In response to my post on Extended Cognition, english140prof or Alice writes:
Students in my Digital Humanities course are reading selections from Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media for next Tuesday. I agree with Ian that McLuhan remains extremely useful, especially when introducing humanities-based students to a new media curriculum. Of course, the Medievalist in my English Department also appreciates that I’m resurrecting his work and introducing it into general student discourse!
In many respects, I think this gets at the project of re-construction I proposed and that Paul Ennis named. On the one hand, I’m hoping to teach McLuhan– hopefully in the context of my “extended pedagogy” experiment –in the next semester or so. Any suggestions as to what text would be good to assign would be terrific. I think I might have frightened other people off with the proposal of extended pedagogy. The point of extended pedagogy is not to structure classes in the same way, but to provide an opportunity for academics interested in each others work to collaboratively read a text with one another over the course of the semester. The text could be an entire book or, as Mel and I plan to do this semester, something as small as an essay like Deleuze’s “Post-Script on Society of Control”. In this respect, the extended pedagogy experiment allows for dual duty, simultaneously providing the opportunity to do research with someone who’s though and ideas you’re interested in and assign material to students. Now, ideally– and Mel and I are going to try this –I would also like to involve students for a portion of the semester. This would involve creating a blog or discussion list for the class where students from different courses would participate with one another in digital dialogue. I think this could potentially be a productive experience for the students in the form of active learning, rather than simply listening to professors lecture and guide discussion. I’d like to do this with McLuhan in the future.
All of these pedagogical issues aside, however, in other contexts I’ve spoken about object-oriented ontology in the context of a project I refer to, following Paul Ennis, as “re-construction”. Part of that project would consist, as Deleuze suggested, in creating a counter tradition and in resurrecting those moments of the philosophical and theoretical tradition that are particularly valuable from the standpoint of onticology and ontography. Just as Deleuze sought to create a minor tradition consisting of Lucretius, the Stoics, Spinoza, Hume, Leibniz, and so on, OOO needs its “minor tradition” of those object-oriented philosophers that have been object-oriented philosophers without knowing it.
Harman has already been doing quite a bit of this himself. His book on Latour is certainly an example of such a re-construction that functions to bring a thinker, largely neglected by philosophy (he’s huge elsewhere), to center stage. His retrieval of Zubiri and Ortega y Gassett also come to mind. One of the marks of a philosopher, I believe, is the manner in which they create their own history, not in the sense of themselves making a historical contributions (who knows who will?), but in the sense of producing a history that preceded them. In this regard, one difference between a philosopher and a scholar lies in the willingness to produce a counter-history rather than simply accepting the history that they inherit from the academy. This is a hermeneutic point. We are only as free as the history we make for ourselves. Harman has been seeding McLuhan all over the place as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that he has another book in the works on him. If he doesn’t, I guess it falls to me or Ian or someone else to write such a book. Kittler and Ong, I think, are on that list as well. Stengers has written the book on Whitehead that renders such a resurrection possible, as has Shaviro (though I doubt he’d call himself an OOO theorist). Re-construction will thus be organized along two fronts. On the one hand it will consist in object-oriented readings of the tradition such as Harman’s reading of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, etc., or Bogost’s reading of Badiou, where the object-oriented “kernel” is redeemed from the anti-realist shell. Like Heidegger’s destruction of the history of ontology, such readings are simultaneously critical in the sense that they reveal the arbitrary ontological assumptions behind anti-realist thought at work in these thinkers, while also being possible in redeeming missed opportunities and failed paths of thought in these thinkers.
On the other hand, it will consist in the creation of a counter-tradition of “minor” (in the Deleuzian sense) thinkers that alethetically strives to bring a set of tools and concepts to center stage that have been significantly overlooked by a tradition dominated by anti-realist thought. I’ve learned a lot from media and technology folk such as “Alice” or “englishprof140”. I’d really enjoy hearing the historians, critical animal theorists, environmentalists, and artists speak up on these matters, drawing attention to those crucial moments in this counter-tradition and the theory produced around it, requiring disclosedness.