Effective Affect

When I first read Vibrant Matter, by Jane Bennett, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of “things” having a life-ness to them in equal capacity to humans. I kept picturing animated anthropomorphisms- the little paper clip with eyes that gives you document-improvement tips, a journal that talks back when you write in it. I thought- how can an object have as much agency as a person? They don’t speak, can’t move, have no voice of their own.

I’ve been walking around all week looking at objects and thinking about what it means for that “thing” to be able to influence me. For a color or shape to make me feel a certain way. A smell that brings memories flooding in. A particular way the thing looks just juxtaposed to another thing in that certain way with the sun hitting it that it makes me feel suddenly like my day maybe isn’t going so poorly, after all. And it’s absolutely true that it’s a reciprocal relationship- of me looking to find meaning projected by objects, hoping to affected by my surroundings. Because I would bet that a person who rushes through life and doesn’t think about the objects he or she encounters, would be unfazed by the things in the world around them. That is not to say that things would not inevitably have, even a subconscious, effect o a person, but that the person would live in a haze of muted and dulled colors and sounds.

Teresa Brennan takes similar logic in her piece The Transmission of Affect, applying it to interpersonal interactions. A room can have a “mood” based on the experienced emotions of the people within it. And this argument is directly in line with my interest in studying different study spaces in NYU- I would venture to guess that each study space has a different “vibe” based on the people and work being done there. How does working on a group project differ in an intense business school space in contrast to a performing arts space? Does a person feel welcome, intimidated, excited, tired? Could the affect of space, people, and environment (and the entwining of all three) be more influential in a person’s study habits than the material learned?

–Jackie Schlussel


~ by jds650 on February 7, 2016.

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