For those generous and unfortunate enough to be taking the time to read this, a little context for the following blog post is required. I am studying a masters! (Insert celebration emoji). More specifically, I am applying my hands and what there is of a brain to the MFA Computational Arts course at Goldsmith’s University. As part of this course, a regular weekly homework assignment for the Computational Arts Research & Theory module is to write a blog, a reflection on the texts discussed in class, the discussions themselves and the further development of my ideas and practice.
So, to get started, this week shall be a summary and expansion on the notes I made during class, beginning with my personal reflections on the Prep Text:
Snelting, Femke. 2006. A fish can’t judge the water. OKNO Publix, Brussels
Through the discussion of our sensory augmentation through the use of tools, the quote used by Katherine Hayles’ struck me with regards to how our interactions with tools shape our approach if not our understanding.
“someone can know how to type but not know how to read the words produced (…) just as someone can be able to read a typescript without knowing how to type” (Katherine Hayles – How We Became Posthuman)
I read this thought similarly to the idiom “To a hammer, everything is a nail”, whereby our understanding of how a tool works or even it’s purpose is not necessary for us to use it. As such the action or operation becomes the general purpose thought process rather than a method for specific desired outcome.
The example that came to mind for this was the “undo” process, as being the act of pressing “control + z”, due to its ubiquity in computing applications. The understanding of what precisely is being undone, or the process involved in doing so, is irrelevant for the user (or someone wishing for an IRL analogue) as the act of pressing “control + z” is more akin to entropic reversal than to erasure as with a pencil and a rubber. And this desire to have the ability to press “control + z” IRL and undo a personal error, independently of the wider world is an example of how the augmentation of software into our lives brings with it the terminology and interface logic that choreographs our thoughts and evolves our discourse. My final thought on this is the verb “to like” something, has changed from being a state of being, “I like this book; I like you; in the past I liked this band”, to a state of action, “I liked your photo; I liked that page; I’m going to hit that like button”, dictated to us by the platforms’ attempts to build a common vocabulary and also to make computable some form of emotional response.
The second thought I had prior to the class was brought up and expanded brilliantly by a section of discussion. I thought about how social media especially interrupts our thinking space and or sleep. Notifications carry with them a near permanent connection to people who are comfortable messaging you. Which anyone who has received a drunk text (or received one from me) knows this does extend to any time of day or night. Further, we are treated as near permanently available to employers for questions, or requests to work, entirely given over to the respect given by the employer for a private space or the manner with which the employee is able to handle the communication.
What came out within the class was that this sense of near continuous connection to peers or otherwise can be viewed as an alternate idea of space. Little wormholes that bring you close to geographically distant individuals. And as any physicist will tell you, when you start messing with concepts of space, it always comes packaged with time. In this space, we have a near pathological obsession with time, being on time, knowing to the minute when a bus or train is arriving, how long the Uber will take, that our package does indeed come the next day before 10AM. Time is money, and its standardisation gave it a rigid structure for the trains to run on time and to block out and apportion appropriate values for labour within a given period. However with the atomisation down from the hour to the minute, we have opened up a sort of interstitial freedom within this chronic-accounting. A member of the class made this distinction between Monochronic and Polychronic time, and with this highly atomised day, and our permanent connection to others via digital methods of communication, it is possible to make the abrupt changes and spontaneous, less commitment and focus oriented actions of a polychronic culture while maintaining a strong record and appointment led life. Perhaps. Or perhaps it just means Amazon can stop paying you whenever you have to leave your station for 2 minutes to go pee.
Following are a list of further questions that arose during the discussion and a list of artists and texts that were also mentioned as a jumping off point for me to investigate later.
Questions from the discussion:
What does it mean to be human with current, industrial and pre-industrial technologies?
How far can an AI diverge from our own image before we can’t communicate with it?
Does a different form of intelligence become apparent to us?
The notion of computability. Is life the beginning of incomputability?
Data as a material, as a good, as a currency. Cannot detach value from its description
Usership becomes continuous performance for AI games.
Speculation of who one can be with one’s identity. A VR is not simply a second life, a copy of this life.
In regards to people having cosmetic surgery to appeal to instagram filters. Social Media plays with identity in a radical enough way, users believe they have to comply with the image.
Artists to Research:
Callam allarmy? Breaking western electronic music software. Apotomy max patch?
Nam Joon Paik
Hans Ulrich Obrist – The extreme Self
Ted chiang – the story of your life
Cybernetic serendipity 1968 ICA Show
“I am Sitting in a Room”, 1969 Alvin Lucier
Texts To Follow up on:
“Godel, Escher and Bach” – Douglas Hofstdter
“Glitch Feminism” – Legacy Russell
Embracing fluidity. Glitches and errors are desired as the creation of multiplicities within an environment. The concept created of an error gives off the concept that there is an idea of ‘normal’ that isn’t necessarily intentionally designed.
“Wandering Machine” – Vladimir Todorović
Anthropomorphisation of AI, mistakes and imperfections should be seen as another kind of narrative. Over-anthropomorphisation may just reflect our own stereotypes.
“Cyborg Manifesto” – Donna Haraway
“Future Histories” – Blog
“The social dilemma” – Netflix Documentary how social media manipulates us