Sociological fiction and technology
An in-conversation event with Massimo Airoldi
Please find below information for a new series of talks I am hosting called Artificial Artificial Intelligence. The very first event is happening next week, and given its focus on sociological fiction it is hopefully of interest to you.
I have been tweeting about the talk but given ~everything~ I am keen to extricate myself from the platform. I feel unsure about doing this, because I know how important Twitter has been for So Fi Zine and for Fiction @ The Sociological Review, and an email newsletter isn’t a great replacement for those kinds of interactions and has nowhere near the same reach. That being said, I’m keen to expand what this newsletter is and does next year - like perhaps opening it up to info about sociological fiction things that some of you are doing, or making it more social and conversational somehow rather than me just sending messages out into the void. If you are interested or have any ideas or even just similar gripes please never hesitate to reach out. On to the event:
November 9 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm AEDT, via Zoom. Register here.
Join Massimo Airoldi, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Milan, in conversation about his new monograph Machine Habitus (2022, Polity) and short story ‘Stealth Love’ (2019, The Sociological Review) with ADM+S Research Fellow Ash Watson.
Machine Habitus: Toward a Sociology of Algorithms examines the place of emerging technologies in the feedback loops of social life: how culture takes shape in code and code in turn shapes culture. The book deftly portraits machines as sociological objects and peels back machine learning processes to consider ‘culture as the warm human matter lying inside’. Doing this, Airoldi explores algorithmic devices as social agents and gestures to the possibilities of artificial intelligence designed outside the strictures of profit and power.
Airoldi’s 2019 short story ‘Stealth Love’ takes flight from similar questions, landing issues of data surveillance in the intimate lives of a small cast of characters in London, 2028. It opens:
Aripiprazole: bingo! Side effects: orthostatic hypotension and cardiac arrhythmia. Precisely what I need to fool the health-tracking pillow kindly provided by our apprehensive HR colleagues, and enjoy an unpredictable day trip on an otherwise hectic Monday morning.
The crafted lyricism of the story inflates a near future from today’s techno-dystopic seeds, and plays with scholarly concepts as literary metaphors – for example, fashioning a reference to the ‘black box’ of obfuscated algorithmic processing to evoke the emotional depths we cannot plumb of those we love.
Artificial Artificial Intelligence is a new series of in-conversation talks about technology and fiction hosted by Dr Ash Watson of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S). Probing the porous boundaries between machine realities and imagination, the series features leading scholars from the humanities and social sciences who are changing what – and how – we know about emerging technologies.
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