If Félix Guattari recognised at the end of the 1980s the clear signs of a new aesthetic paradigm, one that would, in the future, with a strong media-technological grounding, traverse equally all spheres of value and realms of being, it seems today more and more that the new paradigm should be referred to not so much as aesthetic, but rather ecological. Especially over the last few years, an unprecedented expansion of the concept of ecology can be observed, which bears witness to the rise of the ecological paradigm and its taking up of a privileged transversal position in the present era: for example, the talk of libidinal ecology, ecology of attention, ecologies of sensation, ecologies of perception, ecology of cognition, ecologies of subjectivity, political ecology, ecology of power, ecotechnics, ecologies of the virtual, ecologies of belonging, media ecologies etc.

All this amounts to a far-reaching ecologisation of both the image of thought and of the image of being, which simultaneously, and crucially, implies a fundamental shift or revaluation of the meaning of ecology, from a restricted to a general ecology. Ecology has for some time ceased to be allied with a drive to remain unscathed, safe and sound, the invocation of the untouched and intact, just as it has long since overflowed the biological, ethological or life science spheres of reference. The term refers more and more to an unnatural, non-natural ecology, more specifically to a new ecology of a nature-technology continuum, which schematises a general environmentalisation through technology and the technical sciences, and a concomitant explosion of agencies, as the core of our present and even more our coming basic experience. The central struggles and innovations of conceptual and theoretical politics of recent decades find their virulence within the frame of this deep ecological transformation, and it also here that many other significant contemporary problem areas – such as posthumanism, the question of the animal, and of zoepolitical bio-equality – acquire their explosiveness. The general ecologisation is an essential factor, perhaps even the key feature, of our historicity.

Ecologisation – this is the central thesis of the symposium – is not simply the identification of a mere « ecological turn », which under the influence of the global ecological crisis with which we are confronted, would affect our contemporary theoretical programmes for a more or less fleeting moment, drenching them for an instant in ecological metaphor and so inscribing itself in them. It is rather a new « great transformation » that is appearing, one which comes from far away and will be long-lasting. It is, in Husserl's sense, nothing less than the birth of a new attitude [Einstellung], a new general style, which would as a whole mark a wide-ranging change in the historicity of meaning. The concept of general ecology, which, it is proposed, should be the name of this change, thereby has a twofold meaning: firstly, the new fundamental position [Grundstellung] which characterises being and thought under the technological condition of a cybernetic state of nature; secondly, the new description which this transformation compels.

The symposium aims to expose the concept of ecology as an epochal concept, around which, since the closure of the 19th century, at the latest since 1950 and increasingly since, a new semantics for the description of our technological condition has been crystallising. Against this background, the historical and systematic, epistemological and ontological contours of our general ecological constitution are to be disclosed. The aims are to work through the scenes and problem areas which have been and are important for the genesis of the general ecological situation and the becoming of the thought of general ecology, historically and in the present; to apply systematic consideration to, for example, the question of an ecological rationality and an eco-logic, the reconceptualization of subjectivity, experience, desire, individuation under the conditions of a general ecology; and finally, to clarify the extent to which the general ecologisation is related to the far-reaching deterritorialisation of contemporary capitalism, its media and technoscientific mobilisation and its posthumanist machinery of exploitation, the extent to which the general ecological shift is even thereby created, and the ways in which here, in the working through of these complexities, lie the challenges for critical thinking. The symposium overall serves to demonstrate this epochal movement, still unthought as such, which leads us to media technologies as the technoscientific grounding of an era characterised by new environmental agencies, and of a radically environmental way of being. Its challenges and perspectives are to be discussed, particularly with regard to a critical media theory and theory of technology.

Erich Hörl
Bochum, July 2 2012