January 12th, 2018 – Gary Kafer

Dear All,

Please join us on Friday, January 12th at 11:00 AM in Cobb 311 as we welcome Gary Kafer, Ph.D. student in Cinema and Media Studies; he will discuss “Conjuring the Algorithmic Specter,” an article in-progress. Marc Downie, new lecturer in Cinema and Media Studies, will serve as the discussant.

The paper is available for download here.

Please email either Panpan [panpan@uchicago.edu] or Jenisha [jenisha@uchicago.edu] for the password.

Refreshments will be provided.

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Yours in Mass Cult,

Panpan and Jenisha

Conjuring the Algorithmic Specter

In this paper, I take up Kittler’s claim that “the realm of the dead is as extensive as the storage and transmission capabilities of a given culture.” In our twenty-first century media environment, algorithms have increasingly become capable not only of analyzing events as they occur, but also controlling the future orientation of actions, thoughts, and affects. If, as Kittler argues, the ghosts of twentieth century media were recorded representations from the past, the specters that haunt these new feedback technologies rather visit us as recoded future potentials. However, at their most basic level, algorithms are inflected by a gap between code and implementation; the effects of algorithmic computation cannot be known in advance simply by reading code or building a program. As such, I aim to re-situate the specter not as an artifact emerging from the material relations embedded in a particular technical system, but rather as emerging in the lived social realities in which algorithms are implemented to perform a particular function. The stakes of this argument, rather than merely redefining the spectral technologies of the contemporary computer age, strike a substantial chord with a broader biopolitical arena, allowing us to commune with the algorithmic specter as a figure for those bodies marked as exceptional within the construction of our speculative neoliberal present.

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