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Anthropology Lecture - Ken Wark

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Wolff Conference Room, Room D1103, Albert and Vera List Academic Center, 1103 6 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003, Room D1103

Ken Wark, Professor of Culture and Media at The New School delivers a lecture titled Third Nature.

Abstract: I'm going to start by thinking in a way Latour advises we not think, in terms of practices that inhabit three different spheres. In outline: we live in second nature, drawing resources from a nature, whose form we misrecognize. Following Descola, perhaps the appearance of a nature as animist, totemist, and so forth, is a product of the form of relation in which it is encountered. Or, following Bogdanov, that nature is what labor encounters, and is encountered in the form that labor takes. Second natures might then be historical, as least as far as humans are concerned, but we might wonder also if other species can be said to build second natures, over and against a nature encountered in a particular form. And perhaps humans now also occupy a third nature, and come to perceive both nature and second nature according to its form. At first approximation, third nature might be a sphere of information. Unlike second nature, it does not appear as built form, even though it is hardly disembodied or immaterial. Once we have this orientation to the world sketched out, we can start to think about how forms of knowledge and their attendant practices relate to each other via this diagram. Perhaps its a way of thinking about the gap between anthropology and science studies, on the one hand, and design and media studies, on the other. The former has its roots in some parallel inquiries into the relation between second nature and nature. The latter has its 'aerials' (let's say) attuned to the relation between second nature and third nature. The difficult in putting them together may in part be that they depend on inhabiting different worlds. If one puts the worlds together into one schema, perhaps one can then align these knowledges with each other. The fate of the world(s), what we call the Anthropocene, may then appear as one in which third nature makes all of nature appear as a total resource for the unlimted expansion of a certain form of second nature. Its a question then of whether one can have inhabitable localities that are second natures nested within a non-local third nature of information vectors that does not in the process destroy a nature (whatever that might be) that is their condition of existence. 

Presented by The New School for Social Research, Department of Anthropology. 

Event Type

Lectures and Panel Discussions


General Public


Intellectual Culture and Big Ideas


The New School for Social Research, Department of Anthropology



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