“I know well enough what time is, provided that nobody asks me; but if am asked what it is, and try to explain, I am baffled.”
-St. Augustine, Confessions
The seminar explores the technical composition of the present. If traditional (orthographic) media established a delay between lived life and its many representations—producing both an historical record and an historical consciousness through and against which the present was understood and experienced—electronic media appear to have eliminated that temporal separation. This apparent elimination lies at the heart of the logic of “real time,” which by its very name suggests its equivalence with the time of lived life. In strictly technical terms, however, the opposite has occurred: what outwardly appears to be an elimination is in fact a displacement and intensification, wherein the delay between the present and its past is displaced beneath the threshold of unaided perception, and reestablished in an electronic elsewhere, so that the present may be composed anew. This technical displacement and recomposition has had dramatic implications, radically altering not only the internal working methods of the design fields (their ways of working and making), but also the larger cultural conditions in which those practices hope to meaningfully intervene.
The course readings—drawn from media theory, philosophy, engineering manuals, science and technology studies, anthropology, and the history and philosophy of science and technology—cover a period ranging from 1870 to the present. Taken together, they mean to show that what at first appear to be merely technical issues are in fact epistemic, evidentiary, political, and ultimately existential questions. The course will build up a philosophical framework for exploring—without rhetoric or nostalgia—the technical collapse of a certain form of historical reasoning in the design fields.
This seminar can serve as a theoretical and mediatechnical prelude to (though by no means a prerequisite for) a companion lecture course—titled Environmentalisms: How to Have a Politics?—to be offered in the spring term.
The course has no prerequisites, but a foundational knowledge in continental philosophy or critical theory is recommended.
Note: the instructor will offer online live course presentations on 08/26, and/or 08/27. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website.
Please note this course will meet online through 9/15. After September 15th, the class will meet in person, with the exception of the following dates, when we will meet virtually: October 13th and November 17th. On these dates, the class will meet virtually in smaller groups and will focus on student’s individual research and final paper development.
The first class meeting will be on Wednesday, September 8th. The rest of the semester, classes will meet during the official scheduled time.