Order & Continuity – Methods for Change in a Topological Society
Looking around us, we can see a remarkable proliferation of metrics, maps and models taking place today. This 3 year project is investigating the implications of these experiments in method. By conducting studies of modeling, brand valuation, the networking of digital publics and the mapping of the global cities, this project asks, what trust we can place in the use of practices of sorting, naming, numbering, and calculating as they are brought together by commercial, government and other agencies in ‘method assemblages’? Can efficacy be reconciled with reliability and validity? Do the methods being used today connect to individual or collective motivations for change? If not, what measures might do this? As methods proliferate, and come into competition with each other, the project seeks to find, if not common values, at least shared criteria by which we might evaluate methods. Finally, the project will also investigate whether and how these proliferating methods of social research are changing what they measure. It will consider whether the specific characteristics of the changes being produced in this way can be understood in terms of society becoming topological.
lists  diagrams  topology  networks 
2 days ago
This is the alpha version of Terrapattern, a visual search tool for satellite imagery. The project provides journalists, citizen scientists, and other researchers with the ability to quickly scan large geographical regions for specific visual features.
satellites  satellite_imagery  mapping  search  visualization 
2 days ago
Imaging — The Institute for Digital Archaeology
The Parian Marble is the earliest existing example of a Greek chronological table, recording the dates of major events from 1582 BC to 299 BC.  It was imaged by IDA scholar Benjamin Altshuler in 2013. What makes this inscription so interesting is how both mythical and historical events were recorded in the same timeline, giving precise dates for the Trojan War, the Flood of Deucalion, and the Voyage of the Argonauts. With the use of RTI, the almost illegible text on the marble in the Ashmolean can now be studied far more precisely.
3 days ago
The Brutal Beauty Of The Earliest Super Computers | Co.Design | business + design
To hear some people talk, computers were never even remotely sexy until Apple released the first Mac. That's a lie. Computers have always been sexy, as these pin-up photographs of vintage computer mainframes from U.K. photographer James Ball show. They just have a more brutal beauty: broad and buxom mainframe fatales, compared to today's silicon sylphs.

The computers in Ball's Guide To Computing series all come from computer museums around the world, including the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, the central site for Britain's codebreakers during World War II. Appropriately, then, one of the earliest machines featured in the series is the Pilot Ace, designed in the early 1950s by Alan Turing.
computing_history  industrial_design  things  materiality 
3 days ago
SCI-Arc Media Archive | Benjamin H Bratton Presentation of The Stack
Benjamin H Bratton Presentation of The Stack
April 13, 2016 | Benjamin Bratton
Introduction by: Hernan Diaz Alonso

Benjamin H. Bratton cites dozens of headlines from the news that touch on issues he has addressed in his new book, The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty. He argues that a disruptive “delamination of jurisdiction from geography” is underway, brought about by discrete networks and platforms of global computation that he calls The Stack. For Bratton, the Stack consists of Earth, Cloud, City, Address, Interface, and User. He discusses each of these layers in detail, concluding with thoughts on the Stack of the future. While acknowledging that current ecological, sectarian and financial emergencies could lead to a regressive Cloud feudalism, he offers hope that robust, inhuman artificial intelligence may finally clear the air of self-destructive humanist daydreams.
stack  computation  totalizing_theories  hubris  dude_theory 
3 days ago
Data scientists summon space into existence. Through gestures in the air, visualizations on screen, and loops in code, they locate data in spaces amenable to navigation. Typically, these spaces embody a Euro-American common sense: things near each other are similar to each other. This principle is evident in the work of algorithmic recommendation, for instance, where users are imagined to navigate a landscape composed of items arranged by similarity. If you like this hill, you might like the adjacent valley. Yet the topographies conceived by data scientists also pose challenges to this spatial common sense. They are constantly reconfigured by new data and the whims of their minders, subject to dramatic tectonic shifts, and they can be more than 3-dimensional. In highly dimensional spaces, data scientists encounter the "curse of dimensionality," by which human intuitions about distance fail as dimensions accumulate. Work in critical data studies has conventionally focused on the biases that shape these spaces. In this paper, I propose that critical data studies should not only attend to how representative data spaces are, but also to the techniques data scientists use to navigate them. Drawing on fieldwork with the developers of algorithmic music recommender systems, I describe a set of navigational practices that negotiate with the shifting, biased topographies of data space. Recalling a classic archetype from STS and anthropology, these practices complicate the image of the data scientist as rationalizing, European map-maker, resembling more closely the situated interactions of the ideal-typical Micronesian navigator.
mapping  data_visualization  navigation 
4 days ago
Berlin Biennale | All Problems Can Be Illuminated; Not All Problems Can Be Solved
The Real World of Technology can be read as a remapping of the common story of progress; it looks not at the stuff progress makes but at the systems it instantiates and the imprint they leave on us.

Backstopped by an eighteenth-century Western worldview that imagines humans as mechanical entities whose activities can be calibrated for increasingly efficient output (from La Mettrie to Taylor to CrossFit)6 and driven by the introduction of mechanized labor during the Industrial Revolution and by the high-modernist vogue of master planning,7 prescriptive technologies are accepted today as the way activities are organized. Enabling management from afar, mass scale, and the ability to measure outcomes across finely tuned variables.

Not coincidentally, prescriptive technologies also provide the necessary conditions for modern capitalism and global consumer markets. How else could we ceaselessly make more and better things faster?

Echoing French sociologist Jacques Ellul, Franklin defines technology as a shared practice.2 It is the way we do something, not the familiar description of “the sum of the artifacts, of the wheels and gears, of the rails and electronic transmitters.”3 Instead, it is a practice that consists of “organization, procedures, symbols, new words, equations, and, most of all, a mindset.”4

Propelling our current innovation juggernaut are what she calls prescriptive technologies. These are practices that split the doing of something into small, identifiable tasks, each performed by a separate person or specialized unit (i.e., the division of labor, as in the assembly line or the production of complex software). Under prescriptive technologies, “control over work moves to the organizer, boss, or manager.”...

This structure creates a “culture of compliance . . . ever more conditioned to accept orthodoxy as normal and to accept that there is only one way of doing ‘it.’....

A view through Franklin’s lens reveals that, as a “byproduct” of what we call progress, we have created societies easily ruled and monitored— and accustomed to following orders whose ends they don’t question.

Not that there isn’t resistance. From the Luddites to Occupy, resistance percolates and ruptures. But when it does, it is most often characterized as a natural if unpleasant effect of innovation’s “disruptive” tendencies (to use the current lingo). In this we note that our story of progress views “people as sources of problems and machines and devices as sources of solutions.”9 New, better, faster ways of doing things, ways that produce more things more quickly, are right and inevitable. People’s anger, fear, and resistance to new modes and machines are characterized as regressive, stubborn. A problem to be minimized and tolerated....

The requirement that something be proven scientifically for it to be legible also means that the experts, those with education, standing, and access to scientific authority, become the de facto arbiters of whose experience and concerns are valid—and whose aren’t. A position with significant power. This privileging of the generalizable and scientifically “provable” at the exclusion of lived individual experience is central to the way in which our shared story of progress can so comfortably (and conveniently) focus on the artifacts extruded by innovation, and leave the human cost to the side. “The plural of anecdote is not data,”11 we’re reminded....

While justice can be understood, can be felt, there is no template to follow, or checklist to work through for ensuring a just outcome. The requirements are humility, a respect for context, and a willingness to listen to the most marginalized voices. Let these define the basic requirements of whatever you do. You must “put yourself in the position of the most vulnerable, in a way that achieves a visceral gut feeling of empathy and perspective—that’s the only way to see what justice is.”
history_of_technology  labor  compliance  quantification  efficiency  methodology 
4 days ago
The Evolution of Writing | Denise Schmandt-Besserat
Writing – a system of graphic marks representing the units of a specific language – has been invented independently in the Near East, China and Mesoamerica. The cuneiform script, created in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, ca. 3200 BC, was first. It is also the only writing system which can be traced to its earliest prehistoric origin. This antecedent of the cuneiform script was a system of counting and recording goods with clay tokens. The evolution of writing from tokens to pictography, syllabary and alphabet illustrates the development of information processing to deal with larger amounts of data in ever greater abstraction.
media_history  media_archaeology  writing  pictograms  archaeology 
4 days ago
John Cage in the Classroom - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Experimental Composition" has become legendary in the art world for having birthed Fluxus, the seminal postwar movement that sought to move art beyond its narrow obsession with the fixed artifact and into the fleeting, imperfect, even amateur realm of performance, broadly conceived. Cage’s students in "Experimental Composition" included virtually all the early figures in Fluxus: Dick Higgins, La Monte Young, George Brecht, Al Hansen, Jackson Mac Low. Allan Kaprow, the creator of the Happening — art events that involved the participation of the viewers — was also a student, as were Nam June Paik, the sculptor George Segal, and Toshi Ichiyanagi, a young Japanese composer who was sometimes accompanied to class by his then-wife, Yoko Ono. ...

That inquiry informed all of Cage’s work, in the concert hall but also in the classroom. In the 1950s, it made him a perfect fit for the New School. At the time the New School was essentially two distinct entities — the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science (formerly the University in Exile) and the Adult Education Division — with a shared mission, which was nothing less than the creation of a truly democratic society, with an abiding commitment to both pluralism and the practice of free inquiry. It was an exciting time at the New School: Along with Cage, lecturers and instructors in the Adult Education Division included Meyer Schapiro, Robert Frost, Stuart Davis, Erich Fromm, Martha Graham, W.E.B. Du Bois, Alfred Kazin, and Margaret Mead, among many others. ...

Everyone starts talking informally about Zen (Cage is not one for small talk), which Cage is studying once a week up at Columbia. He then introduces the students to the various properties of sound — pitch, timbre, volume, duration — and shows the students how these properties can be altered. He puts a Pink Pearl eraser on the strings of the piano, and it emits a light, buzzing thud. "Nice," he says. Eventually he asks the students to take out their homework: compositions written as solutions to various problems that Cage has posed — problems like how to make a piece of music using a guitar and a paper clip, or how to come up with a system of numbers that will determine every aspect of a composition....

The overriding lesson of Cage’s class was freedom: how to achieve it, what to do with it (anything!). Allan Kaprow learned "to be free, to be liberated" in the class. Brecht called Cage "the great liberator." For Higgins, "The best thing that happened to us in Cage’s class was the sense he gave that ‘anything goes,’ at least potentially. … The main thing was the realization of the possibilities, which made it easier to use smaller scales and a greater gamut of possibilities than our previous experience would have led us to expect." Cage himself said of the course, "I didn’t want to transmit any body of information. I simply wanted to stimulate the people to do experimental work." Doing so required faith in the capabilities of nonexperts, an open mind, and a willingness to fail.
improvisation  pedagogy  john_cage  new_school  curriculum  experimentation 
4 days ago
Mutating Media Ecologies | continent.
one must note that early phases of inspiration for media ecology – such as the work of Harold Innis, are filled with non-humans from water routes to fur and beavers)....

media ecology is an opening to art methods too. Such methods includes ones that incorporate materiality as part of them in rough, dirty, and decaying ways. Broadly speaking, this relates to the field of “new materialism” that has stemmed from feminist philosophy and science & technology studies...

Besides the Crystal World Open Laboratory – a mix of experiments “aiming to reconfigure the various mineral components used in computers in novel arrays by deforming their processors and memory combined with ancestral rock ores in powders and in solutions, treated with acid solutions, high heat, high voltage, electrolytic process, photochemistry...

But the trio’s workshops on de- and re-crysallization engaged in the themes of waste, electronic waste, and obsolescence; by gathering old and obsolete technologies and exposing them to various chemical and exploratory hacking techniques with the aim to investigate the machine as a crystal – a product of condensation, that could be also de-crystallised into its constituent parts of gold, silver, other minerals and chemical “parts” that are the crysallisation of various earth- into contemporary machine culture...

even more interesting is the question as to how the materiality of such elements entangles with the highly developed logistical routing of the planetary - and hence involves questions of labour at its core. (See the Logistical Worlds-project: http://logisticalworlds.org/)... better spatial understanding of the grim labour, electronic waste and other neo-colonialist emphases of digital economy (Rossiter 2011, Cubitt 2011, Parikka 2011, Gabrys 2011. Maxwell and Miller 2012...

deals with such techniques as “earth computing, mineral precipitation, high heat synthetic geology and inductive crystallography, DIY semi-conductor fabrication, water crystal cryptography, anthropocenic fossilizations, kirlian photography, hi-voltage fulgurite construction .”...

Speculative conceptual archaeologies take into account “crude” methods– hacking open, disgorging, melting, chemically processing the motherboard and other components of the computational machines; a process of literal de-composing of information technology. The Crystallisation workshops, including the extended weeklong “Crystal World” at the Transmediale festival 2012, tapped into this field directly, using methods that mimic human labour practices in the extraction of valuable components and material from abandoned technology....

investigation of the mineral and substrate materialities as well as the materialities of production, management of global labour processes, and various other materialities that are always entangled....

The artistic projects of speculative crypto histories of the earth refer to the concrete sedimentations of minerals and substrate that provides its affordance for the contemporary high tech culture. ...

or Siegfried Zielinski (2006), the research into the deep time of the media is described as his media historical version of paleontology. ...

From a Geology of Morals (Deleuze and Guattari 2004; Delanda n.d.) we can move to a Geology of Media (Parikka 2015) when understood through various stratifications and deep times. Unlike Zielinski’s media historical, anarchaeological, call, this alternative deep time reaches towards the planetary as a determination of multiple layers of chemico-organic as well as inorganic processes that work in energetic and material assemblages...

this means looking at the stratification of various mineral and chemical layers in the machine itself. The project(s) suggest the machine itself becomes an archaeological excavation site – this deep time becomes concretely tied to earth times....

more like Manuel Delanda if the theorist would do computer-chemistry: A thousand years of non-linear history, although now millions of years of non-linear computing history starts with the minerals, geology, substrates and more that go into building computers ...

the depth of time extends across materialities – from the fictional narrativization to the hardware materiality and the long duration of mineral elements that entangle with that of human energy exploited for various excavations.
media_archaeology  geology  chemistry  materiality  deep_time  excavation 
7 days ago
Why Big Data Needs Thick Data — Ethnography Matters — Medium
Ethnographic work has a serious perception problem in a data-driven world. While I’ve always integrated statistical analysis into my qualitative work in academia, I encountered a lot of doubt on the value of ethnographically derived data when I started working primarily with corporations. I started to hear echoes of what Nokia leadership said about my small dataset, that ethnographic data is “small” “petite” “puny.”. What are ethnographers to do when our research is seen as insignificant or invaluable? How can our kind of research be seen as an equally important to algorithmically processed data? To solve this perception problem, ethnographers need a 10 second elevator pitch to a room of data scientists.

Lacking the conceptual words to quickly position the value of ethnographic work in the context of Big Data, I have begun, over the last year, to employ the term Thick Data (with a nod to Clifford Geertz!) to advocate for integrative approaches to research. Thick Data is data brought to light using qualitative, ethnographic research methods that uncover people’s emotions, stories, and models of their world.
methodology  research  data  big_data  quantification 
7 days ago
Jeremy Bolen
With a solid background in American landscape and survey photography, he has gone on to make the environment itself a lens for exposure, exposing film to bioluminescent plankton underwater by using the lake as a camera lens. He has buried film underground in order to capture traces of buried radioactivity on photographic paper, and exposed film in radioactive rivers.

In this latest series, Bolen spent a week at CERN, the site of the only Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the world, leaving film in different parts of the laboratory and surrounding landscape to measure the effects of particle acceleration. Bolen’s resulting photographs vary. In some cases we are givin only the ambient, abstract trace of invisible phenomena. In other instances, Bolen inserts a traditional landscape portrait—like a caption—into his ambient fields as a way of presenting another kind of image that explains where the film was exposed. In still other instances, the relationship is inverted: the traditional landscape image of Geneva’s pictueresque environment frames a black square in which we see a slight trace of color: a portrait of anti-matter. Although these images read like abstractions, they are entirely literal. One might even suggest that Bolen is trying to exhaust every mode of site documentation, incorporating different angles of the same location into one frame, while adding site specific materials....

I do feel like a lot of this work is about rethinking the medium of photography, which often gets lost in the science conversation. What I try to capture is the massive amount of information in the electromagnetic spectrum that is beyond our senses, that we cannot perceive. I believe that the apparatus you use for recording has just has much to do with the results as the phenomena you are trying to record. So I rethink the apparatus for every location I work with, often using the actual site as the vessel for recording, or building a new camera to record with....

I am drawn to working with photography as it can act as an extension of our human senses, and when that can be taken a step further, where it becomes an extension of perception, and a collaboration with the environment it is recording, there is a completeness that I really enjoy. And the film does act as a membrane of sorts, a malleable membrane that can record interactions with light, invisible phenomena and material simultaneously.
photography  installation  mapping  map_art  cartography  invisibility  landscape  materiality  hand_processing  geology 
8 days ago
Work/Space | Library by Design, Spring 2016
The world of academic libraries is constantly changing. Many libraries, for example, have undergone radical spatial changes in recent years, positioning themselves as campus centers for study and socializing. These shifts focus on the student’s or library patron’s experience but show little concern for how librarians’ work spaces are changing to meet the profession’s new demands. Finding minimal literature on this topic, we decided to issue a survey directly to academic librarians to delve into their roles and how their spaces affect the quality of their work.
We released this survey over several American Library Association (ALA) Listservs last March. Earlier this year, we published the results, The State of Academic Librarian Spaces. The survey covered a wide range of topics, such as librarians’ roles and current work, how their public-facing and private spaces are configured, and an exploration of the most recent renovations our respondents’ libraries have undergone.
libraries  academic_libraries  architecture  design_process 
9 days ago
.freethought .infrastructure
.freethought .infrastructure is an evolving log of freethought’s large-scale investigation into infrastructure and how the term can be wrested away from the language of planners and technocrats and put to creative and critical use within the cultural sphere.

Initiated for the 2016 Bergen Assembly, freethought will lead a series of public conversations and events in Bergen and elsewhere between 2015-16 that will prod the term using critical concepts gleaned from the study of management and political economy, urbanism and visual culture, and performance and curating.

freethought is a collective formed in 2011 by Irit Rogoff, Stefano Harney, Adrian Heathfield, Massimiliano Mollona, Louis Moreno and Nora Sternfeld.
infrastructure  affect  infrastructural_literacy 
9 days ago
Drone Form: Word and Image at the End of Empire | e-flux
I’ve so far tracked drone content, not drone form, and it’s important that the particularities of this new delivery system for sovereign violence are legible not just as compensatory masculinity but as dilemmas of narrative point of view. Despite conventional associations of drone technology with “god’s eye” surveillance, none of these novels unfolds in a third person omniscient voice (think of Dickens’s Shadow from Household Words, “the omnipresent, intangible creature … which may get into any place,”29 or the “far-reaching visions” of George Eliot’s narrator in Adam Bede). Rather, they use third person limited point of view, following thriller convention by heading sections with dates and named locales (Langley, Creech, Kandahar)—a “meanwhile” effect that works acrobatically to negotiate the constitutive spatial caesura, the impermeable separation between there and here, on which drone war is predicated. Only Fesperman’s novel gives this crosscutting a rest, but its comparative stillness follows from its primary interest in domestic surveillance: so Nevada, Maryland, and New Hampshire, rather than (as in Maden) Yemen, “Gulf of Mexico,” and “On board the Pearce Systems HondaJet.”
media_literature  drones 
10 days ago
Could Reading Be Looking? | e-flux
If the museum wants its wall text to be as transparent as possible, the commercial gallery simply wants it to be: wall text is the gallery’s object of desire. This is why galleries have disposed of it entirely and do not produce it themselves. Collect wisely and wall text is your reward. Buy this and someday your name, too, might appear within the medium of record, just below a description of your triumphant taste! Hence the central role played by the gallery press release, which, unlike a wall text, exists less to edify an existing value than to delineate the future significance of what is present somewhere nearby. The exuberant language of these releases is a performance of wall text, distilling its social-historical logic by way of an exaggerated and aggressive imitation.
textual_form  exhibition_design  museums 
10 days ago
visual/method/culture | by Gillian Rose
as social scientists, we also know that there are patterns of activity within those gazillions. Women still do more domestic labour than men. Women still do more childcare than men. Women still earn less than men. Women are still objectified as sex objects in demeaning ways. So a smart city for women might, say, be focussed a lot more on transport apps that don’t assume that the traveller is one adult, but might allow options for adult(s)+children+(contents of a shopping trolley). It might entail crowd-sourced mapping that pays as much attention to the various forms of childcare (breakfast clubs, nurseries, kindergartens, childminders, after-school-clubs, youth clubs) as it does to drinking venues (as Sarah Elwood and Agnieszka Leszczynski have argued here). The tech of a smart city would assume and enable a wide and diverse range of social actions by people in all sorts of combinations and conditions....

I’m assuming that the overwhelming dominance of men in the smart sector does have a major impact: on what tech is designed and how, on how potential markets are perceived, on what data is collected and what even counts as data, on how the smart city is imagined and therefore built.  (There’s so much relevant literature  on how digital tech design reinforces various kinds of social differences that I’m just going to point to a useful website that summarises some of it here.)  That impact will be both on what social identities are (often) visualised and assumed (both masculine and feminine) and also on what identies are then enacted as the data or device is used.  It would be great though to see some research really work at that question and interrogate my answer (and another ESRC-funded project, led by my colleague Prof Parvati Raghuram, promises to contribute towards that).

But maybe a more interesting question is: how to put women into the smart city?...

Which suggests that, in a smart city, ‘women’ can be both: both embodied and a datapoint. Among other things (a selfie, eg). How then can ‘women’ be imagined, in a smart city?

This suggests that another approach to thinking about ‘women in a smart city’ would be to focus on how different social categories are constituted in the first place, when various things are done in cities with digital technologies. That’s the sort of question asked by lots of sociotechnical scholars, of course. But also by feminist scholars of data visualisations like Catherine D’Ignazio and the digital humanities like Johanna Drucker. Their work focuses much more on the production of data in the first place and its problematic relation to social identities and the practices through which identities are enacted – data’s diversity, provisionality and unreliability, its uncertainty – and it focuses attention in particular on the process of turning data into something – a platform, an app – that enables certain social performances. That is, it would be less focussed on ready-made categories of social difference and more on the processes of making data and making with data.

How would a mobility app or a city dashboard build that kind of data provisionality that into its interface? I have no idea! How would its users react? Ditto! But I would love to talk to interface designers about it.
smart_cities  gender  equality 
15 days ago
Archiving a Website for Ten Thousand Years - The Atlantic
Hi.co, a website that allows its users to post “moments” with a photo and annotation, plans a similar trip to the distant future. The operators, Craig Mod (who has also previously written for The Atlantic) and Chris Palmieri, announced today that the site will freeze service in September 2016. However, all posts present in the site’s database at that time will be microprinted onto a two-by-two-inch nickel plate. The entire site—2,000,000 words and 14,000 photos—should fit on a single disk. Several copies will be made and distributed across the globe; the Library of Congress has already been secured as a repository. The plates have a lifespan as long as 10,000 years, and they may be viewed with a 1,000-power optical microscope.
archives  memory  archive_art  preservation  deep_time 
15 days ago
cloth . a commonplace | Public Program | Fabric Workshop and Museum
Cloth swaddles at birth, covers in sleep, a single thread spins a myth of origin and a tale of adventure, interweaves people and webs of communication. Coat and tent are the first portable architecture for the body, a flag carries the symbol of nationality, a folded blanket is a story of trade. Cloth is the hand that is always touching. Its felt experience is evoked and described by the other hand that we always inhabit, that of language.  — Ann Hamilton

Everyday speech is peppered with textile metaphors. We draw threads of connection and spin tales; a stitch is a unit of time, blue collar and white collar denote class, and a white cloth signals a truce. It is difficult, however, to describe the felt experience of being inside or touching a particular cloth. Its drape, weight, or movement is referred to as a cloth’s “hand.” In the hand of the writer, these tactile qualities are understood through the subtle alchemy of word and metaphor.

Please join us in exploring the intersection of texts and textiles by looking through Library staff-selected literature, or books you bring, to find language referencing the cultural and material life of cloth. Participants’ selections will be posted online as part of a communally authored “commonplace” collection. This compilation of texts will help shape the upcoming September 2016 exhibition a social fabric at The Fabric Workshop and Museum and will be available for reading and taking.
text  text_art  tactility  textiles  fabric  language 
16 days ago
Interview: Planned Violence Exhibition | TORCH
‘Planned violence’, the concept, refers to those ways in which urban spaces and spatial arrangements – grids and guttering, marketplaces and maidans, boulevards and squares, highrises and sewers – express, encode and embed prevailing structures of power. In particular, it refers to how urban planning impacts in restrictive and often violent ways on citizens’ lives. The Planned Violence project aimed to look at how these structures and impacts manifest in a day to day way, especially in colonial and postcolonial situations, as Dom will explain in a moment, and also at how cultural forms, including poetry, street art, theatre, photography and processions, might pushback against these restrictions, this planned violence. 

Dom Davies: The project begins with a rather basic premise: that the way cities were planned in the colonial period, by colonial administrators and architects and such like, made manifest some of the various racial prejudices and hierarchies that justified the colonial project in the actual, physical infrastructure of the city. One of the most obvious examples is Johannesburg, thought of throughout the twentieth century as the archetypal apartheid city, built around deeply segregated and unevenly developed urban spaces which were and are then separated by long, wide roads that entrench divisions within the city, often between white and non-white communities....

The toolbox of critical techniques and strategies offered by postcolonial studies—itself an inherently interdisciplinary field—allows us to tackle complex debates and problems around issues of representation, cultural production, and so on....

For us photography – especially the kind of improvisional photography that the mobile phone camera allows – became a powerful way through which both to record forms of planned violence and infrastructural possibility and limitation, and also to track ways in which those structures might be subtly prised open, disturbed, interrogated. We are proud to have developed the photo-essay format – photos of city walks arranged in series with commentary – as a way of documenting planned violence and the project of exploring planned violence....
infrastructure  inequality  colonialism  violence  photography  urban_studies 
16 days ago
The Avery Review | Air Conditioning: Taming the Climate as a Dream of Civilization
Air conditioning was not initially developed to enhance human comfort, however, but to facilitate technical procedures in the printing and meat processing industry. At the beginning of the twentieth century, in 1902, Willis Carrier installed the first “apparatus for treating air” in a printing factory to combat humidity; his invention was patented in 1906. Only in the 1920s did air conditioning technology start to be installed in US movie theatres and department stores that suffered from declining customer visits during the sweltering summer heat. In the 1950s, air conditioning systems entered private households and cars, and started to spread from the US to the entire world. In Singapore, more than 50 percent of all electricity is consumed by cooling systems; in the US, fewer than 5 percent of newly built houses lack a central air conditioning unit. ...

Air conditioning—the possibility of “fixing” the air’s temperature and humidity at one’s own comfort level—is one of the oldest dreams of mankind. It means creating a world without heat or cold, rain or snow, without suffocating humidity or dusty winds. Climate control allows for a life without weather, without meteorological contingencies and surprises, extreme weather events, seasonal changes, or locally challenging climate conditions. Air conditioning creates what has long been lauded as a “temperate climate,” a climate adjusted to the comfort zone of the human body—a comfort zone that, today, seems to get narrower and narrower. ... The philosopher Peter Sloterdijk has called this basic civilizational act “insulation”—a human way of being-in-the-world by creating protective “spheres” and thereby isolating human bodies and social environments from the world at large, the natural environment....

Herder may be one of the first thinkers to understand not only that climate shapes man’s living conditions, but that mankind also changes itself through the cultural techniques it employs to alter landscapes and climates. Humankind shapes its life-world by creating atmospheres adapted to its needs or comfort....

Thus, the Anthropocene—that newly-coined epoch in which humans have become a “geological force” transforming the climate and the biosphere on a global scale—did not simply start with the Industrial Revolution.6 Maybe the Anthropocene actually begins with the start of a civilization that actively intervenes into climates and landscapes in order to create or adapt the atmosphere to their needs—that is, with humankind’s transition from hunting and gathering to settlement and agriculture. Climate control, then, is not a product of the twentieth century’s society of comfort, but a central element in the project of civilization. This project mainly consists in liberating human society from the contingencies of nature, and particularly of a dimension of nature that is both as elusive and ubiquitous as the air...

Long history connecting climate with intelligence, forms of government, diligence...

Ultimately, for these and other reasons, the idea that climate (or other environmental factors) determines the nature of a people has been discredited entirely. Today, the social world and the natural world are supposed to be separate from one another. To be “modern” means to be independent of such negligible things as air temperature or the degree of humidity. The weather, no matter how often we speak about it, is a background to our social interactions, not a major factor shaping them.

However, this seemingly outdated question about the exchange between climate and culture raised by thinkers from Aristotle to Herder and even the deterministic school of geography also marks something that has been repressed, or at least “cleanly separated” from the modern idea of man as a social and cultural being—the fact that being-in-the-world is also being-in-atmospheres, being-in-a-climate....

The old and supposedly defunct tradition of pre-modern climate theory raises the question of how both nature and culture have, in very different forms and degrees of intensity, been shaped by a mutual transformation of climates and civilizations. Climate is the epitome of that which surrounds and impacts human life forms. It is the imprint of nature upon man—yet a nature that, in turn, is massively altered by human technology....

Today, global health has dropped this idea of an ideal climate. The fact that “populations living in different climates have different susceptibilities, due to socio-economic reasons, and different customary behavioral adaptations” is generally acknowledged.15 Bodies and cultures adapt to the temperatures (and degrees of humidity) they are set in. However, modern medicine also concedes that human health and work performance are related to the temperatures of the environment...

Orangeries, Crystal Palace, arcades, malls, geodesic domes -- “In their greenhouses,” Sloterdijk remarks, “the Europeans started a series of successful experiments on the botanical, climatic, and cultural implications of globalization.”... climate becomes an option. It ceases to be the inevitable atmosphere of a given locale, an element of reality that comes part and parcel with being in a specific place. Glass architecture thus creates “atmotopes,” as Sloterdijk calls them—zones of a carefully manipulated climate, flooded with natural sunlight, overgrown with plants, and populated with humans (and sometimes animals).
climate  environment  architecture  temperature  botany  nature 
16 days ago
The Avery Review | Archives of the Present-Future: On Climate Change and Representational Breakdown
In addition to certain unprecedented material-environmental conditions, it thus poses profound representational dilemmas. This is compounded further by our immersion in this ever accelerating “everything-ness,” the edges of which are challenging, if not impossible, to sense.3 From what vantage point, then, might we engage climate change—this multiscalar, multitemporal, multidimensional, and multidisciplinary “shadow that is no less ominous because it is formless and obscure,” to borrow Rachel Carson’s analogy for pesticide contamination from 1962?...

In a recent essay titled “Planetary Dysphoria,” the literary theorist Emily Apter traces the lineage of a now pervasive and distinctly apocalyptic “aesthetics of planetarity,” which she summarizes as “the geo-psychoanalytic state of the world at its most depressed and unruhig, awaiting the triumphant revenge of acid, oil, and dust.”...

The existing visual culture of climate change—brimming with depictions of ravaged landscapes, polar bears atop waning ice, and techno-sublime satellite views—adheres largely to an illustrative mode, despite the incongruousness and even muteness of such a manner in the face of newly complex entanglements between the human and nonhuman, not to mention the kind of attritional “slow violence” associated with climate change.8 The genre of science fiction may hold a particular potential to wrangle with our present planetary crisis in its oblique relation to the (nonfictional) world, or its invocation of vantage points tied to imagined other times and places. That being said, science fiction’s indulgence in the spectacle of disaster has a tendency to turn us into spectators, desensitized and deactivated, by inviting “a dispassionate, aesthetic view of destruction and violence—a technological view,” as noted incisively by the cultural critic Susan Sontag in 1965....

She cites the media’s propensity to feature the loss of individual animals, in this case the charred and broken bodies of solitary birds, insisting that this emphasis on foreground comes at the dire expense of a “big-picture” perspective—one that would, for instance, ask us to think at the scale of whole habitats and the potential loss thereof, or in terms of the respective effects of a fossil-fuel- versus alternative-energy-based economy. ... At the opposite scalar extreme is the equally prevalent, techno-scientific representation of the Earth’s surface garnered from the quasi-external, top-down vantage point of an orbiting satellite. Today, images taken from outer space reveal numerous signs of environmental distress, from the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps to desertification, air pollution, and more frequent and intense tropical storms.13Such pictures are increasingly summoned to support the idea that we have entered an unprecedented epoch, the Anthropocene, wherein humans are interpreted as a newly geological force with the power to alter the planet itself, including its Earth systems. Like the famous photographs snapped aboard Apollo spacecraft in the 1960s and early 1970s that are their precursors, these contemporary satellite images, significantly, do not record national and other geopolitical boundaries, thus framing the planet as a natural body....

Despite their differences, both of these image types—the too close and the too distant—presuppose the possibility of documenting objective, single truths and, as such, I want to argue, they are too literal to contend with climate change. ...both of these widespread visual tropes blur or conceal crucial contexts, conflicts, and contingencies.

...how to maintain a degree of resolution fine enough to capture interrelations that are dispersed across time and space, and are often radically asymmetrical in nature.... Global connections, Tsing puts forth, “can only be charged and enacted in the sticky materiality of practical encounters.”....

I, like others, want to advocate for perspectives that are highly situated yet move across registers and scales—both spatial (e.g., the so-called local and global) and temporal (e.g., historical time, evolutionary time, and media time). Distinct from an ocular-oriented zooming in and out, such as that enacted in Charles and Ray Eames’s well-known 1977 film, Powers of Ten, it is representations that engage multiple, ultimately incommensurable scales and registers (e.g., the molecular, bacterial, geopolitical, geological, and architectural, visible, invisible, material, speculative, and so on) that best suit our present moment....

A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting, initiated in 2011 by the California-based artist Amy Balkin, is, as she describes it, “a collection of materials contributed by people living in places that may disappear because of the combined physical, political, and economic impacts of climate change … Together … they form an archive of what will have been.”... While reminiscent of an eighteenth-century Wunderkammer in terms of its eclecticism, this bevy of curiosities is not meant to consolidate one vision or experience of the world, but, on the contrary, to serve as “community-gathered evidence” or “a public record,” in the artist’s words....

In a recent interview with the art historian T. J. Demos, she addressed this “doubling of temporal perspectives,” saying that the archive simultaneously serves as “a ‘time capsule’ for a near future when hundreds of millions of people are likely to be displaced” and “a ‘public display of evidence’ for a present when grave mistakes are being made.”...

The environmental humanities scholar Thom van Dooren refers to this laboratoryas an “ark,” like Noah’s—“a place of last refuge” wherescientists tend to creatures with remarkable care, in spite of the devastating and unstoppable disappearance, in some cases, of entire species.34 Van Dooren’s interest lies in ways that projects like these, “engaged in practical and concrete acts of care,” help hold open the possibility for both hope about the future well-being of the world and a deepened sense of accountability.35 In the end, he calls for banking practices that—in addition to fulfilling their preservation missions—also “make visible all those things that they cannot quite hold on to and all those that they cannot hope to ever restore,” so as “to cultivate some semblance of responsibility for another, whose world we (collectively) have destroyed.”
archives  archive_art  satellite_imagery  climate_change  rhetoric  preservation  extinction  mapping  representation 
17 days ago
English 508 (Spring 2016)
Why interpret texts by altering them? What are some low-tech approaches to prototyping and interpreting texts in a whiz-bang world? How do we think about design and fiction together?
syllabus  prototype  iteration  pedagogy  material_texts  indexical_writing  revision 
17 days ago
The Value of Multi-Typeface Design — Prototyping: From UX to Front End
It has come to my attention that one of the more noticeable traits in my design work is my willingness to use what is perceived to be an excessive number of typefaces. I’ve seen countless articles written on typeface pairing and systems, and nearly all of them push towards using fewer families in any given design. I’ve seen similar comments made towards my own work, implying that they are pleasing despite the number of typefaces they use.
typography  graphic_design 
21 days ago
It’s Time to Get Over QWERTY — A Q&A with Tom Mullaney on Alphabets, Chinese Characters, and Computing » The LARB Blog
we live in a time that hardly anyone could have anticipated at the dawn of the 20th century. Not only are Chinese characters still with us — they are one of the fastest, most widespread, and successful languages of the digital age. More than ever before, Chinese is a world script, and China is an IT giant. This would shock the many people who, for the past two centuries, assumed that such an outcome was conceivable only if China got rid of character-based writing and went the route of wholesale alphabetization — which it did not. This outcome was not supposed to have been possible — and yet here we are. ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community Relationships

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

Ebooks & Digital Content

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

Library Leadership & Management

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

Libraries Transform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poster designed by Ziv Schneider.

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

Follow us on stupid twitter.

hackathons  parody  critical_design  critical_engineering  silicon_valley 
5 weeks ago
JWTC Blog: If we doubt ourselves, who will have belief in us?
Bruno Latour is obviously beginning to catch fire in the Global South. He is probably the next Foucault. Before Foucault there was, of course, Marx. One of Foucault’s most serious readers in African studies, V. Y. Mudimbe, has lamented the persistence of a “Western ratio” at the center of African thought. Mudimbe states very clearly that Foucault, despite his brief sojourn in North Africa, was not writing for or about Africa but (specific) Western societies. Nor was Marx; same for Latour.
We should, therefore, be cautious about what is universalizable about them; that does not mean they are not intellectually usable material. Even in Western academia, Latour has been criticized for his “executive approach” that privileges the lab engineer or scientist. This applies to actor network heuristics in general. My fear is that people bringing Latour or Science and Technology Studies (STS) into African Studies are simply going to trace the itineraries of Western artifacts derived from the labs that STS described, the infrastructures and thought systems transplanted to Africa from them, and make this the be-all end-all of science and technology in Africa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our investigation was conducted in four stages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we need big collections of documents to talk to each other, and we’re trying to solve that at the level of the entities, because journalists don’t want to share everything they have—they have exclusive documents. But if you create an index of entities in their documents, it’s not so much of a problem, and everybody can benefit from those matches. And of course, we’re having a lot of headaches with natural language processing, and that’s something we’re dealing with inside the Panama Papers project as well.
leaks  secrecy  hacking  databases  structured_data  media_archaeology  forensics  search  data_visualization 
6 weeks ago
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