[-empyre-] human glitches

Simon Biggs simon at littlepig.org.uk
Wed Dec 14 19:52:41 EST 2011

a glitch in time....



On 13 Dec 2011, at 17:03, Renate Ferro wrote:

> Funny you should write about limiting our glitchy discussion to
> hardware and software because I was thinking about my early days as an
> art undergraduate student when I did quite a bit of weaving, tapestry
> and fibers installation.  To authenticate the fact that the piece was
> actually hand made and not machine made my classmates and I would
> leave one thread of a woven design mis-threaded on purpose or a couple
> of stitches in a tapestry left awry.  That one unobtrusive glitch was
> to authenticate the trace and touch of the human hand.  Our mentor
> encouraged us to follow this tradition of many early weavers.  If my
> memory is serving me well this glitch was referred to it as a "lazy"
> thread.....though I may be wrong!
> Thanks all for  interesting discussion on the glitch....I have been
> enjoying it. Renate Ferro
> On Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 10:39 AM, Julian Oliver <julian at julianoliver.com> wrote:
>> 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 techno-political
>> 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
>> famous.
>> 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 representation
>> 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.
>> Cheers,
>> Julian
>>> Julian:
>>>> Indeed it is what is relevant, as it is with any cultural trope. It's here
>>>> however that software developers like myself find ourselves cynical
>>>> about Glitch
>>>> Art precisely because we know that what we're often looking at/listening to is
>>>> not a glitch, rather an event designed to have the appearance of one.
>>>> A glitch-concert using Max MSP is not glitch, rather the application
>>>> of digital
>>>> synthesis to mimic sounds that sound like what we understand to be glitch,
>>>> namely electrical sparks, servos breaking under load, etc.  Similarly, someone
>>>> playing with GTK or Quartz Composer to manipulate a desktop interface
>>>> such that
>>>> it performs unexpectedly isn't glitch, it's UX/UI design.
>>>> This leads us to the question "Can you design a glitch?". Perhaps you can only
>>>> design /with/ glitches, not glitches themselves..
>>>> If glitches are political at all it's in because they represent a possible
>>>> entry-point within an otherwise closed system, a 'de-punctualisation' (from
>>>> Latour) of the Black Box. What many call glitches are in fact just the
>>>> beginning
>>>> of what later becomes an exploit (whether that be jailbreaking a device or
>>>> injecting malicious code into a process running on a server). In this way
>>>> glitches signal the possibility of further action; an opening, they express
>>>> freedom of movement.
>>>> Purely aesthetic fetishising of glitch depreciates this potential, I think.
>>>> After all, some of the most potent and transformative glitches in
>>>> technological
>>>> history are quite boring to behold. To most, they'd probably go unnoticed.
>>>> Cheers,
>>>> Julian
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> --
>> Julian Oliver
>> http://julianoliver.com
>> http://criticalengineering.org
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> --
> Renate Ferro
> Visiting Assistant Professor of Art
> Cornell University
> Department of Art, Tjaden Hall Office #420
> Ithaca, NY  14853
> Email:   <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
> URL:  http://www.renateferro.net
>       http://www.privatesecretspubliclies.net
> Lab:  http://www.tinkerfactory.net
> Managing Co-moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu/
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empyre
> Art Editor, diacritics
> http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/dia/
> _______________________________________________
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> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk http://www.littlepig.org.uk/ @SimonBiggsUK skype: simonbiggsuk

s.biggs at ed.ac.uk Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh
http://www.eca.ac.uk/circle/ http://www.elmcip.net/ http://www.movingtargets.co.uk/

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