latour on guns

notes/quotes from collection (1994) by bruno latour:

via avi who i met up with thru museum of care meetings:

Latour on Guns 💥

The rest has been an extrapolation for me. 

*except Facing Gaia (fascinating but 🤔)

Original Tweet:

extrapolation: conclusion via assuming existing trends will continue

but.. black science of people/whales law.. et al.. ie: no trends to date of legit free people.. so really.. whalespeak ness

links to – on technical mediation – philosophy, sociology, genealogy – a 37 pg pdf by latour (1994) – a collection of articles poetry and reviews by diff contributors – []

notes/quotes from pdf:


table of contents is headed: common knowledge

beyond the monastic self ish


No unmediated action is possible once we enter the realm of engineers and craftsmen. A ,/aeda/ion, in Greek, is something curved, veering from the straight line, artful but fake, beautiful and contrived. Daedalus is an inventor of contraptions: statues that seem to be alive, military robots that watch over Crete, an ancient version of genetic engineering .. Daedalus is our best eponym for technique.. and the concept of daedalion our best tool to penetrate the evolution of civilization. His path leads through
three disciplines: philosophy, sociology, genealogy.

jensen civilization law et al



Our modern destiny-technology-appears to Heidegger radically different from poesis. the kind of”making” that ancient craftsmen knew how to obtain. Technology is entirely unique, insuperable, omnipresent, superior, a monster born in our midst.

But Heidegger is mistaken. I will try to show how and in what way he is wrong about technical mediation by using a simple, well-known example.

“Guns kill people” is a slogan of those who try to control the unrestricted sale of guns. To which the National Rifle Association replies with another slogan, “People kill people; not guns.”. The first slogan is materialist: the gun acts by virtue of material components irreducible to the social qualities of the gunman.. (the second): The gun is a tool, a medium, a neutral carrier of will


The two positions are absurdly contradictory. No materialist claims that guns kill by themselves.. what the materialist claims is that the good citizen is transformed by carrying the gun.. Materialists thus make the intriguing suggestion thar our quality as subjects, our competences, our personalities’ depend on what we hold in our hands. Reversing the dogma of moralism, the materialists insist that we are what we have.. what we have in our hands, at least

as to the NRA, they cannot maintain that the gun is so neutral an object that it has no part in the act of killing. They have to acknowledge that the gun adds something, though not to the moral state of the person holding the gun For the NRA ‘one’s moral state is a Platonic essence: one is born a good citizen or a criminal’ Period’ ..As such, the NRA account is moralist.. what matters is what you are.. not what you
have. The sole contribution of the gun is to speed the act. Killing by fists or knives is slower, dirtier, messier

Who or what is responsible for the act of killing? Is the gun no more than a piece of mediating technology? The answer to these questions depends upon what mediation means. A first sense of mediation (I will offer four) is the program of action.. the series of
goals and steps and intentions, that an agent can describe in a story


1\ first meaning of mediation: translation – Translation does nor mean a shift from one vocabulary to another, from one French word to one English word, for
instance, as if the two languages existed independently. Like Michel Serres, i use translatian to mean displacement, drift, invention, mediation, the creation of a link that did not exist before and that to some degree modifies two elements or agents

7 (34)

It is neither people nor guns that kill. Responsibility for action must be shared among the various actants

2\ second meaning of mediation: composition


“blackboxing” a process that makes the joint production of actors and artifacts entirely opaque. Daedalus’ maze is shrouded in secrecy. Can we open the labyrinth and count what is inside?

Now, suppose the projector breaks down. The crisis reminds us of the projector’s existence. As the repairmen swarm around it, adjusting this lens, tightening that bulb, we remember that the projector is made of several parts, each with its role and function and its relatively independent goals. Whereas a moment before, the projector scarcely existed, now even its parts have individual existence, each its own “black box.” In an instant, our “projector” grew from being composed of zero parts to one to many. How many actants are really there? The philosophy of technology has little use for arithmetic. . .


3\ third meaning of mediation: reversible blackboxing


The transition from reckless to disciplined drivers has been effected through yet another detour. Instead of signs and warnings, the campus engineers have used concrete. In this context, the notion o[detour, of translation, should be modified not only (as with previous examples) to absorb a shift in the definition of goals and functions, but also a change in the very matter of expression. The engineers’ program of action,
“make drivers slow down on campus,” is now inscribed in concrete. Instead of “inscribed,” I could have said “objectified” or “reified” or “realized” or “materialized” or “engraved,” but these words imply an all-powerful human agent imposing his will on shapeless matter, while nonhumans also act, displace goals, and contribute to their redefinition. The fourth meaning of translation thus depends on the three preceding.


4\ fourth meaning of mediation: delegation

Detour, translation, delegation, inscription, and displacement require our better comprehension before we can even begin to elaborate a philosophy of techniques; and understanding these requires that we understand what semioticians call shifting.” If i
say to you, for instance, “Let us imagine ourselves in the campus engineers’ shoes when they decided to install the speed bumps,” I transport you nor only into another space and time but translate you into another actor. I shift you out of the scene you presently
occupy. The point of spatial, temporal, and “actorial” shifting, which is basic to all fiction, is to make you move without your moving.. You lent me, for a time, a character who, with the aid of your patience and imagination, traveled with me to another place,
became another actor, then returned to become yourself in your own world again

yeah.. i’m seeing extrapolation ness: conclusion via assuming existing trends will continue

may not be what avi meant.. but .. actually all .. seems to me to be whalespeak ness


It is not, as in fiction, that I am here and elsewhere, that I am myself and someone else, but that an action, long past, of an actor, long disappeared, is still active here, today, on me-I live in the midst of technical delegates.

The whole philosophy of techniques has been preoccupied by this detour


The mediation, the technical translation, that I am trying to understand resides in the blind spot where society and matter exchange properties. The story I am telling is not a Homo faber story, where the courageous innovator breaks away from the constraints of social order, to make contact with hard and inhuman but – at last-objective matter. I am struggling to approach the zone where some, though not all, of the characteristics
of concrete become policemen, and some, though not all, of the characteristics of policemen become speed bumps. . .

Humanism is to be Iocated elsewhere, in the position I am groping to define between antihumanism and “humanism’.. We must learn to ignore the definitive shapes of humans, and of the nonhumans with which we share more and more of our existence. The blur that we would then perceive, the swapping of properties, ..



[much on defns of ‘technical’]


But we have also to recognize the role of economic mediation in the folding of time and space.. There is no sense in which humans may be said to exist as humans without entering into commerce with what authorizes and enables them to exist


Purposeful action and intentionality may not be properties of objects, but they are not properties of humans either. They are the properties of institutions, dispositifs. Only corporate bodies are able to absorb the proliferation of mediators, to regulate their expression, to redistribute skills, to require boxes to blacken and close. Boeing-747s do not fly, airlines fly

graeber unpredictability/surprise law et al

The new paradigm provides a basis for the comparison of collectives, a comparison that is completely independent of demography (of their scale, so to speak)

but.. graeber values law et al.. so .. to me.. irrelevant s/distractions



The new paradigm is not without its problems. To view people and nonhumans as interacting within collectives, to define objects as institutions, to fuse subject and object in a corporate body, we need to know what a collective, an institution, and a
corporate body are.

so.. whalespeak.. and to me.. irrelevant s/distractions


The social theory of techniques overhauls sociology, even as it repairs the weaknesses of ethnomethodology. Society is the outcome of local construction, but we are not alone at the construction site, since there we also mobilize the many nonhumans
through which the order of space and time has been reshuffled. To be human requires sharing with nonhumans. Social theory may be better at the task of defining what is human than philosophy is, but only when and insofar as it accounts for social complexity, the invention of tools, and the sudden appearance of the black box.



If anything, the modern collective is that in which the relations of human and nonhuman are so intimate, the transactions so many, the mediations so convoluted, that there is no plausible sense in which artifact. corporate body, and subject can be distinguished.
In order to take account of this symmetry between humans and nonhumans, on the one hand, and this continuity between traditional and modern collectives, on the other, social threory must be somewhat modified.

literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism/control/enclosure.. we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things

skimming thru seeming whalespeak


At some point in history, human interactions come to be mediated through a large stratified, externalized body politic that keeps track, employing a range of”intellectual techniques” (writing and counting, basically), of the many nested subprograms of action. By replacing some.. though not all, of these subprograms with nonhumans, machinery and factories are born. The nonhumans, in this view, enter an
organization that is already in place and take on a role rehearsed for centuries by obedient human servants enrolled in the imperial megamachine

yeah.. all that.. aka: sea world.. we have no idea what legit free people are like.. so we don’t believe/imagine the dance

mumford non-specialized law ness


At each of the eleven episodes I have retraced, an increasingly large number of humans is mixed with an increasingly large number of nonhumans, to the point where, today, the whole planet is engaged in the making of politics, law, and soon, I suspect, morality. The illusion of modernity was to believe that the more we grow, the more distant objectivity and subjectivity would become, thus creating a future radically different from our past. After the paradigm shift in our conception of science and technology, we now know that this will never be the case, indeed that this has never been the case. Objectivity and subjectivity are not opposed, they grow together, and they grow irreversibly together. The challenge to our philosophy, social theory, and morality is to invent political institutions that can absorb this much history, this huge spiraling movement, this destiny, this fate. . . . At the very least, I hope to have convinced you that, if our challenge .is to be met, it will not be met by considering artifacts as things. They deserve better. They deserve to be housed in our intellectual culture as
full-fledged social actors.
They mediate our actions?
No, they are us.

cyborg ness et al

and oi ness..

we haven’t yet tried something legit diff.. we keep getting hung up on same song ness