Aesthetics Satire

The Aesthetic Seance

Aesthetics in the visual arts is ultimately the evaluation of qualia under a given theory of value. Qualia are irreducible aesthetic experiences or feelings that we have no power of introspection over. They cannot be studied materialistically through scientific naturalism. [1]

Qualia are therefore supernatural.

Supernatural entities can be summoned and given expression in the material world through seances. [2] Therefore it should be possible to summon a quale through a seance and give it a means of expression. Rather than theorising about it, ask it directly, see what it has to say for itself.

Summon “red”, for example, and give it access to a ouija board or pencil. Ask it what it contains, how it relates to other colours, what its favourite use by an artist is, whether it really is opposed to green. Summon “line” and ask it if it’s infinite. Extend the criteria used from “supernatural” to “abstract” and summon “portraiture”, “chiaroscuro” or “pop art”.

Qualia are clearly both real and supernatural so belief or disbelief in the supernatural is not an issue. Belief in the efficacy of seance is also not an issue. [3] This is different from summoning up dead artists to create new works as every individual has direct personal experience of the reality of qualia even if they do not have direct personal experience of ghosts.

There are therefore no methodological or metaphysical barriers to the exciting possibilities of the parapsychological investigation of aesthetics.

(Individuals of a nervous disposition, with mental health problems, or on medication should not take part in seances. Local law regarding the holding and recording of seances should be investigated before organizing one. This article makes no claims for the reality of the supernatural beyond the definition of qualia given.)



[3] See for example “Conjuring Up Philip”, M. Owen with Margaret Sparrow, 1976, Harper & Row, New York. Adapted in “Parapsychology, The Controversial Science”, Richard Broughton, 1992, Rider, London.

Art Computing Art Open Data Satire

Digital Evaluation Of The Humanities

Humanities Computing dates back to the use of mainframe computers with museum catalogues in the 1950s. The first essays on Humanities Computing appeared in academic journals in the 1960s, the first conventions on the subject (and the Icon programming language) emerged in the 1970s, and ChArt was founded in the 1980s. But it isn’t until the advent of Big Data in the 2000s and the rebranding of Humanities Computing as the “Digital Humanities” that it became the subject of moral panic in the broader humanities.

The literature of this moral panic is an interesting cultural phenomenon that deserves closer study. The claims that critics from the broader humanities make against the Digital Humanities fall into two categories. The first is material and political: the Digital Humanities require and receive more resources than the broader humanities, and these resources are often provided by corporate interests that may have a corrupting influence. The second is effectual and categorical: it’s all well and good making pretty pictures with computers or coming up with some numbers free of any social context, but the value of the broader humanities is in the narratives and theories that they produce.

We can use the methods of the Digital Humanities to characterise and evaluate this literature. Doing so will create a test of the Digital Humanities that has bearing on the very claims against them by critics from the broader humanities that this literature contains. I propose a very specific approach to this evaluation. Rather than using the Digital Humanities to evaluate the broader humanities claims against it, we should use these claims to identify key features of the broader humanities self-image that they use to contrast themselves with the Digital Humanities and then evaluate the extent to which the literature of the broader humanities actually embody these features.

This project has five stages:

1. Determine the broader humanities’ claims of properties that they posses in contrast to the Digital Humanities.
2. Identify models or procedures that can be used to evaluate each of these claims.
3. Identify a corpus or canon of broader humanities texts to evaluate.
3. Evaluate the corpus or canon using the models or procedures.
4. Use the results of these evaluations as direct constraints on a theory of the broader humanities.

Notes on each stage:

Stage 1

I outlined some of the broader humanities’ claims against the Digital Humanities above that I am familiar with. We can perform a Digital Humanities analysis of texts critical of the Digital Humanities in order to test the centrality of these claims to the case against the Digital Humanities and to identify further claims for evaluation.

Stage 2

There are well defined computational and non-computational models of narrative, for example. There are also models of theories, and of knowledge. To the extent that the broader humanities find these insufficient to describe what they do and regard their use in a Digital critique as inadequate they will have to explain why they feel this is so. This will help both to improve such models and to advance the terms of the debate within the humanities.

One characteristic of broader humanities writing that is outside of the scope of the stated aims of this project but that I believe is worthwhile investigating are the extents to which humanities writing is simply social grooming and ideological normativity within an educational institutional bureaucracy, which can be evaluated using measures of similarity, referentiality and distinctiveness.

Stage 3

It is the broader humanities’ current self-image (in contrast to its image of the Digital Humanities) that concerns us, so we should identify a defensible set of texts for analysis.

There are well established methods for establishing a corpus or canon. We can take the most read, most cited, most awarded or most recommended articles established by a particular service or institution from a given date range (for example 2000-2009 inclusive or the academic year for 2010). We can take a reading list from a leading course on the subject. Or we can try to locate every article published online within a given period. Whichever criterion we choose we will need to explicitly identify and defend it.

Stage 4

Evaluating the corpus or canon will require an iterative process of preparing data and running software then correcting for flaws in the software, data, and models or processes. This process should be recorded publicly online in order to engender trust and gain input. To support this and to allow recreation of results the software used to evaluate the corpus or canon, and the resulting data, must be published in a free and open source manner and maintained in a publicly readable version control repository.

Stage 5

Stage five is a deceptive moment of jouissance for the broader humanities. It percolates number and model into narrative and theory, but in doing so it provides a test of the broader humanities’ self-image.

For the broader humanities to criticise the results of the project will require its critics to understand more of the Digital Humanities and of their own position than they currently do. Therefore even if the project fails to demonstrate or persuade it will succeed in advancing the terms of the debate.

Art Computing Satire

Digital Parapsychology

The (quasi-)scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena is a category error. Paranormality is qualitative affect, not quantitative effect. To the extent that it has physical effects these are not physically caused.

Seeking to reduce the numinosity of the paranormal to number is a mistake. It should be experienced, it should be retold, it should resonate.

But decades of research and reporting of the paranormal have amassed large quantities of data. In the age of Big Data, digitizing, analysing and relating this data with other data sources (news, geodata, parish records, government statistical information) can find evidence that has previously been missed and suggest new theories and new lines of investigation.

I propose Digital Parapsychology.

Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?

Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night?

Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic?

Have you or your family ever seen a spook, spectre or ghost?

Get yourself a Hadoop cluster and start feeding your EMF meter and IR sensor readings into map-reduce jobs to correlate them with historical and live feed data…

Aesthetics Satire

The Destiny Of Virus-Infected Drones

Once drones are infected by botnets the criminal gangs who make money by leasing out time on infected machines will have the effect of bringing military drone sorties into the market. As we all know, state monopolies are bad because they prevent the market efficiently allocating resources within society, and armies are the state monopoly on violence. Once drones are subjected to the logic of the market, their correct price will be assigned and their true value revealed.

Expat-funded terrorist groups will be able to bid higher than Guardianista “anti-war-crimes” drives for other people’s money, but in the end they will lose out to spammers. Drones, those avatars of thanatos, will become heralds of eros – flying pornbots broadcasting advertisements for viagra and cialis…

(Via netbehaviour, and with thanks to Dave Miller.)

Aesthetics Art Free Software Projects Satire


I turned the scripts I use for avoiding various cardinal sins of art
writing into an Emacs minor mode. This means that you can run it in your Emacs session as you write.

What do you mean you don’t use Emacs? Don’t be silly. 😉

Aesthetics Art Art Computing Generative Art Projects Satire



Produces modified versions of images resembling part of an ouvre.

You’ll need opencv-python installed for this. PIL should already be installed.

[Original image by Tommerton2010 CC-BY ]

Aesthetics Art Art Computing Free Software Politics Projects Satire


SendValues is a network testing tool that sends mathematical, aesthetic and textual values using the properties of rather than the contents of network messages.

You can get the source code here:

Both a stand-alone command-line version and an IRC-client version are included.

SendValues uses a naive pulse-width-modulation scheme for encoding values. Any improvements to the code gratefully received.

Here is the README:

SendValues is a system for transmitting aesthetic expression and political speech using properties of network protocols.

There are two versions, a command-line client and an IRC client. They use the same code and concepts apart from their different interfaces.

* Concepts

** Senders

A sender is a way of sending information over the network using an IP-based protocol. SendValues has the following senders:

TCP – Sends messages as TCP/IP connections.
UDP – Sends messages as UDP packets.
SYN – Sends messages as SYN requests.
HTTP – Sends messages as HTTP requests.
PING – Sends messages as ICMP echo requests.

Senders may be specified to the command line or IRC clients by these names.

** Values

A value is a message to be sent to a host using a sender. Values are quantized by the sender and transmitted over the network as naive pulse width modulation values.

SINE – A sine wave (argument is number of steps).
SQUARE – A square wave (argument is number of steps).
SAWTOOTH – A sawtooth wave (argument is number of steps).
TRIANGLE – A triangle wave (argument is number of steps).
TEXT – A block of text (argument is text to send).
IMAGE – An image, to be sent as 1-bit pbm data  (argument is image URL).

* The Command Line Client

The command line client takes all of its arguments from the command line.

-h, –help       – Print the help and exit.
-o, –host      – The host address to send to.
-s, –sender     – The sender to use (from the list above).
-m, –method     – The values generation method to use (from the list above).
-a, –argument     – The argument to the values generation method.
-c, –cell     – How long each value takes to send (in milliseconds).
-d, –duration     – How long to send values to the host.

These all have default values, including host which defaults to localhost.

* The IRC Client

The IRC client takes its initial configuration from the command line. Once it has connected to an IRC channel it takes commands from messages on that channel.

Command line arguments:

-h, –help    – Print the help and exit.
-s, –server    – The IRC server to connect to.
-p, –port    – The port on the IRC server to use (defaults to 6667).
-c, –channel    – The channel on the server to take commands from (omit #).
-u, –user    – The user on the channel to take commands from.

Channel and user default to “artcommands”.

Commands to the IRC channel have the following formats:

START [sender:]host[:port] kind[:argument]

Start sending values of the given kind to host using sender.
Where only sender or port are specified, the clients will guess which.
Argument can be a number of steps for wave senders, a url for the image sender, or arbitrary text for the text sender.

STOP host

Stop sending to the host. The host must be specified exactly as it was in the START command


Stop sending to all hosts.

Aesthetics Satire

The Mind Is Obsolete

The mind senses, learns, feels, communicates. But software supplants the capabilites of mind. GPS is a super-human sense, Wikipedia and stackoverflow are knowledge, Facebook and are affect, Twitter and tumblr are communication.

The mind is obsolete.

Aesthetics Art Satire

Found Art Criticism

I present Found Art Criticism:

“Kanye West’s intermittent tweets about art always make my day, so you
can imagine my joy when I saw these tweets pop up in my feed”

Here’s an example of Kanye West’s art-related tweets from the post:

Like yo this Mark
Rothko is the shit! You see it works. This is a break through people.
I now know how to communicate art! YES!!!!”

Notice how this has more critical content and social context than your average self-identified art criticism or theory blog post. Now we just need to form a Surf Club to nominate found art criticism and theory texts. All conscious critical and theoretical activity on the internet will be rendered irrelevant.

We could even do it as art, which would problematise it and make it resistant to simply being meta-nominated. Chris Anderson may have been wrong about Google replacing the scientific method, but if it can replace art for the cultural management (and God knows they’ve been trying to make it do so) then it can replace criticism and theory (and curation) as well.

All problems of critique will be solved by the Muntzes.

Aesthetics Projects Satire

Artbollocks Preflight Script

Inspired by the scripts to find weasel words, passive voice and lexical illusions from –

I’ve written a script to check for artbollocks in essays or reviews.


To use it, download it and add it to your PATH. Then use it like –

artbollocks my-essay.txt

Can anyone think of any words I’ve missed that should be added to it?