backed by billions of dollars – that computer ad computer graphics are one and the same.”
  • “The technolohistorical roots of computer [graphics?] lie not in television, but in radar, a medium of war”
  • Random Access: “Now for the first time in the history of optical media, it is possible to address a single pixel in th 849th row and 720th column directly without having to run through everything before and after it.”
  • The essay will concern itself with synthesis of imagery, not analysis of the visual scenes in photographs — it ‘postpones’ the question of automatic image analysis for symposia on perception to take place not sooner than a decade from now.” Automatic image synthesis is the concern – as in how computers undertake “optical deception” (not optical perception).
  • Kittler locates in this capacity for deception that which “elevates the medium of the commuter above all optical media in Western history.”

  • “two-fold digitality” – spatial resolution and colour resolution, creates problems:

  1. Three colours are not enough – “it would require non colour canons to even begin to approach the visible spectrum” (nice use of military ‘canons’ to describe, presumably the many ways that colours are produced on CRTs, LCDs…)
  2. Description of spatial coordinates are subject to sample-rate limitations. A hint here of creative possibilities of same, “The sampling effect of Nyquist and Shannon does not just chop flowing curves or forms into building blocks, known among computer graphics specialists as Manhattan-block geometry since American city planners love right angles above all else. Sampling also produces continuous and thus striking forms where the program code never intended any at all.”
  3. Problem of processing complexity (?) as every pixel has an infinite number of possible neighbours … attempts at synthesis and analysis of images based on linear neighbours “tends to be so chaotic, that it is as if perception were regressing to pure sensation a la David Hume or Kaspar Hauser.”

Peano’s Theory of Natural numbers

Ross Ashby

John von Neumann

Heidegger: “in the appearing of things, never do we, either preliminarily or essentially, perceive an onrush of sensations.” (vis Chapels of Extreme Experience…)


Computer graphics –> optical physical media –> the eye

The complete virtualisation of optics, provides optical optic modes limited only in number and complexity by the amount of available RAM.

This brings up the idea and obsession of the ‘optimal’ algorithm for the image. This is not present in photography and film (?) as these “simply did what [they] had to do under the given physical conditions.”

“It is only in the name of impatience that all existing computer graphics are based on ‘idealisations’ — a term that functions here, unlike in philosophy, as a pejorative.” (i.e.: ‘idealisation’ not as an ‘ideal’ to strive for in philosophy but a ‘reduction of reality’ in engineering)

Rilke’s Malte Laurids Brigge

Bodies reduced to surfaces — Hausdorff dimension of 2.37 (neither 2 nor 3 dimensional)

Jurassic Park vs. Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors

  • Raytracing
    • Axel Roch – military predecession – tracking of enemy planes with radar
    • Alan Watt computer graphics expert
    • 1637 Descartes – light rays that trace refraction and reflections
      • Res cogitans
      • Res extensa
      • Decartes imagined the pathway of a single ray of light ‘as subject’ through a glass blown globe
      • Only possible to implement this kind of recursive, infinite regression of possible paths with the computer
      • “Whenever you encounter a computer image whose shining highlights are a close send to heavenly Jerusalem’ and whose start shadows are a close second to Hell’s, you are dealing with elementary ray tracing.”

  • Radiosity
    • “light energy calculation”
    • Dutch Interior after Vermeer
    • Based on rocket-reentry derived heat diffusion models (Fourier)
    • An algorithm born of necessity, not of “nature” of computer graphics or light
    • “What so called nature can accomplish in nanoseconds with its parallel calculation derives its alleged digital equivalent to overload” (ref programmability of matter)
    • “What you get is what you see. And what you’ve got is a computer chip”

“Locality or specularity is and will always be thhe opposite of globally or diffusion.”


Verterbrate eyes are cones and rods – “what-ness” and “that-ness”

Dennis Gabor – Heisenberg – raytracing and radiosity in Kajiya’s equation as in the spirit of modern physics

Phenomenology – “legein to phainomena,” – “to gather that which appears”

“Projectiles have relegated subject vs object, this simplest of all oppositions, to the grave.”

Dutch Interior after Vermeer 1987 ComputerGraphics

media readings

Powers Of The Hoard Notes On Material Agency – Jane Bennett (2012)

Jane Bennett Powers of the Hoard Artistry and Agency in a World of Vibrant Matter – video

Hoarding as a speculative account of the active expressive or calling capatiy of thing. 

Hoarders – extreme perception, noticing the “somatic effectivity of objects”, different from the artist as hoarding is ‘undifferentiated’ (whereas artistry is more anthropocentric, and ‘taste based’)

Artists – share some aspects but are not identical (Song Dong – Waste Not, Chardin – The Brioche) 
Spectrums: owner, connoisseur, collector, archivist, packrat, hoarder (objectophile?) 
“The History of Sexuality”, Foucault – the productive power around him

Bergson – perception as a subtractive process – it is selective.  What we do detect is the measure of possible action upon – normal perception is biased toward utility rather than vibrancy 
Heidegger – withdrawal of the thing in utility 
Freud – “the human body longs to return to the efficacy of the inorganic” 
Benjamin – the collector – the human body taking pleasure in the useless – ‘glorification of things’ 
Barthes – advenience instead of glorification – this picture ‘advenes’ that one doesn’t

political economies devoted to overconsumption, planned obscolences…

  • Times/places for psychoses – “Perhaps hoarding is the madness appropriate to us, to a political economy devoted to consumption, planned obsolescence, planned extraction of natural resources, and mountains of discarded waste.”
  • The mad walker of france as a response to the valuation of travel in french culture, and the demonisation of loitering resulting in obsessive 

  • Garbage in the atlantic / pacific ocean – a twenty-first century commons 

three insights that hoarders have (the three hoarder intelligences) 

  • endurance / patience / waiting it out 
    • Spinoza – the ‘speed’ of things 
    • power of slowness – ‘i like rocks, they’re
    • “the human body longs to return to the efficacy of the inorganic”
  • porosity and contagion 
  • inorganic sympathy
    • the philosopher is his/herself also a thing with thing-power
    • act of sympathy and self-recognition
    • dissolving the units of life – besides the instinct to preserve living substance, there must exist another contrary instinct – as well as eros (brings together) there was a instinct of death (Civilizaation’s Discontents – Freud) 
    • death drive – a distinctive form of relationally – “a subteranian sympathy” with the inorganic 
    • utility isn’t the key to hoarding – but neither is it aesthetic – it’s something else
      (usually it’s either utility or aesthetics – but is there another relation?) 
    • Benjamin – taking pleasure in the useless sheer pleasure of thingness – as an act of non-commerciality – deliberate aestheticism
    • Barthes – advenience – might be a better description of the peculiar calling out of the thing 

why we may ignore thingness

  • man as the center of all things – human conceit
    • the philosopher is his/h
  • language is a subject-object – passive objects, active subject grammar
    • poetry is perhaps better served to express powers or things 
    • Shem the Penman hoarder in Finnegan’s wake – Joyce
      • taking all the gross matter of the world and turning into art
      • Bohemian character who, among other things, creates ink from his own excrement
      • “writing the mystery of himself in furniture?”
    • there are some similarities here to claims in ethnographic pursuits around not having a ‘qualitative grammar’ in anthropology (no “language of qualitative method” (Gubrium, J. F., and J. A. Holstein. 1997. The new language of qualitative method. New York: Oxford University Press.)
  • Bergsonian physiology of perception – screening out the vitality of things – bringing to the fore the passive qualities of stuff, as we perceive via utility
“sticky words”
  • transferring the object aspects (slowness, intercorporeal infusion advenience) – into human understandings (imaginative projection, use or aesthetic value 
  • religious practices
  • attention deficit disorder – a preference for lively things over planned / ogranised things
  • paranoia – an over extended receptivity 
  • fetish objects – persistence of ‘lucky charms’ 
  • web marketers – “the call from the data from web page hits as that data swings from useless thing to valuable commodity”


  • the opposite – total minimalists, attuned to the 
  • choice / compulsion
  • Weber – man being seperate from the objects that he or she produces because of capitalism 
  • Warhol – was an obsessive hoarder 
  • Projection into things by people does not exhaust our relations with things – there is a physical quality that remains (inorganic sympathy) that is “hard to talk about without sounding crazy”
  • New York as a Geologic City – Geologic Now
  • broken objects 
  • Charles Taylor – Secular Age – the power of art to reflect how we talk about objects


  • Taussig’s hint that language is related to materiality of things
  • Cadava’s story about Avital Ronnel – “whenever someone tries to conjure up the figure of humanity, someone gets fucked”

Two Lessons on Animal and Man – Simondon (1963)

“Animal life within the area of psychology”

First Lesson


  • There was no different in nature, but only in kind as to the souls of living creature (man, animal, plant)
  • Diogenes Laertius: on a puppy being beaten, “stop it, that is one of my old deceased friends who has been reincarnated as this beast.”
  • Metempsychosis – the transmigration of souls
  • The heuristic of this doctrine of belief is important – that is, what is allows us to learn about ourselves


  • There is identity in the nature of souls 
  • Living creatures vary in the different quantities, not qualities of ‘nous’ 
  • People, plants, animals are a descending scale of ‘strength, detail, and powerful, nous (noumena) 


  • Distinguishes between intelligence and intellect

I Am Also of the Opinion that Materialism Must be Destroyed – Harman (2010)

Graham Harman – I Am Also of the Opinion that Materialism Muse be Destroyed

The Reduction of Objects to Interrelations is bad as it fails to explain change, and fails to explain the appearance of new relations 

I am also of the opinion that Carthage must be destroyed – Cato

The two dichotomous view addressed here are refuted – as two forms of bad materialism: 

  • Undermining
    • science based metaphysics
    • knowledge can make contact with reality lying outside thought 
    • “tears objects down to reveal their deeper physical foundations, as if mocking them from below”
    • universalist tendencies: Pythagoras’ mathematical descriptions, Anaxagoras’ accounts of the homoiomereiai
    • Ladyman, Metzinger, Churchland, Sellars, Laruelle
    • Ladyman and Ross
      • scientism 
      • ‘structure is all there is’
      • resembles noumena to Harman, although they would deny this
      • physics as a special science (universal) versus special sciences which uncover ‘folk’ patterns (geology, sociology, etc.) 
      • “people can think and communicate about extra-representational real patterns but don’t usually try to; scientists often try and succeed in so thinking and communicating”
      • Eddington’s two tables
      • Things appear to relation on different, unconnected levels
      • For Harman the contradiction is: the lucid sphere of human intellection, with a largely formless phyiscal remainder lef over as a ‘realist’ component:  idealism with a realist alibi
  • Overmining
    • Neo-scholasticism – whatever exists is itself, an incommunicable, individual substance
    • “rejects reality of these objects for precisely the opposite reason, denying them any depth beneath the way they are given to us, as if jeering from above”
    • dialectical materialism – where things are fetishes, appearances by us as “manifest image” obsessed creatures 
  • Object Oriented Ontoloty
    • Latour, Whitehead, Zubiri, McLuhan, Lingis
    • The ‘middle way’ of the two above accounts


  • (Humanist?) Philosophy as “a war of competing apriori intuitions”
  • Noting again here the different genres of more- and less- anti-correlationist critiques that arise through realism