Now They Own You

I have a notion that at any point of human history, we’ve all strived to leave behind a footprint of our existence, or at least harbor a need to fulfill some type of temporary ownership. I mean, that’s why we comb through Mother Nature’s bountiful lands with bulldozers and steamrollers to build our concrete infrastructures don’t we? Because we as humans instinctively come, see, and conquer. Any open space is seen as our’s for the taking, because it is our’s to claim and our God-given duty to give empty space the magic touch of “life.” And this notion is an unwritten rule that has been followed by our ancestors for generations because we have the opposable thumbs and tools to do so.

Let me make this a little more relatable. My apartment room that I have been dwelling in for about two months now has been pimped up as my own little space.


Here’s a nice selfie of me. It was a bad hair day. 

Hey MTV Cribs, welcome to my space. Take a look at my record collection lined up on my bed frame. Please pay no attention to the fact that I don’t have an actual record player. I especially love my Edward Hopper poster–nothing like some quality American art to really spruce a place up. 

And if you want, we can get a little more ephemeral. We place our glasses on top of bar counters before going to the bathroom to indicate that that “space” is taken. Sometimes my friends will tell me that I’ve left behind bobby pins or hair ties on top of their coffee table from a recent visit. Whether it is on a grandiose and permanent scale, or a fleeting passing of a once-there presence, the idea of humans taking over and personalizing “space” isn’t a new concept.

But let us see this discourse on society and space from a different perspective. In order to do that, I want to remind you of an old American classic. Fight Club is one of my favorite books, and I think this quote is pretty fitting:

“You buy furniture.  You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life.  Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled.  Then the right set of dishes.  Then the perfect bed.  The drapes.  The rug.  Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now, they own you.”  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 5


Before we were assigned to read Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, I took this quote with a grain of salt. I mean sure, I loved watching the movie adaption of Brad Pitt blowing up furniture in existentialist angst as much as the next person did, but Bennett’s reading put this quote in relevance to the relationship we have with space.

In a nutshell, Bennett gave us the afterthought of all matter being vibrant with life. But her denotative use of “life” is not like the mechanistic way of life that you or I might be familiar of. Objects of non-material and material spirit and composition all hold their own potentials in forms of complex interactions, properties, and productions of patterns and systems that are open to metamorphosis. What I think Bennett was trying to get here was that we, as humans, believe that life is defined by the observable actions of biological subjects (i.e. people, animals, plants). But what Bennett has led me to understand was the idea that inactive, and otherwise passive or immaterial objects, have just as much potential for growth, decay, and change as any active participant of this world may possess. It may not be in the same form as humans or plants do, but everything in this world is essentially made up of the same atoms and matter–and the things that affect us are all equally applicable to some extent.

And that’s what my ecology is trying to explain–that the abstract idea of “space” has the same capacity to make difference or have affect in this world. I want to exhibit how space can have the ability to define us as people, or a certain social group.

Teresa Brennan makes an important point in her publication, “Transmission of Affect.” She quotes:

“Transmission of affect arises within the interactions made between people and an environment. It has a physiological impact because the transmission involves emotions of affects of one person entering into another” (2).

She also explains how the term “transmission of affect” is a process that is social in origin but biological and physical in effect. Her statements are not only valid, but also relatable to my ecology. How does the affect of different advertisements placed in the 7 train and L train differ in terms of their biological and social influences? And how does those social spaces that are equally producing those differences as much as they are being affected by them create its own social stigmas and groups?

As a disclaimer, this idea is still a baby in terms of its development. I’m sure that once I start to actually lay out all the details of this project, I’ll be confronted with more questions. But until then, I’ll keep Bennett and Brennan’s points fresh in my brain. And I’ll be sure to use any additional questions that I might think of as new perspectives on understanding my ecology project, and the notion of affect as both an academic discourse and terminology.


-Diana (Daeun) Park


~ by mccdiana on September 18, 2016.

3 Responses to “Now They Own You”

  1. Best in Style (yeah!)

    I like the style of the post the most; your post is prob my fav; I like it opens with a general comment and then relates it to you. The use of the quote is defiantly helpful and pretty (I just like the long quote). The writing is clear and easy to understand 🙂

  2. This post displayed the most learning… and in that was extremely thought provoking! I LOVE how you brought in the Fight Club connection. The quote really broadened the context of human connections to objects and things beyond the texts we are reading in class… this not only made what we are discussing very real but also drew me to be critical of my relationships with objects/ things.
    Thanks for a great (and comical) read!


  3. Best post in learning, love it so much! Tying in that Fight Club quote was amazing! I’ve seen the movie multiple times and never through about the quote that way! What you have to say about both spaces and objects being vibrant, having life and giving off energies that affect us humans was great for me to read and think over about, especially with the quote. I’m also glad something came out of your un-paid internship!

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