Turing Fellowship 2021/22

These pages are designed to publish the unfolding research process of a project led by Professor Sunil Manghani as part of his Turing Fellowship 2021/22, and in connection to the editing of a special section for Theory, Culture & Society. The key pages comprise of :

Based upon a reading group and the open publication of research notes (see: index cards), the project traces aspects of the history of structuralism with a view to consider its significance for our current handling and advancement of AI, data and natural language processing. Key to the project is a re-reading of the influential anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, along with the noted cultural theorist Roland Barthes. Both thinkers, when turning to questions of culture, developed persuasive accounts for identifying specific ‘units of analysis’, which included sophisticated approaches to classification models, systems of thinking and cultural meaning. Currently, when we consider what data is being tracked and how it is being used it is often not particularly rewarding and is rarely accessible and meaningful to the individual’s associated with the data. There remains a space for more careful consideration and cross-disciplinary dialogue. (→ See also: Index Card #1: Initial Prompts)

Starting points for this research appear in Manghani’s analysis of the data artist Paolo Cirio (‘The Art of Paolo Cirio: Exposing New Myths of Big Data Structures’, Theory, Culture & Society, 2017, Vol. 34, No. 7-8, pp.197-214) and in a book chapter ‘Idiorrhythmy: An (Unsustainable) Aesthetics of Ethics’, which appears in Manghani’s co-edited volume Rhythm and Critique: Technics, Modalities, Practices (Edinburgh University Press, 2020). 

Prof. Sunil Manghani is Professor of Theory, Practice and Critique at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton (UK), where he has established the School’s Data Image Lab. He is co-editor of Journal of Visual Art Practice, managing editor of Theory, Culture & Society, and member of the Alan Turing AI & Arts interest group. His work brings together various aspects of critical theory, visual arts and image studies. His books include Image Studies (2013), Zero Degree Seeing (2019); India’s Biennale Effect (2016) and Farewell to Visual Studies (2015). He curated Barthes/Burgin at the John Hansard Gallery (2016), as well as Building an Art Biennale (2018) and Itinerant Objects (2019) at Tate Exchange, Tate Modern.