Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: April 8, 2022, 5:43 a.m. Humanist 35.645 - events: Living with Automation

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 645.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2022-04-07 13:01:05+00:00
        From: Charles M. Ess <>
        Subject: Living with Automation

A conference about AI, biometrics and the human condition
The Sigtuna Foundation
One-day symposium May 31, 2022

The DIGMEX Network, in collaboration with the Sigtuna Foundation, are
excited to finally present “Digital Existence III: Living with
Automation,” following on from the two previous conferences “Digital
Existence: Memory, Meaning, Vulnerability” (2015) and “Digital Existence
II: Precarious Media Life” (2017). Day one of our conference will be an
open one-day symposium, held at the Sigtuna Foundation (just outside of
Stockholm) on May 31. It will feature a series of keynote lectures by
distinguished international guests from the humanities, with expertise
on AI and the human condition. We welcome interested participants from
inside and outside academia to register as audience!

The May 31 program will include the following keynote speakers and events:

Prof. Amanda Lagerkvist, Dept. of Informatics and Media, Uppsala
University, PI of the WASP-HS Project BioMe and the Uppsala Informatics
and Media Hub for Digital Existence.
“Introduction: AI as Existential Media”

Prof. N. Katherine Hayles, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emerita
of Literature, literary critic and theorist.
“Inside the Mind of an AI:  Materiality and the Crisis of Representation”

Dr. Benjamin Peters, Hazel Rogers Associate Professor and Chair of Media
Studies at the University of Tulsa and affiliated fellow at the
Information Society Project at Yale Law School.
“What Comes after the Anthropocene? Soviet AI and the Collapse of Other
Inhumanely Smart Environments”

Prof. Joanna Zylinska, Professor of Media Philosophy + Critical Digital
Practice, Department of Digital Humanities at King's College London,
writer, lecturer, artist and curator, working on digital technologies,
new media, ethics, photography and art.
“Imaging the Future: The Eye, the ‘I’ and AI”

Prof. Btihaj Ajana, Professor in Ethics and Digital Culture at Kings
College, international scholar and media practitioner in the fields of
digital culture and social analysis.
“The Immunopolitics of Covid-19 Technologies”

Prof. Nick Couldry, Department of Media and Communications, London
School of Economics and Political Science. Sociologist of media culture,
focusing on media practices, ethics and data colonialism.

Dr. Jacek Smolicki, interdisciplinary artist, designer, researcher, and
soundwalker interested in techniques of attending to (as in paying
attention) and recording (as in calling to mind and heart) human and
other-than-human realms, events, and existences.

Art Exhibition: “Slip of the Digital Tongue”

Due to the limited amount of seats, please declare your interest in
participating by sending an email to who will
then confirm the availability and help out with registering procedures.
Members of the DIGMEX network will be prioritized. The symposium is
without charge, but participants will have to pay for lunch and
refreshments at the Sigtuna Foundation venue.

Conference rationale
AI (artificial intelligence) is mounting on the human horizon, evoking
both hopes and fears. Mapping itself onto almost every conceivable realm
of human life and experience, AI is however not only a concern for the
future: it is already here, at our fingertips. As AI is part of our most
intimate lives, quantified self-imaginings, embodied perceptions, and
our emergent practices of care and of law enforcement – especially via
biometrics – our lives are increasingly ‘on automatic.’ But where did
this world stem from – historically and ideologically? What founds it
philosophically? How can it be (re)conceived, theoretically and
artistically, in order for us to responsibly craft AI to serve human
kind? What can we learn from attending to how we already live with
automation – about risks and possibilities – and from how we have lived
with its imaginaries on our horizon throughout history, in fiction and
techno-progressivist discourse and practice? What are the existential
needs and necessities that face us anew with AI? And can we now harness,
as scholars in the humanities, those rich sources of insight and wisdom
about the human condition, that remain our footing, while mobilising
them creatively and critically for a new era with ‘responsible AI’
(Dignum 2019)? This symposium is motivated by the fact that in
increasingly conspicuous ways, leading AI alignment collaborations to
develop philosophically robust notions of “benign AI”, are almost
entirely absent of any in-depth engagement with humanistic knowledge,
whether philosophical, historical, artistic or anthropological. AI must
be placed in historical sociopolitical contexts, yet their many
exigencies and meanings also require looking backward to our history as
scholars in the humanities, as much as looking beyond its classic
trajectories, to find novel and pertinent framings.

 From the perspective of existential media studies (EMS), which revisits
classic questions and themes in existential philosophy about ‘what it
means to be human’ – while upgrading them to our contemporary
technologized culture in conversation with posthumanist and new
materialist debates – the stakes are foremost existential (Lagerkvist
2022). Technologies define and redefine the human condition. Hence,
automated data services are conceived as everyday “mundane data;” they
co-condition our world and media are our material infrastructures of
being (Peters 2015). Yet, automation is simultaneously theorized as a
fresh source for embodied disharmony, friction, vulnerability and social
injustice. Not only do we use technologies; our lives are increasingly
digitally “thrown”, to draw on the language of Martin Heidegger, into a
highly connected, fast changing technological world that uses us,
threatening to leave us displaced and ever more vulnerable (Lagerkvist
2016, 2019). In EMS human existence is consequently conceived also as an
ongoing moral project (Kierkegaard 1849/1989; Sartre 1956), stretched
out in an anticipatory mode towards horizons of the possible, the
contingent and the imperative. EMS thus maintains that the towering
existential and ethical task of our time is to reflect upon, and take
responsibility for, the media technologies that we develop, use and
embrace, and how that embrace simultaneously raises new affordances and
limits; the new resources and risks of modern human life. This
conference will take existential media studies in new directions,
prompting a necessary interrogation of AI and biometrics from creative,
imaginary, artistic, philosophical and historical angles, while
anthropologically centering on experiences of living with automation in
today’s world.

Context and funding
The symposium is an activity within the project “BioMe: Existential
Challenges and Ethical Imperatives of Biometric AI in Everyday
Lifeworlds” (2020-2024), headed by Prof. Amanda Lagerkvist (based in the
Uppsala Informatics and Media Hub for Digital Existence) and hosted by
the Department of Informatics and Media at Uppsala University. BioMe is
part of the national research program WASP-HS: Wallenberg AI, Autonomous
Systems Software Program – Humanities and Society (2020-2030) financed
by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation (MMW) and the Marcus
and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation (MAW). The conference is co-organized
by the DIGMEX network and the Sigtuna Foundation, and co-funded by MMW,
MAW, Uppsala University and the Sigtuna Foundation.

Professor Emeritus
University of Oslo

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