The Value of Multi-Typeface Design — Prototyping: From UX to Front End
It has come to my attention that one of the more noticeable traits in my design work is my willingness to use what is perceived to be an excessive number of typefaces. I’ve seen countless articles written on typeface pairing and systems, and nearly all of them push towards using fewer families in any given design. I’ve seen similar comments made towards my own work, implying that they are pleasing despite the number of typefaces they use.
typography  graphic_design 
6 hours ago
It’s Time to Get Over QWERTY — A Q&A with Tom Mullaney on Alphabets, Chinese Characters, and Computing » The LARB Blog
we live in a time that hardly anyone could have anticipated at the dawn of the 20th century. Not only are Chinese characters still with us — they are one of the fastest, most widespread, and successful languages of the digital age. More than ever before, Chinese is a world script, and China is an IT giant. This would shock the many people who, for the past two centuries, assumed that such an outcome was conceivable only if China got rid of character-based writing and went the route of wholesale alphabetization — which it did not. This outcome was not supposed to have been possible — and yet here we are. ...

Ever since the mass manufacture of typewriters began in the U.S. in the 19th century, engineers and entrepreneurs imagined a day when this new technology would conquer the Chinese language and open up a vast new market to Remington, Underwood, Olivetti, and more — just the way it had other languages and markets in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere. It never did..., and yet the fantasy didn’t die. It was renewed in the age of computing and, by the 1990s, seemed to many to have come true: computers throughout China began to look “just like ours,” even including the familiar QWERTY keyboard, which today is ubiquitous in the Chinese-speaking world.

If anything, Chinese conquered the alphabet, not the other way around.

Let’s look closely at the QWERTY keyboard in China. When we do, we find that it’s not at all how one might expect. In the Western world — or really in the “Alphabetic World” — we use the computer keyboard in a dumb, what-you-type-is-what-you-get kind of way. In all but rare instances, we assume a one-to-one correspondence between the symbols on the keys we strike and the symbols that we want to appear on the screen. Press the button marked ‘Q’ and ‘Q’ appears. It’s just that simple....

Chinese “input” uses the QWERTY keyboard in an entirely different manner. In China, the QWERTY keyboard is “smart,” in the sense that it makes full use of modern-day computer power to augment and accelerate the input process. First of all, the letters of the Latin alphabet are not used in the same limited way that we use them in the alphabetic world. In China, “Q” (the button) doesn’t necessarily equal “Q” (the letter). Instead, to press the buttons marked Q, W, E, R, T, Y (or otherwise) is, strictly speaking, a way to give instructions to a piece of software known as an “Input Method Editor” (IME), which runs quietly in the background on your computer, intercepts all your keystrokes, and uses them as guidelines to try and figure out which Chinese characters the user wants. Using the most popular IME around today — Sougou Pinyin — the moment I strike the letter Q, the system is off and running, trying to figure out what I want. With the first clue, the IME immediately starts showing me options or “candidates” in a pop-up menu that follows me along on screen — in this case, Chinese characters, names, or phrases whose phonetic value begins with Q, such as Qingdao or Qigong.

The moment I hit the second button — let’s say U — the IME immediately changes up its recommendations, now giving me only characters that have pronunciations starting with “Qu.” There is no set, standard way to manage this process, moreover. There are many IMEs on the market, and each IME has many customizable settings. ...

modern-day Chinese computing owes a tremendous debt to the work of Chinese library scientists and others back in the 1920s through 1940s — figures like Du Dingyou, Chen Lifu, and others who never knew that the computer would be invented, of course, but who obsessed over the question of how to design faster and faster ways of organizing Chinese library card catalogs, phone books, and filing systems!
china  language  computing_history  programming  type  organization  cataloguing  filing 
yesterday
Introducing The Electro-Library - Print Magazine
Partly, these magazines were manifestos for revolutionary discourses related to the radical politics of the left in 1920s Europe. They transmitted aesthetic programs or methods of image-making, which theorized proletarian art, or what it would mean for art to be integrated in the new organization of life within communist or other socialist propositions. So in terms of your question, these magazines were centrally focused on an inextricable connection between art, culture and politics that could be traced from ideas trickling out of Moscow art circles of the Constructivists, Suprematists, etc., and found a great emissary in the figure of El Lissitzsky. In this context, the design of the printed page, its changing structure and the new possibilities of typography were part of this revolutionary project and were loaded with a utopian promise of the New in this very specific historical moment in Europe....

One of the consistent features of magazines of the historical Avant-Garde was the presence of charts in the front or back matter of the issues which listed other magazines—it was a literal mapping of affinity, of showing comrades. I was really interested in these lists as one way to create a grouping of this material, and used them as a curatorial premise. Because of some space limitations with the show, I particularly focused on titles from Eastern and Central Europe that expressed how Constructivist aesthetics and the new typography spread across this particular geographical area and to highlight designers and titles from places like Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.
little_magazines  graphic_art  avant_garde  network_diagrams  charts  citation  library  periodicals  print 
yesterday
Art Science Tech – Sherry Dobbin in conversation with Christiane Paul « Creative Technology Week
“Artists in Labs” have a long history. One of the more notable examples would be the collaboration between artists and technologists at Bell Labs in the 1960s and 1970s, which brought together people such as Ken Knowlton, Leon Harmon, Stan Vanderbeek, Lillian Schwartz, Laurie Spiegel, and Emmanuel Ghent. A lot of the experimentation at Bell Labs focused on software-based image manipulation, and the collaborations resulted in the development of several programming languages. Another example would be Xerox’s interdisciplinary Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and its Artist-in-Residence Program (PAIR), which paired new media artists with researchers who used the same media in different contexts. And Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) is most important as an organization explicitly devoted to creating collaborations between artists and engineers.
art_tech  laboratories  collaboration 
yesterday
Model City: Rule of Innovation | newnewgames
Today, a network of civic innovation advocates seeks to apply the principles of the tech sector to the city’s management. While proponents of civic innovation encompass a range of actors—from new media entrepreneurs to urban policy think tanks—the movement’s strongest institutional expression can be found in the mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation. Created by Lee in 2011 to “embed startup DNA into government,” the office aims to encourage the city’s “innovation ecosystem” without intervening in market effects. Besides building public-private partnerships and promoting a culture of innovation within City Hall, the office’s main goal is to put public resources, data and space, to more entrepreneurial ends.

At the level of political reason, civic innovation entails redefining the role of city government and re-envisioning it along the lines of an enterprise. Not only should government be lean and flexible, it should also be transparent and competitive by providing open access to public resources as part of a strategy to attract human and financial capital. Modeling government on a startup calls for re-imagining the relationship between residents and the institutions of collective decision-making as one in which customers ostensibly co-create with market suppliers by receiving services from and providing input to them via web platforms. A crucial distinction exists in this vision between government-as-startup and startups themselves. Though the former should be modeled on the latter and evaluated as such, its activities should be limited to fostering market conditions. Tim O’Reilly, the tech-publishing entrepreneur and coiner of the term Web 2.0, suggests that “In this model, government is a convener and an enabler rather than the first mover of civic action.” Rather than pursue social welfare through redistributive policies, government is relegated in this view to laying the groundwork for market competition.

...Better Market Street offers a model for urban living that yokes everyday conversation and discovery – social life writ large – to the dictates of market innovation. ...

The transformation of the city at large into a lab for innovation has taken hold through processes of exclusion. Indeed, the current administration has targeted Mid-Market with heightened policing and public health measures, such as nightly sidewalk hose-downs, to clear the street of undesired elements. At its root, civic innovation is based on an inclusive, if narrowly defined, notion of participation. As long as individuals follow the rules, they are welcome to play. But rubrics must be learned. “In the past,” suggested, “monuments were made of bronze. In the future, monuments will be made of code. They will continue to instill civic values, but they will use different strategies.” ... With the city figured here as a workshop for innovation, public space becomes a terrain upon which to mold urban subjects themselves into lean startups or self-investing bits of human capital.
smart_cities  innovation  urban_planning  civic_engagement  civic_tech  citizenship  start_ups 
2 days ago
Nothing Special: Standards, Infrastructure, and Maintenance in the Great Age of American Innovation | Platypus
The underlying dynamic here—fascination with the new, neglect of the old—is, itself, nothing new. It is common for historical accounts of technology to emphasize invention and innovation, a tendency that David Edgerton attacked in his remarkable 2007 book The Shock of the Old. Edgerton urged his readers to pay closer attention to technologies-in-use, to shift their attention from the spectacular to the mundane, to rethink the meaning of the terms “significant” and “important,” and, in the process, to reconsider the range of human, military, and capitalist engagements with technology....

Thayer had divided AT&T’s engineering staff in half: the Department of Operations and Engineering and the Department of Development and Research. The distinction, Thayer later wrote, allowed Bell System personnel to “differentiate in our work between the engineering of the present and the engineering of the future.”[6] The creation of Bell Labs thus was a corporate and institutional expression of the split between high-status laboratory research and the mundane business of network operations and maintenance....

Third, in terms of sheer human effort, the engineers of the present and maintainers of the system far outnumbered the engineers of the future at Bell Labs. In 1960, for example, Bell Labs employed around 12,000 people—roughly 1.6% of the 735,000 people who were employed by the Bell System. By comparison, over 140,000 people worked at Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of the Bell System; and over 500,000 people worked in the rest of the system—in long distance, local operating companies, engineering, and other AT&T General Departments....

Stories about technology that revolve around geniuses, labs, and innovation efface the everyday labor of the technological workforce. They leave us with a strangely distorted view of the production and provision of technological systems. Readers of Gertner’s Idea Factory will delight in stories about the 1.6%—such as Claude Shannon’s juggling and unicycling—but they will learn little about the other 98.4%: technicians who repaired broken switches and cables, factory workers who spent thousands of hours designing and testing equipment, and engineers who devised standards to protect the system and its users from sleet storms, lightning strikes, and everyday accidents. Unlike some of their colleagues in Bell Labs, these workers didn’t have the luxury of sleeping on the job in the name of “innovation.”
infrastructure  innovation  telecommunications  media_history  labor  maintenance  repair 
5 days ago
Typology
The TYPOLOGY is a photographic collection of collections.
Working with cultural artifacts as a researcher and museum curator, I've developed a tremendous appreciation for the significance of objects. Studying the amazing spectrum of variation within collections provides the inspiration behind my current photographic body of work, Typology. By definition, a typology is an assemblage based on a shared attribute. Patterns, both visual and intellectual, resonate and reveal themselves within collections. Information not apparent in isolation becomes visible in context-only through studying groupings are we able to discern similarities and contrasts. In observing collections of similar things, the beautiful variations become evident. And the closer you look, the more you see.
typology  topology  collections  aesthetics_of_administration 
5 days ago
Will Smell Ever Come to Smartphones? - The New Yorker
A large, brick-shaped device mounted with two smell-delivery tubes made of white plastic, the oPhone was intentionally designed to recall a flower planter, in order to help users feel comfortable leaning in for a sniff. From a built-in palette of thirty-two scent cartridges, it played back oNotes—photographs tagged with up to four smell words, from “buttery” to “fishy” to “yeasty brioche.”

When I spoke with Edwards again, earlier this month, he said that the oPhone was met with “a lot of excitement and a lot of curiosity—and then, uh, this question of ‘What do I do with it?’ ” The same question has dogged the history of scent messaging. Leaving aside the inglorious examples of Smell-O-Vision and other attempts to project odor in a cinematic context, the past quarter century of e-smell enterprises forms a litany of failure. In 1999, for instance, the DigiScents iSmell, a USB-connected scent synthesizer, elicited twenty million dollars in venture-capital funding and was heralded by Wired magazine as the beginning of a “Web revolution.” By 2001, the company had gone out of business. (The iSmell has since been named one of PC World’s “25 Worst Tech Products of All Time.”)


Nevertheless, dozens of entrepreneurs went on to launch their own iterations. An incomplete list includes the AromaJet, which used inkjet technology to transmit a smell between Sydney, Australia, and Plano, Texas, in December of 2000; the Multi Aroma Shooter, another USB-powered device, which Japanese researchers programmed to emit fruit smells alongside a video of a woman eating fruit; and the Osmooze, which synchronized with users’ e-mail programs to release contact-specific scent notifications. With the rise of mobile computing came the Scentee, an iPhone dongle that plugs into the headphone jack and can be programmed to release a burst of rose, lavender, or buttered-potato scent to accompany text messages and alarms. ...

there are considerable technical difficulties inherent in delivering smell. Unlike light and sound, it is transmitted as molecules, not waves—as mass rather than energy. Each of those molecules, Field said, are of different weights, and the Cyrano’s small, battery-powered fan had to be capable of diffusing heavy cedar and light citrus with equal intensity and rapidity. At the same time, the smells had to be lasting and powerful enough for a user to register and decode them. With the oPhone, this frequently resulted in a localized scent cloud, in which fragments of the message would get lost. ...

the messages that early users composed were actually more figurative—scent selfies, jokes, ideas, or emotions, in which, for example, the “smoky” tag began to be used as the equivalent of the eggplant emoji. “There was one picture of two little kids where the boy was chocolate and the little girl was walnut,” Edwards said. “That impressed me. People weren’t just being literal—they were making metaphorical associations with smell.”
sensation  smell  perception 
6 days ago
Innovation Teams, Mundane Innovation, and the Public Good | EPIC
Communication practices often involved site visits, conversations, and the ubiquitous sticky notes to organize thoughts. Eventually these ideas might find their way to an official document and passed up the chain of command. However, forms can’t entirely capture the richness of local practices. Much of the team’s approach was inextricably local and relied on members’ creativity and instincts, rather than data and forms as ways of knowing. Data was still how they gained “insights,” detected change, and guided action. But, true to pragmatism, the team also captured and uncovered data in response to these idea-generating sessions as a cycle of learning. You could not remove the individual from data. It was surprising to me how much the data bore an imprint of the work situations – methodologies, instrumentation, and analysts – that produced it.

The biggest surprise working on an Innovation Team was that the technologies the team was interested in were not radically new. They were often versions of existing technologies that had been proven to work in other situations and locales. Technologies were tied to larger initiatives that had constrained budgets and needed internal and external support. The team needed to garner support quickly, so technologies needed to be familiar. I started to think about these technologies as “mundane innovation” – innovation in the small, reliant on instincts and everyday objects, disentangled from the need to create mythical, perpetually out-of-reach technologies.

What might it mean to approach innovation as strategically mundane rather than exceptional? Critical historian Morozov has claimed that naïve “technologists” are duped by Silicon Valley ideology to apply technology as a quick fix for complex social problems, a phenomena he terms “solutionism.” Yet, processes to construct mundane innovations don’t much resemble what Morozov feared. Although most iTeams have a “data guru,” members are not generally technological experts. The team was, however, sensitized to the community’s needs, institutional constraints, and their own individual instincts. The issue that emerged that was solutionism’s polar opposite. Pragmatism can spin off into cycles of learning and interpreting that never lead to implementation. The forms and deadlines were necessary to move members on to the next step in the process....

Openness and public participation – core concepts in communication – are also what separates a reflexive, pragmatic model of learning from a closed cybernetic one.
methodology  innovation  discourse  design_research  civic_tech 
6 days ago
everywhere, every when « Bethany Nowviskie
within activist movements like Black Lives Matter and cultural and aesthetic programs like Afropolitanism and Afrofuturism, rests a potentially liberating and—for digital libraries—maybe altogether new kind of community-based agency. We can ignore that agency and replicate colonial archival configurations and normative knowledge structures of the past. Or we can take it seriously and step back a bit, so that the people who rightly possess and articulate it may better direct us all—on their own terms—in systems-building for digital stewardship and the work of memory institutions. ...

Communities that have agency are able to form their own philosophical structures. This is surely the most crucial concept taking hold in digital cultural heritage work today: the conviction that subaltern groups must be able to use archival and library systems to express their independent theories of the world as it is, and as it could or should be—and to build whatever they need for the world to come. It’s exemplified in content-management tools focused on indigenous intellectual property, like Mukurtu, or on place-based multi-vocality, like the new Mbira platform from Michigan State (projects notably led by anthropologists and archaeologists). It’s inherent in the shift in the digital library community, from near-total reliance on vendor-provided “solutions” to a willingness to invest in open source, community-built platforms and to foster a complex set of interrelations among developers and their partners and publics. It’s also, I think, the latent digital cultural heritage systems affordance most in need of design experimentation and intellectual and material support right now: how to express the vital presence or historical lack of agency; how to enable or re-enable it on the part of the people whose belongings have become your “collections;” how to design for agency in a way that helps communities use their own digitized and born-digital materials in the creation of autonomous, living and breathing philosophical infrastructure....

But I think movements like Afropolitanism and Afrofuturism call on us to build networked, inter-institutional, future-oriented cultural heritage systems: systems that seek to transcend their colonial pasts, even while recognizing that the thought-patterns of knowledge workers, the inherited ontological structures of our archives, and the material expressions of the culture they contain or link to are inescapably shaped by those pasts.

Inescapably? How can we work against inevitability? Maybe (and this is by no means a novel observation) by seeking ways to extend and hand off agency—contextual and descriptive authority, selection and collections-building authority, etc.—to communities of users from historically disenfranchised groups: not just to de-center already-dominant narratives, but to step away from white mediation and change where storytelling power sits:....

So, at the same time that we’re designing with greater appreciation for embodiment, affect, and materiality, I think movements like these remind us that we also need platforms that engage with the ephemeral: with social media for “documenting the now;” with sonic culture (perhaps adopting techniques from archaeoacoustics (which is what I actually thought I’d be writing on when I started this project); with work to support and recover endangered languages; and with programs creating records of last resort, addressing “culture under threat”—work often performed in the face of terrible human suffering based in prejudice: genocide, refugee crises, war.
archives  ethics  community_archives  agency 
6 days ago
Jennifer Gabrys | continent.
cc.cc: What technical systems are operating on us right now?
JG: I think systems is an interesting word, but I inevitably would want to unpack that word because it is so tied up with cybernetic logics. What do you mean by systems? Systems can often seem to be these totalising structures. I am working with Whiteheadian philosophy that doesn't necessarily think of overarching systems, but rather thinks more about concrescences[2], propositions, and speculative adventures...

I hesitate to think of something as totalising as a Technosphere, although I very much take his point that technology has become enfolded into our practices, ways of life, such that we can almost think of it as a geological layer, or stratum, or process. I find that quite interesting.

Trying to conceptualise a complete and total sphere is potentially quite limiting. In the morning discussion, I also detected a need to think about process as part of that, and how it may not be such a totalising system. There are many different ways in which technologies play out; that is one of the things that we are looking at in the Citizen Sense project and in my work with environmental sensors. You can not just make blanket statements about environmental sensors, mapping the globe in particular ways, because they are used for different things, and in different systems or in different environments.

Inevitably, while things might sediment or concretise into systems of interconnection, I would hesitate to refer to them in the usual overarching way, as definitive structures. I think systems can have a very deterministic logic when describing practices, and ways of life. So I use the term ‘environment’ instead, as a way to circumvent the logic of systems a bit, and to think about how environments become particular kinds of inhabitations, as it were. Actually, this is a topic I take up in my book, Program Earth, and there is a tiny bit about that in my talk.[3] But I am slightly wary of thinking about things in terms of systems, because of the totalising logic that potentially comes with them. ...

It is interesting to think, “At what ‘point’ would you even begin to identify the technosphere as the technosphere?” Peter was talking about the free flow of information as part of that, but I am looking at the blockages and the disruptions and the points where information might even fail to have the effect it is meant to have. Rather than a free flow, it is pools and eddies, backroads and garbage dumps, Superfund sites[5]—all kinds of ways in which the Technosphere is not a singular entity....

JG: What counts as technology? Over lunch someone said something about “not liking technology,” and I did not say anything, but I thought that is very interesting because if they do not like technology, do they not live in a house, do they not use indoor plumbing, do they not have lighting, central heating? We have come to think of technology now as primarily digital—fast-paced, moving digital technologies, information, big data, and all the rhetoric that goes along with those things.

One of the reasons I look at electronic waste is also inspired by Walter Benjamin who thought about technology not as something that is always on the leading edge, but as something that inevitably becomes a fossil, and that loses its initial promise of realising some kind of utopia. In its fossilised state, it looks more like rocks or trilobites or sedimented coral. There is no longer this assumption that technology is the most future-forward thing. We are then able to look at technology in a broader sense: as all of the artefacts around us that are organising environments in particular ways, that we are entangled with, and that form the kind of subjects we are, and the relations we have with other subjects if we acknowledge them, such as more-than-humans.
systems  cybernetics  administration  technology  media_history  environment 
8 days ago
Riding the robots – Inside the British Library - YouTube
Mechanical curators at work inside the new British Library Newspaper Building in Boston Spa, Yorkshire, now home to 33 kms and 60 million issues of the nation’s newspaper collection. For more information on the British Library’s new 2015-23 vision visit http://www.bl.uk/living-knowledge #LivingKnowledge
books  storage  robots  libraries  intellectual_furnishings 
8 days ago
Introduction to “Data, Design, and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives” | EPIC
With all of the civic hackathons, civic tech meetups, and civic innovation teams bustling around the world, you’d think we'd have the challenges of government and civil society figured out—or at least be well on our way toward a more open and participatory, resourceful public sphere. Certainly the rhetoric around data, design, and civics suggests as much. But, of course, that’s not the case. The significant ethnographic and design research efforts in contemporary civics are showing us that government and civil society remain fraught arenas and that information and communication technology, along with the ubiquitous “data,” have exacerbated the challenges government, citizenship, and political action.

In the rush to find solutions, what we find instead are more problems. But perhaps it is through these problems, through these messy conditions and patchwork of partial accomplishments, that we might discover new sites and vectors of civic engagement, which in turn might suggest new modes of applied ethnography and design research. To succeed, we must recognize and probe the frame shifts involved in public sector work....

In 2016 we are in a moment when much attention is being paid to so-called civic technology. The mass of hackathons, meetups, and innovation teams previously mentioned are examples of this trend. Big data and smart cities are two particularly prevalent themes. Both offer promises of increased awareness of civic conditions, drawing from diverse sources ranging from the expressivity of social media to the signals of distributed sensor networks.
civic_engagement  hackathons  data  methodology  governance  solutionism 
9 days ago
Alphabet’s Next Big Thing: Building a ‘Smart’ City - WSJ
Google parent Alphabet Inc. has legions of Web developers. Soon it might be in need of real-estate developers.

In coming weeks, top executives at the Mountain View, Calif., technology giant are set to weigh a pitch from Alphabet’s urban technology-focused subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs, on a plan to delve into an ambitious new arena: city building.

According to people familiar with Sidewalk’s plans, the division of Alphabet is putting the final touches on a proposal to get into the business of developing giant new districts of housing, offices and retail within existing cities.

The company would seek cities with large swaths of land they want redeveloped—likely economically struggling municipalities grappling with decay—perhaps through a bidding process, the people said. Sidewalk would partner with one or more of those cities to build up the districts, which are envisioned to hold tens of thousands of residents and employees, and to be heavily integrated with technology.

The aim is to create proving grounds for cities of the future, providing a demonstration area for ideas ranging from self-driving cars to more efficient infrastructure for electricity and water delivery, these people said.

... it is unclear who would cover the cost of such an endeavor—tens of billions of dollars—since large-scale development typically requires buy-in by third-party investors over a period of years or decades. But one key element is that Sidewalk would be seeking autonomy from many city regulations, so it could build without constraints that come with things like parking or street design or utilities, the people said...

“What would you do if you could actually create a city from scratch,” he said. “How would you think about the technological foundations?”

Past efforts to build “smart” cities or districts integrated with technology have failed, he said, because typically urban planners and tech executives don’t understand each other.

“That is why the combination of Google, which focuses on the technology, and, me, who focuses on quality of life, urbanity, etc., we think is a relatively unique combination,” he said.

One challenge the company would face would be that the history of city-building and large-scale urban development projects is full of failures and disappointments. Cities built from scratch, like Brasília or Canberra, Australia, are viewed as antiseptic and without the vibrancy of more organic cities.
sidewalk_labs  google  smart_cities  infrastructure  urban_design  urban_planning 
9 days ago
Libraries Transform
Center for the Future of Libraries

The Center for the Future of Libraries works to identify emerging trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve; promote futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their future; and build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues. Learn more

Community Relationships

Libraries are uniquely positioned at the heart of local, campus and school communities, enjoying public trust as repositories of knowledge and offering democratic access. The transformed library leverages its assets to open up new possibilities and go beyond informing to dynamically engaging communities. Resources for building your library’s community relationships. Learn more

Ebooks & Digital Content

New digital forms of information offer rich and extraordinary opportunities for libraries to expand community access to information and to revolutionize in positive ways the relationship between libraries and users. At the same time, these new forms of digital content pose new challenges. Learn more

Library Leadership & Management

In the traditional library, hierarchical organization and management reign. In the transformed library, management now serve as team leaders, and technical knowledge is more diffused. Librarians are encouraged to lead at any level and to innovate and experiment.
Learn more and find resources for future library leaders.
 

Libraries Transform

Libraries Transform is the American Library Association’s new, multi-year public awareness campaign. Its ultimate goal is to increase funding support for libraries and advance information policy issues in alignment with ALA advocacy goals. Visit www.librariestransform.org for more information.
libraries 
10 days ago
Singapore Is Taking the ‘Smart City’ to a Whole New Level - WSJ
As part of its Smart Nation program, launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in late 2014, Singapore is deploying an undetermined number of sensors and cameras across the island city-state that will allow the government to monitor everything from the cleanliness of public spaces to the density of crowds and the precise movement of every locally registered vehicle.

It is a sweeping effort that will likely touch the lives of every single resident in the country, in ways that aren’t completely clear since many potential applications may not be known until the system is fully implemented. Already, for instance, authorities are developing or using systems that can tell when people are smoking in prohibited zones or littering from high-rise housing. But the data collected in this next phase—and how it’s used—will go far beyond that.

Much of the data will be fed into an online platform, dubbed Virtual Singapore, that will give the government an unprecedented look into how the country is functioning in real time, allowing them to predict, for example, how infectious diseases might spread or how crowds could react to an explosion in a shopping mall. The government also plans to share data, in some cases, with the private sector....

Any decision to use data collected by Smart Nation sensors for law enforcement or surveillance would not, under Singapore law, need court approval or citizen consultation. If the network is somehow hacked, criminals could potentially access a trove of data about citizens’ lives.

“The big, big elephant in the room is protection of privacy and ensuring security,” says Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s foreign affairs minister and minister-in-charge of Smart Nation.....

The project appears to be popular in Singapore, where faith in the government is high and citizens have accepted limits on behavior, including restrictions on public speech and the press, in return for a more efficient state.

“I trust the system here,” says Jerelyn Hew, 30, who works for a locally based online-learning company, when asked her opinion about Smart Nation during lunch. Ms. Hew says she looks forward to benefits such as easier parking.
smart_cities  data  privacy  singapore  asia 
11 days ago
Seeing Revolutionary Info-Structure | Mobilities Research
I had a few more minutes of battery left and wanted to see more, hoping that the drone enabled a god trick that would help me see more and thereby understand more about how data centers are new forms of spatialized power, transforming distributed edges like Iceland into nodes of centralized information power. .... I had to ask myself why was I doing this? What did I hope to learn by seeing the data center from a different angle?...

Scholars behoove us to improve our “infrastructural literacy” (Mattern 2013) through visiting, seeing, and visually documenting the terrain-based systems of communication around us. In so doing, it is hoped, citizens will become empowered to assume responsibility for governance of these important systems. Lisa Parks, who has conducted field work on cell towers disguised as trees and how satellites are visualized, implores us to begin to take responsibility for infrastructures, a process which starts with field visits and visual methods. Urban planner Kevin Lynch wants infrastructure to become open for citizen involvement by listing technologies of vision which may assist us in connecting to infrastructure: “guidebooks to the sewer system…. Signs, obscure marks, the traces of activity, listening devices, diagrams, remote sensors, magnifying glasses, slow-motion films, periscopes, peepholes – any of these may be used to make some process perceptible” (Lynch 1981: 312-313 in Mattern 2013).

Some suggest we use other senses, such as hearing, smell, and touch in order to more fully experience and embody information infrastructure. Journalist Andrew Blum traveled to a number of data centres, submarine fiber optical cable landing sites, and internet exchanges and writes about the internet’s smell consisting of an “odd but distinctive mix of industrial-strength air-conditioners and the ozone released by capacitors.” He continues: “data centers are kept cold to compensate for the incredible heat emitted by the equipment that fills them. And they are noisy, as the sound of the fans used to push around the cold air combines into a single deafening roar, as loud as a rushing highway”

But is visiting, seeing, or hearing, as we are doing now, experiencing infrastructure on a deeper sensorial level enough? Desires to “make visible the invisible” says Shannon Mattern, “can too often become ends in themselves” (2013). She quotes Jacques Rancière saying: “understanding does not, in and of itself, help to transform intellectual attitudes and situations” (2009: 45)....

Is seeing enough? Does it make the opaque transparent? While I certainly believe it is a start, I think scholars of the internet are missing an opportunity to build a visual theory about what it means to see infrastructure.

The visual haunts the history of infrastructural studies. There is something there, we can feel it, but what we see is not it. Something else powerful and mysterious lurks below the surface, entangled in the wires behind your black box. Scholars have called this uncanny feeling the technological sublime (Nye 1994), the digital sublime (Mosco 2004), and “networked spectrality” (Kirk 2015). Sometimes this mystery reveals itself through its rupture. Infrastructure only becoming visible when it breaks down, has been one of the major tropes of science and technology studies (Star and Ruhleder 1996: 113)....

Consistently we read about the application of visual methods in infrastructural studies as well as critical readings of the visual self-representations of infrastructural industries. Parks (2009) encourages cell phone towers to cease disguising themselves as trees so that we might see them as they are and proceed to have an honest discussion about their proliferation. Starosieliski (2012) investigates how submarine cables are visually mediated by government officials and corporations. Holt and Vondereau (2015) critically analyze the cheery self-representations of data centers in attempts at getting a clearer view of so-called corporate transparency. Geographer Bradley Garrett ascends and descends to places often quite illegally in order to examine and photograph how infrastructural developments are linked with the privatization of public space. These visibility and invisibility discussions articulate with other “digital dualisms” or we might call them “visual dualisms” that are prominent in contemporary media studies such as those between materiality versus immateriality and the actual versus the virtual. For these sociologists of media infrastructure, making infrastructure visible becomes the lynchpin of a politics of transparency – of central importance within hacker activism....

The semiotic gap between a picture of a data center or an undersea cable and what those infrastructures mean and do is so vast as to make another approach necessary. Towards that goal, I intend to contribute a theory of indexicality – a theory attentive to semiotics gaps, connections, and context – to studies of the visual culture of information infrastructure.

Critical visual studies of infrastructure are usually embedded within the immaterial/invisible, material/visible binary. My argument is that the visual and the invisible are not conflated but have an indexical relationship of similitude and difference.
infrastructural_literacy  infrastructure  visuality  methodology  epistemology  transparency  my_work 
13 days ago
The Rise of Pirate Libraries | Atlas Obscura
Scanned or downloaded from journal sites, they are available through pirate libraries for free.

The creators of these repositories are a small group who try to keep a low profile, since distributing copyrighted material in this way is illegal. Many of them are academics. The largest pirate libraries have come from Russia’s cultural orbit, but the documents they collect are used by people around the world, in countries both wealthy and poor. Pirate libraries have become so popular that in 2015, Elsevier, one of the largest academic publishers in America, went to court to try to shut down two of the most popular, Sci-Hub and Library Genesis....

Today’s pirate libraries have their roots in the work of Russian academics to digitize texts in the 1990s. Scholars in that part of the world had long had a thriving practice of passing literature and scientific information underground, in opposition to government censorship—part of the samizdat culture, in which banned documents were copied and passed hand to hand through illicit channels. Those first digital collections were passed freely around, but when their creators started running into problems with copyright, their collections “retreated from the public view,” writes Balázs Bodó, a piracy researcher based at the University of Amsterdam. “The text collections were far too valuable to simply delete,” he writes, and instead migrated to “closed, membership-only FTP servers.”...

“Much of the life of a research academic in Kazakhstan or Iran or Malaysia involves this informal diffusion of materials across the gated walls of the top universities,” he says. What changed more recently is the speed and technology through which that happens.

Alexandra Elbakyan, the neuroscientist from Kazakhstan who created Sci-Hub, for instance, was able to rig up a system that basically jumped the fence of journal paywalls. When someone requested an article, her system first checked the LibGen database. But if the article wasn’t there, the system used donated passwords to log into journal websites, download the article, and deliver it both to the user who requested it and the main database. It’s a much more efficient system than the informal #icanhazPDF economy in which researchers would request certain documents on social media and hope a kind soul would provide.
academia  libraries  piracy  file_sharing 
13 days ago
Other People's Footage: Copyright & Fair Use
Other People’s Footage: Copyright & Fair Use explores the three questions crucial to determining fair use exemptions and presents illustrative examples from nonfiction, fiction, and experimental films that use pre-existing footage, music and sound from other individuals' creations—without permission or paying fees. Through on-camera interviews with noted documentarians, film and legal experts, OPF also reviews relevant court cases and clarifies legal issues regarding trademark, parody, and shooting on location or in a controlled setting.
advising  copyright  fair_use 
14 days ago
What’s the Value of Recreating the Palmyra Arch with Digital Technology?
Seven months after ISIS destroyed Palmyra’s 1,800-year-old Arch of Triumph, the structure has risen once more — this time 2,800 miles away from the ancient city, in London’s bustling Trafalgar Square. But rather than stretching nearly 50-feet skywards and hand-carved from limestone, this one stands just 20 feet tall and is made of Egyptian marble, sculpted in 30 days by robotic arms at a workshop in the famous quarries of Carrara, Italy. London, though, its host for only three days, is far from this replica’s final destination: the arch will travel to Dubai then to New York City in September before likely finding a permanent home in Palmyra — not directly on, but near, the site of the original gateway....

While Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities & Museums has praised the project has as a model to “restore the site as a message of peace against terrorism,” others question whether people should even rebuild these sites — and if so, whose responsibility is it, and how should they approach it?...

“The gesture is so simplistic,” she continued. “This is about histories, about institutional relationships. We have to talk about power structures — how it’s different when westerners or tech companies save cultural things compared to someone else who actually comes from the culture — and how they influence the conversation.

“How is this adding anything to the conversation?”...

Other critics simply condemn the use of technologies the Institute employs: the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones penned a widely circulated piece arguing that Palmyra’s scars are essential to understanding its history and evolution, that it “must not be turned into fake replica of its former glory”:

What is never legitimate is to rebuild ancient monuments using modern materials to replace lost parts — to essentially refabricate them — even though today’s technology makes that seem practical. I don’t see how anyone at this moment can vow to fully restore Palmyra unless they plan to ride roughshod over archaeological reality....

Although the Institute has no intention to place the arch in its original site, its researchers are well aware of the potential of using its technologies for future onsite reconstructions. As Karenowska said, scientists may use 3D printing to produce rough blocks of stone while 3D machining technology — which yielded the small-scale replicated arch — would suit recreations that require more precise surface detail...

But as reconstruction technologies continue to advance, organizations such as the Institute for Digital Archaeology must at least consider how tech-based solutions will respect the narratives and histories tied to original architecture. Allahyari, often contacted by those she refers to as “white tech bros” interested in collaboration, is especially wary of the trendiness of simply reproducing ancient sites with impressive scanners and 3D printers....

It’s certainly true that many projects responding to cultural blows beyond the borders of their source countries have emerged in recent years, with focuses on war-torn sections of Syria and Iraq. Last year, archaeology students Matthew Vincent and Chance Coughenour launched Project Mosul, a website that uses crowdsourced images and photogrammetry to digitally recreate destroyed and looted artifacts and landmarks. In March, a French 3D digitization agency launched Syrian Heritage, a project aiming to build the world’s largest 3D database of Syrian archaeological sites. The community-building effort New Palmyra focuses on new creation, described to Hyperallergic by its founder Barry Threw as “a speculative reconstruction project rebuilding a virtual Palmyra in digital space … We go beyond just preserving the past to start actively building a future.”...

These efforts by no means arise to introduce absolute replacements to lost objects, and behind them lies good intention. But as more projects of a similar nature inevitably appear, it may become increasingly easy to get lost in them or get caught up in the flashiness of immersive, virtual reality; the hi-resolution details of interactive 3D objects revolving on 2D screens; or the notion of robots carving in Michelangelo’s favorite quarries. For these reasons, Allahyari cites projects such as “The Other Nefertiti” and Ryan Woodring’s Decimate Mesh series that focus on more complex layers of historical reconstruction as the most insightful and meaningful to her as they move beyond a superficial architectural approach to critically, conceptually, and poetically explore the greater systems involved.
preservation  destruction  3D_printing  archaeology  historiography 
14 days ago
About | The Decolonial Atlas
The Decolonial Atlas, started in 2014, is an attempt to bring together maps which, in some way, challenge our relationships with the land, people, and state. It is based on the premise that there is no such thing as “truth” in cartography. Only interpretation. The orientation of a map, its projection, the presence of political borders, which features are included or excluded, and the language used to label a map are all subject to the map-maker’s agenda. Because most maps in use today serve to reinforce colonial understandings of the Earth, we are consciously creating maps which help us to re-imagine the world – to decolonize.
mapping  cartography  counter_mapping  colonialism  borders 
16 days ago
It's Nice That | "I go from analogue, to digital, then back to analogue" - Irma Boom on creating unique books
“When I start I make a model of the book itself. Then I bind my own models. The clips are essential. When I make a book of loose pages, the clip is the most important thing. The book is then bound and I can start to think how the book might work. It is the binder, the first step towards permanence. The urge to join things together is essential. It freezes the information and it shows that you have made up your mind. You have decided.”
books  paper  paperclips 
16 days ago
Stupid Shit No One Needs & Terrible Ideas Hackathon
A one-day event where participants conceptualize and create projects that have no value whatsoever. Organized by Sam Lavigne & Amelia Winger-Bearskin.

Poster designed by Ziv Schneider.

Hosted and sponsored by ITP. Food sponsored by Twilio. Thanks!

Follow us on stupid twitter.

CATEGORIES
COMMODITIES TO END CLIMATE CHANGE DATA SEANCE SMART GARBAGE MONETIZING CHILDREN ARTISANAL AD NETWORKS THE SHARING ECONOMY FETAL LEANING IN DISRUPTING SOLID FOODS OPEN SOURCE DEBTORS PRISON 3D PRINTED DRUGS DEEPEST LEARNING COMPOSTABLE NEURAL NETWORKS CYBERSECURITY AYN RAND EDIBLE ELECTRONICS VIRTUAL REALITY (FOR BABIES), POTPOURRI (INVENT YOUR OWN)
hackathons  parody  critical_design  critical_engineering  silicon_valley 
16 days ago
JWTC Blog: If we doubt ourselves, who will have belief in us?
Bruno Latour is obviously beginning to catch fire in the Global South. He is probably the next Foucault. Before Foucault there was, of course, Marx. One of Foucault’s most serious readers in African studies, V. Y. Mudimbe, has lamented the persistence of a “Western ratio” at the center of African thought. Mudimbe states very clearly that Foucault, despite his brief sojourn in North Africa, was not writing for or about Africa but (specific) Western societies. Nor was Marx; same for Latour.
We should, therefore, be cautious about what is universalizable about them; that does not mean they are not intellectually usable material. Even in Western academia, Latour has been criticized for his “executive approach” that privileges the lab engineer or scientist. This applies to actor network heuristics in general. My fear is that people bringing Latour or Science and Technology Studies (STS) into African Studies are simply going to trace the itineraries of Western artifacts derived from the labs that STS described, the infrastructures and thought systems transplanted to Africa from them, and make this the be-all end-all of science and technology in Africa.

If that were to happen, my fear is that there will be no investment in investigating African modes of sciences and technologies—or the very idea that they exist. Latour does not have a formula for nonwestern ways of knowing (science) and means of doing (technology). Uncritical discipleship to him will be a trap because it saddles one with that baggage of theoretical insufficiency.

What would be in your view the most efficient use of Latour and others in the African context?
I would urge that we critically utilize Latour as a methodology for writing narratives in humanities and social sciences, viz., to take seriously the role not just of humans but also nonhumans as actors (or actants), as heterogeneous actors in the making of the social.
He wants us to pay attention to the process through which things come to be constituted. And one would say Africanists have always been too human-centric or social-constructivist in their narratives, with animals, the physical environment, and technology as mere anecdotes, wax in people’s hands, or simply nuisances and hazards. Foucault made Africanists even more social constructivist. Two nonhuman elements, technology and ‘nature,’ are quite central to Latour’s analysis. The former constitutes some kind of Western idolatry—Western society is crazy about technology in the hi-tech sense - which means we must question what ‘technology’—alongside ‘experiment,’ ‘science,’ ‘nature,’ ‘environment,’ etc.—really mean in the context of African people’s lived realities.

Are you suggesting that we go beyond some of the foundational dualisms that have been so central to our craft?
Yes, definitively. The division between nature and culture (and spirituality) is tenuous to say the least in the African context. By contrast, Western orders of knowledge, since Hobbes and Boyle, follow a distinct Fact vs. Faith, Reason vs. Religion, dichotomy. In African contexts, this tradition of thought confronted another in which faith and religious structure anchor and inspire fact and reason - one that, like most Global Southern cultures, was more concerned with the whole (earth) than the bisected parts. ...

Is it time to expand our intellectual vista so that we no longer always have to look to Western philosophy for grounding our theories?...

Should modes of theorization emerging from the South necessarily aspire to be "universal"?
Erudition in front of global audiences, or the desire to impress, should not drive our theory; it should be for the right reasons.
We speak with more strength, authority, and originality if we can tap into registers emergent from local creativities, and if we exercise patience in developing our ideas.

It should not be about taking the theories of others and running with them. Our own material can gain universal reference. We should endeavor to make ourselves aware and read in the registers of others, but never aspire to become miniature others, merely good imitations of Foucault, Latour, or Derrida. The exercise shouldn’t be one of wholesale consumptionism. The goal of literature reviews must always be as precursors to stating our own positions, not making them our own....

My experience of ‘philosophy’ in university was of a syllabus on Thucydides, Socrates, and other foreign people—never about my ancestors’ proverbs and other idioms or their technological achievements, like Great Zimbabwe which, in any case, had been attributed to foreign construction. Until we take idioms generated from here seriously ourselves, they will always be caricatures to and of others.
theory  translation  ethics  actor_network  latour  faith  epistemology  methodology  media_theory 
16 days ago
I Have No Idea What This Startup Does and Nobody Will Tell
As far as I can tell, after having read the PDF deck (embedded at the bottom of this post, purportedly circulated by a PR rep working for Helena) multiple times, the company is a group of people who are doing something. That something appears to be “change,” although it’s unclear what they’re changing or how...,

But “the group collaborates to create breakthrough ideas, then leverages its collective reach, strategic partnerships, and network to make them happen” doesn’t tell very much about what Helena “is” or “does.”...

“Helena is not an conference, a summit, or an event,” we’re told. So then what is it? What does it do? What is one single thing it could do? Does it deliver food? Is it a band? Can it get me discounted tickets to Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising?

It’s now thoroughly cornball to joke that in Silicon America, all startups can be reduced to an “X for Y” formulation (e.g. Dropbox for Smells, Uber for Smallpox, Twitter for Cannibals). But that shorthand is useful, because tech businesses (and all organizations) should be able to explain what it is they do, their purpose for existing, in a sentence or two. A bakery is “a place that sells baked goods,” and Snapchat is “an app for sending pics and messages to your friends” I guess...,

On page 11 of the pitch deck, Helena is described as “a unique venture” that’s been “created to spearhead the next generation of thought,” and that is “amassing perhaps the strongest representation of world leaders under 25 for an organization of its kind.”...

MEETINGS >> IDEAS >> EXPERTS >> PRESENTATIONS >> GLOBAL PROBLEMS >> PARTNERSHIPS >> LEVERAGE >> INITIATIVES >> DATA >> IMPACT >> ???
writing  start_ups  rhetoric  marketing  social_change 
17 days ago
Nakba Day Killings - Forensic Architecture
Defence for Children International (DCI) Palestine, acting on behalf of the teenagers’ parents, commissioned Forensic Architecture to investigate all available material in relation to both killings and produce a body of evidence that can be used to hold the perpetrators accountable. The report focused on establishing the definitive account of who shot and killed the two teenagers and whether it was intentional or not. We identified the border policeman who killed Nawara and proved beyond reasonable doubt that his action was intentional....

Our investigation was conducted in four stages.

1: Video Analysis
One publicly available video, shot by a local CNN crew, shows Israeli soldiers discharging their weapons twice in the direction of protestors, and a security camera video shows Nawara being mortally wounded. Our analysis identified a key moment captured in both videos to establish a synchronization point. Videos have a consistent amount of frames every second. To establish who shot Nawara we needed to find the same moment in both videos and to rewind the footage to see which of the soldiers shoots at the moment when Nawara was hit. By synchronizing the videos we determined that the Israeli soldier discharged his weapon at the precise moment when Nawara was shot....

2: Architectural Analysis
A two-dimensional plan of the site was drawn based on geographical data obtained from public sources and survey plans provided by the Bitunia municipality A three-dimensional model was built based of measurements and a detailed photographic survey conducted on site. The locations of the security cameras and the CNN camera were positioned in this three-dimensional space. The locations of each of the Israeli soldiers shown shooting at the protestors and the location of Nawara were identified and positioned within the model. Two soldiers were identified as having discharged their weapon in the CNN video. Using the three-dimensional model, we drew the line of sights for both soldiers, and found that only one had a clear view to the position of Nawara when he was shot. This soldier is the same soldier who was identified in our video synchronization for having shot at the exact moment Nawara was mortally wounded.

3. Weapon Analysis
By comparing videos of other soldiers firing M16 rifles, we showed that when firing live ammunition the empty cartridge is automatically ejected from the chamber. When rubber coated steel bullets are fired the empty cartridge is not automatically ejected. By identifying the immediate discharge of an empty cartridge after an Israeli soldier shoots, we demonstrated that the border policeman fired live ammunition.

4: Sound Analysis
For the Audio Forensics we engaged the services of sound specialist Lawrence Abu Hamdan to undertake a comparison of the sound of the gunshots contained on the video. By analysing the shot’s sonic signature, it was possible to identify the acoustic characteristics of live ammunition being fired through a rubber bullet extension. Firing live ammunition through a rubber bullet extension suppresses the shot’s sound in a comparable, yet distinct way to silencer. By comparing the sound signature of Nawara’s shooting to Abu Daher’s, a pattern emerges which shows that both deaths were the result of Israeli security personnel masking the firing of live ammunition through a rubber coated extension.
forensics  forensic_architecture  sonic_archaeology  acoustics  violence 
17 days ago
Scholars Talk Writing: Michael Bérubé - The Chronicle of Higher Education
That experience fundamentally changed the way I write, although nobody would know this, since it happened so early in my academic career. Laura Kipnis speaks of this phenomenon in her interview with you, when she says writing for the Voice "was like going to writing school for a year crammed into a couple of days of editing." In fact, when I commented on the amazing rigor of their editing, which involved a dizzying number of rewrites, my VLS editors said, "We think of it as BDSM and you’re the bottom."

My experiences with Harper’s and The New Yorker were even more intense. Harper’s basically threw out half my essay and ordered me to reorganize the rest. The result? A sharper, cleaner, far less throat-clearing essay shorn of long passages quoted from Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life. The editing process at the New Yorker went on for two months, right down to the day the issue was going to print.

So I learned from all that to be a much more severe and remorseless self-editor. I learned to treat every draft as provisional. I learned to treat deadlines as real things. (I can’t possibly overemphasize the importance of that.)

And I also learned to negotiate with editors: The VLS wanted to cut, from the PC essay, "If I hear this nonsense one more time I’m deliberately stepping into the street and methodically knocking people’s hats off." But when I said we had to keep the allusion to Moby-Dick, not least because leftist professors were being accused of systemic hostility to the dead white men of the Western canon, they got it. I have had less happy experiences with some editors since, but the important thing is that I learned how to read my writing as if someone else were reading it....

One of the highest compliments I ever received from an editor was that I am a "clean edit." My drafts arrive in pretty good condition, such that the mechanics don’t have to bust out the tool kit and fix a bunch of simple and avoidable mistakes. I told that editor that I still have the standard anxiety of a struggling musician: Regardless of the gig, I want to be invited back.

For me, revision is usually a question of what to cut. I try to leave myself more material than I need, and I try not to grow so attached to any paragraph, passage, or phrase that I cannot imagine an essay without it. (Sometimes that is impossible, because I like some of the things I write, but I try anyway.) And then there is the process by which I go back and think, wait, I forgot about X and I meant to say Y. I try not to do that after I’ve submitted something, but one of the editors I’m working with right now knows I sometimes overthink things and want to make one … last … change …
writing  academia  editing 
17 days ago
The artist as engineer: we need to talk about infrastructure | Culture professionals network | The Guardian
Making your life simple turns out to be a staggeringly complex and messy job. You just never see it being done. Arthur C Clarke famously said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. A stage magician would tell you that invisibility is the ultimate magic trick. But it's still a trick. An illusion.

Infrastructure is at least as old as agriculture, perhaps even older. It's not just a part of our lives as modern humans; it defines our lives – to the extent that you literally cannot conceive of a life without its support. It's our meta-technology: the technology that makes other technologies possible; the system of systems that extracts, processes, distributes and disposes of the resources that keep us alive. And yet we never talk about it, except to argue about cost or complain about inconvenience.

Pretty soon we're going to have to make some hard and unpalatable choices about what we can reasonably expect infrastructure to do for us, what consequences are acceptable, and who those consequences should affect. Engineers are ready to build the systems we choose.

But it falls to artists to ask what infrastructure means: to dispel the magic, collapse the Someone Else's Problem Field, make infrastructure a legible thread in the story of our species. Because until we understand what infrastructure means to us – not just what it does, but why that matters – we make those choices in ignorance, or avoid making them at all.
infrastructure  invisibility  magic  infrastructural_literacy  failure 
19 days ago
Events | Insuetude: Conversations in Technological Discard and Archaeological Recuperation | Society of Fellows in the Humanities at Columbia University
Insuetude is a quality of not being in use and also an “unaccustomedness”. It seems to evoke the state we find ourselves in today, drawers spilling over with wires and plugs that were in use just a few years ago, obsolete technology stuffed in the back of cupboards, and curated on high and inaccessible shelves. Quickly one forgets which charger went with which device, old keyboards feel unfamiliar and awkward to grasp, and the present recedes into a contemporary past that already feels distant....

thus far, media archaeology has been informed by Michel Foucault’s largely metaphorical use of archaeology, to denote an inquiry into “the law of what can be said, the system that governs the appearance of statements as unique events”. It is the goal of this conference to explore what the discipline of archaeology - the field that studies how objects mediate our relationship to the past - might offer a media archaeology. Equally, we hope to stimulate new ways of thinking about the archaeological past and novel methods for doing so through the engagement of archaeologists with media theorists.

Insuetude will bring together theorists of media technologies with researchers trained in the traditional methods of archaeology. The conference theme speaks too to this unaccustomed conversation and to the shared but untapped interest in the history of technology. Participants are will reflect on methodological and philosophical overlaps between the cultures of the two disciplines. In the arena of method we ask how large-scale, collaborative research projects devoted to excavating and reproducing forms of technical interaction might contribute to the humanities? Equally, how can archaeological insights into the experimental reproduction of past technologies offer insights for the current interest in critical making?
media_archaeology  archaeology  objects  things  media_history 
21 days ago
Concepts of Information: Duguid + Nunberg — Syllabus — Spring 2015
technology - info theory - shannon/weaver - knowledge - platforms - cybernetics - info overload - data -classification - economics of info - politics + info - objectivity - truth - education - public sphere - intellectual_property - cognitive science -
syllabus  teaching  archives  information  data  knowledge  public_sphere  intellectual_property 
21 days ago
New York 101: Pulling Back the Curtain on What Powers the City - The New York Times
Every day, we rely on a vast network of pipes, rails and people to receive information, drink fresh water, get to work or school in the morning and plug into a power source at night. Our economy depends on it. But how often do we think about how it all works, how it’s funded, whether there are public safety concerns, whether new innovations are on the horizon?

As more people move to urban areas like New York City, where an additional half million people are expected to arrive in the coming decades, how will our aging infrastructure cope with increased demand?

New York 101 was incubated in a series of memos with Mike Luo, the deputy Metro editor, and over drinks, coffees and lunches with colleagues on the Metro desk.

We wanted to create a new beat that would break out of traditional coverage areas (transportation, schools, crime) — and out of an 800-word print box.

Mike and I are both interested in infrastructure — not just bridges and tunnels but infrastructure writ large. We wanted to pull back the curtain on the often-overlooked grid of machines and humans that power our city, by telling engaging stories in an accessible voice. (And maybe along the way we’d break some news, too.)...

We’re still figuring out what, exactly, makes a New York 101 story. But I’ve drawn inspiration from Kate Ascher, whose seminal book “The Works” illuminates where our trash and sewage go; The Atlantic’s City Lab blog, which regularly meditates on what’s next for global cities; and New York Magazine’s analysis — complete with a sidebar buffet of quizzes and explainers — of how one mechanical failure sparked 625 delays on the subway.
infrastructure  multimodal_storytelling 
21 days ago
National Weather Service: Forecasts ‘Will Stop Yelling at You’ - The New York Times
So whether the outlook was for a SLGT RISK OF TSTMS or a run-for-the-hills SUPERCELL PRODUCING SOFTBALL-SIZE HAIL, it has for a century and a half been issued in breathless uppercase.

Next month, the Weather Service will start publishing most of its forecasts, like warnings of extreme weather and daily outlooks, in mixed-case lettering. The agency hopes that the change will make its warnings to the public more effective.

But it also spells the end of a bureaucratic peculiarity that had come to appear out of touch long after the advent of telecommunication helped revolutionize weather science.....

The typographical arrangement dates from 1849, when the Smithsonian Institution began collecting weather observations from across the country by telegraph.

The emerging technology made these early forecasts possible, and its typographical constraints established capital lettering as the look of weather forecasting... The Weather Service first proposed transitioning to mixed-case type in the 1990s, as the Internet was replacing old-fashioned Teletype, said Art Thomas, the meteorologist overseeing the project. But it took almost two decades for services relying on its reports to adopt technology that could handle the more modern type, and then more time to upgrade the Weather Service’s own systems.
weather  media_literature  typography  media_archaeology  telegraph  path_dependency 
22 days ago
Fewer Americans Are Visiting Local Libraries—and Technology Isn't to Blame - The Atlantic
For the Pew, the study confirms that Americans’ usage of libraries is sliding down in real terms. Last year, in a similar report, the think tank said it was too soon to tell if the apparent downward slide constituted a real trend; now it’s ready to certify it. What’s more, usage of library websites doesn’t seem to be making up for the shift: It’s stayed flat for three years.

To the Pew, the decline in library use is driven by technological change, so the report implicitly recommends that more libraries publicize their non-print services. Ninety percent of U.S. local libraries offer ebook lending, for instance, but 38 percent of Americans either don’t know or don’t think that their local branch does so. What if they did?...

We found that as investments, such as revenue, staffing, and programs, increased, so did critical use measures, such as visitation and circulation. In the same way, as investments were reduced, mostly in reaction to post-recessionary budgetary reductions, we saw decreases in library use. Another important finding is that even though investments might have declined, any decreases in use did not drop by the same magnitude. People continue to use their local public libraries—for access to books and information and for gathering as a community....

In other words, there’s “empirical evidence” that usage tracks investment. If libraries receive more public funds, more people use them. And if governments invest less in its libraries (as they have since 2009), fewer people visit—though the drop in visits from disinvestment isn’t as strong as the rise from investment would be.
libraries  funding  infrastructure 
22 days ago
The Aesthetics of Paperwork and Cultural Theory According to Seth Siegelaub
The exhibition is appropriately document-heavy, with material from Siegelaub’s archives at MoMA guiding us through his work from 1964 to 1971 in New York, when he operated within the contemporary art world as a gallerist and independent curator (before such a term even existed), publisher, and all-around representative of the artists he worked with, most famously conceptual artists Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner. Driven by the liberating realization that “you don’t need a gallery to show ideas,” as he observed in conversation with Patricia Norvell in 1969, Siegealub abandoned that model in 1966, after the infrastructure of such a space proved unnecessary for the artists he exhibited. Between 1968 and 1971 he produced 21 exhibitions in formats so innovative that they arguably altered the entire course of contemporary art, including his seminal “catalogs-as-exhibitions” which allowed for the artworks included therein to be viewed and disseminated as documents and information, as opposed to singular objects and images. Most notable among these are the so-called Xerox Book, January 5 – 31, 1969 (“The January Show”), the multi-sited March 1969 (or “One Month”), and July, August, September 1969, each of which embodied Siegelaub’s important premise that an easily circulated publication could communicate and be the “primary information” about an artwork.

...These materials and the architecture of their presentation in this exhibit can border on fetishistic or theatrical at times: Does one really need to experience an approximation of the office rented for the January Show? Or see the cardboard squares Carl Andre used to make his indeterminate arrangements for the Xerox Book? These and other inclusions appear at first as antithetical to conceptual art’s historical narrative of challenging the artwork’s status as a precious object. But their extreme materiality can also be read another way, reminding the viewer that these exhibitions were in fact first received in a particular place and time, and, in the case of the January Show, physical manifestation was important. Seen en masse, the overwhelming amount of material information produced and collected by Siegelaub in the making of these projects directly challenges the notion of dematerialization by which they have come to be characterized. ...

all of Siegelaub’s many practices can be found to revolve around one proposal: The way culture is communicated is symptomatic of the way it is produced. Taking up communication as subject and medium paved the way for examining the labor, legal, market, and material histories undergirding the flow of information and objects. Today, as the theoretical and historical framework of media infrastructure is inching its way into art historical discourse, Siegelaub’s investigations appear remarkably prescient. Considered through this lens, the exhibition can also be read as an overview and interrogation of media’s historical forms, identified by John Durham Peters as databases, cataloging systems, images, and writing, employed to record, transmit, and process culture; to manage subject, objects, and data; and to organize time, space, and power.
materiality  paperwork  aesthetics_of_administration  exhibition_design  publication  curation 
22 days ago
A Living, Satellite-Captured Portrait of a Single Summer Day on Earth in 2015 - The Atlantic
a remarkable online visualization called Glittering Blue. It reduces one day of satellite imagery across a hemisphere of Earth into a looping 12-second film.

Five times in a minute, the sun rises golden on the western horizon, skitters clouds and condensation across the tropics, burns a shiny reflection through the Pacific, and sets in the east.

It’s satellite imagery as you’ve never seen it before. It simply looks like the Earth. I can only recommend going to glittering.blue and scrolling around.

Glittering Blue was created this weekend by Charlie Loyd. During the day, Loyd is a satellite-imagery analyst for Mapbox, though Glittering Blue is a side project. Himawari-8 captures a full-disk image of Earth every 10 minutes, and an image of Japan of similar quality every 150 seconds. It sits in high geosynchronous orbit over Japan, which means it orbits the planet exactly as quickly as the Earth rotates. It is always “synced” to Japan. That’s why it shows so much more of the Earth than other satellites and also why it shows this part of the Earth....

One thing is weather: Things look different on different days. That can be seasons, that can be that it just rained so the sky is clear, it can be an algae bloom. There are a whole bunch of reasons for what you’d call intrinsic change—change you could see if you were just standing there. ...

So there’s intrinsic change. Then there’s that different sensors see different colors, about the same degree as different brands of analog film record colors differently. Like there’s portrait film and landscape film, and they’re both basically accurate?...

So there are sensor differences. And because satellites are typically not designed for aesthetics, they don’t try particularly hard to match those to the human eye. They’re all going to see something slightly different, and lots of subtle colors will just be a little bit different.
satellite_imagery  satellites  mapping  color 
22 days ago
As Above Not Below | Wesley Goatley
As Above Not Below is a data sonification and visualisation installation which exposes the impalpable infrastructure of international airspace, and the limits of our access to the sky above us. A large floor-projected map of Belgium displays the visual boundaries and structures of alternating international air regulations (civil, military, prohibited etc) to expose how the form of Belgium is radically re-shaped through this regulatory infrastructure.

Data collected via radio transmissions from nearby aircraft allows their movements to be projected onto the map to expose how these regulations interact with our everyday experiences of air travel. The sounds of air traffic control communications move through the installation space alongside the vessels, exposing how these regulatory conditions also determine linguistic modes of communication. Where we have not been granted access to these communications, they are replaced by the external sounds of planes, exposing how frequently our access to this system is blocked by the regulations themselves.
infrastructure  transportation  air  sound_art  data_sonification  radar  radio 
22 days ago
Familiars | Wesley Goatley
Exploiting Brighton’s presence and location in this infrastructure, the piece creates a mapped representation by directly intercepting logistical signals broadcast via radio by local air, sea, and train freight vessels and transmuting the data into ambisonics and floor-projected visualisations. Through this, it reveals the technical and legal challenges that present themselves when we choose to observe this ever-present yet largely inaccessible system.
infrastructure  logistics  sound_art  infrastructural_literacy  radio  wireless 
22 days ago
Tips for making academic meetings valuable and productive (essay)
Is the meeting necessary? First, assess whether a meeting is the best venue in which to respond to the perceived need. Can you articulate the goal of the meeting in a sentence? If you merely need to give a series of announcements, a meeting is an inappropriate venue. A mass email or newsletter distribution is a better approach.

Next, do you expect the meeting to end in some final actionable objectives? If yes, then ask yourself: Can I achieve these goals just as easily with a phone call? Or would a series of one-on-one meetings be more effective?...

Premeeting preparation. To avoid wasting your colleagues’ time with yet another insufferable meeting, you must invest a significant amount of your own time up front.... Agenda items are most effective when framed as questions to be answered by the group rather than general topics. Ideally you will indicate an estimated time to be spent on each item. If this is too much structure for you, you should at least indicate an end time for the meeting.
academic  professional_practice  meetings 
22 days ago
stankievech | headphones
Headphones are the norm. The new addiction replacing smoking, headphones frame the head and the perception of most urbanites today in some form or other. Whether commuting with an iPod, exercising to the radio, talking on a hands-free cellphone… or actually listening to music, headphones create a mobile and continually changing architecture that follows the listener, wrapping them in a private bubble. As the world rapidly interfaces, overlaps and confronts the boundaries of Private and Public through technologies and legislation, headphones become a quiet and invisible site of investigation. The audio tracks in this collection attempt to define a body of work that is fundamentally connected to the phenomenon of headphone listening. Some work was made specifically for headphones such as Bernhard Leitner or Janet Cardiff, other work was not originally composed for headphones, but when played over headphones a unique experience of the work is created—sometimes against the original intention of the artist or at least as a surprising by-product. While the most common thread between the works is the unique spatialisation of headphones, other attributes of headphone listening—such as intimacy and privacy—are also explored and included.
sound_space  sound_art  listening  headphones  eqiupment 
23 days ago
New York’s Port Shoots for No. 1 Spot - WSJ
On Monday, the Port Authority, which owns the land underneath six container-shipping terminals, put out a call for proposals to develop a 30-year master plan that would increase efficiency and grow cargo volumes at the port.

Molly Campbell, who took the agency’s top trade position last year, said the Port Authority aims for the New York area to surpass the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., to become the busiest U.S. gateway for imports and exports.

Ms. Campbell said the region’s terminals need new express rail ties that can zip more containers from the docks to manufacturers and retailers as far west as Pittsburgh and Chicago. Ms. Campbell also wants terminals to stay open longer to ease traffic and allow more and larger ships to call.
infrastructure  containers  ports 
23 days ago
7 Gorgeous New Libraries That Aren't Just About Books | Co.Design | business + design
The public library is one of the greatest inventions of the modern age—a physical representation of the Enlightenment-era belief that citizens should be able to have free and equal access to knowledge. Yet after almost 200 years, the library is undergoing an architectural reinvention, as epitomized by the winners of the AIA's 2016 Library Building Awards.

...the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, in Toronto, by Norwegian superfirm Snøhetta, features collaborative learning spaces and expansive tiered seating areas, which were inspired by ancient Greek stoas—freestanding covered walkways—and agoras—places for open assembly. With its punchy colors and mixture of public and semi-private areas, it almost looks like the offices of an elite tech company. The same could be said of the study pods within the Billings Public Library, in Montana, by Will Bruder Architects and O2 Architects.
libraries  media_architecture 
23 days ago
Implications of Archival Labor — On Archivy — Medium
how many of our users tend to think (or not think) of archival labor. They are hungry for research or information in our collections, but very little thought goes into the team of people who make it possible: the collections management archivist, the manuscript archivist, the technical services cataloger, the digital archivist, the reference archivist, and most importantly, the people who actually process the collections. They go by many titles, but we’ll return to that momentarily. As a researcher, it’s easy to take all of those things for granted — that you would visit a research room, tell someone behind a desk what you want, and be given a sweet little acid-free gray box with all of the information you are looking for, perfectly organized by date, format, or subject. But how would we expect people to know? Archivists do a terrible job of advocating and informing people about our labor and the overall contributions of our labor to society. We seldom speak in terms of concrete concepts like time or money and speak instead of abstract notions like love and passion....

As a highly gendered profession — more than 65 percent women, according to the Archival Census and Education Needs Survey in the United States taken in 2004 — there is a cultural expectation that archivists will work without complaint, for very little and if we are lacking resources, we will hire volunteers or unpaid interns to do the work. This renders the labor truly invisible, because people without job protections or benefits are unlikely to discuss anything about the work that is problematic, such as the transient nature of grant-funded archives projects or the fact that even within some of those grants, there are PIs who ask for money that doesn’t include relocation expenses or even a living wage.
archives  labor  digital_labor 
23 days ago
MENACE 2, an artificial intelligence made of wooden drawers and coloured beads – We Make Money Not Art
In 1961, Donald Michie, a British WWII code breaker and a researcher in artificial intelligence, developed MENACE (the Machine Educable Noughts And Crosses Engine), one of the first programs capable of learning to play and win a game of Noughts and Crosses (or Tic-Tac-Toe if you’re American.) The work emerged from his wartime discussions with Alan Turing about whether or not computers could be programmed to learn from experience.

Since he had no computers at his disposal at the time, he created a device built out of matchboxes and glass beads to simulate a learning algorithm.

A few years ago, Julien Prévieux (who’s imho one of the most interesting artists of the moment) recreated the machine under the form of a beautiful wooden piece of furniture. MENACE 2 (Machine Educable Noughts and Crosses Engine) can be played right now at Kunsthalle Wien where it is part of The Promise of Total Automation, an exhibition that explores machines and their potential to elevate or enslave us (i reviewed it last week.)
machines  furniture  intellectual_furnishings  computing_history  artificial_intelligence 
23 days ago
Behind the facade of starchitect video marketing - uncube
What I have noticed, whilst browsing through the swarm of promotional clips posted in the YouTube and Vimeo channels of many architecture firms and real estate companies, is not just the rapidly growing tendency to recur to video communication for the representation of architecture, but also the presence in these clips of recurrent tropes. With The (Un)RealShit I have started to isolate and analyse these tropes separately, so as to better understand the logics they respond to. I then reassemble them into brand new clips that I use to criticise the whole phenomenon. 

One such trope is the “self-building building”. Often used for towers and skyscrapers, this trope can assume a variety of autopoietic patterns: from the spontaneous assemblage of glass panels and steel beams to the weaving of gigantic noodles floating in mid air. ...

They need to hide the economic, political and environmental struggles that lie behind them, in order that reality can be perceived as a ready-to-buy commodity. But what about the conditions of the workers who will actually build them? Or the lives of the citizens who have been evicted for the privatisation of the land they will rise upon? Or the conditions of inequality they keep on perpetrating? ...

If there’s an architect who knows how to take advantage of video communication, it’s Bjarke Ingels. Since the very beginning of his career he has shown a particular ease in front of the camera, starring in several short videos in which digital animations are used to visually enrich the explanations of his design ideas. One of the core ingredients of these clips is Ingels’ simple, visually charged gestures offering a dumbed-down interpretation of his projects, which are presented as the logical outcome of games of vectors and shapes, literally reproduced by the movements of the architects’ hands. “Simplification”, the second trope I have run into, may look like an innocent PR strategy, but there are implications here, namely, the actual relationship established by BIG’s projects with the discourses that explain them.
media_architecture  rhetoric  marketing  video 
24 days ago
The People and Tech Behind the Panama Papers - Features - Source: An OpenNews project
The plan is that we’re actually going to keep reporting—some partners are publishing for almost two weeks for sure. Then in early May we’re going to release all the names connected to more than 200,000 offshore companies—so we’re talking about the beneficiaries, the directories, the shareholders, the intermediaries, and the addresses connected to those entities in 21 jurisdictions. We expect to have some bang around that, too.

But we’re not going to release all 11.5 million files, we’re going to release the structured data, which is the internal Mossack Fonseca database. This is especially valuable because tax havens sell secrecy, and their secrecy relies mainly on the fact that corporate registries are opaque and not accessible, so we think there’s a great public value in releasing the names of companies and who’s behind them....

The second reason is that it didn’t all come at the same time; we didn’t receive a 2.6TB hard drive. We had to deal with incremental information, and we also had to deal with a lot of images. The majority of the files are emails and database files. There are also a lot of PDFs and TIFFs, so we have to do a lot of OCR-ing for millions of documents.

So first, most of the leak was unstructured data. Second, it was not easy working with the structured data. The Mossack Fonseca internal database didn’t come to us in the raw, original format, unfortunately. We had to do reverse-engineering to reconstruct the database, and connect the dots based on codes that the documents had....

We believe in open source technology and try to use it as much as possible. We used Apache Solr for the indexing and Apache Tika for document processing, and it’s great because it processes dozens of different formats and it’s very powerful. Tika interacts with Tesseract, so we did the OCRing on Tesseract.

To OCR the images, we created an army of 30–40 temporary servers in Amazon that allowed us to process the documents in parallel and do parallel OCR-ing. If it was very slow, we’d increase the number of servers—if it was going fine, we would decrease because of course those servers have a cost.

blacklight examples
Project Blacklight in its natural habitat
Then we put the data up, but the problem with Solr was it didn’t have a user interface, so we used Project Blacklight, which is open source software normally used by librarians. We used it for the journalists. It’s simple because it allows you to do faceted search—so, for example, you can facet by the folder structure of the leak, by years, by type of file....

For the visualization of the Mossack Fonseca internal database, we worked with another tool called Linkurious. It’s not open source, it’s licensed software, but we have an agreement with them, and they allowed us to work with it. It allows you to represent data in graphs. We had a version of Linkurious on our servers, so no one else had the data. It was pretty intuitive—journalists had to click on dots that expanded, basically, and could search the names.

So we need big collections of documents to talk to each other, and we’re trying to solve that at the level of the entities, because journalists don’t want to share everything they have—they have exclusive documents. But if you create an index of entities in their documents, it’s not so much of a problem, and everybody can benefit from those matches. And of course, we’re having a lot of headaches with natural language processing, and that’s something we’re dealing with inside the Panama Papers project as well.
leaks  secrecy  hacking  databases  structured_data  media_archaeology  forensics  search  data_visualization 
24 days ago
Superflux: Drone Aviary on Vimeo
The Drone Aviary reveals fleeting glimpses of the city from the perspective of drones.
It explores a world where the ‘network’ begins to gain physical autonomy. Drones become protagonists, moving through the city, making decisions about the world and influencing our lives in often opaque yet profound ways.
This film is part of The Drone Aviary Project, by Superflux, which investigates the social, political and cultural potential of drone technology as it enters civil space.
drones  machine_vision 
24 days ago
Innovation is overvalued. Maintenance often matters more | Aeon Essays
Beginning in the late 1950s, the prominent economists Robert Solow and Kenneth Arrow found that traditional explanations – changes in education and capital, for example – could not account for significant portions of growth. They hypothesised that technological change was the hidden X factor. Their finding fit hand-in-glove with all of the technical marvels that had come out of the Second World War, the Cold War, the post-Sputnik craze for science and technology, and the post-war vision of a material abundance.

Robert Gordon’s important new book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, offers the most comprehensive history of this golden age in the US economy. As Gordon explains, between 1870 and 1940, the United States experienced an unprecedented – and probably unrepeatable – period of economic growth. That century saw a host of new technologies and new industries produced, including the electrical, chemical, telephone, automobile, radio, television, petroleum, gas and electronics. Demand for a wealth of new home equipment and kitchen appliances, that typically made life easier and more bearable, drove the growth. After the Second World War, Americans treated new consumer technologies as proxies for societal progress.

... this need for booming new industries became problematic as the United States headed into the troubled times of the 1970s and early 1980s. Whole economic sectors, the auto industry, for example, hit the skids. A new term – ‘innovation policy’ – arose, designed to spur economic growth by fostering technological change, particularly in the face of international economic competition from Japan. Silicon Valley, a term that had just emerged in the late 1970s, became the exemplar of innovation during this time... By the early 1980s, books casting Silicon Valley as a land of almost magical technological ingenuity had begun to hit the market. Innovation policy turned to focus more and more on ‘regional innovation systems’ and ‘innovation clusters’. Everywhere was potentially the next Silicon Valley of X. This theme of locality reached its apotheosis in Richard Florida’s 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class...

During the 1990s, scholars and pop audiences also rediscovered the work of Joseph Schumpeter. Schumpeter was an Austrian economist who championed innovation and its partner term, entrepreneurship.... Neo-Schumpeterian thought sometimes led to a mountain of dubious scholarship and magical thinking, most notably, Clayton M Christensen’s 1997 tome, The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business. Now mostly discredited, Christensen’s work exerted tremendous influence, with its emphasis on ‘disruptive’ technologies that undermined whole industries to make fortunes...

At the turn of the millennium, in the world of business and technology, innovation had transformed into an erotic fetish. Armies of young tech wizards aspired to become disrupters....

Evidence has emerged that regions of intense innovation also have systemic problems with inequality. In 2013, protests erupted in San Francisco over the gentrification and social stratification symbolised by Google buses and other private commuter buses....

First, it is crucial to understand that technology is not innovation. Innovation is only a small piece of what happens with technology. This preoccupation with novelty is unfortunate because it fails to account for technologies in widespread use, and it obscures how many of the things around us are quite old. In his book, Shock of the Old (2007), the historian David Edgerton examines technology-in-use. He finds that common objects, like the electric fan and many parts of the automobile, have been virtually unchanged for a century or more. ...the most remarkable tales of cunning, effort, and care that people direct toward technologies exist far beyond the same old anecdotes about invention and innovation.

Second, by dropping innovation, we can recognise the essential role of basic infrastructures. ‘Infrastructure’ is a most unglamorous term, the type of word that would have vanished from our lexicon long ago if it didn’t point to something of immense social importance. Remarkably, in 2015 ‘infrastructure’ came to the fore of conversations in many walks of American life.

...The best of these conversations about infrastructure move away from narrow technical matters to engage deeper moral implications. Infrastructure failures – train crashes, bridge failures, urban flooding, and so on – are manifestations of and allegories for America’s dysfunctional political system, its frayed social safety net, and its enduring fascination with flashy, shiny, trivial things. But, especially in some corners of the academic world, a focus on the material structures of everyday life can take a bizarre turn, as exemplified in work that grants ‘agency’ to material things or wraps commodity fetishism in the language of high cultural theory, slick marketing, and design. For example, Bloomsbury’s ‘Object Lessons’ series features biographies of and philosophical reflections on human-built things, like the golf ball. ...

Third, focusing on infrastructure or on old, existing things rather than novel ones reminds us of the absolute centrality of the work that goes into keeping the entire world going. Despite recurring fantasies about the end of work or the automation of everything, the central fact of our industrial civilisation is labour, and most of this work falls far outside the realm of innovation. ...

The most unappreciated and undervalued forms of technological labour are also the most ordinary: those who repair and maintain technologies that already exist, that were ‘innovated’ long ago. This shift in emphasis involves focusing on the constant processes of entropy and un-doing – which the media scholar Steven Jackson calls ‘broken world thinking’ – and the work we do to slow or halt them, rather than on the introduction of novel things...

In recent years, scholars have produced a number of studies of people who do this kind of work. For example, the science studies researcher Lilly Irani has examined the work low-wage labourers do to scrub digital information for the web, including Indian workers who check advertisements to ‘filter out porn, alcohol, and violence’. Why not extend this style of analysis to think more clearly about subjects such as ‘cybersecurity’? The need for coders and programmers in the cybersecurity field is obvious...

This realisation has significant implications for gender relations in and around technology. Feminist theorists have long argued that obsessions with technological novelty obscures all of the labour, including housework, that women, disproportionately, do to keep life on track. Domestic labour has huge financial ramifications but largely falls outside economic accounting, like Gross Domestic Product. In her classic 1983 book, More Work for Mother, Ruth Schwartz Cowan examined home technologies – such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners – and how they fit into women’s ceaseless labour of domestic upkeep. ...

...scholars can confront various kinds of low-wage labour performed by many African-Americans, Latinos, and other racial and ethnic minorities....

Innovation-speak worships at the altar of change, but it rarely asks who benefits, to what end? A focus on maintenance provides opportunities to ask questions about what we really want out of technologies. What do we really care about? What kind of society do we want to live in? Will this help get us there? We must shift from means, including the technologies that underpin our everyday actions, to ends, including the many kinds of social beneficence and improvement that technology can offer.
innovation  consumerism  material_culture  political_economy  repair  maintenance  disruption  technology  media_history  labor 
24 days ago
A Reaction to “Technology and the Future of Cities”: Uneven Development and Expertise in the ‘Smart City’ | Georgia Tech Center for Urban Innovation
The report focuses on these ‘urban development districts,’ arguing that “[d]istricts offer larger cities the chance to take on these challenges in bite-sized stages” (p. 8).  It is true that smaller scale, test-bed or ‘living lab’-style implementations are useful for assessing the utility and interoperability of certain technologies or approaches. However, it is important to recognize what an urban development strategy built entirely around these spaces means for cities as a whole: continued uneven development.

In short, these test-beds aren’t problematic only because of issues related to combining and interlinking incommensurable systems that are, and will continue to be, developed in isolation from one another. The focus on specific intra-urban territories risks reinforcing and deepening the social and spatial inequalities within cities. Even though American cities have long since given up on what Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin called the ‘modern infrastructural ideal’ of pervasive and integrating infrastructural connections...

It is also worth noting the broader context of these district-level implementation strategies in the history of urban economic development. Recall the evolution of various ‘zones’ -– ‘free trade zones,’ ‘enterprise zones,’ ‘empowerment zones,’ ‘promise zones’ -– designated for special services or tax advantages intended to drive development into such territories (and, necessarily, away from or out of others). Literature on this matter records mixed results and significant debate...

The technoscientific orientation of the report instead privileges experts in the sciences and engineering from both academia and from industry. Indeed, the burgeoning field of ‘urban science’ — founded on the principle that the conventional urban social sciences have been insufficiently scientific — occupies a prominent place in the content, as well as construction, of the report. This prominence of ‘urban science’ contrasts with a conspicuous absence of established disciplines such as urban geography, urban sociology, urban history, urban economics, urban anthropology, and urban planning.

This report is yet another signifier that the production of urban knowledge, especially that which is deemed useful for governance and administration, is increasingly disconnected from the last century of in-depth urban scholarship. Today, instead, urban knowledge is increasingly focused on the ability to gather, process and analyze massive datasets about any number of urban (or not-so-urban) phenomena.
smart_cities  infrastructure  zoning  zones  urban_planning  science 
24 days ago
Internet mapping turned a remote farm into a digital hell | Fusion
As any geography nerd knows, the precise center of the United States is in northern Kansas, near the Nebraska border. Technically, the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the center spot are 39°50′N 98°35′W. In digital maps, that number is an ugly one: 39.8333333,-98.585522. So back in 2002, when MaxMind was first choosing the default point on its digital map for the center of the U.S., it decided to clean up the measurements and go with a simpler, nearby latitude and longitude: 38°N 97°W or 38.0000,-97.0000.

As a result, for the last 14 years, every time MaxMind’s database has been queried about the location of an IP address in the United States it can’t identify, it has spit out the default location of a spot two hours away from the geographic center of the country. This happens a lot: 5,000 companies rely on MaxMind’s IP mapping information, and in all, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default coordinate. If any of those IP addresses are used by a scammer, or a computer thief, or a suicidal person contacting a help line, MaxMind’s database places them at the same spot: 38.0000,-97.0000....

When law enforcement agents asked companies like Google and Facebook for the IP addresses used by suspected criminals and then mapped them using tools like this that relied on the MaxMind database, it pointed at the Taylor house. Amateur sleuths who spotted IP addresses used by visitors to their websites or on message forums were so convinced that the Taylor house was the source of their various problems that they created reports about it on Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, the Ripoff Report and Google Plus....

The physical mapping of computer addresses is one of the many aspects of the internet infrastructure that is almost completely unregulated. It is a task performed by private companies, and not just MaxMind. No one is officially in charge, and so there was no obvious party that Tony Pav or Joyce Taylor could go to in order to find out why this was happening, or get it fixed.

There are lots more of these phantom IP houses.
protocol  geography  mapping  ambiguity 
25 days ago
Histography - Timeline of History
“Histography" is interactive timeline that spans across 14 billion years of history, from the Big Bang to 2015.
The site draws historical events from Wikipedia and self-updates daily with new recorded events.
The interface allows for users to view between decades to millions of years.
The viewer can choose to watch a variety of events which have happened in a particular period or to target a specific event in time. For example you can look at the past century within the categories of war and inventions.
timeline  temporality  data_visualization  historiography 
26 days ago
The Maintainers: A Conference
Many groups and individuals today celebrate “innovation.” The notion is influential not only in engineering and business, but also in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. For example, “innovation” has become a staple of analysis in popular histories – such as Walter Isaacson’s recent book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. 

This conference takes a different approach, one whose conceptual starting point was a playful proposal for a counter-volume to Isaacson’s that could be titled The Maintainers: How a Group of Bureaucrats, Standards Engineers, and Introverts Made Technologies That Kind of Work Most of the Time. Conference participants come from a variety of fields, including academic historians and social scientists, as well as artists, activists, and engineers.  All share an interest in the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and the myriad forms of labor and expertise that sustain our human-built world.

Presentations will cover a wide variety of technologies and practices, including software, spaceflight, trolleys, meteorology, digital archives, and the politics of funding for infrastructure. The conference keynote speaker will be Ruth Schwartz Cowan, Professor Emerita in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of several books, including the pathbreaking More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technologies from the Hearth to the Microwave.
infrastructure  maintenance 
27 days ago
RadTech Meets RadArch: Towards A New Principle for Archives and Archival Description — On Archivy — Medium
From the intersection of these two experiences, I have come to understand that provenance, which is perhaps the most sacred principle in the archival field and the principle that most shapes archival description in the United States, is at once a relic of the colonial and imperial era in which it emerged and also an insufficient principle to address the technical challenges of born-digital archival records and the social challenges of creating a radically inclusive historical record. ...

With that said, the argument I am advancing about the shortcomings of provenance falls within a long line of critiques from archivists and scholars, so my case is not presented from an extant ether, but it grounds itself among the literature from thinkers such as Helen Samuels, Jeannette Bastian, Richard Cox, David Bearman, Heather MacNeil, Terry Cook, Wendy Duff, Verne Harris, Michelle Caswell, Ricardo Punzalan, Cheryl Beredo, Bertram Lyons, Jefferson Bailey, and Mark Matienzo, just to name a few....

I am, instead, calling for the emergence of a new principle — one free from colonialist and imperialist ambitions — that faces forward to the future of the archive as a space with the capacity both to preserve and provide access to born-digital records over time and with the consciousness to recognize the inequality, violence, and injustice of modernity and ensure that the communities most directly impacted by them have equal access to archival processes, of which description is just a part.....

The principle of provenance, which regrettably gained not one mention yesterday, is the formative foundation of archival records and their description within the Western world. As an idea, the principle asserts that, in order to preserve context, records of different origins, or provenance, must not be mixed with those of other origins. The concept’s history, as the Canadian archivists well know, is debatable, but the French archivist Natalis de Wailly gave a new name to the idea in 1841 with his introduction of the term respect des fonds. ...

provenance thrives with the presence of a clear creator or ownership of records and with a hierarchical relationship between entities, both of which reflect the bureaucratic and corporate needs of the Western colonial, capitalist, and imperialist regimes in which archivists have most adhered to the principle. ...

It bears mentioning that provenance emerged as a concept in the West at a time when most people were structurally if not legally excluded from ownership; ownership of their own bodies, minds, labor, property, and records. Its application in archives, which is close to 200 years old, reflects the limitation of state regimes in the West to recognize fully the human rights of indigenous Americans, black people, women, and gender non-conforming people. ...

Archivists convey provenance information in various parts of a finding aid, which is the final product of archival description. The biographical note is one such part of the finding aid that contains provenance information. In this note, archivists often write massive memorials and monuments to wealthy, white, cisgendered and heterosexual men, including selective details about the creator that have minimal bearing on the records, and instead serve to valorize and venerate white western masculinity. Our collection management tools reflect this patriarchal path: parent components, child components, sibling components, and spawning are but a few examples in the widely adopted software ArchivesSpace. ...

For one who legally cannot own her body, what does it mean to own records? Why does the archival community revolve around just one 175-year-old principle that emerged in an exclusively analog world at a time when archive-making and empire-building were the exclusive rights of white wealthy Western men? How does a reflection on the contextual origins of provenance as an idea explain who is present, absent, loud, and silent in the archives, and how does the digital deluge accentuate that absence? ... Most importantly, how can archivists revisit this core principle to learn of its limitations and envision a post-colonial archive free of these oppressive forces and equipped to meet the challenges of contemporary born-digital archival records? The wide growth and adoption of digital technologies afford archivists and theorists an opportunity to introduce a new foundational archival principle. It’s critical we seize this moment, both for its technical and social possibilities...

From a technical view, progress over the last two decades in information technology problematizes, in theory and in practice, the principle of provenance, as the fonds of one creator are increasingly less distinct from the fonds of other creators. Google Drive, Dropbox, and other commercial collaboration tools complicate conventional ideas of custody and property by enabling and encouraging shared stewardship of files and folders. Who, in a legal or archival sense, owns a shared document or folder that lives on a remote server owned by a third-party service provider? Can two distinct persons or corporate bodies both lay claim to custody, and if so, does that conflict with the principle that the fonds of one creator be separate from the fonds of another? ...

From our description, users should be able to obtain at least the following three facts: 1) the person(s) who had access to a particular file or folder, 2) their level of access, and 3) the log of changes to these access permissions. This information, which I argue is critical to capturing the context of born-digital records, resides within the filesystem(s) and thus can be extracted programmatically without human intervention or error, but its inclusion within archival descriptive stretches the limits of our understanding of provenance....

we occupy a moment in history in which the largest percentage of the world’s population ever possesses the power and potential to author and create documentation about their lived experiences. Emanating from the first, the second disruption is that this increasing agency gives people and communities a chance to name themselves, a process essential to establishing provenance that was previously reserved for the archive and the bureaucratic and corporate entities that rely on it. How can the archivist, for instance, distinguish the fonds of two creators without the authority first to name them? If the state, vis-à-vis the archive and related authority holders, relinquishes control over naming, does the archive become an unsorted mess of ambiguous avatars...? ... Naming creators in our description according to one’s self-assertion is crucial to preserving the context of born-digital archival records, yet it too runs counter to how archivists conceive and practice provenance....

Critics of this call for a new foundational archival principle to guide archival practice and description will note the potential pitfalls about anonymity, lost authority, and how the two might conspire to impale the credibility of collections and the trustworthiness of the archives at large. ... realize that not all who are named are truthful and not all who are unnamed are deceitful. In repressive regimes, the litmus test for truth-value cannot be one’s willingness to go on the record.
archives  provenance  colonialism  embodiment  identity  naming 
29 days ago
AIME
types of veridiction

The practice of gathering such documentation over time begins to produce the impression that it is possible, bit by bit, to distinguish types of incompatible truths. At first this seems, disconcertingly, to lead to full-on “relativism”. Except if one notices that each type of veridiction—the term permits the avoidance of the overloaded word “truth”—is the expression of an encounter with forms of existence that are very different from one another. The inquiry aims to set out the diversity of these different forms. This is why we are really dealing with an anthropology of the Moderns. We want to do for them what they did for other cultures. Except that it was quite difficult to understand the others in the absence of a description of ourselves that was in some small way realistic…

modes of existence
It is these forms we are calling “modes of existence”, a banal label, but it has a special meaning here. When one speaks normally about the mode of existence of some group or individual, one refers to their customs, their mode of being, their ethology, their habitat in some way, their feeling for a place. In this inquiry, we are keeping all the connotations of the phrase, but we are giving the two terms “mode” and “existence” stronger meanings that don’t direct attention towards human groups or individuals, but towards the beings about which humans are interrogating themselves. The word “being” should not be unsettling: it is another way of replying to the question, “What, for example, is the law, or religion, or science?” “What is important to you?” and “How can I talk about this properly with you?"
latour  actor_network  modernity 
4 weeks ago
How to Be an Explorer of the World – Brain Pickings
As a longtime fan of guerrilla artist and illustrator Keri Smith’s Wreck This Box set of interactive journals, part of these 7 favorite activity books for grown-ups, I was delighted to discover her How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum (public library) — a wonderful compendium of 59 ideas for how to get creatively unstuck by engaging with everyday objects and your surroundings in novel ways. From mapping found sounds to learning the language of trees to turning time observation into art, these playful and poetic micro-projects aren’t just a simple creativity booster — they’re potent training for what Buddhism would call “living from presence” and inhabiting your life more fully.
UMS  advising  methodology 
4 weeks ago
Making Feminist Points | feministkilljoys
I also stated that this citational structure is “most or usual citational practice.” And I think within feminist and gender studies, the problem does not disappear. Even when feminists cite each other, there is still a tendency to frame our own work in relation to a male intellectual tradition. And there is certainly an expectation that you will recognise your place through giving your allegiance or love to this or that male theorist.

I mentioned this problem in my earlier blog post: “Creating Feminist Paths”.

I have noticed when giving talks or hearing other female academics giving talks how often the first question is ‘how does what you are saying relate to such and such a male theorist?’ as a way of slotting you into an established male intellectual genealogy....

I also think citation practices are mirrored in the marketing and selection of ‘ground-breaking’ theoretical texts by so-called radical publishers which perpetuate white, (almost always) western, male perspectives.

Take for example the Verso Radical Thinkers series, recently featured in a series of videos on the Guardian website. http://www.versobooks.com/series_collections/5-radical-thinkers. 7 out of the 100 books published in this series are written by women, some of these 7 were co-authored with men.

And the Bloomsbury ‘Revelations’ series http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/series/bloomsbury-revelations – all the titles are written by men! Not even a token woman!
academia  feminism  gender  citation 
4 weeks ago
A Sea of Data: Apophenia and Pattern (Mis-)Recognition | e-flux
Not seeing anything intelligible is the new normal. Information is passed on as a set of signals that cannot be picked up by human senses. Contemporary perception is machinic to large degrees. The spectrum of human vision only covers a tiny part of it. Electric charges, radio waves, light pulses encoded by machines for machines are zipping by at slightly subluminal speed. Seeing is superseded by calculating probabilities. Vision loses importance and is replaced by filtering, decrypting, and pattern recognition.... Analysts are choking on intercepted communication. They need to unscramble, filter, decrypt, refine, and process “truckloads of data.” The focus moves from acquisition to discerning, from scarcity to overabundance, from adding on to filtering, from research to pattern recognition. ...

Apophenia is defined as the perception of patterns within random data.7 The most common examples are people seeing faces in clouds or on the moon. Apophenia is about “drawing connections and conclusions from sources with no direct connection other than their indissoluble perceptual simultaneity,” as Benjamin Bratton recently argued....

Jacques Rancière tells a mythical story about how the separation of signal and noise might have been accomplished in Ancient Greece. Sounds produced by affluent male locals were defined as speech, whereas women, children, slaves, and foreigners were assumed to produce garbled noise.10 The distinction between speech and noise served as a kind of political spam filter. Those identified as speaking were labeled citizens and the rest as irrelevant, irrational, and potentially dangerous nuisances. Similarly, today, the question of separating signal and noise has a fundamental political dimension. Pattern recognition resonates with the wider question of political recognition. ...

The endless labor of filling out completely meaningless forms is a new kind of domestic labor in the sense that it is not considered labor at all and assumed to be provided “voluntarily” or performed by underpaid so-called data janitors.14 Yet all the seemingly swift and invisible action of algorithms, their elegant optimization of everything, their recognition of patterns and anomalies—this is based on the endless and utterly senseless labor of providing or fixing messy data.

Dirty data is simply real data in the sense that it documents the struggle of real people with a bureaucracy that exploits the uneven distribution and implementation of digital technology....

The cross-referencing of unofficial databases, including dark web sources, is used to produce a “score,” which calculates the probability that a refugee might be a terrorist. The hope is for a pattern to emerge across different datasets, without actually checking how or if they correspond to any empirical reality. This example is actually part of a much larger subset of “scores,” credit scores, academic ranking scores, scores ranking interaction on online forums etc., which classify people according to financial interactions, online behavior, market data, and other sources. A variety of inputs are boiled down to a single number—a superpattern—which may be a “threat” score or a “social sincerity score"...

the example of SKYNET demonstrates just as strongly that a “signal” extracted by assessing correlations and probabilities is not the same as an actual fact, but determined by the inputs the software uses to learn, and the parameters for filtering, correlating, and “identifying.”...

We train an artificial neural network by showing it millions of training examples and gradually adjusting the network parameters until it gives the classifications we want. The network typically consists of 10–30 stacked layers of artificial neurons. Each image is fed into the input layer, which then talks to the next layer, until eventually the “output” layer is reached. The network’s “answer” comes from this final output layer.... They reveal the networked operations of computational image creation, certain presets of machinic vision, its hardwired ideologies and preferences.....

Pattern recognition was an important asset of neolithic technologies too. It marked the transition between magic and more empirical modes of thinking. The development of the calendar by observing patterns in time enabled more efficient irrigation and agricultural scheduling. Storage of cereals created the idea of property. This period also kick-started institutionalized religion and bureaucracy, as well as managerial techniques including laws and registers... Today, expressions of life as reflected in data trails become a farmable, harvestable, minable resource managed by informational biopolitics....

progress in astronomy and mathematics happened not because people kept believing there were animals or gods in space, but on the contrary, because they accepted that constellations were expressions of a physical logic. The patterns were projections, not reality. While today statisticians and other experts routinely acknowledge that their findings are mostly probabilistic projections, policymakers of all sorts conveniently ignore this message. In practice you become coextensive with the data-constellation you project. Social scores of all different kinds—credit scores, academic scores, threat scores—as well as commercial and military pattern-of-life observations impact the real lives of real people, both reformatting and radicalizing social hierarchies by ranking, filtering, and classifying.
communication  perception  big_data  pattern_recognition  pattern  noise  data  information_overload  bureaucracy  archaeology 
4 weeks ago
Data USA | About
In 2014, Deloitte, Datawheel, and Cesar Hidalgo, Professor at the MIT Media Lab and Director of MacroConnections, came together to embark on an ambitious journey -- to understand and visualize the critical issues facing the United States in areas like jobs, skills and education across industry and geography. And, to use this knowledge to inform decision making among executives, policymakers and citizens.

Our team, comprised of economists, data scientists, designers, researchers and business executives, worked for over a year with input from policymakers, government officials and everyday citizens to develop Data USA, the most comprehensive website and visualization engine of public US Government data. Data USA tells millions of stories about America. Through advanced data analytics and visualization, it tells stories about: places in America—towns, cities and states; occupations, from teachers to welders to web developers; industries--where they are thriving, where they are declining and their interconnectedness to each other; and education and skills, from where is the best place to live if you’re a computer science major to the key skills needed to be an accountant.

Data USA puts public US Government data in your hands. Instead of searching through multiple data sources that are often incomplete and difficult to access, you can simply point to Data USA to answer your questions. Data USA provides an open, easy-to-use platform that turns data into knowledge. It allows millions of people to conduct their own analyses and create their own stories about America – its people, places, industries, skill sets and educational institutions. Ultimately, accelerating society’s ability to learn and better understand itself.
open_data  big_data  demographics  data_visualization  mapping 
4 weeks ago
MIT and Deloitte’s DataUSA Web Tool Makes City Data Easy to Access and Understand - CityLab
Rich treasure troves of public data exist about our cities, but for the ordinary person, these can be hard to dig up and decipher. That’s why citizens, nonprofits, and start-ups have been trying to convert some of these complex datasets into comprehensible and usable forms. Even the federal government has been trying to consolidate some of these data tools in one corner on the internet. But this endeavor, while significant, only brings together a few pieces of a larger puzzle. To get a detailed snapshot of a place, we still have to painstakingly put together information from various sources.

Enter DataUSA, a new, comprehensive, open-source visualization venture launched Monday by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Labs and consulting and auditing firm Deloitte. For any county, city, metro, and state in the U.S., this site pulls up visualizations of data on the economy, demographics, health, education, and housing....

The creators hope that journalists, businesses, teachers, and policymakers using the site come away with insights on these topics instead of just a set of loose facts and figures. That’s why they’ve also included a tab called “stories” on the site’s main menu, which features some notable highlights from the datasets. This post on the increase in urban-planning degrees might be interesting for urban enthusiasts, for example.

Another interesting feature is a collection of really cool maps on a range of topics.
open_data  demographics  big_data  mapping 
4 weeks ago
VENUE - Chris Woebken
I designed a set of instruments to go atop customized surveying tripods. From the very practical to the poetic, this set contains interpretations of traditional landscape surveying tools, including a Very low frequency earth radio receiver, a modern version of a durer grid, radar reflectors and more. Geoff and Nicola took these devices on their research trip to various sites across North America.
measurement  tools  methodology 
4 weeks ago
Blog | Library Innovation Lab
Harvard Law Library is one of the few collections with nearly every law reporter—roughly 40,000 books in total. The Free the Law project’s goal is to put the court decisions inside these volumes online, so anyone can access the precedents that shape the American legal system...

Every Wednesday, the team receives the 600 volumes of case reporters. They line the hallway of the ground floor of Langdell, filling shelf after shelf. One by one, each book is examined before it can be taken apart. (Some books—for example, volumes with marginalia—are flagged for archival purposes.) Each volume is then catalogued and given a unique barcode so it can be tracked throughout the whole process....

The books are then taken to the Prep Room where, ironically, they’re repaired before they’re chopped up. Damaged pages are taped together, book bindings are cut off by hand, and the remaining sheets are taken over to a guillotine.... Next, the bundle of pages is hauled over to the Scanning Room. ... Roughly 200 documents per minute are fed through the machine, which has a camera on top and bottom to image both sides of the page....

Harvard decided it would be valuable to have the physical copies accessible. So the project decided to vacuum seal the pages. Once the pages are jogged together (using a state-of-the-art paper-jogging machine) and placed back inside their book jacket, the volumes are taken over to one last room—where they will be put inside a meat packing device. Yes, it turns out that the meat industry unwittingly stumbled across the best way to preserve books. ... Because of the Harvard Law Library’s limited shelf capacity, the newly packaged pages will soon be loaded onto trucks and shipped down to Louisville.
Why Kentucky? Well, because of Underground Vaults & Storage, a company that has been storing all manner of things in Louisville’s old limestone mines.
archives  digitization  storage 
4 weeks ago
Bell System Memorial- Bell Labs Science Kits
Bell Labs produced some very sophisticated kits which included manuals (and books) written by Bell System employees with PhD degrees.  These weren't your typical kits like you buy today where you just snap part A to part B and hook up a 9 Volt battery.  No, these were in a class of their own.  The books themselves go into great depth on the subject material.
infrastructural_literacy  pedagogy  kits  telecommunications  laboratories 
4 weeks ago
The Full Texture of a City: Ratik Asokan interviews Sarnath Banerjee
As a non-western artist, you have to ask yourself a question fairly early in your life: do I want to become a bridge maker, do I want my culture to be understood by the west? I have no intentions of doing such things. I’m fine being a little strange to a non-western audience. It doesn’t bother me if my book doesn’t change a generation of American readers, like Jhumpa Lahiri’s books are doing, or Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s books are doing. In order to write universal literature, you have to iron out a lot of particularities. And I’m not interested in making things friendly reading for Americans. We come from huge landscapes: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. If you put that world together, it’s a lot of people.

Who gives a fuck about New York? What’s great about being in one small section of the bookshop in the Strand? I don’t think it makes me feel any culturally greater. I think that age has gone: of having my work understood in New York, or by an Anglophile Indian for that matter. It’s not my intention to be understood. I will continue writing for a readership that is fundamentally local. Because if you want to produce universal writing, you run the risk of losing your local knowledge. Your views are so universalist that the street aspect disappears....

quoting big thinkers—though they certainly affect my thinking—reminds me of being an MA student. And I don’t want to sound like an MA student. The whole idea is to make knowledge available without hiding behind big names. Maybe it is not a rejection. It is simply having the confidence to speak without having to quote people....

I feel history is more of a story than a lesson. Okay, I know this idea of presentism: this idea of constantly evoking the past to justify the present moment. A lot of people will tell you, “history is how we got here.” And learning from the lessons of history. But that’s imperfect. The Russians tried to learn from the lessons of Napoleon and decided—after Lenin died—to evict Trotsky because he was too willful a man. Their solution was to give the top job to an ambitionless bureaucrat. That’s how they ended up with Stalin! So if you learn from history you can do things for all the wrong reasons.

This history as presentism is not entirely true. I agree with it, to an extent, but I’m not interested in it. I’m interested in history because it’s a discipline that requires a lot of effort from the imagination. You need to put in a lot of imaginative effort to figure out how people lived in an era that is not yours. And in that understanding of people from a different era, I feel, is an important gateway into humanity. Because you understand human behavior. In order to understand humanity, history is important.

And I like historians. They have good interpretive skills. They are also often great storytellers. ...

I’m going to get ten historians to work with ten visual professionals, not necessarily artists—animators, illustrators, set designers, architectural model makers, fashion people, I don’t know—to give their research a form that you and I could read. Perhaps they can make historical sets....

Imagine you own a roadside bookshop. You know where the books on geography are, where the medical textbooks are, where the SAT preparation books are, where Auden’s poetry is, where the contemporary South African fiction is, where the Tintins are. But if you don’t write this down, and you die, then the catalog dies. It just becomes a mess. It doesn’t exist as a catalog anymore.

Somewhere down the line, a city is a bit like that: a gigantic group of cluttered books. But a writer or artist has a way of making sense of it, of understanding how it is cataloged. The catalog lives in the writer’s head. Only if you write will the city-catalog be expressed. If you don’t, it slips into chaos.

And the most important part of a city is its people. In fact, people for me are like little cities. When you meet someone, it’s like you’ve found a new city to explore.
citation  humility  india  media_architecture  comics  historiography 
4 weeks ago
Binomial Nonenclature
The process of drawing these cards has helped me reflect on the power and absurdity of scientific category-making. Carl Linnaeus formalized the system of binomial classification in 1753 as a way to name and systematize life forms. Species follows Genus, specific follows general. Homo sapiens. Elephas maximus. But his seemingly simple, circumscribed description—the meta-label and the label—opens chasms in understanding as much as it builds bridges. Binomial Nomenclature jumps joyfully into the abyss.
taxonomy  classification  illustration  archives 
4 weeks ago
The Graffiti at Pompeii - The Atlantic
All this is why Benefiel is leading an effort to map the graffiti of Pompeii and Herculaneum, a nearby town that was also buried by the 79 A.D. eruption. With a grant from a National Endowment for the Humanities, she and other scholars are building a suite of tools to digitally catalogue, contextualize, and analyze these ancient inscriptions.

“I’m really interested in trying to look at the whole of what we have from these cities, and thinking a bit more broadly about how we can identify who’s writing messages and where they’re writing them,” Benefiel said. “Right now, that’s really hard to do just because of how they’ve been published, and how the map has completely changed because excavations got much more expansive.”

Digitizing what’s known about the graffiti at Pompeii—and making a searchable database that’s rich with metadata like height, writing style, language, and other details—is also a way of teasing out connections between inscriptions that aren’t otherwise apparent. Perhaps, for example, scholars will be able to identify common authorship among a variety of geographically disperse messages. Or maybe they’ll be able to understand what kinds of establishments are adorned with certain graffiti, based on the nature of the messages written there.

Scholars can tell, for instance, that a tavern was once beyond the wall where a welcoming greeting—“Sodales, avete,”—can still be read. Some graffiti describes how many tunics were sent to be laundered, while other inscriptions mark the birth of a donkey and a litter of piglets. People scribbled details of various transactions onto the walls of Pompeii, including the selling of slaves. They also shared snippets of literature (lines from The Aeneid were popular) and succinct maxims like, “The smallest evil, if neglected, will reach the greatest proportions.”

And then there was the trash talk.
graffiti  media_archaeology  urban_archaeology  archaeology  inscription 
5 weeks ago
What's Your Algorithmic Citizenship? | Citizen Ex
Every time you connect to the internet, you pass through time, space, and law. Information is sent out from your computer all over the world, and sent back from there. This information is stored and tracked in multiple locations, and used to make decisions about you, and determine your rights. These decisions are made by people, companies, countries and machines, in many countries and legal jurisdictions. Citizen Ex shows you where those places are.

Your Algorithmic Citizenship is how you appear to the internet, as a collection of data extending across many nations, with a different citizenship and different rights in every place. One day perhaps we will all live like we do on the internet. Until then, there's Citizen Ex.
infrastructure  protocol  geography  code  citizenship  media_space 
5 weeks ago
Historicizing Big Data and Geo-information
My broader point is that we really need to find the balance of not understating and not overstating the work being done by governments and corporations in the domain of big data. Yes, some big data practices out there are naïve and dumb. And yes, some are terrifyingly precise in the ways that they can anticipate human behavior.

To get that balance, I think we need a few things. The first is to pay attention to what has been called the Fourth Law of Thermodynamics: That, the amount of energy required to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than required to create it. Let’s make sure our energy is wisely spent.

To get the right balance, it also seems clear that all of us need to not just try to better understand the nuances of key techniques and methods being employed. But also to think about what we can specifically add to the debate as geographers – and on this latter point, this is something that I think the papers in this session did very well....

.... to argue that we need to translate some of the ongoing ‘right to the city’ debate into the digital sphere. The point being that if places we live in are bricks, mortar, and digital data - we need to think about rights of access, control, and use - in our digitally-infused world....

And finally, for all of us, I want to ask why this seems to continue to be such a male dominated field? In two sessions, seven speakers, and two discussants, we had only one female speaker. Are we reproducing the gendered nature of earlier computational scholarship? One of the dangers of telling these histories – is that it can end up being white men speaking about white men. This is not a critique of the organiser, as I know Oliver is well attune to these issues, but rather a question about how and why we might be re(producing) masuclinist knowledges.
media_space  epistemology  gender  big_data 
5 weeks ago
The Future of Academic Style: Why Citations Still Matter in the Age of Google - The Los Angeles Review of Books
Citations in academic writing, not unlike those in legal writing, are intended to refer the questioning reader back to the sources or precedents for the argument at hand. This is in part driven by a desire to give credit where credit is due: by citing those who have influenced us, we acknowledge their work and its role in our own. But citation serves more purposes than simply naming the giants on whose shoulders we find ourselves standing. Citations, in fact, play much the same role for the humanities that enumerating the details of laboratory procedures used in experiments plays for the sciences. An odd assertion, no doubt, but here’s what I mean: the validity of scientific work hangs on what is often popularly referred to as its reproducibility, the notion that you could obtain the same results by following the same procedures. This reproducibility is perhaps more accurately and evocatively described as falsifiability — the more skeptical, but more important sense that you could follow those procedures, or perhaps some better procedures, and wind up disproving the hypothesis in question. In this same way, research in the humanities exposes the details of its procedures via citation such that it too might be rendered falsifiable. Readers can return to the sources in question and render their own better interpretations of them. Academic writing becomes academic, in other words, precisely when it exposes its process to future correction....

...the digital textual landscape has produced a proliferation of copies with varying degrees of reliability. And search engines, for all their utility, are not terribly good at discerning distinctions that actually do make a difference. So when a reader searches for a quotation, she is likely to turn up not just the original source of that quotation but also a host of copies, borrowings, and reuses, texts in which that quotation appears but from which it did not originate. ... If anything, the reference system provided by a good citation style has come to matter even more in the age of the internet, rather than being rendered obsolete by the seemingly infinite networking and searchability of texts and other cultural resources online. Things migrate with great fluidity these days: that article might still be associated with the journal in which it was published, but it’s very likely been found through an online journal aggregator like JSTOR, and that might make a difference to a future researcher trying to track down a source. A book might be consulted not in print but through Google Books, and knowing that might provide information about anomalies in the source. ... And that’s the key thing: no matter how backward-looking citations may appear, in their fastidious recounting of the publication history of past sources, they are in fact always future-oriented, communicating information that may be necessary for a reader in a situation that we cannot yet fully imagine. Citations are the highway markers of an ongoing conversation, one that does not end with the text presently being written, but that has the potential to stretch both forward in time and outward in unexpected directions.

...the newest edition of the MLA Handbook. The Handbook had grown dense and forbidding as formats accrued, but it was nonetheless the authoritative guide to MLA style, the arbiter of correctness in humanities-based citation practices. In creating this new edition, we took the opportunity to put all of the rules aside and imagine how we’d create an entirely new style today, from the ground up. And the result is a much slimmed-down, much friendlier guide that establishes a set of general principles for creating documentation and then explains their application in a wide range of ways, demonstrating a flexibility that works with rather than against writers’ instincts about what’s important and what’s not.

Perhaps more importantly, though, it works to refocus attention on the reasons citation practices were invented in the first place: to enable disparate pieces of scholarly writing to be connected with one another, and to communicate those connections reliably, simply, and clearly. Our hope is that ours might be the first manual that makes the academic style guide seem less like a misnomer, and more like a set of natural practices through which scholars can help organize the often unruly publications by which we are increasingly surrounded.
academia  publishing  citation  writing  UMS 
5 weeks ago
The Waiting Room | Somatosphere
The waiting room is a peculiar sort of place, a space of liminality, suspended time, even containment. It is a space defined as temporary, only intended as a lead-in to another place. The goal is to get into or out of the doctor’s office. And in that office, one is transformed into a patient: a business suit is shed for a medical gown. In biomedical terms, this can mean that one’s body becomes visible in quite different, but also very particular, ways.  It is the individual body that counts, the body outside everyday time and space. Or, rather, time is detected through ideas like heredity. And space takes form through concepts such as environment or population. One ceases to be a father, daughter, unemployed, wealthy or jilted; while one’s diagnosis may take those into account in secondary ways, the body in the doctor’s office is snatched out of its regular life, and held in abeyance while another system of recognition imposes itself.

But at the threshold of that biomedical reality, in the waiting room, the body is still recognized as part of larger collective stories and smaller everyday practices. That day, a mother and daughter sat together, clearly resembling one another; there was a couple, holding hands; there was a woman sitting alone, wearing a hijab. While one may be an impending patient, in the waiting room one is recognizable to oneself and others in both social and medical terms. In this sense, the waiting room is a place to diagnose not just bodies but the politics of bodies, and the politics of illness.
architecture  health  subjectivity  embodiment  identity 
5 weeks ago
Representing Material Evidence: The Catacombs in Print | JHIBlog
This awareness of text as image sometimes influenced the reproductions of epitaphs on sepulchers. Although many of the reproductions only imitated original inscriptions through their use of capital letters, Severano’s team occasionally reproduced visual elements in the text, such as the exaggerated size of T’s (probably referring to the association of the Greek letter Τ (tau) with the cross) in some (p. 300). As in the case of the praying figure on broken plaster, they also tried to indicate damage, either by replicating cracks in the stone or including ellipses in the transcription. While they frequently attempted iconographically based reconstructions of missing parts of paintings or imperfect sarcophagi, textual frammenti were left incomplete. In one instance, on a marble stone that was especially “worn out,” they simply confessed, “Il resto non si può leggere” (p. 400).
textual_form  media_architecture  books  book_design  print 
5 weeks ago
Remaking Optophones: An Exercise in Maintenance Studies
In our lab at the University of Victoria, we are currently remaking a reading optophone: an aid for the blind that converted text into sound during the twentieth century. Although the reading optophone never existed in a stable or fixed form, a common configuration involved operators placing books and other print materials on glass. They then used a handle to move a reading head located below the glass, sliding it back and forth to scan pages. As pages were scanned, the machine would express type as a series of audible tones. To listen, operators plugged telephone receivers into the device and wore them over their ears, like headphones....

Today, optophones are typically interpreted as precursors to optical character recognition (OCR), or the automated conversion of images into machine-readable text. However, that origin story risks bypassing how optophones were developed and maintained. ...

we focus on what actions and contexts were likely required to make optophones work. Given Jameson is notably absent from accounts we have encountered thus far, this also means remaking optophones is entangled with rewriting their histories. Indeed, prototyping is not an end in itself but rather a line of inquiry that shapes how we interpret and communicate the past. It expands the very definition of “making” to include writing, which is central to what we do in the lab.
reading  listening  media_archaeology  reverse_engineering  making  prototypes 
5 weeks ago
Atmospheric Feedback Loops - Susan Schuppli
Climate change and weather systems have become spatial objects that can be measured and modelled, and even controlled and “forced”. During the 1950s the Soviet Union actually experimented with accelerating glacial melt (climate forcing) by deliberating blackening snow surfaces with coal dust to boost their capacity to absorb solar radiation and thus aid in irrigation and supplement water supplies to areas affected by drought. The meteorological variables that characterise climate systems such as temperature, humidity, wind, and precipitation are similarly shared by weather. While climate refers to the ways in which these variables interact over extended periods, weather charts changing atmospheric phenomena over days and even hours, thus the predictive move towards “nowcasting”. From the long-term tracking of atmospheric conditions to the day-to-day monitoring of weather systems that can be used to forecast incoming storms, the governance of these temporally complex spatial objects has increasingly been organised around the control of atmospheric uncertainty.
Together in our workshop we will investigate how certain mathematical models of weather prediction and the computation of long-term climate change became effective through the transformation of the observatory into a large networked system of ground stations, mainframe computers, satellites, instruments and sensors. In short, the ways they generate feedback loops between atmospheric phenomena, terrestrial processes, and technical infrastructures. Its primary objective is not only to open up the techno-scientific black-box of climate science and weather prediction to humanities scholars and artists, but also to envision what a cultural approach to uncertainty expressed by and through the calculation of climate change might be.
sensors  weather  measurement  climate_change  methodology  satellites 
5 weeks ago
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