The war for the open internet is the defining issue of our time. It’s a scramble for control of the very fabric of human communication. And human communication is all that separates us from the utopia that thousands of generations of our ancestors slowly marched us toward — or the Orwellian, Huxleyan, Kafkaesque dystopia that a locked-down internet would make possible.By the end of this article, you’ll understand what’s happening, the market forces that are driving this, and how you can help stop it. We’ll talk about the brazen monopolies who maneuver to lock down the internet, the scrappy idealists who fight to keep it open, and the vast majority of people who are completely oblivious to this battle for the future.In Part 1, we’ll explore what the open internet is and delve into the history of the technological revolutions that preceded it.In Part 2, we’ll talk about the atoms. The physical infrastructure of the internet. The internet backbone. Communication satellites. The “last mile” of copper and fiber optic cables that provide broadband internet.In Part 3, we’ll talk about bits. The open, distributed nature of the internet and how it’s being cordoned off into walled gardens by some of the largest multinational corporations in the world.In Part 4, we’ll explore the implications of all this for consumers and for startups. You’ll see how you can help save the open internet. I’ll share some practical steps you can take as a citizen of the internet to do your part and keep it open.
We believe that developing alternative business models to the startup status quo has become a central moral challenge of our time. These alternative models will balance profit and purpose, champion democracy, and put a premium on sharing power and resources. Companies that create a more just and responsible society will hear, help, and heal the customers and communities they serve.
“At the absolute north, north no longer exists. Things can come only from the south. At the heart of the social, the social no longer exists. Things can come only from elsewhere. At the heart of the subject, the subject no longer exists. Things can come only from elsewhere.”
–Jean Baudrillard, Fragments (viasyntheticphilosophy)
The 37 decentralised agencies of the European Union
“…a circuit bent speak and spell that’s been left in the mud for a week…”
“Between 2011 and 2012, the Australian Federal Government was considering changes to the Australian Criminal Code that would classify any plants containing any amount of DMT as“controlled plants”. DMT itself was already controlled under current laws. The proposed changes included other similar blanket bans for other substances, such as a ban on any and all plants containing Mescaline or Ephedrine. The proposal was not pursued after political embarrassment on realisation that this would make the official Floral Emblem of Australia, Acacia pycnantha (Golden Wattle), illegal”
“The U.S. conducted 210 atmospheric nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, with multiple cameras capturing each event at around 2,400 frames per second. These are the declassified films of tests conducted by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The U.S. conducted 210 atmospheric nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, with multiple cameras capturing each event at around 2,400 frames per second. These are the declassified films of tests conducted by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.“
If you’re already a coder: Glitch makes every other development environment feel lonely and old-fashioned, as coding starts to feel more like simultaneous editing in Google Docs and less like the chore of reviewing pull requests. Everything you create is automatically deployed in realtime onto cloud servers, so there’s no provisioning of servers or management of infrastructure, just the joy of creating. If you’ve never coded before: Glitch is the place to start. We’ve got a friendly and welcoming community (we don’t tolerate people being jerks) and you start by remixing apps that already work, running on real web servers that you don’t have to learn how to manage. If you do get stuck, anyone in the Glitch community can come in and offer to help, just as easy as raising your hand.
Vortex rings are ubiquitous in nature, showing up in droplet impacts, in propulsion, and even in volcanic eruptions. Understanding the interaction and breakdown of multiple vortices with one another is therefore key. The image above shows a circular disk that’s being oscillated up and down (in and out of the page). As the disk moves and changes direction, it generates vortices that interact with one another. Here some of those interactions are visualized with fluorescent dye. The overlapping vortices form complex and beautiful shapes on their way to breakdown. (Image credit: J. Deng et al., poster, paper)
Information security’s biggest obstacle isn’t the mere insecurity of so many of our tools and services: it’s the widespread lack of general knowledge about fundamental security concepts, which allows scammers to trick people into turning off or ignoring security red flags.
Explaining these concepts isn’t easy, but it can be done. To that end, Jigsaw – Google’s online safety division – and the Washington Post are creating a collaborative, visual pop-up dictionary that explains difficult security concepts with analogies, metaphors and images.
The glossary is called the Sideways Dictionary, and its analogies are crowdsourced and then moderated by the site’s staff. You can browse the glossary on the Sideways Dictionary site (albeit only if you have nearly perfect vision, as the text is light grey on slightly less grey), but it’s also embeddable as a set of popups for news articles, which appear when readers hover over highlit words.
This is a wonderful, thoughtful project that is badly needed. Analogies are never perfect, and these concepts are, to a certain extent, intrinsically abstract. But by delivering the information at the moment in which a reader is encountering them in context – say, because they were just hacked and are trying to figure out how bad it was or what to do next – it may be able to overcome that abstractedness with salience.
The U.S. government reported a five-fold increase in the number of electronic media searches at the border in a single year, from 4,764 in 2015 to 23,877 in 2016.1 Every one of those searches was a potential privacy violation. Our lives are minutely documented on the phones and laptops we carry, and in the cloud. Our devices carry records of private conversations, family photos, medical documents, banking information, information about what websites we visit, and much more. Moreover, people in many professions, such as lawyers and journalists, have a heightened need to keep their electronic information confidential. How can travelers keep their digital data safe? This guide (updating a previous guide from 20112) helps travelers understand their individual risks when crossing the U.S. border, provides an overview of the law around border search, and offers a brief technical overview to securing digital data.
Listen To The Clouds.
The creator of a chatbot which overturned more than 160,000 parking fines and helped vulnerable people apply for emergency housing is now turning the bot to helping refugees claim asylum. The original DoNotPay, created by Stanford student Joshua Browder, describes itself as “the world’s first robot lawyer”, giving free legal aid to users through a simple-to-use chat interface. The chatbot, using Facebook Messenger, can now help refugees fill in an immigration application in the US and Canada. For those in the UK, it helps them apply for asylum support.
If you donate to a fund supporting the ‘long-term future’, be aware you’re most likely funding a weird AI religion:
Selected Images, circa 1980
gelatin silver prints
Check out this incredible drone capture of a roadway interchange outside of Sagamihara, Japan. Nestled within the mountains, you’ll notice the junction is particularly fascinating as it connects not just normal roads, but tunnels. /// Drone photo by Rob Antill (@digitalanthill) and Ben Steensls (@randomoperator)
“Poets – inventors, makers, artists, storytellers, mythologists – are not makers of actualities, but makers of possibilities… They do not “fit” into society, not because a place is denied them, but because they do not take their “places” seriously. They openly see its roles as theatrical, its styles as poses, its clothing costumes, its rules conventional, its crises performed…”
–Finite and Infinite Games, James P. Carse (viabryannamillis)
“Beat doesn’t mean tired or bushed, so much as it means beato, the Italian for beatific; to be in a state of beatitude, like St. Francis, trying to love all life, trying to be utterly sincere with everyone, practicing endurance, kindness, cultivating joy of the heart. How can this be done in our mad modern world of multiplicities and millions? By practicing a little solitude, going off by yourself once in a while to store up that most precious of goals: the vibrations of sincerity.”
―Jack Kerouac, born March 12th in 1922
A short intro to design plagiarism and how A.I. is being used to tackle it ht @leebalki cc @dunagan23 @leilaboujnane
Talents that selectively facilitate the acquisition of high levels of skill are said to be present in some children but not others. The evidence for this includes biological correlates of specific abilities, certain rare abilities in autistic savants, and the seemingly spontaneous emergence of exceptional abilities in young children, but there is also contrary evidence indicating an absence of early precursors for high skill levels in young people. An analysis of positive and negative evidence and arguments suggests that differences in early experiences, preferences, opportunities, habits, training and practice are the real determinants of excellence.
The mission of Library of the Printed Web is to provide an in-depth view of network culture, artistic practice, and the printed page. The collection is an important resource for the study of print-based experimental publishing in the early 21st century.
Included in MoMA’s acquisition are 244 items by 130 artists publishing in 17 countries: artists’ books, zines, newsprint, loose sheets, folios, prints, postcards, and other materials. A comprehensive catalogue is forthcoming, with contributions by David Senior and Sarah Hamerman of MoMA Library, and artist Sal Randolph.
Library of the Printed Web enters MoMA Library as a self-contained archive that will be preserved in its entirety for years to come. It is now available for institutional loan, and accessible to the general public at the museum’s midtown Manhattan location for viewing and research (by appointment). Many of the works are rare or no longer available. Most are self-published, including handmade, one-of-a-kind, limited editions, as well as print-on-demand works.
Library of the Printed Web was founded by Paul Soulellis in 2013 to investigate web-to-print artistic practice and the increasingly fluid relationship between screen and printed page. It quickly attracted the attention of artists, scholars, and media, and become the subject of exhibitions, workshops, research, and discourse. In 2014, Soulellis began publishing artists’ publications through Library of the Printed Web (Printed Web 1–5 and Printed Web Editions), which are also included in the collection. Soulellis continues to publish, curate, and actively participate in the growth and care of Library of the Printed Web at MoMA.
And they have Escaped the Weight of Darkness by Ólafur Arnalds
Robert Fludd The Great Darkness. And thus, to Infinity’ 1617
“A Chinese office lady has risen to internet stardom in China for making viral videos documenting her novel yet bizarre ways of preparing meals at her workplace. In each video, Little Ye improvises her meal preparation equipment using things commonly found around the office.”
What does citizenship look like in ten or 20 years time? Will it be determined by borders and nationality, or a social group or activity? What are the forces that currently, and may exist that influence, transform and manipulate or current understanding of borders and what it means to belong? This February, Changeist were invited by Time’s Up to deliver a three day workshop as part of their Futuring Exercise for the 2017 Maltese presidency of the Council of the EU, with the support of Arts Council Malta and the Valletta 2018 Foundation. We chose to take a keener look at citizenship, migration and borders as it may develop over the next few decades, using Europe as the territory for our speculative “map”.
It has always seemed to me that Twin Peaks was a turning point in the career of David Lynch, a point at which he developed the themes and ideas that would ripple through the rest of his work. Twin Peaks feels like Lost Highway feels like Mulholland Drive feels like Inland Empire in ways his earlier work doesn’t share. There are currents of duality, dream states, dubious identities, the symbiotic relationship between sex and violence, and betrayal in each of these films, but two in particular I’ve come to believe share more than thematic similarities. Brace yourselves: I think Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and Mulholland Drive all exist in the same universe, because I think Mulholland Drive, like those other works, is ultimately about The Black Lodge.
RT @mims: Bonkers: @elonmusk and south Australian tech billionaire negotiate a $200 million battery storage system on Twitter…
During the noisiest time in history — when the age of the automobile butts up against the era of electronics and gets smashed into dense urban populations — hearing loss is only a portion of what’s at stake. The field of “acoustic ecology” aims to reverse the noise pollution of today’s technology-driven world, but more importantly, to consciously create living environments that actually sound beautiful. The father of acoustic ecology is a composer and pedagogue named Murray Schafer. His 1977 book, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World, shaped a new dialogue around reducing and protecting certain sounds. He asked two big questions: What is the relationship between man and the sounds of his environment and what happens when those sounds change? And which sounds do we want to preserve, encourage, multiply?
“The concepts ‘system’, ‘apparatus’,‘environment’, immediately imply an artificial division of the world, and an intention to neglect, or take only schematic account of, the interaction across the split. The notions of ’microscopic’ and ’macroscopic’ defy precise definition. So also do the notions of ’reversible’ and ’irreversible’. Einstein said that it is theory which decides what is ’observable’. I think he was right - ’observation’ is a complicated and theory-laden business. Then that notion should not appear in the formulation of fundamental theory. Information? Whose information? Information about what? On this list of bad words from good books, the worst of all is ’measurement’. It must have a section to itself.”
–John Stewart Bell
According to Norma Jeane’s artist’s statement, Shybot’s weeklong sojourn in the American southwest was their “fantasy of the desert sublime: the machine is let loose in the landscape, free of the human determinism that thus far framed its existence, and we, in turn, are free to imagine a world liberated from the indeterminacy of us.”
Bombay - 2012 by iontrop (via http://flic.kr/p/dYqQzX )
Scan-150828-0004 by Aleksey Myakishev (via http://flic.kr/p/xSKm2A )
suburbia by chrisowenrichards (via http://flic.kr/p/hEftQZ )
x24 by netyxhorror (via http://flic.kr/p/SudjFg )
by (x)99. (via http://flic.kr/p/RrjUo2 )
by lyssaaa (via http://flic.kr/p/RSCNpp )
by lyssaaa (via http://flic.kr/p/R9zS45 )
by lyssaaa (via http://flic.kr/p/SBDL4c )
Capsized on Loch Ceann Hulabhaig by Mark Rowell (via http://flic.kr/p/SzMUiA )
Fragments of memory by black opal_2005 (via http://flic.kr/p/SthukK )
nik gaffney (via http://flic.kr/p/SBx6iu )
My favorite Weird Realists are Zizek, Stiegler, Latour, Laruelle (in his “non-standard” and “philo-fiction” phase), Badiou (in his post LOGICS OF WORLDS phase), and also Lyotard, Deleuze, and Feyerabend.
Poi confluiti, con altri by plochingen (via http://flic.kr/p/SvzCcp )
La sintesi è nel titolo by plochingen (via http://flic.kr/p/SvzChz )
ARCHITECTURE WITHOUT ARCHITECTS, MARRAKECH, MAROC, 1964
Surface tension holds small droplets in a partial sphere known as a spherical cap. But when droplets become larger, they flatten out into puddles due to the influence of gravity. In contrast, soap bubbles remain spherical to much larger sizes. The bubble pictured above, for example, is more than 1 meter in radius and nearly 1 meter in height.
There is a maximum height for a soap bubble, though, and it’s set by the physical chemistry of the surfactants used in the soap. To support itself, the bubble requires a difference in surface tension between the top and bottom of the bubble. A higher surface tension is necessary at the top of the bubble to help prevent fluid from draining away. The difference in surface tension between the top and bottom of the bubble can never be greater than the difference in surface tension between pure water and the soap mixture - thus those values set a maximum height for a bubble. The researchers found their bubbles maxed out at a height of about 2 meters, consistent with their theoretical predictions. (Image credit: C. Cohen et al.; via freshphotons)
Caspian Sea - Feb 4 2017 - Captured by OLI (Operational Land Imager) on Landsat 8. via NASA Earth Observatory
Today, with the rapid development of digital technology, we can increasingly attempt to follow Leibniz’s logic. An increasing level of sophistication, to the point of some products becoming highly or fully autonomous, leads to complex situations requiring some form of ethical reasoning — autonomous vehicles and lethal battlefield robots are good examples of such products due to the tremendous complexity of tasks they have to carry out, as well as their high degree of autonomy. How can such systems be designed to accommodate the complexity of ethical and moral reasoning? At present there exists no universal standard dealing with the ethics of automated systems — will they become a commodity that one can buy, change and resell depending on personal taste? Or will the ethical frameworks embedded into automated products be those chosen by the manufacturer? More importantly, as ethics has been a field under study for millennia, can we ever suppose that our current subjective ethical notions be taken for granted, and used for products that will make decisions on our behalf in real-world situations?
At Time’s Up the real, probable, improbable and fantastic blurred. We would probe the interstices of speculation and physical narrative, collectively dreaming and dredging up the fragile, elaborate gossamer webs of a lucid peninsula — a gleaming, satin-dark alternate reality. At the same time, we would celebrate. It seemed that a celebration was always imminent: the launch or conclusion of a project; the completion of a pressure-cooker booksprint; birthday parties, surprise or not; arrivals, departures, beginnings and ends. Here, the blurring of realities was mostly, and most pleasantly, a factor of social euphoria and endless bottles of wine, and it sometimes felt that I had stumbled into an enchanted realm where non-stop parties were the norm. But whether parties or physical narratives, everything we did at Time’s Up was infused with the carnivalesque.
If the creative process were to be seen as a syncopated beat in alternating Dionysian and Apollonian modes, we’d definitely reached a Bacchic ad libitum on Wednesday night. Fuelled in part by the cumulative effects of nearly three days’ commensality and countless glasses of wine, participants were in a riotous mood. Distinctions between work and play grew fine indeed. The mounting insanity, the atrocious DJ’ing, cabin fever induced by the overcast weather — I had to escape. I fled the loft to walk in the twilight and talk to yaks and, returning to an eerily silent downstairs by the fire, became absorbed in black elephant selfies. By the end of this evening (and I don’t exactly know when it ended) we had 34,111 words. Tomorrow, it seemed, the sober process of redaction would have to start all over again.
Miklós Vörös ph. (Hungary based) from ‘Lost and Found’ serie #2
Hagfish are far from cuddly. The pinkish eel-like creatures sport rows of toothy spikes around their mouth, allowing them to burrow into decaying animals like worms in dirt. But these oddballs are amazingly successful, able to inhabit a range of environments and have done so relatively unchanged for more than 300 million years. One of the keys to their success is an ingenious defense mechanism: slime.
When attacked by predators, these wriggly critters activate their slime glands, clogging their enemies’ gills with gelatinous glop—a gooey pepper spray of sorts that lets them escape unscathed. Few marine creatures are equipped to challenge this slimy defense system. Now, the U.S. Navy hopes to tap into the power of the slime, synthesizing an artificial version to keep their divers safe in the deep.
If you can get over the “ick” factor of the hagfish slime, the marine gelatin has many desirable properties. The goo is made of microscopic filaments, and though the skinny threads are thinner than a blood cell is wide, they are surprisingly strong. They’re also extremely long, extending nearly six inches. But the property that has intrigued many researchers—and caught the eye of Navy scientists—is the slime’s capacity for expansion. Once the slime mixes with water, it can grow to nearly 10,000 times its initial volume, according to Ryan Kincer, a materials engineer with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City.
branch abandons; it is the day of lazy crows
the problem with mapping reality is that reality is infinite, so any given map is going to be incomplete. but if you don’t make any maps then you have no way of negotiating reality at all. the history of intellectual culture, then, or more broadly, the history of people trying to understand reality, is the history of the tension between believing that it is possible to make models, and knowing that any model will be incomplete. it is essentially a history of call and response between the protectors of these two equally true beliefs.
rational, scientific intellectual cultures are the ones that attempt to rigorously model in an increasingly fractal way. they quantify patterns. when they encounter unquantifiable phenomena, they tend to assign temporary values. a symbol for pi, or infinity, or irrationality. but sometimes also phlogiston, or a word for a set of misunderstood symptoms.
but when people need to address the (in)completeness of models, or model in a way that suggests the incomplete space without being beholden to impossible quantification, they tend to get figurative and ironic and things like that. when art uses metaphor, for example, it causes one to quickly intuit associations between things that would be too difficult to model otherwise. a picture is worth a thousand words, and all of that. cultures of figuration tend to be either mystical or irreverent. or both.
the revulsion quantification people feel towards figuration people is the revulsion of ‘you are giving up way way too quickly, and it will have bad consequences.’ the revulsion figuration people feel towards quantification people is the revulsion of ‘you are leaving out something incredibly important, and it will have bad consequences.’ either group can produce lazy, shoddy models that aren’t even good quantification or figuration in the first place. though the question of whether that shoddy model would be improved by better quantification or better figuration is something else.
most people tend to have both of these cultures contained within themselves at any given moment.
“#SOLARPUNK is a movement in speculative fiction, art, fashion and activism that seeks to answer and embody the question “what does a sustainable civilization look like, and how can we get there?” The aesthetics of solarpunk merge the practical with the beautiful, the well-designed with the green and wild, the bright and colorful with the earthy and solid. Solarpunk can be utopian, just optimistic, or concerned with the struggles en route to a better world — but never dystopian. As our world roils with calamity, we need solutions, not warnings. Solutions to live comfortably without fossil fuels, to equitably manage scarcity and share abundance, to be kinder to each other and to the planet we share.
“Jorge Luis Borges’ well-known quip on metaphysics being a branch of fantastic literature… requires that the converse be true – fantastic literature and science fiction are the pop metaphysics (or the “mythophysics”) of our time.”
–in THE ENDS OF THE WORLD, by Déborah Danowski& Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, translated by Rodrigo Guimaraes Nunes.
What is happening online is nothing more than a reflection of what is happening offline in Mexico. “Since the war on drugs began in 2006, we´ve lived through the worst period for freedom of expression”, says Alberto. Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries on earth to be a journalist, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. It is also in the middle of a human rights crisis, stained by the disappearance of almost 30,000 men, women and children over the last decade — most since the current President, Peña Nieto took office in 2012. The violence — and the impunity shrouding it — has energized a new generation of digitally-savvy Mexican activists who want to see accountability for the human rights abuses committed.
Nearly all of the most valuable companies throughout history were valuable through their strong network effects. If there is one motif in American economic history it is network effects. Every railroad made the railroad network more valuable, every telephone made the telephone network more valuable, and every Internet user made the Internet network more valuable. But no hedge fund has ever harnessed network effects. Negative network effects are too pervasive in finance, and they are the reason that there is no one hedge fund monopoly managing all the money in the world. For perspective, Bridgewater, the biggest hedge fund in the world, manages less than 1% of the total actively managed money. Facebook, on the other hand, with its powerful network effects, has a 70% market share in social networking. The most valuable hedge fund in the 21st century will be the first hedge fund to bring network effects to capital allocation.
Hang’s photographs carried the tags of nude, youth, sexuality, social norms, gay?, even in China!, and seemed enough for a story. That’s what I went with; the significance of Ren Hang would not become clear to me until a few years later. This interview was originally conducted in Mandarin. It has been translated and edited for length and clarity. Interview by Erik Bernhardsson. Translation by Dier Zhang.
Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto outlines his vision for a centralised global colony ruled by the Silicon Valley oligarchy. I say we must do the exact opposite and create a world with individual sovereignty and a healthy commons.
There is no “I” in “cephalopod.” #Cthulhu
The International Hole, Tijuana/San Ysidro, ca. 1988
Gelatin silver print.
Woven Read Error
This is a story about truth and consequences. It’s a story about who gets to be young and dumb, and who gets held accountable. It’s also a story about how the new right exploits young men — how it preys not on their bodies, but on their emotions, on their hurts and hopes and anger and anxiety, their desperate need to be part of a big ugly boys’ own adventure. It’s a story about how so many of us have suffered the consequences of that exploitation. And it’s a story about how consequences finally came for Milo Yiannopoulos too — the worst kind of consequences for a professional troll. Consequences that nobody finds funny. Consequences that cannot be mined for fame and profit.
Just got our fab new studio sign made from salvaged Cornish oak - thanks @cutbybeam
remember when lol meant “laughing out loud” instead of “this is to indicate that this brief text isn’t hostile”
remember when lol meant “this brief text isn’t hostile” instead of “this brief text is in fact horrendously hostile and very passive aggressive”
There’s a linguistics paper about lol that explains both of these meanings!
Armin Medosch died yesterday, on the day two months after being diagnosed with cancer. I’m sure many people on nettime knew him very well. He was a long-time mover and shaker in the media arts and network culture scene in Europe. Indeed for much longer than even nettime exists.
I first learned of Armin not as a person, but a legend. In the early 1990s, he was one of a band of artists of an unqualifiable streak who roamed the Baltic sea on the Kunst-Raum-Schiff, MS Stubnitz. An 80m former freeze & transport vessel of the GDR high seas fishing fleet, they had re-purposed as a moving center for experimental electronic culture. He curated and organised exhibitions and symposia in Rostock, Hamburg, Malmö and St.Petersburg. The project was incredibly evocative, even for someone like me who had never seen the ship, because it fused many of the ideas that would come to define network culture, namely nomadism, a total disregard for established culture institutions, DIY and an exploration of the wild wastelands opened by the breakdown of the Soviet system, after 1989.
A few years later, when he was the co-founder and editor (1996 to 2002) of the groundbreaking online magazine Telepolis, he gave me the first change to publish regularly on network culture. Telepolis, which came out of exhibition on what was then called “interactive cities”, was the first European (or at least German) online publication that followed and understood the newly emerging phenomenon of the network culture. Together with Mute in London and nettime as list, Telepolis was a key node in establishing something like a European perspective on Internet culture, in clear opposition to WIRED and the Californian ideology.
In the early 2000s, Armin and I found ourselves living in Vienna. A collaborative working relationship turned into friendship. We still collaborated on a lot of projects, such as a Kingdom of Piracy, an exhibition project he initiated with Yukiko Shikata and Shu Lea Cheang, one of the first art projects that focused on the legal and illegal cultural practices of sharing digital materials. Over the last few years, we worked together in the framework of technopolitics, an independent research platform, he founded initially with Brian Holmes, aiming at developing a more martially grounded cultural critique, one which could relate cultural practices within deeper, more structure social transformation. A task we considered urgent after breakdown of the neo-liberal paradigm following the crisis that started 2008. All of these projects, and many more that I cannot account for personally – and need your help to fill in – where transdisciplinary, collaborative and exploratory, often ahead of their times. This is, however, something that the art and the academic system rarely appreciates.
Technopolitics continued this cross-disciplinary and collaborate work, but also reflected his new focus of work on developing a deep and sustained cultural theory and art history. His most recent publication, “New Tendencies: Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution (1961-1978)” (MIT Press, 2016) was a first major achievement of this new direction. So was Technopolitics which we were able to present to overflow crowds at the transmediale late last month, an event which he could only witness via stream from his hospital bed. Quite recently, we even became neighbours and we would walk over to each other’s house for discussions, food a drinks. No more.
actually i avoid obituaries and funerals. they are more about the people who stay than the people who go.and they are about status and memory. how many people will show up, how many people will give a speech. damn it. in this case, i have to write, expecting that Armin Medosch would have done the same. get his grips together and go back in time. traverse the network of people, places, events. help to edit the pages on monoskop and maybe wikipedia. we never have been friends on facebook. i know that for the ones beeing very near it will be almost impossible to write more. recently i read the obituary of a comrade by another comrade and actually it was all about comradery as a self reflection of purpose, which can quite easily become a monologue in front of a mirror. when looking back and forth again, you acknowledge that time is linear, so i think what Armin did was looking around, quite early, have a lookout, and be there eagerly waiting, grudgingly dismissing those who were not ready yet. luckily we shared this perspective. it is a rather circular view in all directions, and a combination of all senses, which is needed, which opens up a plane of intrinsic qualities, which can only be experienced, and are therefore a product of social labor, as something which has to be realized together. with such opportunities, other forces and explorers are working hard to gain and claim ground. other seasons begin and other qualities are needed. remember the smile. you need a big heart, some humour, and a lot of anger to keep going. as travelling warriors it is not so much about the fight, or even the enemy, than the territory itself which determines the struggle. the potential is not the one of a native who claims spiritual ownership, but of a futurity as a multidimensional topology which must remain open in a good way, which keeps a flow going, and keeps coming back to pose new opportunities of struggle. retiring from resistance is impossible. the moment you ask what was in it for you, you’re just hurting yourself. in so far it is like a song, which you and anyone can sing again, a pattern of a track which repeats itself, a faint radio frequency to tune into. have a good flight.
In Don Delillo’s novel White Noise (1984) - which by the way is both hilarious and more relevant than ever with its themes of media saturation, environmental catastrophe, consumerism as religion, and fascism (the main character is a university chair of Hitler Studies) - there is a philosophical exchange on the subject of everything we don’t know about the technologically advanced society we live in. Framed as a kind of Socratic dialogue between father and son (with the son always playing Socrates), the 14-year-old Heinrich describes our diminished agency in a system that casts us only as passive consumers. ‘What good is knowledge’, he asks, ‘if it just floats in the air? It goes from computer to computer. It changes and grows every second of every day. But nobody actually knows anything.’
To illustrate this point he gives a lengthy diatribe on everything we don’t know about the society we live in. The ignorance he describes is highlighted by the community’s helplessness in the face of a catastrophe (an ‘Airborne Toxic Event’ set off by a chemical spill):
‘It’s like we’ve been flung back in time,’ he said. ‘Here we are in the Stone Age, knowing all these great things after centuries of progress but what can we do to make life easier for the Stone Agers? Can we make a refrigerator? Can we even explain how it works? What is electricity? What is light? We experience these things every day of our lives but what good does it do if we find ourselves hurled back in time and we can’t even tell people the basic principles much less actually make something that would improve conditions. Name one thing you could make. Could you make a simple wooden match that you could strike on a rock to make a flame? We think we’re so great and modern. Moon landings, artificial hearts. But what if you were hurled into a time warp and came face to face with the ancient Greeks. The Greeks invented trigonometry. They did autopsies and dissections. What could you tell an ancient Greek that he couldn’t say, “Big Deal.” Could you tell him about the atom? Atom is a Greek word. The Greeks knew that the major events in the universe can’t be seen by the eye of man. It’s waves, it’s rays, it’s particles.’
‘We’re doing all right.’
‘We’re sitting in this huge moldy room. It’s like we’re flung back.’
‘We have heat, we have light.’
‘These are Stone Age things. They had heat and light. They had fire. They rubbed flints together and made sparks. Could you rub flints together? Would you know a flint if you saw one? If a Stone Ager asked you what a nucleotide is, could you tell him? How do we make carbon paper? What is glass? If you came awake tomorrow in the Middle Ages and there was an epidemic raging, what could you do to stop it, knowing what you know about the progress of medicines and diseases? Here it is practically the twenty-first century and you’ve read hundreds of books and magazines and seen a hundred TV shows about science and medicine. Could you tell those people one little crucial thing that might save a million and a half lives?’
‘“Boil your water,” I’d tell them.’
‘Sure. What about “Wash behind your ears.” That’s about as good.’
‘I still think we’re doing fairly well. There was no warning. We have food, we have radios.’
‘What is a radio? What is the principle of a radio? Go ahead, explain. You’re sitting in the middle of this circle of people. They use pebble tools. They eat grubs. Explain a radio.’
It’s an unsettling speech. Sure, some of us know how a radio works, or how to light a fire without a match, but not many; certainly it’s a shrinking minority. Learning how things work is one small step we can take, especially now that all the information we need is literally at our fingertips.
We’ve been talking a lot recently about Albert Borgmann’s device paradigm, about ‘thingness’ and being connected to a larger ecosystem. Borgmann illustrates his concept with the image of the traditional hearth, ‘a place that gathered the work and leisure of a family and gave the house a centre’. Our latest projects explore in part the ways we might make devices back into things.
On a less pedantic note, we had a clear night this week and we got a fire going. We wanted to meet for a couple of hours, the two of us and our PhD student Enrique, to develop some fresh ideas for future projects. Why go to a meeting room when you can sit by the fire with a sketchbook and pencil and a bottle (or two) of good red wine? So that’s what we did. The fireside is now our preferred meeting place, especially for the big ideas that can be filled in with details later. It’s a good way to escape the noise and rediscover the signal.
In The Divided Self, R.D. Laing offers this description of “ontological insecurity.”
The individual in the ordinary circumstances of living may feel more unreal than real; in a literal sense, more dead than alive; precariously differentiated from the rest of the world, so that his identity and autonomy are always question. He may lack the experience of his own temporal continuity. He may not possess an overriding sense of personal consistency or cohesiveness. He may feel more insubstantial than substantial, and unable to assume that the stuff he is made of is genuine, good, valuable. And he may feel his self as partially forced from his body.
This sort of interpretation of the self used to be my basic starting point in approaching social media. As Laing argues, a stable sense of self is required for one to have “sane” interactions with other people, otherwise every interaction threatens to overwhelm the individual with insecurity, with fears of losing oneself in the other or of being ignored and obliterated by their indifference. Monitoring these interactions and scoring them increases the chances that we will experience them this way; it both destabilizes the sense of identity security we have going in to an encounter, and it provides a quasi-objective way of confirming the degree to which one is winning or losing “identity” in terms of making others recognize the primacy of your point of view on the world.
Social media is a cause of ontological insecurity that masquerades as its cure. Social media networks literalize and make explicit the ways in which we are “precariously differentiated,” and the asynchronous nature of sociality online disrupts an individual’s sense of “temporal continuity.” The creation of an identity archive would seem to ground the self, but it merely creates an incomplete and inadequate double — a “self partially forced from the body” — over which one has even less control over the uses to which it is put. An online identity in a social media platform is not a medium for our autonomous expression; it is a means by which our identity is warped, exploited, misused, posited, manipulated, and articulated by outside forces. Other people and corporations and advertisers and so on can put “you” to use without your presence or knowledge. The contexts in which “you” appear cede even further from your control, and one is continually confronted with one’s incohesiveness, one’s lack of consistency.
If Laing is right, then social media systematically impose a sense of insubstantiality on users, which opens up the serial pleasure of reaching for small reassurances: likes, and other forms of micro-recognition made suddenly meaningful by the acute insecurity.
For the ontological insecure man, according to Laing, “the world of his experience comes to be one he can no longer share with other people.” In social media terms, this means that “sharing” on platforms increases to the extent that one feels no one shares their world, and it has the ironic consequence of increasing the sense of isolation. The more I mediate my experience to offer it you, the more I make concrete my feeling that you don’t know or share what I experience, or even see thatI experience, and that I have to keep shoving examples of it at you.
The point, again, is that social media inverts what it makes explicit. It turns identity into incoherence by archiving what we do and imposing on it a formal, data-based unity. It turns sharing into isolation, by often insisting on the lack of synchronous reciprocity and co-presence in communication there. It makes the attention of others measurable, storable, transferable, making it something that can only come at someone else’s expense, obscuring the idea that attention can vary in form and intensity, that it can be given without being surrendered, and can harmonize with the attention of others into something immeasurably greater.
We don’t take our other valuables with us when we travel—we leave the important stuff at home, or in a safe place. But Facebook and Google don’t give us similar control over our valuable data. With these online services, it’s all or nothing. We need a ‘trip mode’ for social media sites that reduces our contact list and history to a minimal subset of what the site normally offers. Not only would such a feature protect people forced to give their passwords at the border, but it would mitigate the many additional threats to privacy they face when they use their social media accounts away from home. Both Facebook and Google make lofty claims about user safety, but they’ve done little to show they take the darkening political climate around the world seriously. A ‘trip mode’ would be a chance for them to demonstrate their commitment to user safety beyond press releases and anodyne letters of support. The only people who can offer reliable protection against invasive data searches at national borders are the billion-dollar companies who control the servers. They have the technology, the expertise, and the legal muscle to protect their users. All that’s missing is the will.
Seven Worlds for TRAPPIST-1
Seven worlds orbit the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, a mere 40 light-years away. In May 2016 astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) announced the discovery of three planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Just announced, additional confirmations and discoveries by the Spitzer Space Telescope and supporting ESO ground-based telescopes have increased the number of known planets to seven. The TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely all rocky and similar in size to Earth, the largest treasure trove of terrestrial planets ever detected around a single star. Because they orbit very close to their faint, tiny star they could also have regions where surface temperatures allow for the presence of liquid water, a key ingredient for life. Their tantalizing proximity to Earth makes them prime candidates for future telescopic explorations of the atmospheres of potentially habitable planets. All seven worlds appear in this artist’s illustration, an imagined view from a fictionally powerful telescope near planet Earth. Planet sizes and relative positions are drawn to scale for the Spitzer observations. The system’s inner planets are transiting their dim, red, nearly Jupiter-sized parent star.