Infinite Infrastructure: Drawings of Tokyo Stations by Tomoyuki Tanaka – SOCKS
Tomoyuki Tanaka is a Japanese architect who creates mesmerizing x-ray drawings of Tokyo’s major stations. These are precise ballpoint pen descriptions of the extremely complex transportation hubs, executed as to show the relationship between the buildings and the infrastructures and between the city and the intricate, yet rational, worlds which are developed mostly underneath. Sequences of stairways, platforms, tunnels, bridges, hallways generate underground labyrinths which grew over time to become some of the busiest stations in the world. Shinjuku Station, for one, sees an average of 3.64 million people passing through it each day.
infrastructure  illustration 
yesterday
Flow - a Sidewalk Labs company
The twentieth century’s most important piece of transportation infrastructure was the highway. Today, our most important infrastructure is digital: the data and communication tools enabling cities to understand and shape the decisions of travelers on our roads and rails.

Flow builds digital tools for cities to enable more efficient, equitable, and sustainable transportation for people.
urban_planning  smart_cities  big_data  transportation  sidewalk_labs  google 
3 days ago
GitHub - MimiOnuoha/missing-datasets: An overview and exploration of the concept of missing datasets.
"Missing data sets" are my term for the blank spots that exist in spaces that are otherwise data-saturated. My interest in them stems from the observation that within many spaces where large amounts of data are collected, there are often empty spaces where no data live. Unsurprisingly, this lack of data typically correlates with issues affecting those who are most vulnerable in that context.

The word "missing" is inherently normative, it implies both a lack and an ought: something does not exist, but it should. That which should be somewhere is not in its expected place; an established system is disrupted by distinct absence. Just because some type of data doesn't exist doesn't mean it's missing, and the idea of missing data sets is inextricably tied to a more expansive climate of inevitable and routine data collection.
data  archives  invisibility 
3 days ago
Who's Afraid of Aaarg?
The ironies and injustices of academic publishing, as focused through the lens of AAARG, mirror those in other aspects of our society. Dwindling public funds are supporting the bottom line of major corporations like Elsevier instead of our public institutions, while a profit-driven management model forces the majority of its participants into debt, precarity, or unemployment. In this case, the public good, both in the sense of what we consume and what benefits us, is knowledge. Who deserves knowledge? What should it cost? What is it worth to a society (or to globalized humanity) to make it available to its members?

In the sciences, whose funding is better but still threatened under current models, the inaccessibility of knowledge could lead to slower development of treatments for diseases, for example, and to the desultory global dissemination of important clinical information. We should keep in mind that without open access archives like AAARG (or Sci-Hub and LibGen in the sciences), this information is inaccessible to most people around the world. The universities of poorer nations cannot afford to develop a collection akin to those of research libraries in the world’s richest countries.

...The humanities threaten to disrupt the very logic and smooth functioning of a neoliberal state whose only measure of value is GDP. Perhaps the humanities’ most important offering is the ability to transform the frame of reference, to recast economic issues in moral terms, for example. The humanities are the locus, among other things, of the questions of justice or ethics—the very questions we are posing here—on which our public institutions must be founded lest we accept arbitrary authority.
file_sharing  publishing  piracy  open_access  archives 
3 days ago
The Power of the Library in a War-Torn Afghan Village » Public Libraries Online
Tucked away in the basement an adobe home in the rural Panjwai District in Afghanistan is small one-room library. It has two shelves of about sixteen hundred books and magazines, a collection that has been largely developed through donations from around the world. The library gets about five visitors a day, but to twenty-two-year-old Matiullah Wesa, “five visitors in the village are more important than 100 in the city.”[1]

The library in Panjwai is just a slice of the work that Wesa’s organization, Pen Path, does to bring books to the most war-torn regions of Afghanistan. He’s started seven libraries in rural Afghanistan, collected twenty thousand books, and has worked to reopen schools closed because of violence throughout the country.[2]

Improving Literacy in Afghanistan

Access to books and magazines in a country where literacy rates are at 31 percent for adults and 20 percent for women is vital. The low literacy rates in the country can be partly attributed to poverty, as well as to the dominance of the Taliban and war.[3] Education is one of the many priorities of humanitarian and development assistance to Afghanistan, but female literacy is one of the slowest areas to grow over the last decade.[4]...

The Panjwai library not only serves the need for literacy and information access, but it is also a place of peace and safety. Hazrat-Wali Haidary, the eldest son of the family who houses the library, said that he wouldn’t have agreed to host the library a few years earlier.
libraries  afghanistan  social_infrastructure 
4 days ago
NYPL Opens Permanent Library at Rikers Island
On July 26, New York Public Library (NYPL) launched the first permanent public library location at Rikers Island, East Elmhurst, NY, New York City’s main jail complex and one of the world’s largest correctional institutions. NYPL’s Correctional Services (CS) team has been providing library services at Rikers Island since 1984, currently operating five satellite libraries throughout the complex’s ten jails—mobile book carts that move from unit to unit, or rooms that share space with other programs, requiring the books to be boxed up and removed at the end of each session. The new 1,200-volume library at the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) is the first to occupy dedicated space. Decorated with posters and vibrant, comfortable furnishings, the library is open for six hours every Tuesday, serving half of the facility every other week. Inmates may check out two books at a time for two weeks....

The space at RMSC (known familiarly as Rosie’s), which houses more than 2,000 female inmates, opened up earlier in the year thanks to DOC administrators who support the eventual goal of permanent library spaces throughout the entire complex. “The women’s facility has…better real estate,” explained Ball, “so they were able to find a space that worked really well and is actually quite lovely. There’s big windows and natural light and it’s a good size for a small library. It’s partly just luck that [RMSC] had the right space, but it’s also just a really nice facility.”
Work on the library took about two months, according to Ball. DOC planned the internal logistics: how the service would be run, and sequencing visits from RMSC’s 16 housing units during the library’s open hours. “The whole facility pitched in to make it happen with us, and then we of course were in charge of gathering the donated books,” she said.
With a limited book budget, CS was able to purchase a small percentage of the collection, but relied mostly on discarded and withdrawn books from branches of NYPL, as well as donations from the public and an internal book drive among corrections officers. Prisoners will also donate books they’ve read and want to pass along.
libraries  prison 
4 days ago
U of Chicago warns incoming students not to expect safe spaces or trigger warnings
They all received a letter recently from John Ellison, dean of students, which went beyond the usual platitudes of such letters and made several points about what he called one of Chicago's "defining characteristics," which he said was "our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression." Ellison said civility and respect are "vital to all of us," and people should never be harassed. But he added, "You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort."
To that end, he wrote, "Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."
The letter referred to a website where Chicago maintains a report on academic freedom and its centrality to the university.
advising 
4 days ago
The Dying Typographic Art of Cutting Letters into Steel
In a smoky atelier in Torino, Italy, Giuseppe Branchino works as one of the world’s last punch cutters. Cutting punches, the first step in traditional typesetting, is the meticulous craft of carving letterforms into small steel billets. Branchino was the former head of the engraving department of type foundry and printing press manufacturer Nebiolo, founded in Turin in 1852. Along with a few others scattered across the globe, he carries on a centuries-old practice that’s becoming obsolete in the age of digital type.

In the meditative short film “The Last Punchcutter,” by Giorgio Affanni and Gabriele Chiapparini, we watch Branchino create a punch. Drinking espresso and smoking a cigarette, he works silently and slowly, carving the letter “G” into a thin block of steel with awls and chisels, peering through a magnifying glass to inspect his handiwork. He spends nearly seven minutes on a single letter.
type  letterpress  craft 
4 days ago
Can Satellites Learn to 'See' Poverty?
Night lights, therefore, appear to be an incredible resource. So much so that in countries with poor economic statistics, they can serve as a proxy for a regional wealth survey—except no one has to go house to house, running through a questionnaire. Yet research has also shown this not-a-survey will remain inexact: To a satellite at night, a few well-lit mansions and a dense but poorly lit shantytown can look nearly the same....

In order to make night lights more discerning, engineers and computer scientists fed a convolutional neural net—a standard type of artificial intelligence program—a series of data sets. They wanted to give it the insight of the night-light data while freeing it of its pitfalls.... First, they taught the neural net a generic image-recognition program that let it distinguish edges, corners, and more than 1,000 common objects. Second, they asked it to correlate a set of night lights data for a country with a daytime map of the same country, essentially teaching it what kind of features on the ground are more likely to make the surface brighter at night. Finally, they fed it a the highest-resolution household-wealth data that exists for that country, the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study, indexed to latitude and longitude....

Many economists, geographers, and governments agree. The data that the team fed into their model came from five sub-Saharan countries—Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, and Rwanda—that all face unusual “data scarcity.” Jamon Van Den Hoek, a geography professor at Oregon State University who did not work on the paper, said overcoming the data scarcity of sub-Saharan Africa drives much of the research in the region. In the past few years, researchers have tried to deduce local economic fates by analyzing cellphone metadata or by detecting whether roofs are made of metal or thatch. In February, Facebook even trained a neural net to estimate village-level population data by identifying what buildings look like from above.
machine_vision  machine_learning  poverty  neural_nets  satellites 
4 days ago
Pilgrim
Pilgrim is something like a combination of a bookmarklet and web-crawler. It provides a better experience for consuming long-form text and exploring related materials on the web.

It works by extracting the content of an article, and loading any links clicked inline on the page. As you go deeper into supplemental material, your path is maintained, giving one a better sense of where the relevant information flows.

Pilgrim is an open source project by Are.na initiated with generous support from the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund
reading  bookmarking  notes  tools 
5 days ago
How Exhaustion Became a Status Symbol | New Republic
Today, exhaustion still hints at status, but of a different sort. To say that you’re exhausted is to telegraph that you’re important, in demand, and successful. It’s akin to the humblebrag of ruefully describing yourself as “so busy”—naturally, since exhaustion follows from busyness. In Schaffner’s telling, the associations of exhaustion with prestige have crystallized in the form of burnout.
labor  exhaustion  academia  temporality 
5 days ago
Antarctic Biennale Loses Key Curator | artnet News
Just a day after The Art Newspaper ran a lengthy story online about the first-ever Antarctic Biennale and its call for “adventurous artists under 35,” controversy is flaring up on social media about the unorthodox project.

On Facebook, Defne Ayas, director of the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, wrote:

Given that neither the framing nor the announcement content nor the age limit was signed off by me, as part of a member of the Artist Advisory Board, and as my press quote that offered a critical opening to the initial outset and prospect was nowhere used on the promotional materials but rather superceded by those I personally disagree with in content and direction,without any communication with me in person, I decided to pull out my name....

“This sublime continent is like a white sheet of paper on which artists from different countries and nationalities will try to write the new rules of cooperation,” says Ponomarev in the press release. Works from the voyage will subsequently become part of the Antarctic Biennale collection.
extreme_tourism  fieldwork 
5 days ago
Sitting Up: A Brief History of Chairs
The world is divided into people who sit on the floor and those who sit on chairs. In a classic study of human posture around the world, the anthropologist Gordon W. Hewes identified no fewer than a hundred common sitting positions. “At least a fourth of mankind habitually takes the load off its feet by crouching in a deep squat, both at rest and at work,” he observed. Deep squatting is favored by people in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but sitting cross-legged on the floor is almost as common. ...

The diversity of different postures around the world could be caused by differences in climate, dress, or lifestyle. Cold or damp floors would discourage kneeling and squatting and might lead people to seek raised alternatives; tight clothing would tend to inhibit deep squatting and cross-legged sitting; nomadic peoples would be less likely to use furniture than urban societies; and so on. But cause and effect does not explain why folding stools originated in ancient Egypt, a region with a warm, dry climate. Or why the Japanese and Koreans, who have cold winters, both traditionally sat on floor mats. Or why the nomadic Mongols traveled with collapsible furniture, while the equally nomadic Bedouins did not...

Hewes explained that he did not include the reclining position in his research because he did not find sufficient photographic evidence. That is a shame because reclining has always been a comfortable position for the body at rest. The ancient Egyptians used beds, and may have reclined on couches, although these do not appear in wall paintings—banquet scenes show people on chairs or sitting on the ground. The earliest pictorial evidence of dining in a reclined position is a seventh-century B.C. bas-relief in the British Museum... What is unusual about the furniture is that it is very tall: the couch is about five feet off the ground, and the queen’s armchair, which reminds me of a lifeguard’s chair, is waist-high and requires a footstool. The reason for this height is to elevate the sitters above the servants, who wield fly whisks with handles as long as broomsticks to fan the royal couple. ...

Chair-sitting societies develop a variety of furniture such as dining tables, dressing tables, coffee tables, desks, and sideboards. Sitting on the floor also affects architecture: walking around the house in bare feet or socks demands smooth floors—no splinters—preferably warm wood rather than stone; places to sit are likely to be covered with soft mats or woven carpets; tall windowsills and very tall ceilings hold less appeal...

The first person to recognize the connection between sitting and posture was the eighteenth-century French physician Nicolas Andry de Boisregard. Andry was a pioneer in the field of orthopedics—he coined the term—and in his 1741 treatise he described the connection between healthy sitting posture and chairs. ...

In 1913, a Swiss anatomist, Hans Strasser, published the design of a chair whose upper backrest was slightly angled, and whose seat was sloped to better support the underside of the thighs. Strasser’s findings were confirmed thirty-five years later by Bengt Åkerblom, a Swedish researcher, who used X-rays and electromyograms to study the body mechanics of sitting. Åkerblom designed several chairs whose bent backrest became known as the “Åkerblom curve.”...
furniture  physiology  bodies  embodiment 
5 days ago
Slime Intelligence | Rhizome
Like robotics, infrastructure design has begun to learn from the notion of decentralized, environmentally specific intelligence. Keller Easterling describes the evolution of massive worldwide infrastructure systems: “When the object of design is not an object form or master plan but a set of instructions for an interplay between variables, design acquires some of the power and currency of software. […] It is an ‘abstract machine’ generative of a ‘real that is yet to come.’”.... That the slime mold is incorporated into the work outsources some of the decision-making process to spatial, non-human intelligence, which is interpretable only through its movement. The abstract machine becomes a soft machine....

“Creating the works is like creating a laboratory. The slime needs a habitat—not just an installation, but an architectural space.” The habitats she builds are interactive, often resembling mazes. The labyrinth as a generative form contains not only the formal history of computational problem solving and theories of mind, but also represents the collision of the natural and artificially constructed space...,

One Orb contains an explanatory blockchain diagram; another contains a “Minakata Mandala,” or a shape drawn by the famous Japanese naturalist Minakata Kumagusu, who collected slime mold samples in the 1920s for Emperor Hirohito (also a biologist who had an affinity for the organism). In a letter to a Buddhist monk, Kumagusu represented his view of the world through this mandala drawing: “With humans placed at the center of the diagram, our ability to comprehend causal connections between things diminishes as they are located further outward from the center and our awareness of them becomes more tenuous.” The mandala also is a manifestation of the limits of anthropocentrism and the existence of systems beyond cause-and-effect chains of connection. The juxtaposition of shapes inside the Orbs connects systems of belief, exposing the iconographic power behind ostensibly functional, empirically produced systems....

The third sphere contains a “Holacratic” organizational chart. The term originates in an essay from 2007, in which the American software engineer Brian Robertson used the word “Holacracy” to describe a system of corporate self-organization by which a company is organized into overlapping “circles,” teams of employees who come together spontaneously around specific tasks....

As a living model of non-linear action and lateral collaboration, the slime mold prompts the question of whether organizations could ever truly develop “naturally” as an organism, devoid of top-down controls, or whether imposed horizontality only advances the interests of external forces governing the body, instead of the interests of its constituent parts. The idea of a “conscious” organization is as disturbing as it is compelling. A decentralized, autonomous organism has no ideology, ethics, or accountability, whereas it might be preferable for a corporation to act according to a core logic beyond self-serving opportunism....

The remarkable intelligence of polycephalum is not in its asynchronicity, but in its lack of any need for a manager governing that decentralized movement....

This could also be described as the distinction between “knowing that” and “knowing how.”15 To know that the slime mold moves in a certain way because of certain capabilities—that’s scientific research. To know how through the act of moving along with it—that’s the work of the artist.
Infrastructure  territory  laboratory  epistemology  ideology  artistic_research  urban_intelligence 
5 days ago
Erasing the Pop-Culture Scholar, One Click at a Time - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Academics in the humanities — but particularly those who specialize in film, television, and comics — have come to view the pop-culture thinkpiece with dread. Invariably some new essay on, say, taste and television is published to great fanfare, at least from other writers of pop-culture thinkpieces. They proceed to treat as "new" or "innovative" some idea or trend that we in academe been writing about for years.

Decades of scholarship are erased by a single, viral essay that is presumed to be the first observation of some "new" phenomenon. Mainstream journalists don’t realize that the subjects they’re writing about, the patterns and shifts they’re noting for the first time, likely have numerous journal articles and possibly even full monographs devoted to them.

If it were just a question of crediting the work of scholars, most of us would lick our wounds and slink away. But it’s not just that. What pains us more than the absent citation is the unsupported claim, the anachronistic parallel, the apocryphal anecdote....

current online publishing landscape where speed, not accuracy, is valued, and clicks are king. The new culture of immediacy — based on anecdotal knowledge, individual experience, and the occasional nod toward what can be found in a quick Google search — is the lifeblood of this cultural moment.

We didn’t write this to knock anyone’s hustle; to the contrary, this essay is a request for reciprocity. We just want mainstream journalists to be aware: The thoughts and ideas that the news media spotlight as "original" aren’t actually all that original. Someone likely wrote something about that idea/era/film/TV show/music before, and it’s up to you to find out what’s been said and assimilate that knowledge with your initial argument. ...

And, yes, we know that our work is often hidden behind pay walls and university libraries (not our fault!). However if we are sharing the same social-media platforms as you, that means we can also assist in locating our work for mainstream pop-culture writers.

So ask around. Want a book but don’t have access to a university library? Academics love sharing our work. Just ask. You think you’re the first to consider … whatever? It’s likely you’re just the first to consider it today. Reading primary and secondary sources won’t make your idea less valuable, meaningful, or innovative. To the contrary, it makes your ideas and argumentation nuanced and holistic....

When we accept as commonplace the idea that the study of art, especially art that appeals to the masses — television, video games, comics — is less important than the study of much-fetishized STEM subjects, when we claim that the objective and the concrete requires expertise but the subjective and the abstract do not, then we are making a dangerous assumption. We are assuming that because something is made for everyone, and accessible to everyone, that its existence is somehow simple and straightforward — a vehicle for testing out theories without an aura of its own. But, art, especially art that seems to require the least amount of scholarly attention — reality TV, video games, comics — is precisely the art that most needs history, context, and deep study. Media matters and media has consequences.
writing  academia  citation  UMS  advising 
5 days ago
Out Of Cite — The Awl
I like to write about the internet, for the internet. The last thing I wrote about the internet was an idea I’d been toying with for almost a year, accumulating quite the messy collection of excerpts, tweet links, screenshots, and shitpics spread across multiple mediums and devices. Not everything made it, of course, but still the final product was the most densely citational essay I’d ever done, including academic work. During final edits of the thing — like, the final edit — I came across Amanda Hess’s great “Hands Off My Smiley Face” in the New York Times. As I read through the piece and its insights I felt gutted, as if a year of thinking, weeks of drafts, and 2000 words instantly became obsolete.
She’d gotten there first.
First is relative. Topically, almost nobody is first in anything, even the long-dead thinkers who get canonized as such. But originality is not anchored to topical firsts, but rather new ideas. When a new paper is published, it’s considered innovative not because the researchers were the first to work with the materials but because they do so differently, or better. Lauren Chief Elk-Young Bear writing on drone feminism is hardly the first to talk about either, but the proposition she comes to in consideration of what’s been done prior is all her own.
This is why writers have editors: to skirt around a splattered mess of emotional attachments and see what’s on the page for what it really is. To help a writer see that topic similarity is not akin to redundancy. That two people can observe the same trend differently, yet also inform each other. That’s how you have a conversation. What’s more important, to be mythically “first” or advance conversation about a subject matter in the richest way possible?...

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, in an article titled, “Erasing the Pop-Culture Scholar, One Click at a Time,” professors Amanda Ann Klein (East Carolina University) and Kristen Warner (University of Alabama) take on the “pop-culture thinkpiece” and address the genre’s unwillingness to seek expertise when it comes to interpretation and cultural criticism(ish). What’s often assumed to be untrodden ground — consider the now passé, “why is nobody talking about X” style — is actually a phenomenon many somebody elses have been thinking about for quite awhile, which writers would see if they only bothered to look....

Klein and Warner aren’t merciful in taking the “thinkpiece” to task, though for those who actually read the essay entire it’s clear their concern scales larger than the freelancer making a quick buck for an ode to Beyoncé’s hair (hii!). Klein and Warner point us to a general trend where the skills needed to understand the objects around us are increasingly devalued in an era when the humanities are dying and a decidedly inhumane gig / share economy thrives....

Even taking the academy as nonexistent — which for all its accessibility, it might as well be — there’s something about a tendency for internet writers not to even cite their own peers that points to a more troubling problem in terms of the voices that get left out. We should talk about citation generally, as a community-building practice, as a discussion enriching practice, and as a practice that can undo or prevent the force of erasure in terms of marginalized voices. I want us to talk about citation as a loving practice....

Citation masks a lack with presence, but also presence with a lack. At worst, the intellectual property of the internet’s most valuable players is mined without compensation or credit; at best, writers waste words reinventing the wheel and projecting an unfinishedness to questions others have already answered. ...

Nobody’s mad that you won’t cite Foucault on every gesture to social constructs or Althusser on ideology (in fact, please don’t). Thankfully there’s way cooler stuff out there, writers and thinkers and tweeters and artists sharing what they know and making revelations on platforms accessible to anybody with an internet connection. Read them and be smarter for it. Cite them so we all are.
writing  temporality  originality  citation  generosity  advising  UMS 
5 days ago
Hidden codex may reveal secrets of life in Mexico before Spanish conquest
One of the rarest manuscripts in the world has been revealed hidden beneath the pages of an equally rare but later Mexican codex, thanks to hi-tech imaging techniques.

The Codex Selden, a book of concertina-folded pages made out of a five-metre strip of deerhide, is one of a handful of illustrated books of history and mythology that survived wholesale destruction by Spanish conquerors and missionaries in the 16th century.

Researchers using hyperspectral imaging, a technique originally used for geological research and astrophysics, discovered the underlying images hidden beneath a layer of gesso, a plaster made from ground gypsum and chalk, without damaging the priceless later manuscript.

...realised the importance of the strip cartoon-like images, a complex system that used symbols, stylised human figures and colours to recount centuries of history and beliefs, including religious practice, wars, the founding of cities and the genealogy of noble families.
palimpsest  archaeology  digitization  imaging  manuscripts 
6 days ago
For Release: SITU and ICC leverage new tool showing destroyed cultural heritage in Mali
Today the International Criminal Court (ICC) utilized a new digital tool as part of its groundbreaking trial on destroyed cultural monuments in Mali.  Developed by SITU Research, this platform represents an unprecedented integration of spatial and visual technology in the courtroom and serves as a critical evidentiary tool in the court’s first case focused on the destruction of cultural heritage--specifically, the war crime of intentionally directing attacks against 10 historic monuments and buildings dedicated to religion in the ancient city of Timbuktu. The trial, which began today at The Hague, also marks the first time a defendant has pleaded guilty before the ICC.

This interactive digital platform has been designed to facilitate the organization, analysis and presentation of evidence documenting the destruction of these sites in Timbuktu. Combining geospatial information, historic satellite imagery, photographs, open source videos and other forms of site documentation, the tool has been used as part of trial proceedings against the defendant, Mr Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, an alleged member of the armed group Ansar Dine, who is charged with participating in the intentional destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque’s door in 2012. This is the first time such a tool is used at the International Criminal Court and presents a visual and spatial evidentiary model in, inter alia, cases where sites of heritage have been damaged or destroyed.
mapping  archaeology  isis  law 
6 days ago
Infrastructure Club
We are Infrastructure Club and we get excited about infrastructure.

We visit & discuss cranes, cables, pipes, containers, pylons, antennae and all sorts of other infrastructure. We'd like you to join us.
infrastructure  infrastructural_tourism  infrastructural_literacy  tourism 
6 days ago
Visualizing the Crisis — Medium
Towards the end of 2015, a handful of financial experts began to warn of an imminent global crisis. Long threads on specialized blogs were rarely picked up by mainstream media outlets. Similar to what happened in 2008, it seemed that the vast majority of commentators were failing to recognize the symptoms of the looming disaster. Perhaps nobody was able to see them: the ways in which market dynamics are visualized have scarcely improved, despite the recurrent crises that have occurred over the past century....

Given the increasing importance of economical data and the financial landscape over our lives, the lab was then established as an ongoing, real-time workshop in data-visualisation, which would track and explain the crisis that the analysts predicted for 2016. Its purpose was to better understand the broader network of causes and implications which every financial turmoil exists within, providing context to economic reports, and looking at the socio-political framework of news stories. From a design perspective, the intention was to develop new ways for visualizing financial news, in order to move from the rather bi-dimensional and dispassionate language of bar and pie charts, into a richer territory made up of maps, cartograms, illustrations and diagrams....

The lab has three outputs. Firstly, a series of 10 weekly bulletins for each group, for a total amount of 70 double-sided, single A3 papers printed with a Risograph machine. Each of these bulletins has been collectively and entirely researched, edited and designed in seven days. The students collected and visualised through them all the crucial data relative to their specific area of investigation....

The second output is an interactive interface that allows for the exploration of the complete archive of information collected during the lab. The dense information graphics designed contained in the bulletins have been reduced to their essential elements, and broken down into component atoms. Each paragraph, visualisation, graph, quote and summary was then defined through a set of 64 keywords—collectively devised and agreed upon—ranging from geography, resources, demographics and financial definitions, in order to allow the readers to easily cross-reference, compare and contrast information....

The premise of the course was to adopt information design as an investigative tool: to visualize news and data in order to get a better understanding of their evolving context, rather than turning to design as a polished mean of representation for a well-established truth. By focusing on finance, we wanted to address one of the most important — and, at the same time, obscure — domains of the contemporary world, where information is often conveyed through the lens of despair and conspiracy. The aim was to look at the evolution of current events by revealing the hidden connections between the actors at every level of local and global organizations, and by rendering complex patterns of data and relationships into legible diagrams.
On the other hand, the various outputs of the course were established as an exercise for the understanding of the separation between form and content, and as an experiment into responsive design. By translating their elaborate visualizations into XML code, the students converted a static output into an open-source archive for the manipulation of the same information by an endless amount of other authors.
data_visualization  design_research  finance  open_source  syllabus  methodology 
6 days ago
Visipedia iPad App
The Visipedia iPad application was developed to showcase visual search capabilities on mobile devices and the practicality of the hybrid human-computer classification paradigm. This iPad application allows a user to interact and collaborate with machine vision algorithms in order to identify a bird species. The user uploads an image to be identified, and then participates alongside the computer vision processing by providing further information about the image until a solution is found.
field_guide  classification  taxonomy  birds 
7 days ago
Seeing (from) Digital Peripheries: Technology and Transparency in Kenya’s Silicon Savannah — Cultural Anthropology
“We don’t map those,” Kyale stated emphatically, gesturing to the spigot jutting out of a makeshift mud structure from which women were collecting water in plastic jerry cans. His GPS unit dangled from a cord wrapped around his wrist, and it swayed in step with his measured gait as we passed by the water point. A flicker of confusion must have swept across my face, and Kyale leaned over and whispered to me: “That water point is not by the government, but by the community. It’s illegal, so we don’t map it.” It was nearing the second hour of our data collection expedition in Kyale’s neighborhood, an informal settlement of Nairobi, Kenya, that I will call Muhimu. A few moments later, Kyale paused in front of a different water point—this one with a Nairobi City Water and Sewage Company (NCWSC) meter attached—and recorded its latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates with his GPS device. Later, taking respite from the heat of the day, he would retreat indoors to upload these coordinates to a computer using the software platform Java OpenStreetMap Editor (JOSM). By aggregating his data with those collected by other volunteer mappers over the span of a few months, he would help create a digital map of Muhimu; it would be the first publicly circulating map of any kind to acknowledge the settlement’s existence. “It’s good to be recognized; people should know the real Muhimu,” Kyale told me, explaining his devotion to mapping.

That Muhimu could be known by outsiders at all was a novel idea. As one of Nairobi’s informal settlements, it was considered illegally occupied; as such, its villages, roads, hospitals, and schools were depicted on government paper maps and digitized Google ones alike as a vast swath of empty space, a large blank spot. The project that Kyale was volunteering for—Muhimu Mapping Project (MMP)—was one of many techno-utopian digital mapping projects that formed in the wake of Kenya’s 2007–2008 postelection violence, when politically motivated conflict led to more than 1,200 deaths and 660,000 displaced citizens. The managers of MMP—Sarah, a Canadian, and Miroslav, a Russian—believed that mapping Muhimu’s infrastructure would encourage local political leaders to bring resources to the neglected area. If Muhimu’s resources and needs were highlighted on digital maps, Sarah and Miroslav reasoned, the neighborhood could no longer be ignored. Bringing government attention to the settlement’s well-being had recently also become a means to ensure its survival. The citywide displacement of so-called informal areas had become increasingly commonplace as Kenya attempted to fulfill its ambitious long-term development plan, Vision 2030, which mandated infrastructural upgrading (Dolan 2012). This plan was eerily silent about Nairobi’s settlement residents, who comprised more than half of Nairobi’s 3.1 million people (Amnesty International 2012). During a presentation at the Africa Geospatial Forum, an annual conference celebrating the past achievements and future possibilities of geospatial technologies in areas of governance, development, and economic growth on the continent, then director general of Vision 2030, Mugo Kibati, had stated brusquely that “Vision 2030’s vision on informal settlements is to get rid of them. Plain and simple.” ...

“The whole point of this mapping thing,” Miroslav told me the first time we boarded a matatu van and journeyed from the freshly tarmacked roads of Nairobi’s Central Business District to the potholed, chaotic eastern portion of the city, is “to make the invisible visible.” Political recognition, according to Miroslav, followed from visually witnessing data about the neighborhood. For MMP, more information was imagined to lead to more substantial political engagement in the settlement. At the time of this interaction, I had been following the digital mapping activities of Kyale and his colleagues for almost a year. After countless days spent chatting with Muhimu residents and observing their technical training and data collection, I had developed what I thought was a solid grasp of the politics of service provision in the slum. I thus interpreted Kyale’s carefully calibrated mapping practice—choosing to map official water points, while deliberately leaving community ones undocumented—as a reflection of his unwillingness to disrupt the micropolitics of slum life and invite unwanted attention from the notoriously corrupt NCWSC.1 Despite these selective mapping practices, however, residents consistently justified their work by arguing, as Kyale had, that their digital maps displayed the real Muhimu. “Transparency is a good thing,” Sam, another mapper, told me unequivocally when I asked him about his desire to map his neighborhood. The mappers imagined that the maps could be mobilized as visual evidence to counter negative perceptions that circulated about the area. “Muhimu’s name has been tarnished,” explained Peter Odondo, a mapper in his twenties. “Most people are afraid and think it’s a very insecure place.” Using the words real and transparent interchangeably to explain their mapping work, Kyale and his colleagues expressed faith in the maps as unmediated visual truth, on the one hand, and knowingly produced highly selective representations, on the other....

This tension at the heart of transparency discourse—that revelation is always shadowed by concealment—has been well documented by social scientists (Strathern 2000; Hetherington 2011; Mazzarella 2006; Levine 2004; MacLean 2014; Morris 2004). Less frequently considered, however, is how transparency-seeking practices are informed by the subject positions of those who produce them. This issue, I suggest, was brought to the fore by the Muhimu mappers’ work. How does the mapmakers’ status as urban slum-dwellers color the production and reception of the information they produce?2 By bringing attention to a group of people—the urban poor—not typically imagined to be the producers of either technology or transparency, I uncover an irreconcilable contradiction at the heart of the mapmakers’ sociotechnical engagements: while mappers like Kyale attempted to strategically produce and document transparent representations, they first had to prove they had the authority to do so. The mappers thus struggled to commensurate two desires: first, to be recognized as Kenyan citizens in the face of social and political exclusion, and second, to be recognized as technical experts, whose work was legitimated only when the maps superseded the presence of those who produced them. The mappers, I argue, aimed to be visible and invisible at the same time. How were these incommensurable desires shaped through mapmakers’ engagements with geospatial technologies? And what new aspirations and anxieties were produced in and through mapmakers’ attempts to establish belonging in Silicon Savannah, a term widely used in Kenya and beyond to position the country’s Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector as the digital technology epicenter of Africa writ large?...

To answer these questions, I draw on more than two years of ethnographic research on Nairobi’s emergent digital technology sector. Specifically, this article focuses on the desires and practices of a group of slum-dwellers who showed enthusiasm for geospatial technologies, which led them to join MMP. I explore how, through making their neighborhood visible through digital mapping work, the mappers also attempted to make themselves visible as technical experts. In this sense, making their physical location (Muhimu) known through mapping became a strategy to change their social location:3 as their neighborhood became legitimized, so did they themselves.

I thus suggest that while the goals of Muhimu’s technologically savvy residents were partly strategic—that is, they were careful not to expose features like community water points that might cause internal conflict in their neighborhood and, as I show below, they were frequently preoccupied with generating income—these strategies were bound up with a broader desire to fashion an aspirational identity. I thus consider the digital mapping activities of Nairobi’s urban poor not as purely technical operations aimed at illuminating previously invisible peoples and places, but rather, as sociotechnical practices that produced subjects and places in and through the process of depicting them. Digital maps, I suggest, are thus not merely tools whose utility can be analyzed separately from the subjects who create and use them (cf. de Bruijn, Nyamnjoh, and Brinkman 2009). Rather, they are objects whose meaning can only be apprehended when considered as part of a broader representational economy (cf. Kelty 2008; Coleman 2009; Keane 2006; Miller 2005). While producing and tinkering with digital maps cultivated aspirational identities, such practices at the same time generated unease, as the mappers feared that they would be unable to adequately capitalize on the technologies’ potential.4 Residents were intensely worried that competitors with better images or more professional credentials would outpace them....

The process through which mapmakers and maps fashioned one another influenced whether the information produced—the maps themselves—would be interpreted as useless noise, credible data, or something in between. Here, pace the dominant narrative in Nairobi’s techno-utopian social world, more information did not lead to more transparency (cf. MacLean 2014; Hetherington 2011). Indeed, what was at stake was the degree to which particular kinds of information became coded by various actors as transparent at all. Below I briefly discuss how digital technologies came to embody the shared dreams that animated Kenya’s ambitious development plans, while at the same time they also expressed and reproduced class-based hierarchies. ...

MMP was one of many geospatial projects that emerged in Nairobi’s informal… [more]
mapping  cartography  citizen_cartography  informal_infrastructure  infrastructure  africa  slums  globalization 
8 days ago
Practicing Uncertainty: Scenario-Based Preparedness Exercises in Israel — Cultural Anthropology
Turning Point is an annual scenario-based event that involves all government ministries, local municipalities, and essential infrastructure units, as well as all citizens. It is the largest scenario-based exercise of its kind. Preparations for each exercise are extensive; some units start preparing more than five months ahead of execution. The last two months before the exercise involve the most intensive preparations, and, then—for a specified number of days—all relevant units practice the scenario and its implications. Scenarios include preparedness for natural disasters as well as war and terrorism. The exercise has been conducted since 2007, following the country’s second war with Lebanon. It is overseen by the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA; the Hebrew acronym is Rachel), a unit of the Ministry of Defense. ...

The analysis of Turning Point scenarios adds to more recent studies that track the emergence of forms of securing the future that speak to a nonquantifiable mode of governing, one that responds to the problem of uncertainty rather than risk (O’Malley 2004; Samimian-Darash and Rabinow 2015). However, rather than focus solely on how the scenario, as an uncertainty-based technology, conceptualizes the future and approaches that problem (Samimian-Darash 2013), I examine how it works in practice. I explore how, in its execution, the scenario actually generates uncertainty as a form of action. That is, I examine both the discursive and the dispositional aspects of the Turning Point scenario, approaching it as a narrative put into action. I thus go beyond the conceptualization of the future underlying this technology and address how it practices uncertainty....

Some scholars provide a more nuanced analysis of the practice of uncertainty-based technologies (see Amoore 2009 on visualization in the War on Terror; Samimian-Darash 2013 on syndromic surveillance systems and flu pandemics; Schüll 2015 on gambling software; Zeiderman 2015 on environmental hazards). Studies specifically of scenarios and simulations (Adey and Anderson 2012; Collier 2008; Lakoff 2008; Schoch-Spana 2004) provide baseline observation and analyses of these forms. Yet most look at scenario narrations only....

cenarios create a multiplicity of actual events that invoke uncertainty through unexpected reactions and interactions. Moreover, through its actualization, the scenario event is remediated; that is, the multiplicity of events it creates feeds back into the parent event. This dynamic evokes the unexpected, derived not from the unknown future—uncertainty—but from the practice of the scenario itself, that is, its performativity. In other words, uncertainty is involved not only in the way the future is conceptualized, in the discursive level of narrative, but also—perhaps primarily—in a scenario’s dispositional effect, its actualization. Additionally, the unexpected effects generated through exercises like Turning Point enable the extraction of new problems the system needs to prepare for.

The current case analysis may move us from one mode of governing, via biopolitical security apparatuses and risk-based technologies, to another mode, of preparedness and uncertainty-based technologies, but this change should not be idealized; that is, the scenario has its own problematic externalities and critical limitations... The scenario modality, then, creates a chronic mode of preparedness. It leads to continuing preparations, generates more uncertainty, poses new problems, and eventually results in repetition of the exercise every year.
methodology  risk  scenarios  planning  uncertainty  prediction 
8 days ago
A Magical Reorientation of the Modern: Professional Organizers and Thingly Care in Contemporary North America — Cultural Anthropology
Professional Organizers (POs) like Fran are keen observers of how people relate to and manage their material possessions. Many express an almost anthropological desire to understand their clients’ attachments to things and, more broadly, to reflect on the stuff of contemporary North American life. It’s not just the extreme cases of acquisition, accumulation, or excess that POs find interesting or worthy of discussion, but also the mundane, ordinary things that settle into our daily lives—the paper clutter (receipts, tax documents, letters, junk mail), the plastic goods, the useless kitchen gadgets, the kids’ artwork, the new-but-soon-to-be-obsolete electronic devices, and the things we inherit when a parent or loved one dies.

A seemingly simple question had led me to seek out and talk to POs in Toronto: how, in North America and at this particular historical moment, are we to manage and be with our ever-expanding world of material things? Already I had come across a strong prescription about how not to be: according to the newly defined Hoarding Disorder diagnosis in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V; American Psychiatric Association 2013), pathological hoarding has as much to do with the improper management and organization of objects as it does with excessive accumulation. Here consumption remains a late capitalist raison d’être, but it must, above all, be properly managed. One must not only know what to keep and what to discard, but how to arrange and store objects in their proper place....

Drawing on insights offered by the anthropologist Mary Douglas (1966) in Purity and Danger, I take as a point of departure the idea that disorder is a far from natural or absolute category. Rather, the practice of naming disorder and making order is both instrumental and highly symbolic; it serves to distinguish social and moral categories and draw boundaries between different kinds of people, not just through an appeal to hygiene, health, or self-improvement but also through the production of specific structures of feeling and affect—fear, disgust, vigilance, revulsion, pity, and self-righteousness—that in turn serve to maintain these distinctions. Discourses of order and disorder, I suggest, carry within them strong judgments about virtue, affluence, and class....

Drawing on interviews and fieldwork encounters with twenty-one POs in Toronto and throughout southern Ontario, I describe how they aim to reorient their clients materially, morally, and affectively by reordering their habits and things.3 In theory, POs endeavor to bring people’s overpowering relationships with their material possessions into line with a specific regime of caring for, with, and about things that is predicated on an absolute distinction between subject and object. In practice, however, many POs find themselves immersed in a reality that is more vibrant-materialist than it is Cartesian. The organizers fully recognize the complex ways that people become attached to, intermingled with, and even dispersed in things, and their work requires them to regularly plunge into and manipulate this world of “vibrant matter”...

As the visible absence of clutter signals affluence, it may also signal virtue; the two are, in fact, closely intertwined. In the pages of home and lifestyle magazines like Real Simple and in larger public conversations about consumption these days, there exists a strong moralizing discourse about the merits of moderation, self-regulation, and self-discipline amid endless possibilities for acquisition and accumulation.
organization  collection  things  hoarding  material_culture  materialism  ethics  minimalism 
8 days ago
Treasures in the Wall - The New Yorker
Schechter set off to Fostat (Old Cairo), where the manuscripts had been found, eventually making his way to the Ben Ezra synagogue—the site, according to legend, where baby Moses had been found in the reeds. Deep within the building, in a hidden repository called a genizah (from the Hebrew word ganaz, meaning to hide or set aside), Schechter uncovered more than seventeen hundred Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts and ephemera.

In 1897, Neubauer and Cowley beat Schechter to publication of the Ben Sira discovery. But Schechter did them one better, and made it back to England with the Genizah mother lode. He and his patron Charles Taylor, who was then Master of St. John’s College, donated the fragments to Cambridge in 1898. They published their account of the discovery in 1899 and facsimiles of the documents in 1901. Schechter and Neubauer would not exchange any more friendly postcards.

Oxford and Cambridge are longtime rivals, but in February, the two universities launched their first-ever joint fundraising campaign in order to save the Lewis-Gibson Genizah Collection—named for the intrepid twins who led Schechter to it and, not incidentally, endowed Westminster College, which owns the collection but can no longer afford to keep it—from division and dispersal....

According to Jewish law, religious writings must be interred if they bear the name of God. The Jews of Fostat, though, preserved not only sacred texts but just about everything they ever wrote down. It’s not precisely clear why, but Outhwaite told me that medieval Jews hardly wrote anything at all—whether personal letters or shopping lists—without referring to God. ...

As a result, we have a frozen postbox of some two hundred and fifty thousand fragments composing an unparalleled archive of life in Egypt from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries. The community may have been somewhat atypical—many of its Jews were wealthy, living at the center of a mercantile network, and Fostat was safer for Jews than the Land of Israel. Still, scholars can extrapolate a great amount of information from the Genizah documents about life for Jews during the Islamic Period in cities such as Baghdad, Damascus, and Aleppo. No other record as long or as full exists.
archives  social_history  judaism  religion 
9 days ago
A Secret Library, Digitally Excavated - The New Yorker
Just over a thousand years ago, someone sealed up a chamber in a cave outside the oasis town of Dunhuang, on the edge of the Gobi Desert in western China. The chamber was filled with more than five hundred cubic feet of bundled manuscripts. They sat there, hidden, for the next nine hundred years. When the room, which came to be known as the Dunhuang Library, was finally opened in 1900, it was hailed as one of the great archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century, on par with Tutankhamun’s tomb and the Dead Sea Scrolls....

News of the Dunhuang Library set off a manuscript race among the European powers. After Stein came Paul Pelliot, a brilliant, hotheaded French Sinologist who took some of the best items in Wang’s library after staying up nights reading through them at breakneck speed by candlelight, and others, including delegations from Russia and Japan. By 1910, when the Chinese government ordered the remaining documents to be transferred to Beijing, only about a fifth of the original hoard remained....

In the century since the Dunhuang Library was discovered, a whole academic discipline has sprung up around the materials it contained. It’s an extraordinarily demanding branch of study: the Library included documents in at least seventeen languages and twenty-four scripts, many of which have been extinct for centuries or known only from a few examples. The collection mirrors the remarkable diversity of Dunhuang itself, where Buddhists rubbed shoulders with Manicheans, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Jews, and Chinese scribes copied Tibetan prayers that had been translated from Sanskrit by Indian monks working for Turkish khans. ...

But since 1994, an ambitious digitization program has slowly pushed the Dunhuang cache online, allowing scholars to reconstruct individual documents whose pages might be held by multiple collections, and to get a truer sense of its scope. Run by a team based in the British Library and working with partners in China, France, Germany, Japan, and Korea, the International Dunhuang Project is making the contents of the library available to experts worldwide, while simultaneously preserving them for future generations. Conservators in libraries from Paris to Tokyo have been restoring the ancient manuscripts and scanning them into an extensive, searchable database. ...

Paper was developed in China, originally as a wrapping material, and only gradually spread west, first to Central Asia, then to the Islamic world, before finally arriving in Europe in the fourteenth century. The library itself may owe its existence to the scarcity and preciousness of the material. ...

reproducing scriptures, whether orally or on paper, was good for karma. Printing began as a form of prayer, the equivalent of turning a prayer wheel or slipping a note into the Western Wall in Jerusalem, but on an industrial scale.

This might be the most enduring lesson of Dunhuang: the whole “Gutenberg galaxy” of paper and print didn’t begin in Europe. Print was a Buddhist invention, and its aim was salvation, not profit.
archives  china  digitization  preservation  language  print_history  paper 
9 days ago
BBC - Culture - The secret libraries of history
Beneath the streets of a suburb of Damascus, rows of shelves hold books that have been rescued from bombed-out buildings. Over the past four years, during the siege of Darayya, volunteers have collected 14,000 books from shell-damaged homes. They are held in a location kept secret amid fears that it would be targeted by government and pro-Assad forces, and visitors have to dodge shells and bullets to reach the underground reading space.

It’s been called Syria’s secret library, and many view it as a vital resource....

On the edge of the Gobi Desert in China, part of a network of cave shrines at Dunhuang called the Thousand Buddha Grottoes, it was sealed for almost 1000 years. In 1900, Taoist monk Wang Yuanlu – an unofficial guardian of the caves – discovered the hidden door that led to a chamber filled with manuscripts dating from the fourth to the 11th Centuries.
Provincial authorities showed little interest in the documents after Wang contacted them; but news of the cave spread, and Hungarian-born explorer Aurel Stein persuaded him to sell about 10,000 manuscripts. Delegations from France, Russia and Japan followed, and most of the ancient texts left the cave....

an initiative to digitise the collection was launched in 1994. The International Dunhuang Project – led by the British Library, with partners worldwide – means that, as The New Yorker says, “Armchair archive-divers can now examine the earliest complete star chart in the world, read a prayer written in Hebrew by a merchant on his way from Babylon to China, inspect a painting of a Christian saint in the guise of a bodhisattva, examine a contract drawn up for the sale of a slave girl to cover a silk trader’s debt, or page through a book on divination written in Turkic runes.”
No one knows why the cave was sealed: Stein argued that it was a way of storing manuscripts no longer used but too important to be thrown away, a kind of ‘sacred waste’, while French sinologist Paul Pelliot believed it happened in 1035, when the Xi Xia empire invaded Dunhuang. Chinese scholar Rong Xinjiang has suggested that the cave was closed off amid fears of an invasion by Islamic Karakhanids, which never occurred....

Scholars aren’t allowed to look at any papal papers since 1939, when the controversial wartime Pontiff Pius XII became Pope, and a section of the archives relating to the personal affairs of cardinals from 1922 onwards can’t be accessed.
Housed in a concrete bunker, part of a wing behind St Peter’s Basilica, the archives are protected by Swiss Guards and officers from the Vatican City’s own police force. ...

Hidden in a wall of the Ben Ezra synagogue were almost 280,000 Jewish manuscript fragments: what has come to be called the Cairo Genizah. According to Jewish law, no writings containing the name of God can be thrown away: those that have fallen out of use are stored in an area of a synagogue or cemetery until they can be buried. The repository is known as a genizah, which comes from the Hebrew originally meaning ‘to hide away’, and later known as an ‘archive’.
For 1000 years, the Jewish community in Fustat deposited their texts in the sacred store. And the Cairo Genizah was left untouched. “Medieval Jews hardly wrote anything at all – whether personal letters or shopping lists – without referring to God,” says The New Yorker. As a result, “we have a frozen postbox of some two hundred and fifty thousand fragments composing an unparalleled archive of life in Egypt from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries… No other record as long or as full exists.”...

“While students were systematically going through the binding remains in the library,” he says in a blog post titled A Hidden Medieval Archive Surfaces, they found “132 notes, letters and receipts from an unidentified court in the Rhine region, jotted on little slips of paper. They were hidden inside the binding of a book printed in 1577”.
Rather than being ‘sacred waste’ too important to throw away, the fragments were examples of rubbish recycled by bookbinders. “Recycling medieval written material was a frequent occurrence in the workshop of early-modern (as well as medieval) binders,” writes Kwakkel. “When a printed book from 1577 was to be fitted with its binding, the binder grabbed the 132 paper slips from his equivalent of a blue recycling bin and moulded them, likely wet, into cardboard boards.”
libraries  secrecy  secret_libraries  little_libraries  surveillance  archives  books  manuscripts 
9 days ago
The Wish Machine by Autoban, part of the London Design Biennale, invites visitors to walk through a tunnel made of transparent hexagonal tubes
Turkey's contribution to the biennale is 'The Wish Machine' designed by Istanbul-based multidisciplinary design studio, Autoban. The installation is inspired by the cultural tradition of threading a note or memento to the branch of a tree as an act of hope born out of hopelessness.

' The installation located in West Wing G1A at Somerset House appears as an interactive pneumatic system operating in a mirrored space. Visitors will be invited to walk through a tunnel that is made of transparent hexagonal tubes. They will share their hopes and wishes, vision of utopias, and aspiration for the future, by writing them on paper, and feeding them to the Wish Machine through a lid at the dead end. Notes will then travel back through the tubes to a place out of visitors’ sight, as if their destination is a place unknown. Just like throwing coins to the depths of a lake or lighting a candle to make a wish come true, the final destination being addressed will remain a mystery. '
hope  utopia  heterotopia  wishes  installation  notes  pneumatic_tubes 
10 days ago
Why ancient Roman graffiti is so important to archaeologists - Redorbit
Pompeii’s graffiti is the world’s most frustrating goldmine.

When it comes to ancient Rome, the vast majority of insights into their world we have are from one group: Wealthy (or patronized) free men. According to Charles Freeman[1], in all of the surviving works from Rome, only one author speaks of his life as a former slave—a philosopher named Epicetus. Meanwhile, every female Roman voice has been lost to time.

But there is one place on Earth that may yet hold their stories: The Bay of Naples, where in 79 CE, Mount Vesuvius buried the two seaside towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under feet of lava and ash. These places weren’t necessarily vast repositories of lost literature, but the eruption froze them nearly perfectly in time, preserving them for nearly 2,000 years—and preserving thousands of pieces of graffiti along with them....

Without this threat of punishment, it seems that graffiti was readily practiced by people at all strata of society, making it perhaps the most valuable text we have from the ancient world. Man, woman, child, slave, poor, rich, illiterate—it did not matter, so long as there was an empty spot on a wall. Which means that, through graffiti, we are able to hear the voices of those who have been traditionally voiceless, granting us the possibility of astounding insights into lives and minds we’ve never been able to access....

in graffiti scratched into the soft plaster walls of various buildings, there seems to be examples of what some call “recreational literacy”. As in: There are what appear to be many attempts of people practicing writing alphabets and practice sentences, likely in an attempt to boost their ability to read and write. Paper was expensive, but walls were free and easy to scratch—and thus were the perfect place to drill oneself....

it seems that ancient Romans, as a whole, were much more literature (and steeped in works of literature) than previously guessed—which would only make sense. At the very least, functional literacy, or knowing how to read key things like prices, seems like it would have been much more common than absolute illiteracy....

ancient Roman women often spoke to each other using baby talk (blanditiae)—so the language here could simply be that as well, since many of the nouns are in diminutive forms, like pupula (making “my darling” “my little darling”). All in all, the jury is currently out (but hopeful)....

Another problem with context is not knowing who drew or painted a graffito, nor when they did it. With rare exception, the graffiti of Pompeii isn’t dated. And when it is, it very rarely gives the year.... graffiti was the text of the everyman in ancient Rome, granting us unique insight into how everyone lived—not just wealthy free men. But for everything we learn, there seems to be a tantalizing mystery we have no way of resolving, making graffiti both our greatest aid and our most frustrating foe.
rome  media_archaeology  urban_archaeology  graffiti  writing  literacies  urban_history 
10 days ago
Why Are New York City’s Streets Always Under Construction? - The New York Times
It was the Great Blizzard of 1888 that drove the city’s utilities underground. After more than 20 inches of snow downed overhead electric, telephone and telegraph cables, paralyzing the city, officials ordered that lines be buried.

But unlike Paris or Tokyo, where tubes and wires are usually bundled inside a cavernous sewer system or tucked underneath sidewalks, much of New York’s underground infrastructure lies within five feet of the asphalt surface.

ELECTRICITY: The bulk of the city’s power grid is operated by Consolidated Edison, which maintains 88,724 miles of underground cables, 32,911 underground transformers and 255,867 utility holes.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Well over a dozen companies have laid tens of thousands of miles of fiber optic, copper and coaxial cables to deliver television, telephone and internet communications. Much of it runs through tubes, called conduits, owned by Empire City Subway, an entity that was formed in 1891 to consolidate communication services underground and currently owns 58 million feet of pipes and about 11,000 manholes in Manhattan and the Bronx.

DRINKING WATER: The approximately 6,800-mile-long network of mostly iron and steel pipes, some of which are a century old, distributes water that has wended its way down from upstate.

STEAM: Con Ed maintains the largest steam system in the world. There are more than a hundred miles of piping that provide energy to more than 1,800 buildings in Manhattan, including hospitals and other large institutions.

NATURAL GAS: New York has one of the oldest systems in the country. Con Edison and National Grid maintain about 6,400 miles of gas mains, which they are slowly upgrading.

SEWAGE: Wastewater is carried through about 7,500 miles of pipes and tunnels, some of which were placed in the ground more than 100 years ago....

Before excavating, plumbers and contractors are required to call 811, the 311 for underground infrastructure that alerts registered utility companies where work is being done, so they can visit the site to mark the locations of their cables and tubes and prevent workers from drilling into them.

When the city undertakes a major project, like installing a water main or reconstructing a road, it can take several months of serious detective work to identify who owns what, and whether wires are still active.

Dino Ng, an associate commissioner of infrastructure for the city’s Department of Design and Construction, said utilities and private companies don’t always keep perfect records and don’t like sharing information because of industry competition and security concerns. Also, cables may have been mapped for one location but installed in another to work around a gas main, steam pipe or another obstacle that couldn’t be moved.

On site, they’ll dig test pits to find out what’s there, or try to use radar....

When determining which streets will get a face-lift, Galileo Orlando, the deputy commissioner for roadway repair and maintenance, said officials considered the needs of each community board, as well as current underground construction projects , like the Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan. They also check who controls the road — the city, the state or a private owner — and its quality rating....

Since the late 1970s, the city and utility companies have been experimenting with what are known as trenchless technologies, like remote-controlled tunnel boring machines, to minimize the invasiveness of certain work, and to reduce disruptions to pedestrians and drivers. Other recent innovations, like removable concrete slabs, allow utilities to make repairs quickly, without damaging the surrounding pavement. But there is a limit to what even perfect planning and engineering techniques can accomplish.
urban_archaeology  infrastructure  visualization  urban_history  maintenance  forensics  transportation  urban_design 
10 days ago
Gleaming Digital Photos Make Vintage Computers New
Before computers were domesticated into sleek little iPhones, they were unwieldy beasts of machines that weighed up to two-and-a-half tons. From the Harwell Dekatron of the 1950s, the world’s oldest working computing device, to Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE, equipped with 800 vacuum tubes, most of these early computers now sit in museums.

In his ongoing series Guide to Computing, London-based photographer James Ball, who goes by Docubyte, portrays the ancestors of our modern digital devices as they might have been seen in their heyday. Ball spent several months photographing vintage computers from the collections of the National Museum of Computing and the Science Museum in the UK, the Technical Collections of Dresden, and the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

What makes Ball’s photographs different from, say, those in museums’ online galleries is extensive digital retouching, done with the help of production studio INK. In person, most of these machines look past their prime, and to a contemporary audience, they’re clunky, obsolete relics. But here, thanks to six months’ worth of post-production, they appear brand new. Set against colorful backgrounds, the machines in these photographs “represent a truth and a fiction together,” Ball writes in a statement. “The digital restoration has culminated in the creation of an image never seen before in this context.”
objects  media_archaeology  computing_history  things 
10 days ago
New paper: Reframing, reimagining and remaking smart cities |
In contrast to those that seek to realise the benefits of a smart city vision, a number of critics have highlighted a number of shortcomings, challenges and risks with such endeavours. This short paper outlines a third path, one that aims to realise the benefits of smart city initiatives while recasting the thinking and ethos underpinning them and addressing their deficiencies and limitations. It argues that smart city thinking and initiatives need to be reframed, reimagined and remade in six ways. Three of these concern normative and conceptual thinking with regards to goals, cities and epistemology, and three concern more practical and political thinking and praxes with regards to management/governance, ethics and security, and stakeholders and working relationships.
smart_cities  ideology  politics  epistemology 
11 days ago
The New Cloud Atlas – Mapping the Physical Infrastructure of the Internet – thinkwhere
The New Cloud Atlas, (newcloudatlas.org) is a global effort to map each data place that makes up the cloud in an open and accountable way. It’s a project to find and map each warehouse data centre, each internet exchange, each connecting cable and switch. Anything of any physical significance in the operation of the cloud should be observed in some way, and recorded for everyone to see and use. Data is stored in OpenStreetMap and users can map things using the on site iD editor with custom telecoms presets for the first time. Map tiles with two styles have been produced and have now made visible this hidden infrastructure. http://newcloudatlas.org

The New Cloud Atlas, named after the nineteenth collaborative scientific data collection project, is about understanding and making visible the hidden “Cloud”. Although most of these telecoms features are in the open and in plain sight, many are missing from open datasets or may be considered sensitive.
infrastructure  mapping  geography 
11 days ago
Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s Dokk1 Wins Public Library of the Year Award 2016 | ArchDaily
The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has named Schmidt Hammer Lassen's Dokk1 Library in Aarhus, Denmark as the winner of the Public Library of the Year Award 2016.

By beating out the SOM-designed Chinatown branch of the Chicago Public Libary; the Geelong Library & Heritage Centre in Geelong, Australia, designed by ARM architecture; and the Success Public Library by Bollig Design Group; Dokk1 became the first Danish library to win the award.
libraries  architecture 
11 days ago
Google’s High-Speed Web Plans Hit Snags
Google parent Alphabet Inc. is rethinking its high-speed internet business after initial rollouts proved more expensive and time consuming than anticipated, a stark contrast to the fanfare that greeted its launch six years ago.

Alphabet’s internet provider, Google Fiber, has spent hundreds of millions dollars digging up streets and laying fiber-optic cables in a handful of cities to offer web connections roughly 30 times faster than the U.S. average.

Now the company is hoping to use wireless technology to connect homes, rather than cables, in about a dozen new metro areas, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. As a result Alphabet has suspended projects in San Jose, Calif., and Portland, Ore....

Meanwhile, the company is trying to cut costs and accelerate its expansion elsewhere by leasing existing fiber or asking cities or power companies to build the networks instead of building its own....

Google Fiber last month bought Webpass Inc., a company that beams internet service from a fiber-connected antenna to another antenna mounted on an apartment building. The company serves roughly 820 buildings in five cities.... In Kansas City, Alphabet also is testing a wireless technology that delivers connections from antennas on street lamps. And the company recently applied to the Federal Communications Commission to test “experimental transmitters” for wireless connections in 24 U.S. locations during the next two years. Google Fiber is planning a system that would use fiber for the central network and antennas to connect each home wirelessly to that network....

In San Francisco and parts of Atlanta, the company is leasing existing underused fiber and connecting apartment buildings rather than single-family homes. It chose Huntsville, Ala., in part because the city agreed to build a fiber network for Google.

In Tampa, Google Fiber is in talks with a power company to build the fiber network. It is working with real-estate firm Irvine Co. to pre-install fiber in new properties near Irvine, Calif., and it hopes to strike similar deals with other builders.

The new strategies are in response to the headaches of building a fiber network. In Kansas City, homeowners complained about destroyed lawns and ruptured gas lines. In Nashville, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky., competing telecom firms are blocking the company from stringing fiber on their utility poles.
google  fiber_optics  wireless  infrastructure  internet 
11 days ago
The New York Public Library is Moving 1.5 Million Books to an Underground Lair
This summer, several times a week, a 30-foot truck filled with rough wooden shelves of books has arrived early in the morning at the New York Public Library’s flagship research library. Each truckload contains thousands of books, which have been sitting for the past three years at a storage facility upstate.

Now, 1.5 million books are migrating home, although not to the shelves they once occupied, in the library’s old stacks beneath the Rose Main Reading Room. From the loading dock, the shelves are moved through the maze below the library, until they are two levels below the ground, underneath Bryant Park, which stretches like a lawn before the Beaux-Arts building. There, the books loiter in the hallway, waiting to be ingested....

Twenty-five years ago, when the library first moved books under the park, construction crews carved out two underground floors, but only the top one was finished. The second level, deeper down, was an unlit hollow, until, starting in April 2015, renovations transformed it into an archive-quality storage facility.

It is a beautifully cool 65 degrees down here, with 40 percent relative humidity, and there’s a new electric trolley system, in which books can be sent off to reading rooms upstairs in bright red carts. Most importantly, there is space for 2.5 million books....

The books are grouped together by size, in cardboard trays with white plastic handles at the front. This library doesn’t use the Dewey Decimal System, so books that are grouped together don’t necessarily cover the same subjects. Upstairs, in the older level of stacks, each book has a call number, and to find a book in one of the six bays, you need to be trained to understand where it might be located. In this lower level, there’s an inventory control system that might be used in an Amazon warehouse or other industrial setting, that tracks where the books are.
libraries  storage  logistics  classification 
11 days ago
About Us | Underground Vaults and Storage
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archives  storage  preservation 
12 days ago
It's Nice That | Tord Torpe and Magnus Nyquist create an animated ode to libraries
Contrary to popular belief, libraries can be wildly fun and psychedelic places if you’ve got the right tools to work with. Here and willing to help me prove my point are Tord Torpe and Magnus Nyquist, who created an animation to this end. Entitled KHIB Biblioteket after the library at their school, Bergen Academy of Art and Design in Norway, the animation sees a bandy-legged gent wandering absent-mindedly up to his library door, only to be thrown head first into a world of Memphis-inspired jumping shapes, swirling perspectives, fast-paced bright flashing colours and lights and morphing letterforms. It’s an incredibly ambitious project for a pair of students and happily it succeeds magnificently in its task, even being awarded a prize by Norwegian design blog Grafill.
libraries  video  animation 
12 days ago
Improving Your Library's UX
User experience design is the philosophy of considering spaces, services and processes from the end-user’s point of view. The term originated in the digital world in the field of human/machine interaction, was picked up by product designers, and from there, has filtered into every aspect of life, including the library....

The concept at the core of the whole UX movement is empathy. Learning to look at a situation with a beginner’s mind—putting aside all your years of education and experience in librarianship and seeing your library from a new user’s point of view—is the key. Realistically, most people who walk into the building aren’t familiar with your procedures and policies, your cataloging and classification systems, the building layout, or the incredible range of services you offer. How can your physical space be changed, even slightly, to help them understand the library? Empathy is about meeting people where they are rather than where you think they should be....
user_experience  interfaces  libraries 
12 days ago
Mongolia Adopts Address System That Uses Three-Word Names | Smart News | Smithsonian
Suure, there are occasional hiccups, but in the age of Google Maps and GPS, the current system of street names and addresses in the developed world works relatively well. But for the billions of people on Earth who live in rural areas, slums or sprawling urban areas, that system of addressing breaks down. It causes difficulties in receiving mail and packages, and there are bigger consequences as well. Not having an official address means that people have difficulty opening a bank account, getting electricity or just dealing with government bureaucracies....

According to Joon Ian Wong at Quartz, instead of a street names and numbers, what3words divides the entire surface of the Earth into 57 trillion 3-meter by 3-meter squares. Each square is assigned a three-word phrase derived from an algorithm that uses a list of 40,000 words to create the geo-codes. In this system, the White House, for instance, is no longer 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but sulk.held.raves; Buckingham Palace is fence.gross.bats; the Taj Mahal is according.gloom.broads.

Rebecca Feng at Forbes points out that while latitude and longitude coordinates do much the same thing, the long strings of numbers are difficult to remember and can be easily screwed up. So far, what3words has created an app that works in 10 languages, with plans to add many more....

So far, the system has been used by Pollinate Energy to help bring electricity to India’s slums. In Mongolia, Feng says, the online site Mmarket.mn recently began using the system followed last month by the Mongol Post.

The system may also be useful for things like drone deliveries and locating people during natural disasters. It may even catch on in more developed areas. Earlier this year Direct Today Couriers, a company in the UK that delivers mainly to rural areas, put what3words to the test. They found that using the geo-coding system reduced their average of 30 undelivered packages per day to just four or five.

But Feng points out that getting users to adopt the system is not enough. For what3words to become a game-changer, the addresses need to eventually be legally recognized by governments.
mapping  cartography  addresses  postal_service  infrastructure 
14 days ago
A Gift for Music Lovers Who Have It All: A Personal Utility Pole
KYO— Takeo Morita wanted absolutely the best fidelity possible from his audio system, so he bought a utility pole.

The 82-year-old lawyer already had a $60,000 American-made amplifier, 1960s German loudspeakers that once belonged to a theater, Japanese audio cables threaded with gold and silver, and other pricey equipment.

Normal electricity just wouldn’t do anymore. To tap into what Mr. Morita calls “pure” power, he paid $10,000 to plant a 40-foot-tall concrete pole in his front yard. On it perches his own personal transformer—that thing shaped like a cylindrical metal garbage can—which feeds power more directly from the grid....

A private line, they say, eliminates electrical interference that comes from sharing a public pole with neighbors whose gadgets can create “noise” that make subtle notes inaudible and the overall sound flatter.
sound  audio  infrastructure  fetishism  electricity  listening 
14 days ago
Holding On to What Makes Us Human
Some might say that such an argument is elitist because it ignores current economic conditions: the skyrocketing costs of college, shouldered more and more by students and their families as policy makers slash public support for higher education. Students are under enormous pressure to get through college as quickly as they can and land a job. How elitist to insist that students spend time studying subjects that don’t easily translate into financial gains.

But what could be more elitist than turning these subjects into luxury goods? What could be more elitist than deciding that first-generation or working-class students going to community colleges and state colleges don’t need or deserve the same opportunities for intellectual growth and exploration available to privileged students at elite private universities? The assault on humanistic study as frivolous and impractical, the scorn heaped upon students who want to learn something more meaningful than the mastery of a vocational skill set that might be obsolete by the time they graduate college — these are the legacies of a profiteering corporatist ethos that is replacing possibility and creativity with conformity and austerity, turning hopeful young people into dutiful drones, compliant worker bees in the neoliberal economy.
But the value of what we study, of what we teach and what we learn, is that such learning can help keep the human spirit alive — alive and alert to possibilities that lie beyond our present horizons. That may not be what employers or state budget committees want to hear — and that is precisely why we need to deliver such a message. We must insist on the importance of sustaining other values besides the purely pecuniary. That is the ground upon which we must stand to defend the place of the humanities in higher education, to defend the opportunity for our students to grapple with ideas and questions of enduring value. If that ground at the very heart of the university is lost, whatever still remains will hardly be worth keeping, whether or not we ourselves are by some miracle still standing.
academia  humanities  advising  liberal_arts 
14 days ago
Joho the BlogCoinstar's list of unacceptable items seems to have been written by Tim Burton - Joho the Blog
Coinstar makes vending machines into which you drop coins and from which you get bills or gift cards. Its list of unacceptable items is quite odd, presumably intentionally.
libraries  archives  ontology  taxonomy 
15 days ago
Floral Acoustics: Conspicuous Echoes of a Dish-Shaped Leaf Attract Bat Pollinators | Science
The visual splendor of many diurnal flowers serves to attract visually guided pollinators such as bees and birds, but it remains to be seen whether bat-pollinated flowers have evolved analogous echo-acoustic signals to lure their echolocating pollinators. Here, we demonstrate how an unusual dish-shaped leaf displayed above the inflorescences of the vine Marcgravia evenia attracts bat pollinators. Specifically, this leaf’s echoes fulfilled requirements for an effective beacon, that is, they were strong, multidirectional, and had a recognizable invariant echo signature. In behavioral experiments, presence of the leaves halved foraging time for flower-visiting bats.
acoustics  botany  biology 
17 days ago
Transportation For America – Applications are open for T4America’s smart city collaborative
Today, Transportation for America opened the application process for our national, multi-city collaborative with Sidewalk Labs. This partnership, announced back on June 1st, will help cities use technology to meet their pressing transportation challenges.

When USDOT kicked off the Smart Cities Challenge and over 70 cities from across the country scrambled to put together applications detailing their smart city ambitions, it was clear that Secretary Anthony Foxx at USDOT had tapped into something vital unfolding in cities of all sizes across the country.

As we read through all 78 of those applications this spring, one thing became very clear: It’s really hard to put a finger on precisely what a smart city is right now, and what it means to be one. There are cities that have been opening up massive sets of municipal data to citizens for years allowing them to create apps or brainstorm ways to improve government services. Some cities have found new ways to use their own data to determine where transit services should be provided, but aren’t, and adjust accordingly. Some cities are testing partnerships with shared mobility providers to experiment with adding transit coverage or providing valuable last-mile connections.

Yet there are other cities that are clearly just dipping their toes into this arena, and are swept up to some degree by the availability of the grant money or enamored with technology as an end unto itself — often not yet certain of the specific problem that they’re trying to solve....

Our new national collaborative will bring cities into several working groups, each focusing on one aspect of a smart city, such as how to create a level playing field where a tiny startup of students can compete with a massive technology firm to create a new civic mobility app, ensure that new mobility options also serve the unbanked or low-income communities, or deploy congestion pricing in a way that helps provide more transportation options to more people.

The cities in the collaborative will work to develop pilot projects, share successes and failures, and engage with one another to come up with new, creative solutions to the problems at hand. If you and your city are interested in participating in the Smart City Collaborative, please fill out a short application here.

As we build this collaborative over the next few months and hear back from cities that are on varying points of this spectrum, we’ll be starting to coalesce around an idea of what a “Smart City” truly is. We have ideas, but no one has 100 percent of the answers at this point as this idea evolves, and cities should likely be skeptical of anyone who says they do.
smart_cities  alphabet  google  transportation 
17 days ago
Can the Academic Write? — Part I — The Awl
When people talk about this subject, they always cite the Bad Writing Contest that Denis Dutton (who set up Arts and Letters Daily) started, and the year they gave it to Judith Butler. Butler was really angry, and she wrote this piece in the New York Times that spawned various responses to her response. There was a book partially edited by Jonathan Culler which collected responses to this debate that had been triggered by the “bad writing” thing. There was also a really good Lingua Franca piece investigating good and bad writing, which looked at it through an Adorno versus Orwell lens: Clarity is good! Clarity is bad! That kind of thing....

Non-academic readers encounter that prose and think that it is self-aggrandizing in its complexity, when it’s actually aiming for ultimate disambiguation of terms: “I’m not saying this, I’m saying that.” You have to deploy technical language to do that. Something else — something psychological — is going on when technical writing gets interpreted as torturous and annoying and undemocratic....

DW: I don’t think that’s true. But I would be interested to know what editors of academic journals think about this stuff. My impression is that the concern of those editors is the quality of the ideas and originality, rather than prose.
JL: Academic editors also must be rigorous about the positioning of those original ideas. An academic article absolutely must show where this bit of writing comes in the longer tradition of the field. In popular writing, not so much.
DW: I think good journalism, especially literary journalism, does do some positioning: just in a different way. There’s nothing more annoying to me as an editor than to get a piece or pitch that is written as if no one’s ever written about the topic before. It’s an encouraging sign in a pitch if the writer says, “The New Yorker did this piece, and Harper’s did this piece, but my piece takes a different angle.”...

JL: But, crucially, that positioning doesn’t have to make it into the final copy of a commercial piece. The commercial writer doesn’t have to acknowledge ideas that are part of the culture. Ideas are not proprietary in the way that they are in scholarship....

But it’s definitely true that good literary journalism has to import some of the caution of academia, in phrases like, “some scholars have suggested,” that kind of thing. You have to do it in a compressed form for the reasons we have already talked about. Readers aren’t automatically going to be interested, and they don’t want to go through every single interpretation of Bakhtin: thing number one, number two, number three, and so on. You have to do some more synthesizing, and corners are going to be cut. ...

JL: I think you are underestimating the vanity of academics and their rage when they see something in the public sphere that touches on their subject: their rage that they haven’t been explicitly cited, or that the writing is dumbing down the field. Academics often interpret popular journalism as a personal affront....

DW: Everyone’s like that, really. I know journalists who say, “Oh, that fucking guy has written about Russia. He doesn’t know shit about Russia. He doesn’t even speak Russian.” Journalists are just the same. There is a lot of bad writing in the public sphere about stuff that scholars know about. I think scholars have a right to be annoyed by that.
JL: But most academics do not know that writers don’t choose their own headline. Most people, including academics, will look at the headline and illustrations and pullquotes and be like: trash!

DW: That’s true. But there’s a reason why editors don’t let writers write their own headlines. They write the worst headlines in the world.
writing  academia 
17 days ago
Sarah T Gold
The Alternet is a proposal for a telecommunications network, a public utility for the Internet age - created, controlled and owned by everyone. The Alternet gives people ownership and control of their data through straightforward data licences.

There are three main components in the Alternet superfiction:

1 Hardware

The Alternet is a long distance mesh network so the Alternet grows organically with each new router that is added. The router cases are made in any colour filament on a standard desktop 3D printer....

2 Data Licences

The network is positioned between the data sharing capacity of the the Internet and the obfuscation of the Darknets. Individuals share their data openly in data commons, or under certain terms through data licences. There are numerous local and international derivative markets that form as a result of quality data shared by consent....

3 Data Barometer

Similar to a traditional weather barometer, the data barometer makes an invisible material visible and actionable. Each time an individual opens their Alternet operating system they see their barometer.
internet  networks  privacy  mesh_network  infrastructure 
17 days ago
Storage Techniques for Art Science & History Collections | Keeping your collections safe
This website provides information and tools so that institutions of all types, sizes and resource levels can learn how to create safe and appropriate storage solutions. These solutions were written by and for collection care professionals in all fields.  In some cases there are multiple examples to demonstrate that there is no single best solution for storage, it is about meeting the needs for your collection, in your space with your resources. Together we can build a resource where varied solutions are presented for adaptation and use across our field.
storage  archives  intellectual_furnishings  shelves  laboratories  artifacts  specimens 
17 days ago
American Museum of Natural History – The Paleontology Portal | Storage Furniture
A collection of any significant size will require some dedicated space for housing. With specimens ranging from millimeters in size to several tons, no one storage system will be appropriate for large collections and a combination of collections furniture such as racks, cabinets and pallets may be necessary.
Various issues need to be taken into account when selecting furniture for paleontology collections. Weight is an important consideration when housing fossils – a drawer of specimens may weigh as much as 20 lbs. You should consider the vulnerability of the collection to the various “Agents of Deterioration” that affect natural history collections, including fire, flood, theft, pests, light, and incorrect temperature and relative humidity. You may need to ensure that your new storage furniture is interchangeable with pre-existing collection housing, such as drawers, And, of course, your eventual solution will probably be dictated by budget limitations, or by space restrictions.
storage  intellectual_furnishings  cabinets  shelves  archaeology  artifacts  museum 
17 days ago
Earwitnesses of a Coup Night | Machinology
The soundscape of the coup was itself a spectacle catered to many senses: the helicopters hovering around the city; the different calibre gunfire that ranged from heavy fire from helicopters to individual pistol shots; individual explosions; car horns; sirens, and the roaring F-16 that descended at times so low so that its sonic boom broke windows of flats. Such sonic booms have their own grim history as part of the 21st century sonic warfare as cultural theorist Steve Goodman analysed the relation of modern technologies, war and aesthetics. As has been reported for years, for example Israeli military has used sonic noise of military jets in Palestine as a shock technique: “Palestinians liken the sound to an earthquake or huge bomb. They describe the effect as being hit by a wall of air that is painful on the ears, sometimes causing nosebleeds and ‘leaving you shaking inside’.”

In the midst of sonic booms,  a different layer of sound was felt through the city: the mosques starting their extraordinary call to prayer and calls to gather on the streets.... the chain of media triggers ranged from the corporate digital videotelephony to television broadcasting to the infrastructures of the mosques to people on the streets tweeting, filming, messaging and posting on social media. All of this formed a sort of a feedback-looped sphere of information and speculation, of action and messaging, of rumours and witnessing. ...

The mosques started to amplify the political leadership’s social media call by their own acoustic means.... Turkish artist and technologist Burak Arikan had already in his earlier work mapped the urban infrastructure of Istanbul in terms of its mosques, malls and national monuments....

During the coup weekend, it was the network of the mosques and their minarets that became suddenly very visible – or actually, very audible. While the regular praying times have become such an aural infrastructure of the city that one does not necessarily consciously notice it, the extraordinary calls from imams reminded how dense this social, architectural fabric actually is. The thousands of Istanbul mosques became itself an explicit “sonic social network” where the average estimated reach (300 meters) of sound from the minarets is too important of a detail to neglect when one wants to understand architecture as solidifying social networks in contemporary Turkey. In the context of mid-July it was one crucial relay of communication between the private sphere in homes, the streets and the online platforms contributing to the mobilization of the masses.
acoustics  sound_space  protest  public_sphere  media_city  islam 
18 days ago
Why Are BART Trains So Loud? | Bay Curious | News Fix | KQED News
BART makes three main sounds that passengers hear. There is a nasally electronic hum some of the trains make as they are braking. This is the sound of BART saving energy, Kolesar says. As some of the newer train cars brake, they convert mechanical energy into electric energy that can be used to run the BART trains. As they do this, the train cars make this kind of “nnneeoooowwww” sound.

The other two sounds fall squarely into the unpleasant category.

The first comes from wheels running on rails that have become worn and bumpy — “corrugated,” to use the technical term. When BART trains go over corrugated rail, they make a low-pitched, continuous “uuunnnhhh.” It sounds like some blend of a confused “uhhh” and the buzzer noise when someone answers incorrectly on one of those old daytime game shows from the ’80s.


The wheel design leads to the wail and other unpleasant noises. (Sam Harnett/KQED)
BART actually has a big machine that grinds down the bumps on corrugated track, eliminating some of the noise. This explains why sometimes a portion of the BART system makes loud uuunnnhhh sounds one day and doesn’t make a peep the next. You aren’t crazy — they just smoothed out the track at night.

Finally, there is the infamous squealing banshee wail.
infrastructure  transit  noise  sound_space 
19 days ago
Maps for the Masses: Geography in the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge | Worlds Revealed: Geography & Maps at The Library Of Congress
The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) was founded in 1826 in London as a nonprofit publication house aimed at disseminating…well, useful knowledge, to the masses of English society in language and formats that were understandable to the layman. In a time when formal education and expensive scientific books were financially out of reach for many, the SDUK hoped to attract a wide readership with publications that were authoritative yet affordable. Among the organization’s most prominent publications was the Penny Magazine, a weekly magazine highlighting scientific topics in simple language for a general audience.

Shortly after the group’s founding, a Map Committee was formed to organize the development of maps and atlases. Led by Captain Francis Beaufort, the esteemed Hydrographer of the Navy and expert in nautical charting, the mapping project of the SDUK began producing atlases arranged by country and region. Despite the high quality of the maps in design and accuracy, the atlases required assembly on the part of the customer. Maps comprising parts of a single country were published in sporadic intervals over long periods of time, as they became available. Frustrated consumers would often have to wait years to receive all of the maps in a country series, in addition to a table of contents page that would instruct them on how to assemble the final atlas correctly....

One of the more surprising cartographic innovations of the SDUK mapping project was an early use of “volunteered geographic information,” or the harnessing of geographic data collected and disseminated freely by volunteers.
maps  epistemology  education  cartography  crowdsourcing  neogeography 
19 days ago
Digitizing Books, Obscuring Women’s Work: Google Books, Librarians, and Ideologies of Access - Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology
If we interpret the Google Books project using the gendered history of librarianship as our lens, we can identify a different way to consider and perform the notion of access to information—in this case, access to the information contained in library books. The gendered history of librarianship grants discursive space to interrogate the Books project’s technologically rational ideology of access, pervasive in discussions of information and communication technologies. This reinterpretation invites us to consider the ways in which education, service, and community are absent from our commonly-held ideology of access and what we stand to lose through failing to note their absence....

Proponents of large-scale book digitization projects routinely position digitization as a moral imperative. Evoking ideals of plenitude and egalitarianism, they argue that collections of digitized books stand, through their indefinite reproducibility, to promote information equality and cross-cultural awareness and understanding (World Digital Library n.d.; Hart 1992; Open Content Alliance n.d., n.p.). Digitized books are also assumed to be less susceptible to damage or decay....

Google approached the Books project with a decidedly engineering-based mindset. From the start, the primary obstacles to the creation of a massive, keyword-searchable collection of digital books were perceived as technological. The company needed, first and foremost, to overcome then-current methods for digitizing books. .... While the Library Project rapidly expanded Google’s collection, it was perceived as a potential threat to the copyright interests of authors and publishers.....

This sort of narrative foregrounds what the project ‘does’ from an aspirational standpoint: through the power of engineering, Google Books overcomes technological obstacles and enables a heightened egalitarianism of information through the widespread searchability of digitized versions of library books. ...

In view of these foregrounded themes and values, we identify Google’s ‘ideology of access’ as part of a broader ideology of information technology. According to Birdsall (1997), an ideology of information technology is ‘a conjunction of neo-conservative politics, laissez-faire free market economic values, and technological determinism,’ the logic of which transforms citizens into consumers and information into a commodity to be bought and sold in open and competitive markets (54-55). Waller (2009), for example, has shown how the Books project betrays Google’s conception of information as only valuable insofar as it can be harnessed for marketing purposes. In addition, Agre’s (1995) discussion of ideologies that produce particular conceptions of ‘information’ helps us to further see how, for Google, access depends, in part, on a framework of information as an explicit and commodifiable good (especially as discussed in Waller, 2009). Finally, Google’s insistence on a technologically rational notion of universal access further trades on ideas of the so-called ‘Californian ideology’ typical of Silicon Valley companies and entrepreneurs that tout cultural cachet and hype the liberating potential of information technology (Barbrook & Cameron, 1996). ...

Librarians have constructed a markedly different ideology of access from Google’s. In library philosophy and practice, access to information is understood as a complex, considered, local endeavor, grounded in professional practice that privileges notions of service without profit motive, answering as exclusively to user needs as possible. In her germinal book Librarianship: The Erosion of a Woman’s Profession, Roma Harris argues that librarianship’s values are centered around service, community, and an ethic of care (Harris 1992). This value system is a gendered phenomenon and requires a discussion of the gendered nature of the profession itself—especially as it has been theorized and practiced since the end of the 19th century in North America.

...moving books out of the library and onto Google’s servers works to obscure the professional contributions made by women in information technology. By extension, obscuring these contributions also obscures the professional ideologies which gave rise to them, including libraries’ community-oriented, care, and service-centered ideology of access. ... Google’s vision of information access, manifest in both its Books project and its search engine, does not account for the need to educate users in information seeking and evaluation, instead addressing these difficulties with a simplified interface and results ranking that attempts interpretive work to understand an individual user’s needs. While Google insists on technological marvel as a solution to a complex problem, librarians such as those associated with the ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) Project report that ‘the majority of students – of all levels – who participated in this study exhibited significant difficulties that ranged across nearly every aspect of the search process’ (Duke and Asher 73).... Google’s notion of universal accessibility also fails to acknowledge varying levels of access to ready and reliable ICT infrastructure across the globe. ...

Google Books is only ‘beneficial’ (to borrow Judge Chin’s description) when framed by an ideological commitment to values of universality, efficiency, and technological rationality. Local or individual needs and contextual understandings of access less urgent in the face of a powerful technological solution that provides simple, broad, and commercializable access to information (see also: Hoffmann 2016).
libraries  librarians  books  scanning  google  gender  access  digitization  digital_labor  labor  literacies 
19 days ago
How to Win an Academic Argument - The Chronicle of Higher Education
When I came up with the idea of an interpretive community, I was suddenly the possessor of something of value, something others might borrow and modify to the extent that they found it helpful in their professional labors. I couldn’t patent the idea or copyright it, but I could regard it as a piece of "intellectual property" and require as a matter of professional courtesy, if not as a matter of law, that users acknowledge my ownership when invoking the phrase.... So that’s the basic economy of the academy: You advance and prosper to the extent that the solutions you offer to intellectual puzzles are found persuasive and are subsequently credited to you as their originator. Promotions, honors, and influence follow....

For some time, however, the components that make up this "originality picture" have been under challenge. First of all, the idea of a single author whose willed intention produces a text or an image that can be identified as "his" or "hers" has been attacked by philosophers, art historians, historians of science, theorists of the internet, literary critics, and a host of others often influenced by essays such as Roland Barthes’s "The Death of the Author" and Michel Foucault’s "What Is an Author?" In Barthes’s words, "it is language that speaks, not the author," who is merely its local and temporary habitation.

It follows that originality is not a claim one can make, given that one can say only what the system allows one to say; one can say only what has been said already.

And yet — and this is the point I have been winding toward — those who celebrate this brave new world where the claim of originality can never be cashed in, sign the essays they write, gather together in manifestos and anthologies advertised as offering a new saving truth, and in general comport themselves as academic entrepreneurs who have something to sell and therefore something they own. I don’t intend this as a criticism. The fact that these authors-despite-themselves are claiming originality for their arguments against originality is not so much a contradiction as it is an inevitable consequence of having entered the arena of academic argument, where the imperative is to be the originator of something new and where the assumption is that you wouldn’t be putting yourself forward were you not making that claim....

She just didn’t want to do academic work, strictly speaking; she wanted to do social justice and she happened to be in a program where political advocacy and academic work were not distinct categories. What I was telling her just didn’t jibe with what she was hearing from her teachers and fellow students.

The very fact of such a program presents a difficulty for my assertion that in academic work, some kinds of argument are obligatory and other kinds suspect. If entire departments regard as legitimate the kinds of arguments I say are not properly academic, my category of "properly academic" is in danger of becoming idiosyncratic and tendentious. If a professor wants to turn a classroom into a staging ground for his or her political views, there may not be anything to stop him.
To be sure, there are gatekeeping mechanisms that operate to send away work that rather than seeking to advance our understanding of an issue seeks to advance a political agenda and turn students and readers into activists. Learned journals often serve that function, as do those who organize panels at meetings....

What this shows is that despite the familiar claim that the academy is dedicated to open inquiry, it is not, in fact, committed to giving every idea a hearing, no more than a court is committed to considering every argument offered to it. The academy is dedicated to inquiry into the topics it deems properly academic — yes, the process is circular — and it will send ideas it has judged to be off the wall away without so much as a hearing.
academia  writing  peer_review  intellectual_property  originality 
19 days ago
Fieldwork: from plowing the field to electromagnetic fields
The contemporary situation is continually eroding boundaries between traditional roles of artist/curator, fact/fiction, studio/site, art/artifact, author/support structure, centre/outpost, concept/craft and so forth. With an infinite fracturing of aesthetic styles and a omnivorous market, the question of methodology remains ever more important. This seminar proposes to investigate the construction of established methodologies and in particular tracing the history and the redefining of the methodology of fieldwork. Fieldwork in this context will be considered from a variety of meanings and disciplines (or fields of research): scientific, military, psychogeography, anthropology, magic, systems theory, cartography, land use, etc. Parallel to the non-fiction texts, we will be reading fiction that provides a foundational framework. Graduate Seminar taught at the University of Toronto by Charles Stankievech
methodology  anthropology  fieldwork  archaeology  geography  syllabus 
19 days ago
A New Academic Book on Renaissance Map Monsters
Surekha Davies’s Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters (Cambridge University Press, June) explores the use of both monsters and indigenous peoples on Renaissance maps. “Giants, cannibals and other monsters were a regular feature of Renaissance illustrated maps, inhabiting the Americas alongside other indigenous peoples. In a new approach to views of distant peoples, Surekha Davies analyzes this archive alongside prints, costume books and geographical writing.”
epistemology  maps  cartography  uncertainty 
19 days ago
What Shade the Stone: Some Late Night Thoughts on Color and Curation in Archaeology
...the difficulties in illustrating and reproducing archaeological objects in a way that would accurately reflect the originals so as to make them more readily available and useful to scholars....

Coloration has always been a serious difficulty in the reproduction of archaeological images and models and is in some cases critical for the study and comparison of objects. Coloration is especially important when working with objects that were mobile, traded, and not fixed to any particular monumental architecture or geographic location. One such kind of object is Mesoamerican jade...

Even though book was printed in black and white, Proskouriakoff does record the color of the jades by referencing a color standard developed to describe birds in the field by Robert Ridgway, the curator of birds at the Smithsonian Institution (when it was called the United States National Museum), in 1912. The book, which is now quite rare, contains color samples of some 1115 individual named colors that Ridgway says are, “made from the finest pigments available.” Ridgway’s book is a marvel of color and presentation with both white and black standards on every page. The book itself was incredibly difficult to produce and was finally published only after the “most perplexing and discouraging problems in chemistry,” were solved....

Color has always been a difficult concept, and as expressed in the quote that opened this post, it can only be experienced and not really described in language[1]. As Stephan Houston writes,

[…] the act of seeing far outstrips the ability of language to name color. An infinity of perceptions has no possible match in a finite set of labels, no matter how inventive or poetically conceived those labels might be.
color  artifacts  archaeology 
21 days ago
Against Cleaning
The phrase “data cleaning” is a stand in for longer and more precise descriptions of what people are doing in the initial phases of data-intensive research. If you work with data or pay attention to discussions among practitioners who do, you’ve probably heard or read somewhere that 80 percent of that work is “cleaning”.1 Subsequently you likely realize that, there is not one single understanding of what “data cleaning” means. Many times the specifics of “data cleaning” are not described anywhere but reside in the general professional practices, materials, personal histories, and tools of the researchers....

suspicions about “cleaning” are suspicions that researchers are not recognizing or reckoning with the framing orders to which they are subscribing as they make and manipulate their data. In fields where researchers have long been explicit about their framing orders, the limits of results are often understood and articulated using specialized discourses. For example, in climate science, researchers confine their claims to the data they can work with and report results with margins of error.2 While humanities researchers do have discourses for limiting claims (acknowledging to the choice of an archive or a particular intellectual tradition), the move into data intensive research asks humanists to modify such discourses or develop new ones suitable for these projects....

The point at which certain objects are selected for digitization is one of the moments of articulation Tsing describes between the scalable and nonscalable. Digitization transforms of diverse physical materials—brittle, acidic paper or animal parchment, large wooden covers or handstitched bindings, leaves or inserts—into standardized grids of pixels. From the point of digitization forward, the logic of scalability permeates projects like What’s On the Menu?. The transcription platform is constructed to nest precisely within the framework of how cultural heritage organizations like NYPL create digital objects from their original materials....

We’re suggesting that indexing is a more precise replacement for some of the work that travels under the name of “cleaning.” An index is an information structure designed to serve as a system of pointers between two bodies of information, one of which is organized to provide access to concepts in the other. The lists of terms and associated page numbers from the back of a book is one familiar example. An array of other terms that people use alongside “cleaning” (wrangling, munging, normalizing, casting) name other important parts of working with data, but indexing best captures the crucial interplay of scalability and diversity that we are trying to trace in this piece...

The transition to working in a linked data paradigm should be valued not principally for the ways in which it might make large-scale information systems operate more smoothly, but rather for the ways in which it can create localized communities of authority, within which people can take control of the construction of data and the contexts in which it lives. In a keynote presentation at the 2015 LITA Forum Mx (Mark) A. Matienzo articulated a parallel version of this view, saying:

We need to begin having some serious conversations about how we can best serve our communities not only as repositories of authoritative knowledge or mere individuals who work within them. We should be examining the way in which we can best serve our communities to support their need to tell stories, to heal, and to work in the process of naming.

+
Discussions of “cleaning” data fails to capture this need. The cleaning paradigm assumes an underlying, “correct” order. However tidy values may look grouped into rows or columns or neatly-delimited records, this tidiness privileges the structure of a container rather than the data inside it. This is the same diversity-hiding trick that nonscalability theory encourages us to recognize.

+
It is not enough to recognize; we also wish to offer a way of working. In arguing against cleaning, we propose index-making. In this approach, the first things we would do with our data sets, rather than normalize them, is find the communities within which our data matters.
data  data_cleaning  methodology  big_data  epistemology  digital_humanities 
23 days ago
Reconstruction 16.1 (2016): ARCHIVES ON FIRE: Artifacts & Works, Communities & Fields
The marginalization of archivists' labor has long-term repercussions. The vast majority of American archives are situated within a larger institutional parent organization such as a government, university, cultural heritage organization, or corporation. These archives are only as usable as the professional staffing that exists to ensure records are processed, described, preserved, and made accessible. As American culture has expanded neoliberal business models to institutions such as government and education, invisible labor is often a target for budget cuts and other practices that normalize the experience of "doing more with less," a mantra that is all too often accepted as a fait accompli in archives. This acceptance is especially worrisome, because more than ever, users of archives want larger quantities of analog content digitized and made available online. At the same time archivists are largely grappling with gaining control over the mounting electronic records needing digital preservation.[iv] Interest in using archival content does not appear to be waning, but this demand can only be met with strong archival labor.

<4> How is it possible that use is increasing in archives, but the professional future of archivists is often so precarious? The survival of records for future generations often depends upon archival intervention. Without examining the work that archivists perform, and the value of archivists as professionals, we risk having archives without archivists.[v]

Underfunding and commodification

<5> Archives are chronically underfunded relative to the resources needed to acquire, process, and make available records to users. This underfunding manifests in many visible ways: archives have significant backlogs of "hidden collections" unavailable to users, archives rely on volunteer or intern labor to get professional-level work accomplished, and archives still face significant challenges in preserving electronic records - a problem that has existed for close to three decades....

Archives are part of larger organizations

<7> Archivists rarely work in archives that are stand-alone institutions. Instead, the vast majority of archivists work in archives under the aegis of another institution, such as a university, government, corporation, or another cultural heritage organization (such as a library or museum). Archivists face significant challenges in getting non-archivists higher up in the organization to recognize the value and mission of archives....

Many of the parent institutions of archives are chronically under-funded, and as a result archivists suffer from "a cycle of poverty," a phenomenon that archivists have discussed for at least three decades. [xiv] When archival work is marginalized or made invisible, it has downstream effects on the continued survival of archives. ...

Commodification of cultural heritage

<21> A number of social media channels and websites exist to share historical pictures and videos, quite often without context or attribution (either to the creator or the host institution). One of the most popular accounts, with 2.4 million followers, is the Twitter feed @HistoryInPics (https://twitter.com/HistoryInPics). @HistoryInPics tweets several pictures a day, many of which appear to originate from cultural heritage organizations or media outlets, however it does not provide any link back to the source....

Virtually every archivist encounters situations where images or film clips are supplied for a documentary or publication, and no credit is given to the institution, despite giving specific instructions for how the institution should be credited. This obviously has implications for viewers or researchers who also want to use the content - how are they to find it without proper citation? However, it also has other effects, of writing hosting institutions such as libraries, archives, and museums out of the picture when historical content becomes just another form of click-bait web content. When archival records show up in popular web culture without acknowledgment of the hosting institution, this erases how much archives and archivists' labor contribute to popular interest in history.

<25> A major risk with the commodification of cultural heritage is it risks treating archival records as curiosities or objects. Archival records gain their power not because of their object nature, but because of the information embedded in them and the ability to demonstrate an archival record's authenticity. When archival records are treated as interesting objects, the information recorded in them often becomes secondary....

Archival practice

<30> Archivists actively shape the archival record through practices that actively shape the materials later used by others. The 5 core functions at the heart of professional archival practice are:[xxxvii]

● Appraisal and Acquisition

● Arrangement and Description

● Preservation

● Reference and Access

● Outreach and Advocacy....

Once archival materials are transferred to archival custody, they undergo what is known as processing, or arrangement and description. Archival staff physically arranges the content so that it may be used later by others. During this process, contents are also described in an inventory, catalog, and/or finding aid so that users may determine what records they need to consult. Processing involves two of the most important principles within archival theory: provenance and original order. Provenance involves maintaining records from a single creator together. Mixing records from different creators destroys the intellectual ties of a creator's output. Original order is respecting the order in which the records were created. If an organization or person created their records in a specific manner, the archivist should not impose a new or different order on the records. A major exception is if a collection arrives at an archive with no discernible order in place. In these cases, archivists must create an order that facilitates access to users....

Many users of archives often do not realize the extent to which archival functions shape the historical record. Non-archivist scholars often theorize about archives (either as institutions and the materials within) or the archive (as a concept) without acknowledging the vital role archivists play in the creation and stewardship of archives. Popular culture and societal commentators wring their hands about a digital memory hole without realizing that solutions already exist within the field of professional archival practice.

<39> The functions of appraisal and acquisition, arrangement and description, preservation, reference and access, and outreach and advocacy are the core features of any archive, regardless of whether it is an archive situated in a school or university, church, government, or corporation. The practices that underlie those functions are often radically different. For example, outreach will differ in a university archive versus a corporate archive. The former may reach out to students and faculty to help them incorporate records into instruction or academic projects, while the latter may promote the archive's records to be used in a company's marketing campaign.

<40> The word "archive" has been used by many outside the field, but most popular uses of "archive" are alienated from the foundational aspects of archival practice. This has prompted many archivists to debate the merits of how other professional fields use the word "archive." The word "archive" as used outside of professional archival practice often refers to a collection of objects, gathered together because of their perceived value, or as a form of data storage backup (for example, when someone "archives" email in an email client).[xl] While it is certainly not the best use of archivists' time to police how others use the word "archive," there remains a significant gap between what archivists hold as common professional functions, and how those outside the field understand the work of archivists.

<41> Without an appreciation of how archival practice intervenes against total loss of records for use by others, many people often don't realize how archival practice can address a range of issues related to organizational transparency, historical research, information literacy, and restorative justice.
archives  labor  funding 
23 days ago
GRAVITRON
I am Geoff Hinchcliffe; designer, developer, researcher and senior lecturer in Design at the Australian National University. These pages present notes on my work and thoughts about design, data, computation and interface aesthetics – among other things. As you may have gathered from the works themselves, I regard the web as a highly creative cultural medium. I love working computationally and within the network context but I regard myself as a designer more than a programmer.

In addition to my creative practice, research and writing, I teach (undergraduate & postgraduate) and supervise research candidates (Masters & PhD). If you’d like more info or want to get in touch about collaborations or research, you can find me on twitter [@gravitron] or email at: Firstname.Lastname@anu.edu.au
data_visualization  tactility  archives  collections 
23 days ago
London, as You’ve Never Heard It Before - The New York Times
Mr. Rawes, 51, is better known as the founder of the London Sound Survey, a website that contains a substantive collection of real-world recordings of the city, from the pontifications of street preachers to squeaky escalators, from foxes engaging in mock fighting to, even, the Tower Bridge cranking into action.

He is part of a growing number of what might be called sound hunters who roam city streets and remote countrysides to capture the dramatic and unusual as well as the plain but underappreciated noises that surround us. Some of them release albums and even play concerts.

The thrill of the chase aside, Mr. Rawes says he is performing a vital historical service. “As time goes by and cultural, technological, economic conditions change, these recordings will become more and more interesting,” he said....

The most prominent field recordist today is Chris Watson, a soft-spoken 62-year-old from Sheffield, England, who has won numerous awards including for his work on BBC nature documentaries.

Mr. Watson has been making recordings since he was 11, when his parents gave him a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and he left it on a bird feeder to see if he could hear what birds sounded like eating.
sound_space  sound_map  sound_archive  archives  soundscape  fieldwork  field_recording 
23 days ago
U.S. Tech Firms Dominate Cloud Services in Western Europe - WSJ
When energy giant Enel SpA started looking last year for an outside company to manage its computer systems and files, the Italian firm had a red line: All its data had to stay in the European Union.

The company that got the contract? U.S. tech giant Amazon.com Inc., which won by promising that Enel’s data would be housed in a German facility that met Enel’s other requirements: “reliable, flexible, agile and cheap.”

Political and legal pressure has for years been mounting on European companies to store their sensitive information in Europe—in part to keep it away from what many suspect are prying American eyes. But the push toward so-called data localization has done little to slow the growth of U.S.-based cloud-computing businesses operating in Europe.

Behind the growth: Big European companies are moving more of their computing work to outside providers. American firms have the scale to offer low prices, and are quick to roll out new services and upgrades, analysts say.

Americans also have built at least a dozen new data centers in Europe in recent years, reducing European competitors’ home-field advantage and helping convince European firms that U.S. providers can keep their data safe.

The allegations in 2013 by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of widespread U.S. government surveillance and the potential involvement of technology firms triggered a backlash in Europe and led to calls by privacy advocates to protect European data.

U.S. firms disputed the scale of their cooperation and said they often challenged surveillance requests.

But, since then, the top four providers of cloud infrastructure in Western Europe are all U.S. firms, and they have expanded their market share by a third in the region, hitting 40% in 2015, according to market researcher IDC.
data_centers  storage  privacy  sovereignty 
23 days ago
Critical Work: Archivists as Maintainers - hillelarnold.com
Archivists have an invisibility problem. Our work is misunderstood, undervalued, and often taken for granted. At the same time, we are complicit in making others - both inside and outside of the profession - invisible. We need to fix those things.

Over the past year, I’ve been introduced to maintenance theory, an avenue of inquiry that I think can help us address these problems.

In putting together this talk, I’ve developed a list of of further readings, which might be useful to you as well!

Origins
Recently, scholars in science and technology studies have examined maintenance in an effort to correct narratives that valorize individual innovators and disruptors, arguing that this emphasis on newness and innovation erases labor and bodies. Asking “who does maintenance work, when and where and why?” they look to reveal and empower maintenance and the people who do it.

Maintenance theory is closely related to the history of infrastructure, systems and repair,1 and is also indebted to feminist care ethics, which locates morality in affective understanding,2 real relationships, concrete responsibilities and specific contexts.3 It draws on the arts as well.4

Characteristics5
So what exactly is maintenance?

Maintenance is, first and foremost, a practice. It has to be done, and done continuously. However, maintenance is iterative rather than simply repetitive. This means that the quality of maintenance work can and should improve over time, and maintainers can and should become more competent.

It is also work which requires maintainers to be in relation to people, organizations, machines and processes. Through these relationships, maintainers gain expertise so they can filter and understand contextual clues....

I said at the outset that archivists have an invisibility problem. As a profession, we’re chronically underpaid, and our programs are understaffed and filled with temporary employees. Popular narratives portray archivists as iconoclastic “save-iors”9 or erase our labor through stories which celebrate the “discovery” of “lost” archival records.10 Consumer products use the word “archive” to refer to functionality that removes information from view without deleting it, and scholarly discourse often treats “The Archive” as an abstract concept and theoretical state rather than a real place where real people do real labor.11

Within the profession, we have our own blind spots too. Our funding, professional discourse and attention are focused disproportionately on anything that uses the word “digital.”12 This usually comes at the expense of archival functions which more easily align with maintenance, like collections management, preservation and reference.13 And we’re complicit in erasing our work - often in the name of “impartiality” or “professionalism” - by failing to expose it through publicly documented appraisal decisions or robust processing notes.14

What that ultimately means is that we treat archivists differently based on the work that they do. “Digital archivists” like me get special privileges: more professional development money, faster promotion, better salaries.15 Meanwhile temporary, part-time and paraprofessional staff do the work that keeps archives running: moving boxes around, processing collections and doing data entry.16

I want to propose maintenance studies as a framework that can help us respond to these problems....

we need to end our complicity in erasing others. Let’s stop filling ongoing operational maintenance work with unpaid internships, or part-time and temporary labor, even if that means rethinking the level of service we provide or closing down an archives altogether.21 Let’s help ensure other maintainers like our janitorial staff and paraprofessionals are afforded the labor protections and benefits of full-time, “professional” staff. When neoliberal austerity regimes ask us to “do more with less” let’s push back instead of pushing those pressures down on the shoulders of those below us.23 And let’s fight our tendency to take out frustrations with our own invisibility on our researchers through arcane rules, byzantine processes and unwritten behavioral expectations that require undue emotional labor on their part.24 We need to stop punching down.

Let’s give archival maintenance work the value it deserves by making space for intersectional thinking, experimentation, and failure.25 And let’s acknowledge and sustain the emotional labor that goes into this work and not simply measure success by numbers of boxes moved, researchers in the reading room, or items reformatted.26 Exemplary maintenance needs to be recognized, if not at the national level then at least in our local organizations. We need to correct the imbalance of prestige, power and money that favors innovators, even if that means taking those things away from people like me.27
archives  labor  care  maintenance 
23 days ago
Making Perfume From the Rain
Then and now, Kannauj was the place to fetch the fine scents—jasmine oils, rose waters, the roots of grasses called vetiver, with a bouquet cooling to the nose. Exactly when attar-making began there, no one is certain; archaeologists have unearthed clay distillation pots dating back thousands of years to the ancient Harappan civilization of the Indus Valley. But today, Kannauj is a hub of a historic perfumery that draws much of the town to the same pursuit. Most of the villagers there are connected to fragrance in one way or another—from sinewy craftsmen who steam petals over wood fires in hulking copper pots to mothers who roll incense sticks in the shade while their toddlers nap on colorful mats nearby.

Along with their ancient perfumery, the villagers of Kannauj have inherited a remarkable skill: They can capture the scent of rain.

* * *

Every storm blows in on a scent, or leaves one behind. The metallic zing that can fill the air before a summer thunderstorm is from ozone, a molecule formed from the interaction of electrical discharges—in this case from lightning—with oxygen molecules. Likewise, the familiar, musty odor that rises from streets and storm ponds during a deluge comes from a compound called geosmin. A byproduct of bacteria, geosmin is what gives beets their earthy flavor. Rain also picks up odors from the molecules it meets. So its essence can come off as differently as all the flowers on all the continents—rose-obvious, barely there like a carnation, fleeting as a whiff of orange blossom as your car speeds past the grove. It depends on the type of storm, the part of the world where it falls, and the subjective memory of the nose behind the sniff.... In the otherwise dry places that depend on the downpours for most of their annual rainfall, monsoons shape everything from childhood to culture to commerce. And they arrive with a memory-searing scent. To Sanjiv Chopra, the Indian-American Harvard Medical School physician and author, the loamy smell of long-awaited rains soaking India’s dry soil is “the scent of life itself.” The earthy essence is strongest when rain quenches dehydrated ground. The scent can so tantalize drought-stricken animals that it sets thirsting cattle walking in circles
weather  smell  India  water 
23 days ago
The Strange Affliction of 'Library Anxiety' and What Librarians Do to Help | Atlas Obscura
Library anxiety is real. The phenomenon, which involves feeling intimidated, embarrassed, and overwhelmed by libraries and librarians, was first identified by Constance A. Mellon in 1986. Her paper, "Library Anxiety: A Grounded Theory and Its Development," reported that college students in particular are prone to library anxiety because they believe their research skills are inadequate, which makes them feel ashamed and unwilling to talk to the very librarians who might be able to ease their worries....

In 2016, students are used to just using the internet at home, says Anice Mills, who has been a librarian at New York's Columbia University for 15 years. But that doesn't really work for academia. “As soon as you need to use scholarly resources, Wikipedia isn’t going to cut it," she says. That's when students make their first trek to the campus library, where, says Mills, many feel “overwhelmed, intimidated, and embarrassed.”

A major contributor to students' anxiety is in the design and architecture of the buildings. "It’s such a change from most high schools,” she says. “Columbia has 20 libraries, and they’re divided up by subject. That’s not obvious—you wouldn’t know that when you walk in, there’s no sign to tell you that.”...

Once students make it past the lobby, it can be hard to locate a librarian. "The librarians are behind desks, they’re in offices," says Mills. To counteract the confusion and make students feel more welcome, she wears a Columbia lanyard, walks around the library, and introduces herself using her first name. “I try to be as accessible and empathetic as possible.”

While library anxiety is most pronounced in first-year undergrads, students in graduate programs can also feel intimidated by the research process. Some students in masters programs, says Allen Foresta, Senior Librarian at Columbia University's graduate Teachers College, “managed to get through undergraduate without really being required to use a library, which is kind of astonishing to me.” These students may need as much guidance as undergrads, especially if their previous studies have been more practical rather than research-based.
libraries  advising  academic_libraries  wayfinding 
24 days ago
Getting Started – ThemePatio - MakerPro Theme
This manual will help you get started and guide through the installation and customization process. If you are new to WordPress make sure to read the articles in order to get the idea of how the theme works and what it is capable of.
computer_stuff  wordpress  maker_theme 
24 days ago
12 Sound Artists Changing Your Perception of Art - artnet News
For some, abstraction might mean non-figurative painting, but today’s hottest emotive medium is so abstract it can’t be seen, touched, or felt. There’s no arguing that sound art is having a moment. Some artists explore sound in its pure state, simultaneously bridging and muddling barriers between sound, noise, and music in the contemporary or historical sense. Others investigate the political and cultural implications of certain sounds, using their work to bring human rights to the fore. 

Sound art is the most direct way of engaging with art—you can literally do it with your eyes closed—and if music is any indication, sound can affect your emotions immediately, without any thought or explanation.

We have compiled a list of 12 sound artists, in no particular order, expanding the way that viewers engage with art, whether through performance, installation, analogue machines, custom instruments, field recordings, or something in between.
sound_art  listening  music 
25 days ago
Illustrating Geology: Images that Transformed the Field
Last year marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of what many consider the greatest geologic image ever produced: William Smith’s epic map, entitled “A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with Part of Scotland.” In striking color, scale and detail, the 1815 map laid bare the region’s bedrock — from tilted layers of slate and fossil-rich marls and sandstones to Carboniferous coal seams and granite plugs — as none had before.... it is but one of many historically transformative images in a field that relies heavily on illustration and visualization to help convey information and shape our understanding of the natural world.

...Geologic images record the current scientific thinking of a particular time and have thus documented the development of the science, Clary notes. ...

1669.
In the 17th century, geology was still in its protracted infancy. From antiquity, philosophers and scholars had observed rock layers and fossils, but understanding of how they’d come to be was still largely rooted in Biblical or cosmogonic explanations, at least in Renaissance Europe. Sedimentary strata and other rocks were presumably formed during Noah’s Flood — or during great floods attributed to extraterrestrial causes — and unchanged since. A few natural historians, including Leonardo da Vinci, had posited that some fossils came from once-living animals, but the biological origins of most fossils were not widely known or accepted, nor were the processes by which they could become embedded in solid rock.

It would take another century — with the 18th-century efforts of geologists like Giovanni Arduino in Italy, James Hutton in Scotland, Johann Gottlob Lehmann in Germany, and many others — before Earth’s ancient age and the actual process by which rocks form began to be more widely appreciated. But, in 1669, Danish scientist Nicolaus Steno laid the foundation upon which later scientists would build with his work, “De Solido Intra Solidum Naturaliter Contento Dissertationis Prodromus,” or “Preliminary Dissertation Concerning a Solid Body Naturally Contained Within a Solid...

The diagram illustrated, for the first time, the core stratigraphic principles of original horizontality and superposition: that sedimentary strata are, respectively, deposited initially as flat layers and that higher layers in a succession are necessarily younger than lower layers. The diagram also acknowledged that landscapes could transform over time due to natural forces...

The sixth treatise, published in 1836 and entitled “Geology and Mineralogy Considered With Reference to Natural Theology,” was written by William Buckland, an English theologian and geologist known largely for his attempts, and then subsequent rejection of efforts, to reconcile the Biblical account of creation with emerging evidence that Earth was far older than believed.

The two-volume work was a massive compendium chronicling “the history of life on the planet based on the fossils that had been found up to that point,” Bourgeois says. Buckland’s ambitious effort included hundreds of illustrations of fossil plants and animals, many drawn by his wife, Mary Buckland. The most notable figure, however, was a large, hand-colored, fold-out diagram combining an idealized cross section of European geology — originally used by Scottish geologist Thomas Webster — with 120 sketches of extinct plants and animals. Accompanied by a 17-page description, the diagram shows, among many other features, a mountain of granite flanked by metamorphosed rocks, all cross-cut by a variety of veins and dikes; stacked sedimentary sequences, tilted and folded in places; and active terrestrial and oceanic volcanoes fed by underlying magma conduits, along with basalt outcrops at the surface. Above the geology sit the reconstructed species, grouped together by their occurrence in the stratigraphic record — and thus in geologic time.

“While cross sections had been published together with maps, and plates of fossils published to accompany stratigraphic sections, the synoptic view presented by Buckland and Webster was a tour-de-force illustrating all of geologic time as set out by rocks and fossils,” Bourgeois wrote in the abstractto her GSA talk about the diagram. In addition to demonstrating a progression in the geology, from older, more deformed rocks to younger, less deformed ones, Bourgeois says, “the most important thing is that it shows a progression of life.”...

In the mid-19th century, as geologists continued to rely mostly on fieldwork, fossils and hand samples, microscopic petrography — the study of thin sections of rock under the microscope — began emerging as a powerful new technique. Following the pioneering work of English microscopist Henry Clifton Sorby, German geologist Ferdinand Zirkel was largely responsible for displaying the method’s merits, particularly with the thorough descriptions and beautifully detailed illustrations in his 1876 work, “Microscopical Petrography.”...

German geophysicist Alfred Wegener didn’t buy either of those ideas, and in 1912 he published the first edition of “The Origin of Continents and Oceans,” which laid out the competing theory of continental drift. While Wegener and some paleoclimatologists argued that only continental drift, which suggested that the continents moved over Earth’s surface through time, could explain all of the available data — including, for example, that tropical plant fossils could be found in Greenland — the book met with heavy resistance from most geologists and geophysicists.

Undaunted, Wegener refined his arguments in subsequent editions of the book. What he realized from reading criticism of the book is that his detractors “didn’t understand how Earth works on a spherical surface,” says Mott Greene, a historian of earth science at the University of Washington who published a biography of Wegener in 2015. Wegener trained initially as an astronomer, so “in his mind, Earth is always a spherical object,” Greene says, but this was not the case for most geologists, who were accustomed to investigating relatively small areas over which Earth’s curvature has insignificant effects on physical processes. When these scientists tried to make sense of Wegener’s ideas using the common Mercator map of the world — which vastly distorts the apparent size of the polar regions — it was difficult for them to see how the continents could have fit together.

For the book’s third edition in 1922, Wegener created global maps using alternative projections — the Hammer and Lambert oblique orthographic projections — that offered more realistic portrayals of Earth’s round surface. In each projection, he depicted the configuration of the continents during the Upper Carboniferous, when most landmasses were joined as a supercontinent, the Eocene and the Lower Quaternary, according to the predictions of continental drift theory. In this edition, “he started, right at the very beginning of the book, with those maps,” Greene notes. “This made the point that Earth is a sphere, and if you look at [the continents] on a spherical surface, this is how you’re going to make sense of the theory.”

Early bathymetry showed varying but fairly predictable changes in seafloor depth from shallow mid-ocean ridges to deep trenches near continental margins. Relatively thin layers of sediment and the youth of the oldest fossils on the seafloor, meanwhile, seemed at odds with the planet’s ancient age. Indications of polar wander and magnetic reversals suggested that continents might have changed orientation through time. And some researchers, like Australian geologist S.W. Carey, had updated Wegener’s proposed positions for the ancient continents, finding even better fits. ...Hess’s thoughts had jelled into an early draft of what would become his seminal 1962 paper, “History of Ocean Basins,” which hypothesized the process of seafloor spreading.... Figure 7 offers an overall summary of the process, illustrating the rise of hot mantle material toward ridges, where it reacts with seawater to form serpentinite and then fractures as it cools and solidifies into ocean crust — processes that, in agreement with observations, attenuate the velocity of seismic waves traveling through the ridges. The figure also illustrates the symmetric movement of new crust away from the ridge axis, and how sediment layers at the ocean bottom become thicker with distance from the ridge. Figure 9 in the paper further illustrates how seafloor spreading could explain the formation of peculiar flat-topped seamounts called guyots, which Hess had studied since the 1940s.
deep_history  stratigraphy  visualization  geology 
25 days ago
Statement of Appropriate Conduct | ALAAC16
The American Library Association holds professional conferences and meetings to enable its members to receive continuing education, build professional networks, and discover new products and services for professional use. To provide all participants – members and other attendees, speakers, exhibitors, staff and volunteers – the opportunity to benefit from the event, the American Library Association is committed to providing a harassment-free environment for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, physical appearance, ethnicity, religion or other group identity.
conferences  events  code_of_conduct 
26 days ago
Archiving a Revolution in the Digital Age, Archiving as an Act of Resistance | Ibraaz
From the very first day of the 2011 uprisings in Egypt that toppled president Mubarak, archiving played a central role. During the 18 days of the revolution in Tahrir square, photographing was an act of seeing and recording...

Today, Tahrir Square stands as one of the most documented and mediatized events in the digital age. The challenges of remembering this unprecedented moment in Egyptian history and archiving such an extensive document – that is, an extraordinary and unedited portrait of Egyptians in Tahrir Square one can find online, and/or similar historical events in the digital age – are not only linked to oppressive political contexts. The very nature of the documentation of this movement is intrinsically problematic. In spite of the age of big data and mass connectivity we live in, relying on the Internet is precarious. Even though in theory data related to the 18 days exists online, in reality most of it has already vanished into the Internet's bottomless pit of information....

I started an ongoing archival project called Vox Populi.[5] This archive consists of data related to chronological events unfolding on the ground and major events taking place around the world since #Jan25 and in parallel, data related to historical events, philosophical speeches, banned cartoons, and more footage that all resonate with Tahrir. Today, Vox Populi is also comprised of a series of projects, art installations, sculptures, public events and essays that branch out from the archive.

The impulse behind Tahrir Cinema was the fact that there were no images on the square, but rather a lot of sound. Angry and anxious, people were less united than when the revolution started – though just as determined, if not more so, to make it succeed. For Egyptians, the louder the sound, the better. Speakers or megaphones are in every mosque, at every wedding, every funeral – every event. From stages built around Tahrir, the cries of women echoed the voices of men yelling out their political opinions across the square in reverberant microphones. I felt the need to bring images into this cacophony, and serendipity brought me together with people with a similar impulse.... Using USB flash drives, DVDs and other (now obsolete) storage devices, we created a space where filmmakers could show their films but also where everyone could exchange raw footage on the revolution at any point in time in the square.

But what the media called the 'Facebook Revolution' was only true for a couple of million out of the 90 million Egyptians who had access to the Internet. I recall the spectators' shock when, one night in Tahrir Cinema, I projected a selection of videos of the 18 days in early 2011 from the Vox Populi archive. Although they had gone viral, the majority of the audience had never yet seen them. The extraordinary experience that Tahrir Cinema was and its impact on the crowd reinforced my belief that archiving was crucial; that it was, in fact, another tool against the regime... the participatory multi-vocal documentary, #18DaysInEgypt, was launched online.[8] The slogan 'You witnessed it, you recorded it. Now, let's write our country's history' invited people to upload videos on Tahrir. Similar to the movement in the square and the leaderless revolution, this web-based 'director less' documentary – a series of mini-narratives – offered a space for revolutionaries to tell their personal stories on Tahrir, alone,… together....

Graffiti in the form of political slogans, painted murals and stencilled revolution iconography transformed many public spaces. In the virtual realm too, the artistic gesture, freed and democratized, had become a kind of contemporary digital version of the Polaroid. Artists and citizens alike used photography, video, and political satire in social media and blogs, impacting instantaneously on political life....

Freed from censorship and from the near-impossible task to obtain official authorizations, artists quickly took over the public space. Street graffiti art, videos, films and other self-produced media expressions, were not political art as we knew it, but a form of 'artivism' – art as a weapon against the oppressing state that seeks to confront and reject the political system in place, and by extension the contemporary art market as well. The walls on Mohamed Mahmoud, for instance – a street off Tahrir that witnessed several violent battles between security forces and protesters, became a landmark for revolutionary graffiti. The slogan 'Erase and I will draw again' was a response by revolutionary artists to the systematic attempt by the army to delete every trace of the revolution. The army painted the walls white. The artists drew new graffiti. The multi-layered walls in Mohamed Mahmoud functioned as a much-visited memorial for martyrs, a sort of Guernica of the Egyptian revolution and a public space for revolutionaries' freedom of speech.

Art galleries adapted to this new context and embraced the needs of revolutionary artists to produce reactionary art. They offered space for workshops and discussions, for projects related to the on-going revolution, for events such as Tweetnadwa where activists of all stripes gathered to discuss issues such as the reform of the police or the judiciary system, in short, Tweet-like interjections. And so, new distribution networks appeared. Art as we knew it not only left the gallery spaces for the streets but also for online platforms, that is, for platforms of knowledge and spaces of resistance. Online projects, web-platforms and communities (Facebook groups) supporting the revolution were also in full bloom. Many of these web-platforms were archiving projects, each focusing on a specific aspect of the revolution ranging from pamphlets distributed in the square, testimonies, graffiti and even jokes from the revolution, among other data. These archiving endeavours were initiated by institutions such as the American University in Cairo, media initiatives such as Mosireen, by artists and citizens. The more the revolution lost territory, the more vital it became to archive Tahrir and its aftermath. Today, the more oppressive the current regime is, the more necessary – but also the more vulnerable and susceptible to censorship – these knowledge platforms have become.

Five years later, along with this shift in the cultural spheres, there are more restrictions than ever on freedom of speech and artistic expression. The law criminalizing non-profit organizations signed in 2013, including cultural initiatives, receipt of foreign funding 'seen to impact national security,' affected many cultural spaces leading some to shut down. Censorship on music and cinema is now applied more forcefully than it ever was under Mubarak. The present oppressive context combined with an entirely new art scene has further breached the gap between the visual Art market and underground art. In the music scene, Mahragan, or 'festival' in Arabic, is the name for a whole new genre of electronic music. This music, born in the streets, which is at the core of youth popular culture has, since the revolution, spread to a broader, local and international, public.[14] Shebab and women alike amalgamate dance moves borrowed from hip hop, zikr- literally 'remembering,' a form of religious trance, Egyptian belly dance and sometimes mime, on a reverberating, unembellished synthetic music mixed with tabla, the traditional Egyptian drum....

In 2014, Maged Atef and Sheera Frenkel wrote from Cairo forBuzzFeed news that Egypt had signed a contract with the sister company of the American cyber security firm, Blue Coat: 'our job as a company is to give them the system. I train the government how to run it and we give them the programme,'[16] Ali Miniesy, the CEO of See Egypt, said. While surveillance systems have always been an integral part of Egypt's governance, if this is true, it is the first time that such an extensive system as the Deep Packet Inspection technology – enabling geo-location, tracking, and combing through Facebook, Skype, Twitter, among other social networks – is being used in Egypt (and most certainly like in many more countries in the world.) Since 2014, the crackdown on the Internet has been relentless.... But how can a historical event as significant as the 2011 Egyptian revolution survive such a repressive context? Aside from the question of how things are archived and the infinite number interpretations archives can generate, a subjective selection, filtered according to political, social and religious beliefs, is bound to occur. Additionally, given more than half of the Egyptian population is illiterate and has no access to the Internet, a large number of people are automatically excluded from the process of archiving history. Furthermore, many of the archive platforms on the revolution have already either been censored, their activity slowed down or discontinued, or have been deactivated.

In a time when virtual connectedness appears to be based on shared beliefs and values more than nationality or social class, thinking history in the digital age and instinctively sensing the importance of archiving as a responsibility for the future, Egyptians collected, archived and organized documents on Tahrir as it happened, defying the way that history has been, again and again, written by the victors.

Pierre Nora writes in his essay, 'Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire (The Places of Memory),' published in Representations, Vol. 26 Spring 1989:
 
Memory and history, far from being synonymous, appear now to be in fundamental opposition. Memory is life, borne by living societies founded in its name. It remains in permanent evolution, open to the dialectic of remembering and forgetting, unconscious of its successive deformations, vulnerable to manipulation and appropriation, susceptible to being long dormant and periodically revived. History on the other hand, is the reconstruction, always problematic and incomplete, of what… [more]
activism  social_movements  archives  memory  graffiti  egypt  protest  voice  urban_media  media_city 
26 days ago
Just How ‘Smart’ Do You Want Your Blender to Be? - The New York Times
Smart bombs were first used in Vietnam, but during the Persian Gulf war, they became media stars, with generals and news anchors presenting footage of the weapons in action, until the moment the screen went to static as the bombs obliterated their internal cameras along with the target. Much like that well-­timed static, the “smart” in “smart bomb” does some ideological work, masking the inherent violence and mayhem of aerial bombing. A smart bomb is an unerring one. It adds an aura of sensible technocratic efficiency to an inherently messy, bloody affair, occluding the simple fact that bombs are horrific creations....

When applied to the latest consumer gadgets, “smart” performs a similar sleight of hand; what is presented as an upgrade is actually a stealthy euphemism for “surveillance.” While a “smart” lighting system promises to adapt to an owner’s preferences or help the environment by lowering electricity bills, what it also does is provide a company a permanent foothold in a person’s home from which he can be monitored.

And so the makers of smart devices encourage us to make their creations smarter by confessing more to them, by exposing more of ourselves. As we open our lives to increasingly self-­aware, autonomous devices, we are encouraged — particularly in the case of all-­purpose personal assistants like Siri and Alexa — to use them as much as possible, feeding them more useful data that will allow our gadgets to “learn” who we are and what we like, and to make decisions that might anticipate our needs.

But the true ingenuity of a “smart” device is the way it upends traditional models of ownership. We don’t really buy and own network-­connected household goods; in essence, we rent and operate these devices on terms set by the company. Because they run on proprietary software, and because they are connected to the internet, their corporate creators can always reach across cyberspace and meddle with them.... Using a smart device for anything but the purposes explicitly sanctioned by its manufacturer risks violating a warranty, bricking a device or even breaking the law....

At its most expansive, “smart” produces a world where we no longer exert control over objects we’ve bought from corporations, but corporations exert control over us through things we pay for the privilege of using. And when “smart” is crudely applied to the cities we live in — to our crumbling infrastructure and militarized police forces — we give in to forces of privatization, algorithmic control and rule by corporate contract. It seems an indelible symbol of the times that New York City neglects essential but mundane services like public restrooms while promoting other putative municipal innovations, like the mass conversion of pay phones to Wi-Fi kiosks. ... Fitness trackers might help some folks, but they have also become favored tools of insurers and corporate wellness plans while doing nothing to address the underlying causes of obesity. Self-­driving cars represent a potentially lifesaving innovation, but they are increasingly cast as replacements for embattled mass-­transit systems that millions of people rely on. Amid the ritual enumeration of tech specs and price points, we risk ignoring how smart devices represent another example of consumer capitalism’s bulldozing past political questions.
objects  things  smart_homes  intelligence  big_data  sentient_objects  internet_of_things  quantified_self  security 
26 days ago
Abstracts - Costs of Abstraction
Ladybugs are collected using glue-card traps, a process which kills the insects and disfigures them. The ladybugs on the cards no longer resemble their living counterparts, let alone stylized or idealized representations. To render the crushed insects ‘readable’, one laboratory group has created a ‘squished bug’ field-guide, with photographs displaying ladybugs as they look caught on glue-cards, rather than alive and intact. Technicians are trained to this set of reference images, with the goal of improving their ladybugs identification skills in the laboratory. Yet as its own form of abstraction, this guide has limited utility in the field.
 
By simultaneously abstracting all insects of interest into a few ‘squished’ images, and de-abstracting the ‘ideal’ images of those same species to be found in more traditional textbooks and field guides, the squished bug guide operates as a sort of pragmatic and epistemological middle ground: rooted in scientific realism and the need for accurate identification, but playfully manipulating the notion of what insects will or ‘should’ look like in the field and under the microscope.
field_guide  visualization  insects  animals 
26 days ago
One New Yorkers' Quest for the Perfect Amount of Noise
numerous experiments have demonstrated that the addition of noise can actually improve signal detection. This phenomenon, known as stochastic resonance, was first developed to describe the periodic nature of glacial climate change, and is thought to occur across many nonlinear dynamic systems—including the human brain.

A team led by Keiichi Kitajo, a researcher at RIKEN Brain Institute, first demonstrated this effect in vision. Noise coming into subjects’ left eyes increased their ability to detect a signal with their right. Since then, stochastic resonance has been observed at every level of the nervous system, from sensory receptors to neuronal networks. Researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have used vibrating insoles to add tactile noise to the soles of feet, improving tactile perception and balance. Auditory noise has been observed to enhance detection of an accompanying signal—which is known as “auditory stochastic resonance.”1

Auditory noise can heighten our other senses, too. Researchers have found that an “optimal amount” can make your fingers more sensitive to sensations, improve your ability to see contrast and even correct your posture (by enhancing “proprioceptive,” or positioning, signals).2 This is known as “cross-modal” stochastic resonance: Noise is a rising tide, lifting all signals. Cross-modal stochastic resonance can also improve memory, and higher-level cognitive processes such as judgment.3,4 It may even make us more ingenious....

Processing disfluency is basically a measure of mental distance: When it exists, fixating, or thinking closely, becomes just difficult enough that the mind doesn’t clench around the particularities of an idea. Instead, it has a looser attitude, and can shift perspectives. The right amount of processing disfluency spurs creative thinking—thoughts with a perfect “creative” distance from their subject. Too much processing disfluency, however, and coherence is lost. This isn’t textbook stochastic resonance, because creativity can’t be boiled down to signal detection. But, just like textbook cases, an optimum exists, after which benefits fall away parabolically.

The optimal level for creative thinking, Mehta found, is 70 db—about the level of a crowded café....

New York may just be the perfect ADHD pill, dialing up the noise in the heads of individuals with low internal noise, and helping them dial down the chaos they feel. Highly creative people often suffer from ADHD, and I’ve been diagnosed with it. Ever since moving to New York, I’ve experienced an unprecedented balance of productivity and peace—it’s as if simply existing in this bustling landscape has helped me streamline and make sense of my own inner world....

Arline Bronzaft, an environmental psychologist with a specialty in the effects of noise pollution, cautions that noise tolerance can be harmful. “People use the phrase, ‘I get used to it—I walk the streets and I get used to the noise,’ ” she told The New York Times in 2013. “It means you’ve adapted to the noise. When you’re dealing with something, you’re using energy to cope with the situation. Guess what? That’s wear and tear on your body. So when you hear someone say, ‘I’m dealing with it,’ I say, ‘Yes, but at what cost?’ ” All those jackhammers, sirens, and late-night garbage trucks are working their way into your teeth, your ears, your brain, and your heart. Studies conducted in industrial settings have long demonstrated relationships between noise exposure and cardiovascular disorders. In 2006, Dr. Hildegaard Niemann found that people exposed to neighborhood noise lived shorter lives, thanks to increased risk for heart disease, depression, migraines, and respiratory system problems.
noise  hearing  listening  cognitive_science  public_health  sound_space  health 
26 days ago
The Uncomfortable
The uncomfortable project.
Date:Ongoing Design: by kkstudio
KK decided to create and design for all the wrong reasons. Vindictive and nasty? Or a helpful study of everyday objects?
The goal is to re- design useful objects making them uncomfortable but usable and maintain the semiotics of the original item.
discomfort  things  objects  speculative_design 
27 days ago
Civilization and its Discontents According to Ben Tolman – SOCKS
The hyper-detailed ink-on-paper drawings by Ben Tolman depict the built environment and the effects it has on the people who inhabit it.

Cities (City, 2013) and suburbs (Suburbs, 2012), skyscrapers stripped off of their outer walls (Urban, 2015) or rows of one-bedroom houses, fictional or real, the subjects of the Washington DC-based artist gravitate around social and economical rituals and the patterns of common public/private relations.
illustration  media_city  architecture  deep_maps  section  presentation_images 
27 days ago
Laura's Birding Blog: A closer look at North American field guides
There are currently so very many bird field guides on the market that beginners are in a far, far more bewildering place than we were when I started birding in the 70s. Marketing departments make each new field guide sound like it features innovations never seen before, when really, there is very little new under the sun, even in the world of field guides. And one of the most frustrating developments is how our personality-focused culture has taken over substance for marketing field guides. Many birders seem to make their choices like groupies rather than wise consumers choosing an important tool. A troubling off-shoot of this is that many field guide publishers are even putting the author’s name in the title. Of course, people have long called Roger Tory Peterson’s book the Peterson Guide, but the actual title of his book is A Field Guide to the Birds, with his name properly listed as the author. But now we have The Sibley Guide to Birds, the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America, and the newest entry into the personality cult, The Crossley ID Guide. In some ways this actually helps buyers because, as I noted, we all tend to refer to field guides by their authors anyway. But it makes me sad that the one field guide with the very most true innovations, way ahead of its time, has always been called by the publisher’s nickname, the Golden Guide, rather than crediting its primary author, the unassuming Chandler Robbins, one of the few ornithologists who actually deserves cult status.
ornithology  field_guide  birds 
27 days ago
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