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The Digitally Disposed By Seb Franklin

The Digitally Disposed by Seb Franklin

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The Digitally Disposed Summary

The Digitally Disposed: Racial Capitalism and the Informatics of Value by Seb Franklin

Locates the deep history of digitality in the development of racial capitalism

Seb Franklin sets out a media theory of racial capitalism to examine digitality's racial-capitalist foundations. The Digitally Disposed shows how the promises of boundless connection, flexibility, and prosperity that are often associated with digital technologies are grounded in racialized histories of dispossession and exploitation. Reading archival and published material from the cybernetic sciences alongside nineteenth-century accounts of intellectual labor, twentieth-century sociometric experiments, and a range of literary and visual works, The Digitally Disposed locates the deep history of digitality in the development of racial capitalism.

Franklin makes the groundbreaking argument that capital's apparently spontaneous synthesis of so-called free individuals into productive circuits represents an informatics of value. On the one hand, understanding value as an informatic relation helps to explain why capital was able to graft so seamlessly with digitality at a moment in which it required more granular and distributed control over labor-the moment that is often glossed as the age of logistics. On the other hand, because the informatics of value sort populations into positions of higher and lower capacity, value, and status, understanding their relationship to digitality requires that we see the digital as racialized and gendered in pervasive ways.

Ultimately, The Digitally Disposed questions the universalizing assumptions that are maintained, remade, and intensified by today's dominant digital technologies. Vital and far-reaching, The Digitally Disposed reshapes such fundamental concepts as cybernetics, informatics, and digitality.

The Digitally Disposed Reviews

Drawing beautifully on Black, Indigenous, postcolonial, and anti-racist feminist cultural theory, Seb Franklin offers a bold and rigorous critique of the social and epistemological processes of dispossession and abjection undergirding the informatics of value. This is a significant and powerful intervention, demonstrating the intimate intertwining of digitality and value-two linked modes of abstraction that shape social forms of free, self-possessed personhood only through the enactment of racialized and gendered forms of disposal. Through brilliant readings of the works of Norbert Wiener, Claude Shannon, Samuel Delany, Sondra Perry, and Charles Babbage and extensive original archival research in the history of cybernetics, Franklin carefully tracks and restores what both information theory and dominant digital culture, in their fantasies of pure transmission and frictionless connection, depend on yet disavow: that is, the historical and present material violence of slavery, dispossession, unwaged reproduction, and superfluous populations at the heart of racial capitalism. An indispensable work, a model of critically engaged, synthetic scholarship, and an urgent reminder that 'other ways of being free' persist in forging connectivity beyond the informatics of value.-Neferti X. M. Tadiar, Barnard College, Columbia University

Why has digital culture perpetuated new forms of racial and gender inequality despite early hopes that it would make users more equal? Seb Franklin's lucid readings of information theory and its affinities with the history of slavery and dispossession show the reader how informatics emerges historically through racial-capitalist dynamics. This book is a major contribution to the study of race, gender, and capacity as the foundation upon which the digital stands. Elegant, important, and compelling.-Lisa Nakamura, University of Michigan

About Seb Franklin

Seb Franklin is senior lecturer in contemporary literature in the Department of English at King's College London. He is author of Control: Digitality as Cultural Logic.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Forms of Disposal

Part I. The Informatics of Value

1. Things Communicated: Messages, Persons, Goods

2. Reliable Circuits, Unreliable Components: How Capital Connects

3. The Informatics of Dispossession

4. Differentiation as Regulation

5. Two Models: Samuel R. Delany's Neveryona

Part II. Media Histories of Disposal

6. Human Use, or The Digital-Liberal Person

7. Elemental Space: Coloniality and Flexibility

8. Deplorable Alternatives: Mechanical Slaves and Upgradable Labor

9. The Digital Atlantic: Sondra Perry's Typhoon coming on

10. Redundant Life: Intellectual Workers and Street Nuisances

11. Anatomizing Freedom: Carceral Digitality

12. The Cybernetics of Capacity: R.S. Hunt's Two Kinds of Work

Coda: The Human Surge




Additional information

The Digitally Disposed: Racial Capitalism and the Informatics of Value by Seb Franklin
University of Minnesota Press
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