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01 August 2010

Objects, Agents, and The Pragmatic Side of Object-Oriented Ontology

I just read an interesting post by Levi Bryant at Larval Subjects on An Ontology of Agents. What I found most interesting was this section:
"This leads to the second question every rhetorical theorist and orator should be asking. If one does not exist in the environment of the system they are addressing or if the content of what they say does not exist in that environment,how can it come to exist? In other words, how is it possible to create resonance? This is not simply a question of rhetorical theory, but a political question as well. We saw this in graphic and despair filled detail during the WTO protests in 1999, as well as the various protests against the Iraq war. As passionate as these protests were, they failed to create resonance with either the media system or the government they sought to persuade.
Indeed, the protests largely worked against the aims of the protesters. The media system, for example, seldom reported why people were protesting the WTO, but rather instead just showed the spectacle of a chaotic mass of colorfully dressed people screaming that they were against the WTO . For the television audience witnessing these protests, the overwhelming reaction was identification with the WTO rather than the protesters& Despite the fact that the grievances of the protesters were to the benefit of most people making up the television audience. In short, this spectacle further entrenched the power of capitalism rather than diminishing it. It does no good to complain that the media is biased or owned by corporations. Such a complaint might be satisfying, providing one with the pleasures of the beautiful soul, but such complaints do not solve the problem of resonance.
This complaint gets us no closer to creating resonance with a public whose collective action is needed to produce these changes. In this regard, the key question of politics is not so much that of how it is possible to commit an act or how a truth-procedure is possible. No, if one is really serious about producing change, the key question of politics is the question of how to produce resonance among the various systems and social systems that populate the social world."
I like to think of myself as a pragmatic person, in the sense that I try to understand how a new philosophy will affect what it is I do and how I do it. This is the first time I've read Levi or any of the other Object-Orient Ontologists or Speculative Realists explain the pragmatic consequences of their philosophy. But maybe I just haven't read enough of it yet. What I read here reminds me a great deal of Latour, Connolly, Law, and others that I've read recently, and I have to say I agree.  The idea seems to me that we have to start from where we are, we have to be willing to work and open to the possibility of failure, and we have to think about how our actions will resonate in the world around us. Levi and the others don't offer solutions or techniques for how to accomplish change, but they provide, in my opinion, a solid theoretical position from which to start thinking about pragmatic applications.

Note: I've mentioned this before, but I think that the work of J.K. Gibson-Graham is a great place to start looking for the pragmatic applications that follow from this perspective.

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