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…


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.


012 :: its been busy!

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


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


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.

007 : auto-tune the muse – a quick note on why i think auto-tune ≠ instagram (maybe)

comparing auto-tune to instagram is problematic for me as the two are associated with different mediums and the two are not completly analogous. so we can only really speak in aesthetic subjective terms.

by ragesoss (own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via wikimedia commons

there is an important difference between the way an instagram filter is applied to a digital entity vs they way autotune is. instagram filters, process, alters, and re-express the whole of the digital object in a new form. auto tune however is applied (in general) to a melody line – a digital element or subset of the whole audio work. in production terms an instagram filter is more like an EQ – this (to me) is an important distinction.

auto tune essentially causes a melodic line to be digitally broken down, processed into its constituent frequencies, and re-expressed as data points on a fixed musical scale (but as my good friend @gutbuck3t pointed out to me on gchat the other night, what it’s actually doing of course is removing the frequencies between the notes). thus the re-expressed melody has a ‘pixelated’ quality. to the listener superficially at least, autoune feels like a ‘snap to grid’ was applied. and even more so when applied to human speech, it reveals the natural melody of speech.

it is exactly this quality i mean when I say a auto tuned melody line ‘sounds’ a lot like a pixel ‘looks’.

auto tune is a process filter that processes audio captured at a much higher resolution and mapping it to a scale. the same way older 8-bit/16-bit images captured at a much higher resolution look pixelated.

:: pixles vs waves –  ‘seeing’ music ::

of course talking about auto-tune in terms of pixels is unusual and perhaps unhelpful as digital audio is more commonly expressed as a wave form. i remember my first experience of ‘seeing’ music this way. back in the day with winamp. later, with audio tools at school/university they became familiar and garageband was there installed like a second nature on my friends macs.  recently and ubiqutously (I would argue) with sound cloud’s wave forms

the waveform like the pixel is now beginning to #newaestheticly find its way into mainstream culture ::

the waveform is a base constituent part of all digital audio, the same way the pixel is a fundamental part of a digital image. this must be remembered by the viewer/listener at all times. the music you are hearing if digitally produced is constituted of many wave forms and images many pixels.

:: but can auto-tune said to be creative? ::

personally? yes – in the same way that overtone compositional works explored by stockhausen or the constrained writing of georges perec are creative explorations within artificially applied restrictions  – however the inherent creativity of auto-tune it must always be remembered lies not with the artist or the producer, but with the programer. which leads me very nicely to my next point:


there is of course a contradictory element that i touched on before. it is the question of resolution. a waveform is made up of constituent frequencies in bits and bytes and an image is made up of pixels, bits and bytes. in which case i agree with nathans point ‘digital music is to digital photography. much of both reject the snap-to-grid mentality’ as ultimately its just all the same ‘malleable digital stuff’.


006 : programmable robots are now cheaper than human beings – those jobs at the factory aren’t coming back

:: this is a lazy video dump/post with a few thoughts from me trying to pull them together. it is public thinking. feedback welcome ::

meet baxter – the robot with common sense who’s younger siblings will probably make 100m chinese workers unemployed.

he might look a bit stupid & slow now, and im also not sure about his emoticon flat screen face and the look in his eyes… but im also not so sure about what happens when we plug a human prosthesis like the bebionic3 into its ‘hands’?

i mean seriously, the guy above with one of these hands can pick up/crack eggs and shit. i see no reason why these would not be industrially produced to work in factory conditions soon.


the labour movement in china has gathered a lot of pace in the last 18 months. it hasn’t been very well reported or been very visible in the mainstream media here in the UK. but strikes are happening. and some of the are pretty damn large: 4000 sanyo works, 6000 shoe workers, 4000 foxconn workers strike After iPhone 5 Starts Brawls (Updated).

As a consequence it seems foxconn has ordered a fuck ton of robots:


“According to a translated page from the Chinese site Techweb, each robot costs between $20,000 to $25,000, which is over three times the average salary of one worker. However, amid international pressure, Foxconn continues to increase worker salaries with a 25 percent bump occurring earlier this year.”

:: programable robots are now cheaper than human beings ::

and within a few short years will be just as capable in handling the intricate tasks of electrical construction.

so my question i guess is – what then?

  • what then for china and its huge swathes of newly employed and then subsequently unemployed workers?
  • what then for the GM and the US auto industry already struggling to maintain its jobs and compete against the cheap labour in the east?
  • will manufactuing return to europe and other ‘western’ countries it off shored decades ago? – of the costs of electrical goods made in china, almost ⅓ is now transport.

manufacturing might just end up coming back – but the jobs definitely arn’t.

i’m think im going to write a much longer post on global justice and supply chain oppression at some point. and what i think it means for the worker’s struggle vs neoliberalism’s mantra of jobs.jobs.jobs with regard to the full automation of manufacturing.

but for now, what could these future jobs.jobs.jobs be? my best guess, is either like george jetsons:


its destitution and poverty for everybody