Distant Early Warning

dewline_cards

In 1969, Marshall McLuhan published Distant Early Warning, a playing card deck his estate describes as “a problem-solving device.” The deck was a part of the DEW Line Newsletter project (a “startling, shocking Early Warning System for our era of instant change”), which delivered McLuhan’s dispatches to subscribers via a range of unconventional formats, including records and decks of slides.

Based on these images, there are a few zingers in here — “With data banks, we are taped, typed and scrubbed” — and some thought has been put into which kinds of slogans or quotes appear on which kinds of cards. But much of the text hasn’t aged well, and it is sometimes hard to see this as much more than just a customized poker deck. I love the idea of people in 1969 getting curious bespoke “Newsletters” from Marshall McLuhan in oddball formats like card decks, but, at least compared to other popular works by McLuhan — notably, The Medium is the Massage (1967) — this feels slightly mailed-in. Even so, it remains a fascinating object.

You can buy the DEW Line card deck from Eric McLuhan.

# Nov 30, 2015

“To speak about the performative in relation to art is not about defining a new class of artworks. Rather, it involves outlining a specific level of the production of meaning that basically exists in every artwork, although it is not always consciously shaped or dealt with, namely, its reality-producing dimension. In this sense, a specific methodological orientation goes along with the performative, creating a different perspective on what produces meaning in an artwork. What the notion of the performative brings into perspective is the contingent and elusive realm of impact and effect that art brings about both situationally—that is, in a given spatial and discursive context—and relationally, that is, in relation to a viewer or a public. It recognizes the productive, reality-producing dimension of artworks and brings them into the discourse. Consequently we can ask: What kind of situation does an artwork produce? How does it situate its viewers? What kind of values, conventions, ideologies, and meanings are inscribed into this situation?”

Dorothea von Hantelmann, The Experiential Turn

# Nov 3, 2015

“Play does not only include the logics of the game – it also includes the values of the player. Her politics. Her body. Her social being. Play is a part of her expression, guided through rules, but still free, productive, creative. Without the openness of play, the player cannot express or explore their ethics, their politics. The player may be guided by reason, by the instrument of play, but that does not guarantee, as the fall of modernity and the critique of Enlightenment have shown, that rationality is enough to express politics or ethics.”

Miguel Sicart, Against Procedurally

# Jul 4, 2015

“A Pepsi commercial on MTV promoting the 1998 MTV music video awards emphasized the fact that the video of the year award would be selected by the viewers through Internet and phone calls live during the show; the commercial dramatized “the power of choice” and reminded us that “you are in charge of your destiny,” equating the ability to vote for an MTV music video award with personal and social power. In such fashion, the interactive spectacle attempts to seduce viewers into playing its game and equates virtual participation with empowerment and destiny.”

Steve Best and Douglas Kellner, Debord, Cybersituations, and the Interactive Spectacle

# Jul 2, 2015

“All the snapping and posting of photos, liking, commenting, linking, and clicking is happening without any compensation for this sweat. No wonder Zukerberg’s personal net worth is 34 billion. Youtube is saturated with videos of young people — many in their teens — testing out their skills at contributing to the world, offering tutorials in bow-tie tying, make-up tips, computer application reviews, movie reviews and many, many software tutorials focused on anything from Final Cut Pro to InDesign — high end and complicated applications, which they’ve clearly mastered. The beneficiaries of all of this generous labour are not only those whose lives are made slightly more easy, but, even more so, the companies who create the products that these kids are all helping us to use. The demand on Adobe from customers struggling to sort out Final Cut is much less because of the unpaid labour of young people.”

Darren O’Donnell, Hard Working Children

# Jun 8, 2015

“Although designers continue to dream of “transparency” – technologies that just do their job without making their presence felt – both creators and audiences actually like technologies with “personality.” A personality is something with which you can have a relationship. Which is why people return to pencils, violins, and the same three guitar chords.”

Brian Eno, The Revenge of the Intuitive

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