Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is Simon Fraser University's Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media and Professor of Communication and Director of the SFU Digital Democracies Institute. She is the author of Control and Freedom, Programmed Visions, and Updating to Remain the Same, all published by the MIT Press.

  • Discriminating Data

    Discriminating Data

    Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition

    Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

    How big data and machine learning encode discrimination and create agitated clusters of comforting rage.

    In Discriminating Data, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun reveals how polarization is a goal—not an error—within big data and machine learning. These methods, she argues, encode segregation, eugenics, and identity politics through their default assumptions and conditions. Correlation, which grounds big data's predictive potential, stems from twentieth-century eugenic attempts to “breed” a better future. Recommender systems foster angry clusters of sameness through homophily. Users are “trained” to become authentically predictable via a politics and technology of recognition. Machine learning and data analytics thus seek to disrupt the future by making disruption impossible.

    Chun, who has a background in systems design engineering as well as media studies and cultural theory, explains that although machine learning algorithms may not officially include race as a category, they embed whiteness as a default. Facial recognition technology, for example, relies on the faces of Hollywood celebrities and university undergraduates—groups not famous for their diversity. Homophily emerged as a concept to describe white U.S. resident attitudes to living in biracial yet segregated public housing. Predictive policing technology deploys models trained on studies of predominantly underserved neighborhoods. Trained on selected and often discriminatory or dirty data, these algorithms are only validated if they mirror this data.

    How can we release ourselves from the vice-like grip of discriminatory data? Chun calls for alternative algorithms, defaults, and interdisciplinary coalitions in order to desegregate networks and foster a more democratic big data.

    • Hardcover $29.95
  • Updating to Remain the Same

    Updating to Remain the Same

    Habitual New Media

    Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

    What it means when media moves from the new to the habitual—when our bodies become archives of supposedly obsolescent media, streaming, updating, sharing, saving.

    New media—we are told—exist at the bleeding edge of obsolescence. We thus forever try to catch up, updating to remain the same. Meanwhile, analytic, creative, and commercial efforts focus exclusively on the next big thing: figuring out what will spread and who will spread it the fastest. But what do we miss in this constant push to the future? In Updating to Remain the Same, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun suggests another approach, arguing that our media matter most when they seem not to matter at all—when they have moved from “new” to habitual. Smart phones, for example, no longer amaze, but they increasingly structure and monitor our lives. Through habits, Chun says, new media become embedded in our lives—indeed, we become our machines: we stream, update, capture, upload, link, save, trash, and troll.

    Chun links habits to the rise of networks as the defining concept of our era. Networks have been central to the emergence of neoliberalism, replacing “society” with groupings of individuals and connectable “YOUS.” (For isn't “new media” actually “NYOU media”?) Habit is central to the inversion of privacy and publicity that drives neoliberalism and networks. Why do we view our networked devices as “personal” when they are so chatty and promiscuous? What would happen, Chun asks, if, rather than pushing for privacy that is no privacy, we demanded public rights—the right to be exposed, to take risks and to be in public and not be attacked?

    • Hardcover $35.00
    • Paperback $35.00
  • Programmed Visions

    Programmed Visions

    Software and Memory

    Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

    A theoretical examination of the surprising emergence of software as a guiding metaphor for our neoliberal world.

    New media thrives on cycles of obsolescence and renewal: from celebrations of cyber-everything to Y2K, from the dot-com bust to the next big things—mobile mobs, Web 3.0, cloud computing. In Programmed Visions, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun argues that these cycles result in part from the ways in which new media encapsulates a logic of programmability. New media proliferates “programmed visions,” which seek to shape and predict—even embody—a future based on past data. These programmed visions have also made computers, based on metaphor, metaphors for metaphor itself, for a general logic of substitutability.

    Chun argues that the clarity offered by software as metaphor should make us pause, because software also engenders a profound sense of ignorance: who knows what lurks behind our smiling interfaces, behind the objects we click and manipulate? The combination of what can be seen and not seen, known (knowable) and not known—its separation of interface from algorithm and software from hardware—makes it a powerful metaphor for everything we believe is invisible yet generates visible, logical effects, from genetics to the invisible hand of the market, from ideology to culture.

    • Hardcover $34.00
    • Paperback $25.00
  • Control and Freedom

    Control and Freedom

    Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics

    Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

    A work that bridges media archaeology and visual culture studies argues that the Internet has emerged as a mass medium by linking control with freedom and democracy.

    How has the Internet, a medium that thrives on control, been accepted as a medium of freedom? Why is freedom increasingly indistinguishable from paranoid control? In Control and Freedom, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun explores the current political and technological coupling of freedom with control by tracing the emergence of the Internet as a mass medium. The parallel (and paranoid) myths of the Internet as total freedom/total control, she says, stem from our reduction of political problems into technological ones.

    Drawing on the theories of Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault and analyzing such phenomena as Webcams and face-recognition technology, Chun argues that the relationship between control and freedom in networked contact is experienced and negotiated through sexuality and race. She traces the desire for cyberspace to cyberpunk fiction and maps the transformation of public/private into open/closed. Analyzing "pornocracy," she contends that it was through cyberporn and the government's attempts to regulate it that the Internet became a marketplace of ideas and commodities. Chun describes the way Internet promoters conflated technological empowerment with racial empowerment and, through close examinations of William Gibson's Neuromancer and Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell, she analyzes the management of interactivity in narratives of cyberspace.

    The Internet's potential for democracy stems not from illusory promises of individual empowerment, Chun argues, but rather from the ways in which it exposes us to others (and to other machines) in ways we cannot control. Using fiber optic networks—light coursing through glass tubes—as metaphor and reality, Control and Freedom engages the rich philosophical tradition of light as a figure for knowledge, clarification, surveillance, and discipline, in order to argue that fiber-optic networks physically instantiate, and thus shatter, enlightenment.

    • Hardcover $8.75
    • Paperback $39.95

Contributor

  • How Pac-Man Eats

    How Pac-Man Eats

    Noah Wardrip-Fruin

    How the tools and concepts for making games are connected to what games can and do mean; with examples ranging from Papers, Please to Dys4ia.

    In How Pac-Man Eats, Noah Wardrip-Fruin considers two questions: What are the fundamental ways that games work? And how can games be about something? Wardrip-Fruin argues that the two issues are related. Bridging formalist and culturally engaged approaches, he shows how the tools and concepts for making games are connected to what games can and do mean.

    Wardrip-Fruin proposes that games work at a fundamental level on which their mechanics depend: operational logics. Games are about things because they use play to address topics; they do this through playable models (of which operational logics are the primary building blocks): larger structures used to represent what happens in a game world that relate meaningfully to a theme. Game creators can expand the expressiveness of games, Wardrip-Fruin explains, by expanding an operational logic. Pac-Man can eat, for example, because a game designer expanded the meaning of collision from hitting things to consuming them. Wardrip-Fruin describes strategies game creators use to expand what can be said through games, with examples drawn from indie games, art games, and research games that address themes ranging from border policy to gender transition. These include Papers, Please, which illustrates expansive uses of pattern matching; Prom Week, for which the game's developers created a model of social volition to enable richer relationships between characters; and Dys4ia, which demonstrates a design approach that supports game metaphors of high complexity.

    • Hardcover $35.00
  • Critical Code Studies

    Critical Code Studies

    Mark C. Marino

    An argument that we must read code for more than what it does—we must consider what it means.

    Computer source code has become part of popular discourse. Code is read not only by programmers but by lawyers, artists, pundits, reporters, political activists, and literary scholars; it is used in political debate, works of art, popular entertainment, and historical accounts. In this book, Mark Marino argues that code means more than merely what it does; we must also consider what it means. We need to learn to read code critically. Marino presents a series of case studies—ranging from the Climategate scandal to a hactivist art project on the US-Mexico border—as lessons in critical code reading.

    Marino shows how, in the process of its circulation, the meaning of code changes beyond its functional role to include connotations and implications, opening it up to interpretation and inference—and misinterpretation and reappropriation. The Climategate controversy, for example, stemmed from a misreading of a bit of placeholder code as a “smoking gun” that supposedly proved fabrication of climate data. A poetry generator created by Nick Montfort was remixed and reimagined by other poets, and subject to literary interpretation.

    Each case study begins by presenting a small and self-contained passage of code—by coders as disparate as programming pioneer Grace Hopper and philosopher Friedrich Kittler—and an accessible explanation of its context and functioning. Marino then explores its extra-functional significance, demonstrating a variety of interpretive approaches.

    • Hardcover $30.00
  • The Software Arts

    The Software Arts

    Warren Sack

    An alternative history of software that places the liberal arts at the very center of software's evolution.

    In The Software Arts, Warren Sack offers an alternative history of computing that places the arts at the very center of software's evolution. Tracing the origins of software to eighteenth-century French encyclopedists' step-by-step descriptions of how things were made in the workshops of artists and artisans, Sack shows that programming languages are the offspring of an effort to describe the mechanical arts in the language of the liberal arts.

    Sack offers a reading of the texts of computing—code, algorithms, and technical papers—that emphasizes continuity between prose and programs. He translates concepts and categories from the liberal and mechanical arts—including logic, rhetoric, grammar, learning, algorithm, language, and simulation—into terms of computer science and then considers their further translation into popular culture, where they circulate as forms of digital life. He considers, among other topics, the “arithmetization” of knowledge that presaged digitization; today's multitude of logics; the history of demonstration, from deduction to newer forms of persuasion; and the post-Chomsky absence of meaning in grammar. With The Software Arts, Sack invites artists and humanists to see how their ideas are at the root of software and invites computer scientists to envision themselves as artists and humanists.

    • Hardcover $40.00
  • Coding Literacy

    Coding Literacy

    How Computer Programming Is Changing Writing

    Annette Vee

    How the theoretical tools of literacy help us understand programming in its historical, social and conceptual contexts.

    The message from educators, the tech community, and even politicians is clear: everyone should learn to code. To emphasize the universality and importance of computer programming, promoters of coding for everyone often invoke the concept of “literacy,” drawing parallels between reading and writing code and reading and writing text. In this book, Annette Vee examines the coding-as-literacy analogy and argues that it can be an apt rhetorical frame. The theoretical tools of literacy help us understand programming beyond a technical level, and in its historical, social, and conceptual contexts. Viewing programming from the perspective of literacy and literacy from the perspective of programming, she argues, shifts our understandings of both. Computer programming becomes part of an array of communication skills important in everyday life, and literacy, augmented by programming, becomes more capacious.

    Vee examines the ways that programming is linked with literacy in coding literacy campaigns, considering the ideologies that accompany this coupling, and she looks at how both writing and programming encode and distribute information. She explores historical parallels between writing and programming, using the evolution of mass textual literacy to shed light on the trajectory of code from military and government infrastructure to large-scale businesses to personal use. Writing and coding were institutionalized, domesticated, and then established as a basis for literacy. Just as societies demonstrated a “literate mentality” regardless of the literate status of individuals, Vee argues, a “computational mentality” is now emerging even though coding is still a specialized skill.

    • Hardcover $35.00
  • The Stack

    The Stack

    On Software and Sovereignty

    Benjamin H. Bratton

    A comprehensive political and design theory of planetary-scale computation proposing that The Stack—an accidental megastructure—is both a technological apparatus and a model for a new geopolitical architecture.

    What has planetary-scale computation done to our geopolitical realities? It takes different forms at different scales—from energy and mineral sourcing and subterranean cloud infrastructure to urban software and massive universal addressing systems; from interfaces drawn by the augmentation of the hand and eye to users identified by self—quantification and the arrival of legions of sensors, algorithms, and robots. Together, how do these distort and deform modern political geographies and produce new territories in their own image?

    In The Stack, Benjamin Bratton proposes that these different genres of computation—smart grids, cloud platforms, mobile apps, smart cities, the Internet of Things, automation—can be seen not as so many species evolving on their own, but as forming a coherent whole: an accidental megastructure called The Stack that is both a computational apparatus and a new governing architecture. We are inside The Stack and it is inside of us. 

    In an account that is both theoretical and technical, drawing on political philosophy, architectural theory, and software studies, Bratton explores six layers of The Stack: Earth, Cloud, City, Address, Interface, User. Each is mapped on its own terms and understood as a component within the larger whole built from hard and soft systems intermingling—not only computational forms but also social, human, and physical forces. This model, informed by the logic of the multilayered structure of protocol “stacks,” in which network technologies operate within a modular and vertical order, offers a comprehensive image of our emerging infrastructure and a platform for its ongoing reinvention. 

    The Stack is an interdisciplinary design brief for a new geopolitics that works with and for planetary-scale computation. Interweaving the continental, urban, and perceptual scales, it shows how we can better build, dwell within, communicate with, and govern our worlds.

    thestack.org

    • Hardcover $40.00
  • The Imaginary App

    The Imaginary App

    Paul D. Miller and Svitlana Matviyenko

    The mobile app as technique and imaginary tool, offering a shortcut to instantaneous connection and entertainment.

    Mobile apps promise to deliver (h)appiness to our devices at the touch of a finger or two. Apps offer gratifyingly immediate access to connection and entertainment. The array of apps downloadable from the app store may come from the cloud, but they attach themselves firmly to our individual movement from location to location on earth. In The Imaginary App, writers, theorists, and artists—including Stephen Wolfram (in conversation with Paul Miller) and Lev Manovich—explore the cultural and technological shifts that have accompanied the emergence of the mobile app. These contributors and interviewees see apps variously as “a machine of transcendence,” “a hulking wound in our nervous system,” or “a promise of new possibilities.” They ask whether the app is an object or a relation, and if it could be a “metamedium” that supersedes all other artistic media. They consider the control and power exercised by software architecture; the app's prosthetic ability to enhance certain human capacities, in reality or in imagination; the app economy, and the divergent possibilities it offers of making a living or making a fortune; and the app as medium and remediator of reality.

    Also included (and documented in color) are selected projects by artists asked to design truly imaginary apps, “icons of the impossible.” These include a female sexual arousal graph using Doppler images; “The Ultimate App,” which accepts a payment and then closes, without providing information or functionality; and “iLuck,” which uses GPS technology and four-leaf-clover icons to mark places where luck might be found.

    ContributorsChristian Ulrik Andersen, Thierry Bardini, Nandita Biswas Mellamphy, Benjamin H. Bratton, Drew S. Burk, Patricia Ticineto Clough, Robbie Cormier, Dock Currie, Dal Yong Jin, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Ryan and Hays Holladay, Atle Mikkola Kjøsen, Eric Kluitenberg, Lev Manovich, Vincent Manzerolle, Svitlana Matviyenko, Dan Mellamphy, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, Steven Millward, Anna Munster, Søren Bro Pold, Chris Richards, Scott Snibbe, Nick Srnicek, Stephen Wolfram

    • Hardcover $32.00
  • 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10

    10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10

    Nick Montfort, Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost, Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas, Casey Reas, Mark Sample, and Noah Vawter

    A single line of code offers a way to understand the cultural context of computing.

    This book takes a single line of code—the extremely concise BASIC program for the Commodore 64 inscribed in the title—and uses it as a lens through which to consider the phenomenon of creative computing and the way computer programs exist in culture. The authors of this collaboratively written book treat code not as merely functional but as a text—in the case of 10 PRINT, a text that appeared in many different printed sources—that yields a story about its making, its purpose, its assumptions, and more. They consider randomness and regularity in computing and art, the maze in culture, the popular BASIC programming language, and the highly influential Commodore 64 computer.

    • Hardcover $32.00
    • Paperback $35.00
  • Speaking Code

    Speaking Code

    Coding as Aesthetic and Political Expression

    Geoff Cox and Alex McLean

    The aesthetic and political implications of working with code as procedure, expression, and action.

    Speaking Code begins by invoking the “Hello World” convention used by programmers when learning a new language, helping to establish the interplay of text and code that runs through the book. Interweaving the voice of critical writing from the humanities with the tradition of computing and software development, in Speaking Code Geoff Cox formulates an argument that aims to undermine the distinctions between criticism and practice and to emphasize the aesthetic and political implications of software studies.

    Not reducible to its functional aspects, program code mirrors the instability inherent in the relationship of speech to language; it is only interpretable in the context of its distribution and network of operations. Code is understood as both script and performance, Cox argues, and is in this sense like spoken language—always ready for action.

    Speaking Code examines the expressive and performative aspects of programming; alternatives to mainstream development, from performances of the live-coding scene to the organizational forms of peer production; the democratic promise of social media and their actual role in suppressing political expression; and the market's emptying out of possibilities for free expression in the public realm. Cox defends language against its invasion by economics, arguing that speech continues to underscore the human condition, however paradoxical this may seem in an era of pervasive computing.

    • Hardcover $40.00
  • Imagery in the 21st Century

    Imagery in the 21st Century

    Oliver Grau

    Scholars from science, art, and humanities explore the meaning of our new image worlds and offer new strategies for visual analysis.

    We are surrounded by images as never before: on Flickr, Facebook, and YouTube; on thousands of television channels; in digital games and virtual worlds; in media art and science. Without new efforts to visualize complex ideas, structures, and systems, today's information explosion would be unmanageable. The digital image represents endless options for manipulation; images seem capable of changing interactively or even autonomously. This volume offers systematic and interdisciplinary reflections on these new image worlds and new analytical approaches to the visual.

    Imagery in the 21st Century examines this revolution in various fields, with researchers from the natural sciences and the humanities meeting to achieve a deeper understanding of the meaning and impact of the image in our time. The contributors explore and discuss new critical terms of multidisciplinary scope, from database economy to the dramaturgy of hypermedia, from visualizations in neuroscience to the image in bio art. They consider the power of the image in the development of human consciousness, pursue new definitions of visual phenomena, and examine new tools for image research and visual analysis.

    • Hardcover $45.00
    • Paperback $35.00
  • Code/Space

    Code/Space

    Software and Everyday Life

    Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge

    An analysis of the ways that software creates new spatialities in everyday life, from supermarket checkout lines to airline flight paths.

    After little more than half a century since its initial development, computer code is extensively and intimately woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. From the digital alarm clock that wakes us to the air traffic control system that guides our plane in for a landing, software is shaping our world: it creates new ways of undertaking tasks, speeds up and automates existing practices, transforms social and economic relations, and offers new forms of cultural activity, personal empowerment, and modes of play. In Code/Space, Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge examine software from a spatial perspective, analyzing the dyadic relationship of software and space. The production of space, they argue, is increasingly dependent on code, and code is written to produce space. Examples of code/space include airport check-in areas, networked offices, and cafés that are transformed into workspaces by laptops and wireless access. Kitchin and Dodge argue that software, through its ability to do work in the world, transduces space. Then Kitchin and Dodge develop a set of conceptual tools for identifying and understanding the interrelationship of software, space, and everyday life, and illustrate their arguments with rich empirical material. And, finally, they issue a manifesto, calling for critical scholarship into the production and workings of code rather than simply the technologies it enables—a new kind of social science focused on explaining the social, economic, and spatial contours of software.

    • Hardcover $45.00
    • Paperback $25.00
  • Expressive Processing

    Expressive Processing

    Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies

    Noah Wardrip-Fruin

    From the complex city-planning game SimCity to the virtual therapist Eliza: how computational processes open possibilities for understanding and creating digital media.

    What matters in understanding digital media? Is looking at the external appearance and audience experience of software enough—or should we look further? In Expressive Processing, Noah Wardrip-Fruin argues that understanding what goes on beneath the surface, the computational processes that make digital media function, is essential.

    Wardrip-Fruin looks at “expressive processing” by examining specific works of digital media ranging from the simulated therapist Eliza to the complex city-planning game SimCity. Digital media, he contends, offer particularly intelligible examples of things we need to understand about software in general; if we understand, for instance, the capabilities and histories of artificial intelligence techniques in the context of a computer game, we can use that understanding to judge the use of similar techniques in such higher-stakes social contexts as surveillance.

    • Hardcover $36.95
    • Paperback $37.00