Cybernetics and the Human Sciences: December 2-3 at NYU Remarque Institute !

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Cybernetics and the Human Sciences

December 2-3, 2016

New York University

Remarque Institute Seminar Room

53 Washington Square South, elevator to 3E, 324

Put together by Leif Weatherby and Stefanos Geroulanos.

A recent wave of publications confirms that the legacy of the interdisciplinary movement that Norbert Wiener dubbed “cybernetics” is being reevaluated. The summary judgment appears to be that the various groups associated with early computing, cognitive science, and management strategies, form one essential history of the present. From mainframes to category-frameworks, cybernetics is everywhere in our material and intellectual worlds. This conference seeks to bring together many of the scholars responsible for its renewed historiographical and philosophical presence, and to provide a forum in which we can explore the significant intersections between cybernetics and the human sciences. Part of our concern is to reconsider the unfolding and normalization of the language of cybernetics as the technological realities it produced came to fulfill its mission; another part is to ask about the effects of cybernetics on governance and politics—the ways in which the human sciences mediated the promise, involved even in the very name of cybernetics as a science, of a reorganization of the political. The twentieth century was a cybernetic century, and the twenty-first must cope with its legacy. From Wiener’s (and Walter Grey’s) novels to the literary theories of the Stuttgart School and the legacy of cybernetics in science fiction (Herbert, Dick); from the experiments with governmental design to those of computer aesthetics in architecture and urban planning; from the attempts of its own luminaries to account for an ethical kind of ‘control’ to its key yet still understudied role in developing the language of poststructuralism—cybernetics saturates the human sciences and calls for a critical investigation of this underpinning of our research. We conceive of this as an ongoing project, one to which you have all already contributed in essential ways. This conference will bring together the proponents of this ongoing reevaluation of cybernetics with specific focus on its historical and present interactions with the humanities and the social sciences.

Please RSVP to[at]


9:00-10:30 Session 1 (following Welcome and Introduction)

Ronald R. Kline (Cornell University, Science and Technology Studies)

Why the Disunity of Cybernetics Matters to the History of the Human Sciences in the

United States

Luciana Parisi (Goldsmiths, University of London, Centre for Cultural Studies)

Cybernetic Thinking: the Aesthetic and Logic of Prediction in Ontopower.

10:30-11:00 Coffee Break

11:00-12:30 Session 2

Diana West (European University at St.Petersburg, Science and Technology Studies)

From Cybernetic City to Smart City: Perfect Data in Contemporary Russian Urbanism

Jacob Krell (Cornell University, History)

Technocracy, Contingency, Complexity: The Language of Cybernetics and the Politics of

Epistemology in France after 1968

13:30-15:00 Session 3

David Bates (University of California-Berkeley, Rhetoric)

A Concept of the Political for the Cybernetic Age

Nicolas Guilhot (Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, Social and Political Science)

Cybernetics, International Relations, and Political Decision-Making

15:00-15:30 Coffee Break

15:30-17:00 Session 4

Isabel Gabel (University of Chicago, Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of


Biology, Structure, History: Cybernetics and Transdisciplinarity in France

Stefanos Geroulanos (New York University, History)

Cybernetics and Death by Voodoo


9:30-11:00 Session 1

Mara Mills (New York University, Media, Culture and Communication)

Assembling Cybernetics: Mass Production and Quality Control

Bernard Geoghegan (Coventry University, Media and Communications)

The Family as Machine: Cybernetic Kinship in Postwar America

11:00-12:30 Session 2

Danielle Carr (Columbia University, Anthropology)

The Image of Man: U.S. Cold War Humanism and the Bioethical Reaction Against

Intracerebral Brain Implants, 1950-1980

Leif Weatherby (New York University, German)

Hegel 2.0

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