I opened up this draft which I hadn't looked at since February and there was a whole load of paragraphs here about the turbulence of my relationship with social media. Essentially I never felt the need to quite or anything dramatic like that because I don't really use it properly. Anyway, all of that became irrelevant in recent weeks when the whole world decided it was going to sit up and have the same debate.
I've been keeping my head down at the moment, I have a course to run and a PhD to do. There's lots of other stuff but those two things are the least glamorous and most important. They essentially require looking at spreadsheets and blinking cursors day after day. It's not pretty but it matters and it's a case of just settling in for a long ride of three or so years to really build something that lasts and is important.
I was in Amsterdam the other week (surprise) visiting the Sandberg for the first time. I was there to give a talk and do some tutorials on a short course but I also got the opportunity to do some spying. I've worked with lots of people before from there but never had the chance to visit. I always like going to other universities and speaking to the staff and students about their problems, they tend to throw my own battles into a new light. The Dutch higher ed sector, particularly in arts and design has been going through some pretty interesting times with DAE students laying the line down on their management and concerns about levels of corporate interest. It's sometimes energising and sometimes disheartening to hear about the types of concerns they express in an atmosphere that is a lot closer to the ideal art school model than the target-driven, marketised and constricted confines of the mega-bureaucracy that I find myself playing. The issue of student representation is one that is brought up again and again in the Netherlands with no proper unionisation or quality assurance rocess involving student perspectives. Here, we're on the opposite ends with a system that has excellent representation of students in all levels of decision making but as a result is sometimes paralysed into inaction out of the fear of upsetting students with change.
Haunted Machines +
I've done a couple of talks recently starting to build on the Haunted Machines work and into my PhD research. There was Arrational Machines at Thingscon and then Pure Machines at Future Sessions in Manchester. That whole things was conducted in the shadow of the Facebook revelations which made a lot of folks decidedly uncomfortable and resulted in some quite heated and enlightening exchanges. I don't know if it was recorded but I think the Q&As throughout the day were very rich. On that note, I'm not sure if I remembered to tell you about a podcast that Natalie and I did last year after Haunted Machines. Natalie now has a newsletter. I thought newsletters were a 2016 thing but then I found out yesterday that wearing a green hat in China mean someone is cheating on you. There's all sorts of things I don't know.
I did a quick project for Dirty Furniture for an exhibition they're touring. I was asked to chose an artefact that I felt represented the contemporary age and I chose a piece of software, the Synthesising Obama machine learning package. The notion is that these objects will go in time capsules so I had an interesting dilemma of how to make it legible for years to come. Acrylic takes around 40,000 years to degrade so that was an easy choice. The exhibition is travelling to London for Clerkenwell design week so once it's there and I can get some proper photos I'll do a proper writeup.
I've been working on a little research/curatorial project with Z33 since January. They've set up a series of research schools to do projects under certain themes and I've been involved in the School of Time. As part of this they're exhibiting research at Milan this year, I've selected some diagrams and fragments of text that go into a plotter to be drawn into people's notebooks. If you're in Milan go check it out. Also go and check out Wesley's work with Superflux - he's done a new critical data vis project and will be doing a talk. There's also some IDC action at Atelier Clerici this year with Virginie Tan, a recent grad, presenting her work.
Beyond crunking out a good chunk of PhD I've been doing various other bits of writing. I'm in Paris next week for Cumulus to report on the Interact project I've been involved in for the last few year, Strange Telemetry wrote a chapter for Economic Science Fictions from Goldsmiths Press which is now available at all good bookstores and I've got a couple of essays in catalogues and books coming up that I'll let you know about when they're out.
Natalie and I are running another series of event with Impakt. First on the 20th April in Osnabruck at the European Media Arts Festival and then on the 21st April in Utrecht. The events, both called 'Deep Fakes or Rendering The Truth' are opportunities to talk about the effects of advancing simulation and rendering on notions of truthfulness and objectivity in images. We've got a great lineup of speakers - Anna Riddler, Lucy Hardcastle, Luba Elliot, Igor Schwarzmann and others. Hopefully see you there. After that I'm in Geneva for Mapping Festival where I'll be sharing the stage with Julian Oliver for the first time in four years in a conversation with Daphne Dragona.
That's it. That's all I've got time for. There are probably other things.