Monthly Archives: January 2021

The Truth behind Pixels


At first glance, the development of the present media infrastructure, made by an articulated system of data centers, routers, cloud off-ramps, cables, satellites, and so on, seems unstoppable. Nicole Starosielski argues that we are in a feedback loop wherein data cables can be considered resources for audiovisual media and the very media are projected as resources for cables, allowing “the speculative development of large-scale infrastructural projects in the absence of any actual circulation.” [1]
Although media history is often characterized as a progression toward greater definition, fidelity, and truthfulness, is humanity going to rely more and more on those data-expensive media-rich contents?


Contemporary art, indeed, has already a long story of experimentations with a certain aesthetic of compression, described by Jonathan Sterne describes as a form of “proper management of content for the transmission lines” through the reduction of signal size for fitting in the media infrastructure. [2] As Hito Steyerls explains, the “poor image” is the copy made for movement: the more it accelerates, the more it deteriorates. [3]
Valentina Tanni explains that since xerox art to glitch art “pixels, primary elements of the computerized image, have been exhibited and exalted, […] low-definition is taken as one of the multiple possibilities of the image.” [4]
Simonetta Fadda argues that we have given to the HD image the task of replacing the reality that it reproduces, though this process inevitably “sanitize and sweeten” the contradictions of the very reality. [5] Consequently, lo-fi is a political choice that wants to ignore mainstream aesthetic and copyright culture, transforming quality into accessibility. [3]


As also Tanni points out, smartphones and webcams, far exceeding professional equipment, combined with lack of graphic education, generate a visual landscape where lo-fi images are the most frequent and authentic occurrence. Indeed, while looking at a “poor” image we would not doubt of manipulation, since, if it was, it would have been evident. On the contrary, a high-quality image is black-boxed: it does not reveal how far it has been manipulated.

While high-quality images are better at immersing us into a realistic representation of our visual existence, but keeping undisclosed their processual complexity, lo-fi images are democratically produced by the average digital citizen and “testify to the violent dislocation, transferrals, and displacement of images — their acceleration and circulation within the vicious cycles of audiovisual capitalism.” [3] Realism is not that realistic anymore.


Since this rising appreciation of the aesthetic of compression, the fact the humanity is heading directly towards a massive usage of media-rich contents can be put into discussion. Maybe the global mediatic infrastructure will not be overloaded and consequently overpowered (the usage makes the infrastructure!) just for a refusal to hyperreality.
After all, we sometimes prefer calling to video-calling, texting to audio, photographing to recording a video.


[1] Nicole Starosielski, Fixed Flow, from Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures, University of Illinois Press (2015)

[2] Jonathan Sterne, MP3: The Meaning of a Format, Duke University Press (2012)

[3] Hito Steyerl, In Defense of Poor Image, E-Flux (9th December 2009)

[4] Valentina Tanni, Memestetica: Il Settembre Eterno dell’Arte, Nero (2020)

[5] Simonetta Fadda, Definizione Zero, Costa & Nolan (1999)

Tears of Joy


The forerunner of the writing can be considered numerous paintings and engravings that have survived from the Late Paleolithic period from roughly 35,000 to 15,000 years before the beginning of time. The birth of the actual writing took place in Sumer, ancient Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq, about 3,200 years before the beginning of our era.(1)

In the 21st century, we are returning to the origins of written language, the world of symbols and signs. For the first time, in 2015, a picture was chosen as the word of the year in the Oxford Dictionary – a face laughing with tears in his eyes, called ´Tears of joy´. (2)

Our increasing use of smart devices and media has led to the simplification of language, the decline of literacy, and the replacement of traditional written language with partly different character and symbol systems, memes, and emojis. Iconic characters have begun to be used in writing alongside the old symbolic character set. They differ from iconic writing systems in that they have no sound value. (1) The popularity of audiobooks, the replacement of words by emojis and the increase in video call into question the importance of traditional literacy.

However, there is already talk of a post-text period, although it is difficult to think of replacing a scientific text, for example. Literacy will still be needed. Replacing long texts with a single meme image leads to an ambiguous visuality that requires different reading skills than a traditional text. Instead of literacy, we are talking about multi-literacy. At the same time, people’s literacy is declining.

-Bible as emojis

Do you recognize the verses below?

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy might.” The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no commandment greater than these. ” The Double Commandment of Love, Mark. 12: 30

There are about half a million adults in Finland who do not have sufficient literacy skills to cope in today’s society (3) The decline in literacy leads to inequality in society. The danger is the polarization of society and the intensification of extremism.

The impact of political memes has been relatively little studied. Memes can be harmless entertainment that invigorates everyday life, but also a gateway to harmful extremism. Meme simplifies the worldview. Memes and humor are the most effective forms of influencing in social media. There is no direct evidence of planned political influence. However, that does not mean that it will not happen. In the future, trolling can be done with artificial intelligence and algorithms and can be controlled by states, among others. (4) The speed of communication and the lack of source criticism easily lead to the spread of belief information and the fragmentation of the field of knowledge. The content of search engines and the Internet is over-relied on, and at the same time search engine companies have infinite power over the dissemination of information. The governance of search engine companies is a huge political controversy.

On the other hand, the problem is the decline in human brain capacity globally. Professor Gerald Grabtree puts it this way: “I would even bet that if the average citizen from Athens now came to us thousands of years ago, he would be the smartest and most intellectually capable of our party. He would have a good memory, wide-ranging ideas and sharp perspectives on important things. ” The rationale for the hypothesis is that man no longer needs his intellectual abilities to survive in modern modern society. And when intelligence is no longer needed, the genes that support it begin to decay as a legacy for future generations. (5)

Evan Horowitz also writes in an article published by NBC: Humanity is becoming more stupid. That is not an estimate. That is a global fact. IQ results have begun to deteriorate in some of the leading countries, (2). One explanation for this, according to Horowitz, has been that food no longer receives as many nutrients due to global warming. The information society has also been blamed for the flood of information, which is seen as undermining people’s ability to concentrate. It can also undermine humanity’s ability to respond to massive problems such as climate change and the challenges posed by artificial intelligence. (6)



(1)  Kuvakirjoituksen jälleensyntymä – tunneikonit kirjoitetussa puhekielisessä keskustelussa ^__^  /  / Pro gradu -tutkielma Suomen kieli Turun yliopisto Toukokuu 2006,  Ilmari Vauras /


(3)  Meemien tulkitseminenkin vaatii lukutaitoa – Mitä käy niille, jotka eivät opi lukemaan?/Salla Rajala, 27.9.2019

(4)  Viihdettä vai aivopesua? Meemit vaikuttavat ajatuksiisi, etkä välttämättä edes huomaa sitä

, 20.9.2019,


(6)  Ihmiskunta muuttuu tyhmemmäksi. ”Se ei ole arvio”.

SIINA EKBERG | 23.05.2019 | 23:55- päivitetty 23.05.2019 | 19:10



Thanks for the inspiration to Alicia Romero Fernandez 🙂







-Bible as emojis

Do you recognize the verses below?

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy might.” The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no commandment greater than these. ” The Double Commandment of Love, Mark. 12: 30

4. picture manipulation: Tuula Vehanen

Cable Innocence

In 2020 the submarine cables take up a length of approximately 1.2 million kilometers [1] which is an impressive number, too large to comprehend and thus as unreal as the ceaseless wireless data connection itself. But the cables are physical, of course, and require not only manufacturing, but also installation and maintenance. And presumably – lots of money for lots of power in return. But for a commercial, artificial and physical entity spanning across oceans, cables seem to have gained more sympathy (or more sympathetic vocabulary) than I would have expected.

There is a history of submarine cables starting with telegraphy traffic in the 1850s, but these days submarine telecommunication cables are fiber optic cables that operate by shooting pulses of light through transparent fibers usually made of glass or plastics; cables laid under the seabed are wrapped in protective layers made of steel, copper, and polyethylene, and are equipped with repeaters that are additionally powered by a power cable [2]. When possible, these cables are buried under the seabed in the sand, but when impossible (or sometimes not legally required) they are laid on the seabed and covered up with concrete mattresses, rocks or cast-iron shells for protective reasons [2].

Invasive and alien as they are in the submarine environment, cables and cable laying seemingly does not have an alarming impact on the environment and underwater fauna. Related environmental impacts include underwater noise, heat dissipation, electromagnetic fields, contamination, and disturbance [2], but they are largely seen as minor, temporal, and transient. And strange as it seems, according to biologist Brian Bett, old and unused cables could even be abandoned in the ocean, as “there could be a carbon footprint assessment of the diesel fuel used to recover them”, and very often that is the case and cables, as well as repeaters, are left in the ground [3]. But this somehow seems to oversee the fact that fiber, metal, and plastics are still waste buried deep into the oceans, disrupting nature.

There is a reported incident of a humpback whale entangled in a data cable near the coast of Norway, which is rescued by the coastal guard in two days time after accidental spotting by a nature photographer [4], but for as much as we can see (and given the depth of the ocean – it’s not much) modern cables have also spared the large marine mammals. Rest aside the environmental impact of roaring data centers and power usage of ever-increasing multimedia content and data consumption, cables are starting to seem truly innocent.

And interestingly, as such, they are also depicted in the public discourse – vulnerable and in a need of defense. Cables as such are subject to various faults – accidental human activity and occasional earthquakes and underwater slides, but at this point, cables are laid across different routes and customers are rarely aware of disruptions, with main losses being for the telco industry [5]. In 1958 The International Cable Protection Committee was founded [6]; CNN depicts cables as being vulnerable, BBC asks Could Russian submarines cut off the Internet?, and various UK government officials seek attention for the insecure [7] cables and their defense [8]. The overall depiction in media also seems to follow the line of magnificent, but vulnerable network, without posing questions of ownership and thus, power relations.

Without a deep knowledge of the secretive cable industry and large tech companies, this discourse can seem alarming, inviting the public to hope for the protection of the cables, as if the cables were a part of our private selves. Fearing the Russians, fearing a communications cutout, fearing a disruption of our Internet-dependent private realities, fearing a moment in a dystopian future when all the cables crash and we are left out of reach. For the most part, the world has grown dependent on submarine data cables and companies planting, maintaining, and owning those cables, so a general public vouching for the cables (thus, vouching for the companies, no questions asked) seems like a logical if not fearful attitude, for the power is too enormous to challenge. And even one step further, if I may – public fear in itself is quite a resource.



[1] Submarine Cable 101. URL:

[2] Institute of Applied Ecology. Impacts of submarine cables on the marine environment – A literature review. URL:

[3] Boztas, S. Buried at sea: the companies cashing in on abandoned cables, 14.12.2016. URL:

[4] Coghlan, A. Hacker, the humpback whale who got tangled in an internet cable, 16.11.2016. URL:

[5] Griffiths, J. The global internet is powered by vast undersea cables. But they’re vulnerable. 26.07.2019. URL:

[6] About the ICPC. URL:

[7] Sunak, R. Undersea Cables: Indispensable, insecure. 1.12.2017. URL:

[8] Barker, P. The Challenge of Defending Subsea Cables. 20.3.2018. URL:

No/humanness in the Immediate

We are becoming ever more impatient, and waiting which will always be part of any process [1], seems more like an inadequacy in the human code, there’s this old fixation with utility and efficiency which is slowly killing all that is organic within ourselves and surrounding us. From the days of industrialization, and the beginning of the engine era, our pace has constantly been stepping up affected by new technologies [1]. Being modern is being fast and productive, our wireless context allows and so many other times demands us to be in many different places at many different times, we are living the future, the same future that, as years ago, relies on the cultural obsession with immediateness and the well-developed infrastructure illiteracy.

Our cultural geography and temporality are ruled by capital systems, who, more than ever, are putting a value on time, we’ve come from having tangible benefits in reducing time on communication systems to making immediateness a final product itself. Another phenomenon is the overgrowing invisibility of infrastructures and with these a lack of understanding of who controls those services we rely so much on upon; by these means, we might live under the impression that investments to obtain better accessibility may be part of our nation’s interest in the common well and better social development but the reality is that nearly all, if not all, internet infrastructure belongs to private companies [2] and such investments have as final ends the creation of more need rather than providing solutions.



These private owners are in constant search of investors and expansion grounded on probabilities of data consumption [3], an interesting approach on this matter is to analyze the extent of services these private companies own and how they use user data for developing still unneeded infrastructure base on, the already capitalized, searches, screen time, and clicks, to name a few. It is no wonder that their main interest is to keep providing quick and borderless access to such services as they plan to expand and create more apps and services that will demand broader data access, creating an ever-accelerating cultural imaginary [4].

The idea of services beyond geography and borders may seem utopic but in practice, they come with rather problematic issues. The fact that most of these infrastructures rely on private entities who are not engaged in national matters such as, territory or natural resources affairs, or national privacy policies are some practical problems, but on a cultural imaginary scale, we have to understand the power we are giving to such entities, especially, in the social understanding of time and immediateness, and how these perceptions are being translated into other spheres such as education and culture.

As an effect, time is, more and more, being perceived as less useful on critical and investigating spaces because of the lack of practical utility [5] but especially because they are not at the same pace with the cultural imaginary pace that telecommunication infrastructures have created. While being obsessed with immediateness we are pushing ourselves towards a practical conception of reality, where our attention is shifting from being analytical and explorative to producing and consuming cyclicly at a fast speed. This phobia of waiting is affecting the way we understand information and also how it is being taught; nowadays education institutions rush students to get their degrees done quickly, courses cut studying hours by half, and there is a tendency for more self-studies. By assimilating the accelerating pace of infrastructures we are putting at risk capacities to generate ideas, instead of quickly searching for pre-solved answers.

Nowadays it is almost a revolutionary act not to follow what some app says and choose to be consciously slow on our way to our next meeting, or that inevitable metro trip, adding some non-efficient gap in our routine and it is even more revolutionary to go through one specific topic all over until words lack sense. We are expected to know things or search them immediately if not the case. Exploration and mistakes are permitted but there are limits and deadlines. Time is ticking constantly and on the other side of it, are the communication networks making it go even faster.

Knowledge isn’t immediate, isn’t invisible, these big entities are looking for blind and illiterate users, to keep on growing at an accelerated pace. We have to question what’s the limit of our unstable ethics and start visualizing the physicality and social effects of this unrestricted massive political private control before there’s only left generations of systematic consumers with no further soul or purpose.



[1] Invisible and Instantaneous: Geographies of Media Infrastructure from Pneumatic Tubes to Fiber Optics. Farman, J. 2018. Geospatial Memory, 2 (1), pp.134-154.

[2] Submarine Cable Map.

[3] “Fixed Flow: Undersea Cables as Media Infrastructure,” in Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures. Starosielski, N., Urbana, Chicago, And Springfield: University Of Illinois Press, 2015, 53-70.

[4] The Tech Giant’s Invisible Helpers. Ovide, S. 2020

[5] In defense of the useless. Ordine N. 2016.

Greening Google

In the mediatic sphere, there is a strong association between the imaginaries of digitization, electricity, and environmentalism. We do think that an electric car is “greener” than a diesel-fueled one. We do imagine smart cities fully digitized, electric, and merged with the natural ecosystem, like the projects by Studio Stefano Boeri [1]. However, there is a growing perception that this could be a big misunderstanding.

For example, in 2019 OVO Energy has calculated the carbon footprint of emails and asserted that in the United Kingdom “if every email user in the country were to send one less unnecessary email per day, that would reduce carbon emissions by 16,433 tonnes,” [2] and then gave a metaphor to “contain the messy reality of infrastructure” [3]: 81,152 flights from London to Madrid.

The unexpectedness of these data makes this question is then immediate: are we in front of a case of greenwashing operated by the media industry? Formerly known as “eco-pornography” thanks to former advertising executive Jerry Mander, “greenwashing” is a concept born in 1986 by biologist and environmental activist Jay Westerveld, but with still no univocal definition. Riccardo Torelli, Federica Balluchi, and Arianna Lazzini then agree to trace the vague borders of this practice calling it “a misleading communication practice concerning environmental issues.” [4]

According to Greenpeace reports examining the energy consumption of data centers and cloud infrastructures, “if the cloud were a country, it would have the fifth-largest electricity demand in the world,” mostly used for keeping “servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity” [5]. And at the same time, various companies like Google, Facebook, or Apple send messages about their effort in the construction of more energy-efficient structures and green energy plants that partially cover the enormous energy demand.

However, while looking at this oxymoron, the wisest question is then to ask: can these companies do otherwise? What is the budget percentage spent by GAFAM in researching less consuming infrastructures? And by our governments? If we are judgemental about Google building hydroelectric plants, how should we behave with those who are not even doing this?
And provoking finally: can we accept to have a more mediocre cloud service for a greener planet?


[1] Stefano Boeri, Tirana Riverside, Tirana, Albania (2020)

[2] Martin Armstrong, The Carbon Footprint of ‘Thank you’ Emails, Statista (2019),at%20on%20a%20national%20scale.

[3] Star and Lampland, Standards and Their Stories, 11.

[4] Riccardo Torelli, Federica Balluchi and Arianna Lazzini, Greenwashing and Environmental Communication: Effects on Stakeholders’ Perceptions, from Richard Welford, Business Strategy and the Environment (2020)

[5] Jennifer Holt and Patrick VonDerau, Where the Internet Lives: Data Centers as Cloud Infrastructure, from Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures, University of Illinois Press (2015)

Fe Simeoni Ig


We come from mentioning the physicality of some infrastructures, they really on land, minerals, material resources to function, the same applies to our data, software access information, contacts, events, preset alarms, passwords, overall everything we want to keep somewhere within our multi-dimensional and for that matter multi-temporal reach.

The cloud provides a solution to storage and accessibility not to just one type of data but to overall our entire functionality, with connectivity we gain the possibility to access our information from everywhere, we also gain unawareness and inability to filter what to hold on to and what to dispose of, we lost track of what we’ve kept dragging and even worst what we’ve been keeping somewhere around the data landscape – which is in a grey zone of the private and public domain [1].

With the lack of awareness of the physicality of data as compared to the weight of ten books or the space a thousand photos would take of our intimate spaces, it is hard to understand data accumulation as an issue, especially since digitalization provided certain relief from waste and space overload. How much are we storing and for what purposes? And where does this data goes? As before mention digitalization may have solved some waste and storage issues but it’s not ethereal it is as physical as it gets, as any other infrastructure, and in this one, in particular, there’s an accelerated growing directly link with our production and consumption of data. So then again I raise the question, is it really everything essential?

We are directly accountable for the creation of exponential data centers, massive physical infrastructures with over the top energy consumption whose sole purpose is to store data that could be otherwise kept somewhere unidimensional with limited access rather than the cloud or moreover don’t exist at all, it’s important to take into account also data accumulated into what is known as Big Data. Companies profit from our detachment of data physicality and keep on magnifying such alienation by offering more abstract space in the cloud to storage a lifetime of pure digital waste. [2]

Therefore, we are part of a capital cycle where we keep on expanding limits and accepting terms and conditions while paying monthly fees for this “space” with no understanding of what this implies or where the actual space is located, even worst, who does it really belong to [3]- such type of contracts is unthinkable outside this sphere. They keep on pushing us to fill those new limits with false pretenses of “the unlimited” but there is a limit to our resources and to how many data centers our lands can hold before they turn natural landscapes into ghost-cities with more electricity consumption of those of proper habited countries, this matters especially having in consideration that there are still cities that don’t have this resource at all, is it then worth thinking of such investments while others still live on total darkness? [3]

Some of us as individuals try our best to reduce our footprint by buying local, eating vegan, even buying second-handed but then again we are not aware of the implications of our lack of memory, our inability to recollect phone numbers, addresses, authors, or even appointments, not to mention the countless pictures and videos just to pick one for the day’s post. At what cost, are we accumulating there in the “ethereal” causing the exhaustion of resources, populating the world with shallow electrified buildings.

We are at a point were data accumulation is as serious as material waste, data centers are the starting point of our digital wastelands but we as individuals can not change the damage we can and must raise consciousness about digital waste and try to avoid unnecessary accumulation of data and try to make the companies change their policies and agendas because it is up to them to limit the data landscapes and put restrictions within their own policies because there is no such thing as “unlimited” not when it comes to our land or resources.

– Francesca Bogani Amadori

References :

[1] Cloud Power. Dulin,O. 2016.

[2] Volume of big data in data center storage worldwide from 2015 to 2021.

[3] Apple confirms it uses Google’s cloud for iCloud. Novet, J. 2018.

[4 ]1.3 billion are living in the dark. Lindeman, T. 2015.

Sabotage the Saboteur

Approximately one year ago, when Covid-19 spread around the World, I had a fascinating conversation with one of my friends from China. She was very confused because her social media got full of posts with random emojis, ancient Chinese calligraphy, and what seemed to be Morse code. However, after reading some more posts, she understood what was going on. People came up with elaborated codes to spread a censored interview from Ai Fen, a doctor in Wuhan’s Hospital who talked about the coronavirus outbreak [1, 2].

Font: Abacus, South China Morning Post

I found it so witty how people could come up with new codes, and even rescue and integrate old communication methods to fight the censorship. Precisely, I think that this phenomenon is what Shannon Mattern is talking about when she writes about informal or shadow development in the article Deep Time of Media Infrastructure [3]When institutions are not providing, or — like in this case — are sabotaging the information, people need to improvise. 

That is not the first time we can see new codes emerging to confuse the algorithms and avoid censorship. One example is women using Photoshop to protest against Instagram’s restrictions by displaying male nipples over their own [4].

Font: Instagram

Another example is the use of makeup to avoid the facial recognition to go unnoticed in front of the cameras. In the project CV Dazzle, they use fashion as camouflage [5]. They claim that it is a concept and a strategy tailored to each face and technology, which I believe is related to the fact that only human labor can “sabotage” the infrastructure. Only people will be able to confront the structures and make a change.

Font: CV Dazzle

In conclusion, the fact is that every message, image, or video that we want to display nowadays is going through the filter of giant companies that are governed by arbitrary restrictions. However, it does not matter if a bot is using the latest technology such as facial recognition, or keyword detection, that people are going to find new codes to spread their message.

After all, knowledge is power.



[1] Abacus, South China Morning Post. Censored coronavirus news shows up again as emoji, Morse code and ancient Chinese.

[2] .coda. Chinese citizens fight coronavirus censorship with emojis and ancient languages.

[3] Shannon Mattern, Deep Time of Media infrastructure.

[4] The Daily Edge. Women are Photoshopping male nipples over their own to protest against Instagram censorship.

[5] CV Dazzle. Computer Vision Dazzle Camouflage.


~ Alicia Romero

The Kitsch of Wi-fi Culture

One of the principles of the aesthetics of contemporary houses and offices is the hiding of wires. We cannot stand the sight of such technical ugliness: an unpleasant black spot in the plastic clear neatness. [1] The inhabitants of these houses or the workers of these offices live surrounded by all the objects they need in order to survive in nowadays society. Since they manage to do anything through well-designed interfaces put on stylish plastic covers, they never have to think about cables, magnetic fields, chips, and pipelines. And for this very reason, technicalities are carelessly perceived as unessential and can be out of sight. After all, using Mies van der Rohe’s words, “less is more”.

However, the hiding of the media infrastructure that pervades our environments is a false and short-sighted liberation. Quoting from Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, “kitsch is the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and figurative sense of the word; kitsch excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence.” [2] Indeed, there will be always a moment when those magical objects stop working and need some maintenance or repairing. As Bruno Latour argues, we become aware of the information infrastructure when the device does not function and we are forced to tear that veil of Maya, facing the materiality of the problem. [3]

If we give a quick glance through history, the refusal of the aesthetics of infrastructure seems more a recent fact. Roman aqueducts are considered beautiful, but nobody will be happy to live nearby a water tower or a trellis. Houses and villages were built along the streets and at the trivia, but nowadays few people would like to have a room with a view on a motorway, a railway or an airport. Watermills and windmills make us dream of idyllic landscapes; power plants devalue the prices of houses of the neighborhood. Print houses and newsies were at the very core of Renaissance cities; whereas data centers and antennas are located aside.

– Roman aqueduct, Segovia, Spain

If mainstream architecture and design can be considered kitsch in Kundera’s terms, it must be said that not all the professionals of these fields behave in the same way. Indeed, there are many examples of deliberately exhibited technicalities in architecture, such as Centre Pompidou by Renzo Piano [4] (defined as a “love at second sight” by the National Geographic) or the Tōkyō Tower by Tachū Naitō [5]. Aren’t those examples of infrastructural honesty, provoking all the non-engineers that the materiality of information is not complicated, but complex and fascinating? Aren’t they revealing us that this is what our society is made of and that we should understand?

– Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

– Tōkyō Tower, Tōkyō, Japan

The novel by US philosopher Robert Maynard Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is about that. Differently from a Romantic approach, Illuministic beauty lays on the rational comprehension of and unmediated astonishment for the relations between parts of a multiplicity. Through knowledge, the observer can appreciate the object on a more profound level, whereas “romantic” people are condemned to a life of incomprehension and irritation. [6]

Indeed, the average human is illiterate about the materiality of media infrastructure: he prefers to ignore such irrelevant details and gets annoyed when he has to deal with this matters. In his “romantic” perspective, the media he interacts with are magical objects that work due to some reasons beyond the possibilities of his comprehension. He feels much more secure in the plastic-covered illusion that there is nothing more to understand but the interface on the surface.

We do not want to see cables and wires because we do not want to see our ignorance.


[1] Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, Introduction, in Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures, University of Illinois Press (2015)

[2] Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 68 Publishers (1984)

[3] Bruno Latour, Where Are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts, in Shaping Technology-Building Society. Studies in Sociotechnical Change, Wiebe Bijker and John Law, MIT Press (1992)

[4] Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (1977)

[5] Tachū Naitō, Tōkyō Tower, Tōkyō, Japan (1958)

[6] Robert Maynard Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, William Morrow and Company (1974)

Fe Simeoni Ig

The Medium (Infrastructure) is the Message

Infrastructures have been in multiple forms even before the term was ever used, and that the concept itself has ever since became super broad – coming from printing to highways- but for this matter, it is important to mention that now more than ever many present themselves as being “discursive” base constructions but in reality, they are quite physical and rely on the poor awareness of its physicality and its implications to keep as they are.

It is also important to note that infrastructures come with capacities of distorting political realms and therefore affecting physical borders, people’s realities and navigation, and capability to be part of their society, we can think of the first postal service in Rome up to the delimitation of data usage in some countries. Not only the presence of these infrastructures in our daily life and their underparts, such as daily life devices, model our accessibility, communication reach, but our possibilities of motion and displacement around certain areas. Also being users of these devices, and therefore infrastructures, we become essential pieces of their functionality.

In the case of daily devices, such as smartphones, which are power-tools that have the illusion of progress and freedom but come with a certain non-monetary cost attached, when we become dependant on them we first agree to conditions we aren’t even aware of, and are tie to policies we are not familiar with. We delegate more and more mundane also primal tasks and become dependant on many functions, we can not rely on our own without them and also need the extension functions they provide, like the capacity of being simultaneously at more than one place or having access to information otherwise inaccessible, therefore we are vicious consumers of data, apps, more devices, most likely always persecuting the latest models for better and efficient results.

The real cost behind this is not only individual and doesn’t rely only upon the terms of agreement we as users sign on every service we decide to acquire, the real cost, unfortunately, relies on the physicality of these discursive based infrastructures that depend on land, natural resource, energy and by incrementing the consumption the political power increments and the mediums and ways are not necessarily the most conscious but most likely always the most profitable and by not being mindful consumers or users of these infrastructures, which are definitely hard to avoid and almost unrealistic to imagine ourselves out of them, we contribute to this power chain.

Francesca Bogani Amadori

Regarding the Face of Media Infrastructures

In Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures Shannon Mattern introduces the history of media infrastructures, challenging the prevailing view on media technologies being associated with electricity and industrialization. Mattern argues that communication, media technologies, and infrastructures have been crucially embedded in the formation of cities regardless of the period of time, and that the shaping of cities is not only affected by transportation or topology but also communication and it’s technologies (Mattern, 96–97). Looking back at times prior to electricity, telegraph, and other rather modern inventions, the notion of media infrastructures is being widened and is taking into account earlier technologies of writing, and also voice as a medium.

I cannot help, but notice that the density of keywords such as technology, infrastructuregovernance, lead me into a trap of my own thinking, determining the primary association with this deep time as having a face of men and masculinity. And it seems that I am not alone – looking into technology and gender, Wajcman argues that the notion of technology being associated with men and manliness is deeply rooted in technology being associated with white male-dominated spheres of industrial machinery, military, mechanical and civil engineering since the late nineteenth century (Wajcman, 2009). Thus the deep time of media infrastructures and technologies, cannot help but be primarily associated with one gender of the humanity.

In the deep time of media, writing has been distinguished as being an integral urban political-economic infrastructure, driving trade, accountancy, and governance of the cities (Mattern, 101). But given the trap I have fallen into, it has to be taken into account that the political and economic spheres in historical perspective were dominated by men, and thus, there are some curious questions raising – what new knowledge can be gained when media infrastructures are viewed from a certain socio-historic perspective? Were women simply late-comers to the existing and ever-changing media technologies? What technologies and infrastructures did women create, alter, use, or maintain?

A quick answer would be of one obvious technology largely associated with women – the commercial typewriter. As simple as it seems, the typewriter did induce a social change (at least, in the USA) and became a symbol of independent women. Olwell states that even though female typewriters were largely an extension of a machine and received low wages, typewriting jobs were hailed as a route to economic independence and social dignity for masses of women (Olwell, 2003). She goes on to argue that the typewriter and the notion of an independent woman can also be linked to the women voter, and suffrage.

With no ready-made answers, I believe this is an important notion also in media archaeology – to view the issue at hand keeping in mind the socio-historical perspective and power relations.



1. Shannon Mattern, Deep Time of Media Infrastructure, in: Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures, ed. Lisa Parks, Nicole Starosielski. University of Illinois Press: 2015, p.94–112.

2. Victoria Olwell, Typewriters and the Vote,

3. Judy Wajcman, Feminist theories of technology, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Volume 34, Issue 1, January 2010, Pages 143–152,