Lüneburg, 29 Jun. The Automaton of the Anthropocene

June 14th, 2016

29.06.2016 Di­gi­tal Cul­tu­res Re­se­arch Lab (DCRL) Work­shop
9am to 6pm, 29th June 2016
Ve­nue: Was­ser­turm, Lüne­burg




This work­shop in­ter­ro­ga­tes and ex­plo­res the as­sump­ti­on that lo­gis­tics is a key con­tem­pora­ry ter­rain on which cy­ber­ne­tic or­ga­niza­t­i­on plays its­elf out. Cy­ber­ne­tics is, in Wie­ner’s (1989) view, con­cer­ned with or­ga­niza­t­i­on as sa­ving us from dis­or­ga­niza­t­i­on and en­tro­py, with or­ga­niza­t­i­on gi­ven as a ‘mes­sa­ge’ of cy­ber­ne­tic sys­tems. Ac­cor­ding to Rein­hold Mar­tin (2003), du­ring the 1950s the ap­p­li­ca­ti­on of cy­ber­ne­tics in ar­chi­tec­tu­re and me­dia pro­du­ced a cor­po­ra­te ‘or­ga­niza­t­io­nal com­plex’ that was home to the fa­mous ‘or­ga­niza­t­i­on man’ ­– a fi­gu­re which, for Mar­tin, al­re­a­dy had to be un­ders­tood as ‘one of many “cy­borgs” (or cy­ber­ne­tic or­ga­nisms) pro­du­ced by post­war tech­no­cra­cy’ (2003, p. 12). The cy­borg, as a hy­brid fi­gu­re of hu­man and ma­chi­ne, also ser­ved as a key for un­der­stan­ding sub­jec­tivi­ties in de­ba­tes around net cul­tu­res in the 1990s, fol­lo­wing Don­na Ha­ra­way’s fa­mous ma­ni­fes­to (1991). Yet how use­ful is the cy­borg to­day, as a fi­gu­re for un­der­stan­ding hu­man-ma­chi­ne re­la­ti­ons, in light of the be­co­m­ing eco­lo­gi­cal of me­dia? As it only ever play­ed a mi­nor part in cy­ber­ne­tic re­se­arch (Kli­ne 2009), can it ac­count for the ge­ne­ral in­flu­ence of cy­ber­ne­tics; and might it in light of net­wor­ked com­pu­ta­ti­on not sim­ply ap­pe­ar as ‘not networked en­ough’ (Hay­les 2006, p. 159)?

Erich Hörl (2015) sug­gests that con­tem­pora­ry ubi­qui­tous me­dia par­ta­ke in an ‘in­fra­struc­tu­ral re­vo­lu­ti­on’ which pro­du­ces an ‘eco­lo­gi­cal un­con­scious’, dis­pla­c­ing the working sub­ject and its re­la­ti­on to tools and ma­chi­nes. Yet at the same time ubi­qui­tous me­dia enable en­vi­ron­ments tho­rough­ly tra­ver­sed by al­go­rith­mic ar­chi­tec­tu­res and lo­gis­ti­cal me­dia that con­tain la­bou­ring sub­jects in ca­pi­ta­list cir­cu­la­ti­on (Zeh­le and Ros­si­ter 2015). Lo­gis­tics here can be read as ‘an ex­ten­si­on of the “or­ga­niza­t­io­nal pa­ra­digm” of cy­ber­ne­tics’ (Ros­si­ter and Zeh­le 2013, p. 230), and as an im­po­si­ti­on of lo­gics of cir­cu­la­ti­on in pro­duc­tion and el­sew­he­re (Ber­nes 2013). Lo­gis­tics re­qui­res bo­dies that are mo­bi­le, re­s­pon­sive and and af­fec­tive­ly at­tu­n­ed to the de­man­ds of cir­cu­la­ting ca­pi­tal. The la­bour of lo­gis­tics its­elf (Co­wen 2014) is per­haps em­ble­ma­tic here. An or­ga­niza­t­i­on man re­turning un­der a dif­fe­rent gui­se (Gregg 2012) and new di­gi­tal workers or ‘mas­si­ve­ly me­dia­ted mi­crola­bor’ (Ira­ni 2015) po­pu­la­te the­se ca­pi­ta­list me­dia eco­lo­gies.

What kind of hu­man-ma­chi­ne re­la­ti­ons de­ve­lop here, what fan­ta­sies at­tach to them, and what or­ga­niza­t­io­nal forms sur­round them? Does the Me­cha­ni­cal Turk per­haps of­fer a fi­gu­re more sui­ta­ble than the cy­borg or or­ga­niza­t­i­on man for cy­ber­ne­tic la­bour? How are the­se fi­gu­res of la­bour made to re­la­te in cir­cu­la­ti­on, also with the la­bour e.g. of fi­nan­ci­al tra­ders or of mi­grants? Is the­re a kind of ‘lo­gis­ti­ca­li­ty’ (Mo­ten and Har­ney 2013) that can be op­po­sed to lo­gis­tics, or are the­se lo­gis­ti­cal ca­pa­ci­ties of bo­dies ap­pro­pria­ted by ca­pi­tal? Can we con­cei­ve of a coun­ter-lo­gis­tics, for ex­amp­le in new forms of co­ope­ra­ti­vism for lo­gis­ti­cal la­bour?

This work­shop builds on ear­lier work­shops on ‘Lo­gis­tics of Soft Con­trol’ (2013) and ‘Cy­ber­ne­tics, Ma­nage­ment, Or­ga­niza­t­i­on’ (2014), and ta­kes place as part of the DCRL se­mes­ter the­me ‘Eco­no­my, Eco­lo­gy, Or­ga­niza­t­i­on’.



Timetable – 29th June 2016


9.00               Wel­co­me and Cof­fee



Pa­nel I – Preli­mi­na­ries: Cir­cu­la­ti­on and Eco­lo­gy

Introduction: Becoming Logistical? – Ar­min Be­ver­un­gen

The Automaton of the Anthropocene: The Planetary Computation of Energy and Information into Cyberfossil Capital – Mat­teo Pas­qui­nel­li

Chair/​Dis­cus­sant: Cle­mens Apprich



Pa­nel II – Others of Lo­gis­ti­cal La­bour: Fi­nan­ce and Mi­gra­ti­on

Migration, Labour, Mobility: The Logistification of Migration? – Ma­nue­la Bo­jad­zi­jev (with San­dro Mez­za­dra)

Organizing Circulation: On the Materiality of Labour in High-Frequency Trading – Ann-Chris­ti­na Lan­ge (with Ar­min Be­ver­un­gen)

Chair/​Dis­cus­sant: Ti­mon Beyes


12.30-14.00    Lunch (at DCRL, Am San­de 5)



Pa­nel III: Ma­na­ging Lo­gis­ti­cal La­bour: Mi­cro­work and In­fra­struc­tu­re

Innovators’ Logistics: Attributions of Value and Distributions of Labour in Crowdsourcing – Lil­ly Ira­ni

Logistical Nightmares: Software, Infrastructure, Labour – Ned Ros­si­ter

Chair/​Dis­cus­sant: Pau­la Bi­al­ski



Pa­nel IV: Or­ga­ni­zing Lo­gis­ti­cal La­bour: Plat­form Co­ope­ra­ti­vism?

Collective Representation on Collaborative Economy Platforms – Mik­ko Laa­ma­nen (with Mar­cos Bar­ros and Gazi Is­lam)

How Platform Cooperativism Can Unleash the Network – Tre­bor Scholz

Chair/​Dis­cus­sant: Renée Ridgway


17.30-18.00    Clo­sing Dis­cus­sion


All in­for­ma­ti­on on this event can be found at cdc.leu­pha­na.com/​events.



Ber­nes, Jas­per. ‘Lo­gis­tics, Coun­ter­lo­gis­tics and the Com­mu­nist Pro­s­pect.’ Endnotes 3 (Sep­tem­ber 2013). [http://​end­no­tes.org.uk/​en/​jas­per-ber­nes-lo­gis­tics-coun­ter­lo­gis­tics-and-the-com­mu­nist-pro­s­pect]

Co­wen, De­bo­rah. The Deadly Life of LogisticsMapping Violence in Global Trade. Min­nea­po­lis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­ne­so­ta Press, 2014.

Gregg, Me­lis­sa. ‘The Re­turn of Or­ga­ni­sa­ti­on Man: Com­mun­ter Nar­ra­ti­ves and Sub­ur­ban Cri­tique.’ Cultural Studies Review 18, no. 2 (2012): 242-261.

Gregg, Me­lis­sa. ‘Tran­sit Com­pu­ting: From Pro­duc­tivi­ty to Per­so­nal Lo­gis­tics.’ Homecookedtheory (March 30th 2016). Avail­able at www.homecookedtheory .

Ha­ra­way, Don­na J. ‘A Cy­borg Ma­ni­fes­to: Sci­ence, Tech­no­lo­gy, and So­cia­list-Fe­mi­nism in the Late Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry.’ In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. The Reinvention of Nature. New York, NY: Rout­ledge, 1991.

Har­ney, Ste­fa­no and Mo­ten, Fred. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Wi­ven­hoe: Mi­nor Com­po­si­ti­ons, 2013.

Hay­les, N. Ka­the­ri­ne. ‘Un­fi­nis­hed Work: From Cy­borg to Co­gnis­phe­re.’ Theory, Culture & Society 23, no. 7–8 (1 De­cem­ber 2006): 159–66.

Hörl, Erich. ‘The Tech­no­lo­gi­cal Con­di­ti­on.’ Trans­la­ted by An­t­ho­ny Enns. Parrhesia22, no. 1 (2015): 1–15.

Ira­ni, Lil­ly. ‘Dif­fe­rence and De­pen­dence among Di­gi­tal Workers: The Case of Ama­zon Me­cha­ni­cal Turk.’ South Atlantic Quarterly 114, no. 1 (2015): 225-234.

Kli­ne, Ro­nald. ‘Whe­re are the Cy­borgs in Cy­ber­ne­tics?’ Social Studies of Science 39, no. 3 (June 2009): 331-362.

Mar­tin, Rein­hold. The Organizational Complex: Architecture, Media, and Corporate Space. Cam­bridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.

Neil­son, Brett. ‘Five The­ses on Un­der­stan­ding Lo­gis­tics as Power.’ Distinktion 13, no. 3 (2012): 322-339.

Ros­si­ter, Ned and Zeh­le, So­en­ke. ‘Acts of Trans­la­ti­on: Or­ga­ni­zing Net­works as Al­go­rith­mic Tech­no­lo­gies of the Com­mon.’ In Digital Labour: The Internet as Playground and Factory, edi­ted by Tre­bor Scholz, 225–239. Lon­don: Rout­ledge, 2013.

Wie­ner, Nor­bert. The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics & Society. Lon­don: Free As­so­cia­ti­on, 1989.

Zeh­le, So­en­ke and Ros­si­ter, Ned. ‘Me­dia­ti­ons of La­bor: Al­go­rith­mic Ar­chi­tec­tu­res, Lo­gis­ti­cal Me­dia, and the Rise of Black Box Po­li­tics’. In The Routledge Companion to Labor and Media, edi­ted by Ri­chard Max­well, 40-50. New York: Rout­ledge, 2015.

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