Poetics as a Theory of Everything

Poetics as a Theory of Everything

Books and texts, Visual Art
Ira Livingston

We are often told that books will be co-evolving with digital technologies, but where are all the weird and promising mutations?  Poetics as a Theory of Everything is a digital cultural theory/philosophy book for a broad audience, featuring an innovative design, interactive scrolling and zooming illustrations, pop-up hypertextual asides, an embedded flip-book and video, and more.


The book’s frontispiece depicts a hand holding out a tab of LSD, an emblem of the author's ambition to take the reader on a cognitive journey into "a universe full of psychedelic meaning." 


The book is free and the interactive version is downloadable to any computer, tablet or phone.  A free non-interactive Kindle version is also available, but if you haven't read a full-on digital book before, this would be a good time to start! 


Operating at the intersection of the science of complex systems, science fiction, and philosophy, Poetics as a Theory of Everything explores what cultural artifacts (such as poems and metaphors) and even the most illegitimate offspring of the human brain (such as drug-induced hallucinations) can tell us about natural processes that shape living creatures and other systems.


The book begins by engaging obsessions about imminent apocalypse-- symptoms of the postmodern condition-- and follows them down to their roots, which extend all the way into our common predicament as living beings.  Subsequent chapters take up constraint (a fundamental creative principle in poetry and in thermodynamics) and meaning (understood as a Rube Goldberg-like process whereby systems interact with their fellow systems, subsystems, and environments).  The book ends lyrically with a series of prose sonnets and illustrations that elaborate these principles.  A secondary book, "Sustainability and Apocalypticism," weaves through Poetics, taking the philosophical themes in a historical direction.  Throughout, text and images embody the principle that the same process that leads to the emergence, consolidation and elaboration of form also leads to its fragmentation and dissolution.

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