Datafication, Memory, Bio-Politics


The Future of Indeterminacy Conference


The future is no longer seen as open. It’s seen as precarious on the one hand, and technologically over-determined on the other. Economic uncertainty, the rise of the risk society, the culture of fear and neoliberal necropolitics are seen as a serious threat. The risk society attributes all hazards to human decisions; the culture of fear cultivates the tendency to catastrophise; neoliberal necropolitics welds technology to the exploitation of natural and social reserves in an irreversible way. Amidst the general climate of ‘instrumentarianism’ (Zuboff 2019), paradoxes like ‘the cancelled future’ (Berardi 2014) or ‘automated deregulation’ (Steyerl 2019) are synonymous with permanent crisis, disorder, and the ‘end of free will’ (Han 2017).

Indeterminacy – often associated with but not identical to unknowability and liminality – doesn’t merely defy the ‘order-disorder’, ‘certainty-uncertainty’ binary creating a ‘both-and’ and ‘neither-nor’ space in which a cat can be both dead and alive, as in Schrödinger’s experiment. Indeterminacy is a self-perpetuating dynamic of change with no spatial or temporal constancy – a vibrant multiplicity of parallel potentialities and realities. Initially derived from Bohr’s quantum indeterminacy, Gödel’s undecidability, and Stengers and Prirogine’s non-linear dynamics, indeterminacy upsets stable structures and ossified power regimes which is why it was embraced as a liberating epistemic force by many 20th century artists and theorists: Jarry, Boulez, Cage, Ichinayagi, Situationists International, Xenakis, Fluxus, Knowbotic Research, Derrida, Guattari, Hayles, Varela and Latour, to mention but a few.

In the digital age, in accelerated, informational capitalism, the situation is very different. First, permanent change is the rule. Second, art, culture, and (bio)politics are no longer separate; they are fused in the infosphere. Consisting of datification, algorithmic predetermination, cultural production, symbolic and affective regimes, the infosphere has modified the language of thought and action. It has also modified the structure of reality. The aim of this transdisciplinary conference is to evaluate the current and future epistemic and ontological potential of spatio-temporal, cultural-mnemonic and socio-political forms of indeterminacy. To this end, we ask questions such as:

  • How do contemporary digital thinking-making practices articulate the relationship between design and chance, system and impulse, repeatability and irreversibility, rule, iteration and variability?
  • How does temporal indeterminacy, as defined by quantum physics, relate to indigenous conceptions of space-time and matter? (Barad 2018)
  • How do ‘an-archives’ – heaps of disparate, perpetually multiplied images (Hansen 2011) – pattern cultural memory?
  • What are the repercussions of medial efficacy – the fact that algorithms are not mathematical ideas imposed on concrete data, as is often thought, but diagrams that emerge from repetition and the processual organisation of space-time, objects and actions?
  • What is the relationship between indeterminacy and neuroplasticity, our embodied and extended brains/minds’ adaptability to new perceptual milieus? (Malabou 2006)
  • How do deterministic technical milieus and the growing mass of unstructured data configure #datapolitik – a set of operations that regulate space-time through the cybernetic feedback loop, tracking, capture, and feelings of safety or threat? (Panagia 2017)

We invite proposals for 20 min papers, provocations, creative contributions, re-enactments of scientific experiments and proposals for curated panels from the fields of art, media (theory), physics, mathematics, philosophy, cultural studies, memory studies, digital humanities, and anthropology. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • Indeterminate (historical or contemporary) artistic methodologies, e.g. convolutions, destinerrance, obfuscation, culture jamming, databending
  • Aleatory composition in music, event scores, performance and psychogeography
  • Indeterminacy, observation and measurement
  • Entangled (virtual or material) patternings and the collapse of micro-macro, general-specific perspectives
  • Superposition and multiple spatio-temporal histories
  • The role of repetition, velocity and scale in machine learning and algorithmic ‘promiscuity’
  • Computers as inherently re-iterative, indeterminate machines
  • Logical aberrations in AI classificatory systems, e.g. those used in affective computing
  • Errors/slippages in deterministic technologies (e.g. biometrics or facial recognition software) and their relationship to judgment and digital inscription
  • Retroversion and the ambiguity of meaning in digital and legal discourse
  • Big data and the indeterminacy of inference
  • Glitch and the draining of cultural memory or erasure as tracing
  • Indeterminacy and the technological unconscious
  • Digital grammatisation of existence (Stiegler) and critical, micro-context-responsive computing
  • Posthumanist performativity (Barad)
  • The indeterminacy of waste in ecology, topology and anthropology
  • Indeterminacy and social identity (e.g. gender)
  • The dynamics of liminality as a space-time of transformation
  • The history of indeterminacy in physics, mathematics and philosophy
  • Indeterminacy as ethics and aesthetics

Panel proposal deadline: 6 June 2020 (1000 w proposal + 450 speaker bios)

Individual presentation deadline: 15 June 2020 (350 w abstract + 150 bio)

Notification of Acceptance: 22 June 2020

Please email abstracts with ‘Indeterminacy Conference’ in the subject to:

This conference is hosted by the AHRC-funded project The Future of Indeterminacy: Datification, Memory, Biopolitics. A limited number of bursaries will be available for PhD researchers. If you would like to be considered please send a 4-page CV + 500 w description of your research together with your abstract.