machines

Nyx 7: Machines- Call for Contributions

“The Machine,” they exclaimed, “feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being. The Machine is the friend of ideas and the enemy of superstition: the Machine is omnipotent, eternal; blessed is the Machine”. . . and in theory the Machine was still the creation and the implement of man, but in practice all, save a few retrogrades, worshipped it as divine.

-  E.M. Forster, The Machine Stops

We declare that the splendour of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath, a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.

The Futurist Manifesto

Nyx, a noctournal calls for abstracts and new work for its forthcoming spring/summer 2012 issue on MACHINES. Critical theorists, writers, artists, photographers, revolutionaries and wage-slaves are asked to consider: what do contemporary relationships and uses of machines reveal about popular culture; political structures; shifts in social or economic systems? What possibilities or dangers do they present? Have machines liberated us, as the early 20thCentury Modernists and social reformists dreamed of, or have human beings become bound by machinery, tangled up in digitised information and intensive demands for productivity in the modern precarious workplace, made redundant by automation or reduced to passive cogs in a vast autopoietic network over which they no longer have any control?

Each era is defined by its usage and experience of machinery. Produced to wage war or save time, the machine is laden with exciting and horrific possibilities. What if the machines malfunction or revolt? Are machines a threat to the poor worker, as Marx feared, or is access to cheap electric goods a hallmark of the contemporary consumer social contract? What new sensations, perils and experiences of time have video games, smartphones, televisions, cars, gym equipment, e-books, the Internet and other machines brought? Is the organic obsolete, another health-food fad paid on credit card at a self-service checkout?

In A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari warn of “machinic enslavement”, but at the same time affirm that modernity “provides so many weapons for the becoming of everybody/everything, becoming-radio, becoming-electronic, becoming-molecular. . .” Heidegger feared that unfettered technology could sideline humanity into a diminished form of being. Futurists, Cyberneticians, Computer Hackers, Capitalists and Communists alike have all embraced the machines in their own ways; Luddites have smashed them. Science Fiction has sown machine fantasies of both utopia and terror, from Jules Verne to The Terminator; few subjects grip the imagination so well as the march of the machines and their impact on humanity.

Email artwork, images, abstracts or ideas of no more than 300 words with a short bio to noctournal@gmail.com by 1st February 2012. Please send as .doc or .jpg

On Re-imagining Education…

Last week at the crack of dawn, we assembled outside of Goldsmiths College in South London to warm up for the N30 march– announced as the biggest strike in a generation, gathering workers across the entire public sector who came out fighting for their pensions, against cuts – or just about any decision made by the government in the past year. Outside the University picket lines were formed to stop teachers and students from entering, and a lineup of speakers were setting the mood for the day, drawing the supportive honks of passing cars. Des Freedman (in the video below) talked about the prospects of universities becoming privatized and turned into profitable institutions. An important point raised, relating to what I would like to discuss here is the importance of open access to Universities; applauding Goldsmiths’ Centre for Culture Studies’ initiative this year of opening up their lectures to the community.

Des Freedman, Reader in Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College speaks prior to the N30 march

The future lies in open access and the sharing of information cost free. Both great inspirations and resourses are sites such as aaaaarg.org (where academic books can be downloaded in full) and lecturelist.org, listing free lectures and talks across the country, also searchable by subject and region. A central purpose of this blog – beyond working as an extension of Nyx magazine – is directly relating to this evolution – the idea of the sharing of sources of information and ideas. We hope that it will work as a network for students of the Arts and Humanities across the country; currently at University but also graduates or anyone who appreciates learning in this area. A kind of support system in the current chaos of cuts to fundamental building blocks of our society; Art and Education. One of the things you will find on the site is a regular posting of recorded lectures. Many Universities are already putting up podcasts to lectures and talks- but Nyx will work as a filter, assembling the best in one place. Further, the idea is to create a mix of not only public lectures, but lectures forming part of ongoing courses. Our first series, ‘Culture Studies and Capitalism’, led by Professor John Hutnyk at Goldsmiths will follow soon, so watch this space!

An article in the Observer a few months ago (‘Reality TV the only way to move up in this world’ by Carole Cadwalladr) talked about the “Indiana Joneses” of our time, rolling under the gate before it is slammed shut. This amusing but vital point captured a generation I feel very much part of. I competed my BA at the University of the Arts just before the first top up-fees were enforced a few years ago (from £1000 to £3000 per year) and have completed my Masters degree just as the government decided to treble tuition fees. Although the fight for our current educational models is important, how likely is it that our voices will be heard? Are we entering an era when our energy and time is better-spent re-imagining education?

There are already organizations that have begun this task. Never mind the ‘The Open University’ – it seems that it is amidst the many current Occupy movements where new and more radical education alternatives are growing. The ‘Free University’ had their first public meeting last week and will continue the discussion on the 15th of December at the Bank of Ideas at the occupied building on Sun Street in the City of London. They intend to start free courses led by lecturers from leading Universities, including Goldsmith’s College – an idea that feels new and important, because the involvement of lecturers will not only bring the important element of taught learning (rather than online learning) as pointed out in the video above, but will also bring authority to the project. More things are happening- The Bank of Ideas is starting a Capital reading group for non-students with the help of David Harvey via podcasts. The reading group will begin on the 20th December, running every Tuesday for the next 6 months.

Please share your own recordings by emailing them to us nyxnoctounal@gmail.com, stating date, title of lecture/ seminar and name of lecturer and we will publish them on the blog. In order to avoid causing any unnecessary trouble, the Nyx team also kindly requests that you to ask the lecturer for permission to do this.

Ideas, ongoing/ upcoming reading groups, news or what you would like to see in Nyx welcome too.

Who is responsible for the mysterious posters?

‘Educational Decree no 28 by the ‘Minister of Magic’

The big gathering in Lincolns Inn Fields in central London before the march