about

Hi, I’m Emma, welcome to my website.

I’m a PhD candidate in ASPECT and instructor in the Political Science department at Virginia Tech. My research is interdisciplinary, spanning political theory, continental philosophy and STS. My dissertation addresses the epistemic impact of digital technology by exploring the use of qualitative, non-digital methods in psychedelic drug research. A web-based version of my curriculum vitae is at this link.

I am also a freelance writer and musician. Sometimes I post original recordings and writings here. The earliest content is from 2014.

Otherwise:

Here are links to select recent publications
My academia.edu homepage has academic content, including teaching materials
Music: http://stamm.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @turing_tests
I like it when people put things here
New for 2018, this site has a blogroll! Yes, like it’s 2003. Check it
And you can contact me via email: stamm@vt.edu.

Thanks for visiting!

— Emma Stamm

writing warnings

[0] Fact: writing is made of words, not ideas.

[1] “Nothing is like an idea so much as an idea” — Bishop Berkeley

[2] Fact: writingideas, and content all refer to different entities.

[3] “I myself prefer an Argentine fantasy. God did not create a Book of Nature of the old sorts Europeans imagined. He wrote a Borgesian library, each book of which is as brief as possible, yet each book of which is inconsistent with every other. For each book, there is some humanly accessible bit of Nature [‘the natural’] such that that book, and no other, makes possible the comprehension, prediction and influencing of what’s going on” — Ian Hacking on Borges and Berkeley

[4] The writing I like cuts through the hell of sameness that is the digital space (and capitalism! Capital writ large)

[5] Sometimes it says nothing … (from John Cage’s book Silence)

[6] “All great writers are great deceivers” — Vladimir Nabokov

[7] Magic is stronger when it remains in the occult, and writers have to be careful as they pick from their spellbook. Like the joke about jazz, it’s what you don’t hear that counts.

////note that this post is old, stuck to the top of the site for ★ dark purposes ★

For what I really think about writing see Mark Fisher

 

goth still matters

My favorite essay from the k-punk book is online! (Exclamation point because it’s so good!)

http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/005622.html

A brief, dumb interpretation: goth exhibitionism denies interiority to the nth degree. Goth is interchangeable with signs and machines — it’s pure surface, sign value exchange and spectacle.

Goth is an aesthetics based on the rejection of false illumination. It’s most sincere when it points out that transparency as a cultural ideal is impossible and hypocritical. Which makes it a good foil for the transparency society, the neoliberal regime of the self.

##

Mark Fisher’s Goth:

A very 2018 version (which should be enjoyed like a goth anime, not a manifesto for / against A.I.):

😎

machine learning & the algorithmic cancellation of the future

I will be at the Western Political Science Association Conference in San Diego, 18-20 April 2019. Here’s the abstract for my talk:

Machine Learning and the Algorithmic Cancellation of the Future

In this paper I explore the impact of machine learning algorithms on the data they process. I make a two-part argument. First, that the inductive basis of machine learning functionality forecloses their capacity to produce outcomes with no ancestral relation to their training data. This has a protracted winnowing effect on content, which is a political concern due to the growing presence of machine learning algorithms in various facets of communal and individual life. I maintain that the a priori restrictions placed by algorithms on data constitute an emerging hegemonic order. Second, that an intervention in this scenario can be staged through an examination of non-digital, interpretative and self-reflexive methods in empirical science. The restrictions of machine learning, I offer, is drawn into high relief by exploring scientific studies in which it is deemed methodologically insufficient. This reading indicates predicates of intelligence which allegedly “intelligent” automation fails to self-generate.

I substantiate the first part of my argument with work from three philosophers of digital media. Antoinette Rouvroy writes on “algorithmic governance,” the automated retraction of possibility from probability in digital content. Matteo Pasquinelli argues that machine learning-based systems, including A.I., cannot be intelligent, as their inductive functionality does not compass the creativity which constitutes genuine intelligence. Adrian Mackenzie applies a Foucauldian reading to algorithmic determinacy. These thinkers provide me with materials for the second part, in which I use specific cases to theorize non-digital methodology in empirical science as a challenge to the algorithmic cancellation of the future.

***

In other news, my review of Andrew Feenberg’s Technosystem: The Social Life Of Reason has been published in the Humanities and Technology Review .

come home

Brighton, England, October 2018

Jackie said she liked the color of my sweater
I’m glad I have her taste
tell you what it means

Her son’s finest hour
playing Iago in the broken room
surging up wire to string trainers
with his studio of sadists
turning out from in
their film and hair make up my skin

May the warp and weft carry
on toward my own and all
America, the only place
I’ve ever been really

Thin membranes for the sun
the plastic West
singing crystal beads for color vision
that’s what she’s paid for
the shroud of living

But the same bright fleece
was just the zipper’s candle free
to glow through them and you and me

Two fingers pinched
a solitary softness
her material signs and
his half-crimes

May they spin in peace forever
and their curses break never

freedom from the known

Technology and science are valves for economic production. They can’t be the guiding themes of the content which is supposed to fuel our imagination for the future.

Some of my thoughts on this are a little woowoo. I really believe there exist imaginative realms which, on one hand, contain nothing resembling the known universe, but on the other are accessible, capable of being rendered in art, and which can guide our political imagination. It’s worth it to look further than the recognizable motifs of technoscience.

This is why contemplation and interiority are subversive. You might fall into an internal world — a place populated with expressive but non-representative forms — that you want to drag into the real one.

I can’t make this post without calling out sci-fi specifically. I’m sorry. I just don’t think it’s as politically powerful as everyone says it is.

Really want to re-record this. Lyrics from As You Like It:

I was seven of the nine days out of the wonder before you came,
for look here what I found on a palm tree;
I was never so berhymed since Pythagoras’ time,
that I was an Irish rat,
which I can hardly remember—

Hi from Germany. Frankfurt is unseasonably warm, hotter than New York right now. It feels like Southern Virginia at the time I left. I was in Berlin and Poland (Sczcecin) last weekend. It was not much colder in either city. Trying not to think about climate change feels like trying not to be human.

Even if I could measure time by shifts in weather, it would still be hard to believe a month has passed since I got here. My German is still really bad.

o-culus needs some work on the administrative end. For that reason, this is probably going to be the last post until I can devote a whole day to tinkering with it (/praying I don’t lose half a year’s worth of content in a shift over to a new hosting system).

When the site is back I’ll start posting more regularly 🙂

I’ll be speaking at two conferences in October, some information here:

***

Oct 1-2 —> Intelligent Futures: Automation, AI and Cognitive Ecologies, at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. Here is the conference site. Talk title and abstract:

Psychedelic Science and The Question of Artificial Intelligence

In this paper, I argue that qualitative research on the medical application of psychedelic drugs problematizes the positivist, generalizing and inductive principles of machine learning as a basis for artificial intelligence. I draw from interdisciplinary scholarship that uses qualitative methods, and in particular interpretative phenomenological analysis, as a hermeneutic device for research on the use of psychedelics in psychiatry. I combine precepts of machine learning with developments in psychedelic research to explore the inherent problems of generalizing psychedelic verbal reports data in the classification systems of A.I. classification. In doing so, I demonstrate that the use of qualitative methods in psychedelic drug research may envelop an immanent critique of the notion that machine-learning based predictive systems can be intelligent. I begin with an overview of the “psychedelic renaissance,” the recent resurgence of interest in the medicinal use of psychedelics. This includes an emerging paradigm which recognizes the need for qualitative and abductive theorization, including methods from phenomenology, poetics and critical theory as tools to interpret the deeply subjective narrative data that is evaluated in psychedelic studies. From there, I explore axioms of machine learning and artificial intelligence that emphasize the ways in which generalization and inductive reasoning are essential to algorithms that effectively “predict” the future. Assessing dynamics from psychedelic research that stand against pure inductive reasoning alongside the empirics of machine learning as a basis for A.I., I offer that the former can work toward a theorization of the possible epistemic limitations of artificial intelligence.

Oct 15-16 —> Deep Learning and Explanation in Cognitive Science, at the Institute of Philosophy in Prague, Czech Republic. No conference website or program available yet. Talk title and abstract:

Screens of Perception: Psychedelic Science, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

In this talk, I will argue that qualitative research on the medicinal use of psychedelic drugs problematizes the development of data models, which in turn presents challenges for the predictive functions of machine learning and artificial intelligence. I draw from interdisciplinary scholarship that uses qualitative methods to interpret research on psychedelic substances, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin mushrooms, as assistive devices for psychotherapy. I combine precepts of machine learning with developments in psychedelic research to explore the complexities of generalizing research in contemporary psychedelic science. This includes subject-reported accounts from those undergoing ineffable and difficult-to-predict experiences. In doing so, I demonstrate that the use of qualitative methods in psychedelic drug research may offer a critique to machine-learning based predictive systems based on classification.

I begin with an overview of the “psychedelic renaissance,” the recent resurgence of interest in the medicinal use of psychedelics. Here, I offer a brief history of medicinal experiments with psychedelic drugs that begins in the twentieth century. I note that for legal reasons, 2014 marked the first LSD study approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in forty years, and that several related developments have occurred within the past five years. This includes an emerging paradigm which recognizes the need for qualitative, hermeneutic and deductive modes of theorizations. These includes interpretive methods inspired by phenomenology, poetics and aesthetic philosophy. I directly cite published research which speaks to their efficacy as interpretive devices on data from psychedelic psychotherapy.

From there, I explore axioms of machine learning and artificial intelligence that emphasize the ways in which generalization and inductive reasoning are essential to algorithms that effectively “predict” the future. Evaluating dynamics from psychedelic research that stand against pure inductive reasoning alongside the empirics of machine learning as a basis for artificial intelligence, I offer that the former can work toward a theorization of the possible philosophical limitations of the latter. As such it is an intervention in the notion that mentality may be replicated in data and algorithmic systems that stipulate predictive functions.
These talks will be similar, although the latter more narrowly focused on machine learning.

 

***

I’ll also be traveling a bit to other places — Scotland, after the conference in Brighton, to see family and Amsterdam at the beginning of November for research. If anyone is reading this and wants to give me a good excuse to return to Berlin, my email is open..

acid communism

Yet another mainstream news article about Silicon Valley’s fetish for microdosing LSD. I’m kind of sick of hearing about this trend. (Article posted here only for the sake of reference; see thumbnail below).

Meanwhile I’ve been getting more into Mark Fisher, reading Ghosts Of My Life for the first time. I just learned that at the time of his death he was working on a book called Acid Communism. Some words about this from Plan C, a crew of anti-authoritarian communists based in the UK:

Alongside feminist consciousness raising [Mark Fisher] also identifies the various ways in which class consciousness was raised. To these he then adds the consciousness changing effects of psychedelia, which worked through pop culture to embed a notion that reality is plastic and changeable. Wow, what a move. Before his death Mark was writing a book on post-capitalist desire called Acid Communism so we can see that this was no mere digression but an opening up of whole new areas of enquiry. Where can we find post-capitalist desire expressing itself today? How can we help that desire to be realised? ( Full article here, https://www.weareplanc.org/blog/towards-acid-communism/ )

It seems intuitive enough to me that, although it may manifest itself in the culture industry, psychedelia is a vector for post-capitalist desire. You don’t even need the chemical experience. Psychedelic music, art and sentiment encapsulates so much that shouldn’t technically have any life under digitized capitalism. That capital wants to claim LSD as its own via the tech industry is no surprise, and something tells me we shouldn’t bother preparing for what happens if acid-dropping entrepreneurs turn onto communism.

These days I’m writing about psychedelics not only as palliatives, but producers of knowledge applicable beyond the scope of curative medicine. As in Stanislav Grof’s remark that LSD and other psychedelics may be for psychology what the microscope was for biology or the telescope for astronomy — not just a bandage, but a magnifying lens. If psychedelics can illuminate hidden aspects of cognition, maybe they can tell us something about cognitive-computational capitalism, about which Matteo Pasquinelli is writing a monograph. I can infer from his essay on Glass Bead that he connects the theories of mind writ large in artificial intelligence to a distinctly economic logic. At the very least it seems the notion of a fully-computable consciousness, naturalized as Real Objective Science in the field of A.I., expedites technologized capitalism.

Silicon Valley is going to do its thing whether it has acid or not. Just like how cryptocurrency folks are getting chummy with psychonauts although right now it looks like acid needs Bitcoin more than Bitcoin needs acid. (Fwiw, I assume Bitcoiners are funding psychedelic research in the interest of their productivity). Positioned at the margins of all these discourses, I’ve worried about alienating myself from one camp or another. I don’t want to fly the flag of technology, psychedelic science, or leftism too high, since those groups normally keep their distance from one another, and my work relies on all of them. This mutual exclusivity is nonsense, of course; their interests coalesce in streams of politics and culture fed anew every day.  Mark Fisher taught me.

I like that Fisher identifies desire to be the grail of post-capitalist inquiry. It takes power of an erotic magnitude to slice through the banality of politics / culture in their current forms. An almost sexual desire to live in a pro-social world. To explore consciousness in peace and fascination, to develop perspectives that don’t prioritize competition and metrical contrast with other people. To not only give according to our abilities and take according to our needs, but to provide everything for everyone. Everything for everyone.