About an Organology of Dreams – After An Organisation of Dreams, Bernard Stiegler & Ken McMullen

Bernard Stiegler being interviewed

Over on Backdoor Broadcasting you can revisit a session that was part of the Film Philosophy conference in 2012, with a film piece by McMullen “An Organisation of Dreams”.

Stiegler responds to the film with a talk listed as: About an Organology of Dreams – After An Organisation of Dreams, here’s the blurb:

Beginning with well-known proposition that the cinema serves as the perfect enactment of Plato’s cave, I would like to examine in this paper the question of transcendental cinema, returning to the problems that I raised in Le temps du cinéma, but also reopening the possibility of a transcendental stupidity – or transcendental negativity, to put it otherwise.  By turning to Freud and the notion of the dream, I will explore my hypothesis by looking briefly at a work which is itself rather brief, and which suggests an archeology of cinema that begins thirty thousand years ago, in the Chauvet Cave.

Some resonances here with Keynote Stiegler delivered at the same conference, translated by Daniel Ross: The Organology of Dreams and Arche-Cinema. The first footnote of which reads:

This keynote address was delivered on September 12, 2012, at Queen Mary, University of London, for the “Film-Philosophy Conference”, and began with the following opening remarks: “I would like to begin by thanking John Mullarkey for inviting me here, allowing me to continue a discussion with Ken McMullen that began a long time ago, with Ghost Dance (UK 1983), and passed through Jacques Derrida, and which was then pursued in various directions, in particular with An Organization of Dreams (UK 2009). I would also like to point out that Dan Ross, who was kind enough to translate my lecture into English, is also the director, along with David Barison, of The Ister (Australia 2004), another film in which I was fortunate enough to participate at the very moment I was writing Le temps du cinéma. I here thank Ken, Dan and John, and hope that perhaps some day there will be an opportunity for the three of us to have a discussion.”

Amateur philosophy – boundary 2 theme issue on Stiegler

Only just seen this. Issue 1 of volume 44 (2017) of boundary 2 is entitled Amateur Philosophy and concerns the work of Bernard Stiegler.

Within the issue are published the three lectures Stiegler gave in California in 2011 (one of which was published in Lana Turner). alongside this are pieces by a stellar cast of contemporary theorists, including: Claire Colebrook, Mark Hansen, Daniel Ross and Gerald Moore. Both of the two translators who have translated the majority of Stiegler’s work into English have pieces: Stephen Barker and Daniel Ross.

This seems like a fairly important contribution to anglophone engagements with Stiegler’s work…

Here’s the full table of contents.

You need a subscription to access the papers, let me know if you have any trouble…

N. Katherine Hayles on UAVs/drones as ‘cognitive assemblages’

In a recent article in Critical Inquiry, N. Katherine Hayles formulates an understanding of particular kinds of technological support as ‘cognitive assemblages’ (sort of following Deleuze & Guattari*). She takes as her particular case study the advent of swarming, quasi-autonomous UAVs/drones and their use in warfare. The final paragraph of the piece is interesting but, for me, raises as many questions as it seeks to answer:

Language, human sociality, somatic responses, and technological adaptations, along with emotion, are crucial to the formation of modern humans. Whether warfare should be added to the list may be controversial, but the twentieth and twenty-first centuries suggest that it will persist, albeit in modified forms. As the informational networks and feedback loops connecting us and our devices proliferate and deepen, we can no longer afford the illusion that consciousness alone steers our ships. How should we reimagine contemporary cognitive ecologies so that they become life enhancing rather than aimed toward dysfunctionality and death for humans and nonhumans alike? Recognizing the role played by non conscious cognitions in human/technical hybrids and conceptualizing them as cognitive assemblages is of course not a complete answer, but it is a necessary component. We need to recognize that when we design, implement, and extend technical cognitive systems, we are partially designing ourselves. We must take care accordingly. More accurate and encompassing views of how our cognitions enmesh with technical systems and those of other life forms will enable better designs, humbler perceptions of human roles in planetary cognitive ecologies, and more life-affirming practices as we move toward a future in which technical agency and autonomy become increasingly intrinsic to human complex systems.

(Hayles, 2016: 55)

A couple of immediate questions pop out for me:

  1. Could you get designers of UAVs to factor in affective responses without reducing them to something like galvanic skin response or another quantifiable measure (which Hayles critiques in relation to MIT Prof. Sandy Pentland’s proselytisation of a ‘sociometer‘)?
  2. What is meant by “accuracy” in that final sentence?! How might we qualify the idea of “better” designs? This seems to assert a kind of ethics (and maybe aesthetics) antithetical to the institutions and companies that make military equipment – by not addressing this, there seems to me to be a risk of simply making naive assertions.

I appreciate Hayles’ attempt to harness a broadly Deleuzian understanding of cognition (which might be understood as “affect theory”) in attending to pressing contemporary issues such as the rise of “killer robots” (or quasi-autonomous technological platforms that can inflict death), however – it seems to me that the paper uses the case studies (taken from other researchers’ work, such as Chamayou) to validate the theory, rather than using the theory to critically interrogate the empirical state of affairs. This, it seems to me, is a shame (not least because there’s a fruitful application of aspects of How we became posthuman here), and, as observed above, leaves more questions than answers. Maybe that’s productive, it can open debates – but others are doing slightly more to qualify how we might problematise ethics in this arena. I’d recommend taking a look at Lucy Suchman’s work, especially “robot futures” and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

Addendum: I’m not suggesting that Chamayou and other ‘droners’ are “right” and Hayles is somehow wrong… I’d definitely agree with Prof Louise Amoore who suggested on Twitter that those folk could do with reading Hayles’ (and Suchman’s) work

* I’m uncertain about the proposition of ‘cognitive assemblages’ – if we were to follow D&G’s theory of agencements would not all ‘assemblages’ be cognitive? The implication is, it seems, that the ‘cognitive’ in Hayles’ formulation is human cognition – which implies a human exceptionalism that might be seen as antithetical to D&G’s philosophy.

Compositional thinking, or ‘deconstruction as composition’

I’ve been re-reading Dan Ross’ excellent chapter in the edited collection Stiegler and Technics entitled “Pharmacology and Critique after Deconstruction” and wanted to post an excerpt because it seems to me one of the clearest interpretations of one of the foundations of Bernard Stiegler’s thought: “composition”. This is a brief excerpt but I thoroughly recommend reading Dan’s chapter, and indeed the whole book – which is really good!


Stiegler inherits more from Derrida than from any other thinker: ‘deconstructive’ thinking is translated in Stieglerian terms into ‘compositional’ thinking:

Deconstruction is a thinking of composition in the sense that composition is ‘older’ than opposition (what Simondon would have called a ‘transductive relation’: that is, a relation that constitutes its terms, the terms not existing outside the relation). It is a relation that is the vehicle of a process (that of différance), one very close, I would argue, to what Simondon elaborates in terms of a ‘process of individuation’ (Stiegler 2001: 249-250).

Deconstruction, pursuing the complex genesis of oppositional pairs, amounts to the elaboration of s process of becoming. It is therefore more consistent than first appearances might indicate with the theories of Gilbert Simondon, for whom the key was not to begin with terms or individuals and then think their ‘relation’; rather, it is the process itself that ‘has the status of being’ (Simondon 1992: 306).


To this relation of differance to individuation should be added the influence of Nitetzsche, for whom existence must be understood as a play of forces, or, better, of tendencies. The formation of oppositions from prior compositions is an expression of this play of tendencies…

And it may turn out that where compositional thought is superior to deconstructive thought is in making it possible to think de-composition […] Deconstruction thus tends, perhaps, to perceive less clearly the pharmacological dangers of the deconstruction of ‘oppositions’, and the possibility that distinctions may on occasion be precisely what need to be preserved, that is, saved.

Ross, D 2015 “Pharmacology and Critiques after Deconstruction”, in  Howells, C and Moore, G eds. Stiegler and Technics, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 245-246.

Other references:

Simondon, G. 1992 [1964] “The genesis of the individual”, in Crary, J. and Kwinter, S. Eds. Incorporations, Zone, New York.

Stiegler, B. 2001 “Deconstruction and technology: Fidelity at the limits of deconstruction and the prosthesis of faith”, trans. Beardsworth, R,, in Cohen, T. Ed. Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

A summary of Bernard Stiegler’s Technics and Time 1 by Dan Ross

I’ve mentioned this here before but Dan Ross wrote an excellent and accessible summary or guide to Stiegler’s first and perhaps most extraordinary volume of the series at the heart of his project Technics and Time, which was the Wikipedia page for that book. Unfortunately this has been open to some questionable editing and so it is great that Dan has uploaded his version to Academia.edu as a free-to-access PDF. I recommend this as a support to a reading of T&T 1. Dan’s knowledge and interpretation of Steigler’s work is brilliant.

‘Escaping the Anthropocene’, Stiegler on the Anthropocene

Following on from the various discussions and reflections on geography’s disciplinary mobilisation of the idea/concept of ‘the anthropocene’ I thought I’d just link to a bunch of things Bernard Stiegler has written about/in response to the concept.

I cannot pretend to be totally on top of this work. Likewise, I am not totally sure I can buy into the argument Stiegler presents in these works but it is relatively interesting nonetheless…

These are all translated and made available by the inimitable Daniel Ross:

The Anthropocene and Neganthropology“, lecture by Bernard Stiegler at Canterbury, 2014.

Escaping the Anthropocene“, lecture by Bernard Stiegler at the University of Durham, January 2015.

Automatic Society 1: The Future of Work – Introduction“, the Introduction to Stiegler’s latest(?) book Automatic Society 1: The Future of Work (another series apparently!). This has been published in the new journal La Deleuziana.


New resource for readers of Stiegler

Philosopher Daniel Ross, translator of many of Bernard Stiegler’s books published in English with Polity, has uploaded quite a few his translations of lectures and articles by Stiegler to his academia.edu page.

If you’re interested in Steigler’s more recent work, concerning automation and the anthropocene this is a valuable resource.

See, in particular:

So – a public big THANK YOU (from me) to Dan for sharing!!