Public Keynote RMeS Winter School and Graduate Symposium: Cécile Malaspina

Generative approaches to noise: towards a (not so) new paradigm

Thursday 26 January 2023 | 10.30-12.30
Tilburg University Dante Gebouw – DZ 008

Registration: Spaces are limited, please register here

Few notions are more central than noise to the transformation of modern life. Noise has become synonymous with the complexity and uncertainty of our world and its global digitized information networks. Its enduring negative connotation is increasingly giving way to a generative and functional understanding of randomness and stochastic variables. Noise is no longer treated only as detrimental, but as central to our understanding of emergent patterns and complex organisation, and even to the development of fault-tolerant, actionable data. From variations in population genetics to financial forecasting, from urban planning to climate change, every aspect of contemporary life is affected by a profound shift in the conceptualisation of noise. Also the human sciences are witnessing the rising prominence of the concept of noise, especially where empirical and statistical methods prevail. But the human sciences also have an otherwise critical role to play in encompassing our changing understanding of noise. Far from being self-evident, the pithiness of the term noise in fact reflects culturally dominant conceptions of order, organization, regulation, and progress. Noise points us in the direction of values and beliefs. Its enduring negative connotation, moreover, also testifies to the enduring legacy of the Cartesian paradigm. Even as logic and mechanics have become non-classical, Descartes’ analogy between classical logic and classical mechanics, aligning the suppression of error with that of unproductive energy, still informs the modern definition of information as a negation of noise and entropy (negentropy). By turning the attention increasingly toward the generative capacity of noise, modern science and technology thus join the arts in a (not so) new paradigm of uncertainty.

Cécile Malaspina is the author of An Epistemology of Noise (Bloomsbury, 2018) and principal translator of Gilbert Simondon’s On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, with the collaboration of John Rogove (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). She is directeur de Programme at the Collège International de Philosophie, Paris (Ciph), where she is also a member of the executive board. She is visiting fellow at King’s College London, where her program for the Ciph is hosted by the departments of Digital Humanities and the Department of French, in association with the Centre for Art and Philosophy. She is a member of the editorial boards of the Ciph’s book series at the Presses de Paris Nanterre and of its journal of philosophy, Rue Descartes, where she has recently become co-responsible for the epistemology section, as well as being contributing editor for  Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities; commissioning editor for the independent publisher Copy Press; and guest editor at Nature: Humanities and Social Sciences Communications. Cecile Malaspina obtained her doctorate in epistemology, philosophy and history of the sciences and technology from Paris 7 Denis Diderot and her Masters in contemporary French philosophy and critical theory from the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) in the UK. Before turning to philosophy she trained as an artist, art historian (Goldsmiths) and curator (RCA). Her main interest lies in the normativity of concepts, especially with regard to the aesthetic and ethical implications of conceptualising contingency and uncertainty.