Public programme


Monday 14th Jan, 17:30-19:00 (moderator: Winnie Soon or Anne Alexander)

The Undetection of the New: An Overview of Machine Learning Limitations and Their Social Impact
Matteo Pasquinelli, Professor in Media Philosophy at the University of Arts and Design, Karlsruhe

All machine learning systems are basically a sophisticated version of “perception” that is a form of pattern recognition that can be extended also to non-visual datasets. However, what machine learning in general calculates is not an exact pattern but a statistical distribution of it. The statistical models of machine learning bring about a new breed of errors and limits yet to be properly understood and discussed in their impact on the collective body and society (such as bias amplification, category reduction, taxonomy reduction, diversity loss, style normalization, regression to the mean, and more). The paper tries to address the technopolitical limits of machine learning providing an overview of the social impact of its logical limitations.

Respondent: Alan Blackwell, Professor of Interdisciplinary Design, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge

Tuesday 15th Jan, 17:30-19:00 (moderator: Anne Alexander or Winnie Soon)

A Feeling for Worlds: Encountering Animals as Sensors
Jennifer Gabrys, Professor, Chair in Media, Culture and Environment, University of Cambridge

Sensors are increasingly used in ecological study for the tracking of organisms, often with the direct outfitting of animals with sensor backpacks and radio collars, in order to understand movement and migration. The movements of organisms, from badgers to elephant seals to storks, inform understandings not only of the journeys these animals take, but also the environments that they inhabit and rely upon. The “machine feeling” that sensors articulate is then simultaneously engaged with the feelings for worlds that tracked animals experience. This presentation will consider the modes of feeling and experience that concretize across organisms, sensors and milieus through the tracing of animals’ journeys. Rather than see tracking technologies as mirroring devices that capture hitherto unknown movements and journeys, I consider how these technical objects are involved in individuating organisms and environments as entities in need of further study and protection, and as forming computational relationships that would activate the practices necessary to achieve these objectives.

Respondent: Martin Zeilinger, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge


Matteo Pasquinelli (PhD) is Professor in Media Philosophy at the University of Arts and Design, Karlsruhe, where he is coordinating the research group on critical machine intelligence KIM. He recently edited the anthology Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and Its Traumas (Meson Press) among other books. His research focuses the intersection of cognitive sciences, digital economy and machine intelligence. For Verso Books he is preparing a monograph provisionally titled The Eye of the Master: Capital as Computation Cognition. 

Alan Blackwell is Professor of Interdisciplinary Design in the University of Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology. After an early career as an artificial intelligence engineer working mainly in factory automation and transport, further academic study in comparative religion, performing arts and psychology led to his current research interests in the broadest questions of technology in society. His group is dedicated to action research, designing new technologies as experimental social interventions, working in the field to understand contexts in which the Sustainable Development Goals present challenges to prevailing technocratic imaginations. He is research director of the Cambridge Global Challenges initiative, co-director of the Crucible network for research in Interdisciplinary Design, a board member of Cambridge Enterprise, and a trustee of the Centre for Global Equality.

Jennifer Gabrys is Chair in Media, Culture and Environment in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge, and Visiting Professor in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is currently Principal Investigator on the project AirKit, and she previously led the project Citizen Sense, both funded by the European Research Council. She is the author of Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (2016); and Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (2011), and co-editor of Accumulation: The Material Politics of Plastic (Routledge, 2013). Her forthcoming books include How to Do Things with Sensors (University of Minnesota Press Forerunners series, 2019), and Citizens of Worlds: Open-Air Toolkits for Environmental Struggle. Her work can be found at and

Martin Zeilinger is Senior Lecturer in Media at Anglia Ruskin University. He has been co-curator of the Vector New Media Art Festival in Toronto for the past five years, and in 2018 organised MoneyLab #4 in London. His research focuses on digital art and algorithmic culture at the intersections of media theory, media art history, and legal theory, with particular interest in critical practices of appropriation. Recent topical essays have been published in journals including Philosophy & Technology and Platform, and in books including Parsing DigitalArtists Re:Thinking the Blockchain, and MoneyLab Reader Vol. 2. A special issue of Media Theory titled ‘Rethinking Affordance’ (co-edited with Ashley Scarlett) is forthcoming in 2019.