Category Archives: Lecture

Lecture: Olivia Banner, “Technopsyence and Afro-Surrealism’s Cripistemologies”

Thursday, March 28, 2019
3:30 PM
Grucci Room, 102 Burrowes Building

Lecture sponsored by the Digital Culture and Media Initiative (Department of English) and the Rock Ethics Institute

On Thursday, March 28, 2019, Olivia Banner (University of Texas at Dallas) will deliver a lecture titled “Technopsyence and Afro-Surrealism’s Cripistemologies.”

Event flyer

Description of presentation

New psychiatric research leashes mobile device data to neuroscientific and genetic research for the purpose of resolving weaknesses in psychiatric nosologies. Digital psychiatric treatment tools, implemented under neoliberal austerity frameworks, generate new data associated with mental health. I name this interlinked assemblage “technopsyence” to indicate that the psy-ences, like other domains of 21st century biomedicine, operate in tandem with the technology industries that they fuel. With the risk industries incorporating this new data into their calculations, technopsyence serves as another big data industry by which populations are capacitated and debilitated. In this, I argue, technopsyence reproduces extractive racial capitalism.

Using a crip theoretical approach, I explore a recent Afro-Surrealist text about Black cyborgs and Black mental distress to consider its reimaginings of the relationship among digital technologies, bodyminds, and extractive racial capitalism. An aesthetic that challenges Enlightenment epistemologies, Afro-Surrealism questions the models for knowledge about bodyminds that undergird technopsyence. The text I examine offers a historical materialist cripistemology of digital media. It presses us to imagine care in the digital era outside of racial capitalism.

Speaker bio

Olivia Banner is Assistant Professor of Critical Media Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her recent book Communicative Biocapitalism: The Voice of the Patient in Digital Health and the Health Humanities (University of Michigan Press, 2017) examines how gender, race, and disability inform the value that biocapitalism locates in “the voice of the patient.” Her second book project, Screening “Madness,” 1949-2020, constructs a genealogy of screen media’s incorporation into the psychiatric disciplines to reveal those media’s centrality to the disciplines’ racialization and gendering of pathologization.

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.