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Polity, October 2015

It is often argued that contemporary media homogenize our thoughts and actions, without us being fully aware of the restrictions they impose. But what if the problem is not that we are all synchronized to the same motions or moments, but rather dispersed into countless different emotional micro-experiences? What if the effect of so-called social media is to calibrate the interactive spectacle so that we never fully feel the same way as other potential allies at the same time? While one person is fuming about economic injustice or climate change denial, another is giggling at a cute cat video. And, two hours late, vice versa. The nebulous indignation which constitutes the very fuel of true social change can be redirected safely around the network, avoiding any dangerous surges of radical activity.

In this short and provocative book, Dominic Pettman examines the deliberate deployment of what he calls hypermodulation, as a key strategy encoded into the contemporary media environment. His account challenges the various narratives that portray social media as a sinister space of synchronized attention, in which we are busily clicking ourselves to death. This critical reflection on the unprecedented power of the Internet requires us to rethink the potential for infinite distraction that our latest technologies now allow.

"This book deserves more than a thumbs up-icon. Dominic Pettman analyses the contemporary appetite for distraction as the operational mode of social media culture. He introduces the reader to the subroutine society where habitual rhythm precedes rational choice. Pettman’s most recent book, Infinite Distraction, offers a critical analysis that is itself attentive to the various nuances of how a new kind of selfhood is being synchronized in screen-based networking. The provocative text is written with flair; it functions as a necessary manual to understand the massive grey zone somewhere between the pre-programmed and the accidental.

Jussi Parikka

"The social media of ‘Internet 2.0’ distract us to death, yet they also demand and absorb all our attention. They make us all interchangeable with one another, yet they also divide us into tiny groups that never meet or interact. In Infinite Distraction, Dominic Pettman takes the measure of these odd paradoxes, and cuts the Gordian knot of perplexity in which they leave us. "

Steven Shaviro

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Punctum Books, FALL 2015

In Humid, All Too Humid, social commentator Dominic Pettman curates the overheated thoughts of his own feverish mind, in response to a world struggling with unprecedented levels of cultural climate change.

The book takes the form of aphorism, witticism, maxim, axiom, dictum, quip, jape, adage, proverb, pun, precept, reflection, suggestion, observation, paraphrase, bon mot, vagary, specificky, put-on, put-off, mummery, miscellany, aside, in-front, behind, knock-knock joke, one-liner, tweet, re-tweet, truism, and not-so-truism.

Known for his scholarly work on love, sex, and the (post)human condition, Pettman now assembles this collection of humoristic micro-meditations on everything from the meaning of life to the “yoghurt of human unkindness.”

Humid, All Too Humid reads as if Oscar Wilde had first written Minima Moralia, after binge-watching too many episodes of The Simpsons.

"Dominic Pettman is the Steve Wright of cultural theory.

Eugene Thacker


Punctum Books, 2013

A Phanto-Cartographical Missive

Italo Calvino rewrites Baudrillard’s America with a more global eye, as edited by Roland Barthes.

In Divisible Cities takes Italo Calvino’s classic re-imagining of Venice, viewed in the mind’s eye from many different metaphysical angles, and projects it on to the world at large. Where the Italian saw his favorite city as an impossible metropolis of many moods, shades, and ways of being, this unauthorized sequel unpacks the Escheresque streets in unexpected directions. In Divisible Cities is thus an exercise in cartographic origami: the reflective and poetic result of the narrator’s desire to map hidden cities, secret cities, imaginary cities, impossible cities, and overlapping cities, existing beneath the familiar Atlas of everyday perception. Stitching these different places and spaces together is a “double helix” or “Siamese seduction” between the traveler and his romantic shadow, revealing — step by step — a clandestine itinerary of hidden affinities, nestled within the habitual rhythm of things.

Matter matters. That’s what the drone of the city tells us.

And yet we dream of something beyond these invisible walls.

"Were I an architect-deity, I would create an Escheresque subway system, linking all the cities in the world. The tunnels themselves, and the people decanted from one place to the other, would eventually create an Ecumenopolis: a single and continuous city, enlaced and endless. Were this the case I could get on the F train at Delancey Street, Manhattan, and — after a couple of changes mid-town — emerge in the night-markets of Taipei, or near the Roman baths of Budapest. Or perhaps even downtown Urville."

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Zero Books - Look at the Bunny

  LOOK AT THE BUNNY — Totem, Taboo, Technology 'NEW'
Zero Books, 2013

An essential guide to those technological totems and taboos which help us navigate the chaotic terrain of today's mediascape.

Are totems merely a thing of the distant past? Or might it be that our sleek new machines are producing totemic forces which we are only beginning to recognize? This book asks to what degree today's media technologies are haunted by a Freudian ghost, functioning as totems or taboos (or both). By isolating five case-studies (rabbits in popular culture, animated creatures that go "off-program," virtual lovers, jealous animal spirit guides, and electronic paradises), Look at the Bunny highlights and explores today's techno-totemic environment. In doing so, it explores how nonhuman avatars are increasingly expected to shepherd us beyond our land-locked identities, into a risky - sometimes ecstatic - relationship with the Other.

"Dominic Pettman doesn't change what one thinks. It changes HOW one thinks. What starts out as counter-intuitive ends up as so true and right that one can no longer recall ever thinking otherwise. This book is only for those courageous enough to venture down the rabbit-hole."

Jodi Dean, author of Blog Theory and Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies

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  HUMAN ERROR — Species-Being and Media Machines
University of Minnesota Press, 2011 (Posthumanities Series)

Argues that humanity can be seen as a case of mistaken identity.

What exactly is the human element separating humans from animals and machines? Dominic Pettman argues that the most decisive “human error” may be the ingrained impulse to understand ourselves primarily in contrast to our other worldly companions. Human Error boldly insists on the necessity of relinquishing our anthropomorphism but also on the extreme difficulty of doing so.

"This is a powerful account of human exceptionalism, narrated with the most enchanting of attentiveness to the texts being read. Dominic Pettman writes with such subtlety, wit, and imagination that every page of this book is a pleasure to think with.

Rey Chow, Duke University

"Reading this book is a seductively creaturely experience. Pettman combines impressive theoretical sophistication and pitch-perfect pop-cultural readings with a lightness of touch that pulls us in many unexpected directions and elicits many surprising feelings. A major contribution that maps a way past the all-too-human errors of the posthuman."

Hugh Raffles, author of Insectopedia

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  LOVE AND OTHER TECHNOLOGIES — Retrofitting Eros for the Information Age
Fordham University Press, 2006

Can love really be considered another form of technology? This book says it can, although not before carefully redefining technology as a cultural challenge to what we mean by the “human” in the information age. Using the writings of such thinkers as Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Bernard Stiegler as a springboard, the book explores the “techtonic” movements of contemporary culture, specifically in relation to the language of eros.

"The ultimate handbook on love for the overeducated."

McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto

"The current academic discourse on technology is dominated by naively triumphalist rhetoric on the one hand, and by Heideggerian fears about how it is 'denaturing' us on the other. Pettman offers a way out of this double bind, by thinking 'technology' together with 'love' and 'community'. He is an orginal and deep cultural theorist."

Steven Shaviro, author of
Doom Patrols: A Theoretical Fiction About Postmodernism

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  AVOIDING THE SUBJECT — Media, Culture and the Object
with Justin Clemens
University of Amsterdam Press, 2004

What can Roger Rabbit tell us about the Second Gulf War? What can a woman married to the Berlin Wall tell us about posthumanism and inter-subjectivity? What can DJ Shadow tell us about the end of history? What can our local bus route tell us about the fortification of the West? What can Reality TV tell us about the crisis of contemporary community? And what can unauthorized pictures of Osama Bin Laden tell us about new methods of popular propaganda?

These are only some of the thought-provoking questions raised in Avoiding the Subject, which highlights the feedback-loops between philosophy, technology, and politics in today's mediascape.

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  AFTER THE ORGY — Toward a Politics of Exhaustion
State University of New York Press, 2002

Applying Jean Baudrillard's question "What are you doing after the orgy?" to the postmillennial climate that informs our contemporary cultural moment, this book argues that the imagination of apocalyptic endings has been an obsessive theme in post-Enlightenment culture.

"I read your book with great pleasure, and found it absolutely remarkable."

Jean Baudrillard

"The range of cultural and textual readings offered here are complemented by Pettman’s talent for telling a ‘story.’ Instead of laboring through a dry interpretation of millennial practices, I listened to a fine storyteller interpret and draw attention to important practices taking place at the present."

Todd F. Davis, coeditor of Mapping the Ethical Turn: A Reader in Ethics, Culture, and Literary Theory

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  Fatal Strategies, New Edition
Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents, 2008

Introduction – A Belated Invitation to the Orgy. (Pettman)

When Fatal Strategies was first published in French in 1983, it represented a turning point for Jean Baudrillard: an utterly original, and for many readers, utterly bizarre book that offered a theory as proliferative, ecstatic, and hallucinatory as the postmodern world it endeavored to describe. Arguing against the predetermined outcomes of dialectical thought with his renowned, wry, ambivalent passion, with this volume Jean Baudrillard mounted an attack against the "false problems" posed by Western philosophy. If his Marxist days were firmly behind him, Baudrillard here indicated that metaphysics had also gone the way of sociology and politics: the contemporary world demanded nothing less than Pataphysics, Alfred Jarry's absurdist philosophy that described the laws of the universe supplementary to this one. In effect, with Fatal Strategies, Baudrillard became Baudrillard.

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  Internationalizing Cultural Studies: An Anthology
Co-edited with Ackbar Abbas, John Nguyet Erni et al
Blackwell, 2004

Internationalizing Cultural Studies is an unprecedented resource that introduces and consolidates cultural studies literature from diverse locales and intellectual traditions. Contains forty-four contemporary essays that introduce and pluralize cultural studies work from diverse locales and intellectual traditions. Covers regions the world over, including Asia, Europe, and Africa. Organizes material around key themes such as race and ethnicity, transnationalism, gender and sexual cultures, media production and consumption, urban life, popular practices, techno-cultures, and visual cultures. Includes expert introductions from an international panel of editors, and facilitates customization of content for course use.

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