Welcome to the Labyrinth

Started at CSM, there’s also a book.

Hidden & un­seen forces that shape com­mu­ni­ca­tion prac­tice to­day. Things that are hap­pen­ing now started 40 years ago, so we’ll be look­ing at his­tory.

The dude’s a writer and an ed­i­tor

Radio 4 pro­gramme on mar­t­ian utopias called We are the Martians

Microsoft 1994 Slogan Microsoft 1994: Where do you want to go to­day?

These were the first com­put­ers de­signed to con­nect to modems. It sums up a world we have got­ten used to - mo­bile com­put­ing & con­nec­tiv­ity.

Now you can get four clicks into the or­ga­ni­za­tion Source: Operation Channel 9 (2007)

Ovid cat­a­loged every myth that de­scribes a trans­for­ma­tion in a book called Metamorphoses. In it is this pas­sage:

Minos re­solved to re­move this shame, the Minotaur, from his house, and hide it away in a labyrinth with blind pas­sage­ways. Daedalus, cel­e­brated for his skill in ar­chi­tec­ture, laid out the de­sign, and con­fused the clues to di­rec­tion, and led the eye into a tor­tu­ous maze, by the wind­ings of al­ter­nat­ing paths. No dif­fer­ently from the way in which the wa­tery Maeander de­ludes the sight, flow­ing back­wards and for­wards in its change­able course, through the mead­ows of Phrygia, fac­ing the run­ning waves ad­vanc­ing to meet it, now di­rect­ing its un­cer­tain wa­ters to­wards its source, now to­wards the open sea: so Daedalus made the end­less path­ways of the maze, and was scarcely able to re­cover the en­trance him­self: the build­ing was as de­cep­tive as that.


Daedalus is the first en­gi­neer/​de­signer recorded in west­ern his­tory.

Nietzsche says:

If we dared and willed an ar­chi­tec­ture ac­cord­ing to the kind of souls we pos­sess (we are too cow­ardly for that!), the labyrinth would have to be our model

(Ken has been giv­ing this lec­ture since 2008)

Jorge Luis Borges:

I know of a Greek labyrinth that is a sin­gle straight line. In that line so many philoso­phers have been lost that a mere de­tec­tive could eas­ily lose him­self.

Clinton Selfie Hillary Clinton peo­ple tak­ing a back­wards selfie

This is­n’t to say that tech­nol­ogy is bad, but let’s in­ves­ti­gate when it changes ou be­hav­iour: Suddenly these peo­ple ar­ent fac­ing clin­ton any­more - the labyrinth emerg­ing.

The Bright Labyrinth == the Digital Regime

We talk about dig­i­tal aes­thet­ics, and cul­ture but that is­n’t enough. We have to look at the net­worked com­puter as some­thing that cre­ates new le­gal­i­ties, ways of iden­ti­fca­tion etc.

Visual Communication Today

Real time pro­cess­ing - we’re used to stuff hap­pen­ing in real time. Back in the day things took time to process: where do you want to go to­day? Whererever it is, I want to go now.

Sound vi­sion and move­ment

As dif­fer­ent for­mats be­come more in­te­grated, we start deal­ing more in ba­sic cat­e­gories in sound, vi­sion, and move­ment. For in­stance, Instagram is­n’t re­ally a set for­mat any­more: there’s text, video, sound, things that dis­ap­pear af­ter a cer­tain amount of time etc.

Interdisciplinary Thinkning

Why don’t we use com­mu­ni­ca­tion as a plat­form to gen­er­ate in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary think­ing

Caroline Edwards

Process as a new form of per­for­mance

If we’e no longer dealig with shape (what should type­set­ting be, what should il­lus­tra­tion be), maybe we can get rid of the idea of the fixed out­come book, print etc() as well. Maybe the process can be an out­come in it­self.

Modern de­sign is mod­ern thought

IN the 20th cen­tury, mu­sic was a leader of thought. Now it’s de­sign and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Time based in­ter­ac­tion, per­for­mance is what we’re deal­ing with now. Lon­don un­real city

[IBM ads]

Marshall McLuhann

Without an anti en­vi­ron­ment, all en­vi­ron­ments are in­vis­i­ble. The role fo the artist is to cre­ate an anti en­vi­ron­ment as a means of per­cep­tion and ad­just­ment

For McLuhan, an en­vi­ron­ment is an in­vis­i­ble set of in­flu­ences

How do we cre­ate an anti evi­ron­ment

[The blue mar­ble pho­to­graph] You look at the pho­to­graph as this doc­u­ment of earth be­ing beau­ti­ful and frag­ile, but there’s also a hur­ri­cane go­ing on. It’s the biggest selfie we ever took

[Weird in­flu­encer staged what it’s like when she gets up in the morn­ing] LIs­terne prod­uct place­ment, the pan­cakes are taco shells, there’s no tea in the cup Peo­ple were screen­grab­bing this in­stantly, ie. real time

Nightwatch Kids in front of the Night Watch

No-one in the Night Watch is look­ing at each other - what’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween that and the kids? Nothing, just dif­fer­ent tech.


Let’s talk about so­cial me­dia as an ex­am­ple of the labyrinth.

Wired on Mark Zuckerberg

We’re re­al­iz­ing that so­cial me­dia is­n’t just a plat­form, even Zuckerberg is still telling us that it is. All those fun per­son­al­ity tests were de­signed to col­lect data to tar­get ads and po­lit­i­cal mes­sages.

Social me­dia has be­come the trenches in an on­go­ing cul­ture war But now there’s some de­bate as to the role of net­works etc. more than there was maybe 6 months ago.

Tim Berners-Lee: Solid came out this week.

What I found in­ter­est­ing about the anounce­ment was te fram­ing as an al­ter­na­tive to the in­ter­net.

Theres 2 schools of thought in me­dia stud­ies:

  1. we can take con­trol of any medium, any medium can be de­mo­c­ra­tic
  2. (Which comes from mcLuhan) No, the medium dic­tates what’s go­ing to hap­pen so­cially. TV is go­ing to do what it does be­cause it’s TV.

Tim bern­ers lee is clearly sub­scribed to the sec­ond here.

A point on cin­ema: It was im­me­di­ately in­dus­tral­ized, went into copy­right law etc. THis is why it’s sill when the right com­plains about the lib­eral hol­ly­wood, they’re huge com­pa­nies try­ing to make money in a cyn­i­cal way.

Why is Viscom at the sur­face (as op­posed to mu­sic), is it be­cause of dis­tri­b­u­tion meth­ods?

IN the 20th cenu­try, the dis­tri­b­u­tion of mu­sic was much more cen­tralised. A bea­t­les record was a global, sin­gu­lar event. Beyonce can sell plat­inum al­bums, but they don’t have the same im­pact. (Although that might be dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent cul­tures)

How do we (as vis­com) learn from the mis­takes mu­sic made in the 20th cen­tury?

CSM did a pro­ject on the fact that 70% of art school is fe­male, but the num­ber drops once you go into in­dus­try. Graphic de­sign might look neu­tral to us (but it is­n’t). Is there a fe­male graphic de­sign? If you made a poster at­tack­ing the par­tiarchy, does that for­mat sup­port the par­tiarchy.

Social me­dia plat­forms are a text­book ex­am­ple of what McLuhan talks about, in that they of­fer you a ser­vice. On Facebook, we’re not the cus­tomer, but the prod­uct”. It starts as a (free) ser­vice and as such be­comes part of the en­vi­ron­ment.

Alternative use of cap­i­tal

Financial cap­i­tal vs Social cap­i­tal

** You men­tioned how a lot of things are con­sid­ered free, es­pe­cially our con­tent (some folks like in­flu­encers are be­ing paid but most of us aren’t) Do you think there’s go­ing to be a shift in the fu­ture?**

I’ve strug­gled with this for a long time in the mu­sic in­dus­try. I think what hap­pens is dis­place­ment. In mu­sic, most peo­ple don’t make muc money from re­leases and stream­ing, but make money from live gigs. This used to be the ex­act op­po­site.


Content free’ means just that: the con­tent on this site is free. Free at the point of de­mand, and free in ex­pres­sion and opin­ion. It is a por­tal into a world of think­ing and mak­ing. It is a liv­ing archive of re­flec­tion and ac­tiv­ity. It is the place where the stu­dents and staff from the Visual Communication pro­gramme at the RCA can freely place content’, and where vis­i­tors are free to browse and in­ter­act with what they find. In the elec­tronic era, with its al­ways-on, lim­it­less land­scape to fill, con­tent has be­come a weasel word — a generic flavour­less noun that rel­e­gates words, im­ages, sound and film as place­holder ma­te­r­ial. Our use of the word is of course, ironic. We take the view that con­tent has to have mean­ing and of­fer en­gage­ment. Without mean­ing and en­gage­ment, it is just that … con­tent.

kendall jenner protest pepsi ad

Becky Hogge on the in­ter­net.

Anna Ridler on Tulips / Bitcoin.