A Musing: Alien Phenomenology


The other book that I read for my research proposal that I was crazy for is Alien Phenomenology: What It’s Like to Be a Thing  by Ian Bogost. I literally sat there and said “WOW!” and “THIS GUY IS AMAZING!” and “I LOVE THIS BOOK!” after every page. I repeatedly bugged my husband and said “You’ve GOT to read this!” at least 100 times. People, this is not my usual response to philosophy books. You would usually find jackiemania saying “Huh!?” and “This joker must be kidding!” and “Who is this person trying to impress with this mumbo jumbo!” when she reads philosophy books. Shutting the book in a huff and/or dramatically throwing it aside could possibly be involved, too. Not with this gem!

Bogost writes about object oriented ontology. Things as actors: houses, cameras, microchips. His exploration of the sensor in the Sigma camera made my hair stand on end. The fact that he illustrates his examples with Stephen Shore photographs fills my heart with joy. Yay academics breaking out of their tiny academic boxes.

Bogost is the creator of the term “carpentry” to describe the philosophical practice of making things:

carpentry entails making things that explain how things make their world.


how things fashion one another and the world at large (93).

He would like to see “making the object itself become the philosophy” and uses metaphor as a way to get inside objects and think about how objects “interact, perceive, and think about one another” (93).

Yes, speculative and cutting edge, yet I believe practical in his call for thinkers to not only be thinkers, but makers too. As far as my research goes, doesn’t all this sound very much like something William Morris or Will Price would say/believe/do? Their objects were their philosophy and became philosophy.

I also love how pin-in-ballon his writing is about regular philosophic writing! He calls out all those who write in an obfuscating, jargon-filled manner. Young jackiemania, who received the only F of her undergraduate career in Philosophy, would have loved this book! Note for college students from older and wiser jackiemania: smirking, rolling your eyes, skipping class, and murdering your GPA is not the proper response to philosophy that makes you angry. Doing more research and countering the stuff that makes you angry is. It might also teach you way more than the class would and even get you an A.


Bogost, philosopher, video game designer, and digital media professor is a really fascinating guy. His website and blog have become two of my favorite places to visit on thee internetz. I had to painfully return this book to the interlibrary loan librarian yesterday, but again, this book is getting bought the minute I have some money. It begs to be re-read; I’ve just scratched the surface. Plus, you know, my husband really needs to read this. And “WOW!” and “THIS GUY IS AMAZING” and “I LOVE THIS BOOK!” 🙂


  1. noir-realism

    Yep, Ian’s part of a group of philosophers that include the creator of the name: Graham Harman, Levi R. Bryant, Timothy Morton, and Ian Bogost. They are part of a larger umbrella idea started back in 2007 under Speculative Realism with Ray Brassier, Ian Hamilton Smith, Quentin Meillassoux, and Graham Harman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_realism

    They of course have great differences between themselves but still agree on the basic tenet that we need to return the ‘Great Outdoors’. The book that started it all was Meillassoux’s work, After Finitude. Probably a good place to begin if that is of interest. 🙂

    If you liked Bogost’s work you would enjoy Morton’s Realist Magic and Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Objects, and Bryant’s new Onto-Cartography: An Ontology of Machines and Media… all good stuff!

    • jackiemania

      Thanks! I just became acquainted with these concepts in March so I need these recommendations desperately — thanks so much for your response! I have Bryant on my list next to help me with how I approach objects in my research — maybe I’ll try Meillassoux first, and the Morton book looks so relevant to what I’m trying to do! Again, thank you.

  2. KerryCan

    Wow–you almost got an unintelligible comment from my cat! Anyway, that is a VERY compelling book review! It sounds fascinating and I so approve of calling out those who can’t write difficult ideas in clear English!

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