Report from a Besieged World: Refugee Crisis Devolving into Chaos

Originally posted by S. C. Hickman in dystopian reflections, refugee crisis.

See here.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

SLSA “After Biopolitics” Conference Program Posted

See here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Augmentation Paradox


Just a follow up to a recent post by R. S. Bakker.  This post also written by Bakker.  See “The Knowledge of Wisdom Paradox” here.

Originally posted on Three Pound Brain:

So, thanks to the great discussion on the ‘Knowledge of Wisdom Paradox,’ here’s a sharper way to characterize the ecological stakes of the posthuman:

The Augmentation Paradox: The more you ‘improve’ some ancestral capacity, the more you degrade all ancestral capacities turning on the ancestral form of that capacity.

It’s not a paradox in the formal sense, of course. Also note that the dependency between ancestral capacities can be a dependency within or between individuals. Imagine a ‘confabulation detector,’ a device that shuts down your verbal reporting system whenever the neural signature of confabulation is detected, effectively freeing you from the dream world we all inhabit, while effectively exiling you from all social activities requiring confabulation (you now trigger ‘linguistic pause’ alerts), and perhaps dooming you to suffer debilitating depression.

It seems to me that something like this has to be floating around somewhere–in debates regarding transhumanism especially. If most…

View original 99 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Grateful Undead: Timothy Morton on Object Oriented Ontology, reposted from Ecology Without Nature

We Are Only Just Getting Started

One commenter (see below) worries that because of an essay she or he read online, which said that SR/OOO is dead, we are dead. She or he asked me to respond, and I feel inspired to, so:

1. Saying something is true doesn’t make it true.

I don’t know whether the commenter is a scholar or not, but in Humanities world, as everywhere else, you can try to get what you want by turning your feeling or your order into a third person statement.

It’s tricky if your statement is too transparent, in other words if it’s not difficult to see the person having an emotion inside it.

2. The statement is more than outweighed by the welter of emails I get every day from high school students all over the shop, and artists in India, Brazil, Norway, Australia, Russia (and on and on and on) asking to clarify points relating to my school of thought, or asking for me to collaborate on something related to OOO. I’m not counting the scholars who are constantly writing with various kinds of message. “Scholars” here means undergraduates, graduates, and people with Ph.D.s (employed or not).

I’m sure this is also true for Harman and Bogost, not to mention the loads of other scholars in other SR domains.

2.a. Example: I’m opening Olafur Eliasson’s big exhibition in Stockholm in a few weeks’ time. He is very into OOO.

b. Björk. (Hello mate!)

Continue reading here.
Also see “Explaining Object Oriented Ontology to your non-OOO friends” here.

1 Comment

Filed under Objects, OOO

The Knowledge of Wisdom Paradox (by R. Scott Bakker)

Originally posted on Three Pound Brain:

Consider: We’ve evolved to solve environments using as little information as possible. This means we’ve evolved to solve environments ignoring as much information as possible. This means we’ve evolved to take as much of our environments for granted as possible. This means evolution has encoded an extraordinary amount of implicit knowledge into our cognitive systems. You could say that each and every one of us constitutes a kind of solution to an ‘evolutionary frame problem.’

Thus the ‘Knowledge of Wisdom Paradox.’ The more explicit knowledge we accumulate, the more we can environmentally intervene. The more we environmentally intervene, the more we change the taken-for-granted backgrounds. The more we change taken-for-granted backgrounds, the less reliable our implicit knowledge becomes.

In other words, the more robust/reliable our explicit knowledge tends to become, the less robust/reliable our implicit knowledge tends to become. Has anyone come across a version of this paradox anywhere?…

View original 34 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under brain science

The Uncanny Expo Milano 2015

Randall Honold

Computer game designers describe the “uncanny valley” as the place where the look of animated creatures becomes disconcerting to us. We’re okay with caricatures or extreme realism, but the narrow in-between can be downright creepy. Recall that well before the printed circuit, Sigmund Freud described the uncanny as the “strangely familiar,” which, once we start becoming aware of it, seemingly haunts us at every turn.

I was in an uncanny place recently, a place both not real enough and all-too real at the same time: Expo Milano 2015: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. Its intention is to be an axis mundi for sustainability. However, the genius loci of the place isn’t represented by the classical figure bearing a cornucopia, drinking bowl, and snake; instead, awaiting the visitor are twenty-first century symbols which perhaps reveal more than intended by expo organizers.

I had never been to an expo. One of the first gifts I can remember receiving though – as a four-year old – was a commemorative coin from the 1964 New York World’s Fair. My godmother brought it back just for me and I can still see its golden shine and feel its raised-line image of the Unisphere. It was a coincidence that my spouse and I were going to be in Italy this summer, and since Milan was on our itinerary, I figured why not check out the expo? Before leaving I had seen news reports about protests and read an article here and there reviewing the event (and this one appeared after my return) so I had a general sense of its context, contradictions, and controversy. I expected meh and got it aplenty. But it also delivered moments of disbelief, engagement, frustration, and hope. Not to mention awesome artisanal gelato flavored with single-source chocolate from the Ivory Coast, and a bar of ginseng soap from that most exotic of places to an American – North Korea. It was, overall, a singular experience of the ecological uncanny – a strangely familiar experience of neoliberal flat-world claims colliding with environmental realities.

A few riffs, pics, and recollections:

You still see graffiti like this in a lot of places around Milan, months after the protests that took place on the opening day of the Expo, May 1. (Protesters got an unexpected two-fer with this falling on May Day; it’s open to speculation whether corporate sponsors were sticking it in the eye of the counterculture or oblivious to the valence of the date.) Other popular images include the raised fist of solidarity against the expo and equating event organizers with Mafiosi.


Milan was a pioneer in urban bike sharing with their “BikeMi” system. And thousands of residents are moving about the city all the time on their own bikes. So, naturally, I figured that biking to the expo would be the way to go. I asked the concierge about a rental for 10km trip from my hotel to the grounds but the shop he called refused, worried they’d lose their asset because there wasn’t a safe place to park it there. I found this perplexing, but when I exited the train stop – newly built for the expo – and headed toward the main entrance, I saw it was true. This is the inexcusable solution intrepid bikers had to resort to:


I visited on a Tuesday, which I didn’t expect to be the day of the week with the highest attendance, but I was surprised when I entered and observed an approximately one-to-one ratio between staff/guides and paying guests. The situation inside the huge Zero Pavilion – a kind of introduction to humanity’s relationship to food by way of dioramas, jumbotrons, and interactive kiosks – was the same. Were the reports of dismal turnout I’d been reading true? Or were people ending it all here, like Edward G. Robinson in “Soylent Green,” in front of moving images of “nature?”


I also puzzled over plastic livestock all apparently heading out the door…


…but on the midway their meaning and destiny became clear.


To do justice to all the participating nations’ buildings alone would take at least three full days; I admit I spent only five hours at the whole expo. The countries are grouped mainly by the predominant types of food produced there. “Fruits and Legumes,” for instance. But India, the world’s largest producer of legumes by far, aspires to a higher status than its cluster-mates Benin, Guinea, and Kyrgyzstan. Thus its pavilion stands apart. As do the structures that represent China, the U.S., and, of course, Italy as home team. The organization is loose, in other words. It all makes for randomized stroll, as if following a world map put through a blender. To my inexpert eye the architecture commonly displays vernacular elements (Qatar); often conveys emerging or power or aspirations thereto (Kazakhstan); sometimes pulls out all the stops (Angola); and occasionally fails at ground level despite its thematic ambition (South Korea’s is supposed to look like traditional ceramic cookware):





National pride is everywhere expressed primarily through food, secondarily through energy, and after that anything counts. The French have a lingerie display. Indonesians perform dance routines, the Czechs blast europop, and the Dutch exude cool charm with their caravan food trucks. The tension between sustaining the whole earth and rational use of the one world’s resources is omnipresent, to wit:


The inside of the model supermercato looks like any other high-end grocery, alas:


And there were people actually buying food to take home! Mind you, it was 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the nearest exit was a 45-minute walk away, and out the door was going fresh dairy and meat, frozen convenience food, etc. Incomprehensible.

It was at about this point that I began to search for redemption. Like an oasis came the Iranian pavilion. It’s a lovely, modest, light structure that shelters garden plots of herbs essential to traditional Persian cuisine. Rice, spices, and cookware are for sale. They got it just right.


Then I found, tucked away in the “Islands” cluster, the poignant Maldives display. It’s a lone room, silent, with photographs of indigenous undersea life and island culture. The message was obvious: all of this beauty will be gone soon, when the rising oceans inundate the lands. Nothing more needed.


Heartened, I trekked to the Slow Food section, what I wanted to see most of all. Nearly off the map at the far end of the park – marginalized in every sense – are its three open-air, destined-for-reuse, wooden structures. Resembling the shelter buildings we see in U.S. public parks, they housed a library, performance space, café, and meaningful displays that summarize extraordinarily well the effects of mechanized agriculture on the earth and its citizens.

I couldn’t help reflecting on how slow food was anomalous yet central to the expo – perhaps the most uncanny experience of my day. I sat in the library for a good while wondering again: Who is this expo for? Are any hearts and minds being changed? What can the already the converted (like me) get out of it? Is this venue the right medium for these messages? Can it scale? Could it travel? Does ROI as a measure even apply here, and how would it be calculated? It was sitting here that it occurred to me the concept of the “uncanny” might be the best one to capture the experience of Expo Milano 2015. The expo’s sensual excesses reminded me that the uncanny comes to us aesthetically, today. It’s there, haunting us, in the what’s always around us – plants, animals, water, air, sunlight, fossil fuels. We coexist with these familiar things so intimately that, strangely, even though they touch our lives in multiple ways every day, we don’t pay attention to them.


I got up and headed to the exit thinking, if nothing else, I want a big fat corn dude at my side from now on.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Will the real objects of politics please stand up?

by Adrian Ivakhiv

Excerpted by permission.   Keep reading at Global Discourse: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Current Affairs and Applied Contemporary Thought,  04 Mar. 2015.  (See link beneath article.)

BRUNO LATOUR: REASSEMBLING THE POLITICAL, by Graham Harman, London, Pluto Press, 2014, 216 pp., £19.99 (paperback), ISBN 978-0745333991

Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political continues Graham Harman’s project, begun with Prince of Networks (2009), to present anthropologist of science Latour as an important philosophical figure for our time. As the first book devoted to Latour’s political philosophy, Harman’s is a groundbreaking work that carefully situates Latour’s thinking amidst an array of political philosophers of the left and right. As with his earlier volume on Latour, Harman writes judiciously here, carefully weighing out alternative interpretations while positioning both Latour’s and his own as pointing toward a sensible ‘middle way.’ While the writing occasionally deviates into caricatures and sideswipes at rivals – from Ray Brassier and the process-philosophical wing of speculative realism to the trendy hard left voices that dominate today’s Continental philosophy scene – the larger argument is presented cogently.

As with his writings on object-oriented ontology, or OOO – the philosophical movement that Harman has spearheaded over several books, numerous interviews, countless articles, and an endless stream of blog posts – Harman begins here with a useful, if oversimplified, schematic mapping of a complex terrain. With OOO, the mapping takes the form of two binary pairs: one distinguishing the real from the sensual, another distinguishing objects from qualities. The result posits four types of things in the universe – real objects, sensual objects, real qualities, and sensual qualities – and four ‘tensions’ between them, which he labels time, space, essence, and eidos. In Reassembling the Political, Harman also presents a conceptual fourfold, but here it is made of two axes rather than binaries: the first counterposes the political Left from the Right, and the second counterposes Truth to Power. Left is defined as belief in the goodness of human nature, and Right as its opposite, the belief that human nature must be curtailed by law; Truth is defined as belief in the accessibility or knowability of Truth in some form, and Power as its opposite – a belief in the lack of Truth and the consequent need for Power alone. These are, of course, false dichotomies: either in the sense that their existence belies the truth of the middle (human nature is neither good nor evil, but is simply what it is – an evolved, partially stabilized yet still-changing set of capacities for surviving together socially in larger-than-social environments), or in that they are not necessarily opposites (the accessibility of truth does not negate the possibility of power-in-itself, nor does the latter eliminate the possibility of truth).

If the dichotomies are overly schematic, the positions ascribed to notable thinkers – from Hobbes and Rousseau to Schmitt, Strauss, Žižek, Badiou, Lippmann, and Dewey – make for productive discussion. But they raise the question of whether or not these two axes ought to define political philosophy. Harman’s leap is to propose a new, third axis – that between human-only and human-plus-nonhuman – and then to point out that Latour’s innovation is precisely in charting out this third frontier and making it central to his work. The case for the novelty of this ‘Object Politics,’ as Harman calls it, is straightforward. None of the other thinkers Harman mentions make much of the nonhumans. This is not to say that such thinkers don’t exist: environmental philosophers like Val Plumwood and Arne Naess, animal ethicists like Peter Singer, Tom Regan, and Cary Wolfe, and even some better known for other work but whose forays into these areas are substantial (Haraway, Derrida, Macintyre, and others) have already paved the way for a political philosophy that makes space (and time) for nonhumans. But Harman’s task is not to make the case for these other thinkers, but for Latour. That case, alas, becomes a little muddy, in part because of the slipperiness of the word ‘object,’ which serves to obscure an important difference between Latour and Harman.  [Continued]

Adrian Ivakhiv (2015): Bruno Latour: reassembling the political, by Graham Harman, London, Pluto Press, 2014, 216 pp., £19.99 (paperback), ISBN 978-0745333991, Global Discourse: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Current Affairs and Applied Contemporary Thought, DOI: 10.1080/23269995.2015.1018663

To link to this article:

Leave a comment

Filed under Objects, OOO