“The (Dis)appearance of Purpose” is dedicated to the significance of teleology in the study of human-computer behaviour by tracing the disappearance of the concept purpose. To demonstrate how we can think of purpose in order to understand our contemporary media ecology, I will draw on the cybernetics-Taylor dispute published in the journal Philosophy of Science in 1950. This dispute, I will argue, illuminates how our contemporary thought is haunted by an imaginary ideology of purpose. By reconstructing the socio-historical context of 1940’s America, in which purpose for the study of inanimate behaviour appeared, I will place purpose back into discussion. Rather than obscuring the topic in intellectual discussions, I propose to rethink and redefine purpose. By enmeshing cybernetic and Taylorian purpose (while not disregarding their obstacles), I will conceptualize purpose as affective fold. This reappearance of purpose will release the computer as technology and the computer as science from its hidden functional ideology. It will create a guideline to imagine a critical perspective on the study of (in)animate acts, performances and interactions.
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