At this symposium in Berlin I will give a talk on “The Genesis of Western Computational Norms”, that is also a forthcoming essay for the anthology Former West (MIT Press, 2017) curated by BAK Utrecht.
Etymologically, statistics is knowledge of the state, of the forces and resources that characterize a state at a given moment . . . this was an explicit part of raison d’État called the arcana Imperii, the secrets of power, and for a long time statistics in particular were considered as secrets of power not to be divulged.
— Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, and Population, 1978.
In the nonspace of the matrix, the interior of a given data construct possessed unlimited subjective dimension.
— William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984.
Abstract. My contribution attempts to follow the metamorphosis of the symbolic form of Western power in the age of global datacenters and machine learning algorithms. Three cases studies of numerical governance (or algorithmic governance) are discussed: Compstat — a system of crime record visualization developed by the New York Police Department since 80s; SkyNet — a NSA classified program for metadata analysis of communication networks in the ‘war on terror’; Ayasdi — a company sponsored by DARPA (the research agency of the US Department of Defense) that has developed sophisticated techniques for topological data analysis.
* * *
Symposium: Kann Universalität spezifisch sein? Can the Universal Be Specific?
With the question, “Can the Universal Be Specific?,” project bauhaus is reengaging with the ideas of universalism and internationalism posited by classical modernism—and critically reexamining their emancipatory potential. At the event, we’ll present different positions from the fields of political anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, art, architecture, and design, exploring the space for negotiation that lies between the universal and the specific—and in this tension, unearthing contemporary approaches to design.
With Aristide Antonas, Anne-Julchen Bernhardt & Jörg Leeser / BeL Sozietät für Architektur, Christian Benimana / MASS Design Group, Sabine Drewes, Jesko Fezer, Hans Peter Hahn, Christian Hiller, Ina Kerner, Anh-Linh Ngo, Marion von Osten, Philipp Oswalt, Matteo Pasquinelli, Ruben Pater, Ethel Baraona Pohl, Walter Prigge, Stephan Trüby, and Karin Wilhelm.