felix's blog

10 Theses on Assemblage Culture

These are notes for a talk I gave a few years ago (can't remember the exact occasion). I came across them now, and I think they are still valid and relevant.

Hannah Höch. Untitled (From an Ethnographic Museum), 1930 (detail)

Assemblage culture is based on the use of (parts of) pre-existing (material or informational) cultural objects in the creation of new cultural objects. Assemblage culture is an umbrella term incorporating numerous media-specific practices such as quoting, sampling, (re)mixing, montage, collage, editing.

  1. Assemblage culture emerges when a society becomes saturated by media objects. Saturation means that these objects become widely and easily available to a wide range of users.
    Historical sequence:
    printed text (quotations in scientific culture, 17th century)
    printed images (early collages, late 19th century)
    recorded audio (musique concrète, mid 20th century)
    moving images (found footage film, mid 20th century)
    computer code (free/open source software, 1980s)
    modifiable genes (?) (early 21th century)
  2. Every cultural work contains elements taken from other works. Digitization makes the processes of assemblage – mostly implicit (by way of reference) in analog media – explicit (by way of insertion and transformation), putting it at the center of cultural production. Quoting and referencing in (scientific) texts made this practice explicit already in pre-digital form, reflecting the ease of separating content from its carrier in print culture.
  3. The meta-medium networked computer brings all media to the point of saturation, thus creating the material basis for the expansion of assemblage culture.

Breakdown 2.0? Systemic blockages in late-stage statism and late-stage liberal capitalism

This is the short (I know!) version of a paper, written for the "25 Years of Network Society" Workshop, organized by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

I want to return to Castells’s analysis of the breakdown of Soviet statism. Today, the question of systemic breakdown is worth revisiting because from the theoretical structure of Castells’s account, a sharper perspective on our contemporary crisis, this time of liberal democracy, might be developed.

This might be counter-intuitive as the late Soviet Union seems far away from our current techno-capitalist world. One was a sclerotic system, closed, rigid, opaque and inflexible to the point of crumbling when attempting to reform itself, the other one prides itself of its transparency and its innovation capacity. Indeed, supposedly radical innovation, “disruption”, has become a ubiquitous and largely positive term in the business literature, a mantra in the popular, Silicon Valley-inspired discourse on the relation between technology and society, and a trope even in critical activist cultures. But underneath these obvious differences, there are systemic blockages that share certain similarities.

Limits to complexity: systemic blockages in the Soviet ‘statism’

03-30.11. 25 Years "Network Society", Barcelona (online)

2021 will mark the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first volume of Manuel Castells’ Trilogy. It is time to revisit the trilogy and explore the relevance of Castells’ pioneering work in the light of the current state of the network society and of the ways to research about it.

The aim of this workshop is to gather together scholars from a wide range of disciplines to engage with the Trilogy and debate on its contributions, legacies but as well shortcomings and new developments not envisioned at the time of its launch to try to develop a critical perspective on future trajectories of the network society and the information age.

I participated in panel 3: "The Geopolitics of the Network Society" with a paper entitled "Breakdown 2.0? Systemic blockages in late-stage statism and late-stage liberal capitalism".

Micro Review: What Tech Calls Thinking

You can read the entire thread here .

Micro Review: Blockchain Chicken Farm

Read the full thread here.

Micro Review: Machtmaschinen

Den ganzen Twitter Thread kann man hier lesen.

16.-17.10 Momentum Kongress

Momentum Kongress 2020: Republik, 16 & 17.10. (online)

Track #8: Öffentliche Güter und Räume jenseits von Staat und Markt

Trackmoderation: Felix Stalder

  • In welchen Lebensbereichen sollen Gemeingüter neu geschaffen und gestärkt werden?
  • Wie können digitale Infrastrukturen für gemeinschaftliche Projekte genutzt werden?
  • Was macht bzw. machen inklusive Kunstprojekte im öffentlichen Raum möglich?

    Teilnehmer:innen und Ablaufplan, Track 8

  • The Pandemic as Smart City Laboratory

    I really think anyone who makes predictions now is a fool.
    It's a little bit like trying to predict the future of foreign policy in October 2001.
    Evgeny Morozov, interviewed by Holly Herndon & Matt Dryhurst, May 11, 2020.

    The Covid-19 pandemic is both an urban and technological phenomenon. 95% of all diseases have so far been registered in cities. From the starting point in Wuhan, via the metropolitan region of Lombardy, Paris, Madrid, New York, Rio de Janeiro to Moscow, the virus spreads mainly within large cities. This is hardly surprising, since not only does the higher density favor the local spread of the virus from person to person, but the virus also arrives first in the large cities. They are the central nodes of the hypermobility of people and goods that characterizes the neoliberal phase of globalization. From this perspective, tourist hotspots like Ischgl are temporary cities in the mountains. Whether the hypermobility, which has been largely brought to a standstill at the moment, will be fully revived is not yet clear. That the global trend towards urbanization will be broken is very unlikely. So much can be confidently predicted.

    Map of all the 5384 people whose Covid-19 infection could be traced back to the ski resort of Ischgl, Austria. (Source)

    17.06. Digitalität Post-Covid (emc Wien) (online)

    Gastvortrag und Diskussion. ecm - educating/curating/managing. Masterlehrgang für Ausstellungstheorie & -praxis

    18.00–19.30 Digitalität Post-Covid

    Aufbauend auf dem Text "Erfassen und Modellieren. Covid-19 und die Politik von «Big Data»" und dem Projekt "Sleep Battle" (Stadtwertkstatt Linz, 2018) diskutieren wir, wie der Digitalisierungschub durch Covid-19 unsere Wahrnehmung verändert, die Potentiale für offnen Umgang mit big data und die Rolle von Museen und anderen "memory institutions".

    16.06. Ringvorlesung: Art and Digital Culture (AdBK, Nürnberg) (online)

    Prof. Dr. Felix Stalder: Zur Kultur der Digitalität



    10. Juni 2020, 18 Uhr

    In der Ringvorlesung werden verschiedene Implikationen von Digitalität in Alltagskulturen wie auch in der zeitgenössischen Kunst thematisiert und ihre kulturgeschichtlichen, gesellschaftlichen und ökonomischen Auswirkungen diskutiert. Die immer weiter zunehmende Bedeutung digitaler Technologien für die zeitgenössische Kunst wird von Künstler*innen, Kultur- und Medienwissenschaftler*innen, Designer*innen und Kurator*innen im Hinblick auf aktuelle Entwicklungen zur Sprache gebracht.

    Felix Stalder ist Professor für Digitale Kultur und Theorien der Vernetzung an der Zürcher Hochschule der Künste und freier Autor in Wien. Er beschäftigt sich mit dem Wechselverhältnis von Gesellschaft, Kultur und Technologien und forscht u.a. zu Netzkultur, Urheberrecht, Commons, Privatsphäre, Kontrollgesellschaft und Subjektivität. Stalder ist zudem Vorstandsmitglied des World Information Institute in Wien, Mitglied des freien Forschungsprojekts "Technopolitics" und langjähriger Moderator der internationalen Mailingliste .

    Ausgehend von seiner gleichnamigen Publikation wird Felix Stalder die zentralen Aspekte seines Verständnisses der "Kultur der Digitalität" (erschienen 2016 im Suhrkamp Verlag) vorstellen.

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