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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.

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!

Metastable biomedia bodies: Paul Vanouse’s Fingerprints

March 19, 2011 Leave a comment

The Suspect Inversion Center (SIC)

It is a beautifully created little exhibition; a dark room, three projects, all like spotlights into aspects where the biological is becoming media – and as such, part of the epistemic frameworks. These forms of mediated knowing are then of course themselves access points to a plethora of  techniques of power, proof and aesthetics. Yet, as has been demonstrated the recent years in various bioart and biomedia-theoretical works, the biological just not is – but is created.

Hence, Paul Vanouse’s Fingerprints, curated by Jens Hauser, is one of such works that is able to extend the notion of “media” to processes deep inside the body, and yet abstract enough to encompass global transactions, economies, regimes of knowing. Exhibited at the Schering Stiftung, Berlin, three pieces (The Suspect Inversion Center, Relative Velocity Inscription Device, and Latent Figure Protocol) are on show. What Vanouse is able to show is the inherent instability, or perhaps metastability if we want to use concepts from Gilbert Simondon, of these constellations of production of “truth”. What kinds of truths? Truths about race, about culpability, about how DNA samples do not just stick to the body, or that the relation is fragile, sustained, maintained exactly by the techniques supposed to “find” them. This is basic stuff that Science and Technology Studies has given us: apparatuses, techniques and frameworks create, never just discover. The truths found are as much in the apparatus as in the body – and hence, more accurately in the various couplings of technologies, biological bodies, and the mentioned abstract frameworks.

It’s mediated, to amusing extents: From the mini-laboratories of Suspect Inversion Center that is an on-going performance aimed to demonstrate the manipulability of DNA samples and images (which involves a “becoming OJ Simpson” of Mr Vanouse’s DNA) to the game-like Relative Velocity Inscription Device where the DNA of four family members are staged to compete against each other in a race form (the pace of their DNA samples moving through the gel electrophoresis that is instrumental part of DNA imaging technologies).

 

The Relative Velocity Inscription Device (RVID) - the biological body processes turned into a "game" for involuntary processes

Visible, invisible – or sustaining and stabilizing something that is dynamic in its radical temporality (such as the DNA in our bodies) as imaged is one of the most crucial questions for the interconnection of power/media (to modulate Foucault’s “power/knowledge-pairing). Such media and visual cultures are yet grounded in the wet fleshyness of the body, a further connection or demonstration of the idea of even biological bodies as media – and essential to mediated cultures. In this context, such pieces are to me much interesting than thinking them in terms of their genre of “bioart” – in the way they force us think nature-cultures, body-technologies, transversal links.

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.

Operational Management of Life

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment


Management of life — in terms of processes, decisions and consequences — is probably an emblematic part of life in post-industrial societies. Increasingly, such management does not take place only on the level individuality, but dividuality — i.e. managing the data clouds, traces, and avataric transpositions of subjectivity in online environments. This is the context in which J. Nathan Matias’ talk on operational media design made sense (among other contexts of course), and provided an apt, and exciting, example of how through media design we are able to understand wider social processes.

Nathan addressed “operationalisation” as a trend that can be incorporated in various platforms from SMS to online self-management and operationalisation. More concretely, “operational media” can be seen as a management, filtering and decision mechanism that can be incorporated into services and apps of various kinds. Nathan’s talk moved from military contexts of “command and control” (operationalisation of strategic ways into tactical operations) to such Apps as the blatantly sexist Pepsi Amp up before you score which allowed the (male) user to find “correct” and functional responses to a variety of female types. In addition to such, Nathan’s talk was able to introduce the general idea of computer assisted information retrieval and management which to me was a great way of branding a variety of trends into “operational media”. He talked about visualisation of data, augmented reality, filtering of data, expert, crowd and computer assisted information gathering, and a variety of other contexts in which the idea works.

“Should I eat this croissant” considering its calories, the needed time I need to work out to get it again out of my system, the time available etc. is one example of operationalisation of decisions in post-fordist societies of high-tech mobile tools that tap into work and leisure activities.

Another example is the service offered by Nathan’s employed KGB (not the spies, but Knowledge Generation Bureau. See their recent Superbowl ad here. The KGB service is one example of mobile based operational services which in the character space of an SMS try to provide accurate answers to specific questions and hence differ from e.g. search engines.

Of course, one could from a critical theory perspective start to contextualise “operational media”. Is it a form of digital apps enhanced behavioralism that does not only assume but strengthens assumptions about the possibility of streamlining complex human actions? Is it a mode of media design that further distances management of life into external services? Is it hence a form of biopower of commercial kinds that ties in with the various processes from the physiological to cultural such as labour and provides its design-solutions for them? In any case, Nathan’s expertise in this field was a very enjoyable, and a good demonstration of a scholar/designer working in software studies.

>On Network Politics — notes to self and the unknown reader

September 23, 2009 Leave a comment

>Our network politics networking-project kicks off officially October 1st, and we are in the midst of organizing some of the activities and themes which will form the backbone of the project. The project will feature both online-presence and activities, as well as events taking place in Cambridge and New York. We had yesterday the interesting idea of using the Request for Comments-format (RFC) as a media theoretical method of sorts, that kicks off from the initial question of “what is network politics?” and then proceeds through the RFC method – forking into new questions, streams, agendas. As the project is about networking, we find its important to map the field and crucial agendas, not just yet hope to provide final solutions. This is why the RFC idea (to quote from Wikipedia!) is intriguing: “Through the Internet Society, engineers and computer scientists may publish discourse in the form of an RFC, either for peer review or simply to convey new concepts, information, or (occasionally) engineering humor. The IETF adopts some of the proposals published as RFCs as Internet Standards.” To adopt that to media theoretical and practical aims to facilitate discussion is an idea worthwhile to have a shot at, and to use it to develop concept-labs/networks for conveying new concepts, information…

Anyhow, I need to start writing some notes to self in terms of possible ways to go with the agenda, of what could be relevant in terms of topics to be covered somehow:

– politics of new networks and code platforms such as Twitter. E.g. Greg Elmer has been actively involved in this research. What kind of modes of organization, action and for example campaigning for political agencies such forms offer? This stream perhaps focuses on the question of how such technologies might deterritorialize the political landscape and praxis.

– Politics of networks as politics of invisibility: what kinds of forms of politics there are out there that are not even recognized as politics? This is a multilayered question, and relates both to perception of politics as well as the tactics of politics in the age of surveillance, visibility and software. Firstly, how should we address certain forms of tactical media, net art, etc. as forms of politics (and what are the tools to develop such understanding). Secondly, take Galloway and Thacker: “Future avant-garde practices will be those of nonexistence.” Network politics can take as its form also becoming-invisible, becoming-nonexistent in order to avoid both the politics of representation as well as the techniques of trackings, surveillance and control. All of this relates to thinking of modes of activism, as well.

– Biopolitics of network culture that is characterized by “immaterial projects, including ideas, images, affects and relationships” (Hardt and Negri); how do such forms of production take form through social media as a standardisation and distribution of specific forms of relations, sociability, affects, and community? There is a wide range of excellent work already on this stream, from Tiziana Terranova’s Network Culture-book (2004) to the forthcoming The Internet as Playground and Factory-conference in New York. (For a taste of what’s coming, see e.g. McKenzie Wark’s video interview on the topic.)

– The need for new tools for academic interaction — tools which do not only quantifiably ease distribution and storage of research etc., but qualitatively enact a change in how academic institutions work in the age of late capitalism. Gary Hall’s Digitize This Book! is a good point of entry to these debates, and what we hope to address somehow (e.g. through methods such as RFC potentially) is how the modes of relating to other scholars and production of information can be rethought in the context of network culture. Taking aboard Jodi Dean’s excellent “warnings” in her “Communicative Capitalism”-article, this mode of academic interaction should not fall prey to any automated sociability that is offered as part of the assumption of goodness of all communication in network culture, but it should critically inspect ideas of open source, multimodal forms of academic debate and possibilities of network technologies to facilitate not just more-of-the-same but visions of 21st century arts and humanities agenda (which are not detached from science and tech.)