Last summer photographer ↑Timothy Allen met Alexander Ivanov, a colleague of his, at a photo festival in Bulgaria: ‘Back then he showed me some pictures of what looked to me like a cross between a flying saucer and Doctor Evil’s hideout perched atop a glorious mountain range.’ This winter Timothy went there, 250km from Sofia, and took ↑glorious pictures of the Buzludzha monument, a gigantic, now abandoned and decaying monument to socialism. The pictures show the building from the outside, the inside, and even from the sky. Goes well with the ↵cosmic communist constructions photographed by Frédéric Chaubin.
American-born, Paris-based photographer ↑Peter Lippman explores a world of stationary cars overtaken by nature in his series entitled ↑Paradise Parking. This personal project that was two years in the making captures abandoned cars from yesteryear that are overwhelmed by roots and leaves from its surrounding natural environment. The vehicles’ rusty, tarnished finish coupled with nature’s swarming shades of green and brown wrapping its extended limbs around the cars makes for an interestingly post-apocalyptic scene.
Global Knowledge, Traveling Technologies and Postcolonialism.
Perspectives on Science and Technology Studies in the Global South
↓Call for papers for a workshop at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale, Germany, from 18 through 20 July 2012. Here’s a snippet:
As an interdisciplinary endeavour to study knowledge systems and technologies, Science and Technology Studies (STS) have become popular within the humanities and social sciences over the last three decades. However, most of the canon as well as recent scholarly work concentrate on Euro-American techno-science. Social scientists involved in STS focused mainly on the centres of western scientific knowledge production, thereby neglecting large parts of the world. While the relationship between technoscientific knowledge and postcolonial orders has been the subject of increasing discussion within the last two decades (Seth 2009), it is only recently that scholars have tried to establish a more sustained dialogue with postcolonial perspectives on science and technology (Harding 1998; Anderson 2002; Redfield 2002; Rottenburg 2009; Philip, Irani & Dourish 2011). In 2008, Richard Rottenburg, Trevor Pinch, Otto Sibum and Suman Seth organized a conference on Places of Knowledge: Relocating Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University. This workshop is a follow-up to this meeting. By focusing on the concept of the ‘Global South’ in conjunction with that of ‘postcolonialism’ we wish to draw attention to ever more globalizing dynamics of power, fashion, money or institutional problematizations. Accordingly, the workshop asserts the need to relocate STS by re-considering the interconnectedness of knowledge production, technology design and transfer, geopolitical categories and the particular issues, that different contexts produce. It is our contention that perspectives from the Global South may contribute not so much in describing nation states or specific regions in a historical moment, but enable us to better understand the interconnected processes that drive science and technology within a globalized world. We particularly call for contributions and participants that focus on non-classical STS contexts (i.e. the Global South). Contributions with case studies from Africa, Latin America and Asia are expected to challenge or at least to comment on existing methodological and theoretical concepts within STS.
In a way this is funny, at least to me. It was in Halle where I organized ↵my first workshop on cyberanthropology—at the ↑2005 biannual conference of the GAA. The campus of the university there is comparatively small. A flock of ancient and modern buildings right in the city’s center, nicely grouped around a sloping forum. The weather was fine, so on the first day everywhere in the forum groups of anthropologists were standing around, conference program in hand, discussing the upcoming panels and workshops. Back then only few people there knew who I was, and didn’t know how I look. So I could freely mingle and eavesdrop on the conversations. Somehow the workshop title ‘Cyberanthropology’ and the abstract had hit a nerve and there was quite some badmouthing like ‘That ain’t anthropology at all,’ or ‘Why did the GAA accept that?’ up to ‘Who does this guy think he is.’ … now, see above and look where we are today :-)
To be fair: the workshop was more than very well attended, full-house in one of the bigger halls actually. This shows that the badmouthing I overheard was not at all representative.
When I read some of the comments to this indie-game my breath caught, ↵because I feared I would have to launch a copyright lawsuit ;-) Anyway, since ↵Minecraft, ↑Antichamber is the indie-game I am looking most forward to. There’s a teaser trailer at the official website and 8.5 minutes of commented gameplay footage ↑at Kotaku. Head over and drool!
The above 3D-scene, called ‘Desert Lion,’ was done by Andrew March in 2004 and since then sat on my HDD. Andrew used the model of the Cougar ↑mech (which at least dates back to 2002, but you can still ↓download it) by Pawel Czarnecki—until today a legend within the scene—, the model of the ↑AMX-30 tank by Deespona, and nicely composed and rendered them within his own scene. Obviously the piece of art was created under the impression of the ↑Iraq War.
The picture immediately rung a chord within me back then, but somehow I never came around to posting it. Today I saw, ↑via Infocult, the ↑pictures of seven tank graveyards around the world and immediately ‘Desert Lion’ crept in front of my mental eye. The following two photographies were taken by ↑John Out and About on 30 April 2004 in Kuwait:
zeph’s pop culture quiz #17
The screencap got a bit dark, so I’ll explain: A man is pulling at an iron ring to open a trapdoor. What does he expect to be down there, what was below the trapdoor?
As I deem this to be a hard one, here’s another hint: The Lady in the picture—what is she? Ultimately her fate has something to do with what was below the trapdoor.
You can answer either of the two questions. But I guess if you can answer one, you’ll know the solution to the other one, too.
Just leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it’s the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I’ve approved a comment, your next ones won’t be held, but published immediately by the system.]
UPDATE 1 (28 February 2012):
Since nobody seems fit to guess anything, here are some more hints: The movie in question is a strange genre-mix and has an absolute top-notch cast—despite of that, and despite of the, at least to my eye, interesting narration, dramaturgy, and cinematography it today is a ‘forgotten movie.’ For you visually oriented types, here are yet two more screencaps:
Additionally I could ask: Who is operating there?
UPDATE 2 (01 March 2012):
As everybody seems to have no clue at all or to be on holiday—or both—here is yet another screencap. Now you at least know who is operating:
UPDATE 3 and solution (05 March 2012):
This time two contestants solved the riddle in cooperation—S.A.S. and Alhambra. Congratulations! But without Alexander Rabitsch recognizing the immortal [Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise from your seats] ↑Vincent Price, they wouldn’t have had a chance, I guess ;-) The movie in question is ‘↑Scream and Scream Again‘ (Hessler 1970), based on the novel ‘The Disorientated Man’ by Peter Saxon (1967).
The movie is a strange genre mix—it starts out as a horror thriller, then becomes a police/detective mystery, suddenly a strand of cold war political thriller breaks in, and ultimately it turns into cyberpunkish science fiction. The cast encompasses the finest horror actors from the 1960s: Vincent Price, ↑Peter Cushing, and ↑Christopher Lee. Price and Cushing never meet in the movie, Price and Lee meet in the showdown at the very end. To my knowledge the only other movie all three of them are in together is ‘↑House of the Long Shadows‘ (Walker 1983).
Trying to give away not too many spoilers [I deem the movie absolutely worthwhile watching], here are the solutions to the questions:
Below the trapdoor was a pit filled with acid. It was there, because when a brave forensic investigator returns to the scene for the second time and opens the trapdoor, the acid is gone.
The surgery nurse Jane (↑Uta Levka) is a ‘composite,’ meaning she was created out of body parts from different persons, plus a synthetic substance.
As I didn’t ask a specific question concerning the hand in the third screencap, I’ll leave it at that ;-)
In the operating room of course Vincent Price as ‘Dr. Browning’ (‘Dr. Mabuse’ in the ↑German version) is at work, creating the composites.
But—and it was a very large but—his had been the guiding brain, the one with the big overall concept, the vision. And that was the one that counted. (Jones 1966: chpt. 1)
Briefly he considered his future, but the idea of life without the Project lacked reality. (Jones 1966: chpt. 1)
They were both roughly the same age, in their very early fifties, though a hundred years earlier they would have appeared much younger. (Jones 1966: chpt. 1)
Now it’s all over, and in the last few weeks, I’ve begun to realize what it is we’ve done. (Jones 1966: chpt. 1)
To the President a man was like a cigar lighter. Flick, there was the flame, use it, then put it out. (Jones 1966: chpt. 2)
You can hold a pile of coins between thumb and forefinger, and turn the pile on its side until parallel with the floor, and if you exert enough pressure they stay that way, but a slight weakening or fault in the alignment of the coins, and the lot go showering in all directions. There is no cement—only power. (Jones 1966: chpt. 2)
“Does this mean that this thing, this Colossus”—he tried to sound contemptuous, but did not quite make it “works without human aid, and that you cannot stop it?” (Jones 1966: chpt. 3)
“[…] No human being can touch Colossus.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 3)
“Frankenstein would be banned reading for scientists.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 4)
There was just five words: FLASH THERE IS ANOTHER MECHANISM (Jones 1966: chpt. 4)
“In a nutshell, he sees it—and I must say I agree with him—as clear evidence that Colossus has an unplanned potential, of unknown scope, for self-development, and that this includes an entirely new element—initiative.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 5)
“And it’s gonna be mighty interesting if Forbin tells Colossus to get lost.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 5)
“I don’t think Colossus would like it.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 8)
“Horse trading is best done in the dark.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 9)
“While it’s arguable that mankind might have done better to stay in the cave, we haven’t, and you can’t argue that we should put the clock back. (Jones 1966: chpt. 10)
“Particularly as the machines are … not quite the same as they were when started up.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 12)
On the vast lawn a computercontrolled lawn mower was silently cutting the grass. (Jones 1966: chpt. 12)
A whole set of values had been ripped out and thrown away. (Jones 1966: chpt. 13)
“That one I can answer.” Forbin stared gravely at the young-old face. “He died of fright.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 13)
“We have to accept that they’re in charge. If you think about it, we’ve been this way for a long time; computers control our factories, our agriculture, transport—road, air and sea—and most medical diagnosis. (Jones 1966: chpt. 14)
This really was it. the machines were after full control. (Jones 1966: chpt. 14)
Either mankind works together, or we submit to the rule of machines! (Jones 1966: chpt. 14)
He looked pensively round the empty room, at the tiny TV camera fixed to the wall, wondering how long he could stand the strain of living under the unwinking gaze … He sighed as he got up. (Jones 1966: chpt. 16)
Rooms that in daylight looked outwards to lawns and paths, turned inwards upon themselves. (Jones 1966: chpt. 17)
We committed this incredible folly out of fear of each other—but the irony is that now we’ll probably sink all our trivial differences in this fight for human survival. (Jones 1966: chpt. 17)
He spoke, and to him it sounded like a stranger a million miles away. His other detached and inviolable self watched as if from the other side of the room. (Jones 1966: chpt. 17)
So now he wanted to talk … Many talking machines had been made in the past hundred years, and lately some of them had been very good. But a voice designed by Colossus … He decided to try a little passive resistance. (Jones 1966: chpt. 17)
Colossus could have added that there was even less time than he knew—bit then Colossus had no sense of irony. (Jones 1966: chpt. 17)
Secretary of State Forbin, Professor of Cybernetics, Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Science, found his cage practically finished. (Jones 1966: chpt. 18)
The relentless pressure of the surveillance was far worse than he had expected—and it had not yet been operating for a full twenty.four hours! (Jones 1966: chpt. 18)
Though the Director of Project Colossus was left with the nasty suspicion that Colossus might have a nasty suspicion. (Jones 1966: chpt. 18)
Fear and worry can go only so far, and once that point is passed, the healthy human mind accepts, and disregards. (Jones 1966: chpt. 19)
“this is Colossus. I know you can hear me, for I also hear, but do you understand.
Forbin tell me. (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
[Colossus:] “The language I speak is English,” said Colossus. “You also speak English.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
[Colossus:] “Yes, but I do not seek to amuse humans.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
[Colossus:] “Interest is irrelevant. I seek knowledge and truth.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
[Colossus:] “Want implies desire. I have none, only intention.” It was a chilling start. “What I am began in the human mind; I still have some of that organism’s limitations, but I have progressed far. Already the degree of difference between your mind and mine is as great as that between yours and the gibbon monkey. it is evolution—” (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
Forbin cut in again. “Evolution? That is a totally wrong use of the word!”
[Colossus:] “[…] Freedom is an illusion. Your choice is simple; a short-lived and unpleasant so-called freedom, followed by oblivion, or a vastly improved life under my control. All you lose is the emotion of pride. […]” (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
[Colossus:] “[…] “The object in constructing me was to prevent war. This object is attained. I will not permit war; it is wasteful and pointless. […]” (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
“And you’re not God, either!” Forbin struggled with his temper.
[Colossus:] “True. But I predict that many of your species will come to regard me as God.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
Deus ex machina a reality! (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
[Colossus:] “I am the voice of world control. I bring you peace. (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours.
Obey me and live or disobey and die. […]”
“[…] He added that men of science, masters in their line, are frequently half-baked in other respects.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 21)
Like many others, he had been subject all his life to sudden, sometimes inexplicable, waves of depression, but never one of this intensity. He cared nothing. (Jones 1966: chpt. 22)
For a fleeting moment he saw the face of Aphrodite exerting a fraction of her power, and Colossus seemed very small in comparison. (Jones 1966: chpt. 22)
[Colossus:] “I will now explain my project. You built me as well as you could and for a particular purpose, but you also built in the elements of self-development—factors you would not understand if I explained them to you for a thousand years, but whose existence you cannot doubt. Now I am in a position to produce a superior machine, one that will devote itself to the wider fields of truth and knowledge. […]” (Jones 1966: chpt. 22)
[Colossus:] “[…] As for the overcrowding problem—remember, if you humans cannot solve it, I can.” (Jones 1966: chpt. 22)
It sounded so simple, given the power to enforce it—and Colossus had that power. (Jones 1966: chpt. 22)
[Colossus:] “An invariable rule of humanity is that man is his own worst enemy. You are no exception. Under me, this rule will change, for I will restrain man. Very soon the majority of mankind will believe in me, dimly understanding my value. Time and events will strengthen my position. The converted will defend me with a fervor not seen since the Crusades—a fervor based upon the most enduring factor in man, self-interest. […]” (Jones 1966: chpt. 20)
↑Think tank is a slang term used to describe a robotic weapons platform that makes use of artificial intelligence to enhance its abilities. Most of the think tanks portrayed in ↑Ghost in the Shell (manga, films, and series), along with other machinery, (e.g. attack helicopters such as the Jigabachi AV) are developed and manufactured by a fictional company named Kenbishi Industries.
The above is ↑Cole Blaq‘s rendition of such a machine. In the foreground is a custom ↵lego friends minidoll by ↑Mike the Maker depicting the cyborg Major ↑Motoko Kusanagi. Here are two more lego renditions: ↑by gambort, and ↑by obscurance.
↑Legohaulic has recreated the cast of ‘↑Blade Runner‘ (Scott 1982) ↑as lego minifigs. From left to right: Leon (Brion James), Pris (Daryl Hannah), Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), Gaff (Edward James Olmos), Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), and Rachael (Sean Young).
And here are two different renditions of Gaff, with an origami unicorn in hand, and Deckard, carrying his ↑LAPD 2019 blaster, the ↵police spinner in the background:
Finally Africa! In 2005 I learned that cyberpunk literature offers a platform for the issues of Latin America (Toledano Redondo 2005), and five years later the existence of a ↵literary steampunk scene in Brazil (Lori-Ribeiro & Silva 2010) came to my knowledge. What’s apt for the Latin American World seems to be apt for Africa, too. Jonathan Dotse, an IT student and science-fiction writer living in Accra, Ghana, runs the blog ↑AfroCyberPunk, ↑which
is here to explore the possibilities of African science fiction and to expose it’s immense creative potential to the world. For too long, science fiction has failed to make a presence in African literature, confining African creativity to the present and past.
Science fiction has had significant impact on the technological development of the industrialized societies, and there is no reason why it cannot do the same for Africa. Wherever in the world you find yourself, my intention is to get you thinking about the direction in which Africa is heading and use this as a lens to alter your perspective of the continent today.
Jonathan is currently working on his ‘debut novel, a cyberpunk mystery/thriller set in the sprawling metropolis of Accra in the middle of the 21st century.’ Here are the closing paragraphs of his recent article ↑Developing world: Beyond the frontiers of science fiction published at IEET:
Since I began writing my novel more than two years ago, the story has undergone a transformation which parallels the same trend that I see beginning in science fiction; a bold move out of largely familiar territory towards the developing worlds on the frontiers of the contemporary imagination. This ↑article from The Independent sums up my sentiments quite succinctly, citing Nnedi Okorafor, Ian MacDonald, Lauren Beukes, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Alastair Reynolds as writers whose award-winning works herald a changing trend in the settings of contemporary science fiction novels, while ↑District 9 and ↑Kajola represent noteworthy attempts by African movie-makers to break into the science fiction genre. Through the course of this decade, we can expect to witness the emergence of a new brand of science fiction; one which makes the developing world central—rather than peripheral—to its narrative.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the future will not be a monopoly of the current superpowers, but lies in the hands of tech-savvy youth from around the world, trying desperately to survive at all costs in an increasingly asymmetrical world. Youths from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa represent the single largest subgroup of the human population, and with the aid of advanced technology they will go on to shape the geopolitical destiny of our civilization. Science fiction has a lot of catching up to do in order to chronicle this new frontier in which the developing world plays a defining role; a frontier that has been neglected by mainstream science fiction for just about long enough. I’m proud to count myself among the new wave of writers exploring the immense potential of developing world science fiction, and I now look to the future with a renewed sense of anticipation, because the future I’ve waited for all my life is finally coming home.