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The problem with disorder

There is a long tradition of associating disorder with unruliness and deformation in western philosophy, literature and aesthetics, from Hesiod to John Milton, from Aristotle to Ernst Gombrich. Perception, too, is ordered in semantic, spatial, and temporal terms. A situation as ‘legible’ when we can see a pattern in it or replace a sequence of events – an enumeration of colours, animals or vehicles, for example – by a rule shorter than itself: the categories ‘colour’, ‘animal’ or ‘vehicle’. When there is no rule which captures the formation of content, the sequence remains obscure or incomprehensible.
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Why indeterminacy now?

Why is it important to look at indeterminacy today? Not long ago, this concept promised a widespread revolution in thought and practice. In the arts especially, indeterminacy was seen as holding a radically liberatory potential, promising to overturn long-standing norms not only in art, but across society. No hierarchies, from those of the fine arts to that of humanity over nature, seemed stable. Now, however, indeterminacy is the norm: as instability, uncertainty, or undecidability, from climate change to the digital systems, perpetual optimisation and embroilment of habit permeates contemporary life. The open-endedness and unpredictability of indeterminacy has become a means for extending the reach of technologies of security and surveillance. We find ourselves asking how this disconnect between the liberatory potential of indeterminacy and indeterminacy as it appears today came about. Let me try and outline some features of this disconnect.
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