Amy Kulper: Architecture’s Digital Turn and the Advent of Photoshop - YouTube
In this lecture, Amy Kulper locates architecture’s “digital turn” in 1988, when Thomas Knoll invented Photoshop. Originally developed as an image-editing software, Photoshop fit neatly within the long history of optical correction in the discipline. Yet its ubiquity today also prompts new questions. Does Photoshop simply introduce logics of adjustment, correction, and contingency to architecture, or does it possess the capacity to creatively generate form? Did Photoshop’s cut-and-paste collage aesthetic align itself with the predominant operations of postmodern pastiche, or does its propensity for photorealism advance a tautological representational agenda in architecture? What impact did the advent of Photoshop have on the processes of architectural archiving, and does its seamless aesthetic problematize the sourcing and identification of original images? What can the advent of Photoshop tell us about architecture’s shift from analog to digital design?
media_archaeology  software  photoshop 
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center
Humans have been delving below Earth’s surface for tens of thousands of years. From the earliest maps of the spiritual underworld made by ancient man, to digital maps of the seabed produced today, the human need to explore and envision the world beneath our feet is age-old. In this exhibition, you will see how ancient Romans carved vast underground catacombs, how minerals and natural resources have been studied, engineered and transported since the 19th century, how today’s scientific and cartographic advancements have enabled us to picture the entire ocean floor, and what lies below the streets of Boston. As you explore nearly 400 years of maps and images of the world below, you can compare the historical viewpoint with the modern, and see how we have advanced our perception and depiction of what lies beneath.
mapping  cartography  underground 
Anni Albers: Picking Up the Thread | by Andrew Dickson | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
In On Weaving, Albers was insistent that what she called “Tactile Sensibility” was crucial to our understanding of art, and of textiles in particular. While our visual sense had grown increasingly sophisticated, she argued, we were losing contact with our sense of touch: “Unless we are specialized producers, our contact with materials is rarely more than a contact with the finished product. We remove a cellophane wrapping, and there it is—the bacon, or the razor blade, or the pair of nylons.” Alas, the Guggenheim curators don’t permit you to stroke the lustrous creations on the walls, but they have placed a perspex box near the entrance containing samples of jute, linen, and wool, as well as polymers such as rayon and cellophane. To rummage in that box is to feel what Albers felt. It was a kind of aesthetic synesthesia: “We learn to listen to voices,” she wrote in the mid-1940s, “to the yes or no of our material, our tools, our time.”

By the time Albers was forming these thoughts, she and Josef had been forced to flee Germany by the Nazis. They relocated to the United States in 1933, at first teaching at the newly established Black Mountain College in North Carolina, then moving to Connecticut when Josef joined the faculty at Yale in 1949. By that time, they had begun to make regular trips to Mexico in search of traditional textiles and objects, and later to Cuba, Chile, and Peru. Some of their spoils feature in the Guggenheim show. Anni, in particular, was deeply affected by her travels to the historical fountainheads of weaving, and by her contact with South-American artists using ancient techniques; her own weavings acquired the energy of discovery. One of her best-known creations, Red Meander (1954), later reworked as a series of screenprints, resembles the ground plan for an ancient labyrinth, with hints of the blocky Peruvian patterns she knew intimately. ...

The liminal status of her artform is somewhat responsible for her partial disappearance. Of course, this is a case of gender as well as genre—or a malign combination of the two, whereby a female artist who works in a “domestic” artform with links to indigenous communities is easily sidelined. Albers may be the star of the Guggenheim’s anniversary season, but she cuts a lonely figure in Bilbao...

A nod to the deceptive simplicity of Albers’s practice, it is also, surely, a quiet tribute to her teacher Paul Klee’s suggestion that drawing is “taking a line for a walk.” In On Weaving, Albers settled on a more sonorous phrase, just as resonant: “the event of a thread.”
weaving  anni_albers  textiles  texture 
IN-TOUCH Q&A with David Parisi | IN-TOUCH: Digital touch communication
Especially in the last fifteen years or so, there has been a growing body of scholarly work focused on touch, emerging from a range of disciplines and subfields. Some of this work was situated explicitly in Sensory Studies and Sensory Anthropology—a field that has many tributaries—while other research on the cultural life of touch emerged from Literary Criticism, Film Theory, and Gender Studies. Many of these works will no doubt be familiar to visitors to this blog, but perhaps others will be a bit more obscure. Laura Mark’s Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (2002), Elizabeth Harvey’s edited volume Sensible Flesh: On Touch in Early Modern Culture (2003), Laura Gowing’s Common Bodies: Women, Touch and Power in Seventeenth-Century England (2003), Constance Classen’s edited collection The Book of Touch (2005), Mark Paterson’s Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and Technologies (2007), and Classen’s monograph The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch (2012) complemented earlier works like Ashley Montagu’s Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin (1986). But while they contain valuable insights on touch’s flexibility and multiplicity, other than Marks’s Touch and Paterson’s Senses of Touch, they don’t directly take up questions pertinent to the mediation of touch by communication technologies. Abbie Garrington’s Haptic Modernism: Touch and the Tactile in Modernist Writing (2013) and Anne Cranny-Francis’s Technology and Touch: The Biopolitics of Emerging Technologies (2013) strike closer to that target, as do some of the chapters in Margaret Linley and Collette Colligan’s collection Media, Technology, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century: Image, Sound, and Touch (2011; see especially the contributions from Warne, Raykoff, Keep, Colligan, and myself). The literature on touch has developed so substantially from a decade and a half ago that it seemed to make sense to me to carve out a distinct tradition of scholarship specifically devoted to touch and communication media.

The shift from touch studies to haptic media studies also throws emphasis of the research program onto that messy category of the haptic. For me, this is an important move, because the tradition around haptics that I emphasize in my work is one where it is linked intractably to scientific and technical research on touch—the attempt to provide touch with a doctrine akin to the doctrines for seeing and hearing. So this is a way of putting emphasis on the way that touch has been an ‘object-target’ of biopolitics, with touch expressed through a set of psychological instruments and apparatuses, all designed with the intent of abstracting and quantifying touch.

...the emergence of Computer Haptics in the later decades of the twentieth century gave this lab work a practical applicability it had previously lacked. So the alteration of the collective sensorium through technologies of touch, in my view, consists in part of touch’s redefinition as something quantifiable, measurable, and ultimately transmissible—a redefinition that informed the investigations of haptic human-computer interface pioneers in the 1970s and 1980s.

...Immersion Corporation has been incorporating tactile signification systems into mobile phones since at least 2005 (with the launch of their VibeTonz system). Frank Geldard and Carl Sherrick founded the Cutaneous Communication Lab at Princeton in 1962. Louis Braille modified existing forms of raised-dot fingertip reading to form what we know understand as Braille almost a century ago.
touch  sensory_history 
Desperately Seeking Cities | Online Only | n+1
The value of the Amazon contest is that it has laid bare a fundamental contradiction of contemporary urban life. Amazon appealed to cities—cannily, it must be said—to narrate themselves: what makes them unique, such that Amazon should locate there? The result was that all cities ended up putting forward the same, boring virtues and “legacy assets”: some parks, some universities, some available land, some tax breaks, some restaurants. Each city, it turned out, was indistinguishable from every other city: “thirty-six hours . . . in the same beer garden, museum, music venue, and ‘High Line’-type urban park.” By the same token, all cities were forced to realize their basic inadequacy: that ultimately, all their tireless work to cultivate their urbanity amounted to nothing if they did not have Amazon....

The most serious academic riposte to the urbanist ideology has been Michael Storper’s Keys to the City (2013), which demonstrates comprehensively what one might always have guessed, and what the Amazon contest has proven: the location of businesses, rather than the walkability, density, and diversity of a city, determines its economic health. A statistically insignificant portion of the country will up and move to Dallas because they are fiending for breakfast tacos that they can sort of walk to, near a private-public partnership-funded park that caps a freeway where they can sort of enjoy them. Most people, however, move to a place in search of jobs, not “urbanism.” ...

Among the calls most prominent—a takeover of the local party structure, an end to mass incarceration, a guarantee of healthcare, reinvestment in schools—there is still the unfinished work of planning. Left untouched, cities will rely on Amazon to do it for them.
media_city  amazon  placemaking  branding  urban_planning  smart_cities 
3 days ago
Does Your Washing Machine Understand You? How to Talk to Appliances - WSJ
Voice-recognition capabilities are gaining ground in the kitchen as multi-tasking cooks appreciate the hands-free convenience of barking orders. GE Appliances last year was the first major appliance manufacturer to launch its own platform, also known as a skill, called Geneva, which is compatible with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, among others.

Geneva is accessed via Amazon’s Echo devices or Google Home devices. These devices interact with Wi-Fi communication cards built into the appliances. Users can say “Alexa, tell Geneva to preheat the oven to 350” or “OK Google, ask Geneva Home if my icemaker is full,” and Geneva will complete the job. Other tasks include setting timers, checking how far along the wash or dry cycle is and determining if dishwasher or laundry detergent is running low.

Other major kitchen appliance makers are building their own voice-recognition capabilities, often in collaboration with Amazon and Google, they say.

The intimate, everyday habits of cooking and laundry breed a rich diversity of language across generations, regions and even individual households. “Since these kinds of tasks are usually transferred inside families, there can be pockets that develop where they just have their own terms%2
sound_design  language  voice  voice_activation  appliances  things 
3 days ago
LORINC: In search of clarity on Sidewalk Labs (plus correction) - Spacing Toronto
“[O]ur Model Lab…is a very different approach than what is typically done with the regional models, which are very slow, unresponsive. Fundamentally, it involves the creation of synthetic populations. In the U.S., we’re beginning to work with our first metropolitan area with that approach.”
Doctoroff declined to name the city, except to note that it is in the mid-west. He added: “There’s incredible enthusiasm among transportation and planning agencies around North America about this approach, because it’s very different.”
sidewalk_labs  smart_cities 
3 days ago
imagined forms
As testimony, test, or proposal, models of all sorts record, revise, and reinvent the world.  From toy miniatures to computer simulations, modeling is a primary means by which we make sense of and act upon our material lives, the lives of others and the culture at large.  Everyone models: from artists and designers to prototype machinists and engineers to children.  Models may be provisional or idealized—rehearsals of things yet to be or representations of those that already exist—professional or slapdash, sustained or ephemeral.  In particular, models, whether prospective or mimetic, have long animated disciplines and discourses that center on knowledge formation and innovation.  Models can represent existing conventions or visionary inventions; in both cases models are scalar constructions with the potential for affective, aesthetic, conceptual, and technological effects. Inspired by the Hagley Museum’s extensive collection of patent models—nearly 900 items made between 1809 and 1899—this interdisciplinary conference will highlight modeling as both a fundamental human activity and an inevitably material practice.

“Imagined Forms: Modeling and Material Culture” inaugurates a biennial conference series sponsored by the Center for Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware. We look forward to presentations from a wide range of disciplines, in
models  measurement  standards  epistemology  tools 
5 days ago
Sounds | Work With Sounds
WWS is recording the endangered or disappearing sounds of industrial society – including sounds people try/tried to protect themselves from. During 1st September 2013 and 31st September 2015 we will record at least 600 sounds in their original settings. Every sound will also be documented: What and where is it? And how did we record it?

WWS will be creating a soundscape of industrial Europe.
sound_design  labor  industrialism  sound_history 
5 days ago
Data 4 Black Lives | About Us
Data for Black Lives is a group of activists, organizers, and mathematicians committed to the mission of using data science to create concrete and measurable change in the lives of Black people.

Since the advent of computing, big data and algorithms have penetrated virtually every aspect of our social and economic lives. These new data systems have tremendous potential to empower communities of color. Tools like statistical modeling, data visualization, and crowd-sourcing, in the right hands, are powerful instruments for fighting bias, building progressive movements, and promoting civic engagement.

But history tells a different story, one in which data is too often wielded as an instrument of oppression, reinforcing inequality and perpetuating injustice. Redlining was a data-driven enterprise that resulted in the systematic exclusion of Black communities from key financial services. More recent trends like predictive policing, risk-based sentencing, and predatory lending are troubling variations on the same theme. Today, discrimination is a high-tech enterprise.
Data for Black Lives seeks to mobilize scientists around racial justice issues. At our conference in November, we will convene over two hundred data scientists, computer programmers, racial justice activists, and elected officials to discuss the role that data can and should play in Black communities.
data  race  algorithms  social_justice 
5 days ago
JF Ptak Science Books: Burroughs, Batman, and Bullets in the History of Holes and Punched Card Computation
There is a continuing thread on this blog on The History of Holes--it is a series about, well,  holes and what isn't in them/what used to be in them/what you can see through them, and so on. This particular section of holes relates to the control and distribution of data and the great efficacy of utilizing holes punched into cards which would be arranged and tabulated in such a way as to order and manipulate mountains of data.  That said I don't recall seeing anything in print from the heyday of keypunching that actually mentioned the holes, as it does here--nor have I seen a non-William-Burroughs connection made between handguns, bullets, holes, and tabulation. Oddly enough, there is a connection with a crime fighter who didn't use a gun and whose sidekick used the exclamation "Holy ______ (computer, etc., and no expletives). And so we get to unite punched cards, computers, W.S. Burroughs, Batman, and The Time Tunnel.  (The Time Tunnel?--yes indeed, the tv show from the 60's can be brought into this as well..)
textual_form  index_cards  punch_cards  aesthetics_of_administration  office_culture 
5 days ago
A map of language charted by Navajo philosophy (A map of language) — High Country News
Her new book, Of Cartography, is framed by the four cardinal directions and their symbolism in Navajo history. It digs into the cultural and physical representation of Navajo language, how landscape shapes identity and what it means to be Indian.

Her poems try to capture the rhythm and storytelling intrinsic to the Diné language. “I wanted to investigate whether there was a Navajo meter or diction, and how that voice could come out,” she says. “It’s not just a collection of poems squeezed together. This was about pairing identity politics with Navajo philosophy, which is all very orderly, and then telling my story through the structure.”
cartography  textual_form  concrete_writing  indigenous 
5 days ago
Ann Hamilton — Making, and the Spaces We Share - | On Being
The philosopher Simone Weil defined prayer as “absolutely unmixed attention.” The artist Ann Hamilton embodies this notion in her sweeping works of art that bring all the senses together. She uses her hands to create installations that are both visually astounding and surprisingly intimate, and meet a longing many of us share, as she puts it, to be alone together.
ann_hamilton  archive_art  archives  installation  sensation 
5 days ago
A Close-Up on Mysteries Made of Stone in Saudi Arabia’s Desert - The New York Times
For nearly a decade, David Kennedy marveled from behind his computer screen at thousands of mysterious stone structures scattered across Saudi Arabia’s desert. With Google Earth’s satellite imagery at his fingertips, the archaeologist peeked at burial sites and other so-called Works of the Old Men, created by nomadic tribes thousands of years ago.

But he was unable to secure permission to visit the country to observe up close the ancient designs that he and amateur archaeologists had studied from their desktops.

Last month, after announcing he had identified nearly 400 stone “gates,” Dr. Kennedy received the invitation of a lifetime from Saudi officials to investigate the hidden structures from a helicopter.

“They are absolutely astonishing,” said Dr. Kennedy, who recently retired from the University of Western Australia. “From 500 feet, you can see the vital details of structures that are invisible in the fuzzy image on Google Earth.”...

In Saudi Arabia, he explored 200 sites from the air across the regions of Harrat Khaybar and Harrat Uwayrid. The structures he observed ranged in shapes and sizes, which he describes as gates, kites, triangles, bull’s eyes and keyholes.

Of the 400 structures he describes as “gates” that he had identified on Google Earth, Dr. Kennedy studied about 40 from the helicopter and found that the structures were not randomly put together....

each long bar was actually made up of two parallel lines of flat slabs placed on their edges facing each other with small stones filling the space in between.

“They are much more sophisticated than I was prepared for,” he said.

Some gates were larger than 1,000 feet long and 250 feet wide. He suspected the oldest may be about 9,000 years old. Though he is not sure of their purpose, he speculated they may have been used for farming purposes....

There were also several keyhole structures, sometimes lined up together. The heads of the keyholes were almost always near-perfect circles, and the walls were about three feet high.

These structures may have served some funerary or symbolic purpose. Dr. Kennedy did not date any of the structures he visited with radiocarbon testing, but he said that future groups should perform more thorough analysis.
media_space  writing  geoglyphs  archaeology 
5 days ago
Digital Social Memory and the Case of the Online Archive of Internet Art | New Criticals
Rhizome has recognised the significance of performativity in relation to the archive of internet art, since aesthetic form and meaning production in internet artworks are often directly dependent on user interaction. One of Rhizome’s most significant preservation projects over the past few years has been the development of Webrecorder, a web archiving tool. Its core functionality is based on the two-way exchange taking place between client and server when we are browsing the web. Webrecorder records the dynamic traffic between the user’s browser requests and the responses from the online hosting environment, thereby facilitating the archiving of online artifacts as they are encountered by the user. Webrecorder’s browser-based app also provides the infrastructure to replay, or reperform, the archived artifacts within the browser. Through these two capabilities – record and replay – Webrecorder enables the archiving and reperformance of complex and dynamic internet artworks, such as Amalia Ulman’s Instagram piece Excellences and Perfections (2014), which explores the interactions between an Instagram user and their followers. Without a tool such as Webrecorder, preserving this artwork in its original environment and presenting it via a performative archi
archives  digital_archives  net_art  performance 
7 days ago
Ice and the Sky / La Glace et le ciel (2015) - Trailer (Eng Subs) - YouTube
Ice and The Sky tells the story of a man who encountered his destiny, aged 23, in the Antarctic. The film will retrace his life‟s journey, from his first steps as a young glaciologist to the crowning moment of his glittering career - winning the Blue Planet Prize, the Nobel of environmental sciences. Ice and The Sky is an epic tale, in which science and adventure meet. “I have loved the great rivers of ice, the lagoons, the villages at the edge of the desert. I have loved the primordial forests of the Americas. But I believe what I have loved most is man and his ability to surpass himself in extreme climates. My name is Claude Lorius and I am 82 years old. I have devoted my life to the search for knowledge. It has been an extraordinary story of science and devoted men who have changed the course of the history of Mankind.”
geology  geoarchives  ice_cores  antarctica 
7 days ago
How to write the most effective cover letter (essay)
One of the main points reiterated during the two days was the importance of making a clear case in both your cover letter and your CV for how you -- wonderful candidate that you are -- match the expectations for the position. Otherwise, no matter how well you can describe your achievements, the search committee will still question why you are the right person for this job. The best source for understanding the expectations for the position and who might make the best candidate is found in the leadership profile.

Using the Leadership Profile as a Guide
The leadership profile, sometimes called a search prospectus, is quite different from the job posting. It provides much more information about the institution and its mission, goals and needs. ...

The leadership profile (or a comparable document) is usually found on the website of the institution or the search consultant. It may be linked to search information from electronic sources. The leadership profile will generally end with the required qualifications, experience and the personal/leadership characteristics that the search committee is seeking in a candidate. That is typically included in the job posting, as well. What is added is a sense of how the group doing the search understands those qualifications and characteristics and why they have chosen those as most important.
The top three topics you will generally find outlined are the institution’s priorities, the position’s challenges and opportunities, and the agenda for the next person to occupy the position. Also very important are the key phrases they select for describing current activities or new initiatives that are important to the campus. The language used for each of these will give you signals about what the search committee will be seeking from a successful candidate.
job_search  cover_letter 
8 days ago
Time in Space: Representing Time in Maps | Stanford Humanities
Session 1: Mapping Time 
Half-hour papers, plus 15 minutes Q&A each

1:30 pm-2:15 pm: Lifting the Veil of Time: Maps, Metaphor, and Antiquarianism (17th-18th c.) 
Veronica Della Dora, Royal Holloway, University of London

2:15 pm-3 pm: The Art and Science of Deep Time, 1800-1900
Caroline Winterer, Stanford University

3 pm-3:45 pm: Mapping Time in the 20th (and 21st) Century
Bill Rankin, Yale University

3:45 pm-4:30 pm: Audience discussion

4:45: Public reception at Stanford Humanities Center

Saturday, November 11:  Closed Session 
Session 2: Narrative 

9 am-9:45 am: History in Maps from the Aztec Empire
Barbara Mundy, Fordham University

9:45 am-10:30 am: Parallel Process? Historical Mapping Evolves in Early Modern Japan
Kären Wigen, Stanford University

10:30 am-11:15 am    Coffee Break

Session 3: Unfoldings 

11:15 am-noon: From From To To: A Map of Language
Daniel Rosenberg, University of Oregon

noon-12:45 pm: The Legacy of Matteo Ricci in East Asian World Maps of the Nineteenth Century
Richard Pegg, The MacLean Collection

1 pm-2 pm: Lunch at Stanford Humanities Center 

Session 4: Journeys

2:15 pm-3 pm Time Traveling: Representing and Retracing the Past in American Travelers’ Maps and Guidebooks
James R.
cartography  mapping  temporality  time  history 
9 days ago
Mapping Access Project — Mapping Access
What is the architecture of inclusion?

How do buildings, pathways, and design elements create inclusive spaces? 

What can mapping reveal about the overlaps and intersections of inclusive campus spaces? 

Mapping Access is a participatory mapping and data visualization project documenting the features of the campus built environment that facilitate inclusion. Through digital maps, Map-a-thon events, community conversations, photography, and film, the project explores mapping as a process of social transformation.

The project draws on methods and theories from Disability Justice, the environmental humanities, intersectionality, and critical GIS.

Mapping Access engages users as experts in the design process to generate surveys, collect data, create new mapping methods, and build a commitment toward broad accessibility. Typical approaches to accessibility focus on issues of code compliance and checklists of standards. Instead, this project draws upon the analytic frameworks of intersectionality and disability justice, as well as Universal Design methodology, to craft alternative standards for meaningful access.
mapping  cartography  inclusion  disability  tactility  accessibility 
9 days ago
4th Istanbul Design Biennial A School of Schools Announces Concept and Open Call - Biennial Foundation
Titled A School of Schools, the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial will stretch both the space and time of the traditional design event, manifesting as a flexible year-long programme within which to respond to global acceleration, generating alternative methodologies, outputs and forms of design and education. A School of Schools manifests as a set of dynamic learning formats encouraging creative production, sustainable collaboration, and social connection. Exploring eight themes, the learning environment is a context of empowerment, reflection, sharing and engagement, providing reflexive responses to specific situations.

Can the biennial use, question and reframe previously tried-and-tested education models – from the museum-as-encyclopedia to the laboratory, the studio and the academy – to create a setting for meaningful dialogue and design? Can design itself be a brave space for people to share their knowledge and ignorance, their experience and curiosity?
pedagogy  learning  exhibition 
10 days ago
Art Meets Cartography: The 15,000-Year History of a River in Oregon Rendered in Data | Colossal
When considering the historical path of a river, it’s easy to imagine a torrential flood that causes a stream to overflow its banks, or a drought that brings a body of water to a trickle. The reality of a river’s history is vastly more complex, as the artery of water gradually changes directions over thousands of years, shifting its boundaries imperceptibly inch by inch.

Geologists and cartographers have grappled with helpful ways to visually depict a river’s flow over time. In 1941, the Mississippi River Commission appointed Harold Fisk to undertake a groundbreaking effort to map the entire Lower Mississippi Valley. Three years later he produced a stunning series of 15 maps that combine over 20 different river paths obtained through historical charts and aerial photography.
cartography  mapping  borders 
10 days ago
The One-Room Apartment by Cornelius Meyer (1689) – SOCKS
Cornelis Meijer (Cornelius Meyer) (1629-1701) was a Dutch hydraulics engineer that came to Rome in 1680 to assist in the design of the banks of the Tiber river, the diverting of the water and the draining of the Pontine marshes. His two-volumes book Nuovi ritrovamenti (1689), (available in pdf online from the ETH Rara page) is a collection of engineering proposals related to his activity in Rome as well as to other heterogeneous designs for eyeglasses, bridges, carts, even automobiles and observations on the movement of the comets.

The book also includes a design for a one-room apartment (Del Fabricar Comodo). No complimentary text is provided, apart from a note on how fully satisfied the Vitruvian criteria of stabilità, fermezza and commoda may be within a restricted space. Four etchings and relative annotations about the project are present in the book.
architecture  intellectual_furnishings  furniture 
11 days ago
How one data-driven art and technology company is understanding cities with AI - Storybench
Should New York have more than five boroughs? Are zip codes too large? As part of the Northeastern University Visualization Consortium‘s Fall 2017 speaker series, Mahir Yavuz spoke about Topos, the data-driven art and technology company he co-founded that is applying different methods and techniques from machine learning and artificial intelligence to reveal fresh insights about cities.

The problem with city data

Policymakers, governments, the postal service and companies are relying on city data that is out-of-date, Yavuz stressed. Using census data, for example, doesn’t allow one to capture quickly enough the flux of neighborhoods and people. Zip codes, he said, are too large to capture granular data about neighborhoods.

“Companies are using very old-school data and demographics,” said Yavuz. “We believe there’s a lot of opportunity there to fix the problems and find solutions… we realized that it’s not an easy problem to solve. You need to change the way you collect data asa government.”

That’s why Topos – which publishes blogposts here on its findings – is leveraging multiple data sources to understand the modern makeup of cities, he said. Using methodologies like hierarchical clustering,...

Topos has also tried to break down New York’s five boroughs into regions that might make more sense than that outdated method of partitioning the city. Using principal component analysis, which split the city’s neighborhoods into vectors and organized them as dimensions, Topos found that the city could be organized along concentric circles – which break down by household income, late night pizza spots, and visual presence of nature. The outskirts of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island belong, in a sense, to the same borough – a borough for commuters.
urban_data  mapping 
12 days ago
It’s a “speaking clock,” an automated electronic announcement which provides the current time. The distinct accent belongs to Pat Simmons, a former London telephone exchange employee who spoke the time from 1963 until 1985. Simmons followed Jane Cain, the “golden voice” of the first British telephone time system starting in 1936. That first setup was a room-sized electric mechanism which produced an automated announcement from glass disc recordings of Ms. Cain’s voice, reading numbers and sentence fragments. (Dialing “T-I-M” from any UK telephone at the time set this elaborate machine running.) Before this, speaking clocks were delivered live by an operator sitting in front of a clock face, answering phone calls and reading out the time.

Of course what you hear *live* when you call the number above depends on exactly when you call. The voice, well that’s not so live; Simmons spoke the clock only from 1963 until 1985 and this service is a software simulation run by enthusiasts at A speaking clock is clearly an anachronism, but, it also provides a crisp model for thinking around something quite contemporary — the interface.

Whatever “lies between” is called interface, whatever allows us to link two different elements, to reconcile them, to put them into%2
interfaces  syllabus 
12 days ago / Blog – Towards A Library Without Walls
In “As We May Think,” Bush’s argument comes in the wake of two World Wars and is largely concerned with science as the cornerstone of knowledge as it relates to power and elevating the spirit of man. This kind of universalism ignores the aforementioned alternate value systems, as well as other significant forms of knowledge (i.e. ethical, theological, philosophical, cultural, musical, or artistic), and historical narratives that might call into question his progressive vision of modernity. By limiting his conception of associative indexing to the production of scientific knowledge, Bush misses the potential that these other forms of non-empirical knowledge—where definitive truth is elusive or potentially even undesirable—could find even greater benefit from hypertextual models. With, the content in many of its user-generated channels evades the noble purposes Bush envisioned for his Memex. Instead, the mundane, the mimetic, the frivolous, the artistic, the irreverent, the visual, and the ephemeral come to the fore. Here we can recognize associative coalescing as a form of non-result-oriented knowledge production, where the fuzzy boundaries of a subject are collectively defined through free association and family resemblances as connections between channels and blocks are improvised over time...

By acknowledging other forms of knowledge beyond the scientific and better understanding the role sociality plays in our contemporary experience of information, we can better define what constitutes information and how best to describe, classify, organize, and make it accessible as librarians. Rather than prioritizing static information, fixed organization, and solitary experiences as the conventional library environment is known to do, those of us who work in LIS can adopt the more boundless strategies that we encounter in hypertextual tools such as for the benefit of the communities that we serve, essentially working towards becoming a library without the brick walls that Lampland and Star refer to in regards to infrastructure that fails to serve user needs. Parallel to thinking about what might mean for librarianship, we can look to extant projects such as the Prelinger Library and the Sitterwerk’s Kunstbibliothek, whose methods for organizing their material also exist as an alternative to more traditionally-organized libraries.
archives  epistemology 
12 days ago
Who Needs Hard Drives? Scientists Store Film Clip in DNA - The New York Times
The advance, reported on Wednesday in the journal Nature by researchers at Harvard Medical School, is the latest and perhaps most astonishing example of the genome’s potential as a vast storage device.

Scientists already have managed to translate all of Shakespeare’s sonnets into DNA. ....

With the new research, he and other scientists have begun to wonder if it may be possible one day to do something even stranger: to program bacteria to snuggle up to cells in the human body and to record what they are doing, in essence making a “movie” of each cell’s life....

Dr. Church and Seth Shipman, a geneticist, and their colleagues began by assigning each pixel in the black-and-white film a DNA code based on its shade of gray. The vast chains of DNA in each cell are made of just four molecules — adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine — arranged in enormously varied configurations.

The geneticists ended up with a sequence of DNA molecules that represented the entirety of the film. Then they used a powerful new gene editing technique, Crispr, to slip this sequence into the genome of a common gut bacteria, E. coli....

In 1994, Dr. Adleman reported that he had stored data in DNA and used it as a computer to solve a math problem. He determined that DNA can store a million million times more data than a compact disc in the same space....

DNA is never going out of fashion. “Organisms have been storing information in DNA for billions of years, and it is still readable,” Dr. Adleman said. He noted that modern bacteria can read genes recovered from insects trapped in amber for millions of years.
archives  data  storage  DNA 
12 days ago
A museum’s cabinet of curiosities is also a chamber of secrets | Aeon Essays
I’m interested to note the ways in which collectable objects weave shadows and ambiguities around themselves. The light-skinned hands holding the tupilaq in the photo manifest some degree of control over the carvings, but of a kind that can never be total. Objects arrive webbed in connections, and hoard their most intimate gestures and relations in unreachable treasure-houses. A collected object is a kind of vessel, freighted with an irredeemable record of acts and things, inaccessible worlds of sense and event, a tissue of phenomenal dark matter caught up in time’s obliterative machinery....

any straightforward dichotomy between the natural and the cultural, the material and the symbolic, is complicated at every instance by qualities that refuse neat abstraction. Toothed whales use their teeth for communication; a porpoise’s charismatic smile tells a story; dolphins deploy the acoustic properties of their teeth to issue warnings and threats. Rooted in the jaw, the tooth likely aids a whale’s perceptual work, its capturing and filtering of sound in the marine environment. Forged in an organismic manufactory, tooled by genes (it’s symbols all the way down), a tooth takes its place for a time in a network of perception and action: catching the piercing resonance of whale song bounding in the deep canyons — testing and metering the shifting temperatures of Arctic air — tearing and gripping the trauma-tautened flesh of smolt salmon....

I want to understand how things come to take their place — especially in museums and collections — as embodiments of knowledge, artefacts out of time and nature, provoking curiosity and wonder. How they become objectified. The French philosopher Michel Foucault understood the natural history museum as a kind of republic of objects fixed and ordered in their relations. Of course, those relations change with changing science; yesterday’s taxonomic specimens become today’s harbingers of climate change. This is not to say that the specimens are not friendly to science, that they cannot help us to tell stories about the world. But I want a museum with the modesty to realise that the objects of its interest do not take their sole, true, or final form beneath its gaze. As seen by science, objects withdraw their auras — burning coronas that connect sense and experience to the deep past — and when the galleries and museums are in ruins, they will expose new banners to time’s unfolding. The tupilaq are players in a luminous, long-durée ecology — one in which paintings and pelts, sculptures and scarab beetles, clay pots and crania change states and meanings; negotiate mingled dimensions of nature and culture; and become consumed, even as they consume our attention....

There were distinctive furnishings as well: in particular, the maceration tank, a giant stainless-steel pot on a pedestal, a huge pressure cooker used to boil large specimens down to bones. And, behind an airlock-like set of self-sealing doors, the dermestid room — named for the swarms of beetle grubs that seethed over small skeletons, picking them clean. Outfitted with variously sized glass tanks full of grubs, this room was a secure space, with blowers supplying negative air pressure, and seals around the doors, to ensure no beetles or larvae could escape. Upon leaving the dermestid room, you had to stand in the airlock and brush down your clothes. There was an aroma of putrefaction in the room, but it was faint — you got used to it. The sound, however, was oppressive. The place hummed with a static song of tens of thousands of beetle grubs, hairy and grey, all chewing at sinew and dried muscle...

Our task in the specimen-prep lab was to transform dead animals into data. The products of our work were not the taxidermied simulacra that posed behind glass in the galleries, but study skins and skeletons for the research collection. These were stored out of public view in open-topped archival boxes, which fitted closely together into broad, shallow trays that rested in rank upon rank of shelving, forming a library of the dead. Although to call the specimens dead does not sound quite right. For the specimens had transcended or exceeded death, had passed beyond its dominion by means of a process that arrested, ostensibly in perpetuity, their participation in the carbon cycle, the wheel of disarticulation and recombination, that is life on earth....

The collection was not comprised of equals. Enjoying pride of place among the trays were the holotypes, singled out as exemplars of their species. Set off by their yellow tags, type specimens are often much older than their preserved confreres. In most cases, they document the discovery of a species — although of course they’re rarely discoveries in the strict sense of the term. Instead, they’re symbols of a species’ scientific acknowledgement, of the moment when a local variant achieves a Latin binomial and a place in a refereed journal. The holotype is a heady, almost absurd designation: an animal sacrificed to represent a life form in its entirety... Other specimens lying nestled together in a case, by contrast, might never have run across one another in life. Now pristine, beyond birth and death, predation and putrefaction, they offer themselves up as information, an apposition of time and place with diameter of nostril, length of genital vent, and body weight in grammes. ...

After first making a series of measurements — length of body, tail, and foot, weight in grammes — I would write out a tiny tag with the relevant geographical coordinates, date of collection, and all-important accession number, all inscribed with an indelible rapidograph pen. Before arriving in the museum, specimens collected by scientists in the field had already been subjected to a great deal of informational dissection: external parasites identified and censused, blood and perhaps other tissue samples collected, and finally, the subject itself euthanised and frozen.....

In its ordered cabinets, the specimen collection superimposed and coordinated two different kinds of space. On the one hand there was the hierarchical logic of the classification scheme: specimens disposed throughout in boxes, sliding shelves, and jars according to the taxonomy, from kingdom to class to specific epithet. Intersecting this paradigmatic plane was a geographical dimension evoked virtually, via metadata, with each specimen’s place of collection tagged and noted. Ideally, these two planes interacted in the museum like a multidimensional slide rule for natural history — one calibrated and operated by teams of expert operators, from lab techs to curators to field scientists....

The objects disposed in the cabinets of natural history are varied in their qualities and their uses: not only study skins and skeletons, but whole creatures preserved in jars of alcohol, germ plasm samples in cryogenic tubes, and sundry other accessions. For purposes of natural science, specimens represent ‘raw’ data. Indeed, the term ‘preparation’ serves to ‘re-raw’, so to speak — for, like the tupilaq, the dead animals are already thoroughly ‘cooked’. And like the tupilaq, they are doubly mysterious....

The moth that blundered into the uncanny machinery of the Mark II, following who knows what tracery of heat and light, was of no particular natural-historical significance. Furtive in its shabby grey fluttering, it would have roused no more than a raised eyebrow from Hopper and her busy colleagues servicing the Mark II — a momentary pause, a dropping of cigarette ash on the console. Only later, upon its post-mortem discovery, was this dead creature turned into data. Now roughly preserved and enshrined in the Smithsonian, the dead insect serves as holotype for the computer bug.
objects  collection  metadata  archives 
13 days ago
Atlas of Transformation
Atlas of Transformation is a book with almost 900 pages. It is a sort of global guidebook of transformation processes. With structured entries, its goal is to create a tool for the intellectual grasping of the processes of social and political change in countries that call themselves "countries of transformation" or are described by this term. The Atlas of Transformation was first published in Czech and it contains more than 200 "entries" and key terms of transformation. Several dozen authors (more than 100) from the whole world contributed to this book and also some influential period texts were republished here.
diagrams  epistemology  books  material_texts  book_design 
13 days ago
How Do You See the Disappeared? A Warm Database | Net Art Anthology
How Do You See the Disappeared? A Warm Database (2004), commissioned by the digital art organization Turbulence, responded to data-gathering and surveillance in the wake of 9/11, and its role in rendition, deportation, detention, and other forms of political disappearance. In opposition to state-sponsored processes of surveillance and erasure, the project proposed a concept of “warm data”–deeply personal but non-identifying information that spoke to the lived experience of being subjected to political invisibility of various kinds.

The web-based project featured a hypertext essay, watercolor portraits of the Disappeared, a questionnaire, and visualizations of the answers, as well as accounts of activist efforts and links to political resources. Through warmth and subtlety, it sought to destabilize the cold, calculating logic of the archive, while including concrete calls to action on behalf of vulnerable communities.....

After researching the kinds of questions people were asked as part of the special registration process and spending time with people in detention centers, Ghani began to develop the concept of “warm data.” The opposite of cold facts such as country of origin, warm data would explore the experiences of the disappeared, without revealing the identities or making them vulnerable in any way....

databases  archives  archive_art 
15 days ago
Mapping Sound - Natural Sounds (U.S. National Park Service)
Why is the National Park Service concerned about noise?
Park visitors and wildlife interact with each other and park resources through their senses, including the sense of hearing. So, protection of natural sounds is good for both ecosystems and the quality of visitor experience. Additionally, there are laws and policies that require the agency to conserve acoustic environments "unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

How does the sound map work?
Scientists made long term measurements of sound in parks as well as urban and rural areas across the country. This information helped predict current sound levels for the entire United States. A model was developed to understand relationships between measured sound levels and variables such as climate, topography, human activity, time of day, and day of year. The resulting geospatial sound model can also estimate how places would sound naturally, without human influence.
sound_map  cartography  mapping  sound_space 
16 days ago
Flipping through the Card Catalog | Picture This: Library of Congress Prints & Photos
The Library of Congress both catalogs newly published books as well as shares that descriptive information with other libraries. For many decades, starting in 1901, the format the Library used to share that information was the catalog card. The process of creating, printing, organizing, storing and distributing those millions of cards took hundreds of staff at the Library of Congress and vast spaces, such as the ones shown below. (See all of those thousands of boxes on the shelves and tables? Full of catalog cards printed at the Library.)
libraries  card_catalogue 
17 days ago
Theory of forms | Creative Combinatorics
In connection with his color theory Ostwald was also engaged in the “harmony of forms”. Using the rules he developed Ostwald created ornaments and new forms “according the laws of combinatorics” which were “all beautiful, without any exception”!
media_architecture  intellectual_furnishings  die_brucke 
17 days ago
Durationator Copyright System
The Durationator is a software and research system that provides legal information regarding the copyright status of any work in any jurisidiction in the world.
copyright  image_rights  advising 
18 days ago
How Is Digital Mapping Changing The Way We Visualize Racism and Segregation?
In order to explore the impact of the field of GIS and spatial humanities on social justice issues, I spoke to GIS specialist Dr. Rob Shepard at the University of Iowa's Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio. He is the creator of the new 'Placing Segregation' project, which combines the geolocation of hundreds of written records with historical maps in order to visualize segregation in mid-19th century American cities such as Washington, D.C., Omaha and Nashville.

While this may seem like a novel approach, people of color have been using maps to visualize racism for a long time. As Shepard notes, "W.E.B. Du Bois famously geolocated and documented basic socioeconomic information about individual households in The Philadelphia Negro, as part of a sociological study in the 1890s. Consequently, the granular GIS-style approach I’ve been using in mapping residents for Placing Segregation – and my work with the project Civil War Washington before it – is not completely unique or special to digital humanities. And I don't claim that."..

Today there are dozens of digital projects focused on the African-American experience. Recently, The Colored Conventions Project housed at the University of Delaware brought together an epic list of over a hundred such projects. The list of digital initiatives include Mapping the Stacks, which visualizes Chicago's black community archives from the 1930s to the 1970s. As I have previously noted, the Equal Justice Initiative has also launched the Lynching in America project, which provides access to interactive maps, archival documents and oral histories of lynching in the U.S.
mapping  cartography  race 
18 days ago
Tianjin Binhai Library / MVRDV + Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute | ArchDaily
The building’s mass extrudes upwards from the site and is ‘punctured’ by a spherical auditorium in the centre. Bookshelves are arrayed on either side of the sphere and act as everything from stairs to seating, even continuing along the ceiling to create an illuminated topography. These contours also continue along the two full glass facades that connect the library to the park outside and the public corridor inside, serving as louvres to protect the interior against excessive sunlight whilst also creating a bright and evenly lit interior.
library  china 
19 days ago
The Finite State Fantasia - Tobias Revell
On the left-most side, the simulation is run as normal in Unity. Random objects are generated each time the simulation runs to act as obstacles for the machine. The second, central screen shows the point cloud generated by the interaction the machine has with the simulated space. The final wall shows the machine live remeshing the space and so shows its impression of what the space is.

By watching the three versions of the simulated space in parallel, a direct comparison is drawn between the simulation and the output to show how space is represented and interpreted by the different cognitive systems of humans and machines.
machine_vision  mapping 
19 days ago
Dust-to-Digital » Pictures of Sound: One Thousand Years of Educed Audio: 980-1980
Using modern technology, Patrick Feaster is on a mission to resurrect long-vanished voices and sounds—many of which were never intended to be revived.

Over the past thousand years, countless images have been created to depict sound in forms that theoretically could be “played” just as though they were modern sound recordings. Now, for the first time in history, this compilation uses innovative digital techniques to convert historic “pictures of sound” dating back as far as the Middle Ages directly into meaningful audio. It contains the world’s oldest known “sound recordings” in the sense of sound vibrations automatically recorded out of the air—the groundbreaking phonautograms recorded in Paris by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville in the 1850s and 1860s—as well as the oldest gramophone records available anywhere for listening today, including inventor Emile Berliner’s recitation of “Der Handschuh,” played back from an illustration in a magazine, which international news media recently proclaimed to be the oldest audible “record” in the tradition of 78s and vintage vinyl. Other highlights include the oldest known recording of identifiable words spoken in the English language (1878) and the world’s oldest surviving “trick recordin
media_archaeology  sound  sound_history 
20 days ago
Saudi Arabia Just Announced Plans to Build a Mega City That Will Cost $500 Billion - Bloomberg
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans to build a new city on the Red Sea coast, promising a lifestyle not available in today’s Saudi Arabia as he seeks to remake the kingdom in a time of dwindling resources....

The ambitious plan includes a bridge spanning the Red Sea, connecting the proposed city to Egypt and the rest of Africa. Some 10,000 square miles (25,900 square kilometers) have been allocated for the development of the urban area that will stretch into Jordan and Egypt.

The prince said the city project, to be called “NEOM,” will operate independently from the “existing governmental framework” with investors consulted at every step during development. The project will be backed by more than $500 billion from the Saudi government, its sovereign wealth fund and local and international investors, according to a statement released on Tuesday at an international business conference in Riyadh....

The project “seems to be broadly modeled on the ‘free zone’ concept pioneered in Dubai, where such zones are not only exempt from tariffs but also have their own regulations and laws, hence operating separately from the rest of government,” said Steffen Hertog, a professor at the London School of Economics and longtime Saudi-watcher. “In Dubai, this has worked well, but attempts to copy it have done less well in the region.”...

A promotional video released on Tuesday features a lifestyle so far unavailable in Saudi cities. It showed women free to jog in leotards in public spaces, working alongside men and playing instruments in a musical ensemble. The one woman wearing a hijab had her head covered with a patterned pink scarf.
SEZ  zones  smart_cities  middle_east 
24 days ago
The emotional context of information privacy: The Information Society: Vol 32, No 1
Why are ongoing legal, design, and policy debates around information privacy often divorced from the lived experience of everyday digital media use? This article argues that human emotion is a critical but undertheorized element in users' subjective sense of information privacy. The piece advocates for a greater attention to the phenomenology of feeling and to the concept of “visceral” design in information privacy scholarship, policy, and design practice.
privacy  sensation  embodiment  data 
25 days ago
What is a File? - Microsoft Research
For over 40 years the notion of the file, as devised by pioneers in the field of computing, has proved robust and has remained unchallenged. Yet this concept is not a given, but serves as a boundary object between users and engineers. In the current landscape, this boundary is showing signs of slippage, and we propose the boundary object be reconstituted. New abstractions of file are needed, which reflect what users seek to do with their digital data, and which allow engineers to solve the networking, storage and data management problems that ensue when files move from the PC on to the networked world of today. We suggest that one aspect of this adaptation is to encompass metadata within a file abstraction; another has to do what such a shift would mean for enduring user actions such as ‘copy’ and ‘delete’ applicable to the deriving file types. We finish by arguing that there is an especial need to support the notion of ‘ownership’ that adequately serves both users and engineers as they engage with the world of networked sociality.
computing_history  files 
29 days ago
Card catalogs and the secret history of modernity
Before loose-leaf cataloging, books would be cataloged in other books. (Most other documents were never cataloged at all.) This meant they’d be recorded chronologically, sometimes alphabetically, or according to some other scheme, with ad hoc additions and substitutions sprouting off like epicycles on Ptolemaic circles. It was a big damn deal to even find a book.

Manuscripts on parchment — the universe of The Name of the Rose — you could almost keep up with that pace. Printed books on rag paper? It gets a lot harder. And steam-powered fast-press books on wood-pulp paper? Even setting aside newspapers, pamphlets, telegraphed letters and memoranda? You can’t keep track of any of that without a system...

Card catalogs imagine an endlessly growing collection of books and other documents. It imagines institutions capable of standardizing the treatment of those documents. And it imagines a democratic public, scholars, students, and amateurs with both the urge and the ability to seek out such materials....

For William James, concepts become flexible and variable, suited to the task of the moment, not our inherited intellectual architecture. For Saussure, signs become slips of paper, shuffled and reshuffled, their meaning always relative to the other terms not given. For Darwin, species is a category in process; for Mendel and later scientists, genetic material is a code that is recombined and deciphered. None of this is an accident. Our physical and psychological experience of the media made us ready for these ideas.
card_catalogue  files  index_cards 
4 weeks ago
Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens | WIRED UK
n June 14, 2014, the State Council of China published an ominous-sounding document called "Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System". In the way of Chinese policy documents, it was a lengthy and rather dry affair, but it contained a radical idea. What if there was a national trust score that rated the kind of citizen you were?

Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It's not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school - or even just your chances of getting a date.

A futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control? No, it's already getting underway in China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens. The Chinese government is pitching the system as a desirable way to measure and enhance "trust" nationwide and to build a culture of "sincerity". As the policy states, "It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility." China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens. The Chinese government is pitching the system as a desirable way to measure and enhance "trust" nationwide and to build a culture of "sincerity". As the policy states, "It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility."...

For now, technically, participating in China's Citizen Scores is voluntary. But by 2020 it will be mandatory. The behaviour of every single citizen and legal person (which includes every company or other entity)in China will be rated and ranked, whether they like it or not. ...

So just how are people rated? Individuals on Sesame Credit are measured by a score ranging between 350 and 950 points. Alibaba does not divulge the "complex algorithm" it uses to calculate the number but they do reveal the five factors taken into account. The first is credit history. For example, does the citizen pay their electricity or phone bill on time? Next is fulfilment capacity, which it defines in its guidelines as "a user's ability to fulfil his/her contract obligations". The third factor is personal characteristics, verifying personal information such as someone's mobile phone number and address. But the fourth category, behaviour and preference, is where it gets interesting.

Under this system, something as innocuous as a person's shopping habits become a measure of character. ...

Friends matter, too. The fifth category is interpersonal relationships. What does their choice of online friends and their interactions say about the person being assessed? Sharing what Sesame Credit refers to as "positive energy" online, nice messages about the government or how well the country's economy is doing, will make your score go up....

So why have millions of people already signed up to what amounts to a trial run for a publicly endorsed government surveillance system? There may be darker, unstated reasons - fear of reprisals, for instance, for those who don't put their hand up - but there is also a lure, in the form of rewards and "special privileges" for those citizens who prove themselves to be "trustworthy" on Sesame Credit.

If their score reaches 600, they can take out a Just Spend loan of up to 5,000 yuan (around £565) to use to shop online, as long as it's on an Alibaba site. Reach 650 points, they may rent a car without leaving a deposit. ...

the government is attempting to make obedience feel like gaming. It is a method of social control dressed up in some points-reward system. It's gamified obedience....

people with low ratings will have slower internet speeds; restricted access to restaurants, nightclubs or golf courses; and the removal of the right to travel freely abroad with, I quote, "restrictive control on consumption within holiday areas or travel businesses". Scores will influence a person's rental applications, their ability to get insurance or a loan and even social-security benefits. Citizens with low scores will not be hired by certain employers and will be forbidden from obtaining some jobs, including in the civil service, journalism and legal fields, where of course you must be deemed trustworthy. Low-rating citizens will also be restricted when it comes to enrolling themselves or their children in high-paying private schools. I am not fabricating this list of punishments. It's the reality Chinese citizens will face.
quantified_self  social_score  big_data  biometrics 
4 weeks ago
Google’s plan to revolutionise cities is a takeover in all but name | Technology | The Guardian
Alphabet essentially wants to be the default platform for other municipal services. Cities, it says, have always been platforms; now they are simply going digital. “The world’s great cities are all hubs of growth and innovation because they leveraged platforms put in place by visionary leaders,” states the proposal. “Rome had aqueducts, London the Underground, Manhattan the street grid.”...

Alphabet’s long-term goal is to remove barriers to the accumulation and circulation of capital in urban settings – mostly by replacing formal rules and restrictions with softer, feedback-based floating targets. It claims that in the past “prescriptive measures were necessary to protect human health, ensure safe buildings, and manage negative externalities”. Today, however, everything has changed and “cities can achieve those same goals without the inefficiency that comes with inflexible zoning and static building codes”.... For Alphabet, these constraints are no more: ubiquitous and continuous data flows can finally replace government rules with market signals. Now, everything is permitted – unless somebody complains. The original spirit behind Uber was quite similar: away with the rules, tests and standards, let the sovereign consumer rank the drivers and low-scoring ones will soon disappear on their own. ...

Google Urbanism means the end of politics, as it assumes the impossibility of wider systemic transformations, such as limits on capital mobility and foreign ownership of land and housing. Instead it wants to mobilise the power of technology to help residents “adjust” to seemingly immutable global trends such as rising inequality and constantly rising housing costs (Alphabet wants us to believe that they are driven by costs of production, not by the seemingly endless supply of cheap credit)....

Here lies the populist promise of Google Urbanism: Alphabet can democratise space by customising it through data flows and cheap, prefabricated materials. The problem is that Alphabet’s democratisation of function will not be matched by the democratisation of control and ownership of urban resources. That’s why the main “input” into Alphabet’s algorithmic democracy is “market demand” rather than communal decision-making....

Instead of democratising ownership and control, Alphabet promises participation, consultation and new ways to track the vox populi – measured automatically via Alphabet’s extensive sensory network. The company even hails Jane Jacobs, everyone’s favourite urbanist, lending some credibility to the thesis that the kind of small-scale, highly flexible urbanism preached by Jacobs is quite compatible with Wall Street’s growing interest in real estate and infrastructure.
smart_cities  tech_historiography  historiography  google  sidewalk_labs 
4 weeks ago
Google wants to run your city. That's not a world we should live in | Jathan Sadowski | Opinion | The Guardian
Mayors and tech executives exalt urban labs as sites of disruptive innovation and economic growth. However, this model of creating our urban future is also an insidious way of handing more control – over people, places, policies – to profit-driven, power-hungry corporations.

As the Globe and Mail reports, Eric Schmidt said at the announcement: “The genesis of the thinking for Sidewalk Labs came from Google’s founders getting excited thinking of ‘all the things you could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge’.” Ambition alone is not a sin, yet desires like these should evoke suspicion, not celebration.

In an era of intense competition between cities for resources, many cities are focused on achieving constant growth, large returns, and public-private partnerships. This has translated into city leaders expending much energy courting the tech sector – that locus of investment and innovation.

They coax tech companies by offering benefits like looser regulation and lower taxes. They create “innovation ecosystems” made up of things like hackathons, incubators, and co-working spaces meant to attract programmers and venture capitalists....

But cities are not machines that can be optimized, nor are they labs for running experiments. Cities are not platforms with users, nor are they businesses with shareholders. Cities are real places with real people who have a right not to live with whatever “smart solutions” an engineer or executive decides to unleash.

These partnerships cannot be a way for city governments to abdicate responsibility and accountability to citizens by handing over (parts of) the city to corporations. Nobody elected Alphabet or Uber or any other company with its sights set on privatizing city governance.

When Sidewalk Labs was chosen to develop Quayside, Schmidt said his reaction was: “Now, it’s our turn.” While this was a joyous exclamation for him, it’s an ominous remark for the rest of us.
smart_cities  sidewalk_labs 
4 weeks ago
Designing the technology of ‘Blade Runner 2049’
Throughout the movie, K visits a laboratory where artificial memories are made; an LAPD facility where replicant code, or DNA, is stored on vast pieces of ticker tape; and a vault, deep inside the headquarters of a private company, that stores the results of replicant detection 'Voight-Kampff' tests. In each scene, technology or machinery is used as a plot device to push the larger narrative forward. Almost all of these screens were crafted, at least in part, by a company called Territory Studios...

When a computer or machine is shown on film, it needs to be believable. Sometimes, a static display will do. But others require animation and multiple screens, or loops, to be chained together. Early in the movie, for instance, K steps into his personal Spinner. The screens lining the dashboard change as a call from Joshi comes in, and K scans the eyeball of a replicant he was hunting earlier. These are subtle, but necessary transitions to sell the idea that the vehicle is real.

Every shot was different, but generally Territory provided screens with an initial state, an action state, and then a looping state. Some screens had additional action states, if they were required to pull off a particular sequence. The different states were then triggered by actors or production staff on cue.

Territory could, in theory, design and code full-blown applications. But for a movie like Blade Runner, that would be a costly and time-consuming process. After all, a screen is largely redundant once the scene has been shot. There are also the practicalities of shooting a movie. An actor's focus is already split between the lights, the camera, the lines they need to remember, and the positioning of other cast members. If a screen or prop isn't simple, it could affect their focus and%2
data  archives  interfaces  speculative_interfaces  bladerunner 
4 weeks ago
Vintage Skynet: AT&T's Abandoned "Long Lines" Microwave Tower Network - 99% Invisible
Between early wired networks and today’s fiber optics sat a system of microwave relay towers transmitting information from coast to coast across the United States. Built in the early 1950s, this line-of-sight network spanned the continent using zig-zag patterns to avoid signal overlap. It conveyed phone conversations and television signals from the era of the Kennedy assassination through the resignation of Nixon.
infrastructure  microware  telecommunication  line_of_sight 
4 weeks ago
What happened to big data?
there are at least two viable ways to deal with the problems that arise from the imperfect relationship between a data set and the real-world outcome you’re trying to measure or predict.

One is, in short: moar data. This has long been Facebook’s approach. When it became apparent that users’ “likes” were a flawed proxy for what they actually wanted to see more of in their feeds, the company responded by adding more and more proxies to its model. It began measuring other things, like the amount of time they spent looking at a post in their feed, the amount of time they spent reading a story they had clicked on, and whether they hit “like” before or after they had read the piece. ...

One downside of the moar data approach is that it’s hard and expensive. Another is that the more variables are added to your model, the more complex, opaque, and unintelligible its methodology becomes. This is part of the problem Pasquale articulated in The Black Box Society. Even the most sophisticated algorithm, drawing on the best data sets, can go awry—and when it does, diagnosing the problem can be nigh-impossible. There are also the perils of “overfitting” and false confidence: The more sophisticated your model becomes, the more perfectly it seems to match up with all your past observations, and the more faith you place in it, the greater the danger that it will eventually fail you in a dramatic way. (Think mortgage crisis, election prediction models, and Zynga.)

Another possible response to the problems that arise from biases in big data sets is what some have taken to calling “small data.” Small data refers to data sets that are simple enough to be analyzed and interpreted directly by humans, without recourse to supercomputers or Hadoop jobs. Like “slow food,” the term arose as a conscious reaction to the prevalence of its opposite....

A safeguard, when making decisions based on things you know how to measure, is to make sure there are also mechanisms by which you can be made aware of the things you don’t know how to measure. “The question is always, what data don’t you collect?” O’Neil said in a phone interview. “What’s the data you don’t see?”...

There is some hope, then, that in moving away from “big data” as a buzzword, we’re moving gradually toward a more nuanced understanding of data’s power and pitfalls. In retrospect, it makes sense that the sudden proliferation of data-collecting sensors and data-crunching supercomputers would trigger a sort of gold rush, and that fear of missing out would in many cases trump caution and prudence. It was inevitable that thoughtful people would start to call our collective attention to these cases, and that there would be a backlash, and perhaps ultimately a sort of Hegelian synthesis.

Yet the threats posed by the misuse of big data haven’t gone away just because we no longer speak that particular term in reverent tones. Glance at the very peak of Gartner’s 2017 hype cycle and you’ll find the terms machine learning and deep learning, alongside related terms such as autonomous vehicles and virtual assistants that represent real-world applications of these computing techniques. These are new layers of scaffolding built on the same foundation as big data, and they all rely on it. They’re already leading to real breakthroughs—but we can rest assured that they’re also leading to huge mistakes.
big_data  methodology 
5 weeks ago
Alphabet, Google, and Sidewalk Labs Start Their City-Building Venture in Toronto | WIRED
GOOGLE HAS BUILT an online empire by measuring everything. Clicks. GPS coordinates. Visits. Traffic. The company's resource is bits of info on you, which it mines, packages, repackages, repackages again, and then uses to sell you stuff. Now it's taking that data-driven world-building power to the real world. Google is building a city.
Tuesday afternoon, public officials gathered in Toronto to announce that Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary under the Alphabet umbrella that also houses Google, will pilot the redevelopment of 12 acres of southeastern waterfront. Today the area hosts a few industrial buildings and some parking lots. In just a few years, it will be a techified community going by the name of Quayside. Sidewalk Labs has already devoted $50 million to the project, and Google will move its Toronto headquarters to the neighborhood. Once the company has proven out its concept, it plans to expand its redevelopment to the entire 800-acre waterfront area....

This will be a fully Google-fied neighborhood, built from scratch, with a touch of Canadian flavor. (Maple-fried bacon? Poutine? Unfailing bilingual politeness?) Sidewalk Labs promises to embed all sorts of sensors everywhere possible, sucking up a constant stream of information about traffic flow, noise levels, air quality, energy usage, travel patterns, and waste output. Cameras will help the company nail down the more intangible: Are people enjoying this public furniture arrangement in that green space? Are residents using the popup clinic when flu season strikes?...

The waterfront redevelopment proposal outlines a community where everybody has their own account, “a highly secure, personalized portal through which each resident accesses public services and the public sector.” Use your account to tell everyone in the building to quiet down, to get into your gym, or to give the plumber access to your apartment while you're at work.

A mapping application will “record the location of all parts of the public realm in real time”—we’re talking roads, buildings, lawn furniture, and drones. ...

It will test a new housing concept called Loft, packed with flexible spaces to be used for whatever the community needs. It will experiment with building materials like plastic, prefabricated modules, and timber in the place of steel. And yes, Sidewalk Labs says it's working on a comprehensive privacy plan.
The company will then crunch the numbers. Sidewalk Labs' data scientists will analyze the firehose of data to figure out what’s working and what’s not....

It says it will use sophisticated modeling techniques to simulate “what-if scenarios” and determine better courses of action. No one's using that park bench, but what if we moved it to a sunnier corner of the park? “Sidewalk expects that many residents, in general, will be attracted by the idea of living in a place that will continuously improve,” the company writes in its project proposal....

Despite decades of the scholarly research into how cities work, scientists still struggle through gaps in data. Governments mostly collect info about how pedestrians use sidewalks and cyclists use bicycle infrastructure by hand, and then only periodically. Sidewalk Labs could help agencies everywhere crack a few codes.
smart_cities  sidewalk_labs 
5 weeks ago
Life, Abstracted: Notes on the Floor Plan - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
Unlike the characters of Lars Von Trier’s Dogville, in which the Danish director staged a town made of white painted outlines drawn on the floor with some occasional walls and pieces of furniture, we don’t see or experience the plans of the spaces within which we move. Yet plans are everywhere: we spend most of our life within them. By plan I’m referring to what within the discipline of architecture is commonly understood as a “floor plan,” that is, the orthogonal view of a horizontal section of a building.
The making of almost every architectural structure nowadays implies the design of its floor plan. The drawn plan is thus not just an abstraction of architecture but a “concrete abstraction,” since together with other forms of architectural notation, the plan translates many determinations—money, measures, code, gender, class, rituals, beliefs, ideologies, environmental conditions, etc.—into a specific spatial layout. With its conventions of scale, measure, and view, the plan acts—much like money—as a “general equivalent” within which a multitude of determinations coalesce into a measurable “universal” datum.

...floor plan as a “concrete abstraction,” as something that even in its own abstract status of notation is both determined by and determinate of concrete conditions and the way in which we dwell, inhabit, and produce space....

We can see the architectural plan emerging here in the most essential of terms: a drawing traced on the ground that defines the relationships between building elements to achieve a structure in which the position of each is consistent with the whole. ...

The large marble plan of Rome known as Forma Urbis Romae is a prime example of how the plan imposes its normative power on lived space. Completed during the reign of Septimius Severus in the third century CE, the Forma Urbis was a ground floor plan, a horizontal section of the city carved into marble slabs.8 Fragments of the map were rediscovered during the sixteenth century and have since, in part thanks to depiction by Giovanni Battista Piranesi as part of his Roman Antiquities, become an emblematic representation of ancient Rome. Measuring approximately sixty feet wide by fort-five feet tall, the map was most probably displayed vertically on a wall in a public building such as an archive, library, or as suggested by several scholars, a public register of property.9
In the Forma Urbis Romae, private and public buildings are often—though not systematically—differentiated in terms of how they are represented: the wall thickness and interior columns of public buildings are rendered, whereas the walls of private buildings are drawn as single lines. Furthermore, there are scalar inconsistencies, with monumental public buildings drawn at a slightly larger scale than the surrounding residential fabric. In clearly differentiating res publica from res privata, the purpose of the map was to function as a cadastral survey of the city, i.e. a map that serves as an accurate register of property. The Forma Urbis Romae manifests the Romans’ extreme attention to partitioning the urban territory into public and private land. But this process of reification in which every parcel of the ground is either one or the other found its point of origin not in the res privata per se, but in the very institution of the res publica and res sacra as parcels of land excluded from commerce....

Vitruvius, in his De Architectura Libri Decem, presented three main techniques to correctly draw, and thus design architecture: ichnographia (plan), ortographia (elevation and section) and scenographia (tridimensional rendering).11 While orthography and scenography represent buildings as they appear when built, ichnography, defined as the tracing of a geometrical projection of a building’s horizontal section, is an abstraction of the building that represents a datum not visible from within the built structure itself. Yet it was precisely this “invisible” datum that allowed the juridical value of places to be determined....

The work of partitioning the land was not just bureaucratic and managerial, but often a highly symbolic affair that involved religious rituals such as auspices and acts of consecration. Here we can see that the juridical abstraction of the city into patrimonial values was not at odds with the ritualization of space upon which the planning of cities was founded: both were instrumental to augment and facilitate social consensus. A plan of the city such as the Forma Urbis is thus not just the definition of the city’s value organized into res publica and res privata. The topographical certainty of this partition and its geometric intelligibility is also the political basis on which the empire rests and defines its sovereignty. It is that which makes the abstraction of urban territory possible...

Within the architecture of the monastery, abstraction is performed as the organization of discrete, specific moments into more generalizable and repeatable patterns.13 This spatial condition was reflected by an architecture made of simple, generic, and rhythmic forms. Incidentally the first known architectural drawing is the so-called “ideal plan for a monastery” preserved in the library of St. Gall, Switzerland.14 Drawn on five parchments sewn together, the plan was drafted in the monastery of Reichenau under the supervision of its abbot Haito and sent to Gozbert, the abbot of St. Gall. In addressing Gozbert, Haito wrote that the purpose of the plan was for the abbot of St. Gall to “exercise your ingenuity and recognize my devotion.” This means that the plan was not meant to be the blueprint for a specific project, but rather a diagram (completed with an extensive text and legend on its back) to help the abbot to define the disposition of the different spaces and their use....

By carefully choreographing the monk’s daily routines, the monastery became a fundamental model for industrial civilization. We should not forget that, unlike in antiquity when it was considered an unworthy sphere of life, better avoided or delegated to slaves, it was within the monastery that labor was first recognized to be an essential aspect of life. The monastery thus became a model for modern institutions in which the floor plan becomes the sine qua non of architecture, such as the hospital, prison, factory, school, and above all, housing. At the same time, the spatial ritualization of daily routines became the model for movements and projects that challenged the inevitability of industrial capitalism...

Xenophon’s Oeconomicus compares the perfect conditions for harmonic cohabitation to a dance where everything is ruled according to a carefully orchestrated choreography whose performers are not just objects, but bodies.24 It is precisely here that we see how domestic space produces the most generic condition for production: everyday life. It is also in this way we can understand how a house houses, or becomes housing. While the noun “house” emphasizes the symbolic dimension of the domestic realm, “housing” focuses on the functioning of the house. In the western world, housing as a specific architectural project emerges in the late middle ages when ruling powers began to consider the welfare of workers to be the fundamental precondition for a city or state to be productive and generate wealth. Interestingly, at the moment housing becomes a proper architectural project, the floor plan is understood as an increasingly essential datum for its production. From Sebastiano Serlio’s treatise on domestic architecture to Catharine and Herriet Beecher’s model for “The American Woman Home,” housing is conceived from the vantage point of the plan....

What was a stake in this careful planning of the home was, in Roberts’ words, ”the preservation of domestic privacy and independence of each distinct family and the disconnection of their apartments, so as to effectively prevent the communication of contagious disease.”26 Yet what in these plans seems to be effectively prevented is communication altogether, evincing a capitalist intent to replace the solidarity typical among working class families and households with the petit-bourgeois ideology of “privacy” and self-containment. ... By clearly separating apartments and giving each of them an autonomous entrance, for example, each housing unit would have less windows than what was subject to the then-expensive window tax. In Roberts’ model houses, economy both in the sense of home economics and as large scale social organization overlap and become one, and the plan becomes the most legible hieroglyph of a political economy crystallized into space....

A history of architecture through floor plans would reveal the way life has been constantly ritualized, abstracted, and thus reified in order to become legible and organizable. Understood in this way, the plan demystifies the naturalization of power relations since it shows how they have always been deliberately constructed by the formation of habit and perception.
media_architecture  floorplan  drawing  diagram  code_space  property 
5 weeks ago
Essay – Futureproof
Most histories of the modern corporate futurist field locate its origins in the discipline of “operations research”, a term as conveniently vague as “futurism.” Operations research emerged during World War II from US military logistics research using nascent analog and digital computing technologies to make more informed decisions grounded in computational analysis and statistical modeling. The brightest minds of World War II operations research would go on to leadership roles at the RAND Corporation, a quasi-governmental private think tank created in 1948 to provide research and development support to the United States military. At RAND, operations research gave way to two major developments that would become integral to the pursuit of rational futures: game theory and scenario planning. Both were integral to the development of Cold War-era military simulations and war games. Of the two, scenario planning employs more narrative interpretation, and is generally expected to be attuned to the subtleties of here and now rather than relying only on calculations and archetypes.

The government and military approaches to scenarios would go on to shape the field of corporate scenario planning, most notably the Shell Oil scenarios team. Formed in 1965, Shell Scenarios continues its work of future visioning to this day. Its reports are full of cautions about the limitations of scenarios, and insist that they are not “predicting the future” per se so much as laying out some reasonably assessed possibilities. Modest protestations aside, the Shell team is among the most written about examples of in-house corporate futurists in part because of the fact that the team largely validated its existence when one of its scenarios “predicted” the 1973 Middle East oil embargo....

Salome Asega and Ayodamola Okunseinde’s Iyapo Repository exists somewhere past that way out in the timeline. It’s an archive literally in the future perfect for objects that will, at some point in the future, become historical artifacts. Through a series of workshops and events, the Repository’s archivists invite the public to imagine tools and technologies that reinforce an affirmative and tangible future of people of African descent. Asega and Okunseinde chose the form of a future archive carefully, appropriating the form as a challenge to the long and fraught history of Western archives and museums misappropriating and erasing the history and culture of African diaspora. In addition to written documentation and sketches from workshops, the Repository includes a selection of physical artifacts fabricated by Asega and Okunseinde, which extend the imaginings of workshop participants into technically functional objects. Not satisfied with the fantasy of possible futures, the Iyapo Repository insists this future has already happened and offers both a comprehensive archival paper trail and tangible artifacts as proof....

Trying to build alternative futures is often a process of facing that haunting spectre: finding life or potential by invoking and living with the ghosts and weird spirits of a world that could have been. Often, the interface for visiting these particular ghosts isn’t the medium or Ouija board but the archive, which is partly why so many of the works in Futureproof take on an archivist, museological tone. The alternative archive is historical evidence of a shift in the timeline, its own kind of proof that another timeline is not only possible, but has already happened, is already happening and emergent before us....

Two years later I saw a satellite exhibition from Ian Alan Paul’s Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History, which manages to articulate that impossible future mostly through its stalwart representation of past and present. The artifacts and documents included in GBMAH exhibitions are real items from our timeline, real documentation of what’s happened at the prison. While there are other archival initiatives about Guantanamo by human rights groups and legal scholarship institutions, to present that archive in the register of museology—to suggest that the prison and its horrors exists in the past tense—gives those artifacts a more insistent, demanding politics than the mournful tone of oral histories. The museum is less a speculation and more a promise to a future or a timeline in which the United States is capable of facing the grim and cruel parts of its own history.
futurism  speculation  operations_research  archives  archive_art 
5 weeks ago
Using Art to Investigate Catastrophe: A Q&A With Mariam Ghani, the Artist Daughter of Afghanistan’s President | Art for Sale | Artspace
And the last project I would mention in relation to your question is The Trespassers, a 105-minute video about the role of translators in the so-called "global war on terror.” In this piece, the camera follows a magnifying glass as it reads declassified official documents line by line, while Dari and Arabic speakers simultaneously translate the text. I was trying to foreground the importance of translation in this endless war. So much intelligence, and so many decisions made over the past fifteen years, have depended on the translated words of Dari, Pashtu, and Arabic speakers, and so little has been documented about how the actual process of translation. I felt like these translators were ghosts in the records. Every time you read an interrogation transcript you know the interrogation could not have happened without a translator. But the translator’s presence is rarely recorded. If you read enough of these transcripts you become really interested in the missing translators.
Did you find some of these ‘ghosts in the records?’
I did find some of them. But they can’t legally talk about what they experienced. Translators from the diaspora had the highest security clearances, because they were US citizens, so many of them participated in interrogations of “high-value targets,” meaning that they saw a lot of screwed-up stuff. And I think many of them came back pretty traumatized. Meanwhile, in the Afghan-American community, the choice to become a military translator has always been controversial. Families have become quite divided over this issue.
language  translation  archives  archive_art  nationalism 
5 weeks ago
Acquiring Design - Stephanie Koltun
How can the digital interface of a collection foster user discovery?

The infinite canvas of the web can comprehensively showcase entire archives. In an attempt to move beyond users simply searching through a collection, Acquiring Design presents objects in context with one another and reveals underlying relationships across time. Two modes - Object View and Aggregate View - enable different interpretations of the collection. However, "the other" and "the related" is continually present. The key is the juxtaposition - this versus that - which allows users to identify relationships.
archives  digitization  interfaces 
5 weeks ago
Virtual Roundtable on “Compression” | Public Books
Writing has been invented independently as few as three times in the history of the world: in ancient Sumer, in ancient China, and in medieval Mesoamerica. Sumerian cuneiform was likely the inspiration for Egyptian hieroglyphs. Those, in turn, inspired the early Semitic script from which all European and several Asian scripts ultimately derive.... Of the six or seven thousand world languages, fewer than a third are written. Of that third, nearly a quarter are typically written in the Latin alphabet, one of only 50 global writing systems. The alphabet today, in its most common guise—namely, this one—is thus regularly used to transcribe some five hundred languages...

Can we attribute this easy mobility to the alphabet’s efficiency in compressing sounds into symbols? Rather than the 2000–3000 characters one must know to read a Chinese newspaper fluently or the 500–1000 signs used in Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform, only 20–30 alphabetic characters are needed to record an increasing number of languages. Yet our alphabets’ history reveals just how slippery and complex “compression” is in relation to the messages that it allegedly compresses. ...

Consider the case of vowels. Just as they are absent from most Hebrew written today, marks of vowels were not usually necessary for transcribing ancient Semitic languages. Nor were they absolutely necessary for transcribing ancient Greek; Linear B encoded vowels along with consonants in its syllabary. When Greek speakers adapted characters from the West Semitic script to systematically represent vowels, they in fact expanded the inventory of types of sounds encoded in their writing.
writing  media_history  compression  transcription 
5 weeks ago
Adam Greenfield on emerging technology: 'God forbid that anyone stopped to ask what harm this might do us' | The Independent
It almost doesn’t matter what the blockchain actually is or how it works, because it doesn’t do what the popular media, and therefore the popular imagination, understand it to be doing. But at root if someone asserts that a given transaction or document or artefact has a specified provenance, then that assertion can be tested and verified to the satisfaction of all parties, computationally and in a distributed manner, without the need to invoke any centralised source of authority.

The blockchain does this because the people who devised it have a very deeply founded hostility to the state, and in fact to central authority in all its forms. What they wanted to do was establish an alternative to the authority of the state as a guarantor of reliability... I don’t find that to be a particularly utopian prospect. In fact, there’s something shoddy and dishonest about the argument. What the truly convinced blockchain ideologues aim to do is drain taxation and revenue away from the state, because – in the words of Grover Norquist – they want to shrink the state to the point that it can be drowned in a bathtub. This is their explicit ambition. Why shouldn’t we take them at their word?...

You also probe the algorithmic management of economic life via the application of machine learning techniques to large, unstructured data sets. You argue that this is a huge and unprecedented intervention in people’s lives, despite us lacking knowledge on how crucial decisions made about our everyday existence are reached. How has this come to be and why is it so uninterrogated? Is there any way of democratising the algorithms that are increasingly governing our lives?...

Even the institution that relies on that algorithm won’t be able to say to any particular degree of assurance whether or not your handwriting’s been the triggering factor, or if it was something else in the cascade of decision gates that’s ultimately bound up in the way this kind of network does work in the world.

So the sophistication of these systems is rapidly approaching a point at which we cannot force them to offer up their secrets. And we’re about to compound the challenge further. For example, AlphaGo and its successors are designing their own core logics. So increasingly, human intelligence is no longer crafting the algorithmic tools by which decisions are reached....

I’m certainly not arguing in favour of bullshit jobs or busy work. But there is a naiveté in the articulation of what’s been called “fully automated luxury communism”.

I don’t think the folks responsible for developing this line of argument have really quite reckoned with what it’s like when each one of us can have anything we want whenever we want it. I don’t necessarily know if that’s good for human psyches...

The trouble is that so many questions that appear to be purely technical in nature present us with vexingly complicated implications socially or psychologically. I’ll give you an example. For many years, I was passionately involved in a movement calling for open municipal data. That to me seems so clearly preferable to the existing model where the data was held close, was restrictively licensed, and was provided only to the large corporate vendors who happened to be the municipality’s partners. I thought that it would be better off, given that each of us generated that information in the first place, that we could have access to it and make such use of it as we would.

And then Gamergate [the video game online protest that was accused of being a hate campaign] happened. One of the things we saw in Gamergate, which should have been obvious in retrospect, was how trivially easy open data can be weaponised by people who do not feel themselves bound by the same social contract as the rest of us. If neither the restrictive release of data to favoured partners nor its open availability produces desirable social outcomes, what’s left?...

I think that we need to be braver about understanding code. Understanding what an API is, how it works – understanding network topographies, and what the implications of network topographies are for the things which flow across and between their nodes. Understanding corporate governance. Understanding all these things that so many of us who think of ourselves as being on the left prefer not to address. We need badly to develop expertise in these things so that we can contest them, because otherwise it’s black boxes all the way down. We don’t know what these technologies do or how they work. We just don’t see what politics they serve.
ideology  phones  technology  blockchain  artificial_intelligence 
5 weeks ago
Data Walking for Social Good – Data Science Studies – Medium
What if data scientists could experience the ways data are human, embodied, and contingent, much like an ethnographer of data might? It is in this gap that the data walk becomes a compelling proposition for bridging discourse and practice and generating new collaborative forms of inquiry.
But what is a data walk? There are many possibilities.Thanks to Alison Powell, who has developed the concept and fleshed out what one version of a data walk could look like, we had a very healthy and robust place to start. Powell defines datawalking as:
“A research process for producing radical data through collaborative walks. Data walking creates a process for observing, reflecting on and seeking to intervene in how data influences civic space. By playing roles as photographers, note-takers and map-makers, participants develop ways to think about and reflect on what data might be, and what role it plays in key social issues.” (
infrastructural_tourism  data_literacy  data_visualization 
6 weeks ago
Graphics IV: maps -
Through his maps and art, Sami artist Hans Ragnar Mathisen is making "a peaceful appropriation" of his people’s land, traditions and culture.

For a millennium, Sami have co-existed with Norwegians — and with the Vikings before them.

"After 1000 years, we still have our language and culture," Mathisen said. "It shows Sami are very strong, but not stupid, because if we were stupid, we would fight with weapons and lose."

To do this Mathisen has chosen to enrich Sami language and culture through his series of maps that depict the world, as seen by Sami eyes.
indigenous  mapping  cartography 
6 weeks ago
Toward an epistemology of the form of the Informal city: Mapping the process of informal city making | Informal Settlements Research ISR
The current scale of poverty on the planet has overwhelmed the capacity of the formal market to incorporate the masses of impoverished settlers arriving to urban centers all over the world. The informal city now serves as the place for up to one-third of the planet’s urban population.  Even with renewed interest in the role of design to improve informal settlements living conditions, the urban design discipline lacks a comprehensive understanding of variations within this urban phenomena and therefore, effective intervention tools. I believe that we must develop new multifaceted methodologies for intervening in informal settlements. This paper seeks to develop such methodologies by analyzing data collected from interviews with residents in informal settlements in the city of Medellin, Colombia, over a period of the last three years. This analysis challenges some misconceptions of urban informality still present in urban design literature in a search to inform more coherent methodologies for the near future.
mapping  cartography  informal_urbanism 
6 weeks ago
DC Water Atlas
Critique of Typical Presentations of Spatial Data

American Panorama, a project out of the University of Richmond, is impressive and well-designed, and represents all that is right and wrong with the pursuit of the digital spatial humanities today. With a $500,000 budget (from a Mellon Foundation grant), two full-time historians, and four technicians, it is a difficult behemoth to compete with, but does provide a measure of an objective standard to just how much work and resources one of these projects needs.

The aspect of American Panorama and other projects of its ilk that I most would like to question is the continental-scale conception of the representation of space. Even if indeed one can zoom into a particular canal, the fact that the project is essentially a presentation of data without any interpretation is apparent. The canal remains a polyline, a series of coordinates linked in a chain, only one step up from looking at a database, and conveys no sense of space or place. Instead, these digital humanities projects rest on the laurels of the act of database creation, even if it means the landscape will always remain generic.

The Water Atlas, because of extensive processing, does convey a sense of place and space to the structures and landscapes it considers. A combination of cartography and orthographic drawing conventions, the Water Atlas%
mapping  cartography  water  digital_humanities 
6 weeks ago
Google's new browser experiment lets you learn about basic AI - The Verge
Just how does machine learning work? You’ve probably read a primer or two on the subject, but often the best way to understand a thing is to try it out for yourself. With that in mind, check out this little in-browser experiment from Google named Teachable Machine. It’s a perfect two-minute summary of what a lot of modern AI can — and more importantly can’t — do.

Teachable Machine lets you use your webcam to train an extremely basic AI program. Just hit the “train green/purple/orange” buttons, and the machine will record whatever it can see through your webcam. Once it’s “learned” enough, it’ll output whatever you like (a GIF or a sound effect or some speech) when it sees the object or activity you trained it with. I taught it to recognize my houseplants and respond with relevant GIFs, but others have used it make their hands go moo or play air guitar on command.
artificial_intelligence  educational_media  training 
6 weeks ago
Maps Mania: Working With Map Projections
Projection Face is a great illustration of the distortions created by different map projections. The interactive shows how 64 different map projections effect our view of the world by showing each projection's effect when applied to something very familiar, the human face.

The distortions of each of the different projections cab be illustrated further by clicking and dragging any of the mapped faces. This illustrates how the different map projections can be distorted themselves simply by changing the center of the map.

Projections Face is an interactive version of a 1924 illustration from Elements of Map Projection with Applications to Map and Chart Construction. ....

Degenerate State's Map Projections tool is another interesting visualization of how different map projections distort our picture of the world. Map Projections is a very similar tool to Projection Face but this interactive shows you how map projections actually effect maps.

The tool allows you to view a map of the world using 11 different map projections. This in itself is a good demonstration of the choices cartographers make when depicting a three dimensional sphere on a two dimensional plane. However Map Projections also allows you to explore how these different map projections would change if you changed the 0,0 point of latitude and longitude on the map.

If you click anywhere in the world then the map will automatically change to show the distortion needed if this was the origin of the map.

If you want a little help deciding which map projection you should use for your current map project then you can use the Projection Wizard to decide on the best projection.

This map projection guide allows you to select the extent of the map view you are working with by outlining the area on a Leaflet map. Once you've highlighted your map bounds you can choose a distortion property (Equal-area, Conformal, Equidistant or Compromise).

The Projection Wizard will then suggest which map projection you should use depending on the extent and the distortion property of the map. The suggested projections are based on 'A Guide to Selecting Map Projections' by the Cartography and Geovisualization Group at Oregon State University.
cartography  mapping  projection 
6 weeks ago
Let's Talk Self-Driving
Waymo began as the Google self-driving car project. We have the most experienced cars on the road, with over 8 years and 3 million self-driven miles to date.

Our mission is to make it safe and easy for everyone to get around. We’ve already completed the world’s first fully self-driving ride on public roads, and we’re working to bring this technology to even more people, as soon as possible.

Visit Waymo’s website to learn more. Residents in the Phoenix area can also apply for the early rider program, our first public trial of our self-driving cars.
google  automation  self_driving 
6 weeks ago
O.K., Computer, Tell Me What This Smells Like | The New Yorker
In the mid-nineteen-eighties, a group of researchers at the American Society for Testing and Materials recruited more than a hundred people to help compile a list of molecules and their associated scents. From this trove of information and others put together since, we know that benzaldehyde smells like cherries and isoamyl acetate like bananas. But such atlases of odor, Vosshall pointed out, are labor-intensive to make, and traditionally they have served the rather limited needs of the flavor and fragrance industries, failing to explore the full range of human olfaction. Over the years, biologists who specialize in the psychophysics of smell have continued to work away at the problem. Earlier this year, Vosshall and her collaborators published a new take on it, this time using computer algorithms.
The researchers first asked around fifty people to rate the intensity and pleasantness of four hundred and seventy-four odor molecules, and to describe them using terms such as “leather,” “fruit,” “bakery,” and “chemical.” Then they provided groups of computer scientists—all entrants in a competition called the dream Olfaction Prediction Challenge—with more than four thousand pieces of information about the molecules, ranging from their component atoms...

another possibility, Vosshall said, is that she and her colleagues are still thinking about olfaction too simplistically. In the nose, there are hundreds of smell receptors. Unlike their brethren in the mouth, which sense just one of the key tastes—sweetness, saltiness, umami, sourness, and bitterness—they don’t appear to be specialized. Instead, they seem to interact with one another and with the environment in all kinds of ways, sending myriad messages to the brain that it interprets as the scent of chocolate cake, sawdust, lilacs. Clearly, the mechanisms of smell are not as simple as a lock fitting into a keyhole, or even an alkaloid from your morning coffee striking a bitter receptor on your tongue. The difficulty of the problem makes it all the more marvellous that we can recognize scents so effortlessly.
artificial_intelligence  machine_learning  sensation  smell 
6 weeks ago
Index — edgar/Endress
This classification explore the arbitrariness (and cultural specificity) of any attempt to categorize the world anddemonstrates an "other" to our system of thought. In Foucault's book the "Order of Things", Foucault explicates an "archaeological" investigation of knowledge acquisition; he also comments on the fragility of our current means of understanding the world. For Foucault reasoning is the ultimate act of control, delivered through the power of representation to confirm an objective order. Acts of Knowledge begins with a text found in an old social studies text used in U.S. classrooms. This educational text delivers a structural form of knowledge and a series of narratives about the similar and the other. Acts of Knowledge uses the primary forms of knowledge -the encyclopedia- to question the structure imposed by the reasoning. In that context, the acts of estrangement and the visual structuring of the dictionary and the encyclopedias through collages questions the categorization, knowledge, and the arbitrariness of otherness. 
foucault  ordering  classification  epistemology  organization 
6 weeks ago
Introducing the Public Library Innovation Exchange (PLIX)
What is PLIX?
The Public Library Innovation Exchange is a Knight Foundation-funded grant project to build collaborations between Media Lab researchers and public libraries across the US. The project has three components:

Residency exchanges—where we will match a public library with a Media Lab researcher to work on a project together. Each partner on the team will travel to the other partner’s institution for a brief residency to allow for in-depth work, co-design, and development.

A public website—where we will host resources to help libraries implement projects created at the Media Lab. This will include how-to guides and kits targeted specifically at public library implementations.

Why pair the Media Lab and libraries?
Here at the Media Lab, we are huge fans of public libraries. They provide far more than books to their visitors; they serve as community hubs for social change and innovation. From maker spaces to recording studios to early literacy programs, libraries are working hard to create open, collaborative, community-oriented environments where learning can flourish. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is also precisely the kind of learning environment the Media Lab aims to be and design for.

Researchers here at the Media Lab are creating solutions to challenges that require community input, including preventing tick-borne disease, increasing data literacy, and engaging kids with code.
mit  libraries  civic_tech  technology 
6 weeks ago
Tishby and Shwartz-Ziv also made the intriguing discovery that deep learning proceeds in two phases: a short “fitting” phase, during which the network learns to label its training data, and a much longer “compression” phase, during which it becomes good at generalization, as measured by its performance at labeling new test data.

As a deep neural network tweaks its connections by stochastic gradient descent, at first the number of bits it stores about the input data stays roughly constant or increases slightly, as connections adjust to encode patterns in the input and the network gets good at fitting labels to it. Some experts have compared this phase to memorization.

Then learning switches to the compression phase. The network starts to shed information about the input data, keeping track of only the strongest features—those correlations that are most relevant to the output label. This happens because, in each iteration of stochastic gradient descent, more or less accidental correlations in the training data tell the network to do different things, dialing the strengths of its neural connections up and down in a random walk. This randomization is effectively the same as compressing the system’s representation of the input data.
brains  artificial_intelligence  machine_learning  epistemology  neural_nets 
6 weeks ago
The People's Roadmap to a Digital New York City | BetaNYC
Welcome to The People's Roadmap to a Digital New York City. In this document you will find values and recommendations formulated by people of New York, for the people of New York, for the 21st Century. Through our roadmap, we look at technology as a catalyst for empowerment and bridging municipal management inequalities.

Through the People's Roadmap to a Digital New York City, we want to move beyond transparency. We want a government that asks us about our needs and is responsive to our problems. Written for the people, by the people, this roadmap has traveled to all five boroughs lighting a pathway for New York City to stay the world's premier digital city.

"Technology is not a slice of the pie, but the pan." - Andrew Rasiej, Chairman of the New York Tech Meetup.

As of the November 2013 election, New York City is at a critical inflection point. A new cast of actors will assume powerful roles across government. This document will help guide this next administration and successive ones into community digital services. We see technology as a catalyst to develop smarter communities, deploy high speed accessible infrastructure, develop lifelong learning education initiatives, programs for employment and economic mobility, and effective and open government.

To accomplish this, we have established four universal digital freedoms:

urban_data  smart_cities  infrastructure  access 
6 weeks ago
Machine Visions
The writer Michael Chabon likens the films of Wes Anderson to “scale models” or “boxed assemblages” built from “the bittersweet harvest of observation and experience.”1

These “models” are carefully constructed out of wood and paint, text and image, long tracking shots and carefully framed subjects. Anderson is a meticulous world builder in both visual and thematic construction.

The Life Aquatic was the first Anderson movie I really fell in love with, and as I continue to watch more of them, I find myself pondering just what it is that makes an Anderson film Andersonian. Is it the carefully chosen color schemes or the symmetrical compositions? The recurring themes of family and fracture, of discovery and triumph? Or is it the brief magical flashes of the surreal?
Anderson certainly has a style, and his visual motifs are what I want to explore in this essay.
digital_humanities  film  formalism  cultural_analytics  machine_vision  media_theory 
7 weeks ago
Profound Modernity - Positions - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
For Georges Didi-Huberman, a fabric in the gutters of Paris, not unlike rolled-up sweatpants, leads to a particular conundrum around modernity and the archaic. These fabrics, about a meter wide, are rolled up and lie next to grates along the Paris streets—or they did extensively, until around the turn of the millennium.
It is a sort of drapery. It is to be found, I believe, only in Paris. Moreover, it is found all over Paris … It is a salvaged nondescript piece of fabric—sheet, old garment, carpet scrap—that street sweepers place against the sidewalk, to channel the flow of the “gutter” (as it used to be called) into drain inlets....

The steel tubes of Paris' potable water operate in tandem with non-potable water and rolled-up carpets. This is a nineteenth century greywater network that depends partially on the orchestration of fabric. Steel, that carbon-iron alloy, is such a major factor of nineteenth century technology that it is almost synonymous with the industrial revolution. Yet while the steel tube, like the frame of a skyscraper, became the symbol and system of modernity, the rolled-up fabric, a common domestic material virtually undifferentiated from a living room carpet, did not. Instead, it returns as a performance of the archaic. ...

If there was one project in Mexico City that could be thought of as descendent of Haussmannian Boulevardisation in its expansiveness, destructive power, engineering rationality, and lurking militarism, it would be the Drenaje Profundo. The Drenaje Profundo is a subterranean network of 200 or so kilometers of underground tunnels, interceptors, emitters, and thousands of kilometers of pipes that flush out wastewater and rainwater from Mexico City. Inhabitants of Mexico City colloquially blame the drainage of lakes, rivers, and canals of Mexico City on Spanish colonial practices, including eighteenth century canals, or even the colonial drainage plans of 1555.8 But it was only during the twentieth century with the official completion of Drenaje Profundo in 1973 (yet whose plans can be traced back to at least 1940) that Mexico City staged the culmination of such a large-scale drainage project. Drenaje Profundo reshaped Texcoco Lake in service of a certain idea of ground. It aimed to prepare the city for its complete territorialization by automobiles and tall buildings—both idealized as existing on foundations of firm, dry land....

It would be impossible to summarize the cascading effects of Drenaje Profundo, among which possibly include the large earthquake of 1985 and, more certainly, the dramatic sinking of the city by almost ten meters.9 The system drains the lakebed, but no counter system recharges the aquifer. Drenaje Profundo is designed to flush its water out to the Gulf of Mexico via tunnels hundreds of meters below grade. This sinks the city and dries the aquifer a bit more each year, which in turn requires wells that pump from the aquifer to increase pressure or depth, sinking the city even further....

Where do we end up in Mexico City when guided not by images or narratives of progress, but by the visceral real, the substrate of the city? Following Benjamin, Didi-Huberman claims the street rags to be evidence of a “city that stirs”; an object or image that becomes a "motif of a tactile sensuality of the street, a street that is organic to the point of revealing, when it unfolds, its ultimate reality—a visceral reality."13 The reality of the streets and sidewalks in Mexico City stir so viscerally that they rip open. It is hard to describe the ubiquity of sidewalk construction and road replacement throughout the city. Even streets that are not under construction might be torn open, simply by the effect of subsidence.... The Drenaje Profundo has so thoroughly drained the city that—even as the streets and sidewalks are ripped open—the lakebed water still does not deliver enough potable water to Mexico City residents. Instead, potable water is delivered by truck to many residents and even hospitals, carted in from beyond the city borders. There are also supplements to the Deep Drain—additional wells, additional drains, longer canals. ... When solutions are framed in terms of self-consistent technologies and linear temporalities pushing forward toward increased control, the repetitive and labor-intensive participants in modernity are easily erased. The street rags of Paris are instruments not of control, but of hunches and gestures. Where should the water go? That way. Down. Nudge the roll of fabric with your foot. See what happens. ... According to historian of science Antonio Barrera-Osorio, Mexico City served as an early laboratory of European innovation—not only in calculations, but, more importantly, in the forms of collaborative practices and collectivizing of knowledge.
What emerged in Mexico City from the 1550s to the 1610s was a set of procedures that validated empirical and collaborative practices, outside guilds and circles of experts, for the production of knowledge that benefited the community at large—in this case, Mexico City....

As a non-visual phenomenon, urban stench may be poorly historicized. In fact, perhaps the modern aestheticization of the city—the picturesque control of the boulevards and building envelopes—can be understood as merely a side effect, a supplemental feature to the revolution in smell. When the street does not reek of waste, you can slow down and look..... If the most modern invention of the Haussmann boulevard was, perhaps, not “light and air” but rather the containment of stench and the humble maintenance of streets, what archaic technologies and alternative modernities lie dormant in the streets today? .... This city stews with objects and matter, already politicized, amidst legacy systems entangled with muck.
infrastructure  archaeology  urban_history  sidewalks  construction  maintenance  geology  informal_infrastructure  water 
7 weeks ago
The Greatest Number - Triple Canopy
Theodore Porter, a historian of science at UCLA, describes the widespread adoption of quantification—the foundation of today’s algorithmic number-crunching—in Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (1995). He tells of nineteenth-century accountants and actuaries who distinguished themselves through their pursuit of objectivity, and the scores of professions that subsequently sought the same credibility and authority via tabulation. He also observes the ramifications of filtering all kinds of natural and social phenomena through numeric measurements.....

In Trust in Numbers, you chronicle the adoption of quantitative methodologies across a wide range of scientific and political domains, from British accountants and actuaries and French civil engineers in the nineteenth century to American ones in the twentieth. In each case, those who claimed the mantle of objectivity accrued power. Were these professions borrowing from the natural sciences? Or did these forms of quantification emerge from the burgeoning social sciences? And how did the spread of quantification legitimize the work of early social scientists?
THEODORE PORTER These quantitative approaches actually emerged within a variety of institutions, and never simply by imitating science or claiming the prestige of science. The methods of accountants, bookkeepers, and economists have their histories, worked out as solutions to their own problems. They aren’t alien impositions, imported wholesale from academic science; yet it was important to these professionals to achieve the dignity of science, which they construed in
terms of uniform and rigorous calculation....

Part of the danger of automating decision-making processes and downplaying human intuition has to do with what you call, in Trust in Numbers, the “moral distance encouraged by a quantitative method.”... in the early twentieth century in the United States, “middle-class philanthropists and social workers used statistics to learn about kinds of people whom they did not know, and often did not care to know, as persons.” How can the benefits of quantification be weighed against the diminution of empathy for—or a true understanding of the conditions of—the people being analyzed?...

In your article “Thin Description: Surface and Depth in Science and Science Studies” (2012), you note, “Statistics in the human domain retains an element of its primal meaning, state-istics, the descriptive science of the state.”

PORTER Yes, but today private businesses are also able to collect massive amounts of data. Instead of the centralized, planned counts of government censuses and surveys, they prefer chaotic counts of data drawn from transactions as they happen. Instead of a scientific approach to research, they rely on the outputs that result from social-media interactions, purchases, clicks on online ads, time spent on websites, and so on. People in the technology industry are extremely proud of the disruption represented in this move away from the centralized planned count...

The historian Daniel Rosenberg points out that “data” descends from the Latin for “given,” but the scholar Johanna Drucker argues that the word has always been misnomer. Noting the labor involved in measurement, she proposes “capta” as an alternative. “Statisticians know very well that no ‘data’ preexist their parameterization,” she writes in “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display” (2011). “Data are capta, taken not given, constructed as an interpretation of the phenomenal world, not inherent in it.”...

The historian Daniel Rosenberg points out that “data” descends from the Latin for “given,” but the scholar Johanna Drucker argues that the word has always been misnomer. Noting the labor involved in measurement, she proposes “capta” as an alternative. “Statisticians know very well that no ‘data’ preexist their parameterization,” she writes in “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display” (2011). “Data are capta, taken not given, constructed as an interpretation of the phenomenal world, not inherent in it.”
big_data  quantification  science  epistemology  statistics 
7 weeks ago
Time After Time — Real Life
Chronology, like any other algorithm, is a mathematical abstraction, a set of rules for ordering data. It’s also a lazy algorithm, based entirely on an inherited shared belief system about the way time moves — progressing from past, to present, to future. For most of us, our lived experience of time is more a jumbled rat king of divergent thoughts and conflicting rhythms. More closely related to memory, lived time is therefore open to manipulation through factors including drugs, illness, or intense bursts of emotion. This is why it can feel like only yesterday that Beanie Babies were a veritable cultural phenomenon, but you have no idea what you had for breakfast this morning.

Nor should we assume that linear time is any more neutral than algorithmic-time. Sure, algo-time is a cynical adjustment by social media platforms, prioritizing the pursuit of profit over the demands of its users. But let’s not kid ourselves: linear time has no less served these exact same purposes. Time’s arrow has provided vital bedrock for the formation of contemporary capitalism.

Chronological time relegates the past to an increasingly remote distance from our present. It creates a feeling of scarcity, where the past, once lost, is lost forever. Such scarcity contributes to the capitalist commodification of time, in which time — thro
temporality  chronology  algorithms 
7 weeks ago
“Post-Card” presents serial works that utilize mail and/or correspondence.  The works, ranging in dates from 1971 to 2009, converse with each other in regards to time, work, travel and communication, all in ways that hopefully provide further insight, appreciation and questioning within and between the pieces.
Sherrie Levine created her 2009 work, “After Courbet 1-18” after the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2008 survey exhibition of Gustave Courbet’s work (Feb – May, 2008).  Consisting of 18 of the same postcard, each an image of Courbet’s “L'Origine du monde [The Origin of the World]”, Levine’s work engages a number of interconnected issues.  “L'Origine du monde [The Origin of the World]” was originally shown in very covert ways.  Reproductions of it were used on books and repeatedly censored, the postcard, sold by Musée d’Orsay (where the painting is owned) is one of the most popular in the bookstore and, even at the Met, in a nod to this history, the curators presented Courbet’s painting behind its own wall.  Levine takes all of these issues and creates more than a work, but a situation – eighteen of the same reproduction (d’Orsay’s postcard, presumably), mats and frames them individually, taking these small reproduc
textual_form  text_art  postcards  index_cards 
7 weeks ago
“ the Tetracono”: An Interview with David Reinfurt
what I was most interested in was simply the Tetracono itself. 

I had previously looked into this work in the context of an article I wrote and published for The Serving Library. This text, “c. 1962” itself evolved from a lengthier investigation which started with Munari’s connection to an exhibition at the Olivetti typewriter showroom in Milan. Arte Programmata was organized by Munari together with Giorgio Soavi of Olivetti and writer Umberto Eco. That show also initiated the use of a novel term, “programmed art,” for constantly variable, often kinetic, art works which although appearing to be random and constantly variable, were in fact, constituted by carefully constructed programs (or plans, scripts, limits, what have you). These works began to appear right around the same time that Olivetti began to manufacture computers....

The exhibition sparked an interest in Munari’s relationship with Olivetti and with this movement at large, which then led to a performative slideshow delivered with two overlapping metronomes and other audio-visual props that I delivered at the New York Art Book Fair. I arranged to give that same slideshow exactly one year later (in the same room, same time at the book fair). Of course the second time it was a complete train wreck. The first time I barely knew what I was talking about while a year later, I likely knew everything too well. The slideshow became bloated and too authoritative. It was a good reminder that work in progress is much more interesting to think about than work that is already complete...

Long ago I drank the designer Kool Aid that suggests that *limits (constraints) are also opportunities* and that embracing these can make work that is inevitably more alive. I need these checks, and when left without, I can’t make work. When these are not directly in the situation or problem, I end up either inserting or inventing them. So programmed art connects with my disposition....

Well, here is Munari on design research and in particular how it gives rise to works produced in multiple copies (the Tetracono is an arch example):

How to design (multiples) … Multiples are designed with the methods of research. Unlike the artist, the designer does not make a wonderful sketch and later find some reproduction technique. He experiments on a phenomenon which is optical, physical, geometrical, typological, mechanical … He refines the elements of communication, and studies the best material with which to produce the object for the maximum level of visual communication and the minimum level of cost. He finds the mechanical technique which best suits his purposes, and in the end a prototype is born — not a unique artistic creation, but a model for the creation of a series. Reproductions of artwork are always inferior to the original, but when designing a model for mass production, the prototype is always inferior to the final products....

I don’t see a contradiction between useless and important. If you take the idea that art is distinguished by its uselessness, then a work’s importance can be multiplied by its uselessness....

I am pretty sure that “innovation” is mostly a lazy synonym for design which, most often anyway, ignores the rigor, process, and research aspects of design. “Innovation” is a shiny word, and it is telling that it also implies (and incorporates in its linguistic roots) newness. I hardly think that newness is a useful criteria where design is involved. Newness is great if we are talking about yogurt at the supermarket, but I think it ends there.
Munari  books  sculpture  programming  kinetic_art  research  methodology  experimentation  design_research 
7 weeks ago
Radical Archives and the New Cycles of Contention - Viewpoint Magazine
Let’s consider the FBI in the parlance of today’s technological structure: are the FBI and the U.S. National Archives an early version of a third-party platform, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, or a host of other social media platforms? All of these institutions have their own privacy policies, terms of service, and archiving policies. Is it wise to entrust the work and legacy of our movements to corporate (.com), educational (.edu) and government (.gov) third-parties?

If activist groups have our websites regularly crawled by the Internet Archive – bravo! If we’re following guidelines for archiving video from the point of creation, as Witness, an international organization dedicated to video as a human rights tool, advises, we’re empowering ourselves to preserve our legacy. We’re (at least partially) taking care of our activist legacy, ensuring it’s available for the future: for our own use, for tomorrow’s activists, or for historians who will tell the story of our successes or failures.5

If we download our archive using the tools a third-party service provider offers, do we know what file format we’ve entrusted with our archive? Do we have more than one piece of hardware and a copy of at least%2
archives  protest  social_movements 
7 weeks ago
Harvard Design Magazine: The Not-Me Creation
The Ethics of Dust casts are made in the act of cleaning monuments. The dust that is sitting on the surface of monuments is transferred onto a sheet of conservation latex, which then becomes an independent object for consideration. For a lot of people, the dust is extrinsic to the architecture because it is deposited from the atmosphere. For me, the dust belongs to the building.
Dust registers the history of the building. I’m trying to call into question the notion that architecture can be distinctly separated from the atmosphere, because you cannot have all these buildings without producing pollution. The coal and petrol consumed in order to make building materials, to produce energy used to assemble these materials, and to heat buildings—all that Marx would call a “constitutive externality”—that’s all up in the sky.
What we call the weather wasn’t really invented until the mid- to late 19th century. Preservationists like the chemist Robert Angus Smith, member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, discovered that the mortar of buildings was decaying too fast in Manchester. He investigated the causes, realized that there was sulfuric acid in the rainwater, and called it “acid rain.” That’s when we began to talk about chemical climatology. So, at the very time th
architecture  preservation  climate_change 
7 weeks ago
Tyler Rollins Fine Art - Tiffany Chung: the unwanted population
Tyler Rollins Fine Art is pleased to present the unwanted population (Sept. 7 – Oct. 21, 2017), a solo exhibition of new works by Tiffany Chung featuring recent developments in three of her ongoing projects: The Vietnam Exodus Project, which investigates the post-1975 mass exodus of refugees from Vietnam, of which she herself was a part; The Syria Project, which tracks the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria; and The Global Refugee Migration Project, which surveys the current internal displacement and mass movement of peoples around the world. Shown together for the first time, these projects comprise a comparative study of forced migration. Based in Vietnam and the USA, Chung is internationally known for her cartographic drawings and installations that examine conflict, migration, displacement, and urban transformation in relation to history and cultural memory. The richly detailed surfaces of her cartographic works, with jewel-like tones rendered in ink, acrylic, and oil on translucent vellum, belie their somber thematic content. Utilizing intensive studies of the impacts of geographical shifts and imposed political borders on different groups of human populations, her work excavates layers of history, re-writes chronicles of places, and creates interventions into the spatial and political narratives produced thro
map_art  migration  cartography 
7 weeks ago
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