The Smartness Mandate
Location: Het Huis Main Stage
We appear to live in a catastrophic age. Our lives are caught between climate change, pandemics, wars, market crashes, the collapse of biodiversity and the disruption of supply chains. The response to such disruption is increasingly to be found in ubiquitous computing and techno-utopianism. Today digital systems sustain virtually every aspect of a functioning society, from supply chains, security, labour, vaccine development, public health and virtually every manner of social life. Nowhere has this link become more powerful than at the intersection of statistics, ecology, artificial intelligence and finance. Orit Halpern labels this condition the “smartness mandate”, an ideological figuration that has political and ethical implications for our present time, underpinning reactionary politics and increased economic precarity. In her keynote, Halpern disentangles the historical roots of this mandate and helps us to see the many ways in which smartness has come to dominate contemporary life. By doing so, she cuts to the heart of The Curse of Smooth Operations: the drive towards ever better functionality that permeates our society leaves it in a state of utter dysfunction.
What else is on Thursday?
Check the timetable to visit more programmes with your Festival Pass (5-days) or Day Pass (1-day). With the passes you can also visit the festival exhibition The Curse of Smooth Operations at the IMPAKT [Centre for Media Culture] and Steenweg 26.
Orit Halpern (United States) is Full Professor and Chair of Digital Cultures and Societal Change at Dresden University of Technology. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing and cybernetics with design. She completed her PhD at Harvard. She has held numerous visiting scholar positions, including at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, IKKM Weimar and Duke University (US). She is currently working on two projects. The first is a history of automation, intelligence and freedom. The second examines extreme infrastructures and the history of experimentation at planetary scales in design, science and engineering. Halpern has also published widely, including in Critical Inquiry, Grey Room, Journal of Visual Culture and E-Flux. Her first book, Beautiful Date: A History of Vision and Reason (Duke UP 2015), investigates histories of big data, design and governmentality. Her current book with Robert Mitchell (forthcoming, MIT Press December 2022), titled The Smartness Mandate, is a genealogy of our current obsession with smart technologies and artificial intelligence. Halpern also directs two design history and practice research platforms: ‘Governing through Design’ and ‘Against Catastrophe’.