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robertogreco : modernity   39

Nadir Nahdi en Instagram: “I travel all over and notice men around the world in crisis. Lost between duty and modernity, desire and responsibility, disempowerment and…”
"I travel all over and notice men around the world in crisis. Lost between duty and modernity, desire and responsibility, disempowerment and ego, lust and chivalry, emotion and power. All building up to one messy implosion. Took this photo and thought it expresses something I can’t."
modernity  duty  masculinity  2018  photography  disempowerment  ego  chivalry  emotion  power  impotence  lust  desire  responsibility  breakdown  transition  economics  work  labor  purpose  men 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Hossam on Twitter: ""Overpopulation" is one of the most prominent thinly veiled racist (and Capitalist) myths that is accepted by both Conservatives and Liberals alike as some sort of obvious self affirming fact. It's a bunch of Westerners unable to accep
""Overpopulation" is one of the most prominent thinly veiled racist (and Capitalist) myths that is accepted by both Conservatives and Liberals alike as some sort of obvious self affirming fact. It's a bunch of Westerners unable to accept that their over indulgence is destructive.

Who are the people always said to be overpopulating? Now compare that to who the people hoarding all of the resources and causing the biggest issues when it comes to the environment, ecological health, over-consumption/waste of water and food, AND excess breeding of farm animals.

Is the issue the number of people on the planet surpassing the resources available? Or is it that the resources are entirely hoarded by a small percentage of the world population that happens to also be utilizing those resources in tandem with...

the most inhumane, spiritiually deficient, and hedonistic lifestyle/philosophy as a result of modernity? Who are the ones most polluting the planet? The people in Bangladesh who are often a target of slanders of overpopulation or the US and its European morally defunct allies?

I want to add that this lifestyle spearheaded by modernity is of the most destructive in human history. It is literally killing the planet, no other group of people in history can be blamed for causing the destruction of the Earth more than us. NO ONE.

Yet the ones spearheading this destruction have the gall to look back at our predecessors and shame them as being backwards and barbaric, while also lambasting those ppl suffering the consequences of the lack of resources the most and living the most simply as being responsible.

Ppl don't truly understand how disgusting the Overpopulation Myth is, and how immensely racist and emblematic of the same mentality that produced eugenics and results in genocides it is. People who claim to hate genocide and eugenics push this myth with no sense of irony.

I'm definitely writing an article on this for Traversing Tradition, people need to see it for what it is."
overpopulation  population  capitalism  thewest  consumerism  consumption  inequality  overconsumption  waste  modernity  us  europe  eugenics  racism 
march 2018 by robertogreco
Microscopic Colonialism - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
"For much of their history European cities have been unhealthy places. Until the end of the nineteenth century, they were traversed by waves of infection that would thrive in the close assemblage of people and livestock. Urban mortality rates were so great that sustained migration from the countryside was the only way cities could maintain their population levels stable.1

This may seem a distant past now that “health” is understood in opposition either to aging or to diseases, such as cancer, that are non-communicable. Yet, not only do infectious diseases remain a major cause of death outside Western countries, but scientists agree that the number of epidemic events around the world has actually been increasing. Zika and Ebola are only two prominent examples of “emerging infectious diseases” (EID), a definition that was put forward in the 1990s by American virologist Stephen S. Morse.2 It is also widely accepted within biomedical science that there is a strong nexus between EIDs and the material footprint of capitalist processes of extraction and accumulation: mining, logging, and intensive agriculture have the effect of fragmenting wild habitats, increasing the risk of human exposure to pathogens in the wildlife.3

In spite of such evidence, infectious diseases are conspicuously absent from the architectural discourse on urbanization. This arguably stems from a narrow understanding of the “urban,” which is still limited to the scale of the Western city. As Rem Koolhaas and others have argued, our focus on urban cores has made us blind to the human-driven changes that are taking place outside of them—whether in the countryside or in tropical rainforests.

Among the epidemics that are new to the twentieth century, HIV is by far the deadliest. Discovered in 1983, its cumulative death toll currently exceeds thirty million people and shows little sign of abating.4 The history of its appearance—when and how it first became a human virus—exposes the root of the contemporary entanglement between pathogens, humans, and the environment.

Modernity and Health

Contrary to non-communicable diseases, epidemics are a direct function of urbanization: viruses, bacteria, and parasites can propagate only where enough people live close to one another. If a person catches a virus but dies before having a chance to transmit it to someone else, no epidemic will take place. The size, density, and distribution of human settlements are thus crucial in determining how an epidemic spreads. This is why epidemics can only develop in settled societies—nomadic or seminomadic communities are generally too small and far apart for pathogens to spread effectively. Recent evidence indicates that it was only after the onset of agriculture and of animal husbandry—around 10,000 years ago—that epidemics became a regular presence in human history.5"
andreabagnato  2017  colonialism  civilization  cities  disease  remkoolhaas  ebola  hiv  zika  health  urban  urbanism  density  entanglement  pathogens  modernity  nomads  nomadism  epidemics  settlements  history  urbanization  viruses  bacteria  society 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Memories of Underdevelopment | Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
"In collaboration with Museo Jumex in Mexico City and the Museo de Arte de Lima, MCASD will present an exhibition examining the ways in which Latin American artists from the 1960s to the 1980s responded to the unraveling of the utopian promise of modernization after World War II, most notably in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela. In the immediate postwar period, artists had eagerly embraced the “transition to modernity,” creating a new abstract geometric language meant to capture its idealistic possibilities. As modernization failed, and political oppression and brutal military dictatorships followed, avant-garde artists increasingly abandoned abstraction and sought new ways to connect with the public, engaging directly with communities and often incorporating popular strategies from film, theater, and architecture into their work. Memories of Underdevelopment will be the first significant survey exhibition of these crucial decades and will highlight the work not only of well-known artists such as Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Pape but also lesser-known artists from Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Uruguay.

Memories of Underdevelopment is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in partnership with the Museo de Arte de Lima and the Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo. Lead support is provided through grants from the Getty Foundation. Additional support provided through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. This project has received generous underwriting support from Maryanne and Irwin Pfister and the LLWW Foundation. Institutional support of MCASD is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund."
colombia  chile  uruguay  brazil  brasil  mexico  venezuela  latinamerica  argentina  héliooiticica  lygiapape  modernity  development  mcasd  tosee  togo  1960s  1970s  1980s  art  architecture  perú 
august 2017 by robertogreco
I'm Nowhere In-between: Why we need 'seriously uncool' criticism in education - Long View on Education
"You know those t-charts that divide approaches to education into the old and the new? Of course you do. And I bet that were we both to take five minutes to reproduce one from memory, we would come up with roughly the same list. All we’d need to do then is choose a side. Or perhaps stake out a position somewhere in the middle, a blend of the two. Nothing too extreme.

Let me show you one from nearly 100 years ago. In 1925, May R. Pringle experimented with ‘the project method’, which we would now call ‘Project Based Learning’.1


I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about how we need to be critical of the list of ‘the new and modern’ because it’s always backed by a corporate push. But that’s not why progressive educators find the list seductive. The very terms themselves act as a siren call to anyone who wants a more humane education for children: creative, student-centered, open, flexible, collaboration, choice. We are told that these are the qualities that schools kill and that CEOs would kill for.

But here is the problem. What if CEOs started to call for qualities that ran against our progressive values? In a report by The Economist (and sponsored by Google), Emiliana Vega, “chief of the Education Division, Inter- American Development Bank”, describes the kind of skills that he wishes schools would instill:
“In Latin America, socio- emotional skills are a big part of the gap between what employers need and what young people have. For example, tourism companies need people who will smile and be polite to guests, and often graduates just don’t possess those public- facing techniques.”

Think about that for a minute.

But opposing this new ‘skills agenda’ doesn’t mean that I’m a traditionalist or trying to cut a middle ground. My teaching is most certainly not some kind of ‘back to basics’ or mindless self-medicating prescribed by the ‘what works’ gurus.

The ‘what works’ agenda holds it’s own kind of seduction for self-fashioned rationalists in the vein of Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, who somehow manage to hold onto the Modern faith in science as if most of the 20th century never happened. Geert Lovink sums up that limited critical terrain by looking at the work of Nick Carr, who often criticizes technology because of the effect it has on our cognition:
“Carr and others cleverly exploit the Anglo-American obsession with anything related to the mind, brain and consciousness – mainstream science reporting cannot get enough of it. A thorough economic (let alone Marxist) analysis of Google and the free and open complex is seriously uncool. It seems that the cultural critics will have to sing along with the Daniel Dennetts of this world (loosely gathered on in order to communicate their concerns.”

Most of the ‘seriously uncool’ criticism of the project of Modernity has exploded the dichotomies that the destructive myth of ‘rational’ and ‘objective’ scientific ‘progress’ rested on. While we might lament that teachers do not read enough research, we can’t mistake that research for a neutral, apolitical body of knowledge.

Allow me to use a famous study to illustrate my point. Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer’s ‘The Pen Is Mightier than the Keyboard’ (2014) seems to show that writing notes with pen and paper boosts retention and understanding of information compared to typing notes on a computer. In their study, the participants watched TED talks and took notes, completed distractor tasks, and about 30 minutes later answered questions. In one condition, the test was delayed by a week and some participants were allowed to study their notes for 10 minutes before taking the test. The TED talks were intentionally disconnected from any larger project they were learning about.

So rationally and scientifically speaking, we should have students take notes with pen and paper, right?

Yet, the study itself is not neutral with respect to pedagogy since it contains many in-built assumptions about how we should teach: we can say that the pen is mightier than the keyboard under the controlled conditions when students watch a short lecture once, about a topic they are not in the course of studying, when they are not permitted to take the notes home and perform more work with them, and when the assessment of knowledge uses short answer questions divorced from a meaningful purpose or complex project.

Is that how we want to teach? Would a democratic conversation about schools endorse that pedagogy?

In the lab, scientists try to reduce the complexity and heterogeneity in networks – to purify them – so as to create controlled conditions. Subjects and treatments are standardized so they become comparable. Drawing on systems theory, Gert Biesta argues that schools – like all institutions and our social life more broadly – engage in a kind of complexity reduction. We group children into grades and classes, start and end the day at the same time, in order to reduce “the number of available options for action for the elements of a system” which can “make a quick and smooth operation possible”.

Reducing options for action is neither good nor bad in itself, but it is always an issue of politics and power. So, cognitive science is no more a neutral guide than CEOs. As Biesta writes, “The issue, after all is, who has the power to reduce options for action for whom.”

Reliance on only ‘what works’ is a kind of complexity reduction that would eliminate the need for professional judgement. Biesta worries about the “democratic deficit” that results from “the uptake of the idea of evidence-based practice in education”. It’s a conversation stopper, much like relying on CEOs to provide us with the ‘skills of the future’ also raises the issue of a ‘democratic deficit’ and questions about who has power.

I’m not writing this because I feel like what I have to say is completely new, but because I feel like I need to affirm a commitment to the project of critical pedagogy, which does not rest somewhere in the middle of a t-chart. Critical pedagogy embraces hybridity over purification. Our classrooms should emphasize the very heterogeneity in networks in all their variation and glory that experiments – and corporations – seek to eliminate.2

If I’m nowhere in-between, I’m certainly not the first nor alone.

In Teaching to Transgress (1994), bell hooks tells us that “talking about pedagogy, thinking about it critically, is not the intellectual work that most folks think is hip and cool.” Yes, we still need more of that ‘seriously uncool’ critical work if education is to work in the service of freedom. hooks writes, “Ideally, education should be a place where the need for diverse teaching methods and styles would be valued, encouraged, seen as essential to learning.”

There’s lots of reason to think that the social media discussion of education is not a kind of paradise. But as hooks reminds us,
“…learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”3
benjamindoxtdator  2017  dichotomies  dichotomy  spectrums  projectbasedlearning  bellhooks  criticalpedagogy  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  hybridity  purity  teaching  leaning  unschooling  deschooling  progressive  schools  freedom  homogeneity  heterogeneity  mayrpringle  history  modernity  emilianavega  richarddawkins  danieldennett  faith  geertlovink  criticism  criticalthinking  technology  pammueller  danieloppenheimer  tedtalks  democracy  democratic  gertbiesta  systemstheory  diversity  complexity  simplicity  agesegregation  efficiency  politics  power  authority  networks  possibility  nicholascarr 
july 2017 by robertogreco
crap futures — Back to nature
"We live on a remote island - mountainous, mid-Atlantic, still heavily forested and pretty wild - and for that reason nature sometimes sneaks into our otherwise technology-centred work. It is hard not to think local when you live in a place like this. We’re neither farmers nor pioneers - except in the sense that resident aliens on this island are few - but lately our reading has got us thinking about ancient paths and rural places. We’ll discuss the paths today and save most of the farm talk for a future post.

Paths v roads

In his 1969 essay ‘A Native Hill’, Wendell Berry - the American writer, farmer, activist, and ‘modern Thoreau’ - makes a useful distinction between paths and roads:
The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around. A road, on the other hand … embodies a resistance against the landscape. Its reason is not simply the necessity for movement, but haste. Its wish is to avoid contact with the landscape. … It is destructive, seeking to remove or destroy all obstacles in its way.

Aside from conversation as usual, the reason we are talking about Berry is the arrival of a new film, Look & See, and a new collection of his writing, The World-Ending Fire, edited by Paul Kingsnorth of Dark Mountain Project fame. Berry and Kingsnorth, along with the economist Kate Raworth, were on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week recently chatting about the coming apocalypse and how it might best be avoided. It is a fascinating interview: you can actually hear Berry’s rocking chair creaking and the crows cawing outside the window of his house in Port Royal, Kentucky.

The normally optimistic Berry agrees somewhat crankily to read ‘the poem that you asked me to read’ on the programme. ‘Sabbaths 1989’ describes roads to the future as going nowhere: ‘roads strung everywhere with humming wire. / Nowhere is there an end except in smoke. / This is the world that we have set on fire.’ Berry admits that this poem is about as gloomy as he gets (‘blessed are / The dead who died before this time began’). For the most part his writing is constructive: forming a sensual response to cold, atomised modernity; advocating for conviviality, community, the commonweal.

Paul Kingsnorth talks compellingly in the same programme about transforming protest into action, although in truth no one walks the walk like Berry. Kingsnorth says: ‘We’re all complicit in the things we oppose’ - and never were truer words spoken, from our iPhones to our energy use. In terms of design practice, there are worse goals than reducing our level of complicity in environmental harm and empty consumerism. Like Berry, Kingsnorth talks about paths and roads. He asks: ‘Why should we destroy an ancient forest to cut twelve minutes off a car journey from London to Southampton? Is that a good deal?’

It’s a fair question. It also illustrates perfectly what Berry was describing in the passage that started this post: the difference between paths that blend and coexist with the local landscape, preserving the knowledge and history of the land, and roads that cut straight through it. These roads are like a destructive and ill-fitting grid imposed from the centre onto the periphery, without attention to the local terrain or ecology or ways of doing things - both literally (in the case of energy) and figuratively.

Another book we read recently, Holloway, describes ancient paths - specifically the ‘holloways’ of South Dorset - in similar terms:
They are landmarks that speak of habit rather than of suddenness. Like creases in the hand, or the wear on the stone sill of a doorstep or stair, they are the result of repeated human actions. Their age chastens without crushing. They relate to other old paths & tracks in the landscape - ways that still connect place to place & person to person.

Holloways are paths sunk deep into the landscape and into the local history. Roads, in contrast, skip over the local - collapsing time as they move us from one place to the next without, as it were, touching the ground. They alienate us in our comfort.

Here in Madeira there are endless footpaths broken through the woods. Still more unique are the levadas, the irrigation channels that run for more than two thousand kilometres back and forth across the island, having been brought to Portugal from antecedents in Moorish aqueduct systems and adapted to the specific terrain and agricultural needs of Madeira starting in the sixteenth century.

Both the pathways through the ancient laurel forests and the centuries-old levadas (which, though engineered, were cut by hand and still follow the contours and logic of the landscape) contrast with the highways and tunnels that represent a newer feat of human engineering since the 1970s. During his controversial though undeniably successful reign from 1978 to 2015 - he was elected President of Madeira a remarkable ten times - Alberto João Jardim oversaw a massive infrastructure program that completely transformed the island. Places that used to be virtually unreachable became accessible by a short drive. His legacy, in part, is a culture of automobile dependency that is second to none. The American highway system inspired by Norman Bel Geddes’ (and General Motors’) Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair almost pales in comparison to Jardim’s vision for the rapid modernisation of Madeira.

But when you walk the diesel-scented streets of the capital, or you drive through the holes bored deep into and out of towering volcanic mountains to reach the airport - and even when you think back in history and imagine those first settlers sitting in their ships as half the island’s forest burned, watching the dense smoke of the fires they lit to make Madeira favourable to human habitation - it’s hard not to think what a catastrophically invasive species are human beings.

Bespoke is a word we use a lot. In our vocabulary bespoke is not about luxury or excess - as it has been co-opted by consumer capitalism to suggest. Instead it is about tailored solutions, fitted to the contours of a particular body or landscape. Wendell Berry insists on the role of aesthetics and proportionality in his approach to environmentalism: the goal is not hillsides covered in rows of ugly solar panels, but an integrated and deep and loving relationship with the land. This insistence on aesthetics relates to the ‘reconfiguring’ principles that inform our newest work. The gravity batteries we’ve been building are an alternative not only to the imposed, top-down infrastructure of the grid, but also to the massive scale of such solutions and our desire to work with the terrain rather than against it.

Naomi Klein talked about renewable energy in these terms in an interview a couple of years ago:
If you go back and look at the way fossil fuels were marketed in the 1700s, when coal was first commercialized with the Watt steam engine, the great promise of coal was that it liberated humans from nature … And that was, it turns out, a lie. We never transcended nature, and that I think is what is so challenging about climate change, not just to capitalism but to our core civilizational myth. Because this is nature going, ‘You thought you were in charge? Actually all that coal you’ve been burning all these years has been building up in the atmosphere and trapping heat, and now comes the response.’ … Renewable energy puts us back in dialog with nature. We have to think about when the wind blows, we have to think about where the sun shines, we cannot pretend that place and space don’t matter. We are back in the world.

In a future post we will talk about the related subject of sustainable agriculture. But speaking of food - the time has come for our toast and coffee.
2017  crapfutures  wendellberry  paths  roads  madeira  bespoke  tailoring  audiencesofone  naomiklein  sustainability  earth  normanbelgeddes  albertojoãojardim  levadas  infrastructure  permanence  capitalism  energy  technology  technosolutionsism  1969  obstacles  destruction  habits  knowledge  place  placemaking  experience  familiarity  experientialeducation  kateraworth  paulkingsnorth  darkmountainproject  modernity  modernism  holloways  nature  landscape  cars  transportation  consumerism  consumercapitalism  reconfiguration  domination  atmosphere  environment  dialog  conviviality  community  commonweal  invasivespecies  excess  humans  futurama  ecology  canon  experientiallearning 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Parliament of Things: Into Latour and His Philosophy
"Researching the conversations between Things, Animals, Plants and People and design the House of The Parliament of Things."

"The Parliament of Things is a speculative research into the emancipation of animals and things. It acknowledges that mankind has reached the end of an anthropocentric world. We can no longer maintain the distorted dichotomy between culture and nature. We share this world with many. Law should not be centred around Men, but around Life. We are just one party, among all animals, plants and objects. What if we welcome all things into our Parliament? What would be the plight of the planet? The reasoning of a fish? What claims would trees make, and what future would oil see for itself?

Do you you want to join? Send us an e-mail:

We at Partizan Publik have invented the Parliament and are playing the role of clerk by bringing it to you. The writer’s contest was a collaborative project that was organized by several partners. In the winter and spring of 2016 we invite several organizations to build the Parliament with us."

"We Have Never Been Modern and the Parliament of Things


In We Have Never Been Modern (1991) Bruno Latour criticizes the distinction between nature and society. He states that our sciences emphasize the subject-object and nature-culture dichotomies, whereas in actuality, phenomenons often cross these lines. As an example, he mentions the hole in the ozone layer, and the different ways the sciences should look at it: ‘Can anyone imagine a study that would treat the ozone hole as simultaneously naturalized, sociologized and deconstucted?’ (6). With this mentioning of the hole in the ozone layer (as well as, among other things, computer chips, Monsanto, and aids) he gives an example of things or phenomena that are not merely objects, but that are hybrids between nature and culture.

With regards to the title of this work, Latour argues that this dualism between subject and object is a ‘modern’ mode of classification, and that this modern mode does not actually correspond with the practical ways in which we live. Thus, this modern dualism actually has never existed: we have never been modern.

The Constitution

‘Modernity is often defined in terms of humanism, either as a way of saluting the birth of ‘man’ or as a way of announcing his death. But this habit itself is modern, because (…) [i]t overlooks the simultaneous birth of ‘nonhumanity’ – things, or objects, or beasts (…)’ (13)

In this chapter, the question at hand is about the constitution. ‘Who is to write the full constitution?’, Latour asks (14). For political constitutions, this is normally done by jurists and Founding Fathers; for the nature of things, this is the task of scientists. But, if we want to include hybrids as well, who is going to write the complete constitution?

Latour calls this complete constitution the ‘Constitution’ with a capital C, to distinguish it from the political one. It defines ‘humans and nonhumans, their properties and their relations, their abilities and their groupings’ (14).

Hobbes & Boyle

When discussing the separation between science and politics, Latour uses the dispute between Robert Boyle and Thomas Hobbes as an example. Boyle can be seen as the founder of modern science – he developed the methodology in which scientists observe a phenomenon produced artificially in a laboratory (in Boyle’s case, the workings of a vacuum pump, in our case, for example, CERN).

Hobbes, on the other hand, rejected this manner of analysis, and focused on theorizing social and political order in terms of human conflicts and agreements. ‘Boyle and Hobbes, then, jointly constructed the program for purifying the discourses of nature and society – expunging from each the traces of the other’ (Pickering). This distinction between science and politics is not just typical for ‘modernity’, but actually defines it, as Latour argues: ‘they are inventing our modern world, a world in which the representation of things through the intermediary of the laboratory is forever dissociated from the representation of citizens through the intermediary of the social contract’ (Latour 27).


Latour established that the modern constitution ‘invents a separation between scientific power charged with representing things and the political power charged with representing subjects’ (29). However, he states we should not think that subjects are far removed from things. Even though Hobbes and Boyle create this distinction, they still speak about the same things: God, the politics of the King of England, nature, mathematics, and spirits and angels, to name a few. It becomes clear that in practice, this separation between science and politics, and nature and culture, does not hold. As Latour states:

Here lies the entire modern paradox. If we consider hybrids, we are dealing only with mixtures of nature and culture; if we consider the work of purification, we confront a total separation between nature and culture.’ (30)

The paradox of modernity, thus, is that we divided the world into two groups –

nature (science) and culture (politics) – but at the same time, in our daily lives, we constantly deal with hybrids between these two groups. But this division renders ‘the work of mediation that assembles hybrids invisible, unthinkable, unrepresentable’ (35). As Latour succinctly puts it: ‘the modern constitution allows the expanded proliferation of the hybrids whose existence, whose very possibility, it denies’ (35).

We Have Never Been Modern

‘Modernity has never begun’, Latour argues. Instead, he calls himself a ‘nonmodern’: ‘A nonmodern is anyone who takes simultaneously into account the moderns’ Constitution and the population of hybrids that that Constitution rejects and allows to proliferate’ (47). He states that hybrids – also called monsters, cyborgs, tricksters – are ‘just about everything; they compose not only our own collectives but also the others, illegitimately called premodern’ (47). So only minor changes separate our era from the periods that were before, Latour states.


In this part, Latour discusses the action that has to be undertaken to acknowledge the existence and the importance of hybrids:

When the only thing at stake was the emergence of a few vacuum pumps, they could still be subsumed under two classes, that of natural laws and that of political representations; but when we find ourselves invaded by frozen embryos, expert systems, digital machines, sensor-equipped robots, hybrid corn, data banks, psychotropic drugs, whales outfitted with radar sounding devices, gene synthesizers, audience analyzers, and so on, when our daily newspapers display all these monsters on page after page, and when none of these chimera can be properly on the object side or on the subject side, or even in between, something has to be done. (50)

Latour calls for the need to outline a space that encompasses both the practice of purification as well as that of mediation. ‘By deploying both dimensions at once, we may be able to accomodate the hybrids and give them a place, a name, a home, a philosophy, an ontology and, I hope, a new constitution’ (51).


Latour tries to locate the position of hybrids, quasi-objects and quasi-subjects by first problematizing the status of the social scientist. He argues that the social scientist, on the one hand, shows that ‘the power of gods, the objectivity of money, the attraction of fashion (…)’ have no intrinsic value, but ‘offer only a surface for the projection of our social needs and interests’ (52). To become a social scientist, Latour states, ‘is to realize that the inner properties of objects do not count, that they are mere receptacles for human categories’ (52).

On the other hand, social scientists also debunk the belief in the freedom of the human subject: they show how the ‘nature of things (…) determines, informs and moulds’ humans (53). So, Latour states that the social scientist ‘see[s] double’:

In the first denunciation, objects count for nothing; they are just there to be used as the white screens on to which society projects its cinema. But in the second, they are so powerful that they shape the human society, while the social construction of the sciences that have produced them remains invisible. (53)

The solution to these contradictory beliefs is dualism, much to Latour’s disapproval. The nature pole is divided into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ parts, the same partition is made for the subject/society pole. ‘Dualism may be a poor solution, but it provided 99 per cent of the social sciences’ critical repertoire’ (54).

Latour, instead, states objects are society’s co-producters. ‘Is not society built literally – not metaphorically – of gods, machines, sciences, arts and styles?’ (54). He argues we should not focus too much on dialectics, as dialectics foreground the existing dichotomies; instead, he focuses on quasi-objects.

Quasi-objects are in between and below the two poles (…) [and] are much more social, much more fabricated, much more collective than the ‘hard’ parts of nature (…), [yet] they are much more real, nonhuman and objective than those shapeless screens on which society (…) needed to be ‘projected’. (55)

By focusing on the two poles rather than on that what is in between, ‘science studies have forced everyone to rethink anew the role of objects in the construction of collectives, thus challenging philosophy’ (55).


In this chapter, Latour treats the function of anthropology and the role it might be able to play, as well as the concepts of symmetry and asymmetry. If anthropology is to become symmetrical, ‘the anthropologist has to position himself at the median point where he can follow the attribution of both nonhuman and human properties’ (96).

To analyse this new field of study, anthropology … [more]
multispecies  objects  plants  animals  brunolatour  robertboyle  thomashobbes  hybrids  modernity  nonmodern  modern  quasi-objects  law  biology  anthropology  entertainment  science  architecture  campainging  literature  things  theparliamentofthings 
april 2016 by robertogreco
An American Utopia: Fredric Jameson in Conversation with Stanley Aronowitz - YouTube
"Eminent literary and political theorist Fredric Jameson, of Duke University, gives a new address, followed by a conversation with noted cultural critic Stanely Aronowitz, of the Graduate Center. Jameson, author of Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism and The Political Unconscious, will consider the practicality of the Utopian tradition and its broader implications for cultural production and political institutions. Co-sponsored by the Writers' Institute and the Ph.D. Program in Comparative Literature."

[via: "@timmaughan saw a semi-serious proposal talk from Frederic Jameson a few years ago about just that; the army as social utopia."

"@timmaughan this looks to be a version of it here, in fact: …" ]
fredricjameson  utopia  change  constitution  2014  us  military  education  capitalism  history  culture  society  politics  policy  ecology  williamjames  war  collectivism  crisis  dictators  dictatorship  publicworks  manufacturing  labor  work  unions  postmodernism  revolution  occupywallstreet  ows  systemschange  modernity  cynicism  will  antoniogramsci  revolutionaries  radicals  socialism  imagination  desire  stanelyaronowitz  army  armycorpsofengineers  deleuze&guattari  theory  politicaltheory  gillesdeleuze  anti-intellectualism  radicalism  utopianism  félixguattari  collectivereality  individuals  latecapitalism  collectivity  rousseau  otherness  thestate  population  plurality  multiplicity  anarchism  anarchy  tribes  clans  culturewars  class  inequality  solidarity  economics  karlmarx  marxism  deleuze 
january 2016 by robertogreco
On Having Roots in More than One Place | The American Conservative
"I’m reading Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton right now, and in a particularly interesting passage he — writing in the third person, as he does, annoyingly, through the book — explains why he wrote The Satanic Verses:
The strange truth was that, after two novels that engaged directly with the public history of the Indian subcontinent, he saw this new book as a much more personal, interior exploration, a first attempt to create a work out of his own experience of migration and metamorphosis: To him, it was the least political book of the three.

(The other two books being Midnight’s Children, set in India, and Shame, set in Pakistan.) The Satanic Verses is, in its author’s view, “a personal, interior exploration” in this very important sense:
It was unsettling not to understand why the shape of life had changed. He often felt meaningless, even absurd. He was a Bombay boy who had made his life in London among the English, but often he felt cursed by a double unbelonging. The root of language, at least, remained, but he began to appreciate how deeply he felt the loss of the other roots, and how confused he felt about what he had become. In the age of migration the world’s millions of migrated selves faced colossal problems, problems of homelessness, hunger, unemployment, disease, persecution, alienation, fear. He was one of the luckier ones, but one great problem remained: that of authenticity. The migrated self became, inevitably, heterogeneous instead of homogeneous, belonging to more than one place, multiple rather than singular, responding to more than one way of being, more than averagely mixed up. Was it possible to be — to become good at being — not rootless, but multiply rooted? Not to suffer from a loss of roots but to benefit from an excess of them? The different roots would have to be of equal or near-equal strength, and he worried that his Indian connection had weakened. He needed to make an act of reclamation of the Indian identity he had lost, or felt he was in danger of losing. The self was both its origins and its journey.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and maybe I’ll get a chance to unpack it as I continue reading the book. But let me just note two things right now:

1) Nothing is more important to the modern self that to possess, or to feel that it possesses, authenticity. This manifests itself in a lot of ways, including, most obviously and perhaps superficially, choices about food. For many people there’s no higher commendation of a restaurant than to call it “authentic.” (This used to, and probably still does, drive the great food writer Calvin Trillin nuts. To the claim that a restaurant is “authentic” he would typically reply “No it isn’t.” But then he would ask, “Who cares? What matters is: Was it good? Did you clean your plate?”) A deeper problem is that nothing could be less authentic than thinking about authenticity, as Lionel Trilling noted forty years ago when he wrote a book on this topic that’s still deeply incisive, Sincerity and Authenticity.

2) The question of whether it’s possible to be “multiply rooted” — not rootless, but rooted in different places — is an increasingly insistent one not just for immigrants but for all kinds of people in a transient and mobile world. I have lived in Illinois for much longer than I lived in Alabama, but don’t feel rooted here: is that inevitable? Is that my fault? Have I somehow failed to put down the roots that I should have? Is just being an American, whether in Alabama or Illinois, a sufficiently rooted identity? (Few would say yes. Why not?) Can online identity provide roots? (Some people surely believe that it does.) And why does a felt lack of rootedness bother people, including me?

Things to think about…."
salmanrushdie  writing  identity  culture  authenticity  rootedness  roots  2012  lioneltrilling  food  thirdculturekids  belonging  unbelonging  modernity  alanjacobs  calvintrillin  sincerity  unrootedness  online  web 
october 2015 by robertogreco
[Essay] | The Neoliberal Arts, by William Deresiewicz | Harper's Magazine
"I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.


Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

A spatial structure, the sentence also suggests a temporal sequence. Thinking clearly, it wants us to recognize, leads to thinking independently. Thinking independently leads to living confidently. Living confidently leads to living courageously. Living courageously leads to living hopefully. And the entire chain begins with a college that recognizes it has an obligation to its students, an obligation to develop their abilities to think and live.

Finally, the sentence is attributed to an individual. It expresses her convictions and ideals. It announces that she is prepared to hold herself accountable for certain responsibilities.

The second text is not a sentence. It is four words floating in space, unconnected to one another or to any other concept. Four words — four slogans, really — whose meaning and function are left undefined, open to whatever interpretation the reader cares to project on them.

Four words, three of which — “leadership,” “service,” and “creativity” — are the loudest buzzwords in contemporary higher education. (“Integrity” is presumably intended as a synonym for the more familiar “character,” which for colleges at this point means nothing more than not cheating.) The text is not the statement of an individual; it is the emanation of a bureaucracy. In this case, a literally anonymous bureaucracy: no one could tell me when this version of the institution’s mission statement was formulated, or by whom. No one could even tell me who had decided to hang those banners all over campus. The sentence from the founder has also long been mounted on the college walls. The other words had just appeared, as if enunciated by the zeitgeist.

But the most important thing to note about the second text is what it doesn’t talk about: thinking or learning. In what it both does and doesn’t say, it therefore constitutes an apt reflection of the current state of higher education. College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.

This is education in the age of neoliberalism. Call it Reaganism or Thatcherism, economism or market fundamentalism, neoliberalism is an ideology that reduces all values to money values. The worth of a thing is the price of the thing. The worth of a person is the wealth of the person. Neoliberalism tells you that you are valuable exclusively in terms of your activity in the marketplace — in Wordsworth’s phrase, your getting and spending.

The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers. I published a book last year that said that, by and large, elite American universities no longer provide their students with a real education, one that addresses them as complete human beings rather than as future specialists — that enables them, as I put it, to build a self or (following Keats) to become a soul. Of all the responses the book aroused, the most dismaying was this: that so many individuals associated with those institutions said not, “Of course we provide our students with a real education,” but rather, “What is this ‘real education’ nonsense, anyway?”"

"So what’s so bad about leadership, service, and creativity? What’s bad about them is that, as they’re understood on campus and beyond, they are all encased in neoliberal assumptions. Neoliberalism, which dovetails perfectly with meritocracy, has generated a caste system: “winners and losers,” “makers and takers,” “the best and the brightest,” the whole gospel of Ayn Rand and her Übermenschen. That’s what “leadership” is finally about. There are leaders, and then there is everyone else: the led, presumably — the followers, the little people. Leaders get things done; leaders take command. When colleges promise to make their students leaders, they’re telling them they’re going to be in charge.

“Service” is what the winners engage in when they find themselves in a benevolent mood. Call it Clintonism, by analogy with Reaganism. Bill Clinton not only ratified the neoliberal consensus as president, he has extended its logic as a former president. Reaganism means the affluent have all the money, as well as all the power. Clintonism means they use their money and power, or a bit of it, to help the less fortunate — because the less fortunate (i.e., the losers) can’t help themselves. Hence the Clinton Foundation, hence every philanthropic or altruistic endeavor on the part of highly privileged, highly credentialed, highly resourced elites, including all those nonprofits or socially conscious for-profits that college students start or dream of starting.

“Creativity,” meanwhile, is basically a business concept, aligned with the other clichés that have come to us from the management schools by way of Silicon Valley: “disruption,” “innovation,” “transformation.” “Creativity” is not about becoming an artist. No one wants you to become an artist. It’s about devising “innovative” products, services, and techniques — “solutions,” which imply that you already know the problem. “Creativity” means design thinking, in the terms articulated by the writer Amy Whitaker, not art thinking: getting from A to a predetermined B, not engaging in an open-ended exploratory process in the course of which you discover the B.

Leadership, service, and creativity do not seek fundamental change (remember, fundamental change is out in neoliberalism); they seek technological or technocratic change within a static social framework, within a market framework. Which is really too bad, because the biggest challenges we face — climate change, resource depletion, the disappearance of work in the face of automation — will require nothing less than fundamental change, a new organization of society. If there was ever a time that we needed young people to imagine a different world, that time is now.

We have always been, in the United States, what Lionel Trilling called a business civilization. But we have also always had a range of counterbalancing institutions, countercultural institutions, to advance a different set of values: the churches, the arts, the democratic tradition itself. When the pendulum has swung too far in one direction (and it’s always the same direction), new institutions or movements have emerged, or old ones have renewed their mission. Education in general, and higher education in particular, has always been one of those institutions. But now the market has become so powerful that it’s swallowing the very things that are supposed to keep it in check. Artists are becoming “creatives.” Journalism has become “the media.” Government is bought and paid for. The prosperity gospel has arisen as one of the most prominent movements in American Christianity. And colleges and universities are acting like businesses, and in the service of businesses.

What is to be done? Those very same WASP aristocrats — enough of them, at least, including several presidents of Harvard and Yale — when facing the failure of their own class in the form of the Great Depression, succeeded in superseding themselves and creating a new system, the meritocracy we live with now. But I’m not sure we possess the moral resources to do the same. The WASPs had been taught that leadership meant putting the collective good ahead of your own. But meritocracy means looking out for number one, and neoliberalism doesn’t believe in the collective. As Margaret Thatcher famously said about society, “There’s no such thing. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” As for elite university presidents, they are little more these days than lackeys of the plutocracy, with all the moral stature of the butler in a country house.

Neoliberalism disarms us in another sense as well. For all its rhetoric of freedom and individual initiative, the culture of the market is exceptionally good at inculcating a sense of helplessness. So much of the language around college today, and so much of the negative response to my suggestion that students ought to worry less about pursuing wealth and more about constructing a sense of purpose for themselves, presumes that young people are the passive objects of economic forces. That they have no agency, no options. That they have to do what the market tells them. A Princeton student literally made this argument to me: If the market is incentivizing me to go to Wall Street, he said, then who am I to argue?

I have also had the pleasure, over the past year, of hearing from a lot of people who are pushing back against the dictates of neoliberal education: starting high schools, starting colleges, creating alternatives to high school and college, making documentaries, launching nonprofits, parenting in different ways, conducting their lives in different ways. I welcome these efforts, but none of them address the fundamental problem, which is that we no longer believe in public solutions. We only … [more]
williamderesiewicz  education  highereducation  neoliberalism  capitalism  learning  purpose  stevenpinker  2015  individualism  economics  leadership  missionstatements  courage  confidence  hope  criticalthinking  independence  autonomy  liberalarts  wealth  inequality  citizenship  civics  society  highered  publicpurpose  business  ronaldreagan  billclinton  margaretthatcher  government  media  lioneltrilling  socialgood  creativity  innovation  amywhitaker  service  servicelearning  change  fundamentalchange  systemsthinking  us  civilization  transformation  money  power  aynrand  meritocracy  plutocracy  college  colleges  universities  schools  markets  wallstreet  helplessness  elitism  berniesanders  communitycolleges  aristocracy  reaganism  clintonism  politics  entrepreneurship  volunteerism  rickscott  corporatization  modernity  joshuarothman  greatbooks  1960s  stem  steam  commercialization  davidbrooks 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Nature Rx
"Tired, irritable, stressed out? Try Nature! This non-harmful prescription is shown to relieve the crippling symptoms of modern life. Side effects may include confidence, authenticity, and being in a good mood for no apparent reason."

"CAUTION: Nature may cause you to slow down, quit your job, or seriously consider what the f#%k you are doing with your life."
nature  satire  wellbeing  comedy  life  living  depression  stress  modernity  video 
august 2015 by robertogreco
the blind man's stick - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement, by Lambros Malafouris, is a maddening but also fascinating book that is seriously helping me to think through some of the issues that concern me. Malafouris wants to argue that the human mind is “embodied, extended, enacted, and distributed” — extensive rather than intensive in its fundamental character.

He starts his exploration wonderfully: by considering a thought-experiment that Maurice Merleau-Ponty first posited in his Phenomenology of Perception. Merleau-Ponty asks us to imagine a blind man navigating a city street with a cane. What is the relationship between that cane and the man’s perceptual apparatus? Or, as Gregory Bateson put it in Steps to an Ecology of Mind,
Consider a blind man with a stick. Where does the blind man's self begin? At the tip of the stick? At the handle of the stick? Or at some point halfway up the stick? These questions are nonsense, because the stick is a pathway along which differences are transmitted under transformation, so that to draw a delimiting line across this pathway is to cut off a part of the systemic circuit which determines the blind man's locomotion.

(Bateson does not mention and probably was not aware of Merleau-Ponty.) For Malafouris the example of the blind man’s cane suggests that “what is outside the head may not necessarily be outside the mind.... I see no compelling reason why the study of the mind should stop at the skin or at the skull. It would, I suggest, be more productive to explore the hypothesis that human intelligence ‘spreads out’ beyond the skin into culture and the material world.” Moreover, things in the material world embody intentions and purposes — Malafouris thinks they actually have intentions and purposes, a view I think is misleading and sloppy — and these come to be part of the mind: they don't just influence it, they help constitute it.
I believe this example provides one of the best diachronic exemplars of what I call the gray zone of material engagement, i.e., the zone in which brains, bodies, and things conflate, mutually catalyzing and constituting one another. Mind, as the anthropologist Gregory Bateson pointed out, “is not limited by the skin,” and that is why Bateson was able to recognize the stick as a “pathway” instead of a boundary. Differentiating between “inside” and “outside” makes no real sense for the blind man. As Bateson notes, “the mental characteristics of the system are immanent, not in some part, but in the system as a whole.”

If we were to take this model seriously, then we would need to narrate the rise of modernity differently than we’ve been narrating it — proceeding in a wholly different manner than the three major stories I mentioned in my previous post. Among other things, we’d need to be ready to see the Oppenheimer Principle as having a far stronger motive role in history than is typical.

When I talk this way, some people tell me that they think I'm falling into technological determinism. Not so. Rather, it's a matter of taking with proper seriousness the power that some technologies have to shape culture. And that's not because they think or want, nor because we are their slaves. Rather, people make them for certain purposes, and either those makers themselves have socio-political power or the technologies fall into the hands of people who have socio-political power, so that the technologies are put to work in society. We then have the option to accept the defaults or undertake the difficult challenge of hacking the inherited tools — bending them in a direction unanticipated and unwanted by those who deployed them.

To write the technological history of modernity is to investigate how our predecessors have received the technologies handed to them, or used upon them, by the powerful; and also, perhaps, to investigate how countercultural tech has risen up from below to break up the one-way flow of power. These are things worth knowing for anyone who is uncomfortable with the dominant paradigm we live under now."
alanjacobs  2015  technology  modernity  blind  blindness  lambrosmalafouris  mauricemerleau-ponty  gregorybateson  oppenheimerprinciple  culture  assistivetechnology  disability  mind  materiality  bodies  body  disabilities 
july 2015 by robertogreco
'Care for Our Common Home': Taking Up the Moral Challenge of Pope Francis – Blog – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
"The normalisation of liberal individualism and the unsustainable form of prosperity on which the West has so long relied are, of course, the crowning achievements of what Luigino Bruni calls the "grand 'immunizing' project of modernity." But this project did not simply clear away the tyranny of inherited privilege, thereby returning individuals to themselves and their own acquisitive desires. Instead, this immunity from our obligations to others - what John Rawls more prosaically called the "mutual disinterest" constitutive of the social contract - involved the radical renunciation of the munus: that obliging gift which forms the basis of the social bond that is at the heart of communitas.

In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II captured the essence of this gift in a simple, wondrous sentence: "God entrusts us to one another." Once this munus is renounced, what follows is a hollowed out form of social life, a debased, erstaz community in which, "Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail."

(It is worth pointing out in passing that Pope Francis and John Paul II find an unlikely ally in Julian Savulescu, who shares their critique of the failure of liberalism to produce the kind of citizens that are willing make decisions for the good of others, especially when doing so would run counter to self-interest and immediate benefit: "This restraint of self-interest is the very opposite of the unrestrained satisfaction of it made possible by industrialization and its profusion of material goods, which brought liberal democracy into existence. Liberal democracy has so far been a politics of prosperity, and this induces doubt whether it could turn into a politics of parsimony, voluntary restraint, and decreasing welfare." As a result, Savulescu warns, "contemporary liberal democracies are in the danger of being too liberal to last.")

The great achievement of Pope Francis's encyclical is the way it explicitly deepens and extends the scope of that which has been entrusted to us: our shared environment; the wellbeing of those near and far; the wellbeing of future generations. The language of gift and of what is in common pervades the encyclical, and at once condemns the interpersonal and political indifference that has held sway over the "climate change debate" and exposes the inadequacy of purely technocratic solutions to the problem of environmental degradation.

Implicated in the pope's critique of both interpersonal indifference and a kind of technophilic solutionism is the way that social media cultivates a feeling of concern and even ethical responsibility, all the while shielding us from any real commitment to others."

"For Francis, there is simply no substitute for the recovery of a sense of deep moral obligation - of what he calls at the end of the encyclical "generous commitment" - through which we will then joyfully constrain our behaviour and redefine those benefits to which we feel we are entitled. This is particularly clear when Francis addresses the debilitating political problem of how to galvanise public support for an intergenerational problem like climate change. As Stephen Gardiner has examined at considerable length, the problem is not only that the benefits of carbon pollution are enjoyed by the present generation while the deleterious effects (or "costs") are deferred to some future generation; the iterative nature of the problem ensures that "each new generation will face the same incentive structure as soon as it gains the power to decide whether or not to act."

This, it would seem, is the brute reality behind the myth of progress, and a powerful illustration of C.S. Lewis's extraordinarily prescient claim in his 1943 book The Abolition of Man (which is a favourite of Benedict XVI, interestingly enough). Lewis was, of course, fiercely critical of that heroic liberal narrative of the " progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power.""
popefrancis  2015  laudatosi'  morality  christianity  luiginobruni  modernity  capitalism  interdependence  johnrawls  juliansavulescu  popejohnpaulii  scottstephens  normawirzba  clivehamilton  celiadeane-drummond  charlescamosy  michaelstafford  via:anne  religion  climatechange  ecology  economics  technosolutionism  anthropocene  antropocentrism  individualism  generations  internet  relationships  inequality  power  cslewis  progress  technology  stephengardner  interpersonal  indifference  empathy  responsibility  socialmedia  concern  commitment 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Refugees don’t need our tears. They need us to stop making them refugees | Anders Lustgarten | Comment is free | The Guardian
"Migration illustrates one of the signal features of modern life, which is malice by proxy. Like drones and derivatives, migration policy allows the powerful to inflict horrors on the powerless without getting their hands dirty. James Brokenshire, the minister who defended cutting Mare Nostrum on the nauseatingly hypocritical grounds that it encouraged migration, never has to let the deaths his decision helped to cause spoil his expensive lunch with lobbyists. It doesn’t affect him.

But it does affect us. Right now we are a diminished and reduced society, bristling with suspicion and distrust of others even as we perversely struggle with loneliness and alienation. We breathe the toxic smog of hatred towards immigrants pumped out by Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins, and it makes us lesser people.

Forget the fact that this society wouldn’t work without migrants, that nobody else will pick your vegetables and make your latte and get up at 4am to clean your office. Forget the massive tax contribution made by migrants to the Treasury. This is not about economics. Far too often, even the positive takes on migration are driven by numbers and finance, by “What can they do for us?”. This is about two things: compassion and responsibility.

Lampedusa, my play currently running at the Soho Theatre, focuses on two people at the sharp end of austerity Europe. Stefano is a coastguard whose job is to fish dead migrants out of the sea. Denise is a collector for a payday loan company. They’re not liberals. They don’t like the people they deal with. They can’t afford to. As Stefano says: “You try to keep them at arm’s length. There’s too many of them. And it makes you think, about the randomness of I get to walk these streets, and he doesn’t. The ground becomes ocean under your feet.”

But eventually, the human impact of what they do breaks through. And in their consequent struggles, both Stefano and Denise are aided by a friendship, reluctant and questioning, with someone they formerly thought of as a burden. This is compassion not as a lofty feeling for someone beneath you, but as the raw reciprocal necessity of human beings who have nothing but each other. This is where we are in the utterly corrupted, co-opted politics of the early 21st century. The powerful don’t give a shit. All we have is us.

But equally important is responsibility. In all the rage about migration, one thing is never discussed: what we do to cause it. A report published this week by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveals that the World Bank displaced a staggering 3.4 million people in the last five years. By funding privatisations, land grabs and dams, by backing companies and governments accused of rape, murder and torture, and by putting $50bn into projects graded highest risk for “irreversible and unprecedented” social impacts, the World Bank has massively contributed to the flow of impoverished people across the globe. The single biggest thing we could do to stop migration is to abolish the development mafia: the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

A very close second is to stop bombing the Middle East. The west destroyed the infrastructure of Libya without any clue as to what would replace it. What has is a vacuum state run by warlords that is now the centre of Mediterranean people-smuggling. We’re right behind the Sisi regime in Egypt that is eradicating the Arab spring, cracking down on Muslims and privatising infrastructure at a rate of knots, all of which pushes huge numbers of people on to the boats. Our past work in Somalia, Syria and Iraq means those nationalities are top of the migrant list.

Not all migration is caused by the west, of course. But let’s have a real conversation about the part that is. Let’s have a real conversation about our ageing demographic and the massive skills shortage here, what it means for overstretched public services if we let migrants in (we’d need to raise money to meet increased demand, and the clearest and fairest way is a rise in taxes on the rich), the ethics of taking the cream of the crop from poor countries. Migration is a complex subject. But let’s not be cowards and pretend the migrants will stop coming. Because they won’t. This will never stop."
migration  refugees  2015  malice  immigration  modernity  borders  compassion  responsibility  anderslustgarten  europe  eu  somalia  syria  africa  middleast  demographics  aging  ethics  morality  poverty  economics  iraq 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and the Importance of the Interior « Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities
“The French have become masters in the art of being happy among ‘small things,’ within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot, extending to these things a care and tenderness which, in a world where rapid industrialization constantly kills off the things of yesterday to produce today’s objects, may even appear to be the world’s last, purely humane corner.”

-- Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

During my first reading of Arendt’s The Human Condition, this particular quote attracted my attention, probably since I’m trained as an architect and sensible to these kind of imaginable, tangible examples. (I must also mention the very nice and almost poetic rhythm in the ‘construction’ of the sentences quoted above). The passage immediately reminded me of the famous text “Paris: Capital of the Nineteenth Century,” in which Walter Benjamin, among other things, links the importance of the domestic interior to the emerging impact of industrialization on the working people. Through the mutability of modernity, as symbolised by the arcades with their cast-iron constructions, Benjamin argues that the interior comes into conscious being to the extent that our life, work, and surroundings change. The interior of domestic life originates in the need for a place of one’s own: a small but personal haven in a turbulent world that is subject to constant change.

Acknowledging this development, the modern individual found himself confronting a new separation between living and working, between the (domestic) interior and the workplace. Here Benjamin stresses that in the workplace one deals with “real” life, (Although work is increasingly being carried out in bigger, virtual spheres.) whereas within the dwelling’s interior one harbours illusions. The interior is a safe haven, a familiar domain, in which one can cherish one’s personal history in an otherwise cold and threatening environment. “The interior is not just the universe but also the étui of the private individual,” Benjamin writes. The interior is so close to man that it is like a second skin – a perfect fit. It is geared to our rhythm (of life), and vice versa.

But there is more to it. Benjamin observes that the interior also offers meaning through living; it accommodates a story of personal remembrances. “To live means to leave traces. In the interior, these are accentuated.” In other words, there is no escape from life in the interior. Whereas in the public space those traces inevitably fade, in the interior they remain visible and tangible for the occupant. And that is crucial: people hold the interior close precisely because of the memories that attach to it. To be at home is more than to merely eat, sleep and work somewhere – it is to inhabit the house. That is to say, to make it your own, to leave traces.

It is possible to describe the interior in this perspective as a flight from the “real” world “out there,” but this overlooks the importance of the interior for this “reality.” Arendt’s quotation cited at the beginning of this article – which might be invoked alongside the same Parisian experience Benjamin analyzes – is part of her emphasis on the importance of the private realm vis-à-vis the public realm. A life lived exclusively in the bright glare of the public realm will fade, she states. It will lose depth, that is, its ability to appear into the world. It needs the private realm to recover, to reform, in order to reappear and once again participate in public. Although it may sound negative, darkness means first and foremost that something has been hidden from view. It is therefore shielded from the continuous maelstrom of public life.

Set against this backdrop, Arendt stresses the importance of one’s own household – or more to the point, one’s own home – as a necessary condition. This assertion is supported by the respect with which city-states once treated private property. The boundaries that separated each person’s space were observed most reverently, with the property inside treated as sacred spaces and things.

The darkness of the house and the blinding glare of the outside depend on each other. Indeed, they are inextricably linked. Distinct from family life with its protective and educational aspects, Arendt also takes this to mean that the private realm accommodates those things in life that cannot appear in public. She believes that the distinction between the public and private realms has to do with that which must be made visible on the one hand and that which must remain invisible on the other. What appears in public acquires maximum visibility and hence reality. However, there are some things in life that need to remain hidden: the intimacy of love and friendship, the experiences of birth and death. Both the physical and the romantic belong to the realm of necessity, Arendt claims. They are too closely tied up with the needs of the individual to be made a public matter. Put differently, the private realm provides space for the ineffable, the issues we cannot discuss or negotiate, or indeed the ones we cannot stop talking about. Those issues need a safe place, one among personal “things” and their memories.

If the importance of the interior is manifest anywhere, it is in the appearance of homeless people living like ghosts on the streets. Being homeless not only means living unprotected from wind and rain. It also means first and foremost not having a safe place where you can be more or less secure and sheltered, a place to which you can withdraw in order to recharge before re-entering the domain of uncertainty and danger.
These four walls, within which people’s private life is lived, constitute a shield against the world and specifically against the public aspect of the world. They enclose a secure place, without which no living thing can thrive. This holds good (…) for human life in general. Wherever the latter is consistently exposed to the world without the protection of privacy and security its vital quality is destroyed. (Arendt, The Human Condition)
hannaharendt  home  walterbenjamin  interiors  interior  uncertainty  certainty  refuge  hansteerds  privacy  visibility  invisibility  household  homeless  homelessness  security  danger  consistency  modernity  workplace 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Speed Kills: Fast is never fast enough - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"In the past 50 years, two economies that operate at two different speeds have emerged. In one, wealth is created by selling labor or stuff; in the other, by trading signs that are signs of other signs. The virtual assets scale at a speed much greater than the real assets. A worker can produce only so many motorcycles, a teacher can teach only so many students, and a doctor can see only so many patients a day. In high-speed markets, by contrast, billions of dollars are won or lost in billionths of a second. In this new world, wealth begets wealth at an unprecedented rate. No matter how many new jobs are created in the real economy, the wealth gap created by the speed gap will never be closed. It will continue to widen at an ever-faster rate until there is a fundamental change in values.

One of the most basic values that must be rethought is growth, which has not always been the standard by which economic success is measured. The use of the gross national product and gross domestic product to evaluate relative economic performance is largely the product of the Cold War. As the battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union expanded to include the economy, the question became whether capitalism or communism could deliver more goods faster."

"The problem is not only, as Michael Lewis argues in Flash Boys, finding a technological fix for markets that are rigged; the problem is that the entire system rests on values that have become distorted: individualism, utility, efficiency, productivity, competition, consumption, and speed. Furthermore, this regime has repressed values that now need to be cultivated: sustainability, community, cooperation, generosity, patience, subtlety, deliberation, reflection, and slowness. If psychological, social, economic, and ecological meltdowns are to be avoided, we need what Nietzsche aptly labeled a "transvaluation of values."

"The growing concern about the effectiveness of primary, secondary, and postsecondary education has led to a preoccupation with the evaluation of students and teachers. For harried administrators, the fastest and most efficient way to make these assessments is to adopt quantitative methods that have proved most effective in the business world. Measuring inputs, outputs, and throughputs has become the accepted way to calculate educational costs and benefits. While quantitative assessment is effective for some activities and subjects, many of the most important aspects of education cannot be quantified. When people believe that what cannot be measured is not real, education and, by extension society, loses its soul.

Today’s young people are not merely distracted—the Internet and video games are actually rewiring their brains. Neuroscientists have found significant differences in the brains of "addicted" adolescents and "healthy" users. The next edition of the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will very likely specify Internet addiction as an area for further research. The epidemic of ADHD provides additional evidence of the deleterious effects of the excessive use of digital media. Physicians concerned about the inability of their patients to concentrate freely prescribe Ritalin, which is speed, while students staying up all night to study take Ritalin to give them a competitive advantage.

Rather than resisting these pressures, anxious parents exacerbate them by programming their kids for what they believe will be success from the time they are in prekindergarten. But the knowledge that matters cannot be programmed, and creativity cannot be rushed but must be cultivated slowly and patiently. As leading scientists, writers, and artists have long insisted, the most imaginative ideas often emerge in moments of idleness.

Many people lament the fact that young people do not read or write as much as they once did. But that is wrong—the issue is not how much they are reading and writing; indeed they are, arguably, reading and writing more than ever before. The problem is how they are reading and what they are writing. There is a growing body of evidence that people read and write differently online. Once again the crucial variable is speed. The claim that faster is always better is nowhere more questionable than when reading, writing, and thinking.

All too often, online reading resembles rapid information processing rather than slow, careful, deliberate reflection. Researchers have discovered what they describe as an "F-shaped pattern" for reading web content, in which as people read down a page, they scan fewer and fewer words in a line. When speed is essential, the shorter, the better; complexity gives way to simplicity, and depth of meaning is dissipated in surfaces over which fickle eyes surf. Fragmentary emails, flashy websites, tweets in 140 characters or less, unedited blogs filled with mistakes. Obscurity, ambiguity, and uncertainty, which are the lifeblood of art, literature, and philosophy, become decoding problems to be resolved by the reductive either/or of digital logic.

Finally, vocationalization. With the skyrocketing cost of college, parents, students, and politicians have become understandably concerned about the utility of higher education. Will college prepare students for tomorrow’s workplace? Which major will help get a job? Administrators and admission officers defend the value of higher education in economic terms by citing the increased lifetime earning potential for college graduates. While financial matters are not unimportant, value cannot be measured in economic terms alone. The preoccupation with what seems to be practical and useful in the marketplace has led to a decline in the perceived value of the arts and humanities, which many people now regard as impractical luxuries.

That development reflects a serious misunderstanding of what is practical and impractical, as well as the confusion between the practical and the vocational. As the American Academy of Arts and Sciences report on the humanities and social sciences, "The Heart of the Matter," insists, the humanities and liberal arts have never been more important than in today’s globalized world. Education focused on STEM disciplines is not enough—to survive and perhaps even thrive in the 21st century, students need to study religion, philosophy, art, languages, literature, and history. Young people must learn that memory cannot be outsourced to machines, and short-term solutions to long-term problems are never enough. Above all, educators are responsible for teaching students how to think critically and creatively about the values that guide their lives and inform society as a whole.

That cannot be done quickly—it will take the time that too many people think they do not have.

Acceleration is unsustainable. Eventually, speed kills. The slowing down required to delay or even avoid the implosion of interrelated systems that sustain our lives does not merely involve pausing to smell the roses or taking more time with one’s family, though those are important.

Within the long arc of history, it becomes clear that the obsession with speed is a recent development that reflects values that have become destructive. Not all reality is virtual, and the quick might not inherit the earth. Complex systems are not infinitely adaptive, and when they collapse, it happens suddenly and usually unexpectedly. Time is quickly running out."
speed  health  life  trends  2014  via:anne  marktaylor  filippomarinetti  futurists  futuristmanifesto  modernism  modernity  charliechaplin  efficiency  living  slow  thorsteinveblen  wealth  inequality  values  us  growth  economics  writing  finance  education  highered  highereducation  communication  internet  web  online  complexity  systemsthinking  systems  humanities  liberalarts  stem  criticalthinking  creativity  reflection  productivity  reading  howweread  howwewrite  thinking  schools  schooling  evaluation  assessment  quantification  standardization  standardizedtesting  society  interdisciplinary  professionalization  specialization  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  learning  howwelearn  howwethink  neuroscience  slowness  deliberation  patience  generosity  consumption  competition  competitiveness  subtlety  sustainability  community  cooperation  nietzsche  capitalism  latecapitalism 
october 2014 by robertogreco
High modernist subjectivity gives an extraordinary... • see things differently
""High modernist subjectivity gives an extraordinary privilege … to judgement and especially to cognition…. The modern predominance of reading….

High [modernism] … furthermore … privileges the cognitive and moral over the aesthetic and the libidinal, the ego over the id, the visual over touch, and discursive over figural communication.

…the individual [is] somehow ‘closed’ instead of open; to be somehow obsessed with self-mastery and self-domination."

Lash, S. & Friedman, J. (Eds.). (1993). Modernity & Identity. Massachusetts: Blackwell, pg. 5"

[See also:

"High modernist subjectivity gives an extraordinary privilege, for example, to judgement and especially to cognition. It correspondingly devalues the faculty of perception, so that vision itself is so to speak colonized by cognition. The modern predominance of reading fosters epistemologies of representation, of a visual paradigm in the sphere of art [...]. High modernist subjectivity seems furthermore to privilege the cognitive and moral over the aesthetic and the libidinal, the ego over the id, the visual over touch, and discursive over figural communication. It gives primacy to culture over nature, to the individual over the community, As an ethics of responsibility, high modernist personality and Lebensfürung [life-course] it allows the individual to be somehow ‘closed’ instead of open; to be somehow obsessed with self-mastery and self-domination."

Lash, S. & Friedman, J. (Eds.). (1993). Modernity & Identity. Massachusetts: Blackwell, pg. 5]
modernism  highmodernism  bias  cognition  morality  aesthetics  libidinal  ego  id  visual  senses  touch  discursion  figurative  communication  reading  literacy  gutenbergparenthesis  self-mastery  self-domination  modernity  identity  1993 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Empires Revolution of the Present - marclafia
"The film and online project brings together international philosophers, scientists and artists to give description and analysis to the contemporary moment as defined by computational tools and networks.

It states that networks are not new and have been forever with us in the evolution of our cities, trade, communications and sciences, in our relations as businesses and nation states, in the circulation of money, food, arms and our shared ecology.

Yet something has deeply changed in our experience of time, work, community, the global. Empires looks deeply to unravel how we speak to the realities of the individual and the notion of the public and public 'good' in this new world at the confluence of money, cities, computation, politics and science."

[Film website: ]

[Trailer: ]
[First cut (2:45:05): ]

[YouTube (1:21:47): ]

"Join the conversation at

Summary: The hope was that network technology would bring us together, create a "global village," make our political desires more coherent. But what's happened is that our desires have become distributed, exploded into images and over screens our eyes relentlessly drop to view.

REVOLUTION OF THE PRESENT examines the strange effects — on cities, economies, people — of what we might call accelerated capitalism. Set against a visually striking array of sounds and images, 15 international thinkers speak to the complexity and oddity of this contemporary moment as they discuss what is and what can be.

Documentary Synopsis:
Humanity seems to be stuck in the perpetual now that is our networked world. More countries are witnessing people taking to the streets in search of answers. Revolution of the Present, the film, features interviews with thought leaders designed to give meaning to our present and precarious condition. This historic journey allows us to us re-think our presumptions and narratives about the individual and society, the local and global, our politics and technology. This documentary analyzes why the opportunity to augment the scope of human action has become so atomized and diminished. Revolution of the Present is an invitation to join the conversation and help contribute to our collective understanding.

As Saskia Sassen, the renowned sociologist, states at the outset of the film, 'we live in a time of unsettlement, so much so that we are even questioning the notion of the global, which is healthy.' One could say that our film raises more questions than it answers, but this is our goal. Asking the right questions and going back to beginnings may be the very thing we need to do to understand the present, and to move forward from it with a healthy skepticism.

Revolution of the Present is structured as an engaging dinner conversation, there is no narrator telling you what to think, it is not a film of fear of the end time or accusation, it is an invitation to sit at the table and join an in depth conversation about our diverse and plural world."

[See also: ]

[Previously: ]
marclafia  networks  philosophy  politics  science  money  cities  scale  economics  capitalism  2014  kazysvarnelis  communication  communications  business  work  labor  psychology  greglindsay  saskiasassen  urban  urbanism  freedom  freewill  howardbloom  juanenríquez  michaelhardt  anthonypagden  danielisenberg  johnhenryclippinger  joséfernández  johannaschiller  douglasrushkoff  manueldelanda  floriancrammer  issaclubb  nataliejeremijenko  wendychun  geertlovink  nishantshah  internet  online  web  danielcoffeen  michaelchichi  jamesdelbourgo  sashasakhar  pedromartínez  miguelfernándezpauldocherty  alexandergalloway  craigfeldman  irenarogovsky  matthewrogers  globalization  networkedculture  networkculture  history  change  nationstates  citystates  sovreignty  empire  power  control  antonionegri  geopolitics  systems  systemsthinking  changemaking  meaningmaking  revolution  paradigmshifts  johnlocke  bourgeoisie  consumption  middleclass  class  democracy  modernity  modernism  government  governence  karlmarx  centralization  socialism  planning  urbanplanning  grass 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Mudang's Dance - Issue #1 - Compass Cultura
"In a single generation, South Korea has matured from a poor backwater monarchy to a flashy economic powerhouse. In less time than it took the Americans to go from the muscle car to the Prius, the Koreans went from the ox-and-plow to the bullet train. But Korea’s rapid transformation is not without growing pains. Canadian writer and teacher, Gord Sellar, explores the traditions and tendencies in a country whose past looks very little like its future."

"Superficially, it seems like shamanism has all but disappeared in South Korea: jettisoned, like Korea’s traditional music, mythology and so much else of Korea’s indigenous culture. South Korea has developed, at least superficially, into a fully modernized society clad in baseball caps and American blue jeans and red-soled Louboutin knockoffs, sporting 4G smartphones and Louis Vuitton purses, surfing the waves of ubiquitous broadband wifi.

Although cultural time moves more quickly than geological time, all this has happened (relatively speaking) overnight. Just a couple of generations ago the Korean peninsula was essentially a semi-feudal, agrarian monarchy. While Europe tumbled through the shocks of colonial expansion, the Enlightenment, industrialization and the scientific revolution, Korea had remained a land of farmers and scholarly elites who were ruled by a king. Although the government changed in 1905, when Japan annexed the peninsula, in technosocial terms things stayed approximately the same for the majority of Koreans until the mid-1950s or so. The South found itself newly independent, half a country ripped apart by one of the hottest flareups of the Cold War, and bereft of the industrial centers of the North. As a result, the agrarian Southern half of Korea picked itself up off the ground, dusted itself off, and went in search of its fortune.

The best way to understand what followed is to imagine that someone had read Isaac Asimov (Pebble in the Sky, perhaps) and decided that this economic basketcase — poorer at the time than almost anyplace else on Earth — ought to be transformed into a spacefaring empire as rapidly as possible. Somewhere along the way, the stuff about spacefaring empires got forgotten, so Korea just ramped up the “transforming-as-quickly-as-possible” part."

"Europe’s peasant farmers had hundreds of years to adapt to the heady shocks of their already-present, unfurling future; to rework their culture again and again until the notions of democracy, statecraft, rights and freedoms and public discourse had percolated (however watered-down) throughout the various cultures.

In Korea’s case, the spaceship launched in 1963 and it flew much faster, and arrived (in economic terms, at least — the only terms apparently relevant to Park) sometime around 1995 or 1996, disgorging most of the same passengers who’d first boarded it (plus their kids) into an alien world. In less time than it took Americans to go from the first muscle car to the Prius and the Humvee, Koreans went from ox-and-plow to bullet train; from mountaintop signal fires to cell phones and free webmail."

"It seems puzzling that Koreans wouldn’t crave the “literature of change” that science fiction purports to be. After all, every change ongoing in the industrialized world is ongoing in Korea too, often more rapidly and radically. The postwar ideology identifying Korea as a racially-pure, homogenous society is being shattered by increasing numbers of interracial marriages, mixed-race children, and a massive influx of immigrants, so that “multiculturalism” is a major buzzword today. The country’s population is graying at an extraordinary rate, and its economy is bound (precariously) to America’s. Even in the least-disastrous scenario, the question of what to do with a post-collapse North Korea (and its hostile, confused citizenry) looms on the horizon.

Sometimes, I’m frankly dumbfounded by my students’ relationship with the future: most generally seem to imagine it to be essentially like today is, but with neater gadgets. Often, I suggest they’d better think really carefully about that vision, but sometimes, I can’t help but wonder — against my better judgment — whether Korean society simply grasps by means of experience something about social change that we North Americans don’t: maybe when you grow up dancing the mudang’s dance, wearing the ghosts of an alien history so close to your skin, it’s harder to be fazed by the fact that you’ve slid a little farther up the slope of an exponential curve that you aren’t about to abandon anyway."
korea  future  cities  modernization  modernity  speed  transformation  urban  urbanism  parkchung-hee  change 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Fantasy and the Buffered Self - The New Atlantis
"When asked by the editors of the website The Immanent Frame to summarize the key concerns of his vastly ambitious book A Secular Age (2007), Charles Taylor wrote,

Almost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an “enchanted” world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less “enchanted” world. We might think of this as our having “lost” a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other. We are “buffered” selves. We have changed.

As Taylor makes clear, the shift from a porous to a buffered self involves a complex series of exchanges. But to put that shift in simple terms, a person accepts a buffered condition as a means of being protected from the demonic or otherwise ominous forces that in pre-modern times generated a quavering network of terrors. To be a pre-modern person, in Taylor’s account, is to be constantly in danger of being invaded or overcome by demons or fairies or nameless terrors of the dark — of being possessed and transformed, or spirited away and never returned to home and family. Keith Thomas’s magisterial Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971) specifies many of these dangers, along with the whole panoply of prayers, rites, amulets, potions, chants, spells, and the like, by which a person might seek protection from the otherwise irresistible. It is easy, then, to imagine why a person — or a whole culture — might, if it could, exchange this model of a self with highly permeable boundaries for one in which the self feels better protected, defended — impermeable, or nearly so.

The problem with this apparently straightforward transaction is that the porous self is open to the divine as well as to the demonic, while the buffered self is closed to both alike. Those who must guard against capture by fairies are necessarily and by the same token receptive to mystical experiences. The “showings” manifested to Julian of Norwich depend upon exceptional sensitivity, which is to say porosity — vulnerability to incursions of the supernatural. The portals of the self cannot be closed on one side only. But the achievement of a safely buffered personhood — closed off from both the divine and the demonic — is soon enough accompanied by a deeply felt change in the very cosmos. As C. S. Lewis notes in The Discarded Image (1964), the medieval person who found himself “looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music” gives way to the modern person who perceives only emptiness and silence. Safety is purchased at the high price of isolation, as we see as early as Pascal, who famously wrote of the night sky, “Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie” (“The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me”).

In these circumstances, one might expect people to ask whether so difficult and costly an exchange is in fact necessary. Might it not be possible to experience the benefits, while avoiding the costs, of both the porous and the buffered self? I want to argue here that it is precisely this desire that accounts for the rise to cultural prominence, in late modernity, of the artistic genre of fantasy. Fantasy — in books, films, television shows, and indeed in all imaginable media — is an instrument by which the late modern self strives to avail itself of the unpredictable excitements of the porous self while retaining its protective buffers. Fantasy, in most of its recent forms, may best be understood as a technologically enabled, and therefore safe, simulacrum of the pre-modern porous self.

Before pursuing my argument, I must make two clarifications. First, fantasy itself is not a recent development but rather an ancient form (though not under its current name). What we now call “fantasy” is something closer to “realism” in the pagan world, which is populated by many powers capable of acting upon “porous” human selves. In the pagan world, success in life is largely a matter of navigating safely among those powers, which are unpredictable, beyond good and evil, and often indifferent to human needs. (Such indifference means that they can help as well as hurt, but also that their assistance can never be relied upon.) In this environment, fantastic creatures are at the very least personifications or embodiments of powers genuinely believed to exist. The realism is not strict, in that the writers and readers of earlier times did not necessarily believe in the existence of precisely such creatures as were described in their stories — perhaps not Apollo or Artemis any more than Dante’s Geryon or Spenser’s Blatant Beast, though such questions are necessarily and notoriously vexed. But at the very least the pre-modern world is one in which powers like those hold sway and cannot be safely neglected; a world in which what we would call the fantastic is an intrinsic element of the real.

Second, some of the most celebrated practitioners of modern fantasy share with their pre-modern predecessors this belief that the fictional apparatus of fantasy is a relatively close approximation to the way things really are for human beings. J. R. R. Tolkien may not have believed in Sauron, but he surely believed that there are in human history people who sell themselves to the Enemy and find themselves as a result of that decision first empowered and then destroyed. And when, at the beginning of Lewis’s Perelandra (1944), the protagonist Ransom’s progress toward a friend’s house is impeded by invisible forces who fill him with fear, Lewis was describing the work of spirits whom he truly believed to exist, though under a slightly different description, just as he probably believed that some forms of scientistic rationalism are the product of demonic influence. In short, these writers sought to present their readers with an image of an enchanted world, of selves fully porous to supernatural forces. But because they did so in genres (fantasy, science fiction) known for the imaginative portrayal of the wholly nonexistent, readers confident in their buffered condition can be delighted by those stories without ever for a moment considering the possibility that the forces portrayed therein might correspond to something real. Indeed, the delight of the stories for such readers consists primarily in their perceived unreality."

"If the technical boy is wrong, if resistance can happen, we might take comfort from what seems to me the authentic core of the fantastic as a genre, as we see it from the standpoint of late modernity: fantasy may best be taken as an acknowledgment that the great problem of the pagan world — how to navigate as safely as possible through an ever-shifting landscape of independent and unpredictable powers who are indifferent to human needs — is our problem once more. The powers now may have different names than the ones Homer or Ovid knew, but they are powers all the same. American Gods is an especially important text for this moment, because it rightly identifies technologies as gods and simultaneously sides with the older gods as being intrinsically closer to the proper human lifeworld. Imaginatively, if not in substantive belief, we are pagans once more.

What We Don’t See

But a coda is required. All that I have written so far about porous and buffered selves has followed Charles Taylor in bracketing the question of what our actual condition is. We may choose to believe that we can buffer ourselves, protect ourselves against unknown powers. But that’s a kind of wager: if the powers are real, our disbelief won’t deter them. And it may be that certain powers profit from being disregarded or treated as mere fancies. In a sonnet he wrote in the late 1930s, Auden portrayed a world from which magic had passed: “The sudden shadow of a giant’s enormous calf / Would fall no more at dusk across their lawns outside”; the last dragons and kobolds died off. The people “slept in peace.” But:

... The vanquished powers were glad

To be invisible and free: without remorse
Struck down the sons who strayed into their course,
And ravished the daughters, and drove the fathers mad."
2014  alanjacobs  fantasy  history  legibility  invisibility  visibility  belief  modernity  mysticism  magic  identity  self  protection  boundaries  unpredictability  uncertainty  supernatural  spirits  sciencefiction 
july 2014 by robertogreco
On Animism, Modernity/ Colonialism, and the African Order of Knowledge: Provisional Reflections | e-flux
[Part of a series from multiple authors. Introduction, with contents in the sidebar:

a link to the Animism issue: ]

"How do we account for the recent resurgence of interest in animism and animist thought? Once considered a kind of cognitive error, as evidence of cognitive underdevelopment and epistemological failure, animism has once again become an object of discursive attention and intellectual inquiry, in addition to serving as a platform for political action, particularly around issues of ecology and the environment. It has become an acceptable if not entirely respectable way of knowing and acting in the world. Although E. B. Tylor’s nineteenth-century definition of the concept has remained foundational, we have come a long way from the modernist understanding of it which Emile Durkheim summed up in these words:
For Tylor, this extension of animism was due to the particular mentality of the primitive, who, like an infant, cannot distinguish the animate and the inanimate. […] Now the primitive thinks like a child. Consequently, he is also inclined to endow all things, even inanimate ones, with a nature analogous to his own.

This new interest has overturned the old prejudice which equated animism with everything that was childlike and epistemologically challenged, everything that was the negation of the mature, the modern, and the civilized."

"If the new convergence of interest in animism is to bear any advantage for those on the other side of modernity, it is here that we should begin with a conception of time that rejects linearity but recognizes the complex embeddedness of different temporalities, different, discordant discursive formations, and different epistemological perspectives within the same historical moment. And then we should search for a language to represent this knowledge."
animism  art  harrygaruba  2012  modernity  colonialism  africa  knowledge  brunolatour  wendybrown  karlmarx  objects  vymudimbe  alfhornborg  knowing  masaomiyoshi  talalasad  ramongrosfoguel  fetishism  commodities  mysticism  foucault  materiality  science  scientism  frederickcooper  time  knowledgeproduction  johannesfabian  dipeshchakrabarty  ebtaylor  technology  dualism  linearity  embeddedness  temporality  michelfoucault  linear 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Svetlana Boym | Off-Modern Manifesto
"1. A Margin of Error

“It's not my fault. Communication error has occurred,” my computer pleads with me in a voice of lady Victoria. First it excuses itself, then urges me to pay attention, to check my connections, to follow the instructions carefully. I don't. I pull the paper out of the printer prematurely, shattering the image, leaving its out takes, stripes of transience, inkblots and traces of my hands on the professional glossy surface. Once the disoriented computer spat out a warning across the image “Do Not Copy,” an involuntary water mark that emerged from the depth of its disturbed memory. The communication error makes each print unrepeatable and unpredictable. I collect the computer errors. An error has an aura.

To err is human, says a Roman proverb. In the advanced technological lingo the space of humanity itself is relegated to the margin of error. Technology, we are told, is wholly trustworthy, were it not for the human factor. We seem to have gone full circle: to be human means to err. Yet, this margin of error is our margin of freedom. It's a choice beyond the multiple choices programmed for us, an interaction excluded from computerized interactivity. The error is a chance encounter between us and the machines in which we surprise each other. The art of computer erring is neither high tech nor low tech. Rather it’s broken-tech. It cheats both on technological progress and on technological obsolescence. And any amateur artist can afford it. Art's new technology is a broken technology.

Or shall we call it dysfunctional, erratic, nostalgic? Nostalgia is a longing for home that no longer exists or most likely, has never existed. That non-existent home is akin to an ideal communal apartment where art and technology co-habited like friendly neighbours or cousins. Techne, after all, once referred to arts, crafts and techniques. Both art and technology were imagined as the forms of human prosthesis, the missing limbs, imaginary or physical extensions of the human space."

2. Short Shadows, Endless Surfaces

Broken-tech art is an art of short shadows. It turns our attention to the surfaces, rims and thresholds. From my ten years of travels I have accumulated hundreds of photographs of windows, doors, facades, back yards, fences, arches and sunsets in different cities all stored in plastic bags under my desk. I re-photograph the old snapshots with my digital camera and the sun of the other time and the other place cast new shadows upon their once glossy surfaces with stains of the lemon tea and fingerprints of indifferent friends. I try not to use the preprogrammed special effects of Photoshop; not because I believe in authenticity of craftsmanship, but because I equally distrust the conspiratorial belief in the universal simulation. I wish to learn from my own mistakes, let myself err. I carry the pictures into new physical environments, inhabit them again, occasionally deviating from the rules of light exposure and focus.

At the same time I look for the ready-mades in the outside world, “natural” collages and ambiguous double exposures. My most misleading images are often “straight photographs.” Nobody takes them for what they are, for we are burdened with an afterimage of suspicion.

Until recently we preserved a naive faith in photographic witnessing. We trusted the pictures to capture what Roland Barthes called “the being there” of things. For better or for worse, we no longer do. Now images appear to us as always already altered, a few pixels missing here and there, erased by some conspiratorial invisible hand. Moreover, we no longer analyse these mystifying images but resign to their pampering hypnosis. Broken- tech art reveals the degrees of our self-pixelization, lays bare hypnotic effects of our cynical reason.

3. Errands, Transits.

4. A Critic, an Amateur

If in the 1980s artists dreamed of becoming their own curators and borrowed from the theorists, now the theorists dream of becoming artists. Disappointed with their own disciplinary specialization, they immigrate into each other's territory. The lateral move again. Neither backwards nor forwards, but sideways. Amateur's out takes are no longer excluded but placed side-by-side with the non-out takes. I don't know what to call them anymore, for there is little agreement these days on what these non-out takes are.

But the amateur's errands continue. An amateur, as Barthes understood it, is the one who constantly unlearns and loves, not possessively, but tenderly, inconstantly, desperately. Grateful for every transient epiphany, an amateur is not greedy."
philosophy  technology  svetlanaboym  via:ablerism  off-modern  canon  nostalgia  human  humanism  amateurs  unlearning  love  loving  greed  selflessness  homesickness  broken  broken-tech  art  beausage  belatedness  newness  leisurearts  walterbenjamin  errors  fallibility  erring  henribergson  billgates  prosthetics  artists  imagination  domestication  play  jaques-henrilartigue  photography  film  fiction  shadows  shortshadows  nearness  distance  balance  thresholds  rims  seams  readymade  rolandbarthes  cynicism  modernity  internationalstyle  evreyday  transience  ephemeral  ephemerality  artleisure 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Podcast « You Are Not So Smart
"Episode Five | Selling Out | Andrew Potter
Episode Four | The Self | Bruce Hood
Episode Three | Confabulation | V.S. Ramachandran
Episode Two | Illusion of Knowledge | Christopher Chabris
Episode One | Attention | Daniel Simons"
keepingupwiththejoneses  freerange  local  natural  organic  andrewpotter  poiticsofcool  oneupmanship  statusseeking  nonconformism  hipsters  hipsterism  conspicuousconsumption  status  kurtcobain  art  advertising  consumption  christopherchabris  guiltypleasures  danielsimons  vsramachandran  society  modernity  brucehood  confabulation  knowledge  attention  authenticity  authentic  culture  counterculture  2012  via:zakgreene  sellingout  psychology 
january 2013 by robertogreco
intro to landscape studies - YouTube
"The modern age of landscape is an age where social interactions, markets, and developments are routinely channeled by institutions invisible to the ordinary individual. State infrastructure and capital have made immense and irreversible the effects of building, in the form of corridors, monuments and waste, channeling everyday paths and interactions in new space. In the era of modern building, the secrets of landscape are constantly hidden in plain sight.

To learn to see the landscape, western writers first had to learn to describe it. Unlike studies of rhetoric, which stretch back through the classical tradition, structural studies of the phenomenology, politics, and psychology of landscape only matured in the nineteenth century, in the era when state intervention began to physically reshape the shape of trade, agriculture, and the city at an unprecedented scale. Psychologists like Georg Simmel and cultural critics like Walter Benjamin imported the science of rhetoric and the…"
podcast  digitalhumanities  rebeccasolnit  streets  space  place  micheldecerteau  economics  politicaleconomy  policy  geography  urbanism  urban  cities  architecture  landscapearchitecture  modernity  institutions  literature  history  walterbenjamin  georgsimmel  interdisciplinarity  landscapestudies  2008  infrastructure  class  landscape  joguldi  interdisciplinary 
february 2012 by robertogreco The Lily: Evolution, Play and the Power of a Free Society eBook: Daniel Cloud: Kindle Store
"Why does a free society work so well? Are civil and political rights really indispensible for full modernity? Must we be free because we're prescient or because we're blind? The book is intended as a contribution to the genre that includes Mill's "On Liberty," Locke's "Second Treatise of Government" and Popper's "Open Society and its Enemies.""
books  toread  play  freedom  freesociety  society  evolution  johnlocke  karlpopper  johnstuartmill  opensociety  government  modernity  rights 
july 2011 by robertogreco
CYBER-COMMUNISM by Richard Barbrook | Imaginary Futures
"Within the Net, working together by circulating gifts is now a daily experience for millions of people. As well as in their jobs, individuals also collaborate on collective projects in their free time. Freed from the immediate disciplines of the marketplace, work can increasingly become a gift. The enlightened few are no longer needed to lead the masses towards the future. For the majority of Net users are already participating within the productive relations of cyber-communism…Having no need to sell information as commodities, they spontaneously work together by circulating gifts. All across the world, politicians, executives and pundits are inspired by the rapid expansion of e-commerce in the USA. Mesmerised by neo-liberal ideology, they fail to notice that most information is already circulating as gifts within the Net. Engaged in superseding capitalism, Americans are successfully constructing the utopian future in the present: cyber-communism."
communism  cyberspace  capitalism  richardbarbrook  internet  networks  networkculture  networkcommunities  communities  cyber-communism  californianideology  gifteconomy  economics  sharing  copyright  modernism  modernity  commodities  abundance  cognitivesurplus  1999 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Early Modern History Lessons: The Potosí Principle |
"The Secret of Subjections, or a History of Modern Colonialism… Note: This show recently closed at Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. It is opening soon in Berlin (Chto Delat is doing workshops end of first week October). “The Potosí Principle” mixes projects by contemporary artists with Spanish colonial paintings and documents from the 17th and 18th centuries. The intention of the curators and artists is nothing less than to re-imagine modernity. Historians call the 16th century the “early modern” period. The French Revolution is a class divide between global political and economic regimes. “The Potosí Principle” exhibition arguest hat in fact the regime of what Marx called “primitive accumulation,” the coercive exploitation of labor, never ended. I intend to review this remarkable show, but can't do it now. Here instead is a Spanish government ministry text on the show. (The current prime minister of Spain is a socialist.)"
colonialism  art  marxism  baroque  thepotosíprinciple  alanmoore  spain  españa  perú  modernity  contemporary  historiography  theory  slavery  history 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Factory Studio, Spring 2011 |
"If modernity is defined by mass production, then the factory is modern architecture’s definitive typology. Early factories were widely understood as sublime, sites of awe & horror that could only be overcome by the exertion of human reason. Spurred by this challenge, from the 18th century onward, architects & social reformers envisioned rational & just factories, not merely workplaces but rather centers of human habitation, places of joy in labor, & envisioned societies built around them.

Today, the factory evokes images of structures either converted to art museums, lofts, or abandoned to decay. With factories outsourced, design has all but abandoned re-imagining this critical site of human activity, the one truly new building type of modernity. Our interest is to use architecture & most advanced thinking in network culture to construct new & better ways of life. In doing so, this studio is engaged first & foremost with institution building and shaping of social behavior."
kazysvarnelis  abundance  factories  architecture  design  modernism  modernity  networkculture  behavior  2011  society  work  social  socialbehavior 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Modern Schools - Practical Theory
"…does not assume that because we learned a certain way when we were kids that our children must learn the same. A modern school movement does not assume that what was good for us will automatically be good for them, nor does it assume that just because we did something a certain way in the past that it holds no value in the future…does not have to focus solely on tools or skills but rather on ideas and people and the lives we live today.

I want to create modern schools, in and of our time, for our time, for these kids."

[Don't agree with the word choice of 'modern'. 'Progressive' is better fit, but unfortunately brings misconceptions, preconceptions. 'Contemporary' may be the best option.]
chrislehmann  education  modernity  modern  words  schools  policy  tcsnmy  lcproject  teaching  learning  history  future  contemporary  progressive  2011  change  gamechanging  reform 
january 2011 by robertogreco
The city is a hypertext
"cognitive scientists have actually begun empirically verifying Simmel's armchair psychology. & whenever I read anything about web rewiring our brains, foretelling immanent disaster, I've always thought, geez, people—we live in cities! Our species has evolved to survive in every climate & environment on dry land. Our brains can handle it!

But I thought of this again when a 2008 Wilson Quarterly article about planner/engineer Hans Monderman, titled "The Traffic Guru," popped up in Twitter. (I can't even remember where it came from. Who knows why older writing just begins to recirculate again? Without warning, it speaks to us more, or differently.)…

In other words, information overload, & the substitution of knowledge for wisdom. Sound familiar?

I'll just say I remain unconvinced. We've largely gotten rid of pop-up ads, flashing banners, & <blink> tag on web. I'm sure can trim back some extra text & lights in our towns & cities. We're versatile creatures. Just give us time."
architecture  cities  timcarmody  kottke  media  perception  transportation  ubicomp  urbanism  psychology  infrastructure  technology  culture  design  environment  history  information  infooverload  adaptability  adaptation  urban  stevejobs  cars  cognition  hansmonderman  resilience  traffic  georgsimmel  1903  2008  2010  shifts  change  luddism  fear  humans  versatitlity  web  internet  online  modernism  modernity  hypertext  attention  brain  research  theory 
august 2010 by robertogreco
The Privacy Paradox
"physically healthy but emotionally fragile & easily dejected...may not be clinically depressed, but suffer from...dysthymia, mild, low-level, pervasive depression that saps life of beauty, even as one continues to function.

problem may lie in frayed connections to friends, relatives, coworkers, & especially 10s-100s of strangers we pass every day. Punishing schedules & myriad affiliations provide ties that are illusory. People experience profound dissonance because they are in company of others but not truly connected...

In contrast...our ancestors probably sat & talked & worked in close proximity to family & friends...

Introverts may experience the pull of privacy especially acutely. If you are a highly sensitive person, you may be more perceptive about social cues, such as others' feelings, language & tone of voice. The endless nuanced emotional information can be overwhelming, urging you to withdraw. So you may have to push yourself all the harder to be around others."

[via: ] [Might explain why a full day of class at TCSNMY (mostly same kids all day), while tiring, leaves me feeling good, but a day interrupted by meetings leaves me in a funk.]
introverts  privacy  relationships  modernity  social  work  life  psychology  emotions  anxiety  depression  dysthymia  connections 
july 2010 by robertogreco
shirky's surplus - library ad infinitum
"Cognitive Surplus is about a specific kind of free time: not the Hundred-Acre-Wood or the endless summer, but the stock of leisure hours produced by modernity, and the rise of technologies that make it possible to spend that time in engaging ways. And yet the notion of free time itself should be suspicious to us, shouldn't it? "Free time" is something born of an industrial economics of time, a commoditized temporality. Leisure is a boon granted by the system—a perk, a benny. Compensation. And as long as it helps us recharge our batteries and never keeps us from being productive, high-performance workers, free time isn't free... I'm still excited by Shirky's idea. But I want to bring Carr's highbrow concern for the vital uses of cognition, contemplation, and communication to bear upon it. The technologies Shirky celebrates present us with a choice: do we use them as the means of liberation, or as Skinner boxes to while away the off-hours?"

[Also available here: ]
cognitivesurplus  clayshirky  via:preoccupations  matthewbattles  nicholascarr  herbertmarcuse  leisure  modernity  technology  recharging  productivity  freedom  cognition  contemplation  communication  2010 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Joe Moran's blog: Banging the drum for boredom
"Boredom is a modern notion: if our ancestors suffered from it, they didn’t call it boredom. The verb “to bore” was first used in the late 18th century, while the noun “boredom” dates only from the mid-19th century. By then, it was often seen as an illness … Patricia Meyer Spacks traces a shift from 18th-century notions of boredom, which saw it as an individual’s personal responsibility or moral failing, to more modern notions which situated the sources of boredom outside the self. … Boredom was one way of making sense of modernity: the repetitiveness of work, the monotony of bureaucracy, the regimented time of clocks and timetables. Boredom was also the luxury of people whose lives had become relatively comfortable. … begin to notice this commonplace, everyday world that we normally regard as unworthy of our attention … [and] We might even find boredom quite interesting."
via:preoccupations  language  history  boredom  modernity  repetition  bureaucracy  time  comfort 
january 2010 by robertogreco
Meandering around something idea-shaped but not quite touching it | Dangerous Precedent
"It’s not a battlesuit, because this isn’t a battle. Much as 1 might want to be Bourne or Batman or dude from Mission: Impossible...none of us are. The layers of modern life aren’t grand missions to vanquish evil or preparation for the time that we’ll be called to action, activated by the Global Frequency. Instead our cities are made of & our lives build up, layers & layers of soft actions. We’re already massively networked. We can already read city’s data, it’s just that it’s encoded in patina, in fashion, accents, flirting. Why is this important to remember? Because if we want to predict the future by inventing it, we’d (i.e. us 30-something white male post-digital types) might want to remember everyone else–people who don’t have a theme tune running in their head when they run out of the tube station. As Alex Deschamps-Sonsino wrote, it’s about"…things about this, that makes me feel like I’m not included in the city experience in the same way as my more testosterone-driven peers"
culture  architecture  future  politics  cities  community  environment  life  urbanism  autonomy  precarity  criticism  mobility  modernity  practice  networkculture  networkedurbanism  mattjones  benhammersley 
october 2009 by robertogreco
Wired UK magazine columnist Warren Ellis has swine flu. No, really...
"We spend a lot of time looking for our spaceships and jet-packs, but – and consider this bit, it gets bigger and weirder the more you think about it – in a matter of days we can genetically sequence a mutant virus that’s jumped the species gap. People try to make an ordinary thing of that. There’s a strong tendency to cast the present day, whenever that may be, as essentially banal and not what was promised. Stop looking for the loud giant stuff. The small marvels surround us."
warrenellis  perspective  futurism  health  science  future  culture  technology  cyberpunk  biotech  observation  modernity 
august 2009 by robertogreco
China and the end of westernisation | John Gray | Comment is free |
"the Chinese version of modernisation is no more universally applicable than the American model. Rather, from now on there will be modern societies of quite different kinds, interpenetrating in many ways but not becoming progressively more alike.
us  future  modernity  culture  society  trends  books  world  china  global  international 
june 2009 by robertogreco
Tate Britain | Current Exhibitions | Altermodern - Altermodern Manifesto POSTMODERNISM IS DEAD
"A new modernity is emerging, reconfigured to an age of globalisation – understood in its economic, political and cultural aspects: an altermodern culture *Increased communication, travel & migration are affecting the way we live *Our daily lives consist of journeys in a chaotic and teeming universe *Multiculturalism and identity is being overtaken by creolisation: Artists are now starting from a globalised state of culture *This new universalism is based on translations, subtitling and generalised dubbing *Today’s art explores the bonds that text and image, time and space, weave between themselves *Artists are responding to a new globalised perception. They traverse a cultural landscape saturated with signs and create new pathways between multiple formats of expression and communication. The Tate Triennial 2009 at Tate Britain presents a collective discussion around this premise that postmodernism is coming to an end, and we are experiencing the emergence of a global altermodernity."

[via: ]
altermodern  postmodernism  change  uk  art  tate  multiculturalism  globalization  migration  creolization  travel  london  modernity  global  world  trends  culture  society  glvo  universalism  translation  subtitling  dubbing  time  space  expression  communication  nicolasbourriaud  2009  networks  exhibitions  gamechanging  progress 
february 2009 by robertogreco

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