Voluptuous Disintegration: A Future History of Black Computational Thought

Morrison, Romi
Digital Humanities Quarterly

As algorithmic models increasingly assist, judge, and manage human life, a growing amount of scrutiny, criticism, and backlash has ensued, calling into question the violence of such powerful applications and demanding a renewed focus on bias, ethics, and governance. At the same time elite academic institutions and massive tech firms have been adaptively adept at the capture and depoliticizing of its critics [Whittaker 2021]. Calls for a fundamental reckoning with the logics and violences of computation have been largely disciplined into niche new industries of expertise which Phan, Goldenfein, Mann, and Kuch refer to as “economies of virtue.” In response, this essay explores Black Computational Thought as a critical intervention into the residues of Post-Enlightenment thought mapped onto and subtending contemporary computational logics. By placing computation within such genealogical bounds, we are free to ask the question, what other proximal places might we look to to recover computational practices that challenge colonial logics of coercion? What other genres lay in wait? Black Computational Thought holds open these proximal possibilities and directs our attention to the quotidian, social, opaque, woven, and fugitive practices of computation born from Black diasporic movement.