The Gallatin MA Program has invited graduate students at all levels to share ideas about technology and the idea of “system” as an object of study or means of generating knowledge and art. Speakers will address contemporary and/or historical issues that explore the impact of technologies (particularly, but not limited to the digital) as well as broader applications of the concept of the “system” or “systemic.” Is it true, as we are often told, that everything is connected? Can everything be mapped? Is everything part of a network, understandable as an intersection on a grid or web, connected by one wire? If the answer to those questions is “yes,” then one thing seems clear: no single perspective can grasp every part of the whole, and our dependence on computers to represent, create, and make sense of complex systems can only grow.
Where are we, now, in our efforts to understand the world in relation to the role of technology in/on the humanities, social sciences, and the arts? Since the 1700s, the rise of technology-based, “system”-oriented discourses and modes of thought and practice have been regarded, sometimes simultaneously, as both destroyer and savior of the “human.” More recently, through the work of Michel Foucault and others, theorists shifted focus from the moral individual towards a critique of the systemic (and therefore technological?) institution. Even more recently, while technology is still regarded with a degree of moral ambivalence, it has arguably become more commonplace than ever: have we finally made peace with the machine? How are new scholars and artists exploiting technology and systemic thinking to effect social change and generate new modes of art and thought? In 10 Print, Nick Montfort, who will speak at the conference, and colleagues take one line of code—the extremely concise BASIC program for the Commodore 64—and use it as a lens to consider the phenomenon of creative computing, to incite new questions about the way computer programs exist in culture.
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