The Difficulties of Gift-Giving

A couple weeks ago I gave a talk at the Franke Institute of the University of Chicago, where Jim Chandler runs a program on disciplines and technologies. I gave a talk on Marcel Mauss, Lévi-Strauss, and cybernetics, examining how the former's critique of modern, rationalist schemas of exchange could be used to critically assess the rise of cybernetic concepts in the 1950s and 1960s. This is part of a larger project on liberalism, technology, and cybernetics that I've been redeveloping  in various iterations for a year or so now, with the goal of understanding how and why liberal societies valorize technological communications as a way of resolving or neutralizing political conflict. Anthropologists Poornima Paidipaty and John Kelly, both of the University of Chicago, made elegant and provocative addresses as well that--in tandem with audience questions--have reignited my interest in going further with this research. With luck there'll be a podcast of it online soon enough, which I'll link to. Until then, here's the flyer. Thanks to Jim Chandler, Susan Gooding, Paidipaty, Kelly, and the rest of the organizers and participants who put together this remarkable event.