Systems Ultra: Making Sense of Technology in a Complex World

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  • Prix régulier $33.95
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    Georgina Voss

    Publisher: Verso

    Year: 2024

    Format: Hardcover

    Size: 225 pages

    ISBN: 9781839760556

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Systems Ultra explores how we experience complex systems: the mesh of things, people, and ideas interacting to produce their own patterns and behaviours.

What does it mean when a car which runs on code drives dangerously? What does massmarket graphics software tell us about the workplace politics of architects? And, in these human-made systems, which phenomena are designed, and which are emergent? In a world of networked technologies, global supply chains, and supranational regulations, there are growing calls for a new kind of literacy around systems and their ramifications. At the same time, we are often told these systems are impossible to fully comprehend and are far beyond our control.

Drawing on field research and artistic practice around the industrial settings of ports, air traffic control, architectural software, payment platforms in adult entertainment, and car crash testing, Georgina Voss argues that complex systems can be approached as sites of revelation around scale, time, materiality, deviance, and breakages. With humour and guile, she tells the story of what ‘systems’ have come to mean, how they have been sold to us, and the real-world consequences of the power that flows through them.

Systems Ultra goes beyond narratives of technological exceptionalism to explore how we experience the complex systems which influence our lives, how to understand them more clearly, and, perhaps, how to change them.
What People Are Saying
"Georgina Voss thoughtfully explores the dizzying operations and implications of the vast machineries that dominate contemporary life, without ever losing sight of their everyday physicality: their meat and flesh, silicon and steel. A brilliant and hugely enjoyable read." James Bridle, author of Ways of Being

"With an ethnographer's eye, a comedian's wit, and a travel guide's sense of adventure, Georgina Voss steers us through the docks and control rooms, the convention halls and design studios, the interfaces and archives from which we can glimpse the global systems that constitute and actuate our contemporary world. Along the way, we gather a set of critical tools for looking at, listening to, mapping, diagramming, scaling, sensing, and feeling our place within these sublime structures - not merely to understand them, but also to equip ourselves to resist, break, hack, and hustle when things need to change." 
Shannon Mattern, author of The City Is Not A Computer

"Step inside this book and suddenly, you've got a golden ticket to a Willy Wonka wonderland where everything is connected to everything else. You'll never see systems - of any kind - the same way again" 
Fred Turner, Harry & Norman Chandler Professor of Communication, Stanford University

"Unpacks the hidden complexities of the way we live today, and shows why it is essential for us to understand their means and characteristics. From the networks that control payments systems, vast global shipping routes as well as the ways our cities are designed, she explores their history and why they matter. Too often, we only realise these extraordinary powers that dictate our everyday lives when they go wrong, this is an essential manual to modern life." 
Bruce Schneier, author of A Hacker's Mind: How the Rich and Powerful Bend Society's Rules, and How to Bend Them Back

"It can be surprisingly hard to articulate what a "system" actually is, but thank goodness we have Georgina Voss whose humorous and thought-provoking book vibrantly unpacks the nuances of systems and system thinking. As we follow her through a gargantuan electronics fair in Vegas, one of the largest shipping container ports in Rotterdam, a slick makerspace in Silicon Valley, and a pornography industry trade show, Voss draws on her unusual expertise as both creative practitioner and a researcher to distill what a systems worldview does, what it overlooks and where it breaks." 
Tega Brain, author of Code as Creative Medium
About the Author
Georgina Voss is a writer, artist, and researcher. Her writing has been published by the Atlantic, the Guardian, Harvard Design Magazine, and MIT Press, as well as by others. Her installation and performance work has been commissioned and shown at institutions including transmediale, Akademie Schloss Solitude, STUK, Design Museum, and Tate Modern. She co-founded and led Supra Systems Studio at University of the Arts London, and co-founded research studio Strange Telemetry

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