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History and Theory 17 Oct, 2017 Between the Digital and the Political: New Ecologies of Mind

Lecture | October 17 | 1-5 p.m. | Sutardja Dai Hall, Banatao Auditorium, Rm 310


Erich Hörl, Leuphana University; Yuk Hui, Leuphana University; Luciana Parisi, Goldsmith College; Warren Sack, UC Santa Cruz; David Bates, UC Berkeley

Berkeley Center for New Media, Townsend Center for the Humanities, Dean of Arts and Humanities


When Gregory Bateson, the anthropologist and visionary cyberneticist, introduced his concept of an “ecology of mind” he was encouraging us to pay attention to the ways in which human thinking took place in and across complex networks of activity – biological, technical, social, and political. The individual was an active but ephemeral node in a striated eco-system of ideas and cognition that had to be understood and managed at the high levels of order.

And yet, within the intertwined disciplines of cognitive science,
neuroscience, and artificial intelligence, master disciplines that dominate the study of human thought in the twenty-first century, most research is still relentlessly focused on the individual mind-brain nexus. This despite the steady recognition in the parallel universe of Science and Technology Studies, Continental Philosophy, and Sociology that cognition is something that is shared between minds, between minds and machines, and between people and institutional matrices.

The intensity and rapidity of the digital revolution has unraveled the individual mind-brain paradigm. It is now impossible to deny the ways in which human cognition is enmeshed with its technical prostheses, since those technical systems are now so persistent and so automated, the human mind is no longer always capable of defending its own autonomy. The political and social (not to mention economic) stakes of this revolution are clear, even if new resolutions are uncertain.

This symposium will explore the “new ecology” of mind that challenges us today as we seek to reconfigure our cognitive worlds between the political and the digital – as old institutions of power and knowledge are deformed and new relationships (visible and invisible) are forming. The key issue will be automation, automaticity, and autonomy: how does our new new media ecology work to automate moods, preference, perceptions – subjectivity itself – with and through the increasing automatization and neutralization of the political?

Sponsored by Berkeley Center for New Media, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, and the Dean of Arts and Humanities.



laurahuynh@berkeley.edu