Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Medienwissenschaft

Diego Gómez-Venegas: Encode, Forget, Govern. A media-archaeo[genea]logical inquiry on project Cybersyn


Test Project Cybersyn the telecommunications network and processing system developed by Stafford Beer and his team to cybernetically manage Chile's economy in the early 1970s deserves further analysis when it comes to study its role and scope in the configuration of the so-called media cultures, and, in turn, in a history of media-technologies that goes beyond (or below) the socio-political events that would have made such a case possible (Cf. Medina 2011). Put differently, by paying special attention to Michel Foucault's archaeology of the (too) human sciences (1970; 1972), and to Friedrich Kittler's media theories (1979; 1980; 1990), this research asks: Would it be possible to consider project Cybersyn as a node in the grid of events that would have defined the ways in which we relate to power and knowledge since the second half of the 20th century onwards? Would such a grid of events, as well as this node, have brought about a transformation in our cultures and societies, and hence, in our own human condition? Moreover, would it be possible to identify, through the mate[real]ization of project Cybersyn in particular, to which extent cybernetic thinking had participated in such a transformation, informing perhaps the emergence of modes of technological-government that could have operated not only in institutions and organizations, but in the self and the collective as well? Furthermore, could the context where this project took placepoint out particularities that belong to this case only? Or rather, could a media-archaeological analysis of project Cybersyn show that these particularities were the echoes of older and broader technological protocols?



Accordingly, this doctoral research approaches these questions through three concatenated and interconnected movements which, as spirals, seek: First, through a radical media-archaeological approach (Ernst 2013; 2018), to probe into the project's technological substructures aiming to trace the techno-epistemic fibers that, coming from an uncertain past, traverse, configure, and thus become also affected and transformed by this case; second, through a German media theory that invites to ask about the media-philosophical implications and ramifications of the human-machine coupling the project could have triggered (Cf. Kittler 1990; 1999; Ernst 2017) – in state-owned factories, in data processing centers –, this research also attempts to problematize the character and the effects if not the affects of the agencies engendered by such a coupling; and third, through a media-genealogy that traces the "relations of forces" and "strategies" of governing that may have supported or guided the episteme(s) traveling across the project (Cf. Foucault 1980; 1991; Rouvrouy & Berns 2013), this undertaking aims to discern the techno-politics Cybersyn might have brought about. In short, as this research will attempt to demonstrate, these movements can be rendered through three, perhaps axiomatic, calls; namely, encode, forget, and govern.


Therefore, given that this research seeks to inquire into a series of techno-epistemic processes, as well as into the "relations of forces supporting, and supported by" them (Foucault 1980, 196) which at least from the perspective of a (radical) media-archaeo[genea]logy have been somehow neglected its focus will be on the technological entrails of project Cybersyn; on its operational core. Hence, as an alternative to the inquiries that have found in the so-called Opsroom the socio-technical or the cultural-historical core of project Cybersyn, this investigation will put its efforts on the symbolic exchanges prompted by the project's Cybernet its telecommunications network and Cyberstrideits computational analysis system. It is from there that this inquiry aims to answer to which extent Cybersyn's politics of transmission, as well as its processing strategies, may have set the conditions for storing and thus installing a sort of imaginary that, based on concrete and real technological grounds (Cf. Kittler 1997), could have, in turn, given way to a new sort of oikonomia for tele-communicating (Cf. Agamben 2009). Hence, this investigation commits itself to an archival work that, in an emergent logic, would allow to redraw an intricate mesh of wired knots and relations through which notions of techno-logical knowledge and power, all concealed within the machine, will point out the place that Cybersyn occupies in a media-history of our (modes of being)present and future.