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

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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.