When Dr. Seaman asked whether Brown and Bennett were in the “same room” with their respective ideas I immediately said no. (Being in the same room as in talking about similar subjects). I thought they had some similarities, but on the whole I thought they were having different discussions and were in different “rooms.” However, we talked about it some in class and I could see that yeah, maybe they are in the same room and I shouldn’t have been so quick to say no.
I have continued to think about the two readings and although I am not comfortable with the readings and their contents I do feel as though I see more similarities then I did at first. At the beginning of class we said that Brown is the theoretical and Bennett is the applicable. Both Brown’s “Thing Theory” and Bennett’s Vibrant Matter touch on the fact that we as humans look at the world in terms of humans and everything else. Bennett’s first paragraph is pretty much saying that and she uses the term “anthropocentric” multiple times in the Preface. Brown does not use anthropocentric, but he does state that we (humans) have always used things in theory, but we have never acknowledged them. So here they are definitely in the same room and even within a couple of feet of each other. Brown says we never consider a thing an object until that thing stops working as it should and he gives the example of a drill tip, or the window example. So if Brown is saying that we don’t acknowledge the thing, Bennett is agreeing and stressing that there is a vibrancy to matter and to things humans ignore. When humans ignore something or do not acknowledge it we miss out on the opportunity to see how it affects other parts of life. So in this instance Bennett takes what Brown says a step further, not only do we not acknowledge things, but also we completely miss out on another perspective.
The two are definitely in the same room, but I still don’t think they are talking to each other. I think they are standing next to each other have conversations with other people… but in the same room.
Studying Bill Brown’s essay “Thing Theory” and Bennett’s preface to Vibrant Matter, I couldn’t help but think of the many Disney cartoons (or just cartoons in general) that give life to inanimate objects. Animals, because they are animate and we tend to attach meaning to them more readily, are used often in animation as substitutes for human experience. We have more or less come to accept this as a normal practice. What is fascinating to me, in light of the readings, was how we also do not find it unusual to see inanimate objects in action.
In Beauty and the Beast, for instance, Lumiere and Cogsworth are two humans that have been transformed into a candelabra and a clock respectively. Their roles, regardless of their temporary existence as objects, are central in advancing the mostly human-driven plot of the movie. Furthermore, there are talking gargoyles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and equally animate household appliances in The Brave Little Toaster. When things are given human characteristics, we inevitably begin to think of them differently. Objects suddenly become not only useful, but vital because they fit more easily into our anthropocentric way of viewing the world. Why do we enjoy seeing objects and/or things act like humans anyway? Is that the only way we can identify with objects? We cannot seem to comprehend that an object, in and of itself, is worthy of consideration beyond its inherent function or purpose.
It’s undeniably strange that we discard objects in real life, but experience (in some cases) an emotional attachment to them in animated form. It’s as if we really do want to think of objects in that way but cannot bring ourselves to in a real-world setting. The interest in seeing talking animals I can understand well enough, considering we have acknowledged higher-class animals as possessing value. However, we have not even begun, as human beings, to reach the same point when it comes to inanimate objects. Objects seem to only have meaning in various animated fantasy worlds, but perhaps we might grow to think of them in the future as not merely things (with no conscious thought, and therefore no right of being thought of as “agents”), but entities worthy of being considered beyond how they relate to human beings.