October 19-21, 2018
Berlin, Germany

Rebecca Uliasz


Rebecca Uliasz conducts research in the intersections of computational networks, hardware hacking, machine intelligence, and contemporary digital art culture. Her work commonly takes the form of collaborative writing, interactive installation, time-based performance, and custom made hardware and software tools. She is currently a second year PhD student in the department of Computational Media, Arts, and Cultures at Duke University, where she is also a fellow in the John Hope Franklin Humanities Center PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge. She performs audio visual noise sets regularly in New York and North Carolina.

Performance Talk with Max Symuleski

Speculative Network Topologies: Modeling Futurity

What would a social network look like if it were modeled after the fluid dynamics of water? What about the electrically conductive properties of malleable and lightweight aluminum foil? The synthetic chemical structure of polymer plastics? How might networks be read through the tear and the fold, rather than through the edge and the node? How can we speculate on the properties of an immaterial social arrangement using concrete physical substrate?

This talk will refer back to two historical moments in which radical media networks were conceived, implemented, and ultimately dissipated in order to weave speculative and open-ended models. Augmenting the form of the traditional academic talk through a live-performed audio-visual essay, we will look back at the network imaginaries to the 1970s - a fleeting moment of futurity - to frame network models for both the American radical media movements (Ant Farm and Radical Software) and the Italian autonomous radio movement (Radio Alice). Positioned in the context of a rich visual genealogy of network topologies, these radical media networks provide case studies for the potentials of speculative modeling practices towards mapping alternative futures. They also reveal the enduring problem of noise: the tensions, rents, and erasures in attempts to visualize the complex and contradictory topography of any social graph.

Following network theorist Tiziana Terranova, we suggest that contemporary internet network models derived from graph theory and based on the diagrammatic “node” and “edge” deploy economic reductions of society that re-inscribe capitalist logic. Rather than giving up on the relationality opened up by the network form, we will focus on the notion of the hypersocial, the tactics of culture jamming and, the discordant productivity of noise, and the value of creating cultural fiction through imagining network diagrams based on past and possible future moments of radical connection. We end with the following questions: what role does modeling play in our participation in a “social network”? How can a practice of modeling futurity offer us insight into our present social condition and offer potential for speculating on alternative networked arrangements?