Post Human experiences and measurement

Very reluctant to get into the habit of offering monthly reflections on the move to RMIT and into Naarm, but the past 4 weeks have been quite extraordinary, hinging around the Australian Posthuman Summer Laboratory that was organised by Fiona Hillary and Troy Innocent.

Extending over two weeks beginning with a conversation between N’arweet Prof. Carolyn Briggs and Prof. Rosi Braidotti, a walk with Birrarung-ga, 4 days in The Quarry in Gadubanud country (The Quarry is a regenerative project by These are the projects we do together), and a final talk / panel with Fiona and Rosi, the engagement with land, community and practitioners was rich and deep.

Starting inside the Institution
Conversations and acknowledgements began with the concept of positionality, serving as an introduction to framing the intention that participants brought to both the workshop and to being ‘on country’. The conversation between the ‘radical elders’ N’arweet Carolyn Briggs and Rosi Braidotti quickly opened up the indigenous meaning of terms including ‘yulendj barring’, that could be interpreted as a reflective perspective that aims to weave historical insights into the fabric of our future, fostering a connection with knowledge both within and about our world. The conversation was set against the backdrop of an institution (RMIT) that eschews the conventional European university model, opting instead for a multidisciplinary approach where traditional academic boundaries, symbolised by the collapsing ‘ologies’ (a collapsology as Rosi put it), are actively dismantled in favour of embracing hopeful, potential-filled futures.

As Rosi begins the move to join RMIT as a visiting Professor, the conversation extended to the critical examination of modern academic institutions, which have gravitated towards analytic philosophy to better align with the computational and data-driven zeitgeist. This shift was juxtaposed with an indigenous ontology from N’arweet Carolyn Briggs that offered a transformative perspective emphasising disruption, the reclamation of language, and the reinterpretation of indigenous meanings within English. A position that challenges the prevailing norms, urging a reconnection with the land and a reimagining of knowledge through the lens of embodied, embedded, and relational understandings. In setting out the aims of the weeks workshop which was based at a quarry in Gadubanud country, the conversation extended from theory into material practices, contrasting the static nature of canonical thinking with dynamic, process-oriented philosophies that encourage a more intimate, “thinking with your feet” engagement with the world, drawing parallels to the peripatetic roots of Greek philosophy.

The Quarry, Beech Forest
As we were thrown into an intense 4 days of practice and discussion at this extraordinary place, our experiences remained in an ‘space’ of active exploration of post-human subjectivity, reworlding, and speculative technologies. All the time asking us to consider the potential shift towards more embodied and relational frameworks that challenge traditional paradigms. This shift is emblematic of a broadermove away from anthropocentric and mechanistic interpretations of the world towards a vision that embraces the wild, unpredictable, and speculative potential of future regenerative cultures.

We drifted in and out of academic tropes – including the exploration of the literature that we use, as well as the literature and authors that were missing. Recovering Rosi’s idea of the transformative potential of embracing a bibliography as a political act, an inclusive gesture that acknowledges the contributions of marginalized voices and dismantles the canonical dominance in academia. This was exemplified by time with Joan Staples who worked with, and was friends with Val Plumwood, author of Being Prey.

The act of retracing and reorganising our bibliographies can be seen as a vital step towards cultivating a future that is both inclusive and aware of its historical debts, encouraging a shift from a static acknowledgment of the past to a dynamic engagement with it. Conversations continued to urge us all to consider the ways in which our engagements with knowledge, space, and technology can either perpetuate a disconnection from the world or foster a deeper sense of belonging and responsibility towards it.

Wild Cities / Wild Instruments
At the beginning of the week I’d extended the provocation from Wendy Steele on Wild Cities, that asked ‘where the wild things are’ – more likely that cities are the wild things. And that the manifestations of technology from air conditioning to new metro systems are the ‘wild’ aspects of our activity ‘on country’. This simple inversion informed an introductory task for participants to ‘hack’ a scientific instrument in such a way as to consider how it might measure qualities beyond that which are defined by the instrument – in this case grams, ounces etc.

Participants were invited to collect a stone that had been brought from the quarry (with permission) to the studio, and consider what the hacked instruments might measure from a post-human perspective. Dreams, taste of the land, trust.

Complex narratives were manifest in simple hacks of the instruments including turning the scales upside down as though it was measuring the sum of all land, and propping up the scale from one corner to rebalance the instrument.

Participants were invited to return the stones to the quarry during their week on-site.

This small hack corresponds to my provocation Design is… redefining measurement – confrontation with climate catastrophe: Beyond objectivity and towards regenerative impact in The Design Journal, Volume 27, 2024 – Issue 1.

Regenerative Futures
As an immersion into culture, theory and ‘on country’, in what was week 7 of being at RMIT there are strong implications for the plans, discussions and co-design of a regenerative futures programme here. Questions remains about how to re-evaluate our relationship with the planet, and concepts of technology. How it calls for a reimagining of our infrastructures, economies, and pedagogies to align with a more reciprocal, relational, and regenerative model. This reorientation emphasises the importance of acknowledging our entanglements with the non-human world, challenging us to rethink our approaches to innovation, creativity, and sustainability.

Bravo Fiona and Troy, and all of the team who put the week together.

11th March 2024

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