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Computers Are Invocational Media: A Live Talk with Chris Chesher

From Turing's 1936 essay on computable numbers, the computing machine was envisioned as an automatic, rationalistic and mathematical calculator of finite symbolic values. With the emergence of the computer science discipline, the hegemony of the computation concept was assured.

Yet, in practice, these machines became experienced as almost magical mediators of language acts, spectacles and exercises of power with immediate and non-finite effects, offering users powers to satisfy everyday desires, but also subjecting them to surveillance and domination. In this paper, Chris Chesher inverts the computing paradigm to argue that this technology is a medium that constitutes user subjects as performers and recipients of invocationary acts. Drawing on media philosophy, speech act theory and science and technology studies, he analyses voice assistants, databases, the internet, artificial intelligence and virtual reality using the theory of invocational media, finding connections between their technical features, the experiences of users, and their inevitable association with unequal power relations.

Chris Chesher is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Cultures in the Discipline of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on the intersection of technology, culture, and society, with current interests in the transformation of restaurant service with robots, the cultural and semiotic aspects of social robots and the place of Al image generators in the history of visual culture. In earlier work, he has explored the implications of technology-mediated interactions in virtual reality, blogging, smartphone cameras, real estate promotion, voice assistants and computer games. His work sheds light on how these interactions reshape social dynamics, behaviors, and human identities.

Chesher's forthcoming book, Invocational Media: Reconceptualising the Computer, is both a critique of the dominant computational paradigm and a reimagining of digital technologies through the concept of invocation.

Tuesday, February 6 at 4:00pm

Learning Innovation Center (LINC), Room 302
165 SW Sackett Place, Corvallis, OR 97321

Event Type

Lecture or Presentation

Event Topic

Academic, Research


Community Members, Faculty and Staff, Student, Alumni




Free, open to all

College of Liberal Arts, School of Communication
Contact Name

Joshua Reeves

Contact Email

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