Assemblage Theory Digital Scholarship object-oriented rhetoric

e-ject oriented ontology

Perhaps this has occurred to others, but I was thinking this morning of the word object and the many other words it shares -ject with: project, deject, eject, reject, inject, interject … perhaps you can think of others. Like "object," most of these words serve as both noun and verb (sometimes as adj.). In most of the etymologies, -ject comes from the Latin jacĕre meaning to throw. In the case of object, the inherited meaning is to throw something before the mind or senses. I suppose the etymology, in this case, could be viewed as unfortunate for OOO, which clearly presents objects as mind-independent, and certainly the evolved and contemporary understanding of object is mind-independent, though even being "objective" still requires a mind. However I don't exactly see it that way, particularly given my interested in an object-oriented or speculative rhetoric. While such a position begins with the premise that objects withdraw from one another, it is also a position that investigates how relations occur despite this premise. That is, while objects may withdraw from one another, what we know of each other and the world has to do with what is thrown before us, what we can encounter, which is mind-independent. 

With that in mind (sorry), my interest turns toward the vector that is implicit in the throw. Or perhaps I should say trajectory. To traject means to cross or also a point of crossing. Although we might say that a trajectory is a particular kind of -jection, so maybe we need a word with a different etymology, like vector. Either way, there is an energetic component to object, as is clear from the verb form. To object is to get in the way, to dissent. We could say that objects in OOO do this to us. They rise in our sensorium and resist. They object to our cognitive apprehension of them. In any case, the object is hardly static. We can't imagine that it just sits there. This understanding might contribute to how one would reconcile the differences between object-oriented positions and more process-oriented positions that arise from Deleuze (or in a very different way, in writing processes, which are of more specific interest to my field). An important point in recognizing objects have a vector or trajectory is that this does not mean that they have a destiny or destination. Instead, it is simply to state that objects have forces and these forces encounter one another. As I have suggested before, a minimal rhetoric might be understand as the study of forces, not, obviously, in the physics sense but rather as the study of forces that result in thought or agency. 

Now to think about an eject-oriented ontology. I don't mean this in the sense of ejection but rather in the way that the ubiquitous e appears before e-book, e-learning, e-mail, etc. In other words, I'm thinking about the ontological force relations pertaining to objects participating in digital networks. While we can speak of a general ontological philosophy, we can also recognize that certain objects have capacities (energies/forces) activated by their participation in particular networks, ecologies, etc. Obviously humans, for example, require certain conditions in order to remain human. As DeLanda remarks in A New Philosophy of Society, communication networks operate as a significant deterritorializing and decoding force for social assemblages. The e-object or e-ject participates in digital networks in a manner that alters its energetic profile: there is an intersection of forces. 

My research investigates such matters. Certainly there are objects that we would describe as digital but there are many more objects that are modified by the digital, e.g. digital pedagogy, digital scholarship, and so on. So the monograph was composed out of a particular assemblage to become its own withdrawing object as a printed book has its energetic profile altered by its encounter with the digital, which turns it into a PDF and distributes it online. The PDF is different from the book. Indeed each copy of the book is singular. And yet each book as an object, as that which is thrown before other objects, is altered by its encounter with the digital. That is, the existence of the PDF changes the book as encountered, speculated upon, object. This, in turn, alters the scholarship producing assemblages that compose future monographs. 

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