This talk was delivered as the plenary paper for The 11th Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Conference, Imperial College, London, 2nd August 2016. I will be writing this up soon for inclusion in the forthcoming 3D Additivist Cookbook.
Click here for the slides & the talk, or click the gear icon below and select ‘Open speaker notes’
“Any sufficiently advanced civilisation is indistinguishable from its garbage.” – Bruce Sterling
Data is the lifeblood of today’s economic and social systems. Drones, satellites and CCTV cameras capture digital images covertly, while smartphones we carry feed data packets into the cloud, fought over by corporations and governments. How are we to make sense of all this information? Who is to police and distribute it? And what kind of new uses can art put it to?
This four-week series led by writer/artist Daniel Rourke will explore the politics and potential of big data through the lens of contemporary art and the social sciences. Participants will assess the impact the digital revolution has had on notions of value attached to the invisible, the territorial and the tangible. We will look at artists and art activists who tackle the conditions of resolution, algorithmic governance, digital colonialism and world-making in their work, with a focus on key news events yet to unfold in 2016.
Hito Steyerl: Poor Image Politics
In this first session we will examine the politics of image and data resolution, with special attention to the work of artist Hito Steyerl represented in the Tate Collection. How do poor images influence the significance and value of the events they depict? What can online cultures that fetishise poor quality teach us about the economics and autonomy of information? Is being a low resolution event in a field of high resolutions an empowering proposition?
Morehshin Allahyari: Decolonising the Digital Archive
3D scanning and printing technologies are becoming common tools for archaeologists, archivists and historians. We will examine the work of art activists who question these technologies, connecting the dots from terroristic networks, through the price of crude oil, to artefacts being digitally colonised by Western institutions. Artist Morehshin Allahyari will join us via skype to talk about Material Speculation: ISIS – a series of artifacts destroyed by ISIS in 2015, which Allahyari then ‘recreated’ using digital tools and techniques.
Mishka Henner: Big Data and World Making
In this session we will explore the work of artists who channel surveillance and big data into the poetic re-making of worlds. We will compare and contrast nefarious ‘deep web’ marketplaces with ‘real world’ auction houses selling artworks to a global elite. Artist Mishka Henner will join us via skype to talk about artistic appropriation, subversion and the importance of provocation.
Forensic Architecture: Blurring the Borders between Forensics, Law and Art
The Forensic Architecture project uses analytical methods for reconstructing scenes of war and violence inscribed within spatial artefacts and environments. In this session we will look at their work to read and mobilise ‘ambient’ information gathered from satellites, mobile phones and CCTV/news footage. How are technical thresholds implicated in acts of war, terrorism and atrocity, and how can they be mobilised for resist and deter systemic violence?
Click for further information
UPDATE: #Additivism was selected for the Vilém Flusser Residency Program for Artistic Research 2016! Morehshin and I will be spending May + June in Berlin working on The 3D Additivist Cookbook
It has been a very hectic and exciting few months for #Additivism, and Morehshin and I have a lot of plans for 2016. Towards the Spring and early Summer we will begin working closely on editing, laying out and publishing The 3D Additivist Cookbook. In the meantime, here are a host of events and exhibitions #Additivism will be a part of.
#Additivism in 2016:
January 15th and 22nd: The 3D Additivist Manifesto will be featured in White Screen, an online exhibition, curated by Caroline Delieutraz & Kévin Cadinot for Jeune Création exhibition at Thaddaeus Ropac gallery in Pantin, France.
February 11th – March 9th: Morehshin Allahyari’s solo show Material Speculation ran at Trinity Square Video, Toronto. This fantastic essay about her work, written by Alexis Anais and Anna Khachiyan, is required reading.
February 25th: we were both in Amsterdam to take part in Sonic Acts Academy. View the panel we took part in on Plastic Futures.
March 18th – April 6th: we were artists in residence at Auckland University of Technology’s COLAB.
May + June: #Additivism was selected for the Vilém Flusser Residency Program for Artistic Research. See you in summer, Berlin 🙂
Late 2-16/early 2017: We are open to all offers relating to the future 🙂
From 23rd – 30th September 2015 Morehshin Allahyari and I were artists in residence for 2015 VIA Festival, Pittsburgh, for the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. During our residency we delivered a lecture, a day long workshop, and worked on our forthcoming 3D Additivist Cookbook.
Artist Residency // Ongoing
Allahyari and Rourke will be in residence in the STUDIO editing their forthcoming 3D Additivist Cookbook of blueprints, designs, 3D print templates, and essays on the topics raised by the 3D Additivist Manifesto.
Artist Lecture // Thursday, September 24th, 5:00 p.m.
A talk and Q&A session by Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke about The 3D Additivist Manifesto + forthcoming Cookbook in addition to the screening of The 3D Additivist Manifesto video. Artists will talk about their own research and practice in relationship to Additivism and 3D printing.
3D Additivist Workshop // Friday, September 25th 10am-6:00pm
What is #Additivism: A Collaborative Workshop
Investigate #Addivist ideas in your own work during a day-long workshop with the artists. Conceive, design, and prepare works for fabrication with potential for projects to be submitted to the Cookbook -> Click here to register for the workshop
This was the paper I delivered at The Theorizing the Web Conference, New York, 18th April 2015.
I posted this up just after Facebook published a study into how their algorithms effect the stories users see (and vice versa). Wired used the surprise UK election result to talk about the study. Commentators took issue to media misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the study. The furore is well worth considering before/after you read my paper (which is now in dire need of an update).
Data churning algorithms are integral to our social and economic networks. Rather than replace humans these programs are built to work with us, allowing the distinct strengths of human and computational intelligences to coalesce. As we are submerged into the era of ‘big data’, these systems have become more and more common, concentrating every terrabyte of raw data into meaningful arrangements more easily digestible by high-level human reasoning.
A company calling themselves ‘Narrative Science’, based in Chicago, have established a profitable business model based on this relationship. Their slogan, ‘Tell the Stories Hidden in Your Data’,  is aimed at companies drowning in spreadsheets of cold information: a promise that Narrative Science can ‘humanise’ their databases with very little human input. Kristian Hammond, Chief Technology Officer of the company, claims that within 15 years over 90% of all news stories will also be written by algorithms.  But rather than replacing the jobs that human journalists now undertake, Hammond claims the vast majority of their ‘robonews’ output will report on data currently not covered by traditional news outlets. One family-friendly example of this is the coverage of little-league baseball games. Very few news organisations have the resources, or desire, to hire a swathe of human journalists to write-up every little-league game. Instead, Narrative Science offer leagues, parents and their children a miniature summary of each game gleaned from match statistics uploaded by diligent little league attendees, and then written up by Narrative Science in a variety of journalistic styles.
In their book ‘Big Data’ from 2013, Oxford University Professor of internet governance Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, and ‘data editor’ of The Economist, Kenneth Cukier, tell us excitedly about another data aggregation company, Prismatic, who:
…rank content from the web on the basis of text analysis, user preferences, social network-popularity, and big-data analysis. 
According to Mayer- Schönberger and Cukier this makes Prismatic able ‘to tell the world what it ought to pay attention to better than the editors of the New York Times’.  A situation, Steven Poole reminds us, we can little argue with so long as we agree that popularity underlies everything that is culturally valuable.
Data is now the lifeblood of technocapitalism. A vast endless influx of information flowing in from the growing universe of networked and internet connected devices. As many of the papers at Theorizing the Web attest, our environment is more and more founded by systems whose job it is to mediate our relationship with this data.
Technocapitalism still appears to respond to Jean Francois Lyotard’s formulation of Postmodernity: that whether something is true has less relevance, than whether it is useful. In 1973 Jean Francois Lyotard described the Postmodern Condition as a change in “the status of knowledge” brought about by new forms of techno-scienctific and techno-economic organisation. If a student could be taught effectively by a machine, rather than by another human, then the most important thing we could give the next generation was what he called, “elementary training in informatics and telematics.” In other words, as long as our students are computer literate “pedagogy would not necessarily suffer”. 
The next passage – where Lyotard marks the Postmodern turn from the true to the useful – became one of the book’s most widely quoted, and it is worth repeating here at some length:
In the lead-up to her solo show, institutions of Resolution Disputes [iRD], at Transfer Gallery, Brooklyn, I caught up with Rosa Menkman over two gallons of home-brewed coffee. We talked about what the show might become, discussing a series of alternate resolutions and realities that exist parallel to our daily modes of perception.
Rosa Menkman: The upcoming exhibition at Transfer is an illustration of my practice based PhD research on resolutions. It will be called ‘institutions of Resolution Disputes’, in short iRD and will be about the liminal, alternative modes of data or information representation, that are obfuscated by technological conventions. The title is a bit wonky as I wish for it to reflect that kind of ambiguity that invokes curiosity.
In any case, I always feel that every person, at least once in their grown-up life, wants to start an institution. There are a few of those moments in life, like “Now I am tired of the school system, I want to start my own school!”; and “Now I am ready to become an architect!”, so this is my dream after wanting to become an architect.
Daniel Rourke: To establish your own institution?
RM: First of all, I am multiplexing the term institution here. ‘institutions’ and the whole setting of iRD does mimic a (white box) institute, however the iRD does not just stand for a formal organization that you can just walk into. The institutions also revisit a slightly more compound framework that hails from late 1970s, formulated by Joseph Goguen and Rod Burstall, who dealt with the growing complexities at stake when connecting different logical systems (such as databases and programming languages) within computer sciences. A main result of these non-logical institutions is that different logical systems can be ‘glued’ together at the ‘substrata levels’, the illogical frameworks through which computation also takes place.
Secondly, while the term ’resolution’ generally simply refers to a standard (measurement) embedded in the technological domain, I believe that a resolution indeed functions as a settlement (solution), but at the same time exists as a space of compromise between different actors (languages, objects, materialities) who dispute their stakes (frame rate, number of pixels and colors, etc.), following rules (protocols) within the ever growing digital territories.
So to answer your question; maybe in a way the iRD is sort of an anti-protological institute or institute for anti-utopic, obfuscated or dysfunctional resolutions.
DR: It makes me think of Donna Haraway’s Manifesto for Cyborgs, and especially a line that has been echoing around my head recently:
“No objects, spaces, or bodies are sacred in themselves; any component can be interfaced with any other if the proper standard, the proper code, can be constructed for processing signals in a common language.”
By using the terms ‘obfuscation’ and ‘dysfunction’ you are invoking a will – perhaps on your part, but also on the part of the resolutions themselves – to be recognised. I love that gesture. I can hear the objects in iRD speaking out; making themselves heard, perhaps for the first time. In The 3D Additivist Manifesto we set out to imagine what the existence of Haraway’s ‘common language’ might mean for the unrealised, “the powerless to be born.” Can I take it that your institute has a similar aim in mind? A place for the ‘otherwise’ to be empowered, or at least to be recognised?
The 3D Additivist Manifesto + forthcoming Cookbook blur the boundaries between art, engineering, science fiction, and digital aesthetics. We call for you – artists, activists, designers, and critical engineers – to accelerate the 3D printer and other Additivist technologies to their absolute limits and beyond into the realm of the speculative, the provocative and the weird.
answer the call: additivism.org/cookbook
#Additivism is essential for accelerating the emergence and encounter with The Radical Outside.