In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Taking AIME at Face ValueAn ANT-like Crawl through the Digital Project
  • Susan Brown (bio)

"As with every inquiry, one has to be familiar, first of all, with the procedures. It looks complex at first. But in fact, it is very simple and doesn't depend on any prior knowledge or jargon (though we have some technical terms)," pronounces the opening screen of the website for An Inquiry into Modes of Existence (Latour 2013, "When"). Bruno Latour has stressed that design was built into this project, its procedural rhetoric (Bogost 2007) imbricated with its content (Latour 2014). I therefore aim to take the site at (inter)face value to investigate its procedures experientially and aesthetically, in accordance with Latour's actor-network theory (ant) (Galloway 2012; Latour 2005).

I here document a preliminary crawl—slowly, naïvely, ant-like—through the links of aime, to ask how its networked affordances shape an inquiry into modes of existence. How does the design of this digital artifact affect our experience? Every interface is an argument, a combination of visual and verbal rhetoric that shapes meaning and experience. Offered as an "(identical) form" to a printed interim report, one that has nevertheless been "augmented," to what extent does modesofexistence.org act as a proxy for and yet operate differently from the printed book (Latour 2013)? What is the outcome of aime's experimental "reconfiguration" of close reading (Latour 2014)?

An ANT's-eye view

Googling "aime" brought up the website on the first page of results on April 19, 2016. The linguistically hybrid site hails me both in English [End Page 130] (the title and social-media elements) and in French (most of the content).


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Fig 1.

Twitter feed from the aime home page


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Fig 2.

Excerpt from the aime home page

In French, I am first confronted with a large, bold question in red: The menu item "in english," to which I sheepishly switch, leads to the English counterpart, "How do we compose a modern world?" By now the Twitter feed has updated with a tweet from today. I dive down the rabbit hole into the #resetmodernity hashtag and learn of the Reset Modernity exhibit, with its own field book. This situates aime within a vast network of events and textualities. I pull myself back to aime, only to discover, upon relapsing into Twitter links, the field book's page within the aime site itself (modesofexistence.org/field-book/). This, with Twitter handles such as @AimeTim, resets my sense of the network as globally expansive to one of the local network turning in on itself, a self-referentiality at once disconcerting and reassuring.

aime's contemporary style, uncluttered and dominated by sans-serif fonts, has clearly been through the "Bauhaus filter" of minimalist aesthetics (Liu 2009, 218, following Lev Manovich). There is a horizontal navigation bar along the top—conventional in placement and layout, cryptic in its first four options: what when how who faq blog en francais.

The labels again suggest a hybrid approach—the familiar blended with something more disorienting, the promise of philosophical affor [End Page 131] dances in tension with standard navigational apparatus. However, the big question and subsequent text look like the start of an essay or blog post. Reinforced by a tablet- or e-reader-friendly page layout, they invite reading. The summons thus seems not so much to a menu click as to a decision between the binary choice that follows the introduction to the modern project, again a bifurcation, a crossroads:


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Fig 3.

Excerpt from the aime home page

Book

The left-hand fork requires me to log in with an aime account, conscripting me as part of the project with my own "Workspace." This is a higher level of commitment than I would normally expect to encounter to read a book, but it is still open access in the dominant sense. What I encounter next is much more perplexing: three separately scrollable columns headed T, V, and D. No gloss on the letters appears when I mouse over them. I deduce...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2330-8117
Pages
pp. 130-136
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-21
Open Access
No
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