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Afterlives of Systems

My friends and colleagues here in Germany, Christina Vagt and Florian Sprenger, are co-editing an issue of the journal Communication+1 (where I happen to be an editorial advisor) on "Afterlives of Systems." The announcement is below, and also attached as a PDF. This project's intersections with the history of cybernetics appeal to me generally, but I'm specifically excited by its investigation of links between media theory and ecological studies. In the United States scholars including Bruce Clarke, Mark B. N. Hansen, Rob Mitchell, Alenda Chang, Tom Cohen, and J. Hillis Miller are among a diverse group of theorists who have prodded at intersections in medial and environmental analysis. Classic works in media theory have also broached (without quite systematizing) these links. For example, Harold Innis's account of time, space, and communications takes the conquering of the environment as a defining aspect of modern communications.

After Kittler: On the Cultural Techniques of Recent German Media Theory

Below is the abstract of an essay I recently wrote on recent German media theory for the journal Theory, Culture & Society. I've also attached the article's uncorrected page proofs, which may not correspond to what will appear in the journal. The final, forthcoming text will appear as part of a collection of essays on Kulturtechnik edited by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, Jussi Parikka, and Ilinca Irascu. For the final, copyedited and paginated version, visit the Theory, Culture & Society website.

 

After Kittler: On the Cultural Techniques of Recent German Media Theory
by Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan

The Techniques and Media of Psychoanalysis

Series inspired by French neurologist Jean Martin Charcot studies in Neurosis. Charcot (1825-1893) used hypnotism to treat hysteria and other abnormal mental conditions and he had a profound influence on many farther neurologists, psychologists and psychotherapists as Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), father of psychoanalysis. - All materials from “Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière” (Jean Martin Charcot,1878). Source:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jean-Martin_Charcot_chronophotography.jpg

For years I've thought that the standard English translation of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan's 1954-1955 seminar, rendered as "The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis," downplays the full throttled engagement with technology that animates much of the early research of Lacan. Though faithful enough to the French title "Le moi dans la théorie de Freud et dans la technique de la psychoanalyse," the English term "technique" tends to be a little less, well, technical and technological, than the connotations allowed by the French term "technique." This ambiguity is on display in translations of Stiegler's "La Technique et le Temps" series, which is suitably rendered as "Technics and Time" in English. However, if we reconsider Lacan's '54-'55 seminar through the rubric of a "technics of psychoanalysis," it becomes easier to make sense of Lacan's concerted reflections on cybernetics, automata, and associated topics in that course.

upcoming lectures in Paris and Vienna

In the past few months I've been corresponding with Bernard Laks, Jérôme Ségal, and John Goldsmith about our shared interests in cybernetics, linguistics, and transatlantic scientific exchange after World War II. For an even longer time I' been following the work of Ronan Le Roux who, along with Jérôme (as well as Céline Lafontaine and Lydia Liu, for that matter), has played a leading role in mapping out the place of information theory within the human sciences. I'm delighted that I'll have the opportunity to present and discuss research with all three of them in the coming months. On May 8th I'll give a talk to Jérôme's department at the University of Vienna. On March 26th, I'll discuss related topics at a conference at the Paris Center of the University of Chicago organized by Drs. Laks and Goldsmith. The announcement for the Paris event is below.

 

English "Programming as a Cultural Technique" syllabus (final version)

We're about a month into the course I'm teaching on "Programming as a Cultural Technique." A few friends asked for copies of the syllabus, so I've inserted it below (fuller version attached as PDF).  Since most of my colleagues are in the USA, I took the liberty of shifting Germanophone readings to the supplementary section and replacing them with what I considered to be appropriate texts in English. Programming lessons are not listed in this text but, for the most part, we spend 2 hours each week working through a successive chapter of the book "Learning Perl." I initially hoped to preplan how the cultural history and programming lessons would interweave but it turns out that striking affinities and overlaps emerge of their own accord.

 

A lot of friends helped come up with great texts for this course. I express especial thanks to the folks on the SIGCIS and SLSA listservs

 

Programming as a Cultural Technique

 

Programming as a Cultural Technique, course description

Since last spring I've been cleaning up and paring down the syllabus for the course on Programmieren als Kulturtechnik that I'll co-teach with Christian Kassung this fall at the Humboldt University. Draft syllabus (a Vermischung of English and German for the moment) is available for download on the right, and course description is below. Please let me know if you have tips or suggestions for readings, pedagogical methods, etc.

Francophone edited collection on the digital humanities

It's peculiar that the digital humanities--so often associated with a promise to break down disciplinary and regional boundaries--haven't yet driven more transnational collaborations. A welcome exception is the folks at the MédiaLab at Sciences Po, whose Cartographies of Controversy course is built around collaborations that link together departments and universities across local borders. Hence a new edited collection from Hermann (the folks who published the first edition of Norbert Wiener's book "Cybernetics" in the 1940s!) which includes an essay from one of the MédiaLab's directors, Tomaso Venturi, caught my eye. The brief description has hints of Lippmannesque media public that, oddly enough, has had much more traction in Europe the last decade or so (thanks to Bruno Latour) than in the USA. Description of the collection--which looks fantastic--below. I hope it'll get some of the attention it deserves in the English speaking world.

Source Code: Cultures of Knowledge between Speech and Technicity

This year the folks at the Technical University of Berlin have put together a lecture series sure to be one of the city's main events on research at the intersections of technology, media, and critical theory. Announcement below, taken from http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/termine/id=20052

VorlesungsreiheSource Code.  Kulturen des Wissens zwischen Sprachlichkeit und Technizität (Ringvorlesung)

 

    

Feminism, Science & Materialism conference

One of the treasured books I carried with me from the USA to Paris to Berlin is my heavily marked up copy of the Haraway Reader from  grad school. The book give me my first, and partial, introduction to feminism, science and materialism as a tripartite and coextensive site of inquiry and thought. It also taught me a lot about how to think and write. As an historian of technology and media theorist--topics that are sometimes susceptible to a kind of de-historicization through the  supposed neutrality of "technology" or "information"--I've tried to keep abreast of this area, particularly as folks like Mara Mills bring new topics like disability into the analytical mix. For that reason this announcment jumped out at me. I don't think I can make it to NY in February, but maybe you can.

 

Call for Papers: Feminism, Science & Materialism conference

Graduate Center, City University of New York
February 14-15, 2013

Keynote Speaker: Karen Barad

Definition of Cybernetics

the first edition of Norbert Wiener's cybernetics, published in Paris by Hermann

Ever wonder what cybernetics was? Or maybe is? It's a baffling question and even the leading theorists of cybernetics in the 1940s and 1950s could hardly agree on the definition. In the last few years historians Eden Medina and Andrew Pickering, for example, have shown that the understanding, definition, and use of cybernetics varied tremendously from one context to another. Even Norbert Wiener, who is widely credited with founding cybernetics, offered varying and contradictory accounts of the field.

 

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