Patrick Crogan on ‘animating military robots’ and Bernard Stiegler’s ‘Post-Grammatology’

Patrick is currently in Australia working his way through a number of conferences and seminars and trying to fit in some free time. This week he’s giving two papers that offer some insights into the development of some themes from his book Gameplay Mode concerning robotics and our shifting understanding of what ‘digital’ means, refracted through the work of Bernard Stiegler.

On the 3rd of July Patrick is giving a paper entitled ‘From the ‘Man in the Loop’ to the ‘Perceive and Act Vector’: Animating Military Robotics’ at School of Humanities and Communication Arts, University of Western Sydney, in collaboration with Transit Labour: in EB2.21, Parramatta Campus, UWS, between 2-4pm. You can read the full abstract on the Transit Labour website, however here is the first sentence to give a flavour:

This paper examines the massive and intensive development of military robotics, a development that can be understood (and not metaphorically) as envisaging their bringing to life as fully functioning perceiving and acting beings.

On the 4th of July, Patrick is giving a paper entitled ‘Attention, technics, and the digital: Bernard Stiegler’s Post-Grammatology’ at School of the Arts and Media, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales: in Webster Theatre A, Robert Webster Building, UNSW, Kensington Campus between 4-5:30pm. Patrick has offered the following tantalising introduction to what promises to be a fascinating and timely paper:

This paper will situate Stiegler’s critical diagnosis of digital media technoculture in relation to his post-Derridean philosophy of technology. Elaborated in recent works as a ‘pharmacological’ account of the emergence of the prevailing digital technoculture, this diagnosis identifies the threat posed by the increasing ‘grammatisation’ of experience produced by the ‘short termism’ of commercial design and marketing logics dedicated to the coordination of consumption with the needs of industrial production. Contributing to the critique of the ‘attention economy’ and ‘experience design’ notions popular in the promotion of e-commerce and digital media marketing, Stiegler identifies the channelling and impoverishment of forms of ‘attention’ as a central topos for the waging of a ‘battle for criticality’ to rescue a properly cultural and intersubjective notion of attention as a taught and learnt technique of individual calibration with the collective.

Stiegler recalls that Derrida offered his account of the deconstruction of the ‘logos’ in a context in which a cybernetic ‘deconstruction’ of language was already well in train. Derrida proposed his ‘grammatology’ in an ironic but serious, strategically hypothetical gesture to cite and respond to the ambition of a ‘science’ of the logic and function of communication operating across the history of Western metaphysics as much as in its culmination, as Heidegger said, in something like cybernetics. Stiegler, for his part, develops an account of the material history of grammatisations in order to better apprehend the digital transformation of the media milieu. The cybernetic procedures of information flow and realtime communications, and the audiovisual forms of cinema, the phonogram and their derivatives combine in the digital. The mediated milieu is, he says, the ‘and’ in the phrase ‘individual and collective’.

Drawing on Gilbert Simondon’s notion of individuation—something which Stiegler argues is a telling absence from Derrida’s project—Stiegler argues that human individual and collective becoming is always mediated, always co-constituted with and in technical milieux, and is always contingent, or ‘metastable’ (somewhat stable, but also therefore somewhat unstable). ‘Anthropogenesis’ is always composed with a ‘technogenesis’. Or, at least, it has always been. The political stakes and motivations of Stiegler’s philosophical response to Derrida’s gesture toward a grammatology become apparent from this perspective. The pharmacological account of the digital milieu’s conditions is an attempt to think its potential (as much as its threat) to a continuing becoming-human, or becoming-not-inhuman (as Stiegler would have it), something whose nature, legitimacy, or value have absolutely no essential basis or inevitable future. If any particular articulation of what ‘human being’ states or projects is deconstructible, then for Stiegler this articulation and this deconstruction are technically, and historically conditioned, and open up the question of their political ramifications.


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