Geocentric Media Ecology

October 14, 2013 § 21 Comments

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Media theorist Jussi Parikka has a very interesting essay published in The Atlantic on the geology of media. The essay is part of the ongoing series of “Object Lessons” edited by Ian Bogost and Christopher Schaberg. In the essay Parikka draws our attention to the relations between media technologies and geological elements — for example, to the copper, gold, lead, mercury, palladium, and silver deposits that are transformed into the components of electronic devices. By foregrounding the relationship between material resources and communication technologies, Parikka’s essay offers an important commentary on the geopolitics of media. While this is certainly a worthwhile call to attention, the second half of the essay continues into equally important, though less explored, terrain. On the communicative agency of the Earth Parikka writes

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A New Geocentrism

July 14, 2013 § 3 Comments

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In my last post I introduced a new concept I’ve been working on called “geocentric media ecology.” The addition of “geocentric” to “media ecology” is a move inspired by Bruno Latour’s recent Gifford Lectures wherein he stressed the importance of what he called “The Sublunary Matrix” — the planet earth, in simpler terms. In my view, Latour’s aim in highlighting the sublunar dimension of human existence is precisely to re-situate our matters of concern towards the fact that we are not heading for the stars — there is no escape from our earthly drama, at least not anytime soon — and if we are to break with modernity and form an ecological polis we must once again forge a new perspective on human life. « Read the rest of this entry »

Earth Aesthetics: Knowledge and Media Ecologies

July 14, 2013 § 13 Comments

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[Image: Mona Hatoum]

Next Saturday July 20 I’ll be presenting a paper at the Integral Theory Conference in San Francisco. This year a major theme of the conference will be an Integral Theory – Critical Realism dialogue with Roy Bhaskar himself giving a keynote at the event. Though I am neither an Integral Theorist nor Critical Realist per se, I am happy to contribute my own thoughts on ecology and philosophy to an already diverse event. My paper considers the avenues opened up by thinking about the ontology of concepts and ideas from an ecological perspective. More specifically, I explore the relation between subjectivity and an ecological conception of concepts. I’ve uploaded a finalized version of my paper for tomorrow. You can read it here here, or in the text below. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Aerobiosphere

February 24, 2013 § 1 Comment

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Newly published research indicates that the sky above our heads is filled with complex living ecologies that contribute to global weather dynamics. In the words of one researcher, this “contributes significantly to the hypothesis that the atmosphere is alive . . . The possibility of microbes being metabolically active in the atmosphere transforms our understanding of global processes.” We’ve seen reports like this before, but freshly published research always brings these exciting ideas back to mind.

The report also reminds me of one of the arguments from my article in Thinking Nature (forthcoming . . . soon?). In that paper I suggest we need a new conception of media ecology expanded to include all organisms, and not just human ones. From this perspective the sky is not a given backdrop upon which evolutionary dynamics unfold, but a recursively active media ecology that is constructed by a series of entangled organisms. Organisms are media ecologists enveloped by the media ecologies of other organisms, and aerobiology is just one exotic example that highlights this point. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Ecology of Ideas, Objects, and Things – Part 2

September 26, 2012 § 5 Comments

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[Image: Luca Zanie]

Having reviewed the various positions that have emerged in part one of this essay, in this section I offer an answer to the question: Are ideas, thoughts, and concepts “things”? My answer comes along two primary avenues. First, I will give a general description of my take on the ontology of ideas. Second, I will suggest why I believe an ecological approach to the question is the most approriate. In conclusion I offer some short comments regarding why I think this dialogue, and the approach I am advocating, is so important. I am heartened by the level of engagement this discussion has inspired in me, and I am particularly thanful to Michael of Archive Fire for encouraging this conversation. Here we go.

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The Ecology of Ideas, Objects, and Things – Part 1

September 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

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Are ideas, thoughts, and concepts “things”? Or are they simply epiphenomena produced by the cognitive functions of embodied actors?

A number of short essays on the question have cropped up in different corners of the Internet recently. Some of these have been written in response to essay excerpts that I have posted here on Knowledge Ecology.[1] In what follows I briefly review some of these responses, and then offer some remarks that extend my original position. In summary, my position is that we can (and should) treat ideas, thoughts, and concepts, as full-blown and independent ecological actors (in Bruno Latour’s sense) and can even consider them real objects (in Graham Harman’s sense). I will offer a more detailed account of my position in part two of this series. To set up this account, here is a brief overview of the discussion so far.

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City and Mind

September 18, 2012 § 11 Comments

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[Image: Ward Roberts]

The city takes us over. More than an environment it penetrates us; more than a fixed enclosure it shifts with our every behavior. The city, like a giant octopus swimming in the deep, swallows us whole and begins to shape us along its grooves and edges. It swims through the surrounding boundaries thrashing into rock, water, and sand. So much steel and glass metabolizes in our minds and shades the contours of our perceptions. It assigns to us new notions of speed, velocity, and distance; we expand along its metallic curves moving upwards into the condensing droplets of clouds. Its infrastructure percolates with the flow of oil, gas, and concrete; its hum sounds like cancer; its electronic lights glow like a million terrestrial stars. The city is vast, but it rests on the edge of continents like a small nebula floating in deep space. « Read the rest of this entry »

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