Monday, 27 May 2013


I just discovered THE PIRATE CINEMA, which is really relevant to an investigation I wrote a few days ago about anthropological approaches to user experience and sharing: 'non modern' ritual in virtual environments.

"In the context of omnipresent telecommunications surveillance, “The Pirate Cinema” makes visible the hidden activity and geography of Peer-to-Peer file sharing. The project is presented as a control room, which reflects Peer-to-Peer exchanges happening in real time on networks, which use BitTorrent protocol. The installation produces an improvised and syncopated arrangement of files currently in exchange. The immediacy of the presentation of digital data, including fragmented information about source files and their destinations, depicts the topology of digital information use and the global reach of data dissemination."

Kinect Powered Purchasing Behaviour Analysis System

This marketing analysis tool, under development by Fujitsu, uses technology to sense people’s movement. By analyzing how customers behave in response to merchandise, entirely new kinds of marketing information will be obtainable.
“This exhibit is designed with retail stores in mind. The system determines how people choose products, whether they were interested in a product already, and what products they compare, using Kinect and a camera.”
With regular POS systems, the only information obtained is how much merchandise has been sold. But by using this system, it’s possible to find out how customers acted while contemplating the purchase of a product. This system could help with marketing by showing how customers behaved when they were thinking about buying a product, but didn’t complete the purchase.
From prosthetic knowledge

Whilst this development will provide all sorts of advanced marketing information, I'm interested in the system's identification of those who didn't complete the purchase. I wonder whether the system has factored in the reasons why people don't complete purchases - especially since a lot of the time, people will find items of clothing (in particular) that what they want in store and in person, and buy the item cheaper online. Sensing the movement of a person's hand reaching into their bag or pocket for a smartphone thus may be a common identification.Our buying behaviors are certainly changing, and trackin that change is fascinating and very complex.


Glitché is a free iPhone application that lets your mash up your pictures using common computer errors and bugs. Absolutely love the name - the control of unwanted distortions for aesthetic effect is so far removed from the original outcome of a computer error.

Apps like Glitché and others (such as Dscan) certainly make us think about digital imagery elements like pixels and scans. One of my favourite 'glitchy' works (that has always stuck in my head) is this beautiful film by the artist Jon Perez: "a nat geo video of a cheetah running at full pace recorded with a high-speed camera on the world's fastest moving dolly is corrupted into a series of repetitious flows each time the codec uses a new key frame to explore extinction and decay". The translation of informational error into natural issues is fantastic.

destablizing, I from Jon Perez on Vimeo.

On the topic of pixel and glitch, Rosa and I, as a D I S C O U R S E project, ran a workshop yesterday which we called 'Digital Landscape'. As a result of a recent university module I'd taken called 'Reality Sucks: Contemporary Landscape', I wanted to think about how we could make people think about their landscapes in relation to 'the digital'. As a result, we came up with a really simple activity in which we took the urban landscape of Leeds' new domed Trinity Leeds shopping centre in the heart of the city, and attempted to deconstruct it.

By blowing up the image and asking members of the public to identify and apply the photograph's 'pixels' (small cut out squares of black, whit and grey card), our workshop played with aspects of (im)materiality, digital imagery, and contemporary (physical and virtual) landscapes.
More info: and

 Below are some pictures I was playing with on Glitché of the original photograph of Trinity that we used in the workshop:

laser projection mapping on bubbles

Lasers and bubbles from Memo Akten on Vimeo.

DKNY resort 2014

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Kula Exchange and File Sharing

 An anthropological approach to user experience and sharing: 'non modern' ritual in virtual environments.

As a discipline, the stereotype of anthropology often incorporates that crucial separation between 'them' and 'us'. Everything that is non-western is often perceived as non-modern; the 'traditional' tribal society is most commonly understood as less rational and the fascinating cultural differences between the two are amplified. Such a basic anthropological approach doubtlessly diminishes the chances of gaining a meaningful insight into cultures other than our own - and for this reason, the work of Bruno Latour (who recognised the need for a re-analysis of the field's methodology) intrigues me along with many other art-interested people. In his 1991 publication We Have Never Been Modern, Latour argues that 'there is not - there cannot be, there should not be - an anthropology of the modern world'. In so doing, he enables the comparative model of the discipline to function by aligning a symmetry between west and non-west - and he does this by rejecting the idea of 'modern'.
This idea of acknowledging different modes of thought without creating a hierarchy of difference was investigated before the preliminary effects of globalization (during the nineties) started to be recognised, however. Malinowski's well-known 1922 study of 'the Argonauts of the Western Pacific' illustrated a lack of separation by considering the universality of rational decision making; despite important differences in terms of economic value and exchange (in particular), the cultural systems at work in areas of Papua New Guinea illustrate links between our own western social contracts.
The western distinction between persons and things maintains a particular cultural understanding of commodity of mere material form - that 'things' can be understood in monetary (or utility) value. In line with a Marxist position, the reduction of an object in this way hides any kind of human interaction involved in its production: commodity dissolves relationships. This idea is deepened via the introduction - and increased use - of global information transactions. In a world of digital tech development, immaterial files can also be made commodity and owned. However, the recorded history of a shared file is fascinatingly similar to the relations that are made manifest through  exchange in some non-western societies - in particular, gift exchange.
In line with a symmetrical, comparative anthropological approach, online file-sharing systems (the now defunct Napster, or Tumblr for example) can thus be put in parallel with the ceremonial exchange or Trobriand kula necklaces and bracelets. Of course, key differences must still be acknowledged. The western 'catch 22' of being unable to escape from capitalist structures is recognised in Markus Geisler's investigation (2003) of the mp3 audio file sharing network Napster: that the free, peer-to-peer exchange of files collapses old capitalist systems only by offering an alternative form of consumption. But despite this suggestion, there is an undeniable online community within such networks, which use file-sharing as a uniting, shared activity. In different areas all over the globe, users create a world wide network that yields a new information economy based on giving.
A crucial aspect to this system is reciprocity: that repayment becomes just as important as receiving. Such concentration on this idea runs in line with the anthropological writing of Marcel Mauss, who argued (in 1967) that gifting isn't a voluntary activity, but that (within specific, often non-western societies) it is obligatory. The repayment of a gift can often mean the fulfillment of a (social) contract, and in the social system conducted in the Milne Bay province of Papua New Guinea, the ceremonial exchange  of kula maintains a vital importance of the reciprocal nature of gifting. The movement of these valuable items is a culturally significant aspect of society linked to political authority. These items, which are often made from beautiful shell and other precious natural materials, are not the inert, mere material of western commodity - but more in-line with your most valuable (not in monetary terms) family heirloom. Inscribed with historical social relations, kula valuables are spiritual and highly meaningful items which are passed and moved from island to island via ritual (and in some cases, dangerous sea passes between islands). In opposition to a western, accumulative understanding of wealth (a notion which does remain relevant to digital sharing economy), the Trobriand demonstrates power through displaying the greatness of the giver (rather than the collector) using kula ritual as a vehicle. This, the social relations remembered by the object are manifest through the event in which it is exchanged.
Through this investigation, it is clear that Latour's symmetrical anthropology can be problematic. Although the cultural contexts between western file-sharing and Trobriand kula exchange are very different, the sharing networks are similar. Open-source software, file and image sharing and blogging 'reposts' are all activities in which links and bonds are created through transfer. However, what is most critically and conceptually distinct from the object-sharing rituals of Papua New Guinea and the immaterial spaces online is that the latter example is a virtual situation. Many of the interactive users will never meet in person, let alone form a 'real' relationship. Paradoxically, the 'modern' west - non-west hierarchy is reversed, in that the western virtual user experience is considered (by many) as less meaningful, less 'real', or less authentic. However, the digital age is by all means upon us, and the reality is that much of the west's relationships with one another are formed and maintained online. With this is mind, investigating the gift as a concept in the anthropology of art is crucial in terms of comprehending the cultural implications of contemporary society's online sharing activity - especially when new sharing technology is so quickly being developed.

The Risk and the Rush

I got injured skating last week, so I wrote an article about it for for Cooler online:


ArtWorks at Trinity Leeds Customer service lounge.
D I S C O U R S E are running a digital landscape pixel session 3-5pm Sunday 26th May.
Please come along for some pixel mosaic work and discussion of contemporary landscapes.

more Marant

Still love; will always love.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Google Glass

I want to do a little bit of thinking about Google Glass - the tech world's most talked-about new gadget. What I find so strange about Glass (aside from its weird appearance) is that after getting excited about how futuristic it looks,  most people don't seem to understand what it is for.

In many ways, Glass offers very little by way of 'newness'. It takes photos. It responds to voice command and touch control. It syncs information with other devices. It answers questions. Essentially, it does everything that your smartphone does just in a variety of different ways: 'Google's idea is that Glass will integrate all the benefits of the web into human interaction  but will less conspicuous and less of a barrier than a mobile phone' (Matt Warman, 'Through A Glass Brightly', The Telegraph, 13th May 2013).

Firstly, Glass isn't yet affordable. Secondly, the glasses are hugely conspicuous - although once everyone has a pair (as Google anticipates), they will probably become more normal. Thirdly, more uses are going to have to be created and designed for the gadget. As this last point suggests, a lot of more innovative and revolutionary software (to match the hardware) is to come - and soon. At the moment, Glass symbolises the start of the next chapter in social and commercial tech development and use - consumer behaviour changes, personal archive development and (of course) everyday tech-culture integration will all become increasingly evident in the next few years as devices (like Glass) become more accessible. By minimising the interface between technology (internet in particular) and people, the ever-developing social issues currently being researched are only set to become more complicated. Whilst there is absolutely no stopping new technology's development, I really hope that the problematic cultural areas of our Western society have enough time to work out the effects of informational changes on our lives. Blurring the boundaries between the virtual and the physical (like Glass does) is sure to have some unsettling effects on the way we interact with our environment(s).

Matt Warman, Consumer Technology Editor at The Telegraph

Tricia Wang

Tricia Wang rules. She is an Sociologist / Ethnographer who deals with quite a lot of internet stuff.
Get Microsoft Silverlight

Museums and Heritage Show

Rosa and I met a huge amount of creative people working in separate sectors of the arts industry. As a result, we've got a lot of ideas to write up, as well as many interesting contacts to get to grips with. Seriously exciting stuff and a really great conference.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Ski Girls

Last week we had a little shoot as cas Xcape. Super fun to hang out and ride with some other girls.

'tumblr aesthetic' investigation

I've recently been in touch with contemporary curator Nicholas O'Brien with regards to my investigation into whether such a thing as 'tumblr aesthetic' exists, and what it might be. More than using tumblr to archive research, certain creative groups have certainly begun playing on the inherent homogenized aesthetic that the platform creates; in terms of curation, tumblr kind of makes it difficult to find the authentic, considered content amongst the internet's mass media, and tensions between what is genuine and what is not play an important role within this 'movement'.

A return to the kind of 'original' aesthetic from the early platforms of the 90s has emerged as a trend amongst people thinking about the contemporary implications of 'the digital'. Expanding on and making visually explicit references to globalization and a capitalist 'flattening -out' of culture, online groups like The Jogging play with images that signpost marketing/the artificial in sync with natural imagery (water, grass, the sky etc) as artistic endeavor. It is a complex and slightly mystifying approach to 'art-making' (or at least the visual documentation of exploring culturally relevant ideas about contemporary Western life), but despite its unhelpful mixtures of signs and references,  much of the work is very thought-provoking and interesting to look at. The endless scrolling down of page after page of photoshopped, modern hyrbid objects and images seems to imitate the mindless link-following of modern, online exploration. Amidst the endless opportunities to learn and know more, the very reason for exploration can get lost in cyberspace - which in itself typifies a particularly postmodern kind of activity.

With this in mind, O'Brien's work (and other new media artists, thinkers and writers) becomes particularly more important. Considering the implications of 'the digital' with regards to early 90s art writers such as Miwon Kwon, site-specificity becomes a confused notion - especially when many of us spend most of our time pursuing online achievements and goals. Developing technological tools to find new places online (rather than spaces, see here) might be one of the most healthy things for us to do: in addition to enjoying the natural (non-digital) as landscape, perhaps using the digital as a means of developing a contemporary landscape as a "wrong" place (Kwon, One Place After Another) could be beneficial.

Either way, an acknowledgement of 'tumblr aesthetic' as a means of recognising tensions between the natural and the digital is fascinating - even if it occasionally comes across as a kind of 'in-joke' amongst those who feel they have an advanced, cynical cultural insight. It is difficult to explain. But I'd like to keep researching.

The below link will take you to an article and discussion which further explores these ideas (it is a bit confusing):

Thank you to Nicholas for the generous and helpful insights given via email.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Fashion Forward Stuff

Fashion is cyclical. It goes round and round through seasons and years,and whilst there will never be a shortage of beautiful clothes and shoots and concepts, what happens to the industy?
I'm stoked on fashion tech start-up stuff at the moment, because it is moving the fashion industry fowards. The way people are doing fashion (making, broadcasting, buying, selling) is changing, and with it our cultural behaivour - particularly with regards to materiality and immateriality - has to adapt.

Third Wave Fashion

Fashion's Collective

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Nature Disorientation


Leo Franco for SHOWstudio tumblr

Highly recommend checking out SHOWstudio's latest tumblr curation by Leo Franco / Ejakulation.
gif. as the a medium for online fashion visual really works for me; the temporal nature of trend is illustrated in an animated moment that endures. What's additionally interesting is that these works, as gif.s, are to be sent off into cyberspace through endless reposts and shares - making this medium a particularly generous way of working. A lot of time has been sspent making them, and a lot of research has been undertaken in the curation of the imagery. Much appreciated.

 ‘Too Funky’, directed and costume designed by Thierry Mugler for George Michael, 1992

 Thierry Mugler, F/W 1984

‘Link Of The Moon’, Mariko Mori, 1996

 Compulsive Viewing: The Films Of Guy Bourdin 

‘Too Funky’, directed and costume designed by Thierry Mugler for George Michael, 1992

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Links I need to remember

'tumblr aesthetic'


I mean, I know what it is, but how can it be explained in terms of Art History?

In a recent email correspondence, I described it as thus: "this 'tumblr aesthetic' seems to illustrate the self-awareness of an adherence to a particular type of popular visual online activity - and that this self-awareness makes the work distinguished (amongst other online content) as art"

It seems so complex - but I will get to the bottom of this!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Contemporary Landscape

I'm researching for a short assessed essay in one of my history of art modules called 'Reality Sucks: Contemporary Approaches to Landscape and Environment' (which rules).

To build upon my interest in 'new media' and culturally integrated technology, I'm looking at how immaterial networks made can be visible through particular 'landscape' artworks.

On a bit of tangent, I've found some really interesting stuff - which I will hopefully be able to work out how to base my essay around.

Artist Joe Hamilton has absolutely mesmerized me with his visually intense work 'Hyper Geography', which attempts to negotiate our experience of landscape in relation to our concept of landscape.
I'm going to have to try and work it out when I've got a bit more time / write about it for my essay.

It's incredible:

Filles a papa


Looner Longboards

Got given this rad deck from Looner Longboards. Can't recommend them enough - more info here. Get liking and sharing.

Cynthia Rowley Surf 2013