It’s been slow here because I am hard at work on the manuscript of Ecologies of the Moving Image, which I had hoped to finish this summer. The first three chapters are complete or close to it; the last three and final epilogue are in various stages of semi-completion. Until they are complete, blogging may continue to be slow. (And the current heat wave, hitting 90+ F. (30s C.) temperatures in Vermont’s Green Mountains, and encouraging swimming rather than writing, doesn’t help.) Here’s a little information about the book. (This has been slightly modified from the original post, to clarify a few things.)
There are six chapters, a brief Foreword, and a brief-to-medium length Epilogue. Chapter titles, at the moment, are as follows:
1. Introduction: Journeys into the Zone of Cinema
2. Ecologies, Morphologies, Semiosics: A Process-Relational Model of Cinema
3. Territorialities: The Geomorphology of the Visible
4. Encounters: First Contact, Utopia, & the Ethnographic Impulse
5. Anima Moralia: The Ethics of Perception
6. Terra, Trauma, & the Geopolitics of the Real
Epilogue: Digital Life in a Biosemiotic World
As the Introduction suggests, the journey metaphor looms prominently in the book. This is because I conceptualize the cinematic experience as a journey into cinema worlds. The book presents a philosophy — specifically an ecophilosophy — of the cinema. It brings a “process-relational” approach (indebted to Peirce, Whitehead, Deleuze, and others) to three sets of relational processes: (1) the constitution, becoming, or “worlding” of film-worlds themselves (conceived as morphogenetic processes), (2) the processes by which viewers are drawn into film-worlds, and (3) cinema’s interaction with the extra-cinematic earth-world.
Each of these is a triad, conceived more or less along the lines of Peirce’s categories. With the film-world (#1), there is its geomorphism, the givenness of its objectscapes; there is the biomorphism of its interperceptual dynamics, which include the seeing/hearing/feeling that is at the heart of cinema (i.e., its relational event-ness); and there is the anthropomorphism, by which agency, the capacity to act, is distributed within the film-world. With the film-event (#2), there is its spectacle, its immediate, shimmering ‘thisness’ and ‘thereness’; there is its narrativity, which weaves us into its causal-effective web as it surges forward in time; and there is the semiosic productivity or signness of the meanings that proliferate out of the encounter between us — with our prior experiences, expectations, desires, and so on — and the film. And with the earth-world (#3), there are its material ecologies (for which cinema is a material process), its perceptual ecologies (for which it is a perceptual process), and its social ecologies (for which it is a social process).
In each case, the first is what appears, emergent from prior causal conditions and relations mixed with spontaneity and chance (respectively, these are the objectness of the film-world; the spectacle of the film-event; and the materiality of the earth-world); the second is where the (inter)action is (the interperceptivity of the film-world; our attempt to follow the unfolding film-event; and the interperceptivity of the earth-world within which cinema acts); and the third is its emergence into meaning, pattern, logos (the agentialities, or subjectivities/identities/capabilities for action, within the film-world; the production of meanings proliferating from the film-event; and the agentialities of the earth-world). This triadics is not meant to separate different pieces or components of the world. It is intended, rather, to place them in relationship to each other as part of a single processual dynamic. Ultimately there is only process — not subjects and objects, not materiality and sociality (or meaning), but process creating form through action/interaction. And we enter into this process, moment by moment, from its very midst.
Chapter One introduces the book, contextualizes it within debates about visuality, modernity, and the contemporary condition (postmodern, digital, late capitalist, global), and presents an in-depth reading of an exemplary film (Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”). Chapter Two develops the theoretical/philosophical architectonic underlying the whole book. Chapters Three through Five detail, respectively, the geomorphic, the anthropomorphic, and the biomorphic registers of cinema worlds, with examples from the full range of cinema (from westerns and road movies to ethnographic films, animation, experimental and art films, and nature documentaries). Chapter Six brings the three together into an account of political-ecological trauma as depicted and felt within film. The Epilogue hazards some thoughts about the digital future.