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Digital Media and Machinic Cultures


Admission requirements

This course is open to students from the ResMA Arts and Culture and the ResMA Literary Studies. The course is also listed as a NICA Core Course open to ResMA students. NICA enrollments are prioritized. For more info see: NICA website


The rise of the networked computer in the global West has forced us to rethink a series of concepts and conceptual distinctions that have long dominated the humanities and the arts (concepts such as representation, meaning, ideology, structure/ agency, subject/ object, production/ reception). It has also led to the introduction of new modes of thinking, derived from such fields as cybernetics, information theory and systems theory, that often challenge the traditional humanistic focus on hermeneutics and interpretation, offering new concepts to think with (e.g. operation, capture, embodiment, affect, assemblage, individuation, affordance, obfuscation, noise, interference).

The aim of this course is to come to terms – conceptually, if not psychologically – with the machine-centric logic of our present-day culture, offering new ways of understanding the transforming and transformative relations between digital media, new imaging technologies, the art and the political today. To this end, we will read a range of classic texts, including Marx’ “fragment on machines” (from the Grundrisse) and the French post-structuralist and Italian post-operaist though it inspired (Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard; Hardt, Negri, Lazzarato, Berardi, Esposito). We will also look into the more recent debates about machinic modes of mediation, touching on topics such as surveillance and capture; machine learning, pattern recognition, and big data; critique, noise and disruption; disconnection and withdrawal; and new forms of fatigue, burn-out and depression (the list of authors is expanding but may include Agre, Amoore, Apprich, Berrardi, Birchall, Brunton and Nisselbaum, Chabott, Chun, Cvekovich, Fisher, Galloway, Halpern, Han, Hayles, Kaun, Karppi, Parisi, Rouvroy, Steyerl, Stiegler, Zuboff). To anchor our analysis we will read these, and other fringe political texts (the invisible committee, dark enlightenment, accelerationism) along and juxtaposed with relevant artworks, films, songs and novels, so as to broach the ethical, political and psychological questions that digital media and machinic cultures give rise to today.

Course objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student

  • has mastered a critical purchase on the standing debates on digital media, new imaging technologies, and machinic cultures in relation to the arts and the political in the modern period and beyond;

  • has acquainted themselves with classical and current debates within this field;

  • has acquired a advanced set of methodological tools and theoretical concepts that allows them to carry out research in the field of digital media, the arts, and theory independently;

  • is able to demonstrate their knowledges and advanced skills in a series of written and verbal assignments.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


Three assignments and in-class participation.
This course is completed with a series of small para-academic writing assignments (a contribution to our listicals, counter-archive and blog) and a podcast (group assignment). In-class participation is mandatory.


  • Assignment 1 (50%): a series of individual short para-academic writing assignments

  • Assignment 2 (50%): a podcast, recorded and edited in groups of three to four students addressing a topic relevant to the content of this course (approx 20 minutes)

  • In-class participation is mandatory a precondition for finalising this class.


The resit consists of the same subtests as the first opportunity.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Readings will be made available on Brightspace.


For information about registering for this course, see: NICA website

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal