by Steve Wheeler

Postmodernist views of society can be appropriated as lenses to analyse the personalised use of digital technology. Consumers of Web based content tend to search randomly and nomadically, due to the multi-layered, multi-directional nature of hyperlinked media and this aligns neatly with some post modern theory. The writings of Deleuze and Guattari (1980), for example, feature the nomadic thought processes that characterise contemporary perceptions, and portray the chaos of modern life. They employ the botanic metaphor of rhizomatic root systems to describe multiple, chaotic non-hierarchical interpretations of knowledge. Rhizomes resist chronology and organisational structures, thereby more accurately representing the unstructured but purposeful manner in which many people now use the Web.

Significantly, because rhizomes are open ended, the importance of Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome explanation is not invested in individual components, but rather in the direction of motion the entire organism can adopt at any given time. This is reminiscent of the participatory Web, which consists not so much of the insights and offerings of individuals, but rather of what Surowiecki (2009) has termed ‘the wisdom of the crowds’ – the seemingly random folksonomic directions chosen by entire communites of users as having meaning and importance. The community decides what is important to learn, so in effect, the community becomes the curriculum (Cormier, 2008).

According to Cormier (2008) a rhizomatic interpretation of education is useful because it embraces the ever changing nature of knowledge, is open ended, and is not driven by specific curricula whilst learning is ‘constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process.’  This form of negotiated meaning more clearly represents the knowledge acquisition processes that occur within the transient discussion threads and ephemeral collaborative spaces on the World Wide Web.

The colonisation of knowledge spaces by communities is self sustaining, and in Deleuze and Guattari’s terms, we see individuals assuming the roles of nomads, maintaining a constant state of becoming and transformation. Again, this is reminiscent of the random searching, scanning and jumping around content through hyperlinking that learners participate in when they traverse the digital landscape. In effect, students participate as flâneurs, acting as individual agents, investigators and explorers of their own personal digital terrains. Their seemingly aimless behaviour belies their essentially purposeful wandering, as learners interrogate their environment in attempts to make sense of it, understand it, participate in it, and ultimately portray it (Baudelaire, 1964).

[This is an excerpt from a forthcoming publication entitled: Personal Technologies in Education: Issues, Theories and Debates]


Baudelaire, C. (1964) The Painter of Modern Life, New York, NY: Da Capo Press. (Originally published in Le Figaro, in 1863).

Cormier, D. (2008) Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1980) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum.

Surowiecki, J. (2009) The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few. London: Abacus.


Viral Utopias

The Virality part of this free event (see below) will now be a collaboration between Tim Vogt, Francesco Tacchini, Nik Vaughn and Tony D. Sampson. We will be responding to the idea(l) of a viral utopia using academic voice, VJing, bass guitar and turntable.

Viral Utopia: What kind of Ontology is This?

20121103-181812.jpg RSVP ESSENTIAL http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4688544563 Viral Utopias launch event  Friday November 16th – 7am til 1am@ Limehouse Town Hall Panics, plagues, and politics. Countless times the death of politics, utopia and neoliberalism has been proclaimed… and just as many times the lumbering remains of our conceptual apparatuses dust themselves and trundle on again… mutating their movements in unfolding recombinatory patterns. Come join us to celebrate the release of several new publications exploring this overlap between the utopian and the viral, the networked and the not-worked: Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks by Tony Sampson; Contract & Contagion: From Biopolitics to Oikonomia by Angela Mitropoulos; Open Utopia by Thomas More & Stephen Duncombe; and the current issue of Mute Magazine, ‘Becoming Impersonal’ Vol.3 #3. DJS Agit Disco DJs http://www.metamute.org/shop/mute-books/agit-disco LIVE BANDS Traum – London-based chanson for lovers of neo-romantisch perverse pop http://snd.sc/PqsQb1 Hungry Hearts – whisky filled gruff folk punk: http://www.myspace.com/thehungryhearts VENUE Limehouse Town Hall 646 Commercial Road London E14 7HA RSVP ESSENTIAL http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4688544563 ABOUT THE PUBLICATIONS Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks – Tony D Sampson with Tim Vogt, Francesco Tacchini and Nik Vaughn http://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/virality Contract & Contagion: From Biopolitics to Oikonomia – Angela Mitropoulos http://www.akpress.org/contract-contagion.html Open Utopia – Thomas More & Steve Duncombe http://theopenutopia.org/ Mute, ‘Becoming Impersonal’, Vol.3 #3 http://linkme2.net/sx Link to Mute Magazine About Virality Tony D. Sampson is a London-based academic and writer currently lecturing at the University of East London. A former musician, he studied computer technology and cultural theory before receiving a PhD in sociology from the University of Essex. His ongoing interest in contagion theory is reflected in his recent publications, including The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies from the Dark Side of Digital Culture (2009), which he coedited with Jussi Parikka. His new book, Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks is published by the University of Minnesota Press in August 2012 ///

Red, White And Blue


From 07/11/12 to 08/12/12

Location: London Chelsea Space, United Kingdom

Links: chelseaspace.org

Private view: Tuesday 11th November 2012 6 – 8.30pm

Red, White and Blue explores relationships, influences, and appropriations in political, pop and punk imagery. Critically positioned in the context of this Jubilee and Olympic year, the exhibition reflects upon corresponding historical moments: the 1951 Festival of Britain, the birth of punk and the Silver Jubilee. Picking up where our last show, DOME, left off Red, White and Bluelooks again at how the recently re-emerging themes of austerity, legacy, and national identity have resonated across the last half century, both in the UK and internationally.

Red, White and Blue combines film, photography, graphics and contemporary art to expand the relationship between pop and punk culture, politics and place, reflecting back upon the past as well as examining the present. Whilst ideas of Britannia and Britishness permeate this exhibition, the show includes international perspectives of place and political defiance from Sao Paulo, Sarajevo, New York, and Ljubljana.

The exhibition begins with plasma screens and video projection; a control room or nerve centre; a video immersion tank. Next, a kind of billboard alley of photographic images, pop art, graphics and posters; imagery piled high, international, and layered with histories. Anti- government protests from South America and civil war in the Balkans are depicted through posters and the moment of the Royal Jubilee of 1977 and the emergence of a Punk sensibility is evoked in black and white photographs.

At the end of this graphic walkway a TV on the floor acts as an abject sentinel, a cathode tube at the end of the tunnel. In the main space, ideas of pop, punk, politics and place are consolidated within vivid, colourful artworks. Emptied out and cleaned up abstracted details of political symbols and music related graphics find new materiality and new meanings in a contemporary context.

Curatorial concept and design: Donald Smith with Daniel Sturgis

An illustrated publication is available with foreword by Donald Smith and main text by Michael Bracewell.


Chelsea Arts Club Trust logo




Joanna Carver, reporter

1st_Sb06392_reduced.jpg(Images: University of Oxford)

High-definition imaging still has a cutting-edge ring to it, but it could bring us the solution to a mystery that’s been puzzling scholars for nearly as long as scholars have existed. With the newly developed Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) system, we can examine ancient artefacts better than ever before – which means there’s a chance at deciphering at last an engimatic script from 5000 years ago.

Proto-Elamite is the world’s oldest undeciphered script, used between 3200 and 3000 BC in what is now Iran. Although it has some similarities with Mesopotamian, 80 to 90 per cent of it isn’t understood.

“I have spent the past 10 years trying to decipher the proto-Elamite writing system and, with this new technology, I think we are finally on the point of making a breathrough,” said Jacob Dahl of the University of Oxford, a co-leader of the Cuneiform Digital Library.