This article takes up German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk's attention to air and atmospheres to argue for the influential part “objective” thinking plays in disseminating viral pandemics. It follows Sloterdijk's broad approach to “air-conditioning” to interpret the way modern cultures increasingly work to explicate and construct objective figures of (and in) air. A fundamental, yet invisible, “anthropopoietic” element, air resists the forms and figures we use to describe it. This is acutely demonstrated by airborne viruses like COVID-19 and the pandemics they create, where the medial willingness to perceive or “figure” the air becomes a critical, everyday necessity. When Sloterdijk attributes the spread of “affective epidemics” to mass-media technologies, he draws attention to how airborne transmission is a symptom of breathing the same air, which, by affecting and altering air-conditions to reproduce identical figures all across the globe, increases its spread. This article argues that the willingness to make air objective—in both senses of identifying its material properties, and believing in a uniform or consensus figure—eradicates the possibility of vital difference. In doing so, inhabiting what Sloterdijk calls the “World Interior” of reproducible sameness that props up international exchange, modern, globalized culture becomes far more susceptible to the rapid spread of epidemics. Virality is increased by the sameness of objective air-conditioning, and by reintroducing difference into the atmosphere we can bring back its life-giving potential.

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