Machinic Dreamings of Limehouse Foreshore at Low Tide

Image produced by John Wild using the styleGAN2 machine learning generative adversarial network.

The machine dreams in hyperreal hallucinatory visions emergent from the convolutions of its deep neural network. It produces a cycogeographic mapping of site, an extraction of the essence of place through a process of forensic analysis and Bayesian probabilities. Machinic Dreamings are the output of a machine learning generative adversarial network (GAN) trained on 1000 photographs of a body occupying the temporary landscape of the Limehouse Foreshore, a triangular expanse of mud, silt and rocks on the northside of the Thames, just as the river sweeps south at Canary Wharf and only visible at low tide.

Image produced by John Wild using the styleGAN2 machine learning generative adversarial network.

All dreamings are collective acts. Machinic Dreamings link anonymous humans and non-humans across time and space. They are dependent on a technical infrastructure of GPUs housed in data centres, located across national borders and interconnected through fibreoptic cables. Machine Learning algorithms have their own ancestry and lineage; the StyleGAN2 algorithm redefined StyleGAN, which built upon wider style transfer research. It is impossible to map the network of actants whose labour has been essential in producing a single machinic image. My contribution was the gathering of a data set and the training of the GAN.

The initial results were a shock. They open up deep-seated cultural anxiety about human relations to the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The images suggest murderous intent. Severed chunks of flesh discarded on the beach, the possible abandoned residue of Capital’s human meat stranded on the Foreshore between the rising waters of the Thames and the hostile steel and glass of Canary Wharf. Surplus to requirements in an era of AI. There is a generalised fear of the replacement of labour, but the real concern should be the already existing automation of the capitalist. A simple inhuman algorithm, the appropriation of ever more surplus value, has always driven the capitalist. An algorithm very easy to replicate in code. Inside the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, high-frequency trading, places machine learning at the centre of capitalist accumulation.

Image produced by John Wild using the styleGAN2 machine learning generative adversarial network.

The interpretation of dreams is notoriously difficult, and the non-human perspective of Machinic Dreamings opens up multiple alternative interpretations. 

View the full set of images….

Keeping Fit to Keep Ahead

Black Lives Matter graffiti in London Fields Hackney

The repetition of burpees provides London Fields with a constant rhythm of pulsing bodies. Each movement part of a larger pattern. Subliminally, a police van creeps past a mature horse chestnut tree. A flare of sunlight, reflected from an opening door on the balcony of the tower block overlooking the park, seared a torso on to my retina. An intense cyan afterimage outlines a sinuous muscular physique, suspended impossibly by a single taught calf muscle, one foot pointing down his inner thigh, toes resting just above the knee. Naked except for a pair of dusty earth coloured shorts. Hands together above his head with fingers pointing to the sky, arms bent centring his head within a perfect geometry. Long hair tied in a top knot with strands falling forward.

The police van gently passes a pentagon of mats carefully arranged on the grass. Five white women move between warrior poses in exact choreography. An officer lazily scans the park from the back seats of the van, a wire dangling from his ear. The Women shift pose, revealing perfectly toned bodies under various shades of lycra. The leader is a serene older woman with piercing blue eyes wearing a red scarf tied around her head to keep her greying golden hair in place.

Two blonde children are receiving private tennis coaching on the council owned court. A black face peers out of the white paper hood of his disposable overalls, his hands covered by gloves, one holding a bucket of Henna Red paint and in the other a brush. He is painting out graffiti that appeared on the back of the tennis court changing rooms less than an hour before. His supervisor stands behind him wearing a green sweater with Park Ranger inscribed on the back in ochre yellow. I’m distracted by the rapid flicking of hands in the distance. A woman in a brown and orange floral floor-length maxi dress is lunging forward, thrusting her arms out and flicking her wrists. She straightens up then repeats. Her seven-year-old daughter sits on a yoga mat next to her, squirming with boredom, hair neglected and unkempt.

The police van blocks them from my vision. Its high sides slowly crawl past. Its occupants arrogantly stare. It comes to a halt in front of an older Jamaican man sitting on one of the park benches. His dreadlocks, greying at the roots, are wrapped inside his hat. He is one of the elders. Before the virus, he would come to sit on this bench every Saturday to watch the cricket. The side door slides open and five officers climb out. They circle the man, a notebook is opened and a fine given. He is asked to leave.

There is a loud crack of a tree branch. A personal trainer, with swarthy white skin and a small moustache, wearing a fluorescent orange hat, is attaching a set of wooden Gymnastic Rings to one of the horse chestnut branches. His latest client has just arrived. The Police van retreats across the park.

Mutual Aid and Hacking Covid-19

COVID-19 is a virus that affects people’s respiratory systems. While in around 8o% of cases the symptoms will be mild, it has lead to a large number of deaths internationally. It is estimated that 2-3 people out of a hundred who contract the virus will die. This can easily mean hundreds of thousands of deaths in the UK alone. We must do everything we can to prevent this from happening.

As Covid-19 becomes more than a health crisis and turns into a crisis of capitalism, with workers being laid off and health systems stretched to the limit, CODED GEOGRAPHY are working within our communities to help build mutual aid networks and support the wider tech activist respond. Those with hacking and home manufacturing skills can play an important role. See the resources below and get involved.

Resources:

Mutual Aid

Tech activists:

Hackney Nightsniffing: a walk exploring bats, data and urban change

PLEASE NOTE: This event has been temporarily cancelled in light of the current Covid-19 crisis. eMail info@codedgeometry.net to get an alert when the event has been rescheduled.

Organised by Cliff Hammett

Meet: 7:30pm on the 25th March 2020 at St John at Hackney

This is a bat walk with a difference, a search not just for hidden urban bats, but also data systems that govern and record change in the city. All are welcome!

Bats are common in London, but their presence often goes unnoticed by local people. They roost in attics, trees, between roof tiles, and forage for insects in parks, gardens and waterways. Like the city’s other inhabitants they are vulnerable to the churn of urban development – for bats, this could involve the demolition of buildings they roost in, changes to features they navigate by, or introduction of lighting that they might find deeply unpleasant. Bats are protected by law, and so the presence of bats can in turn affect urban development, though the protection offered is not always adequate.

Just as bats are hidden, the systems, decisions, and underlying forces that reshape our city are rare to see. These benefit some, leading to significant profits for developers and benefits for some communities, whereas for others they could mean the loss of their homes or amenities on which they depend. So as we search for bats, we’ll also start to investigate the systems and processes that affect all the city’s inhabitants, albeit in very different ways.

How will we do this? Together we will explore the local area using a combination of bat detectors and specially designed “datasniffers”. The bat detectors make audible the high frequency calls bats use to echolocate. The datasniffers make audible records from London planning databases, giving us hints of how the city has changed and how it is going to change. By exploring these two different, yet intertwined, phenomena, the hope is to spark conversation about how and why the area is changing, the effects on humans, bats and others, and how we might like things to be different.


About Nightsniffing
Nightsniffing is a creative research project, by Cliff Hammett, that seeks to reimagine urban bat walking as a way to collectively investigate the systems that shape the London and other UK cities. The project combines methods from critical making, mobile sonic art and art/science in order to engage different publics with bats, digital systems and planning procedures in novel ways. It starts from the complex relations that bats have with cities and human society, including how bats’ interests figure in the UK planning system, how bats inhabit and use the built environment and the role of bats in community alliances against development. From there, it opens out onto to consider wider systems of urban decision making, considering how decisions are made and in whose interests. Engaging with the technologies and methods that make bats perceivable, Nightsniffing stages walks and events in London that allow different conversations to emerge regarding who and what are cities are for, and how we might wish for them to function differently.

Practicalities and Accessibility
All are welcome. The walk is relatively short, but as it will have several stops it will last around an hour. Please wear warm clothing. In case of moderate or heavy rain, the event will be rescheduled. Let me know if you have any access needs, and I will adapt things accordingly. If you would like to come, but can’t due to e.g. caring commitments or being unable to afford transportation, please get in touch. I have a small fund available to cover costs, so I may be able to help.

Limehouse a Digital Expanded Game of Psychogeography

The border that separates the physical world and the digital realm has been breached. We can no longer speak of a clear distinction between analogue, carbon-based, offline entities and digital, silicon-based, online representations. Digital technologies and the physical space of cities have converged. This process is variously referred to as pervasive computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), ‘everywhere’, Ambient Intelligence and ubiquitous computing.

CODED GEOMETRY believes that the most urgent task of contemporary psychogeography is to carry out a sustained investigation into the role digital technology, algorithms and machine learning play in the structuring and restructuring of space-time. We have commenced our research in Limehouse through a digital expanded game of psychogeography.

CODED GEOMETRY – Presentation
‘Limehouse a digital expanded game of psychogeography’
16th February 2020
From 12.45 pm
East London location
Contact info@codedgeometry.net for the venue

Dark Fibre Network – Drift

Under the streets of East London runs a network of dark fibre.

Map of the London Dark Fibre Network

The Dark Fibre Network Drift – will walk the route of underground fibre-optic cables linking seven of the core data centres that form the London Internet Exchange.

The walk will include spoken word by Dr Robin Bale and experiments using software-defined radio to hack the sonic world of machine to machine communications carried out by CODED GEOMETRY.

Meet: 12:00 Sunday 27 October 2020

Chrisp Street Market,
Market Square,
Poplar,
London,
E14 6AQ

Giant Invisible Pulsating Electromagnetic Sphere Hovering Above My Orange Settee

orangesettee-web

The emergence of the digital city can be traced back to the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004. WIFI was just starting to have an impact on peoples’ everyday life. The 802.11g standard had been launched giving WIFI faster speeds and enabling coverage over much greater distances. This was greeted with a utopian political movement, led by activist groups such as YouAreHere [1] in London and free2air in Berlin. Their aim was to build and mesh local area wireless networks to provide communities with Open Distributed Public Wireless (ODPW). YouAreHere set itself the goal of developing a wireless backbone reaching from Limehouse to Hackney Central. They constructed a series of masts at strategic sites along the route. One of the most significant masts was mounted on the top of Limehouse Town Hall, which also housed the headquarters of the London Psychogeographical Association (LPA) [2].

At the same time, third generation (3G) wireless mobile telecommunications technology was rapidly being introduced to providing faster internet speeds for mobile devices. In contrast to the optimism of the ODPW activists, the introduction of 3G was met with anxiety, paranoia and fear. The roll-out of 3G technology involved the siting of a network of mobile phone masts throughout the country. In East London, the rooftops of high rise buildings on working class estates were chosen to locate the majority of these masts. Around the country, residents had begun tearing down mobile-phone masts, as public concerns over the untested health impact of the radiation they emit hit national headlines. The Telegraph reported [3] that in one week as many as four masts were destroyed in a campaign to stop them being placed on top of, or close to, peoples’ houses. Working class people accused the mobile phone companies of using them as guinea pigs. In Hackney, a group of Kurdish activists chained themselves to a mast while it was still on the lorry delivering it to be installed on the roof of their block. In London Fields, one 90 year old resident of the Wayman Court estate refused to move from a site adjacent to his flat that had been given planning permission for a mast.

In this febrile atmosphere of utopianism and paranoia, it was clear that the construction of wireless and mobile networks signalled a significant transformation of the landscape. I purchased an A-Com receiver used by telecoms engineers and started to listen to the new world of data transmissions. The crackle of white noise greeted me as I switched it on. I noticed a distant pulsing signal that drew me towards it. I was in the front room of my flat and its intensity increased as I started to approach my settee. The sound throbbed with metallic bass tones. I moved my receiver towards the settee then back again. The signal was surprisingly spatial. I carefully traced its shape revealing an invisible pulsating electromagnetic sphere hovering above my orange settee. From that moment, I saw the city as overlaid with invisible lines, shapes and structures, a coded geometry of machine to machine interactions beyond our perception.

As the UK prepares to introduce 5G cellular network technology, I am struck by an overwhelming sense of Déjà vu. Time seems to be punctured by accelerating epochs of pseudo progress X to the power n. 5G transmissions are broadcast on frequencies between 3.4 – 3.6GHz. These waves travel shorter distances through urban spaces, so 5G networks require more transmitter masts than previous technologies, positioned closer to ground level. The construction of the 5G network has sparked viral conspiracies, renewed health fears and an angle grinder attack by residents of one working class estate in Manchester. The next generation of utopian media artists are already presenting critical 5G projects at media arts festivals.

sdr1-web

CODED GEOMETRY is scanning the 3.4 to 3.6GHz spectrum using new antenna designs connected to Software Defined Radio (SDR). We are conducting research analysing and mapping the structures, invisible geographies and ambience this technology is bringing into being. Researching the spatial aesthetics these new circuits of digitality are bringing forth. Asking how they will shape our understand and experience of space and spatiality which are already inscribed by, but not reducible to, digital systems.

_____________________

[1] For more information about YouAreHere see – http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/network-people

[2] The LPA was originally suggested by the British artist Ralph Rumney in 1957 and reinvoked, in the early 1990s as the LPA East London Section. For more information see – https://maydayrooms.org/archives/the-london-psychogeographical-association/

[3] See Daniel Foggo, 30 Nov 2003, Protesters topple mobile phone masts as health scare spreads, The Telegraph. see – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1448109/Protesters-topple-mobile-phone-masts-as-health-scare-spreads.html