Digital Matters

Save the date Digital Matters ConferenceIn popular discussion digitality is increasingly equated with networked immateriality: disembodied algorithms float rhetorically in an ethereal cloud of big data. Think, for example, of the “digital edition” of the PlayStation 5 console, so called because it has no optical drive to read games, which must instead be downloaded. The implication is that the regular PS5 console is somehow not digital because its storage medium is visible to the unaided human eye. This presupposition of digital immateriality is not just a misconception to be corrected, but a productive site for interdisciplinary scholarly inquiry into media and data practices. In Digital Matters, historians, media theorists and information scholars come together for three days to examine the socio-material constituents of digital systems and artifacts. How and why did people come to deny the materiality of the digital? What can we learn by recovering it? What if we rethink digital materialities as ongoing cooperative accomplishments?

The Digital Matters conference is going to take place December 1 – 3, 2021 at Siegen University’s Collaborative Research Center Media of Cooperation. Given the swift change in pandemic circumstances it will primarily be an online event.

Please check for the most up to date information on the program, and how to participate.

The conference is organized by Thomas Haigh (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee & Siegen University), Valérie Schafer (University of Luxembourg), Axel Volmar (Siegen University) & Sebastian Giessmann (Siegen University).

December 1:

13:45: Conference introduction and welcome

Moderator:  Valérie Schafer (C2DH, University of Luxembourg)
14:00-14:50: “Travelling machines,” Camille Paloque-Bergès (CNAM, Paris).
15:00-15:50: “Dimensions of Materiality,” Kyle Stine (Johns Hopkins University).

15:50-16:30: Break for virtual coffee.

Moderator: Miglè Bareikytè (Siegen University)
16:30-17:20: “Dance Notation: Grammars for Understanding and Controlling the Body,” Quinn DuPont (University College, Dublin).
17:30-18:20: “Modularity, Materiality, and the Political Order of the Stacks,” Jean-François Blanchette (University of California at Los Angeles).

December 2: 

Moderator: Susanne Förster (Siegen University)
13:30-14:20. “Looking for Oil (and Finding It) in the History of Computing,” Cyrus Mody (Maastricht University).
14:30-15:20. “Digitality and Nature in the Anthropocene,” Felix Stalder (Zurich University of the Arts).

15:20-16:00: Break for virtual coffee.

Moderator: Sebastian Giessmann (Siegen University)
16:00-16:50: “The Great eBook Conspiracy: eReaders, Publishers, and Price Competition in the Early 2000s,” Gerardo Con Diaz (University of California at Davis).
17:00-17:50: “Rematerializing Money: Payment as Palimpsest,” Lana Swartz (University of Virginia) 17:50-18:30.

Break for virtual coffee or, for the adventurous, virtual cocktails.

18:30: Keynote lecture, “Some Species of Materiality.” Jonathan Sterne (McGill University). Moderated by Axel Volmar (Siegen University).

December 3:

Moderator: Thomas Haigh (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee & Siegen University)
13:00-13:50. “The Politics of Technical Systems,” Bernhard Rieder (University of Amsterdam).
14:00-14:50. “Digital Materiality and Historical Innovation,” Ulf Hashagen (Deutsches Museum).

 14:50-15:15. Break for virtual coffee.

Moderator: Tatjana Seitz (Siegen University)
15:15-16:15. “Web Materialities,” Valérie Schafer (C2DH, University of Luxembourg).
16:20-17:00. Closing roundtable featuring the organizers pondering lessons learned.

McLuhan: Media as Art Forms

“The use of the term ‘mass media’ has been unfortunate. All media, especially languages, are mass media so far at least as their range in space and time is concerned. If by ‘mass media’ is meant a mechanized mode of a previous communication channel, then printing is the first of the mass media. Press, telegraph, wireless, gramophone, movie, radio, TV, are mutations of the mechanization of writing, speech, gesture. Insofar as mechanization introduces the ‘mass’ dimension, it may refer to a collective effort in the use of the medium, to larger audiences or to instantaneity of reception. Again, all of these factors may create difficulty of ‘feedback’ or lack of rapport between ‘speaker’ and audience. There has been very little discussion of any of these questions, thanks to the gratuitous assumption that communication is a matter of transmission of information, message or idea. This assumption blinds people to the aspect of communication as participation in a common situation. And it leads to ignoring the form of communication as the basic art situation which is more significant than the information or idea ‘transmitted’.”

McLuhan, Marshall. 1954. ‘Notes on the Media as Art Forms’. Explorations. Studies in Culture and Communication 2 (August): 6–13, 6. Edited by Edmund S. Carpenter.

(This is still one of my favourite McLuhan quotes. I makes a blast, and resets our intuitions. Mass mediation is just an effect of mechanization taking command – now go insert ‘cooperation’ instead of 1950s ‘communication‘!)

Repositories in Cooperation

Varieties of Cooperation poster It is my great pleasure to welcome you to “Repositories in Cooperation”. Our panel for “Varieties of Cooperation” developed out of preparatory work for the Collaborative Research Center „Media of Cooperation“, in which we have attempted to refocus and reappropriate Susan Leigh Star’s and James Griesemer’s original notion of the boundary object. Within our 2015 workshop on “The Translation of Boundary Objects” we have started to re-engage with a more specific understanding that returns to Star’s list of four type of boundary objects: repositories, ideal types, coincident boundaries and forms/labels. The results of this have now been published in German as “Grenzobjekte und Medienforschung”, along with a translation of ten seminal texts by Star and her collaborators. As Erhard Schüttpelz has shown in his commentary on “This is Not a Boundary Object” all four types deal with the relation between modularity and extendability, with the relation between “parts” and “wholes”. [1]

„Repositories in Cooperation“ weiterlesen

The Cooperation Coordination Riddle, according to Google Ngram

I was just looking up some etymological details concerning “cooperation” and “coordination.” Google Ngram still is a rather intransparent source, but using it along with the Oxford English Dictionary gives a nice quantitative vs. qualitative account. This blogpost comes without interpretation, but with an embedded ngram. Consider it just being a trace of my work (or Google’s).

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Credit Card Mobilities

The Swiss Federal Archives have been publishing a video documentation of their „ICT@Admin“ conference. I had the privilege of being a part of this, so I include the video and abstract of my talk here. A complete documentation is also online, and the overall YouTube playlist is highly recommended.

CREDIT CARD MOBILITIES (Sebastian Gießmann, Siegen, March 26 2015)

The talk sketches out a praxeological history of the credit card, with an emphasis on its mediating qualities and operational status within bureaucratical frameworks. Temporal borrowing via credit card is regarded as a highly dynamic social technology that produces emergent topologies through distributed mobile payments. The formative years of the American credit card (1950-1975) are analyzed along with approaches from ethnomethodology (Harold Garfinkel) and actor network theory (Michel Callon). Cooperative media practices are key to understanding the relation between the administrative handling of „accounts“ and emerging social networks. This includes (1) Dining, traveling, and charging, (2) Accounting for trust and credit, (3) Mass mailing and advertising new ways of payment, (4) Building „co-opetitive“ platforms for networks and (5), the digital momentum of credit cards as immutable mobiles.