Accepted Paper:

Infrastructures of Sensation: Making up People in the "Sensor Society"  


Chris Salter (Concordia University)

Paper short abstract:

Using examples of selected artistic works, this talk examines the manner in which a new kind of “sensory order” is arising in which new technologies of the senses involving both forms of quantification and organization of sensory affect increasingly “make up” (Hacking) new sensing subjects.

Paper long abstract:

In "Making Up People," Ian Hacking famously argued that the human sciences through counting, correlation and quantification "create new kinds of people that in a certain sense did not exist before." Currently, we might gesture to a similar set of trends within the infrastructural framework of "the sensor society" (Andrejevic) "in which the interactive devices and applications that populate the digital information environment come to double as sensors" and […] "emerging practices of data use that complicate and reconfigure received categories of privacy, surveillance, and even sense-making." Yet, unlike Hacking's 19th century statistical models, our increased habitation within these new sensory infrastructures produces a strange double bind where we are torn between different forms of subject-hood - becoming "new objects" of sensory inquiry (to update Hacking). One form relies on measures gathered by sensors that track biophysical data to provide a portrait of the self as "quantified," and "conductable" (Foucault) while the other exploits new experiences of sensory-based affect produced by encounters with new multi-modal, real time haptic, visual, acoustic, olfactory and other technologies that organize "the sensory order" (Hayek) in previously unprecedented ways. From worn haptic devices to the tracking of sense modalities understood only through statistics and algorithms, such "technologies of the senses" are exploited to "make up" new people with heightened sensory awareness. Using examples from recent art practice that critically examine this double bind, this talk explores the construction of a new form of "sensory reason" where experience is increasingly shaped and produced by external technological infrastructures

Panel T162
Infrastructural Futures : Speculation, Crisis, and Media Technologies