One of our great errors in thinking — another aspect of that unfortunate idea of human exceptionalism that makes it so hard for us to be at home in this world — is that the natural and the man-made are distinct entities. Like all other parts of the branching experiment, we make and are made by the living environment, and we have done so since before we were us. Without the forests of the Santa Cruz mountains, there would be no Silicon Valley. But Silicon Valley will make or unmake the forests of the future. No nature story, no account of environmental struggle would be complete without bringing on-stage all the human technologies that are to us what the invention of flowers and nuts and chlorophyll and mycorrhizal networks are to the forest superorganism. Just as the emergence of tree intelligence forever changed the planet, so the emergence of consciousness (which long predated humans) forever changed the nature of evolution. Cultural transmission is orders of magnitude faster than genetic transmission, and digital transmission has accelerated the speed of culture a hundredfold or more. We may soon seem, to our artificial intelligence offspring, as motionless and insentient as trees seem to us. And here we live, trying to make a home between our predecessors and our descendants.
Posts tagged review
Farmers Manual – Mobile FM (AM)
“Done with the utmost of improvised, joyous spirit the two pieces seem to be restrained by absolutely nothing. This total freedom results in something that becomes completely and deeply compelling, a true joy to behold.”
“Employing a greater deal of noise and chaos, Farmers Manual ratchet up the tension to unfathomable degrees while layers veer right into pure cacophony. Distortion layers on top of itself, resulting in an ornate series of patterns. By the latter half Farmers Manual only lets the distortion and noise take over, with any trace of humanity fully scrubbed out.”
Farmers Manual – Sonderzeichenmassaker
“Always ready for a spot of fun, Farmers Manual ensures that they destroy everything in their path. The tension they employ throughout results in a surprisingly great deal of joy, the way they allow everything to burst forth in a tremendous almost flowering of sound. Very much in the noise realm of things, they make sure that the song’s unpredictability allows for a few jump scares, while they increase the volume into uncomfortable degrees. Outright amazing, they prove exactly how to allow sound to completely lose it while documenting the results.“
“Something particularly unique to Farmers Manual, they never make a grand entrance. Their emphasis relies on a steady patience, one that allows a stream of consciousness approach to songwriting, or textural exploration. It feels quite natural what they do, allowing their sound to speak for itself. Over the course of the piece this proves to be true for they take a light touch the sound, only gently nudging it when absolutely necessary. For the most part, it is the sound that does most of the work, growing with an unrealized kind of potential. About halfway through the piece the pulsing rhythm starts to truly assert itself, allowing for a great deal of madness right on the periphery to gain considerable clout. When the piece becomes unruly, it truly becomes all-encompassing, offering no escape from the onslaught.”
Farmers Manual – Stat = Conjecture Pirayune Snart
“Is Farmers Manual, after years of relaxing at art exhibits, finally about to become normal? Considering this particular piece’s main description is“farmersmanual dropped some bluish green squares on the floor” the answer is thankfully no. One of the more unique and sorely missed groups of extreme computer musicians, there is something quite intense about what they do. Rhythms are mangled, textures warped, and any discernible reference point to actual genres a mere accident.”
“Jagged little edges and crackles introduce the piece. From there the tiny textures have a near-funk like element to them. Noise emerges until it virtually collapses upon itself.“
“With “Stat = Conjecture Pirayune Snart ” Farmers Manual prove they are the oddity of all oddities, a group that remains committed to the most abnormal of sonic explorations.”
We now know that if you take the same subject and do tDCS with exactly the same settings on different days, they can have very different responses. We know there’s a huge amount that can actually change what effect tDCS has. What you’re doing at the time tDCS is administered, or before tDCS is administered, has an effect. There are so many different things that can have an effect – your age, your gender, your hormones, whether you drank coffee that morning, whether you’ve had exposure to brain stimulation previously, your baseline neurotransmitter level — all of this stuff can affect what tDCS does to your brain. And some of those things vary on a day-to-day basis.
Vanderbilt’s premise is: “We are strangers to our tastes.” He doesn’t mean that we don’t really like what we say we like. He means that we don’t know why. Our intuition that tastes are intuitive, that they are just “our tastes,” and spring from our own personal genome, has been disproved repeatedly by psychologists and market researchers. But where tastes do come from is extremely difficult to pin down. Taste is not congenital: we don’t inherit it. And it’s not consistent. We come to like things we thought we hated (or actually did hate), and we are very poor predictors of what we are likely to like in the future.
The user continued to post about topics including Vietnam, Elizabeth Bathory, the Treblinka concentration camp, humpback whales, the Manson Family and LSD, but especially about the inexplicable “flesh interfaces”, being built somehow by shadowy programmes. A Reddit user might chance upon a single one of these posts in one of their ordinary discussion threads, but clicking on the username of _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 would let you view all their posts in aggregate, and there, a compelling science-fiction horror story was beginning to emerge, gradually more beautifully and boldly written from multiple narrative perspectives, but with a common mystery.
I prefer the Business Horror offshoot, w a dash of Quandrantism.
The fact is that slaving was at the very centre of state-making. It is impossible to exaggerate the massive effects of this human commodity on stateless societies. Wars between states became a kind of booty capitalism, where the major prize was human traffic. The slave trade then completely transformed the non-state ‘tribal zone’. Some groups specialised in slave-raiding, mounting expeditions against weaker and more isolated groups and then selling them to intermediaries or directly at slave markets. The oldest members of highland groups in Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Burma can recall their parents’ and grandparents’ memories of slave raids. The fortified, hilltop villages, with thorny, twisting and hidden approaches that early colonists found in parts of South-East Asia and Africa were largely a response to the slave trade.
It’s not surprising that it has taken us a long time to reappraise the octopus, imbued with such mythical awe, as what it really is: an intelligent animal with entwining arms so filled with neurons that each of them possesses a separate personality. In the current nature writing boom– fuelled in part by new scientific discoveries – the revision of the octopus is just one in a series of natural histories, of creatures from corvids to cetaceans, which indicate that our awareness of other species is expanding exponentially. As an interviewee in Sy Montgomery’s remarkable book declares, “It’s really only in the last 20 years we could even be having this conversation. We’re only starting to understand animals.”
On the surface, the 365 photgraphs that accumulated daily during last year exhibit a sense of repetition, familiarity, continuity (cf. 02011, 02012 and 02013). As in the previous years, blur (49), light (82), leaves (40), texture (38), shadows (34) and reflections (33) are all present. Many were greyscale (170).
Below the surface there has been a change of pace as the daily practice grows more habitual. The contradictions of the digital present, the inevitable everything of ubiquitous imagery and the more hesitant, folded, reticulated images on expired film, exposure, finding light and shadow, composition, the present moment. The sympathetic magic that every photograph, no matter how disposable holds over time.
Much remains unclear. Does “critical design” have “users” or an “audience?” Does it have “patrons” or a “viewership?” Is it a craft, or some form of activism? It’s also unsettled whether its main concerns are, or should be, functional prototypes, diegetic special FX, speculative online videos, design-museum dioramas, or performance art and/or experiential happenings. It’s hard to believe that any designer, however Eamesian and polymathic, will ever be good at doing all these things at once.
“Perhaps true, total photography […] is a pile of fragments of private images, against the creased background of massacres and coronations.”
For the last three (solar) years i’ve taken at least one photo per day, every day, in an ongoing series of small acts of deliberate persistence. After more than 1000 days patterns emerge, inspiration ebbs and returns, the pile of fragments grows. While i’ve never made a deliberate attempt to narrow the focus or or create further constraints than ‘one photo per day’ it’s inevitable that subjective and analytic patterns become visible.
The analytic patterns have been extracted using the Flickr API (the code can be found at github). During 02013 there are more greyscale images (171) than previously while light (66), pattern (41), reflection (38), texture (29), shadow (27) and plants (20) remain common themes (for previous years see 02012 (366) and 02011 (365))
During the year there were 746 unique tags used of which 462 were only used once, these include agave, fishbones, gargoyles in boxes, ရွှေတိဂုံစေတီတော် (aka Shwedagon Zedi Daw) and vanga. Taxidermy, Sarracenia, The Secretariat, Geomancy and Filmske Novosti were also only mentioned once.
The majority of photos were made in Belgium (241) with others in Australia (48), Croatia (18), Austria (10), Burma (9), Cambodia (7), Singapore (7), Indonesia (6), Iceland (4), UK (5), Romania (4), Germany (3), Switzerland (1), The Netherlands (1) and France (1). (local level geolocation is probably more informative but also less comprehensive)
Flickr also establishes a ranking of what it algorithmically determines “interestingness” and interestingly enough, a significant portion of those images are from 02013. Of the various groups posted to, the most common were blurism, Leica, Black and White, FlickrCentral, Abstract Photos and Urban Fragments (No People).
I’ve begun to see this daily practice as a point of departure, a habit to maintain focus (or resemble it) curiosity and ambiguity. Some of the more persistent photos from 02013 were sliced from moments of distraction, accident or circumstance during which suggestions and new directions may emerge.
In a sequence, each image absorbs metadata, footnotes, contextual bleed (images within images) it becomes dislocated with images rendered from the middle ground between mechanical/chemical and electronic/networked where each image is no more than a scratched line across spacetime. fleeting. crystalised. repeated.
“When I’m dreaming back like that I begins to see we’re only all telescopes.”
Just as Borges’s system groups animals by seemingly aleatory characteristics entirely divorced from their actual biological attributes, DSM-5 arranges its various strains of madness solely in terms of the behaviors exhibited. This is a recurring theme in the novel, while any consideration of the mind itself is entirely absent. In its place we’re given diagnoses such as “frotteurism,” “oppositional defiant disorder,” and “caffeine intoxication disorder.” That said, these classifications aren’t arranged at random; rather, they follow a stately progression comparable to that of Dante’s Divine Comedy, rising from the infernal pit of the body and its weaknesses (intellectual disabilities, motor tics) through our purgatorial interactions with the outside world (tobacco use, erectile dysfunction, kleptomania) and finally arriving in the limpid-blue heavens of our libidinal selves (delirium, personality disorders, sexual fetishism). It’s unusual, and at times frustrating in its postmodern knowingness, but what is being told is first and foremost a story.
In honor of Manfred Mancx, Charles Stross’ venture altruist/seagull/submissive/catspaw/posthuman protagonist in Accelerando – who tries to patent six impossible things before breakfast, or something like that – here are a couple of possibilities to start things out.
SciFoo is the brainchild of O'Reilly, Nature publishing group and Google. It takes place every year at Google’s Mountain View headquarters in Silicon Valley, California, where around 200 of the world’s preeminent scientists gather together. Nobel Laureates rub shoulders with rocket engineers, roboticists, angel investors, science writers and the odd science celebrity.
Stanislaw Lem’s 1964 opus, Summa Technolgiae, has only just been translated into English. Over half a century later, Lem’s work stands as an astonishing feat of future-casting and a profound meditation on how technology, reason and language protect and enclose humanity from empty cosmic indifference.
To the problem of narrative collapse, Rushkoff suggests that young people have reacted to the loss of storytellers by realizing they have to become the storyteller. The gamer can write his own next level. We can be fragmented by allowing ourselves to operate on the (non-temporal) time scale of computers or we can program our computers to keep us in sync with our own goals and our own lives. Technology is, in fact, neutral. It doesn’t “want” things to be a certain way. But all technologies are ste up by people with certain biases, but those biases are often unclear until they play out in the real world. So civilians do have an opportunity to intervene in technologies that they dont’t fully understand because they do have the capacity to understand the impact of those technologies on their lives.
“The meditations on objects I offer here will indeed often suggest that they can be seen as what in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Europe would have been called ‘emblems’, allegories of human life, implying pocket homilies on love, time, hope, error, striving and death. As such, they give us work to do as well as being merely available for us to work on. And yet, their power comes entirely from us.”
A lot of psychological research has tried to make sense out of security, fear, risk, and safety. But however fascinating the academic literature is, it often misses the broader social dynamics. New York University’s Harvey Molotch helpfully brings a sociologist’s perspective to the subject in his new book Against Security.
Importantly, this is not simply a theoretical argument: it’s a debate that has divided the green movement cleanly in two. On the one hand are what Doug Tomkins, founder of The North Face and Esprit, calls “the tech-optimists” – those who believe, in the words of the Dark Mountian manifesto, that “the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’”. And, on the other, those who see wholesale systems collapse as a necessary step on the path of change. Tomkins, who, along with his wife Kris, abandoned his career in business and dedicated his life to buying up and protecting wild land across Latin America, describes wind turbines, for example, as “the icon of techno-industrial culture”. He goes on to observe: “The way of thinking that would create those windmills is the way of thinking that caused climate change in the first place.”
Upon opening A smart Guide to Utopia, the first statement you read claims that cities are the true natural habitat of the human race: “Cities are where we are best, where individuals become communities.” Even if we don’t agree with such a manifesto, it is bold enough to catch our attention and hold our interested while discovering the 111 projects from across Europe presented in the book. Nearly all the projects can be described under the motto of tactical urbanism and bottom-up practices. Each chapter starts with a brief essay — “open your mind” — on the future of the city by a selection of writers and researchers including Ben Hammersley, Maria Popova and Adam Greenfield.
David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years begins with a conversation in a London churchyard about debt and morality and takes us all the way from ancient Sumeria, through Roman slavery, the vast empires of the “Axial age”, medieval monasteries, New World conquest and slavery to the 2008 financial collapse. The breadth of material Graeber covers is extraordinarily impressive and, though anchored in the perspective of social anthropology, he also draws on economics and finance, law, history, classics, sociology and the history of ideas. I’m guessing that most of us can’t keep up and that we lack, to some degree, his erudition and multidisciplinary competence. Anyway, I do. But I hope that a Crooked Timber symposium can draw on experts and scholars from enough of these different disciplines to provide some critical perspective