Friday, July 30, 2010

Rhetorical Purpose and Onticology (cont.)

I realized that my last post might be read as if I see the receiving object as having the choice to translate however it wants. This is not so. Instead every object exists in an environment for Onticology. And this environment constitutes the scene of the object’s act of translation. As Bryant remarks, “The organism-environment system indeed constrains the development of the phenotype in a variety of ways, defining a topological space of possible variations” (DoO 223). And he continues, “What’s important here is that the information presiding over the genesis of the phenotype is something constructed in the process of the development from a variety of factions, and, moreover, the qualities that the organism comes to embody are not located already in the organism in a virtual or implicit form, but are rather new creations in the process of development” (223). In other words, objects must constantly deal with, work with, or fight against their environments by constantly translating perturbations from other objects in its environment. However, the object itself is constrained in the ways in which it can do so. Therefore, no object can anticipate the perturbations from other objects, nor can any other object anticipate the translations by other objects.

Bryant offers us the following:
Just as other substances in a substance’s environment can only perturb the substance without determining what information events [or translation] will be produced on the basis of these perturbations, the most the substance can do is attempt to perturb other substances without being able to control what sort of information-events are produced in the other substances. And these attempted perturbations can always of course fail. My three year old daughter, for example, might yell at her toy box when she bumps into it, yet the toy box continues on its merry way quite literally unperturbed. Everything spins on recognizing that while objects construct their openness to their environment they do not construct the events that take place in their environment. (224)

Thus, a receiving object, in this case Bryant’s daughter, becomes perturbed by the toy box when she bumps into it. This perturbation is translated by her in a way that produces a yell. A translation that, in this case, has no further effects on the toy box – but this does not mean that it doesn’t have any further effects for her environment, for Bryant might have heard her yell and run to the rescue, or at least turned to see what was causing the commotion. Regardless, Bryant’s daughter was forced to deal with the perturbation (or objet a from my last post) but is constricted in the ways in which she can do this.

What’s important for our understanding of the object-oriented pentad, then, is that it seems as if the scene only becomes apparent after the information-event or act of translation occurs, because only here do we see the constraints from which the receiving object must work, and the further perturbations this object has on other objects. Or, as Burke states, “From the motivational point of view, there is implicit in the quality of a scene the quality of an action that is to take place within it. This would be another way of saying that the act will be consistent with the scene” (Grammar 7). Any environment limits the types of perturbations that can be produced by objects, as does any object’s system.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nate,

    Interesting stuff. I am, however, a little concerned with this formulation:

    "Instead every object exists in an environment for Onticology. And this environment constitutes the scene of the object’s act of translation."

    In a number of ways, this conception of an object's environment is everything I'm arguing against. Objects, as I understand them, do not exist in environments. Nor can environments be understood as scenes. Were this the case, objects could not be withdrawn and they would be thoroughly relational. Rather, all objects construct their environments. This is the paradox of the system/environment, it is a distinction that is drawn by the system itself. The concept of environment is not something an object is in, but refers to the manner in which objects are open to the world. There is no environment as such. Or put in Lacanese, "the environment does not exist." This is also why environment cannot be understood as scene in Burke's sense. Environment originates from agent.

    The example of my daughter is meant to draw attention not to my daughter but the toy box. What is significant in this example is not that she yells, or that she is perturbed, but that the toy box is incapable of responding to speech. Speech does not belong to the toy box's environment. Or rather, speech is incapable of producing system-selective events (information) for the toy box.

    In my view, when talking OOO it's good to attempt avoiding human and social examples (though admittedly I use them a lot). Rather than thinking about what's going on with humans, I instead try to think about how nonhumans "experience" the world. Hence my recent example of grass using humans as its sexual organs, or the toy box not responding to my daughter. I find this way of thinking helpful in revealing hidden assumptions in our ordinary way of talking about things. For example, my discussion of the amoeba at the end of chapter one. Are we constructions of amoebas? Why not? What does that tell us about our powers of construction (it's overstated and results from not shifting perspectives among objects)? This becomes a helpful technique, I think, for redrawing distinctions and unthinking what we've learned.