my_publications

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 Berndnaut Smilde, from the series Nimbus, Probe #6, 2010.

Updates

Escape Velocity. Computing and the Great Acceleration. New Book(let)

Escape Velocity Cover

PostScriptUM #41
Series edited by Janez Fakin Janša
Publisher: Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, March 2022

After 70 years of acceleration, human civilisation has now reached escape velocity, enough energy to move the Earth system out of the steady-state of the Holocene, the relatively stable climate pattern in which human civilisation unfolded over the last 10,000 years, and into the uncharted, and as for now unchartable, territory that is the Anthropocene.

The notion of the “great acceleration” captures the fact that key socio-economic and Earth system indicators all share a common feature: they show a kink, a sharp upward movement from approximately 1950 onwards. These indicators point towards an unprecedented intensification and acceleration of human activity and self-destructive use of resources necessary to sustain this development under capitalism. Which begs the question: what happened in the early 1950s to enable this process? There is certainly no single answer to this question, my intention is to focus on one cause that has been relatively overlooked in this debate: computing.

Get the full text, open access or print-on-demand ► eBROCHURE (PDF) | ► PRINT ON DEMAND | ► LIST ON ISSUU

The ‘Known Unknowables’ of Quantification and the Paranoid Self.

This is my contribution to "Digital Unconscious – Nervous Systems and Uncanny Predictions!” Autonomedia 2021: Eds: Konrad | Becker, Felix Stalder You can get a nice printed copy directly from the publisher, Autonmedia.

Source: xkcd.com

Driven by the need to manage large-scale, complex systems in real-time, the notion of rationality shifted during the cold war. Rationality was no longer seen as something that required the human mind, but rather as something that was requiring of large, technical systems (Erickson et al. 2013). While the enlightenment idea of rationality emphasized reflectivity (as in ‘know thyself’) and moral judgments (as in Kant’s categorical imperative), this new notion emphasized objectivity (in the form of numbers) and the strict adherence to predetermined rules (in the form of check-lists, chains of command, and computational algorithms).

The study of the self has long resisted this shift. Throughout the 20th century, psychology, with almost all its variants based on individual introspection, remained the predominant mode of learning about oneself (Zaretsky 2005). Within the domain of psychology, the exception, of course, was behaviorism, which was strictly based on external observation and disregarded all accounts of mental states. Its impact on the study of the self was rather limited, due to its primary use being focused on learning about others rather than oneself, as well as its methodological and political groundings having been quite controversial. Its main proponent, BF Skinner, was, as Noam Chomsky (1971) put it, “condemned as a proponent of totalitarian thinking and lauded for his advocacy of a tightly managed social environment”.

From Commons to NFTs: Digital objects and radical imagination

Emilio Vavarella THE GOOGLE TRILOGY | Report a Problem. 2012

“From Commons to NFTs” is an (expanded) writing series initiated by Shu Lea Cheang, Felix Stalder & Ewen Chardronnet. Cautioned by the speculative bubble (burst) of NFTs, the series brings back the notion of commons from around the turn of the millennium to reflect upon and intervene in the transformation of the collective imagination and its divergent futures. Every last day of the month during the next six months Makery will publish a new contribution of this “chain essays”. First text by Felix Stalder. Further contributions by Yukiko Shikata, Michelle Kasprzak, Jaromil (Dennis Rojo), Cornelia Sollfrank, Tzu Tung Le, and Jaya Klara Brekke

New Book out: Digital Unconscious – Nervous Systems and Uncanny Predictions!

“Digital Unconscious – Nervous Systems and Uncanny Predictions!”
Autonomedia 2021: ISBN: 978-1-57027-387-2 193 Pages
Eds: Konrad | Becker, Felix Stalder

In hyper-normal hybrids the boundaries between man and machine have dissolved. Inside their nervous systems lies a strange but fascinating theme: the digital unconscious. Which forces act through algorithmic processes? What secrets be found in the shadowy realm of technology, welded to human nervous systems? How can the complexity of these relationships be described and what forms of access can cultural approaches offer?

Was liegt daran, wie gesprochen wird? Dividuelles Sprechen in Gerald Raunigs “Ungefüge”

Ungefüge_Cover“Was liegt daran, wer spricht?” Michel Foucault wollte bereits 1969 kein weiteres Mal das Verschwinden des/der Autor:in konstatieren, tat es dann aber doch wieder. Und etwa so lange dreht sich auch die Diskussion um Autor:innenschaft im Kreise, nicht zuletzt deshalb, weil auch die Kritik den/die Autor:in als Figur ins Zentrum stellt und wenn nur als Leerstelle, die es zu untersuchen gilt.

In einem der aussergewöhnlichsten Bücher der politischen Philosophie der letzten Jahre dreht Gerald Raunig Foucaults Frage um, ohne sie je direkt zu erwähnen. Als Problem erscheint nicht mehr der/die Sprechende, sondern die Sprache selbst. Denn es ist in der Sprache – als Struktur wie als Praxis – in der sich das Subjekt konstituiert. Dieses Subjekt ist heute dividuell, endlos teil- und wieder zusammensetzbar in der grossen Datenbanken der digitalen Konzerne, algorithmisch konstruiert, reibungslos und umfänglich verfügbar für smarte Strategien der Kontrolle und In-Wert-Setzung. Die hegemoniale Form, in der sich diesse Prozesse vollziehen, ist die Quantifizierung und das Ziel ist Optimierung.

Aesthetics of the Commons. New Book out!

We are very happy to publication of our book "Aesthetics of the Commons"

What do a feminist server, an art space located in a public park in North London, a ‘pirate’ library of high cultural value yet dubious legal status, and an art school that emphasizes collectivity have in common? They all demonstrate that art can play an important role in imagining and producing a real quite different from what is currently hegemonic; that art in the post-digital has the possibility to not only conceive or proclaim ideas in theory, but also to realize them materially. The underlying social imaginaries ascribe a new role to art in society and they envision an idea of culture beyond the individual and its possessions.

Digital Commons. Defining Concepts of the Digital Society (Internet Policy Review)


ABSTRACT

Commons are holistic social institutions to govern the (re)production of resources, articulated through interrelated legal, socio-cultural, economic and institutional dimensions. They represent a comprehensive and radical approach to organise collective action, placing it “beyond market and state” (Bollier & Helfrich, 2012). They form a third way of organising society and the economy that differs from both market-based approaches, with their orientation toward prices, and from bureaucratic forms of organisation, with their orientation toward hierarchies and commands. This governance model has been applied to tangible and intangible resources, to local initiatives (garden, educational material), and to resources governed by global politics (climate, internet infrastructure).

Digital commons are a subset of the commons, where the resources are data, information, culture and knowledge which are created and/or maintained online. The notion of the digital commons is an important concept for countering legal enclosure and fostering equitable access to these resources. This article presents the history of the movement of the digital commons, from free software, free culture, and public domain works, to open data and open access to science. It then analyses its foundational dimensions (licensing, authorship, peer production, governance) and finally studies newer forms of the digital commons, urban democratic participation and data commons.

Full text open access.

Dulong de Rosnay, M. & Stalder, F. (2020). Digital commons. Internet Policy Review, 9(4). https://doi.org/10.14763/2020.4.1530

Out Now: HYPER-EMPLOYMENT Book

24/7. Algorithmic sovereignty. Anxiety. Artificial intelligence. Automation. Crowdfunding. Data extraction. Entreprecariat. Exploitation. Free labour. Free time. Gig working. Human-in-the-loop. Logistics. Machine vision. Man-machine complexity. Micro-labour. No future. Outsourcing. Peripheral work. Platform economy. Post-capitalism. Post-work. Procrastination. Quantification. Self-improvement. Social media fatigue. Time management. Unemployment. These are arguably just a few of the many keywords required to navigate our fragile, troubled, scattered present, in which the borders between life and work, home and office, sleep and wake, private and public, human and machine have faded, and in which the personal is not just political but economic.

Edited by Domenico Quaranta and Janez Janša, featuring words by !Mediengruppe Bitnik (Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo) and Felix Stalder, Silvio Lorusso, Luciana Parisi, and Domenico Quaranta and works by !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Danilo Correale, Elisa Giardina Papa, Sanela Jahić, Silvio Lorusso, Jonas Lund, Michael Mandiberg, Eva and Franco Mattes, Anna Ridler, Sebastian Schmieg, Sašo Sedlaček, and Guido Segni, Hyperemployment – Post-work, Online Labour and Automation is an attempt to scrutinise and explore some of these issues. A catchphrase borrowed from media theorist Ian Bogost, describing “the Exhausting Work of the Technology User,” hyperemployment allows us to grasp a situation which the current pandemic has turned endemic, to analyse the present and discuss possible futures.

The book is co-published by NERO and Aksioma

Format: 11 x 17 cm
Pages: 160
Language: EN
Year: 2020
ISBN: 978-88-8056-112-5

BUY IT HERE, 18,00€

Breakdown 2.0? Systemic blockages in late-stage statism and late-stage liberal capitalism

This is the short (I know!) version of a paper, written for the "25 Years of Network Society" Workshop, organized by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

I want to return to Castells’s analysis of the breakdown of Soviet statism. Today, the question of systemic breakdown is worth revisiting because from the theoretical structure of Castells’s account, a sharper perspective on our contemporary crisis, this time of liberal democracy, might be developed.

This might be counter-intuitive as the late Soviet Union seems far away from our current techno-capitalist world. One was a sclerotic system, closed, rigid, opaque and inflexible to the point of crumbling when attempting to reform itself, the other one prides itself of its transparency and its innovation capacity. Indeed, supposedly radical innovation, “disruption”, has become a ubiquitous and largely positive term in the business literature, a mantra in the popular, Silicon Valley-inspired discourse on the relation between technology and society, and a trope even in critical activist cultures. But underneath these obvious differences, there are systemic blockages that share certain similarities.

Limits to complexity: systemic blockages in the Soviet ‘statism’

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