Category Archives: Lecture

Lecture: Aden Evens, “Ontological Limits of the Digital”

Thursday, March 14, 2019
3:30 PM
Grucci Room, 102 Burrowes Building

On Thursday, March 14, 2019, Aden Evens (Dartmouth College) will deliver a lecture titled “Ontological Limits of the Digital.”

Event flyer

Description of presentation

Digital technologies are nearly ubiquitous and serve a great many purposes, but this very heterogeneity discourages an analysis of universal characteristics of the digital, including consideration of possible fundamental limits on what the digital can do. Instead of drawing conclusions about the digital by surveying its applications, this talk examines the ontological foundations of digital technology, especially the ontology of the bit, in an attempt to construct a general theory of what the digital does. How do bits underpin digital operation, giving the digital its vast and broad reach? What aspects of bits, and the digital structures built from them, carry over into the human-machine interface and so also into the cognition and behavior of those who engage with digital technologies? Recognizing that digital ontology is in important respects unlike the ontology of the material world, this talk attempts to articulate the ontology of the digital, identify its distinctive modalities, and speculate on that basis about its unassailable limitations.

Speaker bio

Aden Evens is Associate Professor and Vice-Chair of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. His extradisciplinary research explores the ways in which formal systems influence individuals and cultures. His early career work on music, sound, and associated technologies led to the publication of the book Sound Ideas: Music, Machines, and Experience (University of Minnesota Press, 2005). Since then, he has been writing and teaching about the digital, perplexed at how few people seem to share his sense of alarm at the increasing hegemony of this underexamined facet of our lives. His second book, Logic of the Digital (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2015), offered a sober look at the digital’s underlying principles.

Cover of Evens, Logic of the Digital

Lecture: Justin Joque, “Deconstruction and the Weaponization of Knowledge”

Thursday, April 19, 2018
4:00 PM
Grucci Room, 102 Burrowes Building

On Thursday, April 19, 2018, Justin Joque (University of Michigan) delivered a lecture titled “Deconstruction and the Weaponization of Knowledge.”

Event flyer

Description of presentation

Russia’s attacks on the 2016 US election brought cyberwar to the forefront of American politics and demonstrated that this new type of warfare expands far beyond merely destroying infrastructure. These attacks yielded a rush to find technical solutions and appropriate political responses — all tempered by domestic beneficiaries of those attacks — but many of these responses underestimate the philosophical and epistemological depth of cyberwar. These types of incursion target the very fabric of our institutions and our collective ability to know the world, complicating any attempt to respond.

The Russia intervention touches on the nature of our twenty-first century technologies and on what Jacques Derrida calls the autoimmune nature of democracy — the proclivity for its structure to attack itself. This talk will rather argue that it is through theory, especially the work of Derrida, that we can begin to understand what is at stake in cyberwar. It will situate Russian interference in the 2016 election in the broader history of cyberwar and attempt to provide a frame for understanding cyberwar’s destabilizing effects in the context of Derrida’s later writing on democracy and reason.

Speaker bio

Justin Joque is the author of Deconstruction Machines: Writing in the Age of Cyberwar (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) and the visualization librarian at the University of Michigan. He completed his PhD in Communications at the European Graduate School and holds a Master’s of Science of Information from the University of Michigan, with a focus on machine learning and data analysis.

Lecture: Jennifer Rhee, “Drone Warfare, Drone Art, and the Limits of Identification”

Thursday, April 5, 2018
3:30 PM
Grucci Room, 102 Burrowes Building

On Thursday, April 5, 2018, Jennifer Rhee (Virginia Commonwealth University) delivered a lecture titled “Drone Warfare, Drone Art, and the Limits of Identification.”

Event flyer

Description of presentation

This talk comes from my book The Robotic Imaginary: The Human and the Price of Dehumanized Labor (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming 2018). I will trace connections between U.S. robotics technologies and cultural forms at the sites of dehumanization and devalued labor. I will argue that the figure of the robot in contemporary culture and technology is largely shaped by the conceptions of the human and more importantly of the dehumanized. I will look specifically at the labor of drone operators and what I call “drone art,” or contemporary artistic responses to drone warfare. Drawing on the racializing aspects of early cybernetics military research, I will look at drone art that responds to drone victims’ dehumanization by examining the limits of identification as a means of ethical response. Instead, drone art, as I will discuss, points to an understanding of the human through unrecognizability, difference, and unfamiliarity, rather than recognition, familiarity, and knowability.

Speaker bio

Jennifer Rhee is Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her research and teaching are in science and literature and media studies. Jennifer’s book The Robotic Imaginary: The Human and the Price of Dehumanized Labor (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), will be published later this year. Her work has also appeared in journals including Camera Obscura, Configurations, Mosaic, and Postmodern Culture. She is currently working on her next book on counting technologies, from statistics to biometric surveillance.

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