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Saturday, 18 August 2012

A society of objects

Orientation towards objects, as an attitude that goes beyond ontology and acquires all dimensions of a political stance, opens up the political issues of how to deal with objects. Adrian Bowyer, with the RepRap project, suggests that symbiosis is a relationship with objects that should replace the current one where they are put at the service of our lifes. Currently we can make scarse room for a genuine life for objects - they often appear as the ultimate harbour of lifelessness. In particular, their lack of life is put into our service - we make their existence as an existence at our service. Still, it is clear that they make alliances, they rescue us, they are actants in networks that sustain other supposedly living existences. They carry a messianicity in them - in the Derridian sense that Bennett explores which makes them capable of saving lifes at any moment. Objects appear as a lifeless part of our life but as actants of our political choices - which amount to the way we live - they are part of the political struggles.

A different politics (and a different erotic) towards objects would emerge from Bowyer´s vision that starts with RepRaps. Our relation to objects would involve a community with them, a symbiosis. We give the reprap printers what they need, they give us what we need to have a life that is shared. It is like taking the items in the cyborg life to be companions, to be with us extending the sense of mutual aid for life that Haraway cherishes. Ultimately, such a society of objects hints towards Lovelock´s Gaia. Our mode of life is negotiated through alliances with objects and once they cease to be seen as simply what our arrows of intentionality point towards, they become more like partners in a joint life. As political partners that compose this joint way of life, their force will surely be determined by tests of strength. The strength of a reproducing object (or a universal fabricator of objects) is nevertheless remarkable. It carries the seed of the continuation of a joint life. It looks like objects can become life-sustaining stations and no longer mere items that can be easily replaced. We are then looking at a redistribution of preciosity (and vulnerability): objects will become dearer because more precious in their capacity to sustain a whole environment for a joint life.

Politically, Bowyer´s vision can imply a different territorial machine. No longer the territory of capital that flows between goods and users (and no longer the territory of an owner that overlooks the objects that belong to them) but rather a multi-territorial scheme where services flow from different poles. Objects will then become the inorganic body of humans (as humans will become the organic body of objects), to use Marx´s apt phrase in Manuscripts. A society of objetcs is different from a human society that has diplomatic relations with another society but rather a joint society where objects show up from all sides.


  1. how do we know what they "need" as opposed to how their functions serve our needs?
    and why is this kind of personification better than a Pickering style mangle of practices with affordances and resistances?