upcoming conferences pt. 1
Dialogues in Data Power | June 22–24 | online (in-person events in Bremen, Germany; Sheffield, UK; Carleton, Canada)
Title: “Data Power and the Image of Thought”
Abstract: In Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze writes that “the theory of thought is like painting: it needs that revolution which took art from representation to abstraction.” This paper argues that digital data assume the opposite: their theory of thought denies thought the ability to yield non-representative concepts and images. I additionally claim that this theory of thought — which, in accordance with Deleuze’s notion of “the image of thought”, I call “the digital image of thought” — plays a critical role in the advancement of digital capitalism. This is because it figures the mental labor-power required to yield digital commodities as both immaterial and virtually limitless. In presupposing the instantaneous and endless renewability of thought, it extends market logic into the mental domain.
In an introductory section, I review the Deleuzean concept of “the image of thought” before defining “the digital image of thought.” I then move to the first section, which establishes the attributes that make data computable as the empirical basis for the digital image of thought.
The second part addresses the political theories of cognitive capitalism and psychopolitics, both of which depict the digital economy as reliant on the expropriation of mental labor power. I draw on this literature to indicate the ways in which the digital image of thought supports data capitalism. I also identify a likeness between the economic non-rivalrousness of digital media and the mental limitlessness presupposed by the digital image of thought.
The third and final section explores the mechanisms by which the digital image of thought forecloses all idiographic and non-communicable elements of thinking. Considering arguments made in the first and second sections, I indicate a link between the empirical features of digitality and the political economy of data. From there, I restate my overarching argument: the digital image of thought figures the mind as a wellspring of capital rather than a source of politically salient otherness.
[This paper is also in revised-and-resubmitted land- hopefully it gets published!]