Winter Reading: Interesting Books Coming Soon

I wish I could learn to read faster because there are so many good books coming out soon. Here is a list of some interesting titles I would love to have (except Massumi’s, I have it already because I did the index).

Enjoy!

A Geology of Media

by Jussi Parikka

A sweeping new ecological take on technology.

Media history is millions, even billions, of years old. That is the premise of Jussi Parikka’s pioneering and provocative book, A Geology of Media, which argues that to adequately understand contemporary media culture we must set out from material realities that precede media themselves—Earth’s history, geological formations, minerals, and energy.

The Nonhuman Turn

Edited by Richard Grusin

Edited by Richard Grusin of the Center for 21st Century Studies, this is the first book to name and characterize—and therefore consolidate—a wide array of current critical, theoretical, and philosophical approaches to the humanities and social sciences under the concept of the nonhuman turn. Each of these approaches is engaged in decentering the human in favor of a concern for the nonhuman, understood by contributors in a variety of ways—in terms of animals, affectivity, bodies, materiality, technologies, and organic and geophysical systems.

The nonhuman turn in twenty-first-century studies can be traced to multiple intellectual and theoretical developments from the last decades of the twentieth century: actor-network theory, affect theory, animal studies, assemblage theory, cognitive sciences, new materialism, new media theory, speculative realism, and systems theory. Such varied analytical and theoretical formations obviously diverge and disagree in many of their assumptions, objects, and methodologies. However, they all take up aspects of the nonhuman as critical to the future of twenty-first-century studies in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Unlike the posthuman turn, the nonhuman turn does not make a claim about teleology or progress in which we begin with the human and see a transformation from the human to the posthuman. Rather, the nonhuman turn insists (paraphrasing Bruno Latour) that “we have never been human,” that the human has always coevolved, coexisted, or collaborated with the nonhuman—and that the human is identified precisely by this indistinction from the nonhuman.

Contributors: Jane Bennett, Johns Hopkins U; Ian Bogost, Georgia Institute of Technology; Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Brown U; Mark B. N. Hansen, Duke U; Erin Manning, Concordia U, Montreal; Brian Massumi, U of Montreal; Timothy Morton, Rice U; Steven Shaviro, Wayne State U; Rebekah Sheldon, Indiana U

The Power at the End of the Economy

by Brian Massumi

Rational self-interest is often seen as at the heart of liberal economic theory. In The Power at the End of the Economy Brian Massumi provides an alternative explanation, arguing that neoliberalism is grounded in complex interactions between the rational and the emotional. Offering a new theory of political economy that refuses the liberal prioritization of individual choice, Massumi emphasizes the means through which an individual’s affective tendencies resonate with those of others on infra-individual and transindividual levels. This nonconscious dimension of social and political events plays out in ways that defy the traditional equation between affect and the irrational. Massumi uses the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement as examples to show how transformative action that exceeds self-interest takes place. Drawing from David Hume, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Niklas Luhmann and the field of nonconsciousness studies, Massumi urges a rethinking of the relationship between rational choice and affect, arguing for a reassessment of the role of sympathy in political and economic affairs.

Plastic Bodies: Rebuilding Sensation After Phenomenology

by Tom Sparrow

Sensation is a concept with a conflicted philosophical history. It has found as many allies as enemies in nearly every camp from empiricism to poststructuralism. Polyvalent, with an uncertain referent, and often overshadowed by intuition, perception, or cognition, sensation invites as much metaphysical speculation as it does dismissive criticism.

The promise of sensation has certainly not been lost on the phenomenologists who have sought to ‘rehabilitate’ the concept. In Plastic Bodies, Tom Sparrow argues that the phenomenologists have not gone far enough, however. Alongside close readings of Merleau-Ponty and Levinas, he digs into an array of ancient, modern, and contemporary texts in search of the resources needed to rebuild the concept of sensation after phenomenology. He begins to assemble a speculative aesthetics that is at once a realist theory of sensation and a philosophy of embodiment that breaks the form of the ‘lived’ body. Maintaining that the body is fundamentally plastic and that corporeal identity is constituted by a conspiracy of sensations, he pursues the question of how the body fits into/fails to fit into its aesthetic environment and what must be done to increase the body’s power to act and exist.

Digital Light

edited by Sean Cubitt, Daniel Palmer and Nathaniel Tkacz

Light symbolises the highest good, it enables all visual art, and today it lies at the heart of billion-dollar industries. The control of light forms the foundation of contemporary vision. Digital Light brings together artists, curators, technologists and media archaeologists to study the historical evolution of digital light-based technologies. Digital Light provides a critical account of the capacities and limitations of contemporary digital light-based technologies and techniques by tracing their genealogies and comparing them with their predecessor media. As digital light remediates multiple historical forms (photography, print, film, video, projection, paint), the collection draws from all of these histories, connecting them to the digital present and placing them in dialogue with one another.

Light is at once universal and deeply historical. The invention of mechanical media (including photography and cinematography) allied with changing print technologies (half-tone, lithography) helped structure the emerging electronic media of television and video, which in turn shaped the bitmap processing and raster display of digital visual media. Digital light is, as Stephen Jones points out in his contribution, an oxymoron: light is photons, particulate and discrete, and therefore always digital. But photons are also waveforms, subject to manipulation in myriad ways. From Fourier transforms to chip design, colour management to the translation of vector graphics into arithmetic displays, light is constantly disciplined to human purposes. In the form of fibre optics, light is now the infrastructure of all our media; in urban plazas and handheld devices, screens have become ubiquitous, and also standardised. This collection addresses how this occurred, what it means, and how artists, curators and engineers confront and challenge the constraints of increasingly normalised digital visual media.

While various art pieces and other content are considered throughout the collection, the focus is specifically on what such pieces suggest about the intersection of technique and technology. Including accounts by prominent artists and professionals, the collection emphasises the centrality of use and experimentation in the shaping of technological platforms. Indeed, a recurring theme is how techniques of previous media become technologies, inscribed in both digital software and hardware. Contributions include considerations of image-oriented software and file formats; screen technologies; projection and urban screen surfaces; histories of computer graphics, 2D and 3D image editing software, photography and cinematic art; and transformations of light-based art resulting from the distributed architectures of the internet and the logic of the database.

Digital Light brings together high profile figures in diverse but increasingly convergent fields, from academy award-winner and co-founder of Pixar, Alvy Ray Smith to feminist philosopher Cathryn Vasseleu and the renowned historian of photography, Geoffrey Batchen.

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