Workshop series

Language in Minds, Machines, and Milieus: A Modern Perspective on AI
Workshop series June-July 2024

The ERC project AIMODELS at the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice organises a series of workshops to explore the intellectual and social history that prefigures the rise of AI in the 21st century. The four workshops are conceived in preparation of a major conference in the academic year 2024-2025 and they investigate, respectively: 

  1. the collective dimension of knowledge since modern natural philosophy up to the current technosphere;
  2. the political economy of language in post-Fordism and the global monopoly of Large Language Models;
  3. the influence of models and measures of intelligence (neuronormativity and psychometrics) in the constitution of AI;
  4. the modelling and policing of extinction in both linguistics and life sciences as a case study of the existential risk of AI.  

The events will take place in English. All workshops are also part of the activities of the Political Epistemology Research Network and in collaboration with other research groups. For proposing a paper or registering write to Prof. Matteo Pasquinelli


Mechanics of Alienation: The General Intellect Question in the Technosphere
Workshop I - 13 June 2024, 10.00-13.00 and 15.00-17.00

Ca' Foscari University of Venice - Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage (DFBC)
Malcanton Marcorà - Aula Valent, Dorsoduro 3484/D, 30123 Venice - Italy

In collaboration with UNESCO Water Heritage Chair (Ca’ Foscari University) and French Institute of Pondicherry (India)

Johannes Kepler, ‘Mysterium Cosmographicum’, 1596, particular (public domain).

The current design of artificial intelligence and its structural dependence on collective and personal data for its functioning demonstrates, once again, the debt that the technosphere has historically maintained towards the ergosphere, i.e. the sphere of labour cooperation, collective knowledge, and cultural heritage (Renn 2020). This extractivist dimension of AI towards the common of knowledge aligns it, unsurprisingly, with other sectors of the global economy such as financial markets and natural resource industries which have founded their business models on a similar rentier scheme. The magnitude of such extractivist economies, nevertheless, stresses not anew the importance of knowledge, culture, and science as forces of production. Well before the debates on knowledge extractivism and the Anthropocene, feminist epistemologies (Rose 1983, Federici 2004, et al.) already predicted and questioned the exploitative mentality of modern technoscience and, specifically, the way it disciplined the collective body (and especially women’s body) as a source of productivity and value. Given the deep political implications of such technological predicaments, how to read the evolution of modern mechanical thinking into the  project of ‘thinking machines’ especially from the point of view of collective production of knowledge? Contemporary debates on the general intellect in political economy (Pasquinelli 2019), extended cognition in philosophy of mind (Wolfe 2010) and noosphere in environmental humanities (Rispoli 2022) are challenged by a situation in which AI systems do not to represent simply a new semiosphere but a further modelling system (Lotman 1990) which imposes a new metric and measure on labour, culture, and nature (D. Senthil Babu, 2023). Eventually, the emancipation of praxis and knowledge confronts the ambivalent destiny of their (incom)mensurability. 

  • Chair: Matteo Pasquinelli, Ca’ Foscari University
  • Justas Patkauskas, Ca’ Foscari University, ‘Knowledge Society: From Superstructure to Force of Production’
  • Giovanni Fava, Ca’ Foscari University, ‘Agency in the Technosphere’
  • Giulia Rispoli, Ca’ Foscari University, ‘Historicizing planetary thinking.’
  • Asia Bazdyrieva, Critical Media Lab Basel, ‘Earth as Image and Operation in the Noosphere.’
  • Senthil Babu and Ganesh Gopal, French Institute Pondicherry, ‘Knowledge Extractivism and Socialisation in the Agristack.’
  • Giulia Gandolfi, Ca’ Foscari University, ‘Matrix Domination and Data Extractivism.’
  • Pietro Daniel Omodeo, Ca’ Foscari University, ‘Political Hydrology of the Piave Region.’
  • Guillermo Collado-Wilkins, HfG Karlsruhe, ‘Total Planning from Francoist Hydropolitics to Green Capitalism.’
  • Discussants: Sascha Freyberg, Verum Factum; Matthias Schemmel, Hamburg University
  • Fava, Giovanni and Omodeo, Pietro Daniel (forthcoming) ‘Geopolitica della tecnosfera’, in “Teoria e critica dell’Antropocene”, Milano, Mimesis Edizioni.
  • Federici, Silvia (2004) “Caliban and the witch: Women, the body and primitive accumulation”, New York, Autonomedia.
  • Lotman, Yuri (1990) “Universe of the mind: a semiotic theory of culture”, London, Tauris.
  • Pasquinelli, Matteo (2019) ‘On the origins of Marx’s general intellect’, in “Radical Philosophy” (206), pp. 43-56.
  • Pasquinelli, Matteo (2022) ‘Labour, Energy, and Information as Historical Configurations: Notes for a Political Metrology of the Anthropocene’, in “Journal of Interdisciplinary History of Ideas”, 11 (22). DOI: 10.13135/2280-8574/7340
  • Renn, Jürgen (2020) “The evolution of knowledge: Rethinking science for the Anthropocene”, Princeton, Princeton University Press.
  • Rispoli, Giulia (2022) ‘The Evolution of the Anthroposphere’, in “Journal of Interdisciplinary History of Ideas”, 11(22). DOI: 10.13135/2280-8574/7338
  • Rose, Hilary (1983) ‘Hand, Brain, and Heart: A Feminist Epistemology for the Natural Sciences’, in “Signs”, 9(1), pp. 73-90.
  • Senthil Babu, D. (2023) ‘Measures of Labour and Machinery of Calculation’, Historical Materialism Conference, 9-12 November 2023, London. 
  • Wolfe, Charles (2010) ‘The Social Brain: A Spinozist Reconstruction’, in “Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science”, Macquarie University, Sydney, pp. 366-374. DOI: 10.5096/ASCS200956

The Machine of Language: Knowledge Economy and Linguistic Labour After AI
Workshop II - 14 June 2024, 10.00-13.00 and 15.00-17.00

Ca' Foscari University of Venice - Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage (DFBC)
Malcanton Marcorà - Aula Valent, Dorsoduro 3484/D, 30123 Venice - Italy

In collaboration with Laboratory of Social Research (LARIS, Ca’ Foscari)

Esther Gerston and Gloria Ruth Gordon working on the ENIAC computer (1946). ALR Library (public domain).

Well before the rise of Large Language Models (LLMs), the deployment of language into production, or rather into work, was already the focus of the debates on the knowledge economy and information society. If computers and AI have become central means of production, it is because language has always been a means of production and a means of their design. The linguist Leonard Bloomfield (1933: 24) once argued that the division of labour is possible only thanks to language, hinting that language is the inner constitution of labour. Noticing the centrality of language in post-Fordism, already in the 1990s the economist Christian Marazzi (1994) and others advocated for a linguistic turn in political economy, predating somehow the linguistic turn in automation that takes place with LLMs. Later, the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai (2015) linked the financial crash of the late 2000’s to the ‘failure of language’ in finance. In this workshop, insights from sociolinguistics, political economy, and anthropology of finance are brought to the debate on AI. Language works, produces, and valorises, and its products – commodities as well as machines – have in fact the same fabric of language.

  • Chair: Matteo Pasquinelli, Ca’ Foscari University
  • Christian Marazzi, SUPSI (Switzerland), ‘Capital and Language Today’
  • Daniele Gambetta, University of Pisa, ‘Social AI and Large Language Models’
  • Angelo Nizza, Centro Studi Filosofici Scholé, ‘Labour as Language: Bianciardi vs Rossi-Landi’
  • Juliette Farjat, Paris Nanterre University, ‘For a Critical Philosophy of Linguistic Practices’
  • Giorgio Cesarale, Ca’ Foscari University, ‘Labour and Language in Hegel’s Jena Period’ 
  • Paolo Caffoni, HfG Karlsruhe, ‘Tokens of Translation: The Political Economy of the Sign’
  • Emanuele Lepore, Ca’ Foscari University, ‘Language Between Ideology and Automation: AI and Labour.’ 
  • Discussants: Giorgio Pirina, LARIS; Marco Baravalle, Ca’ Foscari University
  • Appadurai, Arjun (2015) “Banking on Words: The Failure of Language in the Age of Derivative Finance”, Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press. 
  • Bajohr, Hannes (2023) ‘Dumb Meaning: Machine Learning and Artificial Semantics’, in “IMAGE”, 37 (1), pp. 58-70. DOI: 10.1453/1614-0885-1-2023-15452
  • Bender, Emily M. et al.(2021) ‘On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?’ in “Proceedings of the 2021 ACM Conference”, New York, pp. 610-623. DOI: 10.1145/3442188.3445922
  • Bloomfield, Leonard (1933) “Language”, London, Routledge.
  • Farjat, Juliette (2024) “Le langage de la vie réelle: pour une philosophie critique des pratiques langagières”, Paris, Ed. sociales.
  • Marazzi, Christian (2023) ‘The language of work’, in “Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio”, 17 (2). DOI: 10.4396/20231201
  • Mazzeo, Marco (2019) “Capitalismo linguistico e natura umana: per una storia naturale”, Rome, DeriveApprodi.
  • Nizza, Angelo (2020) “Linguaggio e lavoro nel XXI secolo. Natura e storia di una relazione”, Milano, Mimesis. 
  • Rhee, Jennifer (2023) ‘From ELIZA to Alexa: Automated Care Labour and the Otherwise of Radical Care’, in “Feminist AI”, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1st ed.pp. 155-173. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780192889898.003.0010
  • Roberge, Jonathan and Lebrun, Tom (2023) ‘Parrots All the Way Down. Controversies within AI’s Conquest of Language’, in “KI-Realitäten”: Bielefeld, Germany, Transcript, pp. 39-66. DOI: 10.14361/9783839466605-003
  • Rossi-Landi, Ferruccio (1977) “Linguistics and Economics”, The Hague, Mouton. 
  • Weatherby, Leif (2024) ‘The Silicon-Tongued Devil’, Jacobin blog, January 2024.

The Mismeasure of Mind: Models of Intelligence and the Politics of Madness
Workshop III - 26-27 June 2024

In collaboration with Franco Basaglia Archive - Venice and THE NEW INSTITUTE Centre for Environmental Humanities (NICHE) - Ca' Foscari University of Venice

​​Robert Chapman, “The Empire of Normality”, London: Pluto, 2023, cover, courtesy of the publisher

What are the rights of ‘mental disability’ and the ‘abnormal mind’ in the age of AI, that is in an age obsessed with computational rationality? The workshop compares the intellectual milieu from which AI emerged and the critical theories and practices of mental health care since the 20th century. The history of philosophy, the history of AI, and the “history of madness” (Foucault 1961) display continuous and mutual influences that are often forgotten, for instance around the notion of neuroplasticity (Goldstein 1934) in cybernetics (Wiener 1948), the techniques of psychometrics (Gould 1980) in the early projects of artificial neural networks (Pasquinelli 2023), and the role of information theory in psychoanalysis (Schmidgen 1997). In general, it is observed that the rise of AI models would not be possible without the policing of intelligence models (Goodey 2011). Neuronormativity and its economic implications (Basaglia 1968, Chapman 2023) emerge then, as a pre-condition of the project of AI, not as a secondary and external factor. At the culmination of a long historical process of labour automation, AI systems happen to be promoted even for the automation of psychotherapy itself. The workshop revives traditions of critical psychotherapy to question together AI and madness as problems of mental normativity. 

26th June 2024, 10.00-13.00 and 15.00-17.00

Ca' Foscari University of Venice - Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage (DFBC)
Malcanton Marcorà - Aula Valent, Dorsoduro 3484/D, 30123 Venice - Italy

  • Chair: Matteo Pasquinelli, Ca’ Foscari University
  • Franco Basaglia, Franco Basaglia Archive
, ‘Class, Labour, and Radical Psychotherapy’
  • Robert Chapman, Durham University, ‘Algorithmic Neuronormativity.’    
  • Elena Vogman, Bauhaus Weimar University, ‘Colonial Architecture of Normativity: Fanon and Images from the Blida-Joinville Clinic’
  • Carles Guerra, independent curator, ‘The Clinic of Saint-Alban and Its Legacy in Contemporary Art and Thought’
  • Discussants: Vladimir Safatle, São Paulo University; Charles Wolfe, Toulouse University; Giulia Gandolfi, Ca’ Foscari University
  • Visit to the Franco Basaglia Archive happens the same day after fixing catalogue issues

27th June 2024, 17.00

Ca' Foscari University of Venice - THE NEW INSTITUTE Centre for Environmental Humanities (NICHE)
Ca' Bottacin, Dorsoduro 3911, Calle Crosera, 30123 Venice - Italy

  • Presentation of the book ‘The Empire of Normality’ with the author Robert Chapman (Durham University).
    Introduction and discussion with Francesca Tarocco, Matteo Pasquinelli, Carles Guerra, and Franco Basaglia.
  • Basaglia, Franco (1968) “L’istituzione negata. Rapporto da un ospedale psichiatrico”, Torino, Einaudi.
  • Chapman, Robert (2023) “Empire of Normality: Neurodiversity and Capitalism”, London, Pluto Press.
  • Foot, John (2015) “The Man Who Closed the Asylums: Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health Care”, London, Verso.
  • Foucault, Michel (1961) “History of Madness” (J. Khalfa, Ed.), New York, Routledge.
  • Goldstein, Kurt (1934) “Der Aufbau des Organismus: Einführung in die Biologie unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Erfahrungen am kranken Menschen”, Fink-Verlag. DOI: 10.13140/2.1.3276.3529
  • Goodey, Chris F. (2011) “A history of intelligence and ‘intellectual disability’: The shaping of psychology in early modern Europe”, Farnham Burlington, Ashgate.
  • Gould, Stephen Jay (1981) “The Mismeasure of Man”, New York, Norton & Company.
  • Guerra, Carles and Masó, Joana (Eds.) (2021) “La Déconniatrie: Art, exil et psychiatrie autour de François Tosquelles”, Toulouse, Les Abattoirs Musée.
  • Pasquinelli, Matteo (2023) “The Eye of the Master: A Social History of Artificial Intelligence”, London, Verso.
  • Robcis, Camille (2021) “Disalienation: Politics, Philosophy, and Radical Psychiatry in Postwar France”, Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press.
  • Schmidgen, Henning (1997) “Das Unbewusste der Maschinen: Konzeptionen des Psychischen bei Guattari, Deleuze und Lacan”, München, Fink Verlag.
  • Wiener, Norbert (1948) “Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine”, Cambridge, MA, MIT. Retrieved 25 April 2024.

Translating Extinction: Policing the Boundaries of Language and Nature
Workshop IV - 5 July 2024, 10.00-13.00 and 15.00-17.00

Ca' Foscari University of Venice - Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage (DFBC)
Malcanton Marcorà - Aula Valent, Dorsoduro 3484/D, 30123 Venice - Italy

In collaboration with KIM Research Group (HfG Karlsruhe, Germany)

Ornament with animals, Esaias van Hulsen, 1917. Rijksmuseum collection, public domain (colours changed).

The interdisciplinary workshop explores how the concept of extinction influences the apparatuses of boundary-making in both linguistics and natural sciences. Today, the pressing issue of language and species endangerment is prominently featured on the agendas of nation states, international organisations, and hi-tech corporations. This attention is driven by an extensive use of big data and statistical modelling both in Natural Language Processing (see: Digital Language Death, Kornai 2013) and representing current and past mass (biological) extinction events (Foster WJ et al., 2023). In the 19th century, mass species extinction was initially brought to light through statistical modelling within the emerging field of palaeontology. In the second half of the 20th century, the term biocultural diversity emerged from a new appraisal of extinction as a threat to both biological and cultural resources (Sepkoski 2020). Subsequently, the comprehension of extinction evolved into a problem of computing risk and the extinction of species and languages: it transitioned from naturalizing the colonial ecocide and genocide to organizing biological and cultural diversity into taxonomies of endangerment (Baldwin et al. 2018). The workshop addresses the notion of extinction of languages and biological life in the current political and academic landscape and considers whether the categories of national tongues and enclosures can be applied to these human and nonhuman, digital and offline modes of accumulation.

  • Chair: Paolo Caffoni and Mariana Silva, HfG Karlsruhe
  • Mariana Silva, HfG Karlsruhe, ‘Extinction’s Beasts of Burden: Modeling Risk’
  • Paolo Caffoni, HfG Karlsruhe, ‘​The Resource Debate in Machine Translation and Large Language Models’
  • Boris Buden, HfG Karlsruhe, ‘Digital Extinction of Languages and the Politics of Translation’
  • Britta Schneider, Europa-Universität Viadrina, ‘Which Language is Endangered in the Age of AI Models?’
  • Paulette Steeves, Algoma University, ‘Contesting Extinction in the Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere’
  • Julian Asbäck, HfG Karlsruhe, ‘Simulating the Apocalypse: On the Language of Uncertainty in Climate Modelling’
  • Marco Tamborini, Technische Universität Darmstadt, ‘The Circulation of Morphological Knowledge’
  • Discussants: Giulia Rispoli and Matteo Pasquinelli, Ca’ Foscari University; Tommaso Guariento, independent scholar
  • Baldwin, Daryl et al. (2018) ‘Surviving the Sixth Extinction: American Indian Strategies for Life in the New World’, in “After Extinction”, R. Grusin (ed.). University of Minnesota Press
  • Bender, Emily M. (2019) ‘High Resource Languages vs Low Resource Languages’. “The Gradient”
  • Bird, Steven and Chiang, David (2012). ‘Machine translation for language preservation’, in “Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Computational Linguistics”. pp. 125-134
  • Kornai, András (2013) ‘Digital Language Death’. “PLoS ONE” 8(10). DOI:
  • Buden, Boris (2022) ‘The Janus Face of Translation in Time of War and Dissolution’, The Politics of Translation Conference, 1-2 September 2022, Cres (Croatia)
  • Foster WJ et al. (2023) ‘How predictable are mass extinction events?’ Royal Society Open Science. DOI:
  • Matsakis, Louise (2024) The End of Foreign-Language Education. “The Atlantic”
  • Ostler, Nicholas (2010) “The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel”. New York, Walker & Company
  • Rispoli, Guilia (2022) ‘The Moment We Visualized the Anthropocene. Nuclear Winter and Other Disasters.’ “Anthropogenic Markers: Stratigraphy and Context, Anthropocene Curriculum”. Berlin: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. DOI: 10.58049/0563-zh20
  • Schneider, Britta (2022) ‘Multilingualism and AI: The Regimentation of Language in the Age of Digital Capitalism’. “Signs and Society”, 10(3). DOI:
  • Sepkoski, David (2020) “Catastrophic Thinking: Extinction and the Value of Diversity from Darwin to the Anthropocene”. Chicago, University of Chicago Press
  • Steeves, Paulette F. C. (2021) “The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere”. Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press
  • Tamborini, Marco (2023) ‘The elephant in the room: The biomimetic principle in bio-robotics and embodied AI’. “Studies in History and Philosophy of Science”, 97. DOI: