Watching Whales Watching Us


Haraway and away... -- Emily Martinez

Sometimes I wish I could articulate the imagination event/flood of simultaneously morphing-compressing-expanding-retracting-unfolding- erecting-dissolving-dissapearing-interfering-noisecancelling-branching- fractaling-atomizing-imploding-birthing-rebirthing-multiplying-instant  ((big bang)(genesis style)) creation of the concepts/meanings/symbols/ words/sounds/images that arise from the electrical signal processing that happens in my head all the time, especially when I read things like, “‘ontological choreographies.’ The scripting of the dance of being is more than a metaphor; bodies, human and non-human, are taken apart and put together in a process that makes self certainty and either humanist or organicist ideology bad guides to ethics and politics, much less to personal experience” (8)

Writing/reflecting on this alone reenforces several things:

1. Relating back to Grosz, the virtual/real, plane of immanence + plane of intensity, and the impossibility of realizing the infinite nature of possibility that arises in that virtual space. If only I could express the multiplicity/mess I described above in one instance that can be received and communicated to you/anyone in one instance. But our brains, and our language/communication system of translating intention to thought to word to speech will never come close to providing the bandwidth and speed necessary to allow for that, among other (telepathic) limitations. The only thing I can do is take those million-billion simultaneous universes, and utter something reductive and completely insufficient for transmitting their infinite possibilities (like this sentence).

2. The paradoxical enabling/limiting power of our linguistic structures and the linearity of language to shape our perceptions, our logic, and by extension, our consensus “realities” that activate possibility/impossiblity with/in certain systems (in this case, a lexicon strongly anchored in hierarchical and binary relationships), while simultaneously failing to communicate so much of the ambiguous, irreconcilable characteristics/qualities/experiences of life so awkwardly articulated when constrained to system/s, insufficient for communicating this complexity. And that’s not to say language is useless, on the contrary, it’s amazing(!) — it is the birthing place of the virtual/real — for real! However what this does stress (at least for me), is the importance of combining and exploring every means we have for communicating and understanding our world — through words, visuals, sound, affect, fantasy/dreams, information systems, intuition, and even all the weirdo far out irrational notions of what could exist, if only… It’s one of the luxuries of being an artist (vs a philosopher, or a scientist, or anyone bound to the ideologies or empirical forces that dominate certain fields). Personal aside: The empiricist / skeptic in me keeps me honest and unattached to even my strongest convictions/intuitions, however it does not impede me from exploring the most fantastical and “irrational” of possibilities — it’s just one end of the string I attach to the stake in the ground that keeps me from floating off into oblivion/insanity/belief — always keeping it real.

3. So after all of that exposition/expansion, returning to Haraway, four lines down from the quote I first cited, and reading this: “conceiving of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ as either polar opposites or universal categories is foolish” (8), followed by an entire essay advocating for the useful and necessary inclusion of “partial connections” / Haraway’s “relations of significant otherness”(8), other topologies, and word/concepts, like “natureculture”, I am again, left thinking/sighing about/re-reenforcing my above contemplations, convictions, and run-on sentences (sorry - again, this language/ temporality problem).

4. On the subtle/drastic differences between thinking in terms of: nature and culture VS culture and nature VS culture or nature VS nature or culture VS nature and/or culture VS natureculture VS culturenature VS a concept/word that doesn’t even exist because we have been building upon this perceptual difference for so long that it has been inconceivable so far that such a thing exists, and should be named, thus invoking into existence a reality/world born of the very name, the word itself.

(I will now restrain myself from going into examples from religious texts OR what Elizabeth Grosz infers when writing about the “floor being an excess of horonzontality”, giving rise to things like dance and athletics OR what William Burrough’s meant by “language is a virus”).

Sorry, so late. :/ Crazy week…



Random collection of thoughts about Emergent NatureCulture - Heather Logas

My apologies for this being late.

I struggled with the term “natureculture”. Its weird because when she says”technoculture” I feel like I completely get what she means, but”natureculture” throws my brain for a loop. On page 8 she talks about howMarilyn Strathern says that “nature” and “culture” should not be thought ofas polar opposites: “Finally, Marilyn Strathern…taught us why conceivingof “nature” and “culture” as either polar opposites or universal categoriesis foolish.” So maybe Harroway is using natureculture to talk about howhumans are not separate from nature, as is sometimes conceived? And ourconnectedness with nature has something to do with our relationship withcompanion animals? I’d like to get more clarity on this.

On page 15 I was struck by the quote: “Post-Cyborg, what counts asbiological kind troubles previous categories of organism. The mechanic andthe textual are internal to the organic and vice versa in irreversibleways.” My brain immediately leapt to thinking about virtual creatures —Aibos, Furbies, Tamogatchies, etc. and wondering if they counted as species. From there I started wondering about the proliferation of virtual pets andwhat that proliferation says about the nature of humanity? Do we just havean inexhaustible craving for nurturing? Or love (either to be loved or tolove)? And does this relate back to our real pets too? Why IS IT thathuman beings seek out the company of other animals to the extent that we do,and why are virtual animals adequate surrogates in some instances? What doesthat say about what qualities we are seeking to get from live animals?

The quote that straddles page 16 & 17 seems critical, but I struggled withit. “I want to convince my readers that inhabitants of technoculture becomewho we are in the symbiogenetic tissues of naturecultures, in story and infact.” People steeped in life with technology become that way due to ourdeeply rooted drive for symbiosis, which is part of our integration withnature… This is as far as I could get. I couldn’t completely “unpack” it.

A thread that runs throughout the whole chapter is this theme of acombination of material/semiotic, sign/flesh, story/fact. This seems key tothe idea of naturecultures: “Flesh and Signifier, bodies and words, storiesand worlds: these are joined in naturecultures.” It is resisting myattempts to sort it out however.

Also, I like the word “Metaplasm”. “Metaplasm means a change in a word, forexample by adding, omitting, inverting, or transposing its letters,syllables or sounds.”(Harroway, 20)


Response to Haraway -- Helen Park

[Tried posting this last night, hopefully now this will go through.]

Haraway and process philosophy… In discussing her writingstoday the word ‘concrescence’ came up more than once, and I find thatHaraway’s writing itself - at least the bit that we have been exposed tohere - is often a concrescence of ideas; things that are often conceived ofas separate or even diametrically opposed come together in a symbiosis toform something new. Her term ‘natureculture’ is one example. Often pittedagainst each other, nature and culture now form to create a new and morecomplex understanding of experience in the world. Things that occurnaturally combine with things of human construct. She writes, “I want tolearn how to narrate this co-history and how to inherit the consequences ofco-evolution in natureculture” (12). Like the practices of oral storytellingin ancient cultures, or perhaps something deeply embedded within our DNA,passed on by ancestors now so long gone, how exactly can we learn thisco-history and “inherit the consequences of co-evolution”? Indeed, narrativeand story also play a significant role her treatise, whether it beDarwinian, Marxian, Catholic, Companion, and/or Cyborg, our stories are thesymbols by which our histories and the concrescence of being-togethernesswith all Others crystallize into ideology, myth, natureculture.

She takes the cue from Althusser: “Today, through our ideologically loadednarratives of their lives, animals ‘hail’ us to account for the regimes inwhich they and we must live. We ‘hail’ them into our constructs of natureand culture, with major consequences of life and death, health and illness,longevity and extinction. We also live with each other in the flesh in waysnot exhausted by our ideologies. Stories are much bigger than ideologies.In that is our hope” (17). We - meaning everything and all living beings,flesh and cyborg - are co-creators, deeply intertwined and embedded withineach other’s narratives, and toward what end? Survival, creation? What do wedo within the occurrence of excess that Grosz wrote about? Where does arthappen in all of this?

“So, in ‘The Companion Species Manifesto,’ I want to tell stories aboutrelating in significant otherness, through which the partners come to be whowe are in flesh and sign” (25). Haraway often alludes to this compellingpair: flesh and sign. The material semiotic being. The concrescence ofsensation and signification into a dynamic process of being. How do weco-create each other in flesh and in sign? What a great question.

This trajectory of thought, the line of flight, certainly intersects nicelywith Grosz’s philosophical terrain. They are jointly supportive in themovement toward reproduction, symbiosis, superabundance that feeds into art,life, and the significant otherness of relation.

[this is a repost as the first send did not appear online. sorry for anyduplicates.]


Response to Haraway -- James Pollack

My first question upon reading Haraway’s article is: Why not cats?  Orreally, why not any other “companion species”?  Perhaps it’s better touse the term “companion animal,” to ask this question, since given a”companion species” to humans, “one must include such organic beingsas rice, bees, tulips, and intestinal flora” (15).  Leaving open sucha broad range of possibility certainly closes off our ability toreally find out what’s going on in any one particular relationship —this is the quantum problem of measuring devices.  For comprehension,it seems that we must affect & therefore limit our subject.  Whatthen, constitutes a “companion animal”?  “Generally speaking,” writesHaraway, “one does not eat one’s companion animals…” (14).  Though shegrants that the boundaries on whether “companion animals” like dogs”were and are vermin,” (14) may be the result of certain socialdeterminants (i.e. respect for dogs in early American Indiancultures), Haraway doesn’t present convincing evidence that her act ofchoosing dogs as the topic of this book is any more meaningful thanany other choice.  It’s hard to overlook the economic implications ofwriting about a popular “companion animal,” such as dogs, against aless popular companion animal.  Haraway’s interest in “the joint livesof dogs and people, who are bonded in significant otherness” (16)seems too convenient — there may the the most number of people withcompanion animals that are dogs, but does this aspect of the dog/humanrelationship make these relationships inherently meaningful? I thinkthat the Haraway’s book about our companion-relationship with ricemight produce some interesting results.  Or her book about cows, sinceshe’d have to deal with the fact that a large portion of humanitywould rather consider them companion animals than Big Mac components.How much the better that this portion of humanity lies in anon-Western sphere of understanding.


Her proclivity for canines aside, I must say that I agree, in general,with many aspects of Haraway’s approach.  I like that she wants totell a story — but if semiotics can be considered the study of thescience of all that can be used to tell a lie, then we must deal withHaraway’s anti-semiotic assertion of an objective truth in the form ofa neo-Catholic instantiation of truth in any sort of doctrine of realpresence.  No jesus in my mouth, thanks.  While Haraway comes rightout and says that “Species is about the corporeal join of the materialand the semiotic in ways unacceptable to the secular Protestantsensibilities of the American academy and to most versions of thehuman science of semiotics” (15-16), I get the feeling that she doesso to fend off criticisms by these groups, without explaining exactlywhy this “corporeal join” might be unacceptable, not to to mentionwhat such a “corporeal join” even is.  I’m hoping this is another oneof those issues that’s worked out in the body of the text — such isthe risk of reading introductions.  I think Haraway’s at her best whenshe’s insisting on “cohabiting an active history” (20) — when weattempt to understand ourselves through our companion animals, weadmit that there’s some variable we will never really know (thecompanion animal).  This unknowing means that we are never finished —hence, any attempt to understand a whole self will fail.  There’s ahole that’s never plugged, many holes, where self-meaning leaks outand into how we treat, think of, interact with, and imagine the mindsof our companions on this planet, and in this universe.