Digital Doomsday: A perspective from the pathology called Europe


Digital Doomsday: A perspective from the pathology called Europe

Jan De Vos, Ghent University

Co-sponsored by the Rhetoric Department and the Berkeley Center for New Media

Allegedly, no reflection, knowledge nor theory are needed in the business of shaping the onlife self – let the data, algorithms and bots do the work!

In this talk probe the pitfalls that theory and criticism should avoid in this era of the digitalization of (inter)subjectivity. I argue that a critical history of digitalization needs in the first place a critical history of subjectivity. I go back to Norbert Wiener, Alan Turing and Marvin Minsky to point out that their (often missed) Freudian inspirations together with their idea that the physicality of the machine is irrelevant to its logical operations are today above all forgotten. I show how these authors struggled and mostly failed to remain true to the fundamental negativity of the Freudian doctrine of the unconscious (defining a zero-level of subjectivity). Their attempts to construct open systems (claiming to go beyond automatization and opening up to creativity, plasticity and pathology characteristic of the human being), eventually lead them to resort to psychologisms and psychologizations by which they gave up the deconstructive potential of psychoanalysis. 

If one wants to envision another possible digital World (and Self), is it possible to keep the (neuro)psychologization out of the game, that is to construct a technology and a digitality free of psy-theories?
Jan De Vos is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Ghent University, Belgium