Tag Archives: Aesthetics

Exploring identity politics


Technology is able to infer relationships between objects that might otherwise require a curator or human interpreter to describe. Both the instruments pictured above were used to brand or define. The devil is in the details. (via catherine styles)
As part of his ‘Mining the museum’ installation at Maryland Historical Society in 1992–93, artist Fred Wilson placed a set of shackles in a display case with fine silverware and titled it Metalwork. Pow. United by the metal of their fabrication, the racially-divided, hierarchical histories of these objects dramatically distances them:

Who served the silver? And who could have made the silver objects in apprenticeship situations? And […] whose labour could produce the wealth that produced the silver?

A general principle can be distilled from this. Perhaps: In the very moment we identify a similarity between two objects, we recognise their difference. In other words, the process of drawing two things together creates an equal opposite force that draws attention to their natural distance. So the act of seeking resemblance – consistency, or patterns – simultaneously renders visible the inconsistencies, the structures and textures of our social world. And the greater the conceptual distance between the two likened objects, the more interesting the likening – and the greater the understanding to be found.

This simultaneous pulling together and springing apart of the sociophysical world interests me, and I’ve been thinking about it in relation to Sembl, where the challenge of the game is to identify a way in which a given object is related – surprisingly or humorously or otherwise interestingly – to another object.

What constitutes ‘interesting’ is of course difficult to define and depends to a large degree on the particular players playing. But if the natural conceptual distance between the two related objects is great, the relationship is more likely to be interesting – perhaps because it enables you to think about something in a new way. That’s what made Wilson’s juxtaposition of shackles with silver tableware interesting, and powerful.

Robotics I | ISEA2011 Istanbul | The Robot State

The papers/events at ISEA2011 present a smorgasbord of interesting reading from robotics to embodiment, augmentation, virtualization, sensory modes and cultural perceptions.

Oh to be in Istanbul now that ISEA 2011 is there!

“If/Then” by Ken Feingold (2001) – Existential AI Chatbots

Art presages popular culture again.

xkcd: AI


Randall Munroe reads my mind. Only he seems to be a thought or two ahead most of the time. I was there with the chatbots but I did not see them at burning man. Yet. And also, I’m still trying to understand what is with the family car decals over here. Every second car has them. If you’re in the school queue we already know. And if you’re not, we don’t care. Why bother? Maybe my fantasy car decal has minions surrounding every business car and inserting symbolic children into/onto them.