William Morgan on Calculative Reason and its Reproduction

12 Jul, 2019

William Morgan on Calculative Reason and its Reproduction

William Morgan received a Spring 2019 BCNM Conference Grant to help cover his costs attending the Association for Philosophy and Literature (APL) Conference in Klagenfurt, Austria. William presented "Calculative Reason and its Reproduction." Read more about his experience in his own words below!

At the 2019 Association for Philosophy and Literature (APL) Conference, panelists and keynote speakers investigated the theme, “Truth Fiction Illusion: Worlds and Experience” in its appearances across varied literary, scientific and technological objects and milieu. The research I presented is part of a larger project that tracks how popular belief comes to be invested in technical objects on account of those objects’ anchoring subject-users’ beliefs about their own future possibilities. In my presentation as part of the panel “Calculative Reason and its Reproduction,” I argued that in the present we are witness to the rise of a novel type of belief in computation, one that invests in networked and automated devices, which seem to embody a new truth that dispels the anxiety of the present surrounding the so-called “post-truth” moment, the rising tide of populism and increasing information balkanization. This computational truth is persuasive precisely because it does not rely on prior verification measures that the crisis of the present throws into chaos. In other words, because fake news generates real revenue, it overcomes and replaces non-digital modes of belief as those fall out of fashion in an increasingly contradictory present. My work at the APL focused on charting these changes in belief and working through their consequences.

Also at the conference I had the good fortune of meeting and attending two sessions with talks by Tiziana Terranova, a good friend of my advisor, Luciana Parisi and someone whose work I’ve followed for a long time. The panels “Creating Commons” and “Neoliberal Illusions” were both excellent and asked questions that helped me to refine my own. Perhaps the highlight of the conference was Achille Mbembe’s keynote to close the event. During his talk he isolated four “megaprocessess,” which he argued were reshaping the “truth” of the world’s disclosure. One of processes was computation. After Mbembe’s talk I approached him and we spoke about automation and about organizing an event with him and Luciana in the future. What’s more is that in “Creating Commons,” “Neoliberal Illusions” and Mbembe’s keynote speech, Shoshana Zuboff’s new book, The Age of Surveillance was discussed. This was excellent timing for me, as my review of that book had just been published with Media Theory. Overall the conference was outstanding and contributed to my research, my professional connections and my friendships with similarly interested scholars. I am greatly appreciative of BCNMs generous support to help me attend this event.