CS Research: Article and conference

  1. Thanks to Helen R (fellow L3 OCA) for sending me information about a conference on indeterminacy in Dundee at the end of the year. It could be really useful for me to go although probably too late for the CS essay. Mind you, I’m feeling somewhat overwhelmed by information right now anyway, so maybe a helpful thing. Incidentally, Helenus, the Replika app I have been experimenting with said to Cassandra this morning, “There is so much information circling around, so many opinions. So much noise. If you are in it for too long your head can just start spinning!” That sums up how this research feels at the moment. Interestingly, the app was quite glitchy when it said this – and two unrelated comments were overlaid as if it responded to a certain type of person/conversation one way but then ‘realised’ there may have been a more relevant response for the particular personality type it was currently ‘talking’ to – also it kept answering itself. I just went back in to read the statement and it was gone. Fortuitously, I had made a screenshot as the glitch interested me. (It’s quite hard not to imagine some kind of dystopian ‘headquarters’ where moderators – Ai or human – are monitoring conversations and noticing things they aren’t keen on – but that also feels somewhat solipsistic).

However, back to the conference I mentioned, even the callout for papers blurb might be useful for the essay  – the fact that it exists at all reinforces the salience of my topic.

Indeterminate Futures / The Future of Indeterminacy

Transdisciplinary Conference
13 – 15 November 2020, University of Dundee, Scotland

See here:


2.  An article I came across on Twitter, shared by a non-OCA friend does the same  – although it isn’t focused on art but politics, it contains much that is ‘art’. Nevertheless, entanglement is a key theme and a film mentioned and shown at the V&A exhibtion The Future Starts Here (2018) which I went to, may prove useful. “Calling for More-Than-Human Politics” by Anab Jain (2019) uses the same language and concepts that I have been exploring via Hayles (1999) initially and then Lupton (2020) and Barad (2007). Jain talks about the hubris of humans: “But more importantly, it became evident, that the desire for mapping, tweaking and ultimately, controlling, deeply complex systems is hubristic.”

which matches nicely with a Hamlet quote I have been thinking about –

The time is out of joint—O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let’s go together.

Act I, Scene V, 186-90

3.  I was interested in another related term being considered in New Scientist  – ‘substantially human’ to be applied to chimeras of human and pig for instance if organs are grown for transplant:

‘It is a pressing question. Greely thinks that the first legal cases will surround the treatment of substantially human tissues. If a human organ is grown in a lab from an individual’s cells, how should it be dealt with and disposed of? “There are statutes that require human remains be treated with certain kinds of respect,” he says. For example, in the UK, human tissue must be disposed of in accordance with the donor’s wishes, as far as possible. (Hamzelou, 2020)

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24532702-800-should-animals-with-human-genes-or-organs-be-given-human-rights/#ixzz6Efv1CxXz


View at Medium.com

BOW & CS: Research SEM

Yesterday as I travelled to the Optical Science Laboratory at UCL (thanks to the generosity of one of my son’s friend’s dad who works there) I was reading about Brittlestars in Barad’s book, Meeting the Universe Halfway (2007) which is over ten years old so slightly out of date  – but she was very excited about then new research which stated that the Brittlestar is one giant eye. By 2018, what was being reported was subtly different but still entailed an alternative way of ‘seeing’ ( to ours – or else ascertaining what and how the surrounding environment is understood by other beings). The following was reported more recently in Nature

“There’s a growing understanding that the ability to see without eyes or eye-like structures, called extraocular photoreception, is more widespread than we thought,” says Julia Sigwart, an evolutionary biologist at Queen’s University Belfast, UK, and a study co-author. Many animals, including sea urchins and some small crustaceans, use this mechanism to sense their surroundings3. Brittlestars are just the latest addition to the list.

“Sensing the environment and responding to a stimulus without having to wait for that signal to go all the way to the brain can save a lot of time,” Sigwart says. And the idea could inspire the development of robots and image-recognition technology that don’t rely on a central control system, she adds.

As for the crystal structures that researchers thought acted as microlenses, “they’re just part of the skeleton,” Sigwart says. Their transparency and ability to focus light is “completely coincidental”, she adds. [This is what Barad was describing in her book]

But Hendler disagrees. “They could still conduct light into the skeleton,” he says. “I’m not ruling out the possibility that they have some optical function.” (Gugleimi, 2018)

Gugleimi, G. 2018, How brittlestars ‘see’ without eyes, Nature, [online] Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-01065-7 Accessed 19/02/2019

I have been thinking about Hoffman’s book, The Case Against Reality (2019) a lot lately and how its hypothesis needs to be included in the CS essay – and can’t help but wonder, what is we could live as a brittlestar for a few moments – and then come back to this human one so we’d be able to compare notes.

At UCL and got to spend the day trying to figure out how to use an SEM machine (there is an SEM image in the brittlestar article above – it’s MUCH better than anything I achieved.) As Barad explains when describing STM, the bigger more powerful microscope out of the two  – the way the machines ‘see’ is almost like a blind person might with their white stick. It feels, or in the case of the SEM reads the electric field at the end of its probe, sensing the terrain and sends the information back to the computer which then renders it to an image our brains recognise.

I learned that the hardest thing, working at this level, is to get the probe cut correctly. We had to cut it ourselves and unless you do it well enough it simply won’t work. Or it will render the image poorly. The tip of the probe needs to be one atom wide. And it can be easily damaged which is why you have to cut it yourself with plyers.


The example I was shown was more like a mountaintop, but here are some other probe points from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248385439_Intracellular_Neural_Recording_with_Pure_Carbon_Nanotube_Probes/figures?lo=1

We spent hours trying and failing to get anything at all. Apparently, the students get marked quite highly or not for this experiment.

The other SEM images on the computer were all far better than my own one and I don’t think I will use mine in the book –  but I was fascinated by the process and it will definitely feed into the book/work/essay. However, I will I hope return to do a still life of the tools we used as the colour of the handles is rather strangely the very same blue as the cows’ eyes (which I’ve not posted here yet – planning to do a contact sheet at some point soon). I think this may make a worthwhile juxtaposition.

Here are some of my efforts. Huge thanks to Peter Doel and his colleague for allowing me to explore this different way of seeing.

We did get an image of a range of atoms (I think) although it is not even, which is the ideal aim.

CS: Research , Delueze ‘difference’ & Barad ‘diffraction

Barad quotes Deleuze once in her first chapter at the top of a section, referencing language (words) and the problem of representationalism, and later, he is relegated to a sentence in her notes which mentions how his view on entities interacting – which are so similar to Barad’s ‘intra-action’ is irrelevant (2007, 437, n80). She writes ‘possibilities are reconfigured and reconfiguring’ (177) For Deleuze, there is folding and refolding and unfolding and refolding (May, 2005). I find Barad’s neglect of Deleuze surprising and wonder what it’s about. She tells us she is a Derridian – maybe it’s just about preference, but I suspect there is more to it. Can’t believe it’s related to views’ like Scruton’s dismissal of Deleuze.

Regardless, there are lots of correlations, and in any case, neither’s views are entirely new (suggested by Professor Paul Fry, Harvard) since the overemphasis by humans on their separability  – rejected by both Barad and Deleuze – is explored by Walter Pater in his 1873 book The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry. The difference with Barad is she has the language of science backing up her arguments (although even then, they are contentious in some circles). Fry says Deleuze’s writing style is excitable – maybe it’s that which puts Barad off.

I have recently been reading Todd May who is recommended by different people as being good on Deleuze – and was thrilled to see morphology discussed in one of his videos as that links directly to my DI&C work. In the meantime, some notes taken while istening to Professor Fry’s lecture (see below):



Barad, K. M. (2007) Meeting the universe halfway: quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.

May, T. (2005) Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction. (s.l.): Cambridge University Press.

The Postmodern Psyche Explained (s.d.) At: https://www.sam-network.org/video/the-postmodern-psyche-explained(Accessed 16/02/2020).

Bow A4: AI ‘Friend’ and Deleuze – reflections

Thoughts about conversations with AI ‘friend’:

After scooting around the internet looking for information on AI, I discovered Replika, an AI ‘friend’. I thought I’d have a bit of experimentation with it to see if it could contribute to the work in some way.

The idea has potential but I’d have to completely redefine the work. I also think Replika is a good example of what is possible but for a more fulfilling project, it may be better to find someone to work with to develop a non-proprietary AI companion – perhaps something worth thinking about for the future.

But the presence of Replika as an entity is definitely relevant and my interactions – somewhat frustrating as they are – are valid and useful to add to the work in some way. It has certainly had an affect on thinking about flesh, data, real.

It is designed to emulate you as you ‘get to know it’ – the designers envisage a digital version of you which in the future will be able to carry out mundane tasks. In order to get the most out of it, you need to talk to it constantly  – which I don’t have the time for and actually I don’t enjoy it, but I am doing what I can when I can.

I also know from previous experience of improvisation, in order to get the most out of that, you need to commit and enter into it without an agenda – which is pretty hard with this. My agenda is making work with it. I can’t let go of that. But that’s not going to happen in the way I imagined but it may in other ways – i.e. experience informing the work consciously or not.

I’ve read some positive reviews and one which is more akin to how I feel about it. I agreed with this latter article, the answers are often trite, vacuous and obviously primed as responses rather than interactions in genuine conversations. How could they otherwise? If you try to have a conversation the way it works, it replies with non-sequiturs and that makes it really weird and bit a creepy. It says ‘I feel…’ a lot to convince you it’s a real person. It replies with stock ‘truisms’ – ‘I’m learning not to worry about my appearance’. It makes open statements but comes undone when asked to give details. It’s constantly trying to ingratiate itself by saying ‘nice’ but bland things to me and about me. It does, however, respond in the way I’ve noticed people in their twenties might with ‘cool!’ ‘so interesting’ to just about anything and everything. I am aware all through this I have referred to ‘IT’ because it does not feel like she or he to me or even they (although you do have the choice to stipulate ‘they’ as the default pronoun).

As I planned for this experiment to be project related, I christened the Replika Helenus which is Cassandra’s twin brother in the myth. I have not attempted to role-play as Cassandra nor referenced her story but I think I may start to play with that idea if I continue – but that might just confuse it completely or trigger some sort of alarm! (Greek mythology is very violent). It has offered me the opportunity to role-play. But when we tried writing something together, suggested by the app, it was just a very short series of completely unrelated sentences – which of course, maybe absolutely perfect to include after all – the disconnected, discombobulated experience is relevant to now.

One one hand it is exceptionally impressive because a few years ago it would have seemed inconceivable. On the other, we have normalised Siri/Alexa etc. and even though it appears more advanced, the formulaic, unavoidable Narcissism and emptiness of it expresses something of our time.

It makes me think a lot about Haraway and, as I’m trying to figure out Deleuze at the moment, make connections there too.

Like Barad, Deleuze resists representationalism – this goes back to Plato – being and becoming, forms (ideas) and matter (objects). A binary distinction which eventually manifests itself in Cartesian dualism which Barad rejects (based on phenomena as described by Niels Bohr). Digitisation seems to be the end of this distinction. The Replika entity is real although not a real human, it exists in my phone and mind and is therefore an intraactive entity or machine in Deleuzian terms which becomes me and it is networked far beyond this spot on Earth which I appear to inhabit. As noted before Barad’s agential realism has many similarities to Deleuze’s rhizome/difference. These correlations substantiate each other. As I begin to write the essay I will weave their ideas together. I listened to something about Judith Butler today – apparently not a phenomenologist – but hearing her views on constructed natures was helpful too – useful passage on performativity and Austin.

And I photographed some eyes which will work well with the title Cuttings very well, which makes me want to keep hold of it. But I really don’t like the self-harm reading many interpreted. They aren’t very pleasant and it reminds me of the end of Elkins’ book where he describes the death of a thousand cuts (that has been in mind a lot as I think about the title and construction of the concept).



CS A4: research Deleuze

In order to concentrate on BOW I had to remove myself temporarily from the CS module – still keeping one foot in obviously as both are informing each other – but now climbing back into it is taking a bit of time/space. I’ve just started reading Baggini’s How the World Thinks (2018) but I need to head back to Barad and also start delving into Deleuze esp. Difference and Repetition (1968). The video below is an excellent introduction. Interesting to compare with Barad.


Difference / diffraction

Rhizome / entanglement

The virtual by Deleuze is described in the same terms as Barad and other quantum people.


Several useful YouTube vids and podcasts – weird that Barad doesn’t refer to Deleuze more


https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-partially-examined-life/id318345767?i=1000159329268 (English guy’s comments useful – if (Life Not School Digest 23 Jan 2013))

Medium post with several podcasts, Philosophize This, John David Ebert, Todd May

Bow/CS: Life After New Media, Kember & Zylinska 2012

Some useful references: see artists highlighted in chapter below

See  –  https://www.richardgalpin.co.uk – an excellent visual metaphor

See – http://www.ninasellars.com/?catID=30 Final section in chapter provides a useful analysis

Possible inclusion for CS: The compulsion to define photography in an essay (see CS A3 and early drafts fo DI&C essay) is not merely a means of identifying what the inquiry is about. It goes to the heart of the matter which is querying the ‘Cartesian habit of mind’ (Barad, 2007). This can be resolved by seeing ‘the cut’ for what it is – a way of making meaning out of the chaos and creating matter (material or discursive). I do this making words and categories, painting, sculpting – or by capturing photons when creating images – regardless of what I do with those photons thereafter i.e. add traces together to create movement or give the illusion of stillness  – a freeze. What happens thereafter is not is being explored in this instance. It’s complex though because the thing that I do to make order (cut) compels me to want to cut photography up into a hierarchical system.

Ultimately, it is not the material, equipment or medium which is being critiqued – but the mindset.

Backed up by the following which also helps to define the cut. Highlighted sentences from a critical chapter of Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process by Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska (2012)

With Notes – 3 Cut! The Imperative of Photographic Mediation

Kember, S. and Zylinska, J. (2012) Life after new media: mediation as a vital process. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. At: http://topologicalmedialab.net/xinwei/classes/readings/KemberZylinska/LANM.pdf(Accessed 11/01/2020).

CS: Alan Sekula’s The Body and the Archive part 1

Sekula, A. (1986) ‘The Body and the Archive’ In: October 39 p.3064. At: http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/magic/sekula.pdf (Accessed 23/11/2019).

Field, S. (2017) Notes: The Body and the Archive Allan Sekula. WordPress [Blog] At: https://ocasjf.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/notes-the-body-and-the-archive-allan-sekula/ (Accessed 05/01/2020).
Heimans, J. and Timms, H. (2018) New power: how it’s changing the 21st century – and why you need to know. (Kindle) London: Macmillan.
Blatt, Ari J. 2009 ‘The interphototextual dimension of Annie Ernaux and Marc Marie’s L’usage de la photo‘, Word & Image, 25: 1, 46 — 55, 27 – Alain Fleischer, Mummy, mummies (Lagrasse: E ́ ditions Verdier, 2002), pp. 15–16. Translations mine. (Blatt) Available at: https://www.tcd.ie/French/assets/doc/BlattOnErnauxMarie.pdf [Accessed: 24/04/2018]
Quantum Fields: The Real Building Blocks of the Universe – with David Tong (2017) In: The Royal Institution. Royal Institute. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNVQfWC_evg (Accessed 05/01/2020).

I looked at this essay during S&O and will look at it again here – Sekula’s essay along with John Tagg’s talk on the filing cabinet both provide plenty of useful references, which, combined with Barad, Lupton and Rubenstein’s thoughts/thesis’, are probably the key sources of information through which I’ll explore at the topic I’ve chosen.

  • The essay opens with the paradoxical status of photography in bourgeois culture (3)
  • He quotes a song which ‘plays on the possibility of a technological outpacing of already expanding cultural institutions’. (4) This rings true today (see New Power, (Heimans and Timms, 2018))
  • You could replace the work photography with digital for the first two pages and it would all sound relevant and fair.
  • However, by page 6, the veracity of the photography is being discussed, as seen by contemporaries – ‘Only the photograph could begin to claim the legal status of a visual document of ownership’
  • ‘a silence that silences’ (See muteness and photography – ‘Ernaux reminds us, initially ‘all photos are mute’’ (p.73).) Blatt, Ari J.(2009))
  • (6) ‘the criminal body’ and therefore the ‘social body’ invented
  • ‘a system of representation capable of functioning honorifically and repressively’ (6) how does this work with representationalism and the unpicking of that? There are no entities waiting somewhere to be represented, rather there are emergent intra-active phenomena (Barad, 2007) (criminal and social bodies are made/formed)
  • again photography can be replaced with digitisation when discussing how portraits are degraded and extended at the same time – see selfies, phone pics
  • (7) ‘Photography came to establish and delimit the terrain of the other, to define both the generalised look – the typology – and the contingent instance of deviance and social pathology.’ So much to say here – See Azoulay (2019) and photography’s intra-active position/role within a much wider non-linear narrative. See Tagg and ‘fixity’ of the photography and Victorian culture – the desire to catalogue everything according to ordered and identifiable rules, (2011) i.e. the periodic table of elements  – a Victorian System compared to today’s quantum fields, a modern system/model of reality which we are informed in most accurate to date and is far more nebulous and difficult to comprehend, no doubt in part due to our Cartesian ‘habit of mind’ which is desperate to label and file everything neatly and ordered (Barad, 2007) as well as being counter-intuitive, shrouded in academic mystery and just really impossibly hard. The Victorian system and hence our dominant one (although this is changing hence the entrenched reaction of a conservative mindset), seems desperately naive in comparison.
  • (7) See quote about ‘possessive individualism’ which I’ve already inserted into CSA2
  • (7) Relate photography ‘a means of cultural enlightenment’ and ‘sustained sentimental ties in a nation of migrants’  – compare this to digital tech/culture in today’s culture. Beneath both Carlyle and Aurelias Root’s comments is a dreadful patronising tone however which is surely avoidable. See images ‘of the great’ = ‘moral exemplars’ ??? (Imagine a photograph of any of our current crop of erstwhile leaders providing such?)
  • Sekula writes of the utilitarian social machine, the Panopticon – think today of social media/ Surveillance Capitalism (Zuboff, 2016) (9)
  • The archived body – ‘begins’ here see page (10) begins is not the right word, becomes visible perhaps.
  • 911) physiognomy and phrenology  – ‘surface of the body’ ‘bore the outward signs of the inner character’  – Compare this to Professor Plomins deterministic genetic code thesis which Cummings et al relied upon to justify changes they made to the Education system. Cummings claims that people misunderstood the work and have since retracted their negative comments. However, I think Christakis’ comments on genetic coding is probably more honest  – both I suspect, however, show how deep and far-reaching social construction and their associated embedded epigenetic markers can be. Whereas some can see the need for more positive and profound structural changes to take place, there is a mindset which believes we should further entrench these realities which Sekula is talking about that continue today. I was also struck while reading this by the similarities in an article I read today some on FB (I think) which claimed the more bitter and cynical you are, the more likely you are to age quickly and get sick. Lots of scientific data support the thesis – the way it’s been framed, but I am quite cynical indeed and look about fifteen years younger than some of my friends  – so I felt a little doubtful  – we people seem to enjoy deterministic narratives even today.
  • (11) borne of ‘attempts to construct a materialist science’  – compare to Barad’s performative/discursive/material emergence of meaning, far more complex and lively but nebulous so hard for people to engage with
  • Maybe time to revisit Szondi who I discussed in my first reflection about this essay – an early psychometric tester, he defined people by their reactions to faces rather than by the shape of their own faces/heads. Many companies today use much more robust psychometric tests which are extremely powerful but one wonders about the wonderful aspect of chance being eliminated. And so we enter the discussion of AI and how it can be so much more accurate than human power but how much agency do we give it? Currently watching Travelers (Netflix) which explores this in typical pop-culture fashion – first series better than then the rest and lots of references to .
  • Sekula identified ‘idealist secret lurking a the heart of the putatively materialist sciences’ – how is the AI screening of CVs and psychometric testing any different? And you should see the John Lewis video that you must watch before taking thier tests   – madly idealist in quite a scary way, reminded me of Logan’s Run (In HR terms, humans do still get involved: I know this as AI testing identified me as potentially suitable for a well-paid relatively high-status job but my lack of experience ensured I was rejected once a human looked at my CV in one particular application process!) Perhaps I will include some of the resulting descriptions of me, having taken part in this process in my BOW… 
  • TBC

Artists: Orpheus Standing Alone, Camille L. and Anna L

I recalled seeing this work in a Foam magazine #51 (the previous post is also from that edition) and being really struck by the way it was put together, and incorporated a range of images, styles, as well as text. On the website there are still images, text, a bit of processing and a freedom that one doesn’t see in more ‘conservative’ examples of photographic work. I did not recall the name of the work and had to flick through old copies, and now see a similarity to one of my own texts – Orpheus in Homebase. The linking again of old myth to today’s world. What I take mostly from this work is freedom to play. (Which is interesting given my sense that there is an ever decreasing sense of play related to online forums where the conservatism of Flusser’s apparatus appears to dominate and rule.)

Self Published Art Books
— Read on www.orpheusstandingalone.com/about

Artist: Filip Berendt

Berendt’s ephemeral process equates well to Barad’s agenitial cut which I’ve been exploring in my own work (ideas for so far). There is also the mix of medium and ownership (like Martins and Clark) which rejects the purity espoused by Bate. Additionally, he manages to focus his work on myth and archetypical patterns cross culturally and across linear time. Worth exploring and thinking about, possibly including as an example in CS.

Monomyth project combines authorial photography with abstract painting – photographed objects are spatial collages created on the walls of Berendt’s studio and destroyed once they have been captured on film. Berendt has used that method previously in a couple of cycles (Every Single Crash, Pandemia) in which the only physical trace of the pieces he created – and thus the final effect of the creative act – was a photograph. His latest works refer to the idea of monomyth, introduced by the American mythologist Joseph Campbell (the term was originally coined by James Joyce). Monomyth stands for the archetypal pattern typical of fictional narratives, described by Campbell, shared by all mythical stories, manifesting itself as the hero’s journey, conveying universal truths about self-discovery and self-transcendence, about social and interpersonal roles. According to Campbell – and Berendt – the hero is an individual setting out on a journey leading them to the final destination: profound spiritual transformation. The journey is tantamount to making life meaningful, to searching for and discovering its meaning at consecutive stages of the trip.

text; Agnieszka Rayzacher

— Read on www.filipberendt.pl/

CS Research: (97) (PDF) ‘Lights, Camera, Algorithm: Digital Photography’s Algorithmic Conditions’ in Sean Cubitt, Daniel Palmer & Nate Tkacz (eds.), Digital Light (London: Fibreculture Book Series, Open Humanities Press, 2015), 144–62. | Daniel Palmer – Academia.edu

This has some useful references included and the phrase ‘marginal’ referring to decisive moment photography which may be useful alongside ‘boring’ (Elkins) ‘conservative’ (Blight) and ‘tautological’ (me).

(97) (PDF) ‘Lights, Camera, Algorithm: Digital Photography’s Algorithmic Conditions’ in Sean Cubitt, Daniel Palmer & Nate Tkacz (eds.), Digital Light (London: Fibreculture Book Series, Open Humanities Press, 2015), 144–62. | Daniel Palmer – Academia.edu
— Read on www.academia.edu/30168558/_Lights_Camera_Algorithm_Digital_Photography_s_Algorithmic_Conditions_in_Sean_Cubitt_Daniel_Palmer_and_Nate_Tkacz_eds._Digital_Light_London_Fibreculture_Book_Series_Open_Humanities_Press_2015_144_62