AUDIO: Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines/Look at the Bunny: Totem, Taboo, Technology
“The humans are dead.” Whether or not you recognize the epigram from Flight of the Conchords (and if not, there are worse ways to spend a few minutes than by looking here, and I recommend sticking around for the “binary solo”), Dominic Pettman’s Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) will likely change the way you think about humanity, animals, machines, and the relationships among them. Pettman uses a series of fascinating case studies, from television programs to films to Sufi fables to pop songs, to explore the notion of Agamben’s “anthropological machines” and the human being as a “technospecies without qualities” in a modern mediascape that includes Thomas Edison’s film Electrocuting an Elephant, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, and the interplanetary soundscape created by NASA (among many, many others).
We recently gathered over Skype to talk about some of the major thematic and argumentative threads snaking through this book and Pettman’s recent exploration of totems in Look at the Bunny: Totem, Taboo, Technology (Zero Books, 2013). Both books take on the varied ways that love, technology, identity (both human and not), and economies have been transformed in a world that includes pacifist Orcs, voices without bodies, ecologies without nature, reptile-doctors, and pixelated lovers.
During our conversation, Pettman mentions a film about the zigzag totem that can be found here. Cabinet Magazine, which also comes up in the course of our conversation, can be found here.
“The nihilist’s capacity to act is increased (what Nietzsche calls “spiritual vigour”) when the goals or missions that once directed you are no longer suitable; the nihilist begins as an existential exploration: discover your own challenges.” – Glen Fuller
Over at Event Mechanics Glen Fuller recently posted a brilliant and concise rebuttal to the would-be critic of nihilism. I appreciate how clearly Glen presents Nietzsche’s vision of the advent of nihilism while tossing aside the lazy interpretations of contemporaries who seem more interested in protecting the supposed sanctity of transcendental virtue than coming to the grips with the end of certainty. There is no escape from the material and kinetic force of the nonhumans without and within. The myth of pure representation as mediator of the real died right alongside the laughing Gods. Ecology has finally arrived. And Glen’s post explains in detail how nihilistic maturity can present us with almost unthinkable opportunities for rising to the challenge of being human. As Glen writes, “we cannot escape from nihilism. Therefore, it is necessary to go to war or fall in love, at least in an existential sense.” Go read his full post: HERE.
I believe the nihilist thinking Glen is describing can be coded as a coming to our senses: a motivating reengagement of the plane of elemental consistency. Such zero-point realism is the auto-affective ground upon which we can begin unexpectant movement towards aberrant assembly as sentient and synthetic adaptation.
To be sure, ‘nihilism’ has never existed as a unified objective condition or psychological mood, but rather as organizing constellation of references expressing a growing awareness of the dissolution of various claims to truth, methodological faiths, social institutions, political regimes and cognitive orientations. Truth ain’t what it used to be but life goes on.
Those of us no longer hung over from God’s wake will have to be content in forging new worlds while The Transcenders (transcendentalists) cling to their principles, axioms and nostalgia. Our species does not want another ‘ism’. What we need is a perpetual disillusionment that fosters brave new pragmatisms and animal becomings. What we need is a post-nihilist praxis.
Synthetic_Zero is a project designed to explore the challenges and opportunities of being and becoming human after the advent of nihilistic intelligence. The collaborative approach presented here is intended as an experimental response to the various crises, disjunctions and unequally distributed realities of contemporary life.
- Syntheism and Nihilism (gayscientist.wordpress.com)
- What is nihilism? (apishungry.wordpress.com)
- Reflections on nihilism as a belief system (footnotes2plato.com)
- Axioms for a Dark Ontology (larvalsubjects.wordpress.com)
- Nietzsche & The Death of God (volitionsphilosophy.wordpress.com)
- More on Naturalism and Nihilism (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
Bernard Stiegler is a French philosopher at Goldsmiths, University of London and at the Université de Technologie de Compiègne. In addition, he is Director of the Institut de recherche et d’innovation (IRI), founder in 2005 of the political and cultural group, Ars Industrialis, and founder in 2010 of the philosophy school, Ecole de Philosophie d’Epineuil-le-Fleuriel. His best known work is Technics and Time.
Unlike Us #3 – Bernard Stiegler: Social Networking As a Stage of Grammatization and the New Political Question from network cultures on Vimeo.
Noam Chomsky responds to a caller’s request for his thoughts on socialism, during a 2003 interview by Brian Lamb, for C-SPAN’s “In Depth” program. He describes how socialism was equated with the Leninist model of the Soviet Union by both the USA and its allies on the one hand, and the USSR and its allies on the other.
I agree with Chomsky that the term ‘socialism’ has been so warped and abused that it is now pretty much useless in the context of modern political discourse, especially among the less engaged citizens.
Full interview available: here
I also recommend the following video, where Chomsky further describes the double-sided anti-socialist propaganda (beginning @ 7:55): here
Annemarie Mol is a Dutch ethnographer and philosopher. She is the Professor of Anthropology of the Body at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She has helped to develop post-ANT/feminist understandings of science, technology and medicine.
In her earlier work she explored the performativity of health care practices, argued that realities are generated within those practices, and noted that since practices differ, so too do realities. The body, as she expressed it, is multiple: it is more than one but it is also less than many (since the different versions of the body also overlap in health care practices). As a part of this she also developed the notion of ‘ontological politics’, arguing that since realities or the conditions of possibility vary between practices, this means that they are not given but might be changed.