Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Nick Cook talk on Beyond reference: Eclectic Method's music for the eyes

Another ArcDigital and CoDE talk coming up...

Professor Nicholas Cook, Cambridge University:
Beyond reference: Eclectic Method's music for the eyes
Date: Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Time: 17:00 - 18:15
Location: Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge, room Hel 252

Screen media genres from Fantasia (1940) to the music video of half a century later extended the boundaries of music by bringing moving images within the purview of musical organisation: the visuals of rap videos, for example, are in essence just another set of musical parameters, bringing their own connotations into play within the semantic mix in precisely the same way as do more traditional musical parameters. But in the last two decades digital technology has taken such musicalisation of the visible to a new level, with the development of integrated software tools for the editing and manipulation of sounds and images. In this paper I illustrate these developments through the work of the UK-born but US-based remix trio Eclectic Method, focussing in particular on the interaction between their multimedia compositional procedures and the complex chains of reference that result, in particular, from their film mashups.

Professor Nicholas Cook is currently Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge, where he is a Fellow of Darwin College. Previously, he was Professorial Research Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he directed the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM). He has also taught at the University of Hong Kong, University of Sydney, and University of Southampton, where he served as Dean of Arts.

He is a former editor of the Journal of the Royal Musical Association and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2001.

The talk is organized by the Cultures of the Digital Economy Institute at Anglia Ruskin University and the Anglia Research Centre in Digital Culture (ArcDigital).

The talk is free and open for all to attend.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

"Uncovering the insect logic that informs contemporary media technologies and the network society"

Here is the blurb that University of Minnesota Press are going to use for the catalog for their Fall 2010 books...mine is coming out in the Posthumanities-series edited by Cary Wolfe.

Insect Media

An Archaeology of Animals and Technology
Jussi Parikka

Uncovering the insect logic that informs contemporary media technologies and the network society

Since the early nineteenth-century, when entomologists first popularized the unique biological and behavioral characteristics of insects, technological innovators and theorists have proposed the use of insects as templates for a wide range of technologies. In Insect Media, Jussi Parikka analyzes how insect forms of social organization—swarms, hives, webs, and distributed intelligence—have been used to structure modern media technologies and the network society, providing a radical new perspective on the interconnection of biology and technology.

Through close engagement with the pioneering work of insect ethologists, including Jakob von Uexküll and Karl von Frisch, posthumanist philosophers, media theorists, and contemporary filmmakers and artists, Parikka develops an “insect theory of media,” one that conceptualizes modern media as more than the products of individual human actors, social interests, or technological determinants. They are, rather, profoundly nonhuman phenomena that both draw on and mimic the alien life-worlds of insects.

Deftly moving from the life sciences to digital technology, from popular culture to avant-garde art and architecture, and from philosophy to cybernetics and game theory, Parikka provides innovative conceptual tools for understanding the phenomena of network society and culture. Challenging anthropocentric approaches to contemporary science and culture, Insect Media reveals the possibilities that insects and other nonhuman animals offer for rethinking media, the conflation of biology and technology, and our understanding of, and interaction with, contemporary digital culture.

"Jussi Parikka challenges our traditional views of the natural and the artificial. Parikka not only understands insects through the lens of of media and mediation, he also unearths an insect logic at the heart of our contemporary fascination with networks, swarming, and intelligent agents. Insect Media is a book that is sure to create a buzz." - Eugene Thacker, author of After Life

Jussi Parikka is Reader in Media Theory and History at Anglia Ruskin University and the Director of CoDE: the Cultures of the Digital Economy research institute. He is the author of Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses.


(image from: James Rennie's Insect Architecture, 1869)

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

6 Theses Concerning the Digital Economy and Creative Industries

This short text was written for the publication our Publishing MA students are doing; Click of Time: Reflections on the Digital Age, aimed at a wider audience, also as marketing material for the great work the MA is doing! Hope our planned new MA Cultures of the Digital Economy can do the same (we hope its running in September 2011).

6 Theses Concerning the Digital Economy and Creative Industries

1. There are already too many theses concerning new media culture. Since its inception, new media, new technologies and the presumed new economies have been the object of wild fantasies, unrealistic aspirations and wet dreams. As much as with the utopian discourses concerning the industrial revolution, the post-industrial, digital revolution was seen at least since the 1990s as the big turn. The assumption: everything changes. We need new signposts, new coordinates and new ways of thinking. The project of humanities was to become the market branding team for the new technological and economic revolution. Still remember Nicholas Negroponte? Still remember the enthusiasm of Mondo 2000, early Wired and others? Still remember the drastic changes from atoms to worlds of bits that was supposed to be changing the way we think about the world?

2. There is not much new about new media. Not that I want to say that its all been there before, however, to paraphrase a Finnish social scientist Mika Pantzar, nothing is so worn out and old than the continuous talk of the new. Indeed; part of the boom since the 1990s, when everything was supposed to change, was the methodological and consistent forgetting of history. Hence, it is no wonder that in the midst of the 1990s boom such new fields as media archaeology that investigated the complex relations and borrowings from the old of new media culture emerged. Oh yes, the new has been before. The old was once new too.

3. There is not much new about new technologies.
Much of the dream machines that are supposed to bring new value, new ideas, new connectivity are actually based on old ideas. The computer is not really that new media, but born in the after wake of WW II. The network society has been emerging since the 1960s; email and information capital since the 1970s. 1960s and 1970s research labs came up with the ideas of mobile content, ebooks, collaboration with online documents, a variety of graphical user interfaces and tele-work. The principle of the Web was mapped in the early 1990s; the assumption seems to be that we just need constant upgrading to keep up and keep the idea lucrative for the business discourse (Web 2.0, Web 3.0, Web 4.0…). What we are living in is less a culture of new technologies, but a culture of upgrading as the constant logic of futurity of capitalism.

4. There is nothing much new about the new, digital economy.
This is what the 1990s bubble-become-crash was all about (not coming up with any real income streams and business models) and this is what the current hype about digital economy is about in different fashion. Not surprisingly, the most interesting perspectives on the ‘new’ economy are able to point about how it draws on some seemingly ancient forms of power and political economy. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, perhaps the most recognized critics of contemporary capitalism, talk about the return of the rent as a primary mode of extraction of value from the commons; writers such as Matteo Pasquinelli brand our age as one of digital neo-feudalism where the ownership of the infrastructure of communications remains tightly in the hands of few ‘landlords’ while facing ‘a multitude of cognitive workers forced to ‘creativity’.’ The digital economy seems to be a promise of a generalised mode of productive forces from the media to the universities combined with creative industries; however, supportive mechanisms for such fields are at the same time being drastically reduced as with the funding cuts to universities.

5. Creativity is no automatic bliss.
Working overtime without compensation, having no other means of income generation besides your skills, brains, bodies and health, being forced into precarious jobs without a promise of a steady income – this characterises as much the contemporary digital economy as does the celebration of crowd-sourcing, collaborative work, participatory culture. Increasingly, the ideas of collaboration, openness and creativity are being harnessed as part of economic doctrines in a manner of parasitic adaptation. I have referred to this earlier as ‘viral capitalism’ – the power of adaptation, subsumption and viral attachments through which critical ideas are turned as part of accumulative value creation. What is often less talked about is labour – the work put into creativity, which is not only a sudden burst of inspiration but takes time, energy and such resources that are not directly monetary but still essential for value creation. The digital artisans are not automatically the new ‘happy class’, but ridden with new mental and physical symptoms of the digital economy; work fatigue, family problems due to overtime, stress-related new disease syndromes…

6. Much of the talk about digital economy is not really that much about the digital.
Paradoxically, the systematic and even discriminatory identification of the digital with its technological and mathematical roots misses the point. The Digital Economy Bill and other initiatives by the Government are keen on building infrastructures and maintaining through such hard(ware) measures the competitiveness of the British economy vis-à-vis other networked countries. As part of this and the economic crisis of 2008-2009, the emphasis on sustaining STEM (mathematics, science, ICT and design technology) subjects has also grown; these are seen as the key fields for the future of the digital Britain, whereas the constant attacks against arts and humanities have targeted the wider groups of digital artisans and their expertise. There is no denying that the humanities of the future (oh well, today as well) need to be a new kind of mix between science, technology and critical, historical humanities epistemologies. Yet, the reliance on the primacy of STEM misses the rhizomes. Digital creativity does not grow only of laboratories of computers and such, but from rhizomatic, spreading, uncontained laboratories of experimentality, thinking and artistic methodologies. This is where the computer culture was born – from new alliances of the avant-garde arts and media labs and that is where the new ideas for exciting futures should come from. We need more Stockhausen, Stelarc and Eno – less Gates, Zuckerberg and Mandelsson.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Mapping Maternity performance

On a Sunday walk visited the Mapping Maternity durational performance (6 hours) for a short while. Here a short blurb, and a picture. Funny, interesting and intelligent, it made perfect sense as a performativity of the various assemblages, routines, codes and chaotic sequences of which the very regulated but still affective role of motherhood/maternity is formed of. It ranged from clinical contexts to affects of aurality, bodies, and spaces.

"Mapping Maternity
Three women, equipped with cakes, tea, microphones, prams, toys, nappies, talcum powder, birth plans, Nina Simone's My Babe Just Cares For Me and endless lists of things to do, things to avoid, recipes to follow and questions to ask, embark on a 6-hour long journey of mapping. You are invited to follow their travels, observe their struggles, and listen to their confessions on this laborious day.

A 6-hour durational performance devised and performed by Kerstin Bueschges, Jan Farrar and Sandra Flores. The audience is free to come and go as they please. "

Friday, 5 March 2010


Here is the poster for our forthcoming Network-politics event, full title: Thinking Network Politics: Methods, Epistemology, Process. Its the first in series for the AHRC funded project, followed up by next one in Toronto around end of October and the final one in Cambridge, next year.

This promises to be an exciting event, where most of the emphasis is on emerging discussions instead of "only" academic talks; the length of talks is reduced to give time to what follows from the position papers that touch media arts and artistic methods, activism, network ontology and methodology, media archaeology, clouds and love. A whole range of themes, indeed.

Registration here.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Does Software have Affects, or, What Can a Digital Body of Code Do?

I am going to attach here an abstract I submitted for a conference today -- the Deleuze studies conference in Amsterdam. Its something I did for a book coming out soonish, on Deleuze and Contemporary Art:

Can software as a non-human constellation be said to have “affects”? The talk argues that as much as we need mapping of the various affects of organic bodies-in-relation in order to understand the modes of control, power and production in the age of networks, we need a mapping of the biopolitics of software and code too. If we adopt a Deleuze-Spinozian approach to software we can focus on the body of code as a collection of algorithms to bodies interacting and affecting each other. What defines a computational event? The affects it is capable of. In a parallel sense as the tick is defined through its affects and potentials for interaction, software is not only a stable body of code, but an affordance, an affect, a potentiality for entering into relations. This marks moving from the metaphoric 1990s cyberdiscourse that adopted Deleuzian terms like the rhizome into a different regime of critique that works through immanent critique on the level of software. This talk works through software art to demonstrate the potentials in thinking software not as abstract piece of information but as processes of individuation (Simondon) and interaction (Deleuze-Spinoza). A look at software practices and discourses around net art and related fields offers a way of approaching the language of software as a stuttering of a kind (Jaromil). Here dysfunctionalities turn into tactical machines that reveal the complex networks software are embedded in. Software spreads and connects into economics, politics and logics of control society as an immanent force of information understood in the Simondonian sense. The affects of software do not interact solely on the level of programming, but act in multiscalar ecologies of media which are harnessed in various hacktivist and artist discourses concerning the politics of the Internet and software.

Encountering (only as a website though) today the Sonicity-installation project I continued thinking about this. The project turns light, humidity and other environmental data such as people into input for algorithmic sonification through MAX MSP and further to visualisation.

What intrigues me in this is the process of transformation and transposition of various sensory regimes; translations from input into data and further to sound, image, etc. This somehow connects for me to considerations of affect (bodies in relationality, a variety of heterogeneous bodies) as well as the materiality of code data as well (especially becoming sonorous, visible, and hence touching human bodies directly too). "The changing data is what affects what you see and experience. Live XML feeds are ciming from the real time sensors.. The sensors monitor temperature, sounds, noise, light, vibration, humidity, and gps. The sensor network takes a constant stream of data which is published onto an online environment where each different interface makes representations of the XML." (Sonicity-website).

Naturally, such transpositions could be connected to earlier avant-garde synaesthesia; people such as László Moholy-Nagy's explorations into the interconnectedness of sound with visual regimes is exemplary here (see Doug Kahn's Noise Water Meat, p. 92-93), especially when the point about synaesthesia not only as an aesthetic category but irreducibly laboratorial is made clear. Such synthetic processes that make us think about the interrelations of heterogeneous sensations and their sources work through the new technologies and sciences of sound and perception. Indeed, if code/sofware has affects -- that is not anymore sillier question than "I wonder how your nose will sound" (Moholy-Nagy).