Phase Media: space, time and the politics of smart objects by James Ash

Phase Media
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Phase Media: space, time and the politics of smart objects
Bloomsbury Press, New York (2017)
James Ash
 
In Phase Media, James Ash theorizes how smart objects, understood as Internet-connected and sensor-enabled devices, are altering users’ experience of their environment. Rather than networks connected by lines of transmission, smart objects generate phases, understood as space-times that modulate the spatio-temporal intelligibility of both humans and non-humans. Examining a range of objects and services from the Apple Watch to Nest Cam to Uber, Ash suggests that the modulation of spatio-temporal intelligibility is partly shaped by the commercial logics of the industries that design and manufacture smart objects, but can also exceed them. 

Drawing upon the work of Martin Heidegger, Gilbert Simondon and Bruno Latour, Ash argues that smart objects have their own phase politics, which offer opportunities for new forms of public to emerge. Phase Media develops a conceptual vocabulary to contend that smart objects do more than just enabling a world of increased corporate control and surveillance, as they also provide the tools to expose and re-order the very logics and procedures that created them.

 
Reviews

“James Ash’s Phase Media offers a new way to conceptualize how smart objects are becoming part of and active in our lives, environments and the processes of change that characterize the contemporary world. Providing a welcome alternative to network and new materialist approaches, Ash invites us to consider how smart objects themselves are implicated and active in constituting everyday worlds and change processes. In doing so it provokes new theoretical imaginaries of what smart objects are, how they might impact on our lives, and the implications of this for ethical technological futures. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how smart technologies are emerging as part of our contemporary and near future worlds.” –  Sarah Pink, Distinguished Professor of Design and Media Ethnography, RMIT University, Australia

“With Ash’s Phase Media, the fallibility of the autonomous system comes sharply into view. A compelling account of the perturbations of apparently ‘smart’ devices.” –  Louise Amoore, Professor of Political Geography, Durham University, UK

About Virality

Tony D. Sampson is Reader in Digital Culture and Communications at the University of East London. He has a PhD in social-cultural-digital contagion theory from the Sociology Department at the University of Essex. He is a former art student who re-entered higher education in the UK as a mature student in the mid-1990s after a long stint as a gigging musician. His career in education has moved through various disciplines and departments, including a maths and computing faculty, sociology department and school of digital media and design His publications include The Spam Book, coedited with Jussi Parikka (Hampton Press, 2009), Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), The Assemblage Brain: Sense Making in Neuroculture (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) and Affect and Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield, July 2018). He is organizer and host of the Affect and Social Media conferences in the UK. As a co-founder and co-director of the public engagement initiatives, Club Critical Theory (CCT) and the Cultural Engine Research Group (CERG), Sampson has developed a number of funded research projects and public events that aim to bring impactful critical theories into the community and local political sphere to approach a series of local challenges. These activities have included large conferences co-organized with local authorities looking at a range of policies relating to the revitalization of the Essex costal region, developments in the cultural industries as well as a series of community focused events on food cultures and policy, collaborations with arts groups and informal lectures/workshops in pubs and community centres. Director of the EmotionUX Lab at UEL. He occasionally blogs at: https://viralcontagion.wordpress.com/ Full academic profile: https://www.uel.ac.uk/Staff/s/tony-sampson
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