Hello I'm Jonathan,


This is my journal - a tool that facilitates my personal and project development - allowing me to keep track of my work, experiments, ideas and writings.

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    10 May 2019

    Paul Austin is the co-founder of one of the world’s leading design agencies, Made Thought, who stresses designers should shift from creating the design to causing good design. I met Paul in his beautiful studio, with his partner in crime Ben Parker working away on a current project behind us.

    --Hi Paul.


    --Your studio, Made Thought, has a journal called TO THINK, which was created with 'the notion that we can, must and should take more time to consider and discuss the visual culture we create. For us, this is all about creating dialogue, as we believe conversation is a cultivating medium for deep thought; and we believe that deep thought is a prerequisite of both good decisions and great design.’

    Let me ask you some questions that will hopefully propel you to TO THINK and do feel free to ask me any questions along the way… So, what frustrates you most about the graphic design industry/practice?

    Interesting question. It is probably the term ‘graphic design’... Let's start there. What is the ‘graphic design industry’ these days? A few weeks ago, I was in Hong Kong as a judge for Hong Kong design awards and part of getting the most value out of me, I did a talk. On the opening slide of this talk it said in huge letters ‘The Graphic Design Studio is Dead’. There were a lot of shocked faces in the crowd. And then on my next slide, it said... ‘How Exciting!’ This ‘death’ a fairly recent change in the industry but I think it's fundamental.

    I'm a trained formal graphic designer. Ben (Parker) is a trained formal graphic designer. We are both obsessed, or were obsessed, with the craft of graphic design as was the audience in Hong Kong. So when I told them that they didn’t have a job anymore, it was quite alarming. It was by no means saying that the craft is dead. If anything the craft is more alive than it’s ever been! Yet, it’s far more seamlessly integrated into our world. It started in the 1950s where you were a graphic artist and created posters, created leaflets and other very specific communication tasks. Now, everything we touch our phones and on our computers is a piece of typography. It’s a designed user-interface and a piece of print. Even getting into our cars you've got to navigate a computer screen. And all of these areas are representing a brand. So the term ‘graphic design’ feels limiting because the craft is so much broader. Communication design feels more relevant today in a broader world.

    Something we try to pass this onto our team is when a brand or an organisation comes to us part of what they're asking is visual - the craft, the graphic design - but the intelligence that Made Thought brings is something outside of the visual. I would call it ‘behaviour’. How a brand, organisation or institution ‘behaves’ is inherently linked to their visual identity, but the brands' behaviour says as much these days about who they are and what they stand for as the colour palette they choose, the typeface they picked and the logo they have.

    This is illustrated in a recent project that we've just completed for MoMA in New York. After we won the pitch and had been appointed I asked the director, ‘Why did you choose us?. He said, ‘It's really simple. There are two reasons (and that's outside of chemistry and us seeming up to the challenge to take on a very complex institution). The main difference you made to us was as much of what you said you would do as what you said you wouldn't do.’ This was obviously a pitch for a rebrand, but the first thing we had said was ‘We will not be giving you a new logo.’ Our justification was because we felt that from a behavioural standpoint it wasn't going to solve many of the issues of the strategy that had been conducted so far. What needed to change was their behaviour.

    MoMa had received comments that people didn’t feel MoMA was for them, it was a bit elitist and austere. Things art institutions often suffer from. Our solve to Moma was: this is about how you act, this is about how you speak, the opinion you have and the way you engage your audience. In order to attract a young Afro-American from the Bronx who doesn’t feel there's anything from him at Moma, their behaviour had to change by breaking down the barriers and showing people the art they would find inspiring. You have to actually communicate to people and actually have an opinion. This wasn't a graphic design task. Graphic design was a tool within that task to signal a change in behaviour.

    What I found rewarding was that we introduced a more open, warmer use of language, encouraging the museum to have an outward opinion. Because in the art world, apart from the curatorial decisions that are made, they never really engage the world with their view. If you saw a communication from galleries around the world you’ll see ’This is the artist. These are the dates. This is the website. Make your own decision’... But why? Even me as someone who is relatively art literate I'd still like to know why I should go. What am I going to get from going to see this show? How's it going to change my thinking etc? I might dismiss certain shows because no one's telling me why it would be inspiring.

    Graphic design is the tool that gets that communication created. However, encouraging the people, brands and organisations we work with to ensure they're behaving in ways that will be compelling to their current audience and different audiences is as much of our job.

    So to answer your question, what frustrates me about the graphic design industry? It is the term the ‘graphic design industry.’ Graphic design is a medium. It's not an answer.

    --What are graphic designers’ responsibilities to the world? Socially, politically and environmentally? Is it just working with organisations/companies that try to improve the status quo, as you did with A Plastic Planet to fight supermarket plastic? Should graphic designers be doing more out of their own initiative?

    100% yes! I'm sure there are lots of graphic designers and creatives that do but as a whole, as an industry, we are very responsible for a lot of the problems in the world. If we print something, it’s the papers we print on. If we create packaging, it's the materials we choose. It’s always creativity first. On-shelf appeal first. But at what point do we say, ‘We could... but should we?’ Let’s take the beauty world as an example. There are conventions that make it very difficult to persuade a client to do otherwise. So if we pushed to not use any foil stamping, the company would say ‘but how will our product shine and stand out on the shelf?’ However, one decision for one product times a million or unit in terms of impact do the maths, right?

    --Right. It’s like how American Airlines decided to remove just one olive from their inflight salads. They saved almost $40,000 a year from that tiny decision.

    Exactly, this is it! There are some brilliant stories out there. This is an anecdote, which is not necessarily related to graphic design, but it is a design problem and is where a designer or a creative and the small bits of thinking that we do is capable of big changes. At UPS, there was a computer programmer who came up with a proposal to reduce its carbon footprint. The driving rules in the U.S are so if you're turning right, you can flow straight down to the traffic. There is no obligation to give-way. If you turn left, you have to wait because you've got to go across the main traffic, unlike Britain where there's a give-way line where you have to stop and start, in America, it just flows.

    So this computer programmer, rewrote all the route planning for UPS’ Sat Navs to take out as many left turns as possible. The journey might be longer but it would prioritize right-hand turns only. The fuel they saved and the carbon they reduced was phenomenal! Now that's a design decision which makes perfect sense. It really symbolizes how a small change can make a huge difference.

    If I look back at some of our projects, some projects were made with beauty and aesthetics first. That might have been a start-up brand, which was small at the time. However, they've become huge. What was a ten thousand print run is now half a million times one hundred products. If I knew the scale at the time, would I have picked the materials and the processes that we chose? Definitely not. So a part of the designer checklist of parameters or informing factors relating to design solutions should be to think about being less wasteful. Not just recyclability but putting less into the circle, for example using as little packaging as possible.

    There is a lot of great work being done to reduce plastics, but a lot of the problem starts with the designer, who decided that the product is going to go in a plastic bottle. There can be other options. It is our responsibility as graphic designers to consider being responsible. Choose some amazing recyclable paper of quality that for example, GF Smith has and then use it for the packaging! Which goes right back to brand behaviour which we talked about. Now your brand all of a sudden has an opinion. ‘We can stand for less waste which is why we decided to print on this.’ This thinking should fundamentally be built into the design process.

    --At agIdeas in 2012, you said that brands have to brave, but shouldn’t we designers be brave as well? Why don’t graphic designers voice their opinions about the industry and the world around them more? Why don’t graphic designers criticize?

    That comment was a hand-in-glove comment, asking our clients to be brave with us. I think it is the responsibility of any good design studio to show a level of bravery, a progressive spirit and a level of challenging conventions. But what defines a good design studio is the ability to encourage clients to go on that journey with them. It’s easy to show something that freaks them out. Encouraging them and communicating along that journey to give them the confidence to actually take that risk is much harder. Convincing brands, to actually understand why it's a good idea and not a potentially damaging idea, that is actually was sets design studios together apart from each other.

    --Right that’s in relation to graphic designer clients but if we look more individually, you're the only major studio (that I’m aware of) that has gone out on your own to talk or make something that talks about certain problems publically in a direct comment to the world.

    Yes. Ben was very much the pioneer of the Made Thought publication you are referring to, and it was a distinct reaction to the image obsession that we live in at the moment. So much is judged on Instagram. We all know how easy it is to make something look good on Instagram. I'm not saying that a lot of designers who are hiding behind the images they create… but there are a lot of designers who are hiding the images they create! [Laughs]

    There are fewer and fewer platforms for the design industry to actually communicate the intellectual, not even deep-seated intellectual, thinking behind their work. There are very few outlets for designers to convey their thinking. Lots of outlets featuring certain studios would have a preface often written by a third party about that studio; about their thinking, about what’s important to them and maybe an interview with the founders. There are fewer mediums that deal with that. Instagram is just image. Where do you get the chance to have a voice?

    --But isn't up to the graphic designer to voice about issues, especially those that we have so much influence upon? Let's say you want more thinking in the industries, is it not up to you to write the op-ed and put it on Instagram, put online, put it out there for people to see?

    Yeah, that's the thing… but I don't know if that will work. If I look at the millennial generation, they are all image obsessed. A lot of the problems with social media is about people being more afraid to voice their views for a fear of being trolled or being completely lambasted. So people don't say anything. They just show pretty pictures. A true designer or a true creative that really has conviction in why they're doing the work that they're doing should have the courage and the strength of stand up and say this is what I do. I don't care if you don't like it! But we're obsessed with being liked from an image perspective.

    In regards to TO THINK. Our publication was born out of two things. First, we just wanted something physical and actually have people read it. To actually encourage people to stop for a second. Hence we have not published or put it online at all. It was also a really good vehicle because obviously everyone was our clients. So it became a really interesting way of actually engaging some of the clients we work with each other. And then all of a sudden you've got someone like Tom Dickson talking to Frederic Marre. One is a really crazy French perfumer and the other is a British design hero, and having them both answering our question on the same level was fascinating but also quite inspiring. And that's a conversation that never would have happened if TO THINK hadn’t been born.

    Maybe it's a good vehicle just to simply to get people talking to each other. It’s very easy just to presume that someone like Frederic Marre is just all about fragrance and that’s all he thinks about. But he is an absolute oracle about cinema and how he thinks in film. And would you have ever have got that if you didn’t engage people with a conversation?

    Part of what we do and that's kind of one outlet for it with all our clients, which sounds cheesy, but we've always said that ‘We work with our clients, not for them’. Now that's actually a very simple statement but the fabric of that statement is actually really important.

    When you work with someone it encourages debate. You get know them very well, you really understand what makes them tick and then you respond to that. Working for someone is a simple instructional message ‘Do this for me.’ ‘Yes sir, I'll do it.’ Fundamentally there's a nuance between for and with that shapes the way that you work together. That’s why we've had very long-term clients. Stella McCartney. We’ve worked with her for over 12 years. Design Miami. We created the brand from scratch 2006 and we’ve done two shows a year ever since. GF Smith, the paper company, we’ve been with them for seven years. That comes out of not just delivering good work but engaging them in an unfinished conversation. Design is an unfinished conversation. You do the best work you can do for that moment. There are distinct evolutions that can be made in any design relationship, look at the initial work we did for Design Miami in 2006 to today. We are in continuous conversation. The minute you become boring they want to talk to someone else.

    --What concerns you most about technology (social media, big tech, data collection, surveillance) right now as a designer?

    I’m on the fence on with that one. It's a really interesting question and I can't help but respond to it personally as well as professionally. I've always been an advocate of technology. I've always been obsessed with newness. Technology has obviously fundamentally transformed the design industry over the last 20 years and also the way we communicate: the speed, the efficiency. There are lots of pluses to it. But then what does that also do? It makes people's expectations far more immediate. The speed that people might give you to respond to a creative challenge, to answer an email, to deliver it encourages an almost frantic pace. Where certain things, especially concerning craft which means coming up with an idea that has longevity, should always be as quick as you can reply to an email. Technology has fundamentally enriched the possibilities of design but the speed of technology has encouraged a complete lack of patience within the world.

    This expectation of immediacy is a bad thing. I've got a 14-year-old son. So the constant challenge of trying to pry his phone out of his hands and get to look up into the real world is also pressing at me from a social perspective. I’m really trying to make him realize that the phone is not at the epicentre of his the universe. So there are personal and professional wrangles there. But actually, without it, we would all be fucked. But with it, we’re also fucked! (Laughs).

    It's not going away. Again, it's the responsibility that we use it for what it can bring but not letting it rule our lives. We know that particularly as business owners because your life quickly gets ruled by emails. You start spending more time responding to emails than doing design work, which I’m not sure is what I studied for [Laughs]. But at the same time without, we'd be handcuffed, so it's a fascinating debate. What do I know technology is not a replacement for... is creative thinking? It won’t ever replace that.

    --Like you’ve said in TO THINK, we live in an age where everything is about short-termism. Just to name one issue, in the not too distant future, we will live in a world where machines can make decisions we cannot understand or follow, and the systems can be used against us. People are already changing their physical to match their online avatars and social media usage is disrupting elections and causing increased mental health in children. How can the graphic designer go about addressing short-termism so we don’t stumble into an unwanted future?

    Oh, that is a big question!

    [Ben Parker]: You’re actually touching on issue two of TO THINK with that question.

    Yes, the second issue of To Think is about thinking long term. There are two sides to your question. One of them is deep-seated around the idea of vanity and appearance but I don't think graphic designers are ever going to really change that. There's a far deeper cultural issue, where people start believing who they are online rather than who they are offline. I would love to think that it is a fad but I'm not sure.

    Two from a short-termism perspective, there are fewer ways. I think there is a backlash against short-termism. It's not really coming from graphic design at the moment but from not similar industries. For example, furniture and the music industry, where there is an increased desire for craft, for objects with substance and feeling that there has been a human involved and the precious quality of human involvement. I believe I read that in the UK vinyl sales are at 25-year high whilst the sale of CDs fell by 45%. CD’s have been replaced by downloads. Tangible music, which was the premise of the CD, is being replaced on the other side by vinyl. People like the tangible and so in some areas there shift towards the tangible.

    Another example is directly linked to graphic design which we are seeing with a lot of clients, is the request to print things... It's going up. Why? You could use the music industry's direct comparison. In the eighties when synthesized music was a big thing when everyone could play the guitar on a keyboard. The reaction was thinking it was a disaster and that real music was dead. In fact, it was just a novelty and synthesised music later found its equal place alongside analogue music. I think it is the same within graphic design. Not that long ago companies had no option but to print things that lasted a lot of time. That was just the nature of the beast. Yes, you could do a leaflet and it would get thrown away but generally speaking print was physical so it has a greater permanence than digital communication. Then this thing called email came along and these things called websites and no longer do you have to print communication, you can just create a website. I'm sure there are figures that show that print took a nosedive.

    What I see now is actually people taking stock saying ‘What is the most appropriate medium for this message?’ rather than just assuming that everything can be done digitally and nothing gets printed. What we are seeing is our clients noticing that in order to actually make people notice it, experience it, remember it, keep it... you print it. Everything else can be digital. So suddenly print has been elevated to vinyl status. If a fashion brand wants to make something impress someone, they might make a film through Instagram and it's cool and it lasts a couple of days. Yet, if you give them a tangible piece it might end up on the coffee table far longer than that email or that Instagram film.

    I'd like to think there’s a balancing of the scales. So the things that we want to last should be physical (that's why TO THINK was printed) and the things we want to be ephemeral and would be a waste of resource it would more responsible to make it digital. The designer can guide. It can't make the final decision because that tends to be with the institution. However, we can use that balance of digital and physical as a sense check. To consider the lifespan of things and whether it is something that really we'd like people to actually notice and keep.

    It all comes down to smart thinking! Don't just instantly go to what is the convention or what you always do. Just stop take a breath to think, ‘Okay... before I do this is this the right direction?’ And that can be physical, it can be the formats we use. We’re so lucky now as graphic designers - you've got moving image, you've got audio, you've got online, you've got print, you've got experiential. You’ve got all of these channels that you can amplify and play up or down. Just a little bit of consideration, and dare I say pause, to just make those smart decisions, I think that’s where design becomes more powerful.

    Great answer! Is there anything you want to ask me?

    I’ve got one. So you're obviously the end of your studies…

    --Getting there!.. (Laughs)

    [Laughs] Right, getting there...What excites and engages you about the opportunities of being a designer?

    --That’s a very good question… Not too long before doing my first of these interviews I had a slightly pessimistic view of my future. I was looking for where my power and my potential to influence lies, which is not something unique to me. And unfortunately, graphic design can have this impression of being a cog in a machine that just churns out stuff, which I had certain apprehension against as you want to fight global warming and the worlds other big problem. I was wondering if graphic design was the right path.

    However, as I was doing these interviews I see there's a lot of areas where I have the ability to influence that I hadn't considered. For example, both you and Chris Moody (from Wolff Olins) talked about having long term relationships with clients and being able to speak to them, engage in conversation and discuss new ways of doing things.

    The best thing about graphic design and why I love it is that it is one of the few industries that touches everything. If you want to be engaged with technology, you can go work in that industry or if you help the environment you can go to work there. And not only that, we all have the tools to initiate projects, companies, movements ourselves! Most people can’t publish their own book, and create their own website and change the behaviour of a brand. And so, it’s incredibly exciting that there is no end to the horizon for me as a designer!

    On another note, the designers I have interviewed really want to engage with technology. You and others don’t express the fear that I see almost everywhere else. You firstly express recognition and willingness to engage with all of the amazing opportunities that technology brings, but then saying ‘Yes, of course. We should be careful about x, y, z.’ So the optimism and reverence of technology from leading graphic designers is super exciting to see.

    For me, the alarming part of your answer was this sense of pessimism with your generation.

    --I think it is a question of where do we put ourselves? We want to be responsible and unfortunately, sometimes graphic design doesn't always seem like right or most powerful avenue to do that.

    That's completely unfounded… First, you're living in what is at the very epicentre of the creative universe right, and the opportunities there are endless. You can do and you can be whatever you want to be. The only thing that can limit that is you.

    This is my biggest frustration with the younger design world of wanting it all immediately. ‘I'm an art director’. No, you’re not. You're ten minutes out of college. That’s something you’ve got to earn through really hard work, absolute ambition and enthusiasm and not expecting it to be delivered on a plate. Actually, work for it! People, you know, quote the ‘millennial’ view on the world and them feeling so entitled. For me it doesn't matter what generation you’re from nothing replaces motivation, nothing replaces an ambition to create. If you have the ambition to create you will find your channel, you will find the place that works for you. It might not be this studio. It could be a much more corporate one or a much smaller one. The ability to change things within any of those environments is immense.

    --The pessimistic view was something I had been going through. But my energy has been super revitalised, especially as my course shows and allows me to create whatever I want and that my creative practice is whatever I want it to be.

    Yeah exactly!

    --It's super motivating! And on top of that, I am even able to engage with top creatives like yourself and Ben who take the time to talk to me about the topics that I want to see discussed more in the industry…

    Yes, you must be filled with nothing but excitement! It’s not like you're working in the finance industry that's struggling on a daily basis. This is a buoyant industry. Brand and organisations regardless of what they do functionally, whether they are a finance company or a theatre or a music label they all rely on creativity to make them stand out. If you did want to follow a more social kind route, responsibility-wise, in the likes of A Plastic Planet, even right down to the most important charitable work relies on creativity to get people to notice it. There is no boundary to where you can't apply your skills.

    But the malaise of your generation of it being dark out there is too much. It's always been dark out there! When we graduated it was in the middle of a recession. It was dark then. It was just different. You’ve got run into the storm not away from it. That’s something that doesn’t get instilled in people in the educational system. It won't be there waiting for you on a plate ready. You've got go out there, really want it, chase it down and then when you do get the opportunity to make a change fucking take it and make it count! Do that a couple of times you’ll be absolutely flying!

    That’s all that we ask from the guys here. There is nothing worse than apathy. ‘I'm just here to do stuff.’ No, you’re here to make yourself a better designer. If you don't want to make yourself a better designer then don't be here. Ben’s and I’s role is to encourage that. ‘Don't do it for me. Do it for you. Because if you do it for you, the work will better and that will benefit me and the people we work for. I won’t even need to ask you to work late on it because you’ll want to craft it and own it.’ It is a responsibility of us to make sure we create environments that allow that. But also the buck doesn't stop there. It has to be inside the people that come in each year, particularly at the graduate level. They’ve got to want to impress themselves and that will impress us.

    --What I realised is that I didn’t know where to place myself. And I’ve just found that there are so many more exciting opportunities than I initially thought.

    Yes, you’re in one of the richest environments (and I don’t mean financially). The creative world. One of the things that technology does allow is that you could be a filmmaker tomorrow or a musician. The creative world is whatever you want it to be!

    --Amazing. Thank you so much, Paul.

    No problem.

    [interview] [paul austin] [graphic design] [public] [madethought] [criticism] [technology] [behaviour] [sustainability]

    Madethought.com. (2018). TO THINK DEEPER | Made Thought. [online] Available at: https://www.madethought.com/to-think/journal/deeper/ [Accessed 8 Dec. 2018].

    Madethought.com. (2018). THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART | Made Thought. [online] Available at: https://www.madethought.com/to-make/moma/ [Accessed 11 Feb. 2019].

    Baines, J. (2018). Made Thought’s latest installation imagines a plastic-free supermarket aisle. [online] It's Nice That. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/news/made-thought-plastic-free-aisle-product-design-120918 [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019].

    Vetter, M. (2015). The $40,000 Olive: How Entrepreneurs Can Spend Time Saving Money. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/moiravetter/2015/06/04/the-40000-olive-how-entrepreneurs-can-spend-time-saving-money/#687224f55fbb [Accessed 18 Jan. 2019].

    Prisco, J. (2017). Why UPS trucks never turn left. [online] CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/16/world/ups-trucks-no-left-turns/index.html [Accessed 11 Feb. 2019].

    Ideas on Design (2014). Made Thought talks about that one simple thing - agIdeas 2012. [image] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGLRAH_G1Cs [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

    Davies, A. (2018). People are getting surgery to look like their Snapchat selfies - BBC Three. [online] BBC Three. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/9ca4f7c6-d2c3-4e25-862c-03aed9ec1082 [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

    Savage, M. (2017). UK vinyl sales reach 25-year high. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-38487837 [Accessed 11 Feb. 2019].

    Baines, J. (2018). Made Thought’s latest installation imagines a plastic-free supermarket aisle. [online] It's Nice That. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/news/made-thought-plastic-free-aisle-product-design-120918 [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019].


    4 May 2019

    Born in Italy, raised in Spain and Astrid Stavro recently joined Pentagram London, leaving Atlas the studio she co-founded with Pablo Martín. A highly respected and outspoken graphic designer, Stavro stresses the “soul” in design over any visual quality and sat down with me to explore society's and graphic design’s continuous stumble into an uncertain future.

    --Hello Astrid.


    --Let’s get started with a broad question. What frustrates you most about the graphic design industry/practice?

    Before I joined, I told all my friends that I was becoming a fisherwoman because I couldn’t say it was Pentagram. And then the day it was announced, they all went “OH MY GOD! But you didn't become a fisherwoman. You became a partner!” And I said, Well, it's the same thing, I’m just fishing a different kind of fish.

    --Are you’re looking for something with more purpose, is that it?

    I have always had a problem with graphic design as a service in the same way that I have a problem with advertising. Like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, graphic design forms a part of a commercial system. Perhaps the purer aspect of graphic design can be found more in smaller design studios, who do more cultural design and less hard selling.

    Society is designed to keep us entertained. At the end of the day we are all going to die, right? We need distractions all the time - the new Volvic, the new iPhone, the new fashion trend - and everything becomes a distraction from what really matters: each other, love, family. We are here for a very short time. So we better do something useful and this doesn’t always translate into commercial design. That’s one frustrating aspect of design.

    Another frustrating aspect is that graphic design can be quite self-referential. Some graphic designers have big egos. Stefan Sagmeister actually said, “being a famous graphic designer is like being a famous electrician." I think it is really true but the industry continuously creates idols. We can be narcissistic in the way the canon of graphic design is written, which includes a lack of diversity: lack of women, people of colour, etc.

    What I also find frustrating is the lack of critical thinking and critical writing. Constructive criticism is necessary. We can’t grow or evolve without it. We have a lot of design magazines, design blogs, design journals, design social media etc, but the danger of image-driven platforms is that without context or critical thinking they can become design-porn forums.

    --As you just said graphic design is a discipline that does an awful little amount of debating and critiquing. The most famous graphic design news sites are not a source of debate or critique, but of infectious PR spin. So could you expand on your thoughts on the lack of criticism in graphic design? And are you being openly critical enough of the industry?

    We do need more platforms for criticism to happen. Eye Magazine and The Design Observer are places were criticism happens. These are the two notable exceptions, which is not enough. However, there are more and more blogs simply showing “nice work.” There is nothing in their journalism that is interesting from a critical perspective. In working for Alliance Graphique Internationale, the Typo Circle and now Pentagram and I speak with journalists all the time. Many are lazy and simply copy and paste the press releases. Thinking takes time.

    There are students who have wonderful initiatives to promote design criticism. For example, Gute Process is an online magazine. They do in-depth interviews and essays on design criticism. Michael Klein who started it is a young, smart guy in his early twenties. Gute Process actually interviewed me about a tweet I had made about Jessica Walsh’s Instagram account, which went kind of viral. I made a point that when you are as powerful as Jessica, you have a responsibility that comes in the messages that you send across. Social networks are surely not places where constructive criticism is welcome. They are a populistic machine that runs on their own.

    --But shouldn’t these design magazines have a responsibility to critique when they have millions of readers?

    It is easy to say “It’s nice.” Yet, the moment you start having a thinking platform, you are probably going to lose thousands of readers. People don’t want to read about ‘boring’ graphic design criticism.

    --Metahaven wrote this in their book Can Jokes bring down Governments? “Any historical picture of graphic design as a discipline inhabited by socially concerned humanist fighting for the better of the world is a gross misrepresentation of the discipline has to offer.” What do you think of this statement?

    No, I disagree. I don't think that a picture of graphic design concerned with humanists or social things is a gross misinterpretation of graphic design. The quote is difficult to judge out of context.

    Graphic design is applied to socially concerned aspects, for example, a political campaigns such as Michael Beirut’s campaign for Hillary Clinton or Thonik Design for the Socialist Party in Holland. Graphic design can do wonderful things. One of the things that keeps me alive is precisely is in thinking. How can I apply graphic design to make the world a better place?

    --You seem to convey a sense of social responsibility in the world. You’ve said, “as a designer you have to imagine yourself in someone else's shoes”. That might have referred to thinking about the client and the consumer. But from what I’ve read, it seems you consider what you put out into the world. However, other graphic design practitioners are not the same. Chermayeff & Geismar - who designed the visual identities for Chase Manhattan, National Geographic, NBC, PBS etc. declared that it is none of their business to evaluate the ethics of their clients' practice. “We do not feel responsible for the character of those we work for.” Thoughts?

    No, I disagree again. I do love their work…. Pfff, I’m a little surprised they think this. You do have to question who you work for and what they do. Ethics are an inherent part not only of design but of who we are as persons.
    --Graphic design is slow in changing curricula to challenge the current political and social context. Political and social concerns seem extraneous or inappropriate to the profession. It seems very often subservient to the market. Should graphic design be doing more?

    It depends. I mean if you have something to say and you feel very strongly about something, whether you're a graphic designer or an electrician, you go out and do it. We can all do it. Graphic designers just have tools. If you have nothing to say it's better that you don’t say anything.

    --We’ll move on to talk about technology and its effect on us. We are entering a world where machines make decisions we cannot understand or follow, and the systems are being used against us. Humans are increasingly fighting against these technologies - through the fetishisation of retro, the return of film photography to the mainstream, increased priority on the physicality in design, the rise of physical books, dressing more in vintage clothing and doing more things by hand. Yet, technology is also changing us. We demand single answers in a complicated world that do not exist and people are getting manipulated into fundamental populism and conspiracy theories. People are changing their physical to match their online avatars and social media usage is disrupting elections and causing increased mental health in children.

    --So the question is quite open. What concerns you most about technology right now as an individual?

    I totally think that Marshall McLuhan was a visionary. In Medium is the Message, he said that “all media are extensions of some human faculty - psychic or physical”. I couldn't agree more and he said that in 1967! The alarming thing for me is that because we're so immersed in the technological revolution, or whatever you want to call it, that we don't know where we're going. What’s happening with artificial intelligence and algorithms? Who will be controlling it? And what's happening with Google and Amazon who are becoming these huge monopolies controlling everything in people's lives? These massive corporate conglomerates, dominating the personal information of everyone, and, like what you’ve shown so eloquently with your book of copy and pasting people’s information, they transform us into numbers, it's scary. The topic needs to hit the mainstream to empower the debates because if not, who knows what will happen. For me, it looks pretty grim.

    --What concerns you most about technology right now as a designer?

    Possibly Instagram. Now it is Instagram but in the future, it is going to be something else. Social media platforms are not space where thinking in any way whatsoever seems to be welcomed. The drive behind them is the opposite. All these platforms are propagandistic and self-advertisement. This fake transparency of showing the music I listen to, what I like, my tastes and this is the name of my dog or whatever. This striptease of who we are publically, I find it disturbing. What do I care about the name of your dog? It's fake. It’s fake humility. It’s fake everything. I mean, your dog is probably real, but these platforms are about curating an image of ourselves to the outside world of who we would like to be instead of who we actually are. It's like a curated vitrine.

    --Would you say a bit about how technology plays a role in your work and what are the challenges your practice has in the next decade?

    I use a computer like everybody else. However, it’s a tool and I don’t let the tool do the thinking. The big danger is that some designers might let the tool do everything. It is our brain doing things first and then it's fantastic to have technological tools allowing us to do to all the incredible things we imagine. But if we let the tools do the thinking then we're not gonna go anywhere. And that’s the biggest challenge of my practice.

    --The “artificial intelligence/robot takeover” is a little while away for the creative industry but the infusion of that automated design process is already here. We only have to go upstairs to Jody Hudson-Powell and Luke Powell and see their work for Graphcore and see how that relationship might evolve. Do you see your practice becoming automated? For example, where the algorithms do the work but there is a designer to give the final approval?

    I don't find anything threatening in that. I do find it fascinating actually that maybe we (algorithms and I) collaborate on something. Often, I look at what happens in Luke and Jody’s screens and see these amazing things. I wouldn’t mind being their intern! (Laughing).

    One of the reasons for joining Pentagram was the opportunity to work with guys like John Marshall, Yuri Suzuki, Luke and Jody that do interesting work together. And to be able to collaborate. I think there is an opportunity for growth and learning from each other and these technologies can do amazing this. I definitely see myself wanting to use those technologies moving forward.

    --We see the boundaries of the internet are blurring. Hito Steyerl said that the internet is moving offline, humans are moving online and are the lines are too blurry to tell the difference and just yesterday the Guardian wrote an article titled “Where is the boundary between your phone and mind?” We are not the creators of the technology but we are the creators of the interfaces, images, platforms, icons, advertisements that are used to navigate the digital realm and the physical realm. Do we, as designers, have a responsibility to consider what we design and we put out there what is the impact?

    Definitely. We have a responsibility towards future generations. It is the same responsibility we have towards the climate. We have a responsibility for absolutely everything happening, including technology and artificial intelligence. We can now make babies grow in plastic bottles and test-tubes. What if we start reproducing human beings like in Brave New World? We then start making copies of each other and this kind of thing… You can’t play God. It's a fine line.

    --Could the answer for graphic designers be to create speculative work that by predicting future scenarios comments on the current trajectory of today?

    Yeah, I think speculative work is one of the ways of doing that. Interactive design is another. But it is about thinking… Thinking. It's about thinking why we do what we do and what we do it for.

    --Perfect. Thank you so much, Astrid.

    Great. This was fun!

    [interview] [astrid stavro] [design] [public] [pentagram] [criticism] [technology] [behaviour]

    Modern Times. (1936). [film] Directed by C. Chaplin. United Kingdom: United Artists

    Gute Process - Profile: Astrid Stavro. (2018). Gute Process - A graphic design magazine. [online] Available at: http://www.guteprocess.com/ [Accessed 13 Dec. 2019].

    Metahaven (2013). Can jokes bring down governments? Memes, Design and Politics. 1st ed. Strelka Press.

    Kenedi, A. (2005). Marks Men: An Interview With Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar, and Sagi Haviv of Chermayeff & Geismar - Print Magazine. [online] Print Magazine. Available at: https://www.printmag.com/featured/marks-men-an-interview-with-ivan-chermayeff-tom-geismar-and-sagi-haviv-of-chermayeff-geismar-2/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2018].

    Steyerl, H. (2013). Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead? - Journal #49 November 2013 - e-flux. [online] E-flux.com. Available at: https://www.e-flux.com/journal/49/60004/too-much-world-is-the-internet-dead/ [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

    Lincoln, K. (2018). Where is the boundary between your phone and your mind?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/09/tech-mind-body-boundary-facebook-google [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].


    2 April 2019

    Ben Vickers is the Chief Technology Officer at the Serpentine Galleries, where he examines technology and alternative forms of social interaction. Currently, curating a major new project by Hito Steyerl that explores ideas around artificial intelligence and human testimony, I called Ben one early morning to talk about simulated realities, humans as coral reefs and how he lives a ‘cyborg’ life.

    --Hello Ben.


    Hito Steyerl talked about the idea of the internet moving offline, the behaviour and actions of the virtual manifesting themselves in the physical. Thus, if the internet has moved offline then humans must be moving online spending and occupying more life in the virtual realm. So to what extent are the lines becoming too blurry to tell the difference between online and offline, reality and virtuality?

    The thing to say is that I was part of the movement referred to as ‘post-internet’and within that movement rejected that reference as I sensed a kind of confluence and misconflation of the assumed politics of technology and the nature of the internet with the politics of the people that were involved with that movement. I have to preface my answer with that. But that movement and that attempt to produce artworks was an expression of the false duality that there existed an online or an offline. It was an attempt to speak about how individual identities are constituted through an online reference point and that being a real marker of the kind of class between the way in which one constitutes identity or their brand versus how one constructs their individual practice. The ‘post-internet’ really marked that moment in which social media became much more present and everybody using it.

    It feels to me that we're in a different moment now, where the subject matter or the nature of the online and the offline is less apparent because everybody is present within those spaces. But then simultaneously there is strange backlash against those technologies. I for one don’t really use social media anymore. I only use Twitter. I am aware that a lot of people are on Instagram, but I elect not to use it. We’re in a funny moment where we are kind of turning against technology as a result of individuals feeling that they no longer have the agency to act within that technological surface. It’s not to say that people are becoming Luddites in the way that people perceive Luddites to exist. Yet, there is a shift.

    The last thing that I'd say on this because it’s a messy and contradictory answer I gave because it's a messy contradictory terrain. The last thing I would point to in answering this question is the discourses of people like Donna Haraway, The Cyborg Manifestoand the field that is known as cyborg anthropology, speak much more eloquently to this than I can.

    What do you think are some of the future causes of this lack of distinction between our two worlds?

    So I would point to the person that started the Pirate Bay, Peter Sunde.When he was put on trial, the judge used the term IRL. And his response was, ‘I don’t use the term IRL, I use the term AFK’. There is not necessarily any distinction between the two. And that was a decade ago that he made that statement. I think that remains true. I don’t think you can carve a line between these two spaces. What we are in right now, some people refer to as the age of entanglement. [reference] That these spaces are irrevocably meshed. And it brings about an attempt to make a distinction between nature and technology. I think that only suggests a poor definition or understanding of what technology is and what we perceive “nature” to be. But actually, it is much clearer to say these things are entangled and that they always have been. They are also both only constructions, that are expressed in language, as categories.

    In your conversation with Ian Cheng and Nora Khan, you discussed a little about the simulations that we live within. What happens when our real emotions to ‘fictive’ or ‘simulated’ narratives on online platforms are no longer distinguishable to reality?

    At this moment, I have this overwhelming sense that much of what we are going through we have experienced many times before throughout history. These events, experiences and perceptions shift in reality are cyclical. They just come with different styles and different textures. In terms of how that manifests at this moment. I think that we are living through your question right now with respect to things like fake news, where people’s ability to distinguish between truth and fiction is much more pronounced. We talk about news being fake but in many ways, it is actually just the realisation that the news has always been fake.

    It's interesting if you start to think of philosophers that theorized on some of these ideas previously. So if you take a thinker on simulation theory like Baudrillard, it was interesting that it was also Baudrillard who said that the Iraq War didn’t happen. And so a lot of these ideas have precedents in existing philosophical ideas. We are living through this strange moment of realisation that seems entirely obvious now and was true before but is only now coming into public discourse.

    Also, I think there is an interesting Gnostic dimension to this condition of simulation. The Gnostics who broke from the early creation of the Christian church. The Gnostics had this idea that we are all living in a simulation. We only need to realise the simulation to recognise ourselves as truly divine beings. There is a whole cosmology within Gnosticism that shapes this world view, which relates heavily to contemporary storytelling about the nature of reality in this moment. The Matrix is a gnostic tale. And I think that Gnosticism is interesting with the emergence of certain strategies, lines of thought and the theological questions that are raised in respect to the emergence of certain technologies, such as AI, VR amongst others. We have a reiteration of the narratives about the construction of reality coming into the present. Somebody we can look to as being more legible within a more contemporary discourse would be the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and particularly his book Valis which talks about the fact that “the empire never ended” and we exist still within a “black iron prison”, the simulation. He also speaks presciently to more ancient theories of simulation theory.

    --Are you familiar with Lilmiquela? ‘She’ is a hugely popular virtual Instagram avatar influencer but who is completely augmented-reality and digitally transmutes her face onto ‘real’ bodies. If we take Lilmiquela as an example, and the space she occupies as a recognisable person in people’s lives. We clearly accept this hyperreal influencer as a role model or, dare I say, as a person, even though she isn’t physically ‘real’. Does it matter that she is not real?

    I think the medium of technology and in this instance, the use of CGI, speaks to the technologies that we will see emerge over the next couple of years with respect to deep fakes - the use of machine learning in order to augment video of people speaking. For example, the famous video of somebody augmenting Obama giving a speech that he didn't give and being unable to distinguish that it is fake. We're gonna see the emergence of more of these deep fakes that are using AI in order produce events that never happened. The medium of these technologies and the effect that they're having in some ways distracts us from how some things that have always been present. Maybe it is wrong to say always but it's a distraction to how similarly one should consider reality television or the Kardashians and any number of these individuals. These are highly constructed simulations. These are no different than the constructions of a CGI character like Lilmiquela. The question of how much time people spend with that avatar is no different really to how much time people spend with TV personalities.

    Perhaps the thing that's different about this is the fact on one side there's the potential for these CGI characters to have some type of autonomy and that's a highly speculative type of potential because it infers that artificial intelligence is going to be able to advance to a certain position. The other thing that's different is that these identities have the potential to be owned or to be ownerless, which produces a certain set of new conditions. You could have the construction of an identity that is owned by a cooperative of people and those individuals could place all of their effort and energy into constructing that identity. They're a kind of historical examples of that, groups like Luther Blissett where people created an identity and then put it out into the world. Again there is an artistic, historical and political history to these kinds of avatars.

    --This is fascinating but we’ll go back to your point about constructed identities later. So maybe let’s maybe cap of this conversation of digital and physical in the broader sense before delving into a more specific discussion. What's the point of continuing to make a distinction between digital and physical life?

    My gut impulse is to say there is no point, but I have to think about that for a moment…

    I guess the essential issue here is that the majority of the platforms and the infrastructure that is considered digital at this moment -perhaps it's always been this way - it feels more tightly controlled by companies than ever before. Whether that is the Big Five (Microsoft, Facebook, Apple etc) or telecommunication companies that control our connection to the Internet through your phone or through broadband. The problem with saying that there's no distinction between the two means that there's a part of your own identity and your life that is the under the control of those systems. To say that those two things don't exist as a duality anymore means that you're insisting on giving up a certain degree of control over oneself and that wasn’t the early aspirations of any of these technologies. So I'm hesitant to say it I think, in terms of perceivable reality, that there is no distinction but I think there is the potential for a distinction or a choice to be made in relation to the infrastructure that you use on a daily basis to shape your identity, and thereby shape your digital vs physical life.

    Certainly, in my practice and the initiatives that I work on outside of an artistic context, there is an effort to make a separation. But I think it is broadly impossible, in terms of perception, to make that shift because even if you are not using it, you are thinking in relation to it and you are in relation to a broader network. As a result of that, we do not do things in the same way that we use to. For example, in this conversation, because it's being recorded by you and also intelligence services that are doing mass surveillance on all of our devices that has an effect on the things I do and do not say and the way in which I speak. So even when we are supposedly doing something that is not digital, it is still affected by these types of networked technologies.

    --Let’s dive into a slightly more specific and concrete topic. In Regimen of Visibility and Vigilance in the Era of Digital Identity, Alejandra Lopez Gabrieldis investigates the relation between data and the self. She said thanks to the possibility of storing, recording and replaying data from human daily behaviour, humans are creating a reflective mirror one that is interactive of capable of driving an actor to comply. Like Gabrielidis, I believe we are extending ourselves into other platforms. It is not us but it is us at the same time. Instagram for example, despite you not using, you must be able to imagine that it becomes the way that I see, react and understand the people on there but it's not really them, is it? And at the same time, this ‘scrolling memory list’ also becomes the way that I see and think about myself, not just how others see me. So you talked about this idea of spending time with these highly constructed entities but at the same time, it is also how we are digesting ourselves and each other, through our very constructed and meticulously crafted identities online. What are your thoughts on identity and human behaviour in relation to this idea?

    I would definitely say that we are not separate from the Kardashians. We all experience reality in that way to one degree or another just that the Kardashians are an extreme example. A thinker who has had a big impact on me throughout my life is the philosopher Giorgio Agamben but particularly in the last five years because of the connection between what he's been writing in the work I've been doing. Agamben about five years ago published a book called ‘The Highest Poverty’, which took to the subject of monastic Rules. I’ve worked on a project called unMonastery for some time now. It looks at the idea of reimagining a monastery in this current moment in order to produce a different way of life. In Agamben’s works what it elucidated for me looking closely at the monastic rules. The rules that govern monasteries are very, very interesting with respect to the question of the relationship of the self in reference to external infrastructure and external ways of perceiving oneself. Because under the idea of the rule, it is essentially to create unity with the way in which one lives one's life and the way in which that life is expressed.

    We live in this situation in which the way in which we express our lives and the way in which we live our life is divided. They’re separate things. The idea of producing a form of life where the infrastructure and the external referent self merge with the experience of life can be seen in the monastic context because the monks live by a rule that produces their life and then life, therefore, produces the rule.

    I'm very interested in that idea and I think it is purely an ongoing aspiration at least within the kind of Western lineage of thought. I'm interested in how we confront that question at this moment in which we have a set of new emerging technology, which only further mediate our experience with reality. In the example of things like blockchain, where one would have to - I would assume based on the current trajectory as much of these technologies - to produce their identity in some form on this immutable ledger that's separate from the self. It raises very complicated questions about what identity is in regard to, for example emerging technologies like augmented reality, which personalizes your perception of reality. There are a lot of technologies coming at this moment that present real challenges to the self you conceive as the self. Consider also, that it is likely fair to say that the majority of people do not necessarily have a clear conception of what we mean when we say the ‘self’. The fact that there are now technologies that make claim both affectively and jurisdictionally to that ‘self’ is challenging, and the rules they attempt to articulate as a result of such claims are troubling.

    --Adding another reference to discuss this topic is so Bernard Stiegler, a French philosopher. He questions if industrial and large scale development, what he calls mnemotechnologies which are devices involved in the practice of aiding memory, will constitute in a displacement of memory. Thus, the displacement of a mobile phone is equivalent to losing track of the numbers of people you are in contact with and consequently the realisation occurs that they are no longer in one’s own memory, but inside the device. This theory how mnemotechnologies structurally reformats how humans retain knowledge and memorise their lives, I believe, can be applied to the idea of ‘loss’ or ‘misplacement’ of self and identity.

    So if we entertain the notion that we see each others' and our own identity, partially or wholly, through the presence and appearance of them and us online, does the loss of the device (ie. the mobile phone) constitute the displacement of our identity? Could these technologies not just displace memory, like Stiegler said, but also displace our identities and what our notion of self is?

    Hah, interesting and complex question. I have a lot of respect for Stiegler’s work and thinking. There is an interesting constellation of thoughts that you have brought together there. I am certainly somebody who suffers from memory loss with respect to technology and therefore outsource much of my memories to digital services, which affects the way in which I organise my entire life. I am very much a cyborg in this respect. The reason I can do so many things is that I have developed lots of mnemonic techniques for situating parts of my knowledge and also my ability to activate that knowledge into external systems. So I don’t have to think about it all the time. There is an element of Foucault’s Biopolitics that speaks to this very strongly.

    Yes, I do agree with that to an extent but I don't know if I agree with it in the sense that it's necessarily a unique situation. Compare the mobile phone to a notebook in which you journal your most private thoughts, in many ways to lose that object there is a kind of equivalent to losing the phone. What I am about to say is disruptive to what I said to the last question, in terms of this idea to attempt to produce a form life. An interesting sphere of thinking that's emerging through people like Donna Haraway and through recent understanding or discoveries in biology and science is this idea of the sovereign self as a contradiction. That we are more like coral reefs. This idea of symbiosis or endosymbiosis. The idea that no individual is sovereign. The idea that no individual is a closed system. Instead, we are like coral reefs so the bacteria in our stomach, the devices that we use we exist within a porous interconnected constellation of being. This is the kind of thinking that helps us process much of what we are experiencing in the present. It also speaks to the direction and trajectories of technologies that are emerging at this moment. It's very obvious that the next stage and development of advanced technologies is entirely orientated around biotechnology. Many people are arguing from a cyborg and anthropological perspectives that the mobile phone is already a prosthesis of the self and already constitutes a part of yourself in the same way much more ancient tools and technologies do much the same. But with biotechnology, we are entering into a new sphere in which these things are very markedly part of our body when we begin to edit genes, insert things into our bodies and upgrade parts of ourselves in much more invasive ways than we previously have.

    --Transhumanism in that regard?

    I think transhumanism speaks to a very particular kind of trajectory of thought within these emerging conditions. It has a human suprematist angle set within it that assumes the human to be the most advanced organism on earth and that it is only natural that we become more advanced through these technologies. What I touched on before speaks to that part but through a different discourse. So, in Haraway’s most recent book ‘Staying with the trouble’ she talks about the idea that if we are engaged with these technologies, then we should use them to merge with species that are going extinct and becoming these hybrid entities. These are all different trajectories and are a bit strange but speak to the same discourse.

    --You said older technologies constitute a part of the self like older technologies, could you mention a few examples of that?

    Books become a technology. The ability to produce and write books has equivalence to modern technology, as it enables knowledge to travel and be stored in entirely new forms, that thereby alter the human, civilisation and our perception of reality. Another technology that becomes the extension of the self would even be just having electricity and the ability to have lights in your home. It completely changes your cycles of activity. Your ability to stay up late at night and to do certain things as a result. Lighting, whilst it seems hard to perceive of it as a technology now because it is just a fabric of reality, would be a clear example of that.

    --We all know social media and the internet operate differently from real life. Without knowledge of the societal effects, people are submitted into a digital augmented society that treats imitation and authentic similarly. We are submerged into a world filled with spaces that affect every part of our lives without much awareness of the ramifications. The effects of technology are not causing a change in our opinions or concepts, but are steadily and without resistance altering our senses and patterns of perception. According to McLuhan, ‘the only person who can resist the encounter is the artist, as he/she is an expert in being aware of sense perception.’ Is that statement still true?

    That is a pretty interesting statement. I think art right now is a very difficult place because I think that too much is professionalised and has capitulated to market dynamics. It’s difficult to say in a blanketed way, ‘Yes that statement is still true’. I do think that it is true that the archetype of the artist that McLuhan was talking about can exist in this moment - those individuals seeking some form of truth whether it be inexplicable truth or truth of self and who will compromise at nothing to reach that truth. I think those artists still exist but they don't necessarily, and I think increasingly so, self-identify themselves as artists within the public sphere in this moment. However with a certain archetype of people certainly that statement is true as they develop a different kind of sense perception. It's just that the art world has become less and less a place in which one can express a way of being for sensing the world.

    What are the upsides of the perceptions of reality changing?

    Two things on this. The things that I find interesting about having a conversation around technology is that it allows you to re-examine in slightly minute ways the things that have always been present and now taken for granted. It allows you to challenge the status quo or the presumed truth of a scenario but in reality, they're really just reflections of the questions that we've always been asking.

    Let me give you an example of that. If you take something like virtual reality. When virtual reality came into being for the third or fourth time a couple of years, but this time at a level of greater sophistication, I spent a lot of time thinking about, practising and experimenting with the question of ‘What makes virtual reality different from psychedelic drugs?’ What can virtual reality do that psychedelics can't do? In a process of experimentation, I came to the conclusion that virtual reality was a very, very primitive technology and actually had very little to offer beyond what is already available to us through pre-existing technologies such as LSD and psilocybin. But the very fact of its existence created the conditions or the context in which I could ask those questions, which I thought was of enormous value. In terms of being able to challenge one’s perception of reality, there are much more ancient forms of technology that are much more powerful and in many ways, emergent technology is just a portal or a gateway into beginning to access those spaces that you wouldn’t necessarily access in the preordained experience of everyday life.

    --A lot of the people find the phenomenons that we spend so much time online and let's entertain the notion that we are externalizing the self and living in a simulation quite alarming. But what are the positives that people could take away if they lose the ability to distinguish between virtuality and reality?

    I think the only reason people have anxieties towards technology is that all those things are already present and it is just like a mirror held up to that fact. A good example of that is with respect to technology and the idea of racist artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence isn't racist, is it? Our society is racist. It's holding up a mirror because it derived or is an expression of that thinking and the historical data sets that make that artificial intelligence racist. There's a kind of false dichotomy there in terms of the way in which we perceive these things. Technology can only make society good, in the same way, as people can only make society better.

    I could ask you questions all day but I think let’s end it there!

    You’re welcome. Thank you for the considerate and very thoughtful questions. I had to really think.

    [interview] [ben vickers] [mnemotechnologies] [simulated reality] [gnosticism] [social media] [sovereign self] [technology]

    Steyerl, H. (2013). Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead? - Journal #49 November 2013 - e-flux. [online] E-flux.com. Available at: https://www.e-flux.com/journal/49/60004/too-much-world-is-the-internet-dead/ [Accessed 10 Jun. 2018].

    Wallace, I. (2014). What Is Post-Internet Art? Understanding the Revolutionary New Art Movement. [online] Artspace. Available at: https://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/trend_report/post_internet_art-52138 [Accessed 15 Mar. 2019].

    Haraway, D. (2015). Cyborg Manifesto. [ebook] Available at: https://monoskop.org/images/4/4c/Haraway_Donna_1985_A_Manifesto_for_Cyborgs_Science_Technology_and_Socialist_Feminism_in_the_1980s.pdf [Accessed 28 Feb. 2019].

    Movieclips Trailers (2013). TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard Official Trailer #1 - Documentary. [image] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6qcJt2NPY8&feature=youtu.be&t=72 [Accessed 31 Mar. 2013].

    Serpentine Galleries (2018). Ian Cheng in conversation with Nora Khan and Ben Vickers. [video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV9HWjyJeno [Accessed 15 Jan. 2019].

    Baudrillard, J. (1995). The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, pp.23-87.

    Dick, P. (2012). Valis. London: Phoenix.

    Petrarca, E. (2018). Lil Miquela’s Body Con Job. [online] The Cut. Available at: https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/lil-miquela-digital-avatar-instagram-influencer.html [Accessed 19 Jan. 2019].


    Alejandra Lópz Gabrieldis, “Régiment de visibilidad y vigilancia en la era de la Identidad Digital,” Teknocultura:Revista de Cultura Digital y Movimientos Social vol. 12, no.3 (2015)

    Agamben, G. (2013). The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.


    Armand, Louis; Bradley, Arthur; Zizek, Slavoj; Stiegler, Bernard; Miller, J. Hillis; Wark, McKenzie; Amerika, Mark; Lucy, Niall; Tofts, Darren; Lovink, Geert. Technicity (Kindle Locations 319-326). Litteraria Pragensia. Kindle Edition.



    Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble. Durham: Duke University Press.

    McLuhan, M. and Gordon, W. (2015). Understanding media. Berkeley, Calif.: Gingko Press, p.20.

  • WEEKLY FRAGMENTS [7]: Offline and online are the same, reality distinction...

    04 March 2019

    Series of short written fragments on various topics from Monday 04 April to Sunday 10 April.

    10th March

    On Danish television, I heard a young student say very clearly to the Danish education minister “Our online and offline lives are just as important. Writing to your friend on Facebook is the same as talking to them face to face.”

    9th March

    Are we losing our minds? Is it even that new?

    8th March

    Take trolling online. If a person finds a place for their anger or acceptance through hate speech online their externalised self will take that form. The counteraction is through feeding the popularity of the digital self the physical self will take on some of the facets and characteristics of the digital self.

    7th March

    End essay on Erving Goffman and Pope Pius quote after talking about the interactions between the digital and physical self and then concluding with the ethics of considering the implications of externalising the self.

    6th March

    Look further into Wittgenstein family resemblances. There is an interesting debate regarding the language we use to make up the world. You can entertain that there are only resemblances between each instance of each mask in Erving Goffman’s theory and the resemblance to each mask which is what we call the self.

    5th March

    The cinematic experience of time may be the most accurate and easily understandable method for distinguishing the digital self to the physical self, bodily self and the externalised self.

    4th March

    We've thought of the self being physically contained because almost none of its behaviour has been observable outside of physical life. However, the unfolding entropy of the externalisation and separation of the self is occurring more visibly than before due to the dramatic distinctive descriptions we like to draw between reality and virtuality.

    [wittgenstein] [trolling] [erving goffman] [reality] [virtuality]

  • WEEKLY FRAGMENTS [6]: Interfaces are reality, transmission of digital energy...

    04 March 2019

    Series of short written fragments on various topics from Monday 25 February to Sunday 03 April.

    3 March

    Question for my critical report: To what extent is the physical self going to merge with the digitally designed realms? To what extent does the self externalising its existence into the digital realms affect the physical self? To what extent are humans displacing their identity and the self into the designed digital realms?

    2 March

    Internalising and externalising are the same.

    1 March

    Paul Austin said he doubts that it is up to the graphic designer to change short-termism and that humans shouldn’t believe that the person that they are inside the device isn’t the person they are outside the device.

    28 February

    Project your thoughts and ideas and your design practice in an engaging way that others can understand and relate to.

    27 February

    An example of energy transmitting through the digital - someone tweets at you with something incendiary, bashing the article you just shared or the point you just made, mocking something you said about politics, calling you stupid. You quote the tweet, maybe sarcastically, to prove it doesn't affect you. But it does! You tweeted it back and to all of your followers. It's an odd cycle. A transmission of negative energy through rebutting nasty political exchanges. This concept is no different to how writing and books transmit energy when read by another person, yet the speed and the fact that individuals navigate, exist and transmit simultaneously in designed digital realms create new occurrences.

    26 February

    The contemporary outlook on the world is the rejection of the aberration of reality. Through speculation and contemplation, one can realise that there are multiple realities co-existing in the same space, overlapping and connecting through designed interfaces. However, most of the time we cope with this aberration of reality by unseeing these simultaneous versions of reality. This unseeing is becoming impossible to maintain as other forms of reality and self are becoming the predominant one over the more commonly acceptable physical ones. There is nothing closed off or linear about today. The now is exceedingly complex and it would do us good to recognise it and attempt to dive deeper into the experience rather than avoid it.

    25 February

    An interface is a graphic representation of a digital platform, tool or machine, which enable a user to interact with and operate it. Interfaces are capable of mediating the world on their own terms. Interfaces are a reductive force as they categorise and force choices. Their reductive design allows them to have an effect on our reality. Interfaces conditions us to believe things about reality while acting on it. An interface is "a point where two systems, subjects, organisation etc. meet and interact.” This shared boundary is where conditioning occurs in both directions, between the ‘user’ on either side of the interface, on the common boundary between these existing two selves in both matter and space. (Oxford Dictionary)

    [digital energy] [interface] [ux design] [non-linear reality] [externalised self] [reality] [virtuality]


    27 February 2019

    Luke Powell[left] and his brother, Jody Hudson-Powell, joined Pentagram as partners in 2015 and brought new and exciting offerings with them, especially through their creative use of new technologies and systems in design. I sat down with Luke Powell (a CSM graduate) to discuss the pros and cons of AI, new digital tools and his thoughts on the graphic design industry and his creative practice.

    Hi Luke


    --What frustrates you most about the graphic design industry?

    I’m not sure about industry frustrations, but at the day to day level my frustrations are most likely to be born out of the relationships we have. Our design is only as good as our relationship with our clients – half of the work that Jody and I do is navigating those relationships. The frustrations I have are not with designers or clients but with my own ability to navigate and read a certain situation properly to get the best outcome. You can't be big headed about your ideas and always expect the best thing to come out. You have to be good at listening and understanding a client's’ visual literacy in order to help navigate them through the work and achieve the best solution.

    Projects where the client is graphically literate and you have a good collaborative relationship are the ones that go dreamily. That's twenty percent of time though, for the rest you are hand holding. And so the frustration is that we don’t always gauge a clients level of understanding and that creates difficulties along the way. But as soon you’ve acknowledged that relationship is key to a good project, you can start to improve that ability.

    --You recently helped create the graphics for Yuri Suzuki’s anti-Brexit acid house album. Why don’t graphic designers voice their opinions about the industry and the world around them more often? What are graphic designers responsibilities to the world itself? Perhaps, socially, politically and environmentally?

    I think graphic designers (and people generally) don't express their opinions more because of life. We only have so much time in our hyper condensed lives and doing good for the world drops off our list of priorities. I think that’s human, I would like to do more socially positive work and get frustrated that we don’t.

    When I started doing graphic design I was morally optimistic about the positive things it could do, it was one of the main reasons I wanted to study graphic design. It wasn't about the individual and it wasn't about me, it was about helping other people. If I wanted to communicate ideas to the world, surely graphic design was the best way to do it. Graphic design a medium in which the innate property is to express ideas to many people in as clear and concise a way as possible. We might not be doing a large amount of social, political or environmental work but we do help individuals realise their ideas and missions (big and small) which I believe has a value, albeit not as lofty.

    --Should designers be conscious about what projects they take on?

    Yes, we have a massive responsibility. In terms of sustainability; what papers we use and what processes we use. Personally we don’t do enough. We should be doing more digitally, absolutely.

    In terms of promoting my political opinion, I don't think it’s my place to express my ‘well meant’ but if i’m honest ‘imperfectly formed’ beliefs.

    --But isn’t Yuri anti-Brexit project a model for how you could express your opinion publicly?

    (Laughs) I'm gonna contradict myself here... I completely agree with Yuri’s project and that's why we backed it and why we helped him... I’m happy to support causes I believe in but I do get anxious about voicing my own opinion. I'm not an economist. I'm not a politician. I do have an opinion, and so I am happy to sit around and have a conversation about these things, but I don’t think it’s productive to hear my own or others half-baked thoughts expressed publicly.

    --So moving on. What concerns you most about technology (social media, big tech, data collection, surveillance) right now as an individual?

    There are a number of things that concern me about the way our data is used; Who has ownership? What is being done with it? What opinions are being formed in databases about our personalities? What information is being pumped back at us based on these opinions? There is also a suppression of information occurring due to the limitations of the algorithms being used and this is narrowing people’s access to information. In addition, ease of access to information online is making us less accustomed to going into a library, a second hand bookshop, a graveyard, a museum etc. to do our research. The result is that research is carried out in an echo chamber making it hard for designers to unearth a unique opinion.

    On a more positive note Blockchain is doing good things in this area, also Tim Berners-Lee's is talking about some interesting stuff in regards to how the internet should be compartmentalised.

    --What concerns you most about technology (social media, big tech, data collection, surveillance) right now as a designer?

    I am mostly excited about what technology can do for designers. It is our relationship with technology and how we view it that needs to change. I think machine learning is a fantastic thing and rather than being scared of it we need to utilise and make the best out of it. Lots of people get wrongly panicked, due to a lack of understanding, about how machine learning works and how automation can benefit us.

    It's happening. We can't stop it. It is in our responsibilities to use technology in the best way possible. Jody and I have never been negative about technology and try to use it in the best way possible. If design get’s completely automated, then great, we can go do something else! (Laughs). I think as designers we should be engaging with and guiding technology. If I’ve got any fear it is that people stand back in panic and don't help mould these technologies into the useful, morally good and helpful tools that they could be.

    --You’ve said something similar in an interview with Creative Review. "The general feeling around AI and machine learning can be very dystopian and what’s perpetuated in the news, media, TV and film gets in the way of being able to discuss the benefits.” But aren’t there some real impacts to consider before just opening up the doors to AI and automation to design?

    Yes, there are. And that’s why we need to be involved. There is a problem that in order for systems to operate, someone has to set it up. Thus, there will be bias built in by the person coding it. How these systems are set up needs to be carefully considered or we find ourselves with a bad starting point growing into a much bigger issue, rooted in the initial same flaw. That is a massive fear for machine learning as a whole. If we don’t pay enough attention right now, to our starting point and then we get it wrong. That's why as it is happening, the solution is not put our heads in the sand but to get involved. I can't imagine for one second that we're gonna be able to stop this!

    --Your work for Graphcore is perhaps one of your most renowned projects. The way you used automation in that project predicts both a bright future ahead and to others, a much bleaker future ahead. What are the ethical considerations of letting software and algorithms do more of the design work?

    In that instance we created a tool for creating patterns. It is a responsible and practical way to let the client roll out the vision for their brand or identity. Often, when people create identities for a client they have a fantastic idea, everyone gets very excited about it, but no one can implement it on the client side. There's nothing in place, there is not a big team at the other end, and if there is a big team they may not even understand the identity. Jody and I are trying to put into practice possibilities for creating automated ways for clients to have the correct result come out at the other end consistently. So nothing is being taken away from anybody at this stage. Morally I think we are in a good place.

    In terms of taking jobs away and in relation to the technology that companies like Graphcore are creating I would say that I’m a techno-optimist.

    --On your website you say Graphcore's "mission [is] of creating a future where machine learning improves all aspects of our everyday lives.” Do you believe machine learning and AI can improve all aspects our everyday lives? Why?

    This is a massive question. It depends on who has control of it. But yes, I do believe it can – because technology has an amazing potential power, if it isn't owned by individuals and is owned by everybody. It can make everybody's life easier. It could have a great equalising force. In theory – you start moving into science fiction a little here – you could envisage a future where people have to do less work because it’s being automated. Thus, as long as we live in a fair society where that technology isn’t being owned by companies and conglomerates and that wealth is freely redistributed. Then, technology could have this amazing power. Or it could create this horrible dystopian future. It goes back to earlier, which is to get people involved, engaging with technology and not being scared. The more open source things are the better understanding we have, and the more people are behind that idea the more likely a better future becomes. The more positively we engage with technology the more likely we are to prevent a techno-dystopian future.

    --What is the biggest challenge of your practice in the next decade?

    Personally, the biggest challenge is probably staying on the right side of my relationship with graphic design. I’ve always enjoyed making my own ideas come to life and if I'm going to compare the immediacy of playing music, hanging out with my family and friends or anything more visceral, graphic design pales in comparison. I do love design but I need to constantly make sure we are balancing the types of work we do to make sure we and our team stay interested and engaged.

    --It’s funny because you express two sides of yourself. One side is very in tune with what you're doing now: working with new technologies and being super exciting for your future practice whilst also being considered in how you voice your opinions. Then you are also saying you want to bring your own ideas to life and be a ‘content creator’.

    I can see how there might appear to be a contradiction in these two positions. I think we were talking about this before we started the interview. I don’t believe in a middle space between graphic design (creating something for somebody else’s vision) and art (creating something for my own vision). I think they are different things that don’t inhabit the same space. I find it easy to be clear about how I feel about one and clear how I feel about the other. I’m happy to use graphic design to voice someone else’s opinion, but I think if I want to voice my own opinion it’s not the correct medium.

    --Thank you very much Luke.

    Not a problem. These were good questions.

    [interview] [luke powell] [ai] [automation ][graphcore] [graphic design] [technology] [responsibility]

    Baines, J. (2018). Yuri Suzuki and the Hudson-Powells release... an acid house Brexit protest record. [online] It's Nice That. Available at: https://www.itsnicethat.com/news/yuri-suzuki-jody-hudson-powell-acid-brexit-miscellaneous-181218 [Accessed 8 Jan. 2019].

    Solon, O. (2018). Tim Berners-Lee: we must regulate tech firms to prevent 'weaponised' web. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/11/tim-berners-lee-tech-companies-regulations [Accessed 7 Feb. 2019].

    Gosling, E. (2017). Creatives, how will AI help you? – Creative Review. [online] Creative Review. Available at: https://www.creativereview.co.uk/creatives-will-ai-help/ [Accessed 5 Jan. 2019].

    Pentagram. (2018). Graphcore — Story — Pentagram. [online] Available at: https://www.pentagram.com/work/graphcore/story [Accessed 28 Nov. 2018].

    Pentagram. (2018). Graphcore — Story — Pentagram. [online] Available at: https://www.pentagram.com/work/graphcore/story [Accessed 28 Nov. 2018].

  • WEEKLY FRAGMENTS [5]: Interfaces, Avoiding reducible design, virtuality = reality...

    25 February 2019

    Series of short written fragments on various topics from Monday 18 February to Sunday 24 February.

    24 February

    My struggle in writing about the externalised self is in how to relate it to design and graphic design specifically. Not because there aren’t connections but because I’m afraid of digressing into the particularities of the design causing the externalisation of the self rather than the experience of externalising the self. Yet I found that the experience runs through the designed interfaces and perhaps by creating a definition of the interface the experience and the design exploration can overlap.

    [interface]"A point where two systems, subjects, organisation etc. meet and interact”.”A surface forming a common boundary between two portions of matter or space”. “A device or program enabling a user to communicate with a computer: a graphical user interface.” [to interface with] “connect with by an interface."

    23 February

    Metahaven said it better than I ever could "For all the complaints that we could make against the average digital device for the time that it is stealing from us, we should perhaps instead investigate the kind of experience that we have whilst staring at - and interacting with - these tiny screens and the digital platforms inside and behind them" (Digital Tarkovsky, p.6). This statement exemplifies the rationale behind my work and my writings. To speculate on the merge of the digital and the physical looking at the issues without any negative preconceptions.

    22 February

    "We are used to speaking about identification as an interior experience, but there are also ways to think about identification as a process of exteriorisation. I’m arguing on behalf of this exteriorisation, of outsideness."(Benjamin Bratton, PSYOP p.112). Like Donna Harroway also discussed, the sovereign self is a contradiction. The notion of looking inside yourself needs to be reversed in the 21st century. Not because it is incorrect to do but because you no longer exist within spaces that controlled by your physical self or even your externalised self. By looking within you can never discover your entire self. The externalised self acts independently and other externalised selves act upon your externalised self and change it and by extension your physical self. Identification of your self comes from accepting the complexity of these blurry and interconnected boundaries. In short, reaching out to touch yourself is the advice of tomorrow.

    21 February

    Smartphones have reduced the separation of reality from virtual reality, making the two realities nearly seamless. Virtual reality begins to function as an augmentation of reality, rather than a separate space. The closest point of eliminating the divide between reality and virtuality is happening right now. The smartphone is causing us to transcend into a perpetual hyperreality. The question then becomes, if our world is becoming hyperreality is hyperreality then becoming reality? Most of us live in societies where we spend more and more time immersed in virtuality, the landscape of the virtual can/will become preferable to what is experienced in the physical reality, and the demand for the physical changing to match the virtual may cause significant disruption in our recognition of our self and our surroundings. Thus, if there is no longer a distinction between physical and digital or if we force those distinctions to disappear, the need to distinguish the difference between digital and physical, the self and the externalised self will also disappear. In this way, the externalised self and the physical self are one and the same or are almost one and the same. Once permanent hyperreality is reached the externalised self and the self are without a question no longer individually discernible and form a new whole navigating a novel ‘virtuality-reality'.

    20 February[again]

    "In hyperreal society, where the simulation is fluid ‘permanence' becomes harder and harder for people to conceive.” (Lil Internet, Twitter, PSYOP).

    20 February

    "In hyperreal society, where the simulation is fluid ‘permanence' becomes harder and harder for people to conceive.” (Lil Internet, Twitter, PSYOP).

    19 February

    I hope to resist the idea that design should always be reductive or reducible to a single concept or claim. The plethora and ineradicable pluralities of perceived notions seem a much more fascinating place to explore from (especially in regards to speculating on the self) rather than attempting to find a singular and summative claim. Looking at perceived notions as part of a network, whether it be political, economic, spatial, or technological drawing from them, whether contradictory or supportive of one another, in order to create work that can create new multiple imagined lessons or multiple gateways to dive deeper into the work.

    This belief is the attempt of my projects. My investigations into the perception of the digital image draw on a network of perceived notions. Are digital images physically measurable in atoms, their binary code, their prevalence online? Are they only digital? Are digital images a form of performance art? - Is the visualisation of image comparable to playing music from a score? Are digital images capable of manifesting and moving across the physical and digital? Furthermore, in the discussion of the externalised self, there is a similar network of notions to draw from: hyperreality (Baudrillard), mnemotechnologies, the self-existing in duality (digital and physical) or existing as a porous interconnected being (Harroway) or even as a machine (Guattari and Deleuze). These notions contradict each other at times but form the basis for me to build a fluid working method and develop speculative projects and writings. Therefore, it is not just the investigation into the merge of physical and digital than underpins my practice but drawing from a plurality of notions existing in an interconnected network.

    [metahaven] [interfaces] [lil internet] [reality] [virtuality] [exteriorisation] [benjamin bratton]

  • WEEKLY FRAGMENTS [4]: Humans are coral reef, the externalisation through the phone is not unique, 'sovereign self'..,

    18 February 2019

    Series of short written fragments on various topics from Monday 11 February to Sunday 17 February.

    17 February

    What if we came to the conclusion that there are no formal boundaries between technology and an individual or a collective, and that this conclusion is inherently beautiful? It could allow people to approach this relationship in a more sensitive and analytical way. We often engage with this increasingly blurred boundary with horror or rejection. Longing for the vintage, the ’simpler’, the imperfect, the older. But for designers and artist, we can choose to immerse ourselves in this complex phenomenon to revealing the beauty and the elegant in order to bring about methods for people to engage more openly and actively in the questioning and speculation of the technological and biological merge of our worlds.

    16 February

    The externalised self may, in fact, be externalised selves, fragmented across different planes of reality. A patchwork of digital and physical selves that only when regarded in their totality can form the entire ‘self’ of an individual.

    15 February

    “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than the content of the communication.” (McLuhan, MiM) I hope to (in a later post) to discuss this theory but using transparency as the primary medium which shapes society, rather than tangible media (print, the internet, radio, television etc.)

    14 February

    Donna Harroway said the 'sovereign self' is a contradiction. Humans are not closed off systems in isolation contained in a tangible vessel. No individual is a closed system but porous open interconnected beings ie. humans are more like coral reefs. Mobile phones constitute a part of your self, but so did older technologies. The mobile device is not unique in the extension and externalisation of the self. Books and writing extended our memory and identity through its ability to transmit, communicate and reflect our own actions and ideas. Ben Vickers told me that even electricity is an extension of the individual. The ability to have light in your home augments your life, allowing you to stay up at night - producing and living in ways previously impossible.

    This discourse around the extension of the human through mnemotechnologies leads directly towards the discourse around biotechnologies being used on the human body extending us and marking us physically. My essay will not move into the realm of extension of humans' physical capacities or the concepts of transhumanism. However, the link between the externalised self and biotechnologies is an important one to acknowledge.

    13 February

    I discussed the idea of mnemotechnologies and the loss of memory being an applicable theory to the externalised self with Ben Vickers, CTO of the Serpentine Gallery. He found the idea interesting. He said that organises his life like a cyborg, having developed several mnemonic techniques to extend his knowledge, schedule and thoughts in order to not think about it all the time. These techniques form the extension of the physical him but allow him to be more prolific and efficient than if he didn’t. However, he noted that this extension and externalisation of the self is not unique. Losing a notebook would the same loss of memory as losing a mobile device.

    These discussions of the externalisation of the self should, therefore, highlight that the development may perhaps not be unique to our time, but is an important discussion to have nonetheless. It may just be that now the externalisation is placed in shared platforms, instantly and more widely accessible.

    12 February

    Being on your laptop writing an essay, working on a project in Photoshop is not the experience of being online that engages your externalised self. It exists in the moments of sharing and the moments when one decides what not to share. Your externalised self is the one that others can see - the one that is presented. The one both you and others can view. (On later review, I question the validity of this hypothesis).

    Monday 11 February

    When we access these online social spaces, we do not see each other as images or representations, but as something more. When Face-timing or video calling another you see their image on your screen not as a representation but as an interface to connect, interact or feel with the person on the other side of the phone. It is an important distinction to make in the conversation around the idea of the externalised self. Our online self is real so long as other people view that online self as real. The discussion of the self-being externalised comes from how the designed platforms do not simulate reality or represent but extend the methods and ways we feel and interact with each other causing an externalised self to manifest itself.

    [donna harroway] [ben vickers] [sovereign self] [externalised self] [coral reefs]

  • WEEKLY FRAGMENTS [3]: Pope Pius XII, Adjusting to virtuality, McLuhan...

    11 February 2019

    Series of short written fragments on various topics from Monday 4 February to Sunday 10 February.

    09 February

    Institutions are extremely risk averse which is fair enough if you are trying to archive knowledge. But institutions struggle to adapt, they are inefficient, always striving for perfections, and conceal failure. They never attempt an iterative process recognising the process and documenting the failures to learn from them. They are top down hierarchies and a top down hierarchy struggles with rapid mobilisation.Institutions cannot do the things that networks can because of their nature and their structure.

    08 February

    Everyone only things about themselves. Conversation is a series of statements about oneself. We talk only about ourselves or discuss our opinions about a topic. We love having our picture taken or hearing what others think about us. So why should it be surprising that everything you shared pieces itself together and becomes its own being capable of ’sharing’ right back at you?

    07 February

    People are living in a digital reality different from their physical one. So some it can be difficult to navigate between the two when one realising their digital and physical reality are not synchronised.

    05 February

    In extension of yesterday's fragments, I discovered a quote from Pope Pius XII from 1950, who was surprisingly deeply concerned about the nature of media. “It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of modern society and stability of its inner life, depend in large part, on the maintenance of an equilibrium between the strength of techniques of communication and the capacity of the individual’s own reaction.”

    Even if the spark to enact change can come from ordinary people, our world is ultimately dependent on politicians, legislations and increasingly mega corporations to enact meaningful change, and so maintaining the equilibrium Pius spoke of comes down to the individual. Perhaps, there is an argument that religion and spirituality could help us improve our individual reaction to technology, which for example alters our desires. Religion often asks to look within one self and reflect on ones action, unfortunately, more often in an effort to get close to a benevolent being who decides your life course. Yet, I believe it is worth reflecting on whether our desires are our own or whether they came from exposure to media.

    It is likely impossible to pause technological advancement long enough for us to consider the future impacts of each new inventions. To reflect and consider our actions and what drove us take those actions. Yet, we do have the ability to spend a few minutes to look within ourselves to reflect upon how we react, on our senses and our desires. To learn more about ourselves (if one wants to) and in order to maintain autonomy over ones actions.

    04 February

    The effects of technology are not causing a change in our opinions or concepts, but are steadily and without resistance altering our senses and patterns of perception. According to McLuhan, the only person who can resist the encounter is the artist, as he/she is an expert in being aware of sense perception.

    Although, I do not plan to go into depths of how to prevent or resist humans' sense perception change due to technology or as McLuhan otherwise put it 'the physical and psychic alterations of the human conditions', it remains an interesting contemplation.

    [michael mcluhan] [pope pius xii] [religion] [spirituality] [institutions]


    8 February 2019

    Chris Moody is the Chief Design Officer at Wolff Olins, "responsible for setting and challenging the creative bar and creating provocative design that makes the world sit up, take notice and smile.” He sat down with me in Wolff Olins studio, where we discussed topics regarding graphic design’s continuous stumble into an uncertain future.

    -- Hi Chris. How are you?

    Hello, I’m good. Thank you.

    -- So what frustrates you most about the graphic design industry practice?

    Probably at the moment, the thing that frustrates me most is the way in which people outside the industry talk about the industry. There is a perception that graphic design is almost wasteful. I say that from experience. This means whenever there's a discussion about a new brand it inevitably focuses on the logo and on it being a waste of money. This perception undervalues not only the effort that goes in naturally from all of the people involved because it's never just one designer. It's always a team. The perception undervalues the impact that design can have. I think really good design is positive commercially and socially.

    The role of design is to add benefit and graphic design should add value. Now that might be aesthetic value, it might be informational value (as to how to make things clearer for people) or even commercial value of just straightening things up, so that you're not wasting money on reinventing the wheel every time. If it’s good, graphic design always adds some kind of value. If it’s bad, it can be a waste of money.

    -- In a presentation at Web Summit, you’ve said that brands have to brave, but shouldn’t we designers be brave as well. Why don’t graphic designers voice their opinions about the industry and world around them more? What are graphic designers responsibilities to the world? Socially, politically and environmentally?

    Good question. It is essential that designers are brave. As a designer, it is important that you get people to ask questions as much as solve questions. For example, a new redesign of Slack launched yesterday. It's quite good. It's very practical. I’m sure it fulfils much of what was asked in the brief. There's some negative response online. I'm always reluctant to be negative about other people's work as it is not necessarily helpful. Anyway, a lot of the challenges being raised about this new redesign are actually whether it is differentiating, special or different. There is value in looking into this argument as I think designers have a real role to invent stuff that people haven't seen before. It is challenging particularly when you've got technology companies whose mission is to make things as frictionless and as simple as possible. This includes user design and user experience. The danger is you create design that becomes soulless and similar to everything else.

    One thing Wolff Olins has always focused on and, me personally, is creating things that are like no other. Always trying to be deliberately different and purposefully different, even if that pisses people off and even if that makes people say it is a waste of money. At least, it challenges people to think about things that they haven't considered before. That's where the other stuff comes in about having a kind of social conscience.

    Again, if we think about Wolff Olins, I've been here 15 years and why I stay is because we care about the stuff we put out into the world. We care about the world. I think it's important you have a point of view on why you're making something and whether the product or the company is adding value as well. Not to say you should always just work for charities. However, there should always be a positive reason why you're working with an organization. The mission is to make the job of design to amplify the good within.

    -- But why don't designers voice or more openly criticize? Designers I’ve interviewed say it’s important but none of them really do it.

    I think graphic designer are scared. Often it would mean turning down a job. I think we (Wolff Olins) are in a lucky position our reputation means that were able sometimes to walk away from clients. If you are an independent and you rely on monthly revenue, it's very hard to turn down a client. Part of why people don't voice their opinions is the fear of losing work. That’s a shame because if more people would, then we would change things. It is easy for me to say that sat here on the ninth floor of a building that Omnicom owns. I’m playing with their money. You have to appreciate that it is different if you are a smaller independent studio where you have to take every opportunity that arrives.

    -- Your studio's report 'Radical Everything' claimed that businesses should be vehicles of social change. Other studios don’t seem to agree so much. Chermayeff & Geismar - who designed the Chase Manhattan corporate identity, National Geographic, NBC, PBS, declared that it is none of their business to evaluate the ethics of their clients' practice. “We do not feel responsible for the character of those we work for.” Do you agree?

    Uhmm… no, I don't agree. In proxy of being involved in representing companies external characteristics, you are responsible for their character to a degree. I can understand where they're coming from. My argument is not that all designer should be saying “we will only work with companies that already do and are good for the world.” You should try to wherever are adding value to be that critical voice in the room. I’ve spent a lot of time in meeting rooms and boardrooms with CEOs where we are able to be the critical voice. Now whether your critical voice is heard or not that is a different question. Yet, we are able to have that voice and I think it's important that people take that opportunity. Because that is how changes are made, by kind of chipping things away a little bit, telling clients “you cannot be saying that because it's not true.”

    They are always going to be organizations which we would never work with, like the arms industry or cigarettes. However, there's always going to be a challenge with any organization that you work with. If you work with an FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) brand or a supermarket brand, you know that you are dealing with the obesity crisis because they sell lots of products, like crisps and chocolate. There is a way of looking at the graphic designer as responsible for the obesity crisis. Well yes, you are kind of responsible to a degree. Yet, you can do what you can to add some positive value. That might just be a case of helping people to understand and consider this products as a part of a responsible diet. I don’t think you can you can completely remove yourself from responsibility. I think that is a bit of a cop-out.

    -- From what I’m gauging it seems like if there is line graphic designers have to tread. As an add-on to this, but how about the perception that Wolff Olins, when working with Uber, turned a blind eye to their infamous scandals and their, in polite terms, inconsiderate ethical and moral standards.

    One of the reasons we worked with Uber, and enjoyed working with them, is because they’re in a moment of change. We’ve worked with big banks, with supermarkets like Tesco who had a lot of negative stories in the early years of our relationship with them. These companies wanted to change. That's true of all our clients. The reason why we take on certain jobs because we can help create that change. Are we responsible for how that plays out from there onwards? Not necessarily. Any big complex organization are difficult. We’ve worked with Barclays for years and they had all kinds of issues and involvement and responsibility for the banking crisis. Yet, there were people within who wanted to change and the briefs that we've got where about accelerating or magnifying that change. I think as long as we're working on that that makes sense to me.

    -- My friend asked this question to Mother London. Can branding ever be authentic? Iceland (the supermarket) now supports the rainforest and Cosmopolitan now supports “plus-size models”, but it all seems layered in a convenient attempt to improve their reputation and their sales, as cultural attitudes shift. What do you do to make sure that brands you work for are authentic?

    The key is to see if something is genuinely part of the fabric of a business via the initial brief and early research into that organisation. To be authentic, it will normally be involved in the commercial side of the business. It won't be run by a small team that’s away from the boardroom. It will have the backing of the CEO. It'll be vocalized and have the involvement of the board.

    It's a really good question. How do you know? Sometimes it is good instinct. A lot of what designers do is good instinct and then we try to come up with models, structures, approaches and documentation around it. I’ve done this a long, long time and I have been good at figuring out who’s bullshitting. Often, doing a job is two years of your life. I don't want to give two years of my life to people are bullshitting me. I do appreciate that we are in a slightly lucky position to be able to reject briefs. It’s not something I take lightly. It's one of the reasons why I keep getting inspired by this place because we attract people who feel authentic and are genuine.

    -- What concerns you most about technology (social media, big tech, data collection, surveillance) right now as an individual?

    I’ve just been writing about this for a brief for an organisation that is very technologically focused and doing work with machine learning. One of the biggest worries we've got is that we are so worried about it! We're not really getting engaged with it. I read newspaper reports about what we gonna do when AI finally strikes. It is already here. It is already happening!

    The involvement of technology is inseparable from our daily life. My daughter wakes up and the first thing she does is ask for the iPad so she can watch Minions. She's integrated into technology from two-years-old, operating an iPad with the same dexterity as her grandma. We worry that it is ruining us or rotting our brains. I really don't think it is. We should look at the now as a fantastic time to be living in, where we can still direct technology, use it to our advantage and power humanity. We're not enslaved by it. We're not trapped by it. We are just not utilizing it as well as we could. I think that's the biggest worry I have about it.

    Do I think that technology will replace me my job? No. Because of those things we talked about earlier. Because I've got instinct and the ability to walk into a room and sense another human beings feelings. Because of the ability to pull an idea out of nowhere. Do I think technology will replace a lot of people who are bad at their job? Yes. I think a massive amount of people will lose their jobs in the design industry. However, they'll be the ones that are doing the type of work that can be done by robots. Repetitive non-thinking and unconnected to the real world. Those that are trotting stuff out for the sake of it, replacing them will be a good thing. The work will then become more imaginative. It will empower people to think in bigger and brighter ways. It will encourage people to do the weirder stuff. One of the downsides of technological advancement over the last few years is the blandness of everything.

    --You’ve said that publically several times. Brands are boring. Is that what concerns you about technology as a designer?

    It drives me nuts! A quarter of brands could disappear overnight and no one would give a shit. Brands are boring and I genuinely believe it should be the opposite. Why is branding and identity becoming formulaic? We've got more tools and yet we're using them to do fewer things in already-done ways. It is because we rely on the tool to do the work wherein that freedom would have normally been. The unexpected accident and the ability to go on a tangent is lost. An algorithm will not take you to a place you haven’t been. An algorithm will always take you to a place where you expect it to go.

    The one thing we’re trying to push this year is to do deliberately weirder stuff. To do stuff that looks like nothing else! To do stuff that breaks our boundary: whether it's in terms of a technological boundary, whether it's visual terms or whether it's in terms of like how we integrate a brand with other brands. The opportunity is huge. Unfortunately, everybody is currently funnelling down to a singular point.

    I'm massively excited by technology. I'm really excited by how we can exploit it as opposed to what it's doing to us.

    -- Maybe you can just clarify, what do you see the biggest challenge of your profession is to itself and the outside world? In relation to technology and the other aspects, we talked about today.

    One of the biggest challenges is maintaining integrity. By integrity, I mean the combination of individuality and belief. They’re something about getting an idea from the centre of your head out into the world, which is the reason I get excited about a job I’ve been doing for twenty odd years. It is an amazing thing. The idea there is a formula or that it’s replicable just makes me sad.

    I feel incredibly privileged to do the job. There are lots of people who have much harder lives. All designers are really privileged because they get to essentially play. It is essentially the same joy my daughter has when she sits down with a pack of crayons. She's basically doing the same thing that Dad does every day, which is an amazing thing. We should all be proud to have that role. However, in order to encourage it to continue, we've got to ensure that this special quality is maintained - inventing, dreaming and coming up with stuff hasn't been done before. To be passionate, to be vocal and getting in people’s faces and saying this is a different way to do things. Not just following a crowd but trying every single day to do something we did not do yesterday.

    --I’ve started to become aware of the nearly complete absence of critique in design. It’s perhaps only Eye on Design or the DesignObserver. There is no critical or constructive design discussion. Very little of a designers’ role is about criticism and taking the industry responsible for things taking place. What would it require for designers - in prominent positions - to be vocal and be critical?

    It is almost to remember what we learned at college. Every three days you would have a crit. A crit is a short form of critique. Critique is about being really additive with what your viewpoint is. You can make a negative point but you do it in an additive sense. On blogs what’s annoying at the moment is that things are shortcut to critique. It's not real criticism. There's nothing additive in there.

    It will take a few people getting together. Maybe a new type of forum away from the current platforms. Current platforms aren’t sparking the type of debate you want to have. There needs to be new spaces for people to feel confident that they’re not gonna get shot down. The downside about being vocal is the potential reciprocal onslaught and bombardment from social media, which creates unease about voicing your opinion consistently. All it will take is a couple of people change it though.

    Perceived competitors could be working together. A bit like football teams. You play against each other but you’re still going to standing up for what football is. Maybe it just Brexit inspiring me, but perhaps there should cross-party alliances to help this. A voice made up of significant senior people from the most recognizable agencies coming out and having a voice. That level of a platform would be interesting. Maybe trying to get out of the inner circle getting into a vocal public platform on a world stage, in order to try talking about the influence of design on a fundamental level. This may require getting people who are currently competitors to achieve it, but then we’ll start having a discussion outside of ‘this kerning is off’ and ‘this logo is rubbish.’

    -- When It’s Nice That, which has 1.5 million readers and is one of the most prominent design blogs, feature your work do they ask you for permission for it? And then secondly, would you welcome them questioning and criticising the ethical, moral and cultural implications of your work?

    We know Alex Becks. One of the benefits of It’s Nice That is that it genuinely feels very honest. We've never got a problem with that. It’s not like you could even oppress it. If you’re putting stuff out into the world, you cannot complain about people having an opinion about it.

    -- I would say that with It’s Nice That massive reach and scale they should have a more opinionated approach and critique the design work that is put out there.

    If it is an opinionated approach, it shouldn’t be a single person's’ opinion of a piece of work, it should be a kind of rounded understanding from a group of people's review or a balanced take on it.

    -- But we critique with music, art, theatre and cinema? Why can’t we do it with design?

    Hmmm… I think what’s missing in design is a broader understanding that we are collective group. Design can get too tribal. We should do more to stay focused on considering ourselves as a group in a world and hold each other accountable.

    --Thank you, Chris.

    You’re welcome, Jonathan.

    [interview] [chris moody] [graphic design] [responsibliity] [uber] [big data] [technology] [behaviour]

    WebSummit (2015). Chairman of the bored - Chris Moody, Creative Director & Global Principal at Wolff Olins. [video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgwfOGaKnGg&ab_channel=WebSummit [Accessed 2 Jan. 2019].

    Gibson, E. (2019). Pentagram deconstructs Slack's hashtag logo in rebrand. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2019/01/17/slack-logo-rebrand-pentagram/ [Accessed 20 Jan. 2019].

    Kenedi, A. (2005). Marks Men: An Interview With Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar, and Sagi Haviv of Chermayeff & Geismar - Print Magazine. [online] Print Magazine. Available at: https://www.printmag.com/featured/marks-men-an-interview-with-ivan-chermayeff-tom-geismar-and-sagi-haviv-of-chermayeff-geismar-2/ [Accessed 4 Oct. 2018].

    Wolff Olins. (2019). Uber. [online] Available at: https://www.wolffolins.com/case-studies/uber/ [Accessed 17 Jan. 2019].

    Levin, S. (2017). Uber's scandals, blunders and PR disasters: the full list. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/18/uber-travis-kalanick-scandal-pr-disaster-timeline [Accessed 17 Jan. 2019].

    Brown, J. (2018). Iceland’s Christmas ad was brave and necessary. It shouldn’t be banned | Jessica Brown. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/09/iceland-christmas-ad-palm-oil-banned [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019].

    Ritschel, C. (2018). Blogger asks why magazine covers featuring plus-size men don't face backlash. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/cosmopolitan-tess-holliday-plus-size-magazine-cover-double-standard-twitter-a8523071.html [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].

  • WEEKLY FRAGMENTS [2]: Humans are machines, the Statisticon, the Uncommited Self...

    3 February 2019

    Series of short written fragments on various topics from Monday 28 January to Sunday 3 February.

    02 February

    There is a structural distinctness of the digital simulated life and the organic physical life. We all know social media and the internet operate differently from real life. The internet functions on an availability bias since only the novelty and the loud have any chance of maintaining their presence in all the noise. Without knowledge of the societal effects, people are submitted into a digital augmented society that treats imitation and authentic similarly. We are submerged into a world filled with spaces that affect every part of our lives without much awareness of the ramifications. This aligns with the thoughts of the internet moving offline, the continuing externalising and the potential merge of the self and the potential further investigation into the impacts of each.

    01 February

    Design is not merely a tool it is also a lens. It must be comfortable with ambiguity but also with accidents. Unfortunately, design has taken the approach of “it has to be" too universally and in the long run has created problems. There are two ways of designing. There is designing for how user imagine the systems to work and creating interfaces (things that users interact with) that satisfy those preconceived beliefs. The other way of designing is to create interfaces that demystify or remove preconception of these objects or wider social or personal preconceptions which is harder to do. Unfortunately, the former approach has created interfaces that are becoming self-perpetuating, self-reaffirming lenses for how users see the world. Unsurprisingly, the result globally is a narrowing worldview through infinite mirroring. However, I do appreciate that when I sit in a chair or open my computer it works the way I expect it to.

    31 January

    In future fragments, you must discuss the cause of the externalised compartmentalised self with examples of how they interact and how those in doubt of its existence could be convinced. Also, expand how the design of these platforms have allowed the consciousness to be embedded into the digital.

    30 January

    The self can be located within and outside the physical body and thus the self becomes locationally uncommitted. It is only committed to being uncommitted, distributed and decentralised. The self operates throughout the Interzone. A distributed networked system which has no respect to the boundaries of the material world, body or brain. Similarly to how Donald Merlin discusses how there is a distributed cognition in which “from birth, the rapidly growing human brain is immersed in a massively distributed cognitive network: culture.” This same development occurs with self. The notion that the self is contained within the confines of your physical self can be challenged, especially as we have gone from an extensive, analogue and linear world to one that is intensive, non-linear and compartmentalised. The digital world operates not only as a kind of memory store, for remembrance of events (ie. calendars) or a processes, (ie. calculators ), but now creates spaces for the self to manifest in, express desires, have interactions and change perspective separate from the physical world. Perhaps, this compartmentalisation of the self should be accepted as an inevitable result of the further optimisation of the human environment towards more efficient ways of inhabiting our world. The quantified selfs dream of an angelised body has already arrived but not in the way the movement imagined.

    -- Merlin Donald, ‘How Culture and the Brain Mechanism interact in decision making’ In Better Than Conscious? Decision Making, The Human Mind, And the implications of Institutions, ed. by Christoph Engel, Wolf Singer, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, p. 195.

    29 January

    "Every machine is a part of a system of machines, and in that system, between them, they integrate every sort of flow. Therefore there can never be a starting point and an ending point for a process: the flow is simply transformed through the interruption, it cannot be said to have a "final cause," and any attempt to limit the flow--for instance, portraying desire as something originating with a subject and ending with an object--is a camouflage operation for the actually unlimited flow. Machines make it look like there are actually beginnings and endings in the flow, providing us with an illusion of production, consumption, et cetera. If we see past this property of machines, we can understand that we are never "molecular" or "nomadic" or whatever: we are only "becoming-molecular."

    I think that this relates substantially to the main thrust of Deleuze and Guattari's work, which is the production of a tenable alternative to the power and knowledge structured world articulated by Foucault. For Foucault, a subject is always created and delimited by power. Thus, describing the subject as a system of machines that function as interruptions allows us to see past this illusionary subjectivity to the fluidity of flows.

    There is no beginning and end in our world. Even humans are just machines that work and produce (see earlier entry for definition). The idea that the digital self being a cause of the digital self can be argued against using this theory. The relationship between the externalised self and the physical self is a flow not a linear process. One does not know where one ends or where one begins or which action caused a reaction in the other. It is one and the same

    -- Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1972. Anti-Oedipus. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane. London and New York: Continuum, 2004. Vol. 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of L'Anti-Oedipe. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.

    28 January [2]

    A machine is an "assemblage of parts that works and produces,” according to Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Thus, a machine is just something that operates conditionally to material flow and can be extended to include human beings. It removes the distinction between the organic, the physical human, and the inorganic, the digital or mechanical. A simple conjecture would be that the extension of the bodily operations of humankind and the fusion of the human digital self and physical self is not an “unnatural” evolution. We are just becoming more fragmented machines operating and producing in more ways than we were previously able to.

    -- Philip Goodchild, Deleuze and Guattari, An Introduction to the Politics of Desires. London Sage 1996 p.218.

    Monday 28 January

    That architecture is no longer about static material space but also concerns mobile and dynamic fields. Not only, for instance, in our new understanding of structural tectonics and form making as multiple interacting vectors. (Lynn 1999) We now have a whole host of apparatuses, like smartphones, navigation devices and composite smart buildings containing assemblages of digitally networked self-monitoring devices leading to datascapes of ubiquitous computing. These devices are the new depositories of away from the laboring body towards externalisation of cognition and production in the alternate digital realms.

    -- Lynn, Greg, 1999. Animate Form. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
    -- Warren, N. (2014). Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism: Part Two. 1st ed. Berlin: Archive Books, pp.335-363.

    [giles deleuze] [felix guattari] [machinic process] [warren neidich] [statisticon] [merlin mcdonald] [design]

    Merlin Donald, ‘How Culture and the Brain Mechanism interact in decision making’ In Better Than Conscious? Decision Making, The Human Mind, And the implications of Institutions, ed. by Christoph Engel, Wolf Singer, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, p. 195.

    Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1972. Anti-Oedipus. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane. London and New York: Continuum, 2004. Vol. 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of L'Anti-Oedipe. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.

    Philip Goodchild, Deleuze and Guattari, An Introduction to the Politics of Desires. London Sage 1996 p.218.

    Lynn, Greg, 1999. Animate Form. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

    Warren, N. (2014). Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism: Part Two. 1st ed. Berlin: Archive Books, pp.335-363.


    28 January 2019

    Peter Hall is Senior Lecturer and Course Leader, BA (Hons) Graphic Communication Design at Central Saint Martins. His research uses mapping and visualisation as participatory design processes, with recent applications in cyber security, health and well-being. He sat down with me to explore his latest research into the quantified self and graphic communication design's role in creating humanity's uncertain future.

    -- Hello Peter.

    Hello Jonathan.

    -- You have a chapter on the quantified self in your new (unreleased) book. What is the quantified self-movement? And what are the positives and negatives of this movement?

    Quantified Self, with capital q and capital s, is a movement started by Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf. There is also the lowercase quantified self, like the movement sociologist Deborah Lupton discusses in her book with the same name. The actual movement started in California by former Wired magazine editors in 2011. They have an annual conference, international online group meetings and a big expo conference where all the tech companies also show up and sell their latest biometric sensors. What they celebrate is what they call ‘self-knowledge through numbers’. The conference and the expo are very much about people standing up saying, “I’ve been measuring my heart rate for a year and this is how it correlates with my activity”.

    The movement varies from what seems incredibly narcissistic and frankly pointless to a genuine interest in the notion that whereby sharing data we can improve our understanding of the body and take control of healthcare. The latter is the side that I respect. Thus, instead of you showing up to the doctor saying, “There's something wrong with me. I don't know what it is.” Or feeling like you go to a hospital and surrender to a system that just tells you about your body. You actually have an understanding of your body and how it functions, and you've grown that knowledge through sharing with others. The chapter in my book is very much about how the quantified self-movement owes a lot of its methods to kind of productivist mindset.

    -- So the mindset that by collecting and harvesting data about yourself you can become more effective?

    Yes, which links philosophically to the idea of the Industrial Age. A combination of puritanical Protestant work ethic plus industrialisation. How we can make the human body more efficient for the production of capital. The idea is very interesting to critique the quantified self movement through because it means that when I turn on my watch to time my journey home or upload it to Strava, there is a direct link to Taylorism - the early 20th century stop motion studies by Frederick Taylor. He studied how long the worker on the assembly line took to move this widget from here to there 15,000 times, in order to figure out how it could be done to boost productivity. It's very helpful to think critically about what we're doing to ourselves when we ‘quantify ourselves’ and whose standards we're measuring ourselves against.

    -- Let’s keep exploring this topic. The claims of big data, machine learning and AI are that inputs suitability quantified might be processed to predict and thus control future outcomes. This is often called the datafication of the world.

    What are the potential dangers of this belief especially in relation to the quantified self-movement?

    Evgeny Morozov writes about this very critically. He skewers the quantified self-movement and describes their approaches as ‘Taylorism within’. Somehow we have incorporated the assembly line logic of the early 20th century and turned it on ourselves, which fits very much with the neoliberal mindset.

    So to use healthcare as an example, by us personally becoming responsible for our own healthcare, it counters the idea of healthcare being a social service or national service. At the same time what you're implying is that there is a surveillance side to all this. In uploading our data continuously, we're potentially making our data available to insurance companies who can then gauge the price of our life insurance based on the data that we've voluntarily uploaded. This is a really slippery slope of turning ourselves into, let’s say, quantifiable commodities.. for free! and for the benefit of large corporations. All voluntarily.

    -- You wrote a book about mapping published by the Minnesota Press. So as we map the environment, the human body and the human experience through quantifiable metrics, what do you predict to happen to society? What if humans become obsessed with constantly updating themselves?

    I mean I'm definitely not a techno-utopian. I don't think self-knowledge through numbers is an idea that can be embraced without reservations. I was just reading that Nicholas Carr essay that was distributed to your class on Tuesday. He makes a very open notion that we shape our tools and thereafter they shape us, as Marshall McLuhan said. The things that were invented are changing the way we behave or even the way our brains work. So I like that Nicholas Carr essay because he's quite honest about his inability to read long texts anymore. That's quite a really interesting way into the critique by starting with what it was doing to him. I'm not total dystopian. I just think that what is needed is a critical awareness about what we're doing to ourselves with our inventions, so we can use them sensibly with caution. Also, we should be thinking about how to subvert them so that the agendas written into them can be turned to creative or subversive purposes. I’m probably somewhere in between. Definitely, I don't think we're powerless.

    -- Right now there is a dystopian scenario playing out, which I wanted us to discuss. It is indicative of what the quantified self-movement may cause. China has been piloting their social credit system since 2015 in ‘small villages,’ which in China is millions and millions of people. Each citizen gets a 1000 points. Good deeds (returning a wallet, donating, volunteer work) boost your score, bad deeds (stealing, racketeering, even beating your wife) reduces your score. Positive scores can lead to better interest rates, loans housing, education etc. However, others with lower ratings have been blocked from certain services. For example, if you have below 950 points you’re blocked from certain services. 11,000,000 Chinese citizens have been blocked from buying flights under the pilot programme. The system launches in 2020, possibly reducing every interaction to a transaction. The mass quantified self-movement. China is datafied the entire population to ‘increase performance.’ Thoughts on this phenomenon?

    I mean my immediate reaction is horror actually. Because it's extending the quantification beyond profit-making to a punitive system. It’s a form of discipline and punishment to use Foucault terms. One part that really troubles me is related to how I've been collecting error messages. They are really interesting because we come across them every day and we get frustrated, but we think it is just normal. It seems there are more and more error messages. “You cannot access this service”. “Sorry, this is not available at this time.” “Sorry, our system is down blah blah blah” So imagine combining this inevitability of error messages with a big data method of punitive, discipline-and-control method organizing society that seems to be piloted in China as you're describing. For the most innocent person, you could suddenly find your data scores wiped. Maybe you’ve done something that was misinterpreted and it's dropped your score so you can't access services. We’re all familiar with the frustration of trying to appeal to a machine against the decision. I can only imagine how awful that would be. Suppose you can't access the NHS anymore because you've been reported to have vandalized your neighbour's car. It seems like the removal of a fair system of law that's overseen by a social contract of people and replaced by algorithms and numbers. I find it a little bit terrifying.

    -- It was good to hear your thoughts as often the topic is discussed as a future scenario, but these developments are occurring right now. We talked a bit about what is happening more generally to the human population and the quantified self-movement, so let’s focus in on the individual person.

    -- In Regimen of Visibility and Vigilance in the Era of Digital Identity, Alejandra Lopez Gabrieldis investigates the relation between data and the self. She said thanks ‘to the possibility of storing, recording and replaying data from human daily behaviour, humans are creating a reflective mirror one that is interactive of capable of driving an actor to comply’. Thus, aren’t we all part of the quantified self-movement as we can track our behaviour everywhere? Where do the distinctions lie between the quantified self- movement and any other individual today?

    It’s hard to not come off sounding like a complete Luddite. I don't think it's is advantageous to think all technology is terrible and say “Look at social media. We should cancel it now.” But rather consider what the effects are and then adjust our behaviour or the technology accordingly.

    For example, we really ought to be trying other search engines than Google which uses cookies, tracks everything and caters searches according to our history. There were other types of mapping system before Google became the default. These resistances to these phenomena are fascinating. For example, how people have responded to Google Street View. Open Street Maps is a type of resistance because it’s a wiki style mapping service or Michael Wolfe who went through all the Google Street View footage and found people giving the finger to the Street View cars, compiling them all in one exhibition. Acts of resistance are not only creative and entertaining but are important to draw our attention to the unconscious effects of technology.

    To come back to your question, the distinction may lie in a term called the obligatory passage point. This is where technology is purposely developed to the point where everybody is forced to use it. So Google Maps is an example and even more universally is mp3, where there was a large debate amongst sound engineers about the most suitable methods for compressing music. Interestingly, mp3 was one of worst quality compressions. Yet, it backfired in the end, when people again started questioning whether mp3 was the most suitable method of compression. The backfiring happens when the obligatory passage point stops functioning as supposed to, is overridden or subverted. Sometimes it is market forces. However other times it is creative interventions and refusals that help that happen. I'm not saying all obligatory passage points are bad but it's a useful term for understanding how technology forces us to comply to use your phrase and figuring out the distinction between the quantified self movement and ‘ordinary’ people.

    -- The idea that we have reached an obligatory passage points and that we're creating others versions of ourselves that we comply to is why I'm fascinated by the quantified self-movement. I believe we are extending ourselves into another platform. It is not us but it is us at the same time. Instagram for example becomes the way that I see, react and understand you but it's not really you. But this ‘scrolling memory list’ also becomes the way that you see and think about yourself. So can the quantified self-movement can be a preliminary model for what's happening to the self?

    I think you're absolutely right. The quantified self is a really good example. There's a phrase that Lupton uses in her book, The Quantified Self, called ‘the spectacular body’. The spectacular body describes a curious situation where for example you go to the doctor. Let’s say you are an alien watching a doctor's consultation with a patient. As the alien, you might think that the patient was actually the screen because the doctor spends more time looking at the screen with the patient than looking at their actual patient. There's a spectacular or quantified or visualized representation of the self on the screen that is more of importance to the doctor or appears to be.

    I believe the same thing happens when uploading ourselves through Instagram or Strava or so forth. Cyber-utopians see uploading everything as a great thing. Some of the zealots in the quantified self-movement imagine a future when we become disembodied, becoming these floating souls somehow better than our fleshly selves. I wonder if this singularity wish is wedded into the old Christian notion that the body is the source of sin and the transcendent body is the where the godliness is. This notion is so shackled to a particular Western logic that is unhelpful.

    --So we’ve basically established that quantifying the world and datafication is something that is not isolated to a single movement. Whether we like or not, were part of this evolution. Whether we are complicit in it or in reaction to it, we're trying to not comply. Quantifying the world and datafication are thus not isolated to a movement. How would or is it impacting the graphic design industry? Especially as you are the BA course leader, for the course (BA Graphic Communication Design).

    That's a nice question. I’ve given a lot of thought to how you build critical skills into what's traditionally been seen as a more instrumental form of education. In art schools, there's been a tendency to treat graphic designers as the commercial ugly stepsister of fine art, and also to treat it as the acquisition of very good instrumental skills, in order for you to go out, take orders and make things look pretty.
    However, my absolute belief and mission is to bring critical thinking into the graphic design practice, which is not achieved with more art history classes. I think it's done through practice. It’s done with thinking-through-making. In that way, young designers are constantly required to contextualize their technical skills in the light of philosophy and constantly scrutinise their skills. This education is one wherein critical thinking-through-making sends more critically equipped thinkers out into the world of graphic design practice. These new thinkers can turn around to those who have traditionally given the orders, who’ve said “Make this look pretty”, and say “What actually is that the problem? Or is there another problem behind the problem?”.

    It is key to educate graduates to start their own project and find like-minded individuals willing to do things differently. We are at a crisis point, you know. I don't think any educator, or any intelligent educate for that matter, could not in good faith continue to believe the churning out graphic designers who are only capable of producing pretty things to sell more trash. We’re at a tipping point with climate change, population growth, city management etc. We desperately need critically equipped curious designers who can understand how to develop systems to support massive populations live in massive cities amid extreme weather, angelisation and the singularity.

    -- Do you think graphic designers have been complicit in allowing quantified data analysis and being to complicit in just agreeing to ‘order’?

    Yes, it has been complicit because of the nature of how the profession was conceived, being born out of advertising and promotion. And unfortunately, in the early birth of graphic design, the secondary need of recognising the problematization of systems, the organisation of new systems and working with new problems in proactive ways was not part of the agenda. It was just to sell stuff and make it culturally appealing.

    -- Jessica Helfand said something which stopped me in my tracks when she discussed how graphic design has done everything but save the world. She made me think, ‘when has graphic design gone out advocating and criticising the world?’ When have our industry leaders constructively criticised or attempted to change the industry and/or the world?

    But in light of what we have discussed, for myself and others part of the next generation, what are the most important things for us to do, understand and explore? As my course leader, what would your finals words wisdom be as I prepare to leave these walls at Central Saint Martins in five months?

    Remain curious and keep asking excellent questions. Keep asking and investigating with all of your intellectual and research powers. Thinking graphic designers are really needed in the world. That point about what should graphic designers be doing is really important. It is possible and you should build new networks of trust, care, resilience and informal economies and to contribute to resilient grassroots mechanisms that can help us withstand the onslaught of climate change, the singularity, housing crisis etc. There is hope. But one has to be focused, very focused.

    One of the teachers of Hogwarts would always say have ‘constant vigilance’. It's a really challenging time. I’m so very happy that on this course there is room for people like yourself to explore these ethical and intellectual issues with all your heart and passion. So I guess I would say to all of you, keep doing it!

    -- Thank you very much, Peter.

    My pleasure!

    [interview] [peter hall] [graphic design] [education] [quantified self] [big data] [technology] [behaviour]

    Quantified Self. (2015). Quantified Self - Self Knowledge Through Numbers. [online] Available at http://quantifiedself.com/ [Accessed 14 Jan. 2019].

    Lupton, D. (2016). The quantified self. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity.

    The Economist. (2009). Scientific management. [online] Available at: . https://www.economist.com/news/2009/02/09/scientific-management [Accessed 14 Jan. 2019]

    Morozov, E. (2017). The digital hippies want to integrate life and work – but not in a good way. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/03/digital-hippies-integrate-life-and-work-wework-data-firms [Accessed 16 Jan. 2019].

    Abrams, J. and Hall, P. (2006). Else/where: mapping. Minneapolis, Minn: University of Minnesota Design Institute.

    Carr, N. (2008). Is Google Making Us Stupid?. [online] The Atlantic. Available at:https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/[Accessed 8 Jan. 2019].

    Vice News (2018). China’s "Social Credit System" Has Caused More Than Just Public Shaming (HBO). [video] Available at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkw15LkZ_Kw&ab_channel=VICENews [Accessed 10 Dec. 2018].

    Alejandra Lópz Gabrieldis, “Régiment de visibilidad y vigilancia en la era de la Identidad Digital,” Teknocultura:Revista de Cultura Digital y Movimientos Social vol. 12, no.3 (2015)

    Wolf, M. (n.d.). MICHAEL WOLF PHOTOGRAPHY. [online] Photomichaelwolf.com. Available at: http://photomichaelwolf.com/#fuck-you/1[Accessed 15 Jan. 2019].

    Lupton, D. (2016). The quantified self. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity.

    Helfand, J. (2016). Design: The Invention of Desire. Yale University Press.

  • WEEKLY FRAGMENTS [1]: Structuration, Mnemotechnologies, Game Theory...

    27 January 2019

    Series of short written fragments on various topics from Monday 21 Jan to Sunday 27 Jan

    27 January [3]

    My practice is a culmination of lessons and values of Kenneth Goldsmith, Dunne and Raby's speculative design methods, Metahaven’s production of written and visual speculative outcomes and using graphic design to question itself and the world. My practice strives to present 'alternative realities’ (not to predict outcomes) and speculate on humans behavioural, design and technological patterns.

    27 January [2]

    Ramia Mroué performed in Pixelated Revolution new methods for dissecting and looking at footage from the Syrian revolution. He demonstrated how to view the footage in methods outside the conventional, video as a purely passive cinematic experience, using active zooming, focusing differently, stacking images to find the narrative to produce the story.

    Although not directly, linked to the idea of what is a data file and is it a digital performance of computer code, Mroué shows how we can analyse media in a new way to reveal better/new meanings. Finding out a way and then presenting what our alternative experience of the data file might be, may involve taking data files and analysing them outside of the conventional methods.

    27 January

    According to game theory in multiplayer systems, views and behavioural patterns that harm all players nevertheless take root and spread ie. taking a piece of cake means everyone else has less cake. It’s a zero-sum game. The loss and gains of all players always equal zero. However, the behaviour of the players doesn’t change. Or like the arms race where it bankrupts those that take part in them without changing the military balance of power. India develops nuclear bombs, so does Pakistan. Pakistan enlarges navy and India counters. Balance has not changed only benefited the arms racing pattern.

    Do the dynamics of game theory apply to the externalisation of the self? When you improve digitally or externalise your memory as Bernard Stiegler noted it, do you lose physical capacity? Is it a zero-sum game or is it possible to gain positively in both realms?

    Any conversation about how social media and technology most often talk about the negative impact it has on humanity, our vanity, our sense of self-connection with the outside world. These are all valid discussion. However, I believe the discussion should perhaps involve how we can avoid a zero-sum game or if we are comfortable with game theory playing out for the externalised memory, identity and the self.

    26 January

    "If one wants to be­have ra­tio­nally and reg­u­late one’s ac­tion ac­cord­ing to true prin­ci­ples, what part of one’s self should one re­nounce? What is the as­cetic price of rea­son? To what kind of as­ceti­cism should one sub­mit? I pose the op­po­site ques­tion: How have cer­tain kinds of in­ter­dic­tions re­quired the price of cer­tain kinds of knowl­edge about one­self? What must one know about one­self in or­der to be will­ing to re­nounce any­thing?”
    — Max Weber from Foucault, Michel. “Technologies of the Self.” Lectures at University of Vermont Oct. 1982, in Technologies of the Self, 16-49. Univ. of Mass­a­chu­sets Press, 1988.

    25 January

    --Bernard Stiegler, a French philosopher, question if industrial and large scale development of mnemotechnologies, devices involved in the practice of aiding memory, would constitute in a displacement of memory. Thus, the displacement of a mobile phone is equivalent to losing track of the numbers of people you are in contact with and consequentially the realisation occurs that they are no longer in one’s own memory but inside the device.

    This theory of how mnemotechnologies structurally reformat how humans retain knowledge and memorise their lives is fascinating as it can be applied to the idea of ‘loss’ of self and identity. If we entertain the notion that we see each others' and our own identity, partially or wholly, through the presence and appearance of them and us online, does the loss of the device constitute the displacement of identity? Are these technologies not just displacing memory like Stiegler said, but also displacing our identities and what our notion of self is?

    23 January

    Hito Steyerl discussed if images can be shared and circulated why can’t everything else, the internet is moving offline and so are our existence. As the internet moves offline, humans move online and so the lines are just becoming too blurry to tell the difference between online and offline, reality and virtuality. The idea that conversations about censorship, data protection are restricted to our online reality is not sensible, as it is human behaviour or not internet that is societies main tool.

    22 January

    Reach out and touch yourself - that would be my advice to the contemporary person. To reconcile and understand yourself, you must look beyond the confines of contemporary philosophical and psychological thinking. The 'true' you lie not within. You cannot look inside to learn about yourself. Yourself does lie within not just within lies outside as well. Your self is not contained. Your self is fragmented across the physical and digital landscapes. You must reach out to touch yourself.

    Structuration theory dictates neither structures nor agency has primacy in shape our reality. Structure being recurrent patterned arrangements which influence or limit choices available. Agency is the capacity to choose freely and act with independence. Anthony Giddens was a proponent of this theory of how people make society but are at the same time constrained by it. In regard to technology Wanda Orlikowski said it is technology and their users who enact the reproduction of existing structural conditions or they produce change that may lead to structural transformation. She showed how people bring about new societal structures which shape their use of technology that they then employ in practice back onto themselves.

    Users do not appropriate technologies but create technology-in-practice. This is to say creating new societal structures through the actions and application of that technology. It is thus important to draw a line under that any modern social structure (or phenomena) is not at fault of the technology or its creator. The technology offers a structural landscape and the users act within with it with agency. The users actions in turn creates the traditions, norms, expectations within the technological systems. Technological institutions do not constrain the capacity of human action there is a dynamic relationship in the creation of meaning, standard and values that form the structure.

    [structuration theory] [self] [stiegler] [mnemotechnologies] [max weber] [hito steyerl] [game theory] [anthony giddens] [pixelated revolution] [ramia mroue]

    Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Cambridge: Polity Press. ISBN 978-0-520-05728-9.

    Orlikowski, W. J. (1992). The duality of technology: rethinking the concept of technology in organizations. Organization Science, 3(3):398-427. Earlier version at the URI http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/2300
    Orlikowski, W. J. (2000). Using technology and constituting structures: a practice lens for studying technology in organizations. Organization Science, 11(4):404-428.

  • WHAT IS DESIGNER? [work process]

    5 December 2018

    What is a designer? The jury is still out.

    I set out to create a multiple perspective narrative around the debate of ‘what is a designer?’

    The the differing opinions would be represented purely through text. Like two armies going to war, so I create the layout/grid to potray a battefield. Doing that would allow the interjections, the overlaps, the marginalia to have impact because they would disrupt the grid/layout’s flow.

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- looking at data collection forms

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- finding the flaws in my layout after testing

    Sketchbook research & documentation

    Sketchbook research & documentation

    The first prototype had some issues. The injections didn’t allow for the reader to understand the point of the two critics, book was very thin and flimsy and the format did not really lend itself to demonstrate my point.

    So for the reader to understand the essays, the book would be mirrorred. You would read either critics essays first before being introduced the opinion of the other. The ‘battle’ would then climax in middle of the book and you would experience the other critics point of you view afterwards.

    Considering the layout -- I thought of having the person's face next to the form, but it reduced the 'metadata' feeling of the publication

    Considering the layout -- I thought of having the person's face next to the form, but it reduced the 'metadata' feeling of the publication

    ....it sucked...

    I had initially set out for it to be illegible and just about a visual experience, but in doing that the narrative lost impact and the book purpose.

    The book lacked a sense of hierarchy and clarity. There is an idea of adding several voices to open up and show how many opinions there are in this debate. Using different colours, and a strong system of what each type of interjections means.

    These voices would then be shown at the index at the end of the book, demonstrating the debate is endless, muddled and from multiple perspectives.

    Considering the layout -- I thought of having the person's face next to the form, but it reduced the 'metadata' feeling of the publication

    References & inspiration - Alexander-Rodchenko 1924, Aleksander Rodchenko Construction 128, El Lissitzky, El Lissitzky i Proun 1D

    This the journal so far. I would improve it by inlcuding more text from other authors from a large variety of sources. Currently, it is limited to mostly online sources.

    👆 Click images to explore -- What is Designer? For the full project ↪

    [graphic design] [typography] [diagrammatic] [design] [design critcism] [work process]


    15 November 2018

    “Designers and non-designers (that means everyone), now is the time for jokes. A time for ridicule and laughter and protest and screaming and general strikes. A time to publicise, on a gut level, what we feel about those in power; a time to show them our deepest; cat-like instincts. Our messages will be seen shared and remembered. Loathe the austerity elites, deface and make the technocratic superstructure lifeless avatars. Spray-paint, overload, bombard, name and sham austerity’s guilty overlords with jokes that pass through each and every riot child. Jokes are a continuation of politics by other memes.” (Metahaven, 2013)

    Hillary Clinton was probably one of America's least charismatic presidential politicians. But on the internet, her image took on a life of its own. It’s almost as if Hillary’s fans breathed charisma into her on social media. Her most charming moments could be put on an endless loop and passed around as totems of her character. She was at her most charismatic in GIF form. Meanwhile, Hillary’s opponents were working in the opposite direction, isolating moments that made her look deranged, ugly and sick.

    Pierre Boekraad “discovered the images as the vehicle of social criticism and utopian desire” (Boekraad, 2007). And so memes - these self-replicating units of culture - composing of just image and text with the raw power of mass replication to voice ideas to a massive audience can unsettle well-defined structures: of oppressed and oppressor, truth and lies, reality and fiction. Memes used to increase Hilary’s charisma can just as easily be implemented to topple well-established infrastructures, especially political ones. In the Guardian Haddow concurs “at their most basic, meme warfare present(s) an opportunity for individuals to seize control of the means of media production from corporate interests..” (Haddow, 2016) Italy has a famous example of this. Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement highly effective open ridicule of Monti’s technocratic austerity under the memetic slogan “Vaffanculo” lead them to achieve 25.5 of the Italian vote out of nothing, by integrating memes and jokes into politics. By becoming a form of media production shared millions of times in seconds and with the subverting humoristic nature, memes are politics most powerful weapon.

    Political memes are now a form of propaganda. They tap into the collective memory and transform the outcome of a commonly held starting point to different ends. (Metahaven, 2013) They allow the categorisation of something as nonsense. “The legitimacy and rationality of sense were left uncontaminated, unthreatened,” (Stewart, 2009) prior to the evolution of meme culture. It makes politics incredibly difficult to manoeuvre. A politicians job is to manage reality and to make sense of the world through negotiations and legislation. Yet, memes kill the ability to intelligently orchestrate a political conversation. Any moment can be manipulated into a positive or negative, depending on your allegiance. And because memes can morph to accommodate almost any position it’s easier than ever to take a candidate's’ image or opinions and twist them to our own ends. Facts don’t matter to memes.

    In May 2016, Hilary publicly supported a legislative act which would require women to register for military drafting. Aimed at promoting gender equality in the military, this gesture, although purely symbolic, was a rare instance of bipartisan support in US politics. However, Ted Cruz twisted the message. He created a paranoid conspiracy claiming that the next war is imminent, and the corresponding memes took off like wildfire. Hilary’s bipartisan support vanished and the legislation never made it to Congress. Because memes don’t need to grapple with reality, they spread a lot faster than typical forms of political speech.

    The #draftourdaughters meme distorted and threw out the bipartisan support for Hillary's legislative attempt.

    And in presidential politics, we’ve never seen anyone benefit from this more the Mr “You are fake news” Donald Trump. Trump had no clear ideology, the vaguest sketches of ideas, a bottomless thirst for attention, and a flair for drama: the perfect base for endless meme-ing. His campaign rallies became like incubators for ideas with viral potential. Think about the defining memes of Trumpism: “Draining the swamp”, ”Lock her up” and especially “We need to build a wall.” There was never any world where that the United State would build a 2,000-mile wall along the southern border - let alone that Mexico would pay for it. (A big, beautiful wall meme) Anytime reality tried to get in the way, Trump would double down on the meme. This has continued into the presidency, to the extent, he is willing to shut down his government for the longest period in history to get his meme built.

    “All discourse bears reference to a commonly held world. The discourse of common sense refers to the real world. The discourse of nonsense refers to nothing. In other words, it refers to itself even though it must manufacture ‘manufacture’ this nothing out of a system of difference from the everyday world - the common stuff of social life - in order to be recognised as nothing."(Metahaven, 2013)

    Memes put a new twist on the old idea of charismatic authority in politics. Charismatic leaders used to imbue themselves with mythos claiming to possess special qualities and cults of personality around themselves. (Neuwirth, Weber, Eisenstadt, 1969) But on the internet, a lot of that work has been transferred to citizens who take their leaders’ tics and blow them up into superhuman form. This process creates really strong tribal and emotional ties around those personalities. If you make a meme about a candidate and then they become president, it can feel like you created a piece of the presidential persona, like a part of you is president. Memes give us the power to build leaders’ personalities or destroy them. We used to talk about gaffes. The idea seems quaint now. Jair Bolsonaro called several women not even worthy of raping and black Brazilians only useful for procreation and Trump’s was caught on tape saying he could sexually assault women without contempt. This did little to damage their reputation amongst their supporters. Both men are now presidents. There’s no longer any fixed idea of a candidate to be disrupted by a gaffe. Our conception of politicians is now made up of sets of competing polarising memes like ‘grab em by the pussy.

    Political memes are not just weapons politicians can utilise. They are rooted in our attempt to have more influence. For his biggest fans, Trump himself is the ultimate meme. “Designing memes can come to satisfy a movement hunger for new tools, pictures and messages as memes are a gateway for a gathering of activities exceeding the scope and scale of the individual, gaining the appearance of significance to form an organisation-without-organisation. (Metahaven, 2013) Unfortunately, these organisation-without-organisations are turning politicians into avatars. We’re no longer just analyzing how candidates express themselves. We want to express ourselves through them. On the internet, our support of candidates is being encoded through these moments where they seem to represent us, not as actual political representatives voting for our interests, but as people acting how we’d like to imagine ourselves acting.

    They’ve become so invested in promoting their politicians' persona that the politicians' promises have become almost irrelevant, like outdated versions of a meme that have been replaced by the next amusing thing. We shouldn’t forget that Brexit was promised to boost Britain's economy and Trump was meant to drain swamps and make “everyone so tired of winning” because Americans would be winning all the time. That’s the seductive danger of democracy-as-meme. It can make us feel like we have more personal control over a politician. but it’s the politician who is seizing the real power, defying scrutiny and becoming less accountable to us.

    It would not be a far stretch to say that the tools we use to communicate are counterproductive to actual communication. Our keyboards are being embedded with a repository of looping imagery, meshing with our language. It is easier to spread lies than to respond with truths. (Haddow, 2016) We can just imbue politicians with the values we want them to possess, whether it is building walls, universal basic income or taking back control. We live in a world of virtual conflict, but within this virtuality, the nature of reality is decided. Where the dictatorial-battering-ram, the meme, has turned common sense and truth into anarchistic beliefs. Into entire populations yelling at one another through 256-pixel images and cat videos. We must find a way for truth to be more plausible. Ironically, memes have the capacity to overturn any frame of references, even if it caused truth to become subjective in the first place.

    [internet] [social media] [public] [truth] [image] [society] [memes]

    Metahaven (2013). Can jokes bring down governments? Memes, Design and Politics. 1st ed. Strelka Press.

    Boekraad, H. (2007). Visual rhetoric and ethics: Pierre Bernard, designer for the public domain. In: H. Boekraad, ed., My work is not my work. Baden: Lars Müller Publishers, p.37.

    Haddow, D. (2016). Meme warfare: how the power of mass replication has poisoned the US election. [online] the Guardian. Available at:https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/04/political-memes-2016-election-hillary-clinton-donald-trump [Accessed 3 Nov. 2018].

    Metahaven (2013).

    Stewart, S. (2009). Nonsense. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

    Neuwirth, G., Weber, M. and Eisenstadt, S. (1969). Max Weber on Charisma and Institution Building. Selected Papers. Social Forces, 48(1), p.118.

    Metahaven (2013).

    Haddow (2016).


    1 October 2018

    As a result of my current obsession with the ongoing encroachment of technology on our lives, I began to notice and make of this encroachment's physical manifestations.

    This September, I was visiting the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. The museum boasts a collection of over 600,000 pieces of art from all across the planet. Each room is beautifully painted in muted colours and filled to the brim with centuries-old and contemporary sculpture, statues and paintings. It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the tsunami of masterpieces, whilst itching to photograph everything. Despite this, my entire fascination quickly fell away from the art and onto on all the supposedly unremarkable dehumidifiers, heaters, plugs, cameras, routers and speakers in the museum. They were so conspicuously placed; not hidden away but located as if they had equal importance to a Picasso or a 3000BC Egyptian statue. The devices disrupted the space. They garnered attention and it all felt bizarre.

    I decided to photograph all of the devices as a document of this feeling. Important to note that I was not looking to make some large revelation on how, for example, our lives are being taken over by technology without us noticing. Others have conducted more encompassing and thought-provoking explorations. Sapir Ziv (Ziv, 2018) explored the physicality and disconcerting presence of surveillance cameras, and James Bridle documented all CCTV cameras, signs of the invisible electromagnetic spectrum communication devices and cloud storage facilities around London. (Bridle, 2014) So ‘better' projects are out there, but my photographs from the Pushkin represent a metaphor for this feeling I and I believe many have. The old familiar, well-understood, highly ornamented and visible is being merged by the new, obscure, simple and the opaque. It feels different, unfamiliar, and disruptions are often done subtly. All these devices next to Impressionist masterpieces, antique sculptures and Egyptian sarcophagus exemplified that disruption to me. It is unnatural, unremarkable at a glance but disturbing over time.

    Early in the exploration, All Cameras are Police Cameras, Bridle stated that the proliferation of (surveillance) systems follows the “expansion of capitalism itself into the realm of everyday life.” (Bridle, 2014) We have only started to see this proliferation of technology that has happened recently. We didn't understand the systems that were being created, and now, upon noticing them, we are left with a feeling of powerlessness, bewilderment and awe. Thus, because we do not have an understanding of the burgeoning network and surveillance society, we feel that we have no meaningful choices (or consent) to influence the disruption it is causing to our once familiar world… The Devices of Pushkin is the metaphor for that feeling.

    👆 Click to explore -- Devices of Pushkin

    [data] [internet] [social media] [public] [technology] [data collection] [privacy] [behaviour]

    Ziv, S. (2018). Zeitgeist. [online] Sapir. Available at: https://sapirziv.com [Accessed 26 Aug. 2018].

    Bridle, J. (2014). James Bridle / The Nor. [online] Jamesbridle.com. Available at:http://jamesbridle.com/works/the-nor [Accessed 14 Aug. 2018].

    Bridle, J. (2014). The Nor » All Cameras Are Police Cameras. [online] Shorttermmemoryloss.com. Available at: http://shorttermmemoryloss.com/nor/2014/11/07/all-cameras-are-police-cameras/ [Accessed 14 Aug. 2018].


    11 September 2018

    Casually watching the loss of our privacy.

    Most people will tell you that they "care" about online privacy. 74 percent of Americans say it's very important that they control who can obtain their personal information (Raine, 2018). I don't believe it. People say they care, but people don't actually care and it is a well-documented fact. We have a tendency towards privacy-compromising behaviour online, resulting in a dichotomy between privacy attitudes and actual behaviour (Acquisti 2004, Barnes 2006). There is so much discussion on regaining and retaining our privacy but as individuals we do almost nothing. This discrepancy between our online behaviour and our actual actions is called the privacy paradox (Barnes 2006).

    The privacy paradox applies to everything on the internet because every company in the world is collecting and using our personal information. And yes, it's every company. How many emails did you receive when the EU brought in the new GDPR rules? It wasn't just multinational tech corporations but even smaller companies' website or apps we visited or bought something from a decade ago messaged to tell you, "We're committed to managing and safeguarding the information you give us... Please opt-in" (I know that all those emails went directly to the trash, btw). Everything you have ever done, liked and thought about is stored in some air-conditioned storage facility. Yet, we continue to watch, scroll, tap, message, and browse incessantly without thought or care.

    We consider data collection too narrowly and therefore disregard our privacy. “Who cares if Facebook knows I listened to Childish Gambino or went to Sainsbury’s? They don’t have my password or credit card details”. As long as our obviously sensitive data is ‘safe’ we reduce the less significant data collection as inconsequential and trivial. However, everytime one of us receives a hyper specific ad we bemoan the terrifying reality of companies knowing too much about us. This proves that people are aware that “any personal information can become sensitive information” (Ted Talks, 2013) and that all the stand-alone information fragments are stored, analysed and used actively with astonishing precision. So why don’t we do anything to protect our privacy? I think there are four primary reasons why our behaviours and actions will not change and why the privacy paradox will persist.

    One, I strongly believe it's because the collection of our personal information is invisible. We may understand it but we don’t see what we are handing over. Let's draw a comparison. If your waiter asked you to give him all your contacts, your phone number, put a location-tracker on you and give him a transcript of all your online conversation in order to eat at a Wagamama restaurant, there is simply no way you would agree to it. However, this is what tech companies ask of us to use their services and we don't batter an eye. It is all obscured behind our glossy screens. We are completely disconnected from the disclosure and the consequences of the information exchange, mainly a fault of the services design.

    Secondly, there is a problem with how we are asked to allow data collection. It's done through terms of service and privacy policies. These agreements are a joke. They do not help users at all and they are designed and written in a way that makes reading them impractical at best and extremely unlikely in practice. It would take the average person 201 hours a year to read all the terms of service of all the websites they visit. (McDonald and Cranor, 2008) 🤦🏾‍♂️So the obvious result is that we either don’t read them or simply ignore them. People may also just blindly trust them. We may think if privacy policies were that bad, would our governments not step in? Wouldn't they regulate it? But even if governments did regulate it's always done in retrospect, and most companies are aware of the psychological dynamics that prevent us from safeguarding our privacy effectively. “Various sometimes, subtle factors can be used to activate or suppress privacy concerns, which in turn affect behaviour”(Acquisti, Brandimarte and Loewenstein, 2018) . Unless, users actually read the agreements there is no way to guarantee they don't continue to get exploited.

    Furthermore, the human tendency to ignore whatever is hard to see and the design surrounding terms of service means that any person with conviction can collect and exploit human’s information. People are indoctrinated to "tick here to agree" without second thought. I actually conducted an investigation ↪ into this phenomenon, by asking a hundred individuals to fill out a physical form asking for their age, height, weight, nationality, etc. and followed by ten personal questions. The questions were designed to allow me to obtain similar specific information like what Facebook can deduce from their data about their users i.e. “how many times have you travelled in the last year?”, “how many selfies have you taken this month?” or “how many times have you called your parents this week?” Then afterwards, the individual would have to sign the form, attesting that their answers and personal information could be used in any way possible. Everyone signed it, and only one person read it. It poignantly demonstrated how little we consider the use and loss of our personal information.

    Lastly, Acquisiti, Brandimarte and Loewenstein also described that our will to protect our privacy is being overpowered by our deep-seated instinct to share. (Acquisti, Brandimarte and Loewenstein, 2018). Online has become the place to fill that instinct instantly. We have a need to be social, to share, to receive validation and the internet makes all so easy. The interactions we use to have at a more local level between family, friends and your community has been replaced by tweets, posts and likes. Online sharing and validation from it is now so embedded in our culture that it trumps any fear of data theft, privacy and misuse, so we happily hand over our information blindly without consideration for the consequence. Tech companies exploit this, and all other institutions today benefit from it. Our banks, our travel agencies, our fashion companies all benefit from the access to the massive reservoir of everyone's personal information. Our world is a place of total visibility, transparency and accessibility, but people benefit massively from it, and therefore privacy concerns are disregarded.

    We are disconnected from the disclosure and the consequences of information exchange, services are obscured and we continue to share endlessly. We have unconsciously constructed this phenomenon where the world’s hottest commodity, humans, and all their information and their identity, are all publically on display, to be viewed, scrutinised and bought or obtained as easily getting milk from the supermarket. Just like the privacy paradox states, we express a desire to protect our personal information but that desire has no resemblance to world we are creating. It should be in our best interest to change the status quo and gain back some control. Maybe we could just change human behaviour, but that is unlikely to ever happen. The system itself is broken and is breaking with huge new privacy controversies appearing so regularly it feels like if our behaviour was ever going to change, it should have changed by now.

    There is plenty of work to do, so we better get started but I'm just going to go buy this thing that Instagram showed me an ad for. I'll be back... as soon as I have actually started to care about my privacy.

    [data] [internet] [social media] [public] [technology] [data collection] [privacy] [behaviour]

    Raine, L. (2018). The state of privacy in post-Snowden America. [online] Pew Research Center. Available at: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/21/the-state-of-privacy-in-america/ [Accessed 7 May 2018].

    Acquisti, A. (2004). Privacy in electronic commerce and the economics of immediate gratification. Proceeding EC '04 Proceedings of the 5th ACM conference on Electronic commerce, [online] pp.21-29. Available at: https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=988777 [Accessed 8 Sep. 2018].

    Barnes, S. (2006). A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United States. First Monday, [online] 11(9). Available at: http://firstmonday.org/article/view/1394/1312. [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018].

    Barnes, S. (2006).

    Ted Talks (2013). Alessandro Acquisti Why Privacy Matters. [video] Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/alessandro_acquisti_why_privacy_matters[Accessed 12 May 2018].

    McDonald, A. and Cranor, L. (2008). The Cost of Reading Privacy Policies. I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, (2008 Privacy Year in Review issue), p.19.

    Acquisti, A., Brandimarte, L. and Loewenstein, G. (2018). Privacy and human behavior in the age of information. SCIENCE, [online] 347(6221), pp.509-514. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a7c5/f9f224a556cbb7f35028094ac91739ecee8b.pdf?_ga=2.207081043.1544888707.1524409344-836998413.1522099863 [Accessed 12 May 2018].

    Acquisti, A., Brandimarte, L. and Loewenstein, G. (2018). pp.509-514

  • DISCLAIMER [work process]

    24 June 2018

    It is not just our governments and tech corporations that are to blame for allowing mass data collection. Our human disposition is equally to blame.

    In conjunction with Identity Theft? Pt1 I wanted to see if anyone with conviction could collect and exploit individuals' private information, not due to the prevalence of the internet or social media but due to people’s behavioural traits and their relationship to privacy and sharing.

    Today, anyone can find mountains of information about another, create psychoanalytical profiles, sell the data and use it in any way they see fit. It doesn’t require you being a multinational conglomerate tech firm to do so. Three clicks, one Google search and CTRL + C is all it takes. Yet, I had a feeling the ease of it might be less to do with the systems we’ve built but the way humans’ are hardwired.

    How did we collect information before the internet? Prior, the only way to accurately obtain data was through data forms and surveys. They were effective ways to get precisely the information you were looking for without having to dissect a million terabytes of metadata [arhm... NSA], but much slower to obtain. to dissect and understand afterwards when applied on a mass scale. Conducting my own old-school mass collection of personal information purely with physical forms could reveal new things about our relationship to privacy and data today, so that’s what I did.

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- looking at data collection forms

    The data collection should feel serious and professional, but still something people wanted to engage with. The design should carry some familiarity as well, so it was about combining modern design traits with the conventional boxy layout of data forms. The questions should force the subject to answer questions unfamiliar to the usual forms and force them to think differently about themselves. The questions allowed me to obtain information similar to what by Facebook and the other Big 5 can understand from their users' data. The answers were restricted between 0 to 10+, so subjects’ focused purely on the questions and not the delivery of their answer (There is also a lot of fun in in ticking 10+). The form was printed on a heavier (155gsm) delicately bumpy textured paper made for children’s origami. This was all in an effort to drive engagement with the form and enjoy the process. The most important feature, the disclaimer, would give me full authorisation to use the information with impunity, was placed next to the signature. I did decide not to ask for the subject’s name. It reveals a lot and would make people less likely to fill out the form (In hindsight, I think that was a mistake. People’s name is the all-important identity classifier and would have brought more validity to my investigation.). After a quick test, I walked around uni and London, asking people to fill out the form and sign it.

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- finding the flaws in my layout after testing

    Sketchbook research & documentation

    Without meaning to be insensitive - it was stupidly easy! Only one person read the disclaimer, and not a single person refused to fill out the form. Two hours later, I had all 100 forms completed and signed. Often people asked what I’d use the information for, and I answered honestly, “I don’t know what I’ll use it for afterwards. I’m just testing out this form for a project. If you don’t feel comfortable, you shouldn’t fill it out”. People found it engaging and took it very seriously looking at their phone to count “how many times they had travelled in the last year?” or “how many selfies they had taken?”. It seemed they found an escape and wanted to answer questions about themselves, something I hadn’t expected. In addition, to my delight and surprise, many people passing by seeing my brightly coloured forms asked to fill one out.

    Considering the layout -- I thought of having the person's face next to the form, but it reduced the 'metadata' feeling of the publication

    To complete the project, the forms were bound to emulate a folder sitting in a file cabinet, ready to be distributed around the office. Originally, a photo of the subject was put next to each form, but it made each form too personal. This project was more about the number of forms and the disclaimer than an individual’s identity. Imagining what I could do with the information and how easy people make data collection possible, was more important than seeing the subject’s face. And with the cover being the disclaimer it reminds you of what is at stake.

    👆 Click images to explore -- Disclaimer. For the full project ↪

    We voluntarily give away our data for anyone to use. I attempted to demonstrate how we willingly give away personal information for anyone to exploit. The project reveals and reaffirms [to me] our complacency around personal data and challenges today’s critique that it is primarily the Big 5 and the Internet itself fault for data exploitation.

    How do we stop allowing the exploitation of ourselves and when will we realise that our identity is the most valuable thing? Because if a student can gather specific personal information of 100 individuals in two hours with a paper form (that would take Facebook six months to accurately conclude), whilst getting them to consent his ability to use the data for anything, society has to start scrutinising human behaviour more specifically and not just simply technology.

    [censhorship] [internet] [social media] [public] [technology] [opinion] [project documentation] [long-read]

  • IDENTITY THEFT PT1 & PT2 [work process]

    19 June 2018

    This project explored the idea of publishing and the ease of access, promotion and theft of individuals today.

    This project explored the idea of publishing and the ease of access, promotion and theft of individuals today. For my initially research and development I created a 100 page book where I explored how I, myself, am a sort of mass collection and publishing institution. I have taken thousands of images since I got my camera at 18. Thus, I have a huge number of photos of people I’ve published online on facebook, instagram, tumblr etc. This first publication takes 100 people’s face out of their respective photos and their original context.

    Sketchbook research & documentation

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- What happens to our perception of someone when they are taken out of their context?

    Collecting people’s faces from photos I had taken -- each screenshot was kept in its original scale in the final book.

    👆 Click images to explore -- 100 Faces Book

    The research and creation of this book was a good starting point in exploring the subject of publishing and challenging our opinion of who can conduct mass data collection. The book made me ask questions like: What happens to our impression of people when taken out of their context? What does it say about society that we are all collectors of data? Who has the power to collect data and by extension people’s indentity? It did learn that it was a mistake to write data on the cover as it robbed the audience of discovering the book’s premise themselves. The book lead me on to Identity Theft PT1...

    Identity Theft PT 1

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- What happens if apply the same idea of mass collection to individuals public information?

    The first publication pushed me to focus on people and how they present themselves online. An article piece by Italian Philosopher Gloria Origgi brought clarity to my project, describing how “From the “information age,” we are moving towards the “reputation age,” in which information will have value only if it is already filtered, evaluated, and commented upon by others.” To build on my previous book, I would collect online “information” and filter it into a publication that would reveal a new form of information. People’s true identity.

    The book would comprise of 50 people’s liked pages on Facebook and their profile picture. It would show how willingly we literally “present” personal information that can be harvested by anyone, and in this case, easily reveal what kind of a person we are. In hindsight, adding a brief description may have helped the audience enter the book. Yet, I did want the audience to be surprised and learn the premise, rather than be informed of it like in the previous publication.

    Collecting likes - no script, hack or code, just simple copy paste from their profiles

    Data art often takes a critical look at our society. It reprsesent the underlying links that exists between the ubiquitious in our lives. Our world is almost entirely governed by algorithms but the way we are goverened are often allowed by decisions the user makes prior to using different platforms. I really wanted to demonstrate the latter. So combined the data collected with a visualisation. The subject’s profile picture would become the data visualisation adding new meanings to the raw data, by distorting it according to the amount of liked pages. The audience thus gets better understanding of what the data means.

    Left - Treemap representing hiearchical data in a limited space by Ben Shneiderman. Top - Carte Figurative (1869) by Charles Minard showing the number of men in Napoleon’s 1812 Russian campaign army, their movements, as well as the temperature they encountered on the return path. Right - Love Will Tear us Apart by Peter Crnokrak

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- finding the right distortion effect

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- visualing the final layout

    Distorting each individuals face according to how many pages they had liked, gave an element to explore. It highlights how much information we give away willingly. However,the image is never fully clear, as we can never completely piece together someone’s identity just from data.

    Spread from Identity Theft? pt1

    Spread from Identity Theft? pt1

    Spread from Identity Theft? pt1

    Spread from Identity Theft? pt1

    👆 Click images to explore -- Identity Theft? pt1

    Identity Theft PT? 2

    For this act, I was given the challenge of going deeper and re-evaluating what I had already done. What happens when you start looking at all the other layers? Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter etc. The premise of the book would be the same as before. To communicate how revealing our data can be, but show even more just how much we willingly give away. I just had to find someone who had enough of an online presence that a whole book could be made about it. It was not very hard to find.

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- Boris Groys on Self Design

    Boris Groys talks about the notion of Self-design (see image). The book would become a visual example of that idea. Discussing whether we need to self-curate ourselves and the idea that we are completely responsible for curating all the stuff out there about us to not be misinterpreted whether for good or for bad. I inititally had the subject’s face on the cover, but it gave too much away. And I wanted to demonstrate, that data as it is collected in its original form can reveal new meanings.

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- testing layout and order

    Stealing? -- collecting Gabriele's entire social media presence. Again, no code, hack or script just simple copy paste

    Sketchbook research & documentation -- the mockup before printing the book

    👆 Click images to explore -- Identity Theft? pt2. For the full project ↪

    Over five different publications, I demonstrated exactly how we voluntarily give away our data for anyone to use. They explore how our data and our self-design reaches across so many public platforms creating strong a pictures of your identity. They also show how we willingly give away personal information for anyone to exploit. While we figure out was lead us to this point of ignorance and exploitation, humans are condemned to understanding, filtering and designing our selves and by extension our identities. These publications are only the beginning of this exploration.

    [ai] [censhorship] [internet] [future] [technology] [process documentation] [long-read]

    Origgi, G. (2018). Say goodbye to the information age: it’s all about reputation now – Gloria Origgi | Aeon Ideas. [online] Aeon. Available at: https://aeon.co/ideas/say-goodbye-to-the-information-age-its-all-about-reputation-now [Accessed 7 May 2018].

    Shneiderman, B. (1998). Treemaps for space-constrained visualization of hierarchies. [image] Available at: http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/treemap-history/treeviz_colorful.gif [Accessed 8 May 2018].

    Minard, C. (1869). Carte Figurative. [Lithograph].

    Crnokrak, P. (2018). Love Will Tear Us Apart Again. [image] Available at: http://www.petercrnokrak.com/wp-content/uploads/Love_Will_Tear_Us_Apart_Again_2-1920x1280.jpg [Accessed 13 May 2018].

    Groys, B. (2008). The Obligation to Self-Design - Journal #0 - e-flux. [online] e-flux.com. Available at: https://www.e-flux.com/journal/00/68457/the-obligation-to-self-design/ [Accessed 14 May 2018].

  • Welcome to the Interzone

    15 June 2018

    The world is changing and the possibilities are endless, and thus humans are changing and the possibilities are endless too.

    Due to massive technological advancements, galaxies of personal devides, data, social media, genetic codes, infrastructures, interfaces and the unified network between them, the lines between the private and the public are blurring. The relationship humans have with their identity and method for presenting(and representing) it are changing. These public and private spheres are no longer existing in isolation, they are intersecting.

    My creative practice focus lies in this intersection I call "the Interzone". What happens to the human as these two phenomenon collide? What does a world look like it when it is not just the outside world that is designed, but when design reaches into our minds? Is there a future where the human still exists? The human and its self are becoming fully integrated into the modern social and economic structures, and they have the ability to incessantly design and curate their 'never finished profiles.' The methods for projecting, designing and exploiting the self today are nearly limitless. It is impossible not to imagine that humans and our concept of privacy, self and identity are in for dramatic paradigm shifts. I want to explore what happens to humans, the self and society as the private, public, digital and physical merge. This video marks the beginning of that exploration...

    [censhorship] [internet] [social media] [public] [technology] [opinion] [project documentation] [long-read]

  • .

    Paul Austin Interview *NEW*

    [interview] [paul austin] [graphic design] [public] [madethought] [criticism] [technology] [behaviour] [sustainability]

    17 / 05

  • .

    Astrid Stavro Interview

    [interview] [astrid stavro] [graphic design] [public] [pentagram] [criticism] [technology] [behaviour]

    04 / 05

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    Ben Vickers Interview

    [interview] [ben vickers] [mnemotechnologies] [simulated reality] [gnosticism] [social media] [sovereign self] [technology]

    01 / 04

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    Weekly Fragments [7]: Offline and online are the same, reality distinction...

    [wittgenstein] [trolling] [erving goffman]

    11 / 03

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    Weekly Fragments [6]: Interfaces, Avoiding reducible design, virtuality = reality...

    [digital energy] [interfaces] [ux design] [non-linear reality] [externalised self] [reality] [virtuality]

    04/ 03

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    Luke Powell (Pentagram) Interview

    [interview] [luke powell] [ai] [automation ][graphcore] [graphic design] [technology] [responsibility]

    27 / 02

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    Weekly Fragments [5]: Interfaces, Avoiding reducible design, virtuality = reality...

    [metahaven] [interfaces] [lil internet] [reality] [virtuality] [exteriorisation] [benjamin bratton]

    25 / 02

  • .

    Weekly Fragments [4]: Humans are coral reef, the modern externalisation is not unique...

    [donna harroway] [ben vickers] [sovereign self] [externalised self] [coral reefs]

    18 / 02

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    Weekly Fragments [3]: Pope Pius XII, Adjusting to virtuality, McLuhan...

    [michael mcluhan] [pope pius xii] [religion] [spirituality] [insitutions]

    11 / 02

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    Chris Moody (Wolff Olins) Interview

    [interview] [chris moody] [graphic design] [responsibliity] [uber] [big data] [technology] [behaviour]

    07 / 02

  • .

    Weekly Fragments [2]: Humans are machines, the Statisticon, the Uncommited Self...

    [giles deleuze] [felix guattari] [machinic process] [warren neidich] [statisticon] [merlin mcdonald] [design]

    03 / 02

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    Peter Hall Interview

    [interview] [peter hall] [graphic design] [education] [quantified self] [big data] [technology] [behaviour]

    28 / 01

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    Weekly Fragments [1]: Structuration, Game Theory, Mnemotechnologies...

    [structuration theory] [self] [stiegler] [mnemotechnologies] [max weber] [hito steyerl] [game theory] [anthony giddens] [pixelated revolution] [ramia mroue]

    27 / 01

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    What is Designer? [work process]

    [graphic design] [typography] [diagrammatic] [design] [design critcism] [work process]

    05 / 12

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    Meme Culture

    [internet] [social media] [public] [revolution] [image] [society] [memes]

    15 / 11

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    Devices of Pushkin

    [data] [internet] [social media] [public] [technology] [data collection] [privacy] [behaviour] [photography]

    01 / 10

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    The Privacy Paradox and why it will persist

    [data] [internet] [social media] [public] [technology] [opinion] [data collection] [privacy] [behaviour]

    11 / 09

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    Disclaimer [work process]

    [censhorship] [internet] [social media] [public] [technolog] [work process]

    24 / 06

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    Identity Theft? PT1 & PT2 [work process]

    [censhorship] [data] [internet] [social media] [public] [privacy] [technology [work process] [long-read]

    19 / 06

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    Welcome to the Interzone

    [censhorship] [internet] [social media] [public] [privacy] [self] [technology] [video]

    15 / 06