Author Archives: Dan O'Hara

Dan O'Hara

@skeuomorphology

Global Art Forum, Art Dubai 2015

Art Dubai, Madinat Jumeira ©Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

I’m hugely excited to be speaking at the Global Art Forum at Art Dubai later today, March the 19th. I’ll be discussing the theme of Artificial Intelligence with Cécile B. Evans and Shumon Basar. Video to come later…

New College of the Humanities

New College of the Humanities
New College of the Humanities

As of September I joined the New College of the Humanities in London as Senior Lecturer in English. Goodbye, Berlin!  Goodbye, Rio de Janeiro! I’d thought that no-one would ever manage to tear me away from the beach at Ipanema. But A. C. Grayling has assembled such an astonishing faculty at NCH, it beat the beach (mas, meus amigos Brasileiros, não se preocupe! Eu vou voltar. Eu tenho saudades do Brasil. Ayayay Santa Teresa…)

Research January to June 2014

Fifty Shades of CHI
Fifty Shades of CHI video still

The biggest global conference on Human-Computer Interaction, CHI 2014, took place in Toronto in May. Last year at CHI I collaborated with the Lincoln Social Computing Research Centre on a paper called ‘The Future Robot Enslavement of Mankind’, which looked back from an imaginary future to congratulate Homo Sapiens on its contribution to its own near-obsolesence.

This year we collaborated once again to contribute a paper called ‘Fifty Shades Of CHI’, which “uses the form and language of erotic BDSM romance fiction to present a critical lens on the nature of power in the relationship between people and contemporary technology”. The official download is here, as is the video; or you can download the e-print from the Lincoln repository. I’m wondering where we can go next year in terms of genre. With scifi and porn done and dusted, the options are limited.

Shortly before that, I finally published “Deleuze, diagramas, e arte esquizofrênica”, the talk I gave at  Colóquio Deleuze & Guattari: Filosofia Prática in Rio de Janeiro in 2011. (It’s in Portuguese, but you might want to download it just for the pictures: e-print here).

My reason for not being in Toronto in May was that I was speaking about J. G. Ballard at the very splendid Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds. The occasion was a wonderful, intense conference called Landcapes of Tomorrow: J. G. Ballard in Space and Time. Apparently one of the highlights of the conference was my description of the ur-accelerationist Mr Toad having an orgasm as he crashes an imaginary car in The Wind and the Willows. Audio of the talk is allegedly available somewhere on the internet.

In the middle of all this, in late May I managed to fail to speak at the University of Lincoln conference As Above, So Below: A Colloquium on Drone Culture: a huge disappointment to me, both because it turned out to be a fabulous conference and as I’d been looking forward to returning to Lincoln so much. My intention is to polish the paper I wished to give into at least open-access format and make it available here on my site and/or on academia.edu.

And in June I spoke at the British Association for Modernist Studies conference Modernism Now! at Senate House, the University of London, about ‘Beckett, Acceleration, and the Ruin of Language’. This I took as an opportunity to fill some of the literary lacunae in the reading lists of the accelerationists du jour; there’s a lot more work to be done on that front.

It’s been a busy few months – and this is without even mentioning a couple of very productive trips to Poland, a fascinating private view courtesy of the Ballard estate, a very strange interview with the New Scientist, and a new post in London.  But news of all that can wait.

 

Extreme Metaphors on general release

The paperback edition of Extreme Metaphors goes on sale on the 30 January, with a new cover, new design from the in-house HarperCollins team, and a rather enticing price-tag. Here’s what some of the reviewers had to say about it:

Extreme Metaphors Ballard prerelease cover
Extreme Metaphors. J.G. Ballard. prerelease cover

Extreme Metaphors is such an absorbing read. Just as the letters of certain writers – Keats, Wilde, Flaubert – have come to seem invaluable, unmissable parts of their oeuvres, so this collection of forty-odd bits of journalism can be enjoyed as a kind of protracted non-fiction novel”, Kevin Jackson, Literary Review

“Impeccably edited, the book serves as a valuable coda to one of the strangest and most haunted imaginations in English literature”  Ian Thomson, Books of the Year, Observer

“An illuminating and at times revelatory collection of more than 40 interviews given over 41 years” John Gray, New Statesman

“Several pieces are previously unpublished, or translated for the first time, and devotees will find plenty to enjoy” Andrew McKie, Spectator

“I will be very surprised if any novel this year gives me as much pleasure as this book. And I can guarantee (now that Ballard is dead) that no novel will contain so many provocative, intriguing and visionary ideas” Julian Gough, Irish Times

The Economist explains: What is skeuomorphism?

The Economist explains: What is skeuomorphism?
The Economist explains: What is skeuomorphism?

The Economist features my work on skeuomorphism today: the article is here.

Following the BBC’s article a couple of weeks ago, it’s good to see another substantial and critical mainstream analysis. I’m flattered that The Economist features my work so heavily, and even links to my last paper on the topic. Nonetheless, the debate still has to break away from the superficial before any real progress can be made. As the article notes, Apple’s new iOS7 aims “to ditch this sort of thing [skeuomorphism] in favour of an approach that arises more directly from the capabilities of hardware and software” – yet that’s exactly the point at which one could expect to see true skeuomorphs emerging.

What Apple are really ditching is a human design choice: the use of verisimilitude as a point of affordance. What they’re most definitely not ditching, or even demonstrating any awareness of, is the long-term interplay of obsolescence and cultural mimicry that drives technological evolution.

 

 

BBC News – What is skeuomorphism?

BBC News Magazine - What is skeuomorphism?
BBC News Magazine – What is skeuomorphism?

I spoke to BBC News Magazine about skeuomorphism: the article’s here. It’s quite a nice overview, and at least avoids Techcrunch’s current conclusion that the opposite of skeuomorph = ‘flat’.

If you’re interested in the more scholarly side of skeuomorphism, I’ve put an open access version of the paper I wrote for the Cologne Institute of Advanced Studies journal ‘Morphomata’ here: “Skeuomorphology and Quotation”.

CHI2013: The Future Robot Enslavement of Humankind

Partly inspired by Ruairi Robinson‘s excellent short Blinky TM, which I saw at the Rio Short Film Festival in 2011, I’ve co-authored a paper with Shaun Lawson, Conor Linehan and Ben Kirman from the Lincoln Social Computing Research Centre at Lincoln University, being given tomorrow at ACM CHI2013: Changing Perspectives in Paris (3-letter code ANS).

from Ruairi Robinson’s BlinkyTM

The Sinister Tech Research tumblr nails it. If you’re in Paris, come along. Your presence won’t change anything – the future still belongs to robots. But at least you’ll know why.

Edit, 2.5.2013: the slides are now available here, and the full paper can be downloaded here.

Interview with Imperica

Dan O'Hara Imperica
Dan O’Hara at the Virtual Futures salon, TROVE Birmingham, 24.10.12

There’s a lengthy and admittedly dense interview with me on Imperica today, covering the recent J. G. Ballard interviews volume I edited with Simon Sellars, Extreme Metaphors; the new edition of the 1995 glitchcyberpunkphilosophy classic Cyberpositive; and the dismally dim commercial colonialization of the virtual that is currently trading under the moniker ‘new aesthetic’.

Interview on Skeuomorphism with The Machine Starts

The Machine Starts
The Machine Starts – How We Started Calling Visual Metaphors “Skeuomorphs” and Why the Debate over Apple’s Interface Design is a Mess

Earlier this month I spoke several times with Chris Baraniuk about the febrile skeuomorphosis currently smearing itself across the internet. UI designers seem particularly immunodeficient as disease vectors in this regard, and present a clear viro-semantic danger to the 99.9% of language users who are not UI designers. Chris has now published the results of his research on The Machine Starts:

How We Started Calling Visual Metaphors ‘Skeuomorphs’ and Why the Debate over Apple’s Interface Design is a Mess

Virtual Futures salon @ TROVE, Birmingham

October 24th saw the first of a series of Virtual Futures salon events.

Virtual Futures salon @ TROVE, 24 October 2012
Virtual Futures salon @ TROVE, 24 October 2012

This was a very sexy event: held in the TROVE gallery, a very Berlin-style disused warehouse right in the centre of the city, and showcasing some of the strangest and most avant-garde art and thought happening right now.  Prof. Johnny Golding from the Centre for Fine Art Research at BIAD, Birmingham City University, introduced the evening, which was organized by the director of Virtual Futures, Luke Robert Mason.

I spoke about maps and wiring diagrams, ‘photogenic drawing’, glitch, and (implicitly and probably entirely predictably) the dangers of animism, anthropomorphism, and the god in the machine. Dr. John Pickering from the Psychology department at Warwick University told us about the limitations of AI in military (and other) robots, digging a little deeper into the ways in which our mental constructs conspire to produce sympathy for machines, and bringing some much-needed historical rigour to the current drone-delirium. Sascha Pohflepp gave us selected glimpses of his artworks from the past five years, ranging from his genetically-modified plant visions (created with Daisy Ginsberg) to his simulations of spaceflight weightlessness, which touched a Stelarc-like VF nerve in their evocations of the human body reaching escape velocity.

The event then marked the return of Orphan drift, after fifteen years, to Virtual Futures and to the UK, when Mer Roberts introduced a screening of the Orphan drift film ‘A Wilderness of Nowheres’: timely, as the Orphan drift book Cyberpositive has just been published in a new edition. Franken Beaumont‘s eerie installation artwork sat behind the audience, its mouth moving as if echoing the speakers; Liam Worth‘s dynamic ferrofluid sculpture was also on display, as were J.R. Dooley‘s dancing, dynamic sonic/visual cellular forms. Pat Cadigan capped the evening with a masterclass in story-telling, her apparently effortless facility with verbal imagery giving us all a metaphorical lesson in the proper use of tools.

But the most momentous statement of the evening was left to Luke Robert Mason, who announced that the Virtual Futures conference will return next year, taking place as a city-wide festival in Birmingham, running from the 25 – 27 October 2013…