Creative Technologies Review
A podcast on technology and creativity, technology mostly misused, unintentionally artistic technology and music technology with the odd splattering of digital economies by Julio d’Escriván and Jussi Parikka.
The Creative Technologies Review podcasts are continuing: we have a new episode online and available on Itunes, and it ranges from discussion about kidneys to Antarctica – and yet, the highlight is the Paul Demarinis-interview. I interviewed Demarinis, well known and rewarded for his various electronic(s) art projects since the 1970s, in Berlin in July. We talked about media archaeology, artistic methods and a whole range of other topics.
What also merits mentioning is the fact that the podcast is now “sponsored” not only by the CoDE-institute but also Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton), who are my new employer. This also means future interviews with exciting artists, theorists and lecturers affiliated with WSA. However, next episode promises more Berlin: an interview with Martin Howse, from the Microresearch lab: so more media archaeological art on its way. Meanwhile, enjoy our chats on selling body parts, talking Antarctica, and Paul Demarinis.
Now that Insect Media is out, I am organizing a couple of events sort of as book launches—with a little help from my friends!
One takes place in Berlin, at the Generalpublic.de cultural venue on Schönhauser Allee 167c ( 10435 Berlin) on March 4, Friday, 7 pm – Shintaro Miyazaki will be interviewing me, and hopefully with drinks and nibbles (there has been talk of some Japanese finger food!). Also the book is on sale there, with a small launch discount.
Even before that, in Cambridge, we are organizing a joint event with Joss Hands whose own book @ is for Activism came out in December as well! This takes place February 22, Tuesday, 5 pm at Anglia Ruskin University at 5 pm. The room will be Helmore 251.
Below, a short blurb about that event which we use to discuss more widely some interesting current and future directions of media studies as well:
‘New Directions in Media Studies: Questioning The Digital Turn’.
In their new books Anglia Ruskin lecturers Joss Hands (@ is for activism) and Jussi Parikka (Insect Media) address some of the pressing new issues in Media Studies emerging from the digital revolution in communication technology. This event will act as a book launch, but also offers the chance to address the relevancy of innovative cross disciplinary themes in contemporary Media Studies.
Both books are characterized by distinct theoretical and political perspectives on issues such as the impact of digital networks on collective action, the ontology of politics, economic production, the ‘post-human’ subject and science-arts interdisciplinarity.
Hands and Parikka will offer short introductions to key themes in their books and welcome questions and discussion over wine and nibbles.
The event is sponsored by CoDE – Cultures of the Digital Economy research institute at Anglia Ruskin, and the campus bookshop John Smith’s is offering both books to be purchased during the event.
>A forthcoming talk in Cambridge hosted by the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and CoDE-institute, Anglia Ruskin University:
1 Feb, 17.00, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, room Helmore 251
Dr Dave Boothroyd (University of Kent)
‘Lest we forget’: censorship, secrecy and memory in the age of total recall
Censorship and secrecy are widely regarded as antithetical to the open society and the public sphere. In the digital age the decentered communicative network of the internet facilitates the proliferation of data, data-storage capacity and the generalised intensification of surveillance as well as the apparent weakening of censorious control over information and the security of secrets all kinds. The ‘Wikileaks scenario’ not only exposes the easily ‘switchable’ nature of secrecy/disclosure in the context of digital communications culture, it raises issues pertaining to the technicisation of memory and the memorialisation of events.
In this paper I shall approach the interconnections between censorship, secrecy and memory in relation to contemporary techno-culture with a view to identifying the significance of this nexus for the cultural formation of ethical subjectivity (as Levinas, in particular, writes about this). I am not so much concerned here with normative ethical questions related to the technicisation of the censorship, secrecy and memory ‘nexus’ (interesting, even urgent as these often are) but more with how the ethical Subject is produced in this context.
Bio: Dave Boothroyd Director of Cultural Studies, School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent. He’s the author of ‘Culture on Drugs: Narco-cultural studies of high modernity’ (Manchester University Press, 2006) and is currently writing a monograph for Edinburgh University Press, ‘Ethical Subjects in Contemporary Culture’. He’s a founding Co-Editor of the on-line journal ‘Culture Machine’.
One of the highlights of my pre-academia career as a freelance journalist when during a phone interview the interviewee, a female at a telecommunications company marketing department or something of approx. 35 years of age, interrupted me: “Oh I am sorry to interrupt the interview but I just have to say you have an amazing telephone voice.”
I blush, stutter, and for a second wonder if my future career is somewhere where I could put my voice into better use, such as in some of those dubious 0800-numbers that offer services of very wide variety.
Instead, I end up as an academic.
Despite the shortness of the flirtation with the idea of using my voice to make money, I have been drawn into something again where I need to talk – publicly. The shock horror at first, but then realizing its actually enjoyable despite the fact that there is always a tiny region in your brain that is probably trying to say something very inappropriate.
We label it as
“A podcast on technology and creativity, technology mostly misused, unintentionally artistic technology and music technology with the odd splattering of digital economies” and hope it to be usually a 30 min aberration into the interminglings of technology, net culture, a slight dash of political economy, academic stuff and lots of media arts.
It features interviews of creatives, techs and academics, and aims to throw a spotlight both on the work done at CoDE institute in Cambridge but also more widely (as in globally) on creative technology and arts. I am suspecting it turns out to be quite focused on sound, knowing Julio’s interests and expertise in sound art, sonicity, but it will definitely splash into other fields of expression too and I am sure to throw in a nice dose of media theoretical meditation.
Its hopefully soon available on Itunes, but meanwhile episodes can be downloaded here.
Please get in touch if you have feedback, or suggestions for themes, sites, projects, etc. to be featured!
David M. Berry: Software Avidities: Latour and the Materialities of Code
The first difficultly in understanding software is located within the notion of software/code itself and its perceived immateriality. Here it is useful to draw an analytical distinction between ‘code’ and ‘software’. Throughout this paper I shall be using code to refer to the textual and social practices of source code writing, testing and distribution. In contrast, I would like to use ‘software’ to include products, such as operating systems, applications or fixed products of code such as Photoshop, Word and Excel and the cultural practices that surround the use of it. This further allows us to think about the hacking as the transformation of software back into code for the purposes of changing its normal execution or subverting its intended (prescribed) functions. However, this difficulty should not mean that we stay at the level of the screen, so-called screen essentialism, nor at the level of information theory, where the analysis focuses on the way information is moved between different points disembedded from its material carrier, nor indeed at the level of a mere literary reading of the textual form of code. Rather code needs to be approached in its multiplicity, that is as a literature, a mechanism, a spatial form (organisation), and as a repository of social norms, values, patterns and processes. In order to focus on the element of materiality I want to use Latour’s notion of the ‘test of strength’ to see how the materiality of code, its obduracy and its concreteness are tested within computer programming contests. To do this I want to look at two case studies: (1) the Underhanded C Contest, which is a contest which asks the programmer to write code that is as readable, clear, innocent and straightforward as possible, and yet it must fail to perform at its apparent function. To be more specific, it should do something subtly evil; and (2) The International Obfuscated C Code Contest, which is a contest to write the most Obscure/Obfuscated C program possible that is as difficult to understand and follow (through the source code) as possible. By following the rules of the contest, and by pitting each program, which must be made available to compile and execute by the judges (as well as the other competitors and the wider public by open sourcing the code), the code is then shown to be material providing it passes these tests of strength.
David M. Berry: Software Avidities: Latour and the Materialities of Code
Rick Dolphijn: The Intense Exterior of Another Geometry
Eleni Ikoniadou: Transversal digitality and the relational dynamics of a new materialism
The relationship between digital technology and matter has preoccupied media and cultural theorists for the last two decades. During the 90s it was articulated through a celebration of the disembodied, immaterial and probabilistic properties of information (cybercultural theory). More recently, it has been asserted through a reliance on sensory perception for the construction of a predominantly observable, otherwise void, digital space (digital philosophy). However, alternative materialist accounts may be able to offer more dynamic ways of understanding the heterogeneity, materiality and novelty of digital culture (Kittler, 1999; Mackenzie, 2002; Fuller, 2005; Munster, 2006). Following on their footsteps, this presentation will aim to rethink the ontological status of the digital as immanent to the flows of a ‘new materialism’. The latter is understood as a transversal process that cuts across seemingly distinguished fields and disciplines, such as the arts and sciences, establishing new connections between them. New materialism, then, becomes a concept and a method proper for investigating digital media and their tendency to bring together different aspects of the world in new ways. The paper discusses how an abstract materialist new media theory can enable transversal relations between science studies, philosophy and media art, as well as between the actual and the virtual dimensions of reality; allowing the emergence of heterogeneous digital assemblages of material, aesthetic and scientific combination.
Adrian Mackenzie: Believing in and desiring data: ‘R’ as the next ‘big thing’
How could materialist analysis come to grips with the seeming immateriality of data network media? This paper attempts to think through some of the many flows of desire and belief concerning data. In the so-called ‘data deluges’ generated by the searches, queries, captures, links and aggregates of network media, key points of friction occur around sharing and pattern perception. I focus on how sharing and pattern perception fare in the case of the scripting language R, an open source statistical ‘data-intensive’ programming language heavily used across the sciences (including social sciences), in public and private settings, from CERN to Wall Street and the Googleplex. R, it is said, is a ‘next big thing’ in the world of analytics and data mining, with thousands of packages and visualizations, hundreds of books and publications (including its own journal, /R Journal/) appearing in the last few years. In this activity, we can discern vectors of belief and desire concerning data. The tools and techniques developed in R can be seen both intensifying data, and at times, making the contingencies of data more palpable.
Stamatia Portanova: The materiality of the abstract (or how movement-objects ‘thrill’ the world)
Anna Powell: Affections in their pure state? The digital event as immersive encounter
Iris Van der Tuin: A Different Starting Point, A Different Metaphysics: Reading Bergson and Barad Diffractively
Kettle’s Yard had today a CoDEful of people performing on “Musical and Poetic Approaches to Technology, from subversive, DIY and historical perspectives.” By CoDEful I mean Katy Price, Tom Hall and Richard Hoadley, all affiliated with our institute.
The experimental takes on sound, music and performance moved from digital investigations into soundscapes (Katherine Norman’s pieces) to for example physical computing and interface experiments as with Richard Hoadley who performed with his self designed Gaggle too — along with two new devices, Wired and Gagglina.
I truly enjoyed Katy Price’s performance piece Bookmachine which is described as “found poem drawn from three sources about books and machines.” The opening line “the book is a machine to think with” is a declaration of book’s haptic, sonic, material qualities; an exploration into the pragmatics of the book. (And as I learned, comes from I.A.Richard’s). Indeed, the book is touched, scraped, made into a sonic platform; it is torn, taped back together, punctured. The book is less read, and when its read, its not a work of extracting meanings from it, for sure. The book is “typed into a BBC Microcomputer simulator running ‘Speech’ and the speech facility in a Macbook.” The book does, and is an object of doing much more than meaning in a Deleuzian spirit.
This is where I am alluding to, Deleuze and Guattari on the book: the root-book is very different even if its the classical form of the book; hierarchical and full of meaning. We read such books as we should read books — the way we are taught. Start in the beginning, think of what it means. The modernists then were already cutting up books (cut-ups by Burroughs) and making new kinds of series proliferate. But books can be made to do other kinds of things; books are machines, and machines connect. They connect to senses, new uses, making books into objects, trajectories, surfaces, scapes. A machine to think with alludes to the fact that books always function as part of assemblages. We like to think of book’s as organic and self-sustaining, but they always are there to help to do stuff, to think with, to accompany. We become with books. And if the book is a machine to think with, it also alludes that there are other machines to think with too; that the book is a machine similarly as computers and such are.
Book as a machinic assemblage is much more than we usually attribute to literature, and sees it even as a , well, war-machine (in the DeleuzeGuattarian-sense again). To quote Gregg Lambert:
“…literature functions as a war machine. ‘The only way to defend language is to attack it’(Proust, quoted in CC4). This could be the principle of much of modern literature and capture the sense of process that aims beyond the limit of language. As noted above, however, this limit beyond which the outside of language appears is not outside language, but appears in its points of rupture, in the gaps, or tears, in the interstices between words, or between one word and the next.” (Lambert, The Non-Philosophy of Deleuze, 141).
Literally, what lies between words are blank gaps on the page, but also paper, and the porous surface of inscription. There is always a lot that goes on between any word – much more than hallucination of meaning. The stuttering “and” is what constitutes an experimental assemblage of the book machine which tries out the various material modalities in which text, covers, paper, expose much more than meaning. The rhizome-book is the bookmachine, it reaches to outsides and neglects illusions of books as images of the world. It represents less, but sounds a lot more.
The book too has its on level of “body without organs” — the final phrase from the performance. Much more, such perspectives relate to futures of literature and literature studies. New territories of how we approach literature, books, meanings do not take at face value the idea of hermeneutics and deciphering meanings in that traditional sense, but are open to, well, opening up the book in different ways. Literature can be made into such new contexts of use and imagination where semantics and interpretation can be seen as only one way of “practicing literature”. This is where the translation of literature whether into data open to algorithmic manipulations, or then new realms of sensation in terms of multimodality, or part of other creative, experimental takes finds its futures.
Please find below information and registration possibility for our symposium
on new materialist cultural analysis as well as info for the launch event of the
CoDE institute and the affiliated Digital Performance Laboratory.
An International Symposium on Contemporary Arts, Media and Cultural Theory
Date: Monday 21 June 2010
Time: 10:00 – 17.30 (18.00 Performance and CoDE Launch)
Venue: Hel 201, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge
Far from being immaterial, digital culture consists of heterogeneous bodies, relations, intensities, movements, and modes of emergence manifested in various contexts of the arts and sciences.
This event suggests “new materialism” as a speculative concept with which to rethink materiality across diverse cultural-theoretical fields of inquiry with a particular reference to digitality in/as culture: art and media studies, social and political theorising, feminist analysis, and science and technology studies.
More specifically, the event maps ways in which the questions of process, positive difference or the new, relation, and the pervasively aesthetic character of our emergences with the world have lately been taken up in cultural theory. It will engage explorations of digital culture within which matter, the body and the social, and the long-standing theoretical dominance of symbolic mediation (or the despotism of the signifier) are currently being radically reconsidered and reconceptualised.
The talks of the event will probe media arts of digital culture, sonic environments, cinematic contexts, wireless communication, philosophy of science and a variety of further topics in order to develop a new vocabulary for understanding digital culture as a material culture.
Speakers include: Dr David M. Berry, Dr Rick Dolphijn, Dr Satinder Gill, Dr Adrian Mackenzie, Dr Stamatia Portanova, Dr Anna Powell, Dr Iris van der Tuin and Dr Eleni Ikoniadou.
The academic programme will be followed by a physical computing and dance performance involving CoDE affiliated staff (Richard Hoadley and Tom Hall) along with choreographers Jane Turner, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and their dancers.
Following the symposium there will also be a short workshop for PhD students on Tuesday 22 June led by Van der Tuin and Dolphijn along with Milla Tiainen and Jussi Parikka. The aim of the workshop is to enable students to discuss and present brief intros to their work on the theme of new materialist analysis of culture and the arts with tutoring from the workshop leaders. The workshop is restricted to max. 10 students. Participation for the selected ten is include in the registration fee. If you are interested, please send an informal message to either firstname.lastname@example.org or Jussi.email@example.com along with a short (approx. 1 page) description of your PhD work and its relation to new materialism.
In addition, we are planning an informal introductory workshop for Tuesday afternoon on experimental performance and physical computing.
The event is sponsored by CoDE: the Cultures of the Digital Economy research institute and the Department of English, Communication, Film and Media at Anglia Ruskin University.
Please register your place here
Anglia Ruskin University. East Road, Cambridge, UK, Helmore Building, room Hel 201
June 21, Monday
10.00 Welcome and what is new materialism, Milla Tiainen and Jussi Parikka
10.15 Anna Powell (Manchester Met): Electronic Automatism: Video Affects and The Time Image
11.30 Iris van der Tuin (Utrecht): A Different Starting Point, a Different Metaphysics”: Reading Bergson and Barad Diffractively
Rick Dolphijn (Utrecht): The Intense Exterior of Another Geometry
13.45 Stamatia Portanova (Birkbeck): The materiality of the abstract (or how movement-objects ‘thrill’ the world)
Eleni Ikoniadou: Transversal digitality and the relational dynamics of a new materialism
Satinder Gill (Anglia Ruskin/CoDE and Cambridge University): “Rhythms and sense-making in responsive dense-space’
15.40 David Berry: Software Avidities: Latour and the Materialities of Code.
16.10 Adrian Mackenzie (Lancaster) Believing in and desiring data: R as ‘ next big thing
17.00 closing and a break
18.00 Open launch and drinks event for the Digital Performance laboratory (CoDE, Music and Performing Arts, Anglia Ruskin) and a science-arts interdisciplinary performance Triggered. Recital-hall, Helmore Building (029), East Road, Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge.
‘Triggered’ showcases the results of a practice-as-research project into methods of interdisciplinary collaboration between a group of contemporary dancers, musicians and music technologists. The nature of this collaboration has allowed performance to emerge from artists and disciplines interacting and responding to each other. The bespoke technologies used in the project enable sophisticated dialogue between movement and sound, between music composition and choreography. The nature of interaction and narratives created are key areas of investigation and these areas will explored in a workshop on the second day of the conference. Performing, choreographing, composing and building the production are Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Tom Hall, Richard Hoadley, Jane Turner & dance company.
Day 2 (June 22)
10.00-12.30 Helmore 251
New materialism: art, science, media –workshop with selected PhD students with Dr Iris van der Tuin and Rick Dolphijn, along with Milla Tiainen and Jussi Parikka
14.00 an experimental performance/HCI workshop and interaction possibility with Jane Turner, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Dr Satinder Gill, Dr Richard Hoadley and Dr Tom Hall.
The easiest target to ease your pain in the midst of funding cuts and the crisis of British universities is to blame the post 1992 universities – the ex-polytechnics. It seems that in the still very rigidly divided British class society, its the ex-polytechnics that are responsible for all the bad in the academic cultures of the Empire. It seems that the good old values in hard sciences and English (which still quite recently, less than 100 years ago was seen as a Mickey Mouse subject as well, but now celebrated as a corner stone of UK universities) are being threatened by such transdisciplinary newcomers as media studies. Indeed, I would be afraid too, as what the future of universities will need are new mixed perspectives, hybrid disciplines that are able to smoothly maneuver between critical theory, technology and culture and develop an understanding of the nature-culture (i.e. science-humanities) continuum.
Hence, it is joyful to read in the midst of polytechnic-bashing about 19th-century — and British 19th-century specifically, when such institutions as the Royal Polytechnic Institution were not only celebrated back here but also envied across Europe. Such Polytechnics were indeed leading in various fields so crucial for the whole birth of technological, scientifically driven media culture that was emerging back then. Scientific progress, new forms of visualisation and spectacle, curiosities of useful and ephemeral kinds, were recognized to co-exist in a manner that indeed was a mix of popular attractions and scientific interest. As said, such polyverses were envied across Europe: “‘When will Paris have its own Polytechnic Institution?’ Abbé Moigno asked impatiently in his magazine Le Cosmos in August 1854″ (Mannoni, The Art of Light and Shadow, p 268). (Moigno was btw. anyway a big fan of Anglo-American sciences, and did translations and introductions to developments at the other side of the Channel). The French had been at the forefront of developing inventions concerning light and its manipulation in terms of various projection and other apparatuses, but it seems that around mid 19th-century, Britain was able to provide a strong institutional support for development of such inventions on a wider scale too.
What to me is curious about such institutions that engaged with not so much in high abstract science but in experimental, hands-on and engineering approaches to new ideas and innovations is how they are, actually, different from Royal Science. Indeed, in this case I am using Royal a bit differently and more in the fashion that the philosophers Deleuze and Guattari used the concept. For the two French philosophers, Royal Science is one connected to the State as a power formation, and aims at stabilized formations, predictabilities, abstracted forms of ideal and imperial kinds. Naturally such classic institutions as Royal Polytechnics and such were created closely with State interests (science and technology was seen already then as the flagship for the Empire, not only know in the midst of the Digital Economy hype), but perhaps there is a potential to see a nomadic undercurrent in some of the interests of knowledge/creation in them as well, that is relevant for a consideration of contemporary institutions. This is indeed where the other concept, an alternative from Deleuze and Guattari kicks in; nomadic science that is an intellectual/pragmatic war machine for them. It is less interested in discovering organic, ideal and fixed essences than mapping out matter in its intensity, full of singularities that can take that active matter into surprising directions.
Nomadic science experiments with matter on hand; it teases out potentials, and directions for becoming/use/applicability to use a bit different terms in a manner that does stay close to the dirtyness of the world. This is where practical, experimental sciences, engineering and “applied perspectives” can actually carve out more about the world in its intensive materiality, than the royal sciences. It is for me an artistic perspective to science/technology; the much talked about field of sci-arts that can work taking aboard “the best of both worlds”, so to speak. The cutting edge ideas in science and technology, but recontextualised in artistic methodologies and critical agendas. (And yes, not being only naive: I am completely aware how well embedded certain science-art collaborations are in economic wealth creation and even in military related developments and institutions).
Perhaps such perspectives have importance on various levels; to perspectives of media archaeology that are interested in nomadic ideas, practices and such assemblages of experimentation where invention happens in pragmatics. Not the inventions of for example media technologies in terms of their mathematics or logical implications, but in terms of experiments with materials, machines and such. A media archaeology of dirty machines, and trying out.
But it has importance also to ideas concerning contemporary institutions of knowledge/creation. Ex-polytechnics should perhaps more explicitly celebrate the engineering, arts, and applied sciences background, but not forgetting that theory is a practice too. This includes it as work of trying out, aberration, and dirty experimentation that works best in close proximity with the materiality of the world. Naturally its clear that there is a strong pull towards such Polyverses as the flagship of Royal interests; i.e. in various cases for example part of the new Digital Britain and the future of the Digital Economy. Yet, we should dig out minor passages, imperceptible places of research-creation and such where also new ideas, tinkering and experimentation without respect to theory-practice division can take place.
Professor Nicholas Cook, Cambridge University:
Beyond reference: Eclectic Method’s music for the eyes
Date: Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Time: 17:00 – 18:15
Location: Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge, room Hel 252
Screen media genres from Fantasia (1940) to the music video of half a century later extended the boundaries of music by bringing moving images within the purview of musical organisation: the visuals of rap videos, for example, are in essence just another set of musical parameters, bringing their own connotations into play within the semantic mix in precisely the same way as do more traditional musical parameters. But in the last two decades digital technology has taken such musicalisation of the visible to a new level, with the development of integrated software tools for the editing and manipulation of sounds and images. In this paper I illustrate these developments through the work of the UK-born but US-based remix trio Eclectic Method, focussing in particular on the interaction between their multimedia compositional procedures and the complex chains of reference that result, in particular, from their film mashups.
Professor Nicholas Cook is currently Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge, where he is a Fellow of Darwin College. Previously, he was Professorial Research Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he directed the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM). He has also taught at the University of Hong Kong, University of Sydney, and University of Southampton, where he served as Dean of Arts.
He is a former editor of the Journal of the Royal Musical Association and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2001.
The talk is free and open for all to attend.