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Actor-Network Theory

Just in time to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Mathias Rust’s famous vacation to Moscow, Russian Magazine Project International features this month an old cartoon from this blog. Actually -unlike Mr. Rust- I came in as a guest. Last month, Sergei Sitar, from Project Russia, contacted me in order to publish one of the Latour&Sloterdijk cartoons done on occasion of the “Networks and Spheres” lecture at Harvard GSD on 2009.

Project Russia is the head of an editorial project launched in 1966 by The A-Fond Foundation with the aim to support the development of architecture and design in Post-soviet Russia. Based in Moscow and published both in English and Russian, it has spawned several other publications. Among those, Project International (Проект International), launched in 2001 and published in Russian, was conceived as a window for Russian architects onto the international scenery, and along with international practices includes a section publishing translations of Western architectural theory centerpieces and adjacent philosophical/cultural/social studies texts – Heidegger, Foucault, Baudrillard, Virilio, Lefebvre, Harvey, Mitchell, Jameson. This last issue includes a translation of the double lecture by Bruno Latour and Peter Sloterdijk, “Networks and Spheres: Two Ways to Reinterpret Globalization” that was originally published in the Harvard Design Magazine, Spring/Summer 2009, issue 30 (pdf here). And -hence- the drawing.

It will never cease to amaze me how Internet, especially since the irruption of blog culture, is changing the face and mechanics not just of communication, but, more interestingly, of creation itself. Rather than globalization, it is de-localization, in its various meanings, which is altering, feeding, fostering and even plainly making possible the development of practices that before the WWW would have been suffocated before birth. The advent of the internet and its increasing user-friendliness  supports, with its expanded exposure, creation of any kind, finding a way to find an audience for niche interests that would otherwise be condemned to remain unarticulated in their geeks’ minds or sitting in a drawer in their way towards the recycle bin. Internet self-publishing makes it normal to produce for an audience that’s half a world away, de-localizing production/creation to an extent that it may be easier for you to publish in another continent than in your home town.  It’s funny that the perfect expression of this glocality (apologies) in the context of this blog finds its place by means of a cartoon on Bruno Latour (pity they didn’t choose Latour in Urbicande, instead).

Anyway, for those among you who can read Russian -and for me while I wait for the paper copies to arrive- there you have a  scan of the cartoon as published, so that you can tell me about the translation. Only thing I miss is that they didn’t translate the balloons themselves. It would have been intriguing to see the cartoons speaking in Cyrillic lettering.  Although that’s something that will be solved in a different forthcoming publication.

click to enlarge


Click to enlarge

“Octobre 17:

The physical manifestation of the actor-network theory reappeared last night. I took a couple of Glocalyne tablets, but they just seemed to worsen the effect.It seems delightfully paradoxical that this state of hyperconnectivity has confined me to the solitude of my room…”


Hmm… After a couple of weeks of obscurity, I’ve decided to shed some light on this drawing, a cross-breeding between Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory and Schuiten&Peeters’ La fièvre d’Urbicande (with a little bit of L’Étrange cas du docteur Abraham). Although it had rested in a drawer for a long time, it got finally done after watching one of Schuiten and Peeters’ delightful performances at the Once Upon a Place conference in Lisbon.

For some insight about the ANT, I would go to Anthem, “a gathering of human and nonhuman actors that are interested in both actor-network theory and the work of Martin Heidegger” that has become the online referent for Latour studies. For more on the obscure yet fascinating work of Franco-Belgian megastars Schuiten and Peeters, check Urbicande or the über-comprehensive Obskür (Spanish readers, might want to go here). The complete text of “On the Difficulty of Being Glocal” can be found in this older -and even more obscure- post.

And for more on Bruno Latour check out the Latour category in the blog (WARNING: There’s some Sloterdijk scattered in there, too).

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