If we are to develop an understanding of culture through ‘feedback’, what does it mean for forms of organisation, aesthetics and practice

4.If we are to develop an understanding of culture through ‘feedback’, what does it mean for forms of organisation, aesthetics and practice?


Week 9: Feedback and Systems Wednesday13.03.2019

Through the application of mechanical and scientific models for the understanding of social and political life, cybernetic theory – in particular notions of feedback – informed the development of many cultural, artistic and political projects in the mid-late 20th century, yet its influence is still under-recognized, especially in contemporary techno-political debates. This session will address cybernetic genealogies of information theory and systems thinking to see how current ideas around ‘planetary computation’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ draw on much longer and more equivocal histories than is often recognised.

6.Hacking is seen as a paradigmatic form of innovation, but also of political resistance and of contemporary knowledge politics. Working through some examples, discuss how these might come together.


Week 4: The Hacker Wednesday, 06.02.2019

As a figure of the culture industry, the hacker is both symbol of ultimate innovation, of a free- thinking high-skilled rebel, but also as the avatar of destruction and chaos. This lecture will survey some of the claims made around the figure of the hacker, in particular examine Mackenzie Wark’s reading of the political economy of hacking as a general theory of the production of the new in ‘A Hacker Manifesto’. We will also open up the concept of ‘hacking’ as an intervention into the nuts-and-bolts of a technological system to interventions on the very structures of cognition, as in Catherine Malabou’s concept of neuroplasticity, and a metaphorical cannibalism as post-colonial ‘culture hacking’.

7.The figure of the user has become increasingly important in contemporary culture, how has this come about and what effects does it have?


Week 2: Users-Things-Machines Wednesday, 23.01.2019

Alongside the consumer, the figure of the user is one of the casts of the culture industry that is most incessantly modelled and pre-figured. As cultural processes are often interwoven with computational and networked digital media and as design might be said to provide if not a general theory of culture but a ‘general practice’ of entities, processes and events, this lecture traces some of the ways in which users, consumers and audiences have been theorised, created and invented. At the same time, the technologically and ecologically inspired shift in social theory from subjects to objects, from masses to networks, and from people to things means we need to re-visit some of our assumptions about the agents of cultural production, also viewing the production of culture in line with other shifts in social approaches to knowledge, technics and labour.

8.Participation is a quality of organisation, social process and cultural life that is increasingly emphasised. It is also articulated and understood differently in multiple contexts. By tracing discourses and practices of participation map what it may mean. You can take a case study of some particular projects, and use it to trace how questions of participation and collaboration in contemporary art are articulated.


Week 10: Participation, Collaboration, Platforms Wednesday, 20.03.2019

Participation has been established as a new mode of explanation and of operation in contemporary art, in social networks, in place-making and in a wide swathe of organised cultural activities. Like many such terms it is plagued by vagueness, but it marks a very real shift in practice and policy. As this shift occurs participation as a theme and an imperative is also something being ‘versioned’ by artists, technologists, institutions, government and network media organisations. The present time is characterised by multiple kinds of figuring out in practice of what participation means. ‘Participation’ will be linked to related terms such as ‘collaboration’ and ‘sharing’ as emblematic modalities of artistic practice today, whose meanings circulate but also are taken in different directions by tech enterpreneurs, cultural producers and activists.

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