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A residents reading list

I have recently completed my residency at the Lighthouse Studios, where I developed a couple of projects, evolving Emotional Infrastructure and Palindrone.

Since I was trying to be at the studio at least two days a week and I live in London, this involved some train time. Not unknown for people to commute along this line but for me it was an extra couple of hours on the train. I thought I would list the books, reading material that I had with me on this journey too and from Brighton.

In no particular order:

  • Paul Virilio: Desert Screen
  • Paul Virilio: War & Cinema
  • Paul Virilio: Speed & Politics
  • Paul Virilio: Pure War
  • Steve Goodman: Sonic Warfare
  • Manuel DeLanda: War in the age of intelligent machines
  • Michael Ignatieff: Virtual War
  • Raymond Wacks: Prtivacy, A very short introduction
  • Eyal Weizman: Hollow Land
  • Geoff Manaugh: BldgBlog Book
  • Muhammad Yunus: Creating a world without poverty
  • Ethan Zuckerman: Rewire
  • McKenzie Wark: The beach beneath the streets
  • Guy Debord: The society of the spectacle
  • Slavoj Zizeck: A year of living dangerously
  • Patrick Kieler: The view from the train
  • Adam Greenfield: Against the smart city
  • Medea Benjamin: Drone Warefare: Killing by remote control

I have probably forgotten some things, papers read and books which I dipped into rather than read cover to cover, but the list shows where my head was at for the last couple of months (and now).

Palindrone

Last night at an event at the Lighthouse in Brighton, Cathal Coughlan and I unveiled publicly for the first time a piece of work we have been collaborating on called Palindrone. We installed, for the evening, v1.0 of the work in the conference room at the Lighthouse venue.

Palindrone is a work that was conceived during my residency at the Lighthouse Studio programme. Whilst at the studio I started playing around with some of the Buddha Machines that I have and started a discussion with Natalie and Honor about drones. The two started to come together quite quickly, initially with an idea to create a circle of sound objects, like the Buddha Machines, each playing different samples to create a soundscape. The idea became simplified to create a background drone and using code, monitors the reports on drone strikes that the Bureau of Investigative Journalism maintains. If a new report is added to the database (which gets reflected by the twitter feed @dronestream, which is run by artist Josh Begley) it triggers an interrupt sound over the background drone.

Whilst playing with the Buddha Machines I remembered a story I had read earlier in the year about the psychological effect the drones were having, specifically on the children. They would not sleep, afraid of the drone in the distance. The drone was a terrorising object, above communities it installed a state of control where activity had to be curtailed, self censored for fear that it might ‘attract the attention of a drone’.

I found a press release from Reprieve, about the psychological effect the drones were having and this was presented along with the piece at the installation.

This is the panopticon, the idea that a central body of control might be observing your activity, so you modify your behavior in case it is watching. The drone though imposes American/British/Western military control over communities in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Installed, the piece is a sound in a room, at Lighthouse the conference room had subdued lighting and on a table we had some texts that I have been investigating whilst developing the work.

The main sample loop has been constructed by Cathal, we have currently sourced a number of drone samples from the internet and laid these together to create the main loop, the interrupt sound is again a sample based on the sound from a military encrypted message.

Version 1.0 is still a work in progress, we are developing how the sound should be constructed, how much detail and noise we want in that main sound and clearing the use of samples as well as investigating the possibility of capturing our own samples to use in the piece.

The work is an artistic response to a situation that has come to our attention, from investigating this further and in constructing the work we are also highlighting possible responses from a design perspective.

We will document the evolution of the piece here, as well as notify of any installations. If you have any questions on the piece then please get in touch.

Palindrone (2)

ICBM vs PING

I wrote this for Mute Magazine, back in April 1999. It was my first attempt at getting down my thoughts on what is happening, and has not really stopped happening. It is simplistic and please do crit in the comments.

The current war inn the Balkans is being called the first Internet war. Previously, the Gulf war was hailed as the first information war. That is, information war in the terms set out by Bruce Sterling, Alvin Toffler, Jean Baudrillard et al – fought by a war machine using the latest information technology to strike at the enemy accurately, quickly and, notionally, ‘without risk to human life’.
Of course, the main front in this information conflict was back at home, packaging and selling the war to the general public. The information war was fought in our living rooms – by each side against it’s own populace. In information conflict, missiles and bombs go on destroying; civilians and soldiers go on being killed, but politicians require at least the illusion of a public mandate to sanction military attacks.
Now, eight years later, we have a similar situation, although this time part of the conflict is taking place online: both war machines involved in the conflict are using websites and newsgroups to spin their media hype.
At the same time, the NATO website was supposedly hit by a denial of service attack, a flood of pings requesting a response from the server and reducing it’s response time to a crawl. In America at least one person took it upon himself to do the same to a pro-Serbian website, using an off-the-shelf spam package.
All of these actions fit wonderfully into the new-speak of military action: ‘SYN Flooding’, ‘Denial of Service Attack’, etc – technical terms that generals would love to be able to use to describe aspects of their bombing campaigns.
Information war has to be constructive, not destructive. Instead of flooding the Net with SYN packets, we should be listening to it’s flood of voices. Away from the electronic toys of crackers and wannabe hackers, the information war is being fought with dialogue, conversation and the broadcast of ideas.
In media terms, the Internet is not quite up there with the televisions, but it’s getting closer to the living room corner. When it does, will we visit the site of consent, as we did before, or will we search out genuinely alternative sources of information? Instead of listening to the news about government sites being brought down by hackers, will we instead find sites built and emails sent by those on both sides of the conflict?

a proper thought for the day

It is nice to have something to mull over, some commentary by someone to think about, respond to or just think about. That is what ‘Thought For The Day’ should be. I guess it is, but it has been limit bound by the editorial team at the Radio 4 Today Programme to not include ‘thinkers’ who are athiest.

So, if we were to have a proper ‘Thought for the day’ what would it be. I was imagining a short 3 – 5 minute podcast that gets sent out each morning, together with a small space to discuss the thought, ideas etc.

Currently the thought is one that is informed by current events and our proper one should be as well, so whoever is invited to speak each day needs to do a bit of thinking and writing early in the morning. Maybe a better thought for the day is one that sums up a day, in the evening. Yes, I am assuming a GMT based timezone here.

So, given 5 minutes to ponder the day, events, and anything else who would you have speak?

ballot paper design

As a part of my research for LazyGov and associated projects I am interested in the design of ballot papers and the mechanisms of voting / selecting. Basically I want to find some resources of the designs that have been tried out there in the world, both paper and digital interfaces.

They do not have to be for governmental elections, any kind of voting process.

So if you know of any online resources describing the design of various ballot papers from around the world then please let me know in the comments.

politics and all that

Very quickly a couple of notes:

1.James has pointed openpolitics.org.uk to the Open Politics Manifesto site, currently hosted on GitHub.

2. Sym has a twitter bot reminding us of how many days to the next election: https://twitter.com/daystoelection/

3. Sym has also started collating a list of tools & projects that we could use to better engage, take part and generally have a better political life. When I started at the UnParty meetup in December I was wondering if we really needed more tools, but Sym, I think, very quickly persuaded me otherwise.

4. I am going to collate, collect and note ideas around this over at lazygov.org which I am re-launching. If nothing else, it will be the space to find what I am trying to write about academically.

interim notes

We held the first meeting of an UnParty Unconference and during the discussion I scribbled down some notes. What I have not done is made the time yet to write these up properly, which is one of the first mistakes in trying to do something. for those who turned up, I have scanned my notes and included the images below and will write these more formally as soon as possible.

I will also contribute these to the Open Politics repository.

— Mark

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Art belongs to the infrastructure of society

– The Beach Beneath The Street , McKenzie Wark


‘Emergence from infrastructure into public space… ‘

– Explore Everything, Bradley Garrett


‘Todays infrastructure sustains the paranoid and waning civilization that will be tomorrow’s ruin’ – Alan Rapp, Architect

– Explore Everything, Bradley Garrett


‘Security Entertainment Complex’ Nigel Thrift

– Explore Everything, Bradley Garrett