Incredible Machines (2014)

The Incredible Machines conference held last Friday and Saturday threaded discussion of technology (by theorists and artists) together with some impressive boundary-pushing on the exploitation side. Despite some inevitable tech-hitches, the ‘real’ (or Vancouver meat-space) and virtual (global Cyberspace) components of the event were inter-networked with remarkable vividness, and even a certain smoothness. Internet-driven delocalization was crossing a threshold, in a way that any future international event will find difficult to ignore.

Youtube video — and transcripts? — are accessible from the event website. (The Incredible Machines Facebook page also has some bits and pieces.)

I’m still catching up with what happened, due to time-zone complications. (This was brutally combined with moving apartment — I’m vaguely terrified by the prospect of hearing the short audio segment from Shanghai, given the amount of domestic chaos that has to be leaking in from the sides.) No doubt fortunately from the perspective of the conference, UF‘s participation was marginal and dislocated, but it was involving enough to be stimulating, enjoyable, and educational. Special thanks from here to Mohammed Salemy for his technical support (which involved him crawling about inside my computer from across the Pacific at one point), and also to Jason Adams for keeping the connectivity together during the event itself. The Google Hang-out crew were great fun to be with (I’ll be trying to hunt them down in Cyberspace where possible).

As I get a chance to digest the Incredible Machines material, it’s sure to jut into the blog with a time-lag (and not only because #Accelerate was clearly a major presence). Initial impressions from this peculiar angle: some decades-old futurism is now arriving (fast), provoking an aesthetic and intellectual response. It really is happening (but what is ‘it’?).

When looking back upon what has just taken place, perhaps its most remarkable aspect was structural reflexivity. The event itself was the very thing under discussion — the delivery of contemporary Internet technology as an obscure media object. It was run upon what it designated as its topic. How much of this reflex was overtly articulated? — Answering that question requires a closer and more distant, retrospectively-cooled examination.

How to proceed? My unprocessed suspicion: perhaps starting with the title will make sense …

ADDED: Matteo Pasquinelli poses the critical question.

ADDED: Joshua Johnson’s response to Nick Srnicek.

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