litanize it

Via larval subjects, I’ve just seen and have been playing with Ian Bogost’s Wikipedia-based “Latour Litanizer“. It’s a great little web tool that generates more or less random lists of objects such as those found throughout Latour’s works, by mining Wikipedia entries. Three things strike me as worth some further thought here:

(1) the frequency with which, given repeated multiple pushes of the button, people come up in the object list. There’s at least one in almost every list, and I got one that only had one non-person in it. Of course this does not reflect anything even close to the actual distribution of human persons among things in the world, but it does point to the fact that, because of various aspects of our way of being in the world, we are much more apt to catalog particular humans as such than any other kind of being. I think there would be much more to say about how different kind of beings are distributed into sets starting from a point such as this.

(2) the occasional appearance of a Wikipedia disambiguation page as an object in one of the litanies. There may be nothing qualitatively different about this kind of set of objects than any other (set of) objects, at least qua set. Still, I have a vague sense that there’s something significant in a grouping together of objects with the same (or very similar) name being brought together for that reason as an object.

(3) the fact that Bogost has chosen to call these lists “litanies”. Given the religious background of this word – I imagine any English dictionary will list prayer or liturgy as its “primary” meaning, before getting to the “derivative” sense of a cumbersome list (and the significance of this connection is hard to ignore as well) – my hunch that there is something really worthwhile to be made out of a thorough application of Latour’s work to thought about religion is growing stronger.


Posted on April 26, 2010, in Latour and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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