Jos de Mul. From Yijing to Hypermedia: Some Notes on Computer-mediated Literary Theory and Criticism. In: Peng Feng (ed.), Aesthetics and Contemporary Art. International Yearbook of Aesthetic. Volume 16. Beijing University: 2016, 114-125.
The development and global dissemination of computers - from the mainframe computers in the middle of the 20th century up to the smart phones that enable us to be online everywhere at any time - has an enormous impact on virtually every domain in human life, including art and literature. In the past decades, we have witnessed the emergence of different kinds of new media, that – among many other things – also have given birth to new art forms and genres, such as computer animations, hypertext, and interactive netart. All these new (that is: computer-mediated) media can be called “hypermedia”, because they share two fundamental characteristics: they are media that are both multimedial and non-linear.
In this contribution I will discuss the impact of hypermedia on literary theory and criticism. More particularly, the question I will focus on in my lecture is: how to write about hypermedia? In what ways do hypermedia affect literary theory and literary criticism. However, when writing about hypermedia, literature can only be a point of departure of our examination. After all, hypermedia are media that absorb and thereby re-mediate the other “old media”, literature included. And this, as I will argue, also applies to literary theory and literary criticism, which at least partly is going to be transformed into hypermedial criticism.
Geert Maarse. Panic in the Polder. Interview with Jos de Mul. Erasmus Today, March 28, 2017.
Panic in the Polder or how the Netherlands can survive populism. Days before the Dutch elections professor Jos de Mul spoke on Erasmus Studio, presenting his book ‘Paniek in de polder’ (Panic in the Polder) in which he analyses the so called fight between ‘the people’ and ‘the elites’. He also explains the popularity of Donald Trump and Geert Wilders among populist voters. The question is: who are these populists? And is our democracy in crisis?
Jos de Mul. Possible printings. On 3D printing, database ontology and open (meta)design. In: B. van den Berg, S. van der Hof & E. Kosta (eds.) 3D Printing: Legal, Philosophical and Economic Dimensions - Information Technology and Law Series. The Hague: T.M.C. Asser Press, 2016, 87-98.
3D printing can be approached from a number of different disciplinary angels, as it has possible implications for a great variety of human practices, ranging from the organization of economic production to the domain of legal and regulatory issues. In my talk I will focus on 3D printing from yet another angle: design, more particularly the perspective of open design. In Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, Lipson and Kurman claim no less than that 3D will cause “a revolution in the way we make and design things, because of the close connection between the software design of an object […] and its physical manifestation”. Although we should be somewhat skeptical when the word “revolution” in the often hyperbolic discourse on information and communication technologies, it is obvious that 3D printing has the potential to bring about important changes in many domains, including the world of design. Especially because of its open character, 3D printing challenges traditional design practices. In this chapter, I will investigate some of the implications of the database ontology, which characterizes the open design of 3D printing.
In the announcement of the 2010 Amsterdam conference Redesigning Design, which was organized by Creative Commons Netherlands, Premsela, Dutch Platform for Design and Fashion, and Waag Society, and which resulted in the book Open Design Now. Why design cannot remain exclusive the present situation in the world of design was described as follows: “The design industry is going through fundamental changes. Open design, downloadable design and distributed design democratize the design industry, and imply that anyone can be a designer or a producer”. The subtext of this message seems to be that open design - for reasons of brevity I will use this term as an umbrella for the aforementioned developments, thus including downloadable, distributed design and the possibility to recombine modules to personalized designs and to 3D print them at home or in a specialized shop around the corner– is something intrinsically good, something we should promote. Though my general attitude towards open design is a positive one, I think we should keep an open eye for the obstacles and pitfalls, in order to avoid that we will throw out the designer baby along with the bath water.
This chapter consists of three sections. First I will present a short sketch of open design. As this concept has quite some different connotations and, for that reason, is prone to conceptual confusion, it might be useful to illuminate this tag cloud of connotations. In this first part, I will also summarize some of the objections that can be (and has been) directed against open design.
Jos de Mul, Database Identity: Personal and Cultural Identity in the Age of Global Datafication. in: Wouter de Been, Payal Aurora and Mireille Hildebrandt (Eds.), Crossroads in New Media, Identity and Law. The Shape of Diversity to Come. Personal and Cultural Identity in the Age of Global Datafication. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, 97-118.
This volume brings together a number of timely contributions at the nexus of new media, politics and law. The central intuition that ties these essays together is that information and communication technology, cultural identity, and legal and political institutions are spheres that co-evolve and interpenetrate in myriad ways. Discussing these shifting relationships, the contributions all probe the question of what shape diversity will take as a result of the changes in the way we communicate and spread information: that is, are we heading to the disintegration and fragmentation of national and cultural identity, or is society moving towards more consolidation, standardization and centralization at a transnational level? In an age of digitization and globalization, this book addresses the question of whether this calls for a new civility fit for the 21st century.
Jos de Mul, to begin with, takes the issue of identity head-on in his contribution. He argues that new networked communication technologies are leading to a datafication of identity. New ICTs are transforming traditional ‘narrative identity’ into a more plastic form of ‘database identity.’ Identity as the product of a linear development, as an outgrowth of a particular personal or group history – the bread and butter of the imagined community – is on the wane. Increasingly identity is broken up into machine-readable elements and stored in digital memory banks. This allows for an endless combination and re-combination of features. By itself this process does not necessarily result in a world of freedom and play, however. Although database identities allow for an extraordinary range of choice and are well suited to the freedom and flexibility of postmodern culture, there is a great deal of uniformity in the forms that database identities actually take. Hence, De Mul also addresses the standardization of identity in the prefabricated formats of social media, underlining the new entrapments of the digital age.
Jos de Mul. The Game of Life: Narrative and Ludic Identity Formation in Computer Games. In: Lori Way (ed.), Representations of Internarrative Identity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
Representations of Internarrative Identity is based upon Ajit Maan's breakthrough theory of Internarrative Identity, which deals with one's sense of self as expressed in personal narrative, connecting the formation of identity with life experiences. This book is the first extensive examination of the adaptive qualities of Maan's work within diverse areas of scholarship and practice, including cultural studies, gender studies, computer gaming, and veterinary medicine. United by their research application of Maan's theory, these scholars demonstrate the far-reaching implications of Internarrative Identity.
Jos de Mul, The possibility of an island. Michel Houellebecq's tragic humanism. Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology, Vol. 1 (2014), Issue 1, pp. 91–110.
The Possibility of an Island: Michel Houellebecq’s Tragic Humanism1
Jos de Mul
Various authors, including Friedrich Nietzsche and George Steiner, have argued that the tragic worldview, as we find it expressed in Greek tragedy, has become an entirely incomprehensible phenomenon for (post)modern man. The claim defended in this article radically opposes this view. It is argued that tragedy can still teach us something today, and maybe even more so now than in the many intervening centuries that separate us from her days of glory in the fifth century bce. The tragic reveals itself once more in (post)modern society, and nowhere more clearly than in technology, the domain in which we believed the tragic had been domesticated or even eliminated. Referring to the tragic humanism in Michel Houellebecq’s novels The Elementary Particles and The Possibility of an Island it is argued that it is precisely in (post)modern (bio)technologies that we experience the rebirth of the tragic.
Keywords: tragedy, technology, humanism, transhumanism, Michel Houellebecq, Friedrich Nietzsche
Jos de Mul, Kunstmatig van nature. Onderweg naar Homo sapiens 3.0. Essay Maand van de Filosofie. Rotterdam: Lemiscaat, 2014.
1ste druk: 2014; 2de druk: 2016.
In Kunstmatig van nature bespreekt Jos de Mul de betekenis van recente ontwikkelingen in de robotica, neurowetenschappen en biotechnologie voor ons zelfbegrip en dagelijks leven. Wat te denken van de Japanse humanoïde robot Miim, ontworpen door Kazuhito Yokoi, die kan dansen, zingen en kleding showen op de catwalk? Zullen dergelijke robots dankzij erotische programmatuur, net als in de sciencefiction-serie Real Humans, een commercieel succes worden? Of neem het experiment van de Amerikaanse neurowetenschapper Miguel Nicolelis die elektroden in de hersenen van een resusaapje heeft aangebracht om de neuronenactiviteit tijdens zijn bewegingen te registeren. De aldus verkregen informatie brengt via het internet elders in de wereld de robot CB-1 in beweging. Een kleine stap voor de robot, maar een gigantische sprong voor het aapje -- en mogelijk in de nabije toekomst ook voor dwarslaesiepatiënten.
Op biotechnologisch gebied heeft men alternatieven ontwikkeld voor het DNA, het ‘bouwplan’ van al het leven. Terwijl de evolutie ooit bestond uit natuurlijke selectie, betreden we met deze alien genetics het tijdperk van kunstmatige selectie. Mogen we hiermee planten, dieren en mensen ‘verbeteren’? Deze nieuwe technologieën vergroten niet alleen onze kennis van het leven op aarde -- ze zijn allang begonnen dat leven fundamenteel te transformeren. Wie we zijn en wat we willen worden, is meer dan ooit een open vraag, een opgave. Zijn wij, ‘de eeuwig toekomstigen’ volgens Nietzsche, onderweg naar Homo sapiens 3.0?
‘Worden wij de eerste soort op aarde die zijn eigen evolutionaire opvolger gaat scheppen?’ -- Jos de Mul
‘Grote eruditie en lucide kijk op veranderingen in de hedendaagse cultuur.’ -- Marc Van den Bossche over Cyberspace Odyssee in Standaard der Letteren
‘Gloedvol pleidooi voor een tragisch levensbesef.’ -- Arnold Heumakers over De domesticatie van het noodlot in nrc Handelsblad
'Ik wou dat ik als students zoiets had kunnen lezen' - Piet Hut (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton) over Kunstmatig van nature
Uit de recensies
'In het derde hoofdstuk, over robots, krijgt De Muls betoog [...] vleugels. De Zweedse televisieserie Real humans biedt tal van aanknopingspunten voor een boeiend betoog' --- Marcel Hulspas in de Volkskrant
'De speculatieve antropologie die De Mul zegt te beoefenen is een vorm van filosofische sciencefiction' - Arnold Heumakers in NRC Handelsblad
'Het is een boeiende gedachtegang die De Mul [...] aangaat, maar ook één die allerlei vragen oproept.' --- Marc Janssens in het Nederlands Dagblad
'Met Jos de Mul hebben we te maken met een variant van de idiot savant, de krankzinnige professor, en een nuchtere wetenschapper. Die twee wisselen elkaar voortdurend af. Hij weet idioot veel van wat zich allemaal afspeelt in de biologie, de astronomie, kunstmatige intelligentie, biotechnologie, neurologie of ecologie' --- Carel Peeters in Vrij Nederland
‘Stof tot nadenken dus, op een zeer bevattelijke manier gebracht. Een aanrader.’ --- Jan Matthys in Liberales
'Een zeer verontrustend essay' ---- Ab Blaas, Humanistisch Verbond
'De term ‘onderweg’ die in de ondertitel voorkomt typeert de inhoud van het boek heel goed. Wat wordt geschetst is een evolutionair perspectief. Daarbij komt de gehele ons bekende wereld wel zo ongeveer aan bod. Voor wat betreft het begin wordt aangeknoopt bij de Big Bang theorie, die moderne oerei-mythe. Gelukkig haalt De Mul er de stelligheid uit die vele presentaties van de betreffende denkbeelden ontsiert. En hetzelfde geldt voor zijn beschrijving van het evolutionaire proces dat uiteindelijk – of zo men wil: voorlopig – heeft geleid tot de mens. [...] De Mul houdt een voorzichtiger lijn aan: “Dysons idee dat we de biotechnologie weldra zullen hebben gedomesticeerd , is al met al tamelijk naïef en getuigt van een grote mate van technologische hybris”. Het is mij uit het hart gegrepen'- Harm Bart in Civis Mundi
Valerie Frissen, Jos de Mul, and Joost Raessens. Homo ludens 2.0: Play, Media and Identity, in Judith Thissen, Robert Zwijnenberg and Kitty Zijlmans (eds.), Contemporary Culture. New Directions in Art and Humanities Research. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013, 75-92.
Immense est le domaine du jeu. (Emile Benveniste)
A spectre is haunting the world - the spectre of playfulness. We are witnessing a global “ludification of culture”. Since the 1960s, in which the word “ludic” became popular in Europe and the United States to designate playful behaviour and artefacts, playfulness has increasingly become a mainstream characteristic of our culture. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind in this context is the immense popularity of computer games, which, as far as global sales are concerned, have already outstripped Hollywood. According to a recent study in the United States, 8 to 18 year olds play computer games on average for one hour and a half each day on their consoles, computers and handheld gaming devices (including mobile phones).1 This is by no means only a Western phenomenon. In South Korea, for example, about two-thirds of the country’s total population frequently plays online games, turning computer gaming into one of the fastest- growing industries and “a key driver for the Korean economy”.2Although perhaps most visible, computer game culture is only one manifestation of the process of ludification that is penetrating every cultural domain.3 In our present experience economy, for example, playfulness not only characterizes leisure time (fun shopping, game shows on television, amusement parks, playful computer and Internet use), but also domains that used to be serious, such as work (which should chiefly be fun nowadays), education (serious gaming), politics (ludic campaigning) and even warfare (video games like war simulators and interfaces). According to Jeremy Rifkin, “play is becoming as important in the cultural economy as work was in the industrial economy”.4 In ludic culture, sociologist Zygmunt Bauman argues, playfulness is no longer restricted to childhood, but has become a lifelong attitude: “The mark of postmodern adulthood is the willingness to embrace the game whole-heartedly.”5 Bauman’s remark suggests that in postmodern culture identity has become a playful phenomenon too.In this article we want to re-visit Johan Huizinga’s Homo ludens (1938) to reflect on the meaning of ludic technologies in contemporary culture. First we will analyze the concept of “play”. Next, we will discuss some problematic aspects of Huizinga’s theory, which are connected with the fundamental ambiguities that characterize play phenomena, and reformulate some of the basic ideas of Huizinga. On the basis of this reformulation we will analyze the ludic dimension of new media and sketch an outline of our theory of ludic identity construction.
Jos de Mul. Destiny Domesticated. The Rebirth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Technology. State University of New York (SUNY) Press, 2014.
Destiny Domesticated investigates three approaches Western civilization has tried to tame fate: the heroic affirmation of fate in the tragic culture of the Greeks, the humble acceptance of divine providence in Christianity, and the abolition of fate in modern technological society. Against this background, Jos de Mul argues that the uncontrollability of technology introduces its own tragic dimension to our culture. Considering a range of literary texts and contemporary events, and drawing on twenty-five centuries of tragedy interpretation from philosophers such as Aristotle, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, literary critics George Steiner and Terry Eagleton, and others, de Mul articulates a contemporary perspective on the tragic, shedding new light on philosophical topics such as free will, determinism, and the contingency of life.
Hard cover - 358 pages
Electronic - 358 pages
Paperback - 358 pages
Release Date: January 2015
state university of new york press
“The most important merit of the book is to propose a convincing definition of man and his relation to technology. With regard to the first aspect, de Mul occupies a middle position between the modern philosophies of the subject and the postmodern philosophies which have deconstructed it. As opposed to the Cartesian transparent and self-evident cogito, he argues that there are forces inside and outside man which make us often act against our own expectations. Unlike the contemporary heirs of the masters of suspicion Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, he does not believe that the subject is a mere illusion. The tragic definition of the subject is halfway between these two exaggerations. The tragic man is at the same time powerful and powerless, autonomous and limited, strong and fragile, and there is a surprising continuity between the ancient Greek man and the contemporary human being. Maybe the truth is that we have always been tragic – we have never been modern – but for a long period we have acted as if it was the case. As regards our relation to technology, too, de Mul’s position is halfway between two extremes. In contrast to a certain – especially continental – philosophy of technology of the twentieth century, represented by authors like Heidegger, Ellul, and Marcuse, he does not think that technology is intrinsically destructive forman. Yet it does not mean that technology is simply neutral, according to him. The tragic man deals with technology without unjustified fear, but he is aware of its power.
Thanks to this clear perspective, the text can have a relevant role in the contemporary philosophical debate on technology. Although it was originally published in Dutch in 2006, its ideas are current more than ever.”
Jos de Mul and Renée van de Vall (eds.). Gimme Shelter. Global Discourses in Aesthetics. International Yearbook of Aesthetics. Vol. 15. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013.
Gimme Shelter. Global discourses in aesthetics contains a series of reflections on the impact of globalization on the arts and the aesthetic reflection on the arts. The authors – fifteen distinguished aestheticians from all over the world - discuss a variety of aesthetic questions brought forth by the aforementioned process of globalization. How do artistic practices and aesthetic experiences change in response to these developments? How should we articulate these changes on the theoretical level? When reflections on the significance of art and aesthetic experiences can no longer pretend to be universal, is it still possible to lay claim to a wider validity than merely that of one’s own particular culture? What type of vocabulary allows for mutual – dialogical or even polylogical – exchanges and understandings when different traditions meet, without obliterating local differences? Is there a possibility for a creative re-description of globalization? And is there a meaning of ‘the global’ that cannot be reduced to universalism and unification? Can we seek shelter in a legitimate way?
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