Tags, capitalism
4. Robots, Race, and Gender

Last week, I attended a meeting organized by Gendered Innovations at Stanford University in Northern California. While there, I was thinking about the algorithmically-driven software that will be embedded in anthropomorphized computers – or robots – that will be entering the market soon. In this post, I want to offer a provocation, and suggest that we continue to gather interdisciplinary scholars to engage in research that asks questions about the re-inscribing of gender in both the software and hardware.  mehr

Veröffentlicht: 30.01.2018
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2. The Problems of Profiting from Internet Pollution

At the end of 2017, I attended and participated in an international conference on internet content moderation, All Things in Moderation, at the University of California, Los Angeles, organized by my long-time research collaborator, Dr. Sarah T. Roberts, an authority on commercial content moderation. This conference was the first of its kind, bringing in stakeholders for public conversations that reflected the concerns of industry, activists, content moderation workers, journalists, academics, and policy makers. In today’s blog post, I want to talk about the ethical dimensions of regulating the internet and digital media platforms, whether by content moderation, algorithms and automated decision-making systems, or by public policy. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 08.01.2018
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09.01.–05.03.2017
3. Problems of Happy Images

I ended my last post with the ethical and political demand for happiness for all. Yes, it is a radical demand. Our world is not a very happy place; and each of us has been schooled, by religion, politics, and what we like to call reality, that we have to put up with pain in the hope of something better coming along when we get to heaven or pay off our debts. Both prospects, in reality, are equally distant. Which means that we have schooled ourselves to accept unhappiness as the nature of life. Casting that off is a huge psychological task, let alone the immense political revolution that would have to happen to realise happiness for everyone. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 30.01.2017
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6. The Liberation of Things

I ended my last post with the suggestion that underlying the recent turn to the ‘object’ or ‘thing’ one might glimpse a certain ‘posthumanist’ anxiety – an anxiety occasioned by the degree to which capitalist modernity is a world “ruled by abstractions”, in the words of Marx; abstractions that have come to assume an objective reality which is ‘quasi-independent’ of the things, objects and individuals that constitute them, but which is not ‘material’ in any usual empirical sense. Such abstract social forms – money, the commodity, the value form – do not merely ‘conceal’ the ‘real’ social relations and objective networks constitutive of capitalism, but, on the contrary, actually are the ‘real’ relations that structure capitalist modernity as an increasingly global mode of social life encompassing human and non-human ‘things’ alike. The actual organisation of social and material relations is driven by a real abstraction that, far from being a question of mere faulty thinking or false consciousness, “moves within the object itself”. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 18.07.2016
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5. If Commodities Could Speak

“A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood”, writes Marx, famously, in the first chapter of Capital. “Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties”. For while, as an ‘ordinary’ object, “the table continues to be that common, everyday thing, wood”, “so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 09.07.2016
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05.01.–29.02.2016
1. Images without Viewers

My seventeen-year-old daughter, Sadie, and her friends use Snapchat, sharing snaps upwards of forty times a day. Sadie tells me that their conversations are “just pics with short captions.” The pic is typically a selfie of a stupid or ugly face (“look at my fucking forehead!”). Receivers respond with another ugly face and a funny retort (“YOU LOOK LIKE A KLINGON”). Sadie and her friends also post “stories,” stitched together photos and videos from their daily lives. Sadie says her stories are mostly “about my sick life” (“sick” apparently means good, fun, cool, or desirable in some inchoate sense). mehr

Veröffentlicht: 06.01.2016
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01.05.–15.06.2015
2. Geo-Engineering the Anthropocene

“A daunting task lies ahead for scientists and engineers to guide society towards environmentally sustainable management during the era of the Anthropocene. This will require appropriate human behaviour at all scales, and may well involve internationally accepted, large-scale geo-engineering projects, for instance to ‘optimize’ climate.”1Paul J. Crutzen, “Geology of Mankind,” Nature 415 (2002), 23; http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/415023a.—Paul Crutzen, 2002 mehr

Veröffentlicht: 13.05.2015
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4. Remnants of the Index: Hanging on to Photographic Values – The Selfie

My last two blog posts, entitled Remnants of the Index: Hanging on to Photographic Values, will each focus on the legacy and the importance of iconic photographic values. The first does so through a discussion of the selfie, while the second considers the installation shot. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 20.04.2015
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5. Beyond Paul Strand: What Can Radical Photography Be?

I started this blog by posing some questions about the arbitrariness of dividing Paul Strand’s career into a late period of political subject matter and activism and an early period that seemed devoted primarily to formal concerns. Certainly, this is something of a straw man, because most of us would agree that the visual arts are inherently about shaping matter, with all its inherent recalcitrance, into form, regardless of the desired or received “meaning” of that shaped form. The other problem is, of course, what we intend by the terms, “political subjects” or “political art.” The gathering together of any people into a governing unit begins to constitute the body politic, so that virtually all social life in some sense can be read as “political.” However, historically we distinguish “political art”—art that is intentionally made to express a political party line or promote a particular government or policy position—from art that can be read as confirming a location within conflicting ideologies (which may cut across formal party platforms or regimes).  This latter sense of art as functioning politically and representing certain values that can be decoded has driven much of the social history of art in the past fifty years and is what I was striving to uncover in Strand’s enigmatic urban views. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 10.03.2015
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3. Photography versus Contemporary Art: The Case of the Lecture Performance

There is less and less photography (and photographers) in contemporary art exhibitions, but more and more photographs. The photograph is a lens through which we see the contemporary world, which comes to us always already reproduced. Almost every static image we see these days is technically a photograph, since even art critics rarely cross paths with original paintings. In a contemporary art context, photographs abound in “research installations” and archival displays of all sorts; they are shown as a sequence of slides; they appear as stills in films. But recently, they have even begun to star in performances—for instance, in the increasingly popular genre of “lecture performance.” mehr

Veröffentlicht: 28.11.2014
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5. After Liberalism

One of the most idiosyncratic yet unrecognized trends of the 1970s is how it was precisely then, when the prewar documentary culture from the 1920s-30s began to appear in a new light. Besides the Walker Evans retrospective at MOMA in 1971, which I mentioned in the previous post, the decade started with a series of seminal monographs on the FSA and the 1930s documentary, including Jack Hurley’s Portrait of a Decade (1972), Roy Stryker and Nancy Wood’s In this Proud Land (1973), and William Stott’s Documentary Expression and Thirties America (1973). mehr

Veröffentlicht: 08.07.2014
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2. Paul Strand after Margaret Mead

In this second post I’d like to expand the scenario somewhat by introducing a few other possible significant references for an interpretation of the logics of the 1950s.

In 1949, Beaumont Newhall’s 1937 catalogue of the MOMA exhibition, Photography 1839-1937, appeared revised and enlarged as an autonomous book: The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day. Postwar liberal modernist photographic culture now had its foundational text, its Bible. Chapter 10 in Newhall’s book was devoted to documentary, and the genealogy it proposes on the subject remains as canonical as Newhall’s history itself. The genealogy is as follows: first we have the 1860s and 1870s geographical surveys as a pre-history of documentary. Then we have Jacob Riis as the precursor and Lewis Hine as the founding father of 20th century documentary photography, which reaches its complete and most self-aware form with the FSA. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 10.06.2014
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1. Centrist Liberalism Triumphant: A Postwar Humanist Reframing of Documentary Photography

Hello world!

This is my first blog. I’m not a blogging person and I confess I’m feeling uneasy about the vulnerable improvisatory condition that blog writing involves, a kind of performative public conversation open to doubts and suppositions and maybe to banality :)), rather than solid demonstrative writing. But, anyway: let’s try it.

This blog takes informally, maybe perversely, the title of Immanuel Wallerstein’s recently published fourth volume of his landmark book series on the modern world-system. I will attempt to bring to discussion some ideas and intuitions concerning the postwar reframing of documentary photography as a liberal humanistic (or humanitarian?) discipline. I’ll come back to definitions of humanism further below. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 01.06.2014
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15.09.–31.10.2012
5. A Subject for, a History about, Photography

My previous posts have explored the various ramifications of photography’s reproducibility, pursuing the way this attribute disseminates the photograph, securing, dispersing and dissipating its identity in about equal measure. I have suggested that this pursuit considerably complicates the traditional representation of photography’s history, undermining any narrative based on single artists or single prints or indeed on chronology or purity of medium—undermining, in other words, much of the traditional infrastructure of published histories of photography. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 17.10.2012
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2. "Form is henceforth divorced from matter."

My first post considered photography in the context of its dissemination within consumer capitalism, a context that, I suggested, secured the medium’s presence within modern culture even while dissipating its identity, thereby making possible the very thing it also makes impossible. This contradictory character, in Benjamin’s view a key aspect of the political economy of capitalism and therefore of photography too, is embodied in every aspect of the photographic experience. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 23.09.2012
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1. Dissemination

The theme of my contribution to Still Searching is inspired by Walter Benjamin’s famous essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility’ (1935-36). Or, rather, it is inspired by the striking absence of discussions of reproduction and its effects in the literature about photography since this essay first appeared. So I guess I am searching, in the first instance, for the reasons for this absence, given that Benjamin’s essay has been made compulsory reading for a generation of students and is one of the most cited in serious texts about the photographic experience. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 15.09.2012
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