Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam

Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam – Latour

  • Military metaphor of being ‘late for every war’ — are the tools of critique no longer working? 
  • Climate change debate — Latour expresses worry that the arguments he made regarding the ‘lack of scientific certainty’ in one sense are now being ‘used by the enemy’ 
    • “Of course conspiracy theories are an absurd deformation of our own arguments, but, like weapons smuggled through a fuzzy border to the wrong party, these are our weapons nonetheless. In spite of all the defor- mations, it is easy to recognize, still burnt in the steel, our trademark: Made in Criticalland.”
  • Instant revisionism — conspiracy theories 
  • Scientia est potentia — DARPA slogan
  • “What if explanations resorting automatically to power, society, dis- course had outlived their usefulness and deteriorated to the point of now feeding the most gullible sort of critique.”
  • “Is it an another case of the famed power of capitalism for recycling everything aimed at its destruction?… the new spirit of capitalism has put to good use the artistic critique that was supposed to destroy it.”
  • The project of contructivism was never to show that the construction of truth was relative: “The question was never to get away from facts but closer to them, not fighting empiricism but, on the con- trary, renewing empiricism.” The idea was to understand how facts work in order to allow people to trust them more.
  • Critique should be a ‘new empiricism’ that looks in the world to reduce the gaps between theory and practice by analysing and reopening questions — questions of representation, questions of language: Media as first-philosophy. 
  • The enlightenment used ‘facts’ to get us out of the trap of ‘beliefs’. Now ‘beliefs’ are again being used ‘against fact’.
  • Can we design a descriptive tool that adds to reality instead of subtracting?
  • But “when we accompany them back to their gathering, we always appear to weaken them, not to strengthen their claim to reality.” 
  • Critique of critique in social science, as it exists now, is a pharmakon (a cure and a illness in Stiegler, recall) — self-satisfying: 
    • First the object of the naive society’s fetish is revealed to be something who’s power is only projected by the society itself
    • Second, the origin of the fetish is explained in terms of some external ‘fact’ – “social domination, race, class, and gender, maybe throwing in some neurobiology, evolutionary psychology”
    • Also — the ‘realism’ of the critic’s life is reserved for passionate interests
  • “We explain the objects we don’t approve of by treating them as fetishes; we account for behaviors we don’t like by disci- pline whose makeup we don’t examine; and we concentrate our passionate interest on only those things that are for us worthwhile matters of concern.”
  • “critique is also useless when it be- gins to use the results of one science uncritically, be it sociology itself, or economics, or postimperialism, to account for the behavior of people”
  • “a multifarious inquiry launched with the tools of anthropology, philosophy, metaphysics, history, sociology to detect how many participants are gathered in a thing to make it exist and to maintain its existence. Objects are simply a gathering that has failed—a fact that has not been assembled according to due process.”
  • “The critic is not the one who debunks, but the one who assembles. The critic is not the one who lifts the rugs from under the feet of the na ̈ıve believers, but the one who offers the participants arenas in which to gather. The critic is not the one who alternates haphazardly be- tween antifetishism and positivism like the drunk iconoclast drawn by Goya, but the one for whom, if something is constructed, then it means it is fragile and thus in great need of care and caution.”

“Machines take me by surprise with great frequency. This is largely because I do not do sufficient calculation to decide what to expect them to do, or rather because, although I do a calculation, I do it in a hurried, slipshod fashion, taking risks. Perhaps I say to myself, “I suppose the voltage here ought to be the same as there: anyway let’s assume it is.” Naturally I am often wrong, and the result is a surprise for me for by the time the experiment is done these assumptions have been forgotten. These admissions lay me open to lectures on the subject of my vicious ways, but do not throw any doubt on my credibility when I testify to the surprises I experience.” - Computing Machinery and IntelligenceAuthor(s): Alan Turing — Source: Mind, New Series, Vol. 59, No. 236 (Oct., 1950), pp. 433-460


Michel Serres & Bruno LaTour – Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time

“A unique style cornes from the gesture, the project, the itinerary, the risk-indeed, from the acceptance of a specific solitude. While using the same board, no surfer ever takes the wave in the same way, but each one accepts the eventuality of crashing beneath that unfurling wall of water or of drowning un- der its rolling. Repetition of content or method entails no risk, whereas style reflects in its mirror the nature of the danger. In venturing as far as possible toward nonrecognition, style runs the risk even of autism.” — M. Serres, Conversations on Science, Culture and Time, p. 94


An Inquiry into Modes of Existence – Latour (2013)

The Modes of Existence Project 


  • Story about the scientist being questioned about his authority regarding global warming – and resorting to explaining ‘how science works’ as his defense
  • “If people don’t trust the institution of science, we’re in serious trouble”
  • Latour takes this “appeal to trust,” this shared “concern for a fragile and delicate institution 
  • It is concern for the institution, not belief in, that sustains it 
  • Trust arrises through transparency – through being ‘honest’ about the processes, materialities and encumbrances that go on ‘behind the scenes’
    • This is what Latour was trying to do with STS – not ‘relativise’ science, but render the values there more transparent, so people could trust science
    • After all, “we have the same enemies and we have to respond to the same emergencies”
  • Certainty versus trust / science versus Science (capital ’S’)
    • “When have you pleaded loud and log that scientific practice must be understood as a fragile institution that has to be carefully maintained if people are to trust the sciences?”
    • But Latour and STS have been “poor diplomats” – “The very worlds “network” and “fabrication” are sometimes enough to shock our interlocutors”
  • This is an example where the “values that people are seeking to defend” have been separated from the “account that has been given of them throughout history”
  • The project overall is: 
    • sketching out how the Moderns should present themselves to the rest of the world, knowing what they are
    • the “West” seeing itself — becomes accessible to others 
  • Method: Inquiry into the “category mistakes” bearing on “modes of existence”
    • “By comparing conflicts of values in pairs — scientific versus religious, for example, or legal versus political… — we shall observe very quickly that a large proportion of the tensions stem from the fact that the veracity of one mode is judged in terms of the conditions of verification of a different mode.”
    • Pluralism of modes 
  • Similar to the ‘Felicity’ and ‘Infelicity’ conditions of speech at theory — i.e.: the context / support / infrastructure that must exist for a speech act to work
  • Occam’s razor should be more delicate — a small wooden box full of little surgeons tools, not Alexander slicing through the Gordian Knot
  • Modes of existence allows for a real diversity of cultures, a new look at the division between words and things, language and being
  • Rearranging – re-designing – “In other words why not transform this whole business of recalling modernity into a grand question of design?”
  • Economy to Ecology —> How will we present ourselves to Gaia?
Chapter 1
  • An anthropologies in search of the moderns, discovers ANT and realises that ‘network’ in he sense of a material infrastructure is the “belated result of the ‘network’ in the sense that interests our investigator.”
  • “We must be careful not to confuse what circulates once everything is in place with the setups involving the heterogeneous set of elements that allow circulation to occur” (Kittler’s horse, McLuhan’s medium)
  • The real network is a Le Carre style novel, not a technical infrastructure
  • This is noticed when something falls apart or fails — the ‘material’ network and the ‘network network’ converge when there is a crisis or breakdown
  • This is always a surprise - that the discontinuous series of heterogenous elements is always behind the continuous circulation of something else 
  • ANT follows the principle of irreduction
  • ANT allows the investigator the same freedom of movement that the informants have
  • A user experience study in reverse — “the notions of surprise and trial, if we shift them slightly in time, can also serve to define how the informants themselves have had to learn, in their turn, through what elements they too had to pass in order to prolong the existence of their projects.”
  • Surprise as fundamental to research… but things are always surprising in the same way
  • [NET] for network — the technical sense of network as in actor network theory
    • Networks shock and surprise in the same way — and seem to extend to inherent boundaries
    • These inherent boundaries appear to correspond to domains — but this must be because of values of the actants within them because “fields don’t organise themselves into contiguous domains”
    • The values which constitute this internal domain resilience is difficult to study. Something “has something scientific about it”, or “sounds religious” — all “je ne sais quoi” of the domain
    • There is also another “internal boundary” that can’t be explained by domains — a “fluid”, a “pass” a “connection”, an “association” that we have to learn to qualify
    • There is “something legal” in Law, “something scientific” in Science
  • Boundaries are all treated as [NET]s and a list is created of all the associated, mobilised, enrolled, translated and participating beings
    • the ESSENCE of a situation arises from the list of other beings that allow it to endure, prolong, maintain, extend
    • the TRIAL is a reconstitution of a network: the investigation, the innovation (intervention?), the crisis
  • Why is it that the values of a domain are so difficult to uncover? What do appeals to institutions avoid
    • “In short, why is theory so far removed rom practice among the Moderns?” 
    • Theory is not just a “thin veil” over practice — there is a relation — if is not just “false consciousness” of ideology 
  • We arrive at a method:
    • Network analysis
    • The detection of values
    • Accounting for the fluctuating relation between the values and the institutions which are supposed to be harbouring them
    • + Diplomacy: It is difficult to learn to speak well to someone about something that really matters to that person
Chapter 2
  • Differentiation between first (observational, sensed, ‘des sense’) mistakes and second order (direction, value, ‘de sens’) 
    • 1st order: of the senses, 2nd order: of ‘sense’ (as in orientation) 
  • Category mistake example: Law is not formulated for the resolution of psychological/emotional resolution, but people expect a ‘successful’ legal decision to provide this for them. There are differences between “legal truth”, “objective truth,” “scientific proof,” “intimate reparations” (emotional truth), “fairness” (social truth)
  • What we try to distinguish here are internal mistakes to the ‘path’ (of, say, LAW, or SCIENCE) and 2nd degree mistakes which “produce hesitation about the path it would be appropriate to follow. It is sort of like “what do we expect from Law?”:
    • Felicity conditions (speech act theory) will be used to designate the verification conditions that must be met to avoid “mistakes of law,” “mistakes of the senses”, etc
    • Preposition mark the position-taking that comes before a proposition is stated — what constitutes its ‘interpretive key’. These are a little like “genres” of books (memoirs, essays, etc.,) that ‘colour’ the reading of a book. It would be a ‘category mistake’ to read a ‘document’ as a ‘novel’.  The key signature of a score ~ interpretive key of a story, account, fact, document, etc. = preposition.  The pre-position.
  • On catergories… “Before designating rather banally, a type of division that the human mind, without specifying any interlocutor, carves at will out of the seamless fabric of the world’s data, kata-agorein is first of all “How to talk about or agains something or someone in public””
  • Early concern for the ‘fluctuations in the relations that the different modes have maintained amongst themselves” is exampled through [REL] and [LAW] — as each of these has “resisted the test of modernism” in different ways. Religion is mocked and scorned, and Law (although often made fun of) is still “Dura lex sed lex
  • Situations can be grasped 
    1. in the [NET] mode  —> as an unfolding of the network of associations (as far as necessary?) <— this gives the ethnographer the same freedom to manoeuvre that its objects of study do
    2. in the [PRE] mode —> as a set of qualifications of the type of connections that allow extension <— this is a recognition / respect for the values that informants cling to strongly
  • [NET] · [PRE] is a crossing that authorises the entire inquiry — from [NET] all networks are the same, but [PRE] gives us the pre-position from which to examine values
  • Actor Network Theory retains some of the limitations of critical thought – it cannot distinguish the value to which informants cling 
  • The intent of linking [NET] and [PRE] is to be able to ’speak well’ to the informants:
    • To describe network in the [NET] <—> TEST: faithfulness: is it factual and empirical?
    • To verify with actors that the [NET] is accurate <—> TEST: restitution — have we made ourselves understood by those we have shocked?
    • To explore the gap between the description and the account of actors <—> TEST: historical and speculative: 
    • To propose a formulation between PRACTICE and THEORY that closes the gap between them and redesigns institutions that harbour the real values of the Moderns <—> TEST: diplomacy, architecture and design: are the future inhabitants more conferrable than they were before?
  • On Reason
    • “Each mode has its networks that Reason does not know” — so Reason (capital ‘R’) can only be known as designating the verification mechanism proper to any network
    • Rationality becomes the step-by-step tracing of a network, with a trajectory of veridiction and malediction, with a separate preposition.
      • “To understand rationally any situation whatsoever is at once to unfold its network and definite its preposition, the interpretative key in whicht has to be grasped”
    • Logos: Originally a word meaning “a ground”, “a plea”, “an opinion”, “an expectation”, “word”, “speech”, “account”, “to reason”
    • This transformation of Reason is perhaps why descriptions of networks are so funny / shocking / fetishised – as they defy ‘normal reason’. ‘Normal reason’ of modernism is upended the moment we look at the actual networks — but normal reason part of this strange decoupling of ‘what we do’ and ‘what we think we do’ of the moderns.  I.e.: You mean there are actually ‘cables’ under the sea? 
Chapter 3


Chapter 2
  • Differentiation between first (observational, sensed, ‘des sense’) mistakes and second order (direction, value, ‘de sens’) 
    • 1st order: of the senses, 2nd order: of ‘sense’ (as in orientation) 
  • Category mistake example: Law is not formulated for the resolution of psychological/emotional resolution, but people expect a ‘successful’ legal decision to provide this for them. There are differences between “legal truth”, “objective truth,” “scientific proof,” “intimate reparations” (emotional truth), “fairness” (social trut
ideas manifestations realisations

Apocryphal Technologies

A research project into methods of creating technologies and technological imaginaries which do not work, although widely believed and circulated as being functional:

  1. Lie Detection
  2. Randomness / Choatic Behavior (machinic luck)
  3. E-meter

(An oppositional project into the technologies which do exist and function, and everyone knows about, but people are in denial about — surveillance, brain science FMRI, etc. — “Abjured Technologies”)


The Law of the Instrument

events media

Jacob Gaboury — Image Objects: An Archaeology of Computer Graphics

Jacob Gaboury

  • “Marginal places and marginal figures in the history of digital”
  • A material history of immaterial objects

University of Utah

Readings of the History of CGI

  • Anne Frieberg  → renaissance, perspective  → CGI
  • Lev Manovich  → the history of illusion  → computer image
  • Jacob’s project is a “a material history of immaterial objects — production of computer graphics from its rendering process (“making the digital visible”)


The Teapot

  • Mid-century german design
  • British researcher (“sitting down to tea”)
  • Domestic objects imported and analysed – wives and the role of women


New York

Xerox Park  → Interpress  → Adobe


  • mathematical / philosophical backgrounds — idealogical and theoretical mathematical modelling — algebra and geometry
  • the humour in the teapot — why does this make people chuckle?
  • teapot as masculine — moved from a domestic environment into the male laboratory (hidden labour of women — when women were computers)… the story of the “breadboard” as a bridge object of a similar sort at Bell Labs
  • flight simulator? why *flight* simulator
  • are technical histories continuous?  why are the links between these elements necessary…?
  • Folding —
ideas readings to read

What is a Dispositif

Or better that we must find now better ways in order to profane. If to profane means to return to common use of man that which has been separated to the sphere of the sacred or of consumption or spectator we could say that the capitalist religion in its extreme phase or stage is created something absolutely unprofitable, which can never be given back to use.

So I have to stop here in order to respect our limit of time. Let me just say, in a kind of semi-ironic, or better semi-paraodic, but finally serious statement, that the profanation of the unprofitable is the political task of the coming generation.

What is a Dispositif

What is an Apparatus

ideas readings

Signals & Signaletics

Signaletics (Deleuze  - ‘Signaletic Material’)

  • Making Sense of Matter in Deleuze’s Conception of Cinema Language
    • The critique of Metz by Deleuze — pre-linguistic notions: Prelinguistic as amorphous and syntaxic matter, according to which a conception of language is based on the formation of this matter into substance AND (Deleuze’s matter-sense from which signs are  product)
    • In a sense this is an account of language that is top-down (matter is based on the formation of substance from matter) and bottom-up (matter-sense is where ‘we’ get language)
    • Substance here is like meaning — or the way that form and matter arise into (things like) language


  • Signal — For Simondon, the signal is distinct from the signification:“Signals are spatial or temporal; a signification is spatio-temporal; it has two senses, the one through relation to a structure and the other through relation to a functional becoming…According to this manner of seeing individuation, a definite psychic operation would be a discovery of significations in an ensemble of signals, the signification prolonging the initial individuation of being, and having in its sense a relation not only to the ensemble of exterior objects but also to the being itself. As it contributes a solution to a plurality of signals, a signification has a bearing towards the exterior; but this exterior is not foreign to the being as a result of individuation; because before the individuation this being was not distinct from the ensemble of being that is separated in the milieu and the individual” (IPC, 126-27).
  • Signification -Simondon writes: “language is the instrument of expression, vehicle of information, but not the creator of significations. Signification is a relation of beings, not a pure expression; signification is relational, collective, transindividual, and can not be furnished by the encounter of the subject and the expression” (IPC, 200). Earlier in the book, Simondon will write:“According to the distinction between signals and significations, we will say that there is an individual when there is a process of real individuation, i.e. when significations appear: the individual is that by which and that in which significations appear, whereas between the individuals there are only signals. The individual is the being that appears when there is signification; reciprocally, there is only signification when an individuated being appears or is prolonged in a being that is being individualized; the genesis of the individual corresponds to the resolution of a problem that could not be resolved by means of prior givens, because they did not have a common axiomatic: the individual is the auto-constitution of a topology of being that resolves a prior incompatibility through the appearance of a new systematic; that which was tension and incompatibility becomes functional structure…the individual is thus a spatio-temporal axiomatic of being that compatibilizes previously antagonistic givens in a system to a spatial and temporal dimension” (127).




Immediations – Urban Fabric, Infrastructure, Ecology (Zurich)

Football at S Maria Maggiore 3

The enormous church of S. Maria Maggiore stands on one of Rome’s seven famous hills. Originally the site was very unkempt, as can be seen in an old fresco painting in the Vatican. Later, the slopes were smoothed and articulated with a flight of steps up to the apse of the basilica. The many tourists who are brought to the church on sight-seeing tours hardly notice the unique character of the surroundings. They simply check off one of the starred numbers in their guide-books and hasten on to the next one. But they do not experience the place in the way some boys I saw there a few years ago did. I imagine they were pupils from a nearby monastery school. They had a recess at eleven o’clock and employed the time playing a very special kind of ball game on the broad terrace at the top of the stairs. It was apparently a kind of football but they also utilised the wall in the game, as in squash — a curved wall, which they played against with great virtuousity. When the ball was out, it was most decidedly out, bouncing down all the steps and rolling several hundred feet further on with an eager boy rushing after it, in and out among motor cars and Vespas down near the great obelisk.

I do not claim that these Italian youngsters learned more about architecture than the tourists did. But quite unconsciously they experienced certain basic elements of architecture: the horizontal planes and the vertical walls above the slopes. And they learned to play on these elements. As I sat in the shade watching them, I sensed the whole three-dimensional composition as never before. At a quarter past eleven the boys dashed off, shouting and laughing. The great basilica stood once more in silent grandeur.

Steen Eiler Rasmussen, Experiencing Architecture (1962)

Football at S Maria Maggiore 2
Movement within an apartment
Naples – Piazza Bellini – Via Gramsci – Officina 99
Italy 709
gesture — digestion — indigestion
pre-mediation and re-mediation (abugraib iraqi war prison — not the content but the way they were affectively engaging technologies – they look like family photos)
“the 45deg affective turn” — state change versus ‘turning’ as process, matter of degree
appearance and disappearance — materiality / immateriality

In the first place, singularities-events correspond to heterogeneous series which are organized into a system which is neither stable nor unstable, but rather ‘metastable,’ endowed with a potential energy wherein the differences between series are distributed. (Potential energy is the energy of the pure event, whereas forms of actualization correspond to the realization of the event). In the second place, singularities posses a process of auto-unification, always mobile and displaced to the extent that a paradoxical element traverses the series and makes them resonate, enveloping the corresponding singular points in a single aleatory point and all the emissions, all dice throws, in a single cast. In the third place, singularities or potentials haunt the surface. Everything happens at the surface in a crystal which develops only on the edges. Undoubtedly, an organism is not developed in the same manner. An organism does not cease to contract in an interior space and to expand in an exterior space–to assimilate and to externalize. But membranes are no less important, for they carry potentials and regenerate polarities. They place internal and external spaces into contact without regard to distance. The internal and external, depth and height, have biological value only through this topological surface of contact. Thus, even biologically, it is necessary to understand that ‘the deepest is the skin.’ The skin has as its disposal a vital and properly superficial potential energy. And just as events do not occupy the surface but rather frequent it, superficial energy is not localized at the surface, but is rather bound to its formation. Gilbert Simondon has expressed this very well: the living lives at the limit of itself, on its limit… The characteristic polarity of life is at the level of the membrane; it is here that life exists in an essential manner, as an aspect of a dynamic topology which itself maintains the metastability by which it exists… The entire content of internal space is topologically in contact with the content of external space at the limits of the living; there is, in fact, no distance in topology; the entire mass of living matter contained in the internal space is actively present to the external world at the limit of the living… To belong to interiority does not mean only to ‘be inside,’ but to be on the ‘in-side’ of the limit… At the level of the polarized membrane, internal past and external future face one another.

— [Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense. Trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. New York: Columbia, 1990. p. 103-104.]

“Chaos does not exist; it is an abstraction because it is inseparable from a screen that makes something – something rather than nothing – emerge from it.”
“Each new prehension becomes a datum. It becomes public, but for other prehensions that objectify it; the event is inseparably the objectification of one prehension and the subjectification of another; it is at once public and private, potential and real, participating in the becoming of another event and the subject of its own becoming.”

Infrastructures of Creativity – IIT, Chicago (April 2014)


Michael Shrage 

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” — Franklin

“Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.” — Bacon

“You cannot divorce discussions of self improvement from discussions of improvement — and I say this to anyone who is wearing a pair of glasses, using a computer, etc.”

“ But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages ” — Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776

  • An exchange that mutually improves - Gedankenexperiment: What happens when exchange becomes investment?
  • Ford – River Rouge – Mass production – What about the importance of the “human capital of driving.”
  • Page Rank – Larry Page – Google has figured out a way to monetise your human capital
  • “These technologies — these innovations — have improved you”
  • “Innovations are transformations of individual capabilities — as individual self interest evolves — the opportunities for new forms of innovation explode”
  • This is misunderstood by contemporary economics — but was understood by Smith (Self-improvement)

“The basic resource in any company is the people.”

“The reason why we are on a higher imaginative level is not because we have finer imaginations, but because we have better instruments. In science, the most important thing that has happened over the last forty years is the advance in instrumental design.” — A.N. Whitehead An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge

Where Are the Customers’ Yachts —> Where are the customer’s resources

Pamela Edwards: Questions about Bacon, Smith and their concept of felicity, introspection, self-regard, love, generosity. Smith mocking master planners, people can develop situations for themselves

  • “If you put a cucumber in brine you don’t purify the water, you get a pickle.”
  • “Innovations is the conversion of novelty into value.”
  • “Methodological Individualism”
  • Collaboration is a negotiation of the self
  • Conflation of self-interest / selfishness has prevented us from redefining
  • “I have stood on the shoulders of giants” was actually a dig at Robert Hooke, Newtons’ rival (who was short)
  • Carrie Fischer – novelist – “Instant gratification isn’t soon enough”

Paul Starr

Innovation and Democracy in Post-industrial America

  • Author of the Creation of the Media
  • National innovation systems — the patent, publishing, printing
  • ‘Penny presses’ and ‘Dime Novel’ — low in taste and low in price
  • Cheap print was ‘public policy’ in America

3rd industrial revolution

  • Not just technology in and of itself
  • Generative technology – user programmable
  • Post-office — Internet
  • It is entirely misleading to oppose innovation and public responsibility towards entrepreneurial
  • Google’s Page Rank was a NSF grant-funded technology
  • Fred Lock —
  • App Economies and Inventive Entrepreneurs
  • Inventor-entrepreneurs — combining tinkering and hacking
  • Bengler — radically distributed non-market mechanisms, cooperative enterprises (online communication reduced transaction costs, it removes the need for consensus decision making at all)
  • Opening up the circle of innovation — peer production, professional amateur  collaboration
  • Things becoming genuinely public instead of being technically public or policy-public

Gary Fine — re-appropriation (Richard Price), the limitations of creativity

  • The Entrepreneurial State – government as a funder of innovation, or government as a purchaser of innovation. The government is more influential where?


Mordechai Feingold

Isaac Newton: A Wellspring of Englightenment Creativity

  • Émilie du Châtelet / Voltaire / Newtown
  • Newtonian’s system as a splendid picture of nature
  • Watt steam engine
  • Pierre Simon de Laplace
  • Universal gravitation was the first and only general law discovered by man
  • Fourier – ‘today I am 21 years old, by this age Newton had already
  • Buffon – french biologist – how he had discovered the binomial theorem without knowing that Newton had done so…
  • The Fourierist - Charles Fourier
  • Francesco Solimena, Giambattista Vico
    • A work in which all that pertains to human understanding is reduced to a common principle
    • Gravitation of bodies — fundamentalism of Newtonianism
  • Adam Smith
    • Newtonian pedigree
    • “This means that between the one and the others there is a reciprocal action”
  • Beccaria
    • Applying the Newtonian principle to criminality and law
  • Kant
    • Universal history as a universalist model for the principles of nature and man
    • “After Newton and Rousseau, God is justified and Pope’s theorem ["whatever is, is right"] is true.”
  • Anti-Newtonian
    • The bounds of natural science may possibly extend beyond how we know Newton…
    • Jean-Paul Marat — resentment of contemporaries not recognising his genius
  • Goethe
    • A martyr of scientific truth
    • Theory colours — “I am the only person who knows the truth in the difficult science of colours — of that, I say, I am not a little proud… “

Alexander Pope – “Newton Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night: God said, “Let Newton be!” and all was light.”


Creative Networks (The Armor Conference Room)
Discussant: Kim Erwin, IIT Institute of Design

  • Laura Forlano — Shared Machine Shops
    • Center for Social Innovation (Toronto —
    • Community / family / networks / regular
    • Openness
    • Innovating the institutional form — “the future arrives sooner here”
    • Peer production of organisations
    • Pumping Station 1 — Chicago
    • Critically Generative
    • Defense Distributed — 3D printed as masculine
    • Laser cut fashion — laser cutting as feminine
    • Inclusion / Exclusion…
    • Use of online tools and media — communicating invitations
    • What cities generate these sorts of places?
  • Airi Lampinen — Networked Privacy
    • privacy as an interpersonal boundary process by which people regulate interaction with others
    • social network services
    • sharing — ‘emic’ notion… there are many activities where we are consciously deciding at different ‘granularities’ of privacy — fitbits (you don’t make a decision about each footstep), or tracking on Facebook (you don’t get to make a decision if you’re using the system)
    • Interpersonal boundary regulation is a cooperative effort
    • ‘Opt-in’ systems provide a huge workload for people
    • Sharing is not just about online practices — telling someone not to take pictures of you at a party, exchanging
    • Main point: “Privacy is more than just individual”
  • Harmeet Sawhney,
    • Analytics of creativity in the University
    • Paris Salons — hand selected people, selection, social (writers commenting on musicians commenting on architectures), shallow discourse
    • London Coffee Houses — less curated, cross-class interaction
    • Format / Selection
    • Institute of Advanced Study and Thank Tanks
    • In the University — academy — review panels are narrow subject matter experts, the value put on consensus is too high
    • Low threshold for entry is not a bad thing
    • Insistence on detailed proposals makes the work pedantic and potentially less creative (interesting vis a vis
    • Formats — play between the formal and informal
    • Creativity is the sharing of half-baked ideas — why in the bar do most of the good ideas happen?
    • “Conference Chicken” — the role of food
    • Think Tanks / IAS
      • Critiques of the University are only coming from the Think Thanks, not from IAS (who tend to covet the favour of Universities)
      • IAS’s claims to rigour — there should be different
      • IAS as an ‘asylum’
      • Medvetz
    • The difference between speculative research and commercial work — pragmatic planning is required by the market

Fred Block

Doing 21st Innovation with the Paradigm of 18th Century Political Economy 

  • Poor design of powerpoint as deliberate
  • Market versus state binary
    • Market: efficient, innovative, dynamic
    • State: Wasterful, rigid, static
  • The use of the market/state binary has underwritten policy – tax cuts for corporations and the rich


  • Karl Polanyi
    • economies and institutional infrastructure
  • Enlightenment thinkers were about pushing back absolute list control — the binary of state and market was part of their language
  • The Design aware in the R&D magazine traced back to public private
  • Institutional mechanisms
    • Stanford research institute — department of defence contract — Apple SIRI
    • SBIR/STTR — 3 phase program — technological capability / business capability
    • Programs give out 7000 grants a year — firms keep themselves small to remain eligible
    • CRADAs — interdisciplinary groupings
    • When private firms want a serious technological problems solved, they hire government laboratories (the “work for others” agreements in federal laboratories)
  • The Risk-Reward issue
    • The federal R&D spend as a percentage
    • The state market binary means that the benefits of federal efforts are not paid back by the industrial/commercial rates (corporate tax0
    • Consumers pay twice for new drugs, for example, as we pay once as developers (tax money) and then corporate market margins

18th Century political economy does not work in the 21st Century

Gary Fine

  • “It is my chosen role to paint pictures, not to talk about them”
  • The justification of creativity — things placed before us to be assessed
  • “Cold reading” — a reading prior to the artist’s interpretation
  • Artists are already artist — the network, the community, the theoretical infrastructure
    • Reminds of the comment that the job rate for an artist is 100% — when they graduate, they’re artists!
  • “Medium Theory” (pun – about media but also between ‘high and low’)
  • Materiality draws out its evaluation, its justification — participants / critique
  • Failed critiques (?)
    • Making faculty crawl through a wooden tunnel
    • Faith — Christianity
  • MFA critiques — not in the person and not in the object
    • Interesting in terms of digital ‘branding’ — constellation thinking
  • Constituting creativity (requirements)
    • in a material world (the power of what is spoken)
    • into a community (the power of the speaker)
  • Formal systems of judgement for creativity / art
    • market
    • material
    • community…

Stephane Gutzeil

  • Experimental School
  • Studying innovation in a ‘humanistic’ way
  • “First venture capital fund attached to a University in Europe”
  • Bauhaus — informing design practice at Stanford, Black Mountain College,
  • “The men of vision…”
  • Thomas Mann — “conservatism of the future” — conservatism of the future, is serene … it envisions the new placed with
  • Mies Vanderoe
    • “all education must begin with the practical side of life” (fermitas)
    • possible, necessary and desired
  • Gropius versus Corbusier
  • Function is one out of three goals, “in its simplest form, architecture is function”
  • Creating ‘new order’ is the artists task
  • An artist is of continual self sacrifice for the Bauhaus
    • “Art” as imaginative perception
  • Critique of the contemporary avant guard — as the artist is bringing about
  • Critique of Design Thinking — applied, formulaic — Bauhaus did not understand design as potentially a recipe or formula

Harvey Molotch 

  • Cyril Stanley Smith — playfulness — “necessity is not the mother of invention…”
    • Aesthetically motivated investigation (e.g.: Music being the reason we invented math)
    • Love (Steve Jobs, Bruno Latour)
  • Polanyi’s Nice – Eva Zeisel – head of the largest factory in the world in Hungary – arrested for plotting the death of Stalin (Hans Zeisel)
  • To end the dualisms of form and function
  • Transient novelty
  • The Semiotic Handle — “Technology of Enchantment” (Alfred Gell)
  • “A Matter of Taste” – Stanley L. (study of naming)
    • Tastes rise and fall over time…
    • Indigenous and Exogenous forces


  • Happiness (like technology) is not a thing, not a goal, but an effect of other things. The importance of work.
  • That all improvement is self-improvement.  Self-interest. Communalism and ‘the gift.’ Think of the inherent interests of the ‘programmer’ or ‘artists —> the interest in the material, in the obsessive/fetish, etc. How to balance this
  • The difference between innovation, invention — as external or internal to creators / societies / communities
  • Somehow this discussion of Newton and his massive influence — makes it seem that there is a ‘constructed’ world of ideas — everyone reading into and reacting to the system of erudite and enlightened ideas…
  • The invention of privacy
  • How a prototype argues — how a design argues — how an invitation argues
  • Presenting other peoples’ papers — ego removal
  • Inverted Conference — only dinners, then breaks to do work
  • Silicon Valley — collaboration on napkins – the restaurants start giving out bigger napkins
  • The self evidence of what aesthetics can offer??
  • Diffusion of power (in people) by emphasising process
  • The devolution of judgement / critique through online communities
egs readings

computer graphics: a semi-technical introduction – kittler (2001)

Kittler Computer Graphics: A Semi Technical Introduction


  • “The generation of 2000 likely subscribes to the fallacy – backed by billions of dollars – that computer ad computer graphics are one and the same.”
  • “The technolohistorical roots of computer [graphics?] lie not in television, but in radar, a medium of war”
  • Random Access: “Now for the first time in the history of optical media, it is possible to address a single pixel in th 849th row and 720th column directly without having to run through everything before and after it.”
  • The essay will concern itself with synthesis of imagery, not analysis of the visual scenes in photographs — it ‘postpones’ the question of automatic image analysis for symposia on perception to take place not sooner than a decade from now.”  Automatic image synthesis is the concern – as in how computers undertake “optical deception” (not optical perception).
  • Kittler locates in this capacity for deception that which “elevates the medium of the commuter above all optical media in Western history.”
  • “two-fold digitality” – spatial resolution and colour resolution, creates problems:
    1. Three colours are not enough – “it would require non colour canons to even begin to approach the visible spectrum” (nice use of military ‘canons’ to describe, presumably the many ways that colours are produced on CRTs, LCDs…)
    2. Description of spatial coordinates are subject to sample-rate limitations. A hint here of creative possibilities of same, “The sampling effect of Nyquist and Shannon does not just chop flowing curves or forms into building blocks, known among computer graphics specialists as Manhattan-block geometry since American city planners love right angles above all else. Sampling also produces continuous and thus striking forms where the program code never intended any at all.”
    3. Problem of processing complexity (?) as every pixel has an infinite number of possible neighbours … attempts at synthesis and analysis of images based on linear neighbours “tends to be so chaotic, that it is as if perception were regressing to pure sensation a la David Hume or Kaspar Hauser.”

Peano’s Theory of Natural numbers

Ross Ashby

John von Neumann

Heidegger: “in the appearing of things, never do we, either preliminarily or essentially, perceive an onrush of sensations.” (vis Chapels of Extreme Experience…)


Computer graphics –> optical physical media –> the eye

The complete virtualisation of optics, provides optical optic modes limited only in number and complexity by the amount of available RAM.

This brings up the idea and obsession of the ‘optimal’ algorithm for the image. This is not present in photography and film (?) as these “simply did what [they] had to do under the given physical conditions.”

“It is only in the name of impatience that all existing computer graphics are based on ‘idealisations’ — a term that functions here, unlike in philosophy, as a pejorative.” (i.e.: ‘idealisation’ not as an ‘ideal’ to strive for in philosophy but a ‘reduction of reality’ in engineering)

Rilke’s Malte Laurids Brigge

Bodies reduced to surfaces — Hausdorff dimension of 2.37 (neither 2 nor 3 dimensional)

Jurassic Park vs. Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors

  • Raytracing
    • Axel Roch – military predecession – tracking of enemy planes with radar
    • Alan Watt computer graphics expert
    • 1637 Descartes – light rays that trace refraction and reflections
      • Res cogitans
      • Res extensa
      • Decartes imagined the pathway of a single ray of light ‘as subject’ through a glass blown globe
      • Only possible to implement this kind of recursive, infinite regression of possible paths with the computer
      • “Whenever you encounter a computer image whose shining highlights are a close send to heavenly Jerusalem’ and whose start shadows are a close second to Hell’s, you are dealing with elementary ray tracing.”
  • Radiosity
    • “light energy calculation”
    • Dutch Interior after Vermeer
    • Based on rocket-reentry derived heat diffusion models (Fourier)
    • An algorithm born of necessity, not of “nature” of computer graphics or light
    • “What so called nature can accomplish in nanoseconds with its parallel calculation derives its alleged digital equivalent to overload” (ref programmability of matter)
    • “What you get is what you see. And what you’ve got is a computer chip”

“Locality or specularity is and will always be thhe opposite of globally or diffusion.”


Verterbrate eyes are cones and rods – “what-ness” and “that-ness”

Dennis Gabor – Heisenberg – raytracing and radiosity in Kajiya’s equation as in the spirit of modern physics

Phenomenology – “legein to phainomena,” – “to gather that which appears”

“Projectiles have relegated subject vs object, this simplest of all oppositions, to the grave.”

Dutch Interior after Vermeer 1987 ComputerGraphics