Holly Herndon’s Home and Life-making

cultural analysis research paper humanities close reading
user beyond geopolitics affectsphere life - making the Stack local - global

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This chapter analyzes the movement from being legitimized as a citizen to a data-producing computational- agent within the existing institutional, life-making frames in Holly Herndon’s music video Home(2014). In my exploration, I reference home within the context of Herndon’s understanding: that her laptop is her home, intertwined with her life and identity. Thus, its illegal surveillance is an invasion of privacy, of daily and intimate movements, and of the self. The home becomes an occurrence of one-way surveilled space through which our movements turn into data, creating a dataself. I examine how Herndon creates her own form of power alongside the NSA by sampling her digital movements, the objects of violation, for the content of her songs. This is not a subversion of the current geopolitical system, but a political action of making-a-local-self as an ongoing becoming from the content of the Deleuzian dividual. And, it is the legitimization the multiplication of herself within it. This presents Herndon’s site of becoming-user as an affectsphere of her own devices simultaneous to continuing to serve as data- turned-information for unknown value and use by the state. This is a forceful shift of immaterial embodiment that signifies a resituating of the intimate self intertwined with, by, and through our technological relations, and relations made possible by technology.


I conduct a close reading of the video’s visual metaphors, aural and visual spatial juxtapositions, semiotics of the shadow figure and camera, NSA symbols data rain, lyrics/subtitles, and word box as situating the contemporary home is no longer a material, singular site. This permits Herndon to create a unique locality of her personal user behaviors as the intersectional site of usership, and her home. I assume Bratton’s the Stack, utilize Arjun Appadurai’s concept of locality; Lauren Berlant’s concepts of cruel optimism, crisis ordinary, and affect; Brian Massumi’s affect; and contemporary discourse on data and surveillance such as David Lyon and José van Dijk.


  • Home and being as both local and global sites by planetary-scale computation.
  • Home as an occurrence of being surveilled and intersectional.
  • The development of a new and unknown value of citizen’s lives through the surveillance and the data cation of life-making sites and activities, resulting in the multiplication of identity.
  • Herndon finds an agency in this occurrence of home, where data cation of the self becomes a creative force and creates an affectsphere from the visual and aural juxtapositions.
  • The spaces and textures of Herndon’s work indicate a materiality and spatiality that maintain the link between the physical and immaterial self, making an embodied and immaterial user.
  • Herndon’s technique of self-data collection and turning this data into an audible materiality (and as the textural basis of her creative career and livelihood) makes possible a language between the entities of this occurrence and the differently constituted multiplications of herself.

Concluding Question
Herndon uses her computer as a device to realize and channel her inaccess to the value of her multiplied identity. This is a beyond-platform legitimacy, yet one that is not concerned with mapping or tracking her movements as exposure of one’s online activity (i.e. James Bridle). What kind legitimacy of usership might this offer for rethinking politics and deliverables of life-making securities?🝏