Ana Texeiro Pinto seminar WS 2015

What is digital culture?
We often talk about the internet as if it were a sentient being, endowed with agency, yet the internet does not exist as a singular technological entity. Instead, you have a multitude of overlapping filters, which curate your browsing activities while doubling as control mechanisms. Up until now a case has been made for the idea that the technical takes precedence over the social. But the internet is political before being technical. In the present seminar we will attempt to examine the subjective and objectives effects of the digital turn in contemporary society.
The seminar will be organized in 4 modules of 2 classes each, revolving around the following topics:
Liquidity
In her seminal essay “The Cyborg Manifesto,” Donna Haraway argues that the effect of a digital ontology is the effacement of all oppositions. Instead of firm dichotomies, the distinction between “human and animal,” between “organism and machine,” and between “physical and non-physical,” are increasingly leaky; everything becomes “nothing but signals, electromagnetic waves, a section of a spectrum.” Liquidity became the fundamental metaphor for what we could call the “digital sublime:” in the diffuse world of post-Fordist economies everything is in permanent flow. But the consolidation of financial vectors goes hand in hand with increasing partitions in the social sphere: segregation, cultural difference, inequality. Since 2008, new capital was massively crated to prevent the devaluation of existing capital, but this excess liquidity did not find its way back into the production cycle. On the contrary, it was swiftly locked away into idle assets. Under the twin pressures of financialization and what is called “the sharing economy,” capital has emancipated itself from its direct relationship to labor––which is not to say it has done away with work; it has just overcome the need to pay formal salaries. The idea of a cultural totally (with the internet as its cipher) displaced the notion of society, but what appears as the medium’s phenomenology is in fact its ideology.
Conspiracy
Marx’s greatest achievement was to render capital’s operations visible. At present, though optical technologies produce images of virtually everything, the greatest problem is opacity. The genealogy of cinema was firmly rooted in photographic indexicality––with historians such as Siegfried Kracauer, André Bazin and Stanley Cavell placing the moving image within the strictly analytic tradition of Etienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge. But rather than capturing motion, the digital camera generates visual data: a polymorphic continuum of informational flow, which, eliminating the clear distinction between captured image and rendered image, destabilizes the ontology of the non-fictional camera. Whereas analogue photography was predicated on the belief that unmediated access to reality was not only possible, but imperative, the digital turn makes plain that every image is mediated. The ubiquity of information degrades its ontological status however: those orphans pleading for donations in the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal are not orphans, they are not even Nepalese, just stock-images, stand-ins for the “wretched of the earth.” As the visual became fully mediated, technology severed the link between image and representation. But the more opaque the technology, the more transparent it renders its users. Against the background of a potentially infinite network, conspiracy emerges has the only plausible narrative structure. Representing the world as an extension of paranoid subjectivity, conspiracy theory is the poor-person’s critique of ideology.
The Anthropocene and the Internet of Things (IoT ) –– By 2020 there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things dissolving the web into a wider convergence of computation and biology. The Anthropocene represents culture as a negative totality: once nature has disappeared, everything becomes a human sign. Whether this will bring about a “technological singularity” is yet unclear, but maybe the transition from analogue to digital media can be seen as an aesthetic rather than an ontological problem. Representing nature as spectacle, the “postinternet conditon” can perhaps be best described as a style: what Emily Apter has called “oneworldedness” (another name for Empire), or what Diedrich Diederichsen has described as a “vulgar Latourian fairy-tale:” the mobilization of nature at the service of a human agenda—a common theme in Romanticism, which is about to be intensified by the introduction of the Internet of Things.
Whatever happened to the Counterculture? ––Aesthetic or stylistic differences were traditionally conceptualized as placeholders for individuation, yet the distinction between mainstream and counterculture has lots its precision. Rather than reflecting on the cultural logic of digital circulation, so-called post-net art is not invested in the circulation of images but in their fixation – as private property, or as claims of ownership. As artist Jesse Darling noted, the appropriation of collectively generated resources entails the erection of an artificial hierarchy between ‘dumb’ users (the digital’s brute force) and media-savvy artists (a form of digital gentry). Modernity was predicated on the subversive potential of aesthetic difference as a strategy to counter mainstream forms of socialization ––what happens when all the frameworks of aesthetic production are incorporated?
Preliminary Bibliography: Apter, Emily, On Oneworldedness: Or Paranoia as a World System, American Literary History, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Summer, 2006) Buchan, Suzanne Ed. Pervasive Animation, Routledge, 2013 Chamayou, Grégoire, Drone Theory, Penguin Books, 2015 Galloway, Alexander, and Thacker, Eugene, The Exploit: A Theory of Networks, The MIT Press, 2007 Gronlund, Melissa, From Narcissism to the Dialogic: Identity in Art after the Internet, Afterall#37, Autumn/Winter 2014. Jameson, Frederic, The Geopolitical Aesthetic–Cinema and Space in the World System, Indiana University Press, 1992 Noys, Benjamin, Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism, Zero Books, 2014 Turner, Fred, From Counterculture to Cyberculture, University of Chicago Press, 2006
 
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