Art, Subjectivity and the ‘Cold World’

The ‘Cold World’ describes our technosphere, composed (intentionally and/or accidentally) of amassed bits as the convergence of digital, atomic, and hydrocarbon age. It is an alienating world of big data, finance-capitalism, and planetary-scaled crises underscored by the seeming impossibility of understanding what this world is. The term ‘Cold World’ indexes not only the complex world ‘out there’ that overflows epistemic traction, but our general existential crisis as humans within it. No human brain can grasp or master this world, despite the fact that we’ve built it. The reactions to this ‘Cold World’ can be largely classified as withdrawing from complexity, across the political spectrum. On the one hand, we have techno-fetishism (the Silicon Valley mentality) that believes in solving all problems through technological means, and not socio-political change. On the other hand, we see the techno-pessimists who cry for a ‘simpler time’ suggesting we have lost our ‘human nature’ (thereby essentialising what the human is, both neglecting how this category has historically omitted most humans from its purview, and the ways in which technology is in itself, fused to the human across cultures and regions). This seminar looks beyond the either-or deadlock of both positions, while investigating how our current reality forces us to contend with a world where we are no longer the radiant centre of activity and how this fundamental alters our self-understanding as human. This transformed self-understanding produces a series of cascading consequences: How do we evaluate ‘human experience’ when much of this world is not available to us sensorially? How do we understand (or rewrite) the role of art in this world (or preferably, the otherworld)? What role do humanities play in a world utterly dominated by big-tech? What new alien-alliances and collective subjectivities need to arise for political mobility? Additional concepts to be discussed include Inhumanism, Cosmotechnics, Generic Situatedness Readings: Yuk Hui, “Cosmotechnics as Cosmopolitics,” in e-flux Journal, November 2017. Benjamin Bratton, “The Black Stack,” in e-flux Journal, March 2014. (For helpful commentary on the full book The Stack: On Sovereignty and Software, see McKenzie Wark’s “The Stack to Come” (2016) - Nina Power, “Inhumanism, Reason, Blackness, Feminism,” in Glass Bead Journal Site 1: Logic Gate, The Politics of the Artifactual Mind, 2017 Nora N. Khan, “Towards a Poetics of Artificial Superintelligence,” in After Us Issue 1, 2015. For super eager students, especially those interested in AI technology and Neural Nets see: Anil Bawa-Cavia, “The Inclosure of Reason,” in Technosphere Magazine, Haus of World Cultures, 2017.