Zeynep Çelik Alexander: Architectures of Homogenous Empiricism - YouTube
In Philosophia Botanica, published in 1751, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus provided instructions for the construction of a cabinet to accommodate his botanical specimens. Modest as the architecture of the cabinet was, it made a new kind of empiricism possible: the specimens, which were standardized by being pressed between unattached sheets of paper, could now be arranged and rearranged as the collection grew, as species, genera, or families were added or removed, and even if the theory organizing the overall system became defunct. In the century that followed, Linnaeus’s cabinet informed the architecture of numerous herbaria, whose functioning depended on this homogeneous empiricism of elementary, discrete, and, portable particulars. This paper examines the architecture of the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew in an attempt to understand how it organized not only knowledge but also as labor and capital across the globe. This, after all, was the ingenuity of herbarium architecture: its homogeneous empiricism shaped as much the gardeners who collected specimens in the colonies as the botanists who observed, classified, and named those specimens in the metropole and publics who were educated through displays of “economic botany.”
organization  classification  furniture  archives 
2 days ago
China's Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious - The Atlantic
Known by the anodyne name “social credit,” this system is designed to reach into every corner of existence both online and off. It monitors each individual’s consumer behavior, conduct on social networks, and real-world infractions like speeding tickets or quarrels with neighbors. Then it integrates them into a single, algorithmically determined “sincerity” score. Every Chinese citizen receives a literal, numeric index of their trustworthiness and virtue, and this index unlocks, well, everything. In principle, anyway, this one number will determine the opportunities citizens are offered, the freedoms they enjoy, and the privileges they are granted.

This end-to-end grid of social control is still in its prototype stages, but three things are already becoming clear: First, where it has actually been deployed, it has teeth. Second, it has profound implications for the texture of urban life. And finally, there’s nothing so distinctly Chinese about it that it couldn’t be rolled out anywhere else the right conditions obtain. The advent of social credit portends changes both dramatic and consequential for life in cities everywhere—including the one you might call home....

A dominant current of urbanist thought in the West sees order in cities as uncontrived—an emergent outcome of lower-level processes. Canny observers like Georg Simmel, Jane Jacobs, and Richard Sennett hold that virtually everything that makes big-city life what it is—and big-city people who they are—arises from the necessity of negotiating with the millions of others with whom city dwellers share their daily environments. In cities that are set up to afford this kind of interaction, people learn to practice what the sociologist Erving Goffman called “civil inattention.” They acknowledge the presence of others without making any particular claim on them....

As far as the ruling elites of Zhongnanhai are concerned, though, “sincerity construction,” or the process that results in stability and public rectitude, is something far too important to be left to the unplanned interactions of millions of city dwellers. From their point of view, orderliness is paramount, because orderliness makes for stability, and stability makes for continued economic growth. In their 21st-century interpretation of the “mandate of heaven,” the 3,000-year-old doctrine of Chinese imperial rule, only continued economic growth underwrites continued legitimacy....

The social-credit system was based explicitly on a familiar, Western model: the credit score. As a de facto reputation index, your credit score strongly conditions where you can rent, what kind of jobs or educational opportunities you’ll be eligible for, even what mode of travel you use to get around. This one number—formulated by obscure means, by largely unaccountable organizations, then used as a gating mechanism by a profusion of third parties, mostly in secret—has become what it was never meant to be: a general proxy for trustworthiness..

Those who wear virtue on their sleeves further—perhaps by taking public transit consistently instead of driving to work, taking out the recycling regularly, or even denouncing a misbehaving neighbor—might enjoy new benefits, like being able to rent a flat with no deposit, or earning the right to send their children to exclusive schools. This hardly sounds like authoritarianism run amok, and to a certain degree, patriotic Chinese netizens are right to complain when Western critics conflate such nudges toward preferred behavior with actual tyranny....

But the system provides abundantly for sticks as well as carrots. Attend a “subversive” political meeting or religious service, for example, or frequent known haunts of vice, or do under-the-table business with an unregistered, informal enterprise, and the idea is that the network will know about it and respond by curtailing one’s privileges. The state wants its citizens to believe that there’s little point in trying to evade detection of such acts, especially when they are strongly correlated with suspicious sites, either by mobile-phone location data or by China’s extensive national network of facial-recognition-equipped surveillance cameras.
privacy  smart_cities  surveillance  china 
2 days ago
Rendering: The Cave of the Digital - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
Throughout this cave, and across the paleo-world of what is now southern Europe, are cave paintings of bodies and figures, people and animals. Not portraits, but points, like the freeze-frame screens that football pundits use on pay TV. Except these drawings are made over millennia, describing some other kind of relationship to time and space. These cave art scenes are pictures of space, of gaps between, of the tension between figures.

The surfaces of the cave narrate stories like celestial constellations. Images are etched, smeared, blown, and drawn onto this undulating, ragged, curved surface so that topography blurs into figures—the surface of a sleeping bison, the neck of a horse conjured by shading applied to a fissure or a bump.

Caves invert the space of the world above ground. In these underground interiors, space is bounded by the earth itself. Yet through the drawings in these concave enclosures, they are rendered into worlds. Representation transforms them into an essential act of architecture—spaces that organize meaning and form. One might even say that these drawings act as the first form of architecture—that the natural cave becomes architecture not through shelter but representation. These were not places to live, after all, but served some other purpose.

Caves are spaces of representation without edges; where the world and the space of the page are the same thing. Drawings whose subject, but also medium, is space. Representation that is applied to the world itself; representation that becomes the world.

Inside the cave, we occupy the drawing just as the drawing occupies and manufactures space. We are not outside observers of an image, but active participants within the space of representation.

Looking closely, there are other specific representational tropes. There are no faces on any of the figures. No sky either; no trees, no rivers, no landscape, no horizon.

They are pictures of the world, but a world that is different to ours; a world whose outlines remain daubed on cave walls but whose meaning we can’t comprehend. Maps whose coordinates have been lost, whose legend no longer makes sense, whose orientations and coordinates obey different rules. Representations whose scale and depth no longer register as they did with their authors....

Space is not a natural phenomenon, but something constructed. Medieval European space, for example, is fundamentally different from Neolithic space. Perspectival space is fundamentally different from Byzantine space. Space is a product of social, economic, and environmental conditions. It provides a specific framework for encounter, relationship, and the production of specific kinds of meaning. Representation is not just a way of recording or depicting space, but the way of constructing it. Spatial representation is not merely pictorial or graphic, but also conceptual....

Erwin Panofsky argues that the invention of linear perspective could only occur at the moment when a particular conception of space—the concept of infinity—emerged.1 He suggests that this idea of the infinite emerged because of a new religious conception of a singular, divine omnipresence. Without this idea of the universe, it would be impossible to conceive of the vanishing point....

To this we might add that the drawing system of perspective, relying as it does on accurate measurement to construct its space, emerged within the highly mercantile contexts of Florence and Venice; places where the measurement of goods was fundamental to the accumulation of wealth.

In other words, perspective brought spiritual divinity and earthy pragmatism together into the same representational space. ...

That Pacioli, a Franciscan friar as well as mathematician, is also credited with the invention of double entry bookkeeping should come as no surprise. “Double entry” is a system of recording transactions in terms of credit and debit; a debit in one account will be offset by a credit in another, so the sum of all debits must be equal to the sum of all credits. Double entry remains the basis of contemporary accounting. It is the space that appears when spreadsheets are opened, just as perspective is the space that appears when Sketchup is fired up and pictorial space for constructed the lonely figure in an empty world.

Both perspective drawing and double entry bookkeeping are systems that seem to help accurately record the world as it is. But at heart, the power that both have is to remake the world according to their own vision. ...

The power of perspective is not only its internal representational mechanism, but how it projects its ideal geometry outwards into the world. Not as a form of recording the world, but of constructing it. Unlike the representational space of the cave, which internalizes the world, perspective is mapped outwards from its vanishing point, beyond the frame of the page and into the world.

One can further argue, along with Hito Steyerl, that concepts which emerge from perspectival space shape geopolitical space:

The use of the horizon to calculate position gave seafarers a sense of orientation, thus also enabling colonialism and the spread of a capitalist global market, but also became an important tool for the construction of the optical paradigms that came to define modernity, the most important paradigm being that of so-called linear perspective....

Just as language constrains what it is possible to say—or perhaps even think—the conventions and genres of representation used to create architecture also set out the terms of its engagement with the world. They may appear to represent space as a simple, “natural” thing, but the possibilities of the space they depict are already contained within them before pen is put to paper, or cursor to page. ...

Attempts to deploy alternative, even Cubist types of architectural space, from Deconstruction to Parametracism, have only served to reinforce traditional representational modes, insofar as their highly complex forms have required the development of hyper accurate software that replicate the spatial constructs of traditional architectural representation. In other words, advanced 3D modeling software have only served to reinforce preexisting forms of representation. ...

This rejection of the technical sophistication of the photorealistic “real” instead embraces a new awkwardness. It finds itself making digital collages that hit Google images hard and proclaim their diverse sources. Instead of complex three dimensionality, they take advantage of Photoshop and Illustrator’s ability to operate in an infinitely layered two-dimensional plane—which, in passing, operates as a native digital space rather than a simulation of the real just as a digital database can operate in nth dimensional space. These drawings accentuate the artificiality of the drawing, sometimes through the use of one point perspective, or by rejecting perspective entirely for a flattened “digital Byzantine.” These, amongst others, are tactics of post-digital architectural drawing. Far more than a stylistic project (though this is always a present danger of representational regimes), they configure an approach to digital culture that turns away from the pixel-perfect simulation of the real to expressly declare the representational quality of the drawing. These drawings accentuate representation’s “representational” quality, eschewing preset realism in order to expose how drawing and seeing are active in constructing the world.
archaeology  caves  writing  space  representation  art_history  perspective  media_architecture 
4 days ago
Sidewalk Labs: Google’s Guinea-Pig City in Toronto - The Atlantic
The framework agreement also calls for an “Urban Innovation Institute” at Quayside. Sidewalk’s vision document seems to see it as a quasi-­academic organization, “a place for collaboration and discussion, and an unprecedented opportunity for faculty and students to test their ideas in a real urban environment.” But it doesn’t talk about partnering with any of Toronto’s many universities and colleges. It’s unclear whether this would be an academic research unit subject to an academic ethics review board, or a private resource where researchers would work on Sidewalk’s technology portfolio. Sidewalk’s spokesperson told me the matter had not been settled....

To facilitate those interactions, a public-engagement plan offers many ways Torontonians can engage. They include live-streamed talks, public roundtables, Sidewalk Toronto “pop-up stations,” a “design jam” with architects and planners, and a two-day CivicLabs workshop on “issues like mobility, housing, and inclusion.” Interested citizens can also send their children to a free “Sidewalk Toronto Summer Kids Camp.”....

If the Sidewalk Toronto project were implemented as described in the vision document, the area would become some of the most heavily surveilled real estate on the planet. Sidewalk describes neighborhoods “over-provisioned” with “a broad range of sensors” to “enable parallel experimentation with multiple technology approaches.” Data from these sensors would be stored and processed to feed controls for everything from the ambient temperature of buildings to crosswalk signals to the assigned uses of adaptable private and public spaces. As the Eastern Waterfront is optimized to Sidewalk’s standards, whatever those are, the tech underlying also benefits, primed for redeployment in other locales.

When I asked about data gathering, Lasher responded, “We’re not going to gather up all Torontonians’ data and sell it, we’re not building Sensorville.” But in this case, the sale of resident data might be of less concern than its use. Residents and visitors to the Sidewalk site would provide valuable benefit to Sidewalk, allowing their daily lives to help optimize technology for Sidewalk’s broader commercial venture. Harvesting data from citizens, including children and those in need of affordable housing, is an aspect of the Sidewalk Toronto project that deserves careful thought....

If “ubiquitous sensing” (Sidewalk’s term) is a goal within the Sidewalk Toronto neighborhood, its effects are already being felt in the rest of Toronto. Doctoroff is talking about launching tech pilots “right now” in different locations around the city, beyond Quayside. These pilot projects would let Sidewalk show off its tech and drum up enthusiasm over a long planning cycle. They might also normalize the experience of being a free-range experimental population within the city....

Sidewalk has defined the terms of the conversation, placing government and critics in the position of responding to Sidewalk’s techno-utopian picture book, and casting themselves as enemies of innovation if they dispute it....

The power of storytelling is nothing new to Doctoroff. In Greater Than Ever, his new book on his time in the Bloomberg administration, Doctoroff talks at length about preparing detailed, emotionally affecting presentations to sell city officials and private funders on the idea of a New York Olympic bid in 1996. Doctoroff’s presentation invoked West Side Story, Lincoln Center, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty to convince his audience that “hosting the Olympics could spur New York’s next big leap forward.” Sidewalk’s vision document plucks on similar urban heartstrings, anchoring itself with hand-drawn illustrations of hyper-local Torontonian landmarks and icons. ...

Perhaps it’s more useful to review the vision document less as a promise, and more as a statement of Sidewalk’s urbanist ideology. It offers a blueprint for Alphabet’s idea of a city, whether in Toronto or elsewhere.

Take real estate, for example. The document emphasizes affordable housing and a diversity of planned neighborhoods. But the reconfigurable buildings Sidewalk proposes are structured in a way that seems to preclude long-term, individual ownership of an apartment or a storefront. Residential and commercial spaces appear to be designed for brief, transitional tenancies, built for “ongoing and frequent interior changes around a strong skeletal structure.”...

Sidewalk’s emphasis on pop-up shops, fast-cycling start-ups, and next-gen bazaars doesn’t seem to balance innovation with the routine needs of a livable neighborhood. Sidewalk likes to invoke Jane Jacobs, for whom Toronto was an adopted home, when talking about the benefits of flexible zoning. But Jacobs also emphasized the need to avoid fast turnover in businesses and residences, so that stable neighborhoods could develop. ...

Sidewalk also seems to want to sidestep existing land-use policies to accomplish its goals. It says “outmoded regulations” hold cities back from achieving their full innovative potential. In order for Sidewalk’s “climate-positive,” “adaptable” buildings to be deployed at a large enough scale to be cost-efficient, “a new paradigm in the building code” will be required. Likewise, innovations in transport and energy production “may require substantial forbearances from existing laws and regulations.” Sidewalk advocates “outcome-based” building and zoning codes, a style of regulating construction and development that relies on modeling and real-time monitoring to allow “flexible buildings” to be used for a broad range of uses in real time.... Sidewalk’s “city of the future” might best be compared to a special economic zone, an area of regulatory exemption that allows it to innovate to its heart’s content, beyond the normal laws of its host municipality.
sidewalk_labs  sensors  surveillance  smart_cities  zoning  urban_planning 
4 days ago
Don't Skip a Step! Own Your Role as Moderator | HASTAC
Don't disappear!
Everyone looks to a moderator for ground rules for the Q&A, so don't skip over this teachable moment. Let's all pledge to take a minute to explain how the Q&A is going to work. Yes, that means taking up some time, and bringing more attention to ourselves, but after observing tons of panels, I think it's the only way to increase our success rate and revolutionize not just the classroom but academia, one conference at a time. Taking time to structure the Q&A also gives audience members some time to think of good questions, and it makes them aware of your presence as a facilitator. 

What does the audience need to unlearn most?
What I've noticed (as a panelist and as an audience member) is that moderators often call on the first person to raise a hand. We need to stop that. Tell the audience that you will not call on the first person, that you will wait for more hands before you call on anyone. The best questions are often never asked because they come after time for reflection; they're developed later than the first one but the first one is given the most time and freedom. So the first thing everyone needs to unlearn is calling based on order. 
conferences  moderating  advising  academia 
5 days ago
There Is No Such Thing as a Smart City - The Atlantic
The digital techniques that smart-city fans adore are flimsy and flashy—and some are even actively pernicious—but they absolutely will be used in cities. They already have an urban heritage. When you bury fiber-optic under the curbs around the town, then you get internet. When you have towers and smartphones, then you get portable ubiquity. When you break up a smartphone into its separate sensors, switches, and little radios, then you get the internet of things.

These tedious yet important digital transformations have been creeping into town for a couple of generations. At this point, they’re pretty much all that urban populations can remember how to do. Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent—these are the true industrial titans of our era. That’s how people make money, that’s how they make war, so of course, it will be how they make cities.

However, the cities of the future won’t be “smart,” or well-engineered, cleverly designed, just, clean, fair, green, sustainable, safe, healthy, affordable, or resilient. They won’t have any particularly higher ethical values of liberty, equality, or fraternity, either. The future smart city will be the internet, the mobile cloud, and a lot of weird paste-on gadgetry, deployed by City Hall, mostly for the sake of making towns more attractive to capital...

That’s why smart cities, in this new digital era of Big Five and China-BAT industry consolidation, drift away from open public websites and popular comments. Instead, they’re adopting that new surveillance-marketing paradigm of “data extractivity.” Why trouble to ask the “citizens” what they want from urban life, when you can accurately surveil the real actions of city’s “users” and decode what they’re actually doing, as opposed to what they vaguely claim they might want to do? ....

The “bad part of town” will be full of algorithms that shuffle you straight from high-school detention into the prison system. The rich part of town will get mirror-glassed limos that breeze through the smart red lights to seamlessly deliver the aristocracy from curb into penthouse.

These aren’t the “best practices” beloved by software engineers; they’re just the standard urban practices, with software layered over. It’s urban design as the barbarian’s varnish on urbanism. People could have it otherwise, technically, if they really wanted it and had the political will, but they don’t. So they won’t get it.
smart_cities  internet_of_things 
5 days ago
Untitled Document
Abstract In this article we argue that the medium of the book can be a material and conceptual means, both of criticising capitalism’s commodification of knowledge (for example, in the form of the commercial incorporation of open access by feral and predatory publishers), and of opening up a space for thinking about politics. The book, then, is a political medium. As the history of the artist’s book shows, it can be used to question, intervene in and disturb existing practices and institutions, and even offer radical, counter-institutional alternatives. If the book’s potential to question and disturb existing practices and institutions includes those associated with liberal democracy and the neoliberal knowledge economy (as is apparent from some of the more radical interventions occurring today under the name of open access), it also includes politics and with it the very idea of democracy. In other words, the book is a medium that can (and should) be ‘rethought to serve new ends’ (1); a medium through which politics itself can be rethought in an ongoing manner.
books  material_texts  artists_books 
7 days ago
Curating Zim’s intellectual record | The Herald
It is one thing to point out problems as a critic and a whole other domain to take charge and provide the solution. Tinashe Mushakavanhu, a leading Zimbabwean literary critic, earned notoriety for routinely check-listing problems and antagonising cultural institutions during his stint as a columnist. Now he has stepped up to be part of the solution. His new project, Reading Zimbabwe, is a digital repository of Zimbabwe’s intellectual record, currently hosting references to 1 119 Zimbabwean books written by 773 authors published in 114 cities by 311 publishers.

The repository emphasises the fact that truth cannot be determined from a single source and aims to present readers with a complete reference of the country’s literary strivings across categories. Literature Today’s Stanely Mushava (SM) sat down with the curator (TM) for insight into the project....

Reading Zimbabwe was initiated by a writer and a graphic designer. Tinashe Mushakavanhu and Nontsikelelo Mutiti are Zimbabwean born educators. Mushakavanhu has a PhD in English from University of Kent while Mutiti holds an MFA from Yale Art School. They are founding collaborators of Black Chalk, a creative agency that brings together writers, artists, designers, academics, technologists with a mutual interest in publishing and archiving, curating conversations, facilitating teaching residencies and participating in exhibitions. What animates all these activities is the effort to engender a new culture of reading. Between them, they have spent years teaching in Africa, Europe and the US....

The strength of this project is not so much in its wholeness, but in the gaps and patterns it establishes. That exile inspired the project is in itself a significant factor. Exile gives one distance and perspective.

In fact, Reading Zimbabwe was a response to a series of conversations that took place at nightly salons we hosted at our Brooklyn apartment with our own peers after realising that we don’t know what Zimbabwe is. Even though we were interested in American politics and the effects of the Trump presidency, Zimbabwe consumed us. The realisation that we have no official or cultural dress code, we predominantly use English as our lingua franca, and we currently have no official currency concerned us....

For us, Reading Zimbabwe, is more than just an archive or database? — ? it is a platform, a library, a community. We are interested in the evolution of histories and the emerging new narratives around Zimbabwe? — ? as an idea, an imaginary, a place, a people.

We are not interested in one truth, but truths. In order to think about and represent Zimbabwe differently, we need, not only a new set of questions, but new set of tools; new practices and methodologies that allow us to harness the inventiveness, the generative resilience and the agility with which we live....

Zimbabwe was once at the vanguard of African literature but now a book desert. As a country we have not yet fully adopted new technologies and Reading Zimbabwe embraces the digital and social cultures fully. We are rolling out our social media presence, specifically on Twitter, Instagram and SoundCloud....

Reading Zimbabwe started out largely as a virtual project. The ultimate aim now is to build a physical people’s library to complement poorly resourced libraries in Zimbabwe. The People’s Library will double up as a community centre and literary hub. We endeavour to collect most of the books on this site in their physical form and be led to many other relevant books that we still don’t know exist and make them accessible to a community of readers that needs them.
reading  libraries  Africa  little_libraries  archives  archive_art 
7 days ago
Reading Zimbabwe | Home
How do we read a country? Who gets to tell or write a country’s stories? How do we come to understand a place and its people? It was these questions that provoked us. The way that knowledge is acquired is not innocent or objective. This virtual archive is devoted in trying to demystify ways of thinking about the democratic rhetoric of independent Zimbabwe. Reading is freedom. Especially at a time in which the values of reading and inwardness are so strenuously challenged, reading is freedom.
Africa  reading  libraries  little_libraries  library_art 
7 days ago
DIGLU | Emphase
Design of a lineal font declined in 6 styles. It contains 440 characters + 404 pictograms developed for the analysis and mediation of archaeological finds. The pictograms have a Unicode, allowing the font to be used on all text editors. It was developed as part of a research project of the Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research and is part of the doctoral thesis of Fabienne Kilchör. The police will be available soon on Extraset.ch, and other pictograms on other themes will be developed.
language  symbology  symbol  graphic_design  code  archaeology  archives  metadata 
7 days ago
If we talk about hurting ‘our’ planet, who exactly is the ‘we’? | Aeon Essays
Confronting the Anthropocene, in Africa and elsewhere, requires fresh sources of imagination. And these sources must be found at the frontlines of planetary transformation – from the urban advocates for cleaner air and water, to intellectuals who challenge European and North American paradigms for studying the world. That’s why Africa plays a huge role not only in our planet’s present, but also in its future, as the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe, the Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and other African scholars have argued. Africa is the continent where population growth is projected to be the highest. It contains 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Some pockets of Africa lie at the forefront of decentralised energy systems (such as solar power) that promise to mitigate climate change. And that’s only for starters.

If the Anthropocene is to have real value as a category of thought and a call to action, it must federate people and places, not just disciplines. It requires thinking from, and with, Africa. ‘They’ are ‘us’, and there is no planetary ‘we’ without them.
anthropocene  planetary_urbanism  globalization 
12 days ago
History of the Book
The History of the Book is a networked resource focused on the production and reception of materials related to the history of the book and literacy technologies, broadly conceived. This ongoing project is being developed by Professor Johanna Drucker, working with staff and students based at UCLA to provide an online environment for research and learning. The project is pedagogical in its aims, but also, in its method. Some of the exhibit materials were developed by students in the MLIS program in Information Studies at UCLA, and some by faculty or research scholars.
books  material_texts  book_history 
12 days ago
A rare and toxic age – Increment: Energy & Environment
This, perhaps, is where the most heavy-handed of threads runs from the open-pit mines of Inner Mongolia to the content mines of Silicon Valley, and why it is worthwhile to think about them as part of the same continuum: At the end of the day, the dominant business models of networked platforms benefit from the same externalizing of harms as something that happens somewhere else, to someone else, and in service of a greater social good. (Silicon Valley’s namesake is a legacy of this business model: The chip manufacture that defined the San Francisco Peninsula region well into the 1980s bore dozens of toxic environmental harms for a mostly immigrant workforce, and while manufacturing has moved offshore, its toxic waste persists in 19 of the region’s Superfund sites.)...

This is not to say that the tailings dams of Inner Mongolia and the smartphone surveillance made possible in some part by those tailings dams have identical adverse effects on society or landscapes. But they are both models of a particular paradigm of extractive control and power. ...

Systems promised as emancipatory for everyone often have an exploitative, extractive cost borne by someone. While the visible harms and geographies are vastly different, addressing toxic harms requires similar ideological shifts toward viewing those harms as interconnected with their unevenly distributed benefits—a shift toward viewing their repair as a fuller, more holistic pursuit of that promised emancipation.

It also requires a longer historical timeline and analysis than the one afforded by the shallow time scale of our so-called Information Age—a phrase as misleading as the one applied to the rare earths that underpin it. It would be convenient, and poetic, to cast aside the moniker of Information Age for a Rare Age, calling back to the extractive eras of Bronze and Iron to define this relatively brief one. But abandoning the comfort that comes with displacing damage into distant landscapes also means reckoning with the convenient poetry of magic dust and the idea that there is anything unique or rare about an age fueled by colonialist fictions and extractive regimes. If anything about this age is rare, perhaps it is the possibility that our fraught networked systems have finally reached such a unique point, with their environmental and social consequences so visibly intertwined, that they have become impossible to ignore.
geology  media  supply_chain  extraction  mining 
12 days ago
21 Years of Peace, 21 Million Documents: Revisiting the Digital Portal to the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional | Tex Libris
How can we process 80 million pages of historical documents?

The question is a philosophical one, about the ability of our minds to conceive of such a large number of documents. The Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive, AHPN) in Guatemala City contains about eighty million documents, or about 135 years of records from the National Police of Guatemala.

According to one estimate, that means the collection requires about three-quarters of a mile worth of shelf space. In comparison, the Gabriel García Márquez collection at the Harry Ransom Center takes up about 33.18 feet of shelf space. The Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa Papers at the Benson Latin American Collection take up about 125 feet.
archives  digitization  genocide  guatemala 
20 days ago
What Was Liberal Education? - Los Angeles Review of Books
Crucially, just as is the case with learning language, the actualization of rational powers in general requires socialization, apprenticeship, training, imitation, or, more broadly, education (paideia). One learns how to be a flute player, citizen, scientist, historian, or philosopher, as well as how and why these things matter, only through interaction with others. Interaction — imitation, training, habituation — is central to human flourishing. It is for this reason that Aristotle observes in the Nicomachean Ethics that the right kind of friend — one with whom one shares a friendship of virtue rather than a friendship of convenience (as in business dealings) or a friendship of pleasure (as in drinking buddies) — is a second self or soul. The point is that the actualization of distinctively rational powers takes place here essentially in conversation and interaction, as friends continuously talk about and practice their activities....

What has really happened, since the advent of modern industrial-technical economies and despite their manifold, massive contributions to human productivity, health, and welfare, is the collapse of a form of social life in which paideia was relevant. As Charles Taylor puts it, elaborating a thought of Hegel’s, we have come to live within a form of individualism in which... norms as expressed in public practices cease to hold our allegiance.
education  liberal_arts  Dewey 
21 days ago
https://archivesagainstamnesia.com
We often picture archives as rare documents and artifacts—precious and too often unseen collections that preserve our history. But increasingly, concerned citizens, as well as professionals, find themselves desperately grasping the present—tweets, websites, sounds, smells, blood, and bodies—before it vanishes or is furtively swept away. Archives expose past actions that buttress our current crises and hand us tools to dismantle barriers to justice.

In our symposium and linked events, practicing archivists, engaged scholars, and interdisciplinary artists will share projects from guerrilla archiving of climate data to mining corporate records for evidence of organized violence. Join us for three days of lectures, panels, film screenings, and exhibits.
archives  indigenous  preservation  conference 
22 days ago
The People's Court | Urban Omnibus
Van Buren and others say restorative justice spaces should feel comfortable and approachable, rather than imposing and authoritative. Peacemaking circles are used for decision making, problem solving, and conflict resolution in different communities, from schools and families to the work place and the criminal legal system. A fundamental tenet of these circles is that each person has a change to speak.
justice  media_architecture  architecture  law 
24 days ago
Ursula K. Le Guin: A Rant About "Technology"
Its technology is how a society copes with physical reality: how people get and keep and cook food, how they clothe themselves, what their power sources are (animal? human? water? wind? electricity? other?) what they build with and what they build, their medicine - and so on and on. Perhaps very ethereal people aren't interested in these mundane, bodily matters, but I'm fascinated by them, and I think most of my readers are too.

Technology is the active human interface with the material world.

But the word is consistently misused to mean only the enormously complex and specialised technologies of the past few decades, supported by massive exploitation both of natural and human resources.

This is not an acceptable use of the word. "Technology" and "hi tech" are not synonymous, and a technology that isn't "hi," isn't necessarily "low" in any meaningful sense.
technology  media_history 
26 days ago
The Campus Speech Wars | Public Seminar
Put conservative texts on your syllabus when and where they are appropriate. Students are often awakened to a passion for conservatism by compelling authors — Booker T. Washington, Barry Goldwater, Stephen Carter, Ayn Rand, Phyllis Schlafly, William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman are but a few examples of primary texts I have used, but secondary texts are important too. Why shouldn’t students who are liberal, or radical, read these authors? Why shouldn’t they understand the ideological differences in your field? Indeed, many of your conservative students don’t know some of the key authors that their views are grounded in. Having your students talk about their beliefs through a common text is a basic humanities skill.
Don’t refer to conservative views as “unpopular.”  It’s patronizing, it undermines the notion that such views are based on real ideas, and–I hate to tell you–these views are actually popular somewhere, if not in your classroom.
When you do teach conservative texts, don’t tell the class that they need to read them so that they “will know how the enemy thinks.” I can’t tell you how many times a colleague has dismissed some of my syllabus content by making that remark. In fact, see what you can do to eliminate, and
teaching  pedagogy  conservatism 
26 days ago
Metrocalypse now: Do smart cities really live up to their names?
Smartness, transformation, and renewal have felt - to put it gently - elusive. In a way, it was instead a year to admire the resilience of our cities against the grand schemes of programmers, policymakers and the high priests of transformation. I say without cynicism that there is no small relief in this. The failure - or at least the postponement - of the grand is also the survival of the ordinary and the everyday; the survival of citizens over cities; of infrastructures of everyday dignity over big, signature, spectacular projects; of incremental change over instantaneous transformation; of the bazaar over the mall, the shared auto over the expressway, survival over smartness.

Yet watching smart cities become familiar, ordinary and blockaded rather than the dramatic disruptions they were meant to be is not a cause for celebration, not even with the darkest sense of humour or the deepest ideological difference. No one wins when public policy stutters. What this moment must become then is, at the very least, an opportunity. The 'we' who read this magazine have a chance, once again, for humility....

In all the time we talked about smartness, he might ask: what all did we not talk about? What is it that we could have been talking about?

We did not talk about the value, for example, of squatting. Slow, incrementally and self-built housing is the primary way in which most urban Indians find, build and occupy space in our cities. ...

We could remind ourselves of the centrality of repair and retrofit that could help us change our relationship to the small 'i' of infrastructure, allowing us to imagine more than just the digital drawings of brand-new, people-less landscapes with glittering bullet trains, expressways and glass buildings. ...

We could take the chance to think about how to consolidate rather than build anew. We could ask how our existing systems of service delivery-whether in health, education, transport, water or sanitation-could be connected with each other instead of ignoring existing (if informal) means of accessing services.
smart_cities  urban_intelligence 
27 days ago
Scientists Replicated 100 Psychology Studies, and Fewer Than Half Got the Same Results | Science | Smithsonian
fewer than half of 100 studies published in 2008 in three top psychology journals could be replicated successfully. The international effort included 270 scientists who re-ran other people’s studies as part of The Reproducibility Project: Psychology, led by Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia.

The eye-opening results don’t necessarily mean that those original findings were incorrect or that the scientific process is flawed. When one study finds an effect that a second study can’t replicate, there are several possible reasons, says co-author Cody Christopherson of Southern Oregon University. Study A’s result may be false, or Study B’s results may be false—or there may be some subtle differences in the way the two studies were conducted that impacted the results.

“This project is not evidence that anything is broken. Rather, it’s an example of science doing what science does,” says Christopherson. ...

“Scientific evidence does not rely on trusting the authority of the person who made the discovery,” team member Angela Attwood, a psychology professor at the University of Bristol, said in a statement “Rather, credibility accumulates through independent replication and elaboration of the ideas and evidence.”...

The findings also offered some support for the oft-criticized statistical tool known as the P value, which measures whether a result is significant or due to chance. A higher value means a result is most likely a fluke, while a lower value means the result is statistically significant.

The project analysis showed that a low P value was fairly predictive of which psychology studies could be replicated. Twenty of the 32 original studies with a P value of less than 0.001 could be replicated, for example, while just 2 of the 11 papers with a value greater than 0.04 were successfully replicated.

But Christopherson suspects that most of his co-authors would not want the study to be taken as a ringing endorsement of P values, because they recognize the tool’s limitations...

Unfortunately there are disincentives to pursuing this kind of research, he says: “To get hired and promoted in academia, you must publish original research, so direct replications are rarer. I hope going forward that the universities and funding agencies responsible for incentivizing this research—and the media outlets covering them—will realize that they’ve been part of the problem, and that devaluing replication in this way has created a less stable literature than we’d like.”
methodology  statistics  experimentation  replication 
28 days ago
Noora – Tartu, Estonia - Atlas Obscura
Noora, the new main building of the National Archives of Estonia, opened in February 2017. It’s remarkable in many respects. Its walls contain a trove of archived pieces of the past, strung together in a web of storytelling and written records, but the historic records are just one piece of Noora’s appeal....

Noora holds yet another piece of experiential art. A unique audio device called The Lilt is integrated into the building and creates sounds based on the building itself and the movement of the people inside, which are used as activating impulses that initiate musical rhythms from a chord matrix. As people mill about, it gives the piece an unpredictable and labyrinthine nature. It’s as if the archive itself is symbolically giving its own version of history by recording the daily happenings within the building.
media_architecture  estonia  sound_space  archives 
29 days ago
Edutopia
What design thinking ultimately offers is not evolution, but the look and feel of progress — great graphics, aesthetically interesting configurations of furniture and space — paired with the familiar, gratifying illusion of efficiency. If structural and institutional problems can be solved through nothing more than brainstorming, then it’s possible for macro-level inputs (textbooks, teacher salaries) to remain the same, while outputs (test scores, customer service) improve. From the perspective of capitalism, this is the only alchemy that matters.... Design Thinking for Educators urges teachers to be optimistic without saying why, and to simply believe the future will be better. The toolkit instructs teachers to have an “abundance mentality,” as if problem-solving is a habit of mind. “Why not start with ‘What if?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong?’” they ask.

There are many reasons to start with “What’s wrong?” That question is, after all, the basis of critical thought. Belief in a better future feels wonderful if you can swing it, but it is passive, irrelevant, and inert without analysis about how to get there. The only people who benefit from the “build now, think later” strategy are those who are empowered by the social relations of the present.

The same people benefit when analysis is abandoned in favor of technical solutions — when the long history of education for liberation, from Freire to the SNCC Freedom Schools to Black Panther schools to today’s Radical Math and Algebra projects (none of them perfect, all of them instructive) is ignored....

Given the data, perhaps it would be more revolutionary, more innovative — more forward-thinking — if, instead of free idea toolkits, IDEO built a system that ensured that every child, rich and poor, had access to these beautiful new schools. There is one simple, elegant solution: make them free and public, and tax rich business owners like Rodríguez-Pastor to pay for them....

But one laptop per child can’t lift communities out of poverty, because technology is not an alternative to wealth redistribution from the top 1 percent to the bottom 99. There is a disconnect between what we imagine technology and education can do, and what they actually do....

For Skinner, as well as for corporate education reformers, knowledge is static and students are passive recipients; efficient transmission of information is the goal of education. And technology is the means by which we make the transmission process faster, cheaper, smarter. Gifted children are best served by moving individually at their own pace, “slow students” move at theirs, all in isolation....

And even in neurotic post-Sputnik America, parents tended to share a belief in the broadly humanist model of education. In 1960, the National Education Association (NEA) found it necessary to release a statement reassuring concerned mothers that while mechanical aids were now part of a modern classroom, they would never be the mode of instruction. “NEA Allays Parent Fears on Robot Teacher” was the headline in the Oakland Tribune....

“Innovation” is almost always invoked by elites to ignore class conflict, to the point that some leftists have come to be wrongly but understandably suspicious of modernization altogether. Experts from Edison onward called enthusiastically for the incorporation of film and radio in classrooms without accounting for the fact that, as historian David Tyack points out, there were still tens of thousands of American schools that lacked electricity well into the 1960s. ...

The fact is, education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It is nothing like building a spaceship. It is a social and political project that the neoliberal imagination insists on innovating out of existence. The most significant challenges faced today in education are not natural obstacles to be overcome by increasing productivity — they are man-made struggles over how resources are allocated....

Khan Academy is a fine way to practice math problems or learn a didactic skill. What it is not is innovative in pedagogy or design. As a system of education it is a failure. It degrades both student and teacher by deemphasizing the importance of interpretation and critique in education, just like design thinking does.

...Gates has called for austerity in public education, repeating the familiar argument that for thirty years we’ve been spending money while performance by American children remains flat. What we need to do, he says, is raise performance without spending more by changing the way money is spent. To that effect, Arne Duncan asked a room full of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors last year, “Can we find ways to scale the amazing teachers we do have?” Systems that “scale” retain quality under an increased workload. Modifying teachers to scale would mean replacing them with robots or computers....

Teachers who encourage resistance are essential sources of support and guidance for kids. People do not learn to think critically and construct meaning in isolation — which is the assumption behind the trend of textbooks that respond individually to each student and allow them to move at their own pace. People argue, discuss, play, experiment, and converse. And, as Delpit writes:

Only those who are authentically and critically literate can become the independently thinking citizens required for any society’s evolution. The opportunity to achieve such levels of literacy is even more critical for those whom the larger society stigmatizes. . . . When people of color are taught to accept uncritically texts and histories that reinforce their marginalized position in society, they easily learn never to question their position.

Learning as a group is not a painless process. A good teacher knows her students well, respects them and earns their respect in return, and challenges them to aim for the highest reaches of what Vygotsky called “the zone of proximal development” — their potential....

When we imagine successful teaching as instruction of X number of people achieving Y level of fluency, we redefine it — whether done by human or machine — from a social (and potentially political) to a merely technical act....

Teachers must continue to be able to help children think critically about the ways that reality is reshaped by technology and changes in the mode of production. How will children who take Google for granted understand research and inquiry?
design_thinking  methodology  education  teaching  pedagogy  neoliberalism  educational_media 
29 days ago
How cities can use machine learning to track citizens - Curbed
Whyte’s Street Life Project was a revelation. Whyte offered nuggets not of gold, but of actionable data, which helped shape city policy: peak versus off-peak activity, average densities, walking patterns. Called “one of America’s most influential observers of the city,” Whyte’s insights and hard-earned wisdom informed New York’s 1969 city plan, helped revise its zoning code, and turned once-squalid Bryant Park into a prized public space.

What’s inspiring and a little mind-boggling about Whyte’s process is that until relatively recently, planners still practiced that type of time-consuming manual observation. Infrared cameras and other technologies have been around for years to make data-gathering easier. But often, going beyond surveys, personal observations, and educated guesses required hand counts and film study.

With smartphones in our pockets, and smart city technology increasingly embraced by local leaders, it may seem like we’re already awash in a flood of urban data. But that’s a drizzle next to the oncoming downpour that may radically transform our understanding of cities and how they function. Two rapidly rising technologies—computer vision and machine learning—offer the potential to revolutionize understanding of urban life....

Planners will use all that data to ask questions, and make decisions, about people, says Justin Hollander, a professor at Tufts University who runs the Urban Attitudes Lab and explores the intersection of design and technology. Human-centered design, as pioneered by urbanists such as Jan Gehl, will enter a new phase. It will threaten traditionally analog methods of design, turning planning into more of a science.

“When I worked as an urban planner, we did the best that we could to shape buildings, streets, and sidewalks to meet environmental and economic development goals,” says Hollander. “But we never got into the head of the people who used these spaces.”...

WeWork’s level of vertical integration—the same company designs, remodels, and operates the space—explains why they’ve embraced this technology in ways that standard architecture firms haven’t. As owners, they can react to the data and fix areas that are underperforming, a luxury available to few other designers. They can also anticipate user needs: By feeding data through machine-learning algorithms, they can predict how much a particular proposed meeting room will be used before it’s even built.

Capturing intent, and then creating a circular relationship between designing and building—analysis, design, evaluation, then redesign—suggests how this technology can lead to more human-focused design and urban planning....

As Aggarwala’s company begins outreach, planning, and eventually design for its smart city project in Toronto, the most high-profile effort to build a neighborhood “from the internet up,” he says one of the guiding factors is designing a natural space for pedestrians. Crossings should feel safe. Pavement with embedded LED lights could change color based on changing uses, offering subtle cues. Dynamic wayfinding and signage, which showed directions to coffee shops in the morning, will switch in the evening to highlight nearby restaurants and bars. Adaptive traffic signals will recognize pedestrians, cyclists, and transit vehicles at intersections to improve safety, and an autonomous shuttle might ferry residents across the neighborhood. He wants to design something so interactive and understanding that people will put down their phones....

if changes to the city’s physical landscape are made in parallel with changes in usage and demographics, it would represent a shift in urban planning, policy, and budgeting. A team of researchers from MIT, Harvard, and the National Bureau of Economic Research published a study that used years of Google Street View imagery and machine learning to identify the physical improvements that increased perceptions of neighborhood safety over time (including population density, a higher proportion of college-educated adults, and a higher proportion of Hispanic residents living in the neighborhood). Apply those findings in reverse, and cities could track neighborhoods and adjust to future safety issues before they become serious problems.

“Now, we’ll finally be able to adjust capital plans and budgets with actual data,” he says. “You can win arguments because you have the numbers. In the past, it was just about doing what’s been done in the past, because that’s safe. Nobody could attack you for that, until now.”

Scaling these technologies to the city level, and blanketing an entire neighborhood with cameras and sensors (what Aggarwala and others have described as a “digital layer”), requires extensive infrastructure spending and bandwidth costs. Toronto has the advantage of Sidewalk Labs funding development and data collection—and the privacy concerns that come with a private company gathering unprecedented amounts of information about the public. ...

The company recently designed its own monitor and camera—housed in a PVC pipe, it looks a bit like a cup dispenser—that can be affixed to any utility pole or street sign. A low-cost solution, which recently won an award as one of the top five most promising technologies at the international Smart City Expo World Congress, it’s already been installed in four U.S. cities, with three more regions in the planning stages....

In Numina’s short existence, it’s already helped cities start that data-design feedback loop. In Jacksonville, Florida, a city with one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the U.S., Numina sensors were set up at a dozen intersections. At one site, near a bus station, constant monitoring discovered that, amid the bustle of passengers arriving and boarding, there was one pathway pedestrians repeatedly took to jaywalk. The city thought it might need to redesign the entire intersection. Instead, data showed the most quick and effective fix was creating a mid-block crossing with $30 worth of paint....

Sussman has been focused on figuring out how humans react to architecture on a more unconscious level. By staging photo comparisons, and tracking minute facial reactions, she’s gained a better understanding of the kinds of design that make us happy: active and busy fenestration patterns, like the ones found in Paris and Boston, engage viewers. Symmetry, like the canals of Amsterdam, calms, while large, blank facades, like those found on some Brutalist buildings such as Boston’s City Hall, confuse, since they don’t offer more information when viewers get closer, an innate expectation of our reptile brains.

Hollander, who collaborates with Sussman, has taken this line of experimentation and inquiry even further, with experiments that tested the health and well-being of people in certain areas and neighborhoods.... Using an array of biometrics, including electroencephalograms (EEGs), to measure brain activity and facial analysis, he tracked whether certain improvements and renovations made any difference in how people felt about the buildings....

Aggarwala argues that systems being developed now would actually have much more potential privacy protection than the video projects of William H. Whyte: All they need for analysis is a figure’s outline, which can provide information without compromising anybody’s individual identification. Planners and designers can still create cities and spaces that feel “like any other place, but better,” without violating privacy.

As the physical world becomes more digital, we will find ourselves facing the same issues exploring the sidewalks as we do using a web browser: What’s the right balance between privacy and convenience, or personalization and surveillance?
machine_learning  machine_vision  urban_data  smart_cities  urban_planning 
29 days ago
Meet the woman confronting public figures with their immigrant histories - A Beautiful Perspective
I spend a good portion of every day immersed in the stories of immigrant Americans. It’s very close to the surface for me. I see every single day that the people who now call themselves Americans and nobody questions their Americanness are descended from people who did not call themselves Americans originally.

I thought, This is easy. I know how to do people’s trees, and there’s no reason I can’t start doing the trees of these public figures. I don’t need their permission. So, I just started doing it. It was hilarious how easy it was to find hypocrisy. You barely have to scratch the surface and it’s right there.  

Whose trees have you done?

The first thing I did that got traction on social media was when President Trump made fun of and derided Senator Chuck Schumer for crying when the Muslim ban was enacted. I just looked at interviews he had done, and he had given an interview to the New York Times where he talked about how seven of his great-grandmother’s nine children were killed in the Holocaust. I tweeted that, and it got picked up and went viral.

The next one I did was when Stephen Miller gave that White House press briefing and talked about immigration policy and how they were going to favor immigrants who spoke English. So I looked up his great-grandmother in the 1910 census. Sure enough, there she was and there was a column in which the enumerator had to mark if they spoke English or not and if not which language they spoke. His great-grandmother had been here for four years, and she still couldn’t speak English. So, I pointed that out on social media and people got a kick out of that....

What’s the message of #resistancegenealogy?

If you know anything about American immigration history, every single generation looks down on the last generation of immigrants and insists that these new immigrants are inferior and can’t possibly become American. It’s just exhausting to have to point this out over and over again. That these same people who see themselves as such quintessential Americans, their ancestors were at one point exactly the kind of newcomers who they’re now saying have no right to be American, aren’t going to fit in in America, aren’t up to snuff. It’s just ridiculous....

The [Dan] Scavino tweet took hold in a way that none of the previous ones really had. I was bowled over by how appreciative people were of the time I took to just show: “Oh really, you want to talk about chain migration? I’ll show you how chain migration works, and it looks just like what your family did.”
genealogy  archives  archival_research  immigration  resistance  research  methodology 
29 days ago
BBC Radio 4 - Archive on 4, The Medium Is the Message
Generation X author Douglas Coupland explores the ideas, sound and vision of media seer Marshall McLuhan who in the 1960s coined the phrases "the medium is the message" and "the global village".

Marshall McLuhan was the first great prophet of what would become digital mass media and indeed the global media village - a thinker and writer of near supernatural foresight.

Trained as a literary scholar, throughout his career McLuhan not only examined the relationship between form and content in the media itself, offering dazzling arguments for the importance of medium over content, but anticipated the very idea of online networks, virtual reality, multiple interfaces, social media and most importantly of all, how new technologies rewire us by stealth, endlessly transforming our identities and our communities. "We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us," he said.

Drawing on cutting-edge thinking about networks and cybernetics, McLuhan foresaw a fully wired, connected world, which would bring to an end the isolated consumption of print. New cross-border (effectively online) communities would form, breaking old political barriers, creating genuinely new kinds of electronic identity. But with this McLuhan offered a warning: older ideas of privacy and the self would evaporate under new media he said, leading to the rise of
media_theory  McLuhan  radio  my_work 
29 days ago
City of Barcelona Kicks Out Microsoft in Favor of Linux and Open Source
A Spanish newspaper, El País, has reported that the City of Barcelona is in the process of migrating its computer system to Open Source technologies.

According to the news report, the city plans to first replace all its user applications with alternative open source applications. This will go on until the only remaining proprietary software will be Windows where it will finally be replaced with a Linux distribution....

For this to be accomplished, the City of Barcelona will start outsourcing IT projects to local small and medium sized enterprises. They will also be taking in 65 new developers to build software programs for their specific needs....

With this move, Barcelona becomes the first municipality to join the European campaign “Public Money, Public Code“.

It is an initiative of the Free Software Foundation of Europe and comes after an open letter that advocates that software funded publicly should be free. This call has been supported by more than about 15,000 individuals and more than 100 organizations. You can add your support as well. Just sign the petition and voice your opinion for open source.
smart_city  open_source  urban_operating_system 
4 weeks ago
Hollinger Metal Edge - Since 1945!
The quality leader in Archival Products since 1945
archives  tools  materiality 
4 weeks ago
Digital Field Methods - Casey Boyle
Emerging media technologies have fundamentally altered how we research, communicate, and share knowledge about our “objects” of scholarly study. In addition to offering more modes for discussing those objects–image, sound, video, data visualization, etc.—emerging media technologies also contribute new techniques of measurement that help open up fields of wider activity as available for study. For instance, rhetorical scholars, using new and emerging media, can expand the study of a traditional political protest beyond the words of speeches by also gathering and collecting ambient data from that object’s field that includes images, sounds, network usage, interviews, traffic patterns, architectural structures, and a great many more points of research. In short, the distinctions between object and field are themselves at question and, in part, invented by our research practices. What these revelations mean for today’s humanities researcher is that deploying emerging media technologies for academic research presents a number of ethical challenges (ethics in both practical and responsible senses) for doing quantitative research (such as numerical data & visualizations) as well as qualitative research (digital ethnography and/or ambient research collection). This course aims to inquire into those ethical challenges by practicing digitally-based field methods that will help students establish responsible, accessible, and sustainable research projects.

In this course, students will practice digital methods, first and foremost, as a mode of invention. To accomplish this, students will learn to use digital media for collecting research data, selecting data for making research claims, and re-collecting research for online, digital publication. Students taking this course will read and respond to a number of texts and be responsible for leading a class presentation, complete ongoing notes, compose field reports, and complete a semester-long multimedia research project.
methodology  syllabus  rhetoric  field_guide  my_work 
4 weeks ago
A Rough Sketch for a Video Essay as Design Criticism—Jarrett Fuller
The video, or film, essay gained popularity in the 1950s and 60s that trades typical narrative plots for themes and investigations. Drawing inspiration from Orson Welles, Charles and Ray Eames, and film critics working today, I explore how the video essay can be used to further design criticism online and bring critical writing about design to different audiences.
video_essay  multimodal_scholarship 
4 weeks ago
Rhode Island hopes putting artificial intelligence lab in library will expand AI's reach
The University of Rhode Island is taking a very different approach with its new AI lab, which may be the first in the U.S. to be located in a university library. For URI, the library location is key, as officials hope that by putting the lab in a shared central place, they can bring awareness of AI to a wider swath of the university's faculty and student body.

“When you have an AI lab in a specific college, the impression is that access is only for students of that college,” said Karim Boughida, dean of libraries at the University of Rhode Island. “Even if students are told they can use the space, there may be a percentage that may feel unwelcome, or that it is ‘not for me.’ In the library it will be different,” said Boughida.

Inclusivity in AI is important to Boughida. Recent media reports of racist chat bots, faulty facial recognition software and racist criminal profiling have already pointed to the kind of issues that can arise when you don’t have a diverse group of people working on the technology of tomorrow. ...

“Within the MIT context, the role of the libraries in supporting AI and machine learning is less about providing the kind of exploratory lab that URI libraries are creating and more about reconceiving our collections as data that can be used to train machine-learning algorithms,” said Bourg.
artificial_intelligence  libraries  information_literacy 
4 weeks ago
Exploitation Forensics. Interview with Vladan Joler – We Make Money Not Art
The exhibition presents maps and documents that SHARE Lab, a research and data investigation lab based in Serbia, has created over the last few years in order to prize open, analyze and make sense of the black boxes that hide behind our most used platforms and devices.

The research presented at Aksioma focuses on two technologies that modern life increasingly relies on: Facebook and Artificial Intelligence.
data_visualization  artificial_intelligence  Facebook  infrastructures  networks 
4 weeks ago
Engine Failure
I want to build a non-commercial search engine that makes its biases visible. If you think about Google, its architecture is based on using hyperlinks as an index of relevance. It’s based in large part on popularity—the more people link to your site, the higher your rank.

When Sergey Brin and Larry Page first started figuring out how their search engine would work, they borrowed their ideas from library and information science practices, and in particular from citation analysis. Citation analysis is a way of assessing the alleged importance of scholarship. The logic is that if you are cited by someone else, then your work is relevant.

But citation analysis fails in many ways because it doesn’t tell us whether your work is being argued against rather than supported....

It also doesn’t often pick up voices in the margins, where people are writing in small fields that are not represented by powerful journals or publishing houses. The metrics used don’t capture all of the ways that knowledge is being created and disseminated....

Simply pointing to something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s legitimate or credible or valuable...

where content shows up in search engine results is also tied to the amount of money and optimization that is in play around that content. So we are operating on many flawed assumptions... One big porn company that owns thousands of websites will have those sites link to each other extensively, in order to bolster those sites’ rankings and dominate a number of keywords. They can also buy interesting combinations of keywords that will guarantee that they will control the representation of women in search...

That’s what happens when we take human decision-making out of knowledge management. We don’t have cataloguers on the web the way we do in a library. Instead, we have people designing algorithms that exert tremendous power over our society but who, quite frankly, have very little understanding of our society....

When you go to Google, it’s just a simple box against a simple background. And that conveys, through its aesthetic, the idea that there’s nothing going on. Its design logic is so simple: type in a word, and you’ll get something back. It implies that you don’t need to know what’s going on “under the hood,” so to speak....

Whenever they click some fake news story posted by Macedonian teenagers, Facebook makes money. It doesn’t matter what the content is—so long as the content circulates. Virality and clicks generate revenue for the platform....

I think things will only spiral out of control, and we will increasingly see automated decision-making systems and other forms of artificial intelligence emerge as a civil and human rights issue that we cannot ignore....

profit-driven platforms produce algorithmic racism, algorithmic sexism, and misinformation. Broadly, they are producing a democratic deficit in the digital sphere. So what are some possible solutions? Should we think about trying to reform these companies from within? Should we think about regulation? Nationalization? Building alternatives?...

It’s obviously very self-serving for these companies to say they’re tech companies. They create and solicit and circulate media, day in and day out, but they don’t want to take responsibility for it....

Government has the power to push firms. When you tell them they’re going to lose access to an entire marketplace, they’re going to make it happen.

State influence cuts both ways, of course. In other kinds of markets, companies cut different kinds of deals in order to uphold oppressive regimes. In Turkey, Facebook routinely takes down any material that relates to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), because that’s a condition of them doing business in Turkey.

Technology can be manipulated to serve a variety of different visions. The political question is which vision will win.
google  search  citation  credibility  censorship  harrassment 
4 weeks ago
The Stories We Were Told about Education Technology (2017)
Platforms are, in a sense, capitalism distilled to its essence. They are proudly experimental and maximally consequential, prone to creating externalities and especially disinclined to address or even acknowledge what happens beyond their rising walls. And accordingly, platforms are the underlying trend that ties together popular narratives about technology and the economy in general. Platforms provide the substructure for the “gig economy” and the “sharing economy”; they’re the economic engine of social media; they’re the architecture of the “attention economy” and the inspiration for claims about the “end of ownership.”
platforms  educational_media 
4 weeks ago
Photomosaic Maps of the Allied Invasion of Italy | Worlds Revealed: Geography & Maps at The Library Of Congress
In World War II, the Allies opened an offensive against Fascist Italy in 1943 after successfully defeating German and Italian forces in North Africa. The Allies first captured Sicily and then launched Operation Avalanche, a plan devised to seize the port of Naples, thus ensuring the Allies could resupply, and then to cut across to the east coast of the Italian boot, thereby trapping the German troops further south.

The Geography and Map Division holds rare photomosaic maps used in the planning of the invasion. The S. R. Carvo World War II map collection contains two rare photomosaic maps of the western Italian coast, along with numerous road maps of Italy. Carvo’s personal connection to the materials and his role in the war have not been ascertained by the Library.
maps  cartography  photography 
5 weeks ago
From Stone to Street: Biography of a Currier & Ives Lithograph | Kirstin Purtich | Visualizing 19th-Century New York
Although it is difficult to summarize the diverse output of the firm founded by Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives as New York’s eminent “printmakers to the people,” this extant lithograph stone (FIG. 1) offers insights into the complex process of manufacturing and marketing of each Currier & Ives print. Most of the firm’s equipment was liquidated when Currier & Ives closed in 1907, but fortunately a few stones, such as this one depicting a well-known clipper ship, survive to this day. By tracing the biography of a print pulled from this stone, I aim to provide a brief portrait of the production and consumption of Currier & Ives’s extensive stock of printed images.

Made from Bavarian limestone, this stone would have been prepared in one of Currier & Ives’s factory buildings. The firm occupied 2 Spruce Street from 1838 to 1865, but 33 Spruce became the firm’s manufacturing headquarters from 1866 on. According to Harry Peters’s 1929 history of the firm, Currier & Ives dedicated the fourth floor of 33 Spruce Street to the first stages of their print production process, providing an open workspace for collaboration between artists, lithographers, and printers.1 Some%2...

Once the black ink had dried on a set of prints, they would be transported to the building’s fifth floor, where a team of mostly German immigrant girls applied watercolor washes to each individual impression. Sitting at a long bench, these female colorists worked from a model print, usually colored by one of the firm’s resident artists. Each worker was responsible for an individual color in each print.
printing  lithography  media_history  media_city  new_york 
5 weeks ago
Prosperous Partnership: Edward and Henry Anthony’s Production of “Instantaneous Views” | Virginia Spofford | Visualizing 19th-Century New York
Stereoviews—three-dimensional images formed through the replication of human binocular vision (see Spofford, “The Scientific ‘Magic’ Behind Stereoviews’ 3-D Realism“)—originated as European imports, but American entrepreneurs quickly recognized their potential as a new dramatic and entertaining form of photography and began producing them stateside. Edward and Henry T. Anthony ran a successful business manufacturing and selling stereocards and stereoscope apparatus, which became well known throughout the United States and across the Atlantic. The brothers began in 1856 with a photographic equipment and supply store at a major commercial intersection on Broadway, but the opening in 1860 of the architecturally grand Stereoscopic Emporium further uptown fully established E. and H. T. Anthony & Company as a notable destination for shoppers. The stereoscopic images mass produced at their New York manufactories circulated across the globe thanks to a variety of successful distribution and marketing methods, including a brick and mortar storefront, catalogue orders, and print advertisements. Anthony & Co.’s “Instantaneous Views,” highly detailed photographs ...

Teams of workers spread throughout different departments, completing a variety of steps to produce professional-grade photographic materials and a wide selection of the latest equipment designs (FIG. 1). Stereocards required handling by more than fifty people before they reached the retail shelves, and an administrative staff was also required to handle the large number of purchases from catalogues mailed to potential customers.6 Anthony & Co. hired employees based on their ability to effectively complete specific designated tasks in the assembly process and thus created a diverse staff, including women and some with disabilities, unlike many other contemporary businesses. Henry Anthony also developed custom recipes for producing albumen with heightened photographic sensitivity and for achieving a glossy finish that would not discolor their images, and these innovations made their products stand out from those of competitors. ...

The extensive catalogue of Anthony & Co. images, taken by either company or commissioned photographers, documented locations across the globe and democratized knowledge by allowing Americans to see distant places for an affordable price, all without leaving their parlors....

In addition to their contributions to the photographic industry in the form of technology and products, the Anthony brothers sought to positively influence the photographic field and profession through active involvement. They encouraged widespread participation in photography among people on all levels by offering training in their publications and establishing an amateur organization.
photography  media_city  stereoscope  media_history 
5 weeks ago
“Sunshine and Shadow”: Visualizing the Sensational Metropolis in the Illustrated Press and Guidebooks | Virginia Fister | Visualizing 19th-Century New York
Mid-century New York City was a mystery to those who were unfamiliar with its stratified society, contrasting neighborhoods, and diverse populations. City guidebooks and illustrated newspapers offered to decode these urban complexities for readers struggling to understand the rapidly expanding metropolis.1 To enliven their descriptions of the city, the authors and illustrators added theatrical sensationalism with themes of light and darkness in text and image. These contrasting images, representing the richest and poorest sections of the city, appealed to a middle-class audience fascinated by tales of both the opulence and the depravity in New York. Many of the guidebook names, such as Sunlight and Shadow in New York and Lights and Shadows of New York Life, indicate how central the contrasting images were to these depictions of the city.2 Likewise, by midcentury, Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper featured woodcuts that juxtaposed light and dark scenes.3 These scenes allowed the guidebooks and pictorial newspapers to construct a simplified vision of a metropolis riven by two classes, divided by a moral geography, and populated by social types. 
media_city  new_york  print  guidebooks 
5 weeks ago
“The Harper Establishment”; or, How a New York Publishing Giant Was Made | Martina D’Amato | Visualizing 19th-Century New York
It was Bogardus’s “completely fire-proof” buildings that author Jacob Abbott chose to highlight in the popular 1855 book The Harper Establishment; or, How the Story Books Are Made, an account of the construction of the new premises, its structural and mechanical innovations, and the state-of-the-art machinery located within it.4 The complex, which covered ten city lots, would have made for an impressive show to passersby. The main building at 331 Pearl Street, adjacent to what was then Franklin Square, bore a completely iron façade; it housed the headquarters and offices of the brothers, space for artists and writers, and floors devoted to publication storage and shipment, and the Cliff Street structure contained every facet of the printing process and the factory’s labor force. ...

Abbott’s book gave Harper & Brothers an opportunity to present to readers an account of the firm’s innovative factory production at a time when the public was starting to take more than a passing interest in burgeoning industrial and technological innovations. As historian Vanessa Meikle Schulman has argued, the medium of print, specifically engraving, could combine reality and artistic imagination to craft an image that was in some ways even more revealing of truth.6 An engraving in the book depicting a cutaway of the Cliff Street building is one such example where the artist took the liberty to give readers a view into the structure that was physically impossible but singularly revealing of the building and the industry that took place on each of its seven floors (FIG. 3). Bogardus’s novel bowstring girders, the arched beams bearing the weight of every floor’s columns, are visible at the top of each floor and were unique in their use as both structural and decorative elements....

from the “great composing-room” on the top floor, where compositors are seen setting type for books and periodicals, to the many presses on the first floor above the basement, the paper drying racks on the second floor, and finally the folding, sewing, and book-finishing and binding machines. The cross-sectional image also hints at the company’s division of labor. The dozens of mechanical apparatuses represented give a sense of just how innovative and paradigmatic the business was by midcentury, housing the latest rapid printing presses and commanding an enormous workforce.
media_architecture  media_city  printing  books 
5 weeks ago
About | Visualizing 19th-Century New York
Accompanying the 2014 Bard Graduate Center Visualizing 19th-Century New York exhibit is this digital publication that offers a spatial interface to the exhibit materials by placing objects, landmarks, and central themes on Matthew Dripps’ Map of the City of New York (1852). These spacial tags are connected to essays that explore objects and themes in the exhibition, like bird’s-eye city views and technical processes such as stereoscopic photography, as well as related historical topics, including the spectacle of Broadway or how oysters became a popular food among all classes of New Yorkers.

This digital publication includes two interactive microsites that further explore the evolving visual genres and technologies that were used at the time. “Behind the Scenes” examines the varying technical processes used to produce these popular products and the workers who made them. “Broadway and Ann” focuses on the key intersection where P. T. Barnum’s American Museum stood, along with other important urban attractions.
mapping  digital_humanities  labor  new_york  urban_history  print  print_culture  photography 
5 weeks ago
CEDUS - A 'City Enabler' for Digital Urban Services
CEDUS, the City Enabler, is a project led by Engineering Ingegneria, a leading Italian ICT company with more than 9,000 employees, for the European Institute of Innovation in which Geographica – together with Telefónica, Atos and the Bruno Kessler Foundation – has participated developing smart dashboard for the cities that allow to analyze and visualize the information collected in a simple way, thus contributing to better decision making.

It consists of a solution for cities that is responsible for searching, collecting and analyzing geolocated data using both public and private sources related to the different institutions and/or companies involved in the city management. Subsequently, it allows predicting future behaviors based on historical and even designing maps that reflect the information collected. It is a project based on FIWARE, with great integration easiness that is already being implemented in several European cities.
CEDUS has added value, eliminating the barrier that normally exists between information that reaches citizens and companies and providing value to citizens and different interest groups thanks to the use of open data. This contributes to the economic growth of the city.
smart_cities  dashboards 
5 weeks ago
Podcast / Harvard GSD Urban Theory Lab
We are delighted to launch our podcast series through a dialogue with Matthew Gandy, Professor of Geography at University College London. Matthew Gandy is an urbanist who writes about cities, landscape and nature. He is the author of, among many other works, Concrete and Clay: Reworking Nature in New York City (MIT Press, 2002) and The Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity and the Urban Imagination (MIT Press 2014), as well as a number of highly influential articles in the field of critical urban political ecology. In this conversation, we discuss his work on urban metabolism, cyborg urbanization and urban political ecology, as well as his recent engagement with urban wastelands and the question of urban biodiversity....

Our dialogues on the urban question continue this Fall, beginning with a wide-ranging discussion of urban epistemology and critical theory with Ananya Roy, Professor of City and Regional Planning and Distinguished Chair in Global Poverty and Practice at the University of California Berkeley. Through her powerful critiques of mainstream urban ideologies and her forceful arguments in favor of a postcolonial urbanism, Ananya Roy has animated the field of urban theory with a wide range of new concepts, epistemologies and horizons for both research and action. Her books include City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the Politics of Poverty (University of Minnesota Press, 2003), Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global (co-editor with Aihwa Ong, Blackwell, 2011); and Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development (Routledge, 2010). Her latest book, Territories of Poverty (co-edited with Emma Shaw Crane), is forthcoming later this year from the University of Georgia Press.
scale  methodology  posthumanism  resilience  urban_studies  cyborgs 
5 weeks ago
Machine Project 2010/11: A Report - Hammer Museum
Between 2010 and 2011, artists collective Machine Project produced more than seventy-five on-site programs and installations for the Hammer Museum’s Public Engagement Artist-in-Residence (A.I.R.) program. During the residency, Machine Project examined and utilized nontraditional spaces like the museum’s lobby, a central staircase, and even the coatroom. It also investigated different ideas of audiences—from intimate, focused performances for one or two audience members to dispersed, ambient spatial pieces with no formal audience. Highlights of the residency include an overnight Dream-In in connection with the Hammer’s exhibition The Red Book of C. G. Jung: Creation of a New Cosmology, Live Personal Soudnt, in which visitors were presented with the option of “checking out” a musician to follow them around the exhibition while playing live music that only that visitor could hear through headphones; Houseplant Vacation, in which visitors were invited to bring their houseplants to the museum for a month long cultural retreat; and a set of tennis tables that activated our terrace with people and sound. (The last work, Sound piece for the Hammer Museum, 2010, was acquired by the museum and still resides on the terrace.)

Now, a year later, we offer a report on the residency, co-authored with%
workshops  pedagogy  conferences 
5 weeks ago
Visualizing the Uncertainty in Data | FlowingData
Data is a representation of real life. It’s an abstraction, and it’s impossible to encapsulate everything in a spreadsheet, which leads to uncertainty in the numbers.

How well does a sample represent a full population? How likely is it that a dataset represents the truth? How much do you trust the numbers?

Statistics is a game where you figure out these uncertainties and make estimated judgements based on your calculations. But standard errors, confidence intervals, and likelihoods often lose their visual space in data graphics, which leads to judgements based on simplified summaries expressed as means, medians, or extremes.

That’s no good. You miss out on the interesting stuff. The important stuff. So here are some visualization options for the uncertainties in your data, each with its pros, cons, and examples.
data_visualization  methodology  uncertainty 
5 weeks ago
What Is It Like to Be a Bee? - Atlas Obscura
Think of all the other things able to perform complicated tasks that we’re pretty sure aren’t conscious. Robots do everything from juggle to play the piano, but, as far as we know, are “dark” inside. Like bees, Roomba vacuum cleaners make decisions, navigate around the world, and adapt—but there’s probably nothing it’s “like” to be one of them. And plants have been shown to have a kind of memory: Over time, for example, they can learn that being repeatedly dropped isn’t anything to freak out about. But few suggest they possess consciousness.

“I think this is one of the problems with the behavioral approach, is that it encourages this looking for very clever things,” says Klein. “Whereas if consciousness is a widespread phenomenon, you should expect that it might be in a lot of different types of things that don’t necessarily do the things that we take to be markers of consciousness.”.

If behavior can’t enough tell us about the inner life of a bee, perhaps the structure of their sesame seed–sized brains can. In a human brain, key studies suggest consciousness lies in the midbrain, an evolutionarily much older section. In a study published last year, Barron and Klein investigated the structure of the bee brain, which seems to be made up of similar bits to our own, with a region responsible for similar tasks. “It’s smaller, it’s organized differently, it’s different-shaped, but if you look at the kind of computations it does, it’s doing the same sort of things as the midbrain,” Klein says. “So if you think in humans the midbrain is responsible for being conscious, and you think this is doing the same kind of thing, then you ought to think insects are conscious as well.”

This biological approach opens up consciousness to a variety of other organisms that don’t do the clever things that bees do, like beetles or potato bugs. They might be less obviously interesting, but that doesn’t make them less likely to be conscious. The technology that allows us to examine insect brains on a neuron-by-neuron level is very new, Barron says. “If they really are instinctive, then we’re learning something about what the insect brain is capable of. If they’re not, then we’re learning something more profound.”

The technology also allows us to map the brains of organisms that we think probably aren’t conscious, and assess what they lack.
consciousness  intelligence  other_species  animals 
5 weeks ago
Distant Reading after Moretti | Lauren F. Klein
In fact, Ahmed’s structural critique of harassment helps show us how these issues are all related. Generalized racism and sexism, as well as the more specific issue of sexual harassment, each result from the same disparities of power, and other structural inequalities, that enable larger cultures of violence and oppression. There are many ways that this interrelation can be manifested, and structural power reinforced. Not all of these ways are easily explainable, or even traceable to a single source. But here is one example that can be quickly (if somewhat essentially) described: that flaw in prosecution that I mentioned just a minute ago, in which the actors, networks, and systems that enable harassment remain in place? This flaw leads to workplace environments that are unwelcoming (if not outright hostile) to women and other minoritized groups. But it’s those very same people who would otherwise be best positioned to identify and challenge the instances of sexism, or racism, or other forms of oppression that they see—not only in their institutional environments, but also in their scholarly work. Without those voices, conceptual structures, as well as institutional ones, remain securely in place, unchallenged and unchanged.

To put the problem another way: it’s not a coincidence that distant reading does not deal well with gender, or with sexuality, or with race. Gender and sexuality and race are precisely the sorts of concepts that have been exposed and interrogated by attending to non-dominant subject positions. And like literary world systems, or “the great unread,” the problems associated with these concepts, like sexism or racism, are also problems of scale, but they require an increased attention to, rather than a passing over, of the subject positions that are too easily (if at times unwittingly) occluded when taking a distant view...

I think we need to start with our corpora. We need to assemble more corpora—more accessible corpora—that perform the work of recovery or resistance. An example: the corpus created by the Colored Conventions Project, which seeks to recover and aggregate evidence that documents the Colored Conventions of the nineteenth-century United States...

Because the view from a distance, is, of course, as much of a view from a particular place as a view from up close. And it may very well be that a distant view that is trained on power, and that is self-reflexive about the forces that enable it—cultural and conceptual as well as computational—can contribute, significantly, to the project of dismantling structural power.
gender  sexism  methodology  distant_reading 
5 weeks ago
The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain | USGS I-map 2781
The North America Tapestry of Time and Terrain (1:8,000,000 scale) is a product of the US Geological Survey in the I-map series (I-2781). This map was prepared in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Canada and the Mexican Consejo Recursos de Minerales.

This cartographic Tapestry is woven from a geologic map and a shaded relief image. This digital combination reveals the geologic history of North America through the interrelation of rock type, topography and time. Regional surface processes as well as continent-scale tectonic events are exposed in the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension, geologic time. The large map shows the varying age of bedrock underlying North America, while four smaller maps show the distribution of four principal types of rock: sedimentary, volcanic, plutonic and metamorphic.
mapping  cartography  geology 
5 weeks ago
It's Nice That | Animation: Celyn's super film celebrates Vitra's Barber Osgerby-designed table
There are many ways you can go about telling the world how great a table is. You can use technical specifications, photogenic models or testimonials from design world heavyweights. But this is the best way to do it as far as we’re concerned; get illustrator and animation director Celyn to produce a lovely 2D film showing how the Barber and Osgerby designed Vitra Map Table can play an integral role in the creative world. Individualy many of the aspects seem simple – including the storyline of a young woman developing her own studio and the visual elements themselves – but taken as a whole it all comes together to create seething both charming and communicative. Lovely stuff.
furniture  intellectual_furnishings 
6 weeks ago
What Apple’s New Office Chairs Reveal About Work In 2018
The pitch around the design wasn’t that it was technical or flashy. Rather, the idea was that it was “quiet,” with soothing curves that could blend in anywhere, even a home. Ive perked up, raised an eyebrow, and said, “That’s interesting.” Several months later, Apple became the first customer for the Pacific Chair, which it ordered for every work station in its 12,000-person campus designed by Foster + Partners.

Barber Osgerby’s idea for a calm office chair was, of course, catnip for Ive, who has strived to make Apple’s design so simple as to seem “inevitable.” But even more than that, the calm office chair was a reflection of a paradigmatic shift in our attitudes toward work. The Pacific Chair is meant to blend in with and defer to an interior design, in a way that office chairs almost never do. Compare it to the Aeron Chair, which came out in 1994 and looks the exact opposite of calm, and you get a microcosm of how radically our ideals about work have changed in the past three decades.

In the 1990s, we still assumed that your best work was done at your desk, so you needed a machine heavily engineered for your comfort. That was the Aeron: a machine whose exoskeleton was meant to conform to your own, so that you could sit for hours on end in supreme comfort. Today, you may have noticed, the prevailing ideal is that you spend most of your day collaborating with other people, that meetings and conference calls are the center of the workday. What quiet time you do have is spent wherever suits your mood. “Younger generations are spending a lot of time at work, so we’re trying to create a residential vibe"...

Moreover, there’s a sense in which offices are being designed to flatter the way that millennial workers would like to see themselves: Not as office drones, but creative types with side hustles and Instagram followers. The offices that companies aspire to, says Orpilla, are those that look creative and make workers feel like they’re part of a creative organization....

The Aeron’s mesh and reclining mechanism spawned dozens of patents. To emphasize how carefully the Aeron had been engineered for computer programmers, Stumpf and Chadwick cast it in a monolithic gray, meant to evoke industrial machinery. To emphasize how radical this new worker was in the new pecking order of the corporate world, they did something else radical: They eliminated the typical hierarchy found in office chairs. Even to this day, most task chairs come in a low- and high-backed version, which are descended from low-backed secretarial chairs designed for upright typing, and high-backed chairs for senior (male) managers who lean back and listen to the middle managers reporting to them. The Aeron, by contrast, didn’t hit the market with any finish options. There were only three sizes, to fit people’s bodies. “The Aeron was anti-status,” adds Olivares. “It was about comfort and posture and blood flow and health. That story is gone from the Pacific.”...

“Yes, there are people who argue that the freelance economy brings insecurities, and that there’s no guarantee of a job forever,” he conceded. “But isn’t that a relief? With that instability comes the flexibility to feel more human.” Osgerby mentioned that in his own work, he’s noticed that younger people who come on job interviews are more often concerned with their days off than their pay. “Our generation needs to get our heads around this. The subsequent generation is going to sit different than we did 20 years ago.”
office_culture  furniture  intellectual_furnishings  ergonomics  labor 
6 weeks ago
Sensory Studies in Antiquity – News, views and resources for Sensory Studies of the Ancient World
Sensory Studies in Antiquity is a site promoting studies of the senses in the ancient world, from prehistory to late antiquity, and across the Graeco-Roman world. The open network was organised following the Senses of the Empire conference (organised by Eleanor Betts and Emma-Jayne Graham) in 2013 and the Religious Movement and Sensory Experience in Antiquity conference (organised by Rebecca Littlechilds and Jeffrey D. Veitch) in 2015. The research area of Sensory Studies includes a variety of academic disciplines across the humanities and sciences, and the Sensory Studies in Antiquity network seeks to facilitate and promote research carried out across these disciplines. In an effort to foster continuing engagement between the various scholars within the network, the Multitudo workshop provides an experimental laboratory environment for discussion. Sensory Studies in Antiquity focuses on the Graeco-Roman world, bringing together classicists, ancient historians and archaeologists working on various aspects of the senses, sensory experience and related fields. 

Sensory Studies in Antiquity is an open forum for discussion and promotion of academic events relating to sensory studies of the ancient world. If you would like to participate as a blog author, or if you have a publication or event to
archaeology  sound  sensory_history  sensation 
6 weeks ago
Nine Eyes of Google Street View | Net Art Anthology
Nine Eyes of Google Street View is both an archival project and a conceptual meditation on the state of photography in a time of automated imagemaking on a massive scale.

In 2008, Jon Rafman began to collect screenshots of images from Google Street View. At the time, Street View was a relatively new initiative, an effort to document everything in the world that could be seen from a moving car. A massive, undiscerning machine for image-making whose purpose is to simply capture everything, Street View takes photographs without apparent concern for ethics or aesthetics, from a supposedly neutral point of view.

Rafman conducted a close reading of Google Street View and began to isolate images from this massive database, publishing them on blogs, as PDFs, in books, and as large C-prints for gallery exhibition. In so doing, he reframed them within longer histories of photography and painting, raising questions about the meaning and function of these images and their implications for artists and image-makers....

“STREET VIEW PHOTOGRAPHY, ARTLESS AND INDIFFERENT, WITHOUT HUMAN INTENTION, ASCRIBES NO PARTICULAR SIGNIFICANCE TO ANY EVENT OR PERSON.”...

Rafman’s screenshot compositions reinsert meaning to these functional images through the artist’s simple act of selection, and through their remediation as artist’s books and prints.
photography  archives  street_view  google 
6 weeks ago
Psychic Liberation: Fine Art’s Sound Lab Makes Waves of Noise - ArtCenter College of Design
Meysami’s piece is part of Summer 2017 live student performance night Communistation, hosted by Fine Art’s new Sound Lab, a hub of sonic creation founded by Fine Art faculty, sculptor and sound artist David Schafer.

“Sound is a material, similar to paint, wood, metal, steel or clay,” says Schafer, sitting in the Lab’s first-floor room in the 870 Building at ArtCenter’s South Campus, surrounded by posters, vinyl records and long colorful audio cables. “Sound is formless and can affect us emotionally, physically, physiologically, mentally. Like with a material, you can cut up sound. You can reshape it. You can layer it. You can compress it.”

“The Sound Lab is very open to all kinds of experimenting with the making, recording and processing and manipulation of all kinds of sound,” adds Schafer, who this coming Fall term will teach Advanced Sculpture, Studio Practice and Professional Practices for Artists.
sound  sound_art  materiality 
6 weeks ago
Thomas Sopwith - Scientist of the Day - Linda Hall Library
Thomas Sopwith, an English geologist and mining engineer, was born Jan. 3, 1803. Thomas’ father was a cabinet maker, and Thomas thought of making that his own career, entering into an apprenticeship, before giving up woodworking in favor of geology and mining. Ordinarily, cabinet making is not too useful for a geologist, but in Thomas’s case, it was just the ticket. Around 1840, Sopwith got the idea of making geological models for instructional use, where the layers of rock are represented by different kinds and colors of wood. He visited William Buckland, the prominent geologist at Oxford (and the discoverer of the first dinosaur), who gave him feedback about what kinds of models would be useful in the classroom. In 1841, Sopwith went into production. He manufactured dozens of different kinds of stratigraphic models, sculpted out of wood, and sold them, packaged into boxes disguised to look like thick books. They were apparently quite popular–sets survive today in the Whipple Museum and the Sedgwick Museum at Cambridge, at the Oxford Museum, and at the Natural History Museum in London (first image).  We also show one of the individual models, depicting dislocation of strata (second image).   A set sold at auction at Christie’s in 2000, bringing a sizable sum (third image). One of%
geology  models  pedagogy  teaching_technology 
6 weeks ago
Don't Be Evil
New Communalists. Between 1966 and 1973, we had the largest wave of commune building in American history. These people were involved in turning away from politics, away from bureaucracy, and toward a world in which they could change their consciousness. They believed small-scale technologies would help them do that. They wanted to change the world by creating new tools for consciousness transformation.

This is the tradition that drives claims by companies like Google and Facebook that they are making the world a better place by connecting people. It's a kind of connectionist politics. Like the New Communalists, they are imagining a world that’s completely leveled, in which hierarchy has been dissolved. They’re imagining a world that’s fundamentally without politics.... When you take away bureaucracy and hierarchy and politics, you take away the ability to negotiate the distribution of resources on explicit terms. And you replace it with charisma, with cool, with shared but unspoken perceptions of power. You replace it with the cultural forces that guide our behavior in the absence of rules....

The folks associated with the commune movement—particularly Stewart Brand and the people formerly associated with the Whole Earth Catalog—begin to reimagine computers as the tools of countercultural change that they couldn't make work in the 1960s....

Apple is, in some ways, very cynical. It markets utopian ideas all the time. It markets its products as tools of utopian transformation in a countercultural vein. It has co-opted a series of the emblems of the counterculture, starting as soon as the company was founded.

At other companies, I think it's very sincere. I've spent a lot of time at Facebook lately, and I think they sincerely want to build what Mark Zuckerberg calls a more connected world. Whether their practice matches their beliefs, I don't know.

About ten years back, I spent a lot of time inside Google. What I saw there was an interesting loop. It started with, “Don't be evil.” So then the question became, “Okay, what's good?” Well, information is good. Information empowers people. So providing information is good. Okay, great. Who provides information? Oh, right: Google provides information. So you end up in this loop where what's good for people is what's good for Google, and vice versa. And that is a challenging space to live in...

Engineering culture is about making the product. If you make the product work, that’s all you’ve got to do to fulfill the ethical warrant of your profession. The ethics of engineering are an ethics of: Does it work? If you make something that works, you’ve done the ethical thing. It’s up to other people to figure out the social mission for your object. ... So I think that engineers, at Facebook and other firms, have been a bit baffled when they’ve been told that the systems they’ve built—systems that are clearly working very well and whose effectiveness is measured by the profits they generate, so everything looks ethical and “good” in the Google sense—are corrupting the public sphere. ...

Engineering-based firms that are in fact media firms like Facebook are really struggling to develop new ethical terms for managing the encounter they’re having....

Engineers try to do politics by changing infrastructure.

That’s what they do. They tweak infrastructure. It’s a little bit like an ancient Roman trying to shape public debate by reconfiguring the Forum. ...

Any whole-system approach doesn't work. What I would recommend is not that we abandon technology, but that we deal with it as an integrated part of our world, and that we engage it the same way that we engage the highway system, the architecture that supports our buildings, or the way we organize hospitals....

structure matters. Design is absolutely critical. Design is the process by which the politics of one world become the constraints on another. How are those constraints built? What are its effects on political life?

To study the politics of infrastructure is to study the political ideas that get built into the design process, and the infrastructure’s impact on the political possibilities of the communities that engage it....

The startup culture we have now only really begins in the 1980s—and with it, the project-based work style emerges. That’s when a premium starts to get placed on people who can pump out ninety hours a week and don't have kids and also have the most recent technical training from places like Stanford and Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon and Harvard. ...

In that kind of world, a man who is a gatekeeper with a lot of power may imagine that a young woman can be manipulated like a switch on a computer. That she’s part of a system that they can control and manage. And they have a need—a need to be gratified. ...

Dreiser’s Chicago became a place that people used to think through the consequences of the rise of industry. All sorts of things that weren't unique to Chicago, like immigration, became things that people thought about in that space.

I think the Valley is where we do our thinking now about gender and sexuality. How people do sexuality has changed enormously with the introduction of new media. ...

One of the legacies of the counterculture, particularly on the left, is the idea that expression is action. This idea has haunted those of us on the left for a long time.

But one of the reasons that the Tea Party came to power was that they organized—they built institutions. So the challenge for those of us who want a different world is not to simply trust that the expressive variety that the internet permits is the key to freedom. Rather, we need to seek a kind of freedom that involves people not like us, that builds institutions that support people not like us—not just ones that help gratify our desires to find new partners or build better micro-worlds.
silicon_valley  ideology  fetishism  facebook  google  infrastructure  labor 
6 weeks ago
“My Working Will be the Work:” Maintenance Art and Technologies of Change – The New Inquiry
We might venture to expand the field once more, and place these maintenance artworks in a more explicit story about technology. In her influential book More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave, Ruth Schwartz Cowan takes pains to remind us that the modern industrialized household is intimately dependent on the large technological systems of modernity. No plumbing, electricity, gas means no housework. No access to the manufacture of tools and appliances, textiles and packaged foods means no dinner on the table. These artworks show us how the larger technological world as the public sphere, which Ukeles and Rosler contrast with a degraded private sphere, is itself intimately dependant on the invisible labor and technological systems of the home and the invisible labors of maintenance.

Recontextualizing of the labor and tools of housework, and the slightly unsettling effect this has on audiences, is the most important feature of both Ukeles’ and Rosler’s works. They give the viewer a little glimpse of the power that has, ironically, been vested in the home and its laborers by the public sphere that insists, indeed depends, on the private remaining private. These caches of unseen power, levers that can move an economy in their numbers, are also technological levers that rely on tools and systems that have been degraded and devalued because of their connection to maintenance labor.

Ukeles and Rosler remind us the invisible labor of women and marginalized people ensures that those permitted in the public sphere, white able-bodied men, are properly clothed and housed and supported and separated from waste so that they can innovate in comfort. By surfacing this labor and critiquing the ways it has been made invisible, Ukeles and Rosler prefigure scholarly critiques about the labor of women and marginalized people and the hidden histories of maintenance technology that support a public culture of innovation...

Obsession with innovation over preservation is an obsession with those who are allowed to innovate and an indifference to those who are made to maintain. It’s not just an aesthetic matter of what kind of labor seems more appealing; it’s a power structure that requires the domination of others in order to “maintain the change” created by the innovators.
maintenance  feminism  repair  innovation 
6 weeks ago
Future Fail | Jacob Silverman
When modernity arrived, with its bet that human agency would grow ever smarter, ever sleeker, its apostles told us that our visions of a new world order should reflect both the way we live now and the kind of world we hope to make. But somewhere along the line, “the future” has gone from a promise to a threat, stripped even of the caveat that the righteous shall be saved.

The Shitty Futurists have noticed. The people who know that the future is shitty have realized what many have not: things didn’t have to be this way, and it’s too late now....

These markers of imperial decline sit awkwardly, to put it mildly, alongside the social mythology that billows out from Silicon Valley, the country’s dream factory of capitalist striving. The VC titans of Sand Hill Road are entrusted with the critical business of inventing our future. But what has the future given us, except a yardstick by which to measure our disappointments? ...

There’s a boyish greed in our oligarchs’ futurism. You can hear it when Elon Musk, in response to a question about his involvement with a Trump economic advisory board, says, “I’m not trying to be anyone’s savior. I’m just trying to think about the future and not be sad.” A thought-leader with a child’s imagination, Musk—who finally resigned his Trump sinecure after the president exited the Paris climate change agreement—may be the supreme proselytizer of the futurist faith. His solution to mass extinction and climate change is to create a “backup drive” of 1 million human colonists on Mars. Musk’s vision of making humans a “multi-planetary species” requires something more than the usual dose of magical thinking. Beyond the problems of getting there and terraforming the planet, the weak gravity on Mars would progressively destroy the health of any humans who survived the trip. But the Mars-as-humanity’s-future fiction is a lot more comforting if a person sees the present planet as disposable, a world-building experiment that will eventually run its course.

These are the men who, along with their retinue of geeks, scientists, military propagandists, marketers, and other rainy-day prognosticators, prop up the dream of a redemptive future, shuffling it around like the title character in Weekend at Bernie’s....

But where the Shitty Futurists see the many failures of gadget-driven progress as cause for some long-overdue collective humility, and perhaps even a renewed spirit of collective reform, prophets of the mogul class insist that the problem is that they’re not deploying their genius on a larger social canvas. According to Thiel and his Founders, the only remedy for our ennui is to place big, bold bets on companies engaging in important research in areas like aerospace, biotech, AI, energy, and the internet. ...

Always expecting a technological miracle in the next product cycle, supplicants at the shrine of VC futurism fail to see that we already live in an advanced stage of innovation, and it’s miserable. Ecological collapse, the pitiless exploitation of natural resources, the witless forward march of planned obsolescence, the industrialization of mass surveillance, the militarization of American society, Gilded Age inequality and a dysfunctional political system perpetuating all of the above—this is the present reality bequeathed to us via every technological fantasy concocted over the last half-century. We live in someone’s idea of the future, and it is shit....

“Instead of trying to locate our problems in the context of our own irresponsible actions,” Kapoor writes, “the solutions are externalised in the form of technology. Since the problems are solved with the aid of technology in the future, responsibility for the same problems in the present is evaded.” This kind of thinking reveals the ironic poverty of imagination among so many futurists. They imagine sci-fi solutions to every problem without any consideration of practical or political constraints, and thus they fail twice. They don’t want single-payer healthcare; they want to cure death for themselves and make apps for the rest of us. They don’t want free public transport on trains and buses; they want individual self-driving pods that can be summoned at will, with oppressive surge-pricing. ...

They have even less sense about how the other half—or 99.8 percent—lives. As Kapoor notes, futurist rhetoric “has little or no relevance to a majority of the people of the world.” Smart homes do nothing for people without homes or who only get a few hours of electricity per day. Futurism furnishes market-based thinking without any acknowledgment of other belief systems (except as threats to be maniacally extinguished). Nor does it see any areas of life immune from commoditization.
internet_of_things  futurism  dystopia  silicon_valley 
6 weeks ago
The View from the Blue House: Balancing and redistributing ‘additional’ academic work
I’m finding that managing my workload is becoming increasingly difficult. A big part of the issue is an endless stream of requests for work that extends beyond my usual workload. Since January I’ve been keeping a list of such requests. Here’s a summary table of the number and type of request – the list doesn’t include university business/committees, circular spam requests/calls, already existing board commitments, follow-on requests to re-review, requests for copies of papers/info, requests for reviews of novels, my own journal editing work, and student references.
academia  workload  labor  advising 
6 weeks ago
The 1970s Xerox Conference That Predicted the Future of Work | WIRED
Bob Taylor, who ran PARC’s Computer Science Laboratory that had helped develop the Alto system, was pleased to have a chance to show Xerox executives the breakthrough that today would be called a personal computer. He believed that the machines would be transformational, eliminating much of what he called the “drudgery of office work” and freeing office workers “to attend to higher-level functions so necessary to a human’s estimate of his own worth.” Some 400 Altos had already been installed throughout Xerox, and the computers were so popular that there was talk of instituting sign-up sheets....

At the start of the presentation, the house lights went down. A film appeared on the screen. “Here is our future, the modern office. Our opportunity,” a voice intoned as the camera scanned past earth-tone fabric wall art hung over an earth-tone sofa in the PARC lobby. “Beneath the chrome and coordinated colors lurk huge problems, for this office is little changed in generations.”

A voice then boomed: “The shape of tomorrow may be here today. Yes, welcome to the all-Xerox office system we call Alto.” With that, several PARC researchers took the stage to begin the demonstration.

Working remotely with a team back in Palo Alto, the presenters showed how a computer could edit documents, draw bar charts, toggle between software programs, and pull up documents and drawings from stored memory. They highlighted text on screen, remotely collaborated with others on far-away Altos, completed expense forms electronically, forwarded them for processing, typed in foreign characters, sent emails, and printed documents....

The Alto represented a different class of machine. The hobby computers were modeled on the big computers, but the Alto was modeled on a vision of interactivity and ease of use promulgated by Bob Taylor and his mentor J.C.R. Licklider.

Long after Futures Day, Xerox president David Kearns would call the presentation of the Alto a “technological extravaganza,” saying that “people told themselves that they had seen the future of our technology, and it was impressive.”

But the team from PARC saw no such zeal after the presentation. Instead, they noticed that during an interactive, hands-on session, it was the wives, not the Xerox executives, who sat in front of the Altos, working at the keyboards and experimenting with the mice. The husbands, unimpressed and associating typing with clerical women’s work, stood around the perimeter of the room with their arms crossed. ...

But the reaction that Taylor witnessed among the assembled executives—a mix of indifference, incomprehension, and rejection—is understandable. Xerox made most of its profit selling paper. The California upstarts were insisting that work in the office of the future would be centered on screens, which would leave paper’s future uncertain.
office_culture  paperwork  computing_history  administration  clerical_work  gender  paper 
6 weeks ago
David Katz’s Psychological Atlas (1948) – SOCKS
David Katz’s Psychological Atlas (1948), is a collection of drawings, photographs, diagrams, and charts used by the author, a renowned psychologist and professor at the University of Stockholm, to illustrate his lectures. The work was published with the intention of “arousing a zeal for the study of psychology”.

As stated in the foreword, the author, invited to speak to an unspecialized audience ‘about the method and the subject matter of psychology’ discovered that ‘the use of graphic material (…) aroused their interest and served to illustrate his points’.

Over a period of many years he collected many graphic materials whereby to illuminate these popular lectures as well as to stimulate his university students to acquire a deep stored of knowledge about principles and methods in the study of behavior

The images (around 400) are grouped under the themes of “General Psychology”, “Character and Topology”, “Developmental psychology”, “Physical Handicaps”, “Medical Psychology”, “Occult Phenomena”, “Applied and Animal psychology” and, finally “Eminent Psychologists”.
presentation_images  atlas  affect  embodiment  psychology 
6 weeks ago
The First Iteration — THE SITE MAGAZINE
How we understand territories and nation-states—more importantly how we imagine them—depend on how we map them. This reciprocal relationship between the formation of nation-state and mapping has been well discussed in the past. Apart from the influential ‘Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Intervention’ by landscape architect James Corner, numerous recent publications discuss this relationship between mapping and power. Publications such as The Cartographic State: Maps, Territory, and the Origins of Sovereignty by Jordan Branch (2); Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology, and Politics by Laura Kurgan (3); and The Birth of Territory by Stuart Elden (4) each address this reciprocal relationship between mapping and power. They all highlight the complex reciprocal relationship between the two. These publications highlight not only the potency of maps in serving power, but equally point to the possibility of deploying mapping to radically re-imagine the nature of nation-states.

This critical mapping of the DMZ between North and South Korea interrogates this very possibility. This speculative ‘First Iteration’ research aspires to be a harbinger for subsequent speculative projects. As a first step, this research project aims to provide multiple perspectives to the current discussions around the DMZ and its future. This
map_art  critical_cartography  borders 
6 weeks ago
Could Facebook Be Tried for Human-Rights Abuses? - The Atlantic
Today, the company has to reckon with its role in passively enabling human-rights abuses. While concerns about propaganda and misinformation on the platform reached a fever pitch in places like the United States in the past year, its presence in Myanmar has become the subject of global attention. During the past few months, the company was accused of censoring activists and journalists documenting incidents of and posting about what the State Department has called ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya minority. Because misinformation and propaganda against the Rohingya apparently avoided the community-standards scrutiny afforded activist speech, and because of the News Feed’s tendency to promote already-popular content, posts with misinformation aiming to incite violence have easily gone viral. Experts describe Facebook’s role in the country as the de facto internet, which gives all of their actions and inactions on content even greater influence on politics and public knowledge....

That’s partly because it’s extremely unlikely that Facebook (or the other big platforms) will ever be deemed legally liable or legally compelled to accountability for playing a significant role in human-rights abuses around the world. Even posing the question of a platform’s legal culpability for human-rights abuses seems a quixotic pursuit, based on the reaction when I’ve brought it up with attorneys and human-rights advocates. The apparent absurdity of pursuing legal accountability seems to have less to do with the innocence or guilt of platforms and more to do with the realities of human-rights law, which has a poor track record with regard to corporations in general and which is uniquely challenged and complicated by tech platforms in particular....

Then again, Wong noted, “I do think in general Facebook has not fully grappled with the harms that its platform can contribute to” when it serves as a population’s de facto internet and, therefore, central source for information. Acting as foundational communications infrastructure, of course, doesn’t make the company responsible for the content on the site, hateful as it may be. The operator of German printing presses wasn’t sentenced to execution at Nuremberg, the editor of Der Stuermer was, and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects platforms from liability for content posted by users on the platform....

Even hard proof of complicity and material gain doesn’t always translate into a successful suit depending on the time lapsed since the abuses and the jurisdiction of the lawsuit. To this day, IBM has never been successfully sued for its role in the Holocaust, partly due to jurisdictional disputes and statutes of limitations. During World War II, several of IBM's European subsidiaries supplied the Nazi regime with punch-card technology that was used to facilitate the Final Solution in all its bureaucratic horror, from tracking the trains used to transport Jews to concentration camps to providing the rudimentary foundation for the infamous numbered tattoos at Auschwitz. (IBM has never disavowed these facts; it only disputes the claim that their New York headquarters had full knowledge of their subsidiaries’ actions.)...

“We are humbled by the many ways we see people use Facebook in Myanmar. Maintaining a safe community for people to connect and share on Facebook is absolutely critical to us,” Budhraja responded when asked if Facebook believes they have a responsibility to address manipulation of the platform in settings where state-supported human-rights abuses are taking place.

But when asked how the company frames that responsibility—as a moral, ethical, legal, or business concern—Facebook had no on-the-record response. The company’s public language of “open platforms” and “social infrastructure” to support sharing make for great Zuckerberg chestnuts, but like many other major tech platforms the company doesn’t seem capable of openly reckoning with or articulating what it means to be a powerful political actor in a major conflict—and this might have something to do with the fact that the only real consequences they face are bad PR and not loss of market share or legal liability...

Yet to simply point at the unintentional automated wreckage or demand piecemeal repairs to the monstrous machinery of platforms feels like giving in to the fatigue and sorrow of a vacuous world in which everyone is sorry and no one is responsible. It is exhausting to live in a time when power is not only something companies abuse but a force inadvertently unleashed by well-intentioned engineering teams, as pure and innocent as Pandora faced with an irresistible box of technical puzzles or (depending on the particular hubris of the company in question) as benevolent as Pandora’s doomed brother-in-law Prometheus, simply trying to bring lowly mortals treasures that they were wholly unprepared to wield. What laws can punish the innovation—nay, the generosity—of endowing the world with such accursed gifts? So we throw up our hands and post our discontent, we mourn, we attend to the next crisis, and the next, and the next, and the next. We muddle through knowing that the gods of Silicon Valley are doing the best to tame monsters of their own conjuring, but can neither contain nor answer for continued collateral damage.

But at the end of the day, the corporate campuses of Menlo Park and Mountain View hold neither gods nor monsters. They hold merely, mostly, men—men who, for now, primarily answer to a court of public opinion for the violence and horror their platforms repeatedly enable. Men who will wax poetic about “community” and “social infrastructure” while essentially building a plausibly deniable advertising engine. Men who are, as they are in so many other sectors of public life right now, due for a real reckoning with real consequences.
facebook  human_rights  infrastructure 
7 weeks ago
American reams: why a ‘paperless world’ still hasn’t happened | News | The Guardian
Ts’ai lun, a Chinese eunuch and privy councillor to Emperor Ho Ti, gets the credit for inventing what today we recognise as paper, in AD105. The basic formula remains unchanged. Some fibrous material – rags or wood – is mashed up, mixed with water to make pulp, then strained through a screen. Matted, intertwined fibre remains, held together by the same hydrogen bonds that twist DNA into a helix. This is dried and cut into paper.

The technology spreads from Asia through the Arab world, eventually landing in Europe circa 950. All the glory goes to Gutenberg for his printing press of 1440, but his metal movable type would have been nothing more than an oversized doorstop if there had been no paper for it to press upon. Paper historian Dard Hunter states the case clearly: “If man may now be considered as having reached a high state of civilisation, his gradual development is more directly due to the inventions of paper and printing than to all other factors.”

It is all the more shocking, then, how many times paper’s death knell has tolled through the halls of universities, corporations, governments, newsrooms and our own homes. ...

But there’s more to paper than printing and writing. Market trends session No 2 focused on global paper-based packaging and recovered fibre, where the outlook is much brighter. There is talk of an “Amazon effect”, paired with a slide showing several boxes within boxes and paper padding used to ship one tiny bottle of vitamins. Big Paper is learning to sustain itself by encasing e-commerce gold. The internet taketh away, and the internet giveth.

You’re seeing more paper in food and drink packaging, too. RISI chalks this up to increasingly negative public attitudes toward plastic packaging. Plastic-bag bans and taxes are popping up all over the place. RISI illustrates the trend with a photo of a sea turtle ensnared underwater in plastic wrap.

And then there’s tissue. It may not be the first thing we think of when we think of paper, but Big Paper is indeed very much in the business of selling toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels and “feminine products” – and business is good. You can’t blow your nose into an email. In the end, we are material. We have inputs and outputs. We require physical receptacles. And more of us are on the way. RISI foresees a 3% annual rise in global tissue demand through 2018, and a 1.4% rise in global paper demand overall.
paper  media_history 
7 weeks ago
Google Maps’s Moat
Google is creating all of these buildings out of its aerial and satellite imagery...

At some point, Google realized that just as it uses shadings to convey densities of cities, it could also use shadings to convey densities of businesses. And it shipped these copper-colored shadings last year as part its Summer redesign, calling them “Areas of Interest”...

This suggests that Google took its buildings and crunched them against its places. In other words, Google appears to be creating these orange buildings by matching its building and place datasets together...

So Google seems to be creating AOIs out of its building and place data.5 But what’s most interesting is that Google’s building and place data are themselves extracted from other Google Maps features.

As we saw earlier, Google’s buildings are created out of the imagery it gathers for its Satellite View... And as we saw in “A Year of Google & Apple Maps”, Google has been using computer vision and machine learning to extract business names and locations from its Street View imagery...

So Google likely knows what’s inside all of the buildings it has extracted. And as Google gets closer and closer to capturing every building in the world, it’s likely that Google will start highlighting / lighting up buildings related to queries and search results.
Google  mapping  cartography  satellites  satellite_imagery  cognitive_mapping 
7 weeks ago
How to build a book: Notes from an editorial bricoleuse | HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory: Vol 7, No 3
Proper writing usually doesn’t come from starting at random Point A and meandering your way to Point B either. You may get lucky at the end and find that it all mysteriously worked out. But more often you’ll find you misjudged, and now you have to live with the consequences. Find the center of your book and, just as important, the center of each chapter, and work your way out.

Finding the central concept of each section helps you focus on the essentials. I have read many suggestive proposals that suffer from concept overload. These proposals lack a sense of proportion, and the reader can’t separate the original from the derivative, the essential from the subsidiary.

There is no handy tool like the chalk reel for finding the center of a book or of a chapter. The best I can offer is that you take an accurate measure of your work. Make a list of the themes your book addresses and make sure you know which one rises to the level of thesis. Test each one to see if it can be cut without compromising the logic of the section. When you find the one that cannot be cut or encompassed by another, you have found the center. Then organize the supporting material around it, cutting insights that, however interesting, don’t fit within the overarching narrative. Do that for each chapter, and you (and your editor) will be happier with the results than if you simply started writing from page one and meandered along to the end.
writing  editing 
8 weeks ago
Alexandria in the Googleplex – EIDOLON
The myth of the Library of Alexandria’s “universal” collections is so familiar as to be doctrinal. But the idea of the universal library as such is barely a classical one, and certainly not Alexandrian. Within a generation or two of its founding, the Library was firmly established as a stage for recherché learning in the face of expanding koine; famously the home of “cloistered bookworms in the chicken-coop of the Muses” (in Robert Barnes’ now lapidary rendering of Timon of Phlius, Diels Frag. 12), the library was, as Peter Bing writes, an “instrument that facilitated the emergence of a privileged circle of learned readers — a tiny elite, to be sure.”...

Of course, regal collections might have always had a more omnibus character than private ones. Efforts to build collections that mapped the scale and scope of an empire go back to at least Assyria, and probably further. It is in this light that we should read the brief notice of Josephus that describes the project of the Ptolemies as one of “collecting all the books in the inhabited world” (πάντα τὰ κατὰ τὴν οἰκουμένην συναγαγεῖν βιβλία, Antiquitates 12.2.1) — the earliest testimony there is to Alexandria’s universal character but one motivated just as much by Josephus’s own desire to make Jewish history, and the translation of the Septuagint, a privileged part of the Hellenistic tradition. ...

The idea of a universal library, and certainly the phrase “bibliotheca universalis,” is more of a Renaissance invention. In the mid-1500s the Zurich physician Conrad Gesner set out to record and publish a catalogue of all of the works ever written in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, “extant and not extant; old ones and those more recent, up to today; wise ones and ignorant ones; ones that have been published and ones are held in [manuscript] collections” (1r). Conceived as a reference work in the style of Pliny’s Natural History, the Bibliotheca Universalis was designed as a tool to allow readers to find information quickly: “so instantly whatever anyone looks for, it will be ready at hand; whatever they do not want to read, they can pass over” (1v). Rather than knowledge about the world, this was an encyclopedia of books....

Perhaps what draws the Pinakes and the Bibliotheca Universalis together most closely as intellectual projects is that they are not, in fact, library catalogues. Rather, each lists works irrespective of whether they were or were not in a particular library, whether the Ptolemies’ at Alexandria or Gesner’s in Zurich. Where Callimachus’ represents an ideal library, Gesner’s shows us a total one.

In antiquity, medical knowledge was jealously guarded. Galen, for example, visited Alexandria with the express wish to see the works of the anatomist Numisianus, but was prevented from doing so because the notebooks were in the possession of Numisianus’s son Heraclianus, also a physician. ...

And, truly, that modern notion of the “universal library” relies on similar visions of access at a distance. So, Brewster Kahle in 2002, on the Internet Archive: “Imagine walking into a library, anywhere in the world, and having the full range of human knowledge at your fingertips — in all its forms.... Access, in the bibliographic sense, relies on indexing: the catalogue and the finding aide. And this is where we come full circle, back the hand-shake between Alexa Internet, an indexing company, and the Internet Archive, a web repository....

Yet the misaligned imperatives of openness and capitalization have lead to failures and fissures: the seemingly positive outcome of cases brought against Google and its partners by the Authors’ Guild in 2005 and 2011 (i.e., that full digitation did not violate copyright per se) had the knock-on effect of making those scans unsalable. Without a clear path to the capitalization of digitized works, Google has quietly lost interest in its scanning efforts — once touted as encompassing “all books in all languages” — leaving partners and third parties to pick up the pieces. Hathi Trust, based in the University of Michigan, has grown out of Google Books to provide long-term support of books digitized at academic libraries. The Internet Archive specializes in non-print and ephemeral media. The Digital Public Library of America aggregates distributed digitized corpora from local and national institutions. The digital universal library is in pieces....

Its myths hide what lessons the Library of Alexandria can really teach us about the nature of knowledge and its preservation. Libraries are sites where the past comes out to reach the present, but they are also sites at which the present comes to deposit its visions of itself for its own imagined future....

Perhaps the greatest lesson that the Library of Alexandria has to teach us about the future of libraries is this: to survive, collections must be used, accessed, animated.... questioning the myths of completeness that lie at the heart of the dual fantasies of its universality and destruction. The classical library should teach us that it is only through access and animation, in all its forms — perhaps even the ones least expected — that we will ensure the continued energy of our intellectual heritage: past, present, and future.
libraries  universal_library  epistemology  bibliography  internet_archive  DPLA  preservation 
8 weeks ago
'The difficulty is the point': teaching spoon-fed students how to really read | Books | The Guardian
the best way to retain a customer is to keep her happy. I’d suggest that happiness for students might arise from challenge, from hard work fairly rewarded, or from the acquisition of new skills. But there is of course a quicker route: you keep students happy by not failing them. And then – surprise! – when they graduate they are not literate, or numerate, or knowledgeable enough to perform the work they have been studying for....

...semesters and classes shortened to save money on teaching; on passing incapable students simply to keep quotas up; on teaching students for whom attendance at university is no longer a necessary part of gaining a degree. This loops back to the idea of the university as business. Asking universities to stop making it easy for students to gain entrance, and making it easy for them to pass, is like asking Coca-Cola to slow down its sales. The logic of capitalism overrides everything.
teaching  reading  pedagogy 
8 weeks ago
Who Segregated America? | Public Books
Rothstein contends that whenever the government recognized, certified, protected, tolerated, supported, or ignored discriminatory practices—by money lenders, private businesses, tax-exempt institutions, or housing developers—it effectively produced and reproduced racial segregation.

But Rothstein doesn’t convincingly explain why the government remained committed to racial residential segregation for decades. If government was the tool by which segregation was created, who—or what—was the hand that wielded it?

Curiously, The Color of Law ignores the obvious answer: capitalism. The book’s focus on law and policy shifts attention away from surplus value and patterns of extraction and exploitation, instead of focusing on these dynamics as an integral part of America’s democratic, law-making system. We might well view residential segregation as the domestic expression of the racial capitalism of the 20th century.1

Viewing residential segregation as a pivotal chapter in the global history of racial capitalism permits—indeed, demands—a critique of government policy and the state more generally. This perspective recasts the “private” as more than individual choice, belief, and action, allowing us to explore the racial character of the relationship between the state and private capital. It also forces us to attend...

That the ideas concerning blackness and property were similar among government officials and private capital can be attributed to the sort-of revolving door between government and the private sector. The federal government recruited developers and approved their loans to finance construction of racially segregated suburbs.
mapping  zoning  redlining  race 
8 weeks ago
Woman with a Camera on Vimeo
Second Century: Photography, Feminism, Politics Panel moderated by Prudence Peiffer, Senior Editor, Artforum, New York, with panelists: Makeda Best, Curator of Photography, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA; Carmen Winant, Artist and Writer, Assistant Professor of Visual Studies and Contemporary Art History at Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, OH, and Dean at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME; and Claire Lehmann, Artist, Writer, Curator, New York. Recorded on Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 2:00pm at Historic Memorial Hall in Cincinnati, OH.

Archives ~25:00-ish
photography  media_history  photography_archives  archives 
8 weeks ago
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