Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Medienwissenschaft

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


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 measure its true own role and scope in the configuration of the so-called media cultures, and thus in a history of media technologies that goes beyond the socio-political events that, as it has been claimed, would have determined and conditioned it (Medina 2011). In other words, if we give credit to Michel Foucault's critique of history and historiography, and more specifically to his archaeology of the (too) human sciences (Foucault 1970; 1972), an enterprise radically propelled by Friedrich Kittler's media theories (Kittler 1979; 1980; 1990), then, would it be possible to consider, alternatively, that Cybersyn constitutes an important case to study the moments and modes through which a techno-cultural turn began to define the ways we relate to knowledge, power, as well as to our cultures and societies, and hence, to our own human condition? Moreover, would it be possible to identify, through the mate[real]ization of this case, to which extent cybernetic thinking had participated in such a turn, informing perhaps the emergence of modes of government that act not only in organizations, but in the self as well? Furthermore, would the remoteness, maybe the peculiarity, of the context where these threads were entangled point out particularities that belong to this case only, or rather, perhaps, it would show that they just obeyed the protocols setup by a technological recursion and instantiation, which, in turn, was part of a broader eventualization?


Accordingly, this doctoral research approaches these questions through three concatenated and interconnected movements which, as spirals, seek: first, through a radical media-archaeology (Ernst 2013; 2018), to probe 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 study —continuing then, eventually, towards an unknown future—; second, through a German media theory which invites to ask about the media-philosophical implications and ramifications (Kittler 1990; 1999) of the human-machine coupling the project could have triggered —in state-owned factories, in data processing centers—, attempts to problematize the character and the effects —if not the affects— of the intervening agencies engendered by such a coupling; and third, through a media-genealogy which traces the "relations of forces" and "strategies" of governing that may have supported or guided the epistemes (Foucault 1980; 1991; Rouvrouy & Berns 2013) traveling across the project, allows 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 encodeforget, and govern.


Therefore, and given that this research seeks to inquire about a series of techno-epistemic processes and 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, going beyond the interpretations that have decided to study this case by paying special heed to its Opsroom, this investigation will concentrate its efforts in the symbolic transactions prompted by the project's Cybernet —its telecommunications network— and Cyberstride —its 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 (Kittler 1997), could, in turn, have given way to a new sort of economy (Agamben 2009) for tele-communicating. Hence, the investigation commits itself to an archival work that, in an emergent logic, would allow to redraw an intricate mesh of wired relations and knots 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 time.