Out of Data

Algo-rhythmics

Sam Hind: Could you say a little on what ‘algorhythmic analysis’ is? Is this a form of analysis that is indebted to Henri Lefebvre’s ‘rhythmanalysis’? And if so, how does it differ? Are we, for example, talking of an altogether novel kind of rhythm – the algo-rhythm – that is neither mechanical nor ‘organic’ as Lefebvre would divide them?

Shintaro Miyazaki: Algorhythmics is indeed referencing Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis, but in my understanding ‘mechanical’ and ‘organic’ rhythms are not opposites. Instead, they are ends of a continuous spectrum occupied by the notion of rhythm. Usually rhythm is understood as being something periodic, and structured, which is associated with the ‘mechanical’, but it also allows for more organic, wild, life-like or even living characteristics. The prefix algo offers an epistemic linkage to the world of machinic and techno-mathematical procedures (algorithms), which produce or construct temporalities and thus rhythms. So algorhythmics is Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis applied to contemporary digital and data-based infrastructures. Currently I am especially interested in aspects of a critique from the left and what this means for media studies and related fields.

Two projects you’re currently working on are interested in ‘experimentation’, both in the form of ‘experimental and historical media and design research’, and ‘experimental data aesthetics’. What does an experimental sensibility, or approach, bring to the media/design table? And how does it differ, say, from non-experimental, or less-than-experimental work?

Actually research is always somehow experimental, right? But by foregrounding this term one can put more emphasis on it. Also, I am working now for some years in the context of design and applied sciences, which is usually quite solution oriented. Experimental, for me, always means shifting and – to use a term from Karen Barad – ‘diffracting’ a field of inquiry, making it actually more complicated than streamlining it towards a solution. This includes for me – besides experimenting with different material agencies of soft- and hardware assemblages – a mixture of (media)historical and fictional contextualization. Thus, exploring the archaeology – in the Foucauldian sense – of a field such as data analysis, information technology or smart environments, and simultaneously sounding out the fictional and speculative worlds it generates, as I am currently trying to do together with Susanna Hertrich in the project ‘Sensorium of Animals’.

Playing on its deliberate ambiguity, what does constructing something ‘out of data’, or being ‘out of data’ mean to you, especially in regards to your own work? I’m thinking here, once again, about ‘data aesthetics’?

I really like the word play and want to take ‘out of data’ quite literally both in its spatial and temporal meaning. Constructing something out of data means for me not only an investment of energy, but also some sort of mediatic act crossing the limits between inside and outside; a transduction. Actions also take time, so they are out-dated as soon as they happen. Actions can be enacted, reflected and problematized. They are historical. Actions are performed within a culture and techno-social framework. To understand the full consequences of ‘out of data’, I think it is important to synthesize historical approaches to data work with fictional/discursive world-building and practice-based experimentation.

Shintaro Miyazaki and Michael Chinen AlgorhythmicSorting (2012)

What opportunities do you think interdisciplinary work brings to the subject of ‘constructing’ or ‘being’ (out of) data? For example, in how design, practice, theory and method/ology are, or can be, combined and considered variously? Does it lend itself to the type of ‘synthesis’ you gestured to in the lecture?

This mixture of methods you are practising at CIM is very appealing to me and I think it is necessary to extend it towards action-based approaches and fields of problems such as transformative design. Constructing something out of data surely is a much-desired interdisciplinary ability and it might become an empowering skill in order to come closer to the dream of a self-determined living. Knowing that data-based knowledge is contingent, historical and constructed, and knowing how to self-design data studies, stories and fictions is surely laying a good foundation for emancipatory trajectories, which want to break out of ‘protected mode’ as Friedrich Kittler would say. The most difficult, complicated and important question then would be: how to construct good things out of data? And what is a good thing? Is breaking out of a ‘protected mode’ a good thing at all?

Shintaro Miyazaki is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Experimental Design and Media Cultures (IXDM) of the Academy of Art and Design, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland.

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  • Interview
  • 7 August 2017