I was in the « Les Entretiens du Nouveau Monde Industriel » preparatory workshop organized by Bernard Stiegler last week giving a presentation titled “On the Logic of Digital Object – the Necessity of Meanings”. The theme of the workshop is called “internet of things”, the name is probably a fashion these days. Some interesting speakers were there, including the designer of the Nabaztag.
Below you can find the abstract of my paper, it is not very clear here, and actually it is really difficult to develop it in just 40 minutes:
“Metadata, which literally means “data about data”, is ruling the web, and hence the world in our time. This also implies that another understanding of metadata is needed and its role in the cultural and historical context has to be scrutinized. Metadata, in the idea of semantic web, or known as the web 3.0 advocated by Tim Berners-Lee et al, is presented as ontology, a data structure/taxonomy which describes “what is out there” in the world. An ontology-driven web is able to turn into an intelligence network mediated by A.I. agents, which in turns determines our ways of being.
This is not simply about the efficiency of information exchange, it also implies a different understanding, hence a different operation of the world. We are witnessing the expansion of networks mediated by digital objects, which is a new form of industrial objects embedding our relations as well our labour power. I want to point out that this network is at risk of driving towards homogenous global social phenomenon from the analysis of digital objects (In this presentation, I will mainly focus the question of logic and ontology, and leave the economic and legal aspects open).
At issue is the question of digital objects qua the notion of ontology, nevertheless it provides us a philosophical meditation of the digital milieu we are living now, a milieu which is at the same time physical and symbolic. Methodologically, we see a paradox of theoretical principles versus practices, in other words, a quest for a return to the fundamental understanding of things and relations as a general critique of classification, versus the refusal based on the belief of materialism in the industry [which I call Naïve materialism]. Unfortunately in such a confrontation, the question of a digital object remains unthought.
I will present these unthoughts as the consequences of naïve materialism and naïve realism. But rather than choosing either side of the paradox mentioned above, I want to problematize the question of ontology [being qua being] and transform it to the question of meaning, in hope of seeking alternative to solve the paradox. The current practice in design of digital objects, especially under the name of social networking and semantic web, is an attempt to create and aggregate logical relations [which I compare with David Hume’s philosophical relations] among different entities. But the way that meanings expressed in logical relations is not able to capture the dynamics of the digital objects. I want to approach the digital objects from the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger, in terms of two different experiences: Erlebnis and Erfahrung. By contrasting them with Frege’s understanding of sense[sinn] and meaning[bedeutung] in classical logic, which I will demonstrate as the foundation of the current industrial practice, I want to criticize the problem of the naïve materialism and naïve realism. We will see that the traditional way to approach a digital object in terms of “objectiveness” and “logical relations”, is dominating the construction of our digital milieu, but it is not able to capture the manifold of meanings of the digital object, which in the end limits the expressiveness of the digital object, and leads to the poverty of the symbols. This analysis points to the critical moment of the transformation of “social” at our time, and tries to open up a new understanding of digital object grounded on its logical, cognitive and cultural meanings.”