Computation, Aesthetics, and Space
A proposal that algorithms are not simply instructions to be performed but thinking entities that construct digital spatio-temporalities.
In Contagious Architecture, Luciana Parisi offers a philosophical inquiry into the status of the algorithm in architectural and interaction design. Her thesis is that algorithmic computation is not simply an abstract mathematical tool but constitutes a mode of thought in its own right, in that its operation extends into forms of abstraction that lie beyond direct human cognition and control. These include modes of infinity, contingency, and indeterminacy, as well as incomputable quantities underlying the iterative process of algorithmic processing.
The main philosophical source for the project is Alfred North Whitehead, whose process philosophy is specifically designed to provide a vocabulary for “modes of thought” exhibiting various degrees of autonomy from human agency even as they are mobilized by it. Because algorithmic processing lies at the heart of the design practices now reshaping our world—from the physical spaces of our built environment to the networked spaces of digital culture—the nature of algorithmic thought is a topic of pressing importance that reraises questions of control and, ultimately, power. Contagious Architecture revisits cybernetic theories of control and information theory's notion of the incomputable in light of this rethinking of the role of algorithmic thought. Informed by recent debates in political and cultural theory around the changing landscape of power, it links the nature of abstraction to a new theory of power adequate to the complexities of the digital world.
The thrill of this volume lies in its sustained pursuit of the problem of chance, randomness, and noncomputability as core dynamics in digital media. Its brilliantly heterodox take on computation allows Contagious Architecture to develop a groundbreaking account of algorithms and software, an account that puts debates about prediction and control in computational cultures on a much more exciting footing.
Adrian Mackenzie, Lancaster University; author of Wirelessness: Radical Empiricism in Network Cultures
In Contagious Architecture, Luciana Parisi gives us a sense of space beyond spatiality, showing us an architecture in which the fixed is fluid—an evocative and rigorous study whose scope exceeds traditional disciplinary boundaries.
Eugene Thacker, School of Media Studies, The New School; author of The Global Genome
Contagious Architecture is the antidote to the cyclical trend of Auguste Comte's neopositivistic 'order of discourse.' By restoring the whole spectrum of languages, the multiple whispering in computation's Tower of Babel, Luciana Parisi introduces contingencies, the 'one thousand plateaus,' as a factor of knowledge—rid of its deterministic and intrinsic nature of control—to release its consequences as well as its presuppositions.
François Roche, architect