Tag Archives: society

Surveillance and legibility: systems of seeing

“Networks weird people.” Quinn Norton and Ella Saitta explain the yin-yang nature of network effects — and the complicity of hackers and “geek culture” in such — to the Chaos Communications Conference.

This is of considerable interest to me, for two reasons. First of all, because legibility is a big part of what my doctorate is about: the systems on which we depend are illegible to us, and in the same way that the state needs to “see” its citizens to interact with them effectively, we need to “see” our infrastructure; however, this would be counterproductive for those who own and control infrastructure, leading to the ironic endgame of the atemporal, wherein the illusion that society is separate from nature is both sustained by and projected upon the very metasystem which binds them¬†inseparably¬†together.

Secondly, because I’m increasingly convinced that an unexamined methodological positivism is at the root of solutionism and geek exceptionalism alike; it’s the dark side of scientific epistemology, a faux-empiricist position wherein that which cannot be quantified cannot exist. It’s also a central plank of neoclassical economics, and neoliberal political theory. Ironically, however, it has created the ultimate machine for forcing humans to confront the subjectivity of the human experience, namely the internet. This is the ideological paradox at the heart of atemporality: the more finely the metanarratives are shredded by our distrust, the more desperate we are for someone to stitch us together a comforting and authoritative story from the fragments. In such an environment, curatorship is power, as Rupert Murdoch knows very well; curation imposes a narrative on the fragments it collects together by excluding the ones it discards.

But what if you gave an exhibition and nobody came? Curation with no visitors is like art with no audience, a scream in the wilderness. So the complementary power to curation is that of distribution: the ability to not only shape the narrative, but to get it in front of the right audience.

He who owns the pipes controls the flow.

Graffiti, logo design and synchronicity

I’m sure this must happen to other bloggers, too; over the course of a few days, from completely unrelated sources, a set of posts on a subject of interest to you that isn’t your normal blogging subject will arrive in your RSS reader, as if orchestrated from afar.

But I’m still too woolly-headed with a cold to make some sweeping statements about synchronicity and the Zeitgeist acting in some emergent harmony … not to mention writing anything coherent and interesting about science fiction literature (with two pending book reviews stewing at the back of my brain already).


So instead, you get a round-up post on graffiti.

First up, via Anders Sandberg, comes Graffiti Archaeology – a Flash-based site that examines the accretion and interaction over time of pieces of graffiti in certain locations. Nicely made – I generally loathe Flash sites, but this is the sort of thing it actually does really well.

Next, this is what happens when a professor of psychology and culture starts looking at graffiti with the perspective of an outsider trying to understand a body of work within the context it was made in – Bill Benzon’s series of three posts [link to first in series] at The Valve feature not just images of graffiti, but examinations of the settings and contexts within which they appear. I’ve been fascinated by graffiti culture for years, but I’ve never found myself asking as many questions about it as Benzon. [The image above is clipped from Benzon’s article.]

[As with much of what I read at The Valve – a group blog to which the wry and subtle Adam Roberts is a contributor – I can’t be entirely sure how serious an article this is (they’re way too cunning with their language sometimes) – but joke or not, it’s fascinating stuff.]

And finally, Matthew Ingram’s piece at Stylus Magazine examines the history of the band logo, which has conceptual roots in graffiti as well as political activism and typography of a more pedestrian commercial type. Nice to see a couple of obscure bands that I’m a fan of raise their heads in the images included – a VCTB gold star to the person who guesses which two I mean! Answers in the comments field, if you want to play.

In the meantime, I will post something related to science fiction as soon as circumstances permit. Thanks for your patience.

Coded commentary: science fiction and contemporary politics

Science fiction is often described as being ‘proleptic’ – as a vehicle for prediction of the future, if not reflection of the present, and a lot of debate has been kicking around the blogosphere concerning that definition. Continue reading Coded commentary: science fiction and contemporary politics

Looking beyond the gadgets

If you read this site regularly, you’ll know that I do tend to be a bit wide-eyed and ZOMG!!! about new technologies and gadgets. I also describe myself as a futurist, which is a word with a highly contentious set of meanings, but can be broadly described as a person who tries to peer ahead into the coming years to see not only where we are heading as a species, but hopefully what obstacles (or power-ups) lie around the next corner, too. Continue reading Looking beyond the gadgets