Clemson doctoral student produces rap album for dissertation; it goes viral | Clemson University News and Stories, South Carolina
The album, “Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes and Revolutions” uses hip-hop to explore such ideas as identity, justice, economics, citizenship and language. The songs have garnered tens of thousands of views on YouTube, more than 50,000 streams and downloads on SoundCloud and hundreds of thousands of hits on Facebook, all before Carson defends them as a whole to his doctoral committee Friday in the Watt Family Innovation Center auditorium.

Using a music album for a dissertation, as opposed to the usual written document, has never been done at Clemson before, but Carson says it was the only way he could do it.
dissertations  multimodal_scholarship  music 
Jane Jacobs and the Death and Life of American Planning
a swelling perception, especially among young scholars and practitioners, that planning is a diffuse and ineffective field, and that it has been largely unsuccessful over the last half century at its own game: bringing about more just, sustainable, healthful, efficient and beautiful cities and regions. It was there because of a looming sense that planners in America lack the agency or authority to turn idealism into reality, that planning has neither the prestige nor the street cred to effect real change.

To understand the roots of this sense of impotence requires us to dial back to the great cultural shift that occurred in planning beginning in the 1960s. The seeds of discontent sown then brought forth new and needed growth, which nonetheless choked out three vital aspects of the profession — its disciplinary identity, professional authority and visionary capacity....

It is well known that city planning in the United States evolved out of the landscape architectural profession during the late Olmsted era. Planning’s core expertise was then grounded and tangible, concerned chiefly with accommodating human needs and functions on the land, from the scale of the site to that of entire regions. One of the founders of the Chapel Hill program, F. Stuart Chapin, Jr. (whose first degree was in architecture), described planning as “a means for systematically anticipating and achieving adjustment in the physical environment of a city consistent with social and economic trends and sound principles of civic design.” 3 The goal was to create physical settings that would help bring about a more prosperous, efficient and equitable society. And in many ways the giants of prewar planning — Olmsted Jr., Burnham, Mumford, Stein and Wright, Nolen, and Gilmore D. Clarke — were successful in doing just that...

The postwar period was something else altogether. By then, middle-class Americans were buying cars and moving to the suburbs in record numbers. The urban core was being depopulated. Cities were losing their tax base, buildings were being abandoned, neighborhoods were falling victim to blight. Planners and civic leaders were increasingly desperate to save their cities. Help came soon enough from Uncle Sam. Passage of the 1949 Housing Act, with its infamous Title I proviso, made urban renewal a legitimate target for federal funding. Flush with cash, city redevelopment agencies commissioned urban planners to prepare slum-clearance master plans. Vibrant ethnic neighborhoods — including the one my mother grew up in near the Brooklyn Navy Yard — were blotted out by Voisinian superblocks or punched through with expressways meant to make downtown accessible to suburbanites. Postwar urban planners thus abetted some of the most egregious acts of urban vandalism in American history. Of course, they did not see it this way. Most believed, like Lewis Mumford, that America’s cities were suffering an urban cancer wholly untreatable by the “home remedies” Jane Jacobs was brewing and that the strong medicine of slum clearance was just what the doctor ordered....

Thus ensued the well-deserved backlash against superblock urbanism and the authoritarian, we-experts-know-best brand of planning that backed it. And the backlash came, of course, from a bespectacled young journalist named Jane Jacobs. Her 1961 The Death and Life of Great American Cities, much like the paperwork Luther nailed to the Schlosskirche Wittenberg four centuries earlier, sparked a reformation — this time within planning. To the rising generation of planners, coming of age in an era of cultural ferment and rebellion, Jacobs was a patron saint. ... But change did not come easily; the field was plunged into disarray. A glance at the July 1970 Journal of the American Institute of Planners reveals a profession gripped by a crisis of mission, purpose and relevance....

So thoroughly internalized was the Jacobs critique that planners could see only folly and failure in the work of their forebears. Burnham’s grand dictum “Make no little plans” went from a battle cry to an embarrassment in less than a decade. Even so revered a figure as Sir Ebenezer Howard was now a pariah. Jacobs herself described the good man — one of the great progressives of the late Victorian era — as a mere “court reporter,” a clueless amateur who yearned “to do the city in” with “powerful and city-destroying ideas.” 6 Indeed, to Jacobs, not just misguided American urban renewal but the entire enterprise of visionary, rational, centralized planning was suspect. She was as opposed to new towns as she was to slum clearance — anything that threatened the vitality of traditional urban forms was the enemy. It is largely forgotten that the popular United Kingdom edition of Death and Life was subtitled “The Failure of Town Planning.” How odd that such a conservative, even reactionary, stance would galvanize an entire generation.....

The Jacobsians sought fresh methods of making cities work — from the grassroots and the bottom up. The subaltern was exalted, the master laid low. Drafting tables were tossed for pickets and surveys and spreadsheets. Planners sought new alliances in academe, beyond architecture and design — in political science, law, economics, sociology. But there were problems. First, none of the social sciences were primarily concerned with the city; at best they could be only partial allies. Second, planning was not taken seriously by these fields. ...

This brings us to the first of the three legacies of the Jacobsian turn: It diminished the disciplinary identity of planning. While the expanded range of scholarship and practice in the post-urban renewal era diversified the field, that diversification came at the expense of an established expertise — strong, centralized physical planning — that had given the profession visibility and identity both within academia and among “place” professions such as architecture and landscape architecture. ...

The second legacy of the Jacobsian revolution is related to the first: Privileging the grassroots over plannerly authority and expertise meant a loss of professional agency. In rejecting the muscular interventionism of the Burnham-Moses sort, planners in the 1960s identified instead with the victims of urban renewal. New mechanisms were devised to empower ordinary citizens to guide the planning process. This was an extraordinary act of altruism on our part; I can think of no other profession that has done anything like it....

The fatal flaw of such populism is that no single group of citizens — mainstream or marginalized, affluent or impoverished — can be trusted to have the best interests of society or the environment in mind when they evaluate a proposal. The literature on grassroots planning tends to assume a citizenry of Gandhian humanists. In fact, most people are not motivated by altruism but by self-interest....

...the same community activism has at times devolved into NIMBYism, causing several infill projects to be halted and helping drive development to greenfield sites. (Cows are slow to organize.) It’s made the local homeless shelter homeless itself, almost ended a Habitat for Humanity complex in Chapel Hill, and generated opposition to a much-needed transit-oriented development in the county seat of Hillsborough (more on this in a moment). And for what it’s worth, the shrillest opposition came not from rednecks or Tea Party activists but from highly educated “creative class” progressives who effectively weaponized Jane Jacobs to oppose anything they perceived as threatening the status quo...

The third legacy of the Jacobsian turn is perhaps most troubling of all: the seeming paucity among American planners today of the speculative courage and vision that once distinguished this profession. ...

Most of what was embraced post-Jacobs must remain — our expertise on public policy and economics, on law and governance and international development, on planning process and community involvement, on hazard mitigation and environmental impact, on ending poverty and encouraging justice and equality. But all these should be subordinated to core competencies related to placemaking, infrastructure and the physical environment, built and natural. I am not suggesting that we simply toss in a few studio courses and call it a day. Planners should certainly be versed in key theories of landscape and urban design. But more than design skills are needed if planning is to become — as I feel it must — the charter discipline and conscience of the placemaking professions in coming decades....

in addition to being taught courses in economics and law and governance, students should be trained to be keen observers of the urban landscapes about them, to be able to decipher the riddles of architectural style and substance, to have a working knowledge of the historical development of places and patterns on the land. They should understand how the physical infrastructure of a city works — the mechanics of transportation and utility systems, sewerage and water supply. They should know the fundamentals of ecology and the natural systems of a place, be able to read a site and its landform and vegetation, know that a great spreading maple in the middle of a stand of pines once stood alone in an open pasture. They need to know the basics of impact analysis and be able to assess the implications of a proposed development on traffic, water quality and a city’s carbon footprint. And while they cannot master all of site engineering, they should be competent site analysts and — more important — be fluent in assessing the site plans of others.
urban_planning  jane_jacobs  urban_history  pedagogy 
Home | International Cloud Atlas
Since the International Cloud Atlas (ICA) was last updated (four decades ago in the case of Volume I; three in the case of Volume II) our understanding of some types of clouds and other meteorological meteors has advanced, and technology has fundamentally changed our world. We have witnessed the creation of the internet, email and mobile telephones with digital cameras. Yet the cloud atlas has only been available in print format.

Accurate and consistent cloud and weather observations remain critically important for weather, climate and hydrology, so ensuring that observations are globally standardized remains an important need. In the absence of on-line access to the ICA, alternative atlases began to appear on the web, and with them returned a threat to the global standardization of cloud classification, a key reason for the original development of the ICA in 1939.
clouds  meteorology  atlas 
2 days ago
Arizona State U library reorganization plan moves ahead
Many other universities are reorganizing their libraries as they see an increase in the use of electronic resources and demand for cafes, multimedia classrooms, maker spaces, writing centers and other spaces devoted to teaching, learning and research. ASU, which under Crow's leadership has relentlessly pursued an innovation agenda, joins their ranks to argue for the benefits of libraries at a time when federal funding is on the cutting block.
The university in October 2014 hired James J. O’Donnell, a classical scholar who previously served as provost at Georgetown University, to lead the university library through the reorganization process. In an interview, he said one of his priorities since taking the job has been to figure out what to do with the 4.5 million physical items in the library’s collections.
“It’s time to realize that all of our users are primarily online users of our collections,” O’Donnell said. Reorganizing a university library around that concept “means changing your service model, your staffing structure and organization, and bringing in a bunch of new people,” he said....

The university last year received a $50,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support that work. O’Donnell said he plans for the renovated library to highlight a “carefully chosen print collection.” Its special collections feature prominently in those plans, as they will be moved from their current location “hidden away on the fourth floor” to the main floor, he said.
“We want it to be a place that says libraries are important because libraries have the good stuff,” O’Donnell said. “Libraries have and manage access to the best-quality learning and research resources, and we have the wizards to help you find what you need. We can take you to lots and lots of places that the open internet just can’t plain take you, and we can show you how to get there.”

O’Donnell also said the library is considering a future in which it will feature smaller “thematic exhibits” with accompanying events on a rotating basis. One semester might be devoted to Italy; the next, sustainability....

The library is taking some cues from the retail world on how to design the rotating exhibits to invite visitors to attend and explore, O’Donnell said. The retail angle extends to how the library is talking about its operations. The library will store the rest of its collections in off-site shelving on its Polytechnic campus, some 20 miles away from the Hayden Library. But librarians don’t refer to the off-site shelving as “storage,” he said. Instead, they are being encouraged by Crow to see it as a “fulfillment center,” similar to those used by online retailers.
An informational website that the university set up to raise awareness about the library renovation completes the comparison to Amazon. It explains that books “will remain accessible to the ASU community through expedited delivery options similar to the Amazon Prime service.”...

Off-site storage has become a popular solution for university libraries looking to free up some space by removing stacks. The Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, is engaged in its own library renovation project that involves moving virtually all of its physical books to a facility it shares with nearby Emory University (but keeping some as a “visual cue,” administrators said last year).
Irene M. H. Herold, president of the Association of College & Research Libraries, said in an interview that the trend of using off-site storage is one example of how the university library profession is changing.
“Our focus is where it has been all along,” said Herold, university librarian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “We’re not just knowledge preservers and information-literacy, critical-thinking instructors. We’re also engaged in knowledge creation. It’s just that the knowledge that’s being created is able to be accessed and shaped and shared in such different ways than in the past.”...

O’Donnell expanded on his vision for the renovated building in an email. “I want a building that is a showplace (a sign of ASU's academic and achievement) and a showcase (a place to make people aware of library treasures and resources and of the achievements of student and faculty partners) and a showroom (a place for users to go to find out about and road test and learn how to use information resources for best contribution to academic work and ambition).”
libraries  academic_libraries  collections  collection_management  offsite_storage  storage  pedagogy  architecture 
3 days ago
The DATA2GO.NYC mapping and data tool allows you to access federal, state and local data concerning the economic well-being of all of the city's neighborhoods. Using the tool you can view information in many different areas, such as educational attainment and average incomes in each New York neighborhood.

Using the DATA2GO.NYC interactive map you can view information on over 300 different indicators, in areas such as education, demographics and the economy. If you select an indicator from the map's drop-down menu you can view a choropleth view of that data on the city map. If you select any of the neighborhood's on the map you can also view how it compares to all other New York neighborhoods for the selected indicator on an accompanying chart view.
mapping  cartography  data_sets  new_york 
5 days ago
Wreck Park: Interview
I get impatient about materialism—or, materiality. I shouldn’t say “materialism,” because that’s actually an interesting Marxist thing. I mean, studying materiality. . . . It’s often actually displaced and transfigured connoisseurship. So, for me, your first few chapters instead do materiality in a theoretical way that’s robust. It’s not just about, “Well, I know my stuff because I spent my time looking at fiber optic cables.” You mobilize specialist knowledge in a very different way.


It’s really unfortunate. So many recent books on digital media base their authority on the fact that their author has actually touched the fiber optic cable or looked at the code, rather than on well-built arguments....

The utter banality of it is why I only wanted to take pictures of the outside rather than the inside; it’s because there’s no mystical secret that you can find by getting access to these buildings. You’re not going to read some code in the blinking lights that will somehow undermine algorithmic control....

One reason tracing the chain of consumption is so popular is partly because scholars like the gadgets—the batteries, plastic surfaces, and so on—that they play with. What often gets lost are the people not only behind the scenes but also not even considered legitimately part of the scene.

The most recent thing I’ve written, a thing I just finished earlier today, is about understanding so-called pirates, spammers, or people who write fraudulent messages as an integral part of the cloud’s system of work. They aren’t far off from content moderators or microlaborers who are treated as disposable, as essentially human spam.
my_work  infrastructure  tourism  infrastructural_tourism  materiality  internet  labor 
5 days ago
Hyperserfs - The Chronicle of Higher Education
When universities enter into agreements with corporations to sponsor research, the extent of their claim on the intellectual property is spelled out. But when it comes to curricular or resource-based arrangements like the Hyperloop contest, what the university stands to really gain is not so clear. And yet, strapped for funding and competing to stay relevant, many universities still eagerly support such high-profile projects in hopes of accruing cultural capital, raising their profile among peer institutions and prospective students, or striking it rich. As a result, universities have commodified not only student knowledge but learning and student life for profit.

In so doing, they are betraying their public promise, which is to advance science and technology for the benefit of everyone. We can appreciate the results of science or the technological breakthroughs brought about in the postwar university, and learning by doing is an essential pedagogical technique. University and student-powered research led to innovations such as oral contraceptives, the polio vaccine, the computer, and the internet — in a climate that fostered the pursuit of human knowledge, for the sake of all humans.

This climate has given way to one where, as Jacob Rooksby has argued, companies are in the classroom at the same time universities increasingly act as companies — in a climate that fosters the pursuit of intellectual property, patents, copyright, and branding.

In today’s environment, universities must do more to ensure that the public and social investment in STEM benefits the common good, rather than serves primarily private interests. We need more research-based, public service in STEM fields, and it needs to be free not only of student debt but also of political and commercial restraints.
academia  sponsored_research  funding  neoliberalism 
6 days ago
Data61 revamps government data to make it more publicly accessible | ZDNet
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation's (CSIRO) Data61 is looking to make government data more accessible to all Australians, revamping and, and working on the creation of government dashboards -- to name just a few projects currently underway.

The Australian government initially launched in 2010 as a tool allowing for the publishing of open data across all jurisdictions of government in the country. It then evolved in 2013 to see application programming interface (API)-style access to datasets.

Since then, more data has been collected and more government departments, enterprises large and small, and the average Australian citizen have become eager to get their hands on the information.

Last year, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet went to Data61 with a brief of building "world-leading" data infrastructure -- essentially a revamp of the portal
open_data  dashboards  australia 
9 days ago
Artificial data give the same results as real data — without compromising privacy | MIT News
Although data scientists can gain great insights from large data sets — and can ultimately use these insights to tackle major challenges — accomplishing this is much easier said than done. Many such efforts are stymied from the outset, as privacy concerns make it difficult for scientists to access the data they would like to work with.
In a paper presented at the IEEE International Conference on Data Science and Advanced Analytics, members of the Data to AI Lab at the MIT Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS) Kalyan Veeramachaneni, principal research scientist in LIDS and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) and co-authors Neha Patki and Roy Wedge describe a machine learning system that automatically creates synthetic data — with the goal of enabling data science efforts that, due to a lack of access to real data, may have otherwise not left the ground. While the use of authentic data can cause significant privacy concerns, this synthetic data is completely different from that produced by real users — but can still be used to develop and test data science algorithms and models.
machine_learning  data_science  artificial_intelligence 
9 days ago
The Center for Land Use Interpretation
Underground Mines Turned Into Farms, Night Clubs, Data Centers, Physics Labs, and Paintball Fields

A former underground sandstone mine in Festus, Missouri, was turned into a roller rink and night club called Caveland, where musical acts including MC5 and Bob Seger once played (though not at the same time, unfortunately). It closed in 1985, and sat idle until 2003, when it was bought on Ebay in 2003, and turned into a private home. It is located down the street from Festus RV and Boat Storage (inside another mine, in the same bluff).

Some former mines have been turned into physics research facilities, like portions of the Soudan Iron Mine, in Michigan, which has the MINOS neutrino detector installed deep in the mine, measuring neutrinos sent through the ground from the Fermi Lab, outside Chicago, hundreds of miles away.

The Sanford Lab in the former Homestake mine, in Lead, South Dakota, is another particle physics lab inside a mine. The underground mine is huge, sometimes referred to as the largest mine in the western hemisphere. Over 125 years, more than 40 million ounces of gold was extracted from the mine, until it closed in 2001. There are 370 miles of tunnels, as deep as 8,000 feet down. With private and public funding, the mines have been turned into research for cosmic radiation, like dark matter and nutrinos, which are more visible deep underground, due to the filtering effects of the earth above them.

Part of a decommissioned copper mine in White Pine, Michigan, has been converted by Prairie Plant Systems into an underground grow house and plant research facility called SubTerra. Doing this kind of research in an underground facility isolates it from the outdoor environment, limiting the possibility of contamination from inside to outside, or outside to inside, both important, especially if working on genetic modifications....

Banking Bunkers and other Purpose-Built Underground Storage Spaces...

Off-site underground bank vaults built during the Cold War are not uncommon, though few are in use as records storage vaults now. There is another underground banking bunker in rural northern Connecticut, similar to the vault in Pepperell, though a bit larger, at 10,000 square feet. It was built in 1962 by the Underground Record Protection Cooperative Trust, a group of banks and insurance companies. Its primary function was to store records out of the way of nuclear attack (outside the city, and underground), but, like Pepperell, it could also house a few dozen people, presumably executives associated with the Trust, for a few weeks, and had decontamination showers, cots, and food rations. After its original purpose ended, somewhere in the early 1990s, the bunker changed hands a few times, then fell into disuse. In 2013, it opened as a secure wine storage facility called Horse Ridge Cellars.....

One of the most notorious banking bunkers is the former Federal Reserve facility at Mount Pony, near Culpeper, Virginia, a three-level underground vault built by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department in 1969 to house the hub of their nationwide communications network, and to store $241 billion in cash (including rows of palletized $2 bills), which would be used to jump start the economy following a nuclear attack. After being offered for sale in the early 1990s, the facility was purchased by philanthropist and film preservationist David W. Packard, and thoroughly redeveloped over many years into the National Audio Visual Conservation Center of the Library of Congress. Inside are millions of movies, TV episodes, and audio recordings on every conceivable recording format, including nitrate film, kept in one of the two underground film vaults there....

A considerable part of the history of document management and archiving centered around another film medium, microfilm, which was first developed to more efficiently record and store documents by the banking industry in the 1920s. Kodak bought these technologies and expanded them into a standard for archiving newspaper, paper which degraded quickly. As printed information in all forms continued to test the storage limits of archives and libraries, microfilm became the standard master format for much of the printed material produced in the world. Library basements and off-site library storage areas are often full of microfilm, though it is going away—being digitized, like everything else.

One of the largest collections of microfilmed records is inside the Granite Mountain Records Vault, the principal storage facility for the genealogical research programs of the Mormon Church...

The corporation with the most underground space is—or was—AT&T. AT&T’s communications infrastructure of the 1950s to 1990s included hundreds of underground facilities, ranging from single story equipment vaults to multi-level underground system control centers. Many of these were hardened concrete structures to help vital communication equipment survive a nuclear attack. It also reduced the likelihood of damage from vandals, as many of these facilities were unmanned, and sometimes very remote...

One of the most common types of large underground telco vault can be found at repeater stations along the national microwave tower and coaxial cable networks. Staring in the 1990s, many of these facilities were sold off. ... For more than a decade, the Netcong Bunker was the principal network operations center for AT&T....

The only entity to rival AT&T in the development of underground space is its partner throughout the Cold War, the US Government itself. Major underground military command and control centers exist underneath the Pentagon; at Raven Rock, Pennsylvania; and at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. At Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, the underground command center for Stratcom is being upgraded with a new $1.2 billion HQ right now.

And then there is FEMA, the bunker masters, operating out of the underground motherearthship, Mount Weather, in Virginia, with somewhere around 600,000 square feet of subterranean space, and accommodations for hundreds of government officials, if not thousands, including the president. ...

thousands of backyard bomb shelters (and storm shelters too) built for family use, and numerous apocalyptic (or pragmatic, depending on your POV) group facilities, made by secretive survivalist preppers, and religious groups, like the Scientology bunker in Trementina, New Mexico (one of three operated by Scientology’s Church of Spiritual Technology), or the $25 million shelter complex at the Royal Teton Ranch, built for a few hundred members of the Church Universal and Triumphant, near Gardiner, Montana....

At the other end of the nuclear weapons underground spectrum from missile silos and Cold War bunkers is the other small matter of radioactive waste storage, which has resulted in two of the largest purpose-built underground facilities in the country.
underground  mining  media_archaeology  infrastructure  microfilm 
12 days ago
The New Version of Administrative Creep | Vitae
When it starts to happen, administrative creep typically isn't felt as an overly onerous task. Requests for faculty involvement in administrative tasks are framed as opportunities to volunteer. The faculty member is presented with an ultimatum that runs along the lines of "if you don't volunteer for X committee/task force/working group, it will be done by administrators without you." The subtext is that not being present will result in negative effects for faculty — as if what is in the best interest of administration is not in the best interest of faculty.

Unfortunately, our presence on those groups often legitimizes their administratively-focused decisions. Additionally, the more that we are brought into administrative decision-making, the more an administrative identity begins to shape who we are and what we do. We start to think like administrators — focused not on what we do best (teaching and research), but rather what administration requires.

Another example of administrative creep is the focus on filling classes — i.e., selling credits. Too often, we spend time discussing a strategy to "offer the classes that will fill," rather than a strategy to "offer the classes our students need to succeed." Administrators want faculty members to be nimble, to adjust our course offerings to meet students' demands. That means adding sections in high-demand courses, and cancelling sections of under-enrolled classes.

In that model, administrators view professors as parts in a machine, easily shifted. While that is a problem in and of itself, the more pernicious problem is the degree to which faculty members start discussing which courses to offer based on fill rates, and planning our hiring around the fill-rate paradigm....

Just Don't Do It. One of the most important and effective responses to administrative creep is for faculty to just say no. A significant percentage of the administrative tasks we are asked to perform are simply unnecessary. Here's how the game works: Administrators are hired. They require certain tasks of faculty (writing reports and assessments, for example) and are then responsible for evaluating the results. Those administrators have created a loop that justifies their positions but does nothing to strengthen teaching and learning for our students. Why not eliminate the very administrative positions that our universities have created to serve this circular logic? A step in that direction is to say no to administrative requests that support the loop. That doesn't mean that we should decline all such requests — just that we limit our involvement to the ones that reflect faculty interests in improving our curricula, teaching students, building our scholarship, and creating knowledge. - See more at:
academia  administration  bureaucracy 
12 days ago
DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: The .txtual Condition: Digital Humanities, Born-Digital Archives, and the Future Literary
In 1995 in the midst of the first widespread wave of digitization, the Modern Language Association issued a Statement on the Significance of Primary Records in order to assert the importance of retaining books and other physical artifacts even after they have been microfilmed or scanned for general consumption. "A primary record," the MLA told us then, "can appropriately be defined as a physical object produced or used at the particular past time that one is concerned with in a given instance" (27). Today, the conceit of a "primary record" can no longer be assumed to be coterminous with that of a "physical object." Electronic texts, files, feeds, and transmissions of all sorts are also now, indisputably, primary records. In the specific domain of the literary, a writer working today will not and cannot be studied in the future in the same way as writers of the past, because the basic material evidence of their authorial activity — manuscripts and drafts, working notes, correspondence, journals — is, like all textual production, increasingly migrating to the electronic realm. This essay therefore seeks to locate and triangulate the emergence of a .txtual condition — I am of course remediating Jerome McGann’s influential notion of a “textual condition” — amid our contemporary constructions of the "literary", along with the changing nature of literary archives, and lastly activities in the digital humanities as that enterprise is now construed. In particular, I will use the example of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland as a means of illustrating the kinds of resources and expertise a working digital humanities center can bring to the table when confronted with the range of materials that archives and manuscript repositories will increasingly be receiving.
archives  materiality 
12 days ago
"Smart Cities" Are Too Smart for Your Privacy | Center for Internet and Society
all providers of broadband Internet access are required to build in wiretap capabilities under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), 47 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq.  There is no exception for municipalities providing such services.  That being the case, one wonders exactly how federal, state and local authorities will use the back door in a municipal network. How will municipalities execute wiretaps or obtain customer information from their own municipal provider?  Will the municipal provider be transparent with its customers and provide notice of such requests where lawful much as other commercial providers do today?  A smart city would work that out in advance of deploying services.

For another thing, cities are not subject to suit under the federal wiretap law for wrongfully intercepting and disclosing communications between citizens according to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. See Seitz v. City of Elgin, 719 F.3d 654 (7th Cir. 2013). To explain, even though the relief section of the Wiretap Act says that a claim may be brought against a “person or entity” that violates the Act, the substantive prohibitions in section 2511 of Title 18 apply only to a “person.”  According to Seitz, Congress did not include cities in the definition of “person.”  The Sixth Circuit reached a different conclusion a decade earlier, so at best, there is an apparent split in the circuits, but the Seventh Circuit probably has it right. See Adams v. City of Battle Creek, 250 F.3d 980 (6th Cir. 2001). Legislative arcania aside, it is a serious issue for municipal providers, raising concerns ranging from E&O insurance to qualified privileges and immunity to employee misconduct to contingent liability and litigation risks.

The answers for smart cities may be to provide a dumb pipe, but don’t bet on that future, especially because providing such services will raise revenue for cities from subscription fees to advertising and analytics dollars.  Some cities may choose to outsource all of the platform or network operations of a smart city, and that also will raise a host of privacy questions about ownership and use of data.  
smart_cities  surveillance  privacy 
13 days ago
(2) All You Can Do with Catalogs: Accessing, Organizing, Disseminating Local and Global Knowledge (15th-19th Centuries) | Paola Molino, Dagmar Riedel, Guy Burak, Martina Siebert, and Seth Kimmel -
It all began with a serendipitous crossing of the paths of four scholars working on the transmission of knowledge and the history of science in European, Middle Eastern, and East Asian societies. We all share an abiding interest in the composition of finding aids between 1400 and 1800, when the transformation of feudal societies into territorial states prompted the ruling elites to invest into the construction of imperial libraries and archives, whose design projected transregional connections and supranational ambitions to the world at large. Although new cataloging principles emerged for the collections housed within these new physical spaces, their compilers did not explicitly break with the already recognized knowledge traditions, attempting rather to harmonize the established authoritative epistemes into new classificatory regimes. The finding aids of early modern societies are fascinating objects in their own right: As artifacts they are primarily paper tools and, yet, their written contents can also be understood as a graphic representation of ideas....

Paola Molino, Islam Dayeh, and Martina Siebert investigated how the construction of libraries and the design of their research facilities developed in conjunction with the organization of finding aids. Particular attention was given to the technical terminology of classification schemes as regard to the various purposes of bibliographical information, and to the appreciation of finding aids as intellectual achievements in their own right. In the discussion, we explored the possibility of a methodology for the study of finding aids as sources for a transregional history of knowledge. What is the impact of ideology on classification schemes?...

Christian Jacob discussed lists and catalogs from a meta-perspective, exploring their morphology and their uses. He stressed that every form of knowledge needs a set of practices and a space, namely a materiality that allows for its representation. He furthermore posited that the power of catalogs cannot be understood without examining their relationship to geographical maps. Seth Kimmel pushed this thesis further by investigating how bibliography and cartography were intertwined in the cataloging project of Hernando Colón (1488 –1539), a cartographer, explorer, and bibliophile who had established a private universal library in Seville. In contrast, Cevolini focused on a mechanical indexing device for the storage of written notes and excerpts, known as the "ark of studies" and designed by Thomas Harrison (1595–1649).Cevolini interpreted the ark as an external memory device which illustrated how new cognitive habits were accompanied by new organizational strategies....

Since readers increasingly rely on global online catalogs in order to access books as digital surrogates, what will happen to the relationship between a
library's spatial organization and the systematics of its catalogs? Richard took as his starting point the cataloging practices in Muslim societies since the tenth and eleventh centuries. Although there is much evidence for vibrant library traditions in Turkey, Iran, and India, very few catalogs of historical library collections have passed down to us. Richard observed that the librarian's personal responsibility for a collection under his care might have worked as a disincentive for the compilation of publicly available finding aids, since a catalogue can also be used to control the work of the librarian....
archives  libraries  cataloguing  finding_aids  classification 
13 days ago
The Dark History of HathiTrust
This research explores the ways values, power, and politics shape and are shaped by digital infrastructure development through an in-depth study of HathiTrust’s “dark history,” the period of years leading up to its public launch. This research identifies and traces the emerging and iterative ways that values were surfaced and negotiated, decision-making approaches were strategically modified, and relationships were strengthened, reconfigured, and sometimes abandoning through the process of generating a viable, robust and sustainable collaborative digital infrastructure. Through this history, we gain deeper understandings and appreciations of the various and sometimes surprising ways that values, power, and politics are implicated in digital infrastructure development. Shedding light on this history enables us to better contextualize and understand the affordances, limitations, and challenges of the HathiTrust we know today, better envision its range of possible futures, and develop richer appreciations for digital infrastructure development more broadly.
archives  books  libraries  google  hathi_trust  infrastructures  labor  copyright 
13 days ago
Mondothèque: A Radiated Book / Un livre irradiant / Een irradiërend boek (2016) [EN, FR, NL] — Monoskop Log
“This Radiated Book started three years ago with an e-mail from the Mundaneum archive center in Mons, Belgium. It announced that Elio di Rupo, then prime minister of Belgium, was about to sign a collaboration agreement between the archive center and Google. The newsletter cited an article in the French newspaper Le Monde that coined the Mundaneum as ‘Google on paper’. It was our first encounter with many variations on the same theme.

The former mining area around Mons is also where Google has installed its largest datacenter in Europe, a result of negotiations by the same Di Rupo. Due to the re-branding of Paul Otlet as ‘founding father of the Internet’, Otlet’s oeuvre finally started to receive international attention. Local politicians wanting to transform the industrial heartland into a home for The Internet Age seized the moment and made the Mundaneum a central node in their campaigns. Google — grateful for discovering its posthumous francophone roots — sent chief evangelist Vint Cerf to the Mundaneum. Meanwhile, the archive center allowed the company to publish hundreds of documents on the website of Google Cultural Institute.

While the visual resemblance between a row of index drawers and a server park might not be a coincidence, it is something else to conflate the type of universalist knowledge project imagined by Paul Otlet and Henri Lafontaine with the enterprise of the search giant. The statement ‘Google on paper’ acted as a provocation, evoking other cases in other places where geographically situated histories are turned into advertising slogans, and cultural infrastructures pushed into the hands of global corporations.

An international band of artists, archivists and activists set out to unravel the many layers of this mesh. The direct comparison between the historical Mundaneum project and the mission of Alphabet Inc speaks of manipulative simplification on multiple levels, but to de-tangle its implications was easier said than done. Some of us were drawn in by misrepresentations of the oeuvre of Otlet himself, others felt the need to give an account of its Brussels’ roots, to re-insert the work of maintenance and caretaking into the his/story of founding fathers, or joined out of concern with the future of cultural institutions and libraries in digital times.” (from the Introduction)
google  otlet  archives 
14 days ago
The open source city as the transnational democratic future | Transnational Institute
In City of fears, City of hope 7 (2003), Zygmunt Bauman talks about two important concepts related to the modern city: mixophobia (the fear used by institutions to discourage the use of the public space) and mixophilia (human and cultural mixing in cities). His main conclusion, however, is that nation-states are in decline and cities are our era’s principal political space....

The mutation of the global city into the global street is a desirable political agenda for the planet. The global street (a space both physical and semantic) and the rebel cities (as a combative remixing of the right to the city) have become narrative expressions of the global “outside”. Indeed, some of the most important social uprisings in recent times, such as the Gezi Park revolt in Turkey, the Movimento Passe Livre (MPL) in Brazil and the Gamonal protest in Burgos (Spain), have had the urban space as their initial cause. The city is also the setting for the continuation of many revolts: in Augusta Park in São Paulo, Can Batlló in Barcelona or the community-managed Embros Theatre in Athens, among many others....

These revolts have also allowed for constructing new models of participation and governance. During the Acampada Sol camp-out by Spain’s 15M in Madrid, which lasted for several weeks in May and June 2011, an online tool called Propongo 15 was developed to allow anyone to make policy proposals. Although these policy proposals did not necessarily translate into policy changes, the online tool, whose source code was later used by the government of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, revealed society’s longing for participatory democracy. ...

A society’s operating system would therefore be a series of common practices and human relationships, not just a set of online platforms. ...

to a large extent about promoting voluntary work by citizens in order justify the disappearance of the welfare state. To avoid reinforcing this, city autonomies and citizen self-management and collaboration have a crucial role to act as an incentive for mutual complementarity between public administration and citizens....

As well as using free technology, any city council that wishes to build an open source city will therefore have to recognise and protect existing citizen practices (as well as foster new ones) that reproduce the commons and strengthen that new, post-capitalist mode of “production” whether they are community centres, self-managed spaces, gardening networks or peer-to-peer file sharing networks....

The participatory repertoire of the Barcelona en Comú political confluence, which is currently governing the city of Barcelona, is seen as one of the models to be replicated. “Its radical democracy draws on a set of tools, techniques, mechanisms and structures to develop municipal policies from the bottom up. These include assemblies at various levels (neighbourhood, thematic, coordination, logistics, media, communication etc) and online platforms (for communicating, voting, working).”...

The fact that different cities are sharing the code for their digital platforms breaks with the smart city’s logic of proprietary technology and the paradigm of branded cities competing with each other. What has now been baptised as Spanish “intermunicipalism” seeks to create a network of “rebel cities for the common good” which share repositories, tools, digital platforms and methodologies.
cities  protest  public_sphere  public_space  smart_cities 
14 days ago
Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence? - Scientific American
Today, Singapore is seen as a perfect example of a data-controlled society. What started as a program to protect its citizens from terrorism has ended up influencing economic and immigration policy, the property market and school curricula. China is taking a similar route. Recently, Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google, invited the military to take part in the China Brain Project. It involves running so-called deep learning algorithms over the search engine data collected about its users. Beyond this, a kind of social control is also planned. According to recent reports, every Chinese citizen will receive a so-called ”Citizen Score”, which will determine under what conditions they may get loans, jobs, or travel visa to other countries....

The new, caring government is not only interested in what we do, but also wants to make sure that we do the things that it considers to be right. The magic phrase is "big nudging", which is the combination of big data with nudging. To many, this appears to be a sort of digital scepter that allows one to govern the masses efficiently, without having to involve citizens in democratic processes. Could this overcome vested interests and optimize the course of the world?..

In a rapidly changing world a super-intelligence can never make perfect decisions (see Fig. 1): systemic complexity is increasing faster than data volumes, which are growing faster than the ability to process them, and data transfer rates are limited. This results in disregarding local knowledge and facts, which are important to reach good solutions. Distributed, local control methods are often superior to centralized approaches, especially in complex systems whose behaviors are highly variable, hardly predictable and not capable of real-time optimization. This is already true for traffic control in cities, but even more so for the social and economic systems of our highly networked, globalized world.

Furthermore, there is a danger that the manipulation of decisions by powerful algorithms undermines the basis of "collective intelligence," which can flexibly adapt to the challenges of our complex world....

By allowing the pursuit of various different goals, a pluralistic society is better able to cope with the range of unexpected challenges to come.
Centralized, top-down control is a solution of the past, which is only suitable for systems of low complexity. Therefore, federal systems and majority decisions are the solutions of the present. With economic and cultural evolution, social complexity will continue to rise. Therefore, the solution for the future is collective intelligence. This means that citizen science, crowdsourcing and online discussion platforms are eminently important new approaches to making more knowledge, ideas and resources available....

We are at the historic moment, where we have to decide on the right path—a path that allows us all to benefit from the digital revolution. Therefore, we urge to adhere to the following fundamental principles:
1. to increasingly decentralize the function of information systems;
2. to support informational self-determination and participation;
3. to improve transparency in order to achieve greater trust;
4. to reduce the distortion and pollution of information;
5. to enable user-controlled information filters;
6. to support social and economic diversity;
7. to improve interoperability and collaborative opportunities;
8. to create digital assistants and coordination tools;
9. to support collective intelligence, and
10. to promote responsible behavior of citizens in the digital world through digital literacy and enlightenment....

Several types of institutions should be considered. Most importantly, society must be decentralized, following the principle of subsidiarity. Three dimensions matter.
Spatial decentralization consists in vibrant federalism. The provinces, regions and communes must be given sufficient autonomy. To a large extent, they must be able to set their own tax rates and govern their own public expenditure.
Functional decentralization according to area of public expenditure (for example education, health, environment, water provision, traffic, culture etc) is also desirable. This concept has been developed through the proposal of FOCJ, or “Functional, Overlapping and Competing Jurisdictions”.
Political decentralization relating to the division of power between the executive (government), legislative (parliament) and the courts. Public media and academia should be additional pillars.
smart_cities  surveillance  big_data  china  democracy  governance  nudge  digital_literacy 
14 days ago
Most of the time, innovators don’t move fast and break things | Aeon Essays
The history of technology is too important to be left to the technologists. Relying on PayPal’s founders Elon Musk or Peter Thiel to tell us how that history goes is like turning to Bill Clinton or Newt Gingrich to tell the political history of the 1990s. Books such as Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators (2014) or Steven Johnson’s How We Got to Now (2015) give us accounts of lone genius men toiling in industrial labs and Bay Area garages. This view of innovation – narrow and shallow – casts a long shadow, one that obscures the broad and deep currents that actually drive technological innovation and shape its impact on society....

Over the past two centuries, almost all professional scientists and engineers have worked not to cut down the old trees of technologies and knowledge and grow new ones, but to nurture and prune the existing ones. In corporate-based science and technology, disruption is very rare, continuity rules, and makes change and advance possible. At different times in history, such disruption was even discouraged. At the great industrial labs of the early 20th century, companies such as General Electric (GE) or AT&T didn’t want their engineers and scientists to create excessive technological novelty – tens of millions of company dollars had been invested to build existing technological systems. Instead, research managers such as Willis R Whitney, head of GE’s research, sought incremental improvements that would marginally advance the company’s technologies and extend its intellectual property regime.....

As political artefacts, standards embody certain ideologies. For the internet, it is an aspiration towards openness – open systems, open access, open source. In the US, this ideology has deep historical roots. Some ideas inherent in this openness can be traced from the civil liberties driving resistance towards England’s Stamp Act in the mid-18th century to 20th-century ideals of open societies as alternatives to fascist and communist regimes. The philosopher Langdon Winner argued in 1980 that artefacts have politics, beliefs and assumptions about the world and society that are embedded and written into their very fabric.

As a result, technical standards – the very ‘things’ that allow my laptop and your iPhone to seamlessly (more or less) connect to networks as we move about the planet – requires the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), as well as recognition and cooperation from state agencies such as the US Federal Communications Commission or the International Telecommunication Union. Techno-libertarians might claim ‘I made it’ but the reality is that, without international standards, whatever they made wouldn’t work very well.
innovation  methodology  great_man_theory  research  standards 
16 days ago
Nothing Tweetable: A Conversation or How to “Librarian” at the End of Times – In the Library with the Lead Pipe
There’s that Kurt Vonnegut quote from A Man Without a Country, “So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries” (Vonnegut, 2005, 103).
17 days ago
The Avery Review | Hudson Yards: A Sustainable Micropolis
The island of Manhattan is slowly tilting toward Hudson Yards. When completed, the project will have added 17 million square feet of residential and commercial space, 14 acres of public open space, 100 shops and restaurants, a cultural space, luxury hotel, and public school.1 We’ve grown familiar with the ingredients that go into making this kind of urban development soup: sustainable design, infrastructure upgrades, and a mixture of retail, commercial, and residential space. ...

One thing that is surely being sustained at Hudson Yards is the public funding of private ventures. For anyone doubting the level of engagement between the state and business, consider that about $3 billion in taxpayer money was poured into infrastructure improvements targeted toward Hudson Yards in order to entice investment....

Within this whirlwind of development, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), owner of the twenty-six-acre Hudson Yards site, is, for the first time, using real estate to secure its debt, raising over $1 billion in bonds backed by expected returns from lease agreements with Related and Oxford....

Every mayor in New York since the 1970s attempted to jump-start development in Hudson Yards. Most recently, in January of 2005, the land between Twenty-Eighth and Forty-Second Streets and Eighth and Twelfth Avenues was rezoned from industrial to mixed-use residential and commercial (MTA’s railyards run from Thirtieth to Thirty-Third Streets and Tenth to Twelfth Avenues). The extension of the No. 7 line was proposed in the mid-2000s alongside plans to build a new Jets Stadium over the railyards as part of a strategy to secure the 2012 Summer Olympics. At the time, the MTA did not have the funds available to move ahead with the extension, and following the defeat of the new stadium proposal the MTA solicited bids for a mixed-use development from developers....

The management of the environment cannot be thought of in isolation of land use questions and, in turn, planning. Hudson Yards therefore situates itself squarely in the middle of the set of questions circling around the role of the state, and, by extension, of planning in public-private partnerships. ...

Hudson Yards is America’s largest private real estate development. Once completed, Related Companies, the major stakeholder in the project, estimates it will add 2.5 percent to New York City’s domestic product.13 Hudson Yards is estimated to cost the developers $20 billion. And Related’s Stephen Ross is securing commercial tenants at project cost—the first of whom were Coach and L’Oréal—in order to finance the retail and residential portions of the project, where he aims to make his profit....

Related was able to raise $600 million for the initial phase of the Hudson Yards development through EB-5 and is aiming to raise another $600 million.23 In a $20 billion project these amounts don’t add up to much but do lead to a pertinent question: How much of the $20 billion was amassed through federal programs meant to distribute economic well-being equitably rather than concentrating it in a commercial enterprise zone? In a political landscape that asks the citizen to step aside to give room to the developer to exercise his or her “private risk,” it is worth asking just how much of that risk is, indeed, private....

What, then, is public space in Hudson Yards? It is as powerful an agent as the buildings themselves are. If we shift our focus from how the individual parcels and buildings are zoned to how this development connects to its global context, we see the emergence of what Keller Easterling defines as “infrastructure space,” which, while material, is hidden and silent. ...

Hudson Yards is dizzying in its list of interconnected technologies, a system rather than a set of buildings. Shannon Mattern offers a thoughtful account of the data-driven infrastructure that the Hudson Yards development promotes as sustainable design. “While such systems are environmentally ‘smart’—they eliminate noisy, polluting garbage trucks; minimize landfill waste, and reduce offensive smells—they also cultivate an out-of-sight, out-of-mind public consciousness,” Mattern explains.28 Our definitions of sustainability tend to act like putty, stretching and squeezing to fill the holes in our ecological thinking so that we can get to a holistic picture of what it means to live responsibly on our planet. The aesthetics of sustainability emerge from the urgency to suppress, cover up, and ultimately control our environment....

hanks to “smart” technology, residents and tenants will be connected to an energy-monitoring system, curbing consumption inefficiencies. Thad Sheely, senior vice president of operations at Related Companies, admits that this may be something we will have to wait for. Hudson Yards is laying down the infrastructural foundation in order to collect energy data, even though they’re not quite sure what to do with it all yet. He explains, “There’s something here, but Google and Apple haven’t figured it out yet, either. But this is a road we have to be on, but no one knows where it goes … our focus has been to get the hardware right, so that we have the bandwidth, the connectivity, two-way communication, and the ability to upload and download and collect data.”

The project is so far ahead of itself; it hasn’t yet caught up to its promise, though this kind of data collection is fundamental in the design of Hudson Yards. The infrastructure of energy use monitoring is not simply integrated into the project but is an active agent in shaping and designing the buildings, open spaces, and even natures that comprise this development. With the thumbprint swipe of a screen one can reflect on their participation in Hudson Yards, coded through the metrics of energy use. Hudson Yards is as much space as it is interface, with all of the potential impacts (foreseeable and unforeseeable) that this entails....

What these sustainable aesthetics and rhetorics of efficiency occlude is the messy and vital public that is excluded from a publicly funded private development—the many, many New Yorkers that real estate projects like Hudson Yards do not sustain. The aesthetic of sustainable design is an easier sell, and easier signifier, than the more complex and invisible changes to development that could otherwise move toward environmental and social equity. ...

As a set of technological and rational ideas meant to move a city forward, modernism persists. The city continues to be managed as a machine even when it is likened to an ecology, holding the promise of an explicit spatial order that needs to be restored in order for urban health to be maintained. Concerns surrounding equity, sustainability, and the environment, entering mainstream development discourse relatively recently, are subsumed within the perception of the city as economic engine of growth.
As the Hudson Yards project underscores, the process through which the image of sustainable development is upheld is not neutral. Rather than focusing on the city as an artifact of an urbanization process, evaluating the process of urbanization itself requires pulling in the economic, political, environmental, and social movements that shape urban design and development.
smart_cities  hudson_yards  sustainability  funding 
17 days ago
The Neural Network Zoo - The Asimov Institute
With new neural network architectures popping up every now and then, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Knowing all the abbreviations being thrown around (DCIGN, BiLSTM, DCGAN, anyone?) can be a bit overwhelming at first.

So I decided to compose a cheat sheet containing many of those architectures. Most of these are neural networks, some are completely different beasts. Though all of these architectures are presented as novel and unique, when I drew the node structures… their underlying relations started to make more sense.
networks  neural_nets  machine_learning  artificial_intelligence 
17 days ago
Activists Rush to Save Government Science Data — If They Can Find It - The New York Times
As thousands of academics, librarians, coders and science-minded citizens have gathered at what are called “data rescue” events in recent weeks — there were at least six this past weekend alone — the enormousness of extracting government data that is easily found has become apparent, as has the difficulty in tracking down the rest.

Some open-data activists refer to it as “dark data” — and they are not talking about classified information or data the government might release only if compelled by a Freedom of Information Act request.

“It’s like dark matter; we know it must be there but we don’t know where to find it to verify,” said Maxwell Ogden, the director of Code for Science and Society, a nonprofit that began a government-data archiving project in collaboration with the research libraries in the University of California system.

“If they’re going to delete something, how will we even know it’s deleted if we didn’t know it was there?” he asked.

The obstacles have spurred debate among open-data activists over how to build an archiving system for the government’s science data that ensures that the public does not lose access to it, regardless of who is in power.

“No one would advocate for a system where the government stores all scientific data and we just trust them to give it to us,” said Laurie Allen, a digital librarian at the University of Pennsylvania who helped found Data Refuge. “We didn’t used to have that system, yet that is the system we have landed with.”

At the moment, the closest thing to a central repository is, which, under a 2013 Obama administration directive, is supposed to link to all of the public databases within the government. But it relies on agencies to self-report, and the total size of all the data linked to by the directory, Mr. Ogden recently found, comes to just 40 terabytes — about as much as would fit on $1,000 worth of hard drives.

NASA alone provides access to more than 17.5 petabytes of archived data, according to its website (a petabyte is 1,000 times bigger than a terabyte), over dozens of different data portal systems.

And one-third of the links on, Mr. Ogden found, take users to a website rather than the actual data, which makes it hard to devise software that can automatically copy it.

Even databases that are listed on — and there are more than two million, according to Mr. Ogden’s published logs — often sit behind an interface designed for ease of use but built with proprietary code almost impossible to reproduce...

Andrew Bergman, a graduate student in applied physics at Harvard, along with two physics department colleagues, suspended his studies to help found the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, which has also helped to organize the events....

The transition to digital distribution that made government documents more accessible, librarians say, has also left them more at risk. Without physical copies in libraries, the internet’s promise of making government information more widely available has made it far more centralized.

Except when certain data is the subject of a lawsuit or multiple F.O.I.A. requests, it remains unclear what compels an agency to keep it online.

“Destroying federal records is a crime,” said Patrice McDermott, who heads a public advocacy organization called Open the Government. “Taking them off of the internet does not have the same penalty.”

In a recent letter to the federal Office of Management and Budget, Ms. McDermott’s group cited a clause in the 1995 Paperwork Reduction Act that requires agencies to “provide adequate notice when initiating, substantially modifying, or terminating significant information dissemination products.”

But what that means for the age of big data has not been defined.
data  archives  digital_archives  deleting  big_data 
17 days ago
Building Technology Heritage Library : Free Texts : Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
The Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL) is primarily a collection of American and Canadian, pre-1964 architectural trade catalogs, house plan books and technical building guides. Trade catalogs are an important primary source to document past design and construction practices. These materials can aid in the preservation and conservation of older structures as well as other research goals.
About the Building Technology Heritage Library

The BTHL contains materials from various private and institutional collections. These materials are rarely available in most architectural and professional libraries. The first major architectural trade catalog collection is that of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, which encompasses more that 4,000 catalogs from the early 19th century through 1963. In addition to the architectural trade catalogs, the initial contributions include a large number of house plan catalogs, which will be of great interest to owners of older homes. The future growth of the Building Technology Heritage Library will also include contemporary materials on building conservation.
archives  architecture  furniture 
19 days ago
How to Escape Your Political Bubble for a Clearer View - The New York Times
The filter bubble describes the tendency of social networks like Facebook and Twitter to lock users into personalized feedback loops, each with its own news sources, cultural touchstones and political inclinations. We seem to like these places, and so do social media companies — they keep us clicking from one self-affirmation to another. But now our bubbles are being blamed for leading us toward the most divisive presidency in recent memory, and suddenly, the bubble doesn’t feel so inviting anymore. So media and tech companies are pivoting, selling us a whole suite of offerings aimed at bursting the bubbles they helped to create.

Few people get a kick out of acknowledging their own biases, so new digital features are easing the way with candy-colored visuals and interactive quizzes. Download the Chrome extension PolitEcho and watch as it crawls through your Facebook network and visualizes its political bias based on how many of your friends “like” pages dedicated to Breitbart, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders or NPR. Then hop over to the PBS website and take a quiz, conceived by the libertarian Charles Murray, that rates your affiliation with “mainstream American culture.” (Rack up real-American points for having evangelical Christian friends, eating at IHOP and watching “Dr. Phil.”)....

Other tech products invite us to reach out and understand other people without the hassle of actually talking to them. FlipFeed, a Twitter plug-in created by M.I.T. researchers, provides a voyeuristic thrill: Click a button, and your regular Twitter feed is replaced by that of a random, anonymous user of a different political persuasion. (It’s perfect for seeing how the other half live-tweets a Trump news conference.) And the iPhone app Read Across the Aisle gamifies political outreach — as you read articles from The Huffington Post or The Federalist through the app, you’ll see a meter turn red or blue based on the particular site’s ideological bent....

The real ingenuity of these solutions lies in stripping opposing ideas of their negative emotional impact. It’s not too hard to find people who disagree with you online — just create a Twitter account, state an opinion and watch the haters roll up — but the heated social media climate provides a tense, abstracted version of human connection that often leaves both sides more polarized. To alleviate the tension, BuzzFeed is testing a new feature, “Outside Your Bubble,” which pulls in opinions from across the web and gives them a neutral platform. A curator takes the often-emotional comments, removes them from their combative context and rephrases them as cogent, dispassionate bullet points...

Meanwhile, a new crop of online media offerings comes equipped with like-minded guides who travel to the other side and present their findings. Every week, the Washington journalist Will Sommer publishes a kicky newsletter digest, “Right Richter,” which aggregates right-wing perspectives for left-leaning audiences. Slate’s “Today in Conservative Media” feature provides a similar service. And Crooked Media, a political podcast network created by former Obama staffers, just debuted a new show, “With Friends Like These,” in which the liberal journalist Ana Marie Cox shepherds listeners through conversations with conservative guests....

A cynical impulse lies behind many of these kumbaya vibes. The same social media networks that helped build the bubbles are now being framed as the solution, with just a few surface tweaks. On the internet, the “echo chambers” of old media — the ’90s buzzword for partisan talk radio shows and political paperbacks — have been amplified and automated. We no longer need to channel-surf to Fox News or MSNBC; unseen algorithms on Facebook learn to satisfy our existing preferences, so it doesn’t feel like we’re choosing an ideological filter at all....

as Mr. Trump rose, Facebook found itself assailed by critics blaming it for eroding the social fabric and contributing to the downfall of democracy. Facebook gave people what they wanted, they said, but not what they needed. So now it talks of building the “social infrastructure” for a “civically-engaged community.” Mr. Zuckerberg quoted Abraham Lincoln as inspiration for Facebook’s next phase.

The agitators and audiences for these new fixes have an ulterior motive for expanding their horizons, too. Recent calls to burst the filter bubble have come largely from liberals and #NeverTrump conservatives alarmed by their election losses. Their bipartisan spirit has partisan roots. President Trump’s critics feel the practical need to break down these ideological cocoons, so they can win next time.
epistemology  information_literacy  bubbles 
20 days ago
Kameelah Rasheed: Who Will Survive in America? – Guernica
When I was in middle school and high school, the thing that was most frustrating about how we learned history was the assumption that it charted along a linear path and that there were no interruptions, no moments when we were able to stop and think about why decisions were made. We were just told the decisions were made, and assigned to write a paper. I wanted to figure out, “What are those places in history where things don’t make sense and everyone has to pause because nobody has the answers?”

I’ve been reading a lot of Susan Howe. She’s a poet in her own right, but she also does a lot of work on Emily Dickinson and this idea of a glitch or a disobedient history—those points in history when things stop or stutter. I’m really interested in this idea of the stutter in history. As an educator, I used a lot of primary sources with my students in order to say, “Yes, this thing happened, but let’s analyze how it happened, and why it happened.”

In my own practice, I like thinking about those stutters, again, but also about footnotes—those parts of history that are so minute that they don’t end up in history books, but are still worth exploration. Maybe they focus on a particular neighborhood or a particular personal life experience. I spend a lot of time researching and thinking about the macro-narratives that exist around specific moments in history.... I believe that how people engage with my practice is a pedagogical experience. I see my work as an opportunity to do the kind of historical thinking in a public space that I wasn’t given the opportunity to do as a student and that I tried to give to my students when I was a teacher....

I reject the way that we have imagined the making of the archive as an administrative, objective, almost sterile process. I feel like archives are very dirty, very messy, really. Archiving is a subjective process; it’s a process that I hope engages and is relational and is not about someone sitting alone in an office. I have around four thousand found images of black families, and for me, making that archive is no different than creating an installation, because in both circumstances I’m collecting; I’m accumulating and I’m also trying to establish relationships between the things that I’m collecting. So in this archive of four thousand found images of black families, I’m making decisions....

I think that archiving is an art. To be able to organize things in a way that makes sense to others, in a way that’s inviting, in a way that tells a story, is an artistic process. In its best form, archiving is about storytelling. No one collects or creates an archive just for the purpose of having it. It’s about wanting to tell a story, wanting that story to be available to people in the future, and wanting that story to be interrupted by people who have other materials to contribute in the future.

I’m not coming to this practice of archiving as someone who has studied it in school, I’m learning both about the ways that it’s done professionally and about the ways that black families have done it for centuries, just to hold onto things. I’m trying to figure out what’s the best middle ground between the institutional questions and the ways that grandmothers and aunts put stuff in plastic bags underneath their beds, or organized photo albums, or sewed things into socks. There are all of these different ways that black folks have been archiving for centuries because we’ve been very much aware of the possibility of someone saying that we never existed. I’m interested in validating the institutional forms of archiving as well as the very home-grown forms of archiving which obviously deserve credit because, for the most part, what we know about our own history has not come from institutions doing this work, it’s come from us holding onto things....

There is a reality that we were never meant to survive in this American context as anything more than slaves. Why do you need to archive a slave? Why do you need to archive property other than on a bill of payment or a bill of sale? We’ve always had to be responsible for ourselves. Institutions like the Schomburg [a branch of the NYPL which specializes in African American life and history] have the stated purpose of doing this and other spaces have been created, like the new museum [of African American history and culture] that just opened up in DC. They exist as repositories for a lot of private collections. The reality is that for a long time we had to do it on our own....

We are at a point in history when visibility and inclusion are often conflated with radical change. If I hire a black person to be a screenwriter on my show, then radical change has occurred; if a person from a marginalized community who doesn’t traditionally get to be in the spotlight gets their fifteen minutes then, woah!, radical change has occurred. I’m really interested in interrogating visibility as a concession, as a premature celebration, because visibility in and of itself without the rigor of analyzing why certain people were invisible to begin with is limited. It is much more productive to think about how individuals can become not the first and only but the first of many.

I’m really focused on distinguishing between the optics of diversity and the actual structural impact of diversity. Everyone wants to hire a black person at their job, everyone wants to have a party around diversity, but are they really willing to do the work and make the sacrifices to get their organization (or our nation) to make structural change? That doesn’t come from cherry-picking people who will be hoisted up as markers of inclusion....

a lot of the radical work done in movements prior to our generation was not necessarily done through hyper-visibility. People covertly published things, and covertly educated people, and covertly got training. So I’m interested in how we can think about, not so much hiding, but strategic opaqueness—refusing to be legible.

There is also a persistent notion that in order to become palatable we need to package our history in a particular way and generalize it, and make it easy to understand. In doing so, though, we lose all of the nuance. I think it’s OK to be illegible; I think it’s OK to allow people to be confused because that’s a productive moment to incite people to do the real rigorous work of learning about history. We don’t always have to be visible in ways that are comfortable for other people because there is a sacrifice in that quick reading....

Then there’s Aria Dean, who wrote an essay that I keep referencing in almost every conversation I have with people, called “Poor Meme, Rich Meme,” in Real Life magazine, where she talks about black illegibility and the fact that for black people, on our own, there is no necessity for coherence. We can be as varied as we want to be. It is only when people need to read us and make sense of us that we consolidate ourselves, and in doing that we lose the variance in who we are. I’m trying to figure out the best ways to make us understandable without risking homogeneity or histories with easy narrative arcs.
historiography  archives  informal_archives  community_archives  diversity  visibility 
20 days ago
A Geology of Media | Public Seminar
Once you start digging beyond the idea that media is about interpreting signs, there’s no end to how deep the rabbit hole can become. Behind the system of signs is the interface that formalizes them (Manovich) or simulates them (Galloway). Behind that is the information turbulence the interface manages (Terranova), the hardware it runs on (Chun) and the stack of levels that processes it (Bratton). All of which incorporates the labor that operates it (Berardi) or is enslaved by it (Lazzarato) and which is incorporated within integrated circuits (Haraway). The class of workers who make the content might be doubled by a class of hackers who make the form (Wark).

The rabbit hole keeps going, becoming more of a mineshaft. For some the chemical and mineral dimension is also a big part of what appears when one looks behind the sign (Negarestani, Leslie, Kahn), which brings us to Jussi Parikka’s A Geology of Media (U. Minnesota Press, 2015). Which tunnels down into the bowels of the earth itself. Parikka: “Geology of media deals with the weird intersections of earth materials and entangled times.” (137)

In this perspective, “Computers are a crystallization of past two hundred to three hundred years of scientific and technological development, geological insights, and geophysical affordances.” (137) But one could also reverse this perspective. From the point of view of the rocks themselves, computers are a working out of the potentials of a vast array of elements and compounds that took billions of years to make but only decades to mine and commodify – and discard. History is a process in which collective human labor transforms nature into a second nature to inhabit. On top of which it then builds what I call a third nature made of information, which not only reshapes the social world of second nature, but which instrumentalizes and transforms what it perceives as a primary nature in the process. There’s no information to circulate without a physics and a chemistry.  “The microchipped world burns in intensity like millions of tiny suns.” (138)...

We’re used to thinking about a geopolitics of oil, but perhaps there’s a more elaborate Great Game going on these days based on access to these sometimes rare elements. Reza Negarestani’s Cycolonpedia is an extraordinary text which reverses the perspective, and imagines oil as a kind of sentient, subterranean agent of history. One could expand that imaginary to other elements and compounds. For instance, one could imagine aluminum as an agent in the story of Italian Fascism. Since bauxite was common in Italy but iron was rare, aluminum rather than steel became a kind of ‘national metal’, with both practical and lyrical properties. The futurist poet Marinetti even published a book on aluminum pages. What aluminum was to twentieth century struggles over second nature, maybe lithium will be to twenty-first century struggles over third nature....

It might make sense, then, to connect the study of media to a speculative inquiry into geology, the leading discipline of planetary inquiry. (A connection I approached in a different way in Molecular Red, by looking at climate science). Parikka: “Geology becomes a way to investigate the materiality of the technological media world.” (4) James Hutton’s, Theory of the Earth (1778) proposed an image of the temporality of the earth as one of cycles and variations, erosion and deposition. Hutton also proposed an earth driven by subterranean heat. His earth is an engine, modeled on the steam engines of his time. It’s a useful image in that it sees the world outside of historical time. But rather than having its own temporality, Hutton saw it as oscillating around the constants of universal laws. This metaphysic inspired Adam Smith. Hence while usefully different and deeper than historical time, Hutton’s geology it is still a product of the labor and social organization of its era.

Still, thinking from the point of view of the earth and of geological time is a useful way of getting some distance on seemingly fleeting temporalities of Silicon Valley and the surface effects of information in the mediated sphere of third nature. It also cuts across obsolete assumptions of a separate sphere of the social outside of the natural....

Parikka: “Media work on the level of circuits, hardware, and voltage differences, which the engineers as much as the military intelligence and secret agencies gradually recognized before the humanities did.” (3)...

But besides the intriguing spatial substitution, bringing the depths of geology into view, Parikka is also interested in changing temporal perspectives. German media theorist Wolfgang Ernst has written of media as a temporal machine, paying close attention to the shift from narrative to calculative memory. Also of interest is Siegfried Zielinski’s project of a media studies of deep time. Zielinski was trying to escape the teleological approach to media, where the present appears as a progressive development and realization of past potentials. He explores instead the twists and cul-de-sacs of the media archive. Parikka takes this temporal figure and vastly expands it toward non-human times, past and present....

A manifesto-like text in Mute Magazine once proposed we move on from psychogeography to a psychogeophysics. Drawing on the rogue surrealist Roger Caillois, the new materialism of Rosi Braidotti and Timothy Morton’s studies of hyperobjects, Parikka develops psychogeophysics as a low theory approach to experimentally perceiving the continuities of medianatures. “Perhaps the way to question these is not through a conceptual metaphysical discussion and essays but through excursions, walks, experiments, and assays? … Instead of a metaphysical essay on the nonhuman, take a walk outside…” (63)...

Here we might learn more from natural scientists trying to reach into the humanities than from philosophers trying to reach into the natural sciences. Parikka usefully draws on Stephen Jay Gould’s model of evolutionary time as a punctuated equilibrium, as a succession of more or less stable states in variation alternating with moments of more rapid change. There’s no sense of progress in this version of deep time, no necessary evolution from lower to higher, from simple to complex....

However, one limit to Parikka’s project is suggested by this very figure of the fossil, particularly if we think of what Quentin Meillassoux calls the arche-fossil. How is it possible to have a knowledge of a rock that existed before humans existed? How can there be knowledge of an object that existed in the world before there could be a correlative subject of knowledge? I’m not sure Parikka’s double articulation of media and geology really addresses this proposition.
chemistry  geology  media  deep_time 
20 days ago
Wendy's Subway / About
Wendy’s Subway is a non-profit library and writing space located in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It provides an open, versatile space where cultural production flourishes through reading, research, and collaborative practice, and is manifested in performance, publication, and education. Wendy’s Subway hosts a range of public programs, including readings and screenings, interdisciplinary talks and lectures, discussion and reading groups, and writing workshops. The non-circulating library holds a collection of books and documents with a special focus on poetry, art, theory, and philosophy, as well as the Laurin Raiken Archive, an extensive resource for the study of art history and criticism. Wendy’s Subway is operated by its membership of poets, curators, novelists, artists, and critics with an interest in hybrid forms and cross-disciplinary discourse.
libraries  library_art 
20 days ago
The Rise of the Modern Kitchen | Architect Magazine | Products, Kitchen, Interior Design, Cabinets
Kitchen renovation is one of the largest markets in the remodeling industry. In this month’s exploration of the BTHL, we trace the evolution of the residential kitchen from the simple cupboard of the early 20th century to the unified cabinetry and coordinated finishes of today. Our story begins with the Hoosier cabinet, a free-standing cupboard that incorporated storage space and a working countertop. Its name derives from the marketing reach of the Hoosier Manufacturing Co. of Indiana. At the time, a typical kitchen had a series of separate cabinets and appliances. By the mid-1920s, several manufacturers of kitchen cabinets were marketing cabinets and other millwork that could be joined to create a more unified appearance.

The major breakthrough leading to the kitchen of today occurred in the 1930s with the introduction of modular kitchen cabinets and continuous countertops. That era also corresponded to design changes and innovations within the Modern movement in materials, appliances, and plumbing fixtures. The period was a truly remarkable decade of residential transformation and the kitchen was the place where many Americans got their first chance to express their Modern design sensibilities.
archives  furniture  cabinets  storage  architecture 
22 days ago
‘Artificial Intelligence’ Has Become Meaningless - The Atlantic
utonomous vehicles, for example, don’t quite measure up to R2D2 (or Hal), but they do deploy a combination of sensors, data, and computation to perform the complex work of driving. But in most cases, the systems making claims to artificial intelligence aren’t sentient, self-aware, volitional, or even surprising. They’re just software.

* * *

Deflationary examples of AI are everywhere. Google funds a system to identify toxic comments online, a machine learning algorithm called Perspective. But it turns out that simple typos can fool it. Artificial intelligence is cited as a barrier to strengthen an American border wall, but the “barrier” turns out to be little more than sensor networks and automated kiosks with potentially-dubious built-in profiling....

I asked my Georgia Tech colleague, the artificial intelligence researcher Charles Isbell, to weigh in on what “artificial intelligence” should mean. His first answer: “Making computers act like they do in the movies.” That might sound glib, but it underscores AI’s intrinsic relationship to theories of cognition and sentience. Commander Data poses questions about what qualities and capacities make a being conscious and moral—as do self-driving cars. A content filter that hides social media posts from accounts without profile pictures? Not so much. That’s just software....

Isbell suggests two features necessary before a system deserves the name AI. First, it must learn over time in response to changes in its environment. Fictional robots and cyborgs do this invisibly, by the magic of narrative abstraction. But even a simple machine-learning system like Netflix’s dynamic optimizer, which attempts to improve the quality of compressed video, takes data gathered initially from human viewers and uses it to train an algorithm to make future choices about video transmission.

Isbell’s second feature of true AI: what it learns to do should be interesting enough that it takes humans some effort to learn. It’s a distinction that separates artificial intelligence from mere computational automation. A robot that replaces human workers to assemble automobiles isn’t an artificial intelligence, so much as machine programmed to automate repetitive work. For Isbell, “true” AI requires that the computer program or machine exhibit self-governance, surprise, and novelty....

I’ve previously argued that the word “algorithm” has become a cultural fetish, the secular, technical equivalent of invoking God. To use the term indiscriminately exalts ordinary—and flawed—software services as false idols. AI is no different. As the bot author Allison Parrish puts it, “whenever someone says ‘AI’ what they're really talking about is ‘a computer program someone wrote.’”...

today’s computer systems are nothing special. They are apparatuses made by people, running software made by people, full of the feats and flaws of both.
artificial_intelligence  bullshit  software 
22 days ago
Syllabus (Designing A.I.) – Designing AI: Spring 2017 – Medium
4. Be able to understand, manage and develop DESIGN PROCESSES.
Be able to conceptualize a product design roadmap and corresponding technology requirements.
Understand different design processes (i.e. 4d, lean/agile, etc), the rationale for choosing one vs another, and be able to manage a project using that process.
5. Understand the landscape of existing design methods & tools (i.e. journey mapping, service blueprints, contextual research, etc) and be able to utilize those that are appropriate to the project — or, if necessary, develop new methods that better serve the project’s needs.
syllabus  design_research  methodology  design_process  artificial_intelligence 
22 days ago
Can Satellites Learn to Identify Poverty? - The Atlantic
For the last few decades, and almost since astronauts first captured images of the nocturnal Earth, researchers have recognized that “night lights” data indirectly indexes the wealth of people producing the light. ...

Night lights, therefore, appear to be an incredible resource. So much so that in countries with poor economic statistics, they can serve as a proxy for a regional wealth survey—except no one has to go house to house, running through a questionnaire. Yet research has also shown this not-a-survey will remain inexact: To a satellite at night, a few well-lit mansions and a dense but poorly lit shantytown can look nearly the same.

A new paper from a team at Stanford, published last week in Science, applies a trendy technique to this tricky problem. In order to make night lights more discerning, engineers and computer scientists fed a convolutional neural net—a standard type of artificial intelligence program—a series of data sets. They wanted to give it the insight of the night-light data while freeing it of its pitfalls....

First, they taught the neural net a generic image-recognition program that let it distinguish edges, corners, and more than 1,000 common objects. Second, they asked it to correlate a set of night lights data for a country with a daytime map of the same country, essentially teaching it what kind of features on the ground are more likely to make the surface brighter at night. Finally, they fed it a the highest-resolution household-wealth data that exists for that country, the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study, indexed to latitude and longitude.

In effect, they tried to teach a neural net how to “see” poverty in satellite data....

overcoming the data scarcity of sub-Saharan Africa drives much of the research in the region. In the past few years, researchers have tried to deduce local economic fates by analyzing cellphone metadata or by detecting whether roofs are made of metal or thatch. In February, Facebook even trained a neural net to estimate village-level population data by identifying what buildings look like from above.

...night lights data is best used as one tool among many, rather than a single predictor.
artificial_intelligence  neural_nets  cartography  mapping  poverty  methodology 
22 days ago
Building a Road Map for the Self-Driving Car - The New York Times
The need for highly detailed, three-dimensional, computerized maps — which pinpoint a car’s location and understand its surroundings — is often overlooked amid all the hype about autonomous vehicles. The chatter tends to focus more on the various sensors that enable cars to “see” the road and any obstacles in front of them. Those sensors include radar, cameras and a laser-based kind of radar known as lidar.

But digital maps are an equally critical piece of the puzzle.

“If we want to have autonomous cars everywhere, we have to have digital maps everywhere"...

Creating them, however, is a monumental task. There are more than four million miles of roads in the United States. And compared with the maps used by GPS and navigation systems, the level of precision must be much greater. Navigational maps typically locate a car’s position within several yards. Digital maps for autonomous cars must know the locations of cars, curbs and other objects within about four inches.

So far the drive to create digital maps has been slow. Google’s former self-driving car division — now a company called Waymo — has created maps for roads around its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and a handful of other cities, including Austin, Tex., and Kirkland, Wash.

Waymo creates the maps by driving around cars equipped with spinning lidar units mounted on their roofs that shoot out laser beams, creating images of the road and the surroundings. Human engineers, in a time-consuming process, then go over the images and tag the objects that are found, like stop signs, buildings, stoplights and do-not-enter signs. The laser equipment needed to do this scanning is expensive — it can cost $100,000 or more to outfit just one car to do this job....

Another company, Here, which was started by Nokia and then acquired by the German automakers BMW, Daimler and Audi, is also mapping roads in the United States and Europe. It is drawing on data scooped up by scanning systems that trucking companies have agreed to install on their vehicles....

The effort may soon shift into higher gear, thanks to an idea borrowed from the internet that has helped in other fields: crowdsourcing.

Mobileye supplies front-facing camera systems that enable cars to detect obstacles and brake to prevent or mitigate collisions. Starting with 2018 models, both Volkswagen and BMW will outfit their vehicles with Mobileye systems that can also transmit their precise locations and images of the roads they are traveling, which can be synthesized into one giant digital map.

Mr. Shashua said his company expected to sign on many other automakers to do the same. “You can leverage the fact that you will have millions of cars with cameras — almost all the new cars that hit the road,” he said. “This is a force multiplier.”

Others are thinking along the same lines. A technology start-up called Civil Maps is trying to develop its own image-vacuuming device and hopes to persuade automakers to install it in cars and trucks. The company is also working on artificial intelligence technology that it hopes will automate the annotating of maps — the other big technological challenge. Its work has attracted an investment from Ford Motor....

“For full autonomy, we believe we need to have a high-definition map of the area we’ve been operating in, a map annotated with what are the permanent fixed objects in that area,” said Raj Nair, the global product development chief at Ford, which has vowed to begin producing a fully autonomous car — with no steering wheel and no pedals — by 2021.

Mobileye envisions assembling its data into a giant map called Road Book, and plans to share it with Here. The idea is that Here at some point will license the mapping information for use by self-driving cars and Mobileye will get a share of that, Mr. Shashua said. Some of the money will go back to automakers like VW and BMW that add the mapping capability to their cars.

“There is a revenue-sharing model between us and the carmakers,” he said, noting that map services are a future business. “Consumers would be paying for map services for their autonomous cars.”..

The reason digital maps are so important is that even the most advanced sensors, like radar and cameras, are not enough to enable a car to navigate a chaotic and changing world safely enough to allow occupants to lean back and take a snooze.

Digital maps ease the burden by helping give foresight to a car’s computers, and adding redundancy to the car’s understanding of the situation it faces, said Civil Maps’ chief executive, Sravan Puttagunta. Radar and cameras cannot always recognize a stop sign if pedestrians are standing in the way or the sign has been knocked down, he explained.

“But if the map knows there is a stop sign ahead, then the sensors just need to confirm it,” Mr. Puttagunta said. “Then the load on the sensors and processor is much lower.”
mapping  cartography  autonomous_vehicles  artificial_intelligence  transportation 
23 days ago
What’s Stored in DNA? An Old French Movie and a $50 Gift Card - WSJ
analysts at IBM Corp. estimate that 90% of all the electronic data in the world has been created in the past two years.

In a bid to contain this deluge, researchers at Columbia University and the New York Genome Center have crossed a significant new milestone. They have figured out how to store and retrieve a 122-year-old French movie, an entire computer operating system, and even a $50 Amazon gift card—all in a single drop of DNA....

The new research marks a dramatic increase in the amount of information that DNA can safely hold, and inches this technique closer to practical application. “Their big achievement is demonstrating high data density—in this case 215 petabytes per gram of DNA,” said Harvard University geneticist George Church, who wasn't involved in the project.

That is an amount of information roughly equivalent to billions of filing cabinets of text. In theory, a DNA storage system could reduce the entire Library of Congress to a small cube of DNA crystals or a sticky genetic liquid.​

Perfected by eons of evolution, DNA is a naturally occurring acid that encodes a person’s biological instructions by using various combinations of four base chemicals: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). A DNA sequence is not alive in any sense. It is a string of special chemicals that creates all the necessary proteins that are the building blocks of life.

The researchers converted their digital data, stored on a computer as a series of binary zeros and ones, into the same four-character chemical code. They used the resulting DNA sequence to create an unlimited number of genetic molecules that each contain all the original information.

The atomic-scale size of DNA isn’t the only advantage. The stability and lifespan of the molecules is measured in centuries and far exceeds that of hard drives or magnetic tape, which means data can be stored safely for longer periods....

In the latest experiment, computer scientist Yaniv Erlich at Columbia University and bioinformatics researcher Dina Zielinski at the Genome Center took advantage of DNA’s natural ability to rapidly reorganize itself and recombine in complex but predictable patterns.

They encoded a copy of the Kolibri computer operating system, an 1895 French film called “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat,” a gift card, a 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon, and an image of the plaque carried to the edge of the solar system by the Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes.

Since a natural DNA sequence often contains genetic material inserted by an infection, they also encoded a harmless computer virus into their DNA storage unit. “Usually you see a real virus on DNA, so we added a computer virus to ours,” said Dr. Erlich. When triggered, their virus writes trillions of zeros. “It is a joke.”....

It took their computer two or three minutes to turn all that into a DNA sequence. To correct any errors in reconstructing the data, they used an algorithm originally designed for streaming video on a cellphone.

Dr. Church of Harvard said the researchers also showed they could make “nearly unlimited numbers of accurate physical copies” of the data archive inexpensively.
archives  storage  DNA  biomedia 
23 days ago
Palantir Provides the Engine for Donald Trump’s Deportation Machine
IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT is deploying a new intelligence system called Investigative Case Management (ICM), created by Palantir Technologies, that will assist in President Donald Trump’s efforts to deport millions of immigrants from the United States.

In 2014, ICE awarded Palantir, the $20 billion data-mining firm founded by billionaire Trump advisor Peter Thiel, a $41 million contract to build and maintain ICM, according to government funding records. The system is scheduled to arrive at “final operating capacity” by September of this year. The documents identify Palantir’s ICM as “mission critical” to ICE, meaning that the agency will not be able to properly function without the program.

ICM funding documents analyzed by The Intercept make clear that the system is far from a passive administrator of ICE’s case flow. ICM allows ICE agents to access a vast “ecosystem” of data to facilitate immigration officials in both discovering targets and then creating and administering cases against them. The system provides its users access to intelligence platforms maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and an array of other federal and private law enforcement entities. It can provide ICE agents access to information on a subject’s schooling, family relationships, employment information, phone records, immigration history, foreign exchange program status, personal connections, biometric traits, criminal records, and home and work addresses.

“What we have here is a growing network of interconnected databases that together are drawing in more and more information,” said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union. “If President Trump’s rhetoric on mass deportations is going to be turned into reality, then we’re going to see these tools turned in that direction, and these documents show that there are very powerful and intrusive tools that can be used toward that end.”
archives  databases  surveillance  profiling  immigration  governmentality 
23 days ago
Katie Detwiler — GIDEST @ THE NEW SCHOOL
Her dissertation, Science Fell in Love with the Chilean Sky: Data as a Speculative Resource in the Atacama Desert, is based on fifteen months of fieldwork in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest non-polar desert on the planet, an extractive resource frontier, and a global hub of astronomical science. Centrally, the dissertation details how the sky is fashioned to be a field of translatable information—collected by observatories in the form of ancient light—through the regulation of illumination and communication infrastructures in desert communities and industries. Following the work of astronomers, light pollution regulators, illumination engineers, and so-called data cleaners at Chile’s observatories, the dissertation explores how the Chilean sky is cultivated as a pristine, media-rich ecology and is simultaneously produced as a technical environment to be measured, shaped, and optimized via the regulation of light pollution. The dissertation asks how concerns with pristine or polluting light and with pure or corrupted data reshape infrastructures, economies, and communities in the Atacama. It follows the far-flung effects of the Chilean sky, from which telescopes produce massive quantities of internationally circulating data. Moving as intellectual property, these data form the raw material from which new astronomical measures, images, and imaginaries are generated.
astronomy  infrastructure  data  ecology  light  measurement 
24 days ago
Keeping Time - tegabrain
Keeping Time portrays a complex biological system living through the Anthropocene. The work is made by searching the Flickr database for images of particular plant species and laying these images out according to their time stamp. Photographs for each year are arranged in rows and are ordered across each row according to date. In this way, the project reveals the phenological patterns of various species over a twelve year period. Phenology is the timing of recurring biological events in animals and plants and is explored here through our online digital traces.

Since early 2008, roughly 40 million images have been uploaded to Flickr® every month making a rich, ever-growing digital collection that documents a vast range of human experience including our observations of other species. Keeping Time is made from over 5000 of these photos taken during the years 2002-2013.

The work also shows patterns of species visibility.
botany  plants  ecology  time  temporality 
24 days ago
Urban Omnibus » Urban Memory Infrastructure
In 2011, the New York Public Library established an official unit for digital experimentation — NYPL Labs. Over the six years that followed, what began as a small research and development outfit for special digital projects grew into a visionary think-and-do tank for making the library’s two centuries of collections digital and usable for the years to come. A hybrid team of technologists, librarians, and designers would start to assemble the building blocks of an urban memory infrastructure. Turning vast collections into usable data, connecting maps, photographs, menus and community memories, NYPL Labs created a series of multilayered projects that point the way to a new information ecosystem. As currents efforts in civic tech and open government promote public access to municipal statistics, systems, and services, so does NYPL Labs’ work provide a new, and deeper, understanding of city streets, buildings, and society, over centuries of change.
NYPL ended the Labs’ run late last year. Here, former director Ben Vershbow sits down with Shannon Mattern, expert on all things library, media, and infrastructure, to debrief on the Labs’ work and the library as a critical urban infrastructure and resource. How do the library and its collections adapt to the age of Google Maps? How do people connect and contribute to the work of memory creation and collection in the city? Who can build and maintain an infrastructure that preserves our memories and prepares, in the age of Instagram, for “the glut of today and tomorrow”?
libraries  digital_archives  my_work 
24 days ago
What Design Can’t Do — Graphic Design between Automation, Relativism, Élite and Cognitariat | THE ENTREPRECARIAT
we need to acknowledge the fact that having economic problems as a cognitive worker is a structural consequence, not an individual one. In the 2000s, Richard Florida theorized the advent of the "creative class", whose transformative potential he praised. A few years later, the MyCreativity group reformulated this concept pragmatically, speaking of self-exploitation, insecurity and creative underclass. We must admit that design schools contribute to populating this creative underclass. So I think it makes sense to talk about design schools as precarity factories. At the same time, however, these schools could be described, to tweak Hakim Bey’s concept, as temporary autonomous élites, since they constitute a space where one can literally buy a degree of control over their time....

To what end? To organize. If gratuity is unstoppable, maybe it’s time to extend the target of criticism. Obviously, the client or the studio who does not pay is an exploiter, but the issue must be addressed at a broader level. This is why I think that radical proposals such as universal basic income, perhaps not achievable in practice or even counterproductive, are able to reframe the very meaning of work anyway. Why is the work of a mother or a housewife not considered as such? The reason is simple: because it does not produce income, it’s free. Should the struggle for income support the one against gratuity? I envision a design school functioning like a think tank. Its area of action would be the redefinition of work and the development of strategies to produce a new cultural hegemony.

If I think about it, some efforts in this direction have already been made, right back in Italy. Brave New Alps, a graphic design duo militating from the heart of the Alps, has catalyzed the debate on the designers’ working conditions for years. In 2013, they formed the Construction Site for Non-Affirmative Practices. The collective produced a one of a kind investigation into the economic and social profile of those who identify as designers. The Designers’ Inquiry was launched not by chance during the Salone del Mobile, the epitome of the rich, opulent and glittering entrepreneurial design. Brave New Alps didn’t stop there and, together with Caterina Giuliani, set up the Precarity Pilot, a physical and virtual platform that includes a set of "best practices" to organize one’s career, redefine notions of success, enable cooperation dynamics, and so on. Maybe this path, the political path, is precisely the one to follow in order to reaffirm the intellectual role of the designer and, while we’re at it, of the cognitariat in general.
design_scholar  pedagogy  labor  ideology  activism  liberal_arts 
25 days ago
Reflexivity: Some techniques for interpretive researchers - Annette Markham | social media, methods, and ethics
Reflexivity. We toss this word around as a key part of qualitative methods. I have been revisiting the term for a course I’m teaching. Here, I refresh my thinking by returning to some writing I published in 2009. This is a remix of some of those ideas.
For qualitative researchers, the term emerged in the 1980s as a way to approach interpretation. It is more an ideological approach than a series of actions, but there are techniques to encourage both the mind and body to act in a reflexive manner. Like situational analysis, or SA, this sense/sensibility comes from practice. Learning to notice what was previously not noticeable because it was too minute, too subtle, too peripheral. In massage therapy training, one of the first things students learn to do is to feel a single human hair through a piece of paper. In the military, police forces, and emergency medical fields, SA can make the difference between life and death. When I ask an air force pilot how this innate knowledge is achieved, or how a massage therapist can feel what most of us objectively could not, they say they learn it over time.
Reflexivity is the same. It’s not just an attitude but a sensibility we learn over time, as we reinforce certain habits and discard others. Although I’m sure some people are naturally more reflexive than others, certain techniques can help build reflexivity muscles. I offer some here that have been useful for me.
pedagogy  methodology  reflexivity 
27 days ago
Library Hand, the Fastidiously Neat Penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs | Atlas Obscura
In September 1885, a bunch of librarians spent four days holed up in scenic Lake George, just over 200 miles north of New York City. In the presence of such library-world luminaries as Melvil Dewey—the well-organized chap whose Dewey Decimal System keeps shelves orderly to this day—they discussed a range of issues, from the significance of the term “bookworm” to the question of whether libraries ought to have a separate reference-room for ladies.

They then turned their attention to another crucial issue: handwriting. As libraries acquired more books, card catalogs needed to expand fast in order to keep track of them. Though the newly invented typewriter was beginning to take hold, it took time and effort to teach the art of “machine writing.” Librarians still had to handwrite their catalog cards. And this was causing problems.

“The trouble in handwriting,” said Mr. James Whitney, of the Boston Public Library, “is that there is apt to be too much flourishing.”

Professor Louis Pollens of Dartmouth College agreed: “We want a handwriting that approaches as near to type as possible, that will do away with individual characteristics.”

A Mr. C. Alex Nelson, of the Astor Library in New York, then mentioned that “T.A. Edison, the inventor” had lately been experimenting with penmanship styles in order to find the most speedy and legible type of handwriting for telegraph operators. Edison, Nelson recalled, had ultimately selected “a slight back-hand, with regular round letters apart from each other, and not shaded.” With this style, Edison was able to write at a respectable 45 words per minute.

Hearing this, Dewey set out a catalog-minded mission for the group: “We ought to find out what is the most legible handwriting.”

This was the beginning of “library hand,” a penmanship style developed over the ensuing year or so for the purpose of keeping catalogs standardized and legible....

Influenced by Edison and honed via experimenting on patient, hand-sore librarians, library hand focused on uniformity rather than beauty. “The handwriting of the old-fashioned writing master is quite as illegible as that of the most illiterate boor,” read a New York State Library School handbook. “Take great pains to have all writing uniform in size, blackness of lines, slant, spacing and forms of letters,” wrote Dewey in 1887. And if librarians thought they could get away with just any black ink, they could think again real fast. “Inks called black vary much in color,” scoffed the New York State Library School handwriting guide.
typography  writing  libraries  cataloging  efficiency  Dewey 
28 days ago
Room One Thousand — Temporary Flows & Ephemeral Cities
urban settlements globally face increasing flows of human movement, acceleration in the amount and periodicity of natural disasters, and iterative economic crises that modify streams of capital and their allocation to physical components of cities. As a consequence, urban settings are required to be more flexible in order to better organize and resist outside and inside pressures. In this context, there is a lot we can learn from “ephemeral cities,” the outcomes of massive contemporary pilgrimages, when rethinking the forms future cities should take and the strategies to intervene in them...

Extreme examples of temporary religious cities are the ephemeral constructions created for the Hajj in Mecca, as well as a series of temporary cities constructed in India for hosting celebrations such as the Durga Puja, Ganesh Chaturthi, and Kumbh Mela—the last a religious pilgrimage that, according to official figures, supports the congregation of more than 100 million people. ...

Natural disasters and changes in climatic conditions are increasingly displacing people through involuntary journeys, making evident the importance of temporary shelters as holding strategies or short-term solutions. The temporary cities constructed in the Philippines, Haiti, Chile, and several other places, as a result of a natural disaster, are some recent examples. Additionally, in many locations, political tensions contribute to the dis­placement of people from their sites of origin, creating refugee camps around the globe. Extreme examples of humanitarian space for hosting the stateless and asylum seekers are the refugee camps located in the Cote d’Ivoire, which accommodates more than 900,000 refugees coming largely from Liberia but also from other adjacent locations. The most striking cases, however, are those of Dabaad, in northeastern Kenya, which has been in existence for two decades and presently accommodates 500,000 people. ...

Extensive music festivals like Exit in Serbia, Coachella in California, and Sziget in Budapest, also motivate the construction of ex­tended ephemeral settlements that, for short periods of time, congregate large groups of people....

These examples could be expanded to include a range of cases such as temporal cities around temporary geographies, for example, the configuration of settlements for the exploitation of natural resources in mining, oil extraction, and forestry. The scope of extractive ac­tivities, like the ones at play in the Yanacocha mine in Peru, where more than 10,000 temporal dwellers reside, the Maritsa Iztok Mines in Bulgaria, the Motru Coal Mine in Romania, and the Chuquicamata, Salvador, and Pelambres sites in the north of Chile, generate completely different types of temporary settlements, adding to the complexity of dealing with environ­mental consequences and incredibly large-scale operations that constantly modify the topography of a landscape at a territorial scale....

cities built for military or defense purposes in contested territories, pop-up cities developed for transactions within and outside of city bound­aries, temporary structures that support massive influxes of people around sporting events, or even the recent disruptive constructions inside formal settle­ments, such as the camps of the Occupy movement....

At a time in which change and the unexpected are the new normal, urban attributes like reversibility and openness seem critical elements for thinking about the articulation of a more sustainable form of urban development. Looking at this whole ecology generated by human flows, there is one case that stands out as an extreme condition: the Kumbh Mela. Probably the biggest pilgrimage mobilized in contemporary times, for religious purposes in most cases, but also non-religious ones, the Kumbh Mela sets the standards for understanding alternative ways of building transitory cities aligned with the nature of gigantic human flows.
informal_urbanism  informal_infrastructure  urban_form  refugees  mining  extraction  camps 
29 days ago
Making Mapping More Human – Medium
Inspired by collective drone-based crisis mapping efforts in Nepal, a 1947 keynote speech by a librarian about imagination, and the rich (and often troubled) geographic history of one of America’s greatest cities, we are elated to be opening St. Louis Map Room on March 3rd. Sited in a shuttered public school in St. Louis’s Vandeventer neighbourhood, Map Room combines hi-tech cartographic robots with analogue art materials to make a pop-up space for map making and dialogue around civic data.

Over the course of forty days, community groups — students, activists, city workers, organizers, veterans, immigrants, seniors, bird watchers, cyclists, mayoral candidates, and more- will convene at the Map Room to make fifty 10 by 10 foot maps, each inscribed with locations, routes and other geographic artifacts of the group’s lived experiences and narratives in the city. A group of high school students might collectively author a map about how they get to school in the morning. Staff from a homeless shelter could create a map of undocumented community resources for people living on the street. An alderperson and her team might draw out their vision for the future of a particular neighbourhood.....

The choice to make maps at this large scale is deliberate. While phone screen sized map invites engagement from a single individual, a 100 square foot map encourages different interactions. Groups of people can gather around a map to look at it from different vantage points. People can walk across the map, experiencing distance in a meaningful way. Map Room allows for social consumption of civic information — just as we might gather around a dinner table to talk politics, participants can gather around data to talk about their city.
These giant community-authored maps can then be used by map-makers and visitors as instruments to explore a wealth of city data, from historic maps to census reports to live transit feeds. Traffic data can be overlain onto students’ routes; a map of population change can be placed on top of a politician’s future plans....

We’ve assembled an impressive collection of maps and map-based datasets, including dozens of historical maps and more than 30 data collections concerning civic conditions such as land use, school proximity, racial diversity and population change rates. Each of these data sets of information can be layered on top of any of the fifty handmade maps, offering a rich possibility of intersection between human experience and hard data....

the community-authored maps will become part of the City of St. Louis’ official archive, sitting beside other maps and documents that have defined the way the city has grown. Second, we’re open sourcing the entirety of map room (everything from software code to hardware plans and school curricula) so that other cities and communities can create their own spaces for data, maps and dialogue...

Finally, St. Louis Map Room offers the possibility for a discussion about cities and communities, informed by data, that happens outside the rarified worlds of tech departments and hackathons. We’ve heard a lot over the last decade about how cities will become smart in the wake of big data. Map Room envisions a future for the city that is also wise as a result of a shared understanding of lived experience amongst its citizens.
mapping  citizen_cartography  participatory_media 
4 weeks ago
The Algorithmic Justice League – MIT MEDIA LAB – Medium
law enforcement is embracing machine learning for predictive policing. Some judges are using machine generated risk scores to determine the length of prison sentences.
Police departments across the US are expanding their crime fighting arsenals with facial recognition software which uses machine learning. Georgetown Law published a report showing that 1 in 2 adults in the US - that is 117 million- people have their images in a facial recognition network. Currently, police departments can search these faces without regulation using algorithms that have not been audited for accuracy.
Because algorithms can have real world consequences, we must demand fairness.
To fight the coded gaze, I invite you to join the Algorithmic Justice League -a collective of concerned citizens, artists, researchers, and activists. We work to:
Identify Algorithmic Bias: We are developing tools to rigorously test for bias in machine learning starting with facial recognition software.
Mitigate Algorithmic Bias: We aim to develop methods for full spectrum inclusion during the design, development, testing, and deployment of coded systems where appropriate.
Highlight Algorithmic Bias: We create media and convene learning experiences to show the need for algorithmic justice.
algorithms  bias  prejudice 
4 weeks ago
An unseen force is rising - helping to determine who is hired, granted a loan, or even how long someone spends in prison. This force is called the coded gaze.
However, many people are unaware of the growing impact of the coded gaze and the rising need for fairness, accountability, and transparency in coded systems. Without knowing discriminatory practices are at play, citizens are unable to affirm their rights or identify violations.

The Algorithmic Justice League is a collective that aims to: Highlight Bias, Provide Space for People to Voice Concerns, Develop Practices for Accountability
algorithms  bias  prejudice  surveillance 
4 weeks ago
The Librarian of Congress and the Greatness of Humility - The New Yorker
When Hayden was formally asked to serve by the Obama Administration, she told me, “It was that word, ‘serve,’ that helped me. With the Baltimore experience, you really were almost touching the people who were benefitting from the work of the library. And I had to think about, How can I make this library that relevant, and that immediate?”...

In 2015, during the protests after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody, Hayden decided to keep the Baltimore libraries open, including the branch in the center of the unrest; all week, it functioned as a refuge, and a resource for information, comfort, even food. After a couple of days, Hayden’s mother came to help out. “That community, like so many communities across the country, depends on the library,” Hayden said. “And not just urban libraries, rural libraries. Tribal libraries, on reservations. See, that’s what people don’t realize. That’s where people get their high-speed Internet access, all that.” ....

Like many librarians, Hayden is a big believer in the rights of all people to educate themselves, and in the importance of open access to information online. (This inclusive spirit has become more urgent nationally in recent weeks: see “Libraries Are for Everyone,” a multilingual meme and poster campaign, created by a Nebraska librarian, Rebecca McCorkindale, to counter the forces of fake news and fearmongering.) In September, Hayden gave a swearing-in speech in which she described how black Americans “were once punished with lashes and worse for learning to read.” She said that, “as a descendent of people who were denied the right to read, to now have the opportunity to serve and lead the institution that is our national symbol of knowledge is a historic moment.” ....

The library itself, like Hayden’s two formative childhood libraries, expresses similar contrasts. The tile-and-marble magnificence of the Jefferson Building honors knowledge and a society that supports it. But much of the rest of the Library of Congress is more plainspoken and municipal—massive mid-century buildings, long, hospital-style hallways—which underscore that substance and practicality matter, too. Greatness and humility—the interplay and tension between them, the importance of both—seemed to echo across each gleaming stairway and emanate from each carefully labelled acid-free folder.
libraries  race 
4 weeks ago
Theorizing Global Infrastructure – global-infrastructures – Medium
This reading list examines (i) the design, construction, and maintenance of global infrastructure, (ii) the relationship between planning, global infrastructure, and politics across local, national, and trans-national scales, and (iii) the integration into these networks into spatially-proximate, if not globally-aligned, regional economies. The seminar will also further (iv) new, comparative methodologies required for globally-oriented research concerned with juxtaposing infrastructural phenomena and patterns such as the free zone that, while originating in the global South, are today materializing in the global North.
The first half of this reading list theorizes global infrastructure from its origins in the 19th century through to its 21st century evolution, focusing on the politics that underlie global infrastructure. The second half of the reading list examines global infrastructure as it impacts cities and regions directly. Empirical case studies are presented of i) the World Bank Group and McKinsey & Company’s respective efforts to finance and build global infrastructure in the global South and North, and ii) the importance of global infrastructure to Manchester, England’s re-emergence in the globalized economy as the heart of the United Kingdom’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Finally, the reading list concludes with a speculative look beyond the global to the inter-planetary infrastructure involved in colonizing Mars.
infrastructure  logistics  standards 
4 weeks ago
On the dark history of intelligence as domination | Aeon Essays
As I was growing up in England in the latter half of the 20th century, the concept of intelligence loomed large. It was aspired to, debated and – most important of all – measured. At the age of 11, tens of thousands of us all around the country were ushered into desk-lined halls to take an IQ test known as the 11-Plus. The results of those few short hours would determine who would go to grammar school, to be prepared for university and the professions; who was destined for technical school and thence skilled work; and who would head to secondary modern school, to be drilled in the basics then sent out to a life of low-status manual labour.

The idea that intelligence could be quantified, like blood pressure or shoe size, was barely a century old when I took the test that would decide my place in the world. But the notion that intelligence could determine one’s station in life was already much older. It runs like a red thread through Western thought, from the philosophy of Plato to the policies of UK prime minister Theresa May....

As well as determining what a person can do, their intelligence – or putative lack of it – has been used to decide what others can do to them. Throughout Western history, those deemed less intelligent have, as a consequence of that judgment, been colonised, enslaved, sterilised and murdered (and indeed eaten, if we include non-human animals in our reckoning)....

It’s an old, indeed an ancient, story. But the problem has taken an interesting 21st-century twist with the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In recent years, the progress being made in AI research has picked up significantly, and many experts believe that these breakthroughs will soon lead to more. Pundits are by turn terrified and excited, sprinkling their Twitter feeds with Terminator references. To understand why we care and what we fear, we must understand intelligence as a political concept – and, in particular, its long history as a rationale for domination.....

The term ‘intelligence’ itself has never been popular with English-language philosophers. Nor does it have a direct translation into German or ancient Greek, two of the other great languages in the Western philosophical tradition. But that doesn’t mean philosophers weren’t interested in it. Indeed, they were obsessed with it, or more precisely a part of it: reason or rationality. The term ‘intelligence’ managed to eclipse its more old-fashioned relative in popular and political discourse only with the rise of the relatively new-fangled discipline of psychology, which claimed intelligence for itself. ...

Plato concluded, in The Republic, that the ideal ruler is ‘the philosopher king’, as only a philosopher can work out the proper order of things. And so he launched the idea that the cleverest should rule over the rest – an intellectual meritocracy....

Aristotle was always the more practical, taxonomic kind of thinker. He took the notion of the primacy of reason and used it to establish what he believed was a natural social hierarchy. In his book The Politics, he explains: ‘[T]hat some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.’ What marks the ruler is their possession of ‘the rational element’. ...

So at the dawn of Western philosophy, we have intelligence identified with the European, educated, male human. It becomes an argument for his right to dominate women, the lower classes, uncivilised peoples and non-human animals. ....

Rather than challenging the hierarchy of intelligence as such, many critics have focused on attacking the systems that allow white, male elites to rise to the top. The 11-Plus exam that I took is an interesting, deeply equivocal example of one such system. It was intended to identify bright young things from all classes and creeds. But, in reality, those who passed came disproportionately from the better-resourced, white middle classes, whose members found themselves thereby reaffirmed in their position and advantages.

So when we reflect upon how the idea of intelligence has been used to justify privilege and domination throughout more than 2,000 years of history, is it any wonder that the imminent prospect of super-smart robots fills us with dread?... If we’ve absorbed the idea that the more intelligent can colonise the less intelligent as of right, then it’s natural that we’d fear enslavement by our super-smart creations. If we justify our own positions of power and prosperity by virtue of our intellect, it’s understandable that we see superior AI as an existential threat. ....

This narrative of privilege might explain why, as the New York-based scholar and technologist Kate Crawford has noted, the fear of rogue AI seems predominant among Western white men. Other groups have endured a long history of domination by self-appointed superiors, and are still fighting against real oppressors. White men, on the other hand, are used to being at the top of the pecking order. They have most to lose if new entities arrive that excel in exactly those areas that have been used to justify male superiority....

It’s interesting to speculate about how we’d view the rise of AI if we had a different view of intelligence. Plato believed that philosophers would need to be cajoled into becoming kings, since they naturally prefer contemplation to mastery over men. Other traditions, especially those from the East, see the intelligent person as one who scorns the trappings of power as mere vanity, and who removes him or herself from the trivialities and tribulations of quotidian affairs.

Imagine if such views were widespread: if we all thought that the most intelligent people were not those who claimed the right to rule, but those who went to meditate in remote places, to free themselves of worldly desires; or if the cleverest of all were those who returned to spread peace and enlightenment. Would we still fear robots smarter than ourselves?
intelligence  artificial_intelligence  epistemology  psychology 
4 weeks ago
We’re Already Building New Cities – HOTHOUSE – Medium
In 2000, only 8,000 people lived in these Central Florida flatlands. By 2015, the population had exploded to 157,000, a city larger than Charleston, South Carolina or Kansas City, Kansas. Of those, 100,000 had joined the community since 2010.

The Villages has taken the concept of an age-restricted retirement home to an industrial scale. As a community, it is organized into 32 Neighborhood Centers, 17 Village Centers, and eight Regional Centers. It also operates 39 golf courses, its own television news channel, and a robust events calendar (51 events happening on the day I write this)....

The poorest zip code in the United States isn’t in rural West Virginia or Chicago’s South Side. It’s nestled in the northern suburbs of New York City: 10950, or the Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel.

While The Villages is one of the oldest communities in the United States, KJ is the youngest — its median resident is 13 years old. Kiryas Joel is unique in that much of its growth comes not from immigration, but from the fecundity of its residents; the median household has six children. One resident was able to name 2,000 living descendants when she passed away at 93.
Poverty is endemic in Kiryas Joel. More than 40% of the community is on food stamps, and 62% of all families in KJ live below the poverty line, many on various forms of government assistance. The community’s isolation is deep-rooted: most residents speak Yiddish at home, and 46% speak English “not well” or “not at all”....

So what do these new cities have in common, and what lessons might a modern city-builder take from their development?
1. They each focus on a very specific audience.
2. They are practical, not utopian.
3. They’re both from the right side of the aisle.
4. Local political domination was an early goal with social cohesion and low employment as weapons.
5. They moved fast and didn’t over-engineer it.
urban_planning  new_cities 
4 weeks ago
How blockchains could change the world | McKinsey & Company
blockchains—an open-source distributed database using state-of-the-art cryptography—may facilitate collaboration and tracking of all kinds of transactions and interactions... believes the technology could offer genuine privacy protection and “a platform for truth and trust.”...

What if there were a second generation of the Internet that enabled the true, peer-to-peer exchange of value? We don’t have that now. If I’m going to send some money to somebody else, I have to go through an intermediary—a powerful bank, a credit-card company—or I need a government to authenticate who I am and who you are. What if we could do that peer to peer? What if there was a protocol—call it the trust protocol—that enabled us to do transactions, to do commerce, to exchange money, without a powerful third party?...

The blockchain is basically a distributed database. Think of a giant, global spreadsheet that runs on millions and millions of computers. It’s distributed. It’s open source, so anyone can change the underlying code, and they can see what’s going on. It’s truly peer to peer; it doesn’t require powerful intermediaries to authenticate or to settle transactions.

It uses state-of-the-art cryptography, so if we have a global, distributed database that can record the fact that we’ve done this transaction, what else could it record? Well, it could record any structured information, not just who paid whom but also who married whom or who owns what land or what light bought power from what power source. In the case of the Internet of Things, we’re going to need a blockchain-settlement system underneath. Banks won’t be able to settle trillions of real-time transactions between things....

An immutable, unhackable distributed database of digital assets. This is a platform for truth and it’s a platform for trust. ... permission-less systems. We can do transactions and satisfy each other’s economic needs without knowing who the other party is and independent from central authorities.

...the idea of a distributed database where trust is established through mass collaboration and clever code rather than through a powerful institution that does the authentication and the settlement.

...I send you the $20, and these miners, to make a long story short, go about authenticating that the transaction occurred.

...For me to hack that and try and send the same money to somebody else, or for me to come in and try and take your $20 worth of Bitcoins, is not practically possible because I’d have to hack that ten-minute block. That’s why it’s called blockchain, and that block is linked to the previous block, and the previous block—ergo, chain. This blockchain is running across countless numbers of computers. I would have to commit fraud in the light of the most powerful computing resource in the world, not just for that ten-minute block but for the entire history of commerce, on a distributed platform. This is not practically feasible....

You pick any industry, and this technology holds huge potential to disrupt it, creating a more prosperous world where people get to participate in the value that they create. The music industry, for example, is a disaster, at least from the point of view of the musicians. They used to have most of the value taken by the big labels. Then, along came the technology companies, which took a whole bunch of value, and the songwriters and musicians are left with crumbs at the end. What if the new music industry was a distributed app on the blockchain, where I, as a songwriter, could post my song onto the blockchain with a smart contract specifying how it is to be used?...

There are showstoppers such as the energy that’s consumed to do this, which is massive. Another showstopper is that this technology is going to be the platform for a lot of smart agents that are going to displace a lot of humans from jobs. Maybe this whole new platform is the ultimate job-killer.

The biggest problems, though, have to do with governance. Any controversy that you read about today is going to revolve around these governance issues. This new community is in its infancy. Unlike the Internet, which has a sophisticated governance ecosystem, the whole world of blockchain and digital currencies is the Wild West.

It’s a place of recklessness and chaos and calamity. This could kill it if we don’t find the leadership to come together and to create the equivalent organizations that we have for governance of the Internet. We have the Internet Engineering Task Force, which creates standards for the Net. We have Internet Governance Forum, which creates policies for governments. We have the W3C Consortium, which creates standards for the Web. There’s the Internet Society; that’s an advocacy group. There’s the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an operational network that just delivers the domain names. There’s a structure and a process to figure out things. Right now, there’s a big debate that continues about the block size. We need a bigger block size to be able to handle all of the transactions that will be arising....

Imagine a world where foreign aid didn’t get consumed in the bureaucracy but went directly to the beneficiary under a smart contract? Rather than a $60 billion car-service aggregation, why couldn’t we have a distributed app on the blockchain that manages all these vehicles and handles everything from reputation to payments? ...

Imagine each of us having our own identity in a black box on the blockchain. When you go to do a transaction, it gives away a shred of information required to do that transaction and it collects data. You get to keep your data and monetize it if you want, or not. This could be the foundation of a whole new era whereby our basic right to privacy is protected, because identity is the foundation of freedom and it needs to be managed responsibly.
economy  blockchain  database  distribution  computing  networks  governance 
4 weeks ago
The Philosopher of Doomsday - The New Yorker
true artificial intelligence, if it is realized, might pose a danger that exceeds every previous threat from technology—even nuclear weapons—and that if its development is not managed carefully humanity risks engineering its own extinction. Central to this concern is the prospect of an “intelligence explosion,” a speculative event in which an A.I. gains the ability to improve itself, and in short order exceeds the intellectual potential of the human brain by many orders of magnitude....

transhumanist, joining a fractious quasi-utopian movement united by the expectation that accelerating advances in technology will result in drastic changes—social, economic, and, most strikingly, biological—which could converge at a moment of epochal transformation known as the Singularity...

Perhaps because the field of A.I. has recently made striking advances—with everyday technology seeming, more and more, to exhibit something like intelligent reasoning—the book has struck a nerve. Bostrom’s supporters compare it to “Silent Spring.” In moral philosophy, Peter Singer and Derek Parfit have received it as a work of importance, and distinguished physicists such as Stephen Hawking have echoed its warning. Within the high caste of Silicon Valley, Bostrom has acquired the status of a sage. ...

Bstrom’s sole responsibility at Oxford is to direct an organization called the Future of Humanity Institute, which he founded ten years ago, with financial support from James Martin, a futurist and tech millionaire. Bostrom runs the institute as a kind of philosophical radar station: a bunker sending out navigational pulses into the haze of possible futures. ...

The term “extropy,” coined in 1967, is generally used to describe life’s capacity to reverse the spread of entropy across space and time. Extropianism is a libertarian strain of transhumanism that seeks “to direct human evolution,” hoping to eliminate disease, suffering, even death; the means might be genetic modification, or as yet un­invented nanotechnology, or perhaps dispensing with the body entirely and uploading minds into supercomputers....

Bostrom had little interest in conventional philosophy—not least because he expected that superintelligent minds, whether biologically enhanced or digital, would make it obsolete. ...

"You must seize the biochemical processes in your body in order to vanquish, by and by, illness and senescence. In time, you will discover ways to move your mind to more durable media.” He tends to see the mind as immaculate code, the body as inefficient hardware—able to accommodate limited hacks but probably destined for replacement."...

The view of the future from Bostrom’s office can be divided into three grand panoramas. In one, humanity experiences an evolutionary leap—either assisted by technology or by merging into it and becoming software—to achieve a sublime condition that Bostrom calls “posthumanity.” Death is overcome, mental experience expands beyond recognition, and our descendants colonize the universe. In another panorama, humanity becomes extinct or experiences a disaster so great that it is unable to recover. Between these extremes, Bostrom envisions scenarios that resemble the status quo—people living as they do now, forever mired in the “human era.”...

he uses arithmetical sketches to illustrate this point. Imagining one of his utopian scenarios—trillions of digital minds thriving across the cosmos—he reasons that, if there is even a one-per-cent chance of this happening, the expected value of reducing an existential threat by a billionth of a billionth of one per cent would be worth a hundred billion times the value of a billion present-day lives. Put more simply: he believes that his work could dwarf the moral importance of anything else.

Bostrom introduced the philosophical concept of "existential risk" in 2002... In recent years, new organizations have been founded almost annually to help reduce it—among them the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, affiliated with Cambridge Uni­versity, and the Future of Life Institute, which has ties to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All of them face a key problem: Homo sapiens, since its emergence two hundred thousand years ago, has proved to be remarkably resilient, and figuring out what might imperil its existence is not obvious. Climate change is likely to cause vast environmental and economic damage—but it does not seem impossible to survive.... Bostrom dates the first scientific analysis of existential risk to the Manhattan Project: in 1942, Robert Oppenheimer became concerned that an atomic detonation of sufficient power could cause the entire atmosphere to ignite. A subsequent study concluded that the scenario was “unreasonable,” given the limitations of the weapons then in development.... The answers must be fraught with ambiguity, because they can be derived only by predicting the effects of technologies that exist mostly as theories or, even more indirectly, by using abstract reasoning....

Many of those Earth-like planets are thought to be far, far older than ours. One that was recently discovered, called Kepler 452b, is as much as one and a half billion years older. Bostrom asks: If life had formed there on a time scale resembling our own, what would it look like? What kind of technological progress could a civilization achieve with a head start of hundreds of millions of years?...

Te field of artificial intelligence was born in a fit of scientific optimism, in 1955, when a small group of researchers—three mathematicians and an I.B.M. programmer—drew up a proposal for a project at Dartmouth. “An attempt will be made to find how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves"...

Norbert Wiener, the father of cybernetics, argued that it would be difficult to manage powerful computers, or even to accurately predict their behavior. “Complete subservience and complete intelligence do not go together,” he said. Envisioning Sorcerer’s Apprentice scenarios, he predicted, “The future will be an ever more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence, not a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be waited upon by our robot slaves.”...

The scientists at Dartmouth recognized that success required answers to fundamental questions: What is intelligence? What is the mind? By 1965, the field had experimented with several models of problem solving: some were based on formal logic; some used heuristic reasoning; some, called “neural networks,” were inspired by the brain. With each, the scientists’ work indicated that A.I. systems could find their own solutions to problems. One algorithm proved numerous theorems in the classic text “Principia Mathematica,” and in one instance it did so more elegantly than the authors. A program designed to play checkers learned to beat its programmer. And yet, despite the great promise in these experiments, the challenges to creating an A.I. were forbidding. Programs that performed well in the laboratory were useless in everyday situations...

The research fell into the first of several “A.I. winters.” As Bostrom notes in his book, “Among academics and their funders, ‘A.I.’ became an unwanted epithet.” Eventually, the researchers started to question the goal of building a mind altogether. Why not try instead to divide the problem into pieces? They began to limit their interests to specific cognitive functions: vision, say, or speech. ...

Unexpectedly, by dismissing its founding goals, the field of A.I. created space for outsiders to imagine more freely what the technology might look like. ... In 2005, an organization called the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence began to operate out of Silicon Valley; its primary founder, a former member of the Extropian discussion group, published a stream of literature on the dangers of A.I. That same year, the futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil wrote “The Singularity Is Near"...

In 2007, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence—the most prominent professional organization for A.I. researchers—elected Eric Horvitz, a scientist from Microsoft, as its president. Until then, it had given virtually no attention to the ethical and social implications of the research, but Horvitz was open to the big questions....

Horvitz organized a meeting at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, in California, a place chosen for its symbolic value: biologists had gathered there in 1975 to discuss the hazards of their research in the age of modern genetics. He divided the researchers into groups. One studied short-term ramifications, like the possible use of A.I. to commit crimes; another considered long-term consequences. Mostly, there was skepticism about the intelligence-explosion idea, which assumed answers to many unresolved questions. No one fully understands what intelligence is, let alone how it might evolve in a machine. Can it grow as Good imagined, gaining I.Q. points like a rocketing stock price? If so, what would its upper limit be? And would its increase be merely a function of optimized software design, without the difficult process of acquiring knowledge through experience? Can software fundamentally rewrite itself without risking crippling breakdowns?...

In people, intelligence is inseparable from consciousness, emotional and social awareness, the complex interaction of mind and body. An A.I. need not have any such attributes. Bostrom believes that machine intelligences—no matter how flexible in their tactics—will likely be rigidly fixated on their ultimate goals. How, then, to create a machine that respects the nuances of social cues? That adheres to ethical norms, even at the expense of its goals? ...

Bostrom worries that solving the “control problem”—insuring that a superintelligent machine does what … [more]
artificial_intelligence  transhumanism  posthumanism  machine_vision  deep_learning  neural_nets 
4 weeks ago
Ask the Stone to Say - Triple Canopy
Time is discerned by the shadow of an object that stands somewhere between the earth and the sun. What are you looking at when you check your phone to see the time and date, except for the artificial order imposed on reality? This order, composed of innumerable interlocking standards, works really well; but it also benefits certain systems of communication and exchange while marginalizing or suppressing many kinds of interaction and experience. Before the creation of time zones, one town would be a few minutes ahead of a neighboring town; a sense of place was tied to a sense of time. What’s lost with the synchronization of nearly every place in the world is the ability to experience any one place apart from any other....

Britain delayed its acceptance of the Gregorian calendar until 1752, and so correspondence with the rest of Europe required dates listed in the Old Style and the New Style. Because of this tardiness, when the calendar was finally implemented the British had to delete eleven days. The public was dismayed. In a print made at the time by painter William Hogarth, you can see a placard marked with the slogan “Give Us Our Eleven Days”...

More than one hundred years later, as the standardization movement took off and “public time” subordinated the timekeepers and church bells of municipalities—never mind the rising and setting of the sun, all clocks were coordinated with London’s Greenwich Observatory—protests erupted in the United States, with its suspicion of federalism, not to mention internationalism. As railroad tracks were extended and connected, and time zones drawn accordingly, Boston’s Evening Transcript blared, “Let us keep our own noon.” ...

“Listening to a bell conjures up a space that is by nature slow, prone to conserve what lies within it, and redolent of a world in which walking was the chief mode of locomotion,” Corbin writes. “Such a sound is attuned to the quiet tread of a peasant.” With the French Revolution, the use of bells for religious purposes was banned and many were transformed into cannonballs and coins; the qualitative time of localities was supplanted by the quantitative time of the secular state. Thanks to the pealing of parish bells, villagers knew not just where but who they were. After the bells were silenced, regional identities eroded and the rootless, alienated urban proletariat came into being....

Isn’t it strange that the days of the week have names but the hours of the day are just referred to by numbers? I think we should name our hours. Or the Catholic Church does, via the Roman Breviary, which defined the time of day by the prayer to be uttered: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline. ...

The Greeks had two understandings of time. One, chronos, a term we still have today, considers time quantitatively, as sequential. The other, kairos, considers time qualitatively, as opportune moments, as indeterminate. You may feel that something is happening outside of chronological time...

I want to turn iPhones into astrolabes that track the movement of the sun. I want to temper atomic clocks with decans...
temporality  time  technics 
4 weeks ago
Ask the Stone to Say - Triple Canopy
The Egyptian model divided the sun’s route into thirty-six sections, which were marked by stars—also symbols—called decans; the duration between decans varied. Moments in time were defined by whichever celestial event was happening. The title bestowed on Egyptian priests who attended to the zodiac literally translates as “who is in units of time”; it’s typically translated as “astronomer” but might better be understood as “calendarist” or “timekeeper.” To keep time was to watch the sky...

I want to believe that we can each have our own time—or that we can purposefully fall out of sync with the time of clocks and calendars. ....

Time is discerned by the shadow of an object that stands somewhere between the earth and the sun. What are you looking at when you check your phone to see the time and date, except for the artificial order imposed on reality? This order, composed of innumerable interlocking standards, works really well; but it also benefits certain systems of communication and exchange while marginalizing or suppressing many kinds of interaction and experience. Before the creation of time zones, one town would be a few minutes ahead of a neighboring town; a sense of place was tied to a sense of time. What’s lost with the synchronization of nearly every place in the world is the ability to experience any one place apart from any other.
temporality  technics  time 
4 weeks ago
Homestead's 'cybrary' will be part library, part entertainment, part tech lab | Miami Herald
Landmark Entertainment Group — the company responsible for the Spider-Man and Jurassic Park rides at Universal Orlando and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas — has partnered with the city of Homestead to create the world’s first “Cybrary,” or cyber library.

“We are redefining what the library is,” said George Gretsas, Homestead’s city manager. “When you think about bettering this thing called a library, which has been around since before 300 B.C, do you turn to the library scientists — the librarians — to create a fresh and new thing, or do you turn to people who have expertise in the areas of entertainment and attraction?

Homestead did the latter.

The Cybrary was designed to break every stereotype — no shushing, no boredom. It will have old-fashioned books but also much more. Think e-books, librarians in unique costumes and a verbose robot welcoming you to the building.

“It’s like, why can’t Mary Poppins be your Cybrarian? What if children weren’t hushed but rather encouraged and inspired to really want to read, to learn, to explore new places to really engage?” said Tony Christopher, Landmark’s founder, CEO and president. “We are brainstorming ways to gamify the library experience and make kids — and adults — actually want to take a trip to the library.”
libraries  stupid  gamification  games  innovation 
4 weeks ago
History in a Time of Crisis
...what if anything can historians offer? What are historians good for? I’ll focus here on three particular knacks: disrupting inevitabilities, digging out lost alternatives, and widening the horizons of empathy....

Even as historians can dethrone legitimating myths, they can set themselves to the imaginative work of historical re-creation. Authoritarians manufacture convenient pasts that justify their power, but they also build, toward this end, rigidly forward-facing timelines that do away with history altogether, issuing new calendrical systems, Year Zeros, and days that "changed everything."...

In the space opened by unraveled inevitabilities, historians have a key role to play in identifying alternative paths. We can and should be, among other things, the archaeologists of roads not taken....

This kind of exploration can be hazardous. History can easily become a quarry from which only select minerals are extracted, leaving large, treacherous holes. And there is, along with the condescension, the enormous narcissism of posterity, a tendency to fabricate ancestors that make our own existence a matter of happy destiny. Even as we struggle against inescapability, we must not limit our search to only those ancestors whose descendants we care to be. (When it comes to sought-after forebears, freedom fighters, resourceful survivors, colorful rogues, and free thinkers — "ahead of their time" — are among the usual suspects.)
historiography  activism  history 
4 weeks ago
The once and future library | MIT News
And who gets to choose what we preserve? How do we ensure equity and inclusion and a multi-perspective cultural history? A pitfall to avoid in collections is sidelining certain contributions, or arguing that books not in use should be stored off campus. People who have been marginalized in certain disciplines may continue to be overlooked if their work is off site. We want to avoid just housing the greatest hits in each discipline. We want to include other perspectives that enrich the view of the subject. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy that if it’s off site, it will get less use.
libraries  preservation  storage  off_site_storage  collections 
5 weeks ago
The Web Stalker | Net Art Anthology
The Web Stalker was an artist-made browser that challenged the emerging conventions of the new medium of the web. Released at a time when Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer competed for dominance, it critiqued these commercial browsers for encouraging passive, restrictive modes of browsing.

The radical interface of The Web Stalker reimagined web browsing as an engagement with the structure of the web itself. It ignored images and formatting, instead allowing users to move freely among online texts while highlighting the connections among them.

The Web Stalker offered a provocation to artists working with the net, suggesting that to fight back against its emerging corporate monoculture, they must look beyond HTML, and consider other aspects of its infrastructure.

...I/O/D applied its critique of software culture to the web browser in issue four. At that time, the so-called Browser War between Netscape and Microsoft was in full swing. The two companies' browsers competed with one another for market dominance by rendering pages slightly differently.

In I/O/D's analysis, both browsers shared a similar ideology, positioning the user as a passive consumer. For example, they shared an emphasis on the display of individual pages, a metaphor inherited from print publishing that downplayed the interactivity and interconnectivity of the web. The metaphor also made the web friendly for advertising strategies such as the banner and the splash page.

Both browsers employed metaphors of travel, which Fuller argued were “designed to suggest to the user that they are not in fact sitting in front of a computer calling up files, but hurtling round an earth embedded into a gigantic trademark ‘N’ or ‘e’ with the power of some voracious cosmological force.” The Web Stalker challenged these assumptions by offering a new kind of interface for browsing....

The Map function will parse an HTML document and diagram all of its links using lines and circles. Sites with more incoming links are shown as brighter circles. Thus, this function emphasized the links among pages, rather than the coherence of any individual page.
browsing  software  net_art  links  infrastructure 
5 weeks ago
Crawl, Map, Link, Read, Copy, Repeat | Rhizome
The storage capacity of a floppy disk weighed in at a massive 1.4 megabytes in the 1990s. Can you imagine what to do with that much power? In 1994, trying to answer that question, Simon Pope, Colin Green, and I started to create an "interactive multimedia" publication that would fit onto a high-density floppy. We called ourselves, and our publication, I/O/D, which stood for a few things that we would make up on the fly without being fixed to any of them. We gave copies away for free, by post and at events...

By the third issue of I/O/D we had introduced a supplement to the "Finder" element of the Macintosh operating system that would dredge random samples from any text files on the machine and put them in the speech bubbles of moveable figures drawn by comic artist Paquito Bolino. Partially by accident, it turned a story by the writer Ronald Sukenick into something like a virus that would rename a few files on any computer it was loaded onto with fragments from his text. ...

Artists were responding to its development, often rightly working with incoherence to test the too-ready assumptions that defined the internet as a medium of communication early on. However, we felt that there was still an implied acceptance of the aesthetic norms of the browser; for instance, that the browser was based primarily on the design for paper, emphasizing the single page as a coherent unit, rather than the connections amongst files.

The web was based on a structure of links. The patterns of connection of those links revealed the "native" power structure of the web. Today, people speak of certain websites operating as "gravity wells," where links to the outside are absent. Most such sites have links generated by scripts that refer to aggregates of content from databases, making them distinct from the hand-coded HTML documents of the 1990s, but the incipient tendency for large-scale sites to become hermetic and self-referential was already there as the flow of users and attention was beginning to become a valuable commodity in itself. ...

This tendency to silo the web page and contain the flow of users also affected the design of browsers. At that time, the battle among a small number of companies to determine the standards of the web and reap the rewards, imaginatively known as the “Browser Wars,” was in full-swing. Fault lines appeared between websites that were optimized for the unique features of Netscape and those best viewed in Internet Explorer, with the companies developing each program always edging towards breaking the web by introducing novel features to undermine their competitor and get greater market share.

Our approach was to try to develop another order of interaction, one that was not content with what it might be presented with, that would try and look behind the assembling of smooth surfaces and into the plumbing. We were also interested in doing so by reconnecting to the imperatives of Constructivism, moving across, art, design, and everyday life by making an object for direct use. The aim of the fourth issue of I/O/D, The Web Stalker, was to create a way of interfacing with the web that foregrounded some of the qualities of the network sublimated by other software. We wanted to develop an approach that would privilege fast access to information, and the ability to look ahead of the structures that were presented to users as well as to map the idiomatic structures of sites. We wanted to embed critical operations in software, but by forcing critical ideas to become productive rather than simply being aloof and knowing....

To these ends, I/O/D 4: The Web Stalker was a new kind of web browser that decomposed websites into separate sets of entities. The texts of the site were treated as the primary resource, but were stripped of most of their formatting. Links from one file to another were mapped in a network diagram, which allowed users to visualize their path through the clusters, skeins, and aporias of files. This Map built dynamically as a Crawler function gradually moved through the network. We saw the logical structure of websites, established by the links in and between them, as another key resource, and we wanted the software to act in a modular manner, with users calling up functions, each with their own separate window, only when they needed them.
textual_form  epistemology  browsing  interfaces  infrastructure  links  software  net_art 
5 weeks ago
Did Media Literacy Backfire?
Understanding what sources to trust is a basic tenet of media literacy education. When educators encourage students to focus on sourcing quality information, they encourage them to critically ask who is publishing the content. Is the venue a respected outlet? What biases might the author have? The underlying assumption in all of this is that there’s universal agreement that major news outlets like the New York Times, scientific journal publications, and experts with advanced degrees are all highly trustworthy.

Think about how this might play out in communities where the “liberal media”
is viewed with disdain as an untrustworthy source of information…or in those where science is seen as contradicting the knowledge of religious people…or where degrees are viewed as a weapon of the elite to justify oppression of working people. Needless to say, not everyone agrees on what makes a trusted source.

Students are also encouraged to reflect on economic and political incentives that might bias reporting. Follow the money, they are told. Now watch what happens when they are given a list of names of major power players in the East Coast news media whose names are all clearly Jewish. Welcome to an opening for anti-Semitic ideology....

We’ve been telling young people that they are the smartest snowflakes in the world. From the self-esteem movement in the 1980s to the normative logic of contemporary parenting, young people are told that they are lovable and capable and that they should trust their gut to make wise decisions. This sets them up for another great American ideal: personal responsibility.

...every individual is supposed to understand finance so well that they can effectively manage their own retirement funds. And every individual is expected to understand their health risks well enough to make their own decisions about insurance. To take away the power of individuals to control their own destiny is viewed as anti-American by so much of this country. You are your own master.

Children are indoctrinated into this cultural logic early, even as their parents restrict their mobility and limit their access to social situations. But when it comes to information, they are taught that they are the sole proprietors of knowledge. All they have to do is “do the research” for themselves and they will know better than anyone what is real.

Combine this with a deep distrust of media sources. If the media is reporting on something, and you don’t trust the media, then it is your responsibility to question their authority, to doubt the information you are being given. ...

For decades, civil rights leaders have been arguing for the importance of respecting experience over expertise, highlighting the need to hear the voices of people of color who are so often ignored by experts. This message has taken hold more broadly, particularly among lower and middle class whites who feel as though they are ignored by the establishment. Whites also want their experiences to be recognized, and they too have been pushing for the need to understand and respect the experiences of “the common man.” They see “liberal” “urban” “coastal” news outlets as antithetical to their interests because they quote from experts, use cleaned-up pundits to debate issues, and turn everyday people (e.g., “red sweater guy”) into spectacles for mass enjoyment....

Why trust experts when you have at your fingertips a crowd of knowledgeable people who may have had the same experience as you and can help you out?...

Since the election, everyone has been obsessed with fake news, as experts blame “stupid” people for not understanding what is “real.” The solutionism around this has been condescending at best. More experts are needed to label fake content. More media literacy is needed to teach people how not to be duped. And if we just push Facebook to curb the spread of fake news, all will be solved....

People believe in information that confirms their priors. In fact, if you present them with data that contradicts their beliefs, they will double down on their beliefs rather than integrate the new knowledge into their understanding. This is why first impressions matter. It’s also why asking Facebook to show content that contradicts people’s views will not only increase their hatred of Facebook but increase polarization among the network. And it’s precisely why so many liberals spread “fake news” stories in ways that reinforce their belief that Trump supporters are stupid and backwards....

Addressing so-called fake news is going to require a lot more than labeling. It’s going to require a cultural change about how we make sense of information, whom we trust, and how we understand our own role in grappling with information. Quick and easy solutions may make the controversy go away, but they won’t address the underlying problems....

As a huge proponent for media literacy for over a decade, I’m struggling with the ways in which I missed the mark. The reality is that my assumptions and beliefs do not align with most Americans. Because of my privilege as a scholar, I get to see how expert knowledge and information is produced and have a deep respect for the strengths and limitations of scientific inquiry. Surrounded by journalists and people working to distribute information, I get to see how incentives shape information production and dissemination and the fault lines of that process. I believe that information intermediaries are important, that honed expertise matters, and that no one can ever be fully informed. As a result, I have long believed that we have to outsource certain matters and to trust others to do right by us as individuals and society as a whole. This is what it means to live in a democracy, but, more importantly, it’s what it means to live in a society....

In the United States, we’re moving towards tribalism, and we’re undoing the social fabric of our country through polarization, distrust, and self-segregation. And whether we like it or not, our culture of doubt and critique, experience over expertise, and personal responsibility is pushing us further down this path.
Media literacy asks people to raise questions and be wary of information that they’re receiving. People are. Unfortunately, that’s exactly why we’re talking past one another....

The path forward is hazy. We need to enable people to hear different perspectives and make sense of a very complicated — and in many ways, overwhelming — information landscape. We cannot fall back on standard educational approaches because the societal context has shifted. We also cannot simply assume that information intermediaries can fix the problem for us, whether they be traditional news media or social media. We need to get creative and build the social infrastructure necessary for people to meaningfully and substantively engage across existing structural lines.
media_literacy  credibility  attribution  citation  fake_news  epistemology  pedagogy  civic_engagement  social_infrastructure 
5 weeks ago
You Will Be Assessed and Found Mediocre - The Chronicle of Higher Education
But most assessment in higher education is not about safety or pleasure. Its power-hungry spirit is more like: "What have you, lowly instructors, failed to do perfectly? Here are the complicated, badly designed surveys you must conduct. Next, record your failures in our precise but impenetrable format, with charts and graphs, so that your mediocrity is fully documented." You will also be compared with your peers. You will all be found below average.

Maybe this all started with grading, introduced at Yale in 1785. Maybe it goes back much further, to Socrates’s day, when teachers were thought to corrupt the youth of Athens. Or Roman times, when there was a term for teacher hatred: odium magistrorum....

But assessment, as ordered by higher- education boards, has a different spirit. It’s "accountability." That means blame.

Typically, a governing board, a cabal of legislators, or a group of senior administrators decides that they need more information about "what’s going on in the classroom." They devise "instruments" to measure whatever can be numbered. Grades can be aggregated, factored, normed. Time spent on classroom activities can be monitored. Student evaluations can be parsed and excerpted to measure "student satisfaction" and punish nonconformists.
academic  assessment  grading 
5 weeks ago
CyberCity allows government hackers to train for attacks - The Washington Post
CyberCity has all the makings of a regular town. There’s a bank, a hospital and a power plant. A train station operates near a water tower. The coffee shop offers free WiFi.

But only certain people can get in: government hackers preparing for battles in cyberspace.

The town is a virtual place that exists only on computer networks run by a New Jersey-based security firm working under contract with the U.S. Air Force. Computers simulate communications and operations, including e-mail, heating systems, a railroad and an online social networking site, dubbed FaceSpace.

Think of it as something like the mock desert towns that were constructed at military facilities to help American soldiers train for the war in Iraq. But here, the soldier-hackers from the Air Force and other branches of the military will practice attacking and defending the computers and networks that run the theoretical town. In one scenario, they will attempt to take control of a speeding train containing weapons of mass destruction.

To those who participate in the practice missions, the digital activity will look and feel real. The “city” will have more than 15,000 “people” who have e-mail accounts, work passwords and bank deposits. The power plant has employees. The hospital has patients. The coffeeshop customers will come and go, using the insecure WiFi system, just as in real life.

To reinforce the real-world consequences of cyberattacks, CyberCity will have a tabletop scale model of the town, including an electric train, a water tower and a miniature traffic light that will show when they have been attacked....

CyberCity is one of hundreds of virtual environments — often known as cyber ranges or test beds — launched in recent years by military, corporate and academic researchers to confront the mind-bending security challenges posed by cyberspace, where millions of attacks or intrusions occur every day.

Some small ranges study the effects of malicious software and viruses. Some hope to emulate the Internet itself and become scientific instruments of sorts, akin to mountaintop telescopes or particle accelerators, that will enable researchers to seek out the elusive fundamentals of cyberspace. The most ambitious of these, the National Cyber Range, was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It has cost about $130 million since 2008. The agency said seven large-scale experiments have been conducted by Pentagon researchers.
media_city  simulation  games  security  hacking 
5 weeks ago
Faultlines, black holes and glaciers: mapping uncharted territories | Science | The Guardian
A naval architect turned explorer, Siggi navigates by scanning aerial photos and uploading them into a plotter, the ship’s electronic navigation system. Sometimes he uses satellite images, sometimes shots taken by Danish geologists from an open-cockpit plane in the 1930s, on one of the only comprehensive surveys of the coast. Siggi sails by comparing what he sees on the shore to these rough outlines. “Of course, then you don’t have any soundings,” he says, referring to charts of ocean depths that sailors normally rely on to navigate and avoid running aground. “I’ve had some close calls.” Over the years, he has got better at reading the landscape to look for clues. He looks for river mouths, for example, where silt deposits might create shallow places to anchor, so that icebergs will go to ground before they crush the boat. In the age of GPS and Google Maps, it’s rare to meet someone who still entrusts his life to such analogue navigation.

Even when Siggi is retracing his own steps, the landscape of the Forbidden Coast is constantly changing. “Where the glaciers have disappeared,” he explains, pointing at washes of green on a creased, hand-drawn chart, “a peninsula turns out to be an island. It was actually sea where you thought there was land.” To account for this, he often trades notes with local hunters, who are similarly adept at reading the coast. “Their language is very descriptive,” Siggi explains. “So all the names of places mean something.” Although locations may have official Danish names, they are often ignored.....

Until a century ago, Greenlandic hunters would cut maps out of driftwood. “The wooden part would be the fjord, so it would be a mirror image,” Siggi says. “Holes would be islands. Compared to a paper map, it was actually quite accurate.” These driftwood sculptures were first recorded by a Danish expedition in the 1880s, along with bas-relief versions of fjords, carefully grooved and bevelled to represent headland depths....

As a source of information, a map is always a way of groping through the darkness of the unknown. But locating yourself in space has never been cartography’s sole function: like these driftwood pieces, maps inevitably chart how cultures perceive not only their landscapes but their lives.

“Everything we do is some kind of spatial interaction with objects or ourselves,” says John Hessler, a specialist in geographic information systems at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. “A map is a way to reduce this huge complexity of our everyday world.” For the last few decades, Hessler has been conducting research in the library’s map collection – the largest in the world – in stacks the lengths of football fields. “Geographic information systems have revolutionised everything,” he says.

Explorers have long filled in our understanding of the world, using and then discarding the sextant, the compass, MapQuest. “The project of mapping the Earth properly is to some extent complete,” Hessler says. But while there are no longer dragons fleshing out far-flung places, a surprising number of spaces are still uncharted – and the locations we have discovered to explore have only expanded. “Where we were just trying to accurately map terrestrial space,” Hessler says, we have moved into a “metaphor for how we live. We’re mapping things that don’t have a physical existence, like internet data and the neural connections in our heads.”

From mapping the dark between stars to the patterns of disease outbreaks, who is making maps today, and what those maps are used for, says a lot about the modern world. “Now anything can be mapped,” says Hessler. “It’s the wild west. We are in the great age of cartography, and we’re still just finding out what its powers are.”...

She hopes that mapping where neutrinos come from will lead to the discovery of new black holes, and possibly explain what physical processes take place inside them. Because the majority of neutrinos were created around 14bn years ago, shortly after the birth of the universe, this might help answer a fairly fundamental question: what are the conditions that create energy?

“The only way to study something you can’t go to or touch is to look at it in many different ways,” Kurahashi Neilson says. “The funny thing is, if you map the universe in optical light – what humans see – or gamma rays, or radio rays, our universe doesn’t look the same. That’s the beauty of this. You create a map of the same thing in different light, and when you compare them, you understand the universe better.”...

Whether on the Forbidden Coast or tracking neutrinos at the South Pole, this curiosity – to compare, to see something no one has seen before – is a fairly basic human compulsion. That’s why Robert Becker – a radio astronomer who has recently retired from the University of California, Davis – got into physics. When he started studying astronomy, the only map of the entire sky was a simple contour map, like the ones used for hiking. In the 1990s, Becker decided to conduct a Very Large Array radio survey – using radio waves to map the sky in much greater detail – finding scores of new phenomena.

In most other areas of science, a question leads to an experiment that tests a hypothesis. In astronomy, you cannot conduct experiments. “We can’t build new stars,” Becker explains. “So we do survey maps.” The goal is to create a catalogue of the sky, which is essentially a record of all the ongoing experiments in space. ...

If you could somehow drain the seas, scientists predict you would see not sea monsters but a few volcanoes sprouting from an immense, flat floor, which is hundreds of thousands of hills covered by millennia of falling sediment. Because of these cloaking deposits, developing a better map of the ocean could shed light on the distant past. “It’s one of the most complete records of history on Earth,” says Alan Mix, an oceanographer at Oregon State University. “All of history accumulates in layers on the ocean floor.” The problem is that this wealth of information lies submerged just out of reach. Because satellites cannot read through water, mapping the sea has been much more difficult than mapping land.

“The joke,” Mix says, “is that we know more about the back side of the moon than the bottom of the ocean.” In the meantime, we work with best guesses. On Google Earth, for example, the sea floor appears to be mapped, displaying mountain ranges and submerged islands, but these shapes are actually based on inferred data. “It’s an interpreted map,” Mix explains. Because a mountain on the bottom of the ocean has a lot of mass, its gravity pulls on the water around it, causing a dip in the surface that a satellite can observe. “But it’s like looking through a bad pair of glasses,” Mix says. “To really know what’s going on below the surface, scientists must still send out an expedition.”... Since then, Ballard’s idea of deploying remote-controlled robots closer to the bottom of the sea has become standard practice. But the ocean is huge and submersibles can only travel so far. Even today, only about 17% of the ocean has been mapped with sonar, meaning that a ship or submersible has physically driven back and forth over the ocean floor in a grid, like mowing a lawn....

But if the sea floor has certain morphological characteristics, the country’s territory can be extended beyond that 200 nautical-mile limit, into an area called the extended continental shelf. As the rush to claim the Arctic begins – Russia has symbolically staked its claim to recently discovered oil reserves by planting a titanium flag in the bottom of the Arctic Ocean – maps such as this will be a crucial part of the manoeuvring....

More than a century and a half later in Haiti, MSF doctors could not even do that. Though everyone being treated in Haitian clinics was asked where they were from, the information proved confounding, since none of the informal neighbourhoods and slums in Haiti were adequately mapped. Doctors lacked the ability to connect the place names with geographical coordinates. “It was effectively being recorded in random syllables,” Gayton says. Though staff tried to record cases in a spreadsheet, without locations, doctors could not tell if cases were adjacent to one another or on opposite sides of the city, making it difficult to trace or stop the sources of infection. “We couldn’t do our job,” says Pete Masters, the Missing Maps project coordinator at MSF. “We didn’t have the evidence to take the best action.”

At the peak of the outbreak, Gayton was wandering through the hallway of a clinic and spotted a colleague, Maya Allan, crouched on a windowsill with a laptop. “She was trying to place pins [of cholera cases] on Google Earth by hand,” Gayton says. Frustrated, he thought there had to be a better way. So he called Google, which was “like calling the Batcave”.

A few days later, Google software engineer Pablo Mayrgundter flew to Port-au-Prince, bringing with him Google Earth programs and map data downloaded on to hard drives so he could work in the field without the internet. He trained Haitians how to use GPS units, then sent them into neighbourhoods to get latitude and longitude coordinates for Haitian place names. Google’s engineers were aided by a group called the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap (HOT) team – “Earthquake nerds, looking at the TV, looking at the street map of Port-au-Prince, and realising there’s nothing there,” Masters says. After the earthquake, the group coordinated with members of the Haitian diaspora to map Haiti’s slums and identify local landmarks for the first time. Within 72 hours of the earthquake, search-and-rescue teams were using their maps. Together, Google and HOT worked to geolocate all of the information they had gathered and to write a script to import the case records. … [more]
cartography  mapping  gaps  epistemology 
5 weeks ago
The Field Guide to Fences – Next City
In their urban habitat, fences create borders both physical and abstract, defining boundaries between public and private, and occasionally creating strange in-between spaces. Sometimes fences make good neighbors but often, there is collateral damage. They go beyond delineating space to creating barriers. These barriers — geographic and psychogeographic — affect how we navigate through the city, understand our neighbors, and determine (and perhaps undermine) our sense of security.

Bushwick’s ubiquitous fences are in part a vestige of the powerful anti-urban forces that shook the city in the 1970s. The blackout of 1977, followed by fires set by landlords to collect insurance, and a callous policy of planned divestment, destroyed much of the fabric of the neighborhood, with repercussions that continue to this day. Walls of steel-wire mesh and wrought iron rose as markers of anxiety and fear. Cyclone fences cut jagged borders between public and private spaces; between protected spaces and the urban unknown.

Over the past 10 years, the crime rate has dropped in Bushwick and throughout the city. Yet fences continue to multiply. New typologies join the ranks.

These urban border walls are symptoms of our larger political climate, with its ignominious distrust of the other and push toward privatization.

So, how can we rethink the ways in which we inhabit our streets, engage with our neighbors and support safety through positive reinforcement? Can we begin to welcome each other into these interstitial areas, and break down cultural divisions through inhabiting the zone where streets and building meet? Can we create socially and ecologically productive street landscapes from chain link and wrought iron? The NYC Parks Department recently began the Parks Without Borders Initiative, a program aimed at “making parks more open, welcoming and beautiful by improving entrances, edges and park-adjacent space” through a community design process....

who benefits from these very physical elements of social control? What are we fencing off, what are we containing? Is Trump keeping us out, or are we keeping him in? This working list of fence transformations, while modest, proposes a way to loosen, in the words of author Mike Davis, the ecology of fear, at the individual building scale. We need the city, now more than ever, to be a place that embodies hospitable architecture, that is a generous and unpredictable space, one that rewards curiosity and openness.
security  fences  borders  typology  field_guide  risk 
5 weeks ago
Hidden in Plain Sight: The Steganographic Image | u n t h i n k i n g . p h o t o g r a p h y
a steganographic inscription is neither a depth nor the plain surface but somewhere in between. In contemporary images made of data it refers to how the image can be coded as more than is seen, but also more than the image should do. The steganographic digital image can be executed; it includes instructions for the computer to perform. Photographs as part of a longer history of communication media are one particular way of saying more than meets the eye, but this image also connects to histories of secret communication from the early modern period, to more recent discussions in security culture, as well as fiction such as William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition (2003). Were J.G. Ballard’s 1950s billboard mysteries one sort of cryptographic puzzle that hid a message in plain visual sight?
images  photographs  code  virus  hacking  operative_image 
6 weeks ago
10 Must-Listen Architecture and Design Podcasts for the Holiday Break - Curbed
Is there a form of media that compliments city living better than podcasting? Whether it keeps commuters company during a morning train ride or provides a soundtrack for a stroll through city streets, the ubiquity and portability of podcasting can make a favorite show seem like a constant companion. In a post-Serial world, when Marc Maron gets the opportunity to interview the President in his garage, there are more shows than ever. We looked back over recent episodes and broadcasts and picked out some of our favorite architecture and design podcasts of the year, ideal listening during long trips, airport delays or simply free time over the upcoming holiday break.
media_architecture  audio  podcasts  radio 
6 weeks ago
First 3 Chapters of Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation for Comment | Trevor Owens
Interdisciplinary dialog about digital preservation often breaks down when an individual begins to protest “but that’s not preservation.” Preservation means a lot of different things in different contexts. Each of those contexts has a history. Those histories are tied up in the changing nature of the mediums and objects for which each conception of preservation and conservation was developed. All to often, discussions of digital preservation start by contrasting digital media to analog media.  This contrast forces a series of false dichotomies. Understanding a bit about the divergent lineages of preservation helps to establish the range of competing notions at play in defining what is and isn’t preservation.

Building on work in media archeology, this chapter establishes that digital media and digital information should not be understood as a rupture with an analog past, Instead, digital media should be understood as part of a continual process of remediation embedded in the development of a range of new mediums which afford distinct communication and preservation potential. Understanding these contexts and meanings of preservation establishes a vocabulary to articulate what aspects of an object must persist into the future for a given preservation intent.

To this end, this chapter provides an overview of many of these lineages. This includes; the culture of scribes and the manuscript tradition; the bureaucracy and the development of archival theory for arranging archives and publishing records; the differences between taxidermy and insect collecting in natural history collections and living collections like butterfly gardens and zoos; the development of historic preservation of the built environment; the advent of recorded sound technology and the development of oral history; and the development of photography, microfilming and preservation reformatting. Each episode and tradition offers a mental model to consider deploy for different contexts in digital preservation.
preservation  conservation  materiality  material_texts  architecture  objects  digital_preservation 
6 weeks ago
Your Private Browsing History Alone Can Give Away Your Identity - The Atlantic
Companies that compile user profiles generally do so pseudonymously: They may know a lot of demographic details about you, but they don’t usually connect your behavior to your individual identity. But a group of researchers at Stanford and Princeton developed a system that can connect your profile to your name and identity, just by examining your browsing history.

When the team tested the technique on 400 real people who submitted their browsing history, they were able to correctly pick out the volunteers’ Twitter profiles nearly three-quarters of the time.

Here’s how the de-anonymization system works: The researchers figured that a person is more likely to click a link that was shared on social media by a friend—or a friend of a friend—than any other random link on the internet. (Their model controls for the baseline popularity of each website.) With that in mind, and the details of an anonymous person’s browser history in hand, the researchers can compute the probability that any one Twitter user created that browsing history. People’s basic tendency to follow links they come across on Twitter unmasks them—and it usually takes less than a minute....

That means that maintaining privacy while using Twitter is impossible without opting out of the social network’s trademark feature: its public, free-for-all nature. The alternative—keeping your online comings and goings from being cataloged—is a long shot.

Browser features like Safari’s private browsing or Chrome’s incognito mode—with its sneaky-looking fedora-and-glasses branding—aren’t real defenses against de-anonymization. Once “incognito” or “private” windows are closed, they delete the trail of history left on the browser itself, but they don’t prevent trackers, internet service providers, or certainly spy agencies from eavesdropping on traffic.

Using Tor, on the other hand—a program that anonymizes internet browsing by bouncing traffic randomly across a network of servers—would probably deter all but the most dogged spies. “We speculate that this attack can only be carried out against Tor users by well-resourced organizations on high-value targets,” Shukla wrote. “Think cyber-espionage, government intelligence, and the like.”
privacy  anonymity 
6 weeks ago
How New York City Gets Its Electricity - The New York Times
Your household power may have been generated by Niagara Falls, or by a natural-gas-fired plant on a barge floating off the Brooklyn shore. But the kilowatt-hour produced down the block probably costs more than the one produced at the Canadian border.

Moreover, a surprising portion of the system is idle except for the hottest days of the year, when already bottlenecked transmission lines into the New York City area reach their physical limit.

“We have a system which is energy-inefficient because it was never designed to be efficient,” said Richard L. Kauffman, the state’s so-called energy czar, who is leading its plans to reimagine the power grid.

It’s like a mainframe computer in the age of cloud computing, Mr. Kauffman added, and with climate change, the state has to “rethink that basic architecture.”...

A standard part of the electric arsenal are generators called “peakers,” which are needed to keep the grid reliable but might run only a few days a year. New York City has about 16 such plants, mostly around the waterfront, which spring into action on the hottest days of the year or if transmission lines or power plants upstate malfunction. Some sit on barges, and all are designed to switch on quickly. The trade-off for the rapid response is usually higher costs and carbon emissions.

As a result, customers pay for plants and wires that “a lot of the time are hardly used,” said Mr. Kauffman, the energy czar.

The entire system was designed to meet demand extremes and handle the worst-case situation....

What, exactly, am I paying for each month?

A complete understanding of your Con Ed bill practically requires a Ph.D., but there are three main parts:

SUPPLY About a third to a half (depending on use) reflects how much your provider paid for the electricity on wholesale markets administered by Nyiso. Like all commodities, price fluctuates with demand. Electricity tends to be cheaper at night and more expensive in the summer. Other factors affect prices, such as weather conditions, fuel costs, the cost to operate a plant and where it is.

TRANSMISSION AND DELIVERY You are also paying for maintenance and upgrades to the wires and substations.

TAXES AND FEES About 30 percent of your bill is made up of taxes and fees, according to Con Ed, including property taxes, sales tax, a special tax for utilities and a fee that finances the state’s clean energy programs and innovations.

How much utilities can charge for supply and delivery is determined by the Public Service Commission, a board appointed by the governor to regulate utilities, which takes into account positions held by consumer, environmental and industry groups, government agencies and the utilities.
energy  infrastructure 
6 weeks ago
Data Selfie _ About
Data Selfie explores our relationship to the online data we leave behind as a result of media consumption and social networks. In the modern age, almost everyone has an online representation of oneself and we are constantly and actively sharing information publically on various social media platforms. At the same time we are under constant surveillance by social media companies and “share” information unconsciously. How do our data profiles, the ones we actively create, compare to the profiles made by the machines at Facebook, Google and Co. – the profiles we never get to see, but unconsciously create?

Why does Facebook need your phone number or your phone contacts or the data from your WhatsApp account? Why does Facebook track the time you spend looking at the posts in your news feed? Is the sole purpose of this data gathering to serve us more relevant ads? Is there something else afoot?

Data Selfie is an application that aims to provide a personal perspective on data mining, predictive analytics and our online data identity – including inferred information from our consumption. In our data society algorithms and Big Data are increasingly defining our lives. Therefore, it is important – especially for those who are indifferent to this issue – to be aware of the power and influence your own data has on you.
big_data  surveillance  privacy  algorithms  self_tracking  quantified_self 
6 weeks ago
How to weather the Trump administration: Head to the library - LA Times
If, as he claims, our new president really wants to invest in infrastructure, then America will need to build more than just roads and bridges. If Donald Trump is as smart as he insists he is, then he can prove it by strengthening our intellectual infrastructure.

...librarians may be the only first responders holding the line between America and a raging national pandemic of absolutism. More desperately than ever, we need our libraries now, and all three of their traditional pillars: 1) education, 2) good reading and 3) the convivial refuge of a place apart. In other words, libraries may be the last coal we have left to blow on....

Libraries aren’t perfect, but they’re evolving. Things always get delicate when they redefine themselves as “more than just books” because to some of us “just books” will always sound like “just oxygen.” But, in addition to their sacred role as an ark for endangered book culture, libraries already offer most of the services that society can’t or won’t otherwise provide. They’re career counselors, homeless shelters and Internet cafes, stopgap solutions to way too many of society’s problems.

If government doesn’t want to confront these ills, we should at least stand ready to help the one institution that’s addressing them already — and the new president could demonstrate that willingness by moving his inauguration.
libraries  infrastructure 
6 weeks ago
Harvard Design Magazine: Storage Flows: Logistics as Urban Choreography
up until now, whether at home or in the city, we think of storage as the collection and shelving of items in designated places where they accumulate until needed.

But in the post-Fordist city of today, where inventories are expertly synchronized across vast territorial scales in ever-decreasing timeframes, this practice of accumulation is inverted. In the logisticalization of contemporary supply chains, shelf life is planned to be as brief as possible—storage does not accumulate in one place; rather, it flows.

The concept of storage as a vector of flow has been prevalent as long as there has been trade. The transfer of goods from their point of production to consumers in a safe, profitable, and timely fashion across regions and continents has shaped urban centers in both ancient and modern times. Technological innovation, in the form of faster distribution networks and scientific management systems (coach to steam ship to railroads to the assembly line), has also had an enormous impact on the flow and stowing of goods. However, since the 1970s a new species of exchange networks has evolved, one that accelerates ow beyond anything we have witnessed previously: logistics.
Characterized as time-space technologies that supervise and expedite production routines and global supply chains, logistics are increasingly controlled by a series of large corporate actors. In this context, storage is defined as both the stuff and the procedures of new material and data flows of digital commerce: the supply of commodities from producers to retailers to customers in online retail (Amazon); mobility infrastructure to manage the shipping and distribution of goods (DHL, FedEx, UPS); social media and entertainment services (Facebook, Netflix, Redbox); and communication software that source, map, and reserve objects and spaces in sharing networks (Airbnb, Uber, Zipcar). Here, storage is not understood as putting things away for safekeeping or as a depository of artifacts gathering dust; rather, it is a dynamic, temporal system...

All is aided by abstract, rational procedures performed by algorithms, scanners, programmable robots, and other info-industrial technologies from smart tags and hand-held tracking devices to radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems. These procedures have all descended from the bar code and just-in-time (JIT) management procedures that together transformed inventory management and shipping beginning in the mid-1970s.

...To fully comprehend contemporary mechanisms of flow, we need to explore the manner in which logistics shrewdly appropriates other external networks and spaces as a means to enhance its supply chain operations. For example, many logistical networks hijack familiar forms of urban infrastructure to further conquer the spatiotemporal gap between supply and demand. Piggybacking on other systems to optimize flow by collapsing supply and distribution into one seamless system has many implications for the city, changing how distribution typologies appear in the urban landscape and thus the landscape itself....

While the global shipping network FedEx invests heavily in its own facilities, its real-life support remains the infrastructure of the city. FedEx has approximately 40,000 drop boxes in building lobbies, supermarkets, airports, and street corners in the United States alone. FedEx locates its sorting facilities at airports (375 to be exact) and its fleet of 48,000 trucks are a familiar sight on highways. ...

Amazon lockers ...

we might all have come around to the realization that storage flows in the commercial realm are nothing more than the complete manifestation of capitalism. The more goods and services corporate logistical networks can supply, the more we will likely demand. Despite the convenience of current storage flows in the city, their purpose is not really to make life better, but to propel our desire to want more stuff, quicker. After all, storage flows are nothing more than money flows in disguise.
storage  flows  logistics  infrastructure 
6 weeks ago
Donald Trump and the Uses of the Past | New Republic
What relevance does such an archive have nowadays? They say that if you’re asked why you like history in a university interview, the only thing you should never say is because we can learn from the mistakes of the past. History is a methodology, a way of seeing things—not a cautionary tale.

But we seem to be living through a rupture. As the president pretends the traditional separation of the judiciary, executive, and legislative branches of government does not exist, the most basic lessons from history—by which I mean literal history lessons we all should have learned at primary school—seem to need re-teaching....

Our country also has subtler needs. When Donald Trump was elected, an artist named Matthew Chavez began a project in the Union Square subway underpass. He sat at a desk covered in colorful sticky notes and pens and invited travelers to write down their feelings and then stick them on the wall. Chavez discouraged his contributors from expressions of raw anger, and encouraged messages of love and solidarity. He called the project Subway Therapy.

Alan Balicki and his team had one and a half hours on January 23 to take the project down from the wall, after the Society partnered with Chavez, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority to place part of the work in its archive. Somewhat sadly, Balicki explained that he made the decision to break the original sequence of notes—he just did not have time to preserve them as they were. One of the PhDs with us observed that nobody owned the sequence or had declared that there was a wrong or right way to arrange the notes. She thought the project was beautiful as is, lumped pell-mell into gray archival boxes. The new display is called Messages for the President-Elect...

This is the sort of thing that the New-York Historical Society saves: flotsam, jetsam, things left behind. The curators follow closely in the wake of the city’s human activity, collecting the materials left behind by protests and vigils and attacks. The museum treats these items with a reverence rarely seen in any part of our culture. ...

What does the past mean for a society like this, under a government like this? For this administration, American history functions as a backdrop for racist fantasy—the greatness that will be made again—not as a foundation of government....

It’s tough to deal with nihilism, because everything multiplied by zero makes zero. But conservation is an action that expresses tenderness toward and assigns value to things that otherwise would signify nothing; a Post-it note, a grubby old letter, a drawing. Conservators treat the material world with a deeply erudite form of respect, which is their profession. It’s an honorable way to relate to the physical world around us. Honor has a politics.
archives  memory  history 
6 weeks ago
Listening to Bodies and Materialities - Listening Across Disciplines
Like the first network event this meeting too aimed to facilitate knowledge sharing to provoke novel interactions, enabling the key and core participants, as well as a participatory audience, not only to break down barriers between disciplines, but also to set the terms for doing so between universities, research, pedagogy, industry and the public. The meeting invited exchange and debate to enable a ‘shared enquiry’ that produces shared and shareable outcomes.

The particular emphasis on materialities and bodies focused a cross disciplinary listening on the aim to understand the world as a material and social sphere, whose components and interactions can be heard as well as seen. It involved anthropology, forensics, history, art, music and neurology as well as technology and medical sciences to explore how new knowledge might be created, applied and communicated through sound.

The roundtable consisted of network members, core members, as well as a specially invited participating audience involving doctoral students, post-doctoral researchers, UAL and SoU staff as well as members of the general public.

The aim was to engage the group in the differing methods, channels, tools, and objectives of listening practices across the differing academic or professional fields, in order to discuss and query processes, technologies, tools, and aims. The presentation and discussions of such a variety of academic, artistic and professional contexts and objectives of listening provided a platform for comparison, exchange, re-evaluation and inspiration, and initiate a debate on the legitimacy of the heard as an artistic and scientific material, data and outcome and what knowledge it might provide.

The first meeting brought a focus on language, and emphasised the need for a shared terminology and discourse, and it foregrounded the question of consensus or ambiguity. In the second meeting we continued to pursue these questions and persisted with the effort of building a glossary of terms and a resource of key texts and materials that might serve this endeavour.

Among the other questions brought forward from the first event were:

What sound is to different professions / tasks / disciplines?
How different disciplines listen / record sound?
What different professions, academic researchers, etc. hear?
How the listened to is evaluated, communicated and applied?
How listening can be taught, shared?
listening  hearing  methodology 
6 weeks ago
Infrastructures of Empire and Resistance
Calais highlights a specifically carceral politics of the present; the underside of a globalization anchored in movement, connection, and mobility; seemingly on display at Heathrow. But beyond this important and well-worn geography lesson, the coupling of controversies puts a spotlight on the infrastructures that organize these power geometries. These paired events and the crisis they together announce are not only about the chaos created by uneven global development and the resulting spatial mismatch for daily survival that pushes so many into exile. It is not only about the kinds of transnational circulations the UK will welcome — business travelers and tourists, versus the gates that greet asylum seekers, especially black and brown ones. This is a profoundly material crisis anchored in infrastructure. Together, Calais and Heathrow remind us that today’s gateways apparently require very large and complex gates — that relations of power and of force rely on socio-technical systems, that are themselves increasingly the object of struggle...

Infrastructure connects a range of political conflicts which might otherwise seem disparate and discrete: crises surrounding the rights of refugees and the provision of asylum in a world of thickening borders; crises of indigenous peoples’ lands and sovereignty in the face of transnational extractive industries; crises regarding local livelihoods in an economy organized through speed and flexibility in trade across vast distances; crises of water infrastructure in Black and Indigenous communities; crises of police and carceral violence that breed profound distrust in the core institutions of the state for communities of color. At the center of these struggles are the systems engineered to order social and natural worlds. Struggles over infrastructure are hardly new, but they are perhaps more ubiquitous, as the world becomes increasingly financialized, securitized, and logistical.

Infrastructures are the collectively constructed systems that also build and sustain human life. “We” build infrastructure, and it builds “us.” Infrastructure exceeds its most obvious forms — the pipes, roadways and rail that often monopolize our imaginaries. Social infrastructures are also built, material, and lasting. Even intimacy is increasingly understood as infrastructural. When they work, infrastructures bring us food, water, power, resources, consumer goods, information, security, and connections to loved ones. But the infrastructures that distribute the necessities of life are themselves unevenly distributed, and they can inhibit as well as enable connection. The story of infrastructure is also one of disconnection, containment, and dispossession. ... Infrastructure may entrench injustice in systems that seem technical rather than political, instead of technopolitical, and thus can serve to naturalize those relations. And infrastructure does not simply reflect existing inequality, but may engineer and entrench new forms....

The injustice of infrastructure is not only about lack — for instance when clean water infrastructures do not reach northern indigenous communities on the James Bay or urban Black communities on the Great Lakes, or when public transit infrastructures do not reach racialized neighborhoods which are increasingly pushed to the fringes of gentrifying cities. Sometimes there is too much infrastructure: the security and carceral infrastructures that produce the over policing of Black and Indigenous people, or the highway infrastructures that urban renewal drove through Black communities that led James Baldwin to deem them infrastructures of “negro removal.” This capacity to both contain and connect is a persistent feature of infrastructure. ...

In colonial and settler colonial contexts, infrastructure is often the means of dispossession, and the material force that implants colonial economies and socialities. Infrastructures thus highlight the issue of competing and overlapping jurisdiction — matters of both time and space....

Infrastructure is by definition future oriented; it is assembled in the service of worlds to come. Infrastructure demands a focus on what underpins and enables formations of power and the material organization of everyday life. Visions, ideas, and analyses are important, but the future must be built, and “concretized” in ways that sustain sociality. A focus on infrastructure insists that we ask how power works, in its most mundane and practical ways. And such a focus heeds the insights of feminist thought on the centrality of social reproduction and its gendered and racialized labors to the reproduction or transformation of the social order.

What might it mean to ground citizenship in the material architectures and social relations of alternative infrastructure, instead of the gate/ways of corporations and nation states? Could repairing infrastructure be a means of repairing political life more broadly? Lauren Berlant has recently argued that “the repair or replacement of broken infrastructure is… necessary for any form of sociality to extend itself,” but she is interested, “in how that extension can be non-reproductive, generating a form from within brokenness beyond the exigencies of the current crisis, and alternatively to it too.”... Infrastructure enables all manner of things, and it can foster transformation as well as reproduction. In contrast to top-down infrastructure - communities, movements, networks and nations assemble creative alternatives that respond to needs and desires for a different future as they help bring them into being....

Indeed, as I write this reflection, more than 450 US churches are responding to Trump’s promised expansion of border infrastructure by declaring that they will act as “Trump-era underground railroad” for undocumented immigrants. In doing so they embrace some of the most striking features of prior fugitive infrastructures; they are assembled to do different things, for different people, and according to different systems of value. In doing all this, they offer a different orientation to space, time and legality....

Infrastructures implicate us in collective life and death. The promise of repair — of fixing infrastructures — is precisely in recognizing the concrete reproduction of historical violence in the everyday. It lies in seeing the persistence of (settler) colonial and racial capitalist systems of sustaining and ordering the social in our present — in roads, or pipelines, or policing systems — and of seeing the operation of power not just in social interactions or economic relations, but in the particular material ordering that infrastructure brings. Most importantly, repairing infrastructure demands investment in its fugitive forms. It demands that we look not only to the violence but to the alternative worlds that are always already in the making, and that offer us glimpses at infrastructures for an inspiring future, and cues for how to begin building.
infrastructure  crisis  injustice 
6 weeks ago
The Term ‘Digital Divide’ Doesn’t Work Anymore
Rather than the usual binary online/offline statistics, Experian divided U.K. users into three categories. There were the Day-to-Day Doers, whose usage is “defined by practicality and less about must-have gadgets” and account for 52 percent of the population. There were the Digital Devotees, who spend the “most time using the Internet” and make up 32.4 percent. Finally, there were the remaining Digital Dawdlers, the 16 percent who have been “left behind.” What’s interesting about the categories isn’t that they exist — any conversation about the latest meme with friends and family can attest to differing levels of online engagement — but that the concept rarely makes its way into conversations about the digital divide.
“Traditionally, the way the digital divide has been portrayed has definitely been a binary,” says Crystle Martin, a postdoctoral researcher at University of California–Irvine who specializes in studying digital literacy. “It’s been viewed, if you give people access to technology, they will be able to be online and able to access all the things available. But it actually doesn’t turn out to be true.”
What the categories in the Experian results mean is that questions regarding the digital divide have progressed and moved to a more complicated next iteration. Simple “yes or no” questions no longer suffice. The questions now must also address access (does the person have a home computer or are they smartphone-dependent?) and speed (do they have dial-up or broadband?). These factors aren’t simply ancillary, they are integral.
digital_divide  Internet  access  infrastructure 
7 weeks ago
The FCC is stopping 9 companies from providing federally subsidized Internet to the poor - The Washington Post
Regulators are telling nine companies they won't be allowed to participate in a federal program meant to help them provide affordable Internet access to low-income consumers — weeks after those companies had been given the green light.

The move, announced Friday by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, reverses a decision by his Democratic predecessor, Tom Wheeler, and undercuts the companies' ability to provide low-cost Internet access to poorer Americans. In a statement, Pai called the initial decisions a form of “midnight regulation.”
digital_divide  infrastructure  access  smart_cities  digital_equity 
7 weeks ago
Scholars Talk Writing: Advice From an Editor - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Trade books deliver on a different level — that of enlightenment and entertainment — than scholarly works, which favor argument and endeavor to carve out a philosophical place for themselves in the scholarly universe. Every book has to have a driving argument, but in a trade book that argument has to be subsumed into and framed by narrative as well as the human drama at the core of narrative....

In the end, however, it is the writing on which everything hinges. I try to gauge as quickly as I can (all editors have their ways and means) whether an academic writer shows some (or even any) capacity for creativity, a willingness to be experimental and push limits. Even if writers balk at some forms of authorial omniscience — giving voice and even words to people beyond what is purely and demonstrably archival — they need to court it and risk it.

...teaching — done well, the toughest profession there is, in my view — encourages oratorical habits that can sometimes be killing in a trade book: repetition, overemphasis, an artificial and archly rhetorical relationship with the audience that is based on pedagogical ploys ("To be sure …," and "True, …," and "Now let us …"). They tend to come from a sense of height and detachment. Teachers tend to talk down; they lecture. They are accustomed to being heard, and to make a point stick hard they reiterate, cranking up the volume of their thought and expression.

All of this falls flat in a trade book: pomposity, over-mastery, interpretative strategies mainly intended to wow students and impress upon them how far they have to go, how far less clever and wise they are than the lecturer. Worst sin of all in writing: repetition. It immediately earns a reader’s mistrust.

...the overuse of quotation deadens. Block quotes should be limited to the Gettysburg Address or a Keats ode — something containing rich ores of meaning to be mined over and over, rather than just filled space. Quote only that which cannot be paraphrased; offer the jewel of a quote and jettison the setting. You can’t tell the story through quotation and citation. Readers want it in your voice....

I highlight plenty — no comment, merely highlight — as a means of pointing out a few things, such as, say, how often "But" is being used to lead a sentence or even a paragraph, or the sudden proliferation of "is" clauses. But if the writer is still doing them after a few hundred pages, my comments can become more clipped: "You’ve said this." ...

To my mind, however, such use of "But" should be reserved for something genuinely dramatic, an abrupt turn of events. "But it was not to be." I don’t object to its use, but to its overuse. When I pointed out what I felt were too many sentence-leading (and paragraph-leading) "buts" in his manuscript to an author, he replied that he thought "But" conferred momentum. It kept things moving. My sense is the opposite: It stops the reader. Use it too much and the reader feels jerked around. You wanted a pet peeve. There’s one.
editing  writing 
7 weeks ago
Advice for graduate students on presentation skills (essay)
the goal is to pique interest so they want to have a conversation with you after the presentation and then read your paper later. When you choose the content to share, start with what they know now and what it is possible to explain to them in the time allotted.
A tip I always gave to my students was to cover less information in more depth, rather than trying to cover too much without enough depth. Speakers who try to cover too much information ultimately end up speeding through part of the presentation to get through the content they prepared, and as a result, they lose audience interest.
advising  presentations  UMS 
7 weeks ago
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