A genealogy of theorising information technology, through Simondon [video]

Glitched image of a mural of Prometheus giving humans' fire in Freiberg

This post follows from the video of Bernard Stiegler talking about Simondon’s ‘notion’ of information, in relation to his reading of Simondon and others’ theorisation of technogenesis. That paper was a key note in the conference ‘Culture & Technics: The Politics of Du Mode‘, held by the University of Kent’s Centre for Critical Though. It is worth highlighting the whole conference is available on YouTube.

In particular, the panel session with Anne Sauvagnargues and Yuk Hui discussing the genealogy of Simondon’s thought (as articulated in his two perhaps best-known books). For those interested in (more-or-less) French philosophies of technology (largely in the 20th century) this is a fascinating and actually quite accessible discussion.

Sauvagnargues discusses the historical and institutional climate/context of Simondon’s work and Yuk excavates (in a sort of archeological manner) some of the key assumptions and intellectual histories of Simondon’s theorisation of individuation, information and technics.

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’.

Another new book from Bernard Stiegler – Neganthropocene

Bernard Stiegler being interviewed

Open Humanities has a(nother!) new book from Bernard Stiegler, blurb pasted below. This is an edited version of Stiegler’s public lectures in various places over the last three or so years, hence Dan Ross’ byline. Dan has done some fantastic work of corralling the fast-moving blizzard of Stiegler’s concepts and sometimes flitting engagements with a wide range of other thinkers and I am sure that this book surfaces this work.

It would be interesting to see some critical engagement with this, it seems that Stiegler simply isn’t as trendy as Latour and Sloterdijk or the ‘bromethean‘ object-oriented chaps for those ‘doing’ the ‘anthropocene’ for some reason. I’m not advocating his position especially, I have various misgivings if I’m honest (and maybe one day I’ll write them down) but it is funny that there’s a sort of anglophone intellectually snobbery about some people’s work…


by Bernard Stiegler
Edited and translated by Daniel Ross


As we drift past tipping points that put future biota at risk, while a post-truth regime institutes the denial of ‘climate change’ (as fake news), and as Silicon Valley assistants snatch decision and memory, and as gene-editing and a financially-engineered bifurcation advances over the rising hum of extinction events and the innumerable toxins and conceptual opiates that Anthropocene Talk fascinated itself with–in short, as ‘the Anthropocene’ discloses itself as a dead-end trap–Bernard Stiegler here produces the first counter-strike and moves beyond the entropic vortex and the mnemonically stripped Last Man socius feeding the vortex.

In the essays and lectures here titled Neganthropocene, Stiegler opens an entirely new front moving beyond the dead-end “banality” of the Anthropocene. Stiegler stakes out a battleplan to proceed beyond, indeed shrugging off, the fulfillment of nihilism that the era of climate chaos ushers in. Understood as the reinscription of philosophical, economic, anthropological and political concepts within a renewed thought of entropy and negentropy, Stiegler’s ‘Neganthropocene’ pursues encounters with Alfred North Whitehead, Jacques Derrida, Gilbert Simondon, Peter Sloterdijk, Karl Marx, Benjamin Bratton, and others in its address of a wide array of contemporary technics: cinema, automation, neurotechnology, platform capitalism, digital governance and terrorism. This is a work that will need be digested by all critical laborers who have invoked the Anthropocene in bemused, snarky, or pedagogic terms, only to find themselves having gone for the click-bait of the term itself–since even those who do not risk definition in and by the greater entropy.

Author Bio

Bernard Stiegler is a French philosopher who is director of the Institut de recherche et d’innovation, and a doctor of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. He has been a program director at the Collège international de philosophie, senior lecturer at Université de Compiègne, deputy director general of the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, director of IRCAM, and director of the Cultural Development Department at the Centre Pompidou. He is also president of Ars Industrialis, an association he founded in 2006, as well as a distinguished professor of the Advanced Studies Institute of Nanjing, and visiting professor of the Academy of the Arts of Hangzhou, as well as a member of the French government’s Conseil national du numérique. Stiegler has published more than thirty books, all of which situate the question of technology as the repressed centre of philosophy, and in particular insofar as it constitutes an artificial, exteriorised memory that undergoes numerous transformations in the course of human existence.

Daniel Ross has translated eight books by Bernard Stiegler, including the forthcoming In the Disruption: How Not to Go Mad?(Polity Press). With David Barison, he is the co-director of the award-winning documentary about Martin Heidegger, The Ister, which premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival and was the recipient of the Prix du Groupement National des Cinémas de Recherche (GNCR) and the Prix de l’AQCC at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, Montreal (2004). He is the author of Violent Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and numerous articles and chapters on the work of Bernard Stiegler.

Simondon and Technics event recordings

Glitched image of a mural of Prometheus giving humans' fire in Freiberg

If you were not in Kingston earlier this week but have a desire to be part of the ‘next big thing in theory’, or you’re actually interested in the philosophy of technology, it appears that the talks were recorded… via dmf / Stuart Eldon.

Simondon on Technics: On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects

Please join the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) for a workshop to discuss Gilbert Simondon’s 1958 On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, finally now translated into English in its complete form.

Speakers: Andrea Bardin (Brunel University), Giovanni Carrozzini (CIDES, MSH Paris-Nord), Xavier Guchet (Paris 1 Sorbonne), Cécile Malaspina(translator), Simon Mills (De Monfort University), Pablo Rodriguez (University of Buenos Aires)

The 2016 English translation of Gilbert Simondon’s 1958 On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects finally introduces the Anglophone reader to a complete version of the French philosopher’s great work: a complex crossover between ontology, epistemology, psycho-sociology and the philosophy of technology. With the participation of international specialists on Simondon’s writings, this workshop aims to explore the main themes of Simondon’s philosophy of technology, connecting them to the relational ontology of communication processes outlined in Individuation in the Light of the Notions of Form and Information.

Reblog> Yuk Hui @digital_objects at Birkbeck on ‘For a Realism of Relations: The Case of Digital Objects’

via Scott Rodgers

Yuk Hui – For a Realism of Relations: The Case of Digital ObjectsThe Vasari Research Centre for Art and Technology at Birkbeck is pleased to welcome Yuk Hui on 17 June, 2016 (3pm to 4pm in the Birkbeck Cinema)

In this talk, Yuk Hui will discuss his recent book On the Existence of Digital Objects, which is an investigation of digital objects in light of the proliferation of computational ontologies, and situates this phenomenon within both the history of philosophy and computation. This central thesis of the book is to develop a theory of relations in order to understand objects and to politicize the existence of digital objects, by drawing from Simondon, Heidegger and Husserl.

The talk will be followed by a response from Vasari Research Centre director Joel McKim and a Q&A with the audience.

Yuk Hui is currently research associate at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media of Leuphana University Lüneburg; previous to that, he was postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Research and Innovation of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He is editor (with Andreas Broeckmann) of 30 Years after Les Immatériaux: Art, Science and Theory (2015), and author of On the Existence of Digital Objects (prefaced by Bernard Stiegler, University of Minnesota Press, 2016).

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/yuk-hui-for-a-realism-of-relations-the-case-of-digital-objects-tickets-25647236575

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.

New paper (in English) by Bernard Stiegler on Simondon’s Psychic & Collective Individuation

The current issue of Parrhesia, as well as having an interesting paper by Yuk Hui, has a newly translated piece by Bernard Stiegler:

The uncanniness of thought and the metaphysics of penelope‘.

To whet the appetite, here is a rather startling one-liner from the latter part of the article:

The Simondonian theory of psychosocial individuation is to the human sciences and to philosophy what quantum mechanics is to physics (p. 74).

This article originally (in French) appeared in the introduction to Gilbert Simondon’s L’individuation psychique et collective (Paris: Aubier, 2007) [which is the first published part of his doctoral thesis]. Hopefully, the full text of Simondon’s work will follow On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects into English translation, but I am not overly hopeful this will be any time soon.

Interesting paper: Towards a relational materialism by @digital_objects

Yuk Hui (Leuphana), one of the rising stars in the Ars Industrialis / Digital Studies milieu, has an interesting new paper out in the journal Digital Culture & Society. Unfortunately, my university doesn’t offer access but I trust that a version will appear on academia.edu / ResearchGate sometime soon…

Towards a Relational Materialism


This article takes off from what Lyotard calls ‘the immaterial’, demonstrated in the exhibition Les Immatériaux that he curated at the Centre Pompidou in 1985. It aims at outlining a concept of ‘relational materiality’. According to Lyotard, ‘the immaterial’ is not contrary to material: instead, it is a new industrial material brought about by telecommunication technologies, exemplified by Minitel computers, and serves as basis to describe the postmodern condition. Today this materiality is often referred to as ‘the digital’. In order to enter into a dialogue with Lytoard, and to render his notion of ‘immaterial materials’ contemporary, this article contrasts the concept of relational materiality with some current discourses on digital physics (Edward Fredkin, Gregory Chaitin) and digital textuality (Matthew Kirschenbaum). Against the conventional conception that relations are immaterial (neither being a res nor even having a real esse), and also contrary to a substantialist analysis of materiality, this article suggests that a relational materiality is made visible and explicit under digital conditions. It suggests a reconsideration of the ‘relational turn’ in the early 20th century and the concept of concretisation proposed by Gilbert Simondon. The article concludes by returning to Lyotard’s notion of materialism and his vision of a new metaphysics coming out of this ‘immaterial material’, and offers ‘relational materialism’ as a contemporary response.

In relation to this see also the book 30 Years after Les Immatériaux – Art, Science and Theory (Meson Press) – edited by Yuk Hui, with some great chapters on similar themes…