Elizabeth Bishop and New York City: New York Poems: "The Map"
Land lies in water; it is shadowed green.
Shadows, or are they shallows, at its edges
showing the line of long sea-weeded ledges
where weeds hang to the simple blue from green.
Or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under,
drawing it unperturbed around itself?
mapping  cartography  poetry 
3 days ago
Slick Replica of Palmyra’s Triumphal Arch Arrives in New York, Prompting Questions [UPDATED]
Its introduction on American soil at the center of City Hall Park was an equally official but less crowded affair, attended mostly by an invited group of two dozen guests in suits who watched from their reserved seating (among them, government officials of the United Arab Emirates). They just outnumbered the gathering of reporters, who, though confined behind barriers, still received a better view of the arch than any members of the general public, who had to remain behind yet another row of barriers. ...

“The whole thing felt, ironically, a little exclusionary, given this whole narrative about how they’re trying to bring people together.”

For those unfamiliar with this project to replicate and display the lost original, a primer: it is intended as, “first and foremost, an act of solidarity with the people of Syria and the hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee their home,” as Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said at a podium yesterday. “But it’s also an expression of our shared history and humanity that transcends borders and nations. It’s an act of defiance, an act of saying we do not stand for terrorism. We will continue to prevail.”...

The Institute’s first monumental 3D reconstruction of an ancient site, the triumphal arch grew out of its Million Image Database, a crowdsourced endeavor to collect 3D images of threatened objects, particularly those in conflict zones. Those images helped create a virtual model that computer-assisted carving bots in Italy then reproduced to create a true-to-form replica. Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities & Museums has heralded these efforts, which reportedly cost over $100,000, as a model for how we may “restore the site [of Palmyra] as a message of peace against terrorism.”...

“There’s such an uncomfortable line that’s been tread with this, in bringing fetishized, tourist-worthy objects out of the country when the living people are a more important priority,” archaeologist Karen Holmberg, a visiting scholar at New York University, told Hyperallergic. “And it’s not simply about bringing a beautiful thing here intact. It’s the data and the context that gets completely lost. And it’s the warfare itself and the violence itself that is the core issue.”...

There are no plaques describing what it represents or even labeling it; no signs or pamphlets for visitors to read anything about Palmyra or even the destructive event that led to the replica’s creation. Not even in the event’s opening remarks, which lasted less than ten minutes, did Glen nor Roger Michel, the Institute’s executive director, provide any substantive background on the destroyed arch....

Michel instead spoke in length about the legacy of Palmyra in relation to New York City:

Palmyra, like New York City, was this amazing crossroads where people from all around the region collected there to live but also to bring their unique talents to bear on the communal enterprise of making that city great. It’s funny because New York has thrived in exactly the same ways as Palmyra — as a center of commerce, of art, of technology, of learning. Everything about Palmyra that was great is what is great about New York City. So it’s a moment for New Yorkers to reflect on their connection both to other places around the world but also their role in the arch of history throughout our time....

What the park display did make clear was that the occasion presents an opportunity to show off technology. The only on-site supplement to the arch was an mobile, augmented reality experience by The Arc/kProject, which invites you to download an app and scan specially designed tiles dedicated to the arch, the Temple of Bel, and Palmyra’s amphitheater. A 3D rendering of each structure pops up on your screen, allowing you to toggle between a black background and “live view,” which layers the model over the real world. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what value lies in the ability to zoom in and out of or clumsily swivel around a tiny ruin against the backdrop of City Hall Park. For a brief moment, I was hopeful the app also offered a section of valuable educational information; but when I asked a developer if it did, he said no — people could just easily Google Palmyra’s history or read about it on its Wikipedia page....

Off-site, the Institution has organized auxiliary events with the New York Public Library and the Grolier Club, but these, too, center on the capabilities of new technology — looking forward, mostly, rather than reflecting on the past. Last Saturday The Arc/k Project showcased a virtual reality experience of Palmyra; the New York Public Library will host an event and ongoing exhibitions that explore how emerging technologies may help “make architectural cultural heritage … more accessible” for the visually impaired....

For her, a much more meaningful project resides only less than a mile away from the looming arch, tucked in the display window of the diminutive Mmuseumm. Handmade from wood, paper, and other simple material by the Syrian youth Mohammed Qutaish, “Future Aleppo” (2015) is a portion of a much larger miniature model of the Syrian city. Originally built when he was 14, much of it was unfortunately destroyed in the war. Qutaish hopes to be an architect one day, and his brightly painted buildings are surrounded by trees, feature solar panels, and boast luxurious touches, including rooftop swimming pools. It may not appear in as grand a setting as the replica arch — but Qutaish’s city does not rely on the power of size to reward viewing.
urban_history  digital_archaeology  archaeology  Palmyra 
3 days ago
At NY Public Library, Books Now Ride the Rails from the Stacks to the Reading Room
A fleet of 24 cars will soon be delivering material from the stacks of the New York Public Library (NYPL) along the tracks of its new “book train.” Each gray and red car, adorned with NYPL’s lion logo, can travel the 11 levels of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in just five minutes, from the subterranean Milstein Research Stacks to the Rose Main Reading Room. The conveyor system goes into operation the week of October 3, coinciding with the October 5 reopening of the Reading Room following its closure for two years of restoration.... Milstein Stacks, which has also been undergoing a renovation since last winter to hold 4 million research volumes on-site. That high number is expected to help immediately fulfill around 95% of possible onsite research requests. ... “If you’re walking and taking the elevator, it beats you there,” said Matthew Knutzen, the director of the NYPL’s Humanities and Social Sciences Research Divisions. He added that it’s especially exciting to unveil the “book train,” which is a vital connection to the expanded storage beneath Bryant Park, alongside the Reading Room’s restoration. “The timing couldn’t be better, this track ends in the middle of the Rose Reading Room, and it is the critical link between the Reading Room and the new stacks downstairs.”
library  logistics  nypl 
3 days ago
Farewell - ETAOIN SHRDLU - 1978
A film created by Carl Schlesinger and David Loeb Weiss documenting the last day of hot metal typesetting at The New York Times. This film shows the entire newspaper production process from hot-metal typesetting to creating stereo moulds to high-speed press operation. At the end of the film, the new typesetting and photographic production process is shown in contrast to the old ways.

There are interviews with workers at NYT that are for and against the new technology. In fact, one typesetter is retiring on this final day as he does not want to learn the new process and technology.
media_history  printing  letterpress  newspapers 
4 days ago
New York Public Library Installs New State-Of-The-Art Conveyor to Deliver Collection Items Throughout The Iconic 42nd Street Library | The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library has installed a new, state-of-the-art conveyor system in its Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street to transport requested research materials from newly-expanded storage under Bryant Park to researchers throughout the library.

The conveyor, developed by New Jersey based company Teledynamic, will begin delivering requested materials to two locations in the building during the week of Oct. 3. One of the locations – the iconic Rose Main Reading Room on the third floor – is reopening on Oct. 5 after an over two-year closure for repairs and restoration.

The new system – installed utilizing an innovative design developed by global design firm Gensler – consists of 24 individual red cars that run on rails and can seamlessly and automatically transition from horizontal to vertical motion. The cars pick up requested materials from the newly-expanded Milstein Research Stacks – which now have two levels that can hold up to 4 million research volumes – and deliver the materials to library staff in two locations: one on the first floor and the other in the Rose Main Reading Room. Staff then provide the materials to researchers for use in the library.

The new conveyor system replaces an outdated setup in which boxes of research materials were placed on a series of conveyor belts. The new system is easier to maintain and more efficient.
libraries  bookstacks  automation 
4 days ago
Victorians Decoded - Guildhall Galleries - City of London
150 years ago, communication was revolutionised. The successful laying of cable along the floor of the Atlantic ocean meant that exchanges that would have taken weeks by ship, were possible within a single day.

This groundbreaking technology captivated Victorian society and how it conceived of itself in time and space. Artists responded in visual terms to the newly connected world, the hostile landscape, changed perceptions of distance, and the idea of sending/receiving messages, coding and decoding.

'Victorians Decoded: Art and Telegraphy' looks at the impact of telegraphy on the artistic imagination and wider social consciousness and features Victorian paintings, scientific apparatus and the personal notes and papers of telegraph pioneer Sir Charles Wheatstone.
telegraph  media_archaeology 
6 days ago
How map-master Max Gill became the saviour of the London Underground | Art and design | The Guardian
As Europe was about to tear itself to shreds in 1914, this is how the London Underground chose to depict the city, with lavish “Wonderground” maps hung in every station. Packed with little jokes and mischievous details, it was a clear bid to cheer up commuters and distract them from the over-crowded, filthy carriages into which they were about to be squeezed....

Often credited as the map that saved the Underground – doing wonders for the public image of a service on its knees – the fantastical scene was drawn by MacDonald “Max” Gill, younger brother of the master sculptor and chisel-wielding paraphiliac Eric Gill.
infrastructure  telegraph  wireless  mapping  cartography 
6 days ago
Inside the Mundaneum - Triple Canopy
a vast archive of more than twelve million bibliographic three-by-five-inch index cards, which attempted to catalog and cross-reference the relationships among all the world’s published information. For Otlet, the archive was at the center of a plan to universalize human knowledge. He called it the Mundaneum, and he believed it would usher in a new era of peace and progress. The Belgian government, however, had come to view Otlet and his fine mess of papers, dusty boxes, and customized filing cabinets as a financial and political nuisance....

Scores of workers operated the Mundaneum’s search service, which employed the card catalog to answer questions from the public. ..

Otlet was the first to imagine all the world’s knowledge as one vast “web,” connected by “links” and accessed remotely through desktop screens, and because of this he can be seen as the kooky grandfather of the Internet. From the beginning of his career as a lawyer and bibliographer, Otlet wrote prolifically and prophetically about how information could be organized and transmitted. He developed the Universal Decimal Classification system (UDC), an expanded form of the Dewey Decimal Classification system that assigned individual numerical subject codes to documents, allowing them to be searched and cross-referenced in a standardized manner. His later writings on information science examined the technological advancements of his time that he regarded as potential substitutes for the book: the radio, television, telephone, and telegraph, sound recordings, cinema, and microfilm (which he developed alongside Robert Goldschmidt). In doing so, Otlet prefigured the work of computer-science pioneers Vannevar Bush, Douglas Engelbart, and Ted Nelson. ...

The solutions to centrally organizing and disseminating information remained out of Otlet’s grasp, as he never lived to see the promises of these technologies fulfilled. He had convinced the Belgian government of the worthiness of his grand endeavor and, perhaps more important, that its support would help the country’s bid to host the League of Nations. But after losing to Geneva in 1920, expending resources on an enterprise that occupied so much physical space while generating no tangible rewards became less and less appealing to a government in financial straits. ...

In 1891, he met Henri La Fontaine, who was directing the bibliography division of a newly formed professional association of prominent Belgian political- and social-science scholars....

In 1891, he met Henri La Fontaine, who was directing the bibliography division of a newly formed professional association of prominent Belgian political- and social-science scholars. ... Central to this belief was Otlet’s concept of the document, which extended beyond the written or printed word to include anything with evidentiary value—a photograph, a piece of music, a painting. Any document, whatever its form, should be “winnow[ed] to conserve the best grain.”

Ideas and facts would then be independent of their physical medium, allowing them to be organized into an easily searchable, universal system. In practical terms, this would be accomplished by extracting the substance of all of the world’s documents and recording it on standardized three-by-five-inch cards, either by cutting and pasting from the original document or copying by hand. The cards would then be placed in a general bibliographic card repertory and divided and subdivided by general and specific subjects.

By 1894, Otlet had amassed more than one hundred thousand cards in his bibliographic repertory, and he went in search of an efficient management structure for his collection. After obtaining and studying a copy of Melvil Dewey’s Decimal Classification system, originally published in 1876, Otlet wrote to Dewey asking for the European translation rights and permission to adapt his existing system to the needs of the International Institute of Bibliography...

In Otlet’s view, the rational, scientific language of numbers and symbols used in Decimal Classification was the ideal way to express the “links, the genealogy even, of ideas and objects, their relationships of dependence and subordination, of similarity and difference.” Whatever could not be expressed numerically—whatever Otlet considered “conventional and arbitrary”—would be eliminated....

In the preceding centuries, others had envisioned memory theaters, curiosity cabinets, and various classification systems to collect and organize cultural artifacts. But Otlet’s vision was focused on pure information, not objects, and was distinguished by its universality and its emphasis on establishing the connections between bodies of knowledge, thus providing a blueprint for today’s Internet. ...

Otlet left us not with blueprints for action so much as science-fiction fantasies—more H. G. Wells than Thomas Edison. (Indeed, Wells, just a few years after Otlet, conceived of a “world brain” that would be accessed through an “information highway.”). Otlet’s published writings and personal notebooks contain strange, charming illustrations of telecommunicative desks and spiraling structures that would house the archive. Such visions of the future rarely coincide with reality, but they are necessary because they enable later generations to expand the parameters of the possible.

The UDC was published in stages between 1904 and 1907. By 1907, it was more than two thousand pages. (Today, the UDC’s core version has 65,000 subdivisions and is available in a database format called the Master Reference File; the full version has 220,000 subdivisions.) As the UDC’s classification tables and card catalogs grew, so did Otlet’s ambitions. He began to see the Mundaneum “as an encyclopedic survey of human knowledge, as an enormous intellectual warehouse of books, documents, catalogs, and scientific objects” that would “tend progressively to constitute a permanent and complete representation of the entire world.” The archive would become the center of a utopian “city of the intellect,” where all the world’s knowledge would be collected and preserved, and where the free exchange of information and ideas would foster world peace. He collaborated with architects and urban planners to draw up plans for the city; when Brussels lost its bid for the League of Nations to Geneva in 1920, Otlet commissioned Le Corbusier to design a Mundaneum for that city. ...

Gradually, as he fell out of favor with the Belgian government, Otlet became less concerned with the practical functions of the various bureaucratic institutions he had helped create. He focused obsessively on sustaining the Mundaneum’s collections and working on his own scholarship, which grew more and more abstract. In 1935, ten years before Vannevar Bush published his seminal Atlantic essay describing his memex machine, “As We May Think,” Otlet published Monde, a further distillation of the concepts embodied in the Mundaneum. In it, he also described a communications system that “would combine…radio, x-rays, cinema and microscopic photography” and that approximates the dreams of the Internet’s pioneers: ...From afar anyone would be able to read the passage, expanded or limited to the desired subject, that could be projected on his individual screen. Thus, in his armchair, anyone would be able to contemplate the whole of creation....

The previous year, as the Belgian government was shuttering the Mundaneum, Otlet had published Traité de Documentation, the first modern treatise on information science. In it, he writes of the “radical assumption” that
all knowledge, all information could be so condensed that it could be contained in a limited number of works placed on a desk.… The Universal Book created from all books would become very approximately an annex to the brain, a substratum even of memory, an external mechanism and instrument of the mind but so close to it, so apt to its use that it would truly be a sort of appended organ, an exodermic appendage.

He goes on to describe a kind of steampunk Jeffersonian cabinet, a “scholar’s work station” constructed of multiple, movable surfaces and screens connected to a movable filing cabinet. From this tricked-out desk, scholars could connect remotely via a telephone-based system—something like a facsimile transmission network—to a central database. ...

It is often in these indefinable, unclassifiable places, like the margins of a page, where new ideas are found....

After Otlet’s death, what remained of the Mundaneum’s collections was stored in an old, damp, leaky room in an anatomy building in the Free University of Brussels. There it moldered, until it was discovered in the late 1970s. Now the Mundaneum is permanently installed as a museum in Mons, Belgium, where it is open to the public.
search  google  Otlet  archives  libraries  classification  index_cards  intellectual_furnishings 
6 days ago
World's oldest library reopens in Fez: 'You can hurt us, but you can't hurt the books' | Cities | The Guardian
The restored library boasts a new sewerage and underground canal system to drain away the moisture that had threatened to destroy many of its prized manuscripts – plus an elaborate lab to treat, preserve and digitise the oldest texts. The collection of advanced machinery includes digital scanners that identify minuscule holes in the ancient paper rolls, and a preservative machine which treats the manuscripts with a liquid that moistens them enough to prevent cracking.

A special room with strict security and temperature and humidity controls houses the most ancient works. The most precious is a ninth-century copy of the Qur’an, written in ornate Kufic script on camel skin....

“The people who work here jealously guard the books,” says one of the caretakers. “You can hurt us, but you cannot hurt the books.”

The library’s restoration comes at a time when extremists are rampaging the region’s heritage. Across Syria and Iraq, the militants of the Islamic State have carried out cultural atrocities that include ransacking the great library of Mosul, burning thousands of manuscripts, bulldozing ancient Assyrian cities like Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq, blowing up the Temple of Bel in Palmyra and sacking the oasis city’s museum, in addition to destroying tombs and mausoleums of Shia and Christian saints.

Those troubles seem a world away in Morocco, which managed to remain unscathed by the tumult that has gripped the region and brought down venerable nation states....

In 2012, the ministry of culture, which manages the Qarawiyyin library and university, asked Chaouni to assess the library, and she was pleasantly surprised when her architecture firm was awarded the contract, in a field traditionally seen as a man’s province.

The Qarawiyyin library was also founded by a woman. In the ninth century, Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Tunisia’s Kairouan, arrived in Fez and began laying the groundwork for a complex that would include the library, the Qarawiyyin Mosque, and Qarawiyyin University, the oldest higher education institution in the world – with alumni including the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, the great Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun, and the Andalusian diplomat Leo Africanus.
libraries  destruction  preservation  library_history 
6 days ago
Public Library of the Year 2016 - MODEL PROGRAMME FOR PUBLIC LIBRARIES
The Model Programme for Public Libraries offers a web-based inspiration catalogue and tools that are to communicate new knowledge, best practise and inspiration for brand new space/function interplay for library developers. This is done in a visually orientated format where brief texts are supported by photos, figures and principles outlined for design.

The project behind the Model Programme was initiated and funded by the Danish Agency for Culture and Realdania. Signal Architects were executing during the project phase.

Model program was completed as inspiration catalogue and tool in its first version in September 2013 and has since been continuously improved.
libraries  architecture 
6 days ago
Four nominated for the award as the world’s best public library
Four libraries from Australia, the US, and Denmark, respectively, have been nominated for the prize as the world’s best new public library.

The prize will be awarded at the annual meeting of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in Columbus, Ohio, USA on 15 August.

The four nominees are:

Chicago Public Library, Chinatown Branch, USA
Dokk1, Aarhus, Denmark
Geelong Library & Heritage Centre, Australia
Success Public Library, Australia
libraries  architecture 
6 days ago
Breakfast in the Ruins by Ingrid D. Rowland | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
With a history that extends back nearly four thousand years, Palmyra has risen and fallen many times. Its original name was Tadmor, which probably meant “palm tree,” an indication of the site’s renowned fertility. Both the Bible and local legend credit the city’s foundation to King Solomon in the tenth century BCE, but in fact it is already mentioned in Mesopotamian texts a millennium earlier. A spring and a wadi, or dry river bed, provided the settlement with water, making it a welcome stop for travelers and traders on the road between Central Asia and the Mediterranean Sea.  

The population, almost from the outset, was a mixture of Semitic peoples from surrounding areas: Amorites, Aramaeans, Arabs, and Jews, who developed a distinctive Palmyrene language and a distinctive script expressive of their distinctive cosmopolitan culture, which drew from Persia, Greece, and Rome as well as local tradition. The city expanded greatly in the Hellenistic period, in the wake of Alexander the Great (fourth century BCE), and again during the Roman Empire. Its most impressive archaeological remains date from the first and second centuries CE, when the expansion of the Roman Empire streamlined the trading networks that gave Palmyra life. Some 200,000 people may have made their home in the oasis, which was granted a political independence unusual under Roman rule; Emperor Hadrian, who visited in 129 CE, declared it an independent city-state.

The weakening of Rome and the rise of Sasanian Persia in the third century CE cut into Palmyra’s share of trade between Asia and the Levant. For a brief moment, from 271 to 273, the local queen Zenobia managed to hold off both the Persians and Rome to claim an empire of her own, but in 273 the Roman emperor Aurelian conquered the city, looted its temples to decorate his own Temple of the Sun in Rome, and razed its residential quarters. In 303, Emperor Diocletian supplied Palmyra with its own Roman fortress, a walled camp to house a permanent garrison of soldiers. Just two centuries later, in 527, the Byzantine emperor Justinian further reinforced the city walls.

Christianity became the dominant religion in Palmyra after Aurelian’s conquest; Islam arrived in 634, when the city had been reduced to a village within the walls of Diocletian’s camp. Under the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, the city, now renamed Tadmur, grew and prospered despite its tendency to rebel against any form of centralized authority and the animosity of nature...

These are the conditions that visitors like the Roman nobleman Pietro della Valle found in the early seventeenth century, followed by many other European visitors, including Robert Wood and James Dawkins in 1751, Lady Hester Stanhope in 1815, and Louis Vignes in 1864. Nineteenth-century visitors to the site could, and did, carry off sculpture and inscriptions from the surrounding ancient cemeteries with relative ease, to grace public museums and private collections.

Palmyra expanded again in the early twentieth century as the Great Game began to play out on Mesopotamian soil, now an emporium that welcomed motor traffic as well as camel caravans. By 1932, Syria’s general director of antiquities, the Frenchman Henri Arnold Seyrig, had convinced the residents of old Tadmur to move out of their homes among the ancient ruins and into a new village especially constructed for them by French builders. Archaeological investigation of the site began immediately afterwards, and Palmyra adapted to the tourist trade with additions like the Hotel Zenobia, built in 1900 right next to the Temple of Baal Shamin....

The Lebanese war that raged between 1975 and 1990 and the Syrian civil war of the past four years have damaged or destroyed many of the monuments that Vignes records in his photographs. The worst destruction, certainly, was inflicted between June and September of 2015 by the militants of the Islamic State, who first tortured and killed the eighty-one-year-old site director Khaled el-Assad before beheading him and hanging his body from a column. Then they set to work obliterating the ancient buildings amid accusations of paganism and idolatry.

These acts of destruction, like those of Aurelian and Timur, were deeds of pure brutality, a distressingly recurrent theme in the story of humankind. Yet Palmyra has also suffered destruction in the lofty name of knowledge: it was twentieth-century archaeologists, not Islamic fanatics, who obliterated old Tadmur Village, and many other structures, like fortification walls, that dated from post-classical times.

...The flat-roofed mud-brick houses of Tadmur dominate the foreground.

The interior of the precinct was surrounded by a colonnade, vividly described by the English visitor Charles Addison, who visited Palmyra a decade before Louis Vignes:

This large area measures about two hundred and twenty-five yards each way, and the remaining columns that surround it have all a projection from the shaft for statues, and in some the iron to which the feet of the statues were fastened is plainly visible. All of the columns of the porticoes have this projection, and if they were all furnished with statues, what hundreds and thousands there must have been in the place—and whither can they have been carried? Of this portico the greatest number of columns exists on the west side; they are thirty-seven feet in height, and rising above the humble mud huts of the village and here and there supporting fragments of the architrave and sculptured cornice that once rested upon them, they present a striking contrast of the magnificence of bygone times with the poverty and meanness of the present day. (Charles Greenstreet Addison, Damascus and Palmyra: A Journey to the East. With a Sketch of the State and Prospects of Syria under Ibrahim Pasha, Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1838, p. 167)...

Today, the deserted tracts of land beyond the Temple’s precinct walls have been covered by the modern settlement of Tadmur. To the left of the standing columns we can see the stub of another column embedded in a villager’s house. The precinct wall shows many signs of later repairs and reinforcements, with irregular blocks of stone and rubble, not to mention the mud-brick masonry of the villager’s houses, all removed in the 1930’s. These columns have survived the destruction of 2015....

Palmyra’s Triumphal Arch was built during the reign of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus (reigned 193-211 CE) to create a graceful transition between the main street of Palmyra and the short road from the city to the precinct of Bel. Here the Great Colonnade that lines the thoroughfare, built over the course of the second and third centuries CE, bends at a 30° angle. The three arches accommodate wheeled traffic in the center and pedestrians on the two sides of the road. Although the Arch has no religious significance, it was destroyed in successive explosions lit by the Islamic State in 2015. Much of the stonework survives in good enough condition for the structure to be rebuilt from its original materials. The rest of the Great Colonnade still stands.
palmyra  archaeology  urban_history  tourism  photography 
6 days ago
Dragons, Memory & Navigating the Globe Using Only Your Wits - Facts So Romantic - Nautilus
the first Polynesians originated from seafaring Austronesians, who trace their prehistoric origins (somewhere between 5,000 and 3,000 years ago) back to present-day Taiwan. From there they spread through the entire Polynesian Triangle, a huge part of the Pacific Ocean including over 1,000 islands, with the three main “points” at New Zealand, Hawaii, and Easter Island. Lacking instruments like compasses or astrolabes, wayfinders were still able to navigate and discover islands thousands of miles away, then return exactly to their points of origin. This allowed Polynesians to migrate to and travel between island groups with relative ease, expanding their population across an area that spans a total distance of 10 million square miles of water, slightly larger than the size of Canada...

Ancient Polynesians relied on three core faculties to navigate: knowledge of the stars, understanding of the environment, and—above all—their memories.

Stars: Polynesians noticed that each star and constellation would predictably rise in one spot of the sky and set somewhere on the other side. Exactly where they went up and down depended on the season and the latitude.... Without instruments, wayfinders could use simple hand calibration methods, using different hand positions, to assess how far stars and constellations were from the horizon...

Environment: Even without navigation instruments, a navigator can still make useful observations about wind and sea currents, clouds, and marine life to approximate how close an island could be. Following simple wave physics, the presence of an island will often alter the direction of a wave as it passes around the landmass. Wayfarers would pay close attention to how wind direction compared to current direction; generally, wind and current will go the same way unless a nearby island is disrupting the current.

Sightings of particular things like driftwood or certain birds usually mean there is land nearby. Some wayfarers even cite cloud color as an indicator of whether there is land beneath it, as land and lagoons can reflect a slightly different color upward than open ocean waters....

Memory: The revered wayfinders say that most important rule of Polynesian navigation is this: “Remember everything.” The only way to find your way back home is to remember how you got to where you are in the first place—every course adjustment, every wind change, every constellation. On each boat crew, a designated navigator sits, foregoing any type of distraction—even sleep—in order to interpret and memorize all external conditions such as wind and sea current, changes in boat direction, etc.
cartography  navigation  mapping  wayfinding  ecology  memory 
6 days ago
Inside the Library of Congress’s Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation | Washingtonian
Willeman works at the Library of Congress’s Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation—Packard for short. The campus, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, houses 90 miles of shelves, 35 climate-controlled storage units, and 124 nitrate vaults built for the long-term safekeeping of the world’s largest collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts, and sound recordings. Every movie, every TV show, every record you can think of is kept within its underground hallways, fluorescent-lit cement tunnels as long as football fields.
The Packard campus houses silent films that have been restored from grainy nothingness. It has Gone With the Wind and the rest of the classics. It has films on obscure, 19th-century formats, some of which are the last in existence....

The Packard campus was built in 1969 as a Cold War apocalypse bunker. It had lead-lined shutters, barbed-wire fences, and a machine-gun turret. The Federal Reserve stored $3 billion within its radiation-proof walls. In the event of a catastrophic Soviet strike, the money was to be used to replenish the currency supply east of the Mississippi River.
Until 1992, the bunker also was an emergency continuity-of-government facility, designed to house up to 540 people for 30 days after a nuclear attack. Along with beds and freeze-dried food, it had an indoor pistol range, a helicopter landing pad, and a cold-storage area for bodies awaiting burial in case radiation levels were too high to go outside.
The bunker was decommissioned in 1993 and sat abandoned for four years. During that time, the Library of Congress was facing a storage crisis. The audiovisual collections were spread across three Capitol Hill buildings, two facilities in Virginia and Maryland, an Air Force base in Ohio, and a rented storage center in Pennsylvania....

The investment came from David Woodley Packard. Son of Hewlett-Packard cofounder David Packard, the philanthropist bought the property in 1997 and spent millions building a state-of-the-art facility. In July 2007, he donated the campus to the Library of Congress. It tied Wolf Trap as the second-largest private-sector gift to the federal government. The Smithsonian Institution is the biggest....

Today the facility holds 1.3 million videos and more than 3 million audio recordings. There’s a listening auditorium with specialized acoustics and a theater that screens rare films—the only part of the campus open to the public. There are massive servers and preservation labs and more than 100 miles of cable to connect it all....

Silent film era: Because of poor conservation, Lukow says, only about a quarter of those remain today.... Part of the “nitrate era,” 1915 to 1945, marks another major gap in the library’s collection because of the challenges of storing explosive nitrate film. During these early years of the film industry, many companies destroyed their film reels to mine the trace amounts of silver inside. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that producers bothered to save copies of their films, when new technologies such as cable TV and Betamax and VHS videotapes provided a stream of revenue after a movie’s theatrical run....

The library’s archivists rely on the US Copyright Deposit System, which requires studios to mail them copies of most films and television programs. Donations have filled in the gaps. Bob Hope’s gift of his own material was so large that it warranted the creation of the Bob Hope Gallery at the library’s Thomas Jefferson Building on Capitol Hill.

In 2000, Coca-Cola donated the entire history of its TV and radio commercials and paid for their digitizing. Each year, Packard receives up to 150,000 items.
In a sparse white server room, the hum of hard drives illustrates the future of audiovisual conservation. Robotic arms whir and rotate inside massive servers, maintaining a system that currently stores more than a petabyte of cultural history—more than 4,000 computers’ worth of data collected in just three years. It’s all duplicated and backed up in a secret off-site location.

...vast sorting floor, where rows and rows of carts hold materials waiting to be organized and stored. But the Live Capture Room may be the future of audiovisual preservation.

When it’s completed, inside will be equipment that can record up to 120 TV channels in real time. The goal is not only to capture individual programs but to record entire days of programming as samples of the “flow” of broadcast communication. “We want to be able to capture a day in the life of American media,” says Lukow.

The room also has 72 computer stations to record Internet videos and radio and other Web broadcasts. Lukow’s team will track the most popular categories on sites such as YouTube, selecting videos that reach a certain cultural status.....

It’s not our job as preservationists to say what Americans will be proudest of 100 years from now. It’s not our job to ask what scholars and historians will think about the collection.”

[Blind Tony] Schwartz began making audiotapes. Tapes about New York City, where he lived. About the city’s sound. Tapes without narration or context, only ambience.
Schwartz heard cab drivers and street performers, conversations between immigrants from distant countries, the familiar clang and echo of street construction. Inconsequential things, it seemed, such as the hum of traffic on the 17 blocks of tenement neighborhoods around West 61st Street. Things people heard every day. Why would anybody want a recording of them?...

Today those 17 blocks are demolished, replaced by Lincoln Center. The streets Schwartz explored have changed, and so have their sounds. The tapes are all that’s left.
In 2007, the Packard campus acquired Tony Schwartz’s recordings, a half century of work. Schwartz went on to become many things: a sound designer, radio host, author, art director, even political advertiser, responsible for the Lyndon Johnson “daisy” ad, which showed a girl picking petals off a flower until a mushroom cloud erupted in the distance. But the label most important to Lukow is fellow archivist. “He makes us realize in retrospect how much of the American soundscape doesn’t exist anymore,” says Lukow. ...

When Hollywood realized the danger of flammable nitrate film, it switched to a film stock called Eastman Color. It was called “safety film” because, unlike nitrate, it didn’t tend to burst into flames. Unfortunately, the chemical makeup of Eastman Color was prone to degradation no matter what storage precautions were taken. Time itself was enough to ruin an entire generation of film. Thus the pinkness of it all. With Bonanza, Kennedy worked for about ten hours to fix each episode. He likens his digital remastering to working in Photoshop: changing and enhancing colors, fiddling with the hue and contrast....

Kennedy’s aim was to restore footage missing from those episodes, such as the commercial “bumps” (“We’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors . . .”).
All this work for a few commercial bumps?
“What exactly were we watching back then?” asks Kennedy. “What role did advertising play? We always say that we’re dealing with America’s cultural heritage here. And that’s what this is.”...

Near Kennedy’s control panel is the preservation lab. It’s a high-ceilinged room that smells of chemicals. Glass cabinets off to the side hold long strands of film. Here preservationists do a frame-by-frame analysis of old films, restoring them with ultrasonic cleaners, fixing ripped sprocket holes, and removing residue by hand. If the original can’t be repaired, they’ll use state-of-the-art technology to transfer the footage to a new reel. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll digitize it, then transfer it back to film.
Why not just keep it as a digital copy? Why not just digitize everything? Film remains the medium of choice for preservationists. Most movies aren’t stored digitally at Packard. Those massive servers hold primarily audio recordings and some video content that originally appeared on cassette tape. Anything that came on film stays on film....

A movie stored digitally is only a file on a hard drive, Lukow explains. You can’t view it unless you have the right technology. When you’re thinking of preservation in terms of centuries, this doesn’t bode well. A reel of film is primitive by comparison: All you need to view it is a light source and a lens. Film also lasts a long time when stored at the right temperature—35 degrees and 30 percent relative humidity. When Lukow says a long time, he means generations....

It’s a storage room, filled with technology the future forgot. Film and radio equipment dating back decades, obscure systems that worked only with obscure formats. Strange things, such as “video disks” that played movies with a needle, like a record player. Packard’s preservationists venture down here to cannibalize old systems for replacement parts when something needs salvaging. “We have to be state-of-the-art for not just 2010 but 1910 as well,” says Lukow. “But,” he adds, gazing across the room, “you never know when one piece in here might be the last of its kind.”...

December 7, 1978, was a construction day at the National Archives in Suitland. The workers were inside the facility’s storage vaults—built three decades earlier as temporary containers for film reels.
The construction workers went out to lunch and left some of the vault doors open. They had been using power tools, and the residual heat ignited the film’s fumes. Firefighters opened the rest of the vaults in search of trapped workers, exposing more film to the heat and quickly spreading the blaze.
One thing about nitrate fires is that they can’t be put out by water. They burn out on their own. Firefighters were helpless to stop the inferno, and they watched as 12 million feet of film was wiped out.
The Packard campus stores nearly 140,000 cans of … [more]
logistics  libraries  storage  archives  film  preservation  media_archaeology 
7 days ago
Silicon Valley’s Secrets Are Hiding in Marc Andreessen’s Library | WIRED
In 1908, the country’s nine largest filmmakers formed the Movie Picture Patents Company, insisting that no one else could make movies because they controlled the patents on the original movie camera, co-created by Thomas Edison at his lab in New Jersey. The patents belonged to Edison, and he backed the Patents Company. So a new wave of filmmakers moved to the West Coast, where the courts were less friendly to Edison. Hollywood became a place to make movies in part because it was so sunny—you could film outdoors more often and with fewer lights—but also because it was so far away from New Jersey....

The story of early Hollywood is very much the story of Silicon Valley, full of innovators fleeing the old rules in search of the new. It only makes sense that the lobby of Andreessen Horowitz is stocked with books on early Hollywood, including Who The Devil Made It. Bogdanovich and Dwan tell a story not unlike the one told in What the Dormouse Said, where a group of freethinkers rise up in the 1960s and create the personal computer, pushing against entrenched giants like IBM....

Old Hollywood, writes Jeanine Basinger in The Star Machine, another book in the Andreessen lobby, was a factory that built illusions. It transformed ordinary men and women into “the gods and goddesses known as a movie stars.” ... This is how Silicon Valley works too. It makes stars, shaping their origin stories into legends like the one about Lana Turner and Schwab’s Drugstore. Evan Williams and Biz Stone creating Twitter with Jack Dorsey at Odeo. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and the Paris cab shortage. Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and her childhood fear of needles....

a fair assessment of early Hollywood. It was an ever-changing mix of business, technology, art, and, yes, artifice. Some people, like Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of President John Kennedy, understood the financial side. Some, like Kennedy’s partner, David Sarnoff, the head of RCA, understood how the technology drove the business. Some, like D.W. Griffith, understood how the technology drove the art. Everybody was good at artifice. And a few people, like Irving Thalberg, the head of production at MGM, understood it all—or at least they understood it all as well anyone really could.

Silicon Valley blends these same threads, including the art. Today, after all, it’s even subsuming what Hollywood does, making its own movies and TV shows. Rather than go to the theater, we go to our smartphones and tablets. ...

In the beginning, Andreessen tells me, Hollywood was a frontier, just as Silicon Valley is a frontier today. He calls the movie business the other great “organic” California industry. “The idea of going West for unclaimed land? That era was over by the 1870s, the 1880s,” he says. “But California remained the frontier for the purpose of creating new industries—starting first with entertainment and then with tech.”

Today, Andreessen says, we think of Hollywood as the establishment. But in the early days, it pushed against the establishment. As we chat, he mentions the Patents Company and how the filmmakers went west in an effort to escape its patents, strongmen, and snipers. “Talk about disruption,” he says, with an all-out belly laugh. When you read about the early days of Hollywood, he says, you’re apt to think that happened in Cupertino last week. ...

Just as Paramount, MGM, Universal, Fox, and Warner Brothers came to dominate film, a few big players are taking control of the tech world. Google. Facebook. Apple. Amazon. They control the infrastructure that makes everything go.
libraries  silicon_valley  film  media_city  los_angeles 
7 days ago
Libraries 2016 | Pew Research Center
Public libraries, many Americans say, should offer programs to teach people digital skills (80% think libraries should definitely do this) and help patrons learn how to use new creative technologies like 3-D printers (50%). At the same time, 57% of Americans say libraries should definitely offer more comfortable places for reading, working and relaxing.

Yet, Americans are also divided on a fundamental question about how books should be treated at libraries: 24% support the idea of moving books and stacks in order to make way for more community- and tech-oriented spaces, while 31% say libraries should not move the books to create such spaces. About four-in-ten think libraries should maybe consider doing so.

A Pew Research Center telephone survey of 1,601 Americans ages 16 and older conducted from March 7 to April 4, 2016, finds that Americans continue to express largely positive views about the current state of their local public libraries. For instance, around three-quarters (77%) say that public libraries provide them with the resources they need. And 66% say the closing of their local public library would have a major impact on their community ­ although notably, just 33% say this would have a major impact on them personally or on their family.

There is also a growing sense that libraries can help people decide what information they can trust: 37% of Americans feel that public libraries contribute “a lot” in this regard, a 13-point increase from a survey conducted at a similar point in 2015.

A majority of Americans feel libraries are doing a good job of providing a safe place for people to hang out or spend time (69% feel libraries contribute “a lot” to their communities in this regard) as well as opening up educational opportunities for people of all ages (58%). And roughly half think their libraries contribute “a lot” to their communities in terms of helping spark creativity among young people (49%) and providing a trusted place for people to learn about new technologies (47%)....

Last year, Pew Research Center reported a growth in public support for libraries moving some books and stacks out of the public spaces in libraries and instead creating meeting areas or technology spaces. Nearly one-third (30%) in 2015 said libraries should definitely move books out of public spaces in favor of using that space for other purposes, an increase from 20% in 2014. However, the 2016 survey recorded another shift, as the number of people age 16 and older who said this fell six points to 24%. Correspondingly, the share saying libraries should definitely not move books increased in 2016 to 31%, up from 25% last year....

The act of borrowing printed books is still by far the most popular activity at libraries, even compared with using computers: 64% of library users ages 16 and older checked out a book in the last 12 months, compared with 29% who used a computer at the library in the same time frame.
An emerging library “service” is its Wi-Fi connection, which can be used separately from the hours library buildings are open: 7% of those 16 and older say they have connected to a library’s Wi-Fi system when the library building itself was closed....

44% of those 16 and older say their public libraries loan out e-books, while 10% say this is not true of their communities’ libraries. Researchers at the University of Maryland report that 90% of libraries have e-book lending programs. So, many of Americans are not aware of this core service available at most local libraries.
The idea that libraries serve communities at times of crisis is now pretty well established. Some 55% of those ages 16 and older say libraries contribute a lot (19%) or somewhat (37%) when a natural disaster or major problem strikes the community. There have been dramatic examples of libraries becoming refuges and outposts, for instance after Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast in 2013.
libraries  infrastructure  books  storage 
8 days ago
New knowledge for a new planet: critical pedagogy for the Anthropocene
Space is one of the interesting spheres of struggle in a sense that, as the Brazilians figured it out, if you want to prevent your friends from spying on all your communications, you need your own pipeline for data (Borger, 2013 Borger, J. (2013, September 24). Brazilian president: US surveillance a ‘breach of international law’. The Guardian. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/24/brazil-president-un-speech-nsa-surveillance). Even the German government had to figure that part out in a hard way (Gebauer, 2015 Gebauer, M. (2015, September 19). Latest Snowden doc shows NSA spied on German intelligence. Der Spiegel. Retrieved October 7, 2015, from http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/new-snowden-document-reveals-us-spied-on-german-intelligence-a-1055055.html). There is a sense in which information creates a whole different geopolitics. Information can get from anywhere to anywhere, but it does so often through quite specific pipelines – one needs to map them to see this as a new geopolitics. And this geopolitics is independent of the state system, or sea lanes, or the other traditional maps. Benjamin Bratton is good at this thinking of planetary computation as a space of geopolitics that has a new map....

...if one studies Foucault closely, one sees what one wants to see: that aspect of the world that still looks like the nineteenth century his classic works describe. The Marxists are the same. They want to see those aspects that still look like nineteenth century capitalism.

Then there is the opposite tendency, which is to declare everything that happened in one’s own time as radical and new, and to think through a binary break. This gives the weak language of modifiers: neoliberalism, postmodernism, late capitalism, and so on. It is always salutary to imagine that one is not living in a great moment of crisis and transition. Hence to my way of thinking, the contours of the current historical stage started to form a long time ago, perhaps even when some of the classic nineteenth-century social thought was formed....

...we need to avoid trying to reduce the social sciences to the natural sciences, as if waving the word ‘neuroscience’ or the word ‘genetics’ explained everything. So I think the challenge is a new organization of knowledge, a new mode of cooperation. Perhaps not so new in the sciences themselves, which may be far, far ahead of the humanities and social sciences in this regard. Look for example at the way climate science emerged as a transnational scientific community, combining specialists in mathematical physics, computer modelling, satellite instrumentation, and so forth. And one fully aware of the political obstacles in the way of doing such science, let alone acting on it. So I think the question becomes: Can we use the tools that are available to reconfigure knowledge for this newly unstable planet on which we now live? Our social and political theories are all from a planet that no longer exists...

Can knowledge be a little more agenda-based? Can it be driven by agendas in the world, rather than driven by the eternal construction of problems in academic fields? And then, can it be more collaborative? Can we get out of the private-property model, where everybody has their field, and if you write outside of your field, you are considered to be trespassing?...

I think that we need to get out of the prioritizing of the hedgehog model of digging the same hole and owning it, without completely denying the model or its value. The hedgehog approach has enormous value, but I think that we need a little bit more of the interstitial connecting tissue approach, the fox approach, where you find a way to jump from one thing to another and connect them to things that happen in the world....

one, informationalized labor, but; two the vast expansion of global labor; then three, rise of the hacker class in the over-developed world, making new forms but not filling forms with content as labor does. And then the fourth thing, and this one is global, are ways of using information to extract value out of non-labor. And that is really pretty new. So, as you walk around New York City with your cellphone, you are generating data. You are not really at work, and you are certainly not getting paid for it. ...

We need to understand that digital labor is not immaterial, that it is heavily implicated in processes of extraction, manufacture, and energy usage. Datacenters are probably making measurable contributions to global warming just on their own, because of the amount of energy that they use, and the amount of heat that they produce. The energy overhead of just running the information infrastructure is not negligible. It is also implicated in e-waste – there is nothing really you can do with electronic devices after you manufacture them because they were not made to be disassembled in any useful way. There are all sorts of elements in these devices; they basically run on the periodic table. ...

There is really something to be said for those modest and uninteresting scholars who represent, for their generation, whatever it is you need to know about X. They have their own little world of petty jealousies, and rivalries, and stuff, but they are scholars of a useful kind. They do not think they are Kant, they can just tell you what Kant did and why it matters. And they know all the other people who do the same thing. That’s it! That is all they are doing. But if you want to do something original that goes off from there, you need that person. And they are often not that exciting. Their writings are not that thrilling. And somebody else will have their job, doing the same thing, when they are no longer here. But we need all that! This is often a part of the bureaucratic side of the university, but I think it is really necessary that people are just repeating the stuff....

We need librarians! They know where stuff is, they can find it for you, so when you need something – you go and ask the librarian. And they often even know what you might want in the future. That is an astonishing thing about the librarians – they know what you want before you know that you want it! I think that different bits of the knowledge apparatus involve a wide range of personality types and knowledge coordination types, and that you can never build a department around any one of them, let alone a university. You are going to need a charismatic self-invented figure who is often not too generous about acknowledging where he got the knowledge from – because they often do not know. They just hope they made that up! But they are just absorbing and impersonalizing that knowledge … I have to plead guilty of being in that mode. In the production of knowledge, however, you depend on all these people who are their fields, who are holding them up, and you depend on all sorts of other labor. So we should really think of knowledge as a vast collaboration, and up to very recently, as a non-commodity kind of production that worked really well. ...

And climate science is also really interesting as a branch of knowledge based on really massive data sets produced by a global infrastructure and global scientific collaboration, right through the Cold War under both difficult and promising circumstances....

So there are significant questions to be asked about data. At the same time, one very important breakthrough from climate science it that other branches of Earth science have also started to quantify complicated processes. The resulting forms of knowledge are based on simulations. It is a simulation science. Even just explaining why it is a science, to people who were not trained in modeling and simulations, is very hard. But it is science, and – within certain limits – it yields important results. So, it turns that Baudrillard (1995 Baudrillard, J. (1995). Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.) was sort of wrong about simulations – if you do it right, they are actually one of the most reliable forms of knowledge that you can produce! But he was also sort of right. The simulation is more real than reality. But epistemologically, you have created a simulation of a thing based on certain simplified assumptions that may or may not be robust enough to give you an account of what is happening....

There is a huge growth in the digital humanities, which I find really interesting. To my knowledge, however, it has not yet produced a really counterintuitive result that is also persuasive. A lot of digital humanities already confirms things that we know through other methods...

Actually, this puts you in the systems that are very gameable. Sometimes digital humanities are almost like a computer game – there is always some way you can power up a career if you just play it the right way, even if no interesting results are really produced. I am often told how important scholars are because of how much grant money they raised, rather than what results they got. You are doing the thing that gives you the points, rather than the thing that would give you the really counterintuitive robust result....

what is the role for people who are able to individualize themselves within that system, and then appear as the unique coordinators and/or specifiers of what knowledge is? This is almost like a form of art. I do not wish to discount why Stephen Hawking is famous in his field – but he is also an artist. He is a performer. He is able to perform a role that coordinates lots of domains of interest around cosmology.
methodology  infrastructure  epistemology  anthropocene  disciplinarity  labor  political_economy  digital_humanities  academia 
8 days ago
How Can Data Collection Be Used to Map City Sounds?
The Citygram-Sound Project—a joint collaboration between NYU Steinhardt, NYU’s Center for Urban Studies and Progress, and CalArts—is trying to combat this gap in available data, by mapping the acoustic soundscapes of cities to better understand how noise pollution affects urban dwellers. ...

Previous efforts to collect sound-related data tried to gather information through a small number of sensors that could could track an expansive area. Park said that this approach was lacking, and that his team has “embraced the idea that more sensors would produce greater spatially density, and and greater temporal density.”

To facilitate this sort of expansive network, Citygram has developed applications that will turn any computing device with an internet connection and a microphone into a sensor that can collect data on acoustic energy. Park said that leveraging public interest would be necessary to creating the spatially and temporally dense sensor network required to accurately map acoustic energy in large spaces.
sensors  sound_space  noise  measurement  smart_cities 
9 days ago
A Brief History of Databases
Databases are mundane, the epitome of the everyday in digital society. Despite the enthusiasm and curiosity that such a ubiquitous and important item merits, arguably the only people to discuss them are those with curiosity enough to thumb through the dry and technical literature that chronicles the database’s ascension.1

Which is a shame, because the use of databases actually illuminates so much about how we come to terms with the world around us. The history of databases is a tale of experts at different times attempting to make sense of complexity. As a result, the first information explosions of the early computer era left an enduring impact on how we think about structuring information. The practices, frameworks, and uses of databases, so pioneering at the time, have since become intrinsic to how organizations manage data. If we are facing another data deluge (for there have been many), it’s different in kind to the ones that preceded it. The speed of today’s data production is precipitated not from a sudden appearance of entirely new technologies but because the demand and accessibility has steadily risen through the strata of society as databases become more and more ubiquitous and essential to aspects of our daily lives. And turns out we’re not drowning in data; we instead appear to have made a sort of unspoken peace with it, just as the Venetians and Dutch before us. We’ve built edifices to house the data and, witnessing that this did little to stem the flow, have subsequently created our enterprises atop and around them. Surveying the history of databases illuminates a lot about how we come to terms with the world around us, and how organizations have come to terms with us.

Unit records, punch cards, paper reels, data drums, file systems, database management systems, relational databases, noSQL
epistemology  computing_history  information  filing  databases 
9 days ago
MoMA Exhibition History
The exhibition history can be searched freely, or browsed in a more structured way by exhibition type or time period. Each exhibition page includes a list of participating artists, when available. Artist pages likewise list all of the exhibitions known to have included that artist, along with any of their works in MoMA’s collection online. Exhibition pages may also include installation views, an annotated checklist of included works, press releases, and the full exhibition catalogue. Exhibitions after 1995 may include exhibition subsites—the first of which was produced for Mutant Materials—as well as slideshows, related videos, and commissioned essays.
archives  museums  exhibition_design 
9 days ago
A human impulse « Eira Tansey
Towards the end of my time living there, many archivists I knew who had survived Katrina were quite resentful of others who did not experience the same trauma demanding them to tell their stories over, and over, and over to fit a particular narrative of resilience. More recently, my friend and fellow archivist Jarrett Drake, who helped create A People’s Archive of Police Violence in Cleveland, has noted that creating documentation around traumatic events has the very real potential to effect significant harm:

To that end, it matters how we create more archives for black lives, and it’s important that we don’t re-traumatize communities or expose them for more white gaze, exploitation, and plunder.

We archivists have an understandable tendency to panic that if we don’t do something RIGHT! THIS! MINUTE! about archiving contemporary events or dealing with the unceasing volumes of records growing daily, that we may lose everything that matters to the world we live in now, and the world we hope will survive in the future. This was particularly evident to me today, since I spent the whole day in a workshop on managing digital archives. Archivists who care for what we call “born-digital” materials are prone to a weird combination of rampant anxiety and cautious optimism. I would call for another strong measure of something else – humility and grace. We need to recognize that the continuance of culture and memory does not depend on us alone. Even if every professional archivist on the planet disappeared tomorrow (and what a sad and sorry state of affairs this would be), I trust that our fellow human beings would find a way to create archives to continue the memory and the culture we champion as our daily reason for going to work, even if we might not recognize them as archives according to the practices and standards we’ve spent centuries formulating. As Mandel made clear, it is the human impulse to remember. When we archivists are doing our jobs right, we cannot and should not claim that we have the one true answer on what it means to remember. Rather, I hope we add to the multitude of ways in which memory persists through a world that ends over and over again, even as we humans somehow seem to keep muddling through it all.
archives  memory  ethics  trauma 
10 days ago
The Elastic System - Data in a Cultural Institution
With an interesting media archaeological angle, the art project creates an alternative visual browsing/search/request system on top of the existing British Library one. As an experimental pilot, this interface (an installation and soon an online version) returns the library to an age of browsable, visual access to books....

While still in the middle of the 19th century the library space could be seen more as a public space with visual access to the collections, the modern storage and delivery systems at the BL created a different sort of a spatial setting. The sheer increase in the number of items in its holdings necessitated this change that could be easily seen as a precursor to the issues the more recent information culture has had to face: lots of stuff that needs to be stored, equipped with an address, and locatable. The short animation Knowledge Migration by Richard Wright is one way to visualize the growth in acquisitions on a geographically mapped timeline. The video is a short animation made by Richard Wright, showing “each item’s place and date of publication (or date of acquisition where available) since the library’s foundation in 1753.” Knowledge Migration used a random sample of 220,000 records from the print catalogue.

The current reality of the British Library as a data institution can be approached through its infrastructure, also the many datasets and systems, including the ABRS (Automated Book Requesting System); this infrastructure includes both the data based systems and digital catalogues, online interface and searchable collections, their automated robotic systems in Boston Spa storage/archive space and also the important human labour that is part of this automated system...

The Elastic System functions like a catalogue, allowing people to visually browse part of the British Library’s collections, something which has not been possible since Watts’ time. When a book is requested it is removed from the “shelf” to reveal a second image underneath, an image that represents the work that goes on in the library’s underground storage basements, the hidden part of the modern requesting system
libraries  labor  bookstacks  interfaces  cataloguing  infrastructure 
10 days ago
TechnologyAndTheLandscape/README.md at master · jeffThompson/TechnologyAndTheLandscape · GitHub
Fences, grafting, E-ZPass, flint knapping, fake tree cellphone towers, geophones, weather sensor networks, bonsai, train tunnels, electronic billboards, aerial kite photography.

This hybrid studio/seminar course examines how technology has impacted our experience of the landscape, from stone tools to the invention of perspective to algorithmic and virtual worlds. Through creative projects, readings, writing, and field visits, we will explore how technology has shaped the landscape, ways of recording it, and our cultural relationship with the natural and built world.
syllabus  fieldwork  field_guide  media_space  infrastructure  deep_time  landscape  walking  mapping 
10 days ago
Digital Collections and Data Science | The Signal
Data labs

A variety of digital research centers, scholars’ labs, digital humanities labs, learning labs and visualization labs are opening in libraries, universities and other institutions. But, despite their variety, these data labs are congealing into identifiable, standardized components that include

A work space
Hardware resources
Network access
Databases and data sets
Teaming researchers with technologists
Powerful processing capability
Software resources and tools
Repositories for end-result data sets.
A work space
A quiet room or rooms should be available for brainstorming. Whiteboards and easel pads enable people to quickly jot down ideas and diagram half-formed thoughts. A brain dump, no matter how unfocused, contains bits of value that may clump into solid ideas and strategies. The room also needs enough tables, chairs and power outlets.

Hardware resources
The lab should provide computer workstations, monitors, laptops, conference phones and possibly a net-cam for video teleconferencing....

Databases and data sets
The data may need to be cleaned. Web harvesting, for example, grabs almost everything related to the seed URL – even with some filtering — and the archive often includes web pages that the researcher does not care about. Databases and data sets, if they are to be accessed over the network, should be small enough so they can be moved about easily. A researcher can also download large databases in advance of the scheduled work time.

Teaming researchers with technologists
In a complimentary collaboration between a researcher or subject matter expert and an information technologist, the researcher conveys what she would like to query the data for and the technologist makes it happen. The researcher may analyze the results and make suggestions to the technologist for refining the results. Some workshops such as Ian Milligan’s web archiving analysis workshop, require their researchers to take a Data Carpentry workshop, which is an overview of computation, programming and analysis methods that a data researcher might need. The researcher could either conduct data analyses for herself or become more conversant in data analysis methods in order to better understand her options and communicate with the technologist.

Powerful processing capability
Processing large data sets foists a load on computational power, so a lab needs ample processing muscle.
libraries  big_data  data_labs  laboratories 
10 days ago
Theaster Gates Contemplates What Creates and Destroys Communities
The show, curated by Elvira Dyangani Ose and entitled True Value, represents Gates’s continued efforts to examine the structures that underpin economic and social value. The artist has tirelessly brought attention to social inequality, the negative effects of urban renewal, and issues around race, immigration, and privilege. Beyond his art practice, Gates is also the founder of the Rebuild Foundation, based in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago, that aims to foster a socially conscientious, culturally driven urban revitalization of underserved neighborhoods.

The centerpiece of True Value is an installation of the same name that recreates a hardware store in Chicago bought by the artist from its owner, Ken, who was otherwise unable to sell it ahead of his retirement, and with no one else to pass it on to. Hooks, screws, washers, and other familiar products have been arranged over vast wooden counters, evoking images of a dying culture that once thrived on independent inner-city stores. The work, situated on the first floor of the Prada’s Podium space, carefully recreates the color-coding of products arranged in hardware stores, lending the setting the feeling of a color field installation. However, far from being an abstraction, such codes have a wholly practical value in the world of the hardware store’s employees and managers.

But the work is by no means an archival attempt to document a bygone era. Rather, by moving the hardware store from Chicago to Prada’s Milan site, Gates invites the people of Milan to reflect on the local gentrification that has radically changed the city in recent preparation for Milan’s 2015 Expo.
hardware_store  installation  theaster_gates  gentrification  tools  color 
10 days ago
An Internet Map To Rule Them All | Popular Science
In a paper that was presented at the Sigcomm conference this summer, researchers have put together a fuller picture of the physical internet--the cell towers, routers, switches, and fiber-optic cables that make the World Wide Web work. They ended up creating the first detailed, public map of Internet infrastructure....

The researchers combined data from companies like Comcast and Verizon with data from the Internet Atlas project, and then added in information found in public records to build a U.S. map of the long-haul fiber-optic wired Internet--which is the static underlying infrastructure that connects cities across the country. The amount of data combing and combining they did is impressive, to say the least....

The resulting map is equally interesting. The northeast is densely packed, while the western plains are sparsely covered. The map above shows that the Internet infrastructure follows closely with interstate roadway routes, and less so with railways.
They were also able to determine that 89.67 percent of conduits were shared between at least two Internet service providers, and more than 50 percent were shared by at least four ISPs, finding that it was actually uncommon for a conduit to not be shared among more ISPs. To achieve better connectivity, they suggest cutting down on sharing, and strategically deploying new fiber optic routes.
mapping  infrastructure  internet  networks  path_dependency 
11 days ago
40 maps that explain the internet
e internet increasingly pervades our lives, delivering information to us no matter where we are. It takes a complex system of cables, servers, towers, and other infrastructure, developed over decades, to allow us to stay in touch with our friends and family so effortlessly. Here are 40 maps that will help you better understand the internet — where it came from, how it works, and how it's used by people around the world.
mapping  infrastructure  fiber_optics  data_centers  internet  networks 
11 days ago
Against Theory | The Brooklyn Rail
A simulacrum of philosophy has risen in university departments all over the world: theory, fake philosophy for non-philosophers. We are not talking of the theories of some great author, since, among the most acclaimed “theorists” there are, too, philosophers in the proper sense, and even in the philosophical school, which has taken for itself the name of “Critical Theory:” but of a sort of collective thinking, of a koine, well-known to anyone who teaches in a field of the humanities at a university: a mix of ideas and phrases coming from varied disciplines (mainly philosophy, psychoanalysis, and sociology), refer to a canon of authors disparate but grouped under a generic “radical” tension (Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Gramsci, Derrida, Lacan, Foucault, Deleuze, Bourdieu, Agamben, Said, Spivak, Butler, Žižek, the omnipresent Benjamin, the newcomer, Latour) blended into one melting pot, in varying doses and combinations.

Formed in a DIY fashion inside a limited thematic agenda—power, gender, desire, the subject and the multitudes, the dominated-dominating couple—theory is defined and recognized mainly by its pragmatic use. Those who cultivate it, coming from other disciplinary sectors—mostly comparative literature, art theory and criticism, and cultural studies—seek to justify their own research inside a wider and more “committed” framework, that is programmatically turned towards the challenge of the present. The success of the line of thought called “biopolitics” highlights clearly this phenomenon. The notion which, in Foucault, had a fully philosophical dimension, has become a marketing product, designed for American and European departments of comparative literature.

Differently from philosophy, which functions under long, frustrating timings, and very rarely reaches any certainty, theory is quick, voracious, sharp, and superficial: its model is the “reader,” a book made to help people make quotations from books that are not read. Exactly for that reason, it functions as a common language and a ground for transdisciplinary aggregation. Those who teach risky subjects such as aesthetics and political philosophy have begun to worry a long time ago.

The main weakness of theory is the loss of all the specific attributes, which have allowed to define philosophy in its different traditions: it does not have the rigor, the clarity, the solidity of definitions and argumentations, which characterizes the practice from a formal viewpoint; it does not have the ability to raise truly defamiliarizing questions, and, above all, it does not have a taste for a passionate search for truth. Not only does theory not exceed the doxa, but it produces a second level thereof. Therefrom comes the paradox of a “radical” gesture, which becomes a habitus, conformist and predictable. We already know how a book of theory will end before having opened it; and it is exactly this sense of acknowledgement, of moral acknowledgement of one’s own certainties and of one’s own best intentions, which guarantees its success. Theory makes one feel fully at home in one’s fake conscience....

neither should be we let believe that philosophy can be reduced to a supermarket for ideas, pieces that could be assembled as pleases, at home, like Ikea furniture. Instead of engaging with postmodern DIY, it would be more formative to teach to think with depth and rigor about a problem, to develop completely an intuition or a hypothesis, guided by a classic and a good teacher
academia  theory 
11 days ago
Ancient Syrian Sites: A Different Story of Destruction by Hugh Eakin | The New York Review of Books
ven before ISIS had been chased out, Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s director-general of antiquities and museums in Damascus, was vowing that the temples would be “rebuilt” and that the ancient city would “rise again.” Almost immediately, world leaders and international officials clamored to take part. On the day of the recapture, Russian President Vladimir Putin was on the phone to Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, offering to help in the “preservation and reconstruction of the cultural heritage of Syria.” Over the next few days, Germany’s Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation offered “every form of help” to the reconstruction effort, while a team of Polish archaeologists was flown in and given a few hours to “assess” the site; and a US State Department–funded monitoring project released a report on the damage sustained.

A few weeks later, in London’s Trafalgar Square, a group of experts from Oxford’s Institute of Digital Archaeology erected a replica of the destroyed triumphal arch—designed with the aid of a 3D computer model. And then on May 5, at Palmyra itself, in an act of cultural propaganda that seemed explicitly aimed at contrasting the jihadists’ brutality with the victors’ enlightenment, the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev led St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Orchestra in an open-air concert at Palmyra’s still-standing Roman amphitheater. ...

Conspicuously absent from these events were the residents of Palmyra themselves. In 2011, the modern city of Tadmor (also the original name of the ancient city), which is adjacent to the archaeological site, had a population of some 50,000 residents; in the first years of the war it swelled to as many as 60,000 or 70,000, as refugees from other areas sought protection there. As the Syrian government militarized the city and then abandoned it to ISIS, however, all but a few thousand of the population fled, seeking escape from fast-deteriorating living conditions and ISIS’s rule of terror. Now, with much of the city reduced to rubble, and provision of security, food, and water still far from certain, few have been able to return. “The city is empty. Most of the houses of modern Palmyrenes have been destroyed,” Cheikmous Ali, a Syrian archaeologist who lives in exile in France, told me in June....

For all the pageantry, the retaking of Palmyra has served as a powerful reminder of how detached from reality the international campaign to save Syria’s endangered cultural heritage has been. Chastened by the damage wrought in recent wars in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mali, Western leaders, cultural officials, UNESCO, and even the UN Security Council have for several years now devoted unprecedented attention to the threats to sites in Syria by ISIS and other extremist groups. Millions of dollars have been spent to document, with the best satellite technology available and other resources, the current condition of archaeological monuments in the areas of conflict; legal scholars have called for war crimes prosecutions against those who intentionally damage historic sites and monuments; while top officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and French President François Hollande, have long warned of the cost of Western inaction. Above all, a continuous series of initiatives have been aimed at cracking down on the international trade in looted Syrian antiquities, often described as a major revenue source for ISIS.

But there has been depressingly little to show for these efforts. ISIS documents recovered by US Special Forces in May 2015 suggested that the group has an organized system for imposing taxes on the trade in looted antiquities, and the plunder of sites continues to be a very serious concern. However, so far, few Syrian objects of significant value have been identified in the West, and the overall looting situation, in which many different groups, including the regime, appear to be involved, remains murky. (The US government recently estimated that ISIS has earned “several million dollars from antiquities sales”—making it a modest part of its overall income—rather than the tens or hundreds of millions that have often been mentioned in the press.)...

As long ago as December 2014, well before ISIS captured Palmyra, the United Nations released a report showing that nearly three hundred historic sites in Syria had been damaged since the beginning of the war, most of them by groups other than ISIS. Of these, twenty-four had been “totally destroyed” by different militias or by the Assad regime itself, including twenty-two in Aleppo alone. As of this year, all of the six sites in Syria that were supposedly protected by UNESCO World Heritage status have been damaged, including, along with Palmyra, the Krak des Chevaliers, Syria’s most important crusader castle, the remains of the Hellenistic city of Dura-Europos, on the Euphrates, and the Roman city of Bosra. ...

For many Syrians, the international response has been baffling. While speaking constantly of ISIS, whose destructive acts they can do little about, Western leaders and cultural officials have mostly overlooked the grave damage that is occurring in many other parts of Syria—often in areas where preventive steps can be taken. And for all the extraordinary expressions of concern for the fate of the country’s museums, monuments, and artwork, hardly anything has been said about the relation of these sites to the communities surrounding them, which are often deeply attached to them. (One of the few Western scholars who has is the historian Glen Bowersock, who observed last year in the NYR Daily that there is a “tradition of Palmyrene achievements that really means something to the Arab world.”1)

Even as UNESCO has begun speaking of the destruction of cultural sites and shrines as a “crime against humanity,” the human beings who live closest to them—particularly in opposition areas held by neither ISIS nor the Syrian government, where much of the conflict has played out—have largely been ignored. (Because it is required to work with the recognized sovereign government in Damascus, UNESCO is nearly powerless in the areas that most need its assistance.) ...

In the account of Palmyra that has been told by the Syrian government and repeated in the international press, the devastation of the site began with the arrival of the jihadists in May 2015. Before the takeover, Syrian officials had managed to remove a large number of free-standing sculptures and antiquities, and Tadmor, despite the collapse of its tourist economy, was considered a safe haven. Then ISIS came and began blowing up monuments and staging mass executions in the site’s Roman amphitheater.

According to Syrians themselves, however, the story is more complicated. On May 20–21, 2015, when ISIS militants took over Tadmor—a predominantly Sunni town on a highly strategic road to the capital—they did not, as many world leaders and Western archaeologists expected, immediately attack the ancient site. ... in early 2012, as the war became more violent, Syrian forces turned the ancient site and the town, which had considerable sympathy for the opposition, into a garrison. (One local rebel group called itself the “Grandchildren of Zenobia,” in honor of the third-century Palmyrene Queen Zenobia, who resisted both Roman and Persian imperial rule.) It was during this time that the ancient city was initially damaged—by the Syrian army itself....

Of all the terrible attacks on cultural heritage by ISIS, none has shaken the world more than the beheading, on August 18, 2015, of Khaled al-Asaad, the archaeologist who had been the director of Palmyra for forty years, from 1963 to 2003.3 Yet the fate of nearly a dozen other Syrians who worked at the site and its museum, and who also were under threat for their lives, has been almost entirely overlooked. Among them was a woman who managed the database of the Palmyra museum, as well as a man who worked at the entrance of the archaeological park and another who had been a docent at one of the temples destroyed by ISIS. ...

In the eighteen months since ISIS circulated a horrific video showing militants smashing statues at the Mosul Museum, and then, four months later, took over Palmyra itself, a powerful view of cultural heritage destruction in Syria and Iraq has taken shape: that it is a deliberate strategy, perfected by ISIS, aimed above all at assaulting Western values and terrorizing local populations. According to the April report “#CultureUnderThreat: Recommendations for the U.S. Government,” sponsored by the Middle East Institute, the Asia Society, and the Antiquities Coalition:

Daesh [ISIS], the Al-Nusra Front, and Al-Qaeda have now institutionalized cultural crimes as an instrument of war, using them to erase the collective memory, culture, and accomplishments of a people and replace it with their own ideology....

in February 2015, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution banning all trade in Syrian antiquities, while the US Senate passed a similar bill in April 2016. At the same time, legal scholars and some cultural property specialists, citing the unprecedented documentation we now have of such acts of destruction, have pushed for expanded powers to prosecute them as war crimes when the Syrian conflict is over....

In late August, the International Criminal Court in The Hague obtained a landmark guilty plea from a Malian jihadist for the destruction of shrines of Muslim saints in Timbuktu in 2012 and 2013. Yet neither Syria nor Iraq is party to the ICC, putting the prospect of similar prosecutions for acts in those countries in doubt.

Meanwhile, the few preventive measures that have been widely discussed have proven impracticable. In November 2015, French President François Hollande announced that France was ready to provide a “refuge” for threatened Syrian antiquities, seemingly unaware of the apparent implication that his … [more]
archaeology  preservation  digital_archaeology  palmyra  antiquities 
12 days ago
Vrc - Columbia GSAPP
The Visual Resources Collection (VRC) is a student-run facility providing GSAPP students and faculty with more than 200,000 images in digital, 35mm slide, and lantern slide formats. Its collection also includes VHS and DVD recordings of over twenty years of lectures and events held at Columbia GSAPP.
archives  presentation_images  architectural_history  media_archaeology 
12 days ago
Faculty Are Laborers, Not 'Knowledge Workers' | Just Visiting
Knowledge workers like engineers or architects produce things (i.e., building plans) that others will pay for.

This is not true for most faculty.[1] Most academic research is part of a “gift economy” – where something is given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards – rather than a free market capitalist one. While academic publishers make money from faculty research – by selling it back to libraries; what a deal! – they rely on the institutions themselves to make the economics of the gift economy work by bestowing increased compensation and security upon tenurable[2] faculty.
But we should not kid ourselves. In a capitalist system, rather than a gift economy, that vast majority of that knowledge work has almost zero economic value.[3]
For a long time, faculty were insulated from these realities because as a culture we agreed to value knowledge for its own sake, and even subsidize the creation of that knowledge with public funds. People were willing to allow college faculty to exist inside that gift economy.
But the times have changed.
The adjunctification of faculty has proven it is not necessary to produce faculty knowledge work if you are going to teach credit-bearing courses. In fact, it’s shown that the economics of the gift economy are unsustainable.
Even the value of “prestige” is now open to discussion.
academia  labor 
12 days ago
Programming Design Systems
This book is the result of a simple question: What happens when we try to redefine the graphic design curriculum using a programming language as the tool for the designer? There are several reasons why this is a powerful concept. First of all, graphic designers have always used systems in their work. We use grid systems to balance our layouts and color circles to pick colors with proper distance to each other. History has shown us that systems can cure the fear of the blank canvas, and it is a powerful concept to encode these ideas into actual software. Second, code enables designers to do things they simply couldn't do before. Variations of a design can be tested much faster during the prototyping phase, and randomization can be used to reveal designs that the designer would never have created with a pencil. Third, it enables designers to create dynamic systems that can change their designs based on time, place, or use. Throwing a design over the wall for production is a bad legacy of the printed page, and there is no reason for the design process to end with the birth of a product.

This book is structured like an introductory text about graphic design, focusing on the elements of visual design and how they relate to algorithmic design. The book is written for designers wanting to become better programmers and vice versa. As you go through the text, you will notice that it starts with the very basics. The code will be simple and the exercises will be very constrained. If this feels simplistic, keep reading. We will soon enough touch upon more challenging themes, but these basic concepts lay the foundation for some of the more complex ideas. At the end of the book, it is my hope that you have learned two new skills: How to use code to create new and interesting graphic designs, and how to evaluate whether these designs can be considered successful.
programming  graphic_design  code 
15 days ago
Can we outsmart the smart city — R / D
As it turns out, however, there are at least four substantial reasons for thinking the paradigm itself is fundamentally flawed: the inevitable contingency of data collection; the questionable integrity of the parties we entrust with the stewardship of data; the low likelihood that any human community would ever permit policy to be derived from data transparently and without bias; and the inherently technocratic, top-down nature of this ambition in the first place....

This, of course, is the very furthest thing from the way data is invariably depicted in the literature of the smart city: as something serene, mechanical and immaculate, existing on a plane far removed from the grubby details of human desire. Proponents actually argue that "the data is the data", often in so many words.

Have they forgotten that you can get a different air quality reading for a neighbourhood by moving the sensor a single metre higher or lower? Never learned that backfiring trucks and holiday bottlerockets can all too easily trip audio surveillance systems designed to detect the signature of small-arms fire? Failed to understand that you can garner a different response to a survey by altering the wording or even the sequence of a question ever so slightly?

The fact is that the data is never just the data, that knowing something about the circumstances of its collection is critical to its accurate interpretation. And yet these are just the circumstances that are routinely effaced from the data-driven systems places like Songdo or Masdar are predicated on, and which IBM and Hitachi and Siemens and Cisco want to sell to the cities we live in....

Perhaps you have sufficient confidence in democratic government and the rule of law. But what about when the datasets on which the tools rely pass into other hands – whether through systems intrusion, corporate acquisition or simple human clumsiness? Our touchstone here should be the Dutch civil registry of 1936, tabulated on Hollerith machines which immediately fell under German control after the invasion of 1940.The same information that was innocuous when provided to the Bureau of Statistics turned out to be lethal in the hands of the Gestapo.

There's one final point to make, and it's simply this: that it strains credibility to believe that anything as sensitive as municipal resource allocation would ever be settled by purely computational means. Far too much is at stake — too much money, power, pride and ego. At least, this is what the relevant history suggests, loud and clear....

Assume that custody of the data remains in trustworthy hands, that useful models can be built from it, and that municipal managers can be found who are sufficiently coldblooded that they will act in accordance with the output of those models, regardless of the implications. What possible grounds could anyone sane have for objecting to such a circumstance?

None, perhaps – unless, that is, you place value on dissent, contestation and negotiation as vital elements of democratic decision-making, for it is precisely these qualities that are designed out of the smart city and its functioning. As things stand now, at least, the data-driven paradigm has no way of modelling such qualities that does not construct them as a disruption to the smooth and untroubled flow of operations. But this is to display a profound contempt for politics, and it ought to prompt the gravest misgivings in the heart of anyone who cherishes great cities precisely as incubators of heterogeneous vitality, rather than simply as processes to be optimised.
smart_cities  data_curation  preservation  methodology  big_data 
15 days ago
Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene
Species Man does not make history.

(3) Man plus Tool does not make history. That is the story of History human exceptionalists tell.

(4) That History must give way to geostories, to Gaia stories, to symchthonic stories; terrans do webbed, braided, and tentacular living and dying in sympoietic multispecies string figures; they do not do History.

(5) The human social apparatus of the Anthropocene tends to be top-heavy and bureaucracy prone. Revolt needs other forms of action and other stories for solace, inspiration, and effectiveness.

(6) Despite its reliance on agile computer modeling and autopoietic systems theories, the Anthropocene relies too much on what should be an “unthinkable” theory of relations, namely the old one of bounded utilitarian individualism — preexisting units in competition relations that take up all the air in the atmosphere (except, apparently, carbon dioxide).
anthropocene  anthropocentrism  ecology  feminism  tools 
16 days ago
When your boss is an algorithm
Like many experienced couriers, he left his job with a different delivery company because Uber was offering better pay. Not any more. “They make us feel like they can just use us and destroy us and create new tools,” he says. Imran Siddiqui, one of the leaders of the protest, says he feels bad because he had encouraged other couriers to sign up for UberEats before they changed the pay. “If they don’t resolve this strike it’s going to spread like a fire.”

It’s hard to spread the word when you don’t even know who your colleagues are. But the couriers have an idea. They open their apps as customers and order food to be delivered to them. As UberEats couriers arrive with pizzas at the place their app has sent them, the strikers tell them about the protest and urge them to join in. Algorithmic management, meet algorithmic rebellion.

There are no good estimates on the global scale of the gig economy but in the US there are about 800,000 people earning money this way — via online intermediaries such as TaskRabbit, Lyft, Uber and Deliveroo — without being anyone’s employee. The term “algorithmic management” was coined last year by academics at the Carnegie Mellon University Human-Computer Interaction Institute, and it is this innovation, they argue, that makes the gig economy possible. For companies like Uber, which aspires to “make transportation as reliable as running water”, algorithmic management solves a problem: how to instruct, track and evaluate a crowd of casual workers you do not employ, so they deliver a responsive, seamless, standardised service.

Those deploying algorithmic management say it creates new employment opportunities, better and cheaper consumer services, transparency and fairness in parts of the labour market that are characterised by inefficiency, opacity and capricious human bosses. But a summer of wildcat strikes in London’s gig economy shows that some workers are beginning to chafe against the contradictions of being “their own boss” yet tightly managed by the smartphones in their pockets. They might be free to choose when to work but not how to work or, crucially, how much they are paid.
labor  management  algorithms  big_data 
16 days ago
The Perfect Con | e-flux
The presence of artists on container ships, at first bedazzling, has become the new norm within the logistical routine of global commerce, of which the container ship itself is a living exhibit. Having been on a circular route for ten years, the cargo ship I sailed on, and any other ship like it, has surely amassed a vast permanent collection on the subject. This collection could constitute a floating museum, or rather an extraterritorial floating museum complex.

A museum of the ideal citizen, with a particularly strong selection of archives on the trajectory of the Ukrainian-Russian-Israeli engineer-mechanic who today occupies so many engine rooms on ships.

A museum of the flawed concept of time. The time of day doesn’t just shift back and forth as the ship sails. Rather, the very concepts of time and value change amidst different nationalities whose work contracts operate on different terms, at varying pay rates unadjusted for inflation since the nineteenth century.  

A museum of objects for hyper-productivity, of institutional design, with each cup carefully labeled, each drawer positioned exactly in accordance with rank.

A museum of a relational order-space, a space that is defined by the coexistence of the things it contains. A space in which nothing is allowed to be useless or out of place. An order that follows the militant power system on board, which actually extends into a twenty-four-hour lifestyle.

A museum of imperial cartography, of military geography, of private security industry booms, past and future.

A museum of indifference; of boredom and casual racism; of pornography, etymology, cultural relativism, and the “nominal” family of men, all formed through shared meals and video games, without women; of chameleon flags of convenience, creative bureaucracy, and the drum beat of Hyundai engine techno music drenched in sweat and blood and crushed bones....

As it stands, when an artist is invited to sail aboard an armed container ship and to turn the event into PR, she is indeed just an actress playing an artist in an advertisement, a reality exhausted by its commercial function. A container-ship residency extends the logic of containerization to art, artists, and their easily transported institutional critiques. Putting things in readily stackable boxes limits the ability of artists and dockworkers alike to interfere with the accumulation process.

And that’s the con in the “perfect con.” While such opportunities might provide a temporary fix for an artist, the means of their production prevent the creation of any actually existing work of art. Instead, “experience” is accepted by all parties as the interchangeable currency of the arrangement. Any artwork is a byproduct, an escapist entertainment infamous for the crew for exactly a week until it is discharged for a sequel. This byproduct—however provocative, radical, or ambitious—is secondary to the PR effort, and to the contractual fine print in which the artist not only tacitly agrees with questionable business practices, but also elevates them, usually for far less than what is promised by a “like-for-like” market exchange. And we’re told so to our faces, if not by our ever-forgiving and confused audiences, then by the sailors and the art-loving oligarchs themselves.
infrastructural_tourism  artists_residencies  globalization  temporality  logistics  containers 
17 days ago
On the Social Media Ideology | e-flux
Social networking is much more than just a dominant discourse. We need to go beyond text and images and include its software, interfaces, and networks that depend on a technical infrastructure consisting of offices and their consultants and cleaners, cables and data centers, working in close concert with the movements and habits of the connected billions. Academic internet studies circles have shifted their attention from utopian promises, impulses, and critiques to “mapping” the network’s impact. From digital humanities to data science we see a shift in network-oriented inquiry from Whether and Why, What and Who, to (merely) How. From a sociality of causes to a sociality of net effects. A new generation of humanistic researchers is lured into the “big data” trap, and kept busy capturing user behavior whilst producing seductive eye candy for an image-hungry audience (and vice versa).

Without noticing, we have arrived at a new, yet unnamed, stage: the hegemonic era of social media platforms as ideology. Products and services are of course usually subject to ideology. We have learned to “read” ideology into them. But at what point can we convincingly say they have become ideology themselves? It is one thing to state that Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) is an ideologue, working in the service of US intelligence agencies, or to document community or political groups using his social media platform in ways unplanned or counter to expectations inherent to its design. It is quite another to work on a comprehensive social media theory. It is a crucial time for critical theory to reclaim lost territory and bring on exactly this: a shift from the quantitative to the qualitative, uncomputable impacts of this ubiquitous formatting of the social. ...

Treating social media as ideology means observing how it binds together media, culture, and identity into an ever-growing cultural performance (and related “cultural studies”) of gender, lifestyle, fashion, brands, celebrity, and news from radio, television, magazines, and the web—all of this imbricated with the entrepreneurial values of venture capital and start-up culture, with their underside of declining livelihoods and growing inequality. ...

So, what will happen when the audience becomes too much to deal with? More important than deconstructing surface appearances is, in Chun’s words, to argue that “ideology persists in one’s actions rather than in one’s beliefs. The illusion of ideology exists not at the level of knowledge but rather at the level of doing.” Here, the rhetoric of “interactivity” obfuscates more than it reveals about the way users negotiate interfaces; since the computational and control mechanisms of interfaces are hidden, users cannot technically “interact” with them directly enough to understand them. The like economy “behind” our smart devices is a particularly relevant social media example. What, for instance, will happen when we reveal that we have never believed in our own likes? That we never liked you in the first place?

Let’s appraise the bots and the like economy for what they are: key features of platform capitalism aimed at capturing value behind the backs of their users. Social media are a matter of neither taste nor lifestyle, in the sense of “consumer choice.” They are our technological mode of the social. In the previous century we would never have regarded writing letters or making a telephone call as matters of taste. They were “cultural techniques,” massive flows of symbolic exchange. Soon after its initial emergence , social media transformed from a hype and online service into essential infrastructure, just like letters and telegrams and the telephone used to be. It is precisely at this juncture of “becoming infrastructure” that we (re)open the ideology file.
social_media  ideology  infrastructure 
17 days ago
A Day in the Life of a Digitization Expert | The Getty Iris
Hundreds of thousands of artworks, objects, books, and records in the Getty’s collections have been photographed and posted online. But how do objects go from the physical world to your screen? People. Holly McGee is one of them. Here’s what a typical day in her life at work is like.

A trained librarian and archivist, on any given day Holly is either photographing a single book or performing image processing. She can typically digitize two books a week from cover to cover. On photography days she meticulously sets up her station, checking the camera’s focal range and performing a color calibration, and then gets to work shooting hundreds of pages.

Thanks to a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Holly has been hard at work on the letter copying books of M. Knoedler & Co., which fill 205 volumes and span six decades, from 1878 to 1940. These books are a spyglass into the inner workings of one of America’s preeminent art galleries at the height of its influence. But with crumbling leather bindings and pages as thin as insect wings, the books have been deemed too fragile to be handled by researchers—so it’s up to digitization assistants to translate every outgoing letter into digital facsimiles for scholars to virtually explore.

Holly graciously invited us to shadow her for a day to see how this work actually gets done.
archives  digitization  labor  photography  color 
18 days ago
Cooper-Hewitt Museum Digitizes All Its Holdings – artnet News
THE DAILY PIC (#1629): Okay, so this is as much fun as I’ve had in ages. (Hey, I’m an art critic). I’ve been clicking on the “random” button on the collection page at the Web site of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt design museum, and it yielded this page of old buttons. (Also, a piece of old Italian lace, a deeply weird arrowhead – I think it was for bird-hunting – and a Williams-Sonoma shopping bag from the late 20th century.)

Last week, the museum announced that it had finished an amazing campaign to digitize all 200,000 objects in its collection, which means that I’ve now checked out something like one two-thousandth of its holdings.

Generally speaking, I have mixed feelings about museums’ collection sites: There’s a real danger that the images on them might replace the actual objects in the hearts and minds of visitors. But, especially in the case of a radically mixed collection like the Cooper-Hewitt’s, there’s also a sense that surfing the Web site gives a lot of the same exploratory pleasure that the great old, pre-blockbuster museums used to give, when they just expected you to wander and wonder among their endless displays of objects. (The Victoria and Albert Museum in London still gives maybe the world’s greatest example of this kind of pleasure.)

The great thing about museums of design and decorative arts is that they appeal to such a wide range of tastes and interests, since almost all of us have long exposure to, and strong feelings about, the everyday objects around us.
museums  collections  digitization  things  design_history 
18 days ago
Who controls the internet? Ted Cruz’s fantasy vs. the reality | Fusion
One part of the internet they built was DNS, that method for assigning domain names to IP addresses–DNS is why you can type “google.com” instead of Like many core internet protocols, DNS doesn’t lend itself to concise explanations (lucky for you, DNSimple made a nice comic book about it), but for this story the important thing to understand is that at its heart there’s a root zone file, which is basically a database for every existing top-level domain...

Before the creation of ICANN, in the 1980s and into the 1990s, IANA amounted to basically two people: internet history luminaries Jon Postel and Joyce Reynolds, who worked at USC’s Information Sciences Institute under contract to DARPA (Postel tends to be lionized in these histories more frequently than Reynolds, in part because his legacy on internet history extends into the earliest beginnings of the ARPANet and the development of core internet and email protocols. But this wouldn’t be a tech history story without a sidelined woman behind the scenes! I digress.)....

Before all the newbs showed up, the task of building the technical and infrastructural foundations of the internet and the web belonged to semi-informal, technically-minded groups like the Internet Engineering Task Force and the World Wide Web Consortium. These groups defined the protocols and standards that remain the foundation of today’s very different, commercially-charged internet, and they did so in a collegial environment–everyone knew each other, and everyone shared similar technical goals....

A lot of those early concerns were wrapped up in top-level domains–a pragmatic design choice that, to IANA’s great annoyance, quickly became a political one. Translating IP addresses into words means selecting words. Technologists aren’t that concerned with what lies on the other side of the veil of language, but governments and corporations sure are.

Thanks to a design decision that put URLs front and center in early browser design, domain names were quickly transformed from merely a workaround for the limitations of human memory into valuable internet real estate. The market for this new real estate was initially controlled by a single private company called Network Solutions. Between 1991 and 1999, Network Solutions (today called Verisign) had a complete monopoly on the sale of .com, .org, and .net domain names as a result of taking a federal government contract to maintain the root server. (Verisign still is the primary seller of .com domains.) ....

That ICANN exists essentially as a non-governmental extension of the US government has understandably annoyed many foreign governments. It also makes a fair amount of money attending to this highly political infrastructure; it earns a fraction of all domain name sales and collects hefty fees from applicants for new top-level domains.
internet  infrastructure  protocol  naming  archives 
19 days ago
Rare Book Feast #1: Herbert Bayer’s Book of Maps on Vimeo
Kicking off this series is the “World Geo-Graphic Atlas” (1953) designed by Herbert Bayer with Martin Rosenzweig, Henry Gardiner and Masato Nakagawa: 2,200 diagrams, graphs, charts, symbols spanning 368 pages about our planet earth. All done before compute
geography  atlas  graphic_design  books  material_texts  infographics  mapping  cartography  geology 
20 days ago
What environmentalists get wrong about e-waste in West Africa • The Berkeley Blog
This depiction of Ghana’s computer import industry relied on images from a single provocative location — the dump on the edge of a scrap metal market. What the imagery omits is the numerous links in the chain leading up to it: the port at Tema, where containers of electronics arrive, as well as the computer refurbisher’s shops, secondhand computer stores, homes, offices, schools and internet cafes where the computers are used, and the nearby scrap metal market where they are broken down for their reusable and recyclable components....

We can start by considering the processes in place — for handling imports, taxation, the value of goods — and to think further about the plausibility of such a massive amount of pure waste coming into the country. To start I would point out that the computers that enter Ghana’s port are assumed to be salable (there is no category in the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System used at ports worldwide for something called electronic waste). Computers are consequently taxed in Ghana at 12.5 percent, according to their presumed sales value as working machines. As a consequence it is far more lucrative to sell secondhand computers than to take them to a dump. A simple perusal of the broader landscape, visiting almost anywhere else in Accra apart from Agbogbloshie shows the burgeoning consumption of electronics of all sorts by Ghanaians in homes, offices, shops and internet cafes — desktop and laptop computers, CRT and LCD monitors, televisions, refrigerators, stereos and innumerable mobile phones....

What I observed was computer reuse, refurbishment, recycling and other feats of local technical ingenuity. These feats are being threatened by misguided environmental activism that has been influential all they way up to the United Nations Environmental Program and Interpol. The approaches inspired by this misinformed activism will curb e-waste only minimally, if at all, and along the way are likely to harm the efforts of importers, refurbishers, and recyclers in Ghana....

The definition of the e-waste problem by journalists and activists has rarely accounted for the distinctions Ghanaians themselves draw between what is reusable, what is valuable, and what is truly waste. And the full set of issues at stake in this import process are much broader than this issue of waste handling alone. There are benefits to local technical skill development of these computer imports. There is the employment of Ghanaian technicians who repair and refurbish nonworking machines locally. There is the technology access and utility that reused machines are providing to the general population in Ghana.
Africa  electronics  ewaste  recycling  maintenance  repair 
20 days ago
Top Ten Words I Am Sick of Seeing on Artists Statements - Andrea Liu
liminal space

“in its final iteration”

itinerant practice

“rupture” or “suture”


the performative dimension of language

seeks to negotiate the tension between X and Y

seeks to problematize

a continually deferred relationship

collaborative duo

subverting the traditional subject/object relationship...

liminal space

“in its final iteration”

itinerant practice

“rupture” or “suture”


the performative dimension of language

seeks to negotiate the tension between X and Y

seeks to problematize

a continually deferred relationship

collaborative duo

subverting the traditional subject/object relationship

multi-channel sound and video installation

the ongoing interplay between physical site and displacement

temporal/spatial dynamics

the affective dimension

the dialogical relationship between

a hybrid space

re-purposed materials

i am intrigued by

“basically i am really just an inventor” (almost always said by heterosexual male artist)

Holiday Sale! Artist Statement Templates!

TEMPLATE 1: The Trauma/ Disaster/Beauty Artist Statement $11.99

Step 1: talk about how beauty and horror are intertwined

Step 2: use phrase “comparatively restrained, but no less powerful”

Step 3: use words “elegiacal” and “haunting”

Step 4: describe narratives of “identity, mortality, loss and love”....

unsettling dance of seduction, power, trust, tenderness, loss, and betrayal” $2.99: “at once fairy-tale bucolic and fraught with terror” $4.99 “domestic and gallery, figuration and abstraction, performance and stasis, fiction and non-fiction.” $1.99: “vanishing point of history” $2.99: “where emotions are clad in artifice and imagination” $3.99: “uncanny performance of media narrative as childlike theater” (Bullshit Rating: 83) $2.99: “explore the limits of knowing and not-knowing” $4.99: “the gap between necessity and desire, practicality and fiction” (Bullshit Rating: 97) $3.99 “collapses boundaries between performance, sculpture, architecture, and documentation” $5.99: “via acts of estrangement, reversal, ritualized behavior, and fragmentation” $2.99: minimal/ornate, industrial/handmade, comic/tragic, progress/destruction, and attraction/repulsion. $3.99: deceptively terse, inconspicuous, and emphatically un-heroic (Bullshit Rating: 78) $1.99: comparatively restrained, but no less powerful (Bullshit Rating: 94) 99 Cent Pile!!!EVERYTHING IS IN THIS PILE 99 CENTS, LIMITED TIME ONLY! multilayered works
UMS  parody  advising  artists_statement  discourse  humor 
21 days ago
Beatrice Glow at APA Institute
While in residence at the A/P/A Institute at NYU, I will research the social history of plants via spice routes and botanical expeditions to create a multiplatform project, Rhunhattan. I hope to expose the broken links of collective memory and the skewed politics of the archive that haunt the present like a repulsive perfume. I envision creating psychogeographic and immersive tech experiences, concocting the scents of colonial commerce, and reinterpreting chinoiserie to conjure the transhistoric weight of spice, color, and silk that have propelled forward countless caravans and ships in the birthing of imperial globalization.
classification  sensory_history  botany  exploration  colonialism  smell 
21 days ago
Data Physicalization - Data Physicalization Wiki
Physical representations of data have existed for thousands of years. Now, with advances in digital fabrication, actuated tangible interfaces, and shape-changing displays, a new area of research is emerging: data physicalization.

Data physicalization aims to help people explore, understand, and communicate data using computer-supported physical data representations. We call these representations physicalizations, analogously to visualizations – their purely visual counterpart. This wiki provides reading material and a forum for all interested in this topic.
data_visualization  data_physicalization  multimodal_scholarship 
21 days ago
Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures | ISSN 1555-9351
Fluxkits are "small boxes of inexpensive materials assembled for personal use" made during the 1960s and '70s by George Maciunas, Ay-O, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Alice Hutchins, Alison Knowles, Carla Liss, Larry Miller, Nam June Paik, Mieko Shiomi, Yoshimasa Wada, Robert Watts, and other Fluxists (Higgins 2002, 34). From a can of beans packed with facts about beans printed on small scrolls fastened with elastic (Knowles 1965), to a nest of thirty-four boxes cut and folded from only two sheets of paper (Shiomi 1965), to contiguous plastic compartments filled with light bulbs and candles (Watts 1972), they are textures of everyday life. Maciunas called them boxed anthologies. He curated, published, and mailed them as "Fluxus Editions," with the first one (1964-65) containing contributions from thirty-nine artists. He branded them, too, designing over sixty labels for various kits: Hutchins's Jewelry Fluxkit (1968), Liss's Sacrament Fluxkit (1969), and Wada's Smoke Fluxkit (1969), for instance. Later, Knowles (2011) said Fluxkits "contradict framed pieces on a wall."...

But the Kits for Cultural History are not art, nor do they aim to be. Perhaps they are best understood as small boxes of inexpensive materials assembled for media history. They become arguments and amusement at once. As arguments, they contradict articles in a journal. They fabricate their own evidence off the page for assembly. Or, in scholarly terms, they identify gaps in material culture and prototype the absences for examination. Examples include prototyping early wearable technologies—referred to as "electro-mobile jewelry" during the Victorian period—inaccessible in today's memory institutions....

As with any Fluxkit, the Kits are arranged and distributed in tactile boxes, usually made of wood. The wood is laser-cut, and the boxes often have drawers and compartments. Their design is intended to correspond, at least in part, with their time period, their object of inquiry, or both. Thus a box for an Early Wearable Kit may resemble a Victorian jewelry box, or its surface may be engraved with the signature of the wearable's original designer....

With the Kits, repair is intertwined with prototyping. Each box includes a prototype in tactile form. Every prototype is provided in duplicate: one version is assembled, and the other is not. This way, audiences see and handle a prototype in distinct iterations, and they make decisions related to assembly. Aside from materials such as wire and batteries, all component parts are made specifically for the Kits using a blend of manual and computer numerical control (CNC) tools. ...

Versioning old media underscores how objects could have manifested differently, in ways that frequently escape documentation, illustrations, patents, reviews, and mass production. To variously articulate component parts is to demonstrate how technologies are constructed, replete with editorial decisions, and subject to change and alteration over time. Versioning also emphasizes how objects are congealed processes: decisions that facilitate and impede more decisions; labor conducive and resistant to more labor....

Almost every tactile component in a Kit also exists as a 3-D computer-aided design model (OBJ), a 3-D computer-aided manufacturing file (STL), and toolpath instructions for machining (G-code). Via GitHub, these files are circulated online for discovery, downloading, forking, editing, and fabrication. This approach across formats and media means the Kits can be delivered online as well as by post. It also means a single component can be replaced and expressed in a variety of materials, including wood, metal, acrylic, foam, plastic, and paper. All files in a Kit carry a Creative Commons BY NC license. They can be shared and adapted in any medium or format assuming attribution is given and the adapted material is not used for commercial purposes....

In the Kits, boxes, prototypes, and models are not standalone objects. Even if they make arguments, they demand supplementation. They are accompanied by images—printed but also published online—offering historical context: illustrations, photographs, and figures from patents. These images are additive; they give the inaccessible a sense of for whom, by whom, and when.

Yet they are also explained, in part, by a guide accompanying a Kit's components. Somewhere between a grangerized book, a zine, and an academic essay, the guide is glued and stitched together.
kits  models  pedagogy  making  prototypes  media_archaeology 
21 days ago
3D Print Simulator — Alan Warburton
3D Print Simulator eschews the tendency to fetishize the 3D print by attending more closely to its most disappointing and tricky formal qualities, specifically its striations and particulate noise. In doing so, it not only focusses on an obvious resemblance to geological sediment that calls to mind the material ancestry of oil and plastic, it also opens up a wider line of questioning to do with the complexities of production.

The flimsy, hollow, grainy 3D print is an unwitting symbol for an age that views technology as redemptive. The 3D print – like the iPhone, the Nest Thermostat or the self-driving car – is expected to “just work” and the fact that it doesn’t is the focus of this piece. All the pitfalls and contingencies of 3D printing point towards an uncomfortable and inconvenient reliance on human labour and unstable materials. The expertise involved in fixing a 3D model so it can be printed is hard-won and the degree of human problem-solving should not be underestimated. If it is, we capitulate to the devaluation of labour in the name of frictionless tech. This project ironically removes the human friction as a means to drawing attention to it.
3D_printing  craft  error  materiality  making 
24 days ago
Psychometrics — Alan Warburton
Late capitalist networked culture is obsessed with improving performance. TED speakers are cult idols, sharing their commandments for success and productivity. On social networks our friends become brands, and brands become our friends. Self-help books are interchangeable with business philosophies. In the conference room - and the weekend supplements - we learn how to shape ourselves, how to be consistent, how to operate. Reduce entropy. Maximise consistency. Become an industry of one. You are an engine. One day you'll fly away. 
aesthetics_of_administration  corporate_culture  bureaucracy  conferences  marketing 
24 days ago
How to Keep a Zibaldone, the 14th Century's Answer to Tumblr
Welcome to the world of the zibaldone. A strange melange of diary, ledger, doodle pad, and scrapbook, these volumes—along with similar "hodgepodges" and "commonplace books"—served as a pattern for interior life from the 14th century onward, bringing comfort and inspiration to everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Lewis Carroll....

Although it's impossible to pinpoint exactly who wrote the first zibaldone, he likely resembled our daydreaming friend above. As scholar Eve Wolynes explains in "A Living Text: Literacy, Identity and Fourteenth-Century Italian Merchants in the Zibaldone da Canal," the 13th and 14th centuries saw a sharp ramp-up in literacy among middle-class merchants, accountants, and artisans. Unlike their upper-class counterparts, who mostly stuck to Latin, these tradesmen wrote in the Italian vernacular; they also were more likely to crib together all kinds of work and play into one small, portable book. They called each volume a zibaldone, Italian for "a heap of things," possibly after a type of mixed-up stew.

As the merchants traveled Europe, so did this invention—which, like most good ideas, fused with others that had arisen elsewhere. In Ancient Greece, Aristotle had suggested his students keep scrolls of notes from their studies, organized by subject, so that they could return at will to any topic's "place." Renaissance-era teachers resurfaced this idea, and by the 17th century, students at Oxford were required to keep "commonplace books," organized notebooks stuffed with useful texts from elsewhere.
commonplace_books  reading  notes  organization 
24 days ago
Maps for the Blind | Flickr
Collection of tactile maps, or maps with relief, from the collection at the Perkins School for the Blind. These maps include physical and political maps of countries and the world in addition to building grounds, city streets and floor plans. Some of the maps were created for use by the blind, some are adapted to be of use and others are commercial products that contain topographic and embossed elements that are meaningful to users with visual impairments. Dates range from the 1830s to the 1960s.
mapping  cartography  disability  tactility  sensation 
24 days ago
Linda Liukas - austinkleon: How to graciously say no to...
[Y]ou have to say ‘yes’ for a long while before you can earn the right to say ‘no.’ Even then, you usually can’t say ‘no’ at whim. By the time you can say ‘no’ indiscriminately, then you’re already so super-privileged that being able to say 'no’ is not a prerequisite of success, but a result of it.
professional_practice  time_management  advising  generosity 
24 days ago
Ventricles | continent.
The fans, control systems, ventilators and other pneumatic contrivances that are responsible for the creation of artificial atmospherics all produce hums and whirs, spilling out over the entire spectrum of vibratory potentials we call ‘acoustic’, from subsonic to supersonic. It is vents that provide concentrated access to these sonic effluents, they are HVAC ‘speakers’; the sound we hear the end result of an entire control system, architectures, electronics, hydraulics and pneumatics in resonance — and ventilation is its sonification. These resonances are turned on and tuned up before we awake, in order to ease our transition into offices and shopping centers, precipitating labour and condensing consumption. They are turned off and tuned down, just after we leave these spaces, but only to an extent that maximises their power and hence economic efficiency.
sound_space  infrastructure  acoustics  HVAC  air 
24 days ago
Sounding Silence | continent.
Trueplay offers users the ability to acoustically map any room in order to calibrate their Sonos speaker to adapt to and negate the acoustic effect of a given space. “With Trueplay we are able to use your iPhone to listen to the different effects of […] objects in your room, and then adapt the speaker that so it sounds correct even though it is in a poorly acoustic placed location. […] Now any room, from a large glass living room to a small tile bathroom, can give you perfect sound clarity.”[2] The software accomplishes this negation by calculating an infinite impulse response filter using the Sonos iOS application, which the user runs while sonically “scanning” the room by moving their phone or tablet in a series of long sweeping gestures.[3] The filter is then stored on the speaker to modify playback, such that the effect of that space on the sound of the speaker is erased. The technology promises to more closely reproduce music as the producer originally intended it to be heard, assuming that such a “correct” sound would replicate its original recording in a studio constructed to erase ambient noise and interference. In other words a correct sound for Trueplay is a sound entirely divorced from the acoustic shape of a particular space, a sound that has been thoroughly abstracted.

This claim for total abstraction can be viewed as the solution to a challenge that has plagued recorded sound from its inception, often referred to by sound engineers and audio enthusiasts as the “second-venue problem.” The term refers to the alienation of a sound captured and shaped by one acoustic infrastructure that is then reproduced or simulated in another. ...

In fact one of the earliest promises of audio recording was, in part, its ability to indexically capture and reproduce sound in its totality, including any ambient noise that marked the space of its recording. Much as with early cinema, in which audiences were transfixed less by the movement of bodies than with what Dai Vaughn has termed the incidentals of scenes — smoke from a forge, steam from a locomotive, brick dust from a demolished wall — early audio recording was able to capture not only the intentional performance of sound, but also the incidental and ambient noise that helped to shape it.[4] Of course, this indexical claim was troubled early on by the advent of synthetic sound in the 1930s, which fundamentally changed the ontological stability of all recorded sound – later exacerbated, of course, by digitization....

The first commercial noise reduction technology was developed by Ray Dolby in 1965, based on the logic of a homomorphic compander.[8] Companding is a signal processing technique that reduces noise by first compressing the source material's dynamic range in anticipation of its being recorded in a relatively noisy medium. Then, on playback, the noisy encoded material is passed through an expander that restores the original dynamic range of the source material. The contaminating or noisy signal is masked by this dynamic expansion process, resulting in a significant reduction in perceived noise. In Dolby’s case the noise to be eliminated was that of the recording medium itself — the hiss of magnetic tape — but a similar logic could be applied to the reduction of ambient sound produced by the space of production. ...

work of the Danish sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard whose practice engages the sonification of otherwise imperceptible noise through the mediation of recording technology. Kirkegaard’s fascination with the ambient and imperceptible is perhaps best exemplified by his 4 Rooms series, a sonic portrait of four abandoned rooms inside the “Zone of Exclusion” in Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Recorded in October 2005, the sound of each room was evoked by an elaborate method: Kirkegaard made a recording of 10 minutes and then played the recording back into the room, recording it again. This process was repeated up to ten times. As the layers got denser, each room slowly unfolded its own unique drone of various resonant frequencies. Rather than produce a sound that might be used to make present the reverberant quality of each space, Kirkegaard sounds and re-sounds the silence of each room until the ambient noise reveals the underlying acoustic shape of that otherwise empty space....

For Labyrinthitis Kirkegaard recorded the sound of his own otoacoustic emissions in a soundproof chamber and then tone-shifted the noise to produce an extended 40-minute composition.[17] When performed this composition will, in turn, invoke otoacoustic emissions in the ears of its listeners — an uncanny sensation in which a third tone seems to resonate and move inside the listener’s head.[18] Here the body acts as a resonant medium for sound – a medium that, much as with 4 Rooms, is only made sensible through its externalization by means of a recording technology.
sound_space  acoustics  silence  noise  hearing 
24 days ago
Scheduling 101: Using Calendly for Student Appointments – ProfHacker - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Over the years at ProfHacker we have discussed several different tools for scheduling student appointments, including Doodle, Acuity, and ScheduleOnce (as well as some other tools that no longer exist).

When I recently scheduled a meeting with a colleague, I learned about Calendly, which immediately impressed me with its clean, appealing design and simple scheduling process. Like other online scheduling tools, Calendly lets you set times when you will be available for meetings and lets users pick a time from those blocks. But the way it handles the process is very easy to use, which is one reason I am going to be using it for scheduling student meetings this year. My previous system required users to select an appointment and then click a confirmation button that some students would overlook, causing them to think they had scheduled an appointment when it hadn’t gone through.
scheduling  productivity  calendars  advising 
24 days ago
Joost Grootens
After five years of intensive R&D the redesign of the leading Dutch language dictionary Dikke Van Dale was launched this fall. SJG worked on a new design concept both for the traditional printed edition – a set of three volumes with nearly 5,000 pages – as for the dictionary’s online publications: a desktop version that functions as a writing aid and a mobile one aimed at offering quick definitions.

To improve the dictionary’s functionality a primarily typographic design commission needed to be turned into a graphic design approach. This is reflected in the introduction of new navigational elements like colour and illustration and in the design of a special typeface that includes symbols. Knowing how search routines have changed in the digital age, it became a major challenge to strengthen the cultural significance of the printed book. Its pearly white book cover presents a major break with the familiar dark hues of red and grey traditionally used by Van Dale. This signals the current association between the pursuit of knowledge and our use of white and silver digital devices as the portals to information. Less visible but just as important for an efficient production process of the dictionary was the design of a script that automatically typesets the pages from an xml-coded database in which the editors worked.
textual_form  book_history  graphic_design  dictionary 
24 days ago
Vortex - rachelbinx
Vortex is a telemetry visualization application built in React and d3.js. It is used in five missions: MSL (Curiosity), Cassini, Dawn, SMAP, and MER (Opportunity). I was responsible for leading the project, including project management, customer relations, user-centered design, visual design, and front-end development. (I also came up with the project's backronym, which is Visually Organize and Represent Telemetry for Examination and eXploration)

The application works with two types of telemetry, channels and event records (EVRs). Channels are time-series datasets, and can either represent float or "enumerated" values. The latter encode states as float numbers, which are transmitted and then decoded in post-processing. Vortex offers several ways to display both types of channels, as well as a variety of ways to customize the graph representation (color, filtering, adjusting the scale).
visualization  interfaces  space 
25 days ago
Object Lessons: the story of material education in eight chapters | Material World
Today, knowledge about materials, their origins, and processing is more valued and desired than ever before. At the same time, such knowledge is specialized, concealed, and the domain of experts. How can it be made available to everyone?

From September 16, 2016 until January 16, 2017, the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge will show the special exhibition Object Lessons: The Story of Material Education in 8 Chapters.

This exhibition recounts the story of learning with, about, and through materials: in science, at school, in commerce, craft and at home, in novels and movies, in the archive and on the Internet.

From tree compendiums, slag gravel, and sea silk to rabbit tails, cork stoppers and cloud leather, the exhibition ranges from historical DIY books to a digital material archive to show that material literacy has always been relevant, why it was forgotten, and what it may look like in the future....

The center piece of the exhibition is an Object Lesson Box: a small cabinet developed for teaching purposes in the 19th century that contains over a hundred materials, including plaster, gold leaf, sugar and rice. The book and the box are the tactile legacy of Charles and Elizabeth Mayo, who converted Swiss reformer Johann Pestalozzi’s illustrative education into their own structured teaching concept. Here children are encouraged through exemplary dialogue to explore different materials by looking, touching, smelling, and tasting. According to this method, knowledge is gained not only through the characteristics of things, but also through language, local customs, and science....

With delicate samples of animal hair and heavy rocks, the Object Lesson SAMPLES, SETS, REFERENCES offers insights into material’s role in science education: what appears to be the same is differentiated ad infinitum or even destroyed to learn about all of its details. A drug box that was used in pharmacology teachings serves as a link to the third Object Lesson CHALK, COAL, PAPER. Placed behind glass, educational material can no longer be touched....

In the seventh Object Lesson GOOD AND ATTRATCTIVE, material education with the aid of the so-called ‘Werkbundkisten’ during the 1950s and 60s is addressed. These boxes were conceived as a means for taste education in schools by the Deutscher Werkbund who, since its foundation in 1907, served as a mediator of product qualities such as function, form, and material. Showing the topicality of taste education, a seemingly outdated concept, a ‘Werkbundkiste’ will be equipped with new materials for this exhibition, critically scrutinizing whether sustainable or recycled materials are always morally ‘good.’...

The Swiss MATERIAL ARCHIV is featured in the last Object Lesson ARCHIVE, LIBRARY, NETWORK, facilitating a hands-on interaction with material. Combining a digital information network with tangible samples, the MATERIAL ARCHIV is the contemporary counterpart of Mayo’s historic cabinet whose ambitious goal to carry the whole world of materials within itself was limited due to its confined format. Today’s digital archive, however, can include every material there is and ever will be, showing material education’s potential future.
kits  objects  things  pedagogy  models  material_culture  exhibitions  samples  archives 
25 days ago
Seizing the means of rendering - Amateur Cities
these renderings are devoid of background and where there is one, it is generic, half-realized, serving to thrust the subject into the foreground and beg the viewer to ignore any of the details about how this future vision will integrate with the present.9 [9] Many projects have been set up to critique and criticize our rendered futures. Crystal Bennes’s excellent hashtag ‘#DevelopmentAesthetics’ takes a tongue-in-cheek crack at the literary and visual language of development hoardings. Where Dan Hill describes planning notices as the most important civic document we can interface with, I would argue that development hoardings are the second.10 These massive wooden walls block off the future-in-construction and proudly proclaim the social and cultural transformations to come, blind to the city around them, forcibly separating interaction...

Beyond the dream of living in these rendered future fantasies, the act of rendering itself is a privileged activity. It requires several components; the time and education to imagine compelling futures and then the time and education required to learn the skills to represent these imaginaries in visual form. If technology could be defined as the combination of tools and the knowledge of techniques on the application of those tools then inventing the future is a combination of its imagination and its rendering. And though there is a long and convoluted history of the architectural drawing, 3D rendering software is the most common tool used by architects and students today. ...

here is a difference between a render, which is one actor’s imagined future, and the way that that future will actually play out, but due to the commonality and cultural assimilation of rendering, these two ideas have become conflated. We have built a culture of resistance to renders. A future is presented as a glossy, gleaming spire and we almost dutifully express outrage towards its generic structure and gentrifying effect, nostalgic for the world before. Very few renders evoke hope and aspiration at street level because they are harbingers of someone else’s ideal of your built future. ...

The work of 3D artists such as Alan Warburton’s CGWTF and Nikita Diakur’s Ugly Universe, amongst many others, start to suggest how rendering tools can be turned against their creators and used perversely to break the physics and rendering engines that are prebuilt for beautiful architectural usage. Matthew Plummer-Fernandez’s portfolio of work has sought to build imaginaries for how 3D software might free us from our existing capitalist frameworks. The possibilities of this software goes far beyond the perfect rendered tree and glossy glass facade, it extends to simulating entire new rules for physics, creating unimaginable materials and realizing impossible structures. These projects go further than the quasi-speculative works seen at architectural exhibitions and graduate shows. They channel the tools into broadening our definitions of utopia.
media_architecture  rendering  illustration  futurism  marketing  utopia  tools 
25 days ago
A life reduced to data – discontents
In 2010, Kate and I launched Invisible Australians – a project without any sort of funding or institutional support – aimed at drawing attention to these records. You might have seen one of our experiments – The Real Face of White Australia. It’s a simple scrolling wall of more than 7000 faces extracted from the Archives using a facial detection script. It was a weekend hack that has been cited around the world. But the power, of course, is in the faces themselves – they confront us with the reality of Australia’s racist past.

However, one of the main aims of Invisible Australians was to give names to those faces – to extract data from the archives that would enable us to link these tiny biographical fragments and follow people through time. I’m about to have another look at this based on recent developments in crowdsourcing software – something like the Zooniverse’s Measuring the ANZACs project would do a lot of what we wanted. But the project won’t be the same as we imagined it back then. I’ve grown increasing uncomfortable with what it means to identify people.

In November last year, Mark Matienzo, the Director of Technology at the Digital Public Library of America, gave a paper in which he raised important questions about Linked Open Data and the ‘power to name’. Like Mark I think we have an obligation to consider the contexts in which we create, recover, or aggregate identities. There is power in the process and we need to understand where it comes from and the violence it can do.

The question of identity was critical to the operations of the White Australia Policy. You might think that the certificates carried by non-white residents were nothing more than identity papers – an early form of passport. But the point is, only non-white Australians had to prove who they were. Moreover, the technologies used to determine identity – portrait photographs and handprints – were strongly associated with the management of criminal populations. Indeed, in 1911 one Chinese businessman objected to being treated ‘just like a criminal’. The process of identification helped justify the racist underpinnings of the system – the management of this suspect group required special measures....

I can’t now look at our wall of faces without wondering about the uses of facial detection. There are easily available web APIs that will not only tell you if an image contains a face, but whether the face is smiling, its gender, and its race. Both Google and Facebook have claimed frightening levels of accuracy with their facial recognition technologies – not just finding faces, but matching them against a set of known identities. In Australia, a number of image databases are to be linked to create a new facial recognition service called – The Capability. Our faces are increasingly not our own – they are public signifiers to be captured by systems of identity management and surveillance.

This is the context in which we undertake our explorations of identity, in which we exercise our power to aggregate, and to name. We can of course turn these systems on themselves, in the way that the residents of East Germany claimed the Stasi archives as their own. There are a number of examples where archives of oppression have been reclaimed in the struggle for justice. But we have to make that decision and engage accordingly. There is no neutral position.

For me this means finding better ways of representing the uncertainties of identity. Technologies of surveillance construct identity as an aggregation of data points – matches, crossreferences, and hits. Linked Data tends to work the same way, mapping the points of connection across multiple datasets. We know the points do not make the person, but we use them to create a shell identity, and therein lies the challenge. How do we fill that shell with the complexities and contingencies of life, without losing Linked Data’s ability to make meaningful and reusable connections....

historians create Linked Data all the time, they just don’t realise it. In the process of their research they build complex entity-relationship models, linking people, places, events and resources. But when it comes time for ‘writing up’, the data gets squeezed out to fit with the conventions of linear narrative and print publication. We need new publishing paradigms that maintain the relationship between narrative and data and expose full richness of historical practice....

There have been a lot of mentions of ‘sustainability’ in the past couple of days. For me, sustainability isn’t just about funding, or institutional support, or governance structures – it’s about building things that can be hacked, reused, shared, and fixed.

Perhaps it’s through systems such as this we can encourage and support the small-scale production of Linked Open Data, based not on machine learning or entity extraction, but on detailed research and individual expertise. The James Minahan story will not only explore the complexities of identity and belonging, it will map relationships between people, trace journeys through space, and provide a specialised subject guide to Australia’s cultural heritage collections. At least that’s the plan…

Perhaps we can find new ways of bringing together the microstories, that Marijke and others have mentioned, with the big pictures drawn from heritage data – of navigating changes in scale without losing sight of what matters.

And perhaps this mix of story and data can help us deal with the politics of identity more effectively – to share the power of naming, to provide space for uncertainty, to undermine the authority of those who seek to reduce us to a collection of data points.
linked_data  big_data  archives  privacy  identity  narrative 
25 days ago
Companies are making money from our personal data – but at what cost? | Technology | The Guardian
Contrary to the oft-repeated rhetoric, data does not exist independently in the world, nor is it generated spontaneously. Data is constructed by people, from people. As digital studies scholar Karen Gregory puts it: “Big data, like Soylent Green, is made of people”. Wringing the value from data requires more than just collecting it. Gathering it requires expertise in creating, extracting, refining and using it. This often goes hand-in-hand with increasingly invasive systems for probing, monitoring and tracking people.

Now here’s the rub: if corporations and governments are going to up the ante by treating data as an asset, then we – the targets of this data imperative – should respond in kind. Many common practices of data collection should actually be treated as a form of theft that I call data appropriation – which means capturing data from people without consent and compensation.

People often do not even know how their data is taken and used, let alone how to give meaningful consent. Data brokers, for instance, aim to provide their services from the shadows, while amassing billions and trillions of data points about people worldwide...

In short, rampant practices of data appropriation allow corporations and governments to build their wealth and power, without the headache of obtaining consent and providing compensation for the resource they desire.

Data appropriation is surely an ethical issue. But by framing it as theft, we can lay the groundwork for policies that also make it a legal issue. We need new models of data ownership and protection that reflect the role information has in society
big_data  privacy  ethics 
25 days ago
Dark Ecology Studio
Ours is a time of dark ecology, where humans have become an environmental force. What does this mean for how we understand the environment and our relationship to it? This course investigates diverse local systems such as power grids, water infrastructures and ecoystems around campus. Students will be introduced to methods drawn from both scientific and artistic modes of inquiry including recording, mapping, poetic and scientific sensing, visualization, and photography. How can these practices be used to explicate the systems that sustain us? How might public interventions shift how we perceive our deep connections to environmental systems?

++1++ infrastucture taxonomies ++1++

What are the systems of infrastructure that support us on campus and how do they appear? Through observation and research you will explore and document the components, interfaces and affordances of these systems. ...

Many of the sites we will visit do not allow photography but permit sound recording. Given this ocular sensitivity, you are to use field recording techniques to document the sound of your chosen system of infrastructure during one of the class field trips or otherwise. From your recordings produce a sound work that responds to the experience of one or more sites relevant to your chosen system. ...

Propose and create a site specific intervention that draws attention to, translates, communicates with or amplifies the activities of another species or natural system on campus.
infrastructure  infrastructural_literacy  field_guide  listening  syllabus 
26 days ago
10 things you need to learn in design school if you’re tired of wasting your money – Dear Design Student
I want to help you have a successful design career. Which has nothing to do with how creative you are. I’ve seen plenty of creative people’s careers derail because they couldn’t manage their shit. I want you to manage your shit. Realize right now that no one is going to be so dazzled by your work that you don’t need to pay attention to this stuff. Because no matter how good your shit is, at some point you are going to have to sell it, invoice for it, and collect your money. Those are the things that prolong your career.
Your school probably has something called a portfolio class. Or a professional services class. It’s the class you don’t want to take. When I was your age I didn’t want to take it either. And it’s probably taught by someone who drew the short straw. They want to teach it as much as you want to take it. Thing is, you gotta take it. And you have to demand that it’s taught correctly. So feel free to show this list to that professor. Feel free to ask them if these things are in the class curriculum. Tell them these are things you want to learn.
advising  UMS  critique 
26 days ago
'Stabilizing' our Landsat imagery animations - Google Earth Blog
We mentioned at the time that the Landsat images are not all perfectly aligned with each other and we had adjusted each image slightly to try and create smoother animations. To do this we used a simplified model that assumed that the imagery squares were all aligned with latitude and longitude, with up being North. It turns out that our assumptions were not valid and there was still significant ‘shake’ visible in ground features in many animations, especially those of Antarctica.

After some investigation we discovered that not only do the Landsat tiles tilt to the right as per the satellite’s orbit, but the images are placed into the thumbnails at an angle, results in further rotations overall.....

Above right we see the mid-point (red circle) of the top of the red square, the mid-point (green circle) of the top of the green square, and what is known as the ‘cross track intercept’ for the green point to the thin red line. The cross track intercept is the closest point on a great circle to a location not on the circle. The distance we were looking for is from the red circle to the cross track intercept. Although this all sounds complicated, it is actually only a few lines of code, because all the hard work is done by GeographicLib. We simply repeated this for all for sides and for every frame in the animation and it worked! The animations are now much more stable even over Antarctica.
satellite_imagery  cartography  warping 
26 days ago
Images of refugee camps, part 1: aerial views – Singular Things
If there are standard ways of picturing refugees, the same is true for refugee camps—and one of them, as we see, is to look down from above. What are all these aerial views trying to do?....

Aerial views certainly help to communicate a sense of the scale of a camp like Zaatari or Dadaab. They back up statements about such camps’ sheer size: the Mirror piece about Zaatari, which is from a year ago (30 Jan 2015), observes that in population the camp is ‘virtually the same size’ as the British town of Stevenage, and had been considerably bigger at its peak. Reports, image galleries, and UNHCR tweets alike cite population figures; most of them also mention that the camp is one of the biggest ‘cities’ in Jordan. In fact, when they’re used to illustrate pieces like this, aerial views of refugee camps are one element of a journalistic shorthand, telling the reader what to expect. With a picture, a handy stat, and a factoid (albeit a volatile one: ‘the 3rd/5th/9th biggest city in Jordan’), the scene is set—we’re in a refugee camp.

Such shorthand always leaves me uneasy. Rather than start with a person and a story, it establishes from the start that the story has nothing to do with the reader—this is a different world, one where refugees rather than people live. The occasional relatable fact (‘Crikey, it’s as big as Stevenage!’) doesn’t so much bridge this distance as emphasise it.
mapping  aerial_photography  satellite_imagery  refugees  informal_infrastructure 
27 days ago
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel archive vanishes from Google's news archive
The archive had initially been made available on Google around 2008 as part of the company’s effort to digitize historical newspapers. That project ended in 2011, but not before Google had scanned more than 60 million pages covering 250 years of history’s first drafts. Those newspapers have remained publicly accessible, and serve both professional historians and home genealogists.

When the Milwaukee project began, Google used microfilms from the papers that had already been uploaded to the ProQuest research database. Because some things were missing from ProQuest, the Journal-Sentinel asked the Milwaukee Public Library to help out. The library let the company digitize decades of microfilms to bulk out the digital archives.

But as Google discontinued support for the project, the paper decided to construct its own archive. “It takes a long time to scan and get the archives up,” said James Conigliaro, the paper’s vice-president of digital strategy. “So we’ve been working on that.”

The paper had an existing relationship with Newsbank, a digitization and archiving company based in Florida. In 2014, Newsbank approach the Milwaukee Public Library about buying the rights to the Journal-Sentinel archives. The MPL already subscribed to two Newsbank services—an obituary archive and a modern database of the Journal-Sentinel–and regularly purchases proprietary databases whose subscription fees are in the low five figures. But it couldn’t afford the Journal-Sentinel archives.

In May, Newsbank came to the MPL again, offering a menu of purchase options. The most expansive offer was almost $1.5 million, with an annual hosting fee. That nearly amounted to the library's entire $1.7 million annual materials budget. “To be asked to purchase outright something for a million dollars is just out of our scope of possibility,” said Paula Kiely, the library director.

Then, in August, Newsbank let the other shoe drop: According to Urban Milwaukee, Gannett—which purchased the paper in April—asked the Journal-Sentinel to ask Google to remove the paper’s digital archives, which the company did. It’s harder to sell a product when it’s being given away for free, after all.

It’s not unusual for libraries to purchase the rights to historical newspapers: Public libraries in Seattle, Baton Rouge, and Sacramento have paid Newsbank between $400,000 and $1.2 million for local newspaper rights.

What’s different about Milwaukee is that the city is being asked to buy back something it already had—and, in the case of the library’s digital scans, had even helped build....

This is, on the one hand, a story about how a free database challenged the business model of a company that trades archiving services for subscription fees.

But it’s also a warning to researchers like Takach about the perils of reliance on digital storage. As many great contributions to public scholarship as Google has initiated, it has also abandoned programs with ease and without easy recourse for dependent customers.
newspapers  archives  google  digitization  preservation 
27 days ago
MoMA | Modernism in the Air
Aerial Imagery in Print, 1860 to Today, the current MoMA Library exhibition, examines the use of traditional publishing in cultivating a discourse around aerial imagery.
A section of the show focuses on 20th-century popularization of aerial photography, including its development as a tool for land use by architects, developers, governments, and the agriculture industry. Looking at some of these uses more closely reveals a persuasive element, especially regarding subtle debate about modernist approaches to architecture and planning.
Here we’ll zoom in on examples from Fairchild Aerial Surveys, which cornered the market (literally, if you think about it) on aerial photography in the U.S. Then we’ll consider this legacy in light of exciting new approaches to aerial imagery in our time.
Fairchild Aerial Surveys (1924–65) was an early venture of entrepreneur Sherman Fairchild. His career began during World War I, when he engineered an aerial camera more stable than its predecessors. Cameras based on this technology became the military and industrial standard for decades, and the company designed cameras for the early space program as well.
In her dissertation, Rebecca Ross argues that the development of aerial photography was integral to the professionalization of 20th-century city planning, examining how companies like Fairchild made possible “a productive link between the working methods of planning professionals and the broader visual culture in which they are situated.” Indeed, as historian Thomas Campanella observes, in the visual culture of the early 1920s, when the company incorporated, “Aerial imagery was . . . a wonder of modern technology—most people had never seen their own city or town from the air.”...

But by examining how Fairchild images like these circulated, we can see how they became instrumentalized in debate about modern architecture and planning. An excellent example is found in The Disappearing City (1932), Frank Lloyd Wright’s manifesto against conventional urbanism and preview for his vision of Broadacre City. Of the numerous aerial views in the book (note the abstracted map on the cover), the opening Fairchild photograph depicts New York City as a smoke-choked, dehumanized dystopia, out of touch with the natural landscape. It clearly illustrates Wright’s opinion of the vertical city as “Tier upon tier the soulless shelf, the empty crevice, the winding ways of the windy, unhealthy canyon. The heartless grip of the selfish, grasping, universal structure. Box on box beside box. Black shadows below with artificial lights burning all day in the little caverns and squared cells.”

Now let’s compare that with a Fairchild view from the Museum’s Photography collection: The Mount Everest of Manhattan: The Silvered Peak of the Chrysler Building (1930). Here the vertical city is heroicized through numerous photographic choices: the composition is dynamic, with the “spark plug” tower jutting vertically into the frame and the street grid tipped on to the diagonal. The perspective is deep yet every building is in crisp focus. The light is bright and shadows are at a minimum (to get that effect, Fairchild photographers would buzz by skyscrapers at mid-day).
aerial_photography  land_use  planning 
27 days ago
Not on the map: cartographic omission from New England to Palestine | Petter Hellström | Science | The Guardian
Historians of cartography have long studied the practices and consequences of cartographic omission. In a landmark study, “New England cartography and the Native Americans”, published posthumously in 1994, the British historian of cartography J. B. Harley analysed seventeenth-century maps to follow the progressive replacement of the Native Americans with European settlers. In Harley’s analysis, the maps were something more than historical records of that process. Because they made the colonists visible at the expense of the indigenous population, they were also instruments of colonial legitimisation.

Many colonial mapmakers preferred to leave the areas of predominantly indigenous presence blank, rather than to reproduce an indigenous geography; one example is Herman Moll’s 1729 map of New England and the adjacent colonies, seen above. The traces of indigenous presence, past and present, were gradually removed from the maps as the colonists pushed west. The apparent emptiness helped to justify the settlers’ sense that they had discovered a virgin territory, promised to them by Providence. The pattern was the same in all areas of colonial activity, including Australia and Africa.

Incidentally, Harley’s study began as a conference paper entitled “Victims of a map”, a title he borrowed from an anthology of contemporary Palestinian and Lebanese poetry. Discussing the implications of not representing Native American place-names on colonial maps, Harley quoted the Israeli historian and political scientist Meron Benvenisti, deputy mayor and chief planning officer of Jerusalem in 1971­–78, who described the process with which the Israeli state Hebraized the place-names of the country they had conquered: “Like all immigrant societies, we attempted to erase all alien names”, Benvenisti said. “The Hebrew map of Israel constitutes one stratum in my consciousness, underlaid by the stratum of the previous Arab map.”

...drawing a map always involves choices, whether they are reflected or not. In the conflict-ridden Middle East, those choices are often blatantly political. The official map of Israel, available on the web page of the Israeli government, integrates the occupied territories into Israel and is devoid of any Palestinian place-names. Conversely, Palestinian maps often label the whole country as Palestine – effectively a refusal to acknowledge the development since 1948.

...the mapmakers at Google similarly represent – and so reproduce – the world as it appears from their culturally encoded point of view. When they chose not to mark Palestine on their maps, they only codified into a cartographic image, how they and their fellow westerners already viewed the world.
cartography  mapping  omission  indigenous  geography  erasure 
27 days ago
Infinite Infrastructure: Drawings of Tokyo Stations by Tomoyuki Tanaka – SOCKS
Tomoyuki Tanaka is a Japanese architect who creates mesmerizing x-ray drawings of Tokyo’s major stations. These are precise ballpoint pen descriptions of the extremely complex transportation hubs, executed as to show the relationship between the buildings and the infrastructures and between the city and the intricate, yet rational, worlds which are developed mostly underneath. Sequences of stairways, platforms, tunnels, bridges, hallways generate underground labyrinths which grew over time to become some of the busiest stations in the world. Shinjuku Station, for one, sees an average of 3.64 million people passing through it each day.
infrastructure  illustration 
29 days ago
Flow - a Sidewalk Labs company
The twentieth century’s most important piece of transportation infrastructure was the highway. Today, our most important infrastructure is digital: the data and communication tools enabling cities to understand and shape the decisions of travelers on our roads and rails.

Flow builds digital tools for cities to enable more efficient, equitable, and sustainable transportation for people.
urban_planning  smart_cities  big_data  transportation  sidewalk_labs  google 
4 weeks ago
GitHub - MimiOnuoha/missing-datasets: An overview and exploration of the concept of missing datasets.
"Missing data sets" are my term for the blank spots that exist in spaces that are otherwise data-saturated. My interest in them stems from the observation that within many spaces where large amounts of data are collected, there are often empty spaces where no data live. Unsurprisingly, this lack of data typically correlates with issues affecting those who are most vulnerable in that context.

The word "missing" is inherently normative, it implies both a lack and an ought: something does not exist, but it should. That which should be somewhere is not in its expected place; an established system is disrupted by distinct absence. Just because some type of data doesn't exist doesn't mean it's missing, and the idea of missing data sets is inextricably tied to a more expansive climate of inevitable and routine data collection.
data  archives  invisibility 
4 weeks ago
Who's Afraid of Aaarg?
The ironies and injustices of academic publishing, as focused through the lens of AAARG, mirror those in other aspects of our society. Dwindling public funds are supporting the bottom line of major corporations like Elsevier instead of our public institutions, while a profit-driven management model forces the majority of its participants into debt, precarity, or unemployment. In this case, the public good, both in the sense of what we consume and what benefits us, is knowledge. Who deserves knowledge? What should it cost? What is it worth to a society (or to globalized humanity) to make it available to its members?

In the sciences, whose funding is better but still threatened under current models, the inaccessibility of knowledge could lead to slower development of treatments for diseases, for example, and to the desultory global dissemination of important clinical information. We should keep in mind that without open access archives like AAARG (or Sci-Hub and LibGen in the sciences), this information is inaccessible to most people around the world. The universities of poorer nations cannot afford to develop a collection akin to those of research libraries in the world’s richest countries.

...The humanities threaten to disrupt the very logic and smooth functioning of a neoliberal state whose only measure of value is GDP. Perhaps the humanities’ most important offering is the ability to transform the frame of reference, to recast economic issues in moral terms, for example. The humanities are the locus, among other things, of the questions of justice or ethics—the very questions we are posing here—on which our public institutions must be founded lest we accept arbitrary authority.
file_sharing  publishing  piracy  open_access  archives 
4 weeks ago
The Power of the Library in a War-Torn Afghan Village » Public Libraries Online
Tucked away in the basement an adobe home in the rural Panjwai District in Afghanistan is small one-room library. It has two shelves of about sixteen hundred books and magazines, a collection that has been largely developed through donations from around the world. The library gets about five visitors a day, but to twenty-two-year-old Matiullah Wesa, “five visitors in the village are more important than 100 in the city.”[1]

The library in Panjwai is just a slice of the work that Wesa’s organization, Pen Path, does to bring books to the most war-torn regions of Afghanistan. He’s started seven libraries in rural Afghanistan, collected twenty thousand books, and has worked to reopen schools closed because of violence throughout the country.[2]

Improving Literacy in Afghanistan

Access to books and magazines in a country where literacy rates are at 31 percent for adults and 20 percent for women is vital. The low literacy rates in the country can be partly attributed to poverty, as well as to the dominance of the Taliban and war.[3] Education is one of the many priorities of humanitarian and development assistance to Afghanistan, but female literacy is one of the slowest areas to grow over the last decade.[4]...

The Panjwai library not only serves the need for literacy and information access, but it is also a place of peace and safety. Hazrat-Wali Haidary, the eldest son of the family who houses the library, said that he wouldn’t have agreed to host the library a few years earlier.
libraries  afghanistan  social_infrastructure 
4 weeks ago
NYPL Opens Permanent Library at Rikers Island
On July 26, New York Public Library (NYPL) launched the first permanent public library location at Rikers Island, East Elmhurst, NY, New York City’s main jail complex and one of the world’s largest correctional institutions. NYPL’s Correctional Services (CS) team has been providing library services at Rikers Island since 1984, currently operating five satellite libraries throughout the complex’s ten jails—mobile book carts that move from unit to unit, or rooms that share space with other programs, requiring the books to be boxed up and removed at the end of each session. The new 1,200-volume library at the Rose M. Singer Center (RMSC) is the first to occupy dedicated space. Decorated with posters and vibrant, comfortable furnishings, the library is open for six hours every Tuesday, serving half of the facility every other week. Inmates may check out two books at a time for two weeks....

The space at RMSC (known familiarly as Rosie’s), which houses more than 2,000 female inmates, opened up earlier in the year thanks to DOC administrators who support the eventual goal of permanent library spaces throughout the entire complex. “The women’s facility has…better real estate,” explained Ball, “so they were able to find a space that worked really well and is actually quite lovely. There’s big windows and natural light and it’s a good size for a small library. It’s partly just luck that [RMSC] had the right space, but it’s also just a really nice facility.”
Work on the library took about two months, according to Ball. DOC planned the internal logistics: how the service would be run, and sequencing visits from RMSC’s 16 housing units during the library’s open hours. “The whole facility pitched in to make it happen with us, and then we of course were in charge of gathering the donated books,” she said.
With a limited book budget, CS was able to purchase a small percentage of the collection, but relied mostly on discarded and withdrawn books from branches of NYPL, as well as donations from the public and an internal book drive among corrections officers. Prisoners will also donate books they’ve read and want to pass along.
libraries  prison 
4 weeks ago
U of Chicago warns incoming students not to expect safe spaces or trigger warnings
They all received a letter recently from John Ellison, dean of students, which went beyond the usual platitudes of such letters and made several points about what he called one of Chicago's "defining characteristics," which he said was "our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression." Ellison said civility and respect are "vital to all of us," and people should never be harassed. But he added, "You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort."
To that end, he wrote, "Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."
The letter referred to a website where Chicago maintains a report on academic freedom and its centrality to the university.
4 weeks ago
The Dying Typographic Art of Cutting Letters into Steel
In a smoky atelier in Torino, Italy, Giuseppe Branchino works as one of the world’s last punch cutters. Cutting punches, the first step in traditional typesetting, is the meticulous craft of carving letterforms into small steel billets. Branchino was the former head of the engraving department of type foundry and printing press manufacturer Nebiolo, founded in Turin in 1852. Along with a few others scattered across the globe, he carries on a centuries-old practice that’s becoming obsolete in the age of digital type.

In the meditative short film “The Last Punchcutter,” by Giorgio Affanni and Gabriele Chiapparini, we watch Branchino create a punch. Drinking espresso and smoking a cigarette, he works silently and slowly, carving the letter “G” into a thin block of steel with awls and chisels, peering through a magnifying glass to inspect his handiwork. He spends nearly seven minutes on a single letter.
type  letterpress  craft 
4 weeks ago
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