Necsus | For a radical media archaeology: A conversation with Wolfgang ErnstNECSUS
We tend to produce theories, philosophical reflections about media. That’s fine. But I insist that students have to know what they are talking about the way that art historians need to know about the materialities at play. One has to know how a television image actually functions and can be transmitted. This is a total challenge for people who have been trained as humanists, but one can learn the basics. Only then can one begin to speak, to enter – to say it metaphorically – into a dialogue with the machine, to let the machine speak. In order to understand and interpret the machine, to make a hermeneutic effort, you have to learn its language. The dialogue with the machine is an asymmetrical dialogue, between different entities, which Latour would call non-human agencies. Technological media are one-hundred percent products of human culture, which means there is something about machines that one can understand. At the same time these machines do things that go beyond traditional textual culture and traditional human-subject oriented understanding. Humans have produced something which transcends them. That creates an interesting dialogue, but an electric medium cannot be understood in narrative terms. It operates sequentially, mathematically – it is counting and not telling. I’m trying to find out to what extent media evade historical time. For that one needs to describe them in a non-narrative way....

The past is not history. We have learnt, from Haydn White’s Metahistory (1973) and others, that the past is a temporal existence. History is just one way of organising knowledge about the past. When it comes to media, both analogue and digital, there might be other ways of better describing the temporality of media, which is not automatically the historical one and not automatically the narrative one. Narrative fills gaps. In classical archaeology you learn how to leave the gaps open or even describe them. If you find a broken sculpture you exhibit it like this, with the missing parts. To acknowledge absence, silence, gaps, is an archaeological virtue, which is very important when it comes to understanding technologies. But how does one write it? My close colleague Zielinski has created the word ‘variantology’ for this playful description. We both insist that language should remain technologically exact. We are trying to experiment with what semiotician Charles S. Peirce calls diagrammatic reasoning. The diagram is a fascinating tool. It looks visual but it is not a representational image: it is a conceptual visualisation of cognitive thinking. You can show temporal relations with a diagram. So we are experimenting with ways to describe the big temporality of media, to produce a time diagram as an alternative tool to the traditional history of technology. It could be a visual diagram or an acoustic one, a sonification.
media_archaeology  archaeology  method  technics  engineering  historiography 
Why do we Talk about Cities as Laboratories? – Andrew R. Schrock – Medium
Robert Kohler’s book Landscapes and Labscapes traced the lab-field border in biology in the late 19th — 20th century. The boundary between lab and field was frequently crossed and re-crossed. Dirt from the field was brought into the laboratory, while researchers took tents full of research instrumentation into the field. A labscape was a “cultural zone with its own complex topography of practices and distinctions.” The hybrids Kohler traced over time enabled ways to balance control and openness while translating research to the broader public. Biologists in the late 19th century used a lineage of natural history to solidify public appeal. By the 1930s and 1940s “practices of place” emerged where biologists augmented field practices to treat particular places as sites for making causal claims through systematic observations and interpretations. The flow not only went both ways, but enabled new hybrid research concepts such as the “natural experiment” to enter the scientific world.
Perhaps the most famous study of the laboratory is Latour and Woolgar’s Laboratory Life from 1979. They approached labs with an anthropologist’s eye. Most radically, they suggested that facts were socially constructed through instrumentation, lab talk, and publications. While the copious volumes in “laboratory studies” they founded evades easy summary, the distinction between inside and outside is particularly important....

In 1915’s The City, sociologist Robert E. Park described cities as complex, autonomous environments. They were “the natural habitat of civilized man” — living environments composed of traditions, cultures, behaviors and machinery mutually influencing one another. Cities also gave tangibility to the most pressing social problems. Chicago was the site of research and the Chicago School of Sociology that advocated an egalitarian and organic perspective on urban life.
To Park, the laboratory metaphor denoted the city simultaneously as a field site, source of empirical data, and site of experimentation. The prevailing wisdom of the day was that cities were harmful and dehumanizing. Park, by contrast, situated cities as beneficial ecosystems. Cities could be mapped and studied much an oceanographer would research a coral reef or a forester would approach a forest. The empirical “bottom-up” approach to social research Park and his collaborator Eve Burgess suggested was enormously influential on urban sociology....

In 1937, around the same as “practices of place” were taking off in biology, Park explicitly started framing cities as “social laboratories.” At the time, sociology was searching for legitimation as a social science. He took an ecological perspective on cities, framing them as living organisms. This was exciting and cutting-edge stuff at the time: thinking about all the moving parts of transportation, individuals, housing, and businesses that comprise cities as being “alive.” Approaching cities as laboratories provided insight into human collectivity and made social problems visible, but also controllable.

Park used scientific methods of maps and surveys to gain insight on human attitudes and behavior. These data, then, could capture the various moving pieces that constituted urban life.

The history of “city as lab” gives coherence to the range of public and private actors that adopt the metaphor. They seek recognition as authorities with empirical knowledge and the ability to intervene in unruly cities. They are activated by a bundling of ideas that reminds us of Park’s interest in cities simultaneously as a “truth spot,” a site for experimentation, and an opportunity for legitimizing reform. City-lab enthusiasts want to show that that particular interventions can lead to tangible positive results for residents. “City as laboratory” is a perfect metaphor for progressive improvements to civic life.
cities  urban_planning  laboratories  chicago_school 
2 days ago
On Cards, Card-Based Systems, and the Material Cultures of Computing
The earliest English usage of “card”, dating to the fifteenth century, is in “carding” textiles, the repeated action of smoothing fibers and making them uniform. (I’ve done a version of this myself, unraveling an old cashmere sweater and wrapping the yarn around a piece of cardboard so I could use it again for something else. It’s a tedious process, and I realized very quickly how machine labor would be nice for this.)
In the production of textiles, we can see this relationship between what is soft, what is hard, and what is codified — what needs to be standardized and automated. As folks such as Sadie Plant argue, these little processes, these metaphors, are still present today in computing:
“Textiles themselves are very literally the software linings of all technology… it is their microprocesses which underlie it all: the spindle and the wheel used in spinning yarn are the basis of all later axles, wheels,and rotations; the interlaced threads of the loom compose the most abstract processes of fabrication.”...

However, an earlier device, the Bouchon loom, from 1728, was the first to appropriate] the cards used in textile production for computing. One of Bouchon’s assistants is reported to have replaced “the paper roll with a set of punched cards attached to one another in an endless loop”. These cards were, most likely, repurposed from a role in wrapping textiles....

Meanwhile, elsewhere in France, other folks were interested in building modern democracy, and part of that was building a national library. (Let’s not forget that a cornerstone of democracy is access to information and the records of government). It was 1789, and the folks at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France wanted to index books, maps, and other items, so they devised a card catalog. Their first cards? Playing cards....

y the time that Charles Babbage started work on the Difference Engine in 1832, he was aware of the physical possibilities and limitations of working on cards. His famous quote was “It’s only a matter of cards and time” — the unspoken element of this is human labor....

Thus, when Hollerith set out in 1889 to build the Census Tabulating Machine, his greatest innovation in processing was to avail the labor of women to physically create, keep order, process, store, and preserve data in cards.
Cards, in a form close to what Hollerith conceived, were used in computing for over a hundred years. What technology could we hope to create with that sort of enduring legacy? It’s also important to note that this was a history that was gradual in adoption, and often subject to a broader social history. As the film Hidden Figures shows, card-based computing often worked in tandem with human computational work....

Most of what we know in terms of best practices for building and maintaining data centers is based on storing punched cards.
Lastly, it’s interesting to note the physicality of cards. I knew that my mother worked as a “computer operator” at the Federal Reserve Bank in the late 70s and early 80s, and I only recently asked her what that meant- did she work with punched cards?
No, she responded, hastily. “I wasn’t allowed to apply for that job because I’m left-handed”, she said, implying that this was just a bit of common knowledge, the direction that a card reader worked. Thanks Mom, for reminding me that automation and accessibility are often at odds.
index_cards  material_texts  textiles  computing_history  punched_cards  textual_form 
2 days ago
A Bird in the Hand: Index Cards and the Handcraft of Creative Thinking | Publishing @ SFU
The humble index card (and card index) has a rich history. It is the precursor to the electronic database. Its role in many a writer’s practices has been celebrated. Cards and card sorting are popular too in design research and agile software methodologies. Cards are protean artifacts in that they are indexical, iconic, and textual; different card practices privilege these aspects differently. This paper looks into personal and ephemeral uses of cards in creative practice. We explore cards as “personal dynamic media” in both individual and collaborative settings, and question the extent to which these practices can be modeled in software....

But Krajewski’s focus is on systems of organization, whether individual or institutional; the role of the card here is primarily indexical, and his vision of cards is in stacks or carefully constructed filing boxes. Krajewski’s purview does not include spreading cards out on a table and grouping and sorting them visually, though it would appear that card-sorting practices have roots in the same playing card traditions that gave rise to the index card itself.

“Card sorting” as a non-recreational practice is traceable, according to the Interaction Design Foundation, to the use of playing cards in experimental psychology. Card sorting was a means of measuring memory and cognitive functions (Hudson 2012). Later, card sorting because used in various methodologies for qualitative data analysis. Interaction & usability pioneer Jakob Nielsen wrote about using card sorting in the design of Sun Microsystems’ website in 1994 (Nielsen 1994), possibly the first published account of the technique being used in service of a design methodology.

Today, card-sorting practices of a wide variety are part of a good deal of contemporary design methodology: as a research technique, as a strategy for increasing end-user engagement, and as a way of conducting the design process collaboratively. Card sorting is widely used by information architects and designers to gather and understand structure for a variety of purposes. A typical use of cards might be to map the information for a website onto cards, and the sorting—a process in which many different people may participate—helps create categories for navigation and the overall architecture....

In their small size, they share available space on a surface more easily than larger documents. They are easily handled at this size, and so one’s attention can be shifted from one individual card to the larger arrangement and then to another individual card without requiring re-arrangement. This practice seems harder to achieve with letter-sized paper or books. We may indeed arrange multiple books or documents in order to peruse them in concert and shift our attention from one to another, but not with the same facility as small cards.

The affordances of the workspace are critical. Visual-spatial arrangement requires a relatively large surface, be it a desk or table (for index cards) or a wall (if sticky notes are used in place of cards). A stack of cards lends itself to easy manipulation in the hands, or in one’s lap. Interestingly, software incarnations of card systems tend to assume the stack as the primary organizing form, as computer screens are rarely as big as a desk or table, and therefor limit the macro view of a card arrangement (unless the cards are shrunk in size). Screens afford an excellent micro view of an individual card, and of course computers allow all manner of sorting operations, but screens—at least at contemporary sizes—do not deliver the macro view that seems essential to a great deal of card play....

Cards are also collected, piled, sorted into stacks. A stack of cards is an encapsulation of the cards in the stack. It is an abstract representation of the cards, for their order or logic is no longer visually accessible. There may be a significant order to the stack–it is sorted in one way or another–but that order is black-boxed, abstracted away when the cards are stacked. In contrast, the cards on the table are ordered in an immediate, visual sense. We might think of stacks and spreads of cards as ‘closed’ and ‘open’ arrangements, respectively.

So, there is a two-dimensional arrangement or cards on a table or a wall, and there is a different arrangement in a card stack. By putting these together, we—potentially, at least—get three dimensions....

Index cards have long been represented in software. In fact, the stack of cards is one of the oldest metaphors in software design. One one hand, the library card index is a direct ancestor of the electronic database; punched cards replacing hand-written ones. On the other hand, the index card is also an appealing metaphor for user-interface design. In the early 1980s, a software tool called Notecards was developed at Xerox’ Palo Alto Research Centre (Halasz, Moran, & Trigg 1987). Much more famously, Apple Computer’s HyperCard software (distributed freely with Macintosh computers in the late 1980s) provided the first ‘mass-market’ exposure to hypertext and hypermedia, via a staightforward index-card metaphor. While HyperCard came well before the World-Wide Web, one of the Web’s most successful applications, Wikipedia, derives directly from it. Ward Cunningham, who wrote the first wiki software in 1995, reports that his design was taken directly from HyperCard and cardplay more generally (Cunningham 2003).4
paper  cards  card_catalog  index_cards  textual_form  material_texts  organization  databases 
2 days ago
A first step toward creating a digital planning laboratory is populating it
At Model Lab, we believe robust simulation tools can help illuminate and inform the benefits and costs of transport-related service, policy, and infrastructure decisions. To understand how transportation interventions impact communities, the models we build need to adequately represent every person living in a community today and every person expected to be living there tomorrow. Our first step in creating a model system that achieves this goal is a toolkit we call Doppelgänger. What’s unique about Doppelgänger is that it pairs two cutting-edge technical capabilities — convex optimization and Bayesian Networks — into the same open source modeling tool, enabling the urban planning community to take a significant step forward with population analysis...

To protect the privacy of respondents, Census data is delivered at different geographies and across different periods of time. For example, the best estimate of the number of households in a community may be available for each Census block from the Decennial Census (last conducted in 2010), and the best estimate of household income may be the five-year rolling data product from the American Community Survey for each Census tract. Combining these disparate data sets to create a coherent and complete representation of what is happening in a community at any point in time is difficult. It’s a bit like trying to completely understand a subject from photos that are taken from different angles, at different points in time, from different distances. Further complicating the problem, urban planners like to use non-Census data sets, such as school quality, that may introduce yet another set of geographies (e.g., school districts)....

Doppelgänger is here to help. It belongs to a class of tools that urban modelers refer to as “population synthesizers.” As their name implies, population synthesizers create synthetic populations — virtual communities with detailed descriptions of the households and people that live in them. These tools attempt to consume all of the data sets created by the Census Bureau (as well as other sources) to create a complete and internally consistent virtual representation of a given community. More broadly, Doppelgänger enables planners to create a set of virtual households that accurately reflects real neighborhoods, cities, regions, or states, along any dimension relevant to the problem at hand. ...

Bayes Nets act as a means of extracting useful relationships from one data set that can then be applied to other data sets. For example, consider a data set that, for a relatively small sample of households, contains information on each household’s number of people, income, and number of vehicles. We can train a Bayes Net on this data to understand the relationship between these three variables. ... The relationships labeled in the graph as A, B, and C are, in a Bayes Net, probability vectors relating outcomes in the destination box conditional on the outcomes of the origin box. Now consider a much larger data set of households that describes only the number people in each household and their household income — this data set is silent on household vehicles. If we believe that the Bayes Net trained on the smaller data set is relevant to the larger data set, we can use the Bayes Net to estimate household vehicle levels in the larger data set. In other words, we can use the Bayes Net to infer the number of vehicles each household owns.
urban_planning  urban_data  smart_cities  modeling  prediction  mapping  methodology  population 
3 days ago
At The Dawn Of Recorded Sound, No One Cared : All Tech Considered : NPR
In 1857, Scott patented the earliest known sound recording device, the phonautograph — a device with a big funnel for catching sound and a needle attached to parchment that caught the vibrations and tracked them on soot-coated glass. Scott attempted several recordings of instruments, speech and of himself singing the song, Clair de Lune.

But Scott never heard that recording. We can only hear the scratchy, haunting, but recognizably human sounds of those recordings now because almost a decade ago some audio archaeologists created a computer program to play them.

As strange as it seems, all the French inventor cared about was seeing what sound looked like.

"The idea of playback just didn't occur to him" says Emily Thompson, a professor at Princeton who teaches the history of sound technology. "He wanted to understand how sounds worked. He's part of a tradition of finding ways to render sound visible so that you could look at it and learn about it."
sound_history  recording  media_archaeology  phonautograph  media_history 
3 days ago
:  #Software_of_Summer
What is Community Technology? Here's an internal working definition.

/* community technology... */

▨ Grows out of Libraries, not Silicon Valley
▨ Eschews scalability -- more intranet than internet
▨ Exists online to facilitate offline experience

The opportunity here is not to invent the new, rather reinterpret the old.

/* these tools could use a little love... */

▨ Bulletin Boards.
▨ Calendars.
▨ Directories.
civic_tech  community_tech  libraries  administration 
3 days ago
Object Lessons: Landscape after the “Material Turn” | The Curator
Another whole conversation in art and design today takes on the old role of the explorer to discover the physical bases of our most immaterial experiences. Nicole Starosielski and Erik Loyer’s online interactive project Surfacing allows one to trace the undersea cables responsible for the globe’s data traffic, with special attention to where they leave water for land. Similarly, Ingrid Burrington’s Networks of New York: An Internet Infrastructure Field Guide offers an alternative tour of Manhattan with attention to the material bases of security and finance hidden in plain sight. In Phantom Terrains, Daniel Jones and Frank Swain offer new hearing aids that let you listen to the wireless data waveforms that envelop any walk through a city. Timo Arnall and John Gerrard track down and photograph the architecture of the internet and its data centers in their respective projects; Trevor Paglen, most famous lately for his film contributions to the Snowden documentary CitizenFour, does the same for security and intelligence operations. The Center for Land Use Interpretation, a decades-old collective working across North America, documents under-recognized infrastructure and catalogs it for review and reflection....

I would be remiss if I did not mention the growing genre of works that seek to help us see landscapes from the perspectives of the living non-human. For well over a decade, Sam Easterson has been mounting cameras on creatures to generate a library of perspectival video. The late Beatriz da Costa’s artwork included a network of augmented pigeons providing real-time data on city air quality. And Chris Woebken’s collaboration with Kenichi Okada, Animal Superpowers, provides real-time helmets and goggles to let one see like an ant, a giraffe, or a dog.
infrastructure  infrastructural_tourism  infrastructural_literacy  making_visible_invisible  mapping  sensation  landscape  nonhuman  animals 
3 days ago
5 Ways Planners Get Charrettes Wrong – Next City
“One problem is the word ‘charrette’ is used for all kinds of different events, most of which are not what we would call a charrette,” says Bill Lennertz, founder of the National Charrette Institute (NCI), a nonprofit that provides charrette trainings and consulting.

The word is often used to describe an evening outreach event that solicits community feedback or even a one-day design workshop, neither of which qualify under NCI’s definition. According to Lennertz, a true charrette requires one to nine months of prep time and educational outreach, takes place over a few consecutive days so facilitators can give immediate feedback to participants, has the stakeholders in the room necessary to ask the right questions or answer them, and produces a usable final design.

Do More and Better Outreach
Putting in more than half a year of prep time into a charrette might seem extreme, but Lennertz says its crucial for success.

“Everyone should walk into a charrette already understanding what they’re getting into and trustful about the engagement,” he explains. “It takes pre-education, a lot of listening and building empathy with all of the people involved. If people have that sense of trust, the project gets done.”

Often, doing the prep work requires partnering with established community organizations that can help agencies reach the people they need to reach....

Set (Realistic) Expectations
“When you have a room full of designers, community members, engineers and every other background you can end up with wild ideas. That creativity can be good, but you have to figure out how to make it actionable,” says Jeff Aken, a planner with the city of Redmond in Oregon.

Part of accomplishing that comes from having the right people in the room. “Often a viewpoint is missing. People historically left out of the process are missing. Key engineers are missing. Decision makers are missing,” says Wayne Beyea, NCI interim director.

You need the planners and engineers and architects who can clearly explain that someone’s suggestion would require a zoning change or someone who can explain that an idea for a pedestrian bridge is beyond the scope of the project budget or an engineer who can explain why certain elements are required for legal or safety reasons.

Similarly, you need to establish parameters — how much can the city spend, what is the scope of the project — to ensure the final product matches what gets discussed in the charrette. “Charrettes need to produce something that can actually get done, not just pretty pictures and visions,” Lennertz says. “When you create projects that can get done, you then build more trust in the project.”

Communicate More Clearly
The fields of planning and design and engineering are filled with jargon. Sometimes, that jargon is necessary for explaining extremely specific things, but that doesn’t mean a term is decipherable to the layperson. López says that she often sees excessive use of engineering language, unclear project renderings and other elements that an average community participant might not understand, making it harder for them to give meaningful feedback.

Similarly, López says when the city is working with communities where English is not the first language, there needs to be better consideration of literacy levels. “We have to build a charrette that accommodates different literacy levels and languages people speak, to engage people in more meaningful ways.”

Provide Real Feedback
Lennertz says one of the most critical mistakes people make is treating a charrette as a one day or one evening event. Instead, charrettes should take place over several consecutive days (NCI says a minimum of four) to allow for a feedback loop between community and agency. Those feedback loops provide the sort of back and forth that lead to a final design that all parties can sign off on and that an agency can actually implement.

“One of the reasons charrettes fail is that people underestimate how much skill and thought need to take place in a collaborative design process,” he explains.
charrette  design_process  public_process 
3 days ago
Old coal mines have a place in the future of clean energy - Bloomberg
The Virginia state senator, whose Appalachian district is pockmarked with empty mines, pushed through legislation in April that encourages companies to transform those tunnels into giant storage devices to hold vast amounts of renewable power.

The idea, which Dominion Energy Inc. has been studying, is to fill mines with water and then use electricity from wind and solar farms to pump it up to a reservoir on the surface. When utilities need power, operators open floodgates, letting water gush back into turbines on its way down.

“Voila—you have electricity,” said Chafin, a Republican. “These deep mines can act just like a giant battery.”

The technology Chafin is pushing is not new—its first use was for a Swiss hydroelectric plant in 1909. But it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the technology flourished, mostly to store surplus energy from nuclear plants. It has since been largely ignored—until now. As wind and solar boom, the need for grid-scale alternatives to lithium ion batteries has increased.

Unlike coal and gas generators, wind and solar farms don’t provide a steady flow of electricity—the sun doesn’t always shine and winds kick up and die down, defying forecasts. Giant batteries have long been considered the elusive solution to balancing clean energy’s ebbs and flows, allowing it to be more widely used.

The problem is that lithium ion batteries—the technology used, for instance, in Tesla cars—just can’t be built large enough to get the job done. That’s got developers scouting deep holes in the ground, reimagining this old technology that relies on little more than gravity and millions of gallons of water.

It remains to be seen whether pumped storage technology will actually work in old mines. Nonetheless, developers from Germany, to the U.K., to the U.S. are giving the idea a try.
mines  energy 
5 days ago
Curious Methods
Nevertheless, it’s important for us to push past those stereotypes to recover the value in open-ended, ground-level exploration, or what we call curious methods. We didn’t come here to extract meaning but to ask questions, to probe the environment. We came to meet the mud, not as a thing, but as a material condition. Like so many other design fields, landscape architecture is increasingly mediated by digital tools and data layers, and its practitioners often struggle to stay in touch with material realities. The more we rely on maps and satellite images, the harder it is to see past generalizations about the site. As designers and educators interested in coastal landscapes that are sensitive to change, we came to Gunnison Bay to recalibrate our practice, to better understand the dynamic nature of landscapes in flux. Mud is the perfect field for our investigation.

One aim of that investigation is to resist the market pressures that reduce design to a mere act of “problem-solving.” 4 Reacting to the solutionism rampant in his own field, the ecologist Gregory Bateson argued that, “Science never proves anything … it probes.” 5 Proving glorifies a finite “truth” and shuts down the process of inquiry by which knowledge grows deeper and changes over time. Probing, on the other hand, involves active engagement with ambiguity and instability. It implies both a curiosity and a situated context for that curiosity. It requires engagement and experience. The question is how we devise a method of probing landscape.
5 days ago
teamlab's digital office for DMM in tokyo features a 1-kilometer-long desk
japanese art collective teamlab has created a digital office for — a popular video and game streaming platform based in tokyo. spread across five floors, the workspace is laden with virtual art experiences and encounters, and includes a one-kilometer-long desk for staff to collaborate. a greenery-filled walkway featuring an immersive and interactive wall of digital animals serves as the main path to the office’s many meeting rooms, while upper levels encourage inner-office communication between DMM’s 3,000 employees. 
workplace  intellectual_furnishings 
7 days ago
What Did Precolonial Manhattan Sound Like?
The only water at the former site of Manhattan’s Collect Pond today is an intermittently filled reflecting pool, situated between skyscrapers and noisy traffic. Four centuries ago, bullfrogs, katydids, and crows filled the air with croaks, chirps, and caws, and the body of fresh water was still clean. After being used as a settlement drinking supply, it became polluted and was eventually drained.

Collect Pond Park, located at the current Lafayette and Leonard Streets, is one of four sites featured in “Calling Thunder: The Unsung History of Manhattan.” The newly launched audio initiative transports listeners to 1609, right before Henry Hudson’s voyage to the future New York City, using field recordings from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library. The texture of the noise takes into account hills that are now flattened and other geographic features, building on research in Eric W. Sanderson’s book Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City and his Welikia Project. Like another recent app, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s “Dawn Chorus,” which uses sounds from the Macaulay Library as a bird song alarm clock, Calling Thunder encourages a consideration of conservation.

The soundscapes can be experienced in one long video (narrated by Emily Kron and embedded below), which viewers can navigate in 360 degrees. It features images of the present dissolving into black-and-white sketches of the past. Each location is also available to explore in individual videos and binaural tracks. On the Calling Thunder site, the creators state that interactive mobile and virtual-reality versions are in the works.
sound_history  urban_history  sensory_history  sensation  sound_space  acoustic_ecology 
9 days ago
The NYC Space/Time Directory: Building the Future of NYC’s Past | The New York Public Library
Two years ago, we had a crazy idea: what if we could make the maps of New York City’s past work like the maps of today? Could we create, for example, a searchable atlas stitched together from the pages of old maps—like Google Maps, but with a time slider? A location directory that helps you find historical place names, streets and addresses? A new way to discover our collections in historical and geographic context?...

Thanks to generous funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we were able to start designing and building this system: the NYC Space/Time Directory, a digital time-travel service for New York City, created using the collections of the Library.

Bringing the NYC Space/Time Directory to life is no easy task, and it won't happen all at once, so we'll be unveiling new tools and features as we develop them. Today we are excited to share with you the first fruits of our labor: Maps By Decade, and a new project website where we are publishing historical open data sets.
mapping  cartography  urban_history  NYPL 
9 days ago
The New York Public Library Has a “Digital Time-Travel Service” for Its Historical Maps
“The goal of the Space/Time project is to connect the library’s collections through space and time,” Bert Spaan, NYPL’s Space/Time Directory engineer, told Hyperallergic. “I’m using many of the projects the library has used in the past.” For instance, Maps by Decade expands on the thousands of data sets, outlines, and locations crowdsourced and georectified through the seven-year-old Map Warper, combined with digitizations from the map collections. Future tools may employ the crowdsourced data of What’s on the Menu?, focused on the transcription of historical restaurant menus, or Building Inspector, where users identify buildings shapes and other details on old insurance atlases....

“There’s one page, one website, where they can go and see all the data we have,” Spaan added. Furthermore, each map is linked to its geospatial data set, so anyone can use this resource for their own cartographic projects. “The way we’re doing this, having all the software in the open, that is something that I have not seen before, and is really important for those researchers,” Spaan said. “They can use it in whatever way they like.” All the source code for the project is additionally available on GitHub.

Spaan noted in a NYPL blog post that the Space/Time Directory aims to be “like Google Maps, but with a time slider.” In the coming months, he hopes to introduce tools that facilitate searching for addresses on defunct streets, and access to historical photographs from the OldNYC tool, continuing to stitch together disparate physical and digital data at NYPL. For Maps by Decade, there could be a way for users to fill in visible voids of content. Since November, he’s also been hosting a series of historical data and maps meet-ups, where the public can get involved and collaborate with historians, developers, and librarians.
mapping  archive  cartography  urban_history  nypl 
9 days ago
Here's a Geographically Accurate NYC Subway Map - CityLab
Earlier this month, Lynch finished a geographically accurate New York City subway map—a cartographic task that sounds a lot easier than it actually is. Even the MTA current map—which rejects Massimo Vignelli’s polarizing, abstract diagram from the 1970s in favor of realism—makes Manhattan bigger for the sake of service legibility.
mapping  subway  transportation 
9 days ago
NFB/Interactive - Bear 71 VR
Bear 71 is the true story of a female grizzly bear monitored by the wildlife conservation offices from 2001 - 2009.

She lived her life under near constant surveillance and was continually stressed by the interactions with the human world. She was tracked and logged as data, reflecting the way we have to see the world around us through Tron and Matrix-like filters, qualifying and quantifying everything, rather than experiencing and interacting.

Leanne Allison sifted through thousands of photos from motion-triggered cameras from this project. The grainy images gathered over the past 10 years by various scientists reveal the hidden life of the forest, played out by the animals and humans - including Bear 71 - captured covertly on film.

Bear 71’s story is consistently played out in places all over the globe where humans and wildlife intersect - from cougars in Nova Scotia to Bears in suburban Vancouver to Bear culls in New Jersey.

It highlights how our growing dependence on technology divorces us from nature, even while allowing us to keep closer tabs on it. It raises questions about how we view nature, how we view ourselves in relation to technology and nature, and the nature and validity of surveillance both in the wild, and within human society.
mapping  nature  nonhuman 
9 days ago
Modest Monuments: The District of Columbia Boundary Stones | Worlds Revealed: Geography & Maps at The Library Of Congress
The story of the boundary stones begins with the Residence Act of 1790, which approved of the creation of a new national capital along the Potomac River in the shape of a diamond 10 miles on each side, for a 100 square mile area. The new capital would be carved out of land from Maryland and Virginia. President George Washington, himself an accomplished surveyor, designated Jones Point to be the southern point of the diamond, with the rest of the territory to be surveyed and mapped from there. Beginning in 1791, a team led by Andrew Ellicott, and including famed astronomer and intellectual Benjamin Banneker, set out from Jones Point to perform an initial survey of the new territory. Although Banneker was forced to drop out of the project due to illness, Ellicott and his team were able to complete the full survey on the Virginia and Maryland sides of the Potomac River in 1792. At each mile of the survey, a stone was placed to mark the boundary of the “Territory of Columbia.” In 1846, Virginia’s donated land portion to what had then become the District of Columbia was returned to Virginia, thereby nullifying the original purpose of many of the stones on the diamond’s northwestern and southwestern sides.

The boundary stones were intended to define the territory’s borders and solidify the permanence of the new national capital. But over the years, weathering, urban development, and other factors have taken a toll on the stones themselves. In 1906, Fred E. Woodward visited each boundary stone, took photographs, and documented their conditions. Among his documentations is his Chart showing the original boundary milestones of the District of Columbia, which shows the locations of each boundary stone while noting that several stones were damaged or missing (appearing only as “stumps”).
land_use  borders  property  real_estate  urban_history 
9 days ago
Can an Archive Capture the Scents of an Entire Era? - The Atlantic
Not very much of an effort has been made to preserve the smells that people care about. Bembibre, a graduate student at University College London’s Institute of Sustainable Heritage, is trying to understand which scents are worth hanging on to, what they consist of, on a molecular level, and how to save them. Her aim is to allow others, perhaps many generations down the line, to smell them, too, and understand why they mattered so much...

In a recent study, Bembibre and her advisor, the chemist Matija Strlič, focused on one particular smell already known matter to people: the fragrance of old books. Using it as a case study for how to characterize and record smells, they first placed sensors in the library of St. Paul’s Cathedral, where it is particularly intense. With a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer, they identified many of the molecules responsible for the odor, and had seven subjects describe the scent. They also had visitors to a museum sniff a bottle with the reconstituted scent of a French novel from 1928 and record the notes that came to mind, from coffee to leather to mustiness. It turns out coffee and chocolate were most common, which makes sense: Coffee, chocolate, and paper are plant products. When cellulose in paper decays, it releases many of the same compounds as roasted coffee or cocoa beans do.

The researchers then created a diagram showing the words that subjects listed and the molecules likely responsible for them, which they call an odor wheel. Belimbre suggests this could be used as a kind of entry in an encyclopedia or a collection of preserved smells. “I’m exploring the concept of an archive of smell,” she says. “The odor wheel would be one of the pieces that would hopefully help reconstruct the smell in the future.”
preservation  sensation  smell 
9 days ago
City as Living Laboratory

Increase awareness and action around environmental challenges through the arts.


1 // CALL attention to natural and man-made systems that sustains our lives often, focusing on the unseen, under-recognized, or threatened. 
2 // CALL to create collaborations between artists, scientists, and citizens to address specific needs through citizen engagement, community action, and policy change.
3 // CALL to affirm the value of artists to re-vision the public realm to enable positive environmental change and replicate successful programs in neighborhoods and cities across the country.


CALL’s aim is to foster public understanding of the natural systems and infrastructure that support life in the city. Its strategies are grounded in place-based experience that makes sustainability personal, visceral, tangible, and encourages citizen and governmental action. Ultimately, CALL’s goal is to establish a FRAMEWORK that nurtures such multi-discipline and multi-layered teams in processes that can bring about greater environmental awareness and envision more livable cities of sustenance.
social_practice  infrastructure  ecology  laboratories 
10 days ago
Oil won't last forever, so Dubai is betting big on science and tech | Popular Science
For more than a decade, this city-state’s story has been all about superlatives: the world’s tallest building, the biggest fireworks display, the busiest international airport. But a new ethos has taken hold, a broad and purposeful strategy to swap profligacy for ingenuity. Unlike some countries, Dubai believes the planet is warming—and is determined to use science and technology not only to adapt to a new era of extremes, but also to make that adaptation the basis of its economy. Dubai wants to be known more as a laboratory for world-saving technology than for the man-made beaches, indoor ski slopes, and vast air-conditioned malls that defined its recent past....

researchers are working to improve the performance of photovoltaic modules in the parched, dusty environment. “You can easily lose 30 to 70 percent of the power from dust,” explains Jim Joseph John, an Indian engineer who recently relocated here from Phoenix, Arizona, where he’d finished up some research for his Ph.D. On an adjacent patch of sand, three visiting technicians fiddle with a sophisticated weather station, their tools spilling out of their rental car’s trunk. Behind another fence is a photovoltaic reverse-osmosis system, which transforms brackish groundwater into drinking water. Across a construction laneway, two steel towers a couple of stories tall poke at the sky like half-erected cranes. Technicians are preparing to install 3-D printers on them, which will extrude—in a matter of weeks—a whole building intended to house (naturally) a drone lab. The laneway itself will then be ripped up, its brick pavers replaced with solar panels and a system to wirelessly recharge electric cars as they drive along. ...

Cities are machines, the largest things we build. Their airports and seaports digest and expel people and goods, while their roads and rails siphon both through the urban landscape. Their tunnels carry data, power, water, and sewage. Their governing authorities work (one hopes) with deliberateness, imposing coherence on what otherwise could be chaos. It can all hum efficiently—or fail spectacularly. Typically, all of this is constructed over centuries. ...The lesson of city building is that infrastructure takes forever—the tortoise to technology’s hare.
But Dubai has done it differently. Dubai has built in 50 years what has taken most cities 100....

For the next generation, Dubai’s advantages are more fraught, tied as they are to impending climate catastrophe. Many cities are about to face new extremes of temperature and drought. Dubai already does. Many cities will struggle to find fresh water and clean power. Dubai already does. Viewed in this light, Dubai is a place where the future has arrived early...

Rather than be intimidated by its ­potentially catastrophic challenges, withdrawing from the world and doubling down on outdated technologies, Dubai is accelerating toward it. The plan is simple: Turn the traditional mechanisms of urban life into a platform for confronting the hazards of contemporary society. Then export those innovations. If a city is a machine, Dubai wants to be the most advanced city-­machine the world has ever seen—and it wants to sell its blueprints to everyone. “Dubai is recognizing that climate change is an existential threat to its ability to be a prosperous part of the world,” says David Pomerantz, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, a watchdog group....

In this imagined Dubai of the future, the electricity and water authority has blown past today’s supersize desalination plant and opened a bio-desalination plant, grown from the genes of a jellyfish (the “most absorptive natural material”) and a mangrove tree (“one of nature’s best desalinators”). And it sold them too: “We also export jellyfish bio-desalination plants to cities across the world,” the stentorian voice continues. Robots construct buildings from sand. An artificial intelligence selects and grows food in indoor farms. And flying cars pulse through traffic-free streets. It’s all presented with enough science-fiction flair to maintain a sense of humor. But the punchline is serious: “We solved our own problems, and now climate solutions are our greatest export.” ...

Dubai’s middle class appears to be far broader and more diverse than it was a decade ago, when the dominant media narrative was about a fantasy city built on the backs of slave labor. The extent to which working conditions have improved is hard to judge, but the reality of the city as a business and commercial hub is plainly apparent. If Dubai’s future is as a knowledge hub, it will have to fulfill the dreams of more than just the Emiratis. With rare exceptions, only they are allowed to be citizens, and since visas are based on employment, deportation isn’t so much an extreme consequence as an everyday worry. That may have mattered less to the Emiratis when labor was expendable. But to compete for global talent, Dubai needs to transform from a transitory polyglot society to a permanently cosmopolitan one—an ambition that has become a talking point of Sheikh Mohammed. “The uniqueness of Dubai is the fact that it is a melting pot of the world’s cultures, ethnicities, and minds in one city,” he said in a statement.
smart_cities  middle_east  dubai  electricity  sustainability  urban_design  urban_history  labor 
11 days ago
Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence
Our vision at CFI is to build a new interdisciplinary community of researchers, with strong links to technologists and the policy world, and a clear practical goal – to work together to ensure that we humans make the best of the opportunities of artificial intelligence, as it develops over coming decades.
intelligence  artificial_intelligence  epistemology 
11 days ago
Why Big Data Hasn’t Yet Made a Dent on Farms - WSJ
A few years ago, the agricultural world was full of promises about how the widespread use of data was going to change farming. Companies sprang up that offered to collect huge amounts of information about everything from weather patterns to the soil on farms to the health of crops. The sales pitch: With all this detailed information, farmers would get untold insights into what was happening on their land. And they could use that information to boost production.

But the revolution has been slow to catch on. Many farmers who used the digital services found it difficult to digest the mountains of information and figure out how to put it to use. Many others simply weren’t sold on the idea, or couldn’t afford the investment as crop prices fell....

Instead of betting on legions of companies that provide farmers information, they’re now pumping money into companies that offer tools and services, such as robotic farm equipment, or on biotechnology and genetic editing of plants, that bring faster and more obvious results....

The mania for data-focused farming was sparked largely by Monsanto Co.’s nearly $1 billion acquisition of agriculture-data firm Climate Corp. in late 2013. Chasing after such success, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs plunged into companies that could both produce data and provide it to farmers.

The general theory: Farmers armed with hyperlocal data on soil, weather and runoff could program machinery to plant specific types of seeds and fertilizer. Once a tractor moves into a sandier type of soil, for instance, a different seed pops out best suited to the environment. Yields could soar.

Since then, farmers have been deluged with data coming from countless sources, from soil sensors to outer space. But even if farmers want information from drones, satellites and on-ground sensors, it is hard to get the most out of them. Many farmers aren’t trained on how to use software to deal with the data and integrate it with their farming equipment, and different types of machines don’t always work together. Spotty or nonexistent cell reception in rural areas makes it hard for machines to communicate.

Then there is problem of interpretation. While data will tell a farmer things like how much corn a chunk of a field is producing, it is far harder to understand why it is producing and what lessons can be applied to next year’s crop.
big_data  agriculture  sensors 
12 days ago
Sidewalk Labs May Build a High-Tech City District From Scratch in Toronto – Next City
Downtown Toronto could be getting a “smart city” development from Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, Bloomberg Technology reports. Sidewalk Labs responded to the city’s request for proposals to develop a 12-acre strip, and may seize the opportunity to fulfill its ambition of creating a smart city hub from scratch. Details of the proposal are private — and Bloomberg’s article has few specifics — but two people familiar with the plans told the news outlet that the bid fits with the company’s ambitions....

In a speech last week at the Smart Cities NYC conference, Sidewalk Labs​ CEO Dan Doctoroff said the firm is exploring development of a “large-scale district,” but that plans were still in the “feasibility” phase. Sidewalk Labs has also eyed Denver and Detroit, according to Bloomberg.
smart_cities  sidewalk_labs 
12 days ago
Administration 101: Part 5, Getting Your Name in the Real Pool - The Chronicle of Higher Education
...where you are now in the institutional hierarchy often determines where you can realistically aspire to reach. Unfair? Perhaps, but the assumption is that the better situation you are in, the more qualified you are for something greater. must tailor your application materials — from the CV to the cover letter to the dreaded executive-summary questionnaire — to the local situation. Which of your achievements visibly align with what the institution wants — especially the required qualifications and strategic goals? Explain in detail, with examples. Absolutely press home your greatest hits...

Background is not destiny, of course. And you don’t have to be a local to apply, whether the institution is in New York or Lubbock. But as a candidate, you must show that: (a) You understand not everyone locally is like you, and (b) you can work within the system and its folkways. "He doesn’t fit us" has sunk more candidates than any other factor...

Search firms, in part, are expected to alert committees to any question marks or danger flags in a candidate’s past: votes of no confidence, lawsuits, allegations of all kinds, and so on. Other times, people on the committee or on the campus will bring issues and problems into the discussion — as in, "Look what she said about tenure in this interview from three years ago." In our online era, you can pretty much expect that committee members will at least Google you.
job_search  academic  administration 
14 days ago
How Australia Bungled Its $36 Billion High-Speed Internet Rollout - The New York Times
Fed up with Australian internet speeds that trail those in most of the developed world, Morgan Jaffit turned to a more reliable method of data transfer: the postal system.

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have downloaded Hand of Fate, an action video game made by his studio in Brisbane, Defiant Development. But when Defiant worked with an audio designer in Melbourne, more than 1,000 miles away, Mr. Jaffit knew it would be quicker to send a hard drive by road than to upload the files, which could take several days....

Australia, a wealthy nation with a widely envied quality of life, lags in one essential area of modern life: its internet speed. Eight years after the country began an unprecedented broadband modernization effort that will cost at least 49 billion Australian dollars, or $36 billion, its average internet speed lags that of the United States, most of Western Europe, Japan and South Korea.....

The story of Australia’s costly internet bungle illustrates the hazards of mingling telecommunication infrastructure with the impatience of modern politics. The internet modernization plan has been hobbled by cost overruns, partisan maneuvering and a major technical compromise that put 19th-century technology between the country’s 21st-century digital backbone and many of its homes and businesses...

Australia poses natural connectivity challenges. It lies oceans away from other countries, and any network would have to connect far-flung cities separated by its sparsely populated interior....

After a Liberal-led coalition was elected in 2013, that party looked for ways to contain costs and speed up the rollout. They focused on what in the telecommunications industry is called “the last mile” — the wires that connect a home or business with the broader network. While the National Broadband Network initially envisioned high-speed fiber connecting homes and businesses directly to the network, the Liberal-led effort compromised by connecting them with existing copper wire — basically, the same technology used in the earliest days of the telephone.
infrastructure  internet  speed 
16 days ago
Learning on country - AWAYE! - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Every year, students from the University of Melbourne troop on a bus and head up the Hume Highway bound for Yorta Yorta country.

They're being taught a subject in the Indigenous studies stream where the classroom has no walls.

On Country Learning is an intensive course designed to teach Australian history from an Aboriginal perspective - with the Yorta Yorta as a case study.

The Yorta Yorta elder and academic Dr Wayne Atkinson leads the students as they discover sites of cultural significance - from ancient middens and fireplaces on the Murray River to the political activism born on the Cummeragunja reserve and community-controlled organisations such as Rumbalara.
mapping  aborigines  indigenous  sensation  songlines 
16 days ago
Black Net.Art Actions | Net Art Anthology
The Black Net.Art Actions all take different forms, but share a conceptual interest in discourses of color and race, and the racialization of the internet–issues which were often glossed over in net art discourse. Taken as a whole, the actions can be understood as an attempt to reformulate net art with race as a central concern.
text_art  discourse  race  net_art 
18 days ago
The Lost Picture Show: Hollywood Archivists Can’t Outpace Obsolescence
Digital technology has also radically altered the way that movies are preserved for posterity, but here the effect has been far less salutary. These days, the major studios and film archives largely rely on a magnetic tape storage technology known as LTO, or linear tape-open, to preserve motion pictures. When the format first emerged in the late 1990s, it seemed like a great solution. The first generation of cartridges held an impressive 100 gigabytes of uncompressed data; the latest, LTO-7, can hold 6 terabytes uncompressed and 15 TB compressed. Housed properly, the tapes can have a shelf life of 30 to 50 years. While LTO is not as long-lived as polyester film stock, which can last for a century or more in a cold, dry environment, it’s still pretty good.

The problem with LTO is obsolescence. Since the beginning, the technology has been on a Moore’s Law–like march that has resulted in a doubling in tape storage densities every 18 to 24 months. As each new generation of LTO comes to market, an older generation of LTO becomes obsolete. LTO manufacturers guarantee at most two generations of backward compatibility. What that means for film archivists with perhaps tens of thousands of LTO tapes on hand is that every few years they must invest millions of dollars in the latest format of tapes and drives and then migrate all the data on their older tapes—or risk losing access to the information altogether.

...Up until the early 1950s, filmmakers shot on nitrate film stock, which turned out to be not just unstable but highly flammable. Over the years, entire studio collections went up in flames, sometimes accidentally and sometimes on purpose, to avoid the costs of storage. According to the Film Foundation, a nonprofit founded by director Martin Scorsese to restore and preserve important films, about half of the U.S. films made before 1950 have been lost, including an astounding 90 percent of those made before 1929.

...It wasn’t just that film was difficult to preserve, however. Studios didn’t see any revenue potential in their past work. They made money by selling movie tickets; absent the kind of follow-on markets that exist today, long-term archiving didn’t make sense economically.
In the 1950s, nitrate film was eclipsed by more stable cellulose acetate “safety film” and polyester film, and it became practical for studios to start storing film reels. And so they did. The proliferation of television around the same time created a new market for film. Soon the studios came to view their archives not as an afterthought or a luxury but as a lucrative investment—and as an essential part of our collective cultural heritage, of course.

The question then became: What’s the best way to store a film? For decades, the studios took a “store and ignore” approach: Put the film reels on shelves, placed horizontally rather than vertically, at a constant cool temperature and 30 to 50 percent humidity. Ideally, they’d have redundant copies of each work in two or more of these climate-controlled vaults. Remarkably, the industry still uses film archiving, even for works that are born digital. A master copy of the finished piece will be rendered as yellow-cyan-magenta separations on black-and-white film and then preserved as traditional celluloid, on polyester film stock.

...“The sad truth is that film images are ephemeral in nature, kept alive only by intensive effort,” David Walsh, the head of digital collections at London’s Imperial War Museum, has written. “Apart from anything else, if you are storing film in air-conditioned vaults or running digital mass-storage systems, your carbon footprint will be massive and may one day prove to be politically or practically unsustainable.”

The movie industry executives I interviewed would argue that the current system for digital archiving is already unsustainable. And yet when LTO storage first came along 20 years ago, it seemed to offer so much more than traditional film. Magnetic tape storage for computer data had been around since the 1950s, so it was considered a mature technology. LTO, as an open-standard alternative to proprietary magnetic tape storage, meant that companies wouldn’t be locked into a single vendor’s format; instead they could buy tape cartridges and tape drives from a variety of vendors, and the competition would keep costs down. Digital works could be kept in digital format. Tapes could be easily duplicated, and the data quickly accessed....

Already there have been seven generations of LTO in the 18 years of the product’s existence, and the LTO Consortium, which includes Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, and Quantum, has a road map that specifies generations 8, 9, and 10. Given the short period of backward compatibility—just two generations—an LTO-5 cartridge, which can still be read on an LTO-7 drive, won’t be readable on an LTO-8 drive. So even if that tape is still free from defects in 30 or 50 years, all those gigabytes or terabytes of data will be worthless if you don’t also have a drive upon which to play it.

Steven Anastasi, vice president of global media archives and preservation services at Warner Bros., therefore puts the practical lifetime of an LTO cartridge at approximately 7 years. Before that time elapses, you must migrate to a newer generation of LTO because, of course, it takes time to move the data from one format to the next. While LTO data capacities have been steadily doubling, tape speeds have not kept up....

Then you need technicians to operate and troubleshoot the equipment and ensure that the migrated data is error free. Migrating a petabyte (a thousand terabytes) of data can take several months, says Anastasi.... For a large film archive, data migration costs can easily run into the millions. A single LTO-7 cartridge goes for about $115, so an archive that needs 50,000 new cartridges will have to shell out $5.75 million, or perhaps a little less with volume discounts....

Archivists like Kline at least have the budgets to maintain their digital films. Independent filmmakers, documentarians, and small TV producers don’t. These days, an estimated 75 percent of the films shown in U.S. theaters are considered independent. From a preservation standpoint, those digital works might as well be stored on flammable nitrate film...

Computer-animation studios like Pixar have their own archiving issues. Part of the creative process in a feature-length animated film is developing the algorithms and other digital tools to render the images. It’s impossible to preserve those software assets in a traditional film vault or even on LTO tape, and so animation and visual effects studios have had to develop their own archival methods. Even so, the sheer pace of technological advancement means those digital tools become obsolete quickly, too....

Another problem for archivists is that digital camera technology has allowed productions to shoot essentially everything. In the past, the ratio of what’s shot to what’s eventually used for a feature film was typically 10 to 1. These days, says Warner archive chief Anastasi, films can go as high as 200 to 1. “On some sets, they’re simply not turning the camera off,” he says.....

The aim is to “touch every tape” every six months, using an automated system, Gustman explains. A robotic arm selects a tape from a rack and loads it into a reader, which plays it back while a computer checks for aberrations. Any tape that isn’t perfect is immediately trashed, and the archive makes a replacement from one of its remaining copies of the tape. The archive migrates to the latest version of LTO as it becomes available, so no tape is more than three years old....
digital  film  archives  preservation  digital_preservation  obsolescence 
22 days ago
Writing Better Won’t Cure Your Academic Woes - The Chronicle of Higher Education
I remember being quietly frightened by the mile-long reading lists that other grad students had concocted for their qualifying exams. How were they blasting through a seemingly infinite number of theory-heavy books while I was reading Of Grammatology for a month straight? If you hang on, though, you begin to realize it’s mostly for show. If they are "reading" the books they say they are, they’re not doing it well.

New shades of such anxiety await you at every professional echelon. They plague our perceptions and interactions, whether we’re competing for jobs or, if we’re so "lucky," competing for tenure, grants, name recognition, or that nebulous distinction of just "knowing more."
Why do we keep up this facade-driven culture when it’s so emotionally draining? Why do we perpetuate myths about "productivity" and "success" when they consume us with doubt and envy?

...graduate students are largely trained for (and trained to want) the kind of jobs their advisers have, which most will never get, while receiving writing advice that presumes they will be working under conditions that have been a statistical rarity for years. This is indefensible. It also highlights the desperate need for a communal overhaul of our sense of "knowledge production" — of the systemic exploitation and false hopes that make it possible, of our continuing complicity in such a system, and of the collective effort it will take to liberate love of knowledge from this Hobbesian hellscape.
writing  academia  reading  UMS  advising 
22 days ago
About – Media Theory of/for the present
This course will function as a living snapshot of the field of media studies in the present, balancing an investigation of current debates with some attention to classical or canonical works that continue to inform scholarly inquiry. It will have two primary tracks: with the first, medium/mediation, we will follow a line from McLuhan to the so-termed post-digital, considering various aspects of the materiality of media along the way. With the second, what we might call engagement, we will adopt more of an anthropological approach and consider not only what we do with media technologies but also how we experience them.
media_theory  syllabus 
22 days ago
Toward a Constructive Technology Criticism - Columbia Journalism Review
Besides deconstructing, naming, and interpreting technological phenomena, criticism has the potential to assemble new insights and interpretations. In response to this finding, I lay out the elements of a constructive technology criticism that aims to bring stakeholders together in productive conversation rather than pitting them against each other. Constructive criticism poses alternative possibilities. It skews toward optimism, or at least toward an idea that future technological societies could be improved. Acknowledging the realities of society and culture, constructive criticism offers readers the tools and framings for thinking about their relationship to technology and their relationship to power. Beyond intellectual arguments, constructive criticism is embodied, practical, and accessible, and it offers frameworks for living with technology.
technology  criticism  pedagogy 
22 days ago
Digital Manifesto Archive
The Digital Manifesto Archive is an academic resource dedicated to aggregating and cataloging manifestos that fall under two basic criteria:

Manifestos that focus on the political and cultural dimensions of digital life
Manifestos that are written, or are primarily disseminated, online
The manifesto genre is, by definition, timely and politically focused. Further, it is a primary site of political, cultural, and social experimentation in our contemporary world. Manifestos that are created and disseminated online further this experimental ethos by fundamentally expanding the character and scope of the genre.

Each category listed on the archive is loosely organized by theme, political affiliation, and (if applicable) time period. While the political movements and affiliations of the manifestos archived in each category are not universal, each category does try to capture a broad spectrum of political moods and actions with regard to its topic.
manifestos  archives 
22 days ago
Estonia Leads the Way in NATO’s Cyberdefense - WSJ
Last week, nearly 900 cybersecurity experts from across Europe and the U.S. participated in an event hosted in Tallinn to focus on defending a fictional country against a simulated cyberattack. The defenders faced real-world scenarios: a knocked-out email server, fake news accusing a NATO country of developing drones with chemical weapons, and hackers compromising an air base’s fueling system.

The exercise—dubbed Locked Shields 2017—was unprecedented in complexity, organizers say. And for the Estonian cybersecurity team hosting the event, it marked the 10-year anniversary of cyberattacks that crippled the Baltic nation’s nascent digital infrastructure. The attacks, blamed on Russia, swamped Estonian banking and government websites and threatened to take the country offline.

Since the 2007 cyberattacks, the former Soviet republic of 1.3 million has transformed into one of Europe’s most tech-savvy countries. Its importance to NATO is vast: As well as playing a central role in hosting the alliance’s deterrent force in the Baltic region, Estonia is at the forefront of the alliance’s defenses against hacking....

To establish a stronger line of cyberdefense, Estonia established a volunteer body that can be called on to protect the country’s digital infrastructure. The unit’s volunteers donate their free time to regular training, much like a national guard. And they are responsible for defending everything from online banking to the country’s electronic voting system if an attack occurred....

“We have lots of talented people who work in the private sector and we offered them the possibility of working once a week for a more patriotic cause,” said Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the former Estonian president who oversaw the creation of the unit. “You basically think of the most dystopian future imaginable and try to defend against that.”...

During the exercise—the eighth in an annual series—teams faced not only simulated attacks on computer software, but also on critical infrastructure. Planners introduced another challenge: fake news. Participants in this year’s exercise had to confront questions from a hostile press.
estonia  security  hacking  infrastructure  simulation 
25 days ago
Safeguarding Internet Privacy in Service to the Public
The City, in partnership with our libraries, will support residents throughout all five boroughs who have questions about how to use the internet safely and securely. Librarians and other staff — at least one person at every branch — will be trained to respond to patrons’ questions and will incorporate new lessons into their digital literacy trainings.
Librarians are already on the front lines of digital inclusion and they are a trusted source of information in our communities. This collaboration with the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, Queens Library and the Metropolitan New York Library Council builds on the achievements of the Data Privacy Project...

The second new partnership will focus on the evolving challenges for community-based organization. The Mozilla Foundation and Research Action Design (RAD) will create a digital security training program for city-contracted nonprofits that serve vulnerable populations. The program will kick off with a group from Mozilla’s Open Web Fellows community working closely with organizations that provide legal assistance to the city’s immigrant communities. These initial workshops will be tailored to fit the unique needs of the participating organizations with the ultimate goal of producing a scalable and durable approach with the guidance of the City’s Nonprofit Resiliency Committee the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs...

To understand what it would take to extend that same level of protection to all New Yorkers who use the internet, we have initiated a legal review of the City’s authority to influence or control the data collection, retention and use policies of the internet service companies operating in the city.
In addition, I am joining with Carmelyn P. Malalis, the Commissioner of the City’s Commission on Human Rights, to convene a first-of-its-kind inter-agency working group to review our broadband work according to the principles of open innovation, digital inclusion, decentralization, privacy and security, and the protection of human and civil rights.
infrastructure  data  privacy  access 
25 days ago
Filed away: Office equipment of the late 19th century - Smithsonian Libraries Unbound Smithsonian Libraries Unbound
Today, in the 21st Century, it is commonplace to find a computer on a desk in an office. In the late 19th Century, workers did not have the convenience of our modern office equipment. So how did they file papers, write documents, or make copies of documents?

This trade catalog is from 1898 and can give us an idea of what office workers would have needed to get their job done. The title of the catalog is Modern Office Devices and the catalog is by Office and Library Co. which sold equipment for offices, banks, and libraries.
intellectual_furnishings  administration  aesthetics_of_administration  furniture  equipment  copies  filing 
26 days ago
Is Estonia a Preview of Our Tech Future? |
One generation on, Estonia is a time warp of another kind: a fast-f orward example of extreme digital living. For the rest of us, Estonia ­offers a glimpse into what happens when a country abandons old analog systems and opts to run completely online instead. ...

At birth, every person is assigned a unique string of 11 digits, a digital identifier that from then on is key to operating almost every aspect of that person’s life—the 21st-century version of a Social Security number. The all-digital habits begin young: Estonian children learn computer programming at school, many beginning in kindergarten.
In 2000, Estonia became the first country in the world to declare Internet access a basic human right—much like food and shelter. That same year it passed a law giving digital signatures equal weight to handwritten ones. That single move created an entire paperless system. ...

Estonians might take all this tech wizardry for granted now, but the country was on its knees economically after the Soviet collapse. It had one huge advantage: It was starting from scratch. “People were paid in cash,” says Martin Ruubel, 41, president of Guardtime, a 10-year-old software security company that developed the country’s blockchain system (more on that in a moment), sitting in his Tallinn office on the grounds of a converted former military barrack. Since no Estonian had ever had a checkbook, once the Soviets were gone the country simply skipped past pen and paper and issued bank cards. It was a money saver, but had another benefit: It pushed Estonians to get online fast...

Scrambling to piece together a country, the new leaders, young and inexperienced, also rapidly privatized the telecom industry. “It was highly successful,” says Mart Laar, 57, who became the first post-Soviet Prime Minister, at age 32, and is now chairman of the board of supervisors for the Bank of Estonia. Since so few people had even landline phones, many simply bought mobile handsets instead. Laar, a historian, says he knew nothing about computers but believed they needed to start with the latest technology. When Finland offered to donate its analog telephone exchange to its poorer neighbor for free, Estonia turned it down....

Russia’s payback finally came in 2007—and it would markedly change Estonia. It happened when Estonia’s government decided to move a World War II memorial statue of a Soviet soldier from central Tallinn to a nearby war cemetery. Pro-Russian demonstrators burned barricades and looted stores in days of ri oting. Then Estonia’s banks, its Parliament, and several public services suddenly went off-line, in one of the biggest-ever distributed denial-of-service attacks to hit a country. The 2007 cyberattack still haunts Estonia. “We were already really, really dependent on online. We had no paper originals for a lot of things,” says Guardtime’s Ruubel. Estonia believes Russia was behind the attack....

Shortly after, the only NATO-accredited cyberdefense center opened in Tallinn. And this year Estonia will open the world’s first “data embassy” in Luxembourg—a storage building to house an entire backup of Estonia’s data that will enjoy the same sovereign rights as a regular embassy but be able to reboot the country remotely, in case of another attack. “It was quite clear after 2007 that we knew how to fight against external attacks,” Ruubel says. “The worry was, What if there was an ­attack from inside the system, with someone tampering with the data?”...

The answer to that concern came in the form of the technology that now underpins crucial parts of Estonia’s system, as well as some of its most successful startups, and that, in the years ahead, could help power the country’s future growth: the blockchain....

The technology allows Estonia’s engineers to strengthen its encrypted data and lets Estonians verify at any time that their information has not been tampered with. Estonians are also required to use two-step verification for many online tasks. These and other security measures, say Estonians, make their system as close to unbreakable as possible...

Those who created Estonia’s system say they believe the arguments raging in the U.S. over data privacy are largely misplaced. The focus should instead be to give people control over who accesses their data, by using blockchain technology. “The real issue is data integrity,” ...

Since Estonia had little means for attracting masses of immigrants to its icy Northern European landscape, it came up with a quirky idea—another of its firsts in the world: offering people virtual residency. ... Estonia’s first e-residency cards rolled out in December 2014. The micro­chips inside them are identical to Estonians’ digital ID cards but come without citizens’ rights, like voting or public pensions, and there is no obligation to pay taxes in Estonia. This is no tax haven: Estonia requires that e-residents pay their taxes to whatever country they owe them. But for a fee of 145 euros (about $154) e-residents can register companies in Estonia, no matter where they live, gaining automatic access to the EU’s giant common market—about 440 million once Britain leaves the union.

...Estonia is working on developing “precision medicine” that would tap into the genome data of its 1.3 million citizens in order to better diagnose illnesses, treat people, and design personalized drugs. “We can use blockchain to make sure that the data exchanged is able to be traced,” he says.
smart_cities  infrastructure  historiography  media_history  hacking  big_data  privacy  citizenship 
29 days ago
Dubai Aims to Be a City Built on Blockchain - WSJ
“We want to make Dubai the first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020,” says Aisha Bin Bishr, director general of Smart Dubai, a government office tasked with facilitating innovation in the emirate. “It is disruptive for existing systems, but will help us prepare for the future,” she says....

In March, Smart Dubai kicked off a citywide effort to implement blockchain. Over the coming months, it will conduct workshops with key government, semigovernment and private organizations to identify and prioritize the services that can be most enhanced by blockchain. It also will educate the public and private sectors about the technology’s potential.

Following these workshops, Smart Dubai expects the public and private sectors to collaborate and start rolling out blockchain pilot projects this year. It also plans to build a shared platform—Blockchain as a Service—for Dubai government entities to use for implementing their projects.

Wesam Lootah, the chief executive of Smart Dubai, says a collaborative effort is crucial to ensure that the emirate as a whole is moving in the same direction to take advantage of synergies and avoid duplication of efforts and costs.

Smart Dubai has appointed International Business Machines Corp. IBM -0.02% as its blockchain lead strategic partner and Consensys, a custom-software development consultancy, as its blockchain adviser.

Dubai is adopting this technology as “government agencies and businesses realize the need to have a shared, secured ledger that establishes accountability and transparency while streamlining business processes,” says Takreem El Tohamy, IBM’s general manager for the Middle East and Africa. “The key is to always keep business value at the forefront.”
smart_cities  middle_east  blockchain 
4 weeks ago
Screen/Print #54: Galen Cranz on Why We Need to Rethink the Chair | Features | Archinect
The consequence of the epidemiological studies about the association between mortality and number of hours seated—the consequence of that is that you need to stand, but we know standing is tiring to the legs. The real solution is that you need movement, so you enter the world of hydraulic, or electric, or mechanical, adjustability. Also, there’s the issue of, should you work on a flat surface? Before a certain historical period, work surfaces were sloped, because to read on a flat surface is really hard on your neck, if you’re going to sit up straight and look down, it’s really hard on that top joint. Instead, what people do is round their spine to get down to the work surface.

So the table needs to be redesigned just as much as the chair needs to be redesigned. The table needs to be of adjustable height, and the work surface should be able to slant for reading and for writing. Now for computers—obviously we’ve got the monitor as an additional piece up there. And then the keyboard, some people say should actually be quite far down: that the arms shouldn’t be at a right angle. The hands should be at more of an open angle, and maybe the keyboard is even split. So you can see how there is no perfect posture…You know, one guy said, “The best posture is the next posture.”  We’re designed for movement, as a species. So if we’re gonna sit up at our perching height, then we’re going to have to be able to move the chair. Maybe ideally, the chair and the work surface should cooperate in some kind of slow moving transformation, undulation. You know, I think of it as a sort of tai-chi work station. This kind of really slow moving change would mean that the joints have different stresses on them in the course of an hour and in the course of a day.

So there’s a very strong link between the sitting surface, the resting surface, and the work surface. They are locked. And it’s one of the reasons it’s been so hard to make chair reform. Once you get people to realize they need to perch a little higher and have an open angle between thigh and trunk, then they need a higher work surface and, “Oh, that’s too hard! We can’t change both the chair surface and the work surface all at once.” And so we do nothing. It shows how cultural aspects are interlocked, and that’s why change is so difficult. There’s an inherent conservatism in culture.
chairs  intellectual_furnishings  furniture  erognomics 
4 weeks ago
Time and Cosmos in Greco-Roman Antiquity — Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
The Ancient Greeks and Romans contributed more than any other past civilization to the rise of time's dominion over individual and public life. Adapting ideas from Egypt and Babylonia, they divided the day into hours, and invented sophisticated instruments and devices to mark their passage. This exhibition aims to explore the ways that time was organized and kept track of in the Greco-Roman world, and how it was conceived in relation to the Cosmos. The objects displayed include artifacts illustrating the technology of ancient time-reckoning and the perception, visualization, and social role of time and cosmos, and also highlights the contrasting formative roles of indigenous Greek and Roman cultural practices and contact with the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt as well as the peoples of northwest Europe. 

Time and Cosmos presents over 100 objects, including ancient sundials, calendars, jewelry, and surveying instruments, and is organized around two themes: the Tools of Time Reckoning, exploring the material resources that gave temporal structure to the daily life of private individuals as well as the community in such public spheres as religion, commerce, and law; and Reflections of Time and Cosmos, concerning ancient representations of time, the universe, and their power to shape the environment and human destiny.
time  temporality  clocks  objects  things  tools  surveying 
4 weeks ago
Approaching Animals: Multispecies Ethnography and the Biocultural Hope of Entanglement – Reviews In Cultural Theory
Multispecies ethnography thus examines the multispecies relationships that constitute both human and nonhuman social worlds. As a methodology for writing about and interacting with nonhuman animals, multispecies ethnography instrumentalizes Anna Tsing’s increasingly influential claim that “human nature is an interspecies relationship” (qtd. Kirksey, Shapiro, and Brodine 2). Tsing makes this claim in “Unruly Edges: Mushrooms as Companion Species,” an ethnographic study of the global scientific, ecological, and commercial networks of the masutake mushroom. By bringing Tsing’s theory into dialogue with tactics of participant observation from anthropology, multispecies ethnography challenges anthropocentric claims that nonhuman animals have no voice and offers a set of rejoinders in the name of multispecies ethnography.
ethnography  nonhuman  posthuman 
4 weeks ago
Surface Noise: What We’ve Lost in the Transition to Digital
Analog sound reproduction is tactile. It is, in part, a function of friction: the needle bounces in the groove, the tape drags across a magnetic head. Friction dissipates energy in the form of sound. Meaning: you hear these media being played. Surface noise and tape hiss are not flaws in analog media but artifacts of their use. Even the best engineering, the finest equipment, the “ideal” listening conditions cannot eliminate them. They are the sound of time, measured by the rotation of a record or reel of tape—not unlike the sounds made by the gears of an analog clock. ...

Precisely what seemed most absurd to us at first about CDs—that nothing need touch them as they played—is what made them truly different from LPs and what ultimately ended the musical era we had grown up in. “Digital” was Orwellian in its misdirection: these were objects nobody handled. By contrast, we put our fingers all over LPs. A friend who owns a record store tells me some collectors even lick them.

If you listen closely enough to an analog recording, you hear all its sounds preserved together: the signal and the noise....

The player piano dispensed with the need for sheet music in favor of a piano roll directing air-powered levers. The piano roll is a preelectronic digital technology—like the Jacquard loom, it uses punches in paper for “on” and “off” binary instructions. The first device to make use of this technology, the Aeolian Company’s pianola, proved so popular that by the 1920s half the pianos sold in the country had incorporated it. Even Steinway was making player pianos.

While piano manufacturers might benefit from this new technology, sheet-music publishers could not. The technology of the piano roll belonged exclusively to its makers. And by 1902, only four years after the launch of the pianola, they were selling more than a million of them.

So the sheet-music publishers did what any software company would do when a hardware manufacturer threatens to make its product obsolete: they sued. The publishers argued that the digital piano roll violated their copyrights by reproducing the music they printed, even if it didn’t make use of their product to do so. Their case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And they lost....

The Court went on to note that this same reasoning would apply to another recent invention: the wax-cylinder recording. Here Justice Day approvingly cites language already used by the Court of Appeals:

It is not pretended that the marks upon the wax cylinders can be made out by the eye or that they can be utilized in any other way than as parts of the mechanism of the phonograph. Conveying no meaning, then, to the eye of even an expert musician, and wholly incapable of use save in and as a part of a machine specially adapted to make them give up the records which they contain, these prepared wax cylinders can neither substitute the copyrighted sheets of music nor serve any purpose which is within their scope.

The decision left music publishers empty-handed, as it were. Sound wasn’t a tangible thing, and their copyrights were tactile only. The manufacturers of the new pianolas and Victrolas owned the patents to all the mechanical parts of their devices, and if those parts emanated music, that was their business...

Since sound could not carry copyright, the © ownership symbol on record labels and sleeves applied only to what was printed on them: logos, artwork, liner notes....

The invention of magnetic audiotape in the 1940s made this displacement of time literally more plastic. While wax cylinders and gramophone records could preserve a solid slab of time, tape could be cut into pieces of time and rearranged. Glenn Gould called this “the splendid splice,” because it allowed him to perfect a recorded performance by picking and choosing among parts of different takes. A razor blade and some sticky tape was all it took to join one moment in time to another.

Experimental composers quickly pushed this plasticity to an extreme in the pursuit of abstraction. “Musique concrète,” as formulated by French composer and theorist Pierre Schaeffer, used the splice to sever the “sound object” from its source (an instrument or a field recording location), which might then be rendered unrecognizable by abbreviation or other manipulation...

Just as there is a physical limit to the number of splices that might occupy a given length of tape—a limit John Cage seemed to approach on his very first pass, in Williams Mix—there is a limit to the number of overdubs possible in an analog medium. Tape itself is not silent as it moves through a recording machine; no more than we are in an anechoic chamber. Which means each overdub adds not only more signal but more noise, in the form of tape hiss. And layers of hiss don’t get more trippy, they just get louder.... Analog recording is an additive process. Whatever happened in the studio as each layer was added, happens again on the tape as it unspools. ...

At the other end of that additive process is the close listener. If you listen closely enough to an analog recording, you hear all its sounds preserved together: the signal and the noise.

When the catalogers of unintended noises listen to Beach Boys records, they listen between the notes. We might call it thick listening, alert to the depth of the many layers in multitrack recording. They listen through the surface noise of the LP, through the hiss of the master tape, through the layers of the music itself all the way back to the room in which it was played, where two horn players are standing and chatting.

In other words, they are listening to more than the signal of the music—they are listening to the signal framed and enriched by noise.
sounds  records  analog  materiality  listening  temporality 
4 weeks ago
"The design of a passport might create new kinds of identity and citizenship"
a passport is a document that creates and dissolves thresholds – not a footnote to space, but an intrinsic part of territorial organisation. One might even regard it as a form of architecture in how it shapes space and modifies how we move through it. One element of the kind of diplomatic legislation that can bend, warp and manipulate what otherwise appears hard and immovable. A passport is a form of magic that allows you to walk through walls. Like magic, in order for it to work we need to believe in it....

There is evidence of a safe passage document provided by Henry V as early as 1414, although the word passport only came into use around 1540. They remained rare even as railways made international travel more common in the 19th century. But borders tightened with national security concerns at the outbreak of the first world war, leading to the emergence of the modern passport. In Britain, the Nationality and Status Aliens Act 1914 created a single-page document that included a photograph, signature, and identifying physical descriptions such as "shape of face", "complexion" and "features".
International passport protocols were agreed by the League of Nations in 1920, and in 1980 greater passport standardisation – including the machine readable passport – came through the influence of the UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Even in this potted history, we see the passport as a product of both politics and technology. First as a plea to protect and respect its bearer, later as mechanisms of security, and then tokens in global integration.

The passport – like the nation state – is a recent invention. Before the late 18th century this idea of nation didn't exist. The 1646 Peace of Westphalia had established the concept of national sovereignty. But the first nations as we understand them were created by the French and American revolutions. Nations were defined by their citizens rather than a monarch's bloodline. Only later did industrialisation demand greater organisation to manage resources, while expanding empires required more centralised governance....

Nationality is not a state internal to us, but an event that unfolds around us. Not fixed but approximate, and ragged around the edges. Tacked on provisionally, yet stamped with authority. That's what makes the nation state – and the passport – a design project. Indeed the word statecraft implicitly suggests the act of making, of forming, of design itself....

This obsession with the passport as pagentric paraphernalia suggests a naive concept of nation. Like a Disney castle, it imagines nationhood produced by the accumulation of symbols: Flags, stamps, banknotes – and yes, passports. As if these gestures themselves (as opposed to, say, economic policy or understanding of the mechanisms of government) were the means of constructing nationhood...

Biometric technology might, however, not always be about surveillance and control. The same technology is the basis of Aadhaar, a new identification system for India's 1.25 billion population. Using an iris scanner, a fingerprint machine, a camera and laptop, 1.09 billion Aadhaar numbers have been issued. The aim of the programme is to help modernise government administration while also giving better and fairer access to state services, to welfare and banking. In other words, replacing bureaucratic documents with a biometric profile provides access to many communities who were previously excluded....

The fingerprint however is something taken from you. And the story of its origin is a morality tale for all forms of identification. It was developed accidentally by the British colonial administration in India, when William James Herschel, chief cagistrate of the Hooghly District in Jungipoor, found dealings with the indigenous population complicated. One day, frustrated while drawing up a contract with a Mr Konai, Herschel made him put a handprint on back of the document to "frighten [him] out of all thought of repudiating his signature". Herschel continued with this habit, finding that personal contact with the document made the contract somehow more binding. In short, the first wide use of fingerprinting was not based on scientific evidence but superstitious beliefs – on both sides....

Passports construct identity within specific terms. They negotiate personal, public and civic identity. As they do they operate not only as a record but actively to construct citizenship, nation and the associated issues of border, rights, protection and responsibility.

If this is the case then we can also imagine how the design of a passport might create new kinds of identity and citizenship. Technologies like blockchain could allow the process of identification to be delaminated from the state. This kind of crypto-citizenship might suggest an alternative citizen outside governmental control.
paperwork  borders  passport 
4 weeks ago
The Welikia Project
After a decade of research (1999 – 2009), the Mannahatta Project at the Wildlife Conservation Society un-covered the original ecology of Manhattan, one of New York City’s five boroughs. The Welikia Project (2010 – 2013) goes beyond Mannahatta to encompass the entire city, discover its original ecology and compare it what we have today. Welikia (pronounced “way-LEE-kee-uh” Hear Welikia pronounced) means “my good home” in Lenape, the Native American language of the New York City region at the time of first contact with Europeans. The Welikia Project embraces the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the waters in-between, while still serving up all we have learned about Mannahatta. Welikia provides the basis for all the people of New York to appreciate, conserve and re-invigorate the natural heritage of their city not matter which borough they live in.
mapping  cartography  deep_time  ecology  environmental_history 
4 weeks ago
Overburden - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
As an episteme, mining and its material associations gained traction during the early modern period. From Leibniz in the Harz silver mines to the chemists in the Swedish Bureau of Mines, mining was synonymous with the extraction of knowledge from nature that gradually replaced Paracelsian neo-platonic mysticism with experiment....

A century later, “Section of a Mine,” illustrating Baron d’Holbach’s article “Mine” for the Encyclopédie, further draws out the analogy between mining and knowledge production, especially when placed in the context of the Encyclopédie’s “Map of the System of Human Knowledge,” which summarizes and orders its entire contents. As Holbach observes, “It is in the earth’s depths that nature devotes itself to the formation of mines, and despite this operation being among those most carefully hidden from view, the Naturalists never wavered in their efforts to flush out its secrets.” 2 With its sub-rosa roots, stem and branches, the image might also be read as a model of the brain. Cast as a terranean and cognitive substructure, it suggests a system of analogical relays among mining and memory, conscious surface and unconscious depth, brain chemistry and physical nature. Such slippages between conceptual and material associations in the language of mining arguably anticipate the metaphorics at work in slogans recently adopted by the extraction industry such as “data is the new oil.” What is underscored in this instance is not just the idea that data has displaced oil as the supremely valuable resource, but rather the subterranean or hidden aspect of data which must be extracted and refined, like oil, thus rendering “data-mining” the mode of production that best defines “mining” as an epochal episteme...

In the forward to the English edition of The Order of Things Foucault avowed:
What I would like to do … is to review a positive unconscious of knowledge: a level that eludes the consciousness of the scientist and yet is part of scientific discourse… Unknown to themselves, the naturalists, economists, and grammarians employed the same rules to define the objects proper to their own study, to form their concepts, to build their theories. It is these rules of formation, which were never formulated in their own right, but are to be found only in widely differing theories, concepts, and objects of study, that I have tried to reveal, by isolating, as their specific locus, a level that I have called, somewhat arbitrarily perhaps, archeological.

Mining, as was previously underscored, is an old epistemic figure associated with exploratory research, subterranean metaphorics of interpretation and modes of symptomatic reading, evident in expressions like “digging beneath the surface,” “dredging up what’s hidden below,” “mining” the text for meaning, “extracting” what is important, translating from an originary “source” into a target. But when coupled with the word “data,” mining inches closer to industrial referents, to things like “data refineries” which, when diagrammed, become part of what Jennifer Wenzel has called an “extractive aesthetic” (a design or poesis of product, an abstract representation of processes for transforming waste or base material).”25 It is surely no random coincidence that the diagram of a data refinery exhibits a formal resemblance to a petroleum refinery! Implicit here is a certain commensurability between knowledge computation and environmentally destructive practices; specifically the removal of material—rock, topsoil—that stands in the way of minable resources (ore, coal, petroleum). ...

The lexicon of overburden represents a fascinating mode of translation, one that shuttles between material referents that index damaging environmental practices and metaphors for models of data management. Salient examples include: “data dredging” (referring to data sets deemed too small to draw valid statistical inferences from); “data-fracking,” (the use of hidden measures to extract data); “drilling down,” (associated with foraging “deep” within information systems in order to make determinations of sales impacts, customer satisfaction and corporate profit); “data exhaust” (designating information byproduct, i.e. storable choices, actions and preferences often repackaged and resold)
mining  data_mining  extraction  digital_humanities  archaeology 
4 weeks ago
An Ecotopian Toolkit – A Toolkit for the Anthropocene | University of Pennsylvania | 13-15 April 2017
Tool making is a signature trait of the human species. What tools will we make, and require, in the age of the human, the anthropocene: the proposed name for the present geological epoch when humans are the most potent force shaping earth’s systems? Global warming and other anthropocene challenges, including the ongoing sixth mass extinction event, often lead to apocalyptic visions, or apathy.

Prompted in part by the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia, we explore a longer history of the anthropocene to help represent–and respond to–our contemporary moment. At the outset of European imperial expansion across the globe, English humanist Thomas More dashed off an enduring work of speculative fiction, composed in two short parts: Utopia. The first part stages conversations between European intellectuals about the profound changes they were witnessing: the enclosure of commons, regimes of mineral extraction, shifting flows of capital, uneven resource access, and the criminalization of poverty among them. More’s second book voyages out to the island utopia: a republican community purportedly in possession of educational tools for a better life.
anthropocene  tools 
5 weeks ago
5 spectra for speculative knowledge design « Bethany Nowviskie
Mark Dery, then styled a “cyberculture” critic, both coined the term Afrofuturism in 1994 and posed the question that remains at its heart—at the heart of the speculative art, music, fiction, poetry, fashion, and design that meet in this rich and longstanding nexus of Black diasporic aesthetics and inquiry. The question is this: “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?” Afrofuturism’s answer has been an unequivocal yes, and that clarity inspires me, particularly in our fraught American context. But, as we know, descendants of the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade are only one of many communities marginalized by archival absence and subject to… well, “library problems”—problems of misrepresentation, thwarted agency, and structural neglect.

My professional community includes stewards of primary sources, research data, and scholarship—and designers of cultural heritage systems meant to serve the broadest cause of social justice and the public good. Our responsibility is therefore twofold: not merely to address that first, daunting task—the provision of “legible traces” of the past through more broadly accessible special collections, archives, and archaeological, environmental, and aggregated genetic datasets. We also need to enable the independent production, by our varied and often marginalized constituencies, of community-driven, future-oriented speculative collections. This means visions for change and social uplift that originate in archival material, yes, but also the introduction of novel ontologies and epistemologies for those libraries and archives: inventive assemblages, recovered cultural structures, and new knowledge representation. Can—for instance—digital knowledge infrastructures challenge Western, progressive notions of time as a forward-moving arrow and a regularly-ticking clock? Can they counter the limiting sense our library and museum interfaces too often give, of archives as incontrovertible evidence—the suggestion, reinforced by design, that the present state of human affairs is the inevitable and singularly logical result of the accumulated data of the past; that our repositories primarily look backward to flat facts, not forward to imaginative, generative, alternate futures or slantwise through branching, looping time? These questions build on the core problem Dery articulated, of whether speculative futures are even possible to generate from obliterated or co-opted pasts....

Now, the assertions. Two of them. The first comes from jazz saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings as a distillation of the message of musician and performer Sun Ra. As Hutchings puts it, “communities that have agency [are] able to form their own philosophical structures”—in other words, they don’t just receive and use information within epistemological bounds defined by those in authority (scholars and teachers, legislators and corporate overlords, librarians and technologists), but instead actively shape knowledge in ways reflected in the very design of storage and delivery mechanisms over which marginalized people typically have little control. This is the deceptively simple idea that the fundamental marker of liberty lies in a people’s ability to build independent knowledge infrastructure. (And in truth, this idea motivates everything I do at the Digital Library Federation, lately.)

The second assertion comes from theorist and artist Kodwo Eshun. Eshun conceives of historical, archival and archaeological sources—including intangible kinds of cultural heritage, such as language and song—as functional and generative, not as static content, there merely to be received, but as active technologies in and of themselves. (This is found all through Eshun’s work, and beautifully demonstrated in a documentary I highly recommend, John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History.) To Eshun, the objects of cultural heritage are still-running code and tools that hum with potential. Our historical repositories and even the vaults of the archaeological earth contain active instruments—artifacts waiting to be used, and transformed even as they are played back—just as surely as a scratch artist makes productive dissonance from records on a turntable. So, not for playback and reception—for activating. For use....

Library organizational schemes are still largely Enlightenment-era crystallizations of a singular, dominant understanding: the best that a rational society accepts and knows. It is no accident that we appeal to “authority files” in creating metadata and often present information in stemmatic, patrilineal relationships of “inherited properties.” We create it through the little boxes of tabular forms. But new possibilities bring us closer to actualized community agency in digital knowledge infrastructure—alternate naming and finding schemes, practical models for intersectional logic systems, linked open data that melds multiple taxonomies and inheritances—an extension of the content-creating revolution of the Web to meaning-making. ....

How do we honor and elevate indigenous knowledge structurally, without simultaneously providing a platform that can be instantly colonized for political disinformation and ideologies of hate?...

Historico-evidentiary vs. Speculative Orientation. I also want design experiments that address the basic temporal and evidentiary alignment of our libraries. Present interfaces too often suggest a singular, retrospective or historical orientation toward the material they give access to, and fail to allow community-driven and multiple, speculative, futurist visions to emerge from our collections. So let’s ask: do our digital libraries present their contents as flat fact, or as hypotheses and fodder for interpretation? Do they allow us to look backwards and ahead? Do they adequately indicate gaps and absences and the conditions of their own assemblage, or do they present (as I described before) archives as evidence?...

To answer these questions in the form of prototype designs requires us to delve beyond the interface layer in digital knowledge infrastructure, and into the fundamental nature of our archives. Wendy Duff and Verne Harris, in seeking a new basis for archival description, argue against positioning “archives and records within the numbing strictures of record keeping… which posit ‘the record’ as cocooned in a time-bound layering of meaning, and reduce description to the work of capturing and polishing the cocoon.” Instead, they call for “a liberatory [descriptive] standard… posit[ing] the record as always in the process of being made...

I see the fundamental paradox of the Anthropocene as our struggle to hold local unpredictability and planetary-scale inevitability simultaneously in mind. Add to that the fact that, somehow, we now must understand humankind as both infinitesimally small and fragile, and as a grim, global prime mover. Can our digital library systems help us to bridge those conceptual gaps? They must, if we want to fashion futures that use both science and empathetic understanding to their fullest extent, integrating big-data processing with small-data interpretation—understanding broad, systemic thinking and local application as part of a unified endeavor, and helping us identify trends even as we tell stories of exceptional experience.
archives  libraries  classification  ontology  epistemology  afrofuturism 
5 weeks ago
Muto Labs — Superflux
We (Mūtō Labs) are a new kind of investment and asset management platform. We are inventing, and innovating, in areas such as roboadvisory, big data, and blockchains, and are single handedly reinventing the notion of value.

Our platform accommodates traditional investment practices, and for the first time, presents a whole new branch of ‘tertiary’ assets to the marketplace. From genetic information, to time, data, skills, knowledge, social and civic bonds, we are giving people the opportunity to invest a new wave of non-monetary alternative assets. We are the vanguard of a brand new culture of exchange within society.
futures  economics  political_edconomy 
5 weeks ago
IDEO builds interactive font map using artificial intelligence
evin ho (KH): seeing all the recent advances in AI and machine learning made me eager to explore how the technology could be applied in design. in particular, I’ve read about a lot of work in the AI research community around computer vision, where algorithms are now able to perform some basic visual recognition tasks as well as people can. this made me wonder whether this new capability in visual recognition could be applied to the visual decisions designers make in their process. when thinking about these decisions, font choice came to mind since there is some subjectivity to comparing fonts and therefore, no clear way that fonts relate to each other, unlike other aspects of visual design such as color....

I’m eager to explore whether visualizing popular pairings on the font map could potentially surface patterns that were previously not known. finally, I’m excited to explore how the font map could evolve into a generative tool — now that we have this map, there is probably a way to explore the space between fonts, allowing designers generate new fonts that don’t yet exist.
artificial_intelligence  machine_learning  typography 
5 weeks ago
About the Database Challenge - David Wojnarowicz Knowledge Base
Researchers involved in the development of this resource were challenged by the nature of David Wojnarowicz’ life and art. His works often do not fit into typical art historical classifications of medium and style, nor do they fit into standard archival descriptions. As depicted in the diagram on the left designed by project researcher Francisco Chaparro, there is a complex web of relationships between David Wojnarowicz, his artworks, people he knew and worked with, places associated with him and his art, texts related to his work, and external resources that may be helpful to users of this knowledge base. This recognition drove us away from designing a hierarchical database towards a wiki platform that affords multiple linkages within the resource, promoting a deeper understanding of these relationships.

To illustrate these complex relationships, Wojnarowicz used the same images, objects and references in multiple contexts, allowing them to develop multiple meanings and functions. One example of an object that was presented in multiple contexts is a life-sized shark that he covered with maps and exhibited as a component of his Burning Child installation at the Gracie Mansion Gallery in 1984. The shark was also shown as a hanging sculpture apart from the installation in addition to appearing in photographs. It exists in his personal papers as both an independent artwork and an element of another artwork.

The Magic Box, depicted below on the right, is another example. It contains sixty-nine objects collected by Wojnarowicz, including plastic toys, jewelry, stones, feathers, seeds, and photographs. The Magic Box disrupts archival and art historical concepts of classification, provenance, context and description since specific functions of the box and its contents are not known. Yet the combination of objects holds complex symbolic and material values that shed light on Wojnarowicz’ life and art. Some objects were integrated into his art production and appear in his photographs and films; others were not. To make these links discoverable, should we identify the Magic Box and/or its components as artworks? Should we link them to multiple artworks on the wiki?
archives  collection 
5 weeks ago
Planet enlists machine learning experts to parse a treasure trove of Amazon basin data | TechCrunch
Planet, the satellite imaging company that operate the largest commercial Earth imaging constellation in existence, is hosting a new data science competition on the Kaggle platform, with the specific aim of developing machine learning techniques around forestry research. Planet will open up access to thousands of image ‘chips,’ or blocks covering around 1 sauce kilometre, and will give away a total of $60,000 to participants who place in the top three when coming up with new methods for analyzing the data available in these images.

Planet notes that each minute, we lose a portion of forest the size of approximately 48 football fields, which is a heck of a lot of forest. The hope is that by releasing this data and hosting this competition, Planet can encourage academics and researchers worldwide to apply advances in machine learning that have been put to great use in efforts like facial recognition and detect, to this pressing ecological problem....

The goal is to see if competitors can come up with new ways to monitor these situations with machine learning tools created to make sense of the data. It’s a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, according to Scott, which is why the need exists for this machine learning-driven approach, taken on from multiple teams tackling the data from multiple angles.
machine_vision  satellite_imagery  mapping 
5 weeks ago
Jller – Prokop Bartoníček & Benjamin Maus on Vimeo
Jiller is part of an ongoing research project in the fields of industrial automation and historical geology. It is an apparatus, that sorts pebbles from a specific river by their geologic age. The stones were taken from the stream bed of the German river Jller, shortly before it merges with the Danube, close to the city of Ulm. The machine and its performance is the first manifestation of this research.
A set of pebbles from the Jller are placed on the 2x4 meter platform of the machine, which automatically analyzes the stones in order to then sort them. The sorting process happens in two steps: Intermediate, pre-sorted patterns are formed first, to make space for the final, ordered alignment of stones, defined by type and age. Starting from an arbitrary set of stones, this process renders the inherent history of the river visible....

Technology: The machine works with a computer vision system that processes the images of the stones and maps each of its location on the platform throughout the ordering process. The information extracted from each stone are dominant color, color composition, and histograms of structural features such as lines, layers, patterns, grain, and surface texture. This data is used to assign the stones into predefined categories. Those categories represent the range of stones that can be found in the specific river and correspond directly to the age of the stone. They are the result of a classification system that is trained by sets of manually selected and labeled stones. Because there are only a limited number of stone types that can be found in a specific river, this system proves to be very accurate.
The stones get picked up by an industrial vacuum gripper, which can rotate around its own axis. This way the pebbles can also be aligned.
sorting  classification  geology  automation  machine_vision 
5 weeks ago
Official Google Australia Blog: Books and blockchains: new possibilities for digital literature
Today we’re excited to release two new books which, we hope, will continue to inspire fresh conventions around how we think of books and ‘bookness’, and how authors can work with developers and designers to create new formats of non-linear, dynamic literature.
A Universe Explodes, by Google’s own Tea Uglow, is on one level the story of a parent losing their grip on reality.
On another it is an exploration of the idea of ownership in digital culture, asking whether it is even possible to own a digital artefact in the same way we own a physical book or a CD, and using Blockchain to experiment with new models for owning and exchanging digital goods.
textual_form  fiction  blockchain  reading 
5 weeks ago
USAFacts is a new data-driven portrait of the American population, our government’s finances, and government’s impact on society. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative and have no political agenda or commercial motive. We provide this information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding it in the future.
We rely exclusively on publicly available government data sources. We don’t make judgments or prescribe specific policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether our quality of life is improving or getting worse – that’s for you to decide. We hope to spur serious, reasoned, and informed debate on the purpose and functions of government. Such debate is vital to our democracy. We hope that USAFacts will make a modest contribution toward building consensus and finding solutions.
data  open_data 
5 weeks ago
Hopeful Resilience - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
Resilience plays important roles in many different fields, ranging from economics to engineering to forestry.7 The understanding of resilience most crucial to this discussion is the one that was first forged in ecology discourse during the 1970s, and especially in the work of C.S. Holling who established a key distinction between “stability” and “resilience.”8 Working from a systems perspective and interested in the question of how humans could best manage elements of ecosystems that were of commercial interest (e.g., salmon, wood, etc.), Holling developed the concept of resilience to contest the premise that ecosystems were most healthy when they returned quickly to an equilibrium state after being disturbed. Holling called the return to a state of equilibrium “stability,” but argued that stable systems were often unable to compensate for significant and swift environmental changes. As Holling put it, the “stability view [of ecosystem management] emphasizes the equilibrium, the maintenance of a predictable world, and the harvesting of nature’s excess production with as little fluctuation as possible.” Yet this very approach assures that “a chance and rare event that previously could be absorbed can trigger a sudden dramatic change and loss of structural integrity of the system.”

Resilience, by contrast, denoted for Holling the capacity of a system itself to change in periods of intense external perturbation as a mode of persistence. The concept of resilience enabled a management approach to ecosystems that “would emphasize the need to keep options open, the need to view events in a regional rather than a local context, and the need to emphasize heterogeneity.” Resilience is, in this sense, defined in relationship to crisis and states of exception; that is, it is a virtue when such states are assumed to be either quasi-constant or the most relevant for managerial actions. Holling also underscored that the transition from valuing stability to valuing resilience depended upon an epistemological shift: “Flowing from this would be not the presumption of sufficient knowledge, but the recognition of our ignorance: not the assumption that future events are expected, but that they will be unexpected.”
Contemporary planning, finance, and design practice abstract the concept of resilience from an ecological systems approach and transform it into an all-purpose epistemology and value. These fields posit resilience as a general strategy for managing uncertainty without endpoint, while also presuming that our world is so complex that unexpected events are, indeed, the norm. Resilience also functions in the landscape of planning and management to collapse the distinction between emergence (which would simply denote something new) and emergency (which denotes something new that threatens). In this sense, the terms operates in the interest of producing a world where any change can be technically managed and assimilated while maintaining the ongoing survival of the system, even at the cost of its particular components, be they individuals, ecosystems, or species.
sustainability  resilience 
5 weeks ago
Using machine learning is used to find Mexico's missing people — Quartz
Or at least there hasn’t been—until now. A team of multi-country researchers, data scientists, and statisticians is using machine learning to predict which counties in Mexico are most likely to have hidden graves. If their model works as well as they hope, it will be a powerful application of an emerging technology that provide answers to one of the most difficult aspects of the desaparecidos problem: knowing where to look.
The team is composed of three separate groups: the Programa de Derechos Humanos at the Ibero-American University in Mexico City; data-focused non-profit Data Cívica, also based in Mexico City; and the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG), a San Francisco-based organization that applies scientific analysis to human rights violations (first two links in Spanish).
machine_learning  archives  erasure 
5 weeks ago
How to Get Forgotten: What Ever Happened to Aaron Kuriloff? | ARTnews
I found Kuriloff’s own account of his work in an undated statement, titled “The Epistemological Question of Reality.” Considering the beauty of the functional objects involved, Kuriloff argues, the “machine esthetic” found in “the Dada work of Duchamp and Picabia” reveals the inseparability of art and life, and demonstrates that “heightened meaning can be found anywhere.” This new art shifted its “identification from the landscape of nature to the new American landscape—the object.” Through “the process of mass culture,” the object—the functional object—attained a “timeless” quality, an unchanging ideal, “like a hardware store or a Sears-Roebuck catalogue.” Kuriloff’s new American landscape was the store.

Kuriloff continued to map the qualities of this capitalist landscape in his second show at Fischbach, in May 1965. He arranged multiple functional objects in compositions on monochrome bases, creating visually abundant displays of, say, drawer pulls, shelf brackets, or gardening gloves....

Two years later, Fischbach mounted what would be Kuriloff’s final solo show, where he unveiled a new body of work he called, “photo factuals,” artworks that shifted his American landscape from the store to the office, and the advertisement. They were large-scale, black-and-white photographs of office equipment—file cabinets, computer banks, cardboard boxes, desk chairs—based on images from trade magazine advertisements, meticulously uninflected, and stripped of logos or spatial context. Hung flush with the floor and unframed, the photo factuals turned Fischbach’s new 57th Street space into an austere, concrete loft simulacrum of a corporate office, like a set from a dark version of Playtime if the 1967 film had been directed by Michelangelo Antonioni instead of Jacques Tati.
conceptual_art  aesthetics_of_administration  filing  intellectual_furnishings  things 
5 weeks ago
Welcome - C2O library & collabtive
Established in mid-2008 in the centre of Surabaya, C2O library & collabtive is an independent library and coworking community space. 

With more than 7,000 books, journals, magazines, etc, C2O library houses quality prints and audio-visual collections on various subjects, with emphasis on history, social sciences, humanities and literature—in English and Indonesian.

More than just a comfortable place and books, C2O is built to be a strategic hub to learn and organise progressive activities: book discussions, film screenings, workshops, monthly farmers’ market, meetings of various communities, walking tours, and various others.
little_libraries  libraries  reading 
5 weeks ago
Google’s Dueling Neural Networks Spar to Get Smarter, No Humans Required | WIRED
In 2014, while still a PhD student at the University of Montreal, Goodfellow dreamed up an AI technique called “generative adversarial networks,” or GANs, after a slightly drunken argument at a bar. But however beer-soaked its origins, it’s a wonderfully elegant idea: One AI works to create, say, realistic images, while a second AI analyzes the results and tries to determine whether the images are real or fake. “You can think of this like an artist and an art critic,” Goodfellow says. “The generative model wants to fool the art critic—trick the art critic into thinking the images it generates are real.” Because the second AI is working so hard to identify images as fake, the first learns to mimic the real in ways it couldn’t on its own. In the process, these two neural networks can push AI toward a day when computers declare independence from their human teachers.
artificial_intelligence  evaluation 
5 weeks ago
A new documentary goes inside the bleak world of content moderation - The Verge
In this new documentary from the film group Field of Vision, the leader of a session on content moderation asks a simple question: when you open Facebook, you don’t, as a rule, see pornography. Why?

“The Moderators” explores the answer, going inside on office in India where the process happens. Directed by Ciaran Cassidy and Adrian Chen, a journalist who has written about the moderation process, the documentary is a window into a largely hidden part of the internet work force: employees who sit in an office and make decisions about whether to remove explicit photos, or who examine dating site profiles to weed out fakes.

The work turns increasingly bleak, and a group leader explains what it all means for the staff when he tells them they may find some images “disturbing,” before providing examples.

“Be mentally prepared for your job,” he warns.
internet  ethics  digital_labor  content_moderation 
5 weeks ago
Mapping Human Settlement Around the Earth - CityLab
As the human population grows, so does its footprint. To map these changes, researchers often turn to satellite imagery, because government-collected data can be infrequent and outdated. In particular, nighttime light images can offer a wealth of information about human activity. In fact, as CityLab’s Richard Florida has written, more than 3,000 studies since 2000 have used nighttime lights as a proxy for all sorts economic activities....

To find a better way, Khandelwal teamed up with economists and geographers at Columbia University, Arizona State University, and the Big Pixel Initiative at University of California San Diego. Together, they created the “Worldwide: Mapping Urbanization” campaign, an effort to track urbanization through daytime imagery and looking specifically at where the built environments lay, pixel by pixel. And they’re asking the public to help. “The basic idea behind this project is to use daytime images in combination with nighttime light to refine the measure of where people are located around the globe,” Khandelwal tells CityLab....

The campaign launched last week through the crowdsourcing site Tomnod, where contributors can help researchers identify objects and places in satellite images. In each round of this project, users are given a random image with a pink box in the center. They’re asked a simple question: is more or less than 50 percent of the space inside that box built? That is, are there more buildings and sidewalks as opposed to grass and bodies of water. The location of the image is purposely hidden so people will focus just on the what they see inside the box and use their best judgment to determine whether there is a human-made structure.

Khandelwal’s team wouldn’t be the first to focus on the human population through the lens of the built environment. Last October, during the momentous UN Habitat III conference, the European Commission’s Joint Research Center launched a comprehensive open database looking at the past 40 years of human settlements via some 12.4 billion satellite images....

His team is trying to develop machine-learning methods that could change the way cities are mapped. The hope is to get hundreds, even thousands, of mapping enthusiasts to participate over the next month. Their responses will be fed into an algorithm that will boost its accuracy in predicting what area is considered “built up.” Down the line, the researchers hope to train the algorithm to predict things like how “economically vibrant” a city is or how much wealth is in an area based on, say, the type of structure recorded in the image.
urbanization  methodology  mapping  cartography  light  economy  crowdsourcing 
6 weeks ago
Google Arts & Culture Experiments
At the Google Cultural Institute’s Lab, a team of Google software engineers, artists and creative coders come together to experiment at the crossroads of art and technology. We believe that through the collaboration with the cultural sector, curators and artists we can develop the best tools and technology for cultural institutions around the world. We created this space for you to explore the Google Arts & Culture Experiments. The Experiments are aimed at discovering new ways people can explore art and browse the collections of our partner museums from around the world.
archives  google  classification  interaction_design  machine_learning 
6 weeks ago
Chrome Experiments
Chrome Experiments is a showcase of web experiments written by the creative coding community
interaction_design  data_visualization  pedagogy 
6 weeks ago
Abstracts | The Conquest of Ubiquity
In 1947, a group of seasoned photojournalists including Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson founded the international photo cooperative Magnum. At first, Magnum’s challenge was to cover the world with its limited network of photographers, and to get their pictures to as many magazine clients as possible before the novelty of those pictures expired. A decade later, Magnum’s problems had to do with filing cabinets, log books, storage space, and “dead” material. In 1958, Magnum’s New York-based executive editor John Morris begged photographers to “STOP shooting for a period of one month” so that staff could figure out a better system for editing, captioning, and selling their stories
filing  archives  photography  information_overload 
6 weeks ago
Passing Current 32: The oblique function
He was obsessed with the mute stubbornness of the long-abandoned bunkers of Fortress Europa, massive blunt shapes tilting and shifting in the dunes of the beaches. (He wrote the concrete monoliths an extraordinary love letter in 1976’s Bunker Archaeology, the record of a decade on-and-off spent looking out at the line of the blank horizon under the low ceiling of many feet of reinforced concrete overhead, in buildings sinking under their own weight where you couldn’t tell where the floor ended and the wall began.) He wanted buildings that made us feel more alive and aware of natural forces, gravity, and the planet. With Claude Parent, Virilio worked on an architectural principle they called the “oblique function”: everything sloping and inclined, with no flat surfaces. Instead of furniture and comfort conducive to disembodied concentration, we would have dark, windowless chambers made of steep inclines; we wouldn’t just inhabit, they wrote, but “traverse” our shelter. Always off-balance, squatting, leaning, huddling, constantly resisting inertia or momentum, we would live as “perpetual dancers,” as if on the cliff faces, screes and caves of a high-altitude mountainside....

Günther Feuerstein thought that comfort could numb and console, helping people reconcile themselves to a society they should oppose: that the bourgeois apartment, with its thoughtful design and labor-saving appliances, could be a training facility for the bourgeois society. Writing for the German wing of the Situationist International in 1961 – who sought to make society more adventurous through, among other things, removing all destination information from train stations, opening rooftops and subways to pedestrian traffic, and total political revolt – Feuerstein outlined his personal work on “impractical apartments.” He sawed a few inches off two legs of every table, so they wobbled violently, installed locks that failed to keep anyone out and hinges that shrieked and groaned in use, nailed windows open so the apartment could sweat in summer, echo with honking cars and jackhammers, and fill with drifts of snow in winter, drilled holes in the walls, and put in obstacles and baffles through which he could clumsily crash at night in the dark, as the miswired switches turned on lights in other rooms....

Madeline Gins and Shusaku Arakawa designed for immortality: living spaces so unexpected, stimulating, destabilizing, and uncomfortable that they could break lifetimes of habit and force continuous openness to experience – a theory they called “reversible destiny.” They could extend the human lifespan by this architecture, they believed, both by the overwhelming immediacy of constant disorientation, and in having to adapt and move in an environment that resists you.... Reversible Destiny houses and apartments feature poles to cling to while ascending or descending the bumpy, pebbled, sloping floors around the kitchen pit – a terrain of gullies, humps, and ditches, sometimes broken up by maze-like arrangements of barriers. The study is a golden egg with no flat surfaces, which functions as an echo chamber. (The acoustics make the whole building hum and croak.) Switches are at ankle height, and electrical outlets mounted on the ceiling, along with rows of hooks from which to hang guywires, hammocks, festoons, swings, and any clothing you might need. Every surface and object is painted one of thirty-odd bright, contrasting shades.
intellectual_furnishings  detournement  comfort  habitus  architecture 
6 weeks ago
Study finds female professors outperform men in service -- to their possible professional detriment
“We find strong evidence that, on average, women faculty perform more service than male faculty in academia, and that the service differential is driven particularly by participation in internal rather than external service,” the study says. “When we look within departments -- controlling for any type of organizational or cultural factor that is department specific -- we still find large, significant differences in the service loads of women versus men.”
All that matters because service loads “likely have an impact on productivity in other areas of faculty effort such as research and teaching, and these latter activities can lead directly to salary differentials and overall success in academia,” the paper says. “In the urgency to redress not only differences in time use but compensation imbalances, as well, the service imbalance is one that deserves to rise to the forefront of the discussion.”....

The authors assert that service is an area of inequity that can be addressed relatively easily, via careful monitoring of service requests and allocations. Female faculty members, it says, “could be mentored to show more selectivity in their service-related choices and cultivate their ability to say no to requests.” Department chairs and deans, meanwhile, “could be made to be more fully aware of how service assignments are being meted out. A simple increase in overall awareness of this issue may improve overall attitudes toward service loads, remove traces of gender bias from service expectations and enable both women and men to accept or decline service requests with equal ease and impunity.”
Guarino in an interview underscored the concept of awareness, saying that women don’t necessarily know they’re doing or -- as the case may be -- being asked to do more until they see objective proof of service imbalances between male and female faculty members.
academia  labor  committees 
6 weeks ago
Points of Presence - YouTube
Few users of social media and mobile devices recognise how their everyday swipes, likes, and retweets mobilises a global megastructure that spans the earth, impacts ecologies, and plunges under the sea. This experimental 20-minute video submerges the audience in the socio-ecological tangles of the materiality of the internet. It shows what can been seen and mediates the unseen. The video focuses not on the consumerism surrounding digital culture but rather on the symbiotic relationship between information infrastructure and the geographic, geologic, oceanographic, and atmospheric elements, immersing the audience in the textures, sounds, vertical vision, of the digital ecology of the North Atlantic. 'Points of Presence', though tracing several undersea cables, reveals how the internet is a material political object intertwined with the natural environment, human labour, and the mobility of data.
infrastructure  infrastructural_tourism  internet  film 
6 weeks ago
Abigail Reynolds is awarded the next BMW Art Journey - Announcements - e-flux
Abigail Reynolds’ artistic practice is closely linked to books and libraries. Having studied English Literature at Oxford University, she frequently draws inspiration from literary essays and figures to imagine places and moments from the past, present and future. Given this deep connection to libraries and literature, it is no surprise that Reynolds’ BMW Art Journey project for 2016/2017, The Ruins of Time: Lost Libraries of the Silk Road, will allow her to connect the complex religious and secular narratives of Europe and Asia and to expand her current interests and working methods through an extensive multi-continent series of visits to historic and fabled repositories of books. The artist will trace 16 sites of libraries lost to political conflicts, looters, natural catastrophes and war. Conceptually, Abigail Reynolds intends to explore blanks and voids, with the library symbolising the impossibility of encompassing all knowledge. "The research I have done towards this journey privileges the known," the artist stated in her proposal for the Art Journey, "but it will bring me to question what we understand as knowledge. I do not want to embark on a history lesson, but on a philosophical journey."
Along the way, Reynolds will gather representations in various forms: 3D scans, photography, microscope imagery, written text, plans or cataloguing systems. Based on this extensive research, she intends to create a cluster of book forms, prints, collages and moving-image works, the latter being her first attempt to work in this medium. Images, texts and other documents originating from the experience will, after its conclusion, be included in a book—thus completing a journey that both starts and ends with the institution of the library.
libraries  deep_time  history  travel  library_art 
6 weeks ago
Ithaka S+R, OCLC Research to examine how universities, libraries are changing
How do you measure the impact of a library when the number of books on its shelves is no longer its defining characteristic?
The research arms of Ithaka and the library collaborative OCLC have launched a joint project to find out. Over the next 14 months, researchers with the organizations plan to survey the higher education landscape to identify how colleges and universities are differentiating themselves, explore the different types of services libraries are investing in, and help college librarians articulate the new ways in which they are creating value for their institutions.
“Our research question is: What happens when libraries differentiate themselves in terms of services, not collection size; are there multiple models of success?”...

“If these books that are filling the shelves and occupying an awful lot of prime real estate on campus aren’t being used, what else should the facilities be used for, and what is the right kind of support for the faculty and students in the institution?” Marcum, a senior adviser for Ithaka S+R, said. “Just as there are different types of institutions, there are going to be different measures of success for libraries.”
Two recent projects highlight some of the directions university libraries are headed in. Georgia Institute of Technology, with its focus on STEM fields, has decided to move virtually all of its physical books to a storage facility. Arizona State University, in comparison, will also move much of its physical collection out of its main library, but use the space to better showcase its special collections and, perhaps, exhibit rotating collections organized around a monthly theme.
Those are two examples of the “clusters” of similar institutions that Dempsey and Marcum said their project may outline. For example, their research could find groups of colleges defined by their focus on teaching students or their faculty’s research output. At the same time, the project will look at which “bundles” of services libraries at those institution are prioritizing, with the goal of producing a framework that can be used to display a library’s strengths in key areas.
libraries  academic_libraries  collections  service 
6 weeks ago
Mayor de Blasio Brings NYC's First Neighborhood Innovation Lab for Smart City Technologies to Browns | City of New York
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamiño, and New York City Economic Development Corporation President James Patchett today announced that Brownsville, Brooklyn will be home to the City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab. The tech equity initiative brings together community members, government, educators, and tech companies to help address neighborhood concerns with cutting-edge technologies.

Brownsville’s Neighborhood Innovation Lab will kick off this week with a series of strategic planning sessions for community leaders. Over the next four months, these community advisors will work with the City to define neighborhood needs and explore how smart city technologies can help improve quality of life and support local economic development. The first community forum, with activities for all ages, is scheduled for May 2017. Also, beginning this summer, the first set of new technologies – including trash cans that alert sanitation workers when they are full, solar-powered benches that offer free cell phone charging, and interactive digital kiosks – will be rolled out in Brownsville. Community residents will be invited to test out these devices and share feedback that City agencies will use to evaluate the impact and value of these technologies. ..

“Neighborhood Innovation Labs provide a unique opportunity to strengthen our collaboration with community, and also open new doors for local residents to learn about careers in technology, a fast-growing sector of our economy.”

The model for Neighborhood Innovation Labs was first announced at the White House in conjunction with President Obama’s Smart Cities Initiative in September 2015, and fine-tuned as part of the Envision America program in 2016. Neighborhood Innovation Labs are a public-private partnership led by the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress. Brownsville Community Justice Center will serve as the lead community partner for the City’s first Neighborhood Innovation Lab, and Osborn Plaza will serve as the anchor site for public programs and initial technology demonstrations. ...

“We have identified the smart cities and civic tech industry as having major potential for job growth in New York City," said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. "By connecting this industry with neighborhoods across the city, we can both increase the impact of smart cities solutions and teach communities about an entirely new segment in our economy. This is all part of the de Blasio Administration’s strategy to invest in high-growth industries and connect New Yorkers to better opportunities by creating 100,000 jobs over the next ten years. We are proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation and NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress on this important initiative and look forward to seeing its impact across our city.”
smart_cities  civic_engagement  public_process  brownsville 
7 weeks ago
What if you could listen in on the chemical communication within your body? – We Make Money Not Art
The Rhythm of Life, first shown at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, offered visitors a chance to listen in on the electro­chemical messages transmitted by their bodies, hearing their emissions as complex percussive rhythms. But before placing their hands in the PMT and engaging with the work, the visitors had to agree to donate their personal body data to scientific and artistic research....

Although the transformation of the functional state of the living organism into sound was an important dimension of the work, the artists and designers were also interested in looking at the processes and authoritative gestures that legitimise the collection of personal information and how informed consent is attained and defined.

In the age of the quantified self, what does it mean to donate biological data? How much does it (or should it) matter to us that we can keep control over it? Does this biological data have more value for us than other types of data?...

The tension within the work was designed from the placing of a piece of scientific equipment within an artistic context (an art Museum) and the questions of legitimacy that this raises. Due to the nature of the biophoton data, there were certain practices participants were required to perform to ensure the “purity” of the measurements, such as sanitising their hands or wearing a pair of black gloves to block off ambient light. This placed considerable emphasis on the performativity of implied consent during the donation process. The written consent forms for the donation of the data were worded and designed to be as close to legitimate consent forms used within lab practice as possible. ...

The partnering artwork developed with the Data and Ethics Working Group deliberately probed the authoritative gestures associated with data consent and ownership, occupying a grey zone between subversive performativity and bureaucracy. In doing so, it operated around, rather than in strict accordance with, a typical clinical methodology demanded in scientific studies....

Biophotons are emitted within the visible light spectrum and although sensors in our retinas can respond to individual photons, neural filters prevent us from eliciting a conscious response. They become “invisible” to the naked eye, to prevent us from constantly seeing too much noise in the low light range. Therefore as a communicative process, it exists beyond the range of our conscious (human) perception. As we mentioned above, there was an interest in the rhythmical qualities of biophoton emissions and, from the perspective of “sensing data”, we were triggered by possibility of making this communicative process perceptible. As sound is absorbed through the whole body, we were most triggered by the ambiguous experience of the fluctuations in these body emissions over time, to think more abstractly about the meaning and experience behind these rhythmical patterns.
tools  measurement  self_tracking  quantified_self  methodology  data_art  data_sonification 
7 weeks ago
Technical manuals, reports, operational flowcharts, memos, and other such administrative documents are rarely afforded much critical weight. This is unsurprising: their everydayness and utilitarian design provides little spectacle, their messages are often either banale and self-evident, or overly complex and jargonistic. We ordinarily find ourselves inundated with these materials in familiar administrative spaces such as the office, the academy, the hospital, the bank. Their affected neutral tone might inform us of the terms of our contract of employment, how to "manually handle" a cardboard box, who our line manager is, or remind us to fill the form out in block capitals. Such documents can be considered as a particular form of media in their own right—a form of media that has its own powerful and paradoxical capacity to mediate.

Such documents are what Fuller and Goffey (2012) call grey media. Grey media are the artefacts of institutional bureaucracy—the enframing and didactic materials that ostensibly formalise behaviour and communication in institutional spaces. Their greyness facilitates their falling away into the background, to be read once and acknowledged (perhaps with a signature—a favoured implement of bureaucracy), and then filed away. But it is precisely within this grey, recessive banality that its latent power resides. If its purpose is to make a gesture towards standardising operating procedures, then it is at its most institutionally potent in the time of crisis or error: when procedure fails, the power of grey media is formally acknowledged. It is duly drawn out of its recessive state to become the template of rigorous analysis, the basis for establishing what—or who—did not follow procedure, and what the disciplinary consequences are.

Grey media thus provides a valuable subject of analysis for those who wish to understand the mechanisms of institutionality—what can be understood as the technologies through which the institution governs its personnel—for it offers one way of peering into the internal logic of institutional control. Sometimes, these documents help us to see how an institution sees itself, and perhaps even demonstrating how it designs itself. Grey media's administrative weight varies from the imperative to the perfunctory: payroll spreadsheets and out-of-office replies; corporate profit reports and petty cash books; internal security reviews and kitchen hygiene reminders posted on the communal fridge; and so on.

...a second moment when grey media's power is established: that of the leak. The tactical contravention of the institution's confidentiality clause—the giving-over of private administrative documents for public scrutiny—has featured prominently in the mass media and, as history demonstrates, with great consequence. Grey media often lies at the core of the political leak.
administration  gray_literature  handbooks  management  standards 
7 weeks ago
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