Technology critique and its alternatives

Anna Thieser
Technology critique and its alternatives

Seminar, English/Deutsch, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
Thursdays, 16-19:30 h, 7 dates: 19.5. (online), 2.6., 9.6., 16.6., 23.6. (online), 30.6., 7.7.2022, Hardenbergstr. 33, room 150

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Writers in the interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies (STS) have long defended the view that technology is socially constructed. Now that experts are doubted wherever their work touches the nerve of public interest and politics, STS faces the difficult question of its own social impact. Is critique at least partially at fault for skepticism and conspiracy everywhere?

 “What would critique do if it could be associated with more, not with less, with multiplication, not subtraction”? We will take this question as a starting point to speculate on alternative positions towards the technological present. These can be utopian ideas, movements, technological innovations and possibly our own creative practices. The course will include introductions to STS, techno-utopianism, platforms’ redistribution of power online, blockchains and the post-internet movement. We will familiarize ourselves with these topics and discuss whether we experience recent developments as standstill or departure. Engaging with the present and speaking about the future is not just a matter of finding answers. What questions should we ask next? And how can we develop a critical position towards something we are in the middle of?

The course is divided into two parts. The first part serves as an introduction to classic and recent arguments made in STS. The second discusses social and artistic movements concerned with technological change. Along with class readings, this course segment is about joint discussion of artistic practices, both historical and personal. Specific session topics for the applied section may evolve based on student interest.
The course includes a wide range of texts from academic papers to zines, blog posts, manifestos and book excerpts. We will read Bruno Latour, Langdon Winner, Donna Haraway, Fred Turner, Lana Swartz and K-HOLE, among others.

Recommended readings include:
Bruno Latour: Why has critique run out of steam?
Lee Vinsel: You’re Doing it Wrong: On Criticism and Technology Hype.
Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron: The Californian Ideology.
Fred Turner: From Counterculture to Cyberculture. Selections.
Mike Pepi: Elements of Technology Criticism.
K-HOLE: Youth Mode. A report on freedom.
Ullens Center for Contemporary Art Beijing. Art Post-Internet.

Requirements for the ungraded Studium Generale credits: regular and active participation in discussions and class readings.

Anna Thieser is a sociologist in training. At Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (BA), The New School for Social Research (MA) and Columbia University (PhD) she has written about technology, knowledge and financialization. Her current research interests include blockchain governance on Ethereum, the cooptation of user-generated content by platform infrastructures and online collaboration. She has taught classes in media studies, organization science and sociological theory. Beyond sociology, Anna has worked as an editor and translator in academic and literary publishing, as well as in film production. She lives in New York and Berlin.