‘Once each of the unremarkable acts we undertake in the course of the day—opening the front door, buying the groceries, hopping onto the bus—has been reconceived as a digital transaction, it tends to dematerialize. The separate, dedicated chunks of matter we needed to use in order to accomplish these ends, the house keys and banknotes and bus tokens, are replaced by an invisible modulation of radio waves. And as the infrastructure that receives those waves and translates them into action is built into the ordinary objects and surfaces all around us, the entire interaction tends to disappear from sight, and consequently from thought’ (pp. 10-11).
‘Without attention, information means very little. The insight that attention, not information, is the prize in the struggle for power is not new. Almost two thousand years ago, the Roman satirical poet Juvenal wrote about how people’s demands for representation could be diluted by “panem et circenses” (bread and circuses), that is, by providing distracting entertainment while also making sure that they were fed. In the twenty-first century, the same dynamics hold, but this time, the circus is online’ (pp. 237-238).
‘In an ideal intellectual exchange, disagreement doesn’t mean tearing down a rival but testing and strengthening the structure of a proposal, an analysis. It is what you do when you agree with people in general but have specifics to work out; and that work can be a joy. It’s anti-evangelical work you go into with an open mind, as willing to be convinced as you are eager to convince. For those inclined that way, this exploration of ideas is an adventure full of the subtle pleasures of expanding meaning and understanding, of going beyond where one started. An idea goes back and forth like a tennis ball, but one that grows and changes with every volley. It’s an arrangement in which no one is the preacher or the choir, in which everything is open to question, in which ideas are beautiful and precision is holy’ (pp. 77-78, ‘Preaching to the Choir,’ 2017).
‘The communications industry would not have got where it is today had it not started out as an art of the motor capable of orchestrating the perpetual shift of appearances’ (p. 23).
‘Social media is conducive to the flow of artlessly formed chatter because it encourages real-time exchange and rewards charm, humor, and fearlessness, traits that the socially shy long to possess. Mistakes can and are frequently made within this space of cursory social engagement, but the socially courageous respond effortlessly: like falling awkwardly in public, the socially timid retreat ever further into their shells after a social blunder’ (Interações: Sociedade e as Novas Modernidades, Issue 34: (In)Equalities and Social (In)Visibilities in the Digital Age, p. 108).
‘When computers were vast systems of transistors and valves which needed to be coaxed into action, it was women who turned them on. They have not made some trifling contribution to an otherwise man-made tale: when computers became the miniaturized circuits of silicon chips, it was women who assembled them… Hardware, software, wetware—before their beginnings and beyond their ends, women have been the simulators, assemblers, and programmers of the digital machines’ (p. 37).
‘In a word, its surface is elastic, and its densities are scandalously rearrangeable… [A] soft sculpture, in various proportions, might suggest fatigue, deterioration or inertia. It mimes a kind of surrender to the natural condition which pulls bodies down. No matter how figurative, then, sculpture in general must be seen as, in an important sense, escaping the anthropomorphic. And regardless of how abstract is a soft sculpture, it will unavoidably evoke the human.’
'This book is about how to be a cat. How can you remain autonomous in a world where you are under constant surveillance and are constantly prodded by algorithms run by some of the richest corporations in history, which have no way of making money except by being paid to manipulate your behavior? How can you be a cat, despite that?' (p. 2).
'He is troubled by any image of himself, suffers when he is named. He finds the perfection of a human relationship in this vacancy of the image: to abolish—in oneself, between oneself and others—adjectives; a relationship which adjectivizes is on the side of the image, on the side of domination, of death' (p. 43).
'Shy birds are slower and calmer, and take their time before mobilizing. And this means they notice things their courageous, speedy colleagues often overlook, such as seeds left over from the previous summer. Because the advantages and disadvantages to being either courageous or shy seem to balance out, both character traits have survived until today' (p. 65).
'Life is constitutively semiotic... Semiosis (the creation and interpretation of signs) permeates and constitutes the living world, and it is through our partially shared semiotic propensities that multi-species relations are possible, and also analytically comprehensible' (p. 9).
"‘Oh, they don’t miss me,’ she said. ‘I’m antisocial, they say. I don’t mix. It’s so strange. I’m very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn’t it? Social to me means talking to you about things like this’" (p. 29).
'At the moment in which things are separated from conventions and have been able to utilize their specific and individual qualities freely, we anticipated, not always through simple automatism, the end of a very short life which often sinks into the red circles of the interior night of our eyes; its hidden expirations, its particular ways of being, absent and present outside of the corporeal, and in the complex and disturbing development of the instant in which these very same things, devoid of visuality, begin to work or find it useful to modify the course of their shadow's projection' (p. 38).
'Flaubert hated newspapers because of his conviction that they slyly encouraged readers to hand over to others a task that no honest person should ever consent to offload on to someone else: thinking... It is hardly surprising that a writer so sensitive to cliché and the mentality of the herd should feel outraged by the constriction of independent enquiry that this mass development represented, by the ironing out of local eccentricity and individual difference in favour of an all-encompassing, monocultural set of assumptions' (pp. 69).
'Walking focuses not on the boundary lines of ownership that break the land into pieces but on the paths that function as a kind of circulatory system connecting the whole organism. Walking is, in this way, the antithesis of owning. It postulates a mobile, empty-handed, shareable experience of the land' (p. 162).
This week I'm preparing for the upcoming Society for Cinema & Media Studies (SCMS) conference in Toronto, March 14–18 where I'm presenting a paper called A Gaze of Cruelty, Deferred: An Examination of Cate Shortland's Berlin Syndrome (2017).
'Literally, a technology is a systematic practice or knowledge of an art, and though we almost always apply the term to the scientific and mechanical, there is no reason not to apply it to other human-made techniques for producing desired results' (Rebecca Solnit, p. 114).
'Evanescent, like dream elements, such impressions may haunt the moviegoer long after the story they are called upon to implement has sunk into oblivion' (p. 52).
I'm very glad to be among those included in artist Mark Farid's current web/plug-in project, Invisible Voice, commissioned by Goldsmiths, University of London. Invisible Voice is a plug-in (for Chrome and Firefox) that blocks a website each week. Individual websites are selected by a different contributor who has penned a justification for its momentary boycott. With the plug-in installed, this written text, instead of the website, appears for one week during its scheduled time, then moves on to the next.