Bernard Stiegler on the on the notion of information and its limits

Bernard Stiegler being interviewed

I have only just seen this via the De Montfort Media and Communications Research Centre Twitter feed. The above video is Bernard Stiegler’s ‘key note’ (can’t have been a big conference?) at the University of Kent Centre for Critical Though conference on the politics of Simondon’s Modes of Existence of Technical Objects

In engaging with Simondon’s theory (or in his terms ‘notion’) of information, Stiegler reiterates some of the key elements of his Technics and Time in relation to exosomatisation and tertiary retention being the principal tendency of an originary technics that, in turn, has the character of a pharmakon, that, in more recent work, Stiegler articulates in relation to the contemporary epoch (the anthoropocene) as the (thermodynamic style) tension between entropy and negentropy. Stiegler’s argument is, I think, that Simondon misses this pharmacological character of information. In arguing this out, Stiegler riffs on some of the more recent elements of his project (the trilogy of ‘As’) – the anthropocene, attention and automation – which characterise the contemporary tendency towards proletarianisation, a loss of knowledge and capacities to remake the world.

It is interesting to see this weaving together of various elements of his project over the last twenty(+) years both: in relation to his engagement with Simondon’s work (a current minor trend in ‘big’ theory), and: in relation to what seems to me to be a moral philosophical character to Stiegler’s project, in terms of his diagnosis of the anthropocene and a call for a ‘neganthropocene’.

Worrying realities – doing spatial theory for digital geographies

worrying realities - kinsley 2018

I wrote something new… haven’t done that in a while for lots of reasons.

I was compelled to do it because I accepted the kind invitation of colleagues at the wonderful Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space for their Spring Academy 2018, themed: “virtuality and socio-materiality”.

I gave a talk called “Worrying realities – doing spatial theory for digital geographies”. In the talk I concerned myself, and maybe those listening, with the ways in which forms of spatial theory get ‘done’ in relation to ‘digital’ or ‘virtual’ phenomena, sometimes generalised as proper nouns… ‘the digital’ and so on. I was not interested, and I still am not, with ‘policing’ the correct theory here, instead I pointed out some habits of theorising space in relation to mediation that I think are interesting and that perhaps those of us interested in doing, talking about and writing about ‘digital geographies’ maybe need to reflect upon sometimes. In particular, I think what Theodore Adorno diagnoses as an ‘ontological need’ pertains, and we perhaps need to be a little more reflexive about how that plays out.

So, I’m sharing a PDF of the slides with the notes I’ve written up. [Now the revised PDF.]

In any case, I don’t know what to do with this… I’d like to write it up, not sure where it would go..? Any comments or arguments, or suggestions for venues to which it might be submitted, are gratefully received 🙂

Please take this material in the spirit in which it is shared – as an attempt to open a conversation. Please also give credit where it’s due – this is not (yet) published but these are my current ideas and I’m sharing them in good faith.


A huge array of overhead wires on a street

From the footnotes of Dan Ross’ introduction to Stiegler’s Neganthropocene comes this limpid definition (p. 271):

‘Transductive’, here, refers to an approach to thinking processes in which the terms of a relation cannot be understood as preceding the relation itself.

There is a danger with much ontology talk we encounter, especially in geographyland, for the ontological category of the thing to stand, almost static, in place of the necessary engagement with what is encountered in the world. In this sense, to think transductively, I suggest, is to follow a counterflow to the monolithic ontology talk that, for all of the appeals to vitality and the lively effervescence of the world, tends to fix things in catch-all concepts (such as ‘affect’, ‘atmosphere’ and other ‘a’s) without really engaging with the relations of the stuff of/under study. To ‘do’ transduction then might involve more than merely pointing it out – of which I am rather guilty.

That’s my quick and not very coherent take at the moment… I think this is actually a constructive form of critique – I believe there is a way forward in this kind of deconstructive thinking but it needs much more fleshing out.