Speakers and abstracts

Indeterminate Technology and Automatic Urban Sensing

Jennifer Gabrys (London)


The digital infrastructures that variously constitute the smart city, from smart grids to connected devices and smartphones, are sites that are meant to become automatic, where urban processes and participation are made more effective and efficient through the programmed interaction of urban actors and systems. This presentation looks at sensor technologies and smart city initiatives as they are being implemented and discusses how these distributed modes of environmental sensing influence infrastructure and participation. I specifically discuss sensor projects and smart cities technologies developed in London, a city that is frequently referred to as one of the smartest worldwide, and which has a number of current and ongoing initiatives to implement smart technologies. Drawing on work in my recently published book, Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet, I suggest that the automatic urbanisms characteristic of smart cities can be reworked by considering how specific smart cities materialize. To develop this discussion, I draw on Simondon, who suggests that as technologies become concrete they do not become more fixed, but rather become more indeterminate. The speculative proposals for automatic urban infrastructures and participation, as it turns out, may constitute a more static rendering of technology than its concrete instantiations, where multiple ways of materializing, practicing, inhabiting, and intersecting with technology can occur. This presentation then considers what role indeterminacy might play within the increasingly scripted narratives, processes and imaginaries of urban sensing technologies and participation.


Jennifer Gabrys is Reader in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded project, Citizen Sense. Her books include a material and environmental analysis of electronic waste, Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (University of Michigan, 2011); and a techno-geographical investigation of environmental sensing, Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). Her work can be found at citizensense.net and jennifergabrys.net.


The Black Box of Philosophy: Compression and Obfuscation

Alexander Galloway (Lüneburg, New York)


This talk will superimpose technical definitions of data compression (both lossy and lossless) onto contemporary political debates. Two basic approaches will be of interest: promiscuous tactics and prophylactic tactics. The first deals with the classic phenomenological and metaphysical debates around expression, revealing, representation, mimesis, and the “extensions of man.” The second, rather ill defined thus far, deals with a different set of concerns: encryption, obliteration, unilateral determination, irreversibility, and “generic man.” With the theme of compression in hand, we will offer a critique of the modern system of knowledge on the grounds that it is not yet compressive enough.


Alexander R. Galloway is a writer and computer programer working on issues in philosophy, technology, and theories of mediation. Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, he is author of several books on digital media and critical theory, including “The Interface Effect” (Polity, 2012). His collaboration with Eugene Thacker and McKenzie Wark, “Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation,” was recently published by the University of Chicago Press. Galloway’s newest project is a monograph on the work of François Laruelle, published in October 2014.


Captures, collectives and commons: the sociotechnical production of subjectivity

Andrew Goffey


Drawing on speculative-empirical and ethico-aesthetic approaches to experience, this paper considers the historical development of software and its place in the infrastructures of contemporary integrated world capitalism. It considers aspects of computational technologies vectors in the production of subjectivity and asks how one might start to map the complexities of experience when one takes seriously the indissociability of affect and infrastructure. The paper pays particular attention to the thematic of machinic enslavement in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in order to generate an account of the pathic dimensions of technologically collectivised participation and asks how a micropolitical attention to this dimension of experience might usefully complicate accounts of the digital commons.


Andrew Goffey is an Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Critical Theory at the University of Nottingham. He is the author (with Matthew Fuller) of Evil Media, the editor (with Eric Alliez) of The Guattari Effect and (with Roland Faber) of The Allure of Things. He is currently writing books on the politics of software and on the work of Félix Guattari and is doing research on institutional analysis and on the materiality of information. He is also the translator of numerous works in the fields of philosophy and critical theory, including In Catastrophic Times and Capitalist Sorcery (by Isabelle Stengers) and Schizoanalytic Cartographies and Lines of Flight by Félix Guattari.



Collectivation and Techno-Animalities – The Case of the Monkey Selfie

Anna Munster


In 2011, David Slater, a wildlife photographer, generated a ‘selfie’ with a Macaque monkey, a camera and remote trigger button in a Sulawesi jungle in Indonesia. Slater licensed one of the resulting images – a female Macaque who had pressed the trigger while smiling into the lens – as a ‘monkey selfie’ to a news agency. The image went viral and its republication by Techdirt and Wikimedia triggered a suite of copyright, anti-copyright and judicial rulings concerning creativity, personhood and technicity.

 The animal-human-camera participatory assemblage of the ‘monkey selfie’ both poses a different kind of relationality and triggers retreat into proprietary techniques and subjectivations. This talk will explore medial-animal assemblages as emergent formations of a more-than-human collectivation at this conjunction. I will propose that such collectivities and modes of participation can only be understood transversally; that is, in terms of components that barely hold the assemblage together, yet are its most creative, allowing components to prehend each other. In the ‘monkie selfie’, the transversal is monkey-camera play. We, then, become more-than-human in relation to the monkey selfie insofar as ‘we’ also play with the monkey’s smile – a diagrammatic image of its play – by continuing the image’s refrain across networked distribution.


Anna Munster is an associate professor in Art and Design, University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia. Her book, An Aesthesia of Networks ( MIT Press, 2013) explores new expressions of networks beyond the ‘link-node’ image and new understandings of experience that account for relationality in contemporary assemblages of human and nonhuman technics. She is also the author of Materializing New Media: Embodiment in Information Aesthetics (2006), which won a ‘highly commended’ in the 2008 Prix Ars Electronica Media Research category.  She is a founding member of the online peer-reviewed journal The Fibreculture Journal and has published with journals such as Inflexions, CTheory, Culture Machine and Theory, Culture and Society. She is a co-applicant on the project, Immediations: Art Media, Event directed by Erin Manning that explores novel speculative and radical empiricist concepts of the event through research creation. Anna Munster is also a practicing media artist who regularly collaborates with Michele Barker. Their media environments explore animal, human and more-than-human movement and perception.


Commensal Bonds: Community in the Absence of Consensus

Dimitris Papadopoulos (Leicester)


Community is a more than human affair. Communities rarely hold together because members actively negotiate shared meanings or agree on commonly accepted values; there is rarely definite solidarity of opinion or dedicated and sustained active participation to create consensus. Communities are more than social. Bonds emerge from ecologically transversal exchange and cooperation via the transfer of materials and affects. Shared experimentation operates through distributed invention power, compositional practices, involution of human, animal and inorganic agencies, crafting of generous infrastructures and topological stacking of different experiences and practices. It is commensalism rather than collective agreement and intentional participation that holds communities together: the non-consensual sharing of the same ontology.


Dimitris Papadopoulos is a Reader in Sociology and Organisation at the School of Management, University of Leicester. His work in science and technology studies, social theory and sociology of social change has been published in numerous journals and in several monographs, including the forthcoming Experimental Politics. Technoscience and More Than Social Movements (Duke University Press), Escape Routes. Control and Subversion in the 21st Century (Pluto Press 2008), Analysing Everyday Experience: Social Research and Political Change (Palgrave 2006) and Lev Vygotsky: Work and Reception (Campus 1999/Lehmanns 2010). He is currently working on Chemical Futures, a study of the becoming ecological of chemical practice.


Unreliable Response and the proof of participation

Luciana Parisi


As cybernetics principles of feedback have entered the design of responsive infrastructures, they have also extended input-output mechanisms to social relations. These mechanisms however are not simply static frames to which relations have to conform. With the introduction of temporality in automated systems, instead, feedback-response has acquired a new quality: a predictive function and the ability not to draw implications from pre-established truths, but to be able to learn from the way algorithms make sense of data. This paper discusses automated systems that are no longer based on self-validating truths. As the logic of deduction becomes replaced by a data-oriented intelligence aiming at collecting and correlating sound, image, text, location, personal data, etc., now it is possible to see the consolidation of a 3rd order of cybernetics. The paper suggests that this order is based not simply on the reliable responsiveness to discern this from that, but also involves the ability of knowing how to activate the learning function of feedbacks to obtain proof. It will argue that if what was simply feedback has now become automated participation, it is because algorithmic infrastructures have acquired the capacity to prove by activating responses.


Luciana Parisi is Reader in Cultural Theory, Chair of the PhD program at the Centre for Cultural Studies, and co-director of the Digital Culture Unit, Goldsmiths University of London. Her research is a philosophical investigation of technology in culture, aesthetics and politics. She has written within the field of Media Philosophy and Computational Design. She is the author of Abstract Sex: Philosophy, Biotechnology and the Mutations of Desire (2004, Continuum Press) and Contagious Architecture. Computation, Aesthetics and Space (2013, MIT Press). She is researching on the philosophical consequences of logical thinking in machines.


Infrastructures of Refusal

Stevphen Shukaitis (Essex)


In autonomist history and theory, the refusal of work is frequently invoked but seldom expanded upon in a significant manner. From the celebration of laziness to mass industrial strikes, work refusal takes many forms. While there is a clichéd understanding as the refusal of work as an individualized gesture, this is far from accurate. Work refusal, as the exiting of forced participation of labor within capitalism, is more often then not underpinned by other and emergent forms of collectivity that sustains these refusals and acts of non-participation. This presentation develops an expanded autonomist conception of work refusal, understanding work refusal as a compositional practice and arguing for analyzing it through the forms of collectivity and social relations that it creates.  One might describe these as the infrapolitical infrastructures, or the undercommons, that enable and sustain the socialization of non-participation.


Stevphen Shukaitis is Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex, Centre for Work and Organization, and a member of the Autonomedia editorial collective. Since 2009 he has coordinated and edited Minor Compositions (www.minorcompositions.info). He is the author of Imaginal Machines: Autonomy & Self-Organization in the Revolutions of Everyday Day (2009) and The Composition of Movements to Come: Aesthetics and Cultural Labor After the Avant-Garde (2016), and editor (with Erika Biddle and David Graeber) of Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigations // Collective Theorization (AK Press, 2007). His research focuses on the emergence of collective imagination in social movements and the changing compositions of cultural and artistic labor.


Erich Hörl is full professor of Media Culture at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media (ICAM) at Leuphana University of Lüneburg. He is also senior researcher at Leuphana’s Digital Culture Research Lab (DRCL), principal investigator of subproject 1 “Technoecologies of Participation:New Perspectives from Media Philosophy and Anthropology” of the DFG-Research Group “Media and Participation. Between Demand and Entitlement” as well as principal investigator in the VW-Project “Complexity or Control? Paradigms for sustainable development”. His research interests include the elaboration of a general ecology of media and technology as well as the description as well as the critique of the process of cyberneticization. He is the editor of On General Ecology: The New Ecological Paradigm in the Neocybernetic Age (with James Burton) London: Bloomsbury (forthcoming 2016). Among his articles is „Other Beginnings of Participative Sense Culture. Wild Media, Speculative Ecologies, Transgressions of the Cybernetic Hypothesis, in: Mathias Denecke/Anne Ganzert/Isabell Otto/Robert Stock (eds.), Reclaiming Participation. Technology – Mediation – Collectivity, Bielefeld: transcript 2016.

Yuk Hui is postdoctoral researcher in the subproject 1 “Technoecologies of Participation:New Perspectives from Media Philosophy and Anthropology” of the DFG-Research Group “Media and Participation. Between Demand and Entitlement”. From October 2012 until present, he has been researching and lecturing at the University of Leuphana, Lüneburg. Currently at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media, and before as postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Digital Cultures, as well as at the Institute of Research and Innovation of Centre Pompidou in Pars. He is editor (with Andreas Broeckmann) of the anthology 30 Years after Les Immatériaux: Art, Science and Theory, and author of On the Existence of Digital Objects (prefaced by Bernard Stiegler, University of Minnesota Press, 2016).

Urs Stäheli is Professor for Sociology at University Hamburg where he currently directs the Graduate School „Loose Connections: Collectivity at the intersection of urban and digital space“. He received his Ph.D. form the University of Essex. From 2005-2010 he held a post as Chair for Sociology at Basel University. As a principal investigator he leads the subprojects “Tourism 2.0 – Network-Based Forms of Participation and Digital Detox” of the DFG-Research Group “Media and Participation. Between Demand and Entitlement”. Among his publications are Spectacular Speculation. Thrills, the Economy, and Popular Discourse. Stanford University Press 2013; „Entnetzt euch! Praktiken und Ästhetiken der Anschlusslosigkeit.“ In:  Mittelweg 4 (2013) and „Listing the Global: Dis/Connectivity beyond Representation?“, in: Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory 13.3 (2012).

Robert Stock is the coordinator of the DFG-research group “Media and Participation. Between Demand and Entitlement” at the University of Konstanz. He holds a Master Degree in European Ethnography from the Humboldt-University Berlin. In his dissertation at the GCSC (University Gießen), he analyzes postcolonial memory politics in documentary films from Mozambique and Portugal. His research interests are the mediality of participatory processes, cultural and media practices of hearing and seeing, representations of disability in media and postcolonial memory politics. He is editor of ReClaiming Participation. Technology – Mediation – Collectivity (together with Mathias Denecke/Anne Ganzert/Isabell Otto, Bielefeld: transcript 2016) and senseAbility. Mediale Praktiken des Sehens und Hörens [SenseAbility. Media Practices of Seeing and Hearing] (together with Beate Ochsner, Bielefeld: transcript forthcoming). Recent publications also include “Singing altogether now. Unsettling images of disability and experimental filmic practices”, in Documentary and Disability, ed. by Catalin Brylla/Helen Hughes, London: Routledge (Forthcoming).


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