I’ve set up a few VOIP phone numbers which record incoming voicemails as sound files and then email them onwards. Every so often, these numbers get called by bots doing automated market research. It takes a little while for the bot to register that there is no human response.
Why would other sectors nurse grudges against computers? Well, because the world we live in today is /made/ of computers. We don’t have cars anymore, we have computers we ride in; we don’t have airplanes anymore, we have flying Solaris boxes with a big bucketful of SCADA controllers [laughter]; a 3D printer is not a device, it’s a peripheral, and it only works connected to a computer; a radio is no longer a crystal, it’s a general-purpose computer with a fast ADC and a fast DAC and some software.
The grievances that arose from unauthorized copying are trivial, when compared to the calls for action that our new computer-embroidered reality will create. Think of radio for a minute. The entire basis for radio regulation up until today was based on the idea that the properties of a radio are fixed at the time of manufacture, and can’t be easily altered. You can’t just flip a switch on your baby monitor, and turn it into something that interferes with air traffic control signals. But powerful software-defined radios can change from baby monitor to emergency services dispatcher to air traffic controller just by loading and executing different software, which is why the first time the American telecoms regulator (the FCC) considered what would happen when we put SDRs in the field, they asked for comment on whether it should mandate that all software-defined radios should be embedded in trusted computing machines. Ultimately, whether every PC should be locked, so that the programs they run are strictly regulated by central authorities.
And even this is a shadow of what is to come. After all, this was the year in which we saw the debut of open sourced shape files for converting AR-15s to full automatic. This was the year of crowd-funded open-sourced hardware for gene sequencing. And while 3D printing will give rise to plenty of trivial complaints, there will be judges in the American South and Mullahs in Iran who will lose their *minds* over people in their jurisdiction printing out sex toys. [guffaw from audience] The trajectory of 3D printing will most certainly raise real grievances, from solid state meth labs, to ceramic knives.
“The radio signal travels deep into the arid countryside, hours by foot from the nearest road. There, the 8-foot-tall (2-meter-tall) dark-green branches of the rockrose bush conceal a radio tower painted to match. A cable buried in the dirt draws power from a solar panel. A signal-boosting repeater relays the message along a network of powerful antennas and other repeaters that stretch hundreds of miles (kilometers) across Mexico, a shadow communications system allowing the cartel to coordinate drug deliveries, kidnapping, extortion and other crimes with the immediacy and precision of a modern military or law-enforcement agency.”—News from The Associated Press
"Over the past twenty years, the technologies of simulation and visualization have changed our ways of looking at the world. In Simulation and Its Discontents, Sherry Turkle examines the now dominant medium of our working lives and finds that simulation has become its own sensibility. We hear it in Turkle’s description of architecture students who no longer design with a pencil, of science and engineering students who admit that computer models seem more "real" than experiments in physical laboratories. Echoing architect Louis Kahn’s famous question, "What does a brick want?", Turkle asks, "What does simulation want?" Simulations want, even demand, immersion, and the benefits are clear. Architects create buildings unimaginable before virtual design; scientists determine the structure of molecules by manipulating them in virtual space; physicians practice anatomy on digitized humans. But immersed in simulation, we are vulnerable. There are losses as well as gains. Older scientists describe a younger generation as "drunk with code." Young scientists, engineers, and designers, full citizens of the virtual, scramble to capture their mentors’ tacit knowledge of buildings and bodies. From both sides of a generational divide, there is anxiety that in simulation, something important is slipping away."
Virtual Sculpture Park (2011) (A collaboration with Sebastian Acker)
During a sculpture festival within Gordon Square park, London, QR codes were placed on plaques throughout the park. Instead of these plaques relating to physical sculptures they could instead be scanned with a smartphone and the viewer would be directed to a virtual 3D model of an unrealised public sculpture along with its proposal.
Over Arizona, the Predator circled a ranch, as unseen and silent as a hunting owl. On a bank of computer screens, the team watched the truck, which appeared in ghostly infrared black and white, turn and pull up by a mobile home. In the yard, three sleeping dogs quickly woke up, their tails wagging.
Suppose you wanted to create your own digital ghost to live for eternity in the Internet and maybe do some haunting. What would that look like?
You’d start now, backing up everything that happens on your computer to the so-called cloud (storage on the Internet). You’d run a program in the background that monitors your Facebook changes and all of your email conversations. Together with your photos, your resume, and all of your shopping and entertainment preferences, the program running in the cloud could piece together an avatar of you.
Aside from a few “post-production” techniques, such as the “dodge” and “burn” tools in Photoshop that help to seamlessly merge the photos together, Bogson puts all of his confidence in the “automated and aesthetically-neutered street view cars.” Although he leaves the Google imagery relatively intact, these modifications, which also include recoloring or enhancing hues of particular shots, are enough to ensure his authorial intent, while simultaneously marginalizing the artistic distance he’s so clearly after. Regardless, the photographs are enchanting, both as aesthetic products and theoretical investigations. ”Arrive without traveling.”
Many music critics— and music lovers— fret about the stream too, for broader reasons than the quality of Kreayshawn. A constant theme of this column has been nostalgia, not so much for music itself, but for ways of listening to it: the besieged sense that there was once a proper way to approach music, and that this is vanishing, scorched by technological novelty. I’m not very sympathetic: I loved listening to music when I was 20, but I don’t remember feeling that the ecosystem of cassettes and record stores and newsprint music writing was a particular paradise. I think I just loved being 20.
But I don’t have to be in love with the past to think that the stream’s effects on existing bits of culture is problematic. Many people feel that, when music is rolled along in the online stream, its context is washed away and its value risked. They aren’t just being wistful— they simply want music to be special, and that specialness seems threatened. The same goes for lovers and critics of almost any artform. They see the stream’s relationship to the art they love as parasitic: existing music, TV, art, books, comics— anything is simply raw material. At best this means the delight of discovery and the pleasure of curation; at worst it means art is ground up, swallowed, and forgotten.
Is there another way to look at it? We could try and shift perspective, to think of the stream as a cultural form in its own right— one with its own principles, virtues, thrills, and tensions. A thing we tackle critically, not simply celebrate or damn. In other words, we could stop imagining the stream as a vector for pop and start thinking of it as a kind of pop itself.