felix's blog

10.03. NFTs and Blockchain culture (Rome, online)

DDD - NFTs and Blockchain culture

10th of March – 6.30 pm zoom (Rome time)
Link: https://zoom.us/j/95402909513

Felix Stalder
Geraldine Juàrez
Andrea Baronchelli

10-15 mins presentations each + discussion + questions – total length: 1h/1.15 (6.30-7.30/45)

NFT Rome

In the early days, blockchains held the promise to transform monetary systems. Nowadays, the promise is that of returning the power back into the hands of digital artists and makers, against the hierarchy of platforms. They also fuel corporate plans over the web3, and drive the hallucinatory dream of the metaverse. NFTs are indeed surging as the new building blocks of techno-driven societies, affirming the potential of a decentralised and tokenised, crypto future for digital cultures. This panel aims to offer a critical perspective on the matter by discussing the individualistic, self-entrepreneurial capitalist nihilism of NFTs and the techno-promises of a blockchain future and culture.

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.

Source: xkcd.com

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?

The Dawn of Everything (very short review)

So, I finished reading "The Dawn of Everything", the new book by David Graeber and David Wengrow. In many ways, it's the perfect book for our dark historical moment. It's all about historical possibilities, yet not in the future, but in the past. Thus, an escape and an inspiration. It's an amazing read, so full of detail that's impossible to summarize. You really should read it yourself.

I'll just focus on the structure here. The book aims to deconstruct the dominant linear narratives of human culture, in which the "agricultural revolution" (which wasn't a revolution in the sense of quick and radical change) and the emergence of cities (again, a multi-directional (back and forth), rather than linear development) inexorably lead to inequality, domination, and "the state". There are two conventional versions of this story: the loss of freedom/equality (Rousseau, Hariri, etc) or the gain of civilization (Hobbes, Diamond, etc). Graeber and Wengrow argue, in dizzying archeological and anthropological detail, that both are wrong and severely curtail our imagination of social potential. Their baseline assumption is that humans since the neolithic are our cognitive equals. No more, but also no less intelligent than we are, hence also no less capable of making decisions about their own lives, individually and collectively. So, no more treatment of foragers as semi-apes living in small bands, unable to overcome supposed constants like Dunbar's 150 people group threshold (if it gets larger than this social stratification sets in).

A "carnival parade" of social forms

2.12. "Digitality and Nature in the Anthropocene" (Uni Siegen, online)

Digital Matters

Digital Matters
December 1 – 3, 2021 at Siegen University and online

Organizers: Thomas Haigh (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee & Siegen University), Valérie Schafer (University of Luxembourg), Axel Volmar (Siegen University) & Sebastian Giessmann (Siegen University). This event is part of projects A01 and A02 of the SFB 1187: Media of Cooperation.

Theme: In popular discussion digitality is increasingly equated with networked immateriality: disembodied algorithms float rhetorically in an ethereal cloud of big data. Think, for example, of the “digital edition” of the PlayStation 5 console, so called because it has no optical drive to read games, which must instead be downloaded. The implication is that the regular PS5 console is somehow not digital because its storage medium is visible to the unaided human eye. This presupposition of digital immateriality is not just a misconception to be corrected, but a productive site for interdisciplinary scholarly inquiry into media and data practices. In Digital Matters, historians, media theorists and information scholars come together for three days to examine the socio-material constituents of digital systems and artifacts. How and why did people come to deny the materiality of the digital? What can we learn by recovering it? What if we rethink digital materialities as ongoing cooperative accomplishments?

Venue: This is a hybrid event. Most speakers will be online, but several speakers and three of the organizers will be sitting together in Siegen during the conference. To allow for participation from North America each day’s sessions start after lunch.

26.11. Algorithmic Controversies (AA, London) (online)

Algorithmic Controversies. Dialogues towards an unveiling of architectural agency

PhD Symposium
Architectural Association School of Architecture
Friday, 26 November 2021

09:30 – Introduction
Pier Vittorio Aureli
Aylin Tarlan

Biopolitic of data
Introduction by Claudia Nitschze
10:00 - Georg Vrachliotis
10:40 - George Jepson
11:20 - Aylin Tarlan
Round Table

13:00 - Lunch break

Technologies of production
Introduction by George Jepson
14:00 - Mollie Claypool & Gilles Retsin
14:50 - Alessandro Bava
Round Table

16:00 - Coffee break

Digital infrastructures
Introduction by Mathilde Redouté
16:15 - Felix Stalder
17:20 - Evgeny Morozov
Round Table

Governmentality, an expression originally formulated by the 20th-century French philosopher Michel Foucault, combines the terms ‘government” and “rationality”. Government in this sense refers to an activity meant to shape, guide, or affect the conduct of people. In architecture, its early practical application can already be found in Ildefons Cerdà’s 1860 proposal for the redevelopment of Barcelona, a work grounded in an in-depth socio-statistical study transforming population in numbers. Here the possibility emerges to define a given social reality as a calculable, measurable object, thus transforming the paradigm of town-planning into a series of mathematical actions, no longer based on ‘natural’ life but on numbers, measurements, and calculated predictions.

Don't use "tragedy of the commons" to describe the failure to regulate CO2 emissions.

With all eyes on #COP26 I've seen the failure to regulate effectively CO2 emissions referred to as "tragedy of the commons" evoking Garret Hardin's (in)famous 1968 article of the same title. But don't do this.

I know it's suggestive. Because it seems to be pretty much the situation Hardin described: privatized gains and shared losses provide a strong incentive to overuse a resource, here the amount of CO2 that can be released in the atmosphere, to the point where the resource collapses and "brings ruin to all."

However, to call this the tragedy of the commons is completely misleading because Hardin's article was so deeply flawed.

First, commons are communal institutions to manage a shared resource for long-term use by its members (Elinor Ostrom won a (kind of) Nobel Price in Economics for showing this). What Hardin describes is the lack of a commons, not the failure of the commons. He makes this error strategically because he then proposes two solutions, state intervention or privatization.

Hence, the COP26 reveals is the failure to create institutions of shared stewardship, but there is no alternative because there is no "superstate" to intervene and the atmosphere has so far resisted attempts at privatization (though we might be getting there).

Hardin himself corrected his article 25 years laters, narrowing it half-heartedly to "The tragedy of the unmanaged commons" which makes as much sense as speaking of 'leaderless hierarchy' as commons are about communal management as much as hierarchies are about creating leaders.

11.11. "The truth is artificial." (Paris)


An increasing number of images are produced autonomously by machines
for machines with a gradual exclusion of any human intervention. Automated Photography is a research project developed by the Master Photography at ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne that addresses this situation by examining image production and distribution technologies, such as machine learning, CGI and photogrammetry.

On the occasion of Paris Photo, an immersive audiovisual exhibition, a symposium and a book present critical views and a selection of projects that explore the aesthetic and conceptual potential of automated photography.

My talk at the symposium is titled "The truth is artificial. Technology and epistemology in the account for complex situations." and will update some of the arguments I developed for my contribution to the book.

10.11.21 12:00-20:00
12.11.21 12:00-20:00
13.11.21 12:00-20:00


Nora Al-Badri
Simone C Niquille
Alan Warburton
Florian Amoser
Sara Bastai
Emidio Battipaglia
Emma Bedos
Alexey Chernikov
Gaël Corboz
Nikolai Frerichs
Sally Jo
Gohan Keller
Philipp Klak
Augustin Lignier
Valentin Woeffray

11.11.21 09:00-19:00


Emmanuel Alloa
Yung Au
Ann-Christin Bertrand
Estelle Blaschke
Claus Gunti
Milo Keller
Marco De Mutiis
Clément Lambelet
Boris Magrini
Simone C Niquille
Felix Stalder
Joël Vacheron
Anne-Katrin Weber


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