Subproject 1


Technoecologies of Participation:
New Perspectives from Media Philosophy and Anthropology

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Erich Hörl (Leuphana University Lüneburg)

Yuk Hui
Milan Stürmer


The project opens up two discursive lines of development that are of great importance to the genesis and proliferation of the concept of participation in the 20th and early 21st centuries, yet which have until now been neglected. The focus is on philosophical and anthropological reevaluations of the concept, which affect to a great extent the re-description of our present that is currently taking place. The theoretical currents to be re-contextualized range from Lévy-Bruhl’s speculations regarding pre-modern participatory modes of being, via Simondon’s amodern philosophy of the participation-based, physic-biological and psycho-collective processes of individuation, to the participatory cosmologies and human and nonhuman powers of action characterising the combinatorial collectives of New Animism, Perspectivalism and Multinaturalism, which are at the forefront of the contemporary search for nonmodern forms of thinking. Together, these undertakings dramatically alter the theoretical-political stakes of the question of participation. Here participation approaches another scene of the present era. Here the concept as such is revalued, as participation in its full radicality is thought as originary and irreducible relation, which always already co-constitutes the terms of relation and this way comes into play as the central moment of a new, now unreservedly relational attitude. The relation of participation is being inaugurated, at least implicitly, as the relation of relations, and emerges as the centrepiece of a new paradigm. A participative ontology, epistemology, even, ultimately, a participative image of thought, are the far-reaching consequences of this transformation.

At the same time, in these same fields, a new historical semantics is crystallising, which, side by side with participation, is beginning to embody the relational attitude, and which is acquiring an ever-greater significance for the re-examination of today’s media-technological condition: that is, the historical semantics of ecology. The spreading and establishing of this semantics advances the conceptual content in the direction of non-natural ecologies. If today, at the culmination of the processes of cyberneticisation, an environmental media culture of ubiquitous computing, sensory and algorithmic surroundings, multiscalar network technologies and locative and mobile media, have led to an explosion of environmental agency – then so, in parallel, is ecology mutating into a concept that encompasses a corresponding transformation of the modes of existence and forms of life, of subjectivity, affectivity, collectivity, cognition and experience. And also this conceptual innovation occurs largely in the contexts mentioned here. The relation of participation thus appears as an integral component of, and even the key to a generalised ecology. In exploring the central philosophical and anthropological ecologies of participation of the 20th and 21st centuries in their media-, knowledge- and discourse-historical details, this project engages in the archaeology of the present.