Over the next year I’m contemplating writing a book entitled Onto-Cartographies. This book arises out of my meditations on time, space, and entropy in the final section of chapter 5 in The Democracy of Objects.This book would flesh out spatial and temporal relations within an object-oriented framework. Locke famously argued that objects or substances are individuated by being simply located at a particular point in time and space. In my view, object-oriented ontology completely explodes this paradigm of individuation. Object-oriented ontology rejects the thesis that in order for something to count as an object it must be a simple and indivisible substances. Rather, aggregates can be full blown objects. Further, following the Lucretian and Kantian torch, it rejects the notion that time and space are containers or indifferent milieus in which phenomena (local manifestations) unfold, but rather argues that objects generate their own time and space. Moreover objects 1) can, within this framework, exist at a variety of different levels of scale from the very small to the very large like a city or a galaxy, and 2) can be composed of other objects (a city also contains other independent objects in their own right like groups, organizations, buildings, people, etc., etc., etc).
In The Democracy of Objects I argue that objects are dynamic systems that must reproduce and sustain themselves across time and space and that perpetually face the threat of entropy or the possibility of dissolution. Within the framework of onticology, objects are negentropic unities whose identity is not a substantiality beneath changing qualities, but rather where identity is an activity that must perpetually be carried out from moment to moment. In Onto-Cartographies, I am interested in exploring these spatio-temporal relations, and, above all, what they teach us about how objects relate. At the level of temporality, for example, I argue that not only can objects exist at multiple levels of spatial scale, but also at multiple levels of duration. There can be objects that unfold across a very slow duration such as hyperobjects like climate, as well as objects that unfold at very quick levels of duration such as the movements of a humming bird’s wings. Additionally, objects can be simultaneous in Euclidean, spatialized time, while nonetheless occupying different levels of historical duration in Bergsonian time, as in the case of the living historical present of the Amish compared to stock traders on the floor of the New York stock exchange. Finally, objects can be temporally discontinuous, flitting in and out of existence as in the case of academic classes that meet two or three times a week, or Congressional sessions that only meet during a certain session each year.
At the level of spatiality, I argue that we can no longer conceive geographical locations in Euclidean terms, defined by relations of continuity on a surface, plane, or sphere. Rather, we must adopt a networked, topological model of space defined by relations and connections. Thus, for example, in Euclidean space the person in the office next to me is certainly closer to me in Euclidean space, yet we nonetheless belong to different topological spaces as my relation to the chair of my department is closer in relational terms, than the person in the office next to me. Oddly, I must go through a series of additional operations to forge a spatial connection with the person next to me or my neighbor. Under this model, the elements composing an object can be spread out quite distantly in Euclidean space, as in the case of an organization that has members that span the world and that isn’t centralized in any particular nation or geographical place (made possible by communications technologies).
What interests me above all is how interactions and communications are possible among these different scaled spatio-temporal objects. What is the sort of interaction between, for example, governments that move at a rather fast spatio-temporal pace and hyperobjects like climate? How do they become capable of resonating or interacting with one another given the very different rates at which they “metabolize” their respective environments? How do the Amish interact with the members of the stock market, and vice versa? All of these questions only make full sense when in situated within the framework of autopoietic theory I deploy in The Democracy of Objects. Additionally I am interested in the strategies objects deploy to stave off entropy, how objects make use of space and time to sort between noise and information in their relations to their environment, and strategies that might be devised to increase entropy in certain objects in various forms of political engagement, i.e., the question of how noise can cease being coded as mere noise, but become a difference that makes a difference in changing the organization of systems.
It seems to me that these cartographical questions are at the heart of the sorts of investigations being carried out in geography, ethnography, social and political thought, post-colonial studies, urban studies, ecological thought, and globalization studies. I hope to develop a framework in which perhaps a little clarity can be brought to these issues.