to be invisible or not to be invisible: that is the power. or is it? | visual/method/culture
First, there are different kinds of visibility and invisibility, it seems to me. Sure, there’s the literal/material/physical hiding-behind-some-kind-of-screen kind of invisibility: the unnamed buildings in which high-finance trades, or the military surveills (or refugees hide – see my final point below). But there are also other kinds: material things not visible to the human eye, like wireless signals (has a history been written of the emergence of the the wireless icon, anyone?)...

Second, as Shannon and Adam point out, a lot of these things are not in fact ‘invisible’, because an awful lot of (cultural) work is being done to represent them: popular books like Andrew Blum’s Tubes, that describe the internet’s physical infrastructure; the current obsession with algorithms; projects like James Bridle’s recent project Seamless Transitions that used digital visualisation to picture the secret places where UK immigration cases are decided; Timo Arnall’s film Immaterials: Light Painting WiFi; Adrian Mackenzie’s essays on financial trading in the London Review of Books. It seems to me, though, that the criticality being offered of these various projects are not being discussed very much at all, in part because of that prevailing assumption that simply exposing something is enough. But how is something exposed? How is it made visible? What are the effects of different kinds of making visible? And this is not only a question of aesthetic form, it is also a question of how images are seen, displayed, encountered, understood and even – as Shannon remarks – acted upon.
visibility  infrastructure  making_visible_invisible  my_work 
4 minutes ago » Wild Bill Bunge
In part, this was a reaction against the idiographic perspective then present in the discipline. Idiographic methods are concerned with describing the infinite variation in these social phenomena rather than discovering generalizable laws common to the entire surface. Bunge thought such an idiographic view would continue to marginalize geography as a science, but received much opposition from geographers who valued the traditional role of description in geographic practice. Later opposition formed against Bunge’s conflation of geometric pattern with explanation; mathematical functions and simple geometric patters couldn’t, in and of themselves, be said to explain anything.

The ideas contained within are too complex and far outside my areas of expertise to cover here; for a better summary of the issues and debates involved, see Michael Goodchild’s 2008 review (pdf). Though his book would become a classic, Bunge had a hard time getting it published stateside, and apparently Torsten Hägerstrand had a hand in its eventual publication by Swedish (”that freer place”) company Gleerup in 1962. Before this, but with his University of Washington PhD in hand, Bunge received his first academic appointment at the University of Iowa in 1960. By 1961, he’d been fired. The next year, with his book published, the activist/academic Bunge moved to the Detroit neighborhood of Fitzgerald to join the Geography Department at Wayne State University.
cartography  critical_cartography  geography  bunge 
13 minutes ago
Architecture made of rammed earth from the Dezeen archives
Mud is one of the oldest architectural materials – but it's back in fashion. Herzog & de Meuron used rammed earth recently, as did Seth Stein Architects and Watson Architecture + Design for this riding centre near Melbourne. See all our stories about rammed earth buildings
mud  architecture 
22 hours ago
Metrosophy: Philosophy and the City - The New York Times
critical importance of Athens to the birth of ancient philosophy with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; or the way that modern philosophy got its start in Bacon’s London, Descartes’s Paris and Spinoza’s Amsterdam; or the deep roots of American pragmatism in New York, where William James spent the first years of his life as a curious child, and John Dewey spent the last years of his life as a revered professor.

These biographical notes are not inconsequential, especially if we acknowledge one of the most basic pragmatist beliefs: Ideas do not operate in a void. They respond to and depend on human beings in particular situations. Ideas prevail not because of their immutable logic but because they are embedded in the social environment at hand....

It is interesting to notice how Rousseau’s two personas — the contrarian who detested the city and everything it stood for, and the authoritarian who promoted the social contract and the general will that is embodied in a powerful sovereign — have continued to inform the way modern society thinks and acts. It is also important to find ways to reevaluate these two distinct sets of values....

In a letter from 1631 Descartes could therefore write: “In this large town everyone but myself is engaged in trade, and hence is so attentive to his own profit that I could live here all my life without ever being noticed by a soul.” But does the fact that your surroundings fail to notice you give you the license to fail to notice your surroundings?...

Although the act of thinking and the object of thinking were severed from the idea of place, the marriage between traditional philosophy and the city runs deep, and Arendt would be the first to acknowledge this in her studies of ancient Greece. Already in Plato’s “Phaedrus,” the titular character reproaches Socrates for not exploring the world outside the walls of Athens. Wouldn’t it be nice to pack a bag and go hiking? Instead of a measured reply, the original philosopher famously snaps: “Landscapes and trees have nothing to teach me! Only the people in the city can do that!”...

Even today, a city like present-day New York has no urgent need of Plato’s sanitized Socrates. Because the city is, in itself, a very efficient Socratic device. It is a ruthless, ironic, but also benevolent machine set to strip its inhabitants of their sense of certainty, self-importance, and claim to ultimate knowledge.
cities  philosophy  things_to_think_with 
23 hours ago
Rhizome | How to See Infrastructure: A Guide for Seven Billion Primates
Perhaps because infrastructure wields great power and lacks visibility, it is of particular concern to artists and writers who bring the mysterious influencing machines into public discourse through their travels and research....

There is a value in seeing first-hand, and this experience is something that is treated as privileged resource, but shared in the spirit of research. Consider Unknown Fields Division, a "nomadic design research studio," run by Kate Davies and Liam Young, "that ventures out on expeditions to the ends of the earth to bear witness to alternative worlds, alien landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness." Participants share their experiences with those of us who cannot make the trip, like journalist Tim Maughan, whose dispatches from container ports, Christmas decoration factories, and toxic waste dumps visited on Unknown Fields excursions both horrify and captivate those of us back in the West, who do not have the full picture of where our goods originate.

These contemporary ethnographers are more likely to be found in hard hats than pith helmets. Charmaine Chua, who rode on a container vessel for thirty-six days in order to document the workers of the shipping supply chain, calls herself an ethnographer...

While first-person accounts offer glimpses of the human experience of infrastructure, maps are particularly helpful for conveying a sense of infrastructure's great complexity. For her study of refrigerated food production in the United States for the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Nicola Twilley prepared an interactive map of over 130 different food preparation, storage, and shipment locations, creating a digital "refrigerated landscape," for those of us to explore, who rarely see food anywhere outside of the short path between the grocery store and our kitchens....

Visibility, or lack thereof, is common theme in infrastructural research, spoken of directly in artists' statements, introductory texts, and essays. The language of diagrams, of hidden sites, of the bottoms of icebergs, of ignored vantage points, of proprietary buildings fills the legends of these infrastructural maps and guides. But this is not the fault of the researchers. The infrastructure itself is designed to be kept out of sight, visible only to those with technological access for the purposes of management and security. So why do we go to the effort to make it visible?...

Photographer Allan Sekula, in his book Fish Story, assaults our intellectual reliance upon an equivalence between information and infrastructure...

It is tempting to play with speculative utopias, as if infrastructures were mere Lego sets. In Jenny ODell's Satellite Landscapes, the artist plays with the fantasy of a world laid bare as pure information, taking the future-forward images of infrastructure from satellite views, and cutting them free from their landscapes, presents them as blueprints, as living creatures, and space stations placed in a white vacuum. For ODell, the invisibility of infrastructure is displayed in our forgetting of the "stubborn physicality" of these structures....

[Haraway] continues: "Feminism is about a critical vision consequent upon a critical positioning in unhomogeneous gendered social space." This isn't simply about a multiplicity to replace singular vantages. It is about understanding the territory as always a space with power avenues coursing below it. It is not about postmodern subjective narratives to replace objective knowledge either, in an attempt to install the cameras in the body, to make the "I" into another eye. It is about trying to decide, for seven-billion-and-counting upright, naked primates, what exactly "I" is supposed to mean. Haraway seeks "situated knowledges." Infrastructural ethnography, symbolic monographs, aesthetic explorations of data—these sorts of knowledges do not attempt to be everything, but never forget what they are and where they got their material. Infrastructural research does not claim to be the last word, and it does not claim ownership over its content. It does not treat our human thirst for resources as a resource, and instead treats it as a labor, deserving of value....

the strange thing about hard power manifested in public infrastructure, is that as much as it is secured and classified, it is never truly invisible. As Trevor Paglen has pointed out, "Secrecy is a self-contradictory thing...If it has to be made out of the same stuff as regular stuff, it has to reflect light." By shifting focus from the informatic realm to the situated, material one, infrastructure researchers often gain greater knowledge. James Bridle's Drone Shadow project counters the secrecy of the US military's drone strike programs with the material fact of their existence: the life-size silhouette of a drone, painted on the ground in a public space, in white lines. His Dronestagram project takes freely available satellite imagery from drone strike sites cataloged by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, much of their research done using a network of reporters in the local areas where the attacks occur....

The vast number of projects that could be mentioned, described in detailed terms of how they specifically attempt to situate knowledges of infrastructure, is overwhelming. There seems to be an insatiable curiosity for these sorts of explorations among a certain intellectual set, a real desire to be made aware of uncomfortable truths. Walter Benjamin is perhaps the patron saint of such projects....

With so much at stake, researching infrastructure is no simple task. It must be the political goal of situated knowledges to repair infrastructure's human mechanisms while dispelling the futurist aesthetics of technological acceleration, of utopian mastery, of authoritative control from the level of boilerplates on up....

No book or project will reveal the infrastructure totally, or solve all the problems. But by looking in the crawl spaces, being willing to get one's hands dirty, to crawl a bit, to let one's eyes adjust to the shrouded places, the researcher begins to make infrastructure the structure it is meant to be.
infrastructure  infrastructural_tourism 
4 days ago
Media Fields Journal - Making Location Visible
Pike Research released a report in 2012 indicating that spending on the services, software and tools of geographic information systems (GIS) will steadily increase over the next five years, reaching potentially 3.7 billion dollars in 2017. This expenditure legitimizes the declaration made by Dr. Stephen McElroy, GIS program chair at American Sentinel University, that “2012 is the year of GIS.” McElroy’s comment that “the desire to know where everything is located fuels a trend in location-based services” not only validates the degree program’s relevance, but highlights the social situation where “the average person is becoming increasingly impacted by the power of GIS.[1] ”While institutions and government agencies are further utilizing the context-dependent, decision-making capabilities of GIS technology, the impact for the average person comes from a surge of publicly accessible and interactive cartography.

...people are no longer passive users but active consumers, producers, and distributers of geospatial information.... “For those outside, who may not even be aware that there is a field called geospatial, it has made geography ordinary, which is the most revolutionary thing of all.”

...includes commercial geodemographic systems, land information systems, geographic positioning systems, and automated mapping and facilities management systems.

...practitioners, geographers, and commercial suppliers praise GIS as a technical means to increase “geo-literacy,” a new term for a long-standing idea of accessing interactions, interconnections, and implications by utilizing geographic reasoning to make far-reaching decisions about health, community, and the environment... Maps help us integrate and apply our knowledge...

The growing techno-optimism and notions of empowerment surrounding GIS, however, obscure the technology’s politics. As printed maps before, digital maps of the modern era continue to create realities as much as they represent them with the new technological functions only further extending mapmaking possibilities. Location is being revalued as geo-spatial information, but what new knowledge is being mapped, and who is at the helm of its navigation?... These software companies, geodemographic marketing firms, and data vendors are not only maneuvering the political economies of GIS, they are also commercializing data that was once controlled by elite groups and restricted for security reasons. Before we extol GIS as a revolution or a “democratization of maps” that celebrates open participation in geodata production and distribution, [9] It is necessary to consider geospatial information’s value as a commodity. hailing the individual to be the producer of his or her own cultural activity—to personalize their own location-based story and social connection and to locate themselves within both digital and actual social space—they provide the ultimate in "user-subjectivity." is the resort to the conveniences of customization as an alibi for increasingly comprehensive, hyperlocal forms of advertising and consumer monitoring that raises concern. miners collect, aggregate and sort users’ geo-located information for alternative managerial purposes that span from commerce to homeland security.
geography  GIS  mapping  cartography  advertising  Google  egocentrism  surveillance 
5 days ago
The Hyperloop Will Be Only the Latest Innovation That's Pretty Much a Series of Tubes | Innovation | Smithsonian
Even as the digital age dawned, pneumatic tubes still felt somehow like a superior technology, a glimpse of a future that should have been. “If the equipment is old, the idea is terribly modern,” Jacques Lepage, director of a pneumatic-transport firm in Paris, said in 1984. “You can move things around extraordinarily quickly through the system here.”
media_archaeology  pneumatic_tubes 
5 days ago
MoMA | Extra Art: Artists’ Ephemera in the Library
The MoMA Library recently acquired the Steven Leiber collection of artists’ generated ephemera featured in the 2001 exhibition, and corresponding exhibition catalog, Extra Art: A Survey of Artists’ Ephemera, 1960–1999. The scope of the collection covers a broad span of art movements including Fluxus, Arte Povera, Conceptual art, visual poetry, Minimalism, Pop art, and more, with the physical contents being similarly widely varied. Steven Leiber, art dealer, scholar and curator of the collection, applied the term “extra art” to these materials in order to differentiate them from traditional art ephemera and to position ephemera created by artists as a genre in its own right. These are materials that are integral to artistic practices; they are traces of performances and installations, or artworks in and of themselves. As such, the items in this collection exist in the space between art and ephemera and are an invaluable resource for art researchers.....

In the Extra Art exhibition catalog, Leiber provides specific criteria for determining what constitutes artists’ ephemera and how it can be distinguished from traditional art ephemera. His criteria are:
1. All materials are conceived and/or created by artists specifically for the purpose of being reproduced.
2. All materials are distributed for free or very inexpensively.
3. All materials have a supplemental relationship to art and perform a double function: a) they are secondary expressions of or about art, finding distribution in contexts in which these expressions are useful or instrumental for a short, limited time, and b) although these secondary expressions sometimes function in an external relationship to art, they also function, to varying degrees, as integral components of art or as art itself.
As noted, these materials are considered integral elements of art; they may be documentation that records work, fragments, or evidence of work—they are an archive of the ephemeral.
archives  art  ephemera 
5 days ago
Smartphones and the Uncertain Future of 'Spatial Thinking' - CityLab
The habits, hubris, and quirky predilections that once manipulated my movements are being replaced by the judgments of artificial intelligence.... Like any technology, digital maps are changing our brains as well as our behavior. Traditionally, people get around their houses, neighborhoods and cities with the help of an internal "cognitive map." But that system isn't much of a map at all. It's more like a personal library filled with discrete bits of knowledge, landmarks (a bus stop, a church, a friend's house), and routes.... Experts who study the issue are concerned that spatial thinking might be the next casualty of technological progress, another cognitive ability surpassed and then supplanted by the cerebral annex of the Internet....

...Spatial thinking helps us structure, integrate, and recall ideas. It's less an independent field of study than a foundational skill; a 2006 report from the National Research Council called spatial literacy the "missing link" in the K-12 curriculum at large.

Navigating is among the greatest incubators of that ability. A sophisticated internal map, as a famous study of London cab drivers showed, is tied to greater development in the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for spatial memory....

Automatic orientation and self-centering, for example, are two cartographic elements that define online directioneering. An auto-oriented map has been rotated to match the viewer's perspective; a self-centered map is organized around the viewer’s location. Each one eliminates a sizable share of the mental effort in map reading.

But self-centering is among the most common techniques deployed by maps in situ. "You-are-here" maps can be found on virtually every floor of every office building, in vast interior spaces like malls and museums, and at junctions of the urban environment like bus stops and train stations....

Contemporaries feared that maps were vulnerable to the machinations of businesses and other controlling interests. "Rather famously, railroad companies would distort geography, especially when competing for markets in the Great Plains," says Jim Akerman, the curator of maps of the Newberry Library in Chicago....

While cartophiles are alternately entranced and worried by the technological progress within maps, the more significant change may be in our collective exposure to geographic information. We no longer have to "read" maps as we once did. But it seems nearly certain that we spend more time looking at them....

The casualty of this gradual fine-tuning, I think, is chance. Routes were once conceived in a febrile mix of logic, accident, and instinct. Today's data-driven apps have mastered logic. They have registered road traffic, train delays, and the other accidents of travel. They have also, by explicitly catering to each of our effable desires, rendered human navigational impulse an eccentricity.
mapping  cartography  navigation  orientation 
5 days ago
Redrawing the map | Boston Society of Architects
The proliferation of new spatial tools — everything from the GPS and GIS (Geographic Information System) to the easy availability of statistical and environmental data sets — is making certain kinds of mapping more relevant and ubiquitous than ever. We are not facing the decline of maps, but a shift from maps as repositories of geographic fact to maps as interpretive, argumentative, and unapologetically partial. Cartographic authorship has changed dramatically as well, since scholarship, design, and craft are now increasingly mingled. Mapping is no longer a specialist pursuit anxious about its scientific credentials; it is instead a powerful form of everyday communication. Whether these new maps appear on paper or online is largely irrelevant....

For a good example of the waning ideal of the map-as-fact, consider the massive project known as the International Map of the World. Although little known today, for most of the 20th century it was the flagship project of scientific cartography. The idea was relatively simple. Instead of every mapmaker starting from scratch, cartographers and mapping agencies agreed to a comprehensive set of standards that would allow maps from around the world to contribute to a single atlas of unprecedented detail. The project was first proposed at the fifth International Geographical Congress in 1891, and by 1913 nearly every country in the world had signed on. The graphic standards were even given the force of international treaty.... At its most ambitious, the hope of the project was that nearly all geographic questions could be answered with just one map.

This model came to be seen as seriously flawed as early as the 1950s. Treating maps as comprehensive databases made them cluttered, inflexible, and confusing. Map designers in the US military were especially concerned that high-speed jet pilots and far-flung soldiers needed maps tailor-made for specific tasks, not universal knowledge....

...Today, “message” maps are not being made by large organizations to teach children, but instead by designers, programmers, journalists, and artists participating in vigorous public debate. The largely unofficial nature of these maps has given them an unexpected power, since they can easily use others’ data while bypassing the traditional appeals to neutrality and comprehensiveness. “Inventory” and “message” have indeed diverged, but they have diverged socially and politically, not just technologically....

“Message” here means taking data collected for one purpose (municipal property assessments) and repurposing it as part of a broader discussion. ...

it still requires a cartographer to find interesting patterns and provide the “fixed point of view” necessary to make a visual argument. It seems even less likely that something like the Midwest map would emerge from an algorithm or a location-aware app. There is a slightly paradoxical relationship here: My maps are possible only because of the accessibility of data and software, but most of my work is about making that data and software do things that they were never meant to do....

I would suggest that the cartographer’s sensibility is becoming ever more crucial to public life. We are awash in data, and all our “look-up” needs can be fulfilled in a matter of seconds. But we also rely on maps when making sense of the world — we use them to orient ourselves historically, socially, and politically as well as geographically. This has always been the case, but what is new today is the opportunity for unusual, provocative, or minority points of view to reach a wide audience.
mapping  cartography  standards  rhetoric  data 
5 days ago
The politics of making maps - Canadian International Council - Canada's hub for international affairs
First, the map is an image and we tend to associate images to elements of truth (we believe in what we see). Second the map is a scientific image. It comes loaded with scientific connotations such as geographic coordinates, and levels of accuracy and it is deeply associated to the history of scientific measurement tools (from the compass to the GPS), which reinforces its truthfulness. Third, for most of our usages of a map, we don’t need to challenge its scientific base. For instance, a user of Google Maps interested in getting as quickly as possible from A to B is more interested in the traffic situation in real time provided by Google than in the growing geopolitical role played by Google Maps around the world and in how this contributes to the reshaping of the world....

There are now a series of examples worldwide in which borders that have appeared on Google Maps have created diplomatic and sometimes military tensions between countries and between communities. In 2010, Nicaraguan militaries crossed the border with Costa Rica and entered Costa Rica territory based on the fact that the border was misplaced on Google Maps since it was placed according to an old treaty between the two countries.

Another famous example is the different ways the border between Ukraine and Russia in Crimea is marked depending from where you access Google Maps. If you access it from western countries, the border is marked as contested, while if you access it from Russia, Crimea appears as being under the full control of Russia... also became the referential map of the world slowly replacing national agencies and international organizations, without having any legal, political and democratic mandate. In other words, the world borders are now partially defined by a global private company, which operates, based on business plans.

There is a movement in contemporary cartography (called post-representation cartography) that argues that maps should not be dissociated from either their context of production or utilization. Authors in this movement argue that we can only really understand a map by understanding its context of production and its particular usage....

Focusing on mapping as a process instead of on just the map is not trivial and can have some very practical consequences. For instance, in the context of Indigenous cartography, geographer Bjorn Sletto argues that if we shift the attention away from maps as a visual document (with specific scientific and technological codes) to mapping as a social process in which memory and oral history can play a central role, than the process of telling spatial stories (which is controlled by Indigenous communities) becomes more important than the way these stories will be formalized cartographically on the map....

There has been a recent recognition of the social, cultural, historical and even legal importance of indigenous forms of spatial expressions such as performances, oral histories and dances, combined with a few attempts to give them some cartographic shapes. There has been an appropriation of mapping practices by Indigenous groups (often in collaboration with NGO or academics) in order to reuse these tools to defend and reclaim their territory. ...

In order to fit on these high-tech visual maps, Indigenous perspectives on places have to “support” several transformations. They have to lose their spiritual dimension to fit the Euclidean grid. They have to lose their aural structure to become visual. They have to be dehumanized to be coded in computing language. Basically the main argument against the use of online mapping technologies is that it reinforces the subordination of indigenous spatial world-views to western technologies and perspectives through those different transformations....

these hybrid cartographic forms of expressions do not reverse colonial social relations, but rather rework them, helping to develop a new space of mutual understanding, provided that the balance between western science and indigenous knowledge is respected. The transformation of indigenous knowledge and spatial expressions into cartographic artifacts remains a complex issue....

Now maps are fully zoomable, egocentred (centred on our personal location) and the data they represent evolve more and more often in real time.
The map now looks at us as much as we look at it. We are extensively mapped, voluntarily or not. While moving with our GPS enabled smart phones our geographic coordinates are systematically recorded which allow companies to track our movements (for instance Google uses this information about the speed at which our cellphones move to assess the fluidity of the traffic in real time). The personal data that we share with social media are also used to follow our movements and to identify our habits.
mapping  borders  politics  epistemology  cartography  translation  indigenous  data 
5 days ago
First Knight News Challenge of 2016 to focus on libraries | KnightBlog
What new ways could libraries connect to outside partners, institutions or audiences?
How should libraries prioritize their resources?
What amazing things happening in libraries should be amplified?
Whose work in libraries should Knight Foundation know about?
What will libraries look like in 10, 20 or 50 years?
What challenges does your library face adapting to the digital age?
libraries  funding 
5 days ago
Gianfranco Baruchello’s Infinite Small Systems – SOCKS
His paintings and drawings are fragmented in series of small elements, almost miniatures, connected one another to form a non-linear narrative. Naïve and ermetic at the same time, the canvases are mostly large blank surfaces punctuated with visual annotations and short texts, montages which explore processes and map ideas.

Little galaxies of painted episodes are extrapolated from different realities, from history, natural processes, contemporary events and onirical visions and placed in relationship one another to form unpredictable patterns.
The artist imagines and designs what he defines as “small systems” created in order to contrast the big systems of idealogy and politics.
painting  drawing  objects  things  diagrams  networks 
5 days ago
Conor McCafferty | Maps and Microphones
My own presentation looked at three areas:

Mapping sound maps: a whistle-stop tour of the 117 sound maps we’ve gathered so far for a database. This will form the basis of a critical review of sound maps, seeking useful points of dialogue with architecture and planning.
Listening and the urban environment: here, I gave some time to ideas around social listening in urban environments, drawing from a range of fields, including theories and writings by people like Peter Zumthor, David Toop, Pauline Oliveros and Klaske Havik.
Towards my research methodology: this final part focused on the work I’m developing in terms of critical review of sound maps, workshops with built environment professionals and initial ideas about an “urban sound pedagogy”
sound_space  sound_map  mapping 
6 days ago
About — Recomposing The City
Recomposing the City: Sonic Art and Urban Architectures is a collaborative research group based at the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities at Queen's University Belfast. Our mission is to bring together researchers and practitioners from a variety of disciplines in addressing the question: How can sound artists and architects working in collaboration generate new ways of analysing, understanding, and transforming urban spaces?  We will explore this question through seminars, events, publications, and design projects. Our ultimate aim is to support new design and development projects, and to improve the understanding of sound within architecture studies and practice.
sound  sound_space  sound_map 
6 days ago
Mapping and its Discontents | Global Urban Humanities
From lines drawn in clay to geographic information systems (GIS), humans for millenia have constructed an understanding of the world through visual representations of space. At this interdisciplinary symposium, mapmakers, users, and critics from the worlds of science, urban planning, architecture, history, and new media examined the ways maps work.
"Mapping and Its Discontents" was part of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, a major 3.5-year project supported by the Mellon Foundation. In this joint project, the College of Environmental Design and the Division of Arts & Humanities are collaborating to bring together scholars and practitioners across disciplines to investigate humans and the environments they inhabit and shape.
mapping  cartography 
6 days ago
Interview with Celia Lury, Luciana Parisi and Tiziana Terranova on Topologies
The claim we make in the introduction is that we no longer live in or experience movement or transformation as the transmission of fixed forms in space and time but rather movement – organised in terms of ordering and continuity of transformation – composes the forms of social life itself.  These dynamic, distinctively topological ‘abstractions’ emerge in practices of sorting, naming, numbering, comparing, and calculating. The effect of these practices is to introduce new continuities into a discontinuous world, linked to the topological forms of lists, models, networks, clouds, fractals and flows. There is a multiplication of relations of equivalence and difference and a radical expansion of the possibilities of establishing comparisons. Ordinal rankings or ratings, for example, are proliferating and increasing in importance not only in the economy but also in education, health, and popular culture, as they are used to derive and justify the allocation of resources....

our concern with the becoming topological of culture is necessarily a concern with how the computational transformation of technical machines and media into systems of organization, storage, transmission and control of information has led to a new form of culture defined by flows of data and by the rules, procedures, constrains through which they are ordered. So cultural topology for us is intrinsically affected by technology, to the extent that a technical machine is already a cultural, political and social universe that needs to be addressed.
lists  topology  networks  cloud  ontology  classification 
7 days ago
Preface · Maps are Territories
In 1987, a team of three people – Wade Chambers, David Turnbull and Helen Watson-Verran –began a systematic review and critique of the cross-cultural content of teaching materials in the academic field of *Science, Technology and Society*. In this book, one of several publications resulting from that collaboration, David Turnbull analyses maps both as a metaphor for knowledge and also as a major means of knowledge representation in a wide array of cultures. Many of the ideas presented in *Maps Are Territories* relate directly to other books in the *Imagining Nature* series, a list of which may be found on the imprint page. Underlying all books in this series is the conviction that the great nature-culture divide is an illusion, one might almost say, a figment of the Western imagination. In attempting to define our place in the world of nature, we deal not with nature on the one hand and culture on the other but rather with many and various cultural constructions of the natural world. This is really to suggest that nature, in the experience of humanity, is not singular but manifold. Understanding nature, in this larger and more intricate sense, involves close knowledge of relevant cultural traditions. Like the other books in this series, *Maps Are Territories* is conceived and structured not as a linear verbal narrative but as a progression of museum or gallery exhibits designed to exercise the skills of visualisation and visual analysis, so essential to any understanding of the basic theoretical issues of perception and cognition. A portfolio rather than a written text, each book stands alone and may be read without reference to the others. However, the full scope of the argument relating to the cultural dimensions of human perception of the natural environment will become clear only if the books are read in close conjunction. Throughout this period of course re-evaluation, discussions were held with representatives of the Deakin University Koori Teacher Education Project. Both the Koori Teacher Education Project and the Social Studies of Science course team supported the undertaking, with the aim of ensuring that Aboriginal knowledge receive more substantive and serious treatment in the University's curriculum as well as within the general forum of intellectual discussion.
mapping  indigenous  aboriginal 
7 days ago
'Color Girls': The Human Test Patterns of Color TV - The Atlantic
There are still occasions where the racial biases embedded in our cameras unexpectedly reveal themselves, as in 2009, when HP webcams had difficulties tracking the faces of African-American users. A year later, Microsoft’s XBox Kinect controller came under fire for a similar malfunction. Consumer Reports later attributed both problems to “low-level lighting and not directly to players’ skin color,” exonerating the two companies while sidestepping bigger questions about skin tone and the determination of “proper” lighting levels.

Nevertheless, unlike in the days of Paley and Sarnoff, some technology companies have begun to acknowledge these issues and take steps to address them. A particularly apt illustration of this transition is SRI's Visualizer Test Pattern, a display calibration tool created in the same Princeton facility where RCA scientists developed compatible color television. (SRI took over the research center following RCA's 1986 sale to General Electric.) This new test pattern, intended for digital video signals, features a racially diverse trio of models, rather than asking engineers to gauge picture quality on the basis of a single skin tone.
television  aesthetics  race  color 
7 days ago
BLDGBLOG: Transecting Amsterdam
Called Project 360º, it used the idea of the "transect" as a way to map and graphically depict pedestrian movement through urban space.
mapping  walking  psychogeography 
7 days ago
How to Avoid Being Fooled by Bad Maps - CityLab
As Mark Monmonier writes in the fantastic book How to Lie With Maps, Americans are taught from an early age to analyze and understand the meaning and manipulation of words, such as advertising, political campaigns, news and the like (to be “cautious consumers of words” as he puts it) but they are rarely taught the same skills about maps....

It’s no surprise then that people often assume maps are accurate, because it’s so often unclear how they are made—maps are “arcane images afforded undue respect and credibility” that are “entrusted to a priesthood of technically competent designers and drafters,” as Monmonier puts it. Almost everybody can write, but not everyone can make a map.

At the same time, the use of geographic information systems (GIS) has exploded as computers and software get more powerful and less expensive. New web mapping tools and the availability of data are democratizing cartography, allowing almost anyone to attempt mapmaking—something that was formerly possible only for experts or users of specialized software. That means many more people are creating their own maps, which is surely a good thing, but it also means that there are many more inaccurate, incorrect maps out there—either by design (to push viral or push a viewpoint) or because the creators don’t fully understand what they’re doing....

The source of the data on a map is one of the first things you should look for—where did this information come from? Is that a trustworthy source? Is it recent? Can you look at it yourself?...

A related feature to look out for is how the data is structured—is it the values of data itself, such as total unemployment or unemployment rate, or something else derived from that data? The farther away you get from the actual values, the more suspicious you should be. Are you looking at the rate of change, or even the decrease in the rate of change?...

Choropleth maps, which I mentioned earlier, can show data very effectively, but they can cause a lot of problems if used improperly. One of those is what’s called the “modifiable areal unit problem,” which arises because states, counties, census tracts and so on are not uniform in size or population, and population is not evenly distributed within them. This means that clusters or patterns in the real world can be obscured by the boundaries used to divide the data. You may need to dig into the data to understand those patterns....

Even the base data used for a map can have important consequences—boundaries, locations and so on. For example, Google Maps changes boundaries based on where you are: the boundaries of China, India and Pakistan are quite different in each country because of each country’s conflicting land claims. The company does the same thing for Crimea in Ukraine, Russia and the rest of the world, subtly adapting to (or even changing) perceptions for people in those countries. You might not realize something is off because you’ve always seen it the same way, while someone somewhere else may have seen different maps their whole life.

Even the way a map is shown can be important. The infamous Mercator projection being a notable example of exaggerating the size of Europe and North America while making Africa and South America appear much smaller than they really are. A funny example of this comes from the West Wing.
mapping  cartography  epistemology  education  geography  rhetoric  data 
10 days ago
Mapbox, OpenStreetMap, and the Future of the Global Digital Mapping Industry - CityLab
Maps may be a necessity of an empire, as Paul Ford writes on the rise of Google Maps in The New Republic this week, but whether that empire belongs wholly to Google is up for debate. Right now, the entire digital mapping industry is being re-mapped.

Last week, Mapbox, a map development company based in Washington, D.C., announced that it has raised some $52.55 million in Series B funding, a sum CEO Eric Gunderson called the biggest ever for a mapping company.

Mapbox doesn’t exactly make maps, though. It builds towers of software that organize sets of geo-spatial data for other kinds of businesses—real estate, transportation, agriculture, government, smartphone apps...

What’s key here is the basemap underpinning the above examples. You can see its tiny attributions in the corners: OpenStreetMap (OSM). Though Mapbox uses a mix of open-source, public-domain, and proprietary sources to generate maps, it relies heavily on OSM data as the bedrock of many of its products.

Founded in 2004 by Steve Coast, a British entrepreneur and cartographile, OSM is a totally free and open-source map of the world. Like Wikipedia, it is constantly being updated by a community of now more than two million members, who use GPS tools, satellite photographs, and their own local knowledge. Anyone can edit it. Many argue—and studies have shown—that the breadth of its team of contributors has given rise to data that is as good or even better than Google Maps. Community members verify new entries and correct mistakes.

... As of 2012, Apple, Foursquare, Craigslist, and Wikipedia (to name just a few) all built their maps using the Google Maps A.P.I. But today, none of those companies are using Google—partly because of how much Google started to charge for its services and data, and because of the limitations it draws around what companies can do with them.

All four of the aforementioned companies moved to using OSM (partially, in Apple’s case) because it’s free, and often as good as Google. And because the value of proprietary map data is rapidly plummeting as OSM gets better and better....

Besides OSM, there are three other global data sets: Google, TomTom, and Nokia’s HERE. You know Google’s map-making empire very well. The company employs a small army of professional mappers, editors, developers, designers, and 3-D-camera-mounted-van drivers to build and maintain its digital map. TomTom and HERE have similar, if smaller, operations, and they sell their data to other companies like Google does.

But it’s extremely costly to sustain these massive mapmaking operations through licensing schemes alone. Nokia is learning that lesson right now. The Finnish IT corporation purchased HERE, formerly known as Navteq, for more than $8 billion in 2007. Since then, HERE has aggressively competed to create digital maps as advanced as Google’s.

But in April, Nokia announced that HERE was for sale. Bids from companies ranging from Uber to Microsoft to a suite of carmakers have rolled in around the $2 and $3 billion mark. It’s a lot of money, but compared to what Nokia originally paid for, it’s bargain-bin. That confirms what Mapbox seems to have known for a long time: that the value of proprietary map data is approaching zero. In large part, that’s because of free sources like OSM.

It’s not the only way the geo-spatial landscape has rapidly evolved. “Ten years ago, maps were all about a navigation-use case,” writes Marc Prioleau, a location-based services expert who sits on Mapbox’s board of directors. “We looked at streets, addresses, POIs, maybe a little traffic. That's not true today. Today, it's about imagery, social media, real-time content, and much more. And three years from now, there will be only more data”—especially as location-based sensors increasingly populate the built environment....

Mapbox may be getting OSM data for free, but since its inception in 2010 it has made a point of collaborating extremely closely with the project. “We think of Mapbox as an OSM company,” says Gunderson. “We believe OSM is going to win.”

The company tasks a number of staff members with editing and improving the map daily. It also hosts mapping parties and workshops, helps organize yearly conferences, and regularly submits donations. Shortly after Mapbox announced its fresh round of funding, it donated $20,000 to the OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF.), the non-profit, volunteer-staffed entity that supports the project.

“Geospatial data is a project that’s too big solve by a single commercial entity with a business model based on commercializing that data,” says Alex Barth, who heads data at Mapbox. “Open collaboration around global map data is the future of maps. That’s it.”...

But there are obvious tensions, particularly as more eyes turn to OSM as a profitable data set, and to Mapbox, as the most successful company yet to have turned a profit from it. Some—though not all—OSM members are wary of commercial entities coming into “productify” what is an open-source, community-driven project. OSM’s license states that all uses (private, commercial, government, humanitarian) of its data are equally permissible, so long as the user gives proper attribution, and shares back to the OSM community any improvements to the map that she makes public....

For example, geocoding—attaching addresses to places on the map—is hard, time-consuming work, and most volunteer mappers, understandably, don’t want to spend time on it. At the same time, rich address data is crucial to fulfilling some of the most basic expectations of modern web maps. That’s an area where paid mapmakers—employees of companies invested in OSM’s accuracy—could help improve the project...

“[N]o one company should have a monopoly on place,” writes the mapper and self-proclaimed “ethical hacker” Serge Wroclawski. “Place is a shared resource, and when you give all that power to a single entity, you are giving them the power not only to tell you about your location, but to shape it.”

Certainly, Google Maps has features OSM may never have (Street View, for example). It will still be the place many, many people go for navigational directions. But right now, the free map of the world has more business-minded eyes on it than ever before. If the community it is built upon treads carefully on its foundation and takes care to protect the map, OSM will only get better.
mapping  open_street_maps  open_source  google  labor 
10 days ago
The Transformation of | The New York Public Library
While there’s a great number of resources on the site, we know we can make it better. We can make it easier to find things. We can offer you the opportunity to connect to communities and resources here at the library. We can offer you more access to our fantastic staff, our collections and our expertise. We can make it easier to attend a class, a lecture or ask a librarian a question. We can create a more personal experience and help you get the most out of this great community institution. We want to make the site easier to use, and easier to access, if you are looking at it on a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone.

In order to do that, we need to rebuild, redesign, and reorganize. We’ve launched a web redevelopment project that will take us into next year and allow us to begin offering new interfaces, new online tools, and new ways for you to interact with NYPL.  You’ll start seeing some of these changes later this fall as we really begin to roll up our sleeves and start building the new digital platform. There’s a great deal to do, with much needed re-tooling of the backend site structure as part of this initial effort, so many of the changes may not be immediately apparent.

We've just completed a 12-week concept phase of the redevelopment of the site. Working with the Portland, Oregon design firm Second Story, we kicked off the phase with a high-intensity boot-camp week of interviews with library departments and staff aimed at assessing everyone’s needs, and we’ve kept everyone at NYPL as involved as possible as the project has progressed. We completed an inventory of all our web content—and there is quite a lot—and created a series of visual designs to establish a design direction after receiving feedback from across our 92 branches. In addition, we began an assessment of the site's infrastructure and began exploring how new web technologies could be integrated into the new environment. Our vision for the site’s rollout is a continuation of the process. Parts of the site will be available in its first appearance while others will be developed in tandem. And even after the whole thing is “complete,” it still won’t be “done.” NYPL is always re-evaluating what it can provide for the public, and our approach to the new website will follow this philosophy.
libraries  interfaces 
12 days ago
Avidly / How Email Ruined My Life
Once I send an email, I can do nothing further until someone sends an email back, and thus in a sense, sending that email became a task in itself, a task now completed. More and more it is just a game of hot potato with everyone supposedly moving the task forward by getting it off their desk and onto someone else’s, via email. Every node in this network are themselves fighting to keep up with all their emails, in the back and forth required before anything can actually be done. The irony of the incredible speed of digital mediation is thus that it often results in an intractable slowness in accomplishing simple tasks. (My solution has been to return to the telephone, which easily reduces any 10-email exchange into a 2-minute conversation. Sidenote: I never answer my own phone.)

In case it isn’t already clear, such an onslaught of emails, and the pressure of immediacy exerted sometimes explicitly but mostly by the character of the media, means that we no longer get to leave work (or school, or our friends or our partners). We are always at work, even during time off. The joy of turning on our vacation auto-reply messages is cursory, for even as we cite the “limited access” we will have to email (in, like, Vancouver), we know that we can and will check it. And of course we know that everyone else knows that it’s a lie. Even if we really do take time away from email, making ourselves unavailable (not looking at email, not answering our texts) does not mean email has not been sent to us and is not waiting for us. And we know it, with virtually every fiber of our being. Our practical unavailability does not mitigate our affective understanding that if we ignore email too long, not only will work pile up, but there will be emotional consequences. I can feel the brewing hostility of the email senders: irritated, anxious, angry, disappointed. Even if I start to relax on one level, on another my own anxiety, irritation, and guilt begin to grow. Email doesn’t go away. It’s never over. It’s the fucking digital Babadook, a relentless, reflexive reminder of the unfathomable mass underlying every small transaction of information.
email  labor  productivity  digital_labor 
12 days ago
e-flux journal 56th Venice Biennale – SUPERCOMMUNITY – Field Guide to Skirmology: Handbook for the Skirmonaut
What are the self-assigned tasks of the Skirmonaut? They are necessarily self-assigned, for Skirmology is only ever an amateur science, if it can be designated a science at all. The task at hand is ostensibly to demarcate the screen. And this is precisely what operates at the degree zero of being any thing at all; hence the science thereof must remain an amateur endeavor (if by amateur we mean the rampant allowance for a total exemption from regulations—in which all linearity of thought and organized activity bursts into confetti skirmishes of sparkles, curves, the glitter of rogue galaxies).

The Skirmonaut, then, practices the unwitting, hasty, and only-ever-amateur art of an alchemical cartography that resembles most closely a provisional piracy, a disorganized navigation (in the quaintest, canonical sense), a frantic but constant assemblage. Skirmology is not the simple transcribing of the territory of the screen, but rather the establishing of an archaeology simultaneous to an unfolding of its topography....

Slightly displaced screenshot displayed upon screenshot. A sloppy palimpsest, a mock sedimentary cross section of an utterly fraudulent geology. A screen wishes to have no depth, but to operate (in loop) in that optative mode only begins to reveal its depths. Shimmering and scale-like. Positively piscine.
Multiple windows flattened into that instance of a click. (To study the Skirmonaut and its fugitive skirmishes may well lead to a musicology of click-cacophony, but in the end, the auditory has been bracketed.) All that remains is the study in camouflage, for in that instance of flattening, collapsing, only ostensible collapsing occurs—it is really collating, coagulating....

The screenshot becomes a divinatory map of screen-as-such. It is the image of the screen that most closely approximates it. It is, for a moment, the screen. It screens the screen. It screens screen screening.

Screening the screen, as it were. Threshold. Screenshot is playing at the threshold of screen as delimitation/delimited space versus threshold/window into something else.
mapping  cartography  screens  methodology  flattening 
13 days ago
Google's Sidewalk Labs is taking over the plan to blanket NYC with free Wi-Fi | The Verge
Earlier this month, Google announced the creation of Sidewalk Labs, an independent, Google-owned company that would focus on improving city living through technology innovations. At the time, Google didn't give any details about what projects it would be working on first, but now it seems that Sidewalk Labs is going to dive into the challenge of bringing widespread Wi-Fi to big cities — starting with New York City.

Sidewalk Labs just announced that it is launching Intersection — another new company formed of Control Group and Titan. While those names may not mean anything to you, Control Group and Titan were two of the key players behind the LinkNYC plan that was announced last fall. LinkNYC's goal was to convert the city's old phone booths into 10,000 ad-supported Wi-Fi "pylons," a plan that Bloomberg says is still scheduled to begin this fall. From there, the plan is to roll out similar programs in other cities, though where exactly this will happen hasn't been announced yet.
wifi  wireless  urban_archaeology  infrastructure  google 
13 days ago
A Roomful of Death and Destruction by Luc Sante | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
The room, the size of a large walk-in closet, was jammed to the ceiling with filing cabinets and boxes—250 cubic feet worth of material—and it reeked of vinegar. Lorenzini (who had previously brought to light the work of the great but unsung Eugene de Salignac, chronicler of the city’s bridges and structures from 1906 to 1934) spent weeks in the room, in a hazmat suit with breathing apparatus; when he took the subway home at night, people moved away from him. The odor came from the decay of acetate negatives; there were also many nitrate negatives, some of which were so corrupted they had to be disposed of immediately—nitrate still negatives are not quite as dangerous as nitrate motion-picture film coiled in metal cans, which is known to spontaneously combust, but almost. The room also contained many more recent polyester negatives, as well as some 2,000 glass plates and nearly two dozen boxes’ worth of prints. The final yield amounted to about 180,000 images from perhaps 50,000 cases, ranging from an uncertain point prior to 1914 all the way to 1972. In March, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced a grant of $125,000 to the Archives, to allow digitization of 30,000 pictures.....

The one blotter that Lorenzini could not locate was the first, which would have covered everything prior to 1925 or so, which means among other things that the dates of the earliest pictures can only be conjectured. The cases were numbered sequentially, at least at first; since case 599 dates from April 1914, for example, and 708 from June 1915, the earliest surviving pictures, which are in the single digits, might go back to 1910 or even farther, although Lorenzini is loath to speculate.

The 1926 photos have much in common with their counterparts from the previous decade. Police photographers—who included a few of the same people—were still employing bulky plate cameras, using wide-angle lenses (although perhaps not quite as extreme as in the earlier pictures), and lighting with magnesium powder. The slow decay of the flash, combined with the length of the exposures, softened edges and created penumbras, which goes a long way toward explaining the otherwise unaccountable lyricism of these images of death and destruction. Much of the subject matter is likewise familiar: murders, suicides, a few burglaries. Nevertheless, times have clearly changed. There are multiple car crashes, subway accidents, raids on speakeasies and gambling clubs, and, overwhelmingly, illegal stills. During Prohibition, bootleggers erected stills in all sorts of places, but particularly favored abandoned houses, where a still might be positioned—awkwardly—behind the door of an apartment, perhaps tall enough to poke through the ceiling to the floor above, with tubing running into closets.

The pictures are of undeniable photographic significance. Not every one is a masterpiece, but all display patient craftsmanship in their framing and lighting, making them seem lapidary, even definitive. Every picture is a tableau, complete unto itself. In addition, besides preserving the physical facts of important events and highlighting trends and aberrations in social behavior over the decades, the pictures record innumerable details of the appearance and atmosphere of the city in those decades. From them you can learn what kitchens looked like, how grocery stores decorated their display windows, how much trash accumulated in the street, what hazards attended the operation of open-top flivvers, and all about the wild variety of social clubs, illicit and otherwise, fancy or outré or irredeemably basic, that occupied an awful lot of the real estate in any era. They provide a vital and even visceral link to the city’s past, at a time when three-dimensional remnants of that past—buildings, along with their occupants—are being eliminated every day.
archives  photography  urban_history  crime  decay  everyday_life 
14 days ago
Archive basics : Austrian State Archives
Even though the “principle of provenance is in practice often considered to be less user-friendly, there are significant reasons that speak in favour of it.

The older “principle of pertinence”, according to which archives in former times used to organise official records according to their subject content without respect to provenance, only looks practical at first sight and more often than not, it cannot be applied consistently. In any event, records are taken out of their context of development thus robbing scholars of important potential to gain insights.
archives  organization  provenance  pertinence 
17 days ago
provenance | Society of American Archivists
The French conception of respect des fonds did not include the same stricture to maintain original order (referred to in French as respect de l'ordre intérieure), largely because French archivists had been applying what was known as the principle of pertinence and rearranging records according to their subject content.
archives  classification  provenance  pertinence 
17 days ago
William Larson: Fireflies | Gitterman Gallery Web Site
William Larson's Fireflies series (1969–1978) were some of the earliest digitally generated works of art. Larson utilized a technology new to the time to present a dynamic way of image making that extended the vocabulary of montage.

Larson used a Graphic Sciences DEX 1 Teleprinter, a sophisticated early fax machine, which converted pictures, text and sound into digitally-generated audio signals. These signals were transmitted over a telephone line and a stylus burned the image onto a special carbon-based paper, creating a unique “electronic drawing.” He was able to manipulate these images by altering the voltage of the output during the printing process, by moving the stylus during printing and by sending multiple transmissions to the same page, electronically layering images, text and visual representations of sound.

Larson conducted the technology to produce an almost random juxtaposition of dissimilar images. The symbolic, or poetic, potential of the juxtaposition references "the imperfect operations of memory or dreams."

With Fireflies, Larson sought to move beyond the traditional notion of what a photograph can be. He was interested in representing the fluidity of time with a static work of art. He stated: “I started to work and think of photography as a system of production, supporting a bias toward the additive possibilities of the medium, and less the subtractive, descriptive, or literal.”
photography  media_archaeology  fax  automation  telephone_art 
17 days ago
BS: Materiality, for Kittler, first of all, means an abyss of non-sense: that which has no meaning. That is the most important definition of what materiality means for Kittler. It is a polemical word: It has to do with his never-ending fight against sense-making systems like hermeneutics and philosophy and pedagogy and psychology—a battle guided by a deeply antihumanist rejection of the tradition of Enlightenment and of hermeneutic interpretation, of discourse systems. He wanted to show that these sense-making machines, these sense-making dispositifs or apparatuses, all are based on materialities that themselves do not make sense, are blind, dumb—but are all the more powerful for it.

And these are: storage media, transmission media, processing media, and so on. They have no spirit. They are geistlos, Kittler would have said; the spirit is processed, produced, by a hardware that is completely free of spirit, of meaning. Media technology is a huge abyss below ideal systems of making meaning....

GWY: I am, for instance, the wife of a Spanish peasant and I want to join my spouse in the New World. I now have to go through an immense, labyrinthine bureaucratic apparatus by stating who I am, by producing witnesses, getting documents, parroting standard phrases, obtaining signatures, and so on and so on.

At first glance, it looks as if we’re dealing with a fairly straightforward Foucauldian grid that is slowly lowered onto the great unlettered masses. And that would presuppose that you and I are preexisting identities that enter into a system of records. But we are actually brought about by the recording itself. And now comes your special point. This recording is a self-enclosed procedure...

BS: Right. And it is not only the subject—that is, the legal Spanish emigrant as a subject—that is produced or constituted by these procedures of writing. What is also produced is the flip side of the legal subject: the vagabond, the idler, all these figures that are denied access to the New World....

It all started with a theory that I call the “Two-Fly Theorem.” It concerns the little fly, the ever-present fly that sits in the Dutch still life. The theorem says that when you have a trompe l’oeil fly, you will always have a second fly. Perhaps more. There is never just one.

You have one diegetic fly that is sitting somewhere on a table, clearly within the fictive space of the image, and then you have another fly, the partner, which produces the illusion that it sits on the image support itself. There is a constant oscillation between the transparency of the illusionary pictorial space and the material opacity of the support.

Normally, trompe l’oeil is seen as an effect added to the still life to enhance its illusionary qualities. But what we are trying to show is that the trompe l’oeil is not added as manneristic embellishment to the still life. Rather, both trompe l’oeil painting and still-life painting are the precipitate of an unfinished—and never successfully completed—rejection of the trompe l’oeil from another medium: the illuminated book.

Still-life trompe l’oeil paintings retain a form of self-reference that we can trace back to late medieval Netherlandish book painting, where, since roughly 1470, you have an abundance of trompe l’oeils. When you study these book illuminations, which are traditionally seen as part of the Ghent-Bruges style from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, you encounter various stages of a process in which miniature, text, and border are differentiated, in order to establish a new “ontology” of the elements found on a book page—like letters, border decorations, perspectival images, grounds. And in the course of this process, the trompe l’oeil begins to disappear, to get pushed out from the page. Yet trompe l’oeil persists in another form: still-life paintings. These later manifestations of trompe l’oeil in paintings are evidence that the process of disappearance was never completed.

The argument, in short, is that in the last thirty years of the fifteenth century, book painting comes under pressure from two sides. First, panel painting is increasingly becoming the medium for artists. It is no longer restricted to altarpieces. Second, you have the printing press. The book becomes a different medium: It is no longer handwritten or handpainted. So you have a divide between writing and image, between the two-dimensionality of the printed text and the three-dimensional space of the picture, and you have the distribution of writing and image into new media—which does not produce, as one might think, the vanishing of the illuminated manuscript, but instead a very rapid development of certain elements of high self-referentiality. It is as if the illuminated book page becomes aware of its own mediality.

And you can see that everywhere. You have these interesting phenomena where the ground of the borders looks as if it were doubled. On the one hand, it is what it is: for instance, gold-covered parchment. On the other hand, it presents itself as a substance that is represented on that page.

You have the image ground, illuminated in gold or in green as the support for objects rendered in trompe l’oeil: flowers, insects, shells, plant tendrils. And at the same time the ground may show folds, may be curved instead of flat, may recede into some kind of imaginary depth and so appear as a depicted object itself.

So you have this doubling of the image support: the actual ground, on the one hand, and its representation, on the other. And the border occasionally develops into a niche structure, in which objects that formerly appeared as trompe l’oeil—seeming to sit on top of the image support, in “actual” space—now appear as part of the depicted fictive space. Hence the niche, which you encounter so often in early still lifes—think of Hans Memling—can be explained as a strategy to integrate the diverging medialities of the border and the miniature. In other words, the niche reconciles the orientation toward the material image support and the orientation toward the fictive image space.

So something that is usually thought of as a matter of style, a history of style, can instead be ascribed to a history of the differentiation of a medium. And with this, we arrive at the possibility of describing painted things like the niche as a reentry of the material side of one medium into the content side of another medium, or as the result of compromises between contradictory aspects of a medium that is in the process of differentiation....

GWY: What I find so beautiful here is the idea that a certain way down the road, a media type refunctionalizes something that was already present in its history, or to a certain degree even reacts to the fact that there is something still there that it no longer needs. So the medium turning on itself, to put it bluntly, allows precisely for the effect of representation. It is via self-referentiality that the closed system becomes lucid, for looking through....

BS: Now, however, cultural techniques may be seen to encompass everything from gadgets, artifacts, and infrastructures all the way to skills, procedures, technologies. Not only machines but legal procedures, sacred rituals, and so on. And we might say that if Kittler’s version of media theory was antihermeneutic, cultural techniques may be called posthermeneutic. Media and technology are no longer playing the bogeyman to meaning. Instead, we can look at a door, for example, as both a material object and a symbolic thing....

GWY: The materialities of jurisprudence.

BS: The law is always bound to certain spaces. Law is not everywhere. It cannot be here in this restaurant. It can only be produced in certain spaces, and these spaces are clearly marked by instruments, by techniques.

GWY: And in a later book, Vismann says that a court of law is almost identical to theatrical space. You’ve got a stage. You’ve got opponents. You’ve got people cordoned off....

BS: Within the context of cultural techniques, the production occurs via what we call ontic operations, or chains of operations. This goes back to a concept that was first brought up by André Leroi-Gourhan. Bruno Latour and others then extended this into the idea of recursive chains of operations.

We use the concept of recursive chains of operations that are completely ontic. So the operation of a door or a switch—these are all techniques that are producing a difference and thereby creating what they differentiate. It’s not given before, but it’s created by these techniques.

Through these operations, an ontology is produced: the ontology of the digital, for instance, which is produced by declaring parts of the analog continuum of the world as nonreal. So ontic operations produce ontology....

BS: ...what Latour calls immutable mobiles, we could call cultural techniques—maps, diagrams, perspectival representations, but also other systems and tools....

BS: ...Carl Schmitt, who wrote widely about the difference between land and sea as a fundamental difference for the history of the world..... The modern invention of the container redefined the difference between land and sea in an absolutely radical way, because it was invented to bridge infrastructures that are land-bound and infrastructures that are sea-bound.... Netscape’s early browser was called Navigator. You remember the ubiquitous ship’s-wheel icon. So from the earliest antiquity until today, our culture has described itself in terms of concepts that can be anthropologically explained by this original act of leaving the land.
painting  cultural_technique  materiality  media_history  navigation 
17 days ago
Urban Omnibus » Old Maps, New Tricks: Digital Archaeology in the 19th-Century City
Beneath every map’s intended cartographic purpose lie veins of additional information, clue-laden contexts with the potential to inform contemporary research and historical inquiry. Leah Meisterlin and Gergely Baics, an urbanist and urban historian, respectively, are working together to unlock some of that latent data and interrelate them with a wide range of relevant datasets. Through this combination of emerging mapping technologies and deep historical research, the pair is opening up new seams in experimental urban research....

While the cartographer’s tools have advanced greatly, this sort of purposive data mapping is also not particularly new. Prominent examples date back almost two centuries, including John Snow’s famous 1854 cholera map of London’s Soho neighborhood (see Figure 1) and William Perris’s 1852-54 fire insurance atlas of New York City (see Figure 2). Like today’s data-driven maps, Snow focused his readers’ attention on a specific problem crafted from his information: the clustering of cholera deaths surrounding the Broad Street water pump to support his argument against the miasmatic theory of disease. Perris provided his audience of insurance underwriters with maps that foregrounded significant information for use in risk assessment, including the location, size, land use, and construction material of each building in the city. Where Snow had to find a quick and easy way to visually represent individual cases of cholera deaths, for which he decided to use parallel black bars building by building, Perris faced the challenge of inventing an entire nomenclature of colors and symbols to document various aspects of the urban landscape...

What is now newly emerging is the ability to apply advanced digital mapping methodologies to extract and study the data embedded within these historical representations of the city, as well as to introduce and interrelate new datasets with the original maps. Imagine this as a sort of digitally enabled cartographic archaeology: we may uncover layers of information in the city beneath the data — drawn to varying extents and intended as contextual reference by the authors — just as we would sift through other historic sites. With access to a wide range of information pertaining to demographics, economics, and public health in the 19th century, we can introduce new data sources to the original maps, using visual overlays and various new tools to interrelate these data. The real task becomes identifying the kinds of questions to ask, types of data to include, and methodologies to introduce to the analysis...

While originally intended to convey a landscape of death relative to pump locations, we can also read those layers relative to the walkable geography of the neighborhood. With the detailed representation of streets, Snow offers us the basis of a networked dataset of origins (homes) and destination (the Broad Street pump) for the daily activity of acquiring water — as essential and fundamental a routine as procuring provisions, attending church, or socializing with neighbors...

The next step would be to reconstruct the other determinants of this neighborhood geography, including demographics, land-use patterns, the distribution and types of businesses and activities on and near Broad Street, or the commuting patterns of residents, each of which requires introducing additional sets of data. Moving beyond the question of cholera, we could then begin to reflect on 19th-century working-class neighborhood life with the provisioning of water as one spatial determinant sourced from Snow’s map. By mobilizing emerging mapping technologies upon the historical maps and sources available, we can thus excavate and reconstruct urban history layer by layer.
mapping  cartography  data  urban_history 
18 days ago
Theory in Studio: The Archive as Expressive Form - BURNAWAY
Archival art draws its inspiration and coherence not from theories of the archive but from archives themselves. As Sven Spieker argues in his book The Big Archive, its basic form comes from bureaucratic and state archives as they emerged at the end of the 19th century. Paperwork was the lifeblood of these organizations, necessitating the creation of systems for collecting, storing, and managing the enormous volume of documents they produced. Bureaucracy imposed a functional distinction between the registry, where documents still in circulation resided, and the archive, where they were transferred when their useful lifespan had ended. This new cultural form, and its associated technical apparatus of typewriters, carbon paper, card indexes, cabinets, and file folders, provides the template for these works.

These material characteristics of archives, including their procedures for handling and storing the byproducts of the new bureaucracy, were transferred over to archival artworks, and in the process, the archive was reborn as a new artistic medium in its own right. Understanding archival art, then, requires making explicit the rules that determine how archival materials may be manipulated, combined, and arranged to produce new works—that is, the rules that govern the archive as an expressive form....

A second opposition is between works that keep their temporal focus on the past vs. the present. Archives look backwards, making them a natural medium for historical exploration. But they can equally be of the present, as they strive to capture history as it flows past us. Politically engaged archival works such as those produced by the Raqs Media Collective and the Arab Image Foundation do this most urgently, following the dictum of the group: “Don’t wait for the archive.” These projects aim not to be chronicles of history but interventions into it, establishing sites for collective self-representation outside of the umbrella of the state and other institutional actors. In their own way, enterprises like the monumental 9/11 chronicle Here is New York do the same, compiling all images of the day regardless of who took them and displaying them in no particular order and with minimal identifying information—a strategy that pushes the collection of records past all sensible systems of classification into a mere blur of accumulation....

the same formal devices can be used to subtly erode the notion of logic, erasing it in favor of juxtapositions and associative leaps. This was the avowed goal of the Bureau of Surrealist Research, established in 1924 to create, in André Breton’s terms, “an archive of the unconscious.” Located in a two-story Paris apartment, the Bureau mimicked the structure of the modern office, with carefully kept records of visitors, phone calls, and correspondence, as well as filing cabinets crammed with folders. All of these activities were organized towards the goal of making blankly mechanical transcriptions of dreams, chance images, and other trains of associative thought, which would be dutifully filed without imposing any preordained system of classification that might disrupt the hidden skein of the unconscious. The Bureau functioned as an office, but it also parodied the office form, inverting its information-handling practices and their implicit values. These systems of illogic highlight the roots of the archive in collage, just as the reuse of found materials highlights its links with the readymade.
archive_art  materiality  paperwork  bureaucracy  organization 
19 days ago
Histories, Theories and Practices of Sound Art
Traditionally, the curator has been affiliated to the modern museum as the persona who manages an archive, and arranges and communicates knowledge to an audience, according to fields of expertise (art, archaeology, cultural or natural history etc.). However, in the later part of the 20th century the role of the curator changes – first on the art-scene and later in other more traditional institutions – into a more free-floating, organizational and ’constructive’ activity that allows the curator to create and design new wider relations, interpretations of knowledge modalities of communication and systems of dissemination to the wider public.
sound_art  curating  sound  exhibition_design 
20 days ago
Lewis Kaye, “Reanimating Audio Art: The Archive as Network and Community” | Histories, Theories and Practices of Sound Art
Audio art is a technologically dependent practice, and its fundamentally mediated existence leaves it profoundly sensitive to the material conditions of its reproduction. In other words, the actual sound of any particular audio artwork, and hence how it’s heard and perceived by a given audience, will necessarily be transformed by the technological system used to make it audible. This raises a basic question for the archiving of audio art: how do we archive such work knowing the act of reproduction will inevitably alter its experience? This paper proposes the method of archival reanimation as a means of embracing the technological variability at the heart of audio art presentation. Archival reanimation is a methodology whereby audio artists, curators and audiences are engaged in a collective and collaborative process that sees single or multiple artworks remounted, and ultimately rearticulated, with an ear towards the contingent spatial, technological, and curatorial conditions present for a given presentation context. Such a process understands audio art as dynamic and performative, suggesting the idea of an audio art archive, and by extension the sound archive in general, as not simply a repository of things but as a network and community.
sound_art  archives  performance  sound_space 
20 days ago
Richard McGuire on “Here,” His Groundbreaking Graphic Novel
What does the book do that hasn’t been done before, and what’s happening to visual reading?

The way simultaneousness is presented feels unique to the medium. If you were writing this story out as text, it would be a long string of events and descriptions connected by the word meanwhile. With film, you can use a split screen to show two different events, but if you add more than two it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of what’s happening without missing something. With comics, that frozen image is easier to take in. The reader can move around within it. 

And that simultaneousness actually feels close to how we think. If you stop and try to examine your thoughts, it’s always a jumble of memories and projections. We are all zooming around in time in our heads. We’re rarely in the present—we’re more often anticipating events, or thinking back to a memory of yesterday or last week or our childhoods, and then suddenly jumping ahead again.

In the book, the room is presented as a full double-page spread. The corner of the room is in the gutter of the book, so the opened book echoes the architecture of the space and puts the reader into the room. Each spread is marked with a date in the upper left corner. You time travel as you flip pages. Smaller panels with dates show other moments happening in the space at different times. The book may push the traditional formal aspects of the comics medium, but I think people are very used to reading multiple windows on their computers—it’s all clearly presented and understandable....

Each medium has its strengths. The book form works perfectly for telling this story, but I also wanted to push the nonlinear aspects of the storytelling. I imagined an interactive version that could randomize all the panels and backgrounds and reshuffle them, and with the new combinations come new connections within the story. I spoke about this possibility at a lecture I gave, and by luck there was a developer in the audience, Stephen Betts, who knew how it could be done. We collaborated on that for two years, right alongside of the making of the paper version. Stephen wrote a lot of programing for what became the e-book. It’s unlike any other I’ve ever seen. It also incorporates animated GIFs and, for me, those little looped movements feel the closest to single memories.
media_architecture  textual_form  home  temporality  narrative  medium_specificity 
20 days ago
Julian Rose on Wolfgang Tillmans’s Book for Architects - / in print
ALTHOUGH WOLFGANG TILLMANS’S Book for Architects, 2014, offers an encyclopedic survey of the contemporary built environment, those to whom its title is addressed are likely to recognize surprisingly little of their own handiwork. Architects have never lacked ego, and we live in an age in which their trade has taken on an outsize importance and unprecedented popularity as a premium product of the international culture industry—charged with all manner of place making and identity branding. But this has led to a myopic understanding of architecture as little more than a series of individual buildings as prestige projects, isolated urban interventions that remain largely discrete from the broader contexts they seek to transform...

The result is an equally radical rejoinder to both the glossy coffee-table volumes and the vapid Tumblr-style blogs that play such a major role in defining architecture’s cultural status today; it presents architecture not as it is conceived by its practitioners, or as it is pictured in the popular imagination, but as it actually exists in the world.

At first glance, things look grim. As the installation’s dual digital projectors silently cycle through the images at an unremitting pace, the initial impression is of an oppressive sameness. Take the numerous aerial views of cities—bleak, gray, gridded, relentless. A similar uniformity is visible in many interiors, particularly spaces of transit (airports, hotels) and consumption (shopping malls, storefronts)...

This repetitiveness is not rooted in the individual photographs themselves, which have the spontaneity typical of Tillmans’s work and are often stunning in the sheer visual complexity and variety with which they map architecture’s dense, tangled textures across myriad scales of construction, ranging from individual rooms to entire municipalities. Rather, the consistency seems to emerge inexorably from Tillmans’s subject matter itself, almost in spite of the endlessly varied perspectives he presents (a variation reinforced by the format of the slides, where images are often paired or even layered on top of each other). In this sense, his project is a distinct departure from the long tradition of typological architectural analysis carried out by artists and architects such Bernd and Hilla Becher, Dan Graham, Ed Ruscha, or Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, who used a standard format to emphasize uniformity in their subjects. Moreover, their projects tended to focus on a literally superficial similarity, with each structure typically presented in a frontal facade view, while Tillmans emphasizes a more fundamental similarity in the experience of space, suggesting that the physical symptoms of globalization are the same, no matter where or how you look...

Even more subversive are the photographs whose subjects are almost, but not quite, identifiable as famous buildings. A swath of fussily patterned curtain wall, an aggressively faceted corner, the hint of a dramatic curve—these moments suggest that the highly individualized styles of today’s top architects may be more a matter of marketing than reality, ultimately reducible to a remarkably similar set of material palettes, structural systems, and formal strategies. Tellingly, too, these images collapse the distinction between individual and corporate authorship upon which so many assumptions about the cultural value of architecture are founded. Zaha Hadid? Kohn Pedersen Fox? Without a full picture, it’s hard to say.

In the process of breaking down icons into fragments, Tillmans undermines not just the buildings themselves but the conventions of architectural photography. The medium has long colluded in flattening the specificity and complexity of spatial constructions into easily consumed images, aiding in architecture’s reduction to branding and speeding its transformation into commodity. Tillmans makes this point bluntly in several images of the billboards often erected at construction sites, where garish, photo-realistic renderings trumpet idealized visions of the developments to come....

The results of Tillmans’s scrutiny are sometimes hilarious. Again and again, we see the endless contingencies through which buildings escape architects’ oversight, the numerous ways in which even the most carefully considered designs are no match for the messy business of daily use, of changing needs and passing time: A mass of hoses is jammed through a wall to enable the ad hoc installation of an air conditioner; a tangle of cables running across a ceiling disrupts the carefully articulated union of a beam and a column; gobs of expanded foam insulation ooze out of the gap around a retrofitted pipe and dribble down toward the floor. These are the kinds of things that drive most architects crazy.

But at other times, the results of the artist’s examination are simply heartbreaking. This is particularly true of the images of a multipart cardboard shelter constructed against the polished granite base of what appears to be an office high-rise: an example not just of the ways in which buildings and urban spaces inevitably seem to be adapted far beyond their designers’ intentions, but also a reminder that often architects are so focused on aesthetic control that they lose their ability to address the broader social and economic realities in which their designs are embedded.
media_architecture  photography  globalization  authorship  installation 
20 days ago
Stephen Burt on Richard McGuire’s Here - / in print
ALL COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS turn space into time, but no other graphic novel does it like Here: Its 150-odd two-page spreads depict the same place, from the same perspective, at moments that vary across hours and centuries. During the 1900s and early 2000s, when most of the graphic novel takes place, the site is a parlor, or a living room: We gather the scattered evidence and watch (it’s like collating out-of-order snapshots) as families come in, grow up, move out. Millions of years back, the place was a swamp; six hundred years back, Native Americans hunted there, and McGuire draws them too. Views from decades to come show the once and future home as a war zone, a flood zone, a hologram-filled tourist site. (Climate and foliage suggest present-day New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, or Long Island.)

To turn the pages of Here is to travel unpredictably in time, through spaces united by McGuire’s clean lines and solid-color planes: The spreads are consistently gorgeous, even when period decor means 1970s mustard tones or midcentury modern tan and brown. Yet McGuire’s most impressive time travel takes place not between but within pages. Inset panels show parts of the same room at different times; each page’s panels rhyme, so to speak, by depicting similar or related actions....

Such rhyming actions and echoing images, often across generations, do the work that another book would assign to plot: They hold the volume together. There are repeating patterns in what McGuire’s people do. They are born; they toddle; they wrestle; they tumble; they play the piano; they hammer, paint, clean, and decorate. They celebrate birthdays; they nap; they have sex; they read books; they fall down; they kill, and they die. A kid builds a block tower that resembles a cairn; a woman in 1986 scrubs the floor on hands and knees and muses, “Eventually I’ll know nothing”; a wolf on the same page gnaws a bloodstained limb in 1430 CE...

Every home, McGuire implies, is a burial place and a stage, as well as an archaeological site with layers (like Heinrich Schliemann’s Troy) and a time machine: To look at a place over time is to commemorate, to honor, and even to mourn. It is also to see rebirth, and to learn how generations repeat themselves: “It’s always like this. This is how it is,” one elderly lady exclaims in 1998.

Yet if people don’t change—or not as much as we think—our ways of seeing them certainly do: McGuire’s characters carry plein air easels, install TV screens, pose for photographs, view home movies, and stick their heads out windows whose squared-off panes resemble comics, shouting, “Shut up! I’m trying to read!” No creator this side of Chris Ware has so self-consciously made comics that reflect on the process of making comics. Clever framing, McGuire’s art implies, helps us to see what we otherwise overlook, and to feel less overwhelmed by the march of events. ...

Yet this is not to call McGuire’s characters helpless: They build houses, after all, and the houses last for generations, though not for eternity. On one spread, overlapping panels, all labeled 1907, show the same man nine times, in nine positions, as he constructs the wood-frame home. His beams and planks arrange and enclose the air much as panels in comics seal the world onto a page. That 1907 scene is a tour de force, though it’s not exactly alone: McGuire uses the same stroboscope-like effect to show a woman (six times) as she runs away from a pigeon (six pigeons) trapped indoors...

That circular watch or clock face might be the strongest of the book’s many repeated signs. Though McGuire covers all of life’s stages, the longest and most affecting mini-storylines describe either making art, or growing old. A mirror falling in 1949, an arrow in midair in 1402, the ocean encroaching in 2111, a young girl whispering in the ear of an older one in 1990—almost everything McGuire portrays can be, if not a memento mori, a reminder that time changes everything. Late in the book a gramophone plays an old song: “The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble,” but (McGuire leaves it to us to complete the chorus) “our love is here to stay.”
graphic_novels  comics  media_architecture  narrative  history  palimpsest  home  temporality 
20 days ago
LIGHT REPAIRS: A ROUNDTABLE ON THE RESTORATION OF MARK ROTHKO’S HARVARD MURALS by Yve-Alain Bois, Harry Cooper, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, Ken Okiishi, R. H. Quaytman, David Reed, Jeffrey Weiss, and Michelle Kuo - / in prin
In 1962, Mark Rothko created the Harvard Murals, a set of six monumental paintings, five of which were displayed in the penthouse dining room of the university’s Holyoke Center, a windowed perch with stunning views. Deeply and delicately hued expanses, the canvases ranged in color from searing orange-red to light pink to dark purple. But in the decade that followed, continual exposure to daylight drastically changed the works, fading them so that some areas lightened to near white while others turned a dull black. Languishing in storage for many years, the works were thought to be beyond repair. But recently, a team of conservators and scientists made a new and unprecedented attempt to restore the pictures—not with pigment or chemicals but with light: For each canvas, they devised a highly complex colored-light projection that, when shone on the work, returns it to its original coloration. What we see is what was meant to be seen, ostensibly....

LYNN HERSHMAN LEESON: I am struck by the fact that Rothko was trying to give an impression of light to his painting, and here the light is trying to give an impression of painting. It is an inverse effect. But I wonder why it is necessary to have a canvas at all! Why not just show these as literal—

R. H. QUAYTMAN: As a projection of the painting, you mean?

LYNN HERSHMAN LEESON: As a projection or some artifact depicting what the work is like. This is a mediated version that’s almost like a séance—...

HARRY COOPER: That gets right to the question of what is left of the paintings in the experience. And Lynn, you’re suggesting that maybe very little is left of the original paintings in this séance, as you called it.

LYNN HERSHMAN LEESON: Yes. Because it is an approximation from the period photographs of the paintings, right?

CAROL MANCUSI-UNGARO: Yes. The Ektachrome slides of the murals were made in 1964, and they provided a record of the paintings before the damage. But given the nature of Ektachrome slides, they tend to emphasize red and change over time. So the first step taken by the scientists was to digitally restore the faded slides in collaboration with the Digital Humanities Lab at the University of Basel. And then the second source for the unfaded original color was the sixth panel that Rothko had made for the commission but ultimately rejected. It had remained in the possession of the estate....

YVE-ALAIN BOIS: The only problem I have with projected lights, concerning Rothko in particular, is that projected light only lights the surface: The delicate underlayers are lost. If you shine more light, then that surface effect would get even more pronounced. So I thought that the low level of light in the gallery was actually a good idea—to try to approximate the way the work would have been lit, to have some of the underlayers show through.

KEN OKIISHI: I also don’t think that a pure projection, without the paintings, would be able to produce the mixture of pigment and light that would approximate what a painting looks like. With a digital projector, the image is always flattened to a greater degree than when you have light reflected off pigment. So I found that mixture very interesting....

DAVID REED: Even with a normal Rothko under normal lighting, it’s hard to tell exactly what is the materiality of the paint and what is the inner light emanating from the canvas. Looking at these canvases under the projected light, I had that same kind of confusion. It’s typical of Rothko, and I think it’s to be expected from his paintings. I like the confusion between “What is the light?” and “What is the materiality?”

JEFFREY WEISS: But to me, these remarks are still based on the idea that we’re looking at the paintings through projected, colored light, as opposed to the way they were intended to function, which is to conjure a metaphoric impression of inner light using the material means of paint and canvas alone, in combination with the illumination of the room, of course.

I’m full of admiration for what the Rothko team has done, and the care with which it’s been executed. My concern is that the impression we have from this installation is unnervingly real—which makes it easy for us to forget that it’s an illusion, for the most part. It’s the substitution of one medium for another....

YVE-ALAIN BOIS: I also saw the Sackler show in 1993, and at that time I came away thinking that the whole idea behind the show, on which conservators and curators collaborated, was to justify the situation: “It wasn’t Harvard’s fault.” Of course, this was before your time, Carol. If I remember well, the wall text referred to Rothko’s pigment as “fugitive,” implying that he knowingly used paint that would fade. There were tiny samples of canvas said to have been painted with the same colors that Rothko had used, and to have been submitted to the same harsh light conditions—it looked like the result of a forensic investigation, the gist of which was to blame Rothko himself...

MICHELLE KUO: One more technically minded issue is the difference between analog and digital. When we are working with printing digital images, we have to toggle between CMYK, which is the main model of color printing, and RGB, which is what you see on the screen. So the translation from a digital image to an analog, materially printed image is something we’re always wrestling with. It’s never commensurate....

HARRY COOPER: I’m a little uncomfortable with this idea that what we’re getting in the project when the lights are on is a digital experience. I would say it is partly an experience of extremely high-resolution, digitally produced light, but one that is married—through this amazing amount of work, in the most cellular way—to the structure of paint and canvas....

DAVID REED: I have a lot of thoughts about these paintings that I think I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t seen them in this revived state. To me, the experience drove home the fact that the paintings are meant to function as a group—to become one experience. That’s one reason I think the projections do work, because they even out all the background colors so the paintings can be seen together....

CAROL MANCUSI-UNGARO: According to Jens, the compensation images were calculated from a very large data set, addressing each of more than two million locations, or pixels, on each painting. They took into account reflectance, the ambient light that would blend with the projector light, as well as many other variables, and refined the images even further to account for uniformity across the panels, etc...

YVE-ALAIN BOIS: Another amusing moment during the ritual of switching off the projection is when the conservators show you how it’s done. They bring you a piece of white card and pass it in front of the projection—so it’s between the painting and the projection—and you see that the projected coloration is really pixel by pixel.

And you realize that the amount of work that went into this is quite amazing. You also realize that sometimes the colors they have added in order to obtain what you see are very surprising. The color correction is completely unlike what you would expect....

KEN OKIISHI: I found the whirring of the projector very distracting. So on a sound level, I found the restoration rather unsuccessful.

JEFFREY WEISS: And the projection slightly exceeds the lower margin of the painting—

CAROL MANCUSI-UNGARO: There is a reason for that. Jens had to deal with the fact that a digital projector produces images that have the so-called screen-door effect: Each pixel has a dark square around it. These are very thin dark lines, but unacceptable for a painting restoration tool. To eliminate this problem, he defocused the projector a small amount, which creates a slightly soft edge of the compensation image and a slight overspill.
painting  conservation  materiality  medium_specificity  light  simulacrum  forensics 
20 days ago
Paul Ford: What is Code? | Bloomberg
The hardest work in programming is getting around things that aren’t computable, in finding ways to break impossible tasks into small, possible components, and then creating the impression that the computer is doing something it actually isn’t, like having a human conversation. This used to be known as “artificial intelligence research,” but now it’s more likely to go under the name “machine learning” or “data mining.” When you speak to Siri or Cortana and they respond, it’s not because these services understand you; they convert your words into text, break that text into symbols, then match those symbols against the symbols in their database of terms, and produce an answer. Tons of algorithms, bundled up and applied, mean that computers can fake listening.

A programming language has at least two jobs, then. It needs to wrap up lots of algorithms so they can be reused. Then you don’t need to go looking for a square-root algorithm (or a genius programmer) every time you need a square root. And it has to make it easy for programmers to wrap up new algorithms and routines into functions for reuse. The DRY principle, for Don’t Repeat Yourself, is one of the colloquial tenets of programming. That is, you should name things once, do things once, create a function once, and let the computer repeat itself. This doesn’t always work. Programmers repeat themselves constantly. I’ve written certain kinds of code a hundred times. This is why DRY is a principle.
programming  code 
21 days ago
It’s a Mistake to Mistake Content for Content - The Los Angeles Review of Books
I have more MP3s than I’ll ever be able to listen to in the next 10 lifetimes, yet I compulsively keep downloading more. In this way our role as librarians and archivists has outpaced our role as cultural consumers. Engaging with media in a traditional sense is often the last thing we do, that is (like my Feldman experience), if we ever get to it at all. In the digital ecosystem, the apparatuses surrounding the artifact are more engaging than the artifact itself. Management (acquisition, distribution, archiving, filing, redundancy) is the cultural artifact’s new content. Context is the new content. In an unanticipated twist to John Perry Barlow’s 1994 prediction that in the digital age we’d be able to enjoy wine without the bottles, we’ve now come to prefer the bottles to the wine.

Back in 1983, the media critic and philosopher Vilém Flusser (1920–1991) described this exact phenomenon in a little book called Towards a Philosophy of Photography. Flusser claimed that the content of any given photograph is actually the camera that produced it. He continued with a series of nested apparatuses: The content of the camera is the programming that makes it function; the content of the programming is the photographic industry that produces it; and the content of the photographic industry is the military-industrial complex in which it is situated, and so forth. He viewed photography from a completely technical standpoint. In Flusser’s view, the traditional content of the cultural artifact is completely subsumed by the apparatuses — technical, political, social, and industrial — surrounding, and thereby defining, it....

The mistake most make in reading Flusser is assume that he’s talking about photography. Yes, he is, but that’s the least relevant part. Imagine, instead, that everything he’s saying about photography he’s saying about the digital. This requires an act of imaginative translation on our part, but once you make that leap, you realize that this 1983 text astonishingly directly addresses our situation some three decades later. For instance, Flusser claimed that the camera was the ancestor of apparatuses, which are in the process of “robotizing all aspects of our lives, from one’s most public acts to one’s innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires.” And when we look at social media — from blogs, to Twitter, to Facebook, and to Instagram — we can see he was correct. The Twitter game is like Wittgenstein’s language games; we must learn the rules in order to play. Obeying such rules — going with the apparatus instead of against it — results in victories, substantiated by gains in followers and retweets. Failure to follow the rules (there are no official rules, actually, only a set of community-based standards that most players unquestioningly follow) results in isolation: loss of followers and tweets that go unretweeted....

In fact, content plays no role whatsoever in Flusser’s writing. A photograph is not a carrier of memories — your baby pictures are interchangeable with a million other baby pictures — but a predetermined artifact spit out by the camera apparatus. The camera is a voracious, greedy device, programmed to stalk images the way an animal stalks prey: the camera smells blood and (literally) snaps. Like Twitter, the more you shoot, the more you become addicted to the photographic apparatus, which Flusser likens to opium addiction or being on a “photograph-trip.” In the end, you end up working for the camera and the industry that produced it. The more people who use an apparatus, the more feedback the company receives about its camera, the smarter it becomes, drawing more users to its base, thereby increasing the manufacturer’s bottom line. For this reason, Instagram keeps adding new filter sets and features in order to retain and broaden its user base....

Once we buy into a specific apparatus, it’s awfully hard to leave it. Your cultural artifact is locked within that system, constrained by its programming.
apparatus  media_theory  materiality  photography  Flusser  political_economy  object_oriented_philosophy  path_dependency  protocol  programming 
22 days ago
Where Your Old Electronics Go to Die (or Maybe Even Live Again)
Welcome to the Brooklyn e-waste warehouse of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, where the outmoded detritus of modern-day life comes to die a somewhat dignified death. The warehouse has been operational since 2012, providing a drop-off point for used computers, televisions, phones, gaming consoles, audio equipment, and associated gadgets of all kinds. Now, with the recent implementation of a new law banning curbside disposal of electronics in the city, the LES Ecology Center’s mission of working “toward a more sustainable New York City” has gained a new urgency.

...Recycling companies (LES Ecology Center works only with those carrying “e-Steward” certification) remove components that contain toxins such as mercury, sending the rest to the shredder. Then, optical sorting machines separate metals and plastic, and those components go back into the commodities market....

There are a few viable bits of old technology in the never-ending stream of waste, cherry-picked from the heaps of junk by the small group of staff and volunteers who work at the warehouse. LES Ecology Center sells many in its e-waste store, where you can find turntables and amps in excellent working condition, as well as relatively recent laptop models.

Other items, more antique, are destined for the prop-rental library. Here, TV and film companies can find everything they need to outfit the set of a production about, say, a 1980s hacker. In the props department you will find rows of Macintosh Classics, massive boomboxes, telephones of every conceivable generation, Commodore 64 gaming consoles, and many other remnants of futures past.
e-waste  recycling  electronics 
25 days ago
Google creates Sidewalk Labs to redesign city living with technology | The Verge
Google is continuing its expansion into every corner of human life. The search giant today announced the creation of Sidewalk Labs, a new and independent company that Google CEO Larry Page says will focus on improving city living for everyone by developing new technologies to deal with urban issues like cost of living, transportation, and energy usage. The new company, based in New York, will be headed by headed by Dan Doctoroff, formerly New York Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and Bloomberg CEO.

Page did not specify exactly how the new company plans to change city living for the better, but said that Sidewalk Labs, will build, buy, and invest in technologies in order to achieve its goals. In its announcement press release, the company said that "while there are apps to tell people about traffic conditions, or the prices of available apartments," the biggest challenges facing cities — "such as making transportation more efficient, lowering the cost of living, reducing energy usage, and helping government operate more efficiently" — have so far been left unaddressed by technology.
data  smart_cities  solutionism  methodology 
26 days ago
Unknown Fields Division - Mission
The Unknown Fields Division is a nomadic design research studio that ventures out on expeditions to the ends of the earth to bear witness to alternative worlds, alien landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness. These distant landscapes - the iconic and the ignored, the excavated, irradiated and the pristine, are embedded in global systems that connect them in surprising and complicated ways to our everyday lives. In such a landscape of interwoven narratives, the studio uses film and animation to chronicle this network of hidden stories and re-imagine the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures.
infrastructure  infrastructural_tourism  geology  extraction  media_archaeology  energy 
26 days ago
ML: Macaulay Library: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
We invite you to explore the world's largest archive of wildlife sounds and videos.

Our mission: To collect, preserve, and facilitate the use of wildlife recordings for science, education, conservation, and the arts.
archives  sound_archives  sound_space  nature  wildlife 
26 days ago
The Personal Touch: Using Anecdotes to Hook a Reader
if you have a timely topic for an 800-to-1,200 word nonacademic piece, and you want to grab an editor’s attention, the first thing you should be thinking about is the “hook” for your lede. Typically, it is a personal anecdote or something specific and compelling from your research. It should interest readers from the get-go and make them feel a connection to you or the topic....

Even if it’s about you, don’t make it all about you.

Create a three-dimensional scene: List out all the sensations, thoughts, and actions that best capture the importance of the event to the larger theme of the piece. Then use those specifics to craft a full experience for readers. Take them with you into the scene. Were you cold? Great. Mention your thin sweater. Were you scared? Tell them why.

Tack back and forth from your experience to your argument and evidence.

End with a “callback.”: An effective way to end is with a reflection on where you began. In comedy terms, gesturing back to the beginning is known as a callback and it works. In writing for a nonacademic audience, the mirror effect works to show readers that you weren’t just navel-gazing in sharing your personal story. The callback should highlight what you learned from the experience and how that ties back into your overall argument.
writing  style 
28 days ago
Cassette Revolution: Why 1980s Tape Tech Is Still Making Noise in Our Digital World | Collectors Weekly
at first glance, it’s baffling that millennial music lovers are embracing the cassette tape, as new indie cassette labels are popping up all over the country. Over the last decade, the retro format has gotten so hip that an annual event called Cassette Store Day launched in 2013 and big-name artists like the Flaming Lips, They Might Be Giants, Animal Collective, Madvillain, and Karen O have put out limited-edition tape-only releases for the celebration. With all the digital music you could dream about available at a click and new records being pressed on high-quality vinyl to provide analog warmth, why would you want to get tangled up with tape?

Cassette lovers, old and new, assert that tapes have something that online music lacks—a tactile physical presence. The benefits of cassettes haven’t changed: They’re cheap to make, pocket-sized and lightweight, and easy to mail. Cassette tapes still offer do-it-yourself musicians, who otherwise couldn’t afford to press a vinyl record, an affordable way to make an analog album they can hold their hands. And music lovers willing to make the effort to find a tape deck can amass a physical collection of underground music without breaking the bank, as new tapes go for $6.50 max, whereas CDs sell for as much as $15 and vinyl LPs can go for $20 or more.

n fact, tapes have been a democratizing force since high-fidelity cassettes and home recorders first hit the market in the early 1970s. For the first time ever, ordinary people had the means to record and share their lives’ sounds on cheap and portable devices. Men serving in the Vietnam War and their loved ones exchanged tape letters that put their voices to the words. Such letters could also include songs or ambient sounds like birds, traffic, or construction. Taboo political and religious ideas reached impoverished people who couldn’t read through voice tapes in regions like India, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Hand-held tape recording devices made it much easier for bands’ rabid fans to record and distribute bootleg recordings of their shows.

This new tape technology was also key to the development of hip-hop music in the 1970s in the Bronx. Aspiring MCs would record a song’s breakdown from a record, and use dual tape decks to dub the break beat over and over, creating a “pause-button tape” to rhyme with. Groundbreaking hip-hop parties featuring pioneers like Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and DJ Kool Herc were recorded on tapes, and those recordings were dubbed repeatedly and passed around. When the boombox was introduced in 1975, it became a means to share new beats and raps with neighbors.

By the early ’80s, a full-fledged postal network of musicians and artists who recorded and traded original cassette works had spread around the globe. With the renewed popularity of tapes, two recent documentaries are exploring the history of this mail network, which been named the “cassette culture”: 2009’s “Grindstone Redux” by tape-label founder Andrew Szava-Kovats and the upcoming “Noise Nation” by William Davenport, who co-founded the cassette-focused zine “Unsound.”

....long before the first low-quality recordable compact cassettes were introduced in 1963 (followed by commercial music cassettes in 1965), experimental composers were looking at tape as a potential musical instrument. In the late 1930s and ’40s, Pierre Schaeffer, a French engineer and broadcaster working for Radiodiffusion Française, began to experiment with manipulating recording equipment to create music, playing sounds backward, or slowing them down or speeding them up. At the same time, composer Halim El-Dabh was conducting similar tape experiments in Egypt. This genre became known as “music concrète,” and Pierre Henry in France and Karlheinz Stockhausen in Germany further pioneered the sound in the 1950s. Stockhausen in particular became known for his tape collages of ambient sounds and other music. American experimental composer John Cage also dabbled in tape music.

In 1962, Morton Subotnick joined fellow composers Ramon Sender, Terry Riley, and Pauline Oliveros to create the San Francisco Tape Music Center to explore uses of tape recorders. Eventually, composers like Steve Reich, who worked at the center, figured out how to translate his strange tape compositions into live performances. The German band Tangerine Dream was the first to use tape loops to create repeating sounds in their shows, and its 1970 debut album “Electronic Meditation” established the electronic genre known as “krautrock.” Band member Conrad Schnitzler went on to create the “kassettenorgel” instrument, or “cassette organ,” made up of six cassette decks in the 1980s....

That DIY ethos lives on today, in cassette labels such as Sanity Muffin and Two Thousand Tapes in Oakland; Mirror Universe and OSR Tapes in Brooklyn; Chondritic Sound in Los Angeles; Night-People in Minneapolis; Sour Tapes in Boston; Ascetic House in Tempe, Arizona; Spooky Town in Brattleboro, Vermont; and Lost Sound Tapes in Cascadia....

Back then, even college radio stations would be reluctant to accept home tapes, because DJs would have to do more work to queue up the particular track they wanted to play. But Campau wasn’t the only DJ who relished homemade tapes. Radio shows that solicited cassettes included: Fabio Roberti’s “Strength Through Failure,” Dave Mandl’s “World of Echo,” and William Berger’s “Lo Fi” at WFMU in New York City; Little Fyodor of Walls of Genius’ “Under the Floorboards” at KGNU in Boulder and Denver: dAS of Big City Orchestra’s “uBradio” at KZSC in Santa Cruz; Dave Prescott’s “No Commercial Potental” at WZBC in Boston; and Don Joyce of Negativland’s “Over the Edge” and John Gullak of the Mutant’s “The No Other Radio Network” on KPFA in Berkeley....

The covers of most tapes from early cassette labels have a punky DIY look to them, thanks to black-and-white copier machines and brightly colored paper. Margolis says in the beginning he would make booklets to go with his cassettes, but that got to be too much work. He even bought a Ricoh Copier for his house, which allowed him to churn out Sound of Pig J-card covers and sticker labels....

Margolis says the latest cassette movement has a whiff of fetishizing past technology.
cassettes  material_media  tactility  sound  music  radio  DIY 
29 days ago
aking and Unmaking the Digital World
The center of the virtual world, economically and culturally, may still be the United States, but the work of creating that world leaves a real and growing footprint overseas. American technology giants have established data centers in about two dozen countries, and electronics manufacturers draw on materials fraught with ethical and environmental concerns. Those include the so-called conflict minerals — tin, tantalum and tungsten (and also gold) — as well as rare earth metals that are available almost exclusively from China. At the same time, the rapid cycle of obsolescence and replacement that feeds the expansion also produces a lot of garbage — nearly 42 million metric tons of toxic e-waste in 2014, less than a sixth of which made it into the regulated recycling stream, with much of the rest being broken down by workers at dumps throughout the developing world. Following are a few scenes from the digital life cycle.

Guiyu, China: The largest informal e-waste disposal site in China is here. Workers earn about $1.50 per day extracting materials that can be resold from circuit boards, sometimes by burning or leaching away potentially toxic components.

Agbogbloshie, a suburb of Ghana's capital, is also home to an e-waste dump.
Accra, Ghana: Agbogbloshie, a suburb of Accra, is one of the most polluted e-waste dumps in the world. Recently, automated wire-stripping units were installed here to help workers extract copper wire without burning the plastic coating.
media_archaeology  e_waste  geology  waste  materiality  chemistry  infrastructure 
29 days ago
A Music-Sharing Network for the Unconnected
Yet for many Africans, the phone is not merely, or even principally, a communications device. You can see this on the sun-blasted streets of Bamako, Mali’s capital, where a new kind of merchant has sprung up along Fankélé Diarra Street. Seated practically thigh to thigh, these vendors crouch over laptops, scrolling through screen after screen of downloaded music. They are known as téléchargeurs, or downloaders, and they operate as an offline version of iTunes, Spotify and Pandora all rolled into one. They know what their regulars might like, from the latest Jay Z album to the obscurest songs of Malian music pioneers like Ali Farka Touré. Savvy musicians take their new material to Fankélé Diarra Street and press the téléchargeurs to give it a listen and recommend it to their customers. For a small fee — less than a dime a song — the téléchargeurs transfer playlists to memory cards or U.S.B. sticks, or directly onto cellphones. Customers share songs with their friends via short-range Bluetooth signals....

What make its existence possible are not smartphones but so-called feature phones, which do little more than make calls, take highly pixelated pictures and play music. And yet they are indispensable.... A cellphone is a digital Swiss Army knife: flashlight, calculator, camera and, yes, audio player. Mali’s homegrown, offline digital music has created a space for sharing songs that is in many ways more vibrant than the algorithm-driven way music is so often experienced in the United States — more personal, more curated, more human. The téléchargeurs hark back to the long-gone know-it-all clerks at Tower Records in the East Village.
sound_space  infrastructure  music  sharing_economy  africa  file_sharing 
29 days ago
The Internet IRL
In 2013, One Wilshire sold for $437.5 million, the highest price per square foot (about $660) ever paid for a downtown Los Angeles office building. Why? Because the Internet. The building is one of the world’s largest data-transfer centers — tenants include network, cloud and information-technology providers — and serves as a major West Coast terminus for trans-Pacific fiber-optic cables. One Wilshire, The Los Angeles Times wrote at the time of the sale, “is widely regarded in the industry as the single most important telecommunications hub in the Western U.S.”...

A result of Greer’s research is an ongoing photographic project, an effort “to better understand the physical infrastructure that makes the Internet work — to make the invisible visible.” To this effect, Greer has traveled up and down the East Coast and to Los Angeles on what he calls “mini Internet tourism road trips” to photograph the physical traces of our online universe.
infrastructure  photography  internet 
29 days ago
Mapping, Beirut-style: how to navigate a city without using any street names | Cities | The Guardian
Try to locate any place in the Lebanese capital and this, typically, is what you will hear: details and places, not the names of streets or their numbers. Whether visiting a friend for the first time or trying to find someone’s office, the best bet is always to find landmarks, not official addresses – they may exist, but probably won’t be of much help anyway, because no one really uses them....

“That data was already available from the ministry of transportation, but they never thought it would be useful,” Ghubril explains. “We mapped the buses – but then, of course, you have to find out exactly where to catch them.”

To know that, you must do what people in Beirut already do – ask their way around. Urban dwellers all over the world do the same; indeed, Google Maps took the idea of adding landmarks to maps from its team in India, where winding and unpredictable roads, informal neighbourhoods and a sprawling, makeshift economy make cities highly communicative places.

“I know that many Indian tourists prefer to travel abroad in groups for this reason,” says Mumbai resident Preethi Pinto. “They’re used to finding their way by interacting with others, so when they encounter a country that doesn’t offer that interaction, it’s hard.”

Yatin Pandya, an architect from Ahmedabad, agrees the notion of location in Indian cities is highly social and visual, relying on memory and experience. “Addresses are very particular, with detailed references and directions like ‘nearby’, ‘opposite’ and ‘in between’, because roads often have no signs.” Instead they tend to take creative, often literal, names like “The Road with the Oak Tree”.

Beirut does the same, says Ghubril. “There’s a street here officially named Baalbek Street, but everyone calls it Commodore Street because of the Commodore Cinema, which doesn’t exist any more – but the Commodore Hotel does, and that helps a bit!”
mapping  cartography  urban_archaeology  palimpsest  itinerary 
4 weeks ago
Amazon Prime and Uber Are Changing the Map of Your City | Washingtonian
Car-hailing apps such as Uber, car-sharing outfits like Zipcar, new transit routes, and the proliferation of bike lanes have made it easier to avoid driving. Delivery services including Amazon Prime and Peapod (which plans to roll out a pilot project with Metrorail in which people can pick up preordered groceries at the station on their way home) leave even car owners with less need to make a trip. Zoning rules are being reconsidered, with fewer demands for parking spaces—a change that would affect the economics of what can be built and where. And increased construction can alter the bottom line for retail, potentially tempting more businesses to move in....

Behind the scenes, changes in the logistics infrastructure are reconfiguring our mental maps of the region and are likely to affect the way all sorts of locals live, work, and play...

First, it gets easier not to have a car. In recent years, things such as improved public transit and 69 miles of new bike lanes in the District alone have made Washington an easier place to navigate without driving.

Next, new digital businesses—Uber, Instacart, Car2Go—capitalize on this market. (Google has even made noise with a far-fetched idea to roll out a ride service featuring driverless cars.) One of the things these services collectively do is make up for some of the things you lose—say, access to a wonderfully big, suburban-style grocery store—by not driving.

Then the rate of car ownership tumbles: For the 18-to-34 demographic across the region, the share of people who drove to work fell by 7 percentage points between 2000 and 2013, according to the US Census. The District alone gained 12,612 car-free households between 2010 and 2012.

Finally, as a result, lawmakers and regulators have no choice but to catch up—which means even more bike lanes, liberalized transit rules, and denser neighborhoods whose residents make appealing customer bases for bike sharing, and cars by the hour, and novel delivery options for economy-size packs of toilet paper. It’s a cycle that reinforces itself....

For all the immediacy that these new apps and other services claim to offer, big infrastructural shifts need a long time to take effect. Even if all the region’s planned transit upgrades pan out by 2040, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments still expects 57 percent of commuters to be driving to work alone rather than carpooling.

What’s changed, though, is that the light, private-sector infrastructure is now a driver, too. Small things, we’ve learned, can alter neighborhood dynamics in a big way. And with every resident—car-owning or not—who comes to rely on a newfangled transportation service, or stops expecting there to be parking outside her home, or leads a life in which a bike lane or new streetcar is essential for getting to work, the politics change a bit. So does the business environment, where these residents are a market for still more unimagined ways of getting around and getting stuff.
mapping  transportation  mental_maps  logistics 
4 weeks ago
Mental Maps and the Neuroscience of Neighborhood Blight - Pacific Standard
There are ways mental maps can be hacked to change a neighborhood's trajectory. One is through the re-branding via subdivision, usually by retailers that want to distinguish a certain stretch from the surrounding area, but also by residents buying into the new designations. By changing labels, the original eventually ceases to exist. Travel guides, like Lonely Planet or A People's Guide to Los Angeles (the first in a series, with more city guides on the way), that focus on telling the history of each neighborhood—as opposed to merely featuring the tourist hotspots—can introduce tourists and outsiders to a once-ignored neighborhood. As more money begins flowing into the area, more tax dollars will be allocated in that direction.
mapping  mental_maps  urban_history  branded_places 
4 weeks ago
What is Metahaven? | Frieze
A sense of the uncanny pervades much of Metahaven’s work, which draws on the heavily mediated visual detritus that defines the corporate and government worlds. Microsoft’s pre-installed font package, drop-shadow effects, garish colours, pirated logos and other dated graphic elements are the marks that make the work feel vaguely familiar yet perfectly pitched. Playing on the form of manuals that guide corporations in the application of graphic and branding identity systems, Uncorporate Identity (2010) is, at 608 pages, the studio’s most formidable publication to date....

Uncorporate Identity actively frustrates the reading experience while accurately reflecting the cognitive effects of the information glut that corporate brands force on consumers. Paradoxically, however, this also poses the question: who can use a book that intentionally breaks the conventions of readability?...

‘Is it possible’, Metahaven ask, ‘that graphic design has only one thing left to do, which is to post itself on the internet?’ Suggesting that recursive jokes – memes, cat-based and otherwise – might have untapped political power, they wonder: ‘Could the leftovers of graphic design be turned into jokes? Might – through this re-allegiance – design rediscover actual societal impact?’...

For all of their engagement with power structures and other systemic failings, Metahaven can’t allow their work, in practice or in scale, simply to be what it is; they cannot resist telling a visual joke through design and then explaining it again, as if to assure themselves of the punch line. At times, in fact, they could even be perceived as coming close to undermining their own critical potential in a feedback loop of self-description and analysis. They publish their work to Tumblr, for instance: a platform for rampant, often anonymous, image-sharing. They also choose to explain their work through the didactic texts they publish when they could, instead, perform an effective meta-commentary by simply allowing their images to exist without comment.
graphic_design  activism  institutional_critique 
4 weeks ago
Competing Calls to Prayer Stir Beirut Site - WSJ
As evening approaches in downtown Beirut, a deafening clangor sets in during the winter months as church bells chime over the Muslim call to prayer, a cacophony that silences the chatter at sidewalk cafes for several minutes.

The source of the discord is a street corner that joins St. George Cathedral and the Grand Mosque, the largest houses of worship for Beirut’s Maronite Christian and Sunni Muslim sects.

The mosque blasts the call to prayer from its loudspeakers. The cathedral recently acquired a 6,000-pound bell to clang above the call and the urban din.

“We bought the bell from France,” said Paul Youssef Matar, the archbishop of the Maronite church in Lebanon, a branch of Catholicism and Lebanon’s dominant Christian sect. “It is the biggest bell in the Middle East.”

During Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, locals referred to the battles for control of the Holiday Inn and a handful of other tall buildings in central Beirut as the “war of the towers.” Christian and Muslim militants fought for the highest perches that offered bird’s-eye views of the urban battlefield.
sound_space  bells  religion 
4 weeks ago
Department of Geography | Josh Lepawsky
I am fascinated by connections between geography and technology, a theme I pursued in both my postgraduate degrees. My research involves mapping the international trade and traffic of electronic waste. Recently, I began turning my attention to a related set of research interests on the prospects and challenges of 'fair' or 'ethical' trade in rubbish electronics and recycling. More about this work can be found at Reassembling Rubbish.

My PhD research investigated a multi-billion dollar mega-project in Malaysia called the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). What makes this project interesting to me is that in addition to familiar aspirations for economic development, the state also plans for the project to achieve 'national development' and 'national identity' goals so that by 2020 the country will be internationally recognized as a 'developed nation'.

Following a year of fieldwork in Malaysia in 2003, I wrote about three major issues:

How and why 'information technology', 'national development', and 'national identity' are linked through the MSC.
How access to, and use of, information technologies are demographically differentiated within the MSC.
How people who live and work in the MSC perceive the present and future consequences of information technology-led development for themselves and the 'nation'.
e-waste  materiality  material_media  sustainability 
4 weeks ago
Data Scientists at the University of Cambridge Have Mapped the Smells of Cities - CityLab
What can we learn from pausing, deeply inhaling and smelling—yes, smelling—our cities? A new paper from University of Cambridge researchers argues that while urban planners and policymakers have a lot to say about road diets, the sharing economy, and housing policy, too little attention has been paid to urban smellscapes, those scents that emanate from and so influence urban life.

So the scientists, led by researchers Daniele Quercia and Kate McLean, got to work. First, they took local volunteers on a series of “smellwalks,” jaunts around seven global cities during which participants identified distinctive urban smells. From this exercise, the researchers created a comprehensive urban smell dictionary....

So what exactly do these maps tell us? The researchers discovered that there is a high correlation between areas with poor air quality and the areas in which social media users detected emissions smells like “gasoline,” “dusty,” “exhaust,” and “car.” Conversely, air pollutants were less present in areas where social media users detected nature smells: “floral,” “lavender,” “grass,” and “sulphur.” The human nose is a powerful thing....

The researchers envision these maps being used in a variety of ways. Urban planners, they suggest, can use them to figure out which areas of the city smell the worst—and then consider using air-flow manipulation, green spaces, and pedestrian-friendly streets to change them. Maybe computer scientists will one day create a wayfinding app that gives users the most pleasant-smelling path to their destination. Or maybe city officials will be inspired to use social media data to more consistently monitor how their residents are being affected by smells—and by the pollution that creates it.
smell  sensation  sensory_maps  mapping  urban_design 
4 weeks ago
A Student Collaborators' Bill of Rights | Center for Digital Humanities - UCLA
Collaborations between students and more experienced digital humanities practitioners should benefit everyone. At their best, these partnerships are a way for students to learn new skills and benefit from mentorship, while more seasoned scholars can learn from junior scholars’ ideas, skills, subject knowledge, and perspectives.

It’s important, though, to recognize that students and more senior scholars don’t operate from positions of equal power in the academic hierarchy. In particular, students’ DH mentors may be the same people who give them grades, recommend them for jobs, and hold other kinds of power over their futures. Students may not feel entirely comfortable raising objections to certain practices if they feel these objections could endanger their academic or career prospects. Thus, we think it’s important to outline some best practices for collaborations with students on digital humanities projects, so that everyone involved feels they gain from the partnership.

Collaboration can take many forms, from casual brainstorming to full-time employment. As collaborations develop, senior scholars should be mindful that different kinds of relationships entail different responsibilities on the part of each collaborator. A professor who assigns a class project, for example, must primarily consider the student’s own intellectual growth, while a senior scholar who employs a student assistant may assign work that primarily benefits the project.¹

We endorse the principles outlined in the Collaborators’ Bill of Rights (2011).
academia  labor  advising  students  UMS 
4 weeks ago
The Library Beyond the Book: Cold Storage
Inspired by the closing chapter of The Library Beyond the Book, Cold Storage is a 24-minute documentary short film directed by Cristoforo Magliozzi interlinked with an expanding collection of intertextual media artifacts, an archive of experiments and experiences in and around the Harvard Depository (“HD”), Harvard’s off-site library storage facility. Taken together, the film and its associated media collection explore how libraries have changed from the “shrines to knowledge” of the past to the evolving networks that interconnect vast warehouses and patrons of the present. By looking at objects as varied as books, databases, and air-conditioning systems, what conversations about libraries of the future may be prompted?
storage  libraries  books  databases  epistemology  universal_library  documentary 
4 weeks ago
Max Lamb's Exercises in Seating shows materials with chairs
London designer Max Lamb presented 42 of his seat designs made using a wide variety of materials and processes within a disused garage in Milan last week (+ slideshow)....

"Exercises in Seating is a living catalogue of the chair as an archetype of man and emblem of the conviviality denied at the act of creation," said Sala.
furniture  design  chairs 
4 weeks ago
Literary Devices and Literary Terms - The Complete List
Literary Devices refers to the typical structures used by writers in their works to convey his or her messages in a simple manner to the readers.  When employed properly, the different literary devices help readers to appreciate, interpret and analyze a literary work. Below is a list of literary devices with detailed definition and examples.
writing  language  linguistic_devices 
4 weeks ago
It's Nice That : Irrepressibly joyful illustrations of an art show by Antti Kalevi
The Finnish illustrator had us with his last series but Art Show takes our admiration of his work one step further – depicting familiar scenes from art galleries in his signature colourful style, with a wink and a cheeky grin.

From a sea of iPhones clamouring to photograph the walls to his own renditions of familiar-looking Rothko-, Matisse- and Pollock-esque canvases, the detail to these images is what makes them so irresistible. Illustration might have a hard time getting onto the walls in traditional art galleries, but rest assured that illustrators are doing everything in their power to broach the establishment in other ways.
art  galleries  exhibition  installation 
4 weeks ago
It's Nice That : Ace new exhibition recreates a trip to space using papercuts and lighting tricks
There’s nothing like a visual project which makes you question your own eyes, and the Discoverer’s Alliance, a series and exhibition made as a result of a collaboration between set designer Owen Gildersleeve and photographer Benedict Morgan, certainly does that.

The series takes the name of a fictional society of sea and space explorers, the Discoverer’s Alliance, which celebrated its 100th anniversary by opening its doors to the pair, offering them “unprecedented access to the organisation’s offices and archives.” It’s a mockumentary of sorts, showing off Owen and Benedict’s skills to their very best, with every image painstakingly constructed using paper and smart lighting tricks.
exploration  exhibition  photography  models 
4 weeks ago
The Quietus | Opinion | The Quietus Essay | The Utopia Of Records: Why Sound Archiving Is Important
The British Library Sound Archive, housed on the ground floor of the annex to the Library's main building on Euston Road, London, is like a museum of dead media. The corridors are clogged up with Soundmirror tape machines from the late 1940s and military-grade wire-recorders from even earlier. Cupboards are crammed with dat players and ADAT machines. "The difference between us, in sound, and the guys in books and manuscripts, is that we have always required technology to access the content," Will Prentice, the Library's head of technical services in sound and vision, told me. "We've always needed a machine." Therein lies the problem. The machines keep dying.

The Archive holds over a million-and-a-half discs and tapes containing some seven million recordings. That's about a hundred years of continuous listening, day and night. Even with their five engineers and support staff, with studios containing multiple machines running simultaneously, Prentice estimates it would take another 48 years to digitise the whole collection.

Unfortunately they don't have 48 years. Their best guess is maybe 15.

About five years ago Prentice was in Holland where he heard the head of Vienna's Phonogrammarchiv, the oldest sound archive in the world, mention casually, "we've got about 20 years in which to digitise all this stuff. After that, the equipment will be gone. It will have degraded." Alarm bells started going off in Prentice's head at that point. When he got home he initiated a year-long study to work out the size of the holdings at the British Library. That led in turn to the current 15-year plan.

"You can still buy a turntable," Prentice explains. "You can still buy styli for them. You can still buy circuit diagrams to repair them. Should you need a manual to tell you how to use them, that's all present and correct. For quarter-inch tape machines – or even cassette machines – that's not the case. You cannot buy a professional quarter-inch tape machine. There's sort of one cassette machine that's kind of professional available. That's it. Nobody's making the heads to replace them, really. There's one guy, near retirement, in Belgium, making quarter-inch tape heads. Possibly someone in the States. But that's really it."

"It's a finite system. The expertise required is dwindling. When people retire, you can never really pass on the completeness of what they know and the younger generation will never get their hands dirty with analogue media in the same way that the old guys did, because there just isn't the ecosystem around anymore."...

Today, the dream of the everlasting carrier seems further away than ever. Records may be lasting ok, but if you leave a CD-r out in the sun for a fortnight, the dye-layer would fade and render it unreadable. It's been five years since anyone made a dat machine. And as for minidiscs… At a certain point, Prentice concedes, "you have to look the devil in the eye and say, alright, we've lost the battle for the everlasting carrier. We just need to concentrate on everlasting content."

Eternity is now guaranteed by saving everything on Wav, a file format so basic, Prentice tells me, that you could print it out and read it off the page. They keep four back-up copies of each file: one on the library's servers in London, one in Edinburgh, one in Yorkshire, and one in Wales (presumably this is just in case someone decides to bomb London or wave a massive magnet over Scotland). Automatic systems are constantly checking for the tiniest fault in any one of these copies and if one is detected it is immediately back-up from the other three. "It's like a body with replaceable parts," Prentice says...

Right now, the Save Our Sounds programme they have running is hoping to speed up the process of digitising all that stuff. But it's far more than just a fundraising drive. They're looking to build a national radio archive to preserve as much as possible of whatever gets broadcast in the British Isles. They're also compiling a directory of significant sound collections from throughout the UK.
sound  archives  preservation  materiality  material_media 
4 weeks ago
DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections
Empirical research shows that many visitors come to a museum website seeking specific information [Fantoni et al. 2012]. However, a significant number of visitors do not have a specific goal: in a survey of the motivations of some 34,000 visitors to Dutch museum websites, 29% report seeking specific information, but 21% visit to "engage in casual browsing"[INTK n.d.]. Another recent study finds that browse features are valued highly by non-expert visitors to online art collections [Lopatovska et al. 2013]. Thus from the user’s perspective, search is an incomplete solution.
In this context, more generous interfaces are beginning to emerge. The sites of the Rijksmuseum> and the Walker Art Centre, for example, emphasise browsing and visual exploration. While the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collections page privileges search, it also generously includes a random sampling of works. Experimental and overtly poetic approaches to digital collections — such as Tim Sherratt’s The Real Face of White Australia — are a promising and potentially radical new form. However, these examples are the exception, rather than the rule; and in some cases generosity is only superficial. The Met Museum’s beautiful browse-centric interface leads abruptly to a standard search display, showing thirty records at a time. This ostensibly browsable interface (like the Rijksmuseum’s) is in fact a highly curated set of predefined starting points, rather than a comprehensive representation of the collection.
The stakes here are high, because the interface plays an inescapable role in mediating digital heritage. Whether a command-line console or an immersive visualisation, these collections come to us in some specific, concrete form; and crucially, that form is constructed and contingent. It can always be otherwise. As our cultural heritage is increasingly networked and digital, the life and use of that heritage will increasingly be conditioned by the forms in which it reaches us, how it is made concrete and available both for scholars and the wider public. As argued above, search-centred conventions offer meagre representational tools; while there are promising signs of a new generosity emerging, much more is possible....

In a paper that amounts to a how-to manual for generous interfaces, Greene and colleagues observe that designers "often fail to provide appropriate give an overall sense of the structure and materials available"[Greene et al. 2000, 1]. Drawing on library and information studies, they emphasise the "information surrogate" in collection interfaces; surrogates (such as catalog records) are compact, browsable abstractions of primary content — rich scenes for Bates’ "massively parallel glimpse". In this formulation a preview (for example a thumbnail image) provides a surrogate for a single item; an overview provides a surrogate for a collection of items. The authors show how previews and overviews can be nested and articulated in systems designed for interactive "information seeking" (as distinct from information retrieval). Given suitable data, we can break collections into intelligible aggregates or subsets, reveal relationships between these, and link these overviews to previews of collection item...

Overview plays a founding role in these generous interfaces, and creating overviews poses significant challenges. While these interfaces propose a range of practical approaches they do not seek to "solve" overview; they do raise important questions around its contingencies and potentials. In proposing to more generously show digital cultural collections, we should also take note of exactly what is shown, and how....

Another strategy used here is the layering and juxtaposition of different representational forms within a single overview, creating a form of internalised parallax that provokes rather than determines interpretation. In Manly Images and The Queenslander overviews are also multi-faceted previews; aggregations are shown as tiles that juxtapose generalising aggregate features (term or year, item count) with the specific texture of individual items. Previews act as rich exemplars that support interpretive inferences about the collection — a stitching together of inevitably partial proxies and clues supplied by the interface. The tiles in Manly Images combine (specific) image with (aggregate) text in this way. The use of animation in both interfaces adds a layer of temporal parallax, a gradual unfurling that reveals the diversity within each aggregate....

This paper argues instead for generous interfaces that better match both the ethos of collecting institutions, and the opportunities of the contemporary web. Generous interfaces provide rich, navigable representations of large digital collections; they invite exploration and support browsing, using overviews to establish context and maintain orientation while revealing detail at multiple scales. Generous interfaces use multiple, fragmentary representations to reveal the complexity and diversity of cultural collections, and to privilege the process of interpretation. While they draw on techniques and models established in information retrieval and visualisation, generous interfaces emphasise process, pleasure and thoughtful engagement rather than the functional satisfaction of an information need. Like any interface or visualisation, these interfaces are inescapably contingent and constructed; as the representational scope of the interface multiplies so do the cultural stakes, and the need for critical attention and reflective practice. Yet if there are risks in doing too much, they are outweighed by the opportunities of doing more with the immense riches of our digital cultural collections. As the experiments presented here show, much more is possible.
browsing  libraries  interfaces  collections  archives  interface_aesthetics  interaction_design  digital_archives 
4 weeks ago
The Giant Robots That Serve the World's Largest Library Archives
The largest libraries do more than just store books and newspapers on their shelves. When a library collection contains millions of documents, it needs complex and highly sophisticated logistical systems in order to serve its readers’ requests. It needs library robots.

In many libraries, amazing automated transportation and robotic retrieval systems are behind every book you receive from your librarian. Peek far behind the walls of the familiar reading rooms into the seemingly endless rows of stainless steel shelves, data centers, and intelligent servants that deliver humankind’s collective knowledge.
libraries  books  automation  robots  logistics 
5 weeks ago
This Will __ This
But if the book killed the building and if the computer killed the book, you would not be holding this. Media do not “die” but simply become contained and communicated via other media. The play between material and immaterial, the concealment and revealing of media—all of this is a shell game. Architecture, which has been in the business of making shells since Vitruvius, should master this confidence game instead of merely being an instrument in its propagation. It should endeavor to produce its own.
media_architecture  book 
5 weeks ago
Notes toward a critical history of cartography, part 1 | Open Geography
One of the things I proposed for this course was to develop a Reader in Critical Cartography, which would collect in one place, with short commentary, the people, events, maps and theory that had a profound influence on the way we think about maps, or conversely, the way maps may have made us see the world in new ways. This book would then be the assigned reading for the course but would also I hope be of interest to a wider readership.

To that end I’ve developed (with my colleague Matt Zook) the following initial schema for the book and the course. The latter is 10 weeks long so there are ten subject headings. The idea would be to pose the question of what it means to approach maps critically, with a view to looking historically to inform the present, a not uncommon technique I’ve used before.

There are a variety of ways of going about this. One would be to take maps (or people or events) that were radical at the time and recognized as such, even if only by those involved. So this would include the work of JB (Brian) Harley who wrote against the grain of cartographic received wisdom. This kind of work changed the way we understand mapping.
mapping  critical_cartography  syllabus 
5 weeks ago
Rome’s Invisible City | BBC One
The show explores Roman infrastructure and ingenuity, all below ground level. We journeyed via the icy, crystal clear waters of subterranean aqueducts that feed the Trevi fountain and two thousand year old sewers which still function beneath the Roman Forum today, to decadent, labyrinthine catacombs. Our laser scans map these hidden treasures, revealing for the first time the complex network of tunnels, chambers and passageways without which Rome could not have survived as a city of a million people.
visualization  archaeology  infrastructure  Rome  urban_archaeology  urban_history  3D_scanning 
5 weeks ago
Rethink the Staff Workplace | Library by Design, Spring 2015
Staff now rove throughout spaces, and the large barrier desks between users and staff have been shrunk and repurposed into centralized one-stop shops for previously distributed places to get specialized help. Case in point, the new library at Liberty University, VA, created a customer service center that provides integrated services, with staff working at more approachable podia. Supervisors and experts are nearby to supply more advanced assistance.
This also is fueled by thinking about digital services and physical spaces in a coordinated way; for instance, using digital tools to help make the experience in the space better through self-service; online reservation of books, technology, rooms, and consultations; discovery of what’s happening when; and improved navigation and wayfinding via mobile devices, signage, and, soon, location-aware technology like iBeacons....

Employing human-centered design principles and service design tools is a great way to start aligning user and staff needs. This means using the same tools to research user and staff needs as well as create solutions to address them. As part of Georgia Tech’s library renewal, brightspot worked with a staff taskforce to interview users; create hypothetical portraits of archetypal users and staff in terms of their motivations, behaviors, and expectations; develop journey maps that identify the different “touchpoints” by which people interact with information, space, technology, and one another; and devise service blueprints for new and enhanced services that coordinate users’ action, frontline staff, behind-the-scenes workers, and needed infrastructure. Everyone gained an understanding of tools to apply elsewhere but also insights into one another’s experiences and needs; for example, staff learned about traits such as cultivating relationships and actions like showcasing that were common across different roles, departments, and levels within the organization.

New services can also be piloted, and proto­typed even before that using mock-ups and role-play to test ideas and build empathy among users and staff....

staff personas can be complemented with quantitative information on the proportions of time spent individually vs. collaboratively and at a desk vs. mobile within other locations.
With this information—often called “workstyles”—in hand, the workplace can be created or adapted to include a variety of different settings to support different kinds of work and a variety of ways of working, including both concentration and collaboration in addition to the ability to transition easily between the two. This could include assigned and/or shared desks, meeting spaces of varying sizes and atmospheres, phone rooms, booths, quiet areas, consultation spaces, and informal communal space, to name a few. These spaces need to be allocated with the right proportion of individual to collaborative space—likely something like 65%–75% individual to 25%–35% collaborative. Like a great city, space needs to transition from lively to quiet and be organized into “neighborhoods” that have a human scale (for 25 to 40 people) and bring diverse spaces into proximity. The spaces will also require furniture that accommodates contrasting ergonomic and functional needs, such as desks that enable side-by-side collaboration and will need technology that enables mobility and productively such as laptops and larger/additional screens. Also, because space communicates values, it should also express the mission and brand of the organization.
libraries  architecture  design_process  service  labor 
5 weeks ago
Developer Maps Library Photo Archives
Portions of the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) “Photographic Views of New York City, 1870’s–1970’s” collection have been available online for several years. But views of the collection have mushroomed during the past two weeks, thanks to the launch of, a website that overlays photo locations on a Google Maps interface, enabling visitors to explore the collection by zooming, dragging, and clicking their way around an online map of the city. The new site was independently created by software engineer Dan Vanderkam using the Google Maps API, data provided by NYPL, and open source photo and text extraction programs that he wrote himself and has made available on GitHub....

While the ceaseless tearing down and rebuilding of New York is certainly part of oldNYC’s appeal, showing users glimpses of the past where modest shops and walkups have been replaced by modern skyscrapers, the city’s ever-changing landscape has also posed a some problems for Google Maps that Vanderkam is still working to address. For example, in the 1940s, intersections between 1st Avenue and Avenue C, and between 14th Street and 23rd Street, were eliminated with the construction of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, a massive development of 110 residential buildings and park space.

“I’m sure those cross streets are covered in the collection, but because intersections like 18th and Avenue A don’t exist anymore, the geocoder doesn’t know what to do with them,” Vanderkam said. “Thinking about future directions for the site, that is one thing that I would like to fix—figure out how to geocode addresses that no longer exist.”
mapping  palimpsest  open_source  urban_history  photography 
5 weeks ago
An Imaginary City, 50 Years in the Mapping
...renowned for his 1,500-square-foot map of a totally imaginary city. The recognition is new, but “Jerry’s Map,” as it’s called, isn’t. Gretzinger began working on it in 1963, and after an interlude in the ‘80s and ‘90s, he’s still going. Combining elements of urban planning, fine art, and the reuse of old materials, the work manifests Gretzinger’s varied experiences in a medium he’s always loved....

Gretzinger’s own map started as a doodle. “I didn’t think of what I was making as anything with a label when I started,” he says. “It was just my little map, my pastime.” But over the years, it grew—into a large-scale, cartographic representation of a city he dubbed “Ukrania.” Rendered in acrylic, marker, colored pencil, ink, and collage, the map is now composed of more than 3,200 8-by-10-inch panels, which fit together like a puzzle....

The map is not static: Ukrania (and the suburbs, agricultural lands, and smaller cities that surround it) are completely imagined, but Gretzinger applies evolutionary processes to his map that simulate—“in a naive way,” he says—the process of how real cities grow.
mapping  cartography 
5 weeks ago
The Degree for Quitters and Failures - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education
because the M.A. gets so little notice, there’s no agreement about what it should do. It’s not so much that the degree lacks meaning as that it has too many meanings — though in the end, that’s much the same thing. The master’s has a long history as a teaching degree, an in-between degree, and a professional degree — often in bewildering combinations. Some master’s degrees carry considerable prestige. The M.B.A., for example, is a well-respected terminal degree. Other master’s programs offer a necessary credential, most commonly to teach public school. Still others offer mostly consolation, such as those handed out to students who fail to qualify for certain doctoral programs.

Master’s programs have one thing in common, though: They don’t offer graduate-student aid to the vast majority of their students. More than anything, that suggests the main purpose of the M.A. in today’s graduate-school universe (read: cash cow).
academia  masters_degree  graduate_education 
5 weeks ago
The Digital Language Divide | The Guardian
Does the language you speak online matter? The unprecedented ability to communicate and access information are all promises woven into the big sell of the internet connection. But how different is your experience if your mother tongue, for example, is Zulu rather than English?

The relationship between language and the internet is a growing area of policy interest and academic study. The story emerging is one where language profoundly affects your experience of the internet. It guides who you speak to on social media and often how you behave in these communities. It determines how much – if any – information you can access on Wikipedia. Google searching “restaurants” in a certain language may bring you back 10 times the results of doing so in another. And if your language is endangered, it is possible it will never have a life online. Far from infinite, the internet, it seems, is only as big as your language....

Twitter users in different languages are also likely to express different behaviours. Some languages by their very structure mean that you interact with the platform differently. For example, you can say more in the 140 character limit in Chinese than you can in English. Research has shown that Koreans tend to use Twitter to reply to each other, while German speakers share more URLs and hashtags...

Scott Hale, data scientist at the Oxford Internet Institute, argues that more could also be done to unlock the power of multilinguals online. Internet platforms he believes could be modified to make it easier for multilingual users to find content in other languages, as well as encourage them to contribute in more than one language.
globalization  google  language  multilingualism  search 
5 weeks ago
Tune In: Soundscapes of New York | Urban Omnibus
Through my music and work as an acoustical consultant at Arup — measuring noise levels and making spatial audio recordings for the 3D reproduction of existing and virtual sonic environments — I’ve gradually realized that my understanding of location within the city relates more to gestural sounds created above base textures than the textures themselves or overall loudness. I feel more connected to New York every time I find a new soundmark that enhances a specific location. More ephemeral sounds like singing make me feel closer to the people who share this city, and when I happen on natural sounds in the urban environment, I feel calmer.

You can experience soundscapes in numerous ways. By sitting and listening actively in a single location — whether you are recording to listen later, writing down impressions, or just taking it all in — you can discover how a place measures time. Some sounds occur at only one part of the day or night, and some sounds are modified depending on the season. Unique sonic events might only occur on specific weekdays or on holidays from parades and festivals. Some events only occur once, ever, at random, and if you are not listening carefully, you will completely miss them.
methdology  sound_space  mapping  field_recording  soundscapes 
5 weeks ago
Supply Chain Epistemologies | Supply Studies
Once invisible, the Shenzhen assembly line is now the site of various worlding practices, including that where a migrant worker, completing the assembly of an iPhone, left a photograph of herself on the phone. Dressed in a pink and white striped uniform, smiling, making a peace sign, her image became the indelible trace on the next-generation 3G iPhone that was to eventually make its way into the hands of “markm49uk,” a British consumer. In the circuits of cybercirculation, she came to be known simply as “iPhone girl.” By asserting her place in the global value chain, “iPhone girl” suggests the possibility of an imagined community crafted through the transactions of the global commodity....

suggests how consumers are able and unable to recognize the productive networks surrounding their consumptive objects. Modern devices are complex, and hostile to interrogation. They are networked objects, not only within the telephonic network, but as entities inescapably enmeshed in the sprawling supply chains from which they are wrought.[4] They are housed in plastics made with materials from Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. They come with metals (like aluminum and titanium) and glass bought from Africa, South America, and Asia. Their batteries are made from cadmium, nickel, and lithium fashioned (sometimes) in the United States, but often in Chile or Japan. Each requires components—speakers, microphones, clocks, and sensors—imported from East and Southeast Asia. The circuit board, memory, and sim card arrive occasionally from Japan and Malaysia, but more often from China and Taiwan. Littered throughout these components are metals—gold, copper, tantalum, tin, and aluminum—drawn from South America (in places like Chile or Brazil) and Africa (from South Africa and the Congo). These myriad and precious ingredients are identified, gathered, processed, and assembled. While this could be done in the United States, the United Kingdom, or continental Europe, these assemblies are increasingly governed by factories in China, Taiwan, Brazil, and Mexico....

Plastics are fused by (and with) people. Metals are produced by first producing miners, then producing mines. To the litany of atoms and elements we add actors, sites, and politics—both lives and ways of life. The images of phone people, the anonymous Foxconn worker, men at an HP Laptop testing facility, women at the Nokia Lumia 920 factory in Tamaulipas, contain the potential to dramatically renegotiate our readings.
supply_chains  manufacturing  things  infrastructure  iPhone  labor 
5 weeks ago
Unfinished Business: 21st Century Home Economics: Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
The new exhibit tells the untold story of the first generation of home economists who were equal rights advocates, chemists and public health advocates, labor reformers and innovators who sought to redefine domesticity. Filled with participatory experiences and hands-on activities, the exhibit describes the home economists’ visionary work to create a world with healthy food for all, fair labor practices for domestic work, ethical consumerism, and community childcare solutions.
material_culture  home  exhibitions  home_economics  domestic  labor  feminism  food 
6 weeks ago
FIND is an innovative cultural laboratory supported by NYU Abu Dhabi that forms intersections and dialogues between artists, writers, scholars, designers, technologists and the UAE landscape in both a historical and contemporary context. Through the production of art, stories, scholarship, workshops, and analogue and digital initiatives, we engage Emiratis, UAE residents, and global citizens with reflections of the UAE and its connection to the larger world.

FIND looks for opportunities to document the UAE from the inside out and the outside in by creating intersections and dialogues between people who have been meaningfully engaged with the UAE landscape from both within the UAE and around the globe
FIND elucidates our shared global citizenry by leveraging artists/scholars to form dialogues and intersections between different cultures in the UAE with their creative/scholarly work
networks  archives  material_culture  Arab_world  multimodal_scholarship  exhibitions  digital_exhibition  art 
6 weeks ago
slab | spatial analysis lab @ USC
SLAB, the spatial analysis lab at USC Price, aims to advance the visualization of the social sciences for public service through research, public engagement, and teaching. Our research experiments with developing alternative cartographies and with how our visual narratives interface with social institutions. Amidst the dramatic growth of technical and information capabilities, SLAB critically and creatively endeavors to expand the knowledge that is produced and how it interacts with public discourse.

And, SLAB does this with others. Situated in a university with unique strengths, SLAB focuses on promoting research collaboration within and outside Price. Aligned with Price’s commitment to social justice and equity, the various activities of SLAB bring a humanistic attention to marginalized peoples and places in cities.
mapping  cartography  spatial_humanities 
6 weeks ago
USC Price launches spatial analysis labs for teaching, research | USC News
The USC Price School of Public Policy is making a significant investment into expanding the visualization of public policy and urban planning with the launch of a Spatial Analysis Teaching Laboratory (SATLAB) and a Spatial Analysis Lab (SLAB) for research, aiming to experiment with multimedia sights and sounds to bring attention to overlooked urban spaces and people.

The use of visual tools is an innovative way to enhance the school’s commitment to social justice and equity.

Incorporating pictures, video and audio bites, multimedia spatial analysis can create a map of an urban environment that reveals its people and places from different angles, engaging the senses to reach a wider audience than traditional academic research. It can be as if you’re walking through a city, hearing people’s stories and conversations.

“We’ve been working to develop the capacity and resources within the Price School to support research with a spatial component,” said Genevieve Giuliano, senior associate dean for research and technology. “People live in cities and interact across space, so the whole concept of thinking about the things we do in this school from a spatial perspective makes a lot of sense.”....

“We want all of our students to be routinely spatially informed and skilled, so that everybody knows how to map and portray images,” Giuliano said. “We want to be recognized for a multidisciplinary and multidimensional way of studying urban phenomena, as well as public policy.”
spatial_humanities  mapping  cartography 
6 weeks ago
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