Time: Friday 17 November, 20:30 CET
Venue: Østre, Østre Skostredet 3
The conversation will be streamed live at vimeo.com/bekdotno
Today’s digital supply chain relies heavily on logistical technologies that coordinate bodies alongside their algorithms or warehouse robots. Digital algorithms turn human workers — pickers, microworkers, content moderators — into abstract objects that circulate, into labour power that can be summoned on demand, like the cloud. The true objects of logistics are human, and those are disproportionately persons of colour. As of 2022, 74 percent of Amazon’s front-line warehouse and call center workers, for example, were non-white. When one’s job is to be a robotic “server” for others, what forms of collectivity and political agency are left?
Digital Lethargy thinks alongside visual art, performance, and literature to describe the atmospheres of exhaustion that result from digital capitalism. This is an exhaustion not just with being overworked but from needing to continually speak up, to be lively and to be “yourself.” The depersonalisation, busy idleness, and burnout that results from this demand, is what Hu calls lethargy, after the ancient illness of listlessness and self-forgetting. But if digital algorithms turn us into objects, perhaps it is better to start from that position; being more “human,” after all, is the logic that has historically fueled racial capitalism. Rather than a state of passivity, then, lethargy describes a state of potential. Rather than an illness to be cured, it suggests a way of enduring the broken world.
Tung-Hui Hu is a poet and scholar of digital media. He is the author of A Prehistory of the Cloud (MIT Press, 2015) and Digital Lethargy: Dispatches from an Age of Disconnection (MIT Press, October 2022), in addition to three books of poetry. He is a recent recipient of the Rome Prize in Literature from the American Academy in Rome, and an associate professor of English at the University of Michigan.
Carol Stampone is a Brazilian philosopher, writer and performance artist based in Bergen Norway. She holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Philosophy (Unicamp and UiB) and is currently undertaking an MA in Fine Arts at KMD. She sees herself as a work-in-progress mother and feminist, interested in investigating how we can listen better to one another. She is critical of the limitations of performative empathy and believes that our sites of speech largely affect what we are able to see, listen, and care about. Her current practice and research aim at creating temporary liminal spaces where the participants can acknowledge and transcend their marks and situatedness. Through writing labs, conversations, and performances she creates experiences to invite the participants to be astonished, think, and care. Among the themes she deals with are belonging, motherhood, sustainability, gender issues, site of speech, race, exile, and liminal spaces.
Images: 1) Pieter Bruegel d. Ä., Das Schlaraffenland, 1567, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek München. 2) Katherine Behar, Clicks from Modeling Big Data, 2014. Six-channel HD video installation, color, sound. Endless loops. Image courtesy of the artist. 3) Still from video, Sleeping Beauty (Screen Australia, 2011), Julia Leigh.