Prof Benjamin Bratton
University of California, San Diego
Benjamin Bratton’s work spans Philosophy, Architecture, Computer Science and Geopolitics. He is Professor of Visual Arts at University of California, San Diego. He is Program Director of The Terraforming program at the Strelka Institute. He is also a Professor of Digital Design at The European Graduate School and Visiting Professor at SCI_Arc (The Southern California Institute of Architecture) and NYU Shanghai.
He is the author of The Revenge of The Real: Politics for a Post-Pandemic World (Verso Press, 2021) and The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (MIT Press, 2016).
Dr Joshua DiCaglio
Texas A&M University
Joshua DiCaglio’s research is focused on the philosophical and rhetorical underpinnings of scale whereby we conceive of reality as, simultaneously, atoms, galaxies, cells, bodies, ecologies, and quarks. He is Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M University.
He is author of Scale Theory (University of Minnesota Press, 2021) and is working on two follow-up projects to this: Lithium: An Experiment in Scalar Relations and Scales of Influence or, Rhetoric after Information.
• Keynote title: Scale Changes Everything: An Introduction to Scale Theory
• Abstract: For us to begin to see the effects of scale, we have to start from the premise that changes in scale change every “thing.” This is bewildering enough when applied to objects and relations around us, but becomes doubly impactful when posed as a question about ourselves: How is it possible that you are—simultaneously—cells, atoms, a body, quarks, a component in an ecological network, a moment in the thermodynamic dispersal of the sun, and an element in the gravitational whirl of galaxies? In this question, we are caught up in this reorientation that requires a careful retracing of the conditions and challenges of this scalar transformation, which is both about ourselves and reality. This talk will explore the foundations for a theory of scale, as laid out in a series of thought experiments presented in my book Scale Theory. We will start from the final thought experiment, “In the scalar simulation,” and retroactively add in the crucial ideas, distinctions, and terms (resolution, scale domains, situated dislocations, etc) from the other thought experiments in order to examine how scale reworks our conception of knowledge, things, and mediation itself.
As part of his talk, Joshua DiCaglio has made the first part of Scale Theory: A Nondisciplinary Inquiry available for free. Please see below to download:
Dr Zachary Horton
University of Pittsburgh
Zachary Horton is a media, literary, and environmental scholar, as well as a filmmaker, photographer, and camera designer. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.
His academic research primarily focuses on the relationship between scale, ecology, and technological mediation. His first book is The Cosmic Zoom: Scale, Knowledge, and Mediation (University of Chicago Press, 2021). His current research focuses on the early history of video games, tabletop games, and climate mediation.
• Keynote title: Resolving Difference: A Medial Theory of Scale
• Abstract: Starting from our current cultural condition of “scale mania,” from academic disciplines to individual identity, and distilling some of the concepts from The Cosmic Zoom, this talk will examine the paradoxical nature of scale—it’s dual status as ontologically real and culturally constructed—and suggest that resolving this paradox is the key to theorizing scale as a circuit of mediation. How does scalar difference inform our imagined futures and structure our encounters with the radically non-human? How might it change our understanding of ecology, climate change, and computational media? I’ll develop an argument for scale as a dynamic of difference that inheres in all media as the paradoxical intersection between stabilized domains and ontological differentiation. Using both contemporary and historical examples of scalar media, I’ll argue that it is possible to orient ourselves toward scale in radically generative ways that open identity to new configurations, but also to collapse scalar difference, with dire consequences. I’ll introduce the concepts of the scalar spectrum and the zoetrope to theorize scalar collapse as a constellating function of false contiguity: the Zoom.
This talk aims to develop a few fundamental concepts linking mediation to scale, arguing that one cannot be understood apart from the other. I’ll conclude with a couple of examples of “applied scale theory,” including my own long-running architectural experiment linking geological timescales with ecological difference.
Dr Bogna Konior
Bogna Konior is a writer. She is Assistant Professor at the Interactive Media Arts department at NYU Shanghai, where she teaches classes on emerging technologies, philosophy, humanities and the arts. With Anna Greenspan and Benjamin Bratton, she co-directs the Artificial Intelligence and Culture Research Centre. She is the co-editor of Machine Decision is not Final: China and the History and Future of AI.
She is currently working on two books, one about the impact of the internet as an existential technology on long-term evolution of civilisations, and the other on the parallels between mysticism and computational media.
• Keynote title: Exonet, not Internet: Scale and Agency in the World Wide Web
• Abstract: From social media to personalised recommendations, the Web 2.0. is supposed to denote an internet scaled down to human needs and perceptions: the internet of “you.” The global victory of this ‘personalised’ communication network over the alternative – the large-scale, top-down governance of communist cybernetics – coincided with the end of the Cold War. Contemporary theories of the internet respond to this paradigm, examining how internal human choices, thoughts, biases, emotions, ethics, and politics are reflected online. On the contrary, this talk asks, what if the world wide web is spun from without? Does the very word ‘internet’ belie the character of this technology? In dialogue with early theories of cyberculture and thinkers from the ‘eastern’ periphery, this talk proposes a deterministic theory of the internet. Rather than focusing on how human interiority is translated into online dynamics, it foregrounds nonhuman agency and scale of “the global web.”
Dr Thomas Moynihan
University of Oxford
Thomas Moynihan is a historian of ideas, and author of X-Risk: How Humanity Discovered its Own Extinction (Urbanomic/MIT, 2020). Currently, he is a Research Fellow at the Forethought Foundation, and a Visiting Research Associate in History at Oxford University. He has written for the BBC, The New Scientist, The Guardian, amongst others. At present, he is working on a book exploring how history’s horizons have expanded, as the scope and severity of the consequences wrought by the present upon the future have ballooned throughout the past.
• Keynote title: Expanding History’s Horizons: Bounding the Past; Sounding the Future; Gaining Orientation at Aeonic Scale
Dr Laura Tripaldi
University of Milano-Bicocca
Laura Tripaldi is a researcher in Materials Science and Nanotechnology at the University of Milano-Bicocca, where she works on the design of hybrid nanomaterials and the study of their processes of self-assembly for advanced technological applications. Parallel to her academic research, she writes about speculative and philosophical aspects of science and technology, with a particular focus on the concepts of complexity, self-organization, artificial life, softness, and material interfaces. She is a contributor to several online magazines. Her book Parallel Minds. Discovering the Intelligence of Materials was published by Urbanomic in 2022.
• Keynote title: Self-Assembling Matter: Synthesizing Agency at the Nanoscale