Mar. 29th, 2014

ahorbinski: My Marxist-feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.  (marxism + feminism --> posthumanism)
Bibliographic Data: Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy." Public Culture 2, no. 2 (spring 1990): 1-24.

Main Argument: "The crucial point, however, is that the United States is no longer the puppeteer of a world system of images, but is only one node of a complex transnational construction of imaginary landscapes" (4). Moreover, global cultural processes are now organized around what Appadurai terms "the imagination as a social practice," by which he means "a form of work (both in the sense of labor and of culturally organized practice) and a form of negotiation between sties of agency ('individuals') and globally defined fields of possibility. … The imagination is now central to all forms of agency, is itself a social fact, and is the key component of the new global order" (5).

Disjuncture & Difference )

Bibliographic Data: Latour, Bruno. “On Technical Mediation–Philosophy, Sociology, Genealogy.” Common Knowledge 3, no. 2 (1994): 29-64.

Main Argument: Latour talks about the relationship of people and τεχνη in its broadest sense, beginning with the myth of Daedalus and his δαιδαλια, his crafty inventions. As Latour summarizes, "that we are not Machiavellian baboons we owe to technical action," i.e. technical mediation, which is "a form of delegation that allows us to mobilize, during interactions, moves made elsewhere, earlier, by other actants. It is the presence of the past and distant, the presence of nonhuman characters, that frees us, precisely, from interactions" (52). Technique is thus "the socialization of nonhumans" (53). For Latour, then, "responsibility for action must be shared, symmetry restored, and humanity redescribed: not as the sole transcendent cause, but as the mediating mediator" (54).
The mistake of the dualist paradigm was its definition of humanity. Even the shape of humans, our very body, is composed in large part of sociotechnical negotiations and artifacts. To conceive humanity and technology as plat is to wish away humanity: we are sociotechnical animals, and each human interaction is sociotechnical. We are never limited to social ties. We are never faced with objects. This final diagram relocates humanity where we belong–in the crossover, the central column, the possibility of mediating between mediators. (64)
τεχνη και ανθρωπος )

Bibliographic Data: Law, John. “Actor Network Theory and Material Semiotics.” The new Blackwell companion to social theory (2009): 141-58.

Main Argument: Law offers a basic sketch of actor network theory, with the proviso that in some sense abstracting the theory from concrete examples is a betrayal of its first principles, one of which is the fact that there is no knowledge without exemplars. Actor network theory can also be understood as an empirical version of poststructuralism, because its approach "asks us to explore the strategic, relational, and productive character of particular, smaller-scale, heterogeneous actor networks," and thus "it can also be understood as an empirical version of Geilles Delueze's nomadic philosophy," because "both fever to the provisional assembly of productive, heterogeneous, and (this is the crucial point) quite limited forms of ordering located in no larger overall order" (145, 146). Since the early 1990s, actor network theory has moved in certain directions: one, to the idea of enaction or performance, because "we are no longer dealing with construction, social or otherwise: there is no stable prime mover, social or individual, to construct anything, no builder, no puppeteer. …In this heterogeneous world everything plays its part relationally. …all of these assemble and together enact a set of practices that make a more or less precarious reality" (151). Another direction is multiplicity, which argues that "most of the time and for most purposes practices produce chronic multiplicity. They may dovetail together, but equally they may be held apart, contradict, or include other another in complex ways" (152). A related notion is that of fluidity, which holds that objects may reconfigure themselves, that different realties may be loosely rather than rigidly associated, and that we do not have to imagine a single actor network. The point of all of this is that
This new material semiotics insists that the stories of social theory are performative, not innocent. It also assumes that reality is not destiny. With great difficulty what is real may be remade. And it is with this thought, the possibility and the difficulty of living and doing the real, that I end. … But, and this is the crucial point, the two are only partially connected: goods and reals cannot be reduced to each other. An act of political will can never, by itself, overturn the endless and partially connected webs that enact the real. Deconstruction is not enough. Indeed, it is trivial. The conclusion is inescapable: as we write we have a simultaneous responsibility both to the real and to the good. Such is the challenge faced by this diasporic material semiotics. To create and recreate ways of working in and on the real while simultaneously working well in and on the good. (155)
Actor Network Theory 1990 and Beyond )

Bibliographic Data: González, Jennifer. “The Appended Subject: Race and Identity as Digital Assemblage.” Race in Cyberspace (2000): 27-50.

Main Argument: González looks at the construction of avatars online [remember that this was well before Web 2.0] through the lens of two art projects and discusses the ways in which all of these examples present the body as an assemblage of parts--parts that can be swapped at will, along with somatic markers of racial and ethnic identity--as examples of "appended subjects," which she defines multiply as "comprised of appendages…or that of a subject or person who is defined by a relation of supplementarity," or "an object constituted by electronic elements serving as a psychic or bodily appendage, an artificial subjectivity that is attached to a supposed original or unitary being…In each case a body is constructed or assembled in order to stand in for, or become an extension of, a subject in an artificial but nevertheless inhabited world" (27-28). Drawing on Althusser as interpreted by Joseba Gabilando, González in fact argues that subjects in these arrays are interpolated not just by mimesis but also by position; with the result that "embedded in fantasies of collecting body specimens and creating hybrid subjects is a matrix of desire that seeks to absorb or orchestrate cultural differences" (46). Moreover, "by representing a shifting locus for a distributed subject–radical in the sense that it is perhaps shifting and changing, living, dying and nonessentiallized–the appended subject in the form of an online body also defines a relation to a so-called global interface as primarily one of consumption, not opposition" (47-48).

The appended subject )

Bibliographic Data: Morley, David and Kevin Robins. “Techno-Orientalism: Japan panic." Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes,and Cultural Boundaries (1995): 147-73.

Main Argument: Exoticism of Japan + technologically-inspired anxiety = techno-Orientalism.

Argument, Sources, Examples Japan has always been one of the West's Others, and in the 1980s, Japan seemed to be calling the terms of Western (and particularly American) modernity into question, partly through technological and economic advancement, but also partly through the perception of Japanese culture as fundamentally non-Western, i.e. non-individual ("domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!"). The trick, however, is that "the West both needs and wants its Japan problem," which of course is the point of Orientalism: the West constructed a mirror in which it could see itself in reverse and thereby construct itself as the obverse, with little if any reference to the actual "Orient." Another wrinkle comes from the fact that the West constructed itself as "modern," whereas Japan was the first society to achieve visible postmodernity, thus figuring postmodernity as other when in fact it is/was/shall be us. In other words, "what Japan has done is to call into question the supposed centrality of the West as a cultural and geographical locus for the project of modernity. It has also condoned the assumption that modernity can only be circulated through the forms the West has constructed" (160). The twist of techno-Orientalism, however, is that the association of high technology with Japan/eseness now serves "to reinforce the image of a culture that is cold, impersonal and machine-like, an authoritarian culture lacking emotional connection to the rest of the world" (169).

Further reading: Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age; Said, Orientalism; [personal profile] synecdochic, "Why Monetizing Social Media Through Advertising Is Doomed To Failure, Parts 1-3"; Nakamura, Digitizing Race; Hayles, How We Became Posthuman

Meta notes: "What you don't know is what the knife does on its own. Your intentions may be good. The knife has intentions, too." – Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass


ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

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