Structuralism: Thinking with Computers | Savage Minds
In his foundational 1955 article “The Structural Study of Myth,” Claude Lévi-Strauss outlined the program for a structuralist, cross-cultural study of mythology. The basic premise is prototypical structural anthropology: to analyze myths, one must decompose them into their constituent units (or “mythemes”). Thus decomposed, hidden mythical patterns can be made evident. These patterns are the real “content” of myths, according to Lévi-Strauss — they persist across different tellings of the same myth, and they reflect the inner structures of the mind. More important for the structuralist project, they recur in different myths, cross-culturally, reflecting the psychic unity of mankind.1

Materially, such a structural analysis required note cards. With a mytheme on each card, they could be physically rearranged into a two-dimensional grid, with the rows and columns indicating their shared features.2 However, there was a problem. As Lévi-Strauss writes:

At this point it seems unfortunate that, with the limited means at the disposal of French anthropological research, no further advance can be made. […] A variant of average length needs several hundred cards to be properly analyzed. To discover a suitable pattern of rows and columns for those cards, special devices are needed, consisting of vertical boards about two meters long and one and one-half meters high, where cards can be pigeon-holed and moved at will; in order to build up three-dimensional models enabling one to compare the variants, several such boards are necessary, and this in turn requires a spacious workshop, a kind of commodity particularly unavailable in Western Europe nowadays
anthropology  computing_history  notes  card_catalogue  structuralism 
15 hours ago
The Lost Wanderers — Anthropology and Algorithms — Medium
Neurath used the parable of the lost wanderers to describe scientific decision making. Given an experimental result, there will always be a number of explanations that are consistent with it. The choice among these hypotheses is underdetermined by the data. That is to say, as a scientist your hypothesis choice is not entirely determined by logic and the data you collect, but also by other things, like what equipment you have available in your lab, what you can get a grant for, or “hot” topics that will land your future article in a big journal. If those examples make auxiliary motives seem unscientific, then we might add Occam’s razor, which is just a classic auxiliary motive for preferring simple explanations over complex ones.
With the growing popularity of “data-driven” or “evidence-based” decision making in companies and government agencies, we are seeing more attempts at rationalizing decisions about technology—making organizations more scientific. However, as Neurath wrote about science, technological decision making is marbled with underdetermination. Potential paths cut every which way through the woods, and auxiliary motives, conscious or not, come into play at every step.

Data and evidence can be very useful, but we must be careful of the pseudo-rationalist assumption that they always point inevitably to a single course of action. Technical rationality alone cannot explain the series of decisions that produce technologies, although some critics and advocates of big-T Technology may pretend it does. Even decisions on the basis of the strongest evidence require auxiliary motives.
Auxiliary motives are not the kinds of things that can just be systematized and added to the model: they are the persistent arbitrariness that lurks just outside of all formal criteria. They are the context and culture that, having been marked as outside our object of interest, keep spilling back in. They are the irrationality that undergirds rationality, the informality that surrounds and supports formality. They are the backdoors and endpoint vulnerabilities of rationally “proven” systems....

Living in the woods requires that we decouple the idea that a given technology works from the idea that it is inevitable. People who get lost know that there was always more than one way we could have gone. While the pseudo-rationalists race along self-assuredly straight lines, tripping over roots and crashing into trees, we might move more tentatively, recognizing the limits of our reason and the chancy unpredictability of the forest.
methodology  advising  rationality  epistemology  big_data  science 
19 hours ago
Bringing Special Collections into Today
Moderated by Karen Fairbanks from Marble Fairbanks Architects in Brooklyn, the panel began with a discussion of big ideas vital to special collections design, including the importance of extending the impact of the collection and thinking of new ways to advance new pairings of collections. She also stressed that libraries must always tell a collection’s story with its presentation, stay involved with the architectural project through its completion, and always mock-up every design idea twice to ensure that what they’re doing really works....

Naomi Nelson, associate university librarian and director at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University... sightlines from room to room that encourage student engagement with the collection and scholarship. “Being able to see into the rooms demystifies the research process for undergrads,” she said. “We wanted to bring down the walls.”...

Kislak Center for Special Collection, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania: These same sketches became fundraising set pieces that were presented to potential donors whose funding of the library increased as the scope of the new library was eventually realized....

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University
special_collections  libraries 
21 hours ago
To Tenure or Not to Tenure? - The Chronicle of Higher Education
I would say that a one-page letter would be viewed as cursory, but something in the two-page range (for a letter-writer who does not know the candidate particularly well) is reasonable. Longer letters (three to four pages) are fine if there is substantive information about the candidate’s scholarship. I have read (much) longer letters, most of them filled with unnecessary details about the candidate’s research. In some cases, the letter-writer seems to feel the need to provide a mini-tutorial on the candidate’s subfield and does not know a concise way to do that.
tenure  academia 
No more rock stars: how to stop abuse in tech communities – hypatia dot ca
You can take concrete actions to stop rock stars from abusing and destroying your community. But first, here are a few signs that help you identify when you have a rock star instead of a plumber:

A rock star likes to be the center of attention. A rock star spends more time speaking at conferences than on their nominal work. A rock star appears in dozens of magazine profiles – and never, ever tells the journalist to talk to the people actually doing the practical everyday work. A rock star provokes a powerful organization over minor issues until they crack down on the rock star, giving them underdog status. A rock star never says, “I don’t deserve the credit for that, it was all the work of…” A rock star humble-brags about the starry-eyed groupies who want to fuck them. A rock star actually fucks their groupies, and brags about that too. A rock star throws temper tantrums until they get what they want. A rock star demands perfect loyalty from everyone around them, but will throw any “friend” under the bus for the slightest personal advantage. A rock star knows when to turn on the charm and vulnerability and share their deeply personal stories of trauma… and when it’s safe to threaten and intimidate. A rock star wrecks hotel rooms, social movements, and lives.

Why are rock stars so common and successful? There’s something deep inside the human psyche that loves rock stars and narcissists. We easily fall under their spell unless we carefully train ourselves to detect them. Narcissists are skilled at making good first impressions, at masking abusive behavior as merely eccentric or entertaining, at taking credit for others’ work, at fitting our (often inaccurate) stereotypes of leaders as self-centered, self-aggrandizing, and overly confident. We tend to confuse confidence with competence, and narcissists are skilled at acting confident....

Have explicit rules for conduct and enforce them for everyone
Start with the assumption that harassment reports are true and investigate them thoroughly
Make it easy for victims to find and coordinate with each other
Call people out for monopolizing attention and credit
Insist on building a “deep bench” of talent at every level of your organization
Flatten the organizational hierarchy as much as possible
Build in checks for “failing up”
Enforce strict policies around sexual or romantic relationships within power structures
Avoid organizations becoming too central to people’s lives
Distribute the “keys to the kingdom”
Don’t create environments that make boundary violations more likely
Putting this to work in your community
workplace  academia  human_relations  management 
2 days ago
KPF Urban Interface
As cities continue to grow at an exceptional rate—doubling in population by 2050—policy makers, designers and developers face exponentially more complex challenges. Fortunately, such innovations as urban data collection, scenario analysis and 3D visualization allow us to more quickly understand and better design for contemporary cities. KPF Urban Interface leverages new thinking and technology in our professional practice, along with research collaborations with universities and government agencies, in the service of more livable, profitable, equitable and resilient cities.
interface  urban_planning  interfaces  smart_cities  open_data 
2 days ago
Safiya Noble | Challenging the Algorithms of Oppression - YouTube
Safiya Noble is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Studies in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. In her PDF 2016 talk, Noble explains why we should care about commercial spaces dominating our information landscape.
algorithms  search  google  race  discrimination 
2 days ago
The Future of The 'Smart City' - The Takeaway - WNYC
Over 85 percent of the world’s population will likely live in a city by the end of the 21st century. Today in a special hour-long broadcast, we're exploring what the urban centers of the future will look like. This is what you'll hear today:

Hudson Yards is the largest private real-estate development in U.S. history and is transforming a significant portion of the west side of Manhattan. We tour this massive testing ground for "smart city" urban data science with Daniel Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs and former deputy mayor of New York; Jessica Scaperotti, an executive at Related Companies, which is overseeing the project with Oxford Properties Group; and Jay Cross, president of Hudson Yards.
Those who design "smart cities" rely on big data from urban infrastructure and city residents. Though data can make a city more efficient, it can also make it less diverse and open the door to predictive policing. Adam Greenfield, founder and managing director of Urbanscale and author of "Against the Smart City," discusses the consequences of high-tech urban development.
Data collection is a huge part of the "smart city" movement. For a look at how data is collected, implemented, and used in places like Hudson Yards, we turn to Constantine Kontokosta. He's professor of urban informatics and head of the Quantified Community Research Lab at NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress.
Do you live in a city? What do you love about it? And what needs to work better? Takeaway listeners from around the country weigh in on those questions today. 
The "smart city" may be the latest trend in urban planning, but the fundamentals haven't changed, at least not according to Roberta Brandes Gratz, an urban planner, founder of the Center for the Living City, and author of "We're Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City." She's also a disciple and peer of Jane Jacobs, urban critic and mother of modern urban planning. 
In New York City, community boards give voice to residents as development and investments shape neighborhoods for decades to come. Now, Community District 4 in Manhattan is home to Hudson Yards. Delores Rubin, vice chairwoman of Community Board 4, explains how the project is impacting the people in the neighborhood. 
smart_cities  big_data  urban_planning  great_men 
2 days ago
Entire buildings are being deleted from China's 'Street View' and no-one knows why
As Browning looked, he saw that one of these structures - a cooling chimney next to a suspension bridge - had been crudely erased. "I thought, that's strange, why would they do that?" Browning, 32, who has lived in Shanghai since 2007 told WIRED. "Then I saw another one." As Browning investigated further, he found other places that had been removed: government buildings, prisons, even a fire station. "At first I thought it could just be for weird aesthetic reasons," he said. "I guess it's security. But it's a bit random."

In China, Baidu Maps is the default tool for navigation. Since it launched in 2013, Baidu Total View has covered 372 Chinese cities. As of December 2015, it claimed 302 million monthly active users - up 43 per cent year-on-year....

Browning wonders about the process behind the censorship: "I don't know who does it, if it's an algorithm that gets GPS co-ordinates for each place and then somehow wipes it, or if an actual person goes to each one and cleans it with Photoshop." The lack of consistency makes him suspect a human is responsible. "It would be great to meet these people and see what they think about it. If they wanted to do it, why didn't they do it properly?"
maps  erasure  mapping  china 
2 days ago
The Internet’s Supposed Invisibility and the Fantasies It Fuels
Looking at internet infrastructure — server farms, deep-sea cables, 3G cell towers — these artists, academics, journalists, and self-proclaimed “hacker-tourists” (self-appointed travelers who document fiber-optic networks) gain access to the IRL implications of our online reality. This summer in Berlin, amidst the slick surfaces of the DIS-curated Biennale and the eerie recognition that Trump exists offline, the conference’s approach seemed radical, emphasizing the importance of the rough, earth-bound structures that allow for virtual spaces in the first place.

The scope covered by these diverse speakers made the current topicality of internet infrastructure in the art world seem like merely the tip of the iceberg. On the whole, the artistic goal of making representative images of the internet was confronted, at this conference, by more compelling journalistic or even “hacktivist” methods....

Blum stressed that this invisibility is not a technological reality, or even a security measure; it is part of a constructed and marketed fantasy of placelessness that informs our use of and belief in the internet. As opposed to the telecommunication infrastructures of the past, which were housed in monumental buildings in city centers, the internet infrastructure is often housed in neighboring nondescript buildings. Blum also analyzed the aesthetics of remote server farms, fenced off and windowless, erased from Google maps and designed to resemble heterotopias such as prisons or asylums. These locations, Blum said, only confirm our idea of the internet’s non-materiality: the blinking blue lights, cable colors, and architectural forms are designed equally to portray untouchable, high-tech security as they are to meet actual technical needs.

However, in places in the world where connection is anything but seamless, the wireless image is replaced by chewed and rusty cable-knots, and the fantasy of exterritorial online space crashes into realities of wealth and power structures. Gabriele “Asbesto” Zaverio, founder of a computer museum in Sicily, and Helga Tawil-Souri, a media studies scholar at New York University, each offered illuminating insights into this second face of the internet. They pointed to places where internet infrastructure is obscured, such as by corruption and incompetence in Sicily, and by occupation and surveillance in Palestine.
infrastructure  infrastructural_tourism  internet  materiality  visuality 
5 days ago
Rank and File - Nancy Nowacek
Rank and File is a performance examining the value of potential (untapped) capital through some of the city’s more elusive surplus resources. Led by two college students with the assistance of the two artists(faculty), the students engage attendees in discussion, critique, and debate to rank the assembled file of options according to collectively determined value.

 The Rank and File of latent capital is a provocation, calling awareness to the unexplored asset spectrum of our shared daily experience, while surveying the deep web of value systems that exist between us.
classification  organization 
5 days ago
Face Me (A Google Sketch Up Library) - Nancy Nowacek
Face Me is an open-source library created for the Google SketchUp Warehouse proposing to integrate real people doing real things into the design process.

Referring to both senses of the word, this diverse series of bodies represents the spectrum of bodies and activities unseen or unrepresented in spatial design. As Face Me Components in Google Sketch Up, they challenge the values and beliefs that predominate the field.

Although architecture’s main objective is to design spaces to be used by people, the human element remains an abstract notion throughout the design process until the end, when sometimes applied as ornament to renderings for scale and suggest idealized use. These ornamental figures — referred to in the architecture world as ‘people textures’— are just that: images for nothing more than a superficial, generalized and idealized space.
architecture  renderings  embodiment  illustration  subjectivity 
5 days ago
Los Angeles Is Hiring a Sound Artist to Help Make its Streets Safer
In his role as LADOT’s artist-in-residence, Alan Nakagawa will specifically focus on LA’s Vision Zero plan, an international movement to reduce traffic deaths to zero. An avid cyclist, Nakagawa has long been immersed in transportation culture as a studio artist who has worked with the public art department in LA’s transit agency, Metro, for over 25 years. His goal is to focus on the neighborhoods affected most by traffic deaths, and use a very targeted approach for every neighborhood that takes cultural nuances into consideration.

Nakagawa says he’ll explore what he calls a “regional vernacular” that determines how people use LA’s streets. For example, Central American communities might share bikes informally within their own neighborhoods, while others lock their bikes up inside. “We have our own cultural differences due to migrants in Southern California, which is another level of mobility to navigate,” he told Gizmodo....

But what Nakagawa is also proposing is messaging about sharing streets that transcends language. This includes an idea Nakagawa has about teaching etiquette for street users (including their most famous sound tool: horns). We hear a lot about “sharing streets” when it comes to the delicate negotiations between pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. But the challenge he sees is that even as we move from car to bike to foot, we still think we’re the most important people.
sound_art  transportation  infrastructure 
5 days ago
Archaeologists Are Spotting Ancient Ruins in Cold War Spy Photos - The Atlantic
The CORONA photographs are the earliest available spy satellite images, taken for roughly a decade beginning in the late 1950s. When they were declassified by the Clinton Administration in 1995, nearly 900,000 previously top secret satellite images became available for public research with the stroke of a pen.

Archaeologists were amongst the first to pounce.

Casana described the CORONA imagery with undisguised enthusiasm. “CORONA is an amazing tool for archaeological discovery, in general,” he said—but the engineering feats that made the photographs possible in the first place are equally awe-inspiring."...

Although Casana agreed that this kind of “automated detection” has its uses, using pattern recognition to detect traces of ancient civilizations poses a considerable challenge. We simply might not know what we’re looking for, Casana emphasized, let alone what we’re looking at, even as we stare directly at a promising archaeological site. A structure might have weathered peculiarly, for example, or it might have been constructed in an unusual pattern in the first place. It could be from a previously unknown culture or civilization. To use machine vision, at least for now, you would have to limit yourself to known landscape features of a very regular size and type. “Finding things that are different or unusual or that don’t fit the pattern,” he warned, “are precisely the kinds of tasks that those machine-learning methods are the worst at.”...

Casana is not alone in his approach, hoping to rediscover a lost ancient past by way of the sky. Articles about remote sensing appear regularly in academic publications, and, in 2013, Springer published two hefty compilations exploring Archaeology from Historical Aerial and Satellite Archives and Mapping Archaeological Landscapes from Space, respectively. Many other archaeologists today, including Sarah Parcak, have also helped pioneer space-based landscape research, primarily using state-of-the-art satellite imaging. Parcak, for example, has used satellite data to help find the likely site of buried Egyptian pyramids, and she was also part of a team that detected new evidence of an urban site near Petra, deploying both modern satellite imaging and drones....

“The kinds of features that survive for us to find, however, are often the products of very powerful, centralized governments from the earliest empires,” he explained. “They built large walled cities; they excavated elaborate irrigation systems that ran dozens of kilometers; they built roads.” The traces left by minor paths, seasonal campsites, and other ephemeral terrains generated by everyday human movement frequently fall outside the imaging capabilities of satellites. Space-based archaeology can thus inadvertently be biased toward an analysis of empires, not pastoralists, of centers, not peripheries.
archaeology  satellite_imagery  machine_vision  forensics  excavation 
5 days ago
A Letter to Past Graduate-Student Me - The Chronicle of Higher Education
You should also be a good citizen. Turn up to departmental seminars, and, if graduate students are invited, to job talks. Seminars and university lectures are good opportunities to take the pulse of a given field, and sitting in the audience might spark research ideas you hadn’t considered for your own work. Attending job talks will give you an excellent opportunity to see what works — and what doesn’t — as A.B.D.s and new Ph.D.s try to sell themselves on the job market.

Finally, banish the following phrase from your vocabulary: "No one told me that …"

Graduate school is an exercise in people not telling you things. It’s also an exercise in learning when to ask questions, and whom to ask. Make it your job to be informed. Read your graduate school’s handbook, and go speak with your department’s amazing administrators if you have initial questions.
UMS  advising 
5 days ago
The World’s Disappearing Sand - The New York Times
Sand is the essential ingredient that makes modern life possible. And we are starting to run out.

That’s mainly because the number and size of cities is exploding, especially in the developing world. Every year there are more people on the planet, and every year more of them move to cities. Since 1950, the world’s urban population has ballooned to over 3.9 billion from 746 million.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, in 2012 alone the world used enough concrete to build a wall 89 feet high and 89 feet wide around the Equator. From 2011 to 2013, China used more cement than the United States used in the entire 20th century.

To build those cities, people are pulling untold amounts of sand out of the ground. Usable sand is a finite resource. Desert sand, shaped more by wind than by water, generally doesn’t work for construction. To get the sand we need, we are stripping riverbeds, floodplains and beaches....

This often inflicts terrible costs on the environment. In India, river sand mining is disrupting ecosystems, killing countless fish and birds. In Indonesia, some two dozen small islands are believed to have disappeared since 2005 because of sand mining. In Vietnam, miners have torn up hundreds of acres of forest to get at the sandy soil underneath.

Sand miners have damaged coral reefs in Kenya and undermined bridges in Liberia and Nigeria. Environmentalists tie sand dredging in San Francisco Bay to the erosion of nearby beaches.
sand  construction  sustainability 
5 days ago
Last Man Standing: How to Kill Public Libraries | R. David Lankes
The two big concerns I’ve heard about are “what happens when public libraries are the last civic service agency standing,” and “as libraries expand services to include everything from tax help to maker spaces, how am I supposed to know it all?!” These two concerns are related....In today’s America, the public library is left standing virtually alone in the civic sphere. People don’t hang out in the police station. Parents are only welcome in the schools after they go through security and sign in. Social services and DMVs hardly create a sense of community.

In many ways this retreat of mediated social and civic services has pushed public libraries to reach out to their communities. It has, for the time being, provided an opportunity for libraries to re-center themselves in communities and become a more vital service to citizens. Where libraries could once confine their mission to literacy and assume a wider social safety net existed to handle issues of homelessness, democratic participation, education, even food support and adult literacy this is no longer the case....

So how do librarians avoid this expansion to irrelevance? Some call for a retrenchment. Get back to core literacy (reading), refocus on collections, and sell the value of libraries as safe havens from the nasty world of ideology. I think this is an equally bad formula for failure. Rather than inviting claims of too little service in too many areas, we get cast as too narrow to be of use (if all we want is access to books, we’ll pay for city-wide/state-wide/country-wide access to Amazon). No, we need a plan to take hold of this opportunity and grow to meet the needs of our communities.

This plan for a new civic reality requires two major efforts. The first is obvious and many have started down this road: advocacy for more resources. We must mobilize citizens and government to resource the public library as the public face of the community – a market place of ideas and services where the private and public seamlessly intermingle....

If all libraries do is elect themselves the next great bureaucracy, we will lose as well. Librarians will lose their special status as the library is forced to hire more and more folks from other domains like social services, education, and the like. If the expansion of public libraries becomes simply a public service bucket where services exist as strove pipes side by side, we fail. Instead we must prepare librarians to do it all…sort of (please read the next paragraphs before you fire off that angry email).

There is a very real and legitimate worry that librarians of all stripes are being called to do too much. Can any one professional really be librarian, programmer, maker, social worker, and employment consultant? No. Librarians can’t do it all…but librarians can help a community do it all.

This ideal was put beautifully by a talented group of librarians behind the Robot Test Kitchen. Librarians have to move from sitting across the desk from their communities, to sitting beside them. Rather than looking at every new service/program offered by a library as a new set of skills that must be learned by a librarian, think of it as an opportunity for a librarian to empower a community member. ...

“Librarians don’t know everything, but they can empower everyone to share what they know.”... Librarians have the ability (with resources) to form teams of experts on the payroll, but especially in the community, to educate, and improve that community. Librarians value in this equation is a little of the tools we bring (spaces, standards, collections), and A LOT in the expertise we bring. Librarians can help truly define community needs and gaps. Librarians can identify experts, and work with them to provide expertise to everyone (in lectures, hands-on skills, consulting, production, new publishing efforts). All the while knitting together the community in a tight fabric of knowing…that is the value of the librarian. Do librarians need to know everything? No! They need to know how to unlock the knowledge of the community and set it free while imbuing the entire community with the values of learning, openness, intellectual honesty, and intellectual safety.
libraries  infrastructure 
5 days ago
Essay on 18th-century note taking
“Lecture notes,” Eddy writes, “as well as other forms of writing such as letters, commonplace books and diaries, were part of a larger early modern manuscript world which treated inscription as an active force that shaped the mind.” It’s the focus on note taking itself -- understood as an activity bound up with various cultural imperatives -- that distinguishes notebook studies (pardon the expression) from the research of biographers and intellectual historians who use notebooks as documents....

The syllabus included a listing of topics covered in each lecture. Eddy writes that “most professors worked very hard to provide lecture headings that were designed to help students take notes in an organized fashion” as they tried to keep up with “the rush of the learning process as it occurred in the classroom.” Pen or pencil in hand, the student filled up his quares or paper book with as much of the lecture material as he could grasp and condense, however roughly. The pace made it difficult to do more than sketch the occasional diagram, and Eddy notes that “many students struggled to even write basic epitomisations of what they had heard.”...

From the drafts, written on cheap paper, students copied a more legible and carefully edited text into their leather notebooks, title pages in imitation of those found in printed books. The truly devoted student would prepare an index. ...

Making a lecture notebook was the opposite of multitasking. It meant doing the same task repeatedly, with deeper attention and commitment at each stage.
notes  notebooks  writing  pedagogy  learning  textual_form 
6 days ago
The Phone Booth Project
The Phone Booth Project features a Pilbara pay phone, large-scale projections and multi-lingual dialogues. Revealing the independence and adaptation of modern telecommunications by Martu people across the vast Western Desert, working collaboratively with Martu filmmaker Curtis Taylor, we have made a video installation that explores the use of phone booths in these remote desert communities.
media_space  telephone  phone_booth  infrastructure 
6 days ago
Artists Are Mapping a City Through the Data It Generates | Motherboard
Ground Resistance is a two-part installation exploring the concept of the “smart city” and how Milton Keynes—one of Britain’s most famous “new towns” and close neighbour to Bletchley Park—appears through the data that it generates. As part of the installation, Goatley and Voss will run a cable out of a nearby window and collect a “full bandwidth” of all the data swarming above our heads, using a 30cm antennae bought off Amazon and attached to a USB stick. “They’re basically a radio interface with laptops—you can buy them for a tenner,” said Goatley. “But someone discovered a couple of years ago that they’re not hard-coded into certain frequencies so you can use them as full band receivers. So you can demodulate any kind of encoding.”

Once the data has been collected, it will be interpreted, live, into a constantly-updating map. Visitors will put on headphones to listen to the transmission of that data and watch as it gets translated into a spread of rolling figures, land maps, and moving parts. “People will hear a rhythmic pattern of high frequency beeps among static,” explained Goatley. “You might even be able to match the live data you’re hearing with the way it’s encoded into the visual map. So it’ll be nice to compare how minimal that data actually is, as a sound, with how maximal the output is.” A beep to a plane perhaps, or a low hum to a weather front....

Wesley talks about history quite a lot, especially for a man who’s dedicated his art to exploring man’s interaction with technology. When I asked what a “smart city” actually is, he gave this response: “‘Smart city’ is building on a very long human history of top-down governance. In this country we can look back to the Doomsday Book as an institution that thought, ‘How can we make sense of populations?’ Suddenly, the value of having data on what your population were doing—their name, movement, income activity—was incredibly valuable. We’ve seen that through the history of the census even since Roman times. Data is not a new thing, especially as a tool of governance.”
smart_cities  data  big_data  governance  installation  data_art 
7 days ago
How an Archive of the Internet Could Change History - The New York Times
I left with an urgent curiosity about what sort of artifacts we would display a few decades from now, for future generations to discover. Our contemporary analogues to the personal notebook now live on the web — communal, crowdsourced and shared online in real time. Some of the most interesting and vital work I come across exists only in pixels. Tumblr, for example, contains endless warrens of critical theory about trans identity politics and expression, one of the few havens on the web where that sort of discourse exists. Many of the short videos on Vine feel as though they belong to an ever-­evolving, completely new genre of modern folk art. Some of the most clever commentary on pop culture and politics is thriving deep in hashtags on Twitter. Social media is as essential to understanding the preoccupations and temperature of our time as Haring’s notebooks were for his. But preserving materials from the internet is much harder than sealing them under glass.

Building an archive has always required asking a couple of simple but thorny questions: What will we save and how? Whose stories are the most important and why? In theory, the internet already functions as a kind of archive: Any document, video or photo can in principle remain there indefinitely, available to be viewed by anyone with a connection. But in reality, things disappear constantly. Search engines like Google continually trawl for pages to organize and index for retrieval, but they can’t catch everything. And as the web evolves, it becomes harder to preserve. It is estimated that 75 percent of all websites are inactive, and domains are abandoned every day. Links can rot when sites disappear, images vanish when servers go offline and fluctuations in economic tides and social trends can wipe out entire ecosystems.

There are scattered efforts to preserve digital history. Rhizome, an arts nonprofit group, built a tool called Webrecorder to save parts of today’s internet for future generations. The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has archived hundreds of billions of web pages. But there’s still a low-grade urgency to save our social media for posterity — and it’s particularly urgent in cases in which social media itself had a profound influence on historic events....

Social media might one day offer a dazzling, and even overwhelming, array of source material for historians. Such an abundance presents a logistical challenge (the total number of tweets ever written is nearing half a trillion) as well as an ethical one (will people get to opt out of having ephemeral thoughts entered into the historical record?). But this plethora of new media and materials may function as a totally new type of archive: a multidimensional ledger of events that academics, scholars, researchers and the general public can parse to generate a more prismatic recollection of history....

History is not neutral or synonymous with truth, but the internet affords us a newfound vantage on the totality of passing time — the profound implications of which we are just now beginning to grasp....

“Our best description of the past is not a fixed chronology but multiple chronologies that are intertwined with each other.” We’ve long known that this is how human history works — an unimaginable number of small stories, compressed into one big one. But maybe now we finally have the ability to record and capture them all, and history can become something else entirely: not a handful of voices, but a cacophony.
archives  digital_archives  preservation  social_media  temporality 
7 days ago
Create a “Yes” Filter
Having guardrails for evaluating options and opportunities is relatively new for me. For a long, long time, being asked to speak or partner on projects felt both validating and obligatory. Who was I to turn down a request from someone who needed me? And then there was my fear of retribution and my worry that there would be consequences for declining — a gender-based phenomenon noted recently by fellow Vitae columnist Kristen Ghodsee. For too many years I would hustle to meet external demands without attending to what made sense for me. I found myself exhausted and cranky and realized that being spread too thin wasn’t serving anyone. The work was draining rather than energizing, and I came to resent the people who asked for my time....

Eventually I came up with my own formula for filtering requests. Rather than say no, I allow myself to say yes when certain conditions are met. Nowadays I accept a request when:

It is relatively easy to fulfill.
It seems appropriately novel, fun, or energizing.
It gives me an opportunity to highlight my strengths and professional expertise.
Meeting the request would not significantly detract from other existing priorities.
Doing so would fill a reservoir of goodwill I might need to draw upon later.
It would expose me to new people who might be interesting or helpful.
Tackling the challenge would enable me to learn something I had wanted to learn anyway.
The recipients are likely to appreciate my time and effort.
time_management  professional_practice  academia  presentation 
7 days ago
Hecq – Mare Nostrum
music: “Mare Nostrum” is the name of a large supercomputer in Barcelona – the most powerful supercomputer in Spain and the ninth biggest computer in the world.
It is used in “human genome research, protein research, astrophysical simulations, weather forecasting, geological or geophysical modeling, and the design of new drugs.”

Mare Nostrum is installed in a former chapel (check the cover for the beautiful setting) – that’s quite some strong symbolism, too!

In 2013, Ben Lukas Boysen (Hecq) was able to spend some time making audio recordings of (and from within) this massive supercomputer. These recordings are “abstract pulses of a machine with sometimes even creatural sounds and atmospheric synthesized ambience […] – a deep, organic opus, creating a yet unheard sonic landscape in the listeners’ minds. A dense, impressive auditory adventure.”

And that’s what it is: the sound of bits and bytes working at the speed of light, magnified to audible – and almost visible – proportions.
computing  machines  listening  music  sonic_archaeology 
9 days ago
These Haunting Photos Show the Deadly Absurdity of the US-Mexico Border Wall | The Nation
 A new collaborative book of photography and art, Border Cantos, by photographer Richard Misrach and experimental composer Guillermo Galindo, captures some of the ostentatious absurdity of the border wall and the calamities, cultures, and artifacts that surround it. Bilingual, multi-genre, international, and multi-media, Border Cantos (Aperture, 2016) breaks down the obvious duality of any wall—that you are either on this side, or on that side—and exposes the human and environmental consequences of decades of political recklessness.

...With Border Cantos, he has turned his attention to another form of alienation: the making alien/making illegal of those who cross an imaginary line. In Border Cantos the wall, as well as the “spectacle of national defense” in the US Southwest, as Josh Kun calls it in the book’s introduction, seems, when looking through the lens of Misrach, preposterously hubristic—a vanitas of human will, a Mad-Maxian fever dream.

More tangible, and more painfully melancholic, is Galindo’s contribution: the haunting dirges he creates from instruments/sound installations concocted from objects found along the border. While Misrach’s photographs put in sharp relief our political folly—his view seems archeological, assessing the relics of an already extinguished empire—Galindo’s songs and physical objects are more immediately impactful, and sound as if the landscape itself were crying out in pain.

... In this revealing (and beautiful) image, a lonely 36-slat segment of the fence stands in a small patch of grass surrounded by a foggy dirt field crisscrossed in tire tracks. The “wall” here seems more like a preserved relic or a museum piece—a remembrance of horrors past—than any functional element of a security apparatus. And yet for anyone without the proper documentation who climbs over (or very easily ambles around) that section of wall, hence eluding “examination or inspection by immigration officers” (a federal crime), it is far from an empty or antiquated signifier; that one-step transgression could unleash the full force of an abusive and judiciously exempt agency to hunt you down and terrorize your body.....

There may be snatches of beauty in human folly—and Misrach brings them out in photos of the wall’s silent denial of humanity—but fear, drama, and human pathos come to the surface in Galindo’s sound installations. In one example, a piñata (inspired both by a Mexican soccer ball found stranded on the US side of the wall and the West African instrument called a shekeré) is gaily festooned with spent shotgun shells. ...

In another sound installation he calls a “Ropófono,” Galindo builds a loom, “a powerful symbol of home and tradition in Latin America,” out of discarded migrant clothing, on which contact microphones amplify the weave of the cloth as it spins around a rolling pin. The noise is scratchy, percussive—the sound of swishing pants, or a body dragging along the dirt—nothing musical or beautiful about it—but, as Kun describes, the audio loom puts “sound back into fabric made mute” by the border infrastructure. Galindo: “The instruments…are meant to enable the invisible victims of immigration to speak through their personal belongings.”
borders  walls  sound_art  photography  geography  immigration 
10 days ago
The Geek Behind Google's Map Quest | Fast Company | Business + Innovation
When he arrived at Google's London office in 2007, Parsons was in many ways perfectly poised to help acquire the missing parts of the map, in part by convincing governments to share their data with the company: at the Ordnance Survey, he played a crucial role as the British government’s liaison to Hanke and McClendon as they assembled Google's map of the United Kingdom. Within the company's geo group, said Rebecca Moore, director of engineering for Google Earth, Parsons cuts a "CTO-like figure." But he also plays a role outside the company, gathering ideas, forging partnerships with academics, government, and technologists, and promoting Google's mission to organize the world's geographic information. "I probably represent something that Google’s not very good at, and that’s having a human face," he says....

To compete with a range of tech titans—besides Apple, companies like Nokia, TomTom, and Microsoft have invested heavily in mapping technologies—Google is focusing on personalization....

The new Google Earth will "reinvent it for the web and mobile," making it "much more of a storytelling platform," Moore says. "It will have feeds of information coming in that make it a dashboard for the planet. If you hear about something going on, you’ll open Google Earth and that’s where you’ll find out what’s happening."...

Augmented reality and indoor mapping are also becoming a large part of Google’s Geo operation—an internal division called "Project Tango" is building "a mobile device that can see how we see," in order to create 3-D maps of indoor spaces, among other capabilities....

Maps, meanwhile, has been undergoing more incremental tweaks. Google has incorporated traffic data from Waze, the crowdsourced traffic mapping app that it bought in 2013 for $1 billion, into Maps. As it searches for new revenue, the Alphabet Inc. company has also made various efforts to fuse its ad-based model with geography. Under its latest update to Maps, users will begin to see logos—"promoted pins" in Googlespeak—for nearby coffee shops, gas stations, or restaurants, while revamped local business pages can now contain special offers and in some cases the ability to browse product inventory....

Google says it uses anonymized user locations to map car and consumer traffic, while specific information about individual locations is strictly managed internally. Parsons paints a more nuanced picture. "Actually, it’s very hard to truly anonymize that sort of data. At the moment, we track you as an individual and we strip off the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes of tracking, so we don’t know where you start or end, or where your home or where your work is. But, actually, over a period of a few days and weeks we can certainly start to build those tracks and understand where people are moving around—and potentially identify people from that."...

But Google's approach may come at the expense of local cartographic conventions, aesthetics, and geo-political markers, critics worry. "As a citizen, I’m concerned that Google maps looks so banal—it's like Pleasantville, visually," says Anne Knowles, a GIS historian at the University of Maine. "It bewitches people that the world is okay, and we're shocked when it's not."....

"There are sources of canonical data—they are ‘the facts,’" says Parsons, who is adamant that Google is not a canonical source in the same way the Ordnance Survey, U.S. Geographic Survey, or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority might be. "We are perhaps the great editors. We do our job to bring you a view of the world that is as consistent and as canonical as it possibly could be, but we’re not the source."

"All maps are imperfect," says McClendon. But Google’s rendering of the world is "as close to reality as we’ll be able to get for a long time."...

"Cartography is about what you take off, not about what you add," he says. "I think the community is still learning what cartography actually means. There are companies making a profit—Mapbox, CartoDB—starting to do some interesting things on top of that. It’s like we’re learning again. It’s like the early days of desktop publishing, where everyone would put 50 fonts on their document, because they could. You just want one font, really, that’s what you need."

None of these maps is more perfect than the others, Parsons says; each map is influenced by its creators, with their own worldview....

As part of its efforts to map everywhere—and bring everyone to the map—Google has also empowered groups traditionally written out of Western maps to craft their own portrait of the world. Rebecca Moore, who in addition to running Google Earth's engineering team, leads Google Earth Outreach, has worked with indigenous peoples in the Amazon, like the Surui tribe, to help them map their territory using their own symbols. This can, for example, make it easier for them to map the locations of the three specific types of trees they use to make arrows....

The more interactive and personally tailored Google Maps gets—the more accurately it simulates actually flying over the world—the better. "I try, in my presentations, to show the Apollo 8 "Earthrise" picture. Less than 10 people have seen that with their own eyes, but yet we get to see that every day. I often wonder, will that change how society views the world—being able to go from the very local, very detailed view, to the world view. It’s something that’s never been possible before."
maps  cartography  Google  indigenous  privacy 
10 days ago
A Brief History of String | Cabinet Magazine
tactile line with innumerable uses, string is a modest material that has also been tied, hung, and otherwise handled in order to express abstract thought. String has delineated religious space, described narratives, denoted mathematical data, and possibly even delivered language. 

A timeline of three principal ways in which string has been used to embody ideas also reveals a history of contested or suppressed information. A brief history of string 
is thus a record of attempts to break or recover links between meaning and its material. 

Quipu: Quipus were presumably read by touch and sight. 
Knots were continuously tied and retied, an unfixed means of inscribing.

Only about 600 pre-Columbian quipus survived the Spanish conquest and are preserved in private and museum collections. The Spanish destroyed quipus in order to establish the new law of writing. The ancient knowledge that the Andean people kept within their quipus is long lost.

String figures: known that in some areas of the world, string figure practice was more than just play and was connected to religion, mythology, and divination. The Navajo honored string figures as a gift from Grandmother Spider, and only made them during the winter when spiders were inactive. Among the Kwakiutl of British Columbia, certain string figures were passwords that gave entry into secret societies. The natives of the Gilbert Islands believed in a guide to the underworld who required the deceased to perform with him certain series of string figures. In some locations, string figures also acted as good luck charms to help ensure a successful harvest or hunt.

string  media_archaeology  media_history  textiles 
11 days ago
Asynchronous! On the Sublime Administration of the Everyday | e-flux
At Sun Microsystems in the 1990s, Ivan Sutherland and Jo Ebergen used the bucket brigade metaphor to explain the advantages of their experimental research into asynchronous chip design. When computer chips become asynchronous, “actions can start as soon as the prerequisite actions are done, without waiting for the next tick of the clock.”1 But in the early days of computing, the market pressure for a straightforward, reliable solution meant that synchronous chip design, which was simpler, won out over the grander, theoretical plans for asynchronous computing. The processor that runs your MacBook is synchronous and clocked, running at about 2.7 GHz. Despite intense research, truly asynchronous chips took years to get out of the lab—and even then their commercial use was limited.

ut something funny happened on the way out of R&D. Asynchronous processing hasn’t simply left the lab and entered our devices and networks. Instead, the asynchronous principle—that complex systems should be designed to allow tasks to run independently as resources become dynamically available—has moved outwards from the chip to the server, from the server to the data center, from the data center to the workplace, and from the workplace to the city. Asynchronous processing has emerged as a new ideal, and it is increasingly being applied in fields as diverse as software design, biomedical engineering, and labor-force management....

If today’s lifeworld distinguishes itself by the ubiquity of computing in all its various forms, then the expansion of the asynchronous principle represents a fundamental shift. This expansion requires not just the datafication of everyday life, but a significant reformation of the social relations that grew around the modes of exchange proper to the pre-asynchronous era—what we might call linear information capitalism. With the introduction of asynchrony, these relations appear as so many bonds to be burst when the buckets begin arriving from everywhere, heralding the addition of a spatial dimension to what had, until now, been simply temporal sequences. As with all such arrivals, the asynchronous is initially apprehended in terms of the previous era, and so its borders remain frustratingly concealed behind inherited ideas about the individual’s relationship to their labor, the market, and the state. How can we begin to uncover the contours of the new asynchronous present?...

t all started with hardware. Asynchronous systems were initially designed to transcend the material constraints of computer processors. Without an asynchronous architecture, clock-speed optimization would always be fundamentally capped by the physical limits of computing. Every speed increase of synchronous, clocked chips only produced diminishing returns. To go any faster, the governing clock would have to be replaced.

The next obstacle was energy consumption. Because the “clock” is always running, synchronous systems do not adequately distribute energy according to demand. In principle, an asynchronous architecture lets the system rest when no jobs require processing. This is illustrated in the example of the asynchronous bucket brigade: if there’s no bucket coming down the line, the workers need not move at all. Breaking the clock means transcending a system’s built-in ceiling while reassigning fixed resources more efficiently—a goal shared by engineers and capital alike.

Affordable, just-in-time computing is a commercial example of a large-scale asynchronous process. Cloud-computing storage services like Amazon Web Services apportion their server space among clients who pay through an on-demand model. The basic principle of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is that you only pay for what you use. When your allocated space adjusts in real-time with your demands, you eliminate the pitfalls of predicting how much storage a project might demand, accelerating growth and reducing risk.

The asynchronous principle operates in software, too. A new set of asynchronous programming languages use what is sometimes called a “non-blocking schema,” where a task starts firing even if others tasks that are lined up before it haven’t completed. Instead of going line by line, the component jobs run “all at once.” Consumer products have followed suit. Our most popular products use the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model to make asynchronous production possible. Google Docs has quickly surpassed the local storage of Microsoft Word because many parties can edit simultaneously. Like the workers on the asynchronous bucket brigade, a line of code or a collaborating editor can start doing work as soon as it is ready.

The “sharing economy”—in which underused resources are rented via peer-to-peer transactions—is a means by which asynchronous processes have been introduced into the consumer marketplace. Asynchronous capitals do not require that resources be committed to a fixed sequence. ...

The decentralization achieved by asynchrony is different from the political ideal of decentralization. From the perspective of the individual worker, asynchrony doesn’t remove authority as much as displace it. A non-blocking schema allows orders to pour in from everywhere, but they’re still orders. The absence of a linear sequence means paying labor for only the time it works, and not a second longer; work need not be synchronized with the arbitrary designations of work days, licenses, or any other ordinal mechanism that produces artificial scarcity. You can work anytime you want, but there’s no wage if you’re at rest.

Asynchronous capitalism is already a rallying cry for Silicon Valley. Venture capital firms are heeding the call, investing in a “platform economy” that promises to transform any job, project, or endeavor that can represented as a “unit of work” in an asynchronous system. J. P. Morgan calls it “unbundling a job into discrete tasks”...

But the internal governance of platform companies is a private affair, first and foremost a matter for management methodologies and open-floor plans. A new breed of such methodologies has emerged, viewing labor as little more than a problem of human-platform engineering. These management philosophies have been encapsulated in a kind of shorthand notation: “agile,” “lean,” “open source,” “holacracy.” These labels—which are half brand, half method—signify the various efforts to extend asynchronous systems to human resources, each time wrapped in the promise to distribute employee authority in the name of autonomy and productivity....

In "agile” project management, teams work on incremental iterations in highly visible and simultaneous cycles. In the scrum—agile’s signature form—team members communicate to rapidly remove blockers, organize sprints, and collaboratively squash known issues as they occur. This approach can also be found in open-source software development, which, following Eric Raymond’s famous text The Cathedral and the Bazaar, should be run more like a bazaar—a babbling, participatory community in which many hands make light work through concurrent collaboration—than a cathedral, where a closed team toils in isolation, adding one new section at a time.

..."Lean” management methodology takes the “test and learn” ethos latent in the provisional nature of agile and open source to its logical conclusion. In recent years, lean management has stressed experimentation and rapid customer feedback to optimize the outcome of each new movement....

To Overcome the political nature of their autonomous subjects, sublime administration must paradoxically erect a baroque set of protocols that are hyperfocused on distributed autonomy and asynchronous assembly. This is all done under the guise of empowerment and individual choice....

In sublime administration, management acknowledges its own inability to define an organization’s optimal route, which is why it distributes incremental authority across the organization. Management’s ignorance about the most profitable direction for the company is evident in the way its decision-making apparatus privileges future information over the events of the present. Sublime management is speculative and deeply skeptical of all things recently accumulated. It is quick to discard the past, unless the past can be used to construct an anticipatory model.

In the social order that follows, everyone works on their own, self-directed and requiring little investment of resources by superiors. But this “free-for-all” is always facilitated by the platform that most successfully executes the processes themselves...

unbundling of the client and the (now precarious) service provider is only tenable if the mediating platform can continue to maintain an asynchronous state. Under this framework the human element quickly becomes an obstacle....

How could the production of an asynchronous subjectivity appear without some corollary reformation of the aesthetic subject, the position from which we sense, judge, and act? Art’s political interventions—or its near constant mode of articulating our relationship to society—must now contend with the new relations of our asynchronous present....

The symbolism behind Ford’s reimagination as a “mobility” provider cannot be overstated: the very company that perfected and scaled the assembly line has imported the management style of software companies. “Mobility” usurps “automobiles” because asynchrony works best with platforms, not products; and sublime administration focuses on building infrastructures for abstract activities, not giving life to activities themselves.
labor  temporality  sharing  management  asynchrony  processing 
12 days ago
Watch 6,000 Years of Urbanization in 3 Minutes
Whether it is for timely response to catastrophes, the delivery of disaster relief, assessing human impacts on the environment, or estimating populations vulnerable to hazards, it is essential to know where people and cities are geographically distributed. Additionally, the ability to geolocate the size and location of human populations over time helps us understand the evolving characteristics of the human species, especially human interactions with the environment.
animation  data_visualization  urban_history  archaeology  population 
12 days ago
The Artist-in-Consultance: Welcome to the New Management | e-flux
Artists have been engaging with the aesthetics of industry since it first appeared, but artists working as freelance corporate consultants represent a newer and more specific kind of engagement. The clear historical precursors to the artist-in-consultance are the multiple, well-known art and technology collaborations institutionalized in and around California in the 1960s and ’70s, notably LACMA’s Art + Technology Lab (1967–71, resurrected in 2013); the Experiments in Art and Technology (1967–77); and the Ocean Earth Development Corporation (1980 until today). These initiatives were many faceted, but they typically resulted in a rather limited number of outcomes.

In one outcome, the artist-in-consultance becomes a noncritical functionary (what Max Kozloff called a “fledgling technocrat”) engaged in the production of novelty spectacle. Many have argued that a good example of this is the PepsiCola Pavilion at the 1970 Osaka Expo that Art + Technology collaborators built—a smoke-and-mirrors aestheticization of technology.

Another outcome is total antagonism. Take John Chamberlain’s residency at the RAND Corporation, organized by LACMA in 1970. Disappointed at the RAND employees’ “uptight,” “very 1953” attitudes towards any experimentation in the workplace, Chamberlain became determined to provoke them. He began screening his semi-pornographic movie The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez (1969) during employee lunch hour. After being asked to stop, he distributed a memo to all RAND consultants demanding “ANSWERS. Not questions!” The memo garnered responses like “the answer is to terminate Chamberlain” and “GO TO HELL MISTER!!”

A third outcome is no outcome at all. For instance, Ocean Earth’s decades of proposals and stalled collaborations have resulted in no concrete innovations. Cofounder Peter Fend would have it that his ideas are too threatening, rather than too implausible, to be adopted.

...philanthropy is an investment in the general project of neoliberalism: the premise that unrestrained private profit is good for society at large. A tech company running an urban garden or an artist-in-residence program is living proof that the government need not intervene in big business... The hiring of artist-consultants is rarely framed as philanthropy, but rather as an investment: they’re here to help us develop actual products and services; they’re here to enrich life at the office; they’re here to keep us on the cutting edge. Artists may do these things, but, like any type of philanthropy, they are also always an ideological investment in the ethics of the free market.

Many contemporary artists working with tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area fulfill the same gratuitous roles as their 1970s predecessors. For example, the “novel-use-of-technology” model where artists become adorable functionaries dedicated to product development can be found at the software company Autodesk. After acquiring the how-to website Instructables in 2011, Autodesk launched an artist-in-residence program at its workshop on the San Francisco pier. Resident artists are brought in for a few months and given a moderate stipend and access to expensive software and machinery. “The logic was that by getting to know the people who are using technology in new, creative ways, Autodesk would be able to gather feedback to better respond to users.”11 Surely Autodesk does gather some ideas for how to make products more user-friendly by watching the artists play with the software, but the size of the artists’ stipend, as compared to an engineer’s salary, says everything about how much of a literal return on its investment Autodesk expects....

This image is important. It’s an image of knowledge transfer going down. Artists ostensibly have a special type of knowledge by dint of being artists. That’s what makes them good predictors of the cultural tides in the first place. Preserving this assumption clearly behooves the artist—just as it behooves management consultants to preserve the idea that management is a science they have perfected over the ages. But unlike the management consultant, whose knowledge may be sacred but is only intrinsically good insofar as it applies to profit, the artist’s knowledge is intrinsically good because it supposedly transcends profit.

Through programs like these, artistic creativity is made indistinguishable from innovation. This reciprocally and tautologically makes sure that innovation remains an exalted process in its own right: innovation is an act of artistic creation, and is likewise therefore intrinsically good. Artist, management consultant: meet one another....

It is in any company’s interest to invest what amounts to a pittance in its grand scheme to support a working artist’s incisive critical projects—even outright damning ones. Ostensibly critical perspectives are typically exactly what the company is paying for. This mirrors the hiring of a management consultant, whose job it is to tell a company how naughty it’s been, and simply by being there provides the remedy for the naughtiness. Both types of consultant are elite outsiders with special knowledge, a knowledge that must be perpetually kept under wraps in order to stay special. Thus both types of consultant spend most of their time engaged in the act of justifying their presence, honing their critical tools but never actually using them to dismantle anything. Spending so much time honing your tools that you forget what you created them for—is this not the very definition of bureaucracy?

The artist-in-consultance serves corporate interests; this is not up for debate. Artists have found out how to likewise make consulting serve the interests of the art economy, and their own personal interests.
art_tech  management  consulting  labor  residencies 
13 days ago
about Unfold #3
SGThe Economy is Spinning deals with the rhetoric of economy and the financial markets. In your selection you propose a very interesting transition from the library as a monument and temple of knowledge to the schizophrenic and unstable semiotics of the market. I think there is a fascinating polarity at stake, namely, the one between preservation and destruction, endurance and amnesia, utopia and dystopia. Would you like to elaborate on this aspect?
KD I have been fantasizing about libraries of the 21st century and yet those imaginations tend to turn into a delusion: while we have the infrastructure for sharing and realizing all the grandiose ideals libraries have ever promised — free, accessible, universal — the reality seems a little all-too-real-to-be-called dystopian in the age of “knowledge production”.
When composing the folders I took as a starting point the primary questions Unfold and its predecessor the VOLUME project tackle: what is the role and potential of libraries today, what essentially a library may be? A public space, a symbolic entity, a temple or a monument, a knowledge-generating machine or a utopian promise (and possibly many more)?
From here the content of the folders questions the possibilities of infinite digital reproducibility, the machine-like autopoiesis of the market economy, and the chilling mechanisms of cognitive capitalism where language becomes a currency and is emptied out of poetic qualities. It does so through philosophical and literal references with additional texts, artworks and images produced by commissioned artists and writers, which connect the folders’ content with that of the exhibition in a complementary manner.
libraries  infrastructures  economy  textual_form  publications 
16 days ago
Bad Housekeeping – The New Inquiry
the contemporary smart house, as embodied by the Internet of Things, is not an equal opportunity employee or, for that matter, employer. In other words, the smart home’s users, like unhappy patriarchal families, are not all alike.

An even simpler nightmare lies beneath Smart House’s techno-dystopia: the familiar story of a man-child who, to avoid the horror and shame of performing household work, programs a woman to do it for him. It doesn’t make a difference to this narrative whether this woman is seen as a robot, a computer, or is, in fact, a robot pretending to be a woman. The trouble is that her programmer doesn’t think about redistributing, reinventing, or reworking the conditions of domestic labor. Despite being one of the most persistent narratives about the future, the smart house is the story of what happens when we fail to reimagine social relations....

Despite their technological leaps of imagination, futurists can’t seem to envision social transformations. “In a future kitchen full of incredible technology,” the journalist Rose Eveleth has asked, “why can we still not imagine anything more interesting than a woman making dinner alone?”

Three decades earlier, the historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan was frustrated by a similar question. Writing about the piecemeal industrialization of domestic technology, she asked, “If we can put a man on the moon, why have we been unable to pipe our garbage disposals into our compost heaps?” In her classic history More Work for Mother, Cowan demonstrated how, instead of reducing traditional “women’s work,” many so-called “labor-saving” technologies redirected and even augmented it....

The irony crucial to Cowan’s analysis is that even in the twentieth century, new household tools continued to produce more tasks: more childcare, more complicated recipes, more surfaces to clean, more clothes to launder, more time spent driving, waiting, multitasking, caring, parenting. The Bendix washing machine may have promised to “automatically give you time to do those things that you want to do,” but it also raised the bar for how clean clothes should look.

Early visions for the digitized smart house were plagued by a similar irony. Classic advertisements for the Kitchen Computer, first sold by Honeywell in 1969, tempted, “If she can only cook as well as the Honeywell can compute.” Addressed to husbands, the machine was envisioned to help their wives with bookkeeping and cooking.
smart_cities  smart_homes  gender  labor  domesticity  internet_of_things 
16 days ago
Color Goes Electric - Triple Canopy
A selection of well-known images used for compression or duplication testing. Clockwise from upper left: “The Cameraman,” a 256x256 grayscale compression-algorithm test image developed at MIT, whose Great Dome is visible in the background; “Lenna,” a compression-algorithm test image scanned from a 1972 issue of Playboy, featuring Swedish model Lena Söderberg; grayscale test image of a U-2 airplane covered with United States Air Force resolution targets from the University of Southern California Signal and Image Processing Institute; an Eastman Kodak “Shirley” image for testing the color balance of photo-printing machines; a “China Girl” or “leader lady” used to assess motion-picture prints, courtesy of the Northwest Chicago Film Society....

On a warm spring evening in early May, 1950, Edward Steichen, the director of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, opened an exhibition touted as a milestone event: the museum’s first exhibition devoted solely to color photography—titled, authoritatively, “Color Photography.”... chronology didn’t guide the exhibition: the physical layout was determined by image source (e.g., the military, the magazine) and display needs of various media, particularly the many color transparencies, which had to be lit from behind in darkened rooms....

More than a quarter-century after Steichen tentatively asked how the artist might employ color
photography, Eggleston’s reply caused a sensation—in fact, a furor. His saturated quotidian scenes—of suburban homes, painted ceilings, plastic bottles spread across a dirt road—looked rather like “Kodacolor snapshot[s],” as Janet Malcolm wrote in the New Yorker. Malcolm noted that color photography’s new status as an “advanced form” was particularly surprising given that color work had previously been “associated with photography’s most retrograde applications—advertising, fashion, National Geographic-type travel pictures, nature pictures”—the very categories Steichen had presented in his inaugural color show....

Critics lamented either a realism that seemed too automatic or a chromatic intensity that seemed too coarse. ...

The question of the relative vulgarity of the medium seems rather quaint, since theoretical discourses have shifted from concerns about photography’s vaunted “indexicality,” its purported objectivity, its visual codes, to
matters of identity construction, surveillance, representational politics, and forensics. Of course, one of the most typical contemporary experiences of color photography is that of an electronic, networked stream of images, in which any attachment to naturalism is unimportant. We have the tools to edit, alter, and disseminate our images with a push of the fingertip; the “filtered” state of so many social-media images now goes unremarked. The chromatic styles or moody palls of these looks are temporary effects, aesthetic skins that images can inhabit or shed....

The question of the relative vulgarity of the medium seems rather quaint, since theoretical discourses have shifted from concerns about photography’s vaunted “indexicality,” its purported objectivity, its visual codes, to
matters of identity construction, surveillance, representational politics, and forensics. Of course, one of the most typical contemporary experiences of color photography is that of an electronic, networked stream of images, in which any attachment to naturalism is unimportant. We have the tools to edit, alter, and disseminate our images with a push of the fingertip; the “filtered” state of so many social-media images now goes unremarked. The chromatic styles or moody palls of these looks are temporary effects, aesthetic skins that images can inhabit or shed....

Such looks in photography have always been constructed: “Vulgar,” “natural,” or “perfect” photographic color arises from the convergence of industry, science, and consumer preference. Kodak, for instance, “manipulates reality in a different way than Agfa,” the media philosopher Vilém Flusser points out in “How Should Photographs Be Deciphered?”....

But how were their “manipulations” engineered? Behind the pictures we see lies another class of pictures: those used to test how photographs will appear as they undergo processing, development, or duplication. As a category, these reference images are meant to encompass a majority of typical photographic scenarios: the portrait, the landscape, the still life; the aerial shot, the textured close-up, the resolution detail.
Some reference images have gained a sort of cult fame, particularly certain portraits—the China Girls on the leaders of motion pictures; the Shirleys of the print-processing lab; Lenna, a favorite of scientists testing compression-algorithms—not least for the uncomfortably normative ideals that they replicate: that anodyne smile, for instance, of the anonymous Caucasian female.. And the optical targets, color swatches, channel glitches, and stock genres that signify industrial image production have in turn been seized upon by artists to expose the medium’s technical seams, its apparatus—a gesture as old as the avant-garde itself. It’s
become a stock move to use stock images: Their genericness, and our attendant discomfort with the notion that experience or appearance can so readily be distilled into the “typical,” provides a ready-made index of societal codes; while the inclusion of the technical marks of production points to the status of images as commodities. A parallel effort in critical discourse is to nod toward the “production, circulation, and consumption” of images, a rhetorical trope that has itself, by now, become functionally stock....

Is there something more specific that standard reference images can tell us? What do they say, exactly, about how we want pictures to look? Whose preferences do they index, and when were those preferences lodged? If they work to deliver the images we want to see, how, in turn, do those images work on us?...

Eastman Kodak scene-library reference image, circa mid-1980s. To assemble the scene library, which began in 1975, photographers for Eastman Kodak Research Laboratories captured reference images on large format (4x5") film, which were then digitized using a high-resolution microdensitometer. The resulting data were processed for use as standard scenes for the digital simulation of photographic products in development. ...

The picture seems somewhat unreal because it is, because it depicts a picnic that never quite occurred, a picnic to represent all picnics; the sky is the ideal sky, the green grass the perfect stand-in for all lawns. Created for Eastman Kodak’s Research Laboratories, the photograph is part of the company’s “scene library,” a collection of reference images of
archetypal subjects, loaded with familiar subject matter and colors: an outdoor wedding portrait, a young girl at her birthday party, a touristic cityscape. Such images have been one of the chief means of evaluating the aesthetic merits of photographic products in development.
Kodak’s researchers began to assemble this library of reference photos in 1975, in the face of threats to its market dominance, to use in tests meant to discern the preferences of its consumers so that it could create the best, most pleasing new films (for amateurs and professionals alike) as quickly and cheaply as possible. To produce images for the library, research staff photographers would shoot a particular scene first with the subject alone and then with various calibration devices—such as color-bar cards and resolution graphics—visible, so as to create both naturalistic and technically informative versions of the same image. After processing the scene-library images in various ways, altering them to display particular qualities of color, contrast, subtlety of tone, and resolution, Kodak’s imaging scientists would generate sequences or pairs of the manipulated images and distribute them for opinion polling with photographers. A division at Eastman Kodak called Human Factors carefully devised questions that outside market-research firms would ask in their consumer interviews, queries like: Which of these photographs seems more representative to you? Which has the optimal color? Which of these images do you prefer?

...Bartleson found that test subjects consistently remembered the saturation of familiar colors with exaggerated intensity, or to be “more characteristic of the dominant chromatic attribute of the object in question.” In other words, “grass was more green, bricks more red.” Rather than increasing accuracy, our familiarity breeds a kind of mnemonic distortion.

...In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, debates about the maddeningly slippery nature of color perception were often superseded, in the sciences, by the more practical concern of industry: finding ways to consistently measure the color of products. Color had once been physically precious, a product of rare minerals, barks, roots, and invertebrates, but in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it had become a more widely available commodity, thanks to the advent of synthetic and chemical techniques. Textile dyers, paint manufacturers, printers, and ceramicists were equally consumed with the question of how to standardize their products, how to ensure that dyes and textiles, inks and books, would always look the same from batch to batch. Numerous models for mapping out combinations of hue, saturation, and brightness had already been proposed ...

To normalize color stimulus for computation, scientists needed a theoretical set of eyes, a “standard observer”—an idealized viewer, the result of mathematical averages, whose perception could stand for all human vision. ...Guild’s and Wright’s data entered the pantheon of standards as the CIE Standard Colorimetric Observer—the first mathematical definition of the responses of the human eye, born from … [more]
photography  color  exhibition_design  standards  infrastructure  testing  experimentation 
17 days ago
A Note on Standard Evaluation Materials - Triple Canopy
In the past century, countless organizations, operating beyond the bounds of any national government, have labored to construe a remarkable range of commercial products and human activities in terms of measurement. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, the International Property Measurement Standards Coalition, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers standardize screws and nails, concrete and plywood, chairs and the sizing of shoes. They standardize the second, ampere, kilogram, and candela; road signs and codes for the representation of human sexes; printed pages and coffins; the metrics that gauge environmental toxicity and economic productivity; and the “worldwide intermodal system” that governs container shipping; the compression of digital representations of sounds and images; the specifications for earth-moving machinery, parts for aircraft, and instruments for dentistry; the profile of colors and characteristics of color spaces; methods for encoding, accessing, storing, visualizing, describing, and archiving geospatial data....

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the standardization movement captivated industrialists, politicians, scientists, engineers, and utopian socialists such as Charles Fourier, Henri de Saint-Simon, and H. G. Wells alike. Some were attracted to the empowerment of men of science instead of parochial politicians, others to the ideals of efficiency and rationalization—not to mention the morals associated with precise measurement, which had come to define the engineering professions. (Adherence to “absolutely correct scientific standards” would serve as an antidote to the “looseness” that was resulting from rapid social and economic change, predicted United States Treasury Secretary Lyman Gage upon establishing the National Bureau of Standards in 1900.) Seventy years later, standardizing organizations proliferated as critics on the left and right assailed governments for being sclerotic, incompetent, beholden to elites and special interests. All hailed reforms that glorified performance indicators, auditing, the management of quality and risk; the responsibilities of states were handed over to corporations and so-called private authorities. The ISO established itself as an idyll of democratic decision-making: an arena in which diverse and sometimes opposing groups, represented by technical committees composed of experts, are on more or less equal footing and must rationally communicate with one another in order to solve problems in a way that serves the common good. ...

But no expert is neutral. Standard setters today are not so different from members of nineteenth-century societies of engineers, insofar as they share values and a worldview, no matter where they were born. And while conflicts we recognize as political—open debates about ideology and national interest—may be suppressed in Geneva, the triumph of one technical solution over another, whether for information security or graphic symbols for use in cars and trucks, has an uneven effect. There is no science to the development of standards, and no objective criteria with which to evaluate knowledge about standards—beyond gross domestic product. Nevertheless, by putting experts in charge, groups like the ISO can claim the mantle of science, and by mimicking the democratic process, they can claim to stand for openness and accountability....

It hadn’t occurred to me that the MP3 is one among thousands of standards that are products of aesthetic and political choices by technocrats and engineers, artifacts of infrastructures that shape not only how the world is represented but for whom. The sound of the MP3 was forged by so-called expert listeners (white, male, middle-class engineers) through tests that reflected their particular tastes and biases, even while purporting to employ a “universal” model of perception. In such cases, Sterne writes, “we directly confront the question of who listens for whom and with what effect....

Sterne advises the reader to pay attention to the infrastructures, formats, and arguments that make up our communication technologies, as such things are fundamental in molding (and establishing control over) our expressions. But he never really describes what the alternative might look like: a world in which there are as many file formats as ears, or in which standards result from democratic processes that account for differences between people and places, and the rhetoric of universality and realism is punctured by artisanal compression techniques and subaltern packet-switching?
However appealing such a scenario might be, I can’t help but remain somewhat enamored of these digital concoctions and the underlying technological systems, which so seamlessly reduce sensory phenomena into packages of code that can be highly mobile and pleasing to the senses, despite the inevitable erosion and omission of data. There is something revelatory about the innumerable scripts we follow each day, about interoperability, about the ever-widening constellations of rules, documents, engineers, and bureaucrats—the very procedural glue that holds us, and our humble objects, together....

This issue of Triple Canopy, Standard Evaluation Materials, treats standards as aesthetic artifacts, political instruments, technological protocols, and linguistic codes. The essays, stories, conversations, artworks, fictions, and poems that it contains ask how we might read and represent standards, denature or deploy the languages of the bureaucracies and technical systems that shape our lives.... But to understand standardization in this way, as representations that covertly make our world, might allow us to scrutinize, manipulate, appropriate, and deform what we had not previously been able to discern, much less decode. In describing standards, which seem at once alien and intimate, remarkably distant and undeniably present, we might change them from daunting and closed systems into generative structures. We might even usurp some of the power they wield, and begin to act on them rather than simply permit them to furtively act on us.
infrastructure  standards  protocols 
17 days ago
The language of the cockpit is technical, obscure – and irresistibly romantic | Aeon Essays
I like that it’s universal, nothing less than we’d expect from a realm of human endeavour that’s been such a symbol and a catalyst of this age of globalisation. I like that the language of the sky is so hidden, and yet it’s always being spoken. When I fly as a passenger, that language is what’s going on at the front – at the pointy end – of the same plane in which I’m doing the crossword or devouring reruns of 30 Rock. And when I’m sitting in the backyard with a cup of coffee and a book, it’s bouncing all around the cloudless blue above me, as it is at all hours in the skies above Honolulu and Cairo and Ulaanbaatar, above everywhere.

I like how different the language of the sky is from everyday English – indeed, we might give it its own name, Aeroese (though it’s also sometimes, and less aspirationally, called Aviation English). Above all, I love how Aeroese can somehow manage, in its technical, obscuring precision, to capture the high romance of flight – an aspect of my job, no matter how much I love it, that in the cockpit we rarely have reason to consider directly....

Another defining (and simplifying) feature of radio Aeroese is its small vocabulary. Indeed, in addition to callsigns and numbers, the words regularly used in everyday air-traffic communications probably amount to only a few dozen. Even these few words are subject to usage and pronunciation rules designed to correct the shortcomings of quotidian English.

For example, we’re instructed to pronounce three as ‘TREE’ and nine as ‘NINER’, and 25,000 as ‘two-five thousand’ (more specifically, ‘TOO FIFE TOUSAND’), not ‘twenty-five thousand’, because experience has shown that these modified pronunciations are less likely to be misunderstood. Or, when a controller knows you’re waiting to speak, they won’t say, ‘go ahead’, because that could indicate approval of something they didn’t hear you ask for. Instead they’ll say: ‘Pass your message.’...

If you ever have a chance to listen to air-traffic controllers, you might enjoy the five-letter waypoint names that they and pilots use to identify geographic positions in the sky. There are thousands of these, and their format reflects the familiar limitations of Aeroese. So each is designed to be pronounceable, at least once you get the hang of the format – such as ZAMAN, near Omaha; SUTKO, near Newfoundland; KOMOR, near the Senegal and Guinea-Bissau border. But also, in case there’s any ambiguity, these names are rapidly spellable using the phonetic alphabet – Alpha, Bravo, etc....

Many waypoint names are gibberish, but others are more colourful – DRAKE in the English Channel (for Sir Francis); BARBQ near Kansas City; WHALE in the Mediterranean, off Benghazi. When descending to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, fans of the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons will enjoy this sequence: ITAWT ITAWA PUDYE TTATT (followed by IDEED). The authorities in the US, more than most countries, have made a habit of writing five-letter distillations of history and culture onto the sky; as passengers never encounter them, this is for no reason other than that it might be fun for pilots to fly to and from them. And so it is.
language  flying  geography  atmosphere  clouds  codespace 
17 days ago
Big data's 'streetlight effect': where and how we look affects what we see
This “streetlight effect” is the tendency of researchers to study what is easy to study. I use this story in my course on Research Design and Ethnographic Methods to explain why so much research on disparities in educational outcomes is done in classrooms and not in students’ homes. Children are much easier to study at school than in their homes, even though many studies show that knowing what happens outside the classroom is important. Nevertheless, schools will continue to be the focus of most research because they generate big data and homes don’t.

The streetlight effect is one factor that prevents big data studies from being useful in the real world – especially studies analyzing easily available user-generated data from the Internet. Researchers assume that this data offers a window into reality. It doesn’t necessarily.

Based on the number of tweets following Hurricane Sandy, for example, it might seem as if the storm hit Manhattan the hardest, not the New Jersey shore. Another example: the since-retired Google Flu Trends, which in 2013 tracked online searches relating to flu symptoms to predict doctor visits, but gave estimates twice as high as reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without checking facts on the ground, researchers may fool themselves into thinking that their big data models accurately represent the world they aim to study....

The problem is similar to the “WEIRD” issue in many research studies. Harvard professor Joseph Henrich and colleagues have shown that findings based on research conducted with undergraduates at American universities – whom they describe as “some of the most psychologically unusual people on Earth” – apply only to that population and cannot be used to make any claims about other human populations, including other Americans. Unlike the typical research subject in psychology studies, they argue, most people in the world are not from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic societies, i.e., WEIRD.

Twitter users are also atypical compared with the rest of humanity, giving rise to what our postdoctoral researcher Sarah Laborde has dubbed the “WEIRDO” problem of data analytics: most people are not Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic and Online....

Understanding the differences between the vast majority of humanity and that small subset of people whose activities are captured in big data sets is critical to correct analysis of the data. Considering the context and meaning of data – not just the data itself – is a key feature of ethnographic research, argues Michael Agar, who has written extensively about how ethnographers come to understand the world.

What makes research ethnographic? It is not just the methods. It starts with fundamental assumptions about the world, the first and most important of which is that people see and experience the world in different ways, giving them different points of view. Second, these differences result from growing up and living in different social and cultural contexts. This is why WEIRD people are not like any other people on Earth....

For data analytics to be useful, it needs to be theory- or problem-driven, not simply driven by data that is easily available. It should be more like ethnographic research, with data analysts getting out of their labs and engaging with the world they aim to understand.
ethnography  research  methodology  big_data 
17 days ago
AlgorithmWatch | AlgorithmWatch is a non-profit initiative with the aim to consider processes algorithmic decision and classify that have a social relevance.
Thank you for your cooperation: In this table  we collect specific algorithms, but also topics where Algorithm Accountability meaning to come. Based on our ADM Manifesto we are looking for such algorithms, the citizens' rights and public concern immediately. We would appreciate if you help to fill this list. They will remain public and available to all. We will in a few weeks to evaluate the list and it develop possible steps and starting points for us.
algorithms  classification 
19 days ago
White Mountain [preview] on Vimeo
A 16mm experimental docu-fiction exploring the temporal intersection between geology, technology and cinema.
infrastructure  data_centers  geology  video 
19 days ago
About us | Archaeologies of Media and Technology Research group | University of Southampton
The Archaeologies of Media and Technology (AMT) Research Group has unique international expertise in media archaeology as well as image studies, cultural theory and critical practices and discourses of art and design. Because of the emphasis on media archaeology, the group is well placed for work with cultural heritage sector too; as advisors, research partners, and working directly on projects that help rethink technology as an object of our historical interest – and technology as the infrastructure in which cultural institutions work.
What is AMT?
Archaeology of media and technology refers in this sense then both to the historical links between art, science and technology and their elaborations in critical work and creative projects. We are interested in conditions of the contemporary: what sort of conceptual and material infrastructures are the effective conditions of contemporary cultural formations? What are the educational and collaborative forms that are best placed to critically unfold them? Where might they lead in the future?
media_archaeology  planetary 
20 days ago
Growing our Imagery Team, Charlie Loyd joins MapBox | Mapbox
Charlie’s Cloudless Atlas and intricately detailed data visualization work are incredible. This focus on developing imagery processing techniques to deliver cloud-free mosaics from open satellite imagery will result in MapBox Satellite being the most beautiful, cloud-free global imagery basemap available.
satellite_imagery  mapping 
20 days ago
Networking the Unseen: Furtherfield
Networking the Unseen proposes a radical rethinking of widely accepted stereotypes concerning the impact of networks on contemporary global cultures, digital art, the avant garde, and indigenous art-making. It tackles subjects ranging from digital colonialism and cultural marginalisation (or, conversely, diversity/
empowerment) within an increasingly connected, online world to universal concerns around cultural change as a result of technological migration. The exhibition extends our focus to the extremities of the global digital network. It subtly proposes ways to claim power back from centralising forces of control to use these tools for positive change; for intercultural exchange and empowerment for marginalised communities. ...

Phone booths have all but died out in urban environments, and yet this beautiful and nuanced work, created in the Western Desert region of rural Australia with the indigenous Martu communities, highlights the vital role that they continue to play at the edges of the network - where cell phone reception is often nonexistent, and landline phone connections in every house are an infrastructure expense that neither the locals nor the government is willing or able to carry.
networking  infrastructure  net_art  indigenous  phone_booth 
21 days ago
Libraries Teach Tech: Building Skills for a Digital World | Center for an Urban Future
The de Blasio administration is attempting to address this skills gap through its promising Tech Talent Pipeline initiative. In addition, a number of nonprofit and for-profit entities across the city–from Girls Who Code and Access Code to the Flatiron School–are providing scores of New Yorkers from underserved communities with the coding, programming, and web-development skills that so many employers now require.

But some of the most important efforts to boost digital skills are coming from an unlikely source: the city’s public libraries.

As this data brief shows, the city’s three public library systems served more than 158,000 people with technology training programs in 2015. This represents an astounding 81 percent increase from just three years ago, when the libraries served 87,000 people.

Beyond simply serving tens of thousands of New Yorkers, the libraries are reaching many who aren’t being served by other digital training initiatives. One of the libraries’ advantages is that, with 217 branches, the systems have a physical presence in nearly every community throughout the five boroughs.
libraries  digital_literacy  education 
21 days ago
New York Above 800 Feet - The New York Times
The highest buildings raise you above the mess and chaos of life at street level; they also raise you into something else. The sky may seem like an empty place, just as we once thought the deep ocean to be a lifeless void. But like the ocean, this is a vast habitat full of life — bats and birds, flying insects, spiders, windblown seeds, microbes, drifting spores. The more I stare at the city across miles of dusty, uplit air, the more I begin to think of these supertall buildings as machines that work like deep-sea submersibles, transporting us to inaccessible realms we cannot otherwise explore. Inside them, the air is calm and clean and temperate. Outside is a tumultuous world teeming with unexpected biological abundance, and we are standing in its midst....

The city lies on the Atlantic flyway, the route used by hundreds of millions of birds to fly north every spring to their breeding grounds and back again in the fall. Most small songbirds tend to travel between 3,000 and 4,000 feet from the ground, but they vary their altitude depending on the weather. Larger birds fly higher, and some, like shorebirds, may well pass over the city at 10,000 to 12,000 feet. Up here we’ll be able to see only a fraction of what is moving past us: Even the tallest buildings dip into only the shallows of the sky....

Farnsworth pulls out a smartphone. Unlike everyone else holding screens up here, he’s looking at radar images from Fort Dix, in New Jersey, part of a National Weather Service radar network that provides near-continuous coverage of airspace over the continental U.S.A. “It’s definitely a heavy migration night tonight,” he says. “When you see those kinds of patterns on radar, in particular, those greens,” he explains, “you’re talking about 1,000 to 2,000 birds per cubic mile potentially, which is almost as dense as it gets. So it’s a big night.” After days of bad weather for birds wanting to fly north, with low cloud and winds in the wrong direction, a bottleneck of migrants built up, and now the sky is full of them. I watch the pixellation blossom on the animated radar map, a blue-and-green dendritic flower billowing out over the whole East Coast. “This is biological stuff that’s up in the atmosphere,” Farnsworth says, pointing one finger to the screen. “It’s all biology.”

Meteorologists have long known that you can detect animal life by radar. Just after World War II, British radar scientists and Royal Air Force technicians puzzled over mysterious plots and patterns that appeared on their screens. They knew they weren’t aircraft and christened them “angels” before finally concluding that they were flocks of moving birds. “That was their contamination, right?” Farnsworth says of radar meteorologists. “They wanted to filter all that stuff out. Now the biologists want to do the reverse.” Farnsworth is one pioneer of a new multidisciplinary science, fit for an era in which weather radar has become so sensitive it can detect a single bumblebee over 30 miles away. It’s called aeroecology, and it uses sophisticated remote-sensing technologies like radar, acoustics and tracking devices to study ecological patterns and relationships in the skies. “The whole notion of the aerosphere and airspace as habitat is not something that has come into the collective psyche until recently,” Farnsworth says. And this new science is helping us understand how climate change, skyscrapers, wind turbines, light pollution and aviation affect the creatures that live and move above us....

New York is among the brightest cities in the world after Las Vegas, only one node in a flood of artificial illumination that runs from Boston down to Washington. We cherish our cities for their appearance at night, but it takes a terrible toll on migrating songbirds: You can find them dead or exhausted at the foot of high-rise buildings all over America. Disoriented by light and reflections on glass, they crash into obstacles, fly into windows, spiral down to the ground. More than 100,000 die each year in New York City alone.
birds  altitude  urban_ecologies  radar  flight  air 
21 days ago
It's Nice That | Pentagram's Naresh Ramchandani explores eight words and their significance
Pentagram partner Naresh Ramchandani is the agency’s official ‘word guy’ and its first ever communications and advertising partner. Having started out as a copywriter, co-founded Karmarama, and with a host of notable campaigns to his name. First presented at Design Indaba at the start of the year, then at Nicer Tuesdays in May, below is his essay, about the power of words, and some of his favourites.
dictionary  textual_form  text_art  language 
22 days ago
Climate Kit
Climate Kit is a collection and group exhibition of methods of field work in the Anthropocene, combining the practices of art and science. The project is taking place both digitally and on-the-ground through a series of events and exhibitions.

Digitally, it is a collection of tools and stories of fieldwork in the Anthropocene (practical, personal, and speculative). We are currently collecting tools used for climate fieldwork from scientists, artists, designers and citizens. You can add your tools and stories to the collection here!

On-the-ground, these tools will be compiled into a series of Climate Kits to explore the changing relationship between design and climate. Working with science and design communities, the Kits will be enacted and exhibited, along with a catalog of the full tool collection, this July in New Zealand.
tools  kit  methodology  anthropocene 
22 days ago
Stephanie Bailey on Cédric Maridet - / in print
An LED placed in the vessel’s interior illuminated the flakes; its cold glow called to mind the light of the Arctic Circle. Indeed, the entire exhibition was framed by the artist’s travels to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, where he visited the abandoned Russian mining town of Pyramiden, the Ny-Ålesund research base, and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The seed vault, a storage facility that was built inside a mountain and houses the world’s largest and most diverse collection of seeds, is represented in a photographic series called “Interventions,” 2014. In one image, Maridet projected the words WE THOUGHT IT WOULD NOT MATTER onto the vault’s entryway, a Brutalist concrete wall that juts out of the barren landscape. In another, texts projected onto a long wooden hut read TO PRODUCE IS A PASSION and TO CONSUME IS A TASTE. Some of these phrases were invented, but others were borrowed from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” or The Underground Man, a nineteenth-century postapocalyptic novella by Gabriel Tarde, a French sociologist who rejected grand theories of society in favor of explaining societal patterns through “the accumulation of elementary actions.” In other words, he understood “the large by the small, the big by the detail.”
archive_art  exploration  archives 
22 days ago
The Cold Coast Archive is a joint project between artists Annesofie Norn, Signe Lidén and Steve Rowell, using the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV) as a focal point.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located on the outskirts of the remote, arctic town of Longyearbyen, on the island of Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between the North Pole and Norway. It is also known as the “Doomsday Vault”. A biological safety deposit box, the SGSV has been compared to Noah’s Ark, and a back-up hard drive. The seeds stored here are duplicate samples held in seed banks worldwide -- they provide insurance against extinction in the case of large scale regional or global catastrophes. The facility is about 130 meters above sea level and has been tunnelled 120 meters into the mountain, in a stable geologic formation. The location is built to be so far below ground that it guarantees stable permafrost and is high enough above sea level to secure the facility against any rise in sea level as a result of global warming, nuclear attack, and earth quakes.
The Cold Coast Archive project investigates and explores human beings’ efforts to preserve civilization and defy the inevitability of its demise. It investigates Svalbards Global Seed Vaults practical, political, historical and symbolic structure, its arctic location, as well as its infrastructure and cultural nuances expressed in the local environment.
The wide range of material collected is meant to form an archieve of human perception of time between the present and eternity.
Eternity...this intangible future often leads to ideas of a larger divine plan or might well feed a desire for quick profit and short term results, accelerated by technology and market-driven economies.There is a gap between the present and eternity, a distance we often call "future generations" or "our children and grandchildren" in an attempt to relate to the distant future. It is the distance between an intense present, with major political, social and climatic challenges and an elusive future hiding beyond the horizon of our understanding that The Cold Coast Archive is relating to.
archive_art  seeds  agriculture 
22 days ago
PERSONAE OF INTEREST: by Lynn Hershman Leeson, Juliana Huxtable - / in print
for example, the Pima Indians of Arizona have the highest rate of type 2 diabetes ever recorded. Well, if you’re looking at the molecular genetics, you may conclude that these patterns that you see in the Pima and their DNA would explain their diabetes rates. But when the Pima had a healthy traditional diet, which they did until the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, they had almost no recorded diabetes. Now, again, if you’re working in molecular genetics and you get a grant to study diabetes among the Pima, you’re going to look at their DNA, not their history. And you can use the results of your study to sell them drugs for diabetes.

Today, research shows that if your ancestors went through a trauma, like a famine, that translates as a kind of genetic scar. And that scar from the trauma is passed down to all your progeny. I understand that they can correct this trauma scar in the embryo stage. In a sense, they could erase the trauma before the birth of the baby, so the child does not have to go through life taking corrective drugs to neutralize the damage....

There’s this impulse to reduce everything to a set of genes—to say that these genes produce these phenotypes, which collectively represent an identity. There’s this push toward a biological, hormonal, physical idea of what identity is. In some ways, I think that constitutes a certain liberation from older forms of racial or gender essentialism, because it makes things a bit more flexible. But it’s also scary. If you’re dealing with questions of transracial or transgender identity, you’re in murky territory. I think we’re still in the midst of a difficult conversation about how the physical matrix points that represent certain identities intersect with conditioning, experience, culture—all these other factors....

the Internet represented, for me, the ultimate library. I found this world online of queer history and precolonial black history—Encyclopedia Africana, for instance. You mentioned the connections between identity and history—these sites illuminated those connections for me. I felt like I had found my library. This was before Wikipedia became a monolith, a reference monopoly. When that happened, a lot of alternative reference works and information sources disappeared. What I didn’t realize was that this archive was totally ephemeral....

My current project, The Infinity Engine [2011–], involves a scanning booth that accesses viewers via DNA readings, which I think is going to be the standard way of determining individual genealogy and histories in about ten years. The project was developed as a way of using facial recognition to reverse engineer a person’s genetic origins. I worked on it with a (then) NASA scientist, Josiah Zayner, and several other programmers, and we premiered it in my retrospective, “Civic Radar,” at ZKM [Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2014–15]. Peter Weibel and Andreas Beitin and the entire ZKM staff valiantly committed to fully actualizing this piece. At some point, I hope to install it somewhere in New York. There were also rooms at ZKM devoted to bioprinting, mutation, genetic transplants, ethical conundrums. . . . We even had a bioprinted nose and mutant GMO fish. ZKM declared itself a science lab to accommodate all this.
archives  identity  performance  genetics  code 
22 days ago
THE WALL: THE SAN DIEGO–TIJUANA BORDER by Teddy Cruz, Fonna Forman - / in print
For too long, our creative fields have been smoothly aligned with the hegemonic power of neoliberalism, carrying out an apolitical project of beautification that suppresses difference and hides the conflicts that are at the basis of today’s urban inequality. The glaringly asymmetrical development that now characterizes cities across the globe is the ultimate physical manifestation of neoliberalism, dividing the contemporary metropolis into enclaves of megawealth and rings of poverty surrounding them. Yet we have become paralyzed, silently witnessing rather than engaging the spread of urban informality, social and economic disparity, environmental degradation, crumbling housing stock and public infrastructure, and declining civic participation. Today, we must expose rather than mask the institutional mechanisms driving uneven urban development. Such a revelation requires a corresponding expansion of our understanding of the scope of architecture itself—can we design human rights, for example? Can social justice become an architectural protocol? In other words, the most important materials with which architects must learn to work are not steel and concrete but critical knowledge of the underlying conditions that produce today’s urban crises....

Citizenship culture is a provocative idea in a border region like ours, where citizenship is typically understood as a means of enforcing division. Can we imagine it in a more complicated way that transcends the identitarian politics of the nation-state? Can the border region that divides two major cities in fact become a laboratory for cultivating a new citizenship culture, one grounded in a shared recognition that all human beings, regardless of race or legal nationality, deserve equal respect and dignity? Thinking about citizenship as a cultural rather than a legal concept, one that unifies rather than divides, demands that we untether identity from territory and conceive of ourselves as part of something larger and more inclusive than merely our local politics or even our nationality....

We imagined the survey as a kind of “unwalling” protocol, a way of revealing the interpenetration and interdependence of these two cities. Indeed, the survey, completed in 2015, powerfully demonstrated that the region is defined by the informal flows that move back and forth across the border: economic, environmental, social, ethical. ...

The strange juxtaposition of seeping pollution and the stamping of passports inside this liminal space amplified the contradictions between natural and national security while highlighting the artificial construction of citizenship. And the experience of these contradictions foregrounded another, deeper paradox: The construction of border walls for the sake of security is only exacerbating insecurity, as intractable logics of division threaten to produce future environmental and socioeconomic degradation. By enabling a physical passage across this odd section of the binational territory, our performance sought to expose the dramatic collision between informal urbanization, militarization, and environmental zones.
walls  borders  citizenship  urban_design 
22 days ago
Alternative Furniture Design: The Study Cube - Core77
The phone-booth-like enclosure features a hinged door with a window, a desk surface that's tiny by American standards but par for the course in space-tight Korea, overhead shelving, and brightness-adjustable LED lighting.
intellectual_furnishings  furniture 
22 days ago
The Architectural League of New York | Rahul Mehrotra: Current Work
In his lecture, “Working in Mumbai,” Mehrotra breaks his work into two scales: his research on social, political, and design systems at the regional and global levels, and his architectural work at the local scale, in which he describes the design and construction processes of three main projects throughout India. Mehrotra also discusses the effect of temporal landscapes in India, including the massive Kumbh Mela pilgrimage to the Ganges River every 12 years.

Mehrotra discusses:

Research on the ephemeral city and the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage in India
House of a Filmmaker, Alibag, India
KMC Corporate Office, Hyderabad, India
Campus for Magic Bus, Panvel, India
Improved sanitation facilities in an Indian slum
Hathigaon (or elephant village), Jaipur, India
informal_urbanism  informal_infrastructure  infrastructure  India 
22 days ago
Harvard Design Magazine: Suspunk: Thinking with Suspicious Packages
Objects in space must have an author or an owner who speaks for them, lest they leave interpretation up to undue speculation. Unknowability is insecurity.1 However, the alarmist idea of the “suspicious package” may unlock a different politics of urban life, one premised on sensuous materialism rather than security theater...

The radical negation of the suspack flips a city’s expectations. In a city, matter must behave in certain ways. It must show up at given times, and stay in its place when it is not needed. Matter is expected to function according to the business-dictated schedules and the temporal frames of the urban. But the suspack defies the just-in-time expectations of life in the city (e.g., Amazon Prime). The material aberration and misfit location of the suspack charges it with volatile political possibilities that can alter urban conscience. Put a different way: if the city has a political need for the suspicion of packages, the package in turn might have no use for the city....

The suspack actually performs the urban promises of the tactical—and without even trying. The suspack stores in its reserves the latency of urban life that fear keeps at bay....

But without the suspack chase, like a Benny Hill skit, the liberal urban order would be unthinkable. The many formulations of tactical, informal, spontaneous, and otherwise neoliberal urbanisms could not exist without the persecution of the suspicious. Without the shock troops and their specialized anti-suspack technologies, tactical urbanism would not be viable for the neoliberal city. It would have no uniqueness and no separate expertise to speak of. For a fleeting moment, the suspack reveals the totalitarian spirit costumed, for example, as MoMA PS1: Young Architects’ installations....

Imagine what would happen if cities created a Richard Florida-like SusPack Index; if cities celebrated, rather than feared, the suspack? What if the SusPack Index identified the excitement of desirable creative cities according to their frequency of suspicious package reports? ...

The suspack insinuates a relationship between humans and materials that neither relies on nor rejects mastery or detail. It contains material significations that remain secret, impenetrable to the gaze that scrutinizes with suspicion. Suspacks imply that design can be uncertain and unfinished, hovering with changing conditions of possibility. Furthermore, suspacks have a politics of cohabitation in which material properties are emergent, rather than determined by judicial fiat.
things  security  containers  tactical_urbanism 
22 days ago
Algorithms: The Future That Already Happened
...In a sense, you’re making these recommendations yourself. Machine-learning algorithms monitor information about what you do, find patterns in that data, and make informed guesses about what you want to do next. Without you, there’s no data, and there’s nothing for machine learning to learn. But when you provide your data, and when the guesses are correct, machine learning operates invisibly, leaving you to experience life as an endless stream of tiny, satisfying surprises....

...Domingos explains that we are close to creating a single, universal learning algorithm that can discover all knowledge, if given enough data. And he should know. In a research field dominated by competition, Domingos has long championed a synthetic approach to machine learning: take working components from competing solutions, find a clever way to connect them, then use the resulting algorithm to solve bigger and harder problems. The algorithms are good enough, or soon will be....

What is to be done? Domingos’s answer is, approximately, learn more about machine learning. The Master Algorithm insists on a politics of data in which hypervigilant data citizens actively manipulate the algorithms that might otherwise constrain them. Since machine learning depends on data, Domingos argues, “your job in a world of intelligent machines is to keep making sure they do what you want, both at the input (setting the goals) and at the output (checking that you got what you asked for).”

This ideal of an informed, active citizen probably sounds familiar. It’s been shopped around a long time, under names like “personal responsibility.” But this ideal is not reality. In reality, we mostly don’t want to know about complex, technical, and consequential processes at all, much less do anything about them... For those in power, machine learning offers all of the benefits of human knowledge without the attendant dangers of organized human resistance. The Master Algorithm describes a world in which individuals can be managed faster than they can respond.
machine_learning  algorithms  automation 
26 days ago
Mesoamerican manuscripts: new scientific approaches and interpretations on Livestream
This conference brings together an outstanding panel of scholars and experts in Mesoamerican studies. They will be sharing their knowledge and recent findings on the making and historical significance of the Bodleian's and other early, pictorial Mesoamerican manuscripts, situating them in the context of the pre-Columbian and colonial societies that produced them, describing the world they depict, and reflecting upon their meaning in contemporary Mexico and beyond.
manuscripts  mesoamerica  writing  media_history  media_archaeology  archaeology 
27 days ago
Omaha’s newest library has abandoned the book, prefers laser cutters and 3D printing » MobyLives
What are libraries for? Apparently, they’re tool storage facilities where people can also be at work. At least, that seems to be the understanding of Rebecca Stavick, executive director of Omaha, Nebraska’s Do Space, a new “community technology library.” The privately-funded facility is housed in a drab concrete block that used to be a Borders (ouch!) and provides free community access to mega-fast internet, computers, 3D printers, and a whole bunch of otherwise very expensive design software, like AutoCAD, Sketchup, and Sigil.

What doesn’t it have? Books. Yep, there is nary a book in the whole place, because books are dusty and smell like the past and they can’t 3D print drones — forget ’em! Do Space is all about the miraculously productive and infinitely creative Elysian fields of the future....

“I’ve always thought of libraries as places full of tools. Books are tools, scrolls are tools, computers are tools,” she says. “This vision of bringing technology to everyone in the community, it just gets people very excited.”

It’s not unfair to think of books as “tools” in the sense that the form of the book is a technology well-adapted to the needs of the archivist, the novelist, the researcher, and the reader. But it seems like a bit of a leap to go from “books are tools” to “anything with a tool in it is a library.”

While Do Space provides e-readers and and is hoping to partner with the actual Omaha library system to make their full range of e-books available, there seems to be very little overlap in presentation or function between a traditional library and this hybrid-maker-space....

Do Space is—by design—fundamentally less open, its aims decidedly more businesslike:

[Do Space’s] computing power also makes it a launchpad for entrepreneurs.

“We know people run businesses out of this building, and we’re OK with that,” Morris says....

This overbearing emphasis on production and creation seems light-years removed from the slow, contemplative, intellectual spirit of the traditional library. Which is not to say that Stavrick and Do Space aren’t providing their community a much-needed service. But should we be so eager to make the library an open office? Do we have to conflate economic productivity with intellectual accessibility? Should a single civic institution be responsible for both?
libraries  makerspaces  making 
27 days ago
Poem on a University Credit Card Training Session — The Billfold
There are so many budget codes in the world,
And they help us to make sense of existence.
Here are some of the budget codes, these beauteous numbers.
Please remember that sales tax is not broken out for alcohol
Because alcohol is bad, and you should not drink it when you travel,
textual_form  bureaucracy  aesthetics_of_administration  lists  software 
27 days ago
Listening to Machines | Sonic Skills
This project examined how engineers and mechanics listen to sounds of machines. The two case studies encompassed automobile repair and paper production. The project used archival sources and oral history interviews to unravel the listening practices at the shop floor.


The sounds of paper machines and car engines contain important information on their technical state. Engineers and mechanics listen to these sounds to check the proper working of the machinery – a practice we call monitory listening. Once they notice a significant sound that might indicate a technical fault, engineers and mechanics listen in to diagnose the problem – a practice we call diagnostic listening. The project investigated how engineers and mechanics learn and practice these different modes of listening. It further analysed the role listening plays in the self-conception of engineers and mechanics as knowledgeable experts.
listening  sound_studies  sonic_archaeology  paper  maintenance 
28 days ago
Examining the Accidental Life
By definition, off-season means most humans don’t like these places during these times. Most waterfront businesses are closed. There are no peak-season activities on offer. You’re out on a mostly empty, slightly chilly, grey, and cloudy beach. It’s a satisfyingly atemporal environment.

Something about such outings deeply relaxes me. And after years of doing such trips, I think I am beginning to understand why. I think it is because my natural home state is being peacefully lost. Going to a place that, temporarily, doesn’t know what to do with itself,  is one good way to be at peace with being lost. An environment that doesn’t know what to do with itself, and is in no particular hurry to find out, is an an environment that doesn’t know what to do with you.
navigation  being_lost  nonplace 
29 days ago
Samsung's building the first national network dedicated to smart cities | The Verge
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Samsung Electronics and SK Telecom just announced plans to build a nationwide network in South Korea to connect the intelligent devices required for the smart cities of the future. It’s hailing the new LoRaWAN-based network as the world’s first for commercial use (although KPN in The Netherlands says it will also have a nationwide network available by June, and Swisscom is deploying its national network this year as well). These are in addition to several community-based networks already taking root around the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

freethought is a collective formed in 2011 by Irit Rogoff, Stefano Harney, Adrian Heathfield, Massimiliano Mollona, Louis Moreno and Nora Sternfeld.
infrastructure  affect  infrastructural_literacy 
5 weeks ago
Drone Form: Word and Image at the End of Empire | e-flux
I’ve so far tracked drone content, not drone form, and it’s important that the particularities of this new delivery system for sovereign violence are legible not just as compensatory masculinity but as dilemmas of narrative point of view. Despite conventional associations of drone technology with “god’s eye” surveillance, none of these novels unfolds in a third person omniscient voice (think of Dickens’s Shadow from Household Words, “the omnipresent, intangible creature … which may get into any place,”29 or the “far-reaching visions” of George Eliot’s narrator in Adam Bede). Rather, they use third person limited point of view, following thriller convention by heading sections with dates and named locales (Langley, Creech, Kandahar)—a “meanwhile” effect that works acrobatically to negotiate the constitutive spatial caesura, the impermeable separation between there and here, on which drone war is predicated. Only Fesperman’s novel gives this crosscutting a rest, but its comparative stillness follows from its primary interest in domestic surveillance: so Nevada, Maryland, and New Hampshire, rather than (as in Maden) Yemen, “Gulf of Mexico,” and “On board the Pearce Systems HondaJet.”
media_literature  drones 
6 weeks ago
Could Reading Be Looking? | e-flux
If the museum wants its wall text to be as transparent as possible, the commercial gallery simply wants it to be: wall text is the gallery’s object of desire. This is why galleries have disposed of it entirely and do not produce it themselves. Collect wisely and wall text is your reward. Buy this and someday your name, too, might appear within the medium of record, just below a description of your triumphant taste! Hence the central role played by the gallery press release, which, unlike a wall text, exists less to edify an existing value than to delineate the future significance of what is present somewhere nearby. The exuberant language of these releases is a performance of wall text, distilling its social-historical logic by way of an exaggerated and aggressive imitation.
textual_form  exhibition_design  museums 
6 weeks ago
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