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Readings Notes

CHID 395

Table of contents
  1. What is World Building?
    1. Introduction from Building Imaginary Worlds, Wolf
    2. Introduction from Extreme Fabulations, Shaviro
  2. Writing Worlds
    1. “Introduction” and “Worldbuilding” from Wonderbook, Jeff Vandermeer
    2. “Imaginary Empires: Transmedia World-Building and Global Capitalism”, Hasslerforest
  3. Virtual Worlds and the Potential of Play
    1. “Envisioning the Virtual”, Massumi
    2. “A Game of Cat’s Cradle”, Haraway
    3. Parallel Botany, Leo Lionni
  4. Envisioning Nature – Modeling and Knowledge
    1. Into the Technical Universe of Images, Vilem Flusser
    2. Calculated Surprises: A Philosophy of Computer Simulation, Johannes Lenhard
    3. “The Varieties of Gridded Experience” from Biology in the Grid, Phillip Thurtle
  5. Ideas Into Things
    1. “Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming”, Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby
      1. Chapter 1
      2. Chapter 2: A Map of Unreality
      3. Chapter 6: Physical Fictions – Invitations to Make-Believe
    2. “Speculative and Critical Design”, Leon Johanssen et al.
    3. “I Design Worlds”, Liam Young and Stuart Candy
  6. Event and Lore
    1. “Speculative Research: The Lure of Possible Futures”, Alex Wilkie et al.
    2. Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation, Mark Wolf
  7. Other
    1. A Grammar of the Multitude, Paolo Virno

What is World Building?

Introduction from Building Imaginary Worlds, Wolf

  • Media Studies largely overlooks imaginary worlds.
  • Imaginary worlds can be massive
  • How to experience an imaginary world?
  • Traditional storytelling privileges the linearity of narrative. World building, on the other hand, involves an abundance of ‘details’ which fall off the narrative but help form experience.
  • Imaginary worlds are organized by other forms of structures.

World-building as a Human Activity

  • Imaginary worlds are enjoyed by those who build them.
  • Compressed time and space
  • Perhaps the building of imaginary worlds is innate or serves evolution.
    • Simulation of simulations: imagination without action
    • All cultures create fictional worlds: intrinsically interesting
    • Engage emotion, disengage action
    • We can decouple fictional worlds from real experiences.
  • World-building can begin very early
  • Media Studies is the best basis for understanding imaginary worlds.

Towards a theory of Imaginary Worlds

  • “Subcreation” – a specific form of creation, reliant; ‘sub’
  • What is the ontological status of fictional worlds?
  • Most analytical approaches focus on form or narrative of content. But what about the world itself as a form of cstudy?
  • Supersystem: network of intertextuality which cuts across different modes of image production and appeals to many different groups.

Introduction from Extreme Fabulations, Shaviro

  • Kant – the conditions of possibility.
  • Science fiction writing offers a unique way of understanding problems which are intractable.
  • Science fiction extrapolates and imagines
  • Science fiction performs the movement of fabulation.
    • Takes up vagary and indeterminacy.
    • Respects ontological indeterminacy
  • Levi-Strauss: myths as synchronic structures, simulaneously existent.
  • Narratives are historical; science fictional fabulation is in futurity; counterfactual.
  • Henri Bergson: counterfeit of experience / systematically false experience. Thwarts judgement and reason. Helps us in conditions of excessive certainty.
  • We cannot interpret science fiction through the cold distance of allegory: we need to accept factual contingent and arbitrarily given conditions.
    • Is this materialist? Or is this idealist?
    • Is this training for the acceptance of given myth?
  • Hyperserial format
  • Imaginary worlds always already prompt convergence culture: stories spill from one media window to another.
  • What makes a film into a cult artifact? Eco: completely furnished, encyclopedia.
  • The reader must engage with the world differently
  • The world may be experienced differently than the narratives set within them.
  • Are worlds just backgorounds or can they also be things in and of themselves?
  • Speculation and fantasy
  • New storytelling: making your way in a fragmented, imaginary world.
  • Diagetic worlds
    • Zizek: the subject is always diagetic

Writing Worlds

“Introduction” and “Worldbuilding” from Wonderbook, Jeff Vandermeer

  • Some of the most mundane moments of our existence can be saturated witih complexity and wonder.
  • Every piece of fiction written is a product of someone’s imagination: but it does not settle easily into our reality.
  • Subjective interpretation renders the complete replication of reality impossible. (Really? Is reality not but the subjective reproduction of sociality?)
  • Even realistic fiction is not really realistic.
  • What is a “stance”? What is a “position”?
  • We can never truly build a world: we are always creating models of worlds
    • Avoid being “hopelessly lost in details”

Worldview vs. Storyview

  • Worldview: what you as the writer know about the world.
  • Storyview: what the characters know and believe about the world.
  • Unreliable narrator
  • Three possible vantage points for characters
    • Native of teh culture – don’t appropriate culture, what is noticed is what is deviant
    • Tourist or visitor
    • Conqueror or colonizer
  • There is both freedom and responsibility in worldbuilding
  • Characteristics of a well-realized setting
    • Coherent and consistent logic, even if it is absurdist
    • Cause and effect
    • Specific details
    • It both mirrors and deviates from our real world
    • Personal to you
    • Sufficient mystery, unexplored vistas
    • Consistent inconsistency
    • We live in a multicultural world
    • Objects in the narrative act as extended, literal
    • Settings allows for different operational realities in conflict with each other
    • Collective and individual memory
    • Miscommunication and imperfect comprehension: operational realities have incompatibilities
  • All settings can be complex – even the places we may think of as simpler
  • Dangers in fantastical world-building:
    • Setting devours the cahracters
    • Fantastical talismans dominate other details Detail overwhelms other elements
  • Do we want to make the unfamiliar familiar? Do not tamper with the essential strangeness, the irreducible inexplicability.
  • Impossibility of knowing anything for certain
  • Strangeness is a perspective: not immanent in anything.
  • Can we ever grasp the true essence of the world?

“Imaginary Empires: Transmedia World-Building and Global Capitalism”, Hasslerforest

  • “Everything is awesome” - LEGO, the cultural logic of global capitalism, capitalist and anticapitalist, practically communist?
  • Contradictions which inform fantastic fiction and capitalism.
  • Marxist conception of the false consciousness
  • Guy Debord, “Society of the Spectacle”: capital encapsulates all of lived experience. “Everything is awesome”
  • Most interesting part of the Lego Movie: the imaginary world is anticapitalist side-by-side with the promotion of Lego commodification.
  • Lego is a tension between productivity and assembly.
  • Hyperdiegesis: a vast and detailed narrative space.
  • Storyworlds are coherent kernels of suturing immanent contradictions.
  • Transmedia world-building: tension between internally coherent storyworlds and radically heterogenous creative work
    • Empire – spreads globally through control
    • Globalization – messy, together while apart

Medical Convergence and Transmedia World-Building

  • Henry Jenkins: transmedia storytelling – narrative distributed across multiple media
    • Is narrative ever complete?
  • Intertextuality
  • Commercial franchises develop complex fantastic storyworlds
  • Convergence culture: boundaries blurred
    1. Transmedia world-building takes place across media
    2. Transmedia world-building involves audience participation
    3. Transmedia world-building is a process that defers narrative closure
  • Tension between global capitalism and collaborative, creative development of imaginary worlds

The Politics of World-Building

  • Subcreation – combination of process and product from the Secondary World.
  • How to understand authorship and the contributors of the audience to the world?
  • Worldness: an unlimited number of narratives can take place. The storyworld always exceeds the scale of its representation.
  • Jameson: “there is nothing that is not social and historical: indeed, that everything is ‘in the last instance’ political”
  • Fantasy in storyworlds expresses tensions which inform the understanding of our material world.
  • Frankfurt School - emphasizes monolithic repetition. Cultural Studies - understands difference
  • Storyworlds are continuously expanded and changing
  • Maps of spatiotemporal organization: capitalist worldview imposed
  • How to negotiate with capitalism’s contradictory logic pleasurably?
  • Cognitive capitalism: relation of capital to labor marked by the hegemony of knowledges and ‘diffuse intellectuality’
  • Mass culture is not an Adornian ‘culture industry’

Empire and Convergence Culture

  • Empire, Hardt and Negri: globalization as a new phase in the historicity of capitalism.
  • Deleuze and Guattari, + Foucault, biopolitics
  • The multitude: multitudinous subjectivity does not have inherently revolutionary potential, but will eventually break free from capital’s biological enslavement by creative reappropriation of immaterial labor
  • Imperialism coexists with industrial capitalism: advances of groups over capitalism were made possible by national governments
  • Foucault: obsession with the creation of differentiation and disciplining to enhance productivity
    • SUbjectivity under imperialism is produced by institutiosn which produce simultaneous resistance
    • The boundaries are not being erased: empire does not establish a territorial center, it is decentered.
  • Society has moved away from Foucault towards the Deleuzian “society of control”
    • Society of control: organized through flexible and fluctuating networks
  • Convergence culture as a poltiically productive activity
  • Empire releases an uncontrollable democratic energy: but also, the imaginative work of transmedia worldbuilding releases this uncontrollable energy.
  • Sociocultural practices can play an important role in anticapitalist imaginative work.

Structure and Case Studies

  • Fantastic storyworlds articulate the logic of Empire, and allows us to better understand global capitalism.
  • Storyworlds allow us to negotiate the tensions of capitalist culture.
  • Convergence culture’s collapse of barriers: how do institutions whic hshape capitalist subjectivity collapse and bleed?
  • Worlds breed participatory activity and literacy
  • Reterritorialization, rearticulation
  • An optimistic quest for storyworlds’ radical political potential
  • Anticapitalism is undermined by a) the storyworld’s multitext, undermining of radicalism and b) level of audience participation
  • Can popular culture be appropriated and politicized?
  • Storyworlds are never just built by individuals, but by a collective sociality: and the truthood of the contradictions in this sociality reproduce themselves and make themselves apparent.

Personal Questions

  • Do audiences have to think about contradiction to realize its radical potential rather than to accept its suturing or axiomatic presence?
    • When do storyworlds become modes of escape?
    • When do storyworlds become tools of incorporation without consciousness?
    • Are storyworlds a source or a substrate of political radicalism? Must the viewer already be critically conscious?
  • Are storyworlds material, materialist?
  • Can storyworlds exist for themselves?

Virtual Worlds and the Potential of Play

“Envisioning the Virtual”, Massumi

  • ‘Virtual’ – in opposition to reality. The virtual is the unreal.
  • Virtual became a synonym for artificial, which itself means illusionary.
  • Gilles Deleuze - the virtaul is about force. The virtual is possibility, potential, potentiality.
  • THe virtual is a dimension of reality, not its artificial overcoming or representation.
  • For Deleuze, it is not virutal reality, but the reality of thev irtual.
  • Potential’s fulfillment is closed. Potential is recessive and abstract, negative. What is the reality of the abstract?
  • The virtual and perception are deeply intertwined.
  • That which is real is effectively real.
  • The abstract is not in simple opposition to concrete experience.
  • Perception is not a question of truth of illusion, but varying modes of reality.
  • What is the temporality of potential? It always comes too early or too late, always is too little or too much.
  • Optical illusions. What do you call an illusion you cannot not see? It makes a difference, it appears; illusion satisfies a criteria for the real.
    • We are in relational reality.
    • Critical distance and requisite configuration
    • A being of relation adopts perceptible effects
    • The unity and the disjunction enjoy equal imediacy.
  • Whitehead: the sensuous and the non-sensuous
  • Disjunctive plurality and the singularity.
  • What we experience is the binding of different modes, emergent form, supervening form.
  • Actual – ‘in act’. THe unity and plurality of its conditions for emergence are dimensions of the actual. Different ways ob eing in an act – sensuous (necessary reference to space), the nonsensuous (cannot be replaced by the sensuous)
  • The non-sensuous is there in excess over the disjunctive plurality which sensuouly conditions its appearance.
  • The virtual is the dimension of the actual where it exceeds itself, the excessive dimension.
  • The thickness of potential. Sensuous elements in play envelop the nonsensuous past: we find ourselves at the (non)/sensuous collision in act, the actual.
  • Nonsensuous dimension of future-past recursivity is recessive.
  • The sensuous is between the virtualities (the ways in which it exceeds itself): one is recessive (infra) and that which is popout (super)
  • Tension between infraception and supervention
  • The triangle resolves the tensions into its emergence: logical, rather than chronological, time.
  • Sensuous elements are not causes, but conditions.
  • Disjunctive plurality
  • Conditions are not conformal, but formative
  • Tendency: acquired habit in immediate experience
  • Perceptual judgements are abductions: innate habits. Habits are formative vectors. They give experience aim.
  • Our eyes form a disjunctive plurality, a tension. Depth emerges from this.
  • ‘Natural’ three-dimensional perception is an ‘illusion’ – the abstract emergence of viewing from offset eyes.
  • Natural objects of our perception are virtual appearances.
  • Our experience is self-prosthetic: it extends the potential of itself
  • Images are virtualized with the emergence of depth perception:
  • Virtual event: interference of two images which did not occur
  • Nonsensuous rendering is necessary to a theory of the virtual.
    • Infraception of sensuous elements
    • Virtual is about creativity: potential, emergence
  • Objects are emergent virtual forms.
  • There are virtual events which perception depends upon.
  • Value
    • Differentials: unsustainable tensions, resolutions, actions
    • Life-existential value
    • Maximally abstract virtual reality
    • Value is imperceptible but it makes a difference.
    • Conditioning differentials, disjunctive pluralities – value is actuality incorporating what exceeds the direct immediacy of its disjunctive plurality.
  • Perception of value is nonsensuous and impassive.
  • Exceeding itself
  • Virtual forms always co-occur.
  • Virtual ecology
  • Axiological dimension – the virtual is in universes of values
  • Theory of the virtaul is ethical: courses of action, transmutation of indifference into concern for the event.
  • Situational ethics – ‘‘axiological alchemy of the virtual’

Personal questions

  • Not still quite clear about this ethical dimension

“A Game of Cat’s Cradle”, Haraway

  • Emergencies, crises – these are not the exception but the rule.
  • We must bring about real emergency.
  • Nature is commonplace: nature is not a choice, but inheritance.
  • Nature roots me into itself: I cannot escape nature, the shared place, the place in common.
  • Technoscience: about reconfiguring what counts as nature.
  • Antiracist feminist theory and cultural studies
  • What is normal, natural in technoscience?
  • Queering what counts as nature.
  • How not to replicate the worlds we analyze?

Cat’s Cradle

  • Feminist, multicultural, antiracist technoscience projects transgress the borders between disciplines.
  • What life can flourish in war zones? Textual reading is never enough, even if the world is the text: we need intervention and narration, world-building – not just participating in its processes as interpreters.
  • Critical theory: unmask lies of the established disorder which appears as normal.
  • Optical metaphors, critical vision
  • Techoscience: inherits the negativity of critical theory without relying on Marxist humanism.
  • Cracking the possibility for belief in better worlds – Harding’s “strong objectivity”
  • High theory is pushing critical negativity to the extreme.
  • Diffration: making a difference in the world
  • Two fibers: intersecting threads, implosion
  • Actors, agencies, actants
  • (Non)humanity – a product of relation, relationality: humanity is not self-evident
  • Scientific realism: nature and society are foundationally there, like an objective totalitarian socialism.
  • Categorical purity
  • The game of cat’s cradle
  • Cultural studies: bodily and cultural production, comparative culture, hegemonies – Marxism, psychoanalysis, Gramsci, Frankfurt school
  • Feminist, Multicultural, Antiracism: situation is never self-evident or concrete, but critical: there is no origin
  • Science studies: science in action and in the making, labor, the formation of science
  • Knotted analytical practice: cat’s cradle as collaborative,local and global
  • A tangled mess
  • Unified totality
  • String theories of cat’s cradle are games of complex processes and culturally interesting patterns.
  • “Bodies that matter”

Parallel Botany, Leo Lionni


  • Plants are matterless
  • What is a plant? What is plantness?
  • Plantness is part of a larger concept of organicity: what is the basis of nature?
  • How can we tell natural things from human ones?
  • We know when something has grown.
  • Biophilosophy … haha
  • Growth – is it really about growth? Or more of decay and whittling?
  • Organisch: a harmonious complex of organs
  • What typifies the forms of nature which man’s products do not have?
  • Technology: objects of use into objects of possession, mechanical into ritual
  • The geometric impulse: man projects things into concrete terms
  • Organic - authenticity.
  • What is an organic thing?
  • Human manipulation ends with organic forms, or nature destroys the original forms of man-made objects.
  • Size, too, is dependent
  • We accept dubious dimensions without verification: accepting images as reality.
  • Plants and a dialgoue with the world: personal identity, survival.
  • Many biological ‘natural’ phenomena elude rational explanation.

The Woodland Tweezers

  • Woodland tweezers: social plants.
  • Parallel plants: cannot be moved; turn to dust in contact.
  • Illusion of self-determination: plants live a ‘community life’, ‘monotonous’
  • The game of Go
  • Mystical and aesthetic aspiration – foreign to Western scientisim
  • Choice of location is definitive

Envisioning Nature – Modeling and Knowledge

Into the Technical Universe of Images, Vilem Flusser

To Abstract

  • Technical images – photographs, films, etc., replacements for linear texts
  • What happens when images supplant texts? – two-dimensions rupture from one (historical to spatial).
  • Linear texts: bear history
  • Perhaps linear texts are a moment in our history and we are returning to two dimensions: but Flusser argues otherwise. Technical images are not prehistoric but posthistorical: without dimension.
  • Flusser’s rungs:
    1. Four dimensions: concrete experience
    2. Three dimensions: objects, things
    3. Two dimensions: cave paintings, mediation
    4. One dimension: linear texts, writing
    5. Dimensionless: collapse nto particles, technical images
  • Technical images are a different form of media.
  • Each rung corresponds to spaces which must be crossed, from one universe to another.
  • Images have no depth; they are only visible.
  • Linear texts: grasping; representations; concepts
  • Both texts and images are mediations.
  • We recognize rules of play: lost coherence, disintegration.
  • Traditional vs technical images: observations of objects vs computations of concepts. – hallucinatory power

To Imagine

  • Split between object and subject, anthropologically: subject withdrew into subjectivity to understand objectivity
  • Images are models for actions. They only show surfaces, but they still show relationships.
  • Every observation is subjective, and every observation is momentary
  • Images need to be stabilized to be made models fro actions
  • Cave paintings: an activity of symbols; symbolic content, imaginative consciousness in the universe of traditional images
  • Codes – symbols linked to content. Initiates – decipher symbols.
  • Is there a ‘history of images’?
  • Original images attempted to be as true to images as possible.
  • Makers try to reduce subjectivity: to retain the objective conditions
  • Prehistoric universe (universe of traditional images)
  • Linear texts: now emerges the history of images.
  • Technical images are on a different level of consciousness
  • Visualization as different from depiction

To Make Concrete

  • Dimensionless level: post-history.
  • The universe is quanta – bits of information.
  • Particles do not follow rules
  • We can’t live in an empty and abstract universe. So we make it concrete.
    • Integrate, differentiate
  • Technical images: consolidate particles; turn information into images. We need methods to grasp the ungraspable.
  • Apparatuses are not intractable: they can simulate thought
  • A technical image is a blindly realized possibility.
  • Production of technical images happens in a field of possibilities (virtual?)
  • Possibility is the emergence of consciosuness.
  • Particle universes tend towards disinformation
  • There are improbable situations everywhere in the universe
  • Can large computers futurize improbable situations
  • Apparatuses are part of a search for eternal life: to produce and distribute information
  • Technical images are resevoirs of immortality
  • Improbable situations become more probable with time.
  • ‘programmed accidents’
  • The universe runs past the programmed task; the apparatus continues with its programmed tasks
  • Automation: self-governing computation of accidental events.
  • Over time, the apparatus becomes liberated from humans.
  • Unintended results – the challenge to automated production of technical images.
  • The appratus does as the photographer desires, but the photographer can only desire waht the apparatus can do.
    • The tools constrain the wishes of the tool-wielder.
  • Apparatuses generate informative situations automatically.
  • Technical images come from a complex relationship between the inventor and the manipulator of the apparatus.
  • Technical images: programming computation, then deprogramming to become informative. To rise from no dimensions to two dimensions: abstraction to concreteness.
  • Every surface is infinitely many particles.
  • Traditional image makers direct from objects to a surface (concrete, then abstract). But technical images are from particles to surfaces (abstract, then concrete).

To Envision

  • Technical images are envisioned surfaces. The basic construction of particles is the same: they are surfaces computed from particles.
  • Tension between looking and observing in technical images
  • Technical images are very different from standard objects in the objective world
  • Wholeness is an illusion
  • The theory precedes the practice: without the theory, there can be no practice.
  • Concrete experience: visualized out of abstractions
  • Envision: the capacity to step from the particulate universe to the concrete
  • Technical images are symptoms of chemical and electronic processes: objective depictions of events in the particle universe.
  • Technical images require critical distance.
  • Should we praise the superficiality of images, the truth itself?
  • Envisioners are superficial people.
  • To visualize, we must have a mistrust of deep explanation. A contempt for depth.
  • Envisioners are constrained tightly by the machine, more than a writer. It is not about writing texts, but about building from within.
    • Envisioners are freed from the pressure for depth.
  • Superficiality gives new powers for invention
  • Envisioning: to make concreteness out of the abstractness.
  • Envisions offer us the possibility to experience the world concretely in the most extreme edge of abstraction.
  • It does not make sense to distinguish fiction and reality, illusion and disillusion.
  • We should abandon true-false, real-artificial, and so on – instead, it is about the concrete and the abstract.
  • Science and technology eroded the objective world and bathed us in illusion.
  • “suicidal view of Western society”

To Signify

  • Semiotics: sign and meaning
  • What do technical images indicate? Where do they point? What is their meaning?
  • Before generation: technical images capture particles in the environment.
  • Depictions vs models: what is, and what could be.
  • It is impossible to distinguish between a representation and a model.
  • Models are representations: sketches of concepts.
  • All technical images are visualizations.
  • A photographer envisions objects, not as they are but as they should be: the object is the effect of the image.
  • Technical images – what do they mean? More like: how is the visualizing gesture oriented?
  • Historical consciousness, textual: “Nature speaks”. The world is an open text. It is our job to interpret it. But in the universe of particles, this is impossible. There is nothing to decode. Meaning is dead. Now we point our finger at the world. We project meaning on the world. We give absurdity meaning.
  • Traditional images: walls. Cave walls, peoples’ houses. But the universe of technical images has no substrate, no such surface.
  • Technical images don’t depict anything: they project
  • Traditional images are mirrors: it makes sense to ask what they mean. But technical images are projections: we give them meaning. It is not, what do they mean – it is, why do they do what they show?
  • Technical images are projections: they are not representations but signs to things outwards – it is the projector which is the criticism.
  • Technical images show us a way we may be directed.
  • Vectors of meaning – they indicate only a direction, signify instructional programs

To Interact

  • Technical images are not mirrors, but projectors
  • People do not group themselves by their material relations, but by technical images.
  • Classical sociology cannot accomodate the universe of technical images
  • Archaic spaces
  • Programmed disinformation
  • People don’t leave the private towards the public commons: there is no public to go to anymore.
  • We are not free to not press the buttons (photograph, scroll, open the television) – the penetrating force of technical images.
  • Receivers and senders: reciving technical images is not simple as abosrbption: it is also reaction, to go in the directino which the image points.
  • And the receiver also enhances the image.
  • Cinemagoers pay to be betrayed.
  • Consensu between images becomes stronger, people become one
  • Attempts to dispel the force of magic (reduce to natural processes).
  • People and images become more exciting the more excited the receivers are.
  • Everyone is a receiver, willing or not – we are all penetrated by the phallic cock of technical images
  • Images are never closed circuits – they do not simply reproduce. They also change – feed on politics, science, art.
  • Technical images appear as windows to look through: but these are false.
  • Current events roll towards technical images, not towards futurity.
  • Weddings conform to the photographic program, the moon landing was on the television schedule.
  • We attempt to retain the primacy of history.
  • Linearity of history: becomes the circularity of technical images (posthistory). Progress accelerates.
  • Is the source of history parched? History’s source is human freedom – but now history becomes a theater. History can be exhausted by technical images.
  • Images are scratching the bottom of the bottomless
  • “History” – the way that conditions can be recognized in linear texts.
  • Historical readings of the world: emphasize the uniqueness of all event. Prehistoric mind: time moves in a circle; it is not linear or temporal
  • Technical images: historical events become infinitely repeatable projections. Operates outside history.
  • Stories and texts are materials for images.

To Play

  • How to generate information in a dialogic society?
  • Improbable situations – could we not have accidentally produced another world?
  • The world is no longer a question of miraculous creation, but of chance configurations. Creato ex nihilo – ad nihilium.
  • The generation of future information is done by synthesizing previous information.
  • All information distintegrates — thermodynamics, information is lost; information decay is more fundamental than information production because of its probabilistic certainty.
  • Information synthesizes prior information.
  • Humans play with dialogue
  • Dialogues are games of chance: they let information construct new information.
  • We have not escaped the myth of creativity just by imagining a playful society – creative as engaging in dialogues, games of probability.
  • Society becomes a superbrain of brains – the first self-conscious and free soceity.
  • Mass culture – a stupid society
  • How to turn a stupid society into a creative one?
  • Socialization of freedom refutes Judeo-Christian anthropology.
  • Nature produces by chance, but society produces purposefully
  • In new society, we will become truly human – ‘information society’, and a genuinely free society.

To Decide

  • Freedom in the dialogical net, knot to knot (Cat’s Cradle).
  • Information accumulates and is stored
  • Flusser’s knots of the net are like nodes in a neural network
  • How to understand freedom? Freedom as the opposition to natural entropy.
  • knots in the telematic net are the “I”.
  • Telematic society: conscious of the intention of technologies – increases the sum of available information, as opposed to previous dialogue.
  • How to distinguish redundancy and information?
  • Maxwell’s devil: establishes a dialogue which leads to improbable outcomes (information)
  • Informatics: the information content of a situation is measurable
  • Propositional calculus: values can be calculated, propositions can be translated.
  • Telematics appears like the end of freedom
  • Should we produce critics? To separate generation and discrimination?
  • Schizophrenia: split consciousness
  • Humans become free to focus on evaluation: the automation of production permits everyone to be a critic.
  • Now, the critique can be automated: and now humans make the metadecisions.
  • Flusser’s three questions:
    1. To separate generation from the evaluation
    2. To automate the generation and allow humans to be the critics
    3. To automate criticism and leave humans to metajudgement
  • These steps lead to nihilum. There is no judgement to be made.
  • We will remain the right to veto. Freedom is this negative decision> Freedom fundamentally is negative.
  • The possibility of suicide is freedom.
  • We remain arbiters.

Chamber Music

  • Something more substantive
  • Heidegger, precaution: to anticipate it such that you do away with it. All prediction damages the future. There is no future.
  • True catastrophes are new information
  • Telematic society is a structure for realizing catastrophes – information
  • What makes a phenomenon concrete?
  • Chamber music as a model for dialogic communication. Chamber music has no director: but it is cybernetic, and pure play.
  • But chamber music is still within linear space. Telematics occurs in simultaneous time.
  • Technical images are ‘pure art’
  • Hyperconscious dream world

Personal Notes

  • Flusser’s knots of the net in “To Decide” are like nodes in a neural network (pg. 64)
  • Models and depictions – why are they indistinguishable? Why are all technical images visualizations?
  • Technical images are ‘envisioned surfaces’ – they are things which we give meaning to, which we produce effortlessly and which therefore has little meaning which is already in it. And they need us to stay away. They are projective surfaces, reflective distortors.

Calculated Surprises: A Philosophy of Computer Simulation, Johannes Lenhard

  • What can we calculate?
  • Is computational modeling an extension of mathematical modeling?
  • Misinterpretation of computing: a logical-mathematical machine. “Everything before, but faster and more”
  • Computer modeling spread rapidly in the mid-1980s
  • Computer simulation is radically different from mathematical modeling.
  • Simulation is not determined by some new feature or quantity of features, but in the novel way that these features are combined.
  • Models mediate between theories, laws, phenomena, data, and applications
  • Models as ‘autonomous agents’
  • What features characterize simulations? Simulation is neither empirical experiment nor theory
  • The computer also channels mathematical modeling. The model is able to ‘speak’ about the world, add new constructions.
  • Complex systems lack transparency, and they are complex: complexity characterizes both the object nand the instrument.
  • Simulation: balances complexity with usability; mathematical modeling handles rather than overcomes complexity
  • Elements of simulation modeling – experiment and artificiality, visualization and interaction, plasticity, epistemic opacity.
  • Modeling – a convergence of the natural sciences and engineering.
  • What is a solution?
  • How to validate a model?

“The Varieties of Gridded Experience” from Biology in the Grid, Phillip Thurtle

  • Molecular biologists often use computation to promote making as a new way to understand – world-building
  • Overemphasizing computation as a historical agent?
  • HOw to make the body calculable? And how to envision – to see how something could occur? These are the questions.

Envisioning Consumers

  • Mechanisms for relating to consumers: helping consumers visualize how products can change their lives.
  • Our ability to envision organisms is tightly bound with spectacle in consumerism.

The Spectacle of the Grid

  • The role of grids in graphic design
  • We envision the world as a grid
  • Bodies as a series of modules
  • Modules have self-autonomy in self-organization.
  • How to analyze lives in the grid?

The Varities of Regulated Experience

  • Regulation: regulatory practices, the production of the collective interest
  • Understanding genetic regulation required us to rethink how regulation functions in society.
  • Genetic regulation is not a simple directive: it si a complex set of responses, potentially coordinated responses to local changes.
  • Genetic regulation as multicausal and conditionally responsive
  • Grids structure interactions and let scientists see additive interactions.
  • Return to a biology of organic holism?

From Visualization to Envisioning

  • Vilem Flusser
  • Phenomenological point: readers engage with images differently than texts: surfaces seize the totality of pictures. It is a different in the order of analysis and comprehension.
  • The political-economic: images produced through technological means operate different than traditional ones. Technical images are composed, envisioned.
  • What makes images meaningful is how they are regulated, arranged.
  • All images reflect the scientific statements allowed for theri production.
  • Representation and imagination is no longer very interesting
  • The medium is the message?
  • Flusser – not the hyperreal, but rather how abstract elements of symbolic exchange can inform concrete processes (rather than implosion).
  • Galloway, protocol
  • How are bodies industrially calculable before they are informationally computable?
  • Excess, illusion, imagination fuel our knowledge of science

The Chapters Envisioned

  • Grids: partition, and reconstruction
  • Quanta acquire meaning in the power of grids
  • Technological images represent the political-economic conditions which produce it and which endow it with meaning.
  • Unlikely events are the most informaitve.
  • Envisioning helps us define how we look at things.

The Importance of Aesthetic Analysis

  • How we order the world is a product of how we envision it.
  • ‘Form’ and ‘function’
  • Organization of quasi-autonomous modules

Not Just Computing

  • Computers often serve as metaphors to explain biological processes
  • Has biology always been an information science?

The Value of Warped and Composite Sensibilities

  • Many technical images are composites
  • Should we read everything through a politics of control? We can have more nuanced understanding.
  • How to draw conflicting orders so all in the grid have greater freedom.
  • We must keep on envisioning to understand the consequences of biology in the grid

Ideas Into Things

“Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming”, Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby

Chapter 1

  • What are today’s dreams? Perhaps they are now just hopes. What role can design play in dreaming new dreams?
  • Design’s “inherent optimism”
    • Denies the seriousness of problems
    • Directs changing the world instead of changing our ideas
  • Speculative design
  • Design speculations


  • “The Future” – we are not interested in this. It is pointless. But how do we understand the wants of future people?
  • Provocative, simplified, fictional: let your imagination wander, and think aobut how things could be.
  • Loosening reality’s grip on our imagination
  • Speculative culture
  • Plausible futures: not about prediction, but alternative economic and political futures
  • Cones: the probable, the plausible futures, the possible, the fantasy, preferable futures
  • The preferable spans the probable and the plausible
  • Designers should generate futures as catalysts

Beyond Radical Design?

  • Radical architecture
  • The socially oriented dimension of design was lost as big business embraced it
  • Neoliberal capitalism and the 1980s
  • Changes to suppress imagination in design
    1. 1980s hypercommercialization of design
    2. End of the Cold War, “there is no alternative”
    3. Atomization of society: we are a society of individuals
    4. The downgrading of dreams and unsustainability, crisis
  • How to rethink our current system? People are thinking.
  • Greater pluralism in design: in ideology and values

Chapter 2: A Map of Unreality

  • The realm of the unreal: the fictional
  • Conceptual design: design about ideas
  • Divorcing design from industry allows design to free itself from market pressures. There are many different possibilities
  • Social and humanitarian design is concerned with working within the limits of reality. Speculative design is about pushing those limits to begin with.
  • Conceptual design: celebrate their unreality
  • Reality si judged by ideals
  • The ideal is a practical fiction
  • Future design and chairs as vehicles for exploring new designs
  • When is speculative design pretentious?
  • Vehicle design – building concept cars, traversing the liminimal

Commodified Imaginations

  • Conceptual design is a highly valued and interesting way to work
  • Product design: difficult to do conceptual and speculative work.
  • Thinking about new functional possibilities for new media rather than visions for life
  • Alternative ways to view the world
  • HOme as a biological machine?
  • We need to find speculative design, even though it will be difficult.

Chapter 6: Physical Fictions – Invitations to Make-Believe

  • There are many forms of fictional objects – accifdental fictions. But what about intentional fictional objects?
  • Props for nonexistent films — these are the fictional objects of speculative design.
  • Hyperrealism: what is the power of a hyperreal intentional fictional object?
  • Walton, theory of make-belief: props prescribe imagining and generate fictional truths.
  • Stories help us think about alternate possibilities and challenge materialism.
  • Speculative props: trigger an imaginative response in the viewer.
  • Films and books: to identify with characters and immersion in worlds; but speculative design, help us construct worlds shaped by different ideals, values, beliefs
  • We are not concerned here with mimicing reality, but making new ones.
  • Props and fictions: expanding imaginative horizons and perspectives.
  • A prop can be fully working or not, but the point is to facilitate imagining.
  • Speculative design props: physical synedoches (!!!), parts representing wholes
  • User as imaginer: viewers have to become imaginers. We need to think, do thought experiments, imagine.
  • Suspension of disbelief: there is a difference between make believe and believe. It is not about beliving – but an invitation to imagine. Fooling the viewer into reality is cheating. Viewers should consciously suspend their disbelief and enjoy unfamiliarity.
  • A convincing impossibility is always preferable to an unconvincing possibility, Aristotle
  • A speculative design prop only needs to be plausible
  • How to design for unreality?
  • Objects must appear real but signal that they are not
  • Products need to be subdued: drama is important; the language needs to be unnatural and glitchy.\
  • The novelist as a triple-writer: author’s language, character’s language, world’s language
  • What is the designer’s language?
  • Trying to make props realistic can force us to adopt the de facto language of the world.
  • Design fiction
  • Speculative literature over science fiction, speculative design over design fiction
  • Fictions are strange and disruptive
  • Criticality of the technological progress


  • Speculative design props are synedoches: parts which represent wholes (e.g. the wheels go round). So where is the world-making, almost metaphysically, being done? Do we risk reproducing what worlds we already have, by neutralizing the foreign object with familiar experience? How do we experience something authentically different and new, to build worlds which are really different and not so easily reducible or assimilable into our known world?
  • Why is it cheating to fool the viewer into reality? Why does the language need to be unnatural and even glitchy, as the authors say? Isn’t maintaining the irreality of fiction emphasizing the distance between the viewer’s world and that world? Isn’t this “imagine the end of the world more than the end of capitalism” – because the end of the world is depicted as something so real to us through institutions from film to science, but the end of capitalism is thoroughly discredited and in fact in modern media very much portrayed as a polemic fiction? Shouldn’t the praxical objective of creating new worlds be to create new realities which we feel are imaginable?
  • “Fictions are strange and disruptive” – but can fictions be disruptive unless we mistake them for possible reals?

“Speculative and Critical Design”, Leon Johanssen et al.

  • Speculative and Critical Design: SCD. Ethical and societal features of design practice.
  • Categories of change:
    1. Political and social
    2. Product value and UX
    3. Aesthetics
  • Speculative everything.
  • Critique as gentle refusal
  • Discourse, power, knowledge – Foucault
  • Language is the means of exerting power – by regulating, through biopolitical means, discursive power
  • A critical attitude of the designer.
  • Capitalism and consumerism: radical design and avant-gardeism.
  • IN capitalism: we must borrow money to buy things we don’t need and impress people who don’t care (Papanek)
  • SCD is not a methodology, but a position. How might the world be?
  • Steps for SCD:
    1. Define a context for debate
    2. Ideate, find problems, create a scenario
    3. Materialize the scenario to provoke an audience
  • Commercial design – the objective is to make money for the industry, and to address the client’s needs
  • Conventional design process
  • Discursive design – creation of products which encourage discourse
  • When does SCD become pretentious, and itself a product of sensuous capitalist decadence and surplus?
  • Is SCD elitist? Morally high-grounded?
  • Alternative design methodologies: Vision in Design, lenses, transition design

“I Design Worlds”, Liam Young and Stuart Candy

  • Design, imaginate, speculate, construct worlds
  • Spatial way of thinking about futures
  • Architects are already trained to think in worlds, about spatial and temporally unfolding narratives
  • Speculative objects in product design; architecture and speculation
  • Parastical operation within the mechanisms of industries
  • How to seed cultural mediums with important ideas?
  • Speculative work – not too far to be dismissed as pure fantasy
  • What are the limits to speculation?
  • “the street finds its own uses fort hings”
  • Accessibility
  • How to prototype culutral and ideological positions before the technology arrives/
  • The present is a process – stages, it is the future coming into being.
  • Shifting discourse in culture

Event and Lore

“Speculative Research: The Lure of Possible Futures”, Alex Wilkie et al.

Beyond the impasse of the present

  • Is another future possible?
  • It seems like we occupy a static frame of time.
  • What restores linearity is the practice of anticipating the future.
  • How to articulate a response, to be attracted to possibilities of the future?

Modes of futurity: risk, temporality, speculation

  • The future is not what it used to be.
  • We enter the future backwards.
  • Risk analytics and management of uncertainty: defining feature of late modernity.
  • ‘society of risk’
  • ‘govermentality’
  • Science and Technology Studies – sociology of expectations.
  • Financial commodification of the future
  • SOcial action becomes oriented in the present.
  • Futures become a prolongation of the present
  • The concept of time is important here.
  • We need to resist modern time: consider temporality as it is formed through its own becomming.
  • It matters what futures we use to cultivate other futures with.

The politics of the impossible: reclaiming speculation

  • The goal of speculation is to provoke modes of knowing and thinking.
  • Association of speculation with the irrational – high risk, financial trading practices. Speculation seems to be a pejorative term.
  • Algorithmic and probabilistic logics – make correlations across contingent events.
  • We should not reject speculation because of these associations.
  • Financial speculation participates in the dream of precision objective knowledge which can anticipate the future.
  • Algorithms operate upon a highly mutable conception of probability. It designates an image of the future. It projects from the order of the actual and prolongs the order of the present.
  • Speculative research is really about a struggle against probabilities.
  • Metaphysical position: any experience of pattern is a human imposition.
  • Speculation also affirms the existence of patterns.
  • Speculative possibilities come out of what is, in all likelihood, impossible (rather than scouting out and then participating in the problem space of the normal).
  • What concept of futurity do we use?
  • Eventful temporality: do not reduce futures to presents.
  • Speculative is not the subjective anticipation of the future. It is resisting the probable future which simply presents itself as an extension of the present.

Thoughts that are creative of the future: cultivating a speculative sensibility

  • Speculative research attempts to nurture a field where speculation has a longer and more productive history – science fiction
  • Reality is always entangled with the what-if, the sense of the impossible.
  • Creating impossibles is a collective and interdisciplinary task
  • Contemporary continental philosophy: speculative realism. Share a commitment to metaphysical speculation against correlationist circles.
    • Correlationism: we can only understand the correlation between thinking and being, not these in isolation
    • Can we think of the essence of objects without positing them in relation to knowing subjects?
  • Resisting the bifurcation of the world into subjects and predicates
  • Thinking about empricisms of experience, perspectives in the world.
  • Speculative practices become active ingredients in the becoming of the world.
  • How to make speculation relevant to empriical challenges?

The process of speculative research: organizing the collection

  • To speculate is to take the risk of developing practices which disclose alternative futures.
  • What is the nature of the possible? Dead, latent? Or urgent, in need of exegesis?
  • What is a lure for speculation?
  • What counts as the material, the empirical?

Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation, Mark Wolf


  • Nature deals with the materiality of a world
  • New flora and fauna – but we cannot just present them without ocnsidering their relationship with their systems and structures.
  • One often finds humanoid races in invented creatures.
  • Differing physics
  • Different dimensions of the world
  • The power of good subcreation


  • Culture links nature to history (interesting definition)
  • How can imaginary worlds reflect different cultures, literatures, histories?
  • Cultures are important structural frameworks for worlds
  • Origins and arcs


  • Constructed languages: a posterior and a priori languages
  • Tendency to use less frequent letters for the purpose of exoticism.
  • Difficulties for the reader – engagement


  • Mythologies structure worlds by giving them history and context for events
  • Pseudomythology
  • Cross author collaboration in reference
  • The Bible – what are Bibles?


  • Philosophies can be revealed: actions, ethics, metaphysics.
  • Difference must be naturalized
  • Secondary worlds embed and support philosophical ideas

Typing Different Infrastructures Together

  • Infrastructures must fit together consistently.
  • The concepts of nature and the larger world beyond the incomplete

More than a story: narrative threads and narrative fabric

  • Narrative is most commonly found in imaginary worlds
  • Secondary world infrastructures can take place beyond narrative
  • Narrative grows alongside secondary world infrastructures.
  • Maps can apply narratives
  • Narrative theory: kernels/satellites, etc. – what makes a narrative: a series of causally connected events. Actors and actions. Closure and teleology.
  • Narrative braids: multible threads sharing diagetic materials.
  • Narrative fabric can be woven from nonfiction stories.
  • The world’s ‘illusion’ of completeness?
  • Engagement with the world
  • Backstory and world history: glimpses at larger structures and explanations; greater narrative speed than the main narrative.
  • Sequence elements and internarrative theory: sequels and addendum stories. Prequel? Intraquel? Interquel? Midquel? How do worlds develop through multiple stories?
  • Paraquel: covering the same events and time from a different perspective. Unauthorized and noncanonical.
  • Retroactive continuity and reboots: retconning changes estalished facts. Author-public relationships as social contracts: the world retains conssitency.
  • Crossovers, multiverses, retroactive linkages: multiverse? separate but linked universes. Retroactive linkages: conceived and made separately between worlds.
  • Interactivity and alternate storylines. Interactivity is made up of choices; we must follow divergent strands.
  • What are the alternate paths chosable by characters?
  • Interactivity vs immersion in the world
  • What are the choices available?
  • The making of documentation
  • Storeis of subcreations


A Grammar of the Multitude, Paolo Virno

We, the Multitude

Introduction, p. 21 (9)

  • The multitude is more useful than the people as an analysis of the contemporary public.
  • Hobbes – people, Spinoza – multitude
  • Spinoza: the plurality which persists as such.
  • Hobbes: people and the State, reciprocally constitutive
  • Multitude: inherent to the state of nature; before the State, there were the many. Multitude shuns political unity and authority, resists the single.
    • The multitude is anti-state, but also anti-people
    • But how has the multitude survived?
  • The bifuraction between the public and the private: the private is the personal, deprived of the public.
    • The multitude is concealed in individuals: the remainder of multiplications and divisions; and not conceivable in the democratic socialist thought.
  • The dichotomies: public-private, collective-individual, are dying. The category of the citizen, of the producer – failed.
  • The multitude is the middle region. The multitude does not conflict witht he One, it redefines it; the unity is no longer the State or universal commonality: it is the base which authorizes differentiation to the many as the individualization of the universal.
  • Three approaches to the many
    • Hobbesian: dialectic of fear and security.
    • The multitude and the failing tripartite of labor, politics, thought
    • Subjectivity of the multitude

Forms of Dread and Refuge, p. 29 (12)