Are humans becoming part of a cybernetic world computer? Are we fatalistically manipulated by the digitization underway or is it a tool for our own agency and development?
Those that currently have power use undemocratic means, including what Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” of digital technologies, to maintain political, economic, and military power. A heightened security state uses digitally enhanced means to separate, sever ties, and to discount certain bodies over others.
Those who demand democracy and the fair sharing of resources, are frustrated with their inability to change the rules of the world computer. They might call out for renewed practices of caring and repair. Political theorists like Jane Bennet, call for sensitivity and sympathy toward assemblages of human and non-human actors. Others, like the fuck-off-google campaign, believe that catastrophe has arrived and will wait no longer to engage in radical actions.
Can our socio-political agency as expressed through new communicative technologies and artistic practices be enhanced by the internet to reform relationships and power? How can/should we understand our lives and our cultural spaces as an animated cybernetic organism? Can our understanding of technology simultaneously inform what Achille Mbembe calls the planetary project of “decolonisation”; “ a radical openness of and to the world”?
I was thinking about these questions while preparing for the performance “Island G, a Public Consultation.” More specifically, I was asking myself: how can the scope of Berlin’s art and tech culture, also embedded in global financial structures, be made visible and relational to this artificial island in Jakarta, Indonesia? Below is a reading list I’ve created to contextualize the animated island intelligence proposal -- a section of the performance which lays out how Island G could be brought to life through sensors, poetry, and communication via a community messaging app running on blockchain.
Animation and Post-human Cybernetic Relations
These references speculate on thinking the world outside of the anthropocentric: from the undead (1), algorithms (2), the forest (3), communities that form organizations to take care of bees (4), the alien (5), an operating system (6), things (7), internet memes (8), and computer generated haikus (9).
(1) Frankenstein, book by Mary Shelley, 1818
(2) Not Enough Silicone For a Seance, Nicholoas Mortimer
(3) terra0 white paper
Interview with BeeCoin project developer Stephanie Holl Trieu at 10:00
www.subtextradio.net/hds-chorstatistikstephanieholltrieuConversation with STATISTA CURATOR Matthias Einhoff at 14:30
(5) Parallax 1-5, Adam Westbrook
(6) Her, movie by Spike Jonze, 2013
(7) Vibrant Matter, A Political Ecology of Things, book by Jane Bennet, 2010
(8) speculative subjectivity of the Doge:
(9) Haiku Generator
Surveillance Capitalism and the Future of Financial Digitisation
These references pull together unlikely sources for understanding the intertwined nature of money and digitization today. Shoshana Zuboff (1) elucidates certain threats to democracy, while Achilles Mbembe touches on the problems of psychic commodification for the project of decolonialisation (2). Some people organize to shame or boycott the internet as we know it for making us into their products (3), while others are working out theoretical and complex alternatives (4). The ideology of a virtuous technology marches on through UN projects (5), while making every terrestrial and atmospheric possibility available to capital -- creating ambivalent images of urban greatness, through large scale financial forces of power and destruction (6). Often invisible or pushed out of sight, the violence of cyberspace today is one which politically drives the marginalization of the global poor (7).
(1) Shoshana Zuboff: Surveillance capitalism and democracy
(2) Achille Mbembe: Thoughts on the Planetary
(4) Economic Space Agency, introducing their white paper:
(5) UN global pulse lab jakarta
(6) Boards of Canada - Amo Bishop Roden
(7) Why We Build The Wall - Anaïs Mitchell - Hadestown
Blockchain’s Capabilities and Threats
These references are an investigation into the claims that Blockchain may be able to offer some help to the crises of democracy. As Vitalik (1) puts it: for Bitcoin (10), software is in the service of currency, whereas for Ethereum(11), currency is in the service of software. The decentralization inherent in blockchain technology may provide an internet that has community governance (2), but this is a political problem not just an innovation problem (3). Additionally, the incentives, privacy and secrecy inherent in the blockchain technology may be better turned on their head for radical emancipatory purposes as “distributed open cooperatives” (DisCo) rather than the otherwise up-and-coming “decentralized autonomous organizations” (DAO) (4). Whether DisCO or DAO, ideas for decentralizing everything from care (5), to clubs (6), to property rights (7) are jumping on the blockchain. Behind all of this techno-jargon, the lives of the blockchain creators (8) and the blockchain miners (9) paint a strange and unsettling picture of techno-reality.
(1) Decentralizing Everything with Vitalik Buterin
(2) Why Decentralization Matters, Chris Dixon
(3) You Can’t Code Away their Wealth, Dmytri Kleiner
(5) ReUnion, commoning by P2P care
(6) Mat Dryhurst, Musician, Iconoclast, On Helping Artists with Blockchain
Own or be Owned -Dryhurst
(7) Hernando de Soto Knows How To Make the Third World Richer than the First
(8) Making a Crypto Utopia in Puerto Rico
(9) The Crypto Family Farm
Related Work by Anna Kostreva and Alex Head
Check out our presentation on the subversion of Amazon’s Echo device in a colonial jail cell turned museum (1). Or listen to the fictional perspective of hormones and pavement (2) in a world fundamentally geared around speed.
(1) A Third Landscape Perspective: Alexa goes to Jail
(2) Informasi Informal