Dr Simon Mills

Job: Senior Lecturer in New Media

Faculty: Technology

School/department: Leicester Media School

Research group(s): Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility (CCSR)

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: n/a

E: smills@dmu.ac.uk

W: dmu.ac.uk/ccsr

 

Personal profile

Simon teaches new media theory and digital media practice.  His main research area is in the philosophy of technology with a focus on new media technology, socio-cybernetics and the work of Gilbert Simondon.  

Prior to joining DMU he worked for several professional web development agencies as well as the trAce Online Writing Centre.

Research group affiliations

  • Media & Communication Research Centre

Publications and outputs 

  • Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
    Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Lahiri, Indrani; Ayesh, Aladdin, 1972-; Mills, Simon Call for papers We invite contributions to a Special Issue on Big Data, AI and Digital Futures: Challenges, changes and continuities, to be published by the AI & Society Journal of Culture, Knowledge and Communication (Springer) http://link.springer.com/journal/146. This special issue arises from the Big Data, AI and Robotics (BDAIR 18) Research Symposium at the De Montfort University (DMU). The main objective of this special issue is to encourage cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary research and international research collaboration. ============================= SPECIAL ISSUE THEMES ============================= Aims: The aim of this special issue is to address the societal complex issues emerging from the recent advances in AI. As we look for answers to address new challenges, we look at the impact of AI and big data on our futures in the context of society. Content How might algorithms and big data shape our digital futures? In what ways can the semantic web impact our everyday life? Are there ways of envisioning a structure for managing data in a meaningful way, which may offer a transformational experience? We are witnessing a shift in political, social, cultural and technical relations which are increasingly driven by big data and algorithms. Our external environment is being codified leading to an increased level of surveillance both at personal and professional levels. This in itself is a challenge to privacy and data protection. We are already experiencing self-monitoring and tracking with the devices we wear that prompt us to engage in certain behaviours. Are we far from a day when technology will induce behavioural changes, not only at cognitive level but also at conative levels? What for claims that Big Data will make theory redundant? What ontological and epistemological issues arise in relation to these technologies? Our thoughts, emotions and actions are increasingly getting interpellated by algorithms and data. How does that then impact on the ‘Logos-Pathos-Ethos’ of our lives? Sophia bot froze on the question of corruption in Ukraine. On the other hand, we witnessed “the great British Brexit robbery” (Guardian, 2017) that proved whoever owns the data actually wins the campaign, election and the world. Cambridge Analytics Brexit has been one of the popular searches on the internet. At the same time, big data pose challenges as they generate noise and that means data often can be indecipherable, bewildering and recherché. Disruptions are common when we deal with data in any subject area. Therefore, it is cardinal to address the technological complexity, not only through academic research, scholarship and pedagogic practice but also industry engagement. On the other hand, big data and algorithms embed innovation and we encounter technologies in a transformational way, where conversations and dialogic interventions are rapid. Perhaps due to the contrasting ways in which we engage with big data and algorithms, the need for well-defined theoretical frameworks and methodological tools are increasingly in demand Siapera, 2018). Readership National and International We will invite experts both nationally and internationally to contribute to this special issue Goal Our goal is to offer an interdisciplinary coverage of the area explored, by bringing together perspectives from different domains such as computer science, design studies, business, cultural anthropology, arts and humanities and social sciences. In particular, we welcome contributions that explore the following themes: Themes Topics include, but are not limited to, the following: Media datafication and neoliberalism Data and business Social media and big data Big data, PR and Advertising Big data and politics Ethics, privacy and technology Data and sustainability Personalisation, Machine learning and AI Social bots and the management of sociality Quantified self and data cultures Data and education Researching media and culture using data methods Data visualisation, art and design Social responsibility and innovation Data and health Mobile and locative media Data and surveillance Using Big Data to test social theories Social data collection and novelty
  • Gilbert Simondon: Information, Technology & Media
    Gilbert Simondon: Information, Technology & Media Mills, Simon Gilbert Simondon: Information, Technology and Media is a comprehensive introduction to the work of the French philosopher Gilbert Simondon. In particular it examines Simondon's original informational ontology, as developed from a synthesis of Cybernetics, thermodynamics and French epistemology, The book goes on to delineate the role this ontology plays in developing an original account of individuation in the physical, biological and psycho-social regimes. This is done, in part, through reading Simondon with and against other figures in these fields such as Merleau-Ponty and Stuart Kauffman.Additionally, Mills explores Simondon's contribution to epistemology and invention, including an analysis of his important theories of the image-cycle and transindividuality. He also examines Simondon's influence on several contemporary thinkers, including Bernard Stiegler and Bruno Latour, before exploring the relevance of Simondon's work for theorising contemporary media technology.
  • Simondon and Big Data
    Simondon and Big Data Mills, Simon This article explores some limitations of the claims made for Big Data, particularly in the work of Alex Pentland, as providing a universal method for understanding and managing the social. It does so by analysing Pentland’s social physics in the light of the work of Gilbert Simondon. It argues that Pentland’s social theory is essentially cybernetic and thus open to Simondon’s criticisms of this schema of understanding. Additionally, it questions the way social physics leads to the development of hypertelic social structures; its lack of ability for theorizing invention, teleology and open systems; and queries the social ontology it has developed. Simondon's reformed notion of information, situated as it is, between determinism and indeterminism, may not disagree with Pentland’s claim that “we're going to reinvent what it means to have a human society,” but understands the nature of this claim in a radically different way. Where Pentland’s work points towards yet another phase of the control revolution, this article asserts that it misses the more important question of how it theorizes indeterminacy and omits consideration of the transindividual as a mode of the social.
  • Book Review: The Philosophy of Simondon: Between Technology and Individuation Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual
    Book Review: The Philosophy of Simondon: Between Technology and Individuation Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual Mills, Simon
  • Transliteracy: Crossing Divides
    Transliteracy: Crossing Divides Perril, S. D.; Thomas, Sue; Joseph, Chris; Laccetti, Jessica Monica; Mason, Bruce; Mills, Simon Transliteracy might provide a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the twenty-first century. It is not a new behaviour but has only been identified as a working concept since the Internet generated new ways of thinking about human communication. This article defines transliteracy as "the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks" and opens the debate with examples from history, orality, philosophy, literature, and ethnography.
  • Concrete Software: Simondon's mechanology and the techno-social
    Concrete Software: Simondon's mechanology and the techno-social Mills, Simon This paper proposes to build on Gilbert Simondon’s theory of the concretization of technological objects and apply the developed theory to the emerging area of software studies. Simondon’s theory of concretization describes the process of development of technical objects by applying his theory of individuation to the technical sphere. It accounts for their development as a process of the progressive convergence of separate functional structural units so that this convergence draws them into a single unit of operation which enhances their overall operation. Connected to this process of concretisation and convergence is the notion of the milieu, both in the sense that technical individuals create their own associated milieus within them which facilitates their operation as system but also that they adapt the environment around them. Although Simondon’s concretization is a powerful tool to account for technical development its concentration on purely technical matters “independent of social demand and the pressure it exerts upon the distribution and modifications of such objects” (Dumouchel 1995) makes it unbalanced. Our contention, and the argument in this paper, is that it is not just technical developments which are involved in the concretization process but that we can discern other processes/forces involved, such as cultural, economic, social and material which also become concretized in any technical development. This assessment of concretization is also discussed by Feenberg (2002) as a ‘technological unconscious’ which is ‘interpreted as purely rational and separate from society’. Our project is to extend Simondon’s notions of concretization and milieu to transductively account for these other processes and thus give a broader realist interpretation of technologies. In conjunction with Simondon’s account of psychological and collective individuation, this aids the development not just of an account of technical evolution but also the recursive effect of technology upon these other areas. The recognition of software as an important area of contemporary study is reflected in the emerging discipline of Software Studies (Fuller 2003, Manovich 2008). As our encounter with software of different types become increasingly more common, especially with recent developments in networked and ubiquitous computing, we argue that it is of increasing importance to understand software from a realist points of view. We will put forward our interpretation of concretization as one way to describe this. Theorised as a Universal Turing Machine, the computer in-itself offers no reason for why software should develop in specific directions. The implication being that it’s development should escape constraint by the physical affordances that provide the developmental milieu of seemingly more material technologies. Of course there is a material side to the development of software, the constraint of processor speeds (as tracked by Moore’s law), restrictions on network bandwidth and data storage are obvious examples. However these material constraints cannot account entirely for the nature of softwares. What are the aspects that are involved in the concretization of software? How can we use Simondon’s concepts of milieu, transduction and concretization to account for these developments? To help answer these questions we propose to look at some examples where the Internet is the technical milieu where concretization occurs. Bibliography Dumouchel, P. (1995) ‘Gilbert Simondon’s Plea for a Philosophy of Technology’ In A. Feenberg and A. Hannay (eds.), Technology and the Politics of Knowledge. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Feenberg, A.(2002) Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited. Oxford: OUP. Fuller, M. (2003). Behind the Blip: Essays on the Culture of Software. Autonomedia. Manovich, L. (2008). Software Studies: Software Takes Command. Simondon, G. (1958) Du mode d'existence des objets techniques. Paris: Aubier
  • Cultural anxiety 2.0
    Cultural anxiety 2.0 Everitt, Dave; Mills, Simon Since the naming by Tim O’Reilly of ‘Web 2.0’ to signify a new phase in web development and user experience, the ‘2.0’ suffix has been applied in a number of disciplines to indicate a similarly new direction in that field. However, this borrowed branding can fail to transfer the culture of development and original intentions of the ‘Web 2.0’ label, and may therefore be applied without detailed knowledge of its origins. There is a case for examining the technical and cultural meaning of Web 2.0 in order to determine whether a deeper understanding of the history and original context of the label - and the technology behind it - have anything to offer toward a more intelligently informed ‘2.0’ metaphor, or - fundamentally - whether its use in other contexts is meaningful in any case beyond the current phase of the web. To this end we explore the contrast between what may be termed ‘technology-independent’ applications of the metaphorical suffix and those that may be termed ‘technologically-dependent’ in their degree of accuracy to the tenets behind the original concept. Additionally, we explore the drivers behind the rush to adopt the 2.0 suffix, and in particular its relation to contemporary discussion regarding how Media Studies needs to be ‘upgraded’ to Media Studies 2.0 in order to deal with new media.
  • Not Coding, But Writing
    Not Coding, But Writing Mills, Simon
  • Transliteracy: Crossing divides
    Transliteracy: Crossing divides Thomas, Sue; Joseph, C.; Laccetti, J.; Mason, B.; Mills, Simon; Perril, S. D. Transliteracy might provide a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the twenty–first century. It is not a new behavior but has only been identified as a working concept since the Internet generated new ways of thinking about human communication. This article defines transliteracy as “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks” and opens the debate with examples from history, orality, philosophy, literature, and ethnography.

 

Click here for a full listing of Simon Mills' publications and outputs.

Key research outputs

Monographs

Mills, S (2016) Gilbert Simondon: Information, Technology and Media, Rowman & Littlefield, London. http://www.rowmaninternational.com/books/gilbert-simondon

Articles

Mills, S (2015) 'Simondon and Big Data' in Platform Journal of Media & Communication, vol. 6, pp. 59-72 [WWW] available from: http://platformjmc.com/vol-6/

Mills, S. (2011) 'Concrete Software: Simondon’s mechanology and the techno-social' in The Fibreculture Journal, Issue 18 [WWW] available from: http://eighteen.fibreculturejournal.org/2011/10/09/fcj-127-concrete-software-simondon%E2%80%99s-mechanology-and-the-techno-social/

Everitt, D. & Mills, S. (2009) 'Cultural Anxiety 2.0' in Media, Culture & Society, Sage: 31; 749 

Research interests/expertise

  • New Media (practice & theory)
  • Philosophy of Technology
  • Gilbert Simondon
  • Ontology
  • Cybernetics

Areas of teaching

  • New Media theory
  • Cybernetics
  • Philosophy of technology
  • New Media Publishing
  • Digital publishing

Qualifications

  • PhD (University of the West of England) - Gilbert Simondon: Causality, Ontogenesis & Technology (Supervisor: Iain Hamilton Grant) 
  • PGCert(HE), De Montfort University.
  • Msc in Multimedia, Nottingham Trent University.
  • M.A. in Writing (Practice & Issues), Nottingham Trent University.
  • BA Hons Philosophy, University of Nottingham.

Courses taught

  • MEDS2007: New Media (Design & Production)
  • MEDS3109: New Media (Creative Project)
  • MEDS3403: Cybernetic Media

Conference attendance

  • Keynote Speaker: Culture & Technics: The Politics of Simondon's Du Mode
    Centre for Critical Thought, University of Kent, Canterbury, September 13th-15th, 2018

  • Simondon & Big Data (October 2015) Invited speaker at Werkkonferenz, Exhibition Design Institute of the HS Düsseldorf – University of Applied Sciences (HSD). http://werkkonferenz.de/2015/
  • Lying About the Future Makes History (September 2011) Conference Paper at Mediating Women, War and Terror, Women’s Media Studies Network; De Montfort University.
  • Externalism and Naturalism (August 2011) Conference paper at Royal Institute of Philosophy Conference, Human Experience and Nature: Examining the Relationship between Phenomenology and Naturalism; University of the West of England.
  • Simondon and Software (May 2010) Conference paper at Gilbert Simondon: transduction, translation, transformation; American University of Paris, France.
  • Concrete Software (July 2009) Conference paper delivered at Society of Philosophy of Technology: Converging Technologies, Changing Societies conference; University of Twente
  • Cultural Anxiety 2.0 (September 2007), Towards a Social Science of Web 2.0, University of York. Conference paper co-authored with Dave Everitt
Other forms of public presentation:
  • Response paper given to Graham Harman, ‘Weird Ontology.’ February 13, 2008. University of the West of England. Bristol, United Kingdom.

Professional esteem indicators

Journal Refereeing information:

  • Peer reviewed article for Sociological review (2011), Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Peer reviewed article for Information, Communication and Society (2010), Sage.
  • Peer reviewed article for special issue of Convergence (2009), Sage.
Simon Mills

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