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CFP: The Contours of Algorithmic Life

CFP: The Contours of Algorithmic Life

CFP: The Contours of Algorithmic Life

A conference sponsored by The Mellon Research Initiative in Digital Cultures

May 15-16, 2014 at the University of California, Davis


Submission Deadline:March 1, 2014

Send submissions to


As algorithms permeate our lived experience, the boundaries and

borderlands of what can and cannot be adapted, translated, or

incorporated into algorithmic thinking become a space of contention.

The principle of the algorithm, or the specification of the potential

space of action, creates the notion of a universal mode of

specification of all life, leading to discourses on empowerment,

efficiency, openness, and inclusivity. But algorithms are ultimately

only able to make intelligible and valuable that which can be

discretized, quantified, operationalized, proceduralized, and

gamified, and this limited domain makes algorithms necessarily



Algorithms increasingly shape our world, our thought, our economy, our

political life, and our bodies. The algorithmic response of NSA

networks to threatening network activity increasingly brings privacy

and political surveillance under algorithmic control. At least 30% of

stock trading is now algorithmic and automatic, having already lead to

several otherwise inexplicable collapses and booms. Devices such as

the Fitbit and the NikeFuel suggest that the body is incomplete

without a technological supplement, treating ‘health’ as a

quantifiable output dependent on quantifiable inputs. The logic of

gamification, which finds increasing traction in educational and

pedagogical contexts, asserts that the world is not only renderable as

winnable or losable, but is in fact better–i.e. more effective–this

way. The increased proliferation of how-to guides, from HGTV and DIY

television to the LifeHack website, demonstrate a growing demand for

approaching tasks with discrete algorithmic instructions.


This conference seeks to explore both the specific uses of algorithms

and algorithmic culture more broadly, including topics such as:

gamification, the computational self, data mining and visualization,

the politics of algorithms, surveillance, mobile and locative

technology, and games for health. While virtually any discipline could

have something productive to say about the matter, we are especially

seeking contributions from software studies, critical code studies,

performance studies, cultural and media studies, anthropology, the

humanities, and social sciences, as well as visual art, music, sound

studies and performance. Proposals for experimental/hybrid

performance-papers and multimedia artworks are especially welcome.


Areas open for exploration include but are not limited to: daily life

in algorithmic culture; gamification of education, health, politics,

arts, and other social arenas; the life and death of big data and data

visualization; identity politics and the quantification of selves,

bodies, and populations; algorithm and affect; visual culture of

algorithms; algorithmic materiality; governance, regulation, and

ethics of algorithms, procedures, and protocols; algorithmic

imaginaries in fiction, film, video games, and other media;

algorithmic culture and (dis)ability; habit and addiction as

biological algorithms; the unrule-able/unruly in the (post)digital

age; limits and possibilities of emergence; algorithmic and

proto-algorithmic compositional methods (e.g., serialism, Baroque

fugue); algorithms and (il)legibility; and the unalgorithmic.


For more information, especially on updates regarding featured keynote

speakers and performers, check out the conference website at:


Please send proposals to by March 1, 2014.


Decisions will be made by March 8, 2014.


For archives and subscription options please see:


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