Category Archives: Stiegler

Biography of Gilbert Simondon

[Reposted from my personal blog]

Jussi Parikka has highlighted the translation of a biography of the philosopher Gilbert Simondon [the original was written by Nathalie Simondon], who was a key influence, of course, on the work of Bernard Stiegler and also Gilles Deleuze. In his post, Parikka highlights the hands-on nature of Simondon’s practice – the fact that he built a television in the basement of his school – and the resonances with Friedrich Kittler’s building of a synthesiser. This is also a link, as Phillipe Petit highlights in his introduction to the book of interviews Économie de l’hypermatériel et psychopouvoir, with Bernard Stiegler, whose father worked for Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, the French national broadcaster between 1939-64, and built their first TV. Parikka picks out the neologism of ‘thinkerer’ (commingling ‘tinkerer’ and ‘thinker’) coined by Erkki Huhtamo to describe Simondon, a term that might also be applied to Stiegler for his various means of practising philosophy.

The biography demonstrates what an extraordinary, and, sadly, relatively short, career Simondon had, including a fairly meteoric rise from teaching at a lycée in Tours (1953-55) to being appointed Chair of Psychology B at the Sorbonne (1965). Simondon worked with Barchelard and Hyppolite, as a postgraduate, and his thesis was examined by Jean Hyppolite, Raymond Aron, Georges Canguilhem, Paul Ricoeur and Paul Fraisse. Quite something!

The biography also includes very interesting quotes from letters to Bachelard and Hyppolite as well as fantastic summaries of Simondon’s key works. The experimental spirit of Simondon’s work is strongly evoked throughout, with a clear commitment to a collaborative methodology (across and between science and philosophy):

[He] chose a path of reflection where philosophy might inform science. Such collaboration between science and philosophy, he wrote in 1954 to his future supervisor [Hyppolite], must be carried out not in the results, which would be “an invasion of thought by unworthy followers, as shown in scientistic time,” but in the method: “At the level of method, science is never a feudal lord ruling over a vassal philosophy; rather, it is a relation between the spontaneous and the reflective. The spontaneous governs the reflective, as in scientism, only when the reflective activity is not contemporaneous with the spontaneous activity.”

The biography makes for essential reading for those interested not only in the philosophy of technology and technics, but also for those with a broader interest in the history of ideas, in particular related to the development of what we call continental philosophy.

Memory programmes: the retention of mediated life

Following on from Patrick’s post, I thought I’d also put up a post concerning the Conditions of Mediation conference held at Birkbeck on the 17th of June 2013. I thought the conference was an excellent, if very condensed, occasion for a variety of people interested in media theory, philosophies of/for media and in particular phenomenological understandings of mediation.

There was a series of interesting, and rather diverse, keynotes, including Graham Harman, Sean Moores and Lisa Parks and two slots of parallel paper sessions. I was pleased to be able to give a paper as part of this really interesting event, in the ‘Technics, Interface and Infrastructure’ paper session.

I spoke in the same session as James Ash, who presented a great paper synthesising a reading of Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Ontology, optics to interrogate understandings of ‘interface’. I was also hoping to speak alongside Patrick, because our papers compliment one another as a kind of meditation on Bernard Stiegler’s reading of Husserl in relation to understandings of the perception of time and the processes of memory. Patrick has posted his excellent paper here on this blog.

For those interested, I have reposted below, from my own blog, a slightly cleaned up, and referenced(!), version of my paper. Continue reading Memory programmes: the retention of mediated life

‘Passing, Swirling, Spinning’: A Brief Note on Stiegler’s Post-phenomenological Account of Mediated Experience

I’m posting my 1500 wd paper from the recent Conditions of Mediation preconference of the London ICA (2013).


‘Passing, Swirling, Spinning’:

A Brief Note on Stiegler’s Post-phenomenological Account of Mediated Experience,


‘Conditions of Mediation’ (Birkbeck College, 17 June 2013)

Patrick Crogan

There is limited possibility of giving a satisfactory account of the key elements of Stiegler’s account of cinema, an account which develops a post-phenomenological modification of Husserl’s propositions concerning internal time consciousness. [People could consult the latest issue of New Formations for accounts, including my own, which provide adequate summations of this]. Instead, I offer here this short commentary on a section from Technics and Time 2’s final chapter, ‘Temporal Object and Retentional Finitude’ in which Stiegler engages in a lengthy meditation on Husserl’s account of primary and secondary retention—a meditation which forms the platform for Stiegler’s subsequent account of cinema and cinematic consciousness in Technics and Time 3. This section—whose title ‘Passing, Swirling, Spinning’ also emboldens me to offer an audiovisual ‘channel’ to the 15 minutes of re-temporalising spatial artefacts available to me—discusses Husserl’s efforts to diagrammatically represent his account of the relation between the continuously passing present of consciousness and its retention of the past present moments in an extended present of perception. I think (I hope) that the combination of these two re-temporalisations—of text and video—does indeed look sideways not only toward the issues raised in my abstract, but to the very conditions of mediation in which ‘we’ here find ourselves, today, at Birkbeck College, the home of our kind hosts, and the crossing point today of its rich scholarly heritage with the latest technocultural tendencies traversing what Stiegler has called the ‘pharmacological’ conditions of the globalisation of scholarship.

‘Passing, Swirling, Spinning’: on Diagrams, figures and motion.

The diagrams:

Husserl's Time diagrams

These diagrams are offered by Husserl in the Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness to illustrate his propositions concerning the relations between the impressional consciousness of or at each present moment and what is retained of (and in) the continuity of perceptions. They attempt to represent Husserl’s account of the relation between the continuously passing present of consciousness and its retention of past present moments. Husserl’s chief example for this is how consciousness constitutes a song or melody as a discrete temporal object: consciousness operates a process of ‘primary retention’ most evident when considering the consciousness of phenomena like a melody or song which take time to be constituted as a discrete object of perception—this is what he terms a ‘temporal object’. This primary retention is different from the memory of a song that is recalled to consciousness after having been heard (‘secondary retention’). Indeed it is primary retention that makes possible the very constitution of such unitary phenomena from out of the permanent flux of the consciousness of time as continuous flowing of momentary perceptions. Through primary retention, each moment of the hearing of the song—which Husserl characterises as each note of the melody, a reduction in Stiegler’s view of a much more com-plex phenomenality which reduction is already symptomatic of the limitations of Husserl’s nonetheless important ‘discovery’ of primary retention—each moment of this hearing is retained in modified form across the duration of the song, the retained moments accumulating in a developing sense of and anticipation (or ‘protention’) of its eventual constitution as a complete(d) object of consciousness.

As other commentators have noted (Paul Ricoeur , David L Thompson), these diagrams have tended to raise more questions than they have answered. Stiegler, citing Ricoeur, locates the fundamental problem with them in the impossibility of these spatial forms to adequately represent a ‘recurrence that does not only operate within the limits of graphic figuration’ (TT2, 214).

Even in their necessary, inevitable failure, however—and this is to prefigure my conclusion—and just as I and we all inevitably fail today to properly circumscribe and account for the ‘conditions of mediation’ on the basis of our texts, powerpoints and videoclips, these diagrams opened up the possibility of what Husserl in ‘The Origin of Geometry’ called Rückfrage, the ‘further inquiry’, the critical reconsideration via collective “consultation” (Stiegler calls this ‘reactivation’), from which other figurings of time have developed, including Stiegler’s own. Stiegler for his part acknowledges the singular contribution made to the thinking of the experience of time by Husserl’s positing of the ‘longitudinal intentionality’ of primary retention in its difference from the secondary retention of past perceptions.

What, then, is this ‘recurrence’ Ricoeur and Stiegler argue ‘does not only operate within the limits of graphic figuration’? These limits are spatial and this is what is meant by Ricoeur; that the diagram cannot represent the temporal character of the fundamental conception of ‘retention’ elaborated in Husserl’s analysis of the way consciousness composes a temporal object in the course of its longitudinal intentioned perception of a phenomena. (For Ricoeur, the diagram does not figure retention in its specific figuration of the relations between the continuous flow of the present moments of intentional conscious perception (A-E) and the descent of these into the ever-deepening depth of consciousness’ archive of experience along the diagonal line A-A’ – for Ricoeur retention has to be understood as what is indicated by the combination of the three lines A – E, A – A’, and E – A’. But this is in effect to state that retention is everywhere but nowhere in the diagram, and must be inferred in a kind of scanning look that ‘animates’ the static simultaneity of the relation between the lines of the descent, the continuation and the return of ‘nows’.

But even this retemporalizing is not adequate to the most complex thought of the dynamic modification primary retention enacts in its process of both reducing and maintaining the ‘just-past nows’ within the bounds of the temporal object ‘under construction’. Inadequate but inevitable (‘essential’ even) retemporalizing: this is how Stiegler understands the process and power of what he calls mnemotechnical artefactuality, such as writings, notes, diagrams, graphics, statues, monuments, but also photos, films, video files

[START VIDEO GoPro Aikido ]:

Of writing, for instance, Stiegler says ‘when a reader reads a text, the spatial object is thereby re-temporalized. Reading is the transformation of space back into the time of reading’ (‘Organology of Dreams’). Exceeding the reach of his diagrams, Husserl’s written characterisation of the ongoing dynamic of primary retention approaches in Stiegler’s view the crucial theme of heritage that his student Heidegger will later seize upon, but in error (with disastrous consequences; but that is for another 15 minutes). This theme is nonetheless at the heart of the issue of the human experience of/in time as necessarily and artefactually, technically, inherited. Husserl, Stiegler says, ‘speaks of heritage, but cannot think it’ (214).

In short, (as time is short) there is a contradiction between Husserl’s account of the dynamic, janus-faced retentional/protentional process and his ambition to separate primary from secondary retention, that is, perception from the workings of memory and imagination upon our experience of exterior phenomena.* Husserl seeks to ground phenomenology’s study of the objects of intentional consciousness as ‘original’, untainted by subjective colouring, unequivocally witnessed as such and not selectively constituted through subjective predisposition.** This leads him to assert the absolute character of the beginning of the temporal object, a ‘primal impression’ (Husserl) that ‘transmits its absolute nature to a retention even while assigning its limits’ (212). This absolute beginning cuts off present perception of the phenomenon from the workings of the ever-deepening continuity of memorious consciousness. Husserl’s account of primary retention, even as it accounts for the complex dynamic through which the flow of present perception is able to extend itself into a ‘large now’ through a process Stiegler thinks is better figured as a whirling, spinning, vortexual flux (without venturing his own diagram, 211), nonetheless posits an impermeable wall between the moment prior to the start of the temporal object and the first sounding of the melody. This constitutes an ‘open unity of phenomena’ for study, including temporal phenomena, but without considering the inevitable, and constitutive complicity of retentions, secondary and primary, always already in play at each moment of perception, always janus-faced, retaining and anticipating, constituting the present on the basis of retained experience, and modifying the sense and significance of the past in the present encounter with the perceived.

‘The ear is originarily musical’, says Stiegler (210) and the ‘eye is originarily cinematic’ one might add. How can one see this video, constitute it as a unitary phenomenon, but differently, according to one’s experience and anticipation of cinema and video, within a wider spiral of retained experience? To note the most obvious conditions of constitution of this temporal object, experience and anticipation of an experience of Youtube’s storehouse of the individual ‘amateur’s’ virtual community co-production, of GoPro first person perspective footage on Youtube, of Bruce Lee/martial arts films, of martial arts/’physical cultural’ practice, of the experience of the difference between ‘embodied’ actions and their audiovisual representation (my particular motive for making this video), experience and anticipation of self absorbed academics with anecdotes and idiosyncratic means of inflating the significance of their personal pastimes?

If primary retention cannot be kept completely free of the influence of selection criteria synthesised from out of the ongoing workings of secondary retention in the continuous modification of consciousness, that is not to say that perception is the same as memory or imagination. Different, but not opposed, hermetically sealed off from it. And, as we have just seen, as secondary retention is of experiences so many of which are of media, and of mnemotechnical forms more generally (eg. of martial arts/physical training which is ‘essentially’ technical, and only ‘spiritual’ on the basis of a technical substrate), then what Stiegler calls ‘tertiary retention’ in his supplementing of Husserl’s categories of retention is of central importance to thinking the phenomenality of phenomena in their essentially technical conditions of psychic and collective mediation. Tertiary retention: spatialised, materialised artefactuality that conditions the first two interior retentional dynamics through its retention and rendering transmissible, or inheritable, experiences that living consciousness did not itself live. Tertiary retention ‘fixes’ materially the conditions of inheritance but does not determine it. Framed, funnelled, enabled, the movement of passing, swirling and spinning is constitutively uncertain in its retemporalisation of this heritage; all the more reason to formulate a proper critical assessement of its pharmacological character and potential.


*Retention is dynamic, says Husserl; the previous notes in the melody are not reduced into a modified form once and for all and retained in that form across the continuous passage of the melody like a growing wagontrain. Rather, they undergo continuous modification at each moment of the melody: ‘retention of retention’ (Husserl p.31). Each new ‘now’ of impressional consciousness modifies its retention of the previous note’s modification of the prior notes, based on the sounding of each new note and how it modifies the ongoing experience of and anticipation of the melody as completed phenomenon. In analysing this complex of protentional and retentional dynamics within primary retention, Husserl speaks of the ‘continuous modification [of what is retained] that carries with it, so to speak, the heritage of the past in the form of a series of adumbrations’ (215). It is the effort to delimit this complexity either side of a borderline between primary and secondary retention that Stiegler argues prevents Husserl from fully developing the implications of using this term, heritage, at this point.

**cf Husserl’s contesting of the position of Franz Brentano that ‘perception is misception’, ‘against’ whose work on intentional consciousness Husserl formulated his ‘pre-psychologist’ method to avoid the traps of subjectivism).

The Wager of Sublimation, Philip Petit on Bernard Stiegler

In the book of interviews Économie de l’hypermatériel et pyschopouvoir (The hypermaterial economy and psychopower) Bernard Stiegler (with Philip Petit and Vincent Bontems) works through and explicates a range of the political-economic and socio-technical issues he feels are most pressing in the contemporary milieu. In the interviews Stiegler ties together his more ontological arguments concerning the co-constitution of the human/technology with his wide-ranging critique of political economy. At the heart of these arguments are the related issues of sublimation in a libidinal economy (the translation of libidinal energy into social objects) and the hypermaterial nature of our material supports (technology, taken in the broadest sense). Stiegler argues for a revitalisation of the economy by better translating our desires into more fulfilling outcomes, rather than submitting to mindless consumption. This is more an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary imperative, as can also be seen by the manifesto of the campaigning organisation Stiegler co-founded, Ars Industrialis. Continue reading The Wager of Sublimation, Philip Petit on Bernard Stiegler

Bernard Stiegler: “We are entering an era of contributory work”

I have just posted a translation of a recent interview with Stiegler on my personal blog, here:

The website Rue89 have published an interesting and accessibleinterview with Bernard Stiegler on the theme of an economy of contribution. In the interview Stiegler offers some general observations and examples of how contributory work might function. I have made a quick translation of the interview I hope it is of interest. As ever, please do offer comments, corrections etc.

The Big Interview – Bernard Stiegler: “We are entering an era of contributory work”

Bernard Stiegler’s offices face the Pompidou Centre, beneath the roofs of Paris. It is for his famous neighbour that the philosopher founded the Institute for Research and Innovation (IRI), in order to “anticipate changes in the supply and cultural consumption enabled by new digital technologies.”

But in the spirit of this teacher-author-entrepreneur, everything is connected: culture, consumption, technology, work, politics. For him, the consumerist model is dying, as with all permanent progress. Everything is automated. Economic interest can be the only pursuit. We must rehabilitate knowledge, cognition, creativity. How? By developing an “economy of contribution”, which will revolutionise the way we work.

Read the interview

Cognitive Enhancement conference: some comments

Anphicon 1; cognitive enhancement and other technologies of the mind’ was a short conference by Philosophy at UWE and Uni of Bristol’s centre for Ethics in Medicine. I went along to some sessions and wanted to add a couple of comments (from our technophilia/Stiegler perspective) about the promising inquiry opened up around ‘enhancement’ via ‘smart drugs’ etc which was a main theme of the event. Presentations were a quite eclectic mix of philosophers, social science, cultural and literary theory people, medical ethicists etc., and more provided input via discussion. They will be uploaded onto the conference site at some stage.

I offer (for now) a few meditations based on a couple of the early papers from the first day. Jérôme Goffette whose term ‘anthropotech’ has been adopted by the research grouping behind the conference spoke about the use of smart drugs examined in a Canadian survey of Montreal students and recent graduates. His term (from his book) designates the ‘extra-medical modification’ of humans beyond medical treatment (the distinction here is between medical treatment aimed at achieving normal healthy function and extra medical modification aimed at superior function of one kind or another). This captures well enough the predominant discourse of enhancement under consideration here, as he showed well by egs of the marketing material/introductions from several popular books in English and French on using smart drugs.

But the comments  cited from the Canadian student users of some of these such as ADHD drugs like Ritalin seemed to make apparent what Stiegler would call the inherently pharmacological situation of their use. The drugs were credited with aiding in sustained concentration on an academic task like reading a text or completing an assignment without being distracted by email/fb/twitter, in helping the users to feel confident at a new workplace, in sustaining the energy to get through work after heavy bouts of study and then socialising, etc.  In other words, these ‘normal’ students feel unable to achieve what might be (or might have been) called ‘normal’ goals (concentrate on an assignment, manage their time, attain confidence in learning to accomplish new work tasks). The division between (self-)medication and ‘enhancement’ looks blurry here, and this before we begin to consider the possible ‘side effects’ (a debateable term in this context for similar reasons) of overuse, dependancy, unforeseen impacts on the wider personality/work or social network, etc. Smart drugs are in this view as much a ‘cure’ for an inherently injurious contemporary global western industrial milieu of neoliberal competitiveness, information overload and ‘attentional technologies’ destructive of certain forms of attention to social and personal development  no longer cultivated by our routines of socialisation and education. The cure would be, however, a very ambivalent one: a pharmaceutical regime designed for various ‘pathologies’ and disorders of attention formation and ‘health’ whose causes are, perhaps also connected to the contemporary technocultural milieu.

This blurry line(s) between less than normal (disabled, injured/impaired), normal and enhanced crossed many of the presentations and thematisations at the conference. It is clear that smart drugs are being marketed and developed as enhancements, and that a massive expansion in the ‘pharmaceutical-industrial complex’ is in train today — alone a very good reason to celebrate the initiative of Goffette and of others at this conference in promoting discussion of this.

Michael Hauskeller’s opening talk challenged the self-evidence of the notion of enhancement of cognition on the basis that cognition was not an identified, unitary thing or process but many aspects, qualities and processes characterised by different disciplines in different ways. Enhancement was then always to be approached critically via the questions ‘for who’ and ‘for what?’, according to whose criteria and in what context. I think this is a very good way to commence a consideration of these very real issues today where we are seeing the acceleration of biotechnological innovation under the permanent pressure of commercial capitalist imperatives… so long as we grasp the implication of this claim in its fullest: that not only is there no such thing as cognitive enhancement pure and simple, but that this is because there is nothing but cognitive enhancement; that the human is, as Stiegler says after Leroi-Gourhan, a technical being, a being always already prosthetic, with no essential, transcendental nature, a being in default of an essence (Technics and Time 1) .

And if Darian Meacham (a philosopher friend of mine, and co-convenor of the conference) could ask (of Hauskeller) whether the very opposition between interior and exterior, between technology and organic/biological integrity really operates today in our technically saturated milieu, the response  might be to say that it has never really operated. For Stiegler, interiority is co-constituted with exteriority; the use of the tool, made to be used as an extension/improvement of the hand, assumes the mind that anticipated its use, in order to make it, or adopt it. But that does not mean there is no difference between exterior and interior, nor that it did not or does not matter when and how technical forms alter the  relation between them.

On the contrary ; it is all the more important to assess, understand these changes because the human, its cognition, its body, is not fixed, biologically or metaphysically stable or settled. The ‘human’ is a political question, or project. Too often, and especially today, this question of the future of the human, the posthuman etc, is not addressed in this fashion, as a reiteration of this persistent question. To return to Hauskeller’s insistence that it is crucial to know the context in which ‘enhancement’ of ‘cognition’ is being promoted or researched, we could add that that the future course of the context, and of contexts, is at stake here. The biotechnological ‘enhancements’ in question in this conference are having powerful effects, chemically on individuals, and through their global marketing and dissemination. They are a part of the performativity of technoscience, ‘phenomeno-technics’ Stiegler would say, citing Gaston Bachelard.  The context changes and with it the very conditions of evaluating, negotiating and adopting from amongst its store of potentials, of posing other pathways for its renovation. no absolute necessity that the ‘human’ is retained as one of those potentials still available.

Patrick Crogan and I are pleased to announce the publication of a special issue of the journal Culture Machine concerning the various ways we might examine the commodification of attention. This work stems from Patrick’s erstwhile engagement with the work of Bernard Stiegler and draws significant influence from his book ‘Taking Care of Youth and the Generations’. The special issue includes a contribution from Stiegler as well as articles from Jonathan Beller and Tiziana Terranova and an interview with Michel Bauwens.

Paying Attention

Patrick Crogan and Sam Kinsley, researchers within the Digital Cultures Research Centre at UWE, have co-edited the just released special issue of the influential Open Humanities Press journal, Culture Machine entitled ‘Paying Attention’. The issue was drawn from the 2010 conference of the same name, documented on this website, convened by the Digital Cultures Research Centre with funds from the European Science Foundation. With a substantial introduction by the editors, the issue revitalises and updates the critical examination of the workings of the ‘attention economy’ in the context of today’s rapidly emerging realtime, ubiquitous, online digital technoculture. It re-focusses work on this theme of attention in light of the current and emerging digital technocultural media sphere of smart devices, the pervasive mediation of experience, and the massive financial speculation in the attention capturing potential of social networking media. The special issue includes an interview by Kinsley with…

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

Digital Studies

Or, Ars Industrialis, Bernard Stiegler and the Economy of Contribution

The purpose of this post is to outline an initial reading of ‘digital studies’ in relation to the philosophy of Bernard Stiegler and examine its possible application. On 18th April the Digital Cultures Research Centre hosted a visit by Christian Fauré, a technologist and philosopher, who is a founding member of the Ars Industrialis association. That week also saw Bernard Stiegler, another founding member of Ars Industrialis, deliver a keynote at the World Wide Web international conference, held by the W3C international conference committee, in Lyon (France). In both talks we are introduced to what has been termed “Digital Studies”, by Ars Industrialis in conjunction with the Pompidou Centre’s Institute for Research and Innovation (Institut de Recherche et d’Innovation – IRI) [1]. Continue reading Digital Studies

Epineiuil-le-Fleurieu Summer School 2011 videos to talks


This was the inaugural Summer School of Ars Industrialis’s School of Philosophy. A range of presentations on different topics, some in French and some in English, were given by postgrad students on the first year of the School’s innovative online + offline seminar programme, plus a number of invited contributors (including me :-). You can access these at:

and for a special treat (laugh?) here is my presentation in French: