Genealogy, ontology, aesthetics and politics of algorithmic life, from the Ancient World to Big Data


Algoricene is a term and a project proposed by Reverso-Jaime del Val, as a subproject of the Metabody project and main thematic thread of the Metabody Forum 2017 and beyond, to be developed in constellations of collaborations including Metabody partners/associates/advisors, and other collaborators and partners.If you wish to participate in the project or host a presentation please write, including “Algoricene” in the headline, to:

Algoricene proposes to explore, both through theoretical research and through artistic creation, the planetary impact, history, ontology, aesthetics and politics of algorithmic modes of organisation that may be traced already in old cultural formations such as grided urban plans in ancient Greece, or perspectival vision in the Renaissance, and which currently undergo an explosion in the context of Big Data systems.

Algoricene contributes to the ongoing discussion on the term Anthropocene for describing the current era, which has already been challenged by terms like Jason Moore’s Capitalocene and Donna Haraway’s Chthulucene. In yet another turn Algoricene (or Morphocene) focuses on algorithmic and pattern-making formations as a longstanding ontological substrate of the processes of earthly transformation, while Amorphocene is proposed as a larger ontology for earthly processes, in conflict with and exceeding the more contingent and recent pattern-centric tendencies. Amorphocene is analogous to Chthulucene yet focusing on an ecological approach to perception.

IMF 2016 7 Toulouse z- Metatopia - 7




Though algorithms are characteristic of computation culture they may be in fact a very ancient form of distributed intelligence that both exceeds and conforms the very human cultures from which it seems to stem. Algorithm traces may be found in modes of organisation as varied as grid like urban plans in ancient Greece, and the birth of rationalised vision in the Renaissance.

However we are currently assisting a process in which algorithmic autonomous decisions shape more and more the world we live in. At same time the very nature of algorithms may be changing. Hyperalgorithms is a term proposed by Jaime del Val to name the new threshold of algorithmic life in the big data era: hyperconnected, emergent, allencompassing algorithms.

If ever since the emergence of gridlike algorithmic environments the human has been evolving along such algorithmic organisations in a technogenetic spiral, now more than ever humans are becoming the entangled in algorithmically shaped worlds of increasing complexity. Arguably we are assisting the birth new algorithmic life form, as well as the further evolution of an older one.

This project will elaborate on different aspects of the genealogy, ontology, aesthetics and politics of this not so recent but changing life form that has such a crucial significance for our planet, in trying to grasp some its longstanding challenges to our understanding of the world, some of its present evolutions, while venturing and speculating about its unforeseeable futures.

Last but not least, are we asisting a new geological area, an Algoricene? The notion of Anthropocene, as new established definition for the current geological era in which humans have left an already massive impact on the planet, has already been challenged by theorists like Andreas Malm, Jason Moore and Donna Haraway, who propose that the current processes affecting the planet are not caused strictly by humans but by capital, by the processes related to the accumulation of wealth, thus proposing the term Capitalocene. Haraway goes further by proposing that neither Capitalocene nor Anthropocene offer a complex enough narrative and offers the term Chthulucene that seeks recourse to old and present narratives of earthly powers of creation and destruction, both smaller and larger than the narratives of the Anthropos and of Capital.

This project proposes yet another trope for deepening into the ontologies of current processes of earthly transformation, where underlying capital there may be a deeply rooted processes of pattern making, through organisations of movement and perception that afford quantification, this would point to the historical contingency of pattern or form, an algorithm being a movement pattern historically linked to the quantification of sensibility. The Morphocene or Algoricene would point to this ontological substrate of the process of alignment and capture going on in the planet over millenia, while placing form in a historically contingent crossroads within a much larger Amorphocene, of processes not aligned with algorithmic patternmaking, rationalisation and quantification (for instance bacterial perceptions and other symbiogenetic processe, ecosystems of different kinds, etc.).

Algoricene (or Morphocene) focuses on algorithmic formations as pattern-oriented organisations of movement that may account for the problematic alignments underlignin capitalistic and anthropocentric processes. Amorphocene focuses on a broader spectrum of perceptual and kinetic organisations that may account for existing, possible and potential alternatives. Thus, while Haraway’s Chthulucene foscuses on narratives, the Amorphocene puts the emphasis on perceptual organisations underlying both narrative and non-narrative based metabodies (a meta-narrative or metamedia approach).

Algoricene points to a crucial aspect of contemporary Big Data Culture in which old descriptions of algorithms as “a finite set of unambiguous instructions performed in a prescribed sequence to achieve a goal” become obsolete as algorythms become hyperconnected, emergent, allencompassing, while automated algorithmic decisions affect more and more the planet. Algoricene speaks of this tendency to an algorithmically driven world, that eventually points beyond Capital.

Algoricene is thus a term proposed to define the current geological era in which not a priori humans but algorithmic automated systems are shaping more and more life and inorganic matter on the planet, an era whose genealogy may be traced across several millennia. The project thus proposes to explore the past, present and future impact of such systems at a planetary scale and their projection beyond the planet.

The project will put an emphasis on critical investigation, both in the field of theory and  of artistic production, foregrounding proposals that facilitate a critical engagement and empowerment, thus inviting a plural and participative engagement with the numerous challenges raised by algorithmic systems. Are algorithmic modes of organisation reductive vs. the more complex modalities of movement that constitute the world? If so what are the consequences of this reduction and how is it possible to counteract it?

The project proposes a highly transdisciplinary field in which philosophy, cultural studies and other theoretical disciplines meet all the arts, technosciences and society at large, with  particular attention to social minorities, in a critical engagement bridging continuously across theoretical production and crossdisciplinary artistic creation of projects that respond in experimental ways to the challenges that algorithmic and Big Data systems pose to humans, other species and the environment.

The project proposes a novel and unconventional approach to algorithmic systems by attempting to understand the material and embodied nature of the infrastructures and processes that sustain them, thereby also inviting artistic creations that deal with the body, temporality and public space in relation to digital systems in novel ways, foregrounding approaches that allow an empowerment of all kinds of citizens in dealing with algorithmic and Big Data systems.

The project will involve artists working across dance, visual arts, music, architecture, performance and new media, technoscientists, philosophers, cultural theorists and citizens and people of all kinds, with particular attention to social minorities including people with disabilities and people living in nomadic and precarious situations such as refugees, amongst others as well as indigenous people. The project will address the impact of algorithmic systems in society at large and for all kinds of people as well as for the environment, while giving special attention to social minorities so as to afford a plural scenario.

The project will consist of:

  • ongoing research and creation
  • METABODY FORUM 2017 (in over 12 countries), consisting of workshops or seminars and public presentation in the form of peformances, installations, conferences, talks.
    • Multiplicity University/Metaformance Studies – conferences, symposiums, seminars, talks, publications
    • Metamedialabs/ontohacklabs – laboratories of minor perceptions
    • Metatopias – collaborative cocreation environments involving bodies selfconstruction of flexinamic architectures, and public space
  • online documentation and publications


Thematic Structure

  1. Introductions.

0.1 Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene, Algoricene, (A)morphocene.

  1. Genealogy of algorithmic life – past, present and future:

1.1 History of algorithmic life – grided environments since Greece and perspectival vision.

1.2 How algorithms shape the current world – automated decisions. Algorithms and the history of information systems, computation, signals, software, hardware, code. qualitative and quantitative data, processing and data ontology, algorithms vs data.

1.3 The future of algorithmic life – where it may be going – singularities or multiplicities? emergent life forms? emergent algorithms? Hyperalgorythms as new life form?

  1. Ontology of algorithmic life

2.1 Body and matter of algorithms – material code and material infrastructure  – movement of algorithms – form, pattern and code.

2.2 The changing nature of algorithms, from static to emergent and hyperconnected – Hyperalgorithms – the dynamic reality of algorithms and information.

2.3. Algorithmic perceptionssensors – space time – machine perception – rationalised and quantified sensibility and perception.

  1. Politics and ethics of algorithmic life

3.1 Algorithms, automated decisions and lack of consent – the unknowability of emergent patterns – the new logic of computation.

3.2 Predictive, preemptive algorithms and the modulation of desire – capture and feedback – the new war scenarios since 9/11. The humans behind the algorithms? The humans after the algorithms? Preemptive capture and the new turns to integration, assimilation and enclosure politics in the Big Data era.

3.3 Towards an ontological ethics of Big Data and Hyperalgorithms. Singularity, Multiplicity and contestable futures.

  1. Aesthetics and ecology of algorithmic life

4.1 Ecology of algorithms – Perceptual ecologies – Algorithmic frames of capture – How to afford open ecologies where difference may proliferate beyond normalisation or preemptive capture. Work together with Refugees, neurodiversity, sexual minorities, precariousness, indigenous peoples. How to afford neurodiverse ecologies in the Algoricene. Metatherapies focusing on not normlising or controlling the bodies but facilitating indeterminate relational ecologies.

4.2 Modes of activism – from criptography to becoming illegible – ambiguity and complexity – indeterminacy – counterreductive moves

4.3 Aesthetic and artistic projects addressing the above involving the body, public space, temporality, perception, co-creation environments, selfconstruction techniques and tools, replicable methodologies and processes. Performance and Metaformance.