Digital Media and Machinic Cultures
NICA 10 EC Core Course offered by Pepita Hesselberth & Yasco Horsman
Time and Place: Feb-May 2021, Mondays 15.45-17.45 hrs. | Leiden University.
The rise of the networked computer forces 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, and the pairs structure & agency, subject & object, production & reception. It has also led to the introduction of concepts derived from such fields as cybernetics, information theory and systems theory, which challenge the traditional humanistic focus on hermeneutics and interpretation, such as operation, capture, embodiment, affect, assemblage, individuation, affordance, obfuscation, noise, and interference. The aim of this NICA course is to come to terms – conceptually, if not psychologically – with the machine-centric logic of our present-day culture. We will study new ways of understanding the relations between digital media, new imaging technologies, 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 thought it has 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 (authors include Agre, Amoore, Apprich, Berrardi, Birchall, Brunton and Nisselbaum, Chabott, Chun, Cvekovich, Fisher, Galloway, Halpern, Han, Hayles, Kaun, Karppi, Parisi, Rouvroy, Steyerl, Stiegler, Zuboff). We will read these texts in relation to 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.