Media(tions), Cybernetic Futures, Febrile Cess-Oceans



I’ve made several recent posts regarding possible connections between the prehistory of Speculative Realism (in particular the work of the CCRU as technologically focused philosophy, cyber-feminism, and weird Deleuzian experimentalism) and rising movements and recent turns: affective turn, the posthuman, the nonhuman, and so on. There is an intertwined interest in moving past the human (of humanism) and the human (in its particular biological organization…maybe more drastically). A recent post at Enemy Industry responding to this post by Rebekah Sheldon has made the importance of making this distinction clear. This is also further complicated by the rise of the Digital Humanities (I’m still not exactly sure what that means) and Media, once again, becoming a kind of refuge for interesting theory following the continuing explosion of so called New Media (which in turn has spurred more and more work in Media archeology). Next Nature is a good resource for many of these criss crossings. Also, fairly recently discovered by me, is the work at Virtual Futures which is continuing the legacy of cyberfeminism and related projects.

The crux of the relations between all these forms of thought is a tension between futurity and archeology in estimating the potential effects of technology on human beings and on the idea of human beings and how symmetrical or asymmetrical the relation between human and humanism is. In one sense, this relates to Levi Bryant’s recent concerns about constructivism…as he states changing one’s focus to more ontological issues from social issues doesn’t mean you forget what you learned, it means you re-member them in the light of what you’re doing. This translation I think is lost if turn or movement overly obliterates the grounds beneath it to make what it is doing different (for the sake of difference).Here cyberfeminism is a particularly salient example as new developments in ontology are automatically questioned for their political ramifications which, on the one hand questions the connectivity between things positively but also should make us pause about the uses and abuses of ontology that forget the lived world. For myself, I think two kinds of thinking are required…that ontology cannot (on its own) give you a politics but, in a way, becomes a certain condition of politics. I think this is why metaphysics and ontology are often erroneously collided – because ontology becomes the metaphysics for politics but this doesn’t mean that ontology then doesn’t have a metaphysics wholly separate from it. But, I think regardless of how intimate you see the connection between politics and ontology (and metaphysics) you cannot chuck epistemology (that vampire that sprung from Kant’s coat) without seriously mucking up ought and is.

Also, as several thinkers in the Brassier’s neighborhood have pointed out (I’m thinking of Alex Williams, Pete Wolfendale and others) many of the concerns of posthuman, nonhuman, and inhuman (etc etc etc) thinking has been addressed (albeit in a different a language set) by analytic thinkers. Bridge building, if it is to be done, is one of mostly language and style translation, the ideas have long infected each other’s camps.

While the CCRU and other strands thought about what the world could be there now seems to be more of a focus on what the world already is – dispersing agency, experience, and other typically human centric things onto the world. I think Jane Bennett is one of the few who openly justifies this as strategic anthropomorphism whereas otherwise it is merely a capability of thought (post-Kant and post-Deleuze). Technology did not radically change the human (at least in the ways many thought) but technology has nonetheless colonized people. Part of this shift is no doubt ecological as we realize how much the outside is already inside, and we want to know what that means, what genetic material is agentially. The danger of possible turn-fatigue is that distinction becomes mere caprice, that the world becomes an active but no less polluted cesspool of zombified ontologies and systems. This has philosophical and political perils and the solution to both may be two (or more) very different projects and not a singular ontology, and not devoid of epistemology.

To refer back to Sheldon’s post, she argues for Karen Barad’s epistemology (via agential realism) which in effect materializes epistemology but I think this runs the risk of skewing the difference between intentional and non-intentional activities both in differentiating epistemology from ontology as well as internally to epistemology itself – unintentional replication and adaptation versus willful activity under various levels of constraint. I don’t think this brings us irrefutably back to Kant but it should question the ways in which we deposit agency vs power vs process vs forces (or, in other words, there are different grounds). In an ecological vein I think Rachel Armstrong’s piece here shows the necessity of us being  a part of nature and apart from nature.

More soon…


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