Symposium: Between the Digital and the Political: New Ecologies of Mind

October 10, 2017

Our committee members, Erich Hörl and Yuk Hui will give their talk at the symposium “Between the Digital and the Political: New Ecologies of Mind” on 17th October. The symposium hosted by Berkeley Center for New Media. complete information can be found at here.

Between the Digital and the Political: New Ecologies of Mind
A Symposium: History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series

When Gregory Bateson, the anthropologist and visionary cyberneticist, introduced his concept of an “ecology of mind” he was encouraging us to pay attention to the ways in which human thinking took place in and across complex networks of activity – biological, technical, social, and political. The individual was an active but ephemeral node in a striated eco-system of ideas and cognition that had to be understood and managed at the high levels of order.

And yet, within the intertwined disciplines of cognitive science, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence, master disciplines that dominate the study of human thought in the twenty-first century, most research is still relentlessly focused on the individual mind-brain nexus. This despite the steady recognition in the parallel universe of Science and Technology Studies, Continental Philosophy, and Sociology that cognition is something that is shared between minds, between minds and machines, and between people and institutional matrices.

The intensity and rapidity of the digital revolution has unraveled the individual mind-brain paradigm. It is now impossible to deny the ways in which human cognition is enmeshed with its technical prostheses, since those technical systems are now so persistent and so automated, the human mind is no longer always capable of defending its own autonomy. The political and social (not to mention economic) stakes of this revolution are clear, even if new resolutions are uncertain.

This symposium will explore the “new ecology” of mind that challenges us today as we seek to reconfigure our cognitive worlds between the political and the digital – as old institutions of power and knowledge are deformed and new relationships (visible and invisible) are forming. The key issue will be automation, automaticity, and autonomy: how does our new new media ecology work to automate moods, preference, perceptions – subjectivity itself – with and through the increasing automatization and neutralization of the political?

Sponsored by Berkeley Center for New Media, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, and the Dean of Arts and Humanities

1.00 PM Welcome
1:15 PM Erich Hörl (Leuphana University)
2:15 PM Break
2:30 PM Yuk Hui (Leuphana University)
3:30 PM Coffee
4:00 PM Panel discussion with Erich Hörl, Yuk Hui, Luciana Parisi (Goldsmith College), Warren Sack (UC Santa Cruz), David Bates (UC Berkeley)

Erich Hörl
This talk outlines several modes of becoming-environmental that characterize the development thanks to which environmentality [Umweltlichkeit] has become our condition today: the becoming-environmental of media, of power, of subjectivity, of world, of capital and of thinking. The process of cybernetization initiated around 1900—and the process of computerization since 1950 in particular––culminating in the becoming-environmental of computation, is to be understood as a time of environmentalization, that forces us into the new power/knowledge complex of Environmentality [Environmentalität] and that obliges us – as a line of flight – to rethink environmentality as such beyond its restricted actual forms. Accordingly, the key challenge for a general ecology of media and technology is to advance the critique of Environmentalization by developing an analysis of its restricted forms, first of all of the environmentalitarian capital-form, and to break through towards a speculative thinking of the environment and a new environmental image of thought.


Erich Hörl is the Professor of Media Culture at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media (ICAM), Leuphana University of Lüneburg. He is also a member of Leuphana Digital Culture Research Lab (DCRL). Between 2007 and 2014 he was head of the Bochum Colloquium Mediastudies (bkm). His current research interests concern the development of a general ecology of media and technologies as well as a critique of the process of cyberneticization of all life forms and modes of existence since around 1950. He writes widely on the theoretical challenges and the historical becoming of todays technological condition and has a special expertise in Simondon Studies, Heidegger Studies as well as Guattari Studies. Among his publications are General Ecology: The New Ecological Paradigm (Bloomsbury 2017, as contributing editor); Die technologische Bedingung: Beiträge zur Beschreibung der technischen Welt (Suhrkamp 2011, as contributing editor); Die Transformation des Humanen. Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte der Kybernetik (Suhrkamp 2008, as contributing editor); Die Heiligen Kanäle. Über die archaische Illusion der Kommunikation (Diaphanes 2005; English translation forthcoming with Amsterdam UP 2018); »A Thousand Ecologies« in The Whole Earth. California and the Disappearance of the Outside, ed. by D. Diedrichsen and A. Franke (Sternberg Press 2013), 121-131; »The technological condition“, in Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy, 22/2015, S. 1-15; »The artificial intelligence of sense: the history of sense and technology after Jean-Luc Nancy« in Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy, 17 / 2013, 11-24; »Luhmann, the Non-trivial Machine and the Neocybernetic Regime of Truth“ in Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 29/3, 2012, 94-121.

Yuk Hui
Archives of the Future – Remarks on the concept of Tertiary Protention

In this talk, I will revisit the relation between protention and retension in the work of Husserl, Derrida to Stiegler, with special attention to Husserl’s later Bernau manuscripts, which shed new light on this question. Through this historical trajectory, this talk hopes to elaborate on what I developed in On the Existence of Digital Objects the concept of tertiary protention, by which we can understand as technologies of anticipation ranging from debt to prediction. I will suggest that tertiary protention, which cannot be reduced to any form of retention, becomes the central question of the current stage of digital automation and constitutes a new regime of politics. In order to inquire into the “new ecologies of mind”, we will have to systematically examine and integrate the question of tertiary protention.


Yuk Hui studied Computer Engineering, Cultural Theory and Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong and Goldsmiths College in London, with a focus on philosophy of technology. He is currently a research associate of the project “techno-ecologies of participation” at the Leuphana University Lüneburg, where he also teaches at the institute of philosophy; previously, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Research and Innovation of the Centre Pompidou in Paris and a visiting scientist at the T-Labs Berlin. He has published on philosophy of media and technology in periodicals such as Metaphilosophy, Research in Phenomenology, Parrhesia, Angelaki, Cahiers Simondon, Intellectica, Implications Philosophiques, Jahrbuch Technikphilosophie, Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft, New Formations,Parallax, etc. He is an editor (with Andreas Broeckmann) of 30 Years after Les Immatériaux: Art, Science and Theory (2015), and author of On the Existence of Digital Objects (prefaced by Bernard Stiegler, University of Minnesota Press, March 2016), The Question Concerning Technology in China. An Essay in Cosmotechnics (Urbanomic, December 2016).

Luciana Parisi
Luciana Parisi is Reader in Cultural Theory, Chair of the PhD programme at the Centre for Cultural Studies, and co-director of the Digital Culture Unit, Goldsmiths University of London. Her research draws on continental philosophy to investigate ontological and epistemological transformations driven by the function of technology in culture, aesthetics and politics. Her writing aims to develop a naturalistic approach to thinking and technology. She is interested in cybernetics, information theory and computation, complexity and evolutionary theories. Her writing addresses the technocapitalist investment in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, nanotechnology. She has written extensively within the field of Media Philosophy and Computational Design. In 2004, she published Abstract Sex: Philosophy, Biotechnology and the Mutations of Desire (Continuum Press). In 2013, she published Contagious Architecture. Computation, Aesthetics and Space (MIT Press). She is currently researching the history of automation and the philosophical consequences of logical thinking in machines.

Warren Sack
Warren Sack is a media theorist, software designer, and artist whose work explores theories and designs for online public space and public discussion. He is Chair and Professor of Film + Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he teaches digital arts and digital studies. He has been a visiting professor in France at Sciences Po, the Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme, and Télécom ParisTech. His artwork has been exhibited by SFMOMA (San Francisco), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), the New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and the ZKM (Karlsruhe, Germany). His scholarship and research has been supported by the Paris Institute for Advanced Study, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Sunlight Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. Warren received his PhD from the MIT Media Lab and was an undergraduate at Yale College. The subject of his talk will be The Software Arts, a book manuscript for the MIT Press “Software Studies” series.

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