The background noise of existence: Figurations of authenticity in philosophies of the digital age

Sutherland, Thomas (2019) The background noise of existence: Figurations of authenticity in philosophies of the digital age. In: Figurations: Persons In/Out of Data, 16th-17th December, Goldsmiths, University of London.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

Under the current conditions of rampant datafication, as a result of which our lives seem able to be ordered, captured, and processed within an increasingly extensive regime of algorithmic governance, it is unsurprising to see frequent recourse within disciplines such as media studies to philosophical perspectives, both old and new, that would emphasize aspects of one’s subjective and material existence irreducible to this quantifying and qualifying gaze. And yet, such perspectives carry with them the inevitable risk of falling back into a rigid duality between an authentic and inauthentic self (whatever the specific content of these terms might be) that ultimately replicates the fundamentally Kantian distinction between a noumenal and phenomenal self: an appeal to a freedom grounded in a subjective transgression of representation (and the boundaries that it implies). For Alexander Galloway, the French philosopher (or ‘non-philosopher’) François Laruelle points toward another option, one that sees ‘both data and information abandoned’, offering ‘not so much a movement of freedom or a movement of reality,’ but ‘a movement of subtraction in which presence is whittled down to the radical anonymity of something whatsoever […] a condition of indifference rooted in indecision’. Indeed, Laruelle seeks to relativize any such binary distinctions between the authentic and inauthentic, understanding them as groundless philosophical interpellations of a subject that is irreducible to any figuration; a subject which forms an imperceptible background noise that can never be foregrounded. In this paper, I will consider some of the affordances of such a project for life in an age of ubiquitous datafication, but I also wish to note some limitations that have not yet been sufficiently addressed within English-language scholarship: namely, the foundational individualism of Laruelle’s work, and its tacit denigration of communication and sociality. Is it really possible to identify a subjectivity inimical to all tropes of authenticity?

Keywords:media theory
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
ID Code:40739
Deposited On:15 Jun 2020 14:07

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