114 | CCN: 20335

Rhetoric of New Media

Instructor: Luciana Parisi

4 Units

As media have become intelligent machines, they have withdrawn in the invisible background of everyday social activities, perceptions and thoughts. Human culture, politics and aesthetics are not simply mediated, but algorithmically programmed to stir decision-making, intensify responses, and predict conducts. Taking examples from science fiction novels and films, from digital architecture, from software and post-software art, and machine intelligence design, the course will focus on today's possibility of "critique" of technology. 
 
 It will be argued that intelligent machines are not simply passive instruments that represent or demonstrate aims, but have rather become performative of ideas, perceptions, and actions. The course will thus ask: what kind of critical theory is needed to understand these new means of control and governance, of aesthetic production and cultural expression? Can a materialist critique offer alternative visions about the political tension between gender and machines, race and machines, class and machines? How to invent a critical theory of technology that can be disentangled from the efficient capitalisation of human socialities, desires, and thoughts? 
 
 To address these questions, the course will look at the historical shifts in cybernetics and computation (from the 1940s to 2000s) and argue that since World War II, mediation has no longer been a problem of optical representation, but of communication and information based on the efficiency of algorithmic rules. No longer attached to the repetitive temporality of the industrial assembly line, algorithmic automation rather embraces the dynamism of heuristic leaning (trial and error) and predictive statistics. The learning qualities of mediatic systems involve adaptive interactivity and coincide with experiments in artificial intelligence, such as machine knowledge, machine vision, machine sociality. The course will reflect upon these experiments in terms of the cultural, political and aesthetic possibilities offered within and throughout technology.