I have “contributed” to the Modes of Existence site associated with Bruno Latour’s new book, but I find its protocol far too constraining, and there is no interactivity – neither between contributors and the AIME team nor between contributors. So I find the whole enterprise quite frustrating; I have been blogging about it here, in terms of a deficit of democracy. But there is no interlocutor to whom to address such complaints. Latour’s latest keynote speech just dismissed such critiques with an amused reference to the “terrible things that happen on blogs”, and a hymn to his 4 year experiment in close reading. I translate this as an experiment in digitally assisted teamwork, and I find nothing revolutionary except the scale (thanks to his financement).
Latour limited himself to describing the marvel of this experiment, but gave no concrete example of the discoveries it has led to as far as the philosophical content of the book is concerned, which confirms my suspicion that the platform itself is the message. Latour explicitly declares that he wants neither critique nor commentary, and told one questioner (a woman who complained about the inhumanity of the project in his presentation in contrast to his own very engaging humanity in presenting it): contribute, don’t comment. I fear this is a model of digital humanities as an array of mutually exclusive closed societies, juxtaposed without interacting (as interaction would be mere commentary).