Knowledge Alphabets Lab Syllabus

Course Summary

The Digital and the Analog – Spring 2023

Digital and analog, what do these terms mean today? One common response to the question of the digital is to avoid definition, and instead make reference to things like software, hardware, or computers in general. The analog is also difficult to define, with attempts at definition often consisting of mere denotations of things: sound waves, the phonograph needle, magnetic tape, a sundial. In this doctoral seminar we will define the digital and the analog explicitly, not merely by reference to actually existing media technologies, but also, and perhaps more importantly, through encounters with theory and philosophy. If digital and analog describe media artifacts, they are also modes of thinking and being, with the digital closely aligned with rationalism, logic, and politics, while the analog with empiricism, aesthetics, and ethics. From Sigmund Freud’s “mystic writing pad,” to Friedrich Kittler’s Linux computer, to Catherine Malabou’s neural net, the course is structured around a series of encounters between thinkers and the media objects through which they think. Themes in the course include analogicity, digitality, the logical, the illogical, interfaces, cybernetics, psychoanalysis, geometry, and arithmetic. Readings are drawn from the work of Friedrich Kittler, Sarah Kofman, Catherine Malabou, Brian Massumi, Katherine McKittrick, Hito Steyerl, McKenzie Wark, and others.