M4C Logo AHRC Logo

Magdalena Krysztoforska

Media, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

Machine learning models as integrative objects: towards a non-standard epistemology of predictive systems.

This project is concerned with machine learning, focusing in particular on high-stakes implementations of predictive systems that have been increasingly recognized as leading to social harm and deepening discrimination. The expanding range of machine learning applications, including examples such as predictive policing, the primary case study in this thesis, means that these technologies are no longer predominantly within the purview of computer science, and a wide range of critical scholarship is now also invested in discussing their societal impact. However, the resulting research landscape remains fragmented, and efforts to combine critical and computational perspectives in order to address problems with predictive systems often culminate in reductive metrics for ‘fairness’ or ‘bias’. Drawing on generic epistemology, an approach developed primarily by philosopher Anne-Françoise Schmid, this project proposes a framing of machine learning systems as ‘integrative objects’, meaning objects which exceed the productive capacities of singular disciplines as well as their synthesis. Generic epistemology posits that when faced with integrative objects, the operative logics and priorities of distinct disciplines often lead to an impasse in interdisciplinary work. Schmid and her collaborators advocate a more heterogeneous approach, where fragments of disciplinary knowledge can be used in new contexts without the wholesale import of the epistemic machinery of their source domains, in order to enable new conceptual formations. To this end, this thesis explores some of the limitations of the perspectives on machine learning produced by critical theory and computer science, and proposes an engagement with theories of induction (principally John D. Norton’s material theory of induction), with the philosophy of models in science (focusing on the tension between prediction and explanation, and the role of idealization in scientific models), and with theories of causality (in particular the interventionist approach to causation as advanced by Judea Pearl and James Woodward), as conceptual material capable of illuminating crucial parameters of high-stakes predictions. I argue that recognizing machine learning systems as integrative objects and adopting the research paradigm of generic epistemology can offer a more nuanced approach to contesting problematic uses of these technologies.

Research Area

  • Media


'Integrative Objects in Sociotechnical Contexts: Constructing Digital Well-Being with Generic Epistemology' (co-authored with Niall Docherty and Asia J. Biega) - CHI '23: Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems https://doi.org/10.1145/3544548.3580717

‘Deterritorializing notation: on the diagrammatic nature of graphic scores’ - Glissando, issue no. 32, Fall 2017


'A fiction view of machine learning models' - presented at The Society for Philosophy and Technology Conference 2021

'Deepfakes, facial infrastructure, and the faciality machine' - presented at the 13th Deleuze and Guattari Studies Conference 2021

'Non-standard models and the role of fiction' - presented at The Society for European Philosophy and the Forum for European Philosophy Joint Annual Conference 2020

'Geometries of Posthuman Agency' - accepted for 4th Posthuman Global Symposium at New York University May 2020 (symposium postponed)

'Signs, signals, and particles: a-signifying semiotics and digital data' - presented at the 12th Annual Deleuze & Guattari Studies Conference, July 2019

'Models and fictions: the role of narrative in data practices' - presented at NECS 2019 Conference, June 2019

'The principle of the generic: towards new sites of interdisciplinarity' - presented at 'François Laruelle and Non-Standard Philosophy' at Université libre de Bruxelles, February 2019

‘On speculative futuring and philo-fiction as insurrection’ - presented at 'Against the slow cancellation of the future' conference - Centre for Cultural Studies conference at Goldsmiths University June 2017

‘Of film diagrammatology: cinema between diagrammatic thinking and diagrammatic sensing’ - presented at Film-Philosophy Conference July 2017

Other Research Interests

philosophy of technology, futures studies, diagrammatic reasoning