Siegfried Zielinski urges us to seek the new in the old. I wonder if that theoretical principle could be applied to theory itself. What if we were to read past authors and ideas always under a new and different light? We could go even further and promote a continuous refashioning of the past by means of different imaginative exercises. An archive is not necessarily a repository of dead words and deeds. The archaeologist possesses the mystical power to resuscitate what was thought to be lifeless. Therein lies perhaps one of the main reasons for my interested in the past. Also, I have to admit that I’m usually much more interested in stories about failures and flops than tales of success. A monumental flop within the sphere of theoretical thought may indicate that an idea was prematurely born or shaped within an intellectual context that didn’t do it justice. I believe that’s the case with many of the obscure characters that draw my attention. Not coincidentally, I tend to evaluate their ideas under a framework that is never solely epistemological, but also aesthetic. Take, for instance, the obscure Fritz Mauthner. Reading the excellent work by Elizabeth Bredeck (Metaphors of Knowledge: Language and Thought in Mauthner’s Critique), I speculate wether Mauthner’s notion of Zufallsgeschichte (history of contingencies) can shed interesting light on some (media)archaeological principles. This history of contingencies teaches us that “what history lacks is as important as what it yields” (p. 42). The fact that the Zufallsgeschichte is not grounded on any divine or natural predetermination prevents the establishment of any generalization. History always “remains limited to particulars” (43) and also bound to human interest. Instead of being “true”, it must be useful. In Mauthner’s view, our knowledge of the world has a “metaphoric” dimension, since it is always mediated by language and its categories. One could say that knowledge is always, in a way, “aesthetic”. In a time when anthropocentric perspectives of the universe were still quite current, Mauthner endeavored a critique of the anthropocentric character of words such as “law”, “purpose” or “necessity”, which should be dismissed as linguistic illusions altogether. After writing this very brief and incomplete report, I read again a fortuitous passage in Bredeck’s book – which I had of course already forgotten – and smile: “Mauthner serves as a lens through which we can get a new perspective on issues in contemporary theory, while contemporary theory helps shed new light on the complexities of Mauthner’s own thought” (p. 29).
Graham posted this in his blog. He is in São Paulo and we’ll meet him tomorrow. Glad he liked the restaurant I recommended. Also, Steven posted the abstract for his talk in Rio here. Today we took Siegfried Zielinski to the Moreira Salles Institute. He is quite taken by the beautiful natural landscapes of Rio. Adalberto, Siegfried and I had a nice conversation on Flusser and his book “A History of the Devil”. A delightful Sunday, indeed.
“the question is not wether the presentation of a ‘Stimmung’ is truthful or not, but rather wether it touches (berührt) the observer or not”. We’re no longer dealing with clearly verifiable determinations of truth or falsehood. With his typically circular, enigmatic and inconclusive style, Flusser never delivers a theory for the interpretation of gestures, but rather a reading procedure that is not quantifiable or translatable in the order of discourse (at least in terms of scientific discourse). “The ‘Gestimmtheit’ liberates the ‘Stimmungen’ from their original contexts and turns them into aesthetic phenomena. They become ‘artificial’” (V.F.). That’s why we can say that the ‘Gestimmtheit’ isn’t an epistemological or ethical issue, but rather an aesthetic one. What one needs in order to be able to ‘read’ it is an inclination, a subjective attitude that has less to do with the determination of a clear meaning than with a certain disposition for experiencing sensations…
The International Symposium “The Secret Life of Objects: Materialities, Medialities, Temporalities” will take place in Rio de Janeiro, from August the 1st to August the 3rd. Promoted by the State University of Rio de Janeiro, along with several other academic institutions (such as the Vilem Flusser Archiv and Universität Wien), the event is intended to debate the emergence of new paradigms, epistemologies and intellectual scenarios within the Humanities (see the abstract bellow). The keynote speaker will be the French sociologist Bruno Latour and several other guests have already confirmed their presence (Graham Harman, Siegfried Zielinski, Joachim Paech, Ian Bogost etc.). The organizing committee will soon release a detailed program with information on how to enroll.
Erick Felinto (Presidente) – UERJ
Adalberto Müller – UFF/Letras
André Lemos – UFBA
Fernanda Bruno – UFRJ
Lúcia Santaella – PUCSP
Maurício Lissovsky – UFRJ
Simone de Sá – UFF
Vinicius Andrade Pereira – UERJ
Abstract: There are strong indications that a significant transformation is underway in the so-called “human sciences” (Geisteswissenschaften, sciences humaines, Humanities). After a period of intense crisis and uncertainty, in which human sciences have frequently sought to mirror or approach the hard sciences, the beginning of the twenty-first century seems to witness a broad renewal of disciplines, approaches and methodologies. From the questioning of its traditional foundations, humanities are reinventing themselves by a broad reconfiguration of its borders and even of the notion of “humanity” that served as its cornerstone. One of the areas where the wealth of this new scenario is most clearly displayed is that of media studies. Spurred by the impact of new digital technologies, media studies cleverly learned to appropriate the epistemological principles and major theoretical issues that have come to characterize the contemporary cultural scene. The objective of the Seminar “The Secret Life of Objects: Medialities, Materialities, Temporalities” is to sketch a systematization of this scenario from a transdisciplinary perspective, but with a decisive focus on communication studies and culture. The three axes that structure the Seminar represent articulating knots that cut across different disciplines in the humanities, from sociology to philosophy, but acquire special meaning in the context of new media studies. The underlying assumption is that we need to radically rethink the notion of epistemic agency in a context where the action and the impact of the objects, media and technological materialities become increasingly important. Thus, it is not only necessary to investigate the place of human actors in a world enriched by the life of polymorphic objects, but also to highlight the issues that the strong tradition of hermeneutics of the humanities have often obscured: what, without constituting meaning per se, contributes nonetheless to the production of meaning? What is a medium and how mediation processes unfold? In what ways does technological materiality inform cultural worlds and determine forms of cognition? What new models of historical research of techniques and culture are emerging within the current epistemological paradigms? In what ways is the material dimension of experience combined with the intangible dimensions of culture? What does it mean to purport an “object-oriented” philosophy? In what sense does the category of the human reconfigure itself in light of our new relations with objects and nonhuman entities? How important is the legacy of the genealogy and archeology of knowledge (Nietzsche, Foucault) to a perspectivization of the impacts of “new” digital culture? By means of interdisciplinary panels, in which philosophers, anthropologists and scientists will discuss with experts in media studies, we intend to address these issues in order to elaborate a preliminary cartography of an epistemological territory still in its early stages of exploration.
Parece que tem gente achando pedante eu ter passado a escrever em inglês no meu blog. Em função disso, talvez valha a pena esclarecer alguns pontos:
1. Trata-se de um blog de pesquisa (ainda que ocasionalmente eu escreva sobre temas pessoais), e meu interesse é levar os resultados desse trabalho ao público mais amplo possível. Infelizmente, o português não é a língua ideal para isso. Assim como na Idade Média o latim era a língua da academia, hoje essa língua é o inglês. Esse é um dado incontornável da realidade em que vivemos e nenhum nacionalismo raivoso ou xenofobia linguística vai mudar isso. A Capes, o CNPq e o caramba a quatro nos enchem o saco o tempo todo com o discurso da internacionalização, e isso implica passar a escrever e publicar em inglês (tanto artigo em periódicos internacionais como nos ambientes virtuais onde divulgamos nossa pesquisa). Claro, seria muito mais conveniente e fácil escrever em português, minha língua nativa, com a qual eu tenho uma relação absolutamente amorosa e confortável. Todavia, tanto no Facebook como no Twitter, existe um número razoável de pessoas não falantes do português que acompanham meus posts, entre os quais vários pesquisadores com os quais tenho parcerias acadêmicas (ops! Acabei de perceber que dizer isso vai parecer pedante…). Eu gostaria que eles fossem capazes de entender o que escrevo, ao menos de vez em quando.
2. O cara que me acha pedante por escrever em inglês, com certeza vai continuar me achando pedante por um monte de outras razões: porque falo alemão, porque sorrio pouco, porque não faço salamaleques, porque gosto e faço propaganda da filosofia, porque curto citar autores obscuros e sei lá mais o quê… A questão é que se eu começar a me preocupar muito com isso, vou ter de passar a filtrar tudo que digo. E o problema é que eu falo do que me apaixona, e não consigo não ser coerente com as minhas obsessões. Obviamente, ninguém é obrigado a compartilhá-las. Ninguém é forçado a assistir a minhas aulas, me seguir no Twitter ou ler meu blog – muito menos gostar de mim. Se o sujeito tiver pelo menos uma mente aberta e estiver disposto a escutar meus argumentos por alguns minutos eu já fico muito satisfeito.
3. No fundo, no fundo, quem quer ser popular não faz a opção pela vida acadêmica. A suprema felicidade é encontrar mais de 10 pessoas que tenham lido um texto nosso. Livro acadêmico não é best-seller. No dia em que um Canclini estiver ganhando mais dinheiro que um Paulo Coelho ou pegando mais mulher que o Neymar, poderemos ter certeza de que fomos transportados misteriosamente para um universo paralelo radicalmente diferente do nosso. Todavia, gosto de acreditar que os temas que pesquiso – e em especial, agora, o pensamento de Vilém Flusser, esse excepcional pensador que viveu entre nós por mais de 30 anos – tem algum valor. O feedback que venho recebendo por email ou mesmo aqui no blog me dá indicações disso. E realmente me agrada a ideia de compartilhar alguns achados com outras pessoas que infelizmente não compreendem o português.
4. And yet, and yet…para não dizerem que, além de pedante, eu sou também radical, farei um esforço para postar aqui nas duas línguas. Com certeza, isso não vai mudar a opinião do cara que me acha metido, mas talvez assim ele se sinta motivado a prestar mais atenção nos temas cuja discussão eu venho propondo. Isso, sim, é que é realmente importante.
I’m finally back to blogging here (which I hope will happen more frequently from now on) and hopefully I’ll be able to present some of my new research on Flusser pretty soon. However, I decided that my first post after vacation time should be something rather light and humorous. So in order to keep up with the series “Advices for a Successful Academic Career”, I thought it might be interesting to give our young graduates some pointers on how to promote their careers. Of course, since I can only talk about my own experience, what you’ll read bellow applies primarily to the Brazilian context and, more specifically, to the field of media studies.
1. Never read or discuss any work that is less than twenty years old; that will make you extremely unpopular. Instead, try to quote and analyze only authors or theories that have already been canonized by your peers. As a matter of fact, the more canonical, the better;
2. If you can choose, do applied rather than purely theoretical research. ” Teoria da Comunicação” is a very unpopuplar line of work in Brazilian media studies. Also, some people tend to give you a funny look when you begin inserting too much philosophy in your talks or wander too far off the beaten tracks (of the so called “field of communication studies”);
3. If your proposal for a research project gets a rejection, don’t even think of writing an appeal. You know this will be just a waste of your time, specilaly if you’re dealing with institutions such as Capes and CNPq. It would be wiser to seek psychological help or get hammered over the weekend.
4. People in academia tend to be very touchy, so always be extermely careful with what you say and do, as you might unintentionaly offend someone. Even better: don’ts say or do anything unless you absolutely need to. When in an administrative position (althought there is actually no such thing in Brazilian public schools), avoid confrontation at all costs.