Session Title:

  • On the Persistence of Hardware

Presentation Title:

  • Untitled



  • Chair Per­son: Baruch Got­tlieb
    Pre­sen­ters: Co­lette Tron, Eva Ver­ho­even & Michael Di­eter

    The sur­face of elec­tronic utopia is al­ways ma­te­r­ial.  Should a utopian no­tion ap­pear here for you to read, it would ap­pear on a hard sup­port which has had to be built, con­structed or oth­er­wise fab­ri­cated.  There­fore utopia is not just ‘con­tent’, imag­i­na­tion, ideas. Utopia al­ways has its ma­te­r­ial coun­ter­part which is today al­ways pred­i­cated on global in­dus­trial processes.  Any ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the eman­ci­pa­tory promise of elec­tronic media must in­te­grate a sober reck­on­ing of the in­tractable dif­fi­cul­ties on the ma­te­r­ial level of the tech­nol­ogy which should gen­er­ate this. This panel will take Kit­tler’s “There is no soft­ware” (Kit­tler 1995) to its eth­i­cal ex­treme, delv­ing the shad­ow­lands be­hind the bril­liance of elec­tronic cre­ativ­ity, to­wards an­other, par­al­lel and sym­bi­otic  cre­ativ­ity rooted in the sub­stances. The per­sis­tence of the ma­te­ri­al­ity of our world, and of the media we use to un­der­stand it, may be taken for granted, but mer­its more at­ten­tion.  De­spite the enor­mous power un­leashed by our imag­i­na­tions through tech­ni­cal, sci­en­tific in­stru­ments, we, as human be­ings still exist es­sen­tially on a local and so­cial level.  There is an every-grow­ing dis­crep­ancy of scale be­tween that of our em­pir­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and that of the ori­gin of the tech­ni­cal in­stru­ments we use to un­der­stand and gain pur­chase over it. Our em­pir­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence of the world is in­creas­ingly being sub­sti­tuted or un­der­mined by tech­no­log­i­cally-in­formed ideas, sup­ported by tech­no­log­i­cally-gen­er­ated man­i­fes­ta­tions, which offer us mul­ti­ple si­mul­ta­ne­ous lev­els of fac­tu­al­ity.  When we forego the in­stan­ta­neous­ness and sub­tlety of using our own senses to ap­pre­hend the world,  we are re­warded with a more in­for­ma­tional and dis­crete ex­pe­ri­ence, which promises us ac­cess and agency in hereto­fore se­cret and un­know­able realms of so­cia­bil­ity.  The sat­is­fac­tion of this com­pro­mise is al­ways pred­i­cated on the promise that the tech­nol­ogy will im­prove.  In other words, though fun­da­men­tal ques­tions re­main un­re­solved even in today’s light-speed knowl­edge econ­omy, the dis­quiet these have his­tor­i­cally pro­duced is as­suaged by the trust that the sup­ple­men­tary tech­niques are being im­proved.

    Mean­while there emerge com­fort­ing al­le­gories of na­ture it­self being a kind of com­puter, with an (even­tu­ally) in­ter­pretable co­her­ent sys­tem based on codes (Roof 2007).  There is an ex­pected ex­po­nen­tial curve of the ‘im­prove­ment’ of the tech­nolo­gies we use to un­der­stand our world. How­ever, as we know, such curves never reach the as­ymp­tote, the truth. We will al­ways be ap­prox­i­mat­ing for noise and in­ac­cu­racy, we will al­ways need other knowl­edge sys­tems to com­pen­sate for the in­suf­fi­cien­cies of techno-truth.  Ad­di­tion­ally, the ma­te­ri­al­ity of the com­put­ing tech­nol­ogy on which all our fluc­tu­at­ing self-per­cep­tion is pred­i­cated is not, it­self, so im­per­cep­ti­ble and vague. The phys­i­cal tech­nol­ogy of the com­puter or the sen­sor or the  net­work orig­i­nates in the stuff of the earth, it must be mined or gath­ered or oth­er­wise ac­quired, not by ma­chines alone, but by or­ga­ni­za­tions of peo­ple.  There are peo­ple all the way down the chains of pro­duc­tion of the com­puter from the fin­ished prod­uct pro­vid­ing us with truth through the var­i­ous fac­to­ries and labs back to the earth.   All along this com­plex pro­duc­tion process we have a ‘paper trail’ of human facts, a new re­source of truth-data, that of the human con­di­tions of the pro­duc­tion of tech­no­log­i­cal truth.  In this panel we will dis­cuss  is­sues that arise on the hori­zon of an in­fi­nite pur­chase on uni­ver­sal ma­te­ri­al­ity promised by sci­en­tific in­no­va­tion.  We will in­ves­ti­gate the del­i­cate tax­onomies and con­ven­tions which at­tempt to ar­tic­u­late and evoke these is­sues (Gal­i­son & Das­ton 2007),  (Roof 2007) , Nan­otech­nol­ogy promises a made-to-or­der syn­thetic re­al­ity (Feyn­man 1959) Data-vi­su­al­iza­tion com­press human cul­ture into pat­terned maps (Manovich, 2010), the fine arts and the “hu­man­i­ties” strug­gle to mea­sure up to the mean­ing pro­duc­tion of the sci­en­tific arts, re­sult­ing in politi­ciza­tion (Ly­otard 1985, La­tour & Weibel 2005, Gillick 2009, etc.)  and sur­ren­der (Nigten 2011, etc.). Our love in­ter­est  in the ma­te­r­ial of the earth has been re­vealed by sci­ence to be rather child­ish. As a species, we seem to ad­vance at a snail’s pace com­pared to the ma­chines we have brought forth.  Our cur­rent epoch may fea­ture some of our species’ first hints of its ma­tu­rity, with its ex­i­gen­cies and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and the first fore­tastes of its de­cline.  Human art, cre­ativ­ity and imag­i­na­tion has tra­di­tion­ally been lo­cated in a no­tion of eter­nal child­hood.  Our hard­ware com­pels us to imag­ine a new, more ma­ture cre­ativ­ity.


Related Links:

  • Ref­er­ences:
    1.    Feyn­man, Richard, There’s Plenty of Room at the Bot­tom, Cal­tech En­gi­neer­ing and Sci­ence, Vol­ume 23:5, Feb­ru­ary 1960, pp 22-36.
    2.    Gal­i­son, Peter & Das­ton, Lor­raine, Ob­jec­tiv­ity, Zone Books, Brook­lyn, 2008
    3.    Gillick, Liam, Maybe it would be bet­ter if we worked in Groups of Three?, Eflux Jour­nal, Vol. 3, 2009, e-flux.com/journal/view/41
    4.    Kit­tler, Friedrich, There is No Soft­ware, Cthe­ory Ar­ti­cle: a032, Date Pub­lished: 10/18/1995 ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=74 Arthur and Mar­ilouise Kro­ker, Ed­i­tors
    5.    La­tour, Bruno & Weibel, Peter, Mak­ing Things Pub­lic, MIT Press,  Cam­bridge, 2005
    6.    Ly­otard, François, Les Immatériaux, Cen­tre de Création In­dus­trielle Cen­tre Georges Pom­pi­dou, Paris, 1985
    7.    manovich.net/index.php/projects/trending-the-promises-and-the-challenges-of-big-social-data, 2011
    8.    Nigten, Anne, et al, Process Patch­ing, ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/5655/1/Thesis_Nigten.pdf
    9.    Roof, Ju­dith, the Po­et­ics of DNA, Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota Press, Min­nesota, 2007