no. 49 – Code
jan – april 2018
Online and print-on-demand journal of art, politics and culture
Magazine en ligne d’art, de politique et de culture, imprimé sur demande
CODE, as in:
– to extract meaning from; to decode or to be coded as (morse code, hanky codes, gender codes, codes of conduct)
– a system of symbols used to represent a secret or encrypted meaning (genetic code, binary code, locker code, access code)
The cover image is from Maandeeq Mohamed’s “somehow I found you” project- a working group she initiated on black archival practices. The group traces how histories of black queer and trans art acts require queer engagements with the archive. In lieu of the empiricism/recorded evidence that could never account for black life, the group takes up oral histories, zines, and internet ephemera, all to ask: what happens when we look at our absence from the archive not solely in terms of loss/erasure, but also as providing new modes of archiving/”storying” black queer and trans histories? When our lives are on the line, how are we to find out about each other? What if we were to consider our selfies and 3 A.M. social media posts as a different kind of black queer/trans archiving? Examining the politics of canonization (who gets to be archived and why?), and what it means to be archived in institutions that collapse “diversity” into the settler colonial project, the group asks: who is listening to us, and how do our works reach one another?
Video-sound-performance artist lamathilde shares with us Tropisme Mathildien, a zine that explores living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following a shooting. We accompany lamathilde on a journey through her altered state of consciousness as she assess the thoughts and experiences that constitute a normal reaction to a traumatic event, but that have required a decoding and recoding of ‘normalcy’ as processed by her brain and body, and mediated through relationships and daily encounters.
In You’re Like a Translator of the Past: Anna & Elizabeth’s Queer Historiographic Methods,Elliott Kuecker explores Anna & Elizabeth, an old-time folk duo who unearth and decode songs from the archives, to reveal that their song composition and performance techniques align with queer historiographic methods that emphasize affective history, everyday people, and an intimacy with what is dead or outmoded.
Zoë Chan and Mark Clintberg reflect on their collaborative research project Everyday Cooking, Cooking Every Day (2014), which explores domestic cooking as a potential model for artistic and curatorial practice. As we learn, part of the project had Chan and Clintberg hosting a series titled “10 Meals, 10 Days,” where they prepared meals with and for a range of people working within the Montréal arts milieu. During these meals, the groups discussed what lessons could be learned from cooking at home and considered how these lessons could be applied to their professional lives.
Anne-Marie Santerre employs dance to negotiate and create opportunities for interactions between disabled and non-disabled communities. For Santerre, mental health issues are a subject surrounding by stigmas that has been erased from history as a positive, productive aspect, part of daily lives. In Representation of Mental Health Issues: Confronting Social Codes Through Dance Santerre elucidates four facets of dance in order to advance an awareness around mental health issues and confront the social codes around the common understanding of mental health.
Rena Bivens shares with us a personal trajectory of learning words and ideas that have helped Bivens understand sexual violence, including how to deal with it, think about it, and work towards alleviating it. Coding Sexual Violence, or Realizing your ‘Survivor’ Identity is Part of the Problem, offers a snapshot in time of the types of questions Bivens now grapples with, which she articulates as the concerns about the recursive effects of ‘survivorhood’ codes and the disappointment from others that have surfaced when she has drawn on such alternative codes.
In #FreeBree: Witnessing Black Artivism Online, Sarah Brophy draws attention to the multimodal quality of Bree Newsome’s action to remove of the Confederate flag from the SC State Capitol on June 27, 2015. Brophy argues that Newsome leveraged Black aesthetics and modes of interactivity including virality and relay in order to carry out what Christina Sharpe has described as “wake work.” Newsome’s action thus interceded in antiblackness and white supremacy in on and offline contexts simultaneously.
Clarissa Ai Ling Lee and Wai Sern Low consider how scientific discoveries depend on the mediation of image rather than the targeted entity. Such mediation, as the authors assert, is made possible by code created with the intention of navigating, managing, and making sense of data stacks collected and collated from multiple sources. In Speculative Code: Mediating the Virtual-Reality of Emergent Science Lee and Low explore code as an informational narrative constituted from incoherent raw data and as a speculative tool to explore unknown subjectivities. The authors demonstrate the processes through which code visualizes the non-material into being, and turns the raw data of unknown quality into a narrative of emergence
Krystin Gollihue explores the ways in which code interacts with body, memory, disability, connectivity, and desire. “The project considers”, writes Gollihue, “how code creates a lived sensation of the self, and how this sensing can feed back onto other systems of connection and disconnection.” In T0UCH1NG N01SE reveals how the traces that we leave – what show up in a Google search or the mountainous scars on a body – are emergent configurations of the ways we interact, intra-act, connect, and disconnect.
Jessica Kolopenuk (Cree) experiments with a writing exercise called 100s to begin piecing together a critical indigenous theory of her personal embodiment and connection to place as an indigenous woman. Red Rivers explores the physicality involved in shaping Kolopenuk’s relationships to her direct maternal lineage and female relatives, her non-human relatives including the white feather and the moon, and the Red River, which flows through Kolopenuk’s homeland. Kolopenuk’s experiment in writing is interlaced with an engagement with the genetic articulation of “Native American DNA.”
Adrienne Crossman shares with us images from the exhibition in plain sight. The body of work charts Crossman’s personal queer history and shifting identity from childhood to adolescence into early adulthood and the present. Many of the pieces have overt references to well-known pop-culture icons, objects and media that helped to shape my understanding of and feelings toward queer and lesbian identity. This body of work entails the decoding of popular culture with an attempt to locate queer potential in children’s media and toys through the often non-human non-binary role these characters take on.
After ten incredible years, 2018 marks the final year of NMP. After this one, we have two issues left before we officially close shop, and the next issue will be guest edited by the incomparable Dayna McLeod, one of NMP’s co-founders in 2009. It’s been an unbelievable journey and a labour of love that we could not have done alone. We are eternally indebted to Tamara Shepherd (our amazing copy editor), to all the NMP regulars, contributors past and future, and to readers and supporters of the project in so many ways.
Happy new year,
Andrea Zeffiro, Mél Hogan and M-C MacPhee
(March 14, 3PM )
D23 Everywhere Infrastructure: The Systems, Structures, and Ideologies of Big Tech
Chair: Andrea Zeffiro, McMaster University
Respondent: Rena Bivens, Carleton University
- Mél Hogan, University of Calgary, “Templating the Body, from Eugenics to Storing Digital Data onto DNA”
- Sophie Toupin, McGill University, “Preliminary Thoughts on African Hacking Practices”
- Sarah Roberts, University of California, Los Angeles, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Commercial Content Moderation (CCM) and Social Media’s Logic of Opacity as Infrastructure”
- Andrea Zeffiro, McMaster University, “A Methodology of Failure: Decoding the Data Infrastructural Regime”
Data Centers: Investigating Socio-Technological Assemblages of the Cloud
16-17 November 2017, Stockholm University
Organizer: Dr. Asta Vonderau, Assistant Professor Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University
“Engines of the cloud,” “brain of the beast,” “archives of digital capitalism,” “factories of the 21st century” – these and similar metaphors are frequently used to describe industrial scale data centers, and the “cloud” itself. Data centers are highly securitized buildings, located out of public sight, that hide a fast growing industry for storing and processing data. While most internet users still might not be aware of the actual significance of data centers, IT infrastructure providers and other experts have come to realize the complex entanglements of the data center industry with social life. After a recent data center failure in the UK, for instance, which grounded hundreds of British Airways flights, even industry representatives urged for transparency and for an independent investigation of the incident, stating that “it’s only a matter of time before a data center failure will be associated with human fatalities.” Within the social sciences and the humanities, scholars have discussed data centers in regard to their architectural form, for instance, which has been read as that of digital control society, or by problematizing their energy consumption, profit orientation and low contribution to the local labor market developments.
The workshop brings together scholars from a broad range of disciplines such as anthropology, architecture, media and communication studies, or interaction design who have engaged with data and cloud infrastructures in their academic or artistic work. Taking data centers – a characteristic technological and aesthetic form of the digital era – as its starting point, the workshop aims to discuss the cloud’s social and environmental impact and maps the diverse socio-technical assemblages which emerge in the course of cloud infrastructuring processes. How do the infrastructures of the cloud integrate into local political contexts and industrial landscapes? How do the cloud’s techno-logics relate to the emergence of specific forms of subjectivity, sociality, and urbanity? How can the barely visible and secret industrial spaces of the cloud be made visible and opened up for the broader public? And what does the study of data centers tell us about our current social moment? An interdisciplinary approach will help to grasp and better understand the cloud’s material/virtual, global/local, or human/technological dynamics. A publication of the workshop’s results is planned.
The workshop will be financed by The Swedish Foundation of Humanities and Social Sciences (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond) and is the concluding event of the research project Farming Data Forming the Cloud. The Environmental Impact and Cultural Production of IT Technology (2014-2017).
Tung-Hui Hu (English Language and Literature, Michigan)
Kazys Varnelis (Architecture, Columbia University)
Matt Parker (Sound artist, London)
Emma Charles (Film maker, London)
Alexander Taylor (Anthropology, Cambidge)
Julia Velkova (Media, Södertorn)
Mél Hogan (CMF, Calgary)
Had the chance to speak with grad students from Concordia University today (via video) — and what a delight! They’re doing amazing things, pushing the boundaries of what counts as knowledge. Inspired.
Visibilizing Surveillance and Control Infrastructures
Most forms of technological surveillance evade scrutiny because their operations are hidden from view. Through the integration of algorithmic functions into built form, attention is deflected from pervasive surveillance protocols and the unequal ramifications of control infrastructures. The papers in this session seek ways of rendering such processes and effects visible–of tracking the emergence of new regimes of visibility, challenging their politics, and creating spaces to imagine more just social and cultural configurations.
Chair Torin Monahan, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Activism and Social Justice Division
Critical and Cultural Studies Division
Confronting complicity: Surveillance art and the interpellation of viewing subjects
Critical artworks about surveillance introduce compelling possibilities for rethinking the relationship of people to larger systems of control. This paper analyzes a number of art projects that strive to render surveillance visible and cultivate a sense of responsibility on the part of viewers or participants. Some of the projects invite participation as a way of producing discomfort and reflexivity on the part of viewers (Dries Depoorter’s “Sheriff Software”), others use tactics of defamiliarization to draw critical attention to everyday surveillance that has become mundane (Jakub Geltner’s “Nests”), and still others show the human costs of surveillance-facilitated violence and urge viewers to take action (“#NotABugSplat”). By fostering ambiguity and decentering the viewing subject, surveillance art can capitalize on the anxiety of viewers to motivate questions that might lead to greater awareness and open a space for ideological critique.
Author Torin Monahan, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
In the development of the Stanford Industrial Park, one land use report referred to the corporate campus’ design as one that would attract “light industry of a non-nuisance type.” Silicon Valley would go on to attract a whole range of light industry, with the manufacturing that term originally referred to giving way to software, networks, and an industry defined by and contingent on the secure transport of light through strands of glass.
In the past decade, the distinction between technology of personal computing and traditional “heavy industry” has become harder to distinguish. But Silicon Valley’s industrial history is anything but “light”–the twenty-three federal Superfund sites in Santa Clara County make that abundantly clear. This paper will discuss the use of historical narratives and artworks to challenge the perception that software is itself not a heavy industry, and the political and environmental consequences of that light/heavy distinction.
Author Ingrid Burrington, Data and Society Research Institute
Surveillance and the spectrum: The globalization of cell phone interception technologies
This paper explores the emergence and use of a technology known as the IMSI catcher. Also known as a “cell site simulator” “StingRay,” or “dirtbox,” the IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) catcher functions by mimicking a cellphone base station. It locks on to cellphones in a given vicinity and intercepts data from and/or remotely reconfigures or operates the phones. Because of its powerful surveillance capability, the technology has been incorporated into the work of military units, state agencies, law enforcement agencies, and criminal organizations. The IMSI catcher is now part of a lawful interception industry that is expected to be worth $1.3 billion by 2019. After describing multiple use scenarios, the talk will address a series of critical issues elicited by the globalization of cell phone interception technology, including the relationship between surveillance and cynicism, surveillance as a technique of democratic governance, and state and corporate suppression of technical information.
Author Lisa Parks, MIT
The aesthetics of state surveillance: From secrecy to publicity
The 2013 Snowden revelations about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless spying activities seem relatively benign when contrasted against the more overt displays of state surveillance power in recent months. To consider this shift from secrecy to publicity in the NSA’s manifestation of state power, we suggest reading the changing role of the NSA over time from its aesthetics. Specifically, we look at the NSA’s communications through a critical discourse analysis, attuned to the role of aesthetic representation in legitimizing authority. What this analysis reveals is how the agency¹s aesthetic strategies follow useful binaries between public and private, us and them, good and evil that can be mapped onto broader political exigencies. In particular, we focus on how the aesthetics of the NSA are co-articulated with certain ideologies about networked technology in order to rethink the surveillance-privacy nexus as it traverses a path from secrecy to publicity.
‘Documentary + Discussion’ screening of “Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change” on Tuesday Oct 24, from 4pm – 530pm on campus. This is in collaboration with the Arctic Institute (who curated the documentary), the Geography Department and the Graduate College at UofC.
4pm – 430pm: Ice-cream + networking
430pm – 440pm: Opening words from Suzanne, Mike Moloney from the Arctic Institute, and the Office of Sustainability
440pm 530pm: Documentary screening
530p – 6pm: Audience-led discussion
2017 Chapter 8 “Teaching Students How (NOT) to Lie, Manipulate, and Mislead with Information Visualizations” In: Big Data Factories – Collaborative Approaches Editor(s) name(s): Dr. Matei, Dr. Jullien and Dr. Goggins http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319591858
Genomics, Bioinformatics and the Climate Crisis
Since the 1970s, governments and industry have promoted the coding and manipulation of DNA as an avenue to fuel, feed and heal the world. The mapping of the human genome in 2003 stimulated the development of other large-scale DNA-sequencing projects for bacteria, plants, and mammals. With the assistance of computer technology and bioinformatics, large scale genomic consortium produce DNA data at impressive rates, making promissory claims about the benefits of this data to inform and improve environment, health and industry. Critics of these applications raise concerns about the unfulfilled promises, unacknowledged uncertainties and unacceptable risks of such ‘techno-fixes’. Public resistance to genetic and genomic applications for environmental issues- voiced through terms such as Frankenforests – can lead to undone and possibly even forbidden science. In many regards, scientific experimentation, industry application and civil society commentary have run ahead of analysis in the environmental humanities. This leaves gaps in our understanding of the social, ethical and legal implications of biotechnology applications for environmental issues.
The group will meet monthly from September 2017 to March 2018 to discuss published research, present work in progress and host guest speakers. Key themes for organizing discussions and readings include: critical studies of climate change; the social history of DNA; reimagining diversity and kinship in a genomics age; and critical analysis of bioinformatics (DNA as data). This working group will identify and explore gaps in existing literature to provide a platform for developing a SSHRC Insight Development Grant on environmental humanities approaches to genomic applications for climate change.