Glossary of Cognitive Activism (for a not so distant future)

Warren Neidich, 4th ed.
Eris, February 2024
ISBN: 978-1-912475-36-0

We are at one of those turning points that divide history into a ‘before’ and an ‘after.’ The ongoing transition from an information economy to an economy based in the workings of the brain and the mind has radical implications for human freedom and creativity, both of which are under threat from a rapacious, neurologically-oriented form of capitalism. Such moments require new languages in order for the unnamed, the unsayable, and the misunderstood to become known. This is the task taken on by Warren Neidich’s Glossary of Cognitive Activism, now appearing in an expanded and fully revised fourth edition. Each of its entries—which range in topic from the central nervous system and brain-computer interfaces to ChatGPT and conceptual art—explicates a key term in contemporary culture. The cumulative effect is astonishing: while every entry can profitably be read in isolation, the Glossary as a whole amounts to a brilliant account of the material brain’s entanglement with its surrounding environment.

For Neidich the human brain is far more than grey matter encased in a skull: it is profoundly integrated with the social, political, and cultural phenomena that constitute the world in which we live. For this reason, human cognition is profoundly vulnerable to the new despotism that is seeking in various ways to reshape it, but it also has the capacity to serve as the site of potent acts of resistance. Forging connections between such apparently disparate domains as neuroscience, ecology, political economy, and aesthetics, Neidich’s Glossary restores human cognition to its rightful status: not as the passive object of technological interventions or reductive theorizing, but as the starting point for any viable form of egalitarian and liberatory politics.

Warren Neidich, 3rd Ed.
Archive Books, 2019
ISBN: 978-3-948212-88-9

Written by Warren Neidich, Glossary of Cognitive Activism (For a Not so Distant Future) articulates key concepts central to the essays published in the three-volume series The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism. The series attempts to broaden the definition of cognitive capitalism in terms of the scope of its material relations, especially as it relates to the conditions of mind and brain in our new world of advanced telecommunication, data mining and social relations. It is our hope to first improve awareness of its most repressive characteristics and secondly to produce an arsenal of discursive practices with which to combat it.

Warren Neidich, 1st Ed.
Archive Books, 2019
ISBN: 978-3-943620-51-1

This glossary is meant to accompany the three-volume publication The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism Part 1, 2 and 3. It reflects the concerns contained in those volumes. It marks the beginning of a long-term process of creating a dictionary of terms with which to understand and eventually destabilize the complex ways through which a future Neural Capitalism will work in creating contemporary forms of neural subsumption. Neural subsumption is a future condition brought about by an assemblage of networked neural technologies that will link our brainwaves to the Internet of Everything (IoE) and then encode them to use in advanced data analysis. No thought conscious or unconscious will be left unrecorded, encoded or surveyed. Furthermore this data will be used for a future form of data inscription upon the connectome: the data set describing the con- nection matrix of the nervous system and which represents the network of anatomical connections linking neural elements together. This in the end constitutes what I have called the Statisticon. Warren Neidich is an interdisciplinary artist and theorist working between Berlin and New York. He studied photography, art, neuro- science, medicine, ophthalmology, and architecture. Recently his practice has focused on performance, sculpture, video and film to investigate the contested milieus of the social brain. He is founder and director of the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art, New York and Berlin, 2015–2019. Its’ curriculum focuses upon the emerging conditions of cognitive capitalism in which the brain and the mind are the new factories of the 21st century. In 1995 he conceived of the website and the Journal of Neuroaesthetics. It officially appeared on the web in 1997 and concentrates on the capacity of artistic practice to deregulate and estrange the social-political-cultural milieu in the end activating the material brain’s neural plastic potential.