Tom Roberts on Parisi’s Contagious Architecture

Luciana Parisi’s Contagious Architecture: Computation, aesthetics and space is a book that I have been meaning to read for a little while. Tom Roberts has offered an informative and insightful commentary on Contagious Architecture over on his blog  Machinic Matter, which confirms my interest in what seems like a fairly substantial work.

Tom identifies Parisi’s principal concern as identifying a non-anthropocentric understanding of thought, with a particular engagement with the work of Alfred North Whitehead. Quite Deleuzian then. He suggests that

The key question for Parisi is thus: can we conceptualize thinking “without having to prove that thought is an expression of the functional neurophysiological evolutions of the brain-mind?” (2013, page 235).

For Tom, the book poses some important questions for the debates around ‘new materialisms’. In conclusion, he suggests that, in particular, Parisi’s use of Whitehead asks:

how to affirm a reality of thought that, whilst being material, is not ‘explained away’ by material processes? As Parisi puts it, Whitehead’s non-anthropocentric understanding of mentality “is not intended to liberate thought from matter, but rather to suggest that there are material modes of thought that cannot be subsumed under the totality of neuroarchitecture” (2013, page 219).

Parisi’s book offers a rather different version of contagion, perhaps, from another prominent engagement with the theme, namely Tony Sampson’s recent study of contemporary digital culture through Tarde and Deleuze in Virality: Contagion theory in the age of the internet. It will be interesting to contrast these two projects.

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