Earth Aesthetics: Knowledge and Media Ecologies (Updated)

July 14, 2013 § 13 Comments

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. UPDATE: 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 »

Isabelle Stengers and Donna Haraway Sawyer Seminar Notes

May 21, 2013 § 7 Comments

Cosmopolitics and reconstituting worlds; Concrete political clashes between worlds; 1995 majority of French population believes the future of their children to be worse than their own; the end of the trust in progress; Globalization; sacrifice for competition; Political Ontology; civilizing modern practices

What are concepts good for? Science wars—scientists and critical thinkers—rationality, universality; modern hegemony—knowledge cannot be about representation only

Concepts have a power; the self-confirming power of representationalism; the concept of practice is introduced to divide scientists (to break “Science” up); open up a space for thought in which the monolithic figure of objective knowledge is broken

Reformulating the claims of the sciences rather than directly denying them—situating objectivity as a rare achievement. The particular and exceptional nature of objective interpretation; the general reduction. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Aerobiosphere

February 24, 2013 § 1 Comment

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 Conceptual Force of Knowledge Ecologies: A Modern Cosmogram

October 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

From now on, politics is something entirely different from what political scientists believe: it is the building of the cosmos in which everyone lives, the progressive composition of the common world (Latour: 2004). What is common to this vast transformation is that politics is now defined as the agonizing sorting out of conflicting cosmograms (Tresch: 2005). Hence the excellent name Isabelle Stengers has proposed to give to the whole enterprise, that of cosmopolitics, meaning, literally, the politics of the cosmos (Stengers: 1996) – and not some expanded form of internationalism (Beck: 2006).

- Bruno Latour

For the past several years I have devoted significant portions of my time to understanding what I now view as an experimental investigation into the ontological status of ideas, concepts, and knowledge. The phrase I have given to this project — “Knowledge Ecology” — has been traveling with me since around 2007 when I first began formulating my thesis that knowledge and its relation to knowers has a predominately ecological character. In 2008-2009 I began my first attempts at composing a proposal for my M.A. thesis. I wanted to link natural, social, and humanistic sciences into a transdisciplinary framework united by the principles of ecological and evolutionary thinking. My thesis then, which I still largely hold to, was that, in order to make sense of — and in order to meaningfully intervene on — the human situation, we need to understand the constitutive role played by three interdependent ecological domains: natural ecologies, media ecologies, and knowledge ecologies. (I have since dropped the phrase “natural” in order to separate the scientific principles of evolutionary ecology from the homogenizing and hetereonormative implications often associated with deployment of “natural” categories of anything.) « Read the rest of this entry »

Speculation and Ecology: Some Notes for Friday’s Talk

May 2, 2012 § 3 Comments

Ecology is typically defined as the study of relationships between organisms and environments, and the relationships between organisms to one another. This essay suggests another way forward: a re-visioning of ecology in the context of Alfred North Whitehead’s speculative philosophy. By thinking ecology with Whitehead we will be able to demonstrate a simple and surprising truth: all relations of any kind—be they between sea anemones and coral reefs or between philosophers and the world—are ecological in nature. By generalizing the definition of ecology to include relations of any kind, we expand our notions of what ecology is all about, and our ability to enact a cosmopolitics—a planetary thought for a planetary ecologyis greatly enhanced. But what, we might ask, does speculative philosophy have to do with ecology? Are we not mixing the empirical world of the natural sciences with the subjective world of a philosopher’s fantasy? I’m going to suggest that in order to actually understand the meaning of ecology—and in particular the possibility of an ecological ethics—we have to speculate, using the best of our sciences and the best of our imagination to do so.

« Read the rest of this entry »

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