::fibreculture:: Technology’s Limits: Automation, Invention, Labour, and the Exhausted Environment

Ned Rossiter ned at nedrossiter.org
Tue Feb 28 06:26:41 CET 2017

[see ICS url for links to readings]

Workshop — Digital Life Research Program
Institute for Culture and Society
Western Sydney University

Date: Friday March 10, 2017
Time: 10am – 4.30pm
Venue: EB.G.21, Parramatta South campus

Technology’s Limits: Automation, Invention, Labour, and the Exhausted

Among its many political preoccupations, 2016 was marked by an obsessive
concern with the new powers of the machine to erase human labour and
employment. Science fiction dystopias – among them, the French Trepalium
and the Brazilian 3% – saddled older anxieties about a world without
work to a more novel recognition of resource depletion and scarcity.
Academic publishing houses, conference organisers, funding agencies and
the press have responded with a deluge of content covering algorithms,
automation and the Anthropocene. Meanwhile, a less conspicuous narrative
about the decline of innovation has resurfaced with claims that the rate
of fundamental new technology inventions is slowing and jeopardising
long term global productivity returns. What happens when technology hits
its limits? Velocity and volume excite machinic economies, but do little
to confront some of the core problems and challenges facing planetary
labour and life today.

This workshop brings together leading Australian scholars of technology
and society with contemporary German and French reflections on the
prevailing discourses of technology’s limits. Since the 1990s, Bernard
Stiegler has been a leading philosopher and critic of technology, and in
his recent book Automatic Society he directly tackles problems of
automation and algorithms for the distribution of financial and social
resources to populations increasingly bereft of economic capital and
political agency. Building upon Frankfurt School critical theory and
Kittlerian media theory, contemporary German critique intersects with
similar questions by combining investigations of epistemology, history
and the technical. The Australian take on these European developments is
simultaneously appreciative and critical, though often oriented toward
more regional conditions that arise in part due to different economic,
cultural and political relations with Asia.

The morning session of the workshop will introduce current theoretical
European work on technology. Daniel Ross will develop a critical
introduction to Bernard Stiegler, whose recent work in Automatic Society
and In the Disruption continues to mount a wide-ranging and provocative
critique of technology. Armin Beverungen will then offer an overview of
his research on algorithmic management and high-frequency trading, with
Ned Rossiter introducing logistical media as technologies of automation
and labour control. In the afternoon, Gay Hawkins will outline her
theoretical interest in nonhuman and technical objects and their
irreducible role in making humans and ecologies. A key empirical example
will be the history of plastic and the emergence of its technical agency
and capacity to reconfigure life. Nicholas Carah will follow with a
discussion of his latest work on algorithms, brand management and media
engineering. The workshop will close with an audience-driven panel
session and discussion. These interventions will be held in conjunction
with a close reading of the key texts below.

Attendance numbers will be limited so please register in advance. No
registration fee required.

RSVP by 7 March: https://tinyurl.com/h8xhxwd

Armin Beverungen
Junior Director at the Digital Cultures Research Lab (DCRL) at Leuphana
Universität Lüneburg & Visiting Fellow, Institute for Culture and
Society, Western Sydney University.

Nicholas Carah
Author of Brand Machines, Sensory Media and Calculative Culture (2016).

Gay Hawkins
Author of Plastic Water: The Social and Material Life of Bottled Water

Liam Magee
Author of Interwoven Cities (2016).

Nicole Pepperell
Author of Dissembling Capital (forthcoming, 2017).

Daniel Ross
Translator of Bernard Stiegler’s Automatic Society (2016), and numerous
other works.

Ned Rossiter
Author of Software, Infrastructure, Labor: A Media Theory of Logistical
Nightmares (2016).

Co-chairs: Liam Magee and Ned Rossiter
Co-convenors of the Institute for Culture and Society’s Digital Life
research program.

Recommended Readings
Frank Pasquale (2017), Duped by the Automated Public Sphere
Lee Rainer and Janna Anderson [Pew Research Center] (2017),
Code-Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age
Bernard Stiegler (2012), Die Aufklärung in the Age of Philosophical
Bernard Stiegler (2015), Escaping the Anthroposcene
Bernard Stiegler (2015), On Automatic Society
Sonia Sodha [The Guardian] (2017), Is Finland’s basic universal income a
solution to automation, fewer jobs and lower wages?

Related Readings
Bruce Braun (2014), A New Urban Dispositif? Governing Life in an Age of
Climate Change
Nick Dyer-Witheford (2013), Contemporary Schools of Thought and the
Problem of Labour Algorithms
Victor Galaz (2015), A Manifesto for Algorithms in the Environment
Victor Galaz et al. (2017), The Biosphere Code
Orit Halpern (2015), Cloudy Architectures
Erich Hörl (2014), Prostheses of Desire: On Bernard Stiegler’s New
Critique of Projection
Yuk Hui (2015), Algorithmic Catastrophe: The Revenge of Contingency
International Labour Organisation (2016), ASEAN in Transformation
Lilly Irani (2015), The Cultural Work of Microwork
MIT Technology Review (2012), The Future of Work
Cathy O’Neill (2016), How algorithms rule our working lives
Elaine Ou (2017), Working for an Algorithm Might Be an Improvement
The Guardian (2016), Robot factories could threaten jobs of millions of
garment workers
Tommaso Venturini, Pablo Jensen, Bruno Latour (2015), Fill in the Gap. A
New Alliance for Social and Natural Sciences

10:00– 10:10: Liam Magee, Ned Rossiter: Welcome and Introduction
10:10 – 11:10: Daniel Ross
11:10 – 11:30: Q&A
11:30 – 11:45: Coffee
11:45 – 1:00: Armin Beverungen, Ned Rossiter
1:00 – 2:00: Lunch
2:00 – 3:15: Gay Hawkins, Nicholas Carah
3:15 – 4:15: Panel discussion responding to automation: Dan / Gay /
Nicholas / Armin / Nicole – Liam & Ned to chair
4:15 – 4:30: Closing thoughts, future actions

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