Speaker Series

Control Societies: Technocratic Forces and Ontologies of Difference​​
If the previous paradigm in social inquiry might be described by the phrase “the discursive turn,” then the next few decades may be characterized by the turn towards computation (de Freitas, Dixon-Román, & Lather, 2016). While the discursive turn refers to the sociocultural and historical conditions that shape and form the social world from languages, practices, and representations, the computational turn also includes the agencies and materialities of algorithmic acts and practices that are immanently operating within digital architectures. In recent decades, we have witnessed the most rapid growth in digital technologies. These developments in digital technologies have become ubiquitous in our lives and produce massive amounts of data at rates that are exponentially growing. Indeed, the footprints of social life are more and more digitalized while the acts of digital architectures are increasingly affecting/effecting our lives. As Rob Kitchin (2014, xv) states, digital technologies ”are materially and discursively reconfiguring the production, circulation and interpretation of data, producing what has been termed ‘big data.’” This “data revolution” has also leveraged the attention of many sectors of society, including the design and practices of governmentality and social policy.
            Although much of the analytics of this data has its origins in military and corporate research and development, they are increasingly being employed in the design and practice of governmentality and social policy. The use of digital technologies for the rapid analysis of massive amounts of data for policy decision making is an instantiation of what Deleuze was referring to when he stated that we're “moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people but through continuous control and instant communication” (Deleuze, 1995a, p. 174). What remains under interrogated and less well understood are the philosophical assumptions that underlie computation and the implications that they have for governmentality and ontologies of difference. For instance, what are the agencies that are assumed in the algorithmic acts of “prediction” within the interactive architectures of digital technology? What are the various ways in which posthumanist performativities of algorithmic “soft(ware) thinking” (i.e., algorithmic modes of thought, decision making, and mentality; Parisi, 2013) are enacting social identities of “difference” (e.g., race, gender, class, and sexuality) and reconfiguring structural relations of power in society? In what ways are class structural relations reinforced and reconfigured by practices of governmentality within computational cultures? And, in what ways do digital architectures enable the possibilities of challenging, contesting, and reimagining sociopolitical and historical conditions, particularly for the lives of the vulnerable and the marginalized? These are some of the many necessary and important questions that are in need of excavation in social policy research and this speaker series on "Control Societies: Technocratic Forces and Ontologies of Difference" takes up.

The 2017/2018 Speaker Series
The 2017/2018 Speaker Series

October 2nd                    Alexander Galloway , New York University

October 23rd                    Shannon Mattern , The New School

November 6th                  Finn Brunton , New York University

January 29th                    Ingrid Barrington , Data & Society

February 12th                 Sarah Sharma , University of Toronto

February 26th                  Andre Brock , University of Michigan

March 12th                      Elizabeth de Freitas , Manchester Metropolitan University

March 26th                      Bernard Harcourt , Columbia University

April 9th                            Elvin Wyly , University of British Columbia



The 2016/2017 Speaker Series

October 24th                    Alexander Monea George Mason University     PDF of Presentation

November 7th                  Luciana Parisi , Goldsmiths, University of London     Video of Lecture  

November 21st                 Nicole M. Brown Illinois Wesleyan University     Video of Lecture

December 5th                   N. Katherine Hayles Duke University

January 23rd                     Kara Keeling , University of Southern California   ​Cancelled

February 13th                   Mark Hansen Duke University     Video of Lecture

March 2nd                        Maria Y. Rodriguez , Hunter College     Video of Lecture
(2:30 to 4pm)

March 23rd                       Orit Halpern Concordia University (Canada)     Video of Lecture
*Co-sponsored by the Warren Center for Network & Data Sciences
Rescheduled for April 13th

April 24th                          Rob Kitchin Maynooth University     Video of Lecture


Funded by
The Provost Excellence Through Diversity Fund
The School of Social Policy & Practice
The Price Lab for the Digital Humanities