CFP > Memories of the future, London 2019

the character Doc Brown in the film Back to the Future

Via Temporal Belongings.

Memories of the Future

International conference. Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory, Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London
Dates: 29-30 March 2019
Confirmed speakers: Stephen Bann (Bristol); Rebecca Coleman (Goldsmiths); Paolo Jedlowski (Calabria); Anna Reading (KCL); Michael Rothberg (UCLA)

Proposals for panels or papers by 31 July 2018 to

Call for papers
What does it mean to remember the future? What roles do memory, history, the past play in our consciousness as citizens of the early twenty-first century?

David Lowenthal (2015) reminds us that ‘commands to forget coexist with zeal to commemorate’, which raises the very important yet often overlooked questions of: what to remember and what to forget, who is well positioned to lead on or judge in that process, with whose legacies in mind, and with what consequences for future and past generations. In the 1980s, a significant body of scholarship on cultural memory emerged to protect the past from ‘time’s corrosive energy’, leading to ‘collective future thought’ (J. Assmann, 2011; Szpunar and Szpunar, 2016). Cultural memory acted as a moral imperative, a prerequisite to overcome not merely violent pasts but the violence inherent in linear temporality. As such, cultural memory has been seen as redemptive, enabling a more productive relation between past, present and future.

More recently, ‘thinking forward through the past’ has been central to a number of AHRC-funded projects in the UK examining environmental change, postcolonial disaster, gender and colonialism, heritage futures, ruins and more. Climate change, big data and the crisis of democracy are challenging our future in ways that may suggest a misalignment of temporal scales. One way of responding to this is through what Reinhart Koselleck (2000) called horizons of expectations and spaces of experience, namely, the horizons implicit in our anticipations of the future and the degree to which our experience of these have changed and will change over time. Utopian imaginaries and deploying utopia as a method (Levitas, 2013) invite us to think about hope, empathy, and solidarity, each contributing to create different places from which to imagine a future outside crises, fears and risk.

The past and the future constitute our cultural horizons in ways which are neither neutral nor solely technical, but, as Appadurai (2013) has suggested, ‘shot through with affect and sensation’. One of the key challenges of our time is how to study and create futures we truly care for and which are more social (Adam and Groves 2007; Urry, 2016).

Memories of the Future invites contributions to articulate the future in relation to cultural memory, and interrogate the precise and diverse manners in which the past, the present and the future are intertwined and dialogical, complicating our understanding of temporalities in an age saturated with memory and ‘past futures’.

Suggested themes and areas of inquiry include:

  • The future of memory
  • Temporal multi-directionalities
  • Memories of the future
  • Utopias and dystopias
  • Past, present and future mobilities
  • Smart cities and future/ist metropolises
  • Science-fiction and other subsets of utopia
  • Housing, cohousing and the future of habitation
  • Futurisms, modernisms, afro-futurisms
  • The future in/and the Anthropocene
  • Post-humanism and the non-human
  • Intentions, expectations, anticipations
  • Counterfactuals
  • Trauma, violence and conflict
  • Tangible and intangible heritage

Please submit proposals for panels or papers (max 20 minutes) by 31 July 2018 to, including a 150-250 words abstract.

Reblog> Archiving the City/ The City as Archive

Via .

Archiving the City/ The City as Archive

Registration is now open for this event in the UK, co-organised by Gareth Millington (University of York) who is also an assistant editor of JUCS:

Archiving the City/ The City as Archive

Thursday 16 March 2017, University of York, UK 10.00am-6.00pm

Confirmed keynote speakers: Sharon Macdonald (Humboldt), Paul Jones (Liverpool), Rebecca Madgin (Glasgow) and Graeme Gilloch (Lancaster).

This event, hosted by the Centre for Modern Studies and supported by the Department of History and Department of Sociology at University of York, considers the cultural forms through which the modern city is archived. It critically examines the different ways–via institutions, public art, collective practice, and more–in which urban history and memory are organised and presented in contemporary culture. It also engages with how the spaces and architecture of the city may themselves present as an archive, offering up reminders of social and cultural processes, imaginaries, struggles and events.

The symposium engages with Henri Lefebvre’s (2014) argument that the reign of the city is ending; that the city now only exists as an image and an idea. In addition, the importance of heritage in gentrification processes and the museification of the historic urban core reveals, at least in part, the sense of loss through which that the modern metropolis is remembered. This connects more broadly with Derrida’s (1996) notion of ‘archive fever’, which, he understands, is part of a compulsive, repetitive culture; a ‘homesickness’ born of a ‘nostalgic desire to return to the origin’ (ibid: 167). Through keynote speakers and panels the symposium will explore perspectives that make links between contemporary archiving processes, city museums, visual culture, heritage urbanism, ‘authenticity’ and the cultural regeneration of historic urban spaces.

Registration costs £10.00. You can book your place here:

Reblog> Landscape, Space, and Place Conference at IU – Bloomington

Via Nicholas Crane

Landscape, Space, and Place Conference at IU – Bloomington

Reblog> Days numbered for barcodes (according to Reuters)

A sort of interesting story from Reuters on an apparent growing demand for information by consumers that they suggest may lead to the demise of the low-fi barcode in favour of QR [really?! still trotting out that old nag?] and RFID… so, nothing people like Bruce Sterling haven’t been saying for quite a while but sort of interesting how it’s couched…

Days numbered for barcodes as shoppers demand more data


Barcodes are seen on a package in London August 27, 2015. REUTERS/Russell Boyce
Barcodes are seen on a package in London August 27, 2015. REUTERS/RUSSELL BOYCE

Growing demand for more information about the products we buy could mean the end of the simple barcode – the blocks of black and white stripes that adorn most objects for sale and are scanned five billion times a day.

First used on a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum in 1974 in a store in Ohio, barcodes have revolutionized the retail world, allowing cashiers to ring up products much faster and more accurately, while also streamlining logistics.

But shoppers are now demanding far greater transparency about products, and store owners need more information to help with stock taking, product recalls and to fight fakes. The basic barcode is just not up to the job.

That could mean a costly upheaval for retailers and brands to change packaging and invest in new systems and scanners. But it should also bring benefits as more data helps them manage the flow of goods better.

“The barcode did a great job, but it is now time for succession,” said Capgemini consultant Kees Jacobs, who is working with the world’s top retailers and food manufacturers to try to agree new global standards for labels and product data.

“The current barcode is not sufficient to be the carrier of much more granular information that is needed,” Jacobs said.

The most ubiquitous barcodes allow an eight to 14 digit number to be read by a laser scanner. For example, barcode 4-003994-111000 identifies a box as being a 375 gram pack of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.

However, that number does not directly capture any other information that might interest a shopper – such as ingredients, allergens or country of origin – nor does it provide a retailer with useful details such as the batch number or sell-by date.

That data is usually printed on the pack, but consumers increasingly want to read it online, or with a smartphone app such as one that measures calories. Retailers want data that can be scanned for tasks such as quickly locating faulty goods for recall or about-to-expire products for mark downs.


GS1, the non-profit organization that assigns the unique numbers in barcodes, has developed a double-layered barcode it calls the “data bar” which can carry some extra details such as expiry date, quantity, batch or lot number.

That has allowed German retailer Metro (MEOG.DE) to launch PRO Trace, a smartphone app that shows, for example, that a filet of salmon on sale at a store in Berlin on Aug. 25 was caught at the Bremnes Seashore fish farm off the coast of Norway on Aug. 17 and processed in Germany on Aug. 21.

The app also displays a map highlighting the fishing area of the catch and a detailed description of the Atlantic salmon.

Metro says the app helps customers at its cash-and-carry stores such as professional chefs from hotels and restaurants, as they can now embellish their menus with information about the exact origin of pricey delicacies such as wagyu beef.

“We are the only ones in Germany that can do this for fresh fish. It’s about trust. Our customers challenge us to offer sustainable and safe products,” said Lena vom Stein, a corporate responsibility project manager at Metro.

Metro set up the tracking scheme to help it comply with European Union regulations aimed at stemming overfishing and started making the data available to customers in 2012. It now extends to meat, and fresh fruit and vegetables will follow.

Other retailers are also opening up, often supplementing the barcode with a pixilated square known as a quick response (QR) code. It can store dozens more data points and can be scanned by a smartphone camera to lead to a web page, but can still not be read by the majority of store scanners.

Dutch retailer Albert Heijn (AHLN.AS) recently introduced “Check Origin” QR labels on locally-grown radishes and blueberries. Scan the sticker on a mobile phone and it plays a film that rewinds to show the journey from the shelf back to the packing factory, then back to the farmer’s field.

Such tools are likely to fuel demands for more transparency. A GS1 survey found consumers are most interested in nutritional and ingredient information, details on allergens, organic certification, environmental impact and ethical standards.


Making such a wealth of data accessible via codes that can be scanned is only part of the problem. A bigger challenge is gathering, storing and standardizing the information in the first place.

Fiona Wheatley, sustainable development manager at British retailer Marks and Spencer (MKS.L), says keeping tabs on all the company’s suppliers can be a daunting task.

“Your ability to give your customers more confidence that they can rely upon is proving to be increasingly challenging,” she said, adding that M&S relies on certification schemes such as Fairtrade to help audit smallholder farmers.

David Linich, supply chain expert at consultants Deloitte, advises retailers to find ways to work together to monitor the thousands of producers they buy from: “If you go it alone it can be really burdensome, really cost prohibitive.”

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global network of some 400 retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, is coordinating efforts to harmonize product data and labeling.

Most firms accept that more transparency is needed after scares such as the 2013 scandal about horsemeat being sold as beef in Europe, but it is still proving hard to persuade them to share data that many see as commercially sensitive.

Capgemini’s Jacobs, who is working on the CGF project, hopes pilot schemes to standardize digital information, like one between rival retailers in Belgium including Delhaize (DELB.BR), Carrefour (CARR.PA) and Colruyt (COLR.BR), could be the precursors to new global data standards.

GS1 already holds data from 30,000 companies on some 18 million products that its industry members share with each other behind the scenes to smooth logistics.

It is trying to persuade its members to let consumers access more of this information, while keeping some of it confidential, such as detailed pricing and stock levels.

Malcolm Bowden, president of global solutions at GS1, predicts agreement could come quickest – within a year – on sharing nutrition data as there are already broadly accepted standards, and calorie and allergen apps are proliferating.

“The will is there. It has to happen. Like any major change, big companies have to have time to think through the implications,” he said.

GS1 is also working to create identifier numbers for individual farms and is trying to harmonize standards on sustainability data, such as a measure of water efficiency for detergents and washing powders currently being piloted.

But making such a wealth of data available will sound the death knell for the barcode. Only a QR code can carry that much information without taking up too much space on packaging.

Longer term, more products could carry wireless tags such as the RFID labels that are being widely rolled out across the fashion industry. These tiny tags, which can be embedded in an object and, unlike a barcode or QR code, do not need to be within the line of the sight of a reader, were long too expensive for everyday goods but their price is falling fast.

Bowden predicts different systems will probably have to coexist for the next decade or so as retailers and logistics providers gradually upgrade their scanning systems.

“I am convinced we will have a day where pretty much all information about all products will be available to all consumers,” he said.

(Editing by David Clarke)

Clive Barnett – new paper on segmentation practices & policy

My colleague Clive Barnett has blogged about a new paper he has coming out with Nick Mahoney in Policy and Politics concerning segmentation methods for marking practices and how these are used in the public and ‘third’ sectors.

Clive says, on his blog:

This paper seeks to open up some interpretative space for exploring what is going on when marketing practices get used in non-commercial sectors, without presuming in advance that what is going on is something to be called ‘neoliberalism’.

I find the paper interesting not only for this reason, but also because when preparing my article “Memory Programmes” I briefly looked into segmentation systems (like MOSAIC and Tapestry) when looking at supermarket loyalty card schemes like Tesco’s ‘Clubcard’ – and the sorts of (monitoring/ surveillance) apparatus they construct.

As Clive and his co-author argue, there is:

a shared rationale underlying the strategic use of segmentation methodologies. First, across these varied fields, segmentation methods are used to generate relatively stable images of public attitudes and values. Second, these images are used to inform strategies that seek to either change these dispositions or to mobilise them in support of new behaviours.

This stabilising of categories of attitude and value that can then be used as a parameter in/with a dataset that is continually interrogated and processed in order to attempt to gain ‘insights’ that may influence behaviour. I argued in my article that:

The geographical imaginary Clubcard invokes is of populations of consumers, segmented by lifestyle preferences and socio-economic factors, distributed and delimited (or ‘bordered’) through particular categorisations of space. The consumer is thus enrolled into an industrial system that retains habits of consumption in significant detail, both at an individual and collective scale, and operates on that historiography in order to influence prospective future habits.

In addressing the public sector use of segmentation Clive and Nick Mahoney argue that

the configuration of fields of agency should be the core focus of further research focussed on the critical evaluation of the deployment of ‘dividing practices’ such as segmentation methods

I think this call probably stands for the commercial use of segmentation too…

Out now > Bernard Stiegler – States of Shock: stupidity and knowledge in the 21st century

Those of you vaguely interested in the work of Bernard Stiegler, and perhaps those of you who are not (yet!) will I hope take note of the publication of an important work by Stiegler: States of Shock: stupidity and knowledge in the 21st century [a translation by Daniel Ross of États de choc:  betise et savoir dans XXIe siecle].

Here’s the blurb from the publisher Polity:

In 1944 Horkheimer and Adorno warned that industrial society turns reason into rationalization, and Polanyi warned of the dangers of the self-regulating market, but today, argues Stiegler, this regression of reason has led to societies dominated by unreason, stupidity and madness. However, philosophy in the second half of the twentieth century abandoned the critique of political economy, and poststructuralism left its heirs helpless and disarmed in face of the reign of stupidity and an economic crisis of global proportions.

New theories and concepts are required today to think through these issues. The thinkers of poststructuralism Lyotard, Deleuze, Derrida must be re-read, as must the sources of their thought, Hegel and Marx. But we must also take account of Naomi Klein’s critique of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School and her account of the ‘shock doctrine’. In fact, argues Stiegler, a permanent ‘state of shock’ has prevailed since the beginning of the industrial revolution, intensified by the creative destruction brought about by the consumerist model. The result has been a capitalism that destroys desire and reason and in which every institution is undermined, above all those institutions that are the products par excellence of the Enlightenment the education system and universities.

Through a powerful critique of thinkers from Marx to Derrida, Stiegler develops new conceptual weapons to fight this destruction. He argues that schools and universities must themselves be transformed: new educational institutions must be developed both to take account of the dangers of digitization and the internet and to enable us to take advantage of the new opportunities they make available.

Cultural Geographies article published – Memory Programmes

My article in Cultural Geographies has been published as part of the first issue of 2015. You can find it amongst a really interesting set of papers including two theme sections on habit and on technology, memory and collective knowing. Other articles in the issue include those by J-D Dewsbury and David Bissell, Andrew Lapworth, my colleague Jen Lea, Maria Hynes & Scott Sharpe, and Matthew Wilson.

A reminder about my article, Memory Programmes:

The aim of the article is to interrogate some key elements of how software has become a means of ‘industrialising’ memory, following Bernard Stiegler. This industrialisation of memory involves conserving and transmitting extraordinary amounts of data. Data that is both volunteered and captured in everyday life, and operationalised in large-scale systems. Such systems constitute novel sociotechnical collectives which have begun to condition how we perform our lives such that they can be recorded and retained.

To investigate the programmatic nature of our mediatised collective memory the article has three parts. The first substantive section looks at a number of technologies as means of capturing, operating upon and retaining our everyday activities in ‘industrial’ scale systems of memory. Particular attention is paid to the quasi-autonomous agency of these systems, that appear to operate at a scale and speed that exceeds a human capacity of oversight.

In the second section I look at the mnemonic capabilities of networked technologies of digital mediation as ‘mnemotechnologies’. Following Stiegler, these are technologies and technical supports that both support and reterritorialise what we collectively understand about our everyday lives.

The conclusion of the article addresses the ways in which an ‘industrialisation of memory’ both challenges and transforms the ways in which we negotiate collective life.

Paper accepted – Memory programmes: the retention of collective life

I am pleased to share that I have recently had a paper accepted for Cultural Geographies, which will form part of a theme section/issue co-edited by Sarah Elwood and Katharyne Mitchell concerning “Technology, memory and collective knowing”–stemming from a session at the 2013 AAG in Los Angeles.

The paper is entitled ‘Memory programmes: the retention of collective life’ and builds upon a theoretical conference paper I gave at the Conditions of Mediation conference in 2013.

The aim of the article is to interrogate some key elements of how software has become a means of ‘industrialising’ memory, following Bernard Stiegler. This industrialisation of memory involves conserving and transmitting extraordinary amounts of data. Data that is both volunteered and captured in everyday life, and operationalised in large-scale systems. Such systems constitute novel sociotechnical collectives which have begun to condition how we perform our lives such that they can be recorded and retained.

To investigate the programmatic nature of our mediatised collective memory the article has three parts. The first substantive section looks at a number of technologies as means of capturing, operating upon and retaining our everyday activities in ‘industrial’ scale systems of memory. Particular attention is paid to the quasi-autonomous agency of these systems, that appear to operate at a scale and speed that exceeds a human capacity of oversight.

In the second section I look at the mnemonic capabilities of networked technologies of digital mediation as ‘mnemotechnologies’. Following Stiegler, these are technologies and technical supports that both support and reterritorialise what we collectively understand about our everyday lives.

The conclusion of the article addresses the ways in which an ‘industrialisation of memory’ both challenges and transforms the ways in which we negotiate collective life.

I have copied below the abstract and I’d be happy to share pre-publication copies, please contact me via email.


This article argues that, in software, we have created quasi-autonomous systems of memory that influence how we think about and experience life as such. The role of mediated memory in collective life is addressed as a geographical concern through the lens of ‘programmes’. Programming can mean ordering, and thus making discrete; and scheduling, making actions routine. This article addresses how programming mediates the experience of memory via networked technologies. Materially recording knowledge, even as electronic data, renders thought mentally and spatially discrete and demands systems to order it. Recorded knowledge also enables the ordering of temporal experience both as forms of history, thus the sharing of culture, and as the means of planning for futures. We increasingly retain information about ourselves and others using digital media. We volunteer further information recorded by electronic service providers, search engines and social media. Many aspects of our collective lives are now gathered in cities (via CCTV, cellphone networks and so on) and retained in databases, constituting a growing system of memory of parts of life otherwise forgotten or unthought. Using examples, this article argues that, in software, we have created industrialised systems of memory that influence how we think about living together.

Keywords: memory, technology, mnemotechnics, industrialisation, programming, Stiegler

Translation> Bernard Stiegler on holidays and the need to ‘deprogram’

Following on from the interview with the philosopher Bernard Stiegler about what he perceives to be the coming end of salaried employment, I spent some of the early hours of this morning (more baby-induced sleeplessness) reading and then translating a short interview with Stiegler about holidays and the need to deprogram. The interview appears on the website for Philosophie magazine.

In the interview, Stiegler argues (as he has elsewhere) that we are increasingly under pressure to ‘synchronise’ – to conform to particular patterns of thought and behaviour–especially consumerism – in the ongoing struggle of capitalism to find ever-more profit. This synchronisation, he says, is led by the ‘programme industries’ – mass media and so on – that want us to mindlessly submit to consumerism and commodification (through systems like Facebook). What is engendered is a form of ‘programming’, as an exercise of ‘psychopower’, which is something like the forms of ‘control’ envisaged by Deleuze (and drawn upon by Stiegler previously).

Stiegler’s answer to this is to identify the need to ‘deprogram’, using techniques of the self (following Foucault). He goes on to provide an example of what he does on holiday–which sounds suspiciously like work to me, but then its all about the otium, the pursuit of knowledge while free from the pressures of subsistence.

This is a fairly quick translation, so please read it as such. As usual clarifications and original French terms are in square brackets. All emphasis follows the original text.

Bernard Stiegler: “On holiday we attempt to rediscover the consistence in our existence”

The question of time extends throughout his body of work and through book after book, this philosopher sketches a picture of a society under the growing infleunce of the programme industries. The final stage of capitalism is the control and snychronisation of “available brain time”. This process in which the individual is standardised may cause a depression and violence without precedent, but philosophy can help to establish responses.


PM. What characterises the experience of time today?

B.S. Our era is characterised by synchronisation. The programme industries are attempting to synchronise all of our consciousnesses; a control over the life of the soul through television which establishes a pyschopower characteristic of our times. This process of synchronisation has its roots in the late 18th century, with the mechanical reproduction of the workers’ gestures through automation, in the service of what Michel Foucault described as biopower. Spread by the grand industrial revolution of the 19th century, synchronisation led to what Karl Marx describes as proletarianisation, the worker becomes proletarian. If a worker contributes to the creation of new forms of production, industrialisation makes work a form of slavery and establishes, instead, what Gilbert Simondon calls a loss of individuation for the worker. The movement that is individuation is no longer in the worker, Simondon says, but in the machine that replaces him as a “technical individual“. Wherever you go now, you have the same models of production and distribution. This globalisation comes at the price of a synchronisation of modes of life and thought. Today, this becoming is extended throughout all aspects of life and destroys the singularity of existence through consumerism, which liquidates life skills [savoir-vivre]. Within a decade, with a catastrophic evolution of television, the symbolic itself became an object of consumption and became un-symbolic: we no longer participate in the diachronisation of languages; we parrot Newspeak. The programme industries proletarianised symbolic production, and they destroyed singular and collective time.

PM. In this context, are holidays still possible?

BS. The latin term otium is often translated as “leisure”, it is what the Greeks called skholè, from which we get the work skoleion, which becomes “school”. School is for those who have been released from the obligation of providing for themselves and who can spend free time, without which no real expertise [connaissance véritable] is possible. Otium in Latin and skholè in Greek describe free-time for contemplation, through which we learn to live through a desire for truth: the possibility of reaching a time that is not given to subsistence (the time of slaves and proletarians), but which also is not given to existence (the time of the agora, of political debate). However, to establish lives [des existences], we must reach for what exceeds them and what I live to call consistencies [les consistances] – which the Greeks called idealities.

In this context, holidays must become an otium for the people. During a holiday, and holidays are a special case, we primarily try to deprogram – and to rediscover the consistency in our existence [la consistance dans son existence], for example through a change of scenery. However, human life is always programmed [programmée]. There are cosmic programmes, vital programmes, and socio-ethnic and symbolic programmes. These programmes are a condition of the social. But, these programmes can and should be reprogrammed, or suspended. Trigano, Disney and others have understood that this is a huge market, it is accordingly becoming more and more difficult to deprogram.

PM. How do you deprogram yourself?

BS. To deprogram oneself necessitates keeping to very specific schedules, which are what Foucault, once again, described as techniques of the self, echoing Seneca. Holidays are a moment to practice such programmes. Myself, I use relaxation as a form of deprogramming. When I go on holiday, I work early and write all morning. Then, I swim, a lot, until that state when physical exertion stimulates a rush–because the brain produces a lot of endorphins. Swimming thus becomes a journey within oneself, during the course of which I run back through my memory of everything I wrote several hours earlier. Then I lie in the sun, drained, and I let my mind empty, since this is how unlikely thoughts can arise: something un-programmed emerges from all of this. Then I return to writing: I note all that has arisen – first in the water, then in the sun – all through rereading and annotating what I wrote in the morning.

Under the sun, I sense that this mass of hydrogen that has been combusting for several billion years is a cosmic programme that intervenes in my physiological programmes – muscles, brain, various organs – and which, in this intervention, produces a difference, a change of programme which allows me to write another kind of programme: a book in which I comment generally on other books.

Books, when they are good, are thus deprogramming programmes, unlikely programmes, like poems, in which there must be, wrote Paul Claudel, “a number that prevents counting”.

Interview by Michel Eltchaninoff

SK–The sense in which ‘programme’ is used here plays on the double meaning of scheduling (of time, performance etc.) and codified instructions (for computers), but both have a sense of the rendering discrete the phenomena being programmed.