Recent...

 The Inhumanist Manifesto: Extended Play (Techne Lab, 2017)

'The Inhumanist Manifesto', Media Theory, Vol. 1, No.1, 2017.

The Uberfication of the University (Open access Forerunners series version available here; as of April 4 2017 an interactive Manifold series version is available here.)

Públicos Fantasma - La Naturaleza Política Del Libro - La Red (Mexico: Taller de Ediciones Económicas, 2016) - new book, co-authored with Andrew Murphie, Janneke Adema and Alessandro Ludovico. 

'Posthumanities: The Dark Side of "The Dark Side of the Digital"' (with Janneke Adema), in Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, eds, Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities, Journal of Electronic PublishingVol. 9, No.2, Winter, 2016.

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here in Media Gifts or in Coventry University's online repository CURVE here 

Radical Open Access 

performative project Janneke Adema has put together, based on our ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’ article for New Formations, Number 78, Summer, 2013. 

'What Does Academia.edu's Success Mean for Open Access: The Data-Driven World of Search Engines and Social Networking', Ctrl-Z: New Media Philosophy, no.5, 2015.

Norimichi Hirakawa, The Irreversible [4-Dimensional Version] 2016

Biography

Gary Hall is a cultural theorist working in the areas of art, politics and technology. He is Professor of Media and Performing Arts in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at Coventry University, UK, where he is director of the postdigital arts and humanities research centre/studio, The Post Office (a disruptive iteration of the Centre for Disruptive Media). He is author of The Inhumanist Manifesto (Techne Lab, 2017), Pirate Philosophy (MIT Press, 2016), The Uberfication of the University (Minnesota UP, 2016), Digitize This Book! (Minnesota UP, 2008), and Culture in Bits (Continuum, 2002). He is also co-author of Públicos Fantasma - La Naturaleza Política Del Libro - La Red (Taller de Ediciones Económicas, 2016) and Open Education (Rowman and Littlefield International, 2014), and co-editor of Experimenting (Fordham UP, 2007) and New Cultural Studies: Adventures in Theory (Edinburgh UP, 2006). 

In 1999 he co-founded the critical theory journal Culture Machine. In 2006 he co-founded Open Humanities Press (OHP). He also co-edits OHP's Liquid Books series and the Jisc-funded Living Books About Life series.

He has given lectures and seminars at institutions around the world including the Australian National University, Columbia University, European University Institute, University of Heidelberg, University of Calfornia, Irvine, K.U. Leuven, Lund University, Monash University, New York University, University of Southern California, the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the Wellcome Collection in London.  With over thirty peer-reviewed publications in edited books and academic journals including American LiteratureAngelakiCultural StudiesJournal of Visual CultureNew FormationsThe Oxford Literary Review and Radical Philosophy, his work has been translated into Chinese, French, Japanese, Turkish, Russian, Spanish and Slovenian. He is currently developing a series of politico-institutional interventions that draw on digital media to actualise, or creatively perform, critical theory; and completing a new monograph, Data Commonism vs ÜberCapitalism.

Hall has written on the commons, copyright, cultural analytics, data, metadata, digital capitalism, digital humanities, the history and future of the book, media archaeology, new materialism, open access, open education, piracy, the posthuman, posthumanities, Marxism, post-Marxism, psychoanalysis, the quantified self, the sharing economy, secrecy, the idea of the university, and on the philosophy of Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, Lyotard, Hardt and Negri, Mouffe, Stiegler and Braidotti.
 

He is associated with the development of a number of concepts and critical practices, including open medialiquid theoryliving booksradical open accessthe microentrepreneur of the selfaffirmative disruptiondisruptive humanitiesmasked mediaübercapitalism, and pirate philosophy

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Philosophy

My research is characterised by its experimentation with:

  • Operating according to on a nonprofit philosophy. For example, Open Humanities Press (OHP) is a Community Interest Company that makes leading works of contemporary critical theory available worldwide on a free (gratis) open access basis, and many of them on a reuse (libre) basis too. Launched publicly in 2008, the OHP community currently consists of nineteen journals  and to date has published over thirty 'traditional' open access (OA) books. Meanwhile, the Radical Open Access Collective represents an alternative OA ecosystem of which Open Humanities Press is a part. A community of not-for-profit presses, journals and other projects, the Radical OA Collective seeks to build a more politically progressive future for open access based on experimenting with non-profit and scholar-led approaches to publishing.
  • Acting in a non-rivalrous, non-competitive fashion to explore new models for property, ownership and the economy. This involves OHP sharing its expertise and publications with other open access publishers, for example. But these new models also include the collective use of knowledge and materials associated with online file sharing networks, shadow libraries, and so-called internet piracy.
  • Generating projects that are concerned, not only with representing or critiquing the world, but also with intra-acting with it in order to make (other) things happen. 
One of the terms I've used to characterize these performative projects is  'media gifts'. Along with the already mentioned Culture Machine journal, Open Humanities Press and Radical Open Access Collective, they include 
Liquid BooksLiquid Theory TVLiving Books About Life, Culture Machine Live, Photomediations: An Open Book, and after.video. Together, these media gifts form a network of books, journals, presses, podcasts, videos, websites, communities and collectives that are engaged in organising and shaping critical theory. 
 

The projects with which various collaborators and myself are involved are not confined to the world of theory and criticism, though. They constitute a plurality of forms of intervention that respond to specific issues across a number of different sites: art, activism, education, business, culture, politics, technology, the media. Their shared aim is to disarticulate the existing playing field and foster instead a variety of antagonistic spaces that contribute to the development of counter-institutions and counter-environments. The reason it's important to produce such a range of different interventions is because, as Chantal Mouffe puts it, the 'counter-hegemonic struggle is a process involving a multiplicity of ruptures'. What these different performative media projects have in common is they are all characterised by a willingness to open up an unconditional space for thinking about politics and the political beyond the ways in which they have conventionally been conceived. This is what is meant by the hyper-political.

The political here is not merely about the kind of intended consequences and effects that can be articulated in advance. The political is something that has to be invented and created in relation to specific practices, in particular contingent situations and contexts, by performing the associated decisions, and otherwise doing things that may be unanticipated and unpredictable--and which are thus beyond analysis. There is something artistic and poetic about this invention: it's not just theoretical or philosophical. Hence my interest in poeticity and singularity.

Critical artists and critical artistic practices certainly have a crucial role to play in society through opening up spaces where it’s possible to subvert existing configurations of power, and elaborate alternatives through the construction of new practices and subjectivities. They can thus help make new social relations possible. At the same time the reinvention of human subjectivity should not be restricted to artistic practices. It’s important we reinvent subjectivity in other ways and places too: with forms of practice that are associated more with science, business, politics, the economy and the media--not forgetting ‘theory’, of course. Theory can’t be just about critical analysis. As authors we have the responsibility to construct new practices and new subjectivities too. This is why I often describe these media gifts projects as operating at the intersections of art, theory, politics and media.

To this end, my current work-in-progress, provisionally titled Data Commonism vs. ÜberCapitalism, does not merely offer a critique of the for-profit sharing and gig economy businesses of platform capitalism. It is also part of a performative media project designed to intra-act with other texts and objects in the world in order to help invent a different, more caring future: for the sharing and gig economies; for our towns and cities; but also for post-industrial, post-capitalist society. The aim is to make a counter-hegemonic intervention by re-articulating the situation in a new configuration, thus affirmatively disrupting digital capitalism so that we might begin to replace Uber, Airbnb, Deliveroo et al with a multi-polar consortium of counter-information and data platforms. Among other things, Data Commonism vs. ÜberCapitalism asks: how can we work collaboratively to invent new ways of organising platforms, institutions, and communities that don’t just repeat the anti-political reductionism and individualistic, liberal democratic humanism that characterize other accounts of community and the Commons? (And I would include those associated with platform cooperativism in this.) What if we were to devise our own collaborative community or data Commons as a way of creating an actual, affective point of potentiality and transformation--not least in order to counter übercapitalism and its for-profit sharing and gig economies?  

  • Interrogating those fundamental propositions that are taken for granted by theories of data, the digital and the Commons.

The word 'data' has its English origins in the mid-17th century as the plural of the Latin word 'datum'. The latter means a proposition that is assumed, given, or taken for granted, upon which a theoretical framework can be constructed or a conclusion drawn as a result of reasoning or calculation. 

It is those propositions and datum points that our culture assumes as a given in order to construct theories and draw conclusions about data, software and algorithms that we are committed to investigating. They include the 'digital', in many ways now an irrelevant attribute given that nearly all media involves 'becoming with' digital information processing--as indeed do things as diverse as our entertainment, transport, air traffic control, banking, fuel, food and fresh water-supply systems. Other datum points are the human, technology, the printed text, the network, copyright and IP. For example, who does the measuring when it comes to data and who is this measuring for? Conventionally, it is the human subject. (It is people who are the presumed viewers of data visualizations. So these visualizations contain an implicit humanism.) With what is the measuring performed? With technology and tools seen as separate from the human (which is the case even if the data is machine read). How are the measurements--the data--recorded, published and disseminated? Via print texts and computerized information networks. How is their circulation controlled? It is controlled through copyright.

The etymology of the word data thus raises a significant issue for the idea of a data Commons. Datum points that are at risk of being taken for granted in the construction of such a theoretical framework include capitalism, liberalism, humanism, freedom, democracy, community, communism, and even the Commons itself. 

  • Engaging with the existing institutions (e.g. the law, politics, the press) so as to transform them.

Since they are the institutions to which theorists are most closely tied, in our critical-creative work my colleagues and I focus in particular on the university, the library, and the scholarly publishing industry. In doing so we interrogate their associated liberal humanist values, protocols and practices, based as they are on ideas of the individual proprietorial author, authenticity, the codex print book, and the finished (and finishable) static object. The intention is not only to question but also to transform what it means to create, publish and disseminate knowledge and research. Some of our projects thus concentrate on the book, fixity, and copyright, others on educationteaching, the archive, and academic social networks.  

My 2016 book Pirate Philosophy, for example, draws attention to the material factors of intellectual labour. In marked contrast to the 'zombie' discourses of much new materialism, the latter include for me the work of 'publishers, editors, peer-reviewers, designers, copy-editors, proof readers, printers, publicists, marketers, distributors, retailers' (as well as that of the 'agency workers, packers, and so-called "ambassadors"' in Amazon’s warehouses). It also takes in 'the financial investments made' when producing, publishing and distributing knowledge and research, 'the energy and resources used, the plants, minerals, dyes, oils, petroleum distillates, salts, compounds and pigments, the transport, shipping and container costs, the environmental impact, and so forth'. Meanwhile Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities, a special video issue of the Journal of Electronic Publishing I produced with Janneke Adema, engages critically with the traditional modes of scholarly communication such as the seminar and seminar series, the talk, 'paper', or presentation, and the journal issue, as well as with the individualistic nature of most humanities (and, indeed, posthumanities) research

It is important to actively engage with institutions. Simply abandoning or rejecting them in favour of establishing places outside where 'the common' can be achieved risks our work being co-opted by these institutions all the more. Consider the way the Autonomist Marxist theorists Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri support the aggressive, profit-maximizing capitalist publishing companies Amazon and Penguin Random House. There is little sign of these post-operaist thinkers transforming the accepted common sense rules of the game regarding how theory and criticism is produced, published and exchanged (i.e., as original, rational, linearly written and organised, copyrighted books), so that a new politics of publishing can be articulated based on the ideas of communism and the Commons they advocate for other spaces.

From this point of view, and as as Pauline van Mourik Broekman, Ted Byfield, Shaun Hides, Simon Worthington and myself argue in Open Education:  

  1. there is no outside to the university in any simple sense, this idea of an outside being itself a university (that is, a philosophical) idea, even if it is one that has not always been theorized rigorously.
  2. efforts to occupy a place or space that is autonomous from the traditional university (whether they are physically located outside the institution or not) too often end up unwittingly trapped inside it, in that they unconsciously repeating many of its structures and problems. In particular, such efforts tend to take insufficient account of the way many of those involved in establishing such supposedly autonomous institutions are themselves the products of, and maintain a relationship with, the traditional university--through ongoing links to it as a site of employment and funding, and through a reliance on the research that is produced within it. 
  3. attacking the ‘public’ university poses a danger of lending force to neoliberalism’s practice of bolstering global corporate institutions while simultaneously undermining nearly all others.
  4. there is a case to be made for supporting and defending the university as one of the few remaining public spaces where difficult, challenging and avowedly non-commercial ideas can still be developed, explored and disseminated. As the recent protests by university students and cleaners in the U.K. and elsewhere attest, the university is also one of the places where the imposition of neoliberalism and its emphasis on production, privatisation and the interests of the market is being struggled over and actively resisted.
  5. creating autonomous spaces outside of the established institutions risks leaving the traditional university--along with the scholarly publishing industry and the library--in place and unquestioned.   

 

  • Using numerous and at times conflicting figures, voices, registers, and semiotic functions--multiple differential authorial 'I's, as it were--in order to transform my own work processes and produce something different: not only from the 'microentrepreneur of the self' übercapitalism is making us become; but also from the liberal humanist subjectivity that is the default alternative adopted by even the most supposedly radical of theorists. 

In Pirate Philosophy, by way of response to this dilemma, I adopt the persona or mask of the pirate, someone who for the ancient Greeks and Romans does not belong to a ‘community tied… to a clearly delimited territory’, but rather lives a more fluid life, and who tries, tests, teases and troubles as well as attacks. (Why attack? Didier Eribon articulates it best when, praising Jean-Paul Sartre for having insulted Raymond Aron, he stresses the importance of ‘daring to break with the conventions of polite academic “discussion”—which always works in favour of “orthodoxy”, and its reliance on “common sense” and what seems “self-evident” in its opposition to heterodoxy and critical thought.’)

Meanwhile, in The Uberfication of the University--which is where the concept of the microentrepreneur of the self is outlined--I articulate my subjectivity more in terms of the experimenterAs Jean-François Lyotard makes clear, the latter differs from the intellectual in that they are not endeavoring to speak for a universal subject, be it 'man, humanity, the nation, the people, the proletariat'. In fact, an experimenter does not have a pre-given addressee, whether this is known as a public, political party, readership, audience, or market, that they are trying to communicate with, win over, and seduce. The experimenter for Lyotard is by definition involved in questioning the limits of pre-constituted fields to ask, what is art, writing, thought--or, in my case, what is theory, and what is it to be a critical theorist?  

So I'm not trying to come up with a big, new, masculine philosophical system or ontology of my own; something to rival those of speculative realism, media archaeology or 'the stack', say--which of course is what theorists and philosophers traditionally do. (Object-oriented philosophy, new materialism, accelerationism, et al are deeply conservative philosophies in this respect.) I am more interested in exploring multiple different ways of being and of doing things as a theorist: i.e.  different ways for theorists to organise themselves and their subjectivities. This is why when it comes to articulating this philosophy, I move between a range of concepts and theories: new cultural studies, open media, hyperpolitics, disruptive humanities, posthumanities, pirate philosophy, masked media and so on. Ideas and passages are repeated across my work to promote hetergeneous, non-linear forms of engaging with it.

One further point may help to explain a lot of what I’ve been saying here and the way I’ve been saying it. This concerns the profound implications of such a performative approach for our styles of writing. Because I’m not interested in making myself appear more human in my work, I provide very little in the way of autobiographical information as a means of peaking people’s interest and holding their attention. Next to nothing about my life, background, family, friends, pets, hobbies, holidays, where I live, where I’ve travelled to, or what’s happening with me. I don’t endeavour to tell a story or otherwise engage audiences with a first person journey or narrative, complete with plot, characters and suspense. I’m not interested in sharing what it feels like to be me, or in telling people about the conflicts and struggles I’ve overcome to get where I am, and how that process has changed me.

Nor do I create ‘conversation fodder’ or opportunities to form interpersonal relationships with me by using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter et al. I don’t make my work about people in the hope it will be shared on social media and that I'll  have a greater prospect of being 'liked'. I try to avoid anything that might have the effect of obviously humanising me, such as providing friendly photographs of myself, even though I know ‘Instagram photos with faces are 38% more likely to receive likes and 32% more likely to receive comments than photos without faces’.  

Since it’s clearly leading me to break many of the rules about how to attract and retain a 21st century audience, I realise a lot of this risks coming across as my being wilfully difficult and provocative, if not self-defeating in many respects. It’s certainly an approach that is likely to be counter-intuitive to many. And all the more so when one considers the value that is attached these days to being inclusive, accessible and instrumentally useful. But for me if I’m interested in transforming the dominant discourse network and its manufactured ‘common sense’ about how knowledge is created and circulated, then that's a chance I have to take.    

Besides, pressure may be placed on us by both our instiutions and government to act as public figures and convey the ‘usefulness’ of our work and how it impacts on ‘real life’ through the cultivation of relationships with journalists, the writing of easy-to-follow pieces for the press, appearing on radio and TV, even using blogs and social media to promote our work. Yet research shows that specialist knowledge is often not transferable, generalisable or even broadly applicable

So I’m quite prepared to produce texts that can be difficult and time-consuming to read and understand. That said, if we want to avoid falling passive victim to styles of writing that are already established in advance, we need to be careful not to simply substitute one set of rules and restrictions for another: those associated with the writing of long-form books of posthumanist theory, say. It’s for this reason that the work of my collaborators and myself does not necessarily adhere to predefined ideas concerning what forms a theoretical text can and cannot take. In fact it does always appear as writing. Depending on the particular situation and context, it might be a work of art, a piece of software, an organisation, an institution, even a business. It can also be more hybrid, multi-modal, and post-literary in form.

Yet for all my emphasis on performativity and hyperpolitics it is also crucial that we do not give up on critique. Instead of taking critique as yet another datum point, we need ask, along with Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, ‘What Is Critique?’. For both Foucault and Butler critique is an art, a practice, a doing, that entails ‘self-transformation’. To engage in critique is thus to do something different to what is usually attributed to it: i.e. the making of opposing, corrective arguments. To engage in critique is rather ‘to risk one’s very own formation as a subject’. To put it another way, 'if we lack the courage to practice the art of critique'--if we neurotically abandon, or enthusiastically advocate, the tradition of critique to which Kant and Adorno are seen as belonging because we associate it merely with identifying contradictions and arriving at judgements by uncovering the stupidity or ideological biases of others--'there is a danger of restricting ourselves primarily to the replication of what we already know and are and do'. The importance Foucault and Butler attach to critique as an art thus brings us back to one of the main datum points in theory and criticism: human subjectivity. 

I emphasize the significance of collaboration--rather than the cooperation promotoed by, among others, the platform cooperativism movement--for similar reasons. Strictly speaking, there is a crucial difference between cooperation and collaboration. In cooperation the project is something you help someone with: something they are working on, but which they are ultimately responsible for and that they own and can sell individually. In collaboration a collective owns the project jointly. But even more than that, collaboration disrupts the idea of the single, individual, unified author. As Florian Schneider articulates it: ‘While cooperation happens between identifiable individuals within and between organizations, collaboration expresses a differential relationship that is composed by heterogeneous parts which are defined as singularities: out of the ordinary, in a way that produces a kind of discontinuity and marks a point of unpredictability.’

Far from simply positioning my philosophy in a relation of contrast and opposition to that of competing thinkers, I frequently enact it by collaborating critically and creatively with the work of other contemporary political theorists: e.g, Raymond Williams, Richard Hoggart and Stuart Hall in Culture In Bits; Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in New Cultural Studies; Samuel Weber in Experimenting; Jodi Dean in Digitize This Book!; Bernard Stiegler and Rosi Braidotti in Pirate Philosophy; Chantal Mouffe in Data Commonism vs. ÜberCapitalism. It is a manner of doing things that ensures my theory is not always the same in every situation and circumstance. Instead it responds in singular ways to specific thinkers and specific issues across a number of different sites

Similarly, when I write ‘I’ here, I am not referring to myself in a naive sense, as if I am still operating according to a model of the sovereign, unified human author as individual creative genius. The projects I characterise as media gifts emerge out of my processual intra-active relations with a multitude of different actors, institutions and communities. To build on the work of Mark Amerika and Alfred North Whitehead, they can best be thought of as stimulating the development of a novel togetherness that comprises neither singularities, nor pluralities, nor collectivities. 

To decenter the human according to an understanding of subjectivity that perceives the latter as produced by complex meshworks of other humans, nonhumans, non-objects and non-anthropomorphic elements and energies (some of which may be beyond our knowledge), requires us to act differently as theorists from the way in which the majority of those associated with the posthuman, the nonhuman and the Anthropocene, act. We need to displace the humanist concepts that underpin our ideas of the author, the book and copyright, together with their accompanying practices of reading, writing, analysis and critique. And we need to do so by performing these concepts and practices differently in the ways in which we live, work and think as theorists. Otherwise we risk the human subject retaining a privileged place at the heart of our theory, along with an implicit and unexamined humanism. 

Approaches to the ‘posthumanities’ have been dominated by the 'posthuman Humanities' of Rosi Braidotti, Donna Haraway and Cary Wolfe. (A piratical engagement with the humanism of this version of critical posthuman theory can be found in Pirate Philosophy.) My proposal is that the above transformative conception of the human and the humanities may therefore be more productively articulated in terms of the inhuman and the inhumanities. The reason for this is that such a rhetorical and conceptual shift might enable us to better challenge the sovereign, unified, liberal humanist subject that serves as a datum point to so many theories--not just of the humanities, but of the posthuman and posthumanities, too. 

The use of the term 'inhuman’ also relates to way the human cannot be simply opposed to the nonhuman. Put far too quickly and crudely, there is no such thing as the nonhuman--or the human for that matter. Each is born out of its relation to the other. In this sense, the ‘nonhuman’ is already in (the) humanIf the inhuman equals the human intertwined with the nonhuman (be it technologies, animals, insects, plant life, fungi, compost, the environment or the cosmos), then the inhumanities are the humanities--only with this intra-active inhuman figure at their heart. In other words, the inhumanities are a way of acting, thinking and working that--rather than trying to ignore or otherwise deny it--actually takes account of and assumes an intra-active relation with the so-called nonhuman.