DARK INQUIRY

Francis Tseng, Maya Binyam, Trevor Paglen, JB Rubinovitz, Ayesha Siddiqi, Surya Mattu, Tiana Reid, Sam Lavigne, Brian Clifton, Lou Cornum, Grayson Earle, Nabil Hassein, Marc DaCosta, Rachel Rosenfelt, David Levine, Maddy Varner, Nora Khan, Meredith Whittaker, Dema Paxton Fofang, Natasha Lennard, Kate Crawford, Claire Lehmann, Maria Fang, Devin Kenny, Adrian Chen

Emerging from the critical practice and political commitments of The New Inquiry, we are a project-driven alliance of technologists, artists, writers, and investigative journalists convened to deploy a series of situated, confrontational, rhetorically-deliberate experiments that expose the anti-human logic of dominant technological power, and demonstrate the possibilities beyond it.

We call these experiments:

Rhetorical Software

  • Rhetorical software must be functioning software, i.e. it must “work.” The critique is not merely speculative or performative; the software actually enacts its proposal.
  • Rhetorical software is an intervention, not infrastructure. Projects that only “work” if maintained over time are the charge of community members and activists, not rhetoricians. Our goal is to support the work of activists by mobilizing public opinion.
  • Rhetorical software rejects the notion that technological systems are objective, and unveils the human bias in their construction through subversion.
  • Rhetorical software turns the logic of a system against itself by hijacking a technology, concept, or process to demonstrate its pathology. It redirects the force and momentum of an oppressive system against itself.
  • Rhetorical software directly engages the people and organizations that it critiques. The criticisms must reach their subject.
  • The project of rhetorical software is not to satisfy the convinced and unaffected or smugly condescend to them. Rhetorical software is accessible by and legible to those it critiques and those affected by the system under critique.
  • Rhetorical software emphasizes how material and social structures—race, gender, class, sexuality, geography, nationality, disability, etc.—are engineered and shaped through technology.
  • Rhetorical software is both dense and concise. It registers as intuition by concealing the vast amount of labor and critical complexity the ambition of the form requires.
  • Rhetorical software will resonate with–and persuade–multiple different audiences in multiple ways, consolidating previously disparate conversations into a politically meaningful civic forum. Rhetorical Software only succeeds insofar as it accomplishes this.
  • Rhetorical software is a tool for luddites, users, and practitioners alike to imagine technology in the service of justice and human flourishing.

Rhetorical software makes criticism direct action.