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

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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:

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.