Ah. Theory. Right-o.

I have problems with Digital Theory.

Mostly because I feel like most things I read are a stretch and a half. Maybe I’m old? Maybe its become so common place that I don’t think about it. I just know that reading Digital Theory makes my head hurt. Because there’s only so far you can analyze shit like hyperlinks or VR.

I mean if you want to get down into it, sci-fi always does it first.

iPads? Star Trek. VR? Lawnmower Man. The Internets? Hackers. AI 2001. etc…

I think examining the outright weird ass Libertarianism that comes with most of The Net is waaaaaaay more out there than trying to stretch digitized photos into some kind of benchmark. I mean it is…but its not the same. Like maybe we should just be reading zines, and old geocities sites, and 2600.

Old pieces of servers left around to find. Relics. Floppy disks full of bad fan-fic. I feel that is more theory of the digital than a lot of the theory I read.

Maybe its just me? Probably just me.

The Internet Of Absurd Things

The Internet of Things refers to a collection of networked devices, that receive and send data [Oxford English Dictionary]. These devices are usually marketed to us by Startup Culture, as a way to make our lives easier, or to give us a sense of control. But not being able to open the garbage bin because the wifi is down, or turn on the lights because you don’t have an app is the exact opposite of ease or control, which makes the whole situation a technological comedy of errors.

The purpose of this proposal is to formulate a critique of the Internet of Things, and people’s relationship to their devices and environment, by subverting a collection of smart objects into new scenarios to highlight how their intended functionality is absurd. By doing this, I will inform designers and technologists about the wider societal effects of the connected objects they create. The project will cumultate in the output of the devices, a paper, public code repositories, and instructions on how people can subvert these items for themselves.

Context / Background
My background and training is in web design and development. This has been augmented with my involvement in the maker community. I have experience doing physical computing, networking, and fabrication which will come in useful during this project. The maker world has also provided me with a framework regarding The Internet of Things, as it is quite critical of Startup Culture’s offerings. Asking why we produce these Things, and what is the purpose they serve, is an on-going conversation in that community and has informed my thoughts around the production of “smart objects”.

Theoretical Framework
In 2005, Bruce Sterling coined the term SPIMES in his book Shaping Things. SPIMES were defined as “manufactured objects whose informational support is so overwhelmingly extensive and rich that they are regarded as material instantiations of an immaterial system. SPIMES begin and end with data.” [Sterling, Bruce, 2005,11]. Sterling voiced that true SPIMES do not yet exist, but their speculative existence would trigger a world full of objects that “tend to take on a pervasive flavor of gizmo”. Gizmo is defined as something just smart enough to bother you. [Sterling, Bruce, 2005,15]. In a way, the current reality of The Internet Of Things is a lot like Douglas Adams’ Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy [Adams,Douglas,1978], and less like the Enchanted Objects coined by David Rose [Rose,David,2014]. But stuff can sometimes have secret lives. And when it comes to smart objects, these units exist not only on their own, but in large support systems that influences their existence. [Bogost, Ian, 2012]. Because of this you could argue that these smart things don’t really know what they are, and if “the essence of a thing is considered to be what the thing is” then what is The Internet of Things? [Heidegger 1977].

The time period for this proposal is the current day and age, and is geographically focused on North America. I will conduct a survey into the most used Internet of Things devices, and also ones that people tend to laugh at. I’ll combine these findings with everyday human needs using a combination of technology and human activity as a basis for subverting these constructed objects.

Contribution to the Advancement of Knowledge
There’s a beauty in these absurd “smart objects”, and through this project, I will be able to contribute critical, and practical knowledge, about how to subvert these items for more open source explorations.

References Cited

  • Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Series 2 (radio program). BBC. 1978.
  • Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing. Univ Of Minnesota Press. 2012.
  • Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology. Garland Science. 1977.
  • Rose, David, Enchanted Objects: Innovation, Design, and the Future of Technology. Scribner, 2015
  • Sterling, Bruce. Shaping Things. The MIT Press. 2005

MDA Analysis for Broforce

Broforce is a game made by Free Lives. Its so full of bro, that even bro’s can’t handle the bro-ness. SO MUCH BRO. But its basically satire about American Foreign Activities, wrapped up in a nice little engine with lots of emergent explosions, and many characters.


Broforce is a classic side scroller game with basic run and jump mechanics and physically based level puzzles. Players have simple controls like “jump”, “shoot”, “special attack”, and “taunt” and they can use these simple controls to kill everything, but also to interact with the environment (shooting through walls, the earth, setting off explosions etc) to try and get through a level. Death is treated like classic arcade death, you have no health bar, if you die, and all your lives are lost, the level starts over from either the beginning or a check point. Your goal on each level is to “liberate the area” which basically means “blow everything up and kill the red devil suited boss figurehead at the end of the level”. Sometimes you will have mid level, or final bosses to the tune of classic arcade games which means the boss has a health bar, but you don’t. Your other goal is to “Free” as many prisoners as possible. The more you free, the more characters you unlock, the more lives you obtain for that level. Broforce has an extensive list of action hero characters. Oh and at the end of the game YOU ACTUALLY FIGHT SATAN as the final boss. Its weirdly Metroid like. One thing I find interesting is that the levels themselves while related are not linearly connected. You basically use a world map to fly around and choose what mission to do. Which is nice, because you don’t have to play things in order. Or like a callback to Super Mario 3, even if you are ready to fight the end boss, you can go back and some extra levels beforehand.


Broforce has a weirdly emergent gameplay. Yes its a shoot everything side scrolling puzzler, but because you can mess with most of the elements in the environment, you can set off all kinds of weird chain reactions. This means you also have an itch to just explore stuff like “I wonder what happens when I put this dynomite on this building’s roof?” or “If I shoot these barrels with a mech, which way will they tip?” Its totally possible to beat levels just by turning the environment on all the npcs, or using it for advantage, and that’s kind of an unexpected level of amusement and sophistication for a shoot all the things side scroller. But be aware, you can also get stuck if you carve out too much of the environment. It some ways it becomes more of a you vs the territory, than you vs the npcs. Which is unexpected. Players don’t really interact too much in game, they mostly interact with one another using loose strategy to clear a level verbally in real life. Its a multiplayer couch strategy game, so Broforce is much more fun with friends.


Broforce rides a line between fun and insanely frustrating. Its like that same frustrating feeling you get from classic arcade games, or things like Super Meat Boy. Where, even though you might have died trying do a part in a level 10 times, you still want to go back and try it. Its pretty addictive, and while I wouldn’t call it emotionally engaging, but it is very charged, and the dynamic changes when you play it as a local multiplayer, because people really get into it.


As a side note, the design is hilarious, but also sort of insidious if you think about what’s going on politically state side this year. Suddenly all the joking about “USA USA USA” takes on a very different tone. I like Broforce because its setup as satire. A poking fun of american action hero like stereotypes. But sometimes I wonder about what the next year is going to bring in response to that and how playing this game will feel a year from now.

Position Generator

This assignment was to figure out our position. I interpreted that more as making a kind of a set of statements, or specific rules you have about making things in general. Because I have a design and development background, those things sometimes fall into more efficiency or naming conventions.

For example there is an ENTIRE set of style rules for coding in Python . But you could also follow your own conventions, as long as they remain consistent. Programmers usually do a lot of refractoring as well, a sort of distilling code over iterations to try and make it more efficient or readable.

But anyways. I took it as rules. Personal rules. Underlying rules. I have a few rules of thumb I follow in life like: “Work is an iterative process” and “Execution Counts”. But I wanted to see what other things I could think of. So first I started w/ words and tape, and chopping up those words to make new words.

Then I moved to lists of words or possible statements that I felt held some importance to me:

Then I reduced those statements into basic-ish structures:

Finally I decided to automate my process via a python script to mix those words around into various proto sentences. Because maybe a randomized algorithm could do things I could not.


Though it was somewhat silly, it did manage to churn out some things that I resonated with quite a bit.

  1. Ridiculous futures should be the way forward
  2. Destructive composition through amusing subversion
  3. Ridiculous automation through absurd iteration
  4. Delicate remixes through robust exposition
  5. Subvert your devices
  6. Remix the glitches
  7. Expose the agenda
  8. Compose the future into futile devices

My position is one of futile devices and ridiculous futures. We should play with the systems we exist in, break them, and expose their futility. Not only will this enable us to learn more about what supports or control us, but also how we can subvert that into new modes. There is a beauty in the world’s collection of smart, glitchy devices. Make them your own. Be your process.