22 ideas win Knight News Challenge: Libraries - Knight Foundation
Building on previous experience working with libraries, this challenge has helped us learn a great deal about libraries and the challenges they face while serving the information needs of their communities. Several themes emerged among the winners, including focusing on digital rights and privacy; history and digital preservation; the maker movement and open data.
libraries  funding  grants 
22 hours ago
Roman Mars: The Man Who's Building a Podcasting Empire | WIRED
Public radio once cornered the market on the closeness. Listening to NPR became the definition of who you were. And podcasting is a hundredfold more intense than that. Podcast listeners are so, so dedicated. Radio stations have been unresponsive to podcasts up to this point because the raw numbers just don’t add up for them. But the thing they don’t get is that one podcast listener is worth 10,000 radio listeners. The personal connection is major....

eople typically listen to podcasts by themselves, often with earbuds. It’s right there in their ears. It’s not playing over speakers at the bar. And even more important, it’s totally the multitasking medium. We’re in a world now where you have something to do at all times, and podcasts are available for you all the time, on demand.
radio  sound  podcasts  99PI  listening  sound_space 
3 days ago
Too Smart for Their Own Good - Triple Canopy
SHEN GOODMANAlong the same lines, do we want to be constantly apprised of the information being gathered and the functions being performed by the objects that we interact with on a daily basis, so that we might constantly modify our behavior? We want a certain seamlessness when we swipe a MetroCard. Being totally aware of every system we’re engaging, every input and output, at every moment—that sounds like hell.
GREENFIELDThis is a great question: What are the areas of life that we should sand down until they are essentially frictionless, and what are the areas in which friction might be useful? If you were constantly exposed to all of the information produced by these objects and to records of every interaction with the systems in which they’re embedded, you’d be overwhelmed. Ideally, we can create interfaces that allow you to negotiate the complexity of the system that you’re operating, to progressively reveal or steadily conceal information, depending on the level of engagement you want....

Three or four years ago I thought that opening up access to the information produced by public objects gathering data was the best way to avoid concentrations and asymmetries of power, and that the two most potent threats to individuals were the private sector and the state, which could bring power to bear on us in ways that we’d ultimately find to not be very congenial. What Gamergate, of all things, has shown me is that directed swarms of sociopathic individuals might present much more of a threat than the state, commercialism, or any confluence of the two. (The fact that I hadn’t recognized this earlier is certainly a failure of imagination on my part and a marker of my comfort and privilege.) The people who could really fucking ruin your day turn out to be “men’s rights” advocates, one of whom may have a law degree and be able to actually hijack the processes of the state and file a ton of bullshit claims against you.
interfaces  friction  smart_cities  ubiquitous_computing  infrastructural_literacy  open_data 
4 days ago
Cloudy Logic – The New Inquiry
big data can rearticulate “unfashionable” beliefs in, say, eugenics, by presenting them in supposedly more advanced and accurate empirical terms. Crawford points this out: When fitness-tracking devices (like ­FitBit) are “used to represent objective truth for insurers or courtrooms,” this treats their inconsistent and unreliable measurement of both what counts as exercise and what counts as a “‘normal’ healthy body” to pass as hard evidence. Fitness-tracking systems thereby build dominant ideas of health, embodiment, ability, and activity into the hardware, the software, and the algorithms embedded within them.

Forecasting repackages old-fashioned ideas as unprecedentedly objective knowledge, in part by sweeping inconsistencies under the rug of “individual responsibility.” To pass the social system off as an objective artifact determined by (quasi-)scientific processes, forecasting has to scapegoat “irresponsible” individuals for failing to live up to the terms of the forecast.
big_data  algorithms  values  ideology 
4 days ago
History of snow: Victorian appreciation of snowflake shapes.
These plates, cataloging the geometrical forms of snowflakes, are from an 1863 book called Snow-flakes: A Chapter from the Book of Nature, published by the American Tract Society in Boston. ... These navy-and-white snowflake graphics illustrated a book that was a compendium of republished writings about snow. In poetry and prose, the authors celebrated snowfall as a sign of God’s mercy, genius, and design. In this, they echoed a widespread Victorian tendency to see confirmation of religious beliefs in the works of nature.
classification  presentation_images  weather 
4 days ago
The Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt: Finally, the Museum of the Future Is Here - The Atlantic
When I visited, I talked to the Labs team in their office and then toured the then not-quite-finished mansion. We talked about the museum first—the physical one we were in. Unlike leaders of other New York museums, who are investing in events, Chan (and the Cooper Hewitt generally) believe the heart of the museum is in its collection and its visitors. In other words: its stuff and its people.

“They don’t want to have the burden of this preservation forever,” he said of the increasingly event-focused Museum of Modern Art, 40 blocks south. “The beauty here is: We’re the Smithsonian. We don’t have a choice. No matter what other staff in this building might say, we don’t have a choice but to keep all this stuff forever.”

The museum will forever be committed to its stuff. But it has to have a more enlivening presence, he believes, than placards and shelves....

But the real treats are in the museum’s interactives that draw from its collection. There’s an “immersion room,” which projects patterns from the museum’s expansive wallpaper archive on the wall. Visitors can also draw their own patterns in there too, which tessellate on the projected walls like the original historical decorations. There are also large, “social” touch-screen tables—think of giant iPads—that let people alone or in groups sort through and look at objects in the collection. These have special search and manipulation features: Someone can draw a shape on the table and see what items in the collection fit it. And the pen—the jewel of the museum’s collection-based interactives—will function as a pen on these touch surfaces. The pen is the exact kind of object that the museum hopes to deploy in the mansion, as it augments a smartphone without requiring one.

All three of these tools—the pen, the touch-screen tables, and the immersion room—were designed and manufactured by outside firms like DSR and Local Projects. But they were created in collaboration with the Labs team, and—more importantly—they used an infrastructure developed by the team. It is the infrastructure that lets the museum plan for the near future, that lets it bridge digital and physical, that lets it Put Things on the Internet: the API....

What the API means, for someone who will never visit the museum, is that every object, every designer, every nation, every era, even every color has a stable URL on the Internet. No other museum does this with the same seriousness as the Cooper Hewitt....

The API seems to be first for users and developers. It lets them play around with the collection, see what’s there. As Cope told me, “the API is there to develop multiple interfaces. That’s the whole point of an API—you let go of control around how people interpret data and give them what they ask for, and then have the confidence they’ll find a way to organize it that makes sense for them.” ...

From the beginning, then, the Cooper Hewitt has prized information over object, discourse over perfection. And while it can no longer permit artists to destroy the physical objects it holds by copying them—the Smithsonian’s central job is preservation—it can allow them to mess with the digital versions. Hence the API, hence the stable URLs, hence the open source code....

maybe the museum should start thinking about some way of keeping that data alongside the object, and maybe it doesn’t need to be privileged in the way the object is.”
museums  display  objects  exhibition  interaction_design  API  material_culture  metadata 
4 days ago
decodeunicode on Vimeo
Since 2005 we showed a prototype of this film at the end of our talks. Some people suggested to put it online, so we made a new, complete one: it shows each and every Unicode 6.0 character. 109.242 characters in total.
typography  video  language 
4 days ago
Squares, malls, bridges and highways (A note on infrastructure and #BlackLivesMatter) | s0metim3s
protests located within the frame of urban infrastructure and not on the idealized model of the city and politics (or the polis) organized around a public square. Secondly, such actions do not concentrate movements into public squares or parks, but generate pauses and stops at critical points of circulation.
media_city  voice  protest  infrastructure 
4 days ago
Plans for Brooklyn Branches Have Merit - NYTimes.com
But for a change, the plans look promising. There is good and bad development, after all, and sometimes, with foresight and some help from City Hall, a community asset like a public library can anchor positive development.

One plan envisions updating, but shrinking, a branch in Brooklyn Heights built in the 1960s. The other overhauls a popular, decrepit branch, from the 1970s, in Sunset Park. Both involve housing, a fair chunk of it subsidized, mostly on top of new storefront libraries.

There’s reason for skepticism. In 2007, the New York Public Library sold off its Donnell site in Midtown Manhattan for what now seems like a song. Library authorities also cooked up a scheme to pool resources and cash in on the property values of the Mid-Manhattan branch and a science library at 34th Street, consolidating both in the 42nd Street building by demolishing its historic stacks. That derailed last year in the face of stiff protests and runaway cost estimates. So did a separate proposal to demolish a century-old branch near Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.
libraries  branch_libraries 
4 days ago
One of Many
Creative communities are built by people with compelling stories. I'm traveling to twelve cities across the United States to capture these stories in portrait and writing.
photography  cities  creative_cities  labor 
8 days ago
The Rainbow Collection | Letterbox
The prevalence of domestic ink jet printers in the past decade or so has led to the most beautiful set of ‘graphic design watercolours’ emerging after rainfall. The topics of course are domestic in nature – garage sales and lost dogs – and this lends them an intimacy absent in much graphic design.
The unintended illegibility of the bleeding lettering transforms the handwritten to an abstracted stream of colour. And unlike most graphic design, this process is a completely natural one, reminding us that design does in fact exist in an outside and beautifully organic world.
paper  ruin  error  signs 
8 days ago
Plans for New Barnard Library Prove Divisive
In December 2014, Barnard president Debora Spar presented library faculty with plans for the new building. And while the original plans were “very faculty-focused,” according to one librarian, faculty were reportedly not happy with many of the decisions that had been made. Much of their dissatisfaction has centered on the decision to send a large part of the collection—some 40 percent of the library’s holdings—offsite, and the lack of transparency surrounding the decision-making process....

“Anything supporting traditional library service is being moved out,” she added. When library staff members have voiced their concerns to Barnard administration, she added, “I feel like we’re being characterized as change-averse and anxious.”....

The original idea involved moving the library into the Diana Center, Barnard’s student center, which ultimately proved infeasible. On her arrival at BLAIS, Norberg was put in charge of a task force to plan for a gut renovation of the existing library in Lehman Hall. That option, in turn, was put on hold when the Barnard Board of Trustees requested a study to compare the cost of renovating to that of new construction.
The study was completed in the spring of 2013, and that July the board decided to move ahead on plans to demolish the current building and replace it with the TLC. The architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) was chosen by a 24-member steering committee of trustees, senior administrators, faculty, and students in April 2014, and formal planning for the building began in earnest. Days after the announcement, project leaders from SOM convened a “visioning session” with Barnard President Debora Spar, College Dean Avis Hinkson, outgoing COO Greg Brown, Norberg, and a selection of administrators and student representatives. Students outlined criticisms of the existing library, including the need for a 24-hour study space, a lack of defined library functions, and insufficient natural light....

In the spring of 2014, a consultant from SOM asked Norberg to compile a spreadsheet with projections for the BLAIS collections in the new library, detailing what should remain, what should be stored offsite, and what could be deaccessioned. Norberg presented what she felt was a progressive plan, she told LJ, taking into account Barnard’s relationship with Columbia and the unique and important aspects of its own collection. “The reaction from the planning committee and administration in particular was one of dismay,” she said. “They really didn’t envision the library giving that much space to books.”
At the same time, librarians and staff were gathering their own input. “Within the library we had a lot of conversations about what we wanted to see in the new space,” a former BLAIS librarian, who requested that her name not be used, told LJ. “We… developed a very specific assessment committee so that we could communicate to the architects what we wanted, as one of many factors to consider.” While there were information sessions for Barnard staff, and another for students and faculty, she said, “there was never a moment when an architect came and spoke to any of the lower levels of the library staff.”
This sentiment was echoed by a current BLAIS librarian: “We were, in fact, the last people considered.”....

The demolition of Lehman Hall will begin in December 2015. This fall, library faculty and staff will move into temporary quarters in Barnard’s LeFrak Gymnasium, which includes repurposed space in the former swimming pool, drained at the end of the 2012–13 school year.
The 11-story TLC, which is scheduled to open in 2018, will hold a number of labs, including a Digital Humanities Lab and a Computational Science Center; classrooms; seminar rooms; the Barnard Center for Research of Women; an office for the Athena Center for Leadership Studies; and three floors of offices for history, economics, and political science faculty, among other features. There will be study spaces, a café (yet another concern is the café’s placement over the space where the archives will be housed, putting an irreplaceable collection potentially at risk for water damage), and green spaces. Plans for the finished building and cost estimates were not available at press time.
An underlying issue persists. Many of the librarians who spoke to LJ on the subject described being left out of the decision-making process as one symptom of a pervasive lack of respect for librarians in academia. As the former BLAIS librarian said, “Stepping back from this a little bit, I don’t necessarily see this as something that’s unique to Barnard at all. For me it’s a much larger conversation about advocating for the profession.”
libraries  academic_libraries  design_process 
8 days ago
NYPL Digital Collections Platform: An Introduction | The New York Public Library
Digital Collections contains more than 800,000 digitized items, and that number grows every day. While that’s a small fraction of the New York Public Library’s overall holdings, the aim of Digital Collections is to provide context for the materials we have digitized and to inspire people to use and reuse the media and data on offer there to advance knowledge and create new works.

While the aim of Digital Gallery was similar, we’ve now moved beyond just static images, and the platform includes video, audio, and texts, as well as more interplay with our collections experiments (more on that below).
archives  search  collection  interfaces 
9 days ago
Sounds of Science: The Mystique of Sonification | Sounding Out!
using sound to understand scientific phenomena is not actually new. Diarist Samuel Pepys wrote about meeting scientist Robert Hooke in 1666 that “he is able to tell how many strokes a fly makes with her wings (those flies that hum in their flying) by the note that it answers to in musique during their flying.” Unfortunately Hooke never published his findings, leading researchers to speculate on his methods. One popular theory is that he tied strings of varying lengths between a fly and an ear trumpet, recognizing that sympathetic resonance would cause the correct length string to vibrate, thus allowing him to calculate the frequency. Even Galileo used sound, showing the constant acceleration of a ball due to gravity by using an inclined plane with thin moveable frets. By moving the placement of the frets until the clicks created an even tempo he was able to come up with a mathematical equation to describe how time and distance relate when an object falls....

The stethoscope was invented in 1816 for auscultation, listening to the sounds of the body. It was later applied to machines—listening for the operation of the technological gear. Underwater sonar was patented in 1913 and is still used to navigate and communicate using hydroacoustic phenomenon. The Geiger Counter was developed in 1928 using principles discovered in 1908; it is unclear exactly when the distinctive sound was added. These are all examples of auditory display [AD]; sonification-generating or manipulating sound by using data is a subset of AD. ...

But hearing isn’t simple, either. In the current fascination with sonification, the fact that aesthetic decisions must be made in order to translate data into the auditory domain can be obscured. Headlines such as “Here’s What the Higgs Boson Sounds Like” are much sexier than headlines such as “Here is What One Possible Mapping of Some of the Data We Have Collected from a Scientific Measuring Instrument (which itself has inaccuracies) Into Sound.” To illustrate the complexity of these aesthetic decisions, which are always interior to the sonification process, I focus here on how my collaborators and I have been using sound to understand many kinds of scientific data.
sound  data_sonification  hearing  epistemology  methodology 
10 days ago
The Public Domain Project Makes 10,000 Film Clips, 64,000 Images & 100s of Audio Files Free to Use | Open Culture
The new Public Domain Project will soon become an important resource for many such creators, offering as it does “thousands of historic media files for your creative projects, completely free and made available by Pond5,” an entity that brands itself as “the world’s most vibrant marketplace for creativity.”...

So what can you find to use in the Public Domain Project? As of this writing, it offers 9715 pieces of footage, 473 audio files, 64,535 images, and 121 3D models. “The project includes digital models of NASA tools and satellites, Georges Méliès’ 1902 film, A Trip To The Moon, speeches by political figures like Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King, Jr., recordings of performances from composers like Beethoven, and a laid-back picture of President Obama playing pool,” says a post at The Creators Project explaining the site’s background.
public_domain  film  presentation_images 
10 days ago
It's Nice That : Royal Studio lampoon vacuous poster visuals in new project
Here’s how they describe it over on their Bechance page: “The unknown is the key. Taking it as a manifesto regarding the global language, the beauty of globalisation, and how pure form tends to overlap conceptual meaning. You’ll enjoy it for the visuals. If you get the language, you’ll notice the poster is in fact the acknowledgement of not knowing a single detail about it. All of them. Ultimately we are telling you how ignorant you might be: though it doesn’t matter – you’ll love it.
graphic_design  marketing  fetishism 
10 days ago
'The Cloud' and Other Dangerous Metaphors - The Atlantic
Contemporary ideas about data are tied up inextricably with metaphors around data. As a concept, data constantly eludes crisp definition. It is everywhere and nowhere, encompassing a mind-boggling array of people, activities, and concepts. One dictionary, taking up the challenge of definition, unhelpfully offers that data is “facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis.” But this problem is not unique to data; humans are forced all the time to deal with broad concepts they cannot fully articulate. So people do here what they do in all cases—lean on the crutch of metaphor. Rather than talk about data directly, we analogize to better understand situations that seem to line up with the problem at hand.

This is still just a partial solution. Data escapes attempts to fit it neatly into a single conceptual box. Consider three phrases—now so commonplace as to be unremarkable—that we use to talk about data:

“Data Stream,” which refers to the delivery of many chunks of data over time;
“Data Mining,” which refers to what we do to get insightful information from data; and
“The Cloud,” which refers to a place where we store data.

These tropes are notable because they use distinct, physical metaphors to try to make sense of data within a specific context. What’s more, all three impute radically different physical properties to data. Depending on the situation, data is either like a liquid (data streams), a solid (data mining), or a gas (the cloud). Why and how these metaphors get used when they do is not immediately obvious. There are tons of alternatives: Data could be stored in a “data mountain,” or data could be made useful through a process of “data desalination.”

The metaphors we use matter, because metaphors have baggage. Metaphors are encumbered with assumptions, and when people use metaphors, they embed those assumptions in the discussion. These assumptions are the residue of the physical analogues from which the metaphors draw. Referring to “data exhaust”—a term sometimes used to describe the metadata that are created in the course of day-to-day online lives—reinforces the idea that these data, like car exhaust, are unwanted byproducts, discarded waste material that society would benefit from putting to use. On the other hand, calling data “the new oil,” carries strong economic and social connotations: Data are costly to acquire and produced primarily for commercial or industrial ends, but bear the possibility of big payoffs for those with the means to extract it.

What’s more, metaphors matter because they shape laws and policies about data collection and use. As technology advances, law evolves (slowly, and somewhat clumsily) to accommodate new technologies and social norms around them. The most typical way this happens is that judges and regulators think about whether a new, unregulated technology is sufficiently like an existing thing that we already have rules about—and this is where metaphors and comparisons come in.

What’s notable about dominant data metaphors is that they consistently compare data to naturally occurring physical resources.
data  cloud  metaphor  language  infrastructure 
10 days ago
MoMA | Collecting Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting in a Room
Building upon exhibitions such as Soundings: A Contemporary Score, MoMA’s recent acquisition of both I Am Sitting in a Room and Lucier’s Music for Pure Waves, Bass Drums and Acoustic Pendulums (1980) continues the Museum’s dedication to representing the history of sound art within a broader context of 20th–century artistic practice.
Coinciding with MoMA’s acquisition of more sound art and performance, such as works by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Stephen Vitiello, and Kevin Beasley, I Am Sitting in a Room provides a view into the myriad of challenging questions raised by acquisitions of ephemeral artworks. How does a museum acquire an experimental music performance? What does the museum actually receive? And if the museum doesn’t acquire a physical object, what is the value of adding this work to the collection? (Similar questions have been discussed in previous blog posts, such as this one and this one, to name just a few.) In consultation with Lucier himself, the curatorial team decided that the acquisition would include both the ability for others to perform the work in the future and an archival recording of the composer performing the piece himself at MoMA....

This recording, forever linking I Am Sitting in a Room to the walls of the Museum is hardly definitive. There are a number of recordings of the piece including the original and a version from 1980 released on Lovely Music, Ltd. Each recording has its own temporality—it’s own relationship to a time and place. Each one is an artifact, an articulation of Lucier’s presence at a given point in our continuum. But the presence of the work in MoMA’s collection has an entirely different temporality. As Stuart Comer, Chief Curator in the Department of Media and Performance Art, phrased it, the ability to perform the piece “allows it to exist in a constant state of imminence.” A collection of sound art is the endless possibility of bringing the work into fruition, a commitment to the work’s future status as having not just a past but also a present.
sound_art  ephemera  acquisition  museums  preservation  archives 
10 days ago
It's Nice That : Tearjerking animation explores our unhealthy relationship with technology
un-showy animation about a man with a head full of worries, queries and contemplations about the role technology plays in his life. Even though he’s a wooden puppet with no facial features, the scenes in which he interacts with various and very familiar items of technology in his home are heartbreaking and scary. Lying in bed with someone and both of your faces lit up by screens is a classic, modern-day scene – but something in the way that Doug puts that across in this quiet, unassuming short with a truly excellent and funny script is tearjerkingly perfect.
presence  attention  social_media 
11 days ago
Teach or Perish - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
On his website, McCrory speaks of the need to "align higher education with changing market needs." The public, he contends, along with many other Republicans, is entitled to receive a quantifiable public good from public dollars. To a certain extent, the Obama administration, with its blurry vision of rating colleges according to "labor-market outcomes," shares this rationale. Much of America’s leadership class doubts that courses in Victorian literature, or functionalist sociology, or the Harlem Renaissance do much for the commonweal.

It’s a deceptively difficult argument to neutralize. Scholars generally push back by uttering something about "critical-thinking skills." We’ve been reflexively mouthing that line for decades. As we say it, however, our thoughts are actually concentrated on making next week’s deadline for a research grant. What we really need to argue, or, better yet, prove, is that the college classroom and its personnel transmit lessons and intangibles that are invaluable to the nation’s well-being.

Jobs? Surely someone over in the B-school has demonstrated that better-educated employees are more productive employees. Innovation? We respond that an ensemble of challenging courses in the liberal arts, including gender studies, incubates innovation. Market needs? Our view is that through mentorship a professor helps undergraduates pragmatically ponder their proper vocational niches. Citizenship? We hold that learning how to be an American takes place in a seminar where people argue, civilly but intensely, about ideas. What other national institution offers up such deliverables?...

Our disarticulation of knowledge accumulation and knowledge transmission also leaves us exposed to an even more frightening adversary. I refer to tech and its maniacal destabilizing energy. Financiers have recognized that there’s good money to be made in conveying knowledge; their thoughts, naturally, do not linger on the costly infrastructure that produces knowledge. Working in tandem with the digital wizards, they wager that they can do it better than we can and cash out in the process. Given that they’re up against a cohort that has very little interest, or dexterity, in sharing its immense store of wisdom, the money and tech people like their odds.

So do I. The specs on this showdown suggest a brutal smackdown. We are old. They are young. We are risk-averse. They posit chaos as a sacrament. We are locked into traditions of inquiry centuries in the making. They like to "break shit." We see an undergraduate as a speed bump en route to a research project. They see an undergraduate as something to be monetized. We scrimp to provide a visiting lecturer with a $150 honorarium. They are connected to reserves of capital unimaginable just a decade back. We are an abacus. They are an iPad.
teaching  pedagogy  liberal_arts  teaching_technology  academia 
12 days ago
The Open-Office Trap - The New Yorker
some seventy per cent of all offices now have an open floor plan.

The open office was originally conceived by a team from Hamburg, Germany, in the nineteen-fifties, to facilitate communication and idea flow. But a growing body of evidence suggests that the open office undermines the very things that it was designed to achieve. In June, 1997, a large oil and gas company in western Canada asked a group of psychologists at the University of Calgary to monitor workers as they transitioned from a traditional office arrangement to an open one. The psychologists assessed the employees’ satisfaction with their surroundings, as well as their stress level, job performance, and interpersonal relationships before the transition, four weeks after the transition, and, finally, six months afterward. The employees suffered according to every measure: the new space was disruptive, stressful, and cumbersome, and, instead of feeling closer, coworkers felt distant, dissatisfied, and resentful. Productivity fell.

In 2011, the organizational psychologist Matthew Davis reviewed more than a hundred studies about office environments. He found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.....

But the most problematic aspect of the open office may be physical rather than psychological: simple noise. In laboratory settings, noise has been repeatedly tied to reduced cognitive performance. The psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic. Listening to music to block out the office intrusion doesn’t help: even that, Perham found, impairs our mental acuity. Exposure to noise in an office may also take a toll on the health of employees.
architecture  work  productivity  labor  open_plan  acoustics  noise 
12 days ago
The Cathedral of Computation - The Atlantic
today, Enlightenment ideas like reason and science are beginning to flip into their opposites. Science and technology have become so pervasive and distorted, they have turned into a new type of theology.

The worship of the algorithm is hardly the only example of the theological reversal of the Enlightenment—for another sign, just look at the surfeit of nonfiction books promising insights into “The Science of…” anything, from laughter to marijuana. But algorithms hold a special station in the new technological temple because computers have become our favorite idols.

In fact, our purported efforts to enlighten ourselves about algorithms’ role in our culture sometimes offer an unexpected view into our zealous devotion to them. ...

“The Google search algorithm” names something with an initial coherence that quickly scurries away once you really look for it. Googling isn’t a matter of invoking a programmatic subroutine—not on its own, anyway. Google is a monstrosity. It’s a confluence of physical, virtual, computational, and non-computational stuffs—electricity, data centers, servers, air conditioners, security guards, financial markets—just like the rubber ducky is a confluence of vinyl plastic, injection molding, the hands and labor of Chinese workers, the diesel fuel of ships and trains and trucks, the steel of shipping containers.

Once you start looking at them closely, every algorithm betrays the myth of unitary simplicity and computational purity....

Data has become just as theologized as algorithms, especially “big data,” whose name is meant to elevate information to the level of celestial infinity. Today, conventional wisdom would suggest that mystical, ubiquitous sensors are collecting data by the terabyteful without our knowledge or intervention. Even if this is true to an extent, examples like Netflix’s altgenres show that data is created, not simply aggregated, and often by means of laborious, manual processes rather than anonymous vacuum-devices.

Once you adopt skepticism toward the algorithmic- and the data-divine, you can no longer construe any computational system as merely algorithmic. Think about Google Maps, for example. It’s not just mapping software running via computer—it also involves geographical information systems, geolocation satellites and transponders, human-driven automobiles, roof-mounted panoramic optical recording systems, international recording and privacy law, physical- and data-network routing systems, and web/mobile presentational apparatuses. That’s not algorithmic culture—it’s just, well, culture.
algorithms  data  faith  theology 
12 days ago
The subliminal power of city fonts | Cities | The Guardian
But can a typeface really represent what’s unique about a city? Van de Craats, not surprisingly, thinks so. Type has a lot of effect on the atmosphere of a place, he says, calling it “the voice of the city”: “I think cities that don’t have this very dynamic energy, they don’t feel the need to change their identity.”

That identity, for many of the world’s largest cities, is intimately tied up with typeface. Johnston Sans and Gill Sans, which are used on the London Underground, say “London” even before you’ve read the signs. In New York it’s Gotham, or Helvetica (where once it was Standard) on the subways. The Legible Cities movement, which is creating a new Cyrillic alphabet for Moscow’s transit system, is gaining momentum.

“When typefaces get attached to cities,” explains Dan Rhatigan, a New York-based type designer, “it’s because typefaces become part of people’s everyday experience. People don’t identify typeface necessarily; very few of us can look at something and say what it is, but it has an effect, it’s a personality.”...

But it is small, post-industrial cities that seem particularly eager to, as it were, make a name for themselves. In Chattanooga, a city of 200,000 on a bend in the Tennessee river, typeface designers Jeremy Dooley and Robbie De Villiers set up a Kickstarter to raise funds for a new city font, securing more than $10,000 (£6,600).

Chattanooga, Dooley believes, was the ideal city for such a project. Its small size made it easy for the design community to rally around the project. He also points out: “If you’ve got a very diverse kind of a city that’s a lot more fragmented, there’s going to be a lot more difficulty in coming with one unifying [typeface].” Where bigger cities have become associated with a typeface, it has tended to happen more organically, or via specific projects for transport networks or road signage, rather than through a city-wide project such as Chattanooga’s.
place  branding  typography 
14 days ago
Among the Disrupted - NYTimes.com
Amid the bacchanal of disruption, let us pause to honor the disrupted. The streets of American cities are haunted by the ghosts of bookstores and record stores, which have been destroyed by the greatest thugs in the history of the culture industry. Writers hover between a decent poverty and an indecent one; they are expected to render the fruits of their labors for little and even for nothing...

Meanwhile the discussion of culture is being steadily absorbed into the discussion of business. There are “metrics” for phenomena that cannot be metrically measured. Numerical values are assigned to things that cannot be captured by numbers. Economic concepts go rampaging through noneconomic realms: Economists are our experts on happiness! Where wisdom once was, quantification will now be. Quantification is the most overwhelming influence upon the contemporary American understanding of, well, everything. It is enabled by the idolatry of data, which has itself been enabled by the almost unimaginable data-generating capabilities of the new technology. The distinction between knowledge and information is a thing of the past, and there is no greater disgrace than to be a thing of the past. Beyond its impact upon culture, the new technology penetrates even deeper levels of identity and experience, to cognition and to consciousness. ...

And even as technologism, which is not the same as technology, asserts itself over more and more precincts of human life, so too does scientism, which is not the same as science. The notion that the nonmaterial dimensions of life must be explained in terms of the material dimensions, and that nonscientific understandings must be translated into scientific understandings if they are to qualify as knowledge, is increasingly popular inside and outside the university, where the humanities are disparaged as soft and impractical and insufficiently new...

Here is a humanist proposition for the age of Google: The processing of information is not the highest aim to which the human spirit can aspire, and neither is competitiveness in a global economy. The character of our society cannot be determined by engineers....

The day is approaching when the dream of the democratization of knowledge — Borges’s fantasy of “the total library” — will be realized. Soon all the collections in all the libraries and all the archives in the world will be available to everyone with a screen. Who would not welcome such a vast enfranchisement? But universal accessibility is not the end of the story, it is the beginning. The humanistic methods that were practiced before digitalization will be even more urgent after digitalization, because we will need help in navigating the unprecedented welter. Searches for keywords will not provide contexts for keywords. Patterns that are revealed by searches will not identify their own causes and reasons. The new order will not relieve us of the old burdens, and the old pleasures, of erudition and interpretation.

Is all this — is humanism — sentimental? But sentimentality is not always a counterfeit emotion. Sometimes sentiment is warranted by reality. The persistence of humanism through the centuries, in the face of formidable intellectual and social obstacles, has been owed to the truth of its representations of our complexly beating hearts, and to the guidance that it has offered, in its variegated and conflicting versions, for a soulful and sensitive existence. There is nothing soft about the quest for a significant life. And a complacent humanist is a humanist who has not read his books closely, since they teach disquiet and difficulty. In a society rife with theories and practices that flatten and shrink and chill the human subject, the humanist is the dissenter. Never mind the platforms. Our solemn responsibility is for the substance.
data  humanities  humanism  libraries  fetishism 
14 days ago
Car Dashboard Controls Just a Hand Gesture Away - WSJ
The next big tech development likely to invade car cabins will require only a few simple hand gestures to control.

Over the next few years, car makers will start to roll out technology that will replace the use of some button and knob controls with hand motions.
dashboards  transportation  interfaces  gesture 
17 days ago
MASS MoCA | Museum of Contemporary Art presents: Bibliothecaphilia in our Galleries on On view beginning January 24, 2015
For centuries, libraries have exerted a quiet sort of gravity, pulling us in with the promise that for a while, in the hushed, book-filled corridors, we can exceed ourselves. But, in this age of eBooks and library apps, does the physical and philosophical space of the library remain relevant? And what qualities define a library? Can libraries exist digitally, or be constituted of things other than books? The six artists in Bibliothecaphilia, explore the medium and ethos of libraries: institutions straddling the public and private spheres, the escapism that libraries offer, libraries’ status as storehouses for physical books — and thus for experiences and knowledge — and the way that these objects circulate and are re-used. Participating artists include Clayton Cubitt, Jonathan Gitelson, Susan Hefuna, Meg Hitchcock, Dan Peterman, and Jena Priebe.
libraries  library_art  exhibitions 
17 days ago
Past Perfecting – The New Inquiry
“The painter constructs, the photographer discloses,” Susan Sontag wrote in On Photography, but perhaps the two mediums need not be pitted against each other in all cases. More than ever, photographers can, like painters, choose to reject representation, and in clever ways with the aid of new tools. Historically, 19th century photo processes were a part of an evolution that was born of the painter’s hand — only now they were painting with light. In fact, Henry Peach Robinson, well known for his photo manipulations, began as a painter. His unique combination printing, which blended multiple negatives together, created a new way of altering the image and expanding photography’s creative potential.

The culture of retouching emerges from the contemporary camera’s unprecedented ability to capture minutia....

The “hidden” processes of manipulation don’t merely serve photography or help it distort truth, but they build on photography as a pretext for independent aims. ... To this end, Pieter Hugo makes direct connections between tool and subject. In There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends, he adjusts the individual color channels for each image to emphasize the complexion of his subject. As a result, they appear heavily marred by sun and scars, becoming the antithesis of more stereotypical, “airbrushed” images of magazines. His images becomes a signifier for a canon of beauty based on what is absent, not merely what is captured and enhanced....

Acknowledging manipulation as art emphasizes how we collectively collude in the verisimilitude of images. What makes an image true is not the fidelity of its reference to a verifiable outside reality, but instead, its reference to collective ideas of the real. This truth is no less objective for existing only in what we share, in the images we work together as a society, to sustain.
photography  epistemology  retouching 
18 days ago
The Data Sublime – The New Inquiry
“Yes,” the liberal will argue, “people sacrifice some autonomy, some privacy — but they only do so because they value convenience, efficiency, pleasure, or security even more highly.” This suggests, as per rational-choice theory, that social media and smart technologies, like the Google Now “dashboard” that constantly feeds the user information on fastest travel routes and relevant weather information in real time, are simply driving cost savings into everyday life, cutting out time-consuming processes and delivering outcomes more efficiently, much as e-government contractors once promised to do for the state. Dating apps, such as Tinder, pride themselves on allowing people to connect to those who are nearest and most desirable and to block out everyone else.

Leaving aside the unattractiveness of this as a vision of friendship, romance, or society, there are several other problems with it. First, it’s not clear that a utilitarian explanation works even on its own limited terms to justify our surrender to technology. It does not help people do what they want: Today, people hunt desperately for ways of escaping the grid of interactivity, precisely so as to get stuff done. Apps such as Freedom (which blocks all internet connectivity from a laptop) and Anti-Social (which blocks social media specifically) are sold as productivity-enhancing. The rise of “mindfulness,” “digital detox,” and sleep gurus in the contemporary business world testifies to this. Preserving human capital in full working order is something that now involves carefully managed forms of rest and meditation, away from the flickering of data....

The establishment of a Behavioural Insights Team within the British government in 2010 (and since privatized) is a case in point of this surprising new appetite for nonliberal or postliberal theories of individual decision making. Set against the prosaic nature of the team’s actual achievements, which have mainly involved slightly faster processing of tax and paperwork, the level of intrigue that surrounds it, and the political uses of behaviorism in general, seems disproportionate. The unit attracted some state-phobic critiques, but these have been far outnumbered by a half-mystical, half-technocratic media fascination with the idea of policymakers manipulating individual decisions. This poses the question of whether behavior change from above is attractive not in spite of its alleged paternalism but because of it....

Stallabrass argues that:

subjective, creative choice has been subsumed in favour of greater resolution and bit depth, a measurable increase in the quantity of data. The manifest display of very large amounts of data in such images may be related to a broader trend in contemporary art to exploit the effect of the ‘data sublime’. In providing the viewer with the impression and spectacle of a chaotically complex and immensely large configuration of data, these photographs act much as renditions of mountain scenes and stormy seas did on nineteenth-century urban viewers....

The sheer granularity of representation achieves an impact all of its own.... Fascism can be understood as a form of political sublime, combining overwhelming displays of physical force with false memories and histories. What we see in the current culture of quantification and self-surveillance also involves displays and rumors of almost unimaginable physical capability. How big is Big Data? ....

the affective appeal of quantification is to suspend the neoliberal injunction to self-create, or at least to share that responsibility with a data bank whose scale one cannot comprehend...

The appearance of “predictive shopping,” in which goods are selectively mailed to consumers on the basis of past behavior rather than expressed preference or choice (a case of what Rob Horning terms “pre-emptive personalization“), exemplifies the Data Sublime. First appalled by the loss of control, the consumer swiftly discovers that she is nevertheless receiving excellent customer service, and an even more intense pleasure resumes....

But for Fromm, things are more unnerving than that. According to his theory of authoritarianism, the “leader” is secretly as vulnerable as the “follower.” Unable to find any ethical purpose of its own, each party seeks it in the other.

This is the possibility that lurks within the Data Sublime. Sheer quantitative magnitude is as disturbing as exciting, no matter from which angle one perceives it. The engineers of the smart city or the sharing economy undoubtedly want to be rich. But the capacity for social control has now outgrown any currently available political project. Its sole purpose is to sate the more dispersed desire to be controlled.

In a November newspaper interview, Google CEO Larry Page confessed that he was no longer sure what his company was for. He admitted that, as the corporation moves into pharmaceutical research and bodily monitoring, it had outgrown its original mission statement to “organize the world’s information.” “We’re in a bit of uncharted territory,” he said. “We’re trying to figure it out. How do we use all these resources?”

We donate our identities to a sublime grid of quantification, ignorant of the ultimate ends to which this is put. What if there are no ends?... The absence of any ideology behind the Data Sublime renders it a pure procedure, much as Kafka anticipated with respect to bureaucracy.
data  sublime  behaviorism  productivity  surveillance  data_aesthetics  prediction 
18 days ago
In the Garden of Sonic Delights | Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
n the Garden of Sonic Delights is a major exhibition of sound art woven into the fabric of Westchester County, NY. Centered at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, the exhibition spans six of the region’s most dynamic cultural institutions and features fifteen commissioned, site-specific artworks by some of the world’s most sought-after artists working in the medium of sound. Each artist has drawn inspiration from their chosen location, creating work that is mindful of the natural and human-made sounds and systems already present in the environment, while engaging each site’s unique characteristics, be they acoustic, historic, architectural, or aesthetic. Over the five-month duration of the exhibition, the artworks will be transformed in their context, in tandem with the passing of the day and the change in seasons, rewarding many return visits. In the Garden of Sonic Delights reveals the power of sound to galvanize our perceptions, encourage participation, elevate awareness, and foster reflection.
sound_art  site  land_art  landscape 
18 days ago
Working the Land and the Data - NYTimes.com
Mr. Tom, 59, is as much a chief technology officer as he is a farmer. Where his great-great-grandfather hitched a mule, “we’ve got sensors on the combine, GPS data from satellites, cellular modems on self-driving tractors, apps for irrigation on iPhones,” he said.

The demise of the small family farm has been a long time coming. But for farmers like Mr. Tom, technology offers a lifeline, a way to navigate the boom-and-bust cycles of making a living from the land. It is also helping them grow to compete with giant agribusinesses.
sensors  gps  agriculture  data 
19 days ago
Turner Prize 2014 artists: Duncan Campbell | Tate
Duncan Campbell (born Dublin, 1972) won the 2014 Turner Prize for his contribution to Scotland’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Responding to Chris Marker and Alan Resnais’ 1953 film Statues Also Die, Campbell’s It for Others included new work by choreographer Michael Clark.
Campbell makes films about controversial figures such as the Irish political activist Bernadette Devlin or the quixotic car manufacturer John DeLorean. By mixing archive footage and new material, he questions and challenges the documentary form.
film  archive_art 
19 days ago
Dan Hill on the positives and negatives of using data to manage cities
Predictive analytics is the ability to deliver services for future events, before the need has manifested itself, based on the accretion of "big data" about past events. Although urban planning and policy has always been a form of prediction — sometimes combined with agency to make it true — this is an order of magnitude shift in data gathering and number crunching; and so, in turn, in the purported accuracy of what can be predicted....

These dynamics underpin Bridj, a transport startup in Boston. Bridj uses patterns of transport use, combined with social media analytics, in order to send its fleet of buses to where there is demand for a fleet of buses — on the fly. It is largely post-timetable, post-route. It could sit neatly between mass transit and private car ownership, working as a form of "relief valve" for the Boston MBTA....

Designer Keiichi Matsuda tells me about the gloriously-festooned buses that careen around Medellin, essentially occupying a legal grey area as well as often unpredictable street routes, and sometimes, the pavement. In Nairobi, the equally gaudy matutu buses are fighting off Google NFC-enabled smart cards, preferring to transact in cash — whilst matutu may observe a form of bus stop, they move through traffic at full pelt as if autonomous vehicles (though with a rather different safety record). Even highly-regulated cities like New York have what The Verge called "a shadow transportation network" of "dollar vans" and buses, serving areas like Chinatown, or particular communities. Often unlicensed, sometimes the police apparently turn a blind eye, and even welcome their presence; other times, not so much.

These services fill in the cracks and gaps of the formal transit networks in a broadly similar way to Bridj, yet based on driver knowledge, instinct and small data, if we can call it that, about local culture. The fact they don't scale doesn't really matter, and in some senses they are more legible, local and, well, likeable than an Uber, say.

Yet both the matutu and the metro could be derailed by startups like Bridj, Lyft, Uber, Relayrides et al. None of these startups have a primary aim of putting public transit agencies out of business, yet the adjacent space they play in could be close enough to destabilise those incumbent agencies...

Be careful of our assumptions, indeed. Whilst the notion of "path dependency" obsesses urbanists, a city is more than just the sum of its previous behaviours; just as a former violent criminal might not ever be violent again.

Fundamentally, with this Predictive City in mind, the sheer unpredictability of cities is not only part of their charm, but a vital lesson about the possibility of change.
smart_cities  prediction  analytics  infrastructure 
19 days ago
An Artist Finds a Little Bit of Los Angeles Everywhere - CityLab
The typefaces that people used to use to make signs for buildings—the old signs, the kind of signs that people fight to preserve today—were not the same from coast to coast. The lettering you see on the West Coast is different from the look on the East Coast, says Cynthia Connolly, a photographer who would know. She's been shooting signs on buildings across America for years...

Connolly prefers the typography of Hollywood building signs to any other city's. She says they've got a European flair, inspired by the Fraktur family of typefaces.....

Connolly credits Los Angeles vernacular as the starting point for her work. But the signage is not the only L.A. influence on her photography. There's a quality that makes all her photos look like West Coast pictures, even shots from West Virginia. It's in the composition: Connolly draws on the same diagonals and vectors as L.A.'s favorite son, the painter Ed Ruscha.
typography  lettering  signs  media_space  photography 
19 days ago
Five Design Teams Re-Envision New York’s Public Libraries | ArchDaily
There are 207 branch libraries in the city of New York, each providing a number of services to city residents. From the simple lending of books to adult technical literacy classes, these institutions are as vital as they were before the advent of the internet, and their attendance numbers prove it. Between the years of 2002 and 2011, circulation in the city’s library systems increased by 59%. Library program attendance saw an increase of 40%. In spite of this, library funding was cut by 8% within this same timeframe, which has made it difficult to keep many of the system’s buildings in good repair. To spark interest and support from city leaders, The Architectural League, in collaboration with the Center for an Urban Future, instigated the design study Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries.
19 days ago
Too Much Magic, Too Little Social Friction: Why Objects Shouldn’t Be Enchanted | The Los Angeles Review of Books
At its core, Enchanted Objects clarifies why Rose is dissatisfied with the current state of consumer technology and offers up what he believes needs to be done to make better things. We’re at a crossroads, he argues. Going forward, we need to surpass three all-too-limited and limiting trajectories.

The first trajectory limits us to incremental improvements on screen-based interfaces, which will lead to devices being produced like the next generation of smart phones. Rose calls this paradigm “terminal world.” For two reasons, he laments “the domination of glass slabs.” First, he isn’t impressed by the uninviting aesthetic. “The terminal world asserts a cold, blue aesthetic into our world, rather than responding to our own. Even the Apple products, celebrated for their hipness, are cold and masculine compared to the materiality of wood, stone and cork.” And, the other reason: Rose isn’t satisfied with the functionality of devices that either “are passive, without personality” and “sit idle, waiting for your orders,” or are “impolite and interruptive.”

...according to Rose, the problem is that in order to create devices with personal heads-up displays that are widely used, it will be necessary to create ones that aren’t “too large and uncomfortable to wear continuously”; that are fashionable; and capable of presenting information worth having, given how distracting such technology can be. ...

The third trajectory Rose wants to transcend involves “animism,” or “living with social robots.” His main objection to social robots is that designers will find it difficult to get past the “uncanny valley” — the point where our encounters with close but imperfect artificial versions of human likenesses strike us as “unacceptable” and “creepy.” He also thinks that, rather than desiring a single multi-purposed robot butler, we’ll find it preferable to live in a world where we can “off-load” work onto multiple, animated, “hyperspecialized” devices calibrated to serve specific needs — “the distributed-agent model” portrayed in Downtown Abbey.

The alternative to all of these trajectories, argues Rose, is to embrace the connectivity of the Internet of Things and design enchanted objects like the GlowCap, ambient orb, and ambient umbrella....

Enchanted objects start as ordinary things—a pen, a wallet, a shoe, a lightbulb, a table. The ordinary thing is then augmented and enhanced through the use of emerging technologies—sensors, actuators, wireless connection, and embedded processing—so that it becomes extraordinary. The enchanted object then gains some remarkable power or ability that makes it more useful, more delightful, more informative, more sensate, more connected, more engaging, than its ordinary self. As the ordinary thing becomes extraordinary, it evokes an emotional response from you and enhances your life....

Rose offers only ham-handed appeals to privacy and transparency that amount to little more than hasty lip-service. And he never questions when nudging goes too far and becomes paternalistic or infantilizing....

vast social justice problems arise when commodities are fetishized through magical thinking. When adults see technology through a magical lens, they risk adopting a consumerist mindset that values goods independently of the activity required to produce and distribute them. Indeed, magical thinking allows us to avoid confronting all sorts of unsettling questions. Whose labor goes into making the objects and experiences we purchase? ...

It’s his prerogative to narrow down the scope of his inquiry to design issues and leave the political theorizing to others. That said, metaphors can become politicized. Since “enchantment” falls into this category, Rose’s uncritical appropriation of it is politically fraught. The more we’re inclined to see technology as wizardry, the less disposed we are to demystifying the illusions that obscure why some people get to enjoy hocus pocus at other people’s expense....

If we could know more about what’s going on with those we love, we could alter our behavior in response. We might be quicker to celebrate the highs and good times of our lives together, more ready to offer support and understanding during low moments and difficult times. If we could see patterns of thought and mood in others, we might be better able to plan when and how we interact with them.

Rose’s conviction [is] that the key to bringing families closer together is to automate more of their communication....

The problem with both examples is that they are guided by the assumption that good relationships can be fashioned using technology to minimize misunderstandings and to maximize predictive awareness....

Rose’s hypothetical mood wall is even worse. It minimizes the amount of observation and checking-in that otherwise would be required to get a sense of how someone is feeling and what makes the person tick. While such scrutiny or attentiveness can be exhausting and fraught with unpleasantness, it’s how we go about showing others they are worth the metaphorical trouble — that they aren’t valued only in circumstances where they are easy to get along with: where they don’t impose friction on our lives....

Ultimately, the mood wall takes an instrumental logic appropriate in some business contexts and superimposes it onto our personal lives. The cost of collapsing these domains is that data-mining begins to crowd out moral attention.
interaction_design  internet_of_things  screens  privacy  instrumentalism  morality  ethics 
22 days ago
The Art of Scent
“The Art of Scent 1889 – 2014”, is the first exhibition that presents and analyses scent as a work of art.

Curated by Chandler Burr – former perfume critic at The New York Times –, this display and catalogue was designed by Cano Estudio....

“We sought a space that intrinsically invited visitors to lower their voices, breathe deep and for a few moments, disconnect from the outside world. The goal was to create a relaxing atmosphere to discover the perfume. Perfume in its purest state. Without decorations. That is, without containers or packaging. Simply, aroma, mind and feeling. It was about creating a space that was attractive, even while doing virtually nothing and remaining practically empty” explains Jesús Cano, responsible for the design of the display.

“We create a blank canvas and draw sensory panels with the light, to make a bubble that allows us to focus on one of the least popular senses, olfaction. Because we must recall that smell is the shortest pathway to the emotions”, adds Jesús Cano. Cano Estudio, is also responsible for the graphic image of “The Art of Scent 1889 – 2014”.
smell  sensation  exhibition_design 
22 days ago
About - Cultures of Conservation
At its core, the "Cultures of Conservation" initiative is an attempt to connect the perspective of conservation to an interdisciplinary notion of the “human sciences.” This refers to the way in which humanities disciplines such as Art History, Anthropology, Archaeology and History provide complementary means of understanding how human beings live and work in the world. The history of “Conservation” may explain something of why its insights have not yet been fully integrated into this academic pursuit, even as the study of materials and materiality has moved to center stage. Yet, “Conservation,” in the very best sense, conjoins data derived from instrumentation and technology, long experience of hand and eye, and scholarly understanding of how and why things were done in order to bring an object back to life. In the past, this knowledge has been harvested mostly in museums and galleries and harnessed mostly to curatorial practice and exhibitions. We wish to bring our cross-disciplinary perspective on the study of objects into a conversation with conservators’ questions. This relationship has constituted, up to now, an enormous gap in the academic world. Even as more and more professors in the social sciences and humanities talk about objects, how many have talked about them with conservators, let alone worked alongside them? The number of students with this perspective may be even fewer.
conservation  material_culture  ruins  decay  preservation  curation 
22 days ago
MoMA | Sound and Vision: A Making Music Modern Virtual Tour and Playlist
Not all music is suited to a gallery environment, plus we can only approximate the acoustic qualities and atmosphere of the spaces for which the music was originally intended, whether that was a living room, concert hall, or club. But our audiovisual team is awesome and inventive! Using wireless and digital gizmos they helped us to craft a musical narrative and to contain the inevitable “sound bleed” between varied elements of the exhibition. Transducer speakers the size of small soup cans turn the glass windows of the central display cases into sounding boards—the displays within literally sing out, or emit ambient sound. In the second half of the exhibition a sequence of mini light-sound “events” has been computer programmed using ISADORA, and suspended parabolic domes, looking like transparent jellyfish, shower passersby with music connected to a spot-lit poster or object. On a more occasional basis the gallery will be animated by musical demonstrations of the Scopitone jukebox, and pop-up appearances like that of Delicate Steve, who put our magnificent 1957 Fender Stratocaster through its paces during the exhibition’s opening-night celebration.
music  sound  exhibition_design 
22 days ago
Collected Poems - The New Yorker
Before taking portraits at Poets House, I would walk down the library aisles, looking for volumes of collected poems, and stack them on a long rectangular table. I guess there was an adequate, if involuntary, circularity in the whole process, at the end of which the pictures of people reading ended up inside these towers of books....

I spent the day reading on park benches and on long subway rides—never in libraries—always bearing lofty poetry collections, always muttering the lines out loud, as if by doing so I could imprint them into the sidewalks, and reorganize my mental map of the city according to my books: “bibliography as cartography.”...

Now I mostly read in libraries, and I always pick the same reading spot. If my spot is taken, I go out for coffee and wait out my return. If it is still taken when I come back, I resign myself to intermediate activities. I walk down the aisles, looking for books I probably won’t read. I walk my finger down indexes, looking for poems I will only half-read. I work fruitlessly on the analogy: indexes, aisles. I ruminate aimlessly: an aisle is a three-dimensional index; an index is an interior aisle, like a corridor through a book. But nothing will fall into place until I’m back at my worktable....

Battery Park City seems to have been built against a catastrophe; but also, in a more complex way, against the severe beauty of the city. It turns its back on the city, which spreads chaotically, irrationally, toward the east and north. It looks across the Hudson, toward the squat Hoboken skyline. In the heart of the neighborhood, the Irish Hunger Memorial squints at the river like a sinking ship of concrete, grass, and words, engraved on its interior and exterior walls. Behind it, almost identical modern residential buildings multiply rationally, enclosing interior parks and squares. And towering above it all, the new World Trade Center stands, glossy, bright, clean, as vertical, pure, and Cartesian as Le Corbusier might have drawn it....

Looking out of a window is, to some extent, like reading. Inside the frame of a window, of the page, events and their afterglow articulate and unfold in a single arrangement, an appreciable rhythm. There is a sort of window syntax, which perhaps renders the out there readable. Certain lines we read, and reread, are like captions to the city—presentiments engraved into the asphalt. In collected poems, through borrowed words by others, this borrowed city has slowly become my own. My captions to the city do not simplify or explain, but they move the city toward its catastrophic beauty.
media_literature  place  poetry  architecture  media_architecture  photography  writing  oulipo  textual_form  books 
23 days ago
The Oulipo Group’s Generative Word Games
Members of the Oulipo movement play with generative poetic combinations and permutations. Their interests lie at the conceptual nexus of algorithmic art software and remix culture at large, combining all forms of hypertext hybrids, experimental word swarms, and shared authorship projects. But even in France, where Oulipo was founded and is most widely practiced, it remains relatively unknown to the general public.

The Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal has lovingly assembled a large and visually opulent survey of the generative literary production from the Oulipo group. I found the exhibition altogether impenetrable, perplexing, and exciting.
oulipo  exhibition  text_art  writing 
25 days ago
It's Nice That : Scott Carthy talks about his hugely successful NYC subway dancers film
“I spent months just looking into the history of Litefeet and subway dancing, its online presence, and tried to see the potential in another film that way. I made contact with the dancers as well so it allowed me to develop the film from London; what type of scenes to shoot to explore different aspects of the dance, what characters or groups should I focus on, what kit would be best suited for this etc.” He spent eight days with different dance groups “which gave me a much better understanding of what was what, what made the styles different. After a while I think my presence just became normal and it was all very chilled.”
dance  transportation  subways  detournement 
25 days ago
Imaginative Wisdom - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
A work of the imagination is inherently an untruth, yet it is one that reveals a truth. A painting, a poem, or a dance is trying to express something important about the human condition, a truth that is revealed through intuition and feeling. The creator engages in logical and analytical thinking, too, but the act of creation is fueled by our capacity to intuit knowledge and beauty, to imagine what is not and never has been through a faculty different from reason. The receiver of the work can analyze it—a logical endeavor. But art also engages the viewer/reader/listener in the act of making meaning, finding relevance—not only through analysis but by connecting emotionally with the meaning that the work helps us to make.

Hannah Arendt writes in The Life of the Mind: "To lose the appetite for meaning we call thinking and cease to ask unanswerable questions [would be to] lose not only the ability to produce those thought-things that we call works of art but also the capacity to ask all the answerable questions upon which every civilization is founded."
epistemology  methodology  liberal_arts  art 
26 days ago
Mirror joins a long line of weird LaCie storage devices | The Verge
Just as mirrors reflect our image, the data we keep reflects our true self. That’s the lofty idea behind LaCie’s newest luxury storage device, an improbable convergence of a USB 3.0-powered 1TB hard disk and Gorilla Glass by French designer Pauline Deltour.

Author Mark Pendergrast said, “As our first technology for self-contemplation, the mirror is arguably as important an invention as the wheel and perhaps even more universal.” Question is: can you handle the truth of what you’ve become?
storage  data  fetishism  narcissism 
27 days ago
Seagate Seven is the world’s thinnest and most beautiful portable hard disk | The Verge
At just 7-mm thick, Seagate calls its new Seven the slimmest 500GB USB 3.0 hard disk drive available.
storage  data  fetishism 
27 days ago
McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: This is a Generic Brand Video.
We think first
Of vague words that are synonyms for progress
And pair them with footage of a high-speed train.

Is doing lots of stuff
That may or may not have anything to do with us.

See how this guy in a lab coat holds up a beaker?
That means we do research.
Here’s a picture of DNA.
marketing  advertising  cliches  globalization  funny 
28 days ago
How to Write About Contemporary Art Momus
Go. Frightened, hurtle through. Breathlessly, sleeplessly, write it up. Turn it in. The editor lovingly walks you through it: measuring the rhythm of every line, sharpening each joke, drawing out subtle details half-remembered and sometimes nearly illegibly scribbled into a brand-new leather pocket notebook splurging-ly purchased upon your ascendancy to professional writer.

The piece is published. The subjects groan with complaint. Readers appreciate the poetic bravado and slight petulance against those in positions of power. The editor loves it. A paycheck almost mysteriously appears in your mailbox. The community subtly re-shifts to accommodate your new position as a writer, however lowly, for a real publication.

One leads to another. Keep repeating that you’re a writer. Pitch reviews, interviews, events. They begin as dense prose poems: plumped with odd metaphors, slant usages, obscure but beautiful words. Most of this gets edited out. Do this for a year, then two, then three. Get a poorly-paid teaching gig somewhere awful. Gain and lose a job at an underground press for critical theory and feminist fiction. Quit the job at the cafe.

Make too many mistakes to count. Keep writing.
writing  criticism  professional_practice 
4 weeks ago
Facebook's Compulsory Happiness | Cyborgology
Although the cruelty was indeed inadvertent, it was none-the-less inevitable. It reflects a larger issue with the Facebook platform: its insistent structure of compulsory happiness. This insistence is reflected in a “Like” button, without any other 1-click emotive options; it is reflected in goofy emoticons through which sadness and illness are expressed with cartoon-like faces in cheerful colors; it is reflected in relationship status changes that announce themselves to one’s network. And as users, we largely comply. We share the happy moments, the funny quips, the accomplishments and #humblebrags, while hiding, ignoring, or unFriending those with the audacity to mope; to clog our newsfeeds with negativity. But we do not comply ubiquitously nor condone/censure unanimously. Sometimes we perform sadness, and sometimes we support each other in this.
facebook  affect  ego 
4 weeks ago
Balle Balle Knalle | Dieter Roth | Domus
The very roots of Roth’s art lie in literature. As a teenager, he wrote his first lyric poetry; in the 1950s and 1960s, concrete poetry and Fluxus inform his work. He would subsequently distance himself from both movements, but their influences are discernible in Roth’s visual art. In Reykjavík, for example, Roth initially worked mostly on books in which he pursued the further reduction of his concrete poems; the resulting works are considered important antecedents for the medium of the “artist’s book.” Works in the form of objects such as the “literary sausages,” for which Roth pulped books, are likewise based on the principles of concrete poetry, but refract that school’s emphasis on the poet’s linguistic tools through the prism of irony.

In the mid-1960s, the use of perishable materials, the rejection of familiar artistic practices, and the integration of process-based aspects, but most importantly, the playful engagement with words and their various levels of meaning suggest affinities with Fluxus artists such as Arthur Köpcke and Emmett Williams, who were also personal friends of Roth’s. Another aspect that becomes more and more significant in his art is the relationship between language and music, between the word and sound; that is evident in the Olivetti-Yamaha-Grundig Combo he constructed in the early 1980s in collaboration with Björn Roth: a contraption involving a typewriter, an organ, and a recording device designed to produce musical renderings of poems and letters.
text_art  language  music  sound_art  poetry  book_art  Fluxus 
4 weeks ago
Luke Howard and Cloud Names | Royal Meteorological Society
In December 1802, a pharmacist called Luke Howard presented his paper, "On the modification of clouds" ('modification' meaning 'classification'), and in it proposed some of the cloud names we still use today.

Howard introduced three basic cloud types: cumulus, cirrus, stratus
cloud  classification 
4 weeks ago
John Constable's cloud obsession on display at the Yale Center for British Art.
During the summers of 1821 and 1822, while living at Hampstead, the English painter John Constable set up his easel at various elevated locales on the Heath and painted oil sketches of clouds, as many as 50 during the summer of 1822 alone, with notations on the back concerning such atmospheric conditions as the time of day and the direction and speed of the wind. At first, these studies included treetops or bits of buildings, as though to tether the sky to the earth below. Soon, however, all ties were cut. Constable painted the first of his pure cloud studies on Sept.13, 1821, with the notation: "One o'clock. Slight wind at North West, which became tempestuous in the afternoon, with rain all the night following."...

Luke Howard, a Quaker chemist from London, announced his Latinate classification for clouds—cumulus, stratus, and cirrus (the latter from the Latin for a curl of hair)—in his "Essay on the Modification of Clouds" of 1803. Howard introduced some scientific order into what had often seemed the sheer chaos of the heavens, banishing such poetically suggestive names as "mare's tails" and "fleeces."

Goethe, an amateur scientist in the matter of colors and plants, was much impressed with Howard's work and published, in German translation, an autobiographical letter that Howard sent to him at his request. He also published a poem of his own inspired by Howard's work, and tried to hire Caspar David Friedrich, the German lyrical painter of loneliness and moonlight, to paint some studies of clouds, "for scientific use," in accord with Howard's classification. Friedrich refused, foreseeing "the immediate downfall of landscape painting in this system," and fearing "that in future the light, free clouds would be forced slavishly into this classification."

Was Constable, in this regard, a more "scientific" painter than Friedrich? This is the view of Ernst Gombrich, in his chapter on "The Image in the Clouds" in Art and Illusion(1960). "There are no more truthful images of clouds than those painted by Constable," Gombrich maintains. But there is no evidence that Constable was aware of Howard's scheme for classifying clouds, unless a scrawled word on the back of one of his canvasses really is, as some scholars have hopefully claimed, the word "cirrus."
clouds  painting  classification 
4 weeks ago
The Huge, Unseen Operation Behind the Accuracy of Google Maps | WIRED
I got a peek at how the Google Maps team assembles their maps and refines them with a combination of algorithms and meticulous manual labor—an effort they call Ground Truth...

Street View, which launched in 2007, was conceived as a way to improve the user experience by letting people see what the area around their destination looked like, says Brian McClendon, Google Maps VP. “But we soon realized that one of the best ways to make maps is to have a photographic record of the streets of the world and refer back to those whenever there’s a correction,” McClendon said....

Those algorithms borrow methods from computer vision and machine learning to extract features like street numbers painted on curbs, the names of businesses and other points of interest, speed limits and other traffic signs....

Other algorithms extract building footprints and heights from satellite and aerial imagery....

Yet satellites and algorithms only get you so far. Google employs a small army of human operators (they won’t say exactly how many) to manually check and correct the maps using an in-house program called Atlas....

What the operator sees looks similar to the hybrid satellite-map view in Google Maps, but with unfamiliar colored lines and symbols. Roads, for instance, are color-coded according to the direction of travel. Green and red arrows indicate which turns are possible from a given intersection. Volmar deftly clicked boxes on one side of the screen to toggle various layers on and off. Traffic signs captured from Street View imagery appeared and disappeared.

Volmar showed how an operator could fix a road that’s out of alignment with the satellite image by clicking and dragging it into place. It looked easy, maybe even fun, and not unlike the process for editing Open Street Map. Volmar and other operators also check out tens of thousands of problems reported daily by Google Maps users and fix them as needed....

In addition to operators like Volmar, Google also gets cartographic help from ordinary citizens via its MapMaker program, which launched in 2011 and now operates in more than 220 countries. The goal was to improve Google’s maps for developing countries and other areas where accurate and detailed source maps weren’t available.
mapping  google  epistemology  GPS  navigation  machine_vision  error 
4 weeks ago
Inside a Massive Electronics Graveyard - The Atlantic
This is the chaotic heart of one of the biggest economies in West Africa. A 15-minute drive from Parliament House, there are clamorous open-air production lines; factories churning out everything from paint to Pepsi; and the country's biggest markets. Agbogbloshie is one of the largest, a mile-long strip of wholesale stalls where traders from all over West Africa sell pineapples, onions, cattle, and car parts by the truckload. In the early days, anything they couldn't sell—rotten tomatoes, rusted-out car doors—got dumped on the marsh behind the market, attracting scavengers and savvy businessmen who could turn a profit from anything. Container-loads of trash from all over the country started coming straight here.

There were heaps of heavy machinery from local construction projects, hundreds of broken PCs, and a mountain of ozone-depleting fridges and freezers (so many that in 2012, the government banned all imports of used refrigerators—it hasn’t worked). This is how, in just 20 years, a lush mangrove swamp became one of the world's biggest electronic waste dumps....

Up to 80 percent of all the electronic devices and appliances thrown away around the world may end up in dumps like Agbogbloshie. Some research suggests that the average American, for example, produces about 66 pounds of electronic junk every year. This is hazardous waste—the cathode ray tube in just one old style computer monitor can contain almost seven pounds of lead—which makes it expensive to recycle. So hundreds of tons of this waste quietly disappears into a world of legitimate recycling companies, shady middlemen, and black market trash traders. Interpol says one of every three shipping containers inspected leaving Europe for the developing world is packed with illegal electronic waste....

Much of that ends up in urban mines like Agbogbloshie, and is processed by a workforce of young men with few tools, no safety equipment, and no training, then fed back into the global economy. When commodity prices were good, Chinese firms bought up pretty much everything, and scrap dealers made fortunes. It triggered a shortage that forced the government to ban exports of scrap iron and steel....

The electronic waste leaks lead, mercury, arsenic, zinc, and flame-retardants. They’ve been found in toxic concentrations in the air, water, and even on the fruits and vegetables at the wholesale market. Environmental campaigners say that many of the boys who have been smashing and burning for years are getting sick from the exposure and dying young.
e-waste  globalization  sustainability  health  labor 
4 weeks ago
Learning from CGIs - Gillian Rose, Monica Degen, Clare Melhuish
we instead approach these CGIs from their circulation through networks; and as a consequence, we no longer want to call them ‘images’ but rather ‘interfaces’.

By starting with their network, this paper engages with the appearance of these visualisations by focusing less on what they show and more on how they are made to show it. For they are made to show it as they circulate around a network of offices and computer screens; they are worked on by architects, visualisers, project managers, the client, advertising executives and others; and the visualisation’s digital file thus constantly encounters various software programs, hardware devices and human bodies....

As well as the sheer numbers of CGIs generated, it should also be evident from the above account that the CGIs are highly mobile. And their mobility continues even after ‘final’ versions have been agreed (the 42 agreed in November 2012 were being revised a year later to reflect design changes). The ‘finished’ CGI as a digital file goes to all sorts of other places and in the process it gets converted into different media. So, it appears on the pages of promotional books and on the websites of the developer, to advertise their project (Msheireb Properties has a website, a YouTube channel and a Facebook page). The developer has also used the image in other promotional media: on billboards, as smaller posters and part of interactive models at real-estate fairs, and as framed prints in their offices. It may also travel to the websites of the architect and the visualiser and in order to advertise their skills. Already it is obvious why CGIs are popular with developers: they are seductive images; their content can be easily altered; and they can be displayed in many ways via various media....

What also became evident early on in our fieldwork was that this ‘ecology’ was not only complex but also somewhat unstable. Relations among various ‘allies, accomplices, and helpers’ were not always ‘steady’, and this also contributed to the mutability of the CGIs. Latour suggests that those allies, accomplices, and helpers become particularly noticeable in moments of crisis:
Take any object: At first, it looks contained within itself with well-delineated edges and limits; then something happens, a strike, an accident, a catastrophe, and suddenly you discover swarms of entities that seem to have been there all along but were not visible before and that appear in retrospect necessary for its sustenance....

Annotation: these efforts to co-ordinate and prioritise the actions required on the CGIs were not entirely adequate, and this was because of the translation required from a visual encounter with a CGI to a written description of that encounter. There was something about the annotation interface between certain actors and the CGIs that did not in fact travel very well. In particular, the ALA’s suggestions for ways to create more ‘poetic’ images – his requests, visible in fig 3, for ‘atmosphere’, ‘more magic’ and ‘MM’s (magic moments) – proved difficult for visualisers and architects to understand. One DA told us, ‘[the in-house visualiser] just kept looking at me going, “I don’t understand. What does he mean more magic?...

The paper has identified three of these interfaces as particularly important in understanding what sort of objects these CGIs are, as they circulate among diverse and dispersed allies. It has emphasised the intraface, where for example separate 3ds Max files (standardised by the EC’s guidelines) are integrated, thus allowing the EC to modify individual designs in relation to one another. It has stressed the multiple ways in which CGIs are used by different ‘allies’, and the way those allies design specific uses into how the CGIs look. And it has examined the necessity for traces of interactions with CGIs to travel as annotations through the network. At all of these interfaces, work is done. Work is done to create a digital visualisation of a view of Msheireb Downtown; and work is also done to make that work possible by managing the frictions created by the interfaces between software, hardware and various humans....

attempts to resist the ‘glow of unwork’ precisely by reconceptualising the smooth surface of surface of CGIs as a site of (net)work. 26 Rather than take these CGIs at, literally, their face value – that is, rather than focus on their materialisations as images – this paper advocates approaching them as digital files created by, and therefore materialising, a (net)work of interfaces.
interfaces  renderings  media_architecture  urban_media  urban_design  labor  translation  globalization 
5 weeks ago
Sounds different – Sarah Barns
The work of sound theorists, historians and practitioners awakens us to the often neglected role of sound in the constitution of urban experience. By foregrounding the mutability and relationality of sound, we perceive new spatial configurations and histories that allow an appreciation of contemporary spatial experience as not just inherently mediated, but always-already co-constituted by the shifting technological innovations of modernity and their cultures of listening practice. Today, cultural practices of smartphone use continue to reformulate, in subtle ways, the interactions between listeners in the public spaces of the city. Site-specific sound practice exploits this experience to offer alternative, micro-narratives of place which at once recognise the synaesthetic qualities of sound in reframing the visual, tactile world around us while also opening up the potential for a heightened awareness of the listener’s own point of reference: their own pathways of sense-making across the contemporary city-screens of the urban world. Such practice points to the continued, productive interplay between sound, place and space, and memory, and helps to further consolidate the importance of sensory urbanism within architectural and urban studies. Through these sound practices, the permeability of space as what Massey has called the ‘simultaneity of stories so far’ continues to be made audible.
sound_space  listening 
5 weeks ago
Buttons Not Buttons - Radiolab
Buttons are usually small and unimportant. But not always. Sometimes they are a portal to power, freedom, and destruction. Today we thread together tales of taking charge of the little things in life, of fortunes made and lost, and of the ease with which the world can end. 
buttons  interfaces  elevators 
5 weeks ago
Microscope Gallery is very pleased to announce the opening of the doors at its new location with Slide Slide Slide, an exhibition dedicated to the art of the projection slide. The exhibit assumes as its inspirational starting point the works and words of Italian artist Bruno Munari who in the early 1950s was actively and extensively realizing the new possibilities of the slide as an art object and exhibiting his works including at the Museum of Modern Art in 1954.
Slide Slide Slide features slide installations by eight contemporary artists working with and expanding the notion of the art of the transparent slide including single and double projections, multi-projector/multi-slide, hand-painted and hand-drawn, gelled and mirrored, magic lantern, carousel and light box with subjects ranging from gender politics to abstraction to colored light: Lary 7, Bradley Eros, Sandra Gibson & Luis Recoder, Barbara Hammer, Jeanne Liotta, Luther Price, Joel Schlemowitz, and Michael Snow. 
slide_projectors  exhibition 
5 weeks ago
The Year in Independent Art Publishing: A Roundtable - artforum.com / slant
Badlands Unlimited: We like the questions about e-commerce because they lead to questions about why we’re publishing and what we publish, and what we publish is inextricably connected to how we survive. Our model is in essence a goof off what Barnett Newman once said—someone asked him why he paints, and he said he wanted something to look at. We publish books because we want something to read.

But we also have a particular understanding of the kind of books that we want to read and publish. We call it the Montaigne principle of publishing: Montaigne wrote essays because he was trying to figure out how to live. And for one reason or another, the book as an evolving historical form seems most suited to put one in the mood to understand just that: how to live. Sometimes for the better, maybe for the worse. Whatever the case, our wager is that for a book to matter it has to exude this peculiar “aura” as part of its formal properties, whatever format the book takes on. That’s certainly why we published The Afternoon Interviews. And it colors everything else we do. Even the erotic romances that we’re putting out in the spring....

Primary Information: When we are working with historical material, we’re considering whether the material is easily available already and if there is a need for it. With contemporary projects, we’re often introducing artists or a different part of their practice to a larger audience. As a nonprofit, we’re not just showcasing the taste of two people. So there might be a book we do that isn’t something that I personally want to read more than anything else, but I think that it needs to be out there. Still, I think that most of the books and the projects that we put out are ones I want to read.

Dispatch: Curating can be a type of publishing. Both involve the activity of producing and relaying information through various channels and materials—this is how I approach Dispatch and my other projects....

Dispatch: You can pretty much festivalize anything in the art world at this point.

Primary Information: The fair also gives people the idea that they should publish whatever they’re making or their friends are making, and I feel OK about that.
books  publishing  material_texts  art_books 
5 weeks ago
Paper Trail: MoMA Library’s Collection of Art Ephemera | The Paris Review
The very notion of ephemera is curious: objects of little value that weren’t meant to be preserved but whose vulnerability, I imagine, appealed to someone. Political buttons, business cards, seed packets, and train timetables—scrappy artifacts that otherwise would have been lost to the dustheap. Even ephemera’s subcategories—like “fugitive materials” and “gray literature”—are suitably mothy and eccentric. In the art world, potential ephemera is everywhere: small-edition artist books, exhibition posters, flyers, announcement cards, invitations, press releases....

Art ephemera exists in that same gray area: it resembles art, and even depicts art, but isn’t art. That doesn’t stop these posters, cards, and invitations from having the appearance of miniartworks and for being innovative within a genre I didn’t even know existed. Many items in the catalogue aren’t content to remain mere advertisements. On a particularly lovely Ed Ruscha announcement for a show at the Ferus Gallery in 1965, the tail and beak of a black-and-white bird morph into the two ends of a yellow pencil; with his beak, the bird scrawls the show’s information on a small slip of paper....

Conceptual play is at work in a good deal of material. In 1962, a Croatian group of artists known as Gorgona sent out an exhibition invitation that bore only the words IZVOLITE PRISUSTVOVATI, or “Please attend,” printed on it; there was no other information—nothing about, say, where or when the show would be held. It’s rather like Stephen Hawking’s imagined party for time travelers: the invitation is sent out only after the party has occurred, and no one shows up. The Gorgona noninvitation was an influence on Senior’s conception of the exhibition (as well as its title). He cites its “quiet comportment, which coupled cleverly with a clear mischievousness.”

Another prime example of that guiding principle is Robert Barry’s infamous Closed Gallery, from 1962, which consists of invitations to exhibitions in Turin, Amsterdam, and Los Angeles (only the first two are included in the book). God help the poor soul who didn’t read the information closely: “during the exhibition the gallery will be closed.” Collector Herb Vogel called it “without a doubt the greatest piece of Conceptual art that was ever done in the world.”...

the most intriguing may be those that work as expeditions—invitations not simply to view art but to hunt for it. One of those is an announcement for a 2009 book signing for Rarely Seen Bas Jan Ader Film, by David Horvitz. The flyer reproduces a Google Maps satellite view of a section of land between Bard College’s Blithewood Manor and the Hudson River. Handwritten annotations make it a kind of treasure map, complete with a large X marked “Here.” Attendees were to follow the map’s instructions and meet at sunset at the river.
ephemera  material_texts  conceptual_art  archives 
5 weeks ago
The Walker Curates the News: 12.22.14 | ART21 Magazine
Installations illustrating ethnographic studies, architecture media serving as evidence of political crimes, and artifacts staged as dioramas: A growing range of art involving “speculative archaeology” aim to uncover the hidden infrastructures of our society.
archaeology  media_archaeology  my_work  art 
5 weeks ago
CASA Smart Cities Conference
Data can be visualized in a myriad of ways, yet sometimes it is the simplest that are the most effective. The London Data Table cycled through a series of visualisations from live aircraft feeds through to data from the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme to present a view of London from above.

Combining a projector with a short throw lens, a table cut to the outline of London and various processing scripts and movies allowed an instant view of complex data feeds. Another highlight was the touch table enabled ‘Riot Simulator’ mixing data from the recent London riots with research into urban and behavioral modeling made hands on with the help of Lego.
smart_cities  interfaces  dashboards  maps 
5 weeks ago
Grégoire Chamayou - artforum.com / in print
Automating the remote collection of detailed information on the facts and movements of daily life was about filling an epistemic void: “Although we have daily records of the behavior of volcanoes, of the tides, of sun spots, and of rats and monkeys, there have been few scientific records of . . . how any boy lived his life from the time he awoke in the morning until he went to sleep at night,” psychologists Roger G. Barker and Herbert F. Wright mused wistfully in a 1954 book later cited by the Schwitzgebels.2 Indeed, why wouldn’t the psychologist, like the volcanologist, have his own network of sensors to measure the seismic shifts of behavior, or, like the ethologist, his own array of transponder necklaces to place on the body of (human) animals? It was proposed that this art of remote measurement of human conduct be called anthropotelemetry. But if anthropotelemetric devices were developed with a view to building a huge storehouse of knowledge, knowing was just one facet of the project. The purpose of collecting all this information was, above all, to act on it: “Gathering data in order to affect behavior” is the motto of electronic monitoring.3 “Feedback of information from the record to the patient,”4 it was hoped, would modify behavior more subtly and sustainably than cruder interventions.

The Apple Watch may be seen as a further refinement of this vision of a subtler mode of behavior modification. When the watch exhibits to the subject the graphics of her own activity, she is given her behavior as an object. She is provided with a constantly updated long-term perspective about herself, about her rhythm and her tendencies, with a diagrammatic past and a future that is traced as a line graph. The self, exposed to itself through the visualization of activity reports, can then be engaged in a process of normative transformation that proceeds via operant conditioning—i.e., not merely by instilling Pavlovian reflex in subjects but by making them adjust to a series of rewards or sanctions....

At a conference a year ago, David Gauthier—an official at the NSA’s less famous sibling bureaucracy the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency—emphasized the central role that the “daticultural revolution,” i.e., the process of “taking all aspects of life and turning them into data,”5 could play in the development of a new paradigm for intelligence gathering.6 The idea is to intercept and store all the data made available by ubiquitous positioning devices, social media, etc., in order to conduct “activity-based intelligence” (ABI), which focuses not on tracing specific targets but on detecting patterns, congruences, or relevant anomalies within vast tranches of information.

Still virtually unknown to the general public, in intelligence circles ABI is unquestionably ascendant, and so is the NGA, which claims this new paradigm as its natural bailiwick. The agency’s recently appointed director, Robert Cardillo, enthused about ABI in almost philosophical terms this past October, telling a reporter that the methodology would allow analysts “to find meaning in the noise.”7 His predecessor, Letitia A. Long, had sounded positively evangelical when she wrote that ABI was “a new foundation for intelligence analysis.” While analysts had been overwhelmed by “ ‘big and noisy’ data from the huge increase in the number and type of sensors,” ABI would allow them to detect “patterns of life,” to trace “weaker, more dispersed signatures,” and to liberate all the information “‘trapped’ in products, reports, [and] disparate primary sources.”
sensors  data  methodology  surveillance  quantified_self  feedback 
5 weeks ago
The Sixth Year
The Sixth Year is an art world drama series in five episodes, which re-interprets the format of the TV series. Set in the New York art world, it stages the backstage and theatricalizes the social interactions and power games, the aspirations, passions, and everyday realities of the field. The screenplay is based on interviews with artists, curators, gallerists, collectors, and art advisors, whose opinions, anecdotes, and gossip it abstracts and extrapolates into a fictional narrative.

The art world is as rich a subject as it is an exploited one. Its internal contradictions and its entanglements with capital and power have nourished several generations of institutional critique; reality shows and lifestyle magazines cater to an ever-growing popular interest in its glamor and extravagant personalities;and a wave of gossip-based art has recently exploited its group dynamics and explicated its language games. Situated somewhere between Andrea Fraser, Gallery Girls, and Jerry Magoo, The Sixth Year seeks, above all, ambiguity of form. Inside knowledge and sensitive information were processed, rendered abstract, and relayed amongst contributors so many times that spectacular exposure gives way to a focus on structure, as the series’ formal heterogeneity foregrounds the processes of transmission and transformation rather than the information itself.
art_world  film  parody  institutional_critique 
5 weeks ago
Julian Rose on Fujiko Nakaya at the Glass House - artforum.com / in print
“The fog is reading its own environment and making it visible. It’s very physical.” Indeed, Nakaya’s cloud offers a material index of those qualities that are understood as intangible—the caress of a shifting breeze, say, or the chill creeping into a cool summer evening—even though they have much to do with our physical experience of a place.

Ironically, these are the very qualities of the site that Johnson ignored. Although the Glass House is often discussed in terms of its openness and sensitivity to its environment, the building’s design and construction belie this. For Johnson, the surrounding landscape was less a ground for the building than a series of picturesque perspectives framed by the house. (He famously called these views his “very expensive wallpaper.”) The glass itself was less a material than a visual effect, a means of achieving transparency and invisibility. But at the microscale, glass is not so different from fog; it is dynamic and responsive stuff that swells, shifts, or contracts in response to even minute changes in temperature or air pressure. The critical point in any glass architecture, therefore, is the joint between the glass and the rest of the structure: Glass must be protected from direct contact with more rigid materials, as its greater rate of flex and different coefficient of expansion will cause stress concentrations that can lead to cracking and breakage. In contemporary structures, compressive gaskets (typically made of foam or rubber) are usually used to join glass to hard materials such as metal or concrete, while in older buildings, wooden window frames served a similar purpose. Yet at the climactic architectural moment in Johnson’s house—the joint between the glass and steel, where invisibility meets gravity, and his cherished visual effect runs into the solid support required to sustain it—Johnson simply butted the glass sheets directly against the steel structure, using two bars to hold them in place. The result is that any significant environmental shift (a hot summer day, a violent rainstorm) has the potential to shatter the glass—which has happened repeatedly in the past sixty-five years, to the point where none of the original panes remain. The glass is indeed immaterial, insofar as Johnson refused to acknowledge certain raw facts of existence.

But the fog and the glass are not just alternate approaches to the problem of materiality; they represent two different attitudes about the relationship between a work and its environment. Nakaya has embraced the inherent responsiveness and mutability of her medium to create a piece that defers to the complexity of its surroundings; Johnson sought to suppress the materiality of building and landscape in an effort to bring them equally, and totally, under his control. He understood physical reality as too messy, too contingent—as a threat to the perfect composition of his views or the pure conception of his design. Architecture is notoriously effective as a mechanism of control, and Johnson, with his avowed fascist tendencies, seems to have had a particular weakness for displays of power. Nakaya’s roots, by contrast, are in the counterculture of the ’60s and ’70s, and her project is one of self-proclaimed “democratic idealism.” The Glass House, with its rigidly enforced immateriality, reminds us that architecture succumbs most completely to authority when it is reduced to an image.
site_specificity  environment  land_art  fog  materiality  glass  architecture_as_media  media_architecture 
5 weeks ago
Hal Foster - artforum.com / in print
Höch deemed two other preconditions to be essential: the novel forms of both film montage, which showed how visual meaning could be constructed dialectically, and “reportage photography,” the photojournalism featured in the illustrated magazines that boomed in the Weimar period and that she ransacked for material. This source also put her art in productive tension with advertising and publicity, which she both delighted in and tore up and turned every which way. Even before Brecht coined the term, then, Höch subjected her selected images to “refunctioning” or, as she put it, “remounting, cutting up, sticking down, activating—that is to say, alienating.” She called her photomontage “a new form of compressed utterance,” which is to suggest that it was, in an elliptical way, always dialogical with her viewers and often agonistic with her sources. This was so because Höch aimed above all to question, in her own terms, the “validity” of current “concepts” and “gestures,” usually through abrupt cuts in scale and perspective. “I would like to blur the firm borders that we human beings, cocksure as we are, are inclined to erect around everything that is accessible to us,” Höch wrote in 1929. “Today I would portray the world from an ant’s-eye view and tomorrow as the moon sees it.”...

Höch emerges as critical complement to the great documentarian of the Weimar period, August Sander; at the same time, her deep interest in expression and gesture keeps faith with Charles Darwin and Aby Warburg. Clearly, Höch still believed in a physiognomic reading of character (the humors are evoked and the faces of humans and animals are superimposed), even as she also mocked this antiquated version of social psychology.

The Whitechapel show had many small surprises, such as the early embroideries and pattern pieces and the late sexy collages and summa self-portrait Lebensbild (Life Portrait), 1972–73, and one major revelation, the scrapbook—now typically called the Album—Höch produced in 1933....

Many elements persist from the photomontages of the 1920s: her interest in expression and gesture, both human and animal, and her play with scale and perspective, or “the optical unconscious” (as Benjamin termed it at the time) of views from “ant” to “moon.” In this respect, Höch is in direct dialogue with predecessors like Karl Blossfeldt and contemporaries like László Moholy-Nagy...

the Album is less about fragmentary pieces than about intact wholes. It is still a work of montage, of refunctioning, but now the détournement acts on the magazine page or spread more than on the single photograph. This approach allows Höch to repeat motifs and develop themes. Stars and sporty types are back, and again there are more women than men, yet often they appear in unusual groupings: not just mother and child but girls together; not just a row of schoolchildren but a “mass ornament,” to use the contemporaneous phrase offered by Kracauer to come to terms with spectacles that subsume individuals into decorative patterns
photography  collage  remixing  Weimar  montage  archives  archive_art 
5 weeks ago
The Din of Gallery Chit-Chat: “The Sixth Year” Online - News - Art in America
Those looking for a tragicomic art-world counterpoint to It's a Wonderful Life-style holiday cheer might consider "The Sixth Year" (2013), a five-episode dramatic series now available for online binge-watching. Written by Los Angeles-based artists Jay Chung and Q Takeki Maeda, and produced in conjunction with their recent exhibition at New York's downtown art space Ludlow 38, "The Sixth Year" is a razor-sharp look at the social machinations and careerist maneuverings that unfold in New York galleries, studios and art bars.

Though it might resemble a TV miniseries, "The Sixth Year" is more like an omnibus movie, with each brief episode directed by a different artist or filmmaker, including sections by Rick Alverson, Dustin Guy Defa and Alex Ross Perry, who have each previously directed narrative feature films. Whether the story follows an emerging artist as he applies for a job in an established artist's studio or we watch as young strivers internalize the cynical lingo of art advisors, it's never clear whether viewers should empathize with these characters, struggling to "make it" in an unforgiving system, or whether we should all just throw in the towel and resign from the art world immediately.

Some cause for hope is found in the episodes directed by artists. Loretta Fahrenholz cast children in the roles of self-centered gallerists and nonprofit directors, transforming Chung and Maeda's bitchy dialogue into an absurdist comedy. Ken Okiishi and Nick Mauss departed from narrative drama altogether. In their episode a disembodied voice reads the entire screenplay, stage directions and all, while bizarre, pornographic 3-D animations are superimposed over a video of someone browsing through the Ludlow 38 website.
art_world  parody  video 
5 weeks ago
Oliver Beer  Artist Three Minute Wonder - YouTube
Artist Oliver Beer is followed by Channel 4 as he makes a new film in the huge Victorian sewer network in Brighton.
sound_space  sound_sculpture  voice  acoustics 
5 weeks ago
Oliver Beer - Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
early interest in the relationship between sound and space, particularly the voice and architecture. He has translated his research into fascinating performances in which spectators take part by the mere fact of their presence, and he makes sculptures and videos that embody, literally or metaphorically, the plastic expression of this subtle relationship and the way the human body experiences it. Within and alongside his work with sound, Oliver Beer creates subtle and diverse sculptural, installation and film projects whose provenance sometimes seems biographical; but in which his play with universal – often intimate – concerns draws on shared emotions and perceptions. 
sound_space  installation  voice 
5 weeks ago
Lee Mingwei | Fabric Workshop and Museum
The Letter-Writing Project consists of three booths fabricated from wood and translucent glass. Subtly lit from within, a warm and inviting light emanates from the chambers. Inside each booth, the artist has designed a place for the viewer to stand, sit, or kneel—the three positions of meditation in Ch’an Buddhism. Viewers are invited to enter the booth of their choice and compose a letter to a person, either living or dead, reflecting on events that have inspired feelings of gratitude, insight or forgiveness— themes that correspond to the meditation positions. Completed letters are placed inside the booth for others to read, or they can be sealed in an envelope for privacy. During the exhibition, letters with addresses were mailed weekly, while all others were gathered together and kept by the artist. Lee currently has approximately 15,000 unsent letters, a number that continues to grow as the project is exhibited around the world. As most of these letters are written to the deceased, he plans to ritualistically release them from this world; at an appropriate time, Lee will place the letters on a series of paper lanterns, which will be set on fire as they float down a river.
letters  writing  installation  text_art 
5 weeks ago
Christopher Williams | Artforum | Tim Griffin - artforum.com / in print
The objects depicted within the image’s frame are similarly reflexive, including the canopied bench, the striped canvas and cushions of which immediately summon Williams’s earlier photograph of a Daniel Buren ceiling tile—a citation effectively echoing the elder artist’s assertion that institutional (indeed, both architectural and social) context inevitably generates a syntax within which any image or object obtains specific cultural significance. And, as if to underline how, for Williams, such a grammar of representation and signification must be traced back to the most basic processes and mechanisms of photography, the lower right corner of his picture features a power box made by the now defunct photographic-equipment company Balcar, and this corporate name is emblazoned on a lighting apparatus that slices across the image’s upper right corner. (In fact, the instrument’s sharp angle mirrors the stripes’ diagonal grade while meeting them within the composition, conjuring—if one allows oneself the lyrical leap—the blades of a closing shutter.).....

For a good deal of the above perspective on his work could have been—and was—articulated in literature going back more than twenty years. Indeed, if the artist’s work is typically lauded today for its crisscrossing of conceptual and commercial motifs, making art-historical maneuvers for decidedly contemporary eyes, it is nevertheless worthwhile to look back at scholar Thomas Crow’s 1993 essay “The Simple Life: Pastoralism and the Persistence of Genre in Recent Art,” which considers Williams in the context of Dan Graham’s magazine piece Homes for America, 1966. The “promise of realism contained in [Graham’s] plain diction,” Crow noted, was confirmed at “the level of abstract critical allegory”—and one cannot help but think in such a vein, where the most cerebral endeavors are nevertheless linked to the most common, regarding Williams’s continual use of commercial modes in photography, from its models, color charts, and lighting registers to its resolution and saturated color.... when a practice such as Williams’s revolves so much around the social and technological conditions that contribute to meaning, one must ask how those conditions might have shifted to allow for that practice’s wider reception and more widespread praise.
photography  institutional_critique  construction  advertising  commercialism 
5 weeks ago
Gego: Line as Object
It shows us what is left of the art object when you have taken away precisely that which conventionally defined or supported it: whether mass from sculpture or ground from drawing. The little that remains has the surprising capacity to hold a space, even a very large one....

In the introduction to the publication, Simon Denny writes: “In Portikus one sees a fantastic conglomeration of material that tries to monumentalize [Samsung’s] powerful cultural message; arranging imagined and remade objects around excerpts from Lee Kun-hee’s texts and Samsung’s history. I’ve tried to stay close to the context it describes: the global material language of corporate pride and presentation.” In commissioning two different English translations of New Management, a publication in Korean about the philosophy and history of Chairman Lee’s legacy, Denny investigates existing hierarchies. On the one hand, the material carries with it extremely specific cultural and economic meaning and value, and on the other, it forms a part of global culture and public information....

the haptic is paramount in these experiments, in which uneven surface texture returns in the alternating warp and weft of the paper. Her technique was simple: Cutting existing photographs found in magazines or prints of her own work into very thin strips, she wove them in and out of one another, allowing two or even more images to intersect and break down into fragments.
sculpture  drawing  immateriality  materiality  haptics  objects  lines 
5 weeks ago
Ana Torfs | e-flux
The English word echolalia refers to both the compulsive and the playful repetition of the same words. Taking it for her title, Torfs points to her interest in how meaning and knowledge are based on reproduction, repetition and translation. The relation or tension between text/language and image plays a central role in Torfs’s work, and with it all the related processes of representation, interpretation and translation. She questions a topical and authentic perception through the scattered remains of our cultural and political history. Existing texts and/or images are often used as a starting point for her works, whether it is the classic Rossellini film Journey to Italy, the Latin names of plants by Carl Linnaeus or a travel journal of Christopher Columbus. In her series of tapestries TXT (Engine of Wandering Words) an image machine generates multi-layered combinations and variations of one specific loanword, a word that over time remained the same in many different languages, along the routes of early trade and global exchanges. Meaning is reconfigured permanently in a random order.

An archaeology of knowledge is at the heart of Torfs’s artistic endeavour: how things get named and described so that you can grasp them, and how during their transmission new constellations of word, image and sound emerge. Early scientific explorations, exotic imageries, and the totalization of knowledge in the encyclopedia are revealed and their instrumental roles in the colonization of the world questioned. Torfs also questions a topical and authentic perception through the scattered remains of our cultural and political history. Her resulting work often reveals only faint echoes of the original source: playful transpositions and translations from language to image and vice versa, rendering displacements of meaning and interpretation. She does this through the use of a remarkably broad variety of reproducible media, ranging from sound, video, photographs and slide projections to prints, silkscreens and tapestries.
encyclopedias  language  translation  classification  colonialism  art  text_art 
5 weeks ago
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