Coal Fired Computers,

bnr#15 => Coal Fired Computers,

Evil Media Distribution Centre

The Joys of Boredom

It's sometimes useful to think about technical objects as having a directive side which encourages us to alter our minds, behaviours and bodies in order to better use them. This modification of ourselves is often rewarded by allowing us to more clearly tune in to them and receive cleaner channels of information. The ability to manipulate the directive side of technical objects can be one place where resides, the kind of evil described in Matthew Fuller and Andy Goffey's book 'Evil Media'.

This is an evil YoHa indulges in, we have spent the last few years exploring the directive side of what Fuller and Goffey call 'grey media', things that can be thought of as marginal or recessive technical objects that form much of the backdrop and micro-infrastructure of everyday life. In a project called 'Invisible Airs' we explored how grey relational machines set up a different form of governance. We read hundreds of lines of database source code to see how openness was constructed at the technical level, we also examined how a database's role-based permission structures could create changes in the physical architecture of municipal buildings.

In 'Coal Fired Computers' we explored UK governmental liability for mining-associated illnesses while firing up a 17.5 ton steam engine to power a computer. In 'Database as Documentary' we examined the minutiae of midwives' relationships to database policing, public health and birth/death records. This form of work carries with it a necessary dullness, an exploration of boredom that can be isolating, so the coincidence of 'Evil Media' being published has led us to want to create a survey or a curiosity cabinet of 'Evil Media' from people whose work we feel has a strong affinity with such a project.

'Grey Media' produce the working environment of administrators, professionals, delivery operatives and arranges the movements and work-arounds of everyone from chief executives to intellectuals or cleaners. They are the background to contemporary society. Using them, getting round their failures, exploiting their specific qualities, forms part of the necessary knowledge of the present day. These things mediate, transform, encode, filter and translate relations. Fuller and Goffey include a broad definition of media to include things like middle management, neurotropic or suppressant drugs that treat the body as an information system, alongside things such as queuing systems or specific algorithms or data –structures.

Assisted by Transmediale, Tom Keene, Anna Blumenkranz and other members of the Open Systems Association YoHa has invited people to write a text of one hundred words about an object, its genealogy, any key factors that make it amenable to manipulation. As mentioned, a key fact of grey media is its ready quality of dryness, one bordering temptingly on boredom and this is something we asked people to maintain when writing the text.


Graham Harwood & Matsuko Yokokoji

51 people were invited to choose a so-called grey medium and to write a short text about it. This text was then presented together with the object in a cabinet of curiosities that at the same time evoked associations with a distribution centre. Evil Media Distribution Centre is a response to the book Evil Media (2012) by Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey. In that book the authors argue for a broader notion of media and a deeper, more complex understanding of how these grey media influence the way we behave, think and perceive.

This project has been installed at Transmediale 2013 in Berlin and The Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam. Assisted by Tom Keene & Anna Blumenkranz.