The Camera That Ate Itself

Matthew Fuller, ‘The Camera That Ate Itself’, 55-85 in:

Fuller, M., 2007. Media ecologies: materialist energies in art and technoculture, 1st MIT Press paperback edition. ed, Leonardo. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England.


This persistent whimsy that labor-saving technology will of itself release people into a helter-skelter world of self-determined fun is less a theory than a suburban myth.

Nevertheless, Flusser’s Towards a Philosophy of Photography insists we play along. Having been liberated from the necessity, if not from the compulsion, to work, people are available for play.

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The Technology of Gender

Teresa de Lauretis, ‘The Technology of Gender’, pp.1-30, in:

De Lauretis, T., 1987. Technologies of gender: essays on theory, film, and fiction, Theories of representation and difference. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
In the feminist writings and cultural practices of the 1960s and 1970s, the notion of gender as sexual difference was central to the critique of representation, the rereading of cultural images and narratives, the questioning of theories of subjectivity and textuality, of reading, writing, and spectatorship.

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Virtual Gender

Judy Wajcman, ‘Virtual Gender’, pp.56-77, in:
Wajcman, J., 2004. TechnoFeminism. Polity, Cambridge ; Malden, MA.
Progress is still defined by technological enterprises, but it is digital rather than space technology that now excites the imagination with its more immediate and accessible possibilities. Rarely having made it into outer space, little wonder that feminists have seized upon new digital technologies for their potential to finally free women from the constraints of their sex.
The conviction that the Internet is the solution to social disintegration and individualism is no less popular than the idea that it will accelerate these trends.

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On the matrix: cyberfeminist simulations

Plant, Sadie. ‘On the matrix: cyberfeminist simulations’, in The Cybercultures Reader, eds David Bell and Barbara M. Kennedy, London: Routledge, 2000, pp.325-326


The Internet promises women a network of lines on which to chatter, natter, work and play; virtuality brings a fluidity to identities which once had to be fixed; and multimedia provides a new tactile environment in which women artists can find their space.

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Non-Users Also Matter

Sally Wyatt, “Non-Users Also Matter: The Construction of Users and Non-Users of the Internet”, pp.67-79 in:
Oudshoorn, N., Pinch, T. (Eds.), 2003. How users matter: the co-construction of users and technologies. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
The reasons why private companies selling Internet-related products and services wish to promote the Internet as a universal medium are self-evident; the reasons why policy makers support them are less clear.
Users have been neglected for too long. Including them helps to overcome the problems associated with approaches to science and technology studies and innovation studies that emphasize the roles of powerful actors such as scientists, engineers, politicians, and financiers in producing technologies.
But restoring the dialectic between production and consumption by establishing the importance of use and users may introduce another problem: by focusing on use, we implicitly accept the promises of technology and the capitalist relations of its production.
Users are increasingly introduced into technology studies to counterbalance the emphasis on producers found in much of the literature, but all categories involve exclusions. Therefore, users should be seen in relation to another, even less visible group, that of non-users.
The car was a paradigm case of a symbol of modernity in the twentieth century. To many people, cars reflect wealth, power, virility, and freedom. The Internet promises many of the same attributes on an even larger scale, with its possibility of global reach. The symbolic value of having Internet access is often presented as a sign of inclusion in a high-technology future.
According to the trickle-down view, there may be inequalities of access and use during the early stages of a technology, but these disappear, or are at least much reduced, as the technology becomes more widely diffused.
Similar claims can be found in much literature and in policy statements about industrialization and modernization more generally. Individuals, regions, and nations will “catch up”; those not connected now will be or should be connected soon. This is the real annihilation of space by time: the assumption that the entire world shares a single time line of development, with some groups ahead of others but with everyone on the same path.
The stereotypical user remains a young, white, university-educated man.
There are differences in patterns of use, men spending more time on line and logging on more frequently.
Will the cyberworld come to dominate the physical world to anything like the same extent as cars and the associated socio-technical system? Is it possible to turn off the machine? Or will everyone’s choices come to be shaped by the Internet, just as many people’s transport choices are influenced by the automobile whether or not they own one?
People who stop using the Internet are poorer and less well-educated. People who are introduced to the Internet by family and friends are more likely to “drop out” than those who are self-taught or those who receive formal training at work or school. Teenagers are more likely to give up than people over 20.
There are different categories of non-use. As Bauer (1995: 14–15) points out, there is a difference between passive “avoidance behavior” and active resistance. Also, care should be taken to distinguish between non-use of a technological system (such as the Internet) as a whole and non-use of specific aspects of it (Miles and Thomas 1995: 256–257).
[description of four types of non-users: resisters, rejectors, excluded, expelled]
If Internet access is seen as inherently desirable, this might be accompanied by the provision of measures to facilitate access. Another possibility is to accept that some people will never use the Internet. This could lead either to a focus on existing users or (moving away from the perspective of the suppliers and promoters who see non-use only as a gap to be filled) to policies that would make alternatives to the Internet available to people who want or need them.
Once one has made the step of including “former user,” as well as “current user” and “never a user,” it is not too much more of a leap to begin to take apart the notion of “user.” What exactly does it mean to be a user?
The Internet “user” should be conceptualized along a continuum, with degrees and forms of participation that can change. Different modalities of use should be understood in terms of different types of users, but also in relation to different temporal and social trajectories.
Many authors have pointed to the ways in which producers and designers of technology draw on the “I-methodology,” using themselves as the paradigm of a user (see the chapter by Lindsay in this volume), or the singular, undifferentiated user, or users in the plural as a homogeneous group. Including the variety of non-users also helps to open the way for subtler description and analysis of the multiplicity of users.
Analyzing users is important, but by focusing on users and producers we run the risk of accepting a worldview in which adoption of new technology is the norm.
Cars are not simply wheels, engines, and steel; they exist within a sociotechnical infrastructure that includes test centers for drivers and vehicles, motorways, garages, the petrochemical industry, drive-in movies, and out-of-town shopping centers. The more people use cars, the greater the infrastructure to support them, and the lessening of car-free space.
Similarly, the Internet is not just web content. It includes many other applications as well as computers, telecommunication links, routers, servers, educators, and cyber cafés. The more people use the Internet, the more pressure there is to develop user-friendly interfaces and to provide more access equipment, greater bandwidth, and faster switching and routing. But there is a paradox here: as the network expands and becomes more useful, it may also become more difficult to create well-working communities.
It is thus important to analyze the Internet not only along a single dimension or characteristic but as a large technical system (Mayntz and Hughes 1988; Summerton 1994; Coutard 1999).
At the beginning of the chapter, I highlighted the importance of incorporating users into technology studies as a way of avoiding the traps associated with following only the powerful actors. Another way of avoiding such traps is to take non-users and former users seriously as relevant social groups, as actors who might influence the shape of the world.
The use of information and communication technology (or any other technology) by individuals, organizations, and nations is taken as the norm, and non-use is perceived as a sign of a deficiency to be remedied or as a need to be fulfilled. The assumption is that access to technology is necessarily desirable, and the question to be addressed is how to increase access.

From Snapshots to Social Media

Introduction, pp.1-3, in:

Sarvas, R., Frohlich, D.M., 2011. From snapshots to social media: the changing picture of domestic photography. Springer, London; New York.


We are indeed witnessing a great change in domestic photography: the constellation of technologies, businesses, conventions, practices, artefacts, etc. that constitute photography has changed. However, the change has not come about overnight. It has been happening since the beginning of the 1990s, when the first digital consumer camera became available.


In this book we identify three consecutive paths in the history of domestic photography: the Portrait Path (ca. 1830s-1888), the Kodak Path (ca. 1888-1990s), and the Digital Path (starting in the 1990s).

Each of these paths is characterised by an innovation that disrupted the existing status quo  of technologies, businesses, and practices related to the creation of images within the domestic sphere. Each disruption was followed by an era of ferment in which technological change, business actors, and changing practices interacted to form a new status quo – a new path.

[…] the main audience for this book is researchers, engineers, and designers of digital imaging technologies, social media and Web services or other products relying of mediated social interaction.

[…] technological change is not linear by marked by discontinuities that have potential to disrupt whole industries.


In summary [of Bill Buxton’s text] no professional theatre critic could ignore the historical and societal context of a new release, yet in technology reviews, the historical, cultural, and political contexts are often absent.

A consequence of this absence is that issues such as privacy, power social structures, and economic factors are almost missing from design-oriented science and engineering research.

In the context of photography, a clear gap exists between research on interactive system design and visual media studies (including traditional photography studies).

Our objective is to bridge this gap between interaction design and visual culture studies by presenting a socio-technical history of domestic photography: the technologies, the business models and commercial organisations, regulation, people and their practices, and broader phenomena in society.

Our analytic lens in studying the history of domestic photography is the concept of a technological path, which has its background in science and technology studies (STS) and in technology management literature.

In studying the technological paths in domestic photography (and those paths that did not become dominant), we do our best to find a middle ground between interaction design research, which has a technology-centric background, and visual culture studies, which have a strong background in cultural studies.

By adopting an analytical approach from science and technology studies, we hope to contribute in both ways: to interaction design by emphasising the historical study of technologies as socio-technical constellations of heterogeneous actors and, second, to visual culture studies by emphasising the agency of these socio-technical constellations in shaping and maintaining specific visual cultures.

Biopolitics of gesture: cinema and the neurological body

“Biopolitics of gesture: cinema and the neurological body”, Pasi Väliaho in:

Gustafsson, H., Grønstad, A. (Eds.), 2014. Cinema and Agamben: ethics, biopolitics and the moving image. Bloomsbury Academic, New York.


[…] the gaze that Charcot cultivated and trained in his clinic was influential in establishing modernity’s epistemological practice: obsessed with moving, doing. breathing, sensuous individual in terms of the complex dynamics of mental and physiological forces meticulously scrutinized in the body’s outward appearance.


Emerging as a new kind of epistemic object  in the late nineteenth century (roughly, 1850-1870), this was not just a body composed of organs and tissues but one distinguished as having functions, performances and behavior.


Perhaps the two, the neurological body and the cinematic apparatus, were mutually constitutive.


In cinema, the unity between gesture and intention was rather broken down.


[Citing Wilhelm and Eduard Weber]

“Man binds his movements to certain rules even if he cannot express these rules in words. These rules are based totally on the structure of his body and on the given external conditions.”


So-called normal, healthy men can walk – that is to say, their gait has a style, which is expressive of personality and culture, of values, intentions and beliefs – whereas the diseased body merely produces “steps”. Deprived of style and rhythm, the diseased body is deprived of signification and thus appears as excluded from the realms of history and politics.


In at least one of its dimensions, producing and maintaining this decomposed image of the human is the function of the biopolitics of gesture in cinema.


Remediating Creativity: Performance, Invention, Critique

Kember, Sarah; Zylinska, Joanna. ‘Remediating Creativity: Performance, Invention, Critique’, Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2012) pp.173-200


In the context of the previous arguments, it may seem risky or even impudent to reclaim creativity as a viable strategy for thinking about the media differently.


Indeed, creativity is inevitably tied up with capitalism because in both its monetized  and nonmonetized  forms – such as as [sic] music making, poetry, poetry, writing, engineering, art, cooking, or knitting – it participates in the intertwined process of production, consumption, and distribution through formal and informal communicative channels and networks made up of record labels, publishing houses, manufacturing plants, computer systems, telephone exchanges, and chats with friends.


Again, the politicoethical significance of scholarship that analyzes and critiques cultural and media industries and their attempts to reinvent the so-called creative labor practices under the guise of collaboration, commonality, sharing and gifting is not being contested here by us. Yet what if we were to mobilize the critical dimension of the analyses of creative media processes and products and combine it with an actual attempt to produce creative media, while also subjecting the notion of critique to a critique?

In other words, what if, rather than just write about the production of creative media by other , we could mobilize the very media that are being critiqued as objects of creative industries’ analyses and put them to critical uses, to think with and through them about change, invention, and socio-cultural transformation?

What if the roles of the cultural critic and the cultural producer were to be combined in this process of developing what Angela McRobbie has termed a “socially engaged, critical creativity”?


Is it possible to invent (new) media otherwise, without falling back onto their predetermined patterns, models and hierarchies?


[…] even if we are to repeat after Spinoza and then Deleuze that “we do not know what a body can do” and thus embrace the unacknowledged potential of human and nonhuman entities to transmute and produce things, perhaps knowing the difference between different acts, passions, and forms of knowledge is more significant for understanding creativity and thinking creative media than dwelling on the yet unrealised and yet unknown corporeal potential.


Criticality can save us from what we are terming “creative mania,” a desire-driven chase for originality that naively replicates the very structures and strictures of Romantic creation – albeit now dressed in the language of materialist-vitalist philosophy, with some sprinkling of biology.


“Critical attention” thus transcends human-centred intentionality by foregrounding the “entangled state of agencies” at work in any event. This is not to backtrack on what we earlier described as the theory of an inevitable but also somewhat impossible decision at the heart of which always lies a leap of faith, or to deny singularly human, ethicopolitical responsibility for such events. But it is certainly to acknowledge that what we are referring to as “human” is only a distinct entity “in a relational, not an absolute, sense” because, as Barad explains, “agencies are only distinct in relation to their mutual entanglements; they don’t exist as individual elements.’


[Reading artist Stelarc]

From this critical cybernetic perspective, the human is seen as having always been technological, or having always been mediated. To put it differently, technology and media are precisely what make us human.

[…] seeing ourselves as always already connected, as being part of the system – rather than as masters of the universe to which all beings are inferior – is an important step in developing a more critical and a more responsible relationship to the world, to what we call “man”, “nature” and “technology”.



Publicités Kodak

Jean-Claude Gautrand, Publicités Kodak: 1910-1939 (Paris: Contre-jour, 1983).


The advertised image is no less ephemeral than the newspaper, the magazine or the poster that conveys it. The need to continually  repeat the commercial message, to reassess its visual impact and to avoid visual boredom leads to making a series of images that follow one another, modify one another and overlap in order to reflect tastes, fashion and present cultural trends as closely as possible. These series can even go so far as to create new habits and new needs to which they offer the right answer.

If ‘You Press the Button, we do the rest’ has remained one of the most enduring and exemplary formulas for the whole history of advertising, it has with the years accompanied series of new images that celebrate the technological improvements, which in spite of their popularity were intended for a certain social class.

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