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Familiar Things Ben Highmore


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  • 1. Ordinary Lives
    Ben Highmore
  • 2. Inundations
    In the Midst of Things
    In the Thrall of Things
  • 3. Keywords;
    Thing, thingness, meaning, notice, anthromorphism, symptomology,
    nothingness, ordinary, particularity, sensoria, psycoanalysis, cathexis,
    transitional objects, possession, death drive, lifelessness
    Cited in Text;
    Pablo Neruda, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Bruno Latour, Robert
    Lowell, Shery Turkle, Donald Winnicott, Melanie Klein, Tracy Gleason,
    Virginia Woolf, Bill Brown, Sigmund Freud.
  • 4.
    • Highmore points out how people interact with the objects without noticing that they
    act on us too as we are acting on them.
    • The rest state or disfunctionality of objects helps us to recognise its sense of thingness.
    • He stresses how things reshape human behaviours as human shape the things.
    • 5. He mentions that technological things are shaping the society (Benjamin’s and Latour’s scope)
    • 6. His aim is to look from the object’s point of view to get the sense of the object’s particularity
    • 7. Highmore traces how the lively presence of inorganic things have an effect on our inner
    and outer ordinary lives from childhood to adulthood. (with the help of related psycoanalysis
    • He explains the desire of cunsumption and possess/being possesed by objects is driven by
    the jealousy of the thingnessless, nothingness, and calm lifelessness of the objects. (death drive)
  • 8. Ordinary lives are lived out in the midst of things; furnitures, clothes, utencils, tools...
    We do not notice our daily objects but we do interact with them.
    Symbiotic interaction
  • 9.
    • The nature of things grants authority to human over things automaticly;
    • 10. If there is a mutual relationship, it is suggested that there shouldn’t be a privilage of one
    over the other.
    • Two therotical misdemeanors in ordinary life;
    Reification: the thingifying of cultural processes
    Anthropomorphising: the treatment of animals and objects as human-like
    • Suggested solution is;
    Taking everyday seriously, practice things diligently and excessively.
  • 11. To focus on object’s point of view;
    Naruda suggests a method for connecting to that ordinary things, thingly actuality
    of objects;
    “Watching objects as they are resting”
    Because, to watch an object rest is to notice it is not working while also recognising
    that it has a work to do. It is at once recognise its properties, its potential, its sense
    of itself.
    Inundations are qualities that flow from and inside to things, qualities which may or
    may not have a meaning.
  • 12. Campus chair at rest
    What are the inundations that Naruda speaks of?
    Does the chair hasbeen marked, its witnessing activity there to be read on its surface,
    the stains of memoirs?
    To get some sense of chair’s particularity, Highmore goes through some anectodes that
    comprise its social and life story.
  • 13. The mentioned chair belongs to early 1970s.
    Its producer is a company named Habitat, and it was a flat-paced furniture (KD: knocked-down)
    The KDs that flat packed created a “can’t wait to get it home” feeling for customers.
    But the assembly work and its difficulties consists of both impatience and patience, delay and
    desire. The satisfaction of getting at home creates a frustration against instant gratification
    of walking away with the ready furniture.
    It is a boutique lifestyle shop which offers a wide range of products from furniture to herbs.
    It is an essembled life-image as a form of boutique shopping.
    Habitat calalogue which not only showed you what you could buy, but offered a vivid tableux of
    how the world of Habitat should be lived. (Ikea)
  • 14.
    • The Campus chair was an available version of designer mass-modernism for middle
    and lower middle classes.
    • This chair made the other things around it look old even they were new.
    • 15. And the sitting position of the chair provides a scene of other furnitures’ unseen
    old surfaces, a scene of the presence of the “ghost of the past”.
    • It is also a story about desires, values and dreams too. It provides a more relaxed,
    informal world.
  • 16.
    • The thing-ness of an object takes time to form. Without its visceral and
    mnemonic thingness its hard to distinguish it from other similiar ones.
    • But if this object is made up of both anecdotes and rememberances that belong
    to the object and its owner, is there a danger of “over-particularising” this object?
    A chair is;
    an object that takes up space,
    a designed thing that acts on us,
    a functional object
    a sentimental object
    a familiar thing.
    • Being familiar is faster than being sentimental object; it takes time but not too
  • 17.
    • How ordinary, overly familiar things, register the social in a way that is not
    endlessly particularised?
    • Recognising the more worldly properties of the chair (object)
    Connecting the object with other objects, treating object as as a thing among other
    Things, rather than as an isolated object.
    • Symptomology is essential for understanding theproclivities and proscriptionsof
    objects, and for recognizing the ethologicaltendencies of things, yetit has little to
    say about the obdurate and sentimentalpresence of them.
  • 18.
    • Materialistic Symptomology of Theodor Adorno;
    Adorno looks through the perspective of ‘damaged life’, offering a willfully negative critique of
    ordinary subjective life caught in the midst of things orchestrated by thedemands of
    instrumental reason. His questions ask what things want andhow they might produce us
    as subjects.(bad-manners)
    • Emergence of new sensoria of Walter Benjamin;
    Benjamin describes a world of people and things where the distribution of thesensual and
    sensorial is cast in a new industrial morality.What the emergenceof modernity constituted
    was a new sensorium adjusted to more abruptmovements, to machines that click and whirr,
    to forms of motion that needslightermovement but quicker reflexes.(habit-things)
    • Bruno Latour suggests that weshould find a place in a new social theory for the nonhuman
    masses that beg us for understanding which are hidden and despised social masses and shape
    our morality. Things are social agents too and social things are actantsin theproduction,
    transformation and reproductionof social worlds.(positive perspective)
  • 19. Latour’s perspective is anthropomorphic in 3 senses;
    Groom (automatic door closer) has been made by human
    It substitudes for the actions of people
    It shapes human actions
    • Unlike Latour, Adorno focuses on how these new devices have effects on human
    behaviours as bad manners and how disenable people, redistribute abilities and
    • Objects demand that we ‘do this, do that, behave this way, don’t gothat way,
    youmay do so, be allowed to go there’
  • 20. evocative things
    transitional things
    some objects have the capacity to represent powerful
    qualities beyond their prescriptions and affordances
    Psychoanalysis offers a way of describing how things matter to people in
    profoundly affective ways e.g. Klein’s study offers objects that can become ‘good’
    or ‘bad’ inrelation to the child’s desires and frustrations.
    Psychoanalysis, then, has a tendency to see the objectbecoming a thing-that-matters
    by a process of unconscious transference ofaffections and energy.
    Cathexis isthe transfer of energy from a person to another person, or thing or
    idea; but the energy is attached to the representation or the idea ofthe thing,
    rather than the thing itself. Thats how objects are become significant and charged.
  • 21. As a Materialist Analogy; we attach ourselves to things and the way that become invested with
    a degree of emotional intensity. These objects do not choose us we choose them, and this
    being thing-that-metters is a process of unconscience transfer of affections and energy.
    Childhood toys;
    These transitional object are tied by drives and instincts and helps the seperation of child
    from her/hisself (not-me). As the child is effected by environment, to cope with the new
    situation, he/she finds new ways to adjust his/her life or create a new world for the object.
  • 22.
    • We began to confront the thingness objects when they stop working. (investing resting chair)
    It is story of a changed relation to the human subject and thus, the story of a the how the thing
    really names less an object than a particular subject-object relation. (Which is fascinating like
    how child’s loved transitional toy can be precious one minute and so lifeless next.)
  • 23.
    • Consumption is not just buying and having, it is also using and destroying. (death)
    • 24. The desire of consume is the desire to return to the quiescence of inorganic world (a moment
    before life), plasure of not being a self, the pleasure of being a thing- jealousy towars things.
    (It is non-living, not awfully dying)
    • Nothingness has a still, calm being and thats why we nervously circle around things, jealous of
    them. (A successsful chair drives person to copy that stillness; sleep)
    • Effordless eternity is another envied quality in some objects too (like paperweight)
    • 25. To be possessed by thing interrupts the endless cycle of newness and obsolescence, being
    possesed by a thingness of a object is to loose the I-ness of self, being a thing among things.
  • 26.
    • This is the the world from the poing of view of things, which does not apply for all things.,
    but some of them are the coupling of dreams and incorporeal, insentient life.
    • Familiar things call attention to time and call time on attention. It is a world that seen as
    a snapshot from the perspective of eternity. (the perspective of objects when they are
    noticed as a thing.)
  • 27. Ordinary Lives
    Ben Highmore
    Merve Aydın
    ID 501 / 2011