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.
Prologue: Normalising Catastrophe or Revealing Mysterious Sur-Chaotic Micro-Worlds?, Natasha Lushetich, Iain Campbell and Dominic Smith
Part I: Social-Digital Technologies
1. Information and Alterity: From Probability to Plasticity, Ashley Woodward
2. Transcendental Instrumentality and Incomputable Thinking, Luciana Parisi
3. Digital Ontology and Contingency, Aden Evens
4. Blockchain Owns You: From Cypherpunk to Self-Sovereign Identity, Alesha Serada
5. The Double Spiral of Chaos and Automation, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi
Part II: Spatial, Temporal, Aural and Visual Technologies
6. Allagmatics of Architecture: From Generic Structures to Genetic Operations (and Back), Andrej Radman
7. Computation and Material Transformations: Dematerialisation, Re-materialisation and Dematerialisation in Time-Based Media, Oswaldo Emiddio Vasquez Hadjilyra
8. How the Performer Came to be Prepared: Three Moments in Music’s Encounter with Everyday Technology, Iain Campbell
9. The Given and the Made: Thinking Transversal Plasticity with Duchamp, Brecht and Troika’s Artistic Technologies, Natasha Lushetich
10. Ananke’s Sway: Architectures of Synaptic Passages, Stavros Kousoulas
Part III: Epistemic Technologies
11. Outline to an Architectonics of Thermodynamics: Life’s Entropic Indeterminacy, Joel White
12. Irreversibility and Uncertainty: Revisiting Prigogine in the Digital Age, Peteer Müürsepp
13.“At the Crossroads…”: Essence and Plasticity in Catherine Malabou’s Philosophy of Plasticity, Stephen Darren Dougherty
14. Ugly David and the Magnetism of Everyday Technologies: On Hume, Habit, and Hindsight, Dominic Smith
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, David Zeitlyn
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.