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 followthethings.com 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 http://www.moccguide.net/ 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> Thresholds – A pop-up symposium

Via Thresholds. Looks like an interesting event…

Thresholds – A Pop-Up Symposium

We are holding an event as part of our ‘Thresholds’ project on the 22nd of September 2017:

This event platforms scholars working across the humanities and social sciences around the theme of ‘thresholds’. It explores perspectives on the liminal edges of everyday, organisational and social life. What and who reside beyond or within different types of thresholds? Who has to cross thresholds? What prevents people or things crossing? How does power operate through different thresholds? How do thresholds articulate with limits, extremes, dangers and tipping points? These are just some of the questions explored in this one day symposium.

Thresholds is intended to bring together diverse disciplines including sociology, politics, history, anthropology, women’s studies, critical management, human geography, social policy. The format will be a short papers (10mins) followed discussion.

Further details, bookings and call for papers are available here.

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, www.wired.com)

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 SoWhatAboutPolitics@imal.org
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 (iMAL.org). 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).

Geography’s subject

Conceptualisations of a ‘subject’ or subjectivity form part of a theoretical tradition variously theorising who, what and where the ‘human’ is in geography. I don’t want to poorly approximate excellent intellectual histories of human geography (in particular Kevin Cox’s Making Human Geography and Derek Gregory‘s Geographical Imaginations are worth regularly revisiting) but I think it’s nevertheless probably important to remind ourselves of the kinds of geographical imagination with which we continue to make meaning in geography.

Waymarks in the theoretical landscape of geographical tradition might include theories of action, human agency, identity, reflexivity, structure and sovereignty. The latter two on that list might be the most influential in geographical work that took alternative paths to the ‘quantitative revolution’ of the post-WWII period. Political agency and power, considered from all sorts of angles, whether geopolitical or bodily intimate, have formed a longstanding interest for those considering ‘subjecivity’. To pick two key influences for the kind of (Anglophone and basically British) geography I’ve ‘grown up’ in, we can look at the influence of Marx and then literary theory (maybe as assorted flavours of structuralism, post-structuralism, postmodernism etc).

Geographers influenced by Marxian traditions of thought have been perhaps more concerned with the kinds of people who can act or speak in society—who has power, and how. ‘New’ cultural geographers moved towards acknowledging a greater diversity in identities and an attempt to account for a wider gamut of experiences, extending beyond the perceived limits of the ‘human’. The erstwhile reference: The Dictionary of Human Geography contained ‘human agency’ and ‘sovereignty’ entries from the first edition (1981) while an entry for ‘human subjectivity’ did not arrive until the third (1994).

Conceptualisations of ‘the subject’ and subjectivity can be broadly seen to follow the twists and ‘turns’ in geographical thought (don’t take my word for it, look at the entry in the Dictionary of Human Geography). Whereas the figure of the human ‘subject’ of much of mid-20th century geographies carried implications of universalism (homo economicus, or ‘nodes’ in spatial modeling), several theoretical ‘turns’ turned that figure into a problem to be investigated. Perhaps from humanistic geographies onwards, geographers have attempted to wrangle and tease out the contradictions of an all-too-easy to accept ‘simple being’ (Tuan, Space & Place: p. 203). So, for (what Gregory, in Geographical Imaginations calls) ‘post-Marxist’ geographical research the sole subject-positioning of ‘class’ elides too much, such as varying (more or less political) differences in identities, e.g: gender, race and sexuality. There is, of course, lots of work tracing out nuanced arguments for a differentiated and decentred subject, which I cannot hope to do justice to in a blogpost, but maybe we can tease out some of the significant conceptual points of reference.

An attention to the identities and subject positions of those who are not male, not heterosexual, non-white, non-Western and not of the global North is important to subject and subjectivity theorisations. This sort of work mostly occurs in the kinds of geographies collected under sub-disciplinary categories like cultural, development, feminist, political, social (and a long list of) geographies. Postcolonial accounts of subaltern subject-positionings and subjectivities powerfully evoke the processes of Othering and Orientalism, especially drawing upon literary theory (such as work by Homi Bhabha, Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak). Feminist geographers highlighted the masculinity of that ‘simple’ figure of ‘the subject’ and the importance of attending to gender and sex (in particular we might look to Gillian Rose‘s Feminism and Geography and the Women and Geography Study Group of the IBG’s 1984 Geography and Gender [1]). This attention to the forms of difference that may influence subject formation and subject-positioning, especially race and sexuality, has grown into something like a normative element of ‘critical’ geographical thought. Of course, this is not without controversy and contestation. Look at, for example, the negotiations around what it means to hold an RGS-IBG annual conference themed on decolonisation – check out the virtual issue of Transactions for some excellent interventions. Taking this further, some geographers variously inspired by wider movements in social theory seek to ‘decentre’ the (human) subject in favour of approaches that address the complex variety and ‘excessive’ nature of experiences that are not delimited by the individual human.

I’m inclined to identify two further themes in contemporary theorisations of a ‘subject’ and subjectivities in geography, which are considered more or less ‘cultural’: (1) theorising pre- and trans- subjective relations; and (2) attempts to account for more-than-human subjectivities.

First, theories of affect as ‘different models of causality and determination; different models of social relations and agency; [without] different normative understandings of political power’ (as my colleague Clive Barnett says in ‘Political affects in public space‘) attempt to both decentre but also render ontological a figure of ‘the subject’ (for more critical reflections on this sort of thing I recommend exploring Clive’s work). Non-representational or more-than-representational geographies seek to decentre ‘the subject’ by appealing to pre-subjective experiences, focussing on ‘affects’ (just do a search for ‘affect’ in geographical journals and you can see the influence of this way of thinking). ‘Affects’ are processes that exceed any individual (they are ‘trans-subjective’) and structure possibilities for individual thought and experience, which constitute subject-formations and positionings (this is sometimes considered ‘ontogenetic’, as my colleague John Wylie has argued).

Second, geographers extend analysis to more than ‘human’ experience. Through the infleunce of Science and Technology Studies we have ‘hybrid’ geographies (following Sarah Whatmore) that trouble clear ‘subject’/‘object’, and ‘human’/‘non-human’, distinctions address distributed forms of agency, such that agency emerges from networks of relations between different ‘actants’, rather than ‘subjects’ (drawing out the influences, and the geographical mash-up, of Actor-Network Theory and sort-of-Deleuzian assemblage theory). A focus on these sorts of more-than-human geographies has for some time been non-human animals as ‘provocateurs’ (See my colleague Henry Buller‘s Progress Reports [1, 2, 3]). The ‘non-human’ is extended beyond the animal to broader forms of life—including plants, bacteria and other non-human living (and dead) matter (for example see the fantastic work of my colleagues in the Exeter Geography Nature Materiality & Biopolitics research group)—and further to the inorganic ‘non-human’ (I guess in terms of the new materialisms currently in fashion, such as Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter). Finally, perhaps the most influential trope in contemporary geographical accounts of subjectivity and subject-positions (that I end up reading) renders processes creating a ‘subject’ as, at least in part, coercive and involuntary (more or less following Foucault’s theories of ‘governmentality’ and ‘subjectification’). This is often elucidated through processes of corporate and state surveillance, many with digital technologies at their heart.

What seems to become clear (to me anyway!) from my ham-fisted listing and attempting to make sense of what on earth geographical understandings of subjectivity might be is the significant turn to ‘ontology’ in a lot of contemporary work. I don’t know whether this is due to styles of research, pressures to write influential (4* etc etc.) journal articles, lack of time for fieldwork and cogitative reflection… but it sort of seems to me that we’re either led by theory, so assuming subjectivity is the right concept and attempting to validate the fairly prescriptive understanding of subjectivity we have in our theory toolkits, or we’re applying a theoretical jelly mold to our data to find ‘affects’, ‘subjectification’ and so on, when maybe, just maybe, there are other things to say about the kinds of experience, the kinds of agency or action, or ways we understand ourselves and one another.

The abstract figure of ‘the subject’ may be the metaphysical, catchall entity attributed with the ability to act, in contradistinction to static ‘objects’. This kind of ‘subject’ is a vessel for the identities, personhood and experiences of different and diverse individuals. It’s funny then to think that one of many concerns expressed about the growth of (big) data-driven ‘personalisation’ and surveillance is it propagates monolithic data-based ‘subjectivities’, we are calculated as our digital shadows and so forth… In this sense, the ‘ontological’ entity of ‘subject’ appears to supplant the multiple, perhaps messy, forms of subjective experience. Then both of these can perhaps displace or elide wider discussions about action or agency (which is an important element of discussions of pragmatism in/and geography).

For clarification purposes, I’ve begun to think about three particular ways of interrogating how geographers approach whatever ‘subjectivity’ is: (1) a conceptual figure: ‘the subject’; (2) particular kinds of role and responsibility as: ‘subject positions’; and (3) kinds of experience as: ‘subjectivities’. Of course, we probably shouldn’t think about these as static categories; in a variety of geographical research they are all considered ongoing processes (as various flavours of geographical theory from Massey to Thrift will attest). So, I suppose we might equally render the above list as what get’s called: (1) ‘subjectification’; (2) ‘subject positioning’; and (3) ‘subjectivities’.

I could witter on, but I’m running out of steam. I want to (albeit clumsily) tie this back to the recent ‘turn’ to (whatever might be meant by) ‘the digital’ though, cos it’s sort of what’s expected of me and cos it may be vaguely interesting. It’s funny to think that the entity (figure, identity, person etc.) these concepts ground is still, inspite of hybrid geographies and STS influences (mostly), ‘human’. Even within science-fiction tales of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI), as Katherine Hayles highlights, ‘the subject’ is mostly a human figure – the entity that may act to orchestrate the world (there is, of course, lots to unpack concerning what ‘human’ might mean and whether any technology, however autonomous, can be considered properly non-human).

So, all this might boil down to this supposition: within ‘digital geographies’ debates ‘the subject’, especially the data-based ‘subject’, may be usefully thought about as a figure or device of critique rather than an actually existing thing, while ‘subjectivities’, and how we describe their qualities, remain part of a more plural, maybe more intersectional, explanatory vocabulary.

Notes.

1. I can’t find much online about the original, 1984, Gender and Geography book (maybe needs a presence?) but the Gender & Feminist Geography Research Group (what WGSG became) published Gender and Geography Reconsidered, as a CD(!), which is available on the research group’s website.

Reblog> CFP: Affect, Politics, Social Media

Via Tony Sampson.

This may be of interest to followers of this blog…

Call for papers: Affect, Politics, Social Media

In prolongation of Affect and Social Media #3 Conjunctions: Transdisciplinary Journal of Cultural Participation welcomes proposals that interpret and explore affective and emotional encounters with social media and the ways in which the interfaces of social media in return modulate affectivity. Fake news have come to be a highly debated framework to understand the consequences of the entanglements of affect, politics and social media. But theories on fake news often fail to grasp the consequences and significance of social media content that are not necessarily fake, but are merely intended to affectively intensify certain political positions.

It is in this context that it becomes crucial to understand the role of affect in relation to the ways in which social media interfaces function, how affective relations are altered on social media and not least how politics is transformed in the attempt to capitalize on the affective relations and intensities potentially fostered on social media.

This special issue invites empirical, theoretical and practical contributions that focus on recent (political) media events – such as Brexit, the US and French elections and the refugee crisis – and how these unfolded on, and are informed by, social media. Proposals might, for instance, address how the Trump campaign allows us to develop a new understanding of the relationship between social media and politics. As such the issue seeks papers that develop new understandings of affective politics and take into account shared experiences, affective intensities, emotional engagements and new entanglements with social media.

For more information, including author guidelines, please visit http://www.conjunctions-tjcp.com/

Deadline 28 November 2017

Articles must be submitted to conjunctions@cc.au.dk

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:

http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/the-principle-of-unrest/

 

***

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:

English: http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/nocturnal-fabulations/

French: http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/fabulations-nocturnes/

***

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:

http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/dream-machines/

With our best wishes,

Sigi, David, Gary

(Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work – Brooke Erin Duffy

Via Culture Digitally.

This looks like an interesting read by Brooke Erin Duffy. Although I know what Duffy calls here “aspirational work” is popular, I have been a bit surprised by how many of our students at Exeter actively do this kind of work – mostly fashion vlogging. I have had at least one dissertation on the topic for each of the last three years and many of the videos produced for my final year option module draw on these themes. Those I’ve spoken to are acutely aware of the nuances of the negotiations of different norms and values – ‘authenticity’ and getting paid don’t always sit well together it seems.

I hope I have the chance to check out this book so I can actually learn more about what I can only vaguely sketch (perhaps wrongly) at the moment, I hope some of those who read this will too…

Book Announcement: (Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work

Fashion bloggers and Instagrammers seem to enjoy a coveted lifestyle–one replete with international jet-setting, designer-comped fetes, and countless other caption-worthy moments. Yet the attention lavished on these so-called “influencers” draws attention away from a much larger class of social media content creators: those aspiring to “make it” amid a precarious, hyper-competitive creative economy.

I tell their story in my new book (Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work, and I’m grateful to my publisher Yale University Press for allowing me to share the first chapter with you.

The book focuses on female content creators and draws upon in-depth interviews with bloggers, vloggers, designers, and more. I learned that, often, these young women were motivated by the wider culture’s siren call to “get paid to do what you love.” But their experiences often fell short of the promise: only a few rise above the din to achieve major success. The rest are un(der)- paid, remunerated with deferred promises of “exposure” or “visibility”–even as they work long hours to satisfy brands and project authenticity to observant audiences.

A grueling balancing act is required, one that I explore through the lens of “aspirational labor.” As both a practice and a worker ideology, aspirational labor shifts content creators’ focus from the present to the future, dangling the prospect of a career where labor and leisure coexist.

Despite the book’s emphasis on gendered work, the concept of “aspirational labor” offers a framework for understanding, critiquing, and anticipating larger transformations in the social media economy. Indeed, the book closes by exploring the striking parallels between social media aspirants’ self-branding labor and the work so many of us undertake in contemporary academe.