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'Posthumanities: The Dark Side of "The Dark Side of the Digital"' (with Janneke Adema), in Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, eds, Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities, Journal of Electronic Publishing, Vol. 9, No.2, Winter, 2016.

'Pirate Philosophy And Post-Capitalism: A Conversation With Gary Hall', by Mark Carrigan, The Sociological Imagination, December 8, 2016.

The Uberfication of the University - new book! (Open access version available here.)

Pirate Philosophy - new book!

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here in Media Gifts or in Coventry University's online repository CURVE here 

performative project Janneke Adema has put together, based on our ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’ article for New Formations, Number 78, Summer, 2013. 

'What Does Academia.edu's Success Mean for Open Access: The Data-Driven World of Search Engines and Social Networking', Ctrl-Z: New Media Philosophy, no.5, 2015.

Radical Open Access network

Tuesday
Feb212017

Ten Ways To Affirmatively Disrupt The Sharing Economy ♯3: Become a Microdatapreneur

(This is part of a series of posts in which I provide ten proposals as to how to affirmatively disrupt ubercapitalism and the corporate sharing economy. Together these posts constitute the draft of a text provisionally titled Data Commonism, designed to follow on from my recently published short book, The Uberfication of the University. If the latter provides a dystopian sense of what is lying in store for many us over the course of the next few years, Data Commonism is more optimistic in that it shows what we can do about it. 

The first text in this series, Data Commonism: Introduction is here.

The Uberfication of the University is available from Minnesota University Press here. An open access version is available here.)

 

We Don’t Have To Live Like This: How To Affirmatively Disrupt the Disrupters 

♯3: Become a Microdatapreneur

A still further way we can endeavor to affirmatively disrupt the platform capitalists of the sharing economy is by working toward the kind of “universal micropayment system” Jaron Lanier envisages in Who Owns The Future: “If observation of you yields data that makes it easier for… a political campaign to target voters with its message, then you ought to be owed money for the use of that valuable data.” In this system we would be paid for the data we generate if it turns out to be valuable. Our relationship with the platforms of the for-profit sharing economy would thus take the form of a “two-way” financial transaction in which we all “benefit, concretely, with real money,” rather than just a few San Francisco-based entrepreneurs and investors. 

Interestingly, we do now have the means to apply a licence to specify how our data is to be protected and controlled and whether it can be shared. Project-if.com, for example, allows individuals to license their data: that produced using the Oyster travel card in London, say. As was made clear at the 2015 Big Bang Data exhibition at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, Project-if.com “let people decide whether their data is shared or not, who can access it, and what they can do with it... The prototype works on a blockchain, a transparent and secure data recording system.” 

Such an approach has the potential to be disruptive of the for-profit sharing economy since it would allow us, if we so wish, to withhold our user data--data on which platform capitalist companies depend for their successful operation. One problem with Lanier’s idea, however, is that of scale. A universal micropayment system may result in some degree of financial redistribution. But while it provides a means of reuniting data with those users who produce it--in contrast to platform capitalist companies which work hard to keep the two apart--there is not really all that much we can do with our own small amounts of data. How much leverage would we have when it comes to negotiating a price for it, bearing in mind most of us will have to rely on these companies to determine for us the extent to which our data--including that we generate in our homes by using the Google Home voice assistant, or Amazon’s Echo, with its virtual PA Alexa--has actually contributed to a political campaign aimed at targeting voters, to stay with Lanier’s example?

Any money we succeed in obtaining in this fashion is likely to be relatively minor--along the lines of the royalty payment musicians receive from streaming services such as Spotify (between $0.006 and $0.0084 per play). Lanier’s universal micropayment idea therefore seems another approach that will do little to fundamentally alter the overall system of ubercapitalism

(The same can be said of the musician Imogen Heap’s idea to change the music industry by using blockchain technology to ensure artists get paid. It is interesting how often blockchain technology is used to try to find a way for users to pay for everything in the form of micropayments. )

And what if the price we are offered is not acceptable? In reality, how much power are we likely to have to retain ownership and control of our data more broadly, compared to that of large, aggressive, for-profit corporations such as Google and Amazon: especially if these corporations hold the view that, in the words of Carl Bildt, chair of the Commission on Internet Governance thinktank, “Barriers against the free flow of data are, in effect, barriers against trade.” As Dymtri Kleiner reminds us, “their business model depends fundamentally on surveillance and behavioural control.” So isn’t any attempt to adopt a protectionist stance with regard to our own data likely to be perceived as a direct attack on these companies on our part? (Either that or we’ll find ourselves identified as a potential threat by the national security surveillance systems of the NSA, GCHQ, et al.)

Moreover, for Clare Birchall, it is not at all “clear that data belongs to us in the first place in order for it then to be given or taken”--or monetized, in this case. Instead, “we are within a dynamic sharing assemblage: always already sharing data with human or non-human agents.” Birchall introduces the term “shareveillance” to describe the “condition of consuming shared data and producing data to be shared in ways that shape” what she refers to as an “an ascendant shareveillant subjectivity.” This is a “subject who is at once surveillant (veiller ‘to watch’ is from the Latin vigilare, from vigil, ‘watchful’) and surveilled. To phrase it with a slightly different emphasis: the subject of shareveillance is one who simultaneously works with data and on whom the data works.”

The main problem I have with Lanier’s idea for a universal micropayment system, though, is that it maintains us in the position of being ubercapitalist microentrepreneurs--not just of ourselves but of our data too. 

 

Tuesday
Jan242017

The Philosophical Salon - new book from Open Humanities Press' Critical Climate Change series

We're delighted to announce the latest release from the Critical Climate Change series: The Philosophical Salon, edited by Michael Marder and Patricia Vieira. 

http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/the-philosophical-salon/

Through the interpretative lens of today’s leading thinkers, The Philosophical Salon illuminates the persistent intellectual queries and the most disquieting concerns of our actuality. Across its three main divisions—Speculations, Reflections, and Interventions—the volume constructs a complex mirror, in which our age might be able to recognize itself with all its imperfections, shadowy spots, even threatening abysses and latent promises. On the cutting edge of philosophy, political and literary theory, and aesthetics, this book courageously tackles a wide array of topics, including climate change, the role of technology, reproductive rights, the problem of refugees, the task of the university, political extremism, embodiment, utopia, food ethics, and sexual identity. It is an enduring record of an ongoing conversation, as well as a building block for any attempt to make sense of our world’s multifaceted realities.

Contributors: Robert Albritton, Linda Martín Alcoff, Claudia Baracchi, Geoffrey Bennington, Jay M. Bernstein, Costica Bradatan, Jill Casid, David Castillo, Antonio Cerella, Anna Charlton, Claire Colebrook, Sarah Conly, Nikita Dhawan, William Egginton, Roberto Esposito, Mihail Evans, Gary Francione, Luis Garagalza, Michael Gillespie, Michael Hauskeller, Ágnes Heller, Daniel Innerarity, Jacob Kiernan, Julia Kristeva, Daniel Kunitz, Susanna Lindberg, Jeff Love, Michael Marder, Todd May, Michael Meng, John Milbank, Warren Montag, T. M. Murray, Jean-Luc Nancy, Kelly Oliver, Adrian Pabst, Martha Patterson, Richard Polt, Gabriel Rockhill, Hasana Sharp, Doris Sommer, Gayatri Spivak, Kara Thompson, Patrícia Vieira, Slavoj Žižek.

Monday
Jan092017

Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities - special issue of JEP

We are pleased to announce the publication of a special issue of the Journal of Electronic Publishing: ‘Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities’, edited by Janneke Adema and Gary Hall.  

‘Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities’ consists of a selection of video-articles by Johanna Drucker, Mark Amerika, Erin Manning, Monika Bakke, Endre Dányi, Lesley Gourlay, Silvio Lorusso, Niamh Moore, Karen Newman, SØren Pold, Craig Saper, Sarah Kember, and Iris van der Tuin.

It is available for free, open access, CC-BY, here:
http://www.journalofelectronicpublishing.org/

‘Posthumanities: The Dark Side of “The Dark Side of the Digital”’

Adema and Hall have written a 10,000 word opening essay, discussing the conceptual premises that underly this special issue. Engaging with various discourses around the digital humanities, the essay outlines the experimental mode in which the videos included in the issue have been edited, as well as pointing to the idea of "posthuman humanities".
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0019.201

A table of contents for this special issue of the Journal of Electronic Publishing is provided below.  

-----

Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities

The Journal of Electronic Publishing (JEP)

Volume 19, No. 2 winter 2016

Edited by Janneke Adema and Gary Hall

 

Contents 

1  Maria Bonn, A Note From JEP

2 Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, Posthumanities: The Dark Side of “The Dark Side of the Digital”

PART ONE – Creating Posthumanities: Disrupting Humanities Methodologies

Part one of Disrupting the Humanities consists of a radical exploration of new posthumanist methodologies that take into account the agency of technologies and other non-human actants involved in modern forms of knowledge production. 

3   Monika Bakke, Deep Time Environments: Art And The Materiality Of Life Beyond The Human 

4   Lesley Gourlay, Posthuman Texts: Nonhuman Actors, Mediators and Technologies of Inscription 

5   Niamh Moore, “Humanist” Methods in a “More-than-Human” World 

6   Iris van der Tuin, Reading Diffractive Reading: Where and When Does Diffraction Happen?

PART TWO – Performing Posthumanities: Disrupting Humanities Aesthetics

Part two looks at the ways in which research is mediated and performed. It focuses on a reconsideration of the aesthetics of scholarship, including the “aesthetics of bookishness.” In doing so it investigates the potential of more post-digital, hybrid and multimodal forms of knowledge creation. 

7   Erin Manning, 10 Propositions for Research-Creation 

8   SØren Pold, Ink After Print: Literary Interface Criticism 

9   Johanna Drucker, Diagrammatic Form and Performative Materiality 

10  Silvio Lorusso, The Post-Digital Publishing Archive: An Inventory of Speculative Strategies

PART THREE – Circulating Posthumanities: Disrupting Humanities Institutions

Part three of Disrupting the Humanities provides a critical examination of how research is disseminated and shared, be it by publication to peers or to students in a pedagogical setting, or by adopting practices of radical openness and experimentation to challenge the normative and often print-based (neo)liberal humanist assumptions of how scholars in the humanities communicate. 

11   Sarah Kember, At Risk? The Humanities and the Future of Academic Publishing 

12   Endre Dányi, Samizdat Lessons: Three Dimensions of the Politics of Self-Publishing 

13    Craig Saper, Disrupting Scholarship 

14    Mark Amerika, Glitch Ontology (A Video Performance) 

15    Karen Newman, The West Midlands as an ‘Electronic Super Highway’: BOM and the Emergence of New Art Infrastructures

 

Monday
Dec192016

Ten Ways To Affirmatively Disrupt The Sharing Economy ♯2: Pressure Regulators to Change the Law

(This is part of a series of posts in which I provide ten proposals as to how to affirmatively disrupt ubercapitalism and the corporate sharing economy. Together these posts constitute the draft of a text provisionally titled Data Commonism, designed to follow on from my recently published short book, The Uberfication of the University. If the latter provides a dystopian sense of what is lying in store for many us over the course of the next few years, Data Commonism is more optimistic in that it shows what we can do about it. 

The first text in this series, Data Commonism: Introduction is here.

The Uberfication of the University is available from Minnesota University Press here. An open access version is available here.)

 

We Don’t Have To Live Like This: How To Affirmatively Disrupt the Disrupters 

♯2: Pressure Regulators to Change the Law 

Another way we can endeavor to affirmatively disrupt the platform capitalists of the sharing economy is by making them more accountable to the state. For example, we can argue for changes to be made in the law so that trusting these businesses to behave well--as we currently do with Amazon, Facebook, Google, and other data-management companies--is not our only option. (Hence the recent appeals to Facebook to sort out its fake news problem, and to Google to review its PageRank system to prevent it from being gamed by right-wing news and propaganda websites. The latter have created a huge network of links to each other in order to manipulate the company’s algorithm and produce what one newspaper headline characterizes as a “new reality where Hitler is a good guy, Muslims are evil and … Donald Trump becomes president”.) 

Placing pressure on regulators is an approach that has been proposed a number of times now. In the U.K., Labour MP Frank Field has called for the Department of Transport and Transport for London to insist Uber outlaw “sweated labor” before they renew the company’s license to operate in 2017. In a similar vein, Chi Onwurah, Labour’s shadow minister for industrial strategy, said this week that she wants to see the algorithms of technology companies opened up to regulation and rendered transparent to ensure they comply with the law on employment and competition. Onwurah also wants legislation “for greater consumer ownership of data” to be introduced. Tessa Jowell, who has twice stood in as leader of the United Kingdom Labour party, has even gone so far as to make it clear she is refusing to use Uber, which for legal purposes is currently based in the Netherlands, until it pays taxes in the U.K. Uber only paid £411,000 in tax in 2015, despite having a turnover in the U.K. of £23.3 million. (As Fortune details, in May 2013 “Uber formed a new business entity in the Netherlands called Uber International C.V.,” which actually has no employees and gives the address of a Bermudian law firm as its headquarters. “Over the next few weeks [the] San Francisco startup executed a flurry of transactions that shifted ownership of several foreign subsidiaries to Uber International C.V. and formed an agreement with the Dutch business to split the profits from Uber’s intellectual property. By mid-June… nearly all its ride-share income outside the U.S. would be effectively shielded from US [and UK] taxes.”) 

Such a law-oriented focus has met with a certain amount of success. The California state labor commission has deemed that Uber’s so-called “partner-drivers” are actually employees (and not independent contractors), with all the responsibilities regarding their right to a wage, benefits, sick pay, retirement pension and so forth this implies for the company. Florida has made a similar ruling, as has a tribunal in London. Meanwhile the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have both made moves to prohibit Uber altogether. When it comes to Airbnb, officials in Berlin have introduced regulations prohibiting users from renting out more than 50% of an apartment for less then two months without permission from the city council--at the risk of a 100,000 euro (£85,000) fine. In San Francisco hosts are only allowed to let their properties for a maximum of ninety days a year, with the city able to fine Airbnb up to $1,000 a day for any property it advertizes that is not registered with the authorities.  Reykjavik in Iceland has even introduced legislation that means those offering rentals in their properties for more than 90 days a year have to officially register as businesses and pay business tax. 

Yet the state and ubercapitalism are not two different entities. The situation is not one in which the state can be relied upon to act as a counterbalance to, or some kind of reformist brake on, ubercapitalism, giving it a more humane, democratic aspect: say, by providing those who are self-employed with more government assistance in the form of maternity pay, pension provision, and an easier system of taxation. The state is intricately bound up with it, one of the tenets of neoliberalism, after all, being that the state should serve capital and private interests. In fact, the success of the state today is often determined by its ability to support the market, if not achieve economic growth.

Consider the way many businesses rely on the state to top-up the wages of their workers with benefits; or how many governments have been forced to borrow vast amounts to pay the debts created by the banks and financial capital and keep the economy functioning. In fact, for a long time Amazon received more in government grants in the United Kingdom than it paid in tax. Moreover, in 2014 Facebook paid just $4,327 in U.K. corporation tax, despite having revenues here of £105 million, and total worldwide revenues of $12.5 billion. Similarly, Airbnb may be valued at £23 billion and have two million properties worldwide, with 40,000 in London alone. But it was still able to use its company in Ireland to arrange to pay only £317,00 tax in the United Kingdom in 2015. And even when the government of the U.K. did manage to persuade Google to pay something in lieu of unpaid taxes stretching back over a decade, it was only able to obtain £130 million when between 2005 and 2014 the technology company had sales of over £24 billion, on which it reported profit margins of between 25 and 30 per cent, which means it had a profit somewhere in the region of £7.2 billion. (With U.K. corporation tax over the last ten years having been above 20 per cent, this means Google has been able to negotiate a tax rate of around 3 per cent. To put this in further perspective, when Sundar Pichai became Google’s CEO in October 2015 after its reorganisation into Alphabet, he was awarded 273,328 shares, which at £138 million is worth more than Google is paying in U.K. tax.)

Indeed, one reason companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google have had sufficient finances to be able to continue striving to grow their market share and become a monopoly, even when for long periods they have not been able to turn a profit, is because they have not given very much of their money to governments in the form of tax. If treating their labor force as independent contractors is one way of reducing costs and maximizing profit for these companies, aggressively finding ways to pay as little tax as possible is clearly another.

The state is thus currently too weak, too much a part of ubercapitalism, to be able to save us from it. (This is evident from the way many of these corporate sharing economy companies are able to continue to run their operations even in cities that have prohibited them. Furthermore, the Google Transparency Project has discovered 80 cases of staff moving between Google and government in Europe, and 251 cases in the U.S.). Nor is this suprising, given that for some time now government has been more about actively reducing the size and scope of the state, smoothing the way for corporations to take over many of its functions, while at the same time enabling neoliberals not to “govern as little as possible but to govern everything down to the last detail,” as Maurizio Lazzarato emphasizes--to the extent of ensuring the state and public sector not only supports the market but frequently operates in terms of market rationality itself. Witness the attempt to introduce the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) and Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TTP), all three of which would have severely restricted the power nation states have over corporations. TTIP, for instance, would enable companies to use secret courts to sue countries that pass local laws that are unfriendly to their business. Witness also the introduction of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) between Canada and the EU--often referred to as a “backdoor for TTIP.” Like the latter, Ceta gives companies the power to sue countries that introduce laws that threaten their profits, including those they may make in the future.

So it is not that ubercapitalism wants to get rid of the welfare state entirely: it’s rather that welfare in this society is to be provided first and foremost to businesses and banks. Evidence the commitment the U.K government is rumored to have given the Japanese car manufacturer Nissan, which has a large manufacturing plant in Sunderland in the north east of England, that “extra support” will be provided “in the event Brexit reduces its competitiveness.” Seen in this light it is hard to believe a regulatory approach that tries to make the platform capitalist companies of the sharing economy further accountable to the state and its democratically made laws regarding employment, competition, and tax--say by introducing some form of legislation or audit to ensure openness and transparency--can have too much success over the longer term. And all the more so given the power of these corporations to employ an army of pans-national lobbyists, advertisers and others to help sway public and political opinion in their favor. (The third person hired by Airbnb was a lobbyist, while by June 2015 Uber had at least two hundred and fifty lobbyists; and that is just in the United States. Uber also hired the resigned deputy commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission to be its first ever head of policy development and community engagement in the city. This is not insignificant, since it is estimated that during the evening rush hour ten per cent of all vehicles in lower Manhattan are Uber cars. So much for the sharing economy reducing environmental impact!) More likely, such reformism will at best change the behaviour of a small number of particular companies, producing important yet relatively minor changes in corporate behaviour with the help of occasional moral outrages at Google-esque tax avoidance or Sports Direct-like “Victorian workhouse” practices, while doing little to alter the overall system whereby ubercapitalism is presiding over the dismantling of social democracy.

Monday
Dec122016

Ten Ways To Affirmatively Disrupt The Sharing Economy ♯1: Act Tactically 

(This is part of a series of posts in which I provide ten proposals as to how to affirmatively disrupt ubercapitalism and the corporate sharing economy. Together these posts constitute the draft of a text provisionally titled Data Commonism, designed to follow on from my recently published short book, The Uberfication of the University. If the latter provides a dystopian sense of what is lying in store for many us over the course of the next few years, Data Commonism is more optimistic in that it shows what we can do about it. 

The first text in this series, Data Commonism: Introduction is here.

The Uberfication of the University is available from Minnesota University Press here. An open access version is available here.)

 

We Don’t Have To Live Like This: How to Affirmatively Disrupt the Disruptors 

♯1: Act Tactically 

In The Uberfication of the University I showed how obtaining a degree of autonomy from any for-profit sharing economy market by means of a strategic (and dialectical) withdrawal of our intellectual and bodily labour will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Nevertheless, we can still respond tactically by flooding the market with inaccurate, misleading, or questionable information and data about ourselves. Such a response will have the added advantage of being consistent with the notion expressed at the end of The Uberfication of the University: that affirmatively disrupting ubercapitalism requires us to creatively destroy not only the jobs we do but also the microentrepreneurs of the self we have become.

The artist Natascha Sadr Haghighian offers an intriguing take on this approach. As part of a larger project of critiquing institutionalized regimes of knowledge, Haghighian rejects the totalizing ideas of CVs, resumes and bios. Instead, she insists only biographies obtained from the bioswop project (www.bioswop.net) be used in printed material regarding her work. This is a CV-exchange platform Haghighian has created with a view to providing curriculum vitaes, resumes and bios for mutual utilization and borrowing, as well as basic elements of CVs for assembly. (For an example, see the bio for Haghighian that is available at MIT List Visual Arts Center.)

Haghighian’s bioswop project is certainly helpful, not least in showing just how conservative most of us are when it comes to curriculum vitaes. Yet here too a question arises concerning the extent to which experiments with obfuscation of this kind are going to be possible under the rigorous performance management regime of any for-profit sharing economy business. In the era of ubercapitalism such an information and data intermediary will surely implement a real-name policy similar to that of Facebook and other online platforms. If so, then the only way to labor in the decentralised network of those providing services in the market created by the associated sharing economy ecosystem will be through the performance and maintenance of one’s own personal (self-)profile and reputation. (As I note in Pirate Philosophy, Facebook’s Terms of Service include the following conditions: “You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission;” and “You will not create more than one personal account.”)

Indeed, according to Michael Fertik, this is why the “Reputation Economy will prove so disruptive to higher education” in particular: “because the technology is quickly developing to allow your unique reputation to become a stronger signal of employability than the name on your diploma, or even whether you have a diploma at all.” It is the latter credentialism, which includes the social, economic, and cultural capital generated by the name and type of the institution you attend (Ivy league or community college, Oxbridge or ex-Poly), which has so far enabled the traditional university system to hold off the challenge of MOOCs and other forms of online Open Education, after all. (A report from the Sutton Trust indicates that an Oxbridge graduate will on average earn £10,000 more every year of their working life than a graduate from a university outside of the Russell Group of elite United Kingdom universities.) What this means as far as any freelance individual microentrepreneur who adopts a tactic along the lines of Haghighian’s bioswop project is concerned, however, is that here too it will be more a case of work rejecting them than of them rejecting work and its totalizing ideas of CVs, resumes, bios, and the related information and data concerning educational qualifications, career trajectories, salary, social connections, online influence and behaviour.