pattern.en.paternalism is a contribution proposed to Pattern, a web mining module initiated by the Computational Linguistics & Psycholinguistics research center at the University of Antwerp. The pattern.en.paternalism feature should allow one to detect if and to what extent a text could be considered ‘paternalist’.
We launched the experimental development of this feature in an attempt to understand the actual conditions, context and work of annotation involved in the practice of datamining. As we slowly got to grips with the way human actors are collaborating with algorithms in establishing patterns for future recognition, we realised how much the common-sensical nature of data-mining is geared towards producing predictable, conventional and plausible results. In other words data-mining avoids surprises while promising to let the data ‘speak for itself’. We started to wonder where to locate difference, ambiguity and dissent.
pattern.en.paternalism is one of the many ways that Constant, an association for art and media active in Brussels since 1997, has been paying attention to algorithmicity and its consequences. This report opens up some of Constant’s methods and tactics, and shows how the vectors of Free software, copyright alternatives and (cyber)feminism continue to orient our collective work.
Algorithmic Cultures and Security: fourth gathering in the Posthuman Glossary series
@ BAK, Utrecht (NL)
With: Matthew Fuller, Maria Hlavajova, Rosi Braidotti, Luciana Parisi, Matteo Pasquinelli
MakeHuman is a popular open source 3D computer graphics middle-ware for the modeling of 3-Dimensional humanoid characters. The software is developed by a community of programmers, modelers and academics.
Our interest in MakeHuman was triggered during GenderBlending, an event where a participants from various backgrounds experimented at the contact zones of gender and technology.
A signature feature of the MakeHuman interface is a set of horizontal sliders, suggesting that by interpolating settings for gender, race, weight and age, any ‘human’ representation can be ‘made’. While the neat arrangements of parameters for operating on incomparable and interconnected properties is already troubling in itself, further inspection reveals an extremely limited topology, rendering the promise of infinite possibilities a mere illusion.
Despite the suggestion that the digital dis-burdens bodies from normative parameters, software like MakeHuman actually operates on problematic categorical divisions that are all-too familiar.
Aiming to address concerns and insights regarding the way the body and the human being are being co-constructed through technology, we have started to formulate a bugreport. In the context of Daemons & Shellscripts we would like to test out and discuss a performative lecture in the making, a ‘report on the report’.
Coming from different backgrounds (Femke from media-design, Xavier from animation-art and Adva from dance and choreography), our respective inquiries about the relationship between body and technology meet at times through our practices and perspectives. For The MakeHuman bugreport we will combine those to not only convey words, but actions and images as well.
Relearn is a summerschool which welcomes persons, artists, students, teachers from all backgrounds and disciplines. Participants will gather to learn from and teach to each other, beyond the traditional paradigms of education.
Free, Libre and Open Source Software plays a fundamental role at Relearn, as it facilitates a different approach to the tools we commonly use in our practices and lives. For instance, it can allow us to understand the influence that tools themselves exert on the way they are used, or the different social relations and economies that are formed between who creates and uses them. Such a questioning approach to technology feels urgent, in a time in which more and more social, political and personal issues are addressed by solely technological means.
In continuation with the previous editions, Relearn will research convivial, experimental and deviant methods and means in the fields of design, computing and education, challenging the normal roles and separations in them (teacher/student, developer/user, art/life…).
On the website you can find additional information on some of the topics and sessions that will be part of the summerschool.
You are welcome to join Relearn from the 20th of August till the 25th. It will take place in Bruxelles, at Zinneke (http://zinneke.org).
To participate, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org before July 1st, including a few lines about your interest in the summer school, what you want to bring, what you hope to find.
“Humanity is at a turning point in its history. The mass of available information is formidable. New instruments are necessary for simplifying and condensing it, or the intellect will never know how to overcome the difficulties which overwhelm it, nor realise the progress that it glimpses and to which it aspires”. (Paul Otlet, Traité de documentation, 1934)
In 1993, the remains of Otlet’s extensive collection of documents were moved from Brussels to The Mundaneum Archive Center in Mons. Located in a former mining region in the south of Belgium, Mons is also right next to Google’s largest datacenter in Europe. Due to the re-branding of Otlet as a ‘founding father of the Internet’, and ‘visionary inventor of Google on paper’, his oeuvre received international attention. Simultaneously, local politicians are ceasing the moment, making The Mundaneum a central node in their rhetorical promise of turning the industrial heartland into a home for The Internet Age. Google — grateful for discovering their posthumous francophone roots — signed a collaboration contract with The Mundaneum in 2013. The archive center outsourced its digital archives to the search giant, allowing them to publish hundreds of documents on the website of The Google Cultural Institute.
Bringing the ever expanding entanglements gradually to light, a band of artists, archivists and activists formed. Wanting to make a difference from how geographically situated histories are meshed into generic slogans, concerned by faltering local governments pushing cultural infrastructures into the hands of global corporations and perplexed by the apparently still undigested dreams of universal knowledge, we decided to appropriate Mondothèque as a frame of reference. Imagined by Paul Otlet in 1934, La Mondothèque was to be a ’thinking machine’: archive, link generator, desk, catalog and broadcast station at the same time. The dreamed capacity of Mondothèque to combine scales, perspectives and media started to function as a diffraction device, as a platform to envision our modest but persistent interventions together.
Presentation in the context of the Public Library, Multimedia Institute – mi2, Zagreb (Croatia).
With: Dušan Barok (Monoskop); Anthony Davies & Rosemary Grennan (MayDay Rooms); Kenneth Goldsmith; Sebastian Lütgert & Jan Gerber (Open Media Library); Alberto Manguel; Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak (Multimedia Institute); María G. Perulero & Celia Gradín (Platoniq); Noa Treister (The Ignorant Schoolmaster and His Committees); Dubravka Sekulić; Što, kako i za koga / WHW.
Machine-learning algorithms that partially automate data processing still need to be trained for every new form, or every new kind of topic the algorithm might deal with. (…) Such work of alignment is not a bug — it is the condition of possibility for keeping humans and automation working in the same world.1
During Cqrrelations (“poetry to the statistician, science to the dissident and detox to the data-addict”), we developed the pattern.en.paternalism feature.
From the start we were interested in how a Gold Standard is established, a paradoxical situation where human input performs truth, but is simultaneously made invisible. Annotation here means the manual work of ‘scoring’ large amounts of data that can than be used for ‘training’ algorithms. This scored data becomes a reference against which data-mining algorithms are trained and tested.
The first piece in this series was written and then sent to the next contributor, and each subsequent person was only allowed to read what the person prior to them had written.
Looking outwards, what are the boundaries of gendered inclusion and exclusion in digital spaces? Looking inwards, who are the ‘we’ of cyberfeminism? Who participates? How should they participate?
Histories of the Feminist Server(s) is a contribution to Lady Justice (“Reconsidering gender and technology in the age of the distributed network”), a feature for New Criticals (“New criticism of all that exists”), produced by Tamsyn Gilbert. With: Steph Alarcon, Christina Dunbar-Hester, Seda Gurses, Jara Rocha, Femke Snelting, Sophie Toupin.
Surviving many flavours of chaos (thanks to a possibly over-ambitious plan to offer 90+ students a random selection of 3 out of 9 modules plus 3 lectures, taught by 10 different tutors, interfered with by numerous administrative constraints, on-going national strikes and a healthy resistance to anything involving discipline), we managed to celebrate the finale of Cultures Numériques. This experimental course at erg (école de recherche graphique, Brussels) was initiated by a group of tutors that wanted to develop a common vocabulary of the digital between students and tutors, criss-crossing through various ways one can engage with it’s cultures. The course was obligatory for all first years and gravitated around contributions to a common wiki.
[W]hat then, would become of it — this context — if transferred? — if translated? Would it not rather be traduit (traduced) which is the French synonyme, or overzezet (turned topsy-turvy) which is the Dutch one?1
“How do supports of writing — a book or a single piece of paper, pencils, typewriters or internet pages — work on our thoughts? How do ‘chance supports’ (a train ticket, the back of an envelope, the margin of a book) challenge common ideas and practices of archiving, binding, displaying, reproducing, translation?”
With Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield, Nick Thurston we contributed artist talks and performative readings, adding to the rich collection of material (books, references, ideas) that Kristien had brought together. It was a welcome opportunity to revisit many familiar themes, an occasion for a re-take of A Romance of Many Dimensions and a first try-out of Technical Writing.
My first three month at Akademie Schloss Solitude are nearly over. But just before leaving, I had the pleasure of a visit from Laurence Rassel. In Herman’s library at the Schloss we served tea, cookies and conversation.
In 1934, documentalist Paul Otlet wrote: “Humanity is at a turning point in its history. The mass of available information is formidable. New instruments are necessary for simplifying and condensing it, or the intellect will never know how to overcome the difficulties which overwhelm it, nor realise the progress that it glimpses and to which it aspires”. Otlet considered radio, cinema, micro-fiche, phonograph and television all worthy substitutes for the book as information carrier. He envisaged them interconnected into a ‘radiated library’, an intellectual multi-media machine that would support the publication, consultation and creation of knowledge.
From industrial heartland to the Internet age (screen-capture). Video published by The Mundaneum, 2014
Since 1993, the remains of Otlet’s extensive collection of documents are being cared for by The Mundaneum archive center in Mons. Located in a former mining region in the south of Belgium, Mons is also right next to Google’s largest datacenter in Europe. Due to the recent re-branding of Otlet as ‘founding father of the Internet’, and ‘visionary inventor of Google on paper’, The Mundaneum has called international attention to his oeuvre. The Internet giant thankfully accepted the gift of posthumous francophone roots, and adopted The Mundaneum in return.
‘The Internet on paper’ traces various narrations of media in and around the work of Paul Otlet. It is a contribution in the context of Mondothèque, a platform for experiments by artists, archivists and activists concerned about the state of infrastructures for knowledge production.
The production of Free Software happens within a legal framework that guarantees all users the right to run as well as study, modify, and distribute source code for any purpose. It allowed a vibrant ecosystem of networked communities to flourish, forming what Christopher Kelty has described with the term ‘recursive publics’. Software consists of hundreds of individual files and interconnected libraries that are being operated on by many different people. For managing those multifaceted objects, Distributed Version Control helps to keep track of files, visualising ‘differences’ between subsequent versions. Distributed Version Control is a type of meta-software that has become the norm in managing code development, changing the understanding of Free Software production through its orientation towards ‘forking’ rather than ‘merging’ projects. Where the heightened attention for difference could draw collaborators together to discuss and merge conflicts, the mechanisms built into Distributed Version Control makes forking a code base an easier option. Automatic Merge Failed is a close reading of the way ‘difference’ is encoded into software, and insists on it’s centripetal potential.
What is the attraction of an algorithm? Do servers have a gender? Can a book be a disobedient object? Is it possible to understand an infrastructure as a poetics?
Sunday afternoon in the library, a conversation with Jara Rocha about Objetologías, a line of research she carries together with Josianito Llorente, Jaron Rowan and Carla Boserman. Working on the aesthetics and politics of objects and technologies, Objetologías speculates about the potential of relations between humans and non-humans. Their attempt at a post-humanist approach brings together studies of culture, science and technology, actor-network theory, new materialisms, speculative realism, futurology and affects theory. Objetologías considers the ethic, erotic, aesthetic and political agency of objects and studies their material conditions in a broad sense: scale, durability, weight, volume, attraction, dispersion. Objetologías shifts attention to ontologies rather than the social use of objects and technologies, allowing processes of individuation, co-production and articulation to be understood as basic gestures that act symmetrically in a complex web of materiality.
Tea and cake served!
Jara Rocha is a cultural mediator, developing educational programmes at Bau School of Design in Barcelona. She works with materialities of infrastructure, queering practices and links both formal and non-formal ways of researching interface cultures. With Seda Guerses, Miryam Aouragh and Femke Snelting she participates in The Darmstadt Delegation.
The Traité de documentation : le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique is an almost hypertextual book on documentation, written in the 1930’s by Paul Otlet. It has many cross-references, tables and illustrations; at times it is written in encyclopedic style, turns into a passionate manifesto, speculative fiction, and a practical manual for librarians. The pdf I have is badly OCR-ed and too heavy for reading comfortably on a digital device. So this morning I transformed the digital version into something that I can print at a copy shop.
I started with extracting the images from the pdf with the help of the imagemagick convert command: