Spheres and Networks
sense of the word, since as we know from Peter, “
”).Peter and I have proposed to introduce, each in ourown way, two sets of concepts, one coming from spheresand the other from networks. And let me say at thebeginning that I have to agree with Peter that what isusually called networks is an “anemic” conjunctionof two intersecting lines that are even less plausiblethan the vast global space of no space that it pretendsto replace. Fortunately my own notion of network,or rather of actor-network, has borrowed more fromLeibniz and Diderot than from the Internet, and in away, one could say that Peter’s spheres and my networksare two ways of describing monads: Once God is takenout of Leibniz’s monads, there are not many other waysfor them but to become, on the one hand, spheres and,on the other, networks. I’d like to test those two conceptsto see whether they begin to lead us to some testableconclusion—a thought experiment, remember, is indeedan experiment that, even though impractical, should beable to discriminate between arguments.Spheres and networks might not have much incommon, but they have both been elaborated againstthe same sort of enemy: an ancient and constantlydeeper apparent divide between nature and society.
“BEING HAS BEEN TOO SUPERFICIALLY CONSIDERED:DASEIN HAS NO CLOTHES, NO HABITAT, NO BIOLOGY,NO HORMONES, NO ATMOSPHERE AROUND IT, NOMEDICATION, NO VIABLE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMEVEN TO REACH HIS HÜTTE IN THE BLACK FOREST.”
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
,La Jolla, California, 1965. Photo: Ezra Stoller/ESTO.
Bruno Latour, “Networks and Spheres,” February 17,2009, GSD. Photo: Justin Knight.
I was born a Sloterdijkian. When, thirty years ago, I waspreparing the proofs of
, I had includedin the pictures, to the disgust of my scientist informants,a black-and-white photograph of the air-conditionedmachinery of the
in which I had done myﬁeldwork. “What does this has to do with
science?”they asked, to which I could only reply: “Everything.”Without knowing it, I had always been a “spherologist,”as I discovered about twenty years later when I becamefamiliar with Peter Sloterdijk’s work in another locallysituated, air-conditioned place: his school in Karlsruhe,which was separated by no more than one courtyardfrom the
Center for Art and Media
, where I twice hadthe great chance to experiment with installations andexhibitions—what, with Peter Weibel, we call a
or “thought exhibition,” the equivalent in artof a “thought experiment” in science.We are assembled tonight for another thoughtexperiment, namely to imagine on what conditions theworld, at the time of globalization, could be madehabitable—all of those contemporary metaphors havebecome important: sustainable, durable, breathable,livable—and also to explore what would be the idealprogram, curriculum, or school to train its architectsand designers (and “design” is taken here in the largest