This workshop at aims at formulating a critique, a theory or a concept of algorithms able to foreground their centrality to capitalist processes of valorization, to modes of organisation and experience, and to possible lines of flight from capitalist capture.
Algorithms are sets of ordered steps that operate on data and computational structures. They may be finite, resulting a fixed end point, or open-ended. They may stay within the bounds of the computer, solely operating upon data, or may spill out of it, changing multiple aspects of the world. Algorithms may exist as detailed implementations in actual code, or as higher-level abstract descriptions (in natural language) that can be implemented in different particular forms. In order to work, algorithms must exist as part of an assemblage that also includes hardware, data and data structures (such as lists, databases, memory, etc..) There are many tens of thousands of such algorithms, each with their own genealogy, ‘style’ and capacities and suitability for certain work.
Presently, algorithms often manifest as proprietary technologies of capture and control, that is, in Marxist terms, they may constitute a form of constant capital analogous to other capitalist investments in technologies and machines. As a set of finite instructions recursively acting on data, such proprietary algorithms can be considered as key forms of constant capital driving the process of valorization of social cooperation within the general form of organization of postindustrial capitalism. They are at the core of organizational practices arising out of the centrality of information and communication technologies stretching all the way from production to circulation, from industrial logistics to financial speculation, from urban planning and design to social communication. Equally, algorithms may bear traces of, or set in play other forms of ordering and relation-making. At the same time as some algorithms have effectively entered popular culture in more or less explicit forms, others are more obscure. Their degree of obscurity, or indeed their ownership, however, does not directly index their power, which is in the ability to effect, process and order both change and stabilisation.
Given the wide-ranging influence of algorithmic structures on all forms of life, we want to focus specifically on their intersection with capital and the mechanisms of capitalism and the forms of power within which it is integrated, amplified and contested. This one-day workshop brings together theorists of capital, debt and social cooperation and theorists of software and computational cultures to discuss the specific ways in which algorithms can be thought as forms of capital which enact specific relation of capture and conflict with labour and/or social cooperation.
Questions among those to be addressed in the workshops are: what is the relationship between algorithms and cognitive and/or biocapitalism? Can algorithms produce value? What ‘organic composition of capital’ corresponds to the action of algorithms in capitalist economies? How can we think of algorithms as part of the process of capitalist subsumption of the social beyond the model of the parasite? What is the relationship between algorithms, measure, and immaterial labor? What is the relationship between algorithms and measure of surplus value? What does it mean for Marxist and post-Marxist approaches to think of algorithms as modes of thought? Is there a kind of ‘constituent’ algorithmic culture as opposed to the proprietary one? How do algorithms intervene in the process of financial valorization, the debt economy, and technical governance? What are the modes of analysis of computational systems appropriate to the present moment and how do they relate to computer science, software studies, other fields of research and forms of militant and artistic inquiry?
Participants in the workshop include: Luciana Parisi; Matthew Fuller; Tiziana Terranova; Maurizio Lazzarato; Francesca Bria; Andrea Fumagalli; Stefano Lucarelli; Andrew Goffey; Giorgio Griziotti; Dario Lovaglio; Alberto Toscano; Inigo Wilkins; Benedetto Vecchi; Raul Sanchez; Gianluca Giannelli; Josephine Berry-Slater; Adrian Mackenzie.
Antonio Negri ‘L’agire in comune e i limiti del capitale’ Euronomade Decembre 2013 (http://www.euronomade.info/?p=1075) Translated as ‘Acting in common and the limits of capital’ (soon to be published on euronomade.info)
Andrew Goffey ‘Algorithm’ in Software Studies: A Lexicon. ed. By Matthew Fuller, Cambridge: Mass: The MIT Press, pp. 15-20, 2008
Luciana Parisi ‘Preface: A Weird Formalism” in Contagious Architecture: Computation, Aesthetics and Space. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2013
Maurizio Lazzarato ‘“Semiotic Pluralism” and the New Government of Signs: Homage to Félix Guattari’ in eipcp, 06.2006 (http://eipcp.net/transversal/0107/lazzarato/en)
Maurizio Lazzarato ‘Governmentality in the Current Crisis’ in online generation, 2013, (http://www.generation-online.org/p/fp_lazzarato7.htm)
Carlo Vercellone ‘From Formal Subsumption to General Intellect: Elements for a Marxist Reading of the Thesis of Cognitive Capitalism’. Historical Materialism 15: 13-36, 2007 (http://hal.inria.fr/docs/00/26/36/61/PDF/historicalpubliepdf.pdf)
Andrea Fumagalli ‘Twenty Theses on Contemporary Capitalism (Cognitive Bio-Capitalism)’ in Angelaki, 16:3, 7-17, 2011 (http://m.friendfeed-media.com/1bc40ec0e1f4d70f1b431769e022af7136a0a5e6)
Alberto Toscano ‘Gaming the Plumbing: High Frequency Trading and the Spaces of Capital’ in Metamute, 16.01.2013 (http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/gaming-plumbing-high-frequency-trading-and-spaces-capital)
Inigo Wilkins ‘Destructive Destruction? An Ecological Study of High Frequency Trading’ (http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/destructive-destruction-ecological-study-high-frequency-trading) 22.1.2013
Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey ‘Algorithms’ in Evil Media. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2013, pp. 69-82