Three New Issues

In December, with the launch of TC 3.0, the long anticipated (especially among the editors), bleeding-edge online publishing platform, Triple Canopy will begin publishing issues of the magazine that address specific questions or prompts and emerge from research by editors—and also, essentially, conversations with artists, writers, researchers, designers, technologists. Triple Canopy will collaborate with contributors not just on their own projects, but on the development of coherent (if variegated) bodies of knowledge that enrich their lives, our own, and especially yours. Each issue of the magazine will now make an argument via essays, ebooks, print publications, artist editions, exhibitions, public conversations; the website will elucidate relationships between these experiences, objects, documents. Conversations had in person at 155 Freeman Street will be reflected online in following weeks, will be reconsidered in a print-on-demand book in subsequent months, will be tweeted semi-regularly.

We're pleased to share descriptions of the first three of these issues:

Who bears the responsibility, and who possesses the imaginative capacity, to conceive of a better, even ideal world? Though utopians, futurists, and visionaries have never been united under one standard, political, intellectual, and artistic thought was once charged with conceiving of an ideal world. Now we mostly defend the scraps of bygone idealism and attend to the detritus of twentieth-century progressivism. And those who make real investments in the future—and whose investments pay off—tend to be libertarian technologists, financial engineers, and affiliates of plutocrat-funded think tanks. Speculations is an exhortation to bet on the future again—for artists, writers, technologists, economists, academics, filmmakers, activists, and ecologists to form propositions or projections that make demands on the present. We are good at identifying what’s wrong, at being critical if not defeatist; this leads all too easily to dystopian, apocalyptic visions. Let us now exercise our imaginations and ask what we might want instead. After all, our action in the present implies an optimism about the future. And yet, neither are we calling for utopia, blueprints for totalizing systems, prescriptions for the many on behalf of the few. We propose instead a continuum of overlapping moods ranging from optimism (however dark) to pessimism (however bright). Within this matrix, the negotiation between technological progress and political obduracy, individual liberty and collective welfare remains crucial.

This issue of Triple Canopy will consider the profusion of digital and networked objects in the past half century and the ways in which our relationship to work and play, political and social life, memory and identity has changed as a result. While new devices necessarily emerge from existing technologies, the tools of our era seem unique inasmuch as they facilitate exchanges between physical objects and enormous troves of information, act as interfaces between the corporeal and the immaterial. The objects closest to us, most useful to us, are essentially data nexuses, and they comprehend us as so much information. Additionally, they render “dumb objects” superfluous, arcane, strange, and all the more enticing for their tendency to bear the marks of our passage through the world on their surfaces, to capture our qualities and not our quantities. This issue will examine how the regime of digital objects is changing—or displacing—us as subjects, reconstituting the physical environment as data to be apprehended and instrumentalized (or else as stubbornly useless). At the same time, it will seek explanations beyond the digital: How might the international traffic in commodities such as sugar and gold in the sixteenth century relate to the connections and disconnections facilitated by today’s networked objects? How might the emergence of a bureaucratic elite centuries ago be compared to the rise of a class of coders who by default manage the digital environment? Finally, how can we make objects work—or refuse work—for us, or else unmake them?

Standards flatten the world, making diverse cultures, geographies, economic activities, communications, and knowledge formations equivalent. They govern container shipping and scientific research, the compression of images and the regulation of Internet protocols, the distribution of food aid and the classification of literature. Standards are ubiquitous and largely invisible tools for organizing social and economic life, and they allow far-flung populations to relate to one another; likewise, political and economic disruptions often depend on the illumination and disturbance of those standards, as they are indicative of a world that is increasingly difficult to govern locally. As much as the free flow of information has been a progressive force in the past century—fostering economic growth, enabling individual liberties—the need to regulate that information and the underlying technologies has led to the concentration of power among unaccountable, unelected international bodies. Through essays, sound works, artist projects, a print publication, and a series of public conversations, this issue will investigate the social effects and political dimensions of rampant standardization, while also treating standards as (potentially rewarding) aesthetic problems.