March 1, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Robots

“Just don’t call them drones. People in the business dislike that word, which brings to mind a robot with no pilot; there is a pilot, but not on board.”

-Matthew Wald, Just Don’t Call It a Drone
The New York Times, Feb 1, 2013

There is a growing body of literature—if news reports, essays, blogposts (reflexivity duly noted), etc. constitutes such—concerning the contemporary phenomenon of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, an easy shorthand for technologically-optimized efficacy in modern warfare. (The epigram is from an article on college-level UAV training from a recent Times Education Supplement.)

But if UAV has the euphemistic ring of a state school or an STD, or a prophylactic measure obliquely related to the latter—the letters ‘U’ and ‘V’ tend to suggest as much—common parlance prefers the slangy alternative.1 Drones have increasingly made headlines not only as an indication of America’s purported Omega-level superiority in strategically targeted carnage but also as a threat to a justifiably paranoid citizenship. The semantic irony, of course, is that naturally occurring drones are precisely the hive or colony members who do not work, the small fraction of ants or bees whose sole duties are to feed and mate (as opposed to gathering sustenance).2

Yet insofar as its homonymous forms are polysemous—etymologically related despite their semantic divergence—the third meaning of “drone” has particularly relevant subtext for the hapless hoi polloi, an uncannily felicitous connotation for the masses who may be in denial about UAVs.

As a function of human agency, to drone denotes a dull, monotonous manner or tone, colloquially equivalent to ‘carrying on,’ for which alternate descriptors such as discursive, meandering, aimless, etc. vaguely suggest sense of purposeless motion; second-order associations such as ennui and banality evoke a contrary metaphor of inertia or stasis qua static. This twofold characterization ultimately represents a kind of nothingness, specifically a empty signification, vocalization without peaks or troughs, speech sans the variation or modulation that conveys passion, emotional investment, or, as it were, fallibility.

To drone implies background noise, a low-pitched hum that does not register consciously, rather more subtle than the liminal roar of an airplane engine; not stimulus but possibly its very opposite, a soporific or otherwise anesthetic blanket of white noise. A drone becomes part of the landscape, an ontological given of an environment: in a word, omnipresent—the auditory evidence of existence.

Thus, on one hand, a drone is essentially senseless or meaningless, that which goes unnoticed (albeit not necessarily by design); on the other, to drone connotes persistence, super- (or sub-) human degree of endurance that comes at the expense of intelligence or autonomy.

But if the English Language informs our concept of aerial technology as much as it betrays and elucidates our ambivalence towards a paranoid present, another now-quotidian acronym belies its equally bleak subtext. Almost exactly half a century after Turing’s eponymous test entered the lexicon of artificial intelligence, a team at CMU has turned the concept on its head with the CAPTCHA, an oblique insinuation that any upstanding netizen might just be a malicious machine.3 The inverted imperative defines us as that which we are not—bot until proven human—capturing, so to speak, the vague concession that the robots have already won.

Insofar as the current generation of UAVs in service are instruments of mortal hand and eye, these glorified (and lethal) remote-controlled vehicles are not yet autonomous. In fact, both cases underscore the shortcomings of artificial intelligence (cf. employing humans to crack CAPTCHAs), and I was curious to learn of a new service that ‘learns’ from one’s Twitter behavior in order to publish 140-character missives from beyond the grave. Contrary to the social-media-soteriological morbidity of its intended purpose, I can only assume that it would also be possible to use _LivesOn in vivo as well, such that particularly lazy or otherwise uncommitted Twitter users can train their bot-ghosts to emulate their musings for perpetuity.

But I digress: Like its digital analogue, airspace is (for all intents and purposes) infinite, and the point has less to do with whether robots are actually out there than the fact that they are a permanent possibility of our ever-new reality—hovering out of sight as opposed to merely blips on the horizon.

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Postscript: I initially stumbled upon (or Wiki-walked into) the notion of sousveillance last year, so I was curious to read Mark Hurst’s recent rant about Google Glass, a lengthy hypothesis about the new AR gadget in the real world, where it becomes an instrument of sous-surveillance, a quasi-parallel development to mostly legitimate concerns about domestic drones.

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1.) It should go without saying that capitalized appellations also suggest opaquely abridged defense-related subject matter, cf. DARPA, perhaps the most ominous acronym of all.

2.) I’ve always been interested in the congruence between the words etymology and entomology, though this is purely serendipitous. It does, however, explain the image.

3.) Issues of identity verification and/or authentication are also paramount, but beyond the scope of this otherwise free association. See also: Captchart.

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July 31, 2010

Continued

raf-simons-the-influencer-via-hypebeast

  • Nice interview with Raf Simons (WWD via HB)
  • Lengthy inverview with David Andrew Sitek (BV)
  • Awesome interview with Bill Murray (GQ)
  • Telling interview with Penn & Teller (Telegraph)
  • Decent interview with Ari Marcopoulos (Dossier)
  • Hip interview with Pedro Winter (Busy P of Ed Banger) (OC)
  • Strange interview with Spike Lee (Gothamist)
  • Passable interview with Rafael de Cardenas (S×H)
  • Brief interview with Tara McPherson (PSFK)

China:

20100715_LivingRooms_China-slide-YE61-slide-via-nyt

  • Urban China, ever the work in progress (NYT)
  • China’s Banks: Great Wall Street (The Economist)
  • Bad PR for the nouveau riche in the PRC (WSJ via Gawker)
  • The other oil spill (NYT / Salon)
  • A green movement grows in China (The Economist)
  • The Economist also draws an ophidian metaphor for China’s growth / lack thereof.

Music:

Media & Technology:

terrafugia_fly_away-via-psfk

Food:

Mark-Bittman-101-Grilling-Recipes-the-Minimalist-on-NYT

NYC:

high-line-phase-2-via-curbed

Random:

messi-by-morning-breath-via-turntable-lab

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June 19, 2010

Itemized

“I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.”

This should keep you busy while I take a couple days off:

Click through for more of Hans Van der Meer's amazing photos of European football pitches

Click through for more of Hans Van der Meer's amazing photos of European football pitches

Classic; see below

Thanks Zach; related article below

kapoor-hirst-close-danto

Bluechips & Theory:

  • Jonathan Jones on Anish Kapoor and Damien Hirst.
  • Chuck Close: Life. As with art, music, film, etc., I hate reading book reviews instead of the books themselves, but sometimes secondary sources suffice… at least until I can justify throwing down $25 for it
  • Danto, part two—I’m still ambivalent about his definition of art as “embodied meaning,” which I first encountered a few years ago, but this is a good place to start if you’re not familiar with his work (which I can’t say that I am).

Work-Of-Art-Season-1-Episode-101-07

  • In accord with the New York Times review, I found Bravo’s “Work of Art” surprisingly watchable, living up to its pseudo-Warholian premise more than the SJP branding and Bravo production tropes might suggest. (I was mostly curious because I met Trong, pictured above, a few days prior.) If nothing else, “Work of Art” affirms that artists’ egos are particularly suited for the magnifying glass of reality television.
  • Hyperallergic looks at the show inside and out. The former article wisely points out that the reality TV formula of themed ‘challenges’ all but precludes any possibility of artistic growth, as well as the insular—if idealized—working conditions. In other words, it’s hard to take the show for a window into the art world (not that “Top Chef” does any better) when television necessarily imposes a distance between life and work.
  • I’ve never watched “Project Runway,” but apparently WSJ does, drawing parallels between the two shows in their recap of the first episode.
  • GQ talks to Bill Powers (“Work of Art” judge & NYC gallerist)
  • Related: The current state of the Brooklyn Museum (where the winner of “Work of Art” will get a solo show).
  • Inverted: Googleheim?

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June 12, 2010

David Byrne × TED: Music × Architecture

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June 7, 2010

Unsorted Links

UPDATE: Rearranged with respect to the next post; trust me, it’s better for everyone this way.

http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2010/06/perceptions.html

Richard Barnes - Murmur 8, December 14 2005

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May 26, 2010

Assorted Links

UPDATED, one last time before midnight.

Os Gemeos & Blu (Works in Progress) in Lisbon

Os Gemeos & Blu (Works in Progress) in Lisbon

Street art’s symbiotic relationship with the Web makes you wonder whether the genre’s broad popularity stems from the fact that its characteristic features—swift execution, quicksilver response to pop culture and politics, the dominance of quotation and commentary, snarky attitude, fragmented statements embedded in the world rather than meant to stand apart from it—actually reflect the way that plugged-in people process information, more so than “traditional” art. There is something particularly contemporary about street art’s whole M.O., in this sense.

–Ben Davis, Is Street Art Over?, Slate, May 26 2010 (Highly recommended)

Fresh Stuff from Ron English in Queens

Fresh Stuff from Ron English in Queens

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Two perspectives on Marina:

She and MoMA have brought some magic back into art—the sort of magic that all of our courses in art history and appreciation had encouraged us to hope for.

–Arthur C. Danto, Sitting with Marina, The Stone blog on NYT, May 23 2010

There are euphoric moments and then intensely sad feelings of heaviness. Whatever you’re feeling becomes intensified. Certain truths about things I need to fix in my life are revealed to me. Marina says that in her own life she’s not so disciplined—that the performance gives her structure.

–Deborah Wing-Sproul, The Performer Made Bare, NYMag, May 23 2010

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prokhorov-bloomberg-jayz-via-espn

[As Prokhorov] explained to “60 Minutes,” “I don’t use a computer. We have too much information and it’s really impossible to filter it.”

You know what? He’s not necessarily wrong. Do we REALLY need all this information? Like, right now—you’re reading this column and hopefully enjoying it, but ultimately, could you have survived the weekend if you missed it? I say yes. Just about everything online fits that mold—you have to sift through loads of bad writing and irrelevant information to find the occasional entertaining/funny/interesting thing, and even then, it’s not something that’s making or breaking your week. Ever been on a vacation and had little-to-no Internet access that week? You survived, right? Maybe the big Russian is on to something.

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Candy-Darling-by-Peter-Hujar-via-huffpo

Candy reminds us of the postmodern notion of self-creation—the way we don social signifiers with the same ease as clothing, constructing our selves bit by bit from cultural cues and images. Rather than the solid frameworks we cast them as, our selves are more like sweaters we put on and take off. When it comes to social identity, we’re all a wee bit in drag.

–Caroline Hagood, New Documentary Tries to Solve the Riddle of Andy Warhol’s Candy Darling,
The Huffington Post, May 21 2010

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Was2651110

The problem of negative externalities [refers to] costs that accrue when the self-interested actions of one person leave bystanders worse off. The biggest example of a negative externality is global warming: When we burn carbon-based fuels, we benefit ourselves while imposing a great cost on billions of other present and future inhabitants of the planet.

–Felix Salmon, The Man Who Could Unsnarl Manhattan Traffic, Wired, May 24 2010

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j-bennett-fitts-land-of-ahs-via-good

GOOD Picture Show has a gallery of J. Bennett Fitts' incredible photos of Middle America

Read the rest of this entry »

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May 25, 2010

Part One Point Five

The China beat goes on:

Ines Brunn after Li Wei

Ines Brunn after Li Wei

Some notes on the People’s Republic before the second chapter on the Fabled C[hinese]hipster

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Wu Yulu’s amazing mechanical men:

After suffering a series of life changing set backs such as a burnt down home, spraying himself with battery acid, and experiencing great financial debt—all in the name of art—Chinese farmer Wu Yulu is finally gaining some recognition for his homemade robots.

Designboom

DB also has a gallery of Wu Yulu’s ‘Peasant Da Vincis’ for Cai Guo-Qiang’s inaugural exhibition at the newly restored Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai; some images interpolated below (cue egregiously ironic juxtaposition of images + text):

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wu-luyu-for-cai-guoqiang-pollockbot-via-designboom

Click image to see Robo-Pollock in action at DB

Chinese news site Southern Weekend recently sent intern Liu Zhiyi undercover at the Shenzhen site of Foxconn, “the world’s biggest contract electronics maker and a major supplier to Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other companies,” which has been under scrutiny for the suicides of nine workers this year (more background info at NYT):

I know of two groups of young people.

One group consists of university students like myself, who live in ivory towers and kept company by libraries and lake views. The other group works alongside steel machineries and large containers, all inside a factory of high-precision manufacturing environment.

–Liu Zhiyi, Southern Weekend via Engadget

The translated article is definitely worth reading, though the Apple connection clearly raises the profile of these otherwise-overlooked incidents.

Skeptics (or fans of Apple) have taken to pointing out that this suicide rate, in a plant with four hundred and twenty thousand workers, is no higher than that in a Chinese city of comparable size.

–Evan Osnos, Items of Interest, Letter from China blog on the New Yorker, May 25 2010

Again, clickthrough for sweet vids...

Again, clickthrough for sweet vids on DB...

On a lighter note:

“I hear that Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I’ve made for them,” Chen said. “And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible.”

Chinese Factory Worker Can’t Believe The Shit He Makes For Americans, The Onion

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Essay Question (10 pts): To what degree does electronic music reflect the alienation of technology and hyperindustrialization?

Let me take this opportunity to explain my music. At first I liked drums, they were fast and noisy and that’s what I first produced. After a while I listened to more electronic, quieter music. I like fast music, but it’s more melodic as a general rule. I added more melody into my music, more baritone. My latest work has slowed down in comparison to my older music. In the past it’s always been very young, punkish, full of joy. Now, I like slower, blacker, darker music. Also, I like the Chinese influence. I cant explain it, I just like it. I add a little bit of Chinese music in everything.

Sulumi, via Intel×Vice’s Creators Project

via Wired

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A few more for good flavor:

mickey-christ

  • Wild Wild Westernization: “16 Items They Only Sell at Chinese Walmarts” (Buzzfeed)
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Shanghai, 1948

Henri Cartier-Bresson – Shanghai, 1948

  • A glimpse into a Chinese toy factory.
Li Wei via the Guardian

Li Wei via the Guardian

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May 24, 2010

End of an Era

“Let’s go to another commercial.” –PC (1:45)

Apple’s iconic “Get a Mac” ad campaign is no more: Jobs & Co. have pulled the plug on the cheeky TV spots that pitted stuffy-button-down-middle-aged-guy John Hodgman against relatable-young-hip-dude Justin Long (human representations of PC and Mac, respectively).

Here’s a montage of some memorable moments between the two titans of technology:

via Mashable

It’s an easy metaphor for the shift from the PC vs. Mac decade to a full-fledged, multi-platform war between Apple and everyone from Google to Adobe to Amazon—not to mention Microsoft ever-looming in the background—though it’s far to early to tell who will be the next Hodgman.

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May 15, 2010

Items

“A low moan of agreement escaped Ellis’s mouth.” –Bret Easton Ellis

Once again, it’s too nice out to sit in front of a computer screen, so we’re going with assorted links today… A few interesting stories, including an article on the future of digital journalism. *UPDATED on 5/16 with even more recommended reading.

uniqlo-uniqlones-tadashi-yanai-via-nymag

bolano-haring

  • I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read any Roberto Bolaño, but I’d never seen a picture of him before—is it just me, or does he look a lot like Keith Haring? (GQ)
  • Alastair Harper on “George Orwell, Patron Saint of Hacks” (Prospect)
  • Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s “Theory, Literature, Hoax” after Borges. (NYT)
  • Claudia Roth Pierpont on Duke Ellington (New Yorker)
  • Nick Carr on the new New York license plate (below) (Huffpo)

new-nyc-license-plate-via-huffpo
Also worth reading, if you’re so inclined:

  • The current state of NBA point guards (GQ)
  • Kareem sounds off (ESPN)
  • The China Model (Economist)
  • How the Web Is Changing the Way We Eat (Salon)

rick-owens-via-slamxhype

  • Interview with Rick Owens (above) (Artinfo via Slam×Hype; images here)
  • Interview with Damien Hirst & Michael Joo (WWD via Slam×Hype; images here—the log piece reminds me of Ai Weiwei…)
  • Interview with Bret Easton Ellis (Vice)
  • Interview with Gorillaz (Wired)
  • Gus Van Sant catches up with Madonna (Interview)
  • Adam Kimmel raps with David Blaine (Interview)

how-our-brains-make-memories-Memory-microscopic-nerve-cells-smithsonian

  • Greg Miller on Karim’s Nader’s theory of mutable memory (Smithsonian)
  • Ryan Bradley on “Sex, Lies and Nature Documentaries” (GOOD)
  • Malcolm Gladwell on WWII espionage (New Yorker)
  • Gary Wolf on the Data-Driven Life (NYT)
  • Richard Lewontin on Jerry Fodor & Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong. (The New York Review of Books)—I’d heard a lot of the arguments before until I came to this bit:

Individual organisms are surrounded by a moving layer of warm moist air. Even trees are surrounded by such a layer. It is produced by the metabolism of the individual tree, creating heat and water, and this production is a feature of all living creatures. In humans the layer is constantly moving upward over the body and off the top of the head. Thus, organisms do not live directly in the general atmosphere but in a shell produced by their own life activity. It is, for example, the explanation of wind-chill factor. The wind is not colder than the still air, but it blows away the metabolically produced layer around our bodies, exposing us to the real world out there.

Plus, a short, sweet video for good measure:

Stick Monster Lab for Nike Sportswear (High Snobiety via Notcot)

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April 29, 2010

Images: Super Deluxx Edition

Henri Cartier-Bresson's portrait of Sartre is currently on view in his retrospective at MoMA

Henri Cartier-Bresson's portrait of Sartre is currently on view in his retrospective at MoMA

As with his entire body of work, Sartre’s theory of imagination refers to—and, naturally, affirms—his ontology, in which he explores Husserl’s tenet that “all consciousness is consciousness of something” in the context of the ‘detotalized totality’ of being-in-itself / being-for-itself dualism. Sartre postulates an admittedly underdeveloped notion of image consciousness in his early work The Imaginary (1940), though these writings are largely eclipsed by his later political [viz. Marxist] proclivities; nevertheless, his theory of imagination is a sufficient foundation of a phenomenological aesthetics.

Notably, Sartre implies that the imaginary (or ‘irreal’) has the same ontological import as the real: if the real is never beautiful, it is simply because beauty is, by definition, imaginary, where imagination is a permanent possibility of consciousness. A painting, photograph, film, song, performance, etc., necessarily transcends perception—i.e. consciousness of oil on canvas, ink on paper, a projection, an actor, etc.—as an object of image consciousness, which overflows with the meaning of the portrait (etc.): a particular arrangement of brushstrokes or sounds immediately presents itself to consciousness as an image or melody. The abstract, then, is that which escapes us in experience qua perception; colors transcend pigment to conjure mood or geometry.

Hence, Images (in no particular order):

Liu-Bolin-via-artcat

1.

scott-campbell-if-you-dont-belong-dont-be-long-via-ohwow

2.

youngerthanillbe

3.

http://static1.slamxhype.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/michael-joo-damien-hurst-have-you-ever-really-looked-into-the-sun.jpg

4.

barz-art-pink-terror

5.

Faile-Bast-Deluxx-Fluxx-NYC-via-TBWE

6.

maya-lin-what-is-missing-video-still-via-designboom

7.

http://www.designboom.com/cms/images/rid09/zaaa07.jpg

8.

Picture-5-450x318

9.

basquiat-nowness-still

10.

http://kitsunenoir.com/blogimages/mwm-crystals-lasers-1.jpg

11.

http://theworldsbestever.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Whistlers-father.jpg

12.

deadoralive-mad-animal

13.

marina-abramovic-made-me-cry

14.

shepard-fairey-mural-houston-bowery-deitch-via-arrested-motion

15.

http://www.archdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/1271684823-0032686-488.jpg

16.

http://www.hypebeast.com/image/2010/04/dqm-2010-spring-lookbook-15.jpg

17.

doug-mike-starn-big-bambu-met-roof-garden-flickr

18.

peter-root-ephemicropolis-via-designboom

19.

21.

20.

Read the rest of this entry »

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