“Do you hear voices? You do. So you are possessed” – @mikedotphillips talk @exetergeography

I’m really pleased to share that Prof. Mike Phillips (i-DAT, Plymouth) will be speaking  next week as part of the Exeter Geography seminar series. Mike is a founder of the Institute of Digital Art and Technology and one of the founders of the undergraduate programme I studied MediaLab Arts, which is now called  Digital Media Design.

Details: Thursday 16th March, 12:30: Amory 417. All welcome!

CFP> Fear and Loathing of the Online Self, Rome, May 22-23, 2017

Via Institute of Network Cultures… looks interesting… be good to see a wider variety of folks ‘participating’…

Fear and Loathing of the Online Self–A Savage Journey into the Heart of Digital Cultures

Call for Participation
Conference, Rome, May 22-23, 2017
http://networkcultures.org/online-self/

We would like to invite artists and researchers to submit proposals to join this event hosted by  John Cabot University and Universita degli Studi RomaTre in Rome, and organized in collaboration with the Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam.

The conference aims at exploring the state of the online self by raising questions about its status as a focal point of contemporary power/networks. Is the online self merely a product of software predictability and viral marketing? Is there any space left for self-determination? Or should we search elsewhere for new forms resistance by changing our political categories and perspectives? Which contradictions are at play? How and where can we locate the spaces of performativity of the online self?

Critical political-economic readings of platform capitalism do not explain nor grasp new forms of (visual) online subjectivity. There is a growing gap between the obsessive quest for measurability, big data and algorithmic regimes (such as AI/bots),and critical investigations of an emerging variety of compulsive forms taken by the online self. We need to fill this gap and bring them back together. If a humanities approach of Internet studies nurtured by artistic and activist practices aims to survive the ‘big data’ onslaught from the social sciences, then it is vital to ask what the citizen-as-user wants. To portray the population as (innocent or guilty) victims of the data monopolies is, politically speaking, a dead-end street.

The cynical condition rules: we know we’re under surveillance, yet we continue to click, like, love and share ourselves online as usual. We are told by concerned experts and libertarians that our privacy “matters” and we want to believe it; yet it silently confers a guilty stigma upon another vital need, to engage socially and culturally with others. While some preach the offline escape as a way out, most of us are so deeply invested in the everyday social media life that it is inconceivable for most of us to  leave Facebook and the like. And this not only out of desire but necessity: networking and self-sharing has become imperative for succesfully managing the double binds of the immaterial labour economy. Instead, we’d rather deal with peculiar pathologies, such as addiction, depression and solitude generated by hyper-connection and lack of connections.

Abstracts and proposals are welcome to contribute to the following sections:

1. ONLINE SUBJECTIVITY THEORY

How much free room do we have to design new identities? What aesthetic and philosophic paths and patterns does meme distribution hint at? What is the role of theory and criticism, if any, in the ever changing yet endless production of the latest user affordances, from dating sites, Tinder swipes and Snapchat lenses, to Pokemon-Go? Can we still attempt to design new modes of subjectivity, or has our role withdrawn to a mere Cassandra-like gloom and doom prediction of digital catastrophes, while start-ups (read: future monopolies) have all taken over the cool business of designing and shaping the online self?

2. BEHIND AND BEYOND SELFIES

It is easy to diagnose the selfie as a symptom of a growing narcissism of our daily digital obsessions. But how do we get beyond the predictable split between the politically correct assessment of empowerment (of young girls) against the nihilist reading of self-promotion and despair? Does criticism of today’s photography of the everyday life always have to end up giving medical prescriptions and recipes of wellbeing? What could a materialist reading of large databases and facial recognition techniques (including protection) that goes beyond media archaeology (the historical approach) and the ever-changing pop gestures involve and say? Can we still talk about the liberation of the self in the age of digital self-generation of the images?

3. ARTISTIC PRACTICES OF THE ONLINE SELF

Artists play an important role in the anticipation, and critique, of new modes of the self. What role does the artistic imagination play beyond the creative industries paradigm? How can artistic and creative avant garde practices help disrupt the trite quantitative approach and the dogma of the algorithm in defining modes and moods of the onlife self? What separates a (properly) artistic imagination and the aesthetic imagination of the online curators of selfie-constructed personas and are contemporary critical paradigms merely reproducing an understanding of online practices that are aligned with the requirements of corporation?

4. POLITICS AND AESTHETICS OF MASK DESIGN

Masks and selfies should not be seen as opposites as they both represent different modes (and moods) of being of the self. Masks create spaces of performance; they are playful and seductive (or scary) forms of self-representation that ultimately do not protect us against the computational repression of the security apparatus. What are the lessons learned from the Anonymous movement? We should come to a new social contract between the individuals, groups and the cybernetic machine. In the meanwhile, how can we make sure to protect us, and what premises are hidden in the numerous crypto-design projects that circulate?

Confirmed speakers: Wendy Chun, Ana Peraica, Jodi Dean, Marco Deseriis, Gabriella Coleman, Daniel de Zeeuw, Rebecca Stein, Vito Campanelli, Franco Berardi.

Editorial Team: Donatella Della Ratta (John Cabot University), Geert Lovink (Institute of Network Cultures/HvA), Teresa Numerico (Universita degli Studi RomaTre), Peter Sarram (John Cabot University).

Please send your proposal (max 500 words in word/pdf format), a short bio and any other material that could support your idea visually  (artwork, film links, etc) to selfieconference@johncabot.edu.  Deadline: March 1, 2017.

Reblog> Social Justice in an Age of Datafication: Launch of the Data Justice Lab

Via The Data Justice Lab.

Social Justice in an Age of Datafication: Launch of the Data Justice Lab

The Data Justice Lab will be officially launched on Friday, 17 March 2017. Join us for the launch event at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC) at 4pm. Three international speakers will discuss the challenges of data justice.

The event is free but requires pre-booking at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/social-justice-in-an-age-of-datafication-launching-the-data-justice-lab-tickets-31849002223

Data Justice Lab — Launch Event — Friday 17 March 4pm — Cardiff University

Our financial transactions, communications, movements, relationships, and interactions with government and corporations all increasingly generate data that are used to profile and sort groups and individuals. These processes can affect both individuals as well as entire communities that may be denied services and access to opportunities, or wrongfully targeted and exploited. In short, they impact on our ability to participate in society. The emergence of this data paradigm therefore introduces a particular set of power dynamics requiring investigation and critique.

The Data Justice Lab is a new space for research and collaboration at Cardiff University that has been established to examine the relationship between datafication and social justice. With this launch event, we ask: What does social justice mean in age of datafication? How are data-driven processes impacting on certain communities? In what way does big data change our understanding of governance and politics? And what can we do about it?

We invite you to come and participate in this important discussion. We will be joined by the following keynote speakers:

Virginia Eubanks (New America), Malavika Jayaram (Digital Asia Hub), and Steven Renderos (Center for Media Justice).

Virginia Eubanks is the author of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age (MIT Press, 2011) and co-editor, with Alethia Jones, of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith (SUNY Press, 2014). She is also the cofounder of Our Knowledge, Our Power (OKOP), a grassroots economic justice and welfare rights organization. Professor Eubanks is currently working on her third book, Digital Poorhouse, for St. Martin’s Press. In it, she examines how new data-driven systems regulate and discipline the poor in the United States. She is a Fellow at New America, a Washington, D.C. think tank and the recipient of a three-year research grant from the Digital Trust Foundation (with Seeta Peña Gangadharan and Joseph Turow) to explore the meaning of digital privacy and data justice in marginalized communities.

Malavika Jayaram is the Executive Director of the Digital Asia Hub in Hong Kong. Previously she was a Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, where she focused on privacy, identity, biometrics and data ethics. She worked at law firms in India and the UK, and she was voted one of India’s leading lawyers. She is Adjunct Faculty at Northwestern University and a Fellow with the Centre for Internet & Society, India, and she is on the Advisory Board of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

Steven Renderos is Organizing Director at the Center for Media Justice. With over 10 years of organizing experience Steven has been involved in campaigns to lower the cost of prison phone calls, preserving the Open Internet, and expanding community owned radio stations. Steven previously served as Project Coordinator of the Minnesotano Media Empowerment Project, an initiative focused on improving the quality and quantity of media coverage and representation of Latinos in Minnesota. He currently serves on the boards of Organizing Apprenticeship Project and La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles. Steven (aka DJ Ren) also hosts a show called Radio Pocho at a community radio station and spins at venues in NYC.

The event will be followed by a reception.

The internet is mostly bots(?)

When I am king, you will be first against the wall…

In an article for The Atlantic Adrienne LaFrance observes that a report by the security firm Imperva suggests that 51.8% of traffic online is bot traffic (by which they mean 51.8% of a sample of traffic [“16.7 billion bot and human visits collected from August 9, 2016 to November 6, 2016”] sent through their global content delivery network “Incapusla”):

Overall, bots—good and bad—are responsible for 52 percent of web traffic, according to a new report by the security firm Imperva, which issues an annual assessment of bot activity online. The 52-percent stat is significant because it represents a tip of the scales since last year’s report, which found human traffic had overtaken bot traffic for the first time since at least 2012, when Imperva began tracking bot activity online. Now, the latest survey, which is based on an analysis of nearly 17 billion website visits from across 100,000 domains, shows bots are back on top. Not only that, but harmful bots have the edge over helper bots, which were responsible for 29 percent and 23 percent of all web traffic, respectively.

LaFrance goes on to cite the marketing director of Imperva (who wants to sell you ‘security’ – he’s in the business of selling data centre services) to observe that:

“The most alarming statistic in this report is also the most persistent trend it observes,” writes Igal Zeifman, Imperva’s marketing director, in a blog post about the research. “For the past five years, every third website visitor was an attack bot.”

How do we judge this report? I find it difficult to know how representative this company’s representation of their data, although they are the purveyor of a ‘global content delivery network’. The numbers seem believable, given how long we’ve been hearing that the majority of traffic is ‘not human’ (e.g. a 2013 article in The Atlantic making a similar point and a 2012 ZDNet article saying the same thing: most web traffic is ‘not human’ and mostly malicious).

The ‘not human’ thing needs to be questioned a bit — yes, it’s not literally the result of a physical action but, then, how much of the activity on the electric grid can be said to be ‘not human’ too? I’d hazard that the majority of that so-called ‘not human’ traffic is under some kind of regular oversight and monitoring – it is, more or less, the expression of deliberative (human) agency. Indeed, to reduce the ‘human’ to what our simian digits can make happen seems ridiculous to me… We need a more expansive understanding of technical (as in technics) agency. We need more nuanced ways to come to terms with the scale and complexity of the ways we, as a species, produce and perform our experiences of everyday life – of what counts as work and the things we take for granted.

Investigating Google’s revolving door with governments – Tactical Tech Collective

Some really interesting work from the Tactical Team looking at the ways in which different people and their skills and knowledges move in and out of government and the ‘Alphabet empire’. Worth a full read, but here’s a snippet to whet the appetite…

The Alphabet Empire by Tactical Tech and La Loma as shown in The Glass Room in New York. Based on openly available information, this 3-D infographic combines a quote from its chairman, Eric Schmidt, with a mapping of its acquisitions and investments.
By Google’s own admission, the company, like many others, cultivates close relationships with governmental bodies and public officials. Google disclosed that in 2015 it spent over €4 million on lobbying the European Union – considerably more than the €1 million on lobbying spent just three years previously in 2012.

But some of Google’s relationships with public bodies and officials come with a smaller price tag: Over the past ten years at least 80 people have been identified to have moved jobs between Google and European governments.

It’s this “revolving door” that formed the basis of our investigation. We started out with a number of questions: who were these people who had moved from Google to government or vice versa? Where exactly did they move from and to, and when? And most importantly how many of these questions could we find answers to using open, publicly-available information?

Here’s what we learned, and how we did it.

CFP> Creative propositions and provocations on the heritages of data-trade-place-value

Paula Crutchlow, with Ian Cook and I, invite submissions for the following session for this year’s RGS-IBG conference. Please do share this with anyone (doesn’t have to be geographers) who may be interested. As we say below, we welcome any kind of creative response to the theme. The session builds on Paula’s PhD project The Museum of Contemporary Commodities, which will be active before and throughout the conference in the RGS-IBG building.

Museum of Contemporary Commodities: creative propositions and provocations on the heritages of data-trade-place-value

How do we open out the messy digital geographies of trade, place and value to the world? How can we work with the digital beyond beyond archives, spectacle and techno-dystopian imaginations? How do we do so in a ways that are performative, collaborative and provocative of the digital?

This session builds on the planned hosting of the Museum of Contemporary Commodities (MoCC) in the RGS(IBG)’s Pavilion in the days leading up to the annual conference (and its partial installation in the RGS(IBG) building during the conference) where it will join the V&A, Science and Natural History Museums on London’s Exhibition Road. Developed as acts of valuing the things we buy today as the heritage of tomorrow, MoCC’s artworks take the form of dynamic, collaborative hacks and prototypes; socio-material processes, objects and events that aim to enrol publics in trade justice debates in light footed, life-affirming, surprising and contagious ways as part of their daily routines.

We invite prospective participants to offer propositions and provocations that stitch into or unpick the complex and sometime knotty patchwork quilt of data-trade-place-value. This is an invitation to contribute to and convene conversations that enliven geographical understandings of the governance, performance, placings and values/valuing of contemporary (digitally) mediated material culture. The resulting session is not conceived as a ‘conventional’ paper session. We invite submissions of ten-minute contributions that might take various forms, which might include essay, performance, video and many other creative responses to the theme.

This invitation should be understood in its broadest sense. We are interested in the commingling and mash-up of the theme(s) data-trade-place-value. We very much encourage submissions that push back against the normative authorities or discourses surrounding ‘the digital’ (however that might be conceived). So, we hope that all involved in the session will thereby be challenged and inspired by creative propositions and provocations that begin to get to the heart of how we open out the messy digital geographies of trade, place and value to the world.
Themes could include:

  • lively methods that work with and through participatory media
  • intimacy, humour, trust and the internet of things
  • mashups, subversions and hacks of big data from the bottom up
  • discourses and practises of future orientation and the spatial imaginations of ‘the digital’
  • an intersectional internet and the rise of ‘platforms’
  • alternative trade models, value systems and networked culture
  • DIWO (Do It With Others), scholar-activism & public pedagogy
  • the economic geographies of the battle for ‘open’
  • Please submit 250 word abstracts to us by email by 7 February and we will get back to you by 13 February.

Spacing social media – seminar at Swansea (18th Jan)

I am participating in the geography seminar series at Swansea next week. I’ll be talking about some of the ideas that came out of the work we did with social media for the Contagion project.

Mostly the talk is about how ideas about space and spatial experience are important to understanding social media. This, very broadly, appears in two ways: (1) like any technology, how we use social media performs, reflects and reveals forms of spatial understanding and experience; and (2) both the methods and the subsequent analysis we do of social media, as geographers (but also that done in other disciplinary contexts), carry assumptions about space that perhaps need to be made more explicit (especially when methodological techniques carry contradictory assumptions about space to the ideas we then employ in our analysis). This comes from a far-too-long reflection on a manuscript written for publication that had some issues and in reflecting on those issues I realised that there were some interesting geographical issues to make more explicit.

Anyway, the seminar is at 2pm on the 18th of January in Glyndwr E (see 11.1 on this campus map). Hope to see a few people there…

Here’s the abstract:

Spacing Social Media

This talk will interrogate the promise as well as the critical implications of the emerging geographies of social media. In particular, the spacing of social media will be addressed in terms of the ways we might understand and theorise space and spatiality. There will be three parts to the discussion: First, the promise of social media research is addressed through an initial exploration of how those media are ineluctably entangled in changes within social, economic and political fields. Second, the translations of data in social media research are addressed through the applications and techniques involved. Third, this provides a basis for subsequent discussion of the theoretical implications of digital data methods and their spacings. I will argue that the techniques and discourses of social media methods both imply and challenge forms of spatial understanding that present challenges for geographical research.