Zé Antonio Magalhães & Lukáš Likavčan
Users and interfaces: Animals and Spirits
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 the first session, we will define the concept of platform and determine its implications, particularly regarding agency and visibility. Platforms operate by coding/formalizing certain functions and affording them to potential users, e.g., "taking a ride" and "offering a ride" (Uber). Thus, they produce an abstracted plane of agency on the platform. Such affordances, at the same time, are inseparable from a set of constraints which structure the interface between different levels. This process creates differences of plane of agency between differently platformed entities. The multi-layered environment of platforms also results in differences of visibility (or sensibility in a broader sense). Platformed entities may be able to see/perceive much while being seen/perceived very little, while unplatformed entities may be highly transparent to others, while having access to limited levels of perceptual input. The conjunction of already present tendencies such as virtual and augmented reality, the internet of things, machine vision, algorithmic content curation, deep fakes, volumetric cinema, and streaming culture may soon produce an environment in which such differences of levels of agency and visibility take on very concrete manifestations in our lived worlds.
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.
Lukáš Likavčan is a philosopher focusing on technology, ecology and visual cultures. He received his degree in philosophy and PhD in environmental studies at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. Likavčan currently teaches at Center for Audiovisual Studies FAMU in Prague, Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow, and The New Centre for Research and Practice. He is a member of Prague-based collective Display – Association for Research and Collective Practice, and an author of Introduction to Comparative Planetology (Strelka Press, 2019). More info at likavcan.com.