Systems Ultra

Systems Ultra:Making Sense of Technology in a Complex World

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The world today is so complex that it diminishes our understanding of it. It can be difficult to comprehend the flows of power which run through the networked technologies, global supply chains, and supranational regulations that exist all around us and influence our everyday lives. These are systems - sets of things interconnected in such a way that they produce their own patterns and behaviours over time. Systems Ultra explores how we experience these phenomena, how to understand them more clearly, and, perhaps, how to change them.

In a series of scenarios, Georgina Voss shows us how to parse our complex world, looking at it through five themes - scale, legacy, matter, deviance, and breakage - via contemporary industrial settings of ports, air traffic control, architecture and construction, payment systems in adult entertainment, and car crash testing. In these human-made systems, what is designed and what emerges? What does it mean for a software-dependent car to break? What does the use of design software tell us about the workplace culture of architects, and therefore the limitations of architecture? What happens to port cities and workers if container ships keep getting bigger? Systems Ultra offers a toolbox for comprehending, and changing, the world.


  • Georgina Voss thoughtfully explores the dizzying operations and implications of the vast machineries that dominate contemporary life, without ever losing sight of their everyday physicality: their meat and flesh, silicon and steel. A brilliant and hugely enjoyable read.

    James Bridle, author of Ways of Being
  • With an ethnographer's eye, a comedian's wit, and a travel guide's sense of adventure, Georgina Voss steers us through the docks and control rooms, the convention halls and design studios, the interfaces and archives from which we can glimpse the global systems that constitute and actuate our contemporary world. Along the way, we gather a set of critical tools for looking at, listening to, mapping, diagramming, scaling, sensing, and feeling our place within these sublime structures - not merely to understand them, but also to equip ourselves to resist, break, hack, and hustle when things need to change.

    Shannon Mattern, author of The City Is Not A Computer