“Reversal, Disconnect, and Proposition: Noise and Data Politics in the work of Julian Oliver and Trevor Paglen” by Day

  • ©Kevin Day




    Reversal, Disconnect, and Proposition: Noise and Data Politics in the work of Julian Oliver and Trevor Paglen



    This paper examines the potential countertactics of contemporary interactive media art to interrogate the data-mining practices that encode the everyday and exploit user data in the big data economy. It argues that noise is the “other” of information, a way to counter the operation of turning the world into data commodities. Through a Brechtian methodology informed by philosophy and critical theories of media and technology, the paper suggests that amplifying the “noise” of the digital media assemblages deviates from their everyday normative functions and estranges our relationship to them, inviting critical ways of understanding, relating to, and engaging these ubiquitous systems. All three noted artworks destabilize the protocols of data-mining to examine data politics. Specifically, the paper looks at three different tactics that amplify the “noise” of digital culture in different ways: reversing roles, disconnecting, and proposing viable alternatives.


    1. Nicole Aschoff. (2020, November 17). Silicon Valley and the Future of Capitalism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYKfi1DBivg&ab_channel=UBCSchoolofPublicPolicyandGlobalAffairs

    2. Bertolt Brecht. 1964. Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic. New York, NY: Hill and Wang.

    3. Julia Bryan-Wilson, Lauren Cornell, Omar Kholeif, and Trevor Paglen. 2018. Trevor Paglen. New York, NY: Phaidon Press.

    4. Manuel Castells. 2010. The Rise of the Network Society. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

    5. Andrew Feenberg. 1999. Questioning Technology. New York, NY: Routledge.

    6. Christian Fuchs. 2017. Social Media: A Critical Introduction (2nd ed.). London, UK: Sage.

    7. Alexander R. Galloway and Mohammad Salemy. 2013. The question of interface. Fillip, 18.

    8. Baruch Gottlieb. 2018. Digital Materialism. London, UK: Sage.

    9. Martin Heidegger. 1962. Being and Time. London, UK: SCM Press.

    10. John Jacob, Wendy Chun, Kate Crawford, and Luke Skrebowski. 2018. Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen. Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum.

    11. Colin Koopman. 2019. How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    12. Marshall McLuhan. 1966. The Relationship of Environment to Anti-Environment. University of Windsor Review, 2(1), 1–10.

    13. Ulises Ali Mejias. 2013. Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

    14. Joseph Nechvatal. 2011. Immersion into Noise. Ann Arbor, MI: Open Humanities Press.

    15. Safiya Umoja Noble. 2018. Algorithms of Oppression. New York, NY: NYU Press.

    16. Julian Oliver, Gordan Savičić, and Danja Vasiliev. 2011. The Critical Engineering Manifesto. Retrieved from https://criticalengineering.org/ce.pdf

    17. Claude Shannon. 1948. A mathematical theory of communication. The Bell System Technical Journal 27, 379–423.

    18. Nick Srnicek. 2016. Platform Capitalism. Oxford, UK: Polity Press.

    19. Hito Steyerl. 2014. Proxy politics: Signal and Noise. e-flux 60. Retrieved from http://www.e-flux.com/journal/proxy-politics/

    20. Shoshana Zuboff. 2019. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. New York, NY: Public Affairs.

ACM Digital Library Publication:

Overview Page:

Art Paper/Presentation Type: