notes : Donald MacKenzie

excerpts from Notes : Donald MacKenzie Notes

[1] EDITORS’ NOTE: An intensifying understanding of materiality and interconnectivity across technological systems, environments and beings sensitizes us to the atmospheric, climatic scope of the physical functions of these ‘invisible’ systems. Intangible functions are recollected as inextricably geographic (and geologic) in nature and behaviour. “But with computers, not humans, doing the trading,” writes Donald MacKenzie in his research on high-frequency trading, “geography matters exquisitely. With any of these technologies—fibre-optic cable, microwave, millimetre wave, laser transmission through the atmosphere—the exact route is crucial.” Donald MacKenzie “Be Grateful for DrizzleLondon Review of Books 36, no. 17 (2014): 27–30.

Algorithmic systems now approach a kind of mythological being, like disembodied sprites darting through the ether carrying parcels of data, behave according to material conditions, especially with regard to geographic locations where computational processes are enacted. This atmospheric condition is explored by MacKenzie, Daniel Beunza, Yuval Millo, and Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra in their “Drilling through the Allegheny Mountains: Liquidity, Materiality and High-Frequency Trading.” Journal of Cultural Economy 5, no.3 (2012): 279–296. One such strategic form of geographically optimising trading systems is “co-location”, where the proximity of servers receiving and outputting information allows for computers to respond faster to the data, “compressing time” to achieve the “speed necessary for high-frequency trading.” This compression of time is essential to these trading systems, as MacKenzie writes: “traders at a large distance from matching engines are permanently doomed to learn ‘what the price is’ much more slowly than those who co-locate. The material assemblages that make possible today’s liquid markets are in that sense Einsteinian, not Newtonian.” Ten years ago, Paul Virilio declared: No more duration! No more topography!” Negative Horizon (New York, Continuum, 2008), 185.

Further, Virilio notes that “progressively doing away with our awareness of distances (cognitive distances), speed, in its violent approach, distances us from sensible realities; the more rapidly we advance toward the terminus of our movement, the more we regress until speed becomes, in a certain way, a premature infirmity, a literal myopia.” Ibid., 109.

[2] EDITORS’ NOTE: MacKenzie cites Andrew Blum’s (2012) Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet, describing the physicality of the internet and the atmospheric experience of a data centre. Blum and MacKenzie were both affected by the air inside these financial hermitages, experiencing a sensorial assault by a climate that was cold, and loud. Atmospheric noise is an avatar of invisible markets. The air becomes something dense—radiating with a cosmic hum—this constant becoming makes the atmosphere dense. An awareness of the materiality of these systems makes the complex technospheric matrix more and more evident: a collusion of living matter with the material waste and detritus produced out of informational exchange. The environmental impacts these mechanisms have, and the social systems that necessitate their operations rear their agential heads. From the flickering silicon ecosystems of servers, to the minute gems that form components for human-operated devices, our technologies carve out elements from the earth and, in turn, leave a residue—seductive, mutated sedimentations like fordite. See, for example, Jussi Parikka. A Geology of Media (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).

[3] EDITORS’ NOTE: On the physicality of finance: “Finance’s technosphere is deeply daunting. However, its very physicality reveals a certain lack of robustness. For example, the microwave and millimetre wave links among datacentres are sometimes disrupted by the most mundane of physical phenomena: rain. The processes—social, economic, cultural and technological—that have created this astonishing but also surprisingly delicate technosphere are the focus of research I have been conducting since 2010.” Donald MacKenzie. “The Microwave Tower of the New York Stock Exchange and the Physicality of Finance.” HKW The Technosphere, Now Reader (2015): 24.

MacKenzie states in his earlier “Be Grateful for Drizzle” how “Data centres resemble giant warehouses, and their size explains why this trading has shifted from its traditional sites in Manhattan to townships in New Jersey no tourist has ever heard of: real estate is much cheaper there. Data centres often have high-security features, such as a two-door entrance like a spaceship airlock. They’re frequently windowless, and sometimes freezingly cold because of the need for fierce air-conditioning to extract the heat generated by the tens of thousands of computer systems they contain. (The small numbers of maintenance workers who are needed can stay in warm rooms unless something goes wrong or new equipment needs to be installed.) Data centres are huge consumers of electricity, and while a single modern computer is close to silent, the combination of tens of thousands packed together, and all the air conditioning, makes for a lot of noise.” Op. cit., 27-30.

The materiality of financial systems is also explored by Beatte Geissler and Oliver Sann in a photographic series titled Volatile Smile, (Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2014) documenting the abandoned work stations of exchange workers at Chicago’s Willis Tower. The atrophied office shells are littered with blank monitors, revealing the banal imagery of financial infrastructures. In parallel to Geissler and Sann’s visual archaeology of the spaces that contain and sustain the seemingly invisible systems of finance, Justin Joque examines the sonic traces of financial systems and their algorithmic workings. In his project, “Listening to the Dow,” Joque captures a sonic portrait of the behaviours and fluctuations of the closing value of the Dow Jones Stock Exchange. Justin Joque, “Sonificationcontinent. 1, no. 4 (2011): 239.

[5] EDITORS’ NOTE: On the topic of travel, MacKenzie’s research on the infrastructures and operations of high-frequency trading also raises the question around the “fairness” of information that travels at the speed of light. A faster reading of data is enabled by a proximity of servers to each other; this co-location may be limited (by human or environmental factors), which creates a certain fluctuation in receiving information. This raises the question of “fairness” in trading. For a fun (though perhaps outdated) excursion through questions of time, relativity, and “fairness” in financial trading, see the James Angel’s report, Impact of Special Relativity on Security Regulations,” UK Government Office for Science, Foresight Project, The Future of Computer Trading in Financial Markets–DR 15, London (2011), in which Angel writes: “One of the lessons of quantum physics is that occasionally extreme events can and do occur […] For centuries brokerage firms have located offices as close as possible to the exchange so that they could get their orders into the exchange faster. The only difference is that the orders are now submitted via electrons and not runners. Is it fair that some participants have the resources to spend on co-location that others don’t? It is no more unfair than the fact the some investors are endowed with more resources to spend on fundamental research, or better brains for finding good investments.”

Advertisements notes : Mark Hansen

excerpts from Notes : Mark Hansen

[2] EDITORS’ NOTE: The body, as an expression of the technosphere, is systematised to determine the extent of agency for its particular form. In his discussion on the digitalisation of identity, Mark Hansen writes on the performativity of the abject body in digital environments where it may be possible to express identity through a “prosthetic” self that is idealised as being outside of, for instance, racialised identity. Hansen explores the potential of a “universality of address”:

“If we all must imitate cultural images of how particular bodies should appear in order to acquire agency  if we must give up our own singular bodily experiences to occupy a constituted textual body – then we all must live the erasure of our lived bodies. We might say then that what is most significant about the transcendence of visibility in on-line interpellation is less the possibility it affords for new modes of represented agency than its exposure of the violence exerted on bodily life by generic categories of social intelligibility. By severing imitation from visual appearance on-line passing allows cultural signifiers to appear as what they are, social codings that have no natural correlation to any particular body and are profoundly reductive of bodily singularity.” Mark B.N. Hansen. “Digitizing the Racialized Body or The Politics of Universal AddressSubStance 33, no. 2 (2004): 114.

While recognising the contamination of this “prosthetic” self by the violence of social systems to which the corporeal body is bound—and the reality of digital environments being shaped by hegemonic, often racialised mechanisms—Hansen considers the potential for subverting these same constructs through imitation, or modulation of visibility inherent in human-computer interfaces (HCI), specifically the digital-facial image (DFI):

“As the catalyst for a dynamic re-embodiment of the interface, the DFI reverses precisely this process of facialization that, we can now see, comprises the very principle of the HCI as an instrument of capitalist semiotics. In the experience of the DFI, that is, the face becomes the catalyst for a reinvestment of the body as the rich source for meaning and the precondition for communication. The DFI thus forms the very vehicle of contact between our bodies and the domain of information that would otherwise remain largely without relation to us.” Mark B.N. Hansen. “Affect as Medium, or the ‘Digital-Facial-Image’” Journal of Visual Culture 2, no. 2 (2003): 208.

[3] “The promise of digital interactivity is its capacity to bring into correlation these two distinct virtualities: new media artworks facilitate interaction with virtual dimensions of the technosphere precisely in order to stimulate a virtualization of the body. By placing the body into interactive coupling with technically expanded virtual domains, such works not only extend perception (i.e. the body’s virtual action); more important still, they catalyze the production of new affects—or better, new affective relations (Simondon, 1989)—that virtualize contracted habits and rhythms of the body. For this reason, virtualization can be said to specify the virtual dimension constitutive of human experience.” Mark B.N. Hansen, ibid. 217-218.

[4] EDITORS’ NOTE: Afropessimist thought makes a critical distinction between the limits of humanness in frameworks across ethics and ontology—and this expression through digital identity and activism—recognising the body as captive to negation through word as through skin. Calvin Warren argues that the possibility for an autonomous existence of a black self is negated in existing ethical frameworks, but also by the seemingly allied anti-oppressive discourse of queer theory. Queer theory, Warren explains, provides a language with which to express the anguish of this negation of blackness, but it retains a cosmology of othering. This ontological limitation of the human entraps blackness, especially black queerness, into “a body without the flesh,” where it may be desired, but is denied its own desire. That-which-is-human is the essential expression of violence, and humanist, rational frameworks are insufficient to address this violence:

“The violence that constitutes the human and produces suffering is sustained through an ontological antagonism. The boundaries of the human are shored-up by this antagonism and without it, the human, and the world within which it lives, would cease to exist. The non-ontology of blackness secures the boundaries of the human; it delimits the coordinates of the human. Blackness is an exclusion that enables ontology. In its exclusion from the realm of ontology, blackness is unthinkable, innominate, and paradoxical. In essence, blackness exists to not exist—it embodies the most perplexing paradox that sustains ontology.” Calvin Warren. “Onticide: Afropessimism, Queer Theory, & Ethics Ill Will Editions, 2015: 6-7.

In a parallel examination of Afropessimism, K. Aarons addresses this ontological dissonance in anti-capitalist, feminist, and queer revolutionary theory, where each discourse is “speaking in a voice that precisely draws its signifying power from Black nihilation. Black and non-Black identity politicians who nonetheless continue to pursue a symbolic valorization of Black life (e.g. in certain currents of the “Black Lives Matter” movement) do so only provided they ‘structurally adjust’ or whiten the grammar of Black suffering to suit a Human grammar. In this way, rather than seeking a way out of the desert, they in fact only deepen it.” K. Aarons. “No Selves to Abolish: Afropessimism, Anti-Politics, and the End of the World Ill Will Editions (2016): 13. [See also: Lucy Suchman, responsibility in networked infrastructures, theories of power.]

In “Digitizing the Racialised Body,” Hansen recognises the complication of the abject body as it is expressed across digital interfaces, but experimental forms of new media “suggest, precisely because and insofar as they facilitate this belonging to the improper, this process of forging the “whatever body”, and a “reinvestment of the body beyond the image, for an exposure of the rootedness of life in a source, affectivity, that lies beyond identity and individuality and thus beyond the reach of commodification.”

As we see across the discourse around networks and their infrastructures, it is not only language and its contained cosmologies that exhumes colonial violence on the racialised body, but the trauma of racialisation is made manifest in the structural and geographic systems that constitute these networks. In the case of Hansen and Suchman, whose research examines identity creation and expression through digital interfaces, a material violence bursts through the ‘invisible’ [inter]faces of “prosthetic” identities.

Hansen writes,

“Because race has always been plagued by a certain disembodiment (the fact that race, unlike gender, is so clearly a construction, since racial traits are not reducible to organic, i.e., genetic, organization), it will prove especially useful for exposing the limitations of the internet as a new machinic assemblage for producing selves. For this reason, deploying the lens of race to develop our thinking about online identification will help us to exploit the potential offered by the new media for experiencing community beyond identity.” Mark B.N. Hansen, ibid. 108. [See also: Michael O’Rourke. “Afterlives of Queer Theorycontinent. 1, no. 2 (2011): 102–116; and Mushon Zer-Aviv in this issue on the material violence of digital interfaces].

[5] Bruno Latour writes how the “Political representation of nonhumans seems not only plausible now, but necessary when the notion would have seemed ludicrous or indecent not long ago. We used to deride […] peoples who imagined that a disorder in society, a Pollution, could threaten the natural order. We no longer laugh so heartily, as we abstain from using aerosols for fear the sky may fall on our heads.” Bruno Latour. “On Technical Mediation: Philosophy, Sociology, GenealogyCommon Knowledge 3, no. 2 (1994): 55.

[6] EDITORS’ NOTE: Such a rhetoric of interconnectivity and “revealing force” is especially significant to Indigenous cosmologies that assume as foundational the co-evolution, interdependence, and complex mutual-implication of matter. Romola Vasantha Thumbadoo describes this entanglement as “spanning time and place in non-linear, integrated and emergent ways, reflecting the energy of ontogenesis and becoming.” Thumbadoo further writes on “the contemplation of the Indigenous assessment of technology” through the legacy of Algonquin Elder William Commanda, and the teachings of the Wampum Belts. Revitalising the rhetoric of indigeneity into contemporary political discourse emphasises the urgency of recognising the “ontology of relationship with the living Earth as compared to the headlong rush to technology and mechanism.” Romola Vasantha Thumbadoo. “A Circle of All Nations: Reflection on George Grant’s Lament for a Nation.” (ca. 2015).

“This might entail embracing the shifting relationality, complexity and circularity of Indigenous knowledge as productive and necessary. The situatedness and place-specific nature of Indigenous knowledge calls for the validation of new kinds of theorizing and new epistemologies that can account for situated, relational Indigenous knowledge and yet remain engaged with broader theoretical debates within geography. There is a danger in ghettoizing Indigenous geographic knowledge as ‘other’ or a curiosity, rather than engaging this knowledge in broader efforts to actively decolonize geography, navigating among differing power relations at the scales of both the individual academic and the broader discipline.” Sarah Hunt. “Ontologies of Indigeneity: The Politics of Embodying a ConceptCultural Geographies 21, no. 1 (2014): 27–32. [See also: Marisol de la Cadena on indigenous Peruvian rhetoric of resistance (Scott Knowles, fn 1).] notes : Masahiro Terada

excerpts from Notes : Masahiro Terada

How is the tree a part of the Technosphere? All elements of the cosmos are composed of li, they all participate in the patterned unfolding of historical processes. All things are in a state of becoming (naru なる). Terada highlights the importance of moving away from preconceptions and biases that limit the technological—and technological history—to only a product of human making. In this way, the tree of the technosphere is all of its roots, growth, reproduction and decay—all of its energies, of naru becoming.

[6] EDITORS’ NOTE: Thinking about co-evolution, we also have to consider a co-history; where non-human technologies develop, how do we trace these evolutions? Human and non-human technologies—processes of becoming—are intricately linked. Can we broaden our vision to also encompass histories beyond those of humanity (not to mention those beyond dominant Euro-American historicity)? Vanessa Watts explains the foundational principles of Indigenous Place-Thought, “Our ability to have sophisticated governance systems is directly related to not only the animals’ ability to communicate with us, but their willingness to communicate with us.” Vanessa Watts. “Indigenous Place-Thought and Agency Amongst Humans and Non-humans (First Woman and Sky Woman Go on a European World Tour!) Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 2, no. 1 (2013): 30.

Ecological histories are significant not only to an understanding of the cosmological role of a technosphere, but to inform and manipulate the materiality of media. Jussi Parikka observes that these alternative co-histories have always been documented in, “rust, dysfunction—a time of a different sort—languages of junk, pathology, geology, chemical reactions.” Jussi Parikka. “Mutating Media Ecologies.” continent. 4, no. 2 (2015): 24. Greater interconnectedness and complexity between “spheres” (rather, an increasing non-distinction of spheres, or as Lucy Suchman points out in her interview in this issue: “mess, slippage, non-coherence”), and awareness towards the agency of other beings, requires an intensified sensitivity towards these non-human languages and the histories that they inscribe.

[7] EDITORS’ NOTE: On the agency of all matter: “To be animate goes beyond being alive or acting, it is to be full of thought, desire, contemplation and will.” Vanessa Watts contrasts Indigenous Place-Thought with the contemporary turn in Euro-American thought towards this greater complexity of networks, but where the latter retains a self-destructive epistemological-ontological rift: “Interconnectivity is permitted, but only insofar as distinction from the thinking human and the acting natural world. True, the borders of flesh and soil rub up against each other but this does not mean one is guided by the other. The border where human-as-the-centre begins still exists and continues to determine the bounds for capacity and action.” (Watts. ibid. 29.) notes : Mushon Zer-Aviv

excerpts from Notes : Mushon Zer-Aviv

[4] EDITORS’ NOTE: Mark Hansen examines this complexity of information as it articulates digital (“prosthetic”) identity “intrinsic duality of technologies of containment and control like surveillance and cyberspace: while they are deployed to target certain minority bodies, they are, more generally, machinic assemblages that can potentially become vehicles for post-identitarian identification on the basis of the singularity or impropriety common to us all.” Mark B.N.Hansen. Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media. (New York: Routledge, 2006), 158.

Hansen’s post-identitarian politics are aligned with the emphasis on de-identification proposed by K. Aarons and Calvin Warren, in contrast to the anarchist tradition of the autonomous self. “Beyond the simple destruction of power lies its deactivation,” writes Aarons. “We must call into question the entire framework of expropriation in the widest sense of the term: the expropriation of once-possessed land, of culture, of relational capacity and of labor from the hands of the State and the capitalist, patriarchal class. We must no longer envision the remedy for suffering as entailing the recovery of a lost wholeness, entitlement or plenitude of which one is presently deprived.” K. Aarons. “No Selves to Abolish: Afropessimism, Anti-Politics, and the End of the World” (Ill Will Editions, 2016), 15.

[8] EDITORS’ NOTE: Networked spaces are not devoid of the geographic and political affects of physical infrastructures. A deceptively disembodied transference of data carries the trauma of apartheid into cyberspace, manifesting as a mediator of agency and environment. As examined by Miriyam Aouragh and Helga Tawil-Souri in the context of the Palestinian resistance and the role of digital activism, a technodeterminist position is deliberately ignorant of the complexity that underlies the function, accessibility and scope of technological interfaces. In the context of Gaza, the basic accessibility of the World Wide Web is dependent on the whims of a colonising state; the apparent boundlessness of cyberspace is limited by the monopolies of neoliberal actors whose militarised infrastructures control the extent of networked space.

Aouragh and Tawil-Souri compare the flawed conceptions of both the Israeli and Palestinian states, of the internet’s role in Palestinian resistance, where the contrasting views hold the internet as either integral to re-establishing Palestinian statehood, or as an “ideological and practical danger.” Aouragh and Tawil-Souri argue that “both views are a form of technological determinism. They remove the internet from human, historical, and geopolitical contexts, and posit it as agent of political, social, or economic change. We contend that neither position is valid. Besides overlooking power relations and on-the-ground dynamics, a technological determinist view is inherently ahistorical. It neither contextualizes technological change itself nor the rhetoric around it.” Helga Tawil-Souri and Miriyam Aouragh. “Intifada 3.0? Cyber colonialism and Palestinian ResistanceArab Studies Journal 22, no. 1 (2014): 102-133.

By disintegrating the view of a technosphere that posits technologies, individuals, environments, and political interests as separate entities (or, “extraterrestrial”, as Mushon describes), this entanglement of tangible and intangible infrastructures and interfaces is brought closer to us. Digital interfaces contain depth, instead of a misidentified flatness that disregards the transference of material trauma into the perceived intangibility of data. [See also Zer-Aviv’s project, “You Are Not Here,” and Mark Hansen, regarding racialised identity in human-computer interfaces.]

[10] EDITORS’ NOTE: See also Donald MacKenzie on “lock-in” in derivatives markets: “Lock-in results from the advantages that sometimes flow to an incumbent technology or derivatives exchange simply by virtue of being incumbent. QWERTY’s advantages are the familiarity of millions of users with that key layout and the difficulties they would face in the first few weeks of using a different one. The internal combustion engine’s advantages include the century of intensive research and development effort that has been devoted to it (and not to its rivals), and the huge infrastructure of fuel supply and maintenance that a rival would have to create afresh.

In the case of derivatives exchanges, business tends to flow to where existing volumes of trading are high, because high volumes mean liquidity (even large transactions can be conducted quickly, easily and without a large impact on price), low transaction costs and a robust market price. Conversely, low volumes mean illiquidity, high costs and unreliable prices. So an exchange that gains an established position in a particular derivative becomes, like QWERTY, hard to challenge.” Donald MacKenzie. “The Material Production of Virtuality: Innovation, Cultural Geography and Facticity in Derivatives MarketsEconomy and Society 36, no. 3 (2007): 362.

[13] EDITORS’ NOTE: In collaboration with journalist Laila El-Haddad, Mushon Zer-Aviv developed You Are Not Here, a map that contrasts views of Gaza alongside street-views of Tel Aviv. The experiment with ‘meta-tourism’ overlays the geopolitical interface of a city map with the corporeal, immediate experience of wandering. This visual trans-location of urban centres also dislocates the “emotional and political detachment” of the two cities, as Zer-Aviv writes, thereby questioning the contrasts that become visible within the physical city. Differences that are otherwise abstracted as data, become immediately tangible at the convergence of digital and material space. This visualisation of contrasts between Gaza and Tel Aviv politically engages with the affordances of interface technology, through a type of “forensics”. [See also Eyal Weizman. “Forensic Architecture: Notes from Fields and Forumscontinent. 4, no. 4 (2015): 81–87.] notes : Oliver Sann

excerpts from Notes : Oliver Sann

[3] EDITORS’ NOTE: Brian Holmes writes of the Willis Tower Trading Centre in Chicago, “the empty rooms of the photographs contain the rigidly modular architecture of contemporary financial power: imposing black rectangles of blinkered vision, the trader’s secret world of screens. On such screens took form the simulated environments of the housing bubble, where inhabited spaces became fictional signifiers of an impossible wealth, before their owners went bankrupt in reality and left them behind as the residue of an historic crisis.” Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann. Volatile Smile. (Nürnberg: Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2014). Abandoned financial infrastructures reveal an uncanny contrast between the vacuity of their operations and their physical remains. Once tools in the hands of most powerful actors, now deserted, diminished into ambience…. A tender pulse remains suggesting their bygone purpose. These miniscule material traces linger, imbued with just enough memory to reveal their prior function and inner processes. Such artifacts scavenge narratives of power and struggle, manipulations and growths—“globalised financial non-places” that cyclically leave behind these dry, empty moltings.

[4] EDITORS’ NOTE: Sann brings our attention here to the origins of seemingly complicated technologies… the primitive state of tools, and how they have evolved into the parasitic and mutating systems which constitute what we are calling here the technosphere—invisible and sometimes intangible. Tools (if there was ever such a simple idea or thing) are conceived of as early figurations of human technology, and have now spatialised and extended far outside the material bounds of individual objects. Many of our earliest human tools carry the memory of warfare, and the abstraction of contemporary conflict transcends primitive weapons as tools for sovereignty and control through complex networks of spatial dominance.

Geissler and Sann, in addition to the abandoned infrastructures and housing presented in their Volatile Smile project, have previously compiled a series of photographs called “Personal Kill” (2007). This collection depicts the interiors of buildings intended for urban warfare-training in the United States. In this series, we see that the city is not a setting for warfare—not a neutral space to be navigated—but is an intricate system that activates and negotiates as a weapon in itself. Cities are developed/controlled through the intensified militarisation of police forces; racial genocide executed through paramilitary operations, infrastructures of public and private spaces maintaining control and accessibility to its citizens. notes : S. Løchlann Jain

excerpts from Notes : S. Løchlann Jain

[1] EDITORS’ NOTE: The hyperactive integration of technology with environment—and the blurring of distinction between natural and technological—has enmired what is posited as human technological progress in massive environmental and social exploitation. Trauma—a depth of memory, irrepressible and subliminal. Grief as material corpses of tainted metals—excavated bones, plastic cartilage. Rubble skeleton.

“The effect of any cosmology derived from constellations like The Market or The Climate is first of all an anticipation and a sublimation of spacetime probabilities which are not containable by these metaphors themselves. There are spacetime monopolies, in other words, with a claim for universality that lie in the ability to transform anything into oceanic effect, and with a conception of regularity that is profoundly totalitarian.” Søren Andreason. “Mass and OrderDiakron Issues: Infrastructure.

To what extent is the attempt to unify a notion of the technosphere not itself another such enabling system, that is based upon the priorities of institutions that created—or enabled—the destructive agencies of colonial and industrial exploitation, and those legacies of human trauma that we are now answering for? “If our challenge is to be met, it will not be met by considering artifacts as things. They deserve better. They deserve to be housed in our intellectual culture as full-fledged social actors. They mediate our actions? No, they are us.” Bruno Latour. “On Technological Mediation Common Knowledge 3, no. 2 (1994): 29-64.

[2] See also Mushon Zer-Aviv on addressing inequality, interfaces and trauma [footnote  5].

[3] EDITORS’ NOTE: With regard to articulating knowledge of place, and systems of power within academic discourse:

“In order to be legible, Indigenous geographic knowledge must adhere to recognized forms of representation. Representational strategies and their materialization through law, policy and the daily actions of people and institutions, have long been of concern to critical scholars across a range of disciplines investigating the construction of western hegemonic discourse. Represented through western categorizations, Indigenous geographies have remained peripheral to broader geographic theory”. Sarah Hunt. “Ontologies of Indigeneity: The Politics of Embodying a ConceptCultural Geographies 21, no. 1 (2014): 27–32.

[4] EDITORS’ NOTE: Speaking in the context of academic funding and focus on anthropocene: “Exploitative patterns, when they manifest, in turn concentrate the voice of Indigenous issues in white hands. It is precisely these power dynamics that must be questioned and challenged. […] And, all of us involved in the business of art and academia need to question existing relationships in intellectual and/or art contexts that privilege white voices speaking Indigenous stories. In order to engage in global conversations about the state of the world, such as the current discourse of the anthropocene, there must be a concomitant examination of where such discourses are situated, who is defining the problems, and who decides the players involved.” Zoe Todd. “Indigenizing the Anthropocene.” In Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters among Aesthetics, Politics, Environment and Epistemology. (London: Open Humanities Press, 2015), 241-254.

[5] Løchlann Jain, S. Injury: The Politics of Product Design and Safety Law in the United States. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006).

[6] EDITORS’ NOTE: During the discussions, interviewees were asked to pick from a set of somewhat random images. This collection of different phenomena served as a prompt for thought on the forms of appearance and the visuality of the technosphere. You can view the set here The discussion here refers to

[7] EDITORS’ NOTE: In the fetishist seduction of new rebel modes, the gleaming democratisation of production, the #Additivist addiction is subsumed by the petrochemical industry. Production is plastic death. Borrowing from Reza Negarestani, “hydrocarbon corpse juice / devil’s excrement / holy water” for printer extraction—enabling systems of petropunk replication. Reza Negarastani. “Paleopetrology: From Gog-Magog Axis to Petropunkism.” In Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials. (Melbourne:, 2008): 27–28. Elsewhere, Lucy Suchman reads human exceptionalism into the 3D printed skull—an ongoing question in our exploration of the Technosphere. Facsimile death artifact: a true complicity with IRL toxic suffocation and pollution.

“Derived from petrochemicals boiled into being from the black oil of a trillion ancient bacterioles, the plastic used in 3D Additive manufacturing is a metaphor before it has even been layered into shape. Its potential belies the complications of its history: that matter is the sum and prolongation of our ancestry; that creativity is brutal, sensual, rude, coarse, and cruel.” Morehshin Allahyari & Daniel Rourke. #Additivism Manifesto. 2015.

[8] EDITORS’ NOTE: See also: Unknown Fields Division’s transformation of polluted clay from Baotou’s toxic lake (Inner Mongolia) into radioactive ceramics. Tim Maughan. “The Dystopian Lake Filled by the World’s Tech Lust.” BBC April 2, 2015. We are reminded of Smithson, “Technological ideology has no sense of time other than its immediate ‘supply and demand’, and its laboratories function as blinders to the rest of the world.” Robert Smithson. “A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects.” In Robert Smithson, the Collected Writings. Edited by Jack Flam. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 106. notes : Scott Gabriel Knowles

excerpted from Notes : Scott Gabriel Knowles

[1] EDITORS’ NOTE: This disjointed and disconnected technosphere calls to mind the resourcification Godofredo Pereira discusses, “Techno-scientific modes of seeing, classifying, and measuring the earth are reformulating the ways in which territorial disputes are currently played out. Due to the mobilisation of science by capital, we today inhabit an earth that is being reduced to discrete components.” Godofredo Pereira. “The Underground Frontiercontinent. 4, no. 4 (2015): 4–11.

A quantification of being—a fragmentation of self and environment. In the essay “Uncommoning Nature,” Marisol de la Cadena writes of the Peruvian populist resistance against the sale of land and water to mining corporations, where she explores the trace of an interdependent cosmology in the rhetoric of indigenous Peruvian communities. The language used to relate to the land, Cadena writes, reveals “an ecologized nature of interdependent entities that simultaneously coincides, differs, and even exceeds – also because it includes humans—the object that the state, the mining corporation, and environmentalists seek to translate into resources, whether for exploitation or to be defended.” Marisol de la Cadena. “Uncommoning Naturee-flux. Apocalypsis. August 22, 2015.

[2] EDITORS’ NOTE: The political valence Scott Knowles refers to incites an upheaval of Western hegemonic understandings of the relationship of the human to ecological, planetary systems and, increasingly, on an extraterrestrial vanguard.

In an ethnographic excursion through social relationships to land, Edward S. Casey writes in Getting Back into Place about the effects of colonialism upon the Navajo as not just a physical displacement, but a displacement that incurs “both culture loss and memory loss resulting from the loss of the land itself, each being a symptom of the disorientation wrought by relocation.” Western colonialism brought with it concepts and language that inform a cosmology of separateness between the human and non-human—or being and environment, contaminating the tradition of interconnectedness and entanglement, and shaking the foundation of this complex existential orientation across generations.

“It follows as a devastating deduction that to take away land is to take away life, that the major cause of illness is not something ‘physical’ or ‘psychological’ in the usual bifurcated Cartesian senses of these words but, instead, the loss of landed place itself […] To take a people’s land away altogether, so that reciprocating with it is not even possible, is to disrupt the sacred balance even more drastically.” Edward S. Casey. Getting Back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 37. [See also: Industrialisation.]

In discussing the technosphere, interviewees frequently expressed an intuitive alignment with ideas that are present in many Indigenous cosmologies and rhetorics. More now than ever, where state agents are being called to accountability and reconciliation with displaced Indigenous communities, the nuances of these cosmologies would have significant impact on the ethical and legal systems that frame (and reflect) human relationships to the earth and to non-humans, and ultimately shape environmental policies and industrial practices. What Knowles calls an “edgy assembly of all the pieces in one” would necessitate a reconnection with this complex interdependency of self and place, a type of re-indigenisation, a reconnection, of beings and technologies with a more intimate experience of place.

[3] EDITORS’ NOTE: [See also: Mushon Zer-Aviv on the affordances and interfaces in this issue; Lucy Suchman on military technologies also in this issue.]

[4] EDITORS’ NOTE: Lucy Suchman writes on the transition of public interfaces onto the intimate body through wearable technology: “My concern, then, is with the kinds of ‘we’s’ that are posited by this future vision, widening the circle of those who employ, manage, and command to include more and more of ‘us,’ while those who serve us are re-fantasized from problematic human workers to the now-quite imitable in silicon Jeeves. Discourses of agency at the interface at once naturalize the desirability of “service provision,” and further obscure the specific sociomaterial infrastructures—including growing numbers of human workers – on which smooth interactions at the interface continue to depend.” Lucy Suchman. Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 225.

[5] EDITORS’ NOTE: As addressed in several of the interviews, the ecological and social crises that in part necessitate discussion around a technosphere, originate out of a divide between the human and the environmental—a schism of self and place. The planetary trauma of industrialisation was fundamentally permitted through a perception of the earth as resource. This legacy of exploitation is evident in the ongoing pacification of Anishinaabek demands for returning federal, provincial and municipal land-holdings to Indigenous stewardship (the term “ownership” allowing misrepresentation of human relationship to the land). The ongoing industrial and luxury residential development of Asinabka is an example of the permeation of this schism into the so-called “green economies” of developing cities:

“In 1800, Philemon Wright saw Asinabka as a place to settle and, by employing labour for the transformation of nature (land use!), a means to build a community. When Robert Randall surveyed the Chaudière Falls in 1807, he saw water and force, and a means to extract power from nature for economic gain. In 2006, Domtar seized an opportunity to invest capital into its extractive infrastructure, expand its facility, and in so doing, increase profit. Each of these ‘colonial moments’ was made possible because of an a priori perception of the relationship between people and land. Battiste and Henderson (2000), in their critique of Eurocentric ontology, describe this perception as a consciousness that ‘artificially constructs a place for existence’ then ‘treats the natural world as a practical source of the means to achieve its own objectives’. All three moments were made possible by period-specific political technologies, respectively: a land survey, a colonial missive, and an environmental screening report.” Eric L. Smith. “An Urban Epicentre of Decolonization in Canada: The Indigenous-Settler Alliance To Make a Place for Peace at Asinabka.” Masters thesis. Carleton University. (2011), 55.

[6] EDITORS’ NOTE: See also: TERADA Masahiro (寺田匡宏) on co-evolution. Negarestani’s “mutual affordance between surfaces or the entity and its environment, that is to say, according to the eco-logical web, the Whole” [or “()hole”]. Reza Negarestani. Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials. (Melbourne: re-press, 2008), 46.

[7] EDITORS’ NOTE: [See also: Abstract, Complexity, Interconnectedness, Everything–Everything–Everything.]