Museum of Contemporary Commodities – Exhibition Rd, Kensington 24-27 Aug.

Next week, in advance of the RGS-IBG annual conference, the Museum of Contemporary Commodities (MoCC) will join the other museums in South Kensington on Exhibition Rd. MoCC is the brainchild of artist-activist-researcher Paula Crutchlow and promises to build on the provocative and inspiring work undertaken as part of the project over the last three years. I strongly encourage anyone in London next week to pop into the Royal Geographical Society to take a look.

I’m very privileged to be on Paula’s PhD committee. This is fantastic work – even if you cannot make it to Exhibition Rd, please do look at the MoCC website.

Museum of Contemporary Commodities: valuing what we buy today as the heritage of tomorrow

Museum of Contemporary Commodities at the Royal Geographical Society, London.The Museum of Contemporary Commodities (MoCC) is an art-geography research and exhibition project investigating the deep links between data, trade, place and values that shape our everyday lives. This lively set of digital activities will be hosted in the Pavilion at RGS-IBG. Staffed by our friendly MoCC Invigilators, you will be able to browse the most valued exhibits, take our quiz, add something to the museum yourself and consult with the updated Mikayla 3.0 – our networked talking doll guide to all things MoCC. Two research and conversation events will also contribute to our continuing public conversations around the deep connections between data, trade, place and values.

All the events are free to attend. All are welcome. Please join us to re-value contemporary commodity culture one thing at time!

Exhibition open: Thursday 24 August-Sunday 27 August 2017, 10.00am-4.00pm

Additional events on Friday 25 August:

Data walkshop with data activist Alison Powell, LSE: 10.00am-12.30pm
Building on MoCC walkshops in Finsbury Park and Exeter, Alison will be investigating data mediations in the direct vicinity of the RGS-IBG through a process of rapid group ethnography. No experience necessary. Please book here.

Our Future Heritage: curating contemporary commodity cultures: 2.00pm-4.00pm
A public conversation event hosted in the Museum of Contemporary Commodities shop-gallery space at the RGS-IBG. With contributions from: MoCC co-founders Paula Crutchlow and Ian Cook, Senior Curator V&A Corrinna Gardner, Cultural Geographer Merle Patchett, Music Sociologist Lee Marshall, and researcher, publisher and curator D-M Withers. Please book here.

MoCC was co-founded by artist-researcher Paula Crutchlow from Blind Ditch and Geographer Ian Cook from and University of Exeter. The project is being developed in partnership with Furtherfieldand a growing number of artists, academics, technologists and members of the public.

Our early prototypes and events have been kindly supported by All Change Arts, Islington Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot Women’s Group, Islington Council, Exeter City Council, Art Week Exeter, Exeter Scrapstore, Exeter Phoenix, Exeter CVS, St Sidwells Community Centre, Exeter Library, Art Week Exeter. With many thanks to the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) for their support with this 2017 exhibition. MoCC is funded by Arts Council England, University of Exeter and the Economic and Social Science Research Council.

To find out more, please visit or follow MoCC on Twitter at @moccofficial and on Instagram at @moccguidemikayla

“Invisible Images: Ethics of Autonomous Vision Systems” Trevor Paglen at “AI Now” (video)

racist facial recognition

Via Data & Society / AI Now.

Trevor Paglen on ‘autonomous hypernormal mega-meta-realism’ (probably a nod to Curtis there). An entertaining brief talk about ‘AI’ visual recognition systems and their aesthetics.

(I don’t normally hold with laughing at your own gags but Paglen says some interesting things here – expanded upon in this piece (‘Invisible Images: Your pictures are looking at you’) and this artwork – Sight Machines [see below]).

19 ‘AI’-related links

Twiki the robot from Buck Rogers

Here’s some links from various sources on what “AI” may or may not mean and what sorts of questions that prompts… If I was productive, not sleep-deprived (if… if… etc. etc.) I’d write something about this, but instead I’m just posting links.

Reblog> So what about Politics?–Call for contributions (iMAL Brussels, Nov. 3/4, 2017)

south african students protest with hashtag banners

From INC.

So what about Politics?–Call for contributions (iMAL Brussels, Nov. 3/4, 2017)

“If the past 10 years have been about discovering post-institutional social models on the Web, then the next 10 years will be about applying them to the real world.” Chris Anderson, 2010,

So, what about politics? (November 3/4 2017 @  iMAL, Brussels)  looks at initiatives that could be seen as the avant-garde of a new political era. In a critical period of crisis in our political systems, we welcome artists, activists, academics, and everyone using innovative technological tools to reclaim political processes or to shape new forms of organisation, from local collectives to global movements.

As  Rebecca Solnit says, “It’s equally true that democracy is flourishing in bold new ways in grassroots movements globally”, and “There is far more politics than the mainstream of elections and governments, more in the margins where hope is most at home.” How does this apply to the margins of our technological imagination? Which tools and practices are being dreamed of, tested and explored?

What is the impact of today’s Internet-inspired post-institutional thinking on the practice of political action? For this we focus on tactics, tools and visions of grassroots initiatives, as well as on changing government policies and strategies.

iMAL wants to invite its guests to look beyond the often-perceived neutrality of technology and unveil underlying narratives. The symposium revolves around questions such as: What are the politics of a P2P society? How can we perceive a network as a real “distributed agora”? What can we learn from artist- or activist-led experiments focusing on collectivity and political agency? And most important: What are the concrete tools and initiatives today that really try to facilitate and use new forms of agency such as liquid democracy, e-governance, civic intelligence, platform cooperativism and autonomous self-organisation?

OPEN CALL: Digital culture and technology. But what about politics?

This is an open call for contributions by artists, activists, technologists, designers, researchers, citizen initiatives, collectives or groups to the symposium ‘So, what about politics?’. The event will be held on November 3-4, 2017 in Brussels at iMAL, the Brussels-based center for digital cultures and technology.

Send your proposal to
Deadline: September 1st, 2017

This Open Call is not restricted to specific kinds of contributions. You can send us proposals for a lecture, workshop, performance, installation… Day 1 of the symposium will be focusing on lectures and presentations. Day 2 is reserved for participatory activities such as Open Assembly Lab or Workshops.Proposals will be selected according to their relevance and feasibility (logistics, budget).

The symposium is curated by Bram Crevits in collaboration with Yves Bernard ( This event is organised by iMAL (Brussels center for Digital Cultures and Technology) in collaboration with the Institute of Network Cultures (Amsterdam), Medialab Prado (Madrid) and KASK/School of Arts (Ghent).

After the symposium Blockchain.Fact.Fiction.Future in 2016, So what about Politics? continues our exploration of how society can be improved with the digital world. So what about Politics? is supported by Saison des Cultures Numériques 2017, Ministery of Culture (Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles).

Do robots replace (human) jobs? – a further update on imaginings of automation

In November I reviewed some literature concerning the narratives of ‘robots’ ‘destroying’ jobs, replacing workers and maybe driving down wages. I showed in that blogpost how different articles contradicted one another about the destruction or creation of jobs/work through automation and argued we probably need to think about this as a discourse, heavy with technological determinisms (following Wyatt) and open to social scientific critique. I went on to look at other stories about automation that emerged in the subsequent five or six months in April and in particular the ways that jobs are becoming ‘unbundled’, the various parts of a job role are being split apart.

In a post earlier today I discussed some of these issues further in relation to the ways these sorts of arguments are storied, and the forms of authority they acquire through the use of statistics. This all goes towards constituting the forms of imagination I discussed in the earlier blogposts – it’s all a part of what I’ve been calling, to make sense of things for myself, a sort of ‘automative imagination’.

I have also today seen an interesting, if lengthy, argument by Mishel and Bivens, of the Economic Policy Institute (considered to be a ‘liberal’ think tank), arguing against some of the recent “robot apocalypse” economic research (in particular showing the widespread misreading of the piece by Acemoglu and Restrepo I highlighted back in April) and the media narratives built around such research:

What is remarkable about this media narrative is that there is a strong desire to believe it despite so little evidence to support these claims. There clearly are serious problems in the labor market that have suppressed job and wage growth for far too long; but these problems have their roots in intentional policy decisions regarding globalization, collective bargaining, labor standards, and unemployment levels, not technology.

This report highlights the paucity of the evidence behind the alleged robot apocalypse, particularly as mischaracterized in the media coverage of the 2017 Acemoglu and Restrepo (A&R) report. Yes, automation has led to job displacements in particular occupations and industries in the past, but there is no basis for claiming that automation has led—or will lead—to increased joblessness, unemployment, or wage stagnation overall. We argue that the current excessive media attention to robots and automation destroying the jobs of the past and leaving us jobless in the future is a distraction from the main issues that need to be addressed: the poor wage growth and inequality caused by policies that have shifted economic power away from low- and moderate-wage workers. It is also the case that, as Atkinson and Wu (2017) argue, our productivity growth is too low, not too high.


What is remarkable about the automation narrative is that any research on robots or technology feeds it, even if the bottom-line findings of the research do not validate any part of it. The most recent example is the new research by Acemoglu and Restrepo (2017a) on the impact of robots on employment and wages. Here is how The New York Times wrote about this research:

The paper adds to the evidence that automation, more than other factors like trade and offshoring that President Trump campaigned on, has been the bigger long-term threat to blue-collar jobs. The researchers said the findings—“large and robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages”—remained strong even after controlling for imports, offshoring, software that displaces jobs, worker demographics and the type of industry. (Miller 2017)

The EPI article is quite long so I won’t attempt to abridge it here, but the authors do provide some “key findings”, which I do want to reproduce here, see below. I recommend reading the full article though, its an interesting read for anyone who is remotely interested in automation, the nature of work, and the narratives of technology innovation.

Key findings

In this paper we make the following points:

Acemoglu and Restrepo’s new research does not show large and negative effects on overall employment stemming from automation.

  • A&R’s methodology delivers high-quality local estimates of the impact of one sliver of automation (literally looking just at robots). But their translation of these high-quality local estimates (for “commuting zones”) into national effects relies on stylized and largely unrealistic assumptions.
  • Even if one takes the unreliable simulated (not estimated) national effects as given, they are small (40,000 jobs lost each year) relative to any reasonable benchmark. For example, our analysis shows that their estimated job losses from the “China trade shock” are roughly four times as large as their estimated job losses from growing robot adoption in the 2000s.
  • While A&R’s report shows that “robots” are negatively correlated with employment growth across commuting zones, it finds that all other indicators of automation (nonrobot IT investment) are positively correlated or neutral with regard to employment. So even if robots displace some jobs in a given commuting zone, other automation (which presumably dwarfs robot automation in the scale of investment) creates many more jobs. It is curious that coverage of the A&R report ignores this major finding, especially since it essentially repudiates what has been the conventional wisdom for decades—that automation has hurt job growth (at least for less-credentialed Americans).
  • The A&R results do not prove that automation will lead to joblessness in the future or overturn previous evidence that automation writ large has not led to higher aggregate unemployment.

Technological change and automation have not been the main forces driving the wage stagnation and inequality besieging working-class Americans.

  • There is no historical correlation between increases in automation broadly defined and wage stagnation or increasing inequality. Automation—the implementation of new technologies as capital equipment or software replace human labor in the workplace—has been an ongoing feature of our economy for decades. It cannot explain why median wages stagnated in some periods and grew in others, or why wage inequality grew in some periods and shrank in others.
    • Indicators of automation increased rapidly in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, a period that saw the best across-the-board wage growth for American workers in a generation.
    • Indicators of automation fell during two periods of stagnant (or worse) wage growth: from 1973 to 1995 and from 2002 to the present. In these periods, inequality grew as wage growth for the richest Americans far outpaced wage growth of everyone else.
    • During the long period of shared wage growth from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s (shared because all workers’ wages grew at roughly the same pace), indicators of automation also increased rapidly.
  • There is no evidence that automation-driven occupational employment “polarization” has occurred in recent years, and thus no proof it has caused recent wage inequality or wage stagnation.
    • First, numerous studies have documented that there was no occupational employment polarization—in which employment expands in higher-wage and lower-wage occupations while hollowing out in the middle—in the 2000s. Employment has primarily expanded in the lowest-wage occupations. Yet wage inequality between the top and the middle has risen rapidly since 2000.
    • Second, wage inequality overwhelmingly occurs between workers within an occupation, not between workers in different occupations. So even if occupational employment polarization had occurred, it could not explain the growth of wage stagnation or inequality.
  • There is no evidence of an upsurge in automation in the last 10 to 15 years that has affected overall joblessness. The evidence indicates automation has slowed. Trends in productivity, capital investment, information equipment investment, and software investment suggest that automation has decelerated in the last 10 or so years. Also, the rate of shifts in occupational employment patterns has been slower in the 2000s than in any period since 1940. Therefore, there is no empirical support for the prominent notion that automation is currently accelerating exponentially and leading to a robot apocalypse.

The fact that robots have displaced some jobs in particular industries and occupations does not mean that automation has or will lead to increased overall joblessness. 

  • As noted above, data showing a recent deceleration in automation suggest that there is no footprint of an automation surge that can be expected to accelerate in the near future.
  • Technological change and automation absolutely can, and have, displaced particular workers in particular economic sectors. But technology and automation also create dynamics (for example, falling relative prices of goods and services produced with fewer workers) that help create jobs in other sectors. And even when automation’s job-generating and job-displacing forces don’t balance out, government policy can largely ensure that automation does not lead to rising overall unemployment.
    • The narrative that automation creates joblessness is inconsistent with the fact that we had substantial and ongoing automation for many decades but did not have continuously rising unemployment. And the fall in unemployment from 10 percent to below 5 percent since 2010 is inconsistent with the claim that surging automation is generating greater unemployment.
    • As noted above, fluctuations in the pace of technological change have been associated with both good and bad labor market outcomes. So there is no reason to deduce that we should fear robots.

The American labor market has plenty of problems keeping it from working well for most Americans, and these are the problems that should occupy our attention.

  • The problems afflicting American workers include the failure to secure genuine full employment through macroeconomic policy and the intentional policy assault on the bargaining power of low- and middle-wage workers; these are the causes of wage stagnation and rising inequality. Solving these actually existing problems should take precedence over worrying about hypothetical future effects of automation.

See the full article “The zombie robot argument lurches on” on the EPI website.

Past event > Technology’s Limits: Automation, Invention, Labour, and the Exhausted Environment

This looks like it was a fascinating event…

Workshop hosted by the Digital Life Research Program 

An abstract artwork of a light background with brown and red rectangles of various sizes.

Artwork by Stephen Scrivener Opens in a new window

Event Details

Date: Friday March 10, 2017
Time: 10am – 4.30pm
Venue: EB.G.21, Parramatta South campus

Among its many political preoccupations, 2016 was marked by an obsessive concern with the new powers of the machine to erase human labour and employment. Science fiction dystopias – among them, the French Trepalium and the Brazilian 3% – saddled older anxieties about a world without work to a more novel recognition of resource depletion and scarcity. Academic publishing houses, conference organisers, funding agencies and the press have responded with a deluge of content covering algorithms, automation and the Anthropocene. Meanwhile, a less conspicuous narrative about the decline of innovation has resurfaced with claims that the rate of fundamental new technology inventions is slowing and jeopardising long term global productivity returns. What happens when technology hits its limits? Velocity and volume excite machinic economies, but do little to confront some of the core problems and challenges facing planetary labour and life today.

This workshop brings together leading Australian scholars of technology and society with contemporary German and French reflections on the prevailing discourses of technology’s limits. Since the 1990s, Bernard Stiegler has been a leading philosopher and critic of technology, and in his recent book Automatic Society he directly tackles problems of automation and algorithms for the distribution of financial and social resources to populations increasingly bereft of economic capital and political agency. Building upon Frankfurt School critical theory and Kittlerian media theory, contemporary German critique intersects with similar questions by combining investigations of epistemology, history and the technical. The Australian take on these European developments is simultaneously appreciative and critical, though often oriented toward more regional conditions that arise in part due to different economic, cultural and political relations with Asia.

The morning session of the workshop will introduce current theoretical European work on technology. Daniel Ross will develop a critical introduction to Bernard Stiegler, whose recent work in Automatic Society and In the Disruption continues to mount a wide-ranging and provocative critique of technology. Armin Beverungen will then offer an overview of his research on algorithmic management and high-frequency trading, with Ned Rossiter introducing logistical media as technologies of automation and labour control. In the afternoon, Gay Hawkins will outline her theoretical interest in nonhuman and technical objects and their irreducible role in making humans and ecologies. A key empirical example will be the history of plastic and the emergence of its technical agency and capacity to reconfigure life. Nicholas Carah will follow with a discussion of his latest work on algorithms, brand management and media engineering. The workshop will close with an audience-driven panel session and discussion. These interventions will be held in conjunction with a close reading of the key texts below.


Attendance numbers will be limited so please register in advance. No registration fee required.

RSVP by 7 March on Eventbrite Opens in a new window


  • Armin Beverungen
    Junior Director at the Digital Cultures Research Lab (DCRL) at Leuphana Universität Lüneburg & Visiting Fellow, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University
  • Nicholas Carah
    Author of Brand Machines, Sensory Media and Calculative Culture (2016)
  • Gay Hawkins
    Author of Plastic Water: The Social and Material Life of Bottled Water (2015)
  • Liam Magee
    Author of Interwoven Cities (2016)
  • Nicole Pepperell
    Author of Dissembling Capital (forthcoming, 2017)
  • Daniel Ross
    Translator of Bernard Stiegler’s Automatic Society (2016) and numerous other works
  • Ned Rossiter
    Author of Software, Infrastructure, Labor: A Media Theory of Logistical Nightmares (2016).

Co-chairs: Liam Magee and Ned Rossiter, co-convenors of the Institute for Culture and Society’s Digital Life research program.

Recommended Readings

Frank Pasquale (2017), Duped by the Automated Public Sphere Opens in a new window
Lee Rainer and Janna Anderson [Pew Research Center] (2017), Code-Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age Opens in a new window
Bernard Stiegler (2012), Die Aufklärung in the Age of Philosophical Engineering (opens in a new window)
Bernard Stiegler (2015), Escaping the Anthropocene Opens in a new window
Bernard Stiegler (2015), On Automatic Society Opens in a new window
Sonia Sodha [The Guardian] (2017), Is Finland’s basic universal income a solution to automation, fewer jobs and lower wages? Opens in a new window

Related Readings

Bruce Braun (2014), A New Urban Dispositif? Governing Life in an Age of Climate Change Opens in a new window
Nick Dyer-Witheford (2013), Contemporary Schools of Thought and the Problem of Labour Algorithms (opens in a new window)
Victor Galaz (2015), A Manifesto for Algorithms in the Environment Opens in a new window
Victor Galaz et al. (2017), The Biosphere Code Opens in a new window
Orit Halpern (2015), Cloudy Architectures Opens in a new window
Erich Hörl (2014), Prostheses of Desire: On Bernard Stiegler’s New Critique of Projection Opens in a new window
Yuk Hui (2015), Algorithmic Catastrophe: The Revenge of Contingency (opens in a new window)
International Labour Organisation (2016), ASEAN in Transformation Opens in a new window
Lilly Irani (2015), The Cultural Work of Microwork Opens in a new window
MIT Technology Review (2012), The Future of Work Opens in a new window
Cathy O’Neill (2016), How Algorithms Rule Our Working Lives Opens in a new window
Elaine Ou (2017), Working for an Algorithm Might Be an Improvement (opens in a new window)
The Guardian (2016), Robot Factories Could Threaten Jobs of Millions of Garment Workers Opens in a new window
Tommaso Venturini, Pablo Jensen, Bruno Latour (2015), Fill in the Gap. A New Alliance for Social and Natural Sciences Opens in a new window


  • 10:00 –10:10: Liam Magee, Ned Rossiter: Welcome and Introduction
  • 10:10–11:10: Daniel Ross
  • 11:10–11:30: Q&A
  • 11:30–11:45: Coffee
  • 11:45–1:00: Armin Beverungen, Ned Rossiter
  • 1:00–2:00: Lunch
  • 2:00–3:15: Gay Hawkins, Nicholas Carah
  • 3:15–4:15: Panel discussion responding to automation: Dan / Gay / Nicholas / Armin / Nicole – Liam & Ned to chair
  • 4:15–4:30: Closing thoughts, future actions

65% of future jobs, which doesn’t exist, 70% of jobs automated, just not yet

Twiki the robot from Buck Rogers

The future of work is the work of imagination. We are, repeatedly, and have been for a while, bombarded with (pseudo-)facts about what the future of work will bring. These are, of course, part of well-known, long-standing, narratives about ‘innovation’, ‘growth’, technological advance and, of course, ‘automation’.

Martin shared a good post by , on his site Long View on Education, about some persistent kinds of story around the nature of work our schools are preparing children for, or not. Here’s  an abridged, and selective, version of the story…

“The top 10 in demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004. We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

Shift Happens videos (2007).

People repeat the claim again and again, but in slightly different forms. Sometimes they remove the dates and change the numbers; 65% is now in fashion. Respected academics who study education, such as Linda Darling-Hammond (1:30), have picked up and continue to repeat a mutated form of the factoid, as has the World Economic Forum and the OECD.


“By one popular estimate 65% of children entering primary schools  today will ultimately work in new job types and  functions that currently don’t yet exist. Technological  trends such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution will  create many new cross-functional roles for which  employees will need both technical and social and analytical skills. Most existing education systems at all levels provide highly siloed training and continue a  number of 20th century practices that are hindering  progress on today’s talent and labour market issues.  …  Businesses should work closely with governments,  education providers and others to imagine what a true 21st century curriculum might look like.”

The WeF Future of Jobs report


Cathy Davidson (May 2017) explains up how she came to the factoid:

“I first read this figure in futurist Jim Carroll’s book, Ready, Set, Done (2007). I tracked his citation down to an Australian website where the “65%” figure was quoted with some visuals and categories of new jobs that hadn’t existed before. “Genetic counseling” was the one I cited in the book.

After Now You See It appeared, that 65% figure kept being quoted so I attempted to contact the authors of the study to be able to learn more about their findings but with no luck.  By then, the site was down and even the Innovation Council of Australia had been closed by a new government.”

The BBC radio programme More or Less picks up the story from here, demonstrating how it most likely has no factual basis derived from any identifiable source (there never was an Innovation Council of Australia, for example).

Davidson sort of defends this through dissimulation, in an interview for More or Less, by saying she believes that 100% of jobs have been affected by ‘the digital era we now live in’.

As Audrey Watters has highlighted, statistics like this and the appeal for a ‘disruption’ of education by the tech sector to teach ‘the skills of the future’ etc. can be reasonably interpreted as a marketing smoke screen – ‘the best way to predict the future is to issue a press release’.

An allied claim, that fall within the same oeuvre as the “65%” of not-existing jobs (or should that be non-existent?), is the various statistics for the automation of job roles, with varying timescales. A canonical example, from another “thought leader” (excuse me while I just puke in this bin), is from WIRED maven Kevin Kelly:

There are an awful lot of variations on this theme, focusing on particular countries, especially the USA, or particular sectors, or calculating likelihoods for particular kinds of jobs and so on and so on. This is, of course, big business in and of itself – firms like Deloitte, McKinsey and others sell this bullshit to anyone willing to pay.

What should we make of all this..?

There are a few interpretations we can make of this genre of ‘foresight’. Alongside several other academics I have written about particular ways of communicating possible futures, making them malleable-yet-certain in some way, as a ‘politics of anticipation‘. This politics has various implications, some banal some perhaps more troubling.

First, you might say it’s a perfectly understandable tendency, of pretty much all of us, to try and lend some certainty to the future. So, in our adolescent know-it-all way, we are all wont to lend our speculations some authority, and statistics, however spurious, is a key tool for such a task.

Second, and perhaps allied to the first, is the sense in which methods for speculation become formalised and normative – they’re integrated into various parts of institutional life. So, it becomes normal to talk about speculative (spurious?!) statistics about a future of work, education etc. in the same tone, with the same seriousness, and the same confidence as statistics about a firm’s current inventory, or last year’s GDP trends. Of course, all statistics, all facts, have conditions and degrees of error and so if the calculation of trends for past events is open to change, the rationale might be, perhaps future trends are just as reliable (there’s all sorts of critique available here but I’m not going to delve into that). In this way, consultancies can package up ‘foresight’ as a product/service that can be sold to others. “Futures” are, of course, readily commodified.

Third, an ideological critique might be that it is precisely these forms of storytelling about the redundancy or insufficiency of the labour force that allows those with the large concentrations of capital to accrue more by demeaning the nature of work itself and privatising profits upwards. If we are repeatedly told that the work that generates the good and services that move through our economy is worth less – because it can be automated, because it is ‘out-dated’, because there are other kinds of superior ‘skilled’ work – then it perhaps becomes easier to suppress wage growth, to chip away at labour rights and render work more precarious. Gloomy I know. However, some data (oh no! statistics!) Doxtdator has in his blogpost (and the kinds of data David Harvey uses in his books, such as The Engima of Captial) could be seen as backing up such arguments. For example (source):

These sorts of graphs, tell a different story about yesterday’s future – which didn’t lead to families reaping the rewards of automation and increased productivity by profiting from a share in increased leisure time (following JM Keynes), but rather delivered the profits of these trends to the “1%” (or even the “0.1%”) by massively increasing top executive salaries while keeping wider wage growth comparatively low, if not stagnant. I’m not an economist, so I don’t want to push my luck arguing this point but there are folk out there who argue such points pretty convincingly, such as David Harvey (though see also economic critiques of the ‘zombie’ automation type of argument).

Ultimately, I am, personally, less interested in the numbers themselves – who knows if 65% of today’s school children will be doing new jobs that represent only 70% of the total work we currently undertake?!  I’m more interested in the kinds of (speculative) truth-making or arguing practices they illustrate. The forms of speculative discourse/practice/norms about technology and work we’re all involved in reproducing. It seems to me that if we can’t fathom those things, we’re less able to care for those of us materially affected by what such speculation does, because, of course, sometimes speculation is self-fulfilling.

To try to advance some discussions about the kinds of technological and economic future that get proposed, gain momentum and become something like “truths”, I’ve been puzzling over the various ways we might see the creation of these economic statistics, the narrating of technological ‘innovation’ in particular ways, and the kinds of stories ‘critical’ academics then tell in analysing these things as making up collectively some form of collective imagination. I started out with ‘algorithms’ but I think that’s merely one aspect of a wider set of discourses about automation that I increasingly feel need to be addressed. My placeholder term for the moment is an “automative imaginary” ~ a collective set of discourses and practices by which particular versions of automation, in the present and the future, are brought into being.

Reblog> Three new OHP books from: Brian Massumi; Steven Connor; and Érik Bordeleau, Toni Pape, Ronald Rose-Antoinette and Adam Szymanski

open access spelled out with books

Via Gary Hall. All of the books are available for free download. Follow links below.

We are pleased to announce the release this month of two new titles in Open Humanities Press’ Immediations series:***

Brian Massumi’s The Principle of Unrest explores the contemporary implications of an activist philosophy, pivoting on the issue of movement. Movement is understood not simply in spatial terms but as qualitative transformation: becoming, emergence, event.

Available for free download at:



Nocturnal Fabulations/Fabulations nocturnes by Érik Bordeleau, Toni Pape, Ronald Rose-Antoinette and Adam Szymanski with an Introduction by Erin Manning.

This collective, bi-lingual project is animated by a shared curiosity in the pragmatics of fabulation and its speculative gesture of bringing forth a people to come. In an encounter with Apichatpong’s cinematic dreamscape, the concepts of ecology, vitality and opacity emerge to articulate an ethos of fabulation that deframes experience, recomposes subjectivity and unfixes time.Available for free download at:




We are also pleased to announce the latest book in the Technographies series:

Steven Connor’s Dream Machines

Dream Machines is a history of imaginary machines and the ways in which machines come to be imagined. It considers seven different kinds of speculative, projected or impossible machines: machines for teleportation, dream-production, sexual pleasure and medical treatment and cure, along with ‘influencing machines’, invisibility machines and perpetual motion machines.

“This is an engaging and imaginative exploration of various forms of writing, thinking, and fantasizing about dream machines, an endlessly fertile topic probed here from just about every possible angle … a major intervention into current understandings of technology, literature, and identity.”

Matthew Rubery – Queen Mary University of London

“… a deeply original contribution to the history and philosophy of technology and the cultural history of the imagination …”Laura Salisbury – University of Exeter

Available for free download at:

With our best wishes,

Sigi, David, Gary