MachineMachine /stream - search for innovation en-us LifePress <![CDATA[A Primer on AI in/from the Majority World]]>

A Primer on AI in/from the Majority World is a curated collection of over 160 thematic works that serve as pathways to explore the presence of artificial intelligence and technology in the geographic regions that are home to the majority of the human population. Instead of assuming that knowledge and innovations move out of the so-called centers of Europe and the United States to the rest of the world, thinking from the “majority world” (a term coined by Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam) means tracing emerging forms of knowledge, innovation, and labor in former and still-colonized spaces. “Majority world” defines a community in terms of what it has, rather than what it lacks.

Wed, 14 Sep 2022 22:33:47 -0700
<![CDATA[Geoengineering Is the Only Solution to Our Climate Calamities | WIRED]]>

Parag Khanna is the author of Connectography (2016) and The Future is Asian (2019). Michael Ferrari is managing partner at Atlas Research Innovations and a senior fellow at the Wharton School.

Fri, 09 Oct 2020 00:13:50 -0700
<![CDATA[Opinion | Why We Should Stop Fetishizing Privacy - The New York Times]]>

Big tech companies create jobs, encourage innovation and provide valuable services free. Why would we want to break them up? Ms. Messer is a technology investor and entrepreneur.

Mon, 27 May 2019 17:28:02 -0700
<![CDATA[Goodbye Uncanny Valley]]>

It’s 2017 and computer graphics have conquered the Uncanny Valley, that strange place where things are almost real... but not quite. After decades of innovation, we’re at the point where we can conjure just about anything with software. The battle for photoreal CGI has been won, so the question is... what happens now? CREDITS: Written and animated by Alan Warburton with the support of Tom Pounder and Wieden + Kennedy. Music by Cool 3D World ( Special thanks to: Leanne Redfern, Nico Engelbrecht, Iain Tait, Indiana Matine, Katrina Sluis, David Surman, Jacob Gaboury and Daniel Rourke. Animated backgrounds generously provided by: • Quixel ( • Katarina Markovic ( • Roman Senko ( Featuring work by: • Al and Al ( • Albert Omoss ( • Alex McLeod ( • Barry Doupe ( • Claudia Hart ( • Cool 3D World ( • Dave Fothergill ( • Dave Stewart ( • Drages Animation ( • El Popo Sangre ( • Eva Papamargariti ( • Filip Tarczewski ( • Geoffrey Lillemon ( • Jacolby Satterwhite ( • Jesse Kanda ( • John Butler ( • Jonathan Monaghan ( • Jun Seo Hahm ( • Kathleen Daniel ( • Katie Torn ( • Kim Laughton ( • Kouhei Nakama ( • LuYang ( • Mike Pelletier ( • Nic Hamilton ( • Pussykrew ( • Rick Silva ( • Sanatorios ( Alan WarburtonTags: CGI, computer graphics, uncanny valley, technology, software, art, film, history, catmull, pixar, ilm, VFX, animation, interstellar, Nolan, avengers, experimental, economy and cool3dworld

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 16:03:18 -0700
<![CDATA[Sight + Sound Festival - Eastern Bloc, Montreal (exhibition)]]>

Sight + Sound Festival - Eastern Bloc, Montreal, September 27thUnder the theme [Non-Compliant Futures], Sight + Sound festival 2017 will perform an autopsy of the grand narrative of innovation, the very one which promised us a radiant future dependent upon hyperconsumption, techno-positivism, digital colonialism, and the myth of infinite growth. With over thirty international guests, the festival program, curated by, will question the standardized imaginaries of the future and highlight intersecting paths and strategies that aim to reveal, perturb, and pervert the cult of innovation.Following on from the gospel of progress, evolution, and growth from centuries past, today’s vocabulary of innovation and disruption are rhetorical instruments par excellence. They flood the dominant discourse of our times, flowing from the political arena into the fields of labour, education, and art. Meanwhile, in periphery to the daily onslaught of techno-solutionist propaganda, numerous critical, alternative, deviant, and speculative practices are (re)emerging globally. They pave the way to a critical and grassroots reappropriation of the possibilities envisioned by our technological society.Sight + Sound 2017 calls to break free from a linear notion of progress and, rather, re-introduce concepts such as degrowth and maintainability to the core of our vision of the future. It is also an invitation to embrace our alien-becoming, which we are already collectively enduring with the whole of human and non-human life.Together with artists, activists, performers, and theorists, NON-COMPLIANT FUTURES inhabits this tsunami of capitalism and human action by populating it with a host of artistic alternatives — rather unlikely but preferable possibilities that will act as the basis to broader debate and critical projections into the future.

Mon, 04 Sep 2017 04:34:58 -0700
<![CDATA[The Dark Side Of The Singularity | Answers With Joe]]>

Or... How To Not Be A Horse. Automation and AI promise to usher in an era of amazing productivity and innovation. But they also threaten our very way of life.

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Tony Seba's talk about why transportation and energy will be obsolete by 2030:

Okuma Automation:

CNet News on the automated Amazon fulfillment centers:

Fully Charged - Self-Driving Nissan Leaf:

Partial Transcript:

For hundreds, even thousands of years, the horse was humanity’s go-to form of transportation. And in 13 years, that all changed.

Right now, we are on the cusp of a technological disruption that will make the switch from horses to cars look like switching from Coke to Pepsi.

So we talk a lot on this channel about exponential growth, artificial intelligence, the singularity, and that’s a lot of fun, but there is a dark side to all this change, one that really needs to be talked about because the way we respond to it is going to significantly alter our future as a species.

The BBC released a report just a few weeks ago that said that 30% of jobs are going to go away in the next 10 years because of automation.

In the U.S., we’ve heard a lot over the last election about the proverbial coal miners and our current president specifically campaigning to bring back coal jobs.

But coal is just one of hundreds of industries that are taking advantage of employees that can work 24/7, never need a bathroom break, never sleep, never make a mistake and work twice as fast. Oh, and you don’t have to pay them.

Factories already decimated by outsourcing are now losing even more jobs to automation. And as automation becomes more sophisticated, more industries are at risk.

The transportation sector actually makes up 25% of the jobs in the United States, if you can believe that. A full quarter of the population. And autonomous cars… They’re pretty much here, guys.

Famously, the Tesla Model 3, going into production this year, will have autonomous capability, though it may not have the software available, it will have the hardware ready for it.

But less famously, there are a lot of other car companies trying to beat Tesla to market with this. Nissan has a fully self-driving prototype in development that they took a drive in on Fully Charged and it was spooky how good it was.

Cadillac is so bullish on self-driving technology, they spent millions of dollars to create a lidar map of every highway in the United States using their own proprietary system.

This way their cars won’t just rely on sensors and GPS to find their way, the Cadillac system will contain a 3D map of everything, including the roadsigns.

Google’s working on a car, Apple supposedly is working on a car, but the people who are really big on this technology are the service providers.

Uber made over 2 billion dollars last year. Imagine how much they could make if they didn’t have to pay their drivers...

Uber has been working for years on a transportation fleet of autonomous cars, and even Ford has made some intentions known of pivoting in a similar direction.

Many are predicting that cars will go from a retail industry to a service industry, with Peter Diamandis saying that in ten years, car ownership will be an outdated idea.

The fact of the matter is, you can be for automation or against it, you can agree with its use or not, but this is happening. And we need to be ready for it.

Some people are talking about a basic minimum income, a flat amount of money that everybody in a society makes, as a safety net to keep people above water. This is an interesting idea that’s even being tested in some places.

There is a coming change on a fundamental and massive level in this world. One that is filled with amazing advancements and technological wonders. The question is, will we be able to change with it?

Mon, 01 May 2017 05:30:01 -0700
<![CDATA[Centre Pompidou: quand les artistes impriment le monde en 3D «...]]>

Centre Pompidou: quand les artistes impriment le monde en 3D « Mutations/Créations », c'est le nom du nouveau rendez-vous annuel du Centre Pompidou-Paris. Une manifestation déroutante dédiée aux relations bouillonnantes entre les artistes et l’innovation technologique, entre l’art et la science.

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 05:34:56 -0700
<![CDATA[transmediale 2016 | Disnovation Research / Drone-2000]]>

with: Jean-Marie Boyer, Ewen Chardronnet, Nicolas Maigret, Daniel Rourke, Erin Sexton; moderated by Ryan Bishop

Disnovation Research is a project inquiring into the mechanics and rhetoric of innovation. Considering the "propaganda of innovation" as one of the ideological driving forces of our era, it aims to explore the notions of technological fetishism and solutionism through speculations and diversions by artists and thinkers.

The performance Drone-2000 presents a bestiary of autonomous flying systems powered by dysfunctional algorithms. Here, trusting the autonomy of the machine is not only a discursive concept but a real-life experience shared with the audience, triggering visceral and psychological reactions.

The Disnovation panel highlighted a few outstanding projects on this issue, with Daniel Rourke introducing the #Additivism speculative research project – a collaboration with artist and activist Morehshin Allahyari – followed by Ewen Chardronnet presenting the fifth issue of the Laboratory Planet newspaper.

Haus der Kulturen der Welt Thursday, 4 February 2016

Thu, 31 Mar 2016 04:29:15 -0700
<![CDATA[#Additivism on Disnovation Research panel @ Transmediale 2016]]>

Additivism on Disnovation Research panel @ Transmediale, Berlin (4th Feb 2016)#Additivism will be part of the Disnovation Research Panel at the upcoming Transmediale Festival. Disnovation Research is a project by Nicolas Maigret inquiring into the mechanics and rhetoric of innovation. Considering the “propaganda of innovation” as one of the ideological driving forces of our era, it aims to explore the notions of technological fetishism and solutionism through speculations and diversions by artists and thinkers. The Disnovation panel will highlight a few outstanding projects on this issue, with Daniel Rourke introducing the #Additivism speculative research project – a collaboration with artist and activist Morehshin

Allahyari – followed by Ewen Chardronnet presenting the fifth issue of the Laboratory Planet newspaper.

Thu, 07 Jan 2016 04:28:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Phys.Org Mobile: Bee brain simulation used to pilot a drone]]>

Bee brain simulation used to pilot a drone Apr 14, Technology/Hi Tech & Innovation Full size image Credit: Green Brain Project The team of researchers working on the The Green Brain Project has advanced to the point of being able to use what they've created in mimicking a honeybee brain, to actua

Thu, 23 Apr 2015 00:26:46 -0700
<![CDATA[DCRL questions: Jussi Parikka]]>

What are digital Cultures? The DCRL-interview-series “Questions” The term “digital cultures” is all-encompassing and at the same time vague. The purpose of the interview-series QUESTIONS of the DCRL (Digital Cultures Research Lab) is to start specifying the broadness of the term by asking researchers as well as practitioners in various fields to further define the notion and its implications. In a five-minute time slot, the interviewees answer four standard questions: What are digital cultures? What are the potentials of digital cultures? What are the dangers of digital cultures? What lies beyond digital cultures? At the end of the interview, one specific question is asked according to which section of the CDC the interviewee is participating in. Team DCRL: Martina Leeker with: Paul Feigelfeld, Irina Kaldrack Video CDC: Jannik Leenen, Oona BraakerCast: Centre for Digital CulturesTags: DCRL Questions, Jussi Parikka, Innovations Inkubator, Leuphana, Universität Lüneburg, CDC, Centre for Digital Cultures, Digital Cultures, Digitale Kulturen, Lüneburg and Lueneburg

Tue, 05 Aug 2014 04:19:38 -0700
<![CDATA[Visual Effects Master Douglas Trumbull on Film Technology|Filmmakers,Film Industry, Film Festivals,Awards & Movie Reviews | Indiewire]]>

Douglas Trumbull, the Academy-Award winning visual master behind such films as "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Blade Runner," "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and "The Tree of Life," is about to debut his latest innovation in cinematic spectacle tomorrow at the Seatt

Wed, 21 May 2014 13:29:36 -0700
<![CDATA[On the mutual influnce of science fiction and innovation <a href="" rel="external"></a>]]>

On the mutual influnce of science fiction and innovation – Darren Wershler (alienated)

Sat, 11 Jan 2014 05:30:27 -0800
<![CDATA[Four Notes Towards Post-Digital Propaganda | post-digital-research]]>

“Propaganda is called upon to solve problems created by technology, to play on maladjustments and to integrate the individual into a technological world” (Ellul xvii).

How might future research into digital culture approach a purported “post-digital” age? How might this be understood?


A problem comes from the discourse of ‘the digital’ itself: a moniker which points towards units of Base-2 arbitrary configuration, impersonal architectures of code, massive extensions of modern communication and ruptures in post-modern identity. Terms are messy, and it has never been easy to establish a ‘post’ from something, when pre-discourse definitions continue to hang in the air. As Florian Cramer has articulated so well, ‘post-digital’ is something of a loose, ‘hedge your bets’ term, denoting a general tendency to criticise the digital revolution as a modern innovation (Cramer).

Perhaps it might be aligned with what some have dubbed “solutionism” (Morozov) or “computationalism” (Berry 129; Golumbia 8): the former critiquing a Silicon Valley-led ideology oriented towards solving liberalised problems through efficient computerised means. The latter establishing the notion (and critique thereof) that the mind is inherently computable, and everything associated with it. In both cases, digital technology is no longer just a business that privatises information, but the business of extending efficient, innovative logic to all corners of society and human knowledge, condemning everything else through a cultural logic of efficiency.

In fact, there is a good reason why ‘digital’ might as well be an synonym for ‘efficiency’. Before any consideration is assigned to digital media objects (i.e. platforms, operating systems, networks), consider the inception of ‘the digital’ inception as such: that is information theory. If information was a loose, shabby, inefficient method of vagueness specific to various mediums of communication, Claude Shannon compressed all forms of communication into a universal system with absolute mathematical precision (Shannon). Once information became digital, the conceptual leap of determined symbolic logic was set into motion, and with it, the ‘digital’ became synonymous with an ideology of effectivity. No longer would miscommunication be subject to human finitude, nor be subject to matters of distance and time, but only the limits of entropy and the matter of automating messages through the support of alternating ‘true’ or ‘false’ relay systems.

However, it would be quite difficult to envisage any ‘post-computational’ break from such discourses – and with good reason: Shannon’s breakthrough was only systematically effective through the logic of computation. So the old missed encounter goes: Shannon presupposed Alan Turing’s mathematical idea of computation to transmit digital information, and Turing presupposed Shannon’s information theory to understand what his Universal Turing Machines were actually transmitting. The basic theories of both have not changed, but the materials affording greater processing power, extensive server infrastructure and larger storage space have simply increased the means for these ideas to proliferate, irrespective of what Turing and Shannon actually thought of them (some historians even speculate that Turing may have made the link between information and entropy two years before Bell Labs did) (Good).

Thus a ‘post-digital’ reference point might encompass the historical acknowledgment of Shannon’s digital efficiency, and Turing’s logic but by the same measure, open up a space for critical reflection, and how such efficiencies have transformed not only work, life and culture but also artistic praxis and aesthetics. This is not to say that digital culture is reducibly predicated on efforts made in computer science, but instead fully acknowledges these structures and accounts for how ideologies propagate reactionary attitudes and beliefs within them, whilst restricting other alternatives which do not fit their ‘vision’. Hence, the post-digital ‘task’ set for us nowadays might consist in critiquing digital efficiency and how it has come to work against commonality, despite transforming the majority of Western infrastructure in its wake.

The purpose of these notes is to outline how computation has imparted an unwarranted effect of totalised efficiency, and to label this effect the type of description it deserves: propaganda. The fact that Shannon and Turing had multiple lunches together at Bell labs in 1943, held conversations and exchanged ideas, but not detailed methods of cryptanalysis (Price & Shannon) provides a nice contextual allegory for how digital informatics strategies fail to be transparent.

But in saying this, I do not mean that companies only use digital networks for propagative means (although that happens), but that the very means of computing a real concrete function is constitutively propagative. In this sense, propaganda resembles a post-digital understanding of what it means to be integrated into an ecology of efficiency, and how technical artefacts are literally enacted as propagative decisions. Digital information often deceives us into accepting its transparency, and of holding it to that account: yet in reality it does the complete opposite, with no given range of judgements available to detect manipulation from education, or persuasion from smear. It is the procedural act of interacting with someone else’s automated conceptual principles, embedding pre-determined decisions which not only generate but pre-determine ones ability to make choices about such decisions, like propaganda.

This might consist in distancing ideological definitions of false consciousness as an epistemological limit to knowing alternatives within thought, to engaging with a real programmable systems which embeds such limits concretely, withholding the means to transform them. In other words, propaganda incorporates how ‘decisional structures’ structure other decisions, either conceptually or systematically.


Two years before Shannon’s famous Masters thesis, Turing published what would be a theoretical basis for computation in his 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem.” The focus of the paper was to establish the idea of computation within a formal system of logic, which when automated would solve particular mathematical problems put into function (Turing, An Application). What is not necessarily taken into account is the mathematical context to that idea: for the foundations of mathematics were already precarious, way before Turing outlined anything in 1936. Contra the efficiency of the digital, this is a precariousness built-in to computation from its very inception: the precariousness of solving all problems in mathematics.

The key word of that paper, its key focus, was on the Entscheidungsproblem, or decision problem. Originating from David Hilbert’s mathematical school of formalism, ‘decision’ means something more rigorous than the sorts of decisions in daily life. It really means a ‘proof theory’, or how analytic problems in number theory and geometry could be formalised, and thus efficiently solved (Hilbert 3). Solving a theorem is simply finding a provable ‘winning position’ in a game. Similar to Shannon, ‘decision’ is what happens when an automated system of function is constructed in such a sufficiently complex way, that an algorithm can always ‘decide’ a binary, yes or no answer to a mathematical problem, when given an arbitrary input, in a sufficient amount of time. It does not require ingenuity, intuition or heuristic gambles, just a combination of simple consistent formal rules and a careful avoidance of contradiction.

The two key words there are ‘always’ and ‘decide’. The progressive end-game of twentieth century mathematicians who, like Hilbert, sought after a simple totalising conceptual system to decide every mathematical problem and work towards absolute knowledge. All Turing had to do was make explicit Hilbert’s implicit computational treatment of formal rules, manipulate symbol strings and automate them using an ’effective’ or “systematic method” (Turing, Solvable and Unsolvable Problems 584) encoded into a machine. This is what Turing’s thesis meant (discovered independently to Alonzo Church’s equivalent thesis (Church)): any systematic algorithm solved by a mathematical theorem can be computed by a Turing machine (Turing, An Application), or in Robin Gandy’s words, “[e]very effectively calculable function is a computable function” (Gandy).

Thus effective procedures decide problems, and they resolve puzzles providing winning positions (like theorems) in the game of functional rules and formal symbols. In Turing’s words, “a systematic procedure is just a puzzle in which there is never more than one possible move in any of the positions which arise and in which some significance is attached to the final result” (Turing, Solvable and Unsolvable Problems 590). The significance, or the winning position, becomes the crux of the matter for the decision: what puzzles or problems are to be decided? This is what formalism attempted to do: encode everything through the regime of formalised efficiency, so that all of mathematically inefficient problems are, in principle, ready to be solved. Programs are simply proofs: if it could be demonstrated mathematically, it could be automated.

In 1936, Turing had showed some complex mathematical concepts of effective procedures could simulate the functional decisions of all the other effective procedures (such as the Universal Turing Machine). Ten years later, Turing and John von Neumann would independently show how physical general purpose computers, offered the same thing and from that moment on, efficient digital decisions manifested themselves in the cultural application of physical materials. Before Shannon’s information theory offered the precision of transmitting information, Hilbert and Turing developed the structure of its transmission in the underlying regime of formal decision.

Yet, there was also a non-computational importance here, for Turing was also fascinated by what decisions couldn’t compute. His thesis was quite precise, so as to elucidate that if no mathematical problem could be proved, a computer was not of any use. In fact, the entire focus of his 1936 paper, often neglected by Silicon Valley cohorts, was to show that Hilbert’s particular decision problem could not be solved. Unlike Hilbert, Turing was not interested in using computation to solve every problem, but as a curious endeavour for surprising intuitive behaviour. The most important of all, Turing’s halting, or printing problem was influential, precisely as it was undecidable; a decision problem which couldn’t be decided.

We can all picture the halting problem, even obliquely. Picture the frustrated programmer or mathematician starting at their screen, waiting to know when an algorithm will either halt and spit out a result, or provide no answer. The computer itself has already determined the answer for us, the programmer just has to know when to give up. But this is a myth, inherited with a bias towards human knowledge, and a demented understanding of machines as infinite calculating engines, rather than concrete entities of decision. For reasons that escape word space, Turing didn’t understand the halting problem in this way: instead he understood it as a contradictory example of computational decisions failing to decide on each other, on the account that there could never be one totalising decision or effective procedure. There is no guaranteed effective procedure to decide on all the others, and any attempt to build one (or invest in a view which might help build one), either has too much investment in absolute formal reason, or it ends up with ineffective procedures.

Undecidable computation might be looked at as a dystopian counterpart against the efficiency of Shannon’s ‘digital information’ theory. A base 2 binary system of information resembling one of two possible states, whereby a system can communicate with one digit, only in virtue of the fact that there is one other digit alternative to it. Yet the perfect transmission of that information, is only subject to a system which can ‘decide’ on the digits in question, and establish a proof to calculate a success rate. If there is no mathematical proof to decide a problem, then transmitting information becomes problematic for establishing a solution.


What has become clear is that our world is no longer simply accountable to human decision alone. Decisions are no longer limited to the borders of human decisions and ‘culture’ is no longer simply guided by a collective whole of social human decisions. Nor is it reducible to one harmonious ‘natural’ collective decision which prompts and pre-empts everything else. Instead we seem to exist in an ecology of decisions: or better yet decisional ecologies. Before there was ever the networked protocol (Galloway), there was the computational decision. Decision ecologies are already set up before we enter the world, implicitly coterminous with our lives: explicitly determining a quantified or bureaucratic landscape upon which an individual has limited manoeuvrability.

Decisions are not just digital, they are continuous as computers can be: yet decisions are at their most efficient when digitally transferred. Decisions are everywhere and in everything. Look around. We are constantly told by governments and states that are they making tough decisions in the face of austerity. CEOs and Directors make tough decisions for the future of their companies and ‘great’ leaders are revered for being ‘great decisive leaders’: not just making decisions quickly and effectively, but also settling issues and producing definite results.

Even the word ‘decide’, comes from the Latin origin of ‘decidere’, which means to determine something and ‘to cut off.’ Algorithms in financial trading know not of value, but of decision: whether something is marked by profit or loss. Drones know not of human ambiguity, but can only decide between kill and ignore, cutting off anything in-between. Constructing a system which decides between one of two digital values, even repeatedly, means cutting off and excluding all other possible variables, leaving a final result at the end of the encoded message. Making a decision, or building a system to decide a particular ideal or judgement must force other alternatives outside of it. Decisions are always-already embedded into the framework of digital action, always already deciding what is to be done, how it can be done or what is threatening to be done. It would make little sense to suggest that these entities ‘make decisions’ or ‘have decisions’, it would be better to say that they are decisions and ecologies are constitutively constructed by them.

The importance of neo-liberal digital transmissions are not that they become innovative, or worthy of a zeitgeist break: but that they demonstrably decide problems whose predominant significance is beneficial for self-individual efficiency and accumulation of capital. Digital efficiency is simply about the expansion of automating decisions and what sort of formalised significances must be propagated to solve social and economic problems, which creates new problems in a vicious circle.

The question can no longer simply be ‘who decides’, but now, ‘what decides?’ Is it the cafe menu board, the dinner party etiquette, the NASDAQ share price, Google Pagerank, railway network delays, unmanned combat drones, the newspaper crossword, the javascript regular expression or the differential calculus? It’s not quite right to say that algorithms rule the world, whether in algo-trading or in data capture, but the uncomfortable realisation that real entities are built to determine provable outcomes time and time again: most notably ones for cumulating profit and extracting revenue from multiple resources.

One pertinent example: consider George Dantzig’s simplex algorithm: this effective procedure (whose origins began in multidimensional geometry) can always decide solutions for large scale optimisation problems which continually affect multi-national corporations. The simplex algorithm’s proliferation and effectiveness has been critical since its first commercial application in 1952, when Abraham Charnes and William Cooper used it to decide how best to optimally blend four different petroleum products at the Gulf Oil Company (Elwes 35; Gass & Assad 79). Since then the simplex algorithm has had years of successful commercial use, deciding almost everything from bus timetables and work shift patterns to trade shares and Amazon warehouse configurations. According to the optimisation specialist Jacek Gondzio, the simplex algorithm runs at “tens, probably hundreds of thousands of calls every minute” (35), always deciding the most efficient method of extracting optimisation.

In contemporary times, nearly all decision ecologies work in this way, accompanying and facilitating neo-liberal methods of self-regulation and processing all resources through a standardised efficiency: from bureaucratic methods of formal standardisation, banal forms ready to be analysed one central system, to big-data initiatives and simple procedural methods of measurement and calculation. The technique of decision is a propagative method of embedding knowledge, optimisation and standardisation techniques in order to solve problems and an urge to solve the most unsolvable ones, including us.

Google do not build into their services an option to pay for the privilege of protecting privacy: the entire point of providing a free service which purports to improve daily life, is that it primarily benefits the interests of shareholders and extend commercial agendas. James Grimmelmann gave a heavily detailed exposition on Google’s own ‘net neutrality’ algorithms and how biased they happen to be. In short, PageRank does not simply decide relevant results, it decides visitor numbers and he concluded on this note.

With disturbing frequency, though, websites are not users’ friends. Sometimes they are, but often, the websites want visitors, and will be willing to do what it takes to grab them (Grimmelmann 458).

If the post-digital stands for the self-criticality of digitalisation already underpinning contemporary regimes of digital consumption and production, then its saliency lies in understanding the logic of decision inherent to such regimes. The reality of the post-digital, shows that machines remain curiously efficient whether we relish in cynicism or not. Such regimes of standardisation and determined results, were already ‘mistakenly built in’ to the theories which developed digital methods and means, irrespective of what computers can or cannot compute.


Why then should such post-digital actors be understood as instantiations of propaganda? The familiarity of propaganda is manifestly evident in religious and political acts of ideological persuasion: brainwashing, war activity, political spin, mind control techniques, subliminal messages, political campaigns, cartoons, belief indoctrination, media bias, advertising or news reports. A definition of propaganda might follow from all of these examples: namely, the systematic social indoctrination of biased information that persuades the masses to take action on something which is neither beneficial to them, nor in their best interests: or as Peter Kenez writes, propaganda is “the attempt to transmit social and political values in the hope of affecting people’s thinking, emotions, and thereby behaviour” (Kenez 4) Following Stanley B. Cunningham’s watered down definition, propaganda might also denote a helpful and pragmatic “shorthand statement about the quality of information transmitted and received in the twentieth century” (Cunningham 3).

But propaganda isn’t as clear as this general definition makes out: in fact what makes propaganda studies such a provoking topic is that nearly every scholar agrees that no stable definition exists. Propaganda moves beyond simple ‘manipulation’ and ‘lies’ or derogatory, jingoistic representation of an unsubtle mood – propaganda is as much about the paradox of constructing truth, and the irrational spread of emotional pleas, as well as endorsing rational reason. As the master propagandist William J. Daugherty wrote;

It is a complete delusion to think of the brilliant propagandist as being a professional liar. The brilliant propagandist […] tells the truth, or that selection of the truth which is requisite for his purpose, and tells it in such a way that the recipient does not think that he is receiving any propaganda…. (Daugherty 39).

Propaganda, like ideology works by being inherently implicit and social. In the same way that post-ideology apologists ignore their symptom, propaganda is also ignored. It isn’t to be taken as a shadowy fringe activity, blown apart by the democratising fairy-dust of ‘the Internet’. As many others have noted, the purported ‘decentralising’ power of online networks, offer new methods for propagative techniques, or ‘spinternet’ strategies, evident in China (Brady). Iran’s recent investment into video game technology only makes sense, only when you discover that 70% of Iran’s population are under 30 years of age, underscoring a suitable contemporary method of dissemination. Similarly in 2011, the New York City video game developer Kuma Games was mired in controversy when it was discovered that an alleged CIA agent, Amir Mirza Hekmati, had been recruited to make an episodic video game series intending to “change the public opinion’s mindset in the Middle East.” (Tehran Times). The game in question, Kuma\War (2006 – 2011) was a free-to-play First-Person Shooter series, delivered in episodic chunks, the format of which attempted to simulate biased re-enactments of real-life conflicts, shortly after they reached public consciousness.

Despite his unremarkable leanings towards Christian realism, Jacques Ellul famously updated propaganda’s definition as the end product of what he previously lamented as ‘technique’. Instead of viewing propaganda as a highly organised systematic strategy for extending the ideologues of peaceful warfare, he understood it as a general social phenomenon in contemporary society.

Ellul outlined two types: political and sociological propaganda: Political propaganda involves government, administrative techniques which intend to directly change the political beliefs of an intended audience. By contrast, sociological propaganda is the implicit unification of involuntary public behaviour which creates images, aesthetics, problems, stereotypes, the purpose of which aren’t explicitly direct, nor overtly militaristic. Ellul argues that sociological propaganda exists; “in advertising, in the movies (commercial and non-political films), in technology in general, in education, in the Reader’s Digest; and in social service, case work, and settlement houses” (Ellul 64). It is linked to what Ellul called “pre” or “sub-propaganda”: that is, an imperceptible persuasion, silently operating within ones “style of life” or permissible attitude (63). Faintly echoing Louis Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatuses (Althusser 182) nearly ten years prior, Ellul defines it as “the penetration of an ideology by means of its sociological context.” (63) Sociological propaganda is inadequate for decisive action, paving the way for political propaganda – its strengthened explicit cousin – once the former’s implicitness needs to be transformed into the latter’s explicitness.

In a post-digital world, such implicitness no longer gathers wartime spirits, but instead propagates a neo-liberal way of life that is individualistic, wealth driven and opinionated. Ellul’s most powerful assertion is that ‘facts’ and ‘education’ are part and parcel of the sociological propagative effect: nearly everyone faces a compelling need to be opinionated and we are all capable of judging for ourselves what decisions should be made, without at first considering the implicit landscape from which these judgements take place. One can only think of the implicit digital landscape of Twitter: the archetype for self-promotion and snippets of opinions and arguments – all taking place within Ellul’s sub-propaganda of data collection and concealment. Such methods, he warns, will have “solved the problem of man” (xviii).

But information is of relevance here, and propaganda is only effective within a social community when it offers the means to solve problems using the communicative purview of information:

Thus, information not only provides the basis for propaganda but gives propaganda the means to operate; for information actually generates the problems that propaganda exploits and for which it pretends to offer solutions. In fact, no propaganda can work until the moment when a set of facts has become a problem in the eyes of those who constitute public opinion (114).

Wed, 11 Dec 2013 15:42:45 -0800
<![CDATA[The Future Of Memory Is Half Mind, Half Machine | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation]]>

Exclusive Ethonomics Articles, Delivered to Your Inbox Daily. Written by: Rita J. King

Sun, 14 Jul 2013 16:40:30 -0700
<![CDATA[Ray Kurzweil Says We’re Going to Live Forever -]]>

As a futurist, you are famous for making predictions of when technological innovations will actually occur. Are you willing to predict the year you will die? My plan is to stick around.

Mon, 11 Feb 2013 02:54:08 -0800
<![CDATA[The culture of the copy by James Panero - The New Criterion]]>

Technological revolutions are far less obvious than political revolutions to the generations that live through them. This is true even as new tools, for better and worse, shift human history more than new regimes do. Innovations offer silent coups. We rarely appreciate the changes they bring until th

Tue, 22 Jan 2013 15:27:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Rigid Implementation vs Flexible Materiality]]>

Wow. It’s been a while since I updated my blog. I intend to get active again here soon, with regular updates on my research. For now, I thought it might be worth posting a text I’ve been mulling over for a while (!) Yesterday I came across this old TED presentation by Daniel Hillis, and it set off a bunch of bells tolling in my head. His book The Pattern on the Stone was one I leafed through a few months back whilst hunting for some analogies about (digital) materiality. The resulting brainstorm is what follows. (This blog post, from even longer ago, acts as a natural introduction: On (Text and) Exaptation) In the 1960s and 70s Roland Barthes named “The Text” as a network of production and exchange. Whereas “the work” was concrete, final – analogous to a material – “the text” was more like a flow, a field or event – open ended. Perhaps even infinite. In, From Work to Text, Barthes wrote: The metaphor of the Text is that of the network… (Barthes 1979) This semiotic approach to discourse, by initiating the move from print culture to “text” culture, also helped lay the ground for a contemporary politics of content-driven media. Skipping backwards through From Work to Text, we find this statement: The text must not be understood as a computable object. It would be futile to attempt a material separation of works from texts. I am struck here by Barthes” use of the phrase “computable object”, as well as his attention to the “material”. Katherine Hayles in her essay, Text is Flat, Code is Deep, (Hayles 2004) teases out the statement for us: ‘computable’ here mean[s] to be limited, finite, bound, able to be reckoned. Written twenty years before the advent of the microcomputer, his essay stands in the ironic position of anticipating what it cannot anticipate. It calls for a movement away from works to texts, a movement so successful that the ubiquitous ‘text’ has all but driven out the media-specific term book. Hayles notes that the “ubiquity” of Barthes” term “Text” allowed – in its wake – an erasure of media-specific terms, such as “book”. In moving from, The Work to The Text, we move not just between different politics of exchange and dissemination, we also move between different forms and materialities of mediation. (Manovich 2002)For Barthes the material work was computable, whereas the network of the text – its content – was not.

In 1936, the year that Alan Turing wrote his iconic paper ‘On Computable Numbers’, a German engineer by the name of Konrad Zuse built the first working digital computer. Like its industrial predecessors, Zuse’s computer was designed to function via a series of holes encoding its program. Born as much out of convenience as financial necessity, Zuse punched his programs directly into discarded reels of 35mm film-stock. Fused together by the technologies of weaving and cinema, Zuse’s computer announced the birth of an entirely new mode of textuality. The Z3, the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic computer, arrived in 1941. (Manovich 2002) A year earlier a young graduate by the name of Claude Shannon had published one of the most important Masters theses in history. In it he demonstrated that any logical expression of Boolean algebra could be programmed into a series of binary switches. Today computers still function with a logic impossible to distinguish from their mid-20th century ancestors. What has changed is the material environment within which Boolean expressions are implemented. Shannon’s work first found itself manifest in the fragile rows of vacuum tubes that drove much of the technical innovation of the 40s and 50s. In time, the very same Boolean expressions were firing, domino-like, through millions of transistors etched onto the surface of silicon chips. If we were to query the young Shannon today, he might well gawp in amazement at the material advances computer technology has gone through. But, if Shannon was to examine either your digital wrist watch or the world’s most advanced supercomputer in detail, he would once again feel at home in the simple binary – on/off – switches lining those silicon highways. Here the difference between how computers are implemented and what computers are made of digs the first of many potholes along our journey. We live in an era not only practically driven by the computer, but an era increasingly determined by the metaphors computers have injected into our language. Let us not make the mistake of presupposing that brains (or perhaps minds) are “like” computers. Tempting though it is to reduce the baffling complexities of the human being to the functions of the silicon chip, the parallel processor or Wide Area Network this reduction occurs most usefully at the level of metaphor and metonym. Again the mantra must be repeated that computers function through the application of Boolean logic and binary switches, something that can not be said about the human brain with any confidence a posteriori. Later I will explore the consequences on our own understanding of ourselves enabled by the processing paradigm, but for now, or at least the next few paragraphs, computers are to be considered in terms of their rigid implementation and flexible materiality alone. At the beginning of his popular science book, The Pattern on the Stone, (Hillis 1999) W.  Daniel Hillis narrates one of his many tales on the design and construction of a computer. Built from tinker-toys the computer in question was/is functionally complex enough to “play” tic-tac-toe (noughts and crosses). The tinker-toy was chosen to indicate the apparent simplicity of computer design, but as Hillis argues himself, he may very well have used pipes and valves to create a hydraulic computer, driven by water pressure, or stripped the design back completely, using flowing sand, twigs and twine or any other recipe of switches and connectors. The important point is that the tinker-toy tic-tac-toe computer functions perfectly well for the task it is designed for, perfectly well, that is, until the tinker-toy material begins to fail. This failure is what Chapter 1 of this thesis is about: why it happens, why its happening is a material phenomenon and how the very idea of “failure” is suspect. Tinker-toys fail because the mechanical operation of the tic-tac-toe computer puts strain on the strings of the mechanism, eventually stretching them beyond practical use. In a perfect world, devoid of entropic behaviour, the tinker-toy computer may very well function forever, its users setting O or X conditions, and the computer responding according to its program in perfect, logical order. The design of the machine, at the level of the program, is completely closed; finished; perfect. Only materially does the computer fail (or flail), noise leaking into the system until inevitable chaos ensues and the tinker-toys crumble back into jumbles of featureless matter. This apparent closure is important to note at this stage because in a computer as simple as the tic-tac-toe machine, every variable can be accounted for and thus programmed for. Were we to build a chess playing computer from tinker-toys (pretending we could get our hands on the, no doubt, millions of tinker-toy sets we”d need) the closed condition of the computer may be less simple to qualify. Tinker-toys, hydraulic valves or whatever material you choose, could be manipulated into any computer system you can imagine, even the most brain numbingly complicated IBM supercomputer is technically possible to build from these fundamental materials. The reason we don”t do this, why we instead choose etched silicon as our material of choice for our supercomputers, exposes another aspect of computers we need to understand before their failure becomes a useful paradigm. A chess playing computer is probably impossible to build from tinker-toys, not because its program would be too complicated, but because tinker-toys are too prone to entropy to create a valid material environment. The program of any chess playing application could, theoretically, be translated into a tinker-toy equivalent, but after the 1,000th string had stretched, with millions more to go, no energy would be left in the system to trigger the next switch along the chain. Computer inputs and outputs are always at the mercy of this kind of entropy: whether in tinker-toys or miniature silicon highways. Noise and dissipation are inevitable at any material scale one cares to examine. The second law of thermo dynamics ensures this. Claude Shannon and his ilk knew this, even back when the most advanced computers they had at their command couldn”t yet play tic-tac-toe. They knew that they couldn”t rely on materiality to delimit noise, interference or distortion; that no matter how well constructed a computer is, no matter how incredible it was at materially stemming entropy (perhaps with stronger string connectors, or a built in de-stretching mechanism), entropy nonetheless was inevitable. But what Shannon and other computer innovators such as Alan Turing also knew, is that their saviour lay in how computers were implemented. Again, the split here is incredibly important to note:

Flexible materiality: How and of what a computer is constructed e.g. tinker-toys, silicon Rigid implementation: Boolean logic enacted through binary on/off switches (usually with some kind of input à storage à feedback/program function à output). Effectively, how a computer works

Boolean logic was not enough on its own. Computers, if they were to avoid entropy ruining their logical operations, needed to have built within them an error management protocol. This protocol is still in existence in EVERY computer in the world. Effectively it takes the form of a collection of parity bits delivered alongside each packet of data that computers, networks and software deal with. The bulk of data contains the binary bits encoding the intended quarry, but the receiving element in the system also checks the main bits alongside the parity bits to determine whether any noise has crept into the system. What is crucial to note here is the error-checking of computers happens at the level of their rigid implementation. It is also worth noting that for every eight 0s and 1s delivered by a computer system, at least one of those bits is an error checking function. W. Daniel Hillis puts the stretched strings of his tinker-toy mechanism into clear distinction and in doing so, re-introduces an umbrella term set to dominate this chapter: I constructed a later version of the Tinker Toy computer which fixed the problem, but I never forgot the lesson of the first machine: the implementation technology must produce perfect outputs from imperfect inputs, nipping small errors in the bud. This is the essence of digital technology, which restores signals to near perfection at every stage. It is the only way we know – at least, so far – for keeping a complicated system under control. (Hillis 1999, 18)   Bibliography  Barthes, Roland. 1979. ‘From Work to Text.’ In Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Poststructuralist Criticism, ed. Josue V. Harari, 73–81. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Hayles, N. Katherine. 2004. ‘Print Is Flat, Code Is Deep: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis.’ Poetics Today 25 (1) (March): 67–90. doi:10.1215/03335372-25-1-67. Hillis, W. 1999. The Pattern on the Stone : the Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work. 1st paperback ed. New York: Basic Books. Manovich, Lev. 2002. The Language of New Media. 1st MIT Press pbk. ed. Cambridge  Mass.: MIT Press.      

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 06:08:07 -0700
<![CDATA[When Will This Low-Innovation Internet Era End?]]>

It’s an age of unprecedented, staggering technological change. Business models are being transformed, lives are being upended, vast new horizons of possibility opened up. Or something like that. These are all pretty common assertions in modern business/tech journalism and management literature.

Then there’s another view, which I heard from author Neal Stephenson in an MIT lecture hall last week. A hundred years from now, he said, we might look back on the late 20th and early 21st centuries and say, “It was an actively creative society. Then the internet happened and everything got put on hold for a generation.”

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:07:16 -0700
<![CDATA[Animated GIFs: The Birth of a Medium | Off Book | PBS]]>

GIFs are one of the oldest image formats used on the web. Throughout their history, they have served a huge variety of purposes, from functional to entertainment. Now, 25 years after the first GIF was created, they are experiencing an explosion of interest and innovation that is pushing them into the terrain of art. In this episode of Off Book, we chart their history, explore the hotbed of GIF creativity on Tumblr, and talk to two teams of GIF artists who are evolving the form into powerful new visual experiences.


Patrick Davison, MemeFactory TopherChris, Tumblr Pamela Reed and Matthew Rader, Reed+Rader Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, Cinemagraphs

Story Development: Mike Rugnetta, Internet Culture Researcher, MemeFactory

GIFs by:

The Internet. We wish we could attribute all the GIFs we used, but we aren't even sure if that would be possible!

But...a special thanks to: @textfiles http:///

Please let us know if you see your work and want attribution!

Music by:

Mindthings: Space Frequencies: Casanelli: Shamil Elvenheim: Kevin Macleod:

Follow Off Book:

Twitter: @pbsoffbook Tumblr:

Produced by Kornhaber Brown:

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 04:13:00 -0800