Control Societies Speaker Series: Liz de Freitas

"The Biosocial Subject: Sensor Technologies and Worldly Sensibility"
Control Societies speaker series
12 Mar 2018 -
4:00pm to 5:00pm
Annenberg School, 3620 Walnut Street, Room 500

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About the Lecture

"The Biosocial Subject: Sensor Technologies and Worldly Sensibility"

Sensor technologies are increasingly part of everyday life, embedded in buildings (movement, sound, temperature) and worn on persons (heart rate, electro-dermal activity, eye tracking). This talk will present a theoretical framework for research on computational sensor data, building on the work of Mark Hansen, Elizabeth Wilson and John Protevi. de Freitas will focus on electro-dermal activity data and its implications for theories of learning and behavior. Her approach moves away from theories of agent-centered perceptual synthesis (on behalf of a perceiving organism) and towards a more expansive understanding of the biosocial learning environment. The focus is on sensor technologies that track sensation below the bandwidth of human consciousness. de Freitas will argue that there is an urgent need to reclaim this kind of biodata as part of an unequally distributed worldly sensibility, and to thereby undermine more narrow reductive readings of such data. The talk will explore the biopolitical implications of recasting biodata in terms of trans-individual inhuman forces, while continuing to track the distinctive power of humans.

About Liz de Freitas

Elizabeth de Freitas is Professor of STEM Education at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research focuses on philosophical investigations of mathematics, science, and technology, pursuing the implications and applications of this work in the learning sciences. Her recent work examines gesture, sensation, and embodiment in various kinds of mathematical activity, with the aim of developing a new materialist philosophy of mathematics. She also studies the material and social semiotics of STEM classrooms, seeking new research methods that can address biosocial entanglements. de Freitas writes extensively on social science research methodology, exploring alternative ways of engaging with digital data, and developing experimental research methods that draw on speculative computing and inventive diagramming. She has published three books and over fifty chapters and articles on a range of educational topics.

About Control Societies Speaker Series

Control Societies was started as part of the School of Social Policy & Practice’s initiative on Culture, Society, and Critical Policy Studies in order to feature and engage cutting edge scholarship on the enumerating acts of governmentality in computational culture and the incalculable possibilities of justice. For the 2017/2018 academic year, the School of Social Policy & Practice will continue its speaker series in partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication, which produces scholarship on the social, cultural, economic, and political implications of digital information and communication technologies, networks, and systems. Through the speaker series, the organizers aim to explore the philosophical foundations of algorithms, data, and their intersections with governmentality, surveillance, social policy, and the reconfiguring of power relations.

Future lectures include:

  • April 3: Bernard Harcourt, Columbia University
  • April 9: Elvin Wyly, University of British Columbia

For more information, visit

Additional funding is provided by the Provost Excellence Through Diversity Fund and Price Digital Humanities Lab.

This event may be photographed and/or video recorded for archival, educational, and related promotional purposes. We also video stream many of these video recordings through the Annenberg web site. By attending or participating in this event, you are giving your consent to be photographed and/or video recorded and you are waiving any and all claims regarding the use of your image by the Annenberg School for Communication. The Annenberg School for Communication, at its discretion, may provide a copy of the photos/footage upon written request.