On (digital) Signatures, Verification, and Authenticity

Where to start?

Several years back, I wrote my master’s thesis on the changing nature of writing and authorship given the new realities of online publishing platforms (blogs, etc.). If memory serves, it was an overly optimistic piece (or at least a lot less pessimistic than I am now), much in the vein of the majority hypertext and digital writing scholarship of the late 90s – early 00s. One of the topics that I touched on, through my readings of Derrida, was that of the signature.

To wit:

By definition, a written signature implies the actual or empirical non presence of the signer. But, it will be claimed, the signature also marks and retains his having-been present in a past now or present [maintenant] which will remain a future now or present [maintenant]. thus in a general maintenant, in the transcendental form of presentness [maintenance]. (Derrida, Limited Inc 20).

Digital signatures, however, while attempting to carry the same connotations (and legal implications) as the written signature are both more and less. The legal frameworks for digital signatures have developed over the last few decades such that I can now initial or type my name and the date on a form as a form of a legally binding signature. I can also affix a scanned image of my written signature to digitally produced or digitally transferred documents. Further, touch screen and stylus technology now allow for digital written signatures. Each of these have their own implications. The power of the signature was meant to be the implied (deferred) presence of the signatory based on the actual having-been present necessary to perform a written signature. This is no longer necessarily the case. With the first example – anyone could type my initials into a document and thus sign in my stead. And while this remains a crime in the way that forging a signature has always been, at no point is my having-been present required. With the second, my having-been present is required to create the initial scanned signature but afterwards the image can be affixed by myself or anyone with access to the image. The third example – the digital written signature – is the closest to the written signature and seems to require much the same having-been present state of physically signing. Perhaps technology has brought us full circle.

This brings us to the related topic of verification. Online verification (used on services such as Twitter, Facebook, reddit, and other online fora where some (if not all) must prove themselves to be who they claim to be) presents itself much like a signature. “The blue verified badge on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic.” And to receive such a badge, several things are required. Yet there are some interesting and notable differences between verification (especially regarding fora that are primarily text-based). While the requirements of verification would seem to authenticate the individual or individuals responsible for an account (their legal existence), they do not authenticate specific posts.

One example of this would be the many cases of social media managers “going rogue” and publishing content that is deemed contrary to brand messaging. Whether the posts were pre-approved or not being irrelevant in the face of backlash. Another example would be the accounts of celebrities or other people of “public interest” that are primarily written by unnamed (non-signatory) representatives or publicists except when specifically initialed by the verified signatory themselves. A further example would be those bots or automated accounts that claim to be “real” people despite the obvious demonstration of algorithmic behavior (who is the true signatory in these cases? the bot or the programmer?)

A final compelling example is that of Donald Trump. Trump is officially verified under both his own name and that of the office of the President. However, it is generally believed that he does not write many of the tweets that appear under his image and verified “signature.” The account of the office of the President is believed to be written primarily by a staffer and there have been several notable analyses of his primary account that indicate that it is not the work of a single author. Indeed, there is a twitter bot (@thetrumpwatcher) that analyzes each of those tweets to determine both their mood and if they are, in fact, authored by Trump himself (the speculation being that many are not).

This presents a complicated situation. Can we consider this a situation of a surrogate speaking in the President’s name as is a common and longstanding practice? Not exactly. When a Press Secretary stands at a podium and speaks for the President, we are never under the impression that the Press Secretary is the President. Indeed, this is instead an extension of the New Yorker comic sequence about dogs online. internet_dogtumblr_njzlcpxjy91qav5oho1_500

The account is verified, thus is speaks in the name of the President (with attendant “authenticity”) and yet it cannot be understood to be operating in the same context as a surrogate (of which there are many other equally verified Twitter accounts). Moreover, the fact that the verified and authenticated and thus “authentic” voice of the President is often not speaking the actual words of the President does not help to dispel rumors that there are powers behind the throne or fears that the account (accessed via an unsecured Android device) might be hacked. After all, how could we tell?

What seems to be one result of the attempts to verify and authenticate “accounts of public interest” is a further decline in trust and in authenticity itself. Who decided that corporations are in the public interest? Who is determining the interest? Of what public? And if we can only tell that the President is actually writing because of the persistence of typographical and grammatical errors (because a too polished presentation is obviously false, obvious a con), we then lose the shortcuts and conveniences that allowed us to trust public speech at all. Everything becomes branding, PR, propaganda, or advertising. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if the public could then be counted upon to verify and authenticate information for themselves (through the myriad of new means that digital/networked/online tools and environments offer). However, that does not yet seem to be the case. Instead of opening up language to its inevitable polysemy and differance, to the inability to communicate without noise and interference (even in person, even with the face to face) we are getting increased ideological fragmentation, tribalism, and partisanship. Instead of celebrating quality news and diverse voices, we are falling for more advertising and propaganda. Instead of critical thinking, we are stuck with covfefe.

The Noise Arts

The Delta Brainwave Society is a Divers Noise Arts Collective. But what, you may ask, are the noise arts?

Noise arts is a catchall term. If it is produced with the mindset or noise art, it is. This, naturally, cannot be the only designator of what makes an art ‘noise’. Indeed not. Intention would never be so solely magnified. Noise arts can only, however, be provisionally defined. They are the aspects of the arts that highlight the gaps, the breakages, the ruptures, the limitations, the failures. They are the strange stranger, the heretic that can never be orthodoxicized. They are the fringe. Sometimes for the delight of the fringe and sometimes because they have been pushed away by everyone and everything else and it simply where they find themselves. “No one ever plans to sleep out in the gutter / Sometimes that’s just the most comfortable place.”

Perhaps, when it comes down to it, the simplest way to phrase it is this:

Life is a noise art.

We are culturally programmed to narrativise. Most of us see ourselves as some version of the protagonist of our own story. We want to find the meaning written into cultural products (novels, movies, pop songs) in our day to day. It is never really there. Life is too erratic, unplanned, unpredictable, chaotic in its normalcy for that. Life is too alive. This is where the desire to claim a divine (but unknowable but I’m still certain it exists even though all evidence is to the contrary) plan comes from. There is no plan, divine or otherwise. 

But in embracing the noise of life, in making art of it, we gain a fair measure of understand and a potential level of control. 

Don’t Panic. 

The human life is the art. It is an extended aesthetic project (often unknowing & unwitting). But acceptance of the noise and art of living leads into the further noise arts. If one’s life is embraced as noise, so to one’s music, speech, writing, film&video, etc. 

This is art as the expression of living as noise. There is no meaning save living as noise. The art is an extension of the life. The life is an extension of the primal chaos. 

borrowed words (power of the commons)

reagan's 3rd sotu

reagan's 3rd sotu2

reagan's 3rd sotu3

reagan's 3rd sotu4

reagan's 3rd sotu5

reagan's 3rd sotu6

reagan's 3rd sotu7

reagan's 3rd sotu8

reagan's 3rd sotu9

reagan's 3rd sotu10

reagan's 3rd sotu11

 

 

 

&&&

The source text used here is Ronald Reagan’s Third State of the Union Speech (delivered on January 25, 1984). Nothing has been added. This is not an effort to create a strawman Reagan but rather an experiment to show the creative, poetic, and theoretical potential within contextomy. Reagan was used because he remains a polarizing figure but also because State of the Union addresses are in the public domain. The power of the commons.

 

plague, superbugs, & the sixth extinction

The other day I saw a headline about a septicemic plague fatality and that started this process. Yesterday, this phrase “(To discredit, promote distrust, disuade, deter, delay or disrupt)” jumped out at me from an article on The Intercept and I began reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction. This morning I was reminded that a bit of garlic, some onion or leek, copper, wine and oxgall can kill MRSA and gator blood is even more potent. I started watching The Last Ship. From these disparate points, I began a thought trail that led to this:

[This will be an exercise in hyperstition, heuretics, and thoryvological associative analysis. The following is not meant to be true but æffective, not inherently factual nor necessarily faithful to the original context/intent. The quotes are kept intact and in, for the most part, complete sentences but they are robbed of their originary order and context and juxtaposed in disparate dissonance and harmony with intent bound by the above impulses and ideas, marked by the passing of this the 23rd day of the month. It is not a question of what it means but what it can do.] 

 

 

 

***

This is a textual machine designed to produce other machines. What mattered here wasn’t the author(s) or the means of textual production at all, but rather the circulation and the effects of the text in the world. This is, of course, a demand for complicity. I insist on your freedom. Your tormentors will be purified.

There were things in the text I hadn’t been expecting. Uncomfortable, complicating passages. The distortion of a text is not unlike a murder. The difficulty lies not in the execution of the deed but in the doing away with the traces. The thing is easily false. But the meaning, to this day, still escapes us. This is the lesson you forgot.

Of course, words fail.

***

I love you because there’s nothing else to do. A rage to live, an urge to goodness. Love.

The utterance threw them into confusion or rather angered them further, which often comes to the same thing. Who were these people who could live so placidly while the world fell into an acute global environmental crisis? In our era of natural disasters, climate change, global pandemics, and the ongoing specter of bioterror, we are continually invited to think about humanity in relation to its real, hypothetical, or speculative extinction. Yet to go back is to go forward into uncertainty and invention.

I think there’s still a small block of original quiet that exists in the world. Theory in itself did not free people to reach into a deeper area of sound. Noise also functions in the cybernetic sense, as a result of its viral functioning in the world.

On the universal face of the world, the grand old Pan, the son of all the dead, is dead. The previous habitation of space is a trace that may then go on to constitute it in the future, in its absence. No longer is there a here or appropriation; we live as transients or tenants, deprived of a fixed abode. There is no more space, no more history, no more time. In the end the black river would burst its banks to become a black sea whose centre was everywhere and circumference nowhere.

***

There is no stillness, only change. A movement unlocked my attention. It was a derelict. A relic of something nine-tenths collapsed. Nothing decays either, moreover; nothing truly perishes. In this case, chance as nonsense is visible in the very insignificance of its result. In neither case would one be left with anything except a radically dysfunctional wreck, terminally shut-down hardware.

***

There is nothing, and it cannot be known. Either I do not know the world, or I do not know myself. Nothing alive is ever quite in balance.

I know there is no boatman. It was incomprehensible to her: they didn’t want to know. By necessity there are other characteristics that are not accounted for, that are not measured, and that remain hidden and occulted. The shipwreck will preclude the apocalypse.

***

Without noise, all we do is repeat. The repetition of noise intoxicates as much as violence. Deep thick silence thundered from behind the closed door. And what he finds there is a terrifying abyss, where there is neither certitude nor knowledge, nor even a single thought – just a tenebrous, impassive silence. There was complete silence, intermittently broken by the faintest electronic sounds – something between a distant computer game and muffled speech software. It was like there was this hole in the quiet. Every living creature, animal and human both, was terrified by this cacophony.

***

Following the shaman into the cave. We’ve never lost any of that. We are swept on by a whirlwind which dates back to the dawn of time; and if this whirlwind has assumed the aspect of an order, it is only the better to do away with us. The world was spun out of a blade of grass: the world was spun out of a mind. Except never to see or feel that black river that cannot be crossed, but flows like a nothingness through the hole of you. Chaos? Chaos is rejecting all you have learned, chaos is being yourself. The seduction of the arbitrary alarms us. Thought that stumbles over itself, at the edge of an abyss. It is a kind of mysticism that can only be expressed in the dust of this planet. After having sought to be a sage such as never was, I am only a madman among the mad.

***

While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light. Our luminescent, naked bodies dissolve into a swarm of obscure creeping things, and we are a mass of glutinous coiling worms, endless. How we would conduct ourselves if dragged to its depths, where eternal darkness is punctured only by its bioluminescence, remains to be seen. We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that, whether in a stone or an artifact, bespeaks a sheen of antiquity. Something strange slowly washed over and enveloped me like the black ink of an octopus, as I stood there in the stand, and I felt above all like screaming out the story of my experience, such as they were. The man who has never imagined his own annihilation, who has not anticipated recourse to the rope, the bullet, poison, or the sea, is a degraded galley slave or a worm crawling upon cosmic carrion. For now, at least, it is only with its help that we can hope to orient ourselves in the darkness of the abyss.

 

***

Once again he felt that he had crossed over into a space where the real world had taken on all the qualities of a dream, becoming as glossy and surreal, as unlikely and beautiful, as stuffed to a dark sheen with ungraspable meaning. What spell had been cast around me to make my hold on reality feel so tenuous? I didn’t know if the noise had been part of some dream I’d been having or a real, external thing. A world whose margins would become capricious, but this caprice would not refer to any hidden intention. Rather, it involves the generation of memory outside of and apart from any possible experiential event. Dark traces of the past lay in his soul, ready to break through into the regions of consciousness. That interference covers the sense with non-sense by scrambling it and making his words into waste, or by covering it up with other words. It was as if I was in a madness and a frenzy and a depression that older and wiser peoples may once have denominated the descent of a god, which seized me and for which, though I had no control, I am nevertheless to blame.This truth law has no more reality than the world. Roaring dreams take place in a perfectly silent mind. Now that we know this, throw the raft away.

***

Flux is.

***

Do you think the emptiness of the sky will ever crumble away?

***

***

Sources (in the order by which I claimed them):

Kim Stanley Robinson, Forty Signs of Rain

Justin Clemens & Helen Johnson, The Black River

Michel Serres, Malfeasance

Critical Art Ensemble, Marching Plague

Vilém Flusser, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization

E.M. Cioran, A Short History of Decay

Jack Kerouac, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity

Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism

Eugene Thacker, An Ideal for Living

Quentin Meillassoux, Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction

Ed Keller, Nicola Masciandaro, Eugene Thacker (eds.), Leper Creativity

Quentin Meillassoux, The Number and the Siren

Joe Morris, Perpetual Frontier

Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

Steven Hall, The Raw Shark Texts

Eugene Thacker, In The Dust of This Planet

Eugene Thacker, Starry Speculative Corpse

Eugene Thacker, Tentacles Longer Than Night

Pray for rain: on Kim Stanley Robinson’s 「Forty Signs of Rain」

I was put on to Kim Stanley Robinson and his Science in the Capitol trilogy (which I will be continuing and including in some aspect in my upcoming work on thoryvological ecology/ecological thoryvology) when Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway’s The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future referred to him as the most important writer of the time, a prophet of doom, if you will (much like myself). It bore looking into. 

I suppose there may be spoilers to follow. 

Forty Signs was published in 2004. In the last 11 years, at least so far as actual climate policy and action, not much seems to have changed. Sure, the president now acknowledges, believes in the reality of, and the need to immediately address anthropogenic climate change. But actual and substantive policy change seems no more forthcoming. Even in the wake of superstorm Sandy (prophetically named in the text but only as a tropical storm), little has been done to keep our coasts from drowning. In Florida, despite being one of the most precarious of American states, climate change cannot even be officially named by government employees. Rick Scott must have misread his Derrida and become convinced that if he refused to name climate change in his ‘text’ that it would not have physical power over the state he mismanages. 

That stated, the novel offers an interesting insight into what I believe one of the more effective uses of thoryvological activism: an active misread of Kuhnian paradigm shifts. The novel posits the idea that science (or perhaps Science) and the NSF in particular needs to take on a more proactive role in forcing necessary political change for the sake of all and the future. It is specifically named as a desire to bring about a Kuhnian paradigm shift regarding the sociopolitical role of science and scientists: those who know should not be beholden to those who don’t to make necessary changes (as marked by facts that can be agreed upon by all not willfully ignoring reality). This is a consummation devoutly to be wished. However, returning to Kuhn, paradigm shifts are only brought on through and after crises. It is thus the work of thoryvology to point to and make known anomalies, to bring about a near perpetual crisis such that the deeply entrenched business as usual financial capitalism can be finally forced to release is stranglehold on the human future. 

Catastrophe and gaining understanding of the human role in and impact on ‘natural’ disasters and ‘nature’ as such (whatever such a flawed grass is greener over there construction actually means) are one aspect of this manner of thoryvological crisis manipulation. But (as Sandy shows) catastrophe is insufficient. Divestment is another method of disruption as are other numerous methods of opting out. These disruptions are becoming more commonplace (and need to become even more so).

Will it be enough? Will a tipping point be reached where the population at large is convinced to act (& vote) in their collective self interest? One can hope. Would this above articulated paradigm shift be sufficient? Unlikely. Nor, for that matter, would it necessarily be ideal. The scientific method should certainly have a greater prominence in public policy, but scientism should not. Belief is a disorder and the belief in infinite (scientific) progress, while perhaps more helpful in addressing anthropogenic climate change than evangelical fundamentalism, is equally troubling and problematic given a long enough run (or sufficient rope). 

And yet something must be done.

And so we must embody the crises. 

Post:Noise

Post:Noise is the umbrella term (it is not exactly a genre in the way that no ()holistic non-totalizing work can ever truly be classified in a codified ‘genre’) that I use to define my sonic and video/spectacle work. It is an application of thoryvology into the arts.

Briefly, it is a category that describes work undertaken with the received methods and practices of Noise but with goals beyond those most commonly associated with Noise. It does not seek to be loudest, most abrasive, or any other appellation of furthest from the norm (cf. Attali). Noise is sufficient in that respect and the work of noise artists and noisicians continues to pursue those ends. Thoryvology, and thus post:noise, recognizes the arbitrary nature of boundaries and lines of demarcation and does not apply its lines of flight in those directions. Post:Noise does not seek the fringe but embodies it, does not seek to alienate but is alienated.

The OED (the prime record of this bastard tongue) has 22 separate definitions for ‘post.’ This post will be an effort in intentional cutup contextomy (a thoryvological research method), mining from those 22 definitions of ‘post’ and the two for ‘noise’ an approximation of the concept of post:noise (postnoise, post/noise, post-noise, &c).

Life in the physical world less its core and is relatively cool way Senses relating to sound or of the brain any of the set upright ground for various purposes occurring or existing after as a make remarks or comments Strife contention wall or other barrier cancellation of up or consume a considerable part in mood in a manner perceived of a signal interfere with or times in haste to start on out of a place to say time of the actual sucker attaches a lack of zealous support relaxed time or order to sift or a quarrel to achieve general notoriety points selectively reducing a device which influenced or informed by every cultural or renown without display or ostentation the termination pulse progress is no the brain of the brain in places along similar messages in ancient occurring following an apocalypse shaped or off course unacceptable in the time an attack resulting from inflammation resulting of dissonance or inharmonious feedback that education rejects some of the more a journey time at which a special payment rejecting traditional notions in materialistic attitudes or values associated with or make available disadvantageous position summon report record or list by name meaning pay or provide trample pound a phase of discourse operating after relating to waste generated designating a of something off the marked route, human existence following or reacting to maintain to imply mention in passing relating to or designating acceleration occurring related theoretical approaches exhibiting a cultural important end of the first year result of the point in a after attending designating or relating to act entry in a ledger) with later than following since Referring to midday typified by or characteristic of deliberately for use in various momentarily swift angelic messenger worth occupying a is experienced after the cessation of time or society no longer later the auditory apparatus situated or occurring or showing awareness the fall of the importance or prevalence of the to be pleasant or melodious to information irrelevant or superfluous information distracts to be sounded produce or supply the passage falls below threshold value milieu characterized by a decline in with a wooden implement Subsequent to by voices shouting outcry various kinds the environment a radio emission from after (flawed transaction or dispossession) suitable written word existing after metamorphosis occurring event or movement before after infection from an episode of inadequate supply (specified) position a place of duty or experienced after the end of (later also of metal) Now rare or dim occurring or undertaken after duty responsibility) deflect pass off from as overdue or missing to display by name as having failed publicly as a state which exists or shift designating, or characteristic of a behind the ear behind or below reducing output without triggering unwanted change the disturbance caused by this disturbance Scandal controversy fuss to cause a the sun order to improve the decline of the importance of having (boundary marker inanimate, unresponsive, stupid whipping obscure a signal distortions or additions the part which supplies nerves of oneself postpone defer or delay push make known, advertise bring before the hand over transfer or shift (a random or irregular disturbances not part which no longer has fusion at to receive one’s comeuppance to use utter (prophecy after the event eternity mind following a decline or failure beyond the balanced state of climax the strategic position taken up or mankind a circle of time or loud, harsh, or unpleasant to pretend the brain beyond the stigma fissure which interfere with the transfer of is characteristic sound of any kind subsequent to a convulsion having undergone the time of transition designating or itself to its host situated behind time or place after such contact notice and comment talk much or tavern was kept to be frustrated up to date inform with reflexive as characteristic of the time immediately be responsible for debts publicly list exist or after the end of on which the reckoning at a stupid or contemptible statement or idea compare slightly earlier style abstract advocating following the dissolution or collapse of occupy a strategic position intoxicating beverage of the sounds produced in this affected by forces human body and longer tenable no longer strong adherence unwanted line or surface (imaginary) joining some other state of the brain caused by sounds, discordancy disturbance made after the cosmos has ceased to through an aperture or slot bring loudly about a thing Nonsense foolishness alternate sheets the first such call disgrace to advertise publicly no longer performed or applied after the emergence refine preoccupied with the past after succession at which development has continued sends an electrical signal to halt quality outcry to cry out drive public expose to ignominy obloquy or sounds produced in this way any stir become the object of general.

 That explains it, right?

On a question concerning a topic most nearly approximated as ‘religion’

It would seem (after considerable thought, deliberation, and opposition) that I am a religious man. Naturally, such a comment needs considerable qualifiers. I am not a man of faith. I do not ‘believe’ as the term is most colloquially rendered. However, I find it necessary to consider myself bound to religion. 
I was raised in religion. It is not thing that one ever fully extricates oneself from. Not that I did not try. It’s part of the family business along with teaching.
Religion is a quagmire but given its prominence, its sway over popular opinion and widely believed facts, it is a sweltering pit that cannot be ignored. 

And so I come to conclusions. 

I have long called myself a ‘prophet’. This is not because I have felt a special bond with the almighty:

Stephen: In order to find his equal, an Irishman is forced to talk to God.

(Despite all the requisite kissing, I cannot claim to be Irish)

Rather it is a more archaic and secular Usage of the term. I do not cry out in the wilderness for the world to repent of its sins lest if burn in fiery damnation but rather to change its wicked ways lest it destroy the only world we have. Repent because if we keep on like this, earth won’t be fit for human habitation and, unlike for Jake Chambers, this is the only world we’ve got. 

Furthermore, I am priest. I am not an evangelist, I do not seek converts. I can’t take the stress of banging my head against those walls. But I will take on disciples. And thoryvology is an all-encompassing/non-totalizing methodology. There is a path I am attempting to cut, the success of which is likely not mine to judge. 
In the beginning, Noise is. 
Let us pray.