Wyrdpatchworkshop I-IV: Towards the Temporary Augmented Reality Zone

10th October 2019 |
wyrdpatchworkshop

This essay constitutes fallout from the Wyrdpatchworkshops (WPWS), a series of encounters which took place in the Winter and Spring of 2018/2019 in Punctum Krásovka in Prague. The structural definition is as follows: the WPWS was a socio-technical assemblage through which drives and intensities were run. 

The analysis will adopt a simple functional schema:


Drive             —>

User<
Interface<
Address<


—>     Fallout

The initial impulse for the WPWS came from the perceived change in the material conditions of our social, urban and climatic environments – the rapidly encroaching effects of climate change were taken as a call to work through praxis, rather than theory, and through material mobilization, rather than passive prosumption of the digital churn. WPWS was thus employed to construct a spatio-temporal knot which could connect between the digital sphere and its material venue, working both with the mesh of social ties in the concrete and with the abstract potential of internet-facilitated telematics and imagined communities in the abstract. The patchwork which WPWS was supposed to engender was a Temporary Augmented Reality Zone – it connected people, devices and methodological protocols by means of the integral atopia of the internet’s interfacial ecology and through the RL stack of material supply relations.

This analysis will use the analogy of a stack to address the function of WPWS. This stack consists of the top three layers of Benjamin Bratton’s ideal object;[1] the reason for this rift is that to document the City and lower layers which were the substrate from which this modality of WPWS manifested would be beyond the scope of this structural analysis. The layers beneath the City layer (incl.) can be subsumed under the Drive input, largely fed through the unease generated by the precarity of urban existence within an accelerated social and planetary environment. 

The impulse came from a supersaturated localized situation of long-term debate and discussion on collapse theory and climate change which has been percolating among members of the Diffractions and sdbs collectives, as well as local and international affiliates. Dustin Breitling largely crystallized the original idea for a series of encounters which would be modelled on sdbs collective’s original idea for telematic ‘Outposts’ – momentary broadcasts of artistic and creative activity from numerous locales linked together in time, if not in space.

The implicit motivation for much of the activity was the underlying prerogative of collapsing planetary social systems, and a view to preclude the coming change in the regime of power brought about by ongoing environmental and social upheaval. Relative autonomy was one of the central imperatives in this regard, and translated throughout the entire developmental process, from its original theoretical motivations, all the way up to final advertising (or lack thereof) and dissemination (the User layers, the Fallout output). This also structured the database of affiliates and fellow travelers who made the WPWS what it was, employing an in-house cast of moderators, discussion members, sound and video engineers, DJs, bartenders, cooks, proprietors and spectators. All these were intimately linked and invested in the Address of Punctum in Prague’s Žižkov district for those four evenings. 

**

Each layer in the WPWS stack functions both within the digital and in RL [hence the bifurcation sign (<) after each layer]. The Address can equally be considered a material address, as much as the addresses associated with the live stream, namely the sdbs Youtube account and the Google Hangouts chatroom which the virtual guests interacted through. The interfacial regime was equally designed to be a hybrid of meat space and the virtual, and the diffraction patterns and noise which such an overlap engendered were welcomed as integral features. The different temporal regimes of the virtual, largely predicated on real-time telematic presence with subsequent content retention in the cloud, and RL, with its dynamics of face-to-face social interaction supported by the weird temporality of grassroots community-building. WPWS was Carried by the unique dynamics complexification of code, protocol, spoken word, soundscapes, soup. 

The User layer was equally intended to meld the perceived bifurcation of the digital/RL experience – for example Justin Murphy’s viewers had to wait while the RL crowd got some fresh air and a smoke on the Punctum porch, and it were these shimmers of noise where the digital interfaces could not contain the RL world (and vice versa, such as the quick Googling session on @metanomad’s ‘Zero/Accelerationism’ during the tele-conference with Xenogoth), where the impact of WPWS was at its most palpable. The presumption was not confined to the digital grind of repetitive cues and triggers, but was supported from a bottom which fed into the standardized mainstream choreopgraphy of contemporary Youtube jockeying.

WPWS was largely about being born a hybrid (neither fully digital nor RL). The particular overlap of the digital and social interfaces which permeated the communication, with all its integral noise, absences and missed encounters, worked as the backdrop to a creative search for meaning. Oftentimes, the multi-channel debates were largely predicated on simply figuring out the very playing field of themes and topics discussed, and this tentative demarcation of the theoretical environment was part and parcel of the WPWS ecology of relations.

**

The outcome I term the ‘Fallout’ because the analogy resonates not only on the level of semiotic exchange and social networking, but also on the level of the energy and resources burned – it is here that the Earth layer insinuates itself as the guarantor and mediator of the very possibility of such an exchange occurring. The spectacle is fractured and thus discovers the implicit metabolism through which it is connected to the outside. That outside is however much closer than we might imagine, and rather constitutes a chthonic ‘exit through the deep’ than any transcendence ‘out of’ anything. 

Time is of the essence.

WPWS tries to add spin to the increasingly integrated circuit of production and consumption which underpin the contemporary market economy and offers a weird melding (a dislocation of the home towards the unheimlich) which works through the cloud of digital infrastructure. This digital infrastructure of affordance accretes the social, and channels the social cloud – the nebula of psychosocial intensities resonating in and around Prague. As James Bridle[2]aptly notes, such cloud dynamics are largely obfuscate and non-transparent. 

Albeit largely immeasurable, the effects of the WPWS fallout have undoubtedly mutated at least some elements of the social texture: what new phenotypes of environmental praxis might grow from such a temporary seeding?

**

The WPWS series engaged in a speculative ecology and the project’s initial goal was to embody theory in a workshop format, to make it a tactile interface which would generate new modes of action. This ultimately did not materialize in the concrete. There was very little measurable praxis (except for the priceless infrastructure development on the part of the sdbs collective’s tech crew). But it is here that the notion of ‘fallout’ becomes relevant, insofar as it can be regarded as a work which unfolds in time, predicated on Keller Easterling’s “chemistry of power”[3]which works via a microscopic self-management of social and infrastructural drives. Hence the fallout.

Wikipedia defines ‘Nuclear Fallout’ as 

the radioactive dust and ash created when a nuclear weapon explodes. The amount and spread of fallout is a product of the size of the weapon and the altitude at which it is detonated. Fallout may get entrained with the products of a pyrocumulus cloud and fall as black rain (rain darkened by soot and other particulates, which fell within 30–40 minutes of the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). This radioactive dust, usually consisting of fission products mixed with bystanding atoms that are neutron-activated by exposure, is a form of radioactive contamination.[4]

A ‘radioactive contamination’ without the master blast is WPWS fallout. The event of the encounter, achieving an integral loop of third-order observation in real time (the patrons observing the projected stream feed, the digital audience observing their screens; Justin Murphy observing his channel subscribers and they in turn observing the observed) becomes equally integrated inscribed for posteriority within the digital cloud. WPWS thus works to reintegrate itself into pyrocumulus clouds of digital culture to then fall like black rain and drain towards the subterranean water table. The affinity for chemical warfare which works within a flattened ontology of power, an ecology of affects working (al-)chemically on the substrate itself, constitutes the atmospheric conditions of the WPWS cloud.

Is such a cocktail tainted? Is the joke on WPWS?

**

A speculatively ecological approach[5]is predicated on adopting ‘productive constraints.’ These can be adopted on the basis of negotiation, as much as coming from other levels of the Stack. The stack provides the constraints on any potential emergent property, insofar as it glitches, crashes, works on hidden cues, and its various layers can never be made transparent in their totality to the actors involved. It is the ideal obfuscate palimpsest. Whether it becomes productive remains the task of the translator.

The fallout which issued from the four encounters focuses on the navigation and spin of the technical milieu, rather than the instrumentalization of discrete technical objects towards certain ends. The tweaking of the RL/digital milieu creates a functionally ‘new’ schema of relations (if only for the users involved for that one encounter). The general focus on the means at hand rather than any concrete ends made the outcomes of the project quite immeasurable and uncertain. This chemistry of power dealt by the semiotic fallout is in a way orthogonal to the idea of hyperstition insofar as it does not presume a logic which will make predictions realities, and does not invest into a “science of self-fulfilling prophecies.”[6]

It is precisely in this way that the outside opened up for navigation and experimentation for those few evenings, drawing on the nomad sensibility and the superpositional potential which is still present and waiting to be discovered in the interstitial gap between RL and the digital platform.

The Wyrdpatchworkshop I-IV featured Amalgam, Louis Armand, Autopoetik, Dustin Breitling, Paul Chaney, Casey Carr, Seb Chum, DP lounge, Alice Farmer, Jess Huber, Gruppo di Nun, Amy Ireland, Michael James, Alžběta Kešnerová, Radim Labuda, Limity jsme my!, Honza K., Tomáš Mládek, Justin Murphy, Pavel Osvald, Punctum, Markéta Rýgrová, Mothiur Rahman, Rhett, Chris Shaw, solsol, Xenogoth, TeaPot


[1] Benjamin Bratton, The Stack (MIT Press, 2015)

[2] James Bridle, Dark Enlightenment (Verso, 2019).

[3] Keller Easterling, Medium Design(Strelka Press, 2018).

[4] ‘Nuclear Fallout’ Wikipedia

[5] Vít Bohal and Dustin Breitling,“Introduction,” Speculative Ecologies: Plotting Through the Mesh, (Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, forthcoming 2019).

[6] Delphi Carstens, “Hyperstition” Xenopraxis <http://xenopraxis.net/readings/carstens_hyperstition.pdf>

Diffract this //

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.