020 :: 10 In The Wind

A brief note over here to prove I’m alive.

Had some health problems recently but nothing major. The last few months in between waking up, commuting, working, commuting and sleeping, I’ve been toying with another visual essay that will be in a similar style to Colonising the Clouds.

It’s called ‘Seeing Through The Debris’ and will be on The Breakaway Civilisation, Conspiracies and how to parse them. I posted some WIP on tumblr at the weekend. Teh full thing should be out fairly soon. But in the mean time an except is embedded below:

P.S I might start blogging a bit more in short bursts here. No one reads blogs anymore anyway.

019 :: #TTW16 abstract

PHEW. So for the second time in 2 years I just submitted my extract/talk proposal to the theorizingtheweb conference that takes place in April in New York . The Abstract is reproduced in full below. Even if I am unsuccessful, the same as I said 2 years ago I think the piece is a useful early 2016 ‘flag in the ground’ to orient my self around this year. This is the direction a lot of my thinking and speaking will headed this year. 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:

It really should be seen as a continuation from my previous talk at #TTW14 and a continuation of my thinking on/in this space – I’m quite open about it building on my previous talk in my abstract. The title alone should be a hint LOL.

Colonising the Clouds Pt2

Citizenship of the stack (or the art of 21st C Prussian Forestry ) 

In my previous TTW presentation I explored the notion of ‘Infrastructure Territory’ and the way institutions, corporations and nationstates approach digital dualism. I ended by pointing to the emerging condition of a new geopolitics that can only exist by presupposing a digital dualism where geopolitical actor’s territory can exist in informational space. One which ignores the reality of discrete and distinct sheds of computers distributed across multiple global jurisdictions in physical space, owned by entities incorporated under existing national law:

“The geopolitics of the Cloud, as an example, it is partially defined by the ‘accidental’ de-lamination of traditional Westphalian geographies of sovereignty through the realization of other topologies” – Benjamin Bratton UCSD

This talk will build on my former argument and recap with sightings of this delamination in progress: the ‘Ghost in a Shell Corporation’ how “Uber filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit…claiming it exists only in cyberspace”, how ISIS’s approach to sovereignty and geographic borders mirrors the concept of super jurisdiction, Facebook’s neo-colonial efforts to roll out internet.org, Estonia’s e-residency program. These new networks of trust are causing friction between existing geographies of sovereignty at the geospatial level and potentially giving rise to the notion of a ‘Citizen User’ at the individual level.

In the time provided I will attempt to take the audience through a fast paced argument that reframes the ‘Algorithmic Society’ – the dominant ‘modus ponens’ in recent artistic and academic discourse – towards the idea of a ‘Database Society’ and the very broken reality of database bureaucracy and information brokerage in complex institutions.

In order to explore the condition of user-citizenship we will need to examine how institutions ‘see’ with a brief overview of the different types of institutional identity: EG: Physical body, Bureaucratic Record, Sets of attributes or score, Identity is a username/password or proof of memory, and Potential identities.

A commonality between Stacks and States (or any complex institution) not mentioned previously in pt1 is the idea of ‘value’ or ‘productivity metrics. The connection between citizen, user and value are closely related. Resulting in the idea of a ‘productivity potential’ : At the Nation State level it manifests as GDP or GDP Per capita. In the organisation as key performance indicators (KPI’s) and are hangovers of 20th century scientific management.

This kind of identity assignment comes from very early nation state concepts of the surname as well as 19C ideas of productivity and scientific land management. The famous failures of Prussian forestry are very real. We should consider a way of updating this story and read the impact of German Forestry as a shift to the rack-mounted landscape. In this database society we should place ourselves in the midst of  this slow motion forest die off. Increasingly citizens, employees and users don’t want to behave in ways that companies vision of them requires – these motivations, behaviors and desires are illegible to an institution. I will also be talking about Ents…

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Anyway, thats it. If i’m unsuccessful then thats totally ok, I’m going to be be writing on this at some point anyway, and as a bonus means i have a talk in my back pocket which is useful. If you want me to talk about this at a thing you’re doing let me know.

 

018 :: “I have learned that to be with those I like is enough” ― Walt Whitman

It’s been nearly a year since i posted here and the funny thing is the last post #017 was literally being a round up for 2014.

I haven’t ever been one for blogging because in part my dyslexia but also my general hatred of writing. I started this blog years ago with the intention of writing once a week. That lasted about 3 weeks… and then it turned into a place to dump the occasional post of things i’ve been up too. One of the main problems is that i haven’t ever figured out what this space is ‘for’ web diary it shouldn’t be.

What are Blogs for? Brings me onto a major current of discussion that has been running in back channels and freely over beers this year. That discussion of the state of social media and, feelings towards it and how does one engage with it.

In 2015: Some friends have gone ‘write only’, others read only, Some have repurposed seizable personal accounts towards publishing ventures and others have gone full sekret account and time warped back to 2008 twitter. I’ve been toying with the idea of moving over to tumblr and publishing everything out to twitter ‘write only’ style too but i’m still not sure.

Warren Ellis posted ‘Throwing Yourself Down A Memory Hole’  over at morning.computer in early December:

I’m tempted to delete every tweet I’ve ever posted.  Leaving the account live, but scrubbing it of life. On the one hand, that is doing violence to the public record.  But that is egotistical.  I remember stories of people executing “mass scribbles” on the Well, back in prehistoric times, and people apparently being terribly upset about it. But the net was very small back then. On the other hand, you see — who’s going to care? When I got on the web, there were still jokes about being able to read to the end of it.  Now it’s massive and loud and sprawling and the absence of any one person’s social media posts is less than meaningless to the public record.  There are already people who use services to delete their own tweets after a week. Self-destructing conversational atoms. Treating the whole thing with the ephemerality it probably deserves.

We all had a lot to say about the idea of a global conversation, but it turned out that most of us were at the back, muttering to ourselves, or, on occasion, finding ourselves talking to a chair.

Today I remain undecided.  How about you?

Ahmet A. Sabancı (@ahmetasabanci) followed up with a thoughtful response

RE: THROWING YOURSELF DOWN A MEMORY HOLE by @warrenellis

I was trying to find a way to build myself a “calmer internet” for some time, because of the very similar reasons. Most of the things we call internet today is a total mess and they’re doing everything possible to turn these into something more useless. While we need more stuff to curate the information flowing, we get more stuff makes all these more impossible to control. Because, let’s make it clear, advertisers wants it that way.

What should we do now? When I’ve started using internet, what I fall in love with it was conversation and the limitless information I can consume whenever I want, however I want. But we somehow let this controlled by Google, Facebook, Twitter and others. While they did a lot good at first, they’re now letting the control to the advertisers and governments. And that’s why I can’t leave my blog and other sites I’ve build. I prefer having this conversation from blog to blog and at the comments instead of Twitter. I know that it won’t reach a lot of people but same goes for tweets and Facebook posts too. And I prefer writing a blog post instead of 20-of-234 style Twitter rants.

Others this year have written or spoke on podcasts about using social media more ephemerally, (you should all listen to http://mindfulcyborgs.com/ if you arn’t already) and i’m inclined to agree.

Gordon (runesoup.com) also wrote this month:

In the between space of what blogs were and what they are becoming -in person discussion, comments, social posts, actual blog posts and lived personal experience

All this combined makes me think that 2016 should be devoted to more in person conversations, more dinners, attending more meetups & days spent talking and hanging out with friends in person. As for my own approach to social media that is TBD, maybe i’ll just try and blog more, tweet less and generally spend less time there.

I met with Ben in early Dec on a Sunday for brunch. The day generated 8-10 pages of notes, we drank beers and i paid well over the odds for Egg and Soldiers. However it was one my favourite days in the latter half of this year. Other memorable things that have happened this winter have included: A burger disaster in a hawaiian restaurant with Jay Owens, and having lunch with communist friends in between discussing the state of the Mainstream media’s coverage of the Corbyn leadership and screwing around an Occulus.

With that in mind looking back on the last 12 or so months it has been a less eventual in terms of ‘Stuff’ and more eventual in terms of ‘life’. So instead of posting general links to things i’ve written or content i’ve produced this year i thought i might write some brief notes month by month that stick out in my memory for 2015.  This list is an non exhaustive list obviously [EDIT: Looks like a lot of the things i mentioned are IRL interactions so 2016 might just be the year of ‘experience’]

Jan

Talk on Egregore’s, consciousness, and ‘corporations as people’ at a birthday unconference and either alienated or angered the entire audience which was pretty awesome. Went to the Whitechapel bell foundry with my friend Arthur.

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Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Feb

Transmediale was fun if exhausting, i ran a workshop with Tobias Revell and Erica Scourti on the subject of ‘Mobilizing Infrastucure Space’  – the notes from the workshop can be found towards the end of this archived hack pad here. Missed Eve’s birthday.

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Tired and Hungover – Photo by @mjays

Zed Books ‘The Coming Insurrection in Publishing: self-management, digital networks and social change’It was a good event and i enjoyed the conversations afterward.

March

Marrakech festival of magic with Eve, cold and rain, week long project management accelerator – refreshing to attend a thing on project management and gantt charts weren’t mentioned once.

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Our Riad – Google ‘Autoawesomed’

April

Friends Birthdays and Friends Weddings, Spring days and walks along the Thames. Events felt like a struggle to attend but i’m glad i did once i got there, the company of good friends.

May

Recruiter contacted me about a seeing a man about a dog. Played a SHIT LOAD of Wasteland 2, Drinks in the sun by the river.

June

More birthdays, A boozy night out in soho with mailing list co-conspirators meeting irl for the first time. Jack Parsons day, and the INFRA_SPECTION residency cycle at the white building coming to an end. Ending with the great ‘INFRA_SPECTION – A [ Mini ] Summit, more phone calls and interviews about that dog, Freud’s house adventure with Eve.

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I said ‘Who’s House?!!’

July

Jupiter return ended, my 30th birthday, Accepted a job offer, drinking with magicians. I remember the sun setting over london from the garden on the roof of the Google / King Studios St Giles building. All change pls.

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Selfie Sticks Are Amazing

August

Unemployment, adventures in Oxford with Eve, stayed in a prison, daily pub garden ‘meetings’ with other interstitially employed friends, folk festival ciders with old friends and Eve.

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Folk Folk

September

Long Progress bar in Brighton . Boozy evenings with musicians & internet folk, Crashing on Voss/Goatleys couch. A long day with DiakronNew job began with a bonus embarrassing interview.

October

Byzantine mosaics in Venice with Eve and her Fam, more birthdays, Q4 kick off, hard work.

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Santa Maria e San Donato, Murano, Venice

November

More hard work, went full wyrdo, comics signings, weird day at the dentist, more birthdays, noro virus courtesy of Eve, autumn fog on the Thames path.

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Surbiton -> Kingston Thames Path

Dec

Social calendar apocalypse, office parties, friends from out of town, finished all the hard work, realised i need to learn the basics of accounting, introspection and reflection

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This year has also been the year of newsletters, in the spirit of this post you can probably tell i have enjoyed the return to the long form, it’s a more personal form of communication from friends and acquaintances and internet strangers. The list below is stolen from Damien Williams’ (@wolven) Technoccult’s round up that i have added to, to make up my current subscription list:

And a few others I have either forgotten or aren’t for the public web.

You got a newsletter? Let me know 

New Beginnings 2016

  • New year’s resolutions include sorting out: Thought Menu, QQuietly, Family of Giants
  • Finishing both the looooong writing projects i’ve been working on half assedly in 2015
  • Fix my bike (it is STILL very poorly after having bits wrenched/stolen from it in August) and get riding again
  • Finish the Audio project i’ve been working on
  • Play a gig with my the new band
  • Read the massive pile of books i didn’t read in 2016
  • Blog more

So 2016 looks like a year spent finishing up all the things i didn’t do in 2015. That’s ok, it makes it all the more achievable…..

017 :: Colonising the Clouds + Other stuff I forgot to post about in 2014

:: Colonising the Clouds ::

Last summer i posted a visual essay on Medium of Slides and Notes from a presentation given at Theorising the Web #TTW14 NYC April 2014 with updated/expanded comments. I really like the possibility that beautiful html storytelling can/could afford – A few people however have said that they couldn’t get on with all the ‘scrolley’ but ah well. Maybe i’ll sort it out and post it to tumblr or something.

The piece was later put on a reading list for a university of new south wales MA course (which was something i never thought would happen) and i have subsequently had the opportunity to read quite a few thoughtful and critical response to it.

You can read the abstract/submission for this talk previously posted on this blog here. I have also embedded a video of the full panel and the Q&A from #TTW14 at the bottom of the medium post if you prefer.

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 :: (DIS)ASSEMBLING #STACKTIVISM – A SALON :: 

In october i was part of a salon during frieze week at the Goethe-Institute presented in conjunction with the whitebuilding called (DIS)ASSEMBLING #STACKTIVISM – A SALON alongsideKari Altmann (Artist in Residence at The White Building)Paul Raven (University of Sheffield)Julieta Aranda (E-Flux)

There was a reading list issued beforehand. So the discussion was quite sprawling and far reaching. I had a great time.

Video of the evening below (sorry cant figure out how to center it)

:: Thought Menu ::

TTM #11 happened in mid-september after a long hiatus do to all four of us being super busy. We have big plans for 2015 though.

:: Other Stuff :: 

Other news for 2014 i was made a fellow at the RSA in 2014 and also a researcher on ‘corporate meta-intelligences’ at the institute-of-atemporal-studies which was nice

I moved house

Started a DIY record + publishing label with some punks from margate

Started a slow burn audio project that i hope to come to fruition soon in 2015

Started a new job

:: Whats next? :: 

Need to hit 10000 words of a writing project I’ve been asked to work on by end of april. If un successful expect it to be strip mined for essays here and there

Berlin later this month (jan 15) for transmediale.de to run a workshop on Mobilising Infrastructure Space

Beyond that: i’m hoping to make it to Manchester for @futureeverything – specifically the haunted machines conference (details TBA)

Have a half written piece based on a talk i gave in 2014 about compression, the loudness war & instagram filters

016 :: Nuclear war.. It’s Not Very Nice That

photoPhoto Courtesy of Kieran McCann

It’s Not Very Nice That

From 21 Feb – 27 Apr 2014 the Light House Gallery in Glasgow had an exhibition of current politically engaged graphic design and politics. The #Stacktivism logo was included which was nice of them – the logo was a collaboration between myself and my friend Andrew Brown

“With new ways of being political along with new media
 and modes of production at their disposal, contemporary designers navigate a space of increasing social unrest which has seen the eruption of civil insurrection in the UK, the revolutionary fervour of the Arab Spring and the furore following the Wikileaks revelations. The exhibition will examine the resurgence of political practice among designers since the mid 2000s and will consider their motifs and motivations, exploring the potential problems and possibilities of this diverse set of experiments.”

The noted internet utopian and my friend Micheal Oswell (Graphic Designer) gave a talk on the opening night. I thought it was good :  You can watch it here :: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/7238669/events/2778543/videos/42918142

Read a review of the exhibition by Grafik.

Nuclear Poker

Hexayurt & SCIM creator Vinay Gupta just released a card game called Nuclear Poker in collaboration with Ian Willey. This edition is limited via game crafter as it was a fund-raising effort to build a mini quad dome for this years EMF camp.

“Nuclear Poker is a fun game about the end of the world. Don’t worry, it usually happens only every three or four hands. The rules are a bit easier than Gin Rummy. A hand takes about ten minutes, sometimes less.”

The SCIM graphics (that were also designed in collaboration with Andrew Brown) Were included in the fancy Defcon3 edition of the game: (its in the middle at the bottom of the spread)

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You can buy it here

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: