Seminar: Critical Inquiry and Quantification

Event Details

September 20, 2018
11:30 am-12:45 pm

Furcolo Hall

Room: 101

UMass Amherst Campus

Handicap access available
Free admission

If post-truth political discourse might be characterized by a play on affective predispositions and bodily responses of old beliefs that re-appear as new, that is particularly of our condition of computational culture (Parisi, 2017), then we might understand post-truth as a play on the ‘error’ of quantitative instrumental reason. Instrumental reason is a concept, developed by Horkheimer and Adorno (2002/1944) from the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, that is attributed to the Enlightenment. While the Enlightenment aimed to dispel myths via the pursuit of truth through reason, Horkheimer and Adorno argued that because instrumental reason did not account for social and cultural-historical context or the inability to capture everything of nature and as such distorting the real, instrumental reason produced more myths in place of myths. This paper will rethink the instrumentality of quantitative social science reason via a new materialist reconceptualizing of ‘error’, the stochastic term, and the randomness of quantitative modeling. Not only is this necessary for developing a critical theory of quantification but also to move toward a sharper understanding and critique of the affective play of post-truth political discourse.


Dr. Ezekiel Dixon-Román is Associate Professor and Chair of the Data Analytics for Social Policy Certificate Program in the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. His program of research is on the cultural studies of education, quantification, and social policy. His work rethinks and reconceptualizes the technologies and practices of quantification from a critical theoretical lens. He is the author of Inheriting Possibility: Social Reproduction & Quantification in Education (2017).

Faculty Convener: Dr. Korina Jocson