The relation between fluctuating electronic signals and human attention has become a central component of social experience, from Wall Street and Times Square to the great Asian cityscapes, or from the flatscreen TV at the local bar to the cell phone in your ear and the laptop in your bed on Sunday morning. What’s at stake is a sound-and-pixel environment where informational objects unfold in time, exciting human desire and channeling it into mathematically ordered patterns understood by exploring the underlying techno-scientific principles of cybernetics, cognitive psychology and complexity theory. A clearer grasp of how these principles have been applied over the course of the last half-century is fundamental to autonomous practices, since it is ourselves, as cultural producers, who are called upon to fill these screens with content. And beyond these proliferating screens there is a constantly expanding universe of computerized recording, analysis and surveillance, gathering behavioral data in order to more effectively pattern the movements of populations and to produce effects of governance. So we’d better know how these processes work, and how they can be undermined – because experience shows that there is nothing easier to instrumentalize than yesterday’s subversion.
- Brian Holmes