research on history and future
introduction to the notions of history, presence and future and their interconnections

— Mark Currie | About Time. Narrative, Fiction and the Philosophy of Time.
Edinburgh University Press (2007)

The book’s goal is to bring narratology up to speed with contemporary philosophical insights about time. In particular, Currie positions himself against the usual view that postmodern narrative is defined by its challenges to and revision of historical accounts of the past. He wants instead to focus on the future, arguing that central to contemporary fiction is an engagement with prolepsis, or the anticipation of future significance in the narration of present events. In Currie’s view, fiction’s advantage over philosophy when it comes to exploring the aporias and contradictions in our understanding of time is its capacity to do something with time rather than simply say something about it. Fiction can explore individual instances wherein time is lived differently, experimentally, even disobediently, by fictional characters, and this exploration can play out at the level of the story’s temporal organization. (quoted from the review by Sarah Henstra)

— Stephen Toulmin | Cosmopolis. The Hidden Agenda of Modernity
The University of Chicago Press (1990)

In the seventeenth century – the the times of Scientific Revolution, – a vision arose which was to captivate the Western imagination for the next three hundred years: the vision of Cosmopolis, a society as rationally ordered as the Newtonian view of nature. This vision perpetuated a hidden yet persistent agenda: the delusion that human nature and society could be fitted into precise and manageable rational categories. Stephen Toulmin confronts that agenda — its illusions and its consequences for our present and future world. "[Toulmin] has now tackled perhaps his most ambitious theme of all. His aim is nothing less than to lay before us an account of both the origins and the prospects of our distinctively modern world. By charting the evolution of modernity, he hopes to show us what intellectual posture we ought to adopt as we confront the coming millennium." (Quentin Skinner, New York Review of Books)

— Jan Assmann and John Czaplicka | Collective Memory and Cultural Identity
Duke University Press (1988)

Assmann defines cultural memory as the "outer dimension of human memory", embracing two different concepts: "memory culture" (Erinnerungskultur) and "reference to the past" (Vergangenheitsbezug). Memory culture is the way a society ensures cultural continuity by preserving, with the help of cultural mnemonics, its collective knowledge from one generation to the next, rendering it possible for later generations to reconstruct their cultural identity. References to the past, on the other hand, reassure the members of a society of their collective identity and supply them with an awareness of their unity and singularity in time and space — i.e. an historical consciousness — by creating a shared past.

— Jan Assmann | Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism
Harvard University Press (1998)

"Mnemohistory is reception theory applied to history", that the "proper way of dealing with the working of cultural memory is mnemohistory" and that "Mnemohistory investigates the history of cultural memory".

— François Hartog | Regimes of Historicity
Columbia University Press (2015)

François Hartog explores crucial moments of change in society's "regimes of historicity," or its ways of relating to the past, present, and future. Inspired by Hannah Arendt, Reinhart Koselleck, and Paul Ricoeur, Hartog analyzes a broad range of texts, positioning The Odyssey as a work on the threshold of historical consciousness and contrasting it with an investigation of the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins's concept of "heroic history." He tracks changing perspectives on time in Chateaubriand's Historical Essay and Travels in America and sets them alongside other writings from the French Revolution. He revisits the insights of the French Annales School and situates Pierre Nora's Realms of Memory within a history of heritage and today's presentism, from which he addresses Jonas's notion of our responsibility for the future. Our presentist present is by no means uniform or clear-cut, and it is experienced very differently depending on the position we occupy in society. We are caught up in global movement and accelerated flows, or else condemned to the life of casual workers, living from hand to mouth in a stagnant present, with no recognized past, and no real future either (since the temporality of plans and projects is inaccessible). The present is therefore experienced as emancipation or enclosure, and the perspective of the future is no longer reassuring, since it is perceived not as a promise, but as a threat. Hartog's resonant readings show us how the motor of history(-writing) has stalled and help us understand the contradictory qualities of our contemporary presentist relation to time. (summary)

— Andrew Hoskins | Memory Shocks
University of Glasgow (2015)

The science fiction author William Gibson, interviewed on his latest book The Peripheral, argues, ‘The one constant … in looking at how we look at the past, how we have looked at the past before, is that we never see the inhabitants of the past as they saw themselves’. And the more that the digital pervasiveness of ‘post-scarcity culture’ (Hoskins, 2013) folds the past into the present, the greater today’s ‘incapacity to conceive that bygone people lived by other principles and viewpoints’ (Lowenthal, 2012: 3). Yet, when today the more recent disturbing past suddenly emerges into public consciousness, living memory, and the highly visible and accessible representations of that past, create entanglements not easily ‘domesticated’ (Lowenthal, 2012) with the safety of historical distance. Thus, when the victims, perpetrators and individuals and organisations complicit in acts judged heinous by today’s mores are still present (and/or embedded into a society’s cultural fabric), to render such emergent shocks intelligible through those same mores, gives us memory’s perfect storm. (introduction)

— Sebastian Groes (editor) | Memory in the Twenty-First Century
Palgrave Macmillan (2016)

This book maps and analyses the changing state of memory at the start of the twenty-first century in essays written by scientists, scholars and writers. It re-contextualises memory by investigating the impact of new conditions such as the digital revolution, climate change and an ageing population on our world.

"Memory in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Sebastian Groes, is a remarkable achievement. Bringing together an interdisciplinary mix of scientists, cultural critics, philosophers, writers and literary critics, it ranges across a diverse set of topics, including memory as metaphor, anticipation, ecology, subjectivity and even memory's seeming antithesis, forgetting. Readers will find an equally rich range of references, including novels, films, poems and artworks, in addition to what seems like the entire scholarly repertoire of works on, about, and relating to memory across the centuries in Western culture." N. Katherine Hayles, Professor of Literature and Director of Graduate Studies, Literature Program, Duke University. (summary)

Presence, temporarity and uncertainty

— Bruno Latour | Reassembling the Social
Oxford University Press (2005)

Everyone seems to know with what sort of forces and in which sort of materials the social world is made. I have always been struck, on the contrary, by the huge gap between the vast variety of attachments with which people elaborate their different worlds and the limited repertoire we possess in social science to account for them. I found this gap widening even more when I began, thirty years ago, to provide a social explanation of scientific practice. While most people said such an enterprise was clearly non sense; while some of my close colleagues claimed it was, if not easy, at least feasible within the normal limits of the humans sciences, a few friends and I decided to take the enormous difficulties of this task as the occasion to rethink the notions of society and of social explanation. Starting from the new insights of science studies, we have since explored many other domains from technology to health, from market organisations to art, from religion to law, from management to politics. This alternative way of practicing sociology has been called Actor-Network-Theory or ANT. Although it has been widely used, it has also been largely misunderstood — in part because of the ambiguity of the word ‘social’. To clarify those misunderstandings, I thought useful to write an introduction to this small school of thought — or rather to propose my own version of it. In this book I show why sociology may be construed as the science of associations and not only as the science of the social. (summary)

The origin of this approach can be found in the need for a new social theory adjusted to science and technology studies (Callon and Latour 1981). It was at this point that nonhumans — microbes, scallops, rocks, and ships — presented themselves to social theory in a new way. As I will explain later, when reviewing the fourth uncertainty, it was the first time for me that the objects of science and technology had become, so to speak, social-compatible.

— Hartmut Rosa | Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity
Columbia University Press (2013)

In Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity, Rosa finds that spark in the curious paradox of contemporary society of how “we don’t have any time although we’ve gained far more than we’ve needed before” (xxxv). It is this paradox which leads Rosa to analyse what he takes to be the fundamental aspect of our modernity: the acceleration of social processes. (quoted from the review by Kye Barker)

— Zygmunt Bauman | Liquid Modernity
John Wiley & Sons (2000)

In this new book, Bauman examines how we have moved away from a 'heavy' and 'solid', hardware-focused modernity to a 'light' and 'liquid', software-based modernity. This passage, he argues, has brought profound change to all aspects of the human condition. The new remoteness and un-reachability of global systemic structure coupled with the unstructured and under-defined, fluid state of the immediate setting of life-politics and human togetherness, call for the rethinking of the concepts and cognitive frames used to narrate human individual experience and their joint history. This book is dedicated to this task. Bauman selects five of the basic concepts which have served to make sense of shared human life — emancipation, individuality, time/space, work and community — and traces their successive incarnations and changes of meaning. (summary)

— Wijnand IJsselsteijn | Elements of a multi-level theory of presence
Eindhoven University of Technology (2002)

Presence research is still at an early stage of development, and theoretical contributions are needed that integrate diverse insights relevant to understanding presence, emerging from different contributing areas. In this paper, we outline what we regard to be key elements of a theory of presence, addressing the experience at three distinct levels of explanation: phenomenology, mental processing, and underlying brain mechanisms. (summary)


— Franco Berardi | After the Future
AK Press (2011) pp. 18

The century-long obsession with the concept of the future has, at last, come to an end. Beginning with F. T. Marinetti's "Futurist Manifesto" and the worldwide race toward a new and highly mechanized society that defined the "Century of Progress," Italian media activist Franco “Bifo” Berardi traces the genesis of future-oriented thought through the punk movement of the early ’70s and into the media revolution of the ’90s. Cyberculture, the last truly utopian vision of the future, has ended in a clash, and left behind an ever-growing system of virtual life and actual death, of virtual knowledge and actual war. The future, Bifo argues, has failed us. Our responsibility now is to decide what comes next. (summary)

— B. Latour | How to Sort out the Many Ambiguities of the Concept of Anthropocene
BAK | basis voor actuele kunst (2015)

Bruno Latour discusses the use — and many ambiguities — of the hybrid, novel, and yet unstable concept of the Anthropocene as one informed by the disciplines of geology, philosophy, theology, and social science. Latour has articulated the Anthropocene as a “wake-up call,” radically reframing both the time and space we find ourselves living in. The final refusal of the separation between Nature and Human, which “has paralyzed science and politics since the dawn of modernism,” the Anthropocene is the most probable alternative we have to usher ourselves out of the notion of modernization at a point when “the dreams that could be nurtured at the time of the Holocene cannot last.” (lecture description)

— Celine Condorelli | Too Close to See: Notes on Friendship
OPEN Editions (2013)

The essay addresses the the practice of friendship, as a specific entry in relation to the large question of how to live and work together towards change, as a way of acting in the world. Being a friend entails a commitment, a decision, and encompasses the implied positioning that any cultural activities requires. In the context of self-organization, friendship is perhaps at its most evident in relation to a labor process, in how we work together. (introduction)

— Laurel Vlock, Dori Laube and William Rosenberg | Holocaust Survivors Project
Yale University (1979)

In 1979, a grassroots organization, the Holocaust Survivors Film Project, began videotaping Holocaust survivors and witnesses in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1981, the original collection of testimonies was deposited at Yale University, and the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies opened its doors to the public the following year (for a more detailed history of the collection see A Yale University and New Haven Community Project: From Local to Global). This project opens the memory boom (1980 - 2010) in the art, literature, media and cinema production. (project description)

— Manuel Lima | The Book of Trees: visualizing branches of knowledge
Princeton Architectural Press (2014)

The tree is a universal human symbol that transcends time and culture as a compelling metaphor for organizing knowledge. The book of Trees, Manual Lima’s follow-up volume to his critically acclaimed Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information, explores more than eight hundred years of the tree diagram - from its roots in antiquity through the illuminated manuscripts of European cloisters to its current resurgence as an elegant and functional structure for representing complex information. (summary)

— Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton | Cartographies of Time
Princeton Architectural Press (2012)

From the most ancient images to the contemporary, the line has served as the central figure in the representation of time. The linear metaphor is ubiquitous in everyday visual representations of time — in almanacs, calendars, charts, and graphs of all sorts. Even our everyday speech is filled with talk of time having a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ or being ‘long’ and ‘short’. The timeline is such a familiar part of our mental furniture that it is sometimes hard to remember that we invented it in the first place. And yet, in its modern form, the timeline is not even 250 years old. The story of what came before has until now never been fully told. (summary)

— William Gibson | The Peripheral
Berkley Books (2014)

The Peripheral is a science fiction mystery-thriller novel, which story is set in multiple futures. According to GQ's Zach Baron: “The Peripheral is an emphatic return to the science fiction he ceased to write after the turn of this century, set in not one but two futures. The first, not far off from our own present day, takes place in a Winter's Bone-ish world where the only industries still surviving are lightly evolved versions of Walmart and the meth trade. The second future is set further along in time, after a series of not-quite-cataclysmic events that have killed most of the world's population, leaving behind a monarchic class of gangsters, performance artists, and publicists in an otherwise deserted London.” For the designers this book is inspiring because it questions the language of the future. As the medium and tools are changing so fast the part of our lexicon is diying or its meaning being replaced. This development is projected on the features, functions, architecture and medium of goods, services and systems designers and artists are producing.”

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