Bruno Latour and Metaphysics

I don't remember this passage in Harman's Prince of Networks, but its a nice one from Latour's Laboratory Life:

Specific to this laboratory is the particular configurations of apparatus that we have called inscription devices. The central importance of this material arrangement is that none of the phenomena "about which" participants talk could exist without it. Without a bioassay, for example, a substance could not be said to exist. The bioassay is not merely a means of obtaining some independently given entity; the bioassay constitutes the construction of the substance. [...] It is not simply that phenomena depend on certain material instrumentation; rather, the phenomena are thoroughly constituted by the material setting of the laboratory. (64)

In the article I'm working on, I connect Latour's interest in assemblage/emergence to Levinas's ethical metaphysic. Ethical in the sense that the ethical relation instantiates existence, such that belonging, precedes being. There is no self without relation to the Other/other/others for Levinas. Similarly, as Harman stresses in his explication of Latour, objects exist in for Latour only as far as we can trace their alliances. Metaphysically, I believe the resonances to McComiskey's Gorgias are quite strong.

With a bit of luck, I'll have this monstrous article submitted by the end of the week.


Music / January / 2011

In keeping with my New Years resolution, here's the albums I've picked up since my last post:

  • Black Keys' Rubber Factory - A very solid album, rarely do I find myself skipping a track when this comes up on a shuffle. This band knows what they want to do, retro- blues rock, and they do it well. Given my recent purchases, it is refreshing sometimes to hear a low-fi rock album without a sample, loop, or synthesizer.
  • Vampire Weekend's Vampire Weekend and Contra - Put simply, I love both of these albums. They're collections of short, smartly arranged up-tempo songs. Take the Pixies, replace the outsider angst with hipster urbanity and the punk guitars with layered synth, and you have Vampire Weekend. My current favorite band.
  • Joe Cocker's With a Little Help From My Friends - I think listening to the Black Keys got me on a retro kick, manifesting itself in Cocker's 1969 album. I felt foolish about 2 seconds after I downloaded the album, seeing as I could probably pick it up for a dollar at any used music store. But, the album is great--there's some deep tracks here I'd never heard before and really enjoy (like "Sandpaper Cadillac"). So, go ahead Joe, enjoy the royalty and have a glass on me.
  • The Brew's At Showcase Live (June 16th 2010) - This band came recommended by an ex-student; I downloaded a freebie off of Internet Archive (I pledge to buy an album at some point in the future, karma people). After 4 or 5 listens, I'm pretty sure I'd like the studio material better. The live stuff gets a bit jammy/Phishy for my tastes, although I'm going to tag any band that plays 3 minute solos with a Paul Reed Smith as Phishy. After effects of going to Clark University.
  • Arctic Monkey's Humbug - I bought this album with a sinking feeling in my stomach. Their last album, Favorite Worst Nightmare, was one of my favorites from grad school. After a quick preview, I pretty much knew this one wouldn't live up. The liner notes highlight how the Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme produced the album--and it shows. Arctic Monkey's frenetic energy is subdued with a QotSA kind of deep pump. It doesn't work quite as well for me, but I've only listened to the album once. We'll see.

Alright, so that's what I picked up this month, along with a few old Kanye singles. The National, Arcade Fire, and Deerhunter all remain on my radar. I'm thinking of picking up Kanye's latest album next week. Pitchfork gave it a perfect 10.0, and for those that don't know Pitchfork, that's about as likely as snow in Florida.


Harman's Tool-Being

Graham Harman's Tool-Being (along with several other of his works) is on my radar, although I have no idea when I'll find time to read it. I came across a review of Harman's book today at Dark Chemistry, and this excerpt from Harman has my attention:

"In any case, we are left with the following scenario-the world as a duel of tightly interlaced objects that both aggrandize and corrode one another. As Bacon expressed... "For since every body contains in itself many forms of natures united together in a concrete state, the result is that they severally crush, depress, break, and enthrall one another, and thus the individual forms are obscured." The movement of philosophy is less one of unveiling (which would rely on a sort of as-structure that I have argued does not really exist) than of a sort of reverse engineering. Often, teams of industrial pirates will lock themselves in a motel room, working backward from a competitor's finished product in an effort to unlock and replicate the code that generates it. In the case of the philosopher, the finished product that must be reverse-engineered is the world as we know it; the motel room is perhaps replaced by a lecture hall or a desert. Behind every apparently simple object or concept is an infinite legion of further objects crushing, depressing, breaking, and enthralling one another. It is these violent underground currents that one should attempt to counter, so as to unlock the infrastructure of any entity or of the world as a whole" (TB: 290).


Week One, Spring 2011

Our first week of classes is coming to a close. My New Media class read Walter Ong's "Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought" and will be remediating the essay into (x)html this weekend. I haven't read that article in a few years (gasp), since I finished the dissertation (which contains a chapter essentially dedicated to Ong); I forgot how darn concise yet incredible that essay is. Written after a nearly 30 years studying the epistemological and ethical impact of writing upon human consciousness and sociology, it is a 14 page tour de force. Stylistically, it is quite quotable, and I think that's why it will lend itself to the kind of intense condensation that my remediation project demands (reducing the 14 page essay to a series of ten sentences and images).

My visual rhetoric class meets only once a week, and that is a tricky format for an undergraduate technology driven class. Their first project (due next week) asks them to perform a rhetorical analysis of an image (whether an advertisement, an artwork, a book cover, a movie poster, whatever. Nothing revolutionary there. I do ask them, however, to mediate the analysis as either a Prezi, a movie, or a flash presentation. Last semester I did two to three (student choice) of these projects, and they got much better each time. This semester I am only doing one--but there's a number of other cool projects I want to try. Their first reading is from Presentation Zen Design, and I must say, I really like this book so far. It combines concise instruction harmoniously with a minimalist design scheme, practicing what it preaches.

In terms of research, I spent the first week back working on my book review for TCQ (I'm reviewing Selber's collection Rhetoric and Technologies; short, short version--go order a desk copy, its great). I also spent a few hours working on a second book review of Davis' Inessential Solidarity for JAC. Working on the reviews was a nice way to ease back in to the semester. My rough draft of the Selber review is checking in around 3500 words, the final version needs to be around 1800. So, I've got some cutting to do this weekend.

I'm also excited because this week I joined an interdisciplinary project at USF centered in our new School of Global Sustainability--Resilient Tampa Bay. The group seeks to foster connections between academics at USF (from english and communications to civil engineering and the sciences) and community stakeholders from around the Tampa area. My new media class will help design a new website for the group after their 3rd conference this February; my visual rhetoric class will work on designing a complete branding for the group. Should be fun and productive.

Well that's my first week back. Hope everyone out there is able to get through the snow. I've got one last letter of recommendation to compose this afternoon (at least, I hope it is the last one), and about 7 to submit online. Then I might actually take a few hours to (gasp) read a few journal articles.


Trying to Listen to More Music

Meg got me a new iPod for Christmas. I haven't really bought any new music in probably 5 years (I think the last new album I purchased was Arctic Monkey's Favorite Worst Nightmare in 2007). So I'm trying to reconnect with music in 2011. My plan is to buy an album a week. I started with an iTunes gift certificate, here's the albums I have purchased so far:

  • Kings of Leon, Only By the Night - A great album. I was expecting something with a bit more edge to it, so it took a few listens. But its haunting sound grew on me.
  • Crash Kings, Crash Kings - A complete one-hit wonder. "Mountain Man" is a great song, but the rest of the album tries to hard to emulate every other alternative band out there.
  • Mumford and Sons, Sigh No More - I loved the single "Little Lion Man." The rest of the album is solid, but they certainly picked the right track to release as the first single. The band is at their best with up-tempo tracks.
  • My Chemical Romance, Danger Days - I am an unapologetic My Chemical Romance fan, I love their harmonic-punk style and experimentation (their last album, Black Parade, has a punk-polka). This album is quite different than the two previous albums. I listened to it about 5 times and am not sure what I think about it--its certainly a good album, but I think I'd prefer carefully arranged and mixed punk rock to carefully arranged and mixed electronica.

I just bought the Black Keys' 2004 album Rubber Factory and a friend provided burns of two Vampire Weekend albums, so I have plenty to listen to this week. Next week, I'm thinking of grabbing The National's High Violet, but I am open to suggestions.


M&M Eat

As I said in the previous post, Meg and I have talked about creating a food blog since we moved to Florida. Call it New Year's initiative, because I finally made one: M&M Eat.

Happy New Year everyone, good luck with your syllabizing.


M&M Eat Out / 717 South

Meg and I have talked for awhile about writing a food blog. Its mostly because I have the world's worst memory and can never remember if I liked a place or not. Here's a quick start.

Tonight we went out to 717 South in Tampa--an italian/asian fusion restaurant. Meg ordered the crab cake for dinner with jalapeno sweet potatoes; I had the miso and sake tilapia with wasabi mashed potatoes. We both had the house salad (the highlight of the night for me). My fish wasn't bad, but wasn't memorable. Meg's crab cake was quite good, and the jalapeno sweet potatoes were great. For desert, Meg had an excellent creme brulee, I had an uninspired key lime pie. Good news--I only ate about half the pie, and they took it off the bill without us asking. That was appreciated. With one glass of wine each, the bill came to a reasonable 70 dollars before tip (that's with the two deserts).

All in all a nice meal, though I'm not in a big rush to go back.