'Filosofía pirata, edición libre', discussion with Perro Tuerto y Pucho (El Rancho Electrónico) y Gabriela Méndez Cota (Universidad Iberoamericana) for the Mexico city radio station Ibero, September 12, 2019.

Open Humanities Press – The Inhumanist Manifesto

Pirate Philosophy, This Is Not A Pipe Podcast

HyperCritical Theory

Übercapitalism and What Can Be Done About It

Recent publications

Masked Media (limited edition paper-only publication for The House That Heals The Soul exhibition, Tetley, Leeds, 2018) 

 The Inhumanist Manifesto: Extended Play (Techne Lab, 2017)

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here in Media Gifts or in Coventry University's online repositories PURE here, and CURVE here 

Radical Open Access

« Thinking With Media Technologies | Main | Liberalism as a 'Way of Doing Things': Why Monkeys Should Be Able to Own Copyright »

From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg 

(What follows is the third part of an interview, 'Just Because You Write about Posthumanism Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t a Liberal Humanist: An Interview with Gary Hall' by Francien Broekhuizen, Simon Dawes, Danai Mikelli and Poppy Wilde. It is published in the MeCCSA-PGN Conference 2015 issue of Networking Knowledge, Vol 9, No 1 (2016). The first part of the interview, 'Neoliberal Subjectivation', is available here; the second part, 'Liberalism as a "Way of Doing Things"', here.)

THE EDITORS: In the conference you also talked about the shift from a Gutenberg to a Zuckerberg galaxy. Could you elaborate on that? 


GARY HALL: What I was referring to is the idea that the development of the print codex book and the related requirement for closed spaces in which to read and write has had a fundamental role in the emergence of modern subjectivity – along with the associated notions of the rational liberal individual, linear thought (and the related long-form argument), critical reflection (the grammatical rules used in the production of linear written texts constituting a test for reason), and also the public/private distinction. The work of Vilém Flusser, Walter Ong and Bernard Stiegler should all be mentioned in this context. Without doubt, however, the most famous expression of this idea remains that of Marshall McLuhan

It is this Gutenberg galaxy, as McLuhan calls it, which is seen as having played a large part in giving us our sense of the private individual. Moving quickly again, this occured because once books became widely available thanks to the invention of the printing press, private spaces were needed in which they could be read, concentrated on and thought about: a study or ‘room of one’s own’, to borrow the words of Virginia Woolf. The provision of just such a study area is one of the functions libraries have fulfilled: historically, they have provided the kind of quiet, solitary spaces for the reading and contemplation of books that have helped to form our subjectivities, our sense of the individual, our sense of the difference between the public and the private. 

Now, if the development of the print book has had a significant role in the emergence of modern subjectivity and consciousness, it follows that the ideas readers and writers have are not separate and distinct from the material apparatuses with which those ideas are physically created, published and circulated. Rather, we can see that things and words, body and mind, language and reality, the so-called immaterial and material are enmeshed here – to the point where the material qualities and properties of books form the environmental pre-conditions for the constitution of the ideas they carry and convey. (Although it’s worth emphasising that they don’t determine those ideas; not least because there are other forces and energies at work that are non-technological and media related. So this is not a theory of technogenesis, for me: it’s not that human development has gone hand in hand only with technological development). 

However, we can now be said to be in the process of leaving the Gutenberg era and moving instead into what I was teasingly referring to as the Zuckerberg galaxy. Of course we don’t yet know what form the latter is eventually going to take. What we can say is that, at the moment at least, our world is dominated less and less by the print codex book, and more and more by the kinds of digital networks and mobile media that have been made possible by the development of the internet, computers, laptops, smart phones and the cloud. In my talk I illustrated this change by taking as an example the library at Coventry University. What’s noticeable about the Frederick Lanchester Library, as it’s called, is that it’s undergone something of a redesign (what its website refers to as a Refurbishment Project). It no longer has so many small, enclosed, quiet spaces of the kind that used to be quite common in university libraries. (Often they were provided in the form of carrel desks, a design originating in monasteries.) Instead – and in line with a lot of contemporary libraries – the Lanchester is now much more open. It’s frequently quite noisy too. Of course, students are still going there on occasion to read a print book by themselves in private, much as they might have done in decades past. But when students are in the library these days they’re often sitting around together on sofas and at large open tables, they’re chatting to friends, they’re working on group projects, they’re texting on their phones, they’re downloading digital combinations of print and other media onto their tablets. So the library no longer offers a clearly maintained (and librarian policed) boundary between the private and the public to quite the extent that it used to. Nowadays, as a space, it’s too networked, it’s too digitally connected, for that to be appropriate, or even possible. (See the New City of Perth Library in Australia for another example. My thanks to Nina Sellars for drawing my attention to the fact that books are not included on the list of this public library's key features, and only get a brief mention in its online description.) 

A lot of the teaching in the Media department here at Coventry (which is where this interview is taking place) is likewise based on responding to this emerging new world of dynamic digital information and data: of user-generated content, of crowd-sourcing, of grassroots political movements and so forth. It’s now much more concerned with opening the university up, just as the library is being opened up in the 21st century, so as to make the courses we teach, as well as the rooms and buildings we teach in, much less rooted in the print paradigm.  

Coming back once more to the idea that media help to shape (but do not determine) our subjectivities, a number of thinkers associated with theories of the non-human, the posthuman and the postanthropocentric are striving to develop this idea still further. Put very briefly, their contention is that if the media we use today are different from those of the Gutenberg galaxy, if the material forms with which we create ideas are changing, then so must be the ideas themselves, meaning that our human subjectivity and consciousness is changing too. It is this argument that I was trying to think through at the MeCCSA-PGN 2015 conference. On the one hand, we have the transition from the Gutenberg galaxy of the print book to a new space of networked digital information and data flows, and the way in which the latter is transforming our subjectivities and sense of self, not least by means of algorithmic forms of state and corporate surveillance. And on the other hand there is the fact that one of the main ways in which even antihumanist and posthumanist theorists and philosophers are attempting to understand this shift is by writing print books and journal articles about it. The question for me is this: if we are in the process of moving to a post-Gutenberg world – if the internet is a ‘game changer’ in this respect, as some are claiming it is – to what extent can we understand this change by continuing to act as if we are still living very much in the world of Gutenberg, replete with the latter’s emphasis on the book, privacy, and the rational, liberal, individual human subject? How can we understand visual media such as photography, film, television, video, 3-D technology and augmented reality in the age of Megaupload, BitTorrent, Wikileaks, 4chan, Anonymous, and even YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp, together with their implications for our inherited ideas of the named author, the sovereign proprietorial subject, intellectual property and so on, if we insist on continually writing commercially copyrighted, linearly organised, bound and printed paper codex books and journal articles about them? 

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