[iDC] A sort of an introduction and scattered resonances, re: Electrosmog and Mobility Shifts

micha cárdenas mmcarden at usc.edu
Tue Jul 26 05:29:59 UTC 2011

Hi all,

I'm micha cárdenas, an artist and theorist who lives in LA (recently
relocated from san diego) and works with Liz Losh at Sixth College. As she
invited our core team there to join this discussion, I jumped in here and
found Eric's comments very compelling and relevant to my own experiences.
Still, I only offer a few scattered thoughts.

One is that a group I've worked with in the past, Artivistic [
http://artivistic.org] is also working on thinking through the many problems
with the conference/event/festival format, not only with regards
sustainability questions, but also questions about how to move beyond
discussions towards the possibility of long term community engagement and
change. *Promiscuous Infrastructures, *their current project, came out of
the TURN*ON festival about art and activism dealing with sex and gender that
I (remotely) helped them curate and organize. We felt that the event didn't
live up to our expectations in a number of ways but one of those was the
lack of local community engagement that comes from having artists, activists
and theorists flown into a city for a few days. The question of how do we
move beyond activist/artist tourism and towards more constructive work with
people we may want to work with from around the globe is certainly a
difficult one, and one attempt they are taking (i'm not really involved in
the collective any longer, due largely to distance) is to move towards a
residency and workshop model away from a 3 day event model.

This discussion also reminds me of something lev manovich tweeted a few days

manovich <http://twitter.com/#!/manovich> manovich
Maybe 1990s new media theory and criticisms were intense because everybody
was discussing in rhizome/nettime. Concentration helps advances

But more specifically, what I would have liked to discuss at MobilityShifts
(i won't be attending as I can't afford the mobility) is the Transborder
Immigrant Tool, a project I've been working on for a few years with the
Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0 to turn cheap cell phones off of ebay
into life saving devices that provide physical and poetic sustenance. The
project centers around a java app written by Brett Stalbaum that allows
users to access the gps functions of the phones without service.

With this project, we're very much interested in what the *particle group*
has called "Science of the Oppressed", that is developing lines of flight an
trajectories of thought and technological trajectories driven by the needs
and desires of oppressed groups including migrants, women and queer and
trans people. A main goal of ours has been to make the technology low tech
enough that it could work on very inexpensive phones that we could buy in
bulk and then distribute. I think that there are certainly huge economic
issues at play in the ElectroSmog conference described below that are only
hinted at. Who can afford the bandwidth, the better machines, speakers, etc?
Who can afford to go to universities to get into art programs and new media
art institutions? Who is encouraged throughout childhood to be good at art
and science and who is encouraged to go into the military, or prison, or the
kitchen? And certainly these economic issues are tightly bound up in the US
with questions of race, class and gender and that is where a lot of my own
interest lies, in those intersections, between say immigration or
transnational experiences and transgender experiences?

I want to clarify, though, that I'm not advocating a view of digital
literacy based in a simple idea of the “digital divide”, which I feel is an
oversimplification, as it reifies the kinds of social exclusion that
technology reproduces and recreates along lines of race, class, gender and
ability and simply reduces the question to one of economics. In contrast,
thinking about the work of people like authors in the netporn studies reader
or like Danah Boyd's about class and racial divides in MySpace,
and Flickr, one can see how marginalized groups use social media platforms
as rich sites of intellectual production of language (i.e. Lolz, ROFLMAO or
ke$ha), of image vernaculars (i.e. porn sharing sites or MySpace comment
feeds that are impossible to load) and of systems of knowledge necessary for
survival (i.e. transgender voice changing tutorial videos).

Lastly, I think the soft telepresence you're talking about below supports
Salen and Zimmerman's idea of social immersion that Tom Boellstorff applied
to Second Life in Coming of Age in Second Life. My own experiments with more
immersive technologies like motion capture and stereoscopy have shown me
their limitations for long term use, and as they malfunction they
drastically interfere with human connection. In the short term, though, I
think that such technologies can certainly add layers of embodied
expressivity that can enhance immersion, such as an HMD with head tracking
that allows you to look at another avatar and have them know you're looking
at them, or my more recent work with Elle Mehrmand using biometrics in which
the person you're communicating with can know even more about you that
someone who's in the room, such as exactly when your heart rate or body
temperature changes.

thanks all,


2011/7/18 Eric Kluitenberg <epk at xs4all.nl>

> Hello IDC'ers,
> I've been asked to expand somewhat on my introduction and the concerns that
> I would like to bring to the Mobility Shifts conference, and would like to
> follow up on some things I hinted at earlier in my introduction. The main
> scope is to raise some critical issues about certain assumptions in
> telepresence practices and research, based on the ambivalent outcomes of the
> radical ElectroSmog festival format (march 2010), and indicate possibly
> valuable insights that may be gained from that for tele-connected learning
> (even though they do not originate from a strictly educational context).
> ...

> To find an explanation I identified three elements that could explain the
> failure of the tele-connected experience: Encounter, Belonging and
> Identification.
> Again quoting from Distance versus Desire: "Still, more important for the
> ultimate failure of the telepresence ideology is that it denies the
> libidinal drive for encounter, belonging, and identification that is so
> important for a successful staging of a public event such as an arts and
> culture festival.There is also a sobering lesson for curators that excellent
> content and contributors as such do not translate into public success. The
> desire for sharing the space with others and with the influential in a
> particular social circle or figuration, is a much stronger motor it seems
> for public appeal. Remoteness, one of the themes in the festival, cannot be
> so easily transcended in the telepresence scenario as hoped for."
> (Full text is a.o. here:
> www.electrosmogfestival.net/2010/11/28/distance-versus-desire-clearing-the-electrosmog/)
> The assumption here is that the drive for encounter is primarily libidinal
> and that the denial of the desire for actual encounter, sharing a space,
> being part of a social figuration is to some extent displaced by
> communication technologies by conjuring up a largely phantasmatic image that
> covers up the lack of the affordances of physical encounter. The
> communication devices and connection technologies are, however, never able
> to displace this desire. entirely  The remaining surplus desire actually
> serves to intensify the longing for encounter rather than diminish it,
> leading to a point of crisis where the phantasmatic image of tele-connection
> breaks down and people quite literally start up the engines of their cars.
> ...
> I would finally like to distinguish between "hard telepresence" and "soft
> telepresence", analogous to hard and soft AI. The hard variant insists that
> the full scope of human experience involved in physical encounter can be
> replaced by a teleconnection (by advanced interfaces, full immersion, HD
> quality projection, virtual walls (Cisco) and so on), while the soft variant
> simply looks for practical solutions that work in specific contexts, without
> the illusion of wanting to replace the 'real' thing.
> I'd be happy to discuss your comments and questions a bit on the list this
> week!
> Bests,
> Eric

micha cárdenas
PhD Student, Media Arts and Practice, School of Cinematic Arts, University
of Southern California
Provost Fellow, University of Southern California

Co-Author, Trans Desire / Affective Cyborgs, Atropos Press,

blog: http://transreal.org
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