GSEJ Seminar: The Intuitive and the Counter-Intuitive

The second GSEJ/SSPSSR joint seminar will be held on Thursday 23 November in Cornwallis East Seminar 2.

GSEJ’s founding member, Professor Carolyn Pedwell will present her research on the interplay between affect and ideology in the history of artificial intelligence.

This is an in-person only event. Refreshments will be served at 16:00. The event will start at 16:15.

All are welcome. We also hope you can join us for an after-event drink at the Monument pub in Canterbury.


Title: The Intuitive and the Counter-Intuitive: AI and the Affective Ideologies of Common Sense

Abstract: Animating the relationship between affect and ideology in histories of artificial intelligence, this talk explores how the post-war quest to engineer common sense via computational means has profoundly shaped both the social logics of machine learning systems and the sensorial politics of everyday knowledge production. Focusing on the CyC project, a logic-based AI endeavour to ‘codify human common sense’ which began at the US-based Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation in 1984, and making links to MIT Media Lab’s Open Mind Common Sense Project inaugurated in 1999, I trace how the imperative within late twentieth century computer science to make intelligent systems more intuitive by translating implicit human knowledge into explicit machine knowledge involved not only mathematical and technological challenges but also affective, ideological, and socio-political ones. In tracking the interactions between intuition and common sense across these genealogies of machine intelligence, I tease out some of the key atmospheres, processes, and correlations via which AI technologies have become embedded with ideology, normativity, and prejudice at the levels of logic, procedure, and data. Through adjudicating the meanings of reason, truth, and perceptibility as matters of algorithmically calibrated fit and popularity, intelligent architectures are also radically reconstituting the intelligible and the sensible. Dwelling within these unfinished histories, however, also points to how inhabiting counter-intuitive tendencies may open up new possibilities for (un)common sense and distributed intuition within computational cultures.

Speaker’s bio

Carolyn Pedwell is Professor of Cultural Studies and Media at the University of Kent. She is the author of three monographs, Revolutionary Routines: The Habits of Social Transformation (McGill-Queens UP, 2021), Affective Relations: The Transnational Politics of Empathy (Palgrave, 2014), and Feminism, Culture and Embodied Practice (Routledge, 2010). Carolyn is also co-editor (with Gregory J. Seigworth) of The Affect Theory Reader 2: Worldings, Tensions, Futures (Duke UP, 2023). Carolyn’s recent Leverhulme Fellowship was ‘Digital Media and the Human: The Social Life of Software, AI, and Algorithms’. Her current research is developing a post-war affective genealogy of human-machine relations in Britain and North America focused on the shifting concept of intuition, with attention to ‘artificial intuition’.