SFPC’s Code Societies, our winter intensive session, will examine the ideological and corporeal attributes of computation; concentrating on the poetics and politics of culturally embedded software. How do different platforms and processes — including algorithms, data collection, social media, infrastructure, and interface — yield distinct modes of seeing, thinking, feeling, and reinforce existing systems of power? Through a balanced study of critical theory discussion and hands-on coding workshops, students will create small projects that explore and question these ideas.
No coding experience necessary; only enthusiasm and willingness to reconsider how code shapes and is shaped by society. The session will begin with a brief introduction to programming with Python and navigating the command line.
Central to Code Societies is understanding technology as culture and culture as social technology. Students are encouraged to engage with code and the ways code acts on our bodies and networks equally as subject and as medium. Code Societies is both this session’s subject and it’s prompt; an invitation to consider coding and choreographing new ways of being in relation with each other. Student’s should expect to develop several small scores or sketch pieces that may exist online, on screens, be performed, or installed.
Code Societies Winter 2019 session is organized by Melanie Hoff and the teaching assistants are Ying Quan Tan and Nabil Hassein.
Melanie Hoff and Taeyoon Choi
An introduction to Code Societies as the session’s theme and it’s prompt along with an introduction to SFPC from Taeyoon Choi.
Melanie Hoff and Nabil Hassein
A one-session class covering the primary computational methods of Code Societies Classes: Winter 2019.
Together we will defamiliarize and refamiliarize ourselves with the Command Line Interface, Git/Github, running Python 3 in the terminal, & running Python 3 with Anaconda Jupyter Notebook. We will navigate folder structure narratives with the command line, time travel with Git, code socially with Github, and process language with Python.
This two-part workshop examines the physical gesture and material artifacts of the act of writing, as seen through the lens of computation and digital media. Taking contemporary and historical practices in asemic poetry, experimental typography and automatic writing as inspiration, participants will use the Python programming language to prototype speculative writing technologies that challenge conventional reading practices and notions of sense-making.
Building Nets for Floating Data is a one-session class on scraping information from websites, including text, images, and source code. We will talk about potential uses of large datasets, look at examples of artworks that use scraping as their informational backbone, and survey the ecosystem of online information gathering at large.
We will discuss popular alternatives to scraping, from APIs (online communication portals that serve data from organizations) to pre-gathered datasets uploaded to Github (for machine learning and other tasks). We will talk about this type of packaged data, as well as bias that is so often contained within.
By web-scraping without going through an organizational or corporate medium, we are able to make datasets that are more flexible, personal, and just. We are able to pull information from websites, organizations, or individuals that do not have the overhead to provide an official access point, as well as to build systems that help push back against the social, racial, economic, and other biases so often contained in large datasets. We may also be able to circumnavigate political or corporate ‘locks’ on data, scraping information that may be hidden.
After getting a handle on the landscape of web-scraping at large, we will talk about the type of websites that are easy to work with and look over example code in Python 3 and Node.js. By the end of the class, everyone will have a working web-scraper on their machine to use in the future.
Distributed Web of Care is an initiative to code to care and code carefully. In this class there will engage in three different activities. First, we will investigate centralized, decentralized, distributed and peer to peer networks. We will analyze the popular technology platforms, focusing on its network infrastructure and terms of services. We will compare them with decentralized alternatives such as Dat Peer to Peer Protocol and Scuttlebutt. Second, we will take on performative exercises to explore the feeling of being in a network. We will learn to move around in physical space with strings in order to care, not control, each other. Lastly, we will imagine the kinds of network we want for the future and we will discuss how we can build it with code and code of conduct. We will distribute our code and code of conduct as zines in physical print and data, published with Dat.
Whose world is this? The World is Ours. Together students will work thru a Beta version of BUFUs latest experimental model on organizing WYFY - a project seeking to invite us to rethinking how we build space online// IRL for our most equitable future. We will also participate in various meditative exercises to exorcize technology.
Much of the technology we encounter in our daily lives takes the form of a service, and of servitude. Our desires are taken as a given, and technology attempts for fulfillment.
What is technology that debates and disputes, rather than fulfills our desires? What is intimate software, created by us, only for us, that debates with our ethical selves?
In this session, let’s experiment together with creating ethicsware: software in dialogue with our ethical selves. Using checklists and chatbots as a starting point, we’ll code with Python and use messaging APIs to create ethicsware experiments. We’ll talk about ELIZA, a psychotherapist chatbot created in 1966, the influence of classist labor practices onto technology, and the ethics of emotional labor.
What does it mean to create technology that operates on our ethics? What is technology that does not serve us, but is concerned for us? Technologies of care and concern, over service and fulfillment? Let’s find out together.
The internet as we live with it today could be conceived of as one of the most ambitious long-term geoengineering projects of human civilization. How can we learn to look for and understand the large-scale global terraforming projects shaping our lives at a more human-sized dimension? This workshop will map and explore the many landscapes shaped by and shaping code society.
An introduction to cybernetics as the study of the ways we shape and are shaped by systems of feedback and control. Through the example of sexual reproduction and the ways sex become gender, we will look at social regulatory systems in the technological frameworks in which we are embedded and in the social pressures that govern our behavior. We will tease out social patterns and norms that emerge over time, through bodies, and come together to create culture.
we play programmed. is a class about performance, not just as an art but performance as behavior.
We prioritize certain behaviors curated by social programming, whether by poetry or by survival. Through dissecting Fluct’s latest work ‘everythingmakesmehappy.’, we will discuss the processes used to create performance aimed at exposing and ultimately interrupting the psychology of social programming. With fluid interruption, responsive support and acute presence, we are aiming to disable oppressive structures in order to become the authors of our existence.
We will look in depth at Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s theory of software as an analogy for ideology and how she traces early computational design to existing dynamics of gender, power and control. We will also read the essay Black Gooey Universe by American Artist which considers how the erasure of Blackness (both formally and racially) was significant to the development of early computer interfaces. We will look at examples of artists and artworks that operate within these modes of critique.
Critical Simulation is a workshop session in part about the dominant simulations and dominant models which create the world we live in, their underlying ideologies, and the necessity for constant critical examination of these simulations and models, bodies, and forms engineered to organize and master the world. We’ll take a short ride through the founding utopianism of Silicon Valley, followed by a rigorous critique of the techno-utopian fantasy of a forever westward-bound restart with each commune and alternative living establishment, in which people are emptied of history and politics. We will examine how this “ideal” undergirds Silicon Valley’s visions of engineering people into “functioning better” in a more “efficient” society where the violence of neutrality erases possibility for productive change along lines of difference. This idea of difference as difficulty, of the tabula rasa as a starting point, has failed us over and over again. What alternative simulations for living might there be, which technology and social models could be based upon? How do current simulations embed this fantasy of the frontier into ideology, in which we exist and move in voids without pasts? How does digital space allow for a kind of nihilism, a happy bliss in which this void is preferable, the past erased along an endlessly receding horizon, its motives disappeared? What would models that acknowledge context, history, and “facts,” begin to look like? We have at our hands, in the Internet, the effect of an Akashic record that can pull up all material on the “difficult” societies, violent histories, and systemic oppressions – but no simulation builds these materials into their foundational models. Simulate until you make it: we will together design our own models as a class. How can we work with and through the techno-utopian ideal of starting over, that is so deeply embedded into engineering? How do we make simulations that allow for difficulty and complexity and contradictory, clashing personal and social histories? Who do we imagine living on in the future? How are the worlds we are engineering today making life untenable for the models that aren’t included or created to begin with? How do we move from living on the edges of simulations, and possibly into the center of the worlds we move through?