Towards a Rhizomatic Technical History of Control

Winter 2014 / Summer 2015


Gilles Deleuze’s Postscript on Control Societies lends itself readily - too readily, perhaps - to historical interpretations of control that accept the universalising claims of techno-science. Critical social and cultural theory tacitly confirms the terms of reference of techno-scientific concepts at the risk of sanctioning the speculative claims of a notional physics of the cultural world which makes it difficult to develop a critical reading of the emergence of the socio-technical mechanisms of control. This essay addresses that problem and points towards the importance of considering the history of engineering, particularly in its complex relations to management and to bureaucracy, for an account of the present. Understanding the incidence of these practices on the environment within which computing emerged helps provide a corrective to idealised readings of the history of digital technology and points in turn to crucial aspects of the relationship between control and governmentality, relating in particular to the important Deleuzoguattarian concept of machinic enslavement. 

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