From the Engineering of the “Not Yet” to Alternative Futures

By: Sabine Thuermel  

Big data practices aim at generating hypotheses on the future based on past or present data. However, these hypotheses do not merely provide predictions about the future, they also have an impact on the future when used to engineer the “not yet”. A prominent example is predictive policing. Current applications of these predictive or even prescriptive practices used for the optimization of individual behaviour and the optimization of the overall behaviour of a social system. The goal is to shape the future it using the output of these algorithms to nudge or even coerce the people involved towards a certain behaviour. However, humans may not only behave as intended but also act in a subversive way demonstrating that “individuals are the vehicles of power, not its points of application” (Foucault). One could use fictional data and experiment with predictive algorithms to generate alternative futures and alternative narratives. Thus, these predictive environments could open up possibilities for undermining such systems. They are “dispositifs” in the Foucauldian sense possessing the dual structure of manifestation of power and the possibility of subverting it. Narratives based on predictive technology using fictional data could become more fluid. The engineering of the “not yet” could be replaced by the experimenting with the “not yet”. Such a new way of engaging with technology could foster the creativity of the users and open up new perspectives, a novel way of creating utopias and distopias.

Arts, Technology, Agorithms, Fictionality, Foucault
New Media, Technology and the Arts
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Sabine Thuermel

Munich Center of Technology in Society, Technische Universitaet Muenchen, Germany