D. Fox Harrell: Phantasmal Media: An Approach to Imagination, Computation, and Expression (2013)

13 May 2018, dusan

“An argument that great expressive power of computational media arises from the construction of phantasms—blends of cultural ideas and sensory imagination.

In Phantasmal Media, D. Fox Harrell considers the expressive power of computational media. He argues, forcefully and persuasively, that the great expressive potential of computational media comes from the ability to construct and reveal phantasms—blends of cultural ideas and sensory imagination. These ubiquitous and often-unseen phantasms—cognitive phenomena that include sense of self, metaphors, social categories, narrative, and poetic thinking—influence almost all our everyday experiences. Harrell offers an approach for understanding and designing computational systems that have the power to evoke these phantasms, paying special attention to the exposure of oppressive phantasms and the creation of empowering ones. He argues for the importance of cultural content, diverse worldviews, and social values in computing. The expressive power of phantasms is not purely aesthetic, he contends; phantasmal media can express and construct the types of meaning central to the human condition.

Harrell discusses, among other topics, the phantasm as an orienting perspective for developers; expressive epistemologies, or data structures based on subjective human worldviews; morphic semiotics (building on the computer scientist Joseph Goguen’s theory of algebraic semiotics); cultural phantasms that influence consensus and reveal other perspectives; computing systems based on cultural models; interaction and expression; and the ways that real-world information is mapped onto, and instantiated by, computational data structures.

The concept of phantasmal media, Harrell argues, offers new possibilities for using the computer to understand and improve the human condition through the human capacity to imagine.”

Publisher MIT Press, 2013
ISBN 9780262019330, 0262019337
xix+420 pages

Reviews: John Harwood (Artforum, 2014), Brian Reffin Smith (Leonardo, 2015).



Continent. 5(2): The Technosphere, Now (2016)

15 April 2016, dusan

“The “technosphere” is geologist Peter Haff’s term for the planetary-scale networks of transport, information, energy and media operating at a scale and functional efficacy that we can now compare with geological and climatic forces—the soils and rocks of the lithosphere, the waters of the hydrosphere or the winds of the atmosphere. Its emergence as a thematic is driven by the same witnessing of intertwining natural environments, vast socio-technical forces, and increasingly diverse technological species and spaces that has precipitated discussions of the Anthropocene.

[…] The Technosphere project at the HKW in Berlin (2015-18) began with an initial gathering in Autumn 2015. The first occasion for the ongoing collaboration between continent. and HKW was the latter’s hosting of The Technosphere, Now event in October, 2015 in Berlin. Editors from continent. came from various corners of the globe, invited to immerse themselves into and extrapolate from the talks, discussions, presentations and demonstrations held there. Interview-discussions held with the likewise international set of researchers, theorists, artists and scientists at this event precipitated an online special issue of continent. for April 2016, featuring articles titled by the names of our interviewees.”

Features interviews with Arno Rosemarin, Birgit Schneider, Bronislaw Szerszynski, Donald MacKenzie, Erich Hörl, Jennifer Gabrys, Lino Camprubí, Lucy A. Suchman, Mark Hansen, Masahiro Terada, Mushon Zer-Aviv, Oliver Sann, Peter K. Haff, S. Løchlann Jain, and Scott Gabriel Knowles.

Edited by Nina Jäger, Paul Boshears, Bernhard Garnicnig, Jamie Allen, Lital Khaikin, Katrin Klingan, Anna Sophie Luhn, Christoph Rosol, and Nick Hood
Publisher continent., Apr 2016
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
ISSN 2159-9920


Alfred Gell: Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory (1998)

14 September 2014, dusan

“Alfred Gell puts forward an anthropological theory of visual art seen as a form of instrumental action: the making of things as a means of influencing the thoughts and actions of others. He argues that existing anthropological and aesthetic theories take an overwhelmingly passive point of view, and questions the criteria that accord art status only to a certain class of objects and not to others. The anthropology of art is here reformulated as the anthropology of a category of action: Gell shows how art objects embody complex intentionalities and mediate social agency. He explores the psychology of patterns and perceptions, art and personhood, the control of knowledge, and the interpretation of meaning, drawing upon a diversity of artistic traditions-European, Indian, Polynesian, Melanesian, and Australian.”

With a Foreword by Nicholas Thomas
Publisher Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998
ISBN 0198280149, 9780198280149
272 pages
via mrcds

Reviews: Michèle Coquet (L’Homme, 2001, FR), Ross Bowden (Oceania, 2004).
Commentary: Robert Layton (Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2003).


PDF (68 MB, updated on 2015-3-28)
EPUB (4 MB, added on 2014-9-14 via Marcell)