response to crary and groys

notes on crary, “spectacle, attention, counter-memory”

lays out different ideas of spectacle

  • spectacle as “imposition of illusory unity onto a more heterogenous field” or “a new opiate-of-the-masses type of explanation” or “the moment when sign-value takes precedence over use-value”
  • post-Haussmann Paris as “the visible expression of a new alignment of class relations”
  • “the spectacle as a new kind of power of recuperation and absorption, a capacity to neutralize and assimilate acts of resistance by converting them into objects of images of consumption” omg yes
  • Debord names 1927 as birth of society of the spectacle. perfection of television. “new kind of image and its speed, ubiquity, and simultaneity.” film. the jazz singer. synchronized sound and image, distribution all controlled by corporate/military/government.
  • from 1890s into 1930s, mainstream psychology’s problem of attention. “how many sources of stimulation could one attend to simultaneously?” concept of a range of attention
  • walter benjamin: “redundancy of representation, with its accompanying inhibition and impoverishment of memory, was what Benjamin saw as the standardization of perception, or what we might call an effect of spectacle.” thinking about collective memory, the potential for social reawakening
  • “Debord sees the core of the spectacle as the annihilation of historical knowledge… the reign of the perpetual present”
  • note to self: check out Henri Bergson Matter and Memory

didn’t know this:

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 11.22.06 PM

notes on groys, “comrades of time” with my questions/comments in bold

“Politically, we can speak about modern utopias as post-historical spaces of accumulated time, in which the finiteness of the present was seen as being potentially compensated for by the infinite time of the realized project: that of an artwork, or a political utopia.” what does this mean? 

“when the final product is realized, the time that was used for its production disappears.” reminds me of charles’ piece on rodrigo valenzuela and construction sites. he writes: “We walk under scaffolds in the hope they do not collapse on us. And later, when the buildings are complete and the scaffolds are gone, the politics of construction become invisible.”

interesting: “Today, we are stuck in the present as it reproduces itself without leading to any future. We simply lose our time, without being able to invest it securely, to accumulate it, whether utopically or heterotopically. The loss of the infinite historical perspective generates the phenomenon of unproductive, wasted time. However, one can also interpret this wasted time more positively, as excessive time—as time that attests to our life as pure being-in-time, beyond its use within the framework of modern economic and political projects.”

“One is reminded here of Camus’ Sisyphus, a proto-contemporary-artist whose aimless, senseless task of repeatedly rolling a boulder up a hill can be seen as a prototype for contemporary time-based art.” no.

“And Georges Bataille thematized the repetitive excess of time, the unproductive waste of time, as the only possibility of escape from the modern ideology of progress.” yes.


full-spectrum customer analytics: sketches

gal and i have been thinking a lot about data and privacy.

below are some ramblings for/about potential projects.

  • a facebook algorithm that recommends new friends for you based on common traits among your existing friends. it analyzes your photos for tattoos, pets, siblings, colors, and other identifiers.

the problem with this, and with some of our other data project ramblings, is that they’re not different enough from what actually happens, on the internet and off. we do develop mental models that let us take shortcuts to finding friends—shortcuts based on arbitrary things that only sometimes accurately reflect someone’s capacity to be a good friend. just because someone has lots of cat photos doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re kind ∴ good friend or a total slob ∴ inconsiderate ∴ bad friend, even though we might have developed those shortcuts in our brains. facebook algorithms probably incorporate some of the same shortcuts when it recommends friends to us. all of which is to say: still trying to find the interesting pressure points in this scenario.

  • a performance piece in which we work for a data company and pitch our analytics services to a client. our company also has a data derivatives branch that repackages information we get from our clients so we can sell it to our other clients. data bundles are graded from top-shelf AAA down to B3.

“Our services help clients optimize product distribution, target prospective data points more effectively, grow revenues, and harvest more data.

The keystone of our business is our in-depth “Customer Portrait” parsed from analytics bundles we have access to through our Insights Initiative—a partnership between Deloit, Complast, and Faceboop.

Through our Data Derivatives branch, we also work with clients to develop their own data-backed revenue streams so they can capitalize on their customer-provided insights. We have expertise structuring data packages that maximize profits and preserve privacy through our proprietary Randomized Identifier Reassignment algorithms.”

we actually started exploring this project in more depth. for the classroom setting, we wanted to create “customer portraits” of some of our classmates, which involved using facebook and google to find information about them, their interests, their families, and where they live. i got increasingly uncomfortable with the kind of work we were doing to put together the portraits, even though we knew they’d ultimately be used in a performance critiquing the exact thing we were doing.

a conversation about this scenario comes up in every art theory class i’ve ever taken—the one about institutional critique and when it becomes not critique anymore, when it just reinforces the thing it’s supposedly critiquing. usually, i’m talking about it from a spectator’s perspective. it felt really different to actually have to make a decision about whether to continue a project. similar icky feelings stopped me from pursuing elements of my “white people in coffee shops” project, and they also stopped me from pursuing a weird internship.

i’m still trying to figure out what to do with this information. do i need a system for deciding when to stop and when to keep going? what do i gain by stopping? what do i lose by stopping?

additional reading/watching:

icm: brooklyn museum api

this is a rough sketch using the brooklyn museum api. i really want to dig into this more because i like the idea of letting people interact with museum collections in interesting ways, and the documentation for this api seems really solid.

you’ll find out pretty quickly that the sketch is broken. i was focusing more on getting the mechanics working before i start styling, but i still have work to do.

code here:


pcomp: ideas for the final

i’m interested in exploring physical, mechanical manifestations of digital processes. here are the two ideas i’m playing with:

1. an eyeball mounted to my laptop camera that tracks my motion and blinks. i’d use p5.js with the clmtrackr library to communicate serially with the arduino.

sources to review for building the eyeball mechanism:


eye muscles
eye muscles

2. a physical array. when you put different objects in the array, they’re represented visually in p5. there are a few ways this could work.

one way is to have a specific set of objects, each with a unique weight, where each weight corresponds to an object in p5. so p5 “knows” when you put a given object on the force sensor and draws the thing associated with that weight.

another, more interesting way, would use a laptop’s built-in camera to render, in p5, the object that you put in the array. i’m not sure where the interaction would come in. maybe certain object characteristics would trigger motors that shift the array, maybe with a conveyer belt. or maybe you would use a crank. i have always wanted to build something with a crank…

look at this beautiful thing
look at this beautiful thing

this project would be a neat (and much-needed, for me) way to spend time understanding how electricity becomes legible to computers and ultimately legible to humans. i think its conceptual strength would really depend on what kinds of objects you could physically place in the array.

pcomp: better late than never, part ii

i also just finished the serial output from p5 lab with minimal mishaps along the way, which is great because i’ll need it for my final project. the lab didn’t include the printList() function for showing available ports, but i put it in when i couldn’t get the light working after a few tries. that’s when i finally realized my program wasn’t working because i was missing one of these >>>> \ <<<< in the port name.


arduino code

p5 code


pcomp: better late than never

i finally completed the duplex serial communication lab. it didn’t hurt that my midterm was a (very slight) variation on this scenario.

there she is


arduino code

p5 code


radical networks, day 2

the most exciting talk i went to today was sarah gold discussing her alternet project:

“I will give insight in to how a decentralised approach could radically reshape the governance and control of the digital infrastructures we use everyday: How can decentralised technologies provide a unique way of building scalable, trusted networks and systems that can, where appropriate, be owned by everyone? What if these technologies contributed to a democratic Internet of Thingsa digital commons and new forms of citizenship? What are the opportunities for disruption?”

i learned about a bunch of organizations i want to look into, like:

  • unMonastery  Inspired by the template of the Benedictine monastery, their dream was to apply the age-old concept of collective living and working to the internet age. It didn’t have a home yet, but they named it unMonastery. Ultimately the “un” would make up more than the “monastery” – instead of religious ideology, social hierarchy, and gender barriers there would be open-source software, horizontal governance, wi-fi and solar panels. At some point it became semi-jokingly nicknamed “a commune but with the internet.” —from Dazed Digital article
  • Ethereum Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference. Ethereum is how the Internet was supposed to work.

radical networks, day 1

my brain is spinning from day 1 of the radical networks conference. caio from francis’s “designing digital communities” class was there, along with several itp folks. dhruv introduced me to his wonderful friend andy who taught himself how to code, developed a project that helped get resources to people in the wake of hurricane sandy, and now does network stuff for disaster relief. he’s about to go to berlin to work on a project related to the refugee crisis there. i also met someone who was wearing an AMC shirt and it turns out they do really neat work with the open technology initiative.

it was such a pleasure to be in a space with more than a token few queer and trans folks, women, and people of color, where people were asking good, big questions. this is who i want to work with. i’m really looking forward to the second day of the conference tomorrow.

here are the talks i went to today:

“We will be discussing the human element in developing alternative communication networks, primarily community mesh networks. Looking at importance of local soft infrastructures in establishing and sustaining networks. Drawing from our 3 month journey, experiences and insights as non technical people diving into mesh networks in NYC and beyond.” for more info

“The zeal with which humans develop and implement new communications networks is matched only by their ability to forget the legacies and mistakes already made building past networks. Ironically, at least in the U.S., most of our communication networks build atop the remnants of those past networks. This talk will offer a series of ghost stories about the politics, personalities, and ideologies that continue to haunt our machines, and how our new networks might live with or at least keep the ghosts at bay.”

  • caught the end of social justice warrior network, by dan phiffer

“Who believes that any of the current tech start-ups, awash in easy venture capital, have any chance of disrupting fundamental problems like income/wealth inequality or climate resilience? Let’s join together to build social software optimized for political solidarity rather than Monthly Active Users. It’s okay to keep sharing cat pictures, but we can do a better job collectively pursuing real political outcomes. Let’s embrace the label “social justice warrior” and begin living our digital lives as if the revolution has already happened. There are wicked problems that mainstream politics (and existing social networks) may simply be unfit to solve. What kind of network infrastructure would actively facilitate radical change? Why not start building it now?”

  • a history of building new systems on the wreckage of the old, by edward vielmetti
  • i will follow you into the darknet, by a bunch of people
  • a thing about nyc mesh, “a community-owned wi-fi network”

in conclusion:

A photo posted by @ken_jagan on