International Symposium The Secret Life of Objects debates media, technologies and new ontological challenges

Eduardo Weinhardt

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The International Symposium The Secret Life of Objects: Media Ecologies took place last Monday, August 3rd, in São Paulo, Brazil , and brought together national and international researchers for discussing material and technological aspects of communication processes. The event was organized by Prof. Dr. Erick Felinto (UERJ), Prof. Dr. Lucia Santaella (PUC-SP) and also by the research groups Sociotramas (https://sociotramas.wordpress.com) and Transobjeto, (https://transobjeto.wordpress.com/). The initiative was partially funded by FAPESP – Funding Agency of São Paulo State – and sponsored by PUC-SP – Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo.

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The welcome and opening speech was by Prof. Dr. Norval Baitello from PUC-SP, who was also in charge of mediating the first debate with Erick Felinto and Lisa Gitelman. Felinto’s talk brought to the scene what he has been calling a “speculative renaissance” in contemporary thought. He also accounted for how Vilém Flusser’s notion of “philosophical fiction” anticipated some of today’s trends and pointed out what he considers to be the current challenges in the philosophical arena. Prof. Dr. Gitelman is a researcher of Media History at New York University. Her talk wove together different areas of knowledge such as Botany, Horticulture, Media Privacy and Circulation Epistemologies, based on a case study about the use of envelopes in the American seed trade of 19th and early 20th centuries.

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The following session counted with Prof. Dr. Jussi Parikka, and Prof. Dr. Richard Grusin, and was mediated by Prof. Dr. Marcus Bastos, also from PUC-SP. Prof. Parikka teaches both at the Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton – UK) and at the University of Torku, Finland. Prof. Grusin is the director of the 21st Century Institute, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA. During the first part of his talk, Parikka retrieved some of the ideas from his last book, A Geology of Media, in order to talk about media materiality and the connections between media technologies and mineral resources. Prof. Grusin, for his turn, stressed that mediation should be accounted for as one of the main topics in contemporary philosophical thought, and presented his own idea of “Radical Mediation”, which is an embracing concept that brings and holds together objects, events and processes and their profound impacts both in human and non-human agents.

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The last session was mediated by Prof. Dr. Elizabeth Saad Corrêa, from the University of São Paulo (USP), and counted with Prof. Dr. Wendy Chun, Chair of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, and Prof. Dr. Lucia Santaella, Chair of the Postgraduate Program in Technologies of Intelligence and Digital Design at PUC-SP. Prof. Chun talked about the tensions between control and empowerment raised by the use of new media; she also explained how the lack of privacy and the development of new habits are both constituents of the very structure of the WWW. Prof. Santaella closed the Symposium with the talk An Expanded Ecology of the Media: towards an ecocosmo politics in which she stressed the necessity of a new onto-epistemology capable of dealing with current technological evolution and which is free from any kind of dualist or dichotomist perspective.

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This is a brief extract of the 2nd edition of The Secret Life of Objects, São Paulo’s chapter. This year’s edition has also a chapter in Rio de Janeiro. For more information go to https://vidadosobjetos.wordpress.com.

The 1st edition of The Secret Life of Objects, was held in the cities of Salvador, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, in 2012.

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