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Will we ever be modern?

Dernière mise à jour : 20 janv. 2021

“Today there no longer exists any distance between the natural world and the artificial world, because the latter has become a second nature….When I bring nature up against technology, I do not seek to reconcile myself with nature, but to reconcile myself with technology, by transferring into it this great plankton of mixed materials in which we live.”

- Andrea Branzi, Branzi, ed. Burkhardt and Morozzi

These ideas seemed directly connected to the ones developed by Bruno Latour.

Andrea Branzi, Animali Domestici

I had come over the work of Bruno Latour when studying architecture and in particular while specializing in topics related to the study of cities, in the same frame as studying about Branzi’s work. Within this focus, he was highly regarded as a promoter of complexity, and I had tried reading his essay We have never been modern. Those theories were taught to us as an approach to urban design, directing it towards a bottom up view to a discipline that is very difficult to grasp, due to its scale and complexity. Latour’s work would be a support to view each element of cities as a part of a network that exceeds them.

Each even banal object, that doesn’t usually enter into account when thinking of planning, is part of a mesh that, when traced, can become a starting point for a project.

If I encounter a bottle of water thrown in the street, if I try to trace what it relates to, and build up its network, this can give me massive information about : local and international transports, commercial facilities, resources extraction, access to facilities, sustainability…

The discussions in class and in the text about the actor-network theory were not easy to fully understand, maybe because to do so requires grasping many theories and methodologies that it is built in opposition to. It is very interesting to see the same author, on the same theory, but presented in the frame of a totally new domain. It probably says something about the (desired?) versatility of this thinking. Though I still don’t get all of it, it adds layers of understanding, and opens new perspectives.

If the limit between human and non human becomes blurred by technology merging into bodies, will the opposition that Latour and his colleagues deplore still hold?

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