Archive for December, 2011

Václav Havel or Kim Jong-il?

20 December 2011

Ex-president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic Václav Havel died on Sunday; the North-Korean dictator Kim Jong-il’s death was announced on Monday. If you were the Russian President or Prime Minister, who would you express your condolences to first? To the democratically elected representatives of the Czech people who had lost a much loved champion of democracy who led them to freedom in a bloodless revolution, or to Kim Jong-un, the unelected heir to the throne of an unelected dictator who had tormented his people for decades and had been threatening the world with nuclear weapons?  The Kremlin rushed to send its condolences to North Korea, but it has not demonstrated any expression of  sympathy towards the Czech people for the second day running. That tells you everything you need to know about the values of the Russian government of today.

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Tarde’s Monadology and Sociology

20 December 2011

I also can’t believe I missed this. Thanks to Lukas Verburgt for pointing it out. Gabriel Tarde’s Monadology and Sociology now published by the marvellous re.press as open access PDF (1.7 MB).

Latour’s revamped website

20 December 2011

While the new Bruno Latour website is mainly a reorganisation of the content that was already there, there are a few new features that are worth mentioning. First, the list of books has been updated and translations are more easily identifiable. Second, tags have been added to at least some of the books and articles, making it easier to find and identify works that have a common thread running through them. Check out for example the “modes of existence” tag. And third, there is now an RSS feed, so you can subscribe to notifications, every time a new item is added to the website.

The multiple Democracy of Objects

19 December 2011

Levi Bryant’s The Democracy of Objects has now been well and truly published: in HTML, PDF (2.7 MB), and the good old paperback format with Amazon’s Look Inside feature. I’m looking forward to the Kindle edition with readers’ favourite highlights.

Popular Prince and the Wolf quotes

19 December 2011

I might be behind the times but I’ve only just discovered that Amazon had introduced some innovations. Reviews posted on Amazon USA are now copied over directly to other English-language sites, such as Amazon UK. Also, not being a Kindle user, I have only just realised that Amazon lists the most popular sentences readers had highlighted on their Kindles. Here are the most popular highlights for The Prince and the Wolf. Try to guess which ones are by Latour and which one are by Harman :)

“Because if substance is excluded as the way to experience existence, then how many ways are there to subsist? That is what I am interested in.”
Highlighted by 6 Kindle users

“Things oversimplify each other just as much as we do. It’s not a special property of human consciousness to distort the world. Entities will distort each other ipso facto by the mere fact that they relate.”
Highlighted by 6 Kindle users

“Philosophy is not in the business of explaining. This is not at all the same thing. Philosophy is in the business of allowing the explanation to go far enough, to help the explainers to move in the explanatory trajectory but not to provide an explanation.”
Highlighted by 6 Kindle users

“…that any artifact is a form of assembling, of gathering, of ‘thinging’ entities together and that it is absurd to forget the mortals and the gods when describing a piece of hardware, even the most hyper-modern ones.”
Highlighted by 6 Kindle users

“Individual actors for Bruno create time by doing something irreversible.”
Highlighted by 5 Kindle users

“Everything is completely cut off in its own self, and as we will see in a moment, it can’t possibly endure from one instant to the next because it’s so utterly concrete that even the smallest change essentially makes it a new actor…”
Highlighted by 5 Kindle users

“Anything that has an effect on other things is an actor, and hence there’s no difference between physical and non-physical actors. Each actor is a black box containing other actors ad infinitum, and all actors are equally real.”
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users

“Empiricism means that the details of the actual occasions are the important theoretical features that we want to detect.”
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users

“All relation for Latour requires a mediator. Any two things can be linked, but only if something links them.”
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users

“Latour is not distinguishing between substance and aggregates the way that Leibniz did, where a circle of men holding hands cannot possibly be a substance because it is merely an aggregate of many individuals. For Latour every individual is already an aggregate to begin with.”
Highlighted by 3 Kindle users

Material participation

1 December 2011

Economy and Society special issue on “Materials and Devices of the Public,” edited by Noortje Marres & Javier Lezaun (h/t STS Oxford):

This introduction provides an overview of material- or device-centred approaches to the study of public participation, and articulates the theoretical contributions of the four papers that make up this special section. Set against the background of post-Foucauldian perspectives on the material dimensions of citizenship and engagement – perspectives that treat matter as a tacit, constituting force in the organization of collectives and are predominantly concerned with the fabrication of political subjects – we outline an approach that considers material engagement as a distinct mode of performing the public. The question, then, is how objects, devices, settings and materials acquire explicit political capacities, and how they serve to enact material participation as a specific public form. We discuss the connections between social studies of material participation and political theory, and define the contours of an empiricist approach to material publics, one that takes as its central cue that the values and criteria particular to these publics emerge as part of the process of their organization. Finally, we discuss four themes that connect the papers in this special section, namely their focus on (1) mundane technologies, (2) experimental devices and settings for material participation, (3) the dynamic of effort and comfort, and (4) the modes of containment and proliferation that characterize material publics.