Category Archives: pervasive media

“At play on the field of ghosts” – James Bridle on code/spaces of competitive sport

Reflecting upon the increasing instrumentation of the sporting field off play, for spectating, e.g. the ‘Hanwha chickens‘, and for the judgement of rules, e.g. ‘HawkEye’, James Bridle has written a nice piece on Medium about how the idea/ideal of ‘sport’ may be getting translated into something else…

This distinction between the actuality of the event and the fidelity of its recreation is narrow and could easily be dismissed as just another conjuration of spectacular TV coverage, were its remit limited to mere representation. But in the hyper-competitive domain of sports, lubricated with broadcasting and gambling dollars, recreation turns into prediction, and representation into judgement. The distinction between what is seen and what occurs becomes crucial.

More and more, the practice of human adjudication in sports is being crowded out by the supposed superiority of machine perception; a perception which is based on the recreation and prediction of real events, rather than their explicit witnessing. Since 2001, the Hawk-Eye computer system has become increasingly ubiquitous in major sporting competitions, combining machine vision with motion analysis to not only declare where precisely a ball touched or crossed a line, but where the ball would have gone if it were not rudely interrupted.

Behaviourism, productivity & the ‘quantified self’

metronome.gif

Steven Poole, in the New Statesman, on “How the craze for Apple Watches, Fitbits and other wearable tech devices revives the old and discredited science of behaviourism“:

Arguably, this authoritarian strand of behaviourist thinking is what morphed into the subtly reinforcing “choice architecture” of nudge politics, which seeks gently to compel citizens to do the right thing (eat healthy foods, sign up for pension plans) by altering the ways in which such alternatives are presented.

By contrast, the Apple Watch, the Pavlok and their ilk revive a behaviourism evacuated of all social concern and designed solely to optimise the individual customer. By ­using such devices, we voluntarily offer ourselves up to a denial of our voluntary selves, becoming atomised lab rats, to be manipulated electronically through the corporate cloud. It is perhaps no surprise that when the founder of American behaviourism, John B Watson, left academia in 1920, he went into a field that would come to profit very handsomely indeed from his skills of manipulation – advertising. Today’s neo-behaviourist technologies promise to usher in a world that is one giant Skinner Box in its own right: a world where thinking just gets in the way, and we all mechanically press levers for food pellets.

Echoes a common trope of theorising “subjectiv(is)ation” as a process (often labelled “neoliberal”, for good value) that gets done to a being/person… which gets entangled in an all-encompassing ‘labour theory of value’ but that’s a longer discussion…

Another AAG CFP: work & digital stuff

Following on from the proposed AAG annual conference 2017 sessions on ‘robots’, there’s another proposed set of sessions about labour/work and ‘the digital’… all the de rigueur concepts are in there*, yet it strikes me as a weird curious distinction between ‘digital’ and ‘human’, but there you go…

Tbh, readers of this blog have probably already seen the CFP but – anyway the whole thing is on Prof. Gillian Rose’s blog… Here’s a snippet:

digital \\ human \\ labour | session at AAG conference 2017

With Mark Graham and Jim Thatcher, I’m convening four sessions at the annual conference of the Association of American Geographers, which will be held in Boston, 5-9 April 2017.  The tile of the sessions is digital \\ human \\ labour, and here is the call for papers:

The proposed Digital Geographies Working Group of the RGS/IBG and the proposed Digital Geographies Specialty Group of the AAG would like to invite submissions to a series of paper sessions and panels for the 2017 meeting of the American Association of Geographers in Boston, MA. Reflecting the shared interests of these groups, and their mutual desire to facilitate conversations between a wide range of geographical scholarship, this call is for papers exploring specifically the various intersections of ‘digital’, ‘human’ and ‘labour’.

We will also convene a concluding panel session, and encourage interested participants to submit abstracts for any of these three paper sessions:

1 the human labour of digital work

2 the digital labour of being human

3 the algorithmic labour of being

Read the whole CFP on Visual/Method/Culture.

 

mais tout va très bien madame la marquise.

Reblog> Bite Size Theory [on the presence/absence of mobile phones]

via Pop Theory:

“The presence/absence of mobile phones in one’s fictional worlds is going to be, I suspect, no trivial matter. Because so much of the mechanics of novel writing, past and present, is taken up with making information available to characters or keeping it from them, with getting people together in the same room or holding them apart. If, all of a sudden, everyone has access to more or less everyone else – electronic access, that is – what becomes of all that plotting?”John Coetzee, in Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee, 2013, Here and Now: Letters 2008-2011.

The Museum of Contemporary Commodities in EXETER

The Museum of Contemporary Commodities

Just a quick note to let you know that the brilliant Paula Crutchlow has brought “The Museum of Contemporary Commodities” (MoCC) to Exeter for the majority of May.

There’s lots going on, much of it creative and interesting – so if you’re in Exeter or nearby: come and visit!

Two immediate things this week:

RIGHT NOW!: help re-create the internet in paper with Artist Louise Ashcroft from 11 -2 in the Exeter University Forum.

TOMORROW: sign up to do a data walkshop with Alison Powell from the LSE on Saturday from 10-1. Places have to be booked, and the Eventbrite page is here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mocc-data-walkshop-tickets-24464719635

Please do visit the MoCC website for lots more events and activities taking place this month and visit the shop:

87 Fore St,
Exeter
EX46RT

Open 10:00-18:00pm Weds-Sat, 4th-21st May.

Feminism, Digital Culture and the Politics of Transmission – Deborah Withers

I don’t really know why I haven’t seen this before today(?!) but just wanted to flag this really interesting book by Deborah Withers, which I will be ordering ASAP…

Feminism, Digital Culture and the Politics of Transmission argues that despite the prevalence of generational narratives within feminism, the technical processes through which knowledge is transmitted across generations remain unexplored. Taking Bernard Stiegler’s concept of the already-there as its starting point the book considers how the politics of transmission operates within digital culture. It argues that it is necessary to re-orient feminism’s political project within what is already-there so that it may respond to an emergent feminist tradition.Grounded in the author’s work collecting and interpreting the music-making heritage of the UK Women’s Liberation Movement, it explores how digital technologies have enabled empassioned amateurs to make ‘archives’ within the first decade of the 21st century. The book reflects on what is technically and politically at stake in the organization and transmission of digital artifacts, and explores what happens to feminist cultural heritage when circuits shut down, stall or become diverted.

And here’s some praise from Patrick Crogan, whose opinion I trust:

A substantial, judicious, and highly effective mobilisation of key tenets of Stiegler’s work pertaining to memory, technology, and cultural transmission. Withers develops a cogent political reformulation of questions of memory, heritage, and archival matters of preservation and access in the digital age in this book project. Her use of Stiegler is central to this, and indeed represents an important introduction to his philosophical critique of the digital mediated world to an area where his ideas have particular relevance but are under-represented.

Patrick Crogan, Associate Professor of Digital Cultures, University of the West of England

Stiegler: Stop the uberisation of society!

Posted below is a translation of a piece co-authored by Bernard Stiegler with Ariel Kyrou (journo),  Yann Moulier-Boutang (writer) and Bruno Teboul (Director of innovation at Keyrus) and published in Libération on the 10th April.

I suppose it doesn’t really propose anything especially novel, if you’re familiar with others involved in debates around “postcapitalism”, automation, worklessness and universal income (e.g. Srnicek and Williams, or Mason). What is perhaps novel is an application of the ideas in a distinctly European flavour, with examples in France and in the context of a much more robust unionised response to Uber (and the task/gig economy).

Anyway, it’s an interesting read I think…

The piece is rather conversational in tone and uses idioms I have only been able to infer (not being a fluent and native speaker) so it was quite difficult to translate, and so I’m pretty sure there are errors. As usual clarifications or original French are in [square brackets].

Stop the uberisation of society!

Libération, 10th April

The war by taxi companies against an Uber society cannot be reduced to the storyline of a film depicting an ancient evil battling benevolent forces of modernity. If on the one hand the participatory economy threatens our social structures, it can also, on the other, make possible a society with greater solidarity.

Since the first moves towards the draft Thévenoud law in June 2014[1], the urban transport soap opera has generated multiple variations on the theme of the standard storyline. On one side are the taxi federations, which have been labelled a horde of grumpy medieval malthusians by Uber, who in the opening of the second act of the performance of the trial of the 11th February demanded a whopping €100m in damages from Uber, on the other the ‘white knight’ of the new economic order, the high-tech Robin Hood of its pleb users whose UberPop service enables simple fellows in search of employment the opportunity to offer at cut-price their talents for automotive locomotion, between February 2014 and July 2015. This tale of jokers against modernisers is more attractive than the G7, queen of opaque rentier sorcery, who could not turn themselves with the wave of a magic wand into the cinderella of Parisian Transport.

Except that the movie script of the ancient evil against the benevolent ‘disruptors’ rings as hollow as any Hollywood blockbuster: seen quickly, soon forgotten. It works in the short-term, like the groan of the indefinite vigil for a taxi at 3 o’clock in the morning in the banlieue, but it hardly takes us any distance towards solving the questions about the future of our society and the search for sustainable solutions to the crisis we are experiencing.

Let’s not misunderstand this scenario: the agonism presented by this contemporary drama [série du moment] is neither the ardent need to pit global start-ups against French corporatism [corporatismes franchouillards] nor its exact opposite, namely the obligation to defend the capitalism of tired old barons against the hyper-capitalism of the rulers of the digital future. No, the issue that should be obvious to everyone with a stake in the debate is the urgent need to think about the society we want, and then act in order to build it.

For why should we anoint an ‘uberisation of the economy’ without interrogating its ideology and long-term deleterious effects? Uber, which declares only a fraction of its profits in France thanks to a complex form of tax evasion through the Netherlands, Bermuda and Delaware, is participating in the liquidation of our social structures. It embodies a short circuit that threatens the fragile economic balance between taxation, social law, transport policy, infrastructure investment at the local level and the pensions system. Worse still: its social and economic logic foreshadows the advent of a futuristic no-man’s land in which the a priori ideal of liberty becomes monetised against an a posteriori generalised casualisation throughout society. Indeed, the rictus predatory behaviour of platforms like Uber, Lyft and others such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is founded upon a low intensity of capital, little infrastructure, a minimum of salaried employees with more independent or self-employed workers.

The uberisation process forms the first wave in the tsunami of automation. Its primary consequence will be a net loss of five million jobs in industrialised countries by 2020, according to a report published on the 18th of January by the oracles of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the shameless apostles of the “fourth industrial revolution”. This deeply unappealing assertion has been amplified by several studies in the last three years (by Oxford, MIT, the Breugel Institute and Roland Berger) which predict around 47% fewer people in employment by 2025. This slow but inexorable extinction of of the salaried world effects not only warehouse workers, supermarket cashiers and lorry drivers but also barristers, solicitors, journalists, those working in medicine, and so on. Why should it remain necessary to use human beings for tasks that are reducible to systematic procedures? Which in our data economy robots and algorithms will soon perform much more efficiently. The combination of robotics and ‘big data’, algorithms and network effects, is already transforming us into the involuntary gravediggers for salaried employment. Welcome to a world that is ultimately ‘flexible’, boosted by robotic automation [robotisation] and work on the meter. A world where users and customers constantly account for themselves, where each becomes their own big brother and where most of the activity in every market, like with car insurance, will increasingly play out more in an automated big data-driven fashion than according to laws or to forms of trust that are not based in calculation.

Nevertheless we should beware skewed perspectives: such a world is not inevitable. The digital gives us an opportunity to reconsider work not only in terms of jobs doomed to become ever more precarious, provoking anxiety about self-exploitation, but also as a part of a project for a contributory society in which salaried employment would be one means amongst many, rather than an end in itself. A company like TaskRabbit certainly creates use value through its platform of small on-demand jobs, but it keeps for itself and its shareholders the [accompanying] exchange value in the form of profit. In contrast, Loconomics is a co-operative owned by those who use it to advertise their services. Against the platforms of the so-called sharing economy (which it is in name only) Trebor Scholz endorses a ‘platform cooperativism’ [2] to build a society of commons that operates beyond solely economic and financial dimensions.

This shambles needs to be urgently addressed. Thinking in the long-term, this is political in the principal sense of the word. To buckle down to the future of work equally concerns: expertise in data to use and liberate ourselves from algorithms and a care for people without the need for machines; to classify work in a way that is both protective of our ways of life and much less administrative than today; to examine the establishment of an adequate basic income, structurally justified by massive unemployment due to automation and the coming slow death of employment; to experiment with the extension of the regime of casual work in the context of a true society of contribution, with the acquisition and sharing of knowledge by and between everyone; to study tax reform based upon the principles of a financial transactions tax [la taxe pollen], beginning with the establishment of a European tax on the flows of High Frequency Trading, to finance a universal income.

Rather than the two opposing and yet complimentary nightmares that are the integral uberisation of society and the sovereignist protection of the capitalism of yesteryear we prefer the realisation of a dream: to imagine, to experiment, to build, step by step, a freer society with greater solidarity; preferring disagreement to the brainwashing that has played out, historically, through the carrot and the stick, or, in our high-tech times, through a blind obedience to shiny artificial devices [l’obéissance aveugle à de rutilantes mécaniques artificielles et augmentées].

1. For more information on the Thévenoud law see this article – Sam.

2. See this article on Medium by Scholz.

Reblog> Programme for Streams of Consciousness, Warwick, 21-22 April

Via Tony Sampson. All the names you’d expect/want to see and a few more… (can’t help finding it amusing that Thrift is opening the event).

It’d be interesting to hear what Rouvroy has to say…

Streams of Consciousness: Data, Cognition and Intelligent Devices

Download here short and full draft pdf versions of the programme

Register for the conference here 

Thursday 21st April


9.00 to 9.45: REGISTRATION AND COFFEE
9.45 to 10.00: OPENING ADDRESS
Nathaniel Tkacz, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick
10.00 TO 10.45: KEYNOTE SPEAKER 
Professor Nigel Thrift

10.45 to 13.00: PLENARY SESSION
Tony Sampson, University of East London 
Understanding Neurocapitalism or What Happens When Gramsci Does Human Computer Interaction
Nick Srnicek, Independent Researcher
The Eyes of the State
Antoinette Rouvroy, University of Namour (Video Conference)
Title TBC

13.00 to 14.00: LUNCH

14.00 to 16.00: BREAK OUT SESSIONS 
SESSION A: DATIFIED SELF
Sun-Ha Hong, University of Pennsylvania 
Data’s Intimacy: Machinic Sensibility and the Quantified Self
Elpida Prasopoulou, Coventry University 
The Body in the Internet of Things: An Auto-ethnography on Wearables
Aleksandra K. Przegalinska, Kozminski University 
Productivity 3.0: Mindtracking and the New Transparent Labour
Ana Viseu, Universidade Euroepia (TBC) 
Bodies, Data and the Question of Physiological Narcissism
SESSION B: ALGORITHMS, MODELS AND CALCULATIVE DEVICES
 
Nathan Coombs, University of Edinburgh 
Intractable Algorithms: Representational Uncertainty in the German High-Frequency Trading Act
Tyler Reigeluth, Université Libre de Bruxelles 
“Let’s misbehave!”: The politics of Behaving with Algorithm
Jérémy Grosman, University of Namour 
A Prediction, not an Oracle – Neural Network, between Algorithms and Metaphors
Charalampos Fytros, Lancaster University 
Mediating Solvency
SESSION C: EXPERIENCE, AFFECT, ATTENTION, INTERACTION
Miguel Prado, University of West England
Noise and Cognition in the Age of Big Data
Darshana Jayemanne, University of Melbourne
The Body Eclectic: Massively Multiplayer Mimesis
John McManus, Oxford University
Football Fans, Mimesis and the Enchanting Properties of Smartphone Use
Craig Hamilton, Birmingham City University 
Can Algorithms Make You Cry?: Popular Music and Machine-Derived Curation

16.00 to 16.15: COFFEE BREAK

16.15 to 18.30: PLENARY SESSION
Steve Fuller, University of Warwick 
Neuroscience as the Mind Instrumentalised: Telescope vs. Microscope
Michael Wheeler, University of Stirling 
The Knowledge Ecology: Epistemic Credit and the Technologically Extended Mind
Caroline Bassett, University of Sussex 
The Hubris of the ‘Artificial Intelligentsia’: Eliza and the Simulation of Smart

19.30: CONFERENCE DINNER

Friday 22nd April


09.00 to 11.00: PLENARY SESSION
Louise Amoore, Durham University 
Title TBC
David Berry, University of Sussex
Human Reason and Algorithmic Judgement
James Ash, Newcastle University 
The Interface Envelope: Power, Cognition and Gaming

11.15 to 11.30: COFFEE BREAK

11.30 to 13.10: BREAK OUT SESSIONS
SESSION A: PLATFORMS, INTERFACES AND SENSORS
Jacob Johanssen, University of Westminster 
Not Belonging to One’s Self: Affect and Alienation on Facebook’s Site Governance Page
Alex Gekker, Utrecht University
Numbers are Magic: Numerical User Interfaces and Disconnect
Heather Ford – Oxford Internet Institute
Ode to the Infobox
Alison Powell – London School of Economics and Political Science
A Goose in The Stream: Animals, ‘Accidents’ and Sensing Citizenships beyond the Calculative
SESSION B: ROBOTS, DRONES AND AI 
Tero Karppi, Marc Böhlen and Yvette Granata, SUNY Buffalo
Killer Robots and Cultural Techniques
Ramon Bloomberg, Goldsmiths College
Becoming Platform
Beatrice Fazi, University of Sussex
Can a Machine Think Anything New?
Marc Böhlen (Video Conference), Tero Karppi and Yvette Granata – SUNY Buffalo
Robot Control
SESSION C: AESTHETICS AND VISUALISATIONS
Roxana Fabius, Barad College
Business Intelligence and Aesthetic Criticality
Jonathan Gray, University of Amsterdam; Liliana Bounegru, University of Amsterdam, University of Groningen, University of Ghent; Stefania Milan, Amsterdam University; and Paolo Ciuccarelli Density Design, Politecnico di Milano 
Ways of Seeing Data
Lukasz Mirocha, University of Warsaw 
Challenging Technology Obfuscation Through Aesthetics of Real-time Visual Media: An Analysis of Glitches in Post-digital Consumer Mapping and Navigation Systems

13.10 to 14.00: LUNCH

PLENARY SESSION 14.00 to 16.15
Natasha Dow-Schüll, NYU (Video Conference)
From Mood Ring to MuseTM: Digital Sensor Technology and the Mediation of Sentience
Satinder Gill – Cambridge University 
Performing Knowledge: The Mediating Body
Will Davies – Goldsmiths College 
How Are We Now?: Mood as a Real-Time Indicator

16.15 to 16.30: COFFEE BREAK


PLENARY SESSION 16.30 to 17.15
Michael Dieter, University of Warwick
Title TBC
Jennifer Gabrys, Goldsmiths College
Digital Infrastructures of Withness: Constructing a Speculative “Smart” City

18.00 to 18.15: DISCUSSION AND CLOSING REMARKS

Internet of Things, ownership and Ts & Cs

iot-toothpaste
Toothpaste terms of service

Decided to make a spoof image that follows some others’ attempts to satirically reflect on the kinds of business models that seem to be creeping in for ‘Internet of Things’ products and services. My impetus is that I’ve enjoyed some of the recent posts on the @internetofshit satirical twitter stream, which lampoons IoT business ideas. These got me thinking…

Many of the successful posts take to the extreme a model we are already experiencing – which is that we do not necessarily totally control those things we think we own. I am aware that other folk will probably have commented in more depth and with greater nuance, but there we are… this is just a blogpost! (I welcome suggestions for further reading though)

For example – I recently bought a Kindle Paperwhite and to remove the inbuilt advertising I had to pay (in addition to the retail price) a £10 fee to ‘unsubscribe’ from ‘Special Offers‘. So, I had bought the device but to remove the adverts I had to pay more.

This, of course, resonates with the inkjet printer business model – in which the printer manufacturer can almost give away some models because the ink itself is highly lucrative, which led to stories comparing it’s value to that of gold…

In my most recent lecture for my third-year option module (Geographies of Technology) I addressed some of these issues and invited the students to consider the following questions when thinking about an ‘internet of things and places’:

Questions of ownership/responsibility:

  • Whose things?
  • Whose data?
  • Who has access? How? When? Where?

Questions of power:

  • How are decisions made on the basis of the data?
  • How doe these decisions influence our lives?

Questions of value:

  • How can/should we negotiate the value(s) of our data?
  • What are we willing to give(-up) for perceived benefits?
    • When does giving away lots of data become not worth it?

Later the same day, on the train home, I idly tweeted a speculative satirical scenario:

Which led me to create a still image (above). I think there’s a lot of scope of using speculative design techniques in a satirical way to provoke more debate about the kinds of relationship we want to enter into with and through the technologies we bring into our everyday lives. My key inspiration here is Anne Galloway‘s work, especially the beautiful Counting Sheep project.