[-empyre-] glitch device/divide

Curt Cloninger curt at lab404.com
Fri Dec 9 06:17:56 EST 2011

Thanks Julian,

That helps clarify to me where you are coming from.

In some ways, we are down to semantics. I'm enough of a Derridean 
(without actually being a Derridean) to happily embrace further 
modification/slippage of the original, historical/etymological 
John_Glenn_engineering/hardware definition of "gitch." Indeed, such 
modulation seems to want to happen (from where I sit). So yes, glitch 
originally meant something more specific. I am pushing for its 
original meaning to be expanded.

You ask, "what would be gained by glitching out with Heidegger or 
Merleau-Ponty?" -- worlds. Even more by glitching out with Whitehead 
and Virilio. You say it seems "pretty hairy and/or confusing" -- I 
agree. I venture we won't unpack it on a listserv.

They'll no' get him a' in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.

Expanding the original hisotical/etymological definition of glitch 
allows me to discuss human experiences of the uncanny in the context 
of glitched media and language without having to rreduce human bodies 
to machinic systems via Cybernetic metaphor (a simplitistic reduction 
that I too am eager to avoid). As I'm wanting to understand glitch -- 
glitch begins to problematize binary distinctions between 
intended/accidental/incidental, expected/unexpected, semiotic meaning 
/ bodily affect.

I would be interested to read your paper that you mentioned.


For the larger list:

You run into the same problems "defining" glitch as you run into 
trying to define apophasis ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophasis ) 
or (heaven help us) deconstruction. If apophatic writing is writing 
that seeks to undermine, undo, and unsay the faith we have in the 
reductive capacity of language, then "apophasis" will necessarily 
elude being boiled down into language. This kind of shit drives 
engineers and Chomskyites crazy.

I should clarify that "uncanny" need not mean pretty, fast, or 
exciting. I've done endurance performances that (I hope) were 
uncannily boring and tedious.



>Hi Curt,
>..on Thu, Dec 08, 2011 at 05:34:05AM -0500, Curt Cloninger wrote:
>>  It seems like you are wanting to limit the discussion of glitches to 
>>  occurrences that happen at the hardware and software level, within 
>>  machines. But humans can (and frequently do) glitch as well, 
>>  particularly in response to media which their bodies receive as 
>>  glitched. In one sense, phenomenological sculpture, op art, and 
>>  structural film are all about trying to get a human body to have a 
>>  glitched experience. I don't have to read binary to have a glitched 
>>  experience. I don't have to be a programmer (although I myself 
>>  occasionally program) to receive an affective, bodily or linguistic 
>>  glitch effect from media sent to me via a machine. I don't have to 
>>  understand compression schemes at the binary level in order to 
>>  affectively eperience the phenomenological differences between various
>>  compression schemes as my body is exposed to them.
>I'm not limiting the breadth of the term, I'm leaving it just as it 
>is; 'glitch'
>is a term derived from the culture of electronics, circuitry in 
>particular. Only
>recently has it come to be applied to software at all, possibly by 
>way of errors
>writing and reading from bad physical or temporary memory.
>Glitches specifically relate to systems and machines, things we have designed.
>They express something we don't yet know about something we've made, 
>a potential
>born of failure.
>Positioning glitch outside of Engineering seems unproductive and/or
>opportunistic; animal kind like us don't experience bodily, cognitive or
>behavioural 'glitches', rather lapses of judgement, unintended 
>behaviour due to
>nervous stimuli (confusion or stress) and illness due to mutation or 
>failure of
>organic parts.
>A glitch is a brief, sometimes recoverable fault in a circuit, system or
>machine. We are only any of these things if you yield entirely to Cybernetic
>metaphor. Most importantly however, we are not systems of our own design.
>>  It's a bit like talking about a Rothko painting in terms of whether he
>>  used horsehair or synthetic brushes. Such discussions are always 
>>  possible, but they  are only obliquely related to the things which are
>>  most interesting about art, and they usually dead-end fairly quickly. He
>>  either did or he didn't use horsehair brushes. It either is or isn't a
>>  true glitch.
>>  Mez Breeze's new book is called "Human Readable Messages." So perhaps a
>>  distinction needs to be made between human-readable glitches and 
>>  machine-readable glitches. Human-readable glitches are media glitches --
>  > they occur when humans are communicating to humans through machines which
>>  mediate this communication. Human-readable glitches don't freak machines
>>  out. But neither do machine-readable glitches. Machine-readable glitches
>>  may crash machines, but that doesn't freak machines out, because machines
>>  have no sentient expectation of "normal." Machines lack the ability to
>>  have an uncanny experience. So to limit the discussion of glitches to
>>  events that only happen within machinic systems, glitches which never run
>>  on or involve human bodies, is to talk about something quite limited.
>>  Because a machine can't know or experience a glitch. Only a human can.
>A phenomenological refactoring of glitch as being only existent within
>experience, therefore dependent upon -and expressed through the human- seems
>pretty hairy and/or confusing to me. What would be gained by 
>glitching out with
>Heidegger or Merleau-Ponty?
>>  You imply that true, machine/code-level glitch-event ruptures have 
>>  radical, political, Latourean-entangled impact on human cultures. I am
>>  curious how this happens without them also intersecting networks and
>>  scales of human bodies, human-readable forms, and human aesthetics. Does
>>  this radical impact happen metaphorically (machinic glitch as a mere
>>  symbol for actant agency) or directly (glitches in stock market networks
>>  crashing third world economies)?
>I didn't say that glitches have "Latourean-entangled impact on human cultures"
>rather that they create an entry point, a de-punctualisation, within what is
>otherwise a black box, an inaccessible prosthesis or system. In this way a
>glitch can express potential for further knowledge, increased subjectivity and
>freedom of movement.
>In a time of iPads, Sentiment Analysis, internet enabled fridges and SkyHook
>Wireless we know less and less as to the inner workings of the machines and
>systems we use and/or depend upon. The glitch can seed a vital 
>subjectivity, an important break from what I refer to in a current paper as an
>Ideology of Seamlessness; of a continuous, hermetic and harmonic interaction
>between parts in the conveyance of intent.
>>  You assert that, "some of the most potent and transformative glitches in
>>  technological history are quite boring to behold. To most, they'd 
>>  probably go unnoticed." It would help me to better understand what you
>>  are claiming if you would list some of these historically transformative
>>  glitches specifically.
>There are many examples out on the internet, here are a few that are quite
>On February 25, 1991 the system clock on a patriot missile glitched, 
>putting it
>out of step by 1/3rd of a second. It crashed into a compound in 
>Dhahran, killing
>28 Americans.
>The 'smart ship' USS Yorktown simply stopped out in the ocean in 1997 due to a
>divide by zero error. This glitch itself wasn't seen, no one knew what had
>happened, but analysis of the issue triggered deep inspection of seaborne
>auto-piloting systems world wide.
>5 people died due to excessive X-Ray exposure in the 80s due to a bug in the
>Therac-25 radiation machine.
>In 1996 the European Space Agency's Ariane 5 Flight 501 self 
>destructed due to a
>glitch in the guidance software.
>Again, a glitch itself doesn't have to be seen for it to have been highly
>significant. No one saw the glitch at work in Flight 501, buried deep in the
>guidance software subsystem. They saw the craft explode as a 
>consequence of the
>glitch.  Perhaps no one even saw the explosion, but a statistical 
>of it a second after all their comms went down.
>>  Also, I'm curious to hear your response to Jon Cates' previous post 
>>  regarding John Cage's prepared systems. Can prepared aleatoric systems,
>>  oulipian (constraint-based) systems, and other human-orchestrated systems
>>  still lead to uncanny outcomes? It seems to me they can, for humans.
>>  Perhaps the outcomes are not uncanny to the systems themselves; but
>>  again, a system can't experience itself as normal or uncanny.
>I'm not sure really. I most certainly don't think one can design glitches,
>merely encourage them or work with them. Parametric control of a 
>glitch would be
>an oxymoron in that one cannot choreograph an accident, only create conditions
>such that one is likely to occur.
>For me a great glitch is unanticipated, devastating, wild.

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