Notes from “Meeting the Universe Halfway”

Phenomena: the primary ontological unit as in the differential patters of mattering; the ontological inseparability, or entanglement of intra-acting agencies; they are not produced in a lab and engineered by humans but through complex agential intra-actions of multiple material-discursive practices or apparatuses of bodily production.

Reality: it is composed not of things-in-themselves or things-behind-phenomena but of things-in-phenomena.

Intra-actions instead of interactions: relata do not preexist but emerge through specific intra-actions. Agential intra-actions are specific causal material enactments that may or may not involve “humans.”

Posthumanism: it marks the practice of accounting for the boundary-making practices by which the “human” and its others are differentially delineated and defined; it refuses the idea of a natural division between nature and culture.

Matter: it is neither fixed and given nor the mere end result of different processes. Matter is produced and productive, generated and generative. Matter is agentive, not a fixed essence or property of things. Mattering is differentiating, and which differences come to matter, matter in the iterative production of different differences. The world is an open process of mattering through which mattering itself acquires meaning and form through the realization of different agential possibilities. The universe is agential intra-activity in its becoming; Matter is always already an ongoing historicity; it is substance in its intra-active becoming-not a thing but a doing, a congealing of agency. Matter is a stabilizing and destabilizing process of iterative intra-activity; matter comes to matter through the iterative intra-activity of the world in its becoming.

Apparatuses: they are specific material reconfigurings of the world that do not merely emerge in time but iteratively reconfigure space-time-matter as part of the ongoing dynamism of becoming; they are not passive observing instruments; on the contrary, they are productive of (and part of) phenomena; they are discursive practices.

Discursive practices: Discourse is not what is said ; it is that which constrains and enables what can be said; they define what counts as meaningful statements; they are specific material reconfigurings through which “objects” and “subjects” are produced; they are specific material (re)configurings of the world through which the determination of boundaries, properties, and meanings is differentially enacted.

Agential Realist Ontology: it refuses representationalism in favor of a relationality between specific material (re)configurations of the world through which boundaries, properties and meanings are differentially enacted and (form?) specific material phenomena.

Knowing: is a matter of intra-acting; it entails specific practices through which the world is differentially articulated and accounted for; it entails differential responsiveness and accountability as part of a network of performances; it is not a bounded or closed practice but an ongoing performance of the world.

Εthics: it is not simply about responsible actions in relation to human experiences of the world; rather, it is a question of material entanglements and how each intra-action matters in the reconfiguring of these entanglements, that is, it is a matter of the ethical call that is embodied in the very worlding of the world.

Humans: to the extent that concepts, laboratory manipulations, observational interventions, and other human practices have a role to play, it is as part of the larger material configuration of the world. That is, the phenomena produced are not the consequences of human will or intentionality or the effects of the operations of Culture, Language, or Power. Humans do not merely assemble different apparatuses for satisfying particular knowledge projects; they themselves are part of the ongoing reconfiguring of the world (…) That is, human bodies, like all other bodies, are not entities with inherent boundaries and properties but phenomena that acquire specific boundaries and properties through the open-ended dynamics of intra-activity. Humans are part of the world-body space in its dynamic structuration.

Objectivity: (In Bohr’s account), objectivity is a matter of the unambiguous communication of the results of reproducible experiments, hereby replaced by agential separability-an agentially enacted ontological separability within the phenomenon.


Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham; London: Duke University Press.

Smells like connectivism: Donna Haraway’s concept of situated knowledges

Text is written in 1988. I found affiliations to Morin’s Generalised Complexity (contradicting reductionism, resisting simplification), ANT (objects are actors/agents), CoPs (accountability as in critical positioning) and connectivism (knowledge as a multiplicity of locations/translations, constituted through webbed connections, forming nodes etc). Overall a must read.

Webs (and local knowledge) | (…) (Feminists) need an earth-wide network of connections, including the ability partially to translate knowledges among very different -and power differentiated communities. The alternative to relativism is partial, locatable, critical knowledges sustaining the possibility of webs of connections called solidarity in politics and shared conversations in epistemology (…) local knowledges have also to be in tension with the productive structurings that force unequal translations exchanges -material and semiotic- within the webs of knowledge and power. Webs can have the property of being systematic, even of being centrally structured global systems with deep filaments and tenacious tendrils into time, space and consciousness, which are the dimensions of world history (…) feminist embodiment resists fixation and is insatiably curious about the webs of different positioning.

Accountability | Feminist accountability requires a knowledge tuned to reasonance, not to dichotomy (…) science becomes the myth, of not what escapes human agency and responsibility in a realm above the fray, but rather, of accountability and responsibility for translations and solidarities linking the cacophonous visions and visionary voices that characterise the knowledge of the subjugated (…) the “equality” of positioning is a denial of responsibility and critical inquiry (…) positioning implies responsibility for our enabling practices.

Objectivity | Feminist objectivity means quite simply situated knowledges (…) objectivity turns out to be about the particular and specific embodiment (…) only partial perspective promises objective vision (…) Feminist objectivity is about limited location and situated knowledge not about transcendence and splitting of subject and object (…) the imaginary and the rational -the visionary and the objective vision- hover close together (…) I want to argue for a doctrine and practice of objectivity that privileges contestation, deconstruction, passionate construction, webbed connections and hope of transformation of systems of knowledge (knowledge potent for constructing worlds less organised by axes of domination) and ways of seeing (…) We are not immediately present to ourselves (…) there is no way to be simultaneously in all, or wholly in any, of the privileged (ie subjugated) positions of gender, race, nation and class (…) there is not immediate vision from the standpoints of the subjugated. Identity, including self-identity, does not produce science; critical positioning does, that is, objectivity.

Location | The issue in politically engaged attacks on various empiricisms, reductionisms, or other versions of scientific authority should not be relativism -but location (…) Feminist embodiment, then, is not about fixed location in a reified body, female of otherwise, but about nodes in fields, inflections in orientations, and responsibility for difference in material-semiotic fields of meaning (…) Location is about vulnerability; location resists the politics of closure, finality, or simplification. Situated knowledges require that the object of knowledge be pictured as an actor and an agent, not as a screen, or a ground, or a resource, never finally as slave to a master that closes off the dialectic in his unique agency and his authorship of “objectivist” knowledge


Haraway, D. (1988). Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3), (Autumn, 1988), pp. 575-599.

Associology Uncertainties

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First source of uncertainties: No Group, Only Group Formation | Intermediaries versus Mediators | Intermediaries: is what transports meaning or force without transformation/ defining input is enough to define output | Mediators: they transform, translate, distort and modify the meaning or the elements they are supposed to carry/ their input is never a good predictor of their output. (Groups are made)

Second source of uncertainties: Action is overtaken | Who and what is acting when we act? Actor is not the source of an action but ‘the moving target of a vast array of entities swarming toward it.’ An actor on stage is never alone in acting. By definition action is dislocated (…) Just as actors are constantly engaged by others in group formation and destruction (the first uncertainty), they engage in providing controversial accounts for their actions as well as for those of others (…) Will we have the courage not to substitute an unknown expression for a well-known one? (…) We have to resist pretending that actors have only a language while the analyst possesses the metalanguage in which the first is ‘embedded’. (agencies are explored)

Third source of uncertainties: Objects too have agency | power, like society, is the final result of a process and not a reservoir, a stock, or a capital that will automatically provide an explanation. Power and domination have to be produced, made up, composed (…) the flagrant asymmetry of resources does not mean that they are generated by social asymmetries. (Social) is an association between entities which are in no way recognizable as being social in the ordinary manner, except during the brief moment when they are reshuffled together (…) what is new is that objects are suddenly highlighted not only as being full-blown actors, but also as what explains the contrasted landscape we started with, the overarching powers of society, the huge asymmetries, the crushing exercise of power (…) objects overflow their makers, intermediaries become mediators. (objects play a role: they become from intermediaries to mediators)

Fourth source of uncertainties: Matters of Fact vs Matters of Concern|Even more so than in art, architecture, and engineering, science offered the most extreme cases of complete artificiality and complete objectivity moving in parallel (…) we began using the expression ‘construction of facts’ to describe the striking phenomenon of artificiality and reality marching in step (…) for other colleagues in the social as well as natural sciences the word construction meant something entirely different: made up and false (…) Objects of science may explain the social, not the other way around (…) ‘factors’ are unable to transport any action through any event reduced to the status of intermediary (…) a concatenation of mediators does not trace the same connections and does not require the same type of explanations as a retinue of intermediaries transporting a cause (…) the word ‘translation’ now takes on a somewhat specialized meaning: a relation that does not transport causality but induces two mediators into coexisting (…) there is no society, no social realm, and no social ties, but there exist translations between mediators that may generate traceable associations (…) How could a fact be that solid if it is also fabricated? (…) The discussion begins to shift for good when one introduces not matters of fact, but what I now call matters of concern (…) It is the thing itself that has been allowed to be deployed as multiple and thus allowed to be grasped through different viewpoints, before being possibly unified in some later stage depending on the abilities of the collective to unify them (…) Once you learn how to respect shifting ontologies, you can tackle more difficult entities for which the question of reality has been simply squeezed out of existence by the weight of social explanations

Fifth (and final) source of uncertainties: Writing Down Risky Accounts (networks)|namely an uncertainty about the study itself: bring into the foreground the very making of reports (…) A text, in our definition of social science, is thus a test on how many actors the writer is able to treat as mediators and how far he or she is able to achieve the social (…) (The Network) is nothing more than an indicator of the quality of a text about the topics at hand.It qualifies its objectivity, that is, the ability of each actor to make other actors do unexpected things. A good text elicits networks of actors when it allows the writer to trace a set of relations defined as so many translations (…) So, network is an expression to check how much energy, movement, and specificity our own reports are able to capture (…) The fact is that no one has the answers—this is why they have to be collectively staged, stabilized, and revised (…) Assembled around the ‘laboratory’ of the text, authors as well as readers may begin to render visible the two mechanisms that account for the plurality of associations to be taken into account and for the stabilization or unification of the world they wish to live in (…) We, the little ants, should not settle for heaven or hell, as there are plenty of things on this earth to munch our way through.


Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Full text available here

Algorithmic ethics

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In 2015, Grosz designed a new course called “Intelligent Systems: Design and Ethical Challenges that combined technical content with a series of real-life ethical conundrums and the relevant philosophical theories necessary to evaluate them.

Embedding ethics across the curriculum helps computer science students see how ethical issues can arise from many contexts, issues ranging from the way social networks facilitate the spread of false information to censorship to machine-learning techniques that empower statistical inferences in employment and in the criminal justice system.

Full article in Harvard Gazette, available here

Existential Intelligence


Existential intelligence is the ability to use intuition, thought and meta-cognition to ask (and answer) deep questions about human existence (…) An element of existential intelligence, is recognizing and understand our interconnectedness with the world around us and the universe at large (…) being able to perceive the bigger picture or in other words, to conceive our lives and every-day actions in the context of the grand cosmic arena (…) It involves acknowledging our place in the cosmos and stepping back and contemplating our purpose in the grand scheme of things (…)

One of the most important components of effective 21st-century teaching, is recognizing the different forms of intelligences and catering to the unique abilities of all students. Howard Gardner, a pioneer of this perspective, differentiates intelligence into distinct ‘modalities’, as opposed to a single general ability. These include: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. Based on two decades of brain research, the theory suggests that we all have all these intelligences in varying degrees (…) not many students are empowered to realize that their above-average athletic (bodily-kinesthetic) or social abilities (interpersonal), are an extension of their intelligence. In recent years, Gardner has introduced a ninth, and possibly most significant, form of “smarts” referred to as “existential” intelligence. It is also referred to by others as “cosmic” or “spiritual” intelligence.

when we demonstrate that we can have an influence on the world by observing it, what are the implications of it on our “objective” reality?


Full article available here / Image available here

Philosophical divergences/ convergences



This is a summary of the history of (Western) philosophy showing the positive/negative connections between some of the key ideas/arguments of the philosophers. It’s a never-ending work-in-progress and the current version is mainly based on Bryan Magee’s The Story of Philosophy and Thomas Baldwin’s Contemporary Philosophy, with many other references for specific philosophers/arguments. (The source is noted with the book icon that appears when you click on an argument.)

The capability approach


The capability approach to a person’s advantage is concerned with evaluating it in terms of his or her actual ability to achieve various valuable functionings* a part of living

It differs from other approaches using other informational focuses, for example:

  • personal utility
  • absolute or relative opulence
  • assessments of negative freedoms
  • comparisons of means of freedom
  • comparisons of resource holdings as a basis of just equality

The capability approach is concerned primarily with the identification of value-objects, and sees the evaluative space in terms of functionings and capabilities to function (…) Choices have to be faced in the delineation of the relevant functionings. The format always permits additional ‘achievements’ to be defined and included (…) There is no escape from the problem of evaluation in selecting a class of functionings in the description and appraisal of capabilities (…) (1) What are the objects of value? (2) How
valuable are the respective objects? the identification of the objects of value is
substantively the primary exercise which makes it possible to pursue the second question (…) The identification of the objects of value specifies what may be called an evaluative space (…) The selection of the evaluative space has a good deal of cutting power on its own, both because of what it includes as potentially valuable and because of what it excludes (…) The freedom to lead different types of life is reflected in the person’s capability set.  The capability of a person depends on a variety of factors, including personal characteristics and social arrangements. A full accounting of individual freedom must, of course, go beyond the capabilities of personal living and pay attention to the person’s other objectives, but human capabilities constitute an important part of individual freedom (…) We can make a fourfold classification of points of evaluative interest in assessing human advantage, based on two different distinctions. One distinction is between (1.1) the promotion of the person’s well-being, and (1.2) the pursuit of the person’s overall agency goals (…) The second distinction is between (2.1) achievement, and (2.2) the freedom to achieve (…) The assessment of each of these four types of benefit involves an evaluative exercise, but they are not the same evaluative exercise (…0 The four categories of intrapersonal assessment and interpersonal comparison that follow from these two distinctions (namely, well-being achievement, well-being freedom, agency achievement, and agency freedom) are related to each other, but are not identical

*functionings represent parts of the state of a person–in particular the various things that he or she manages to do or be in leading a life. The capability of a person reflects the alternative combinations of functionings the person can achieve, and from which he or she can choose one collections

Excerpts from Amartyr Sen’s Capability and Well‐Being, full paper available here

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Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System, by Donella Meadows


PLACES TO INTERVENE IN A SYSTEM (in increasing order of effectiveness)

12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards): even though they rarely change behavior

11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows: they are usually physical entities, not easy to change

10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures): they only way to fix a system is to rebuild it, but physical rebuilding is the slowest and most expensive kind of change

9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change: a system just can’t respond to short-term changes when it has long-term delays,a  delay in feedback is critical relative to rates of change in the stocks that the feedback loop is trying to control. it;s easier to slow down the change rate

8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against: one of the biggest mistakes is that we drastically narrow the range of conditions over which the system can survive, the strength of a negative loop is important relative to the impact it is designed to correct (self-correcting) 

7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops: a system with an unchecked positive loop ultimately will destroy itself (self-reinforcing). reducing the gain around a positive loop -slowing the growth- is usually a more powerful leverage point

6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information): missing feedback is one of the most common causes of system malfunction. adding or restoring information can be a powerful intervention, usually much easier and cheaper than rebuilding physical infrastructure

5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints): as we try to imagine restructured rules like that and what our behavior would be under them, we come to understand the power of rules. power over the rules is real power

4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structureSelf-organization means changing any aspect of a system lower on this list — adding completely new physical structures, such as brains or wings or computers — adding new negative or positive loops, or new rules. the ability to self-organize is the strongest form of system resilience. 

3. The goals of the system the goal of a system is a leverage point superior to the self-organizing ability of a system. even people within systems don’t often recognize what whole-system goal they are serving

2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arisesthe shared idea in the minds of society, the great big unstated assumptions — unstated because unnecessary to state; everyone already knows them — constitute that society’s paradigm, or deepest set of beliefs about how the world works (Kuhn: keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you keep coming yourself, and loudly and with assurance from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.)

1. The power to transcend paradigms: that is to keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms, to stay flexible, to realize that NO paradigm is “true,” that every one, including the one that sweetly shapes your own worldview, is a tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe that is far beyond human comprehension

Full article available here/ Image available here

The Rich Gold matrix


The map—a rectangular plot—was parceled into four quadrants, each devoted to a unique view by which to read, and act upon, the world: Science, Engineering, Design and Art. According to (John) Maeda, to each plot a designated mission: to Science, exploration; to Engineering, invention; to Design, communication; to Art, expression. Describing the four “hats” of creativity, Rich Gold had originally drawn the matrix-as-cartoon to communicate four discrete embodiments of creativity and innovation. Mark your mindset, conquer its little acre, and settle in. Gold’s view represents four ways-of-being that are distinctly different from one another, separated by clear intellectual boundaries and mental dispositions. Like the Four Humors, each is regarded as its own substance, to each its content and its countenance. Stated differently, if you’re a citizen in one, you’re a tourist in another.



Oxman, N., 2016. Age of Entanglement. In JoDS, Vol. 1, January 2016. Mentioned here

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Coping with the monsters of technology


The explanation runs as follows. Technological innovation is a rich source of new phenomena. These phenomena have to be appropriated to make them fit into our lives and practices. The appropriation process has various aspects, because new technology has to fit into diverse existing orders: social, technical, organizational and others. During the appropriation process both technology and existing social and technical orders are mutually adapted, as a central insight of Science and Technology Studies (STS) tells us. However, new technology also has to be attuned to cultural order, since our perception of technology is mediated by our cultural categories and contemporary myths regarding nature and what it is to be human. Domestication of new technology is a process in which cultural imagination and technological change are intertwined. (Smits: 499)

Smits detects four types of approaches:

  • exorcism: it demonizes the monsterns and hence expels them from engineering education
  • adaption: it reduces the monsters to rational problems
  • embracement: when we fully accept the monsters as part of reality and are
  • assimilation: portrays the technological monsters in their cultural context and in that way reveals the opposite as uniting rather than absolute (only in MODE 3 knowledge)



Smits, M., Taming monsters: The cultural domestication of new technology. In Technology in Society 28 (2006) 489–504

Borsen, T., Botin, L., 2013. Hybridity and Social responsibility. In Proceedings from the 41st SEFI Conference, 16-20 September 2013, Leuven, Belgium

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The need for a new spirituality/ homo sui transcendentalis


The first motivation for a new spirituality is technoscience, with its associated fabulous economic power, which is simply incompatible with present spiritualities. It drives a hugely irrational force of efficiency for efficiency sake: everything which can be done will be done, for the worst or the best. The second motivation for a new spirituality is the difficulty of the dialogue between different spiritualities, which often appear as antagonistic, as we can testify in our everyday life. The new phenomenon of a planetary terrorism is not foreign to these two problems. In simple words, we need to find a spiritual dimension of democracy. Transdisciplinarity can help with this important advancement of democracy, through its basic notions of “transcultural” and “transreligious” (…) This evolution of mentalities could be achieved only if we perform the unification of Homo religious with Homo economicus (…) Transdisciplinary methodology is able to identify the common germ of homo religiosus and of homo economicus – called homo sui transcendentalis in my Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity



Nicolescu, B., 2010. METHODOLOGY OF TRANSDISCIPLINARITY – LEVELS OF REALITY, LOGIC OF THE INCLUDED MIDDLE AND COMPLEXITY. In Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science Vol: 1, No:1, (December, 2010), pp.19-38

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Methodology of Transdisciplinarity, by B. Nicolescu or ‘We have work to do till the end of time’


Trandisciplinarity is both unified and diverse.

  • Theoretical: general definition of transdisciplinarity and a well-defined methodology (a methodology corresponds to a great number of methods) (Piaget, Morin)/
  • Phenomenological: it implies building models that connect the theoretical principles with the already observed experimental data in order to predict further results. (Gibbons, Nowotny)
  • Experimental: it implies performing experiments following a well-defined procedure

There are degrees of disciplinarity which can more or less completely take into account the three methodological postulates of modern science.

Three axioms of methodology of transdisciplinarity:

  • ontological_there are different levels of Reality of the Object and the Subject (…) reality is both pragmatic and ontological (…) one has to distinguish the words “Real” and “Reality.” Real designates that which is, while Reality is connected to resistance in our human experience (…) no level of Reality constitutes a privileged place from which one is able to understand all the other levels of Reality (…) Every level is characterized by its incompleteness (…) a finite topological distance could contain an infinite number of levels of Reality. We have work to do till the end of time (…) The Gödelian structure of levels of Reality implies the impossibility of a self-enclosed, complete theory. Knowledge is forever open (…) The zone of non-resistance corresponds to the sacred (…) The unity of levels of Reality and its complementary zone of non-resistance constitutes what we call the transdisciplinary Object, Nicolescu asserts that the different levels of Reality of the Object are accessible to our knowledge thanks to the different levels of Reality of the Subject (…) Our ternary partition (Subject, Object, Hidden Third) is, of course, different from the binary partition (Subject vs. Object) of classical realism.
  • logical_the passage from one reality to another is ensured by the logic of the included middle (…) one necessarily discovers contradictions in the theory describing the respective level: one has to assert A and non-A at the same time (…) in the history of science a theory leads to contradictions and one has to invent a new theory solving these contradictions (…) one has to abandon the third axiom of the classical logic [there exists no third term T which i at the same time a and non-A] , imposing the exclusion of the third, the included middle T.
  • complexity_the structure of the totality of levels of Reality or perception is a complex structure, every level is what it is because all the levels exist at the same time (…) It is useful to distinguish between the horizontal complexity, which refers to a single level of reality and vertical complexity, which refers to several levels of Reality. It is also important to note that transversal complexity is different from the vertical, transdisciplinary complexity. Transversal complexity refers to crossing different levels of organization at a single level of Reality (…) complexity is a modern form of the very ancient principle of universal interdependence (…) The principle of universal interdependence entails the maximum possible simplicity that the human mind could imagine, the simplicity of the interaction of all levels of reality. This simplicity cannot be captured by mathematical language, but only by symbolic language. The mathematical language addresses exclusively to the analytical mind, while symbolic language addresses to the totality of the human being, with its thoughts, feelings and body (…)



Nicolescu, B., 2010. METHODOLOGY OF TRANSDISCIPLINARITY – LEVELS OF REALITY, LOGIC OF THE INCLUDED MIDDLE AND COMPLEXITY. In Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering & Science Vol: 1, No:1, (December, 2010), pp.19-38

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