SP13 Critical Frameworks: Herbert, Bratton, Hertz

January 5, 2013

In Critical Frameworks: Lab students engage with ideas-in-the-making, directly from the thought leaders and creative practitioners who are making them. In the class, guest instructors “workshop” ideas from a project that is underway or has just been completed, through readings, screenings, talks, and field trips. Students learn to orient themselves in a domain of new ideas and respond with “writing” that can take many different forms from tweets to ontological schemata to conference papers to short stories. Spring 2013 brings Shannon Herbert, Benjamin Bratton, and Garnet Hertz to the Lab.

Garnet Hertz: Critical Making

This module will explore the concept of critical making, a term coined by Matt Ratto that proposes that hands-on physical work—making—has a clear place in enhancing and extending the process of critical reflection. Students will explore readings in the field through Hertz’s recent Critical Making project—a handmade bookwork that brings together sixty authors who explore the concept that makers need to be critically engaged with culture, history and society. Students will produce visual or written responses to this work, and the module will conclude with the class using this content to produce and publish their own handmade zine.

Garnet Hertz is a contemporary artist and Fulbright Scholar whose work explores themes of technological progress, creativity, innovation and interdisciplinarity. Hertz is an Artist in Residence in the Laboratory for Ubiquitous Computing and Interaction at UC Irvine. He has shown his work internationally, including Ars Electronica, DEAF and SIGGRAPH and was awarded the prestigious 2008 Oscar Signorini Award in robotic art. He is founder and director of Dorkbot SoCal, a monthly Los Angeles-based DIY lecture series on electronic art and design. Hertz is adjunct faculty and thesis advisor in the MDP. conceptlab.com

Benjamin H. Bratton: 2 or 3 Things I Know About The Stack: Projects and Projections Toward the Acceleration of Integral Accidents

Weeks 5-8
As a regime, planetary computation operates at multiple scales, from cloud computing to addressable nanobots. Instead of thinking of this heterogeneity as an unstructured proliferation of incommensurable technologies, they should be understood as layers of an emergent hardware/software stack. The Stack is a megastructure built out of far-flung data centers, embedded urban applications, universal addressing schemes, weird quasi-sovereign geographies, and maniacal self-quantification. How might the emergent geopolitics of this architecture be designed? Each layer generates its own productive accidents: Westphalian geometries of State sovereignty are augmented by an emergent Cloud Polis, even Cloud Feudalism. Cities and mobile software spin out new rights and restrictions to a global hypercity based as much on the capitalization of gestures as the acceleration of mobility. IPv6 and other universal addressing schemes link objects and events into abyssal fields of information exchange. Monotheisms rush in to invest new interfaces with primordial scripts. Augmentation of skin with nanosensors introduces new genres of epidermal media and biopolitical securitization. How to intervene? Designing for the post-Anthropocene requires working across multiple scales at once, working backwards from catastrophic virtualities, and testing the breaking points of provisional totalities.

Benjamin H. Bratton is a theorist whose work spans Philosophy, Art and Design. He is Associate Professor of Visual Arts and Director of D:GP, The Center for Design and Geopolitics at the University of California, San Diego. His research is situated at the intersections of contemporary social and political theory, computational media & infrastructure, architectural & urban design problems, and the politics of synthetic ecologies and biologies. Current work focuses on the political geography of cloud computing, massively-granular universal addressing systems, and alternate models of ecological governance. His next book, The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty, is forthcoming from MIT Press. Bratton has been a frequent guest critic in the MDP. bratton.info

Shannon Herbert: Enacting the Archive

Weeks 9-12
Curators, archivists, and lexicographers emerged as central figures in late-Twentieth-century literature in response to the storage capacity of modern technology and the radical skepticism of contemporary epistemology. Unlike the detectives who peopled the novels of the late-Nineteenth-century, these characters collect and organize information, preferring performance to proof.  How do we perform facts? In this section, we will look at the role of aesthetics in shaping truths and playing the archival record.

Shannon Herbert recently completed her Ph.D. in English Literature at The University of Chicago. Her dissertation describes a new genre of contemporary fiction—which she calls curatorial novels—which resemble detective fiction but abandon the detective, staging a drama where information never attains the status of knowledge. The genre thus registers the tensions of a broader epistemological landscape: an excess of data but no stable ground of objectivity, a longing for certainty without the means of attaining it. She also teaches literature and writing courses at Santa Monica College. Herbert is adjunct faculty and thesis writing advisor in the MDP.