Sprache der Dinge – Language of Things

Materialität, Realität und Konfliktivität in Museologie, Archäologie und anderen dinglichen Wissenschaften / Materiality, reality and conflictivity in museology, archaeology and other material sciences


A digital artefact or: the whole world is entangled. #edcmooc


Its been four weeks now and at the “E-Learning & Digital Culture” -mooc we have been through a lot of thinking on how the human & the digital mingle & intertwine. And for weeks now, there has been one word on my mind; calling, teasing, pushing me to inquire further. Its: entanglement. It has already been present at this blog, right from the start: when writing about the concept of the anthropocene or the exposition Human – Object – Jaguar. When talking about the 2013 conference on materiality and things in Berlin. It has always been here, but now it has reached a new level, a clearer perspective.


Collage entanglements sprachederdingeblog

Collage entanglements sprachederdingeblog

Entanglement is the thing that offers a historical and futuristic perspective on our relationship to the human & digital world and their supposed opposition. The word “digital artifact” in itself evokes a kind of startling opposition – isn’t an artifact to be actually made by a human – by a human hand & to be actually physical, touchable? Well, the opposition between digital & human disappears when you think of my hands writing this text.

tr.v. en·tan·gleden·tan·glingen·tan·gles

1. To twist together or entwine into a confusing mass; snarl.
2. To complicate; confuse.
3. To involve in or as if in a tangle” (as seen here). 
And being thus it has, obviously, much to do with the intertwining spheres of human & digital, if we may apply these distinctions. “Entangled” has also been one of the most discussed topics in archaeology in the last 18 months. “Entangled” by Ian Hodder, has brought to mind the human – object – relations, the object – object – relations and the human – human – relations that define ourselves since human beings have appeared on Earth. But: How does this connect to the theme of #edcmooc?
Well, our human relation to the material, object world has always been complex & manyfolded, implying that it´s not only us, the humans, who are changing and forming objects, but objects form us as well. They change us, and our perception of the world. And objects do have lives with other objects, relating and influencing each other. Its an increasingly complex web of relations, defining human and object nature for several tens of thousands of years. In one case, Humans themselves have been described as objects, “emerging out of nowhere and changing everything” (Bryant 2012 cited in Marila 2013).
Collage entanglements sprachederdingeblog

Collage entanglements sprachederdingeblog

And the implications of this definition of entanglements go even further. If we extend this complex web of relationships to our current societies, then the digital & the human world are intertwined as well, influencing each other in a mutual way. Many of the short films that accompanied the mooc have shown this – from marketing ads up to rather philosophical short films. The debate on transhumanism borders on just this question: who are we, and what objects do enhance or change us when we incorporate them into ourselves and our lives? If “tracing entanglement means making our way through a strongly heterogeneous world & following links and chains” (Pollock et al. 2014 on Hodders “Entangled”), overstepping disciplinary boundaries, than the current intertwining of “digital” & “human” or “real” does just that: it opens a whole world of new links & paths. The point is notify you’re  using your smartphone “only” to check on Facebook or if you’re engaging heavily in internet technology & the digital self, discussing topics like transhumanism and a digital life. We are all changing from this new entanglement, even if we don’t use these new objects & technologies.
Entanglements & the temporal urge of Dis-Entanglements (aka “simplifying your life”, “get back to the essential(s)”) with objects & technologies have ever been part of human life. There is no such thing as a “humanist” era when technology didn’t influence on our “self”, our “minds” or being. We have always been and will always be in motion with the object world that surrounds us. Its not a question of discussion but a fact – a fact we have to consider carefully to take our own steps in this intertwined world of relationships. How far would you like to go? How much are you disposed to invest? And why do you choose to do so?
Street Art, Berlin, Germany sprachederdingeblog

Street Art, Berlin, Germany sprachederdingeblog

Suggested reading:
Marila, M. (2013) Ian Hodder: Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things , Norwegian Archaeological Review, 46:1, 121-123, DOI: 10.1080/00293652.2013.773367
Pollock, S., R. Bernbeck, C. Jauß, J. Greger, C. von Rüden, S. Schreiber, 2014. Entangled Discussions: Talking with Ian Hodder About His Book Entangled, Berlin, 14. December 2013. Forum Kritische Archäologie 3: 151-161.
P.S. I was searching desperately for online ressources to create my digital artifact in another form than a blog post. But unfortunately, there seems to be nothing as flexible as my blog? I wanted this post to be rather like a digital scrapbook to be thumbed through, with pages for pictures and the like, something that included shortcuts, links and text, together with a flexible insertion of my own pictures and drawing and collages. But I couldn’t find anything like that, or rather: not for free. So – I recurred to blogging, after all!