Cyborgs in Space

The Haraway-ian cyborg, the blending, overlapping, the hybridization of the human and the machine-ic, specifically the information, cybernetic, algorithmic machines that are not extensions of human capabilities but partners/competitors of the human, companion species like the wolf/dog our best friends and worst mythic nightmares, that cyborg, as a matter of course, creates not only the architecture/space of the snail’s shell, the open fire warmed architecture of the cave, the intentionalized architecture/space of the hut, tent, cabin, cathedral, and split level suburban house, that cyborg also creates the Code Space of data based architecture-alized information interacting with the cascading contextualization/de-contextualizations, the cascading structure/ruin makings, of cascading algorithms that create in turn, companion, non-Euclidean spaces of curved surfaces and intersecting parallel lines enabling the fractal formation of discontinuous voids and firewalls that simultaneously house and expose the cyborg. Continue reading “Cyborgs in Space”

The Forgotten Cyborg

I read with interest about the May 14 decision by the European Court of Justice to apply a Spanish “right to be forgotten” law to Google.  A number of European countries have such laws.

The test case privacy ruling by the European Union‘s court of justice against Google Spain was brought by a Spanish man, Mario Costeja González, after he failed to secure the deletion of an auction notice of his repossessed home dating from 1998 on the website of a mass circulation newspaper in Catalonia.

Costeja González argued that the matter, in which his house had been auctioned to recover his social security debts, had been resolved and should no longer be linked to him whenever his name was searched on Google.  EU court backs ‘right to be forgotten’: Google must amend results on request  The Guardian 5-13-14

The ruling creates a process for individuals to request search engines to delete posts.  The SE would then consider the request weighing the individual’s concerns with the public’s right to know.  An individual unhappy with the SE’s decision could appeal to the ECJ.

In the last installment of my review of Code/Space, I discussed Kitchin and Dodge’s ethics of forgetting as a way to address the Everyware nature of code.  Their concern includes the internet, but also all coded objects, processes and structures.  As I quoted them in my review they state:

One path…is to construct an ethics of forgetting in relation to pervasive computing….[T]echnologies that “store and manage a lifetime’s worth of everything” should always be complimented by forgetting…So rather than focus on the prescriptive [ethics], we envision necessary processes of forgetting…that should be built into code, ensuring a sufficient degree of imperfection, loss and error. 253 Code/Space (Kitchen and Dodge)

The ECJ decision highlights the issue they present and the prescriptive approach they identify as inadequate to the task.  Various sources have identified all the challenges and dangers this ruling presents.

It’s possible, of course, that although the European regulation defines the right to be forgotten very broadly, it will be applied more narrowly. Europeans have a long tradition of declaring abstract privacy rights in theory that they fail to enforce in practice. And the regulation may be further refined over the next year or so, as the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers hammer out the details. But in announcing the regulation, Reding said she wanted it to be ambiguous so that it could accommodate new technologies in the future. “This regulation needs to stand for 30 years—it needs to be very clear but imprecise enough that changes in the markets or public opinion can be maneuvered in the regulation,” she declared ominously.[16] Once the regulation is promulgated, moreover, it will instantly become law throughout the European Union, and if the E.U. withdraws from the safe harbor agreement that is currently in place, the European framework could be imposed on U.S. companies doing business in Europe as well.[17] It’s hard to imagine that the Internet that results will be as free and open as it is now.  The Right to Be Forgotten  Jeffrey Rosen (Stanford Law Review)

K&D’s approach is hard to imagine in operation.  Dueling discourses such as security/privacy, creativity/control, efficiency/accommodation illustrate the implications of all this.  The problem with remembering has always been letting go.  The problem with forgetting is never knowing what is forgotten.  We think that there must be a way to manage this kind of thing, all we need is a system. I will follow the progress of this rulings effects with interest.

The Whole Is Greater Than the Part (Part 4)

Euclid Ave Pawn Shop © Mark Wolfe used with permission Mark Wolf Documentary Photography
Euclid Ave Pawn Shop © Mark Wolfe used with permission
Mark Wolfe Documentary Photography

While a fine-grained focus characterizes much of Code/Space, the final chapter  takes, at points, a panoramic vision.  The accumulation of the specifics of coded applications becomes Everyware.

Everyware is the notion that computational power will soon be distributed and available at any point on the planet…With everyware, life unfolds enveloped within software-enabled environments.   216 Taken together, it is envisioned that these various forms of everyware will generate “ambient intelligence” — objects and spaces that are sensitive and responsive to presence of people or other coded objects. 221

K&D analyze this using cost/ benefit binaries such as surveillance vs empowerment.  This enables them throughout the book to present codeness as a tool that we can use in either positive and negatives ways. This is different from the approach I outline in my Findable Cyborg posts Part 1 and Part 3 and imply in posting the DARPA video in Part 2.  These posts discuss pervasively rationalized environments in the context of the technological understanding of being.  Up to this final part of Code/Space, K&D deemphasize this kind of analysis preferring a mostly functional approach. While they do idenify code’s role in extending the negative aspects of neo-liberal capitalism, there is nothing up to this point like R Scott Bakker’s view:

Modern technological society constitutes a vast, species-wide attempt to become more mechanical, more efficiently integrated in nested levels of superordinate machinery. (You could say that the tyrant attempts to impose from without, capitalism kindles from within.) The Blind Mechanic II: Reza Negarestani and the Labour of Ghosts R. Scott Bakker

Yet something like this sentiment is there, in less explicit form.

Everyware promises new opportunities to monitor, link, and make sense of the interactions, transactions, and mobilities of people, goods and information at a spatial and temporal resolution previously impossible…to create a fine-grained net of automated management. 228

This anxiety becomes more explicit in their discussion of life-logging.  These practices take typical practices of human self monitoring beyond augmentation by coded devices to a pervasive and ubiquitous part of living.

The aim of life-log developers is to provide a record of the past that includes every action, every event, every conversation and every material expression of an individual’s life. 230

The combination of pervasive automated management and life-logging  “has the potential to create a society that never forgets…a detailed spatialization of the history of everything, everywhere.” K&D propose a solution that is both elegant and impossible, the converging of parallel lines of thought on the curved surface of code/space.

One path…is to construct an ethics of forgetting in relation to pervasive computing….[T]echnologies that “store and manage a lifetime’s worth of everything” should always be complimented by forgetting…So rather than focus on the prescriptive [ethics], we envision necessary processes of forgetting…that should be built into code, ensuring a sufficient degree of imperfection, loss and error. 253

Pervasive computing relentlessly increases the signal to noise, seeking to eliminate noise altogether.  Forgetting is purposely generating noise to reconstitute the human in the face of the totalizing machine.  Yet the machines must also be the agents of this forgetting, accepting as they become more and more powerful, “imperfection, loss and error.” Animal perception functions by filling in the gaps of its always incomplete sensory information.  That is why the expression, “The whole is greater than the sum its parts” makes any sense.  The perceived whole is always greater the parts we can perceive. Machine perception has the potential to vastly reduce the unperceived, unprocessed parts.  In such a situation though, the idea of the whole itself becomes  dispensable replaced by a stream of amorphous parts defined by their temporary function. Perhaps there would be hope for K&D’s strategy of forgetting if humans could first provide an example of accepting “imperfection, loss and error”.  It remains though a measure of the predicament we find ourselves in, and this alone recommends Code/Space.

See Also: The Whole Is Greater Than the Part (Part 1)
The Whole Is Greater Than the Part (Part 2)
The Whole Is Greater Than the Part (Part 3)