This has been rattling around my head for a good couple of weeks now. Significant.
Really enjoyed this futures-literate editorial on the UK’s plans for HS2, a high-speed rail connection intended to link Manchester and Leeds with London, and (via the Channel Tunnel) continental Europe, and one of the few pieces of capital infrastructure investment supported by the current government:
“In the 1980s, the challenge of the railways appeared to be the challenge of Dr Beeching – managing decline. But then came an unforeseen twist around the tracks, and passenger numbers steadily doubled. When the great slump caused purchases of everything else to fall away, ticket sales held up. The cry to move freight off the roads and on to rail once seemed hopelessly nostalgic but now big businesses such as Tesco are starting to act upon it. All this is good news. It makes more remote the noisy, congested and fumy future that lies down the road of too many cars. Strong demand for train travel also bodes well for Mr McLoughlin’s London-Birmingham-Manchester/Leeds expressway. For, as he explains, the name of the game is not just faster journeys but relieving capacity in the rest of the system, which should allow for all sorts of other improvements. The niggling caveat, however, is the proliferation of known unknowns.
The reasons for Britain’s unanticipated rail renaissance remain barely understood. On the sunniest scenario, the advent of laptops has simply made trains a more attractive way to get about, by breathing productive life back into once-dead travel time. If so, the fall in private vehicles in London recently recorded in the census could soon prefigure a wider decline from “peak car” use. But what if the next great technological wave does not require more train travel but instead enables many more of us to work from home? This is already feasible far more often than it is actually done, and as corporate culture catches up with things like Skype, fewer treks across the country may be required. If so, sinking £32bn into HS2 would soon seem a weird thing to do. Monday’s announcement was about links to Leeds and Manchester, but further uncertainties attach to claims of regenerating the regions. Speedier travel to the capital should bolster provincial businesses but could also lead London-based companies to judge they no longer need regional offices, and thereby worsen the metropolitan slant of UK plc.
All these uncertainties make it tricky for HS2 to justify all the funds involved in advance. The cautious thing to do would be to muddle through with a far cheaper incremental programme of improvements – a longer platform here, an extra bit of track there. But such crippling caution ignores the way bold transport policies can redraw the map. Think of east London, where the Docklands light railway, overground and Jubilee extensions combined to spur a boom that is resetting the centre of the capital’s gravity. And for all the vagueries about the dynamics between north and south, a better connected country ought to be a more efficient one. Even if HS2 can’t encourage business north, it should encourage commuters in that direction, thereby reducing London rents and easing Britain’s great imbalance through another means. Since the 1930s many regional policies have been tried and failed, and HS2 may not work out as intended either – but it will at least bequeath something valuable.”
Take-aways: change is non-linear, culture matters, uncertainty is rife, the state is (currently) the only entity large enough to make strategic capital investments, and infrastructure can generate positive market externalities — though it’s hard to recognize them in advance.
‘The Beeching Report’ by iLIKETRAINS — which, on reflection, should probably replace ‘The People’s Flag’ as the One Nation Labour anthem.
It’s been a breakneck sort of week, pivoting from one hashtagged context to the next, without any real time for decompression. Life continues as a series of bubbles, loosely coupled.
Informal Economy Symposium. A Barcelona caught between the tightening plates of austerity and an impersonal, technocratic EU; an architectural Rubik’s Cube stuffed with inebriated twentysomethings; cosmopolitan capital of a pre-figurative nation.
A barnstormer of an opening keynote by economic anthropologist Keith Hart, remediating his work on ‘the informalization of the world economy’ for a wide-eyed, modish audience of designers, edgeworkers and collapsitarians.
SVA lecturer and innovation strategist Richard Tyson was also extremely good value, upending the dominant mythos of globalization, which he recast in terms of de- and re-localization. Pirate stock markets, terrorism, asymmetric power, and all that jazz; classic ‘Outlaw Planet’.
Scott Smith did his thing, with a set of slides on ‘Big Informality’ (cf. ‘Big Science’) somehow managing to conjure images of a black market Large Hadron Collider, paid for in BTC, and held together with recycled girders, Shanzai know-how, and the animal spirits of capitalism and ritual sacrifice.
Went for dinner and drinks with a bunch of strangers, as the (unexpected) outcome of an umbrella-sharing optimisation strategy. Staccato conversations, good food, and an ease and presumed intimacy that took me entirely by surprise.
On the Saturday, Near Future Laboratory’s Fabien Girardin gave me a kick-ass tour of Barcelona – crisis aside, a city doing a pretty convincing impression of the urban landscape envisaged in Dan Hill’s ‘Street as Platform’ back in 2008.
This, in turn, was a strange mirroring of Emile Hooge‘s half-day introduction to Lyon, back in February; and architect Bobby Zylstra‘s equivalent for Chicago, in August. Certainly, there’s a hell of a lot to be said for being shown around a city by net-native, ethnographically-minded residents; especially those with a disciplinary base in innovation studies, architecture, and/or urbanism.
*takes photo of innocuous, but culturally-revealing street furniture*
Newly returned from Catalonia, and wrestling with a course module on firms and markets, the en-Nobelment of economist Alvin E. Roth led me to his 2007 paper on ‘repugnance’ as a constraint on markets. Representative quote:
‘When my colleagues and I have helped design markets and allocation procedures, we have often found that distaste for certain kinds of transactions can be a real constraint on markets and how they are designed, every bit as real as the constraints imposed by technology or by the requirements of incentives and efficiency. In this essay, I’ll first consider a wide range of examples, including slavery and indentured servitude, lending money for interest, price-gouging after disasters, selling pollution permits and life insurance, and dwarf tossing.’
An energy drink company helped an Austrian man skydive from space. Some American businessmen dumped a bunch of iron filings into the Pacific, for money, angering the United Nations. The European Union won a Nobel Peace Prize. My university advertised a position to ‘develop and maintain a flying [honeybee] robot’.
I met my secondary PhD supervisor, Prof. Andy Stirling, for the first time. He’s thoughtful, friendly, and has an analytical approach with meshes closely with my interests. Convenient, that.
Newsnight’s Paul Mason interviewed Spanish arch-sociologist Manuel Castells about the crisis, and what happens next. There’s a podcast. It’s really good.
On Tuesday, I met a friend from my time at Goldsmiths to lend a hand with his pitch for a science communication residency in Bristol. We talked about superhydrophobic logic gates.
The fine folks at Demos Helsinki calculated my material footprint, ahead of a pan-European internet workshop on sustainable lifestyles, as part of the European Union’s SPREAD 2050 project. I’m slightly more environmentally-friendly than the average Finn, but, as you can see, there’s still a long way to go.
A compelling and clear-sighted analysis of the road ahead.
Material/Digital Politics/Economics Speculations Technology [future shock]
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‘In 1982, we … could jam a screwdriver into the circuits because we faced no retribution. We could trip the computer and watch it fall, because it couldn’t respond in kind. Now, in 2012, we can be bullied and controlled. We awake to news of drones laying waste to those on our terror watchlist. We are virtually stripped naked at airport security. We are witness to car accidents, prostitution and murder on Google Earth. We are denied a loan because the formula says no. In short, the noose of technology has become tighter. We’re developing a grudge. And when we dislike, we mock. We photobomb the system. We parody. We use code to avoid the encoded.
Our current power politics are built on technology, which is why many clap with glee when masked jokesters hack corporate Web sites, when mustachioed avatars front takedowns of intelligence agencies, when former Russian spies do lad mag shoots and hackers get talk shows. We get a chance to see these tools of power corrupted against “the system.” Power structures 932, People 5. It’s an unfair fight, but we can sleep at night knowing the machine has a flaw, somewhere. Its vision is faulty, its logic not watertight. It wants us to be machine-readable, symmetric, processable. We laugh by wearing t-shirts with its own distorted machine graphics. We blast the glitchy, whomping distortions of its delicate audio circuitry. We use the physical against the digital. In 1983 we played tic-tac-toe against your mainframe. Now we loop images of your mistakes, alongside celebrity wardrobe malfunctions and kitten comedy. We know your secret formula.’
— Scott Smith, ‘Glitched Out,’ 23/04/2012
Cartesian Minefield Politics/Economics Speculations Technology
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‘I am fascinated by possibilities. There’s nothing I like better than seeing what can be, than perhaps transitioning those possibilities into this world. In the past few years I have honed my ability to see possibilities (and a process to make them real). I can see around corners, juggle variables and play a metaphorical shell game with data, research & time extrapolations to create a cone of plausability, mine the possibilities in and around it (wildcards fall on the edge or outside of them) and identify (sometimes multiple based on your valueset/variables) preferred futures.’
— heathervescent, ‘Reflections on Preferred Futures, Possibilities & Impossibilities‘
Politics/Economics Pop Culture Speculations Technology [reading list]
Been dipping in and out of Eli Parisier’s The Filter Bubble (2011), as part of a longer piece I’m working on. Had some rough thoughts and jottings I wanted throw out into the darkness:
- ‘Personalized search for everyone’ (Google’s stated mission, for a time)
- The filter bubble provides ‘a unique universe of information for each of us … which fundamentally alters the way we encounter ideas and information’ (Parisier, 2011: 9)
- ‘When the technology’s job is to show you the world, it ends up sitting between you and reality, like a camera lens.’ (Parisier, 2011: 13)
- ‘Spain’s first gay retirement home passes its first hurdle‘ (The Guardian, 03/01/2011)
- ‘Something in the Air‘ (Frieze interview with Peter Sloterdijk)
- ‘State of Air‘ (BLDBLOG)
- Pillarisation (verzuiling) — ‘a term used to describe the politico-denominational segregation of Dutch and Belgian society … ”vertically” divided into several segments or “pillars” (zuilen) according to different religions or ideologies.’
- Doorbraak (‘breakthrough’) — ‘an attempt to renew the politics of the Netherlands after the Second World War.’
- ‘Openness and the Metaverse Singularity‘ (Jamais Cascio, 2007 — good on AR filtering)
- ‘Bridging Capital and Social Cohesion in an English village setting‘ (Roy Greenhalgh, 2008)
Starting to wonder if the our best chance of filter bubble-busting Doorbraak might have been something like ChatRoulette. Certainly, one of my highlights of 2010 was encouraging my neighbour to play guitar to a baffled Chilean dentistry student.
Academics Design Politics/Economics Speculations Technology [future shock]
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‘To both design and politics, futures affords some tools to crack open times-to-come as a far richer domain for discussion. It also offers the holistic systems-thinking and temporal reach that are necessary to move beyond ideology-driven argumentation about ‘the (singular) future’ into more systematic and multi-dimensional exploration. Politics, in its theoretical aspect, gives futurists and designers a sensitivity to power relations and a range of conceptions of the good and the just at the social level, and in its activist aspect, represents a tradition of exploring and concretely operationalising these ethics in the world. Designers give to futures and politics practitioners a much-needed dose of communications acumen and facility with media, along with a fusion of aesthetic (used here in the narrow sense) with the pragmatic; a necessary equilibrium between form and function.’
— Stuart Candy, ‘The Futures of Everyday Life‘ (2010)
Built Environment Fiction Material/Digital Politics/Economics Speculations Technology Writing [key texts]
photo credit: nicolasnova
I’ve spent most of the past month wrestling with the meaning and significance of this book; trying to work out what manner of beast it might be. A challenging task, with cascading revelations. To kick off, three observations:
1. Bruce Sterling is the Chairman – when it comes to his writing, I get all twitchy and excitable, with little possibility of critical distance.
2. Despite that, as a novel, The Caryatids (2009) is a conspicuous failure.
3. And despite this, I rate it as one of the most bold and important books of the last decade.
Caryatids? In classical architecture, a caryatid is a load-bearing pillar carved into a figurative sculpture of a woman. Something like this, from Athens’ Erechtheum:
Sterling’s caryatids are a set of clones, born of and raised by the ubicomp-obsessed widow of a Balkan warlord as tech support for a looming environmental apocalypse:
‘They had been the great septet of caryatids: seven young women, superwomen, cherished and entirely special, designed and created for the single mighty purpose of averting the collapse of the world. They were meant to support and bear its every woe.’ (pp. 18-19)
Personally, this conceit read as nothing so much as an inversion of what-I-knew of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1957), in which all the smart, productive people abscond, triggering societal collapse. In The Caryatids, collapse precedes the titular superwomen, who are created to hold up the world.
In this, Bruce sets up the conditions for a fascinating thought experiment, a microcosm of the whole structure/agency thing. When the girls’ ubicomp-mediated upbringing is interrupted in an attack by Balkan guerillas, the survivors scatter. Like light through a prism, the novel’s trio of genetically-identical protagonists allow Sterling to deploy a strange twist on the three-act narrative, with each chunk representing a single, stand-alone story, or point of inflection.
In embracing this structure, the novel reads like the bastard offspring of Gulliver’s Travels (1726) and Shell’s Signals & Signposts (2011) – some cumbersome and wholly unexpected mix of soap opera, satire, technical manual, and manifesto.
- The first clone-sister, Vera, remains in the Balkans, doing some heavy lifting on an environmental remediation project, under the banner of the Acquis: a post-geographic civil society group populated by anarcho-communist, exoskeleton-clad cyborgs.
- Mila, the second sister, marries into the ‘Family-Firm’, a South Californian mafia, taking in ‘real estate, politics, finance, everyware, retail, water interests … and of course entertainment.’ (p. 92)
- The final clone, Sonja, is a soldier-slash-field-medic in China, ‘the largest and most powerful state left on Earth.’ (p. 185)
Three takes on the apocalypse: cyborg environmentalism, Californian dynasticism, and Statism ‘with Chinese characteristics’. In The Spectre of Ideology (1995), Žižek notes how, from the inside, it often seems…
‘easier to imagine the ‘end of the world’ than the end of than a far more modest change in the mode of production, as if liberal capitalism is the ‘real’ that will somehow survive even under conditions of a global ecological catastrophe.’
In this, The Caryatids seems to have taken Žižek’s words as a direct challenge, with Bruce creating convincing, detailed visions of both. End of the world?
The Caryatids poses a scenario where, by 2060, climate change has resulted in a near-total collapse of state authority, leaving, as Doctorow puts it, ‘a slurry of refugees, rising seas, and inconceivable misery.’ The world as we know it is dead and buried.
Change in the means of production?
Well, none of the scenario-environments Bruce presents can realistically be seen as a continuation of the status quo. The Los Angeles chapter could, perhaps, be seen as a perverse iteration on start-up culture, but there seems to have been enough of a substantive change for it to represent something truly novel.
‘Brilliancy, speed, lightness, and glory‘ is a mantra we find repeated throughout the narrative, echoed by actors and agents from each of the political blocs. Within Acquis society, glory has been framed as the ultimate of virtues: ‘Glory was the source of communion. Glory was the spirit of the corps. Glory was a reason to be.’ (p. 47)
Seen against a background of environmental collapse, these Catholic values conjure some of Bruce’s earlier thoughts on something he dubbed ‘Gothic High-Tech‘:
‘In Gothic High-Tech, you’re Steve Jobs. You’ve built an iPhone which is a brilliant technical innovation, but you also had to sneak off to Tennessee to get a liver transplant because you’re dying of something secret and horrible.
And you’re a captain of American industry. You’re not some General Motors kinda guy. On the contrary, you’re a guy who’s got both hands on the steering wheel of a functional car.
But you’re still Gothic High-Tech because death is waiting. And not a kindly death either, but a sinister, creeping, tainted wells of Silicon Valley kind of Superfund thing that steals upon you month by month, and that you have to hide from the public and from the bloggers and from the shareholders.
And you just grit your teeth and pull out the next one. A heroic story, but very Gothic. Something that belongs in an eighteenth century horror novel. Kind of the “man in the castle” figure.’
This reassertion of a catholic-gothic sensibility is something I have explored elsewhere in relation to domestic and homeland (in)security. In Caryatids, Bruce links the catholic-gothic thing to science fiction’s origins in the romantic tales of Mary Shelly and her ilk. In the words of Vera’s confidant, aiming for something close to reassurance: “You can’t convince us that you’re the big secret monster from the big secret monster lab. Because we know you, and we know how you feel.” (p. 21)
We can see it in anxieties about the impact of new technologies on what it means to be human, with some kind of public broadcast of brain activity amongst the Acquis fundamentally changing the nature of sociality and group identity: ‘These were people made visible from the inside out, and that visibility was changing them. Vera knew that the sensorweb was melting them inside, just as it was melting the island’s soil, the seas, even the skies …’ (p. 26)
In this world, an individual’s relationship to technology is characterised by ambivalence, suspicion, and a wholly gothic dependence. ‘The Acquis and the Dispension hated China’s state secrecy, for they were obsessed with rogue technologies spinning out of control. Internal combustion: a rogue technology spun out of control. Electric light: a rogue technology spun out of control. Fossil fuel: the flesh of the necromantic dead, risen from its grave, had wrecked the planet.’ (p. 230)
This catholic-gothic tendency also manifests in the protagonists’ total and instinctive loathing for each other, a detail rooted in the uncanny self-annihilatory narratives of shapeshifters, body-snatchers and doppelgängers, and something Sterling leverages to great effect.
But this is, ultimately, a story of redemption; redemption and agency. It plays with some of the worst-case scenarios for the unfolding climate crisis, and then shows some ways in which, despite everything, humanity might be able to claw its way back from the brink. It’s one of several books I could cite that, post-2000, have begun to refresh our vocabulary of the future, with the potential to shift talk away from the simple-minded narratives of collapse and technological salvation – stories we use to absolve ourselves of agency and responsibility.
Working with a novum-packed narrative, Sterling focuses on the fallibility and inadequacy of the superstar, the wunderkind, and the auteur. Despite everything, this is a decidedly anti-heroic book. The clone-sisters are twisted fuck-ups. Deployed as ‘agents of redemption’, the weight on their shoulders leaves them febrile, erratic, and riddled with neuroses.
The real solutions are in the systems of participation; superstructures capable of supporting a raft of increasingly radical projects. In the words of Californian wunderkind Lionel, the answer is openness: such radical projects “need widespread distributed oversight, with peer review and loyal opposition to test them. They have to be open and testable.” (p. 252)
Chinese state secrecy isn’t the answer. Despite it’s pretensions, the can-do attitude of the Californian ‘military-entertainment complex’ falters, powerless, in the face of earthquakes and volcanoes. And the European techno-anarchists, however seductive their vision, are an ‘extremist group’ practicing ‘sensory totalitarianism’ to brainwash climate refugees.
Whatever the novel’s narrative flaws, the first chapter is worth the price of admission, as a near-perfect combination of worldbuilding, character and cognitive estrangement.
Overall? Compelling and transformative, shot through with veins of disarming sincerity, The Caryatids is part second-hand motorboat, part Viking funerary barge. Departing the harbour, it sputters and flames. Then it sinks.
But by that point, it’s already rewired your brain.
Academics Politics/Economics Publishing Travel Writing
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Venture ethnography | Speculative travel writing | Territorial futures
Introducing Project Cascadia: my attempt to bootstrap a new(ish) mode of writing into existence.
3–6 weeks in North America’s Pacific Northwest, in search of traces of Cascadia. Fodder for a series of essays and investigations. Presented in a book. Crowdfunded by you; the proud and attractive people of the internet.
Then, for more in the way of detail (a lot more), join me below…
Project Cascadia is the test-case for a cluster of ideas I’ve been playing with for the best part of five years. A chance to break out my signature obsessions …
Hauntings, world expos, gonzo journalism, science fiction, systems, geopolitics, utopianism, virtuality, globalisation, the sublime, resilience, collapsonomics, aesthetics, architecture, environmentalism, infrastructure, design, futures studies, sovereignty, atemporality, risk, the nation-state, the uncanny, Americana, technoscience, cyberpunk, multispecies ethnography, fiction, capitalism, the human senses, counterfactual history, media and cyborgs (and media cyborgs)
… and nail them to the mast of a weird and interstitial sort of boat; a soupy, hybrid writing practice that would combine the best of ethnography, journalism and science fiction.
Trips to San Francisco (2009), Iceland (2010), and Dublin (2011) demonstrated my incapability of approach travel in any kind of ‘normal’ way. A born infovore, I kept getting caught up in the minutae, symbolism, and historical specificity of the place, and ended up ambushing tour guides with questions about medieval property law and taking lots of photos of construction hoardings.
Part of this is down to a strange education, with a joint honours degree in Anthropology and International Relations (blending the local and the global), and a masters in Digital Media.
Both of these programmes allowed me the freedom to shoehorn in all kinds of stuff, adding science fiction to offshore finance; american literature to biotechnology; and penning essays on the aesthetics of Guantanamo Bay, the Principality of Sealand, airports, post-colonial Mumbai, and Richard Kelly’s cult masterpiece/traversty Southland Tales (2007).
In lieu of a biography, then, I’m offering a bibliography. Five years of my brain, in books, articles, essays, and blog posts. I fully expect this to be a forest of broken links by this time next week, but, in the meantime, it should begin to give you an idea of where I stand … and, yes, why I might be doing this.
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983)
Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (1996)
‘Spectral housing and urban cleansing: notes on millennial Mumbai‘, Public Culture 12:3 (2000)
Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (1992)
J. G. Ballard, Vermillion Sands (1971)
‘My Dream of Flying to Wake Island‘ (Guardian podcast)
Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village (2007)
Nigel Barley, The Innocent Anthropologist: Notes From a Mud Hut (1983)
Jean Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (1991)
Lauren Beukes, Zoo City (2010)
Hakim Bey, The Temporary Autonomous Zone (1991)
Gray Brechin, Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin (2006)
John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar (1968)
Jamais Cascio, ‘Legacy Futures‘, Open the Future (2008)
‘Three Possible Economic Models‘, Fast Company (2009)
‘Three Possible Economic Models, Part 2‘, Fast Company (2009)
Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston (1975)
Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends (2008)
Jean and John Comaroff, ‘Alien-Nation: Zombies, Immigrants and Millennial Capitalism’, South Atlantic Quarterly 101:4 (2002)
‘Millennial Capitalism: First Thoughts on a Second Coming‘, Public Culture 12:2 (2000)
‘Occult economies and the violence of abstraction: notes from the South African postcolony’, American Ethnologist 26:2 (1999)
Douglas Coupland, ‘A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years‘, Globe and Mail (2010)
Generation A (2009)
Erik Davis, TechGnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information (2004)
Mike Davis, City of Quartz (1990)
Cory Doctorow, Makers (2009)
Keller Easterling, Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and Its Political Masquerades (2005)
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)
Warren Ellis, Shivering Sands (2009)
Matthew Gandy, ‘Cyborg Urbanization: Complexity and Monstrosity in the Contemporary City‘, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 29:1 (2005)
Bradley L. Garrett, ‘Urban explorers: quests for myth, mystery and meaning’, Geography Compass (2010) [video]
Place Hacking (2008-present)
William Gibson, ‘The Gernsback Continuum’, Burning Chrome (1986)
Zero History (2010)
Spook Country (2007)
Pattern Recognition (2003)
David Graeber, Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire (2007)
Adam Greenfield, ‘Thoughts for an eleventh September: Alvin Toffler, Hirohito, Sarah Palin‘, Speedbird (2008)
Richard Grusin, Premediation: Affect and Mediality After 9/11 (2010)
Charlie Hailey, Camps: A Guide to 21st-Century Space (2009)
Donna Haraway, When Species Meet (2007)
Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1990)
Stefan Helmreich, Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas (2009)
Dan Hill, ‘The Street as Platform‘, City of Sound (2008)
Drew Jacob, ‘How to be ExPoMod‘, Most Interesting People in the Room
Sarah Kember, ‘Media, Mars and Metamorphosis‘, Culture Machine (2010)
Naomi Klein, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002)
Alan Klima, ‘Spirits of ‘Dark Finance’: A Local Hazard for the International Moral Fund’, Cultural Dynamics (2006)
‘Thai Love Thai: Financing Emotion in Post-crash Thailand‘, Ethnos (2004)
Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (1991)
Ursula Le Guin, Changing Planes (2003)
The Disposessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)
Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841)
Geoff Manaugh, The BLDGBLOG Book (2009)
Ian McDonald, The Dervish House (2010)
River of Gods (2004)
Suketu Mehta, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found (2004)
China Mieville, The City & the City (2009)
‘Covehithe‘, The Guardian (2011)
‘M.R. James and the Quantum Vampire – Weird; Hauntological: Versus and/or and and/or or?‘, Collapse IV (2008)
‘Floating Utopias‘, In These Times (2007)
Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (2002)
Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)
Keith Roberts, Pavane (1968)
Jim Rossignol, This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities (2008)
Geoff Ryman, Air (2005)
Stephen Shaviro, Post-Cinematic Affect (2010)
Gary Shtenyngart, Super Sad True Love Story (2010)
Francis Spufford, Red Plenty (2010)
Bruce Sterling, The Caryatids (2009)
‘Designer Futurescape‘, Make 18 (2009)
‘Dispatches from the Hyperlocal Future‘, Wired (2007)
Holy Fire (1996)
Islands in the Net (1988)
‘State of the World, 20––‘, The Well (2001-present)
Michael Taussig, What Color is the Sacred? (2009)
‘Zoology, Magic, and Surrealism in the War on Terror‘, Critical Inquiry 34:S2 (2008)
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 (1973)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971)
There you go; everything interesting and/or relevant I’ve read in the last half-decade. *jazz hands*
In the second part of this cynically self-promotional series, to follow sometime in the next week, I’ll start to weave some of the items from this list into something more useful and cohesive, and begin looking at what this hybrid form of writing might actually look like. Join me then.