Review of Control—Digitality as Cultural Logic | Leonardo

Review of Control—Digitality as Cultural Logic

Control—Digitality as Cultural Logic
by Seb Franklin

The MIT Press. Leonardo Series. Cambridge, MA, 2015
240 pp., illus. 11 b&w. Trade: $37.00
ISBN: 9780262029537

Reviewed by: 
Ana Peraica
December 2016
Departing from classic pieces of post-structuralism, Deleuze's concept of the societies of control, Foucault's biopolitics, but also contemporary writers in information theory, posthumanism, as Alex Galloway, Manuel Castells and others, Franklin proceeds to funding theory of digitality as control itself. To explain what digitality, according to him is, Franklin crosses various academic fields: system philosophy, economics, cybernetics, media studies, visual studies, as well as literary studies, being his main field. Being an episteme of contemporary age, rather than a concept, digitality in Franklin's analysis exemplifies even where there are no computers, as digitality is rather a model, or better a paradigm, of segregation, atomization, and fragmentation of data. As such, digitality exists in systems that are not digital in their nature, as for example biological and social ones. So, biological material is digitized by research in logics of behavior, while labor and collectivity are digitized by economical and social management. Defining digitality as system, Franklin arrives at the concept of control that falls in his main focus. He defines control as "logical basis of a worldview that imbricates literal practice of computation, the organizational and infrastructural concepts these practices facilitate, and metaphors derived from the electronic digital computer and its processes with a system of value production that can produce profit only by exploiting and dispossessing human life" (p. xxiii), connecting emergence binary logical calculus and cybernetics to economic game theories, all emerging around WWII. The origin of cybernetics, as related to war circumstances, itself already carried the discourse of the enemy. Pulse code modulation (PCM), invented around the same time by Bell laboratories, lead to digitalization of analogue to digital signal, i.e. sampling followed by quantizing. Such a system has defined the inner logic of limitation and exclusion. Finally, development of binary logic has lead to computability that is a control of operation. Control systems based on these discoveries have evolved till nowadays, reaching the point of society known as high stadium of capitalism, control era capitalism or information capitalism, in which a quality is exchanged for quantity. Such society is itself information based and in its nature immaterial and cognitive, as following the abstract logic of capital. Digitizing labor, producing discrete and fragmentary line-up in work, society of control organized through self-regulation, distribution, and statistical forecasting, by socioeconomic modeling and bureaucratic management, creates a divided subject, or "dividual." Dividual is a smallest division unit of society of control, being almost an automaton fully controlled by various digitized systems. Imposing logic of computers on human life, as more than a metaphor, and strengthening Marxist argument of alienation, Franklin analyses a tense relationship among computers with social organizations and human behavior, knowledgably fusing different theories and disciplines to underline dangers of contemporary society. Providing enough of historical information and context to understand tight connection of histories of science, technology and culture, in their joined program of strengthening of control, Control—Digitality as Cultural Logic, is, precisely for its introductions with explanations of various theories of control, a good introductory reading to ideas and theories of posthumanism, based on history of cybernetics.