technology as territory - a cursory reading list
I’ve collected together a list pieces below that are either directly connected or highly relevant to the themes i was attempting to explore.
Google’s acquisition of DeepMind, Nest and Dropcam felt like a quiet announcement of such kind of presence in the realm. Kings have armies, but really wise Kings invest in long-term education, they hire tutors. Video games, temperature and sight are important concepts for a young, distributed and knowledge-hungry learning machine - for that kind of being, companies are the equivalent of books. The truth is that some of the mutant forest creatures grow under the severe or benign tutelage of the global internet stacks and Larry Page, Gothic high-tech mogul, capable of arguing in a concise and prescient manner about the necessity of redistributing labor, able to call the bluff on the European Austerity, believer in Calfornian Abundance, turns out to be quite specific on the political importance of long-term strategic thinking. He is not alone.
“Seeing like a State” takes leave of that initial territorial nest—both with and against the demands of planetary-scale computation3—we wrestle with the irregular abstractions of information, time, and territory, and the chaotic de-lamination of (practical) sovereignty from the occupation of place. For this, a nomos of the Cloud would, for example, draw jurisdiction not only according to the horizontal subdivision of physical sites by and for states, but also according to the vertical stacking of interdependent layers on top of one another: two geometries sometimes in cahoots, sometimes completely diagonal and unrecognizable to one another.4
Together, these entities become the key constituents of the valley of the meatpuppets. A new ethereal habitat where people, agents, thingbots, action heroes, dolls, big dogs and —- many more —- cohabit.
This new habitat brings big questions about our sense of freedom and our capacity to act under constraints. With an increase in monitoring, surveillance, AI and big data, this ambiguity, this sense of uncertainty and unconnectedness will become more pronounced. Invisible wars over autonomy will become a recurring leitmotif of the 21st century. And if we are to understand and equip ourselves better to decipher and decode the intricate nature of these mediated social fictions, we will need to find new conceptual tools and vocabularies.
But what’s interesting about Airbnb’s announcement is that Airbnb is not content to stop with the idea of “belonging” as a stay that provides a bit more local access than a hotel. Rather, the real force of “belonging” for Airbnb is to belong not to a particular neighborhood but to Airbnb itself (via a “shared brand identity” that “cannot be separate from all of you”), which is imagined as a rich, welcoming nation that spans the world, complete with its own flag/logo to symbolize that the inhabitants of a house are allegiant to the culture of Airbnb. In this way it is not at all dissimilar to Facebook’s vision of the world as a set of interconnected nodes that Facebook hosts under its own, square F logo.
“what appears to be replacing the national is not the “global” political identity that “cosmopolitical” dreamers have long aspired to, but rather a return to localized identities rooted in clan, sect, ethnicity, corporation, and gang.”
To re-word a great Dylan Moran gag: While we were talking, Google very, very gradually built a future around us. (Please replace Google with whatever or whoever you like to satisfy your own biases.) The point stands that the entities constructing and steering our futures, or what they often like to call the future - with all the baggage of powerlessness and inevitability that that wording brings - aren’t states, and they work on a completely different geopolitical strata: There is no town square for Google
At that talk, Jay Springett gives the best explanation so far to “being tumblr”. Stacks, like Facebook and Google, turning more and more into states and we’re getting used to it. Being tumblr turns exactly into “being citizen of a country”. Every country has images in our minds (may call stereotypes if you wish) and when you say “she’s tumblr”, our brains gets this signal similar as “she’s Turkish”.
About the difference between “a tumblr user” and “tumblr”. It definitely fits in that idea too. You can take, for example someone from England goes Italy as a tourist or starts to live there. She never can be “Italian”, she’ll be just a “tourist from England” or “Italy citizen”.
The Stacks know vastly more categorised information about you than the state has ever done. Following Scott’s “Seeing Like A State”, perhaps their is now a need to “See Like A Stack” in order for us to better understand the approaches of these entities towards data collection (Nest,#IOT, etc), knowledge creation, and territorial definition
World population - Ranked by County and Social Media Ecosystem - Added 24.July.14
Would love to read more. Pls reblog with links.
The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in British livestock in 2007 resulted from a virus escape from a high-containment agricultural lab, probably first in contaminated wastewater and then further spread by human and vehicle traffic. In Beijing in 2004 nine people were infected by a SARS virus from a high-containment lab before the outbreak was stopped. Between 2003 and 2009, there were 395 “potential release events” and 66 “potential loss events” in American labs involving select agents, a category that includes many of the most lethal bacteria and viruses, including anthrax.
We are a generation of happy slaves… we are lazy, empty, decomposed, irresponsible, disrespectful. We don’t know how to suffer, we don’t know what it means to sweat and earn things, we don’t want to grow up and assume responsibility… the cause of this is that we went brought up in a zoo. We were taught in a happy prison, a bubble that has protected us from real life, pain, fatigue, commitment, need, uncertainty, ambiguity…
Even in Google translate this is one of the most contemporary and remarkable pieces of writing i have read in a long time.
From Will Potter:
My Kickstarter to use drones to investigate factory farms was fully funded in just 5 days! Thank you for making this happen!
When I created this project, I wasn’t sure how it would be received. I was inspired by satellite photos, like this one from photographer Mishka Henner, and wondered what a drone could document. I set the funding goals at the bare minimum to cover costs, and crossed my fingers that I could even meet that goal.
But the response to this project has been overwhelming. In addition to being a top journalism project being featured by Kickstarter, and top pick of The Guardian newspaper, it’s also receiving incredible attention from Civil Eats, Ecorazzi, and more. (And Kickstarter’s CEO Yancy Strickler even chipped in!)
It’s also getting the attention of the agriculture industry, and some are already threatening to shoot down the cameras.
It’s clear that this investigation has resonated with a wide-ranging audience. And so as soon as it became clear that the project would be fully funded in just a few days, I began working with photographers and journalists to map out how it could be expanded.
Today, I’m excited to announce a plan to expand the project, and a new fundraising goal of $95,000.
With that new goal I will:
* Expand the photography tools used to include thermal/night vision lenses
* Upgrade the drone to a model that can handle a heavier payload (which means I can upgrade the camera to a HD SLR)
* Expand the number of states and farms investigated
* Purchase an additional drone through Fotokite, a project of a TED Fellow colleague that I’m sure you will agree offers some creative, unique opportunities in the investigation. See it in action here. It will also be good to have an additional drone in case mine is shot down.
* Offer new rewards (they’ll be posted on the page shortly)
Please know that I do not take expansion of this project lightly. The new financial goal is to expand the scope and quality of the investigation. It will be an enormous undertaking, but through Kickstarter I have already met other journalists, academics, activists, and lawyers who are eager to participate. With your help, this can be even more successful.
I hope you’ll consider inviting your friends to contribute to this project, or increasing your own donation. Let’s do this.
“For undoubtedly the time is not far distant when television receivers will be as common in the home as radio sets to-day and, like radio, will come to be regarded as an essential service on a par with electricity and water supplies.” In 1950 this probably seemed rather far-fetched. The article is clearly a response to the opposition of many landlords to the unsightly appearance of large outdoor aerials. And they were large, with elements three metres long mounted on four metre poles. The feasibility of communal aerial systems is considered, and the article concludes that “. . it is impossible to standardise . . the installation of television aerials without recourse to preliminary tests of a practical nature.”
>Professor Geoff Ward discusses the life and works of David Foster Wallace
This Sunday Feature is presented by Professor Geoff Ward, author of a literary history of America.
He, like many, was convinced Wallace would be the preeminent American writer to reckon with in the years ahead, and was shocked by his tragic early death.
In the company of the writer's sister, Amy Wallace, Ward travels to the Midwest of America where the writer grew up, and considers the impact of place on his imagination.
He also talks to Wallace's publisher and editor Michael Pietsch about the difficult task of assembling Wallace's final fragments into The Pale King.
The programme also contains some rare archive reflections by a young David Foster Wallace, recorded a year before the publication of Infinite Jest, on the role of the writer in an age of media saturation." (BBC Radio 3)
In 2002 a team at the State University of New York ordered pieces of synthetic DNA through the mail, from which they pasted together the genome of the polio virus. They then “booted it up” to infect mice, explaining that the work had been done to highlight the risk of how easy it was.
The newcomers were astonished at Don Quixote’s words, but the innkeeper did away with their astonishment when he told them that this was Don Quixote and there was no need to pay attention to him because he was out of his mind.
First Part, Chapter XLIV P384 :: Trans Edith Grossman
Why the world can’t bring itself to destroy smallpox once and for all
I pulled out the interesting quotes from this great piece on vox and put some commentary with them // Why the world can’t bring itself to destroy smallpox once and for all
For the sixth time, the World Health Organization has declined to destroy the smallpox virus once and for all.
On May 24, the World Health Assembly noted the existence of a report that summarized the results of three advisory groups from the fall of 2013 and that proposed to create yet another advisory group — to analyze the risks from synthetic biology.
Yes you read that right. the WHO is genuinely worried about synthetic biology. welcome to the future.
The US and Russia may not trust each other to destroy their smallpox samples
The World Health Organization consolidated the stocks into these labs not soon after smallpox was eradicated in 1980, creating a balanced Cold War stare-down between the two nations.
Yes but no, see here :: https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2009_03/tucker
and here :: http://phys.org/news/2011-05-decision-smallpox-virus-samples.html
The United States and Russia are the only countries that have official, WHO-approved samples of smallpox. But no independent body has ever verified that other countries destroyed their samples.
Exactly what i just said.
Scientific curiosity may prevent the destruction of smallpox stocks
no shit. it IS that interesting.
> A recent opinion piece on why we should destroy smallpox once and for all
> A recent opinion piece on why we shouldn’t destroy smallpox right now, co-authored by Peter Jahrling
> A thorough rundown of the security perspective from 2009, by biological weapons and arms control expert Jonathan Tucker. Lots of mystery, intrigue, and suspicious Russian behavior.
> Sara Reardon surveys what scientists can learn about smallpox from mummies and scabs in Nature
> Catching up with the current campaign to eradicate polio
All photos via @'s excellent atemporal live tweeting of events at Tiananmen in 1989, 25 years ago today.
Why do we focus on and fetishize the image of the “tank man” at Tiananmen? It is a remarkable photo. But it also incredibly alien to us in the West. Maybe people in Eastern Europe remember tanks in the streets, but that is something that we in the US have never experienced.
On the other hand, do these photos look familiar? Student protesters camped out in main squares. Non-violent protesters, protecting the police? Rioters throwing rocks, only after being attacked by the police with bullets and gas? The remains of protest camps, swept up and put into dump trucks? Clouds of tear gas sweeping across a mass demonstration?
The “tank man” photo let’s us alienate and Other China, as this strange authoritarian state. When the truth is we are not that different. More people died in the Tiananmen uprising than at Occupy. But is the only authoritarian state the one with the highest body count?
Violent crackdown against widespread, popular, non-violent protest that lasted for two months without showing any signs of diminishing? That didn’t happen just in a distant 25 years ago. That happened two years ago, in the major cities in this country.
But by all means, let’s continue to treat the tank man photo as iconic, and forget who we are here, today.
"The “tank man” photo let’s us alienate and Other China, as this strange authoritarian state."
The US has it’s relationships with cars, and with guns. The UK has a “it’s complicated” going on with surveillance.
Here’s this in full. Note to the world from Pioneers Press owner Jessie Duke about how Microcosm’s lawsuit is dragging us into the pit. Scary times.Dear Friends,I’m getting in touch to let you know that Pioneers Press is at a crossroads. The meritless lawsuit that Microcosm Publishing has brought against us is crippling our distro. Our lawyer is asking for more money to continue our defense, and our bills are going unpaid. We’ve struggled with how to present this information because we know it’s a turn-off to get pleas for help like this. But we also want you to know that we are at a critical point. We’ve been barely scraping by for a while, but this week we’ve reached an all-time low: the utilities have begun to be shut off and we are short on rent for the farm. As Pioneers Press sales have been the sole support for the animal rescues of the Hard Fifty Farm, it’s crucial that we not continue on this path.We’ve decided to deeply discount a bunch of our stock in hopes that we’ll be able to keep the lights on and pay down invoices. Depending on how that goes, we will reassess to see if it’s feasible for us to keep the distro side of Pioneers Press running while we try to fight the lawsuit. If we’re able to save our distro (with your help!) you can still expect changes in how we operate, as we challenge traditional distribution and publishing models in search of new and better ways to support independent writers and publishers.We still believe in indie publishing and even if Pioneers Press goes down, we have every intention to keep writing, keep publishing, and keep fighting. But man, it would sure be great if we could keep up the fight with Pioneers Press!We’ve got some great stuff on our site right now, and we hope some of you will take advantage of this sale to start (or grow!) your own zine libraries or distros. Up the distros!Thank you so much for your ongoing support, in all its varied forms!<3 Jessie Duke, Pioneers Press