Time: second semester (Feb-June 2022), specific dates TBA
Location: Leiden University (on site)
Instructors: Pepita Hesselberth and Yasco Horsman
The rise of the networked computer in the global West has forced us to rethink a series of concepts and conceptual distinctions that have long dominated the humanities and the arts (concepts such as representation, meaning, ideology, structure/ agency, subject/ object, production/ reception). It has also led to the introduction of new modes of thinking, derived from such fields as cybernetics, information theory and systems theory, that often challenge the traditional humanistic focus on hermeneutics and interpretation, offering new concepts to think with (e.g. operation, capture, embodiment, affect, assemblage, individuation, affordance, obfuscation, noise, interference).
The aim of this course is to come to terms – conceptually, if not psychologically – with the machine-centric logic of our present-day culture, offering new ways of understanding the transforming and transformative relations between digital media, new imaging technologies, the arts and politics today. To this end, we will read a range of classic texts, including Marx’ “fragment on machines” (from the Grundrisse) and the French post-structuralist and Italian post-operaist though it inspired (Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard; Hardt, Negri, Lazzarato, Berardi, Esposito). We will also look into the more recent debates about machinic modes of mediation, touching on topics such as surveillance and capture; machine learning, pattern recognition, and big data; critique, noise and disruption; disconnection and withdrawal; and new forms of fatigue, burn-out and depression (the list of authors is expanding but may include Agre, Amoore, Apprich, Berrardi, Birchall, Brunton and Nisselbaum, Chabott, Chun, Cvekovich, Fisher, Galloway, Halpern, Han, Hayles, Kaun, Karppi, Parisi, Rouvroy, Steyerl, Stiegler, Zuboff). To anchor our analysis we will read these, and other fringe political texts (the invisible committee, dark enlightenment, accelerationism) along and juxtaposed with relevant artworks, films, songs and novels, so as to broach the ethical, political and psychological questions that digital media and machinic cultures give rise to today.
This course is completed with a series of small para-academic writing assignments (a contribution to our listicals, counter-archive and blog) and a podcast (group assignment). In-participation is mandatory.