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Lecture

Renata Salecl: Big Data, Art and the Reshaping of Subjectivity

In the world of big data, we must not only deal with potential computer failures, but also a high level of opacity related to how this data is collected, how it is interpreted, who has access to it, and how it can be manipulated. We also deal with sample bias, as well as an increased desire to see in data what we want to see in the first place. In addition, the way companies use algorithms to comb through data is usually secret.

It is thus not surprising that big data is opening new avenues of blindness. Paradoxically, when we collect a great amount of data, people suddenly start seeing patterns in random data. Researchers of big data thus point out that we are experiencing apophenia: seeing patterns where none actually exist, simply because enormous quantities of data can offer connections that radiate in all directions.

One of the ways we often deal with blind spots is by trying to visualise them. ‘Gaps’, cracks in knowledge, are in a particular way linked to the fantasies we create around them. Art provides one way to look at these gaps. Contemporary art has been fascinated with the new developments in science. We can thus find numerous artists who use brain images, genetic code, and the knowledge from the fields of astrophysics and physics in general in their art. Not surprisingly, big data has also found its place in the domain of art. The lecture will look at the way we can conceptualise the social change and the change in our perception of subjectivity that is happening as a result of big data and how art can help us understand these changes.

Renata Salecl is a Slovene philosopher, sociologist and legal theorist. She is a senior researcher at the Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law at the University of Ljubljana, and holds a professorship at Birkbeck College, University of London. She has been a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, lecturing on the topic of emotions and law. Every year she lectures at Southern Cross University in Australia on Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Law. In 2017, she was elected as a member of the Slovene Academy of Science. Her last book "Tyranny of Choice" has been translated into fifteen languages. Her book "A Passion for Ignorance" will be published in 2020 by Princeton University Press.

 

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