New Materialism: Naturecultures in Utrecht
I will be giving two talks in Utrecht in April (6-7) – one based on Insect Media and more specifically on Roger Caillois (read as a media theorist of embodiment, psychastenic spatiality, mimicry), and the other one as part of the New Materialisms: Naturecultures-event. It follows up some of the themes of our last year’s symposium that we organized in Cambridge with Milla Tiainen – and now again with a wonderful line of speakers, including Donna Haraway.
My talk will touch on how to think the materialism of media in its specificity – and how to expand from German media theoretical materialism of for instance Friedrich Kittler’s work to medianatures. So I will probably will end up touching some of the media ecological themes I have been writing about recently. Below a short blurb about the event, and below that, my abstract for the event.
One of the conceptual innovations stirred by debates in contemporary cultural theory that want to rewrite the linguistic turn concerns ‘naturecultures’. This concept is created by Donna Haraway in The Companion Species Manifesto (2003) in order to write the necessary entanglement of the natural and the cultural, the bodily and the mind, the material and the semiotic, et cetera. ‘Naturecultures’ offers us an important route to rewrite these modernist oppositions in such a way that rather than representing parts of the world, a transcription with the world is being proposed. Concepts thus do not capture or mirror what is ‘out there’, but are fully immersed in a constantly changing reality. ‘Naturecultures’ rewrites not only femininity but in the end all subversive material practices as an ethical break through of for instance phallologocentrism. Karen Barad would call this ‘ethico-onto-epistemological’.
This conference uses ‘naturecultures’ as a point of departure. We intend to study conceptual innovation in contemporary cultural theory from seemingly different ‘disciplinary’ and ‘paradigmatic’ angles in order to demonstrate how similar movements in thought are at work in the emerging paradigms of new materialism, post-humanism, agential realism, and in fields ranging from philosophy to the humanities and to the natural sciences.
The first ‘New Materialism’ conference took place in June 2010 at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, the UK. Organized by Dr. Jussi Parikka and Dr. Milla Tiainen, several scholars came together to discuss new materialism and digital cultures. This second conference is an initiative of the Center for the Humanities, the Graduate Gender Programme, and the Department of Media and Culture Studies, all located at the Faculty of Humanities of Utrecht University. It is funded by these three partners, as well as by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the Center for the Study of Digital Games and Play (Utrecht University), and the Posthumanities Hub (Tema Genus, Linköping University).
And my abstract:
Media Milieus, or Why Does Nature Do It Better?
In terms of material media analysis, the German media theoretical directions at least since Friedrich A. Kittler’s influential writings have introduced an important agenda to think the specificity of media. In what could be termed the Kittler-effect in media theory (in Winthrop-Young’s words), the materially meticulous readings of technical media have forced a whole generation of new media studies to think through the technical and scientific specificity of contemporary media – beyond meaning, representation and the human body, the fact that technical media engage in such processes, speeds, and phenomena that escape the phenomenological human register per se. Media often hear more, see more and memorize much more than us humans.
Yet, I want to point towards a different kind of reading of media materiality, one that touches on the symposium theme Naturecultures more directly. We can question the notion of specificity and argue that there are various specificities to which we could tap into. While German media theory has been insisting on drawing on materialities that can be directly connected to the important scientific contexts of technical media, we can insist on what could be called a milieu theory of media: how media establish but also draw on nature, animals and other non-human intensities, forces and potentialities. Instead of thinking nature here in terms of the metaphorics it has offered for a long time for media cultural phenomena, and avoiding proposing any form of purity of nature, I want to look at the continuums of not only naturecultures, but medianatures that is slightly different from the emphasis of media cultures as the “new” environment for us human beings. Instead we approach medianatures as affordances, as intensities, as regimes of affects and relations and as processes of mediatic nature that offer a non-human view to new materialist media theory.