Forgetting the Social in the Age of Social Media?

Craig Calhoun

Craig Calhoun is President of the Berggruen Institute and Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics.

Technology so dominates our sensibilities today that we want technological solutions to the problems of technology. There may even be some: what about an app to tell us how much social media junk food we consume — and by comparison how modest our intake of informative vegetables may be? But overall, we are at risk of forgetting how many of our troubles — and how much of what we really value — comes from the social organization of our lives.

Technological change is one source of today’s deep challenges to democracy. But it does not simply determine outcomes, and the problems we face are not narrowly technological. Take transformations of work and employment. They are shaped not only by technology but by basic social conditions like inequality, the power of corporations and the erosion of unions, and habits of seeking perennially new consumer gratifications. Or take the weaponizing of technology and the consequent arms races. These are made possible by specific characteristics of technologies, but they’re also driven by deteriorating international institutions, escalations of international conflict, and the impacts of global economic rivalries on politics.

Read more at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.