The Math behind the Malaise: The Inaugural John Fekete Distinguished Lecture

November 15, 2013

Dr. Mark Hansen addresses the mathematical and technical underpinnings of human decision-making, and the threat of its unexamined consequences

Mark Hansen, John Fekete, Jonathan Bordo (CUST Ph.D. Director), and Steven Franklin

According to Dr. Mark Hansen, the computational revolution, as we experience it by way of new media, is altering the infrastructure of human life. 

“Media simultaneously diminishes and supplements expressive capacities of humans. Thus, it is easy to see how humans are sensorally and socially impacted by technologies,” said the Duke University’s professor whose research, writing and teaching theorize the role played by technology in human agency and social life.

In a presentation entitled “Media Futures: Mediatheoretical Mathematics in Action,” Professor Hansen discussed his research and thoughts with the Trent community on November 7, 2013 as the inaugural presenter for the John Fekete Distinguished Lecture series.

A prominent media theorist, Prof. Hansen has worked on numerous topics ranging from literary studies to film and media, philosophy, science studies, rock music, and cognitive neuroscience. His interdisciplinary research, published in six books and many articles, focuses on the experiential significance of the revolution in computation.

According to Prof. Hansen, it is imperative for us to think about the nature of human agency in our current media-scape, in which the operations for media technologies are largely invisible to us.

“All of these operations of computation are happening beneath the threshold of perception - outside our awareness - but nonetheless have a lot to do with our experience and can be wielded by people like traders with little to no understanding of the mathematics involved,” he said.

Prof. Hansen’s challenging and wide-ranging talk was a fitting tribute to the new John Fekete Distinguished Lecture Series, which was set up by the Cultural Studies Ph.D. Program in 2012 to honour Professor Emeritus John Fekete and his prolific career at Trent upon his retirement. The series aims to bring influential and important thinkers in the field of cultural inquiry to Trent University.

Speaking about the lectureship, Professor Fekete, who was in attendance at the inaugural event, remarked, “This is a forward-looking step, which goes very much with the grain of what I feel I have stood for in my career at Trent. We have a long history of stimulating encounters with high quality visitors and it is gratifying to know that this will continue.”