Talk by N. Katherine Hayles: Rethinking Cognition: Implications for the Humanities

Registration is required: Please send an email to charlotte johanne fabricius no later than 14 March.

Abstract: The question of whether machines can think has been a controversial subject now for more than half a century, with seminal contributions by Alan Turing, John Searle, Daniel Dennett and others.  These controversies have received fresh impetus with the advent of the digital humanities, with some scholars, notably John Guillory, saying there is an “immeasurable gap” between what human interpretation can do and what machine analysis can achieve, and others such as Franco Moretti making a strong case for “distant reading” using machine analytics.  This talk offers a fresh perspective by changing the focus from thinking to nonconscious cognition, arguing that computational media perform many sophisticated cognitive tasks.  The implications for this changed perspective are explored for the digital humanities and their potential contributions to humanistic discourse.

N. Katherine Hayles, the James B. Duke Professor of Literature at Duke University, teaches and writes on the relations of literature, science and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries. She has published ten books and over 100 peer-reviewed articles, and her research has been recognized by a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, a Rockefeller Residential Fellowship at Bellagio, a National Humanities Center Fellowship, and a University of California Presidential Award, among other awards.  She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Her books have won numerous awards, including the Rene Wellek Prize for the Best Book in Literary Theory in 1998-99 for How We Became Posthuman:  Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, and the Suzanne Langer Award for Outstanding Scholarship for Writing Machines.   She teaches courses on experimental fiction, literary and cultural theory, finance capital and culture, science fiction, and contemporary American fiction.  She has won two teaching awards, and has held visiting appointments at Princeton, University of Chicago as the Critical InquiryVisiting Professor, and Institute for Advanced Studies at Durham University UK, among others.