Sunday, January 31, 2010

OOO, ya don't say?

Follow this link to learn more about a one-day symposium on April 23rd at Georgia Tech on Object Oriented Ontology [OOO, as the shorthand now goes].

According to the symposium website, OOO, a term coined by Graham Hartman, who is also the figure most associated with this philosophical movement, "puts things at the center....Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally—plumbers, cotton, bonobos, DVD players, and sandstone, for example. In contemporary thought, things are usually taken either as the aggregation of ever smaller bits (scientific naturalism) or as constructions of human behavior and society (social relativism). OOO steers a path between the two, drawing attention to things at all scales (from atoms to alpacas, bits to blinis), and pondering their nature and relations with one another as much with ourselves."  Among the scheduled participants, Levi Bryant has written a series of manifestos for the movement, available here and here.  For another such manifesto, see Ian Bogust, who is also the webmaster for the symposium.  Bogust's post also connects with the early January f(l)ury over the present sordid state of the humanities (i.e., as registered at MLA '09 and thereafter).

I still haven't taken a position on OOO myself yet, but I find something in and about it compelling, not least it's thoroughly ontological de-centering of the human.  What probably bothers me most is its repeated claims to some form of "realism," especially insofar as OOO finds comrades in "speculative realism" (e.g., Ray Brassier, Ian Hamilton Grant, and Quentin Meillassoux).  Indeed, Hartman is very much the shifting figure associated with both movements, and at least in some readings, OOO is a sub-field of "speculative realism" (see here, e.g.)  As always, it would be interesting to trace the intellectual genealogy that these thinkers claim for themselves (e.g., behind Hartman there stands a certain acknowledged influence of his teacher Alphonso Lingis), including an important (revisionist?) reading of Deleuze.  Indeed, Levi Bryant and Steven Shaviro have probably written the most on Deleuze in relation to this question, although I wonder how Manuel DeLanda's reading of Delueze as putting forth a "realist ontology" might connect with OOO more generally.  It's also worth thinking about how, at least in the circles of literary criticism, something like "thing theory" works in conjunction with OOO, although I don't think that the former posits any kind of realism, ontologically understood. 

No comments: