A project Labex Arts H2H
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International Symposium: The Digital Subject 2015. Codes

Le sujet digital 4 - codes

 November 16-20 2015

 Paris 8 University / Archives nationales

 New extended deadline for submissions: July 10, 2015.

Contributors will be informed of the scientific committee’s decision over July 2015.

 We welcome contributions from the following fields: philosophy, literature, arts, archivistics, neuroscience, and the history of science and technology.


The conference will open in the evening of Monday, November 16, with a "Hybrid Talk" by Gregory Chatonsky.


Keynote speakers: David Berry (U. of Sussex), Grégory Chatonsky (independent artist and researcher), Alexander Galloway (NYU), Nick Montfort (MIT)


Please submit your abstracts via EasyChair (link below) as well as a brief bio-bibliographical note : https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=digital_subject4_codes

Do not forget to upload your document in PDF format (no more than 3000 characters).

For further information, you may write to codes@univ-paris8.fr

The working languages of the symposium will be French and English. Contributions may be submitted in either language and should not exceed 3000 characters.




The coupling of digital code and user interface, on screen or through the internet may very well be the emblematic apparatus of our times, the predominant way in which we convey meaning. Contrary to other modes of producing meaning, the digital apparatus entails tremendous underground work, mostly encoding and tagging content in view of its archiving and display. At the core of all this stands the production of meta-data, both through automatic processes (time, size of file, format) or deliberate choice (keywords, integration in tree-structures). Beyond its technical use, meta data has thus come to organize our access to knowledge and memory, bearing heavily upon our relation to history.


In terms of literacy, the shift to digital code opens up numerous avenues: one may cross over media types or engage in hybrid forms of reading/ browsing through content. But it also generates some opacity: content layering - between what is displayed, what is tagged and what is archived - introduces hierarchies and creates roadblocks. Common reading practice only explores the tip of the digital iceberg.


What is more the digital turn affects directly our daily lives: when using social media for instance, people introduce themselves and interact with others through the same apparatus of keywords, queries and screen displays, fostering new social codes. The same applies to economic interaction, through e-commerce and so the management of private data, their collective and individual oversight, has become a key issue in our societies.


As code-based practices, ubiquitous and opaque, gain momentum, they trigger numerous fantasies, some paranoid, other pertaining to scientism and fueled by the similarities between code and DNA or quantum physics. According to theoreticians of quantum physics, the universe is not built on matter but on information. In this model, what structures our relation to the world is therefore not presence versus absence, but rather the issue of pattern versus randomness. This notion, which they inherited from cybernetics,  may also apply to our psyche as  N. K. Hayles has convincingly shown. Hence some dream of overriding matter: the advocates of dematerialisation want to preserve the self on computer, achieving digital immortality. Those who rely on biotechnologies hope to be freed from the constraints of the body through genetic manipulation and bio-digital prostheses. It is therefore hardly surprising to find numerous works of electronic literature tackling the relation between DNA and digital code, questioning the anti-materialistic theories keen on transcoding mankind into machinic binary language. In such a model, all would be based on a universal language, similar to mathematics, that would transcend natural languages. Writing would equate the inscription of a universal and esoteric cipher, and no longer be an expression of the self. These theories are fueled by the temptation to dispense of the body altogether to think, a fantasy of disembodying that Jean-François Lyotard addresses in The Inhuman. They also seem to disenfranchise themselves from the rich diversity of human language and the complexities of translation, all of which shed a welcome light upon the way in which our mind works and the ways in which we build a common world.


One may thus want to explore, through literature, the arts and philosophy, how our subjectivities and our selves shape up in their confrontation to code, and create a hybrid condition. For instance codework, the attempt to fuse digital code and natural languages, leads to the creation of poetical texts that may ideally cross over the frontier between language and code, read by man and executed by the machine. Augmented reality, in games or in war, is another case in point, reframing our experience of the world.


The dissemination of code through pretty much all aspects of our lives - in writing, in social interaction, through scientific theories and collective fantasies - is such a momentous shift that the need to investigate its forms, assess its influence and question its prevalence is pressing indeed.


This international conference welcomes proposals addressing the issue of code from a wide variety of academic fields and art practices.

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A project Labex Arts H2H