Alex Campolo: About

I am a Ph.D. candidate (expected 2019) in the Department of Media, Culture & Communication at New York University. Here is my most recent CV.

My dissertation, "Steering by Sight," describes the rise of data visualization as computational practice. I draw on original archival research to challenges historical interpretations of Cold War scientific cultures.

In disciplines like game theory, cybernetics, and artificial intelligence thought itself seemed mechanizable and strict forms of objectivity ruled the day. However, during the second part of the twentieth century, practices of planning through calculation and optimization seemed to founder in the face of complex problems, from counterinsurgency to climate change. In response, a group of scientists including Allen Newell, John Tukey, and Jacques Bertin surprisingly emphasized visual perception and judgment in decision-making.

Today techniques of visualization allow scientists and other publics to bring a threatening deluge of data into order using sight. These technologies bring political objects--populations, environments and public opinions--into view. They support a style of governmentality oriented toward subjects whose reason is limited in the face new scales of data. Forms of behavioral prediction and modification are legitimated by appeals to this bounded form of rationality. Our decisions and conduct can neither be totally calculated nor left to pure discretion; they must instead be guided by our experiences of data.

My advisor on this project is Erica Robles-Anderson, and my committee members are Alexander Galloway and Stephen J. Collier.

Broader research interests include:
• Histories of media, science, and technology
• Genealogies of liberalism and governmentality
• Contemporary French philosophy, especially Michel Foucault. For more see a recent translation and blog post via the Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought.

I spend part of my time as a researcher at the AI Now Institute at NYU, working under Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker. I was a co-author on the 2017 AI Now Report and am currently working on topics in the epistemology of machine learning and the history of AI datasets.

I completed my M.A. in the School of Media Studies at the New School in 2012, advised by Shannon Mattern. My thesis (available on request) explored financial media of the late 19th century—namely, the stock ticker—the abstraction of stock prices, the sociology of financial markets of the time, and the rise of the theory of efficient markets.

I earned B.A. in comparative literature from the University of Virginia in 2009.

You can contact me at amc989 [at] nyu.edu or alexander.campolo [at] gmail.com.