'Copyfight', Critical Keywords for the Digital Humanities (Lüneburg: Centre for Digital Cultures, Leuphana University, 2014).

Open Education: A Study in Disruption (London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2014) - book co-authored by Coventry’s Open Media Group and Mute Publishing, and designed as a critical experiment with collaborative, processual writing. (Open access version available here.)

A performative project Janneke Adema has put together, based on our ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’ article for New Formations.


'Towards a Post-Digital Humanities: Cultural Analytics and the Computational Turn to Data-Driven Scholarship', American Literature, Volume 85, Number 4, December, 2013.

Pirate Philosophy

'Pirate Radical Philosophy', Radical Philosophy: A Journal of Socialist and Feminist Philosophy, 173, May/June, 2012.

Piracy and the law

Lecture on pirate philosophy

Special issue of Culture Machine on pirate philosophy

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here, in the OA archive CSeARCH or in Coventry University's online repository CURVE here

'The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists' Books and Radical Open Access' (co-authored with Janneke Adema), Materialities of the Text issue of New Formations, Number 78, Summer, 2013.

Forget the Book: Writing in the Age of Digital Publishing, with Doug Sery, Sean Cubitt and Sarah Kember, CREATe at Goldsmiths, University of London, 25 May, 2013.

Lecture on 'Radical open access in the humanities: or, will the future editors of Žižek have to publish his tweets?' at Columbia University


The Aesthetics of the Humanities: Towards a Poetic Knowledge Production

The Centre for Disruptive Media presents

Disrupting the Humanities
A series of 3 half-day seminars looking at research and scholarship in a 'posthumanities' context, organised by the Centre for Disruptive Media at Coventry University, and held over the course of spring and summer, 2014. Disrupting the Humanities will both critically engage with the humanist legacy of the humanities, and creatively explore alternative and affirmative possible futures for the humanities.

The second seminar will take place on Wednesday June 11th at Coventry University (ETG34) from 2:30-6:00pm

The Aesthetics of the Humanities: Towards a Poetic Knowledge Production


Erin Manning (Concordia University)
Søren Pold (Aarhus University)
Johanna Drucker (UCLA)
Silvio Lorusso (IUAV University of Venice)

The event is free but registration is recommended to ensure a place

The Aesthetics of the Humanities: Towards a Poetic Knowledge Production

The increasing use of digital tools and interfaces to represent scholarly materials has once again drawn our attention to both the importance of aesthetics in the (digital) humanities and to questions of form, design and poetics in relationship to our systems and practices of knowledge production. In this respect, imagining how creativity, reasoning, interpretation and aesthetics are intrinsically entangled, would be the start of a critique of what can still be seen as one of the major oppositions structuring humanities scholarship: an opposition between, on the one hand, more rationalistic, conceptual and objectifying tendencies in knowledge production and representation and, on the other, the role played by subjectivity, artfulness, feeling, experience and sensory aspects in research practices as well as in their media of dissemination and communication.

This critique has been triggered by, among other things, new data visualisation tools and methods. These tools and methods offer alternative ways of representing information and of thinking about information aesthetics or 'infosthetics'. But what does this mean for our conventional ways of reading, understanding and analysing data and information? What is the role of design and aesthetics in knowledge formation? And what is gained or lost at the hands of these new ways of extracting and representing data? These are just some of the questions that will be addressed by our international cast of speakers.

In the process, this seminar will examine how such developments relate to the humanities in particular, as a field with a history of resistance to more visual forms of knowledge representation and production? Such conservatism on the part of the humanities is intrinsically bound-up with its textual condition - what Jessica Pressman has called its 'aesthetics of bookishness'. At the same time the multimodality of the digital medium has fuelled the idea that scholarly content is separate from its material instantiation or presentation. There is a felt need to emphasise again how a media's materiality or specific format influences its meaning and use. From this point of view, if we pay more attention to the performative aspects of materiality, of media, and of design, then we might be more receptive to seeing the ideology that is inherent in our representations and the politics that is instantiated in our continued practical iterations of these representations. Interfaces are not merely representing our information and data, they are creating and interpreting it too. Yet how is this interpretation being represented and performed?

One response would be to extend our visual epistemologies by stimulating humanist training in visual representation, interface critique, and design tools and methodologies. But, as scholars, do we not also need to become more involved in the actual design, visualisation, and performance of our materials, so as to generate new relationships between data and interpretation, and explore what can be thought of as a new poetics of scholarship?

Wednesday June 11th
Coventry University
Jordan Well
Ellen Terry Building, Room 34 (ETG34)
CV1 5RW Coventry
United Kingdom


Capitalism vs Communism: Copyfight

An interesting dispute is currently taking place between the online community of readers of radical political thought and the independent radical publisher Lawrence & Wishart.

The dispute concerns Lawrence & Wishart's request that the Marxists Internet Archive delete ten copies of the scholarly edition of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels for which the former owns copyright. Lawrence & Wishart – at one point in its history the Communist Party of Great Britain’s publishing house - are making this request because they wish to enter into an arrangement with a distributor to sell a digital version of the Collected Works, which runs to fifty volumes in all, to university libraries internationally, to be purchased out of public funds.  However, in the words of one volunteer at the Marxists Internet Archive, this has left Lawrence & Wishart in a situation where it 'wants to spread the words of communism via a capitalistic method'. (A 'Response to Lawrence & Wishart statement on MECW', written on behalf of the Marxists Internet Archive, is available here.)

Lawrence & Wishart thus seem to be facing a similar 'campaign of online abuse' to that which greeted Verso’s December 2009 'cease and desist' letter asking the knowledge-sharing platform AAAAARG.ORG to take down copies of those titles by Žižek, Rancière, Badiou, etc. for which Verso reserves the rights. 

As I pointed out in relation to AAAAARG.ORG’s 'pirating' of texts written by the editorial collective of the journal Radical Philosophy - and some of my own, too - this is one of the problems with our current system of copyright: because it’s one of the main ways in which knowledge and research is commodified and privatised, it makes it very difficult for those who are committed to the struggle against the increasing marketisation of culture and society to unambiguously support defences against infringement on the basis of the protection of economic rights to their commercial exploitation.



Zombie Materialism IV: Performative Materiality and Media Archaeology

(The following is taken from a text called ‘What are the Digital Posthumanities?’. It forms the basis of a chapter of a book I am currently working on, the provisional title of which is Pirate Philosophy. Zombie Materialism I: Derrida vs Deleuze? is available here, Zombie Materialism II: New Materialism here, and Zombie Materialism III: From Materialism to Materials here.)

If we are not to replicate the problems Ingold is in fact identifying in the literature in anthropology and archaeology on material culture - that it actually has surprisingly little to say about materials; that for all its emphasis on the material this literature is more involved with language, writing, theory and philosophy; and that ultimately it reinforces, rather than challenges, the polarity between the material and immaterial, nature and culture – we need to take a great deal of care when it comes to bringing a processual and relational analysis of this kind to bear on approaches associated with the materialist turn in the humanities: neo-materialism, media archaeology, object-oriented philosophy, speculative realism and so on. Why do I say this? Let me take as a brief example Johanna Drucker’s theory of performative materiality, especially as it is articulated in relation to a reading of media archaeology that emerges from two of her recent texts: ‘Understanding Media’, a review essay on Craig Dworkin’s book No Medium; and ‘Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface’. (Media archaeology is of particular interest in this context because, as Drucker makes clear, ‘materiality not only matters in media archaeology’ it is ‘the very subject of study’.)  

In ‘Materials Against Materiality’ Ingold emphasizes it is extremely:

significant that studies of so-called material culture have focused overwhelmingly on processes of consumption rather than production. For such studies take as their starting point a world of objects that has, as it were, already crystallized out from the fluxes of materials and their transformations. At this point materials appear to vanish, swallowed up by the very objects to which they have given birth. That is why we commonly describe materials as ‘raw’ but never ‘cooked’ – for by the time they have congealed into objects they have already disappeared. Thenceforth it is the objects themselves that capture our attention, no longer the materials of which they are made. It is as though our material involvement begins only when the stucco has already hardened on the house-front or the ink already dried on the page. We see the building and not the plaster of its walls; the words and not the ink with which they were written.

It is not difficult to see how a similar conclusion could easily be reached with regard to both: Friedrich Kittler’s concern with the way the physical materiality of ‘real’ consumer media objects such as the gramophone, film and typewriter ‘shaped the very conceptions of literary forms and formats’ (Kittler of course being one of media archaeology’s key influences, even if he never embraced the term himself); and the importance that has subsequently been attached to how the ‘grooves of a wax recording or vinyl record are conceived and understood as writing, thus embodying an epistemological model’ and the reading of that ‘model from the physical artefact, rather than reading the artifact for what it contains’.

The latter is a characteristic media archaeological position, according to Drucker in ‘Understanding Media’. It is one she very much associates with those such as Wolfgang Ernst, Jussi Parikka and Lisa Gitelman who are currently following in Kittler’s tracks by studying the ‘particular material nature’ of media.  On this basis it could be shown that what we are confronted with here are media archaeological studies that, to repeat Ingold’s words, ‘take as their starting point a world of objects that has… already crystallized out from the fluxes of materials and their transformations’, and from which the materials do indeed ‘appear to vanish, swallowed up by the very objects to which they have given birth.’  

I should stress that it is not my intention to imply Drucker has been influenced by Ingold's account of the ‘dead hand of materiality’ when writing either of these essays. (If she has she certainly does not refer to him or his work.)  I am simply taking her reading of media archaeology as an example. For it  seems to me to be not so very far away from the kind of analysis that might very well be produced if we were to try to simply apply Ingold’s critique of materiality to those discourses in the humanities that are associated with new materialism. This can be seen from the way Drucker, in her essay on ‘Performative Materiality’, makes a move very similar to that of Ingold when he distinguishes between the objects of the material world of material culture theorists, on the one hand, and the properties of materials that are processual and relational and regarded as constituents of an environment on the other. In Drucker’s case the distinction that is made is between media archaeology and its emphasis on the material attributes of objects, artifacts and entities, and a perspective that presents the materiality of media more in terms of instability and flux:

Some of the media archaeology approaches to studying in an archaeographology, to use Wolfgang Ernst’s term, reinscribe digital media in an entity-driven approach that is both literal (code as inscription) and virtual (code as model) (Parikka, 2011).  These counteract the model of immateriality, though they do not replace it with a concept of digital flux, or of material as an illusion of stability constituted across instabilities...

Certainly it is tempting to view Drucker’s efforts to extend an ontological understanding of material things based on their properties and capacities, with a performative dimension that ‘suggests that what something is has to be understood in terms of what it does, how it works within machinic, systemic, and cultural domains’, as being capable of leading to a far more subtle and nuanced theory of materiality and materials than media archaeology’s entity-driven approach. And all the more so given Drucker makes the above point concerning media archaeology in the context of a larger argument for the digital humanities to actually re-engage with the mainstream principles of critical theory. It is on this intellectual tradition that she bases her model of performative materiality; and, interestingly, she includes in it not just structuralism and cultural studies, but post-structuralism and deconstruction as well.

Yet things are not quite so simple. (The situation certainly cannot be set up in terms of the new materialism of media archaeology = bad, Drucker’s performative materiality and re-engagement with post-structuralist theory = good.) For it is by no means certain Drucker’s theory of performative media contests the dichotomy between the immaterial and material any more than does media archaeology on her account.  Objects ‘exist in the world’, Drucker writes, ‘but their meaning and value are the result of a performative act of interpretation provoked by their specific qualities.' Yet where do these performative acts and events originate? Are they ontologically distinct from material objects? Materiality clearly ‘provokes the performance’ here. What is less clear is whether she considers the performance itself to be material or whether the performance transcends the material.  

Is what we are presented with by Drucker in the guise of her theory of performative media, then, another case of incorporeal, immaterial minds and their interpretative processes existing in a binary relation – albeit a dynamic one - with the material world, its objects, their qualities and properties?  It is a difficult question to answer.  Still, the above is hopefully enough to show why great care needs to be taken when applying a processual and relational analysis of this nature to those approaches associated with the materialist turn in the humanities. As Drucker’s account of media archaeology and theory of performative materiality illustrates, there is a significant risk in doing so of repeating the problems Ingold identifies in the anthropological and archaeological literature on material culture. We can thus see that determining the extent to which what Ingold reveals about the study of materiality is or is not also the case with regard to media archaeology, neo-materialism, object-oriented philosophy and speculative realism – or indeed performative materialism – is something that requires a careful, rigorous, singular and perhaps even performative engagement with particular thinkers and texts.  Something of the kind I have been attempting with regard to Braidotti’s The Posthuman, in fact.


Zombie Materialism III: From Materialism to Materials

(The following is taken from a text called ‘What are the Digital Posthumanities?’. It forms the basis of a chapter of a book I’m working on, the provisional title of which is Pirate Philosophy. Zombie Materialism I: Derrida vs Deleuze? is available here, and Zombie Materialism II: New Materialism here)

The reason I am interested in the kind prejudice regarding theory I outlined in Zombie Materialism II: New Materialism, is not out of some stubborn refusal to move on and get with the new materialist programme, and insistence on staying where I am by defending the legacy of Derrida and deconstruction - and even, dare I say it, suggesting it be re-engaged. As one of the co-founders of Open Humanities Press I’m partly responsible for the publication of two book series - Graham Harman and Bruno Latour’s New Metaphysics, and Tom Cohen and Claire Colbrook’s Critical Climate Change - that could in their different ways both be said to share Rosi Braidotti’s ‘impatience’ with deconstruction. (Moreover, at least one of these series is explicitly associated with new materialism: Rick Dolphin and Iris van der Tuin’s New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies appears in New Metaphysics, and includes interviews with Manuel DeLanda, Karen Barad, and Quentin Meillassoux, as well as Braidotti herself.)

Nor should any of this be taken as implying that, rather than raising the question of what it means for our ways of being as theorists and philosophers if writing, print-on-paper and the codex book are not regarded as the ‘natural’ or normative media in which ‘theoretical’ research and scholarship are conducted - a question that, as we have seen, can be said to represent part of posthumanism’s own repressed - we should instead continue to concentrate on writing linearly structured, original, fixed and final print-on-paper texts, in uniform multiple-copy editions, on an all rights reserved basis, on the grounds that these too can be considered to be intricately bound up with the material. One of the reasons I’m interested in Derrida (together with Bergson, Deleuze, Braidotti et al) is because his philosophy has the potential to help those of us who are not resistant to thinking through the conditions and assumptions of our own disciplines (such as those that do indeed have to do with writing, print-on-paper and the codex), and who are open to denaturalizing and destabilizing disciplinary formations (including those associated with theory), to avoid slipping into such anti-political moralism ourselves. It can do so by virtue of the way, in its attention to detail and rigour, it teaches us not only to read and (re)write texts hospitably and responsibly. It also encourages us to pay careful attention to how arguments such as those around materiality (and the need to focus on software, hardware, life, biology, genetics, ecology, the environment, electronic waste and so on) are more often than not conducted in the very language and writing that such new materialism is ostensibly trying to move us on from.  In addition, Derrida’s philosophy can help us to avoid the kind of moralism that can be detected in many theories of materialism through the emphasis it places on paying close attention, not just to reading, writing, language and the text - and with them, as we shall see, to the critical and creative rethinking of concepts such as precisely writing, language, text, materiality, matter - but to their material properties, practices and processes of production as well.


Witness the care he devotes to considerations of the stylus or writing instrument, the pen, typewriter (first mechanical then electric), and word processor, the signature, paper, the letter, postcard, ‘mystic wax writing pad’, the book and of course its ‘inside matter’, as well as to the institutions of literature, philosophy and the university.  And that is without even mentioning Derrida’s various creative experiments with the material form, format, size and shape of his texts: the use of multiple columns, extended footnotes and so forth in works such as Dissemination, The Post Card, Glas, ‘Tympan’ and ‘Circumfession’.

It thus comes as no surprise to discover that not all materialists have succumbed to the tendency of zombie theory to position deconstruction in terms of the limitations of its concern with text, signification and the linguistic. In Quantum Anthropologies, Vicki Kirby adopts an highly sophisticated materialist  approach to reading the legacy of Derrida in order to ‘recast the question of the anthropological – the human – in a more profound and destabilizing way than its disciplinary frame will allow’.  Kirby proceeds to criticize as naïve, complacent and lacking in rigour John Protevi’s claim in Political Physics that Derrida’s ‘general text… while inextricably binding force and signification in “making sense””, is not an engagement with matter itself’. In fact, an engagement of this nature is not possible, if  Protevi is to believed, since matter, for deconstruction, ‘remains a concept, a philosopheme to be read in the text of metaphysics’, or else ‘functions as a marker of a radical alterity outside the oppositions that make up the text of metaphysics’.  Kirby condemns this account of deconstruction on Protevi’s part on the grounds that the assumption ‘Derrida's "no outside metaphysics" must exclude matter… entirely misses the extraordinary puzzle of how a system's apparent interiority can incorporate what appears to be separate and different.’ As far as Kirby is concerned, while ‘"text“ and "metaphysics" are sites of excavation, discovery, and reinvention for Derrida, Protevi uncritically embraces their received meanings’.

There are many Deleuze's

It is also worth pointing out that not all Deleuzian’s have adopted a moralistic approach to materialism. If, for Kirby, ‘there are many Derrida’s’,  then there are many Deleuze’s too! One of the most interesting articulations of a materialist ontology inspired by Bergson and Deleuze is that provided by Tim Ingold, another anthropologist, in an essay called ‘Materials Against Materiality’ that can be found in his book, Being Alive. Ingold notes how, despite the impression it gives, ‘the ever-growing literature … that deals explicitly with the subjects of materiality and material culture seems to have hardly anything to say about materials’:  about the very matter of bodies, non-human objects and the environment. Instead, the concern of those emphasizing the importance of materiality is primarily with the language and writing of other theorists and philosophers. The materials meanwhile have gone missing.

As his title suggests, Ingold recommends a shift in attention from ‘the materiality of objects’ precisely to ‘the properties of materials’. It is a shift that once made is capable of exposing:

a tangled web of meandrine complexity, in which – among a myriad of other things – the secretions of gall wasps get caught up with old iron, acacia sap, goose feathers and calf-skins, and the residue from heated limestone mixes with emissions from pigs, cattle, hens and bees. For materials such as these do not present themselves as tokens of some common essence – materiality – that endows every worldly entity with its ‘objectness’; rather, they partake in the very processes of the world’s ongoing generation and regeneration, of which things such as manuscripts or house-fronts are impermanent by-products.

Hopefully all this explains why I do not want to oppose the tradition of Spinoza, Bergson, Deleuze and Guattari to that of Derrida here. It is not hard to see how even a rigorous reading of Deleuze’s materialist philosophy can be employed to show that deconstruction is actually far more concerned with matter, materials and material factors than a lot of erstwhile (new) materialism.

In fact, according to Ingold, far from helping to theorize the material, the concept of materiality as it features in a lot of studies of material culture serves to reinforce, rather than overcome, the classical dualities and dialectical (Latour would call them modern) oppositions between nature and culture, immaterial and material, language and reality, things and words, body and mind. This is because a part of the material world such as a rock or stone tends to be considered by discourses on materiality as ‘both a lump of matter that can be analysed for its physical properties and an object whose significance is drawn from its incorporation into the context of human affairs’. For Ingold, however:

humans figure as much within the context for stones as do stones within the context for humans. And these contexts, far from lying on disparate levels of being, respectively social and natural, are established as overlapping regions of the same world. It is not as though this world were one of brute physicality, of mere matter, until people appeared on the scene to give it form and meaning. Stones, too, have histories, forged in ongoing relations with surroundings that may or may not include human beings and much else besides.

He thus takes great care to distinguish between ‘the material world’ of material culture theorists and a ‘world of materials’ or, better, the environment. The material world exists in and for itself. The environment, by contrast:

is a world that continually unfolds in relation to the beings that make a living there… And as the environment unfolds, so the materials of which it is comprised do not exist – like the objects of the material world – but occur. Thus the properties of materials, regarded as constituents of an environment, cannot be identified as fixed, essential attributes of things, but are rather processual and relational. They are neither objectively determined nor subjectively imagined but practically experienced. In that sense, every property is a condensed story. To describe the properties of materials is to tell the stories of what happens to them as they flow, mix and mutate. 



Disrupting the Humanities

The Centre for Disruptive Media presents

Disrupting the Humanities
A series of 3 half-day seminars looking at research and scholarship in a 'posthumanities' context, organised by the Centre for Disruptive Media at Coventry University, and held over the course of spring and summer, 2014. Disrupting the Humanities will both critically engage with the humanist legacy of the humanities, and creatively explore alternative and affirmative possible futures for the humanities.

The first seminar will take place on Friday March 7th at Coventry University (ET130) from 1:15-6:00pm

Disrupting the Scholarly Establishment: How To Create Alternative and Affirmative Humanities Institutions?

Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths/CREATe)
Endre Dányi (Mattering Press)
Craig Saper (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Karen Newman (Coventry University)

Mark Amerika (The University of Colorado Boulder)

The event is free but registration is recommended to ensure a place

Disrupting the Scholarly Establishment: How To Create Alternative and Affirmative Humanities Institutions?

The first seminar in the series, Disrupting the Scholarly Establishment, focuses on alternative ways of creating, performing and circulating research and scholarship in a posthumanities context. It brings together scholars and practitioners who have actively tried to rethink some of the humanities' established forms and methods in an affirmative way by experimenting with the establishment of new academic organisations and institutions.

In the first seminar panel, Scholarly publishing: scholar-led initiatives and experiments in digital publishing, Sarah Kember, EndreDányi and Craig Saper will discuss a number of initiatives  that reimagine the relationship between authors, publishers, distributors, libraries and readers. The aim of these initiatives is to createmore opportunities for the  publication and circulation of the kind of work that the established, 'legacy' publishers increasingly regard as being too difficult, experimental, radical, specialised or avant-garde to be economically viable.

In the second panel, Art education: practice-based research and open art education: new structures and new institutions, Karen Newman and Mark Amerika  will address recent developments in open art education and practice-based research. They will explore how we can establish new structures and new institutions that challenge some of the divisions that still exist between art practice and scholarly research, between the lecturer and the learner, and between the learning space of the classroom and the 'outside world'.
Friday March 7th
Coventry University
Jordan Well
Ellen Terry Building, Room 130 (ET130)
CV1 5RW Coventry
United Kingdom

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