Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy – Bruno Latour, Peter Weibel

“It’s clear that each object – each issue – generates a different patter of emotons and distuptions, of disagreement and agreements. There might be no continuity, no coherence in our opinions, but there is a hidden continuity and a hidden coherenec in what we are attached to. Each object gathers around itself a different assembly of relevant parties.  Each object triggers new occasions to passionately differ and dispute.  Each object may also offer new ways of achieving closure without having to agree on much else.  In other words, objects – take as so many issues – bind all of us in ways that map out a public space profoundly different from what is usually recognized under the label of “the political”.  It is this space, this hidden geography that we wish to explore…”

  • res publica = matter public
  • res publica = the state, the commonwealth

Object oriented democracy is a realist politics – taking into account the two ways that ‘representation’ has functioned:

  • in law / politics – representation as the way that people are gathered around an issue
  • in science – representation as the way that the matter of concern is re-presented to the eyes, the ears, the hands…

Hobbes Leviathan

  • Representing the body politic
  • Shapin and Shafer – Boyle’s air pump

From objects to things

  • The ‘thing’ has been cast out of politics, but it was long resident there
  • “thingmen” – icelandic meeting at the transatlantic fault line
  • Heidegger’s “Gatherings” – sites that are able to assemble mortals, gods, humans and non-humans
  • It is not about materialist ‘things’ as even to be materialist is ‘up for grabs’


  • “… a new respect for mediators”
  • “Thou shalft not freeze frame”
  • “Truth is image, but there is no image of Truth”
  • If you stick to them images are dangerous, but are indespensable if you move from one image to the next

Disabled Persons of All Countries Unite

  • Fundamentalism is about obtaining better representation through denial of representation – they “despise the indirectness of representations”
  • Politics might be better conceived as a branch of disabilities studies
  • I.e.: We all need prostheses to understand – crutches – everything is mediated so it is the nature of these crutches that is important

From an Assembly of Assemblies to an Assembly of Dissembling

  • Exhibitions – much like a fair visitors or readers can compare the different types of representation
  • “parliament” with a small ‘p’ – a parliament of things – speaking things

The Phantom Public

  • Politicss tries a panapoly of representations to evoke the ‘body politic – trying to attach the interactions of humans to some kind of natural interaction (bees, machines, brains, etc.)
  • Body politics is a monster… the leviathon and the phantom public


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