INFINITE DISTRACTION —
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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HUMID, ALL TOO HUMID —
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
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
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
IN DIVISIBLE CITIES
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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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
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,
"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
— Hugh Raffles,
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
—McKenzie Wark, author of
A Hacker Manifesto
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."
Doom Patrols: A Theoretical Fiction About
AVOIDING THE SUBJECT — Media, Culture and the
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
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
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
"I read your book with great pleasure, and found it absolutely remarkable."
"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
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
Baudrillard became Baudrillard.
Internationalizing Cultural Studies:
Co-edited with Ackbar Abbas,
John Nguyet Erni et al
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.