Scenario Theory – Review of Benjamin H. Bratton, The Stack: on Software and Sovereignty

An ambitious author in the field of new media has to confront the shelf-life problem, the possibility, if not probability, that their theoretical insights might be overlooked as the currency of their objects, almost inevitably, expire. One way to address this problem is to consider how old mythic past futures feed into the present, figured …

Envisioning a Technological Humanism – A Review of Yuk Hui’s, On the Existence of Digital Objects

It is difficult to imagine Yuk Hui’s On the Existence of Digital Objects being written by another author. This is not because the subject matter or questions asked are not of interest to many in the field of digital and media theory, far from it. It is rather that it is hard to identify another …

habit + crisis = update, somehow. A review of Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

In the first few pages of Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s Updating to Remain the Same, Chun evokes Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism (2011), particularly Berlant’s articulation of everyday political ways of being as a kind of “impasse”. For Chun, as for Berlant, the present is marked by the becoming ordinary of crisis, making for an “affectively …

“Speculative Environmentality”, review of Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet

A certain wonder at human attempts in the last century to explore outer space (Sputnik; Armstrong’s landing on the moon) might well be part of your historical or long term memory, and perhaps this wonder has been reawakened by the recent arrival on Earth of the visual data from the New Horizons NASA spacecraft that …

Review of Archaeology of Algorithmic Artefacts, by David Link

In a world of superabundant information and advanced technology it can be jarring to remember how much knowledge has been and is forever being lost. We suppose that the historical record is accumulating around us like Wikipedia or the Web itself, and then we realize its closer resemblance to Snapchat. The history of technology in …

Poisoned Fruit: Booby-Trapped “Privacy Guides” as State-Sponsored Propaganda — A Case Study of Obfuscation

Our starting point is an attempt at explicating a seemingly innocuous, irrelevant, or even perhaps just trivially banal question: why does a book about obfuscation, which co-authors Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum describe as being a mere tool 1, albeit one “particularly well suited to the category of people without access to other modes of …

Ctrl Episteme – a review of ‘Control: Digitality as a Cultural Logic’ by Seb Franklin

Computers (or the Internet) did not inaugurate, what Deleuze called, ‘control societies’1. Most of the efforts to theorize society following the advent and proliferation of computers have nonetheless, focused on the socio-economic changes associated with new technologies. Following Deleuze, the desire and frequency for periodization, to demarcate radical differences between the past and the present, …

The Uses and Users of Social Media Data Mining. A review of Post, Mine, Repeat. Social Media Data Mining Becomes Ordinary by Helen Kennedy

With Post, Mine, Repeat (2016), Helen Kennedy offers a critical contribution to public debates about datafication, the uses and ethics of social media data mining and a report on a number of research projects that she has conducted with colleagues over the last years. The core question of the book is how is social media …

Interface poetics – A review of Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound by Lori Emerson

In his review of the iPhone 6 for The Guardian, the writer, broadcaster, comedian and “Twitter personality” Stephen Fry expressed all kinds of awe and wonderment at the advancements Apple had made. The iPhone 6s are, for Fry, not only ‘utterly gorgeous objects […] of absolutely exquisite dimensions, heft and feel’, but their high end …

Memorious Histories of Open Circuits

Cybernetics poses questions to history and historiography. It is consequential then for a book on the history of cybernetics, like this one, to embrace the circuitous method of its object of research. Sentences are repeated. Experiments and pioneering ideas echo each other across the chapters, with long-distance short-circuits and micro-epiphanies for the reader’s joy. A …

Inner and Outer Networks

In An Aesthesia of Networks: Conjunctive Experience in Art and Technology Anna Munster seeks to emphasise the relational dimensions of networks and claims that we need to understand the radical implications of distributed neural architectures to gain a subtle and nuanced understanding of the contemporary condition. To this end, her book explores artistic projects, everyday …

Algorithmic Thought: a review of Contagious Architecture by Luciana Parisi

From the start, in Contagious Architecture, the proposition is this: uncertainty and incomputability are intrinsic to computation. Looking for ways of accounting for a new digital space composed of ‘alien rule’ and ‘internal anomalies’ and of defining an algorithmic aesthetics proper to the contingencies, abstractions and potentialities of code forms the area of concern of …

Re-collecting the Museum

Re-collection. Art, New Media, and Social Memory by Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito asks the question of how our increasingly digital civilisation will persist beyond our lifetimes. The authors focus on the preservation of new media art as a case study in new media’s broader challenge to social memory. Rinehart and Ippolito are well-known names …

Review of Reverse Engineering Social Media

The Wikipedia article “Criticism of Facebook” was created in August 2007. What was once a few paragraphs about privacy and the risks of posting illicit photographs, is, seven years later, a massive litany of psychological effects, censorship cases, lawsuits, hate groups, Terms of Service disputes and security flaws.1 Among some 20 subject headings and 15,000 …

How Crucial is Rawness? Review of Raw Data is an Oxymoron by Lisa Gitelman (Ed.)

As part of the Infrastructures series edited by Geoffrey Bowker and Paul N. Edwards, and with a provocative and engaging title that addresses what the editor of the book, Lisa Gitelman, defines in her acknowledgements as the emerging field of data studies, it is no wonder that expectations of this book run undoubtedly high. Organised …

On Creativity and Calculation: Attempts at and Rejections of Formal Definitions of Creativity

A popular fable goes like this: on May 11th 1997, when a computer called Deep Blue beat the world champion Gary Kasparov in a six-game chess match, researchers in artificial intelligence had to replace their old milestone for another. The event had made it clear that, even if outperforming the world champion in chess, computers …

Review of “Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet” and “This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information”

When our imaginary relationship to our conditions of existence becomes desynchronized with ongoing events, phenomena such as Wikileaks become impossible to comprehend. One snowy Berlin night after the Chaos Computer Congress in 2009, I rather accidentally ended up getting dinner with Jacob Appelbaum and a few other assorted computer security experts. In the context of …

Review of “Inventing the Medium. Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice”

On several occasions over the last few years I have asked new students in digital design to identify and describe the assumptions made in the design process of the touchscreen smartphone. When I ask them what the smartphone would have looked like had it been invented in Denmark where we live, they always look puzzled, …

Review of: Networks Without a Cause: A Critique of Social Media

Every couple of weeks, when I walk into a bookstore (or rather, click through www.amazon.com), I am confronted with a rather massive amount of new books with keywords in their titles ranging from “network”, “web”, “internet”, “social media”, “digital” to the simplest and most direct amongst them, with “Facebook”, “Google”, “Twitter” that act as a …

Notes from the Digital Underground: Cyber Illegalism and the New Egoists

In 1886, two notorious New York shysters Howe and Hummel published a curious tome entitled Danger!,1 bearing the salacious subtitle A True History of a Great City’s Wiles and Temptations. The Veil Lifted, and Light Thrown on Crime and its Causes and Criminals and Their Haunts. Facts and Disclosures.2 The text starts off with a …

Review of Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile

Chile’s Cybersyn project has long needed a thorough, critical history, and now we have one. Eden Medina’s carefully researched book lays out the project’s origins, structure and struggles as a “case study for better understanding the multifaceted relationship of technology and politics.” If there’s a lesson in Medina’s account, it’s that the task of designing …

Working Towards a Definition of the Philosophy of Software

Everyday life relies heavily on networked technologies that allow for a wide range of actions to take place, from the management of medical devices to the withdrawal of money from a cash point. Despite this, what lies behind these technological assemblages – data, code, and software – has received little attention, effectively remaining an off-limits …

Into more-than-human worlds: feeling wireless environments on the fringes of our perception

Introduction “In floating such an awkward term as wirelessness, I would invite readers to attend mostly to the suffix ness. Ness seems to me to do a better job than wireless of capturing the tendencies, fleeting nuances, and peripheral shades of often barely registered feeling that cannot be easily codified, symbolized, or quantified. As a …

Empty Internet

The Filter Bubble pronounces, in populist terms, the agenda that software studies has been developing since the mid 1990s [1]: everything is governed, enframed and molded by software-mediated processes, while the systems/people creating and overseeing such processes have little ability or power to subject them to doubt, debate, analysis, reinterpretation or control by the public, …

Review: Programmed Visions: Software and Memory

Immateriality earned its scare quotes in media studies. Consider Geert Lovink’s (2004) critique of vapor theory, Lisa Nakamura’s (2008) work on digital racial formations, Matthew Kirschenbaum’s (2008) notion of a medial ideology, Alexander Galloway’s (2004) emphasis on the material substrate of new media, and Katherine Hayles’s (2005) entanglement of electronic texts with subjectivity. The list …

The Plane of Obscurity — Simulation and Philosophy

Manual DeLanda has been best known as a significant figure in the introduction of the works of Gilles Deleuze to the English speaking world with numerous examples of scientific phenomenon. Such an approach presents Deleuze as a scientifically informed philosopher who also used science and technology as a pivot to carry out a revolution within …