digital theory lab

@ New York University

About the Lab

Digital technologies challenge the categories we use to interpret the world and understand ourselves. Ubiquitous computing puts conceptions of self, society, and even nature into question. Algorithmic data processing is changing labor and value, and the implementation of predictive systems poses significant ethical concerns. These shifts require novel approaches to cultural theory, but also an appreciation of the deeply historical aspects of the issues that digital technologies pose. 

The Digital Theory Lab provides a forum to bring traditional inquiry in the critical humanities to bear on emerging technologies while exploring the limits of traditional humanistic approaches. The Lab proceeds from the premise that understanding contemporary digital cultures and concepts requires a theoretical foundation. We seek to synthesize digital methods with a broad notion of cultural and critical theory, using experiments with source code, neural networks, and computer hardware to inform our theoretical reflections on the vast realm of “the digital.” 

The Lab fosters encounters among cultural theorists and engineering practitioners in order to expose the limits and potentials of prevailing conceptual frameworks in each case. This manifests in a variety of ways: invited presentations from leading theorists and computer scientists, group coding experiments, research-in-progress critiques from Lab members’ cross-disciplinary perspectives, instructional workshops on cutting-edge computational techniques, and the development of a shared conceptual vocabulary drawn from intensive weekly seminars on relevant work from Lab members’ respective fields.     

While the Lab’s core members are researchers (faculty and graduate students) located at New York University and The New School, affiliate members are situated at universities across the world, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Southern Denmark, King’s College London, University of California, Los Angeles, and Binghamton University. The Lab convenes weekly meetings for core members and monthly international meetings with affiliates.

The Lab’s activities have been generously supported by the Bennett-Polonsky Foundation, NYU’s Center for the Humanities, College of Arts and Science Dean for the Humanities, Department of German, and the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication.