Object-Oriented Semiotics? or, how my objections to OOO vanished overnight, Part I . . .

It’s been a really crazy end of semester, lots of grading, and its been a few weeks since I’ve been able to work at all on the manuscripts, anything networkological, etc. But this weekend I wanted to check out the online proceedings of the OOO conference at UCLA. And so I spent a lot of today listening to talks by Graham, Ian, Levi, Tim, and others.

And after this, I have a confession to make. Today, all my deep seated, passionately held objections to OOO vanished into thin air. And this is because I was able to link OOO to semiotics. Or at least, for me, this is what made it finally work.

I’m baffled as to why this didn’t happen before. For whatever its worth, it certainly didn’t happen because I was convinced of the arguments that Graham and Levi made in regard to the questions I posed in many passionate debates over the last year or so. Nor because I think the questions I posed to OOO in many blog posts over the past year were wrong. Rather, I think the solution presented itself, though I’m not sure why any of us – Graham, Levi, myself, or any of the others involved (in fact, all the objections I had were originated by Adrian) – didn’t think of it sooner.

Could be that I just missed it. But I’m not so sure, cause otherwise, wouldn’t Levi or Graham just said, ‘oh, this solves the problem’, and that would’ve been that? It is always nice to figure out that something has been just the stereotypical ‘big misunderstanding,’ even if you’re not quite sure how that happened. Oh well.

Anyway. In listening to the talks given by Levi and Graham at the OOO symposium at UCLA this wknd (the wonders of streaming video, I’m so happy about this!), I heard them say one or two words that I hadn’t heard before, despite reading their blogs and texts (not to mention even doing an online breakdown of the final section of Graham’s Prince of Networks).

What difference a few words can make! And words, of all things, on Latour, rather than OOO! For me, it came down to this. Semiotic particles (more below on what I mean by this) can also be objects. Once that is taken into account, everything else works out. At least, with the issues that had concerned me: genesis, decomposition, change, naming.

Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that from now on I ‘am’ or see myself as ‘an object-oriented ontologist’. But I’ve always felt that ‘new relationalisms’ (of which I consider my own work) and OOO should both be considered ‘SR’, because there are many, many things we share. But while I’ve always been incredibly sympathetic to many of the aspects of OOO, I’ve always felt that there were unanswered questions, questions that ultimately unravelled the project from within if they remained unanswered.

Now that these questions no longer are there for me, I suspect that the networkological relationalism that I am developing, which is very similar to OOO in more ways than I even thought (particularly now that Graham has unveiled some quite interesting stuff on events, impacts, sets, and aggregates from The Quadruple Object), will have many points of overlap and confluence with OOO.

It has always been my suspicion that the relational and object-oriented sides of SR will come increasingly to be like the famed particle-wave duality. I am now convinced something like that will likely happen. I suspect there will remain minor differences between the relational and object-oriented sides of SR. But that there will be a significant degree of overlap. That the Whiteheadian-Deleuzian side of things and the post-Heideggerian-phenomenological side of things will at some point meet in some sort of middle.

I wish this would’ve happened sooner, because some of the debates last year were a bit brutal. I stopped posting on OOO since the summer because I told myself to stop. Because I felt it wasn’t getting us anywhere. And because I felt it was getting icky. And those are the wrong reasons to stop writing about something. I didn’t feel my questions had even been heard, never mind addressed. It seemed we were talking past each other, but I couldn’t understand why such seemingly simple points weren’t communicating, and it seemed the feeling was mutual.

So I stopped. It was disappointing to me. I told myself to blog on unrelated things. Which I did.

But I’ve still remained quite curious. And today something just clicked.

So what did it? Semiotics. More soon . . . (Part II, with the relevant arguments, details, and ramifications, now posted).

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~ by chris on December 5, 2010.

7 Responses to “Object-Oriented Semiotics? or, how my objections to OOO vanished overnight, Part I . . .”

  1. [...] It’s not quite a conversion experience à la Morton, but CHRIS VITALE’S OBJECTIONS TO OOO HAVE VANISHED. [...]

  2. Oops, yeah, we’ve thought this all along. Sorry about that!

    There is a pretty considerable discussion of semiotic objects in my book’s entry into the fray, Alien Phenomelogy, which should be out in the coming months.

    • well, why didn’t ya say so when all that fuss was going on! anyway, details are in the next post. didn’t realize this was going to be a big part of Alien Phenomenology, but sounds great. I think the SR/semiotics link is where things need to go next, curious to see what happens

      • I’ll admit my memory of the whole thing is fuzzy. It’s also worth noting that each of us has a slightly different take on this issue.

        Your other post is pretty much on-point… semiotic things as objects just as much as anything else. That’s my position anyway, which you’ll see soon in the book… although perhaps I should post an excerpt since this came up.

  3. Nice one mate!

  4. [...] detail yet as I quite literally just walked in the door from California, but the posts can be found here, here, and here, with Ivakhiv of Immanence blog making some remarks [...]

  5. [...] leave a comment » * I consider myself extremely skeptical about the theoretical usefulness of object-oriented ontology (see Vu’s Polygraph review for a primer)—frankly I consider claims like these to be so preposterous as to be self-refuting—but nonetheless I’ve downloaded the PDF for new anthology The Speculative Turn at the terrible risk of someday having to writing a conversation essay. [...]

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