Week 22 — tentacular thinking

I found a little poem this week

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone.

Earlier, when I was thinking about writing this, I felt a kind of fondness for all of you here, reading this, coming along on my journey with me.

Thank you for being here.

Calling for a More-Than-Human Politics
by Anab Jain

Have you heard of Superflux? This is a write up of a talk from Anab of Superflux fame. I wish I was there for the talk because the article is brilliant. Anab draws on lots of thinkers and writers who speak to me deeply, like Haraway and Stengers and Tsing and of course Le Guin. It’s really gorgeous.

The possibility of sitting with the discomfort of uncertainty and being open to multiple views of the world is difficult. Our prospective brains are not quite trained to maintain multiple worlds and views when simultaneously being forcefully told by all media possible what we should see, hear and believe. But, we all know, very well, the dangers of a singular narrative. Modernism was essentially an unquestioning pursuit of a ‘better future’ — and that is perhaps the reason we are in this situation.

By seeing the self not as an individual hero, but as one among many — human and non-human — a new kind of tentacular, multi-kind, multi-species politics of care might emerge. A politics which does not rely on oppositional, binary, artificially constructed world views, one that is not obfuscated by the right and left or the neoliberals and communists, or whatever it is that you choose to follow. A politics that gives us a new kind of relational agency to help us imagine alternatives for living with and through global warming. A politics which allows us to invent new practices of more-than-human care, humility, imagination, interdependence, resistance, revolt, repair, and mourning.

Emoji summary: 🌏 🐙 🥰

We Broke the World
by Roy Scranton

An emotive sandwich with a bunch of technical stuff in the middle. I keep thinking ‘this is the one link you should read this week’ but I’ve thought that about many of the texts this week. I guess it’s been a good Reading Week.

This quote, to whet your appetite, is the ending. It’s akin to reading the last page of the book so maybe go read the article first. Punch in the gut vibes.

So take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Really go look. Observe closely the skull beneath the skin, the sockets in which your limpid eyeballs rest, the fine lines of your neck and clavicles. Imagine your flesh rotting away, your cheeks sinking, your lips peeling back from your teeth.

Focus on the empty sockets looking back at you: the nothing from which you came, the nothing to which you will return. Meditate on the fact that everything and everyone you love will die and pass into dust. Remind yourself of how much and how many already have. Say their names. Remember.

Now practice saying goodbye.

Emoji summary: 🚨 ☠️ 🥵

The Surveillance Business
by Rob Lucas

I feel like there’s a greater number of devastating readings this week. Sorry. This is a book review about that book that was making the internet rounds ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff’. It’s a good review that is both critical and generous, and adds new information to the topic

From its outset the modern state was an information-gathering apparatus. Once mechanical and then electronic means of data storage and processing became available, they merely facilitated what had already long been happening. The Hollerith punch card and its descendants enabled the automation of data processing, including famously for Nazi concentration camps and the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Computer-based surveillance per se has roots in this longue durée history, which it is helpful to keep in view when attempting to periodize developments closer to the present. Through the 1970s, TRW—a corporation with interests in aerospace, automotives, electronics, computation and data processing—gathered masses of data on tens of millions of us consumers, for sale to potential creditors. And unsurprisingly given its range of operations, TRW was intimately entwined with the CIA. Though Zuboff’s attempt to read the founding of surveillance capitalism politically—as the act of specific people in a specific conjuncture—is admirable, it obscures this longer history of computation in state surveillance and its crossovers with the private sector. It is here that we find the most compelling reasons to worry.

‘Always historicise.’

Emoji summary: 👀 🌐 💻

The Misgendering Machines: Trans/HCI Implications of Automatic Gender Recognition
by Os Keys

I’m still chipping away at the whole ‘wtf am i doing for my dissertation’, though this paper was far too detailed for the level I’m at rn.

It’s an in depth analysis of facial recognition in the HCI field. It’s also a bit boring, but very thorough. No surprises, facial recognition is bad.

Emoji summary: 🤳 🧐 ⚧

An Apartment on Uranus
by Megan Milks

I was super lucky to go to Paul B. Preciado’s talk at the ICA. Thanks Rebecca! I read Testo Junkie in 2017. It’s a book to remember and I still refer to it now. The talk was amazing.

I read this article leading up to it to prepare. It does a good job of covering the range of his work, but not how bloody charming he is in person. Really the article link is just an excuse to effuse about how much I love him.

Emoji summary: 😍 🎤 🧑🏻

I had an intensive module at uni called Feminist Methods, a mix of theory and ‘practice’. Due to strike, Thus/Fri was cancelled and some of Thursday was squished into the longest Wednesday of my life. Finding emoji summaries for each text is untenable so you get one per day.

Day 1

Today was a lot about decided what our projects would be and starting to develop them as ideas. Nirmal gave examples of some of her work as well, including the two readings below.

Carrying As Method by Nirmal Puwar is an unpublished piece that draws on a lot of the themes from an earlier module. Gone is the notion of the researcher as some obective, neutral party

… we all carry incidents and experiences from the past with us. Encounters, connections and relationships influence and impact on the research we undertake. We are embodied beings as knowledge makers.

Again by Nirmal Puwar, The Archi-texture of Parliament: Flaneur as Method in Westminster documents her work with the archivist at Parliament, writing a feminist account of the actual space, esp from the suffragettes.

Making feminist heritage work: Gender and heritage by Anna Reading. Reading starts by outlining the need for feminist heritage work

A more productive way of understanding gender in relation to heritage is to frame it in terms of how changing constructions of masculinity and femininity interact with what is valued and included as heritage.

for example, the priority of

military and industrial heritage in ways that privilege masculine perspectives.

She then goes on to talk about the digitalisation of heritage and the continued need for feminist methods.

Emoji summary: 🙋‍♀️ 📜 🧺

Day 2

The morning was a guest lecture by Laura Watts, a self-described ‘ethnographer of futures’. It was organised by the Design dept and so focused on the more visual side of her work, but I really liked was how multi-faceted it was.

In her presentation, we got a glimpse of the poetry and storytelling and art but in the questions, more and more came out about her theoretical and policy-based work. It’s quite wonderful to see such a multi-disciplinary practice, especially in the social science / academic space where multidisciplinary usually means two different types of theorists.

Also, I learned a bit more about Orkney Islands and now I’m desperate to go there. The reading was an excerpt from her book Energy at the End of the World: An Orkney Islands Saga

In the afternoon, New Materialisms. Hard pass.

We read 2 chapters of The Force of Things by Jane Bennett and Glitter: Following the Material by Rebecca Coleman. At one point, I asked one of the tutors what New Materialisms add that is not already being worked through in different theoretical areas. They could not answer.

Also, the very crafty type of practice work was a bit eye-rolling for me. Coming from a design undergrad at an arts college, it felt very amateur.

The one good reading was Ch 5 “Awash in Urine” in Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene by Donna Haraway. I read the book last year and it is amazing, so no hardship rereading this chapter. Haraway is lush.

Emoji summary: 🌊 ⚡️ ✨

Day 3

This was a full day, plus one session from the missed strike day in the evening. 9:30am-8pm is quite long for this intensive, group work.

Birthing Racial Difference: conversations with my mother and others by Gail Lewis. This article is so powerful! Please read it, it’s not pay-walled. It’s hard to read it without crying and really exemplifies the power of auto-ethnography. We read a smaller section of it again in class while listening to the song from the article. I can’t stop thinking about it.

We also read another autoethnographic article about mothering, the content of which was whatever but enabled an interesting discussion about the value and risks of this type of work.

Another Nirmal Puwar: Mediations on the Making of Aaj Kaal. Nirmal’s work is great. It’s been nice having her as a tutor. The video she examines ‘Aaj Kaal’ is also pretty wonderful.

Oh my god we aren’t even done.

There were 2 readings for the last session, which was about drawing and run by Catherine Hahn from the Visual Cultures dept.

What Do Drawings Want? by Michael Taussig was quite a theoretical exploration into drawing, while The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic by Emma was just an example of what drawing can do.

The session was actually super great, though we were all a bit delirious with fatigue. It gave me some ideas for pushing my project AND made me want to create. I used to draw and paint (not well, but who cares) before I went to art school. The irony.

Emoji summary: 👧🏾 🎥 ✏️

The end of the poem from the beginning.

All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.


Emoji summary is 100% nicked off my favourite art critics The White Pube. They said they don’t mind.