Technology as Normative Context


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date23 Jan 2019


This thesis proposes an interdisciplinary approach that bridges art, science, and critical theory. It integrates technology, biology, philosophy, art, culture, and politics into a contextual study of technology. The main examples concerns glitch art, but this thesis is not primarily about glitch art. Rather, this thesis proposes to use glitch art as an occasion to discuss the normative character of technology. This normativity is the core topic of this thesis.

A major component of this thesis involves a discussion of technology using philosopher Georges Canguilhem’s concept of the norm, which is framed in a biological perspective. This perspective views technologies as extended bodily organs. The argument emphasises the essential relationship between biological bodies, technologies, and their changing environments. Every technology expands and modifies the possible actions of biological bodies. This thesis applies these perspectives to the glitch, which is perceived as an alternative technological norm. The phenomenon of glitch is a vehicle whereby people discover new possibilities in technologies, and in so doing discover new norms for those technologies.

Biology is not outside power relations that are separate from culture and technology. Specific concepts and forms of technology are often used as vehicles for the dissemination of a ‘normalizing power’ (Foucault) over biological bodies that produce the effects of ‘proletarianization’ (Stiegler). This thesis employs a critical perspective to reveal this dissemination of normalising power and proposes a constructive perspective of glitch as a ‘cognitive technology’ against this normalisation. This perspective motivates the turn towards glitch in media art.

After a thorough interdisciplinary study, the thesis concludes its research finding by examining various artistic approaches to glitch art. These approaches contribute by demonstrating an alternative attempt to depart from any presupposed norm of technology and illuminate the ultimate capacities of technological systems in a normative context.