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Rob Walker

Alien Phenomenology: Or, What It's Like To Be A Thing


Alien Phenomenology Ian Bogost
University Of Minnesota Press, 2012
In this slim but dense volume, Ian Bogost sketches the thing-centric philosophy of “object-oriented ontology,” builds his own addition to it, and suggests how it may be put to use. The starting point is a post-humanist attempt to understand the world in way that does not begin and end with, you know, us. That line of thought gets increasingly weird as one tries to grok how a coffee cup experiences a taco, and so on. While we can never truly know “what it’s like to be a thing,” the tactics (and reasons) Bogost suggests for trying to do so anyway can be extremely thought-provoking. In particular, the strategy he labels “carpentry”: though he’s basically addressing philosophers, Bogost (best known as a game designer) advocates “constructing artifacts,” instead of or in addition to writing, talking, or thinking about them. What we learn is how much around is profoundly “alien,” and just how useful it is to realize that this is so. —Rob Walker

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