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Architecture’s Underbelly

December 28, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the low points of architecture in 2013 was architect Zaha Hadid’s football stadium in Qatar. Designed for the forthcoming games of 2022, the main part of the discussion has been about whether it resembles a vagina or not.

Al-Wakrah stadium

Besides reducing architectural discourse to a pretend shock about female genitalia, the case is emblematic of how design is detached from the actual world conditions. Instead of engaging in any way with the reports about abusive working conditions in the construction sites of such stadiums for Qatar 2022, we are left debating the building’s pinky Freudian connotations. Despite the pseudo-feminist debate it raised, a rather sad moment for design. It actually just flags detachment of both architectural popular discourse and architects such as Hadid from a connection with things that might have some material meaning or a meaningful impact for those whose lives this has a direct lived relation.

The underbelly of star designers are: “long working hours, hazardous working conditions, the workers being unpaid for months, had their passports confiscated, forced to live in overcrowded labour camps, denied the right to form unions, and without access to free drinking water in extreme heat”.

But the creative industries backed discourse of stars and creativity demands this underbelly of grey abusive low-paid and globally displaced hard work that is sustaining the fluffy public discourse about design.

Breathless

June 17, 2013 1 comment

“My eyes were burning, and my nose running and my face was also burning”. These are ensations across the body, demonstrating the effectiveness of technologies of security. Your eyes and nose and mouth feel it. It burns across your body, an involuntary body panic from the fear of choking.

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 16.04.52

Gas is a rather peculiar weapon. It is atmospheric in the manner German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk talks about: it conditions the environment and breathing and as such invades one of the most intimate areas of our life: our lungs and sense of being alive. Naturally, this is not only a sense of being alive, but its very condition. Gas warfare is not only about biopolitical invasions but also the raw animal life being controlled: the zoe.

Gas is spatial and ephemeral at the same time. The wind can carry it across distances, although it is used as a very localized measure. It divides space in new ways: those able to breath with gas masks, and those suffocating, denied their participation in that space. You can control territories through a control of who is allowed to breath air in there. Tear gas, pepper gas, water cannons infused with chemicals: meticulous information on what the body can just about take. This information is always escorted by the possible deviations from the norm: for instance children’s lungs as well as elderly lungs.

Modern chemical attacks against humans date back to the first World War and the trench warfare.  The Germans started using toxic clouds in April, 1915. As Sloterdijk notes, what makes this manner of suffering and even death more painful is how the suffocating is made to participate in his and her own condition: the body is made to turn against itself, gasping for breath, convulsions. The organic tissue becomes an archive of atrocities, a registering surface of the effects of modern science and technology employed in military and security regimes.

Of course you can shoot and aim with gas canisters, to ensure the good ol’ blunt hit. The effects of this hit can be rather horrific.

Considering gas, Sloterdijk speaks of “terror from the air”, and associates terrorism as a feature of modernity:

“It is crucial to identify terrorism as a child of modernity, insofar as its exact definition was forged only after the principle of attacking an organism’s , or a life form’s, environment and immune defences was shown in its perfect technical explication.”

There is a technological condition of this state of breathlessness and it has to do with the history of modern synthetic biology: the measurement of human capacities for breathing as well as the necessary measures for inhibiting the use of air for the organism.

And in Timothy C. Campbell’s words, referring to Sloterdijk, “terrorism is always ecologically directed”.

We need to turn meditations of air, soul and breathing into a bio- and zoepolitics of breathing and an analysis the systematic ecological and health abuses: from the minuscules particles of gas and dust, to how they constitute more abstract but as real security operations.

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 16.03.34

Sources:
Campbell, T. (2011) Improper Life. Technology and Biopolitcs from Heidegger to Agamben. University of Minnesota Press.
Sloterdijk, P. (2009) Terror from the Air. Semiotext(e).
Images via Twitter.

Depletion Design

December 5, 2012 1 comment

Depletion Design

A collection that looks really exciting: Depletion Design: A Glossary of Network Ecologies, edited by Carolin Wiedemann & Soenke Zehle. I was happy to be involved with a tiny text on dust and new materialism. A lot of my recent writing and interests have had to do with depletion, exhaustion, and things dead or discarded – as with zombie media. More things (texts) grim and grey forthcoming.

You can download the book here. Below a blurb about its contents.

“We, or so we are told, are running out of time, of time to develop alternatives to a new politics of emergency, as constant crisis has exhausted the means of a politics of representation too slow for the state of exception, too ignorant of the distribution of political agency, too focused on the governability of financial architectures. But new forms of individual and collective agency already emerge, as we learn to live, love, work within the horizon of depletion, to ask what it means to sustain ourselves, each other, again. Of these and other knowledges so created, there can no longer be an encyclopedia; a glossary, perhaps.”

Contributors: Marie-Luise Angerer (Cyborg), Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi (Exhaustion, Soul Work), David M. Berry (On Terminality), Zach Blas (Queer Darkness), Drew S. Burk (Grey Ecology), Gabriella Coleman (Anonymous), Heidi Rae Cooley (Ecologies of Practice), Sebastian Deter- ding (Playful Technologies, Persuasive Design), Jennifer Gabrys (Natural History, Salvage), Johannes Grenzfurthner & Frank A. Schneider (Hackerspace), Eric Kluitenberg (Sustainable Immobility), Boyan Manchev (Disorganisation, Persistence), Lev Manovich (Software), Sonia Matos (Wicked Problems), Timothy Morton (Ecology without Nature), Jason W. Moore (Cri- sis), Anna Munster (Digital Embodiment), Brett Neilson (Fracking), Sebastian Olma (Biopoli- tics, Creative Industries, Vitalism), Luciana Parisi (Algorithmic Architecture), Jussi Parikka (Dust Matter), Judith Revel (Common), Ned Rossiter (Dirt Research), Sean Smith (Informa- tion Bomb), Hito Steyerl (Spam of the Earth).

Carnal Knowledge: Towards a New Materialism Through the Arts

November 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Some years ago, probably in 2008 or so, I remember pitching with another writer a book proposal to a publisher. It would have been a short introduction to “new materialism”, a theoretical wave that argued/s for there to be much more in the world than representations, signifying structures and ideologies — that non-human things exist, independently of us, and that for us to understand matter and embodiment, we need to see it as active, dynamic and stemming from the primacy of relations. Well, the proposal did not get too far. The other reviewer was more or less puzzled about the  whole existence of the term, writing that it was just invented for the purposes of the proposal and did not have currency outside in academic debates — in other words, new materialism does not exist (despite the proposal flagging that it is not only Manuel Delanda who had used the term but also Rosi Braidotti, with significant theoretical debates in material feminisms of for instance Grosz and Barad, and of course theoretical ideas since Lawrence Grossberg to the very different ideas of matter and the non-human by Latour and even Kittler!).

9781780762661.ashxOnly within months books with “new materialism” in their title, or with allusions to it, like Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, started to come out and even more strongly identify a field and  a wave of interest. This theoretical discourse has been recently continued with publications such as New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies. For me, it is important to really understand the multiplicity in debates concerning matter, the real and non-human — something that at times get understood very narrowly and in a very recent context, despite the longer roots of such ideas. Dolphjin and van der Tuin write nicely that “Our proposition is that new materialism is itself a distinctive trend, both in feminist theory and in cultural theory more broadly, and a device or tool for opening up theory formation.” (100)

Another book discussing new materialism – especially in art theory and practice – is now out. Edited by Barbara Bolt and Estelle Barrett Carnal Knowledge: Towads a New Materialism Through the Arts engages with a range of practices and artistic media, from painting to video, film to dance in order to elaborate new vocabularies of materiality. I have not seen the whole book yet, but I myself co-authored a piece on dance — on a fantastic choreography performed by himself, Tero Saarinen: a modulation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, now called Hunt. The media artist Marita Liulia did the visuals. The piece is explosive. The angle of the text is on dynamics of movement, primacy of relations and biopolitics of dance.

copyright: Tero Saarinen company

On Borrowed Time – Lazzarato and Debt

November 29, 2011 6 comments

Maurizio Lazzarato’s new book La fabrique de l’homme endetté is another fabulous, lucid and inspiring account from the Italian philosopher. The short book is, as the subtitle promises, an essay on the “neoliberal condition”, which in this case encompasses an analysis of debt. It could not be timelier. This is an obvious statement but the importance of debt from the macroeconomic level of public sector national crises in Europe and US to the microeconomic subjectivity of the individual agents cannot be overestimated. Indeed, what Lazzarato offers is a philosophico-historical analysis of the debt condition via Nietzsche, Marx, Deleuze & Guattari and Foucault.

Written in an accessible style, Lazzarato’s argument is easily summarized. What grounds the economic relation is not exchange as so often assumed in classical economic theories but the credit-debt relationship. This, in other words, is a relation of asymmetric power, which is the fundamental starting point for what is followed up by economic and political contexts (two tightly related fields, argues Lazzarato distinguishing himself from Badiou and Rancière’s argument concerning the autonomy of the political from the economic). Debt as a feature of neoliberalist policies affecting exactly the diminishment of the public sector gradually from the 1970s onwards is what Lazzarato insists as a better way to understand contemporary capitalism than talk of financial capitalism. With the creditor-debt relation he is able to talk of the subjectification process inside capitalism.

Lazzarato proceeds in a clear fashion, first taking aboard Nietzsche’s genealogy of morality and explication the debt relation as one of guilt. The relation of debt is one of morality and hence encompasses the social relation before establishing the economic. The precondition for debt is that you are able to make promises, project to the future, and establish a relation of future promises made now. This temporality is a significant feature in terms of how debt attaches to the morality, the embodied subject of capitalism that Lazzarato insists is not only cognitive. Indeed, in more than one passage he argues that the theses concerning cognitive capitalism are insufficient to understand the whole relation. The investment in the cognitive, and the cognitive as the motor of contemporary production is just one modality in a wider context. Indeed, later he goes on to elaborate what he calls a more “existentialist” mode of subjectivity at the centre of this neoliberal condition. Yet, this is not Sartrean existentialism, but one that comes from William James. The cognitive is only a small part of subjectivity that more fundamentally includes more intimate things – passions, impulsions, beliefs and desires. Hence, in this mix of Nietzsche-James one is looking at more non-cognitive forces that relate to a relation to future. This futurity is something that in various different ways has been suggested as a way to understand contemporary powers of security-capital, from pre-emption (Elmer and Opel), premediation (Grusin) and futur antérieur (Massumi).

For Lazzarato, this is an articulation of belief and the necessary incertitude as its atmospheric context, which is all embedded in the wider culture of risk that we find from the discourses of entrepreneurship to work in general. Hence, Nietzschean genealogy of bodily feelings (or lets call them affect, even if Lazzarato does not really talk of affects) is one that lends itself to understand what is the social enabling the capital relation.

When bringing in Marx to his analysis, Lazzarato refers to a much less known text, “Credit and Bank” (1844). This is what Lazzarato calls the Nietzschean Marx; one who sees the condition of debt entirely attached to the subjectivity of the poor, the one who is on borrowed time (hence, applies to the rent relation as well…). Here, to paraphrase Lazzarato (p.45), the credit does not characterize only labour, but the wider work that goes into the self – instead of just investing into physical or intellectual capacities, credit/debt is something that attaches to the morality (the future-orientedness) of the subjectivity, and hence is a question of ethics. To continue with Lazzarato’s explication of Marx, this relates to a total alienation as it touches not only a specific part of the worker’s time (that of work) but the whole ethics of being as someone who is promising, bearing risks, and assuming a future. What is captured is the future-prospect, or something that Lazzarato calls as the debt-relations’ asphyxiation of futures.

Throw in Deleuze and Guattari for good measure. Obviously, so much of Lazzarato’s analyses has been already implicitly about Deleuze-Guattarian emphases that he explicates in the book.  The “non-economic interpretation of economy” that DG’s emphasis of the production of the social brings in is again the point of asymmetry of power. As a certain anthropology of capital, it allows us to think, again, not exchange but debt/guilt/power as what enables the economy. The two monies of a) revenue/salary and b) capital need to be distinguished. The latter is what governs financial capitalism as a form of futurity (or pre-emption of futures) where the credit money is able to what kind of productions and products will actualize (and of course, one could add, it is not only about such but the constant deferral of the virtual money repackaged into new forms of debts – subprime).

To paraphrase Lazzarato (p.71), the approach he proposes is about the transversality of the debt/neoliberal condition. Employed, and unemployed, productive or unproductive, the state of debt runs through economic, political and social fields (ibid.). Picking up on Foucault’s points (and updating some others), Lazzarato reminds that the (neo)liberal condition is not about reduction of control and governing, as so often rhetorically claimed, but about emphasizing certain patterns of contradiction, accumulation of value and power, and minimizing the democratic possibilities of intervention (120).

For me, Lazzarato’s brilliant extended essay/book raises questions; for instance, how to elaborate the debt as embodied; Ie. what could be called, for the lack of a better word, “affective capitalism”, where the affect bit refers to the bodily and often non-cognitive states and excitations; of desires and impulsions; whether in the brain or in the gut. Could this be connected to the wider interest in brain sciences in the context of digital culture (interface design)? And the wider discourse of the brain – brain sciences in contemporary culture?

Could there be a mediatic way of continuing Lazzarato’s analyses, to connect the future-oriented subjectivity to analyses of the media technological condition of the human in contemporary neoliberalism?

 

Announcing Medianatures and Living Books About Life

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s (a)live! Medianatures: The Materiality of Information Technology and Electronic Waste and the whole impressive series of 21 open access books about humanities-science-themes, commissioned by Gary Hall, Joanna Zylinska and Clare Birchall, published by Open Humanities Press and funded by JISC: Living Books About Life.

My edited book was inspired by Sean Cubitt’s (and others, see the Acknowledgements of the introduction) recent research into media and waste, and I owe full thanks to him. What I wanted to investigate was the question of how materiality can be thought through such “bad matter” of waste, and related to for instance energy (consumption). The introduction outlines my approach, and ties it together with some debates in new materialism (this side of the argument is more fully outlined in a short text of mine “New Materialism as Media Theory”, forthcoming very soon in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies-journal).

The best introduction to the whole project is however found in this press release by Hall, Zylinska and Birchall:

____________
Open Humanities Press publishes twenty-one open access Living Books About Life

LIVING BOOKS ABOUT LIFE
http://www.livingbooksaboutlife.org

The pioneering open access humanities publishing initiative, Open Humanities Press (OHP) (http://openhumanitiespress.org), is pleased to announce the release of 21 open access books in its series Living Books About Life (http://www.livingbooksaboutlife.org).

Funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), and edited by Gary Hall, Joanna Zylinska and Clare Birchall, Living Books About Life is a series of curated, open access books about life — with life understood both philosophically and biologically — which provide a bridge between the humanities and the sciences. Produced by a globally-distributed network of writers and editors, the books in the series repackage existing open access science research by clustering it around selected topics whose unifying theme is life: e.g., air, agriculture, bioethics, cosmetic surgery, electronic waste, energy, neurology and pharmacology.

Peter Suber, Open Access Project Director, Public Knowledge, said: ‘This book series would not be possible without open access.  On the author side, it takes splendid advantage of the freedom to reuse and repurpose open-access research articles.  On the other side, it passes on that freedom to readers. In between, the editors made intelligent selections and wrote original introductions, enhancing each article by placing it in the new context of an ambitious, integrated understanding of life, drawing equally from the sciences and humanities’.

By creating twenty one ‘living books about life’ in just seven months, the series represents an exciting new model for publishing, in a sustainable, low-cost, low-tech manner, many more such books in the future. These books can be freely shared with other academic and non-academic institutions and individuals.

Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University, commented: ‘This remarkable series transforms the humble Reader into a living form, while breaking down the conceptual barrier between the humanities and the sciences in a time when scholars and activists of all kinds have taken the understanding of life to be central. Brilliant in its simplicity and concept, this series is a leap towards an exciting new future’.

One of the most important aspects of the Living Books About Life series is the impact it has had on the attitudes of the researchers taking part, changing their views on open access and raising awareness of issues around publishers’ licensing and copyright agreements. Many have become open access advocates themselves, keen to disseminate this model among their own scholarly and student communities. As Professor Erica Fudge of the University of Strathclyde and co-editor of the living book on Veterinary Science, put it, ‘I am now evangelical about making work publicly available, and am really encouraging colleagues to put things out there’.

These ‘books about life’ are themselves ‘living’, in the sense they are open to ongoing collaborative processes of writing, editing, updating, remixing and commenting by readers. As well as repackaging open access science research — together with interactive maps and audio-visual material — into a series of books, Living Books About Life is thus involved in rethinking ‘the book’ itself as a living, collaborative endeavour in the age of open science, open education, open data, iPad apps and e-book readers such as Kindle.

Tara McPherson, editor of VECTORS, Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular, said: ‘It is no hyperbole to say that this series will help us reimagine everything we think we know about academic publishing.  It points to a future that is interdisciplinary, open access, and expansive.’

Funded by JISC, Living Books About Life is a collaboration between Open Humanities Press and three academic institutions, Coventry University, Goldsmiths, University of London, and the University of Kent.

Books:

* Astrobiology and the Search for Life on Mars, edited by Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths, University of London)
* Bioethics™: Life, Politics, Economics, edited by Joanna Zylinska (Goldsmiths, University of London)
* Biosemiotics: Nature, Culture, Science, Semiosis, edited by Wendy Wheeler (London Metropolitan University)
* Cognition and Decision in Non-Human Biological Organisms, edited by Steven Shaviro (Wayne State University)
* Cosmetic Surgery: Medicine, Culture, Beauty, edited by Bernadette Wegenstein (Johns Hopkins University)
* Creative Evolution: Natural Selection and the Urge to Remix, edited by Mark Amerika (University of Colorado at Boulder)
* Digitize Me, Visualize Me, Search Me: Open Science and its Discontents, edited by Gary Hall (Coventry University)
* Energy Connections:  Living Forces in Creative Inter/Intra-Action, edited by Manuela Rossini (td-net for Transdisciplinary Research, Switzerland)
* Human Genomics: From Hypothetical Genes to Biodigital Materialisations, edited by Kate O’Riordan (Sussex University)
* Medianatures: The Materiality of Information Technology and Electronic Waste, edited by Jussi Parikka (Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton)
* Nerves of Perception: Motor and Sensory Experience in Neuroscience, edited by Anna Munster (University of New South Wales)
* Neurofutures, edited by Timothy Lenoir (Duke University)
* Partial Life, edited by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr (SymbioticA, University of Western Australia)
* Pharmacology, edited by Dave Boothroyd (University of Kent)
* Symbiosis, edited by Janneke Adema and Pete Woodbridge (Coventry University)
* Another Technoscience is Possible: Agricultural Lessons for the Posthumanities, edited by Gabriela Mendez Cota (Goldsmiths, University of London)
* The In/visible, edited by Clare Birchall (University of Kent)
* The Life of Air: Dwelling, Communicating, Manipulating, edited by Monika Bakke (University of Poznan)
* The Mediations of Consciousness, edited by Alberto López Cuenca (Universidad de las Américas, Puebla)
* Ubiquitous Surveillance, edited by David Parry (University of Texas at Dallas)
* Veterinary Science: Animals, Humans and Health, edited by Erica Fudge (Strathclyde University) and Clare Palmer (Texas A&M University)

W: http://www.livingbooksaboutlife.org

Open Humanities Press is a non-profit, international Open Access publishing collective specializing in critical and cultural theory. OHP was formed by academics to overcome the current crisis in scholarly publishing that threatens intellectual freedom and academic rigor worldwide. OHP journals are academically certified by OHP’s independent board of international scholars. All OHP publications are peer-reviewed, published under open access licenses, and freely and immediately available online at http://openhumanitiespress.org

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MediaSoup: Trond Lundemo talk in Berlin – 15/6

June 12, 2011 1 comment

The MediaSoup-talks continue with Trond Lundemo: next Wednesday the Stockholm based professor of Film is talking about Motion Pattern Recognition. All welcome!

MEDIA SOUP is an open colloquium of the Institute for Media Theories at Humboldt University Berlin, hosted by Paul Feigelfeld.

The talk starts at 6:15 p.m. and is followed by a Q&A and discussion.

Moderated by Paul Feigelfeld and Jussi Parikka.

Medientheater. Institut für Medienwissenschaft, Humboldt Universität Berlin, Sophienstraße 22A, 10178 Berlin

Trond Lundemo

The (Un-)Attainable Gesture: Two Modes of Motion Pattern Recognition

The analysis of movement is the key agent in the development of cinema. The inscription of the gesture is a central concern for chronophotography (Marey, Charcot, Gilbreth), psychotechnics (Munsterberg) and in the new modes of perception sought by the various film movements of the 1920s (Vertov). Cinematic analysis gives access to the ‘optical unconscious’ (Benjamin, Epstein), through the means of the close-up, slow motion, repetion and frozen movement. How do these modes of inscription relate to the analysis of movement in the digital domain? In the biometrics of digital video surveillance, the analysis of the gesture remains a key problem for automated pattern recognition. Motion capture may prove to be a decisive breakthrough in this analysis, as it separates the motion pattern from the photographic representation. This presentation aims to explore some (bio-)political implications of these shifts in modes of inscribing and analysing the gesture.

Bio

Trond Lundemo, Associate Professor at the Department of Cinema Studies at Stockholm University. He has been a visiting Professor and visiting scholar at the Seijo University of Tokyo on a number of occasions. He is co-directing the Stockholm University Graduate School of Aesthetics and the co-editor of the book series “Film Theory in Media History” at Amsterdam University Press. He is also affiliated with the research project ”Time, Memory and Representation” at Södertörns University College, Sweden, and “The Archive in Motion” research project at Oslo University. His research and publications engage in questions of technology, aesthetics and intermediality as well as the theory of the archive.

Platform Politics-conference: Opening Words

May 15, 2011 2 comments

We organized a very successful Platform Politics-conference in Cambridge, May 11-13, where our speakers included such exciting scholars and writers as Michel Bauwens, Michael Goddard, Tiziana Terranova, Nick Couldry, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Felix Stalder, and Tim Jordan. And a lot more (check out the link for names and abstracts too).

These are my short opening words to the event:
Platform Politics takes place as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council founded networking project on Network Politics. We pitched it to the AHRC with the suggestion that it takes one to know one: to understand emerging forms of social action and politics on networks and in network society, one has to develop networks, to crowdsource ideas from leading scholars, activists, artists; to map and to bring through various channels such partipants together in order to identity themes and directions which need more focus. Hence, we have arrived at the third and final event of the project – now on Platform Politics, following the first event in Cambridge on Methodologies of Network Politics research, and last year in Toronto at the Infoscape research lab with help from Greg Elmer, Ganaele Langlois and Alessandra Renzi we discussed object oriented  and affect approaches to network politics.

We wanted to keep the notion of platform quite broad in order to solicit a more open range of papers. Hence, from software platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to robotics, from theoretical insights that draw from post-Fordist theories of politics and labour to object oriented philosophy, and much more, we have a privileged position to think through the platform (often seen as technological, as in platform studies) as a platform for our investigations (hence, also as a conceptual affordance). This does not mean to say that platform studies as represented in the Bogost and Montfort led series is techno-determinist, and solely focuses on such – quite the contrary, it tries to find a specific relation between technology and aesthetics. Yet, it is good to emphasize the mobilization of the concept as part of various transitions, and translations: platforms in technological (and again there various levels from apps to clouds, online platforms to technological hardware structures), conceptual, economic and of course political sense (expect at least a couple of references to Lenin in this conference).

So if Bogost and Montfort make sense of platform studies through this kind of layering:

Bogost and Montfort: Platform Studies

I would add that the notion of platform politics is able to articulate various levels together, and bring smoothness and movement to the interaction of the layers. In other words, in addition to the specific level of “platforms” we can think of the platform itself as distributed on a variety of layers as assemblages (in the manner Manuel Delanda uses the term?). A good example of this – something we were unable to pursue because of the problem of finding the slot for it! – was the idea of organizing a circuit bending/hardware hacking workshop (with Seb Franklin). The idea was to follow Garnet Hertz’s lead, and the way he has organized such workshops both to kids as well as to media theorists — and to use hands-on tinkering, opening up technology such as battery-operated toys, as a way to think through hardware platforms, how design solutions incorporate politics, how they afford conceptual approaches, and act as one node across a variety of other platforms. (An example of such is articulated in the forthcoming “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method”-text, by myself and Hertz, in Leonardo-journal where we tie the question of such design politics of hardware to media archaeology, art methods and the political economy of network culture).

Platforms reveal to be ontogenetic – i.e. creative forms of interaction, not just stable backgrounds for a continuation of the social. They organize social action in a double bind where social action organizes them. Platforms rearticulate the social. For instance software platforms constitute a catalyzer for specific social forms, and as such incorporate in themselves a multitude of social, political, economic forces. It is a question of production – and of what kinds of social relations are being produced, a good example being the Telecommunist project and the Thimbl open source distributed microblogging service that incorporates a different sociability than proprietorial web 2.0 business and software models. And yet, this sociability is grounded on the level of the potentials of networks, the P2P instead of Web 2.0, distributed instead of the centralized client-server-model.

At the beginning of the project, we started with the question of “”what is network politics?“” and requested initial position papers from some key writers in the field – today of those we have Tiziana Terranova and Greg Elmer attending. Other theorists included Alex Galloway, Eugene Thacker, Katrien Jacobs and Geert Lovink.

The idea was to organize this as a form of request for comments – the RFC format, familiar from internet design culture, of questioning, lining up comments and positions, which however did not pan out as extensively as we wanted (this has to do with other organizationally interesting themes concerning spam management in participatory platforms, and so forth). However, what we got from the position papers were some initial leads. Furthermore,  we started with some assumptions where to start tracking network politics:

-       politics of new network clusters, services, platforms – Twitter, Facebook, as well as mapping alternative forms of  software-based ways of organizing traditional political parties as well as new formations, NGOs, and temporally very different groupings/phenomena – whether the suddenly emerging and as suddenly disappearing “like” protests for instance on Facebook, or the more long-term effects of Wikileaks– leak not only in the meaning of leaking secret information, but leaking across media platforms, and reaching a long term sustainability through “old” media trying to come grips with such online activities.

-       biopolitics of network culture, or in other words, the various practices which form internet cultures – hence a step outside of the technological focus, to look at what practices define network politics, and as such the links between work and free time, of play and labour, the circulation of affects, sociability, and so forth. Cognitive capitalism but as much affective capitalism. Yesterday (referring to the pre-conference event with Michel Bauwens and Michael Goddard) we got a bit into talking about investments of affect, desire and such topics.

-       we were interested too in the metaquestion: what form would investigating network politics have to take? Outside the normal practice of humanities, writing and meeting up in conferences, what are the specific pedagogic and research tools/platforms that are actively changing the politics of education and research inside/outside academia. What are the research/creation platforms that are able to articulate this, so that we are not only stuck with “master’s tools”?

-       And in a way, as a more unspecified but as important was the question of politics of the imperceptible: what kinds of forms of politics there are out there that are not even recognized as politics? From artistic practices to the grey work of engineers, new arenas of expertise, skill and again, social action contribute to the way in which politics is fleeing from traditional institutions.

The project has been able to map various positions to such questions, and raise new ones – which has been the purpose of this all: to produce more leads for further work. The same thing applies to this conference, and we are hoping to come out with excellent contributions, that do not fall within such original ideas.  During the project’s unfolding, “network politics” became a wider popular media phenomenon too, where old media started to focus on what is was able to brand as “twitter-revolutions, or facebook-revolutions” – and yet this only emphasized the need to complexify the notions, and the histories of such events and platforms, as has been done on various email lists, and various other debate forums already. I am sure we can continue on that, and produce some really exciting discussions – and as always in our events, we really hope that a lot of the emphasis is on discussions in the sessions, as well as outside them.

Unnatural (Media) Ecologies

April 23, 2011 Leave a comment

After a long wait, it’s out like nature itself! The Fibreculture-journal Media Ecology-special issue, titled “Unnatural Ecologies”, and edited by me and Michael Goddard.

The idea for a journal issue was picked up and continued from a panel organized for the MeCCSA conference in Bradford (2009) where I spoke with Matt Fuller and Michael Goddard on the media ecological approach in media and cultural studies. With Michael, we picked up on the idea of rethinking media ecology “after Matt Fuller’s work”, i.e. how we can transport the concept and practices into new directions that differ from those of the more classical media ecology work by (post-)McLuhan scholars. Hence, we ended up thinking more about Guattari’s three ecologies, Simondon, political and art practices, as well as nature itself as media. One of the leading ideas that Michael emphasized was how to think media ecology as a practice itself – how to understand it as a set of theories in practice.

Hope you enjoy the issue!

(My own text addresses “ecomedia”, nature as a communication framework [Harwood-Wright-Yokokoji and Mediashed art project] and extending that towards imaginary media as a reimagining how far back in time and as practices we can extend “media”.)

Living Mediations: Hastac Forum on art, science, technology

March 31, 2011 1 comment

The people organizing HASTAC forums kindly invited me to participate in their new topic “Living Mediations: Biology, Technology and Art“. It touches not only on “biomedia” but more widely in the co-expansion of the biological and the technological/mediatic that we are witnessing as part of regimes of cognitive/affective capitalism (as I would see it). This is where the various meanings of the notion of “medium” come to play, and are investigated – media as technologies, but also as milieus, and interactions of the living. It is through this individuation that any medium/milieu itself is born – not as pre-existing background, but as the vibrant and changing milieu in which we too take place – and take displace. Such milieus are material, and some have used the notion of affect to understand this material, even visceral nature of mediatic milieus of contemporary culture. Affect – as we know from a variety of writers from Massumi to Shaviro – is itself a notion through which to understand the constitution of the pre-individual as shared, circulating, dynamic and I would say mediatic. As such, it expands much beyond bodies, as its a concept to understand their interrelations, and thus also the dynamic change of relations between bodies. For me, the intriguing bit is how such notions both help to think relations and changes in relations between bodies, but also as concepts travel (slightly in the manner of Mieke Bal’s traveling concepts) between regimes of knowledge production: media, scientific apparatuses and knowledge, labour, etc.

Insect Media fits into this double articulation that the forum proposes – but so does Digital Contagions I would say in the manner it looks at the constitutive mediation not only of computer viruses as a specific phenomena, but how virality itself is at the core of mediation (and is itself, mediatic). Contagious, just like affect is.

Read the entries, and participate in discussions here!

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