SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing


Drucker, Johanna. SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing. Chicago:   University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Johanna Drucker’s SpecLab is a methodological investigation into the philosophy and application of speculative computing, galvanized within research efforts conducted at the University of Virginia with her colleague, Jerome McGann. Drucker describes speculative computing as an intervention into the relationship between aesthetic representation and subjective knowledge development. It aims to delineate the intellectual “superstructure” or dichotomy between formal, objective logic—or mathesis—often favoured within the practices of digital humanities— and aesthesis—individual thought that challenges authoritarian structures of intelligence (23). As static mechanisms within the organization and dissemination of data, Drucker asserts that digital information systems employed by the humanities—focused upon “functionality” rather than interactivity—problematically indoctrinate the parameters of user engagement through the projection of a cognitive monoculture; a concept which upon greater reflection prompts significant concerns within both scholastic and sociocultural spheres (17). By contrast, the scholar’s vision of speculative computing, and endeavors at SpecLab, boast a phenomenological impulse focused upon the connection between “aesthetic provocation” and human “inflection” (19). In short, Drucker advocates for the necessity of subjectivity within visually oriented learning projects.

Continue reading “SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing”