Workshop: Encryption – Algorithm – Circulation

Date: November 15th, 2019, 11-18h
Place: Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies (FU Berlin)
Guest: Tom McCarthy

The narrator of Tom McCarthy’s novel Satin Island is put into an impossible situation: as a corporate anthropologist, he is commissioned to write a Great Report, the book of all books, that encompasses the totality of our time. Yet, no form of writing seems to lend itself for this bold task. Faced with a world that withdraws itself from his grasp, he imagines the Great Report to be un-writable – until he comes to a terrifying realization: Maybe the report is not at all un­-writable but has “already been written.” Every move we make with our phones in our pockets is registered, every email, photo, or note archived in some endless database, every keystroke logged. Hence, if everything is always already turned into data and the Great Report is written by a self-perpetuating script, then a crucial question emerges: “who could read it?”

In continuation of our workshop Kritik – Poetik – Kollaboration, we seek to interrogate the consequences of said transformations for reading and writing today. How are these practices changing in the digital era? What is the role of the new technologies and the socio-economic assemblages in which they emerge? And which new forms of literary, artistic, and theoretical production evolve – or might evolve – under these rapidly changing conditions? Along the lines of these and similar questions, Tom McCarthy will guide us through his fictional, essayistic, and theoretical universe. Starting from a joint inquiry of the hermeneutics of de- and encryption, the poiesis of algorithms, and their mutual circulation, the workshop aims to initiate an exploration of new possibilities for both academic and artistic writing.

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