The Machinic Imaginary: A Post-Phenomenological Examination of Computational Society

Moriarty-Cole, Conrad. 2023. The Machinic Imaginary: A Post-Phenomenological Examination of Computational Society. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The central claim of this thesis is the postulation of a machinic dimension of the social imaginary—a more-than-human process of creative expression of the social world. With the development of machine learning and the sociality of interactive media, computational logics have a creative capacity to produce meaning of a radically machinic order. Through an analysis of computational functions and infrastructures ranging from artificial neural networks to large-scale machine ecologies, the institution of computational logics into the social imaginary is nothing less than a reordering of the conditions of social-historical creation.

Responding to dominant technopolitical propositions concerning digital culture, this thesis proposes a critical development of Cornelius Castoriadis’ philosophy of the social imaginary. To do so, a post phenomenological framework is constructed by tracing a trajectory from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s late ontological turn, through to the process-relational philosophies of Gilbert Simondon and Castoriadis. Introducing the concept of the machinic imaginary, the thesis maps the extent to which the dynamic, interactive paradigm of twenty-first century computation is changing how meaning is socially instituted in ways incomprehensible to human sense. As social imaginary significations are increasingly created and carried by machines, the articulation of the social diverges into human and non-human worlds. This inaccessibility of the machinic imaginary is a core problematic raised by this thesis, indicating a fragmentation of the social imaginary and a novel form of existential alienation. Any political theorisation of the contemporary social condition must therefore work within this alienation and engage with the transsubjective character of social-historical creation.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Artificial Intelligence; AI; machine learning; computational society; phenomenology; post-phenomenology; Cornelius Castoriadis; Gilbert Simondon; Maurice Merleau-Ponty; social ontology

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


31 October 2023

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 Nov 2023 14:11

Last Modified:

10 Nov 2023 14:11


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