Jiro Dreams of Objects

Since I don’t write about philosophy or theory or their near cousins, you might think that I’ve lost interest in them. I’m actually preoccupied with questions that are ultimately theoretical, but I don’t believe that this kind of work is served by a lot of writing. Insight is, for me, a rare and specific thing, and the easy participation in discourses does not seem to produce more movement in thought. Once a stance has been articulated – as Deleuze would have put it, a concept is formed – the dance around the concept seems like a waste of energy. Better to respond to the concept to produce other kinds of activity.

Having just seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi and the film illustrates the insight of the trend in thinking called object-oriented ontology, which I think of as a very productive cluster of concepts for those working in digital media and  rule-based cultural forms. The sushi chef, Jiro, exists in a relationship with a network of objects – the fish, heat, water, rice, ginger, customers – each of which is inexhaustable, the possibilities of them being both finite (bounded) and infinite (no knowledge system can capture all of their consequences, affordances, or effects, yet knowledge systems rely on them to be effective.) From the outside, at first, it seems that Jiro’s work with sushi is static, that there is nothing “innovative” about it. But the dialogue between Jiro and sushi – to eke out small improvements and enhancements in taste, working with pressure to improve the flavor and texture of the rice – is neither static nor “innovative” in the sense usually meant in, say, tech culture. In those differences lie more than just aesthetics.

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