2017 — Essay

Xenophily and Computational Denaturalization

Patricia Reed

e-flux Architecture

The labor of perspectival reformatting is an ongoing labor of care, as well as a careful labor, driven by a generative force of alienation. Being grasped by concepts is an alienation from familiar logical/categorical perspectives. Despite the term having been locked down in a negative register, signaling social anomie or dehumanization and positioned as something to be overcome, on a perspectival front, alienation is a necessary force of estrangement from what is. Alienation can never be “total”: it expresses the quality of a relation, and not a thing unto itself; something is alienated from something else, and to properly understand it requires reflection in at least two directions. When “alienation” is often taken as a ubiquitous descriptor of life in our technosphere, to avoid the meaninglessness of its (seeming) semantic self-evidence we need to ask: What would a non-alienated condition look like? The consequence of a world without alienation binds us to familiar cognitive schemata since it refuses engagement with the strange, the foreign, and the unknown, fixing “common-sense” to the given. Alienation and abstraction form a kinship in this regard, since both pertain to modes of separation and impersonalization. While certain vectors of these forces undeniably structure our contemporary status-quo for unjust ends, the cognitive potency inherent to them should not be abandoned, for what these capacities can do and are today is more necessary than ever.