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 https://www.socialstudiesof.info/digitalmatters 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.

Memory, Mind and Media

Cover Memory, Mind and Media

 

There is a new open access journal in the making, and I am glad to be part of its editorial board. Please check out the homepage of Memory, Mind and Media at Cambridge University Press. While its official launch date is 2022, first online articles will be published by mid-2021. The journal is edited by Andrew Hoskins (University of Glasgow, UK) and Amanda J. Barnier (Macquarie University, Australia).

Memory, Mind & Media (MMM) explores the impact of media and technology on individual, social and cultural remembering and forgetting. This agenda-setting journal fosters high-quality, interdisciplinary conversations combining cognitive, social and cultural approaches to the study of memory and forgetting in the digital era. The pervasiveness, complexity and immediacy of digital media, communication networks and archives are transforming what memory is and what memory does, changing the relationship between memory in the head and memory in the wild.

MMM offers a new home for a wide variety of scholars working on these questions, within and across disciplines, from history, philosophy, media studies, cultural studies, law, literature, anthropology, political science, sociology, neuroscience, psychology, cognitive and computational science and elsewhere.

The journal gives priority to submissions that are cross-disciplinary and/or interdisciplinary, experimental, agenda-setting and push the boundaries of existing knowledge and methods. The journal insists on jargon-free, plain English submissions to ensure a widely accessible forum for cutting edge work.

MMM is a high-quality, peer-reviewed journal, publishing online and Open Access. As a barrier-free Gold OA journal, a fee waiver system is in place for unfunded authors. You can submit your article using our online submission system here. General queries should go to memorycambridge@gmail.com.

The Practice Turn in Media Studies

Cover Connect and Divide The Practice Turn in Media Studies

 

“Connect and Divide” took a long time to be published, but now the book is finally here. Bringing practice theory/praxeology and media studies together seems like an endeavour that needs time for deliberation. My own contribution “How to Coordinate Digital Accounting? Infrastructuring Payment and Credit with the Eurocard” is a business history from the lost 1970s/1980s social world of an European credit card called the Eurocard. It focuses on practices of coordination, and combines these with a framework of thinking about practices of delegation, and registration/identification.

Within the volume’s long production time, the reproduction of images somehow took a strange trajectory. This is why I republish them in this blog post for your viewing and reading pleasure. And do not forget to check out the other excellent contributations to this publication of the German Research Foundation’s third Media Studies symposium! It is also the first time that this has been a transatlantic event. I am very grateful to have been a part of it. „The Practice Turn in Media Studies“ weiterlesen

Digital Network Technologies between Specialization and Generalization

Tim Berners-Lee demonstrates the World Wide Web to delegates at the Hypertext 1991 conference in San Antonio, Texas [CERN-IT-9112021-01]
Tim Berners-Lee demonstrates the World Wide Web to delegates at the Hypertext 1991 conference in San Antonio, Texas [CERN-IT-9112021-01]

Based on historical case studies focused on media and data practices, the project reconstructs the co-operative creation of networked media since 1989. From a media-historical perspective, it aims to provide a contribution to the European and transatlantic history of the Internet and the World Wide Web. From a media-theoretical perspective, the project aims to develop and specify a concept of digitality that takes into account its cooperative emergence, its infrastructural maintenance, universalization, and its specific publics. 

We thereby focus on the constitutive role of a) interchangeability of representations and the growth of digital systems, b) cooperative production of interoperability and modularity, and c) elementary practices of reading, writing and algorithmic control. The three work packages of the project explore

  1. the constitution of the World Wide Web via its situated work constitution (Gießmann, Schüttpelz, Taha, Volmar),
  2. the development of intranets using the example of German corporate networks (Taha) and
  3. the emergence and spread of IP-based real-time communication via instant messaging (Volmar).

We assume that the establishment of the Internet and especially the World Wide Web as a public general-purpose infrastructure has lead to a remediation of cooperative practices of local working contexts. The project therefore therefore reconstructs the emergence and proliferation of web applications as a software- and data-oriented infrastructural history of cooperative media. We focus on the mutual production of cooperative conditions from collective, locally limited as well as translocally distributed work contexts and the corresponding situated data practices and arrangements (such as format usage, user administration, file sharing, collaborative processing of files, programming, error correction, patenting, standardization, etc.). 

We are particularly interested in the interactions between work practices and the specific requirements for cooperation they produce, and in the materializations and affordances of digital micro-practices, through which cooperative conditions are ultimately realized in the form of digitally networked applications. We analyze these dynamics before the background of a longue durée of bureaucratic and administrative processes. These form the underlying socio-technical conditions that determine the materiality of cooperative computing, networking and data processing.

This research project is a part of the Collaborative Research Center „Media of Cooperation“ at Siegen University. Feel free to contact us anytime! Up to date publications can be found at our Media of Cooperation homepage.

Principal Investigators: Dr. Sebastian Gießmann | Prof. Dr. Erhard Schüttpelz
Researchers: Dipl. Medienwirtin Nadine Taha | Dr. Axel Volmar
Comenius Visiting Professor: Thomas Haigh
Mercator Fellow: Valérie Schafer

Paranoia inklusive – Yasha Levines „Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet“

Die dreckige Wäsche wird immer zum Schluss gewaschen. Yasha Levines furiose Abrechnung mit dem Surveillance Valley setzt auf den letzten Seiten zum Rundumschlag an. Egal ob Edward Snowden, Jacob Applebaum, Roger Dingledine oder die Electronic Frontier Foundation: Für Levine spielen die Aktivisten rund um die Verschlüsselungssoftware Tor allzu naiv das Spiel von Geheimdiensten und Militärs mit, ohne sich kritisch mit der Herkunft ihrer favorisierten Technologien auseinander zu setzen. Levine, Sohn russischer Einwanderer und investigativer Journalist, hält sich hingegen an die Devise follow the money. Er beginnt sein Buch mit der bekannten Geschichte von Sputnik-Schock und Vietnamkrieg, die in den USA der 1960er-Jahre staatliche Forschungsgelder im ungeahnten Umfang mobilisierten. Er widmet sich der Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), die auf dieser Basis als Forschungsagentur des US-Verteidigungsministeriums gegründet wird.

Yasha Levine: Surveillance Valley - The Secret Military History of the Internet

Als Urszene der digitalen Überwachung fungieren in Surveillance Valley die strategischen Aktivitäten der ARPA zur Aufstandsbekämpfung im Project Agile. Sie beruhten auf einer Analyse des Militärgeheimdienstmanns William Godel: Angesichts der militärischen Fehler der französischen Kolonialmacht in Vietnam lautete dessen Schlussfolgerung, dass zukünftige counterinsurgency kleinteiliger, verdeckt, mit mehr High-Tech und psychologischer Kriegsführung operieren müsse. Noch vor Ausbruch des Vietnamkrieges baute die ARPA daher für das Pentagon gezielt Überwachungsstationen in Vietnam auf. Im Rahmen von Operation Igloo White wurden ­– weitestgehend ohne Erfolg – tausende Sensoren und Mikrofone im Dschungel platziert.

„Paranoia inklusive – Yasha Levines „Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet““ weiterlesen

Standards Revisited


Thursday, 24 January 2019, University of Siegen
Herrengarten 3, 57072 Siegen, room AH 217/218

13:15 Opening Remarks: Standards Revisited
Sebastian Gießmann (University of Siegen) / Nadine Taha (University of Siegen)

13:30 Anna Echterhölter (University of Vienna)
Red and Black Boxes: Standardization as Mesuroclasm in German New Guinea

14:30 Nadine Taha (University of Siegen)
George Eastman and the Calendar Reform

16:00 Geoffrey C. Bowker (University of California, Irvine)
Standard Time: Computers, Clocks and Turtles – via Zoom Conference

17:00 Lawrence Busch (Michigan State University)
Markets and Standards – via Zoom Conference

Friday, 25 January 2019

10:00 JoAnne Yates (MIT, Sloan School of Management)
A New Model for Standard Setting: How IETF became the Standards Body for the Internet

11:00 Thomas Haigh
(University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee / University of Siegen)
The Accidental Standard: How a Box Became an Industry

13:00 Sebastian Gießmann (University of Siegen)
Standardizing Digital Payments

14:00 Anne Helmond (University of Amsterdam)/ Fernando van der Vlist (University of Amsterdam / University of Siegen)
‘It’s Graphs All the Way Down’

Standards are not easy to come by. As infrastructural media they coordinate the social to an ever-growing extent, thus creating conditions of cooperation. Standards do so not just by their sociotechnical power, but also by public uptake and controversies that put their accountability into question. They can also be understood as engineering and bureaucratic media that form a basis and condition for cooperation.

Historically, practices of standardization can be traced back to antiquity, especially in the history of coins, writing, and measurements. But pre-modern standards were bound to flounder and dissipate. Early modern knowledge cultures – partly – realized standardization via hand-made scientific instruments that extended metrological chains. While pre-industrial attempts to standardize the aggregation of information in administrative forms have been limited in scale and scope, 19th century industrialization interconnected with nationalized politics extended the territories of standardization. Media infrastructures such as the postal service and telegraphy became transnational through their administration in international organizations and a legal foundation via international treaties. Scale and scope of – inherently political and normative – standards and metrologies were at the same time constitutive for colonial prospection and rule.

Computing has given rise to its own regimes and obsessions of non-governmental standardizing. While early digital computers were unique, the trajectories of standardization were then tied to governmental contract research, commercialization and its coordinative and delegative practices. Serial production and the diffusion of architectural norms became a matter of economic competition in the era of mainframe computing in organizations. In multiple ways both the networking of heterogeneous computers and the success of the IBM-compatible PC did create a pathway to “open standards” that made computers publicly accessible. In the transpacific and global arena of hardware and software production, hyper-standardization has been an issue ever since. This also involves the questions of formats that mediate bureaucratic processes, textual representation, visual and auditory perception, and digital audiovisuality. Formats thus have become standards that mediate digital practices in their own right, just like network protocols and Internet standards. In many ways, the ecology of the World Wide Web is an ecology due to its standardizing bodies, communities of practice, and institutions like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Our aim is to understand how standards generalize and universalize media technologies, and to ask: How do metrology, industrialization, and imperialism/colonialism intersect with standards? What is the relation between standards, digital media, and coordination? How to explain the longue durée, ecology, and the enduring power of standards to configure cooperation? What is the relation between standards, delegative power, scale, and scope of media?

Collaborative Research Center Media of Cooperation, University of Siegen CRC project A01: “Digital Network Technologies between Specialization and Generalization


Money, Credit, and Digital Payment 1971/2014: From the Credit Card to Apple Pay

NFC terminal with iPhone 6, video still, 2014The article intertwines the history of the American credit card, its standardization, and interactional realization with the latest developments in payment systems. Understanding both credit cards and systems like Apple Pay or blockchain-based applications as part of an administrative longue durée, it argues for a different understanding of the Internet of Things. It should be understood both as a technical-informational and as an accounting infrastructure, with tensions arising between both segments.

Check out the full text, published in Administration and Society’s special issue on ICT@Administration at https://doi.org/10.1177/0095399718794169.