ICS Seminar - 1 June 2023

Networks of Automated Media: The Subject, the Truth, the Gaze and the Archive

Presenter: Luke Munn & Liam Magee

Discussant: Rakesh Kumar, Linda Marsden, Zoe Horn

Chair: Brett Neilson


Under the names of generative AI or synthetic media, in the past year, neural networks trained to produce text, images, audio and other media have rapidly rotated into the public view. They have displaced nearly entirely mention of blockchains, metaverses, robotics, body implants and even other algorithmic architectures. Astonishingly they have become sites for the projection of fears of the end of the world. Or at least the end of the university. As though COVID, climate change or simmering nuclear threats weren’t enough.

All the more surprising because neural networks are conceptually banal. Everything about them exists in fields of mathematics – calculus, linear algebra, probability – developed before 1900, all taught today at the undergraduate level. So what grants these machines a licence to fascinate and appal? In outlines of four co-authored papers – all provisional, either under review or in writing – we present four related concepts that, dated enough within a critical lexicon, still help orient inquiry into the recent social hold seized by AI: the subject, the truth, the gaze and the archive.

Oriented around such concepts, our discussion will focus on practicalities: what we did, technically, experimentally and analytically, to engage with these machines. That focus contributes to emerging methods and concepts we and others are using to connect with, make sense of and interrogate that which today also generates, synthesises, plagiarises and judges us.


Associate Professor Liam Magee is Principal Research Fellow at ICS. In collaboration with colleagues, he currently researches automation across several fields: geopolitics and labour; disability and migration; and forms of subjectivity and research technique.

Dr Luke Munn is a Research Fellow in Digital Cultures & Societies at the University of Queensland. His wide-ranging work investigates the sociocultural impacts of digital cultures, from data infrastructures in Asia to platform labor and far-right radicalisation, and has been featured in journals such as Cultural Politics, Big Data & Society, and New Media & Society.

Vanicka Arora, while not presenting, has contributed to the paper. She is a Lecturer in heritage at the University of Stirling, Scotland. She currently explores the temporalities of disasters, longer trajectories of recovery and the role of climate change in producing specific kinds of heritage and memory.

Event Details

Date & Time: Thursday, 1 June 2023, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

Venue: Zoom + Room: EA.G.18, Parramatta South Campus