New Orleans Review: Alien Phenomenology
What do computer microchips, chicken wings, baby pandas, and packs of cigarettes have in common? For one, they are all pictured on the cover of videogame theorist Ian Bogost’s new book Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing, in which Bogost argues that these objects (and literally everything else) hold just as much philosophical import as human beings. Bogost uses contemporary philosopher Graham Harman’s term object-oriented ontology as an umbrella title, under which he places his own philosophy, alien phenomenology. To break this term down, Bogost defines “alien” as “anything—and everything—to everything else” and phenomenology as “the area of metaphysics concerned with how stuff appears to beings.” So although the theory may sound dense, alien phenomenology is simply the practice of considering how everything appears to everything else—Bogost calls the process “carpentry.” An alien phenomenologist creates “carpentry” that must “capture and characterize an experience it can never fully understand, offering a rendering satisfactory enough to allow the artifact’s operator to gain some insight into an alien thing’s experience.” The possibilities of Bogost’s theory applied to fine arts, theater, music, education, and even science are endless.