Thursday, May 13, 2010

Re: [Yasmin_discussions] Narcissism and Anthropocentrism (Was: The newconcept of HumankindCulturalNarcissism from francesco monico)


It seems that the increasing abilities to electronically mediate 'polyphonic experiences' - related to the imaginary, disembodied views-from-elsewhere - are serving the critical function of reminding us that *all* views are in fact inextricably embodied. The further human reflexive capacities expand via higher orders of feedback, the more the networks of sociocultural, environmental, and biological relationships within which we are embedded are brought to light (Guattari/Bateson "ecologies"). Like you, I find ecologies to be a useful (if overused) framing for addressing the interplay and overlay of perspectives, since the term simultaneously implies the study of interactions, organisms, and environments.

Your term 'ubiquitous anthropology' recalls Gebser's "aperspectival consciousness" - the attempt to encompass phenomena "as a whole from the inherent, living structural 'laws' in their manifestations." The impulse to "see from everywhere" paradoxically means to "see from nowhere." While the realist/objectivist presupposes that there is a reality existing independent of perspectives, the idealist/relativist sees everything as contingent - and both strike me as unnecessarily rigid and failing to adequately account for the subtle complexities of ecologically embedded perspectives. I see Gebser's aperspectivalism as an attempt to move beyond these conceptual dichotomies so that a more nuanced comprehension and experience of these polyphonic states can be achieved.

Your works strike me as particularly poignant in this regard, since they seem to playfully encourage consideration of perspectives beyond the anthropocentric/misanthropic divide. Acknowledging, exploring, and even celebrating our embodied experience is essential if we hope to learn about and from non-human perspectives and intelligence - a process that is essential if we hope to steer the trajectory of human societies and artifacts to function more integrally with global ecosystems. It seems that the expanded capacity to contextualize these investigations using sensor networks and observational data have brought us full circle back to recognize the interdependent coupling of ourselves with Earth's systems, starkly illustrated by the revelations of Lynn Margulis, EO Wilson, and others regarding the not-so-distinct divisions "humanity" on our fellow Earthlings (not the least of which are the 90% "non-human" bacteria within us). So perhaps it can be said have been posthuman/tra!
nshuman all along, but that contemporary science has enabled us to empirically detect it?

But this quest to "try on" other perspectives is hardly new. There is a sense in which some of the artworks discussed in this thread are using these hypersensory/AR devices, networks, and interfaces to induce experiences similar to ones found within magical/shamanic cultures used to connect with broader fields of sentience. In his essay The Ecology of Magic, ecophenomenologist David Abrams writes, "Only by temporarily shedding the accepted perceptual logic of his or her culture can the shaman hope to enter into a rapport with the multiple nonhuman sensibilities that animate the local landscape." This return to our senses seems essential if we hope to cognize the multiple perspectives (at presumably infinite scales) from which reality is perceived/construed/constructed - a task that is undoubtedly beyond the grasp of conceptualization alone.

As an aside, my own work utilizes mediated perception as a vehicle for helping to facilitate examination of the mutually co-arising nature of all phenomena. I work with the attempts to represent the macrocosmic extremes of astronomical observations, since they elegantly illuminate the inherently perspectival nature of all observations. They demonstrate that, from an observational perspective, we are indeed the center of the cosmos - seemingly justifying our anthropocentrism after all! The real challenge is to avoid narcissism by recognizing not only the embodied/encultured/entrained influences that shape our own views, but also the validity, value, and ecological necessity of other perspectives as well...

kind regards,

On May 8, 2010, at 7:45 PM, xDxD.vs.xDxD wrote:

> Hello all!
> On Fri, May 7, 2010 at 3:17 PM, david mcconville <> wrote:
>> Francesco,
>> 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
> researches.
> 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
> environment.
> 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
> spirits.
> 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.
> take care,
> Salvatore

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