Staying with, working through and performing obsolescence

techno-ecologies 2

New article out in the latest issue of the Acoustic Space journal on Techno-Ecologies (2). Titled “Staying with, working through and performing obsolescence,” the article was co-written with colleagues Åsa Ståhl and Kristina Lindström. The piece began as a joint presentation given at the 2013 Media Art Histories conference and covers Ståhl and Lindström’s ongoing Repa Upp / Upprepa (Unravel / Repeat) project, in which they are working with a number of old mobile phones collected during journeys through the north of Sweden. The project is interesting on several levels, including for its strong material orientation towards media and emphasis on caring for and working through various relational aspects of this materiality.


“menders”, image by Lindström and Ståhl

As a part of their working with the obsolete mobile phones, handed voluntarily over to them by various members of the region whom they came into contact with during their travels, one iteration of the project saw Lindström and Ståhl “reanimating” the content stored within the phones in the form of an SMS story, P.S. Sorry if I Woke You. The story is loosely based on the SMS data which they were able to bring back to life through a series of hardware and software hacks (/mendings) to bring the phones back into working order so that they could not only access the original content for cutting up and stitching back together in their evocative narrative, but also so that the story could be “retold” by the phones themselves. Thus, when one subscribes to receive P.S. via SMS, it is the original phones that, in their mended form, deliver the story to one’s phone.

PS capsules, image by Lindström and Ståhl

My contribution to the article was a discussion of what the experience of subscribing to this SMS story was like, as well as writing together with Lindström and Ståhl on certain issues of obsolescence (an increasingly key part of my dissertation research) that the story and their project as a whole raises. Below is the abstract for the article and a snippet from the article itself.

Abstract: This paper, which contributes to discussions on techno-ecologies by drawing on feminist technoscience, is divided into three parts. The first part is written by Lindström and Ståhl and outlines the figure of the rag and bone wo/man. It also recounts stories from their travels, where they collected both obsolete phones and also personal accounts on the part of the owners of these phones, and then moving on to explain the process of unravelling and repeating these materials into a composition of an SMS novel. In the second part, Snodgrass gives an account of the experience of subscribing to the SMS novel P.S. Sorry if I Woke You, which Lindström and Ståhl composed from the materials they collected as rag and bone women. Snodgrass’s focus is on the kinds of relational, media ecologies style dimensions that the piece can be seen to bring to the fore. Finally, all three authors join in a concluding discussion on the notions of staying with, working through and performing obsolescence.

Keywords: Obsolescence, care, e-waste, mobile phones, rag and bone wo/men

techno-ecologies 2 text


ecologies of the executable: a few interstratic experiments


A mad few months of work. Now finalising a presentation to be given next week at the RENEWABLE FUTURES conference for New Media Culture in Riga and Liepaja. Could do with more time to gear up but looking forward to it.

title of talk: ecologies of the executable: a few interstratic experiments

As witnessed in recent projects such as the “living poetry” of Christian Bök’s The Xenotext, for implantation into the genome of the Deinococcus radiodurans microbe, or diverse works from Martin Howse including concrete worm poetry produced on ”earthbooting” computers, there is a vibrant strain of artistically infused practice that aims to overtly shift or renew the sites of expressive executability. Just as the poetic modality provides a platform for constraining, exposing and executing processes of expression, in the recent examples of artists like Bök and Howse the workings of diverse and potentially frictive strata of materials (code, cells, hardware, soil, etc.) directly constrain, corrupt and/or tease out further potential ecologies of the executable (scientific, aesthetic, computational, pataphysical and otherwise). Building on ongoing dissertation research within a terrain of media ecologies, this presentation will consider a few of the unstable organisms that emerge in these experiments on the fault lines of interstratic executability, each of which can also be said to touch on the conference themes of sustainability and renewal.


Very, very late to the afterparty here, but coming into contact with some of the (“post-post-”) vaporwave scene now. SLOWGLOW VIRTUAL CASINO EULOGYJAM LANGUOR. Aesthetic is reminiscent of a lot of net art work that has been around for ages, but takes on quality of its own in this contextual sonic moment. Clear that it would have made a nice addition to the post-digital piece just released. Of particular interest, a sense of immersion into the atmospherics of obsolescence. Quote from Tiny Mix Tapes’ recent review of Infinity Frequencies’ Computer Decay,

It goes back to what its original creators may or may not have been attempting to do but were assumed to be doing anyway: a subversive take on our own fall into the “virtual plaza,” a post-capitalist commercial doom. When Infinity Frequencies reveals to us these artifacts, gathered from the recesses of the collective knowledge, their unintentional beauty lulls us into a dream recovery of haze and vapor, and we’re privy to a similar slip into obscurity and decay.

And this from a year old interview (note focus on temporality) with Chaz Allen of Metallic Ghosts,

In fact, as far as Allen is concerned, the January concert—the second incarnation of an online festival called SPF420, which debuted in September—doubled as a “final eulogy” for the genre. “As soon as you name something,” he says, “it’s going to take off and die.” [...] “I just made a casinowave track, sampling slot machines and shit,” Allen says. “So that might last for a minute. That might last for two minutes.”

Yes, yes. Always already 20 minutes late to the futurepast. META-JAVA COMPUTER-GAZE ANXIETY-CLOUDS. TOPOLOGICAL DE(.com)PRESSION. NEW NOSTALGIA.

ECO VIRTUAL / / / 大気中分析

Climate Research & Analysis Music

Using our patented Advanced SoniClimate® Information Processing Software we produce music based on atmospheric and oceanic data from around the globe and deliver it directly to you, the user.

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And how blue are these sonic “blue hours” (cf. post-digital article)? Here are the accompanying images for the first ten tracks currently listed on Infinity Frequencies’ SoundCloud page

Dusk to dawn: horizons of the digital/post-digital


New article out in latest issue of A Peer-Reviewed Journal About. The journal takes up the concept of post-digital, a sub-theme of this year’s Transmediale call, and is the result of a workshop hosted by Aarhus University where a group of us (mostly PhD researchers and practitioners with an interest in media arts) converged to discuss what exactly post-digital might constitute. The resultant articles include all manner of takes on this, with Florian Cramer’s “What is post-digital?” being a logical starting point for anyone interested in the concept. My own take on it was less interested in what might count as post-digital and more invested in exploring possible symptoms that could be seen as giving rise to the very notion of post-digital. The article also ended up moving very much in the direction of the main Transmediale theme of afterglow, exploring the nature of moments of transition, such as one between digital/post-digital.

Even in its final form the essay is fairly fast and loose, reflecting both its strange beginnings as a riffing on a Walter Benjamin quote and some Kool Keith lyrics and the fact that the material referred to was all new and outside of what I’ve been looking at in dissertation writing to date. Despite that, the experience of the workshop and the Transmediale festival itself proved interesting in different ways and much of this will now be folded into and expanded upon further in the diss (for instance, the choice quote by Talan Memmott in the first draft and discussion of Takeshi Murata’s video for Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Problem Areas” were eventually excluded in this final version, but should be making a return in the diss). Also, in a recent discussion thread addressing post-digital on the Emypre mailing list, micha cárdenas raised the important question of what the overt political potential or dangers in a narrowly conceived notion of the post-digital might be. In placing this work back into some of the more overtly political stuff of the diss hopefully some of these political potentials will become more readily transparent. Of the many images of dusk that come to mind, Derek Walcott’s “Frederiksted, Dusk” remains one of the more potent and relevant in such a context (“Sunset, the cheapest of all picture-shows…”).

Finally, here is a little “post-exterminator” generator put together (with a coding assist by Memmott) for running in the background during my initial presentation at the workshop.

Till Sverige – fragments of testimony

Below are a few translations into English of short extracts taken from the Swedish book Till Sverige-asylsökande barn vittnar om Dublinförordningens konsekvenser (2010), or “To Sweden-asylum seeking children testify on the consequences of the Dublin regulation” in English (for a brief glimpse of what the Dublin regulation entails, see this article from the Guardian). The book aims to share the perspectives of a much talked about group of youth who nevertheless seldom have the chance to talk for themselves. The focus of the testimonies is on the journeys that each child has undergone on the way to their current location in Sweden, but outside of this overarching theme, the book also provides a chance for each youth to share their thoughts, experiences and more.

Most of the testimonies in the book have already undergone a process of translation from various native tongues into Swedish (this includes hybrid amalgamations of “street-speak” that tell their own stories of lives lived between languages). The selective use of fragments collected together here also clearly represent an additional level of framing. This is in advance of a collaboration recently instigated with a colleague on a project that aims to explore issues around potentiality, expression and the experience of undocumented youth.

For anyone wanting to learn more about the issue of undocumented migrants, the PICUM (Platform for international cooperation on undocumented migrants) website has a list of information providers and points of contact in Europe and worldwide.


Abdifatah, 16 years old, from Somalia, on fingerprinting:

“De som vägrade att lämna sina fingeravtryck skiljdes från de andra. De kallade dit de militärer som fanns på området och förklarade för dem att vi vägrade. De tog fram elbatonger och slog oss över axlarna och på andra kroppsdelar. De hade också hundar som de bussade på oss. Vi var redan hungriga, trötta och hade massor av problem, nu kom fler. Med våld tvingade de oss at lämna våra fingeravtryck. Jag hade aldrig föreställt mig att detta skulle kunna hända mig.” (Till Sverige, p.14)

“Those who refused to leave their fingerprint were separated from the others. They called over the military officers who were in the vicinity and told them of our refusal. The officers took out electric batons and beat us on the shoulders and other parts of the body. They also had dogs which they intimidated us with. We were already hungry, tired and full of problems, and now this. Using violence they forced us to leave our fingerprint. I never imagined something like this would happen to me.”


Reza, 16 years old, from Afghanistan, on smells and sounds:

“I Iran delades vi upp i grupper. Jag fick tillsammans med tre andra gömma mig i en bensintank i en stor lastbil. Det var ett litet utrymme. I dessa bensintankar brukar chaufförer ha med sig extra bensin när de ska köra långa sträckor. Vi fick sitta med axlarna nedtryckta mot knäna och huvuden mellan benen. Det luktade bensin. Jag mådde illa av lukten. Det värsta var ljudet från motorn på lastbilen. Jag kan även känna lukten av bensinen och höra ljudet av motorn i min hjärna. Bara av att tänka på lukten av bensinen och ljudet av motorn blir jag illamående.” (Till Sverige, p.21-22)

“In Iran we were split into groups. Together with three others I had to hide in a petrol tank within a large truck. It was a cramped space. The drivers tended to store extra fuel in these tanks when making long journeys. We had to sit with shoulders pressed down upon the knees and head between legs. It smelled of petrol. I felt sick from the smell. Worst of all was the sound of the truck’s engine. I can feel the smell of petrol and hear the noise of the engine in my head. Just the thought of the smell of the petrol and the sound of the engine makes me feel ill.”

Reza, again, on dreaming of Italy:

“Jag har varit i Pakistan, Iran, Frankrike och andra länder som jag inte känner till. Italien är det värsta landet, det är ett fängelse. När jag försöker sova på natten får jag dåliga tankar. Jag har mardrömmar om att jag är i förvaret i Italien. Jag vill få bort dessa tankar ur mitt huvud. Jag vill äta och dricka men kan inte. Min hals känns svullen. När jag äter och dricker har jag svårt att svälja.” (Till Sverige, p.25)

“I have been in Pakistan, Iran, France and other countries that I don’t even know. Italy is the worst country, it is a prison. When I try to sleep at night I get bad thoughts. I have nightmares that I am in custody in Italy. I want to get these thoughts out of my head. I want to eat and drink, but can’t. My throat feels swollen. When I eat and drink I have difficulty swallowing.”


Erdo, 17 years old, from Afghanistan, on separation:

“Efter fyra år i Tehran kom polisen till arbetsplatsen vi var på och tog min bror. Han bad att de inte skulle skilja på oss utan ta oss båda, men de ville inte ha mig. Efter den dagen har jag inte sett min bror och vet inte vad som hänt honom. När man fyllt sexton år tar polisen de barn som är olagligt i Iran, om de hittar dem. Jag vet inte vad de gör med dem, men när jag också blev äldre var jag rädd att bli tagen och därför flydde jag. Det är nu fyra år sedan. Länge sökte jag efter min bror överalt utan att hitta honom. Också i Sverige tror jag ibland att jag ser honom, men det är alltid någon annan. I drömmen ser jag honom långt borta och då springer jag efter honom. När jag kommer fram ser jag att det inte är han uten en främling.” (Till Sverige, p.28-9)

“After four years in Tehran the police came to the site we were working at and took my brother away. He begged them not to separate the two of us, but they weren’t after me. Since that day I haven’t seen my brother and don’t know what has happened to him. The police will attempt to take any child over the age of 16 living illegally in Iran – if they discover them. I don’t know what they do with them, but as I also became older I grew scared of being taken and so fled instead. It is now four years later. For a long time I searched everywhere for my brother, without finding him. Occasionally in Sweden I also think that I see him, but it is always someone else. In dreams I see him in the distance and then run after him. When I get to him I see that it’s not him but a stranger.”


Ismail, 16 years old, from Afghanistan, on fear and self-harm:

“I Juli 2010 ringde Migrationsverket mig och sa att jag hade lämnat fingeravtryck och därför måste åka tillbaka till Ungern. Jag avslutar hellre mitt liv än åker tillbaka dit. Efter det blev jag desperat. Jag skar jag mig i huvudet och i armarna och jag sydde ihop mina läppar med nål och tråd. Jag vill inte skada mig själv men jag vet inte hur jag ska handskas med rädslan av att skickas tillbaka. Jag ber om hjälp.” (Till Sverige, p.37)

“In July 2010, the Swedish Migration Board phoned me and said that I had left a fingerprint and therefor had to travel back to Hungary. I would rather end my life then return there. After that I became desperate. I cut myself in the head and arms and stitched my lips together with needle and thread. I don’t want to harm myself but I don’t know how to deal with the fear of being sent back. I plead for help.”


Hamed, 17 years old, from Aghanistan, on exploitation:

“Vi flydde från Afghanistan av olika orsaker, främst för att vi hotades till livet men även för att många afghanska ungdomar utnyttjas på olika sätt. Vissa ungdomar har ingen bostad och inga föräldrar och vissa av dem blir sexuellt utnyttjade av de som har makten i landet, de som har en position som har ärvts i generationer kanske. Det är som en slags kultur bland eliten, att utnyttja barn. Och de dom utsätts för övergrepp är de utan bostad, som inte har någonting alls. Barnen är tvungen att fly landet för regeringen kan inte ge dem skydd.” (Till Sverige, p.39)

“We fled from Afghanistan for various reasons, most of all because our lives were threatened but also because many Afghan youth are exploited in different ways. Some youth have no home or parents, and in some cases they are sexually abused by those in power in the country, those who have attained such a position as a result of an inheritance likely generations old. To take advantage of children is a kind of culture for this elite. And those whom they take advantage of are those without a home, those who have nothing at all. Children are forced to flee the country because the government can’t give them protection.”