Book Out: Digital Condition (Polity Press)

I'm very happy my new book (a translation of Kultur der Digitalität) has just been published by Polity Press.

In the book I argue that referentiality, communality, and algorithmicity have become the characteristic cultural forms of the digital condition because more and more people – in more and more segments of life and by means of increasingly complex technologies – are actively (voluntarily and/or compulsorily) participating in the negotiation of social meaning. They are thus reacting to the demands of a chaotic, overwhelming sphere of information and thereby contributing to its greater expansion. It is the ubiquity of these cultural forms that makes it possible to speak of the digital condition in the singular.

The goals pursued in these cultural forms, however, are as diverse, contradictory, and conflicted as society itself. It would therefore be equally false to assume uniformity or an absence of alternatives in the unfolding of social and political developments. On the contrary, the idea of a lack of alternatives is an ideological assertion that is itself part of a specific political agenda. Indeed, advanced democracies are faced with a profound choice, to continue their long slide towards post-democratic authoritarianism or reinvent democracy for the digital condition.

You can get it from the publisher (UK, US), from Amazon (UK, US), or you local bookseller (UK, US).

The great cover image is by the Dutch artist Bernaut Smilde, from the series Nimbus, Probe #6, 2010.


Knowledge, Confusion, and Manipulation (Talk, HKW, Berlin)

I try to make sense of our current techno-cultural moment in which reality is disappearing and reappearing in confusing ways. I point out two major developments relevant here. First, as capitalism expanded, it has created a system of communication that cannot, and does not want to, deal with meaning. And, second, as the complexity of the socio-techno-biological connections of society increases, the old ways of organizing knowledge have become increasingly unable to provide an accurate understanding of the world we are living in. In their place, a new type of knowledge regime is emerging that produces its own form of meaninglessness.

I use the analysis of the crisis of meaning as a starting point to also think about some of the "counter-measures" that might be appropriate to overcome this crisis.

Anyway, here's the talk which I gave as part of the "New Alphabet: Opening Days" event (10-13.01, 2019) at HKW in Berlin.

Following this was a great presentation by Kate Crawford and Trevor Paglen on how machines are trained to "see" and how this creates what they call "predator vision". You can see their talk (starting at 00:33:00) and the discussion (starting at 01:05:00) on HKW's Facebook page.

Rethinking the Public Sphere under the Digital Condition

This text was written as a contribution to the workshop Public in the Making, 18-20 October 2018 İstanbul, part of the project Trans making: art, culture and economy to democratize society. A well layouted PDF is also available. Thanks to Fatih Aydogdu for the invitation.


Democracy, even in its most rudimentary definition, contains two elements.1 The first is that of public deliberation and contestation of the issues affecting the “demos” (the people) as a collectivity. The precondition here is the availability of an easily accessible, shared space in which different opinions and attitudes can be expressed, compared and peacefully fought over, as a way for the members of the collectivity (the “citizens”) to form their opinions and plot out diverging futures. The second element allows to express those opinions and interests in a way that leads to a decision regarding the future that is binding for, and accepted by, all. Usually, this is done by voting either “yes” or “no” to a specified proposal for action, or by selecting representatives from a group of pre-selected candidates, often, but not necessarily, organized as political parties that stand for competing visions of the future. If the first element is weakened, voting is transformed to a ritual of submission and propaganda in the machinery of dictatorship, if the latter is reduced, democracy turns into post-democracy where issues are debated but decision making is outsourced to “experts” or “the market” (Crouch 2004).

Datensouveränität - jenseits des Datenschutzes

Radio Organge: Sendung vom 29.10.2018:

Katja Mayer und Felix Stalder auf der PrivacyWeek #3

Datensouveränität wird oftmals mit Datenschutz gleichgesetzt, dabei öffnet der Begriff vielfältige Möglichkeiten den Umgang mit Daten neu zu gestalten. Besonders interessant sind Ansätze die neue Institutionen hervorbringen um kollektiv Daten zu nutzen und so eine gemeinschaftliche Form von Souveränität zu stärken. Die Soziologin Katja Mayer und der Kultur- und Medienwissenschaftler Felix Stalder erörtern die Thematik anhand von Beispielen aus den Bereichen Open Science und Gesundheit sowie städtischen Technologieprojekten.

Im Website-Player abspielen (pop-up)
Archivierte Sendung im cultural broadcasting archive

Interview by Clemens Apprich for First Monday

The (Post-)Digital Condition — An Interview with Felix Stalder.
First Monday, Volume 23, Number 8 - 6 August 2018

Das Portrait: Felix Stalder

Alexander Grau hat ein Portrait über mich geschrieben, das versucht die Entwicklung einiger meiner Ideen nach zu zeichnen. Tönt in der Rückschau viel gradliniger, als ich das über letzten 20 Jahre erlebt habe :) Auch als PDF. TV Diskurs. Nr. 3, 2018, S.78-81

Intellectual Property (Marx from the Margins: A collective Project from A -Z)

Marx has never, to the best of my knowledge, dealt directly with intellectual property, which is the relations and dynamics of ownership established through copyright, patent and trademark law. Rather, he focused on science, in particular on what we would call today “research and development” (R&D), which is those elements of techno-scientific innovation most directly related to the production process. He understood science as a social phenomenon organized under capitalism as wage labor, like most other activities in the production process. This, to some degree, reflects the historical circumstances of the mid 19th century. The distinction between basic and applied science was not yet fully developed, and the copyright industries were economically relatively insignificant and trademarks barely established.

Still, within a broadly Marxist viewpoint, three main perspectives can be mobilized to help understand the current role that intellectual property plays, both in the expansion of capitalism as well as in challenges to it: accumulation by dispossession, alienated labor, and general intellect.

Download full article as PDF, or read it at online at Krisis.

Source: Krisis: JOURNAL for contemporary philosophy. Issue 2, 2018 p.83-85

Bias in Algorithms

Talk at A1, Vienna. 26.06.2018. Organized by Frauennetzwerk, A1.

Was neu ist, nervt, von Katrin Passig und Felix Stalder

09.06.2018 | 55 Min. | Quelle: Deutschlandfunk Nova

Neue App, neue Smartwatch, neuer Sprachassistent - manche von uns begeistern sich für jede technische Entwicklung. Aber dann gibt es auch die anderen, die Veränderungen sehr skeptisch gegenüberstehen.

Zwei Präsentationen im Rahmen der Veranstaltung "Internet und seelische Gesundheit" (10.05.2018)

Herausforderungen der Digitalität jenseits der Technologie

Diesen Text als schön gestaltetes PDF drucken / lesen.

Der Leitartikel der Ausgabe aus dem Themenfeld Demokratie fasst die Herausforderungen zusammen, die die Digitalisierung an die Gesellschaft und vor allem auch an die Hochschulen stellen – abgesehen von Ausstattung und Technologie.

Im Zuge der Digitalisierung – die Ausweitung des Einsatzes digitaler Technologien – ist eine neue Infrastruktur der Wahrnehmung, der Kommunikation und der Koordination entstanden. Weil dies grundlegende Dimensionen fast aller individuellen und kollektiven Tätigkeiten sind, lösen die neuen Strukturbedingungen des Handelns – die Digitalität – weitreichende Veränderungen aus. Alte Muster des Denkens und Handelns kommen in die Krise, neue Muster entstehen. Sei es in Bezug darauf, wie jeder Einzelne sich selbst und die Welt erlebt, wie die Demokratie weiterentwickelt werden kann, oder wie sich das Verhältnis zu Natur gestalten lässt. Das ist sowohl eine Chance, weil es die Möglichkeit enthält, überkommene und den gegenwärtigen Herausforderungen nicht mehr gerecht werdenden Muster und Verfahren zu verbessern, als auch eine Gefahr, weil dieser notwendige Wandel tiefe Momente der Desorientierung enthält, was Gegenreaktionen auslöst, die umso heftiger werden, je mehr diese strukturellen Veränderungen eingebettet sind in politische Bestrebungen, solidarische Elemente in der Gesellschaft aufzulösen. Davon direkt betroffen sind auch die Methoden und Verfahren, wie wir gesichertes Wissen über die Welt generieren und wie dieses in die Gesellschaft gelangt - eine der zentralen Aufgaben der Universitäten.

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