Keynotes

Tiziana Terranova (University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’, Italy): The Technosocial Question

Abstract: At the turn of the 2010s, political scientists, sociologists and Internet critics commented on the unexpected “return of the social” in digital culture such as represented by the rise of social media to dominant genre of networked connectivity. This development was overall explained as a social that was “compatible with neoliberalism” – that is one reduced to weak connections between individuals, deprived of its revolutionary or socialist meanings, and subject to new forms of automated control. Ten years later, the technosocial question exceeds that of social media, as it raises larger issues about the ongoing political re-actualization of three key properties of the modern social: its constitution as a secular and concrete abstraction in the modern social sciences – which is being currently reconfigured by the turn to network science, data analytics and machine learning; its capacity to operate as a territory of government for socialism – a capacity that is today represented by digital platforms’ mobilization of algorithmic regulation; but also its historical relation to the Marxist notion of “social revolution”, that is the modern, post-theological aspiration to the transformation of social order in the name of social justice – which is also at work in contemporary network cultures in different ways. The conference considers the political implications of this reconfiguration both in terms of new forms of power, but also as part of the effort to grasp the character of contemporary revolutionary politics.

Short bio: Tiziana Terranova is Full Professor of Cultural Studies and Digital Media Theory in the Department of Human and Social Sciences at the Università degli Studi di Napoli ‘L’Orientale’, Italy. She has written and lectured extensively on the political implications of digital networks and information technologies. She is the author of Network Culture: politics for the information age (Pluto Press, 2004), After the Internet: Digital Networks Between Capital and the Common (Los Angeles: Semiotexte, 2022) and the forthcoming The Technosocial Question (Minnesota University Press). She has been part of many groups involved in the task of collectively thinking about the politics of technology, including the free university networks Uninomade 2.0 and Euronomade; Robin Hood Minor Asset Management; the Centre for Postcolonial and Gender Studies at L’Orientale University, Naples; the Ecologie Politiche del Presente network, the Critical Computation Bureau, and the Technoculture Research Unit (www.technoculture.it).

Peter Thomas (Brunel University London, UK): New Orders: Hegemony as a Method of Political Work

Abstract: From the time of his apprenticeship as a militant journalist in the workers’ movement in Turin during and after WWI, Gramsci was committed to a vision of the goal of emancipatory politics as the construction of a “New Order” [Ordine nuovo] – the title of his most significant early experiment in revolutionary cultural and political organisation. In the wide-ranging discussions that have marked the interdisciplinary and international diffusion of Gramsci’s thought since the 1960s and 1970s, it has often been thought that his key contribution to such a goal was the development of a novel theory of the nature of modern political, social and cultural power, encapsulated in the notion of hegemony conceived as a metatheory able to be deployed diversely on particular terrains. In this presentation, I will argue that the significance of Gramsci’s understanding of hegemony for us today might instead consist in the ways in which he translated and developed the Bolshevik tradition’s conception of hegemony as a ‘method of political work’. Viewed in this perspective, Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks outline a sophisticated strategic perspective well placed to dialogue with some of the central concerns of contemporary radical social and political movements, and to offer concrete proposals for their further development in the form of a potential ‘aitiology of self-emancipatory politics’, in at least four senses: the goal of hegemonic politics as the construction of a new order, the nature of self-emancipatory politics as the production of historical progress, the method of leadership conceived as fragility and experimentation, and the organizational form of hegemony as a pedagogical laboratory.

Short bio: Peter D. Thomas teaches the History of Political Thought at Brunel University London. Among other works, he is the author of The Gramscian Moment (Brill, 2009) and Radical Politics: On the Causes of Contemporary Emancipation (OUP, 2022). He serves on the Editorial Boards of Historical Materialism and the International Gramsci Journal.

Donatella Della Ratta (John Cabot University, Rome, Italy): The Spring is not a Spring: Arab uprisings reloaded: Against the logic of ‘case-studies’, for a theory of the Networked Image

Abstract: This talk offers a contribution to the formulation of a theory the visual in the time of networked technologies. It draws upon a vast array of ethnographic material collected from Syria in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising which serves as the empirical ground to reflect on what I call ‘the networked image’, an unprecedented aesthetic and epistemic condition of the visual activated by networked technologies. Networked images have evacuated the domain of the representational, of the indexical. Rather than mirroring or portraying an empirical reality, they are invested in shaping their own. They take a distance from fake news, as truthfulness or falseness are no longer parameters or ways of assessing this emerging visual and epistemic regime. Circulation is what makes their exchange value, as they acquire worth in being constantly uploaded, downloaded, commented upon, shared, and liked; rather than in being looked at. Their ‘sociality’ unfolds through a relational process involving the whole techno-social infrastructure of the web, indifferently made by human and post-human entities (databases, algorithms, hashtags, BOTs).

Short bio: Donatella Della Ratta is a media ethnographer, writer, performer, and curator specializing in digital media and networked technologies, with a focus on the Arab world. She is Associate Professor of  Communications and Media Studies at John Cabot University, Rome. She holds a PhD from the University of Copenhagen and is former Affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. From 2007 until 2013 she managed the Arabic speaking community for the international organization Creative Commons. In 2012 she co-founded the website SyriaUntold, recipient of the Digital Communities award at Ars Electronica 2014. She has curated several international art exhibitions and film programs on Syria, including “Syria off frame”, (Fondazione Luciano Benetton and Fondazione Cini, Venice, 2015), and “Syrian New Waves” (The Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam, 2017). She has published a wide range of books and essays on media and networked technologies, among them Shooting a Revolution: Visual Media and Warfare in Syria (Pluto Press, 2018); Teaching Into the Void and Shot Theory (INC, 2021); Selfies Under Quarantine: Exploring Networked Emotions in the Time of ‘Social Distancing’ (Imaginations, 2021). With Geert Lovink, Teresa Numerico, and Peter Sarram she has co-edited the collective volume The Aesthetics and Politics of the Online Self: A Savage Journey Into the Heart of Digital Cultures (Palgrave McMillan, 2021).

Plenary Session

Understanding Urban Processes Through A Critical Perspective

Luigi Buzzacchi (Politecnico di Torino, Italy)

Francesca Governa (Politecnico di Torino, Italy)

Camillo Boano (Politecnico di Torino, Italy)

Abstract: The session aims to offer a critical lens from three different perspectives and disciplines (Geography, Economics and Urban Planning) at certain urban processes. Economist Luigi Buzzacchi’s talk focuses on the word ‘platforms’ and their monopolistic drifts. In fact, as the study of the tourism sector and the case of Airbnb show, we are witnessing a general tendency toward the concentration of the market and the monopolization of platforms. Francesca Governa, making reference to an editorial project led by a group of critical geographers, discusses the influence of Antonio Gramsci in contemporary geographical debate and critical urban theory especially considering two points: the nation-state foundations of the “political” and the contradictory geo-historical dynamics concerning the extended urbanization processes. Lastly, the talk by Camillo Boano, urban planner, starts with the word ‘refusal.’ He will directly engage with the role of critical theory (if any) in the shaping, forming and norming of architectural knowledge and design practice. What sort of critical thinking is needed in a time when its very existence seems threatened? To what extent could critique still be aproject for the future?

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