International Symposium “The Secret Life of Objects” – Rio 2012

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.

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