CMS.S97 Special Subject: Technology, Affect and the Senses

Spring 2017, Thurs 1-4
Sun-ha Hong

Technology is the name for a promise: that humans can do everything they’ve always done (and wanted to do), just ‘better’. Faster. More accurate. Yet the intersection of human experience and technical things effects fundamental transformations. The very things we take for granted – our sense of time and space, our knowledge of our own body – have always already been technological, as maps, sensors and databases train our habits and perceptions. The fantasies we invest in algorithmic judgment or phonographic archival help shape our sensibilities regarding reason, numbers, progress, truth, individuality. The human subject in the face of technology is a constantly changing agglomeration of different sensory capabilities; to live by clock time, to see through augmented vision, is to request our own reassignment in the order of things.

This is a discussion-heavy seminar course, exploring several conceptual and historical contexts for this relationship between technology and the subject:
1. The formation of modern ideas about technology and experience.
2. The recent ‘turn to affect’, its (disavowed?) roots in phenomenology, and proximate theories of habit, sentiment and the preconscious.
3. Contemporary theories on the specificity of ‘new’ media, and the values of progress, objectivity, probability, quantification underlying it.

We will discuss everything from early modern clocks to Fitbits and the Quantified Self; mp3 technology to the history of early radio; high-frequency trading as well as the Snowden Affair.