MachineMachine /stream - search for failure en-us LifePress <![CDATA[A Deeper Look Into The Life of An Impressionist]]>

Actor/impressionist Jim Meskimen (Parks & Recreation, Whose Line?, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) recites "Pity the Poor Impressionist" poem in 20 celebrity voices, with the help of SHAM00K.


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John Malkovich Colin Firth Robert Deniro Tommy Lee Jones Nick Offerman George Clooney Christopher Walken Anthony Hopkins Dr. Phil Nicholas Cage Arnold Schwarzenegger Morgan Freeman Bryan Cranston Christoph Waltz Joe Pesci Jack Nicholson George W. Bush Ian McKellen Ron Howard Robin Williams

Pity The Poor Impressionist By Jim Meskimen ©2016

Is anything more sad and lame contemptible, beneath disdain, In short, provoking of disgust than being an impressionist?

A third rate, even fourth rate skill, the definition of "cheap thrill". Like watching farm equipment rust is watching an impressionist.

A relic from a distant day that long since should died away, dishonorably mentioned is the pitiful impressionist.

Weird, and somewhat ostentacious tired debris from old Las Vegas, whose former fans have all dismissed allegiance to impressionists.

How many opportunities passed up and wasted because he's Hell-bound to follow what he must? Pity the poor impressionist.

Doomed to live an abject failure dogged by his own echolalia. Better to crumble into dust than live as an impressionist.

His borrowed voices can't deflect a life of well-deserved neglect. His name's on simply no one's lips; forgotten, vain impressionist.

That sound–did anybody moan? That creature at the microphone is last on everybody's list; forgettable impressionist.

When Peter at that shiny gate condemns those souls who imitate he will but shake a heavenly fist and curse condemned impressionists.

But 'til that time we'll tolerate the good for nothing reprobate, and hide the truth: that we're just pissed that WE can't be impressionists!

Fri, 04 Oct 2019 11:36:19 -0700
<![CDATA[What we've got here is a failure to destroy.]]> ]]> Thu, 22 Aug 2019 22:14:27 -0700 <![CDATA[What is Called Thinking in the Anthropocene? — The Revealer]]>

This is a piece about failures. My failures, mostly, as a thinker and a scholar, but also the failure of my field and the failure of all of us to think what will come in the next ten, twenty, thirty, hundred years.

Wed, 21 Aug 2019 04:08:49 -0700
<![CDATA[Compression Aesthetics: Glitch From the Avant-Garde to Kanye West – InVisible Culture]]>

Carolyn L. Kane In a world that esteems technological efficiency, immediacy, and control, the advent of technical noise, glitch, and failure—no matter how colorful or disturbingly beautiful—are avoided at great costs.

Tue, 09 Oct 2018 09:50:47 -0700
<![CDATA[Earth Is Not in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction - The Atlantic]]>

At the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, Smithsonian paleontologist Doug Erwin took the podium to address a ballroom full of geologists on the dynamics of mass extinctions and power grid failures—which, he claimed, unfold in the same way.

Tue, 09 Oct 2018 09:50:44 -0700
<![CDATA[Elon Musk and the Failure of Our Imagination in Space | The New Yorker]]>

Long before mastering the mechanics of spaceflight, men imagined sending other men into the cosmos.

Sun, 24 Jun 2018 02:18:33 -0700
<![CDATA[The Anthropocene Marks the Failure of Capitalism, Not Mars-Bound Humanity | Inverse]]>

The Holocene is dead; welcome to the Anthropocene. Once a controversial stance, the notion that human activities have altered planetary geology adequately enough to warrant the demarcation of another epoch has more traction than the Mars Rover.

Fri, 04 Nov 2016 07:07:12 -0700
<![CDATA[Writing The Future From Science Fiction - OMNI Reboot]]>

Sometimes this failure of prediction is even science fiction's explicit subject. In Isaac Asimov's classic Foundation series, for instance, a brilliant mathematician devises a method of calculating historical probabilities.

Tue, 16 Feb 2016 08:17:53 -0800
<![CDATA[An Iranian Odyssey by Maziar Bahari]]>

In 1951 Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh tried to end British domination of Iran. Mossadegh nationalized Iranian oil which had been monopolized by a single British company, BP, for more than forty years. Mossadegh had to fight against a virtual alliance of foreign and domestic enemies. They undermined him in a struggle for power and control of oil. A struggle which culminated in a coup d’etat plotted and carried out by the CIA in August 1953. More than five decades later it is impossible to understand Iran without understanding Mossadegh’s victories and failures. Through exclusive access to eye-witnesses and the characters of the story in Iran, UK and the US as well as never before seen archival material Maziar Bahari tells the gripping story of the rise and fall of Mossadegh. An Iranian Odyssey demystifies the current perception of Iran as an irrational and erratic pariah state. The film is not only a historical documentary. It is a relevant modern story that clearly tells the reasons behind the current stand-off between Iran and the West.Cast: VimeoTags: Iran, CIA, Mossadegh, Oil and Maziar Bahari

Sat, 10 Oct 2015 23:07:34 -0700
<![CDATA[The Fantasy Author H.P. Lovecraft at 125: Genius, Cult Icon, Racist - The Atlantic]]>

American history is filled with writers whose genius was underappreciated—or altogether ignored—in their lifetime. Most of Emily Dickinson’s poems weren’t discovered and published until after her death. F. Scott Fitzgerald “died believing himself a failure.

Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:36:36 -0700
<![CDATA["Please don't call me uncanny": Cécile B. Evans at Seventeen Gallery]]>

Cécile B. Evans, Hyperlinks or it didn't happen (2014). Still frame from HD video. Courtesy of Seventeen. Media saturation in the internet's "cut & paste" ecology has become so naturalized that contemporary film's collaged aspects are not readily considered. Who are the subjects in, for example, a Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch film? And for whom do they perform? When I show these films in my class, my students switch tabs in their browsers, Snapchat each other, like photos, fav tweets—often on multiple screens at once—then state that this "work is about strange fake-tanned kids' search for a toilet." What has made this answer stay in my mind pertains to the word "about." When used for these works, the banal statement "this work is about…" registers as a crisis of categorical closure that the simultaneous existence of disparate, accumulated content on a single screen constantly thwarts. Central to Cécile B. Evans' show Hyperlinks at Seventeen Gallery in London is the video-essay, Hyperlinks or it didn't happen, displayed on a high-resolution TV with headphone cords installed at a comfortable cartoon-watching height in a corner of the space. Entering at the opposite corner, I navigate the gallery space, attempting to link the objects together—a prosthetic leg atop an upturned Eames chair replica near a rubber plant that counterbalances a plexiglass structure supporting 3D-printed arms (One Foot In The Grave, 2014), another Eames replica sitting in one corner (just a chair), various prints on the floor and walls—before sitting down, cross-legged, on a thick-pile rug strewn with postcard-sized images.  

Cécile B. Evans, "Hyperlinks," Installation view. Courtesy of Seventeen. The film begins with a super high-resolution render of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's head floating over the shimmering image of a jellyfish. "I'm not magic, and please don't call me uncanny," says a synthetically-augmented human voice. "I'm just a bad copy made too perfectly, too soon." The video lingers on Hoffman's face. His lips do not move — at least, not in sync with the voice claiming to be the bad copy. "Fuck. Fuck FUCKING FUCK! I am full of him." An audience laughter track plays. The bad copy's hair flutters as his head bobs. The follicles on his nose look like they'd be the perfect environment for a blackhead to take up residence. The subject floating on the screen does not symbolize Hoffman, rather, it is an improper metaphor for the actor's "untimely death'; for anything that transcends description, yet is saturated with meaning nonetheless. Hyperlinks is so full of meaning that, as the voice suggests, it is set to burst. Evans wants us to feel uncomfortable at the absence of an uncanny feeling, and by referring to this lack directly in the monologue of the simulated voice, she sets up a relation the viewer and this, a highly stylized, digital avatar. Hoffman, the image-thing, is not really a metaphor, nor is he really a copy, a simulation, or even a simulacrum of a more-real body. Hoffman, the image-thing, is literal and actual, perhaps more so to the viewer than Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the flesh-and-blood human or his "untimely death" was/will/could ever be. In her 2010 essay A Thing Like You and Me, Hito Steyerl defines the image as a thing whose "immortality… originates… from its ability to be xeroxed, recycled, and reincarnated." [1] Like the postcards strewn throughout Hyperlinks, the floating, self-referential Hoffman points out a literal truth: Hoffman's head is an "improper metaphor" [2] for the image that it actually is.  Catachresis, a term we can employ for such "improper metaphors," is a forced extension of meaning employed when "when no proper, or literal, term is available." [3] According to Vivian Sobchack, "catachresis is differentiated from proper metaphor insofar as it forces us to confront" [4] the deficiency and failure of language. In linking across the gap between figural and literal meaning, catachresis marks the precise moment "where living expression states living existence." [5] The image-things of Evans' film are similarly analogically hyperlinked to the metaphors they supposedly express. In several sequences, an invisible, green-screened woman wanders a beach with a man who we are told is her partner: the nameless protagonist of Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel, The Invisible Man. For a few seconds, we are confronted with Marlon Brando's floating head, isolated from scenes deleted from Superman II (1980) to be digitally repurposed for the 2006 film Superman Returns, so the actor could reprise his role as Superman's father two years after his death.

The vocaloid pop-star Hatsune Miku serenades us with the song "Forever Young," referencing her own immortality in the server banks and USB sticks that confer her identity. We then see, rolling onto a stage in Canada, Edward Snowden gives a TED talk on taking back the web, through a "Telepresence Robot" (an object that looks like a flat-panel screen attached to a Segway). As in a collage, the film splices and dices contiguous space and time, producing a unique configuration of catachretic associations, rather than a continuous narrative about something. Fictions are interwoven with facts, gestures with statements, figures with subjects. Moving about the gallery, the viewer hovers about the strewn postcard-sized images of a counterfeit Kermit the Frog, the render of Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the "hologram" of Michael Jackson. The image-things in Evans' work seem to exist beyond subject/object distinctions, outside of sense, above their own measure of themselves —selves that they, nonetheless, frequently seem to be measuring and re-measuring. The exhibition comes with its own printed glossary of terms listing references the video makes. The first term in the glossary is "Hyperlink":               A reference to external data that a reader can open either by clicking or by hovering over a point of origin. From Greek hyper (prep. And adv.) "over, beyond, overmuch, above measure." Here again the figural and literal are called into question. In relation to what can one say the "external" or "beyond" of a hyperlink resides? Why is the etymology for "link" not also given? Though at first, the glossary seems to map the associations, the links, of the disparate imagery presented in the show, it is suggestive of the total-work, presenting an almost anarchistic circulation of imagery as a coherent system. The glossary's reification of associations gestures towards also the internet's systemic interpellation of our networked subjecthood; as well as in the film title's reference to the phrase "Pics, or it didn't happen," the show's contrast between a body's lifespan and a circulating digital image seems to also echo of our status as "poor copies" of our digital semblances. The image-things in "Hyperlinks" serve – to hijack the words of Scott Bukatman - "as the partial and fragmented representations that they are." [6] . Through the works' superfluity of associations and meanings, I found myself considering the impossibility of categorical closure. If totalization means incorporating all disparate things, an ultimate difference erupts: a moment that also signals the deficiency and failure of systemization itself. What makes Evans work successful is this endless calling up of the specter of the beyond, the outside, the everything else, from within the perceived totality of the internet. With the glossary, the totality of the show almost feels performative, gesturing towards the systemic totalizing we confer onto art objects in a gallery space before, after, and, especially, during their imaging. But image-things are considerably more liberated than either objects or subjects. They are more real, precisely because we recognize them as images.

[1] Hito Steyerl, “A Thing Like You and Me,” in The Wretched of the Screen, e-flux Journal (Sternberg Press, 2012), 46–59.

[2] Vivian Carol Sobchack, Carnal Thoughts Embodiment and Moving Image Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 81.

[3] Richard Shiff, “Cezanne’s Physicality: The Politics of Touch,” in The Language of Art History, ed. Salim Kemal and Ivan Gaskell (Cambridge University Press, 1991), 150.

[4] Sobchack, Carnal Thoughts Embodiment and Moving Image Culture, 81.

[5] Paul Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor: The Creation of Meaning in Language (Routledge, 2004), 72.

[6] Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 40.

Thu, 04 Dec 2014 12:17:45 -0800
<![CDATA[Interview with GLTI.CH at Noisey.Vice]]>

You don’t need to leave the house to belt out your favourite karaoke tracks—with strangers. Two Skype-friendly artists have founded karaoke, an online karaoke project which anyone can partake in. You literally sign into Skype and sing karaoke duets (or quartets) with fellow fans. Imagine chat roulette was entirely musical and you get how things are matched. The artists Kyoung Kim and Daniel Rourke started this without any plans. Three years later, they’re still singing to Belle and Sebastian on YouTube. Strangely, they’re not alone. As they continue to synchronize singers in different time zones, they also do these GLTI.CH Breaks event where DJs located in different parts of the world mix together in a basement, a bedroom, or a pub full of drunks (from New York to Seoul, they’ve done it all). Last month, karaoke opened a show called Tactical Gltiches at the SUDLAB gallery in Italy. They spoke to us about tinkering with Ustream, avoiding crappy bandwith, and how acapella saves the day.

NOISEY: How did Karaoke come about? Kyoung Kim: We were swapping stories over a few pints—Daniel of his experiences living in Japan, and I of my time in Korea, and got to talking about missing karaoke in these respective countries. Unlike your average karaoke bar in the US or the UK with a conspicuous stage and spotlighting for the singer, karaoke in Korea and Japan generally consists of piling into a room with a bunch of friends, food, and drink and singing in a raucous mix of solos, duets, and group numbers eventually belted while standing on the sofa. It’s more about sharing fun with people than claiming your theatrical moment, and all in all, you get a lot more bang for your buck. For me, karaoke with my sister trumps all, but at the time she was living in Seoul. I confessed to Daniel I’d been getting my karaoke fix by singing YouTube karaoke videos with her over Skype. Daniel Rourke: We were astounded to find that nobody had given a name to ‘singing karaoke over Skype.” (We did a lot of Google searches). It seemed so obvious to us to hook up two locations, buffer a YouTube rendition of “Livin’ on a Prayer“ on both sides of the Atlantic and click “play.” That got us thinking about the possibilities. A good friend works at Meanwhile Space, a non-profit organization in London that transforms empty properties into community projects, and mentioned to us that they were about to start working in an old shoe shop in Whitechapel. The challenge to make karaoke happen in a dusty basement with no internet access at four o’clock in the afternoon spurred us on. We had our eye on the amazing stuff the GLI.TC/H community was doing at the time, and setup our website as a kind of homage to them. The rest is less easy to explain. How does it work? Rourke: We have done it a few different ways over the years, but we try and make sure the basic setup is accessible to anyone who wants to repeat it. Using free software like TinyChat or Google Hangouts we link up at least two disparate locations and orchestrate karaoke duets over the internet. YouTube is stuffed full of fan made karaoke versions of pop tunes. If you want to sing it, chances are, somebody has already uploaded it. Then it’s just a case of scrambling to get things to work on both sides. Kim: To prepare for that scrambling, we test and design a bunch of back-up plans that only work about 30% of the time in attending the actual glitches that manifest. In emphasizing the GLTI.CH of the karaoke, the scramble is something we both warn and invite others to join in on. So how things work is not just contingent on computer software, hardware, cables, and broadband connections, but also on the mix of curiosity, patience, and enthusiasm for making-your-own-fun-through-convoluted-ways that people bring with them to our events. Rourke: That’s where the “art” of the project begins: a sincere desire to dance with failure. The most exciting elements of the project come out of realizing how many variables there are in organizing something so simple, especially if you have a group of drunk karaoke enthusiasts at one end, say in Liverpool, and an old pizza restaurant in a London shopping mall at the other. The thing that remains stable—getting people to sing duets—is surrounded by all this other stuff that we, as the hosts, have to juggle. Let’s just say we are both very adept at keeping a crowd entertained.

How do you combine DJs in different time zones together? Kim: A lot of planning. Hosting a party in London on a Friday night means you get a DJ during the work day in San Francisco. So we work with our DJs’ schedules accordingly. There is constant managing and coordinating during the event. We dedicate one computer and the best internet connection in the house to connecting with the DJs with (so far) Skype, but also usually have one or two other computers open with Google Hangouts, again Skype, Tinychat, Facebook, Twitter, Kakao Talk, our phones, smoke signals, pigeon… both for backup and because different people have different preferences for interfaces. We avoid as much as we can set-ups that require others to register or sign up to any new social media outfit, download more software, or buy equipment they don’t have. With the last Breaks, we tinkered with Ustream, and the chat in there ended up being the key for making things go. What is GLTI.CH Breaks? Rourke: Originally, it was a project we instigated with Christina Millare. We wanted to take some of the stuff we had learned while karaoking and translate it into another format. The result was the first GLTI.CH Breaks event, where we had three DJs—Tramshed, Sahn, and WaxOn—all located in different parts of the world, mix together in the basement of Power Lunches, Dalston. It was a blinding success, apart from the computer crashes, and crappy bandwidth, but that means success to us. Karaoke is a ridiculous phenomenon. Anyone who has watched the X-Factor will know how kitsch and mediocre karaoke can be. But those of us who love it embrace that, and the social outcome of that kitschy quality is what makes it so wonderful. Our projects inhabit that crappiness, and take it somewhere else, so the technical components of the work also echo the social, and hopefully the two really fuse and amplify each other. With GLTI.CH Breaks I think we stumbled on something like that. DJ mix culture is based around a beloved, but antiquated medium – the vinyl record – that is prone to skip, and jump and crackle and hiss. Ironically though, it is those very qualities that make vinyl perfect as a medium of expression. Building a series of technical, network, temporal and spatial layers on top of that in GLTI.CH Breaks we felt as if the creative element of DJing was heightened even further. Plus, drunk people get really excited when they realize that a DJ based in a bedroom in San Francisco is mixing tunes just for them. Kim: They get excited by it when sober too!

Enlighten us. What is “social glitch?” Kim: A phrase we’ve batted around since the beginning. To describe what we’d both been thinking about and working through in our separate research and practices. Rourke: Social glitches are at the heart of all the projects we have done. They are what you might call, “desirable unintended effects.” We go hunting for them, we try to set up the conditions to make them happen, but we never know when they might arise, or what exactly they might look like. For instance, in summer 2012, we took part in AND Festival, Manchester. We were asked by curator Christina Millare to host a GLTI.CH karaoke event in one of the bedrooms upstairs in a pub. We hooked the room up to our online chat room, and invited anybody with a webcam to join us from wherever they were in the world. The event in Manchester was raucous, full of people singing at the top of their voices from 8 PM until 2 AM. The HD television was lit up all night with new people logging in from London, Seoul, New York, and who knows where. At one point the computer in Manchester completely crashed—mid-chorus—and everyone in the room let out a huge groan of despair. The social glitch came when I logged back into the chatroom, because even though our side of the party had crashed, the participants online were still there singing their hearts out. It was an amazing moment, and the crowd in Manchester whooped with joy and began to sing along, even before I’d had chance to hook the music back in. It was improvized acapella karaoke and a beautiful unintended social effect. Nadja Sayej would like to sing “More Than A Feeling” with you. Follow her on Twitter - @nadjasayej   

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 14:38:31 -0700
<![CDATA[The Beauty of All Things Falling]]>

xerox animation, 2011, 4:30 min. A narrative of glitches and beautiful failures. This video explores the terrifying as well as the creative potential of error.Cast: Jenny VogelTags:

Sat, 01 Mar 2014 12:12:18 -0800
<![CDATA[A.I. Has Grown Up and Left Home - Issue 8: Home - Nautilus]]>

The history of Artificial Intelligence,” said my computer science professor on the first day of class, “is a history of failure.” This harsh judgment summed up 50 years of trying to get computers to think.

Sun, 05 Jan 2014 08:20:12 -0800
<![CDATA[Uncivilizing the PhD: for a politics of doctoral experience | ROAR Magazine]]>

The road to a PhD is a common source of frustration. It is time to acknowledge and contest this experience as the outcome of a disciplinarian process.

As a faceless PhD student in a social science-y department, I repeatedly catch myself with the strangest metaphors to describe my research experience. The latest one is of academic work as a love relationship with a RealDoll: a lifestyle requiring sustained commitment and a rich (puppetry) skill set, to spin a tapestry of memories around an elegantly irrelevant act of masturbation.

The more I delve into this malaise, the more I become dissatisfied with the folk psychology of peer support inside a PhD community, with older students relating how their ideas got scrapped — sometimes beyond recognition — under the weight of what goes under the name of ‘constructive criticism’ (that, not unlike construction, requires a previous hollowing out of an organic soil to lay concrete foundations). These tales remind me a bit of stories of bullying in the army: we might all have been affected by it but, after the fact, end up looking back at it with some nostalgia, perhaps even a hint of gratitude, and rationalize it as a ‘formative’ experience. Lurking beneath the informal practices of peer support, however, lies buried a much deeper question of knowledge politics, and one that PhD students stupendously fail at engaging politically.

The PhD student is, essentially, a candidate for co-optation in academia. The mechanism is such that the PhD candidate is successfully co-opted upon favorable judgment by at least two other peers, an internal and an external examiner. In this sense, the process of becoming an academic is remarkably similar to that of joining a Rotary Club, or a circle of Freemasons (which, let’s face it, are not the most inclusive organizations in the world!). This somewhat paternalistic mechanism imbues a number of different aspects of the doctoral experience, down to the student-supervisor relationship, which in turn raises a number of political issues. Unfortunately, the failure to apprehend the structural constraints that are embedded in the very set-up for a PhD makes it so that any political points are simply driven underground, buried in the passing rants that PhD students share with one another in fleeting moments of bonding, with the secrecy and truth that accompanies anything shared in vino veritas.

In my tenure as a PhD student, I have possibly learnt one thing about what makes for a ‘good’ PhD. A good PhD is one that turns a captivating idea into a piece of writing that is so dry and mind-numbingly boring as to be utterly unpalatable to its author – who often feels estranged from the final product of his or her multi-year toil – and that is only read (if at all) by others who have an obligation to read it in a professional capacity. No one cares about PhD theses; in fact, even publishers routinely dismiss raw PhD dissertations. Instead, they request a ‘revision’ that amounts to the purging of one’s original idea from the ‘noise’ it has been drowned in, in order to get the academic title.

Wed, 11 Dec 2013 15:42:59 -0800
<![CDATA[Digital Metaphors: Editor’s Introduction | Alluvium]]>

Metaphor wants to be…

‘[...] metaphors work to change people’s minds. Orators have known this since Demosthenes. [...] But there’s precious little evidence that they tell you what people think. [...] And in any case, words aren’t meanings. As any really good spy knows, a word is a code that stands for something else. If you take the code at face value then you’ve fallen for the trick.’ (Daniel Soar, “The Bourne Analogy”).

Tao Lin’s recent novel Taipei (2013) is a fictional document of life in our current digital culture. The protagonist, Paul — who is loosely based on the author — is numb from his always turned on digitally mediated life, and throughout the novel increases his recreational drug taking as a kind of compensation: the chemical highs and trips are the experiential counterpoint to the mundanity of what once seemed otherworldly — his online encounters. In the novel online interactions are not distinguished from real life ones, they are all real, and so Paul’s digital malaise is also his embodied depressive mindset. The apotheosis of both these highs and lows is experienced by Paul, and his then girlfriend Erin, on a trip to visit Paul’s parents in Taipei. There the hyper-digital displays of the city — ‘lighted signs [...] animated and repeating like GIF files, attached to every building’ (166) — launch some of the more explicit mediations on digital culture in the novel: Paul asked [Erin] if she could think of a newer word for “computer” than “computer,” which seemed outdated and, in still being used, suspicious in some way, like maybe the word itself was intelligent and had manipulated culture in its favor, perpetuating its usage (167). Here Paul intimates a sense that language is elusive, that it is sentient, and that, in the words of Daniel Soar quoted above as an epitaph, it tricks us. It seems to matter that in this extract from Taipei the word ‘computer’ is conflated with a sense of the object ‘computer’. The word, in being ‘intelligent’, has somehow taken on the quality of the thing it denotes — a potentially malevolent agency. The history of computing is one of people and things: computers were first the women who calculated ballistics trajectories during the Second World War, whose actions became the template for modern automated programming. The computer, as an object, is also-always a metaphor of a human-machine relation. The name for the machine asserts a likeness between the automated mechanisms of computing and the physical and mental labour of the first human ‘computers’. Thinking of computing as a substantiated metaphor for a human-machine interaction pervades the way we talk about digital culture. Most particularly in the way we think of computers as sentient — however casually. We often speak of computers as acting independently from our commands, and frequently we think of them ‘wanting’ things, ‘manipulating’ culture, or ourselves.

Pre-Electronic Binary Code Pre-electronic binary code: the history of computing offers us metaphors for human-machine interaction which pervade the way we talk about digital culture today [Image by Erik Wilde under a CC BY-SA license]

Julie E. Cohen, in her 2012 book Configuring the Networked Self, describes the way the misplaced metaphor of human-computer and machine-computer has permeated utopian views of digitally mediated life: Advocates of information-as-freedom initially envisioned the Internet as a seamless and fundamentally democratic web of information [...]. That vision is encapsulated in Stewart Brand’s memorable aphorism “Information wants to be free.” [...] Information “wants” to be free in the same sense that objects with mass present in the earth’s gravitational field “want” to fall to the ground. (8) Cohen’s sharp undercutting of Brand’s aphorism points us toward the way the metaphor of computing is also an anthropomorphisation. The metaphor implicates a human desire in machine action. This linguistic slipperiness filters through discussion of computing at all levels. In particular the field of software studies — concerned with theorising code and programming as praxis and thing — contains at its core a debate on the complexity of considering code in a language which will always metaphorise, or allegorise. Responding to an article of Alexander R. Galloway’s titled “Language Wants to Be Overlooked: On Software and Ideology”, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun argues that Galloway’s stance against a kind of ‘anthropomorphization’ of code studies (his assertion that as an executable language code is ‘against interpretation’) is impossible within a discourse of critical theory. Chun argues, ‘to what extent, however, can source code be understood outside of anthropomorphization? [...] (The inevitability of this anthropomorphization is arguably evident in the title of Galloway’s article: “Language Wants to Be Overlooked” [emphasis added].)’ (Chun 305). In her critique of Galloway’s approach Wendy Chun asserts that it is not possible to extract the metaphor from the material, that they are importantly and intrinsically linked.[1] For Julie E. Cohen the relationship between metaphor and digital culture-as-it-is-lived is a problematic tie that potentially damages legal and constitutional understanding of user rights. Cohen convincingly argues that a term such as ‘cyberspace’, which remains inextricable from its fictional and virtual connotations, does not transition into legal language successfully; in part because the word itself is a metaphor, premised on an imagined reality rather than ‘the situated, embodied beings who inhabit it’ (Cohen 3). And yet Cohen’s writing itself demonstrates the tenacious substance of metaphoric language, using extended exposition of metaphors as a means to think more materially about the effects of legal and digital protocol and action. In the following extract from Configuring the Networked Self, Cohen is winding down a discussion of the difficulty of forming actual policy out of freedom versus control debates surrounding digital culture. Throughout the discussion Cohen has emphasised the way that both sides of the debate are unable to substantiate their rhetoric with embodied user practice; instead Cohen identifies a language that defers specific policy aims.[2] Cohen’s own use of metaphor in this section — ‘objections to control fuel calls [...]’, ‘darknets’ (the latter in inverted commas) — is made to mean something grounded, through a kind of allegorical framework. I am not suggesting that allegory materialises metaphor — allegory functioning in part as itself an extended metaphor — but it does contextualise metaphor.

Circuit Board 2 How tenacious is metaphoric language? The persistence of computational metaphors in understanding digital culture could harm legal and constitutional understandings of user rights [Image by Christian under a CC BY-NC-ND license]

This is exemplified in Cohen’s description of the ways US policy discussions regarding code, rights and privacy of the subject are bound to a kind of imaginary, and demonstrate great difficulty in becoming concrete: Policy debates have a circular, self-referential quality. Allegations of lawlessness bolster the perceived need for control, and objections to control fuel calls for increased openness. That is no accident; rigidity and license historically have maintained a curious symbiosis. In the 1920s, Prohibition fueled the rise of Al Capone; today, privately deputized copyright cops and draconian technical protection systems spur the emergence of uncontrolled “darknets.” In science fiction, technocratic, rule-bound civilizations spawn “edge cities” marked by their comparative heterogeneity and near imperviousness to externally imposed authority. These cities are patterned on the favelas and shantytowns that both sap and sustain the world’s emerging megacities. The pattern suggests an implicit acknowledgment that each half of the freedom/control binary contains and requires the other (9-10). I quote this passage at length in order to get at the way in which the ‘self-referential nature’ of policy discussion is here explained through a conceptual, and specifically literary, framing. Technology is always both imagined and built: this seems obvious, but it justifies reiteration because the material operations of technology are always metaphorically considered just as they are concretely manifest. The perilous circumstance this creates is played on in Cohen’s writing as she critiques constitutional policy that repeatedly cannot get at the embodied subject that uses digital technology; thwarted by the writing and rewriting of debate. In Cohen’s words this real situation is like the science fiction that is always-already seemingly like the real technology. Whether William Gibson’s ‘cyberspace’, a programmer’s speculative coding, or a lawyer’s articulation of copyright, there is no easy way to break apart the relationship between the imaginary and the actual of technoculture. Perhaps then what is called for is an explosion of the metaphors that pervade contemporary digital culture. To, so to speak, push metaphors until they give way; to generate critical discourse that tests the limits of metaphors, in an effort to see what pretext they may yield for our daily digital interactions. The articles in this issue all engage with exactly this kind of discourse. In Sophie Jones’ “The Electronic Heart”, the history of computing as one of women’s labour is used to reconfigure the metaphor of a computer as an ‘electronic brain’; instead asking whether cultural anxieties about computer-simulated emotion are linked to the naturalization of women’s affective labour. In “An Ontology of Everything on the Face of the Earth”, Daniel Rourke also considers computers as a sentient metaphor: uncovering an uncanny symbiosis between what a computer wants and what a human can effect with computing, through a critical dissection of the biocybernetic leeching of John Carpenter’s 1982 film The Thing. Finally, in “The Metaphorics of Virtual Depth”, Rob Gallagher uses Marcel Proust’s treatment of novelistic spacetime to generate a critical discourse on spatial and perspectival metaphor in virtual game environments. All these articles put into play an academic approach to metaphors of computing that dig up and pull out the stuff in between language and machine. In his introduction to Understanding Digital Humanities David M. Berry has argued for such an approach: [what is needed is a] ‘critical understanding of the literature of the digital, and through that [to] develop a shared culture through a form of Bildung’ (8).

Elysium A wheel in the sky: Neil Blomkamp's futuristic L.A. plays on the territorial paranoia of the U.S. over alien invasion and dystopian metaphors of digitally-mediated environments [Image used under fair dealings provisions]

I am writing this article a day after seeing Neill Blomkamp’s film Elysium (2013). Reading Cohen’s assertion regarding the cyclical nature of US digital rights policy debates on control and freedom, her allegory with science fiction seems entirely pertinent. Elysium is set in 2154; the earth is overpopulated, under-resourced, and a global elite have escaped to a man-made (and machine-made) world on a spaceship, ‘Elysium’. Manufacturing for Elysium continues on earth where the population, ravaged by illness, dreams of escaping to Elysium to be cured in “Med-Pods”. The movie focuses on the slums of near future L.A. and — perhaps unsurprisingly given Blomkamp’s last film District 9 (2009) — plays on the real territorial paranoia of the U.S. over alien invasion: that the favelas of Central and South America, and the political structures they embody, are always threatening ascension. In Elysium the “edge city” is the whole world, and the technocratic power base is a spaceship garden, circling the earth’s orbit. ‘Elysium’ is a green and white paradise; a techno-civic environment in which humans and nature are equally managed, and manicured. ‘Elysium’, visually, looks a lot like Disney’s Epcot theme park — which brings me back to where I started. In Tao Lin’s Taipei Paul’s disillusionment with technology is in part with its failure to be as he imagined, and his imagination was informed by the Disney-fied future of Epcot. In Taipei: Paul stared at the lighted signs, some of which were animated and repeated like GIF files, attached to almost every building to face oncoming traffic [...] and sleepily thought how technology was no longer the source of wonderment and possibility it had been when, for example, he learned as a child at Epcot Center [...] that families of three, with one or two robot dogs and one maid, would live in self-sustaining, underwater, glass spheres by something like 2004 or 2008 (166). Thinking through the metaphor of Elysium has me thinking toward the fiction of Epcot (via Tao Lin’s book). The metaphor-come-allegories at work here are at remove from my digitally mediated, embodied reality, but they seep through nonetheless. Rather than only look for the concrete reality that drives the metaphor, why not also engage with the messiness of the metaphor; its potential disjunction with technology as it is lived, and its persistent presence regardless.

CITATION: Zara Dinnen, "Digital Metaphors: Editor's Introduction," Alluvium, Vol. 2, No. 6 (2013): n. pag. Web. 4 December 2013,

Wed, 11 Dec 2013 15:42:41 -0800

I wrote an essay released in tandem with GLITCHOMETRY: Daniel Temkin‘s solo exhibition, held at Transfer Gallery, New York – November 16 through December 14, 2013. The publication also features an interview with the artist by Curt Cloninger. Excerpt from my essay : Glitchometry turns away from the ‘new earth’; the milieu of cyphers that constitute our contemporary audio-visual cognizance. By foregoing the simulations relied on when Photoshopping an image Temkin assumes an almost meditative patience with the will of the digital. As with Duchamp’s infra-thin – ‘the warmth of a seat which has just been left, reflection from a mirror or glass… velvet trousers, their whistling sound, is an infra-thin separation signalled’ – the one of the image and the other of the raw data is treated as a signal of meagre difference. Data is carefully bent in a sequence of sonifications that always risk falling back into the totalising violence of failure. Download as PDF More info : and

Wed, 20 Nov 2013 06:51:16 -0800
<![CDATA[What makes out today’s notworking is the social glitch]]>

For 3 years I have collaborated on a project with Kyoung Kim. Known as GLTI.CH Karaoke, or sometimes just GLTI.CH, we’ve plotted the course of accidents, of temporal lyrical disjoints and technical out-of-syncs through a wide variety of different mediums, spaces and social conditions. This week saw what feels like the climax of our experiments, a three day – 67 hour – installation at CRYSTALLIZE, an exhibition of new media art held alongside the 2013 Korea Brand & Entertainment Expo, at Old Billingsgate, London. GLTI.CH has played a significant part in my practice and thus my thinking over the last 3 years. Working with Kyoung has afforded me countless experiences and opportunities, and introduced me to the world of glitch, digital, net and new media arts and artists. The project is not over, but its Karaoke phase is drawing to a conclusion. I thought it would be a good time to republish this half-considered manifesto I wrote a while back. 15 Statements about Notworking What makes out today’s networking is the notworking. There would be no routing if there were no problems on the line. Spam, viruses and identity theft are not accidental mistakes, mishaps on the road to techno perfection. They are constitutional elements of yesterday’s network architectures. Lovink, Gert. (2005), “The Principle of Notworking Concepts in Critical Internet Culture,” p. 10 GLTI.CH Karaoke is not a hack or some fancy programming. It’s taking the front-end of things and trying to make something else. We’ve made the mishmashed world of GLTI.CH Karaoke through play and we hope you’ll sing with us. karaoke, (2011), “WHAT IS GLTI.CH KARAOKE?”

Glti.ches are more than aesthetic revelations: as software crashes, or hardware halts to a stutter, the soft underbelly of the notwork is exposed. The trick is to see the not as an abhorrence, but as a signal of noisy potential: error and noise are an implicit feature of digital materiality. What Gaston Bachelard called ‘Desire Paths’, physical etchings in our surroundings drawn by the thoughtless movement of (human) feet, also exist online. For those versed in the language of the, desire equals subversion and the means of flight – a way to reverse the roles of power. The line of desire in these cases is often laid directly over the enclosed path. Being buffered along by the unruly torrents of technical failure, the true semblance of the is impossible to pin down: notwork control mechanisms have desirable unintended effects. The kludge is a hands-on, makeshift solution, to an unpredictable technical or social problem: 100% of cargo cult coders, pirates, artists and hackers started out as kludgers. Algorithms that churn your Google search, or offer you potential meta-data with which to imbricate your image collection into the logic of the database, have themselves become actors in the play of human relations. Digital formats as diverse as ePub, DivX, and GIF, and software platforms from the likes of Google, Microsoft or Apple, trace narrative arcs which are themselves transcodable relations. Interruption, stutters and breaks force us into encounters with the world, exposing the circuitry that we as consumers are expected to elude into the background. Digital copies, being copied, forever copying, exert an unruly behaviour that exposes the material world. The most astonishing thing about the notwork is how any order can be maintained in it at all. The more regulations imposed upon the notworks, the more interesting the resulting glti.ches will be in their variation/liberation. Human beings are material entities, buffered by the same stops and starts as the notwork. Participating in the, in the artifact that exposes the failure, is to align oneself with material reality. The is a social phenomenon.

Thu, 07 Nov 2013 07:16:51 -0800
<![CDATA[Lovely Lustig Latency]]>

GLTI.CH Karaoke has been on hiatus, but that doesn’t mean its ceaseless energy has ceased! No. No. No. No. No. Spinning into my Facebook feed today was a piece at Slate on a new project by Raymond J. Lustig’s called : Latency Canons. Working with the New York-based American Composers Orchestra and a carefully tuned hookup on Google Hangouts, Lustig and his team orchestrate musical ‘canons’, pushing bandwidth delays into melodious syncopations between NY and Manchester, UK. The project is an obvious homage to GLTI.CH Karaoke, delivered with such a fine degree of modesty that Lustig was too embarrassed to mention us. That’s OK Lustig. We understand and hope to see the kitsch and high-art music worlds pulled closer together through projects such as this. How about putting the orchestra back into Karaoke? After all, the word KARA-OKE is a portmanteau coinage of KARA ‘empty’ and OKE ‘orchestra’. We love Latency Canons, lovely Lustig, and we’d like to sing with you. It’s exciting to see the potential of latency used to such creative effect. What’s more, to have such a strong emotional response from an audience, tweaked through simple, off-the-shelf software (this is the GLTI.CH Karaoke philosophy). The possibilities of latency play was explored to its experimental environs by Kyoung Kim, Ryan ⊥ Dunn and Edwina Portocarrero for their Supraconductivity series, delivered in the run up to GLI.TC/H 2112. The final ‘performance’ included an hour-long video chat in which Ryan battled extreme 3G latency and the cold Chicago winds in order to find and converse with a dog. It was a special moment, extended to 60 nail-biting minutes of glitches, audio-visual sludge and bandwidth feedback. The GLI.TC/H community revelled and regrouped, safer in the knowledge that LOVE OF FAILURE was what bound us. We have exciting project news to announce soon, but for now, keep Google Hangingout, TinyChatting and PLAY THAT LATENCY JUST LIKE LUSTIG!

Thu, 11 Apr 2013 06:26:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Artist Profile: Alex Myers]]>

Your work spans several distinct, but overlapping areas of discourse. We could start by talking through design, animation, glitch art, code, game play or the interface. I want to start right from the bottom though, and ask you about inputs and outputs. A recent work you collaborated on with Jeff Thompson, You Have Been Blinded - “a non-visual adventure game” -  takes me back to my childhood when playing a videogame often meant referring to badly sketched dungeon maps, before typing N S E or W on a clunky keyboard. Nostalgia certainly plays a part in You Have Been Blinded, but what else drives you to strip things back to their elements? I’ve always been interested in how things are built. From computers to houses to rocks to software. What makes these things stand up? What makes them work? Naturally I’ve shifted to exploring how we construct experiences. How do we know? Each one of us has a wholly unique experience of… experience, of life.. When I was a kid I was always wondering what it was like to be any of the other kids at school. Or a kid in another country. What was it like to be my cat or any of the non-people things I came across each day? These sorts of questions have driven me to peel back experience and ask it some pointed questions. I don’t know that I’m really interested in the answers. I don’t think we could really know those answers, but I think it’s enough to ask the questions. Stripping these things down to their elements shows you that no matter how hard you try, nothing you make will ever be perfect. There are always flaws and the evidence of failure to be found, no matter how small. I relish these failures. Your ongoing artgame project, Writing Things We Can No Longer Read, revels in the state of apophenia, “the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data”. [1] The title invokes Walter Benjamin for me, who argued that before we read writing we “read what was never written” [2] in star constellations, communal dances, or the entrails of sacrificed animals. From a player’s point of view the surrealistic landscapes and disfigured interactions within your (not)(art)games certainly ask, even beg, to be interpreted. But, what role does apophenia have to play in the making of your work? When I make stuff, I surround myself with lots of disparate media. Music, movies, TV shows, comics, books, games. All sorts of stuff gets thrown into the pot of my head and stews until it comes out. It might not actually come out in a recognizable form, but the associations are there. A specific example can be found in a lot of the models I use. I get most of them, or at least the seed of them, from open source models I find on 3D Warehouse. Because of the way that website works, it’s constantly showing you models it thinks are similar for whatever reason. Often I’ll follow those links and it will take me down symbolic paths that I never would have consciously decided to pursue. This allows a completely associative and emergent composition to take form. I’d like to paraphrase and link up your last two answers, if I may. How do “relishing failures” and “allowing things to take form” overlap for you? I know you have connections with the GLI.TC/H community, for instance. But your notgames Me&You, Down&Up, and your recent work/proposition Make Me Something seem to invoke experiments, slips and disasters from a more oblique angle. All are a means of encouraging surprise. In each piece it’s not about the skill involved, but about the thrill of the unknown. In all of my projects I try to construct a situation where I have very little control over the outcome. Glitch does this. But within the glitch community there’s a definite aesthetic involved. You can look at something and know that it’s glitch art. That’s not true for everything, but there is a baseline. For my notgames work I embrace the practice, not necessarily the look. I want irregularity. I want things to break. I want to be surprised. Your work in progress, the Remeshed series, appears to be toying with another irregular logic,  one you hinted at in your comments about “associative and emergent composition”; a logic that begins with the objects and works out. I hear an Object Oriented echo again in your work Make Me Something, where you align yourself more with the 3D objects produced than with the people who requested them. What can we learn from things, from objects? Has Remeshed pushed/allowed you to think beyond tools? That’s a tricky question and I’m not sure I have a satisfactory answer. Both projects owe their existence to a human curatorial eye. But in both I relinquish a lot of control over the final object or experience. I do this in the spirit of ready-to-hand things. By making experiences and objects that break expectations our attention is focused upon them. They slam into the foreground and demand our attention. Remeshed, and to an extent, Make Me Something, allows me to focus less on the craft of modeling and animation and more on pushing what those two terms mean. As Assistant Professor and Program Director of the Game Studies BSc atBellevue University you inevitably inhabit a position of authority for your students. Are there contradictions inherent in this status, especially when aiming to break design conventions, to glitch for creative and practical ends, and promote those same acts in your students? Yourecently modified Roland Barthes’ 1967 text ‘The Death of the Author’ to fit into a game criticism context. It makes me wonder whether “The Player-God” is something you are always looking to kill in yourself? Absolutely. When teaching I try break down the relationship of authority as much as possible. I prefer to think of myself as a mentor, or guide, to the students. Helping them find the right path for themselves. Doing this from within a traditional pedagogical structure is difficult, but worthwhile. Or so I tell myself. In terms of the Player-God, I think yes, I’m always trying to kill it. But at the same time, I’m trying to kill the Maker-God. There is no one place or source for a work. There’s no Truth. I reject the Platonic Ideal. Both maker and player are complicit in the act of the experience. Without either, the other wouldn’t exist.

Age: Somewhere in my third decade. Location: The Land of Wind and Grass / The Void Between Chicago and Denver How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start? Oof, for as long as I can remember. When I was 13 I killed my first computer about 4 days after getting it. I was trying to change the textures in DOOM. I had no idea what I was doing. Later, in college I was in a fairly traditional arts program learning to blow glass. At some point someone gave me a cheap Sony 8mm digital camcorder and I started filming weird things and incorporating the (terrible) video art into my glass sculptures. After that I started making overly ambitious text adventures and playing around with generative text and speech synthesizers. Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them? Where did you go to school? What did you study? I use Unity and Blender primarily right now. They’re the natural evolution of what I was trying to do way back when I was using Hammer and Maya. I did my MFA in Interactive Media and Environments at The Frank Mohr Institute in Groningen, NL. I started working in Hammer around this time making Gun-Game maps for Counter-Strike: Source. During the start of my second semester of grad school I suffered a horrible hard drive failure and lost all of my work. In a fit of depression I did pretty much nothing but play CS:S and drink beer for three months. At the end of that I made WINNING. What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology? I’m not sure how to answer this. About the most traditional thing I do anymore is make prints from the results of my digital tinkering. Object art doesn’t interest me much these days, but it definitely influenced how I first approached Non-Object art. Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)? I’m involved with a lot of local game developer and non-profit digital arts organizations. What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way? I’m an Assistant Professor of Game Studies at Bellevue University. The job and my work are inexorably bound together. I enjoy teaching in a non-arts environment because I feel it affords me freedom and resources I wouldn’t otherwise have. I actually hate the idea of walled-disciplines in education. Everyone should learn from and collaborate with everyone else. Who are your key artistic influences? Mostly people I know: Jeff Thompson, Darius Kazemi, Rosa Menkman, THERON JACOBS and some people I don’t know: Joseph Cornell, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Bosch, Brueghel the Elder, most of Vimeo. Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what? Yes. Definitely. Most recently I’ve been working with Jeff Thompson. We made You Have Been Blinded and Thrown into a Dungeon, a non-visual, haptic dungeon adventure. We’ve also been curating Games++ for the last two years. Do you actively study art history? Yep. I’m constantly looking at and referencing new and old art. I don’t limit it to art, though. I’m sick of art that references other art in a never ending strange loop. I try to cast my net further afield. Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you? Definitely. In no particular order: Dr. Seuss, Alastair Reynolds, Alan Sondheim, Dan Abnett, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Italo Calvino, Mother Goose, Jacques Lacan, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Carl Jung, H.P. Lovecraft, Jonathan Hickman, Brandon Graham, John Dewey, Umberto Eco... the list goes on and on. Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about? I think we’ve partially reached an era of the ascendant non-object. That is, an art form, distinct from performance and theatre, that places an emphasis wholly on the experience and not on the uniqueness of the object. Because of this move away from a distinct singular form, there’s no place for it in the art market. Most artists that work this way live by other means. I teach. Others move freely between the worlds of art and design. Still others do other things. The couple of times I’ve had solo exhibitions in Europe, I’ve almost always been offered a livable exhibition fee. Here in the States that’s never been the case. When I have shows stateside, I always take a loss. The organizer may cover my material costs, but there’s no way I could ever live off of it. Nor would I want to. I think the pressures of survival would limit my artistic output. I’m happier with a separation between survival and art.

[1] “Apophenia,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopaedia, March 21, 2013,

[2] Walter Benjamin, “On the Mimetic Faculty,” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (New York: Schoclen Books, 1933), 333–336.

Wed, 03 Apr 2013 09:28:28 -0700