It's Nice That : Watch Portuguese designers the Royal Studio turn graphic design on its head
Their website is a combination of fluorescent colours, textures, media and effects so hectic that you can’t help but surrender yourself to it, but it’d be foolish to assume that The Royal Studio’s design work is as chaotic as it appears. Behind the madness is a method which elevates their vibrant, contemporary design beyond the realms of trendy and into something actually very interesting, whether it’s an Honest Manifesto which claims that “everyone loves titles and captions” but they “don’t give a fuck about content” (repeated to fill) or a very well-executed poster advertising the studio’s 15 day long tour around cities including Zagreb, Ljubljana, Dijon and Porto.
graphic_design  presentation_images  manifestos 
3 days ago
ESC (Extrastatecraft): About
Extrastatecraft: a project sponsored the Design Department of Jan van Eyck Academie and initiated by Keller Easterling.

ESC researches global infrastructure as a medium of polity. Some of the most radical changes to the globalising world are being written, not in the language of law and diplomacy, but rather in the language of infrastructure. Even building enclosures, typically considered to be geometrical formal objects, have become infrastructural—mobile, monetized technologies moving around the world as repeatable phenomena. Infrastructure is then not the urban substructure, but the urban structure itself—the very parameters of global urbanism.

Extrastatecraft—a portmanteau that means both outside of and in addition to statecraft—recognizes that infrastructure generates emergent new constellations of national, international, intergovernmental and transnational administration and generates undeclared forms of polity faster than any even quasi-official forms of governance can legislate it. Yet far from overwhelming state power, these lumpy and braided administrative layers, with their multiple trap doors and proxies, often serve to strengthen and camouflage the state. Massive global infrastructure systems, administered by mixtures of public and private cohorts and driven by profound irrationalities, form a wilder mongrel than any storied Leviathan for which there is studied political response.
governance  politics  infrastructure  urban_form 
4 days ago
BLDGBLOG: The Fall
Maisel's photos offered a kind of aerial portraiture of the city, including its labyrinthine knots of rooftops. But the core of the project consists of disorientingly off-kilter, almost axonometric shots of the city's historic architecture....

While he was in the country, however, Maisel took advantage of some extra time and access to a helicopter to explore the landscape between Toledo and Madrid, a short stretch of infrastructural connections, agricultural hinterlands, abandoned suburban developments, and arid hills.

The result was a new series of photos called The Fall.

As Maisel writes, The Fall suggests a genre in which "the worlds of painting and photography have merged together," creating an ironically abstract form of landscape documentation.

This is most evident in the photos from an area called Vicalvaro on the outskirts of Madrid. As Maisel explains, this is "where construction was halted after the economic collapse of 2008. The abandoned zones appear like the surreal aftermath of a bombed out city or an alien landing field."
photography  urban_form  infrastructure  aerial_photography  geology  extraction 
8 days ago
David Maisel
In his ongoing, multi-chaptered series Black Maps, David Maisel’s aerial photographs of environmentally impacted sites explore the aesthetics and politics of radically human-altered environments, framing the issues of contemporary landscape with equal measures of documentation and metaphor. Curator Robert Sobieszek states, “Maisel has succeeded in mapping the fictive terrains of the unconscious, of nightmares and hallucinations. He has also used the camera’s objectifying optics to form cartographies of the irrational and the perverse, the preconscious and the primordial, the apocalyptic.”

 

In projects such as Library of Dust and History’s Shadow, Maisel investigates institutional archives, and shows the power of objects to convey meaning over time. Library of Dust depicts one hundred copper canisters, each containing the cremated remains of a psychiatric patient unclaimed after their death. The canisters are reacting with their ashen remains, causing mineral encrustations to bloom on their metallic surfaces. In History’s Shadow, Maisel uses x-rays depicting sculpture, painting, and artifacts from antiquity as source material in the creation of new photographic artwork. Through the x-ray process and the subsequent re-photography of these scientific records, the objects from antiquity go through a process of transmutation, becoming reanimated and renewed.  
photography  aerial_photography  forensics  landscapes  archaeology 
8 days ago
Cyprien Gaillard. The Recovery of Discovery – Program - KW Institute for Contemporary Art
Preserving a monument goes hand in hand with destroying it. In order to preserve architecture, cultural monuments and relics, they are often re-located, thus abolishing the original context. The dislocation of a monument does not only alter the history of its original location, but also leads to a radical re-interpretation of the monument itself. So, the history of the Pergamon Altar's reception in Germany ranges from monarchistic to monarchic-colonialist, fascist, communist and even into nationalist movements.

The spectrum of appropriations reflects the respective attitudes towards archaeology and the notion of discovery typical for different historical contexts and political systems. A discovery always goes along with its patronization; something, which the discovered never seems to be able to recover itself from again. Architectural elements of cultural monuments are often removed and dispersed separately all over the world. Hence, we currently find the ruins of the temples of Ephesus in the British Museum in London, in the Art Historical Museum in Vienna and in the Archaeological Museums of Selçuk, Izmir and Istanbul, as well as in Efes (Latin: Ephesus) itself.

In his work, Cyprien Gaillard repeatedly explores the absurd aspects of dystopic architectures and their remaining ruins through such strategies as dilapidation, destruction, demolition, preservation, conservation and reconstruction of architecture. In doing so he always departs from the process itself. For his exhibition at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin Cyprien Gaillard has created a new, large-scale piece, which – whilst departing from a prototype of the monument – completes itself in the process. Similarly to the relocation of the Pergamon Altar, 72,000 bottles of beer of the brand "Efes" have been transported from Turkey to Germany. The cardboard boxes filled with bottles form the even steps of the pyramid. By using the monument – by climbing the sculpture and drinking the beer – its destruction is already initiated.
archaeology  ruins  preservation  archive_art  gaillard 
8 days ago
Making Better Digital Maps in an Era of Standardization
For while the open door of online mapmaking has produced a lot of maps, it's also brought about a standardization of aesthetics. “To make it easy for people to make a map,” says Daniel Huffman, a cartographer at the University of Wisconsin, “you need to simplify the process down and make things very uniform.” Riffs on Google Maps look for the most part like Google Maps, with its top-down view, muted color scheme, choice of line weights, and approach to terrain. Even original maps created on Mapbox or other, more powerful geographic information system-based software can lead, at the very least, to design that is “sterile,” according to cartographer Kenneth Field. Certainly, the style is ubiquitous....

Huffman is a freelance map-maker, “cartographic philosopher,” and instructor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Above all, his work seeks to restore a human touch to mapmaking. Among many of his undertakings, Project Linework may be the most innovative. It’s a “library of free, public-domain sets of vector lifework”—lines that indicate borders, roads, or simple data points—that are all distinct....

Dr. Jenny is an assistant professor in cartography and geovisualization in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. Some of his research is in colored-terrain shading (which uses color to show dimension) and terrain modulation (which helps resize cartographic features depending on the needs of the map). Terrain Bender, his modulating software, is available for free online.... “With Terrain Bender, the idea is to emulate a technique that was used by manual panorama map painters, where certain elements get resized to show importance....

Tom Patterson is one of the founders of Natural Earth, a public-domain data set that helps cartographers find “suitable data for making small-scale maps.” He's also a relief-shading enthusiast. Patterson largely strives to make maps that have natural-looking terrain—a task he believes was better achieved in the pre-digital era. That’s why he also maintains ShadedReliefArchive.com, a compendium of “scanned manual-shaded relief maps for use by digital mapmakers,” most of which are geo-referenced and can be easily overlaid into mapmaking software.
mapping  cartography  standards  aesthetics  graphic_design 
9 days ago
Digital Ethereal | Design Observer
Luis Hernan, an Architecture and Interaction Design student at Newcastle University, has captured the invisible landscape of wireless networks by using long exposure photography. He's created a device that translates the energy of wireless fields into different color LEDs based on their signal strength. The results are striking photographs of beams of light sweeping and swirling around a suggested figure, which the designer calls “spectres” as they remind him of ghosts and because they're invisible to the human eye. Hernan also developed an Android app allowing anyone to photograph the invisible world surrounding these amazing signals
wireless  infrastructure  visualization  invisibility  wifi  photography 
9 days ago
The Way of the Shovel: On the Archeological Imaginary in Art | e-flux
In the present moment, however, it appears that a number of artists seek to define art first and foremost in the thickness of its relationship to history. More and more frequently, art finds itself looking back, both at its own past (a very popular approach right now, as well as big business), and at “the” past in general. A steadily growing number of contemporary art practices engage not only in storytelling, but more specifically in history-telling. The retrospective, historiographic mode—a methodological complex that includes the historical account, the archive, the document, the act of excavating and unearthing, the memorial, the art of reconstruction and reenactment, the testimony—has become both the mandate (“content”) and the tone (“form”) favored by a growing number of artists (as well as critics and curators) of varying ages and backgrounds.2 They either make artworks that want to remember, or at least to turn back the tide of forgetfulness, or they make art about remembering and forgetting: we can call this the “meta-historical mode,” an important aspect of much artwork that assumes a curatorial character. With the quasi-romantic idea of history’s presumed remoteness (or its darkness) invariably quite crucial to the investigative undertaking at hand, these artists delve into archives and historical collections of all stripes (this is where the magical formula of “artistic research” makes its appearance) and plunge into the abysmal darkness of history’s most remote corners. They reenact—yet another mode of historicizing and storytelling much favored by artists growing up in a culture of accelerated oblivion—reconstruct, and recover. ....

True, there is plenty of historiography out there, but it is of a very problematic, myopic kind that seems to add to the cultural pathology of forgetting rather than fight against it. It is a type of writing that prefers to hone in on objects (the smaller, the more mundane, and the less significant, the better) rather than people, the grand societal structures that harness them, or the events that befall them and/or help bring those structures into being. Virtually every little “thing” has become the subject of its own (strictly “cultural”) history of late, from the pencil to the zipper, the cod, the porcelain toilet bowl, the stiletto, the potato, or the bowler hat. It does not require too great an imaginative effort to discern the miserable political implications of this obsession with detail, novelty, and the quaint exoticism of the everyday (best summed up by the dubious dictum “small is beautiful”). Indeed, it seems sufficiently clear that the relative success story of this myopic micro-historiography, with its programmatic suspicion of all forms of grand historicization, is related both to today’s general state of post-ideological fatigue as well as to the political evacuation (or de-politicization) of academia, of which the “crisis of history” is precisely such an alarming, potent symptom.....

One geopolitical region whose recent (and rewardingly traumatic) history has become especially prominent with art’s turn towards history-telling and historicizing (its turn away from both the present and the future), is post-communist Central and Eastern Europe—the preferred archeological digging site (if only metaphorically) of many well-read artists whose work has come of age in the broader context of the globalized art market of the last decade and a half....

In their cultivation of the retrospective and/or historiographic mode, many contemporary art practices inevitably also seek to secure the blessing (in disguise) of History proper: in an art world that seems wholly dominated by the inflationary valuations of the market and its corollary, the fashion industry (“here today, gone tomorrow,” or, “that’s so 2008”), time, literally rendered as the subject of the art in question, easily proves to be a much more trustworthy arbiter of quality than mere taste or success. Hence the pervasive interest of so many younger artists and curators in the very notion of anachronism or obsolescence and related “technologies of time”: think of Super 8 mm and 16 mm film, think of the Kodak slide carousel, think of antiquated, museum-of-natural-history-style vitrines meant to convey a sense of the naturalization of history, or of time proper....

One of the ways in which this historiographic “turn” has manifested itself lately is through a literalized amateur archeology of the recent past: digging. Archeology’s way of the shovel has long been a powerful metaphor for the various endeavors that both spring from the human mind and seek to map the depths of, among other things, itself. Perhaps the most famous example of this would be psychoanalysis (or “depth psychology”), in which the object of its archaeological scrutiny is the human mind. Throughout a history that stretches far beyond the work of, say, Robert Smithson, Haim Steinbach, or Mark Dion, psychoanalysis has long been a source of fascination and inspiration for the arts. Certainly, one could conceive of an exhibition consisting solely of artistic images of excavation sites, of “art about archeology.” The truth claims of art often quote rather literally and liberally from the lingua franca of archeology: artists often refer to their work as a labor of meticulous “excavation,” unearthing buried treasures and revealing the ravages of time in the process; works of art are construed as shards, fragments (the Benjaminian ciphers of a revelatory truth), traces preserved in sediments of fossilized meaning...

art and archeology also share a profound understanding—and one might say that they are on account of this almost “naturally” inclined to a Marxist epistemology—of the primacy of the material in all culture, the overwhelming importance of mere “matter” and “stuff” in any attempt to grasp and truly read the cluttered fabric of the world.
art  history  historiography  archives  archaeology  excavation  things  materialism  materiality 
11 days ago
Shelf Space + Reading Room: A Spatial History of the New York Public Library | Bridge
The New York Public Library’s Central Building, constructed just over a century ago, is in the midst of a major renovation. The Library’s trustees have asked the architects at Foster + Partners to imagine the space currently occupied by the research collections’ closed book stacks as a new, publicly accessible, circulating library. The administration’s public relations strategy glosses over the meaning of this architectural reinterpretation, selling the renovation plan with only carefully selected historical facts and opinions that show support for the project. However, this narrative is deceiving; it oversimplifies the issues at stake. Both the broader New York Public Library system and Central Library in particular have an incredibly complex history. The influences that shaped the decision to build the 42nd Street building, its design and construction, and subsequent adaptations over the past century demonstrate an important relationship between the objectives of the institution and the Central Library’s architectural form. Therefore, beneath the rhetoric of the renovation, beyond the positive inclusion of a main circulating branch in the central building, lies the decision to remove a large portion of the circulating collection from the center of the stronghold built to house it. This decision undermines the unique structure of the New York Public Library as one of the world’s premier research institutions, removing the heart of the building.
bookshelves  libraries  nypl 
11 days ago
All Subject, No Predicate - WSJ
What's much harder to figure out is the reason for the meticulous presentation. Nothing should be clearer than the meaning of pictures illustrating the inside of a dishwasher or a camera, or a woman's hand reaching down to put on a red sock. But if that's so, why did I feel so cheated and empty as I walked through the sixth-floor gallery, searching in vain for a cumulative sense that something profound or unsettling was—had to be—going on here?

The answer, according to the museum's press release—no doubt written or approved by the show's curator, Roxana Marcoci—is that Mr. Williams is delivering "a critique of late capitalist society in which images typically function as agents of spectacle." Is this truly the best explanation that MoMA can come up with to guide its audience—a snippet of Marxist cant, circa 1968?

Images of predigital photographic equipment are supposed to be exposing mechanisms of "late" capitalism? What exactly can photographs that mimic benign product advertising from the 1950s or '80s help to "critique"? Don't they actually function here more as promotional ads for the artist himself, proof of his cleverness, such as it is?...

he exhibition is nothing if not self-aware. All of the explanatory text (not that it's much help) can be found on the red walls (with black type) of the foyer. Mr. Williams chose the same color scheme for the numbered program guide (with white map insert) that tells you where to find everything inside the gallery, along with the titles.

The self-reflexivity of the show is taken to such extremes that if you go to No. 60 in the program, you will read: "Seventeen walls from the exhibition 'The Production Line of Happiness,' July 27-November 2, 2014, Museum of Modern Art, New York." The text then identifies who designed the walls, the materials and their dimensions.

Attribution is an essential element of authorship. In art photography, who printed what and when can determine the meaning and value of a print, and its context within an artist's oeuvre.

Mr. Williams sends up these issues of connoisseurship by spreading credit around as if in a zany Academy Award speech, naming the companies that designed his vitrines; the film, camera, lens and shutter speed used for certain images; and the two men (Jerome Neuner and George Sivulka) who built the museum "wall system." This aids him in undermining the illusion, provided you had any, that he might be the sole author or "genius" behind the exhibition....

By identifying some of the those who have assisted in his exhibition, or by incorporating the packing crate used to ship his pictures to Chicago along with a wall fragment from a 1958 Jackson Pollock exhibition in London, Mr. Williams can play down his own singularity: He is just another in a long production line of artists in museums who have passed through their sausage factories. At the same time, by making his deconstruction so crazily obsessive, he can stand apart from anyone who has exhibited here before or is likely to in the future.

It's a neat trick to look down on the business of art from above while being completely invested in it as a player and a teacher, with more than half a floor at MoMA devoted to your work. (Barbara Kruger is the master at mocking her audience while also profiting from its nervousness before her snarky words.)
photography  institutional_critique  authorship  exhibition 
13 days ago
Digitizing Warhol’s Film Trove to Save It - NYTimes.com
But for almost a decade beginning in the 1960s, his real boon companions seemed to be his 16-millimeter film cameras, which he used to record hundreds of reels, many of which are still little known even among scholars because of the fragility of the film and the scarcity of projectors to show them on.

Now the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and the Museum of Modern Art, which holds Warhol’s film archives, are beginning a project to digitize the materials, almost 1,000 rolls, a vast undertaking that curators and historians hope will, for the first time, put Warhol’s film work on a par with his painting, his sculpture and the Delphic public persona that became one of his greatest works. It will be MoMA’s largest effort to digitize the work of a single artist in its collection....

Film purists will undoubtedly mourn the migration to digital. In a review of “Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures,” a show of part of Warhol’s film work at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010, Ken Johnson complained in The New York Times that seeing Warhol films digitally was “like seeing a movie on television, and that casts in doubt their status as works of art.”

Rajendra Roy, the chief film curator at the Museum of Modern Art and a self-described “unexpected analog guy,” agreed, saying that the right way to see Warhol’s films should always be on film, in part because he helped revolutionize the medium by upending or undermining so many of the conventions of moviemaking.

“I get really grumpy sometimes when things can’t be shown on film, but that said, these will become inaccessible very quickly if we don’t digitize them,” he said.
warhol  digitization  film  archives  preservation 
13 days ago
Concerns Arise About Future of Important Warburg Art History Archive
One of London’s expansive resources of cultural and art history may face an uncertain future and is currently the center of controversy. Scholars and artists are rallying to save the Warburg Institute from its collection’s possible dispersal or its entire relocation overseas. The protests respond to legal proceedings taken last June by the University of London — the Institute’s trustee — to investigate the deed of trust it has held since 1944.

The Institute, whose archives focus on the Renaissance and has vast research material in the fields of philosophy, religion, science, history, and more, was originally an archive compiled by the German Jewish scholar Aby Warburg; smuggled out of Hamburg to London on a small steamer when Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, it was placed in the care of the University of London who signed the one-page, two-sided deed on November 28, 1944 in agreement with Eric Max Warburg (then a major of the US army), signing on behalf of his family. As specified in the deed through seemingly ironclad phrasing, the University is committed to “maintain and preserve the Warburg Library in perpetuity.”....

According to the Guardian, members of the Warburg family have expressed approval of the collection’s return to Germany or of its relocation to the US. This would also signal a loss of the library’s “open shelves” arrangement that increases the collection’s accessibility as well as its “distinguished staff of scholars and scholar-librarians,” mentioned by Professors Anthony Grafton and Jeffrey Hamburger in an article chronicling arguments between the Institute and the University over the collection’s maintenance that reach as far back as 2007.
libraries  preservation  media_architecture  warburg 
13 days ago
Logicentrism | Design Observer
Simply put, graphic design is the art of visualizing ideas. Until World War II, it was better known in the United States as commercial art. Practiced by printers and typesetters, it was more a vocation than a profession, more a reflection of the economic realities of a newly industrialized culture than an opportunity to engage the creative expression of an individual or an idea. Unlike the experimentation that characterized design as it was being practiced and taught in Europe in the early years of this century-led by Cubism and Constructivism, pioneers of DeStijl and disciples of the Bauhaus — what we now think of as graphic design was, in this country, driven by the demands of commerce, and fueled by the prospect of eliminating the economic hardships that had plagued the nation during the Depression....

By the early 1930s, however, a small but accomplished group of American and European expatriate designers began to experiment with new ways to approach the design of commercial printed matter. Combining the experimental formal vocabularies of their European colleagues with the material demands of American commerce, they helped to inaugurate a new visual language that would revolutionize the role of design as both a service and an art. Of this group — which included Lester Beall, Bradbury Thompson, and Alexey Brodovich, among others — none was so accomplished, or would produce as many lasting contributions to the field, as Paul Rand, arguably America's most accomplished graphic designer, who died last year at the age of 82....

Rand is credited with bringing the modernist design aesthetic to postwar America. Highly influenced by the European modernists — Klee and Picasso, Calder and Miro — Rand's formal vocabulary signaled the advent of a new era. Using photography and montage, cut paper and what would later become known as "The New Typography" — asymmetrical typography that engaged the eye and activated the page — Rand rallied against the sentimentality of stolid, commercial layouts and introduced a new, sharper, cleaner, and forward-looking vocabulary of the kind that he had observed in such European design magazines as the German Gebrauchsgraphik and the English Commercial Art....

In the mid-'50s, Rand produced his most successful logo, the trademark for IBM. Working closely with Eliot Noyes, IBM's consulting director for design, he understood that what mattered was a flexible logo that could be interpreted in different ways by different designers to suit different needs within the corporation. For Rand, this translated into a kind of modular thinking: taking his philosophical cues from architecture (and in particular from the writings of Le Corbusier on similar principles in architecture), he experimented with proportion, scale, color, and humor. For the IBM logo, this translated into a basic equation in which the fundamental mark might be duplicated, rotated, colorized, or mutated in such a way as to play the variable against the constant. In 1970, he extended the boundaries of this notion to include an "eye-bee-m" pictogram which has been widely used in posters and promotional materials ever since.

The trademark itself (commissioned by the conservative Thomas Watson Jr. largely in response to his great competitor Olivetti) was based on City Medium, an obscure typeface designed by George Trump in 1930. Rand designed the initial logo in 1956. Four years later he added the stripes, in an effort to minimize the discrepancy in character widths between the narrow "I" and the wider "B" and "M." His inspiration in striping the letterforms came from observing the multi-lined striations on legal documents designed to discourage counterfeiting. By weighing up the stripes, Rand modernized the font, simplified the mark, and gestured to a kind of visual speed one might rightly associate with a technology company.
graphic_design  branding  rand 
14 days ago
Google's undersea cables have to be reinforced because sharks keep biting them
Google has been forced to protect its undersea data cables with a Kevlar-like coating in order to defend them against shark attacks. Dan Belcher, a Google product manager, explained at a Google Cloud Roadshow event that the company's trans-Pacific fiber-optic cables were wrapped in the material partly in order to keep them safe from the creatures' teeth....

There's no conclusive reasoning as to why sharks are trying to disrupt our internet connections, but it's been theorized that they are drawn by the magnetic fields generated by the high voltage running through the cables. Sharks have a biological ability to detect electromagnetic fields. The ability, called electroreception, usually allows sharks to detect the weak bioelectric fields generated by fish so they can hunt them down in the ocean.
cables  internet  electromagnetic_waves  infrastructure  failure 
14 days ago
Jane Austen Used Pins to Edit Her Abandoned Manuscript, The Watsons | Open Culture
Before the word processor, before Whiteout, before Post It Notes, there were straight pins. Or, at least that’s what Jane Austen used to make edits in one of her rare manuscripts. In 2011, the Bodleian Library acquired the manuscript of Austen’s abandoned novel, The Watsons....

With no calculated blank spaces and no obvious way of incorporating large revision or expansion she had to find other strategies – the three patches, small pieces of paper, each of which was filled closely and neatly with the new material, attached with straight pins to the precise spot where erased material was to be covered or where an insertion was required to expand the text.
material_texts  writing  attachment  editing  revision  archives 
14 days ago
New to the Archaeologist’s Tool Kit: The Drone - NYTimes.com
Archaeologists around the world, who have long relied on the classic tools of their profession, like the trowel and the plumb bob, are now turning to the modern technology of drones to defend and explore endangered sites. And perhaps nowhere is the shift happening as swiftly as in Peru, where Dr. Castillo has created a drone air force to map, monitor and safeguard his country’s ancient treasures.

Drones mark “a before and after in archaeology,” said Dr. Castillo, who is also a prominent archaeologist and one of a dozen experts who will outline the use of drones at a conference in San Francisco next year....

In remote northwestern New Mexico, archaeologists are using drones outfitted with thermal-imaging cameras to track the walls and passages of a 1,000-year-old Chaco Canyon settlement, now buried beneath the dirt.

In the Middle East, researchers have employed them to guard against looting.

“Aerial survey at the site is allowing for the identification of new looting pits and determinations of whether any of the looters’ holes had been revisited,” said Morag Kersel, an archaeologist from DePaul University in Chicago who is part of a team using drones in Jordan and Israel.
archaeology  security  drones  mapping  machine_vision 
15 days ago
How Objects Speak | The Chronicle Review
When Rainer Maria Rilke looked at the hands in Rodin’s sculpture, he saw an answer to our question. "Hands," he wrote, "are a complicated organism, a delta in which much life from distant sources flows together and is poured into the great stream of action." Unlike William Carlos Williams (a poet whose modernism fixated on images, "No ideas but in things"), Rilke was not reacting dialectically against something. He saw in things magnetic poles around which "all movement subsides and becomes contour, and out of past and future time something permanent is formed."

To recover the plenitude of possibilities in things, Rilke urged the journey back to childhood, "to any one of your childhood’s possessions, with which you were familiar. Think whether there was ever anything nearer to you, more familiar, more indispensable than such a thing." From the childhood of one person to the childhood of the species, Rilke’s next step was even more momentous. "How does it come about at all that things are related to us?" he asked. "What is their history?"

Not only, he wrote, does the history of making coincide with the history of the species, but the making of things helped shape the species. "Some thing came into existence blindly, through the fierce throes of work, bearing upon it the marks of exposed and threatened life, still warm with it," he believed. "This experience was so remarkable and so great that we can understand how things soon came to be made solely for its sake. For the earliest images were possibly nothing but practical applications of this experience, attempts to form out of the visible human and animal world something immortal and permanent, belonging to an order immediately above that world: a thing."

It became clear to him that the history of human beings could be taught as the history of human things: "Hands have a history of their own, they have, indeed, their own Culture."

To fully appreciate Rilke’s argument, we need to return to his great work of poetry, which spanned his experience of the First World War. Rilke was looking for a way to connect things to transcendence without denying their very thingness. If "we are not really at home in our interpreted world," he wrote in the Duino Elegies, he held out the hope that a tree, or a street, or a habit, could slip past the border guards of our self-consciousness and establish that missing unmediated connection. He urged close looking as a way to that goal, to gaze at, say, a puppet "so intensely that at last, to balance my gaze, an angel has to come and make the stuffed skins startle into life."

Rilke’s quest for healing during the horror of war led him to connect the evidence of the material past—the realm of the antiquaries—with the mental realities we make of them. These "extravagances of the heart" become part of us. From the Sphinx and Chartres Cathedral to the monumentality of the everyday, "Perhaps we are here," he wrote, "in order to say: house, bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window—at most: column, tower?"

Rilke wanted to awaken our astonishment at seeing things and practices as exquisite bearers of identity, not simply as tools or products; not as "outputs" but as essences. Rilke’s sensibility is not archaeological but metaphysical, located deep in the object world, and in ourselves.

The history of the human species through things is a history of the human as creator and self-creator; in our own way, as Rilke would have it, divine.
objects  hands  tools  materiality  material_consciousness  material_culture  epistemology  historiography 
18 days ago
A Passion for Objects | The Chronicle Review
They also spoke of new objects. I came to MIT in the early days of the computer culture. My students were beginning to talk about how they identified with their computers, how they experienced these machines as extensions of themselves. For some, computers were "objects to think with" for thinking about larger questions, questions about determinism and free will, mind and mechanism.

Trained as a humanist and social scientist, I began to ask, What is the role of objects in the creative life of the scientist? What makes certain objects good to think with? What part do objects take in the development of a young scientific mind?...

One reason we don't pay enough attention to things and thinking is that we are distracted by our digital dreams; another is that traditionally, scientists have been reticent to talk about their object passions or, one might say, about passions of any kind. There was a canonical story about the objectivity and dispassion of scientific work, and scientists stuck to it....

Over time, there have been dramatic changes in the kinds of objects children have had presented to them. Yet in reviewing 25 years of science students' writing on their favored childhood objects, certain trends are apparent. One is an interest in transparency. Through the mid-1980s, MIT students who grew up in the 1960s wrote about radios, vacuum cleaners, wooden blocks, and broken air-conditioners. These are things to take apart and put back together again. Students describe childhoods in which they fix what is broken or at least try to. They write about the frustration of not getting things to work but learning from their furious efforts.... However, by the 1990s, the industry trend was clear: Digital technology was to become increasingly opaque, reshaped as consumer products for a mass market. The new opacity was cast as transparency, redefined as the ability to make something work without knowing how it works. By the 1990s, personal-computer users were not given access to underlying machine processes; computers no longer arrived with programming languages as a standard feature. Beyond this, programming itself was no longer taught in most schools. Even so, young people with a scientific bent continued to approach technology looking for at least a metaphorical understanding of the mechanism behind the magic....

Beyond seeking a way to make any object transparent, young people across generations extol the pleasure of materials, of texture, of what one might call the resistance of the "real."....

Object passions bring us to the same enthusiasm for what-is that computation inspires for the what-ifs. We now live the tension between these two impulses; we need to cultivate a balance between them. When we fall for science through objects, they ground us. We focus on what kind of sand is best for building castles, on the stubborn complexity of soap bubbles, on the details of light bent by a prism. I believe these moments open us, heart and mind, to fall for the what-is of our planet. In doing so, we may come home to wonder at it, not only as a frontier of science, but as where we live.
objects  things  pedagogy  stem  science  transparency  materiality  tactility 
18 days ago
Cultivating the Map
...complex spatial effects of very basic physical tools, how things as basic as survey grids and irrigation equipment can bring whole new regimes of territorial management into existence....

In Danny's own words, the project "finds itself in the territory of the map, proposing that the map is also a generative tool. Using the drawing as fertile ground, this thesis attempts a predictive organization of territory through the design of four new tools for the management of natural resources in the Great Plains, a region threatened with the cumulative adverse effects of industrial farming. Each tool proposes new ways of drawing the land and acts as an instrument that reveals the landscape’s new potential."

These "new potentials" are often presented as if in a little catalog of ideas, with sites named, located, and described, followed by a diagrammatic depiction of what Wills suggests might spatially occur there.
mapping  tools  instruments  epistemology 
18 days ago
The New Stock Photography + Subtraction.com
You can now buy stock photography for as little as one dollar per image over at the newish Dollar Photo Club. There are some caveats: the selection is not vast, the quality is somewhat uneven, and currently you must “apply” for a membership which then costs ten dollars a month. Some will grouse at the pricing, but I remember a time when a single stock photo of no particular greatness might still cost as much as twelve months’ worth of Dollar Photo Club.

If even a dollar is too much for you, you can turn to one of the mushrooming number of free stock photography sites, where the parties responsible—agencies and photographers, mostly—have turned their images into loss leaders for publicity. The best known such destination is probably Unsplash which has earned a reputation for a variety of attractive photographic styles that generally don’t have the stagey, saccharine sheen of standard stock catalogs. Also in this vein are Picography, Superfamous, Gratisography and Little Visuals. These sites are all presented in a blog-like single stream, but Magdeleine organizes photos from several different sources (including some of the above) into themes and even provides a search engine that can s
photography  stock_photography  presentation_images 
18 days ago
Museums See Different Virtues in Virtual Worlds - NYTimes.com
This is an account about how two New York museums seized this dream — and how one of them clings to it still, while the other has found that the Internet’s true value isn’t in being everywhere but in enhancing the here.... “The dream was that anyone, anywhere, could participate and would, if given the chance,” said Shelley Bernstein, the vice director of digital engagement and technology at the Brooklyn Museum. “I had the ‘anyone, anywhere’ dream. I remember sitting in countless meetings and arguing for that dream.”...

Today, though, some years into their digital experiments, the museums’ dreams have diverged. The Brooklyn Museum has been boarding up social-media efforts and now wants a closer-to-home approach, using the Internet for things like taking you into the studios of local artists. Meanwhile, the Met is trying to excite audiences as far away as China, circumnavigating that country’s bans on Twitter and Facebook and drawing on curators’ language skills to reach millions via Weibo, a microblogging platform there....

To that end, the Met has created an Instagram feed that regularly emits glimpses of the collection, an account that won a Webby award this year. It has published a “Timeline of Art History” that the museum says attracts one-third of all its Web traffic. It has put out a digital gallery called “One Met. Many Worlds.” It is as complicated to navigate as it is well-meaning: inviting users to experience a shifting kaleidoscope of pieces organized around a key word they choose, like “masked” or “broken.” It built its Weibo account, where its 60 or so posts have been viewed around three million times, according to Mr. Sreenivasan....

when the museum recently acquired “Everhard Jabach (1618-1695) and His Family,” by the 17th-century French painter Charles Le Brun, it departed from the normal script of announcing the acquisition, then unveiling it, in full perfection, many months later.

Instead, the Met put out pictures of the painting arriving in New York, its crate being opened by riggers, and sheets of facing paper being put on the canvas for protection as it headed toward months of restoration work.

“That’s what people want to see, not just completely polished things,” Mr. Sreenivasan said. “They want to get a sense of how things are made.” He added: “You want to build an audience before you have the big launch, rather than just sit on something and have it appear. Rather than hoping for an audience, you can build an audience.”....

But the Brooklyn Museum, when it ventured into the digital, struggled to conquer distant lands and came away with a renewed appreciation for place.

“Eight years ago, we were saying the Internet is the way to become broad,” Ms. Bernstein said. “I think we should be thinking about that in moderation now.”

What occurred along the way was a series of pathbreaking experiments in digital outreach that seemed to prove a vastly different thesis from the Met’s: that no matter how free and easy it was to share the Brooklyn’s collection with Ghana and Mongolia and the Alabama piedmont, it was people living physically close by — and only such people — who could be convinced to care about the museum and engage with it online....

the whole idea of these tools was to break the old pattern of museums catering too much to an educated elite. But the digital sphere was, in her museum’s case, simply replicating (if not amplifying) the elitism of physical visit patterns. “The farther away you were, the less deeply engaged you were in scale and scope,” she said. “The closer you are, the more engaged you were. It has caused us as an institution to completely rethink what we do in terms of digital engagement.”

As part of that rethinking, the museum has publicly shuttered many of its digital platforms in recent months: Flickr, History Pin, iTunesU, its branded Foursquare page and its tagging games. Mr. Sreenivasan said the closings got the whole museum world talking, and wondering about their own online presences....

The lesson Ms. Bernstein takes away from the pivot is this: “Not letting the tech community drive what you’re doing, because it may not be right.” Digital “is not the holy grail,” she contends. “It’s a layer.”

The “Go” project, organized by her institution in 2012, is what she considers the future of the digital Brooklyn Museum: using technology as that “layer.” It exemplified a means of enhancing the local, physical experience of art and of the museum’s collection, as opposed to a way of taking the museum to the wider world.
museums  social_media  localism  place 
20 days ago
The Free and the Antifree | Issue 20 | n+1
ournalists became artists, in need of subsidy, which would come in the form of subscriptions. And meanwhile a “longread” could come from Vanity Fair, where it would fetch $20,000, or from n+1, where it would fetch more like $300. These disparities, which had once been par for the course (Vanity Fair was a profitable corporate entity whose editor in chief made more than a million dollars a year; n+1 was a money-losing operation whose editors lived primarily with roommates), began to seem suspicious, especially once the big corporate magazines started producing more online content, and paying online rates for it. The Awl, a shoestring operation, might pay $150 for an online piece, but so would well-financed xoJane and Vice. Other magazines that fit the same broad category might pay nothing at all. And these, by and large, were the publications that employed young freelance writers who entered the market after the recession.
Freelance writers rightly began to demand more transparency from these publications. The most notable effort has been the blog Who Pays Writers (the source of some of the above figures), where writers anonymously submit pay rates for magazines they’ve worked with. Its founders went on to start the online magazine Scratch, “about the relationship between writing, money, and life,” which modeled itself as an ethical startup, openly sharing the terms and outcomes of its profit-sharing contracts with writers.
For little magazines (like ours), these conversations were painful, for the critics had homed in on a particular problem. The little magazine always originates as an image of utopia that it then betrays. It starts with love but very little money, and because it is edited for free (mostly), it gets writing for free (mostly) in a nonexploitative way, since no one is extracting any surplus value. This is the utopian stage, where writing as a competitive enterprise, as a sphere rife with greed and envy, disappears. It is replaced by a pure and purely unnecessary (in the sense of not being directly useful to the reproduction of biological life and material needs) contemplation of essential, fundamental problems—that is to say, it becomes art. But then, almost immediately, the little magazine becomes a way to “graduate” to the world of hackery—for its editors and writers to become journalists, novelists, overpaid business school speakers—and in this way can serve more as an instrument than an opponent of the hack world....

yde’s book is often cited as an argument against payment for writing—“Art is a gift,” these people say, as they pick up their paychecks from Princeton or Iowa or Columbia. Antifree responds with some variant of Bourdieu’s old unmasking: Nothing exists outside the realm of exchange. If a writer is not paid in money, she is paid in “cultural capital” that translates into improved standing and, eventually, cash. So why (asks antifree) should the writer be forced to wait? Why shouldn’t she be paid right now?
In the argument between the free and the antifree, we’re with the antifree. Across a whole range of issues, a simple defense of intellectual property is right now a rebuke to the corporations, not a sop to them. “Show me the money” is a necessary slogan at a time when giant firms leverage a million retirement accounts for a split-second gain in the ominously named dark pools of the financial world.
writing  labor  open_access  publishing 
20 days ago
Welcome to Paju Book City, the South Korean town inspired by Hay-on-Wye | Cities | theguardian.com
Paju Book City – with a touted ratio of 20 books to every human – arose as “a place devoted to planning, producing and distributing books by well-intentioned publishers”, according to its website, in the dramatic, slightly contorted English typical of Korean publicity materials. “Our [purpose] is simple and clear: the city aims to recover the lost humanity.”

Said humanity has gone missing, apparently, in older cities such as Seoul – and this brave attempt at rediscovering it has been inspired by Wales’s famously bibliophilic market town of Hay-on-Wye. Sadly, the South Korean version has produced not a town or city in any sense but rather, a literary theme park, built to aesthetic principles of a rigidity in league with Disneyland. And yet, perverse as it may seem to concentrate so many bookshops and reader-friendly coffee spots well outside Korea’s cultural centre, the place has proved popular with Seoul’s weekend literati....

No designer city in South Korea, however, has attracted more attention than Songdo, the skyscraper-intensive, apparently eco-friendly ‘smart city’ built along reclaimed waterfront land in Incheon, home of the country’s largest international airport.... The $40bn price tag of this largest private real-estate development ever includes not just all those skyscrapers but a convention centre, a network of bicycle paths, four universities, an arts complex called the Tri-Bowl (so named for its shape, which brought to my mind Brasilia’s National Congress Building), an enormous shopping mall (with unexpected sculptures including a series of glazed-eyed office workers, frozen in mid-stroll through its fountains), and an elaborate Central Park, complete with canals you can traverse by renting a rowboat or buying a ferry ticket.

I went on a Sunday and, to my mild surprise, saw plenty of families doing both. I’d heard Songdo so often called a ‘ghost town’ – and one doomed to remain so, especially on weekends – that I half-expected to find myself alone on the water. Yet a crowd of Koreans rode the ferry alongside me, snapping pictures of all the same features of Central Park I did: the informal take-a-book-leave-a-book library booth; the tiny island populated exclusively by rabbits; the trio of fountains shaped like urinating little boys, their trousers dropped and faces expressing unbridled glee...

Living in Songdo wouldn’t feel like purgatory, but it would, at 35 miles and about 50 subway stops from central Seoul, feel like exile. Despite its technological sophistication, architectural profile and stated aims, it can seem strangely provincial; only here, in this flags-of-the-world-bedecked ‘international city’, have I had my foreignness pointed out by a passing child.
korea  songdo  smart_cities  urban_planning  paju 
20 days ago
Christopher Williams at MoMA: The Aesthetics of Smartypants
The only thing more frustrating than a Christopher Williams show is someone pretending not to be frustrated by a Christopher Williams show. Because you are. Admit it. He is trying. So. Hard. To frustrate you....

“[Y]ou’re confronting the idea that they should be higher and then the question is why should they be higher?” Of all the burning issues that need to be confronted about museum culture, our tyrannical notions about appropriate hanging heights would not be first on my list. This is about as twee and self-indulgent as institutional critique gets....

I find something retro about Williams’s obsessions, which seem tethered to the now-passed intellectual moment of 1980s-era photographic, conceptual, and appropriation art with which he is often associated, when the image had an authority it does not now. Williams is very, very invested in assaying the arcana of photo production of the professional, non-digital variety (since this is mainly a retrospective, you can’t fault him for not addressing technology that wasn’t around when he was working; but he compares unfavorably in my mind to the recently passed German filmmaker Harun Farocki, who had similar concerns with highlighting media artifice, but who found new riddles to explore in the digital right up until his last work). Williams often homes in on things taken apart or cut into cross-sections so that you can stare into their guts, in particular high-end cameras, cut cleanly in half so that you can see all the interlocking plates and nested lenses of the apparatus, as if you were looking at the section of a tree, trying to read the secret history of climate coded into its rings. The results can be lovely, in a natural history museum kind of way.... By foregrounding cameras and their surrounding paraphernalia (like that color bar), Williams’s images function as a reminder of the labor and processes that go into making the image, it’s technical constructed-ness. Even five years ago it might have been different, but it is striking how trite this moral feels in the digital present. Everything is Photoshopped, filtered, meme-ified; most museum-goers, I venture to say, will already know that images are plastic and mutable and rhetorical.... Meanwhile, all this pseudo-critique is just a smokescreen for a very specific form of aesthetic pleasure that should be critiqued itself. “I am interested in a descriptive activity that has such a blunt specificity that it transcends its informative function,” Williams told Artforum, suggesting that he is going for a vibe that can only be called meta-pedantry.... The mythology of Christopher Williams’s art can be summed up in a single sentence: “I am just so, so, so smart.”
photography  exhibition  institutional_critique 
22 days ago
CFP InVisible Culture, Issue 23: Blueprints | InVisible Culture
For its twenty-third issue, InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture invites scholarly articles and creative works that consider the multiple valences of the topic: blueprints.

In his theoretical manifesto, Toward An Architecture, Le Corbusier wrote, “The plan is the generator. Without plan there can be neither grandeur of aim and expression, nor rhythm, nor mass, nor coherence. . . . The plan is what determines everything; it is the decisive moment.” The plan or blueprint is the primary tool of the architect’s and the drafter’s trades—a technical document that bridges creative impulse and constructive labor, intent and execution, virtuality and materiality. Taking shape as a conversation among concept, form, and representation, a blueprint insistently nudges its spectator’s gaze outside its frame. It is understood as a necessary stage on the way to something larger, something grander, something more, and is usually seen not as a self-contained object, but as prescription directed toward a particular outcome. Yet a blueprint may also be the terminus of the unrealized and the unrealizable. Étienne-Louis Boullée’s Cénotaphe à Newton, Le Corbusier’s Ville Contemporaine, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacres, and the Chicago Spire are among the many visionary designs abandoned at the drawing board, whose construction in real space we may now only imagine.

In Issue 23, we would like contributors to consider how blueprints—and more broadly, agendas, manifestos, models, or prophesies—negotiate between the present and an imagined, idealized, or impossible future. What qualities and limitations are shared by conceptual architecture and other speculative mediums? How do plans and prototypes function as a critique of present realities? What is the aesthetic value of diagrams, renderings,  sketches, or preparatory studies? What occurs when we no longer consider the model as process, but as finished product? What are the mechanisms through which the plan attempts to fill the gap between language and image or event?
blueprints  cfps  manifestos  plans  temporality  speculation  media_architecture  models 
22 days ago
Artist Stocks the Shelves of a London Corner Store with 4,000 Hand-Stitched Felt Products | Colossal
British artist Lucy Sparrow has converted an entire abandoned corner shop in Bethnal Green, east London, into a temporary art exhibition titled The Corner Shop featruring 4,000 hand-sewn felt products. Chips, magazines, candy, frozen dinners, and even the cash register have been faithfully rendered in fabric, a process that took Sparrow about seven months to complete and began with a successful plea for help on Kickstarter.
shopping  art  installation  consumption  play 
22 days ago
Museum of Endangered Sounds
I launched the site in January of 2012 as a way to preserve the sounds made famous by my favorite old technologies and electronics equipment. For instance, the textured rattle and hum of a VHS tape being sucked into the womb of a 1983 JVC HR-7100 VCR. As you probably know, it’s a wonderfully complex sound, subtle yet unfiltered. But, as streaming playback becomes more common in the US, and as people in developing nations like Canada and the UK get brought up to DVD players, it’s likely that the world will have seen and heard the last of older machines like the HR-7100. And as new products come to market, we stand to lose much more than VCRs.
Imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who will play my GameBoy when I’m gone?
sound  sonic_archaeology  materiality  things  mechanisms  sound_design 
22 days ago
Pilot Spots Ancient Peruvian Geoglyphs
Late last month, a pilot flying above the Nazca desert in southwestern Peru discovered a series of hitherto unknown large-scale ancient geoglyphs, reports the Huffington Post. The lines, which include what appears to be a 200-foot-long snake, a zigzagging line, and a large bird, were likely uncovered during recent sandstorms, and are thought to be close to 2,000 years old.

Peru’s coastal plain region is home to many similar large-scale line drawings, scattered over a 280-square-mile area. The mysterious etchings are the work of the Nazca, who ruled the southern region of Peru from about 100 BCE to 800 CE. Archeologists have long speculated over the purpose of the massive Nazca lines, which likely had ceremonial or astronomical significance.
writing  media_space  media_city  landscape 
22 days ago
Hito Steyerl’s Video Art Goes in Search of Invisibility
Hito Steyerl, a Berlin-based artist and filmmaker who is better known as a theorist of digital images, has dedicated her latest exhibition at Chelsea’s Andrew Kreps Gallery to reformulating that question thusly: “How do people disappear in an age of total over-visibility?”

Titled “How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational Installation,” Steyerl’s exhibition sardonically entertains the idea of escape from the era’s Orwellian regime of digital and actual “visibility.” Like her essay collection “The Wretched of the Screen,” her show proves insightful, but at times glibly clever....

In view of Steyerl’s considerable critical and satirical gifts, it’s difficult to understand why such a discerning artist prefers to repeat the often fantastical and unexamined clichés of “progressive” hacker culture. Looked at as art-as-theory, Steyerl basically uses her .MOV file to largely illustrate the “emancipatory” possibilities of pixelated images, compressed AVI files, and glitchy live-streaming she championed in her 2009 essay “In Defense of the Poor Image.” Yet the ideas behind Steyerl’s current multimedia installation—despite their frequent illuminations—crucially misjudge not just their wiseacre tone, but the fundamental nature of today’s digital transformations.
images  machine_vision  surveillance  hito_steyerl  installation 
23 days ago
ARTICLES Artist’s 100-Year Project Will Grow Books from Saplings
It takes a certain measure of both hubris and selflessness to create an artwork that won’t be completed until long after your death. Scottish artist Katie Paterson’s “Future Library” begins this year and will come to fruition in 100. Today, it’s comprised of 1,000 saplings; in 2114, it will be an anthology of books.

The plan for “Future Library” is this: Oslo has given Paterson a plot of land in a forest outside a city called Normarka. There, she and her team have planted 1,000 trees, which will grow for the next 100 years. In the meantime, Paterson and a group called the Future Library Trust, which rotates every 10 years and currently consists of publishers, editors, and others (including Ion Trewin, literary director of the Man Booker Prize), will select an author a year to write a text of any kind for “Future Library.” The texts will be held as manuscripts in a special room in the Oslo New Library; Paterson is designing and building that room from the trees that were cut down to make way for the “Future Library” forest. People will be able to visit and see author names and text titles, but none of the manuscripts will be available for reading — until 2114, when the “Future Library” trees will be cut down and turned into paper on which the manuscripts will be printed and published....

“The ethos of the artwork revolves around slow time, care, awareness, longevity,” she explained. “The trees were cut from the forest as part of the natural planting process to sustain the regeneration of the forest. We have been gifted the forest by the City of Oslo are working with the Norwegian Forestry to tend the forest for 100 years. The wood from the felled trees is being used in the construction of the special room in the New City Library that will hold the manuscripts. The wood is also being pulped to make the certificates for ‘Future Library.’ ‘Future Library’ has nature, the environment at its core — and involves ecology, the interconnectedness of things, those living now and still to come. It questions the present tendency to think in short bursts of time, making decisions only for us living now."

...in many ways the human timescale of 100 years is more confronting. It is beyond many of our current lifespans, but close enough to come face to face with it, to comprehend and relativize.”
books  library_art  book_art  deep_time  publishing  ecology  temporality 
23 days ago
Sharing You Can Believe In - Cameron Tonkinwise | Medium
On the one hand, the proposition is simple. Let’s say I manage to ‘ecodesign’ a lawnmower to be 25% more efficient in manufacture and use. If I manage to sell 30% of them, the world is no better. But if one of those lawnmowers is used by 10 different households instead of sitting idle most of the time in a shed, I have made a factor reduction in the world’s material intensity. On the other hand, I have a whole series of other design problems, situations that require design to go against most of what it had been doing through the 20th Century:

1. designing the product for multiple users, not just one owner-user (design for shared use)

2. designing the product for more intense use (design for reliability, repairability, modularity)

3. designing the business model that keeps the manufacturer in business (business design, strategic design, change management)

4. designing the scheduling and logistics system for convenient use of the product (service design)

5. designing the social system for making participants feel comfortable (social platform design).....

Way before all this talk of ‘sharing economies,’ businesses offered this kind of sharing: libraries, coffee shops, formal wear hire, etc. Sharing economies are not new but rather a new way of understanding the value propositions of businesses, one that recast businesses as potential sources for dematerialization....

B. Sustainable Sharing = Scale Dilemma
What the EU research from a decade ago found was that sharing systems depend on density. There need to be a large number of participants in geographic proximity for the shared used of goods to be viable from the business side, convenient from the users side, and low in carbon intensity on the sustainability side.....

When I moved to NYC at the beginning of 2008, the sharing economy was nascent. When I ran a course on ‘Sharing Economies’ at The New School in the Fall of 2009, Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers came to speak about the book they were writing, published the following year, What’s Mine is Yours. As their book suggested, ‘Collaborative Consumption’ was primarily a product of Web 2.0 — fatter, faster tubes; web-enabled mobile; investors desperate to make money; but, more important than all the others, new generations normalized to the web’s mess. Web 2.0 is a cultural shift more than a econo-technical one.

I believe that it is important to take seriously that digital sociality has many new aspects. These are easily occluded by the use of pre-digital terms like ‘like’ and ‘friend,’ but also ‘trust’ and, of course, ‘share.’ But the sharing system startup scene that was emerging around that time did seem to evidence a capacity for people to engage with strangers they encountered on the web in ways that were not and perhaps could not have been well anticipated a decade earlier. Certainly, all that those ‘sharing economy’ startups traded on was exactly what was missing from the EU PSS work only 2 or 3 years earlier....

participants on the supply side only interested in earnings see convenient if not large sources of money, and participants on the demand side see cheap options, and so participation by those less interested in sharing per se increases....

More significantly, the whole system depends on and promotes flexibility: these are systems that offer agile ways of making extra money on top of regular jobs (and/or your creative projects), or allow you to juggle a sharing economy portfolio of service offerings. As with Karl Polanyi’s old adage about the trade-off that accompanied the introduction of capitalism, the cost of freedom is risk....

But their real power lies in connecting the financial side with the digital side via ‘reputation economies.’ ‘Sharing Economies’ have managed to ride the zeitgeist of Web 2.0 by getting users of sharing services to rate providers and vice versa. This audit culture market has become self-policing.... people appear to be supporting the new systems themselves) in ways that turn personal identity and social relations into money-making opportunities....

In the frictionless flow of hyper-commodified materialism, grains of friction, person-to-person encounters that give pause — because they are Seinfeldly awkward or postmaterialistly delightful — could be interpreted as signs of hope. They do not represent a reversal of the Great Transformation, a return of community (which never existed, unless xenophobic), but they might represent something like a re-embedding of economic interactions in new kinds of social relations.....

When you interact with an AirBnB host, he or she is not an employee. He or she is just the owner — or more likely, the renter; owners tend not to do the social interaction bit in my experience — of the place you will be staying in. He or she is doing this with more of their lifeworld than you could ever grant an employee. There is no hiding that they are doing it to make money, or conversely, to meet people. Even if compelled financially to do it, that this person is taking care of all aspects of the service and not just doing one aspect of a job, is very apparent.

In short, there is something inalienable about this economic relation. And it manifests in the weirdness of all interactions. AirBnB struggles to lower the social costs of these encounters through the interaction design of their platform (profiles, house rules, ratings, etc), but there are frictions, especially in the face-to-face moments — how much of a host are you willing or wanting to be? how social a guest must I be? — that will always be impossible to remove....

Note that what I am suggesting as the real value of the ‘sharing economy’ — and by value, I mean, has the potentiality for shifting what our society values — derives directly from what makes the ‘sharing economy’ a source of increased precarity. It breaks with existing models of ‘work’ and the asocial interaction modes they allowed.

When solidarity amongst a community amounts to no more than empathetic identification, and is not backed up with resource flows, it is gestural. This is exactly what the neoliberal ideology insists: ‘the most important thing is love, which money can’t buy, so just tolerate your precarious lot because all that really matters is family or nation or religion, etc.’

The ‘sharing economy’ affords me having social interactions, that are also (awkwardly) economic, with strangers, who nevertheless cannot hide behind their roles but are encountered as people. Or at least, this is when it seems to me that the ‘sharing economy’ is more than its VC-backed exploiters or superficial journalistic promoters think it is. This when there seems to be a surfeit within these strange interactions that looks unrecouperable and so resistant to current modes of exploitation....

the ‘disruption’ that ‘sharing economies’ have represented is becoming a formula for privatizing any remaining commons, each of which is branded a government-run wasteful inefficiency....

let’s preserve the term ‘sharing,’ reserving it not for anti-economic niceness, but for economic relations that have a social thickness to them. This is why I began with the dematerialization history of systems of shared use. In the end, sharing is about the messy negotiation of access to goods, goods that in the name of sustainability become more scarce. Capitalism is an alienated way of handling those negotiations; sharing forces you to negotiate with aliens....
sharing  dematerialization  scale  sharing_economy  sustainability  labor  exploitation 
24 days ago
Bullshit Jobs | n+1
First of all, Marx didn’t call it alienated labor for nothing, dear. It’s not called “nose to the grindstone” because it feels good. It’s not called “keep your head down” because it’s wise to look around. You have been trained from childhood to think that labor, in and of itself, is both a right and one of the most important goals of your life; you have been told that your “career” is the same thing as “who you are in the world.” Yet like most employed people in the United States, you work jobs that you consider to be banal, brutal, or both....

Is there something wrong with you? If you are unusual, it is because you are refusing to keep your head down. Why do you keep looking around? There’s so much to distract and comfort you, if you could just keep your head down, that is, in your computer. Keep your head down; Solange Knowles has kicked Jay Z in an elevator. Keep your head down; James Franco has 2 million followers and he has taken off his shirt and seems to be pulling down his underwear. Keep your head down; Ryan Gosling is still wearing his T-shirt but it has a picture of Macaulay Culkin on it wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Ryan Gosling on it, a three-ton great white shark has been eaten either by an even bigger great white shark or possibly by the Leviathan, and Bill Murray has crashed another wedding. Are you not entertained?...

Most work seems designed to make you feel absolutely alone, and
Almost everyone, if they are honest with themselves, feels exactly like you about much of the work they do.
The space between these two truths is interesting. It is in acknowledging the relation between them that you might find, even within this construct, some room to make “a real and full life.” And one of the steps toward doing this is exactly what you have done: to reveal, in whatever means at your disposal—with friends, co-workers, in writing, in whatever art you do, and in political action—what shitty work is like, and how much you’re paid, and how the exploitation you’ve described registers in your mind and body, and what you think about the absurdity of living in service of an economy that requires you to sell your labor for much less than it’s worth. I do not say this lightly, as if it is some kind of easy answer, but I do think it is currently one of the most effective ones. Both exploitative labor and the inability to find exploitative labor make you feel ashamed. But you should not be. We have to get over the feeling of shame at having failed to find a “meaningful career,” this staggering gap between what we are supposed to want and what is possible for most of us. We have to use every opportunity to make transparent the nature of work and the real consequences of the embargoing of wealth by those at the “tippy-top,” to reveal work as being as strange as it really is: to say over and over, things are upside down....

If regular employment feels to you like the “most soul-oppressing thing [you] can imagine,” Bank-robbin’, then it must be that something in your soul is not made for such work. Perhaps there is a sensitivity in you to touch, to the quiet improvisations of everyday beauty. You are capable of living in any moment with a fullness everyone thinks they have lost, and to shut this down, to hide it for the sake of getting through even a day of exploited work, feels terrible. Your anger at this is a true response. If you cannot stomach doing what people tell you to do, while they grow wealthy and you more broke, then grow your anger until it is hotter than the sun. Know that you have chosen it—that you are choosing to stay awake, to look around, to see that everything is upside down, to remember what is lost in a day of selling your time for no good reason other than the survival that should be your right, and bring us along on your anger’s wide back, for so many of us have given up. But Bank-robbin’, I think this is very important for you: do not let your anger hide from you the truth that you are not alone in this. Do not miss out on the grace of solidarity, the pleasure of empathetic turn-taking when the work is hard, the relentless determination to make even shitty work meaningful, that the Polish crew showed me. We must extend this solidarity far beyond the bounds of our individual workplaces, if we’re going to change this whole situation; we can’t let anger keep us from this.

Where should you direct your rage, then? To what end? This is a difficult question. Too often I see people directing their rage against the wealthy, as if they are monsters. To treat the “1 percent” as some abstract malevolent conspiracy is to tread too close to the helplessness that is really what keeps the whole thing going. Sure, there are people whose greed and desire to exploit others are the very reason we have the word evil. Sure, for some reason some bosses are totally manipulative and sadistic. But I suspect that for most of the members of the upper 10 percent, and even the 1 percent, the real story is different—it is the system that is exploitative, and they have chosen to fight for a position in that system that is the only way to have a kind of personal power that should be everyone’s right. Do you think that if they weren’t so scared of falling into our position, so many people would choose to work in finance, for example, an industry built, in large part, on preying on the debt of others? Employment in that sector is currently the one of the best bets for ensuring one’s basic needs are met, and sending one’s children to college, if they want to go, and getting to live where you most want to live, and traveling to other countries, and getting good health care, without going into debt. It’s not bad to want these things, it’s just that everyone should have them. I wonder sometimes who we have lost to employment in the finance industry—how many great, world-changing climatologists and astrophysicists and doctors and molecular biologists and teachers and composers and househusbands and architects and urban planners. We’ll never know, so long as it is the most lucrative employment for people who are really good at math. How many world-changing social justice lawyers have we lost to corporate law? We’ll never know. If it is the economy that is unreal, not those who run it—if the rich and the bosses and the managers are human beings who inevitably care for other beings, and who would rather care for other beings than exploit them—then change is possible. Better to direct your white-hot festering rage not toward scapegoating the 1 percent, and staying helpless, but toward finding the best way to describe this again and again, more persuasively, more beautifully, in whatever art or political action or writing or talking you have a gift for—what shitty work is really like, what debt is like, what selling our lives to an unreal and exploitative economy is like—in order to build that solidarity broader than our individual workplaces.
labor  exploitation  liberal_arts  career  advising 
25 days ago
The Sound of Drone
Drone is the look and sound of drowning in the web, not surfing it. Drone is the overwhelming flood of media and content, rushing by too quick to handle. It is the way we un-focus our eyes to see the motion, not the things that are passing us. It is the noise against the signal as noise, a beautiful noise, that which we can’t really parse out and yet don’t want to, bathing in its splendid hush, that allows us to stop reading and listening and simple see and hear. It is hearing with the intestines, and seeing with the skin. It is the warmth of light from the neon signs, after we have shattered the glass and allowed the photons to escape the symbology of commodified existence, rushing out into the darkness of the universe, to be absorbed by the invisible matter and dust hanging suspended in the cosmos....

Once, all machines made noise. The hum of the radio let us know it was plugged in. The sound of churning metal in the radiators made us aware of the boilers below. The light emanating from city sky was a sign of what we intended, our hat on the hook by the door, to let our future generations know we were home. But now, we have reduced the fan noise to a minimum, removed the disk drive’s moving parts, and experience the stars through a liquid crystal screen with more shades of deep black than we have the means to see. We have attempted to reduce the drone, to send it away from us where we cannot see it or hear its buzzing propellers. We have told the ghost we don’t believe in it, that we cannot see its face or hear its singing, even though we still make out the snatches of melody as we drift of to sleep, accelerometers attached to our wrists like manacles, big data security blankets, which we might smother in like the technological infants we are.

Drone is the ambient sound of the universe, producing radio waves since the beginning of time, that we have only just discovered how to receive and translate in a form fit for our ears and eyes. Drone is the sound that was always there, but that we have only recently discovered. It is the hazard of alternating current, the frequency of vibrations within the earth that could turn the ground beneath our feet into liquid. It is what we have encased within attractive plastic bezels and and programmed within integrated circuits at nanoscale. It is technology groping nature, and nature forcing itself into technology with erect flesh. Wave forms and static are as permanent as the clouds in the sky, whether they are a snow white, or a PM 2.5 grey. The light and sound of drone is not a side effect but the main event of the lives we have built for ourselves underneath the archways and domes of machinery.
machines  materiality  spiritualism  epistemology  ontology  sound  noise  drone 
25 days ago
Revise & Resubmit | A Community of Scholars
Revise & Resubmit is an online community and network for people who too often don’t have one — students, grad students, early career professors. Far too often, academia can feel lonely. This community was built to counter that. Let’s help each other. Let’s collaborate. Let’s demystify the academy — together.
UMS  graduate_education  advising 
29 days ago
swissmiss | Workspace Organization System of Little Red Boxes
I love boxes. And I love seeing how other people organize their stuff. Knowing that, you will understand why I love this short video by filmmaker Casey Neistat in which he explains a clever organizational system, consisting of 39 little red boxes.
organization  storage  aesthetics_of_administration  video 
29 days ago
Doing Grad School Right | Revise & Resubmit
I wish, then, that I’d known someone like Dr. Shannon Mattern. Shannon teaches an introduction to graduate studies course at the New School in New York. (That’s a course, by the way! A course for credit! What a fantastic idea — at my institution, we were expected to get it right away, as if by entering the hallowed space of the PhD we would somehow pick up the how of everything by osmosis.) Anyway, if your school is like mine, you will understand the greatness of the insanely useful collection of resources for graduate students Shannon posted today on her blog. From “How Not to Write Like a Grad Student” to “Reading Effectively” to “Conference Tips,” these are truly networked resources, ripe with links to other resources, and then to others still.

So, how not to be a hetero-ethno-phallo-normative hegemon beholden to the “rhetorics of privilege”? What’s a writer to do?
Oh yeah: she’s funny. In fact, she’s amusing, erudite, and full of really good advice (how not to overwrite, anyone?). I know I sound like a besotted academic fan girl here, but if you’re actually hoping to get through the whole grad school ordeal experience intact, you might want to hop on over to her site stat.
UMS  academia  my_work 
29 days ago
Public Libraries | Multiple Solutions - Nate Hill on Medium
Public libraries are sharing systems that can be implemented in countless different ways. They are the result of an agreement that a community makes to efficiently pool and share a set of resources.... Public libraries provide shared access to information and media. This includes data itself as well as descriptive metadata; then there is traditional media of all formats: books, ebooks, audio, video. ... Public libraries provide access to tools. This includes digital tools and machines, hardware and software, as well as mechanical or even simple tools.... Public libraries give people access to other people.... The most literal implementation would be the human library, but the same ideas are at work any time that a library facility acts as a civic laboratory for open discourse and exchange.... Public libraries provide infrastructure for knowledge exchange. This refers to architecture or connectivity....

In the past 10 years at least three influential academics have reframed the library’s purpose in arguments structured as “The Library as ____.” Those are, in no particular order, Shannon Mattern’s article Library as Infrastructure, David Weinberger’s essays about the Library as Platform, and David Lankes’s ideas of the Library as Conversation. The very fact that three people of this intellectual caliber have written popular pieces reframing the purpose of libraries is fascinating in and of itself, and it speaks volumes about the disruption library organizations are seeing....

The disruptive read-write nature of the open internet has necessitated Lankes’s ‘new librarianship’ ideas, ensured the viability of Weinberger’s library platform, and set the urban conditions for Mattern’s flexible infrastructure argument. None of these perspectives contradict one another, instead they complement and depend on one another. Likewise, the four categories of resources — media, tools, people, and infrastructure — work as a matrix for library service designers to draw from as they respond to community needs.
libraries  infrastructure  my_work 
4 weeks ago
The New Privilege: Loudly Denouncing Your Privilege | NY Mag - The Cut
In an age of anti-elitism, the elitists have developed a neat trick for reveling in their privilege while seemingly waving it off: elite populism, the practice of critiquing the privileged class to which you belong....

1. Elite populism is actually a how-to guide to elitism.... 3. Elite populism is an excuse for navel-gazing and the airing of guilt.... 4. Elite populism is stealth-snobby..... It's saying you went to school "outside Boston," ostensibly to avoid sounding like a braggart, but actually as a dog whistle for those in the know.
privilege  elitism 
4 weeks ago
Movie Film, at Death's Door, Gets a Reprieve | WSJ
Faced with the possible extinction of the material that made Hollywood famous, a coalition of studios is close to a deal to keep Eastman Kodak Co. KODK -2.50% in the business of producing movie film.

The negotiations—secret until now—are expected to result in an arrangement where studios promise to buy a set quantity of film for the next several years, even though most movies and television shows these days are shot on digital video.

Kodak's new chief executive, Jeff Clarke, said the pact will allow his company to forestall the closure of its Rochester, N.Y., film manufacturing plant, a move that had been under serious consideration. Kodak's motion-picture film sales have plummeted 96% since 2006, from 12.4 billion linear feet to an estimated 449 million this year. With the exit of competitor Fujifilm Corp. last year, Kodak is the only major company left producing motion-picture film.
film  materiality  kodak  preservation  media_archaeology  dead_media 
4 weeks ago
Joho the Blog » Report from Denmark: Designing the new public library at Aarhus, and the People’s Lab
Three and a half years ago, the Danes wrote a report on public libraries in the knowledge society, and went looking for partnerships, which is unusual for the Danes, says Knud. The new model of the library intersects four spaces: inspiration, learning, performative, and meeting spaces. But the question is what people are going to do in those spaces. Recognition/experience, empowerment, learning, innovation. Knud shows pictures of those activities currently going on in the library.
Two hundred of Denmark’s 500 public libraries are “open libraries” — open 24 hours a day, with staffing only about 12 hours a week. If you have a library card, you can open the door. You can check media in and out, use the Internet, use a PC, read newspapers, study, arrange study circles. “The point is to let users take control.”
A law in 2007 said there had to be one-stop shopping for govt services. Most libraries offer these services. You go to the library for a passport, drivers license, health insurance, etc. Every citizen needs to have a personal account for communication with banks, from the state (e.g., about taxes). Libraries have helped educate the citizenry about this.
Often libraries are community centers that involve public and private sectors and a wide range of services. Sometimes the other services overwhelm the library services. “People ask me, ‘Where is the public library in this?’, and I say, ‘Think about the library as the glue.’”
There have to be innovation spaces in the local libraries.
libraries  denmark 
4 weeks ago
Internal exile — I think that’s well-put, and that the similarity...
hipsterism is an especially salient iteration of neoliberal subjectivity, one that gains currency by being slippery and inarticulable. These concepts become normalized by becoming boring and frustrating to talk about. The apparent vagueness in the terms seems to make them unalterable. The struggle to define them reflects the stakes of keeping them amorphous, capable of absorbing more and more behavior, making the way of thinking they describe feel inescapable, natural.

In a post called “We Are All Neoliberals” (just as no one is a hipster/neoliberal; everyone is), Jason Read argues that the inconsistent usage of the term neoliberalism has blunted its critical usefulness, turned it into a euphemism rather than an analytical tool...

When one looks at economic inequality or injustice or other forms of immiseration, one can drop in a “because neoliberalism” and bring the discussion to a futile close. The discussion can then dissolve into arguments about what that is supposed to mean.

If we use such terms as neoliberal and hipster affectively, as ill-defined pejoratives, we inadvertently strengthen the ideology behind them. This is not only because vague terms help naturalize the phenomena they are in the process of organizing. (Read notes that “this paradox defines much reactionary, or conservative thought, which always declares some hierarchy or principle natural while actively working to produce it.”) It is also because they make identification and description of the problem seem sufficient. That is to say, hipster (or neoliberal) describes an ideology (or a rationality) more than it does a person, and applying it to people can just make them scapegoats. ...

Neoliberalism is largely about fostering competition among atomized individuals and suppressing any sense of collectivity within society. Its tool for doing this, by and large, is quantification: surveillance to yield measurements. By combining an expanded Taylorism with entrepreneurial conceptions of the self as an enterprise, these measurements can be used to make efficiency a requirement of more and more of one’s life, effectively turning it all into work. When measured and circulated, all forms of behavior can become “productive” — can be recast as a kind of value that capitalism can capture. By making the self an enterprise, “growth” becomes the only means to make the self continue to seem real.

...the ideal of competitiveness is used to inculcate subjects with an “infinite demand for performance”: always be striving, always be trying. Contentment is turned into weakness, lack of imagination, cowardice, failure, the hallmark of an anti-entrepreneurial loser.... Neoliberalist subjectivity, then, is about bringing a mentality of “winning” to every aspect of life — every little thing is a performance, a contest — while being forever discontented with the fruits of such success. The winning and losing is mediated by metrics, which induce one to assent to more invasive surveillance...

Talking about “hipsterism” is one way of evoking that kind of competitive self-production. Complaining about it is a muted way of complaining about neoliberal demands on identity to be productive for capital. Bemoaning “inauthenticity” seems a veiled way of talking about how the value of that self-production feeds the expanding capitalist system rather than the transcendent ego of the individual agent.
neoliberalism  hipsters  politics  theory  economics  ideology  surveillance  quantification 
4 weeks ago
Words by Tony Judt | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
there are not many instructors left with the self-confidence (or the training) to pounce on infelicitous expression and explain clearly just why it inhibits intelligent reflection. The revolution of my generation played an important role in this unraveling: the priority accorded the autonomous individual in every sphere of life should not be underestimated—”doing your own thing” took protean form.

Today “natural” expression—in language as in art—is preferred to artifice. We unreflectively suppose that truth no less than beauty is conveyed more effectively thereby. Alexander Pope knew better. (“True Wit is Nature to Advantage drest, / What oft was Thought, but ne’er so well Exprest.” —Essay on Criticism, 1711) For many centuries in the Western tradition, how well you expressed a position corresponded closely to the credibility of your argument. Rhetorical styles might vary from the spartan to the baroque, but style itself was never a matter of indifference. And “style” was not just a well-turned sentence: poor expression belied poor thought. Confused words suggested confused ideas at best, dissimulation at worst.

The “professionalization” of academic writing—and the self-conscious grasping of humanists for the security of “theory” and “methodology”—favors obscurantism. This has encouraged the rise of a counterfeit currency of glib “popular” articulacy: in the discipline of history this is exemplified by the ascent of the “television don,” whose appeal lies precisely in his claim to attract a mass audience in an age when fellow scholars have lost interest in communication. But whereas an earlier generation of popular scholarship distilled authorial authority into plain text, today’s “accessible” writers protrude uncomfortably into the audience’s consciousness. It is the performer, rather than the subject, to whom the audience’s attention is drawn....

Cultural insecurity begets its linguistic doppelgänger. The same is true of technical advance. In a world of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter (not to mention texting), pithy allusion substitutes for exposition. Where once the Internet seemed an opportunity for unrestricted communication, the increasingly commercial bias of the medium—”I am what I buy”—brings impoverishment of its own. My children observe of their own generation that the communicative shorthand of their hardware has begun to seep into communication itself: “people talk like texts.”

This ought to worry us. When words lose their integrity so do the ideas they express. If we privilege personal expression over formal convention, then we are privatizing language no less than we have privatized so much else. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” Alice was right: the outcome is anarchy.

In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell castigated contemporaries for using language to mystify rather than inform. His critique was directed at bad faith: people wrote poorly because they were trying to say something unclear or else deliberately prevaricating. Our problem, it seems to me, is different. Shoddy prose today bespeaks intellectual insecurity: we speak and write badly because we don’t feel confident in what we think and are reluctant to assert it unambiguously (“It’s only my opinion…”). Rather than suffering from the onset of “newspeak,” we risk the rise of “nospeak.”
UMS  writing  discourse  rhetoric  words 
4 weeks ago
ARCADE: Literature, the Humanities, and the World
Despite the wane of theory, we are still told that literary study must be made "rigorous" through the "application" of various kinds of theory. Unfortunately, each theory or theoretical tradition is taught to us only in partial or fragmentary form, either in "Introduction to Theory" courses or as secondary reading in traditionally (historically, formally) denominated courses. E.g., Let's read a helping of queer theory with our early modern drama! This gives birth to a theoretical "mash-up" culture, in which radically incompatible theories populate our arguments....

Part of our scholarly training involves reading huge amounts of secondary material larded with jargon. We learn that to be a serious scholar or critic is to speak in a certain idiom. Canny aspiring professionals, we write in the style of what we are asked to read...

Often, despite our disciplinary self-definition, there is an attendant sense that simply writing about literature or cultural phenomena is not sufficient. If we want the grant or the fellowship that will get us through the next year, we need to concoct elaborate answers to the "so-what" question. We therefore have an incentive to aggrandize the importance of our work: we're being political, challenging norms, overturning conventional modes of thought, etc.
UMS  writing 
4 weeks ago
Prune That Prose - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Do you ever read your prose aloud, either quietly to yourself or at a public reading of your work? Too many academics would answer no to that question. We have a kind of reverse aestheticism—if our writing is dense and unwieldy, filled with technical terms and convoluted sentences, we wear its lack of accessibility as a badge of honor....

Academics are not embarrassed by writing that's impenetrable. We're taught to feel like doctors castigated for poor penmanship. Producing turgid prose is part of how we define ourselves as professionals.

But why is that? Why don't we want to be like M, a person with deep theoretical and technical expertise, who designs her roof gardens to be both pleasing and useful? Why do academics so often have contempt for writing that appeals to a broader public?
writing  publishing  editing  UMS 
4 weeks ago
Software, It's a Thing - Matt Kirschenbaum
Matthew Fuller, editor of Software Studies: A Lexicon puts it this way in his introduction to a 2008 MIT Press volume on the subject: “While applied computer science and related disciplines … have now accreted half a century of work on this domain, software is often a blind spot in the wider, broadly cultural theorization and study of computational and networked digital media…. Software is seen as a tool, something you do something with. It is neutral, grey, or optimistically blue.” Software studies, as a sub-field of digital media studies, thus offers a framework for historicizing software and dislodging it from its purely instrumental sphere.... demonstrating the range of ways one might seek to circumscribe it as an object of preservation.

Software as asset. The legal perspective. In 1969, the US Justice Department opened an anti-trust suit against IBM, the result of which was that IBM “unbundled” the practice of providing programs—software—to its clients for free as part of its hardware operations. Instead, IBM introduced the distinction between System Control Programs and Program Products; the latter became a salable commodity. IBM’s unbundling decision is routinely cited as a catalyst for the emergence of software as a distinct area of activity within computer science and engineering at large. The point I would make here is that the object we call “software” is a legal and commercial construct as much as it is a technological one.

Software as package. The engineer’s perspective. Computer historian Thomas Haigh has argued that the key moment for conceptualizing software came when its originators began to think about “packaging” their code so as to share it with others. Haigh makes the analogy to envelopes for letters and shipping containers. In practice, “packaging” the software meant conceiving of the software object not just in terms of code, but also systems requirements, documentation, support, and even the tacit knowledge required to run it. “What turned programs into software,” Haigh concludes, “was the work of packaging needed to transport them effectively from one group to another.” Software becomes software, in other words, when it is portable.

Software as shrinkwrap... But the appeal is clearly that it is easy to visualize shrinkwrapped software as an artifact, and thus integrate it into collecting practices already in place for artifacts of other sorts.

Software as a kind of notation, or score. Here we are talking about actual source code, and the musical analogy is more than casual....

Software as object. Here I deliberately use the word “object” in multiple valances, both to connote the binary executable as well as its resonance with object-oriented programming (itself a paradigm about modularity and reuse) and perhaps even the emerging philosophical discourse around so-called object oriented ontologies...

Software as craft. The artisan’s perspective. Here I have in mind accounts of software development which deliberately position themselves in opposition to enterprise-level software engineering. Not Microsoft Word, but Scrivener (or for that matter, Medium)....

Software as epigraphy.... tombstones and Easter eggs...

Software as clickwrap. This is perhaps the dominant model today, combining the familiar online storefront with advanced DRM and cloud-based content distribution.

Software as hardware. -- eg. Media Archaeology Lab, MITH...

Software as social media -- eg. GitHub...

Software as background. Software as background. New media artist Jeff Thompson has collected some 11,000 screenshots documenting every computer appearing (usually in the background) of every episode of the TV series Law and Order. We can learn much from incidental popular representations of software....

Software as paper trail. specs, requirements, design documents, memos and correspondence, marketing research, advertising and promotional materials, press clippings, swag, memorabilia, and ephemera...

Software as service.

Software as big data.

But underlying all of these different approaches, or “frameworks” as I have called them, is the more fundamental one of what it means to think of software as a human artifact, a made thing, tangible and present for all of its supposed virtual ineffability.... Software may be stuff unlike any other, it may be even intangible, but it is still a thing, indisputably there as a logical, spatial, and imaginative artifact, subject to craft and technique, to error and human foible. Writing software is not an abstract logical exercise; it is art and design, intuition and discipline, tradition and individual talent, and over time the program takes shape as a wrought object, a made thing that represents one single realization of concepts and ideas that could have been expressed and instantiated in any number of other renderings. Software is thus best understood as a dynamic artifact: not some abstract ephemeral essence, not even just as lines of written instructions or code, but as something that builds up layers of tangible history through the years, something that contains stories and sub-plots and dramatis personae.
software  preservation  objects  craft  code  things  archives  documentation  materiality 
4 weeks ago
Vernacular Criticism | The New Inquiry
many Yelp reviews confront the engineered homogeneity of the museum experience, the standardized conditions that Brian O’Doherty, an artist and critic, wrote about in Inside the White Cube. In these essays, written in the 1970s, O’Doherty describes the origins of ubiquitous gallery architecture and offers a critique of the white cube’s transformation of the viewer into a phantom, a spectral organ of cognition designed for the bodiless appreciation of art....

Yelp does a lot of things, including a number things that make people hate it. But one thing it does is provide a platform for vernacular art criticism, a different kind of writing about art and the public spaces where it is seen. Vernacular criticism can reject the guidelines set by cultivated artistic tastes, or it can guilelessly speak in ignorance of them, or in its naive fascination with them can inadvertently expose their falseness. Vernacular criticism is an expression of taste that has not been fully calibrated to the tastes cultivated in and by museums. Vernacular criticism inscribes bodies in public spaces that would otherwise erase them....

I’ve never studied art history, which from a distance looks like a bleakly stuffy field, concerned with questions of influence and provenance that stake out an autonomous purity for art and its mediums, that disengages them from social or cultural history. Criticism, as opposed to history, appeals to me as a practice of inscribing art in life....

The art critic doesn’t change the art world’s systems of power; he simply gives them publicity by reminding readers that they exist. So it is with the yelper who accumulates language around a storefront or a brand....

Their opinion would probably be endorsed by Pierre Bourdieu, who in Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste uses sociological data to argue that the theory of aesthetic judgment proposed by Kant in the 18th century as a description of a universal human condition is, in fact, particular to the class interests of the bourgeoisie. Like my fellow members of the Yelp Elite, Bourdieu chose not to grant art special status, to recognize its distinction from other pursuits. “The dispositions which govern ­choices between the goods of legitimate culture cannot be fully understood … unless ‘culture,’ in the restricted, normative sense of ordinary usage, is reinserted into ‘culture’ in the broad, anthropological sense, and the elaborated taste for the most refined objects is brought back into relation with the elementary taste for the flavors of food.” Taste is an embodied, sensory experience—one that originates in the gut and touches the world with the tongue. But it is also subject to a number of social abstractions that manage it, rationalize it, and build what Bourdieu calls a “magical barrier,” distinguishing “legitimate culture” through the skilled labor of identification and decoding, distinctions reproduced in education and cultivated over time.

The museum lives behind such a magical barrier. The power structures of Yelp—the hierarchy of service provider and users, algorithms of usefulness, advertising—have nothing to do with the museum’s power, and so Yelp can smash its magical barrier. Yelp puts museums into pages labeled with their names and addresses where anything can be said about them, the same as any other business....

There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not social media can measure artistic merit—or any merit—through likes, favorites, reblogs, retweets and so on. But the conversation tends to be limited to the potential of these metrics to measure quality, without acknowledging that such a process of measuring constitutes an attempt to merely “democratize” the meritocracy. This totally misses the potential of social media to account for the plurality of tastes found in the world. And so the counting of social-media attention is always ­unsatisfying—these metrics give a unified count of everything whose sums mean nothing.

Yelp—as well as Amazon and other review sites—shoehorn taste into metered ratings, but they also demand a first-person expression of taste. They ask the user to be a critic without demanding the past labor of cultivation or the other social abstractions imposed by the public sphere....

Yelp is not the answer to criticism’s problems. On its own it can’t transform criticism, or museums, for the better. The reviews of museums there may eschew the academic jargon of art writing and bourgeois biases of taste, but they tend to replace them with the clichés of marketing and advertising—the register of a commercialized public sphere—found in Yelp reviews of restaurants, strip clubs, or salons.

And yet Yelp could help reset the terms of art criticism, as an environment where the judgment of one among others not obligated by any judgment except their own is newly fresh, and where this judgment is honestly subjective and contingent, as tasted by unobligated bodies.
artists_books  public_sphere  vernacular  taste 
4 weeks ago
Turf Wars (The Lawn) | The New Yorker
Mowing turfgrass quite literally cuts off the option of sexual reproduction. From the gardener’s perspective, the result is a denser, thicker mat of green. From the grasses’ point of view, the result is a perpetual state of vegetable adolescence. With every successive trim, the plants are forcibly rejuvenated. In his anti-lawn essay “Why Mow?,” Michael Pollan puts it this way: “Lawns are nature purged of sex and death. No wonder Americans like them so much.”...

In the early days of lawns—British aristocrats started planting them sometime around the start of the eighteenth century—there were two ways to mow. A landowner could use grazing animals, like sheep, which meant also employing sheepkeepers, or he could send out bands of scythe-wielding servants. Then, in 1830, Edwin Beard Budding, an engineer from Gloucestershire, came up with a third alternative—“a machine for mowing lawns, etc.”...

A lawn may be pleasing to look at, or provide the children with a place to play, or offer the dog room to relieve himself, but it has no productive value. The only work it does is cultural. In Downing’s day, the servant-mowed lawn stood, eloquently, for the power structure that made it possible: who but the very rich could afford such a pointless luxury? As mechanical mowers enabled middle-class suburbanites to cut their own grass, this meaning was lost and a different one took hold. A lawn came to signal its owner’s commitment to a communitarian project: the upkeep of the greensward that linked one yard to the next....

Lawns as unnatural - none of the grasses commonly used are native to the US - It was observed that repeated applications of synthetic fertilizer could counteract turfgrasses’ seasonal cycle by, in effect, tricking the plants into putting out new growth. Sensing a potential bonanza, lawn-care companies began marketing the idea of an ever-green green....

Between them, Carson and Otto introduced all the main anti-lawn arguments: toxicity, habitat destruction, resource depletion, enforced conformity.... Recently, a NASA-funded study, which used satellite data collected by the Department of Defense, determined that, including golf courses, lawns in the United States cover nearly fifty thousand square miles—an area roughly the size of New York State. The same study concluded that most of this New York State-size lawn was growing in places where turfgrass should never have been planted. In order to keep all the lawns in the country well irrigated, the author of the study calculated, it would take an astonishing two hundred gallons of water per person, per day....

Downing was passionate about landscape gardening, and even more so about its edifying possibilities. He urged his readers to improve their yards not just for the sake of their own uplift and enjoyment but in the interest of the greater good; through the “principle of imitation,” they would become models for their neighbors, and in this way a single example of refinement could transform a “graceless village.” We now have lawns smoother and more velvety than Downing could have imagined. And yet our relationship to the Beautiful remains vexed. As the anti-lawnists correctly observe, the American lawn now represents a serious civic problem. That the space devoted to it continues to grow—and that more and more water and chemicals and fertilizer are devoted to its upkeep—doesn’t prove that we care so much as that we are careless.
landscape  nature  water  sustainability  lawns  home 
5 weeks ago
Creative Types From Manolo Blahnik to Milton Glaser on Their Favorite Writing and Drawing Instruments
Is the pencil over? It’s no secret we’ve turned to keyboards and touch screens to convey our thoughts, complete our work in the office and design everything from bespoke stationery to custom footwear. For most, it’s hard to recall the last time an octagonal wooden shaft rested between our fingers. But for a select set of highly creative individuals, writing instruments are still in high demand. Here, authors, designers and artists ranging from Manolo Blahnik to Milton Glaser share brief odes to the pencils, pens and brushes to which they are devoted, and illustrations to go along with them.
pencil  pen  tools  writing  presentation_images 
5 weeks ago
It's Nice That : Milton Glaser and friends sing the praise of the humble pencil, pen and paintbrush
We adore this article from NYT’s T Magazine today, in which a heap of creatives sing hallelujah for old school artistic tools, with brilliant illustrations to boot.
pencil  pen  writing  tools 
5 weeks ago
DEVONthink — Second Impression and some Tips | ORGANIZING CREATIVITY
I have put all my material that I still work with, PDF documents of articles, images, videos, etc. pp. into one database. Archived content of finished projects is in a Wiki. The reason for one database is that I think that different topics stimulate each other and if they are grouped (“put into folders”), there should be no conflicts. It also saves space, as some images, videos, documents, etc. are relevant for private projects and work projects. Disadvantage is that it gets large very quickly, but see above, it should work and for me (now) the advantages are greater than the disadvantages. If it gets too large it’s possible to split the database, although only some versions of DEVONthink support multiple databases.
UMS  notes  devonthink  workflow 
5 weeks ago
The Design of Workspaces, Past, Present, Future | WNPR
From the nineteenth century “counting house” to the modern-day cubicle, the layout of our workspaces has undergone some pretty radical changes over the years.

This hour, we look at the history of our beloved desks and cubicles with author Nikil Saval. We also talk to some workplace architects about what goes into office design.

And later, Connecticut artist Joe Fig tells us how he’s been using his craft to recreate the workspaces of some of today’s leading artists.

GUESTS:

Nikil Saval - Editor of n+1 and author of Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace
Tony Amenta - Principal at Amenta|Emma Architects, P.C.
Tom Eich - Chief Technology Officer and Partner at IDEO
Joe Fig - Connecticut-based artist and author of Inside the Painter’s Studio
workplace  labor  design  cubicles  coworking  studio  podcast 
5 weeks ago
Theodor Adorno's Philosophy of Punctuation
History has left its residue in punctuation marks, and it is history, far more than meaning or grammatical function, that looks out at us, rigidified and trembling slightly, from every mark of punctuation...

“punctuation marks,” Adorno writes, “are marks of oral delivery.” As such, they function like musical notation. “The comma and the period correspond to the half-cadence and the authentic cadence.” Exclamation points are “like silent cymbal clashes, question marks like musical upbeats.” Colons are like “dominant seventh chords.”...

Adorno reserves a special pride of place for the semicolon. He claims that “only a person who can perceive the different weights of strong and weak phrasings in musical form” can understand the difference between semicolon and comma. He differentiates between the Greek and German semicolon. And he expresses alarm “that the semicolon is dying out.” This, he claims, is due to a fear of “page-long paragraphs”—the kind he often writes. It is “a fear created by the marketplace—by the consumer who does not want to tax himself.” ...

Quotation marks, he writes, should only be used for direct quotes, “and if need be when the text wants to distance itself from a word it is referring to.” This can include writing words as words (the word “word” is a word…). Adorno rejects quotation marks as an “ironic device.” This usage presents “a predetermined judgment on the subject”; it offers a “blind verdict.”...

First, we have “the serious dash,” in which “thought becomes aware of its fragmentary character.” Dashes may signal “mute lines into the past, wrinkles on the brow” of the text, ”uneasy silence.” Dashes need not connect thoughts. The “desire to connect everything,” Adorno writes, is the mark of “literary dilettantes.”... Parenthetical phrases (like this) create “enclaves” and admit the “superfluousness” of their contents, which is why many stylebooks frown upon them. Their use in this way “capitulate[s] to pedantic philistinism.” The “cautious writer”—writes punctiliously cautious Adorno—will place parentheticals between dashes, “which block off parenthetical material from the flow of the sentence without shutting it up in a prison.”...

“The writer,” he admits, “is in a permanent predicament when it comes to punctuation marks: if one were fully aware while writing, one would sense the impossibility of ever using a mark of punctuation correctly and would give up writing altogether.”
writing  punctuation  UMS 
5 weeks ago
Smoke signals replace wires in interactive art installation | The Verge
Binairy Talk is a charming interactive installation that blends smoke signals with computer language. Created by a pair of German design students, the project takes text input and transforms it into binary code as part of an attempt to illustrate how data surrounds us constantly. The results are then represented by puffs of water vapor which are subsequently blasted across the room by what looks like a modified loudspeaker. After crossing through a laser sensor, the signals are processed and translated into comprehensible writing once more.
media_archaeology  smoke_signals  materiality  translation  language  transmission 
5 weeks ago
Breakthrough in Virtualization of Museum Collections - artnet News
Could the museum of the future be little more than a 3D screen? Researchers moved one step closer to fully digitalizing the world’s art collections on Tuesday, deploying the CultLab3D scanner at Frankfurt’s Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung to scan Renaissance sculptor Antico a.k.a. Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi’s Apollo Belvedere (1497-1498)....

The CultLab3D takes cues from the assembly line in its scanning process, using a conveyor belt to completely automate the process. The sculpture first passes through a series of so-called scanning arcs, the results of which are processed by the system. It then uses a secondary system of robotic arms to fill in missed areas or portions where greater detail is required. Each scan takes mere minutes, meaning that whole museum sculpture collections could be brought into the digital realm in less time than the Smithsonian’s first 20 artifacts took to process.

Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung director Max Hollein called the CultLab3D, “an ideal application of high technology in the museum,” which could provide, “ultimate global digital access to art-historical contents and research results.”

But, wider public access isn’t the device’s only major implication, the museum’s head of antiquities Vinzenz Brinkmann suggests. “In cases of damage, an object can be reconstructed down to the smallest detail, or virtually reproduced,” he explains.
museums  scanning  preservation  reproduction 
5 weeks ago
Ad/Lib
Welcome to Ad/Lib, a website that showcases graphic and communication design work by/for the library community.
libraries  marketing  advertising 
5 weeks ago
Sketches for an Earth Computer - we make money not art
Sketches for an Earth Computer is an ongoing series of living "laboratory" studies that explore the links between the earth, code and the human psyche of the viewer.

Over the past few years, Martin Howse has been investigating the possibility to build a computational device that would not only be constructed solely from the earth but would also be embedded within the earth as a critical monument to human technology.

The computer enters a feedback loop with the environment itself as geophysical, biological and electro-chemical elements can both encode and be modified by the computational structures.
geology  computing  media_archaeology 
5 weeks ago
Book Smell Is Back
Now, you’ll be surprised to discover a growing list of home and beauty products, which focus on one clear task: to recreate the book smell in its finest glory.

The magic of the addictive smell of books was very well described by the team of researchers, who concluded that it’s “a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.”
books  material_texts  smell  multisensory 
5 weeks ago
Google Interview Questions
Design the SQL database tables for a car rental database.
Write a regular expression which matches a email address.
Write a function f(a, b) which takes two character string arguments and returns a string containing only the characters found in both strings in the order of a. Write a version which is order N-squared and one which is order N.
You are given a the source to a application which is crashing when run. After running it 10 times in a debugger, you find it never crashes in the same place. The application is single threaded, and uses only the C standard library. What programming errors could be causing this crash? How would you test each one?
Explain how congestion control works in the TCP protocol.
In Java, what is the difference between final, finally, and finalize?
What is multithreaded programming? What is a deadlock?
Write a function (with helper functions if needed) called to Excel that takes an excel column value (A,B,C,D…AA,AB,AC,… AAA..) and returns a corresponding integer value (A=1,B=2,… AA=26..).
interviews  google  job_search  databases 
6 weeks ago
How We End Up Marrying the Wrong People
The very idea that we might not be too difficult as people should set off alarm bells in any prospective partner. The question is just where the problems will lie: perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us, or we can only relax when we are working, or we’re a bit tricky around intimacy after sex, or we’ve never been so good at explaining what’s going on when we’re worried. It’s these sort of issues that – over decades – create catastrophes and that we therefore need to know about way ahead of time, in order to look out for people who are optimally designed to withstand them. A standard question on any early dinner date should be quite simply: ‘And how are you mad?’...

We need to know the intimate functioning of the psyche of the person we’re planning to marry. We need to know their attitudes to, or stance on, authority, humiliation, introspection, sexual intimacy, projection, money, children, aging, fidelity and a hundred things besides. This knowledge won’t be available via a standard chat.

In the absence of all this, we are led – in large part – by what they look like. There seems to be so much information to be gleaned from their eyes, nose, shape of forehead, distribution of freckles, smiles… But this is about as wise as thinking that a photograph of the outside of a power station can tell us everything we need to know about nuclear fission.
marriage  love 
6 weeks ago
digital humanities in the anthropocene « Bethany Nowviskie
Long Now and Dark Mountain. They’re not exactly deep time vs. the ephemeral and experiential—nor are they exactly about careful manufacture and how the machine stops. They’re not neatly about hope vs. despair, either. But when, in an edited collection on post-environmentalism and the Anthropocene, Latour urges us to “love our monsters,” that is, to take a page from Frankenstein (here on the shores of Lake Léman), and invest in more systematic management of the technologies we have created—when he tells us that hope lies in putting as much care into the stewardship of our disquieting tech as we put into its creation—it’s a call for long-term thinking and a constructive, continuing Long Now. “The environment,” Latour writes, “should be even more managed, taken up, cared for, stewarded; in brief, integrated and internalized in the very fabric of the polity.” On the other hand, when technology governance expert Steven J. Jackson submits, in a recent essay called “Rethinking Repair,” that we require “broken world thinking,” he’s on the slopes of Dark Mountain. Jackson holds that individual acts of maintenance, disassembly, and repair are ever-present in our interaction with technology, as quietly hopeful and generative deeds, but that they are occluded by a privileged cultural rhetoric of “innovation, development, and design.” He calls for more thoughtful engagement with the notion not so much of making things, but of fixing them, repurposing them in their diminishment and dismantlement—not of making new, but of making do, and of thereby engaging what he calls “an ethics of mutual care”—with each other, the world around us, and with the (quite literal) objects of our affection. This is a source [he says] of “hope and resilience” and it’s a way of being in space and time that—I observe—has deep feminist roots....

Perhaps we have become cautious enough of the unintended results of our technological solutions to look concernedly on a DeExtinction project—on the careless creation, one might fear, of too many monsters to love. Simply “dwelling with extinction,” though, in the Dark Mountain sense, seems profoundly bleak—and potentially without end. What are we left with?...

First, the digital recovery of texts, objects, and traces of human experience thought long since lost to time. Here (from the outside, at least), DH accomplishments look magical: from the Great Parchment Book of 1639, a brittle wad since the Guildhall fire over two centuries ago, and now unfolded virtually and legible again—to the Herculaneum papyri, last unfurled on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and flash-fried into charcoal briquettes in AD 79—slowly opening themselves up through x-ray micro-CT and multispectral scanning. Projects in prosopography give us a stronger sense of common lives from the Byzantine world to the 19th century, while computer-assisted approaches to paleography become ever more deeply humanistic and hermeneutic in character. We simulate and model (calculating, say, the way that light fell into a long-gone Roman villa on a winter’s day, or seeking lost cities by reading Homer’s Illiad through GIS). And we explore our recent past with media archaeology and forensics done on born-digital resources—activities which themselves inform steady advances in the field of digital preservation. Resurrection can be grisly work. I think we come to understand extinction better in our struggles.

Next, big data and the longue durée. If it’s true, as Rebecca Solnit writes, that people are bad at “looking at the biggest things” in this, our “age of inhuman scale”—a concept Timothy Morton theorizes through “hyperobjects”—ineffable, natural and computational entities (like global warming) “massively distributed in time and space” (37-9)—then DH has a public and transformative role to play. For Morton, grappling with hyperobjects can lead to a new “time of sincerity, that is, a time in which it is impossible to achieve a final distance toward the world” (44). Jo Guldi gets at this when she narrates “how information won’t (and will) save the climate”—describing her meetings with a dozen grassroots mapping efforts in India, and calling for “an information architecture stamped with participation” and informed by history. “Mapping, code, and data collection [she writes] must be allied to a sense of memory.” It’s a powerful reminder to those of us positioned to pit data design and visualization against what Guldi calls “information overload, the corruption of privilege, and the inefficacy of expertise.” ...

But picturing histories anew will require us to go beyond big-data algorithmic analysis and visualization. If we seek a rich and humanistic DH capable of meeting more than the technical challenges of our massive geo-temporal datasets, we must develop design approaches that address recent theoretical mergings of background and foreground, space and time. The Neatline project at the Scholars’ Lab is one such attempt, though only half-complete. Key here will be embedding, in our tools, concepts like Johanna Drucker’s “graphesis,” to enable knowledge-production through iterative visualization—and affordances that support Nick Mirzoeff’s call for a “counter-visuality” to the dominant imagery of the Anthropocene. Mirzoeff locates the seeds of that resistance in the global South....

We need systems of reward that don’t just value the new, but find nobility in activities like metadata enhancement, project maintenance, and forward migration—and therefore prompt us to attend to the working conditions of our colleagues in cultural heritage institutions and those who steward DH software and systems.... We need greater attention to matters of accessibility and minimal computing, and cognizance that the so-called global revolution in humanities technology is not equally distributed. We need to acknowledge the imperatives of graceful degradation, so we run fewer geriatric teen-aged projects that have blithely denied their own mortality and failed to plan for altered or diminished futures. But alongside that, and particularly in libraries, we require more a robust discourse around ephemerality—in part, to license the experimental works we absolutely want and need, which never mean to live long, get serious, or grow up. We must attend to the environmental and human costs of DH—from our complicity with device manufacturers and social media manipulators, to the carbon footprint and price tag of conferences like this—and ask ourselves seriously what we might change, or grow to be.
deep_time  digital_humanities  ecology  preservation  decay  dead_media  data_visualization  timelines 
6 weeks ago
Google is Designing the Font of the Future
For starters, the whole Roboto font family has been “rounded out,” as designer Christian Robertson told me, with differences visible in letters including uppercase B, C, and D. The rectangular dots above the lowercase i and j have been turned into circles — an attempt, Robertson says, to make them look “friendlier.” The spacing of certain letter combinations has been tweaked. And some of the more unorthodox details — the curved leg of the uppercase R, for example – have been replaced with straighter, less ornate versions. The overall effect is that the new Roboto looks a bit more casual and less angular than the old one, more like a friend's handwriting than a professional designer's efforts....

Right now, there are more than a billion regular Android users, and each of their devices looks slightly different. With its material design push, Google wants to create a visual lingua franca, to make sure that every time you tap, swipe, or open an element on an Android phone, it behaves the same way. It's an attempt to impose a small amount of order on a fragmented mishmash of devices, most of which Google has no immediate control over.
typography  google  usability 
6 weeks ago
artforum.com / critics' picks
James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939) is not so much a book to be read as it is to be experienced. This is a key thought to hold on to when viewing Spanish artist Dora Garcia’s The Joycean Society, 2013, one of three large-scale video projections with accompanying sculptural elements gathered by curator Chantal Pontbriand for the exhibition “Of Crimes and Dreams.” Shot in a documentary style, the film hovers around members of a reading group in Zurich as they decode a single page in Joyce’s masterpiece As the complex, ciphered text is unpacked word by word, spontaneous tangents emerge across literary cues and personal anecdotes. It’s a durational performance of sorts (keeping in mind that it takes the group eleven years to work through the entire book), and the longer one watches the more it becomes clear that, for Garcia, the essential value of language, no matter how irrational or obscure, is the parallel social dynamic that it reveals.
reading  mapping  deep_time  text_art  chalkboards 
6 weeks ago
The Function of Forms: Matthew Palladino’s Object Lessons
He introduced casts into his work after coming across “naughty” ice-cube trays in a costume shop and realized that they were molds he didn’t have to make himself (his attempts to do so were expensive and often unsuccessful). He then discovered inexpensive candy molds (the tiny lobsters, clusters of grapes, and sports equipment that appear in these works, for instance) that, though varied, are available in a finite number of shapes. This constriction — that he must select from a limited number of forms to create his compositions — appeals to Palladino: he’s able to employ found imagery without having to locate new objects to use each time he begins a work; he simply pulls from a set catalogue of preexisting forms...

Of his earlier, two-dimensional paintings, Palladino has said that he began to weary of the “illusion of painting”: “I wanted to see the objects I painted in person, not just their representations.” “Still Life with Fruit” literalizes that impulse: to see the objects on the canvas before painting them. It is as though Palladino has taken the objects on which a still life is modeled and placed them onto the canvas in order to manipulate the composition before sitting down to paint the scene. Though Palladino doesn’t think of his other works as still lifes, they all hew to this idea at their most basic level.
Pop Art, to which Palladino’s work is closely allied, likewise recasts still-life traditions by experimenting with media and formal techniques. Jim Dine asserted, in 1963, that “the object is used to make art, just like paint is used to make art.” In “Color Chart” (1961), Dine juxtaposed a strict grid of watercolor swatches and a loose palette of variously colored brushstrokes. The painting is concerned with Dine’s experience as a painter and with the process of painting; color is both medium and form. Palladino’s 2010 painting “Test Print (John Henry),” which reproduces the precise pattern created during a printer’s ink-flow test, treats color similarly, as both subject and object and reflects the same experience but from a more technologically advanced perspective (Dine’s watercolors versus Palladino’s color printer). In both paintings, art’s materiality is the subject.
art  painting  templates  pattern 
6 weeks ago
The Architecture of Education | Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA)
From 1966 to 1968, Shadrach Woods and Cedric Price, two architects and educators in Paris and London, found themselves caught up in a vortex of change in education. Like architecture, the field was searching for new models; thinkers sought to reformulate the basic problems of education, rather than simply seeking new solutions to old questions.

In the last years of his life, from 1962 to 1973, Woods was preoccupied with what he called “The Architecture of Education,” through which he sought to reformulate ideas of how universities should function and how they should be designed. His unpublished case of the Non-École de Villefranche was a radical experiment conceived in 1966 by Woods and Robert Filliou, a French-American Fluxus artist. It situated the Berlin Free University, Woods’ best-known work, in the discourse of the Non-School and the broader cultural and intellectual projects associated with Fluxus and Team X.

Cedric Price’s Potteries Thinkbelt project, conceived from 1963 to 1966, represents another significant challenge to traditional educational practice. In 1968 Price was among the guest faculty of the Anti-University, based in 49 Rivington street, London. In this seminar 2014 Visiting Scholar Federica Doglio and visiting lecturer at the school of architecture of the Politecnico di Torino, seeks to critically compare these two authors’ radical visions with the aim of enriching the discourse on contemporary education theory and offering starting points for further discussion and study.
alternative_school  education  cedric_price 
6 weeks ago
Mark Dion’s Penchant for the Past
There’s only one example I can think of where a museum went through a radical renovation and came out a better place than it started, which is the [Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature] in Paris. I’m very tied to this melancholy sense of loss, because once you lose these places, you can never really get them back. And what museums really are, are windows into another time and another way of thinking. For me it’s the closest thing you can ever do to time travel. You visit these museums and you understand how a particular group of  people understood nature in a distinct period of time....

We don’t see ourselves as part of a continuity. It’s very hard to think in that way. That’s what a lot of archeological projects are about — trying to present archeology as a continuum that we’re part of and that will continue after us....

I’m always interested in figuring out how it is that we crafted a society that has such a suicidal relationship to the natural world. That the decisions we make are actually so irrational that they endanger us all. For me, I’m a person with sculptural sensibility. I learn through things. I see knowledge embodied in things. I’m using those things to try to figure out how we got here, and also to tie people to this idea that we’re part of a continuity. Things came before us. Things will come after us. But when we act as if nothing’s coming after us, we create problems with people down the road. We’re a society that has created the most material culture ever, and with that comes garbage and residue, and that’s a legacy that we’re leaving....

I try to be historic rather than nostalgic. For me, nostalgia is always tied to the notion of the “Golden Age” of things — this idea that the past was much better. I don’t think that’s true for many things I care about. For women, people of color, gay people, working people, it’s absolutely better now. So I really try to steer clear of golden age thinking and use things to provoke a sense of time and perhaps a sense of loss, but never a sense that somehow our values are worse than the values in the past. I don’t think that’s true. If there’s any reason for optimism, it is that there has slowly been more access to power for more people.
ecology  museums  display  object_oriented_philosophy  objects  nostalgia  history  mark_dion 
6 weeks ago
Hito Steyerl Is (Not) Completely Invisible
Based on the title of Steyerl’s new show at Andrew Kreps Gallery, “How Not to Be Seen: a Fucking Didactic Educational Installation,” you might think that Steyerl wants to share those skills with everyone. But as you spend time with the show, you realize that title is something of a red herring: this is a show that is less about how not to be seen than about the ever-increasing hopelessness of achieving that goal.

...Fed-up with the barrage of digital images which saturate her daily life, she takes the only possible path of resistance and attacks the television screen. That resistance might be useless–what good is smashing a screen when thousands more will be made every day to replace it?–but this isn’t about results, it’s about an expression of total frustration....

Steyerl’s video revolves around the resolution target, a black-and-white patterned chart that measures the resolution of cameras. “Resolution determines visibility,” the narrator’s droll voice remarks, and the target becomes the film’s central motif. These charts are constantly flitting in-and-out of screen, and the setting for the video itself is a massive, abandoned resolution target in the Californian desert, once used for calibrating airborne cameras. The narrator tells us that this target “measures the resolution of the world as a picture.” The entire globe, we’re made to understand, can be viewed through the metric of resolution: to be in resolution is to be seen, while to make yourself low-resolution is to become invisible...

Though “How Not to Be Seen” might seek to offer us ways to escape this culture of surveillance, you leave it feeling more aware than ever of just how seen you really are.
hito_steyerl  images  surveillance  resolution  photography  machine_vision 
6 weeks ago
Form, Function and Beauty Span Eons in Met Acquisitions - NYTimes.com
n January, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles announced that it had acquired the archives from the Kitchen, the New York performance and exhibition space devoted to art, dance, music and video, which was also a headquarters for experimental performances and early Minimalism, with figures like John Cage and Steve Reich. The research institute had also has been promised a gift from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation of tens of thousands of photographs and hundreds of thousands of negatives taken by the photographers Harry Shunk and Janos Kender that captured the avant-garde art worlds of New York and Paris in the 1960s and ’70s.

Now the institute has acquired Robert R. McElroy’s archives, as well. McElroy, a photographer who died in 2012, documented hundreds of Happenings in the early 1960s and captured images of artists like Jim Dine, Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Whitman as they worked. Included in the archive are about 700 vintage prints.
archives  performance  photography  video  happenings 
6 weeks ago
Camille Henrot | e-flux
Unfolding like a frieze across two galleries, a polymorphous aluminium shelf provides a structure wherein the four points of the compass are aligned with stages in an individual life cycle, the evolution of technology, philosophical principles of Leibniz, the sun’s trajectory and the four Classical elements: fire, water, earth and air. This highly personalised aggregation of distinct systems of thought is presented through an intense accumulation of objects and images encountered within a highly constructed, meditative environment. Henrot’s own drawings, photographs and sculptures are exhibited alongside digital slide shows and objects purchased online via eBay. These are further supplemented by a selection of rare objects from the National Museum of Denmark. Like a subtle network of symbols and mythological references the objects on display combine to suggest a progressive, possibly circular narrative about the beginning, evolution, and end of all things...

Exploring varying scales and chronologies, from the history of the universe to the universe of the artist’s studio, the exhibition becomes a model for information storage and retrieval—rolled and stacked images become objects, and objects from museum collections are substituted with eBay purchases and scrolling slideshows on digital picture frames. Henrot relates the construction of knowledge to haptic and sensual experience, reflecting our common desire, evidenced in spheres from the artistic to the domestic, to create model worlds of fantasy and symbolism as a means of inhabiting reality.
henrot  archive_art  epistemology  classification  preservation  cataloguing 
6 weeks ago
Archive of the Everything, Forever: Camille Henrot at the New Museum / artcritical
Henrot masquerades as anthropologist, scientist, librarian, sociologist and artist. She explores how the material world and culture is formulated, acknowledged, recorded, organized and standardized, but more prominently, it demonstrates all the chaos and energy these processes exhale.

A large section of the exhibition is filled with sculptures inspired by various works of literature, guided by Ikebana, the Japanese practice of flower arrangement. In these engrossing displays, Henrot attempts to visualize literature through slightly absurd compositions of flowers, grocery vegetables, other seemingly arbitrary ingredients, such as USB cables, Japanese newspapers, sheet moss — all exposing their physical and socio-economic connotations, their roles as food, decoration or mechanical devices, the stories of their discovery or their taxonomy. Each work is labeled with a quote from a work of literature, as well as detailed, hilariously scientific lists of its components — this interest in cataloguing and factual archiving is noticeable throughout her exhibition...

Grosse Fatigue was made at Henrot’s 2013 Artist Research Fellowship at the Smithsonian, during which she collected footage of animal and plant specimens, obscure digital archives, blank hallways and anonymous office workers. She paired that imagery with the unending reach of the digital realm, which, in many ways, is an archive and simulation of the immense universe beyond the monitor, but also feels oddly tangible as it is fully manmade and portable (one shot features an iPhone with a green croaking frog parked on top, held by a hand). This strategy allows her narrative to swell with felt urgency and inscrutable complexity, and also the leisurely nimbleness of aimless web surfing. Queues of browser windows at times pile up like flashing torrents of spam advertisements, but they can be readily clicked shut like full drawers of ghastly, vibrantly preserved tropical bird specimen. In the beginning and end there were both uncluttered Mac desktops. - See more at: http://www.artcritical.com/2014/06/26/li-on-henrot-at-new-museum/#sthash.TLNqjZDK.dpuf
archive_art  henrot  classification  cataloguing  language 
6 weeks ago
Hito Steyerl | Politics of Post-Representation «DIS Magazine
A representational mode of thinking photography is: there is something out there and it will be represented by means of optical technology ideally via indexical link. But the technology for the phone camera is quite different. As the lenses are tiny and basically crap, about half of the data captured by the sensor are noise. The trick is to create the algorithm to clean the picture from the noise, or rather to define the picture from within noise. But how does the camera know this? Very simple. It scans all other pictures stored on the phone or on your social media networks and sifts through your contacts. It looks through the pictures you already made, or those that are networked to you and tries to match faces and shapes. In short: it creates the picture based on earlier pictures, on your/its memory. It does not only know what you saw but also what you might like to see based on your previous choices. In other words, it speculates on your preferences and offers an interpretation of data based on affinities to other data. The link to the thing in front of the lens is still there, but there are also links to past pictures that help create the picture. You don’t really photograph the present, as the past is woven into it....

The result might be a picture that never existed in reality, but that the phone thinks you might like to see. It is a bet, a gamble, some combination between repeating those things you have already seen and coming up with new versions of these, a mixture of conservatism and fabulation. The paradigm of representation stands to the present condition as traditional lens-based photography does to an algorithmic, networked photography that works with probabilities and bets on inertia. Consequently, it makes seeing unforeseen things more difficult. The noise will increase and random interpretation too. We might think that the phone sees what we want, but actually we will see what the phone thinks it knows about us....

I haven’t even mentioned external interference into what your phone is recording. All sorts of applications are able to remotely shut your camera on or off: companies, governments, the military. It could be disabled for whole regions. One could, for example, disable recording functions close to military installations, or conversely, live broadcast whatever you are up to. Similarly, the phone might be programmed to auto-pixellate secret or sexual content. It might be fitted with a so-called dick algorithm to screen out NSFW content or auto-modify pubic hair, stretch or omit bodies, exchange or collage context or insert AR advertisement and pop up windows or live feeds. Now lets apply this shift to the question of representative politics or democracy....

identity goes far beyond a relationship with images: it entails a set of private keys, passwords, etc., that can be expropriated and detourned. More generally, identity is the name of the battlefield over your code — be it genetic, informational, pictorial. It is also an option that might provide protection if you fall beyond any sort of modernist infrastructure. It might offer sustenance, food banks, medical service, where common services either fail or don’t exist. If the Hezbollah paradigm is so successful it is because it provides an infrastructure to go with the Twitter handle, and as long as there is no alternative many people need this kind of container for material survival. Huge religious and quasi-religious structures have sprung up in recent decades to take up the tasks abandoned by states, providing protection and survival in a reversal of the move described in Leviathan. Identity happens when the Leviathan falls apart and nothing is left of the commons but a set of policed relational metadata, Emoji and hijacked hashtags.
photography  algorithms  machine_vision  censorship  identity  participation  participatory_media  digital_labor 
6 weeks ago
Mark Dion's Library for the Birds of [ ]
... consisted of a large cage and tree from which books and other reading materials hung. It was filled with African finches that flew about the branches and the books... Visitors stood outside the cage watching the birds and the books, but in an interesting twist, they also watched visitors who had entered the cage wander about amid the birds perusing the books, and they, in turn, looked out at the visitors looking at them in the cage. Conflating three spaces traditionally kept apart (a library, a diorama, a zoo cage), the installation was part of a larger exhibit, Becoming Animal...
classification  library_art  display  museums  mark_dion  epistemology 
6 weeks ago
Ptolemy: Mark Dion's "The Library for the Birds of New York"
In the case of the “Library,” Dion undertook to organize the collective knowledge, opinions, sentiments and mythology of the Western civilizations concerning birds. In short the work is an artist’s replication of what Michel Foucault might have called the episteme of the Western World about birds. Most of this is embodied in the books about birds, all meticulously chosen to mark the development and present state of the episteme. The work is organized according to categories, for example, the philosophy of nature shelf (on a separate limb of the three) at the top, because our culture privileges philosophy, which includes Foucault’s seminal work, “The Order of Things,” and other shelves devoted to history, mythology and ornithology. Other shelves are devoted to Rachel Carson, the first popular environmentalist, while others include works by authors such as Paul Ehrlich, an early alarmist about the growth of world population.

The work includes the physical accouterments of the bird culture, such as the bird cages, the English naturalist’s collection bag, for which Mark searched London shops for three years until he could find the “right” one, the shotgun shells, pictures depicting Audubon (who had a terrible reputation as a destroyer of many birds in the course of collecting specimens) and Alfred Hitchcock of the popular culture. The tree displays a snake and rat that have been tarred and feathered, an old punishment from the American frontier that preceded banishment. The snake and the rat are being punished for their destruction of birds, but the irony is that while human beings rarely harm birds directly we are responsible for moving rats and snakes into positions where they can harm birds – an aspect of unintended consequences. For example, there were no rats in the Western Hemisphere until they were brought over by European ships. The net bag of vegetable are there to remind us that there is nothing more environmentally destructive than vegetarianism because of the chemicals required to grow vegetables.....

As in the ending of “The Order of Things,” where Foucault looks forward to the death of “man,” Dion’s tree follows the Heideggerian principle that man’s Cartesian reckoning of himself as an “I” separate from nature outside is not only wrong but ultimately responsible for an unjustifiable exploitation, and often destruction, of nature. The bird episteme depicted in the tree is predicted by Dion ultimately to collapse and fail when man becomes sufficiently enlightened to see himself as one with nature and not separate. Just as the tree once lived but is now dead, so is the culture depicted on the tree destined to collapse. This is shown by the pile of secondary and simple books about nature and birds, all culled from college and high school libraries, scattered meaninglessly at the bottom of the tree.
library_art  classification  epistemology  mark_dion 
6 weeks ago
Artist Creates Maple Tree Library for Studious Birds - My Modern Met
He created "Library for the Birds of Massachusetts" a thought-provoking installation for MASS MoCA back in 2005. He surrounded one maple tree with a smattering of books on subjects like science, biology, ornithology in addition to hunting paraphernalia, pictures, bird feeders, and hanging nets.

The most shocking of all is that he also made this home to 12 real-life Zebra finches who were calmly flying about. Visitors could actually walk inside the cylindrical steel aviary, becoming a part of the installation itself.

Whimsical as it may seem, Dion's work has a serious undertone. The American fine artist work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. In essence, this installation is meant for us to question our own foundation of knowledge or how we collect and assemble pieces of information in our own heads.
mark_dion  library_art  classification  epistemology 
6 weeks ago
The Library of the Future
The purpose of our development projects and innovation processes at the Main Library in Aarhus has for many years been to gain experiences for our new Mediaspace.

We have to develop and shape the organisation to be ready to move into the new building and use the potential that Mediaspace gives us.

Therefore we do projects to develop the organisation, the staff, partners, collaboration, new ways of working and how to use new media and technology. All of this to ensure that we can realize the librayr of the future in Mediaspace. 
libraries  innovation  makerspaces 
6 weeks ago
Aarhus Kommunes Biblioteker | Alt hvad du kan tænke dig
Aarhus Public Libraries have a number of innovation projects to develop the organisation, the staff, partner collaboration, new ways of working and how to use new technology. The aim is to meet the citizens’ needs with services adapted to the general development and to develop and test new forms of services. To support the innovation work we have an innovation strategy: Children's Interactive Library, People's Labs, Digiform, Gaming, Transformation Lab, Open Data Aarhus
libraries 
6 weeks ago
Introduction to Cases - MODEL PROGRAMME FOR PUBLIC LIBRARIES
The Model Programme aims, among other things, to offer inspiration for new solutions and new design measures based on the libraries' own practice and context. Therefore, the Model Programme will present a number of cases featuring libraries in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands, which each offers exciting new interpretations of the public library's spaces and functions.
libraries  media_architecture 
6 weeks ago
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