Interperforming in AI: question of ‘natural’ in machine learning and recurrent neural networks

  • Tolga YalurEmail author
Student Section


This article offers a critical inquiry of contemporary neural network models as an instance of machine learning, from an interdisciplinary perspective of AI studies and performativity. It shows the limits on the architecture of these network systems due to the misemployment of ‘natural’ performance, and it offers ‘context’ as a variable from a performative approach, instead of a constant. The article begins with a brief review of machine learning-based natural language processing systems and continues with a concentration on the relevant model of recurrent neural networks, which is applied in most commercial research such as Facebook AI Research. It demonstrates that the logic of performativity is not brought into account in all recurrent nets, which is an integral part of human performance and languaging, and it argues that recurrent network models, in particular, fail to grasp human performativity. This logic works similarly to the theory of performativity articulated by Jacques Derrida in his critique of John L. Austin’s concept of the performative. Applying Jacques Derrida’s work on performativity, and linguistic traces as spatially organized entities that allow for this notion of performance, the article argues that recurrent nets fall into the trap of taking ‘context’ as a constant, of treating human performance as a ‘natural’ fix to be encoded, instead of performative. Lastly, the article applies its proposal more concretely to the case of Facebook AI Research’s Alice and Bob.


Performativity Machine learning Natural language processing Recurrent neural networks Derrida Facebook 



I would like to express my gratitude to my beloved one, who both visibly and invisibly interperformed with me in numerous spaces before, during and after the development of this manuscript. I should also thank my professor Denise Albanese (George Mason University) for her invaluable help in the process of initial revisions of the manuscript.


This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or non-profit sectors.


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© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cultural StudiesGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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