From XPUB & Lens-Based wiki


Reading, Writing and Research Methodologies with Steve Rushton



  • a] Discuss our collective practices of reading and writing
  • b] What kinds of writing have we done so far?
  • c] How do we read and write on a day to day basis

Mark: "Taking very small, essential notes. Feels resistence towards writing because the need to be comprehensive. Aims for brevity. Keeps list of short 'funny' conceptual sentences out of their context. Reads online articles. Finds it hard to implement reading and writing in his daily practice."

Very helpful structure to write a (short) description of a project.


  • 1) What is the writer proposing? (main argument)
  • 2) What do they conclude?
  • 3) How is this relevant to my research and work?

The Interface Effect (Chapter: The Unworkable Interface) - Alexander R. Galloway

1) Very hard to read as a first introduction text on Interface. Galloway does an excellent job in dismanteling the seemingly familiair term, describing the Interface as an effect: "it emerges from this incompatibility; it is this incompatibility." And later says: "As technology, the more a dioptric device erases the traces of its own functioning (in actually delivering the thing represented beyond), the more it succeeds in its functional mandate; yet this very achievement undercuts the ultimate goal: the more intuitive a device becomes, the more it risks falling out of media altogether, becoming as naturalized as air or as common as dirt."

(Michel Serres: "Systems work because they don't work. Non­ functionality remains essential for functionality. This can be formalized: pretend there are two stations exchanging mes­sages through a channel. If the exchange succeeds - if it is perfect, optimal, immediate - then the relation erases itself. But if the relation remains there, if it exists, it's because the exchange has failed. It is nothing but mediation. The relation is a non-relation.")

2) Taken from Amazon Book review: "Galloway considers the unworkable nature of all interfaces, from windows and doors to screens and keyboards. Considered allegorically, such thresholds do not so much tell the story of their own operations but beckon outward into the realm of social and political life, and in so doing ask a question to which the political interpretation of interfaces is the only coherent answer." “Interfaces are not things, but rather processes that effect a result of whatever kind” and “culture is history in representational form.” The writer expands upon interfaces are processes idea: “What if we refuse to embark from the premise of “technical media” and instead begin from the perspective of their supposed predicates: storing, transmitting and processing? With the Verbal nouns at the helm, a new set of possibilities appears. These are modes of mediation, not media per se.”

Drawing Connections: How Interfaces Matter (Interface Critique) - Jan Distelmeyer

Intro Interface Critique - Beyond UX by Florian Cramer: "An interface – in a merely technological perspective – is a site where incoherent modes of communication are rendered coherent1 and where signals are translated and combined,2 a simple gateway between databases, code modules and other forms of machine based communication."

Drawing Connections - Why Interfaces Matter: "Since interfaces form the complex of connections and processes that both enables a computer to fulfill its promise of being a general purpose machine and establishes the connections we call networks, the question of interfaces becomes inescapable if we want to deal with the actual presence of various computers, no matter how seamless or “ready-to- hand”1 they may appear.

Graphical user interfaces are but one of the multilayered aspects characterizing interfaces in terms of digital computing. These “symbolic handles”, as Florian Cramer and Matthew Fuller call them, “which [...] make software accessible to users” depend on and are connected to other interface aspects and processes, such as hardware connecting humans/bodies to hardware, hardware connecting hardware to hardware, software connecting software to hardware, and software providing software-to-software connections.

Designing Calm Technology (1995) - Mark Weiser & John Seely Brown

1) In this text, the writers discuss what they believe is a challenge in technology design. With Calm Technology, they mean "designs that both encalm and inform." Since a lot of technology is fighting for our attention, "Calm Technology is trying to stay in our periphery; anything but on the fringe or unimportant." By being it able to move from the center our attention to the periphery and back, they give two reasons why this in encalming: "First, by placing things in the periphery we are able to attune to many more things than we could if everything had to be at the center." "Second, by recentering something formerly in the periphery we take control of it."

From transparency in office window design, Multicast, to The Dangling String by artist Natalie Jeremijenko: an artwork that calmly vibrates to visualise the data-streams that flow trough an office as is usually invisible, "The dangling string increases our peripheral reach to the formerly inaccessible network traffic."

2.) writers call for awareness so we don't get dominated by it. This is an interesting statement because we can discuss it wether or not this was taken into account, since the article was written in 1995.

3.) One could argue that the function of the art work they use as a key example in the article: is it really important to visualise data streams? How Calm is Calm? And is Calm neccecary? (When we discusses this text in a group (Avital & Sandra), we noted the fact that office workspaces nowadays often are designed for extraverted people. Open, shared, etc. What about introverted people?) I think everyone has a different peripheral zone since it linked to the brain ("Things in the periphery are attuned to by the large portion of our brains devoted to peripheral (sensory) processing. Thus the periphery is informing without overburdening.")

Another interesting point of view that is briefly mentioned in the text is on graphic design: "The same physical form may even have elements in both the center and periphery. The ink that communicates the central words of a text also, though choice of font and layout, peripherally clues us into the genre of the text."

The Third Meaning of Technical Mediation (small extract from Pandora's Hope 1999) - Bruno Latour

There is no Software (1995) - Friedrich Kittler

Reflections on Trusting Trust (1984) - Ken Thompson

Do Artefacts have Politics - Langdon Winner (MIT-Press,1980)

1.) The author claims that technical objects have political properties and can embody forms of authority and subordination. He suggests that we pay close attention to the properties of the technologies that surround us and the meaning of those properties. The writer provides examples of technical systems of various kind which at first sight may not explicitly express any form of political intent, but have in reality been designed to produce concrete social consequences. 

To give certain example: If you design a machine that makes human labour easier, it may cause job loss/ afffect certain social groups. Or it can change the qualitity or characteristics of things like the invention of the Tomato harvest machine. Because the machine functioned better with hard tomatoes, it changed the way the tomatoes were grown. Artifacts can also be designed as a political strategy. An example: Long Island Parkway Bridges were designed to exclude racial miniorities from the upper class suburban area. They were intentionally built so low that busses, often used by people from the lower social classes, could not drive underneath it. 

These examples show how some technologies have been deployed to discriminate, pose threats, and maintain a regime of power where skilled leaders are those making choices. Workers are often not given the right to participate in the decision-making process which rules how technology influences the way people connect with each other."

2.)The writes states that you can't be neutral when you are designing something. Artifacts do have politics.

3.) It makes you question your own role in decision making process and be more aware of your role as creator, publisher and organiser. What do you make, why, for who, where and how is the work published? What is the stake?

All Problems of Notation Will Be Sorted by the Masses

Psychosonics and the Modulationof Public Space (On Subversive Sonic Techniques) Mark Bain

Artist Mark Bain’s work focuses on the interaction between sound, architecture and public space. Triggered by the emergence of new sound techniques for crowd control, he reflects on ‘psychosonics as an invisible tactile material to provoke a public’, using William Burroughs’ ‘audio virusses’ and his own sound art as points of reference.

The Time of Roland Kayns Cybernetic Music - Thomas W Patteson

…Cybernetic music is based instead on 'a generative process in which existing soundmaterials are fed back upon themselves in order to create deviations from that which came before'. In its simplest form, this process begets only cyclical variation - 'negative feedback', which aims for equilibrium and stability, typified by the quotidian technology of the thermostat. But as more information is introduced in to the system, the more unpredictable its behaviour becomes. The non-linearity of cybernetic systems allows the music to break out of regulated cyclical patterns and perform ' sudden jumps' from one state to another. The interweaving of inputs and outputs creates positive feedback, as signals crisscross the system and redouble upon themselves, causing unforeseeable transformations: this brings about' the immense expansion of the acoustic domain... which can neither be imagined nor a tained throughout herth an cybernetic means'.

Press Pause: The history of Pause Tape Production - Gino Sorcinelli

The writer is taking the reader back in history and describes "how a good pause button and a vivid imagination were all young hip-hop enthusiasts needed to create something out of their sense of wonder." Using a stereo with dual cassette decks, aspiring DJs and producers would play and record a sample from another tape or record, pausing the tape once the sample had finished its rotation. They would then rewind to the beginning of the sample and un-pause the tape, starting the process again and extending the sampled loop for several minutes. This DIY method for producing sample-based music was the foundation in how the esthetics of hip-hop intrumentals evolved.


Softwarestudies - edited by Matthew Fuller

Imagining the Seamless Cyborg: Computer System Sounds as Embodying

Technologies - Daniel Ploeger

Words made flesh - Florian Cramer

Taken from a summary: "A b s t r a c t: Executable code existed centuries before the invention of the computer in magic, Kabbalah, musical composition and experimental poetry. These practices are often neglected as a historical pretext of contemporary software culture and electronic arts. Above all, they link computations to a vast speculative imagination that encompasses art, language, technology, philosophy and religion. These speculations in turn inscribe themselves into the technology. Since even the most simple formalism requires symbols with which it can be expressed, and symbols have cultural connotations, any code is loaded with meaning. This booklet writes a small cultural history of imaginative computation, reconstructing both the obsessive persistence and contradictory mutations of the phantasm that symbols turn physical, and words are made flesh."


Paul Pangaro | What Is Cybernetics?

Cybernetics (coming from the Greek word 'to steer') is about steering to the goal; All intelligent systems have this property of trying, acting, seeing the difference, changing acting seeing, sensing. This loop of seeing, acting, comparing to the goal is a self-correcting system. Social, biological, technological. (Describing systems that "have goals".)

The Thinking Machine (1961) - MIT

Bell Labs Innovation Song (2000) - Lucent Technologies

Microworld with William Shatner (1976) - AT&T

Hyperland (1990) - Douglas Adams

Cinco Midi Organiser (2009) - Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!

35 Year-Old C64 Easter Egg Hidden On Vinyl

In 1984, the Christian rock band Prodigal hid a Commodore 64 program on their album "Electric Eye". This video show the attempts to retrieve and run this 35-year-old easter egg. Audio as software.


  • Eliane Radigue | Feedback Works 1969-1970 [2012, Full Album]
  • Roland Kayn - Etoral
  • Steve Reich - Come Out (Original Ver.)
  • Alvin Lucier - I Am Sitting In A Room


Interface: Writing (written language) as piece of software. Alphabet as a software that produces human language. "The act of writing emerged when people needed to capture memories."

Sample libraries

Great place to get texts