Category Archives: Lecture

Lecture: “Computational ± Imperial Stylistics: J. M. Coetzee and the Limits of the Digital”

Tuesday, November 12, 2019
3:30 PM
Grucci Room, 102 Burrowes Building

Lecture sponsored by the Digital Culture and Media Initiative

On Tuesday, November 12, 2019, Max Larson (Penn State) will deliver a lecture titled “Computational ± Imperial Stylistics: J. M. Coetzee and the Limits of the Digital.”

Event flyer

Description of presentation

Before he wrote his first novel; before he won a Nobel prize; before he became a polarizing and widely discussed bellwether of postcolonial literary studies, J. M. Coetzee was a professional computer programmer. In the 1960s he worked for IBM and International Computers and then brought his programming skills to the University of Texas, where he wrote a doctoral dissertation about mathematical and computer-aided approaches to the study of literary style. This talk re-examines Coetzee’s early programming work in light of far more recent efforts to unite computational and literary expertise. While contemporary scholars have applied machine learning, network analysis, GIS software, and other digital tools toward the analysis of literature, Coetzee’s extended foray into — and his unceremonious break with — computational stylistics points toward an alternative conception of computer-oriented criticism: one that is informed by rigorous technical training in computing, but which is otherwise grounded in the methods and critical imperatives of the decolonial-era humanities.

Speaker bio

Max Larson is a postdoctoral teaching fellow at Penn State, where he is writing a book about the relationship between computational and critical methods of textual analysis since the Second World War. His research has been published in the journal Diacritics.

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