Network Diagnostics

Collaborative project with Niall Docherty exploring methods of troubleshooting and diagnosing the politics of network culture.

The Future is (not) a Problem [w. Niall Docherty]

Article written with Niall Docherty as part of the Network Diagnostics research project on the subject of the future visions of Big Tech, published on Furtherfield. Extract below, and you can read the full text here.

Techno-fixes are big business. Taking a quick look over the Financial Times’ list of the world's largest companies, it might not surprise us that five of the top spots are occupied by corporations dealing in Information Technology. The looseness of this term connotes the production and dissemination of hardware, software and data, yet increasingly such companies are moving beyond this operational remit and have begun selling a vision of how life in its totality could—and should—be lived. Over the last decade, these so-called ‘Big Tech’ companies—Apple, Alphabet (Google's parent company), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook—have sought to fashion bespoke technological ‘fixes’ to particular global crises, with the aim being no less than shaping the future of humanity itself. Facebook's Aquila solar drone project, for instance, will help four billion people in disparate regions of the globe ‘access all the opportunities of the internet’. Meanwhile, Alphabet's experimental X subsidiary is developing Project Loon, a competing network infrastructure powered by a fleet of solar balloons. Which connected future do we want: one with networks of balloons or drones? Or, more to the point: one filtered through the prism of Google's or Facebook's algorithms?

Network Diagnostics workshop, Furtherfield 10th June

New collaborative research project with Niall Docherty, focused on using technical models of “troubleshooting” as a mode of critically engaging with digital culture.

The workshop will take place at Furtherfield in London on the 10th June, from 2-5pm, and is presented in the context of the New World Order exhibition and the AntiUniversity programme.

Read about the workshop below, or click here to book a place.

As demonstrated by the works in the NEW WORLD ORDER exhibition at Furtherfield Gallery, blockchain technologies and cultures display a remarkable capacity to embody the interests of diametrically opposed political ideologies. Manpowertop looks more widely at the subject of Silicon Valley companies and how their promotional media envisions "the future" of their technology's role in society.

The recent publication of Mark Zuckerberg’s open letter, titled Building Global Community, has drawn debates about the accelerationist politics of Silicon Valley into the public sphere once again. The seductive message of the manifesto itself is unsurprising, and is typical of the glossy promotional media released by other tech companies: We are told that new technologies can facilitate greater social inclusion, foster democratic grassroots political movements, and allow us to be more productive in our labour and leisure. While such media are often renderings of some notional “future” existence, what might they reveal about the ways we delimit our understanding of the present? Additionally, what would have to happen between “now” and “then” for these visions to be fully realised?

Manpowertop is a workshop that takes these questions as a starting point, challenging participants to diagnose the power relations in these branded visions of the future. Participants will adopt “troubleshooting” as a critical framework for enquiry, and produce diagrammatic readings of these speculative technologies, the networks they interlink with, and their associated politics of usership. In doing so, we will collectively identify what is left out of these visions, and explore how these omissions might offer an insight into the power relations that exist between users and technological platforms in the present.