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Scratching the Surface — 85. Mindy Seu
"Mindy Seu is a designer, educator, and researcher. She is currently a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and was previously a designer at 2x4 and MoMA. She’s designed and produced archival sites for Ralph Ginzburg and Herb Lubalin’s Eros and Avant Garde magazines. In this episode, Mindy and I talk about her early career and why she decided to go to graduate school, the role of research and archives in her work, and how graphic design is just one pillar of her practice."
mindyseu  jarretfuller  design  education  archives  internet  web  online  2018  positioning  internetarchive  claireevans  brunolatour  graphicdesign  purpose  iritrogoff  networks  connections  fearlessness  decentralization  neilpostman  teaching  howweteach  institutions  structure  interviews  research  project-basedreasearch 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Anthropocene Lecture: Bruno Latour
At the center of current political storms is the issue of climate change, suggests sociologist and epistemologist Bruno Latour. He reflects on current geopolitical conditions while underlining their intricate link to migrations, the explosion of injustice under the neoliberal regime and the panic-fueled return to nationalist egoisms. In his Anthropocene Lecture he reflects on how we might gain ground again in this vexing situation.


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nca  ncpin  BrunoLatour  Climate  Environment  Philosophy 
july 2018 by walt74
Why do we Talk about Cities as Laboratories? – Andrew R. Schrock – Medium
"In many ways, cities are quite unlike laboratories. Scientific laboratories are carefully controlled environments. Cities are unruly spaces that resist measurement and management. Where did this vision of come from, and what are the implications of its rise?"

"Latour and Woolgar were interested in the idea of border crossing, but were even more concerned about how laboratories held a particular power in society."

"The prevailing wisdom of the day was that cities were harmful and dehumanizing. Park, by contrast, situated cities as beneficial ecosystems. Cities could be mapped and studied much an oceanographer would research a coral reef or a forester would approach a forest. The empirical “bottom-up” approach to social research Park and his collaborator Eve Burgess suggested was enormously influential on urban sociology."

"Approaching cities as laboratories provided insight into human collectivity and made social problems visible, but also controllable."

"Latour would warn us that scientific authority is the true power structures that undergirds more formalized Politics. Vague but persuasive combinations of mobile media, “civic tech,” and urban design are starting to be taken seriously by academia, political institutions and funding agencies.

It is not yet clear how these new players will achieve their most audacious hope. This hope is often not about a new mobile app, or even technology itself. City-lab hybrids don’t want to just work around cities and city government. They want to change how they function. They are never just tinkering."
cities  laboratories  2017  andrewschrock  brunolatour  stevewoolgar  collectivism  collectivity  ecosystems  sociology  politics  scientism  academia  policy  government  governance  robertpark 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Common World | Research Collective
"The Common Worlds Research Collective is an interdisciplinary network of researchers concerned with our relations with the more-than-human world. Members work across the fields of childhood studies, early childhood education, children’s and more-than-human geographies, environmental education, feminist new materialisms, and Indigenous and environmental humanities.

We approach our lives as situated and embedded in ‘common worlds’ (Latour, 2004). The notion of common worlds is an inclusive, more than human notion. It helps us to avoid the divisive distinction that is often drawn between human societies and natural environments. By re-situating our lives within indivisible common worlds, our research focuses upon the ways in which our past, present and future lives are entangled with those of other beings, non- living entities, technologies, elements, discourses, forces, landforms.

Common worlds researchers are involved in two strands of inquiry. One strand experiments with feminist common worlds methods. The other strand features inquiries into children’s common worlds relations with place, with the material world, and with other species."
children  childhood  education  indigenous  environment  geography  earlychildhood  commonworlds  brunolatour  human  nature  multispecies  feminism  place  experientialeducation  interdisciplinary  sfsh  experientiallearning 
march 2017 by robertogreco
The Parliament of Things: Into Latour and His Philosophy
"Researching the conversations between Things, Animals, Plants and People and design the House of The Parliament of Things."

"The Parliament of Things is a speculative research into the emancipation of animals and things. It acknowledges that mankind has reached the end of an anthropocentric world. We can no longer maintain the distorted dichotomy between culture and nature. We share this world with many. Law should not be centred around Men, but around Life. We are just one party, among all animals, plants and objects. What if we welcome all things into our Parliament? What would be the plight of the planet? The reasoning of a fish? What claims would trees make, and what future would oil see for itself?

Do you you want to join? Send us an e-mail:

We at Partizan Publik have invented the Parliament and are playing the role of clerk by bringing it to you. The writer’s contest was a collaborative project that was organized by several partners. In the winter and spring of 2016 we invite several organizations to build the Parliament with us."

"We Have Never Been Modern and the Parliament of Things


In We Have Never Been Modern (1991) Bruno Latour criticizes the distinction between nature and society. He states that our sciences emphasize the subject-object and nature-culture dichotomies, whereas in actuality, phenomenons often cross these lines. As an example, he mentions the hole in the ozone layer, and the different ways the sciences should look at it: ‘Can anyone imagine a study that would treat the ozone hole as simultaneously naturalized, sociologized and deconstucted?’ (6). With this mentioning of the hole in the ozone layer (as well as, among other things, computer chips, Monsanto, and aids) he gives an example of things or phenomena that are not merely objects, but that are hybrids between nature and culture.

With regards to the title of this work, Latour argues that this dualism between subject and object is a ‘modern’ mode of classification, and that this modern mode does not actually correspond with the practical ways in which we live. Thus, this modern dualism actually has never existed: we have never been modern.

The Constitution

‘Modernity is often defined in terms of humanism, either as a way of saluting the birth of ‘man’ or as a way of announcing his death. But this habit itself is modern, because (…) [i]t overlooks the simultaneous birth of ‘nonhumanity’ – things, or objects, or beasts (…)’ (13)

In this chapter, the question at hand is about the constitution. ‘Who is to write the full constitution?’, Latour asks (14). For political constitutions, this is normally done by jurists and Founding Fathers; for the nature of things, this is the task of scientists. But, if we want to include hybrids as well, who is going to write the complete constitution?

Latour calls this complete constitution the ‘Constitution’ with a capital C, to distinguish it from the political one. It defines ‘humans and nonhumans, their properties and their relations, their abilities and their groupings’ (14).

Hobbes & Boyle

When discussing the separation between science and politics, Latour uses the dispute between Robert Boyle and Thomas Hobbes as an example. Boyle can be seen as the founder of modern science – he developed the methodology in which scientists observe a phenomenon produced artificially in a laboratory (in Boyle’s case, the workings of a vacuum pump, in our case, for example, CERN).

Hobbes, on the other hand, rejected this manner of analysis, and focused on theorizing social and political order in terms of human conflicts and agreements. ‘Boyle and Hobbes, then, jointly constructed the program for purifying the discourses of nature and society – expunging from each the traces of the other’ (Pickering). This distinction between science and politics is not just typical for ‘modernity’, but actually defines it, as Latour argues: ‘they are inventing our modern world, a world in which the representation of things through the intermediary of the laboratory is forever dissociated from the representation of citizens through the intermediary of the social contract’ (Latour 27).


Latour established that the modern constitution ‘invents a separation between scientific power charged with representing things and the political power charged with representing subjects’ (29). However, he states we should not think that subjects are far removed from things. Even though Hobbes and Boyle create this distinction, they still speak about the same things: God, the politics of the King of England, nature, mathematics, and spirits and angels, to name a few. It becomes clear that in practice, this separation between science and politics, and nature and culture, does not hold. As Latour states:

Here lies the entire modern paradox. If we consider hybrids, we are dealing only with mixtures of nature and culture; if we consider the work of purification, we confront a total separation between nature and culture.’ (30)

The paradox of modernity, thus, is that we divided the world into two groups –

nature (science) and culture (politics) – but at the same time, in our daily lives, we constantly deal with hybrids between these two groups. But this division renders ‘the work of mediation that assembles hybrids invisible, unthinkable, unrepresentable’ (35). As Latour succinctly puts it: ‘the modern constitution allows the expanded proliferation of the hybrids whose existence, whose very possibility, it denies’ (35).

We Have Never Been Modern

‘Modernity has never begun’, Latour argues. Instead, he calls himself a ‘nonmodern’: ‘A nonmodern is anyone who takes simultaneously into account the moderns’ Constitution and the population of hybrids that that Constitution rejects and allows to proliferate’ (47). He states that hybrids – also called monsters, cyborgs, tricksters – are ‘just about everything; they compose not only our own collectives but also the others, illegitimately called premodern’ (47). So only minor changes separate our era from the periods that were before, Latour states.


In this part, Latour discusses the action that has to be undertaken to acknowledge the existence and the importance of hybrids:

When the only thing at stake was the emergence of a few vacuum pumps, they could still be subsumed under two classes, that of natural laws and that of political representations; but when we find ourselves invaded by frozen embryos, expert systems, digital machines, sensor-equipped robots, hybrid corn, data banks, psychotropic drugs, whales outfitted with radar sounding devices, gene synthesizers, audience analyzers, and so on, when our daily newspapers display all these monsters on page after page, and when none of these chimera can be properly on the object side or on the subject side, or even in between, something has to be done. (50)

Latour calls for the need to outline a space that encompasses both the practice of purification as well as that of mediation. ‘By deploying both dimensions at once, we may be able to accomodate the hybrids and give them a place, a name, a home, a philosophy, an ontology and, I hope, a new constitution’ (51).


Latour tries to locate the position of hybrids, quasi-objects and quasi-subjects by first problematizing the status of the social scientist. He argues that the social scientist, on the one hand, shows that ‘the power of gods, the objectivity of money, the attraction of fashion (…)’ have no intrinsic value, but ‘offer only a surface for the projection of our social needs and interests’ (52). To become a social scientist, Latour states, ‘is to realize that the inner properties of objects do not count, that they are mere receptacles for human categories’ (52).

On the other hand, social scientists also debunk the belief in the freedom of the human subject: they show how the ‘nature of things (…) determines, informs and moulds’ humans (53). So, Latour states that the social scientist ‘see[s] double’:

In the first denunciation, objects count for nothing; they are just there to be used as the white screens on to which society projects its cinema. But in the second, they are so powerful that they shape the human society, while the social construction of the sciences that have produced them remains invisible. (53)

The solution to these contradictory beliefs is dualism, much to Latour’s disapproval. The nature pole is divided into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ parts, the same partition is made for the subject/society pole. ‘Dualism may be a poor solution, but it provided 99 per cent of the social sciences’ critical repertoire’ (54).

Latour, instead, states objects are society’s co-producters. ‘Is not society built literally – not metaphorically – of gods, machines, sciences, arts and styles?’ (54). He argues we should not focus too much on dialectics, as dialectics foreground the existing dichotomies; instead, he focuses on quasi-objects.

Quasi-objects are in between and below the two poles (…) [and] are much more social, much more fabricated, much more collective than the ‘hard’ parts of nature (…), [yet] they are much more real, nonhuman and objective than those shapeless screens on which society (…) needed to be ‘projected’. (55)

By focusing on the two poles rather than on that what is in between, ‘science studies have forced everyone to rethink anew the role of objects in the construction of collectives, thus challenging philosophy’ (55).


In this chapter, Latour treats the function of anthropology and the role it might be able to play, as well as the concepts of symmetry and asymmetry. If anthropology is to become symmetrical, ‘the anthropologist has to position himself at the median point where he can follow the attribution of both nonhuman and human properties’ (96).

To analyse this new field of study, anthropology … [more]
multispecies  objects  plants  animals  brunolatour  robertboyle  thomashobbes  hybrids  modernity  nonmodern  modern  quasi-objects  law  biology  anthropology  entertainment  science  architecture  campainging  literature  things  theparliamentofthings 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Collateral Damage: Mark Fell - The Wire
“ Decisions are constructed within these networks, and not imposed on them by an isolated human agent. If we accept Latour’s position, and in the light of Heidegger’s standpoint, we can see Phuture’s encounter with the 303 not as one driven by error, confusion or breakdown, but as an absorbed exploration, and a series of 'what if?' questions that lead to a non-theoretical understanding of the system. Here, decisions are not made in resistance to what is encountered, but in response to it.

For this column I was originally asked to consider how musicians alter the technologies they work with – principally thinking about programming environments and circuit bending.

I like to believe that all uses of a technology alter and define that technology. Any tool is subject to redefinition through its uses, and dependent on its placement within wider social and cultural contexts; for example, my Dad’s use of a screwdriver to open a tin of paint, or a friend’s use of a shoelace to commit suicide. Some musicians deliberately alter and define technologies to produce unexpected sound or music, such as Matthew Herbert’s use of a perpetually boiling kettle as a sound source, or Yasunao Tone’s foregrounding of a specific CD player’s error correction system. Both are alterations and redefinitions of technical systems.”
music  acidhouse  maxmsp  technology  constraint  creativity  brunolatour  latour  dolby  from twitter
may 2015 by migurski
Stengers’shibbolet, Bruno Latour [.pdf]
"1997 (foreword) Isabelle Stengers, Power and Invention, University of Minnesota
Press, Minneapolis"

"-Would you say that Isabelle Stengers is the greatest French philosopher of science?

-Yes, except she is from Belgium a country that exists only in part and where, contrary to France, the link between science and the state is nil.

-Would you say that she is the philosophical right-hand of the Nobel Prize winner of chemistry Ilya Prigogine?

-Yes, since she wrote several books with him, and yet she has spent the rest of her life trying to escape from the mass of lunatics attracted to this “New Alliance” between science and culture they both wrote together.

-Is she an historian of science?

-Hard to say. Although she wrote extensively on Galileo, on XIXth century thermodynamics, on chemistry1, she remains a philosopher interested in what her physicists and chemists colleagues should understand of their science. Her main object of attention is modern science, and this is what historians and philosophers should study together, no?

-You are not going to say that she is an internalist philosopher of science, are you?

-Worse than that, Isabelle Stengers is an “hyperinternalist” forcing you always to go further towards a small number of theoretical decisions made by her scientific colleagues. In her eyes, most scientists are often not internalist enough.

-But at least don’t tell us that she is a whiggish historian of science looking, like Gaston Bachelard or Georges Canguilhem, for the ways by which hard science finally escapes from history?

-She is, I am afraid, much worse. She is “anti-anti-whiggish” trying to figure out why the anti-whiggish stance is not the good way to account for what it is to “win” in science, at least not if one aims at convincing the chemists and biologists and physicists she is working with.

-But she is a woman philosopher and at least she must develops some kind of feminist philosophy of science?

-There is hardly anyone more critical of the feminist literature although she uses it extensively and knows it quite well.

-Then, she must be one of these abstract minds trying to reconstruct rationally the foundations of science and being busy erasing all signs of her sex, gender, nationality and standpoint?

-Not at all, there is no one more externalist than her and reading more extensively in the litterature on the social history of science.

-What? Does she have any patience for those ridiculous attempts at connecting science and society?

-Worse than that, she is addicted to it and knows more “science studies” than anyone else in the field.

-Do you mean to say that she likes it because it flatters her radical leanings in politics?

-Worse, she wrote on drug legalization, she is a militant in a small left Belgium party and even went as far as working with charlatans practicing hypnosis and other kinds of unorthodox cures... I told you, Isabelle Stengers is always worse! She wrote as much on hypnosis as on physics and she happily compares chemistry laboratory and ethnopsychiatry, going so far as to rehabilitate the word “charlatan”2.

-Then she must be one of these ignorant radicals doing politics because they are unable to grasp the niceties of science?

-Not quite since she does radical politics through the careful definition of what Laplace, Lagrange, Carnot have done with their equations.

-I am thoroughly lost... Then she must be quite a woman?!

-Yes, and quite a mind!

-But, tell me, how come you have been asked to write a foreword for someone who seems obviously much better endowed in philosophical subtleties, political will and scientific knowledge than yourself?

-This is quite strange, I concur. I guess it is because of the tradition in science studies and in anthropology of the modern world to study “up” instead of “down”. Trying to swallow hard sciences had very good effect on the softer ones. I guess it is the same with Stengers. You grind your teeth on her argument, and you feel much better afterward!..."

[continues into the intro]

"One simple way to define this collection of articles presented in English, is to say that they have been written by a philosopher interested in the very classical question of distinguishing good science from bad. Her new solution to this old problem will be, however, difficult to grasp both for science studies and for philosophers and that requires some clarification. Isabelle Stengers does not share the anti-normative stance of most recent historians and sociologists of science and has no qualms in looking for a shibbolet that will help sort out science from non-science. In this sense, but in this sense only, her work is marginally more acceptable to Anglo-American epistemologists than those of “science studies” who shun away from any normative position. Philosophers will be able to recognize at least that here is someone who is not complacent vis-a-vis the production of bad science and who shares their will for a good cleansing job. The difference, because fortunately there is one, lies in the fact that her own touchstone means getting rid of most epistemologists and quite a lot of hard sciences! So the normative goal is similar but the principles of choice are radically different. "

"Stengers’ request to be cosmopolitically correct cut both ways, and cuts hard. In the obscure fights of the Science Wars, one can safely predicts, she will be seen as a traitor to all the camps, not because she is “in the middle” -no one is less of a middle-woman than her, no one is less an adept of the Golden Medium!- but because she imposes on all protagonists a criterion that they will do their utmost to escape. Although this book appears in a series called “Theories out of bound”, no theory is more binding than Stengers’ new demarcation criterion. Having often tried to escape its binding strength only to find myself forced to use it again, it is a great pleasure (and I say it with some glee) to imagine that English-speaking readers are now to be enmeshed into this most daring enterprise we, in the French-reading world, had to take into account for so long. It is my hope that they will learn more than I did (this is unlikely) in those twenty years when I tried to profit from her marvelous “habits of thoughts”, and also my hope that they will be forced even more than I was (this is more unlikely) to modify their definition of hard science and of radical politics by using Stengers’ shibboleth and pushing it everywhere -against herself if needs be!"
isabellestrengers  brunolatour  1997  whigpunk  whigishness  whigs  science  philosophy  philosophyofscience  history  culture  thirdculture  ilyaprigogine  physics  chemistry  feminism  socialhistory  politics  ethnopsychiatry  charlatans  radicalism 
march 2015 by robertogreco

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