Technology and Culture Reading Group

TCRG – School of Culture and Communication – University of Melbourne

Month: May, 2013

TCRG May 28: Perceptual Technics (Sterne)

by lukevanryn

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“Perceptual technics did for perception what ergonomics did for work” (19).

This week sees us shift interfaces to formats with a chapter from Jonathan Sterne’s MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke UP, 2012) courtesy of Suneel. In the chapter Sterne discusses the relation between psychoacoustics and its influence over perceptual coding in hearing research. He argues that psychoacoustics and its use of sound measurement technology brings with it a set of discursive rules which guide investigations in human hearing and sound technology, thus “discussions of the psychology relating to the MP3 are conditioned by the philosophical, cultural, and political sensibilities of psychoacoustics” (p.19). The term “perceptual technics” is used to refer to a field of research that was used to economise signals. For example AT&T in the 1920s tuned the phone system to the range necessary to understand human speech and thereby created and then monetized surplus bandwidth.

We’ll meet as usual in the Pierre Gorman Room, 1888 Building. All are welcome.

[PDF, 5.7MB] Sterne, J. (2012) “Perceptual Technics” MP3: The Meaning of a Format. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 32-60, 258-263.

tcrg May 21: Mocking the Kinect

by lukevanryn

ImageFrom Bjorn comes this week’s reading, a report on the social use of Microsoft’s Kinect gaming system. As the authors note, the marketing for the Kinect focuses on the ‘immediacy’ of the interface. What the authors find through fieldwork in homes is that Kinect play takes on an absurd quality, due partly to the affordances of the interface and partly to domestic politics:

Who they are, what they have done in the past, or what rights they have viz-a-viz others in the home setting, all this is immaterial to the Kinect but not to those who play. For we have seen that the socially constructed experience of Kinect we have described ends up having a carnival-like quality.

We will meet as usual in the Pierre Gorman room, 1888 Building, at 5pm. All are welcome.

[PDF] Harper, R., & Mentis, H. (2013). The mocking gaze: the social organization of kinect use. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 2013 conference on Computer supported cooperative work, San Antonio, TX.

Wolfe’s “Before the Law” reviewed

by lukevanryn

Katie Ledingham reviews Cary Wolfe’s new book in EPD.

Wolfe, Cary 2012 Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in a Biopolitical Frame, reviewed by Katie Ledingham | Society and Space – Environment and Planning D.

We’ve read and enjoyed Wolfe’s work before: chapters from Dorsality and What is Posthumanism? We may have to read a chapter form this too.

TCRG May 14, 5pm: Embodiment and the Mobile Interface

by lukevanryn

From Dale comes this week’s reading from Jason Farman’s Mobile Interface Theory (Routledge, 2011). In this chapter, Farman develops a framework for understanding the relationship between individual subjectivity and mobile interfaces (such as those of a mobile phone, portable device or location-aware technology) in situated/embodied space. Farman begins by drawing on Lefebvre’s notion of relational space, in which – to quote Lefebvre – “each living body is space and has space: it produces itself in space and also produces that space”. He then argues for an understanding of the interface which views the relationship between bodies, subjectivity and technological interfaces as always inherently intertwined.

Drawing on post-structuralist and phenomenological scholars such as Derrida, Lacan and Merleau-Ponty, Farman writes that mobile interfaces offer

a form of intersubjective embodiment that gives [users]…a sense of embodied integrity that is aware of the self’s place as that which is always already situated in relationship to the location of others…The self’s identity extends beyond the immediate context and encompasses a much broader socio-spatial sphere. (p. 27)

Due to a strike, we will meet at Tsubu at the new time of 5pm, on Tuesday May 14. We look forward to seeing you then!

[PDF, 7MB] Farman, J. (2011) “Embodiment and the Mobile Interface” Mobile Interface Theory New York: Routledge (ch.1, pp.16-34).

TCRG May 6, 5pm: The Autonomy of Gesture

by lukevanryn

ImageIn our recent discussions on interfaces, the increasing popularity of gestural interfaces, from touchscreens to Kinects has appeared again and again. Accordingly, this week we’re reading an essay on gesture by Soenke Zehle, whom some of us met at #code2k12. Through a reading of Agamben, Zehle produces a sophisticated discussion of motion capture, friction-free capitalism and the patenting of life:

In the case of Apple, there is no question that the tight grip the popular company keeps on its mobile customers serves to illustrate Agamben’s claim, from the patent- protected guidance of user motion via its touch-based interfaces to the reliance on a satellite-based spatial infrastructure and a cloud-based ecosystem that encloses its customers in a single ecommerce platform and encourages them to rely on the centralized storage of their data.

To prevent clashes with PhD coursework classes, we have moved to 5:00 pm. The venue remains unchanged: Pierre Gorman Rm, 1888 Building.

[PDF] Zehle, S. (2012). The Autonomy of Gesture: of lifestream logistics and playful profanations. Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Critical Theory, 13(3), 341-354.

[CFP] Triple C special issue, “Critical Visual Theory”

by lukevanryn

[CFP] Triple C special issue, “Critical Visual Theory”

From Robbie comes this call for papers for a special issue of Triple C, edited by Peter Ludes (Jacobs University Bremen) Kathrin Fahlenbrach (Hamburg University) and Winfried Nöth (São Paulo Catholic University).

The overall task of this special issue is to combine critical insights into current economic, technical, political, cultural, and ecological dimensions of transnational and global visual communication. The papers to be included in this issue should make use of critical theories to advance a better understanding of visual information technologies in general and of strategies of veiling financial, military, economic, religious interests in particular. A special focus will be on current forms of surveillance of public and private life.