The Bright Labyrinth Introduction

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.