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Two basic activities emerge. A person may work “on” the digital or “within” it. In the former, one’s attention is directed from the outside in, taking the medium itself as its object, while in the latter one takes the perspective of the medium itself, radiating attention outward to other contexts and environments. To generalize from this, the first position (working “on”) is labeled modern or, when applied to art and aesthetics, modernist. And the latter position (working “within”) is labeled non-modern, be it premodern, postmodern, or some other alternative.

In the modern “on” mode, infrastructure is everything. Content dissolves into context, and context itself becomes content. Hence the great mantra of modernity is “there is no content”—or, as Marshall McLuhan famously put it, “the medium is the message”—since all content is overwhelmed by context. By contrast, in the non-modern, premodern, or postmodern mode of working “within,” content is what it is, no more and no less. Here content provides its own context, and the environment grows in accordance with the emergent emanations of the inside. No larger transcendental category arrives like a conquistador to command and encompass it from outside. For the non-modern, the message is the message. And any other loftiness—from heaven above to down below—will always be legible right there within it. Indeed, only a modern would ever invent the word “content” in the first place.

Where does the artist duo Jodi (or stand in all of this? The answer seems clear enough. They are moderns through and through. There is no Jodi work that is not oriented toward the digital as its object and material. There is no Jodi work that is not on and about the material. They display in abundance that great modernist virtue of self-referentiality. The material of their work is quite simply the material itself.

Jodi are thus stubbornly out of step with the dominant rhythms of contemporary art. Less obsessed with the cultural or social effects of new media, Jodi orient themselves toward the specificities of hardware and software. The resulting aesthetic is, in this way, not entirely specified by the artists’ subjective impulses. Instead, the texture of code and computation takes over, and computing itself—its strange logic, its grammar and structure, and often its shape and color—produces the aesthetic.

Infrastructure changes slowly. Even as word processors and other applications began to support Unicode, many of the internet’s internal technologies were late adopters. The IDN standard, only in use since 2010, was designed to allow Unicode characters within domain names, both top-level suffixes and server names. Thus, after the implementation of IDN, users may surf to pages with addresses ending in .рф instead of .ru (Russia) or .中国 instead of .cn (China). Likewise each server and hostname may be rendered in languages that don’t use the Latin alphabet, such as Arabic or Greek. Still, the apparent universality of IDN is something of an illusion. Certain characters are prohibited outright to help avoid phishing attacks using similar looking glyphs. And, in fact, each Unicode domain is transcoded into an ASCII string behind the scenes. ASCII's much smaller character set, consisting of the letters A–Z, the numerical digits 0–9, plus a few forms of simple punctuation, is considered to be simpler and more difficult to spoof. And, given that the Web was built on ASCII, it is easier to add Unicode support as a special form of ASCII encoding than change the Web’s entire naming technology. For instance, a browser aimed at a Unicode address like “ꈸ.net” will first translate the address to the corresponding ASCII version, in this case “,” and then fetch that address instead. In other words, even if a user sees Chinese or Russian characters on the screen, it’s still ASCII underneath.

Jodi’s IDN is a series of websites using single Unicode glyphs as domain names, all under the .net or .com top-level domains. Besides the primary glyph domains, additional websites are referenced via internal links. For example, ꉆ.com refreshes to ꍞ.com which refreshes back to ꉆ.com in a continuous loop. A few of the domains are as yet still empty, and a few others proffer short messages or other information. ཀ.com and ᠐.com both simply repeat the project’s opening salutation, that “Apache is functioning normally.”

At first glance, Jodi’s IDN seems to resemble ASCII art or concrete poetry. I’m reminded of Carl Andre’s typewriter poems where text appears on the page as geometric shapes. But despite this superficial similarity, IDN is in fact doing something a bit different. Jodi have woven their geometric shapes from out of a complicated hypertextual structure. Less concrete poetry, this is a kind of infrastructure poetry. The project ꀍ.com, for instance, requires a whole series of elaborate if not absurd host names. And to a certain extent, the work itself is nothing but a series of such names. When all the names are combined in a vertical stack, they create a patterned field of text. (One can only assume that Jodi had to write a series of scripts to automatically generate these many dozens of web pages, a tedious task if attempted by hand.)

Where does the work reside? Two places. First, Jodi seem interested in isolating certain parts of the screen, even certain parts of the browser. The browser’s address bar, for instance, is treated here as a kind of miniature canvas for slow-motion animation. Like the structural films of Tony Conrad, Jodi create each animation frame by frame from discontinuous elements. A glyph becomes a single frame in a slow-motion film. When the glyphs combine in series, they give the illusion of movement. Like a form of primitive cinema, entire animations appear solely inside the address bar.

But the work resides in a second place as well. The projects in IDN are assembled not so much from discrete web pages as from the negative space existing between such pages. Jodi are interested in HTML, to be sure, but here they also display a penchant for the very standards and protocols of the web itself—how pages are assigned addresses and how servers transfer pages to clients. The “infrastructure” in this infrastructure poetry is thus the agglomeration of server software (Apache), addressing technologies (IDN and DNS), transfer protocols (HTTP), and finally, web browsers and the HTML they are designed to display.

Jodi’s infrastructural modernism, if we can call it that, is interesting because it suspends the distinction between art and technology without making one subservient to the other. Jodi are artists who insist on the importance of seemingly uninteresting technical minutiae, such as character-encoding schemes and other tedious matters. And they are technologists who insist that the beauty of code comes not from function and elegance but from a different set of virtues—dysfunction and inelegance to be sure, but also confusion and excitement, violence and energy. The result is not so much a mechanization of art, nor that clumsy concept “the art of the machine,” but a much more simple and mundane reality: the computer as medium.

Jodi’s Infrastructure - Journal #74...

Added by André Fincato
Updated 3 days ago


Rather than strive to perfect authority, Beer’s manage­ment cyber­netics was an in fact an imped­i­ment to the manage­rial ego, empha­sizing its poten­tial for distrib­uted authority rather than autocracy.

As Medina empha­sizes, Cybersyn was distin­guished both from CNC and Soviet cybernetics by placing the knowl­edge and skills of workers at the heart of the system, at least in theory. Cybersyn and the VSM did not need to act on different indi­vid­uals for each role in the system: in prin­ciple, they could be used as tools for self-manage­ment or lead­er­less orga­ni­za­tions, compa­rable to Edward De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats.”

Quality control is cyber­netic: it feeds back analysis of the products of manu­fac­ture (or labour) into the ongoing devel­op­ment of that process of manu­fac­ture (or labour). Quality assur­ance is home­ostasis; contin­uous quality improve­ment is homeorhesis. But quality control is a closed loop of business processes in the CNC tradi­tion rather than a Cybersyn-style system for balancing self-manage­ment with system integrity. Cyber­netic analysis of the system as a whole, its social as well as its tech­nical elements, provides us with the intel­lec­tual resources to crit­i­cize and trans­form these processes of produc­tion in forgotten but useful ways.

As Medina demon­strates with the examples both of Cybersyn’s inter­na­tional recep­tion and the ultimate fate of tech­no­log­ical elements of the project, it is very hard to embody politics in tech­nology. Both propo­nents and critics of Bitcoin and of socialist alter­na­tives to “Stacks” would do well to remember this. And devel­opers of Smart Contracts and Distributed Autonomous Organizations can take Cybersyn’s non-monetary measure­ments of economic activity as an example of resource manage­ment without tokens, but should look closely at the project’s expe­ri­ence of inter­facing algo­rithmic manage­ment with the pres­sures and temp­ta­tions of the external, social world.

The Art of Management ·

Added by André Fincato
Updated 2 days ago

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