Thursday, June 05, 2014

Book note: "Onto-cartography -- an ontology of machines and media" by Levi R. Bryant

I just read the introduction chapter of Levi R. Bryant's new book "Onto-cartography -- an ontology of machines and media". Very exciting ideas. Now I am really interested in reading more. 

Bryant is a proponent for materialism and develops a strong argument against what he calls "discursivist orientations" in contemporary scholarly work, primarily in the humanities and social sciences. Instead he proposes an ontology that takes "things" and "stuff" seriously as part of our reality that shapes, like gravity, what is possible and not possible. He calls these entities (things and stuff) machines to "emphasize the manner in which entities dynamically operate on inputs producing outputs" (p6).

Ok, I have only read the introduction but so far it has left me intrigued and quite fascinated. Part of my fascination comes from the realization that the way Bryant defines his concepts resonate in many ways with my own thinking. For instance, he writes about machines and proposes an ecological view in which "a medium is understood as any entity that contributes to the becoming of another entity affording and constraining possibilities of movement and interaction with other entities in the world" (p7). Since when I wrote my PhD dissertation, I have always used the idea that any design creates a "possible space of actions" for any human or other design. Bryant states that "worlds are ecologies of machines" which I find extremely useful. 

Anyway, no more comments only based on the introduction (and an interview of Bryant by Graham Harman). More reading is needed. Maybe this is something that can be related to the ideas of artifact analysis that I have been working with (struggling with) these last few years.