Skip to main content


Plenary lecture: The Uselessness of Ears

Keynote: The Uselessness of Ears

Naomi Waltham-Smith is giving one of the plenary lectures at the Simpósio Música Analítica in Porto.



Another look at Haydn’s playful (mis)use of cadential formulas and at processes of cadential liquidation in late 18th-century repertoires gives occasion for developing a new theory of musical form that has its roots in philosophical scepticism about notions of property and sovereignty. In order to explain the creative and sometimes aporetic ways in which composers and listeners relate to musical material, I start by tracing the deconstruction of the Adornian dialectic between generic convention and particular expression—between proper and improper, and propriety and impropriety—and then complicate this opposition by way of a secondary distinction, cutting across the first, between musical material and its use. More specifically, I turn to the idea of usure that Derrida develops in his thinking about metaphor to show the negotiation between, on the one hand, the exhaustion or wearing out of musical material and, on the other, the usurious generation of surplus profit or potential for new adventures. In this way, I hope to show the fruitful and deleterious effects of a deconstructive, post-Adornian philosophy of musical form for analytical praxis.

Fri 22 March 2019, 11:14 | Tags: front-page-2

New paper: the design of transparency.

Loup Cellard (PhD Student, CIM) and Anthony Masure (Université de Toulouse) published together an article entitled "Le design de la transparence. Une rhétorique au coeur des interfaces numériques" in a special issue on the tyrannies of transparency, edited by Emmanuel Alloa and Yves Citton, of Multitudes.

Abstract of the paper (in english) :

"Historically, one of design’s objectives was to make the world intelligible by structuring the mediation of the visible. Such an operation of selection necessarily runs against a (transparent) understanding of the real, as fantasized by mathematical computation. Computation spread through digital interfaces which become unavoidable mediators of any form of human activity. As a consequence, design finds itself trapped between three double-binds, which this article attempts to investigate and overcome."

The paper can be downloaded here.

Thu 21 March 2019, 13:15

Loup Cellard contributed to the "Public Algorithms Guide" of the french open data task force.

CIM PhD Student Loup Cellard contributed to the "Public Algorithm Guide"released on Friday 15th March by Etalab, the french open data task force. In 2018, Loup conducted an ethnographic fieldwork at Etalab. This service attached to the prime minister assists administrations in applying a new legal framework on public algorithms. This guide, open to contributions and published as part of a wider program is composed of three parts that can be read independently. The first part gives contextual elements: what is an algorithm? How are algorithms used in the public sector? The second part details the issues in terms of ethics and responsibility. The third part presents the legal framework applicable to the transparency of algorithms, particularly following the adoption of the law for a digital republic. The blogpost of the announcement is available here.

Thu 21 March 2019, 11:48

Dissertation award for Rene Westerholt

Our colleague René Westerholt (Assistant Professor at CIM) was awarded the Dissertation Prize Geoinformatics 2019 last Thursday. This prize is awarded by the Runder Tisch GIS e.V. at the Technical University of Munich and is endowed with 2500€ prize money. Part of the award regulations was also an audience voting for the corresponding talk at the GI-Runde 2019, a conference for GIS experts from academia, business and public administration. The aim of the Runder Tisch GIS e.V. is to promote and link different actors in the GIS sector in Germany. The prize committee consisted of five leading German GIS professors: Prof. Thomas Kolbe (TU Munich), Prof. Ralf Bill (University of Rostock), Prof. Jörg Blankenbach(RWTH Aachen University), Prof. Jukka Krisp (University of Augsburg), and Prof. Patrick Ole Noack (Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences).

Mon 18 March 2019, 09:54 | Tags: front-page-1

New paper: Extant Listening; Or, Ec(h)otechnics


In what sense is the world audible after human extinction? And what does it mean to suggest that an increasing lapse of attunement to our environment and its survival is symptomatic of a certain self-extinguishing character of human aurality which lives on only by destroying itself? If the Anthropocene, as geological strata, will be readable long after geologists and human reading will have become extinct, this paper presents a similar thought-experiment to speculate about listening after human listening. The anthropogenic destruction of the planet and of other species can be tracked by ear, and yet it is typically far more audible to technological or animal ears—through ocean tomography, for example, or in the traces of animal perceptions of noise left in changing patterns of migration. I look back in the opposite direction along history’s unfolding to the evolution of the mammalian ear and specifically the role of epigenetic changes so as to explore possibilities for non-human modes of listening at once beastly and prosthetic.

Fri 15 March 2019, 15:46

Where Gentleness Lodges Itself

On International Women’s Day Naomi Waltham-Smith is giving a paper at the American Comparative Literature Association annual conference in Washington DC on Anne Dufourmantelle’s notion of gentle listening and hospitality to women’s voices in the thought of Jacques Derrida.

 Link to programme:


Language is never safely in my possession but is always the language of the other, always at risk of its becoming unheimlich, at risk of descending into madness. Such is Derrida’s thinking of the oikos and of the oikonomia of hospitality, which is no less threatened by perversion. Derrida’s thought of hospitality demands a respect for singularity—for the kind of singularity that distinguishes, for example, “the promise of an as yet unheard language” of the other, “inaudible yesterday” from the language of the other as colonizing master. And yet that unconditional hospitality—the categorical imperative to respect the otherness of the other—is in danger of becoming appropriative, colonizing, exploitative. For refugees and migrants, the possibility of making a new home has perhaps never been more urgent or more in jeopardy as hospitality, weaponized, teeters towards “a gateway to barbarism” in Dufourmantelle’s phrase. But it is not Derrida’s appeal for “cities of refuge” that detains me here, rather Dufourmantelle’s “invitation” and its offer to shelter his thought within. In particular, I examine the weight she gives in her reading to listening to spoken words, connecting this with her reflections elsewhere on listening and gentleness. I focus on the constellation into which she inserts listening alongside the nocturnal, exiled side of speech and the maternal madness that inhabits language, threatening the promise of homeliness.

Fri 08 March 2019, 14:45

New paper: On the Politics of Chrono-Design: Capture, Time and the Interface

This article makes a contribution to interface criticism through the notion of chrono-design: the deliberate shaping of experiences of temporality and time through contemporary software techniques and digital technologies. This notion is articulated through discussions of network optimisation, user experience design, behavioural tracking, Hansen’s work on 21st-century media and Hayles’ framework of cognitive assemblages. In particular, the argument considers how contemporary user interfaces complicate conventional notions of the rational, self-reflexive subject by operating beyond consciousness at vast environmental dimensions and accelerated micro-temporal speeds. These conditions, we argue, provide opportunities for new forms of behavioural suspense and captivation best exemplified through the figure of the trap. The politics and aesthetics of captivation, accordingly, should be considered as central to any expanded ecology of cognition. The article then concludes with a short demonstration of experimental uses of chrono-design methods applied critically to political economies of user tracking and data capture as a prompt for further interdisciplinary applied research in this domain.

Fri 08 March 2019, 12:18

Re-animating soils: Transforming human–soil affections through science, culture and community

‘In a sense we are unique moist packages of animated soil’. These are the alluring words of Francis D. Hole, a professor of soil science renowned for encouraging love for the soil and understanding of its vital importance. Affirming humans as being soil entangles them in substantial commonness. This article explores how altering the imaginaries of soils as inert matter subjected to human use and re-animating the life within them is transforming contemporary human–soil affections by developing a sense of shared aliveness. Presenting research on current practices and stories emerging from scientific accounts, community involvements and artistic manifestations, I propose five emerging motifs of renewed imaginaries of soil’s aliveness that feed into each other to affirm intimate entanglements of human–soil matter. I argue that while a vision of anthropocenic soils invokes yet another objectified natural resource brought to exhaustion by a deadly human-centred productionist ethos, as soils are re-animated and enlivened, a sense of human–soil entangled and intimate interdependency is intensified. These new involvements with soil’s aliveness open up a sense of earthy connectedness that animates and re-affects material worlds and foster sense of more than human community.

Mon 04 March 2019, 11:51

Data Intimacies

The air is, in many urban contexts, polluted. Governments and institutions monitor particles and gas concentrations to better understand how they perform in light of air quality guidance and legislation, and to make predictions in terms of future environmental health targets. The visibility of this data is considered crucial for citizens to manage their own health, and a proliferation of new informational forms and apps have been created to achieve this. And yet, beyond everyday decisions (when to use a mask or when to do sports outdoors), it is not clear whether current methods of engaging citizens produce behavioural change or stronger citizen engagement with air pollution. Drawing on the design, construction and ethnography of an urban infrastructure to measure, make visible and remediate particulate matter (PM2.5) through a water vapour cloud that we installed at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017, we examine the effects and affects of producing a public space that allows for physical interaction with data. In Yellow Dust (YD), data of PM2.5 are translated into mist, the density of the mist responsive to the number of particles suspended in the air. Data are made sense/ible in the changing conditions of the air surrounding the infrastructure, which can be experienced in embodied, collective and relational ways, what we call ‘molecular intimacies’. By reflecting on how the infrastructure facilitated new modes of sensing data, we consider how ‘data intimacies’ can re-specify action by producing different forms of engagement with air pollution.

Thu 28 February 2019, 14:12

CIM contributes to Warwick DataBeers

CIM will contribute to the fifth Databeers event in the West Midlands! Our colleague Dr René Westerholt will speak about "Plac(e)ing Social Media: Why spatial analysis may not be the best choice for geographic social media analysis". We kindly invite you to join us for this and other interesting talks at the WBS Teaching Centre, room M.1 on **Thursday 7th March at 18:30** to listen to, and share, data stories.

The event is very informal, and getting to know other data enthusiasts is the main goal. There will be 4 interesting talks and lots of free beers and networking time. Please see the webpage for more information:

The event is free, of course, but we it is required to register as space is limited:

Seeing you there!

Wed 27 February 2019, 13:07

Older news