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Zé Antonio Magalhães& J.P. Caron

Functional Abstraction and Differences of Visibility


In this workshop, we will experiment with the hypothesis that cosmological perspectivism, as anthropologically reconstructed by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro or expressed in Davi Kopenawa's shamanic discourse, can produce invaluable insight about the contemporary phenomenon we call platformization. The premise, in consonance with Yuk Hui's concept of cosmotechnics, is that perspectivist cosmologies aren't parochial, archaic relics to be merely preserved, but a contemporary intellectual force in the navigation of planetary platformization, artificial intelligence and ecological crisis. We will define platforming as the production of a difference of levels or planes of existence. Two aspects will be particularly relevant to us: difference of plane of agency, and difference of visibility. We will then mobilize a basic perspectivist framework to account for the ontology of contemporary platforms. This simple framework will be formed by the animal/person/spirit triad and the prey/predator dyad. We will ask, for example: May a more platformed entity appear to us as a spirit, i.e., as invisible (or only visible in particular circumstances), but capable of perceiving us in ways we can't imagine? Or as acting on scales we can't grasp, while our actions cannot reach it? Conversely, may a relatively unplatformed entity appear to a more platformed one as a prey animal, in the sense of a being which is relevant in terms of its substance and usable energy, but not of its sociality, intellect or rights?

In our second and final session, we will study some aspects of perspectivist ontology, and experiment with a perspectivist interpretation of the ontology of contemporary platforms. In Viveiros de Castro's rendering of cosmological perspectivism, everybody is a person from their own point of view, as well as from that of their kind. Beings of a different kind may appear to them as animals, spirits, or other kinds of entities, depending on the conditions of the encounter. Appearing as either a prey or a predator may depend on similar variables. We will define those modes of existence (animal/person/spirit; prey/predator) in terms of differences in plane of agency and visibility, thus connecting them to our discussion of platforms. Our bet is that this exercise might be more productive than drawing from a modern/mononaturalist ontology, in which the positions of human subject and non-human object are perspective-independant. Finally, though our discussion of levels of abstraction may seem to imply a hierarchical model of the cosmos, we will explain, through the perspectivist paradigm of the "forest encounter", how such differences of level should be understood as contingently negotiated in the interface of different bodies/perspectives. We may ask, is the coming platform environment more like a city, or more like a forest?

Zé Antonio Magalhães is a theoris, researcher and teacher. He holds a PhD in Legal Theory from PUC Rio and is currently an affiliate researcher at CoHuBiCoL and Oscillations. Zé has teached courses about speculative nomics, platforming and cosmotechnics on educational and research platforms such as Ubu em Curso, Associação de Pesquisas e Práticas em Humanidades and Instituto Norberto Bobbio.

J.-P. Caron is a philosopher and artist based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His doctoral research, developed at both the University of Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, and the University of São Paulo, proposed a critique of the aesthetic philosophy of John Cage in the context of contemporary ontology of art and philosophy of language. He is a lecturer in philosophy at the UFRJ (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro) and he militates in the Circle of Studies of the Idea and Ideology (CSII)- an international political collective dedicated to exhamining the viability of the "communist hypothesis" today. He´s been practicing noise and experimental music for more than 15 years and several of his records have been released, many through his own inprint, Seminal Records. Recently he´s been working on the problem of generic organisation as it appears in different fields, like art, science, and politics; and its relationship to scale-sensitivity.

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