[-empyre-] Week 2 - Computation and the Nonhuman

Jacob Gaboury jacob.gaboury at nyu.edu
Wed Jun 13 09:21:40 EST 2012

Regarding Zach's question of whether or not there are particular
technical objects or systems that we might consider "queer", and the
idea that failure might not only mean total non-functionality:

I think the clearest example of this form of failure is "glitch" and
perhaps its corollary "noise," which of course has a much longer
history and is applicable to previous work on queer aesthetics and
temporality in punk, queercore, and other "noisy" musical scenes. In a
technological sense these are troubled practices as, like certain
forms of queerness, they can quite easily be co-opted and repurposed,
aestheticized, and de-politicized. In fact noise has become the
productive object par excellence, wherein flexible systems allow for
and integrate externalities and repurpose them as productive sites, as
with the repurposing of contagion under viral capitalism. I'm thinking
here of Jussi Parikka's discussion of noise in Digital Contagions
(2007) in which he states that "The noise of the network machine is
folded back (reterritorialized) into its circuits in a manner that
suits the logic of the risk society and second-order cybernetics"

The artist Rosa Menkman <http://rosa-menkman.blogspot.com/> does a
wonderful job clarifying the different ways in which "glitch" can be
viewed and used in new media art practices, while warning of the ways
in which it has been repurposed. For her, the glitch is "a wonderful
interruption that shifts an object away from its ordinary form and
discourse, towards the ruins of destroyed meaning." Adopting the
language of McLuhan, she distinguishes between "cool" glitches as
those that produce the uncanny and sublime moment of encountering or
producing an unexpected, generative computational failure, and "hot"
glitches in which the aesthetic of failure is something to be
generated or cultivated, and in doing so is decoupled from the
procedural entity of the glitch. Think the explosion in "data-mosh"
aesthetics a few years ago, taking the aesthetic of an artist like
Takeshi Murata <http://youtu.be/mlRxTQ1dhMI> and transforming it into
a codec that can be broadly applied to digitized film and video.

"What do you think of the temporality of these queer technical logics?
are they always there? must they always be created and re-created? do
they have down time?"

Temporality is central to the glitch, as it is always something in the
process of destroying itself, of falling apart, of breaking down - at
least in Menkman's formulation of the "cool" glitch. To be honest
though I don't see glitch aesthetics and glitch art as an ideal form
of queer new media, particularly as it bleeds into the kind of 8-bit
nostalgia found in "chip tunes" and other contemporary musical
subgenera. I like the direction Jack has taken this though, and the
kinds of unexpected objects he has chosen for his "low theory",
particularly as they relate to my own interests and research in
computer graphics. I'll respond to that in a separate email though.

A link to Menkman's writing can be found on her homepage. I would
particularly recommend her "Glitch Manifesto" and "A Vernacular of
File Formats".

- Jacob

On Mon, Jun 11, 2012 at 4:01 PM, Zach Blas <zachblas at gmail.com> wrote:
> jacob, thanks for this really thoughtful and exciting post. like alex
> juhasz mentioned earlier, you point out that queerness can now be
> accommodated by global capital and because of that, queerness itself
> must shift, fluctuate, and change to remain resistant. i think this is
> really worth thinking through carefully because i feel like much queer
> theory today kind of ignores how queer is commodified now. i like how
> you bring up soft control and protocol from galloway because it really
> gets to thinking technically about being subversive or resistant
> within dominant systems that can consume or capture you. i find
> galloway’s protocol and exploit really useful for thinking about a
> queer logic in technics. typically, “queer logic” is commonly liked to
> the body and identity through a critique of heteronormativity, as you
> point out, but if we want to locate or create a queer logic in
> technical systems, then this must be expanded. Resistance in protocol
> leads us to things like the exploit, the hack, being external to the
> system yet somehow still within the system (which gets to all the
> invisibility stuff). I like that you’re linking failure here as one
> way to think queer logic technically. It brings us to different ways
> of thinking technical functionality, which is something i have been
> super interested in for quite some time. for me, it seems also crucial
> to point out that failure as a queer logic in technical systems might
> mean total non-functionality or some kind of hacked
> functionality--that failure here does not simply/only mean absolute
> non-functionality. how does the “uncomputable” figure here?
> are there any particular technical objects or systems that really
> strike you as queer in this sense? also, what do you think of the
> temporality of these queer technical logics? are they always there?
> must they always be created and re-created? do they have down time?
> this is such a great question, jacob: “How we might investigate that
> which is external to the technical and cultural logic of new media
> while remaining critically engaged with it?” how are people doing this
> now? amanda, margaret, and micha, it would be great to hear your
> thoughts on this. jacob’s comment here makes me think of a quote
> ricardo dominguez takes from the zapatistas--working with technologies
> at the speed of dreams, not at the speed of technologies. that seems
> really crucial to me, to be focused at a political or creative level
> that does not simply align with the temporal, spatial dynamics of
> digital media and technology. it makes me think of a quote i like from
> wendy chun about how there can never be a purely technological
> solution to a political problem.
> once we’re found or made these queer technical logics, what do they
> do? how do they intervene? how do they align with larger social
> movements? these questions most likely have to be answered on a case
> by case basis.
> homay, thanks for your comments on the face. it’s a really exciting
> project for me, and i’m working through it quite similarly to how
> jacob has outlined his thoughts on queerness and technology. i’m
> interested in how the face is uncomputable and computable as well as
> the political and ethical claims behind arguments that the face should
> or should not be computable. what are the ways the face hold some kind
> of external place in relation to neoliberal calculation?
> homay and jacob, how important is it for you to go back to turing to
> think queerness and technology? what is important for you about
> connecting turing to our technological present through queerness?
> michael, it would be great to hear your responses to the posts this
> week. also, perhaps you can offer your own take on queerness, the
> nonhuman, and object-oriented ontology and speculative realism so we
> can see how this aligns or dis-aligns with technics and turing.
> On Sun, Jun 10, 2012 at 10:05 AM, Homay King <hking at brynmawr.edu> wrote:
> > Hello all,
> >
> >
> >
> > I’m new to empyre, but I’ve been following the discussion since last week
> > and have really enjoyed everyone’s posts. Thanks so much to Zach and Micha
> > for inviting me to this week’s conversation.
> >
> >
> >
> > I’ll start off by chiming in about an item from last week, Zach and Amanda’s
> > conversation about facial recognition and faciality in general. Zach, this
> > is a such a fascinating project, and I’m eager to see how it develops. It
> > seems to me that facial recognition technology seeks to pinpoint the face as
> > the marker of a unique identity that is stable over time. And yet the face
> > can also be strangely impersonal and communal: a receptive plate that is
> > shaped by what it perceives in the external world, constantly changing and
> > collecting these changes on its surface, and therefore impossible to fix in
> > a singular, static form. These mobile aspects of the face, it seems to me,
> > are what might escape the logic of facial recognition systems and “fag face”
> > radars, etc. They also relate to Jacob’s point about the “uncomputible,”
> > which I agree, is an abiding concern for Turing. Perhaps they also suggest
> > an aspect of the human face that is queer, transitional, collective, and/or
> > impersonal. I’ve written about the face in different context, that of
> > Cassavetes’ Faces, Pasolini on free indirect cinema, and Deleuze on the
> > affection-image in Cinema 1, the last of which inspires some of the above
> > thinking: http://cameraobscura.dukejournals.org/content/19/2_56.toc
> >
> >
> >
> > Next, following Zach’s prompt, I’ll mention a project of mine that’s closely
> > related to this week’s topic, an essay/book chapter in progress called “Keys
> > to Turing,” in which I connect up aspects of Alan Turing’s work to dynamics
> > of secrecy and revealing, encoded signalling, and indeterminate desire. I
> > see these dynamics as operative throughout Turing’s research, not only in
> > the code-breaking, where they are explicitly in play, but also in the early
> > studies in mathematics and logic and up through the studies in AI. These
> > dynamics strike me as somehow queer, especially given Turing’s historical
> > coordinates—and as getting at some very interesting intertwinings of
> > intelligence, desire, and (non)humanness, some of which are smartly
> > illuminated by Jack Halberstam in “Automating Gender: Postmodern Feminism in
> > the Age of the Intelligent Machine”:
> > http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3178281?uid=3739864&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=56248674953
> >
> >
> >
> > I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and will be checking back
> > throughout the week.
> >
> >
> >
> > Cheers,
> >
> > Homay
> >
> > --
> > Homay King
> > Associate Professor, Dept of History of Art
> > Director, Program in Film Studies and Center for Visual Culture
> > Bryn Mawr College
> > Editorial Collective, Camera Obscura
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> --
> zach blas
> artist & phd candidate
> literature, information science + information studies, visual studies
> duke university
> www.zachblas.info
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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