The Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts is proud to host the second part of the year-long symposium: On the Anthropocene: Either/Or. Launched in spring 2021, with a series of lectures by renowned theorists and philosophers, the symposium addresses the role of art and philosophy in relation to ecology, climate change, co-existence, and sustainability as an existential urgency of our times.
The final lecture of the fall 2021 series, Ewa Plonowska Ziarek’s “On the datafication of the world: Arendt, Natality and the Onto-Politics of Big Data” will be held on Saturday, December 11 (12–2pm EST). The lecture is free and open to the public. Register here.
“On the datafication of the world: Arendt, Natality and the Onto-Politics of Big Data”
In this talk Ziarek examines the contrast between Arendt’s ontology of natality and the political ontology at stake in the datafication of the world. According to Arendt, the ontology of natality stresses the fact that all human activities, and political actions in particular, depend on common world and intersubjective plurality. It is through “deeds and words,” acts and stories—or art more generally—that human agents sharing the world in common are capable of disclosing their uniqueness to others and enacting with them a new beginning in political life. By contrast, insofar as big data is subordinated to the political aims of digital capitalism and the automation of political decisions, its ontology corresponds to what Ziarek calls “digital wordlessness.” Such digital wordlessness is both presupposed and re-enacted by algorithmic governmentality, which Antoinette Rouvroy defines as a “regime of neutralization,” aiming to disarm and neutralize subjective capacities of action, speech and decision. The contrast between these ontologies could not be starker, but it reflects the “hybrid” and antagonistic character of our contemporary and increasingly global condition. The key question is whether this conflict can help us reimagine different possibilities for political and cultural uses of data, proposed for example by new social movements, such as the Algorithmic Justice League or Data 4 Black Lives, or whether the big data revolution, often described metaphorically as a tsunami, explosion, disruption, or flood, will aggravate the sense of digital wordlessness.
Ewa Plonowska Ziarek is Julian Park Professor of Comparative Literature at SUNY Buffalo, a Senior Research Fellow of Philosophy at Western Sydney University, and Visiting Faculty at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. Most recently she co-authored with Rosalyn Diprose Arendt, Natality and Biopolitics: Towards Democratic Plurality and Reproductive Justice (2019), a book awarded Book Prize of Symposium: Canadian Journal for Continental Philosophy. Her other books include Feminist Aesthetics and the Politics of Modernism (2012); An Ethics of Dissensus: Feminism, Postmodernity, and the Politics of Radical Democracy (2001); The Rhetoric of Failure: Deconstruction of Skepticism, Reinvention of Modernism (1995); and co-edited volumes, such as, Intermedialities: Philosophy, Art, Politics (2010); Time for the Humanities (2008) and Revolt, Affect, Collectivity: The Unstable Boundaries of Kristeva's Polis (2005). In her new research project her focus shifts to a feminist analysis of the increasingly global political regime of digital capital and “algorithmic governmentality.”