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Subject:

cybernetic hypothesis

From:

"Boy, John" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Programming as Social Science (PaSS)

Date:

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 11:21:28 +0000

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Parts/Attachments:

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Because I'd hate to see conversation on this list simple peter out, I thought I'd send around a little a quote from a piece by media theorist Alex Galloway in hopes of provoking further exchange. I recommend reading the whole piece [1], which mostly addresses digital humanities but I think also has important implications for the idea of "programming as social science".

He writes: "But beyond the challenge of unequal talent and resources [among humanists as compared to corporations like Amazon] is the question of critical efficacy. Is it appropriate to deploy positivistic techniques against the self-same positivistic techniques? In a former time, such criticism would not have been valid or even necessary. Marx was writing against a system that laid no specific claims to the apparatus of knowledge production itself -- even if it was fueled by a persistent and pernicious form of ideological misrecognition. Yet, today the state of affairs is entirely reversed. The new spirit of capitalism is found in brainwork, self-measurement and self-fashioning, perpetual critique and innovation, data creation and extraction. In short, doing capitalist work and doing intellectual work -- of any variety, bourgeois or progressive -- are more aligned today than they have ever been. Hence there appears something of a moral crisis concerning the very validity of scholarly methodologies. Such methods are at best underfunded and impotent cousins to the new algorithmic industries and at worst unknowing shills for that same system of canalization and debasement. The question is no longer 'can we use the master's tools to take down the master's house?' The question is 'can we still use our own tools now that the master has taken them up?'" (p. 110)

Perhaps the "critical efficacy" of our intellectual pursuits is not equally important to everyone on this list, though I think he's right that we at least need to consider our role in current moral crises. 

But I think Galloway raises a few interesting questions even beyond that. In particular, I wonder whether he correct to conflate digital research techniques with "positivistic" and "quantitative"? 

I look forward to reading your thoughts!

John


PS: As I was writing, a message from Phil came through the list. Yay!
PPS: I'm still hanging out in IRC channel irc.oftc.net/#pass in case anyone wants to join :) 

1: Galloway, Alexander R. 2014. The cybernetic hypothesis. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 107-131. https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2420021

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