[-empyre-] Week 3 Introduction

Nicholas Knouf nknouf at wellesley.edu
Wed Mar 21 07:56:17 AEDT 2018

Hello everyone,

Fascinating thoughts so far, I'll see if I can add some noisy
interferences to the conversation.

I'm with Michel Serres when he writes in /Genesis/ that noise is the
background of the universe, and that the task is to describe how the
/rare/ moments of order are made manifest. Thus while there are
arguments that noise is fundamentally anti-establishment + that it needs
to be corralled and controlled + that it is fundamentally disruptive in
a positive sense + that it is painful and dangerous + that we should
celebrate it in the sounds of warfare + that we can control it + that we
can easily separate a signal out of it + that we should valorize the
"natural" above it + that it has more information than signal + that it
can break us out of cybernetic ruts...I agree with David that we ask a
lot of noise. I'm content to try and follow the machinations of noise as
a material property of the world, seeing how it continually exceeds our
abilities to pin it down.

One of the things that I've written about in the past is the role of
noise in financial markets, which was published in my book /How Noise
Matters to Finance/. The "matters" part of the title matters, drawing
from Jane Bennett and Karen Barad. I followed how noise (sonic and
informatic) came to be a matter of concern to finance, as financial
economists realized that they had to take into account the noisy
behavior of markets that exceeded their bounded equations. Thus the
shouts of the trading floor could be used to predict how the market
might move, or algorithms could attempt to disrupt other algorithms
through spoofing and creating fake, noisy trades. A few years ago there
were some left accelerationist arguments that suggested that the noisy
behaviors of algorithms would potentially cause the markets to fail,
spiraling downward, thus precipitating the development of whatever comes
"after" capitalism. But as I looked into the markets more deeply, I saw
that for every algorithm that tries to pull the market down, there's
another that tries to pull it back up. So every automated "crash" of the
market is followed by an automated recovery. Noise can't be counted on
to disrupt the market, as the market is fundamentally built upon a
negative feedback (stabilizing) system that was championed by Norbert
Wiener so many decades ago, as opposed to a positive feedback system
(disruptive) that would potentially spiral downwards or upwards out of
control. Noise in the market becomes something that can be fed upon in
small, minuscule, perturbatory doses.

Of course noise has its uses, as many of us know and have been involved
in over the past decades. Sometimes these uses are for liberatory ends,
and sometimes they are not. We can shout and be disruptive and be heard.
We can upload alternative ideas and obfuscate. We can let the speaker
cabinet rattle our bones as we are lost in euphoria of the electronic
sounds, or lose our hearing as we are blasted by the LRAD. We can create
hoaxes or fake news. We can get a reporter to say that Dow will pay for
the Bhopal disaster, or that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, or
that a certain pizza joint in Washington, DC is a den of villainy. I
think it behooves us, during a moment where many call for "authenticity"
and for a distinction between "fake" and "real" news, to ask what might
be lost as we try and scrub our media of noise. Who gets to make the
distinction between signal and noise? What powers are reinforced as we
aim for authenticity? This is not a call for anything goes relativism.
Rather it's a call for skepticism in the face of attempts to stabilize
the boat. Noise has a way of overflowing it. Might we be better served
in learning ourselves, and educating others, in how to follow the
machinations of noise?



On 3/19/2018 11:05 PM, Noralyn Neumark wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hi Junting and all
> Thanks for inviting me into this fascinating discussion. I’d like to
> provide a bit of background to my thinking and work with noise — from
> the 90s to present day. 
> (Sorry the formatting seems to have gone a bit dirty… no sooner spoken
> of than enacted!)
> Noise first appealed to me as a dirty antidote to ‘modern’ aesthetics
> of clean, bright, white, mono-cultural future and all the ecological
> and political problems that has evoked. In the sound world that
> included the early digital promises of ‘clean’ sound.  Historically
> cleanliness has been a way to distinguish the clean, white, proper,
> and quiet bourgeois self from the dirty, messy noisy, carnally
> excessive, sexually out of control working class and colonials (great
> book about this was Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, /The Politics
> and Poetics of Transgression/  l986).  I liked how this history
> complicated the pleasures and political effects of "clean" sound.
> Perhaps someone might comment too on the cultural specificity of this
> take on dirt and noise – a Chinese friend of mine in Australia pointed
> out to me that where she came from noise is a sign of happiness and
> prosperity.
> One of the things I got interested in to listen differently, in a more
> messy and polyphonic way, was alchemy – a practice of knowing and
> doing. Looking into the seven gates of the alchemical process, I
> really responded to putrefaction: putrefaction and fermentation. The
> moment of putrefaction is bodily. All your senses are assaulted.  This
> is a moment resonant with Julia Scher’s “dirty data” (1995 /Danger
> Dirty
> Data /https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/54044338?q&versionId=67005692 )
> The alchemist smells decomposition, hears the noise of the dung
> beetle, recalling the stench and noise of the transformative process
> within ourselves. Putrefaction undoes the clean and proper, noiseless
> bourgeois subject’s body.
> It is during the /nigredo/ of alchemy, which might occur at any gate,
> that you come most thoroughly and noisily unstuck. A moment of deepest
> despair so familiar and resonant for most artists.  You are plunged
> into something awful, but essential. There is a raucous cacophony of
> pain/noise -- beetles, ravens, green lions -- human/inhuman
> caterwauling that echoes, redoubles and exceeds the noise of Michel
> Serres in his most multiple unpredictable turbulent moment.
> The /nigredo/ is an intensity of matter/ing, of
> meaning/meaninglessness, of noise and information, an intensity so
> great and terrible that there is nothing left but to do the Work. (I
> made a radio work with Alchemy, /Separation Anxiety/, for ABC in
> Australia and New American Radio in the US – that was a long time ago
> but this discussion has made me think about it again now.)
> I hadn’t thought about dirt much lately til recently working with the
> ultimate decomposers/composers -- worms -- and attuning to a noisy
> collaborative voice together. https://workingworms.net/ 
> https://vimeo.com/247735081
> In another register, recently as I’ve been thinking about voice and
> new materialism I’ve been noticing the voice of nausea – which recalls
> the opening points for this month about noise and nausea.
> In /Voicetracks/ I wrote about Kathy High’s wonderful video
> work /Domestic Vigilancia /from/ Everyday Problems of the living/ --
> the voice of her vomiting cat that gave me so much to think about.
> Since he alerted my senses and thinking to the vomiting voice, I’m
> hearing it all over the media. Does anyone have any ideas on why so
> many films have scenes of nausea and vomiting lately? It’s like vomit
> has replaced sex as the required transgressive gesture. The gut speaks…
> all the best
> Norie
> www.out-of-sync.com <http://www.out-of-sync.com>
> https://workingworms.net/  
>> On 19 Mar 2018, at 1:51 PM, Junting Huang <jh2358 at cornell.edu
>> <mailto:jh2358 at cornell.edu>> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Thanks to Eleonora, Wenhua, and Joo Yun for your posts! I’m sorry
>> about the slow pace in the second week, but please feel free to
>> follow up on their posts anytime. The annual meeting of Society for
>> Cinema and Media Studies ended today in Toronto, and we are back in
>> week 3. I am excited to introduce the guests for this week. They are
>> Nicholas Knouf, Norie Neumark, Ryan Jordan, Sarah Simpson, and
>> Gianluca Pulsoni.
>> ————————
>> Nicholas Knouf
>> Nicholas Knouf is an Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies
>> at Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA. He is a media scholar and
>> artist researching noise, interferences, boundaries, and limits in
>> media technologies and communication.
>> His recent book, How Noise Matters to Finance (University of
>> Minnesota Press, 2016), traced how the concept of “noise” in the
>> sonic and informatic domains of finance mutated throughout the late
>> 20th century into the 21st. His current research project, tentatively
>> entitled At the Limits of Understanding, listens to how we have tried
>> to communicate with both ghosts and aliens.
>> His current artistic research explores the re-presentation of signals
>> from the cosmos. Projects in this vein include they transmitted
>> continuously / but our times rarely aligned / and their signals
>> dissipated in the æther (2018-present), a 20 channel sound art
>> installation with speakers made from handmade abaca paper and piezo
>> electric elements, with sounds collected from satellite
>> (2017-present), event scores laser etched into handmade translucent
>> abaca paper; and, On your wrist is the universe (2017-present),
>> generative poetry about satellites and the cosmos for your smartwatch.
>> Norie Neumark
>> Norie Neumark is a sound/media artist and theorist.  Her radiophonic
>> works have been commissioned and broadcast in Australia (ABC) and in
>> the US. Her collaborative art practice with Maria Miranda
>> (www.out-of-sync.com <http://www.out-of-sync.com>) has been
>> commissioned and exhibited nationally and internationally. Her sound
>> studies research is currently focused on voice and the new
>> materialist turn. Her latest writing on voice is Voicetracks:
>> Attuning to Voice in Media and the Arts (MIT Press, 2017). She is an
>> Honorary Professorial Fellow at VCA and Emeritus Professor, La Trobe
>> University, Melbourne, and the founding editor of Unlikely: Journal
>> for Creative Arts. http://unlikely.net.au
>> Ryan Jordan
>> Ryan Jordan creates powerful audio-visual performance experiences
>> explicitly attempting to access portals into the psychedelic reality
>> matrix. These are explored through experiments in Possession Trance,
>> retro-death-telegraphy, hylozoistic neural computation and derelict
>> electronics. Recent projects include engram_extraction, a
>> hypothetical experiment into extracting and recording the biophysical
>> and/or biochemical imprints of events on memory; and several failed
>> attempts at breeding basilisks, mythical reptiles with a lethal gaze
>> or breath, hatched by a serpent from a cock's egg. He disseminates
>> these experiments via his noise=noise / nnnnn platform for live
>> events and workshops currently based in Ipswich UK, and via a PhD
>> thesis being completed at the School Of Creative Media in Hong Kong.
>> http://ryanjordan.org/
>> http://nnnnn.org.uk/
>> Sarah Simpson
>> Sarah Simpson holds as Master's Degree in the History of Art from
>> University College London and a Bachelor's Degree in both Art History
>> and Archaeology from Cornell University. Originally from Binghamton,
>> NY, she currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Sarah has held a range of
>> positions in the art world including Curatorial Assistant, Gallery
>> Manager, and, most recently, Publicist. She's worked in The Whitney
>> Museum of American Art, BRIC, Didier Aaron, and Blue Medium. Sarah
>> has a personal blog, as well, where she writes about exhibitions and
>> theoretical concepts that strike her interest, such as museum gift
>> shops (which are absolutely fascinating):
>> https://ecloart.wordpress.com/   
>> Gianluca Pulsoni
>> Gianluca Pulsoni is a Ph.D. student in the Romance Studies Department
>> of Cornell University (Italian section). He holds an MA in Cultural
>> Anthropology from the University La Sapienza in Rome, Italy, with a
>> thesis on Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi's cinema and exhibitions. He is
>> a contributing writer to the Italian newspaper, Il Manifesto -- its
>> cultural pages and weekly, Alias. Also, he has experience working
>> with digital companies and publishing houses in Italy as editor and
>> translator.
>> all the best
>> Junting
>> _______________________________________________
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> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
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Nicholas A. Knouf, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor, Cinema and Media Studies Program
Wellesley College, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481
Office: JAC 357A   Office Phone: 781.283.2105   Fax: 781.283.3647
PGP: 0xAB50A0D9
/How Noise Matters to Finance
available now!
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