From Error to Event: Decision in the Age of Generative Aesthetics
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This dissertation disputes the notion of a decline in human agency, which is taken as a theoretical article of faith in many threads of post- and anti-human literatures concerned with the effects of technical networking and computation on society. Its central contention is that the notion of “the death of authorship” is based on a false construction of political authority and individual subjecthood, and that the concept of decision developed during the Western Enlightenment continues to exert an outsized discursive influence on our conceptions of human being (via liberal subjectivity) and state power (sovereignty). Because such discourses share an understanding of decision as something concentrated in an individual, issues that transcend the scope of localized human perception are often considered outside the purview of human agency, ultimately resulting in an abdication of collective human responsibility. Despite never having truly articulated interpersonal and political relations, the figure of the sovereign subject is reified by twenty-first century discourses that claim to have transcended it. The work accomplishes this critique through a combination of arts-based research and theoretical argumentation, developing notions of ‘collectivity’ and ‘improvisation’ as central to human decision and agency, while casting the sovereign subject as the lingering particularity of a specific time in the history of Western political thought. It concludes, first, that understandings of human subjectivity as always already interrelated—intersubjectivity—allows theory to better model and understand political phenomena in the age of networked, generative aesthetics and, secondly, that such understandings may provide avenues toward a notion of collective responsibility for novel approaches to problems considered outside the limited purview of individual subjecthood.
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