In the second chapter of Bogost’s ‘Alien phenomenology’, all of the troublesome theorem from chapter one begins to fall into place. ‘Ontography’ is the primary concern here – ‘revealing the rich variety of being’. Page 36 reveals some varying definitions of the term ‘Ontography’, which i will outline here for clarity’s sake.

Harman: ‘Ontography would deal with a limited number of dynamics that can occur between all different sorts of objects’.

Kitchener: ‘Ontology is the theory of the nature of existence, and Ontography is its description’.

Kuhn (Ontographs): ‘Each ontograph consists of a legend that introduces types and relations, and of a mini world that introduces individuals, their types and their relations.’

Kuhn’s ontograph diagram is, rather cleverly, likened to IKEA assembly instructions – as the relations between the types of objects within the ‘mini-world’ that is an IKEA bookshelf or cupboard, are (somewhat effectively) communicated without the need of words, and can be used in many countries worldwide. (but we all know how difficult some IKEA goods can be to assemble!)

One of the main examples of ontography outlined by Bogost in this chapter – are the many forms of ‘lists’ that we find in the world.

‘The simplest approach to such recording is the list, a group of items loosely joined not by a logic or power or use, but by the gentle knot of the comma.’ (p.38)

Bruno Latour (famous for his Litanies) and Graham Harman are both identified as noted proponents of ‘the list’, using them often for introductions and arguments or to add emphasis within their work. Although some of the given examples of their lists appear outlandishly random and disjointed (eg. ‘elections, mass demonstrations, books, miracles, viscera laid open on the altar, viscera laid out on the operating table, figures, diagrams and plans, cries, monsters, exhibitions at the pillory’ ibid) – Bogost insists that ‘Litanies are not indulgences, they do indeed perform real philosophical work’. (p.39)


Furthering from chapter ones discussion of ‘removing the human centre’ to explore other perspectives with regards to objects – chapter two started to assist me in grasping the idea of ‘abandoning anthropocentric narrative coherence in favour of worldly detail’ (p.41) – whereby ontographical cataloging (listing) ‘becomes a virtue’.

While chapter two of ‘A.P’ explores the use of ontography through music in bossa songs such as ‘Girl From Ipanema’ and Jobim’s ‘Waters of March’ – stressing how ‘thingness’ can be better expressed using list form as opposed to strict explication – surprisingly, I developed more understanding of the concept at hand from the discussion of Stephen Shore’s photography later in the chapter, which i will discuss here briefly before wrapping up this post.

Shore was famous for using a ‘view camera’, a very complex method of photography that, to my understanding, incorporated glass plates in order to allow the photographer to see the image seperately from the way the camera sees it – upside down.. and capture an alternative view of the objects within the scene. In this way, no objects in his photography are treated as the primary subject. They merely ‘catalog the way things exist in a given situation’ (p.55)

Shores images ‘register’ the world and do not leave us feeling ‘superior to the material’ (p.49)

‘The Latour litany gathers disparate things together like a strong gravitational field. But the Shore ontograph takes things already gathered and explodes them into their tiny, seperate, but contiguous universes’ (Ibid)

This prime example of Stephen Shore’s photography is discussed at length in the second chapter – and demonstrates how some pieces of Shore’s work can be regarded as ‘ontographs’, ‘taking things that are already gathered and exploding them into their tiny, seperate, but contiguous universes’.

The chapter concludes, ‘ONTOGRAPHY is a practice of exploding the innards of things – be they words, intersections, shopping malls, or creatures. This ‘explosion’ can be as figurative or as literal as you like, but it must above all reveal the hidden density of a unit.’ (p.58)

Bring on the drumroll – as we gather our steam for chapter 3 – ‘Metaphorism’! Wish me luck.


About simonwoodhonours

Simon Wood (Honours in Media and Communication) is an RMIT student whose specialist discipline is in the 'contemporary music industry'. For his honours study in 2013, Simon will be researching the ‘concept album’, and its significance within the contemporary music industry.
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