Saturday, July 19, 2014

More on Blogging in the Academic Blogosphere: The Birth and Development of Object-Oriented Ontology

Much of the work on OOO (object-oriented ontology) was developed (and critiqued) in the blogosphere. Part of the critique was that you cannot properly do philosophy in the blogosphere. There’s an interesting and important article in this for some webwise graduate student.

The four thinkers most commonly associated with OOO maintain blogs (alphabetically): Ian Bogost, Levi Bryant, Graham Harman, and Tim Morton. Bogost blogs the least of the four, and has posted on the limitations of blogging for philosophy (“less blogging, more working”). Morton has cut way back on long-form posts in the last two years or so, but his early development of hyperobjects took place in the blogosphere. I believe that Harman drafted The Quadruple Object in a seris of blog posts, though I can’t provide citations, and has blogged about the importance of blogging to the movement, again, no specific links ready to hand.

Oppostion, often quite fierce, came from many quarters. But I’ll cite only two. There’s Agent Swarm, the blog of Terrence Blake, an independent scholar trained as a philosopher in Australia but who moved to France to attend seminars by Beleuze and Lyotard. An Und Für Sich is a theology-oriented group blog that hosted two very critical posts by Alexander Galloway; these posts generated fierce multifaced debate and are much referenced in the blogosphere. At various times and places you’ll find posts attempting to keep track of the current state of the debate by providing lots of links to recent posts.

I further note that while two of these philosophers are well-situated in the academic world, two of them are at peripheral institutions. Bogost is at Georgia Tech and Morton is at Rice, though he was at UCal Davis when he started his work on hyperobjects. Bryant is at a community college in Texas while Harman is at American University in Cairo. Was the blogosphere a hospitable environment for OOO because it is outside the hardcopy publication system and so less vulnerable to gatekeeping by the Old Guard, which has greater access to prestige jobs?

One cannot help but think that, to some undetermined extent, opposition to counting blogging as academic work reflects anxiety over the fact that the blogosphere is a threat to an otherwise well-established institutional pecking order.


  1. Bill,
    Please note as well that apparently there is a "pecking order" to be found in the speculative blogosphere as well. Many of the authors you mention (none are technically "philosophers" as I see it) fight to cling to established "spots" and intentionally ignore those who produce quality work in order to keep those spots. Blake / Agent Swarm is but one example, Jason Hills / immanent transcendence blog is but another. It's been a tit-for-tat "you ignore me, I ignore you" game literally for years now. Still, I think your post makes it appear as if non-academic or para-academic blogging challenges institutional authority. Yet blogs, have their own institutional power - which is, in many cases, unfortunately more abused than it is in the university setting.

  2. Fair enough, though it's not clear to me how one judges degree of abuse of power and I do think people have a right to develop their ideas on their own terms. Do you think we'd be better off if the blogosphere didn't exist?

    Blake, for example, may be unfairly sidelined by the OOOers, but it's not as though he has any standing in traditional academia. That he's now getting some recognition and publication opportunities is a consequence of his work in the blogosphere. Without the blogosphere he'd be just a frustrated teacher in a secondary school in the south of France. He may still be frustrated, but he's getting a hearing he wouldn't get without the blogosphere.

    As for who's a philosopher, that's a tricky one. Harmon and Bryant have degrees in philosophy, which Bogost and Morton do not. In some sense, that makes them philosophers. Whether or not they're good philosophers, that's another matter.