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.


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


death fetish

Yesterday morning I came close to crying because I remembered a fond, long-lost item of clothing. A dark blue dress with tiny stars all over it. Spaghetti straps, waist tie, floor length. Hippie wear. I wore it a lot the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I used to believe only good things happened to me when I had it on. It made me very sad to recall it now — along with the recollection came a certain feeling I as a grownup no longer can admit to. Nonsense and anticipation. The dress was a fetish.

I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to talk about death without treating it like a fetish. No one knows what happens after we die. If fetishes are processes by which causality is inferred from desire as opposed to reason — Wendy Chun’s definition — I don’t think we can. There’s no way to be reasonable about death and causality. Who among us can say we don’t have some desire with respect to death’s causes and effects? Desire to ward it off, desire to go to Heaven, desire for a nice death.

To talk about death is always to express a fetish. But because death is always constructed by desire, because the thinking of death is always a function of wishing, the fetish is hardly detectable.

Andrei Tarkovsky may have come closest to de-fetishizing death when he said that it’s meaningless. But that’s still a guess.

A culture deeply interested in death is one in need of innocent or inconsequential fetishes. Our own death-obsessed culture is one example. Mediatization lets the fetish creep out everywhere. Death and warfare emanate from every screen. That’s been true at least as long as I’ve been alive; one of my earliest memories is watching the Bosnian war on TV. We indulge an irrational part of ourselves with every dead body we see.

In Germany I bought a garnet ring from a metaphysical shop. I imagine that the ring brought me months’ worth of bad luck. I stopped wearing it two weeks ago and haven’t had a shitty day since. I know this isn’t real. Correlation as causation is so obviously a function of desire in this case. I think an unreasonable thought every time I almost wear it and then think, no, better not.

Genesis — birth — is a fetish too, but most of us care more about the future than the past. The unknowability of how and why we got here is a much less interesting riddle than where we’re going and why we have to die.

Prometheus and Hades have a stronghold on the mind. But I try to care more about the mysteries of the everyday than the big stuff. Like I want to know where that dress went, and although it’s really pretty I won’t wear that ring again.

Anticipated Stranger,

the bruise will stop by later.
For now, the pain pauses in its round,
notes the time of day, the patient’s temperature,
leaves a memo for the surrogate: What the hell
did you think you were doing? I mean . . .
Oh well, less said the better, they all say.
I’ll post this at the desk.

God will find the pattern and break it. — John Ashbery


Ashbery has been dead for over a year and I’m just now reading from more than Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror .

In other news pt. ii of my interview with The Psychedelic Times is up (the more substantial half I think).

interview on psychedelic times


Psychedelic Science, Ontological Mystery, and Political Ideology: A Conversation with Emma Stamm


This is part I. Not sure what the editors will put in part II but I think it’ll include some anecdotes from my ill-fated romance with blockchain technology (2015-2017  R I P).

Some of the information isn’t 100% correct, like my dissertation is not so much about psychedelics and A.I. — those topics segue into the work on data and epistemology. Also, fwiw I didn’t put that filter on my photo.

goth still matters

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


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 .

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.