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Magdalena Krysztoforska

Media, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

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

This project focuses on the philosophical implications of models and model-based predictive practices operating in social contexts. My approach is motivated by the need to respond to the problem of Two Cultures (a term coined by C. P. Snow in 1959, referring to the polarisation of Western intellectual life) by making stronger connections between the sciences and the humanities, as well as escaping the limits of critique. Consequently, this thesis engages in an in-depth technical analysis of predictive systems, and questions their social impact by using philosophcal tools. My method stems from the ‘non-standard’ philosophy and epistemology practiced by François Laruelle and Anne-Françoise Schmid respectively, and frames machine learning models as ‘integrative objects’. Schmid advocates that when faced with contemporary complex phenomena, any singular discipline is unable to fully grasp them and assess their implications. An integrative object is therefore an object exceeding disciplinary boundaries and requiring a complex approach in order to be productively understood. I argue that machine learning models represent a similar phenomenon – a central component in machine learning, a model represents patterns found in the training data, and subsequently serves to process new inputs. When operationalised in contexts such as policing, this process can have severe social consequences. Schmid emphasizes that interdisciplinarity is not enough and instead suggests ‘collective intimacy’ as a practice of disparate disciplines in true collaboration. As defined by Schmid: “This new mode of visibility supposes an ‘outside-discipline’ and a new conception of the scientific object, previously occulted by the epistemology of theories, too fascinated as they are by the criteria of the true.” (Schmid and Hatchuel 2014). The ‘outside discipline’ posited by this project emerges at the intersection of computer science, social science, as well as continental and analytic philosophy. Drawing on insights on the functions, characteristics, and limitations of models as theorised by the philosophy of science, I propose a framework for determining the usefulness of machine learning models implemented in social contexts. Rather than rejecting those systems wholesale as inadequate, and widening the gap between the critique of predictive systems and their engineering side, predictive models could be used as tools for further research and to help advance our understanding of modeled phenomena.

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 [forthcoming]

‘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

futures studies, anticipation studies, semiotics (in particular: a-signifying semiotics, biosemiotics, diagrammatics, and speculative linguistics)