ArticlePDF Available

Informational Ontology: The Meaning of Gilbert Simondon' s Concept of Individuation

Authors:

Abstract

The French philosopher Gilbert Simondon (1924-1989) was the first true philosopher of information, yet he remains relatively unknown outside of his native France. This situation is curious, given the warm reception his work has received from a small group of internationally renowned thinkers. Simondon's lifelong project was to expound the appearance of what I call an " informational ontology, " a subject that deserves to be addresses at length. This article limits itself by focusing on three aspects of Simondon's philosophy of information. First, it situates Simondon within the French intellectual scene in post-World War II Europe to get sense of his cultural milieu. Second, it positions Simondon's work in the context of the American cybernetic tradition from which it emerged. Finally, it offers an exegesis of Simondon's informational ontology, a radically new materialism that stands to change contemporary debates surrounding issues related to information, communication, and technology.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... If information is despatialised -i.e. taken out of context and fixed somewhere else, transformed into data (Iliadis, 2013) -it becomes part of the moral categorisation and stigmatising statements that contemporary cities have been suffering from. ...
... Here the data are but interfaces, relentlessly, dynamically producing and fixing themselves in layers of interaction among bodies. The focus here is on how flows of data (interpreting data as an externalisation and stratification of ethical affections through information) operate through bodies, how affective and situated activities, at different levels, contribute to (or are spoiled by) the engineering of actions and policies, and how after-event informational traces, far from disappearing, shape the bodies and their process of individuation (Iliadis, 2013) -and are crystallised in layers of raw data, maps, and statistics that may have, in turn, a specific impact over the whole city. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article explores an ethical approach to urban planning, drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy of becoming. A central argument in this study is that the reality policymakers face when deciding how to pursue good (in the moral sense) actions or how to eschew bad ones is ontologically unpredictable and unstable. Unpredictability and instability are characteristics of urban assemblages, which compose and decompose affecting each other in a positive or negative way. Following Deleuze and Spinoza, this paper claims that urban composition and decomposition are good (empowering) and bad (harming), respectively, in an ethical and amoral sense. However, moral and fixed values, often left unchallenged in urban planning and policymaking, fail to describe these ethical transitions among assemblages: in fact, urban planning and policies’ unavoidable conatus, namely their survival as rational system, is to avoid direct confrontation with ethical and dangerous happenings and, instead, increase their power of acting so as to make urban bodies docile, controlled and normalised through standardised moral categories and classifications. These categories are but ethically generated information shorn of their situated and eventful role, acquiring the shape of data and transformed into fixed layers of apparently stable and predictable reality.
... Similar to PDAs perspectives, Johnson (2014) argues that datafied technologies are not neutral, rather they contain norms, assumptions, and privileges (around access, status, and sensemaking) that are embedded in and reaffirmed through datafied technologies. This is especially true in LA technologies, which saturate data with meaningmaking and value (Iliadis, 2013). Taylor (2017) argues that data justice framework is needed to reconsider outcomes with the perspectives and needs of the individual in mind. ...
... Instead, he proposes the transductive operation, i.e., what is transmitted is a pattern of change that modifies the medium itself-for instance the crystal lattice that extends from the germ along the crystallization axis transforming the solution. This conception of information gives room to invention and historicity in the system (Iliadis, 2013). ...
Article
Full-text available
As an alternative to linear and unidimensional perspectives focused mainly on either organic or psychological processes, the enactive approach to life and mind—a branch of 4-E (embodied, embedded, enactive, extended) cognitive theories—offers an integrative framework to study mental disorders that encompasses and articulates organic, sensorimotor, and intersubjective dimensions of embodiment. These three domains are deeply entangled in a non-trivial manner. A question remains on how this systemic and multi-dimensional approach may be applied to our understanding of mental disorders and symptomatic behavior. Drawing on Gilbert Simondon’s philosophy of individuation (focusing particularly on the concepts of tension , metastability , and preindividual ), we provide some enactive conceptual tools to better understand the dynamic, interactive, and multi-dimensional nature of human bodies in mental disorders and psychopathological symptoms. One of such tools cursiva is sense-making, a key notion that captures the relational process of generating meaning by interacting with the sociomaterial environment. The article analyzes five aspects related to sense-making: temporality, adaptivity, the multiplicity of normativities it involves, the fundamental role of tension, and its participatory character. On this basis, we draw certain implications for our understanding of mental disorders and diverse symptoms, and suggest their interpretation in terms of difficulties to transform tensions and perform individuation processes, which result in a reduction of the field of potentialities for self-individuation and sense-making.
... Note that there is an interesting connection between Simondon, cybernetics, and the philosophy of information(Iliadis, 2013). However, I will not further discuss this here.Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. ...
Article
Full-text available
While today there is much discussion about the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI), less work has been done on the philosophical nature of AI. Drawing on Bergson and Ricoeur, this paper proposes to use the concepts of time, process, and narrative to conceptualize AI and its normatively relevant impact on human lives and society. Distinguishing between a number of different ways in which AI and time are related, the paper explores what it means to understand AI as narrative, as process, or as the emergent outcome of processes and narratives. It pays particular attention to what it calls the “narrator” and “time machine” roles of AI and the normative implications of these roles. It argues that AI processes and narratives shape our time and link past, present, and future in particular ways that are ethically and politically significant.
... Also cyberneticists had concerns with the limitations an engineering notion of 'information' could bring. See for example Iliadis (2013) for how cybernetics turned out useful for early thinkers of posthumanism like Gilbert Simondon whose work Iliadis also regards as "an extension of these concerns" (ibid.:5). 31 For a more thorough overview of three modalities of information along which knowledge has been mapped and theoretically legitimized in modern orthodox, thus neoclassical, economics, see Mirowski & Nik-Khah (2017, ch. ...
Thesis
In den letzten Jahren ermöglichen immer leistungsstärkere Rechnerkapazitäten neue Formen der Messung, Produktion, Speicherung, Aggregation und Verarbeitung von Daten(mengen) sowie Vernetzung vormals isolierter Datenbestände. Die damit verbundenen Hoffnungen, so ‚bessere‘ Wissensbestände zu generieren, beschäftigen auch das Feld der Stadtforschung und -entwicklung. In Deutschland bündeln sich diese Ambitionen in der nationalen Smart City Charta. Doch wie wurde es möglich, dass im Westlichen Diskurs ‚Wissen‘ oder ‚Information‘ eine derart zentrale Rolle für die Zukunftsfähigkeit von Städten zugewiesen werden konnte? Und was lässt uns denken, dass eine Vernetzung von ‚Information‘ oder ‚Wissen‘ zu ‚besseren‘ Städten beitragen kann? Auf Grundlage genealogischer und diskursanalytischer Ansätze zeichnet diese Arbeit nach, wie die praktische Arbeit an Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologien und das Aufkommen eines bestimmten, kybernetischen Denkstils Anfang des 20. Jh. die Herausbildung eines digitalen Urbanismus mitformte. Fernab der Frage, ob Städte durch datenintensive Steuerungsmethoden tatsächlich ‚besser‘ geplant werden können, beschäftigt sich die Arbeit mit der Art und Weise, wie Stadt im digitalen Urbanismus problematisiert wird. Dies soll die dominante und wichtige Kritik des digitalen Urbanismus als unternehmerisches Projekt dahingehend erweitern, diesen nicht lediglich als geleitet von (falschen) Interessen zu verstehen, sondern stärkeren Fokus auf die Handlungsträgerschaft der eigentlichen technologischen Infrastrukturen zu legen. Eine reale Konsequenz ist, so eine zentrale Hypothese dieser Arbeit, dass historisch gewachsene städtische Probleme im Diskurs des digitalen Urbanismus zunehmend in Informations-/Kommunikationsprobleme umgedeutet werden. Entsprechend können deren Ursachen in einem Informationsdefizit oder mangelnder Vernetzung verortet werden, sodass datenbasierte Lösungen in Form ‚intelligenter‘ Infrastrukturen erstrebenswert erscheinen. Ein solcher digitaler Urbanismus kann dazu neigen, historisch gewachsene urbane Probleme zu depolitisieren und zentrale Begriffe wie Macht, Politik oder soziale Hierarchien in den Hintergrund rücken zu lassen.
... We can consult on this subject in the work of Laurent Davezies and Thierry Pech [Davezies, Pech, 2014]. We thus find in the concepts of cooperation and mutual aid, a positive complementarity and a mutation catalyst that has as a starting point the individualization of the people involved in the group in the sense of Simondon [Neves, 2011;Chabot, 2013], a true philosopher of information which in his informational ontology, presents a radically new materialism that stands to change contemporary debates surrounding issues related to information, communication, and technology [Iliadis, 2013]. ...
... Screens and digital devices, on the contrary, are quintessential examples of formations, as they install 'a space in which object-images are animated or brought to life in continuous movement' (Lash 2012, 10). Especially the interactive features of digital devices set up new sorts of spaces-times, i.e., new realities that are constantly changing with the individuals and objects it surrounds itself with (Iliadis 2013). The digitalization of (open) education thereby introduces more continuously changing arrangements of practices, i.e., formations, that cannot be captured through external indicators like 'inside', 'outside', 'above' or 'beneath', which necessarily actualize stable forms (Ash 2015;Lury, The Version of Record of this manuscript has been published and is available in Learning, Media and Technology, 4 September 2020, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439884.2020 ...
Article
Full-text available
Captured under the umbrella term Open Education, a wide range of educational initiatives has been popping up in the educational landscape. This study aims to offer empirical ground for understanding how Open Education introduces new forms of education. It does so by focusing on one initiative, namely the Interactive Open Online Courses included in the Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange. Social topology is taken up as a theoretical vantage point, with a dedicated focus on infrastructuring practices. The empirical accounts show how infrastructures stabilize forms of practices, while interplays with infrastructuring practices enact formations, i.e., constantly changing practices. The study finally discusses these interplays, labeled as bouncing and enfolding, as typical to this Open Education initiative. The study concludes by emphasizing how studying this initiative through a social topological lens enabled a position in between positive and negative hyperboles on Open Education, and how this allowed theorizing this movement in terms of continuity and change.
Article
Full-text available
This article develops new theoretical connections that offer insight regarding the status and operation of emotion in digitally mediated environments. I draw on Gilbert Simondon’s concepts of emotion and affectivity—as key dimensions of his philosophy of individuation—to articulate an account that situates emotion at the heart of psychological life, while accounting for its role in the continuous practices of (re)solving psychic and collective tensions. Simondon offers a model of the psychological subject as operating simultaneously in and through relations with itself as subject and with itself as part of the collective. This informs the analysis in this article seeking to demonstrate that the reductionism and individualising operation of emerging digitised models of emotion render them of limited value to understanding emotional life in digital worlds.
Thesis
Full-text available
El problema de la unidad temática en la obra de Gilbert Simondon es una de las cuestiones más discutidas en la literatura sobre el autor. La hipótesis de lectura que plantea la presente tesis ofrecería, por primera vez, una solución verdaderamente satisfactoria a este problema. Se recupera la unidad programática de los textos, el programa de la axiomatización de la ontogénesis, y partiendo de la imagen que encierra el esquema del modulador, el paradigma elemental de la filosofía de la individuación, se elabora una noción paradigmática que permite interpretar esta unidad en comunicación con la unidad anterior en una unidad de génesis, la génesis de esa axiomatización como el esbozo de una teoría de los campos morfogenéticos. La propia elucidación de la noción de relación, entendida como interfaz, abre esta vía. Como resultado de esta investigación, con la invención de un acto enciclopédico que conjugaría los diferentes modos del pensamiento, se pone a punto una máquina de aprendizaje. La filosofía de Simondon se convertirá entonces en una tecnología epistemológica, una razón filosófica abocada a la búsqueda de nuevos paradigmas, y también en una metafilosofía, en cuanto deviene filosofía de la historia de la filosofía. Se rehabilita así un pensamiento ucrónico, retrofuturista, creando las condiciones para un simondonismo que sea tan contemporáneo como es extemporáneo.
Preprint
Full-text available
Memes have become inseparable from the modern digital culture. Instantly shareable, memes fuel the veins of contemporary networked society as a source of entertainment as well as an efficient tool for political activism and mobilization. This thesis draws on the concept of ludic play to examine the blurred lines between humorous engagement and political investment in communities organized around memes on Facebook. Focusing on how participants negotiate normative aspects of memetic culture through the prism of play, it also discusses the role of memes in curating digital content, platform censorship, algorithmic exploitation, normalization of hateful sentiments and other issues in the online-offline nexus.
Chapter
Full-text available
Information is a recognized fundamental notion across the sciences and humanities, which is crucial to understanding physical computation, communication, and human cognition. The Philosophy of Information brings together the most important perspectives on information. It includes major technical approaches, while also setting out the historical backgrounds of information as well as its contemporary role in many academic fields. Also, special unifying topics are high-lighted that play across many fields, while we also aim at identifying relevant themes for philosophical reflection. There is no established area yet of Philosophy of Information, and this Handbook can help shape one, making sure it is well grounded in scientific expertise. As a side benefit, a book like this can facilitate contacts and collaboration among diverse academic milieus sharing a common interest in information.
Article
Addressing techniques Based on the notion of a mode of existence developed by Gilbert Simondon and especially Etienne Souriau, the question of techniques can be addressed without us being limited by the excessive presence of one of the results: technical objects. We can then try to define the mode of the technique as a movement, a project, a pleating, a very particular form of transcendence, which has not received from philosophy the treatment that its importance and ubiquity warrant. The notion of instauration proposed by Souriau enables us to re-examine the question of construction, but freed from the ambiguities of constructivism.
Book
Information is a recognized fundamental notion across the sciences and humanities, which is crucial to understanding physical computation, communication, and human cognition. The Philosophy of Information brings together the most important perspectives on information. It includes major technical approaches, while also setting out the historical backgrounds of information as well as its contemporary role in many academic fields. Also, special unifying topics are high-lighted that play across many fields, while we also aim at identifying relevant themes for philosophical reflection. There is no established area yet of Philosophy of Information, and this Handbook can help shape one, making sure it is well grounded in scientific expertise. As a side benefit, a book like this can facilitate contacts and collaboration among diverse academic milieus sharing a common interest in information.