Lana Swartz

Lana Swartz

Media studies expert, 2020-2021 Berggruen Fellow


Lana Swartz is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Her new book, New Money: How Payment Became Social Media (Yale, 2020) looks at cash and cryptocurrency, Visa and Venmo to offer a new way to think about money: as a medium of communication that is shaped by technology and technological change—and by the cultures and politics that, in turn, shape technology. Currently, she is collecting qualitative data on the role of social media, fintech, and traditional financial institutions in the experience of small businesses during COVID-19. At Berggruen, she plans to work on a new project that seeks to understand—and trouble—the cultural meaning of financial scams in the digital age. Scams, she argues, are capitalism out of place: what we call a scam is used to perform boundary work that delegitimates certain forms of economic activity (and exploitation) and legitimates others. The Internet has proven to be fertile ground for both the cultivation of a world in which scams make sense and the diffusion of scams themselves. This book is envisioned as both a shadow history of the digital economy and a history of the shadow digital economy.

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.