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Saturday, August 3

  1. page syllabus edited Rhetoric and Technosciences Spring 2006 is currently Doing Business As Structuralism, Poststruc…
    Rhetoric and Technosciences
    Spring 2006is currently Doing Business As
    Structuralism, Poststructuralism, and the Technosciences
    Fall 2014
    Graduate Course
    Department of Science and Technology Studies fortum@rpi.edu
    Meeting time: TuesdayThursday 10-1 JEC 5312Sage 5711
    Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one fights is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force.
    -- Michel Foucault
    ...
    3) language as a material-semiotic system of differences, simultaneously subject to severe limitations and affording quasi-infinite possibilities of affirmation, experimentation, and invention. I.e., yet another complex system, whose singularity will be useful for learning about and operating within other singular, different, complex systems (computers, brains, bioechemical pathways, global economies, and their equally nebular interpenetrations). I.e. one among a number of distrubuted postal systems of address, networked circuits of transference and transduction, or machines of desiring-production which produce the emergent effects known in some circles as “going postal”: postmodernism, poststructuralism, postfeminism, postclassicism, posthumanism, postpositivism, postindustrialsim, postcolonialism…
    4) ethics as an ensemble, kludged machine, or dispositif of practices, concepts, and affects that, in its implications within multiple domains of unmasterable complexity, becomes tangential to the ethics of the sovereign autonomous knowing humanist subject of righteousness; a pursuit of a genealogy of morals that archeologically disinters resentment-driven valuations within established moral economies (e.g., “humanizing good, scientizing bad”) so that an other ethics can approach – which might be near to an other politics…
    ...
    economy, giftpoison, hospitality, immanence, iteration,
    Habits to be incorporated: close readings of texts, their structuring oppositions, their codependent insights and blindnesses, and their margins; friendship with the technosciences; transduction of reactive into active forces; relentless empiricism; just-careful-enough invention; desire for the swerving ethnographic departure; better living through conceptual chemistry.
    Course Requirements
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    1:21 pm

Tuesday, July 30

  1. page links edited ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_L%C3%A9vi-Strauss http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural…
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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_L%C3%A9vi-Strauss
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_anthropology
    John Phillips web page -- pretty good introductions to a whole bunch of figures, concepts, theories, literatures...
    Postcolonial Theory Links -- many dead links but...

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    8:33 am

Wednesday, May 3

  1. page Grant edited ... Bohr Not quite class related...: Was ist Sein? - Can anyone translate? I'd really like to k…
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    Bohr
    Not quite class related...:
    Was ist Sein? - Can anyone translate? I'd really like to know what they are singing about.
    Zizek - This is sort of related to what has been discussed in class, and the discussions going on on the STS mailing list. The editorial is also reproduced here. More on Zizek here, and here.
    On writing.
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    11:42 am

Tuesday, April 25

  1. page Karen Barad on materialization and performativity edited Who says deconstruction is depoliticized? ... the lessons provided by from this class ... le…
    Who says deconstruction is depoliticized?
    ...
    the lessons provided byfrom this class
    ...
    less elegant prose),prose, and with little success), but to
    Akin to her deconstructive predecessors, scientist-philosopher Karen Barad flouts convention when she insists that the idea of being as essence be replaced by the idea of being through performativity. In her conception of science, the experimental referent comes to be a ‘phenomenon’ rather than an observation-independent object. A phenomenon is the effect of physical-conceptual ‘intra-actions’, (as opposed to ‘interactions’, which would only reinscribe the dichotomy between objects and agencies of observation that she wishes to contest) whose unambiguous accounting requires a description of all features of the experimental arrangement. In a fundamental challenge to Peter Galison’s ‘objective’ scientists of yore, she proposes that objectivity (aka Neils Bohr) is not that which reveals the inherent properties of independent objects but that which leaves permanent marks on bodies, marks that can be accounted for. Thus, objectivity is more about the spot left on a photographic plate when electrons collide with it, than it is about the intrinsic properties of ‘that which is being photographed’. There is no shame in saying that light consists of both particles and waves. Light could consist of either particles or waves, depending on how we design the experiment and depending on the lens through which we perceive the ‘phenomenon’ of light. In other words, the phenomenon of light is created during the process of observation itself – observation constructs the effect. The same can be described in a different way by appropriating a biological metaphor - a phenomenon is a particular instance of the cut made by the experimenter to separate the object from the agencies of observation. Where and how she decides to make this cut with her scalpel is what implicates her as the experimenter. How she accounts for the effect of her action in experiment is what determines her objectivity. An understanding of the epistemological and ontological consequences of making that virtual cut may be crucial to her enterprise. In much the same way as the deconstructive gurus would have us pay attention to language in text, Barad would have us pay attention to the experimental condition in science.
    Barad sees no conflict between a faith in realism and a simultaneous faith in social constructivism. Reality is sedimented out of the process of making the world intelligible through certain practices and not others. Therefore, we are not only responsible for the knowledge we seek but also for what exists. “Phenomena are produced through complex intra-actions of multiple material-discursive apparatuses of bodily production…Hence materialization is to be understood in terms of the dynamics of intra-activity.” ‘Subjects’ and ‘objects’ do not preexist, but are constituted through particular practices. In short, technoscientific practices are instrumental in producing the very phenomena that they ostensibly set out to merely ‘describe’.
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Monday, April 24

  1. page Bohr edited “Crucially, in a stunning reversal of his forefather’s schema, Bohr rejects the atomistic metaphys…
    “Crucially, in a stunning reversal of his forefather’s schema, Bohr rejects the atomistic metaphysics that takes “things” as ontologically basic entities. For Bohr, things do not have inherently determinate boundaries or properties, and words do not have inherently determinate meanings. Bohr also calls into question the related Cartesian belief in the inherent distinction between subject and object, and knower and known.” (Barad, “Posthumanist Performativity”, 813)
    “Bohr’s break with Newton, Descartes, and Democritus is not based in “mere idle philosophical reflection” but on new empirical findings in the domain of atomic physics that came to light during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Bohr’s struggle to provide a theoretical understanding of these findings resulted in his radical proposal that an entirely new epistemological framework is required.” (814)
    “In contrast to these Newtonian assumptions, Bohr argued that theoretical concepts are defined by the circumstances required for their measurement. It follows from this fact, and the fact that there is an empirically verifiable discontinuity in measurement interactions, that there is no unambiguous way to differentiate between the “object” and the “agencies of observation.” As no inherent cut exists between “object” and “agencies of observation,” measured values cannot be attributed to observation-independent objects. In fact, Bohr concluded that observation-independent objects do not possess well-defined inherent properties.” (Barad, “Getting Real”, 95)
    Barad has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. I do not. With that in mind, I read the sections of her articles on Bohr’s epistemology.
    The first thing that I was reminded of was something my professor in philosophy of science mentioned years ago. She had been talking about quantum mechanics and indeterminacy, and said something briefly about Bohmian mechanics and hidden-variables. From what I remember, Bohmian mechanics is an interpretation of quantum mechanics which uses hidden or unobservable entities (pilot waves) to give classical, deterministic explanations of quantum phenomena. Quantum mechanics comes up in philosophical discussions to argue, as Barad does, against realism, and Bohmian mechanics are sometimes used in response. It is supposed to be mathematically equivalent to non-relativistic quantum mechanics. Although it seems today that Bohmian mechanics doesn’t provide a way back to purely classical formulations and it wouldn’t necessarily undermine Barad’s argument if it did, in Bohr’s time it wasn’t clear that the statistical interpretation was the only viable one (De Broglie offered the first ‘pilot wave’ explanation for quantum phenomena, and was contemporary with Bohr). I think it’s interesting that the point where she uses science to legitimate her philosophical claim is also the one place where she takes empirical fact to be transparent, and separates the ‘object’ (even if it is a ‘negative’ or ‘absent’ object, a boundary) from the ‘agencies of observation’ (Bohr). This is not to say that she depends only on Bohr’s philosophical arguments, or that I disagree with her general argument. But when I read through the articles for the first time, it all seemed to fit together very well. The thought in my head during my first reading was, ‘She cites a scientist. She is a scientist.’

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    11:09 pm
  2. page Grant edited ... More on music. Doyle Bohr Not quite class related...: Zizek - This is sort of related to…
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    More on music.
    Doyle
    Bohr
    Not quite class related...:
    Zizek - This is sort of related to what has been discussed in class, and the discussions going on on the STS mailing list. The editorial is also reproduced here. More on Zizek here, and here.
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    11:07 pm
  3. page TBO edited My first post: The Great Debate: On performativity, representationalism, posthumanism, life, the …
    My first post:
    The Great Debate: On performativity, representationalism, posthumanism, life, the universe and everything in-between…
    In a perfectly brilliant essay which eludes a beginning until page 11, and is full of fantastically clever footnotes that threaten to overwhelm the text, Karen Barad somehow manages to argue, very clearly indeed in favor of alternate conceptions of causality and agency.
    By the time she actually begins her argument on page 11 by dissecting the metaphysic of representationalism, she already has me convinced. The historical analysis (by Ian Hacking) of representationalism harkening all the way back to Democritus and atomism already had me asking myself questions about my own absurd representationalist thinking. This lady knows her stuff.
    My initial introduction to Karen’s work was in another class where I read her article on Agential Realism. Back then, I thought it was utterly brilliant and told everyone else in the class so. I still think the same today. The primary reason was that from the very beginning I had always believed that quantum mechanics (and Heisenberg) was applicable to everyday life – at least philosophically. Karen did exactly that. She applied quantum mechanical insights to science studies without falling into the pit of naïve relativism.
    That’s really what its all about. Karen decides to take Bohr’s insights seriously and follow the new understanding to its ill-logical conclusions, except that she says it in multiple ways, multiple times and in multiple languages. This cuts right to the heart of the matter(s). Taken seriously, it marks an end of the nature/culture – Latour/Bloor debate, indeed it transcends it altogether.
    Aha!

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