network

<nettime> and the GDPR, sort of

To: nettime-l {AT} kein.org
Subject: and the GDPR, sort of
From: nettime mod squad
Date: Fri, 25 May 2018 19:51:41 +0200

Dear Nettimers,

Most of us have been drowning in emails asking us to confirm or simply continue to consent to being part of this or that mailing list, newsletter, etc.

Now that the deadline has passed and the laws are in place, it's as good a time as any to remind everyone that isn't a legal entity. It can't have (let alone enforce) a meaningful data-use or data-protection policy beyond what's stated in the footer of every nettime post, including this one. Since February of 1996, that footer has said -- 22 years ahead of the GDPR -- "no commercial use without permission."

Agency. Digitalität und Handlungsfähigkeit.

Felix Stalder

Der englischsprachige Begriff agency hat keine direkte deutschsprachige Entsprechung. Er wird meist mit Handlungsfähigkeit, Handlungsvermögen oder auch Handlungsmacht übersetzt. Gemeint ist damit die Fähigkeit eines Akteurs, innerhalb einer gegeben Situation nicht nur determiniert zu reagieren, sondern mit einer gewissen Offenheit auf sich selbst und andere Einfluss zu nehmen. Warum taucht dieser Begriff nun in einem Band zu Kulturöffentlichkeit und Digitalisierung auf? Wir gehen davon aus, dass durch den zentralen Stellenwert, den komplexe, dynamische Technologien der Kommunikation in der Konstitution von Öffentlichkeit(en) spielen, neue Formen von Handlungsfähigkeit entstehen. Die Digitalisierung verändert also die Akteure und damit die Dynamiken, wie Kultur wahrgenommen und reflektiert wird, tiefgreifend. Um diese besser zu fassen, ist eine Klärung des Begriffs für diesen Kontext sinnvoll.

Agency and the digital condition

The term agency is particular to the English language. It has, for example, no direct German equivalent. It is usually rendered by the German words Handlungsfähigkeit (ability to act), Handlungsvermögen (faculty for acting), and even Handlungsmacht (power to act). What is meant is the ability of an agent within a given situation to react not only in a predetermined way but also to influence oneself and others with a certain degree of freedom. Why, then, does this term appear in a book about the cultural public sphere and digitalization? We start from the assumption that as complex, dynamic technologies of communication play in central tole in constituting the public sphere(s), new forms of agency emerge. The digital condition thus profoundly affects the agents and dynamics in which culture is perceived and reflected. To better understand this, it makes sense to clarify the concept of agency in this context.

We Are All Bruno! From Unease with Technology to Empathy with Nature


Guerilla Girls, 1989

Monkey Selfie, 2011

It’s no good. The horse has bolted. The tipping point has been reached. The digital condition now shapes our lives. In the early 1960s Marshall McLuhan noted the demise of the ‘Gutenberg Galaxy’, which is to say, that epoch of (Western) culture decisively shaped by the printed word; and there is no mistaking, now, what has taken its place: a new condition – i.e. ‘forms of experience, philosophical viewpoint, and expression’– defined by the ubiquitous presence and inherent potential of networked communications and control. It is thereby incidental whether, or how, one uses these technologies oneself, for they have become part and parcel of everyday infrastructure, in similarity to other networks, such as power and water supply, or transport systems. Were any one of these to suddenly break down, our lives would change in a flash – and not for the better.

Wir alle sind Bruno! Vom Unbehagen mit der Technologie zur Empathie mit der Natur.

Es hilft nichts. Der Zug ist abgefahren, der Kipppunkt überschritten. Die Kultur der Digitalität ist die Form unseres Lebens. Nachdem Marshall McLuhan bereits Anfang der 1960er Jahre das Ende der ‹Gutenberg Galaxis› – also jener kulturellen Epoche (des Westens), die vom Buchdruck massgeblich mitgeprägt war – festgestellt hat, ist heute recht deutlich, was denn an ihre Stelle tritt. Eine Kultur, ‹Formen der Erfahrung, der geistigen Anschauungsweise und des Ausdrucks›, die geprägt ist von der Allgegenwart und den damit einhergehenden Möglichkeiten vernetzter Kommunikation und Steuerung. Dabei spielt es keine entscheidende Rolle ob, oder wie man selbst diese Technologien nützt. Sie sind zur Infrastruktur des täglichen Lebens geworden, ähnlich wie andere Netze: Strom, Wasser oder Strassen. Würde eines davon plötzlich ausfallen, unser Leben würde sich schlagartig verändern. Und nicht zum Guten.

Mireille Hildebrandt: On the Algorithmic Condition

Fantastic, wide-ranging and free flowing lecture on the Algorithmic Condition by Mireille Hildebrandt. She covers issues such as

  • Agency, Game Theory & Nudging
  • Categorization & Golden Cages
  • Outsourcing Cognition & Freedo
  • Uncertainty & the Burden of Proof
  • Cybernetics, Ambiguity & Objectivity
  • Assumptions, Biases & Watchdogs

This lecture / interview was conducted as part of the Painted by Numbers project of the Word-Information Institute. The lecture is 55 minutes long, and worth every minute. It complements nicely Stefano Harney's lecture / interview on Algorithmic Institutions conducted for the same project.

Grundformen der Digitalität

Der Jahrtausendwechsel erschien vielen Zeitgenossen, auch mir, als großes Nicht-Ereignis. Nicht nur das angekündigte Chaos der Computersysteme wegen des berüchtigten Millenium Bugs blieb weitgehend aus. Auch sonst war der 1.1. 2000 kaum vom 31.12. 1999 zu unterscheiden. Rückblickend kann man jedoch feststellen, dass um das Jahr 2000 tatsächlich ein epochaler Wechsel stattgefunden hat. Nicht von einem Tag auf den anderen, aber in relativ kurzer Zeit in einer Serie von Kippmomenten. Bereits lange andauerende Bewegunbgen haben eine kritische Masse überschritten und sind zur einer neuen kulturelle Umgebung verschmolzen. Am deutlichsten lässt sich dieses Kippen an der rasanten Ausbreitung des Internets nachverfolgen. Das Internet wurde in seinen Grundzügen in den 1970er Jahren entwickelt. Jedoch noch drei Jahre vor der Jahrtausendwende war es, zumindest in der öffentlichen Wahrnehmung, ein fast marginales Phänomen. Nur etwa sechs Prozent aller Deutschen nutzen das Internet zumindest gelegentlich. Drei Jahre danach waren es bereits mehr als 53 Prozent. Seitdem ist der Anteil weiter gewachsen. Für die unter 40-Jährigen lag er 2014 bei über 97 Prozent. Parallel dazu stiegen die Datenübertragungsraten deutlich, mit Breitbandanschlüssen fiel das Einwählen per Modem weg, das Internet war nun »hier« und nicht mehr »dort«. Mit der Ausbreitung mobiler Endgeräte ab 2007, dem Jahr der Einführung des ersten iPhone, wurde digitale Kommunikation flächendeckend und kontinuierlich verfügbar. Das Internet ist seither überall.

Technopolitics: New Paradigms. Transmediale Panel (3.02.2017)

With its Timeline project, premiered in Berlin as part of transmediale festival, the Vienna based Technopolitics Working Group set forth the task of analyzing and visualizing the current paradigm and emergence of Information Society. The panel New Paradigms discusses the changing role and place of humanity in a world shaped by rapid progress in areas such as AI, machine learning, robotics, algorithmic trading, and Biocomputing. By examining the past, the group looks for ways to overcome the structural crisis of Information Society today, questioning: Which historical tendencies might gain added significance in the immediate future? How can we avoid conceiving of paradigm change as just another economic expansion? In which ways can artistic practice meaningfully intervene and point towards a new political ecology?

Watch the discussion or listen to the audio only of the panel discussion.

Speakers: Gabriele Gramelsberger, Gerald Nestler, Felix Stalder, Jutta Weber

Algorithms we want

This is my talk at the Unboxing: Algorithms, Data and Democracy. It starts in German but the talk itself is in Englisch.

If you prefer to read, here is the manuscript of the talk.

Algorithms we need

Initially, I wrote this talk in German, but decided in the last minute to give it in English. However, I hate to translate my own texts. So the English you hear now is 85% machine translation and 15% corrections by me. Perhaps you can tell which is which. The accent is 100% me. Or should I say, Canadian English filtered through Swiss German? It's hard to draw boundaries, these days.

Anyway, let me start with three assumptions. First, we need algorithms as part of an infrastructure that allows social complexity and dynamics to meet our real challenges. Second, many of the algorithms are made poorly. I think, in particular, of those that shape day-to-day social practices, algorithms that do what sociologists call "social sorting" (David Lyon) or "automatic discrimination" (Oscar H. Gandy). However, this will be the third point, these issues of poor design are only part of the problem because there is no autonomous technology, even if it is called "intelligent" or "self-learning".

We need algorithms
When I talk about algorithms, I do not mean isolated computer code, but socio-technical systems and institutional processes that automate parts of decision-making.

Information Ecology (1997)

This is a very old text. In fact, one of the first I've ever written, from 1997. I re-post it here because it has now been included in the new MIT Publication "Information" (edited by Sarah Cook), which is "one of a series documenting major themes and ideas in contemporary art." Unfortunately, there was a mistake in editing and now it appears erroneously as "information economy". Similar, but not quite the same :)

It's still a good text, even if the McLuhanite language feels a heavy. But as a historic document I'm happy to see it re-published, particularly now that "ecological approaches" to media are once again becoming popular.

Information Ecology

A position paper (version 1.0) McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, FIS, UofT, 1997

"New media are not bridges between man and nature: they are nature." Marshall McLuhan, 1969

Media build an integrated environment based on flows of information. Increasingly, this environment provides the primary setting for human agency. Information ecology aims at understanding the properties of this environment in order to use its potential, avoid its dangers and influence its development positively.

Syndicate content