Chapter Two: Ontography

by stronged

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


Harman – “deal(s) with a limited number of dynamics that can occur between all different sorts of objects.” (36)

Richard F. Kitchener – “Ontology is the theory of the nature of existence, and ontography is its description.” (Ibid)

Using Kitchener’s definition of the term, we are able to understand that Ontography is the practical component of Ontology. The Naming of the ‘existence of things’ for the purpose of mapping out their context (i.e. similarities and differences) in relation to one another. 

Michael Lynch – “a descriptive alternative to its grand-theoretical counterpart.” (Ibid)

William Morris Davis details that it is a “the human response to the physical landscape,” (Ibid) therefore a process in which we react to our surroundings in order to derive meaning or substance. 

Susan Schulten – “the causal relation between humans and their earth.” (36-37)

Cataloging a diverse range of objects creates a natural ‘disjunction instead of flow,’ (40) drawing attention to both the ‘couplings…and chasms between them.’ (50)

‘Ontography is a practice of increasing the number and density…exploding the innards of things… (to) reveal the hidden density of a unit.’ (58)

‘Lists of objects without explication can do the philosophical work of drawing our attention toward them with greater attentiveness.’ (45)

‘Lists are perfect tools to free us from the prison of representation precisely because they are so inexpressive.’ (40) ‘using mundaneness to offer “a brief intimation of everything.”‘

‘[T]his list disrupts being, spilling a heap of unwelcome and incoherent crap at the foot of the reader,’ (41) much like the ‘dredging up and making visible the myriad things seen and unseen…’ (43) after the ‘the torrential rains of Rio de Janeiro…'(Ibid) in Tom Jobim’s song “Waters of March.”

‘[T]he rhetorical power of these rosters of beings stems from their direct opposition to the flaws of current mainstream philosophy,’ (39) their very state of not being eloquent or flowery reenergises their meaning for the reader. This is an interesting lesson to ruminate upon, how defying the norm attracts attention and therefore creates a sense of excitement, interest and power to the audience.  

‘[Stephen] Shore’s photographs catalog the way things exist in a given situation. Scribblenauts catalogs the way things work in one. Both approaches explode the density of being…’ (55) ‘…units reveal themselves: pickle dangles across meat patty, salt scuttle from fry, ice milk clings to the inside of plastic straw.’ (50)

‘Shore’s work rejects the singularity of the now in favor of the infinity of the meanwhile.’ (50) Another example similar to Shore’s work would be that of Leanne Shapton:








“The great outdoors” – Meillassoux term signifying the reentry of all objects into a “singular existential domain, one no longer broken down into crass hemispheres of nature and culture.” (38)

“Latour Litanies” – ‘a compendium, a record of things juxtaposed to demonstrate their overlap and imply interaction through collocation.’ (38)

Homograph – Two different words that share the same orthography yet have different meanings (eg. bark, tire, bear, sow). (57)