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Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology, published in 1953, can provide a context to the field of critical computation. Critical computation is a new field, and most of its texts have been published in the C21st. But from what context does this field emerge? Critically questioning technology has various roots in philosophy and critical theory, and Heidegger’s essay provides one such thread, to contextualize a critical view of computational systems as a dominant technology of our time.

A Dissection of the Essay
The essay begins by asking the reader to take up a different position in our relationship with technology “so as to prepare a free relationship to it”, (p.3) taking the opportunity to think outside of its traditional ontology, encapsulated by the traditional understanding of technology: in its instrumentality and as a human activity, or the manufacture and use of tools. Heidegger points out that there is a difference between technology and the essence of technology, “the instrumental definition of technology still does not show us technology’s essence”, (p.6) and it is the latter that he is pursuing here. As long as our position to technology is caught up with the drive to push technology forward, we cannot conceive this essence or truth of technology. “Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it”, (p.4) hence the need to step away and find a different position. …


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In Ethical Programs: Hospitality and the Rhetorics of Software, James J. Brown Jr addresses the problem of how to deal with ethical accountability in the context of computational networks in which we can no longer see or make sense of the other.

Today, networked life means there is no such thing as being online or offline anymore, in fact those are concepts from the 1990s when most people had to plug in their telephone modem to get online, and there was a clear distinction to being on or offline. Now, with networked devices, we are always connected to the network, whether we have specifically chosen to be or not, and there is no separate and private space, whether we are in the home, at work, or in the city. …


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What does it mean to visualizing an algorithm? An algorithm can mean various things: a piece of code written in a particular programming language that executes something, a set of instructions, or a rule set applied iteratively; algorithms are processes, they often run on data and data structures, but they can also produce their own data during the computational process. We need to develop specific tactics to address the various ways that algorithms take form and behave, to address the ontology of the algorithm.

Slow computation, is one of the first tactics of visualizing algorithms, or visualizing computational processes, in which the speed of computation is reduced from computer scale to human scale, so that we can study it in real time and see its behavior more clearly. …

About

Catherine Griffiths

PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Media Arts at USC. Writings on research fields: critical, visual, and reflexive computation. www.isohale.com

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