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).