Working notes from the Scandinavian Institute for Computational Vandalism

Emotion and intelligent artifacts

“In a footnote Pickard reports that in lab experiments with students playing the computer game Doom, signs of stress came less with the appearance of a new deadly enemy (the intended site of emotional affect) than during times when students were experiencing difficulty configuring the software.”

in Suchman, L. (2007) Human-Machine Reconfigurations. Cambridge University Press, New York, p215.

Damnatio memoriae



Recarving Nero

Portrait heads of the emperor Octavius Augustus.

“The Joslyn portrait displays clear indications that it was recut from another person’s likeness, limiting the sculptor by dissimilarities to Augustus’ features in the original subject. Recut portraits in general exhibit asymmetries, undercutting, and unnatural planar features where a chisel or other implement has been used to remove undesirable elements. Here, for example, a shallow trough on the forehead is a result of cutting back longer locks in the original. Great care was taken to emulate Augustus’ signature fork-and-pincer feature higher up on the forehead, using the technique of undercutting to create the illusion of volume and definition, which in the process created the trough. […] Careful examination of the nape of the neck further reveals the work of the chisel in removing excess hair. […]


Artificial intelligence

The softening of the brain

Research on the Softening of the Brain, Léon Rostan

A dilation of the soul-itself

Aurelius Augustinus was born on 13 November 354 to the small-landowning Aurelii of Thagaste, an “obscure provincial city” in the uplands of Roman Numidia; and in the year of his birth the Christian emperor in Milan devised this new imperial epithet: “Eternity.” He died as Augustinus Hipponiensis, in the Vandal-besieged city of Hippo Regius —fronting the Numidian coast, not far from Thagaste—on 28 August 430.

As of this writing, then, Augustine is ‘long dead.’ And this expression, however banal, is suggestive, since Augustine asked when he was still living: “Where is the time we call ‘long’?” Or said differently: What is the condition of possibility of a Greek poet’s trope like “the long years of time” (τῷ πολλῷ χρόνῳ), or a hackneyed Latinism like “the space of time” (spatium

For Augustine in Confessions XI—as for Aristotle in the Categories and Physics, or Cicero in De Natura Deorum—the Greek χρόνος and Latin tempus signify, in the first instance, a space of time. Thus, to ask with Augustine, in Confessions XI, “What is time?” is also necessarily to ask this: What is time’s dimension or space?

In the Eighty-Three Questions, Augustine alludes to star-clocks that could subdivide hours into “sixty minutes” (sexaginta minutas), minutes into “seconds” (minutas minutarum). In Confessions XI, he then speculates that seconds could be subdivided into “hyper-minimal instants” (minutissimas momentorum). Only such a ‘microsecond,’ only a “hyper-minimal point of time” is ever present.

This is why Augustine asks in Confessions XI, ‘Where is the time we call long?’ He responds, “in the soul.” And what is the space of time? In the last pages of Confessions XI, Augustine suggests that it is “some dilation” (quandam . . . distentionem), and apparently, “a dilation . . . of the soul-itself” (distentionem . . . ipsius animi).

David van Dusen. The Space of Time: A Sensualist Interpretation of Time in Augustine, Confessions X to XII. Leiden: Brill, 2014. (pp 1-4)

Detecting the Manchurian Candidate

In the Manchurian Candidate, it is revealed that the Communists have been using the soldier Shaw as a sleeper agent, a guiltless assassin subconsciously activated by seeing the “Queen of Diamonds” playing card while playing solitaire. Provoked by the appearance of the card, he obeys orders which he then forgets.

Isn’t an image just like a sleeper agent waiting for the trigger when passed in a detection algorithm?

How to develop a picture from a corpse’s eye

“The morning of November 16, 1880, Wilhelm Friedrich Kühne (1837–1900), a professor of physiology at the University of Heidelberg, dissected the head of an executed murderer in his dark room within minutes of the man’s death. Kühne worked around the contracting muscles in the left eye socket to remove the eye and develop an image from the retina of the last thing this man saw.”(1)

According to Douglas Lanska in “Optograms and Criminology: Science, News Reporting, and Fanciful Novels,” (from Literature, Neurology, and Neuroscience: Historical and Literary Connections) Kühne equated “vision to a repetitive photographic process” and he considered the eyes to be “whole photographic workshop.”1 He believed it was possible to develop images, like photographs, from the eyes of the dead. Kühne called the image fixed on the corpse’s retina an optogram, and the process of developing this image optography. If his experiment on the murderer’s head was successful, then optopgrahy had the potential of revolutionizing the investigation of violent crime.

Read more on Strange Remains’ blog

1. Lanska, D. (2013) Optograms and Criminology: Science, News Reporting, and Fanciful Novels. In Stiles, A; Finger, S.; and Boller, F (Eds.), In Literature, Neurology, and Neuroscience: Historical and Literary Connections. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

A printing press of one’s own

A museum without walls has been opened to us, and it will carry infinitely farther that limited revelation of the world of art which the real museums offer is within their walls: in answer to their appeal, the plastic arts have produced their printing press.
Museum Without Walls, André Malraux.


The minimal message of a photograph may be less simple than we first thought. Instead of it being: I have decided that seeing this is worth recording , we may now decode it as: The degree to which I believe this is worth looking at can be judged by all that I am willingly not showing because it is contained within it.

John Berger, Understanding a photograph, 2013.

Regression = prediction

[…] these sorts of problems break down into two types: regression problems, in which you need to predict some number, such as weight, given a bunch of other numbers, such as height; and classification problems, in which you need to assign a label, such as spam, given a bunch of numbers, for examples word counts for spammy words such as “viagra” and “cialis”.

Machine Learning for Hackers, Drew Conway, John Myles White, 2012.

The term “regression” was coined by Francis Galton in the nineteenth century to describe a biological phenomenon. The phenomenon was that the heights of descendants of tall ancestors tend to regress down towards a normal average (a phenomenon also known as regression toward the mean). For Galton, regression had only this biological meaning, but his work was later extended by Udny Yule and Karl Pearson to a more general statistical context.

From Wikipedia


The original Galton’s essay.