Annual Lecture DER ÖFFENTLICHKEIT ― VON DEN FREUNDEN HAUS DER KUNST: Noortje Marres
Video, Lecture 16.04.15
What makes a public affair?
What brings a public into being? Political theorists have offered different answers to this question. Some emphasize the distinct type of sociability that is required for publics to emerge, such as the willingness to engage with strangers (Warner, 2002). Others insist on the importance of legal and moral frameworks, or the media-technological architectures that public life requires (the public use of reason, freedom of expression, newspapers). The American pragmatists, and specifically the philosopher John Dewey, offered a different suggestion: he proposed that the formation of publics starts with the "happening" of a problem. In Dewey's view, publics arise in the wake of current affairs; they come about when strangers find themselves jointly but antagonistically implicated in a problem (no issue, no public).
In her talk, Noortje Marres will explore this pragmatist understanding of the public and discuss how it can help us appreciate the challenges that the theory and practices of publics face today. After discussing Dewey's concept of the public, she will explore it further through a discussion of contemporary examples. This discussion will focus on three recent projects that were developed at the intersection of art, social research and digital technology: "Spiral Drawing Sunrise" (2008) by Esther Polak, "Nuage Vert" (2011) by HeHe, and "Energy Babble" (2012) by the Interaction Research Studio. Marres will consider three themes in particular. First, she will discuss the role of material environments in the organization of issue-publics. While she argues that its role is not primary, she regards it therefore no less crucial. Second, Marres proposes that what is important about the aforementioned projects is that they bring different 'registers' of publicity into relation: research, politics, art. Finally, she will propose that liveliness – "happeningness" – is a decisive quality of publics. She asks what follows for our understanding of the "efficacy" of publics; of their ability to intervene in political and cultural life?
Noortje Marres studied sociology and philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and the École des Mines in Paris. She currently teaches sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she also directs the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process (CSISP). Her work investigates relations between technology, democracy, and the environment by various means: social and political theory, empirical research, and in collaboration with artists and designers. Her first book, "Material Participation" (Palgrave, 2012) was recently released in paperback, and she is currently writing a second: "Digital Sociology: the Reinvention of Social Research" (Polity).
Stretch your view
Stretch your view
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