Articles on this Page
- 09/10/12--09:32: _Announcing: Artist ...
- 09/10/12--09:38: _Five Videos: Adham ...
- 09/11/12--05:41: _Prosthetic Knowledg...
- 09/12/12--03:00: _An Interview with P...
- 09/13/12--06:20: _Guide to Future-Pre...
- 09/17/12--07:03: _The Web on Film
- 09/18/12--04:18: _Recommended Reading...
- 09/18/12--10:30: _Five Videos: Ming W...
- 09/19/12--06:28: _Digital Gallery Hoping
- 09/19/12--11:09: _First Look: New Art...
- 09/19/12--11:45: _Jeff Noon's Sporecast
- 09/20/12--12:00: _Art in Your Pocket:...
- 09/20/12--13:08: _This Is a Game: A (...
- 09/24/12--06:00: _Five Videos: Lucky ...
- 09/25/12--06:50: _Prosthetic Knowledg...
- 09/26/12--03:00: _Dresses Made from T...
- 09/26/12--06:07: _Recommended Reading...
- 09/27/12--07:56: _Melting Bridges and...
- 09/29/12--10:12: _Thank You to Our Sp...
- 09/29/12--11:15: _Rhizome Digest: Bes...
- 09/10/12--09:38: Five Videos: Adham Faramawy's Leave the Ordinary Behind
- 09/11/12--05:41: Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: CurAudio / DocuMP3
- 09/12/12--03:00: An Interview with Philippe Morel
- 09/13/12--06:20: Guide to Future-Present Archetypes Part 4: The Commodity Swarm
- 09/17/12--07:03: The Web on Film
- 09/18/12--04:18: Recommended Reading: Net Narrative catalog
- 09/18/12--10:30: Five Videos: Ming Wong's “Forget it, Jake… it’s Chinatown.”
- 09/19/12--06:28: Digital Gallery Hoping
- 09/19/12--11:09: First Look: New Art Online
- 09/19/12--11:45: Jeff Noon's Sporecast
- 09/20/12--12:00: Art in Your Pocket: Rhizome at the New Museum Tomorrow at 7pm
- 09/20/12--13:08: This Is a Game: A (very) Brief History of Larp Part 1
- 09/24/12--06:00: Five Videos: Lucky PDF's Sincerely Yours
- 09/25/12--06:50: Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Computer Graphics & Art 1976 - 1978
- 09/26/12--06:07: Recommended Reading: Captives of the Cloud by Metahaven for E-Flux
- 09/27/12--07:56: Melting Bridges and Streets
- 09/29/12--10:12: Thank You to Our Sponsors
- Brooklyn Museum- GO is a community-curated open studio project. Artists across Brooklyn opened their studio doors, so that the public could decide who will be featured in a group show at the Brooklyn Museum
- NYU Steinhardt - Offers graduate art programs in Studio Art, Art Education, Art Therapy, Visual Culture: Costume Studies, and Visual Arts Administration. Admission Deadlines: January 6, 15 & February 1, 2013
- Creative Time - The Last Pictures, Trevor Paglen has developed a collection of one hundred images that will be etched onto a silicon disc to be sent into orbit onboard the Echostar XVI satellite in Fall 2012, as both a time capsule and a message to the future
- Vera List Art Project - Culture Vulture, a new commissioned print by acclaimed artist Barbara Kruger, has been released to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vera List Art Project
- International Center of Photography – The ICP-Bard Program in Advanced Photographic Studies offers a curriculum of professional and studio practice, critical study, and Resident Artist Projects. Application Deadline: January, 18, 2013
- Association of Public Art - Open Air, an interactive art installation that allows participants’ voices to transform the night sky over Philadelphia’s historic Benjamin Franklin Parkway. September 20 and October 14, 2012
- Norte Maar - To be a Lady: Forty-Five Women in the Arts, is on view at the 1285 Avenue of the Americas Art Gallery featuring the work of forty-five female artists born over the last century. September 24, 2012 – January 18, 2013
- Guggenheim - Stillspotting nyc: bronx, the fifth and final edition in the stillspotting nyc series, Improv Everywhere presents Audiogram, an interactive audio experience and theatrical group hearing test designed for the South Bronx. October 13-14, 2012
Vilcek Foundation - Now accepting submissions for dARTboard, a digital art space that invites foreign-born artists living permanently in the United States and specializing in new media art forms to submit their work for exhibition. Submission Deadline: October 22nd
- Art Systems – Professional art gallery, antiques and collections management software
- Scott Chasse Art Panels - Quality artist’s painting panels, made-to-order in Brooklyn, NY
- TNC Gallery - App* Art: Painted Paper, Continues Peter J. Ketchum’s interest in the past as it is encapsulated in printed matter. September 11- October 25, 2012
- Safety: An Art Exhibition - Group exhibition curated by Cassandra Young about actively seeking contentment and in ascending towards needing nothing. On view at Leloveve Gallery, September 2012
- TheBowerbirds - brings together a collection of art from various Asian artists and makes them available to everyone as art prints
- Brooklyn Comics Festival - an annual curated event consisting of four parts: artists and publishers displaying and selling publications; gallery exhibitions; films and performances; and lectures and conversations on comics. Free to the public, Saturday, November 10
- Waterfront Toronto - Seeking proposal submissions from artists for three public art opportunities on Front Street East in the West Don Lands. Submission Deadline: October 22, 2012
Western Front - Pro-Am is a three day conference about internet art practice, bringing together a range of thinkers and practitioners to explore the implications of the changing role of artists as ‘users’ online. September 28, 2012
Western Front - Announced the launch of their new website
- 09/29/12--11:15: Rhizome Digest: Best of Rhizome September
- This Is a Game: A (very) Brief History of Larp Part 1
- Guide to Future-Present Archetypes Part 4: The Commodity Swarm
- Lucky PDF's Sincerely Yours
- Ming Wong's “Forget it, Jake… it’s Chinatown.”
- Adham Faramawy's Leave the Ordinary Behind
- Jeff Noon's Sporecast
- Recommended Reading: Captives of the Cloud by Metahaven for E-Flux
- Digital Gallery Hoping
- Recommended Reading: Net Narrative catalog
- A Tribute to John Cage on his Centennial
Rhizome has collaborated with FACT, Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, and the Liverpool Biennial, to develop a new series: Five Videos. Responding to theme of the Biennial — The Unexpected Guest — Rhizome is "hosting" the online programming. Further relating to the theme, Omar Kholeif (FACT) and Joanne McNeil (Rhizome) invited internationally renowned artists to submit five videos considering issues relating to hospitality, which will run each week throughout the duration of Liverpool Biennial 2012. The artists include: Jemima Wyman, Judith Barry, Kristin Lucas, Lucky PDF, Jennifer Chan, Anahita Razmi. Ming Wong, Queer Technologies, Angelo Plessas, Ofri Cnaani, and Adham Faramawy.
Five Videos is an online series "hosted" by Rhizome, in collaboration with FACT, responding to the Liverpool Biennial's theme, The Unexpected Guest. Each week throughout the Liverpool Biennial, an artist will curate five videos about hospitality. We begin this series with Adham Faramawy's selection, considering science fictional luxury and hypercapitalist imagery from hotel adverts in Dubai.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai
In response to the Liverpool Biennial’s theme of ‘Hospitality’, I decided to take a look at an aspect of the hospitality of a city that has become important to me, Dubai.
Dubai is one of the emirates of The United Arab Emirates. It is both a city and a corporation where the government has set up industry specific free zones exempting companies from the usual tax laws. As a city, Dubai exemplifies neoliberal business and culture. Watching the development of this emirate has been like watching a myth in process.
I’m Egyptian, based in London, born in Dubai just before the economic boom. My mother and sister both live in Dubai and work in the Media City free zone. Some of their work as journalists involves attending product launches and receiving corporate hospitality in the hope that they will cover new products, spas and beauty treatments. For me this has meant looking at a lot of Facebook pictures taken in hotels and the occasional chance to tag along for an interview with a businesswoman or the first lady of Malaysia at Atlantis on The Palm.
Some of the videos I’ve selected were produced by the Jumeirah Group to advertise their facilities. All the videos employ utopic science fictional visual language to display spectacular ‘luxury’ experiences.
In these videos, the hotel experience is constructed in terms of the superhuman. With the laissez-faire attitude of Randian capitalism, the idealism of an athletic body post-Riefenstahl is sublimated, defining the very character of the building it inhabits. The architectures in these short narratives are set up, as with every successful advert, to create a (potentially phallic) lack in the prospective consumer. As such the neoliberal luxury experience of the spa is offered as the filler to satisfy that lack, a near spiritual solution to the stresses and speed of corporate business.
It is here that I would like to point out the similarities between the video adverts for the Talise Ottoman spa in the Zaabeel Saray hotel and videos of the Damanhurian Temples of Humankind, located inside a mountain north of Turin, Italy. Both spaces appear to refer to an arabesque style in their backlit stain glass windows, which alongside their skyscape frescos act as a nexus between Islam, ancient Rome, and new age spiritual systems.
As much as these spaces and the videos advertising them draw on a nascent spiritualism to attract consumers, they also use images of the active body and celebrity.
In 2008 Andre Agassi and Roger Federer played tennis on a specially turfed court on the helipad at Burj Al Arab. In an exciting and peculiar display of integrated spectacle, the content produced is part advert, part celebrity reality-curio fashioned for television. The pair ascends the building in a glass elevator, invoking the childlike awe of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, as they discuss the impressive scale of the hotel to a soundtrack of The Never Ending Story, appealing to childhood fantasy narratives more directly.
A diver leaps from the top of the Burj (Arabic for tower). Descending, we view his form across the rooms of several fully glazed duplexed floors. We see him through the glass exterior walls from lobbies, private rooms, bars and even a yoga class. The body is simultaneously objectified and deified, though libido here is referred to in absence, a drive subjugated to capital.
To paraphrase the Jumeirah website, these videos ‘encourage us to dive or otherwise immerse ourselves in unparalleled luxury’, but to what end? The material I’ve re-presented indicates an extreme position. I take no issue with Jumeirah Group; they are leaders in their field. Their facilities are excellent and deliver everything they offer. I have nothing against the offer of luxury per se. I am happily complicit, enjoying the spectacle that the hotels, spas, and malls of Dubai have helped to initiate. However, I question the kinds of elitism and exclusivity (especially with regard to social restriction and mismanagement of resources) the concept of luxury engenders.
Facilities proposing ‘luxury’ leisure experiences and goods cater to a neoliberal elite offering excess as a foil to the stress and long hours demanded by the workplace. The products indicate a mentality, which values and strives for an unrealistic, unending and thus unsustainable (economic) growth. We live with limited resources and although the forms of hospitality seen here are only symptomatic, they do point to a wider problem.
My position with regard to development in the U.A.E. is complex. I support the cultural advances that economic growth has enabled. I am nevertheless critical of the speed of unregulated economic expansion. The rate of development in Dubai in particular has meant that once the toxic investment American, European, and Chinese banks indulged in infected the (so called) Middle East, there was little to no security for investors and those buying property. Admittedly the accelerated development of Dubai slowed after the 2008 financial crash, but the economic crisis has not resulted in either practicable regulation or an adjustment to the fervent desire for capital.
The adverts I present have much to offer the Islamic context in terms of initiating a critical dialogue concerning the body. But if these videos behave symptomatically, as I believe they do, then I suggest the aspirations contained in them can and should be adjusted. Ideally the successful advertising strategies employed could operate to recode ‘mega-renewable’ energy technologies such as the Desertec project, associating it with qualities currently affiliated with luxury lifestyle products and experiences.
Dubai has performed as a construction site created as a fantasy narrative. The city occupies the timeless duration of a moment of uncertainty before the viewer/consumer elects that what they are seeing is either imagined (fictional) and thus uncanny or real (observed) and thus marvellous.
The acquisition of the luxury experience momentarily fills a projected lack with a cinematic image of wholeness. It suggests an economy of hospitality that advocates the formation of and continual recapitulation to an unsealable fissure, a lack fashioned and supported by a divisive and untenable fantasy fiction.
Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel - The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
Talise Spa at Jumeirah
Burj Al Arab, an 11-minute advert
Agassi & Federer play tennis on the Burj Al Arab helipad
Burj Al Arab, Leave the Ordinary Behind
— Adham Faramawy
A collection of audio content from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive and around the web.
100 years of the computer artscene - Talk by Jason Scott and Rad Man at Notacon04
Unfortunately, there is no accompanying visual collection to the examples mentioned in the talk, yet it is an enlightening primer on creativity and new technology. (PK link)
DJ Food - Raiding The 20th Century
DJ Food's classic mix from 2004 curates and documents the growth of 'The Cut-Up' (also known as bootlegs or mash-ups), forming a creative alternative world of popular music. It also features spoken audio from Paul Morley, critic and former member of the Art of Noise and ZTT Records, reading from his book 'Words and Music: the history of pop in the shape of a city.'
Tracklist on DJ Food's website. (PK link.)
Dreams - Delia Derbyshire and Barry Bermange
Narrations of recollected dreams recorded and collaged with the distinct audio style of BBC Radiophonic Workshop musician Delia Derbyshire:
Embedded above is the fourth track in the collection, called 'Sea' (PK link.)
Antique Electronic / Synthesizer Greats 1955 - 1984 Part 1 by Fluorescent Grey
A creative mix using samples of electronic music spanning between 1955 to 1984 into something contemporary:
images via EZCT Architecture & Design Research
Philippe Morel is an architect and theorist, who cofounded EZCT Architecture & Design Research. Recently, I interviewed him over email about computation, internet data centers, and natural terrain:
Alessandro Bava: You outlined an urban theory that accounts for the internet as a powerful territorial/urban agent, could you expand on the idea of oceanic/porous urbanism?
Philippe Morel: I started to be interested in such an evolution of the world while working on my Master’s thesis from 2000 to 2002. The title, “Living in the Ice Age”, was coming from the fact that I considered the contemporary changes associated with the advent of computation not just as “another media-based revolution” but as a “geological” shift; a kind of a global earthquake produced by “computational drifts”, drifts that are opening a new age in human (post)history. I was speaking about a more extreme coldness than the one theorized by Andrea Branzi in the “Cold Metropolis”. The coldness of the liquid azote used for supercomputers cooling or sperm cryopreservation as well as the coldness of extreme abstractions produced by computational processes and formal languages. In fact the freezing of any kind of social life, and a freezing that is by the way asking as much energy to us as it does in air conditioning systems! In the introduction of my thesis then, I wrote that “what our civilization gave birth to after unreasonable efforts is a new kind of compound, something like the summation of the dynamite or nuclear energy power, of the intrinsic capacities of the human brain for conceptual abstraction, of the raw power of the computers for calculation and of the sensory performances of the human body.” I added that “my work would only be about trying to unveil the genesis of such a compound”. Actually it is still about that: establishing the “history” and theory of this new man made Ice Age.
I am calling this theory “Computationalism”. It has nothing to do with any other “-ism” that we experienced in the XX century, including the most recent ones. It is not about art, style, vanguards, etc. It is about the replacement of Rationalism and the next five hundred years. In Computationalism, the raw power of computers and the “constructive” power of the algorithms come on top of everything. Quantity and quality are always associated, as it is the case with algorithmic. The computer is the new petroleum, that was both a source of energy - raw power - and a resource for chemical engineering – a complex raw material with a strong “constructive” potential, and as petroleum it produces its own geopolitics. At the moment, for example, companies like Facebook or Google are building datacenters as close as possible to the north-pole for a better and cheaper cooling. Google is also patenting floating platforms drifting on the oceans, producing their own electricity and relocating according to the constantly changing topology of the global network… Computer scientists are using methods and mathematical tools coming from natural sciences in order to catch the complex and non-deterministic nature of massive computational phenomena, and material scientists build up new materials out of atoms. Therefore, Computationalism is a new Neolithic-like anthropological bifurcation. It is a new state of the Matter, a new State of the Machine, a new State of Knowledge, all asking for a specific theory that I outlined, within the context of Integral Capitalism, as “Biocapitalism”, “Technocapitalism” and “Infocapitalism”. Computationalism is not a paradigm shift within western rationalism but a drift out of Rationalism. Rationalism, that destroyed itself thanks to its own knowledge and tools, is now replaced by Computationalism. That one is the social context that corresponds to the realization of a century old prediction by Nietzsche who stated that “the scientific man is the ulterior development of the artistic man”. All the political models like western Politics which is by essence based on the Ratio, are failing. They are failing because no human mind can deal with the complexity of our technological societies. As it was demonstrated by Hayek and a couple of other theoreticians, the limits of politics are epistemological, they are defined in any western society by the state of its knowledge. Search engine algorithms replaced librarians; it would be more than logical and necessary to see them replace traditional politics as well.
In any case it is very difficult to have a clear understanding of something as radical as the end of Rationalism. It is as difficult for us to understand a world full of abstract computation as it is for a locally behaving ant to be aware of the curvature of the surface of the earth.
AB: With the popularization of free software like SketchUp, Grasshopper and Processing, architecture is increasingly being produced by a huge number of non-professional prosumers who rewrite the discipline's rules based on online community opinions and attention parameters. Does architecture (like journalism, perhaps) have a problem of authorship or authority today?
PM: I slightly disagree on that since most of the people who are really producing architecture in today’s world are architects. They graduated as architects or consider themselves architects. And the ones who are not architects, being either developers or regular people building their own shelters and homes, are not more influenced by new software as they are by standard materials produced by the building industry. Therefore, if we consider that third parties actors are architecture producers, we should simply say that architecture has always been “produced” by such actors. Nevertheless, you might be right on another level when comparing the crisis of architecture and the one of journalism. Like personal secretaries rendered obsolete by Word and Excel, journalism is made unnecessary by a state of transparent information. That is why the people who are now considered as good journalist are not classical ones but hackers like Julian Assange. They are simply making the information transparent. They don’t go into interpretation and romance. This is the first half of my answer on authorship.
The second half has to deal with a deeper root for the crisis of journalism, architecture or art. It was envisioned by L’Isle-Adam one hundred and thirty years ago when he stated that the machine is the replacement of multiple intelligences by one great Intelligence. In art, unlike science (and architecture as well as journalism are closer to art than to any kind of science) the lack of such an Intelligence is not compensated by multiples intelligences. Thousands of Koolhaas followers are not equivalent to one Rem (should I say that it is worse than no follower). Art is not about quantity, neither is architecture as soon as you address the issue of authorship. Historically, this problem was solved by the very nature of vernacular architecture, which is about sharing common rules and cultural values. Today these rules and values defining a common visual or non-visual language have to be found within iPad and Facebook applications. Twenty or thirty years ago, a “Build your own Le Corbusier House” application wouldn’t have been as a good architect as a Le Corbusier pupil, but today such an application would probably provide a better architecture. Against all evidence provided by the state of architecture in European suburbs, people still believe that architecture produced by isolated architects according to “cultural values” are better than something a computer would do… It is deeply wrong. It is something that Russian constructivists and people like Branzi well understood. To a certain extend it is also understood by the “FabLab-based” approaches, but most of them will fail because of their political romanticism. Ultimately, the crisis of authorship is related to our lack of understanding of the nature of technology, and this is why architectural intelligence is about producing new technology-based rules and not about isolated buildings that identify themselves with the latest formal tendencies. Architecture is about producing new concepts of construction (like the Domino house) as computer science is about producing new concepts of computation (quantum computing, reversible computing, etc.). We must not confuse what happens inside a computer chip with the design of laptop computers.
AB: You defined computation as a social discourse. Could you please explain what do you mean by that?
PM: I mentioned this idea of computation as a social discourse already, but let me go a bit further. In the past, when the French government was introducing the metric system of measurement and the “Mètre étalon” those evolution were heavily associated to a certain idea of “distributing justice throughout the country”. Thanks to these universal measurement apparatus even analphabet people could make reasonably fair transactions. Today, thanks to Wikipedia, even people having a poor access to education can discover and learn amazing things. I am not idealizing such a platform but you cannot underestimate what it represents. Because technology always has non-technological consequences any discourse dealing with technology is intrinsically a social discourse. This is what I mean by saying that computation is a social discourse.
On one side on which non-scientists have no influence, computation is about very abstract scientific knowledge, and on the other side it is about everyday life. This seems so obvious to all of us that we usually don’t spend any time on that…But we should. Indeed, such a distinction is necessary because it is associated with another one between technology as knowledge and technology as machines. As knowledge, technology is changing multiple things but does not concern everybody. Take the example of the effects of PCs on education. Not all of the people spend their time in studying. Students do, as well as scientist and scholars. But as general purpose machines, computers are associated with productivity gains and ultimately with the concept of labor.
Labor concerns more or less everybody. On one side technology is perceived as a certain kind of progress, allowing for example more and more scientific discoveries, while on the other side it is perceived as harmful, being the ultimate job killing feature produced by capitalism. Both are true, but while more and more people think that there is no way to make these two parallel co-evolutions work together, I believe that we should keep thinking that it is possible. Therefore we should produce the right theory for that, based on the study of the strongest arguments coming from the proponents of anti-technological movements. One of them, Ted Kaczynski, believes that there is no way to think of better uses of our technological knowledge since ultimately the industrial society is destroying everything including the nature itself. On many points he is right and the only argument that we can oppose is the one of a technological society that would have absolutely nothing to do with the actual concept of work and nothing to do as well with our still machine-oriented postindustrial society. Nevertheless, if we cannot produce more convincing arguments in favor of such a society than the existing ones, either rational anti-technological thinkers or obscurantist movements will keep having more and more followers. The problem we have to face is related to the fact that technology became a religion to which less and less people adhere. Either because they are tired of smart mobs like gadgets, or because they cannot deal with the pace of evolution of knowledge, or because they are not interested in the kind of logic-mathematical knowledge that is intrinsically related to the contemporary technologies, or because they think that having good computers is not enough to compensate the lack of fresh air and water. At the moment, the way our society is dealing with the issue of technology is very much similar to the way we were dealing with the new possibilities offered by technics in Versailles or Saint-Petersburg. We all know that some people came up soon with very different applications in mind…Kinds of applications that today are neither proposed by right-wing affiliated thinkers, who want to put people back on assembly lines for producing stupid “ecological” cars, nor by left-wing affiliated philosophers who want them scripting web marketing applications… In fact, instead of developing moralistic critiques of the most advanced phenomena associated with the power of computation, like algorithmic trading, in favor of social practices of which the only difference is that they are as associated with an older version of capitalism, we should learn from them. We should ask ourselves if trading is not a realization of Nietzsche’s prediction asserting that “one day we will practice the buying and selling as a luxury of our sensibility”. We should question ourselves about the potential of new concepts of labor much closer to the conceptual idea of labor of Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol than to the productive labor of computer literate Multitudes. This leads me to answer as a temporary conclusion the following important question you first asked me in a separate list, about the relationship between technology, work and leisure.
AB: In the 60s, Italian Operaist theorists were preoccupied with the advent of computers in manufacture and production at large. Many were in favour, as they saw computers as liberating the worker from production alienation therefore implementing freetime and allowing a sort of computer enabled "refusal to work," but we see that nowadays computers and internet have eliminated the very idea of free-time. What do you think of that?
PM: This is something I addressed in The Integral Capitalism by quoting O. Spengler but most of all by bringing back the attention on the fact that Adorno himself, a known opponent to Spengler’s philosophy, understood the relation between technology, work and knowledge as a fundamental problem. In his book Man and Technics, Spengler wrote that "It is not true that human technics saves labor. For it is an essential characteristic of the personal and modifiable technics of man, in contrast to genustechnics, that every discovery contains the possibility and NECESSITY of new discoveries, every fulfilled wish awakens a thousand more, every triumph over Nature incites to yet others. The spirit of this beast of prey is incessantly greedy, its will is never appeased: such is the curse that is attached to this kind of life, but herein is also the greatness inherent in its destiny” As I mentioned before with the example of trading, if you want to address the relationship between society and technology in a creative way you cannot keep thinking within old categories. You need to conceptualize an inversion of many things. Instead of treating the computer as a traditional machine saving labor you need to treat him as an ever expending block of both abstract knowledge and concrete physical (nanoscale) constructions, calling for more and more discoveries; much like mathematics, physics, chemistry or medicine. By doing so, you avoid short view understandings of the nature of technology and you realize that there is no reasonably attractive technological future in which technology would be something else than a sole knowledge, this knowledge being constantly its own end.
The major problem we are facing today, that explains also why capitalism is so integral, is that except for a couple of fields in pure mathematics, new discoveries in ANY branch of knowledge are determined by technology and then by money. This alliance is so radical, the complexity of the technologies is so great and the necessary investments are so immense that these parameters alone are almost completely defining the contemporary geopolitics. More than ever, the natural economic context for technology and therefore for knowledge, is capitalism. Technologies are becoming natural, capitalism as well. This means that the only real (non-cosmetic) critique of capitalism today are the ones that contest its technologies and its knowledge (and the other way around). It is the case for example with the radical religious movements I evoked or with T. Kaczynski who understood that technology is the most important contemporary Gordian Knot. This is by the way the reason why he stated that the next revolution would not be political. I agree with that. Whatever might happen, revolution or radical evolutions, politics will be a minor parameter. As for free time that in fact always brings us back to its opposite defined by capitalist people – labor –, politics always brings us back to the “revolution bourgeoise” that was a long time ago associated with the Enlightenment and that is now in most cases a harmful association of money and technology. As for the critique of free time that in fact is as necessary to the critique of capitalism as the critique of labor, a real critique of knowledge is as necessary to the critique of technology as a critique of machines. As far as I know no such critique do really exist in contemporary architectural theory.
"Bomb the Drone" (Demilit project)
A certain thread of theology holds that angels are not actual entities; they are human characterizations of god’s infinite will, manifested in singular points of time and space that we can only represent as corporeal actions by supernatural beings. Drones are the same. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles themselves are made of very real alloys and composites, flown with very real bands of electromagnetic energy emitted from satellite and ground station, launching weapons with exothermic warheads resulting in very real deaths. But “Drones”, as we have come to know them, represent an intensely collapsed political, economic, and social cosmology. They are singular points of world-historical militarism, state control, and technological specialty, orbiting high above our heads, the new astrological wanderers of our mortal fates. Dare we ask the rhetorical question: how many drones can surveil the head of a pin? MQ-1 Predator, MQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper, RQ-170 Sentinel: these names are the basis of a new hierarchical choir of angels, as cataloged by Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft.
Drones function in our current Future-Present, as a category conglomerated from many components. A MQ-4 has very little to do, technologically, with a smartphone-controlled quadrocopter. The relationship between them, which we fetishize into the category of “drone”, is a composite of factors and values so intricate as to border on the cosmological. It is true that they both fly, with different types of remote control. They both contain cameras, so that a person can see a visual field from the vehicle’s perspective. They both contain technological advances that are not entirely new innovations, though their widespread use and public recognition is a relatively recent event. And yet, one is an expensive toy, while the other changes the geopolitical landscape as a weapon of war. It is only when their use, political significance, and market value are networked to their technological construction that they become equivalent in the Future-Present cosmology.
If angels are too metaphysical a means of getting at the cultural function of such a unifying concept, let us utilize a more atheistic church, another sort of holy ghost. Drones are technology, commodified. Commodities are objects, abstracted from their strict material origins, and invested with a surplus of market-meaning. An automobile, for example, is not so much the frame riding on four wheels; it is not pivotal object of the American Dream; it is more than a single class of “Sport Utility” use-case or a particular brand name. It is all of these things. It is a history of technological advancement, a society’s main means of transportation, and a set of cultural value signifiers, condensed into a single object. What does precision milling equipment have to do with “Tell Laura I Love Her?” Everything and nothing. Technological commodities exists in multiple dimensions of technology, culture, economics, and politics simultaneously. What we perceive is the object, but behind it, is its cosmological network. We watch a video of a drone swarm in a college laboratory. We hear a news report about a drone strike on the other side of the world. We dream about the future of airspace regulation over drone-like inventions that don’t exist yet. We interact with all of these threads when we think, talk, or work with drones.
But what is important to remember about all commodities is that just like this particular archetype of the Future-Present, their existence is not spontaneous. The abstraction of drones’ technological reality into a dreamscape of Future-Present speculation may give us a dozen Minority Report’s worth of murmurrating clouds of flying vehicles. But it does not spring into existence from a vacuum. Drones, as commodities, are “sold” to us, whether by Northrop-Grumman, the State Department, toy companies, Hollywood, Al Qaeda, or Occupy protesters. We adopt this theory-object as a means for thinking about the technological, political, and social issues trailing off from the node that is “drones”, and our use of it feeds back into its continued production.
Don’t let the terminology fool you: this is not simply a criticism of the capitalist systems that work to engender the Future-Present for us, any more than it is a theological criticism. This is part of being a responsible consumer, and even more so, a human being engaged in our history. Even if we are not buying the Future-Present in the form of a smart phone, we are still subscribing to it as part of the constant process of design fiction we engage in, as members of a historical society. We don’t need to invest in drones. In contemporary times, they are buying into us. As we are already ceaselessly engaging with the built-up commodities of the Future-Present, my informants noted, we must understand them better.
The curve of adoption is an emotional curve. The myth of the rational actor--that people will ultimately make rational decisions--is responsible for much of the damage of the 20th century. People think that they use rationality, and that’s the fundamental lie of western culture. We’re really bad at making reasoned decisions. Look at all the logical fallacies that exist in the world. We have many kinds of intuition, which are often useful, but also sometimes really bad. This isn’t to say we can’t think rationally, but your reaction to a shiny gadget is not necessarily rational. Do you want a smartphone in your life? Do you want to buy into that culture? There are people who ask these rational questions, but they are statistically insignificant. The Amish excise that choice from the individuals and give it to a community that follows a protocol. Most of our interactions with technology are doing what people around us do.
The curve of adoption— one of the many factors that make up the commodification of the Future-Present--is indeed a form of group-think. There is no rational actor, or invisible hand. There is a cultural unconscious, and its choices are not as simple as a Pepsi Challenge, but more like facial recognition software. What elements of the Future-Present we tend to recognize and select are based on a protocol formed from multiple steps of pattern recognition and summation. The distributed network of decision making is almost an algorithm. But while this cultural “computer vision” might be obscured from our rational minds, we can still hack into that algorithm and evolve it, if we know what we are doing.
There are two particular aspects of the cultural weight of technology that are interesting: first, there are technologies that either are or aren’t culturally absorbed. Often a technology will disappear, or isn’t accepted culturally. For instance, game systems that are put out onto the market and fall flat, or Blackberrys that are put out on the market and aren’t used. But then there’s the iPhone, which is changing the way people think and interact with cities. Second, there are things that don’t need to be absorbed--surgical methods, geotextiles, city infrastructure. These things are going to be used because of their function. But the other stuff needs to be coaxed into culture.
Medical technology moves forward whether or not it is culturally accepted. And yet there are so many new kinds of back surgery that because of their cultural appeal, seem not as invasive. They’re marketed in an effective way. It’s almost an app-ification of surgery. There are things like proactive prosthetics, cosmetic prosthetics, better designed limbs. When it comes to paving freeways, on the other hand, it doesn’t matter if people think it’s cool. It’s all about the companies and the contracts involved. The question becomes about the technology: is it consumer-based, or infrastructural-based? An elevator gets installed without much input, but smart elevators do have interfaces. People wait for elevators, and interact with them that way.
Is it a price point, or the novelty of being able to actually do some of these things that brings it from an infrastructural technology to a consumer-based technology? It’s hard to know where or when things will take off, and bloggers around the world will start writing about it. It’s difficult to predict. People said that cell phones would ruin Apple, but the iPhone has changed the way we think about phones. The sort of speculative blogging that I and other bloggers do, does this actually have a reach and affect on market forces? I don’t have the evidence either way. I think the genre of the review, ironically, has more of an effect that listening to me, Matt Jones, Julian Bleeker, or some sort of design-fiction piece about the cameras of the future. I like these, but I don’t know if they are actors on the world-historical stage. “iPads and the geological formations of the moons of Saturn”--I might write that, but I don’t know that it would change the development of the iPad.
When looking at the Future-Present as commodity, there is always a tendency to label so-called “market forces” as the primary force upon the development curve, and the key variable in that cultural algorithm. So much of our technological development is spurred by the pursuit of profit, that it is easy to say simply that this is what commodities are “for”. But what Geoff leads me to ask, is what factors exceed simple supply and demand? Speculative fiction hardly creates demand all on its own. But decisions are not purely the result of focus-group calculus, either. What single demand engendered our concept of drones? While certainly there is money to be made from drones, larger societal desires than profit factor into our fascinations and fears about UAVs.
I'm actually rather more concerned about theory objects that develop into things that aren't "commodified." We've got legions of commodifying guys already. They get up every day doing nothing but trying to make ideas into commercial products. There seem to be some remarkable spaces opening up for products outside the conventional markets. A good thing, too, because those markets are sclerotic with IP and are stifling us.
The speculative fiction creators that may or may not affect the shape of the market have their exo-market allies in the odd use-case scenarios that develop as street-level innovations. Hackers, and others who explore the margins of commodities’ uses are their own formative effect on both Future-Present and its commodified incarnations. Outside of capital exists an entire world of use, shaping how we know and think about objects.
It’s common in India to communicate by phone rings, without letting the phone connect, so they can convey information without being charged for the call. This is not about the fact that there isn’t technology available to allow people to make phone calls. It’s about finding a way around the monetization structure. This is a marginal case, but it’s a useful way of thinking about hacking the system.
Richard Nash writes about “monetizing the entire demand curve”. Amanda Palmer-- she has a very developed fan base. If you look at the Kickstarter tiers, it starts at a dollar, and the tiers go up and up. The house parties on Palmer’s Kickstarter campaign were in the $10K range. Everyone should be able to get something they want at the price they can afford, otherwise you’re leaving money on the table. Back in the old days, the best you could do is buy a band’s CD for $20. If you had less money, you were out of luck. If you had more…well, you could fly to another city to see them, but the band itself wouldn’t profit from the extra money you were spending. Now you can have a range of experiences. The thing about the phoning and hanging up.... if you’re a company, you can decide if you want to monetize the price points, but at some point you decide it’s not worth it. Even if the customer is not connecting the calls, they are still paying money to have a phone.
The use-cases of technology always overwhelm the ability of the market to monetize it. Commodities, therefore, are never just about just capitalist commodification. And because there is a curve of emergent behavior to factor into the construction of a commodity, it means that the Future-Present, as commodity, are evolving nodes, to which there are fundamentally no limit of variety and number. Who affects drone development most? Those who build them, those who buy them, those who fly them, or those who are watched by them?
There will always be emergent behaviors like these, especially in networked technology. Twitter is another example: these days, it’s presented to new users as a way get information from organizations, brands and celebrities. When I signed up, I thought it was a lightweight way to stay in touch with people. But now, in my life, it serves a couple of distinct purposes.
But the single biggest impact of Twitter on my life is why you and I are talking on the phone--it’s a networking connection, to meet the friends of our friends and expand outward in this circle of interesting pieces. Which goes back to the design decision of allowing you to see other people’s @ messages if you are also following that person. Probably, the people who made this design decision didn’t think about how it would make networks transparent. I sometimes describe Twitter as Douglas Adams’ Infinite Improbability Drive, only for my social life – you pass through all parts of the universe (or in this case, social network) at once.
With networked tech, it is more likely that there will be this sort of emergent behavior. The etiquette about twitter, DM fails, all of these things emerge. Even the simplest technologies have alternate uses, like using a butter knife as a screwdriver. Like the Game of Life, you can predict certain behaviors but it is not entirely deterministic--there are complicated and interesting emergent behaviours.
“Evolving network nodes of culturally-inscribed divergent use-value” might be a fairly tidy way to sum up how the Future-Present solidifies into easily understood pieces. But this doesn’t mean that we have them completely under our thumb. Drones serve as an archetype for this aspect of the Future-Present not only because of their conglomerate conceptualization, but because, at the end of the day, we don’t control them. They fly overhead, always recording our actions, whether we like it or not. Many are armed with nothing more deadly than a camera, and still, that is more than enough. We may be able to control them remotely, and occasionally hack them to broaden their use. But like the angels of heaven, invoking their name is an attempt to wield their power, as much as it is an admission that whatever they are, they are always just outside of our sphere.
Tomorrow night, erstwhile Rhizome contributor Tom McCormack will present an illustrated lecture at Brooklyn's Spectacle Theater. Titled Netsploitation: The Internet Through Movies, the talk will explicate the history of the Internet as depicted in big-screen Hollywood fare.
The inspiration for the talk came from McCormack's realization that many of biggest movies of his childhood — movies like War Games and Hackers— were thrillers that toed the line between ominous, ridiculous, and realistic anxieties about the Internet. He added that presenting an illustrated lecture now seems relevant and not forced: "With YouTube, a lot of my hanging out time is spent interspersing segments of whatever's being talked about throughout a conversation." Netsploitation will try to mimic that feeling while providing moments of revelation between humor and analysis.
Net Narrative is an exhibition curated by Harry Burke at Carlos/Ishikawa including work by Iain Ball, Ed Fornieles, Marlie Mul, Katja Novitskova, Ben Vickers, Holly White, and Artie Vierkant. Worth reviewing the catalog which includes essays by Huw Lemmey, Gene McHugh, and Eleanor Saitta.
Storytelling is more comfortable in the network than anywhere
it’s had to live since the enlightenment, since we locked up the
wandering bard in the cathedral, the university, and the television studio.
Networks are made of stories. A network is a bunch of people who share
a story about how to interact. Protocols are really just stories.
(And, as often as not, just so stories.) The converse isn’t true, of
course—there’s far more to a story than just a protocol, but it means
that networks intrinsically hold open a space for the story.
The stories that the network tells have a materially different quality,
existing all at once from all the perspectives of the multitude, without
a single privileged view. It’s not that any individual voice is wrong,
it’s just incomplete—the stories networks tell can only be perceived in
full in collective simultaneity, and those collectives have no room for
Sociality is the dominant vector within post-internet cultural production. With what is described as “post-internet art”, and especially in post-internet literary trends such as alt-lit, sociality is both the form and function of creative work; relationships, both interhuman and between people and institutions, are the primary medium of artwork formed in consideration of the online. Sometimes it can appear as though IRL shows, where people display visual artefacts, are remnants, poor excuses for social networks to circulate around online, third places. Parties, free schools, TV stations; all these operate as ways to manipulate networks of people into various roles, and it's this relational excess that seems to grip artists. Being able to move people. To be a post-internet artist par excellence is to be an organiser, a brand manager, a social engineer.
Post-internet art scene has proliferated within a network of cultural scenes; technological developments have allowed for a democratisation of culture (of sorts). Rather than geographically fixed scenes, which are limited, there instead becomes a less-defined ecosystem of tendencies and their participants can inhabit multiple subjectivities within different platforms. There’s undoubtedly something exciting and novel about this new landscape, but our concern here lies in the use and misuse of sociality as form. Within the post-internet discourse sociality floats free as a worthy value in itself; an undefined value, whereby all human relations are not only good but an end in themselves. How does this fit within a critical artistic framework, and, more importantly, what are the ethical dimensions of this value? Without an ethic, does sociality have any positive value, or is it an ameliorating stand in for the more problematic task of actual social engagement? When these questions are not openly posited in this context, a heady stench of irony overcomes all attempts at honest discussion. Are post-internet artists engaged in a series of abusive relations with their fans? Is a sociality in post-internet art actually operating as a tool to colonise the internet for shitty old institutions?
l'm not arguing for a move away from sociality as a medium. Far from it; l've long preferred social movements to aesthetic movements. But to actively use sociality as the medium of an artwork by necessity means were operating within the realm of the political. One might step away from openly espousing the political nature of a creative project, but in doing so one steps into dangerous territory; without open discussion of a certain set of ethical principles, co-option becomes almost an inevitability. What happens when a network that is the product of collective intellectual and social labour becomes commodified without the consent of that network? ....
Five Videos is an online series "hosted" by Rhizome, in collaboration with FACT, responding to the Liverpool Biennial's theme, The Unexpected Guest. Each week throughout the Liverpool Biennial, an artist will curate five videos about hospitality. This week Ming Wong considers issues related to the uneasy history of Chinatowns in Western urban centers.
“Forget it, Jake… it’s Chinatown.”
So concludes, famously, that 1974 neo-noir Hollywood classic directed by Roman Polanski, ‘Chinatown’. In one of the pieces I am showing at the Liverpool Biennial, I replace Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston in their iconic roles in selected scenes from the film, speaking about that place called ‘Chinatown’, posited as a space where ‘you can’t tell what’s going on’.
Despite the axiomatic utterance, I, however, could not forget it, I could not forget Chinatown, and in the subsequent months after making ‘Making Chinatown’ I delved into research into the history of the Chinatowns in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
I discovered a parallel history in Liverpool, home to the oldest Chinatown in Europe. San Francisco and Liverpool were the first and biggest port-of-call for Chinese immigrants coming to America and Europe at the turn of the 20th century.
Despite having been brought over to build the railroads in America or having fought in the war for the British navy, the Chinese suffered discrimination on both sides of the Atlantic. Anti-Chinese sentiment ran highest during the Great Depression and the post-war years, when laws were passed to restrict their numbers and chances of survival in the ‘host’ countries. The phrase ‘Not a Chinaman’s Chance’ came into use during this time.
Here is a video of the story of Angel Island in San Francisco bay, which served as an immigration station from 1910 -1940; today it is a museum where you can still see the calligraphic poems carved into the walls of the detection barrack where the Chinese immigrants were once detained:
In Liverpool, in 2006, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the waterfront to commemorate the Chinese seamen who fought for the British, but who were then forcibly deported after the war. Many of them leaving behind their English wives and Eurasian children who never saw their husbands or fathers again. Here is the story of one daughter.
During this era of ‘yellow peril’, pulp fiction writers began to use Chinatown as a crime setting, feeding the public’s fear and imagination of the unknown, such as Sax Rohmer who wrote the infamous ‘Fu Manchu’ novels.
Eventually this practice of employing orientalist setting and casting made its way into the cinema, especially in Film Noir : ‘The Shanghai Gesture’, ‘The Lady from Shanghai’, ‘The Big Sleep’, ‘Daughter of the Dragon’, ‘Mysterious Mr Wong’, ‘House of Bamboo’, ‘Betrayal from the East’, ‘Macao’, ‘Saigon’, ‘Across the Pacific’ to name a few.
The new work I made for Liverpool Biennial ‘After Chinatown’ acknowledges the uneasy legacy of these noir films. In it I portray a detective as well as a femme fatale who wander through a space called ‘Chinatown’. It was shot over the summer on location in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Hong Kong, so in a way I was retracing the journeys made by the early Chinese immigrants.
In a scene from ‘The Lady from Shanghai’ you can see Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth running through the Chinatown in San Francisco, ending up in a Chinese opera theatre. Some of these locations also feature in ‘After Chinatown’.
(**jump to 4:30)
In contrast with film noir depictions of Chinatown, consider Wong Kar-Wai’s ‘Chungking Express’, in which the actress Brigit Lin dons the femme fatale uniform of blond wig, sunglasses and trenchcoat and runs through the underworld of Hong Kong.
Among the exhibitions you won't need to travel to Chelsea or Vyner Street or elsewhere to see:
DOMAIN GALLERY: Ben Dierckx, Blind Spot
Ben Dierckx employs sculptural objects and electronic media to refer to the awareness of one's own perception. What is our relation with reality seems to be the perfectly wrong question; we are reality.
Many of his works interact in a negative way with the audience. A plant will run away from you, a classic roman miniature bust does not want to look at you, the color of a flower will turn into its inversion by the volume of your comments, ect.
Blind Spot is an interactive installation with a plastic bamboo plant and projections. A wireless camera hidden in the foliage of the plant films the exhibition space through the leaves. When a spectator comes closer the plant, it detects his presence and moves in the opposite direction. The projections on the walls reflect the repositioning of the plant and emphasizes the person-space relation.
"Blind Spot" forms part of a series called "Eyestroll" that combines physical objects with electronic media, where in the central idea is an awareness of one's own perception.
BUBBLEBYTE: Yuri Pattison, The Making of
Pattison’s practice reflects on the impact of digital media on our understanding of reality, highlighting inconsistencies in the system of representation. Mastering a huge variety of media, his work often uses different devices to explore the strengths and limits of digital communication.
For the show, The Making of, the first solo show of the artist on bubblebyte.org, Pattison reflects on how the internet influences ideas of space, time and memory, flattening their defining attributes whilst also distorting their essence.
FACH & ASENDORF GALLERY: Feréstec, Caprice Classic
...For more listings check out Netartnet.net
First Look: New Art Online is a monthly series of innovative online projects and new commissions curated by Lauren Cornell, former Rhizome executive director, currently New Museum curator of the 2015 “The Generational” Triennial, Museum as Hub, and Digital Projects.
This month includes a collection of 3D animations from Above Ground Animation.
Featured artists include Barry Doupé, Kathleen Daniel, Ryan Whittier Hale, and Jacolby Satterwhite. Beyond Pixar, Adult Swim, or the default avatars of video games, these works explore possibilities for 3-D human forms. Their casts of improbable people are hatched out of personal history or emotion—through a longing for intimacy or an uncertainty for the future. Experimental and short-form, all the works were made to be viewed across various screening contexts, from the cinema to the gallery to the browser, and yet their structure reflects a sophistication with a range of digital media and programs, from Maya to 3D Studio Max.
Founded by the artist Casey Jane Ellison, Aboveground Animation is a video collection, an artist community, and a roving exhibition platform all in one. Since 2008, Ellison has collected animations and shared them at venues, most regularly at Ramiken Crucible gallery in New York, inspired, in part, by a desire to promote art with a shared aesthetic and also to make sense of her own emerging body of work.
Check out upcoming projects and commissions on the recently redesigned New Museum website!
Jeff Noon's tweets are reliably among of the best contemporary fiction works today —beautiful stories told over short bursts, each under 140 characters. He calls the stories "microspores" and fans have submitted art and music to a tumblr collection. Wedged in between Romney quips, #FFs, and everyday social media-ing, the economy of his words as well as the context makes them all the more satisfying; like momentarily fading out of a conversation to recall last night's dream.
Last night, Noon, the author of several novels, (Vurt, Falling Out of Cars, the recently released Channel Sk1n, among others), had an especially frenized twitter feed — posting 50 stories at once and retweeting fiction responses. The "Sporecast" was so active, Twitter throttled his account multiple times that evening.
Tomorrow night at the New Museum! Don't miss the Rhizome New Silent Series panel on mobile technology and art:
The computer we carry in our pockets is also an emerging platform for interactive screen-based art. Art In Your Pocket takes its name from a series of texts Jonah Brucker-Cohen wrote for Rhizome on art made for smartphones. This panel will assemble leading media artists working with mobile devices and discuss current trends relating to this practice.
Moderated by Jason Eppink, Assistant Curator of Digital Media at the Museum of the Moving Image. Panelists include artist, programmer, and founder of iPhone app company SOFTOFT TECHECH, Paul Slocum; Mimi Sheller, leading theorist on mobilities research and Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University; LoVid, 2011 Rhizome commissioned artists for their location-specific art app project iParade #2: Unchanged When Exhumed; and Jonathan Vingiano, Co-founder of OKFocus.
Organized by Rhizome, the New Silent Series receives major support from The Rockefeller Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
at the New Museum
Epic Empires via virginsuicide photography Flickr
"Larp can change the world."
So claimed Heikki Holmås, Norway's newly-appointed Minister for International Development back in March, and I couldn't help but take notice. Three months previous, I was out researching an article on the Collapsonomics movement when the conversation turned to the new direction in which larp players from the Nordic nations were taking the form.
Larp — which you may have encountered already as LARP, acronym of "live action roleplaying", now noun'd down into lower case by regular use — has been around long enough for its public image to settle into an established stereotype, namely nerds dressing up as knights and orcs and hitting each other with rubber swords at the weekend. Like all clichés, it's rooted in truth: a lot of larp is exactly like that — and as such, I'd argue, no more worthy of mockery than paintballing, its over-macho cousin.
But there was, I heard, another type of larp: a larp whose potential as a tool for political and social change inspired Holmås to evangelise about it; a larp that could not only give players an insight into the lived experience of, for instance, homelessness, refugeeism or gender disparity, but which might also suggest changes to the way society deals with people in those situations; a larp that could 'game out' better ways of responding to a Haiti-scale natural disaster, or help the two sides of an interminable religiopolitical stalemate to walk a few yards in the shoes of their opponents.
I scribbled some notes, went home and started digging.
A brief history of larp
Larp's roots run deeper than Dungeons & Dragons.
In her book Leaving Mundania, Lizzie Stark traces the development of larp from its origins, the nascent form of what Bruce Sterling likes to call the military-entertainment complex: immersive historical pageants thrown by medieval royalty, often at immense expense; prototypical wargames for training the officers of the European enlightenment; contemporary historical re-enactment groups, some simply restaging the great battles of the past, or — in the case of the Society for Creative Anachronism — doing what they call 'living history', where old skills and ways of life are revived as part performance, part play, all wrapped up in authentic period costumes.
Wargaming systems of a more realist (or at least mimetic) type were a popular pastime for well-to-do Victorian folk, but it took a man named Dave Wesley form Minneapolis-St. Paul, frustrated with the way that the wargames he played in would break down into arguments over the implementation of the rules, to investigate the theory of games with an aim to developing non-zero-sum scenarios. The first run of Braunstein, a Napoleonic battle rendered with miniature soldiers on a tabletop landscape, ended in intrigue and chaos, with Wesley feeling he'd failed. "His players disagreed, and begged him to run another session," says Stark, so he did.
Braunstein attracted others, including one Dave Arneson, who'd go on to combine his wargaming jones with his Lord Of The Rings obsession to build a new set of rules, developed in collaboration with a thirty-something insurance underwriter named Gary Gygax; the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons, the ur-RPG, hit shelves in 1974.
Leaving the tabletop
COLD LARP'N - LONDON via jaredeberhardt Flickr
Larp was less born than seeded, however. Says Stark, "there is no single 'mother larp' that started the craze; instead it rose up like some grassroots political campaign, with people in different areas of the United States and elsewhere spontaneously deciding to hit their friends with padded sticks in backyards."
There's a possible Patient Zero in the imaginary planet of Atzor, an early proto-larp described in a Life article in 1941 which at the time of writing boasted ten 'lands' or countries wherein conflicts were decided with tabletop wargames of vast and involving complexity. But it's Brian Wiese's 'Hobbit War' of 1977 that represents the likely apotheosis of 'boffer' larp, familiar from the pop-cultural stereotype: Ren Fair rejects, running around in the woods with padded weapons.
Tolkienian secondary-world fantasy is no longer the only aesthetic in town, however: dystopian near-futures (with varying levels of cyberpunkiness pumped into the main mix), slipstreamish alternate histories and Moorcockian multiverses also abound.
The degree of determinism to the gameplay varies wildly, as do the player goals: from get-the-loot-and-kill-the-baddies to more abstract or intangible accomplishments, such as acquiring secret knowledge or building a network of spies. This movement away from both the tabletop and the rubber weapon was amplified by the huge popularity of White Wolf Publishing's Vampire: The Masquerade roleplaying system and its expansions, which stripped tabletop play down to raw simplicity while (re)introducing the critters-of-the-night tropes which now dominate the nebulous 'urban fantasy' fiction genre, and may well have played a large part in priming its audience. (The White Wolf gameworld was also an early staging ground for another of network culture's oddest performative/theatrical subcultures, the furries, who found in it a safe space to explore their supposed 'species dysphoria'.)
Modern larps might be played in person in the interstitial corridors of a gaming or sci-fi convention, or online via bulletin boards and forums, or both. Games may be mere hours long, or even shorter, like the bite-sized quarter-hour 'roleplaying poems'; some games may persist for years.
What they hold in common is their escapist intent: larp is supposed to be fun, a holiday from more mundane concerns, entertainment.
It's just a game.
"Many Nordic larps seem to be about trying out a certain mindset or exploring an emotion, rather than saving a town from orcs or finding enough loot to buy a sweet magic item." — Lizzie Stark
Some time close to the culture-warping strange attractor of the Millennium, however, larp underwent a development fork.
The first Knutepunkt conference of 1997, held in Oslo, was an early step in the formation of the Nordic larp identity. As the conference hopped from nation to Nordic nation on a yearly basis (each time relocalising its name into the language of the host country), it brought together game designers and players interested in transcending mere entertainment, in raising larp to the level of art.
First played in 1998, Ground Zero has a good claim to ur-game status, and is a great example of the 'un-fun' ideas that Nordic larp plays with: its players sat in a room standing in for an Ohio nuclear shelter circa the Cuban Missile Crisis, listening to mocked-up radio reports of a blossoming bout of Mutually Assured Destruction, then spent the rest of the game having their characters come to terms with the annihilation of the world outside. Far from being an outlier, the deep emotional implications of Ground Zero are indicative of the psychological spaces that Nordic larp would go on to explore.
For the sake of simplicity, I'll be following Stark's lead and using 'Nordic larp' to refer specifically to the avant-garde school of gameplay rather than the geographically-defined set of players. As Stark is careful to point out, larp in the Nordic countries is not a monolith so much as a collection of localised scenes, and the Knudepunkt circuit — despite its greater visibility to outsiders — is a marginal part of the greater whole.
Marginal it may be, but Nordic larp is a teeming ecosystem of styles and approaches which, again, mirrors the confusion of subgenres and styles to be found in the contemporary genre fiction scene.
For instance, medieval-esque fantasy isn't completely off the menu. Paralleling the recent rehabilitation of epic fantasy fiction, some Nordic scenesters are returning to the massively-multiplayer orcs-in-the-woods format with historio-mythical accuracy on their minds: Täällä Kirjokannen alla sought to give Tolkienian cliché the boot, and provide all the rompy fun of a trad boffer game with an authentic backdrop based on Finnish mythology. Indeed, the examination of national identity seems to be a popular project for Nordic larp as it spreads southward into Europe; in Poland, a game called Dzikie Pola began in the early Noughties, overlaying the lives of its players with an alternate reality in which they were noblemen from the Sarmatian Period.
Another obsession shared by Nordic larp with contemporary science fiction — and, not coincidentally, with pop culture in general — is the near-future or alt-history dystopia. Some of these games are huge productions, with days of gameplay following weeks of planning and set-construction; System Danmarc, for instance, took over a city-centre park, surrounding it with fences and filling it with shipping-container housing for the stratified underclass factions of its player-characters.
Many of these games involve a simple sort of imaginative play: one may be pretending to be another person, but that person is recognisably human, and interacts with a recognisably human imaginary world in familiar ways, despite the shifted context in which their actions take place. But not all Nordic larps bear such a clear resemblance to the mainstream forms of the game, or indeed such a mimetic resemblance to consensus reality. The Nordic methodology — which often includes a preliminary 'workshop' wherein the players are prepared for the game, perhaps with a discussion of history or politics pertinent to the larp in question, and a 'debriefing' that seeks to integrate the game experience and cushion the come-down of returning to reality — allows for set-ups and scenarios that reframe the human experience in dramatically powerful contexts.
Designed by the Nordic scene's uber-academic Emma Wieslander, Mellan himmel och hav ("Between Heaven and Sea", 2004) ambitiously concretised elements of feminist theory in order to explore disparity and gender roles. On joining the game, Stark explains, players were no longer male or female, but "morning people and evening people. Evening people wore red and yellow, concerned themselves with philosophy and decision making, and served as the objects of the sexual gaze. Morning people wore blue and green, served as the sexual initiators, and were resp for practical arrangements and implementing the decisions of the evening people. In-game, marriage was not between two people, but among four — two morning and two evening people, who mated for life."
Other larps have attempted to bridge the divide with experimental and participatory theatre, or explore situations originally presented in literature — there was a larp based on de Sade's 120 Days In Sodom, for instance. Even the mechanics of play are not sacred, with a considerable degree of experimentation into ways of abstracting character interactions which might be dangerous.
Nordic larp, then, is not easily encapsulated, though there are underlying commonalities. One thing that becomes clear early on is the doctrine of subjectivity: due to the nature of the larp experience, it is impossible to report on what a game was like from any perspective other than one's own. As such, post-game papers and reports tend to focus on design and theory rather than assessments of success or failure, or attempts to reproduce the narrative on the page; as Dave Wesley discovered with the earliest runs of Braunstein, a game might be a complete flop in the eyes of its designers while the players are having the time of their lives.
This was the experience of the gamewrights behind Valokaari, a near-future war scenario; they failed to engineer the expectations of the players — failed to assert the genre and tropes of the game before it began, if you like — and lost control of the narrative as they'd planned it. The players had a blast, however, and with the breezy insight that seems typical to Nordic gamewrights, this was viewed as a valuable lesson rather than a waste of time:
"[E]nvision you are running an Ally McBeal larp and then realize your players have chosen to play it like Law & Order. The subject matter of 'law' remains, but emphasis is very different," explains J. Tuomas Harviainen in an essay about the game Valokaari for the anthology States of Play: Nordic Larp Around the World.
Larp as Art
It seems to me that almost all artforms undergo an developmental curve which starts in pure entertainment and/or escapism before arching upward (or downward, depending on one's position relative to the axes) as the canon, loaming beneath its own accreted density, becomes an ecosystem able to support theorists, metacritical practices and experimental methodologies.
A similar curve is reiterated in microcosm within art genres: witness, for example, the slow development of science fiction from pulpy romps for Competent Men to its current status, that of a genre with its own canon, critical vocabulary and — perhaps most importantly — its own vanguards of theory and praxis.
It is important to note, however, that the pulpy end of the genre has not only survived but remained largely dominant in terms of sales, and also indirectly supports the avant-garde by providing an economic base for the industry: as regrettable as the posthumous eking out of Robert Jordan's bloated Wheel Of Time series may seem to those of us who have read widely enough to recognise it as derivative, its gangbuster sales figures allow Tor to continue taking chances on new or lesser-known writers, some of whom may be pushing the form to new places.
Although that economic connection doesn't pertain (or so I assume), the development of 'literary' and avant-garde praxis and theory within science fiction and fantasy provides a useful analogy for the development of Nordic larp.
The academics, artists and players of the Nordic scene refer to more generic games as 'mainstream' larp, reserving the 'Nordic' soubriquet for their own experiments with the form. Implicit here is the claim that their Nordic larp is capital-letter Art, while the other stuff — as Capote is alleged to have said of Kerouac's work — is "just typing".
(One might compare and contrast this reframing with sf's snooty dismissal of mimetic fiction as 'mainstream' or 'mundane'... and, indeed, with the sf avant-garde's dismissal of the popular mass of push-button tropes and cliches which lurks beneath the bell-curve as 'skiffy' or 'pulp'.)
Pulp vs. lit
"The Nordic scene is proof that fun is not a necessary or essential component of larp, proof that the hobby can sustain high-art aspirations." —Lizzie Stark
In the course of her investigations, Stark has played a variety of larps, from big-business Stateside boffers like Knight Realms to mind-bending art-school Nordic oddities. I was curious to know whether the characters she'd played were persistent, lingering in the mind long after the game was done, or whether it was more of an episodic shrugging on and off of character-as-costume, something more like the experience of a bit-part actor.
For Stark, larp is predominantly "a mode of personal discovery, a way of investigating my own psyche; the character I play is an internal manifestation of my own personality". This ties in with the literary outlook of her own academic background, perhaps; what Stark enjoys about larp is that hard-to-define "art experience", the kick of inner enlightenment she recalls first encountering while reading Woolf's The Waves: "it was like [Woolf] was explaining things about me to myself".
Not everyone plays this way, though. Boffer players tend toward a 'compartmentalised' approach to character, wherein the disconnect between the player's identity and the character's is more pronounced. In Leaving Mundania, Stark discusses a handful of larpers who deliberately step into personalities very different to their own when playing. For some, this is perhaps for the thrill of being able to commit illicit acts in a space where the consequences of those acts won't cause any real harm, much like a computerised war sim; still others seem to use their characters as a safe space in which to come to terms with traumatic experiences from their real lives, to walk in the shoes of others for a little while.
Given Stark's background, her metaphor — that boffer is to Nordic larp what genre fiction is to literature — makes a certain rough'n'ready sense. But the distinction is a little invidious: 'literature' is a moving target, after all, and there is a spectrum of literariness within almost every genre of any maturity.
Hence I'd modify Stark's terminology by swapping out 'genre' for 'pulp'; the latter, I feel, more fairly captures the exuberant disregard for high-art values and favouring of escapism and fun which characterise both boffer larp and popular/populist genre fiction, and makes of larp's various forms a contiguous spectrum rather than a binary split.
The highly influential larp Mellan himmel och hav, for instance, has all the hallmarks of science fiction's more literary aspirations — unsurprising, given it drew on the works of Ursula K Le Guin, who is many things, but no writer of pulp. The commercially successful Stateside boffer campaign Knight Realms, by contrast, is pure pulp adventure: a cosplay theme park that convenes periodically to embody the generic Extruded Fantasy Product familiar from Terry Brooks's interminable Shannara franchise.
We can turn to literary criticism for a yet more useful analogy. E M Forster's Aspects of the Novel was a core text of the modernist literary project, and while much of what it proclaimed as duty is now questioned as dogma, it contains some distinctions that remain useful. The one that applies here is the 'flat character'/'rounded character' dichotomy: flat characters are predominantly defined by a single trait, which makes them "memorable, predictable and pure" [Koch 2003, p95], while round characters have a "want or need that makes them capable of change" [ibid, p96].
The flat character is a staple of the sitcom, the episodic serial: "[s]ince they are incapable of change, flat characters can go on and on and on, having an endless sequence of adventures." [ibid, p95] The round character is, at least in part, one of the concepts hiding behind the shibboleth of literature; their changes of nature as they progress through the story are what critics mean when they talk about 'character-driven' fiction.
Forster's dichotomy is often framed as a value judgement (round = literature = Nordic = good; flat = genre = boffer = bad), but that judgement inheres more within the critical canon than Forster's original formulation. If we think of flatness and roundness as different narrative strategies, the split becomes complementary instead of antagonistic: flat characters are ideal to escape into, avatars for enjoyable fictional journeys wherein the exterior is privileged and foregrounded; rounded characters, by contrast, focus the narrative on the interior, forcing the reader to engage with events at a more personal level, privileging philosophy and contemplation over escapism and fun.
Despite favouring the elitist aesthetic a literature over the rompy fun of pulp, I don't believe either is inherently better than the other; they are too different to bear the weight of that comparison, as are their larp equivalents
But in the next instalment, I'll argue that Nordic larp has a socially disruptive potential that makes it the more interesting end of the scene, while marking it as both an artform native to contemporary network culture and a new experimental praxis in narrative theory...
Five Videos is an online series "hosted" by Rhizome, in collaboration with FACT, responding to the Liverpool Biennial's theme, The Unexpected Guest. Each week throughout the Liverpool Biennial, artists will curate five videos about hospitality. This week, Lucky PDF looks at online personalities of questionable authenticity.
A good guest is expected to do a lot of pretending. Our gratitude may be genuine, but our immediate reliance on our host, and our proximity to them, requires careful social construction. It is rare that people want to know what you really think, though they want to believe you're being sincere. Hosting on the internet is a more impersonal arrangement. You probably don't know name of your server technician, and you won't go out of your way to thank a forum moderator for job well done. It's much more likely you'll give them your honest opinion of their service and the decision to suspend your account. The internet gives us an opportunity to be honest because we know the repercussions are limited. Social media can be so anti-social because there's no immediate consequence to us being inconsiderate. For the same reasons there's no requirement to tell the truth, and few easy ways to verify what's real.
It is in this environment that the Troll thrives. Trolling is not the art of lying, it's the art of convincing others that you're telling the truth, which you might well be, even if only in the moment you hit 'post'. A good comments thread allows everyone to fully engaged in an argument, thunderously angry and completely without self-doubt, where an offline discussion would be limited by politeness and awareness that you have no idea what you're talking about.
The result is a change in the use and value of truth. Existing only for one person in one moment, truth becomes atomised and incommunicable. We're left with only what we believe other people believe. All interactions are tinged with suspicion as we assume everyone's online sincerity is as fleeting as our own. Other people become less real because we're not being entirely real ourselves. Honesty becomes a tool to be used in communication, a material property of language. An unexpected guest might be one that does not behave as expected, one who give us honesty when there should be none and takes as sincere that which should be treated with suspicion.
These five videos take the techniques and content of Troll and comment culture, using the unfixed honesty of others, and their own, detached sincerity. Each takes the degraded truth of online communication and in different ways rehabilitates it into something real, each shows an example of our developing ways of communicating, relating to other people, caring about things and meaning what we say.
1. Molly Soda - Inbox Full
Molly Soda is an artist, she's also famous, or rather she's tumblr famous. She has more tumblr followers than anyone else (almost) which makes her a very powerful figure within online culture. If not quite a trendsetter, she's surely a tastemaker. She knows what's cool, that's why you follow her. It's this knowing (and tumblr's Ask Me Anything option) that prompts many people to seek her advice and opinions on a wide range of life, fashion and tumblr related subjects, so many that her inbox got full. In order to deal with the mass of requests, and presumably the guilt of not responding, she videos herself reading out every single question. It takes ten hours.
Questions about her hair colour, who she follows and obscene insults are treated with an equal and total disinterest. Disarming the trolls by showing the scale of their insignificance she also discards the fan mail from her young, impressionable admirers. Perhaps this is exactly what all of them wanted, a few seconds of her attention, the knowledge that she cares enough to spend ten hours not caring. This is a cathartic performance and a reminder of the inhuman scale to which our online presence can grow.
2. Lynnteenporno - Dillon McSingle Makeup Tutorial
The fan/troll relationship is symbiotic - both of them need the other to properly function. There's no point attacking something unless there's someone to fight back and no better way to prove your fandom than mounting a defence (not that anyone will ever win). But there's a thin line between love and hate. Lynn loves Dillon, so much so that she'll smear cream cheese and foundation on her face to look like him.
Lynn is 16 years old. Dillon is one of her online friends. Dressing up as someone else is complex statement and it's hard to tell if she means it as a compliment. "You know Dillon only likes boys because Lindsay Lohan likes boys." There's a thin line between over-appreciation and homophobic cyber-bullying, but in an attention economy there is no unwanted attention. When you 'do it for the haters', then your troll can be your best friend.
3. Kari Robertson - Can Dialectics Break Beverly Hills?
"You can't fight alienation with alienated means" says a character in René Viénet's 1973 fully detourned film 'Can Dialectics Break Bricks?' If you're looking for alienation, or just looking for a fight, then head to YouTube comments and click 'see all'. Glasgow based Kari Robertson takes the comments of 1970s political videos and dubs them over the more personal struggles of (original) Beverly Hills 90210.
Rendering the comments as dialogue shows just how little communication occurs in a comments thread (probably about as much as between a teenager and their parents). No one fights to win in YouTube comments, but it's a good place to study your enemy. Fights can be picked and dropped without consequence. What you're not practising is grammar. YouTube commentors are the avant-garde of the English language. Unbound from the accepted rules that tie writing to communication or sense, every Alt Lit possibility is open to you.
4. Mark McGowan - BOO!!! George Osborne BOO!!! This Government
Mark McGowan has always been an artist in search of an audience, with a practice based on media-friendly stunts designed to get him on TV (he had to publicly apologise for suggesting on a radio show that he was with Yoko Ono, eating a dog). His current YouTube persona of Artist Taxi Driver allows him to troll trending news topics, turning the reactionary rant, usually a preserve of the right, against the mainstream media, big business and the current Conservative government.
Mark's work has always used protest-politics as its form, rather than its content. In the comments threads and his twitter following he collects around him anti-government conspiracy theorists and slightly embarrassed left-liberal art audiences, lampooning them both by showing just how easy it is to really care about something. That said, when he's shouting about the university lecturers going out on strike (he's a lecturer and a union rep) he does really mean it, presumably.
5. Ed Fornieles - Dorm Daze
Imitation is the sincerest form of trolling, but if you're pretending to be someone as an honest aspirational appreciation of the cultural archetypes they represent, maybe it should be taken as a compliment.
Trolling always relies on hiding behind another identity, even if that's just the online you. The participant characters in Dorm Daze created strong, and at times very touching, relationships using amalgamations of movie clichés and real people's 'scalped' profiles. Convincing to a British ear, the narrator's American accent tells the story of the melodramatic events roll-played by the participants over three months, a reminder that if the internet is getting a bit boring, you can always just create an anonymous profile and ramp up the drama. The internet is a great place to tell stories.
A brief look at a short-lived American quarterly publication, which gives a little insight into the practice of art with computers in the 1970's. While a product of its time, there are some places with resonances to the practice of today.
May 1976, Vol.1, No 2 - In The Beginning:
An overview from the publication's editor and computer artist Grace Hertlein, writing about the three phases of computer art - past, (at time) present, and the future.
NCC '76 Art Exhibition - New York City (Pages 10 - 17)
A good primer of artists of the time.
Computer In - Analogue Out
Examples of the use of computers to create work in physical form.
Untitled Sculpture by Jose Alexanco of Madrid. The sculpture is one of many variations designed by the computer, and executed by the artist. The source of design is prehistoric cave art, dating from c. 15,000-10,000 B.C., from the Magdeleine Cave in France.
Using a computer to design murals for a subway station:
Computer programming textile patterns:
Computer design for a painting:
Choreography and the Computer
And lastly, some examples of Generative Art
image via Paul Clarke
Recently, Digital Sizzle staged a data and art hackathon at Mozilla HQ in London.There were no rules – the only expectation was to share ideas and skills. The hackathon began with a handful of participants pitching ideas. The weekend’s aim was to make art but, its context also showcased developers as creative practitioners who are just as engaged in the process of making as artists are. In the end, two themes of opposing approaches defined the weekend: generating data vs. using data sets and material outcomes vs. screen based outcomes. Tonight a selection of the projects will be shown at Whitechapel Gallery.
From the developer side there appeared to be a certain desire to pursue a project that generated material objects as an outcome. One project wove together a paper dress printed from a live stream of Instagrams and Tweets sourced by a Python script searching for the #LFW (London Fashion Week) tag. The designer remarked that the process of weaving references the birth of programming in the textile looms of industrial revolution Britain. For the developers, the data dress was an attractive opportunity to make something physical. Wearable data was an outcome pursued by other participants over the weekend. Stef Lewandowski actively sought to go beyond a screen based outcome by crafting laser cut necklaces created from the visualization of Twitter sentiment analysis.
The most ambitious project of the hackathon called on live data from weather stations across the world, working towards re-creating far-flung weather locally. Using a garden pipe, fishpond pump and plastic roofing, the rain happening in New Delhi or Jakarta came down at Mozilla HQ, London. A socket using a netduino controllable by http requests powered the device. It was reminiscent of YoHa’s work Invisible Airs, which utilized data from Bristol Council to power pneumatic machines that re-imagined data in a physical space for the community to experience as an object.
Another team used tropical fish as an unstable data source. As the fish moved they created their own musical scale replayed back to the audience. The team remarked that using unstable data is an unusual concept in a development context and the hackathon was an opportunity to explore this. Fiona Chambers and her team spent the weekend gathering data from the detritus of the Internet: spam. Chambers also collected banal Instagram images, upon which nonsensical phrases from spam were layered. Her intention is to hand them out as flyers at the Whitechapel. This project took spam at its most distasteful and read it aloud over a 1970’s porn soundtrack. By using Twilio visitors to the gallery will be able to call a hotline and hear spam being read back to them. Additionally, Max Povey decided to generate his own spam by creating a ‘bespoke’ recommendation service (inspired by ‘Amazon recommends’…) to Tweet absurd personal suggestions to visitors listed as attending the gallery event.
As the weekend came to a close, the divide between developers and artists was only made tangible by the different wristbands given to either group. Despite the artists having an initial anxiety that a lack of coding knowledge would inhibit their ability to collaborate on a technical level, their creative skills were abundant in re-imagining the spaces in which data usually resides. The developers had the chance to create ambitious projects without the pressure of making sure everything works perfectly for a client. The hackathon was for many a starting point in establishing new working relationships, which will continue to generate thought provoking work beyond the weekend.
A selection of the global US social media cloud, resorting under the Patriot Act by Metahaven
E-Flux this month includes an essay by Metahaven (Part 1 of 3) on cloud computing, international law, and privacy. "Citizens across the world are subject to the same Patriot Act powers" the US has over its citizens" as data stored overseas by US companies is still subject to US surveillance. The US also excersizes "super-jurisdiction" in cases like the seizure of Megaupload, which was a Hong Kong-based company, the DOJ accused of "willful conspiracy to break US law" due it's global user base. Furthermore, "all top-level domain names" registered through VeriSign are subject to US seizure, even if operated entirely outside the country.
The essay continues, looking at examples of Apple's App store censureship of Drones+, Google+ and Facebook real name policy, and other examples of the "cloud as a political space."
"The first mention of the notion of the “cloud” was in a 1996 diagram in an MIT research paper," redrawn by Metahaven for e-flux
Most journalism routinely criticizes (or praises) the US government for its ability to spy on “Americans.” But something essential is not mentioned here—the practical ability of the US government to spy on everybody else. The potential impact of surveillance of the US cloud is as vast as the impact of its services—which have already profoundly transformed the world. An FBI representative told CNET about the gap the agency perceives between the phone network and advanced cloud communications for which it does not presently have sufficiently intrusive technical capacity—the risk of surveillance “going dark.” The representative mentioned “national security” to demonstrate how badly it needs such cloud wiretapping, inadvertently revealing that the state secrets privilege—once a legal anomaly, now a routine—will likely be invoked to shield such extensive and increased surveillance powers from public scrutiny.
Users’ concerns about about internet surveillance increased with the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was introduced into the US House of Representatives in late 2011. How the government would police SOPA became a real worry, with the suspicion that the enforcement method of choice would be standardized deep packet inspections (DPI) deployed through users’ internet service providers—a process by which the “packets” of data in the network are unpacked and inspected. Through DPI, law enforcement would detect and identify illegal downloads. In 2010, before SOPA was even on the table, the Obama Administration sought to enact federal laws that would force communications providers offering encryption (including e-mail and instant messaging) to provide access by law enforcement to unencrypted data. It is, however, worth noting that encryption is still protected as “free speech” by the First Amendment of the US Constitution—further complicating, but not likely deterring, attempts to break the code. One way of doing so consists of surrounding encryption with the insinuation of illegality. The FBI in 2012 distributed flyers to internet cafe business owners requesting to be wary of “suspicious behavior” by guests, including the “use of anonymizers, portals or other means to shield IP address” and “encryption or use of software to hide encrypted data.” In small print, the FBI added that each of these “indicators” by themselves, however, constituted lawful conduct...
The iOS6 update for the iPhone no longer includes Google Maps, but Apple's own more inferior service. But the accuracy of its data, has a curious beauty to it: the Amazing iOS6 Maps has found a stunning number of melting landscapes. For example this image, compared the streets in Inception folding up like a draw bridge:
Last month, artist Clement Valla explained in his essay for Rhizome how this occurs on Google Earth:
At first, I thought they were glitches, or errors in the algorithm, but looking closer, I realized the situation was actually more interesting — these images are not glitches. They are the absolute logical result of the system. They are an edge condition—an anomaly within the system, a nonstandard, an outlier, even, but not an error. These jarring moments expose how Google Earth works, focusing our attention on the software. They are seams which reveal a new model of seeing and of representing our world - as dynamic, ever-changing data from a myriad of different sources – endlessly combined, constantly updated, creating a seamless illusion...
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