Can Computers Create Meaning? — N. Katherine Hayles at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

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Coming up in a few weeks: N. Katherine Hayles will be joining the Digital Aesthetics Workshop to present some of her latest research. This session will take place in the Humanities Center Board Room, on Tues. Feb 12, from 5-7 PM. Her event is entitled Can Computers Create Meaning? A Cyber-Bio-Semiotic Perspective.

We anticipate a full event, so you must RSVP to this google form link. We will circulate Hayles’s paper, which she will briefly introduce and then invite conversation around it. Here is her abstract:

Can Computers Create Meaning? A Cyber-Bio-Semiotic Perspective

N. Katherine Hayles

One of the promising areas to understand how computers cognize is biosemiotics, a field that draws on C. S. Peirce’s semiotics to argue that all living organisms generate and understand meanings appropriate to their contexts, even plants and unicellular organisms.  Although these approaches by such theorists as Jesper Hoffmeyer, Wendy Wheeler, and Terrence Deacon have considerable explanatory power, they share a common blind spot in arguing that such signifying capabilities apply only to living organisms, not computers.  However, many of their objections to networked and programmed machines creating, disseminating and understanding meanings become moot if the relevant unit is considered to be human plus computer rather than either alone.  The human species, this paper will argue, is in the midst of entering into a deep symbiosis with computational media. Still incomplete, this symbiosis is akin to endosymbiosis, where previously independently living organisms unite into a single entity, as happened for example with the absorption of mitochondria by eukaryotic cells.  The paper will conclude by exploring the implications of this symbiosis-in-progress.

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Out Now: Serial Figures and the Evolution of Media in NECSUS

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The latest issue of NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies has just come out. As always, it is freely accessible as an open-access publication, and it is chock full of articles, reviews, audiovisual essays, and a special section on “Mapping.”

Among the feature articles is an article I co-authored with Ruth Mayer on “Border Crossings: Serial Figures and the Evolution of Media” — a text that outlines some of the topics we covered in our research project within the DFG Research Unit on “Popular Seriality” from 2010 – 2013. This is a slightly revised translation of a text that first appeared in German in Frank Kelleter’s edited collection Populäre Serialität: Narration – Evolution – Distinktion. Zum seriellen Erzählen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert. We are happy to see this text made available in English, and especially happy that it found a home at NECSUS, which is the perfect venue for this transatlantic and interdisciplinary kind of media studies work.

Check out the whole issue here!

Stanford – Leuphana Summer Academy 2019

Stanford-Leuphana

Introducing the inaugural Stanford – Leuphana Summer Academy:

Stanford–Leuphana Summer Academy 2019

»Against presentism. Historicizing mediality«

Thinking about technological changes or revolutions is often marked by a presentist, ahistorical mode of thinking and debate.  Consider the contemporary discussion about »digital culture« and its technologies.  The tropes mobilized are usually technicist and innovation- or even disruption-oriented, in both their affirmative and critical guises.  Little attention is given to historical precursors of technologically driven social change.  Even less attention is given to concepts and theories from other historical periods that might help investigate and understand our current predicament.

The Stanford-Leuphana Summer Academy seeks to change perspectives by focusing on concepts and theories that break with the myopia of presentism.  In seeking to formulate a new research area in terms of other periods (e.g. premodern or early modern) and fields (e.g. anthropology, religious studies, art history, etc.), this 5-day seminar seeks to historicize mediality in productive and innovative ways.  If »digital cultures« are not only modernity’s final product, but also brought an end to modernity, then it might be inspiring to think about digital cultures beyond or apart from modern concepts.  What terms are historically specific for an age or culture, and what concepts apply broadly to various phenomena from the premodern to the present age?  In what ways do preliterate, oral, or ritualistic cultures intersect with digital modes of information?  How can these other perspectives change our thinking about the present?

Key terms:»ritual«, »authorship«, »sovereignty«, »arcane«, »orality«, »participation«, »public sphere«, »social construction of time«, »art«, »literature«, »history«, »philosophy«, »history of science«, »historiography«

 

Date: June 24 – 28, 2019

Location: Stanford Berlin, »Haus Cramer«, Pacelliallee 18, 14195 Berlin

 

Faculty

  1. Timon Beyes (Sociology of Organisation and Culture, Leuphana)
  2. Shane Denson (Film and Media Studies, Stanford)
  3. Elena Esposito (Sociology, Modena/Reggio Emilia)
  4. Marisa Galvez (French, Italian, and German Studies, Stanford)
  5. Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht (Comparative Literature and German Studies, Stanford)
  6. Thomas Macho (Cultural History, IFK Vienna)
  7. Karla Oeler (Film and Media Studies, Stanford)
  8. Claus Pias (History and Epistemology of Media, Leuphana)
  9. Fred Turner (Communication, Stanford)
  10. Sigrid Weigel (Literature and Cultural Science, Berlin)

 

Application

All applications must be submitted electronically in PDF format.  Please submit your CV (1-2 pages) along with a 500-word abstract of your topic, and a short letter of intent explaining why you would like to attend this Summer Academy.

Please use the following naming convention for your application files:Lastname_CV.pdf, Lastname_Abstract.pdf, Lastname_Letter_of_Intent.pdf.

Please email your applications to Nelly Y. Pinkrah (nelly.pinkrah@leuphana.de).

This summer school is designed for graduate students. The deadline for applications for the summer school is December 15, 2018.  All applicants will be informed about the selection of participants by end of January 2019.  The working language of the Summer Academy will be English.

The organizers will cover travel (economy) and accommodation costs for the time of the summer school.  No additional fees will be charged.

Contact

Claus Pias (pias@leuphana.de)

Please spread the word to graduate students who might benefit from an interdisciplinary effort to rethink mediality and its relation to history.

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.