My WordPress dashboard has been staring at me all night. I’ve got a million other things to do beside write a journal entry, excuse me, a blog entry, but over the weekend I became inspired to record more, I became convinced that writing everyday might be one of the key elements in a writer’s identity formation. A writer writes. If I’m just thinking about writing, I am not a writer.
I’m not sure I can productively add to the essay I am working on tonight through a journal entry, which is why I have posed the question that heads this entry. Am I really accomplishing something by writing this entry? If I don’t push my essay along, has this been a good use of 10 minutes?
But maybe this entry doesn’t need to be about the here and now. A little literacy narrative aside: when I first started blogging, probably in 2003, I was intellectually engaged. I was thinking through material I was reading. I was finding some great resources online (quite a feat in 2003). When I blogged successfully at other times, I was also working my way through some important McLuhan texts, some Ulmer texts, and other pieces of scholarship and theory that shaped how I now think about media. As I have gotten busier and busier with administration, I’ve both read less and blogged less. I’m a bit intellectually disengaged from material that has been important to me.
So what I should be blogging about is The Prince of Networks, a book about Bruno Latour, written by Graham Harman, in which (in the introduction), Harman explains that Latour has four philosophical principles:
1. all objects are “actants” in the systems or networks of life; all objects have agency, none more than others. Humans no more than baseballs or computers. That seems fine; I’m not (very) invested in human supremacy.
2. all objects are irreduceable. A mind cannot be reduced to a computer, nor a computer to a mind. I’m not quite sure about the importance of this one, although I guess it provides a strong counter to the constructivist and postmodernists who claim that everything is a text.
3. objects or actants need translators, or mediators. Some objects resist translation more than others. This point seems to connect Latour to “medium theory” nicely. McLuhan’s medium theory (the medium is the message) and its later iterations was a challenge to human-centered and theories of communication, so it makes sense that Harman (a McLuhanite it seems) would find Latour (another McLuhanite, it seems) to be offering a metaphysics he can live with.
4. objects or actants gain strength through their allegiances or alliances. This point seem to be illustrated at the conference this past weekend when Doc Mara got into a conversation with the presenter about Wojnarowicz’s “agency after death.” Seems to me that the agency after death has more to do with one’s allegiances or alliances than one’s agency. I suppose it doesn’t negate the agency of the corpse, and people like Derrida have written about “the spectre of Marx;” hauntology has emerged as an academic discipline of sorts, but this notion of allegiances and alliances, as posed by a “prince of networks” seems to have quite a bit of explanatory power.
Okay, that was a good use of my time. It might keep me reading, and writing.