On the Primacy of Dis-Appearance: The Operative Ontologies of Topological Media. Mark B. N. Hansen

My paper will explore the operation of large scale relational databases and other contemporary data infrastructures as topological machines for generating «objective» manifestations of worldly situations. Drawing on topos theory and the mathematics of topological spaces, I shall develop an account of nonperceptual sensibility that privileges appearance over being and renders the selection of ontology a function of world manifestation. One crucial consequence of this privileging is the irreducibility of non- or dis-appearance that attends every manifestation not as a negative condition but as a positive «environment.» A key question for exploration will be whether this positive environment of non-appearance can be experienced. To address it, I shall turn to on the asubjective phenomenology of Jan Patocka and the phenomenological semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce. Thinking with these figures, I shall propose an account of the primordial subjectivity of objective appearance and shall position it – in antithesis to the subjectivity of phenomenological consciousness – as requisite for understanding the proliferation of data sensing in our world today.

BIO/BIB ­— Mark B.N. Hansen is Professor of Literature and Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Duke University. Having studied Comparative and French Literature at New York University and the University of California, Hansen held a Fulbright Full Scholarship at the University of Konstanz, Germany in 1990 and 1991. In 1994, he received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of California. Hansen worked as Assistant Professor of English at Southwest Texas State University (1994-1997) and at Princeton University (1997-2004). From 2005 to 2008, Hansen was Professor of English, Visual Arts and Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Hansen’s publications include Feed Forward: On the Future of 21st Century Media, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2014. Critical Terms for Media Studies, eds. Mark B. N. Hansen and W.J.T. Mitchell, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2010; Emergence and Embodiment. New Essays on Second-Order Systems Theory, eds. Mark B.N. Hansen and Bruce Clarke, Durham: Duke University Press 2009.