Behind the Smart World at ISEA

In August we participated in the ISEA 2105 conference in Vancouver, Canada. The theme of this years ISEA was Disruption and as keynote speakers amongst others the Yes Men who were promoting their new film: Yes Men are Revolting

Maybe one of the most disruptive actions took place during the Yes Men keynote when young activist where questioning the connections of Simon Frasier University (the host of the conference) to a plan to build a new Trans Mountain pipeline to transport crude oil. With the help of the Yes Men in a selfie style video the activist got the whole ISEA crowd to say no to the pipeline.

The Yes Men – ISEA 2015 Keynote – #NoFuckingPipelines Is The New #KMFace from Jakub Jerzy Markiewicz on Vimeo.

We were also busy presenting the ‘Behind the Smart World’ project as a poster/artist talk in one of the sessions to present ongoing works and processes. It was a interesting 2,5 h during which people came and asked questions about our project after a short presentation we did for the whole audience. The poster paper is available here:“Behind the Smart World: 22 harddrives from a West African e-waste dump. While we had a chance, as KairUs, we also organized a 419-fiction workshop, made a demo presentation of our work ‘Let’s Talk Business’ and Andreas presented a long paper which is part of his PHD.

From our perspective the conference could have been more disruptive, but some highlights were Carmin Karasic  workshop”Hacktivism Seeds for Discourse” with Byron Smith explaining his concerns about the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that was to bisect his farm. Afterwards in a role play we tried to understand the perspectives of the government, the general public and how net activists could play a role i this. Also talks in the GeoPolitics and Activism session (e.g. Tugce Oklay. An Aesthetic Reading of Online Artivist Projects, Tomas Laurenzo. Geopolitical Subjectivity, and of course Andreas) and in the Surveillance  session (e.g. Annina Rüst. Participatory (Counter-) Surveillance and the Internet, and Leo Selvaggio. URME Surveillance: Analyzing Viral Face-crime) were very interesting. One of the most rewarding things about conferences are that one can get to know people behind interesting projects that deal with similar issues as ones interests are. And therefore we hope that both Leo Selvaggio’s URME Surveillance project as well as Emilio Vavarella’s Google Trilogy will make it as a part of the Behind the Smart World -publication. And of course at the main ISEA exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery we could spot one work with hard-drives: Error 404 502 410 by Marcelina Wellmer.

(images starting left Carmin Karasic, Byron Smith, Tugce Oklay + presentation slide, Tomas Laurenzo, Annina Rüst + presentation slide, Andreas wearing Leo’s face & Leo Selvaggio, Emilio Vavarella at a demo session and Error 404 502 41)


Method: Media Archeological site report

MAD-P approach by Sara Perry and Colleen Morgan. MAD-P stands for Media Archaeology Drive Project is an experiment in extending archaeological method into the systematised analysis of media objects. MAD-P was conceived as a critical, creative exploration of the intersections between media archaeology and archaeology,

MAD-P Media archaeological Drive Project

“Media archaeology should not be confused with archaeology as a discipline. When media archaeologists claim that they are ‘excavating’ media—cultural phenomena, the word should be understood in a specific way. Industrial archaeology, for example, digs through the foundations of demolished factories, boarding-houses, and dumps, revealing clues about habits, lifestyles, economic and social stratifications, and possibly deadly diseases. Media archaeology rummages textual, visual, and auditory archives as well as collections of artifacts, emphasizing both the discursive and the material manifestations of culture. Its explorations move fluidly between disciplines…” (Huhtamo and Parikka 2011).

MAD-P Between archaeology and Media archaeology

As Colleen Morgan outlined at the “Archaeologies of Media and Film” conference talk, amongst many things, archaeologists bring with them:

  • a rigorous methodology based in documentation, one that encourages and hones attention to detail, to mundanities, to careful, long term and systematic study of minutiae and the everyday via embodied process
  • an emphasis on recording observations through such embodied process (including drawing); as archaeology is a destructive practice, preservation via record is a priority
  • a focus on fieldwork, situated learning, and collaborative knowledge generation through team work, including extended periods of time over multiple seasons attending to a task via collective practice; this routine and familiarity provide a distinct depth of knowledge (sensory knowledge, historical knowledge, collective knowledge); such practice also appreciates that group participation and the valuing of multiple perspectives have greater value than independent approaches
  • a well-tested, long-term focus on material culture that has generated (or incorporated) tools such as the chaîne opératoire, typological analysis, ethnographic analogy, seriation, object biographies, experimental archaeology, phenomenology, and material sciences

And, for them, media archaeology is especially notable for its:

  • explicit, unapologetic concern for the interplay between past, present, future; its concern for critique, political commentary, and social change
  • valuing of play, performance, exploration, messiness, chaos; its willingness to embrace, rather than dismiss or supress confusion
  • overt efforts to decentre and defamiliarise common interpretations
  • concern for storytelling and narrative-building about media objects and media effects/affects