On Thursday 24 January 2019, Dr Zara Dinnen (Queen Mary University of London) will present a paper on ‘Userness’, as part of the monthly Research Seminars for the Modern and Contemporary Literature Research Group.
In this talk, Dinnen considers how the 'user-subject' comes to figure in culture, and the kinds of political agency afforded the user-subject in relation to the citizen subject. Users (consumers and users of digital media) are subjects in that they are what technology is “for”, and what technology produces; userness is an affordance of digital culture. Working with computer science, design theory, and Sara Ahmed’s work on use, affordance, and orientation, Zara Dinnen wants to think about the speculative and normative conditions of the user-subject. The user is imagined by a programmer prior to their becoming user. As such, a user is both the before and the for of computation.
One of the ways we most frequently and dynamically encounter computer users in popular culture is through the figure of the hacker, and in the context of a hacker imaginary. In the hacker imaginary, hackers are a speculative expression of possible relations between citizen-subjects and modes of computational governance. In this talk, Dinnen will think with the user-subject through the genre of the hacker memoir—a genre particularly concerned with userness as an emergent condition.
biography Zara Dinnen
Zara Dinnen is Lecturer in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature at Queen Mary University of London. She is author of The Digital Banal: New Media and American Literature and Culture (Columbia UP 2018); co-editor, with Robyn Warhol, of The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Narrative Theories (Edinburgh UP 2018); and author of articles and essays including most recently “The Face as Technology”, New Formations (Summer 2018), co-authored with Sam McBean.