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michel.puech@paris-sorbonne.fr
19th Annual Conference of the
Society for Phenomenology and Media
Living in the Anthropocene
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts
March 16, 2017
From fishbowl to global:
ordinary mediation with anthropocenic issues
2
my idea is an image
notions
issues (anthropocenic)
fishbowl (fallacy)
re-start (ordinary agency)
3
notions
an analysis of the existential sphere
philosophy and ethics of
technology / environment / communication
+ virtue ethics and Asian thoughts
→ a diversified set of conceptual tools
for a typically philosophical job:
reformulating issues
when standard approaches do not seem to work
4
notions
technosphere
the world we are living in
our real physical environment (as Technosapiens)
technology is pervasive
→ a technology-driven world
infosphere
the non-material part of the technosphere
data, algorithms, permanent connection, ambient intelligence...
→ an information-driven technosphere
ecosphere
the world we are (also) living in
as living beings, part of ecosystems
5
notions
→ anthropocenic configuration =
the ecosphere is embedded into the technosphere
compare to a science-fiction paradise where it is the opposite
6
notions
global
the relevant level for more and more important things: technology,
politics, the economy, culture and entertainment, human bonds...
→ philosophical/ethical challenge: agency in the global?
local(e)
not suppressed by globalization
possibly empowered by globalization and digitalization
→ a philosophical-ethical resource in terms of agency
at the bottom: the person, the self: proximal (important)
distal (distant, away)
intermediary between global and local
a level of mediation, mediating local and global
important – if not, mediation issues (fishbowls) may remain unseen
7
notions
mediation
in a very inclusive philosophical acceptation: the interface between
human persons/collectives and their environments
originally: human, natural, social, technological environments
now: infosphere and technosphere, and particularly the distal infosphere
ordinary
the key notion in my approach
our lifeworld is the ordinary technosphere
humble and mundane actions and situations
food, transportation, clothes and wearable gadgets, use of media, devices,
etc.
hypothesis: it matters!
as agency in the global, particularly
local → proximal → existential (ordinary)
8
notions
fishbowl
the key notion in this talk
= the fishbowl is the
"bad mediation"
looking in a fishbowl
and thinking you are
looking at the world is a problem
looking at the world through a fishbowl is a problem
craving for a life into the fishbowl is a problem
detailed phenomenology in a moment
my problem:
how do we jump out of the fishbowl to address the global?
Dutch lokaal bokaal globaal
French local bocal global
English local(e) fishbowl global
9
issues (anthropocenic)
philosophical basis for my understanding of anthropocenic
issues
on our way to constructive solutions
the anthropocene is... a crisis
a crisis is built-in in the notion of anthropocene
no harmony of the spheres: ecosphere and technosphere
climate, resources, biodiversity, etc.
→ a new kind of crisis
why a crisis? ↔ why no adequate response to the crisis?
change the approach: not (only) a technological/ecological crisis, not
only a political crisis
→
10
issues (anthropocenic)
a moral/civilizational crisis
Gardiner: moral storm
GARDINER Stephen, A perfect moral storm: the ethical tragedy of climate
change, Oxford University Press, 2011
xii: "Our problem is profoundly global, intergenerational, and theoretical. When
these factors come together they pose a "perfect moral storm" for ethical action.
This casts doubt on the adequacy of our existing institutions, and our moral and
political theories."
3: "My concern is with why, given that the relevant facts are known, effective
action is so difficult, and indeed has so far eluded us. This is the real global
environmental tragedy, and it is what needs to be explained."
338: "In an age dominated by sound bites and intense political partisanship, by
limited engagement and short attention spans, by superficial media and spin, are we
not also vulnerable to such a barrage? Indeed, is this not at least one part of a
compelling explanation for the ongoing political inertia?"
11
issues (anthropocenic)
Jamieson: dark times
JAMIESON Dale, Reason in a dark time: why the struggle against climate
change failed – and what it means for our future, Oxford University Press,
2014.
the necessary starting point: a failure
the advisable method: realism, not pessimism
8: “Our failure to prevent or even to respond significantly to climate change reflects
the impoverishment of our systems of practical reason, the paralysis of our
politics, and the limits of our cognitive and affective capacities. None of this is
likely to change soon.”
61: "Evolution did not design us to deal with such problems, and we have not
designed political institutions that are conducive to solving them.”
ethics for the Anthropocene = virtues
143: “We should be epistemologically humble since there is so little we know
about the future that awaits us. We should be normatively humble because the
economic analysis of climate change rests on normative assumptions that it does not
have the resources to justify. In the end we are thrown back onto ethics.”
12
issues (anthropocenic)
Coeckelbergh: (un)skilled ethics
the kind of philosophical tools we need to address anthropocenic challenges:
specific motivation and skills
COECKELBERGH Mark, Environmental skill: motivation, knowledge, and the
possibility of a non-romantic environmental ethics, Routledge, 2015
1: "Thus, it seems that the main problem of environmental ethics is not that we do
not know what to do, but that we are not motivated to make the required changes."
96: "a less contemplative, less detached, and more engaging way of relating to our
environment, one that moves beyond environmental thinking—at least if thinking is
conceived of as a “mental” activity removed from concrete embodied practice"
98: "It is not sufficient to know environmental ethics theory and ethical principles;
what is needed is training the right kinds of habits and the right kinds of
experiences: We need practical wisdom."
13
issues (anthropocenic)
a mediation crisis
within the moral/civilizational crisis
mediating with anthropocenic issues
not exactly a crisis "in the infosphere" (the media)
→ the infosphere itself as the issue
→ the contemporary pathologies of distal mediation
fake (news)
post-truth and post-reality
alternative facts
bullshit
March 2017:
extending the "moral storm" (Gardiner) and the "dark time"/"failure"
(Jamieson) approach to THE major question in the humanities:
addressing PTSD (Post Trump Stress Disorder)
14
fishbowl (fallacy)
Plato's Allegory of the Cave, revisited
a distal mediation problem
how to escape it:
proximal awareness and
move your [body]!
a new screen for the Cave
15
fishbowl (fallacy)
in a Zen kōan:
"Fishbowls are not windows"
fishbowl paradigm
applies to TV or Fakebook
applies to corporate and management bullshit
= fishbowl idiocy
generating "suffering at work"
FRANKFURT Harry G., On bullshit,
Princeton University Press, 2005
applies to academic production?
feudalism, pseudo-science in Human and Social Sciences, peer-reviewed
hyper-specialization, sterile scholasticism
16
fishbowl (fallacy)
fishbowl phenomenology
a differential ontology of distal mediation (ambitious...)
distorting lens
references: see your textbook in media studies
mass media are a fishbowl, TV being the
paradigmatic one
unquestionably the (still alive) source of post-reality
and post-truth
17
fishbowl (fallacy)
bubbles (Pariser)
PARISER Eli, The filter bubble: what the Internet is hiding from you,
New York, Penguin Press, 2011
filters and profiling algorithms make us swim in a infosphere that is a self-
centered fishbowl, while we imagine ourselves "surfing the World Wide Web"
surfing in a bubble
living in bubbles (like politicians, journalists, Twitter and Fakebook
addicts...)
hard bubbles (material and
social environments), not just
information bubbles
≠ societal "spheres"
(Michael Walzer)
→ our spheres have turned
to bubbles
18
fishbowl (fallacy)
black box (Pasquale)
PASQUALE Frank, The black box society: the secret algorithms that
control money and information, Harvard University Press, 2015
applies to online search devices, reputation networks, financial and
surveillance profiling, marketing spying and influencing, etc.
FP asks the typical anthropocenic-issues question:
"why is so little being done?" (p. 195)
irony of black boxes that seem to be transparent, that are invisible
19
fishbowl (fallacy)
there are distortions, bubbles, black boxes,... and fishbowls too
the physical and optical properties of fishbowls provide a richer
paradigm →
living in a fishbowl: one's proximal
infosphere, or narrow existential and
social spheres
looking into a fishbowl: the alternate
reality of contemporary mass media
opposite mantra: "The fishbowl is not
the world"
looking through a fishbowl: radical
misinterpretation of everything
opposite mantra: "the fishbowl is not a
window (to the world)"
20
fishbowl (fallacy)
from fishbowl fallacy to fishbowl idiocy
WHAT IS in the fishbowl: fishes, big and small
eating each others + fighting to be near the food dispenser device
(gold-fishes)
→ vanity
the shallow ethics of fishbowls, a subject for contemporary virtue ethics (the
key factor of failure in many human endeavors)
to be or not be... in the fishbowl
= the media, the establishment, the bestsellers, the notorious ones = the
nomenklatura (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomenklatura)
WHAT IS NOT in the fishbowl and not visible through it:
overpopulation, agriculture and food industry and energy (basic
realities of – ), financial transactions, nepotism of the 1%, etc.
= real causes of the anthropocenic crisis
21
fishbowl (fallacy)
let's jump out!
… but not to another fishbowl...
22
re-start (ordinary agency)
jumping without motion (Zen)
restoring agency in the anthropocene
← diagnosis (reminder): the lack of agency is one of the key
components in the anthropocenic predicament
the problem is not the distance between the proximal
existential sphere of human persons and the global scale of
anthropocenic issues
it is the lack of awareness within the proximal existential sphere
of human persons
23
re-start (ordinary agency)
disconnect from the fishbowl, reconnect to the global, yes but:
not: global instead: fishbowl
fishbowl locale
because the ordinary locale is already connected to the
anthropocenic global
so simple it is transparent : what we eat, stairs/escalators, using a car,
buying a now phone – see my definition of ordinary
so pragmatic and actionable it is convenient not to see its opportunities
– hypocritical acrasia: "there is nothing I can do..."
no more staring at the fishbowl = regaining awareness of where we
live (the locale) and of what we can do (ordinary agency)
24
re-start (ordinary agency)
the void
MAIR Peter, Ruling the void: the hollowing of Western democracy,
London; New York, Verso, 2013
politicians (political parties and institutions) are ruling the void
militants are fighting in the void
→ (my interpretation) fishbowl decoys have siphoned off public life and
institutional democracy
→ post-truth has just invaded this void
disinterMEDIAtion applies to the media
vs the fishbowl fallacy
David Henry THOREAU : Life without principle, 1863,
http://thoreau.eserver.org/lifewout.html
"If a man neglects to read the Daily Times, government will go down on its knees to
him, for it is the only treason in these days"
a formidable resistance stance in non-action: just ignoring fishbowls
25
re-start (ordinary agency)
the ordinary, the new ethical frontier
Ivan Illich's "vernacular" – homemade and skills transmitted from person to
person, like cooking, language, ordinary psychological and ethical skills...
proximal skills and practical wisdom (Albert Borgmann's ethics of technology)
≠ distal mediation for accessing the global
Coeckelbergh (see above):
skillful engagement with one’s environment, environmental practice as an
ethics of skills
Vallor:
VALLOR Shannon, Technology and the virtues: a philosophical guide to a
future worth wanting, New York, OUP USA, 2016
virtue ethics and wisdom ethics for an acceptable anthropocene
Puech:
PUECH Michel, The ethics of ordinary technology, New York, Routledge, 2016
reinvesting ordinary ethics to address global (anthropocenic) issues
26
re-start (ordinary agency)
wrapping it all up:
the problem =
awareness of the global and an agency impacting the global
suggested approach:
proximal awareness and micro-actions in full consciousness of the
global
≠ fishbowl distal mediation
this model does not explain and solve everything
it aims at stimulating your own thinking … out of the fishbowl
27
So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skys from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fishbowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.
Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here
(Waters, Gilmour, 1975)

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Michel Puech - From fishbowl to global: ordinary agency in the Anthropocene"

  • 1. 1 made on a PC with LibreOffice michel.puech@paris-sorbonne.fr 19th Annual Conference of the Society for Phenomenology and Media Living in the Anthropocene Vrije Universiteit Brussel Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts March 16, 2017 From fishbowl to global: ordinary mediation with anthropocenic issues
  • 2. 2 my idea is an image notions issues (anthropocenic) fishbowl (fallacy) re-start (ordinary agency)
  • 3. 3 notions an analysis of the existential sphere philosophy and ethics of technology / environment / communication + virtue ethics and Asian thoughts → a diversified set of conceptual tools for a typically philosophical job: reformulating issues when standard approaches do not seem to work
  • 4. 4 notions technosphere the world we are living in our real physical environment (as Technosapiens) technology is pervasive → a technology-driven world infosphere the non-material part of the technosphere data, algorithms, permanent connection, ambient intelligence... → an information-driven technosphere ecosphere the world we are (also) living in as living beings, part of ecosystems
  • 5. 5 notions → anthropocenic configuration = the ecosphere is embedded into the technosphere compare to a science-fiction paradise where it is the opposite
  • 6. 6 notions global the relevant level for more and more important things: technology, politics, the economy, culture and entertainment, human bonds... → philosophical/ethical challenge: agency in the global? local(e) not suppressed by globalization possibly empowered by globalization and digitalization → a philosophical-ethical resource in terms of agency at the bottom: the person, the self: proximal (important) distal (distant, away) intermediary between global and local a level of mediation, mediating local and global important – if not, mediation issues (fishbowls) may remain unseen
  • 7. 7 notions mediation in a very inclusive philosophical acceptation: the interface between human persons/collectives and their environments originally: human, natural, social, technological environments now: infosphere and technosphere, and particularly the distal infosphere ordinary the key notion in my approach our lifeworld is the ordinary technosphere humble and mundane actions and situations food, transportation, clothes and wearable gadgets, use of media, devices, etc. hypothesis: it matters! as agency in the global, particularly local → proximal → existential (ordinary)
  • 8. 8 notions fishbowl the key notion in this talk = the fishbowl is the "bad mediation" looking in a fishbowl and thinking you are looking at the world is a problem looking at the world through a fishbowl is a problem craving for a life into the fishbowl is a problem detailed phenomenology in a moment my problem: how do we jump out of the fishbowl to address the global? Dutch lokaal bokaal globaal French local bocal global English local(e) fishbowl global
  • 9. 9 issues (anthropocenic) philosophical basis for my understanding of anthropocenic issues on our way to constructive solutions the anthropocene is... a crisis a crisis is built-in in the notion of anthropocene no harmony of the spheres: ecosphere and technosphere climate, resources, biodiversity, etc. → a new kind of crisis why a crisis? ↔ why no adequate response to the crisis? change the approach: not (only) a technological/ecological crisis, not only a political crisis →
  • 10. 10 issues (anthropocenic) a moral/civilizational crisis Gardiner: moral storm GARDINER Stephen, A perfect moral storm: the ethical tragedy of climate change, Oxford University Press, 2011 xii: "Our problem is profoundly global, intergenerational, and theoretical. When these factors come together they pose a "perfect moral storm" for ethical action. This casts doubt on the adequacy of our existing institutions, and our moral and political theories." 3: "My concern is with why, given that the relevant facts are known, effective action is so difficult, and indeed has so far eluded us. This is the real global environmental tragedy, and it is what needs to be explained." 338: "In an age dominated by sound bites and intense political partisanship, by limited engagement and short attention spans, by superficial media and spin, are we not also vulnerable to such a barrage? Indeed, is this not at least one part of a compelling explanation for the ongoing political inertia?"
  • 11. 11 issues (anthropocenic) Jamieson: dark times JAMIESON Dale, Reason in a dark time: why the struggle against climate change failed – and what it means for our future, Oxford University Press, 2014. the necessary starting point: a failure the advisable method: realism, not pessimism 8: “Our failure to prevent or even to respond significantly to climate change reflects the impoverishment of our systems of practical reason, the paralysis of our politics, and the limits of our cognitive and affective capacities. None of this is likely to change soon.” 61: "Evolution did not design us to deal with such problems, and we have not designed political institutions that are conducive to solving them.” ethics for the Anthropocene = virtues 143: “We should be epistemologically humble since there is so little we know about the future that awaits us. We should be normatively humble because the economic analysis of climate change rests on normative assumptions that it does not have the resources to justify. In the end we are thrown back onto ethics.”
  • 12. 12 issues (anthropocenic) Coeckelbergh: (un)skilled ethics the kind of philosophical tools we need to address anthropocenic challenges: specific motivation and skills COECKELBERGH Mark, Environmental skill: motivation, knowledge, and the possibility of a non-romantic environmental ethics, Routledge, 2015 1: "Thus, it seems that the main problem of environmental ethics is not that we do not know what to do, but that we are not motivated to make the required changes." 96: "a less contemplative, less detached, and more engaging way of relating to our environment, one that moves beyond environmental thinking—at least if thinking is conceived of as a “mental” activity removed from concrete embodied practice" 98: "It is not sufficient to know environmental ethics theory and ethical principles; what is needed is training the right kinds of habits and the right kinds of experiences: We need practical wisdom."
  • 13. 13 issues (anthropocenic) a mediation crisis within the moral/civilizational crisis mediating with anthropocenic issues not exactly a crisis "in the infosphere" (the media) → the infosphere itself as the issue → the contemporary pathologies of distal mediation fake (news) post-truth and post-reality alternative facts bullshit March 2017: extending the "moral storm" (Gardiner) and the "dark time"/"failure" (Jamieson) approach to THE major question in the humanities: addressing PTSD (Post Trump Stress Disorder)
  • 14. 14 fishbowl (fallacy) Plato's Allegory of the Cave, revisited a distal mediation problem how to escape it: proximal awareness and move your [body]! a new screen for the Cave
  • 15. 15 fishbowl (fallacy) in a Zen kōan: "Fishbowls are not windows" fishbowl paradigm applies to TV or Fakebook applies to corporate and management bullshit = fishbowl idiocy generating "suffering at work" FRANKFURT Harry G., On bullshit, Princeton University Press, 2005 applies to academic production? feudalism, pseudo-science in Human and Social Sciences, peer-reviewed hyper-specialization, sterile scholasticism
  • 16. 16 fishbowl (fallacy) fishbowl phenomenology a differential ontology of distal mediation (ambitious...) distorting lens references: see your textbook in media studies mass media are a fishbowl, TV being the paradigmatic one unquestionably the (still alive) source of post-reality and post-truth
  • 17. 17 fishbowl (fallacy) bubbles (Pariser) PARISER Eli, The filter bubble: what the Internet is hiding from you, New York, Penguin Press, 2011 filters and profiling algorithms make us swim in a infosphere that is a self- centered fishbowl, while we imagine ourselves "surfing the World Wide Web" surfing in a bubble living in bubbles (like politicians, journalists, Twitter and Fakebook addicts...) hard bubbles (material and social environments), not just information bubbles ≠ societal "spheres" (Michael Walzer) → our spheres have turned to bubbles
  • 18. 18 fishbowl (fallacy) black box (Pasquale) PASQUALE Frank, The black box society: the secret algorithms that control money and information, Harvard University Press, 2015 applies to online search devices, reputation networks, financial and surveillance profiling, marketing spying and influencing, etc. FP asks the typical anthropocenic-issues question: "why is so little being done?" (p. 195) irony of black boxes that seem to be transparent, that are invisible
  • 19. 19 fishbowl (fallacy) there are distortions, bubbles, black boxes,... and fishbowls too the physical and optical properties of fishbowls provide a richer paradigm → living in a fishbowl: one's proximal infosphere, or narrow existential and social spheres looking into a fishbowl: the alternate reality of contemporary mass media opposite mantra: "The fishbowl is not the world" looking through a fishbowl: radical misinterpretation of everything opposite mantra: "the fishbowl is not a window (to the world)"
  • 20. 20 fishbowl (fallacy) from fishbowl fallacy to fishbowl idiocy WHAT IS in the fishbowl: fishes, big and small eating each others + fighting to be near the food dispenser device (gold-fishes) → vanity the shallow ethics of fishbowls, a subject for contemporary virtue ethics (the key factor of failure in many human endeavors) to be or not be... in the fishbowl = the media, the establishment, the bestsellers, the notorious ones = the nomenklatura (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomenklatura) WHAT IS NOT in the fishbowl and not visible through it: overpopulation, agriculture and food industry and energy (basic realities of – ), financial transactions, nepotism of the 1%, etc. = real causes of the anthropocenic crisis
  • 21. 21 fishbowl (fallacy) let's jump out! … but not to another fishbowl...
  • 22. 22 re-start (ordinary agency) jumping without motion (Zen) restoring agency in the anthropocene ← diagnosis (reminder): the lack of agency is one of the key components in the anthropocenic predicament the problem is not the distance between the proximal existential sphere of human persons and the global scale of anthropocenic issues it is the lack of awareness within the proximal existential sphere of human persons
  • 23. 23 re-start (ordinary agency) disconnect from the fishbowl, reconnect to the global, yes but: not: global instead: fishbowl fishbowl locale because the ordinary locale is already connected to the anthropocenic global so simple it is transparent : what we eat, stairs/escalators, using a car, buying a now phone – see my definition of ordinary so pragmatic and actionable it is convenient not to see its opportunities – hypocritical acrasia: "there is nothing I can do..." no more staring at the fishbowl = regaining awareness of where we live (the locale) and of what we can do (ordinary agency)
  • 24. 24 re-start (ordinary agency) the void MAIR Peter, Ruling the void: the hollowing of Western democracy, London; New York, Verso, 2013 politicians (political parties and institutions) are ruling the void militants are fighting in the void → (my interpretation) fishbowl decoys have siphoned off public life and institutional democracy → post-truth has just invaded this void disinterMEDIAtion applies to the media vs the fishbowl fallacy David Henry THOREAU : Life without principle, 1863, http://thoreau.eserver.org/lifewout.html "If a man neglects to read the Daily Times, government will go down on its knees to him, for it is the only treason in these days" a formidable resistance stance in non-action: just ignoring fishbowls
  • 25. 25 re-start (ordinary agency) the ordinary, the new ethical frontier Ivan Illich's "vernacular" – homemade and skills transmitted from person to person, like cooking, language, ordinary psychological and ethical skills... proximal skills and practical wisdom (Albert Borgmann's ethics of technology) ≠ distal mediation for accessing the global Coeckelbergh (see above): skillful engagement with one’s environment, environmental practice as an ethics of skills Vallor: VALLOR Shannon, Technology and the virtues: a philosophical guide to a future worth wanting, New York, OUP USA, 2016 virtue ethics and wisdom ethics for an acceptable anthropocene Puech: PUECH Michel, The ethics of ordinary technology, New York, Routledge, 2016 reinvesting ordinary ethics to address global (anthropocenic) issues
  • 26. 26 re-start (ordinary agency) wrapping it all up: the problem = awareness of the global and an agency impacting the global suggested approach: proximal awareness and micro-actions in full consciousness of the global ≠ fishbowl distal mediation this model does not explain and solve everything it aims at stimulating your own thinking … out of the fishbowl
  • 27. 27 So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, Blue skys from pain. Can you tell a green field From a cold steel rail? A smile from a veil? Do you think you can tell? And did they get you to trade Your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? Cold comfort for change? And did you exchange A walk on part in the war For a lead role in a cage? How I wish, how I wish you were here. We're just two lost souls Swimming in a fishbowl, Year after year, Running over the same old ground. What have we found? The same old fears. Wish you were here. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (Waters, Gilmour, 1975)