MachineMachine /stream - tagged with papers en-us LifePress <![CDATA[Daniel Rourke - “We're trying to have the non-weird future get here as fast as possible.”]]>

Goldsmiths College Department of Art MFA Lectures 2018 - 2019

Series 1.1: Offence is the Best Defence: On the Success of Social Media Toxicity

8 Oct 2018 — Daniel Rourke (Goldsmiths): “We're trying to have the non-weird future get here as fast as possible.” 15 Oct 2018 — Isobelle Clarke (Birmingham): "Poor little snowflake, are you 'grossly' offended?": Quantifying Communicative Styles of Twitter Trolling 22 Oct 2018 — Zeena Feldman (Kings College, London): Beyond Time: On Quitting Social Media 29 Oct 2018 — William Davies (Goldsmiths): War of Words: Embodiment and Rhetoric in Online Combat

Daniel Rourke 8th October 2018 “We're trying to have the non-weird future get here as fast as possible.”

From the Latin ‘aequivocare’, for ‘called by the same name’, to equivocate is to use language ambiguously to conceal a truth or avoid commitment to a single meaning. In this talk Daniel Rourke will consider equivocation in the performative (social media) speech acts of figures such as Donald Trump, Elon Musk, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

How their speech acts exposit a 'shared' future, or a means of ‘escaping’ our present conditions, has much to tell us about how the very idea of the ‘true’ or the ‘false’ has shifted in the era of algorithmic governance, and social media campaigns such as #MeToo.

Turning to Homi K. Bhabha's theories of postcolonial discourse, as well as introducing the project The 3D Additivist Manifesto – co-created with Morehshin Allahyari – Daniel will end by trying to reaffirm the equivocal act, pointing out a way to generate and move toward non-determinate futures without imperialising them.

BIO: Dr. Daniel Rourke is a writer/artist and co-convener of Digital Media (MA) at Goldsmiths. In his work Daniel creates collaborative frameworks and theoretical toolsets for exploring the intersection of digital materiality, the arts, and posthumanism. These frameworks often hinge on speculative elements taken from science fiction and pop culture: fictional figures and fabulations that might offer a glimpse of a radical ‘outside’ to the human(ities). His writing and artistic profile includes work with AND Festival, The V&A, FACT Liverpool, Arebyte gallery, Centre Pompidou, Transmediale, Tate Modern, Sonic Acts Festival, as well as recent artistic collaborations with a cast of hundreds... web:

Presented by the Art Department, Goldsmiths.

Fri, 08 Feb 2019 06:24:18 -0800
<![CDATA[10. Salon Digital: #Additivism and the Art of Collective Survival - Daniel Rourke]]>

In diesem Video geht es um den Salon Digital 10. Dokumentation des 10. Salon Digital an der Hochschule für Künste Bremen am 29.11.2017. Mit Daniel Rourke. / filmische Dokumentation: Eva Klauss Rather than try and solve the problems we face as a planetary species - political and social problems which have been with us for millennia; or problems which come with new, and shiny names like ‘The Anthropocene’ - Daniel Rourke and Morehshin Allahyari, in their #'Additivism project, look to question the very notion of ‘the solution’: asking how the stories our problem come wrapped in are products of particular privileges, identities, and points of view. In this talk Daniel Rourke introduces The 3D Additivist Manifesto and Cookbook, showcasing some of the 'post-solution' projects it contains, and asking difficult questions of how to act once there are no solutions left. What is #Additivism? In March 2015 Allahyari & Rourke released The 3D Additivist Manifesto, a call to push the 3D printer and other creative technologies, to their absolute limits and beyond into the realm of the speculative, the provocative and the weird. The 3D Additivist Cookbook is composed of responses to that call, an extensive catalog of digital forms, material actions, and post-humanist methodologies and impressions. - The program for Digital Media at the University of the Arts Bremen launched a regular series of salon-style gatherings titled “Spectacle: Reenactments in the Arts, Design, Science and Technology.” The events have an open format and provide a forum for experiments, presentations and performances from a range of different fields, but with a common focus on old and new media, as well as technologies. The salon thereby enables a practice of reenactment as a way to make things past and hidden visible, present and also questionable. Contemporary new technologies and media seem to cover knowledge with complex layers of materials, code/sign systems and history/organization. Reenacting can translate obscured knowledge, ideas and theories into bodies and actions. At the heart of this conceptual approach is a desire to turn past events into present experiences—although the very nature of the past prohibits such an endeavor. The salon pursues the primary goal of opening closed systems and constructions (black boxes). Global power structures, as well as complex processes in development and production—leading to hermetic constructs—have made it even harder to understand science, economy and contemporary media, as well as new technologies. Recipients therefore tend to mostly grasp only their superficial level. The spectacle is a way to condense actions and processes. Reenactment, on the other hand, builds on repetition and history. But the spectacle is a moment in the here and now where everything flows together and culminates. Organised by: Andrea Sick, Ralf Baecker und Dennis Paul salon-digital.comCast: Digitale Medien KuD der HfK

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 11:01:13 -0700
<![CDATA[Sonic Acts 2017: The Noise of Becoming: On Monsters, Men, and Every Thing in Between]]>

SONIC ACTS FESTIVAL - THE NOISE OF BEING Daniel Rourke - The Noise of Becoming: On Monsters, Men, and Every Thing in Between 26 February 2017 - De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam, The Netherlands --- In this talk Daniel Rourke refigures the sci-fi horror monster The Thing from John Carpenter's 1982 film of the same name. The Thing is a creature of endless mimetic transformations, capable of becoming the grizzly faced men who fail to defeat it. The most enduring quality of The Thing is its ability to perform self-effacement and subsequent renewal at every moment, a quality we must embrace and mimic ourselves if we are to outmanoeuvre the monsters that harangue us. Daniel Rourke is a writer and artist based in London. In his work Daniel exploits speculative and science fiction in search of a radical ‘outside’ to the human(ities), including extensive research on the intersection between digital materiality, the arts, and posthumanism. In March 2015 artist & activist Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel released The 3D Additivist Manifesto – a call to push technologies beyond their breaking point, into the realm of the provocative, and the weird. Sonic Acts

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 12:02:45 -0700
<![CDATA[Sonic Acts 2017: The Noise of Becoming: On Monsters, Men, and Every Thing in Between]]>

UPDATE: My talk is also now available in The Noise of Being publication, published by Sonic Acts in September 2017 A talk I delivered at Sonic Acts Festival 2017: The Noise of Being, in which I refigure the sci-fi horror monster The Thing from John Carpenter’s 1982 film of the same name:

The Thing is a creature of endless mimetic transformations, capable of becoming the grizzly faced men who fail to defeat it. The most enduring quality of The Thing is its ability to perform self-effacement and subsequent renewal at every moment, a quality we must embrace and mimic ourselves if we are to outmanoeuvre the monsters that harangue us.

This talk was part of a panel featuring Laurie Penny and Ytasha Womack, entitled Speculative Fiction: Radical Figuration For Social Change. You can see their wonderful talks here:

Laurie Penny: Feminism Against Fascism Ytasha Womack: Afrofuturism: Imagination and Humanity

full text follows (+ references & slides) An Ontology of Every Thing on the Face of the Earth John Carpenter’s 1982 film, The Thing, is a claustrophobic science fiction thriller exhibiting many hallmarks of the horror genre. The film depicts a sinister turn for matter where the chaos of the replicating, cancerous cell is expanded to the human scale and beyond. We watch as an alien force terrorises an isolated Antarctic outpost. The creature exhibits an awesome ability to imitate; devouring any form of life it comes across, whilst simultaneously giving birth to an exact copy in a burst of bile and protoplasm. The Thing copies cell by cell in a process so perfect, that the resultant simulacrum speaks, acts, and even thinks like the original. The Thing is so relentless and its copies so perfect, that the outpost’s Doctor, Blair, is sent mad at the implications: If a cell gets out it could imitate everything on the face of the Earth… and it’s not gonna stop! [1] This text is also available in The Noise of Being publication (published September 2017) Based on John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella, Who Goes There?, Carpenter’s film revisits a gothic trope that is numerous in its incarnations. In Campbell’s novella, The Thing is condensed as much from the minds of the men as from its own horrific, defrosting bulk. A slowly surfacing nightmare that transforms alien matter into earthly biology also has the effect of transferring the inner, mental lives of the men into the resultant condensation. John W. Campbell knew that The Thing could become viscous human flesh, but in order to truly imitate its prey the creature must infect inner life separately, pulling kicking and screaming ghosts out of their biological – Cartesian – machines. As a gothic figure, Campbell’s Thing disrupts the stable and integral vision of human being: self-same bodies housing ‘unitary and securely bounded’ [2] subjectivities, identical and extensive through time. His characters confront their anguish at being embodied: their nightmares are literally made flesh. To emphasise the otherness of each human’s flesh, Campbell’s story is inhabited exclusively with male characters. The absence of women makes the conflict between each of the men feel more rudimentary, but it also centres the novel’s horror on the growing realisation that to be human is also to be alien to oneself. Differences between sexes within the single species homo sapiens are bypassed, allowing the alien entity to exhibit the features of human female ‘otherness’ alongside a gamut of horrific bodily permutations. Perhaps, as Barbara Creed, [3] Rosi Braidotti, [4] and others [5] have argued, The Thing signifies the intrinsic absence of the mother figure: the female body’s capacity to be differentiated from itself in the form of pregnancy; to open up and usher forth into the world a creature other to itself. This Thingly quality is given credence by Julia Kristeva in a passage that could equally refer to The Thing as to the development of a fetus during pregnancy: Cells fuse, split, and proliferate; volumes grow, tissues stretch, and the body fluids change rhythm, speeding up or slowing down. With the body, growing as a graft, indomitable, there is another. And no one is present, within that simultaneously dual and alien space, to signify what is going on. [6] The Thing does exhibit demeanours of copulation and fertility, but also of disease, fragmentation, dismemberment, and asexual fission. In the novella, during a drug induced nightmare Dr. Copper sits bolt upright and blurts out ‘Garry – listen. Selfish – from hell they came, and hellish shellfish – I mean self – Do I? What do I mean?,’ McReady [7] turns to the other men in the cabin, ‘Selfish, and as Dr. Copper said – every part is a whole. Every piece is self-sufficient, and animal in itself.’ [8] The Thing is aberrant at a level more fundamental than allusions to pregnancy can convey. Dr. Copper’s inability to articulate what The Thing is, indicates a categorical nightmare he and the men are suffering. As in the work of Mary Douglas, [9] The Thing’s nightmarish transformation denies the very concept of physical and categorical purity. The Thing’s distributed biology calls to mind the Hardt and Negri’s vision of the early Internet (ARPANET), designed, according to them: …to withstand military attack. Since it has no center and almost any portion can operate as an autonomous whole, the network can continue to function even when part of it has been destroyed. The same design element that ensures survival, the decentralisation, is also what makes control of the network so difficult. [10] The image of mankind’s outright destruction, via totalising narratives such as nuclear war, viral pandemic, or meteor strike is undermined by the paradigm of a Thingly technological infrastructure designed to avoid ‘absolute’ assault. Decentralisation is a categorical horror in its capacity to highlight our self-same, constantly threatened and weak, embodied selves. But shift the lens away from the self-same human subject, and the image of a distributed, amorphous network of autonomous cells immediately becomes a very good description of how biological life has always been constituted. The metaphysical dualism of the sexes, as Kelly Hurley concludes, is an inadequate paradigm of such horrific embodiment, rather any and all ‘ontological security’ [11] is challenged through a ‘collapsing of multiple and incompatible morphic possibilities into one amorphous embodiment.’ [12] The Thing is neither male nor female, two nor one, inside nor outside, living nor dead. If it does settle into a form that can be exclaimed, screamed or defined in mutually incompatible words, it does so only for a moment and only in the mind of its onlooker as they scrabble to deduce its next amorphous conflation. The Thing is a figure performing ontogenesis (something coming to be) rather than ontology (something that already is). [13] ‘The very definition of the real,’ as Jean Baudrillard affirmed, has become ‘that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction.’ [14] Does The Thing ‘produce’ something other than human life, or ‘reproduce’ human life in its entirety, and what, if anything, would be the difference? In a text on bio and necropolitics, Eugene Thacker undertakes an examination of the ‘difference between “Life” as an ontological foundation, and “the living,” or the various specific instantiations of Life.’ [15] Thacker highlights a passage in Poetics where Aristotle speaks of mimesis giving rise to the art of poetry in human beings: We take delight in viewing the most accurate possible images of objects which in themselves cause distress when we see them (e.g. the shapes of the lowest species of animal, and corpses). Recognition of mimetic forms can instill a certain degree of displeasure if that form depicts a carcass or something considered equally abhorrent. But this is often tinged with what Aristotle calls the ‘extremely pleasurable’ dual capacities of recognising an imitation as such, whilst at the same time recognising what it is the form is imitative of. The horror of The Thing is bound to this endless ontogenetic re-forming, its limitless capacity to imitate and become without necessarily settling into a final, stable and agreeable categorical – that is, ontological – form. The men of the Antarctic encampment grasp in their minds at the forms ushering from The Thing but can never keep up with its propensity toward the next shapeless-shape, bodiless-limb, or ontogenetic-extrudence. The Thing is a phenomenon, to use Eugene Thacker’s words once more, that is ‘at once “above” and “below” the scale of the human being,’ [16] throwing, as Rosi Braidotti puts it, ‘a terminal challenge towards a human identity that is commonly predicated on the One.’ [17] The ‘other’ of The Thing never settles down, always falling outside the dialectical circle. As Helene Cixous remarks in The Newly Born Woman, with the ‘truly “other” there is nothing to say; it cannot be theorized. The “other” escapes me.’ [18] The figure of The Thing bursts into popular culture at the meeting point between dream and flesh, and has been pursued ever since by men whose individuality is considered inseparable from their self-same embodiment. By modifying the rules through which dominant norms such as gender binaries operate, The Thing can be conceived as an incarnation of détournement: an intervention that hijacks and continually modifies the rules of engagement. ‘The radical implication [being] that [all] meaning is connected to a relationship with power.’ [19] Considered through Michel Foucault’s definition of bio-power, or the bio-political, The Thing is the process of sex and sexuality severed from the humans who are forced to proliferate ‘through’ it. Above all, the men set against this propagation – this mobilisation of images of ‘other’ – scramble to protect the normative image of the human they hold most dear: the mirage of ‘man’. Becoming World The filmic Thing is a fictional device enabled by animatronic augmentations coated with fleshy stand-ins, KY Jelly, and occasionally, real animal offal. As John Carpenter described his rendition of the creature in a 2014 interview, ‘It’s just a bunch of rubber on the floor.’ [20] Bringing The Thing ‘to life’ is an activity that performs the collapse ‘between “Life” as an ontological foundation, and “the living,” or the various specific instantiations of Life.’ [21] The animatronic Thing exists in the space between stable forms; it is vibrant, expressive technology realised by dead matter; and human ingenuity made discernible by uncanny machinic novelty. Ontological uncertainty finds fluidity in language on a page, in the ability to poetically gesture towards interstitiality. But on-screen animatronics, rubber, and KY Jelly are less fluid, more mimetically rooted by the expectations of the audience reveling in, and reviled by, their recognition of The Thing’s many forms. Upon its release critical reactions to John Carpenter’s The Thing were at best muted and at worst downright vitriolic. The special effects used to depict the creature were the focus of an attack by Steve Jenkins’. Jenkins attacks the film essentially for its surrealist nature… he writes that: “with regard to the effects, they completely fail to ‘clarify the weirdness’ of the Thing”, and that “because one is ever sure exactly how it [the alien] functions, its eruptions from the shells of its victims seem as arbitrary as they are spectacular’.” [22] In short, the reviews lingered on two opposing readings of The Thing’s shock/gore evocations: that they go too far and thus tend towards sensational fetishism, or that they can’t go far enough, depicting kitsch sensibilities rather than alien otherness. Jenkins’ concern that the special effects do not ‘clarify’ The Thing’s ‘weirdness’ is contradictory, if not oxymoronic. The implication is that Things could never be so weird as to defy logical function, and that all expressions should, and eventually do, lend themselves to being read through some parochial mechanism or other, however surreal they may at first seem. That The Thing’s nature could actually defy comprehensibility is not considered, nor how impossible the cinematic depiction of that defiance might be. Rather, the critical view seems to be that every grisly eruption, bifurcation, and horrific permutation on screen must necessarily express an inner order temporarily hidden from, but not inaccessible to, its human onlookers. This critical desire for a ‘norm’ defies the same critical desire for ‘true’ horror. Our will to master matter and technology through imitative forms is the same will that balks at the idea that imitative forms could have ontologies incommensurable with our own. The Thing is ‘weird’: a term increasingly applied to those things defying categorisation. A conviction, so wrote the late Mark Fisher, ‘that this does not belong, is often a sign that we are in the presence of the new… that the concepts and frameworks which we have previously employed are now obsolete.’ [23] In reflecting on the origins of this slippery anti-category, Eugene Thacker reminds us that within horror, ‘The threat is not the monster, or that which threatens existing categories of knowledge. Rather, it is the “nameless thing,” or that which presents itself as a horizon for thought… the weird is the discovery of an unhuman limit to thought, that is nevertheless foundational for thought.’ [24] In The Thing the world rises up to meet its male inhabitants in a weird form and, by becoming them, throws into question the categorical foundations of the born and the made, of subject and object, natural and synthetic, whole and part, human and world, original and imitation. What remains is an ongoing process of animation rendered horrific by a bifurcation of ontologies: on one side the supposed human foundation of distinction, uniqueness and autonomy; on the other, a Thingly (alien and weird) propensity that dissolves differentiation, that coalesces and revels in an endless process of becoming.  As in Mikhail Bakhtin‘s study of the grotesque, the ‘human horizon’ in question is that of the ‘canon,’ [25] a norm to which all aberrations are to be compared: The grotesque body… is a body in the act of becoming. It is never finished, never completed; it is continually built, created, and builds and creates another body. Moreover, the body swallows the world and is itself swallowed by the world. [26] The Thingly is neither self-same nor enclosed unto itself. It is a plethora of openings, conjoinings and eruptions that declare ‘the world as eternally unfinished: a world dying and being born at the same time.’ [27] The bodily horror performed by The Thing is an allegory of this greater interstitial violation: the conceptual boundary between the world-for-us and the world-without-us is breached not as destruction, or even invasion, but ultimately through our inability to separate ourselves from a world that is already inherently alien and weird. [28] ‘A monstrosity’ to hijack the words of Claire Colebrook, ‘that we do not feel, live, or determine, but rather witness partially and ex post facto.’ [29] How these processes are comprehended, or more precisely, how the perception of these processes is interpreted, is more important than the so called ‘difference’ between the world which existed before and the world which remains after. Eugene Thacker clarifies this point in his analysis of the etymology of the word ‘monster’: A monster is never just a monster, never just a physical or biological anomaly. It is always accompanied by an interpretive framework within which the monster is able to be monstrum, literally “to show” or “to warn.” Monsters are always a mat­ter of interpretation. [30] Becoming Weird In a 1982 New York Times movie section, critic Vincent Canby poured yet more scorn on John Carpenter’s ‘Thing’ remake: The Thing is a foolish, depressing, overproduced movie that mixes horror with science fiction to make something that is fun as neither one thing or the other… There may be a metaphor in all this, but I doubt it… The Thing… is too phony looking to be disgusting. It qualifies only as instant junk. [31] Chiming with his critic peers, Canby expresses his desire that the monster show its nature – be monstrum – only in respect of some ‘norm’; [32] some ‘interpretive framework’, [33] that the narrative will eventually uncover. By setting up ‘junk’ as a kitschy opposite to this supposedly palatable logic, Canby unwittingly generates a point from which to disrupt the very notion of the interpretive framework itself. The Thing is more than a metaphor. Canby’s appeal to ‘instant junk’ can be read as the monstrum, the revealing of that which constitutes the norm. The monster stands in for difference, for other, and in so doing normalises the subject position from which the difference is opposed: the canon. In the case of The Thing that canon is first and foremost the human male, standing astride the idea of a world-for-us. The ‘us’ is itself monopolised, as if all non-male ontogenetic permutations were cast out into the abject abyss of alien weirdness. In reclaiming ‘junk’ as a ‘register of the unrepresentable’ [34] a Thingly discourse may share many of the tenets of queer theory. As Rosi Braidotti makes clear, referring to the work of Camilla Griggers: ‘Queer’ is no longer the noun that marks an identity they taught us to despise, but it has become a verb that destabilizes any claim to identity, even and especially to a sex-specific identity. [35] The queer, the weird, the kitsch, are among the most powerful of orders because they are inherently un-representable and in flux. The rigid delineations of language and cultural heteronormativity are further joined in the figure of The Thing by a non-anthropic imaginary that exposes a whole range of human norms and sets into play a seemingly infinite variety of non-human modes of being and embodiment. Rosi Braidotti refers to the work of Georges Canguilhem in her further turn outwards towards the weird, ‘normality is, after all, the zero-degree of monstrosity,’ [36] signalling a post-human discourse as one which, by definition, must continually question – perhaps even threaten – the male, self-same, canonised, subject position: We need to learn to think of the anomalous, the monstrously different not as a sign of pejoration but as the unfolding of virtual possibilities that point to positive alternatives for us all… the human is now displaced in the direction of a glittering range of post-human variables. [37] In her book on The Death of The Posthuman (2014), Claire Colebrook looks to the otherwise, the un-representable, to destabilise the proposition of a world being for anyone. She begins by considering the proposed naming of the current geological era ‘The Anthropocene,’ [38] a term that designates a theoretical as well as scientific impasse for human beings and civilisation, in which human activity and technological development have begun to become indistinguishable, and/or exceed processes implicit within what is considered to be the ‘natural’ world. As if registering the inevitable extinction of humans isn’t enough, The Anthropocene, by being named in honour of humans, makes monsters of those times – past and present – which do not contain humans. Its naming therefore becomes a mechanism allowing the imagination of ‘a viewing or reading in the absence of viewers or readers, and we do this through images in the present that extinguish the dominance of the present.’ [39] The world ‘without bodies’ that is imaged in this move, Colebrook argues, is written upon by the current state of impending extinction. Humans are then able to look upon the future world-without-us in a state of nostalgia coloured by their inevitable absence. Here the tenets of the horror genre indicated by Eugene Thacker are realised as a feature of a present condition. The world-in-itself has already been subsumed by The Thingly horror that is the human species. For even the coming world-without-us, a planet made barren and utterly replaced by The Thingly junk of human civilisation, will have written within its geological record a mark of human activity that goes back well before the human species had considered itself as a Thing ‘in’ any world at all. In an analysis of the etymology of the Anthropocene, McKenzie Wark also turns to theory as a necessary condition of the age of extinction: All of the interesting and useful movements in the humanities since the late twentieth century have critiqued and dissented from the theologies of the human. The Anthropocene, by contrast, calls for thinking something that is not even defeat. [40] The Anthropocene, like ‘queer’ or ‘weird’, should be made into a verb, and relinquished as a noun. Once weirded in this way it becomes a productive proposition, Wark goes on, quoting Donna Haraway, ‘another figure, a thousand names of something else.’ [41] In the 2014 lecture quoted by Wark, Haraway called for other such worldings through the horrific figure of capitalism, through arachnids spinning their silk from the waste matter of the underworld, or from the terrible nightmares evoked in the fiction of the misogynist, racist mid 20th century author H.P. Lovecraft: The activation of the chthonic powers that is within our grasp to collect up the trash of the anthropocene, and the exterminism of the capitalocene, to something that might possibly have a chance of ongoing. [42] That weird, ongoing epoch is the Chthulucene, a monstrum ‘defined by the frightening weirdness of being impossibly bound up with other organisms,’ [43] of what Haraway calls, ‘multi-species muddles.’  [44] The horror of ‘the nameless thing’ is here finally brought to bear in Haraway’s Capitalocene and Chthulucene epochs. Haraway’s call for ‘a thousand names of something else’ is Thingly in its push towards the endlessly bifurcated naming, and theoretical subsuming. The anthro-normalisation casts out infinitely more possibilities than it brings into play. Although Donna Haraway makes it clear that her Chthulucene is not directly derivative of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, her intentional mis-naming and slippery non-identification exemplifies the kind of amorphous thinking and practice she is arguing for. Haraway’s Chthulucene counters Lovecraft’s Cthulhu with an array of chthonic, non-male, tentacular, rhizomatic, and web spinning figures that attest to the monstrum still exposed by Lovecraft’s three quarters of a century old work. The continued – renewed – fascination with Lovecraft’s weird ‘others’ thus has the capacity to expose a dread of these times. As writer Alan Moore has attested: [I]t is possible to perceive Howard Lovecraft as an almost unbearably sensitive barometer of American dread. Far from outlandish eccentricities, the fears that generated Lovecraft’s stories and opinions were precisely those of the white, middle-class, heterosexual, Protestant-descended males who were most threatened by the shifting power relationships and values of the modern world… Coded in an alphabet of monsters, Lovecraft’s writings offer a potential key to understanding our current dilemma, although crucial to this is that they are understood in the full context of the place and times from which they blossomed. [45] The dominant humanistic imagination may no longer posit white cis-males as the figure that ‘must’ endure, but other uncontested figures remain in the space apparently excavated of Lovecraft’s affinities. To abandon what Claire Colebrook calls ‘the fantasy of one’s endurance,’ may be to concede that the post-human is founded on ‘the contingent, fragile, insecure, and ephemeral.’ [46] But, as Drucilla Cornell and Stephen D. Seely suggest, it is dangerous to consider this a ‘new’ refined status for the beings that remain, since ‘this sounds not like the imagination of living beyond Man, but rather like a meticulous description of the lives of the majority of the world under the condition of advanced capitalism right now.’ [47] As Claire Colebrook warns, post-humanism often relinquishes its excluded others – women, the colonised, nonhuman animals, or ‘life itself’ [48] – by merely subtracting the previously dominant paradigm of white heteropatriarchy, whilst failing to confront the monster the that particular figure was indicative of: Humanism posits an elevated or exceptional ‘man’ to grant sense to existence, then when ‘man’ is negated or removed what is left is the human all too human tendency to see the world as one giant anthropomorphic self-organizing living body… When man is destroyed to yield a posthuman world it is the same world minus humans, a world of meaning, sociality and readability yet without any sense of the disjunction, gap or limits of the human. [49] As in Haraway and Wark’s call for not just ‘naming, but of doing, of making new kinds of labor for a new kind of nature,’ [50] contemporary criticism and theory must be allowed to take on the form of the monsters it pursues, moulding and transforming critical inquiries into composite, hybrid figures that never settle in one form lest they become stable, rigid, and normalised. In fact, this metaphor itself is conditioned too readily by the notion of a mastery ‘Man’ can wield. Rather, our inquiries must be encouraged ‘to monster’ separately, to blur and mutate beyond the human capacity to comprehend them, like the infinite variety of organisms Haraway insists the future opens into. The very image of a post-humanism must avoid normalising the monster, rendering it through analysis an expression of the world-for-us. For Eugene Thacker this is the power of the sci-fi-horror genre, to take ‘aim at the presuppositions of philosophical inquiry – that the world is always the world-for-us – and [make] of those blind spots its central concern, expressing them not in abstract concepts but in a whole bestiary of impossible life forms – mists, ooze, blobs, slime, clouds, and muck.’ [51] Reflecting on the work of Noël Carroll, [52] Rosi Braidotti argues that if science fiction horror ‘is based on the disturbance of cultural norms, it is then ideally placed to represent states of crisis and change and to express the widespread anxiety of our times. As such this genre is as unstoppable as the transformations it mirrors.’ [53]  

References [1] John Carpenter, The Thing, Film, Sci-Fi Horror (Universal Pictures, 1982). [2]  Kelly Hurley, The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 3. [3]  B. Creed, ‘Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection.’ Screen 27, no. 1 (1 January 1986): 44–71. [4]  Rosi Braidotti, Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming (Wiley, 2002), 192–94. [5]  Ian Conrich and David Woods, eds., The Cinema Of John Carpenter: The Technique Of Terror (Wallflower Press, 2004), 81. [6]  Julia Kristeva, quoted in Jackie Stacey, Teratologies: A Cultural Study of Cancer (Routledge, 2013), 89. [7]  The character McReady becomes MacReady in Carpenter’s 1982 retelling of the story. [8]  Campbell, Who Goes There?, 107. [9]  Noël Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror, Or, Paradoxes of the Heart (New York: Routledge, 1990). [10] Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, New Ed (Harvard University Press, 2001), 299. [11] Braidotti, Metamorphoses, 195. [12] Kelly Hurley, ‘Reading like an Alien: Posthuman Identity in Ridley Scott’s Aliens and David Cronenberg’s Rabid,’ in Posthuman Bodies, ed. Judith M. Halberstam and Ira Livingston (Bloomington: John Wiley & Sons, 1996), 219. [13] This distinction was plucked, out of context, from Adrian MacKenzie, Transductions: Bodies and Machines at Speed (A&C Black, 2006), 17. MacKenzie is not talking about The Thing, but this distinction is, nonetheless, very useful in bridging the divide between stable being and endless becoming. [14] Jean Baudrillard, Simulations, trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton, and Philip Beitchman (Semiotext (e) New York, 1983), 146. [15] Eugene Thacker, ‘Nekros; Or, The Poetics Of Biopolitics,’ Incognitum Hactenus 3, no. Living On: Zombies (2012): 35. [16] Ibid., 29. [17] Braidotti, Metamorphoses, 195. [18] Hélène Cixous, The Newly Born Woman (University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 71. [19] Nato Thompson et al., eds., The Interventionists: Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life (North Adams, Mass. : Cambridge, Mass: MASS MoCA ; Distributed by the MIT Press, 2004), 151. [20] John Carpenter, BBC Web exclusive: Bringing The Thing to life, Invasion, Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction, 14 November 2014. [21] Thacker, ‘Nekros; Or, The Poetics Of Biopolitics,’ 35. [22] Ian Conrich and David Woods, eds., The Cinema Of John Carpenter: The Technique Of Terror (Wallflower Press, 2004), 96. [23] Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie, 2016, 13. [24] Eugene Thacker, After Life (University of Chicago Press, 2010), 23. [25] Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (Indiana University Press, 1984), 321. [26] Ibid., 317. [27] Ibid., 166. [28] This sentence is a paraphrased, altered version of a similar line from Eugene Thacker, ‘Nine Disputations on Theology and Horror,’ Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development IV: 38. [29] Claire Colebrook, Sex After Life: Essays on Extinction, Vol. 2 (Open Humanities Press, 2014), 14. [30] Eugene Thacker, ‘The Sight of a Mangled Corpse—An Interview with’, Scapegoat Journal, no. 05: Excess (2013): 380. [31] Vincent Canby, ‘“The Thing” Is Phony and No Fun,’ The New York Times, 25 June 1982, sec. Movies. [32] Derrida, ‘Passages: From Traumatism to Promise,’ 385–86. [33] Thacker, ‘The Sight of a Mangled Corpse—An Interview with,’ 380. [34] Braidotti, Metamorphoses, 180. [35] Ibid. [36] Ibid., 174. [37] Rosi Braidotti, ‘Teratologies’, in Deleuze and Feminist Theory, ed. Claire Colebrook and Ian Buchanan (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000), 172. [38] A term coined in the 1980s by ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer and widely popularized in the 2000s by atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen. The Anthropocene is, according to Jan Zalasiewicz et al., ‘a distinctive phase of Earth’s evolution that satisfies geologist’s criteria for its recognition as a distinctive statigraphic unit.’ – Jan Zalasiewicz et al., ‘Are We Now Living in the Anthropocene,’ GSA Today 18, no. 2 (2008): 6. [39] Claire Colebrook, Death of the PostHuman: Essays on Extinction, Vol. 1 (Open Humanities Press, 2014), 28. [40] McKenzie Wark, ‘Anthropocene Futures’, 23 February 2015. [41] Ibid. [42] Donna Haraway, ‘Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble’ (University of California at Santa Cruz, 5 September 2014). [43] Leif Haven, ‘We’ve All Always Been Lichens: Donna Haraway, the Cthulhucene, and the Capitalocene,’ ENTROPY, 22 September 2014. [44] Donna Haraway, ‘SF: Sympoiesis, String Figures, Multispecies Muddles’ (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, 24 March 2014). [45] H. P Lovecraft, The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, ed. Leslie S Klinger (Liveright, 2014), xiii. [46] Claire Colebrook, Sex After Life: Essays on Extinction, Vol. 2 (Open Humanities Press, 2014), 22. [47] Drucilla Cornell and Stephen D Seely, The Spirit of Revolution: Beyond the Dead Ends of Man (Polity press, 2016), 5. [48] Ibid., 3–4. [49] Claire Colebrook, Death of the PostHuman: Essays on Extinction, Vol. 1 (Open Humanities Press, 2014), 163–64. [50] Wark, ‘Anthropocene Futures.’ [51] Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet, 9. [52]   Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror, Or, Paradoxes of the Heart. [53]   Braidotti, Metamorphoses, 185 (my emphasis).

Sun, 26 Feb 2017 04:43:01 -0800
<![CDATA[Singularities panel, Transmediale (5th Feb 2017)]]>

Singularities panel, Transmediale (5th Feb 2017)The video of our #Singularities panel at Transmediale is now online:Featuring the extraordinary talents of Luiza Prado & Pedro Oliveira (A parede), Rasheedah Phillips, and Dorothy R. Santos speaking (and performing) on refiguring techno-colonialist and heteronormative pasts, presents, futures and identities.The introduction to the panel - written by Morehshin and myself - can be found here. Photos from the panel are here.Stick around for the discussion and Q&A

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 02:02:15 -0800
<![CDATA[Embracing the Horror of The Anthropocence (plenary talk)]]>

This talk was delivered as the plenary paper for The 11th Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Conference, Imperial College, London, 2nd August 2016. You can find the full content of the talk beneath the slides in the comments section, or click the gear icon below and select ‘Open speaker notes’ It is presented here under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence – please use as you wish, but always reference and refer back to this post or the slide show.

“Any sufficiently advanced civilisation is indistinguishable from its garbage.” – Bruce Sterling

Wed, 03 Aug 2016 04:50:49 -0700
<![CDATA[Tate Series: Digital Thresholds: from Information to Agency (public event)]]>

I will deliver this 4-week public series at The Tate Modern throughout July 2016. Sign up! Thanks to Viktoria Ivanova for working with me to achieve this.

Data is the lifeblood of today’s economic and social systems. Drones, satellites and CCTV cameras capture digital images covertly, while smartphones we carry feed data packets into the cloud, fought over by corporations and governments. How are we to make sense of all this information? Who is to police and distribute it? And what kind of new uses can art put it to? This four-week series led by writer/artist Daniel Rourke will explore the politics and potential of big data through the lens of contemporary art and the social sciences. Participants will assess the impact the digital revolution has had on notions of value attached to the invisible, the territorial and the tangible. We will look at artists and art activists who tackle the conditions of resolution, algorithmic governance, digital colonialism and world-making in their work, with a focus on key news events yet to unfold in 2016. Session 1 Hito Steyerl: Poor Image Politics In this first session we will examine the politics of image and data resolution, with special attention to the work of artist Hito Steyerl represented in the Tate Collection. How do poor images influence the significance and value of the events they depict? What can online cultures that fetishise poor quality teach us about the economics and autonomy of information? Is being a low resolution event in a field of high resolutions an empowering proposition? Session 2 Morehshin Allahyari: Decolonising the Digital Archive 3D scanning and printing technologies are becoming common tools for archaeologists, archivists and historians. We will examine the work of art activists who question these technologies, connecting the dots from terroristic networks, through the price of crude oil, to artefacts being digitally colonised by Western institutions. Artist Morehshin Allahyari will join us via skype to talk about Material Speculation: ISIS – a series of artifacts destroyed by ISIS in 2015, which Allahyari then ‘recreated’ using digital tools and techniques. Session 3 Mishka Henner: Big Data and World Making In this session we will explore the work of artists who channel surveillance and big data into the poetic re-making of worlds. We will compare and contrast nefarious ‘deep web’ marketplaces with ‘real world’ auction houses selling artworks to a global elite. Artist Mishka Henner will join us via skype to talk about artistic appropriation, subversion and the importance of provocation. Session 4 Forensic Architecture: Blurring the Borders between Forensics, Law and Art The Forensic Architecture project uses analytical methods for reconstructing scenes of war and violence inscribed within spatial artefacts and environments. In this session we will look at their work to read and mobilise ‘ambient’ information gathered from satellites, mobile phones and CCTV/news footage. How are technical thresholds implicated in acts of war, terrorism and atrocity, and how can they be mobilised for resist and deter systemic violence?

Tue, 17 May 2016 07:23:50 -0700
<![CDATA[Plastic Futures Q&A with Heather Davis, #Additivism and Katrina Burch]]>

SONIC ACTS ACADEMY Q&A with Heather Davis, #Additivism and Katrina Burch 28 February 2016 - De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam, the NetherlandsCast: Sonic Acts

Fri, 08 Apr 2016 05:38:57 -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: An Encounter with The Fluid Outside]]>

SONIC ACTS ACADEMY #Additivism: An Encounter with The Fluid Outside 28 February 2016 - De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam, the Netherlands --- A talk and Q&A session by Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke about The 3D Additivist Manifesto + The 3D Additivist Cookbook and the artist’s own research and practice in relationship to #Additivism, activism, and critical/poetic approaches to 3D printing. #Additivism is a collaboration between artist and activist Morehshin Allahyari and writer/artist/academic Daniel Rourke. In March 2015 they released The 3D Additivist Manifesto: a call to push additive manufacturing technologies to their absolute limits and beyond, into the realm of the speculative, the provocative and the weird. They then issued a call for submissions for a radical ‘Cookbook‘ of blueprints, designs, 3D print templates, and essays on the topics raised by their Manifesto including text and projects on environmental ethics, objects in movements for social and political change, the renewed contemporary significance of the artist manifesto by the likes of the Accelerationist and Xenofeminist movements, and the potential of radical intervention in contemporary technocapitalism.Cast: Sonic Acts

Fri, 18 Mar 2016 04:48:27 -0700
<![CDATA[#Additivism talk for Disnovation Panel at Transmediale]]>

Additivism talk for Disnovation Panel at Transmediale, (4th Feb 2016)Daniel Rourke talked about deep time, horror, crap, ‘The Weird’ and The Radical at Transmediale festival, Berlin.

The talk was part of the Disnovation Research panel, featuring Jean-Marie Boyer, Ewen Chardronnet, Nicolas Maigret, Erin Sexton, and moderated by Ryan Bishop, with reflections on the work of #Additivism co-creator Morehshin Allahyari. ↪ Listen to the talk and follow the slides here.

Tue, 09 Feb 2016 05:52:00 -0800
<![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[#Additivism Workshop @ Sonic Acts, Amsterdam (Feb/March 2016)]]>

Additivism Workshop @ Sonic Acts, Amsterdam (Feb/March 2016)We are excited to announce a 2 day #Additivism Workshop as part of Sonic Acts Academy, Feb/March 2016

The Sonic Acts Academy relates to topics that are connected to the ‘dark matter’ theme Sonic Acts is currently investigating with its projects such as Dark Ecology and The Geologic Imagination, informed by the realisation that we live in the Anthropocene, and questioning how this forces us to rethink concepts of nature, culture, technology, and ecology. The workshop is open to artists, theorists, designers, engineers, scientists, thinkers, doers and makers who are interested in alternative approaches to theory-led forms of practice. Participants are ideally filled with fears and enthusiasm for the future. To apply please send a short bio, a motivation why you would like to attend, and your expectations to masterclass[@]sonicacts[.]com.

Tue, 22 Dec 2015 04:20:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Theorizing the Web 2015: 'Living with Algorithms' Panel]]>

Note Due to technical issues, Solon Barocas' presentation 'The Alterity of Algorithms' was not recorded.

.Presider Sara M. Watson .Hashmod Ava Kofman

Daniel Rourke: Synthetic Subjects Natalie Kane: Ghost Stories Nick Seaver: Traps: Algorithms and the Anthropology of Technology

Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:13:48 -0800
<![CDATA[WHAT IS #ADDITIVISM? Critical Perspectives on 3D Printing]]> The 3D Additivist Manifesto calls creators and thinkers to action around a technology filled with hope and promise: the 3D printer. By considering this technology as a potential force for good, bad, and otherwise, visiting artists Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke aim to disrupt binary thinking entirely, drawing together makers and thinkers invested in the idea of real, radical, change. In March 2015 Allahyari and Rourke invited submissions to an open-source ‘Cookbook’ of radical ideas that cut across the arts, engineering, and sciences. Inspired, in part, by William Powell’s The Anarchist Cookbook (1969), The 3D Additivist Cookbook will contain speculative texts, templates, recipes and (im)practical designs for living in this most contradictory of times. A talk and Q&A session by Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke about The 3D Additivist Manifesto + The 3D Additivist Cookbook in addition to the screening of The 3D Additivist Manifesto video. Artists will talk about their own research and practice in relationship to Additivism and 3D printing.Cast: STUDIO for Creative InquiryTags:

Tue, 10 Nov 2015 07:20:54 -0800
<![CDATA[Algorithmic Narratives and Synthetic Subjects (paper)]]>

This was the paper I delivered at The Theorizing the Web Conference, New York, 18th April 2015. This video of the paper begins part way in, and misses out some important stuff. I urge you to watch the other, superb, papers on my panel by Natalie Kane, Solon Barocas, and Nick Seaver. A better video is forthcoming. I posted this up partly in response to this post at Wired about the UK election, Facebook’s echo-chamber effect, and other implications well worth reading into.

Data churning algorithms are integral to our social and economic networks. Rather than replace humans these programs are built to work with us, allowing the distinct strengths of human and computational intelligences to coalesce. As we are submerged into the era of ‘big data’, these systems have become more and more common, concentrating every terrabyte of raw data into meaningful arrangements more easily digestible by high-level human reasoning. A company calling themselves ‘Narrative Science’, based in Chicago, have established a profitable business model based on this relationship. Their slogan, ‘Tell the Stories Hidden in Your Data’, [1] is aimed at companies drowning in spreadsheets of cold information: a promise that Narrative Science can ‘humanise’ their databases with very little human input. Kristian Hammond, Chief Technology Officer of the company, claims that within 15 years over 90% of all news stories will also be written by algorithms. [2] But rather than replacing the jobs that human journalists now undertake, Hammond claims the vast majority of their ‘robonews’ output will report on data currently not covered by traditional news outlets. One family-friendly example of this is the coverage of little-league baseball games. Very few news organisations have the resources, or desire, to hire a swathe of human journalists to write-up every little-league game. Instead, Narrative Science offer leagues, parents and their children a miniature summary of each game gleaned from match statistics uploaded by diligent little league attendees, and then written up by Narrative Science in a variety of journalistic styles. In their book ‘Big Data’ from 2013, Oxford University Professor of internet governance Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, and  ‘data editor’ of The Economist, Kenneth Cukier, tell us excitedly about another data aggregation company, Prismatic, who: …rank content from the web on the basis of text analysis, user preferences, social network-popularity, and big-data analysis. [3] According to Mayer- Schönberger and Cukier this makes Prismatic able ‘to tell the world what it ought to pay attention to better than the editors of the New York Times’. [4] A situation, Steven Poole reminds us, we can little argue with so long as we agree that popularity underlies everything that is culturally valuable. Data is now the lifeblood of technocapitalism. A vast endless influx of information flowing in from the growing universe of networked and internet connected devices. As many of the papers at Theorizing the Web attest, our environment is more and more founded by systems whose job it is to mediate our relationship with this data. Technocapitalism still appears to respond to Jean Francois Lyotard’s formulation of Postmodernity: that whether something is true has less relevance, than whether it is useful. In 1973 Jean Francois Lyotard described the Postmodern Condition as a change in “the status of knowledge” brought about by new forms of techno-scienctific and techno-economic organisation. If a student could be taught effectively by a machine, rather than by another human, then the most important thing we could give the next generation was what he called, “elementary training in informatics and telematics.” In other words, as long as our students are computer literate “pedagogy would not necessarily suffer”. [5] The next passage – where Lyotard marks the Postmodern turn from the true to the useful – became one of the book’s most widely quoted, and it is worth repeating here at some length:

It is only in the context of the grand narratives of legitimation – the life of the spirit and/or the emancipation of humanity – that the partial replacement of teachers by machines may seem inadequate or even intolerable. But it is probable that these narratives are already no longer the principal driving force behind interest in acquiring knowledge. [6] Here, I want to pause to set in play at least three elements from Lyotard’s text that colour this paper. Firstly, the historical confluence between technocapitalism and the era now considered ‘postmodern’. Secondly, the association of ‘the grand-narrative’ with modern, and pre-modern conditions of knowledge. And thirdly, the idea that the relationship between the human and the machine – or computer, or software – is generally one-sided: i.e. we may shy away from the idea of leaving the responsibility of our children’s education to a machine, but Lyotard’s position presumes that since the machine was created and programmed by humans, it will therefore necessarily be understandable and thus controllable, by humans. Today, Lyotard’s vision of an informatically literate populous has more or less come true. Of course we do not completely understand the intimate workings of all our devices or the software that runs them, but the majority of the world population has some form of regular relationship with systems simulated on silicon. And as Lyotard himself made clear, the uptake of technocapitalism, and therefore the devices and systems it propagates, is piece-meal and difficult to predict or trace. At the same time Google’s fleet of self-driving motor vehicles are let-loose on Californian state highways, in parts of sub-Saharan Africa models of mobile-phones designed 10 or more years ago are allowing farming communities to aggregate their produce into quantities with greater potential to make profit on a world market. As Brian Massumi remarks, network technology allows us the possibility of “bringing to full expression a prehistory of the human”, a “worlding of the human” that marks the “becoming-planetary” of the body itself. [7] This “worlding of the human” represents what Edmund Berger argues is the death of the Postmodern condition itself: [T]he largest bankruptcy of Postmodernism is that the grand narrative of human mastery over the cosmos was never unmoored and knocked from its pulpit. Instead of making the locus of this mastery large aggregates of individuals and institutions – class formations, the state, religion, etc. – it simply has shifted the discourse towards the individual his or herself, promising them a modular dreamworld for their participation… [8] Algorithmic narratives appear to continue this trend. They are piece-meal, tending to feedback user’s dreams, wants and desires, through carefully aggregated, designed, packaged Narratives for individual ‘use’. A world not of increasing connectivity and understanding between entities, but a network worlded to each individual’s data-shadow. This situation is reminiscent of the problem pointed out by Eli Pariser of the ‘filter bubble’, or the ‘you loop’, a prevalent outcome of social media platforms tweaked and personalised by algorithms to echo at the user exactly the kind of thing they want to hear. As algorithms develop in complexity the stories they tell us about the vast sea of data will tend to become more and more enamoring, more and more palatable. Like some vast synthetic evolutionary experiment, those algorithms that devise narratives users dislike, will tend to be killed off in the feedback loop, in favour of other algorithms whose turn of phrase, or ability to stoke our egos, is more pronounced. For instance, Narrative Science’s early algorithms for creating little league narratives tended to focus on the victors of each game. What Narrative Science found is that parents were more interested in hearing about their own children, the tiny ups and downs that made the game significant to them. So the algorithms were tweaked in response. Again, to quote chief scientist Kris Hammond from Narrative Science: These are narratives generated by systems that understand data, that give us information to support the decisions we need to make about tomorrow. [9] Whilst we can program software to translate the informational nuances of a baseball game, or internet social trends, into human palatable narratives, larger social, economic and environmental events also tend to get pushed through an algorithmic meatgrinder to make them more palatable. The ‘tomorrow’ that Hammond claims his company can help us prepare for is one that, presumably, companies like Narrative Science and Prismatic will play an ever larger part in realising. In her recently published essay on Crisis and the Temporality of Networks, Wendy Chun reminds us of the difference between the user and the agent in the machinic assemblage: Celebrations of an all powerful user/agent – ‘you’ as the network, ‘you’ as the producer- counteract concerns over code as law as police by positing ‘you’ as the sovereign subject, ‘you’ as the decider. An agent however, is one who does the  actual labor, hence agent is one who acts on behalf of another. On networks, the agent would seem to be technology, rather than the users or programmers who authorize actions through their commands and clicks. [10] In order to unpack Wendy Chun’s proposition here we need only look at two of the most powerful, and impactful algorithms from the last ten years of the web. Firstly, Amazon’s recommendation system, which I assume you have all interacted with at some point. And secondly, Facebook’s news feed algorithm, that ranks and sorts posts on your personalised stream. Both these algorithms rely on a community of user interactions to establish a hierarchy of products, or posts, based on popularity. Both these algorithms also function in response to user’s past activity, and both, of course, have been tweaked and altered over time by the design and programming teams of the respective companies. As we are all no doubt aware, one of the most significant driving principles behind these extraordinarily successful pieces of code is capitalism itself. The drive for profit, and the relationship that has on distinguishing between a successful or failing company, service or product. Wendy Chun’s reminder that those that carry out an action, that program and click, are not the agents here should give use solace. We are positioned as sovereign subjects over our data, because that idea is beneficial to the propagation of the ‘product’. Whether we are told how well our child has done at baseball, or what particular kinds of news stories we might like, personally, to read right now, it is to the benefit of technocapitalism that those narratives are positive, palatable and uncompromising. However the aggregation and dissemination of big data effects our lives over the coming years, the likelihood is that at the surface – on our screens, and ubiquitous handheld devices – everything will seem rosey, comfortable, and suited to the ‘needs’ and ‘use’ of each sovereign subject.

TtW15 #A7 @npseaver @nd_kane @s010n @smwat

— Daniel Rourke (@therourke) April 17, 2015

So to finish I just want to gesture towards a much much bigger debate that I think we need to have about big data, technocapitalism and its algorithmic agents. To do this I just want to read a short paragraph which, as far as I know, was not written by an algorithm: Surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century under all assessed emission scenarios. It is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The ocean will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level to rise. [11] This is from a document entitled ‘Synthesis Report for Policy Makers’ drafted by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – another organisation who rely on a transnational network of computers, sensors, and programs capable of modeling atmospheric, chemical and wider environmental processes to collate data on human environmental impact. Ironically then, perhaps the most significant tool we have to understand the world, at present, is big data. Never before has humankind had so much information to help us make decisions, and help us enact changes on our world, our society, and our selves. But the problem is that some of the stories big data has to tell us are too big to be narrated, they are just too big to be palatable. To quote Edmund Berger again: For these reasons we can say that the proper end of postmodernism comes in the gradual realization of the Anthropocene: it promises the death of the narrative of human mastery, while erecting an even grander narrative. If modernism was about victory of human history, and postmodernism was the end of history, the Anthropocene means that we are no longer in a “historical age but also a geological one. Or better: we are no longer to think history as exclusively human…” [12] I would argue that the ‘grand narratives of legitimation’ Lyotard claimed we left behind in the move to Postmodernity will need to return in some way if we are to manage big data in a meaningful way. Crises such as catastrophic climate change will never be made palatable in the feedback between users, programmers and  technocapitalism. Instead, we need to revisit Lyotard’s distinction between the true and the useful. Rather than ask how we can make big data useful for us, we need to ask what grand story we want that data to tell us.   References [1] Source:, accessed 15/10/14 [2] Steven Levy, “Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter?,” WIRED, April 24, 2012, [3] “Steven Poole – On Algorithms,” Aeon Magazine, accessed May 8, 2015, [4] Ibid. [5] Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Repr, Theory and History of Literature 10 (Manchester: Univ. Pr, 1992), 50. [6] Ibid., 51. [7] Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Duke University Press, 2002), 128. [8] Edmund Berger, “The Anthropocene and the End of Postmodernism,” Synthetic Zero, n.d., [9] Source:, accessed 15/10/14 [10] Wendy Chun, “Crisis and the Temporality of Networks,” in The Nonhuman Turn, ed. Richard Grusin (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 154. [11] Rajendra K. Pachauri et al., “Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” 2014, [12] Berger, “The Anthropocene and the End of Postmodernism.”

Fri, 08 May 2015 04:02:51 -0700
<![CDATA[Journal Contribution: Exaptation and the Digital Now]]>

Earlier this year I devised and delivered the New Media Caucus sponsored panel and journal editorial: ‘Exaptation and the Digital Now’, with Zara Dinnen, Rob Gallagher and Alex Myers: Exaptation and the Digital Now: INTRODUCTION Case Study #1: Holoback Zara Dinnen Case Study #2: The Phantom Zone Daniel Rourke Case Study #3: Fire in the Hole – The Obviously Non-Short History of Art Games Alex Myers Case Study #4: Exaptation, Interpretation, PlayStation Rob Gallagher

The panel took place at the College Art Association annual conference, Chicago, February 14th 2014. Our write-up was featured in the New Media Caucus journal CAA 2014 conference edition. Click-through for each of our papers and the specially extended introduction:

Evolution is a dominant metaphor for thinking about and describing the processes of new technologies; we believe ‘exaptation’ offers a more productive, nuanced approach to questions of adaptation and co-option that surround digital media. [8] According to Svetlana Boym in her essay “The Off-Modern Mirror:”

Exaptation is described in biology as an example of ‘lateral adaptation,’ which consists in a co-option of a feature for its present role from some other origin… Exaptation is not the opposite of adaptation; neither is it merely an accident, a human error or lack of scientific data that would in the end support the concept of adaptation. Exaptation questions the very process of assigning meaning and function in hindsight, the process of assigning the prefix ‘post’ and thus containing a complex phenomenon within the grid of familiar interpretation. [9]

Media is replete with exaptations. Features specific to certain media are exapted – co-opted – as matters of blind chance, convenience, technical necessity, aesthetics, and even fashion. Narratives of progress cannot account for the ways technologies branch out or are reused, misused, and abused across communities and networks. Exaptation offers a way to think about digital culture not as ever-newer, ever-faster, ever-more-seamless, but rather as something that must always negotiate its own noisy history. Yesterday’s incipient hardware becomes the ordering mechanism of today’s cultural affects: a complex renewal that calls into question established notions of utility, value, and engendered experience. Exaptation accounts for features now considered integral to media without falling back into narratives that appear to anticipate what one could not anticipate. This article is a collaborative work that brings together the four co-authors’ various responses to the provocation of exaptation. In what follows exaptation is put into play as a model to help unsettle dominant narratives about the digital image in particular. Considering the digital image in various guises: as animated GIFs, poor images, art games, hardware, and holograms, this article will trace the traits that jump between media and metaphor; complicating linear narratives of progression, and reductive readings of remediation associated with new media. [10]

Sun, 31 Aug 2014 06:59:28 -0700
<![CDATA[Internet of Our Dreams]]>

Internet of my dreams was Anthony Antonellis’ solo show at Transfer Gallery, in March 2014. At the conclusion of the exhibition, a digital panel convened around a series of topics that had informed the exhibition. Eleven panelists were invited to participate by moderators Anthony Antonellis and Arjun Ram Srivatsa. The discussions took place online over the course of two days in the form of written submissions and video chats conducted from the gallery. Each panelist was able to address topics raised by previous panelists in a linear format similar to a comment thread. I contributed a science fictional fabulation to proceedings, responding to the ideas generated by, and circling around, Anthony Antonellis’ exhibition. You can listen to the text below, but I urge you to go to Anthony’s website for the full digital panel and browse browse click dream browse.

Sun, 30 Mar 2014 14:48:56 -0700
<![CDATA[Shimmering World Conference, 25th April 2014]]>


Vendosculant / Hannah Sawtell 2012 / Image courtesy: the artist and VIlma Gold We can now confirm the following schedule for Shimmering World: —————————————————————————————————————————————- 10.00 – Introduction from conference organisers Paul Clinton & Luke Healey First session (10.10-12.00) Keynote – Dr. Tamara Trodd (University of Edinburgh) Ian Rothwell (PhD candidate, University of Edinburgh) – ‘Bad as in Bad: Collapsing Production Values in Thomas Ruff’s Jpegs’ Harry Sanderson (artist, Arcadia Missa) – ‘In Detail: High-Definition Amplified and Amputated’ Daniel Rourke (PhD candidate, Goldsmiths College)– ‘“I like the glow that flashes red like our Krypton sun. But not this irritating noise. Make way.”’ 12.00 – Break Second session (12.20-14.10) Keynote – David Panos (Hollybush Gardens) Hannah Ellul (PhD candidate, Goldsmiths College) – ‘Picturing Political Agency: Anja Kirschner and David Panos’ Melissa Gronlund (co-editor, Afterall) – ‘Polyphony: The Dialogic and the Digital’ Dr. Cadence Kinsey (postdoctoral fellow, University College London) – ‘Semi-Automatic Images: from HD to materiality’ 14.10 –Lunch (not provided) Third session (15.00-17.10) Keynote – Ed Atkins (Cabinet/Goldsmiths College) Linda Stupart (PhD candidate, Goldsmiths College/associate lecturer, London College of Communication) – ‘Old Objects/New Materialisms’ Sheena Culley (PhD candidate, London Graduate School) – ‘The Photography of David LaChapelle: Reflections on Skin’ Shama Khanna (curator, – ‘The Resistance of the Immaterial Image’ Kathy Noble (curator, Wysing Arts Centre) – ‘A Material World: The Late Late-Capitalist Body’’ 5.10 – Break 5.30 – Concluding Roundtable with keynote speakers Ed Atkins, David Panos and Dr. Tamara Trodd 6.00 – End of conference —————————————————————————————————————————————-  Hannah Sawtell’s contribution TBA  Event is free but booking is essential: tickets available at Eventbrite  

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 05:49:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Conference Panel: ‘Exaptation and the Digital Now’]]>‘Exaptation-and-the-Digital-Now

College Art Association annual conference, New Media Caucus affiliated panel ‘Exaptation and the Digital Now’, with Zara Dinnen, Rob Gallagher and Alex Myers, Chicago, February 14th 2014

Fri, 14 Feb 2014 07:44:05 -0800‘Exaptation-and-the-Digital-Now