Master of Arts
Theory and Criticism
Dr. Antonio Calcagno
Dr. Nick Dyer-Witheford
The concept of the ‘technosphere’ was advanced in the field of Earth Systems Science to capture technology as a geological phenomenon in the Anthropocene. What precisely, I ask, drives the technosphere to be so novel and unprecedented a planetary force? Part of the answer, I venture, lies in the nature of computation as a generative force that drives the expansion of the technosphere. To build an account of computation as a generative force of a planetary scale, I engage with and parse through various debates regarding its historical and ontological predispositions. To address computation in its full potential, I argue, is to attend to its creative, albeit imperfect, encounters with the physical world in shifting registers of space and time, which ultimately lends to its epistemological capacity to imagine and facilitate infrastructures that constitute the technosphere.
Summary for Lay Audience
Computers are a lot more than personal devices that entertain or enable; the sum total of computational devices (any device connected to the internet; vehicles, phones, refrigerators, buildings, etc.) forms a megastructure across the expanse of the planet. A number of theoretical and empirical studies point to the fact that the growth of computation, as a megastructure, occurs through and alongside an expanding circumference of physical infrastructures (for instance, in the form of satellites that orbit the Earth). How precisely do we relate the growth of such complex, physical infrastructures with computation? And what precisely gives computation its inclination for engendering or engaging with infrastructures of planetary proportions? A closer look at various aspects of computation demonstrates that its inclination for the ‘planetary’ is not mere happenstance, and stems from different logical and historical conditions that comprise it. I put together an account of these various conditions to build a full picture of computation as a planetary-scale generative force.
Pandey, Payoshini, "Computation as a Planetary Scale Phenomenon" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9266.
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