Negentropic Explorations of Radio: Alloys of Matter and Information

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angewandte Forschung
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This is an experimental design research into the ways of organising archives on radio signals, using machine learning algorithms as operators of difference. Starting from radio signals as a natural and cultural phenomenon, the project challenges the persistent and foundational dualism in modern thinking (e.g. nature-culture) and proposes 'digital observatories': new methods for working with abundant digital information and digital corporeality.
Created during FHNW affiliation
Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst
Institut Experimentelles Design und Medienkulturen
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Schweizerischer Nationalfonds (SNF)
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machine learning
radio signals
philosophy of technology
posthuman subjectivity
media studies
design research
digital corporeality
Subject (DDC)
770 - Fotografie, Video, Computerkunst
Articulating nomadic identities of radio signals
(Revistes científiques de la Universitat de Barcelona, 25.02.2022) Savic, Selena [in: Matter: Journal of New Materialist Research]
This article presents a new materialist approach to artificial neural networks, based on experimental research in categorization of data on radio signals. Picking up on Rossi Braidotti’s nomadic theory and a number of new materialist perspectives on informatics, the article presents identification of radio signals as a process of articulating identities with data: nomadic identities that are informed by all the others, always established anew. As a resistance to the dominant understanding of data as discreet, the experiments discussed here demonstrate a way to work with a digital archive in a materialist and non-essentialist way. The output of experiments, data observatories, shows the capacity of machine learning techniques to challenge fixed dichotomies, such as human/nature, and their role in the way we think of identities. A data observatory is a navigation apparatus which can be used to orient oneself in the vast landscape of data on radio transmissions based on computable similarity. Nomadic identities render materiality of radio signals as digital information.
01A - Beitrag in wissenschaftlicher Zeitschrift
Modulating matters of computation, modelling and hyper-separations
(Electronic Workshops in Computing (eWiC), 09/2021) Savic, Selena; Miyazaki, Shintaro; Christensen, Michelle; Conradi, Florian; Søndergaard, Morten; Beloff, Laura; Choubassi, Hassan; Elias, Joe; Hannah, Dehlia [in: Proceedings of Politics of the machines - Rogue Research 2021]
We engage in a conversation with critical ecofeminism, which proposed to transform the colonialism-racism-capitalism-patriarchalism induced environmental crisis by non-essentialist countering of oppressions and hyper-separations produced by human/nature dualism. We modulate the critical ecofeminist approach by countering a similar dualism, namely that of nature/technology. Furthermore, our theoretical balance-act has a praxis-oriented side: we believe that computation can be included in ecofeminist action. By providing alternative forms of engagement to instrumentalization, we trace pathways to different futures, countering the binary narratives of technology but also its moralizing of socio-cultural mediation. We take an intersectional approach to outcomes of computational modelling (simulations, visualisations, forecasts) and discuss the ecofeminist method of synthesis as a way to include different perspectives into computational processes. We work with two ‘modulated models’ that pay attention to assumptions, observations and thinking about urban commoning initiatives, and amateur knowledge of radio telecommunications. We aspire to provoke discussions about different modes of inclusion in communities and archives that are centred on shared, environment-friendly, solidarity oriented life-style and mutual care. Our approach engages with feminist arguments and inquiries into ways patriarchalism is embedded in our relationship to technoscience and engineering. We explore modes of resistance by proposing skilled and alternative uses of these techniques.
04B - Beitrag Konferenzschrift
Architectonic Studies of Radio Signals: Reorganizing Archives of Data/Natures In Their Own Terms
(18.08.2020) Savic, Selena
As we slowly accustom to thinking about planetary issues through the notion of ‘assemblage’ rather than that of the ‘system’, we get better at acknowledging complex entanglements between living and inert, between social and technical. This paper presents a critical reflection on the use of machine learning techniques to support reasoning about natural phenomena. It engages data/natures by focusing on data radio signals: a phenomenon that pertains to both culture (telecommunications) and nature (atmospheric lightning discharges). Signal Identification Guide Wiki, a rich archive of signals observed and documented by a community of radio enthusiasts is the starting point of this study. In order to articulate alternative ways to study and engage with radio signals, I develop 'digital observatories': new methods for organizing and navigating abundant digital information based on critical use of self-organising map algorithm. I present a study of distribution patterns and clustering of signal qualities, when signals are reduced to spectrograms (visual representation of signal frequency composition). This 'digital observatory' aims to facilitate speculation on the connection between signal representation and technical communication protocols, by enabling the observer to identify criteria of similarity, and intervene in this organised space by adding new (real or imaginary) data. The project contributes to the fields of STS and experimental design research with an interest in the digital, unsettling the dichotomies previously described and providing avenues for recognition of the entangled nature of matter and information, of human and other-than-human, beyond simple ontological distinctions.
06 - Präsentation
Pixels and Bandwidth: On Imaginaries of Travel in Data
(Leo S. Olschki, 12/2022) Savic, Selena; Metzner-Szigeth, Andreas [in: On the Interplay of Images Imaginaries and Imagination in Science Communication]
The imaginary of travelling in data traces interdisciplinary concerns for technical artefacts. Focusing on data collection on radio signals gathered by a community of radio amateurs and enthusiasts, informational tools – ‘data observatories’ – render signals commensurable through their different visual representations. What can pixel distribution in a sound spectrogram tell us about a radio signal? Following Haraway’s insistence on the importance and persistence of vision as an embodied gaze enabling a new doctrine of objectivity, this study proceeds by extracting and organizing radio signal qualities using a machine-learning algorithm to expose them again to the visual faculty of subjective observers. Vision and travel constitute methodical tools to unfold disciplinary concerns starting from specific data in a way that favours interactional expertise.
04A - Beitrag Sammelband

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