014 :: #Asperity

I completely forgot to blog about this when it went up:

I wrote a piece last year for the 5 Viridian Years collection curated by Tim Maly over on Medium. ‘Viridian Design was an avant-garde bright green design movement engineered by Bruce Sterling and intended to address climate change. It ran from 1998-2008. Five years later, we reflect’

The piece was called the ‘The Coming Asperity‘. Asperity is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and it was great to finally write down/out. A definition is below:

Asperity

1. A policy of cutting resource use and consumption via a reduction in carbon dioxide (or equivalent emissions) and resources that are available/provided to a population. Asperity policies are often used by governments to try to reduce the emissions of a defined population, system or activity.

In the piece i put forward #asperity as a possible political reaction to climate change, similar to the way austerity was deployed by governments after the financial crisis.

Dougald Hine was kind enough to mention the concept in his talk ‘Making Ourselves Scarce’ at FSCONS 13 he also referenced Charlie Stross and Kevin Carson in the same breath – so I feel the idea is in good company.

You can read the whole piece at https://medium.com/5-viridian-years/5bf9407bd010

013 :: #TTW14 abstract

PHEW. yesterday i finally submitted my extract/talk proposal on the ‘geopolitics of the stacks’ for the theorizingtheweb conference that takes place in april in new york . the piece is reproduced in full below. even if i am unsuccessful, i think the piece is a useful early 2014 ‘flag in the ground’ to orient my self around this year. as this is the direction a lot of my thinking and speaking will headed this year.

please note: im not an academic! but if you have any comments or the subject interests you please do get in touch on twitter , leave a comment on here, or mail me via the contact form on my homepage:

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Colonising the Clouds. 

Infrastructure Territory and The Geopolitics of The Stacks

This paper will explore the implications of multinational technology corporations morphing into the entities that Bruce Sterling has named ‘The Stacks’ – companies that are setting out to build vertically integrated feudalisms. Building on and synthesising the work of Benjamin Bratton (UCSD), Tobias Revell (RCA/ARUP/SuperFlux), Paul Graham Raven (University of Sheffield), and Vinay Gupta (UCL ISRS) this paper will seek to explore ideas of infrastructure, corporations and nation states, territory, and the importance of societal understanding of the interrelations of all three.

It is a strange future-present we live in: corporations are people; Dogecoin exists; Google – a corporation whose mission statement to ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ – recently acquired eight robotics companies and a thermostat manufacturer; and ‘The Stacks’ are emerging as digitally-dualistic geopolitical entities.

‘Institutional Memory’ is the method by which information is inherited and pass on between states, corporations and collective groups of people. Using this notion we can begin to unpack and explore the beliefs, biases, and assumptions of corporations and states towards concepts such as hierarchy, law,  and – most importantly in our case – ontologies of the internet.

The concept of a separate, distinct ‘cyberspace’, the subtle shifting of corporate discourse from ‘The Cloud’ to ‘A Cloud’, and the boastful claims of the Information Security industry all point towards the web as being understood along dualist lines by the Stacks. This stands in contrast to non digital-dualist views held by government cyber commands which sees ‘cyber’ as a theater not a territory, demonstrated in their understandings of servers on sovereign territory and the legality of cyber-espionage.

The Stacks require deep strata of data to do their business, and in order to get that data the userbase must be made legible. Following James Scott’s “Seeing Like A State”, this talk will argue for the need to “see like a stack” in order for us to better understand the approaches of these entities towards data collection, knowledge creation, and territorial definition.

The conceptual shift upwards from owning and controlling spatial territory to owning and controlling ‘informational territory’ is not new. It began with closing of the US frontier in 1893 & introduction of the telegraph interoperability bill a few years after. Today however, as these infrastructural territories are created and claimed, their owners and creators are influencing our political and economic systems at every level, from the geopolitical to the micropolitical, resulting in what Bratton calls “the ‘accidental’ de-lamination of traditional Westphalian geographies of sovereignty through the realization of other topologies”

This talk will pose the questions: Where are the nexuses of political contestation in this new landscape? Has the discourse of digital dualism been overly focussed on the individual, or is it that only now are the implications of dualism at the geopolitical level being recognised? What are the implications for politics, as nation states evaporate into the clouds, and the Stacks continue to build their own private infrastructures and extend sensing/robotic platforms into the physical world?

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#TTW14 is a conference run by the crew over on cyborgology blog at society pages. i think the work they are doing is exciting and extremely important in the current moment, and the conference is always great.  I have watched it on live stream for the last few years, and have compiled an image of all the tweeted pictures of the keynote for the last two:

012 :: its been busy!

the main news is probably that grew a beard, went to florence, shaved it off again.

DSC_6426

in addition i’ve done a whole bunch of talks and workshops, this is my talk on ‘seeing the stack’ at the #stacktivism unconference in july.

i also spoke more generally about infrastructure, SCIM and other stuff at the CRESC Annual Conference 2013 in September at ULU. which was in the morning on the SAME DAY as i had tickets to improving reality in brighton. was all busy missions that day

plus all the audio recordings from the #iliw13 event have started to go online. the full audio from the ‘new luddism’ panel is was on is now online :: here

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thoughtmenu the nomadic DIY talk & event collective i helped found last year turned 1 in august. its been a bit different this year as it has has been a year of partnerships.

in april we partnered with the wonderful makerhood,com and put on a thought menu at their making uncovered event. below is a fantastic short documentary that gives a awesome sense of the day

since june and we have been working alongside limewharf to help curate the season of ‘Big Picture Days’. we have two more sessions left – oct & november and I’m excited for both of them.

topic so far have been Swam Coops, Stacktivism, Cyberinsecurity. Topics still to come are ‘Rights’ & ‘Neo-nomads’

we have a new website based on tumblr, to celebrate we been posting the videos from previous talks. As a result I’ve learnt quite a bit about Imovie this year – I planning on doing introduction layers with the speaker and talk names on newer videos soon i reckon. heres the newsletter ::

as i write this my room full of semi-packed in boxes. i’m moving soon and will potentially be broke after bills + rent whilst in the new place. as a result, i have some new projects brewing, one of which (hopefully) will come to fruition before the year is out. i just bought a blue yeti microphone  i’m now all ‘wired for sound’  so its most definitely going to be audio.

011 : on #stacktivism – my #ILIW13 talk

:: we cannot have a conversation about something whilst it remains unseen ::

‘The stack’The chain of interconnected activities and technologies of current and historical significance that spread far beyond the individual.

Stacktivism Logo

I think there are many people beginning to have/shape a conversation around the stack: From Jo Guldi the author of Roads to Power: Britain Invents the Infrastructure State , Timo Arnall in his No to NoUI piece, Benjamin Bratton and his geopolitics of the cloud and theoretical languge of ‘the stack’, artist/Critical Engineer Julian Oliver (Eyeo2012 talk is very good) & course my good friend Vinay Gupta.

> who owns the means of not dying?

> who controls the stack?

> is infrastructure neutral?

> what are the dilemmas of radical texts on Amazon in relation to capitalist realism while sat under a Tumblr image hosted on Amazon ?

On Sunday I gave a talk at ‘Immaterial Labour Isn’t Working: Digital Culture, Digital Work, Digital Insurrection’ hosted by Autoitaliasoutheast - the panel session was on New Luddism.

I used my time to introduce the concept of #stacktivism a term that i think allows us to form & give shape to the conversation around infrastructure & our relationship we have to it. I do not seek to define it, merely give shape to an idea.

The concept is early days & in its infancy: I hope my talk embedded below is a useful primer/introduction to this enquiry.


Join in the conversation here :: Stacktivism.com

stacktivism.tumblr.com + @stacktivism )

010 : next weekend 20/21 april 2013 – things happening

Sunday 21st – New Luddism :: Immaterial Labour Isn’t Working: Digital Culture, Digital Work, Digital Insurrection.

Immaterial Labour Isn’t Working is a series of talks, workshops, texts and online contributions from key voices – artists, activists, technologists and writers – examining how digital technology is changing our political selves.

i will be speaking on the first sunday evening of the #ILIW13 event at a talk on ‘New Luddism’.

The details of the talk can be found below ::

Who benefits from and is in charge of new technology? What could a life with less rather than more technological innovation be like?

Taking ideas of traditional Luddism as a point for departure, Dougald Hine, Dave King (Luddites200) and Jay Springett will join Huw Lemmey to discuss the possibilities for engaging with new technologies and what our relationships to these technologies have become now that it is increasingly difficult to truly “switch off”.

Dougald Hine  is a writer and social thinker who has been responsible for creating a series of organisations, including the School of Everything, the civic ideas agency Spacemakers, and the Dark Mountain Project,  a cultural forum for investigating the converging crises of climate change, resource scarcity and economic instability.

Luddites200 is an ad hoc group of admirers of the Luddites, radical historians and activists on issues connected to technology.   The group is developing a neo-Luddite politics of technology for the 21st century.  Dave King is a former scientist who has been writing and campaigning on the politics of genetics and reproductive technologies since 1990.

Jay Springett - Jay Springett is a Musician, Photographer, Philosopher, and Luddite. He is concerned primarily with humans, technology, infrastructure, and the unseen intersection points of how these things keep us alive. He specializes in small one-man projects that other people can get involved with. Jay is a member of EdgeRyders (a distributed thinktank incubated by the Council of Europe), co-designer of the visual language of SCIM (Simple Critical Infrastrcuture Maps) -resiliencemaps.org and is a contributer to the Hexayurt Project an open hardware disaster relief shelter. He also co-curates The Thought Menu: a nomadic talks series, and is passionate about DIY culture.

Huw Lemmey is an artist and writer whose work focuses on digital political culture and post-internet art. He is involved in running the Limazulu project space and has co-ordinated the Immaterial Labour Isn’t Working project with Auto Italia.

@dougald / @luddites200 / @thejaymo / @spitzenprodukte

You can get tickets from the eventbrite page here

Saturday 20th – The Thought Menu #5 :: On Making

Yup, we are doing another thought menu!

We have partnered with the great Makerhood.com for Thought Menu #5 and will be putting on an hour of classic thought menu at their event Making Uncovered.

Making Uncovered is an exciting festival of making, art and craft. It’s free to attend, and everyone is welcome – drop in at any time. We have a great collection of speakers for the evening, and really hope you can make it down!

speakers include :: Kelly Angood , Anish Mohammed, Raphael Hefti & Tom Grimsey

Full details can be found at the Making Uncovered site here or you can sign up to the Thought Menu News Letter for details about the event and get info on future events.

You can book your free ticket here.

Exciting times!

x

009 : viewer discretion cannot be advised

on thursday i was luckly enough to give a talk at london’s worst artist-run space lima zulu‘s fourth #LZPKBYOBRSVP pecha-kucha night.

topics on the night included bootstrapping, northern ireland prison protests, max stirner, and my talk ‘Cheap Gadgets in the hands of EVERYBODY’. i had a great time, and it was good to see lots of friends i havent seen AFK in too long.

the talk wasn’t recorded. but for posterity before i forget, i just sat down and gave the pecha kucha in one take to my laptop and empty flat. i embedded it at the bottom of this post. a big thanks to huw for inviting me to talk

008 : two thousand & twelve

the last few years i have done an end of year roundup thing on twitter. but it’s been a bit of a crazy year, so i wanted to document it somewhere a bit more concrete.

:: edgeryders ::

edgeryders is a crowd sourced think tank focusing particularly on european youth & the precarieat. i was lucky enough in june to be invited to the ‘living on the edge’ conference (#lote) at the council of europe in strasbourg. this was an amazing experience and probably one of the highlights of the year. i met hundreds of engaged & inspiring young people from all over the continent facing challenges both similar & different from my own. in all honesty my ‘blown mind’ is still living with the fallout from that event. i posted my post event thoughts on it at the time.

sadly due to work commitments i missed #lote2 at the european parliament in brussels this past november. it’s my understanding that projects dreamed up at the initial #lote unconference began to form and coalesce. i am particularly interested in the unmonastery & the hacking the 2014 elections projects.

edgeryders was an incredible opportunity. i met some amazing people, but perhaps more importantly: made some really good new friends. above all, if the coe was to give just one reason to justify why it spent its money on the project – it would have to be that it invested in the social capital of hundreds of exceedingly capable individuals from all across the eu.

:: the thought menu ::

the thought menu is a nomadic talks series and was/is the product of a conversation had over drinks in sunny strasbourg at #lote. my co-conspirators were the ever capable and beautiful human beings: gaia marcus & ben vickers

the first four thought menu talks were held at lima zulu project space in august during the two weekends of the olympics. you can read an overview of what went down in the post event newsletter here. thinking now; the theme for this year perhaps has been ‘people’ – some of the people (audience and speakers) i met whilst running the thought menu are also incredible & inspiring people. it has been a pleasure to make their acquaintance – my life is richer for it.

unfortunately: we have all had huge attacks of life during the last period of 2012. the plan as it currently stands is to start the thought menu as a regular event in 2013. we are still looking for venues and speakers. if you fancy giving a talk or lending a hand – please e-mail us here :: thethoughtmenu@gmail.com 

:: growstuff.org ::

another thing that has its roots for me in/from edgeryders. i wrote a post called why isnt there an app for that?? . at some point during the year i saw a tweet mentioning the project from the awesome mr @pozorvlak and i got involved in growstuff.

growstuff is a community of food gardeners working together to build an open source platform to track, share, and discuss edible gardens and sustainable lifestyles. the contributors to this project are a great bunch of people and its been cool to make @skuds acquaintance. i am a big fan of the community rules and the distributed development process, both are due to her passion for community inclusion. the coders have been very patient with me, and i have learnt a little bit of ruby and sysadmin stuff already – learning to code is definitely something i want work on in earnest in 2013.

:: resiliencemaps.org / scim ::

all that time ago, learning about simple critical infrastructure mapping changed the way i think about politics and wider society. the problem however is that vinay’s design skills leave much to be desired. as such: my housemate and i sat down in the evening over a short period this year and designed a visual language. without the nounproject this would have been impossible.

i’m really pleased with how the whole thing turned out, and at some point next year i’ll work on getting them in to a copy of scim as a document. i think it might be a good excuse to try out sourcefabric’s booktype.

:: surviveth.is zine ::

i made a stab at doing something with surviveth.is . i put together a little document, which explains scim using the diagrams above plus @gelada‘s and how to build a hexayurt in one handy one page zine.

i’ve been talking to @jumplogic about sorting out some of the hexayurt documentation in 2013. hopefully we can pull some stuff together before the pre-burning man build season.

- some personal stuff -

:: i bought no new clothes ::

i always try and have a year long project that can be achieved with very little effort. (see here) and this year was to buy no new clothes.

it has actually been a really useful & illuminating experience. but by god do i need some new underwear.. :/ the year long anti-project has taught me a lot about the value of well made clothes. and more importantly has completely changed the way i operate in shops – you walk in to a clothes shop & simply just see past everything.

one of the observations i will take away from this is the oxford shirts i bought for work (in 2011) have lasted excellently. although after 18 months of daily use they are looking a little tired. i think i’m going to put this long life down to the fact i had them fitted at a tailors way back when i got them. clothes off the rack are designed to fit everybody & therefore fits no-one. the extra expense of getting clothes fitted once you have bought them vastly outweighs the costs of wearing ill-fitting clothes. this is something i plan on taking to heart. on the same note. my brogues i have invested in over the last few years are still going strong. i enjoy the ritual of polishing and maintaining them, there are very few objects in my life that require such long term attention. plus taking them to the cobblers in town and having the heel or occasional sole replaced is still more cost effective than buying a new pair, even if you factor in the initial outlay costs 3-4 years on.

i have given at least 4 bags of clothes to charity and i still am in a position where i haven’t worn some of the clothes i have in my room (mainly jumpers as it hasn’t been cold enough to bust out the grandpa knitwear). it has been good to unclutter slightly, and i’m thinking of doing discardia in 2013.

i must say the ability to recognise the quality of stitching and materials in the clothes you are wearing became more important as the year went on. an awareness of your ‘things’ is important, and means that you can catch things before they begin to break down.

which leads me on to -

:: i learned to sew ::

as embarrassing as it sounds, and despite dating an accomplished corsetier for 3.5 years in my early 20′s i’ve never been able to sew/stitch. put a button back on yeah – but not actually you know ‘fix’ anything. no longer!

this year i have learned to fix split seams (damn cycling thighs in skinny jeans and full pockets) fix rips, fix pockets & sew up holes etc. still figuring out what to do with holes in knees of jeans.

youtube has been an invaluable resource in helping me learn what kind of stitch was appropriate for what needed fixing. i guess in olden days you would learn from people in your family by watching. also, the value of picking up a needle and thread (and knowing what to do with them) when you first notice something going awry with your clothes is a skill i will keep with me for the rest of my life.

as a side note i’ve become interested in the idea of shirt making. i’m thinking of experimenting in 2013. not sure how or in what way but it’s on my mind.

:: learnt to lock pick ::

whilst we are on the subject of new skills, i also learnt to single pick locks this year. i can pretty much conquer most padlocks now pretty quickly. but have managed to beat only one door lock with security pins. i’m thinking of getting some ‘practice locks’ next year and putting together a lock board to continue learning/practising. new skill for 2013 has yet to be decided.

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i have also been on a whole bunch of adventures this year: down to Newquay for a week on a second date, went to cambridge for the first time ever and spent a weekend in a fancy hotel in Birmingham which was pretty cool too. plus adventures with the slightly odd wizard i know have been also interesting to say the least.