The Lived Logics of Database Machinery

The Lived Logics of Database Machinery
A one-day workshop organised by Computational Culture (

Date: Thursday 28th June
Location: Central London

With many of the most significant changes in the organisation and distribution of knowledge, practices of ordering, forms of communication and modes of governance taking shape around it, the database has remained surprisingly recalcitrant to anything other than technical forms of analysis. Its ostensibly neutral status as a technology has
allowed it to play a significant - yet largely overlooked - role in modelling of populations and configuring practices, from organisational labour through knowledge production to art.

The importance of the database for gathering and analysing information has been a theme of many studies (especially those relating to surveillance) but the specific agency of the database as an active mediator in its own right, as an actor in constructing, organising and modifying social relations is less well understood.

A one-day workshop, organized by Computational Culture seeks to rectify this state of affairs. We are looking for proposals for papers, interventions, poster presentations and critical accounts of practical projects that address the theme of the social, cultural and political logics of database technologies.

Proposals should aim to address the intersection of the technical qualities of databases and their management systems with social or cultural relations and the critical questions these raise. We are particularly interested in work that addresses the ways in which entity-relations models, or structures of data-atomisation, become active logics in the construction of the world. Historical contributions that tease out the connections between the database 'condition' and antecedent technical and theoretical objects (from indexes and archives to set theory), or which develop critical accounts of transparency are also particularly welcome.

The focus of the workshop on the lived social dynamics and political logics of database technologies is envisaged as a means of opening up paths of enquiry and addressing questions that typically get lost between the ‘social’ and the ‘technological’:

How do the ordering of views, permissions structures, the normalisation
of data, and other characteristic forms of databases contribute to the
generation of forms subjectivity and of culture?

What impact does the need to manage terabytes of data have on knowledge
production, and how can the normative assumptions embedded in uses of data
and database technologies be challenged or counter-effectuated?

What conceptual frameworks do we need to get a hold on the operational
logics of the database and the immanence of social categorization to
relational algebras?

Is there a workable politics available for exploring strategies of data management, the commonalities and differences of practices in different settings - from genome sequence archiving through supply chain management to medical records and cultural history?

Abstracts of around 500 words should be sent to by March 9th