Sunday, June 11, 2006

What then is an object? In the literal sense it is: "that which has been thrown or which one throws in front." Are world-objects lying in front of us? The global dimension that characterizes them eliminates the distance between us and them which in the past defined objects. We now live in those world-objects as we live in the world.

Traditional technologies, tools and machines form units with a local range of action in space and time: the sledgehammer drives in the stake, the plow cuts the furrow, in sum, they define an environment where few humans worked, for example a family living on a farm. Such a division of the world into localities allows for a philosophy of mastery and possession, because we can define what we dominate, how we dominate it and who is meant by this we. As the range of action of the objects increased, so did the number of humans that produced or used them; but also vice-versa in a kind of feedback. Smelting furnaces and airline companies do not mobilize the same groups; the concentration and size of subjects condition those of objects. However, the reverse also takes place.

Little by little globalization forms a new universe based on thermal techniques and developed further by the quantitative increase of world-objects. We see these now as technical, physical, and we will soon see them as human and legal as well. Can we still call these things objects, and the people who use them subjects? Are our communication networks objects?

Revisiting The Natural Contract
By Michel Serres

Found atCtheory


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