December 2011

NPR just ran their interview with me on “Morning Edition” — you can hear the piece and read the transcript online. The piece makes the nice, general point that algorithms like Twitter Trends make choices about what kinds of topics to highlight and present back to users, though they might seem like neutral calculations. I try to make a more substantive claim, that to even think of it as “bias” is too simple a means for understanding both the politics of the algorithm and the politics of how we represent the public back to itself, in the Culture Digitally blog post that first addressed Twitter Trends: “Can an algorithm be wrong?”. (It was also cross-posted here and on Microsoft’s Research’s “Social Media Collective” blog, and was reprinted by I’m also working on a piece for Limn that pushes on these two concerns a bit more.

(Cross-posted from Culture Digitally)

This conference call looked particularly interesting.

The Nonhuman Turn in 21st Century Studies
May 3-5, 2012
Center for 21st Century Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

abstracts due, Dec 19, 2011 (CFP)

This conference takes up the “nonhuman turn” that has been emerging in the arts, humanities, and social sciences over the past few decades. Intensifying in the 21st century, this nonhuman turn can be traced to a variety of different intellectual and theoretical developments from the last decades of the 20th century:

- actor-network theory, particularly Bruno Latour’s career-long project to articulate technical mediation, nonhuman agency, and the politics of things

- affect theory, both in its philosophical and psychological manifestations and as it has been mobilized by queer theory

- animal studies, as developed in the work of Donna Haraway, projects for animal rights, and a more general critique of speciesism

- the assemblage theory of Gilles Deleuze, Manuel DeLanda, Latour, and others

- new brain sciences like neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence

- new media theory, especially as it has paid close attention to technical networks, material interfaces, and computational analysis

- the new materialism in feminism, philosophy, and marxism

- varieties of speculative realism like object-oriented philosophy, vitalism, and panpsychism

- and systems theory in its social, technical, and ecological manifestations

Such varied analytical and theoretical formations obviously diverge and disagree in many of their aims, objects, and methodologies. But they are all of a piece in taking up aspects of the nonhuman as critical to the future of 21st century studies in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.