On Fri, May 7, 2010 at 3:17 PM, david mcconville <email@example.com> wrote:
> I recently attending the Object Oriented Ontology Symposium at Georgia
> Tech, hoping that it could shed some light on the claim that this nascent
> subset of the loosely organized "speculative realist" school of thought is
> attempting steer a path between scientific realism and social relativism.
> While I appreciate the intention, I found the exclusive focus on "ontology"
> to be highly problematic. The presentations seemed driven more by a
> philosophical reaction to the "linguistic turn" in academia than a response
> to the large-scale challenges we currently face, as was evidenced by the
> complete lack of any discussion of ecology. While the assertion that
> "everything exists equally" might be ontologically provocative, it seemingly
> ignores pragmatic ecological realities.
This is a focal point which is becoming progressively more important, also
with internet coming out of the monitors and becoming embedded in objects,
places and bodies.
The "yellow pages" approaches, however complex, detailed and
multi-perspective, just don't do a good job in describing reality, with its
possibilities, cultures, and myriads of points of view.
With "objects" and all living beings potentially becoming active parts of
dialogues over digital networks, new ways can and must be researched to
enact polyphnic experiences on reality.
While ontologic approaches can be part of the possible schemes that
researchers and practitioners can think of, some other directions must be
covered to enable the possibility for things that are unforeseen, unimagined
or, simply, out of the boundaries we thought-out (however complex and
encompassing) to rise and express themselves.
> We absolutely need to navigate between empirical and relativistic
> understanding, but I have found transdisciplinary examinations of non-dual
> approaches to cognition to be much more useful than philosophical
> speculations based on linguistic games with the subject/object divide.
With professor Canevacci we are becoming very excited about the
possibilities offered by what we are calling ubiquitous anthropology. We are
perfecting the approaches which we envisioned during our project with the
Bororo population in Mato Grosso to try to find one or more answers to a
profund dilemma that i feel is deeply connected to the theme of this
discussion: how can anthropological research become a true expression of a
multitude of points of view, aiming with this at abandoning the classical
forms of anthropological reports - which, in our point of view are way too
close to single perspective novels - and creating new forms of
representation of the complex, stratified ecosystems of relations,
interactions and interferences that make up the overall environment in which
the field research takes place.
What we found out is that stratification is necessary to avoid creating
cultural or perspective hierarchies, to give voice to all perspectives, to
create a form of truly poliphonic report.
We are experimenting it through technologies such as augmented reality and
location based systems, and with practices that aim at open-sourcing the
research, giving media production tools to the individuals involved in the
And we are finding it more and more interesting to generalize the process
and to "give media" also to all the other elements that make up the observed
For example, our next research is focusing on the populations in Congo.
Among their religious practices a truly outstanding one is the use of the
"mnkisi" (plural of nkisi) by the banganga, the religious and medial experts
of villages. These statues, built to create fear and horror, with wood,
nails and scrap materials, are considered to be very powerful. So much that
bangangas advise people not to buy them, as they might result in being
uncontrollable for people without the specific powers to deal with such
The mnkisi are the object of complex gestures and interactions, building a
tradition/philosohpy belief system that is a living entity in itself.
We are experimenting in using augmented reality on these statues to
visualize and experience all the mystical, philosophical religious contents
that they embed, creating what might be romantically called a digital aura
that is thought to be used and populated by the banganga, the people of
their villages and, actually, anyone else (there is a fluent commerce of
these statues, due to their incredible aesthetics and the suggestion of
their powers), using natural and gestural interactions (on the fruition and
content production side).
These concepts can be easily extended. For example the students at the
Cross-media experimentations class in Industrial Design here in Rome at the
University La Sapienza are building a series of project works in which
electronic devices are connected to various life forms in nature, to build
what might be called a generalized, non-human social network, with the aim
of creating systems on which researchers from other disciplines can build on
to create dialogues that enact multi-perspective investigations on issues
such as ecology, social interaction, emotional research.
And, symmetrically, they are building another form of social network which
is based on holophony: information is represented under the form of sound
signals (that can be voices, music or generative sounds, according to what
you're representing) that are spatially placed in the world, so that you can
experience the sound of information coming from sensor networks, voice
memos, music performances, data-as-sound just by walking in the environment,
effectively having available an additional sense which responds to all these
other domains of data and relationships, coming from individuals, social
groups, natural elements and living beings, under the form of direct
production or algorithmic re-interpretation.
There is a big effort in designing the (technical) protocols with which this
discourse can take place, across disciplines and life forms.
And the results, however embryonic they might be, are very far from the
ideas of ontologies, and tends more to a multi-layered description of
reality in which an observer (human/technological/other) must nomadically
move from layer to layer to create his/her/its interpretation of the world,
effectively "wearing" other points of view.
As a curiosity: it has proven to be very interesting how some technical
discussions on microformats for information exchange over the internet
actually provide incredibly (an naively) useful insights on the enactment of
these kinds of processes.
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