Chapter One: Alien Phenomenology

by stronged

(Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology: or what it’s like to be a thing. Pub. University of Minnesota Press, 2012)


Bogost begins with a personal account of the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque, listing a plethora of seemingly random objects associated with that location (i.e. The Civil War, oval-headed alien anthropomorph’s, gypsum crystal, capsicum peppers, etc.). It soon becomes evident that this methodology of syntax construction is not merely a choice of style or written purely in jest, but a representation of the following methods of ontology he now favours:


Martin Hedeggar – objects are outside human consciousness, but their being exists only in human understanding.

Jacques Derrida – things are never fully present to us, but only differ and defer their access to individuals in particular contexts, interminably. – différance – words are only representation of object and defers to similar yet different terminology to describe it. All terms/signifiers are connected in a state of flux.

Quentin Meillassoux – Correlationism – humans and the world are inextricably tied together – the world is subservient to humans.


Speculative Realism – multifarious complexity of being among all things. pp. 6. …everything exists equally.


Martin Heidegger – Ready-to-hand (zuhanden) = object in use & Present-at-hand (vorhanden) = passive object

I wondered whether a object present-at-hand would still operate within a system. The answer is yes, for the object is still interacting with your perception and mind and therefore in assembly with your being. 

Object-Oriented-Ontology (Triple O’s)

Alfred North Whitehead’s occasions in process – change is cornerstone to reality – always in flux. A human being is a composite of it’s many experiences.

NB: Steven Shaviro has recently written Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics, The MIT Press, 2009.

Latour’s material-semiotic actor-network theory (ANT) – any object is an ‘actor’ in the sense that it inhabits a sense of agency within a system or collective (or unit). This ties in with Punctualization – when a system is revealed in the process of becoming dysfunctional, therefore ceasing to be it’s initial form of object/system. Also, entelechy – “being-at-work-staying-the-same” The relations of things matter more than the things themselves (assemblage).


Posthumanism – shedding our humanism in an effort to obtain a higher being through technology.


David Ray Griffin’s panexperientialism – All entities have phenomenal consciousness but not cognition

Timothy Morton – mesh instead of nature to describe interconnectedness of all living and non-living things.


Harman’s “vicarious causation” – ‘Things never really interact with one another, but fuse or connect in a conceptual fashion unrelated to consciousness… some kind of proxy breaks the chasm (Bogost, 11).

Does this hint at a phenomenological/metaphysical connection? Energetic, spiritual or otherwise? Between all things. The element that science is unable to quantify or grasp?

Parmenidean monism; esixtence is not singular and unchangeable.

Democritean atomism; existence is not composed of fundamental elements of equal size and nature.


Anaximandrean apeiron; Reality infinite – birth and destruction occurs in the same instance.

Levi Bryant’s Flat Ontology – Somewhat like ontological communism. Seems flawed as one must still break down an object into it’s components in order to describe and employ flat ontology. 


Scientific Naturalism – There is always some physical stuff out of which all others can be explained.

Social Relativism – Things exist through conceptualization.


…a computer is to be considered useful the more it does intelligent things – Loebner Prize (Alan Turing)

Kevin Warwick’s cyborg project fascinates me. Indeed, the man himself is incredibly intriguing. He is taking the original concepts of Science Fiction into reality by integrating the human nervous system and motor neurons into computing and vice versa. 


These concepts Bogost toys with made me think of a fellow student back in TAFE who seemed to show sympathy towards computers. When she would perceive fellow students tearing their hair out and slamming their fists down upon keyboards in utter frustration during post-production, she would calmly stroke the pc and reassure it everything will be ok – or perhaps this was for the benefit of her fellow students as well – their anger subsiding in break-neck speed. Her view of computers as separate, individual entities with their own consciousness has stuck with me. I now treat pc’s with much more respect than i used to. After all, they are just trying to help us achieve our goals – albeit at times in a convoluted, backward fashion. 


…a posthumanist ontology is one in which “humans are no longer monarchs of being, but are instead among being, entangled in beings, and implicated in other beings.

I find this akin to Indigenous mythology by how indigenous people’s connection with place/land is irrevocable. They are as much a part of the land as the land is a part of them. This prompts a deep sense of identity and respect for one’s own environment. An attractive concept for a contemporary society fixated on sustainability. 


Latour calls it irreduction: “Nothing can be reduced to anything else.”

The power of flat ontology comes from its indiscretion. It refuses distinction and welcomes all into the temple of being.

I have trouble with this concept. Firstly, I find definitions that are loose and all-inclusive weak as opposed to powerful. When there is no fixed definition a term is open to ambiguity and is therefore in jeopardy of becoming arbitrary. 


John Law – relax the border controls, allow the non-coherences to make themselves manifest.

mess is a strew of inconvenient and sometimes repellent things.


Tiny Ontology – It’s a dense mass of everything contained entirely.

“is not only protected by a vacuous shield from the things that lie outside it, but also harbors and nurses an erupting infernal universe within.” – Harman.

Specify! – The world is not merely how we perceive it. We place values and comparisons, similarities and our own expereicnes upon it. Therefore each object is infinite (i.e. tiny ontology). SPECULATIVE FICTION.

Mereology – ‘Parthood’ Components part of an object. (System occurs in unit pp. 23)


Kant’s “das Ding” is the unknowable element that must be inferred through experience.

The thing is the signifier cut off from the chain of signification, which Lacan later calls objet a – similar to Hitchcock’s McGuffin (protagonist’s motivation), the object of desire derived from Freud’s ‘desire for the “other”‘.


The set offers an exploded view onto being.

This reminds me of one of my faviourite graphic novels Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid Kid On Earth by Chris Ware. I have recently discovered one of his latest graphic novels on ipad.

jimmycorrigan20dpictogrsa9Back Cover Layout.qxd

Kants Copernican Revolution – Rationalism meets Empiricism. Human mind constructs reality. Our sensory experience is all that we have of the world. SAPS = Synthetic and a priori.


Speculum (misshapen representation of ourself/object) vs. Speculative Realism (Things speculate. One that speculates about how things speculate)

Adrian is moving us toward speculating upon how objects speculate. To mix up our perspective in order to view life from another perspective. That of a “thing”. This reminds me of the Taro card The Hangman, which signifies that one must view their life from a different angle (often the hangman is hanging upside down from his ankle).