Via Tony Sampson.
This may be of interest to followers of this blog…
Via Tony Sampson.
This may be of interest to followers of this blog…
This issue of Fibreculture on “apps and affect” from last year (2015), stemming from a conference of the same name, has some fairly substantial looking contributions from interesting people. These include a conversation between Alexander Galloway & Patricia Ticineto Clough, the ‘algorithmic agartha‘ paper by Nandita Biswas Mellamphy & Dan Mellamphy I’ve linked to before and (of particular interest to me at the mo) a paper by Melissa Gregg on speculative labour & app development. It’s edited by Svitlana Matviyenko, Nandita Biswas Mellamphy, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Alison Hearn, and Andrew Murphie.
In William Gibson’s recent futurist novel The Peripheral, the planet has been devastated by a massive eco-techno-political catastrophe (‘the jackpot’) but remaining inhabitants are still able to enjoy the luxury of activating digital devices simply by tapping their tongues on the roof of their mouths. This touch is sufficient to set into play systems that communicate across space and time – enabling the establishment of connections back in time, for example, to people closer to our own present-day, for whom mobiles are still (somewhat) separate from the body. Thirty years ago, in his first novel Neuromancer, Gibson immortalised cyberspace with the account of what now sounds like an amazingly clunky process whereby the hero ‘jacks-in’ to virtual reality. But in The Peripheral the process of translation and transition into networks is streamlined – occluded, internal, intimate and implanted – right at the tip of the tongue.
This issue of the Fibreculture Journal explores a moment along this hypothetical trajectory by investigating the contemporary intersection of ‘Apps and Affect’, publishing papers from a conference of that name organised in October 2013 by faculty and students at Western University (specifically from its Faculty of Information and Media Studies and Center for the Study of Theory and Criticism). By recognising apps as objects that are related to the constitution of subjects, as a component of biopolitical assemblages, and as a means of digital production and consumption, our conference aimed to make an intervention in what had – since the announcements of the App-Store and the iPhone3 in 2008 – been a largely technical and rather technophiliac public discussion of apps.
Isn’t it paradoxical, we asked, that instead of becoming ‘transparent’ and ‘invisible’ – as envisioned by the thinkers of ubiquitous computing decades ago – the app-ecosystem manifests itself as permanent excess: excessive downloads, excessive connections, excessive proximity, excessive ‘friends’-qua-‘contacts’, excessive speeds and excessive amounts of information? How does the app as ‘technique’ (Tenner), indeed as ‘cultural technique’ (Siegert) and as ‘technics’ (Stiegler), channel our ways of maintaining relations with/in the media environment? Do the specific and circumscribed operations of individual applications foster or foreclose what media theorists call the transformative and transductive potential of collective technological individuation (Simondon)? How might we think about the social, political and technical implications of this movement away from open-ended networks like the internet towards specific, focused, and individualised modes of computing? Do apps represent ‘a new reticular condition of trans-individuation grammatising new forms of social relations’ (Stiegler) or do they signal instead the triumph of ‘regulatory’ networks over ‘generative’ ones (Zittrain)? If apps are micro-programs residing by the hundreds and thousands on cell-phones, mobile-devices and tablets, and affects are corporeal excitements (and depressions) running beneath and beyond cognition, what is the relation of apps to affects?
– See more at: http://twentyfive.fibreculturejournal.org/#sthash.6y9K3uyP.dpuf
This piece in The Seattle Times offers a fairly succinct view on the tensions being performed through students’ use of YikYak, the ‘public’ location-based messaging system in which one posts to a location’s public conversation through an app.
Since the growth in population of social media there has also been a growth in the ‘back channel’ at events such as conferences, a ‘second screen’ conversation around ‘appointment TV’ (at least according to the BBC), and from Facebook onwards, there has been a mediated conversation in the background of university lectures.
The students, especially, first years, take some delight in offering observations about the lecture material, the lecturer and so on – amongst the wider hubbub of conversation about pets, hangovers and the relative qualities and number of attractive people on campus.
However, this can spillover into insult. As noted in the BBC local news coverage of one brave lecturer’s response to insults on YikYak at Bristol.
The Seattle Times piece illustrates how, just as in other kinds of social media, a perception of anonymity and the opportunity to perform ourselves otherwise allows some of us to grant ourselves permission to say some appalling things.
I’ve used the example of Yik Yak, in relation to the performance of identity, in a first year lecture… it may have made some of them think… (or maybe not)
A really interesting paper by Sung-Yueh Perng, Rob Kitchin and Leighton Evans, definitely worth a read.
I saw this piece in the New Statesman thanks to retweets on Twitter.
– Liza Cucco (@lizacucco) October 8, 2015
In the article No, having a smartphone doesn’t mean you’re not poor on “The Staggers” column/blog Liza Cucco, manager of Hackney Food Bank, clearly articulates why using smartphone ownership, and even internet access, as a measure of poverty is a red herring:
Successfully navigating 21st century Britain without interconnectivity is near to impossible; I know this, because despite stereotypes, many foodbank clients don’t actually have smartphones or even email addresses. Those who do have smartphones are not ignorant, they are savvy, choosing to allocate very limited resources to the ubiquitous multi-tool of our time, keeping essential streams of communication open. The moment a phone can’t be topped up or a contract must be cancelled is devastating to a person’s opportunity.
Regular internet access is essential to register for benefits, apply for most jobs (and respond in timely manner to emails offering interviews), to access course information in your studies, manage your bank account, communicate with your child’s school or make an appointment at your doctor’s surgery. In our immediate society, you are expected to be available at all times. Constant access may seem a necessity to a businessman, but it is just as important, if not more, to a cleaner on a zero-hours contract who must be available for work at the last minute, navigating to anywhere they need to be and keeping on top of online timecards to ensure they are paid for their work.
In a post on TechCrunch Jon Evans runs through the various ways we might have to rethink ownership in a tightly vertically integrated economy of an ‘internet of things’. The article resonates with the talk “Dancing with Data” by Chris Speed that I posted a few weeks ago, about markets, value and how we can understand our everyday uses of digital technologies.
As Chris argues, you/we are already enrolled into markets through the ‘data exhausts‘ of our stuff and as Jon Evans argues in the article, even as the ‘owner’ of the physical device you have no real control over whether or where that data exhaust goes. As Evans goes on to say, there is increasingly a variety of forms of ownership of any given device: there’s physical possession, legal ownership and the ultimate power to command it (what you might call “root” access). Likewise, in an article in The Atlantic (to which Evans links) Madrigal and Meyer point out the peculiarities of interoperation that an Internet of Things requires:
Most “smart-home” devices right now aren’t talking to each other directly over a local wifi network. Instead, they’re talking to enormous and centralized data centers, which are then talking to each other, which are then (finally) sending instructions back to different devices in your home.
Evans goes on to argue that we could think about ownership another way:
the possibility of a decentralized Internet of Things; smart things which don’t communicate with any central server, but rather with a peer-to-peer, perhaps blockchain-based network. Consider the way FireChat is being used in Hong Kong, so that protestors can communicate despite the authorities’ control of the mobile networks. You don’t always actually need a central server, especially if you have a distributed-consensus system – like a blockchain – for longer-term data storage and algorithmic coordination.
It’s an interesting, relatively short, article with plenty of links to follow up – worth a read!
Read the rest of the article.
Ofcom, the quango that regulates communications activities in the UK (i.e. broadcasting, mobile phones and internet service provision), has released a report that suggests that the UK population (according to their survey) generally prefers to use their ‘smartphones’ as the principle means of accessing the internet.
They include a few other interesting findings:
During 2014, 4G subscriptions leapt from 2.7 million to 23.6 million.
Smartphone users with 4G are shopping online more than those without 4G (55% of 4G users do this compared with 35% of non-4G users); banking more online (55% versus 33%); watching more TV and video clips online (57% versus 40%); making more face-to-face and voice calls over the internet (28% versus 20%); using services such as Snapchat to send more photos and videos (49% versus 36%); and instant messaging more with services such as WhatsApp (63% versus 50%).
One in three adults (34%) turn over and check their phones within five minutes of waking up. For young people, checking social media messages before breakfast is even more crucial – around half (49%) of young people aged 18-24 check their phones within five minutes of waking up.
Most 16-24 year olds are watching on-demand and catch up programmes on computers and smartphones rather than on a TV connected to a set-top box.
Shawn Sobers linked to a funny comment piece by Stewart Heritage on the Grauniad riffing on the idea of the ‘Internet of Things‘, with the main schtick being that there is such a lack of imagination behind the implementation of such ‘things’ that if we extrapolate then surely the interlinked ‘things’ will do us a mischief”¦ Now, this is humorous, of course, but humour is also a good way to get us to think about why on earth we’re letting ourselves in for a vision of such ‘things’. I am not ‘anti-‘ technological innovation, I am merely arguing that we need to be critically reflective of the motivation behind the development of some of these systems and devices. The same kind of critical reflection we have seen in relation to the ‘MOOC revolution‘…
Here’s one of the funny bits from the article, extrapolating from actually existing technologies into the more ridiculous:
The Internet of Things has already produced some cool-sounding devices. There is the tennis racket kitted out with motion sensors to help you improve your game. There’s the parking sensor that directs your satnav to an empty spot. The basketball that, when bounced on the floor, automatically tells your home entertainment setup to start playing basketball-related content. The bridge that tells people when it’s about to collapse. The smoke alarm that switches itself off and works in conjunction with your electrical outlets to burn you to death in your sleep because it has become jealous of your capacity for love. The remote cave that fills itself with bears and poisonous snakes whenever it detects that someone has started sleeping in it because they’ve convinced themselves that their entire house has grown sentient and suddenly turned against them. All sorts, really. It’ll be fun.
While the lines drawn on maps, policed at crossings and customs posts, can apparently clearly delineate a border, other technologies that can also (be used to) place us, on one side of a border or another, may ebb and flow with atmospheric, material and technical differences. In particular, the relatively well known tendency for the cellular mobile phone system to record the location of a given device (via triangulation) as some distance from the actual physical location has been interrogated and played with by artists and activists alike.
One such meditation on the vagaries of the locational capabilities of the GSM system is the Border Bumping project. Julian Oliver has played around with how we traverse borders by examining how phones register with the network and redrawing a map of the borders accordingly. Oliver has created an app that lets owners of Android phones contribute to the project.
Here’s a nice video exploring ‘Border Bumping’: