Category Archives: sociology

Entropy as a Resource for Double Contingency

My commentary on Manfred Füllsack’s excellent article “The Circular Conditions of Second-order Science Sporadically Illustrated with Agent-based Experiments at the Roots of Observation” was published today in Constructivist Foundations’ special issue on Second Order Science. It is the journal’s tenth volume already, which is a great achievement. The commentary argues that the rise in entropy the article is postulating for systems of second-order observation is actually good for something, in that it adds to possible courses of action for participants in these systems, which equals to directly feeding into situations of double contingency. In short, more entropy means more possibilities to act (more degrees of freedom) for all participants in communication, thus ensuring that double contingency is maintained and communication is kept alive.
Full text (Pdf)

ESA-Arts Paper: Jamming with Machines

The European Research Network Sociology of the Arts held its 8th midterm conference at Cluj / Romania from September 4-6, 2014. I had the honor to present a paper on the current state and the outlook of research conducted within the GiantSteps research project, focusing on prospects and problems of so-called “musical expert agents” in creative processes. The paper discusses a situation where the availability of large amounts of data on artistic work facilitates new approaches in composition and sound creation. What are the expectations towards these new possibilities? Are artists looking forward to algorithmic “agents”, or will they disable them immediately?
Full paper
ESA-Arts 2014 Conference Website
GiantSteps Project

Facebook Comments and The One Identity

The implementation of Facebook comments has been described by many media outlets as another attempt by the “social network” empire to extend its tentacles into other areas of the web. The feature basically allows visitors to a website to leave a comment on that website with their Facebook identity. The upside of this feature is, once again, added conenience. With Facebook comments on an external website, there is no need to sign up for the commenting system any more, to register one’s email (and confirm it), remember yet another password, and wait for an email confirmation before even being able to post the first comment. For the administrators of the external website, the added convenience is even more significant: As some of the first implementations have shown, Facebook comments practically eliminate spamming and trolling in comments. Every comment entered via this system is linked to the Facebook identity of the commenter, which also means that, at least in the default settings, all of their Facebook friends will see it immediately (or the next time they log on to Facebook, whichever comes first). Commenting and the rest of the commenter’s social activity on Facebook become inseparable.

Now, as desirable as social control for spammers and trolls may be (assuming they have any Facebook friends at all), the repercussions for the average Facebook users are grave. If they have to rely on Facebook comments to voice their opinion on, say, a political article, there’s no way to keep this opinion separated from individual or all of their Facebook friends. Gone are the days when you could simply enjoy meeting a relative for a holiday dinner; now you’ll be aggravated because you had to read their notorious ultra-conservative political statements all year. The One Identity scheme this propagates is a significant departure from the concept of identity as we know it: Typically, the only place where you had to fully integrate all the aspects of your identity was in your own consciousness. Even there, you could try to deceive yourself about things you didn’t like. Facebook now tries to make this impossible. If followed through with all consequences, every aspect of an identity would be kept in one place, visible to all, and searchable by all, indefinitely. The only other option: muteness.

TechCrunch Self-Observation: Troll Hunting
Engadget Editorial: The Single Identity

Dynamics of “Vivisystems”

Although Kevin Kelly’s famous book “Out of Control” was published back in 1994, it still holds plenty of topics that are worth to be brought to the table in all different kinds of discourses on systems. In addition, it provides a broad spectrum of ideas for computer models of complex systems. The author has kindly made the full book available for free on his website.
Book page

Strangely enough, although the author describes the benefits of biological and technological coevolution, he then ventures to favor technological taking over biological evolution by means of genetic and bioengineering. This is where I’d disagree, as it seems illogical, especially in the context of the book itself, to deliberately give up biological assets such as proven sustainability in conjunction with emergence, and fallback mechanisms that can help minimize risk for all parties involved.

HyperKult 19: Mobiles – You Are Now Here

Already in it’s 19th incarnation, the annual HyperKult workshop & conference takes a fresh look at the topic of location-based applications for mobile devices. While this issue has been drifting around social sciences conferences for years, we are just now seeing widespread adoption of such applications and services, which should allow us to change the mode of discussion from utopia to concrete social practice.

As always, video streams of the full presentations will be available both live and in the archive.
Conference Website (in German)