| Our home on native land is a resource to help North Americans learn more about their local history.
mapping  cartography  indigenous 
1 hour ago
MoEML: The Agas Map
Civitas Londinum is a bird’s-eye view of London first printed from woodblocks in about 1561. Widely known as the Agas map, from a spurious attribution to surveyor Ralph Agas (c.1540-1621), the map offers a richly detailed view both of the buildings and streets of the city and of its environment. No copies survive from 1561, but a modified version was printed in 1633. In the later version of the map, the Stuart coat of arms replaces the Elizabethan arms, and the Royal Exchange, which opened in 1571, occupies the triangle created by the convergence of Threadneedle and Cornhill Streets.
mapping  cartography  urban_history 
2 hours ago
The Largest Medieval Map | Mappa Mundi Hereford
Hereford Cathedral is home to the Hereford Mappa Mundi, one of the world’s unique medieval treasures. Measuring 1.59 x 1.34 metres (5’2” by 4’4”), the map is constructed on a single sheet of vellum (calf skin). Scholars believe it was made around the year 1300 and shows the history, geography and destiny of humanity as it was understood in Christian Europe in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.

The inhabited part of the world as it was known then, roughly equivalent to Europe, Asia and North Africa, is mapped within a Christian framework. Jerusalem is in the centre, and east is at the top. East, where the sun rises, was where medieval Christians looked for the second coming of Christ. The British Isles is at the bottom on the left.
mapping  cartography 
2 hours ago
SimFactory - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
Automation is a system of control dependent on standards. The introduction of automation to the workplace has created a need to fit the human body to its rigid mechanic rhythm. From ergonomic keyboards to time management sheets and Soylent liquid foods, corporeality has been adjusted to the industrial schedule. Imaging technology has played a major role in the process of establishing a body standard by providing tools to record, scrutinize, and rationalize the human figure. Paradoxically, as special effects unlocked the entertainment industry’s wildest image-desires, the same technology rendered corporeality transparent; a 3D scanner developed by the US Air Force to measure and average its personnel for instance, was subsequently used on the set of James Cameron’s Terminator II to liquefy the shapeshifting android T-1000. Standardization might evoke a calming image of normalcy against the backdrop of the bizarre everyday, yet it provides a rationale for discrimination by defining a norm and demanding individual transparency....

With the introduction of the moving assembly line for automotive production, Henry Ford arranged human and machine within an industrial choreography geared for maximum efficiency. Each worker was assigned one manufacturing step and instructed to perform it repeatedly for the duration of their shift. ... The Gilbreth’s employed image making methods that serve as a precursor to contemporary motion capture technology. Instead of the tight bodysuits garnered with white reflective markers of today, they attached small lights to workers’ hands and took long exposure photographs of single actions that were to be repeated on assembly lines. Jagged lines left behind by the lights tracing the hand’s path would point to unnecessary or inefficient movements to be eliminated. Suddenly there was a “right way” to mount a screw, bend a wire, or grab the next piece. With the Gilbreth’s method constraining motion and industrializing the body, human movement ceased to be free. ...

Pioneered by French police officer Alphonse Bertillon in the beginning of the nineteenth century for criminal identification, anthropometry is the measurement and quantification of the human body into recordable units. Bertillon believed rigorous body data collection would yield insight into the facial features of a criminal and be useful for predictive policing as well as identifying repeat offenders. Translating the human body into numbers is used and abused as an instrument of power and control, enforcing quantitative transparency against the foreign and unknown Other; it has served to rationalize racial, genetic, and body discrimination with horrific consequences. Anthropometry is complicit in some of the worst crimes against humanity, yet it is embedded in a wide array of applications today, such as forensic science, biomechanics, anthropology, ergonomics, computer graphics, architecture, and industrial design. ...

Before omnipresent personal devices were capable of such machine vision feats, body data was recorded by governmental entities conducting population statistics. In 1988, the US Army Anthropometric Survey (ANSUR) collected data of 158 individual body coordinates from around 6,000 men and women. The aim of the study was an updated body measurement database of the US Army’s contemporary personnel “to guide the design and sizing of clothing, personal protective equipment, work stations, and computer-generated human models.”...

The Sprint ad depicts omnipresent optical surveillance, one that would eventually amass a database of body data larger than any anthropometric study possibly could. Once the body data has been collected however, how does one get to a “computer-generated human model”? Generating and animating life-like humanoids on screen faced two main challenges: how to graphically produce a human figure and how to model it according to corporeal measurements. Since the mid 1980s a team lead by Dr. Norman Badler at the University of Pennsylvania’s Centre for Human Modelling and Simulation has been working on Jack, a research project into humanoid simulation software to provide “a computer graphics surrogate human” to engineers and designers to “augment their analysis of designed environments.”...

Automation is a complex system orchestrating individual interacting parts. For it to function, it relies on consistently established norms and standardization across all components. If automation was ever to have provided freedom of work, it has instead arrested the human body in standardization.
automation  simulation  labor  embodiment  biomedia  ergonomics  standards 
4 hours ago
At Cornell Tech, Art Engineered for the Imagination - The New York Times
These enigmatic spaces include Mr. Jackson’s “Ordinary Objects of Extraordinary Beauty,” a continuation of his series called “Study Collections.” The small trapezoidal meeting room is lined with shelves displaying natural and found objects — like bones, ceramics and branches — as specimens. “The things these students will dream up are at the cutting edge of the application of new science,” Mr. Jackson said. “I wanted to present a room where they could sit and think about the material resources available on earth and what they’ll do with them.”...

In another room, Ms. Taylor — whose work updates the age-old decorative inlay technique called marquetry — has imagined what Roosevelt Island might have looked like in the 19th century. Using more than 10,000 cut and painted pieces of wood, she has pieced together vivid panoramic scenes covering the walls of the triangular room. One side depicts a dense thicket of tree trunks. The other two walls portray an abandoned interior caving in at the corners, with vines creeping in, like tentacles, through a window....

Known for using text as raw material, Mr. Riedel has created a black-and-white inkjet print on ceiling panels, titled “Cornell Tech Mag,” flowing overhead from the building’s entrance through the cafe and then across the tabletops. Using what he calls “the bible for computer technology,” he rearranged every word in the first four volumes of Donald Knuth’s “The Art of Computer Programming” into alphabetical order, then enlarged all the o’s and l’s. “You can imagine it’s like one and zero, or open and closed, or a circle and a line,” explained Mr. Riedel, who was interested in the resulting abstracted pattern, covering some 5,000 square feet....

Mr. Ritchie’s atrium piece, “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” is printed on an 80-foot-high resin wall and three adjoining glass walls ascending through the core of the building and visible from each landing. It was conceived as a kind of “history of logical thinking,” said the artist, who has often tackled epic themes. He wove together clouds of yellows and oranges with all manner of diagrams — prototypes of the compass and the printing press, Charles Darwin’s first sketch of the evolutionary tree of life, the first drawing of the internet — superimposed with calligraphic markings that refer to an early experiment by Eratosthenes to approximate the diameter of the earth.
archive_art  data_art 
Library Launches | Library of Congress
The Library of Congress today launched, a new online space that will host a changing selection of experiments, projects, events and resources designed to encourage creative use of the Library’s digital collections. To help demonstrate the exciting discoveries that are possible, the new site will also feature a gallery of projects from data challenge winners and innovators-in-residence and blog posts and video presentations from leaders in the field.

“We already know the Library of Congress is the ultimate treasure chest, but with we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “Whether you’re tagging images from our digitized historic newspapers to help future visitors, or exploring the changing nature of democracy through the 25 million bibliographic records the Library recently made public, we are providing tools and inspiration that will lead to new uses and new ways of looking at the incredible materials here at the Library.”
libraries  labs  digitization  digital_humanities 
Italy’s New Rural - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
Ponticiello’s current project is a meditation on movement. He is building pace—or step—maps. These are navigational guides to the islands and metropolis of Naples and a number of other southern towns and municipalities, measured in paces, rather than miles or kilometers­. The project was inspired, as so many are, by frustration. Driven mad by neighbors and tourists electing to drive around his tiny, beautiful island home of Procida, Ponticiello wanted to empower them to rediscover space and time using our most natural form of locomotion. So he started producing bright, clear maps that bring the abstraction of distance into line with human time, aided by the robust and satisfying metric that, on a comfortable walk, we all average 100 paces a minute. Pace, he points out, is the perfect word. “We should live life on time, and in time, with our own pace.”...

He explains his motivation as “helping communities to self-determine their own identity using technology.” It is a simple mission, but it’s also radical, given the centralizing tendencies so inherent to this industry. “The real vision of the smart city or sharing economy,” he explains, “requires power, data, and infrastructure in the hands of the community.” Similarly, the way to burst the startup bubble, Giordano argues, is to encourage public participation in venture capital funds, to reflect a wider range of interests, and a truer representation of actual problems.
Two of the guest speakers in Caselle, hacker-artist duo Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico, elaborate why Giordano’s emphasis on individual and community empowerment is so necessary. “In a world of smart things,” says Iaconesi, “you don’t have a house, or property; you have a collection of licenses. You are managed and controlled by your services. You consume, but more importantly, you are consumed. We need to escape the logic of control and consumption.” Many of the pairs’ projects, assembled within their collective Art is Open Source, explore these themes within the context of small and micro data, with projects including Ubiquitous Commons, Persona Non Data, and Incautious Porn. “We can transgress the smart city by bringing new poetics, by affecting what people desire. That’s where we need to work—on imagination, not on labor,” says Persico. Iaconesi is in vigorous agreement, “the most exciting hook for transformations is at the micro level, where history is made.”
smart_cities  urban_intelligence  urban_data 
2 days ago
A new kind of map: it’s about time – Points of interest
Isochrones get us a bit closer. With a starting point and a mode of travel, they examine the actual geometry of surrounding roads, to delineate an area based on how long it takes to get there. Areas within the same isochrone (Greek for “same time”) take a similar time to reach. Tendrils extend along fast-moving corridors, and squeeze to wrap around mountains, rivers, and other natural barriers.
A step further
But at the core, these maps still serve double duty in visualizing both space and time. Recently, we’ve been thinking of a visualization that cuts directly to the way in which people make decisions about where to go: what would a map look like if we swept the physical world away completely, in favor of the time needed to move around it?...

In this time map, we preserve the direction of each point, relative to the user. But the visual distance from that center point is determined by the time it takes to get there, whether driving, biking, or on foot.
By removing literal geography, we now have a map that more closely reflects the way we think about our environment: a cluster of restaurants “five minutes that way” versus “ten minutes the other.” We can watch our surroundings literally expand and contract with different means of travel. And only after choosing a destination do we think about roads, turns, and the specifics of how to get there.
mapping  time_map  temporality 
2 days ago
Qualitative Interfaces | Imaginaries Lab | Carnegie Mellon School of Design
Outside of the digital, we largely live and think and act and feel in response to, and in dialogue with, the perceived qualities of people, things and phenomena, and the relationships between them, rather than their number. Much of our experience of—and meaning-making in—the real world is qualitative rather than quantitative. How friendly was she? How tired do I feel right now? Who’s the tallest in the group? How windy is it out there? Which route shall we take to work? How was your meal? Which apple looks tastier? Which piece of music best suits the mood? Do I need to use the bathroom?

Particularly rarely do we deal with quantities in relation to abstract concepts—two coffees, half a biscuit, three children, but rarely 0.5 loves or 6.8 sadnesses. And yet, quantification has become the default mode of interaction with technology, of display of information, and of interfaces which aim to support decision-making and behavior change in everyday life: quantified self, personal informatics, data, data, more data.

But what might we be missing through this focus on quantification? It seems as though there might be opportunities to explore forms of qualitative display and interface, as an approach to information presentation and interaction, as an aid to help people explore their own and each other’s thinking, and specifically to help people understand their relationships and agency with systems, and also with ideas that are difficult to quantify.

There is somehow more experiential information contained in watching a windsock move, hearing and watching raindrops falling on a puddle, seeing water trapped in a railway carriage door window sloshing around just as we are also jostled by the train’s movement, feeling how a spoon has worn with use, or seeing how worn the “You Are Here” marker is on a map at a tourist attraction, than we can get from a set of numbers, however engagingly presented they might be....

We’re particularly interested in interfaces and displays which make use of the qualities of real-world qualitative phenomena more-or-less directly—perhaps blurring the lines with forms of analog computing. Our first piece of work, including research by Dan Lockton, Delanie Ricketts, Shruti Aditya Chowdhury (CMU) and Chang Hee Lee (RCA) is a CHI 2017 late-breaking work article, ‘Exploring Qualitative Displays and Interfaces’ in which we develop one dimension of a spectrum of qualitative displays, relating phenomena in the real world to the display in terms of how directly they are connected (see image below).
2 days ago
Libraries Can Be More Than Just Books - The New York Times
Some might complain that such public-private partnerships do not earn the libraries enough space or money, or that the resulting buildings are too big. Such criticism ignores the complexities of building in the country’s oldest and largest metropolis. These deals do not undermine the libraries within — they underpin their futures. When cities lack housing, new libraries and capital dollars, here is a way to get all three for the nominal public investment of an underused property, one the public continues to own once it is built.

Admirable as these are, New York has fallen well short of its potential. The city has built only 16 branches the past two decades, a paltry 8 percent increase, and nothing compared with rival metropolitan areas.

Other cities are much further ahead. Starting in 1995, Chicago created a master plan tying libraries to community development and has replaced more than three-quarters of its branches. In 1998, Seattle issued the largest library bond in history, allowing for the construction or replacement of all 27 branches. And Columbus, Ohio, unveiled a plan to double, and possibly triple, its system’s square footage over two decades.

New York ought to take such an integrated approach to the billion-dollar needs of its libraries. At the very least, it should embrace the partnerships already flourishing here and foster even more.

My organization, the Center for an Urban Future, working with the architecture firm Marble Fairbanks, has identified at least 25 libraries with surplus development rights. These could easily be redeveloped into libraries beneath housing, or even offices or manufacturing centers, depending on a community’s needs. Factoring in some smart rezonings, dozens more libraries could be upgraded in this fashion.

The Robin Hood Foundation is seeking to nurture this model. In 2015, the foundation offered the de Blasio administration a challenge grant of $25 million, to be divided among five libraries, one in each borough. A $5 million match from the city effectively covers the cost of building out a library, which would be in a new affordable housing complex. It is akin to the venture in Sunset Park.

“The city has used up most of its vacant land, so we really have to get creative about our existing resources,” said Beatriz De La Torre, Robin Hood’s managing director of housing.
libraries  real_estate  development 
2 days ago
Artists — Matthew Day Jackson — Images and clips — Study Collection 2 — Hauser & Wirth
Jackson's Study Collection (2009) is an enormous stainless steel shelf-unit (inspired by the artist’s visits to the technological artifacts in MIT Museum's basement storeroom). It features models of all of the missile systems including the V1, V2, Thor, Titan, and Cruise missiles, as well as models of Fat Man and Little Boy along with other thought-artifacts created in the artist's studio.

Study Collection also features a series of models that show the artist's skull morphing into the skull of Phineas Gage, a railroad construction foreman who miraculously survived a horrific accident in which an explosive charge drove a large iron rod through his skull, destroying a portion of his brain’s frontal lobes. Gage suffered major personality changes after the accident thereby profoundly influencing 19thcentury thinking about the brain and its localized functions as they relate to personality and behavior. Harvard University Medical School’s Warren Museum contains Gage’s actual skull in its collection of historical artifacts. Study Collection features a 3-D digital scan of the 3-foot damping rod that shot through Gage's skull making him a living oddity and example of the mind/body split.
archive_art  collection  organization 
3 days ago
Companies Look to an Old Technology to Protect Against New Threats - WSJ
To stay up to date in the battle against hackers, some companies are turning to a 1950s technology.

Storing data on tape seems impossibly inconvenient in an age of easy-access cloud computing. But that is the big security advantage of this vintage technology, since hackers have no way to get at the information. The federal government, financial-services firms, health insurers and other regulated industries still keep tape as a backup to digital records.

Now a range of other companies are returning to tape as hackers get smarter about penetrating defenses—and do much more damage when they do get in....

Some security experts and tape users argue that the medium has big advantages over other forms of storage—including a higher reliability rate than hard drives and a lifespan in excess of 30 years. The total cost of ownership per terabyte is also the lowest of any storage medium. Top-of-the-line tapes can hold up to 15 terabytes and can be archived in third-party locations at a fraction of the cost of cheapest cloud storage.
archives  preservation  tape  storage 
3 days ago
Qualitative methods 3Progress in Human Geography - Robyn Dowling, Kate Lloyd, Sandie Suchet-Pearson, 2017
In this, our third and final snapshot of contemporary qualitative research methods, we pick up on the proliferation of non-representational theory across human geography and focus on research methods concerned with practices that exceed (more than) representation or are non-representational. We chart work that pays attention to the non-visible, the non-verbal and the non-obvious, as well as methods and methodologies that enable researchers to grasp and grapple with assemblages, relationalities, and life as it unfolds. We characterize these ‘more-than representational’ methodologies as: experimenting with approaches to research, using picturing as an embedded research methodology, and highlighting research as sensing. We conclude that these have opened new forms of knowledge, including into subdisciplines like health geography. Nonetheless, a privileging of written and visual modes of thinking and representing remain, and the discipline must be vigilant to nurture and value the emerging work on neural diversity and non-Western modes of thinking
methodology  non_representational  sensation  affect 
3 days ago
Khunrath’s Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae (1595) | Special Collections
Heinrich Khunrath’s Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae is an alchemical classic, the best known of Khunrath’s works. The work is infused with a strange combination of Christianity and magic, illustrated with elaborate, hand-colored, engraved plates heightened with gold and silver. The tension between spirituality and experiment, and the rich symbolism of Khunrath’s writings and their engravings brought condemnation of the book by the Sorbonne in 1625, and now attracts attention from scholars.
Located in the Duveen Collection in the Department of Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-Madison (call number: Duveen D 897 flat), this is a rare copy of the first edition of this work, probably published in Hamburg in 1595. There are several other editions, some with additional plates, though lacking in general the generous margins and hand-coloring of the copy in Madison. Only two other copies of this first edition, described by Denis Duveen as “one of the most important books in the whole literature of theosophical alchemy and the occult sciences,” are known to exist.
The work consists of four engraved, hand-colored plates, plus a letterpress title page, 24 pages of letterpress text, plus a final unnumbered page (entitl
textual_form  book_history  book_design  books 
5 days ago
Shapes in Books: Triangles, Squares, Circles (2015-2016) | Special Collections
In recent reflections on printed books and their history, the so-called geometry of the page has come in for considerable discussion. This exhibit took a slightly different approach to matters geometrical — showcasing rare books on geometry, to be sure, but also other instances of geometrical shapes (in particular, triangles, squares, and circles) as rendered in type, ornament, illustrations, and metaphors.
textual_form  book_design  books 
5 days ago
Free Culture? - Future Public - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
The very physicality and integrity of material cultures as objects seem to make them especially fraught in the discourse around cultural appropriation. Or perhaps it’s that these objects cannot be readily consumed—and sometimes even exhumed—the way that cuisine, music, dance, martial arts, and especially language are, all of which point to what happens when culture becomes data. Yet the thing about data, at least in its digital iterations, is that its attribution tends to be built in. Embedded in the files themselves is metadata, which the states of Arizona and Washington have recently ruled to be public record. Creative Commons and similar licenses, meanwhile, give creators a fine level of control over the commercial circulation and derivative iterations of their works. Crucially, the creator(s) retains these rights after their works enter the commons. Although legislation like the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act provides some recourse, the same is rarely true for cultural objects....

Whereas Europe might have favored scientific racism as a technological aide, these days we instead see 3D printing widely deployed as an attempt to preserve and even reconstruct monuments and relics destroyed by ISIS. Take the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA)—a collaboration between Oxford and Harvard universities and the UAE’s Museum of the Future—and its recreation of a razed Palmyran arch. The sintered arch has spent the last year touring intergovernmental summits from its unveiling in Trafalgar Square, London, to its most recent stint at this year’s G7 summit in Florence, with stops in New York and Dubai. (One wonders whether such heritage objects will become de rigeur at such events, like one of Taryn Simon’s political summit flower bouquet portraits.)7 A report from the arch’s New York showing suggests sticking points of attribution, access, and enthusiastic link forging as exemplified in a snippet from the IDA’s executive director Roger Michel’s speech: “New York has thrived in exactly the same ways as Palmyra — as a center of commerce, of art, of technology, of learning. Everything about Palmyra that was great is what is great about New York City.”8
Projects like the IDA’s raise interesting questions about the fungibility of these buildings and artefacts. We may see it as the logical next step in the economy of casts and copies that have long characterized Western institutions.9 But who—if anyone—owns that arch and that heritage, especially with the original destroyed? (Just as the idea of the commons is continually under threat of appropriation by the forces of capital, we might begin to wonder whether adverse possession, or squatter’s rights, are next.)10
commons  museums  digital_archaeology  archaeology  provenance 
8 days ago
Decolonizing technology: A reading list | Beatrice Martini – blog
As Anjuan Simmons says in Technology colonialism:

“Colonialism is now seen by many as a discredited form of rule, but technology companies today are increasingly colonial in their actions. This can be seen in the veneer of sovereignty they seek to cultivate, how they work across borders, their use of dominant culture as a weapon, and the clear belief that “superior” technology is a suitable excuse for lawlessness, exploitation and even violence.”

If left unchallenged, such exercise of power will keep exacerbating the inequalities and discriminations which technology would actually have the potential against which to stand.
technology  decolonialization  colonialism 
8 days ago
Dry Cleaning the City’s Oldest Maps - The New York Times
The tables in the basement of the Municipal Archives are covered with household staples: cotton swabs, tweezers, food strainers, measuring cups, ashtrays and other materials.

None are items that one would expect to find in a professional art conservation laboratory. But they are tools used by a group of government workers who wash and care for some of the oldest existing maps and architectural drawings of New York City. They call themselves “dry cleaners.”..

The building is home to 243,000 cubic feet of records — enough to cover more than four football fields — including maps, photographs, film spools and birth, death and marriage certificates that tell the story of the city’s past. The last four years have seen a push from researchers and archivists to digitize the annals, slowly making them more accessible to the public, but many of the faded, fraying documents are almost too fragile to endure that process, according to the conservators there. Among the endangered records are hundreds of maps of post-colonial New York, created as early as the 1700s, rolled tightly into cardboard wrapping and stored in the city’s proverbial attic.

“These things have been sitting rolled up in those acidic boxes for 30 years, at least,” said Nora Ligorano, a conservator at the Archives. “No one has opened them or touched them for decades.”...

Until now.

Tragedies and natural disasters in New York and abroad have placed an added urgency on preserving New York’s treasures. The 1966 Florence Flood in Italy, that city’s most devastating natural disaster of modern times, spurred an international effort to rescue valuable documents and set a precedent for how paper relics should be conserved. This century, collections at the World Trade Center were destroyed on 9/11 and works at South Street Seaport and the New York City Police Museum were lost in Hurricane Sandy, reminding New Yorkers — historians and conservators, in particular — of the importance of protecting our archival gems.
archives  conservation  maps  preservation 
9 days ago
Eadweard Muybridge’s Secret Cloud Collection
So back to Volcan Quezaltenango—Guatemala. Like nearly all the pictures in the album, it was a fabrication made from at least two different photographs. But whereas the other pictures were literal and descriptive, this one had a phantasmagoric quality. I dismissed the dark and brooding picture as unnecessarily romantic, completely overdone, possibly sentimental, and just plain weird and nonsensical....

That Muybridge should use a combination printing technique to enhance his images was not surprising. Adding clouds to scenes was a common 19th-century practice, a response to the technical limitations of the medium. 8 Glass plate films of the era were particularly sensitive to blue light, which meant that skies and clouds often appeared white in a final print. So photographers made separate exposures of cloud-filled scenes that better registered the delicate details of atmosphere. Then the two negatives, sky and scene, could be stacked together to render a new view when printed. Muybridge was especially adept at this technique and used it extensively throughout his career....

What struck me about Volcan Quezaltenango was that I had already seen those clouds, scattered throughout the album, combined with different landscape views. Muybridge apparently had a collection of cloud pictures that he could shuffle through in order to find just the right fit of land and sky. I imagined his cloud collection as a wooden box filled with carefully filed glass plate negatives, arranged and indexed according to visual and aesthetic properties. 10 That thought prompted a whole string of questions. How did he decide on a pairing? Was he consistent from one print to the next? Where did the cloud scenes originate, and would it be possible to reconstruct them by piecing together parts of different images?...

In archives and libraries across the continent, I found other albums of this work that contained remixes of land and sky. The same landscapes were paired with alternate clouds, depicting parallel realities. Now I had even more questions: Did his choice of clouds reflect his mood at the time? Or did he intend to elicit a particular reaction from the viewer? With modern brain imaging techniques, could I measure the emotional response of individuals looking at the same landscape paired with different clouds?
photography  clouds 
10 days ago
Self-driving cars use the same technology that discovers ancient civilizations — Quartz
A mapping system using LiDAR technology not only has the potential to unearth new discoveries—it can also provide far-reaching benefits to a variety of industries, including city planning, architecture, environmental work, disaster relief, and drone delivery. In a world prone to change, by both the environment and humans, LiDAR gives us a quick and accurate way to measure developments around us.
As humanity grapples with how to solve climate change, LiDAR mapping can help us make observations about the speed in which forests are declining, oceans are rising, and ice caps are shrinking. In fact, the Monterey Bay Aquarium recently announced that it is developing a system that will use LiDAR to observe ocean changes and processes that were once incredibly difficult to map and measure.
In the wake of natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes, LiDAR can be used to map damage and pinpoint areas of vulnerability. Downed trees and power lines can be more easily located, for example, without placing humans in danger. After Hurricane Sandy, a work train attached with LiDAR was sent into flooded New York subway tunnels to find sections of structural damage.
In addition to reactionary efforts, the use of LiDAR for planning purposes%2
lidar  planning  disaster_recovery  machine_vision 
10 days ago
Inside Waymo's Secret World for Training Self-Driving Cars - The Atlantic
Scenarios like this form the base for the company’s powerful simulation apparatus. “The vast majority of work done—new feature work—is motivated by stuff seen in simulation,” Stout tells me. This is the tool that’s accelerated the development of autonomous vehicles at Waymo, which Alphabet (née Google) spun out of its “moon-shot” research wing, X, in December of 2016.

If Waymo can deliver fully autonomous vehicles in the next few years, Carcraft should be remembered as a virtual world that had an outsized role in reshaping the actual world on which it is based.

Originally developed as a way to “play back” scenes that the cars experienced while driving on public roads, Carcraft, and simulation generally, have taken on an ever-larger role within the self-driving program.

At any time, there are now 25,000 virtual self-driving cars making their way through fully modeled versions of Austin, Mountain View, and Phoenix, as well as test-track scenarios. Waymo might simulate driving down a particularly tricky road hundreds of thousands of times in a single day. Collectively, they now drive 8 million miles per day in the virtual world. In 2016, they logged 2.5 billion virtual miles versus a little over 3 million miles by Google's IRL self-driving cars that run on public roads...

The simulations are part of an intricate process that Waymo has developed. They’ve tightly interwoven the millions of miles their cars have traveled on public roads with a “structured testing” program they conduct at a secret base in the Central Valley they call Castle.

Waymo has never unveiled this system before. The miles they drive on regular roads show them areas where they need extra practice. They carve the spaces they need into the earth at Castle, which lets them run thousands of different scenarios in situ. And in both kinds of real-world testing, their cars capture enough data to create full digital recreations at any point in the future. In that virtual space, they can unhitch from the limits of real life and create thousands of variations of any single scenario, and then run a digital car through all of them. As the driving software improves, it’s downloaded back into the physical cars, which can drive more and harder miles, and the loop begins again.
mapping  automation  self_driving 
10 days ago
The New York Times
In 2007, the top-selling image for the search term “woman” in Getty Image’s library of stock photography was a naked woman lying on a bed, gazing at the camera with a towel draped over her bottom half.

In 2017, it’s a woman hiking a rocky trail in Banff National Park, alone on the edge of a cliff high above a turquoise lake. She’s wearing a down jacket and wool hat, and her face isn’t visible. ...

Stock photos — generic images that appear in places like ads, billboards, magazines and blogs — reflect the culture at a moment in time....

The change from women lounging naked (or perhaps laughing alone with salad) to women demonstrating physical or professional prowess was driven in part by the Lean In collection, which Getty developed in 2014 with Sheryl Sandberg’s nonprofit to seed media with more modern, diverse and empowering images of women. The collection, now with 14,000 photos, has the unofficial tagline, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

The 15 most downloaded images from the Lean In collection so far this year, including those below, are four of fathers playing with children; four of girls and women involved in science and engineering; three of women being athletic; and four of women in business or school settings.
photography  classification  archives  stock_photography 
14 days ago
Recovering the Philosophy Chamber, Harvard's Enlightenment-Era Teaching Cabinet
A vast and encompassing view of the world contained in a room so small that it was referred to as a chamber — such was the hope and hubris of the 18th-century Enlightenment figures in America.

The tiny room was called the Philosophy Chamber, and it attracted some of the most inventive minds in the United States, when our country was in its formative years, feeling out its independence and still searching for its own narrative. George Washington visited, Benjamin Franklin helped secure its contents, John Hancock donated the flocked wallpaper, and John Singleton Copley painted august portraits for its walls. At once a laboratory, art gallery, and lecture hall, its main purpose was to serve the students of Harvard College.

This wee chamber thrived from 1766 to 1820 and then all but disappeared, until recent years. Ethan Lasser, a curator at the Harvard Art Museums, kept encountering references to a teaching cabinet at the school while researching something else entirely, the whereabouts of a lost portrait.

What he discovered instead was evidence of a lost museum, a place that was the heart of intellectual life in New England for more than half a century.

Now, for the first time since the Philosophy Chamber was disbanded and its formal portraits, scientific instruments, natura...

In a profound act of cultural erasure, many of these objects were stripped of the particulars of their making and history once they entered the global trade of “rare curiosities,” as the exhibit calls it. Basic information about the creators, materials, and cultures was disregarded in favor of the tales of adventure that brought them to America. In the current exhibit, some of the indigenous objects are intentionally presented without fully correcting the record, with only scant information, as would have been the case in the chamber. This seems strange, even problematic, at first. Yet it’s meaningful to experience these items at they would have been viewed in the cabinet, without the kind of context we’ve come to expect. ...

Indeed, one of the great contributions of this exhibition is the reproachful realities it brings to light, the academic roots of racism. The curators do not shy away from what they’ve uncovered in the primary didactics for the show or its scholarly catalogue.
intellectual_furnishings  media_architecture  pedagogy  museums  cabinets 
14 days ago
You’ll Never Want to Leave This All-in-One Bed Full of Gadgets & Storage | Urbanist
Sold by a variety of Asian retailers for roughly $600 USD, including SG Shop and English TaoBao, this slightly bonkers piece of furniture incorporates virtually everything you can imagine (reasonably) wanting to be built right into your bed, from USB chargers, speakers, power outlets and a pop-out laptop table to an actual built-in massage chair with multiple settings.
intellectual_furnishings  media_space  furniture 
14 days ago
How South Korea is Building a Techno-Utopia in Seoul | WIRED
I got an advance look at what might turn out to be a powerful tool in his reelection: a visually beautiful data dashboard—its formal name is “The Digital Civic Mayor’s Office”—that is tied to the broad themes the mayor identified in 2014: How safe is the city, how welcoming is it to the very old and the young, how green is it, how open are its operations?...

So far, so simple—the dashboard is simply reporting yearly data in a colorful way, counting up outputs: how many sports facilities, how many senior care places, how much public data is being disclosed. The press loves this stuff, but it’s not very operational; it’s a postcard with bright colors.
The real benefit of this 11-foot-wide dashboard, both for management and disclosure, comes in other views—and you can move through it by gesture, touch, or remote mouse. (I was told the hardware cost $10​0,000​, the programming cost about $50​,000, and that getting reliable data out of agencies had been a huge challenge.)

As it happened, during our demo, the map of giant, congested Seoul showed an indication of an incident—a fire in the city! Web camera views popped trained on where the fire was.... From his dashboard, the mayor (or anyone else, but I refrained from pressing the button) can launch a video call to talk to public officials near the site. (The man with his back to me is the similarly talented Jeong Joon Ahn, to whom Ma reports; Ahn has a huge range of responsibilities that include getting real-time data from all of Seoul’s agencies into the dashboard. Which is not easy.) Another screen showed, in real time, how long it was taking the fire department to put the fire out. During my time with Ma and Ahn, the fire was resolved....

A real-time emergency dashboard isn’t new. What’s new is that Seoul is also measuring and reporting on—in real time—a wide range of other indicators of the city’s health and well-being. How expensive are common things people eat, like apples? How expensive are apartments?...

The traffic data is next to information about air quality, natural disasters, and crime. This whole setup is aimed at understanding and improving quality of life for all Seoul citizens: These are the categories of things that citizens care about.
smart_cities  dashboards 
15 days ago
Geoff Manaugh is In Wild Air
The remote northern village of Sackville, Canada, has played host for the past seventy years to a cluster of radio-transmission towers. Filmmaker Amanda Dawn Christie wanted to know how these monumental pieces of communications infrastructure have affected the lives of local residents, so she produced a 2016 documentary called Spectres of Shortwave. 

In the process of making the documentary, Christie found that the towers’ radio transmissions permeated nearly every aspect of local life; “the transmission site affected the appliances, homes and even dreams of local residents,” the CBC reports. Kitchen sinks became accidental antennas, picking up voices from elsewhere in a town haunted by the electromagnetic spectrum. 

Christie recorded “stories about the broadcasts, people hearing radio coming out of their fridge, kids coming home from school and being alone and being afraid that there was someone in the house because it sounded like someone was talking in the basement… People would be convinced that they’d dream in other languages and then call up the technicians to find out how that happened.”...

The San Francisco-based digital cartographers at a firm called Stamen recently explored the fact that everyday communications infrastructure, such as buried fiber-optic cables, has remarkable observational capabilities. To prove their point, they worked with California’s Stanford University on a project called Big Glass Microphone to reveal how unexpected sources of information are being continuously captured by the school’s underground telecommunication network.

Fiber optic cables, it turns out, are constantly bombarded by background noise created by everything from earthquakes to passing delivery trucks. After compensating for and cleverly eliminating unwanted sources of stimulation, Stamen has shown that these buried networks act as an inadvertent microphone—a “Big Glass Microphone”—effectively spying on local events.

“Infrastructure is listening to us,” Stamen managing partner Jon Christensen explained to The Mercury News, “but how much do we want our infrastructure to be monitoring us at the same time that we’re monitoring it?”
media_space  radio  electromagnetic_waves  infrastructure  listening 
17 days ago
One Million Years of Isolation || Making the Geologic Now
You start with a question: How do you perceive the need to isolate a material from the environment? I think most people would begin to answer that by looking at the nature of the material...

Now, in most countries, what they have done next is asked: What geology would be very good for isolating this material from the environment? And what geologies are available in our country? The Swedes have gone to their granites, because their whole country is basically underlain by granites. The French looked at granites, salts, and clay, and decided to go with clay. The Belgians and Dutch are looking at clay and salts; and the Germans are looking at salts right now, but also at granites and clay. ...

In the U.S., we did a sweep of the country, looked at all the available geologies, and we decided that we had many possible sites. We investigated some, which basically involved looking at what we knew from geological surveys of the states, and then we made a recommendation to go look at three of the possibilities in greater detail. At that point, Congress stepped in. They started looking at the huge bills associated with site-specific studies - excavation is not cheap - and they said: let's just do one site and see if it's suitable. If it is not, then we'll go back and see what else we can do. So that's how Yucca Mountain, basically, was selected. It was a cost-saving measure over the other two that were in the running for a repository. Those were a bedded salt site in Texas and a basalt site - a deep volcanic rock site - in Washington State....

But all three were looked at, and all three were judged to be equally safe for the first 10,000 years - which, at that time, was the regulation. Since the selection of Yucca Mountain, the regulation has been bumped up to a million years, which is pretty much where the rest of the world is looking: a million years of isolation....

All the other countries in the world are looking at constructing something that is very deep - and under the water table. If you go under the water table deep enough, there is no oxygen in the water, and if there is no oxygen than the solubility of a sizable number of the radionuclides is a non-problem....

you can rely more on the engineered system or more on the natural system. Either way, it's the combination of the two systems that allows you to predict, with relative security, that you're going to isolate a material for well over a million years. ...

To collect the science needed to make credible projections of system safety, we have dug several miles of tunnels under this mountain; we've done lots of testing of how water can move through this mountain, if there was more water; and we've done testing of coupons of the materials that we want to use. These tests were performed using solutions, temperature ranges, and oxygen concentrations that we think are representative over the whole range of what can be reasonably expected at Yucca Mountain. Those kinds of physical tests we have done.

We have also utilized information from people who have taken spent fuel apart in some of our national laboratories and subjected it to leaching tests to see how it dissolves, how fast it dissolves, and what dissolves out of it. We have done all of that kind of testing, and that's what forms the basis for our computer modeling.

One thing we have not done, and can't do, is a mock-up of Yucca Mountain. It just doesn't work that way. It's too complicated, too large, and too long a time-scale.

We've looked for natural analogues of other possible conditions - for example, the climate at Yucca Mountain during an ice age. We've studied six or seven sites that mimic what we would see during a climate change here.

And, in terms of materials, there are some naturally occurring materials that have a passive coating on them. We've studied metals found in nature that are similar in the way they act to the metals that we are using for our waste packages.

So we have gone basically all through nature looking for analogous processes - but none are exact matches for Yucca Mountain....

From the cooling pools or dry storage at the reactor, we've asked the nuclear utility companies to put their spent fuel - or waste - into containers that we have designed and that we will supply to them. The waste will be remotely taken out of whatever container it is in now, put into our containers, which are certified for shipping as well as disposal, and then we would slide those containers onto trains. We want to use mostly trains - we try to avoid truck use.

Rail shipping containers currently in use are massive - some approaching two-hundred tons fully loaded. The trains would bring the containers to us and then we would up-end them remotely and take the material out in a large open bay - all done remotely, again. ...

In terms of what the repository would look like, if built, it would be a series of open tunnels, one after the other, with a bridging tunnel that allows the freight to be brought in on rail. Everything is done remotely. The 40km of tunnels would all be filled up at some point, and then we would seal up the larger openings to the exterior, but leave everything else inside the mountain unsealed.

This is very different, by the way, from every other repository in the world, which would tightly compact material around the waste packages. We want to leave air around the waste packages, because of our situation. We have unsaturated water flow, rather than saturated flow, and, as I've mentioned, water does not like to fall into air out of rock - it would rather stay in the rock, unless it's saturated and under some degree of pressure, such as from the weight of water above it. ...

Manaugh: Of course, once you have sealed the site, you face the challenge of keeping it away from future human contact. How does one mark this location as a place precisely not to come to, for very distant future generations?

Van Luik: We have looked very closely at what WIPP - the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant - is doing in New Mexico. They did a study with futurists and other people - sociologists and language specialists. They decided to come up with markers in seven languages, basically like a Rosetta Stone, with the idea that there will always be someone in the world who studies ancient languages, even 10,000 years from now, someone who will be able to resurrect what the meanings of these stelae are. They will basically say, "This is not a place of honor, don't dig here, this is not good material," etc.

What we have done is adapt that scheme to Yucca Mountain - but we have a different configuration. WIPP is on a flat surface, and their repository is very deep underground.; we're basically inside a mountain with no resources that anybody would want to go after. We will build large marker monuments, and also engrave these same types of warnings onto smaller pieces of rock and metal, and spread them around the area. When people pick them up, they will think, "Oh - let's not go underground here."..

What I have been lobbying for with the international agencies, like the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency, is that before anybody builds a repository, let's have world agreement on the basics of a marker system for everybody. Whoever runs the future, tens of thousands of years from now, shouldn't have to dig up one repository and see a completely different marker system somewhere else and then dig that up, too. They should be able to learn from one not to go to the others.

Of course, there's also a little bit of fun involved here: what is the dominant species going to be in 10,000 years? And can you really mark something for a million years?...

The Finns actually have a very pragmatic attitude to this. They have regulations that basically cover the entire future span, out to a very long time period-but they also say that, once the ice has built up again and covered Finland, it won't be Finland. No one will live there. But it doesn't matter whether anyone lives there or not: you still have to provide a system that's safe for whoever's going to be there when the ice retreats.

We - as in the whole world - need to take these future scenarios quite seriously. And these are very interesting things to think about - things that, in normal industrial practice, you never even consider.
storage  repository  nuclear_history  geology  yucca_mountain  models  universal_language  speculation  deep_time 
17 days ago
Impact of Social Sciences – Big data problems we face today can be traced to the social ordering practices of the 19th century.
This is not the first ‘big data’ era but the second. The first was the explosion in data collection that occurred from the early 19th century – Hacking’s ‘avalanche of numbers’, precisely situated between 1820 and 1840. This was an analogue big data era, different to our current digital one but characterized by some very similar problems and concerns. Contemporary problems of data analysis and control include a variety of accepted factors that make them ‘big’ and these generally include size, complexity and technology issues. We also suggest that digitisation is a central process in this second big data era, one that seems obvious but which has also appears to have reached a new threshold. Until a decade or so ago ‘big data’ looked just like a digital version of conventional analogue records and systems. Ones whose management had become normalised through statistical and mathematical analysis. Now however we see a level of concern and anxiety, similar to the concerns that were faced in the first big data era....

there is general acknowledgement that the early 19th century was when the collection, analysis and production of various forms of information accelerated at a rate not previously seen in human history. More specifically, Richards called it the first information age. Linnaeus’ botanical taxonomic approach proved so powerful a heuristic and practical device that it was swiftly applied to human social phenomena including the production of racial taxonomies. The sciences as we know them were assuming their modern shape (Whewell coined the term ‘scientist’ in 1833), the social sciences were emerging from what were known as ‘political arithmetic’, ‘social physics’ and latterly the ‘moral sciences’, while science became an undertaking distinct from natural philosophy....

The 19th century was a pre-digital era in which the ‘computer’ was an individual at a desk doing the counting and calculations manually rather than an electro-mechanical or electronic device, but even this early infrastructure clearly set the scene for our current situation. The 18th century had already seen rapid developments in dictionaries of various kinds, including Diderot’s 1751 Encyclopédie (based on Chamber’s Cyclopedia) and Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary of the English Language (not the first of its kind) illustrating a growing need to not just to collect but classify, categorise and order information to make it both meaningful and useful. The idea of and search for innate rules and regularity across a wide spectrum of phenomena emerged, with the search for laws of nature came in the following century....

These information devices were supported by a growing number and variety of formalised knowledge production processes and products – the library, the museum, the census office, the printers and publishers with their books, newspapers, periodicals, magazines, journals, forms and envelopes . Cataloguing systems had existed for centuries but this period saw their emergence as formalized systems ranging from Brunet’s Paris Bookseller’s classification (1842) to the Dewey Decimal System (1876). Storage and retrieval also became an issue, leading to the development of library science, archival management strategies and mechanical handling systems.

In the context of colonial administration and scientific research fieldwork became a central concept, one which continues to be relevant to contemporary knowledge production in several disciplines and fields of practice (e.g. botany, geology, anthropology). The development of societies and associations also gained momentum as forums for identifying, exploring and formalizing new and expanding fields of knowledge.

In the United Kingdom parliamentary Blue Books were being produced on an unprecedented scale as government increasingly concerned itself with the collection and analysis of data about this expanding information environment. They became such a phenomenon that many people despaired of their potential to overload bureaucratic knowledge systems that lacked the capacity to analyse the volumes of information being produced. Data visualisation and social mapping developed rapidly in response to this situation including the innovations of William Playfair (the line graph, bar and pie charts) and Florence Nightingale (polar diagrams) which provided new techniques for visualising these large and complex quantities of data.

...shifts in the production, processing and analysis of that information. Many of these methods are still with us including information taxonomies and knowledge trees to name but two. Hacking observed that while social categories are epistemic products their application can have marked ontological effects. Knowledge of the natural world was rapidly applied to the social world and the politicking of social identifies began in earnest, supported by a rising tide of data and analytical methods. Conservatives and social critics alike relied on the production and dissemination of data, both large and small, to support repression and reform. The public inquiry emerged as another 19th century mechanism that persists in the present, with the same general focus – poverty, crime, health and systemic failures....

Our social ordering practices have influenced our social epistemology. We run the risk in the social sciences of perpetuating the ideological victories of the first data revolution as we progress through the second. The need for critical analysis grows apace not just with the production of each new technique or technology but with the uncritical acceptance of the concepts, categories and assumptions that emerged from that first data revolution. That first data revolution proved to be a successful anti-revolutionary response to the numerous threats to social order posed by the incredible changes of the nineteenth century, rather than the Enlightenment emancipation that was promised.
big_data  statistics  logistics  information_overload  classification  disciplinarity 
17 days ago
Ex Libris: New York Public Library review – the restless mind of the city | Film | The Guardian
For over 50 years Wiseman’s all-seeing, fly-on-the-wall cinema has visited institutions (a psychiatric hospital, a park, a museum, a concert venue, a school), gobbled it all up and served it back in an edited form that, while avoiding a traditional three-act structure, links sequences that build to a rich, almost-transcendent understanding. Lord knows others ape the style, but few compare.

Ex Libris: New York Public Library has the drive of a vociferous reader checking out and renewing the maximum number of books their card will allow. Its running time of three hours and 17 minutes is generous enough to succeed on multiple levels. The most prominent theme is the divide between rich and poor, and what the NYPL means in different neighbourhoods. The gorgeous main branch on Fifth Avenue with its marble lions serves a different function than the outposts in the economically disadvantaged outer boroughs. On Fifth Avenue, a “Books at noon” guest like Richard Dawkins will wax about the Enlightenment; off Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx, the community huddles up for job interview tips.

The only recurring characters are the caring and determined administrators (some googling puts faces to names; by and larg
libraries  film 
17 days ago
He’s Got the Whole Coast in His Hand | Hakai Magazine
As he visualized paddling along the east coast of Greenland in an umiak, Danish explorer Gustav Holm held in his hand generations of navigational know-how. It was the 1880s—long before Siri and satellites were around to lead the way—and Holm was palming a chunk of wood about as long as an iPhone 7. Carved by a Greenlandic Inuit man, this precious piece served as a tactile map, its toothy edges representative of the fjords, headlands, and obstacles of the unforgiving coastline. As Holm ran a finger along the map, he felt a semicircular groove—a sign that he and his party would have to go overland with their boats if they made it that far north. This was just one of several subtle cues he could glean from the map that would help make an exploration safe and successful.

As Holm observed, the Tunumiit people of eastern Greenland had a sharp eye for nature and could accurately describe a place they had visited once, even 20 years earlier. The man who produced the carving was especially skilled, and created two others that accompanied it. A knobby stick about as long as a Super Big Gulp straw represents the islands off the coast, and a thicker, wand-like carving corresponds to a peninsula, with ridges and mounds that mirror the relief of the mountains.
cartography  mapping  tactility  data_physicalization  indigenous 
18 days ago
Singapore has an idea to transform city life — but there may be a privacy cost - LA Times
A government initiative, known as Smart Nation, aims to use an untold number of sensors and cameras to track everything from someone smoking in a prohibited space to the number of vehicles on the road.

These sensors are the tentacles of an elaborate, integrated plan that could redefine how cities use technology to improve society — and offer the potential for government to monitor its citizens in a whole new way....

This affluent city-state of glass towers and manicured parks has always been one for rules, where security and efficiency usurp civil liberties like free speech. (Singapore famously restricts gum chewing in favor of clean streets.)

Its free-trade policies and lauded education system have helped make a city of 5 million — more than three times smaller than the Los Angeles metro area — one of the richest in the world. At the same time, Singapore faces the realities of limited resources, low birth rates, an aging population and rising protectionism....

Authorities are working on cashless payments and a single digital identification to streamline transactions. They’ve set aside more than 40 miles of road for the development of self-driving vehicles.

Thousands of sensors scattered across the city help determine how to reroute public transport based on passenger loads or detect when someone has tossed a soda can on the ground. One voluntary program tracks the movements of elderly people at home through wireless sensors, and can inform families when their parent uses the bathroom or stops moving.

Officials even plan to track the spread of an infectious disease or predict the reaction of a frantic crowd to a terrorist attack. The system is still unfolding, they say, so its full possibilities are still unknown....

Singapore’s system is far more centralized.

“What Singapore will provide is that sort of example and case study effectively for the world to say, ‘Those guys got value out of this, could we?’” said Raj Vaswani, co-founder of Silver Spring Networks, a San Jose company that provides smart grid products used in the initiative.

But the government’s digital utopia also looks like a hacker’s treasure chest filled with the gems of medical data and personal identification numbers. For privacy advocates, it instills panic....

But the initiative hits on a tension inherent in the development of digitally connected cities. How much personal privacy should citizens sacrifice for the sake of convenience and safety?

“Singaporeans are resigned to the large amount of data the government collects,” said Kirsten Han, an activist and journalist in Singapore. “Residents don’t see CCTV as scary. They see it as safe.”

This is a democracy with deep faith in government, a driving principle throughout its five decades of existence — all under one party. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founder, told the Straits Times in 1987 that society would not have prospered if “we had not intervened on very personal matters: who your neighbor is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use.”

Documents that restrict what officials can do with personal data are classified.

“Singapore’s legislation is not as much about the right to privacy to protect someone from the public gaze as it is a set of tools to manage the flow of information,” said Simon Chesterman, dean of the National University of Singapore’s law school.
smart_cities  singapore  big_data  surveillance 
19 days ago
Undergrad deciphers meaning of knots, giving native South American people a chance to speak
“It’s giving the Incas their own voice,” said Gary Urton, chair of the Anthropology Department and Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies, who guided Medrano in his research. “I could never figure out the hidden meanings in these devices. Manny figured them out, focusing on their color, and on their recto or verso (right-hand and left-hand) construction. This was the only case we have discovered so far in which one or more (in this case six) khipus and a census record matches.”...

“This constitutes the first instance of ‘reading’ information from khipu attachment knots,” states the paper, titled “Toward the Decipherment of a Set of Mid-Colonial Khipus from the Santa Valley, Coastal Peru.”...

“I have been studying some 600 khipus across North America and Europe — not just their color, but the way the cords are spun to the left or to the right, and other such features. There is a lot of structural variation,” Urton said. “I knew we would have our greatest possibility of deciphering these in a match with one or more with a Spanish document that recorded the same information.”...

Medrano told him, “I have spring break coming up and nothing to do.” He studied the khipus, hypothesizing that the recto or verso knots contained meaningful information about the division of the Recuay people into moieties, or halves. These halves not only divided the village geographically, but also reflected social status.

“We now know not only that there were six clans in the valley, but also what social status each clan and each villager held in Recuay society,” said Medrano, who leveraged his concentration in applied mathematics and fluency in Spanish to connect the khipus with the census names. “I loved the idea that there might be numbers or words encoded in these knotted cords.”
writing  records  material_texts  code  archives  accounting  khipus 
20 days ago
Dear Elon–Forget Killer Robots. Here’s What You Should Really Worry About
The killer robots aren’t coming for us, despite your warnings last month (and, more recently, your call for an outright ban). The singularity is never going to happen, and the only winter people should be concerned about is the larger and harsher ones brought on by climate change, not an AI one. ...

You should worry about who has a say over the future–the entire world isn’t D.C. or Silicon Valley–so how do we design for everyone?

You should think about how machine learning is changing how we work, and the kind of work we do. You should worry about the impact of artificial intelligence on job losses and job creation. You should worry about training and education for new jobs, and what kind of benefits or income redistribution should result when AI systems displace jobs. You should think about automation, not just from a robotic standpoint but an infrastructural one; how will the shipping and transportation industries be affected by machine learning? ...

You should worry about all of the articles ProPublica publishes on machine bias, especially this one on how predictive policing software radically indicts black people over white people. You should worry about this other ProPublica article that reports on how certain insurance providers charge people of color more for coverage. ...

The series ProPublica published on machine bias isn’t just on the problematic biases within machine learning; it also highlights how fallible machine learning is, and how much users trust it and believe the results to be truthful without questioning it. In its reporting, ProPublica found that the scoring of “most likely to recommit a crime” created within predictive policing algorithms was used as reinforcement for harsher sentences. ...

Elon, you should worry about computer vision not recognizing black skin. You should worry about bad products that are “color blind” as in, the algorithms can’t see skin color so soap dispensers and automatic faucets won’t work on black skin tones. You should worry about cameras that suggest to Asian users that they’ve “blinked” because the data sets were trained on predominately Caucasian eyes.
machine_learning  big_data  algorithms  artificial_intelligence 
22 days ago
‘Chaekgeori: Pleasure of Possessions in Korean Painted Screens’ Review: Painting a Backdrop for an Educated Ruler - WSJ
For some 200 years, Korean kings broadcast their heavenly mandate by sitting before a painted screen showing five mountains flanked by a red sun and a white moon. But King Jeongjo, who reigned from 1776 to 1800, invoked another source of authority: books. Besides amassing a large library and overseeing the publication of more than 4,000 books, he commissioned screens depicting bookcases brimming with tomes. Rising behind the throne, they reinforced an oft-expressed concern: People, he believed, should read Confucian and other classics; avoid romance novels, Catholic writings, and other corrupting texts flowing in from China; and eschew using “Chinese objects to show off their highbrow culture.”...

They all share the same subject: Chaekgeori, which means “books and things.” The former are shown lying flat, enclosed in box-like covers and often stacked, with perhaps one volume askew or open, as though the reader has just set it down. Although the books in Jeongjo’s screens reportedly bore titles, these do not (scholars have found only one exception). People would have nevertheless immediately recognized the large-format books with abstract patterns as Korean and the smaller ones enveloped in brocade as Chinese. They would also know that most of the “things” were imported from China: the bronzes and incense burners, calligraphy brushes and ink stones, ceramic bowls and vases, lacquer boxes and carved jade seals, paintings rolled up and partially unfurled.
books  intellectual_furnishings  furniture 
22 days ago
The Best Map Ever Made of America's Racial Segregation | WIRED
The map, created by Dustin Cable at University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, is stunningly comprehensive. Drawing on data from the 2010 U.S. Census, it shows one dot per person, color-coded by race. That's 308,745,538 dots in all–around 7 GB of visual data. It isn't the first map to show the country's ethnic distribution, nor is it the first to show every single citizen, but it is the first to do both, making it the most comprehensive map of race in America ever created.
>This is the most comprehensive map of race in America ever created.
White people are shown with blue dots; African-Americans with green; Asians with red; and Latinos with orange, with all other race categories from the Census represented by brown. Since the dots are smaller than pixels at most zoom levels, Cable assigned shades of color based on the multiple dots therein. From a distance, for example, certain neighborhoods will look purple, but zooming-in reveals a finer-grained breakdown of red and blue–or, really, black and white.
"There are a lot of moving parts in this process, so this can cause different shades of color to appear at different zoom levels in really dense areas, like you see in NYC," Cable explains. "I played around with dot siz
mapping  cartography  race 
23 days ago
Boomtown, Flood Town
Scientists, other experts and federal officials say Houston's explosive growth is largely to blame. As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of floodwater during storms that chokes the city’s vast bayou network, drainage systems and two huge federally owned reservoirs, endangering many nearby homes ...

On top of that, scientists say climate change is causing torrential rainfall to happen more often, meaning storms that used to be considered “once-in-a-lifetime” events are happening with greater frequency...

Scientists say the Harris County Flood Control District, which manages thousands of miles of floodwater-evacuating bayous and helps enforce development rules, should focus more on preserving green space and managing growth. The City of Houston, too. And they say everyone should plan for more torrential rainfall because of the changing climate. (A host of cities in the U.S. and around the world are doing so.)

But county and city officials responsible for addressing flooding largely reject these arguments. Houston’s two top flood control officials say their biggest challenge is not managing rapid growth but retrofitting outdated infrastructure. Current standards that govern how and where developers and residents can build are mostly sufficient, they say. And all the recent monster storms are freak occurrences — not harbingers of global warming or a sign of things to come....

rain is now falling on what are called impervious or impermeable surfaces, like concrete, preventing the ground underneath from absorbing it. So the rainfall becomes “runoff,” traveling to wherever is easiest for it to flow. The water might flow to a nearby stream, but on its way the water could flood homes, cars and businesses, or the stream might be overwhelmed by that water, causing more flooding nearby.
23 days ago
Unorthodox Research Methods | Syllabus
Any traditional research method was once unorthodox. While many are prone to see methods as boring tools (or even as a necessary but unpleasant step on the road to results), any common method was once daring and controversial. This seminar will cover very recent developments in both qualitative and quantitative social scientific research methods and attempt to address the question of how new research methods are invented, applied, transferred between problems and disciplines, and formalized. The overall focus of the course will be research design, rather than learning the procedures of a single method. In addition, we will spend some time trying to think creatively about possible new methods and designs. Readings in the course will be split between classics and readings concerning very recent innovations in methods. In discussion of recent methodological trends, particular attention will be paid to Internet / new media research, new digital sources of data (sometimes called "big data" or "e-social science"), spatial / geographic methods, visualization as a research method, social justice activism, and unobtrusive methods. A goal of the seminar is to encourage researchers to conceptualize methodology -- whether using new or old methods -- as a creative act.
methodology  syllabus 
23 days ago
Hypercard Archeostackology – CogDogBlog
I had briefly seen mention of the Internet Archive’s collection of Hypercard Stacks using a webpased eumlator. The current collection has over 3000 classics that anyone can run in a modern browser.
media_archaeology  cards  computing_history 
25 days ago
Indigenous Interfaces: Spaces, Social Networks & Indigenous Identities in Latin America - Native American and Indigenous Studies Association
Globalization has accelerated the transformation of everything, including culture, as a resource (Yúdice 2003). This situation calls for a complex negotiation of cultural reproduction and identity and, in the case of Latin American indigenous communities, these dynamics are set into motion in a transnational arena. Indigenous Interfaces addresses the many ways that indigenous communities have tapped into global markets through new technologies, especially social media, and have established transnational connections. It further considers how these communities have used multiple resources, including funding from international organizations and international volunteers, to create a niche in cyberspace. The volume will highlight the ways that indigenous peoples have put globalization at their behest, ultimately promoting the visibility of indigenous peoples, the economic viability of their communities and the continuity of our/their traditions. The volume will break new ground in the field of Indigenous cultural studies by bringing identity and technology into dialogue in the context of globalization. Contributions to the volume will examine the many manifestations of these concepts and will cover ground on many issues, including:

- indigenous
cartography  mapping  indigenous 
25 days ago
Imagining Ph.D. Orientation in 2022 - The Chronicle of Higher Education
All students are responsible for the full curriculum, she says. There are no separate occupational tracks. You all will become familiar with the institutional landscape of higher education, the scholarship on how people learn history, and the role of history in public culture.

The director points to the range of careers that department alumni and history Ph.D.s in general have pursued, taking care to note that even professorial work varies widely across higher education. The career data come from the American Historical Association, and the DGS notes that, should you be curious about any particular type of work, the AHA can set up an email conversation with a history Ph.D. knowledgeable in that particular career.

Combining data on outcomes with an overview of the curriculum, the DGS explains what makes a doctorate in history such a versatile degree. Different history occupations will require additional skills and knowledge, and you are encouraged to acquire that expertise via the whole university — including administrative offices, which can provide opportunities both for learning how academia works and for broadening your occupational horizons.

Students should spend time exploring other disciplines — not for the sake of interdisciplinarity itself, but for well-articulated intellectual and professional purposes...

She then introduces the graduate-student career officer who explains what his office does, and how it collaborates with individual departments and the alumni office to identify employers, locally and nationally, who appreciate the value of a humanities Ph.D.

A few of these employers are themselves history Ph.D.s who will visit the campus over the course of the year — students might recognize their profiles from the list of recent Ph.D. graduates on the department’s website. But most of the employers are among the far more numerous B.A. alumni, who, because of the department’s reform of the undergraduate major based on clearly articulated degree outcomes, understand in precise and sophisticated ways the occupational value of historical thinking....

"All of you will teach as part of graduate education," one of them notes, "and all of you will read and discuss scholarship on how students learn, especially how they learn history."

A hand goes up: A student asks about the contradiction between the earlier references to the possibility — even likelihood — of nonfaculty careers, and the apparent emphasis in the program on pedagogy. The faculty member teaching the pedagogy course responds that teaching is an essential skill for every historian, whether in a secondary school, college classroom, museum, archive, historical site, or even in the public square, presenting evidence persuasively to legislators and fellow citizens.

Becoming a historian is as much about conveying what we know to a live audience as it is about conveying what we know to a reader. Good teaching also requires and nourishes leadership skills that are useful anywhere and everywhere.
graduate_education  PhD  pedagogy  curriculum 
25 days ago
Maptic: Tactile Navigation for the Visually Impaired - Core77
Maptic is a system of wearable sensory devices, consisting of a visual sensor and vibrating feedback units. These customizable modules can be worn without attracting the stigma that current assistive products harbor, while still accurately detecting objects in the visual field and transmitting them into intuitive vibrations on the body. Using the sense of touch frees up hearing for detecting immediate dangers, which is the dominant sense when visually impaired.
Along with immediate hazard perception, an included high contrast, bold app allows Maptic to pair with smartphones. Utilizing the phone's GPS, the app can navigate the user to chosen destinations via vibrations to the left and right sides of the body when the user needs to turn.
Either disguised as jewellery or clips or worn as statement pieces, Maptic is entirely adaptable to the individual and their style preferences. Swapping out the cable for a pin or clip allows the units to be concealed around the body, and can be worn on belts, in pockets, or clipped onto shirts.
maps  cartography  disability  vision_impairment  haptic 
26 days ago
Ostrom in the City: Design Principles for the Urban Commons – The Nature of Cities
Elinor Ostrom’s groundbreaking research established that it is possible to collaboratively manage common pool resources, or commons, for economic and environmental sustainability. She identified the conditions or principles which increase the likelihood of long-term, collective governance of shared resources. Although these principles have been widely studied and applied to a range of common pool resources, including natural and digital commons, there has not been a serious effort to apply them to the urban commons. Can the Ostrom design principles be applied to cities to rethink the governance of cities and the management of their resources? We think they cannot be simply adapted to the city context without significant modification....

Ostrom’s ideas cannot be used in the city the way they were in the nature. Ostrom’s framework needs to be adapted to the reality of urban environments, which are already congested, heavily regulated and socially and economically complex. Without such adaptation, Ostrom’s design principles will be lost in translation.

This is why, starting ten years ago, we both began to explore the governance of the urban commons as a separate body of study (first investigating individually how different kinds of urban assets, urban public space such as community gardens and urban infrastructure such as urban roads, could be reconceived as urban commons, and later jointly to conceive the whole city as a commons). We realized that we needed a different approach to bridge urban studies and commons studies and therefore to pose a slightly different set of questions for governance of the urban commons. We also needed to define a different set of design principles for the commons in the city and the city itself as a commons.
urban_design  urban_planning  commons 
26 days ago
Showing the Algorithms Behind New York City Services - The New York Times
Yet on Thursday, Mr. Vacca, 62, a Democratic City Council member from the Bronx, introduced a bill that would require the city to make public the computer instructions that are used, invisibly, in all kinds of government decision-making. Experts say that few, if any, major cities in the United States require transparency for those computer instructions, or algorithms.

If the principles in Mr. Vacca’s bill become law, it could turn out be as important to public society in the city and around the country as the smoking ban signed into law by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2002.

“I think I’m on to something that many people have spoken about, but have been unable to get their hands around,” Mr. Vacca, chairman of the council’s technology committee, said. “I’m trying to get my hands around something that affects millions of New Yorkers every day.”...

Governments also have access to oceans of data. Algorithms can decide where kids go to school, how often garbage is picked up, which police precincts get the most officers, where building code inspections should be targeted, and even what metrics are used to rate a teacher....

Naked algorithms are just bunches of code, and even experts can find it challenging to discern what values they express. So researchers are discussing ways to include public participation before they are written. “We can formalize certain notions of fairness and nondiscrimination, affirmatively, at the outset,” said Solon Barocas, a professor of information science at Cornell University.

At their most powerful, algorithms can decide an individual’s liberty, as when they are used by the criminal justice system to predict future criminality. ProPublica reporters examined the risk scores of 7,000 people assigned by a private company’s algorithm. The recidivism rankings were wrong about 40 percent of the time, with blacks more likely to be falsely rated as future criminals at almost twice the rate of whites, according to Julia Angwin, who led the investigation....

Because some algorithms used by the city are leased from private companies, Mr. Vacca’s bill would require them to be available for “algorithmic audits.” These would allow the public to submit test data to see how the algorithm handles it. One analysis of the city’s teacher rating algorithm in 2009 and 2010 found a pattern of bizarre results, like an individual teacher who scored 97 in teaching sixth-grade math but only a 6 for seventh graders.
smart_cities  algorithms  transparency  algorithmic_audit 
26 days ago
The platform metaphor, revisited
Platform downplays the fact that these services are not flat. Their central service is to organize, structure, and channel information, according both to arrangements established by the platform (news feed algorithms, featured partner arrangements, front pages, categories) and arrangements built by the user, though structured or measured by the platform (friend or follower networks, trending lists). Platforms are not flat, open spaces where people speak or exchange, they are intricate and multi-layered landscapes, with complex features above and dense warrens below. ...

Platform also helps elide questions about platforms’ responsibility for their public footprint. Train platforms are not responsible for the passengers. Like other metaphors like conduit and media and network, platform suggests an impartial between-ness that policymakers in the U.S. are eager to preserve – unlike European policymakers, where there is more political will to push responsibility onto platforms, though in a variety of untested ways. ...

Finally, platform hides all of the labor necessary to produce and maintain these services. The audience is not supposed to see the director or the set decorators or the stagehands, only the actors in the spotlight. Underneath a platform is an empty, dusty space – it’s just there. Social media platforms are in fact the product of an immense amount of human labor, whether it be designing the algorithms or policing away prohibited content.
27 days ago
BAK – To Seminar
The project unfolds as a contemporary reading of philosopher Roland Barthes’ essay “To the Seminar” (1974). Engaging with the notion of the seminar—as a concept and as an intimate and complex practice—as something pivotal for learning today, To Seminar transforms the noun into a verb in an attempt to activate its “unpredictable rhythm,” proposing it as a tool for intervention into the settled practices of education today; in art and beyond. For what was once celebrated as the “educational turn” today turns far too often into either routine initiation into a knowledge economy or cognitive capitalism, or into the placatory emptying of the meanings of “knowledge production,” “community,” and “method.” If, like Barthes’ time of writing, ours is a present immersed in “a certain apocalypse in culture,” the true task of learning is not to normalize this present’s morbid symptoms as has become customary, but rather to collectively think through and act out alternative imaginaries. With artists, theorists, and other cultural practitioners, To Seminar reengages the three conceptual spaces that intersect when a seminaring takes place—institution/ transference/text—and seeks to recompose them into a b
education  pedagogy  seminar 
29 days ago
Impact of Social Sciences – Addicted to the brand: The hypocrisy of a publishing academic
The business model of the traditional academic publishing industry is deeply flawed. While some might argue that George Monbiot – or at least the sub-editor who provided the title for his article on the subject a few years back (“Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist”) – perhaps overstated the problem just a little, it is clear that the profit margins and working practices for many publishers are beyond the pale. (A major contribution to those profit margins is, of course, the indirect and substantial public subsidy, via editing and reviewing, too often provided gratis by the academic community).
A journal’s impact factor (JIF) is clearly not a good indicator of the quality of a paper published in that journal. The JIF has been skewered many, many times with some of the more memorable and important critiques coming from Stephen Curry, Dorothy Bishop, David Colquhoun, Jenny Rohn, and, most recently, this illuminating post from Stuart Cantrill. Yet its very strong influence tenaciously persists and pervades academia. I regularly receive CVs from potential postdocs where they ‘helpfully’ highlight the JIF for each of the papers in their list of publications. Indeed, some go so%
academia  publishing 
29 days ago
McSweeney's: How A Generation Adopted Victorian Aesthetic
In Eye magazine, Andrew Blauvelt branded McSweeney’s designer and publisher Eggers’ style “complex simplicity.” As for executing upon that, as the late Steve Jobs once said, “Simple can be harder than complex.” Of course, Jobs’ minimalist Adobe Myriad–branded company is much different than Eggers’ serif-laden “Victorian foppishness,” as Bierut called it in his book. But what followed was a near-decade of circles and arrows and ampersands, of a revival of 19th-century design mixed with a world of 21st-century slickness some today call the “Brooklyn aesthetic.”...

Potts is also quick to note that in designing the store, he wasn’t trying to be retro or nostalgic, though he admits the look is everywhere now. “Hopefully, the storefront still looks more like the hardware store across the street than the new succulents boutique down the block—no offense to succulents.”

As Potts was aiming to mimic the look of a classic hardware store, it’s interesting to note that this was taking place when conventional publishing was starting to feel the weight of the internet. Early coding made it necessary to have a website with standardized fonts, graphics, tables, colors and columns, etc. One didn’t necessarily need to be a graphic designer to build a website and share information. In this sense, the graphic design profession and the trade skills that go along with it became a way of rebelling against the web’s rigid inherent structures, at least in the early days....

“Enchanted by the character of various Brooklyn neighborhoods, young gentrifiers adopted long-established businesses like the corner bodega or a long-established watering hole, and reappropriated them to cater to their peers, as more and more moved ‘out to Brooklyn,’” says Miller.

“In many cases, this drive for nostalgia was expressed visually, and I think that appealed to many people as it felt ‘authentic’ in contrast to the soulless commercialization of everything happening in the broader culture.”...

“In the broadest sense, McSweeney’s was part of a moment where we had this co-existence of the physical object [and a] digital world,” says Horowitz. “We were not trying to be antiquated, but we were using the rise of the internet as a prompt to ask more intentionally if it was going to be physical—how can we really earn that? How can we take advantage of it and necessitate it?” Horowitz notes what’s already well-known about himself and Eggers—neither of them had formal design training. As a startup publication, Horowitz recalls that many decisions, such as paper stock, jacket size and colors of ink, were made simply because of financing. They didn’t have a lot, and so they had to get the most bang for their buck.

“All of these factors nudged us to think about the object as a whole and the literal object as opposed to the particular aesthetics,” says Horowitz. “It was a pushback against the ugliness that the internet was. In early e-books, we saw the same thing. There seems to be a sequence—the less-necessary aspects of design eventually fall away. If it’s not the top-level functionality of a book or a website, early websites did away with it. But eventually, those making websites figured out that people did care about clean design, even if it was in addition to basic functionality.”
book_design  graphic_design  mcsweeneys 
29 days ago
The billion-dollar palaces of Apple, Facebook and Google | Art and design | The Guardian
It is, at all events, the project against which other tech companies’ proposals want to define themselves. They want to be the things that it is not. The official story of the Facebook/Gehry collaboration is that Mark Zuckerberg was wary of the architect’s celebrity and the latter had to convince him of his ability to deliver the project – with the help of Gehry’s in-house software – more cheaply and efficiently than his rivals. The finished version is from the rough-edged and rumpus-room schools of tech HQ design, with a huge open-plan office containing 2,800 workers and splashy, colourful works by local artists. “The building itself is pretty simple and isn’t fancy. That’s on purpose,” said Zuckerberg. “We want our space to feel like a work in progress. When you enter our buildings, we want you to feel how much left there is to be done in our mission to connect the world.”


Shohei Shigematsu, the partner at OMA New York in charge of Facebook’s latest expansion, Willow Campus, says that “our mission was not to provide iconic architecture but also regional and social thinking”. ...

If Apple Park seems aloof and extraterrestrial – despite the fact that quite a lot of its landscape is open to the public – then Facebook and Google want you to know how much, like street jugglers or mime artists, they want to engage you. But there are also similarities between all these projects, such as the all-embracing nature of their ambitions. Each campus is a self-contained universe where everything – the species of vegetation, the graphics, the food in the cafe, the programming of events, the architecture, is determined by the management. They make their own weather.

Under the Google tent or inside the Apple circle there is little but googleness or appleness. There is nature but – despite the meticulous selection of native plants – it is of an abstract, managed kind. There is art, but it is drained of the power to shock and subvert, leaving only diversion and reassurance. There is architecture but, notwithstanding the high degree of invention that goes into materials, it finds it hard to shed the quality of computer renderings, the sense that buildings are made of a kind of digistuff, which could as well be one thing or another. Even when the corporations reach out to their communities, to use the preferred PR terminology, the rest of the world is a hazy, ill-defined entity, a mist in the background of the computer-generated images.

These panoptical worlds are a function of the sheer scale of the corporations, but they also reflect their mindset. It has been pointed out that tech campuses resemble hippie communes of the 1960s in their apparent egalitarianism, their illusion that you can go back to nature, make your own rules, liberate yourself with science and share everything. Physically, Google’s big roof echoes the geodesic domes that hippies put up in their rural retreats.

While their sci-fi is strangely dated, culturally it makes sense. As the author Fred Turner has argued in From Counterculture to Cyberculture, radical Californian ideas of the 1960s were, with added profit motive, converted into radical Californian technologies of recent decades. And as has been belatedly dawning, there are limits to the sharing, equality and freedom, particularly when the intellectual property and business strategies of the tech giants are at stake. Their architecture gives form to these contradictions, to the combinations of openness and control and of freedom and barriers. They are perfect diagrams of the apparent equality and actual inequality of the tech sphere, where impermeable septa divide those in the inner circles from the rest. There is inequality everywhere, of course, but the tech trick is to pretend that there isn’t.
media_architecture  media_workplace  google  facebook  amazon 
29 days ago
From decks to moats: the complete guide to modern office jargon | Guardian Small Business Network | The Guardian
Swim lanes
Business jargon likes to make itself sound fun by borrowing terms from more exciting pursuits. Sport is a fertile category, what with the awful ubiquity of “close of play”, “deep dive” and so forth. There are also “swim lanes”, as though everyone in the office is doing the Australian crawl in an Olympic pool. The mundane truth is that a swim lane is a column or row in a flowchart, with each lane devoted to one unit or process within the business. You can also make reference to Rummler-Brache diagrams or, simply, multi-column charts (which is what, in fact, they are), but that doesn’t quite evoke the cheering crowd and overpowering stench of chlorine.

Solve (noun)
According to my informant, at least one person on the planet has actually said: “Let’s action that solve,” which is a shattering two-for-one. The verb “action” – to mean “do” or “fulfil” – is now unavoidable, since it sounds so enjoyably active (and probably proactive), that people throughout the land are finding themselves screaming: “Action!” at their co-workers as though they are despotic film direct
consulting  rhetoric  management  language 
29 days ago
Skin deep | Thinkpiece | Architectural Review
As a temporary prosthesis applied to facades, scaffolding is emblematic of wider processes of transformation

MVRDV appropriated scaffolding to create a hugh temporary staircase in Rotterdam. Photograph: Ossip van Duivenbode
Ubiquitous and quotidian, the scaffolded facade marks architecture’s most explicitly liminal state, suspended between first taking root on site and its final physical manifestation. In this protracted yet transitory condition a building is an unformed entity, ‘scarce half-made up’, trussed in a lattice of tubes and membranes to contain its detritus, its laborious gestation cordoned against the elements and concealed from public gaze. By definition, scaffolding is temporary, a constructional poultice applied for its efficacy, then swiftly peeled off in a perfunctory striptease, the prosaic prelude to the final big reveal. Yet despite its intrinsic functionality and impermanence, the scaffolded facade contrives a curiously compelling visual and allegorical power, derived from its repetitiveness, its muteness and its metamorphic potential. 

Through the process of modification and repair, existing buildings are also subject to this radical shift in perception. The cores of historic European cities are regularly rendered immaterial and indefinite by nebulous swaddlings, their shrouded totemic landmarks assuming an especially expressive subversiveness. ...

As a flexible, modular kit-of-parts, scaffolding has been refined over time, from early makeshift rope and timber assemblies to modern steel tubes and clamps. The invention in 1919 of a universal coupling device to replace rope connections was its eureka moment, imposing industry standardisation and allowing for interchangeability of components. Together with formwork, shoring and structures used in arch construction, scaffolding rejoices in the Shakespearean collective noun of ‘falsework’ and its more specific terminology implies an intimate affinity with rude mechanicals. Populated by putlogs, crawling boards, scaffpads, gin wheels, butt ends and pump jacks, the world of scaffolding is puissant and richly onomatopoetic. The short, cantilevered wooden brackets employed to support Michelangelo’s scaffold for painting the Sistine Chapel were known as sorgozzoni; literally ‘blows to the throat’.
infrastructure  repair  architecture  scaffolding  maintenance 
29 days ago
Data Hub, Center for Urban Science and Progress, NYU | Data Hub | Center for Urban Science and Progress, NYU
The CUSP Data Hub is your gateway to discovering, interrogating, analyzing, and visualizing urban datasets.

The CUSP Data Facility has been developed to be a shared resource for NYC researchers, agencies, and citizens interested in using data in a secure environment for urban research and policy.

The CUSP Data Hub is still in beta. We welcome your feedback as to how we can make it more valuable to users.
archives  digital_archives  open_data  CUSP 
29 days ago
A Very Detailed, Interactive Map of Chicago’s Tree Canopy - Atlas Obscura
IN JUNE, THE CHICAGO REGIONAL Tree Initiative and Morton Arboretum released what they say is the most comprehensive tree canopy data set of any region in the U.S., covering 284 municipalities in the Chicago area. Now, that data is helping neighborhoods improve their environments and assist their communities....

In Chicago, where more than 2,000 people have been shot this year, scientists are looking at physical features of neighborhoods for solutions. “We started to look at where we have heavy crime, and whether there was a correlation with tree canopy, and often, there is,” says Scott. “Communities that have higher tree population have lower crime. Areas where trees are prevalent, people tend to be outside, mingling, enjoying their community.”...

To make the map, scientists at CRTI and Morton overlaid a wide range of data sets to get the clearest, most holistic picture to date. “We’re able to layer heat island data; demographic information such as age, vulnerable population, education background; we’re layering Medicaid claims because we know there’s a correlation between health issues—cardiopulmonary problems—and loss of trees,” says Scott.
Next, they combined that data with LIDAR imagery. LIDAR is a remote sensing method. A plane with a small camera attached to the underside flies over neighborhoods, where it’s able to record height differences on the ground. That allows scientists to identify the layout of the tree canopy with an impressive degree of accuracy.
mapping  cartography  nonhuman 
4 weeks ago
Overview ‹ City Science — MIT Media Lab
The City Science research group (formerly known as the Changing Places group) proposes that new strategies must be found for creating the places where people live and work, and the mobility systems that connect them, in order to meet the profound challenges of the future. We are investigating how new models for urban architecture and personal vehicles can be more responsive to the unique needs and values of individuals through the application of disentangled systems and smart customization. We are developing technology to understand and respond to human activity, environmental conditions, and market dynamics. We are interested in finding optimal combinations of automated systems, just-in-time information for personal control, and interfaces to persuade people to adopt sustainable behaviors.
media_city  intellectual_furnishings 
4 weeks ago
Why Donald Trump Has Been Good For Truth - The Chronicle of Higher Education
What do we learn when we shift our focus from truth as possessed to truth as a pursuit?

A two-volume work published in Hamburg, Germany, in 1930, called Research Institutes: Their History, Organization and Goals was unique for its time and remains so today. It was a collective effort to document the structures of research, its institutionalization from antiquity to the present, and its meaning. Its survey of research institutes, mostly German but not exclusively, is both a snapshot of a particular landscape of learning and a melancholy mirror on what would soon be smashed.

The editors of the volume emphasized that research was the engine at the heart of social and intellectual progress. Their argument that research has a history and that it is interesting as process as well as product has still not been adequately developed. Research is still not a subject of research: Library of Congress subject headings include neither history of research nor philosophy of research....

He outlined a dichotomy between early modern historians who rewrote the surviving narratives of ancient history, and their contemporaries who were "antiquarians" — scholars of the past who drew on new material as well as textual evidence to produce thematic monographs on subjects such as religion, law, calendars, games, food, and clothing.... Momigliano argued that antiquarians had subdued the skeptics with their use of material evidence, including public inscriptions and, above all, coins, whose quantity rendered forgery either impossible or easily spotted.... When Momigliano reworked that 1949 lecture — it would later be published in 1950 as the pathbreaking "Ancient History and the Antiquarian" — he argued that the concept of the document "deepened" the distinction between a primary and secondary source, and "for the first time in the history of historical method," gave rise to manuals that emphasized the handling of evidence over rhetoric. ... "there is only the old remedy: the cautious and methodical examination of documents with all the skills that were developed in the collaboration of antiquaries and textual critics in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."... The history of historiography, he wrote, "has the purpose of discriminating between truth and falsehood." ...

This attention to scholarly practices led to the now-flourishing genre of intellectual history known as "history of scholarship."
epistemology  intellectual_history 
4 weeks ago
Radio’s Forgotten Technology Is Booming in India - WSJ
As radio stations struggle in the West to attract new advertising and remain relevant in the internet age, India is in the middle of a belated radio revolution.

Hundreds of new radio stations are hitting the airwaves in the South Asian nation of 1.3 billion people and attracting a record amount of revenue, thanks to deregulation, small-town consumption and cheap cellphones with built-in FM receivers.

“Suddenly FM stations are being listened to,” said Piyush Pandey, executive chairman for South Asia and India at ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, which now often recommends radio to clients who want to target specific regions or cities.
india  radio  media_city 
4 weeks ago
Bits & Atoms - an urban planning studio for the 21st century city
We've only just begun. There are 570,000 local governments around the world. But only 2,500 are pursuing smart city projects. And a mere 145 in the United States are committed to building gigabit broadband. Just a handful are doing it strategically. Most are flying by the seat of their pants. Everywhere we look, we find cities that are just starting to grapple with the challenges of digital technology. A pioneering vanguard of cities are leading the way. But what can they teach the rest of us?

We work with clients in industry, government, and the non-profit sector to create the conditions for smart cities to flourish organically, by design. Our approach emphasizes foresight, unconventional approaches to economic development, social capital analytics, and digital inclusion as keys to enabling urban innovation....

We measure our success by the appeal of our ideas, the actions they inspire and shape, and the measurable impact on how cities thrive day to day. Explore some of our most impactful work over the last 15 years.
smart_cities  consulting 
5 weeks ago
Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest - The New York Times
Accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest, Mr. Kyne was the first of the 1,806 people arrested in New York last summer during the Republican National Convention to take his case to a jury. But one day after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges.

During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive, lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the convention....

Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop's lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake....

So far, 162 defendants have either pleaded guilty or were convicted after trial, and videotapes that bolstered the prosecution's case played a role in at least some of those cases, although prosecutors could not provide details.

Besides offering little support or actually undercutting the prosecution of most of the people arrested, the videotapes also highlight another substantial piece of the historical record: the Police Department's tactics in controlling the demonstrations, parades and rallies of hundreds of thousands of people were largely free of explicit violence...

"The police develop a narrative, the defendant has a different story, and the question becomes, how do you resolve it?" said Eileen Clancy, a member of I-Witness Video, a project that assembled hundreds of videotapes shot during the convention by volunteers for use by defense lawyers...

Video is a useful source of evidence, but not an easy one to manage, because of the difficulties in finding a fleeting image in hundreds of hours of tape. Moreover, many of the tapes lack index and time markings, so cuts in the tape are not immediately apparent.

That was a problem in the case of Mr. Dunlop, who learned that his tape had been altered only after Ms. Clancy found another version of the same tape. Mr. Dunlop had been accused of pushing his bicycle into a line of police officers on the Lower East Side and of resisting arrest, but the deleted parts of the tape show him calmly approaching the police line, and later submitting to arrest without apparent incident...

In the bulk of the 400 cases that were dismissed based on videotapes, most involved arrests at three places -- 16th Street near Union Square, 17th Street near Union Square and on Fulton Street -- where police officers and civilians taped the gatherings, said Martin R. Stolar, the president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Those tapes showed that the demonstrators had followed the instructions of senior officers to walk down those streets, only to have another official order their arrests.

Ms. Thompson of the district attorney's office said, "We looked at videos from a variety of sources, and in a number of cases, we have moved to dismiss."

See also
video  forensics  evidence  archives 
5 weeks ago
Graphic Sociology
Information graphics, distinct from photography and video, use visual means (charts, graphs, network webs, diagrams, etc) to concisely convey and enliven both simple and complex relationships drawn from data. Information graphics have long been a part of making sense of social science data, especially when the data is being presented to wider audiences. The use of information graphics is increasing in the digital age where much information is consumed via full color displays.

Creating coherent, compelling information graphics is left largely to individual practitioners. There is very little training available for social scientists who would like to have basic graphic design skills in their repertoire. Graphic Sociology analyzes the visual presentation of social data from the perspective of social science practice. Each blog consists of a chart, table, interactive graphic or other visual display of sociologically relevant data and an analysis of the successes and weaknesses of the graphic.

The work on this blog supports the idea that public scholarship can utilize information graphics to communicate effectively with publics outside of academia as well as with our colleagues. Just like writing well, constructing clear information graphics is an iterative process that requires time, practice, and peer review. These elements, as well as basic instruction in the production techniques, are lacking in both undergraduate and graduate education within the social sciences. This blog is a jumping off place for thinking about how to incorporate information graphics into the communication process, how to use them to advance research, and a friendly place for scholars and others to start thinking about the social life of information graphics.
map_critique  visualization  mapping  critique  imformation_graphics  information_aesthetics 
5 weeks ago
World’s Most Powerful Emulator of Radio-Signal Traffic Opens for Business
Today is the grand opening of the Colosseum. We are not referring here to the storied concrete Colosseum in Rome, which was completed in 80 A.D. and remains famous for its ancient gladiatorial spectacles. We are talking here about DARPA’s Colosseum, a next-generation electronic emulator of the invisible electromagnetic world. Though it resides in a mere 30-foot by 20-foot server room on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, MD, the Colosseum is capable of creating a much larger, and critically important wireless world. If all goes as planned during the Agency’s three-year Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2), competitors vying for $3.75 million in prize money will use the Colosseum—which today became fully accessible to them for the first time—as a world-unique testbed to create radically new paradigms for using and managing access to the electromagnetic spectrum in both military and civilian domains.

“The Colosseum is the wireless research environment that we hope will catalyze the advent of autonomous, intelligent, and—most importantly, collaborative—radio technology, which will be essential as the population of devices linking wirelessly to each other and to the internet continues to grow exponentially,” said SC2 program manager Paul
radio  wireless  simulation  data_space  media_space  infrastructure  interference  spedctrum 
5 weeks ago
In DARPA's Colosseum, the Combatants are RF Signals | EE Times
Testing how a product works in this RF-laden environment is a major challenge to which almost all design, test, and evaluation engineers can attest.

There are actually are two kinds of RF test. The first assesses if the device meets basic, point-to-point and network requirements, as well as regulatory EMI mandates for unwanted emissions. Those are the relatively easy tests.

The much-harder test scenario is to verify and then optimize performance of the unit in a spectrum swamped with interfering signals (many often stronger than the desired ones), poor SNR, multiple modulation schemes, and worse. ...

That’s where DARPA — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — is playing a role. To address this real-world RF test environment, their Colosseum installation is a next-generation emulator of RF sources, and lots of them. It is housed in a modest 20 × 30-foot (6 × 9 m) server room at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. Engineers at APL constructed it with 128 two-antenna, software-defined radio (SDR) units built by National Instruments. The system can emulate tens of thousands of possible interactions among hundreds of wireless communication devices, including cell phones, military radios, IoT devices, and more, all operating at the same time....

However, the objective of Colosseum is not just to provide a diverse, fully controllable, RF-intense environment. It is also the testbed for DARPA’s three-year Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2), which competitors will use to hopefully create significant advanced paradigms needed to use and access electromagnetic spectrum in both military and civilian domains; the winner gets $3.75 million in prize money (see more SC2 details are here). SC2 program manager Paul Tilghman noted that “SC2 is asking a group of radios that weren’t designed to work together to learn how to optimize spectrum capacity in real-time, and is relying on artificial intelligence to find and take advantage of ‘gaps’ and other opportunities to increase efficiency.”
media_space  data_space  infrastructure  radio  wireless  interference  internet_of_things 
5 weeks ago
Teaching A.I. Systems to Behave Themselves - The New York Times
If a machine can learn to navigate a racing game like Grand Theft Auto, researchers believe, it can learn to drive a real car. If it can learn to use a web browser and other common software apps, it can learn to understand natural language and maybe even carry on a conversation. At places like Google and the University of California, Berkeley, robots have already used the technique to learn simple tasks like picking things up or opening a door.

All this is why Mr. Amodei and Mr. Christiano are working to build reinforcement learning algorithms that accept human guidance along the way. This can ensure systems don’t stray from the task at hand.

Together with others at the London-based DeepMind, a lab owned by Google, the two OpenAI researchers recently published some of their research in this area. Spanning two of the world’s top A.I. labs — and two that hadn’t really worked together in the past — these algorithms are considered a notable step forward in A.I. safety research.

“This validates a lot of the previous thinking,” said Dylan Hadfield-Menell, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. “These types of algorithms hold a lot of promise over the next five to 10 years.”

The field is small...

In some cases, researchers are working to ensure that systems don’t make mistakes on their own, as the Coast Runners boat did. They’re also working to ensure that hackers and other bad actors can’t exploit hidden holes in these systems. Researchers like Google’s Ian Goodfellow, for example, are exploring ways that hackers could fool A.I. systems into seeing things that aren’t there.

Modern computer vision is based on what are called deep neural networks, which are pattern-recognition systems that can learn tasks by analyzing vast amounts of data. By analyzing thousands of dog photos, a neural network can learn to recognize a dog. This is how Facebook identifies faces in snapshots, and it’s how Google instantly searches for images inside its Photos app.

But Mr. Goodfellow and others have shown that hackers can alter images so that a neural network will believe they include things that aren’t really there. Just by changing a few pixels in the photo of elephant, for example, they could fool the neural network into thinking it depicts a car....

“If you train an object-recognition system on a million images labeled by humans, you can still create new images where a human and the machine disagree 100 percent of the time,” Mr. Goodfellow said. “We need to understand that phenomenon.”

Another big worry is that A.I. systems will learn to prevent humans from turning them off. If the machine is designed to chase a reward, the thinking goes, it may find that it can chase that reward only if it stays on. This oft-described threat is much further off, but researchers are already working to address it.
artificial_intelligence  neural_nets 
5 weeks ago
An Algorithm Trained on Emoji Knows When You’re Being Sarcastic on Twitter - MIT Technology Review
an algorithm MIT researchers developed to analyze tweets can now detect sarcasm, and emotional subtext in general, better than most people.

Detecting the sentiment of social-media posts is already useful for tracking attitudes toward brands and products, and for identifying signals that might indicate trends in the financial markets. But more accurately discerning the meaning of tweets and comments could help computers automatically spot and quash abuse and hate speech online. A deeper understanding of Twitter should also help academics understand how information and influence flows through the network. What’s more, as machines become smarter, the ability to sense emotion could become an important feature of human-to-machine communication....

The researchers originally aimed to develop a system capable of detecting racist posts on Twitter. But they soon realized that the meaning of many messages couldn’t be properly understood without some understanding of sarcasm.

The algorithm uses deep learning, a popular machine-learning technique that relies on training a very large simulated neural network to recognize subtle patterns using a large amount of data. The secret to training this algorithm was that many tweets already use something like a labeling system for emotional content: emoji. Once they took advantage of this to help the system read tweets for emotion in general, the researchers had a head start in teaching it to recognize sarcasm.

“Because we can’t use intonation in our voice or body language to contextualize what we are saying, emoji are the way we do it online,” says Iyad Rahwan, an associate professor the MIT Media lab who developed the algorithm with one of his students, Bjarke Felbo. “The neural network learned the connection between a certain kind of language and an emoji.”
artificial_intelligence  language  humor  sarcasm 
5 weeks ago
The Chronic Sketches “A New Cartography” – Africa is a Country
The latest issue of the Chronic, a quarterly gazette offshoot of the “project-based mutable object” that is Chimurenga, states its thesis on its cover, which, in the digital version, looks like a network of chalky cartographical scrawls across a dark expanse. The drawings evoke colonial discourse of  “blank spaces” and “the dark continent,” reminding readers that such constructions are as arbitrary and temporary as chalk dust, wiped away by whoever takes control of the board next. However, the real value in this issue, titled “A New Cartography,” is how quickly it dispenses with its critique of colonial cartographies and contributes explicitly to a project that has been implicit in much recent African writing: the creation of dynamic, disjunctive spaces that undermine the premise of the map as stable and representative.
counter_mapping  indigenous  cartography 
5 weeks ago
Ian Bogost reviews The Stack – Critical Inquiry
But the book is a heck of a ride—by my estimate more than 200,000 words (even without the glossary, notes, and index) of viscous and sometimes truculent prose. Part of the genius is in that labor, of course. It’s as if Bratton occupies a parallel universe that converges mostly but not completely with mine. His ability to see that world in parallax affords the creativity and accomplishment of the book. Bratton urges the modern human to acclimate to the vertigo of the Stack, and a generous reader will take its form as an extension of its argument.

But it pays the price in abstruseness. Like many books that justify mechanical difficulty and abstraction as endemic to the complexity of the goal, The Stack’s political ambitions might better be accomplished through clarity, condensation, and exemplification. The book risks becoming a tome to own and display, rather than a tool to use. There are worse fates for academic monographs, but Bratton’s explicitly claims to intervene in design and politics. The result offers promise and intrigue and possibly even utility to those who would take it further. For the rest, The Stack still demands to be read—or at least to be owned and thumbed through, a talisman for the further work it will doubtless inspire.
book_review  stack 
5 weeks ago
Stumbling Through Pixel Blizzards: Recent Books on Post-Cinema - Los Angeles Review of Books
These public urban displays with bespoke visualizations are becoming increasingly prevalent, underscoring the shifting nature not only of images, but of architecture, too, as the walls around us become homes to yet another permutation of the cinematic, one that abandons mimesis in favor of transcoding.

These three projects take their place among many in demonstrating a shift within image culture, from the cinematic to the informational, from representation to computation, from pictures to data. Rather than using a camera to photograph images produced by light, these projects are created through new image production techniques — from the scanners used in the first, the imagery collected by drones in the second, and the visualization tools that transcode data into imagery in the third. As such, they constitute a very different act of representation, distinct from that of the photographic or the cinematic.

Other transformative shifts in how we understand contemporary cinema include the migration of movies from theaters to the diverse screens where we now encounter them, from cell phones pulled from pockets to clunky Virtual Reality headsets and fashion-backward Augmented Reality visors, from video installations in museums and galleries to those in outdoor public spaces. Similarly various technologies, such as drones, point not only to new ways to capture images, but also emerging cultures of movement and imagery, of information gathering and data tracking. In short, a collection of new image-making practices, technologies, and conditions of viewing embody a new era of the cinematic. ...

“Post-cinema” has become the catch-all term to designate these changes and refers not just to new filmmaking techniques but also to a sense that our world and its flows of money and power have become too abstract to represent visually. Instead, we feel this kind of cinema: it feels disembodied, precarious, virtual, violent, and, on occasion, thrilling, provocative, and beautiful....

In Drone Age Cinema: Action Film and Sensory Assault, Steen Ledet Christiansen investigates the ways in which contemporary action films epitomize a non-human perception, arguing that rather than simply creating fast-paced and spectacular entertainment, action films, such as the Iron Manfranchise, instead create a culture attuned to fear and war, with the world understood to be a target....

The desire to name that new mode of sensing the world continues in Compact Cinematics: The Moving Image in the Age of Bit-Sized Media, in which editors Pepita Hesselberth and Maria Poulaki propose that it’s time to examine the full range of moving-image experiences that we encounter in a media-saturated culture, regardless of their specific origin (as television show, music video, YouTube short, or feature-length movie, for example). Hesselberth and Poulaki are interested in “new modes of engagement and forms of spectatorship, whether they be solitary, contingent, accelerated, fragmented, procrastinating, and/or productive.”
film  screens  urban_media 
5 weeks ago
Indigenous stories lead scientist to discover plants can hear - Home | Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald | CBC Radio
An Australian scientist was inspired by stories from Indigenous people around the world about how they communicate with plants. ...

The interesting thing is, science is revealing that in some sense, the plants may actually be listening. A new study by Dr. Monica Gagliano, a research associate professor adjunct in Evolutionary Ecology at the University of Western Australia, has demonstrated that plants can hear.  

Plants can sense and move towards moisture in the soil — at quite a distance. Dr. Gagliano tested whether they found that water using sound. And she found that plants will send their roots towards the sound of running water, even if the plants only hear a recording of running water. 
intelligence  nonhuman  plants  botany  sensation 
5 weeks ago
How Palantir, Peter Thiel's Secretive Data Company, Pushed Its Way Into Policing | WIRED
Palantir had been selling its data storage, analysis, and collaboration software to police departments nationwide on the basis of rock-solid security. “Palantir Law Enforcement provides robust, built-in privacy and civil liberties protections, including granular access controls and advanced data retention capabilities,” its website reads....

Law enforcement accounts for just a small part of Palantir’s business, which mostly consists of military clients, intelligence outfits like the CIA or Homeland Security, and large financial institutions. In police departments, Palantir’s tools are now being used to flag traffic scofflaws, parole violators, and other everyday infractions. But the police departments that deploy Palantir are also dependent upon it for some of their most sensitive work. Palantir’s software can ingest and sift through millions of digital records across multiple jurisdictions, spotting links and sharing data to make or break cases.

The scale of Palantir’s implementation, the type, quantity and persistence of the data it processes, and the unprecedented access that many thousands of people have to that data all raise significant concerns about privacy, equity, racial justice, and civil rights. But until now, we haven’t known very much about how the system works, who is using it, and what their problems are. And neither Palantir nor many of the police departments that use it are willing to talk about it.

In one of the largest systematic investigations of the company to date, Backchannel filed dozens of public records requests with police forces across America. When Palantir started selling its products to law enforcement, it also laid a paper trail. All 50 states have public records laws providing access to contracts, documents, and emails of local and government bodies. That makes it possible to peer inside the company’s police-related operations in ways that simply aren’t possible with its national security work....

What’s clear is that law enforcement agencies deploying Palantir have run into a host of problems. Exposing data is just the start. In the documents our requests produced, police departments have also accused the company, backed by tech investor and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, of spiraling prices, hard-to-use software, opaque terms of service, and “failure to deliver products”...,

These documents show how Palantir applies Silicon Valley’s playbook to domestic law enforcement. New users are welcomed with discounted hardware and federal grants, sharing their own data in return for access to others’. When enough jurisdictions join Palantir’s interconnected web of police departments, government agencies, and databases, the resulting data trove resembles a pay-to-access social network—a Facebook of crime that’s both invisible and largely unaccountable to the citizens whose behavior it tracks....

No one outside Palantir seems to know for sure how many police departments in America use its technology. (Despite multiple requests, Palantir declined to make anyone available for an interview, or to comment on any of Backchannel’s findings.) The New York Police Department has certainly used it, as have Cook County sheriffs in Chicago, the Virginia State Police, the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., and a dozen law enforcement agencies in Utah.... one state, California, accounts for many of the deployments—and perhaps close to 90 percent of the sales—of Palantir’s systems to domestic law enforcement to date....

The first city in California to get involved was Los Angeles. In 2009, LAPD’s then chief of police, Bill Bratton, wanted to test the real-time analysis and visualization of data. “We were looking for [a] tool to do a better job of visualizing our radio calls as they were coming out,” remembers Sean Malinowski, then a captain but now a deputy chief at the LAPD. “Palantir partnered with us on [an] experiment to come up with [a] situational awareness tool.”

That pilot soon evolved into an investigative analysis platform that could access databases of crime reports and license plate information. Bratton even thought that Palantir might be just the tool for a far more ambitious program of predictive policing (the idea that historical data could provide clues to where crimes might occur in the future). He asked Craig Uchida, a consultant and researcher in data-driven policing, to draw up a plan.... “In LA, we started looking at what could be done with violent crime using data, to see where crime was emerging and what was causing it,” says Uchida. ...

Uchida was a big believer in hotspot policing: deploying officers on bike or foot to troubled areas in order to defuse tension and nip possible crimes in the bud. He proposed a project called Laser that would crunch six years of crime data to identify areas of the city with high levels of gun crime. ... Each time officers stopped someone, they would fill out cards about the stop. These “field interview” cards would capture as much information as possible, from the person’s name and address to the bike or car they were driving—even the tattoos they had. “Most of the time it didn’t lead to anything, but it was…data that went into the system, and that’s what I wanted: more data about what was happening, who they were stopping and why,” says Uchida....

Back at base, analysts and officers would use that information to create so-called Chronic Offender Bulletins, identifying key individuals deemed “potential” or “probable” repeat offenders. These people then received extra attention from special units and patrols employing enhanced surveillance techniques, including license plate readers. Before Palantir, building each profile was a time-consuming job, taking about an hour for an analyst to tie together information from disparate sources. With officers in Newton stopping around 100 people each day, according to Uchida, the analysts could never keep up.

“This is where Palantir came into play,” he says. Because Palantir could automatically integrate everything from citizen tips and crime incidents to field interviews and partial license plates, it dramatically accelerated the production of Chronic Offender Bulletins. What used to take an hour could be generated in three to five minutes. The analysts could now profile every single person stopped by police in Newton...,

Fusion centers are “focal points” for collecting and sharing intelligence on domestic terrorism; there are 77 of them in the continental US, with six in California. One of the largest is the Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC), a high-tech command center run by and sharing an office building with a bureau of the LA Sheriff’s Department (LASD). The JRIC would quickly become the nucleus of Palantir’s largest network of local law enforcement agencies in the country, covering Los Angeles and six other counties—nearly 40,000 square miles and 18.5 million people. Its databases would ultimately stretch far beyond terrorism, including everything from parking tickets to maps of schools.

Palantir Technologies was founded in 2004 by a group of investors and technologists including its current CEO, Alex Karp, and Peter Thiel, a billionaire who co-founded PayPal and subsequently set up a hedge fund and venture capital firm. The CIA was an early investor in the company through its In-Q-Tel venture fund, and Palantir’s advisors have included Condoleezza Rice and former CIA director George Tenet. Many of Palantir’s early customers were intelligence agencies and information-gathering units of the military...

That history means the company’s operations have always been the opposite of transparent. But as Palantir began to work with Los Angeles and other taxpayer-funded police departments, it had to expose a little more of its inner workings to politicians, oversight boards, and the public.

Palantir’s law enforcement technology is based on its Gotham platform, a system it also sells to businesses and governments to organize and analyze unstructured data like spreadsheets, reports, and emails. (Palantir’s other major platform, Metropolis, is aimed at the financial and investment industries.) A promotional video supplied by the company shows LAPD officers conducting geographical searches of a neighborhood to find crimes reported there, linking those crimes to suspects, seeing mugshots, visualizing networks of gangs, and even using augmented reality of a location during an arrest....

But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Palantir offers access to a universe of digital databases that are typically inaccessible to the general public. Precisely what kinds of information its tools grant access to has been largely unknown until now. ... list of applications and software—most previously unreported—built by Palantir for the JRIC fusion center between 2010 and 2015.

The system launched with the ability for the fusion center “to intake suspicious activity reports from across the many law enforcement agencies in the region, compare them against each other and all sources of intel…and identify links or patterns of suspicious behavior.” The initial build also included instant access to millions of 911 call records, and a list of every officer on duty during every single police shift of every day.
The next year, Palantir added databases of regional crime data, field interviews, explosive-related incidents, and jail visitation records. ...A much bigger change was the integration in 2011 of data from the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS).

CLETS used to be the primary digital tool for many officers in California. It contains criminal records and restraining orders, but also details of cars and drivers from the Department of Motor Vehicles in California and neighboring Oregon. That means that it includes millions of people outside the criminal justice system.

Once the Palantir system had incorporated … [more]
big_data  predictive_policing  smart_cities  urban_data  Palantir 
5 weeks ago
Our Machines Now Have Knowledge We’ll Never Understand | WIRED
you give a machine learning system thousands of scans of sloppy, handwritten 8s and it will learn to identify 8s in a new scan. It does so, not by deriving a recognizable rule, such as “An 8 is two circles stacked vertically,” but by looking for complex patterns of darker and lighter pixels, expressed as matrices of numbers — a task that would stymie humans. In a recent agricultural example, the same technique of numerical patterns taught a computer how to sort cucumbers....

The results from this increasingly sophisticated branch of computer science can be deep learning that produces outcomes based on so many different variables under so many different conditions being transformed by so many layers of neural networks that humans simply cannot comprehend the model the computer has built for itself.....

Although AlphaGo has proven itself to be a world class player, it can’t spit out practical maxims from which a human player can learn. The program works not by developing generalized rules of play — e.g., “Never have more than four sets of unconnected stones on the board” — but by analyzing which play has the best chance of succeeding given a precise board configuration. In contrast, Deep Blue, the dedicated IBM chess-playing computer, has been programmed with some general principles of good play. As Christof Koch writes in Scientific American, AlphaGo’s intelligence is in the weights of all those billions of connections among its simulated neurons. It creates a model that enables it to make decisions, but that model is ineffably complex and conditional. Nothing emerges from this mass of contingencies, except victory against humans....

But what do we say about the neural networks that are enabling us to analyze the interactions of genes in two-locus genetic diseases? How about the use of neural networks to discriminate the decay pattern of single and multiple particles at the Large Hadron Collider? How the use of machine learning to help identify which of the 20 climate change models tracked by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is most accurate at any point? Such machines give us good results — for example: “Congratulations! You just found a Higgs boson!” — but we cannot follow their “reasoning.”

Clearly our computers have surpassed us in their power to discriminate, find patterns, and draw conclusions. That’s one reason we use them. Rather than reducing phenomena to fit a relatively simple model, we can now let our computers make models as big as they need to. But this also seems to mean that what we know depends upon the output of machines the functioning of which we cannot follow, explain, or understand...

In 1943, the US Army Corps of Engineers set Italian and German prisoners of war to work building the largest scale model in history: 200 acres representing the 41 percent of the United States that drains into the Mississippi River. By 1949 it was being used to run simulations to determine what would happen to cities and towns along the way if water flooded in from this point or that. It’s credited with preventing flooding in Omaha in 1952 that could have caused $65 million in damage.[2] In fact, some claim its simulations are more accurate than the existing digital models....

The model assumes that what happens at full scale also happens at 1/2000 scale. In fact, the model was built at 1/2000 horizontally but on a vertical scale of 1/100 to “ensure that topographic shifts would be apparent,” resulting in the Rockies rising out of scale, 50 feet above the ground. The model makers assumed, apparently correctly, that the height of the mountains would not affect the outcomes of their experiments. Likewise, they did not simulate the position of the moon or grow miniature crops in the fields because they assumed those factors were not relevant....

it works because it doesn’t require us to understand it: It lets the physics of the simulation do its job without imposing the limitations of human reason on it. The result is a model that is more accurate than one like MONIAC that was constructed based on human theory and understanding....

Until machine learning, we’ve had no choice but to manually design the models that computers then implement. We assumed that the path to increased predictive power meant making the models more detailed and accurate, while accumulating more and better data for those handcrafted models to operate on. Because the models came from human minds, knowledge and understanding would go hand in hand....

For their first fifty years, computers assumed scarcity. They were famous for it. The minimal information required for a purpose was gathered, and was structured into records that were the same for each instance. That limitation was built into computers’ initial ingestion medium: punch cards. These cards turned information into a spatial array that could be read because the array and its encoding were uniform. That uniformity squeezed out differences, peculiarities, exceptions, and idiosyncrasies…the stuff of life, as beatniks and other malcontents recognized from the start....

Punch cards had in turn been developed in the late 18th century as a way of controlling the patterns woven by Jacquard looms. They were not designed to carry information any more than a gear is, and they carried into the computer age the reductive, repetitive parsimony of Industrial Age machine design....

These days we talk about information less as a resource held in storage containers than as streams, a metaphor just about perfectly opposed to the embodiment of information in punch cards. ...

Now our machines are letting us see that even if the rules are simple, elegant, beautiful and rational, the domain they govern is so granular, so intricate, so interrelated, with everything causing everything else all at once and forever, that our brains and our knowledge cannot begin to comprehend it. It takes a network of humans and computers to know a world so thoroughly governed by contingency — one in which it’s chaos all the way down...

Our new reliance on inscrutable models as the source of the justification of our beliefs puts us in an odd position. If knowledge includes the justification of our beliefs, then knowledge cannot be a class of mental content, because the justification now consists of models that exist in machines, models that human mentality cannot comprehend....

We foreswear some types of knowledge already: The courts forbid some evidence because allowing it would give police an incentive for gathering it illegally. Likewise, most research institutions require proposed projects to go through an institutional review board to forestall otherwise worthy programs that might harm the wellbeing of their test subjects....

Mike Williams, a research engineer at Fast Forward Labs, a data analytics company, said in a phone interview that we need to be especially vigilant about the prejudices that often, and perhaps always, make their way into which data sets are considered important and how those data are gathered....

Our machines now are letting us see that even if the rules the universe plays by are not all that much more complicated than Go’s, the interplay of everything all at once makes the place more contingent than Aristotle, Newton, Einstein, or even some Chaos theorists thought. It only looked orderly because our instruments were gross, because our conception of knowledge imposes order by simplifying matters until we find it, and because our needs were satisfied with approximations....

That’s fine if you just want to put the 8-ball in the corner pocket. But if you want to know the real path that ball will take, you have to look at the friction created at the molecular level as it passes over each fiber of the felt, at the pull of the moon and the moment’s variation in the Earth’s wobble, at the unequal impact of the photons emitted from the light fixture above the table and the lamp off to the side, and at the change in the air current as your opponent holds her breath. Not to mention the indeterminacy of the quanta. None of that may affect whether you sink the ball, but it is the truth of what’s going on. ...

Our machines are letting us see this now that they do not require us to strip information down to what fits into a pile of punch cards. With this new capacity we now lean toward including everything and asking questions later....

As this sinks in, we are beginning to undergo a paradigm shift in our pervasive, everyday idea not only of knowledge, but of how the world works. Where once we saw simple laws operating on relatively predictable data, we are now becoming acutely aware of the overwhelming complexity of even the simplest of situations. Where once the regularity of the movement of the heavenly bodies was our paradigm, and life’s constant unpredictable events were anomalies — mere “accidents,” a fine Aristotelian concept that differentiates them from a thing’s “essential” properties — now the contingency of all that happens is becoming our paradigmatic example.
This is bringing us to locate knowledge outside of our heads. We can only know what we know because we are deeply in league with alien tools of our own devising. Our mental stuff is not enough....

We think out in the world with tools. Taking knowledge as a type of mental content — a justified, true opinion — obscures that simple phenomenological truth.
artificial_intelligence  intelligence  epistemology  machine_learning 
5 weeks ago
Git Physical
Last week at LIL, I had the pleasure of running a pilot of git physical, the first part of a series of workshops aimed at introducing git to artists and designers through creative challenges. In this workshop I focused on covering the basics: three-tree architecture, simple git workflow, and commands (add, commit, push). These lessons were fairly standard but contained a twist: The whole thing was completely analogue!
materiality  pedagogy  git  software  paper_prototype 
5 weeks ago
Tina Campt: Black Feminist Futures and the Practice of Fugitivity - YouTube
What kinds of ‘practice’ create possibilities for new feminist futures? How do our everyday engagements with power complicate how we understand feminist struggle? This talk uses a black feminist conception of practice to think beyond conventional notions of resistance as the primary model for understanding the relationship of marginalized subjects to power. Focusing on archival photographs of black communities in diaspora, it explores the quotidian practices of black subjects whose micro-labors of struggle are frequently overlooked in an emphasis on collective and individual acts of resistance. The concept of “fugitivity” or “taking flight” emerges as a signature idiom of black diasporic culture and a meaningful pathway for realizing the aspirations of futurity articulated by black feminist theory.
archives  futures  feminism  blackness  race 
5 weeks ago
Nobody Knows What Lies Beneath New York City - Bloomberg
Leidner believes, fervently, in the power of geospatial data, “interfacing multiple map layers from different sources to come up with valuable intelligence,” as he explains it. In the ’90s, he led the creation of a map of New York City that stands as a pre-Google Earth model of urban cartographic complexity, troves of data integrated to reveal the location of everything from billboards to curbs. What it doesn’t encompass is the subterranean city, the sprawling network of infrastructure and the natural features that surround it. Leidner is convinced that if such a map had been available before Sandy, as a resource shared and referenced by the multiple players who keep the city running, the precariousness of East 13th Street would’ve been obvious. But, he hopes, by the next major hurricane, planning ahead will be easier. Under his direction, New York is on the verge of completing the world’s most complex underground map—and therefore the most detailed realistic picture of the interlocking systems that make a city work. That, Leidner says, will improve public safety, help officials better manage rapid growth, and usher in the era of “smart” cities, in which sensors and other automated technologies manage the flow of daily urban ....

“Light and radio waves don’t go through dirt like they do air,” says George Percivall, chief technical officer for the Open Geospatial Consortium, which is helping to develop global standards for underground mapping. “The next frontier, in both a literal and figurative sense, is underground.”...

Underneath the 6,000 miles of asphalt and concrete road lie thousands of miles of water, sewer, gas, telecommunications, and electrical infrastructure. And let’s not forget the 500 miles of underground subway tracks or Con Edison’s 100-mile steam delivery system. In its entirety, it’s known to no one. The individual details of the vast underground are hoarded and guarded by the various stakeholders. Con Edison has its electrical map; the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) keeps track of water and sewer pipes; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) could tell you where the transit tunnels are; and so on....

the streets are sliced open 200,000 times—an average of almost 550 cuts per day, or 30 per street mile every year....

For every job, contractors are required to call in the keepers of this knowledge. Representatives from the relevant utility companies and city agencies are dispatched to sites, where they survey and mark out the location of underground infrastructure with spray paint. Walk just about any block in the city and you’ll see these urban hieroglyphics, the scar tissue that lingers long after the cuts are sealed. “GAS” is one of the more obvious ones, the unambiguity a sign of how dangerous it is to miscalculate and rupture a gas line. Still, mistakes are common and inevitable. Strikes on underground infrastructure cost the city an estimated $300 million every year...

Leidner’s map would let a user zoom through the city’s layers of pipes and wire, asphalt and tunnels, streams and granite to pinpoint a leaking sewer line or corroding gas line ...

Leidner’s career has unfolded concurrently with the rise of geographic information systems. ... Wendy Dorf was then supervising the agency’s project of using GIS software to convert paper maps of the city’s water delivery system: the water mains, every pipe that connected buildings to the system, “and even the 100,000 hydrants,” she says, still marveling at the accomplishment. “Computer mapping was not sophisticated,” she recalls. “But lo and behold, after 10 years we had networked the entire system.”...

After mapping the system that brought water to the people, DEP set forth on an equally ambitious project to use GIS to map the system that took it away, the sewers. The most obvious course of action would be to build one on top of the other, to create one map. But that would mean working collaboratively—ensuring that the sewer map was constructed with the same specifications, standards, and formats, anchored to what’s termed “control points” (spots whose location is already known with certainty), so that everything lined up correctly. Unfortunately, “the sewer guys hated the water guys,” Leidner remembers....

the technology could create a single accurate map encompassing not merely these two layers but also countless others. It would be called the base map, New York City’s infrastructural ecosystem depicted on one master document containing all the topographical and built features, as well as the water and sewer lines underneath. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani agreed to support the project via the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT). ...

After the water and sewers were mapped, the base map expanded into an exercise in photogrammetry. Planes flew across the city, taking aerial photos that were linked to GPS and control points on the ground. Every pixel represented 1 foot of accuracy. Working with city agencies and overseen by Leidner and Dorf, experts at an outside mapping company scanned and digitized the photos and created outlines for the various components, including every curb line and building footprint. The base map was complete by 1999. It was distributed to all city agencies, many of which built their data upon it. “One map to bind them all,” Leidner says...

From a war room on a Hudson River pier in Midtown, the deep-infrastructure group pored over plans and renderings of the World Trade Center’s basement layers and overlaid them with utility maps. They mapped outage areas for water, telecommunications, and electricity. “We were churning out maps like crazy—something like 3,000 in six weeks,” Leidner says. “It was a real watershed moment for GIS.”... the events of Sept. 11 also put their project in a different light. Con Edison, which by 2001 had been on the cusp of agreeing to initiate a fully digitized, shared map of the electric infrastructure, pulled its support, citing security concerns...

Leidner retired from the city in 2004 and began doing private-sector consulting. Without his enthusiasm or Con Ed’s data, the map languished. Dorf also moved on to private-sector work. Jim McConnell, a commissioner with the city’s Office of Emergency Management, succeeded Leidner and Dorf as the biggest proponent of charting the underground. At the same time, skeletal parts of a future underground map began to emerge. ... He approached the Fund for the City of New York, a Ford Foundation organization tasked with financing innovative projects involving government and nonprofits. ...

The Belgian government responded by ordering the creation, over the next three years, of an underground infrastructure map that depicts every asset owned or controlled by more than 300 utilities in Flanders, a region several times larger than New York City, with about three-quarters of the population. The almost 400,000 miles of subterranean cables, pipelines, wires, and conduits could circle Earth 16 times.

Not just anyone can gain access to the Belgian map. A contractor that wishes to dig underground must submit the coordinates of the work area via a computer portal called KLIP. The request goes out to all stakeholders with infrastructure running beneath the area, which are required to turn over their data. The information is then synthesized and sent to the requester as a single document. ...

Chicago has embarked on a project similar to the Belgian model, and mapping authorities in Singapore and London are also researching pilot programs.
New York’s existing three layers—the DEP’s water and sewer documents, plus the more recent mapping of subway stations—mean it’s starting its project many steps ahead. ...

As Leidner and his team navigate the political thicket of building the map, they continue to work closely with the Open Geospatial Consortium to develop technical standards for worldwide underground mapping. The effort has attracted pro bono consulting from mapping agencies around the world, including the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain and the Singapore Land Authority....

New York’s will provide visuals in three dimensions.
As with any paper map, latitude and longitude are the easiest attributes to depict, and the most crucial—you want to know there’s a gas line here as opposed to there before digging—but knowledge of depth provides a far more useful tool. But it also presents a knottier version of the problem all mapping systems face, especially when they combine different data sets into one map: finding control points. Ahearn, the Hunter College GIS mastermind who aided Leidner’s team after Sept. 11, argues that New York should use the city’s existing sewer map, which is already part of the base map, as an anchoring point. Knowledge of depth (the z-axis) is important for sewer officials, because sewage—as the old axiom says—must roll downhill. New York’s sewer map is one of the most advanced in the world, with precise knowledge of the surface location of every manhole. “If you have two different manhole covers, each has a different x, y, and z location, so you have the invert elevation, the distance down to the pipe for one and the distance down for the top of the other,” Ahearn says. “So if that pipe is straight, you can calculate the x-y-z for any location along the pipe.” On the other hand, he adds, “if it’s curved, you need to know the radius of the curvature.”...

The inclusion of depth information will allow it to depict not only the infrastructure but also information about the soil levels that surround it, using data from hundreds of boreholes around the city. “Knowing the type of soil is very important for the behavior of the infrastructure,” says George Deodatis, a civil engineering professor at Columbia. “If the soil is very soft, you might have settlement, and some of the pipelines might start … [more]
infrastructure  underground  mapping  cartography  GIS 
5 weeks ago
A History of Zoning in Three Acts - Part I — Strong Towns
Zoning is an umbrella term for a (usually) vast set of regulations that determine where you can build, what you can build, and what activities you can engage in on your property. Some common building elements that are covered by zoning include:

Setbacks (how far from the property line your building can be)
Lot coverage (how much of your land can be used for buildings)...

To understand the legal underpinnings of US zoning, it is important to understand two legal concepts: nuisance and police power. In essence, nuisance law concerns cases where one person’s activity has a negative effect on another person’s property. Under nuisance law, if you dump toxic chemicals that leach onto my land, I can sue you in court for damages.

Police power refers to the ability of a government to regulate the affairs of its citizens in order to ensure the “health, safety, morals, and general welfare” of its people. That phrase is important and one we will revisit on occasion throughout this series. Police power is important because it represents a proactive action to prevent or eliminate harm. For zoning, the idea is that a city can regulate the use of land in order to avoid the nuisance conditions before they happen. This is a concept we will investigate further in part two of this series.

Given its theoretical underpinnings in nuisance and police power, modern zoning was not invented out of thin air. There are many examples of regulations, foreign and domestic, even from pre-Constitutional times, dictating the legal use of real property and the form of buildings thereon.
urban_planning  zoning 
5 weeks ago
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