Taking inspiration from Tiqqun’s 2001 text “The Cybernetic Hypothesis,” this essay examines the relationship between digital technology and scholarly research methods. A definition of the cybernetic hypothesis is presented by way of a series of historical investigations into the work of Lewis Richardson, Warren Weaver, John von Neumann, and Paul Otlet. Cybernetics is defined thus in terms of a broad set of assumptions and techniques influencing society and culture at large. These assumptions and techniques include an epistemology rooted in arrays or systems containing discrete entities, the organization of entities into systems, and the regularization of difference or asymmetry within the system overall. After having presented this view of cybernetics, the author examines the challenges and problems such a paradigm presents to scholarly research methods including contemporary developments in the digital humanities. These challenges and problems are grouped into two sets of terms: hegemony, recapitulation, and symmetry; and ideology, deskilling, and proletarianization. What kind of intellectual work is possible after the rise of digital media? Examining some aspects of contemporary technology and critical theory, this essay serves both as a meditation on the contemporary cybernetic world and as a proposal for what ought to be done about it.
Alexander R. Galloway; The Cybernetic Hypothesis. differences 1 May 2014; 25 (1): 107–131. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2420021
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