Book Out: Digital Condition (Polity Press)

I'm very happy my new book (a translation of Kultur der Digitalität) has just been published by Polity Press.

In the book I argue that referentiality, communality, and algorithmicity have become the characteristic cultural forms of the digital condition because more and more people – in more and more segments of life and by means of increasingly complex technologies – are actively (voluntarily and/or compulsorily) participating in the negotiation of social meaning. They are thus reacting to the demands of a chaotic, overwhelming sphere of information and thereby contributing to its greater expansion. It is the ubiquity of these cultural forms that makes it possible to speak of the digital condition in the singular.

The goals pursued in these cultural forms, however, are as diverse, contradictory, and conflicted as society itself. It would, therefore, be equally false to assume uniformity or an absence of alternatives in the unfolding of social and political developments. On the contrary, the idea of a lack of alternatives is an ideological assertion that is itself part of a specific political agenda. Indeed, advanced democracies are faced with a profound choice, to continue their long slide towards post-democratic authoritarianism or reinvent democracy for the digital condition.

You can get it from the publisher (UK, US), from Amazon (UK, US), or you local bookseller (UK, US).

The great cover image is by the Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde, from the series Nimbus, Probe #6, 2010.


Tschüss, Twitter – willkommen, Mastodon

Ein kurzer Kommentar für die Zeit (48/22), 11/27/2022

Bisher hatten die Europäer den großen (amerikanischen) Anbietern wenig mehr entgegenzusetzen als die nicht besonders erfolgreiche Strategie, sie im Nachhinein zu regulieren. Nun aber wächst schon seit Längerem die Unzufriedenheit der Nutzer. Die Plattformen wurden – auf der Suche nach immer neuen Einnahmequellen – in den letzten Jahren nicht nur mit Werbung überladen, sondern auch so umgebaut, dass die Datensammlung auf Kosten der Benutzerfreundlichkeit geht. Und besonders Twitter-Nutzer sind wegen der aktuellen Turbulenzen in Aufruhr und suchen nach einer Alternative. Das Besondere an der Situation: Eine solche Alternative gibt es tatsächlich. Sie stammt aus Europa und heißt Mastodon.

Mastodon Eating Twitter (Stable Diffusion)Mastodon Eating Twitter (Stable Diffusion)

Der Mikroblogging-Dienst, 2016 in Jena initiiert, führte lange ein Nischendasein. Heute hat er knapp sechs Millionen Nutzer, Tendenz stark steigend. Seit Elon Musk Twitter übernahm und immer weiter nach rechtsaußen zu führen scheint, inklusive eines suspekten Referendums zur Wiederzulassung von Donald Trump, wechseln viele zu Mastodon. Auch staatliche Stellen wie das Bundespresseamt, das Bildungs- oder Innenministerium sind inzwischen auf Mastodon vertreten. Und unter dem Namen EU Voice gibt es einen eigenen Mastodon-Server für EU-Behörden.

Wie bei Twitter kann man textlastige Kurznachrichten veröffentlichen, die den jeweiligen Followern in ihrer Timeline angezeigt werden. Allerdings unterscheiden sich die dahinterstehenden Techniken deutlich.

Commons to NFTs

I'm very proud to present:

The seven essays in this book examine the desires and impulses that drive digital culture, focusing on the shift from commons to NFTs, from new forms of sharing to the expansion of private ownership and tradable commodities. They reveal just how much our culture has been transformed in the last 20 years, but also unearth surprising continuities between the commons and some of the truly experimental uses of blockchains.

Written by artists, researchers, curators and technologists from Europe, North America and East Asia, these essays bring much-needed first-hand experience and long-term perspective to the discussion.

You can order it from here.

Also check out the conference From Commons to NFTs we held on Nov. 11, in Ljubliana to launch the book and discuss recent developments.

Infrastructure of a Migratory Bird

I'm very proud to present a collaboration with Vladan Joler & Gordan Savicic. A map of the anthropogenic ecosystem assembled for the Northern Bald Ibis, with the goal of enabling wilderness in the Anthropocene. Check out the audio tours! Feedback welcome.

This diagram consists of a relational graph and three scales.

The graph shows relationships between social, technological, informational, and ecological elements which make up the anthropogenic ecosystem in which the bird is becoming wild again. It is divided into four quadrants. Top left are elements shaping the public’s understanding of and relationship to the bird. The top right comprises elements generating real-time data flows through which the birds are monitored and the rewilding project makes sense of itself. Bottom left are discontiguous locales connected and adapted to make room for the bird. Bottom right are institutional networks that make up the project, provide funding, and negotiate scientific value.

The scales show the spacial, monetary, and temporal dimensions of many of the elements that make up the relational graph. Thus, the scales provide another way of understanding these elements.

HAGAY DREAMING. A Vision of a Non-binary, Indigenous Technofuture

This review was originally published at Digicult, 1.11.2022, also in Italian and Chinese.

image source:

Hagay Dreaming, the most ambitious and radical work presented during Ars Electronica 2022 wasn’t even part of the festival proper. Rather, it was hosted in parallel by Stadtwerkstadt, an independent cultural venue in Linz. This “techno-fantasia guided theater of revival” has been initiated and schemed by Shu Lea Cheang, and written and directed by Dondon Hounwn, an artist working in installation and performance art, and a practicing shaman from the Truku tribe, one of the 16 recognized indigenous tribes in Taiwan.

The play is based on an ancient legend, dreamed up by Hounwn.

scobel - Kulturtechniken im Umbruch

Gert Scobel disktuiert mit Sybille Krämer, Dirk Becker und mir die Bedeutung von von Kulturtechniken im Kontext der digitalen Transformation. (08.09.2022)

Escape Velocity. Computing and the Great Acceleration. New Book(let)

Escape Velocity Cover

PostScriptUM #41
Series edited by Janez Fakin Janša
Publisher: Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, March 2022

After 70 years of acceleration, human civilisation has now reached escape velocity, enough energy to move the Earth system out of the steady-state of the Holocene, the relatively stable climate pattern in which human civilisation unfolded over the last 10,000 years, and into the uncharted, and as for now unchartable, territory that is the Anthropocene.

The notion of the “great acceleration” captures the fact that key socio-economic and Earth system indicators all share a common feature: they show a kink, a sharp upward movement from approximately 1950 onwards. These indicators point towards an unprecedented intensification and acceleration of human activity and self-destructive use of resources necessary to sustain this development under capitalism. Which begs the question: what happened in the early 1950s to enable this process? There is certainly no single answer to this question, my intention is to focus on one cause that has been relatively overlooked in this debate: computing.

Get the full text, open access or print-on-demand ► eBROCHURE (PDF) | ► PRINT ON DEMAND | ► LIST ON ISSUU

The ‘Known Unknowables’ of Quantification and the Paranoid Self.

This is my contribution to "Digital Unconscious – Nervous Systems and Uncanny Predictions!” Autonomedia 2021: Eds: Konrad | Becker, Felix Stalder You can get a nice printed copy directly from the publisher, Autonmedia.


Driven by the need to manage large-scale, complex systems in real-time, the notion of rationality shifted during the cold war. Rationality was no longer seen as something that required the human mind, but rather as something that was requiring of large, technical systems (Erickson et al. 2013). While the enlightenment idea of rationality emphasized reflectivity (as in ‘know thyself’) and moral judgments (as in Kant’s categorical imperative), this new notion emphasized objectivity (in the form of numbers) and the strict adherence to predetermined rules (in the form of check-lists, chains of command, and computational algorithms).

The study of the self has long resisted this shift. Throughout the 20th century, psychology, with almost all its variants based on individual introspection, remained the predominant mode of learning about oneself (Zaretsky 2005). Within the domain of psychology, the exception, of course, was behaviorism, which was strictly based on external observation and disregarded all accounts of mental states. Its impact on the study of the self was rather limited, due to its primary use being focused on learning about others rather than oneself, as well as its methodological and political groundings having been quite controversial. Its main proponent, BF Skinner, was, as Noam Chomsky (1971) put it, “condemned as a proponent of totalitarian thinking and lauded for his advocacy of a tightly managed social environment”.

From Commons to NFTs: Digital objects and radical imagination

Emilio Vavarella THE GOOGLE TRILOGY | Report a Problem. 2012

“From Commons to NFTs” is an (expanded) writing series initiated by Shu Lea Cheang, Felix Stalder & Ewen Chardronnet. Cautioned by the speculative bubble (burst) of NFTs, the series brings back the notion of commons from around the turn of the millennium to reflect upon and intervene in the transformation of the collective imagination and its divergent futures. Every last day of the month during the next six months Makery will publish a new contribution of this “chain essays”. First text by Felix Stalder. Further contributions by Yukiko Shikata, Michelle Kasprzak, Jaromil (Dennis Rojo), Cornelia Sollfrank, Tzu Tung Le, and Jaya Klara Brekke

New Book out: Digital Unconscious – Nervous Systems and Uncanny Predictions!

“Digital Unconscious – Nervous Systems and Uncanny Predictions!”
Autonomedia 2021: ISBN: 978-1-57027-387-2 193 Pages
Eds: Konrad | Becker, Felix Stalder

In hyper-normal hybrids the boundaries between man and machine have dissolved. Inside their nervous systems lies a strange but fascinating theme: the digital unconscious. Which forces act through algorithmic processes? What secrets be found in the shadowy realm of technology, welded to human nervous systems? How can the complexity of these relationships be described and what forms of access can cultural approaches offer?

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