The Weekest Links : digital history, Google eyes, Guy Debord

Good morning Vietnam, welcome back to the show. This week we'll be looking at some more tech-inspired stories from around the web, from digital architecture to retro politics. As usual, we're coming at you live from Lisbon, sweet home of the Austerity, deep within Paul Krugman's nightmare, where the sun keeps shining, the people keep smiling, and the tourists keep swinging in spite of it all.

You know the drill, here comes

The week of  the 21st to the 28th of May, 2013

Archeology of the Digital ( via Domus )

After finance, architecture has got to be the space where software and digital technology first started to transform things. We now talk about the internet of things but our cities have been full of networked objects for a long time - buildings, roads, and places imagined from the ground up on computer screens. Modulated, designed and stored on CAD files. The city is the ultimate operating system. 

Domus, the prestigious Italian architecture and design magazine (since 1928!), recently published a piece on the "Archeology of the Digital", an exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) curated by Greg Lynn. The curation attempts to trace and pinpoint the complex origins of the use of computers by architects in the late 1980's and 1990's. The shift from the analogue philosophies that defined the profession, along with their political foundations and prescriptions, to the new logic of digital composition was perhaps one of the most important changes in urban planning at the twilight of the 20th century.

"digital architecture is not simply the result of inexpensive computers, 
but the unfolding of an explosively heterogeneous cosmology."

Any history of the digital universe must indeed take on the immense task of charting the role of software in the production of spaces and places. For the transformation of light into matter is key in understanding the new paradigms that would unfold, and are still unfolding, in the early 21st century. An urban planet demands it: how are networked computers being used by the makers of our habitats? To what ends? With what affordances?

Through 13 October 2013
Archaeology of the Digital
Canadian Centre for Architecture

1920 Rue Baile, Montreal

Google eyes ( via Android Police )

Everyone has heard of Google Glass by now, and more than a few people have resisted the idea that it will become the next mainstream paradigm in mobile computing. They're wrong. Glass is the next paradigm, just not in the areas that have been so heatedly discussed in the tech press and on SNL. I here predict that most people won't be using the New York Times app on Glass, and even less people will be looking up at their Twitter feed through Google's gadget. The haters are right in that aspect: only the posers and the hopelessly geek will turn Glass into an alternative for their tablets and phones. 

But if you look closely at the design fiction that Google has been pushing, even before the actual product came out, you'll notice how much of it is focused on pictures and videos, how the emphasis is on capturing the world from the new and unique perspective of the look-ma-no-hands first person shooter. There's a reason for that, and Android Police has just uncovered it, it's called Visual Recognition. It's a little trick that Google has quietly enabled on its so-called social network and it works like the most avid and rabid science-fiction fans among us hoped it would. 

When you upload a photo on Plus, Google will actually try to identify what the picture is all about.

Why don't you read that sentence again, you jaded douche. The internet, or Google - it's pretty much the same thing from now on - is now able to see and recognize objects. Not only read and index text web pages and serve them to you on a silver platter, not only map out the entire planet, not only identify faces in a crowd - Google is learning to see and to name everything. The word learning is the operative one here, because like so much of what Mountain View is doing these days, this little feature on Plus is just a training exercise for the Mind that Larry Page is creating and educating. Yes, like a child.

This is where Glass comes in. You and I, proud amateur and professional recorders of our daily lives, will be capturing, indexing, and sharing the real world through networked eyeware. Google, on the other hand, will be learning from us about the messy, turbulent, and deeply personal universes that constitute life on this planet. Visual Recognition on Plus is just the beginning. The Mind will see and know it all.

Guy Debord action figure in 3D ( via Critical Secret )

Are you European, over 30, with a background in radical politics and a taste for the artistic and the insubordinate? Do you believe in the endless creative potential of everyday life? Do you have a deep-seated mistrust of ideology and institutionalized philosophy? Can you quote Marx with a touch of irony?

Then you probably know who is Guy Debord (that link is for the French Wikipedia, because you obviously also know the language). McKenzie Wark does too, that's why he wrote two books about the Situationist International, Monsieur Debord's country club in the late 1950's, in Paris. Mr. Wark has also accomplished an even more impressive feat: he took hold of a Z-Corporation 3D printer and designed little Guy Debord action figures to be given away at the launch of The Spectacle of Desintegration, his second book about the life and times of the Situationists and their fan clubs.

Here is Guy Debord, in all his 3D printing glory, posing in front of the book.

After writing about the role of software in architecture and how Google is learning to see, there's not much more I can say about this, is there? I'll leave you with the link to McKenzie Wark's web page, where he describes in detail the process of extruding and composing little Debords out of white powder. If by any chance you are not familiar with this author and his role in defining much of the European leftist thinking of the second half of the 20th century, consider yourself lucky. You have a lot to read.


They say this Summer will be the coldest in the last 200 years, all because of climate change, but for now the sun is still shining in fair Lisbon town. See you next week, right here on stress.

Alice Politics