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Despite being considered a non-scientific form of knowledge, astrology and algorithmic divination are undergoing an exponential rise in popularity on social media and beyond. Machine learning techniques, powered with NASA satellite data, are used to generate real-time insights into our futures, as the planets revolve around the Earth. Historically, there has been a close link between the occult and the development of scientific prediction models, tracing back to the forefathers of rational Enlightenment. Today, the very same algorithmic constellations that drive our data-driven knowledge economy, seem to offer a potential space for acknowledging failure, recursion and non-progress as natural parts of reality.

18:30 – 19:30
also this evening

Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam


Standard€ 7,50
Students, CJP, Friends and Members of Het Nieuwe Instituut€ 3,75

Writer and researcher Flavia Dzodan will discuss interrelations between Linnaean taxonomies and contemporary database classifications, as well as obscured and underrepresented histories of modern mathematics, from Leibniz to Newton. The evening will be moderated by Anastasia Kubrak and Katía Truijen (Research Department, Het Nieuwe Instituut).

Flavia Dzodan

Flavia Dzodan is a writer. She is a lecturer and research fellow at the Critical Studies department at the Sandberg Institute. Her research is focused on the politics of Artificial Intelligence and algorithms at the intersections of (neo)colonialism, race and gender. In her research Flavia examines the ways that technology is created and deployed to reproduce historical patterns of social control. She is the editor of the blog This Political Woman, where she has written about the rise of the alt-right, Big Data, networks, algorithms and community surveillance. She has been published at Dissent Magazine, The Guardian and The Washington Post among others.

Mercurial Algorithms

According to the Encyclopaedia of Occultism, in ancient times the metal mercury was popularly known as quicksilver. Studied as a mysterious substance for many centuries, the metal has played an important part in the history of alchemy. The early alchemists believed that nature formed all metals from mercury, and that it was a living and feminine principle. The Arabian alchemist Geber stated in his Summa Perfectionis: ‘Mercury, taken as Nature produces it, is not our material or our physic, but it must be added to.’

Whereas in ancient Greece Apollo was the god of knowledge, it is the Roman Mercury that nowadays is considered the god of information, a temperamental deity that ancient astrologers held responsible for all sorts of misfortunes and irritations. Mercury, the ruler of commerce watching our data transactions and overseeing the architecture of information systems ruled by rigid taxonomies that assign a place and a value to every bit of data so that algorithms can cast predictions and delineate outcomes. But are algorithms objective and rational artefacts or are they imbued of the same mercurial proclivities of the god that rules them?

Before the event, you are invited to join the book launch and presentation ‘Schemas of Uncertainty’ at 18.00. Tickets to ‘Mercurial Algorithms’ are also valid for the lecture and workshop Archiving the City of the Future: The Tarot & Urban Time at 20.00 later that evening.

Thursday Bite

Before the Thursday Night you can grab a bite to eat with the speakers and staff of Het Nieuwe Instituut. At 18:00 Het Nieuwe Café will a light vegetarian meal. Dinner vouchers are available for € 7.70 up to a day before the particular Thursday Night event via the Tickets link.

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Thursday Night at Het Nieuwe Instituut
Luca Napoli

Thursday Night Live! is a weekly programme of lectures, screenings and discussions on architecture, design and digital culture. Developments and critical insights are discussed by thinkers, designers and makers from the Netherlands and abroad.