“The Anthropocene is Merely a Symptom:” Metaphysics, Technology and the Artificial

Clive Dilnot
Wednesday, 24 May, 2017 - 17:00
Classroom @ M-ITI, Floor -2, Polo Científico e Tecnológico da Madeira


The Anthropocene is real but it is a symptom of a larger shift to the artificial.  This talk is about ways in which we might think this deeper shift, which means how we might think the nature of the epoch we are emerging into where the artificial constitutes and the horizon, medium and prime condition of our existence and thus the very core of being. This shift has profound implications for how we think of design and more broadly technology.  I will try to lighten this ‘metaphysical’ concept with some concrete instances that seem to me to intuitively grasp where we are - or which at least perhaps point us in useful directions.  

My argument is that to cope with this new world we not only have understood that we are entering into a qualitatively new historical epoch, one that grows out of the industrial period but which operates to a different dynamic, we also need a new kind of metaphysical mind map. If we are not to descend into technocracy and/or barbarism we need to be able to think about the artificial differently than we have. The modern conception of being, essentially based on the notion of a fixed ground plan of objects that can be ‘seen through’ and controlled by calculation (the world of representation and “data” which has dominated in the west since the C16th) and was constituted a new and entire world on that basis is now giving way to another model where we see being as essentially contingent; where mediation, the propositional and the possible (the very condition of the artificial) are predominant conditions of what-is. 

Short Bio:

Clive Dilnot is currently professor of design studies at the Parsons School of Design and The New School in New York teaching through the school of Art Design History and Theory. Educated as a fine artist, and later in social philosophy he has taught world-wide including at Harvard University, the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and in Hongkong as well as in Australia and the UK. Recent publications includeEthics? Design? (Archeworks, 2005) the essay for Chris Killip’s Pirelli Work (Steidl, 2006); the co-authored Design and The Question of History (2015). He is the editor of A John Heskett Reader: Design History Economics (2016) and of Heskett's seminar Design and the Creation of Value (2017). He is currently working on a four-volume series Thinking Design: On History; On Ethics; On Knowledge; On Configuration(Bloomsbury, 2019-20) and is founder editor of a new series of short texts and polemical essays Designing for Dark Times/the Urgency of the Possible.