[csaa-forum] Automating Environments: A Discussion with Orit Halpern, Rodrigo Nunes and Susan Zieger

Ned Rossiter N.Rossiter at westernsydney.edu.au
Wed Dec 4 10:23:58 ACST 2019

Institute for Culture and Society
Western Sydney University
11 December 2019
Time: 1-4pm
Venue: Elizabeth Macquarie meeting room, Female Orphan School, Parramatta South Campus
Map: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/future/our-campuses/parramatta-south-campus.html
Organized by Liam Magee, Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter

Please register by 6 December: https://tinyurl.com/rn7c9fp

Automating Environments: A Discussion with Orit Halpern, Rodrigo Nunes and Susan Zieger

What is an automated environment? In posing this question the problem of limits quickly surfaces. Can an environment be automated? What is an environment? How do current developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics define and compose the territory of environment? Once automated, how does an environment govern social relations of labour and economy, subjectivity and imagination? Are their temporalities specific to the automation of worlds and how does the axis of time tussle with spatialities generated by automated systems? Are there modes of orientation and organization peculiar to automated environments? What is their political economy and geopolitical consequence, if any?

These questions form the backdrop to this event, which is not a workshop, seminar, or symposium but rather takes the form of a discussion. Following an opening provocation by Orit Halpern, Rodrigo Nunes and Susan Zieger will bring ideas and material drawn from their research on organizational cultures and logistical modernities to the topic of automated environments.

Orit Halpern, Event Horizons and Planetary Tests

What would we need to learn to change how we frame our questions and therefore our designs of artificially intelligent or machine learning systems? What might one “learn” from landscapes? I want to engage the normative assumptions of figure-ground relations that model technologies as separate from environment, society, history, or even our imaginaries of the future by taking up this question. In doing so, I take my lead from the famous 1972 treatise by Venturi, Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, that sought to develop a design and architectural vocabulary for the transforming post-industrial condition through mapping the city of Las Vegas. Now I seek to develop a vocabulary and map for contemporary machine learning and big data infrastructures by “learning” from the Atacama Desert in Chile.

In the course of this talk, I will draw a map of the relationships between environment, finance, and big data infrastructures. Detailing the relationship between big data, post or exo-planetary imaginaries, and resource extraction, I will outline to how we are imagining our planetary future through our artificial intelligences.

Orit Halpern is a Strategic Hire in Interactive Design and Theory and an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Montréal. Halpern’s work bridges the histories of science, computing and cybernetics with design and art practice. Her most recent book, Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945 (Duke University Press, 2015), is a genealogy of interactivity and our contemporary obsessions with “big data” and data visualization.

Rodrigo Nunes is a philosophy professor at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio). He is the aut­hor of Organisation of Organisationless: Collective Action After Networks<https://www.metamute.org/editorial/books/organisation-organisationless-collective-action-after-networks> (Mute/PML-books, 2014), and has re­cent­ly or­ga­nis­ed a dos­sier on the 2013 pro­tests in Bra­zil for Les Temps Modernes. He was for­mer­ly a mem­ber of the edi­to­ri­al collec­tive of Turbulence. His new book, Beyond the Horizontal: Rethinking the Question of Organisation, is forthcoming with Verso.

Susan Zieger is Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside and specializes in nineteenth-century British and related literatures and cultures, with an emphasis on the novel, ephemera, and other mass media forms. She has written Inventing the Addict: Drugs, Race, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century British and American Literature (University of Massachusetts Press, 2008) and The Mediated Mind: Affect, Ephemera, and Consumerism in the Nineteenth Century (Fordham University Press, 2018). With Nicole Starosielski and Matt Hockenberry, she is editing the volume Assembly Codes: The Logistics of Media, forthcoming from Duke University Press.

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

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