Esker Talk: Sweaty Zuckerberg and Cool Computing


In 2010 Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, was on stage at D8: All things Digital Conference being asked about Facebook’s privacy policies. The topic proved difficult for Zuckerberg, who quickly broke out into a terrible sweat. That image is the focus of this presentation: a drenched Zuckerberg under the media spotlight, espousing the benefits of an open world connected by cool computing. Reception to follow. Presented in collaboration with the Department of Communication, Media and Film at the University of Calgary.


Registration recommended, opens 14 January.

photo by C. Tepperman

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Publication: Big data ecologies

Landscapes of political action

Big Tech is increasingly ‘partnering with/enslaving’ nature in order to maintain and grow its operations while also demonstrating concern for the environment via large scale sustainable infrastructural developments. However, to green their cycles of production, Big Tech invests in infrastructure that not only sustains but also unwittingly serves to encourage consumption at a time of severe social and political unrest and environmental instability. In these material expansions, there is tremendous infrastructural, financial and political support for ongoing consumption and its embedded values: progress, innovation, and social transformation. In order to analyse this power dynamic, I argue that we must reconsider the scale, scope, and the various meanings and enactments of both indigenous and settler ecological thinking, and mediated ecologies, to better understand Big Tech in a rapidly changing environment. I propose the concept of ‘Big Data Ecologies’ to situate infrastructure at the centre of the discussion of neoliberalism within the rapid and global environmental transformations with which they are intertwined.

Data & Society’s Environmental Impact of Data-Driven Technologies Workshop (NYC)

On November 2, 2018, Data & Society will host a workshop in NYC on the environmental impact of data-driven technologies. The purpose of the D&S Workshop series is to enable deep dives with a broad community of interdisciplinary researchers into topics at the core of Data & Society’s concerns.

Environmental Impact of Data-Driven TechnologiesBy the end of 2018, Bitcoin will consume .05% of the world’s energy per year. This is equivalent to the energy consumption of Denmark. Major tech companies are working hard to make cloud services more energy efficient, but server farms still require tremendous power and water to function. Additionally, other parts of the “stack” (e.g., software development, usage patterns) do not take environmental impact into consideration. Likewise, financiers obsessed with blockchain and 5G are often ignoring the environmental impact of the proliferation of these new technologies. While some IoT chipmakers are competing on energy efficiency, cheap production still dominates that conversation at a moment in which data-oriented tech is being introduced into everything.

On the user end, people are streaming a billion hours of YouTube videos every day and loading countless hours of videos and images into online backup services where they are likely to be watched/viewed by humans only a handful of times. Gmail has normalized the idea that everyone should archive email in perpetuity, which means that Facebook notices indicating you have a new message that you received in 2007 are still using up energy.

Apple has been called out for slowing down its operating system when battery life declines to make the user experience more seamless, which, in effect, encourages users to buy more equipment. Yet, the environmental cost of new hardware is piling up – quite literally. Users of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure are encouraged to spin up new machines when they are working with data; they experience no visceral understanding of the environmental impact of their decisions. Likewise, even though most older computer scientists obsessed over runtime efficiency of their algorithms, few who grab code from Github give much thought to the environmental cost of their inefficient code.

Much work is still needed to understand the environmental cost of technology. The purpose of this workshop is to bring together researchers who are examining these issues from different disciplinary and analytic perspectives. Relevant topics for this workshop might include:

  • What is the environmental cost of blockchain, 5G, AI, and other hyped technologies?
  • How do design concerns at different parts of the “stack” affect the environmental impact of whole systems?
  • What would an environmental audit of artificial intelligence look like?
  • How do/might software engineers or other practitioners integrate climate concerns into their practice?
  • What is the relationship between privacy and energy-sensitive code?
  • How do data centers affect water policies in different countries?
  • How can decentralized engineering practices be made more environmentally responsible?


Hot off the press! PUBLIC 57: Archive/Counter-Archives!

A provocative exploration of archives and counter-archives.

ARCHIVE/COUNTER-ARCHIVES advances conversations regarding the changing nature and political realities of audio and visual heritage in the twenty-first century. Bringing together artists, archivists, and researchers, this issue of PUBLIC argues that the re-thinking of audio-visual heritage preservation is ultimately strategic and political, especially given the precarious material conditions of archives in the digital era, and the fact that colonial and racialized forms of structural control over the history of place and belonging continue to embargo access to the past for many communities. This issue thus turns towards the transformative potential of counter-archives, which can be political, ingenious, resistant, and community-based. These insurgent archives are embodied differently and have explicit intention to historicize differently, to disrupt conventional national narratives, and to write difference into public accounts. PUBLIC 57 also brings to the fore the work of women and Indigenous, racialized, diasporic, and LGBT2Q+ communities to create counter-archives that expand, interrogate, and disrupt conventional archives and archival methodologies. 

Draft: The style of state surveillance: Mediations of the NSA as a public secret (Shepherd and Hogan)

The style of state surveillance: Mediations of the NSA as a public secret

[download here]

Created to gather and analyze intelligence during the Cold War, the National Security Agency (NSA) is a key arm of the US surveillance state that relies on protective secrecy around its activities. Yet in June 2013, Edward Snowden famously leaked a trove of internal NSA documents showing the agency’s expansion into blanket surveillance practices since 9/11. The Snowden leaks precipitated a period of revelation concerning the NSA as what Michael Taussig has called a public secret. In this article, we consider how the public secret of the NSA is mediated through its visual styles, in particular through the promotional communications of the NSA’s public website, the internal communications of PowerPoint slides among the Snowden cache, and the material communications of the agency’s physical buildings. A semiotic approach to the way the NSA mixes romantic, futuristic, and bureaucratic styles shows how the binary ideology of the Cold War continues to permeate the NSA’s mediations of its public secret.

Keywords: surveillance, secrecy, NSA, Snowden, semiotics, ideology, bureaucracy

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NMP 50: Interview

Editorial by Dayna McLeod



– A formal consultation usually to evaluate qualifications
– A meeting at which information is obtained (as by a reporter, television commentator, or       pollster) from a person
– A report or reproduction of information so obtained

These Merriam Webster definitions are surely a starting point for most of us as to what constitutes an interview, but what happens when we experiment with this format and address the relationship between interviewer and interviewee? In this issue of NMP, I wanted to collect interviews with artists about their works and practices as well as writing about interviewing: the interview process, non-traditional forms of interviewing like the conversational method, dialogical exchanges, and other approaches to inquiry that are intuitive and self-reflective of the conversational process itself.

Taking advantage of NMP’s support of non-traditional formats, this collection of artists, filmmakers, writers, and academics use the structure and setting of the interview to play with, capitalize on, extend, expose, tease, and otherwise interrogate the form. Here, ‘the interview’ is a site for the co-creation of knowledge between participants.

Lily Cho expands on interview as form with cover artist Chun Hua Catherine Dong as they find common ground about shame, Asianness, and loss through Dong’s performance-based photography series Skin Deep (2018) and Mother (2017). Their thinking together here generates an inter/view that Cho describes as “a form of being mutually seen, of being together in seeing, and of finding ways of seeing that are between and among the lines of difference.”

Working with her field notes and centering what is often cut from published interviews (feelings, overhead lighting, vulnerabilities), Danica Evering discusses how artist/priestess Orev Katz, artist/scholar Cristóbal Martinez, and writer/curator cheyanne turionsnavigate, trouble, and work with institutional conditions of living, art making, and activism. Delving into their practices as feminist filmmakers and educators, Irene Lusztig and Julie Wyman interview each other about interviewing. They discuss their successes, failures, and evolving approaches to the documentary interview process in their film work and teaching.  

A thoughtful analysis of a conversation about a conversation, Deanna Fong and Karis Shearer discuss a 1969 exchange between Canadian West Coast fiction writer [Gladys] Maria Hindmarch and UBC professor and poetry aficionado Warren Tallman, who talk about events that catalyzed the formation of the Vancouver poetry collective TISH. Fong and Shearer examine the public versus private archived materiality of this history, and the implications that personal and social relationships have had on excavating this scene while considering confidentiality, privacy, and disclosure.

Mikhel Proulx talks digital and social practice with artist Jess MacCormack about their Tumblr project where poo emojis glitter and pop culture bleeds. This piece features a showcase of stunning Jess Mac animated gifs that are irreverent, brutal, critical, and hilarious.

Poet, dancer, choreographer, and Griffin Poetry Prize nominee Aisha Sasha John shares with us an interview that was conducted with her by writer Raquel A. Russell about the relationship between her movement and writing practices. Sarah Manya writes about her interview-based video installation, Nomad Sessions, and Catherine Lavoie-Marcusinterviews non-disciplinary artist Johanna Householder about how she uses a chainsaw to cut through bad habits, bullshit, historical frameworks, and pride.

A very sincere thank you to all of the writers and artists who contributed their words, artwork, time, and thinking to this issue, and a big thank you to copy editor extraordinaire, Tamara Shepherd for her work.

Thank you Mél Hogan and M-C MacPhee for having me back to guest edit one of the final issues of No More Potlucks. Your work on NMP over the past decade has been so incredibly important to so many queers, writers, artists, and activists: thank you <3

Dayna McLeod