Map Quiet Heat
Detail from ‘Miss Tran Thi Minh Huong, key punch operator, transfers programmed information from work sheets to IBM cards.’ Dave Young, ‘Quiet Heat: Archive Machines and War Fever’, 2016

Archive Machine: the background processing of conflict, the computational systems that map out the contours of warfare, making them knowable, predictable and ‘controllable’. Archive Machines are generators of documentation: they observe the external world; are semi-automatic; take in information; are storage containers. They also observe themselves. The Archive Machine necessitates the existence and storage of memoranda, reports, PowerPoint presentations, manuals, all artefacts of institutional bureaucracy. [0] Documents, individuals, entities have an identification number, so that their paths and interactions can be tracked throughout the archive.

War Fever: in JG Ballard’s short story, [1] War Fever takes the form of a wry desire for perpetual warfare, the psychological affect of living in a state of conflict. War becomes a laboratory for the management of social order and disorder—intellectual, high-stakes entertainment. In practice, War Fever is the ‘hot’ language of warfare, the ‘liveness’ of its imagery, the discourse that legitimises the operation and extension of the Archive Machine.

I remember seeing Shock and Awe [2] in action for the first time, on television, in March 2003. In the frame: some roadways, streetlights still on, an orange halo over the city of Baghdad, growing brighter with thundering flashes, cracks; the sudden illumination of trees of smoke, tops drifting out of frame, impossibly tall; the still mirror of the river Tigris making it seem like every bomb was dropped twice. The word LIVE fixed top-right in the news channel’s overlay.

While Shock and Awe is the branding of a tactic that has existed throughout the history of warfare, it’s position in a post-Cold War timeline must be considered. Its modern incarnation is a strategy that takes advantage of the information society. It prioritises immediacy and is empowered by precision technology. Smart bombs, GPS, battlefield intelligence combine in ‘surgical warfare’. It requires, in military parlance, ‘full spectrum dominance’: the total control of all aspects of warfare, from the psychological disposition of the enemy, to the media-image of conflict, to ground, air, sea and cyber operations. However, the importance of visibility in the Shock and Awe doctrine distracts from the systems that underpin such forms of warfare in the first place.

The Archive Machine provides an insight into the mechanisms of War Fever, an entryway into the study of the institutional experience of war. How are relations mapped out between military personnel, computer systems, and the defined objectives of war? What is the computational experience of war?

25 years ago, 1991: The First Gulf War. [3]

In the detritus of the Archive Machine we can find reports on counterinsurgency programmes, manuals for using new computer systems, surveys of failed technological experiments. We can find first drafts of the strategies adopted in the War on Terror: the desiring-machines, the apparatuses of mass observation and the schematisation of undesirable behaviours.

In the Archive Machine, we can see how the parameters of the battlespace altered over the Cold War: Command and Control (C2); Command, Control and Communication (C3); Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence (C3I); with further derivatives appended as the military extended its area of operations across new modes and media. [4]

Quiet Heat is War Fever and Archive Machines in mutual operation.

‘The underlying systems designed to make sense of these chaotic politics produce a quiet heat. This quiet heat: an uncomfortable ambient condition; one that becomes normalised; an inescapable environmental quality that affects rather than directs; it modulates. It is the side-effect, the by-product, of background processing. It should be loud, it is only quiet because it is kept discreet, contained. Quiet heat is the affective quality of computation during wartime, the product of the Archive Machines and the conditions of living with War Fever.’ [5]

The Archive Machines are threat-managers and quantifiers of security. War Fever creates the discourse that necessitates the containment, or the removal, of threat in the battlespace. The drone becomes the application of the Archive Machine to a moment of conflict. The position adopted by the US Government following high-profile drone strikes is that the strike is legitimate if the individual is believed ‘to pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat.’ [6]

In 2003, the relationship of the Iraq War to the War on Terror was murky in my mind: they were synchronous, they were in some part of the world reductively referred to as the ‘Middle East’. Righteous justifications pertaining to human rights, national security, and a particular people’s idea of freedom were used to justify both.

The internal mechanics of war, such as it is often conducted, is never entirely knowable for those whom it is ostensibly fought for, the citizens of the state. As the capacity for the Archive Machine to process and store information grows, can we then say that the opportunities for knowing the mechanics of their operations will be greater? The unignorable caveat, of course, is that we may need to wait a while in order to find out, wait long enough for them to become objects of history.

But they do not necessarily have to sit in temporal isolation: they can be brought into the present, illuminating examples of violent repetition, techno-genealogies, situating events in an evolving teleology. This is a vital strategy in the critique of War Fever.

Dave Young is an artist and researcher based in Nottingham. He is currently an AHRC/M3C funded PhD candidate at the Centre for Critical Theory, University of Nottingham.

This is an introduction to a full text, accessible at The full text is an attempt to drag some pieces of the Archive Machine into the present, and to find some parity between their interpretation and the raw materials of the original documents, with respect to currently evolving events connected in various ways to the War on Terror. The initial research that has led to the production of this partner text comes from my few months as a remote resident at the Artist Run Data Center, run by Servus in Linz, Austria, in late 2015. The text is hosted by the Artist Run Data Center.

[0] See ‘greyness’ as described in Matthew Fuller, and Andrew Goffey, (2012). Evil Media . MIT Press, United States. “Greyness is a quality that is easily overlooked, and that is what gives it its great attraction, an unremarkableness that can be of inestimable value in background operations.” (p.11)
[1] ‘War Fever’ in J.G. Ballard, (1991). War Fever . Paladin, Glasgow, Scotland.
[2] Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance is a study by Harlan Ullman and James Wade et al. Published by the National Defense University, it proposes dominating the enemy in a sensational and precise display of technological superiority (shock), rendering them unable to counterattack (awe). The tactic was adopted by the Bush Administration in the Iraq War, and came to be one of the defining terms of the war in the mainstream media. Available here:
[3] The standard declassification period for United States government documents is 25 years.
[4] Command and Control: List of Derivative Terms on Wikipedia:
[5] From the full text of Quiet Heat: Archive Machines and War Fever.
[6] From a speech by Barack Obama at the National Defense University, in 2013. The speech was one of the first times the President directly spoke of the drone programme. Obama specifically references the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen on 30 September, 2011. Al-Awlaki became the first US citizen to be killed in a drone strike. Full speech transcript available here: