Jonathan Sterne: Machine Learning, ‘AI,’ and the Politics of Media Aesthetics

Sterne poster DAW

On April 24, 2018 (4-6pm in the Stanford Humanities Center Board Room), Jonathan Sterne will be speaking at the Digital Aesthetics Workshop. The title of his talk is: “Machine Learning, ‘AI,’ and the Politics of Media Aesthetics: Why Online Music Mastering (Sort of) Works.”

Jonathan Sterne is Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology in the Department of Art History & Communication Studies at McGill University. His work is concerned with the cultural dimensions of communication technologies, especially their form and role in large-scale societies. One of his major ongoing projects has involved developing the history and theory of sound in the modern west. Beyond the work on sound and music, he has published over fifty articles and book chapters that cover a wide range of topics in media history, new media, cultural theory and disability studies. He has also written on the politics of academic labor and maintains an interest in the future of the university. His new projects consider instruments and instrumentalities; histories of signal processing; and the intersections of disability, technology and perception.

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Ends of Cinema: Center for 21st Century Studies 2018 Conference at UW Milwaukee

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I am excited to be participating in the Ends of Cinema conference at the Center for 21st Century Studies, taking place May 3-5, 2018 at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. There are some great keynote speakers, including my colleague Jean Ma and lots of other wonderful people. The C21, under the expert leadership of Richard Grusin (who is now back at the helm after a short hiatus), has put on some of my personal favorite conferences, and I expect this one to be no less exciting and thought-provoking.

My own contribution will be a paper titled “Post-Cinematic Realism” — work in progress for my current book project Discorrelated Images. Here is the abstract:

Post-Cinematic Realism

Shane Denson, Stanford University

In its classical formulation, cinematic realism is based in the photographic ontology of film, i.e. in the photograph’s indexical relation to the world, which grants to film its unique purchase on reality; upon this relation also hinged, for many realist filmmakers, the political promise of realism. Digital media, meanwhile, are widely credited with disrupting indexicality and instituting an alternative ontology of the image. David Rodowick, for example, argues that the interjection of digital code disrupts film’s “automatisms” and eradicates the index in favor of the symbolic. But while such arguments are in many respects compelling, I contend that the disruption of photographic indexicality might also be seen to open up spaces in which to explore new automatisms that communicate reality and/or realism with and through post-indexical technologies.

Whereas André Bazin privileged techniques like the long take and deep focus for their power to approximate our natural perception of time and space, theorists like Maurizio Lazzarato and Mark Hansen emphasize post-cinematic media’s ability to approximate the sub-perceptual processing of duration executed by our pre-personal bodies. The perceptual discorrelation of computational images gives way, in other words, to a more precise calibration of machinic and embodied temporalities; simultaneously, the perceptual richness of Bazin’s images becomes less important, while “poor images” (in Hito Steyerl’s term) communicate more directly the material and political realities of a post-cinematic environment. As I will demonstrate with reference to a variety of moving-image texts employing glitches, drones, and other computational objects, post-cinematic media might in fact be credited with a newly intensified political relevance through their institution of a new, post-cinematic realism.

Frankenstein@200: International Health Humanities Consortium Conference

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The 2018 International Health Humanities Consortium Conference will be held at Stanford University from April 20-22, 2018. The keynote speakers are:

Alexander Nemerov
Professor, Art and Art History at Stanford University

Lester Friedman
Professor, Media and Society at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Alvan Ikoku
Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature and Medicine at Stanford University

Catherine Belling
Associate Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University

In addition, there will be a number of great events around campus. You can find more information here.

I will be participating in the conference in two ways:

First, on Friday, April 20 (2:30-3:30pm in McMurtry 115) I will be presenting a screening session of videographic works related to “Frankenstein & Film.” I will be showing a few of my own pieces (which you can see here and here), as well as works by video essayists like Allison de Fren, alongside commercial “making of” videos, art film reimaginations, and other moving-image forms that treat the history of Frankenstein films from Thomas Edison’s 1910 production up to the present day.

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Second, on Sunday, April 22 (11:15am), I will be presenting a paper titled “Frankenstein and Bioethics Beyond Chance and Choice.” The paper draws upon and rethinks ideas that I put forward in one of my very first publications: “Frankenstein, Bioethics, and Technological Irreversibility.” That paper, published in 2007, can be found here.

Psychedelic Space and Anachronic Time: Elizabeth Kessler at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

DAW Kessler poster

On Tuesday, April 10 (4-6pm in the Board Room of the Stanford Humanities Center), Elizabeth Kessler (Stanford, American Studies) will deliver a talk, titled “Psychedelic Space and Anachronic Time: Photography and the Voyager’s Tour of the Solar System,” in the context of the Digital Aesthetics Workshop.

Elizabeth Kessler’s research and teaching focus on 20th and 21st century American visual culture. Her diverse interests include: the role of aesthetics, visual culture, and media in modern and contemporary science, especially astronomy; the interchange between technology and ways of seeing and representing; the history of photography; and the representation of fashion in different media. Her first book, Picturing the Cosmos: Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime, on the aesthetics of deep space images, was published in 2012. She’s currently writing on book on extraterrestrial time capsules, as well as developing a new project on fashion photography.

See here for more information.

Discorrelated Images — Digital Aesthetics Workshop, April 3

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On Tuesday, April 3, 2018 (4:00-6:00pm), I will be giving a talk titled “Discorrelated Images” in the context of the Digital Aesthetics Workshop at the Stanford Humanities Center. The talk draws on my current book project of the same title and will address primarily temporal and affective relations and transformations occasioned by digital images.

Participants are encouraged (but not required) to read my chapter “Crazy Cameras, Discorrelated Images, and the Post-Perceptual Mediation of Post-Cinematic Affect” prior to the event.

Twenty-First Century Mediations of Subjectivity, ACLA 2018 #ACLA2018

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At this year’s conference of the American Comparative Literature Association, taking place March 29 – April 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, I will be participating in a great seminar/panel stream on “Twenty-First Century Mediations of Subjectivity,” organized by Jim Hodge of Northwestern University.

I’m looking forward to all of the talks, on such a rich set of topics. Here is the abstract for my talk:

Post-Cinema and the Phenomenology of External Time-Consciousness

Shane Denson

Something about the temporality of media has changed, and with it the relation of media to the temporality of subjective experience. In Technics and Time, Bernard Stiegler famously argued for just such a change, which he located in the advent of “tertiary memories” – externalized, reproducible experiences stored by industrial media objects. Using the term “cinema” to designate not only a specific apparatus but also the broad media regime or epoch instituted by recording technologies from photography and phonography to television and digital technologies, Stiegler identifies a threat to our subjective experience – exacerbated with the advent of live media in “the televisual epoch of cinema” – whereby media colonize consciousness by pre-formatting our immediate awareness (primary retention) with the images of tertiary retention. One thing Stiegler’s argument fails to account for, however, is the emergence of a protentional dimension that distinguishes computational media as decidedly “post-cinematic.” No longer simply memorial or mnemotechnical, post-cinema’s protentional images are generated on the fly according to compression algorithms rather than photochemical processes, thus disrupting the stability of tertiary memory while producing an external homologue to internal time-consciousness. This paper seeks to trace the impact of post-cinematic temporality on the production of subjective experience.