Archives of Inconvenience: Terms of Media II Keynote, 2015-10-08
The easy way to say this is to take an inclusive shortcut and assert that archives theory is one of many subsets of media theory. But we could discuss that for years, and there's probably a case to be made that it's actually the other way around. ...

Archives set terms and limits for scholarship, especially digital scholarship, even when scholars don't directly reference them. And they also set some of the terms, or collaborate tacitly in setting terms, for history as a publicly practiced and publicly received enterprise. We'll return to this. And in an era when the pace of personal media production is wildly accelerating, we're starting to recognize that it's hard to erect walls between our personal digital workspaces and the custodians- in-charge of our digital production....

we, as a community of scholars, don't think very imaginatively about archives. We think of archives as somewhat glorified warehouses, as service organizations, and we outsource the maintenance of our research base to workers whom we insufficiently respect. Unfortunately, I can't credit most archivists with more imagination. So it's no less urgent to intervene in the flow of archival theory than it is in media theory. The divide between people who think about archives and people who work in them is striking and unproductive. ...

I'm fascinated by the imprecision that exists between "archives," which most archivists define as places of collecting, preservation, access and archival labor, and "the archive," which I consider an umbrella term for conceptual, philosophical, artistic, literary, historical, or analytical constructs centered around archives and/or archival process.... An unstable amalgam of the unconscious and quotidian, the "archive" has become an undemanding construct. It serves the critical disciplines as they interact with history and memory without necessarily requiring sharp definition. You might think of the "archive" rendering as a screen onto which traces of theory flash for long moments before fading. For artists, writers and theorists, "the archive" is terra nullius, open for unchallenged occupation.... "The archive" invites flirtation; the "archives," on the other hand, could not be more demanding. Though their workplaces may seem quiet and their workflows pretend to appear apolitical, archives overflow with contention. To collect is to commit to the survival of certain records over others; to arrange and describe is often to enclose; to preserve is to resist power, violence and constraint; to proffer access is to invite misunderstanding and aggression. And yet "archives" yearn for praxis; even menial archival labor is practice in search of theory... Could we try to draw connections between academic, artistic and archival labor? And could we try to link the conceptual umbrella we call "the archive" with the more quotidian work of "the archives"? Could we daylight archival theory? There is little engagement with archives as working entities; reflection and critique is typically second-order, once- removed, focusing on the construct rather than the workplace. We might listen harder to the people who perform archival labor and begin to think of it as cultural work or research rather than simply wage labor. Few have considered the politics of archival workflow. ...

Here are a few utopian archival propositions: A storage and delivery infrastructure for evidence and memory that is as reliable as city water or gravity-propelled Roman sewage systems and scalable and flexible enough to remember or forget as needed... A data corpus that surrounds us like air, manifesting itself through our sensorium and the tools with which we augment our bodies; or alternatively a mycelial network that feeds on data to propagate and spread... A locus (or loci) of preservation of information and ideas capable of collecting both the canonical and the quotidian, hegemonic and oppositional, personal and institutional... A fully permeable repository that supports a spectrum of access from casual inquiry to deep touching... An agnostic system that dissolves formalistic distinctions between physical and digital materials...

...physical and digital materials each had different jobs to do. It was pointless to think about opposing analog to digital, unless you were talking about obvious attributes like weight, physical bulk, and dependence upon electron flow... In my work with our library and my film archives I've come to realize that the turn to digital revalidates the analog. I make digital films that play before audiences who talk while the film runs. I thought this was radical, until I realized I was actually channeling the Elizabethan theater whose front pit was filled with loud and boisterous groundlings. Hybridized analog and digital.... Physical objects are being disposed of and destroyed at an accelerated rate (which is one reason why we've been able to collect so much interesting stuff for our library). It's now possible to ask librarians and archivists a highly impertinent question: do physical objects still have the right to exist? For some media, like newspapers, journals and videotape, this has already been settled in the negative. Shelves are emptier and stacks gone in many libraries. I'm not mourning this, as I've come to believe that loss is formative. We pursue research precisely because we perceive gaps in the record, or because we come to recognize that the powerful have suppressed evidence about the powerless...

the attributes that distinguish the physical are exactly what we should be preserving, and they are a pain. Physical objects, no matter how many we discard, are incredibly persistent. And their persistence is inconvenient. They're the table scraps, the leftovers of digitization, and there aren't enough dogs around the table to gobble them down. We are basing entire new phenomenological and philosophical agendas (to say nothing of how we configure scholarship) on a single iteration of technology, and we have to engage physical materials in combat to make room for apparent digital abundance....

Digitality is inconvenient in a different way. Despite its apparent victory over physical media, digitality is fragile. It requires a compliant social order, the accommodation of governments, and the steady availability of energy. It is not a monolith; the Chinese digital world works differently than the North American. And its corporate structures and business models are experimental....

THE CONSORTIUM FOR SLOWER INTERNET Slower Internet is about more than speed. The Consortium for Slower Internet pursues projects that promote the following principles. DURATIONDURATION There is no inherent concern with information that is transmitted and distributed with great speed, but Slower Internet suggests that information be consumed at a more contemplative pace. If information is to be a central part of our lives, Slower Internet is interested in finding ways to live with it on more human time scales; news, facts, updates, etc should be absorbed slowly and given time for consideration. ...

DEFAMILIARIZATION The information delivered by Fast Internet is the white bread of data: predictable, lifeless, sanitized for mass appeal. Slow Internet delivers content in unexpected formats and spaces. The practice of defamiliarization encourages users to scrutinize their role and participation in a given system. Seamless experiences are suspect. ...

UTONOMY Fast Internet dazzles with maximum features at minimum price, but it often does so at the expense of user autonomy. Increasingly, users are encouraged to sacrifice their rights to own material they produce with a given system when services are rendered free of charge. Slower Internet respects user autonomy by giving creators control and ownership over their data. Charging reasonable fees for a service is always preferable to spying on customers and appropriating their data to serve advertisements. ...

DIVERGENCE Computers have long been universal machines, able to perform any calculation regardless of content. A Slower Internet, however, requires that dissimilar tasks occur in a diversity of spaces on a multitude of devices. Living with information does not mean that we have to give any type of machine a monopoly over our attention. Slower Internet is a process of cultivating a garden of machines that fit localized, individual desires. ...

Our newly ex-Librarian of Congress, James Billington, liked to say: "Stories unite people, theories divide them." It's funny, I always wanted the opposite to be true. Like Brecht and his epic theater, I placed high priority on dividing the audience, and of course I hoped the world would unite around certain theories. And I am absolutely unconvinced of the centrality and absolute value of storytelling.... We cannot narrate media archaeologies in this manner. Nor can we tell every story well. I find the evidence itself to be what's most interesting. Most of what we see drawn from archives is overtold, encrusted with narrative. The poet and teacher Barrett Watten writes of narrative as malware, malware infecting his words as well as his machine. I want to find a place for foregrounding the record itself with relatively little "storytelling." In other words, seek to encourage new kinds of negotiation between the document and its users, and let a more-or-less contextualized, or even decontextualized document find its own path. This could mean trusting evidence over interpretation. Evidence is its own narrative; storytelling is a special interest....

Archives could push back against the terms that restrain publicly practiced and received histories. To do this doesn't just mean foregrounding underrepresented narratives and records that have been suppressed by force and violence, but actively pushing out records that represent anomalies, that document personalities, cultures and technologies that don't fit into received timelines. Home movies exemplify this kind of record in the way that they can be taken to … [more]
archives  media_theory  preservation  labor  analog  digitization  temporality  narrative  media_archaeology  search  inconvenience 
21 hours ago
John Baldessari's Classroom Assignments to Help Students Create Good (and Certainly "Not Boring") Art, 1970 | Open Culture
Looking back at his class assignments, which you can see here, here, and here, it’s like seeing the seeds of ideas that were to be turned into whole careers by the likes of Cindy Sherman, Wayne White, Komar & Melamid, and others.

Here’s a selection of favorites:

One person copies or makes up random captions. Another person takes photos. Match photos to captions.
Defenestrate objects. Photo them in mid-air.
Photograph backs of things, underneaths of things, extreme foreshortenings, uncharacteristic views. Or trace them.
Repaired or patched art. Recycled. Find something broken and discarded. Perhaps in a thrift store. Mend it.
Imitate Baldessari in actions and speech.
Punishment: Write “I will not make any more art” / “I will not make any more boring art” / “I will make good art” (or something similar) 1000 times on wall. (Apparently, Baldessari punished himself.)
Some of these assignments are intentionally silly. Some could produce good work. But all are meant to wake the artist up to the possibilities of the form.
teaching  pedagogy  art_assignment  UMS 
2 days ago
The City is Not a Lab | ARPA Journal
In most academic fields, laboratories are controlled environments for experimental research. They allow certain conditions to be held constant while others are intentionally manipulated through calibrated control mechanisms, ultimately to offer the unfettered opportunity for reactions to occur in a way that also allows precise measurement. Such environments are specifically designed to eliminate the presence of confounding variables and to mitigate the effects of bias, as well as other internal and external validity concerns. They produce conditions for a specific form of research that rarely produces, let alone measures, externalities. By this definition, the lab is both a spatial and methodological construct, comprised of environmental enclosures at multiple scales and a set of stochastic means by which to model and measure isolated conditions....

The city is not a model of a thing, but the thing itself. As base and reductive as it seems, this is a crucial distinction for applied research on urban systems conducted within and upon the city. It is not merely a question of nomenclature, but one with increasingly profound effects on the meaning of our findings, the modes of research design, and the social products of research when applied. Not only does the city fail to produce the necessary conditions for controlled inquiry, it also produces the opposite in abundance. Cities are dynamic spaces. Their control mechanisms are not calibrated against absolute baseline values; they are modulations in complex systems yielding both relative and relational results. Researching urban systems is itself a study in bias, operational confounding, variable interdependence, and four-dimensional hyperspecificity, to such an extent that typically conceived validity concerns are rendered moot and generalizability is not only imprudent, but often downright impossible....

As techniques for urban information sensing, creation, collection, storage, and sharing continue to proliferate, we are often confronted with the hope that more datadata

related tag:
big data may help flesh out our models such that they come to represent (rather than abstract) the city itself. While the promise is alluring, “more information” is not synonymous with “more informed.” Instead, it is quite likely that more data without better methods will exacerbate our analytical shortcomings and ameliorate only the research community’s anxieties about what we simply do not know. The ethical implications of this are twofold: (1) the danger of false knowledge claims, and (2) the likelihood of very real and very human unforeseen effects of the research when actively applied to urban contexts.
urban_research  urban_planning  laboratories  methodology  big_data 
2 days ago
The spooky world of the 'numbers stations'
Times have changed and technology has evolved, but there's evidence that this old-fashioned seeming method of communication might still be used. Shortwave numbers stations might seem low-tech but they probably remain the best option for transmitting information to agents in the field, some espionage experts suggest.
"Nobody has found a more convenient and expedient way of communicating with an agent," says Rupert Allason, an author specialising in espionage issues and writing under the pen name Nigel West.
"Their sole purpose is for intelligence agencies to communicate with their agents in denied areas - a territory where it is difficult to use a consensual form of communications," Allason says....

"This system is completely secure because the messages can't be tracked, the recipient could be anywhere," says Akin Fernandez, the creator of the Conet Project - a comprehensive archive of the phenomenon of numbers stations. "It is easy. You just send the spies to a country and get them to buy a radio. They know where to tune and when," he says.
security  radio  code  encryption 
5 days ago
Using Virtual Reality to Create a New Corporate Headquarters - The New York Times
The virtual reality demonstration has been integral to Nvidia’s design and construction of the new building — it is powered by Nvidia products. Nvidia makes computing chips that were originally used to accelerate computer graphics in video games. Today, the chips are increasingly being used in engineering visualization and high-performance computing, including the architectural design of the company’s future headquarters.

This year, Nvidia also began offering a highly interactive rendering software technology intended to complement its graphical processors. Known as Iray, the software has made it possible to quickly alter everything in the company’s architectural design simulation, from the location, size and transparency of triangle-shaped skylights to material surfaces and colors.

“We have never been able to capture the fidelity we are able to reach today,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and chief executive of Nvidia. “The rug has to be precisely like the rug in the real world and the paint has to be the paint.”
media_architecture  virtual_reality  design_process  rendering 
5 days ago
These Stunning Maps Highlight the Tricks in a Cartographer's Toolkit | Atlas Obscura
These days, the array of geographic technology has enabled cartographers, architects, and designers to harness and process this data and create maps that are closer to real landscapes than ever before. But according to Desimini, visualizing data doesn’t always call for interpretation, which can be a problem. “Since we can show more, we tend to do it without as many questions about what should or should not make it on the map or drawing. In a sense, we have lost some of our critical and aesthetic attitude,” she says.

That’s not to say data and technology aren’t needed to ensure accuracy. Maps must retain geographic fidelity, scale, and projection, says Desimini, but the best ones also have a visual clarity and graphic integrity equivalent to any art form. The 10 cartographic conventions can help lead to more beautiful and informative maps, adding to the richness and diversity of representations of our world.  

“I’m hoping these maps can stoke our imaginations, can help us see more deeply the sheer diversity of our landscapes and to be able to see them, draw them, read them and design them in as many responsible and even beautiful ways," she says.

Sounding / Spot Elevation
Isobath / Contour
Hachure / Hatch
Shaded Relief
Land Classification
Figure / Ground
Stratigraphic Column
Cross Section
Line Symbol
cartography  mapping 
5 days ago
Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure / Ford Foundation
Our modern society runs on software. But the tools we use to build software are buckling under increased demand.

Nearly all software today relies on free, public code, written and maintained by communities of developers and other talent. This code can be used by anyone—from companies to individuals—to write their own software. Shared, public code makes up the digital infrastructure of our society today.

Everybody relies on shared code to write software, including Fortune 500 companies, government, major software companies and startups. In a world driven by technology, we are putting increased demand on those who maintain our digital infrastructure. Yet because these communities are not highly visible, the rest of the world has been slow to notice.

Just like physical infrastructure, digital infrastructure needs regular upkeep and maintenance. But financial support for digital infrastructure is much harder to come by.

In the face of unprecedented demand, the costs of not supporting our digital infrastructure are numerous. No individual company or organization is incentivized to address the public good problem alone. In order to support our digital infrastructure, we must find ways to work together.

Sustaining our digital infrastructure is a new topic for many, and the challenges are not well understood. In this report, Nadia Eghbal unpacks the unique challenges facing digital infrastructure, and how we might work together to address them.
infrastructure  maintenance  labor  repair  open_source 
6 days ago
Home | Digital Transitions: Division of Cultural Heritage
book scanning, flat art, film scanning, sculpture + decorative arts
scanning  digitization  books  logistics  museums  artifacts 
6 days ago
After the Success Of Pokémon Go, How Will Augmented Reality Impact Archaeological Sites? - Forbes
Other archaeologists are thinking about how AR can recreate more than just the view. Some are also trying to reconstruct the sensory environment of sites. An app currently under development wants to allow visitors to see, smell, hear, and touch sites. Another AR app under development, this one from University of British Columbia archaeologist Kevin Fisher and UBC’s MAGIC Centre wants to allow users to see recreations of ancient sites in the same mode as Google Street View. The first site they are focusing on is the Late Bronze Age archaeological site of Kalavasos on the island of Cyprus.
archaeology  augmented_reality  apps 
6 days ago
The Hangman of Critique
“Why is it,” Felski asks, “that critics are so quick off the mark to interrogate, unmask, expose, subvert, unravel, demystify, destabilize, take issue, and take umbrage?” She wonders what literary scholars might be overlooking by focusing excessively on critique. In a previous book, she argued that devotees of critique might instead focus on how literature fosters recognition, knowledge, shock, or enchantment, among other capacities and emotions. Felski wants us to treat literature not only as an object of academic criticism, not only as an agent that sometimes has the capability of criticizing reality, but also as an agent that has the power to act positively in that world.....

Our assessment should take seriously Felski’s claim that being postcritical needn’t require abandoning critique. And if postcritics are indeed neither “uncritical” nor “anticritical,” they will welcome such scrutiny. But to be open to criticism requires being open to the possibility that the critics might be right. Our best arguments may compel us to reject or demand more of the postcritical project.

...Felski and other advocates of postcriticism often make it seem as if defenders of critique are a ruthless zombified horde. In the postcritical view, the only thing lovers of critique do when they encounter a text is “interrogate, unmask, expose, subvert, unravel, demystify, destabilize, take issue, and take umbrage.” ....

Some claim that being too critical damages the soul of students and scholars. This is the answer Lisa Ruddick offers in a widely circulated essay called “When Nothing is Cool,” published in The Point. Ruddick has been less circumspect in her attack on academic skepticism than Felski. By Ruddick’s blistering account, critique is responsible for nothing less than the “unaccountable feelings of confusion, inhibition and loss” that English graduate students feel about their chosen profession. The wholly indoctrinated skeptic suffers from “deadness or meanness.” The skeptic’s alleged rigor masks a love affair with “destruction.” She is forced to participate in a shallow “game of academic cool” in which “anything except critique can be invaded or denatured.” Critique’s prestige spreads intellectual and moral despair. ...

Scholars like Felski argue that we need to articulate a positive vision of literary studies not to save the souls of graduate students, but to save the profession itself. If we don’t more often and more vocally justify the value of literature and literary studies in positive terms, those with power will dismantle literary studies. Felski writes that she is “motivated by a desire to articulate a positive vision for humanistic thought in the face of growing skepticism about its value.”...

My ultimate criticism of postcriticism is therefore that any meta-commentary about how we practice criticism — any discussion of the ethos of criticism and interpretation — must always also attend to the sociological and political-economic grounds upon which criticism occurs. Such sociological work must give an accurate description of the political circumstances that once allowed critique to prosper, in however limited a fashion, and now seek to undermine it.
postcritical  critical_theory  critique  literature  criticism 
7 days ago
How to see through the cloud
The web isn't magic. It's not some faraway place we just 'connect' to, but a vast and complex system of computers, connected by actual wires under the ground and the oceans. Every time you open a website, you're visiting a place where that data is stored.

This tutorial will show you how to find some of those places.

IP addresses, the terminal, traceroutes, etc.
mapping  infrastructure  internet 
7 days ago
Thinking, Public and Private: Intellectuals in the Time of the Public
THE TERM “PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL” is a fount of confusion. We admire such persons for speaking the truth about the corruptions of politics, for explaining climate change to a world that would prefer a more convenient truth, or for their unblinking acknowledgment of the structural racism of our society. At other times, we mock them for dumbing down the ideas they have the privilege to steward, and suspect them of a venal desire for influence and power, or, worse, we suspect that beneath such desires lies a lack of intellectual curiosity and seriousness. The word “public,” when conjoined with “intellectual,” sometimes seems to invite an intellectually lazy enthusiasm or an equally lazy criticism....

Why, for example, has the notion of publicness itself become such a high value for some, practically synonymous with benevolence, as if to attach “public” to the name of a discipline grants it a special dignity? Getting un-confused about the term “public intellectual” does not require jettisoning the notion of public engagement altogether, but rather turning these keywords — “intellectual,” “public” — over and over, depriving them of the sense of obvious meaning produced by too-frequent use....

There is much to like about this effort to keep the democratic impulse within the public intellectual ideal from giving way to something worse: what Greif calls “the pseudo-public culture of insipid media and dumbed-down ‘big ideas.’” This is the world of Austin’s SXSW or Davos, the world of the TED talk, a means-ends world characterized by folk empiricism, in which ideas can only be recognized as valuable when they are pitched as “Big Ideas” “Worth Spreading"....

What may be missing in this age of public intellectualism is respect for the unpredictable half-lives of ideas themselves, and for the fact that public life could be enriched by an appreciation of ideas on their own terms....

One thing seems clear: whether in late 19th-century France or the late 20th-century United States, the question of what scholars, writers, scientists, artists, and other intellectuals contribute to public political life has stayed with us. During the Dreyfus Affair the anti-Dreyfusard Catholic scholar and writer Ferdinand Brunetière asked what gave a “professor of Tibetan” the right to instruct his fellow citizens about politics. Brunetière’s charge reflects an anxiety many present-day intellectuals still feel keenly: what do academics have to do with the world beyond their studies? Why should such figures enjoy any special legitimacy in political or cultural discourse?

Answers to this question abound, and they range from the rather old-fashioned idea that scholars of the humanities acquire something called “wisdom” to the idea that something called the “public sphere” runs on reasoned argument. Short of such idealistic claims, there are more pragmatic reasons to want intelligent, educated people to write for broad and non-academic publics. To name only one, critics — of film, food, poetry — possess specialized expertise and help us to articulate our own responses to the world in ways that the exchange of opinion between friends or strangers, rarely can. In the words of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, critics show the world its “means of comportment.”...

An attachment to “intellectuals” or “public intellectuals” can turn into a tendency to treat politics as the metric by which intellectual lives are to be judged. And it has become very popular to approach the work of intellectuals from the standpoint of their social role. So popular, in fact, that this approach has obscured another way of seeing things: to ask not how intellectuals affect their publics but how the presumption of publicness has affected the life of the mind. How has the problem of audience touched how we understand our tasks as scholars and writers? How has it affected the value we place on private, individual contemplation? We need not look at the current baleful tendency to judge scholarship by metrics of influence, such as the citation-counting of the British Research Excellence Framework (REF), or the TED-ish notion that impact is all, to see that a certain instrumentalism was always present in the idea of the intellectual, a certain dependency on an idea of audience as tribunal....

Arendt often used the term “intellectual” with scorn. She never accepted the idea that specialized education provided political wisdom, nor was she invested in the fantasy that the public would be won over by superior arguments or share some professional thinkers’ disinterested love of truth. In her 1958 book The Human Condition, Arendt rejected the idea that politics would be improved by the presence of expert opinions.... later, in her 1963 study On Revolution, Arendt once again characterized “intellectuals” as individuals who instrumentalized education; they found nothing in their mental lives, in other words, to transport them beyond the means-ends world whose pointlessness Wordsworth once described with the line “getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” ...Her dual attention to politics and to philosophy never led her to dissolve one into the other, or to miss the contradictions between them. Her works offer a prototype for such contemporary writers as Greif, who seek a pedagogical model of the public writer, someone who demands that their readers improve themselves rather than imagining that her public requires a paint-by-numbers version of philosophy and social thought.... As professional thinkers come to understand “publicness” more and more as the permanent condition of our work, then, we might also come to better appreciate the specific ways in which politics and scholarship intersect, and the ways they remain fundamentally separate. This would mean recovering the disquiet within the term “public intellectual,” and treating that disquiet as an invitation to rethink the relationship between thought and action.
public_sphere  public_intellectualism  populism  discourse 
8 days ago
Why We Should Let the Pantheon Crack
“By every measure of success of a building—from an architectural, from an artistic, and from an engineering standpoint—I would argue that the Pantheon is the greatest that was ever built,” Ochsendorf says. “There’s no greater definition of success for a building than it’s been standing for 20 centuries.”... Ochsendorf is working to halt what he sees as unnecessary interventions in historical buildings, in which engineers try to fix cracked or slumping walls with steel bars and supports.

“Too often, we’re trying to make old structures conform to theories we learned for steel and concrete,” he says. Those materials remain strong under immense stresses in modern buildings. But buildings like the Pantheon “stand because of their geometry,” he says, “and the way builders conceived them was really through their geometry.” Cracks and deformations, he argues, are not necessarily flaws; they’re often a sign that a building adapted to a sinking foundation centuries ago and found a new conformation. “We should conserve the great works of construction for future generations, and that means understanding what the original builders intended, and trying to be faithful to their intent.”...

Before iron, steel, and steel-reinforced concrete changed architecture forever, most civilizations made large buildings out of masonry: stones, bricks, mortar, and unreinforced concrete like the kind that ancient Romans used to construct the Pantheon’s dome. Builders relied on rules based on accumulated experience. The foundations of their designs were arches and vaults, which allowed heavy and brittle materials to reach long spans and soaring heights.
concrete  architecture  structural_engineering  preservation  ancient_rome 
8 days ago
‘The town as a place of social intercourse has been taken for granted throughout the whole of civilisation’
The idea of the town as a place of assembly, of social intercourse, of meeting, was taken for granted throughout the whole of human civilization up to the twentieth century. You might assemble in the Forum at Pompeii 100 yds. by 50 or round the market cross, 10 yds. by 5, but you assembled; it was a ritual proper to man, both a rite and a right. Nor in the general way did you have to explain whether your motives were proper or profane. Men are gregarious and expect to meet. In all ages but ours, that is. Today, partly from hurry, partly from worry, partly from pressure of motor traffic, we are forgetting to meet, and the various kinds of policemen, in and out of uniform who direct our affairs, are busy making it impossible for us to meet, by making little gardens of such of our open spaces as are not already roundabouts, railing them round, ornamenting them into islands of rustic absurdity and then, if possible, locking them up....

Because the motor car demands first, a pedestrian-free permanent way; second, a smooth surface; third, vast open acreage for parking lots. The first neutralizes the space for use, the second destroys the character of the space by introducing a neutral floor, the third eats up all unfenced urban openings for car-storage. There is a fourth danger which has nothing to do with traffic and that is the deliberate attempt by what one might term the ‘eternal prefect’ mentality to prevent natural assembly.

At its worst this outlook regards assembly as synonymous with idleness (hanging about at street corners) but often it springs from no more than a distaste to have the steps of the cross worn out by loungers. Actually most steps are all the better for loungers, ‘loungers’ being the expression of distaste northern puritans use for anyone who has the time to sit or stand around enjoying life.
urban_form  urban_planning  public_sphere  transportation 
8 days ago
The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times
On August 27, 1883, the Earth let out a noise louder than any it has made since.

It was 10:02 a.m. local time when the sound emerged from the island of Krakatoa, which sits between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. It was heard 1,300 miles away in the Andaman and Nicobar islands (“extraordinary sounds were heard, as of guns firing”); 2,000 miles away in New Guinea and Western Australia (“a series of loud reports, resembling those of artillery in a north-westerly direction”); and even 3,000 miles away in the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues, near Mauritius (“coming from the eastward, like the distant roar of heavy guns.”)1 In all, it was heard by people in over 50 different geographical locations, together spanning an area covering a thirteenth of the globe....

The Krakatoa explosion registered 172 decibels at 100 miles from the source. This is so astonishingly loud, that it’s inching up against the limits of what we mean by “sound.”...

At some point, the fluctuations in air pressure are so large that the low pressure regions hit zero pressure—a vacuum—and you can’t get any lower than that. This limit happens to be about 194 decibels for a sound in Earth’s atmosphere. Any louder, and the sound is no longer just passing through the air, it’s actually pushing the air along with it, creating a pressurized burst of mo
sound  geology  sound_space  physics  hearing 
8 days ago
Amodern 6: Reading the Illegible
To imagine, in a scholarly or para-scholarly fashion, what we could explore, as writers and artists, if we took seriously the potential poetics of illegibility as a weird sub-category of the legible. With equal interest in technical and theoretical innovations, the following articles address issues of translation, transformation, feeling and “storying” the reading experience; of new and renewed trajectories in essayism, conceptualism, collaboration and the evaluation of style; and of redaction, glitches, automation and inattention. They do so with a reflexive willingness to read too closely, against norms, in a range of projects that are suggestive of ambitious new literacies.
translation  glitch  redaction  textual_form  text_art  erasure  reading 
9 days ago
Y Combinator's Plan to Build a New City? | Wired
LAST WEEK, Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley startup accelerator that helped launch companies like Dropbox and Airbnb, announced it was launching an ambitious project of its own. The “New Cities” initiative will study freshly minted cities, and how to plan, design, and build them from scratch....

Ideas about new cities are not new,” says Nikhil Kaza, who studies urban development processes in the University of North Carolina’s Department of City and Regional Planning. “But they’re intriguing… they all have influenced the way we live now.” Consider Garden Cities of To-Morrow....

Cheung believes Y Combinator’s plan is different. In the blog post that announced the project, she and Altman vow to avoid designing yet another “crazy libertarian utopia for techies.” Instead, Cheung says the initiative will look to models like Shenzhen. Cheung cites the Chinese city—a fishing village that in 1980 was designated a Special Economic Zone, to be morphed into a tech R
infrastructure  smart_cities  sidewalk_labs  urban_planning  solutionism 
9 days ago
Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead? | e-flux
What the Soviet avant-garde of the twentieth century called productivism—the claim that art should enter production and the factory—could now be replaced by circulationism. Circulationism is not about the art of making an image, but of postproducing, launching, and accelerating it. It is about the public relations of images across social networks, about advertisement and alienation, and about being as suavely vacuous as possible.

But remember how productivists Mayakovsky and Rodchenko created billboards for NEP sweets? Communists eagerly engaging with commodity fetishism?18 Crucially, circulationism, if reinvented, could also be about short-circuiting existing networks, circumventing and bypassing corporate friendship and hardware monopolies. It could become the art of recoding or rewiring the system by exposing state scopophilia, capital compliance, and wholesale surveillance. Of course, it might also just go as wrong as its predecessor, by aligning itself with a Stalinist cult of productivity, acceleration, and heroic exhaustion. Historic productivism was—let’s face it—totally ineffective and defeated by an overwhelming bureaucratic apparatus of surveillance/workfare early on. And it is quite likely that circulationism—instead of restructuring circulation—will just end up as ornament to an internet that looks increasingly like a mall filled with nothing but Starbucks franchises personally managed by Joseph Stalin.

Will circulationism alter reality’s hard- and software; its affects, drives, and processes? While productivism left few traces in a dictatorship sustained by the cult of labor, could circulationism change a condition in which eyeballs, sleeplessness, and exposure are an algorithmic factory? Are circulationism’s Stakhanovites working in Bangladeshi like-farms,19or mining virtual gold in Chinese prison camps,20 churning out corporate consent on digital conveyor belts?
circulation  production  images 
9 days ago
Detroit, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., Are 'Book Deserts' Where Poor Kids Have Nothing to Read - The Atlantic
The new study adds to a growing body of research demonstrating how income-based housing segregation undermines the prospects of America’s youngest citizens, with the rich leaving “the poor and the near poor to scramble for resources that would have otherwise benefited a larger share of the population,” Neuman and Moland write. But it also shows the nuanced ways in which poverty shapes the country’s communities—how drastically access to something as basic as a book can change from one neighborhood to another just a short drive away. Neighborhoods with 40 percent or more of their residents living in poverty have grown at troubling rates in the last few decades, but so have areas known as “borderline” neighborhoods, in which 20 percent to 40 percent of people live in poverty...

Equating access to books with access to stores that sell books is hardly perfect, but it makes a good deal of sense when considering the existing data on the book habits and day-to-day realities of low-income families. Statistically, poor families are far less likely to utilize public libraries, whether it’s because they’re not acclimated to using them or because they’re worried about being charged late fines, or because they’re skeptical of putting their name on a card associated with a government entity. Neuman has found that only 8 percent of such families report they have taken advantage of library resources.

Meanwhile, even though parents could in theory easily order books for their kids from online stores like Amazon, a perhaps surprising percentage of low-income families lack access to high-speed internet at home—a little over half of those with children under 8, according to a 2013 study. And only 61 percent of poor families with young children, according to the same study, have internet-enabled mobile devices. That means the presence of brick-and-mortar stores where books are sold can be critical, especially during the summer months when poor children aren’t in school and lose many of the academic skills they developed over the previous year.

As with exposure to vocabulary, access to books can have both immediate and longer-term impacts on a child’s academic and socioeconomic outcomes. Living in a book desert “may seriously constrain young children’s opportunities to come to school ‘ready to learn,’” Neuman and Moland write. A lack of access to books may help explain why, according to some research, children from economically disadvantaged communities score 60 percent lower on kindergarten-readiness tests that assess kids’ familiarity with knowledge as basic as sounds, colors, and numbers. And researchers say living in a book desert in one’s early years can have psychological ripple effects: “When there are no books, or when there are so few that choice is not an option, book reading becomes an occasion and not a routine,” they write.
reading  books  poverty  infrastructure  media_city  libraries 
9 days ago
The Library of Last Resort | Online Only | n+1
This is to say that the Library of Congress needs not just a shift in branding but a different, parallel mission to make digitization comprehensive and sustainable rather than a sideshow. Developing this mission is what will maintain the institution’s relevance over the next century. But the change can only come from leadership; currently, staff are as confused about the Library’s purpose as the public. “We’re trying to figure out what our place is in a society that has Google,” Elmer Eusman, chief of the LOC’s Conservation Division, told me with audible sadness. Billington didn’t mitigate the confusion....

Billington was a luddite—he was known to not read email, instead using a home fax machine—and a control freak. A former employee described him as a “megalomaniac” to the Washington Post. To American librarians, he represented the government’s continuing ignorance of what libraries actually do in the internet age. “You want the person in that seat to have worked the reference desk,” says Stephanie Anderson, assistant director for public services at Darien Library in Connecticut. “It’s easy to gloss over the day-to-day experience of being in the library.”...

In the late 1990s and 2000s, tech companies took over the social responsibility for large-scale information management in the public imagination that Spofford had assigned to the LOC. By, say, 2002, one could ask why we needed the LOC when we had Google. This was and is a problem of perception, not just execution. The LOC plays an important role in digitization, creating universal standards and providing unique content from its collections, but Billington distanced his institution from more dynamic projects that now define our expectations of digital libraries with an intentional aloofness.

The oldest digital library, Project Gutenberg, was launched in 1971 to provide digital copies of books in the public domain. Today it holds just under 50,000 volumes. In 1996, Kahle founded his Internet Archive, a collection of 2.5 million books (much larger than the LOC’s digital connection) that now runs scanning centers in 30 libraries in eight countries, digitizing 1,000 books daily at a cost of $.10 a page, according to the founder. Other digital library efforts, like Europeana and HathiTrust, were launched over the first decade of the 2000s and tended to be collective efforts, with responsibility shared across academic and cultural institutions....

Billington also refused to send the LOC data to the Digital Public Library of America, an initiative that emerged out of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society in April 2013....

In the context of mass-digitization, the LOC’s choices have been divisive and exclusionary. “I really believe in this idea that a library can be a platform, can provide a foundation that others can build upon rather than defining those structures,” Cohen said. “I don’t think [the LOC] has the mandate or wherewithal to work truly across the country with thousands of institutions to help them bring their material online. We can be a little bit more flexible.” Maybe so, but when it comes to a future LOC partnership with DPLA, Palfrey isn’t optimistic. “At this point, it might be too little, too late,” he told me....

The nomination suggested an awareness that the LOC must become more progressive and open, catering to a wider demographic as the social purpose of libraries evolves from providing books to maintaining public technological support systems. “I see [the LOC] growing its stature as a leader, not only in librarianship but in how people view libraries in general,” Hayden said in a Senate appearance....

Billington often described the LOC as the American “library of last resort”: whatever could not be found elsewhere would always be in its archives. But the phrase has taken on another meaning: it’s easy to think that what Billington meant is that the LOC is the last place anyone would ever think to look. This is precisely what it risks becoming if it doesn’t take on a leading public role in the digitization of culture.
libraries  digital_library  library_of_congress  google 
10 days ago
"Visits to the Picture Collection and a Meeting with Librarian Margarete Gross" by Marc Fischer
The Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago has one of the few remaining collections of clipped photos from magazines and books that library patrons can use for research or even check out and take home. For many years Margarete Gross was the primary librarian placed in charge of building and maintaining this collection. In 2003 I met with her to discuss the collection and her work. Margarete retired from library work several years later but she remains passionate about art and images.

This 16 page booklet was created for an exhibition in 2003. You can download a free PDF of it here (modified slightly from the original).
libraries  classification  organization  photographs 
10 days ago
If You Can’t Follow Directions, You’ll End Up on Null Island - WSJ
Null Island doesn’t exist.

In the world of geographic information systems, the island is an apparition that serves a practical purpose. It lies at “zero-zero,” a mapper’s shorthand for zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude. By a programming quirk introduced by developers, those are the default coordinates where Google maps and other digital Global Positioning System applications are directed to send the millions of users who make mistakes in their searches....

“There’s always a spot where the system goes when it really doesn’t know where it should go,” says Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, chief cartographer of Mapzen, based in New York, which promotes open access to map data. “That’s Null Island.”

About seven years ago, Mr. Kelso, who had heard the phrase used by other cartographers, encoded Null Island as the default destination for mistakes into a widely used public-domain digital-mapping data set called Natural Earth, which has been downloaded several million times. On a whim, he made the location at zero-zero appear as a tiny outcrop one-meter square. In no time at all, other mappers gave the “island” its own natural geography, created a website, and designed T-shirts and a national flag.

“People talk about it as a mythological place—being banished to Null Island"...

Everyone knows the world isn’t flat, but it is not so round either. Strictly speaking, it is a lumpy egg-shaped geoid that challenges the mathematical skills of cartographers.

They must program geocoding software to correctly match location requests to signals from orbiting satellites, cell towers or Wi-Fi hot spots, and then to digital coordinates from up to 5,700 different kinds of spatial surveys and more than 10 million geographic place names—all in an instant....

“There is a lot of terrible-terrible-terrible math involved,” said Kenneth Field, a senior cartographer at the Environmental Systems Research Institute in Redlands, Calif., which makes geographic information and analysis systems. “Every part of the planet differs from every other part and that is why we have all these different maps.”

Moreover, cartographers now are melding geography and data to track mobile-phone use, target ads, and analyze retail sales or insurance risks, demographic trends, disease outbreaks, neighborhood crime, traffic jams, and even the intensity of Christmas lighting....

“One of the reasons that Null Island became such a popular joke is that you are seeing the data-processing world and the geographers’ world bump into each other for the first time,” said Michal Migurski, vice president for products at Mapzen, who was among the first to add the name to commercial mapping software.

“It is becoming shorthand for all the weird data-processing issues that we bump into,” he said. “Null Island is almost a way to say we all make mistakes.”
geography  erasure  error  cartography  GIS  projection 
10 days ago
Conversation with the artist / librarian who has turned a library into an artwork (exclusive interview) - Public Delivery
I have always wanted to work within a big public research library like New York Public and extract the Reanimation Library that exists within its collection. They have the storage capacity and funds to hold onto a huge collection, so I would love to be able to work in, extract, and activate it as a Reanimation branch. That would be super interesting to me.
libraries  library_art  reanimation_library 
10 days ago
News Challenge - How might libraries serve 21st century information needs? - Adaequatio: art and libraries to improve the capacity to know
To explore the future role of the library in the digital age, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA) will partner with the Boulder Public Library to produce a series of physical interventions in the library system. Local and International artists will create inventive library collections within all the branch libraries in Boulder, that will encourage library patrons to engage their sensibility in the quest for knowledge. BMoCA will commission these artists to construct libraries of art and anti-libraries of unread books. They will make lyric libraries of personal history or information and anonymous libraries where knowledge is free from the surveillance state. There will be object libraries and image libraries; all within the Boulder Public Library to emphasize what is particular, what is unknown, what is available and what is not available to the reader. Supplementary programming around these libraries will emphasize community engagement for all ages and foster dialog about the role of libraries and museums in the digital age. Participants will come out of these experiences more thoughtful of the limits that information access in the digital age do not overcome, and of the power that diverse ways of collecting information can exert over information.
libraries  library_art 
10 days ago
METRO's User Experience (UX) SIG
If you're interested in the usability and user experience of libraries, the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) User Experience (UX) Special Interest Group (SIG) is for you! Support our SI
UX  user_testing  interfaces  libraries 
12 days ago
IMLS Launches Community Catalyst Initiative | Institute of Museum and Library Services
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new initiative of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) will help libraries and museums develop a deeper understanding of their role as instruments of community stability and enablers of positive community change. Through the Community Catalyst Initiative, IMLS will gather input from the library, museum, and community revitalization fields to develop frameworks, tools, and resources to support staff skill-building needed to help transform the connections libraries and museums have with their communities.

The project cooperator is Reinvestment Fund (link is external), a community development financial institution that uses data, policy, and strategic investments to improve the quality of low-income neighborhoods. The cooperator will receive assistance from the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) (link is external).  IMLS is also pleased to partner with the William Penn Foundation (link is external) in this effort. 

A Community Catalysts Town Hall is scheduled for September 8-9 in Philadelphia, to draw on expert knowledge of key stakeholders and other participants about promising approaches for meaningful and lasting community change by the museum and library sector. The meeting will be informed by research the project team is conducting this summer, including a literature review and an environmental scan of library and museum community partnerships.  During the Town Hall, there will be an opportunity for public engagement.  The information gathered may lead to a prospective piloting phase of the project, with a focus on the development of frameworks, tools, methodologies, and a community of practice to help libraries and museums proactively and sustainably partner with their communities. 
libraries  infrastructure 
12 days ago
Aeolian Infrastructures, Aeolian Publics | Limn
What kind of infrastructure is the wind? And what kind of public might it produce? If the main purpose of an infrastructure (Larkin 2013) is to set other things in motion, then wind turns out to be quite amply infrastructural. It fills sails, cools skins, helps lift anything with wings into the sky. In a way, the wind is purely infrastructural; one sees what it does much more than what it is. And yet, wind also feels very much unstructured. It is elementally loose, a force that may be captured, but never contained. Wind is motion: without movement, it becomes merely air.... The raw form of aeolis may be a resource, a cosmological force, or quotidian oscillating pressures, but in the quest for renewable forms of power, wind’s infrastructural capacities are made more tempestuous through the manifold human attempts to capture it (Howe and Boyer 2016). ...

As in other fragile neoliberal political situations, the infrastructural powers of the “wind rush” are expected to close the gap between the promises of liberal citizenship and governments’ failures to fulfill core responsibilities worthy of civic fidelity (such as providing clean water, energy, security, shelter, and a vigorous economy; see, for example, Anand 2011; von Schnitzler 2013).....

Forging a rhetorical link between indigenous peoples, love of land, and respect for nature may not be a novel statement, but it does index the troubled paradox between forms of energy that are environmentally beneficial writ large, but that may nonetheless negatively affect ecosystems and people living in places where new models of industrial power are being generated. ...

While government and corporate functionaries have attempted to create a singular aeolian public, we argue that aeolis compels, by necessity, multiple publics, surfacing manifold routes to authority, management, and cosmologies. Many models of publicity suggest that publics are constituted by circulating messages (e.g., Anderson 1998; Warner 2002). Other accounts of public formation show how infrastructures themselves mobilize publics around their capacities, flows, and durability (Anand 2011; von Schnitzler 2013). Aeolian publics are something different altogether. Wind does not operate in the systemic fashion that electric grids, transportation networks, or pipelines do. It is a more expansive and open infrastructural entity, one that is constantly in motion, refusing closure. Aeolian publics are thus constantly undone and remade through the ontological status of wind itself as a fleeting, gusting, and turbulent force facilitating wealth and energy but also cosmological worlds and powers of resistance.
air  wind  energy  infrastructure  sustainability  community_engagement 
12 days ago
The Quietus | Features | Craft/Work | The Second Life Of Concrete: Brutalism’s Renaissance
Just over eighty years ago and shortly after Nazi Germany’s airborne military division, the Luftwaffe, was formed, panic had set in across Europe and Britain to protect itself from potential air warfare. Britain had been experimenting with aircraft detection equipment ever since the Zeppelin raids of the First World War, and the project that had progressed the furthest in the inter-war years was William Tucker’s Sound Mirrors.

These vast and abstract concrete structures, shaped like satellites and turned up to the skies as if they were searching for extraterrestrial life, were erected on areas of the coast that were thought to be key locations in any future air defence plan. A man sitting in a trench beneath with headphones could, by positioning a microphone accurately, use the mirrors (also known as listening ears) to amplify the sound of a plane’s engine up to 20 miles away...

it’s time they left their history behind and are celebrated for their artistry and their contradiction to their environment. Tacita Dean represented them obliquely in her short film ‘Sound Mirrors’ as did Disinformation before her in their film ‘Blackout’. They are no longer a failed technology, they are art.
acoustics  surveillance  sound_space  listening 
12 days ago
The Tragedy of Pokémon Go
The vast majority of pervasive and alternate reality games turned out to be sponsored affairs. Buzz marketing projects created for their ability to generate “earned media” rather than for their entertainment or social value. Ilovebees advertised Halo. ConQwest was a telco marketing campaign. Even Trent Reznor eventually got a promotional ARG to promote the Nine Inch Nails concept album Year Zero. There was just never another way to bankroll these curiosities....

Even Google couldn’t make Ingress work without reskinning it as Pokémon. And while Pokémon is popular and basically harmless, the alternating reality it offers is still that of a branded, licensed, kiddie cock-fighting fantasy. Even if paranoia fiction is aesthetically facile and retrograde, and even if location-based entertainment need not be serious and political, there’s still something fundamentally revolting about celebrating the Pokémonization of the globe as the ultimate realization of the merged social and technological potential of modern life.

But then again, duality was always the promise of alternating realities in the first place. Your fax or BlackBerry was both the delivery devices for a paranoia fiction and the tether that bound you to work. The semacode was always both a game token and a cipher for a dumb telco ad. The payphone was always both a dying social tool and the mouthpiece for a marketing campaign—for another videogame.
games  urban_games  marketing  transmedia_storytelling  ARGs 
13 days ago
In Praise of Speculative History
The past 20 years have seen a resurgence of conjectural thought in fields such as political theory, the history of religion, paleoanthropology, deep history, and climate studies. Thinkers working in this vein push back their inquiries to times that precede the written records of civilization, approximately 4,000 years ago....

Many factors contribute to this return to conjecture. The year 2000 provided an occasion for considering history in millennia rather than centuries. New evidence based on carbon dating and genetic analysis has become available, and the number of excavations dating to around the time of the most recent ice age (10,800-9500 BCE) has increased significantly.

Whatever the contributing causes, these new conjectural works share a method and a project: to broaden the scope of historical understanding beyond the thin span of written rec­ords by speculating on the basis of the available evidence, however fragmentary and uncertain it may be. The alternative is to say almost nothing about relations between prehistoric, preliterate (or future) times and the present...

Most of the objections to conjecture today are expressed by historians who believe that specific factual errors invalidate the overall speculative project. However, as the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn and others have pointed out, a theory or paradigm cannot be disproved by a particular empirical finding; it can only be superseded by another theory that provides a stronger framework for understanding....

The new conjectural thinking can be used to speculate about the causes of the accomplishments, persistence, transformations, failures, and disappearances of societies in ancient and modern history and in the future; it can also provide frameworks for speculation on the direction of, and threats to, contemporary civilized society....

Paragraph with "the idea of successive periods..."
historiography  speculation  deep_history  archaeology 
13 days ago
The Quest For the Next Human-Computer Interface
With computers that could handle tasks like code breaking and complex calculations, the balance shifted. Machines that could handle data required more sophisticated interfaces beyond simple levers to pull or wheels to turn. Yet the same interfaces that would enable a new level of machine-human coordination on informational tasks would also remain limited by their own design.... The problem, as Schalk sees it, is that humans and computers are both able to do far more than the interface between them allows....

“As technologies like speech recognition, natural language processing, facial recognition, etcetera, get better, it makes sense that our communication with machines should go beyond screens and involve some of the more subtle forms of communication we use when interacting with other people,” says Kate Darling, who specializes in robot-human interaction at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “If we want a machine to be able to mimic states of human emotion, then having it express those through tone, movement, and other cues will be a fuller representation of its abilities.”...

Such cues will have to be part of a larger fluid interaction to work best. That might mean, for instance, making sure to build subtle forms of communications for robots designed to work with a pilot in a cockpit or a surgeon in an operating room—settings where humans need to be able to predict what a robot is about to do, but still stay focused on what they’re doing themselves. “There are all these ways people are working alongside a robot, and they need to understand when a robot’s about to move,”... In some settings, like when a person is driving and needs to pay attention to the road, voice communication is still the best interface. ... Many technologists argue that the rise of augmented reality and virtual reality will produce the next big interface. But several engineers and scholars told me that such a leap will require technological advancement that just isn’t there yet. For one thing, even the most sophisticated mixed-reality platforms—Microsoft’s HoloLens comes up a lot—aren’t precise enough in terms of their mapping of the real world in real time, as a user moves through it. ...

One of the key questions for developers of these systems is to figure out to what extent—and at what times—the non-virtual world matters to people. In other words, how much of the physical world around you needs to be visible, if any of it? ...

“If you could somehow interface with a computer directly, bypassing all the constraints of your sensory motor capacities, you could make all the feelings and perceptions and desires of a person directly accessible to technology,” he says. “You could completely eliminate this communication bottleneck and essentially create a symbiotic relationship between technology and the brain.”
artificial_intelligence  machine_learning  human_computer_interaction  interfaces 
13 days ago
How often is Google Earth imagery updated: The continental US
We are often asked how often Google updates the imagery in Google Earth. The answer depends on where you live and can be anywhere from once a week to never. For much of the world, there are certain hotspots that get fairly regular updates and other places where that have no high resolution imagery whatsoever. To get an idea of where the hotspots are, see our posts on historical imagery density.
mapping  satellite_imagery  Google 
13 days ago
Prepping for Dean Interview
Interviewing for a dean job at a different institution than the one that I work for.  Have a couple of weeks to prep.  What should I read?  How should I spend my time?  Is there some list of do's and don'ts somewhere?  This will be my first interview for a dean/head of a school within a university position and I want to avoid pitfalls, etc....

One place to start would be to find the mission statement and/or strategic plan, or similar verbiage of the university and then find same/similar for the college. Assuming they are both up to date and as relevant as such things can be, when you are in charge of the college, what will you do to make sure the college is working toward those goals? That can be a good outline for a vision. Also, request data, or find it, on university-level metrics (grad rate, degree production, enrollment, grant productivity, etc), and similarly see how that compares with data for the college. Look at demographics of the state/region, attempt to do same for university and college- look at faculty too- and then see what might be needed in the way of diversity initiatives.

Prepare some statements/plans to make sure they know you will gather info, and listen to the faculty, staff, and the other bits of the administration, so that the ideas you outline can be better informed by the institution and its real needs.

Carefully re-read the job advertisement, to make sure your visit highlights in some way all of the required and desired elements they say they are looking for.

If it is a private non-profit, Google for a recent form 990 that will tell you quite a bit about the finances, as well as the salaries of the highest compensated employees.

Once you've been invited to interview, you can ask for lots of documents. I'd ask for the most recent regional accreditation self-study report and results; and any relevant programmatic accreditation results. If the school does external program reviews, I'd ask for those, too, for the programs in the school.

I'd call the previous dean and pick his/her brain. I'd also call a neighboring dean in the same discipline and ask for impressions.

If they give you input into the interview schedule, ask for a chance to meet with the faculty senate president.

In addition to the excellent suggestions already posted, I've found this book to be worthwhile:

Jeffrey Buller is smart and decent.

You might also browse the ACAD website:
academic  administration  deanship 
13 days ago
Your To-Do List as Chair - The Chronicle of Higher Education
I have identified these five as the most universal and the most important of a chair’s responsibilities.

Advocate for faculty. ...a chair who is not seen, first and foremost, as the department’s advocate with higher-ups will likely have a tumultuous and perhaps brief reign.

Represent the administration. It sounds contradictory but the fact is: Department chairs are administrators, even if they occupy the lowest tier. There will be times when you have to present some policy or decision to the faculty, on behalf of the administration, knowing it will not be well-received. In many cases, you will not be thrilled with the latest edict either.

In a perfect academic world, with shared governance, faculty will already have been involved in the decision-making process, so the chair won’t be put in such an awkward position. But that ideal is hardly ever realized, and as chair, you will often find yourself charged with "selling" something to the faculty that you aren’t entirely sold on yourself.

Build consensus. As chair, you will have very little control over whether your institution as a whole embraces shared governance. But typically, you will have a great deal of influence within your own sphere. You can employ the principles of shared governance within your department, regardless of what anyone else at the institution is doing.

That means, first of all, enfranchising all members of the department, including assistant professors, non-tenure-track faculty, and adjunct instructors. It means making sure the committee structure within the department exists not just to perform the necessary "scut work," like selecting textbooks and making adjustments to the curriculum, but also to serve as a vehicle for shared governance. It means ensuring that those committees are as inclusive as possible, with everyone who has a stake having a seat (or at least a representative) at the table. It means listening to those groups and taking their conclusions and recommendations into account. And it means seeking departmental consensus on any decision that will affect the entire department....

Provide a forum. Speaking of inclusivity, one of your most important roles as chair is to create a "safe place" where faculty members who feel that their voice is not being heard can speak out freely. That certainly includes adjuncts and other contingent faculty, who may feel — with good reason — that the only place they can be heard is at the department level. But it might also include tenured professors who feel totally disenfranchised at the institutional level — again, perhaps with good reason — and who rely on the department as a forum for offering their ideas (good and bad), expressing valid concerns, or just venting. Dept meetings... In addition to scheduling regular department meetings, you should also maintain an open-door policy, allowing faculty members to drop by at their convenience to talk about whatever is on their minds. Keep in mind: Their convenience isn’t always convenient for you. As chair, your job exists primarily to serve faculty....

Provide vision. This is the crucial one. Over the years I’ve been amazed to observe that — no matter how independent-minded individual department members might be — the department as a whole tends to take its cue from the chair. A chair who is generally positive fosters optimism among faculty, whereas one who is negative generates pessimism.

Beyond that, you are responsible for imbuing faculty with a feeling of shared purpose and an understanding of their individual and collective roles. It’s up to you and your department’s faculty whether you want to draft a formal "vision statement." ...

If your department does wish to create a mission statement, here are some important questions for the group to consider:

What are our core beliefs and values?
What are our most important functions?
What do we want this department to be known for?
How do we accomplish that?
What are our professional standards and expectations?
How do we fit into, and complement, the larger institution?
academia  administration  department_chair 
13 days ago
W. E. B. Du Bois’s Modernist Data Visualizations of Black Life
For the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, African American activist and sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois led the creation of over 60 charts, graphs, and maps that visualized data on the state of black life. The hand-drawn illustrations were part of an “Exhibit of American Negroes,” which Du Bois, in collaboration with Thomas J. Calloway and Booker T. Washington, organized to represent black contributions to the United States at the world’s fair....

Du Bois’s charts (recently shared by data artist Josh Begley on Twitter) focus on Georgia, tracing the routes of the slave trade to the Southern state, the value of black-owned property between 1875 and 1889, comparing occupations practiced by blacks and whites, and calculating the number of black students in different school courses (2 in business, 2,252 in industrial)....

It was decided in advance to try to show ten things concerning the negroes in America since their emancipation: (1) Something of the negro’s history; (2) education of the race; (3) effects of education upon illiteracy; (4) effects of education upon occupation; (5) effects of education upon property; (6) the negro’s mental development as shown by the books, high class pamphlets, newspapers, and other periodicals written or edited by members of the race; (7) his mechanical genius as shown by patents granted to American negroes; (8) business and industrial development in general; (9) what the negro is doing for himself though his own separate church organizations, particularly in the work of education; (10) a general sociological study of the racial conditions in the United States.
data_visualization  race  worlds_fair  exposition  exhibition_design 
13 days ago
Come on Feel the Data (and Smell It)
In March of 2013, Matsukura unveiled a system for producing scents built into LCD advertising screens, creating the illusion that a Big Mac smells as good as it looks. Meanwhile, Spanish chef Andoni Luiz Aduriz recently announced a collaborative project with Scentee, a smartphone accessory that signals alerts and alarms via scent. Like the Smell-O-Vision before them, these products suggest more potent possibilities for our digitally mediated lives: transforming a sea of disembodied information we struggle to interpret visually or aurally into more “visceral” data that we see, hear, feel, breathe and even ingest.

...the burgeoning Internet of Things will rely increasingly on what I call “data visceralizations.” Data visceralizations are representations of information that don’t rely solely and primarily on sight or sound, but on multiple senses including touch, smell, and even taste, working together to stimulate our feelings as well as our thoughts.

Great visceral designs, like Apple’s original iMac, are all about “immediate emotional impact” because they engage multiple senses: Apple’s candy-colored computers were also rounded and smooth to the touch, distinguishing their feel as well as their look.

...In the middle of the last century, cybernetics pioneer Grey Walter was exploring the possibilities of multi-sensory perception and interaction with computing. ...attending to multiple channels of interaction: not just visual and aural cues, but also gestural and touch-based (haptic) feedback. Digital gaming has played a major role in incorporating tactile feedback, among other visceral design methods, into its products.

....strategies described above seek to prompt a visceral response in users through engaging one sense or another in order to trigger a physical or emotional reaction, making an end-run around rational thought. A commitment to the concept of visceral data, in contrast, involves focusing on how these different tools and technologies can work together to help make abstract information have a meaningful visceral impact on users—one that’s appropriate and compelling for the context and the data involved....

interfaces that make data sets viscerally engaging could result in a more holistic process of individual decision-making, grounded in both our thoughts and our feelings. While visceral design in material products is often intended to produce feelings or desires that overcomes our reasoned second thoughts, visceral data has the potential to level out our reactions the opposite way: as well as appreciating a problem or issue rationally, users prompted to engage viscerally will have a well-rounded sense of their own intellectual, emotional and physical stance on the matter at hand.
data  data_visualization  touch  smell  haptics  sensation  epistemology  embodiment 
14 days ago
Solving All the Wrong Problems - The New York Times
We are overloaded daily with new discoveries, patents and inventions all promising a better life, but that better life has not been forthcoming for most. In fact, the bulk of the above list targets a very specific (and tiny!) slice of the population. As one colleague in tech explained it to me recently, for most people working on such projects, the goal is basically to provide for themselves everything that their mothers no longer do....

But the impulse to conflate toothbrush delivery with Nobel Prize-worthy good works is not just a bit cultish, it’s currently a wildfire burning through the so-called innovation sector. Products and services are designed to “disrupt” market sectors (a.k.a. bringing to market things no one really needs) more than to solve actual problems, especially those problems experienced by what the writer C. Z. Nnaemeka has described as “the unexotic underclass” — single mothers, the white rural poor, veterans, out-of-work Americans over 50 — who, she explains, have the “misfortune of being insufficiently interesting.”

If the most fundamental definition of design is to solve problems, why are so many people devoting so much energy to solving problems that don’t really exist? How can we get more people to look beyond their own lived experience?...

Empathy, humility, compassion, conscience: These are the key ingredients missing in the pursuit of innovation, Ms. Helfand argues, and in her book she explores design, and by extension innovation, as an intrinsically human discipline — albeit one that seems to have lost its way. Ms. Helfand argues that innovation is now predicated less on creating and more on the undoing of the work of others.

“In this humility-poor environment, the idea of disruption appeals as a kind of subversive provocation,” she writes. “Too many designers think they are innovating when they are merely breaking and entering.”

In this way, innovation is very much mirroring the larger public discourse: a distrust of institutions combined with unabashed confidence in one’s own judgment shifts solutions away from fixing, repairing or improving and shoves them toward destruction for its own sake. (Sound like a certain presidential candidate? Or Brexit?)...

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, where such companies are based, sea level rise is ominous, the income gap between rich and poor has been growing faster than in any other city in the nation, a higher percentage of people send their kids to private school than in almost any other city, and a minimum salary of $254,000 is required to afford an average-priced home. Who exactly is better off?
design  solutionism  empathy  ethics 
14 days ago
Wild Mirrored Bookstore Debuts in China - Curbed
China has been developing a reputation for incredible libraries and bookstores lately. There was the twig-covered village-saver, the seaside concrete mammoth, the cave-like reading refuge, and now this: a 10,800-square-foot bookstore that definitely looks like something out of a sci-fi movie.

Located in Yangzhou, China, "Zhongshuge Yangzhou" was designed XL-Muse, the Shanghai firm that recently also unveiled a spaceship-like bookstore in Hangzhou.
libraries  china 
15 days ago
New Jack Librarian: Library of Cards
And that’s the reason why I wanted to start my talk with a brief history lesson. To remind us that there is a common ancestor to the library catalog and the scholar’s bibliography, and that is the index card.

So as we’ve learned, from as far back as Gessner’s 16th Century, writers have been using cards and slips of paper to rearrange ideas and quotations into texts, citations into bibliographies, and bibliographic descriptions into card catalogues....

If you look around the most popular websites and pay particular attention to the design patterns used, you will quickly notice that many of the sites that we visit every day (Twitter, Facebook, Trello, Instagram, Pinterest) they all use cards as a user interface design pattern....

Case in point, Chris Tse states, the most important quality of ‘cards’ is that of movement. But by movement, he isn’t referring to the design’s apparent affordances that makes swiping or scrolling intuitive.

The movement of cards that’s really important is how they feed into content creation and content sharing and how cards feed into discussions and workflow. ...

As Chris Tse says, cards are more than just glorified widgets. “When done right”, he says, “a card looks like responsive web content, works like a focused mobile app, and feels like a saved file that you can share and reuse". As “cards” become more interactive, he believe they will go from being just concentrated bits of content and turn into mini-apps that can be embedded, can capture and manipulate data, or even process transactions.
interface_aesthetics  interfaces  index_cards  cards  textual_form  cataloguing  libraries 
15 days ago
Coyle's InFormation: Catalog and Context, Part I
We can't really compare the library catalog of today to the early book catalogs, since the problem that they had to solve was quite different to what we have today. However, those catalogs can show us what a library catalog was originally meant to be.

A book catalog was a compendium of entry points, mainly authors but in some cases also titles and subjects. The bibliographic data was kept quite brief as every character in the catalog was a cost in terms of type-setting and page real estate. The headings dominated the catalog, and it was only through headings that a user could approach the bibliographic holdings of the library. An alphabetical author list is not much "knowledge organization", but the headings provided an ordered layer over the library's holdings, and were also the only access mechanism to them.

Some of the early card catalogs had separate cards for headings and for bibliographic data. If entries in the catalog had to be hand-written (or later typed) onto cards, the easiest thing was to slot the cards into the catalog behind the appropriate heading without adding heading data to the card itself....

In 1902 the Library of Congress began printing cards that could be purchased by libraries. The idea was genius. For each item cataloged by LC a card was printed in as many copies as needed. Libraries could buy the number of catalog card "blanks" they required to create all of the entries in their catalogs. ...

The MAchine Readable Cataloging (MARC) project of the Library of Congress was a major upgrade to card printing technology. By including all of the information needed for card printing in a computer-processable record, LC could take advantage of new technology to stream-line its card production process, and even move into a kind of "print on demand" model. The MARC record was designed to have all of the information needed to print the set of cards for a book; author, title, subjects, and added entries were all included in the record, as well as some additional information that could be used to generate reports such as "new acquisitions" lists.
libraries  cataloguing  index_cards  bibliography 
15 days ago
Sapping Attention: Nature publishes flat-earth research paper
What's particularly baffling about the Nature map here is that although they do assume a flat earth, they don't make the easy mistake of assuming a rectangular one. Instead, according to the caption above, they calculate their centers of population using the Goode Homolosine projection. It's not immediately recognizable in their map, so here's a version from Wikipedia:

The homolosine projection is great for thematic global mapping because it preserves equal area without distorting the shapes and north-south orientations of local land areas too much. It does this at the cost, though, of several gigantic cuts through the oceans and Greenland; these make it singularly inappropriate for a center of population calculation. For example, Tokyo is just about due north of Adelaide in real life: but because Goode chose splits that would pull Japan closer to the Eurasian mainland, in this projection it ends up closer to Perth. Eastern North American cities for nearly double the distance of the Atlantic ocean....

So why are they using a homolosine projection at all? I don't want to put too much more thought into this than they did. But it must be some combination of them acknowledging the problems with the mercator and/or equirectangular projections, while just wanting to get along with center of population calculations that show the march of population. So they use the first equal-area projection that comes to hand, and assume it's good enough to show centers of population. Which, honestly, it is; centers of population are such a vaguely-defined thing that there isn't really any harm in presenting them in whatever light you want.

But it's still kind of a joke on all of us that we inhabit a scholarly ecosystem where a data publication has to be accompanied with lots of explanatory text and diagrams to seem respectable, but in which no cares if you demonstrate that without worrying about the shape of the globe. (And as Seth Denbo points out, one of the first applications of the new set was an animation that places Moses leading the Israelites from Egypt as just another precisely dated historical migration).
cartography  projection  urban_history  population 
15 days ago
The Whistleblower Architects: surveillance, infrastructure, and freedom of information according to Cryptome (part 2) | Features | Archinect
A company that produces military mission control systems manufactures LinkNYC kiosks through a spin off entity. Installed along public sidewalks at a granular coverage of every 200 feet or so, the devices introduce an unprecedented urban apparatus: the coordinated automation and privatization of neighborhood-scale sensing and reporting derived from military command-and-control technology. LinkNYC joins stop-and-frisk policing and Lower Manhattan's Ring of Steel security cordon as one of the city's premier sensing and reporting technologies....

Reverse engineering forensically extracts, inspects, improves or contests 'design blueprints' embedded in manmade systems. Cryptome reverse-engineers the technics and codes hardwired into panoptical information and communications technologies as a way of examining their diagrams of power. This 'revolt against the gaze' is our tactic in the Eyeball Series when flipping the technology of national security vision back onto itself through reversals of geospatial imagery. Or reversing top-down geopolitical maps through countercartographies that favor micro-historical method. It's also Crytome's general approach to the everyday, incremental construction of a public domain library around the inchoate classification of so-called banned documents.


Policing practices integrated into the risk management of vast assemblages have profound impacts on lived cities. This is the case with Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP), a program that privileges infrastructure sectors serving what are deemed to be vital national interests.
sidewalk_labs  linkNYC  smart_cities  surveillance  big_data  counter_mapping  cartography  infrastructure  reverse_engineering 
15 days ago
From Smart City to Quantified Community: A New Approach to Urban Science | NYU Center for the Humanities
Today, the convergence of two phenomena – the ability to collect, store, and process an expanding volume of data and the increasing level of global urbanization – presents the opportunity and need to use large-scale datasets and analytics to address fundamental problems and challenges of city operations, policy, and planning. Unfortunately, the techno-centric marketing rhetoric around “Smart Cities” has been replete with unfulfilled promises, and the persistent use (and mis-use) of the term Big Data has generated confusion and distrust about potential applications of technology in cities. Despite this, the reality remains that disruptive shifts in ubiquitous data collection (including mobile devices, GPS, social media, and synoptic video) and its analysis will have a profound effect on urban policy and planning and our collective understanding of urban life.

There is an opportunity now to learn from the mistakes of the past and to use new data streams and computing capabilities not in a singular quest for optimal solutions, but rather to enhance and support how communities identify, define, and collectively try to address their most pressing challenges. Problems vary by neighborhood, time, and demographics. Needs are defined by personal expectations, feelings, and values. Practitioners in the emerging field of urban informatics should recognize the importance of difference and develop a grounded appreciation of the social and behavioral dynamics of place.

At NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), I am leading work on a major research initiative called the Quantified Community (QC), which will soon expand as it becomes a founding partner of NYC’s Neighborhood Innovation Labs initiative. The intent is to use new methods to collect, fuse, and analyze data to enable improved neighborhood planning and urban design, and, ultimately, positively impact quality-of-life for those who live in cities by addressing persistent questions on how the built environment shapes individual and collective outcomes. This goal is grounded in the need to engage the local community and let residents better understand and ultimately define problems and needs, and to use data analytics to advance potential ways to reduce or eliminate these challenges. It is an experiment in every sense, as many of the “what, why, and how” questions of community data science still remain to be answered, although we are making progress.

We have initially launched the QC in three very distinct neighborhoods: at Hudson Yards, a ground-up “city-within-a-city” on the far west side of Manhattan; in Lower Manhattan, a mixed-use neighborhood that attracts residents, workers, and visitors; and, most recently, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, an economically-distressed community facing significant development and demographic changes. In each of these communities, we are working with different constituents to define problems and build an “informatics infrastructure” to support community planning and local decision-making. At Hudson Yards, which is still a construction site, our partner is the developer who is designing and building the project. In Lower Manhattan, we are partnering with the local non-profit Business Improvement District, whose goals are to improve quality-of-life in the area to increase the neighborhood’s attractiveness to residents, workers, and tourists. And in Red Hook, we are collaborating with a community organization that provides social service support and workforce training for neighborhood residents.
smart_cities  big_data  data_analytics  urban_planning  methodology 
16 days ago
pattrn | data-driven, participatory fact mapping
Working as an aggregator of data in different media formats as well as an advanced data visualisation platform, PATTRN enables its community of users to share and collate first-hand reports of events on the ground and to make sense of diffused fragments of information.

Its principle is simple: everything that happens does so at a given place and time. The tool enables its users to build a database of events with space and time coordinates, and to add tags, media, and content to these events. Anyone can contribute data, anonymously.

The database can then be explored through an online visualisation platform: while a map provides access to the details of each event, interactive charts and filters enable to reveal patterns across the data. Together, users of PATTRN can thereby create the big picture of an ongoing situation.
mapping  crisis_mapping 
17 days ago
Strong Rooms – Matt Parker
The work contrasts between the surrounding park that the building sits within: trees, wind, birds, environmental sounds sit alongside the exhaust fans of a complex and sophisticated air-conditioning system and engine room that ensures within the building, the precious artefacts of hundreds of years of Warwick’s documented history are stored and preserved at precise temperatures, and precise humidity levels. The technology of today is used to preserve the knowledge of the past.

Using microphones, transducers and piezoelectric accelerometers, I navigated the space, listening to how the volunteer staff moved through it, how they touched and treated the objects with such care and how they listened, or chose not to listen, to the sounds of climatic control, security, and intrigue.
archives  labor  soundscape  sound_space 
17 days ago
Google Is Transforming NYC's Payphones Into a 'Personalized Propaganda Engine' | Village Voice
But LinkNYC marks a radical step even for Google. It is an effort to establish a permanent presence across our city, block by block, and to extend its online model to the physical landscape we humans occupy on a daily basis. The company then intends to clone that system and start selling it around the world, government by government, to as many as will buy. And every place that signs on will become another profit center in Google's advertising business, even as it extends its near-monopoly on information about our online behavior to include our behavior in physical space as well.

"It's a real-time, personalized propaganda engine," Douglas Rushkoff, a New York–based media theorist and author of the bestselling Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, told the Voice, "a multibillion-dollar manipulation apparatus, customized not to meet our consumer desires, but to overcome our psychic defense mechanisms. And now you want to unleash that on the entire city of New York as a public service? I'm sorry, that's a deal with the devil we really don't need."...

Since the interview, the full scope of Sidewalk Labs' ambitions has become clearer. The company has offered to build Columbus, Ohio, a computerized traffic management system that experts fear might gut public bussing and drive the city into a state of dependence on Google technologies. Even more ambitious are Sidewalk Labs' plans for the creation of a "digital district," perhaps built on land owned by Google or some other company or ceded to the purpose by an existing government....

The idea of a city built de novo on the principles and values of technologists, unfettered by the inertia, red tape, and turf squabbles that burden actual cities where human beings already live, represents the apogee of messianic Silicon Valley thinking. The so-called "smart city," the one so wired with sensors and data-collection devices that its residents and operations move with the finely calibrated efficiency of clockwork or computer code, is a mirage techno-utopians have seen shimmering on the horizon for over a decade. Around the world, projects in various states of realization — South Korea's New Songdo, Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates, and PlanIT Valley in Portugal — all promise a vision of data-enriched urban living that looks like something out of a high-modernist fever dream....

"Alphabet/Google may be the single most ambitious company that has ever existed," Doctoroff told his fans at the Yale Club. "You have to go back to, like, the seventeenth century, or maybe before that, with the Dutch East India Company, that actually had the power to wage war."...

But a CityBridge spokesperson told the Voice that the consortium will spend roughly $300 million building and installing the LinkNYC kiosks and laying the fiber for the city's network. That may sound expensive, but Doctoroff made clear to Lessin that he still expects to "make a lot of money from this."...

"By having access to the browsing activity of people using the Wi-Fi — all anonymized and aggregated — we can actually then target ads to people in proximity and then obviously over time track them through lots of different things, like beacons and location services, as well as their browsing activity. So in effect what we're doing is replicating the digital experience in physical space."...

It's worth noting that Google's earlier forays into physical space aren't particularly reassuring. From 2008 to 2010 the company sent cars bristling with cameras all over the world to create Google Street View; it was later revealed that the cars were also equipped with Wi-Fi-sniffers, which sucked data from any open Wi-Fi signals they happened to pass and then stored that data at an Oregon facility. When Google was busted, it tried to pass the snooping off as an honest mistake, but an FCC report later determined not only that Google engineers had expressly wanted to collect that data, but that project leaders were well aware of what was going on. ...

But the thing about storing anonymized information is that it often isn't so hard to de-anonymize it. ... But pretending that MAC and IP addresses don't qualify as personally identifying information because they ID hardware rather than people is disingenuous at best, says Ohm, the Georgetown professor. "We don't share our smartphones with anyone, so IP addresses and MAC addresses now are a one-to-one relationship with people," he says....

When the Voice continued asking questions about the gaping holes in LinkNYC's privacy statement, spokespeople for the city and CityBridge began backpedaling: The policy language might permit LinkNYC to collect, share, and retain all sorts of data about its users, they said, but LinkNYC wasn't actually doing any of those scary things. But if CityBridge wants us to believe it's holding itself to such strict standards, why weren't those standards reflected in the privacy policy — the legal promise it makes to users? The answer came back: "Because LinkNYC is a first-of-its-kind system, the privacy policy was written before we knew exactly how the network would operate," a CityBridge spokesperson wrote.... In other words, CityBridge and the city are making this up as they go along, and maybe they'll update the privacy policy someday. In the meantime, trust them....

unbeknownst to New Yorkers, the company that had the concession to run advertising on the battered remains of the city's public phone booths had quietly installed hundreds of Gimbal beacons in them. The advertising company was Titan, one of the original partners in CityBridge that has since been swallowed up by Sidewalk Labs. Busted, Titan and Gimbal complied with a city request to immediately remove the chips. The dream of getting beacons into the city's sidewalk furniture would have to be deferred to another day....

Last fall, Facebook, Google's chief rival in the quest to own everyone's personal data, unveiled, a proposal to provide thousands of isolated villages in India with internet access. Mark Zuckerberg was initially showered with plaudits for his selfless effort to bridge the global digital divide, but as details emerged, reaction to the plan soured. would only provide free access to certain sites (among them Facebook), tossing the principle of net neutrality out the window. Perhaps even more importantly, the service routed all user traffic through Facebook's servers and disabled the HTTPS protocol that provides Web surfers protection from surveillance of their traffic. In effect, Facebook was offering a hobbled free service as the bait for a potentially massive haul of user data. As the outrage over the plan crested, Indian regulators ultimately rejected it....

Targeted advertising of the sort that underwrites LinkNYC isn't about getting consumers information about goods and services they want, says Rushkoff, the media theorist. Rather, data collection is about producing profiles of consumers likely to engage in a particular form of consumer behavior, and then bombarding them with ads or search results or tailored Facebook feeds to tip them over into that behavior. "They are working hard to get you to behave true to your statistical profile," Rushkoff says, "and in doing so they reduce your spontaneity, your anomalous behavior, your human agency, as they try to get you to conform to the most marketable probable outcome. When we're doing that en masse, to an entire city — that kind of long-term manipulation is just astounding."...It wasn't so long ago that when New York wanted to build something important for its citizens, it did so itself, or formed a public authority to do so, but nowadays the fashion is to contract out for expertise on complicated projects. "It's hard to fault New York for saying, 'We know what we're good at and we know what we're not good at' and making the decision to outsource this," Ohm says. "But on the other hand, we're talking about extremely valuable real estate that New York possesses here.... Rushkoff, characteristically, is less diplomatic. "What we have here is our public officials serving up the public to corporations," he says. "It's like New York doesn't realize that it has the power of place against these extractive corporations. The city is looking at its population not as a power base, but as an offering, as the thing to sell."...

We are designing the net to track you — if you don't like it, don't use it. The human race is shifting to a fully surveilled and monitored superorganism — if you don't like that, stop being human. That's a poor outcome.
google  sidewalk_labs  smart_cities  privacy  media_space  profiling  advertising 
17 days ago
Seeing Cities, Laura Kurgan in conversation with Bill Rankin - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
a map is just one way of representing a given set of data—and data doesn’t just mean statistics, but also things like the location of coastlines and railroads. The same data can be represented in many different ways, and the finished map is more an argument about the world than a simple description. If there’s a case to be made for cartography as something distinct from visualization, it’s that spatial data, or geographic knowledge more broadly, raises a distinct set of political questions about spatial governance and identity....

What’s more interesting to me, and what I spend a lot of time thinking about, is that “radical” can instead refer to the way the map is made. It would be a radical process, rather than just radical content.

There’s a lot of interest today in bottom-up surveying and participatory data collection—and I hope we can talk more about this kind of mapping—but my own focus has been on rethinking the graphics of the map itself and the rules that are used to translate from raw data into finished cartography. For me, this mostly means using other people’s data in ways that they wouldn’t have used it themselves, in order to make new kinds of visual arguments. And again, the idea of visual argument is really crucial. It’s the way the map is drawn that makes the political intervention....

Take the example of census maps. The problem with most demographic maps is that, like a pastel-colored map of territorial states, they tend to assume that the relevant demographic boundaries fall exactly at the edges of official neighborhood areas and that all such edges are clean and well-defined. My alternative, which uses block-level data and hundreds of thousands of colored dots, isn’t just about showing more detailed data. It’s also about challenging implicit arguments about boundaries, homogeneity, and the so-called “inner city.” ...

Another example is a more recent map I made of the American Midwest. And again I’m really interested in the question of boundaries and how to represent them cartographically. I started by collecting 100 different maps of the Midwest from the Internet; I then just overlaid them all together to see what kind of agreement, or disagreement, there was. What I like about this map is that it makes it clear that the boundaries of the Midwest, culturally, are in fact quite fuzzy. ...

Kurgan: I know GIS professionals have all kinds of theories about how many dots the human eye can perceive, and worry that once too many dots pile one on top of each other, the dots lose meaning. Before interactive maps, dot maps were not that popular in GIS. Chloropleth maps, which assign one color associated with a legend across a political or geographic entity to represent a number range, were much more popular, and still are. There is something to this argument: at the wrong zoom level, piled up dots can’t be understood as a specific number of people. Today, faster computation allows faster rendering of data in real time on screens, and the zoom has radically altered web mapping platforms...

There’s a long history of research that’s about trying to find hard-and-fast graphic rules for cartography. How do people perceive the sizes of circles on a map? Can the everyday map user distinguish six shades of gray, or seven? Do people make more reading errors when data is shown with squares instead of circles? This is not where I’m coming from. I’m coming from a design background, and now I’m a historian writing about the politics of geographic knowledge. So I’m not so invested in the psychometrics of map reading, because this often leads to maps that pass certain tests but that don’t pass the most important test, namely, does this actually tell us what we want to know?

...trying to push back against GIS, because the graphic language of GIS is coming from this long tradition of psychometrics and the idea that mapmaking can be reduced to a set of quasi-scientific rules. And I usually find myself wanting to do things that the software is really not intended to do—I want to experiment. So I use GIS opportunistically, and I’m often mashing it up with other software in order to get away from the idea that all maps should follow the same set of rules.

...great to have these interactive dot maps where the number of dots per person changes automatically with the zoom level, as long as the map is still legible at every level. The politics here are not really about trying to give every person their own dot—although I certainly understand the symbolic appeal—but more about showing internal diversity within neighborhoods and within the large areas that demographers and urban planners are used to working with. How do you break into the pastel-colored shape and show the granular, multivariate data instead of averaging things out using a standard-issue choropleth map?...

There are a lot of countries—such as the UK or Canada—where mapping data is not made freely available to the public. Instead, they sell it, and it costs a lot of money. But in the US, the law says that anything created by the federal government is automatically in the public domain, and I think this is a great policy. ... There are certain kinds of mapping that simply cannot be done in a bottom-up way—satellite mapping, for example.

The other thing that I would say is that there’s a politics here about who gets to decide what’s mapped. It’s hard to argue against making maps for disaster response or humanitarian aid. But it gets a bit more fuzzy in cases like informal settlements, where there’s some real debate about whether making those settlements visible to the state is actually beneficial or not—whether there’s a politics of remaining hidden that might be more strategic....

I’m worried when a crowdsourcer or an NGO is the one to decide where the boundary is between visibility and privacy. And this should be doubly true when intervening in other countries or cultures....

Even if citizen mapping ends up being cheaper than government mapping, how would we make sure that all neighborhoods are given the same attention? Where is the line between holding government accountable and replacing government altogether? ...

Privacy and security are major issues here, too. Google Street View has already raised privacy issues, especially in Europe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Google or Facebook or some other company with a huge amount of personal data started experimenting with new kinds of mapping to rival the census. Right now there are also regulations about the allowable resolution for aerial photography, mostly coming from the military. I can imagine these being challenged or circumvented by new kinds of drone mapping. These are the border cases where it’s important to talk about what kinds of mapping should be done, and by whom, and how that data is then made available.

But I do think that whatever public data does end up being collected should be freely accessible, and volunteer organizations and NGOs don’t always share their data. In my own work I’m often frustrated when all I can find is a finished map, because that finished map has already been put through a certain set of goggles—a certain lens that is showing me one version of that data. I want to be able to look at the data myself and see what else I can learn. ...

Kurgan:...working with indigenous populations to make maps. As you said in your response, this can involve “encountering cultures that have no mapping tradition that we recognize at all. Their geographic knowledge—often very sophisticated knowledge—is not map knowledge.” You asked: “What do we do? Do we try to translate that knowledge into a mode that we understand? Do we invite other peoples to make maps even if they don’t see the value?” Can you expand a little on this issue?...

In the 1990s, when anthropologists first started writing about “counter-mapping”—where NGOs help indigenous groups make their land claims legible within a Euro-American system of land ownership—there was a real discussion about the pros and cons of freezing and rigidly spatializing these systems of land use that were quite fluid and social. But now, twenty years later, I see very little debate. The assumption is usually that making maps and collecting spatial data for GIS is always the right answer and will inevitably lead to increased political representation and a better distribution of resources. But I’m not so sure....

Our starting point has to be that replicating the entire world is simply not an option. Sure, it might be possible to catalogue all the physical stuff; this is the traditional cartographic project. (Although it’s worth remembering that this is scale dependent. No one is proposing to map the location of every individual tree or every pile of gravel.) But there’s always going to be a discussion about what else we care about. And this isn’t just about the sheer difficulty of mapping everything; there are also phenomena just now coming into being that have never existed before....

The other thing I would add, more on the side of cartography than data collection, is that working on new kinds of graphics and representation is also a powerful argument against completeness, even if the data doesn’t change at all. We especially have to be careful not to think that the options available in the current software are the only options that exist. For example, in one of my courses I assign Jacques Bertin’s Semiology of Graphics, an important and ambitious book from the 1960s. Bertin spends a lot of time exploring all the ways that the same dataset can be represented with dozens of different graphic techniques
data_visualization  cartography  geography  mapping  data  color  scale  invisibility  privacy  open_street_maps  epistemology 
17 days ago
Fire Roads — Justin O'Beirne
“You took away the fire roads.”

I was surprised—taken aback, even—by the firefighter’s comments.

Couldn’t he see what I saw? The arterial roads were still there—they were just white, instead of yellow.

I tried pointing it out—but to the firefighter, it wasn’t clear. It was as if the roads had been deleted from the map. That the arterials were drawn wider than the other roads wasn’t enough.

He just couldn’t see it.

“Why don’t you use turn-by-turn directions to get to the fire?”, I asked.

He told me about how fire trucks are larger than most vehicles and how the firefighters look for bigger roads to drive down. The wider the road, the easier it is to pass other vehicles and reach the fire quicker.

(When the firefighters had used navigation in the past, it didn’t always take them down the widest roads—so they opted to speed across Google Maps’s “fire roads”, which were often the widest in the area.)

Interestingly enough, Google’s “fire roads” were also the roads most likely to have traffic lights. Many cities (including the firefighter’s) have special sensors mounted on traffic lights that detect approaching emergency vehicles. Upon sensing an emergency vehicle, the traffic light changes, allowing the vehicle to pass.
mapping  cartography 
19 days ago
Sounding Lines – MAS CONTEXT
Once land has been found, surveyed, charted, and inhabited, its originally mysterious topographies are ultimately tamed by abstract lines that mark borders, districts, cities, and nations. These artificial armatures transform the character of telluric landscape; the periphery of the map ossifies as once-wild lands succumb to the theodolite and the sextant. In contrast, oceans retain their dynamic nature despite attempts to chart their constantly changing, liquid surfaces. The ephemeral disposition of the sea presented a challenge to traditional cartographic techniques that sought to present stable, permanent images of space rather than accepting the possibility of more fluid geographies.

Unlike terrestrial landscapes, whose vast expanses can be immediately grasped through vision, the sea demands a more tactile engagement with its elusive territories, an engagement that transcends the planimetric terrestrial surface and embraces the sectional condition of its liquid volume. The sounding line, cast into uncharted waters, is a spatial instrument that physically mediates between the hands of the surveyor and the depths of the sea. A constructed line marked with the dimensions of the human body, the sounding creates a connection between an invisible, undersea topography and a position on the map determined through readings of the night sky. The sounding does not merely sink beneath the waves, but marks a solitary point in space, a singular volumetric reading in the text of the hidden unknown. As the ephemeral seam between two worlds, the sounding line both reveals the unknown and creates new knowledge. The sounding is a record of discovery, an instrument of exploration, and an armature for creation.
mapping  water  oceans 
19 days ago
Logistical Ecologies of the North American Operational Landscape – MAS CONTEXT
Among these systems, the movement of containerized freight by train and truck along railways and highways is an illuminating lens through which to decipher twenty-first century urbanization processes. Considering the urban as a process, rather than an aggregation of discrete areas, underscores the fact that the aforementioned zones of downtown reinvestment are but one moment of capital accumulation. Virtually all the goods consumed in North America arrive by containership at North American coastal ports, mostly from newly industrialized Asian countries, where they move to market by train and by truck. Since the early 2000s, mounting spatial, economic, and labor pressures on coastal United States ports coupled with a rise in online commerce and an increasingly fragmented global supply chain have caused activities historically associated with coastal ports to spill over into the interior of the continent. This interiorization of port activities has produced vast logistics landscapes in former rangeland, cropland, and pasture areas.

These logistics landscapes, where third-party logistics providers, warehousing and distribution facilities for online retailers, and manufacturing plants cluster around massive inland ports, are more than the just the inverse of America’s centers of tourism and commerce: they are distinct urban environments, critical junctions in the global circuitry of twenty-first century capital.
logistics  indexical_landscapes  media_space 
19 days ago
We Are to Blame for the State of Social Science Research | Items
our seriousness as scholars and determination to justify our existence often leaves us unable to laugh at the absurdity of the infrastructure that we’ve built to support it. ...

The fact that research is conducted primarily in academia is an ironic byproduct of the professorial mandate. Researchers became professors because it seemed like a natural post from which to teach. Of course, in the process, the professorial mandate turned into the responsibility of teaching 18-year-olds. And because of how we’ve set up universities, teaching is often seen as a second-class activity and unrewarded in evaluation at the same time that universities are facing serious pressure to be more attentive to students. And so we’ve got mixed incentives. These only get further confused by how faculty lines are allocated, prompting faculty to compete with other departments and then to compete within their department, recognizing that courses need to be filled and intense competition exists among academics for positions and funding. This, in turn, prompts strategic graduate students to pursue acceptable lines of inquiry and position themselves in order to be judged by their peers in a way that will give them the acceptable academic kudos. And, hence, we arrive at the “least publishable unit” problem, where people aren’t doing social science because it matters for the world, but because it enables a form of career stability....

The problem with academia as a site of research isn’t just its infrastructural nightmare. It’s the fact that it means that academics are living in a relatively cloistered world. There’s a reason that most psychology research involves experiments with college-aged people. And most anthropologists lament that fieldwork is only truly possible when one is a graduate student because of the responsibilities of being faculty. What life experiences do graduate students have to help them choose a line of inquiry? It’s not surprising that so many social science students pursue questions related to identity and sexuality. That’s where they’re at. That’s where I was at. But are those the only questions we should be asking?

If we want to matter, we need to think critically about the questions we ask—and the questions we don’t ask—and what influences that distinction. We relish the idea of peer evaluation in both funding and publication, but are unable to reckon with our collective myopias and get defensive whenever someone asks what the hell we’re doing. And we need to find better ways of collectively identifying hard and important questions to ask, arenas of under-interrogated issues, and knowledge that the public needs....

When we believe that we have a monopoly on asking important questions, we do ourselves a disservice. It’s dangerous that we think that basic research starts with the questions we find important rather than trying to understand the knowledge that society is missing. Peer review suggests that we are the only ones who have purchase over whether a study is valuable enough to fund or publish. True impact will never be achieved by trying to keep within an ivory tower and acknowledging external forces as an afterthought.
academia  methodology  funding  epistemology 
19 days ago
The Whistleblower Architects: surveillance, infrastructure, and freedom of information according to Cryptome (part 1)
Cryptome is a repository of some 44.3 gigabytes of documents on dual-use technologies, military facilities, freedom of expression, cryptography, and other issues relevant to contemporary and clandestine governance....

As licensed architects with an interest in decentralized zones where architecture and public infrastructures intersect, John and I distinguish ourselves from systems engineers who claim to be practitioners of a value-neutral technics. While infrastructures may be described as blackboxed or culturally invisible, we always try to render their inherent politics and interests culturally visible. Our work in support of a democratic society has always tried to equitably expand public goods in the public domain, public sphere and public space. In the information age, this includes Cryptome advocating for information equality and making visible to the public domain the knowledge-based economy's most blackboxed informational infrastructure: the corrosive apparatus of national security secrecy.....

Anonymous interventions straddle the boundary of cultural invisibility and visibility. They acknowledged crucial background traditions of maintenance and repair being devalued by privatized cultural processing that is increasingly fixated on marketing elite brands and global reputations. We are satisfied that our details have completely vanished into the fabric that knits the democratic city together in equitable, everyday ways....

Current trends to privatize information, whether in private sector or by the state, run counter to such foundational democratic sentiments. The corrosive effects of the bloated empire of national security secrecy on any robust democracy has been well documented... Too few architects are aware of the American Library Association's commendable role supporting information activism in the digital era. Far from becoming obsolete, the brick-and-mortar public library has become a site of embodied work on behalf of information equality...

One the one hand, Cryptome presents its scrolling index as a culturally invisible, somewhat anonymous feed. We've described our recent 50-minute animated scroll of the full 1996-2016 index as something of a deterritorialized, non-wayfinding map. In most cases, the informant or witness also happens to be an autobiographical subjectThis unadorned fugitivity or abnegation charts evasive lines of flight in the face of mobile authorities that are continually tracking our site. ...

Being known for an unpolished DIY presence may be a tad perverse in this age of designer flash bells, whistles, eye-candy and banner ads. We hope self-guided learners remain active, engaged and criticalThis un-adorning reflects our concern with design skill being hijacked by market-driven branding and merchandising campaigns.

At the same time, we're pleased to provide an unadorned boot camp for reader autonomy, choice and self-guided learning that we believe crucial to self-determination. Readers use search engines for self-guided research. This would distinguish them from consumers who are rendered passive while whetting online desire. ...

You raise a productive distinction between the two economies of information: Cryptome's 'banishing' of design as a counter-market strategy contrasted with the more intensely articulated cartographic narratives inventoried at Cartome, a research zone embedded in the larger site.

One the one hand, Cryptome presents its scrolling index as a culturally invisible, somewhat anonymous feed. We've described our recent 50-minute animated scroll of the full 1996-2016 index as something of a deterritorialized, non-wayfinding map... At the same time, our cartographic pieces are constructed from very articulated visual codes. This granularity and color coding supports demotic micro-history recounted 'from below'. Narrative codes attempt to reverse the silencing of micro-historical accounts otherwise suppressed by dominant geopolitical historiographies.
security  secrecy  archives  mapping 
19 days ago
Adding Classes and Content, Resurgent Libraries Turn a Whisper Into a Roar
Far from becoming irrelevant in the digital age, libraries in New York City and around the nation are thriving: adding weekend and evening hours; hiring more librarians and staff; and expanding their catalog of classes and services to include things like job counseling, coding classes and knitting groups.

No longer just repositories for books, public libraries have reinvented themselves as one-stop community centers that aim to offer something for everyone. In so doing, they are reaffirming their role as an essential part of civic life in America by making themselves indispensable to new generations of patrons....

In the 2016 fiscal year the libraries received $360 million for operating costs, $33 million more than the year before — the largest increase in recent times. For the 2017 fiscal year, which began on Friday, city financing for the libraries increased slightly to $365 million. But in a more significant victory, city leaders agreed to preserve past increases in future budgets, the difference, say, between getting a one-year bonus or a permanent raise.
libraries  infrastructure 
19 days ago
Hard Data | Turbulence
Hard Data is a data-mining, sonification, and visualization project that uses statistics from the American military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq as source material for an interactive audiovisual composition based around an open-source “score” of events. Using Xenakis’ understanding of formalized music as a starting point, DuBois draws upon a variety of statistical data ranging from the visceral (civilian deaths, geospatial renderings of military actions) to the mundane (fiscal year budgets for the war) to generate a dataset that can be used for any number of audiovisual compositions. The intention of the project is to recontextualize the formal stochastic music in the context of real-world statistics, and to provide a compositional and metaphoric framework for creating an electroacoustic music relevant and significant to our time.
big_data  data_visualization  data_sonification 
20 days ago
The Moral Economy of Tech
People who excel at software design become convinced that they have a unique ability to understand any kind of system at all, from first principles, without prior training, thanks to their superior powers of analysis. Success in the artificially constructed world of software design promotes a dangerous confidence....

First, programmers are trained to seek maximal and global solutions. Why solve a specific problem in one place when you can fix the general problem for everybody, and for all time? We don't think of this as hubris, but as a laudable economy of effort. And the startup funding culture of big risk, big reward encourages this grandiose mode of thinking. ...

Instead of relying on algorithms, which we can be accused of manipulating for our benefit, we have turned to machine learning, an ingenious way of disclaiming responsibility for anything. Machine learning is like money laundering for bias. It's a clean, mathematical apparatus that gives the status quo the aura of logical inevitability. The numbers don't lie....

More broadly, we have to stop treating computer technology as something unprecedented in human history. Not every year is Year Zero. This is not the first time an enthusiastic group of nerds has decided to treat the rest of the world as a science experiment. Earlier attempts to create a rationalist Utopia failed for interesting reasons, and since we bought those lessons at a great price, it would be a shame not to
surveillance  methodology  programming  california_ideology  solutionism  urban_planning 
22 days ago
The Future of Archaeology Is Spacejunk - The Atlantic
Alice Gorman is a professor of archaeology at Flinders University, where she is also deputy chair of the Space Industry Association of Australia. For Gorman, performing archaeology outside of a terrestrial context means that “we have to rethink the meaning of place” altogether. This is both difficult and essential. After all, she explains, “a prerequisite for gathering archaeological data is knowing where things are”—yet the very idea of a fixed location falls apart when the object of study is in constant motion. “In orbit,” Gorman writes, “position changes every second and must be continually tracked in order to know where to locate an object.”

For an archaeologist studying satellites this is uniquely troubling, and it means that it can be next to impossible to define an actual historic “site.” ...

If archaeologists want to maintain a record of what is in orbit, and to keep tabs on those objects in the future, then something beyond mere maps will be necessary. For Gorman, this means reconceptualizing archaeological space itself, as something that is topological rather than geographic.

Gorman has thus advocated thinking about offworld historical research—the in situ study of abandoned satellites and derelict spacecraft—in terms of how those objects interact with the planet’s gravity well. It is about trajectory, we might say, not location. As Gorman explained to me, this could have far-reaching conceptual implications for how archaeologists define and study offworld artifacts.

Even more than this, however, she pointed out that traditional archaeological methods such as stratigraphy—whereby archaeologists note which objects are lowest, and thus oldest, in a particular dig site—have no real value in space. Instead, she suggests, archaeologists will have to go back to an earlier phase of their own profession, before stratigraphy was accepted as a general rule.

Because a satellite orbiting higher than another satellite is not guaranteed to be newer than the satellite below it, you instead need to look for things such as style and type. This means, with no small irony, that space archaeologists will have to act more like 19th-century connoisseurs or art historians, searching for visual similarities amongst diverse families of objects and then establishing relations based on physical resemblance, in order to reconstruct the history of a given spacecraft.
archaeology  methodology  stratigraphy  space 
22 days ago
After the Map
In the early twentieth century, cartographers and journalists predicted the dawn of a “map-minded age” where state-of-the-art maps would become everyday tools, and during the two World Wars newspapers gushed at the many millions of maps produced for the battlefield. But a few decades later maps barely made the news at all, and headlines instead focused on the rise of new electronic navigation technologies and the “revolution” promised by ubiquitous GPS receivers. How should we understand this radical shift in geographic knowledge, from the god’s-eye view of the map to the embedded experience of GPS?

Technologies like GPS have certainly not rendered maps obsolete; if anything, we are more “map-minded” than ever before. But maps clearly do not enjoy the authority they once did, and older concerns with geographic truth and objectivity have been upstaged by a new emphasis on simplicity, reliability, and everyday convenience. International collaborations between scientists have likewise been overshadowed by wartime mobilization and the global reach of the US military. Overall, managing space using GPS rather than maps alone has transformed the meaning of territory and the status of geographic boundaries – not just the boundaries between countries, but even the boundary between land and water.

As a result, it no longer makes sense to regard territory as simply a well-bounded block of geographic space. This is the territory produced by maps. New forms of geographic knowledge have instead created new ways of being territorial. This new territoriality emphasizes points instead of large continuous areas, and pointillist territories can overlap and shift for each different task. Even at the human scale of cell phones and driving directions, the goal is to navigate a constellation of coordinates, not to contemplate a bird’s-eye view of the world.

After the Map explores these changes by telling the story of three major international projects, each of which, in its own time, attempted to organize all geographic knowledge. Together the three projects span the three major branches of the mapping sciences: cartography, geodesy, and navigation.

The first is the International Map of the World, a hugely ambitious scheme for all countries of the world to collaborate on a uniform atlas of unprecedented detail. It was first proposed in 1891 and its standards were given the force of international treaty in 1909. By the time the project ended in the 1980s, thousands of maps had been produced.

The second is the Universal Transverse Mercator system, a grid-based alternative to latitude and longitude created by the US Army in the late 1940s. This system gives every point on the earth a remarkably user-friendly coordinate that can be used for everything from archeology to nuclear-missile targeting. It is arguably one of the most successful cartographic technologies of the twentieth century.

Finally, the third project is GPS – the Global Positioning System. The first radionavigation technologies were created as early as the 1910s, and a huge number of systems were created during and after World War II. The design of GPS began in the 1970s, and it was only at the turn of the twenty-first century that it became the dominant system we know today.
mapping  cartography  GPS  universalism 
23 days ago
From the Archive to the Internet, an Artist Collects and Connects Disparate Images
The way Iglesias makes work by reproducing, drawing from archives, and using collective labor, brings to mind the image of the internet as a web where information is collected and connected by links, an idea contradicted by the seemingly organic forms of the installation. But look again — there’s nothing organic. Other than a few living plants, the installation is composed entirely of reproductions and imitations of natural things, or dead animals (taxidermy and preserved coral specimen). In fact, the installation is overwhelmingly industrial, despite its organic mask. Even taxidermy is a form of industry and serves as a substitute that suggests life, without pretending to be alive. This pseudo-naturalism is compounded by industrial steel and acrylic platforms on which the work is displayed and file cabinets that suggest a place of origin for the discombobulated archive.

Today, we think of files as digital archives and their material origin as antiquity. By referencing objects taken from a natural history museum alongside prints by famous modernists, however, Iglesias reminds us that all digital reproductions have analog origins.
archives  archive_art  exhibition_design  exhibitions 
23 days ago
The Incomplete City — Medium
This also meant we couldn’t outline the trajectory of the whole week, except in the loosest possible terms. This had the effect of keeping the students focused entirely on the task at hand, whilst also embodying, or perhaps simulating, a condition of the design practice we were trying to explore: designing around what and who you know, the stage at-hand; not over-building or over-planning; ensuring each stage of development is well-rounded, yet leaving some spaces, infrastructures and decisions deliberately incomplete, in order to enable adaptation. By focusing on each stage, and the hinge to the next, and working at human-centred scale, each stage of development could be coherent, fulfilling, productive, sensitive, full of life.

This is the opposite of the ‘Field of Dreams’ “build it and they will come” model of urban planning and development, whose signature features are a large infrastructure spend requires vast property development to pay for it, wrapped up in planning processes that rarely take people into account, and which take years developing an overly complete plan that rarely actually happens, before delivering compromised generic ‘spec’ buildings, over-sized, largely static infrastructure, and spaces that remain pretty vacant for years. ...

We talked about a more iterative model, wherein you start small and grow. That simple idea might seem typical of informal urban development, whether pre-modern European or slum/favela elsewhere, but we wanted to see if that dynamic of constant evolution, with each stage being coherent and human-centred, could be unlocked in non-slum conditions too, through the use of new infrastructures, partly, but also through more sophisticated decision-making approaches centred on participation, unlocked through the ideas of co-ownership of land, buildings and infrastructure. The ability to not have to dig over-sized, over-capitalised and inert infrastructure into the ground — as well as the ability to design housing with the people that will live in it; to share lighter, more resourceful services and infrastructures; to think ahead about the hinge to the next move, and in doing so, enable an agile form of development — opens up a transformational adaptability which should, in turn, fundamentally inform urban planning and design.

...‘an atlas of urban elements’ – in short, using my phrasing of ‘smaller than a building, bigger than a phone’, the elements that comprise an everyday infrastructural layer in the city: solar cells, vehicles, chicken coops, bus-stops, biodigesters, steps, allotments, swimming pools, street signs, traffic lights, pylons, footbridges, ticket machines, urinals, graffiti, trees, kiosks, bikes and so on....

Yet we were asking the students not to work in terms of buildings but in terms of elements; and so this was connecting ‘network urbanism’ with another Bow-Wow book I’d picked up; their collaboration with the Berlin-based Kooperatives Labor Studierender, which contained a chapter exploring, via some lovely drawings, how particular urban conditions were triggered by such elements: a boom-box/bike contraption enabling a karaoke arena; a bespoke waterproof plastic bag for clothes, enabling swimming in a Basel river; the chairs in a Parisian public garden tracing the daily patterns of activity. This was important as it showed Bow-Wow work focused not on buildings, but on urban conditions, as well as the role of non-building elements in their production with people.

...We then asked the students to work in groups of three, drawing from the atlas of elements in order to create a ‘neighbourhood’ for 100 people to live, work and play in. Buildings were supplied to students as simply rectangular shapes, cut out of trace, upon which they could write the function of the building, such as ‘library’ or ‘church’ and so on. This meant the students didn’t worry over the form of buildings, but about their function as part of a greater play—a neighbourhood—and thus about the connections and spaces in-between buildings, about their presence and relationship with other things, about their role as part of a greater ensemble, rather than the solipsistic mode that most architecture is practiced within. In essence, we asked them to focus on urban design, rather than architecture as typically practiced....

The next stage involved halving the scale on a photocopier, down to 1:200 scale, and enlarging the neighbourhood to make it work for 200 people. So, halving and doubling simultaneously. This shift-zoom of scale is something else we reiterated – this notion that urban design means working from the scale of the door-handle up to the city-block, back and forth. As we begin to increase scale, we also asked students to think what needs to change; what needs to be consolidated, what alters in relationship, what new functions need to emerge. ...

Then, with strong 500-person neighbourhoods emerging, at 1:200 scale, we asked them to start merging; to find a neighbourhood they want to join with. This was a fascinating exercise in negotiation— “I have data centre, you have favela!”—a kind of frenzied speed-dating for chunks of city. But importantly, we focused the students on thinking through strategic relationships—what should connect with what, and why?—and what needs to change.
urban_design  urban_planning  infrastructure  pedagogy  participation  mapping  cartography 
23 days ago
New Cities - Y Combinator Posthaven
Some existing cities will get bigger and there's important work being done by smart people to improve them. We also think it’s possible to do amazing things given a blank slate. Our goal is to design the best possible city given the constraints of existing laws.

There are many high-level questions we want to think through, for example:

What should a city optimize for?
How should we measure the effectiveness of a city (what are its KPIs)?
What values should (or should not) be embedded in a city's culture?
How can cities help more of their residents be happy and reach their potential?
How can we encourage a diverse range of people to live and work in the city?
How should citizens guide and participate in government?
How can we make sure a city is constantly evolving and always open to change?
And there are tactical questions we want to dig into, for example:

How can we make and keep housing affordable? This is critical to us; the cost of housing affects everything else in a city.
How can we lay out the public and private spaces (and roads) to make a great place to live? Can we figure out better zoning laws?
What is the right role for vehicles in a city?  Should we have human-driven cars at all?
How can we have affordable high-speed transit to and from other cities?
How can we make rules and regulations that are comprehensive while also being easily understandable? Can we fit all rules for the city in 100 pages of text?
What effects will the new city have on the surrounding community?
urban_design  quantification  big_data  smart_cities  methodology  positivism 
23 days ago
Design: Fonts and cities: a love story | The Economist
OVER the past century, one typeface has come to dominate the visual vernacular of London. Johnston, designed by the British-Uruguayan calligrapher and designer Edward Johnston, was unleashed into the labyrinthine underground network in 1916 and has, with a few moderations, remained intact. This authoritative sans serif with quirky, diamond-shaped tittles (the little dots over lowercase i’s and j’s), appears in the ubiquitous blue, red and white station-sign roundels, and in all the other underground signage and advertising across the city....

Although London’s symbiosis with Johnston is the oldest, relationships between cities and typefaces are not unique. The affair between New York and Helvetica began with an unsolicited proposal. ... Today, when so many cities rely on tourism for revenue and are sensitive to the power of global branding, those that haven’t developed strong ties with any one font in particular are rushing to commit. A well-designed typeface can act like a friendly local accent, something that has a strong sense of place and reflects a city’s perception of itself. ...

The marketing department of Eindhoven, a Dutch city that was blighted by unemployment in the late 1990s but has subsequently become a technology and design hub, open-sourced a new visual identity and typeface in 2013. The result, simply called Eindhoven, has rough, unfinished corners that both hark back to the city’s industrial past and reflect its wish for a creative, energetic future. In 2012, two Chattanooga-based typeface designers set up an emotive Kickstarter campaign to allow them to produce a typeface that could encapsulate their city’s personality.
typography  place  urban_identity 
23 days ago
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Soundtrack Silicon Valley Ad - Stereogum
HBO’s deeply satirical Silicon Valley has been riffing on the tech industry for their overwrought altruism for three seasons now and, as FACT points out, they got masters of melodrama Godspeed You! Black Emperor to soundtrack a commercial for the show’s fictitious startup Pied Piper. The “ad” played at the start of last night’s episode, and features very-serious-sounding voiceover mumbo jumbo (“Any person can sit at a table. And if the table’s large enough, many people.”) over the Canadian post-rock band’s Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’s “Storm.” As some have noted, the commercial is a direct parody of Facebook’s infamous “Chairs are like Facebook” ad, which was soundtracked by Explosions In The Sky. Watch the parody and the original below.
chairs  furniture  intellectual_furnishings  Facebook  parody  humor 
23 days ago
Zoning New York Scavenger Hunt
July 1916, New York became the first American city to adopt a radical zoning resolution to control the height, bulk, and use of its buildings, an act so unprecedented that its authors were not even sure it was legal. In the century since, zoning has become the city’s most potent instrument for shaping its future.

Open House New York and the Museum of the City of New York invite you to celebrate the centennial anniversary of New York City’s zoning resolution with a citywide scavenger hunt to uncover how the invisible forces of zoning have shaped the city around us, from the dramatic setbacks of Jazz Age skyscrapers to the vast open plazas of mid-century Modernism.
zoning  urban_history  infrastructural_tourism  pedagogy 
24 days ago
Silicon Valley’s Latest Startup Offering Is a Whole City
Y Combinator, the startup accelerator and investment firm that helped produce Airbnb, Dropbox, and Instacart, is embarking on a creation project arguably more ambitious than any company.
"We want to build cities," wrote Y Combinator partner Adora Cheung and President Sam Altman in an announcement slated for release Monday. YC Research, Y Combinator’s nonprofit arm, plans to solicit proposals for research into new construction methods, power sources, driverless cars, even notions of zoning and property rights. Among other things, the project aims to develop ways to reduce housing expenses by 90 percent and to develop a city code of laws simple enough to fit on 100 pages of text. Eventually the plan is to actually produce a prototype city. "We’re not trying to build a utopia for techies," says Cheung, the project’s director and the former CEO of failed housecleaning startup Homejoy. "This is a city for humans."...
solutionism  urban_planning  optimization  methodology  statistics  smart_cities 
24 days ago
Secretive Alphabet division funded by Google aims to fix public transit in US
Sidewalk Labs, a secretive subsidiary of Alphabet, wants to radically overhaul public parking and transportation in American cities, emails and documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

Its high-tech services, which it calls “new superpowers to extend access and mobility”, could make it easier to drive and park in cities and create hybrid public/private transit options that rely heavily on ride-share services such as Uber. But they might also gut traditional bus services and require cities to invest heavily in Google’s own technologies, experts fear...

Sidewalk said in documents that Flow would use camera-equipped vehicles, like Google’s Street View cars, to count all the public parking spaces in a city and read roadside parking signs. It would then combine data from drivers using Google Maps with live information from city parking meters to estimate which spaces were still free. Arriving drivers would be directed to empty spots....

Sidewalk also wants to redefine public transport. Flow Transit would integrate information and payment for almost every form of transport into Google Maps. Choose a destination and the app will estimate a journey price and duration using everything from buses and taxis to Uber, Lyft, car-share services like Zipcar and even bike-shares.
Google  transportation  mapping  big_data  privatization  smart_cities  infrastructure 
24 days ago
A New Normal | ARPA Journal
Diderot leveraged the Encyclopédie’s emphasis on technology and the mechanical arts as a means to “change the way people think” and ultimately improve the daily lives and work of tradespeople.19 This act of outreach was realized in part by its adoption in “public” drawing schools, as an instrument for training skilled workers.20 Drawing schools were founded throughout western and central Europe during the eighteenth century, often by way of a public-private partnership between cities and regional manufacturers, for the explicit purpose of “intellectualizing handiwork” and “cultivating reflection, taste and ingenuity” in the crafts and construction industries.20 Using the Encyclopédie as a graphic standard, these institutions established the conventions for a generalized representation of nature that influenced scientific, architectural and engineering representation for more than a century.21

Through this use as a pedagogical instrument, the Encyclopédie established a reciprocal mimetic tradition in which general knowledge often controlled by trade guilds was transformed into expert knowledge regulated by state-run institutions. Through a universal system of representation—the collective authoring of working objects—norms and standards were reflexively adopted, and transformed the very trades and disciplines that served as their original subjects. The processes of the latter echoed the desires of the Encyclopédie’s authors to simultaneously instill within craftsmen a “discipline, technique, and self-conscious systematic way of working” and provide the outcome of this effort in clearly delineated and understandable terms to tradespeople and the public at large....

Manuals charted a transition from observation to analysis. They shifted away from a pre-theoretical, or “overlay” mode of thinking—which guided the design of new structures based on rules-of-thumb—and towards “model thinking,” which had its basis in calculation....

Publishing houses, and not discipline-specific institutions, became important arbiters of architectural standards and conventions, one whose interests alternately converged and diverged with practice. Earlier manuals emerged from the broad scientification of knowledge attributed with the enlightenment , and thus served as pivots for governmental transformation and the establishment of disciplines. ...

How can architects and engineers reposition the core of the discipline and chart new limits by leveraging these instruments for the administration of knowledge? Is there an activist model of practice that can operate from within the established protocols of the manual?...

What began at the start of the eighteenth century as a polyvalent condition between architecture and engineering became progressively interiorized and balkanized, as disciplinary communities became increasingly anxious about asserting professional and intellectual boundaries. In this context, the role of prototypical expert-systems such as reference manuals was to provide evidence—as an effective synthesis of heuristics and theory—that reinforced and documented practitioners’ scope of expertise. As the transition from encyclopedic objectivity to the analytical overlay of Rondelet or Viollet-le-Duc shows, architecture and engineering adopted a role of standardizing and regulating a commonwealth of experiential knowledge. ...

Price and Newby’s counter-manual, Air Structures, reminds us that the manual can construct new territories of knowledge and spaces of practice; it inverts the conduct of knowledge from theory to practice ascribed to its predecessors. More precisely, Air Structures is a realization of the manual as a project, which invents precedents and authors its own standards. In this way, it is a demonstration of architectural production that is committed to introducing new norms into practice, or that actively asserts the authority to administer the instruments of practice, and thus service.
standards  encyclopedias  instruments  norms  disciplinarity  design  drawings  pedagogy  manuals  textual_form  professional_practice 
24 days ago
Owning the Sky | ARPA Journal
The Drone Aviary is a research and design project from our London-based studio Superflux, and investigates the social, political and cultural potential of drone technology as it enters civil space. Through an ongoing series of installations, films and publications, the project aims to give a glimpse into a near-future city cohabiting with “intelligent” semi autonomous, networked, flying machines.10

In its current form, the project contains a flock of five archetypal drones. Each drone is designed to symbolize the convergence of wider social and technological trends with specific tasks and functions gaining popularity amongst drone enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. We arrived at these archetypes based on various research insights, which revealed that governments, entrepreneurs and investors have shown significant interest and investment in particular themes of security and surveillance, traffic management, social media, advertising and journalism. ....

The drones are the protagonists in this scenario—they reveal their own fleeting glimpses of the city as they continuously collect data and perform tasks. The scenario hints at a world where the “network” begins to gain physical autonomy, moving through and making decisions about the world, influencing our lives in opaque yet profound ways.

Madison, The Flying Billboard: This is the advertising drone, a hovering display platform, which can swoop, scan and hunt consumer demographics. It uses sophisticated facial recognition to gain feedback on the effectiveness of its content and to tailor advertisements to the interests of those in its vicinity.

Newsbreaker, The Media Drone: Supported by algorithmic news monitoring, emergency services and social media in real-time, these nimble devices push the boundaries for high frequency journalism—feeding our growing hunger for the latest breaking news story as it happens. As the drone films and streams news in real-time, its story writing algorithms parse imagery, audio, web and radio traffic into rapidly growing, and continually edited, column inches....

Each drone that we have developed serves as a touchpoint, a hook or a node that represents a deeper theme, issue or concern. With tales of market-driven opportunism, infrastructure, surveillance and data collection, each drone’s micro-narrative is a plausible sketch of how drones might inflect social interactions and culture while buzzing across cityscapes....
drones  speculative_design  futurism 
24 days ago
Inside Infrastructure | ARPA Journal
The line between system and architecture is itself increasingly blurry, and with it the role and responsibility of the architect. While the architect’s role in engaging large-scale problems is under debate, their political consciousness is remarkably consistent. In the face of climate change, the global debt crisis and myriad other dilemmas, architects seek to make invisible problems sensible. Research is an expression of their political ethos.

A growing number of architects dedicate themselves to research, listening for new idioms about space and design that are normally overlooked or refused in the planning and management of large-scale infrastructural systems. Consider the range of infrastructures that architects now bear witness to: waste, militarization, surveillance, energy, informatics and logistics, to name a few.1 Not only are these infrastructures large and geographically distributed, but they are also steadfast in their secrecy and resistance to public scrutiny. Architects and their collaborators enter into the fray in order to interpret the inner workings of a system for a wider audience. In the process, they also experiment with their role as observers, trading hats as writers, activists and teachers...

The design problems that ensue are familiar: earnest efforts to make the invisible visible overemphasize the transgressive character of an outsider looking in, at the cost of understanding how insiders already look inward and around their environment. With the help of anthropological theory and writing, I explore other ways for research to be involved in its sites. What roles might the architect assume alongside those that they research and design for?...

Information is also mobilized as a political “front” for architectural practice, an ethics of “being informed.” Architect Alejandro Aravena’s recently penned manifesto for the 2016 Architecture Biennale is illustrative of this ideology. He implores architects to engage more and better information about society, arguing that “architects have a responsibility to engage in broad conversations that ensure we are properly informed about all the parameters of a given project.”11 Aravena stops short of calling for more immediate forms of engagement, such as direct observation or collaboration, preferring that architecture itself operate as an “open system” for the inclusion, transmission and analysis of information. More inputs into what informs design will, he hopes, generate greater inclusivity for underrepresented populations and problems.

Architectural research is here faced with an old problem, well known to earlier debates in social science and design discourse about managing the complexity of information.12 Recalling anxieties over the proliferation of information about cities and society during the 1960s and 70s, architects are today placed in the middle of a tangled, ever expanding web of specialized knowledge about social problems. ...

Marcus argues that “being there” encodes a deeper spatial and cultural metaphor. Even critiques of complicity in anthropological practice, he writes, “sustain the sense that the symbolic and literal domain of fieldwork exists inside another form of life—entailing crossing a boundary into it and exploring a cultural logic of enclosed difference.”20 Marcus contends that this model of boundary-crossing and subsequent translation of cultural difference was out of sync with the objects that anthropologists were observing in the 1990s: financial networks, scientific research, transnational advocacy and so on. In its place, he argues that the fieldworker and his or her informants simultaneously sense that what is happening is tied to what is happening elsewhere, the uncertain causality of which is felt by both figures: a shared sense of being outside.20 The anthropologist and the informant share a mutual curiosity and desire to make sense of the forces that impinge on them—an equivalence that stands in marked contrast to the inequitable power relationship between a researcher and their informants that is endemic to histories of social science.21
infrastructure  visibility  pedagogy  waste  methodology  fieldwork  infrastructural_tourism 
24 days ago
Studio | ARPA Journal
Some form of “studio” is found in all professional education. Medicine has clinics, engineering has labs, law has case studies and business has workshops. In all these cases there are issues of pure and applied research. I don’t see the value of architects doing pure research into human physiology or into the systems controls of spaceships, but perhaps they can help the teams researching the functional and visual relationships required within a spaceship cabin—like, how do you reach what you need to use and see what you need to work on within this environment? And maybe designers can help make its occupants feel less constrained. But for the specialized physiological or engineering needs of highly technical design, we must expect to work with experts....

Learn by doing. This concept involves the traditional idea of the architectural studio as practicing design, and the planning studio objective of reinforcing the content of lectures. But, just as important, it has to do with the professionalization of academic knowledge to make it useable for designers. Our Las Vegas and Levittown studios, for example, tried not only to give architects a broader, more interdisciplinary intellectual base, but also to help them convert knowledge from other fields—from iconography to regional science—into forms they could use in their work....

Add knowledge and evolve the discipline. A scholarly discipline is defined by the body of knowledge and concepts that support it—and one role of research is to contribute to this constantly changing penumbra of learning. In professional schools, this role can also be filled by doctoral dissertations, the research of scholars, the empirical studies of practitioners and, in architecture, by research-oriented studios. The Las Vegas studio added, inter alia, the concept of The Duck to architecture: a (small) example of discipline building....

Get students to read. Perhaps by enticement, find something the students need to read in order to design their project. If necessary, trick them by saying, “your opinion is really important to me, so read the book and tell me what you think.”

Evolve learning techniques for different learners. Architects tend to be visual learners and many, like art students, are probably dyslexic. But their talent for visual learning is a difference, not a disability—one especially appropriate for architecture.

Learn to do life-long learning. Studio parallels and prepares students for the learning processes of professional practice, where projects must be researched as they are designed. If studio broadens these processes to include areas that would be ignored in practice, it can lead to improve project-related study and a lifetime of intellectual broadening.

Build camaraderie. When students work long, intense hours together under deadline on projects that intrigue them, an infectious spirit and a supportive solidarity builds up. This helps establish personal professional identities.

Build commitment. By developing camaraderie, ideals, professional ethics and philosophical approaches, the studio can help students form a basic commitment to their life’s work.

A “home” project. When I entered Penn, I didn’t have the chance to get to know Philadelphia for six months. I had no time. It’s a kindness to introduce students to the city they live in by giving them a project based there.

tudio should be fun. Studio should be like playing. Children work hard at their play. So should the studio. If emotions—even anger, on occasion—aren’t triggered, none of us will learn.

Share the power. The teacher learns the most, partly because power is a great teacher. It’s also intoxicating, and therefore dangerous. You should share it, not take it all yourself. Try to get the students to have some of the power, make them be the teacher in some respect. Let them be judge of what they should show the class. Let them be part of a jury.


Studio form, structure, and rhythms. I planned the rhythms of my studios first: the points during the sixteen-week semester when students would share information with each other, before the next phase. Then I structured the days of high activity during and just after charrettes. This set up a series of presentations, crits and juries; and around that, individual, small-group and large-group work sequences. These, in turn, structured the iterations of research and design. I then limned out the topics: some for early analytic phases and others to follow the initial design phase.
pedagogy  design_education  studio 
24 days ago
Cloud Crystallizing | ARPA Journal
The cloud, nevertheless, is no longer just a giant hoard of digital data detached from physical reality. It materializes in lumps, heaps, aggregations, gyres, and swarms. While these assemblages certainly defy identifiable representational formats, they are not entirely without characteristics. One such example is what scientists today call the “plastic soup,” famously known as the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre. Plastic soup is a moving island of coagulated pelagic plastics, debris, and chemical sludge trapped in the current of the Pacific Ocean. It is a product, or rather a by-product, of social reality beyond our perception of urban daily life. These emergent islands force us to take a deeper look at the geochemical affinities between capital and excrement. ...

If this hoard is an unplanned byproduct effect of an insidious coincidence, assisted by the conjoinment of thermoplastic polymers with oceanic currents; and if it so happened to congeal into an unintentional fractured island, we have also witnessed manufactured or planned physical manifestations of the cloud. What was once an immaterial aggregation of numbers is now “crystallized” in material form via the logistical storage systems of massive online corporations. Amazon’s enormous warehouses implement chaotic storage systems in which diverse objects swarm together in a monstrous blurry mass. Without organization by category or theme, the quantitative efficiency of “Chaotic Storage” places objects solely by barcode. Items are stored and retrieved in a chaotic hurricane of books, lawnmowers, rainboots, DVDs, footballs, coffee makers, you name it. Instead of creating thematic hierarchies and systematic organization categories, warehouse workers store goods wherever there is room. Everything is tagged numerically, scanned, and eventually selected by employees trained to navigate the depositories. Moreover, Amazon’s facilities, as well as those of other major online distributors, occupy an enormous surface area in exurban regions—so large that they are measured by laser straight-line devices in reference to the curvature of the earth, rather than the horizon.

What is the space generated by the digital analogs of physical objects? It is a massive, unidentified organism whose material constitution looks at first sight like a galaxy of randomly dispersed matter, coagulated non-homogeneously in certain regions. It abolishes any Cartesian format of representation and navigation. Beyond an emergent physical structure, the formation of this crystallized cloud produces new mental ecologies, which force new interrelationships between subjects and their surrounding environment. Golgi Bank is a depository of obsolete materials, growing inside an institution of monetary exchange. The objects are stored according to their date of obsolescence and their formal attributes in terms of space packing.
classification  logistics  data_space  media_space  cloud 
24 days ago
Knowledge Design | ARPA Journal
The naturalization of search, the growing assumption that search is a given, a kind of utility like water (because transparent) or like electricity (because reliable and abundant), a piece of infrastructure and not a cognitive filter or socioeconomic construct, carries with it illusions of universal access and informational instantaneity within the distinctive mode of exchanging information over the Internet that is the World Wide Web.

The Web is, of course, the smaller of the two containers. It is merely one way of leveraging the gargantuan network of networks that is the Internet—a global system of data superpipelines that rely not just upon http communications, but also upon ftp, smtp, and the like.

To equate the poorer with the richer data ecology paves the way for a two-fold mystification. On the one hand, for a carryover of the myth of universal access and informational instantaneity to the Internet as a whole; on the other, for a lack of recognition of just how opaque and inaccessible the Web is, not to mention the subterranean continents of scarcely visible data or flows between nodes and machines that make up the Internet as a whole. Whereas the Web is the defining public(-facing) space of our era, the Internet remains the foundation upon which the Web is built. ...

Archives and data sets share certain fundamental features, though there are navigational and ontological differences. Both are curatorial constructs, providing structured environments for the accumulation, preservation, and consultation of records. Both rely upon reductive/standardized methods of description (data fields). Both chunk information into bite-size bits (files, folders, collections) and make interpretive assumptions about the primacy of chronology or biography or an institutional taxonomy. The result is a privileging of certain points and modes of access, and these points and modes, in turn, can inform processes of discovery, the elaboration of storylines, and even the forging of meanings.

This said, the world of the analog archive is more expansive and inclusive. Its sensorium includes touch and smell. Its taxonomies and metadata fields are less abstract and reductive. There’s simply no overriding reason why the debris of the world can’t be left to accumulate in its files. Much of the human record can’t be readily converted into data or capta (but it can be dumped in any physical container).

The world of data sets is potentially far more comprehensive and exhaustive, but it’s also more fragile and volatile. ...

The mere existence of data sets, no matter how big or how small, does very little in or for the world. “Searchability” is simply one way of designating the fact that information has to be massaged into shapes that render it usable, which is to say, translatable into knowledge. And this (curatorial) labor typically involves the imposition of filters, hierarchies of value, taxonomical schemes, and the like.
search  epistemology  infrastructure  archives  databases 
24 days ago
Paper Time-Machine | ARPA Journal
The centerfold of the New City Reader is SYMTACTICS. As a physical board game, SYMTACTICS is at once a highly designed environment with specific protocols and territories, and an analog to the endless search for understanding in contemporary megacities. The creation of SYMTACTICS was itself a lesson in tactical design, a story that echoes the process of participation that unfolded over the course of two years. The iterative nature of game design worked well alongside the tactical imperatives of the exhibition and our international collaboration.
game_design  games  urban_design  infrastructure 
24 days ago
Strange Horizons Articles: Future Cities: PD Smith & Darran Anderson in Conversation, by PD Smith & Darran Anderson
You walk around and there's a Gothic church or a Brutalist tower block or an Art Nouveau facade and what you're seeing is a series of functioning time capsules; the flotsam of earlier times. I always have a feeling that the city can be read and deciphered—and layers of time seem to be crucial to that.

I began seeing space that way when I started to notice the curiosities of street names where I grew up in Derry. Places named after mysterious individuals like "Hogg's Folly" and "Stanley's Walk" or long-lost features like "Windmill Terrace" and "Asylum Road." ... When I go to cities now, one of my fixations isn't just the architecture and the people but the ghosts in the language. Aside from the individual stories, the street names can reveal something of the essence of a city. New York attempts a wiping-the-slate-clean of the baggage of history with its numeric grid. ...

Of course, the ground beneath old cities really is like an archaeological layer cake. The tells, or ruin heaps, that now litter the arid landscape of Iraq contain as many as eighteen layers of buildings, one on top of another. The earliest date back some seven thousand years....

For some four thousand years, right up until the twentieth century, China built its imperial cities as a celebration and reflection of the sublime perfection of the celestial realm. Their deeply symbolic cities were designed by the courtly geomancers to create an ideal equilibrium between nature, the state, and the cosmos. What an incredible idea!

Heaven on Earth in the form of a city: from Plato to Leonardo da Vinci, many great visionaries have dreamed this seductive dream of an urban eutopia—or to use Thomas More’s sly subversion of the word—utopia: not "good place", but a "nowhere place."

Ideal cities are pure blue-sky thinking. They are urban fantasies, like Tommaso Campanella’s City of the Sun from the early seventeenth century—a Babel-like megastructure that was designed to shape the minds of its inhabitants throughout the course of their lives, guiding them to intellectual and ethical enlightenment. The idea of living in a city designed for such a purpose appals me. It would be the dream capital of a dictator but a nightmare for his or her subjects....

One thing that struck me while writing City was the continuity running through urban history. The idea that cities are expressions of timeless human needs—to trade, to socialise, to be creative—reflected in spaces like marketplaces and stores, restaurants and theatres that are present in all urban communities.

But what does the future hold for cities and urban life? Will we live in streetless vertical cities? Or will climate change force us into defensive structures: underground bunkers or floating cities? Will the future cause us to radically rethink what a city is?...

One aspect of this that interests me is that although we’re facing climate change, migration crises, the dismantling of the social contract, mass political and corporate kleptocracy, and a thousand other manufactured disasters, very little of this is reflected in prevailing futurists’ visions of what's to come. Instead you get a lot of snake oil chrome and chlorophyll visions of gleaming cities or else this continual promotion of the Smart City with no recognition that it will also be the Surveillance City. The much-touted idea of Big Data will be great, provided again you're lucky enough to exist above its tideline.

It seems to me our visions of the future tell us more about the present than they do the future. The clean open marble piazzas of Renaissance Ideal Cities were dreamt up amidst narrow alleyways and unhygienic squalor. Bruno Taut was dreaming up visions of crystal palaces on top of the Alps, dedicated to universal brotherhood, at the time when millions were living like troglodytes and killing each other in the trenches of the First World War. The age of optimistic futuristic Googie architecture was also the age of "Duck and Cover" and imminent nuclear holocaust. I believe the futurists of today keep producing dazzling visions despite or because subconsciously they know how screwed we actually are. When times are threatening, we dream of utopia. When times are stable, we can indulge ourselves with apocalyptic visions.

Our visions of the future seem to me to be still determined by imperial dominance and cultural hegemonies. So, in this part of the world at least, when asked to think of a future city, our default tends to be to think of future New York or Tokyo or London. These are fine, fascinating cities but they overshadow others. The future will be nothing if not a plurality....

Advances in technology, such as 3D printing coupled with downloadable house plans, may well mean temporary, even nomadic, cities will grow up within the span of a few weeks. New geopolitical realities will create new cities in unexpected places. And they will not be the gleaming steel and glass towers imagined by today’s Smart City planners. They’ll look more like the first, densely packed urban communities than the futuristic cities touted by architectural studios. They’ll grow and evolve like biological structures, driven by basic and timeless human needs.
urban_history  urban_archaeology  urban_form 
24 days ago
The Surprising History of the Infographic
By the 18th century, scientists were warming to the idea of arranging knowledge visually. The British polymath Joseph Priestley produced a “Chart of Biography,” plotting the lives of about 2,000 historical figures on a timeline. A picture, he argued, conveyed the information “with more exactness, and in much less time, than it [would take] by reading.”

Still, data visualization was rare because data was rare. That began to change rapidly in the early 19th century, because countries began to collect—and publish—reams of information about their weather, economic activity and population. ...

A really good data visualization, Wm Playfair argued, “produces form and shape to a number of separate ideas, which are otherwise abstract and unconnected.”... In France in the 1830s, a lawyer named André-Michel Guerry created maps showing “moral statistics.” He was among the first to use shadings to show data—darker where crime was worse or illiteracy higher, for example.

By the late 19th century, data visualization had created a new type of citizen. Educated individuals in the U.S. or Europe were increasingly comfortable thinking statistically. “The two dominant words of our time,” wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1860, “are law and average.”
statistics  data_visualization  digital_literacy 
25 days ago
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 
26 days 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 
26 days ago
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