Technology is a host of social, material, and epistemic transformation techniques, tools, and methods. The common perception of digital technology today is that it is determined, even over-determined. This volume suggests a different view: the digital is indeterminate. Mobilising insights from philosophy, art and architecture theory, mathematics, computer science and anthropology, it situates digital indeterminacy within the wider context of material and immaterial processes, causations, triggerings, and their performative working.
The book’s tripartite structure reflects technology’s inherent capacity to transform knowledges, practices, and time. Part I: Social-Digital Technologies juxtaposes arguments for machinic indeterminacy to those of overdetermination in blockchain, cognitive augmentation, and digital ideology. Part II: Spatial, Temporal, Aural and Visual Technologies delves deeper into received ideas about technologies for building spatial structures, manufacturing instruments and constructing the visual space. Part III: Epistemic Technologies analyses the use of plasticity in cognitive science, contingency in thinking habits, ontogenesis in experimental computing, and divination techniques with an inbuilt margin of indeterminacy.
List of contributors: Franco 'Bifo' Berardi, Iain Campbell, Stephen Darren Dougherty, Aden Evens, Oswaldo Emiddio Vasquez Hadjilyra, Stavros Kousoulas, Natasha Lushetich, Peteer Müürsepp, Luciana Parisi, Andrej Radman, Alesha Serada, Dominic Smith, Sha Xin Wei, Joel White, Ashley Woodward, and David Zeitlyn.
Natasha Lushetich is professor of contemporary art & theory at the University of Dundee and Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellow. Her research is interdisciplinary and focuses on intermedia and critical mediality; global art; the status of sensory experience in cultural knowledge; biopolitics and performativity. Her books include Fluxus: The Practice of Non-Duality (2014), Interdisciplinary Performance (2016), The Aesthetics of Necropolitics (Rowman & Littlefield 2018), Beyond Mind, Symbolism, an International Annual of Critical Aesthetics (2019), Big Data – A New Medium? (2020) and Distributed Perception: Resonances and Axiologies (co-edited with I. Campbell, 2021).
Iain Campbell is a teaching fellow in aesthetics at Edinburgh College of Art and a research associate at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, where he is working on the project The Future of Indeterminacy: Datafication, Memory, Bio-Politics. He has written on topics across philosophy, music, sound studies, and art theory for publications including parallax, Contemporary Music Review, Sound Studies, and Continental Philosophy Review. His current research focuses on experimentation and on the differences and continuities between conceptualisations of this notion in philosophy, art, music, and science. He is co-editor, with Natasha Lushetich, of Distributed Perception: Resonances and Axiologies (2021).
Dominic Smith is senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Dundee, where he researches philosophy of technology/media. Dominic is interested in bringing the continental tradition in philosophy (e.g. phenomenology, critical theory, poststructuralism, new forms of realism and materialism) to bear on philosophy of technology and media. He is a member of the Scottish Centre for Continental Philosophy: http://scot-cont-phil.org/. Dominic’s latest book is Exceptional Technologies: A Continental Philosophy of Technology. His current project involves thinking about how philosophy of technology can be broadened to speak to issues in philosophy of education, design, and creativity, with a focus on the work of Walter Benjamin.
List of Figures
Prologue: Normalising Catastrophe or Revealing Mysterious Sur-Chaotic Micro-Worlds?
Natasha Lushetich, Iain Campbell and Dominic Smith
Part I: Social-Digital Technologies
Chapter 1: Information and Alterity: From Probability to Plasticity
Chapter 2: Transcendental Instrumentality and Incomputable Thinking
Chapter 3: Digital Ontology and Contingency
Chapter 4: Blockchain Owns You: From Cypherpunk to Self-Sovereign Identity
Chapter 5: The Double Spiral of Chaos and Automation
Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi
Part II: Spatial, Temporal, Aural and Visual Technologies
Chapter 6: Allagmatics of Architecture: From Generic Structures to Genetic Operations (and Back)
Chapter 7: Computation and Material Transformations: Dematerialisation, Rematerialisation and Immaterialisation in Time-Based Media
Oswaldo Emiddio Vasquez Hadjilyra
Chapter 8: How the Performer Came to be Prepared: Three Moments in Music’s Encounter with Everyday Technologies
Chapter 9: The Given and the Made: Thinking Transversal Plasticity with Duchamp, Brecht and Troika’s Artistic Technologies
Chapter 10: Ananke’s Sway: Architectures of Synaptic Passages
Part III: Epistemic Technologies
Chapter 11: Outline to an Architectonics of Thermodynamics: Life’s Entropic Indeterminacy
Chapter 12: Irreversibility and Uncertainty: Revisiting Prigogine in the Digital Age
Chapter 13:“At the Crossroads…”: Essence and Plasticity in Catherine Malabou’s Philosophy of Plasticity
Chapter 14: Ugly David and the Magnetism of Everyday Technologies: On Hume, Habit, and Hindsight
Chapter 15: Adjacent Possibles: Indeterminacy and Ontogenesis
Sha Xin Wei
Epilogue: Schrödinger’s Spider in the African Bush: Coping with Indeterminacy in the Framing of Questions to Mambila Spider Divination
Is the process of technological innovation an opening up of possibilities or a predetermined production of commodities ? Through the analysis of concrete examples of smart technologies and artificial intelligent systems, the authors collectively brilliantly thematize a new modality of the future, that lies between contingency and necessity. Its name is plasticity. A fascinating endeavor.
Contingency and Plasticity in Everyday Technologies is a major contribution to the philosophy of technology and the literature of uncertainty. Within our theories of technology as the automated, probable, likely, replicable, and reliable, this book opens up a universe of the accidental, contingent, aleatoric, indeterminate, chaotic, and messy. It will unsettle your thinking.
This is a diverse collection of essays on urgent questions imposed by technologies that condition the “everyday” of a digitized capitalism. The impressive range of responses is an invitation to transgress disciplinary boundaries and commit to (re)creating a space where important problems can, first of all, be thought.