Never Alone, Except for Now

Art, Networks, Populations

Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: 20 illustrations, incl. 16 in Published: October 2017

Author: Kris Cohen

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Digital Media

How is it that one can be connected to a vast worldwide network of other people and places via digital technologies and yet also be completely alone? Kris Cohen tackles this philosophical question in Never Alone, Except for Now by exploring how contemporary technologies are changing group formations and affiliations within social life. He identifies a new form of collectivity that exists between publics, which are built through conscious acts, and populations, which are automatically constructed through the collection of Big Data. Finding traditional liberal concepts of the public sphere and neoliberal ideas of populations inadequate on their own to examine these new forms of sociality, Cohen places familiar features of the web—such as emoticons, trolling, and search engines—in conversation with artworks by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, William Gibson, Sharon Hayes, and Thomson & Craighead to more precisely articulate the affective and aesthetic experiences of living between publics and populations. This liminal experience—caught between existing as a set of data points and as individuals newly empowered to create their own online communities—explains, Cohen contends, how one is simultaneously alone and connected in ways never before possible.


Never Alone, Except for Now [is] an essential contribution to our evolving cultural study of who we are and what, in the tightening embrace of computational superintelligence, we will come to be.”

— Steven Henry Madoff, Critical Inquiry

Never Alone, Except for Now attends carefully to populations, publics, and the potentials of relation amid networked life. For Kris Cohen, artworks ranging from novels to performances to new media art capture both the logics and affects of distributed networks. Equally accomplished in the areas of aesthetics, history, and theory, this timely book takes seriously ordinary digital experiences of trolling, emoticons, search engines, and social media as sites of thick ethical negotiation.” — Patrick Jagoda, author of Network Aesthetics

"Employing an original and vivid theoretical framework, Kris Cohen's book represents the next stage in the discussions of relational aesthetics, participatory art, and digital media theory, amplifying them in truly unique and memorable ways. I know of no other project that considers contemporary art's engagement with various publics together with digitally networked life and forms of online sociality. Never Alone, Except for Now will appeal to all those interested in contemporary art, aesthetics and politics, social media, and digital culture as well as those working on questions of sociality, intimacy, and new forms of community." — John Paul Ricco, author of The Decision Between Us: Art and Ethics in the Time of Scenes


Availability: In stock
Price: $24.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kris Cohen is Assistant Professor of Art and Humanities at Reed College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
1. Group Form  15
2. Between Populations and Publics  29
3. Broken Genres  41
4. Toneless  79
5. Search Engine Subjectivities  105
Appendix  135
Notes  139
Selected Bibliography  179
Index  189
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Finalist, 2018 ASAP (Association for the Study of the Arts at the Present) Book Prize

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6940-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6925-7
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