BCMA Lunchtime Series: Joel Swanson (Feb 3)

On Feb 3, Joel will be discussing his current exhibition, “Left to Right, Top to Bottom” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, which explores various technologies of language, and their inherent eccentrics, glitches and failures. http://mcadenver.org/joelswanson.php


Joel Swanson at the Brakhage Center Part 1 from Lori Emerson on Vimeo.

Joel Swanson at the Brakhage Center Part 2 from Lori Emerson on Vimeo.

Joel Swanson at the Brakhage Center Part 3 from Lori Emerson on Vimeo.

Locative Praxis and Artivism: An Interview with Dr. Andrea Zeffiro

On November 4th, 2013, Dr. Andrea Zeffiro presented “Locative Praxis: Transborder Poetics & Locative Media” at the Brakhage Center for the Media Arts at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Zeffiro’s talk focused on mobile ‘artivist’ practices, and specifically on the manner in which artists have adopted mobile communication devices as instruments to facilitate political and cultural dissent. Zeffiro used the occasion of her talk at the BCMA to workshop the idea of ‘locative praxis’. Locative praxis, as she frames it, is a conceptual framework that articulates a politicized dimension of experimental and location-based media production. In her talk, she argues that the dialectic of practice and reflection can further an understanding of the spatial and socio-political dimensions of a space/place, at the intersection of social action and intent. A video of her talk is available here: https://vimeo.com/80934364 and was co-sponsored by the Media Archaeology Lab at CU Boulder. This follow-up interview provides additional context to her project and attempts to contextualize its potential in the current technological landscape.

Mél Hogan: Can you provide some background information about the Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT). Who invented it and for what purposes? When and in what context?

Andrea Zeffiro: The TBT is a collaborative project that emerged from the b.a.n.g. lab and the Walkingtools.net Lab, at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, University of California San Diego. The aim of the project is to deposit GPS-enabled disposable phones – these phones are equipped with a GPS application, essentially a digital compass and an interactive map updated in “real time”- along the United States/Mexico border. The purpose of the project is to assist migrants to orient themselves and locate resources, such as water caches and safe locations, while traveling within the border region.

Brett Stalbaum, a founding member of The Walkingtools.net Lab with Cicero Silva of Universidade Federal de São Paulo, and a member of the b.a.n.g. lab, developed the Virtual Hiker program, an algorithm that translates geospatial terrain into a virtual trail or hike. Using GPS satellite signals, the algorithm identifies routes within a block of map data and creates a “bread crumb” trail showing the locations and distances traveled on a map. Intrigued by the capabilities of the Virtual Hiker, members of the b.a.n.g. lab in conjunction with Stalbaum began to explore how such a program might assist migrants crossing border zones.

In 2007, the EDT 2.0 released the first iteration of the Tool, which was initially prototyped on the Motorola i455 phone due to its economical cost — roughly $40 USD — and because its GPS functionality worked independently of a service plan. So long as the GPS function of the phone remains on, the device can maintain constant communication with satellites and therefore, receive directional cues via the user interface.

So, for migrants crossing the U.S./Mexico border, the tool provides support in the form of a navigational aid that supplies directional cues – toward water caches and safe locations – within what is otherwise a barren and harsh landscape. The mapping of water caches and safe zones was completed with the assistance from migrant aid NGOs: Border Angels and Water Station Inc.

The tool however, is not yet widely available –– the original device proved to be unreliable and the team continues to test for inexpensive mobile phones with hackable GPS — the aim is to refine the tool into a distributable prototype that can be circulated by migrant-aid organizations. The website ––walkingtools.net –– which is the site for Brett Stalbaum’s laboratory at UCSD, catalogs the development of the open-source code and offers a free download of the toolkit to encourage its take-up in other border regions around the world.

MH: Can you expand on why TBT and its researchers became aligned with transnational terrorist networks?

AZ: On September 1, 2010, Glenn Beck — on his former Fox News Channel program, The Glenn Beck Show — discussed the TBT, first describing how “employees at the University of California San Diego, are openly, and with the help of your hard earned dollars, aiding illegal aliens with the help of GPS cell phones”, then Beck pressed harder:

There was a time not long ago in this country we walked you through walls of fire to make sure we weren’t funding Hamas or Hezbollah. I have news for you. There are a lot of universities that are as dangerous with the indoctrination of the children as these terror groups are in Iran or North Korea. […] America, while you have been working hard, while you have been busting your butt, while you have thought that we all generally agree on things, we have been setting up reeducation camps. We call them universities.

So, Beck’s implication is that the TBT is akin to groups or nations that have been branded as extremist or terrorist. It’s fear mongering. Thousands of migrants have died from exposure to grueling temperatures or from dehydration while attempting to cross the US/Mexico border. The tool therefore, is aimed at saving lives and through non-violent means.

MH: You said, in your talk, that “what is compelling about the work is the poetics of the project that confront the fallacies of border spaces under global capitalism.” Can you elaborate on the idea of “poetics” and speak to its importance. Following this, how are art and activism connected in this project? What would activism, in this case, look without art, and vice versa?

AZ: I use ‘poetics’ as a way of opening up my analysis of the TBT to include the material and symbolic urgencies, consequences and potentialities of border spaces under global capitalism. The TBT is a cultural expression of border formations and experiences.

And, I’m not just talking about the actual border space/la frontera separating the United States and Mexico, but also the ways in which conceptualizations and perceptions of border spaces inform the ways in which one might come to define and/or reinscribe a set of binaries, like self/other, north/south, legal/illegal, citizen/alien. A project like the TBT challenges conceptions of ‘border spaces’ by pointing out the failures and consequences of these zones.

Border security is also a public performance: so long as the idea of the ‘border’ supersedes knowledge of the real consequences or inadequacies of border management, then the ‘border’ — as a thing, or concept­ — will continue to serve as a measure of safety and sovereignty. A project like the TBT starts to dissolve the illusion of both safety and sovereignty. One might start to ask: What are the circumstances that generate migrant populations? Why do migrants cross borders illegally? Who has the right to decide when and where one can enter legally? What are the dangers associated with illegal border crossings? For certain bodies, border spaces exist as passageways that separate one territory from another.  For other(ed) bodies however, the border is a site of death, or detention, or a passageway where one’s unauthorized or illegal permeation signifies a life of anonymity or secrecy.

As for how the project confronts the fallacies of border spaces under global capitalism, in my talk, I used NAFTA as an example. When the U.S., Canada and Mexico signed the trade agreement in 1994, continental division blurred for trade, but certainly not for bodies. In fact, border control became increasingly more mechanized, and within the last 15 years, authorization to cross a border has come to depend not only on a passport, but the right kind of passport.

To fully understand the TBT, one must engage with the political and historical circumstances embedded in the project. So, as an intervention, the TBT is not simply a critical response to the manifestation of power, but also, a material consequence of it. It came into existence as a reaction to certain realities.

When viewed through the purview of political agency, the TBT is an artivist statement on the part of its developers. For Guisela Latorre, artivist aesthetics constitute “the convergence of creative expression, social activism and self-empowerment.” This definition fits the TBT well because it acknowledges both creative and political agency. The TBT is overtly political, and I think it can be described as a mode of electronic civil disobedience. Steven Wray positions electronic civil disobedience within the tradition of civil disobedience, which is a fundamental component of the American political experience. Wray connects the underpinnings of electronic civil disobedience to the political writings of Marx and Thoreau, as well as twentieth century social movements such as the Civil Rights in the 1960s, radical environmentalism and AIDS activism in the 1980s, and the anti-Gulf War protests in 1990s. The difference with electronic civil disobedience is that it is a brand of civil protest channeled through multiple and hybrid electronic and digital technologies and platforms. For instance, prior to the institution of the b.a.n.g. lab and the Walkingtools.net Lab and development of the TBT, Ricardo Dominguez and Brett Stalbaum, in addition to Stefan Wray and Carmin Karasic, co-founded the Electronic Disturbance Theatre (EDT) in 1997. One of the earliest acts of electronic civil disobedience orchestrated by the EDT was a virtual sit-in organized in solidarity with the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico. In 1998 the EDT released the Zapatista FloodNet – a Java applet that automatically reloads the pages of a target URL and this in turn, can slow a web site or bring it to a halt because of the flooding of requests – and it was launched to interrupt the website of the Mexican government as a means of protesting the oppression of the indigenous people in Chiapas.  The EDT subsequently released FloodNet as open source software and the software was used at the height of anti-globalization movement against the WTO, IMF, World Bank, and World Economic Forum websites.

The TBT isn’t ‘artistic’ in any conventional sense, though I do think that its developers employed artistic and/or creative inquiry as a starting point for experimental locative media production. And without the activist impulse – that being, a concern for the dignity and value of migrant lives – the project would be something entirely different. The aim and intent of the project is what attracted me to it as a case study.

MH: What is a symbolic border and how important is it to imagining new spaces, political and physical?

AZ: A symbolic border is a conceptual border. It is the idea of the border. So in terms of border spaces, one’s conceptualization of the border space (i.e. one acts in a certain manner, one needs to have a passport and be prepared to disclose information) is based on one’s understanding of the border (i.e. as an intermediary space that determines who can and cannot enter). More importantly, justifications as to what transpires within border spaces are tied to safety and sovereignty. So people are questioned, detained, denied because they are deemed to be a threat in some capacity. As I mentioned, conceptualizations of border spaces then inform the ways in which one might come to define and/or reinscribe a set of binaries, like self/other, north/south, legal/illegal, citizen/alien.

The TBT puts forth the potential for a differential border space, and by ‘differential border space’, I’m not suggesting that the TBT literally creates a new physical space, rather it points toward the possibility of an alternative to contemporary border spaces. So, it reconceives or preconceives alternative realities for border spaces, as zones privilege bodies (i.e. human lives) over the flow capital and goods (i.e. trade agreements).

MH: Can you make a link from this innovative work to devices and applications, such as Foursquare or Map my Run, or smaller scale projects like Audio Mobile, that use geolocation to track a route? What are the privacy implications? What are the safety implications? Can these be remained/hacked to activist ends?

AZ: The TBT and the applications you mentioned are examples of locative media: a descriptive term that designates the use of an assemblage of mobile and location aware technologies — notably GPS and cellular telephony — in the production of site-specific experiences, performance pieces, interactive art works, and public installations. The term has been used to describe location-based services and commercial applications, which span fleet tracking and in-car navigation, and emergency services, to geotagging content through social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and tracking and mapping applications that you mentioned. Central to the facilitation of both commercial services and applications and locative artistic and cultural works is the Global Positioning System (GPS): a worldwide satellite navigational system that was developed by the United States Department of Defense and maintained by the United States Air Force. Over the course of the last ten years, consumer grade GPS has transitioned from an external specialized device to an embedded (that is, out of site) component within mobile digital technologies, perhaps most strikingly with the seamless integration of GPS into mobile phones.

As you have suggested, there are personal privacy implications associated with mobile and location-based technologies. For instance, when on a network, a phone registers its position with cell towers every few minutes, whether the phone is being used or not. Tracking a cell phone reveals not simply locations, but larger patterns of behaviour of that cell phone user. And this matters because commercial applications and mobile carriers retain data on their users, and law enforcement agencies are able to use this information and have been known to track phones without obtaining a warrant or without probable cause. The NSA scandal of late has further proven how constitutional rights are completely disregarded in regards to digital information.

The TBT demonstrates how locative media – specifically mobile and location-based technologies – might be appropriated within activist formations, as tools not only for interaction, but also reaction, that is, as instruments to facilitate political and cultural activism and dissent. The appropriation of these technologies, and within initiatives invested in political and cultural activism, expands their range of use and adoption. Through a project like the TBT, one might be able to foresee innovative ways of adopting these technologies (i.e. hardware and software), not only in how these devices might be used, but also, and perhaps more importantly, by whom.

MH: How are you situated within this research, as an activist, practitioner, scholar, feminist…

AZ: The TBT first came on my radar in 2006, when I was a researcher on an interdisciplinary and multi-institutional mobile research project in Canada. I was involved in usability field trials, and in-situ prototyping with project engineers and designers, in addition to conducting background research focused on the take-up of mobile digital technologies across numerous cultural formations. There were many different projects and initiatives that I came across, and the TBT was for me, one of the more compelling ones. And it’s important to add such a qualifier because I’ve always been interested in experimental modes of media production that lean towards the political. And though I’ve followed it throughout the years, it’s only within the last few years that I’ve gone back and studied it more formally as a case study toward the refinement of locative praxis: a conceptual framework for understanding the ways in which experimental locative media might engage in political and cultural activism and dissent. So, to answer your question, I suppose I’m formally situated as a scholar, but I think my choices as to my objects of study and my theoretical leanings also speak to my activist and feminist roots, as well as my experiences working with technology in practice.

Originally posted: http://brakhagecenter.com/?p=1043

Andrea Zeffiro is a researcher and writer whose work intersects the cultural politics and practices of emerging technologies, contemporary media histories, feminist media studies, and multidisciplinary research methods. @AndreaZeffiro / andreazeffiro.com

Mél Hogan is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the organizer of the lunchtime series on Media Arts at the BCMA. @mel_hogan / melhogan.com

BCMA Lunchtime Series: Lori Emerson (Dec 2)

As part of our annual lunchtime media arts lecture series at the Brakhage Center for the Media ArtsDrLori Emerson will be speaking Monday, December 2nd, 2013.

Dr. Emerson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of  Colorado at Boulder and Director of the Media Archaeology Lab. She writes on and teaches digital literature, experimental American and Canadian writing from the 20th and 21st century, history of computing, and media theory.

She is the author of Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound (forthcoming from University of Minnesota Press, Spring 2014). She also co-edited three collections: The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media, with Marie-Laure Ryan and Benjamin Robertson (forthcoming 2014); Writing Surfaces: The Selected Fiction of John Riddell, with Derek Beaulieu (Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2013); and The Alphabet Game: a bpNichol Reader, with Darren Wershler (Coach House Books 2007).

Dr. Emerson’s will discuss her work in the Media Archaeology Lab and demo hardware and software housed in the lab, such as an early work of digital literature on an Apple IIe and a later “translation” of that same work into Hypercard on a Macintosh Powerbook 160. After her talk, visitors will be welcome to explore the lab’s collection further under the guidance of Dr. Emerson.

Emerson will be speaking from 11:30am to 12:30pm, in the MAL.

Media Archaeology Lab, 1320 Grandview Ave. Boulder, CO @mediarchaeology

http://www.brakhagecenter.com @brakhagecenter


MAL: Eric Meyer: ideas, process, obsolescence and the iterative

Interview with multimedia artist, Eric Meyer, by Mél Hogan, Digital Curation Postdoc, Brakhage Center for the Media Arts curator, and Media Archaeology Faculty Fellow. November 2013.

This interview serves as a follow up to Meyer’s performance “The Obsolete Book in a Post-Obsolete World as Represented by a Post-Obsolete Book About Dance” at the MAL, September 27th, 2013. His performance was part of a MAL Open House held in conjunction with the &Now Festival at CU Boulder September 26th-28th. The piece is available through SpringGunPressPhotos and a video of Meyer’s performance are also available online.

Following this, Meyer gave a talk at the Brakhage Center for the Media Arts where he spoke about ideas, design, art and performance. Captivated by his talk, I proposed a follow-up by email so that his ideas could be documented and also expanded upon.

The Obsolete Book in a Post-Obsolete World as Represented by a Post-Obsolete Book About Dance from Lori Emerson on Vimeo.



MH. For those who don’t know you and weren’t able to attend the performance/talk, tell us how you spend your time and what your trajectory has been that’s informed your creative process.

EM. I work as a designer and web-developer with OddBird, a firm I founded with my brothers in 2008. I also write music and poetry with Teacup Gorilla, performance art with Vicious Trap or the Denver Poet’s Theatre, open-source software for Sass and Compass, and anything else that sounds interesting. I like to build things for other people: art or software, it’s all the same to me.

I started as a writer, director, and designer in the theatre — where good process is central to handling collaborative creativity on a deadline. When I began building websites, I found that the same systems applied, and web designers are even better at talking about their process. Before that, I thought of creativity-for-hire as “selling-out”, but it really is the best way to hone your craft. Concepts like “writer’s block” just don’t work in a professional setting. You can’t pretend your creativity is magic — you have to study how it works, and learn to control it.

MH. Ideas. Who do ideas belong to? Where does an idea come from? How do you begin your creative process?

EM. There’s some good research showing that new inventions tend to happen at several places simultaneously — the result of a broader cultural need, as much as any individual genius. But someone still had to sit down and put it all together. They had to explore the options, fail, adjust, and try again. In Everything is a Remix, Kirby Ferguson suggests that creativity boils down to “copying, transforming, and combining” what’s there. Ideas don’t come to life in a vacuum, they are the result of an interaction between people and their environments.

The idea of “owning” is really a legal concept that comes after the fact, and I’m not qualified to say much about that. My sense is that our current legal framework for owning ideas is overly simplistic — something is either original or it isn’t — while creativity is a bit more complex. Systems like Creative Commons or various open-source software licenses attempt to address that by offering copyright customization. I’d also like to see us re-consider “plagiarism” as a culture — with more focus on giving credit, and less on being original.

My own process starts with mental notes on things that excite or anger me, then making associations between ideas. If an image or idea catches my attention, I play with variations of it. What happens if I turn it upside-down? What happens if I combine it with something else? How far does it bend? Where does it break? If the results are interesting, I file them away until I have two or three ideas that fit together in interesting ways. Copy, transform, combine. One idea makes an interesting essay, but it takes two or three ideas to make interesting art.

My upcoming novel Variations on Riding Side Saddle started from a quote about transvestitism, a scientific article on out-of-body research, a touch of Greek mythology, the poetic voice of Jacob Liechty, and an idea for “modular” (rather than linear) storytelling. I gathered those “seeds” over the course of two or three years before combining them into a single project.

MH. Design process. You mentioned that you approach by siding with the client ‘against’ the work. Can you explain how you came to this tactic, and how it helps to remove design from ideas of taste and preferences into the realm of expertise and strategy?

EM. Design is a process of problem-solving, and every solution comes with trade-offs. Bright colors achieve one thing, for example, while dull colors achieve something else. Design, or art-making, is the process of choosing one solution over another. I used to handle that entire process internally, and present client with my favorite solution — having already resigned myself to the tradeoffs. But clients didn’t have any context for understanding those decisions, and their pushback would create an ego battle — me defending the work against their attacks.

The solution came to me from an article about the Pixar process. According to the article, Pixar teams gather every morning to critique their own work from the previous day. They nitpick their own work in detail, creating a list of every problem they have. Then they start looking for solutions. It’s a different mind-set for creativity. The artists job isn’t to defend the work against critique, the artist’s job is to be the first (and harshest) line of critique.

It’s one thing to do that on your own, but I really wanted to bring clients into the same mindset, so I changed the format of my presentations. Instead of defending my work, I’m always the first to attack it, and then I invite the clients to attack it as well. There’s no reason for anyone to defend the work: we are all here to make it better, and that means finding the flaws.

Now my role is to explore all the options, and help clients understand their trade-offs. The client’s role is to tell me which trade-offs matter most. What is actually a problem, and what isn’t. Then I can go back to work with better context. During that process, it’s important that no one is jumping to conclusions. Brainstorming doesn’t work because it’s too easy. When any answer will do, no one is pushing deeper to find the best answer. So we keep clients focussed on problems. When a client does offer solutions I re-focus them by asking why, so I can get to the problems underneath.

I use that same approach in my art-making, with the audience as my allies against the art. They are experts at knowing what worked and what didn’t, but their solutions tend to be generic and uninteresting. So I listen to their complaints, and continue to ask why until I find the root problems. When the audience complains about chapter three, the solution is often hidden in chapter one, but they can’t see that. My job isn’t to defend the work, or to do what I’m told. My job is to make the work better, and if I listen closely, the audience can help me do that.

MH. Iterative process. Can you tell me more about the place of experimentation in your work. How does the experiment work differently in design and theatre, for example? Is the idea behind the experiment that it allows for revisions and iterations?

EM. We often use “experimental” in art and design to talk about things that are strange or new, but experimental process is a well-defined set of steps based on scientific method, and it’s iterative by nature. It would be a stretch to say I use the scientific method directly, but the structures translate pretty well for creative work, and I use roughly the same techniques in theatre, writing, design, or music.

At the heart of the experimental approach is the idea that all your variables can be adjusted individually — and the experiment happens by studying how different variables affect the outcome. That means you have to closely consider each element of the work, adjust some aspects while not adjusting others, and then learn from the results. Artists are already familiar with the first part. We talk about the “Elements of Design” such as color, shape, texture, size, etc. In dance and theatre we talk about gesture, tempo, repetition, architecture, and so on.

For me, experimental process means that each element should be isolated and explored in detail. Rather than assuming the sun “should” be yellow, I can try all the colors and decide which one is most effective. But “trying all the colors” is not art — that’s just the process. The art is in critiquing the results, and making decisions based on what you learn. Doing something strange or new is only a stepping-stone towards doing something better.

MH. Obsolescence. One line that stuck out for me in there was something to the effect of how obsolescence frees us from the expectations of its intended use. Can you tell me more about the place of obsolescence in your media arts work?

EM. Technology isn’t a competition. The new is not an insult to the old, and we don’t have to choose one over the other. Something is only obsolete if you don’t want it any more. It doesn’t matter how great e-readers become, if people still like books, we’ll always have books. In fact, I expect books will only get better.

I think of technology in terms of social psychology and role theory. Technologies don’t exist in isolation, they act out cultural roles. When a technology is new, no one is yet sure what role it will play. Early adopters experiment, first trying to fit it into existing systems. What is the internet? Is it like a book, or a calculator, or a telephone? Eventually they discover that the internet is like all these things, but different too. It’s the internet. Based on those early experiments, the new technology takes on a role, where it becomes mainstream. When another technology comes along, all the roles have to shift. There’s a time of experimentation again, while we discover how the new pieces fit the puzzle.

For a long time, books have carried the full burden of information-storage and communication. Giving up that role is not the same as dying. My act of growing-up doesn’t make my parents obsolete, but it does free them from the daily act of parenting. Books aren’t gone, they just don’t have the same heavy cultural weight to carry. What will books do next? This is a great time to experiment with the form.

I use my work as a way to constantly question and re-examine the roles we’ve assigned to objects. Sometimes we forget that objects can be anything we want them to be. The rules are arbitrary. We made them up because they worked for us a hundred years ago. If they don’t work for us now, we can change them.

MH. Medium. You mentioned performing your novel (without words) with your band, Teacup Gorilla, which is also a work in progress in html5. Can you talk about the role of the medium in your work?

EM. Medium is just the way you turn an idea into an experience. Any medium can turn any idea into an experience, but it will be a different experience. The media we use are just tools, like shape or color or gesture. The categories are arbitrary, more useful for looking back than looking forward. When does theatre become dance, and does it matter? Where’s the line between poetry, song lyrics, and a novel? Who cares?

You can buy different themed Lego sets, but in the end it’s all just Legos. When you want to build something new, the specific pieces are more interesting than the sets they came from. We invented theatre and novels and pop songs, so we can destroy them and invent new categories any time we want. Underneath, it’s all just words and sounds and movement.

One time I decided to write a novel, but then I added pictures to it, and I put it online with animations. Not because I set out to make Web Art, but because I thought the web could be one interesting way to explore the story, characters, and aesthetic values. Music is another way to express that same material. But the choices that work online are not going to work on stage, so I make different choices. If the words have to change or disappear for the novel to become music, that’s fine with me.

When I’m asked to be part of a poetry reading, I approach it in the same way. What works on the page is not what works out-loud. It’s not the words themselves that are important, but the experience they create. If the words need to change to make the experience work, so be it.

Maybe I get this idea from theatre, where we perform the same scripts over and over in different ways — sometimes for generations. It doesn’t stop being “Romeo & Juliet” just because you put it on film and add music. Would it stop being Romeo & Juliet if you made it a silent film? Why?

MH. What are you working on next?

EM. I’m currently working to complete the two novels. Into the Green Green Mud is coming together online, and Variations on Riding Side Saddle will be published by SpringGun Press next winter. I’m also working on a layout toolkit for web developers (Susy), and a collaborative writing tool for artists. Vicious Trap is slowly making progress on an opera, Teacup Gorilla has just started playing regular gigs, and Denver Poets’ Theatre is about to start rehearsals on a new piece.

That ought to keep me occupied for a while.


BCMA Lunchtime Series: Dr. Andrea Zeffiro (Nov 4)

As part of our annual lunchtime media arts lecture series at the Brakhage Center for the Media ArtsDrAndreaZeffiro will be speaking Monday, November 4th, 2013. Zeffiro is a researcher and writer whose work intersects the cultural politics and practices of emerging technologies, contemporary media histories, feminist media studies, and multidisciplinary research methods. Over the last 10 years, Zeffiro has worked as an ethnographer within a number of transdisciplinary research formations alongside artists, designers, social scientists, computer scientists, engineers, and medical doctors.  She holds a Doctorate in Communication Studies from Concordia University, and from 2011-2012, she was a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Interactive Arts + Technology, Simon Fraser University. Prior to her academic pursuits, Zeffiro spent a number of years drafting and implementing garment-purchasing policies for the public sector while channeling her creative energies towards AMBUSH: a line of clothing designed and created from second hand garments.


Locative Praxis: Transborder Poetics & Locative Media

Zeffiro’s talk will focus on a relatively new research project that is aimed toward the refinement of locative praxis. Locative praxis a conceptual framework for understanding the ways in which experimental locative media might engage in political and cultural activism and dissent. This critical and interpretive framework however, is not only a mode for analyzing the ways in which experimental locative media might intervene within the socio-political issues of a particular space/place; it is also a mode of inquiry into the technological devices and infrastructures that facilitate a work. How might mobile technologies be appropriated within activist formations, as tools not only for interaction, but also reaction?

Andrea Zeffiro will be speaking from 11:30am to 12:30pm, in the ATLAS building, room 311.



Locative Praxis by Dr. Andrea Zeffiro from Lori Emerson on Vimeo.

MAL: Aaron Angello and Erin Costello: “ᴁ (Pronounced “I”): A Transmedia Biography of ᴁrin Xello.

Aaron Angello and Erin Costello: “ᴁ (Pronounced “I”): A Transmedia Biography of ᴁrin Xello.

Aaron Angello and Erin Costello are our third artists-in-residents and they had an exhibit/installation in the MAL October 18th-20th, titled “ᴁ (Pronounced “I”): A Transmedia Biography of ᴁrin Xello.” 

Photo 2013-10-18 6 45 41 PM Photo 2013-10-18 6 36 30 PM Photo 2013-10-18 6 36 00 PM Photo 2013-10-18 6 33 40 PM Photo 2013-10-18 6 31 37 PM

This exhibition/installation tells the story of ᴁrin Xello, a tortured yet brilliant artist who struggles throughout her/his complicated life to create something meaningful. ᴁrin’s story is told through fragments of poems, sound, music, and visual art displayed on and around various media – computers, typewriters, hand-made journals – the date of each fragment corresponding with the dates of production of the media. The biography of ᴁrin is the story of the artists’ two actual lives fused into one character and storyline/timeline.  The audience will explore the space, collecting bits of information, until a portrait of the artist emerges.  ᴁ resists the common practice of self identity denial in digital media art while simultaneously engaging in the common practice of digital persona.

Erin Costello is a poet, digital artist, and web designer.  In 2009 she founded SpringGun Press with Mark Rockswold: a print press for books of poetry, and a bi-annual online journal of poetry, flash fiction, and electronic literature.   She has received awards for both her traditional and electronic writing and her work has been featured in various venues and publications. She teaches digital art at University of Colorado Boulder and works full time as an online marketer in Denver.

Aaron Angello is a poet, musician, and artist living in Denver, CO. His poems have appeared in a number of journals and his performances, videos, and installations are out there, too. He is currently working on my PhD at the University of Colorado Boulder where he teaches Literature and Creative Writing.

Archinodes: ARC is born

The internet is awesome – enormous, inspiring, and incomprehensible.

Collectively, we ‘like’ things two million times a minute.
We upload 3000 photos every second.
We ingest more than 500 terabytes of data every day.

More than ever before, we have the ability to create and share information, yet our content is scattered across a vast and sprawling social media landscape. The traces of our time and attention are recorded in separate databases. In this process, we lose control of our data–how it can be accessed, who owns it, and how it’s preserved. In the end, we aren’t able to gain a full sense of what we create, collect, and share with others online.

Meanwhile, the concept of the archive has been challenged if not revolutionised by the internet. While traditionally the safeguard of our collective history, most people have not been included in the process of preservation. As social media services continue to amass vast repositories of our memories, interactions, and creativity, they’re quickly becoming our archives by default. Yet the temporal nature of the information economy in which they operate privileges what’s happening now. They often fail to provide an engaging means of interacting with our past.

We see this challenge as an opportunity.

Over the past year, Archinodes has been engaged in the discovery, research, and design of a personal archiving system. As part of our ongoing efforts to document this process, we’re pleased to share the most recent iteration of our mockups and introduce ARC. These mockups were produced to accompany our application to Y Combinator.

ARC is a personal archive system. It’s also a platform to tell stories with the physical and digital artifacts we collect. This system will allow users to index and organize their physical and digital artifacts, as well as import and collect content from their social media accounts. It allows users to organize their artifacts into collections while maintaining granular control over how and by whom their content is accessed. ARC aims to give control of one’s content back to the user. In doing so, we believe there are exciting opportunities for interesting and engaging stories to be told.

There are many parts to a story. What story will your archive tell?

Check out ARC… HERE

CFP: Digital Technologies and Social Transformations: What Role for Critical Theory?

CFP: Digital Technologies and Social Transformations: What Role for
Critical Theory?

Special Issue of the Canadian Journal of Communication

Guest Editors: Delia Dumitrica and Sally Wyatt
Contact email: cjcissue@ucalgary.ca

In the past two decades, social research on the role of digital
technologies in contemporary transformations has increasingly emerged as a
disciplinary field in its own right. This has entailed a shift away from
optimistic accounts of the alleged potential of these technologies to
address social problems and alleviate inequalities, to a more nuanced
understanding of the mutual shaping of digital technologies and existing
social structures. Calls for recuperating the role of critical theory in
understanding digital technologies (e.g. Feenberg 1991, 1999; Fuchs 2008,
2009) have emphasized the need to develop and refine suitable conceptual
and methodological tools.

The aim of this special issue is to map the use of critical theory in
research on digital technologies. These technologies are often lauded for
their capacity to harness creativity and knowledge, and proposed as a
quick fix to the challenges and shortcomings of traditional hierarchies of
power. Critical theory has emerged as an effort to constantly relate
reflection on social aspects to existing configurations of power. The
special issue brings together current research seeking to relate
interpretation of digital technologies to power relations. The notion of
power remains, of course, a notoriously problematic one; from its Marxist
definition as (class) oppression to the post-structural (Foucaultian)
power/knowledge pair, the common thrust of critical approaches has been to
expose inequity and create conceptual and material spaces where more fair
and egalitarian social arrangements can be imagined and enacted.

Authors are encouraged to reflect on the role of power, in all its
aspects, in their approach to digital technologies. We welcome a diverse
approach to critical theory, including (but not restricted to) the
traditional Marxist framework developed by the Frankfurt School, as well
as subsequent revisions stemming from post-structuralism, postmodernism,
feminism, queer theory, postcolonialism and indigenous epistemologies. We
are also particularly interested in approaches that draw upon Canadian
traditions, such as those inspired by the work of McLuhan, Smythe, Mosco,
etc. Submissions should directly engage with the question of power, either
in terms of conceptualizing technology or in terms of reflecting on
technology?s role in social transformations.

We invite authors to submit papers exploring this problematic with
reference to diverse themes and cases, including, but not limited to
studies of:

– Digital technologies and democratic/economic empowerment (e.g.
destabilizing authoritarian regimes; alleviating the democratic deficit;
including marginalized or disenfranchised groups; new forms of politics,
– Digital technologies and the state (e.g. security; cybercrime; public
policy; governance, etc.);
– Digital technologies and power in everyday life (e.g. cyber-identity;
sociability; social ties; social capital; networks; mundane Panopticism;
– Digital technologies and relations of production (e.g. immaterial labor;
knowledge creation/mobilization; big data; cloud computing; cultural
production; etc.);
– Digital technologies in social sciences (e.g. critical thinking; modes
of learning; evaluation and monitoring of scholarly labor, gamification,

Extended abstracts (600 words) will be accepted until December 1, 2013.
Abstracts should explicitly discuss how the role of power/ critical theory
will be addressed in the context of the respective argument/ case. Please
include a prospective title, 5-7 keywords and a short bio-note about
yourself. We welcome abstracts in either English or French.

The editors will review the abstracts and invite submission of full-length
papers (7,000 ? 9,000 words) for blind peer-review. An invitation to
submit a full-length paper is not a guarantee that the paper will be
accepted, and all articles will undergo a peer-review process. Deadline
for the submission of full-length papers: March 1, 2014.

To submit your abstract, or for any further queries regarding this special
issue, please contact the issue editors directly: cjcissue@ucalgary.ca

All submissions should follow the Canadian Journal of Communication
submission guidelines: http://www.cjc-online.ca/submissions

Works Cited

Feenberg, Andrew. (1991). Critical Theory of Technology. Oxford University

Feenberg, Andrew. (1999). Questioning Technology. Routledge.

Fuchs, Christian. (2009). Information and communication technologies &
society: A contribution to the critique of the political economy of the
Internet. European Journal of Communication, 24 (1): 69-87

Fuchs, Christian (2009). A contribution to theoretical foundations of
critical media and communication studies. Javnost ? The Public, 16(2):

MAL: Joel Swanson at Counterpath, Denver

Joel Swanson will be presenting his new work here in February. Here’s a recording of his talk at Counterpath in Denver.

As part of a collaboration between Counterpath and the Media Archaeology Lab (MAL) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, 2013 artist-in-residence at MAL Joel Swanson presented new work at Counterpath, September 16th to the 20th, and gave a talk at the closing reception at Counterpath on September 20, at 8 p.m.

Swanson’s new work explores the computer keyboard as a physical and historical interface that plays an active—and often overlooked—role in mediating the physical and the virtual. These works will be discussed at the Brakhage Center for the Media Arts in the winter, as part of a lunchtime series I’m organizing.

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Joel Swanson is an artist, designer and writer who currently serves as the Director of the Technology, Arts & Media Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Literary and linguistic theory informs his work, which ranges from sculpture, to photography to interactive installation. Thematically his work explores the nature of language, its materiality, and its modes of signification within physical and virtual forms.

Joel Swanson: Artist Talk in the Media Archaeology Lab from Lori Emerson on Vimeo.

The Media Archaeology Lab (MAL) is a place for hands-on, cross-disciplinary experimental research and teaching using still-functioning but obsolete tools, software, hardware, platforms from the past. Located at 1320 Grandview Ave., Boulder, Colorado, it provides direct access to defining moments in the history of computing and digital art/literature.

BCMA Lunchtime Series: Eric Meyer (Oct 7)



I would like to invite you all to attend and participate in the Brakhage Center for the media arts lunchtime workshop & lecture series, done in collaboration with the Media Archaeology Lab.

Presentations take place from 11:30am to 12:30pm, in the ATLAS building, room 311, on the first Monday of each month, from October 2013 to March 2014.

Speakers in this series include multimedia artist Eric A. Meyer (Oct 7th), cultural theorist, Dr. Andrea Zeffiro (Nov 4th), MAL Director, Dr. Lori Emerson (Dec 2nd), artist and designer, Joel E. Swanson (Feb 3rd), and intermedia artist, designer, and filmmaker, Dr. Matt Soar (March 3rd).

October 7th, 2013

Room 311, ATLAS

CU Boulder, CO

11:30 am – 12:30 pm


Presenting Eric A. Meyer:

As the first speaker of our annual lunchtime media arts lecture series at the BC, I am happy to confirm Eric A. Meyer, a multimedia artist. Meyer is a co-founder, designer, and web developer at OddBird; a poet & musician with Teacup Gorilla; a writer, director, and producer for Vicious Trap; an open-source advocate; and a member of Denver Poets’ Theatre. Formerly Artistic Director of New World Arts, and Technical Director for The LIDA Project, his work has also appeared (or is imminent) in Exit Strata PRINT!, SpringGun Journal, the PackingHouse Center for the Arts, EOAGH Journal, and scattered across the internet.

His talk:

Artist, audience, and academy have vastly different priorities. Unfortunately, the audience never shows up for a Media Arts conference or Lunchtime Series. Who’s looking out for the audience? What can we learn about audience from game designers, web developers, user interface experts, and the technologies they use? How might new media & experimental practice actually help us expand our reach, with art that is more exciting for everyone involved? Why are we even here?

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