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State Machines: Reflections and Actions at the Edge of Digital Citizenship, Finance, and Art

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Strelka Mag recommends a recent book about the new relationships between states, citizens, and the stateless, all of which are made possible by emerging technologies.

Published by the Institute of Network Cultures in 2019

Today, we live in a world where every time we turn on our smartphones, we are inextricably tied to data, laws, and flowing bytes to different countries. A world in which personal expressions are framed and mediated by digital platforms, and where new kinds of currencies, financial exchanges, and even labor bypass corporations and governments. Simultaneously, the same technologies increase governmental powers of surveillance, allow corporations to extract ever more complex working arrangements, and do little to slow the construction of actual walls along actual borders. On the one hand, the agency of individuals and groups is starting to approach that of nation states; on the other, our mobility and hard-won rights are under threat. What tools do we need to understand this world, and how can art assist in envisioning and enacting other possible futures?

This publication investigates the new relationships between states, citizens, and the stateless, all of which are made possible by emerging technologies. It is the result of a two-year EU-funded collaboration between Aksioma (SI), Drugo More (HR), Furtherfield (UK), the Institute of Network Cultures (NL), NeMe (CY), and a diverse range of artists, curators, theorists, and audiences. State machines insist on the need for new forms of expression and new artistic practices to address the most urgent questions of our time, and seek to educate and empower the digital subjects of today to become active, engaged, and effective digital citizens of tomorrow.

Contributors: James Bridle, Max Dovey, Marc Garrett, Valeria Graziano, Max Haiven, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Francis Hunger, Helen Kaplinsky, Marcell Mars, Tomislav Medak, Rob Myers, Emily van der Nagel, Rachel O’Dwyer, Lídia Pereira, Rebecca L. Stein, Cassie Thornton, Paul Vanouse, Patricia de Vries, Krystian Woznicki.

 

Excerpt:

“While Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk made headlines in 2018 by devising space retreats for the elite, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), supported by many scientists, warned of a major, looming environmental catastrophe that would strike by 2030. Meanwhile, governments remain preoccupied with spending billions of euros on protecting their geographic boundaries by building walls — both physical, like those in the USA, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Hungary, and ideological, such as those that have surfaced in the Brexit debate, and many other elections the world over. On the technological front, machines of surveillance and control are being developed and are proliferating exponentially, including iris, face, and voice recognition software, fingerprinting, DNA, accelerometers, IP and MAC address trackers, as well as microchip subdermal implants connected with external databases. Many of these technologies are used in combination with an already advanced GPS hardwired into most devices. Described by Apple CEO Tim Cook as being part of a ‘data industrial complex’, the patent protected technologies feed databases containing mass data to which only tech giants and some governmental agencies are granted access. Similarly to how, historically, mass media spread the messages of pre-internet protest movements, it is those who control the algorithms who have the power to influence public opinion today.

State Machines is a collaborative, EU-funded project which started in 2017. Discussions between the partners, Aksioma (SI), Drugo More (HR), Furtherfield (UK), Institute of Network Cultures (NL), and NeMe (CY), have centered around increasing precarity in the wake of a tumultuous political year and the need to conceive workable alternatives and inclusive futures. How can we learn to think beyond the limits of the neoliberal and extreme nationalist logics that shape the world around us? And, how do we respond to this new world order made up of algorithmic news feeds, high-frequency trading, geofences, and for-sale citizenship? We have distilled our questions into an overarching leitmotif: ‘What tools do we need to understand this world, and how can contemporary forms of cultural production assist in envisioning and enacting other possible futures?’”

Order a free hard copy or download the epub/pdf here.

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