Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli’s new book: Digital Uncanny

Book Description:

We are now confronted with a new type of uncanny experience, an uncanny evoked by parallel processing, aggregate data, and cloud-computing. The digital uncanny does not erase the uncanny feeling we experience as déjà vu or when confronted with robots that are too lifelike. Today’s uncanny refers to how non-human devices (surveillance technologies, algorithms, feedback, and data flows) anticipate human gestures, emotions, actions, and interactions, thus intimating that we are but machines and that our behavior is predicable precisely because we are machinic. It adds another dimension to those feelings in which we question whether our responses are subjective or automated—automated as in reducing one’s subjectivity to patterns of data and using those patterns to present objects or ideas that would then elicit one’s genuinely subjective-yet effectively preset-response. In fact, this anticipation of our responses is a feedback loop that we humans have produced by designing software that can study our traces, inputs, and moves. In this sense one could say that the digital uncanny is a trick we play on ourselves, a trick that we would not be able to play had we not developed sophisticated digital technologies. Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli’s new book Digital Uncanny (2019, Oxford University Press) explores how digital technologies, particularly software systems working through massive amounts of data, are transforming the meaning of the uncanny that Freud tied to a return of repressed memories, desires, and experiences to their anticipation. Through a close reading of interactive and experimental art works of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Bill Viola, Simon Biggs, Sue Hawksley, and Garth Paine, this book is designed to explore how the digital uncanny unsettles and estranges concepts of “self,” “affect,” “feedback” and “aesthetic experience,” forcing us to reflect on our relationship with computational media and by extension our relationship to each other and our experience of the world.