[csaa-forum] Technology’s Limits: Automation, Invention, Labour, and the Exhausted Environment

Ned Rossiter N.Rossiter at westernsydney.edu.au
Tue Feb 28 14:54:23 ACST 2017

Workshop — Digital Life Research Program
Institute for Culture and Society
Western Sydney University

Date: Friday March 10, 2017
Time: 10am – 4.30pm
Venue: EB.G.21, Parramatta South campus

Technology’s Limits: Automation, Invention, Labour, and the Exhausted Environment

Among its many political preoccupations, 2016 was marked by an obsessive concern with the new powers of the machine to erase human labour and employment. Science fiction dystopias – among them, the French Trepalium and the Brazilian 3% – saddled older anxieties about a world without work to a more novel recognition of resource depletion and scarcity. Academic publishing houses, conference organisers, funding agencies and the press have responded with a deluge of content covering algorithms, automation and the Anthropocene. Meanwhile, a less conspicuous narrative about the decline of innovation has resurfaced with claims that the rate of fundamental new technology inventions is slowing and jeopardising long term global productivity returns. What happens when technology hits its limits? Velocity and volume excite machinic economies, but do little to confront some of the core problems and challenges facing planetary labour and life today.

This workshop brings together leading Australian scholars of technology and society with contemporary German and French reflections on the prevailing discourses of technology’s limits. Since the 1990s, Bernard Stiegler has been a leading philosopher and critic of technology, and in his recent book Automatic Society he directly tackles problems of automation and algorithms for the distribution of financial and social resources to populations increasingly bereft of economic capital and political agency. Building upon Frankfurt School critical theory and Kittlerian media theory, contemporary German critique intersects with similar questions by combining investigations of epistemology, history and the technical. The Australian take on these European developments is simultaneously appreciative and critical, though often oriented toward more regional conditions that arise in part due to different economic, cultural and political relations with Asia.

The morning session of the workshop will introduce current theoretical European work on technology. Daniel Ross will develop a critical introduction to Bernard Stiegler, whose recent work in Automatic Society and In the Disruption continues to mount a wide-ranging and provocative critique of technology. Armin Beverungen will then offer an overview of his research on algorithmic management and high-frequency trading, with Ned Rossiter introducing logistical media as technologies of automation and labour control. In the afternoon, Gay Hawkins will outline her theoretical interest in nonhuman and technical objects and their irreducible role in making humans and ecologies. A key empirical example will be the history of plastic and the emergence of its technical agency and capacity to reconfigure life. Nicholas Carah will follow with a discussion of his latest work on algorithms, brand management and media engineering. The workshop will close with an audience-driven panel session and discussion. These interventions will be held in conjunction with a close reading of the key texts below.

Attendance numbers will be limited so please register in advance. No registration fee required.

RSVP by 7 March: https://tinyurl.com/h8xhxwd

Armin Beverungen
Junior Director at the Digital Cultures Research Lab (DCRL) at Leuphana Universität Lüneburg & Visiting Fellow, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University.
Nicholas Carah
Author of Brand Machines, Sensory Media and Calculative Culture (2016).
Gay Hawkins
Author of Plastic Water: The Social and Material Life of Bottled Water (2015).
Liam Magee
Author of Interwoven Cities (2016).
Nicole Pepperell
Author of Dissembling Capital (forthcoming, 2017).
Daniel Ross
Translator of Bernard Stiegler’s Automatic Society (2016), and numerous other works.
Ned Rossiter
Author of Software, Infrastructure, Labor: A Media Theory of Logistical Nightmares (2016).

Co-chairs: Liam Magee and Ned Rossiter
Co-convenors of the Institute for Culture and Society’s Digital Life research program.

Recommended Readings
Frank Pasquale (2017), Duped by the Automated Public Sphere<http://discoversociety.org/2017/01/03/duped-by-the-automated-public-sphere/>
Lee Rainer and Janna Anderson [Pew Research Center] (2017), Code-Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age<http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/02/08/code-dependent-pros-and-cons-of-the-algorithm-age/>
Bernard Stiegler (2012), Die Aufklärung in the Age of Philosophical Engineering<https://www.academia.edu/12692157/Bernard_Stiegler_Die_Aufkl%C3%A4rung_in_the_Age_of_Philosophical_Engineering_2013_>
Bernard Stiegler (2015), Escaping the Anthroposcene<https://www.academia.edu/12692287/Bernard_Stiegler_Escaping_the_Anthropocene_2015_>
Bernard Stiegler (2015), On Automatic Society<http://thirdrailquarterly.org/wp-content/uploads/05_Stiegler_TTR5.pdf>
Sonia Sodha [The Guardian] (2017), Is Finland’s basic universal income a solution to automation, fewer jobs and lower wages?<https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/19/basic-income-finland-low-wages-fewer-jobs>

Related Readings
Bruce Braun (2014), A New Urban Dispositif? Governing Life in an Age of Climate Change<http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1068/d4313>
Nick Dyer-Witheford (2013), Contemporary Schools of Thought and the Problem of Labour Algorithms<https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Labour_Algorithms>
Victor Galaz (2015), A Manifesto for Algorithms in the Environment<https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2015/oct/05/a-manifesto-for-algorithms-in-the-environment>
Victor Galaz et al. (2017), The Biosphere Code<http://thebiospherecode.com/>
Orit Halpern (2015), Cloudy Architectures<https://continentcontinent.cc/index.php/continent/article/view/205>
Erich Hörl (2014), Prostheses of Desire: On Bernard Stiegler’s New Critique of Projection<http://www.parrhesiajournal.org/parrhesia20/parrhesia20_horl.pdf>
Yuk Hui (2015), Algorithmic Catastrophe: The Revenge of Contingency<http://www.parrhesiajournal.org/parrhesia23/parrhesia23_hui.pdf>
International Labour Organisation (2016), ASEAN in Transformation<http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/actemp/downloads/events/2016/singapore_2016_executive_summary.pdf>
Lilly Irani (2015), The Cultural Work of Microwork<http://journals.sagepub.com.ezproxy.uws.edu.au/doi/abs/10.1177/1461444813511926>
MIT Technology Review (2012), The Future of Work<https://www.technologyreview.com/business-report/the-future-of-work/>
Cathy O’Neill (2016), How algorithms rule our working lives<https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/01/how-algorithms-rule-our-working-lives>
Elaine Ou (2017), Working for an Algorithm Might Be an Improvement<https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-01-13/working-for-an-algorithm-might-be-an-improvement>
The Guardian (2016), Robot factories could threaten jobs of millions of garment workers<https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jul/16/robot-factories-threaten-jobs-millions-garment-workers-south-east-asia-women>
Tommaso Venturini, Pablo Jensen, Bruno Latour (2015), Fill in the Gap. A New Alliance for Social and Natural Sciences<http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/18/2/11.html>

10:00– 10:10: Liam Magee, Ned Rossiter: Welcome and Introduction
10:10 – 11:10: Daniel Ross
11:10 – 11:30: Q&A
11:30 – 11:45: Coffee
11:45 – 1:00: Armin Beverungen, Ned Rossiter
1:00 – 2:00: Lunch
2:00 – 3:15: Gay Hawkins, Nicholas Carah
3:15 – 4:15: Panel discussion responding to automation: Dan / Gay / Nicholas / Armin / Nicole – Liam & Ned to chair
4:15 – 4:30: Closing thoughts, future actions

Ned Rossiter
Professor of Communication
Institute for Culture and Society / School of Humanities and Communication Arts
Western Sydney University
Parramatta Campus
Locked Bag 1797
Penrith NSW 2751

Tel. +61-2-9685-9600
Fax. +61-2-9685-9610

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