Technical Mentality Revisited: Brian Massumi on Gilbert Simondon

Massumi, Brian. ""Technical Mentality" Revisited: Brian Massumi on Gilbert Simondon." Parrhesia, Number 7, 2009, 36-45. In this article Brian Massumi explains the relevance of Simondon to contemporary thought and specifically to posthuman theories. Using the article Technical Mentality (see Simondon, Technical Mentality), Massumi shows Simondon’s care and attention to nonhuman potential as a constituting factor in the emergence, or ontogenesis, of new realities. Simondon refers to such emergence as individuation. Massumi links Simondon’s philosophy of individuation to his philosophy of technology, which he argues is necessary to fully gauge the impact of Simondon. For instance, technical invention is the act of bringing together diverse elements on the part of the human inventor, aligning and operating them based on a cognitive schema that allows for the technical object to produce a new, causally recurrent realm of reality only made possible by the latent potentials within the elements themselves. The most famous example of this is the multifunctional potential of water and oil within the Guimbal turbine (see The Mode of Existence of Technical Objects).  The actualization of these potentials is, according to Massumi, the creative agency of nonhuman elements that individuate analogously to the mental state of the inventor. That is to say, once this new reality emerges the inventor must understand what has happened, and must explain the process, which was impossible to do before the new reality emerged.

This is a wide-ranging discussion of the importance of Simondon. It aligns Simondon to contemporary thought and previous philosophers like Whitehead, helps move past Simondon’s anachronistic language, and highlights key ideas within Simondon’s philosophy. However, lacking citations and references from Simondon's range of work, it does not point the reader to the specific resources that allow one to dig into the theory, avoiding fully fleshed out arguments, such as nonhuman, noncognitive agency and becoming within Simondon. It only glosses important themes within Simondon, such as the role of the network in technical mentality. The essay will be useful in applying the ideas around invention, plurifunctional potential, and emergence to similar ideas around praxis and nonhuman experience in my own research.