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by Michael Betancourt

This site presents extracts from Michael Betancourt's current research and writing projects, with news about current developments. A portfolio of finished, published writing is available here.

His book, Beyond Spatial Montage: Windowing, or, the Cinematic Displacement of Time, Motion and Space, concerned with the results of a 25-year long studio-based research project will be published by Focal Press.

If you are looking for more on agnotology, digital capitalism or automated/immaterial labor, look at The Digital, which presents links to his most recent published articles and other research on the political economy of digital capitalism contained in his book:

The Critique of Digital Capitalism identifies how digital technology has captured contemporary society in a reification of capitalist priorities. The theory proposed in this book is the description of how digital capitalism as an ideologically “invisible” framework is realized in technology.

More articles and translations into Spanish, Portuguese and Greek are posted on


The Critique of Digital Capitalism

story ©  | published January 11, 2016 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

The Digital

My book is now out from Punctum Books, and available on Running 265 pages, this volume collects and expands my critical theory essays pubished over the past decade:

​1​ The Ideology of Automation
​2 ​The Emergence of Immaterial Physicality
​3​ The Aura of the Digital
​4​ The Immaterial Commodity
​5​ The Valorization of the Author
​6​ The ‘Black Box’ of Past Experience
​7​ The State of Information
​8​ The Demands of Agnotology::Surveillance
​9 ​The Scarcity of Capital
​10​ On Immaterialism

The critique introduced in this book develops from basic questions about how digital technologies directly change the structure of society: why is “Digital Rights Management” not only the dominant “solution” for distributing digital information, but also the only option being considered? During the burst of the “Housing Bubble” burst 2009, why were the immaterial commodities being traded of primary concern, but the actual physical assets and the impacts on the people living in them generally ignored? How do surveillance (pervasive monitoring) and agnotology (culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data) coincide as mutually reinforcing technologies of control and restraint? If technology makes the assumptions of its society manifest as instrumentality — then what ideology is being realized in the form of the digital computer? This final question animates the critical framework this analysis proposes.

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Abstract Photographs

story ©  | published December 27, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

New Releases

I made a series of fully abstract darkroom images between 1989 and 1994 that are available in a book from

They represent an aggressively edited sample of what began as a darkroom experiment with solarization that expanded, to include photograms, but ultimately eliminated physical objects entirely to create complex visual imagery from chemical flows and pure light. The abstract images this process created are unique, produced without the intervention of camera or negative.


Notes on Marginality

story ©  | published December 26, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


The issue is basic survival and continued possibilities for carrying on with what one does. Marginal is thus about displaced actions that continue with neither recognition nor official sanction.

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Defining the Critical Glitch

story ©  | published December 17, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


“Glitch” may be best known from its role in electonic music and digital composition, but it is equally—and more commonly—a part of the everyday visual engagement with computers. The technical aspects of digital technology—pixellated images that re/compose reality as a juxtaposition of discrete fragments—suggests a translation of visual space into a virtuality, cyberspace, that instead of being continuous is instead shot through with errors and failures of various types. Transfers between this digital technology and art have been a continuous part of its history, but the prominence of digtial imagery and digitally-derived forms has become an insistent part of contemporary media since the opoular embrace of the Internet in the mid-1990s. These visual forms of glitch, unlike its musical counterparts, have consistently been grouped with a variety of other terms, prominent among these are post-digital, post-internet and the new aesthetic; in academic contexts visual glitch will often simply identified with new media art, or occasionally video art.

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Glitches and the Aura of Information

story ©  | published December 15, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


Compression glitches have become the most common type of glitch encountered, not only in art, but in our everyday uses of technology. These technical failures are usually transitory, a momentary breach in the continuous datastream; we notice that they happen as quickly as we forget they were there: once they have passed, they vanish not only from the screen but from memory.

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Going Somewhere: Episode IV (TRANSCENDENCE)

story ©  | published December 7, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

My Movies

Going Somewhere: Episode IV reconfigures science fiction movies with documentary/scientific NASA/JPL documentation and abstract glitch footage to reveal an underlying fantasy of transcendence. The story follows a simple trajectory: a traveler arrives, then embarks on a more abstract journey into inner space—a transcendent metaphor for exploring the self.

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Rationalized Production

story ©  | published December 7, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print

The Digital

The “rationalization” of industrial processes known as “Taylorism,” appears as the fragmentation of production on the assembly line. This theory initially functions to enable mass production, but finds continued application in the algorythmic translation of agency into digital automation. This approach to how factories organized their processes, codified by engineer and theorist Frederick W. Taylor as “scientific management,” enables the particular type of mass production that defined American industry in the first half of the twentieth century. Links between Modernist art theory and industrial protocols inform the development of the digital. The transformation of machine labor from an extension of human action—as the mechanical amplification of human labor—into the digital, where the machine does not augment but supplant.

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Pre-Order Beyond Spatial Montage

story ©  | published December 5, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


My book Beyond Spatial Montage: Windowing or the Cinematic Displacament of Time, Motion and Space is now available for pre-order. You can preview some of it's content here.


Glitch Procedures in Helios | Divine (2013)

story ©  | published December 3, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


The music video produced for Sa’eed Ali’s song of the same title, Helios | Divine is 4 minutes long, organized into four sections of approximately equal length. It is designed to act as a “posthuman landscape” where what we believe we see is not entirely the same as what is actually visible on screen: a complex network of squares and rectangles that ‘twinkle’ and contain a continually shifting field of colors that combine into larger blocks only to break into smaller, more discrete units. The imagery presented is emergent—what can be seen when looking at a still image is radically different than the encounter with the movie—but is also composed from uniform squares of color, an effect of the glitching process that stripped recognizable, high definition imagery from the “raw” footage. This visual development follows the sequence of imagery common to the revelatory experiences described in the 1930s by German psychologist Heinrich Klüver. A summary of his imagery describes the progression of Helios | Divine: in a continuously transforming shot (rather than a series of individual, discrete shots), the initial ‘parting of the veil,’ becomes by degrees a beautiful landscape, then a figure that merges into a large, circular disk with light rays stretching out, followed by a second, darker landscape.

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An Immaterial Medium

story ©  | published November 30, 2015 | permalink | TwitThis Digg Facebook StumbleUpon  |  Print


The particular dimensions of a physical engagement with immateriality in motion pictues depends on the fragmentary nature of the digital medium itself: everything “inside” the computer exists as numerically encoded data: the fragmentation and digital organization of information that when ‘replayed’ for a human audience appears continuous via discrete units (commonly called “samples”) is a given when considering any product of digital technology. These discrete fragments of reality enable the transmission, reproduction, and reassembly that are the common features of any digital technology, and the apparently ‘prefect’ reproduction originated precisely in the actuality that what is encountered through the immaterial production of the digital work is not a copy so much as a new example produced specifically for the moment of encounter; it is an “original.” This reassembly from fragmentary samples may not have been an invention of the late nineteenth century, but it was in this period where sampling, coupled with new developments in photography, introduced the essential foundation for the digital transformation of reality into data that enables the digital to function as a perfect ‘reproduction.’

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