Alex Galloway – “The Cybernetic Hypothesis”

Taking inspiration from Tiqqun’s 2001 text “the cybernetic hypothesis,” this talk examines the relationship between digital technology and scholarly research methods. A definition of the cybernetic hypothesis is presented by way of a series of historical investigations into the work of Lewis Richardson, Warren Weaver, John von Neumann, and Paul Otlet. Cybernetics is defined thus in terms of a broad set of assumptions and techniques influencing society and culture at large. These assumptions and techniques include an epistemology rooted in arrays or systems containing discrete entities, the organization of entities into systems, and the regularization of difference or asymmetry within the system overall. After having presented this view of cybernetics, we examine the challenges and problems such a paradigm presents to scholarly research methods including contemporary developments in the digital humanities. In other words, what kind of intellectual work is possible after the rise of digital media?

Alexander R. Galloway is a writer and computer programmer working on issues in philosophy, technology, and theories of mediation. He is a founding member of the software collective RSG (Radical Software Group), and creator of the Carnivore and Kriegspeil projects. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. He is the author or co-author of five books on digital media and critical theory, including The Interface Effect (Polity, 2012), Les Nouveaux Réalistes: Philosophie et postfordisme (Léo Scheer, 2012), and The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (Minnesota, 2007). Galloway has received numerous awards including a Creative Capital grant (2006) and a Golden Nica in the 2002 Prix Ars Electronica (Linz, Austria). The New York Times has described his practice as “conceptually sharp, visually compelling and completely attuned to the political moment.”

Co-sponsored by the Department of Film and Media