Anti-computing explores forgotten histories and contemporary forms of dissent – moments when the imposition of computational technologies, logics, techniques, imaginaries, utopias have been questioned, disputed, or refused. It also asks why these moments tend to be forgotten. What is it about computational capitalism that means we live so much in the present? What has this to do with computational logics and practices themselves? This book addresses these issues through a critical engagement with media archaeology and medium theory and by way of a series of original studies; exploring Hannah Arendt and early automation anxiety, witnessing and the database, Two Cultures from the inside out, bot fear, singularity and/as science fiction. Finally, it returns to remap long-standing concerns against new forms of dissent, hostility, and automation anxiety, producing a distant reading of contemporary hostility. At once an acute response to urgent concerns around toxic digital cultures, an accounting with media archaeology as a mode of medium theory, and a series of original and methodologically fluid case studies, this book crosses an interdisciplinary research field including cultural studies, media studies, medium studies, critical theory, literary and science fiction studies, media archaeology, medium theory, cultural history, technology history.
In the 2020s we live in an era of automationanxiety and automation fever (Bassett and Roberts, 2020 ). There are rising concerns around extant computational cultures, near-horizon developments, and longer-term predictions about computational futures. Anti-computing of various kinds is back with a vengeance. A new moment of urgency arises. Once again the contemporary moment is proclaimed as the time of make or break, the time for decisive action. Once again it is argued that technology will in short order crystallize into a good or bad
– governmental, cultural, social, academic – expressing or exposing hostility and concern about the digital. Arguably we are in a renewed age of amplified automationanxiety (Bassett and Roberts, 2020 ). Consider the endlessly multiplying channels across which this anxiety runs the (digital) production processes that make it (increasingly digital), or simply consider the growth in the number of sensors in the world since, say, Jaron Lanier's 2010
You are not a Gadget , which might have been an automationanxiety outlier and the latest internet scare
; this came to seem essential to understanding and constructing anti-computing. But why look back? Following the turn of the decade, as I complete this book, there is abundant hostility to computing, anxiety about its impacts, and rejection of its visions in the here and now. Automationanxieties around the future of work are fuelling a new anti-computational turn, data-surveillance issues haunt formal politics, and there is rising concern over screen ‘addiction’ in the young. Limit points are being declared and last-chance saloons announced. The massacre in