Re-writing the operations of the 'electronic noosphere' and its control over populations and environment

Tweed, Charlie (2018) Re-writing the operations of the 'electronic noosphere' and its control over populations and environment. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The overall aim of the project is to generate a new set of practice-based works that develop upon the fictional methods employed within the researcher’s art practice in order to critique, expose and rethink the relationship between digital technologies of control and the earth. In the first part of the project, Brian Holmes’s concept of the electronic noosphere is interrogated from a machine perspective in order to identify how its mechanisms of control operate. This research highlights that an assemblage of machines enable its operations and allow for new forms of virtualised and biopolitical control to be realised via a series of writing machines that are powered by informatics, affect and new modes of panspectrocism. This results in the earth becoming computational, a condition where sensors, signals and machine assemblages control and manage its environments and populations. From here, a set of approaches for escape and subversion are identified and made operational via the fictional tools of the practice. ‘The Researchers’ persona is deployed along with a fictional manifesto and underground research site that frames the operations of the practice. A set of fictional video machines are developed, each with their own functionality and behaviours; these include ‘affective video machines’ and ‘panspectric video machines’. These machines generate a set of transmissions, constructed from reappropriated waste material (text, still and moving image), identifying subversive proposals for specific sites such as Ordos, China and the Isle of Grain, Kent. In the second part of the project, the electronic noosphere is interrogated from a network and material perspective. Theoretical focus is drawn from work on actor-network theory by Bruno Latour and John Law and Timothy Morton’s work on hyperobjects. In response, the fictional research site is expanded to incorporate further research spaces, including the ‘hyperobject research space’, the ‘material stories research space’ and the ‘data recovery space’. In the guise of ‘The Researchers’ web production software is appropriated to map out an example technological hyperobject in the form of a smartphone and its associated networks, attempting to bring into view the unseen components and nonhuman actors. This mapping process is then developed into a series of performance lectures titled The Signal and the Rock: Proposal for a Film, where the relationalities between the non-human/human technological actor networks have been traced and reformulated. These performances are then developed into a final large-scale audio transmission titled Re-writing the Overcode (2017). This transmission re-appropriates Wolfgang von Kempelen’s ‘speaking machine’ to activate a ‘non-human-to-human translation mechanism’. The work exposes a set of non-human perspectives tuning into the voices of materials, animals, images, codes, devices, processes and affects. It emerges as an elegy to digital technologies and their relations to the control of populations and environment. It also makes a subversive proposal for future technological sustainability by the development of new hybrid technological/ecological machines and new sorts of ‘raw material’. Accompanying the audio work is a publication titled The Signal and the Rock, which itself operates as a form of hyperobject, expanding on the function and the contents of the audio transmission and the strategies and methods of the practice via a series of cross-referenced notes from a wide variety of sources. Finally, the two bodies of work have been brought together in the exhibition Soon we will become output at the Stanley Picker Gallery which took place in December 2017. The submission includes a body of video and audio works created throughout the research project, the final exhibition at Stanley Picker Gallery and the new publication The Signal and the Rock (2017).

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