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Humanist Archives: June 16, 2020, 9:16 a.m. Humanist 34.115 - pubs: Algorithmic Anxiety in Contemporary Art

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 115.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
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        Date: 2020-06-15 13:23:53+00:00
        From: Patricia de Vries 
        Subject: Algorithmic Anxiety in Contemporary Art

Theory on Demand #33
Algorithmic Anxiety in Contemporary Art: A Kierkegaardian Inquiry into
the Imaginary of Possibility

by Patricia de Vries

Available as open access E-pub or print-on-demand here

Over the past decade, a growing number of artists and critical
practitioners have become engaged with algorithms. This artistic
engagement has resulted in algorithmic theatre, bot art, and algorithmic
media and performance art of various kinds that thematise the
dissemination and deployment of algorithms in everyday life. Especially
striking is the high volume of artistic engagements with facial
recognition algorithms, trading algorithms and search engine algorithms
over the past few years.

The fact that these three types of algorithms have garnered more
responses than other types of algorithms suggests that they form a
popular subject of artistic critique. This critique addresses several
significant, supra-individual anxieties of our decade: socio-political
uncertainty and polarisation, the global economic crisis and cycles of
recession, and the centralisation and corporatisation of access to
online information. However, the constituents of these anxieties — which
seem to be central to our experience of algorithmic culture — are rarely
interrogated. They, therefore, merit closer attention.

This dissertation uses prominent artistic representations of facial
recognition algorithms, trading algorithms, and search algorithms as the
entry point into an exploration of the constituents of the anxieties
braided around these algorithms. It proposes that the work of Søren
Kierkegaard—one of the first theorists of anxiety—helps us to
investigate and critically analyse the constituents of ‘algorithmic

Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam 2020

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Editor: Willard McCarty (King's College London, U.K.; Western Sydney University, Australia)
Software designer: Malgosia Askanas (Mind-Crafts)

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