Hi, I’m Emma, welcome to my website.

I’m an instructor and PhD student at Virginia Tech, where my research exists at the intersection of media theory, STS and continental philosophy. In my dissertation, I theorize datafication as a political force, examining contemporary research on psychedelic drugs as a challenge to a certain “data ideology.” A web-based version of my curriculum vitae is at this link, and this one gives you a downloadable PDF.

I am also a creative writer and musician — sometimes I post non-academic writing and original music here. The earliest content is from 2014.

Other stuff:

Behind this link I’ve indexed a lot of recent writing, some published.
My academia.edu homepage has strictly academic content, including teaching materials.
Music: http://stamm.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @turing_tests
I dig it when people reveal themselves here
New for 2018, this site has a blogroll! Yes, like it’s 2003. Check it
And you can contact me via email: stamm@vt.edu.

Thanks for visiting!

— Emma Stamm

writing warnings

[0] Fact: writing is made of words, not ideas.

[1] “Nothing is like an idea so much as an idea” — Bishop Berkeley

[2] Fact: writingideas, and content all refer to different entities.

[3] “I myself prefer an Argentine fantasy. God did not create a Book of Nature of the old sorts Europeans imagined. He wrote a Borgesian library, each book of which is as brief as possible, yet each book of which is inconsistent with every other. For each book, there is some humanly accessible bit of Nature [‘the natural’] such that that book, and no other, makes possible the comprehension, prediction and influencing of what’s going on” — Ian Hacking on Borges and Berkeley

[4] The writing I like cuts through the hell of sameness that is the digital space (and capitalism! Capital writ large)

[5] Sometimes it says nothing. That’s from John Cage’s book Silence (which inspired the title of one of my first websites, click click)

[6] “All great writers are great deceivers” — Vladimir Nabokov

[7] Magic is stronger when it remains in the occult, and writers have to be careful as they pick from their spellbook. Like the joke about jazz, it’s what you don’t hear that counts.

////this post is old, stuck to the top of the site — right beneath the “about” — section for dark purposes…


SPECTRA Journal 7.1 Call for Papers

An excerpt from the call:

The editors of SPECTRA: The ASPECT Journal invite scholarly work in all areas of social, political, ethical, and cultural thought for the Fall 2018 issue.

We invite the submission of academic articles, book reviews, and original artwork for publication in volume 7.1. Submissions may speak to individual social science or humanities fields, or apply an interdisciplinary lens to contemporary theoretical, critical, empirical, or policy-oriented subjects.

We publish bold and eclectic contributions. Past articles have focused on sovereignty in the city, Afghan and Iraqi refugee crises, cultural colonization in Mongolia, financial governance and debt, applied Marcuse and Foucault to The Purge, and explored the relationship between Hip-Hop, globalization, and identity construction, among many others.

SPECTRA is an online, peer-reviewed scholarly journal established as part of the ASPECT (Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought) program at Virginia Tech. The journal features work of an interdisciplinary nature and is designed to provide an academic forum to showcase research, explore controversial topics, and take intellectual risks. SPECTRA welcomes submissions for publication by way of scholarly refereed articles, book reviews, essays, and other works that operate within a problem-centered, theory-driven framework. Full submissions are due by Monday, September 17, 2018.

Here it is in full — SPECTRA CfP. The website, where all past issues are indexed, is www.spectrajournal.org.

epistemic black markets; algorithmic governance; psychedelics; the future

Lately I’ve been reading the work of Sun-Ha Hong, a scholar whose work “examines how new media and its data become invested with ideals of precision, objectivity and truth – especially through aesthetic, speculative, and otherwise apparently non-rational means.”  That bio statement is taken from his website: sunhahong.wordpress.com.

He writes about the future as a cultural motif:

On Futures, and Epistemic Black Markets

The future does not exist: and this simple fact gives it a special epistemic function.

The future is where truths too uncertain, fears too politically incorrect, ideas too unprovable, receive unofficial license to roam… The future is a liminal zone, a margin of tolerated unorthodoxy that provides essential compensation for the rigidity of modern epistemic systems. This ‘flexibility’ is central to the perceived ruptures of traditional authorities in the contemporary moment. What we call post-fact politics (David Roberts), the age of skepticism (Siebers, Leiter), the rise of pre-emption (Massumi, Amoore), describe situations where apparently well-established infrastructures of belief and proof are disrupted by transgressive associations of words and things. The future is here conceptualised as a mode for such interventions.

This view helps us understand the present-day intersection of two contradictory fantasies: first, the quest to know and predict exhaustively, especially through new technologies and algorithms; second, heightened anxiety over uncertainties that both necessitate and elude those efforts.

So the future, as Hong conceptualizes it, is almost an episteme — an ” ‘apparatus’ which makes possible the separation, not of the true from the false, but of what may from what may not be characterized as scientific.”  (Foucault, Power/Knowledge). The possibilities of prediction now structure the research and development of all sorts of important tools. If the future, the idea of it, doesn’t strictly determine scientific knowledge, it at least assists in its production.

In a talk titled The Digital Regime of Truth: From the Algorithmic Governmentality to a New Rule of Law, philosopher Antoinette Rouvroy discusses that which defies capture by the digital:

Another remnant that escapes digitisation is the future. Spinoza said we do not know what a body can do. This conditional dimension about what a body could do, it is the conditional dimension in itself. Previously I wrote that the target of algorithmic governmentality is precisely this unrealised part of the future, the actualisation of the virtual. But of course, there is a recalcitrance of human life to any excessive organisation (Manchev 2009). I think that this unrealised in the future is effectively a source of recalcitrance, and even if we believe that we can predict everything (and this comes under the Big Data ideology: ‘crunching numbers is the new way to be smart’).

There’s a clear connection between the future and capital: we need it as a valve for production. The insights of Rouvroy comport with Sun-ha Hong’s.

The future is the eminent epistemic black market, the general category of the subject of algorithmic governmentality. Unpredictability ought to be exterminated, or at least meticulously controlled, under this program. Psychedelic experiences — which are by nature speculative and unpredictable, and whose efficacy as therapeutic tools may come from their tendency to break predictable psychological patterns — are an important point of intersection here. Psychedelic experiences are wild and unruly; they tend to dig new tunnels into the infinitesimally small, elusive spaces of their own ontological and phenomenological continuities. Thus psychedelic science is a useful case for affirming (if not articulating) the unique character of the unrealized dimension of the future — the resistance of life to digital control.

(painting by Guy Billout)

come back trish keenan

I’ll show you for example / a situation that’s like winter / and I’m not complaining about night time / it’s harder in the morning / my room’s too small for parties / too spacious when you’re lonely / so books can make us friends / that’s as long as we are reading /  turn the lights off when you`re leaving / I want to watch the car park empty / it’s easy when they’re strangers / to wave goodbye / my brother’s back off holiday / he’s been chasing girls in Spain / he said he’d bring me a guitar / which I said would bring me fame / I remember your excitement / choosing pictures for your wall / and now you’ve seen them oh so often / you hardly see them anymore / turn the lights off when you’re leaving / I want to watch the car park empty / it’s easy when they’re strangers / to wave goodbye / I remember your excitement / choosing pictures for your wall / and now you’ve seen them oh so often / you hardly see them anymore / turn the light’s off when you’re leaving / I want to watch the car park empty / it’s easy when they’re strangers / to wave goodbye

solstice incomings

Tomorrow I return to New York to visit family and see some talks given by Alexander Galloway, part of a two-night event titled “Uncomputable” held at the School for Poetic Computation. I like Galloway’s thoughts about data-


Data comes from the Latin dare, meaning to give. But it’s the form that’s most interesting. First of all, it’s in the neuter plural, so it refers to “things.” Second, data is a participle in the perfect passive form. Thus the word means literally “the things having been given.” Or, for short, I like to think of data as “the givens.”

…as data are defined in terms of their givenness, their non-immanence with the one, they also display a relation with themselves. Through their own self-similarity or relation with themselves, they tend back toward the one (as the most generic instance of the same). The logic of data is therefore a logic of existence and identity: on the one hand, the facticity of data means that they exist, that they ex-sistere, meaning to stand out of or from; on the other hand, the givenness of data as something means that they assume a relationship of identity, as the self-similar “whatever entity” that was given.

The true definition of data, therefore, is not simply “the things having been given.” The definition must conjoin givenness and relation. For this reason, data often go by another name, a name that more suitably describes the implicit imbrication of givenness and relation. The name is information.

Information combines both aspects of data: the root form refers to a relationship (here a relationship of identity as same), while the prefix in refers to the entering into existence of form, the actual givenness of abstract form into real concrete formation.

Heidegger sums it up well with the following observation about the idea: “All metaphysics including its opponent positivism speaks the language of Plato. The basic word of its thinking, that is, of his presentation of the Being of beings, is eidos, idea: the outward appearance in which beings as such show themselves. Outward appearance, however, is a manner of presence.” In other words, outward appearance or idea is not a deviation from presence, or some precondition that produces presence. Idea is precisely coterminous with presence. To understand data as information means to understand data as idea, but not just idea, also a host of related terms: form, class, concept, thought, image, outward appearance, shape, presence, or form-of-appearance.

As Lisa Gitelman has reminded us, there is no such thing as “raw” data, because to enter into presence means to enter into form. An entity “in-form” is not a substantive entity, nor is it an objective one. The in-form is the negentropic transcendental of the situation, be it “material” like the givens or “ideal” like the encoded event. Hence an idea is just as much subject to in-formation as are material objects. An oak tree is in-formation, just as much as a computer file is in-formation.

All of this is simply another way to understand Parmenides’s claim about the primary identity of philosophy: “Thought and being are the same.”

Alexander Galloway, “From Data To Information”



Other stuff: My colleague Robert Flahive and I are stepping up as editors-elect for SPECTRA, the official peer-reviewed journal of our doctoral program. SPECTRA features interdisciplinary scholarship from the social sciences and humanities, with a strong bent toward the critical & theoretical. We’ll be posting a new call for papers some time this summer.

Work on SPECTRA will occupy a lot of my time over the next two years, although I have a devilish desire to convene a small conference on psychedelics and technology in late 2019 or 2020. This is kinda selfish, I mean, at least half-motivated by my interest in being the same room as a lot of scholars working on the same topics (including smart friends, but also those whose research I’ve been following and admiring from a distance). It’s a long-standing dream in hibernation for the time being, but I like the idea so much I may have to make it reality — not that throwing conferences is easy, but I’m up to the task —

From 7/9-7/19 I’ll be taking my doctoral preliminary exams. Writing ~75 pages in ten days. Here I am with the little creature I babysat for the first half of June, he offered me psychic support in the early weeks of my studying.

(By the way, this is the tannest I’ll be all year. Spending the autumn months in Northern Europe won’t help). Happy solstice, yall!


Sights and sounds a little mystical,

Sensoria, tactile apparatuses for the brain. If the verses for the second aren’t proof of a psychedelic protocol in literature — see the second paragraph  — I don’t know what is.

“Only a palace with interior doors / well painted well gargoyled with multiple floors / two windows let free this projector machine and the magical world here appears on the screen / my servants attend me with tricks of the senses / the past and the future and similar tenses and on platters of air they convey me my measure both gladness and sorrow, I lack not for treasure  / the lord and his lady are seated within / in the court of the mind where the song does begin / the song is as fine is as fine is as follows  / the song does continue through measureless hollows that sink from the level of personal being through caverns of darkness where dragons are dwelling  /the mountains above them are raised at my calling /  there the apples are ripe or the rain is a-falling / in ships of white vision I sail the horizon / where three spinners stand beyond the horizon / under the tree of the apples of beauty / I watch them arranging my days and tomorrows / The song is as fine is as fine as it follows / I stood on the beach where the moon was a-curling / Laughed on the wings of the sea birds calling / I loved when sweet Venus a lover did bring me / I cried when sweet Saturn and Jupiter moved us and all of my servants were fighting their brothers / And the lord and the lady they hated each other / Till the spinners arose with their work on their fingers / Commanding the presence of Heavenly singers / That spoke of the silence so soon to be coming / When all would be still in the wonderful palace / The peace is not stillness but peacefully changing / This hope is the hope of the man on the gallows / The song is as fine is as fine is as follows / The infant I was in the womb of my mother White sperm I was in the loins of my father / Before that I swam in the oceans of nowhere / Where the fish are as fine as the colour of colours / Where waves are the message of centuries rolling / Where wind is the breath of the Holy Creator / Where no ship sails but only the ocean / Where all the rivers grow mighty with showing / And crowned with the gifts of the myriad valleys / Return with a sigh to the sea of the coming / Forever and ever and ever and ever / be glad O be Glad for the song has no ending.” The Incredible String Band, The Head


more jazz listening than usual these days

I took this video about seven years ago on a very very cold night. There were so many people in the audience I couldn’t maintain a decent shot for ten minutes.

A little easier on the ears/brain.

mood antipodes


Polar ends of a strange and specific but very familiar (to me) emotional spectrum.

Excerpt from Betty Grover Eisner’s “The Importance Of The Nonverbal In Psychedelic States”

In this highly logical and verbal society-where semantics appear to be the trafficway of human relationship-it may be disconcerting to find that words often complicate interaction rather than Simplify it. This is particularly evident in relationships where neurotic elements are present. In our culture ego defenses most commonly use verbalization as a method of manipulation and control. Words are also used, consciously or unconsciously, to deny basic motivation and intent. As our western civilization has grown toward the logical, the rational, and the scientific, attention has been diverted (sometimes forcibly) from the intuitive, the spontaneous, and the so-called irrational. This split between rational and irrational-between conscious and unconscious-makes an individual feel pulled apart. In order to operate efficiently with other people he must close off his deeper levels. The price of effective closure is a feeling of emptiness and loneliness; as a by-product creativity shrivels and dies. The use of psychedelics has made excruciatingly but excitingly clear the extent to which adults have been conditioned away from access to the unconscious during the process of growing up. The psychedelic experience gives glimpses that life is intended to be full of brilliant color, stereophonic sound, flowing dimensionality on the sensory level, and unitive and ecstatic experience in relationship to the one-or to the many.

During the past nine years of work with mind-changing drugs, the focus of our interest has turned increasingly toward the removal of barriers which stand in the way of the individual’s fulfillment of his creative potential. In the language of psychotherapy, this means concern with change of character-change of lifelong habit patterns of perception and action. Most of the patients seen and worked with have been from the hard-core residual of individuals who have not been helped by any form of ordinary psychotherapy. ‘Ne have watched the psychedelics emerge not only as the fastest potentiators of character analysis but in many cases as the only possible tools able to create conditions wherein change can occur-tools, so to speak, for opening doors closed by heavy locks and bolts of long disuse. It has been of interest and importance to discover that with knowledge and experimental experience, smaller doses can be substituted for larger ones, and less potent, less esoteric drugs can be as useful as LSD and mescaline. The techniques that make this possible also speed the process of psychotherapy. One factor is the increasing use of individuals trained in drug work and in group processes. (By “drug” is meant treatment with LSD, mescaline, Ritalin or amphetamines, used alone or in various combinations, and also experimental work by the research group with other psychedelics such as ibogaine and ololiuqui). The other is the development of a whole new series of therapeutic techniques-mostly non-verbal.

Betty Grover Eisner’s Erowid page


Writing tweets; thinking in pull quotes; drunk brocialists; disappointment, faintly suggested but fully registered; hangovers; Puerto Rico; superhero movies; Elon Musk; Bitcoin boosters; union busters; the treacly-precious task of recuperating “dignity;” being a good sport; tawny blonde highlights; forgetting how to offend; being forgotten; forgetting faces but not conversations; losing your religion; enjoying yourself more when you realize you’re enjoying yourself; bug bites; the tradeoff between pure erotic fantasy and spontaneous honesty; stuttering; politically incorrect lucid dreams; the jokes that don’t land; the jokes that land too much; the agora of protein bars; New York, NY.

I’ll think of more later.