Archive for the ‘affect’ Category

Speed — neoliberalism

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

A poster I spotted on the dangers of speed — although, Ali G might have asked after reading half-way through: “but where are the  downsides?”.

And after reading the rest, you start thinking: is this not…everyday life in neoliberalist capital culture, where you feel like that anyway after a  normal work day?

After these thoughts, read this “The Political Economy of Unhappiness” (New Left Review).

A quote from the article: “One contradiction of neo-liberalism is that it demands levels of enthusiasm, energy and hope whose conditions it destroys through insecurity, powerlessness and the valorization of unattainable ego ideals via advertising.”

Atrocity Media

July 30, 2011 3 comments

Reading J.G.Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) as media theory in a similar manner in which Thomas Pynchon was such an influence to German media theory, and William Burroughs to cyber theory; with Ballard, the exhibition of the mediatic convergence of the inner and outer landscapes in the becoming flesh and spinal of our built environment, and the fabricated artefacts becoming the catalyzer for so much of what we considered “internal” – psychosis, perversions, and other feelings that constitute the everyday. Ballard is wonderful as an archaeologist of the architectures of fragmented bodies that he investigates through a science-media link, both tools of analysis: partial objects, intense focai of desire, parts in massive patterns of data. J.G.Ballard does big data. He establishes the link from media to science as the future source of sexual perversions, and at the centre of the collection of texts lies a world of research based on experiments and statistics. Optimum wound profiles, scientifically measured statistics of the body in arousal, leg positions.

Data – “Why I want to Fuck Ronald Reagan”:

Experimental Test Situation of “Reagan in a series of simulated auto-crashes”: one form of optimization again, this time as therapy:

“Subjects were required to construct the optimum auto-disaster victim by placing a replica of Reagan’s head on the retouched  photographs of crash fatalities. In 82 percent of cases massive rear-end collisions were selected with a preference for expressed faecal matter and rectal haemorrhages. Further tests were conducted to the define the optimum model-year. These indicate that a three-year model lapse with child victims provide the maximum audience excitation (confirmed by manufacturer’s studies of the optimum auto-disaster.)”

With Ballard, the crash is of course one way of providing material for the imagination of new sexual perversions – part of social change. His way of mapping the psycho-sexual drives of perversions/desires as part of the political landscape is ingenious, and is as powerful as a Deleuze-Guattarian schizoanalytic mapping. Such mappings do not look for the signifying anchor point, but the productive processuality of where psychosis might stand – as a relay across various regimes of reality.

As a link between power and sexual fantasies, more experiments and data from Ballard:

 “Incidence of orgasms in fantasies of sexual intercourse with Ronald Reagan. Patients were provided with assembly kit photographs of sexual partners during intercourse. In each case Reagan’s face was superimposed upon the original partner. Vaginal intercourse,with ‘Reagan’ proved uniformly disappointing, producing orgasm in 2 percent of subjects. Axillary, buccal, navel, aural and orbital modes produced proximal erections. The preferred mode of entry overwhelmingly proved to be the rectal. After a preliminary course in anatomy it was found that caecum and transverse colon also provided excellent sites for excitation. In an extreme 12 percept of cases, the simulated anus of post-colostamy surgery generated spontaneous orgasm in 98 percent of penetrations. Multiple-track cine-films were constructed of ‘Reagan’ in intercourse during (a) campaign speeches, (b) rear-end auto-collisions with one and three-year-old model changes, (c) with rear-exhaust assemblies, (d) with Vietnamese child-atrocity victims.”

The perverse worlds Ballard paints from Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe to J.F.K and Reagan are mediated by the media technological worlds of cinematic expression. The cinema-landscape-desire –folding is itself a cartography of 20th century in a fashion that is insightful in its link to science and military.

The outside-inside linking as a methodology to investigate such cartographies of power and desire are now however faced with the question that Ballard already flirts with. How about this inside/outside in the age of post-phenomenological bodies, were desires circulate as part of architectures of computing, data, and chip architectures? A lot of the recent theoretical waves, such as thinking through affect (I am reminded especially of Shaviro’s Post-cinematic Affect) point towards such directions, but what if we insist on even more media-specific methodologies? Where do we go to map architectures of the non-visible, code and hardware, electromagnetic fields and signal processing? The Weber-Fechner law as a guide in our mapping of the changes in mediatic sensory intensities.

For more on Ballard in the context of media theory, read Matteo Pasquinelli’s Animal Spirits.

Viral Capitalism – redux

July 12, 2011 2 comments

Capitalism is sticky – it is able to attach to such a variety of objects, things, practices, and new fields that it almost seems to be productive in itself. Reading some interesting texts recently, I thought to pick up the concept of “viral capitalism” that I discussed in an earlier piece in 2005 and in Digital Contagions as an attempt to understand how it worked in relation to security politics of software in digital culture. Hence, it played the dual role of referring to virus cultures and anti-virus discourse, as well as pointing to a wider logic outside software of capitalism as that sticky, viral-like mode of spreading – not however just objects that are contagious, but environments, or milieus in which infection becomes possible. In such affective environments, capitalism as a sticky machine is able to operate. As part of the logic of security, then, it relates to how in milieus of (in)security , you are able to modulate affects, actions, practices and discourses so that you can get value even from risks, accidents and insecurity.

As such, one could say that an idea of viral capitalism relates to;

– the attraction power to which capitalism bases so much of its marketing power; this is the power of the affect to draw us in, to create worlds in which we feel natural to live in (capitalist worlds as leibnizian, as analyzed by Lazzarato). This is the aesthetic power of affect/attraction.
– Pass-on-power where social relations are in their already mimetic (Tarde) and infectious nature as if ready for appropriation into for instance marketing; (stay tuned for something we have written together with Tony Sampson – see his piece on Contagion Theory).

– The power of capitalism to turn even adversary practices as part of itself, directly or indirectly.
As a figure of network politics, viral capitalism functions in the aesthetico-technical regime.

An excerpt from Digital Contagions:
In a way, it seems as if capitalism invents such accidents and risks to keep itself busy. This idea that “if it’s not broken, break it” provides, then, an interesting way to approach the functioning of so-called information capitalism. Dangers and risks produce excellent needs and products in the consumer market, which aims to provide tools for controlling the uncertainties and anxieties of everyday life. The previous themes can be synthesized under the notion of viral capitalism, which stems from an idea of capitalism as capable of continuous modulation and heterogenesis. […]

The power of capitalism resides in its capability to appropriate the outside as a part of itself. In a sense, capitalism incorporates the ability to subsume heterogenesis as part of its production machinery, and heterogeneity is turned as part of the capital itself. In its functioning, capitalism is a continuing abstract machine of the new, inventing itself all the time, refusing to tie itself to any transcendent point (even though the actual workings of capital do constantly stop at some intervals of profit-oriented points, such as companies, corporations, and monopolies).

Of course, similar trends occurred in the cultural history of diseases long before viruses. As Nancy Tomes notes in her history of germs in America, the fear of microbes was, from the 1880s onward, turned into a lucrative business, with special goods and services designed for hygiene. This meant, for example, “safeguards against the dangers of sewer gas and polluted water, such as special toilet attachments and household water filters”, and on to antiseptic floor coverings and wall paint as well as sanitary dish drainers and fly traps. Hence, commodity interests were very active long before the media ecology of capitalist network culture.
Massumi argues that in information age capitalism, it is the circulation of things that counts, replacing their mere production as the key energetic principle of surplus value. This amounts to a change also in the commodity’s status where it becomes a self-organizing and living entity—a form of self-reproductive object. “The commodity has become a form of capital with its own motor of exchange (fashion, style, ‘self-improvement’) and cycle of realization (image accumulation/ image shedding (…)). Its value is now defined more by the desire it arouses than by the amount of labor that goes into it.”The commodity works as a virus— and the virus as part of the commodity circuit.


Luciana Parisi has made important remarks concerning the basis of information capitalism and the problems with Hardt and Negri. According to Parisi, the Empire becomes too easily a transcendent apparatus of power opposed to the creative virtualities of the multitude, which leads to a dualism of death and life, organic and inorganic. Instead, she proposes an endosymbiotic conception of capitalism, where it “exposes a machinic composition of molecular bodies involving continual and differential degrees of variation between bodies that capture and bodies that are captured.” Hence, she proposes an ongoing nonlinear symbiosis instead of a dualism. Capitalism, despite functioning as an apparatus of capture, does not proceed in a rigid manner of linear capture but proliferates differences in its wake. As Massumi writes, the rationality of neoliberalism works through a type of pragmatics, not perhaps so much through grounding principles or normative laws. Its cultivation of the metastable systems of markets and affects resides in its focus not on truth but on how the future (the unknown) can be managed on the basis of the data of the past (statistics). What matters is how to keep things running.

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!

Hail the introjective, additive critic

March 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I am reading Elizabeth Wilson’s most recent book Affect and Artificial Intelligence (2010), and as before with her writings, really enjoying the fresh, interesting and quirky take on the intertwining of the human/cultural with the material (earlier more about physiology, as with her Psychosomatic-book, now with technologies of AI). I will be writing a short review of the book for Leonardo, so more there; now, I just wanted to point towards her good way of tackling the lack of critique about critique — or how we cultural and media studies scholars so easily embrace our stock-in-trade tools for tackling cultural reality (the axis of evils in relation to gender, race, capitalism, and so forth), and engage what could be a paranoid/projective mode of analysis. Wilson is far from a naive critic of such critique, and not so much dismissing such – neither am I despite my interest in finding alternatives – and connects to some more recent rethinkings of how should we engage with our sources and readings. How to rethink critique?

Revealing is her epigraph, from Bruno Latour: “What would critique do if it could be associated with more, not with less, with multiplication, not subtraction“. Such a figure of the analyst and critic is one that resembles an “assembler” (as in another passage where she quotes Latour, on page xi of Wilson’s book), and that in a manner resembling DeleuzeGuattari tries to embrace the naive experimentor over the already educated and cognizant critique who is able to unveil forces of ideology in cultural reality. Like the additive mode of the experimenter of DeleuzeGuattari who adds, asks for more connections, instead of hermeneutic-critic subtraction (reduction of cultural realities to underlying effect, meaning, structure, plot, ideology, oppression, etc), this mode of critique is keen to add more insights, more ideas, more fresh paths, and more alternatives where to continue – critically. It uses its sources to go forward, not just read back. Luckily, we are seeing more and more of this kind of work that I have often referred to as “post-representational” – something that is not interested only in representation analysis but seeks to go forward with the sources. (Good examples of such work that has always been inspirational to me include Rosi Braidotti and for instance Karen Barad — material feminists!).

Through such methodological choices, Wilson is able to bring fresh readings. The early AI research and figures as Turing are cast in new, interesting, passionate light – where Turing is not only a tragic victim but an intellectually and emotionally bursting, giggling figure – and where the seemingly cold, and rationalized modes of artificial intelligence research are actually filled with passions, desires and introjections. Indeed, to quote her on this point :

“While the figure of the paranoiac will appear now and again in later chapters, this book is interested in turning critical analysis of the artificial sciences away from projective, paranoid readings. The tendency to read artificial agents as screens for projection (projection of masculine, late-capitalist, or heterosexual anxieties, for example) will be displaced in favor of reading for the introjective bonds that have been established between us and artificial worlds. Affect and Artificial Intelligence is interested in the large-hearted, easily inflamed attachments that Ferenczi attributed not only to neurotics but to anyone capable of object love.” (28)

I admire Wilson’s style to weave her theoretical points from inside the empirical case studies, and in this case for instance, to bring ideas regarding readings of psychoanalysis (Sandor Ferenczi’s ideas about introjection from 1909) to how we do cultural theory.

(Note: an earlier, brief discussion about critique after my Coventry talk of Jan 25, 2011 can be found here.)

Media studies – studies of relations, ecology, waste

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

The best way for media studies to really make sense is to think outside media – of where it expands, takes us, if we persistently follow its lead. So far, for a long time, it took us to think about humans, human relations, intentions, unconscious desires, economics as much as politics as power. Such paths need to take us to the other direction too; to things less intentional, but as important; to nature, bacteria, chemicals, forms of life outside our headspace but inside our gut; to milieus of living in which our conscious agency is only a minor part of what matters. To such time scales which take into account uses and practices, but as part of larger concert where some things last thousands, millions, billions of years.

Just like humanities more widely, media studies needs to be transversal – perhaps a concept we can tightly link to “transdisciplinary” as well.

To quote Félix Guattari:

“Now more than ever, nature cannot be separated from culture; in order to comprehend the interactions between ecosystems, the mechanosphere and the social and individual Universes of reference, we must learn to think ‘transversally.’” (Three Ecologies, 2000:43).

The biggest reason why we should be worried about death and finitude is less in the existential manner, or even what makes our Dasein authentic, but in the way that milieus of life are dying. This relates to fears about “the sixth mass extension” of species, this time caused by humans. The only death we need is that of the subjectivity that cements the economic, political and aesthetic practices that kill nature. This is as much a question for the sciences and engineering, as it is for media theory, arts and humanities.

As Guattari argues, talking about ecosophy, we need to reinvent a multitude of relations where economic struggles, political struggles and struggles of representation, as well as aesthetics, are those that expand the horizon to nature. Hence, media – both in terms of the technologies that return to nature as heavy metals and toxins and as mediators of the mental ecologies in which our destructive tendencies are sustained – is surprisingly close to this problem too.

The affective regimes of media are affective in terms of the relations they sustain – relations between humans, but also to ecosystems, mechanospheres and more. Media studies is thus in a good position to really develop itself into a study of relations, of mediations in that much wider sense.

Streets, music are contagious

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

At the moment, I am trying to blog most of my media archaeology related notes and images on Cartographies of Media Archaeology (the work blog for my in-progress Media Archaeology and Digital Culture-book that I am writing for Polity Press). However, could not resist putting this up here – a short story and image from Illustrated London News, 19 December 1846.

Illustrated London News, December 1846

“London Street Music” features the street musician as a performing artist, giving a glimpse both to the 19th century worlds of entertainment and performance of street life, but also the pre-post-fordist emphasis on performance and affect. What writers such as Paolo Virno have identified as the mode of production in aesthetizised regimes of work: the virtuoso, the performing artist, was already his focus in A Grammar of Multitude. As Raunig puts Virno’s position in a summarizing fashion, while also pointing towards the problematic of relience on language by Virno:

“In post-Fordist capitalism, labor increasingly develops into a virtuosic performance that does not objectify itself into an end product; at the same time, this virtuosic form of labor demands a space that is structured like the public sphere.”
In the 1846 short article, the almost dangerous powers of the street musician are described in how they can capture the affect life of the listeners in public sphere: “How many suicides have been committed under his melancholy has not yet been clearly ascertained; but the effects of the orgue de Barbarie on the nervous system have been well known since Hogarth gave to the world his ‘Enraged Musician’.”

The worlds of technology (the new special street organ that differentiates this new brand of talent from “amateurs and artists”) and the worlds of music, the  ability to bring operatic cultures of Rossinian and Bellinian spheres to the wider public, make up this special brand of economies of cultural industry of affect. Naturally this reminds that the contagious force of affect has a longer history – in terms of the affect theories in music (baroque and the early 18th century for instance) as well as in social theory that emerged in the late 19th century where it was discussed in terms of public space, contagion, imitation and crowds.

>Learning from Network Dysfunctionality: Accidents, Enterprise and Small Worlds of Infection (ISEA 2010 Version)

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment


Before leaving finally for ISEA 2010 in Germany I shall post this — a short intro, or summary, or the extended abstract of what we are going to talk about there with Tony Sampson. It continues the Spam Book themes, and addresses more concretely the link between such processes as contagion (and in relation to heterogeneous bodies from social relations to software) and capitalism — more specifically marketing techniques, and various ways of harnessing the pull of connectedness.

Learning from Network Dysfunctionality: Accidents, Enterprise and Small Worlds of Infection

Tony D. Sampson (University of East London, UK)
Jussi Parikka (Anglia Ruskin University, UK)

In February 2010 an outbreak of media panic spread through the British tabloid press concerning a marketing campaign called DubitInsider. The DubitInsider website recruits 13-24 year olds who consider themselves to be “peer leader[s] with strong communication skills” to act as “Brand Ambassadors”. This requires the clandestine passing-on of product suggestions to peers via posting on message boards and social networks, emails and instant messenger conversations, organizing small events and parties. DubitInsider ignited the moral indignation of the tabloids not because of its covert nature, but since Brand Ambassadors were apparently paid to market “unhealthy” junk foods to minors. Tapping into the social influence of the consumer is nothing new. Seeking out so-called influentials is the basis of seasoned word-of-mouth campaigns and persists in “word-of-mouse” variations. For example, exploits the anticipated contagiousness of relations established between friends “on and offline” to promote music acts. “In4merz is about matching our artists to your friends who may like them.”

Young In4merz create posters, banners and videos about acts, Twitter about them, leave comments on Facebook etc. For each level of promotion, In4merz earn points that convert into CDs, DVDs, concert tickets and potential backstage access.

What interests us, as analysts of network dysfunctionality, is how the logic of these marketing strategies overlaps with the same anomalous abstract diagrams that distribute spam and viruses. In a different context, hiding unsolicited brand messages in social media and the potential for the bulk sending of veiled product promotions for financial reward could arguably be called spamming.

Furthermore, designed as they are to spread Trojan-like suggestions through imitative social networks, whether or not the strategies actually become contagious, their aim is to go viral. When removed from the context of the anomalous Nigerian cybercafe or computer virus writing scene, and played out in the marketplaces of food and pop culture, the emergent spam logic and virality of network capitalism becomes part of a broader indexical change concerning the way contagious communication networks, vulnerable bodies and unconscious behaviours can be harnessed.

The logic adopted becomes a normalized online marketing activity, not only performed by corporations, but embedded in social relations of individuals as part of the strategies of business enterprise and brand design.

Spamming and virality are no longer anomalies then, but are fast becoming the standard, acceptable way of doing business in the digital world. If the peer-to-peer recommendations and thumbs-up-buttons of “word-of-mouth 2.0” characterize the current paradigm of social media, these campaigns are indicative of a more aggressive and targeted Web 3.0 marketing of suggestion already on the horizon. This is a Web 3.0 that appeals directly to a user’s emotional landscape and desire for intimacy (Ludovico 2005), and exploits the ready made expediency of contagiousness networks that pass on suggestion.

Following a similar neo-monadological approach set out by Lazzarato (2004) we articulate the dynamics of spam, viruses, and other related “anomalies”, as constituent parts of new infectious worlds “created” by the business enterprise. We focus on the specific creative capacities of dysfunctionality in the production of network environments, and how “learning” from the irregularities of normalized communication adds new flesh to this world. We discuss how new knowledge concerning the productive powers of the anomalous is filtered through what Thrift (2005) calls the cultural circuit of capitalism: “… a feedback loop which is intended to keep capitalism surfing along the edge of its own contradictions”.

This new knowledge, acquired from the accidental events of the network, is seized upon by the business enterprise, leading to new consumer modeling intended to make ready environments so that the capricious spreading of social influence can be all the more effectively triggered and responded to.

Zittrain (2009) argues that viruses, spam and worms are threats to the generative principle of the Internet. Similarly, we contend that such software-driven social actions are exploitative of the open principles of the Internet, but further acknowledge the extent to which these practices have enthused and inspired the business enterprise. As we see it, “bad” software is not necessarily “malicious”. It becomes integral to an alternative generative logic of capture implicated in the production of new worlds of infection. We will discuss how these epidemiological worlds were mapped by computer scientists in the 1980s before they pervaded the burgeoning offshoots of the billion dollar network security industry. We further chart how they were modeled by network science as early as the 1960s and are currently being exported, via the circuitry of capitalism, to the business enterprise.

To be published in full as a chapter in The Blackwell Companion to New Media Dynamics, Hartley, Burgess and Bruns (eds.), Wiley-Blackwell, (forthcoming).

Affect, software, net art (or what can a digital body of code do-redux)

After visiting the Manchester University hosted Affective Fabrics of Digital Cultures-conference I thought for a fleeting second to have discovered affects; its the headache that you get from too much wine, and the ensuing emotional states inside you trying to gather your thoughts. I discovered soon that this is a very reductive account, of course — and in a true Deleuzian spirit was not ready to reduce affect into such emotional responses. Although, to be fair, hangover is a true state of affect – far from emotion — in its uncontrollability, deep embodiment.

What the conference did offer in addition to good social fun was a range of presentations on the topic that is defined in so many differing ways; whether in terms of conflation it with “emotions” and “feelings”, or then trying to carve out the level of affect as a pre-conscious one; from a wide range of topics on affective labour (Melissa Gregg did a keynote on white collar work) to aesthetic capitalism (Patricia Clough for example) which in a more Deleuzian spirit insisted on the non-representational. (If the occasional, affective reader is interested in a short but well summarizing account of differing notions of affect to guide his/her feelings about the topic, have a look at Andrew Murphie’s fine blog posting here – good theory topped up with a cute kitty.)

My take was to emphasise the non-organic affects inherent in technology — more specifically software, which I read through a Spinozian-Uexkullian lense as a forcefield of relationality. Drawing on for example Casey Alt’s forthcoming chapter in Media Archaeologies (coming out later this year/early next year), I concluded with object-oriented programming as a good example of how affects can be read to be part of software as well so that the technical specificity of our software embedded culture reaches out to other levels. Affects are not states of things, but the modes in which things reach out to each other — and are defined by those reachings out, i.e. relations. I was specifically amused that I could throw in a one-liner of “not really being interested in humans anyway” — even better would have been “I don’t get humans or emotions”, but I shall leave that for another public talk. “I don’t do emotions” is another of my favourite one’s, that will end up on either a t-shirt or an academic paper.

The presentation was a modified version from a chapter that is just out in Simon O’Sullivan and Stephen Zepke’s Deleuze and Contemporary Art-book even if in that chapter, the focus is more on net and software art. I am going to give the same paper in the Amsterdam Deleuze-conference, but as a teaser to the actual written chapter, here is the beginning of that text from the book…

1. Art of the Imperceptible

In a Deleuze-Guattarian sense, we can appreciate the idea of software art as the art of the imperceptible. Instead of representational visual identities, a politics of the art of the imperceptible can be elaborated in terms of affects, sensations, relations and forces (see Grosz). Such notions are primarily non-human and exceed the modes of organisation and recognition of the human being, whilst addressing themselves to the element of becoming within the latter. Such notions, which involve both the incorporeal (the ephemeral nature of the event as a temporal unfolding instead of a stable spatial identity) and the material (as an intensive differentiation that stems from the virtual principle of creativity of matter), incorporate ‘the imperceptible’ as a futurity that escapes recognition. In terms of software, this reference to non-human forces and to imperceptibility is relevant on at least two levels. Software is not (solely) visual and representational, but works through a logic of translation. But what is translated (or transposed) is not content, but intensities, information that individuates and in-forms agency; software is a translation between the (potentially) visual interface, the source code and the machinic processes at the core of any computer. Secondly, software art is often not even recognized as ‘art’ but is defined more by the difficulty of pinning it down as a social and cultural practice. To put it bluntly, quite often what could be called software art is reduced to processes such as sabotage, illegal software actions, crime or pure vandalism. It is instructive in this respect that in the archives of the software art repository the categories contain less references to traditional terms of aesthetics than to ‘appropriation and plagiarism’, ‘dysfunctionality’, ‘illicit software’ and ‘denial of service’, for example. One subcategory, ‘obfuscation’, seems to sum up many of the wider implications of software art as resisting identification.[i]

However, this variety of terms doesn’t stem from a merely deconstructionist desire to unravel the political logic of software expression, or from the archivists nightmare á la Foucault/Borges, but from a poetics of potentiality, as Matthew Fuller (2003: 61) has called it. This is evident in projects like the I/O/D Webstalker browser and other software art projects. Such a summoning of potentiality refers to the way experimental software is a creation of the world in an ontogenetic sense. Art becomes ‘not-just-art’ in its wild (but rigorously methodological) dispersal across a whole media-ecology. Indeed, it partly gathers its strength from the imperceptibility so crucial for a post-representational logic of resistance. As writers such as Florian Cramer and Inke Arns have noted, software art can be seen as a tactical move through which to highlight political contexts, or subtexts, of ‘seemingly neutral technical commands.’ (Arns, 3)

Arns’ text highlights the politics of software and its experimental and non-pragmatic nature, and resonates with what I outline here. Nevertheless, I want to transport these art practices into another philosophical context, more closely tuned with Deleuze, and others able to contribute to thinking the intensive relations and dimensions of technology such as Simondon, Spinoza and von Uexküll. To this end I will contextualise some Deleuzian notions in the practices and projects of software and net art through thinking code not only as the stratification of reality and of its molecular tendencies but as an ethological experimentation with the order-words that execute and command.

The Google-Will-Eat-Itself project (released 2005) is exemplary of such creative dimensions of software art. Authored by (featuring Alessandro Ludovico vs. Paolo Cirio), the project is a parasitic tapping in to the logic of Google and especially its Adsense program. By setting up spoof Adsense-accounts the project is able to collect micropayments from the Google corporation and use that money to buy Google shares – a cannibalistic eating of Google by itself. At the time of writing, the project estimated that it will take 202 345 117 years until GWEI fully owns Google. The project works as a bizarre intervention into the logic of software advertisements and the new media economy. It resides somewhere on the border of sabotage and illegal action – or what Google in their letter to the artists called ‘invalid clicks.’ Imperceptibility is the general requirement for the success of the project as it tries to use the software and business logic of the corporation through piggy-backing on the latter’s modus operandi.

What is interesting here is that in addition to being a tactic in some software art projects, the culture of software in current network society can be characterised by a logic of imperceptibility. Although this logic has been cynically described as ‘what you don’t see is what you get’, it is an important characteristic identified by writers such as Friedrich Kittler. Code is imperceptible in the phenomenological sense of evading the human sensorium, but also in the political and economic sense of being guarded against the end user (even though this has been changing with the move towards more supposedly open systems). Large and pervasive software systems like Google are imperceptible in their code but also in the complexity of the relations it establishes (and what GWEI aims to tap into). Furthermore, as the logic of identification becomes a more pervasive strategy contributing to this diagram of control, imperceptibility can be seen as one crucial mode of experimental and tactical projects. Indeed, resistance works immanently to the diagram of power and instead of refusing its strategies, it adopts them as part of its tactics. Here, the imperceptibility of artistic projects can be seen resonating with the micropolitical mode of disappearance and what Galloway and Thacker call ‘tactics of non-existence’ (135-136). Not being identified as a stable object or an institutional practice is one way of creating vacuoles of non-communication though a camouflage of sorts. Escaping detection and surveillance becomes the necessary prerequisite for various guerrilla-like actions that stay ‘off the radar.’

New Materialisms and Digital Culture -symposium

April 30, 2010 2 comments

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 or 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
Fee: £20

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
11.10 Break
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
12.30 Lunch
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’
15.20 break

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
12.30-14.00 lunch
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.