How human experience itself has become the new object of design. "A quick scan of our sociocultural landscape suggests that, in terms of artistic practices, mass entertainment, sports, and emerging technologies of pleasure, productive forces are increasingly targeting experience itself that evanescent flux of sensation and perception that is, in some sense, all we have and all we are.
The first in a series of Feed columns on "The Posthuman Condition." "Technology has always been a reflection of our images and understanding of ourselves, not to mention the larger social and political forces that inform subjectivity.... In pop culture and industry, robots and toylike automatons have already donned the guise of slaves, workers, musicians, playmates, beasts, warriors, and -- coming soon to a porno shop near you -- sex partners."
One of my Posthuman Condition columns for Feed. "Though we 'know' that electromagnetic modulations of the spectrum are no less material than waves of electrons cruising along a wire, wireless nonetheless amplifies the experiential sense that we live and move in a world of invisible intelligences, a magic world verging on telepathy."
Adventures Through Inner Space
Another Posthuman Condition: "In the far margins of legality, small crews of brave, compulsive, and sometimes wacked individuals continue to compile and share fact, anecdote, and lore about exotic and new-fangled psychoactives and the even more exotic combinations they allow. Think of these so-called 'psychonauts' as hobbyists of neural R&D."
Take The Red Pill
Another Posthuman Condition: "We have entered an era that sanctions the psychoactive use of commercial chemicals, not just to cure disease or even to relieve suffering, but to reformat who we feel we are."
From the SFMOMA catalog for the show 010101: Art in Technological Times. "We may have stumbled on the most hushed of eschatological secrets: that the apocalypse already happened. In other words, the implosion has occurred, or at least already begun, and yet life still demands to be lived, even if we are now posthumans living it."
Riding the Limit
An essay on limits, written just before 9/11. I still think the questions are relevant. "When you arrive on the shores of full designer reality, that nest of infinite parameters glimpsed by psychonauts, VR visionaries, and Singularity-watchers, what do you do? Where do you go? What organizes desire in a frictionless hyperspace?"
A heady lecture on Marshall McLuhan and the acoustic dimension of the Internet, delivered at the Xchange conference, Riga, Latvia, in November 1997. "Acoustic space isn't limited to a world of music or sound; the environment of electronic media itself engenders this way of organizing and perceiving the other spaces we intersect."
Don't Look Back
"...we are all science fiction writers now, at least potentially. The business of envisioning the future should not be a business but a calling for artists, mystics and soccer Moms alike."
The Joy of Sticks
A review of Van Burnham's fabulous Supercade, a visual history golden age videogames. "For folks of my generation, sandwiched between hippies and Gameboy mutants, Supercade drips with nostalgia. I cannot deny the serotonin boost provided by a glimpse of Dig Dug's begoggled character Pookah, or Burnham's description of bare-footed stoners grooving to Black Sabbath as they assembled the first Pong games in a rented Southern California roller-rink."
The Posthuman Touch
A review of How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, by N. Katherine Hayles. "With something like 10 percent of the population already dependent on doodads like digital pacemakers, cochlear implants, and artificial skin, the era of the cyborg has clearly arrived."
A review of Steven Johnson's book Emergence. "You start to recognize self-organization as a tendency or "law" only when you trace its behavior inside different zones of reality and then superimpose those maps on one another. This means that, in writing about self-organization, analogies transcend their usual role as pop science bric-a-brac and become tools of analysis."
Ken Goldberg's The Robot in the Garden
A Bookforum review. "Telepresence technologies lie on the edge of VR, like windows peeking out of the labyrinth of simulation."
Forging the Dragonslayer
From Wired magazine. "For Olson, the Dragonslayer project goes far beyond building a brand. The sword speaks to his own quest, both philosophical and practical, to transform matter into materials that people truly value....With his dragonslaying cybersteel, Olson hopes to engineer nothing less than a "spiritual material." "
Congratulations, It's A Bot!
It was only a matter of time before toy companies turned from plush interactive hairballs to digikinetic babies. Yours will be arriving shortly. From Wired magazine.
Dome Sweet Dome: Your Private Sky: R. Buckminster Fuller, The Art of Design Science,
"Over fifteen years after his death, Fuller remains an obstinately unclassifiable figure, a man whose many hats -- sailor, inventor, designer, ranter, mathematician, teacher, metaphysician, possible crackpot -- confuse any attempt to clarify his odd but considerable legacy, a legacy that goes well beyond his famous and now rather quaint geodesic domes."
The Soft Machine:
An alchemical Deleuzian ode to the kiddie goop fad. Perhaps my maddest piece. "Gak is metamatter, a gooey question mark, an ontological murk. It is at once the primal ooze and the apocalyptic SF Blob."
A media-saturated essay of the curious conjunction of the comet-Jupiter collision with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Apollo 11. "Twenty-five years ago, America took a crazed and awesome leap that set man (and television) on an alien orb; today, all we can do is sit back and watch as a solar system we like to think of as stable hosts a series of collisions that would pulverize continents on earth."
Wiring Baby's Brain
A Feed essay on baby technology. "Faced with new findings in neurobiology, not to mention signal saturation in the 3-to-the-grave market, mediatech producers are paying close attention to the cognitive demands of babies and toddlers."
One Trek Mind
"Star Trek science books ... represent an unusual mutation in the marketplace of scientific ideas. Rather than simply lecturing to the rabble, here scientists share their knowledge with peers -- fellow fans that is, who are already navigating the Alpha quadrant Paramount Studios has mapped between science and the popular."
It's a MUD, MUD, MUD, MUD World:
Anthropological notes from a summer of MUD addiction, circa 1993.
"My modem was my lifeline; material friends grew tired of my constant busy
signal and ceased calling. Increasingly unwashed, subsisting on toast, chips,
and other goods easily consumed at the keyboard, I let my body wilt in the
Barbed Wire Net:
Dispatches from the Net in the days following the destruction of the Albert Murrah Federal Building. "Charged with emotions bordering on atavism and whipped up by the unholy speed of information exchange, a host of demons, fetishes, and vengeful archetypes crawled onstage straight from white America's political unconscious."
A Wired feature on Char Davies' revelatory Virtual Reality art installation. "Moving through Davies's world, I feel at once immaterial and embodied, angelic and animal."
Connect This!: Connections2
An interview/essay on the British maestro of science TV. "All great educators teach you how to think more than what to think, and Burke teaches you how to think with TV."
Into the Myst:
A review. "If Myst were a book, you'd call it a mature work of Science Fantasy: a metafiction which blends technology and magic, tips its hat to Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Umberto Eco, and whose obsession with gears and pumps lends it a 19th-century 'steampunk' flavor."
An old, pre-millennium conversation with Manuel Delanda, robot historian, filmmaker, and Deleuzian desconstructor of the space-time continuum. "The mouth as an organ is completely stratified in nature, in the sense that it is connected to food chains, which are the most stratified form of life. Then the mouth goes through a bifurcation point, and, for instance, birds begin to sing to mark their territory. A mouth that had been completely stratified into taking in stuff that gets shat out becomes capable of making expressive noises."