Hybrid Animism. The Sensing Surfaces of Planetary Computation.
This article proposes to examine animism through the perspective provided by a notion of immanent matter drawn on process philosophy (Spinoza, Deleuze and Guattari), and quantum physics (Bohm, Rovelli). It then deploys this perspective to illuminate how planetary computation – the impact of digital media technologies on a planetary scale – is rewiring the cognitive, affective, perceptual capacities of the human. The article puts forward the notion of hybrid animism, as a speculative and imaginative philosophical fiction (‘philoso-fiction’) to grasp planetary computation as a sensorial pan-affective event, and to account for the hybrid techno-digital ecologies humans already inhabit, characterised by ongoing modulation, sensorial intensification and pervasive distribution of computational matter across a plethora of screens, surfaces and surroundings. The value of this proposition, the article explains, is to eschew dominant techno-deterministic narratives: not only techno-euphoria and techno-dystopia, but also the notion of technology as enchantment, with its in-built mystification. By deploying the philoso-fiction of hybrid animism and the un-mediated intuitive sensorial grasp it fosters, planetary computation can begin to be immediately perceived as the expression of new modes of co-habitation and co-evolution of the human and the nonhuman. Finally, the article brings together the nonhuman mutating surfaces of digital matter with cephalopods’ skins to vividly and speculatively illustrate hybrid animism as a thought experiment of sorts.
New Formations: A Journal of Culture, Theory and Politics 104/105. Special issue: Animism in a Planetary Frame. Philip Dickinson and Sam Durrant eds., pp.183-197 (2022)Download
EDITORS' INTRODUCTION - Designing Smart Objects in Everyday Life. Intelligences, Agencies, Ecologies (with Marco Rozendaal and Will Odom)
The increased integration of computation and networking capabilities into physical products is transforming many of our everyday objects into smart ones. Things such as domestic appliances, furniture, clothing and toys are gaining new capabilities and expanding their modes of interaction with their users. This prompts a series of questions concerning their role and agency: the way in which they may be perceived by the users and how their extended capabilities shape and inform the way they are designed.
How are smart everyday objects ontologically different from their analogue counterparts? How are their new identities shaped by people’s perceptions, experiences and imaginations? More crucially for the scope of our inquiry, how do we design them? What are the new frameworks, strategies and practices that can inform the design of smart everyday objects?
In Rozendaal, M., Marenko, B., and Odom, W. eds. (2021) Designing Smart Objects in Everyday Life. Intelligences, Agencies, Ecologies. London: Bloomsbury 1-24
Marx in the Smart Living Room. What would a Marx-Oriented Approach to Smart Objects be Like? (with Pim Haselager)
This chapter asks: what would a Marx-oriented approach to smart objects be like? As an exercise in ‘philoso-fiction’ it mobilizes critical thinking around the organization of the forces of production of digital devices. The chapter imagines how a smart environment would appear to Marx as an ecosystem of intensely alienating and fetished commodities. The chapter examines alienation and the disjuncture inherent to smart objects: while they support and enable users, they also capture (and trade) users’ data, time, and attention. Smart environments claim to personalize and tailor their presence to individual needs, but they also intrude in, monitor and control human life, thus enabling new techno-digital forms of alienation where user, content provider and product collapse in one single ‘datified’ role. The chapter offers a conceptual framework to locate smart commodity fetishism and alienation within the context provided by the politics of extractive capitalism.
In Rozendaal, M., Marenko, B., and Odom, W. eds. (2021) Designing Smart Objects in Everyday Life. Intelligences, Agencies, Ecologies. London: Bloomsbury pp. 169-184 (with Pim Haselager)Download
EDITORS' INTRODUCTION - Design in the Pandemic: Dispatches from the Early Months (with Jilly Traganou and Barbara Adams)
Design and Culture, Special Issue: Design in the Pandemic: Dispatches from the Early Months. 13, 1. 2021 (co-edited with Jilly Traganou and Barbara Adams).
This special issue of Design and Culture emerged from a call released in May 2020 while we were still in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Noting that the pandemic had radically altered our relations with things, spaces, and one another, we called for dispatches that would register and articulate its immediate and unfolding experience. In particular, we wanted to pay attention to the dramatically deepening systemic social and geopolitical inequities and new territorial divides it created, seen through design perspectives, approaches, and sensibilities. Our editorial brief was not specifically geared to collect examples of design “solutions” to identifiable (and obvious) design “problems” related to the pandemic. Rather, we aimed to convey a more nuanced and expanded notion of design as a social sensitivity, critical lens, and proposition of tangible values and aspirations. We were also interested in experiences from various subject positions, from those who spent the quarantine working or studying from home to essential workers and frontliners, aware that the virus was far from a “great equalizer” and that “risk is not equally distributed” (Jones 2020). In terms of format, we sought a variety of responses – from text to audio and visual work – that would capture the different affective and material dimensions of the pandemic experience.
Download the Editors’ introduction below
Stacking Complexities: Reframing Uncertainty through Hybrid Literacies
in Design and Culture 13,2 pp.165-184. 2021
In a context increasingly defined by post-normal science (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1993), it is acknowledged that complex world problems cannot be addressed by one discipline in isolation. To face increasingly uncertain futures, it is therefore crucial to develop approaches that work with uncertainty. Because of its future-facing nature and current drive to tackle complex world challenges, design has a leading role to play in this endeavor. The article proposes a research framework informed by the development of hybrid literacies – transversal toolkits across design, technologies, and futures studies – that can furnish learners with transdisciplinary skills. These are deemed necessary to address uncertainty and complexity by deploying speculative-pragmatic, imaginative practices that foster modes of working, learning, and unlearning together. To illustrate this approach, the article draws on the ongoing collaboration between two academic institutions renowned, respectively, in the field of Art and Design (Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London) and Science and Technology (Tokyo Institute of Technology) to offer a personal reflection and insights around transdisciplinarity and hybrid literacies in action.
This paper, written during lockdown while involved in remote teaching, looks at the impact of platform technologies to reflect on how human agency has been machine-reconfigured in the name of efficiency. It posits that a technocratic shift operates by capturing the messy flow of embodied experience, turning it into an operational and constantly upgradable toolkit, and asks for a consideration of the implications of this process of “toolification”, especially in the context of creative studio practice.
Future-Crafting: The Non-humanity of Planetary Computation, or How to Live with Digital Uncertainty
In Suzanne Witzgall et al (eds) Hybrid Ecologies. University of Chicago Press / Diaphanes, pp. 216-227. 2021
for German translation:
In Witzgall, S. et al (eds) Hybride Ökologien. Zurich: Diaphanes AG, pp. 234-247. 2021
"The idea that we can design an ecology is something we should be wary of"
Betti Marenko in conversation with designer Martin Ávila during the lecture series “Hybrid Ecologies” at the cx centre for interdisciplinary studies, Academy of Fine Arts Munich (2017).
In Witzgall, S. et al (eds) Hybrid Ecologies. University of Chicago Press / Diaphanes, pp. 241-249. 2021Download
Algorithm magic. Gilbert Simondon and technoanimism.
In Believing in Bits: Digital Media and the Supernatural. Simone Natale and Diana Pasulka (eds.) Oxford University Press. pp 213-228. 2019Download
Speculative Diagrams: Experiments in Mapping YouTube (with David Benqué)
In the Proceedings of the RTD – Research Through Design Conference. Science Centre, TU Delft (with David Benqué). 2019Download
FutureCrafting: A Speculative Method for an Imaginative AI.
in the Proceedings from the AAAI Spring Symposium Series. Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Palo Alto, pp. 419-422. 2018Download
in Body of Reverbs – New Rituals For Contemporary Bodies (a LP+book project by Michele Servadio) 2018Download
The Un-designability of the Virtual. Design from problem-solving to problem-finding.
In UnDesign. Critical Practices at the Intersection of Art and Design. Gavin Sade, Gretchen Coombs, Andrew McNamara (eds.) London, Routledge. 2018Download
Filled with wonder. The enchanting android from cams to algorithms.
in Encountering Things. Design and Theories of Things. Leslie Atzmon and Prasad Boradkar (eds.) London, Bloomsbury. 2017Download
Animistic Design: How to Reimagine Digital Interaction Between the Human and the Nonhuman (with Phil van Allen)
in Digital Creativity. Special issue: Post-anthropocentric creativity. Stanislav Roudavski and Jon McCormack (eds.). London, Routledge. pp. 52-70 (with Phil Van Allen). 2016
When Making Becomes Divination: Uncertainty and Contingency in Computational Glitch-Events
in The Interdisciplinary Journal of Design Research. 41, Part A. Special issue: Computational making. Terry Knight and Theodora Vardoulli (eds.). London, Elsevier. pp. 110-125. 2015
Digital Materiality, Morphogenesis and the Intelligence of the Technodigital Object
in Deleuze and Design. Betti Marenko and Jamie Brassett (eds) Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp.107-138. 2015Download
in Deleuze and Design. Betti Marenko and Jamie Brassett (eds). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 1-30. 2015. Co-written with Jamie Brassett.
Neo-Animism and Design. A New Paradigm in Object Theory
In Design and Culture. 6, 2. Special issue: Design, Thing Theory and the Lives of Objects. L. Atzmon (ed). London: Berg. pp.219-242. 2014Download
Contagious Affectivity. The Management of Emotions in Late Capitalist Design
in Negotiating Futures – Design Fiction. Proceedings from the 6th Swiss Design Network Conference. Basel.pp. 134-149. 2010Download
Object-Relics and their Effects: for a Neo-Animist Paradigm
In MEI Mediation and Information. Special Issue: Objets & Communication. 30-31. Bernard Darras and Sarah Belkhamsa (eds) Centre of Image, Research, Culture and Cognition, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Paris: Editions de l’Harmattan. pp.239-253. 2009Download
Now I Can Feel Myself! The Production of Affects in the Visual Discourse of Psychopharmaceuticals
In Networks of Design. Fiona Hackney, Jonathan Glynne and Viv Minton (eds). Proceedings of the 2008 Annual International Conference of the Design History Society. University College Falmouth. pp.94-99. 2010Download
The Eyes are Trapped: Dario Argento’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage
in If Looks Could Kill Fashion. Marketa Uhlirova (ed.) Film Festival Catalogue. London: Koenig Books. pp. 52-59. 2008Download
Other essays, articles, exhibition catalogues
Skin Flaying and the Transgression of Boundaries
Stimulus Respond. 2009Download
Mute. Culture and Politics after the Net, 30. 2007
Hot Bodies, Cool Styles. New Techniques in Self-Adornment
Practical advice. In Ted Polhemus, Hot Bodies, Cool Styles. New Techniques in Self-Adornment. London, Thames & Hudson, 2004
Mute. Culture and Politics after the Net, 27. 2004
Skinny Dipping in the Semiotics Pond
The Art Newspaper, 146. 2004Download
Body Marking/Body Mapping: Embodied Difference and Strategies of De/Construction of Identity.
Working Papers and Preprints. (300-301-302/C). Centro Internazionale di Semiotica e Linguistica, University of Urbino. 2001Download
The Self Made Freak
In David Wood ed, BodyProbe. Mutating Physical Boundaries, London, Creation Books, 1999Download
Alex Binnie interview
In David Wood ed, BodyProbe. Mutating Physical Boundaries, London, Creation Books, 1999Download
One Day We All Will Have Compound Eyes
in Elaine Palmer ed, Random Factor, London, Pulp Faction, 1997Download
Endless Epide®mical Encounters
Decoder. Milano, Shake Edizioni. 2003
Hooking the Flesh, Sewing the Mouth. Reflections on Surface
Fringecore, 8. 2000