subota, 16. lipnja 2012.

Njeljudski 'okret' u filozofiji

Jedan od novih "okreta" u filozofiji - neljudski okret. Smjesa novog materijalizma, teorije objekata, eko-ontologije, spekulativnog realizma, životinjskih i biljnih studija, znanosti o mozgu, teorije asemblaža, teorije sistema, teorije afekata, teorije novih medija i teorije o Lady Gaga. Zajednički nazivnik - ono neljudsko novo je središte istraživanja.
Video zapisi s koferencije su ovdje.
O skorašnjoj konferenciji (organizator Center for 21st Century Studies) izvještava Adrian J. Ivakhiv:

"The preliminary schedule is out for The Nonhuman Turn in 21st Century Studies.
The list of speakers reads like a “who’s who” of the neo-ontological, speculative-realist crowd in cultural and media theory: Steven Shaviro, Jane Bennett, Brian Massumi, Erin Manning, Mark Hansen, Ian Bogost, and Tim Morton are among the keynotes, while lesser mortals like myself, Mackenzie Wark (not so lesser last time I checked), and others known to the philoso-blogosphere (Woodard, Stanescu, Denson, et al.) are also scheduled to present.
While not all the leading object-oriented philosophers will be there, it strikes me as a wonderful opportunity for dialogue between the ones who will (Morton, Bogost, and some up-and-comers, I assume) and the process-relationalists, who, by my count, just may be in the ascendant at this event (Shaviro, Bennett, Massumi, Manning,et al.).
The abstract I sent in for my talk is too ambitious for the time I’ll have. But it gives an idea of where I’m heading as I prepare for it. Here it is…

Process-Relational Theory and the Eco-Ontological Turn:
Clearing the Ground Between Whitehead, Deleuze, and Harman
Calls for a nonhuman or posthuman “turn” can be taken as echoing a call for an “ecological turn” that environmental thinkers have made for decades. Precursors to an “ecological ontology” and/or an “ecological epistemology” can be found in the work of Bateson, Maturana and Varela, Gibson, Ingold, and others. More recently, philosophers influenced by Deleuze and Guattari (such as Stengers, Delanda, Protevi, and Berressem) have taken up these calls for an eco- or geo-philosophy.
This paper argues that in this task of developing an ecophilosophy, there is value in recognizing a “process-relational” tradition as running in parallel to subtantialist, materialist, idealist, and dualist philosophies over the centuries. Such a tradition, while loosely construed and somewhat artificial, unites philosophers as disparate as Heraclitus, Chuang Tzu, and Nagarjuna with Peirce, Whitehead, Hartshorne, Simondon, Deleuze, and Stengers.
The bulk of the paper responds to Graham Harman’s recent critique of process-relational approaches. Harman argues that process-relational thinkers have already had their day and have failed to account for the stabilities and inner depths of objects that make up a (posthuman) world.
Building on comparative and interpretive work by Rescher, Weber, Shaviro, Faber, Griffin, Kakol, and others, I briefly recapitulate the ontological distinctiveness of the process-relational tradition, and make the case that however widely notions of relational interconnectedness may have spread in our time, a clearly articulated process-relational philosophy has not been widely accepted in modern times (contrary to Harman’s suggestion otherwise). I proceed to argue that a process-relationalism grounded in the encounter between Whitehead, Peirce, and Deleuze can better account for the depths of Harman’s “objects” than Harman’s object-oriented metaphysics precisely because those depths point toward the processuality that constitutes the beating heart of all things.
Harman’s critique ignores the way in which Whitehead’s actual occasions constitute an ongoing infusion of creative novelty into the universe. The novelty comes neither from a pre-existing reserve of hidden qualities of objects (as in Harman’s object-oriented ontology) nor from some external realm of displaced “eternal objects” (as some interpretations of Whitehead suggest), but from each decisive act of prehension that constitutes every instance of actualization in the universe. The question of how this creativity is generated is arguably left somewhat mysterious; it is, for the most part, assumed to be there in the nature of things. Deleuze’s and Delanda’s gestures toward nonlinear dynamic systems topologies provide useful indications of how the virtual, when considered as equally real and dynamic as the actual, might account for the generation of this creativity. Peircian evolutionary semiotics (of firstness, secondness, and thirdness) provide a different means of approaching the same problem.
Drawing on these and other resources in the process-relational tradition, I argue, presents a promising foundation for an ecological ontology that would recognize the creative capacity for novel interactions among human and nonhuman agents, while also suggesting a basis for evaluating which kinds of interactions might attain greater intensities of beauty and satisfaction (in Whitehead’s terms) than others.

This is the first of my blog posts from the Nonhuman Turn conference. These will be uploaded as they come over the next two and a half days. Special thanks to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee for making this as easy as it is, and to Mary Mullen for making sure it is that way.
I arrived at the conference site not a moment too soon: the nonhuman rain (“like a monsoon,” someone just said) began pouring down almost as I stepped into the building. Milwaukee looked lovely through the window of the cab from the airport: all green and breathy with that pre-rain anticipation. I used to visit it a lot when I lived and taught in Oshkosh (ten years ago), but I don’t remember it being as green as this or having so many beaches up the lake.
We’re starting a few minutes late, with a capacity crowd in this auditorium (about 75 people, I’d say, though I expect others will come later and it may become standing-room only). Exciting for a gathering of philosophers, cultural theorists, eco-theorists, and animal studies folks.
Installation art and ambient sounds and images surround us.
Richard Grusin (Director, Center for 21st Century Studies) is offering welcoming and comments and thanks to the people who have brought this thing together.
Here goes… All errors are my own; all brilliant ideas are someone else’s. Double-check everything with the authors/speakers if you care to make use of these ideas for your own thinking (and to credit them appropriately).
First plenary:
Brian Massumi, “Animality and Abstraction”
Bergson: “Instinct is sympathy. If this sympathy could extend… it would give us the key to vital principles…”?
Raymond Ruyer (philosopher of science, regular reference in this talk): Primary consciousness is one with life, but at a level prior to the emergence of discrete objects. This talk will be about the prior synthesis of the object, the pre-objective level.
The consciousness that is one with life is morphogenesis (cf. Deleuze & Guattari). Morphogenesis, in relation to the animal, is about evolution, which in neo-Darwinian terms is about external pressures of selection, “instinct” as an autonomism.
Ethologist Nike Tinbergen noticed that all was not right with this “autonomism” of instinct. Built decoy gull beaks to study triggers of “instinctive” behaviors. Found (to his own dismay and against expectations) that the decoy didn’t do much, so he designed decoys that didn’t look like herring gull beaks at all. Tinbergen recognized that instinct snubs good form in the direction of “supernormal stimuli.” E.g., high-contrast red worked best as a signal, but wasn’t essential. An “intensification effect” was key.
“Supernormal” connotes the plasticity of natural limits, disrespect of “good form,” a transformational movement pushing animal experience to exceed its normal bounds. “Supernormal dynamism” is better term. “Trigger” should also be questioned; it’s not something external, but an immanent experiential excess by which variation surpasses itself. What’s at stake is not resemblance to a specific schema (an isolatable stimulus corresponding to a model); rather, red as stimulus is bound to contrast. Plasticity of the situation is bound to complexity; collective co-variation; no reliable background any more than there is a fixed figure standing out against it. “Such relational/configurational stimuli seem to be the rule rather than the exception,” Tinberger wrote.
Co-variant linkage between qualities in immediate experiential neighborhood. At most we can discern passages toward plastic limits, consistency (processual self-consistency) rather than gestalt or perceptual form. Ruyer: “auto-conduction.” Unpredictability of instinct. “Hallucinatory” spontaneity (Ruyer); induced improvisation. The stimulus irritates, provokes, stirs; the animal is correlated with accident-rich environment and own internal variation. Environment/milieu imposes external restraints, but instinct responds with improvisation.
Adaptation concerns external relations between animal & environment; improvisation concerns internal relations, co-varying experiential qualities. For D&G and Buyer and Bergson, there is a positive principle of form-generating selection, an immanent power of supernormal invention. Environment preys, animal plays. Instinct is played more than represented (Bergson). Instinctual behavior is “ringed (?) by a fortuitous fringe of improvisation” (Ruyer).
Tendency toward the supernormal is a vector, a positive force, an attractive force that pulls forward from ahead, a force of affective propulsion, not compulsion or impulsion; e.g. cuckoo that feeds the invader. D&G’s ‘desire’ as a force of linkage with transformational tendency.
Creative life of instinct; vital art: a force of mutual instinct is a force of composition. Evolution played upon by creative involution. The human has the same self-animating tendency to supernormality, though we tend to call it “culture” rather than “nature.” We are in a zone of indiscernibility with the animal. When a human assumes its immanent animality, it becomes more itself.
How can instinct effectively contribute to morphogenesis?  D&G mince no words: becoming requires “the abolition of metaphor,” creative involution is fully real. Bergson’s qualitative multiplicities: a note of music is perceived in a succession and its belonging to the succession is perceived in it, a relation of mutual inclusion in a neighborhood of immediate processual proximity, mutual inclusion of multiplicity of potential unfoldments. In improvisation the end is not only to be reached, but to be made. D&G’s plane of consistency.
What does a note do when it sounds? It cuts in with advancing determination; … This momentary variation is eliminative, excluding alternative variations, but at each step the plane of consistency is divided until the final note reaching the theme’s terminus. This theme remains as a memic (memory) trace, but other co-potential variants continue to echo. The full multiplicity of the plane of consistency silently reaffirms itself, exerting a quiet force of thematic attraction for musical events to come.
The many become one and are increased by one (Whitehead). The quantum of quality is a particle of becoming (D&G).
Sum up: qualitative logic, principle of movement in the creation of form comes from qualitative side (plane of consistency), and quantitative side which is the plane of organization, the marking of a territory. The becoming of one, the individual, can only be thought as trans-individuality; an infinity of variants and variations acting out gesturally. Instinctive act (and artistic act), the living thing indexes itself to a trans-individual flow of becoming. Von Uexkull’s point-counterpoint (spider web virtually includes the potential of a fly in its form).
Instinct comes back to sympathy; the animal, for Ruyer, is sympathy. Intuition and sympathy are the warp and woof of the animal, to be extended into the depths of matter itself.
Q & A:
Bateson’s essay on play and fantasy is the best thing I (BM) have read on play. Territoriality and play work together: play sets in place a frame with functions, takes advantage of that frame and suspends it; e.g. animal that changes stylistically to comment on its own activity, “I’m biting you (denoting biting) but this is not a bite.” = the motor of evolution, which in the human animal will become language. So language should be talked about in terms of instinct and animality.
Q. about attractors and phase space: how do these phase spaces arise, evolve, dissipate?  BM: I like complexity theory, phase space, etc., but if it’s only in energetic terms, the philosophical movement is cut short. Ref. to Simondon, autopoiesis.
Q. about Tinbergen and ontological uses of metaphor: could the beak replica that least resembled the original beak might be a more effective metaphor for the original beak than the ones that resembled it more?  BM: hypothetically it’s plausible, but in practice evolutionary sequences are topological transformations. The actual and virtual come together in events; the metaphor hypothesis extracts the virtual to an ideal realm, gives form in advance. The Q for the thinkers I’m interest in is how form emerges, the genesis of form. I’m interested in operational theories that work with the genesis of form without presupposing form. Metaphor implicitly seems to reinstate a subject-subject (?) separation. The herring gull is taking possession of its own potential: the gull isn’t having an intuition, it is being had by animal intuition. Emergence.
Q. about Ruyer’s/D&G’s “absolute-survey” (overflight). A: it’s a directly relational perception: you’re in it.
Q (R. Grusin): grosbeaks, hermit thrush, et al. coming to the same feeder every year: how do they know? Maybe we should think about migration as happening through the birds. A: yes…
Q about language, abstraction… A: an act is a gesture that brings to expression life living itself. Language indexes all those prior levels (instinct, gesture, territory, etc.)
Q about psychoanalysis… A: The “fortuitous fringe” echoes off into non-consciousness. Lacan’s objec petit a (but his emphasis on absence doesn’t please me, because I’m interested in nature as a plenum). BwO is the death drive, the fullness of virtuality too full of potential that would tear your body apart.

Day 2 at The Nonhuman Turn.
Richard Grusin: Why Nonhuman? Why Now?
The CFP for this conference elicited lively comments and concerns on Facebook walls (Ken Wark’s and Alex Galloway’s): expression of “turn fatigue” (:-) [ai: my first proposal was about just that], and a concern that this would ipso facto be a conference of speculative realism or OOO.The CFP reactivated debates from third New York OOO symposium.
But Grusin had in mind a slower kind of turn, manifested in a longer period of time, going back to Haraway’s “Cyborg manifesto” and Latour’s “Science in Action.” The humanities make wide and slow turns, like freighters passing port of Milwaukee than like a twitter feed or viral video.
How to respond? Grusin rejected equation of this turn and OOO or SR. Grusin coined the NH Turn to make sense of a wide range of approaches: nonhuman as affectivities, bodies, plants, animals, materialities, geophysical systems, etc., rooted in Darwin and James, intensified in Deleuze & Guattari et al et al. Concern with objects can be traced to Thoreau, Melville, Whitman. Resistance to new (OOO et al) thinkers relates to subdued or liberal political commitments. If society is complex assemblage of human and nonhuman actors, then political question becomes one of changing relations with both Hs and NHs.
Blogosphere as key medium for OOO, SR, et al: immediate reactions to research, demystifying and transparent (ideally), open for collaboration among diverse readers, etc.; reading groups, rapid publications, cross-blog dialogues, etc. Grusin not as enthusiastic as “Speculative Turn” editors are, but role of social media should be thought about in 21st century academe.
Intensification of time, speeding up, multiplication and quickening. Academia takes place online. Intensification of affective tones of academic debate: inflated investment in present moment or very near future. This shouldn’t obscure the fact that the Nonhuman Turn has been underway for quite some time. [ai comment: head nodding furiously...]
Grusin’s own nonhuman turn: began with Derridean trace, text has no special ontological status; Foucault’s genealogies of disciplines & techniques, discourses of medicine, science, et al.; Latour’s Science in Action, agency of nonhuman actors, science studies (Latour, Haraway, Stengers, Pickering), actor-network model; plus earlier media theorists (Benjamin, McLuhan); mid-1990s affect theory turn (Sedgwick/Frank on Silvan Tomkins, Massumi), affect is always object-oriented Tomkins), affect as intensity (Massumi); feminist new materialism.
Longer genealogy: of “Turn
Why a turn? (linguistic, cultural, affective, posthuman, et al.) (This conference gets mistakenly/confusedly called The Posthuman Turn, but this is wrong.) It’s an embodied turn in our attention toward nonhumans – technical, media, animal, plant, own bodies, resources, etc.
This embodied materiality has been part of the term since the 15th century: an action noun involved in nonhuman movement (rotation, clock or world turn), change of direction or course (turn of a river or a rider), change in general (moments of transition), affective/ethical actions (bad, evil turns), occasions (Whiteheadian movement of action, behavior that fosters or counters collectivity, taking one’s turn, speaking out of turn, agency or action not wheels rotating around individuals).
A turn also functions as a means of mediation, translation. Hope this conference marks a catalytical turn of fortune.
Let the wild rumpus begin.

Bogost’s talk not being streamed (by his request).
Ian Bogost, “The Aesthetics of Philosophical Carpentry”
A talk about philosophy and the objects of which it’s made, in 12 parts (first 11 are pretend)
I. Enjoying This Presentation
II. The Things We Do: Airport tarmac. Philosophers in a lecture hall not unlike an aircraft approaching the runway. Multiple dancer airport performances. Air traffic controllers and graduate students. We do the things we do. Questions, comments. Thank you for flying.
What do we do when we do philosophy. I am completely freaked out about it.
III. The Non-Human Return: All the world’s Bogosts can be traced back to Milwaukee. Previous visits, family visits. Frozen custard. OOO is a reclamation of a sense of wonder lost in childhood. The rhubarb grown in the summer on Marion Street. Things. A re-turn to the things that were always here, waiting.
IV. Carpentry, Part One: Alien Phenomenology advances “carpentry” as a theory of philosophical productivity. I’m performing the act I critique, the commitment of philosophical work to esoteric writing, professional validation, publication “to have been written,” inaccessibility. Problems: (1) Academics aren’t good writers. (2) Writing is dangerous for philosophy, because it’s just one mode of being. We underwrite our ignorance of everything else. We miss the Great Outdoors.
V. Cows, Part One: Rejoinders against arm-chair cogitation of philosophers.  One trend is experiemtnal, cognitive philosophy. Or field philosophy (Frodeman). Ethics is so far a field only for human interests. Is it daft to admit that the world is full of interesting and somewhat secretive things? The cows would make better field philosophers; they work in the fields.
VI. Carpentry, Part Two: General carpentry extends woodcraft to any material. Special carpentry takes up a philosophical position, speculating about the experience of things. Harman’s “the carpentry of things” (Lingis), the way things fashion one another in (and?) the world at large. E.g.s of online things Bogost has made. Ontography (Latour Litanizer); metaphorism. Aesthetics as first and last philosophy.
VII. Cows, Part Two:  Custard-making. It trumps philosophy reading/writing. Video games industry schism (traditional developers vs. social game developers). “Social games on trial” game theory seminar. Theory-practice dialectic often more of a panegyric. Cow Clicker facebook game about facebook games; most successful work I’ve ever produced, more than 50,000 people played it. Cowpocalypse VR game. I’ve spent more time making & tending virtual cows than reading philosophy.
VIII. Carpentry, Part Three: What does it feel like to make cows, custard, things? Consider books. Thacker & Galloway prototype print-on-demand Lulu book. [Mark Hansen is watching hockey on his laptop in front of me. (!)]  We say we write books, but we write words that we send to someone to make books. Print-on-demand is even less design-controlled, like the lunch meats of publishing. Schaber/Yakoch book ‘Checking In/Checking Out’. Still a chasm between academic writing (to have written something) and authorship (to have produced something worth reading), and then to bookmaking.
IX. Materials:  Approaches: embracing the materiality of things; the use of computational models. Procedural rhetoric: making an argument out of a model. McDonald’s game: intended as a critique, but many students “really feel” for the corporate executives. “Oiligarchy” game. But if the game is incapable of doing that work, if traditional text media are better, then why make games? Purely aesthetic, an accessory? An orary (?), model of celestial motion.  Contrast with Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” One page (with chart) stands in for the rest. Text message exchange with daughter. Tim Morton after yesterday’s talk: asked why did you do what you just did? But no on asked Shaviro: why did you do what you did (cited philosophers and commented on them)?  We don’t question our materials.
X. Cows, Part Three: Dedicated Cow-clickers. “2-1/2 Men.” “Shit-crayons.” Wole Soyinka in prison using whatever materials he could find. Cowpocalypse: they have been raptured.
XI. Idiots: Winograd: photograph tells us how a piece of time and space looked to a camera. Gentle tragedy of carpentry: we somehow make things, and with practice make been beautiful things. I still like writing where the writing matters. The work I want to do with objects is metaphoristic; to write well rather than to write to completion. What if we took a break from philosophical history, from making arguments? The objects were there all the time, it was me who wasn’t. What if I listened to them? One day I hope this might be philosophy.
XII. While You Were Out: The city (Seoul), underground travel, platform screen doors. The doors are raised on specialized farms, near a Buddhist temple. Woman, mourning her love, turned into a dragon. The dragons who move people. The transit system expanded beyond the city. [ai: I can't capture the exquisite literary craft of this section, so I won't try. Read it when it is published, which I presume will take an appropriate book-like form.]
Q & A:
Q @ object-formation in children: a bag of onions, to an infant, is a bag, but when opened they are astonished. Can grown childhood lead us productively to thinking this?  IB: Yes. Harman’s “withdrawal” is that, that other-worldliness of things.
Q @ Winnicott’s play and transitional objects. These theoretical concepts are play objects. Pushing in another direction is easy for tenured folks, but divisions of knowledge where tenure is given still require playing by the old rules. How do we change that?
IB: Fear is the main problem. When you get enough attention, then it’s impossible to ignore you. Tenure is not about productivity, but impact. Those who achieve the goal the easiest are those who think the least about it.
Q: OK, the objects were always there, but were the mental objects always there?  IB: [missed, sorry]
Q (tweet): The beauty of non-scholarship: you can just claim you just thought of it. My students do that all the time…  IB: That’s true. So what? I don’t care about being new; it’s about what we use these things for.
Q (Erin Manning): I get it, you’re a good writer, etc., but why so many mean tweets over past 2 days? Why shut it down.  IB: My Twitter persona is different from me. What do we do about these intersecting worlds, me on Twitter different from me in this room? What if we took that seriously.
EM: There are people who are insecure in academe and have lost jobs because they’ve pushed those positions. How many philosophers do you know who are in philosophy departments? Many of us have had to find our ways of living, through having children, writing, spending weeks crafting a concept and then watching it fall apart. In Montreal students are striking… Since there are so few places to have these conversations, don’t we want this to be a venue when we can have this conversation, rather than posing one way of thinking against another?
IB: This (confernece) format of ours is broken.
EM: People have been incredibly willing to have a conversation. I’ve been surprised by it, because I don’t go to conferences. We can continue to pose, or we can say “hey, you’re making a real effort here.”
IB: I think you’re right, but we need to offload a lot of this stuff off of our persons. Try alternative formats: e.g., short statements, conversations, breaks. This is not a criticism of this event (Expletive deleted, from conference organizer. Laughter.)

Concluding comments by Richard Grusin
Are conferences broken? This has been a great 2-1/2 days, according to what I’ve been hearing. Some shorter papers maybe even better than plenaries, for some.
Many models for conferences. Erin, NAthaniel, Brian et al’s ideas for art, ThinkMakeDigital folks originally all wanted to craft the environment to break down those conferency things. Maybe that did work.
Relationship between conference in this space and conference in connected spaces (Twitter, etc.). Some say “No Tweeting! Do you let your students do that?” All of us are in this room, but not all of us are in that other conversation. I don’t think it’s disrespectful (’cause I do it), but we’re going to have to think about it.
But bringing people together physically is essential for knowledge. Online education is good for access, but for me education has been about sitting in a room with some quirky professor, some modeling, affective something-going-on. I hope we keep these things going in some fashion, and these universities.
Maybe, despite hesitancy (because there’ve been so many), a different kind of conference on the future of higher education?
Thank you, Mary Mullen. Thank you, everybody.

With just enough distance to sense that I miss it already (in a brain-body hangover kind of way), but not enough for this to be taken too seriously, I offer some morning-after thoughts on the Nonhuman Turn conference.
1. It was a tremendous gathering of forces, of people doing valuable work with ideas, with knowledge-building practices and critical interpretive and reframing strategies (some of them novel and experimental, some of them simply variations on what academics do). For all that was said (at the end) about how washed-out the academic conference format is, this one was actually a very well-scaled meeting, making possible the kinds of conversations and connections that a larger conference would preclude. It was well run, technically savvy, and enjoyable. Remarkable in many ways.
2. The intellectual potential that was there at the outset — in its thrown-togetherness (by Richard Grusin) of an assortment of related conceptual frames, philosophical allegiances, and irrepressible human singularities — was partly actualized, but partly, I think, not. Yet.
That’s because actualization of this sort always takes time, and no one should have expected that these particular elements would have gelled into a robust solidarity on the spot. While more camps could have emerged, what seems to have occurred is a settling around two poles: the Whiteheadophiles and the objectologists. Maybe that much was predictable. (And since that particular debate has been a theme on this blog, this could be in part an artifact of my own perspective. But I heard it from many others.) Incipient other emergences appeared here and there, but not in the way that these two masts sailed around the proceedings in full splendor.
I heard rumors repeatedly of a blogosphere ravenously watching and waiting for the two camps to come to blows, to have some kind of showdown. While that never happened, courageous voices poked their heads to say “hey!” from time to time when they saw openings for a deepened mutual engagement. The “heys” can easily be misinterpreted: “why are we fighting?” can sound like “why are you fighting?”, “why are we (still) doing this?” (for instance, holding such conferences at all) can sound like a dismissive reply to “why are you doing this to us (generating anxiety in an anxiety-driven nation/world)?”, pokes at professional jealousy can sound just like professional jealousy, digs at academic citation practices can just sound smug. In the end, I most admired those who spoke from their heart (eat yours out if that sounds trite).
3. The social-media-blogosphere was always in the background, as much or more so than the art installations and other non-traditional conference effects that were much in evidence. Tweeted questions, Twitter feeds channeling in voices from around the world, Twitter itself being accused of and, at the same time, serving as an excuse for, bad behavior… (Why do people turn rabid behind their twitter personae?)
4. Actualization takes time. This will be a conference that sets off affective currents for a time to come. We will have stories about it, and mold it into our stories. For me, it follows in a tradition that leads back to 2007′s “Nature Matters” in Toronto and 2001′s “Taking Nature Seriously” in Oregon, both transdisciplinary meetings of critical ecotheorists and cultural and animal studies and STS folks. But for others it will connect up with other events — OOO conferences or new media brainstorms or posthuman gatherings of one kind of another.
My hope is that one of those affective currents will be a general acceptance that Whitehead is unavoidable, or at least not easily dismissible, in 21st century thinking about nature, culture, and media. (Thanks to Massumi, Manning, Shaviro, and Hansen for setting that direction out clearly, if not all in one voice.) Another might be that OOO also deserves to be taken seriously, that it’s not just a flash in the pan. And I sense a slight refashioning of OOO in the air, from being mainly a hard-nosed metaphysical doctrine to more of an affective opening toward the things themselves (Bogost’s OOO as the sense of wonder lost from childhood, Morton’s as a transcendental onto-eco-anxiety – themselves diametrically opposed variations that constitute two sensual faces of Harman’s withdrawn metaphysical insight-object). A third current may be the recognition — more, the undeniability — that new, 21st century media have become, and will be increasingly, part of the air we all breathe (as much as the toxins in our bio-onto-epi-genetic bloodstreams), whether we did when we arrived in Milwaukee or not.
5. All that said, the perception that OOO is somehow brash, rude, and intemperate is one that that crowd will have to deal with (or ignore). But I really believe it’s a cultural, stylistic, and somewhat generational thing: the blogo-social-mediasphere does certain things to us — I’m grateful to Wendy Chun and Mark Hansen for clarifying what some of those are — and schools of thought that emerge and grow primarily online will all come to sound somewhat that way. We all need to think about how this changes intellectual discourse.
6. It took some energy for me to live-blog the plenaries. For the most part, that just kept my attention from drifting, but for a few of the talks it was hard work and I wished I could give it up. I didn’t, except momentarily. I had said I’d do it, and I pushed ahead. Not quite sure why I did it at all, really — just thought it would be good: a service to those who weren’t there, a memory-jog to those who were, and a small contribution toward the crafting of a more robust network out of the pieces and bits that Richard Grusin had thrown together to create this 3-day machine.
Oh, did someone mention “Turn Fatigue”? This turn is a long one coming, and will continue for a long time to come. The last three days might serve as a point of contact that will have injected some energy toward new connections, as we all round this corner together.
Most of all, I’m grateful for the opportunity to have met, befriended or rekindled and deepened friendships with all sorts of creative and wonderful people: like Jane Bennett, Erin Manning and Brian Massumi, Steven Shaviro, Timothy Morton, Ian Bogost, Mark Hansen, Jennifer Slack, blogger friends such as Shane, Scu, Ben, and many, many others. Thanks especially to Richard Grusin for conceiving of and creating the whole thing, and to Mary Mullen and the staffers who made it all possible and refreshingly efficient.
That, at least, is how I saw and felt it. From the vantage point of the day after.
Now I’m thankfully heading back to the tweetless bliss of physicality (materiality, the dance of actuality and potentiality), with those I missed most. (And whom I don’t think I’ll ever get myself to call “objects.” Consider me unchanged in that regard.)" - Adrian Ivakhiv

The Nonhuman Turn Conference

This conference takes up the “nonhuman turn” that has been emerging in the arts, humanities, and social sciences over the past few decades. Intensifying in the 21st century, this nonhuman turn can be traced to a variety of different intellectual and theoretical developments from the last decades of the 20th century:
actor-network theory, particularly Bruno Latour’s career-long project to articulate technical mediation, nonhuman agency, and the politics of things
affect theory, both in its philosophical and psychological manifestations and as it has been mobilized by queer theory
animal studies, as developed in the work of Donna Haraway, projects for animal rights, and a more general critique of speciesism
the assemblage theory of Gilles Deleuze, Manuel DeLanda, Latour, and others
new brain sciences like neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence
new media theory, especially as it has paid close attention to technical networks, material interfaces, and computational analysis
the new materialism in feminism, philosophy, and marxism
varieties of speculative realism like object-oriented philosophy, vitalism, and panpsychism
and systems theory in its social, technical, and ecological manifestations
Such varied analytical and theoretical formations obviously diverge and disagree in many of their aims, objects, and methodologies. But they are all of a piece in taking up aspects of the nonhuman as critical to the future of 21st century studies in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
Preliminary Schedule
Thursday, May 3rd
3:15-4:30         PLENARY: Brian Massumi, “Animality and Abstraction”
                          Introduced by Rebekah Sheldon, UW-Milwaukee, C21 Provost Fellow

4:45–6:00        PLENARY: Erin Manning“Another Regard”
                          Introduced by Nathaniel Stern, UW-Milwaukee, Art and Design

Friday, May 4th
Curtin Hall 175, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
9:00–9:30       CONFERENCE INTRODUCTION: Richard Grusin, “Why Nonhuman? Why Now?”
9:30–10:45      PLENARY: Jane Bennett“Systems and Things: a materialist and an object-oriented philosopher walk into a bar…”
Introduced by Kennan Ferguson, UW-Milwaukee, Political Science
Objects 1: Curtin Hall 175
Panel Moderator: Jason Puskar, UW-Milwaukee, English
“Rhetorical Carpentry and Becoming Object” – James J. Brown, Jr., University of Wisconsin-Madison, English
“Thinking with Trees: Material-Imagination”  – T. Hugh Crawford, Georgia Institute of Technology, Literature, Communications and Culture
“The Eco-Poetics of Hyper-Objects: Evelyn Reilly’s Styrofoam”– Lynn Keller, University of Wisconsin-Madison, English
Death: Curtin Hall 124
Panel Moderator: Peter Paik, UW-Milwaukee, Comparative Literature
“Stretched Skulls: Anamorphic Games and the Memento Mortem Mortis” – Stephanie Boluk, Vassar College, Media Studies and Patrick LeMieux, Duke University, Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
“The Corpse and other (Post)Human (Non)Objects”– Sarah Juliet Lauro, UC-Davis, English
“The ontology of a visceral-object: notes on commercial (or cosmercial) practices in the meat industry” – Emma Roe, University of Southampton, Geography and Environment

1:30–2:45        PLENARY: Steven Shaviro“Consequences of Panpsychism”
                          Introduced by:  Elena Gorfinkel, UW-Milwaukee, Art History
Ethics: Curtin Hall 175
Panel Moderator: Stuart Moulthrop, UW-Milwaukee, English
“Tektology Transfer” – McKenzie Wark, The New School for Social Research, Culture and Media
“Companionable Objects, Companionable Conscience: Ethics and the Predicaments of Dwelling with Things” – Kenneth M. George, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Anthropology
Ethology become ethics: exploding Uexküll”  - Arun Saldanha, University of Minnesota, Geography
Objects 2: Curtin Hall 119
Panel Moderator: Sandra Braman, UW-Milwaukee, Communication
“Process-Relational Theory and the Eco-Onotological Turn: Clearing the Ground Between Whitehead, Deleuze, and Harman” – Adrian Ivakhiv, University of Vermont, Environmental Studies
“New Media Ontology: Interacting with Object-Oriented Philosophy and Computational Objects” – Bruno Lessard, Ryerson University, New Media
“Against Deleuze’s Joy: Vitalism beyond Affectionate Immanence” – Ben Woodard, University of Western Ontario, Theory and Criticism
Animals: Curtin Hall 118
Panel Moderator: Nigel Rothfels, UW-Milwaukee, Office of Undergraduate Research
“Talking with Animals”  – Marilyn Cooper, Michigan Technological University, Humanities
“Compulsory Affectivity: Affect, Animality, and the Nonhuman Turn” – Donovan Schaefer, Syracuse University, Religion
“Animals, Assemblage, and Abstraction: Towards a Dark Ethics” – James K. Stanescu, Mercer University, Philosophy and Communication Studies

4:30–5:45        PLENARY: Tim Morton“They Are Here”
                          Introduced by Peter Paik, UW-Milwaukee, Comparative Literature
Saturday, May 5th
Curtin Hall 175, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
3243 N Downer Ave

9:00–10:15      PLENARY: Wendy Chun“Imagined Networks”
                          Introduced by Anne Frances Wysocki, UW-Milwaukee, English
Mediation 1: Curtin 124
Panel Moderator: Michael Newman, UW-Milwaukee, Journalism, Advertising and Media Studies
“Mediation for Nonhuman Cognitions” – James J. Pulizzi, UCLA, English
“The Good Hyperlink” – Anne Helmond, University of Amsterdam, Media Studies
“Simple solutions: Slashdot and the articulation of web culture as information system” - Michael Stevenson, University of Amsterdam, Media Studies
[...] Human: Curtin 119
Panel Moderator: Annie McClanahan, UW-Milwaukee, English
“Digital Extinction” – Joshua Schuster, University of Western Ontario
“Towards a Supra-Human Metaphysics of Media” – Aaron Pedinotti, NYU, Media, Culture and Communication
“Posthuman: next steps” – Lucia Santaella, São Paulo Catholic University, Technologies of Intelligence and Digital Design
Arts: Curtin 118
Panel Moderator: Ryan Holifield, UW-Milwaukee, Geography
“Immediation as Process and Practice of Digital Mattering” – Christoph Brunner, Zurich University for the Arts, Institute for Critical Theory
Brimming with Vitality: Experiencing Colour Beyond Human Perception in Seurat’s La Grande Jatte”  Troy Rhoades, Concordia University, SenseLab
“In the Dome of the Parliament of Things”: Media Art’s Engagement with Bruno Latour (with Peter Sloterdijk as Best Man) – Marc Tuters, University of Amsterdam, Media Studies

1:00–2:15        PLENARY: Mark Hansen, “Against Clairvoyance: The Future of 21st Century Media”
                          Introduced by Sandra Braman, UW-Milwaukee, Communication
Performance: Curtin 124
Panel Moderator: Heather Warren-Crow, UW-Milwaukee, Art and Design
“Ecology Without Nature, Theatre Without Culture: Towards an Object-Oriented Ontology of Performance” – João Florêncio, Goldsmiths, University of London, Visual Cultures
“’Call me Ishmael’ and other (new) material performa(c)tivities and ontological entanglements” – Lissa Holloway-Attaway, Blekinge Institute of Technology, English/Literature, Culture and Digital Media Programs
“DesignLab and Performative Scholarship: The Revelations of Dr. Kx4l3ndj3r” – Jon McKenzie, UW-Madison, DesignLab
Rhetoric: Curtin 119
Panel Moderator: Rebekah Sheldon, UW-Milwaukee, C21 Provost Fellow
“’From the Dustbin of History’: Rhetoric and the Problem of Abundance” – Casey Boyle, University of Utah, English
“Tooling Affections from Allure: an Algorythmic #inhabitation of Foreclosed Remains” - Jamie “Skye” Bianco, University of Pittsburgh, English
“The Invention of the Impossible Object: Ethical Techne in Object-Oriented Media Studies”– Steve Holmes, Clemson University, Rhetorics, Communication and Information Design
Mediation 2: Curtin 118
Panel Moderator:
“iResearch: Using Smartphones to do Materialist Media Theory” – Mark Cote, Victoria University, Media and Communication Studies
“The Materiality of Mobile Media: An Object-Oriented Approach to Mobile Networks” – Jason Farman, University of Maryland, American Studies and Digital Cultures and Creativity
“Happy Accidents—Facebook and the Autonomy of Affect” – Tero Karppi, University of Turku, Media Studies
Queer/Feminist/Gaga: Curtin 109
Panel Moderator: Susan Bernstein, UW-Madison, English
“Object-Oriented Gaga: Theorizing the Nonhuman Mediation of Twenty-First Century Celebrity” – Shane Denson, Leibniz Universität Hannover, English
“Becoming Queer/Queer Becoming: Art, Affect, and the Dissolution of Being (Human)” – renée c. hoogland, Wayne State University, English
“Relationality and the Revitalization of Nature In Materialist Feminisms” – Janet Wirth-Cauchon, Drake University, Study of Culture and Society

4:00–5:15        PLENARY: Ian Bogost“The Aesthetics of Philosophical Carpentry”
                          Introduced by Michael Newman, UW-Milwaukee, Journalism, Advertising          and Media Studies
5:15–5:30        CLOSING REMARKS: Richard Grusin

 Bonus: izvještaj Jordana Peacocka:
Last weekend I drove out to Milwaukee to attend The Nonhuman Turn conference hosted by the Center for 21st Century Studies at University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. I drove through two thunderstorms, and a third hit shortly after I arrived; the first thunderstorm came at the worst possible time. One side of the highway was under construction, so all traffic was reduced to two lanes (one either direction) with flimsy dividers separating the 18-wheelers passing at 50 mph. When the rain hit, and visibility was reduced to about 15-20 ft. (for me, at least), the trucks slowed to about 40 mph, but with no shoulder there was nothing I could do but keep the pace even though the rain was coming down so fast that my windsheet looked like a fishbowl.
After about 10 minutes of the most nerve-wracking driving I’ve ever performed in my life (yes, this beats out the deer in Montana), I noticed lights just off to my right, and I immediately pulled over onto the shoulder I now knew existed.
The rest of the way, I continued listening to Tim Morton’s broken lecture (that’s a Heideggar joke, y’all) about the notion of withdrawl in object-oriented ontology, and then the EconTalk interview with Tyler Cowen to work up my appetite.
Arrived early and introduced myself. The intervals between plenary and panel sessions were an absolute joy, and I met dozens of fabulous people, from all over the country and the world. There was a huge contingent from Quebec, and a decent-sized group from Georgia, and a few folks from The Netherlands. Particularly wonderful was meeting Sarah Juliet Lauro of UC—Davis who is also auditing Tim’s grad class, and Shane Denson who teaches at Leibniz Universität Hannover, but claims he’s from Texas. I’ve heard him talk, I call bullshit.
The opening plenary was from Brian Massumi (University of Montréal, Communication Science) whose talk was entitled Animality and Abstraction (Abstract/My Notes, Adrian Ivakhiv’s Notes). I struggled to keep pace with it, although I suspect that the parts I flat out didn’t get simply weren’t written assuming my lack of background, as the concepts I was familiar with were lucid (supernormal stimulation, etc). I actually have Massumi’s A user’s guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia sitting on my desk, and the UMN Press translation he put together for Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus.
Massumi was followed by his co-conspirator, Erin Mannin), whose talk, Another Regard (Abstract/My Notes, Adrian Ivankhiv’s Notes), moved between being-gorilla, autism, dance, and how Whitehead and Deleuze’s conceptions of processual being tie those threads together. Manning has a talent for conveying a strong and supple empathy along with her rigorous theoretical dissection - a lot of the concepts were new to me, but I appreciated the introduction.
Spent the evening with some locals found via Couchsurfing, and the four of us won first place in a local bar trivia contest. Much drinking, not much sleep.
Day two opened with the host, Richard Grusin, asking Why Nonhuman Now? (Abstract/My Notes, Adrian Ivakhiv’s Notes), and reflecting on some of the Facebook debates that occurred in the initial threads announcing the conference. Some comments (mostly positive, albeit cautious) were made about the rather active Twitter backchannel that had sprung up and that inspired the rather amusing response from a friend of mine:
Jane Bennett followed on with a curious talk, entitled Systems and Things: A Materialst and an Object-Oriented Philosopher Walk Into A Bar… (Abstract/My Notes, Adrian Ivakhiv’s Notes), in which she tried to outline the borders and bounds between her own thinking and the object-oriented ontologies (OOO) of Harman, Morton, Bryant and Bogost. It was not without irony, then, to listen to her close with a comment about Whitman understanding the potency of poetry, as Morton has written extensively about poetry and causality from an OOO perspective. Bennett closed with a recitation of a selection from Finnegan’s Wake:
The warped flooring of the lair and soundconducting walls thereof, to say nothing of the uprights and imposts, were persianly literatured with burst loveletters, telltale stories, stickyback snaps, doubtful eggshells, bouchers, flints, borers, puffers, amygdaloid almonds, rindless raisins, alphybettyformed verbage, vivlical viasses, ompiter dictas, visus umbique, ahems and ahahs, imeffible tries at speech unasyllabled, you owe mes, eyoldhyms, fluefoul smut, fallen lucifers, vestas which had served, showered ornaments, borrowed brogues, reversibles jackets, blackeye lenses, family jars, falsehair shirts, Godforsaken scapulars, neverworn breeches, cutthroat ties, counterfeit franks, best intentions, curried notes, upset latten tintacks, unused mill and stumpling stones, twisted quills, painful digests, magnifying wineglasses, solid objects cast at goblins, once current puns, quashed quotatoes, messes of mottage, unquestionable issue papers, seedy ejaculations, limerick damns, crocodile tears, spilt ink, blasphematory spits, stale shestnuts, schoolgirl’s, young ladies, milkmaids’, washerwomen’s, shopkeepers’ wives, merry widows’, ex nuns’, vice abbess’s, pro virgins’, super whores’, silent sisters’, Charleys’ aunts’, grandmothers’, mothers’-in-laws, fostermothers’, godmothers’ garters, tress clippings from right, lift and cintrum, worms of snot, toothsome pickings, cans of Swiss condensed bilk, highbrow lotions, kisses from the antipodes, presents from pickpockets, borrowed plumes, relaxable handgrips, princess promises, lees of whine, deoxodised carbons, convertible collars, diviliouker doffers, broken wafers, unloosed shoe latchets, crooked strait waistcoats, fresh horrors from Hades, globules of mercury, undeleted glete, glass eyes for an eye, gloss teeth for a tooth, war moans, special sighs, longsufferings of longstanding, ahs ohs ouis sis jas jos gias neys thaws sos, yeses and yeses and yeses, to which, if one has the stomach to add the breakages, upheavals distortions, inversions of all this chambermade music one stands, given a grain of goodwill, a fair chance of actually seeing the whirling dervish, Tumult, son of Thunder, self exiled in upon his ego,a nightlong a shaking betwixtween white or reddr hawrors, noondayterrorised to skin and bone by an ineluctable phantom (may the Shaper have mercery on him!) writing the mystery of himsel in furniture.
Following Bennett was the first breakout session; I attended the Objects panel, and had to miss out on the Death panel (which was apparently quite interesting, talking about corpses and meat and what-have-you). Neverthless, the Objects panel was fantastic, with James J. Brown, Jr. talking about Occupy Wall Street’s becoming-loudspeaker in Rhetorical Carpentry and Becoming Object (Abstract/My Notes), T. Hugh Crawford following that up with a meditation on the process of woodworking that led to a casing for a copy of Being & Time that was sent to an unruly primate in Thinking with Trees: Material-Imagination (Abstract/My Notes) and closing with Lynn Keller opening my eyes to a world of cutting-edge poetry that was, frankly, inaccessible to me previously, in The Eco-Poetics of Hyper-Objects: Evelyn Reilly’s Styrofoam (Abstract/My Notes).
Lunch was spent with Gerry Canavan and others, talking about roleplaying games, science fiction, and OOO. My Eclipse Phase t-shirt was perfect for the subject at hand, as we talked about smart dust, sapient parrots, empires of time/peak oil, and the political subconciousness in zombie fiction.
After lunch, Steven Shaviro spoke on the Consequences of Panpsychism (Abstract/My Notes, Adrian Ivakhiv’s Notes). It was quite good, although I agree with one questioner’s critique of terminology, recommending panexperientism as an alternative, as what Shaviro’s arguing isn’t that everything has a mind.
The second breakout session I spent missing the Deleuze/Whitehead bonanza that Adrian Ivakhiv kicked off, as well as the panel on Animals, but we make choices. The panel on Ethics was not at all what I expected; the first speaker was ill and unable to attend, and the second, Kenneth M. George, gave a talk (Companionable Objects, Companionable Conscience: Ethics and the Predicaments of Dwelling with Things, (Abstract/My Notes) that was 1 part theory and 2 parts ethnographic survey. It was fascinating, and it made me think back to how many of the best “theoretical” books are explorations of concrete phenomena; I’m thinking of Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda, Bruno Latour’s The Pasteurization of France, Fernand Braudel’s Civilization and Capitalism, etc. The third panelist shall not be named nor spoken of; the less said of it, the better.
The closing plenary was from Tim Morton and it’s title (They Are Here (Abstract/My Notes, Adrian Ivakhiv’s Notes)). It was not a “talk”, but rather an experience, what Morton later described as a carefully measured-out dosage of straight anxiety. The rhythm and cadence of the talk and the resulting affect was as much, or rather more its content than the words themselves. It was an experience, and it made the concepts breathe.
At some point during the day Bruce Sterling chimed in with his newscast commentary, riffing off of Grusin’s “turn fatigue”:
Let’s make that the “early 21st century,” as there’s bound to be a turn AFTER the posthuman turn and the nonhuman turn; circa 2033 or so, there’s bound to be a learned gathering of something beyond the Post and Non, and it would be great if we left them some canned food and tasty nitrogen-frozen finger-snacks Wait wait wait! This just in from @anthropunk! “The PolyHuman”
I closed out the evening with some fantastic Mexican food and a trip to the distillery, and some passionate conversation about the genius of Alan Moore and Thomas Pynchon.
The final day opened with Wendy Chun’s plenary, on Becoming Networks (Abstract/My Notes, Adrian Ivakhiv’s Notes); it was reassuring, what with so many sessions about semi-technical subjects from humanities scholars, to hear a humanities lecture from a former engineering student. A really enjoyable talk, although her use of the term “public domain” implied a copyright culture wholly unlike that which actually exists, and so while her point is correct, it implies caveats that were not made explicit.
I ignored the […] Human and Arts breakout sessions for the first Mediation session. The opening panelist, James J. Pulizzi, used the V2 from Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow as the protagonist in his talk Mediation for Nonhuman Cognitions (Abstract/My Notes). Anne Helmond then presented what may have been the best single panel session, The Good Hyperlink (Abstract/My Notes), which explored the varieties of existences a socially-shared URL encounters. Her study, with the network diagram, is available at her site. Michael Stevenson closed the panel with Simple solutions: Slashdot and the articulation of web culture as informated media (Abstract/My Notes).
After lunch Mark Hansen’s plenary, Against Clairvoyance: The Future of 21st Century Media (Abstract/My Notes, Adrian Ivakhiv’s Notes), melted my brain. Apparently I need to read Whitehead. Adrian’s notes may make more sense than my own.
The last breakout session I spent jumping between the Queer/Feminist/Gaga and Mediation II panels, although perhaps I should have continued on to the Performance for The Revelations of Dr. Kx4l3ndj3r (luckily, it’s on Youtube). I missed out on Rhetoric altogether.
The first session was Shane Denson’s Object-Oriented Gaga: Theorizing the Nonhuman Mediation of Twenty-First Century Celebrity (Abstract/My Notes/Video of the presentation), which was actually quite interesting; check out the video at the link.
I then skipped over to Jason Farman’s talk, The Materiality of Mobile Media: An Object-Oriented Approach to Mobile Networks (Abstract/My Notes), which featured some excellent detective work on his part in tracking the full signal path of his Foursquare checkin from the warehouse that houses Foursquare’s servers. Tero Karppi closed with Happy Accidents—Facebook and the Autonomy of Affect (Abstract/My Notes) which brought up some intriguing notions about how we relate to one another now that we have the Facebook-Timeline “sixth sense”.
The conference closed with Ian Bogost’s The Aesthetics of Philosophical Carpentry (Abstract/My Notes, Adrian Ivakhiv’s Notes) which was, like Morton’s plenary the day before, more performative than informative. Which, frankly, was great. Most of us had spent the last three days getting our mind melted, and hearing Bogost talk about custard and his grandmother and legends about Korean dragons and train stations was the perfect closure to the whirlwind experience.
Adrian has posted some closing thoughts at his blog, as I’m sure some others have as well. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to attend, and I hope some of the acquaintances I made become friends or co-conspirators in the future.

The Nonhuman Turn in the 21st Century
This weekend the Center for 21st Century studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee held a major conference on the recent “Nonhuman Turn” in critical theory. Here are some of my reflections from one of the breakaway sessions called Queer/Feminist/Gaga.
“Object-Oriented Gaga: Theorizing the Nonhuman Mediation of Twenty-First Century Celebrity” – Shane Denson, Leibniz Universität Hannover, English
This presentation discussed the media image of Lady Gaga using Object Oriented philosophy. Denson emphasizes how the allure of the object operates in relation to the celebrity icon. Denson’s reading of Gaga and 21st century mediation focused on her iPod LCD glasses- highlighting visual culture as spectacle not spectacles- this eye-wear disturbs vision rather than facilitating its mediation.
He compared the deformed non-functional spectacles created by the design team “Haus of Gaga”, to the ethos of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Warhol once claimed, “I want to be a machine.” Gaga says, “I am an android infiltrating culture one sequin at a time.”
Accessories create a sense of mask, surface, and iconicity. Both functional and ornamental, they form a network of human and non human agency. Gaga’s accoutrements call attention to the non-human nesting of Gaga the Icon allowing her to be restaged in a variety of settings- she is a serial media remix.
In his presentation Denson used the term “queer” to mean strange, as well as ambiguously embodied or sexually identified. I wanted more discussion of Gaga as a queer figure, but for that I think I will have to wait for Jack Halberstam’s forthcoming book on Gaga Feminism.
Halberstam says, “I am interested in Gaga for the insight she gives us into shifts in the cultural meaning of femininity, romance and desire...I am naming as feminist the impact of her performance of femininity, I am not claiming her as a feminist… Nonetheless, she…participate[s] in something called feminism or the politically charged set of questions that involve female embodiment, gender norms and the regulation of female desire.”

The second talk on this panel addressed queerness more directly, as a sexual identity, and as an orientation toward the world.
“Becoming Queer/Queer Becoming: Art, Affect, and the Dissolution of Being (Human)” – renée c. hoogland, Wayne State University, English
This talk also advanced one of the themes of the day (that would later be polemically addressed by plenary speaker Ian Bogost) about how to present at a conference, and how to construct an academic argument. hoogland’s soft-spoken subversion began as the panel’s moderator read her introduction which began: “renée hoogland likes kumquats” (rather than “is professor of…” “is the author of…” “has PhD from…”)
Throughout her talk images flashed on the screen behind her of her cats and other intimate moments from her domestic life. These images enhanced her talk, which was an admixture of her personal experience of coming out and her thoughts on affect theory, materialist philosophy, and queering the non-human turn.
The abstract for her paper shows that she was originally going to advance a more formal argument- but instead she subtitled the piece “How My Red Wool Sweater Made Me Gay.” She showed a picture of herself as a child, rolling in the grass ensconced in the red wool sweater. She lingered on the somatic memories she still carries of the sweater. She let herself drop the thread of her original thesis. In her words, “I allowed myself to be drawn away from the straight path of traditional scholarly pursuit.”

I liked how the sweater called attention to the role of fashion in non-heterosexual embodied becoming. (This dovetailed nicely with the flashy queer accessories and sequins of the former talk.)
hoogland’s refrain in this piece was “queer becoming is always non-becoming.”
(Shades of Judith Butler’s Undoing Gender)
hoogland posits that queerness is always physiologically elusive (try as we might we can’t find the gay gene, the lesbian finger) but queer becoming exists in activity and complex events within matrices of materiality- we invest material objects with our affective attachments to them, and those affective responses are always changing. (This reminded me of Proust.)
She lyrically expressed how coming out means bringing concealment into unconcealment: coming out of the closet is emergent, not a moment, but many such moments- not a coming into being- a contingent process.
She conceives of “queering” as a verb of simultaneously becoming and unbecoming, and focuses on radical stylization of the body, and bodily transfiguration.
Overall, I felt these queer papers allowed for embodied responses to the theoretical, and afforded more perverse pleasure both in the delivery and reception of their ideas. I am glad there was a space for them at the event. -

Object-Oriented Gaga: Theorizing the Nonhuman Mediation of Twenty-First
Century Celebrity
Shane Denson

In this paper, I wish to explore (from a primarily media-theoretical perspective) how
concepts of nonhuman agency and the distribution of human agency across networks of
nonhuman objects contribute to, and help illuminate, an ongoing redefinition of celebrity
personae in twenty-first century popular culture. As my central case study, I propose looking
at Lady Gaga as a “serial figure”—as a persona that, not unlike figures such as Batman,
Frankenstein, Dracula, or Tarzan, is serially instantiated across a variety of media, repeatedly
restaged and remixed through an interplay of repetition and variation, thus embodying
seriality as a plurimedial interface between trajectories of continuity and discontinuity. As
with classic serial figures, whose liminal, double, or secret identities broker traffic between
disparate—diegetic and extradiegetic, i.e. medial—times and spaces, so too does Lady Gaga
articulate together various media (music, video, fashion, social media) and various
sociocultural spheres, values, and identifications (mainstream, alternative, kitsch, pop/art,
straight, queer). In this sense, Gaga may be seen to follow in the line of Elvis, David Bowie,
and Madonna, among others. Setting these stars in relation to iconic fictional characters
shaped by their many transitions between literature, film, radio, television, and digital media
promises to shed light on the changing medial contours of contemporary popularity—
especially when we consider the formal properties that enable serial figures’ longevity and
flexibility: above all, their firm iconic grounding in networks of nonhuman objects (capes,
masks, fangs, neckbolts, etc.) and their ontological vacillations between the human and the
nonhuman (the animal, the technical, or the monstrous). Serial figures define a nexus of
seriality and mediality, and by straddling the divide between medial “inside” and “outside”
(e.g. between diegesis and framing medium, fiction and the “real world”), they are able to
track media transformations over time and offer up images of the interconnected processes
of medial and cultural change. This ability is grounded, then, in the inherent “queerness” of
serial figures—the queer duplicity of their diegetic identities, of their extra- and intermedial
proliferations, and of the networks of objects that define them. Lady Gaga transforms this
queerness from a medial condition into an explicit ideology, one which sits uneasily between
the mainstream and the exceptional, and she does so on the basis of network of queer
nonhuman objects—disco sticks, disco gloves, iPod LCD glasses, etc.—that alternate
between (anthropocentrically defined) functionality and a sheer ornamentality of the object,
in the process destabilizing the agency of the individual star and dispersing it amongst a
network of nonhuman agencies. As an object-oriented serial figure, I propose, Lady Gaga
may be an image of our contemporary convergence culture itself.

Troy Rhoades: Brimming with Vitality: Colouring Experience Beyond Human Perception in Seurat’s La Grande Jatte

Art practice is a technique of composing potentials of existence, inventing experimental styles, coaxing new forms of life to emerge. 
– Brian Massumi, Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts (2011: 73).

Brimming with Vitality 
Considered by many to be masterworks of Neo-Impressionism, the paintings of George Seurat surprisingly do not offer viewers a good first impression when they enter the gallery space where these works hang. When viewers initially approach Seurat’s paintings, the works look rather drab next to the more vivid and expressive colours found in the paintings of his contemporaries. Jonathan Crary writes about having this very experience when visiting the Metropolitan Museum in New York to see Seurat’s Parade de Cirque [Circus Parade] (1887-1888). He states, when “seen from across the gallery the work appears muted, almost antichromatic haze, like a dull rectangle of slate hanging amid the vibrant Van Goghs and Cézannes” (Crary 1999: 150). During this inaugural viewing, Seurat’s work does not seem to have the same spectacular impact when compared to the highly saturated colours found in the painting of his peers, such as Vincent Van Gough and Paul Gauguin. They seem out of place, like a series muted grey clouds hanging in the sky among the bright colours found on an otherwise clear and sunny day.
Even Seurat’s most famous work, Un Dimanche Après-midi à l’Îlle de la Grande Jatte [A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte] (1884-1886) (henceforth La Grand Jatte), tends to look blurry and nebulous from a distance. When viewers look at La Grand Jatte, despite its majestic size of just beyond two by three meters (207.6 x 308 cm), they can have trouble differentiating the foreground from the background. There are few distinguishing features that command their attention. Many of the depicted objects and figures in this painting are barely distinguishable, appearing to blend or bleed into the murky surrounding scenery. This opaque scenery is comprised of three discernable sections. The first section at the bottom of the painting is the darkest and has the least distinguishable colours. The second section cutting across the middle is more luminescent than the lower section and is comprised of a yellow-green colour. Despite being slightly brighter than the lower section, the middle still appears fuzzy and drab. The third section of the painting, covering the upper portion, is as dark as the lower section but leans towards more discernable shades of muted green. When viewed from the back of the gallery, Seurat’s painting also appears static, flat and lifeless because of the muddy dull colours, the hazy appearance, and the indiscernibility between the figures and the background. It appears to depict a scene that is dead to the senses.

If viewers take a few steps forward towards La Grande Jatte for a closer look, something truly amazing occurs. The colours begin to radically change: eventually reaching a point where viewers will notice that the nebulous cloud of dull and muted colours begins to dissipate, giving way to a more varied and radiant colour palette that seems to burst forth from the canvas. Like the lifting of a heavy fog, the portrayed objects and figures also become much more discernable. What appeared to be a flat and lifeless looking painting only a few seconds earlier is now teeming with a variety of vivid colours. This transition can be quite arresting, both visually and literally. The dazzling colours emerging from the depths of the canvas transfix viewers into stasis. It is at this moment that Seurat’s painting astonishingly comes to life. 
La Grande Jatte appears to constantly, yet subtly glisten with fluctuations of colour and light. There is a dynamism that viewers can feel pulsating throughout the entire painting, giving them the sense that the work is brimming with vitality. During La Grande Jatte’s premier exhibition at the Eighth Impressionists Exhibition in 1886, art critic Félix Fénéon also felt the liveliness emanating from Seurat’s painting. He felt that: “The atmosphere is transparent and singularly vibrant; the surface seems to flicker” (Fénéon 1966: 110). This feeling of dynamism that emerges in the seeing gives viewers a sense that at any moment something or someone depicted in the painting will suddenly begin to move. It is as though a sudden gust of wind will blow through the trees and rustle the leaves; the small brown dog leaping across the grass in the lower right corner will reach the ground and continue running towards the larger dog that is only a few meters away; or the young girl in the white dress in the centre of the painting will take a step forward and start moving towards the viewers. But it is not the girl in that takes the step forward.  It is the viewers who do.
When viewers take a few steps forward, they will begin to understand how La Grande Jatte is able to generate the fluctuations of colour that they see. With each step toward the painting, the gestures of paint on the canvas become more visible. But viewers will also notice that the vibrancy of the colours they just saw only moments ago begins to dissipate. This is because the colours generating the lively depictions of foliage, pets and people they saw seconds earlier are shattered into thousands of tiny coloured dots. Fénéon also noticed this. “If you consider a few square inches of uniform tone in Monsieur Seurat’s Grande Jatte, you will find on each inch of its surface, in a whirling host of tiny spots, all the elements which make up the tone” (Fénéon 1966: 108). As viewers continue this close up inspection of La Grande Jatte, they notice that these miniscule dots are comprised of a variety of colours, spanning much of the visible spectrum. They see that the depicted leaves are not constituted by a series of homogenous green coloured leaf-like shapes; rather, they consist of green, yellow, orange, and blue dots. Viewers also observe that the leaping dog in the lower right corner is not actually coloured dark brown; instead, it is configured with a series of dots that are dark red, orange, dark blue, and violet. And the girl in the white dress in the centre of the painting is not clothed in just the colour white but also is speckled with yellow, orange, and light blue. Absolutely nothing in La Grande Jatte escapes being composed with these miniscule coloured dots. From this intimate perspective, there are no areas of homogeneous colour to be found anywhere in this painting. There are only drops of colour populating the viewers’ perception.
Feeling Colour Vibrations
It is only when the viewers start backing away from the surface of La Grande Jatte that the plethora of tiny coloured dots begin to become imperceptible again. With every step backward, the dots appear to meld into the vibrant colours and lively depictions seen earlier, such as the green of the leaves, the luminescent white of the girls dress, the dark brown colour of the leaping dog, and the glistening hints of sunlight that flutter throughout La Grande Jatte. Yet, despite the dots’ increasing “imperceptibility,” viewers continue to experience them through the vibrations each dots’ colour generates. The colour of every dot quivers ever so slightly. There is not some external force or element acting upon the dots that causes their colour to subtly shake. Colour does not suddenly begin to move, change, or fuse together when viewers start looking at La Grande Jatte. Rather, as Henri Bergson explains, colour “amounts, in itself, to a series of extremely rapid vibrations” (2007: 124). Colour simply vibrates: that is what it does in and of itself.
Even when viewers are inches from Seurat’s painting looking at all the dots that populate it, they cannot see the vibrations colour generates. This is not because their ability to see is flawed. Anyone with extraordinary eyesight would still be incapable of actually seeing these quivers of colour. What gets in the way is the viewers’ own perception. According to Steve Goodman: “If we subtract human perception, everything moves. Anything static is so only at the level of perceptibility. At the molecular or quantum level, everything is in motion, is vibrating” (2010: 83). It is the viewers’ ability to see that actually prevents them from perceiving these micro-movements occurring throughout La Grand Jatte. The vibrations colour produces exceed human perception.
Although the viewers’ perceptual limits prevent them from directly observing the vibrations of colour occurring among the dots in Seurat’s painting, these imperceptible actions are still felt in the seeing. This is because the colour vibrations occurring throughout La Grande Jatte are experienced as sensations. According to Gilles Deleuze, “Sensation is vibration” (2003: 39). Viewers are able to experience the overabundance of colour vibrations as sensations that occur below the threshold of visibility. They are capable of feeling more than they are seeing. There is an elusive presence of sensations that are made palpable to viewers in their encounter with Seurat’s painting, literally colouring their experience.
Because colour is always vibrating, the colour of the dots in La Grande Jatte not only exceeds the viewers’ perception, they also constantly surpass the limits of the dots themselves. Colour is not something inherent to the pigment that constitutes the dots or to the representations those dots compose. According to Jonathan Crary: “Colour for Seurat is not a property of objects but a construction out of elements that individually do not refer to anything other than themselves” (1990: 61). Colour has an elasticity that is not restricted to any particular threshold or entity, enabling the sensations it generates to potentially affect all that it encounters or conversely encounters it. Colour is what provides the dots on Seurat’s canvas with their felt quality that exceeds them as such.
When colour is understood in this way, it is what Alfred North Whitehead calls an “eternal object.” For him, eternal objects give emergent events or entities their “‘qualities’ and ‘relations’” (Whitehead 1978: 191). They are the qualitative potentials that enable the elasticity of feeling that occurs in the midst of experience. As the orange colour of a particular dot on Seurat’s canvas quivers, it extends out beyond the contours of the dot itself and is felt by the surrounding dots. As this vibratory sensation of “orangeness” is experienced by the neighbouring dots, they are encountering an eternal object. As this quality of orange is felt by the surrounding dots, it in turn affects how the colour vibrations of these dots will be experienced by other dots. Conversely, the particular orange dot will also feel the fluctuating sensations of colour generated by the dots the surround it, affecting how the elasticity of orange is encountered.
When the dots on Seurat’s canvas feel the colour vibrations of their neighbours, they do not actually perceive these quivers of colour. The dots are not capable of perceiving because they are not complex enough entities. According Whitehead, “sense-perception is mainly a characteristic of more advanced organisms” (1985: 5). These advanced organisms would include entities such as insects, birds, mammals, and humans. The dots of paint in La Grande Jatte cannot see or touch the colour vibrations occurring around them, but they are capable of encountering the sensations they produce. Sensations are equally experienced by all entities no matter their level of complexity or sophistication. The activity of feeling is not exclusively an anthropomorphic or sentient activity. Every entity is capable of feeling eternal objects. The dots can feel the elasticity of colour just like the viewers of Seurat’s painting.
The Emergence of Contrast
While the dots in La Grande Jatte feel the various colour vibrations that exceed those dots immediately adjacent to them and vice versa, the sensations of colour begin to commingle, generating something that is more than just a collection of singular vibrations or eternal objects. For instance, quivers of orange, light blue, yellow, and white become entangled in the girl’s dress depicted in the center of the Seurat’s canvas, generating an experience that exceeds all of these colour vibrations individually. Deleuze explains that it is impossible to feel the pulsating sensation of just one colour. This is because “where there is a single body or a simple sensation, the different levels through which this sensation passes already necessarily constitute couplings of sensation” (Deleuze 2003: 56). None of the dots in La Grande Jatte can feel only the sensations generated by one specific colour vibration because they simultaneously encounter all the colour vibrations extending from their neighbours. As these vibrations come into contact with each other, a coupling of sensation emerges for the experiencing, which the dots feel. A light blue dot in the girl’s dress cannot exclusively feel the colour vibrations of its orange neighbour. The sensation of orange the light blue dot feels is not just experienced by that dot alone. The orange vibrations are also experienced by the orange dot from which they extended beyond and all the other dots that are adjacent to it. Conversely, all of these dots also experience a feeling of light blue that extends beyond the light blue dot. These dots not only mutually and simultaneously encounter a feeling of orangeness and light-blueness, they also experience a coupling of these two sensations.
In order for this coupling of sensation to occur, the orange and light blue vibrations must encounter each other, generating what Whitehead calls contrast. Contrast is not simply the expression of an opposition between two juxtaposed colour qualities or eternal objects. For Whitehead, contrast is much more productive because “in each antithesis there is a shift of meaning which converts the opposition into a contrast” (1978: 348). When two eternal objects encounter each other, such as the vibrations of orange and light blue in Seurat’s painting, it is not the fact that they are juxtaposed or opposites that determines the occurrence of a specific contrast. Rather, it is the encounter itself that enables a contrast to emerge. This is because the specific encounter between two eternal objects enables them to generate an experience that exceeds their singular qualities. As Whitehead explains, contrast is “the particularity of conjoint unity which arises from the realized togetherness of eternal objects” (1978: 229). In order for a contrast to occur in the encounter between the orange and light blue dots in La Grande Jatte, both dots will have to feel the vibrations of the colour orange and light blue. Both will have a simultaneous experience of “orangeness” and “light-blueness.” In this shared encounter of vibratory colour qualities, an orange-light-blue contrast enters into the experience of the dots. When this orange-light-blue contrast is encountered, a coupling sensation of orange-light-blueness is generated and felt.
As the plethora of dots that fill La Grande Jatte experience the colour vibrations extending beyond themselves and their neighbours, innumerable contrasts emerge for the encountering. These occurrences of contrast enable a sharing of qualities between the dots, generating countless couplings of sensation that are felt throughout the painting. These couplings of sensation are not only felt by the dots, but are also experienced by the viewers of Seurat’s painting as they gaze upon the canvas. Like the dots, viewers experience more than just the singular elasticity of each colour vibration. They encounter the emergent contrasts and the couplings of sensation these vibrations generate. But unlike the dots, which can only feel contrasts and couplings of sensation, viewers are able to have a more complex encounter with La Grande Jatte through the activity of sight. Out of the imperceptible occurrences of contrast and colour vibration, the dynamism of a bustling Sunday afternoon in late nineteenth century France is made for perception.
Despite the viewers’ inability to directly perceive all the occurrences of colour vibration, contrast and couplings of sensation, it is important to note how vital contrast to visual experience. This is because it is contrast that provides the potential for perceptible event to occur. As Whitehead states, “a felt ‘contrary’ is consciousness in germ” (1978: 188). Contrast activates the perceptual complexity inherent to colour, enabling felt vibrations to emerge into experience and generate the more-than-perceptible vitality viewers feel in the seeing when gazing upon La Grande Jatte. Whitehead goes on to say that “the aesthetic feelings, whereby there is pictorial art, are nothing else than products of the contrasts latent in a variety of colours qualifying emotion, contrasts which are made possible by their patterned relevance to each other” (Whitehead 1978: 162). The emergent contrasts in Seurat’s painting generate the brimming vitality felt in the seeing. Without these specific contrasts of colour vibrations, it would be impossible to coax the dynamic potential out of this work and give La Grande Jatte its lively movement felt in
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Crary, Jonathan. 1990. “Seurat’s Modernity.” in Ellen Wardell Lee. Seurat at Gravelines: The Last Landscapes. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 61-67.
Deleuze, Gilles. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Trans. Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Fénéon, Félix. 1966. “The Impressionist in 1886 (Eighth Impressionists Exhibition).” Impressionism and Post-Impressionism 1874-1904: Sources and Documents. Ed. Linda Nochin. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 108-110.
Goodman, Steve. 2010. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Massumi, Brian. 2011. Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Whitehead, Alfred North. 1978. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. Corrected Edition. Eds. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne. New York: The Free Press.
Whitehead, Alfred North. 1985. Symbolism: It’s Meaning and Effect. New York: Fordham University Press.

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