Karen Barad

Posted: July 2, 2019 at 6:35 pm

After months I’ve finally finished reading the Karen Barad papers that where provided as part of their symposium at UBC. The following is my notes from the symposium, as well as my responses to the readings. These are lightly edited and clarified, and if I’m inspired to respond to the notes, I’ll include that in square brackets.

Troubling Time/s and Ecologies of Nothingness, Re-turning, Re-remembering, and Facing the Incalculable.

  • Entanglement between social justice and physics
  • Their own interpretation (Agential Realist Interpretation) acknowledged by the physics community.
    • Social justice is integrated in the interpretation (Critical theory, feminist, etc. )
    • Barad: I wanted physicists to read the feminist theory, so it was only published as a book and not in journals or conference proceedings.
    • Solution to the measurement problem, rooted in entanglement.
    • The ARI described the framework underneath the micro / macro, cultural, social, objective distinctions.
    • There needs to be an integration of micro and macro and we should not think of them as separate quantum and classical worlds.
    • The micro / macro distinction is an accident due to the particular Plank Constant, and not integral?
    • We need to deal with the implications of entanglement in the every day.
  • There is an Oxford book on interpretations of quantum physics.
  • Barad agrees with Bohr, not Hiesenberg. [regarding what?]
    • Bohr believes the particle is a foundational unit. [I don’t think this is consistent with Barad]

SpaceTime Diffraction (classical physics)

  • Interference patterns due to interacting waves
  • Slit experiment
  • Newtonian physics, there are only particles and waves.
  • A particle is an entity that is localized in space and time with no overlap with neighbours.
  • Waves are disturbances in fields.
    • How does this relate to moire patterns? (binary diffraction?)

Quantum Mechanics

  • A limit case of quantum theory (field theory): conception of one single particle (not going the speed of light) at a moment in time.
  • Fields are treated classically
  • Two slit experiment
    • You can’t say something is inherently a wave or particle.
    • Electrons produce diffraction patterns (so they are waves)
    • Send one electron at a time
    • There is only one electron, and over time you get diffraction patterns.
    • So one electron must be going through both slits and interacting with itself.
    • Now if we put a detector that tests which slit the electron goes through, the diffraction pattern disappears.
    • The detector prevents the electron from being in both slits and interacting with itself.
  • Bohr: What is the nature of meaning and concepts?
    • Concepts are material arrangements (are they context-dependent?)
    • Nothing is determinate without measurement.
    • Concepts have no meaning independently of measurement.
    • Wave or particle is determined by the measurement.
    • The measurement does not collapse probability, it changes the definiteness. [Constrains space of probable outcomes?]
    • We are part of the system we seek to understand.
    • Truth is a correspondence of words and things. [Meaning as a resemblance of structure of the symbol and that of the signified?]
    • The particle experiment makes particles while the wave experiment makes waves.
    • Interaction requires two things;
    • Intraaction: interaction is what creates the two things. [A thing always has the potential of being two things interacting?]
    • Consistent with the idea that Subjects and Objects are mutually constructive
  • Agential Realism (chapter 4 of book)
  • Discursive practises
    • Boundaries, properties and meanings arise from material configurations within phenomena [boundaries result from interactions and are not inherent]
  • Phenomena: differential patterns of mattering
  • Matter/ing
    • Matter is all the relations because the matter itself only has meaning in context of relations. [matter as a collection of relations / interactions?]

Time Diffraction (In troubling times paper)

  • Auto-correlation [A wave interacting with a delayed version of itself.]
  • Superposition: The particle is indeterminate in regards to which slit it goes through.
  • Temporal superposition (supertemporality?):
    • Diffraction pattern over time due to a spinning slit experiment (Correlation distance over time)
    • Entanglement over time rather than over space.
    • Walter Benjamin: Homogenous empty time [critique of progress]
  • Time as a dimension of space
    • Space-Time: We can’t know all properties of a particle, if we know some we cannot know others (Momentum / Position, Energy / Time) [why are these pairs and what is there structure if enumerated?]
    • [Present as a] sum over all possible histories?
    • The probability of a thing happening is a result of the probabilities of all possibilities. [reality as a mean of the possible?]
  • Quantum Eraser Experiment
    • Causality (past is not always before the present).
    • It’s not possible to erase what has already happened, but there is an openness to the past from the present.
    • Derrida: Past that has never been a present (past as construction) [there is only present; past and future are inferred from the present]
    • There is evidence of erasure of past in present. [What is it?]
    • Redeem the past by tracing the entanglements. [Make up for ‘past’ evils by tracing the relations that lead to them.]
    • Macro scale entanglement experiments. [What does macro entanglement mean? If not spin, then?]
    • Experiment: The detector is a buffer that stores which slit the ‘particle’ goes through and we can erase that buffer without observing it, this effects the diffraction pattern.

Quantum Field Theory (Day 2)

  • Fields themselves are treated in terms of quantum physics, not classically. [as in, probabilistically?]
  • Much less philosophical work on QFT compared to Quantum Mechanics.
  • Barad’s specialty, interpreting QFT.
  • Physicists will think Barad has lost their marbles or will ignore it because of the wrong language. [poetics, cultural theory, rather than mathematics.]
  • Poetics was the only way to communicate the ideas rigorously.
  • Derridian: Hauntology (Spectres of Marx)
  • Nothingness in QFT is not the void in classical physics.
  • Energy-time indeterminacy (why pairs?)
  • Void as drumhead.
  • void means there is no energy (nothing there)
  • if there is no energy, the drum-head is indeterminate. [not non-existant]
  • In the void, the energy is indeterminate (void is both nothing and something, the potential of something and nothing)
  • Quantized fields are particles.
  • The realness of Virtual Particles is indeterminate.
  • Most matter is virtual, components of it are indeterminant.
  • Are void (subject?) and particle (object?) mutually constructive?
  • Electrons have null and infinite interiority
  • What happens when an electron sits in its own EM field? (self-energy)
  • In the cases where there are loops (a electron emits a virtual quanta and reabsorbs it) energy is infinite.
  • Renormalization: Dress a bare electron with the virtual interactions to make it a real electron [This could use some serious discussion!!]
  • The structure of an electron is a arrangement of the universe in all its potentiality?
  • Every bit of matter is constituted by an alterity. [what does this mean?]
  • Phenomena are condensate of material practises (loops of self-reconstruction) [autopoiesis?]

Day 2

  • Experiment as ritual
  • Entanglements always include some components and exclude others. (including space and time) [entanglement as boundary imposition?]
  • Barad rejects concepts of levels of description / abstraction.
  • Differentiation and entaglement as a single integrative process. [Inclusion requires exclusion in the same action.]
    • Clustering / grouping as these belonging requires that things don’t belong.
  • If you see two distant things at the same time, they are already entangled and therefore linked.
  • Distance is an illusion

Indigenous Links (Transalations)

  • Colonial weight in the science jargon
  • Decomposition / biodegrading
  • Representation, reduction and objectivity as violence and ritual within science.
  • Meaning as a process of disturbance, not indexical but entangled?
  • Concept and material as co-constructive? (material changes concept and concept changes material) [back to concept and material as having similar structure]
  • What does it mean to realize you are of the world and not in the world?
  • What does decolonization mean if we don’t accept the binary of the evil colonist influence and the perfect precontact culture?
  • Sharon Crowitt (anthropologist of physics and consciousness researcher) [Could not find reference, spelling?]

After the end of the world: entangled nuclear colonialisms, matters of force, and the material force of justice (Day 3)

  • Time is scattered, now is a condensation of potentiality
  • quantum field theory
  • infinities problem [electron with infinite interiority]
  • Trading back and forth between field and nuclear, between abstract and application
  • QFT and the atom bomb are entangled, construct each other. [are mental states entanglements with that which they represent?]
  • Virtual particle: existing without being present / real.
  • Feynman diagram [self-reconstruction]
  • Is exclusion always a violent act?
  • Derrida: Force of Law

Extended Q&A (Day 4)

  • Agential Realism as practise
  • Diversity, Bohm interpretation
  • Bohm trying to learn Algonquin at the end of his life because he thought it was a better language for articulating ideas in quantum physics.
  • Barad is suspicious of convergences
  • Thinking about verbs and nouns gives us the impression of objects with properties, rather than relations constructing properties. [Are there all-verb languages?]
  • For Bohm concepts are material arrangements of material (sets of processes of making)
  • Science and Justice Research Centre at UCSC
  • Renormalization is a materialiatization and materialization is always material discursive practises.
  • By seeing two things as different we already assume they have not interacted.
  • Nothing comes from a (classical) void, there is always a pre-exicting relation
  • Entagling / Differentiating
  • Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart
  • Diffraction grating to show the world (filter complexity) [I have no idea is meant by this]
  • Attending to differences by working domains through one another
  • What is a material discursive? Understanding of levels of description? [no, Barad rejects levels of description]
  • Deconstruction of the physics with the physics
  • Network science?
  • Discomfort and difference (disorientation)
  • Generative potential of disorientation
  • Fiction as method, poetics as a way of describing (ambiguity, flexibility, fuzzyness)
  • Response/ability (borderlands) (Astrid Trator) [Could not find reference again, spelling?]

Self-reflection

  • Why are you interested in science?
  • escape your solipsism?
  • humans are too easy to be fooled
  • we can convince ourselves of almost anything
  • You see this as a problem of abstraction, but is that it?
  • Seeing two different things as the same.
  • What is a machine that creates itself?
  • The reasons we think X works may not be true, but may actually be useful and valuable.
  • is there measurement / magnitude without classification?
  • art idea: measure the world but specify the details of all the decisions in that measurement. Colour of a range in a space, representable by _____, etc.
    • Display colourimeter?
    • Diffraction / difference between colour as seen in reality and colour as seen in display?

Questions

  • Difference between refraction and diffraction?
    • Refraction is just bending, where waves don’t really interact. Refraction could be described in terms of diffraction?
  • Why are there particles or waves (historically)?
    • Newtonian Experiments
    • Optic experiments leading to particle orientation
    • The particle conception was doggedly attached to Newton’s conception
    • Troubling times paper
  • What is the media a wave is in?
  • Agency
    • Agency is the thing that allows interaction in the world
    • Reconstitution of subject
    • Intentionality, consciousness
    • Causality is neither free will nor determinism
    • Agency is a dynamism of the world (imagination as agency!!)
  • Translation
    • Agency: tap a form of responsibility (all my relations?)
  • How does law change in the context of not thinking about individuals, but systems of entanglement?

Meeting the Universe Halfway

  • Chapter 4 (Agential Realism)
  • Chapter 7

LOoW (Art) Ideas

  • Take your art imagination and reality paper and reframe, rewrite it in relation to Agential Realism?

Readings

Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together Apart.

  • Diffraction is breaking up. Breaking up some involves putting together others. (Cutting together-apart in one move)
  • this breaking is temporary:
    • “agential cuts do not produce absolute separations”
    • “contingent separations within phenomena” [intra-action?]
  • What is differentiating-entangling?
    • making different and making the same. Breaking and unifying? No, not unifying because unification involves erasing differences.
    • entangled parts can’t be separated.
    • superposition is the effect of agential cuts. The resistance of total separation? The two continue to be one, despite the separation (in some dimensions?)
  • what is sedimentation?
  • what is condensation?
  • always differences and samenesses
  • particleness or waveness is a ‘performance’
  • properties arise from interactions?
  • agential seperability?
  • are you inter/intra disciplinary?
  • the apparatus (the slit detector) is part of the system and changes the performance of components.

Troubling time/s and ecologies of nothingness : re-turning, re-membering, and facing the incalculable

  • Superposition: a particle’s position is indeterminate, it could be here and/or here, like a single wave can be in multiple places at once.
    • Is this a property of the particle, or a property of the waves we use to approximate the position of particles?
    • The argument seems to be that the particle is not real, but the probabilities. All probabilities exist and that is proved by the (two slit) diffraction (Feynman Path Integral)
  • time-energy and position-momentum indeterminacies
    • does this break causality?
  • all potential configurations / histories coexist. Not that they have probability to exist, but actually coexist simultaneously (Note 21)
  • “linear combination of different times” (linear how?)
  • past and future coexist and there is no linear progress.
  • quantum eraser experiment
    • the which-slit detector is a buffer that can be erased. If the detector buffer is erased the diffraction pattern returns. So this is not collapse, because you can’t uncollapse something.
    • what happens if the which-slit buffer is never observed?
    • does the erasure change the state of the particle after it already passed? [yes?]
    • Barad argues the diffraction pattern you get after erasure is actually a different pattern, not a recovered one.
    • The entangements that define coexisting possibilities is not destroyed by observation, observation does not collapse, but what does it do? Constrain? Veil?
  • art idea: work that contains the history of its own construction
  • objectivity as a view from no where
  • traces of the past always remain
  • virtuality in quantum physics
  • material effects of imagining
  • matter as language, always ongoing changing of meaning through interactions