Here you are

( via moonriver)

[murmur] is an archival audio project that collects and curates stories set in specific cities of Canada (Toronto locations, Montréal etc…) told by city residents themselves. (Secret NY – is a very similar project that was held in NY: large sculptural yellow arrows were placed around Manhattan. New Yorkers were invited to send audio messages from their mobile phones about the specific places where they encountered one.) I love the idea and I just adore this amusing naive maps drawings.

Toronto’s spadina map.

At each of these locations, a [murmur] sign with a telephone number and location code marks where stories are available. By using a mobile phone, users are able to listen to the story of that place while engaging in the physical experience of being there. Some stories suggest that the listener walk around, following a certain path through a place, while others allow a person to wander with both their feet and their gaze. Montréal map

edinburgh map


Filed under: architecture, art, design, locative, situationist, space/place

Micro Radio

( via n_m_r )

By using records, cassettes, and a radio transmitter to perform live sound collages, Kristen Roos pays homage to the history of the phonograph, tape and radio as tools for the development of experimental sound art. His alternative use of commercial media is also a Situationist technique—detournement, in which a familiar medium is re-purposed to create something new.

The Micro Radio project started as a site-specific sound and radio project in 2005. It involved collecting site specific sounds, creating compositions, and broadcasting them back to the collection site. Roos stored the sounds on his laptop and broadcast using a low-power radio transmitter (capable of transmitting 150 feet).

In 2006, Roos began experimenting with a radio transmitter and antenna capable of broadcasting one kilometer. Audio can be downloaded from his broadcasts page.

Continue reading > 

Filed under: architecture, art, locative, new media, situationist, space/place, technology

Surveillance Exhibitionism

via Rhizome

Jill Magid’s work makes surveillance intimate. First drawn to the subject not by political inclination but by a fascination with ‘lipstick spy cams,’ her projects have included penetrating several international police forces to engage officers in unusual forms of collaboration. In Amsterdam, she initiated the System Azure consulting firm, through which she was hired to encrust local cameras in color-coded rhinestones. In Liverpool, she seduced the cops into navigating and then documenting her actions in public space.


Her most recent project, entitled Lincoln Ocean Victor Eddy, after the police call-letters for L-O-V-E, was sparked when a subway cop declined her request that he search her. Once again turning the tables on the system in which she’s intervening, the artist responded to the officer’s rebuff (offered on account of her gender) with a request that he train her. The two went on to spend several late nights together, in and outside of the subway tunnels. Magid calls the officer ‘my lighthouse underground, and she’s documented their meetings in photos, a 64-page ‘black book’ novella, and in installations of accumulated ephemera.

– text by Marisa Olson – Full article here >

Filed under: art, films, locative, new media, situationist, social, space/place, urban

Mashing / Mapping

( via plugimi )

.: Pdf :.
A little info. on the workshop ( via mediamatic ):

In this new workshop participants will develop prototypes for hybrid world media applications. While the internet is still thought of as a virtual space, it is quickly gaining foot in the physical world.

An Internet-of-Things is under construction, with RFID as a key technology. Unique digital identification and GPS tracking devices link digital media to places and objects. Mobile phones and urban screens allow the media to be everywhere people are.

This workshop explores the role of media makers (content creators) in the context of the increasingly intimate fusion of digital and physical space.

The Day of the Figurines – Locarno – Show by BlastTheory

Reader for Hybrid World Lab >

.: A collection of projects, theory and criticism on Hybrid World developments and RFID :.

Filed under: applications, art, DIY, locative, mobility, new media, research, situationist, space/place, technology

Reconfiguring Place and Space in New Media Writing

Editor’s Introduction: Reconfiguring Place and Space in New Media Writing

Jay David Bolter titled his influential study of the history of writing, the computer, and hypertext Writing Space [1991] in part because he believed that computers present us with a fundamental shift in the nature of the conceptual and material space of writing. Bolter wrote that while the writing space of medieval handwriting and modern printing was the printed page, the computer’s writing space is “animated, visually complex, and to a surprising extent malleable” and that electronic writing offers a new conceptual space “characterized by fluidity and an interactive relationship between writer and reader” (11). It is perhaps emblematic of the progression of the field of new media writing that among Bolter’s more recent projects is Four Angry Men, [2003] a “single-narrative, multiple point-of-view augmented reality experience,” in which the user sits at a table in a physical space while experiencing an abridged version of Twelve Angry Men from the point of view of one of four jurors. The other characters appear as texture-mapped video in the other three chairs at the table. The multimedia writing space has extended from the computer back into the physical world.

From the earliest hypertext fictions written in Storyspace and the interactive fictions of the Infocom era, space and place have had distinctly different and in many ways more prominent roles than setting typically plays in the structure of print narratives. From the spelunking of Adventure and the Zork series onwards, interactive fictions are always in a fundamental sense about the description of imaginary spaces, and the readers’ role is to navigate from one space to the next, solving riddles as they proceed. Hypertexts written in Storyspace software, such as Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl [1995], used that program’s capacity to visually represent hypertext nodes as configurations of boxes connected by links to present visual maps of writing spaces. Patchwork Girl and Jackson’s webwork My Body & — a Wunderkammer [1997] both also integrate woodcut imagemaps of the protagonists’ bodies, which the reader can click through to stories describing or related to each organ or appendage.

In most hypertext fiction, the role of chronology in structuring the narrative is greatly diminished in comparison to print fiction conventions. In the absence of chronology, the authors of fragmented multilinear narratives need to offer their readers other tools for navigating the text. In an environment described as cyberspace, developed with home pages on web sites, geographical metaphors make almost intuitive sense. Any textual link is of course itself a means of navigation, but authors of web hypertext typically offer readers other orienting strategies as well. In addition to a calendar and character-based means of navigation, Bobby Rabyd a.k.a. Robert Arellano’s network novel Sunshine 69 [1996] also provides a map of the San Francisco Bay area, enabling the reader to organize their reading geographically. The reader traverses Matthew Miller’s “Trip” [1996] by first choosing a state in the US and then by choosing specific interstates to change course. The collaborative hypertext novel The Unknown [1999] likewise used geography as an organizational strategy, and the road trip as a trope. Stuart Moulthrop’s Reagan Library [1999] can be navigated both by textual links and by moving through a three-dimensional Myst-like Quicktime VR world. In Moulthrop’s most recent work Pax [2003], the user clicks on bodies rising and falling through space, momentarily visiting each avatar’s consciousness in the process of assembling a patchworked story of American consciousness during the war on (or in) terror. The collective narrative project Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood includes hundreds of individual contributions of short fiction and nonfiction set in specific locations all over New York City. The reader can navigate to stories by selecting a New York neighborhood or by zooming in on a satellite map of Manhattan to the specific street address where the story takes place.

Since the 1980s, there have been a number of installation-based new media writing projects, including Jeffrey Shaw’s Legible City [1989], which had the user navigating a labyrinthine city of words by riding a stationary bicycle. Installation-based forms of new media writing typically utilize the user’s body as an instrument in revealing, uncovering, arranging, or modifying the text. In Camille Utterback & Romy Achituv’s Text Rain [1999], users catch and play with letters as they fall like rain on the users’ mirror images in the projection in front of them. In Noah Wardrip-Fruin et al.’s Talking Cure [2002], the user’s face or body is projected as a text field that reveals one layer of a three-layer text centered on Anna O, Joseph Breur’s patient that gave him and Freud the idea of the talking cure. Another layer of the text is created by the user’s voice translated by a text-to-speech engine. Recently, Robert Coover has led a series of CAVE writing workshops at Brown University, which have produced a number of literary pieces designed for that fully immersive three-dimensional environment, including Noah Wardrip-Fruin et al.’s Screen [2002-2005] and William Gillespie and David Dao’s Word Museum [2005]. CAVE installations give the user the sensation of being inside a computer-generated environment. Words and graphics become material forms that can peel off the wall and fly at your head, or can be approached from many angles like a sculpture in a museum.

While installations and VR environments have increasingly liberated the user’s body from the seated-in-front-of-screen-at-keyboard position and brought the body inside the ontological space of the work itself, mobile computing and communication technologies are increasingly powerful and pervasive. Writers, artists, performers and “puppet-masters” are employing network writing strategies to deploy a variety of projects that extend from the network into the real world. Projects such as Teri Rueb’s Itinerant [2005] make use of mobile and locational technologies including GPS and RFID to create narrative experiences affected by the user’s movement through the physical world. In the case of Itinerant, as users walked through Boston Commons and surrounding neighborhoods they experienced an interactive sound work that re-framed Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Projects such as Yellow Arrow [2004-Present] pair coded stickers with text messaging, enabling users to write and read brief personal narratives about locations tagged in the physical world. Implementation [2004] is a fragmentary novel published on stickers that was deployed and photographed by participant readers around the world. Surrender Control [2001] utilized SMS as a performance medium, sending its users a series of directions as text messages, ordering them to perform a variety of absurdist actions during the course of their everyday lives. Similarly, the phenonmenon of flash mobs makes use of text messaging to assemble groups of people for alternately absurdist and political activities. Extensible web technologies such as Google Maps paired with GPS coordinates also offer narrative possibilities, as evidenced by projects such as the “Memory Maps” group on Flickr, whose users have created personal narratives of places through coordinate-tagged photographs accessed through interactive maps.

This installment of the Iowa Review Web explores the function of place and space in recent new media writing. Each of the four interviews concern works that in some way attempt to reconfigure our understanding of the relationship between space and storytelling. Each of the primary works discussed in these interviews also pushes space in another sense, in that each attempts to explore a new “possibility space” on the boundary between different forms and fields of multimedia experience: between story and game, between game and drama, between literature and conceptual art, between game and performance.

Nick Montfort and Jeremy Douglass discuss Montfort’s new interactive fiction Book and Volume [2006], a work that casts the player character as a kind of cross betweeen a flâneur and Pavlovian functionary, a computer tech completing the quotidian tasks of working life in the grid city of nTopia. The work explores the nature of the phenomenological experience of life in the city, among other aspects how the idle chatter and white noise of city life affect our experience of the polis as place. Montfort says “These things are sort of irrelevant to you as a human being in an ontological world, but nevertheless are going on all around you in the city, and reminding you of the existence of city life. So, in addition to there being a literary purpose for wanting these amusing texts to appear once in a while, there is also a connection to the atmosphere and experience of a city.”

Andrew Stern and Michael Mateas discuss with Brenda Harger the process of writing and programming their groundbreaking interactive drama Façade. The 2006 Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker Award-winner, Façade [2005] is a game in the form of an interactive one-act play. The player character, an avatar in a partially three-dimensional environment, arrives one night at the apartment of two old college friends, now married, in the midst of a fairly tense argument. You as the player become embroiled in their argument, cast into the role of referee. Insofar as there is a goal in Façade, it is to moderate a therapy game and manage the intractable marital discord of your hosts, as you navigate the anxious and awkward spaces of both Grace and Trip’s small urban apartment and the crumbling edifice of their relationship. Mateas highlights Façade’s inversion of the commercial gaming conventions of vast virtual environments that players wander having shallow interactions with “objects and non-player characters–dodging, jumping, running, shooting, etc.” to a more intimate environment that fosters “deep interaction.”

Shelley Jackson offers a discussion of her recent work in print, electronic, and epidermal media. Jackson is the author of the print fiction collection The Melancholy of Anatomy [2002] and the forthcoming novel Half Life, electronic works including the canonical hypertext fiction Patchwork Girl and the webwork The Doll Games [2002], and most recently the story “Skin,” [2004-Present] which is being published on the skin of 2,095 volunteers in the form of single word tattoos. The interview focuses in particular on the various ways that Jackson has thematized the intimately alien space of the human body. Jackson writes “I am feeling my way through some sort of impossible topological figure here, probably a Klein bottle, to explain the outside-inness of my sense of self, but there are other ways to put it. Let’s see if this is simpler: there are some parts of me that are permanently unknowable, and one of those things is the very basis of knowing: the body.”

Jane McGonigal is a designer and practictioner of alternate reality games. McGonigal provides a discussion of massively collaborative play and performance in everyday spaces. Alternate reality games such as I Love Bees [2004] and the Go Game are cross-media experiences, typically played both via the web and other communication technologies and in physical real-world environments. Players perform the games based on the clues and prompts of “puppet-masters.” In navigating the path of challenges laid by the puppetmasters, players uncover and in a sense help to author a controlling narrative, while simultaneously developing the emergent narrative of their own experience of the game. McGonigal writes that “Stories linger in the places after we experience them. And the stories we tell about our personal experiences in a place help us own that space, to feel comfortable there, to make others comfortable there, to feel alive there. I believe the job of the designers of reality-based games like big urban games and alternate reality games is to figure out: What kind of story would players want to be able to tell about this space?”

Montfort’s Book and Volume and Mateas and Stern’s Façade are both featured works in this installment of the Iowa Review Web and are available for your download, play, and interaction. I hope that these new works and interviews will give you a window on four very different ideas of the function of place and space in new media writing and will perhaps inspire some other writers to take advantage of some of the vast potentialities of creating new writing spaces at the intersection of virtual environments and real-world geography.

Filed under: academic, architecture, art, locative, mobility, new media, research, situationist, social, space/place, technology, urban

Theory of the Dérive

The Library at nothingness.org/Theory of the Dérive_Guy Debord

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.

But the dérive includes both this letting-go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities. In this latter regard, ecological science — despite the narrow social space to which it limits itself — provides psychogeography with abundant data.

The ecological analysis of the absolute or relative character of fissures in the urban network, of the role of microclimates, of distinct neighborhoods with no relation to administrative boundaries, and above all of the dominating action of centers of attraction, must be utilized and completed by psychogeographical methods. The objective passional terrain of the dérive must be defined in accordance both with its own logic and with its relations with social morphology.

In his study Paris et l’agglomération parisienne (Bibliothèque de Sociologie Contemporaine, P.U.F., 1952) Chombart de Lauwe notes that “an urban neighborhood is determined not only by geographical and economic factors, but also by the image that its inhabitants and those of other neighborhoods have of it.” In the same work, in order to illustrate “the narrowness of the real Paris in which each individual lives . . . within a geographical area whose radius is extremely small,” he diagrams all the movements made in the space of one year by a student living in the 16th Arrondissement. Her itinerary forms a small triangle with no significant deviations, the three apexes of which are the School of Political Sciences, her residence and that of her piano teacher.

Such data — examples of a modern poetry capable of provoking sharp emotional reactions (in this particular case, outrage at the fact that anyone’s life can be so pathetically limited) — or even Burgess’s theory of Chicago’s social activities as being distributed in distinct concentric zones, will undoubtedly prove useful in developing dérives.

If chance plays an important role in dérives this is because the methodology of psychogeographical observation is still in its infancy. But the action of chance is naturally conservative and in a new setting tends to reduce everything to habit or to an alternation between a limited number of variants. Progress means breaking through fields where chance holds sway by creating new conditions more favorable to our purposes. We can say, then, that the randomness of a dérive is fundamentally different from that of the stroll, but also that the first psychogeographical attractions discovered by dérivers may tend to fixate them around new habitual axes, to which they will constantly be drawn back.

An insufficient awareness of the limitations of chance, and of its inevitably reactionary effects, condemned to a dismal failure the famous aimless wandering attempted in 1923 by four surrealists, beginning from a town chosen by lot: Wandering in open country is naturally depressing, and the interventions of chance are poorer there than anywhere else. But this mindlessness is pushed much further by a certain Pierre Vendryes (in Médium, May 1954), who thinks he can relate this anecdote to various probability experiments, on the ground that they all supposedly involve the same sort of antideterminist liberation. He gives as an example the random distribution of tadpoles in a circular aquarium, adding, significantly, “It is necessary, of course, that such a population be subject to no external guiding influence.” From that perspective, the tadpoles could be considered more spontaneously liberated than the surrealists, since they have the advantage of being “as stripped as possible of intelligence, sociability and sexuality,” and are thus “truly independent from one another.”

At the opposite pole from such imbecilities, the primarily urban character of the dérive, in its element in the great industrially transformed cities — those centers of possibilities and meanings — could be expressed in Marx’s phrase: “Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves. Their very landscape is alive.”

One can dérive alone, but all indications are that the most fruitful numerical arrangement consists of several small groups of two or three people who have reached the same level of awareness, since cross-checking these different groups’ impressions makes it possible to arrive at more objective conclusions. It is preferable for the composition of these groups to change from one dérive to another. With more than four or five participants, the specifically dérive character rapidly diminishes, and in any case it is impossible for there to be more than ten or twelve people without the dérive fragmenting into several simultaneous dérives. The practice of such subdivision is in fact of great interest, but the difficulties it entails have so far prevented it from being organized on a sufficient scale.

The average duration of a dérive is one day, considered as the time between two periods of sleep. The starting and ending times have no necessary relation to the solar day, but it should be noted that the last hours of the night are generally unsuitable for dérives.

But this duration is merely a statistical average. For one thing, a dérive rarely occurs in its pure form: it is difficult for the participants to avoid setting aside an hour or two at the beginning or end of the day for taking care of banal tasks; and toward the end of the day fatigue tends to encourage such an abandonment. But more importantly, a dérive often takes place within a deliberately limited period of a few hours, or even fortuitously during fairly brief moments; or it may last for several days without interruption. In spite of the cessations imposed by the need for sleep, certain dérives of a sufficient intensity have been sustained for three or four days, or even longer. It is true that in the case of a series of dérives over a rather long period of time it is almost impossible to determine precisely when the state of mind peculiar to one dérive gives way to that of another. One sequence of dérives was pursued without notable interruption for around two months. Such an experience gives rise to new objective conditions of behavior that bring about the disappearance of a good number of the old ones.[1]

The influence of weather on dérives, although real, is a significant factor only in the case of prolonged rains, which make them virtually impossible. But storms or other types of precipitation are rather favorable for dérives.

The spatial field of a dérive may be precisely delimited or vague, depending on whether the goal is to study a terrain or to emotionally disorient oneself. It should not be forgotten that these two aspects of dérives overlap in so many ways that it is impossible to isolate one of them in a pure state. But the use of taxis, for example, can provide a clear enough dividing line: If in the course of a dérive one takes a taxi, either to get to a specific destination or simply to move, say, twenty minutes to the west, one is concerned primarily with a personal trip outside one’s usual surroundings. If, on the other hand, one sticks to the direct exploration of a particular terrain, one is concentrating primarily on research for a psychogeographical urbanism.

In every case the spatial field depends first of all on the point of departure — the residence of the solo dériver or the meeting place selected by a group. The maximum area of this spatial field does not extend beyond the entirety of a large city and its suburbs. At its minimum it can be limited to a small self-contained ambiance: a single neighborhood or even a single block of houses if it’s interesting enough (the extreme case being a static-dérive of an entire day within the Saint-Lazare train station).

The exploration of a fixed spatial field entails establishing bases and calculating directions of penetration. It is here that the study of maps comes in — ordinary ones as well as ecological and psychogeographical ones — along with their correction and improvement. It should go without saying that we are not at all interested in any mere exoticism that may arise from the fact that one is exploring a neighborhood for the first time. Besides its unimportance, this aspect of the problem is completely subjective and soon fades away.

In the “possible rendezvous,” on the other hand, the element of exploration is minimal in comparison with that of behavioral disorientation. The subject is invited to come alone to a certain place at a specified time. He is freed from the bothersome obligations of the ordinary rendezvous since there is no one to wait for. But since this “possible rendezvous” has brought him without warning to a place he may or may not know, he observes the surroundings. It may be that the same spot has been specified for a “possible rendezvous” for someone else whose identity he has no way of knowing. Since he may never even have seen the other person before, he will be encouraged to start up conversations with various passersby. He may meet no one, or he may even by chance meet the person who has arranged the “possible rendezvous.” In any case, particularly if the time and place have been well chosen, his use of time will take an unexpected turn. He may even telephone someone else who doesn’t know where the first “possible rendezvous” has taken him, in order to ask for another one to be specified. One can see the virtually unlimited resources of this pastime.

Our loose lifestyle and even certain amusements considered dubious that have always been enjoyed among our entourage — slipping by night into houses undergoing demolition, hitchhiking nonstop and without destination through Paris during a transportation strike in the name of adding to the confusion, wandering in subterranean catacombs forbidden to the public, etc. — are expressions of a more general sensibility which is no different from that of the dérive. Written descriptions can be no more than passwords to this great game.

The lessons drawn from dérives enable us to draw up the first surveys of the psychogeographical articulations of a modern city. Beyond the discovery of unities of ambiance, of their main components and their spatial localization, one comes to perceive their principal axes of passage, their exits and their defenses. One arrives at the central hypothesis of the existence of psychogeographical pivotal points. One measures the distances that actually separate two regions of a city, distances that may have little relation with the physical distance between them. With the aid of old maps, aerial photographs and experimental dérives, one can draw up hitherto lacking maps of influences, maps whose inevitable imprecision at this early stage is no worse than that of the first navigational charts. The only difference is that it is no longer a matter of precisely delineating stable continents, but of changing architecture and urbanism.

Today the different unities of atmosphere and of dwellings are not precisely marked off, but are surrounded by more or less extended and indistinct bordering regions. The most general change that dérive experience leads to proposing is the constant diminution of these border regions, up to the point of their complete suppression.

Within architecture itself, the taste for dériving tends to promote all sorts of new forms of labyrinths made possible by modern techniques of construction. Thus in March 1955 the press reported the construction in New York of a building in which one can see the first signs of an opportunity to dérive inside an apartment:

“The apartments of the helicoidal building will be shaped like slices of cake. One will be able to enlarge or reduce them by shifting movable partitions. The half-floor gradations avoid limiting the number of rooms, since the tenant can request the use of the adjacent section on either upper or lower levels. With this setup three four-room apartments can be transformed into one twelve-room apartment in less than six hours.”

(To be continued.)


A slightly different version of this article was first published in the Belgian surrealist journal Les Lèvres Nues #9 (November 1956) along with accounts of two dérives.

Filed under: architecture, art, ethnography, locative, mobility, new media, research, situationist, social, space/place, urban

Drifting Through the Grid: | Brian Holmes


Drifting Through the Grid: | Brian Holmes – springer|in 3/04: World Provinces

Great social movements leave the content of their critical politics behind, in the forms of a new dominion. This was the destiny of the revolt against bureaucratic rationalism in the sixties. The Situationists, with the practice of the dérive and the program of unitary urbanism, aimed to subvert the functionalist grids of modernist city planning. They tried to lose themselves in the urban labyrinth, while calling for the total fusion of artistic and scientific resources in »complete decors« –»another city for another life«, as the radical architect Constant proclaimed. With the worldwide implementation of a digital media architecture – and the early signs of a move toward cinematic buildings – we are now seeing the transformation of the urban framework into total decor (Lev Manovich: »In the longer term every object may become a screen connected to the Net, with the whole of built space becoming a set of display surfaces«. What kind of life can be lived in the media architecture? And how to explain the continuing prestige of Situationist aesthetics, in a period which has changed so dramatically since the early 1960s?

Today, the sensory qualities of the dérive are mimicked by hyperlinked voyages through the datascapes of the World Wide Web. The decades-old imaginaries of the Silver Surfer still permeate our computer-assisted fantasies. Within this commercialized flux, the proponents of »locative media« – like Ben Russel, the developer of headmap.org, or Marc Tuters, of gpster.net – propose to add a personalized sense of place, a computerized science of global ambiances, using satellite positioning technology. In this way, the »geograffiti« of GPS waypoint marking seeks to promote a new kind of locational humanism, tailored to the worldwide wanderer. »Know your place« is the ironic HeadMap motto. But what would it really take to lose yourself in the abstract spaces of global circulation?
Not long ago, utopian maps portrayed the Internet as an organic space of interconnected neurons, like the synapses of a planetary mind. Data-sharing and open-source software production have effectively pointed a path to a cooperative economy. But a contemporary mapping project like »Minitasking« depicts the Gnutella network as a seductive arcade, bubbling over with pirated pop tunes and porno clips. The revolutionary aspirations of the Situationist drift are hard to pinpoint on the new cartographies.

In the wake of September 11, the Internet’s inventors – DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – conceived a new objective: »Total Information Awareness«, a program to exploit every possible control function that can be grafted onto the new communications technology. Here’s where the innovation lies: in »Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery«, »Human ID at a Distance«, »Translingual Information Detection«, etc. Fortunately for American civil liberties, Congress still had the constitutional power to quash this distorted brainchild of a convicted political criminal, the retired admiral John Poindexter. But the Pentagon has clearly caught up to the commercial surveillance packages that took the initiative in the late nineties: workstation monitors, radio tracking badges, telephone service recording, remote vehicle monitoring (advertising blurb: »From the privacy of your own computer, you can now watch a vehicle’s path LIVE using the new ProTrak GPS vehicle tracking device«). Military strategist Thomas Barnett has learned the lesson of the freewheeling 1990s, when individual autonomy developed at the speed of high technology: »In my mind, we fight fire with fire«, he says. »If we live in a world increasingly populated by Super-Empowered Individuals, then we field an army of Super-Empowered Individuals.«

In »The Flexible Personality« I tried to show how networked culture emerged as a synthesis of two contradictory elements: a communicative opportunism, bringing labor and leisure together in a dream of disalienation that stretches back to the 1960s; and an underlying architecture of surveillance and control, made possible by the spread of cutting-edge technologies. The contemporary manager expresses the creativity and liberation of a nomadic lifestyle, while at the same time controlling flexible work teams for just-in-time production. The Yes Men have made this figure unforgettable: impersonating the WTO at a textile industry conference in Finland, they unveiled a tailor-made solution for monitoring a remote labor force, what they called the Management Leisure Suit. The glittering lycra garment might have recalled what NY Times pundit Thomas Friedman once called the »golden straitjacket«, forcing national governments into the adoption of a neoliberal policy mix; but the yard-long, hip-mounted phallus with its inset viewing screen is just a little too enthusiastic for private-sector discipline! Transmitting pleasurable sensations when everything is going well on the production floor, it allows the modern manager to survey distant employees while relaxing on a tropical beach. The conclusion of the whole charade is that with today’s technology, democracy is guaranteed by Darwinian principles: there’s no reason for a reasonable businessman to own a slave in an expensive country like Finland, when you can have a free employee for much less, in whatever country you chose.

What happens when the freedmen revolt? Today all eyes are on the soldier. Thomas Barnett has drawn up a new world map for the Pentagon: it divides the »functioning core« of globalization, »thick with network connectivity,« from the »non-integrating gap« of the equatorial regions, »plagued by politically repressive regimes«. The gap is where the majority of American military interventions have taken place since the end of the Cold War. It’s also where a great deal of the world’s oil reserves are located. And it’s mainly inhabited by indigenous peoples (in Latin America) or by Muslims (in North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Indonesia). Barnett’s solution: »Shrink the gap«. Integrate those people, by force if necessary.

Jordan Crandall seems to grapple with this question of integration in one of his installations, »Heat Seeking«. The piece is full of menacing violence; but one scene shows a passive, unconscious woman being fed, apparently under the influence of a radio transmission. This disturbing image gets under the skin of the new media architecture, exploring its relations to psychic intimacy. What kind of subjectivity emerges from exposure to the contemporary networks?

I think we should conceive the worldwide communications technologies as Imperial infrastructure. These are systems with strictly military origins, but which have been rapidly liberalized, so that broad sectors of civil society are integrated into the basic architecture. Everything depends on the liberalization. The strong argument of Empire was to show that democratic legitimacy is necessary for the spread of a reticular governance, whose inseparably military and economic power cannot simply be equated with its point of origin in the United States. Imperial dimension is gained when infrastructures become accessible to a new category of world citizens. The effect of legitimacy goes along with integration to the »thick connectivity« of which Barnett speaks.

What happens, for example, when a private individual buys a GPS device, made by any of dozens of manufacturers? You’re connecting to the results of a rocket-launch campaign which has put a constellation of 24 satellites into orbit, at least four of which are constantly in your line-of-sight, broadcasting the radio signals that will allow your device to calculate its position. The satellites themselves are fine-tuned by US Air Force monitor stations installed on islands across the earth, on either side of the equator. Since Clinton lifted the encryption of GPS signals in the year 2000, the infrastructure has functioned as a global public service: its extraordinary precision (down to the centimeter with various correction systems) is now open to any user, except in those cases where unencrypted access is selectively denied (as in Iraq during the last war). With fixed data from the World Geodetic System – a planetary mapping program initiated by the US Department of Defense in 1984 – you can locate your own nomadic trajectory on a three-dimensional Cartesian grid, anytime and anywhere on Earth (Defense department dogma: »Modern maps, navigation systems and geodetic applications require a single accessible, global, 3-dimensional reference frame. It is important for global operations and interoperability that DoD systems implement and operate as much as possible on WGS 84«).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this satellite infrastructure is that in order for one’s location to be pinpointed, the clock in each personal receiver has to be exactly synchronized with the atomic clocks in orbit. So you have an integration to Imperial time. The computer-coded radio waves interpellate you in the sense of Althusser, they hail you with an electromagnetic »hey you!« When you use the locating device you respond to the call: you are interpellated into Imperial ideology. The message is that integration equals security, as exemplified in the advertising for the Digital Angel, a personal locative device pitched to medical surveillance and senior care. It’s a logical development for anyone who takes seriously the concept of the »surgical strike«: give yourself over to the care of the machines, target yourself for safety.

In light of all this, one can wonder about the limits of the concept of conversion, developed extensively by Marko Peljhan in quite brilliant projects for the civilian reappropriation of military technology. Can we still make any distinction between a planetary civil society articulated by global infrastructure, and the military perspective that Crandall calls »armed vision«? The urgency is social subversion, psychic deconditioning, an aesthetics of dissident experience. Most of the alternative projects or artworks using the GPS system are premised on the idea that it permits an inscription of the individual, a geodetic tracery of individual difference. The most beautiful example to date is Esther Polak’s »RealTime« project, where GPS-equipped pedestrians gradually sketch out the city plan of Amsterdam, as a record of their everyday itineraries. But the work is a fragile gesture, fraught with ambiguity: the individual’s wavering life-line appears at once as testimony of human singularity in time, and proof of infallible performance by the satellite mapping system.

All too often in contemporary society, aesthetics is politics as decor. Which is why the Situationists themselves soon abandoned Constant’s elaborate representations of unitary urbanism. »Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence«, wrote Althusser. It’s what makes you walk the line, to use his image. Has the ideology of our time not become an erratic, wavering pattern of crisscrossing footsteps, traced in secure metric points on an abstract field? The aesthetic form of the dérive is everywhere. But so is the hyper-rationalist grid of Imperial infrastructure. And the questions of social subversion and psychic deconditioning are wide open, unanswered, seemingly lost to our minds, in an era when civil society has been integrated to the military architecture of digital media.

An initial version of this text was presented at the RIXC »Media Architecture« conference in Riga, May 16-17, 2003.

Filed under: academic, architecture, art, locative, mobility, new media, research, situationist, social, space/place, technology, urban

Glowlab attache case on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Glowlab attache case on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

Filed under: ethnography, locative, research, situationist, social, space/place, urban




by Knifeandfork
tags: transportation mobile cartography

Hundekopf (Dog’s Head) is a colloquial term for Berlin’s S-Bahn ring, a train line which encircles the inner city. It is an integral component of the transportation network and gained symbolic significance when it was restored into a complete circle after the fall of the Berlin Wall. From its windows a fragmentary perspective of each district of the city is gained, with the TV-tower (Berlin’s most iconic landmark) always in sight as a central hub.

In re-imagining Hundekopf as a resistance organization, Knifeandfork uses the Ringbahn as a literal vehicle to move between time and place in what has been dubbed a ‘hub-narrative’ structured through SMS text-messaging and a new form of location-based content delivery.

The creation of the piece was itself a performance, as it required deconstructing Berlin’s public transportation information through the BVG website in order to track individual trains. This potentially volatile act was accomplished conspicuously using another shared resource, the numerous open Wi-Fi networks in Berlin cafes. Given current concerns about terrorism, the tracking system was the object of much attention.

System complete, flyers were distributed to travelers on S-bahn platforms and throughout the city during the week of Loving Berlin bearing an invitation to the resistance. To accept, participants go to any Ringbahn platform and send the name of that stop to the project phone number as an SMS. In response, they receive an instruction to board a particular train which they can then ride around the complete route.

After every stop on the Ringbahn, participants received a transmission from “Hundekopf” central command, defining an elusive manifesto referencing their actual immediate surroundings. “Hundekopf”, as it turns out, is not an organization at all, but resistance through attention to the mundane, eschewing any culture-jamming or generation of new signifiers in favor of direct experience. Resistance is continuous, you are chasing your tail.

Filed under: art, locative, mobility, research, situationist, social, space/place, technology, urban, wifi

pasta and vinegar » IFTF report about context-aware gaming


pasta and vinegar » IFTF report about context-aware gaming

This report defines context-aware gaming, describes the technological enablers for it, presents four future scenarios for what context-aware gaming might look like in coming decade and insights for those futures, and suggests opportunities that will emerge for organizations. A context-aware game uses physical and digital information about the current status of the player to shape how the game is played. The integration of physical and digital context moves the experience beyond what we’ve come to expect of games played in either the digital or physical worlds alone. While the contextual elements of today’s context-aware games cover a fairly broad spectrum-from location to heart rate and other people’s ideas-there are some fundamental similarities among games that integrate elements of the physical and digital world, all pointing to a new era of gaming that builds on the rich spaces and interactions of daily life. This shift will offer new channels for communication and marketing, build valuable skills in future workers, and pose challenges and opportunities for products, services, and brands when anything can and likely will be part of a game.

Filed under: locative, research, situationist, space/place

URBAN APPOINTMENT: A Possible Rendez-Vous With the City (pdf)_brian massumi


Space and Culture: Possible cities

“To catch the city in a different light, the Situationists recommended making virtual appointments.1 A group member was asked to show up at a certain corner at a predesignated time. Neither party knew who the other was. Steeped in uncertainty, the encounter was destined to remain merely a possibility. Merely a possibility? Fully a possibility. Think of what it feels like going to meet someone you have never seen before in a public place. Every person walking by might be about to step into your life. The slightest of gestures amplifies into an emergent sign of recognition. The space around is no longer a neutral frame. It is charged with anticipated gazes leading potential approaches…”

Filed under: locative, research, situationist, urban