Model Lab
When cities tackle transportation problems, they create simulation models in which travelers move about cities: going to work, dropping children off at school, running errands. Typically these simulations are based on survey data that is expensive, coarse, and infrequently collected. As the pace of transportation innovation accelerates, cities need more accurate, real-time data to effectively inform planning decisions.

By relying on high fidelity data, new approaches to modeling can lead to faster policies and greater consensus. Location-based data can be anonymized to protect consumer privacy and then made useful to urban planners, leading to models that are informed with fresher, cheaper, and more precise data than ever before. If cities can improve data quality, reduce planning time, and extract good ideas from the community, we can create a future in which governments are more nimble, responsive, and effective.
sidewalk_labs  modeling  urban_planning  smart_cities  urban_data 
yesterday
The Alternative Science of Computation - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
Think of the typical environment of many of today’s computational design studios: the idiotic stupor and ecstatic speechlessness of many students confronted with the unmanageable epiphanies of agent-based systems, for example, may be priceless formative experiences when seen as steps in a path of individual discovery, but become questionable when dumbness itself is artfully cultivated as a pedagogical tool. Yet plenty of training in digitally empowered architectural studios today extols the magical virtue of computational trial and error. Making is a matter of feeling, not thinking: just do it. Does it break? Try again… and again… and again. Or even better, let the computer try them all (optimize). But the technological hocus-pocus that too often pervades many of today’s computational experiments reflects the incantatory appeal of the whole process: whether something works, or not, no one can or cares to tell why....

why waste time on theories (or on facts, observation, verification, demonstration, proof, experts, expertise, experience, competence, science, scholarship, mediation, argument, political representation, and so on—in no particular order)? Why argue? Using today’s technology, every complex query can be crowdsourced: just ask the crowds. Or even better, just try that out, and see if it works....

Computers don’t need theories to crunch numbers, but we need theories to use computers. Let’s keep post-human science for AI, and all other sciences for us.
big_data  algorithms  computational_fabrication  parametrics  epistemology 
yesterday
[Letter from Havana] | The Weekly Package, by Kim Wall | Harper's Magazine
Cisneros’s building had no internet connection—in Cuba, only apparatchiks and hackers could get online at home. But when she plugged the drive into her laptop, another world revealed itself, in folders within folders—containing MP3, AVI, JPEG, and PDF files—arranged in alphabetical order from “Antivirus” to “Trailers.” El Paquete Semanal (“The Weekly Package”), as the compilation is called, is part newsstand, part mixtape, part offline streaming service—a drive curated with magazine articles, Hollywood films, ­YouTube videos, phone apps, classified ads, and more. It has become the country’s largest private industry, reaching about half the population and generating at least $1.5 million a week. Underground hustlers keep the operation running with some 45,000 foot soldiers. Almost any media can be downloaded, though not quite everything; El Paquete producers scrub out politics, religion, and pornography, knowing what is likely to upset government censors—who, of course, receive drives of their own. 

For years, the Castro regime held the nation at a technological standstill: The internet was banned, satellite television was illegal, and, largely because of the U.S. embargo, most computer software and hardware was prohibited. In 2009, the Obama Administration began allowing American telecommunications companies to conduct business in Cuba, and in 2013, Venezuela activated a fiber-optic cable between the countries. The government started to introduce Wi-Fi in public hot spots, but it has been a slow process. According to Freedom House, an internet-watchdog group, just 2 percent of Cuba’s 11 million people get online on a daily basis. Last December, ETECSA announced a pilot program to connect Cubans at home, though it has reached only a few hundred. The arrival of Net­flix on the island, announced in 2015, has seemed as much a cruel joke as a P.R. stunt—in a place where the average monthly salary is $25 and online banking and international money transfers are blocked, who could supply the $7.99 monthly fee? People still depend on El Paquete. Gutiérrez believes that as the final step in its elaborate distribution chain, he brings enlightenment to Havana. “I am like Robin Hood,” he told me. “I take from the rich and give to the poor information.” 
infrastructure  internet  informal_infrastructure  access  cuba 
2 days ago
About Tomorrow - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
When Western oil companies moved into the oil-rich Middle East, they built roads overnight which linked towns and communities that had lived in proximate isolation for millennia, added extreme amounts of wealth for small numbers of people, and through the likes of radio, television, and film, brought mass communication, and along with it exposure to Western music, mores and popular culture. New forms of relations between men and women that Western societies had gradually developed and painfully adjusted to over more than a century of bourgeois society, the lives and work of artists, and women’s political organization, for example, were simply depicted as fact. The oil industry’s transformation of the physical and cultural environment at a rate without historical precedent consequently did not allow for the gradual accommodation of belief systems or co-evolution of regulatory processes. As the chief of police in a seaside town in the United Arab Emerates once explained, “Western influence has eroded family values and weakened parental authority. Our police will step up efforts to maintain social values in keeping with Islamic and Arabic traditions.” The social instability, violent opposition to the West and Western culture, and mass migrations that now characterize the region were probably generated in part by the introduction of change at such a rapid rate. ... But are these examples relevant to understanding threats that may be associated with rapid changes in robotics and information technology Some aspects of the rapidly developing information technologies circumvent existing formal and informal regulation. ...

But what about machines that are smarter than people in some ways? What about the monitoring of our online behavior—where we spend more and more of our time? What about machines and algorithms that watch what we do online, that individually shape our environmental stimulation, and therefore our minds and brains? What about groups that send out fake news that spreads faster than checks and rebuttals? These are indeed alarming. But people have always had limited and wrong information about many things...

...culturally induced variability depends upon differences in important aspects of the rearing environments that shape our brains, ranging from ways of attending to the world to religious, moral and political beliefs, exposure to music, painting and literature, and attitudes toward change, difference, novelty and risk-taking. Variability has, to a certain extent, depended upon the geographic separation of communities. For most of human history, mountains, rivers, desserts and oceans kept communities separated enough to develop 6,000 different languages (not counting dialects), different belief systems, laws, ways of eating and dressing, and ways of thinking. Within each of geographically separated societies (tribes or countries), cultural variability has come from differences among families, local communities, adolescent interest groups, etc. Writers, painters, musicians and scientists have increasingly exposed adults and children to new ways of seeing, listening, understanding and thinking. Mass media and technology have facilitated access to these human-made contributions to our environment, effectively magnifying the resulting variability in minds and brains. But now, the electronic environment has become the primary environment that shapes the brains of our children. It is an environment that crosses geographic barriers and one that is increasingly shaped by machinic algorithms and artificial intelligence. Technology no longer only facilitates access to human-made programming, but rather programs us as well. What differences will it make if our rearing environments are shaped by machines that lack the variability of the human hand and mind? How much will human variability be reduced as the shaping of the rearing environment becomes more and more centralized and mechanical?...

It is possible to imagine, and even be alarmed, that human variability and innovation will be decreased. Perhaps the 12,000-year epic of rapid human innovation since the advent of farming will give way to a much longer period of increasing stability and uniformity. This might constitute a qualitative change in the dynamic between the brain and the world. But to what reference posts or standards do we turn to decide if this would be good or bad? Darwinian theory posits that variability allows populations to survive in the face of significant environmental changes. As human military and industrial technology increasingly alter the environment in ways that threaten the survival and livelihoods of large numbers of people, the mechanical shaping of our rearing environments may at the same time reduce the variability of thought necessary to deal with these threats. Could such processes in tandem threaten human life all together? Or will we as a society limit the power of the centralized and machinic algorithms to shape our minds and the minds of our children, and act to ensure the variability of brains and minds shaped by the human hand?
cognitive_science  epistemology  evolution  environment 
3 days ago
GoogleUrbanism: Working With the System — Volume
GoogleUrbanism (GU) is a city management strategy making use of Google’s insatiable hunger for capitalization of ‘attention’ and quality data. Proposed by strategic urban designers/architects Nicolay Boyadjiev, Harshavardhan Bhat, Kirill Rostovsky and Andréa Savard-Beaudoin, GU intends to create a mutually beneficial relation between the commercial interests of tech companies and the city as political and social entity. Cities more often than not have serious trouble to provide and maintain the public services they’re supposed to deliver and companies like Google are developing new business models in exploiting the overlap between physical and digital space. But those tech platforms are already profiting from the digital data and attention of users in the physical world. The GU team proposes to set new terms to this currently one-sided relationship by adding ‘public space’ in the equation between Google, users and data, framing it as the formal physical ‘site of extraction’ of this digital value.

Next to the analogue adspace (think of the screens and billboards in Times Square, NYC) and more recent digital ads, popping up on your phone while moving through shopping streets, GU explores and captures digital activity of people in a (public) space, in order to redirect it to the space itself. By introducing a digital license for value extraction from public space, the city benefits from it economically. Google Urbanism argues for taking reality as point of departure for further architectonic interventions rather than starting from an idealized scenario of what public spaces and cities should be.
smart_cities  big_data  data_privacy  data_ownership 
3 days ago
The Music, Sounds & Images Carl Sagan Sent Into Space So that Aliens Could Understand Human Civilization (1977) | Open Culture
In 1977, upon the launching of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, a committee working under Carl Sagan produced the so-called “Golden Records,” actual phonographic LPs made of copper containing “a collection of sounds and images,” writes Joss Fong at Vox, “that will probably outlast all human artifacts on Earth.” While they weren’t preparing for a visitation on Earth, they did—relying not on wishful thinking but on the controversial Drake Equation—fully expect that other technological civilizations might well exist in the cosmos, and assumed a likelihood we might encounter one, at least via remote.....

Sagan tasked himself with compiling what he called a “bottle” in “the cosmic ocean,” and something of a time capsule of humanity. Over a year’s time, Sagan and his team collected 116 images and diagrams, natural sounds, spoken greetings in 55 languages, printed messages, and musical selections from around the world--things that would communicate to aliens what our human civilization is essentially all about. The images were encoded onto the records in black and white (you can see them all in the Vox video above in color). The audio, which you can play in its entirety below, was etched into the surface of the record. On the cover were etched a series of pictographic instructions for how to play and decode its contents. (Scroll over the interactive image at the top to see each symbol explained.)...

We only have a few years left to find out whether either Voyager will encounter other beings. “Incredibly,” writes Fong, the probes “are still communicating with Earth—they aren’t expected to lose power until the 2020s.” It seems even more incredible, forty years later, when we consider their primitive technology: “an 8-track memory system and onboard computers that are thousands of times weaker than the phone in your pocket.”

The Voyagers were not the first probes sent to interstellar space. Pioneer 10 and 11 were launched in 1972 and 1973, each containing a Sagan-designed aluminum plaque with a few simple messages and depictions of a nude man and woman, an addition that scandalized some puritanical critics. NASA has since lost touch with both Pioneers, but you may recall that in 2006, the agency launched the New Horizons probe, which passed by Pluto in 2015 and should reach interstellar space in another thirty years.
archives  preservation  future  SETI 
3 days ago
Strelka Institute - TX / RX: Spectrum and the City
The electromagnetic goes largely unseen. That’s why there is sore lack of study into the central role radio plays in our use of cities and the shape of them. From the microwave networks implementing high-frequency global trading, to the GSM base stations across so many cell towers and WiFi access points in our homes and offices — radio technology has become integral to the metabolisms within the modern city. The flow of capital now knitted into networked surveillance apparatuses; people with devices hunger for wireless Internet gateways; mapping services whose localisations use beacons from access points; carbon, as the energetic cost of so many data packets flowing across land and sea to watch a video of a 'Pangolin riding a Roomba' uploaded by the kid next door. This lecture by Julian re-imagines both city and citizenship through a history of 'spectrum politics', asking what shape they might take if radio infrastructure were publicly deployed and owned.
media_city  radio  wireless 
3 days ago
Geetha Iyer - Least Concern — Territory
At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the sterile, standardized confines of a two-armed maze experiment, green and black poison frogs used visual cues to figure out the correct exit to shelter. When the exit was reversed, the frogs modified their behavior to solve the maze again. In a study led by researchers Yuxiang Liu and Sabrina Burmeister, the maze exit was reversed five times—the frogs needed fewer trials to figure out the correct exit after each reversal, the sort of learned flexibility previously only associated with mammals and birds.

This may be the first time such “advanced cognitive ability” has been experimentally documented in amphibians. I wonder, if we’d known sooner, would we have cared more about their fates? You cannot watch a poison frog in the wild for any length of time without beginning to suspect that its headspace is somewhere several hops ahead of its current physical location. It pauses to think. It detours to investigate. It remembers and learns. I might have gone my entire life unaware of the rich inner lives of these animals had it not been for the fact that my world, at this moment, coincidentally overlaps with theirs.
cognitive_mapping  nonhuman  animals 
4 days ago
The Mystery of the Phantom Page Turner | Collectors Weekly
It all started with a visit several years ago to London’s Portobello Road, known internationally for its enormous concentration of antiques shops and stalls. “Among the many treasures on offer,” Spellerberg writes in the Preface to Reading & Writing Accessories, “were some odd-looking hand-held ‘blades.’ They were between 11 and 14 inches long. The blades (although not sharp) were made of various materials, including tortoiseshell, ivory, and brass. I was told that they were ‘Victorian page turners’ for turning the pages of books, magazines, or newspapers.” On that day, Spellerberg purchased what was advertised as a tortoiseshell page turner with a silver handle, although, he writes, “it should in fact be called ‘turtle shell’ because the material comes from the carapace of the marine hawksbill turtle (not a land-based tortoise).”

Given Spellerberg’s natural-sciences background, that error was easy for him to catch, but the object’s misidentification as “tortoiseshell” was not its chief falsehood. “I had never heard of page turners before,” Spellerberg told me when we Skyped recently. “The thought of using a hand-held blade for turning pages seemed rather romantic.”...

paper-knife, whose thin, wide blade and dull edges were designed to follow the creases of a book’s uncut pages and expertly, gently, tear them apart....

Uncut pages were common to Victorian Era and earlier books, artifacts of the bookbinding practices of the day. As Spellerberg explains in Reading & Writing Accessories, long sheets of paper were folded numerous times to form a “signature” of pages or “leaves,” which would be printed on both sides. Signatures would be printed, collated, and then bound (which usually meant “sewn”) to create a book. “Most of the leaves were cut during the binding process,” he writes. “However, since all books were bound by hand at that time, leaves were sometimes left uncut and could not be opened unless they were cut.” Paper-knives made such books readable.

It wasn’t just books that required paper-knives to be read, which is why the tools came in all sizes. There were long ones for newspapers and magazines, as well as shorter ones for diminutive books made to fit in the palm of the hand....

At the height of the paper-knife era, or so Spellerberg likes to unscientifically surmise, people found great pleasure in sitting down in their favorite chair with a new book in one hand and their best paper-knife in the other to cut open the pages and begin to read. “People loved their books,” he says. “They took pride in their libraries and in being well-read. The preparation prior to reading was a part of that.”

By the end of the 19th century, though, most publishers had equipment that trimmed the uncut pages of their products, obviating the need for paper-knives and the ritual of opening the uncut leaves of a new book.
reading  equipment  intellectual_furnishings  books  material_texts 
4 days ago
Furniture of the Future: Victorian New York’s Most Visionary Designer Loved His Machines | Collectors Weekly
Yet from Hunzinger’s vantage point as a successful immigrant in New York City, possibly the most forward-thinking place on Earth, he imagined a future where humans lived among machines, and even the most humble pieces of furniture would be mechanically enhanced....

“It’s really in the 1870s when our modern world starts to take shape, and we start to recognize the United States that we are today,” explains Barry R. Harwood, a curator of decorative arts at the Brooklyn Museum. “It’s a very pivotal, interesting moment, and Hunzinger is the foremost practitioner of this proto-modern design.” Harwood organized the exhibition and authored the catalog for the museum’s 1997 show The Furniture of George Hunzinger: Invention and Innovation in 19th-Century America, which helped ignite scholarly interest in a designer who already had a strong following among dealers and collectors...

Most of Hunzinger’s pieces fell squarely into the emerging field of “patent furniture,” which adopted mechanical improvements to make adjustable, multi-purpose furniture for saving space and improving comfort. “By 1861, he started patenting folding chairs, which became a sort of obsession,” Harwood says. Much like today, convertible furniture—including folding chairs, sofa beds, and card tables—was very appealing to urban residents with limited space....

In addition to his technical virtuosity, Hunzinger employed clever marketing tactics, which included providing a variety of finishes and upholsteries for each item, thus allowing shoppers to customize their purchases. “In the 1870s, this notion of consumer choice was just beginning to take shape,” Harwood says. “Hunzinger would offer the same chair with different stains, ranging from a very light blonde to ebonized wood, and different styles of upholstery, from simple cotton reps—a kind of corduroy—to fancy silk velvets. He even started to gild some of the chairs in the mid-1870s, which indicates his shop was pretty successful because that required a trained gilder and a dust-free space in the factory.” ...

To speed production and cut costs, Hunzinger also utilized modular parts that could be applied to several different items of furniture. For example, in the mid-1870s, Hunzinger designed a settee, an armchair, and a side chair with identical motifs on each. “The same legs were used for all of them,” ...

“Hunzinger was one of the first furniture makers in the United States for whom the machine, the means of production, provided the aesthetic inspiration for design,” Harwood wrote in his catalog for The Furniture of George Hunzinger. “The regularized, crisply turned members of Hunzinger’s spare furniture resemble the very machines that produced them.”

Almost half a century before the design movement known as Modernism, Hunzinger applied similar tenets to his furniture—focusing on function rather than ornamentation and utilizing geometric forms inspired by the simple lines of machinery. To be sure, other furniture companies relied on current technology to produce their pieces, but they typically did so in the service of extraneous ornamentation demanded by popular Victorian styles like Eastlake or Rococo Revival....

In contrast, Hunzinger allowed the assets of existing machinery to inform his designs, rather than adapting tools to imitate popular styles. “Hunzinger’s favorite tool was the lathe,” Harwood continues, “which he used to make furniture with interesting turnings. He responded to the precision of its sharp indentations to create a certain rhythm on a piece furniture. Hunzinger let the lathe do what it does best, and that’s the beginning of the machine aesthetic—not fighting against the machine, but working with it.”...

Most of Hunzinger’s furniture had absolutely no naturalistic decoration on it at all, just relying on geometry and what the machine could produce, which gives it a very hard-edged, crisp aspect.”...

Hunzinger had a factory and showroom in New York City, but most of his products were sold through wholesalers in other cities. For consumers, the idea that these products were patented—implying innovation and novelty—was typically more important than a brand or designer, so they were generally advertised without the maker’s name.
furniture  intellectual_furnishings  manufacturing  labor  automation  machine_aesthetic 
4 days ago
Facebotlish: Understanding an AI's Non-Human Language - The Atlantic
Something unexpected happened recently at the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab. Researchers who had been training bots to negotiate with one another realized that the bots, left to their own devices, started communicating in a non-human language....

One way to think about all this is to consider cryptophasia, the name for the phenomenon when twins make up their own secret language, understandable only to them.

In order to actually follow what the bots were saying, the researchers had to tweak their model, limiting the machines to a conversation humans could understand. (They want bots to stick to human languages because eventually they want those bots to be able to converse with human Facebook users.) When I wrote about all this last week, lots of people reacted with some degree of trepidatious wonder. Machines making up their own language is really cool, sure, but isn’t it actually terrifying?...

There’s some debate over whether this sort of twin speak is actually language or merely a joyful, babbling imitation of language. The YouTube babies are socializing, but probably not saying anything with specific meaning, many linguists say.

In the case of Facebook’s bots, however, there seems to be something more language-like occurring, Facebook’s researchers say. Other AI researchers, too, say they’ve observed machines that can develop their own languages, including languages with a coherent structure, and defined vocabulary and syntax—though not always actual meaningful, by human standards.
artificial_intelligence  language 
4 days ago
Beyond the Five Senses - The Atlantic
Technology has long been used to help people who have lost, or were born without, one of the five primary senses. More recently, researchers in the emerging field of “sensory enhancement” have begun developing tools to give people additional senses—ones that imitate those of other animals, or that add capabilities nature never imagined. Here’s how such devices could work, and how they might change what it means to be human.

1 | Hearing Pictures

For decades, some deaf people have worn cochlear implants, which use electrode arrays to stimulate the auditory nerve inside the ear. Researchers are working on other technologies that could restore sight or touch to those who lack it. For the blind, cameras could trigger electrodes on the retina, on the optic nerve, or in the brain. For the paralyzed or people with prosthetic limbs, pressure pads on real or robotic hands could send touch feedback to the brain or to nerves in the arm....

2 | Borrowing From Nature

Scientists are also exploring ways to add senses found elsewhere in the animal kingdom. For instance, a handheld device called the Bottlenose, built by amateur biohackers, uses ultrasound to detect the distance of objects, then vibrates the user’s finger at different frequencies, giving him or her echolocation. Other devices provide the navigational sense of migratory birds: A company called feelSpace sells the naviBelt, a belt that points you in your desired direction by vibrating on your waist.
sensation  cyborgs 
4 days ago
President Trump wants a ‘sweeping transformation’ of government tech, he says at a White House meeting with execs - Recode
After a day of meetings at the White House with those and other tech leaders -- some of whom have been his fiercest corporate critics in the past— Trump admitted that the feds had to “catch up” with the private sector. He said federal agencies had to deliver “dramatically better services to citizens,” for example, while buying cheaper, more efficient technology and adopting “stronger protections from cyber attacks.”

The comments officially concluded the inaugural meeting of the White House’s American Technology Council, a new effort chartered by Trump in May to bring the lumbering federal bureaucracy into the digital age. The group has a broad mandate — converting paper-based forms into easy-to-use websites, for example, while helping the government buy better technology and take advantage of new tools like artificial intelligence.

As the council begins its task, though, Trump sought the tech industry’s help, convening a day of private brainstorming sessions with top executives on Monday afternoon — and several of those leaders, flanking Trump at a table later in the evening, responded with a few asks of their own.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos called on the U.S. government to take advantage of commercial technology — the sort of tools his own company sells. Palantir CEO Alex Karp said he had offered his support in private sessions, earlier in the day, about ways to tap big data in order to spot fraudulent federal spending. And Apple CEO Tim Cook — who also acknowledged that the U.S. had much work to do to modernize — said Washington should make coding a requirement in schools....

The executives in attendance then broke up into smaller groups, some focused on areas like big data and others on workforce development, as the White House explores new ways to convince tech employees to serve tours of duty in the U.S. government. Still a third group focused on high-skilled immigration, a major flashpoint for Trump and the tech sector.

...

Following the meeting Monday, the White House plans to continue its so-called “tech week” push. For one thing, it will convene another round of companies and investors to discuss “emerging” technologies on Thursday.

At that session, top officials at the FAA will huddle with drone companies about the regulatory and safety challenges facing their industry, according to a source familiar with the White House’s plans. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also will be on hand, as the Trump administration looks to solicit the tech industry's thoughts about 5G wireless technologies and the "internet of things," the source told Recode. And other senior White House aides will discuss how to finance those devices and services alongside Silicon Valley's top investors.
big_data  smart_cities  e_government 
5 days ago
Envisioning the Car of the Future as a Living Room on Wheels - The New York Times
When cars are fully autonomous, how we sit, inform and entertain ourselves will be up for grabs. If steering wheels are no longer needed, how do we best configure seating positions? What should be done with the space now occupied by a dashboard, once a vehicle handles all driving tasks and even decides when it needs to be serviced?...

At ArtCenter College of Design in Los Angeles — one of the world’s premier automotive design schools — 14 students recently worked on creating new concepts for a future vehicle interior whose occupants would no longer be shackled by the need to drive.

Participants were picked from multiple disciplines, including product design, transportation and graphics. To fuel their discussions, specialists in the fields of sound composition, olfactory reaction and even animal behavior were brought in. Visual strategists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory paid a visit as well.

The proposals, which were reviewed by executives from the carmaker BMW, the electronics firm Nvidia and IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence division, varied wildly....

In one concept, social media feeds were displayed on the windows and an all-glass roof, creating what is known as an augmented reality projection, providing contextual information on passing landmarks and approaching sights. As the vehicle drove by a restaurant, reviews of the eatery would be displayed and an online reservation form would appear on the building.

Video games would be integrated into the passing environment. Players could fire “weapons” at buildings, and then, via a projection on the glass, see the structure go up in digital flames.

Another group envisioned a vehicle’s interior as a constantly changing environment, using variable lighting and temperatures to fit the evolving moods and desires of each occupant, as determined through a sensor analysis of physiological and emotional states.

A third proposal contemplated the use of virtual reality and motion-sensing seats to give occupants the feeling of driving a sports car, even when they were simply riding in a tame autonomous vehicle....

When the vehicle is in fully autonomous mode, the windshield could be turned into a wide-screen display, allowing passengers to watch a movie; theater-like seats would vibrate in sync with sound effects.

Speakers embedded in each seat would also include noise-cancellation technology to ensure that only the person watching could hear the soundtrack, music or phone call in progress. When the driver has to take control of the vehicle, rear-seat passengers could be entertained using a large screen lowered from the roof.

In an autonomous vehicle, “we can push technology into the background and only make it present when it’s needed,” said Holger Hampf, BMW’s head for user experience.

One thing the carmaker does not envision: swiveling, rear-facing seats. “When you reverse the seats you can induce motion sickness,” Mr. Hampf said....

Similarly, Bosch, a major German automotive supplier, believes cars will eventually be shared rather than individually owned, and so the company is working on systems that will allow vehicles to automatically personalize themselves. An eye scan, fingerprint or smartphone connection will signal who is getting into the vehicle, so that it can adjust its climate, seating position, favored radio stations and other attributes automatically.
interfaces  interaction_design  self_driving_car 
5 days ago
NYC Planning Department launches 'Labs' unit to boost innovation - Technical.ly Brooklyn
A new unit from the NYC Planning Department will aim to make the work of planning the systems of this enormously complicated city easier, more efficient and more open. (The group’s full charter was posted to GitHub, for example.)

The NYC Planning Labs announced itself to the world Monday morning, with a promise to incorporate state-of-the-art technology and best practices to the Planning Department. Mapping guru Chris Whong will head the unit.

“We are focusing on small projects that can go from concept to shipped in 4 to 6 weeks, with our customers being the internal divisions of the agency,” a message from the NYC Planning Department reads. “These can be web map explorers similar to the NYC Facilities Explorer, interactive data visualizations and animations, or simple purpose-built data tools that replace or complement our Planners’ routine workflows.”
big_data  mapping  data_visualization  urban_planning 
5 days ago
Computer Science: Reprogramming Bias | Princeton Alumni Weekly
One goal of artificial intelligence (AI) is to make computers better able to imitate human reasoning and tasks — but there are downsides to teaching machines to mimic humans too closely, according to a paper published in Science in April by Princeton researchers Aylin Caliskan, Joanna Bryson, and Arvind Narayanan. The team of computer scientists drew from billions of sentences taken from sources across the internet to analyze how human biases about gender, race, and other characteristics might appear when these sentences are used to train a machine. They found that many of the biases observed in humans could be transferred to AI technologies and algorithms that learn from these bodies of text. The findings have implications for a machine’s ability to objectively perform language-based tasks such as web searches, translations, and automated résumé scanning.
artificial_intelligence  bias 
5 days ago
From Heaven to Hell: Exploring the Odd Vertical Limits of Land Ownership - 99% Invisible
As far back as the 13th century, a powerful principle has informed the legal notion of property ownership — in Latin, cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos, or in English: “whoever’s is the soil, it is theirs all the way to Heaven and all the way to Hell.” The idea is intuitive but potent: a property owner is entitled to an infinite vertical column of space defined by the horizontal boundaries of their estate. On this principle, one owns land as well as everything above and below.

The strict formulation of ad coelum was solidified in English common law in the case of Bury v. Pope in 1587, when one property owner was held to have the right to build up against the window of his neighbor: “And lastly, the earth hath in law a great extent upwards, not only of water as hath been said, but of aire, and all other things even up to heaven, for cujus est solum ejus est usque ad coelum, as it is holden.”

Still, England has evolved exceptions over time. Now, “Ancient Lights” can be preserved — Right to Light laws prohibit the obstruction of windows with a 20-year history of light access.....

The rise of new technologies and cities, including the advent of air travel and subway systems, have continued to reshape and erode this idea over time. ...

Then, in 1946, United States v. Causby put a definitive end to the idea of infinite aerial ownership. For Lee Causby, a farmer whose chickens were literally being scared to death by low-flying military planes, it was a victory — he was compensated for flights that had passed over his property below public airspace altitudes (365 feet). The Supreme Court concluded that the government can’t own all airspace (down to the ground). But their ruling also stated clearly that ad coelum “has no place in the modern world.”

Zoning laws and “air rights” regulations vary from place to place but also limit the heights of buildings, especially in cities (stay tuned for a more in-depth look — air rights will be covered in a subsequent article)....

In 1931, for instance, US court rules that a sewer located 150 feet deep was not on land belonging to the home owner above. Still, approaching the surface from those more distant depths, things can get tricky.

There are mineral rights, for instance, which can apply to fuel sources (coal, gas and oil), precious and industrial metals (gold, silver, copper, iron) and other resources (salt, limestone, gravel, etc.). In many places, these can be bought and sold independently of surface rights.

Then there are littoral rights that can extend outward for properties adjacent to bodies of water, like an ocean, bay, delta, sea or lake. In most places, there are allowances for usage and enjoyment tied to low or high water lines (beyond which the waters are public).

Meanwhile, riparian rights deal with water that flows through properties, like rivers. Small bodies generally limited to “reasonable use” but with various potential restrictions (to protect watersheds, for instance). Larger ones are usually treated like public highways.
verticality  ownership  property  geography 
5 days ago
GM’s Cruise Automation Wades Into HD Mapping to Aid Autonomous-Car Efforts - WSJ
A small autonomous-cars company owned by General Motors Co. GM +0.31% is getting into the high-definition mapping business, a move that could help the Detroit auto giant compete with Google and others in the race to develop self-driving vehicles....

Google’s car project, now called Waymo, is expected to be a beneficiary of the tech giant’s solid position in high-definition maps. The mapping advantage has given Alphabet’s various business units an advantage over Apple Inc. and other companies competing in other business sectors.

GM isn’t the only auto maker playing catch-up in HD maps. BMW AG , Mercedes-Benz-parent Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG’s Audi recently grouped together to buy Nokia Corp.’s mapping service in 2015 for more than $3 billion.

Intel Corp. , eager to catch up with competitor Nvidia in the autonomous-car market, announced a deal earlier this year to acquire a 15% stake in the map company as well. Intel is in the process of closing its $15 billion purchase of Mobileye NV, an Israeli supplier of cameras and software for autonomous driving functions.

Keeping pace with Google has proven difficult....

GM ultimately may have an advantage that Google didn’t have when its map program began years ago: a fleet of cars on the road. Last year, GM announced it would explore with Mobileye the use of real-time data taken from the auto maker’s OnStar system to create the kinds of maps required for self-driving cars.

GM sells about 10 million cars annually all over the globe, many of which are connected to OnStar.
automation  mapping  google  self_driving_cars 
5 days ago
Getting Beyond Digital Hyperbole & Tools for Looking Forward – Trevor Owens
A repository is not a piece of software. Software cannot preserve anything. Software cannot be a repository in itself. A repository is the sum of financial resources, hardware, staff time, and ongoing implementation of policies and planning to ensure long-term access to content. Any software system you use to enable you preserving and providing access to digital content is by necessity temporary. You need to be able to get your stuff out of it because it likely will not last forever. Similarly, there is no software that “does” digital preservation.
Institutions make preservation possible. Each of us will die. Without care and management, the things that mattered to us will persist for some period of time related to the durability of their mediums. With that noted, the primary enablers of preservation for the long term are our institutions (libraries, archives, museums, families, religious organizations, governments, etc.) As such, the possibility of preservation is enabled through the design and function of those institutions. Their org charts, hiring practices, funding, credibility, etc. are all key parts of the cultural machinery that makes preservation possible.
archives  digital_preservation  preservation  labor 
6 days ago
Why Libraries Should Maintain the Open Data of Their Communities – Librarian of Things
Hosting hackathons may prove daunting for many libraries because, as Carruthers and Zvyagintseva put succinctly, “Libraries need participants as much as participants need libraries to support this type of event.” It is probably too soon to make such claims, but I would like to suggest that, slowly, libraries are starting to involve public participation in the building and the understanding of their collections. The experiences of the New York Public Library Lab’s “Map Warper” project, which invites users to help align digitized paper maps so they can match modern maps, and their “What’s On The Menu” Project, which invites the public to help transcribe one of the 45,000 menus in their digitized collection, have led to a such a re-thinking of their work:...

Open Data, by its very definition of being open, is resistant to enclosure while allowing for commercial use. This is because while a license is open, copies of the data are allowed to be made which can remain under open license even if the original dataset is updated with more restrictive licensing (Munro 2014). While many municipal governments and federal and provincial government departments make Open Data available, there is no promise or obligation to maintain or perpetually host those datasets, unless those governments are otherwise directed by an internal policy. This suggests that libraries may have a role in the collection and preservation of Open Data in their community, if just to be a source of dataset redundancy in case the original datasets are removed without sufficient notice.
libraries  open_data 
6 days ago
The Pattern Language of the Library – Librarian of Things
But there’s another reason why such a separation existed which is suggested by the fact you can find an electrical outlet in every single study carrel on the second floor at even though the building came to be decades before laptops were available.

The answer is typewriters. Noisy, clattering typewriters.

I didn’t make this connection myself. That insight came from this Twitter conversation from 2014.

While there is a rich conversation to be had about how some of the information literacy practices that separate research and writing as separate processes may have resulted from vestigial practice based on avoiding typewriter noise, I’m more interested in exploring what the affordance of laptops might mean to the shape of the spaces of and within the library today.

The book did not kill the building.

The laptop will change our chairs....

When I read about their turnstone Campfire suite of products it reminded me of a book I read sometime ago called make space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration....

I think we fundamentally underestimate how much a difference a variety of chairs can make in the experience of a place....

A community bench is what I would consider an example of tactical urbanism – a phrase that I like to think I first heard from People from Public Spaces. I am looking forward to reading Karen Munro’s Tactical Urbanism for Librarians: Quick, Low-Cost Ways to Make Big Changes.

I should also say that I’m not the first librarian to try to bring in Pattern Language thinking to how we design our spaces. In 2009 William Denton and Stacey Allison-Cassin explained their “vision of the One Big Library and how Christopher Alexander’s pattern language idea will help us build it.”
intellectual_furnishings  furniture  libraries  habitus  library  architecture  pattern_language 
6 days ago
Remix, Slang and Memes: A New Collection Documents Web Culture | Library of Congress Blog
The Library of Congress just announced the release of the Web Cultures Web Archive Collection, a representative sampling of websites documenting the creation and sharing of emergent cultural traditions on the web.

Why is this important? Increasingly, people take to their smart phones, tablets and laptops to enact much of their lives through creative communication, making the web a predominant place to share folklore. It is where a significant portion of the historical record is now being written.

Archived from the web starting in 2014, the new—and growing—collection of collaborative cultural creation includes reaction GIFs (animated images, often bodies in motion, used online as responses or reactions to previous posts in a communication thread); image macros (photographic images on which a funny caption is superimposed); and memes (in this context, internet phenomena)....

The project is a contemporary manifestation of the AFC’s mission to document traditional cultural forms and practices, and results from the collaborative work between the AFC and those steeped in digital culture, both scholars and enthusiasts.

“First and most basically, what’s happening on the internet—all the situated vernacular, all the creative expression, all the remix, all the slang; every in-joke and hashtag and portmanteau—is folklore,” commented internet scholars Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner in a recent interview. “It’s exactly the sort of traditional expression (that is to say, expression that communicates traditional cultural elements, i.e. passes traditions along) that folklorists have focused on for over a century.”
memes  archives  vernacular  web_archiving 
6 days ago
How Google Street View became fertile ground for artists
But Google Street View has also provided ample fodder for artists of all stripes, inspiring a range of creative works that include photographic curation, music videos and impromptu performances.

What, exactly, is it about Google Street View that makes it so appealing to creative types? Perhaps it allows us to experience the fantasy of what scholar Donna Haraway called “the God’s trick” – the impossible desire to see everything....

The sheer magnitude of Google Street View’s all-seeing power is a subject for some artists. Michael Wolf’s project “A Series of Unfortunate Events” curates arresting images from Google Street View, ranging from bike accidents to fires. Taken as a whole, Wolf’s collection from Google’s vast archive gestures toward the vastness of the world itself. Taken individually, his images are both haunting and familiar...

Jon Rafman’s ongoing project “The Nine Eyes of Google Street View” reflects the unsettling relationship between humans and surveillance. (The “nine eyes” in the title refers to the number of cameras on the pole attached to the top of a Google Street View car, although the number has since increased to 15.)...

Other artists have taken a different approach. Doug Rickard, in an exhibition called “A New American Picture,” documented the “forgotten streets” of America by curating images of the disenfranchised in their downtrodden neighborhoods. Halley Docherty has used Google Street View to superimpose famous paintings and album covers on their modern settings (for example, the Beatles crossing the street on today’s Abbey Road). And Justin Blinder’s “Vacated” project turns Google Street View images into GIFs that alternate between before-and-after photos of gentrified street corners in New York City....

Street View art has its detractors. Mishka Henner, for his show “No Man’s Land,” cruised Street View for known “John” sites in Italy and Spain and culled images of women who may be sex workers. Although the show was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, it was also subject to mixed reviews. Some thought it was sexist to assume that the women depicted were, in fact, prostitutes, though they praised the way the images communicated the everyday vulnerability (and boredom) involved with sex work.

Perhaps most of all, the show inspired questions about the authorship of photographers who merely curate images taken by Google’s cameras. Nonetheless, as one critic pointed out, Google Street View has forced us to reconsider what street photography as a genre now means in light of Google’s roving cameras.
street_view  map_art  photography  appropriation  surveillance 
6 days ago
An Artificial Intelligence Developed Its Own Non-Human Language - The Atlantic
A buried line in a new Facebook report about chatbots’ conversations with one another offers a remarkable glimpse at the future of language.

In the report, researchers at the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab describe using machine learning to train their “dialog agents” to negotiate. (And it turns out bots are actually quite good at dealmaking.) At one point, the researchers write, they had to tweak one of their models because otherwise the bot-to-bot conversation “led to divergence from human language as the agents developed their own language for negotiating.” They had to use what’s called a fixed supervised model instead.

In other words, the model that allowed two bots to have a conversation—and use machine learning to constantly iterate strategies for that conversation along the way—led to those bots communicating in their own non-human language. If this doesn’t fill you with a sense of wonder and awe about the future of machines and humanity then, I don’t know, go watch Blade Runner or something.
language  artificial_intelligence 
6 days ago
kate mclean: mapping the world of scents | The Fifth Sense | i-D
“Smells of Auld Reekie on a very breezy day in 2011” uses findings from a vox pop of Edinburgh residents as to their distinctive Edinburgh whiffs. A wine merchant mentioned the pong of “boy’s toilets in primary schools” and a relative newcomer was passionate about the gentler aroma of “sea, sand, beach”. As a resident myself at the time and a runner I noticed how distinctive the “brewery malt fumes” were and how far they seemed to travel across the city.

The map is a visual rendition of smells in the air, it shows the potential of the wind to transfer smells across a city from their initial source location – we may not always see the originator of a smell. My decision to retain the odour source points resulted in visitors to the Edinburgh International Science Festival in 2011 locating specific Edinburgh streets, such as Leith Walk and the path through The Meadows, through the abundance of the odours represented.
mapping  cartography  smell  sensation 
6 days ago
What Will Google’s Smart City Look Like? | StateTech Magazine
StateScoop reports that the goal of the smart city will be to address five intensifying issues plaguing urban living and development, including:

The rising cost of housing — Pre-made modular housing units could cut down construction costs by 30 percent.
Long commutes — A system that enables all modes of transit — ridesharing, public transit, driverless cars, walking and cycling — could reduce congestion.
Environmental sustainability — Implementing thermal transfer technologies could reduce costs and cut back on wasted energy.
Ubiquitous connectivity — A solid, high-speed connectivity infrastructure that provides online access to residents is necessary to enable the city’s technology aims and provide data-driven services.
Creating a new “public realm” — Introducing self-driving cars can help open up space for pedestrians and public parks, the types of spaces that define cities.
“The future of cities lies in the way these urban experiences fit together and improve quality of life for everyone living, working and growing up in cities across the world,” Doctoroff said at the conference. “Yet there is not a single city today that can stand as a model — or even close — for our urban future.”

Chasing Cheaper Urban Living Through an Idyllic Smart City

Sidewalk Labs has been pursuing the idea of a smart city built from the ground up for some time now, recently engaging in a “thought experiment” around introducing technologies in every aspect of city life.

Doctoroff is pursuing the idea that “a combination of digital technologies — ubiquitous connectivity, social networks, sensing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and new design and fabrication technologies — would help bring about a revolution in urban life,” he writes in a November blog post.

The idea is to revolutionize urban experiences, but the issue is also that existing buildings and city infrastructure are not built to be connected. Starting from scratch could help to infuse these technologies throughout the new infrastructure.

“We recognized that you can never truly plan a city. Instead you can lay the foundations and let people create on top of it,” Doctoroff wrote.
The new 12-acre strip in the downtown district in Toronto, built on smart city values and internet backbone, will look to test the models Sidewalk Labs has been theorizing: how connected tech can improve city life at every level.

“We’ve found that applying urban innovations at scale could reduce cost of living by 14 percent compared to surrounding metro areas for an average family in America,” Doctoroff told StateScoop.
sidewalk_labs  smart_cities  toronto  urban_planning 
6 days ago
Smart Cities: What Do We Need to Know to Plan and Design Them Better?
For most of the last decade, the smart city has been a corporate project. That is to say, it has not challenged existing power structures in either its formulation of the essential problems facing cities, nor the solutions. It has focused on modest, mostly invisible fixes to existing systems and solutions through better management enabled by digital technology. Its limited set of ambitions has ignored the broader of contemporary urban policy concerns to focus on efficient operation.
As a result, the smart city has overwhelmingly been envisioned and sold as an upgrade to existing cities. This stands in stark contrast to earlier movements in urban planning such as the Garden Cities movement, the City Beautiful, and postwar renewal, which all sought to radically rework the underlying material basis of cities and the forms and structures that would make it possible. The smart city instead has had modest ambitions. It could best be seen as a campaign for incremental, iterative improvements to 20th century urban infrastructure designs that have failed to meet the burdens placed on them by the scale and speed of 21st century urbanization.

This version of the smart city, cementing private sector operators in key positions over an indefinite period, have not surprisingly led to ominously though not often overly, corporatist views of the future city. These visions have typically overlooked structural inconsistencies in global capitalism, and its exclusions that it has created in cities — income inequality, inadequate housing supply and the corresponding problems in affordability, inequitable environmental risks, and so on....

The smart city, in computer metaphor terms, is a mainframe. Not only is this not seen as undesirable — its a vision and design strategy actively pushed by the corporations — but it is largely not seen or understood by urban policymakers....

And so, in the final chapter of Smart Cities I laid out 13 tenets of ‘a new civics for smart cities’. My inspiration was the work of Sir Patrick Geddes, one of the fathers of the Garden Cities movement. Geddes, unlike most of his Victorian-era urban reformers, was a biologist rather than an architect or civil engineer, an avid gardener rather than an inventor of things mechanical. He believed deeply in bottom-up change, and had an uncanny grasp of urban systems thinking that presaged Jane Jacobs’ writing a half-century later, which popularized many of the same ideas and convictions.

My new civics sought to lay the seed for a Geddesian approach to smart cities, by laying a set of principles that might guide choices for a broad array of actors building smart cities in a more vernacular style, rather than master planning them — or worse, packaging them as products and services to be installed off the shelf. These tenets covered a range of strategic recommendations — I urged cities to: be skeptical of easy digital solutions when analog answers were already at hand; build and keep control their own digital infrastructure; avoid excessive integration and the excessive control points it creates; take on the challenge of data governance; craft bespoke solutions but with a mind to sharing with other cities; train professionals who can work in both digital and physical realms; inform long-term planning with rich data; be careful about technology-enabled crowdsourcing and devolution of power; ensure that everyone is well-connected and well-informed; harness data-driven urban science but in small measures; and be very careful about automating human decisions in ways that hide the impacts of our choices about consumption....

By 2012, a new planning practice was emerging in global cities. Cities were starting to take over the role of thought leader in the smart cities movement, through the development of far-reaching smart city plans, or what I have come to call ‘digital master plans’. ... what kind of research would make these plans better? What do cities need to know to chart their future?...

The disturbing fact is that no one really knows what is going on in cities because of these technologies. That is to say, there is scant and poorly integrated evidence about how people’s decisions, and the ways those decisions add up to change, are being impacted by the spread of digital technology....

So we need to study the dynamics of smart cities much more than we do now. We need to know how markets are driving change, as much as we need to understand the effectiveness of public investment and use in smart city technologies. This is before we even get to thinking about desired directions, or about how policy and planning can turn the dial in a desired direction....

And so the challenge then becomes establishing a new approach to how we study cities in the era of smart cities, and I suspect the responses may hold in them the seeds of a new compact around urban governance (e.g. and a new civics that dictates what is expected of individuals and groups) — every bit as much as the massive instrumentation of urban bureaucracies about 150 years ago did. City charters today say very little about how municipalities and their partners can and should collect, analyze and use data. In fifty years, they may cover little else, data will be such an important linchpin in what they do, how they create value — why they exist at all. To put it another way, the generation, use and handling of data about people and their activities needs to be baked into how city government works at the most basic levels.
smart_cities  digital_equity  infrastructure 
8 days ago
Mozilla's Mark Surman: New York Is Decentralizing the Web
A group of recent immigrants gather around a table at a Brooklyn Public Library branch, learning online privacy and security basics from a trained librarian. Nearby, a low-income resident uses her library card to check out a device to bring free, fast Wi-Fi home to her family. One borough over, at City Hall, city government is enacting new rules that put New Yorkers, and not ISPs, in control of their personal data. This is the internet as it should be — a public resource, open and accessible to all — and it’s closer to reality than you might think.


Last week, New York City announced several new initiatives to keep residents connected and safe online. “My team and I are acutely aware of the threats to privacy and human rights that come with internet use,” wrote Miguel Gamiño Jr., New York City’s CTO. New York Public Library’s Library HotSpot program is already providing otherwise unconnected patrons with hot spots they can take home to study, pay their bills, and connect with family. The city’s librarians and other staff will now receive online privacy and security training, which will cover topics like password security and how personal data is transacted online.

And with FCC privacy regulations freshly dismantled, and net neutrality’s future up for a vote later this month, the city is undertaking a legal review intended to explore its authority to enact its own protections for residents online, as well as conducting a review of current city broadband projects with an eye toward human rights, inclusivity, and privacy. “The internet belongs to the people — not giant corporations. We won’t give up net neutrality without a fight,” the mayor’s office recently tweeted.

The city has also partnered with Mozilla and Research Action Design (RAD) to create a digital security-training program for city-contracted, community-based organizations that serve vulnerable populations. For example: groups that provide immigration legal screenings and assistance to NYC residents. This training will allow these organizations to address evolving threats to digital security. We’re aiming to make the program scalable, so it can serve all New Yorkers.
digital_literacy  data_privacy  internet_policy  connectivity  internet  public_policy  infrastructure 
8 days ago
An Audio Tour Dredges Up the Dark Ecology of NYC's Newtown Creek
The strange narrative of Newtown Creek unwinds over a new audio tour, the half-hour “A Field Guide to Whale Creek.” Created by the Floating Studio for Dark Ecologies (FSDE), a media art collective including Nick Hubbard, Rebecca Lieberman, and Marina Zurkow, the audio guide launches their greater initiative to engage the public with the future of Newtown Creek. Also part of this first stage is a printed pamphlet (available online as a PDF) which maps the Nature Walk and has a glossary for terms like “floatable” (marine trash), “digester eggs” (the futuristic silver spheres at the Wastewater Treatment Plant), and “black mayonnaise” (the mix of oil, arsenic, incinerated ash, and polychlorinated biphenyls that coats the creek’s bottom). As Zurkow said at Wednesday’s debut of the guide, the project is “a form of citizenship and active participation with this creek.”

That group experience was part of Works on Water, a new triennial presented by New Georges with 3LD Art & Technology Center, Urban Water Artists, and Guerilla Science. Featuring an exhibition, conversations, theater, and expeditions, Works on Water considers New York City’s waterways in the context of art, community, climate change, and ecology. FSDE is hosting another Newtown Creek walk in conjunction with the festival this Saturday, June 17.
ecology  soundwalk  field_guide  infrastructure 
8 days ago
design thinking, yet again, because, maybe, it could actually be useful, perhaps even necessary…
I do want to insist that design thinking has had a very important impact on the professional practice of design. Design Thinking has meant that most non-designers who engage with design now expect workshops. Designing traditionally involved only occasional discussions with clients, perhaps some formal moments of customer research. People became designers hoping that they would spend most of their working lives detailing forms quietly in studios. These days, you have to acknowledge that designing is a collective enterprise that involves many hours in messy workshops with diverse peoples. Design Thinking has usefully made the social side of co-creation unavoidable. Designing is a now more widely understood o be an extended process of persuasion, convincing not only materials to take on forms, but also convincing people that those forms are valuable responses to their situations. Sometimes it feels like designers hate Design Thinking precisely because it necessitates their spending a lot more time with the people they claim to want to help....

Design thinking hackathons further delegitimise the (governmental) institutions established to respond to those complex situations by reframing those problems as potentially solvable by deliberately non-expert corporate creativity — and definitely not by simply redistributing wealth....

Design Thinking has certainly not delivered any instances of sustained social change in relation to any of our societies’ wicked problems. Rather, design thinking processes have become the commodified form of community consultation prior to big business telling government what best serves their own interests. Or worse, Design Thinking’s wilful naivety and one-set-of-tools-for-absolutely-any-cultural-context results in brightly-coloured devices for imperialism....

So, if I were asked to develop a university wide design thinking initiative right now, that is, an opportunity to teach non-design students about design, I would emphasise:
Use Value:
What is unique about design is that it aims to make useful things. Use is a weird mix of cultural conventions, cognitive psychology (or rather ecological perception) and material forms. It is consequently surprisingly under-understood. Humans are adept at making use of any thing for any purpose. But when things are designed to be usable, human capacities are exponentially increased as those things are incorporated into our taken-for-granted ways of being in the world....

Design Thinking that is more sociologically attentive to distinctive group identities would have more effectiveness precisely by being less mass-market if not universalist....

Design Thinking should focus more on learning how to converse with a diversity of people rather than just ‘quick and dirty observations.’

...design at its best is not only empathetic with users. It is empathetic with those who must make the designs and perhaps maintain them. Design Thinking too rarely widens its scope of empathy in this regard, just as too much Service Design is often highly attentive to customers while ignoring the experience of service workers.

...design thinking processes could, and so should, give people experiences of ‘what technology wants.’ It ought to expose people to the extent to which they are insufficiently aware of how mired we all are in designed sociotechnical systems.....

Design Thinking workshop processes that explore:
· how things become useful, and not just usable, and to who, where and when
· the preferred styles of the different classes of people involved
· ways of having revealing conversations with different kinds of people
· how to experience situations from radically different perspectives, including that of non-humans
· what it means to ‘stay with the transition’ (pace Donna Haraway)
design_thinking  design_process  public_process  methodology 
8 days ago
The Pig and the Algorithm
It can be a daunting proposition, to caption a photograph. The moment one settles on a description – here, for example, “boy with pig, Lockhart, Texas”—a host of other propositions and possibilities begin to percolate. Should the caption include something about the crowd of onlookers? That the boy is smiling? What about the presence of wooden pens, or hay on the ground, or cowboy hats, or, more abstractly, phrases like “small town” or “summer”? Choosing a caption often anticipates the future needs of an imagined viewer – rarely do we caption photographs only for our own private purposes. It is a fundamentally communicative act, then, and one that simultaneously acknowledges and tries to ignore the difficulty of re-presenting images with words, of adequately translating images into words. ...

My job at the museum, however, was to prepare the recently-assembled group of otherwise disparate photographs for collective digitization (of the images) and deep storage (for the objects). In other words, the terms of their accessibility was on the brink of shifting. They had shifted already, having moved first from visual objects that told a story about a community back to that same community, in Lockhart; to negatives tucked away in a local archive; to images selected by a Harvard curator and physically re-located to Cambridge, MA to join a much broader collection of image with new (art) viewers....

My work facilitated another shift in the lives of these photographs as well: they went from objects stored in boxes onsite, viewable upon request, to objects stored offsite, viewable onscreen in digital form, at any time. The nature of the work that I was doing with these thousands upon thousands of images was, on one level, really very functional: I was looking at objects, I was re-housing them for archival storage, I was noting condition, I was capturing and transcribing relevant information about the objects into the museum’s database. I was generally aware that the words I chose as “relevant” caption description—aside from the photographers’ name and studio locations—would be the primary way future users would be able to access the images. There would be no browsing through the boxes, moving without purpose from one image to the next; that kind of looking that I was doing would be replaced by users’ specific keyword searches, perhaps for “birthday”, “woman”, “deer” or “child”. And so, this image became, “Untitled (boy with pig), Lockhart, Texas.”...

When I learned that the Harvard Art Museums had found my 20,000 captions a useful data point for running their own experiments using multiple computer vision platforms to identify objects in the collection, I was nothing short of giddily intrigued. It was weirdly flattering, in a way, as well as satisfying, to know that all that grad school labor of devising “objective” captions for the thousands of photographs I looked at might potentially be compared with a machine eye. Would a computer make meaning—produce a caption—in the same way that I had?...

The museum’s tests generated results from four different services: Clarifai, Microsoft Cognitive Services, Google Vision, and Imagga, and additionally provided “sentiment recognition” on identified faces in the images, an automated process that “reads” the visible emotional makeup of human subjects, categorizing their likelihood of feelings such as joy, happiness, anger, or sorrow. The bulk of the results provided keywords and tags: further finding aids for future object recognition of photographs. “Untitled (boy with pig)” yielded 76 tags and categories from the combined results of the four platforms: they ran the gamut from the correct (people, mammal, livestock, group, outdoor, animal, agriculture, young, monochrome, black, white, hog, swine, pen, grass) to the puzzling and awkward (animal sports, ungulate, old world buffalo, bovid, ruminant, cattle like mammal) to the just plain wrong (beaches seaside, cow, bull).

The computers had been trained to see like people see and, consequently, to privilege words and facial expressions as they worked to make meaning: the programs paid special attention to the text on the boy’s t-shirt (“Lockhart”) and honed in on his facial expression, identifying him as “very likely” to be feeling joy, while “very unlikely” to be feeling anger, sorrow, or surprise (and similarly unlikely to be wearing a hat, or have the misfortune of turning up in a photograph blurred or underexposed). The programs found more or less all the quantitative details I had considered, except for those canvas high tops. But surely no search function would be performed for “whimsical feet” or “tentative shoes.” And neither would I have considered adding this very punctum-like detail to my own efforts at objectivity.
archives  photographs  captions  metadata 
9 days ago
Two Government Agencies. Two Different Climate Maps. | FiveThirtyEight
The USDA’s website specifically asks people not to use these maps to document climate change. Meanwhile, it looked as if other parts of the federal government were doing exactly that in reports such as the National Climate Assessment.

So what gives? It turns out, the government produces two hardiness zone maps — one made by the USDA and one made by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Both divide the country into segments, each of which represents a 10-degree increment of the average annual minimum temperature. But the underlying data used to build out the zones is different. Those differences are driven by the agencies’ goals, and they affect what the different maps are intended to be used for...

The USDA’s map, unsurprisingly, is geared toward agriculture and helping people produce a healthy crop. Its makers want it to be as detailed as possible, because small shifts in local geography — elevation, the slope of the land, the prevailing winds, bodies of water — can make a big difference in average temperature. Historically, a lot of that detail was missing, said Kim Kaplan, a USDA spokeswoman who works on the Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The 1990 version, for instance, relied on readings from National Weather Service temperature stations. Where there wasn’t a station, the mapmakers just drew straight lines — literally, with a ruler — from one data point to the next closest.

That changed in 2012 when the USDA began to make its hardiness zone map using an algorithm produced by researchers at Oregon State University that could account for those local variables and get a better estimate of the annual minimum between weather stations. What’s more, the new map was ground-truthed, checked against the instincts of local weather experts. The result is a more accurate map — but a map that differs a lot from its earlier iterations. The NOAA hardiness zone map, on the other hand, is optimized to show how climate has changed over time by maintaining the same methodology with every update, even if better methodology comes along. “[The USDA map] is always the ‘A,’ and ours is a good ‘B+,’” said Russell Vose, chief of the Climate Science Branch at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. And, for the most part, the two maps match. But you can see some differences in the map above, especially in mountainous regions where the USDA map now captures the way elevation affects average temperature in a more granular way....

When the USDA says you shouldn’t use its map for documenting climate change, what the agency means is that it’s impossible to tell what differences between the 1990 and 2012 versions are caused by climate change, and which are artifacts of their methodology upgrade.
climate_change  mapping  cartography  data  methodology 
9 days ago
The writing life of Harvard historian Jill Lepore | Harvard Gazette
That’s a thing that I have really worked on writing essays for The New Yorker over the years; it has really changed my writing. Because it’s a narrative magazine, the nonfiction has to take the form of story, but it has to argue, it has to tell you something you don’t know. If it works the way it’s supposed to, you don’t know that you’ve been told something, you just know it, as if you’d always known it. There’s a whole intricacy to that....

Narrative nonfiction is supposed to address that problem, by not telling you the argument on the first page and by convincing you that you need to read the whole book to find out what you needed to find out, which is what happened....

LEPORE: I can’t stand writing books. I love writing essays and I hate writing books. The ideas for the books I’ve written generally come from things that I come across in the archives and that I think are important and that I wish people knew about. I wish someone else would write a book about them, so that I could read it, so that it could exist, and be read by other people. But since no one has already written that book, I feel like I have to. It’s awful.

GAZETTE: What about essays?

LEPORE: I always have an idea for an essay. I love everything about writing an essay. The intensity, the evanescence. You study, you write, it runs, it’s over. Thank God.
writing  academia  essays 
9 days ago
Day 9 in the archives: resisting the desire to “own” the document
Now I feel more like a seasoned veteran, at least of the Bailey collection. I narrowed down the collection to a couple major sections this summer that I thought might be helpful with the dissertation chapter I need to write, and I had the relevant boxes requested in advance. I did take most of two weeks to basically pore through this new material — but I tried to keep my fingers off the camera. Instead of frantically collecting photographs, I simply sat with the materials, visually scanned through until I found something that looked interesting, and then gave myself the luxury of reading — and of taking careful, organized notes by hand, resulting in a growing stack of well-labeled sheets of the recognizable green paper that the archive allows researchers to use in the reading room. Going through those notes at the end of each day and reviewing the organized progress has become a ritual and a pleasure.
With those first two weeks behind me, now that I have a much better sense of what I’ll want to read in depth and possibly cite in my dissertation chapter as I write, I am targeting specific documents and sets of documents — the journal Bailey kept at his farm, the Census Bureau’s report on the Commission on Country Life circulars, etc — and rather than create a pile of picture files, I’ve updated my technology and am now able to create single PDF “scans” of whole, many-paged documents with the Tiny Scanner app on my tablet. The busywork portion of what I do in the archives has been focused and made more efficient. ...

I have relinquished the desire to “own” all of the tantalizing information in those many, many boxes. It will still be there; I can’t read it all; I can always come back. I’d like to think that I’ve graduated from the more piratical school of archival treasure-hunting to something a little more purposeful, a little more graceful. The archive will always know things that I don’t, and vice versa. I’m not there to pillage the archive for information — I’m there to begin the process of co-creating something new with it.
archives  archival_research  methodology  advising 
9 days ago
Mosul’s Library Without Books | The New Yorker
The library at the University of Mosul, among the finest in the Middle East, once had a million books, historic maps, and old manuscripts. Some dated back centuries, even a millennium, Mohammed Jasim, the library’s director, told me. Among its prize acquisitions was a Quran from the ninth century, although the library also housed thousands of twenty-first-century volumes on science, philosophy, law, world history, literature, and the arts. Six hundred thousand books were in Arabic; many of the rest were in English. During the thirty-two months that the Islamic State ruled the city, the university campus, on tree-lined grounds near the Tigris River, was gradually closed down and then torched. Quite intentionally, the library was hardest hit. isis sought to kill the ideas within its walls—or at least the access to them....

There’s a famous saying in the Middle East: “Books are written in Egypt, printed in Lebanon, and read in Iraq.” For centuries, private home libraries were considered a sign of class. After the University of Mosul was founded, in 1967, sixty of the city’s largest private libraries donated their historic collections to the new campus library, Jasim told me. ...

isis had already destroyed Mosul’s central library, the other major resource center in Iraq’s second-largest city, which was once a cosmopolitan melting pot of disparate religions and ethnicities. Irina Bokova, the director-general of unesco, called it “the systematic destruction of heritage and the persecution of minorities that seeks to wipe out the cultural diversity that is the soul of the Iraqi people. Burning books is an attack on the culture, knowledge and memory.”...

On May 25th, students organized a book drive outside the gutted library, even as battles between the Iraqi Army and isis militants echoed from across the river. Four young musicians performed in front of the library steps. Three students pinned their photographs of people and places and life in Mosul on a long clothesline and recounted the stories behind them. Four painters displayed their work, propped on easels. The event was the brainchild of Mosul Eye, a pseudonymous historian and blogger who chronicled life under isis rule until he fled Iraq, last year....

A few international groups have offered to help. In Europe, the group Solidarity and Coöperation in the Mediterranean (Entraide et Coopération en Méditerranée) pledged fifteen tons of books and a container full of tables and chairs. “We get universities from all over France to contribute,” Mohamed Hermi, a Tunisian-born lawyer in Marseilles, who runs the volunteer organization, told me. In the United States, the Iraqi-American Reconciliation Project, headquartered in Minneapolis, has been in contact with Mosul Eye about contributing books, too. Boston University has also reached out, as have smaller groups in Britain.
libraries  middle_east  destruction  iraq  books 
9 days ago
Latent Commons in the City — Cultural Anthropology
For Tsing, interspecies collaborations are of absolute importance for survival. This emphasis on collaboration forms the second thread that intertwines with her rejection of progress to produce latent commons. Collaboration is indeterminate; it involves contamination that changes the parties involved in unforeseeable ways. Nonetheless, Tsing argues that in order to survive, we need the help of others. We must engage in collaboration, both within and across species, subjecting ourselves to inevitable contamination. Such contamination produces diversity, as each collaboration changes those involved. Through collaboration and ensuing contaminated diversity, new historically contingent, relationally determined possibilities emerge.

These related discussions of progress and collaboration lead Tsing (2015, 254) to suggest that rather than pursue progress as the path to the future, we might “listen politically” in order to “detect the traces of not-yet-articulated common agendas.” These traces appear in latent commons, “sites in which to seek allies” (Tsing 2015, 255) that remain undeveloped and difficult to notice. They are ubiquitous, but take no prescriptive shape. Latent commons do not seek or offer visions of progress; they are founded upon collaborations. They offer alternative futures.

Tsing does not specify the geographies of latent commons, or whether they must be situated in specific geographies at all. They seem to appear most readily in industrial ruins like the human-disturbed forests where matsutake grow, but we might presume that latent commons can be found anywhere. As one of my own research interests is urban regeneration, Tsing’s discussion of latent commons prompts me to consider how we might uncover such commons in urban landscapes. What kinds of provocations might emerge by considering the concept of latent commons in the context of urban spaces? Latent commons resist specification—they are the possibilities that we have yet to notice. For this reason, rather than pointing to specific potential sites of latent commons, I propose that we consider what kinds of noticing and what kinds of questions a consideration of latent commons might provoke in the urban context....

First, latent commons are not exclusive to human enclaves. An interspecies perspective, which may arise more naturally in rural landscapes than in cities, is crucial to latent commons. ...

Second, latent commons are not good for everyone. This feature takes on even greater importance in urban places, where inequalities are often already on heightened display. ...

Third, latent commons do not institutionalize well. Tsing writes that attempts to turn commons into policy foreclose upon the commons’ effervescence. This resistance to institutionalization entails relinquishing institutional control over the shape and outcome of latent commons, an approach that challenges contemporary regimes of urban control. How might the concept of latent commons help reframe conversations about urban regulation, control, and policymaking?

Fourth, latent commons cannot redeem us. “The latent commons is here and now, amidst the trouble,” Tsing (2015, 255) writes.
commons  collaboration  geography 
9 days ago
Is There a Progressive Politics After Progress? — Cultural Anthropology
Latent commons open up human and nonhuman geographies, showing us their flexibility and motion. They urge us not only to jump across scales but also to avoid rejecting both territorialization and deterritorialization as we protect patches of livability and find allies with whom to stand. An urban commons worth mobilizing might be small and bounded, such as a community garden. It might be spread around, as a public water system. Stability can be a problem—as commons are continually converted to property. Stability can be a virtue—as against those fracking-made earthquakes that rearrange the ground, contaminating our groundwater. Latent commons alert us to geography-in-action. They remind us to guard fragile, life-sustaining coordinations from the past—a project imagined as backward within progress expectations....

it suggests a set of readers who see hope in The Mushroom at the End of the World because they are missing the clash of swords that they know how to identify as “theory.” Women pull survivors out of the burning village, while male armies rage on. OK, fine, I’ll do that, but there are feminist war cries here as well—that is, theory. As David Ayala-Alfonso points out, The Mushroom at the End of the World aims to exemplify a way of doing scholarship. Drawing from what I see as the best of anthropology, the ethnographic material leads the argument, showing the importance of particular approaches. Collaborative foraging is a model for knowledge-making, as well as an object of ethnographic inquiry. As Ayala-Alfonso points out, the style is also an argument, and much of the theory work emerges from the details. This strategy risks losing readers who can only recognize “behead-the-giants-on-whose-shoulders-you-stand” genres of theory.
commons  nonhuman  theory 
9 days ago
AI Is Transforming Google Search. The Rest of the Web Is Next | WIRED
Over the past year, it has also reinvented Google Search, where the company generates most of its revenue. Early in 2015, as Bloomberg recently reported, Google began rolling out a deep learning system called RankBrain that helps generate responses to search queries. As of October, RankBrain played a role in "a very large fraction" of the millions of queries that go through the search engine with each passing second.
As Bloomberg says, it was Singhal who approved the roll-out of RankBrain. And before that, he and his team may have explored other, simpler forms of machine learning. But for a time, some say, he represented a steadfast resistance to the use of machine learning inside Google Search. In the past, Google relied mostly on algorithms that followed a strict set of rules set by humans. The concern—as described by some former Google employees—was that it was more difficult to understand why neural nets behaved the way it did, and more difficult to tweak their behavior.
These concerns still hover over the world of machine learning. The truth is that even the experts don't completely understand how neural nets work. But they do work. If you feed enough photos of a platypus into a neural net, it can learn to identify a platypus. If you show it enough computer malware code, it can learn to recognize a virus. If you give it enough raw language—words or phrases that people might type into a search engine—it can learn to understand search queries and help respond to them. In some cases, it can handle queries better than algorithmic rules hand-coded by human engineers. Artificial intelligence is the future of Google Search, and if it's the future of Google Search, it's the future of so much more.
search  artificial_intelligence  machine_learning  training 
11 days ago
10,000 New Yorkers. 2 Decades. A Data Trove About ‘Everything.’ - The New York Times
The answer he came up with was the Human Project.

This fall, Mr. Glimcher and his team will start recruiting 10,000 New Yorkers willing to open up their lives to researchers for the next two decades, if not longer.

Researchers will follow every aspect of their lives, virtually all the time, to try to answer fundamental questions about why we make the decisions we make and how they affect our lives.

The hope is that in the vast streams of data — around 250 gigabytes of information on each subject every year, the equivalent of a computer hard drive — patterns will emerge that will help improve public health, education and decision making.

The method of following a group of people over a long period of time to study health has proved effective in the past, most notably in a study that began in 1948 by tracking 5,209 adults from Framingham, Mass., which is now in its third generation. That project was designed to study cardiovascular health, and much of what we know about heart disease and the effects of things like diet and exercise is derived from its findings....

Mr. Glimcher and his team hope to collect information on subjects as varied as the genome and social interactions. They will collate some 50,000 data points, including medical records, credit card information, GPS tracking and education records. They will also conduct physical examinations, including taking blood and urine samples.

But the first challenge will be getting people to sign up.

One of the flaws in the current collection of big data, Mr. Glimcher said, is that it misses large swaths of the population. Simply put, it skews to the wealthier and the healthier. For instance, if one looked at Google Traffic, it might seem that the South Bronx had the best roads with the fewest problems. However, Mr. Glimcher said, that is probably not the result of fewer potholes, but rather fewer people with smartphones.

“So how do we get a data set that covers everything?” he asked.

The researchers decided to randomly target families in 150 census blocks in New York City, and their research suggests that they will have a 40 percent success rate in getting people to participate. Even with a 10 percent success rate, Mr. Glimcher said, they will get the people they need.

But unlike cellphone and social media companies, Mr. Glimcher said, the Human Project wants to be sure everyone knows exactly what he or she is signing up for....

So far, Mr. Glimcher said, it is not the data that comes from the phone or other technology that gives people the most pause. It is the data collected from something much more basic: feces.

One of the Human Project’s goals is to study the microbiome and the millions of bacteria in the gut. The best way to find information on the subject is in stool samples. But that requires some explaining.

The dozens of recruiters who will fan out across the city are being trained to handle that topic and many others. They will also have to convince people that all of this information will be kept safe.

In fact, a big part of the $15 million start-up budget is being spent on security.

A special data center is being built at the new campus of New York University in Brooklyn, where the Human Project will be based....

It will be as secure as the information kept by Chase Bank, he added.

However, unlike at a bank, the data needs to be available to researchers from a variety of disciplines, so a system of security zones will be in place.

In the “green zone,” all activity will be monitored, but access to secure information will be limited.

To look at the actual data, people will have to enter the “yellow zone” using a thumbprint and a non-clonable ID card for entry. Outside researchers can request a mini-data set, which will not include any identifying information.

The crown jewels will be kept in the “red zone.”...

To enter this area, people will have to pass through what is known as a “man trap,” essentially an antechamber between two sets of doors. There they will have to provide a thumbprint and an ID and will be scanned via video to ensure they are alone. Finally, those seeking access will have to enter a code proving that they are not under duress.

The data is also largely protected from subpoena power, Mr. Glimcher said.
big_data  methodology  data_privacy  sampling  media_architecture  data_visualization 
11 days ago
New Course: Data Rules (Fall 2017) | in.ter.reg.num
This course traces the historical precursors in the construction of knowledge and thought that are part of the contemporary emphasis on quantification, discrete numerical measurement, and predictive automated systems. The course examines the scientific revolution both as an historical event and a philosophical shift
in the way truth claims are constructed and substantiated. We examine the evolution in the way truth and facts are constructed as this ethos intersects with the rise of bureaucratic institutions, including the corporation and the state. Along the way, we examine the logic of categories, the difficulty humans have in cognizing large numbers and statistical thinking, the role of data visualization in telling stories with/about
data, and key problems in expert-driven knowledge production. We conclude the class by examining the contemporary turn towards predictive uses of large datasets.
Knowledge production via prediction is a break from descriptive uses of data, even in schemas where descriptive data was used to support causal reasoning. Predictive implementations of knowledge production are fraught with the dangers of false positives, false negatives, and “true” positives & negatives drawn from training data that is laced with the social problems of the past (e.g. sexism, racism, elitism).
What has not changed, however, is the way that ruling elites are harnessing data at a scale that enhances the potential of ‘control creep’ both at larger scales than we have previously seen and with more precise impacts on specific individuals than was previously possible.
data  methodology  epistemology  intellectual_history 
11 days ago
White paper explores how to redesign scholarly monograph for digital use
The idea of a product that, at a glance, can point scholars to the exact point in a book that is relevant to their research may sound like science fiction, but that’s how the scholarly database JSTOR is pitching a recently released research tool.
The tool, called Topicgraph, is part of a JSTOR project to take the digital scholarly monograph from a PDF to something more useful for researchers. The organization on Monday published the final version of a white paper outlining 13 ideas on how to do so, ranging from the convenient -- such as giving readers more navigational tools within digital books -- to the complicated, like removing restrictions on how readers use and reuse books.
books  e-books  reading  textual_form 
11 days ago
about – map-i.net
The Map-i. network is a research platform which brings together academic research on arts projects from around the world, which use mapping and mapping methodologies to collate, question or challenge established world views. It asks why, and how artists map? Emerging themes include climate change, the Anthropocene, social inequality and globalisation.
mapping  map_art  cartography 
11 days ago
Program Maps & Emotions workshop / July 1-2, 2017 / Washington DC | ART & CARTOGRAPHY
This workshop aims to bring together artists, scholars and students from cartography, geography, the humanities and the arts who are interested in exploring further the relationships between maps, emotions and places. We have a combination of presentations and activities planned to foster these discussions.

The workshop is jointly organized by the ICA Commissions on Art & Cartography, Cognitive Issues in Geographic Information Visualization (CogVis), and Topographic Mapping.

 
cartography  mapping  affect 
11 days ago
Computer printers have been quietly embedding tracking codes in documents for decades — Quartz
In 2004, when color printers were still somewhat novel, PCWorld magazine published an article headlined: “Government Uses Color Laser Printer Technology to Track Documents.”
It was one of the first news reports on a quiet practice that had been going on for 20 years. It revealed that color printers embed in printed documents coded patterns that contain the printer’s serial number, and the date and time the documents were printed. The patterns are made up of dots, less than a millimeter in diameter and a shade of yellow that, when placed on a white background, cannot be detected by the naked eye...

The existence of the hidden dots gained renewed interest this week when they were found embedded in a top-secret report by the US National Security Agency (NSA) that was published by The Intercept on June 5. About an hour after the report was published, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had arrested a suspected leaker. The 25-year-old NSA contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, was charged “with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.”...

The technology meant to track our paper documents back to us has been hidden in plain sight for more than 30 years.
The 2004 article in PCWorld was based on information provided by Peter Crean, who was a senior research fellow at Xerox at the time. In his first public interview about the practice since talking to the magazine 13 years ago, Crean told Quartz that Xerox hadn’t done much to share information about the dots’ existence....

When color printers were first introduced, he said, governments were worried the devices would be used for all sorts of forgery, particularly counterfeiting money. An early solution came from Japan, where the yellow-dot technology, known as printer steganography, was originally developed as a security measure....

“The possible misuses of this marking technology are frightening,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in a blog post responding to the article. “Individuals using printers to create political pamphlets, organize legal protest activities, or even discuss private medical conditions or sensitive personal topics can be identified by the government with no legal process, no judicial oversight, and no notice to the person spied upon.”...
Eventually, a volunteer working with the EFF noticed that the dots represented a binary code, Schoen said. It allowed them to crack the logic behind them, and to read the information embedded in any document that used yellow-dot steganography. The organization published the results of its work, along with an interactive tool to decode the dots....

Although the code behind the yellow-dot patterns was cracked, there is likely other steganography still in use that has yet to be discovered. In addition to the various implementations Crean mentioned, Schoen said there is at least one newer version that is even more difficult to find in a document.
print  paper  printing  security  encryption  tracking  steganography 
13 days ago
Recent Trends in the History of Cartography: A Selective, Annotated Bibliography to the English-Language Literature (2.1)
The history of cartography has since the 1970s significantly expanded its disciplinary reach, its theoretical directions and approaches, and its scholarship. This annotated bibliography is intended as a guide to the extended field. It seeks to remind newcomers and established map scholars alike of the field’s traditional concerns (and literatures) and to inform them of its new directions and scholarship.

Keywords

history of cartography, philosophy of cartography, historiography of cartography, bibliography, empiricist paradigm, modernism, map analysis, critical paradigm, semiotics, constructivism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, academic cartography, map language, Denis Wood, J. B. (Brian) Harley, indigenous cartographies, cartobibliography, imperialism, state formation, nationalism, commerce, consumption
literature_review  cartography  mapping  bibliography 
13 days ago
Delphi, the Auto Parts Supplier, Embarks on a High-Tech Overhaul - The New York Times
It began as the parts arm of General Motors, and years ago operated dozens of unionized plants that churned out the type of mechanical auto components that put venture capitalists to sleep: air-conditioners, brakes, heaters and radios....

But with new technologies turning automobiles into supercomputers on wheels, Delphi is trying to reinvent itself. Over the last several years, it has shed almost all of its old operations, and begun acquiring and investing in high-tech businesses that in many ways are more like Intel than G.M.

Cars produced today include dozens of computer chips along with cameras, radar, millions of lines of software and wireless communications links. Future vehicles will have all that and more, said Kevin P. Clark, Delphi’s chief executive.

Delphi, he added, hopes to be the supplier of networking components — like wiring, software and intelligent connectors — that link all those complex systems and enable them to work together under the hood....

“It’s the intelligent architecture that allows all the advanced safety systems, all the autonomous driving software, all the infotainment software to operate effectively,” Mr. Clark said....

Delphi hopes to create a new business that can gather vast amounts of data from vehicles — about how and where they go, how they’re driven and how they’re running. The company then envisions selling insights drawn from the data trove to automakers, insurance companies and possibly even advertisers...

A driver who frequently drives to Starbucks locations, for example, could be targeted with Starbucks coupons via email or text. Someone whose data shows a pattern of gentle driving could be offered lower insurance rates, said David Ploucha, the president and co-founder of Control-Tec, a start-up Delphi acquired for $124 million as part of this data business strategy.

It’s a business model unlike anything the auto industry has ever seen. It’s similar to what Google does by targeting ads to users based on terms they have searched, or how Facebook tailors ads and news posts based on what a member has “liked” on the social networking site...

“The idea is to influence how people spend money in relation to their vehicle,” Mr. Ploucha said....

Mr. Clark said he was convinced such data services will evolve into a multibillion-dollar industry, though it may be years before this vision is confirmed...

Already, Tesla has jumped ahead in battery-powered cars, and in distributing software updates to its cars over the air, the same way iPhones receive new operating systems. Both Tesla and Google are ahead of many, if not most, automakers in self-driving technology....

Its Chapter 11 reorganization lasted four years, and resulted in plant closings and the elimination of tens of thousands of factory jobs. The company’s steering systems business was sold to a Chinese investor. The remaining company kept operations in automotive electronics and engine technologies such as fuel injectors and diesel components.

Over the last few years, as autonomous driving technology began developing rapidly, Mr. Clark saw an opportunity to take Delphi in a new direction.

Two years ago, Delphi also acquired Ottomatika, a Pittsburgh start-up developing automated-driving software, for $32 million.

To preserve Control-Tec’s freewheeling start-up culture, Delphi is allowing it to operate largely as an independent company. That includes one lounge where its engineers build Lego cars and occasionally play board games, and another where they share homemade beers.

“The worst thing we could do is stifle the creativity, the energy they have,” Mr. Clark said...

Delphi has also partnered with Intel and Mobileye, an Israeli maker of camera systems that can spot obstacles and trigger braking. Intel has since agreed to acquire Mobileye in a $15.3 billion deal set to close later this year....

This year, Delphi went further, acquiring a start-up with technology for wirelessly transferring data and software to and from vehicles, and investing $15 million in another Israeli company, Otonomo, which specializes in organizing masses of data into forms that automakers and others will pay for. These two investments, along with Control-Tec, make up the foundation of the data business Mr. Clark thinks Delphi can create.
self_driving_cars  big_data  advertising  transportation  innovation 
14 days ago
The Role of Women in Library History - Home
The role of women in the development of libraries has been an immense, but often over-looked portion of history. In this guide, the scope of the topic covers the late 19th century to the present and focuses mainly on American and European libraries. The materials presented here represent a variety of libraries - including public, medical, and academic, among others.
libraries  labor  women  feminism 
15 days ago
The Heliopolitics of Data Center Security | Platypus
The small-scale cyberattack, characteristic of the late-twentieth century, has long dominated discourses and practices of data center security. Lately, however, these fears are increasingly giving way to concerns over large-scale, existential risks posed by solar activity. Increasing numbers of data centers are going to extreme measures to protect their facilities from solar flares, solar energetic particles and Coronal Mass Ejections – collectively referred to as “space weather”.

The sun regularly ejects plasma and other charged material into the heliosphere during solar storms. If these solar particles are released in Earth’s direction they can trigger global changes in the planet’s magnetic field, which “explosively releases” this electromagnetic energy towards the surface of the Earth (Royal Academy of Engineering 2013:19). This energy can induce high-voltage currents in conducting material such as wires and electronic circuits, short-circuiting or even melting electromechanical components. ...

The disruptive and destructive effects of space weather upon terrestrial technological systems was first encountered in 1859 when English astronomer Richard Carrington (1826-1875) witnessed a large white flare erupt from the sun on 1 September. 17.6 hours later, the largest geomagnetic storm in recorded history occurred. This solar storm wreaked havoc on the electrical telegraph system, disrupting signals and sending power surges through the wires that overloaded currents and sent out sparks, causing fires in telegraph stations and giving operators electric shocks. This extreme space weather event came to be known as The Carrington Event.

This solar storm figures prominently in contemporary imaginaries of the solar threat. The Cabinet Office’s (2014) Space Weather Preparedness Strategy, the White House’s (2015) National Space Weather Action Plan and National Space Weather Strategy and the European Commission’s (2016) policy paper on Space Weather and Critical Infrastructures, all aim to raise awareness of the “high consequence” effects a Carrington-level event would have upon contemporary technological systems and infrastructures....

To fully solar-proof and EMP-proof a data center, facility operators must isolate and harden virtually every cable and piece of equipment entering and exiting the building. Undertaking these rigorous structural adjustments, along with the necessary testing and certification procedures, is a long, arduous and extremely expensive process which involves, among other things: sealing off all ports, vents and piping; fitting specialized filters designed to withstand the rapid voltage spikes of an electromagnetic pulse or geomagnetically induced current (GIC); installing reinforced surge protectors; shielding data servers in metal enclosures; and monitoring space weather forecasting systems. In this way, the electromagnetic and geomagnetic effects of space weather are increasingly being factored into the design and construction of data centers across the globe....

In the effort to protect against solar attacks and promote their secure services, then, space weather-proof data centres don’t just provide potential clients with a solution to a problem, but perform considerable work in persuading people that there is a problem and that this problem can be mitigated by storing data in their ultra-secure facilities....

While defending against the traditional cyberattack remains a high priority, the rise of security frameworks based around logics of resilience and preparedness are bringing a new spectrum of “low probability, high consequence” threats into the purview of data center security (Collier and Lakoff 2015:22). At the same time, these planetary-scale existential risks are presenting new commercial opportunities. In order to address how these rationalities – and the energies and agencies of the astrophysical universe – are drawn into the making of markets, we might do well to pay attention to the mythocosmological dynamics that shape and underlie the work that goes into imagining, constructing and selling solar-resilient infrastructures...

these sociocelestial imaginaries betray a distinctly techno-capitalist fantasy of a world dependent upon, dominated and defined by data and digital technology – a world in which life, data and technology have become indiscernible and interdependent to the extent that the failure of the technical apparatus of the digital economy is mythologized as the ‘end of the world’.
infrastructure  apocalypse  preservation  astronomy  data_centers 
15 days ago
Experience the songlines of Uluṟu with Google Maps Street View and Story Spheres
For Aṉangu, the land carries sacred “songlines”—creation stories about the journeys, battles and adventures of their ancestral beings....

All aspects of Aṉangu life are governed by Tjukurpa, the knowledge which guides relationships, values and behavior. At the core of Tjukurpa law is a deep respect for the land. Aṉangu believe that if they look after the land, it will look after them. These teachings are passed down from generation to generation through stories, songs and inma (ceremony)....

Over the past two years, we collaborated with Aṉangu Traditional Owners of Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, Parks Australia and the Northern Territory Government to capture the park for Street View according to Tjukurpa law. ..

For Aṉangu, there is no distinction between the physical and metaphysical, or the animate and inanimate. People, earth, plants and animals are inextricably connected. This means that Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park could never be truly represented or understood (virtually or otherwise) without the presence and voices of its people.

We knew we had to bring these cultural and spiritual dimensions to the Street View experience. So we used the Story Spheres platform to add immersive audio stories and songs of Aṉangu traditional owners to the 360° Street View imagery. ...

Because Tjukurpa teachings are traditionally handed down through an ancient oral tradition, Aṉangu stories, songs and ceremonies are largely unrecorded. The generosity of traditional owners has made a rare and revered piece of culture available to, and archived for, the world.
mapping  songlines  indigenous  cartography 
15 days ago
Shanzhai Archeology: defying our standardized technological imagination – We Make Money Not Art
Over the past couple of years, Maria Roszkowska, Clément Renaud and Nicolas Maigret from DISNOVATION.ORG have been quietly smuggling odd-looking phones from China to Europe. They’ve got a phone that doubles up as a stun gun, one that’s shaped like a big strawberry, one you can use to light up your cigarette, one that will assist you in your religious rituals, etc.

These bizarre devices belong to the shanzhai production. They are counterfeit consumer goods, sold at lower prices and boasting multifunctional performances....

For the Shanzhai Archeology research, we identified a series of phones manufactured in Shenzhen. Each of them combines several functions. They are hybrid objects that reflect very specific uses and are accompanied by stories and narratives.

The Buddha Phone is presented like a “virtual prayer room” – it is equipped with a touch that loads a kind of private, virtual and customizable altar. It is supposed to help Buddhists perform their rituals when they are away from home. You can simulate the burning of incense, replicate purification rites or play music to help you meditate wherever you are...

And finally what made Shenzhen such a relevant city to investigate for the project?
It is the geographical area where most of the world electronics are produced and assembled.

We focused on the “phone” object as it plays a key role in the larger history of technological hybridization. More precisely, in the history of technological production that defies Western norms and standards. This project is an entry point to other technological imaginations, miles away from the black tactile rectangle (which has become the representation by default of the mobile phone).
materiality  material_media  manufacturing  China  intellectual_property  globalization  innovation 
15 days ago
Libraries — Thibaud Poirier
“Reading is solitude,” Italo Calvino once said, embodying the inspiration behind this series. These temples of cultural worship gather communities, and yet the literary experience, and therefore the experience of a library, remains solitary. Giving groups of scholars and peers glimpses into the past, present and future of humanity, literature offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore one's self from within through the unique internal narrative that each reader develops. It is this internal narrative that forms us when we are young, matures with us, and grows when we feed it. It was the first means of travel offered to many and continues to be the most accessible form of escape for millions of people seeking knowledge, the world, themselves. It is with an eye towards this improbable bled of public space and private experience that Poirier displays some of the finest libraries, both classical and modern, across Europe.  

Poirier's perspective pays homage to the personal touches and interpretations of literature that these architects brought to each library. Like fingerprints, each architect crafted his vision for a new space for this sacred self-exploration. These seemingly minute details are everywhere, from the balance of natural and artificial light to optimise reading yet preserve ancient texts to the selective use of studying tables to either foster community or encourage lonely reflection. The selection of these libraries that span space, time, style and cultures were carefully selected for each one's unique ambiance and architectural contribution. This is reflected in Poirier's tasteful use of symmetry to highlight classical values of beauty, and the strong visual interpretation of the solitude that one feels when immersed in reading. 
libraries  architecture  photography 
15 days ago
Maps can help solve border disputes as well as exacerbate them - Google Earth Blog
A recent story in the news says that Pakistan and Afghanistan will be using Google Maps to help resolve border disputes between them. Hopefully they will not require recent satellite imagery for the exercise as Afghanistan has not had any updates in recent years due to censorship. It is also far from clear from the new sources, how an agreement will be reached. In the days of satellite imagery you can very easily see where a village is, but deciding which country it belongs to is not a mapping problem but a political one.
mapping  cartography  borders 
15 days ago
The Cooking Library - News - Domus
The Cooking Library in Seoul is a five-storey space for Hyunday Card (HC) that celebrates and brings to life the joys of cooking. It has been recently completed by London-based food and beverage design studio, Blacksheep.

The Library has been developed through five floors with the aim to take the visitor into a journey through the stimulation of the senses, by scent, sound and sight. The new building offers a deli, a shop, a bakery and café, a library, an “ingredients house”, a kitchen for cooking classes, a “recipe room”, a greenhouse and a basement that hosts a professional kitchen. The Cooking Library is part of a series of four inspirational libraries conceived by HC, designed to provide an ‘analogue’ antidote to the fast pace of city life in the digital age and to stimulate meaningful and inspiring experiences in everyday life. Each of the Libraries touches the realms of travel, music, design and cooking; the last library in the series....

The first floor also houses the Ingredients House a dramatic display of hundreds of ingredients from around the world including rice bran oil, annatto and myrtle. It is a curated and insightful display system that celebrates crafted luxury and encourages visitors to explore the archive and experiment with its ingredients. The Kitchen on level three is where the concept of cooking comes to life, celebrating human involvement in the cooking experience and embracing domestic approaches to the culinary arts. Adjacent to the Kitchen, an architectural, glass-framed canopy creates The Greenhouse, conceived as an outdoor/indoor dining environment. Lastly the kitchen space on the basement floor is an inspiring pantry of abundance, offering insight into a working kitchen.
libraries  cooking  food 
15 days ago
Tambour Portable Writing Desks | Collectors Weekly
This article describes portable writing desks, from their materials to their design, and notes their history and their uses. It originally appeared in the May 1943 issue of American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.

During the latter half of the 17th Century and the whole of the 18th, a period often referred to as the golden age of letter writing and diary keeping, penmanship reached a perfection never before nor since surpassed. Letters in longhand, written on handmade paper with quill pens, travelled back and forth across the continent, the British Isles, and to and from the American colonies in ever increasing numbers.


Lady's Mahogany Tambour Ink Stand: While this one has no inlay, others of the same general design were richly decorated with delicate inlay on the drawer fronts and were bound with brass. Sometimes they had brass feet and others also brass fretwork around the edges of the top.

To accommodate this great volume of writing it was necessary that new pieces of furniture come into existence or that old ones be adapted for the purpose. Bible boxes, about which much has been written, came to be used not only for storing the family Bible but also for holding implements of writing and as a solid rest upon which to write firmly and legibly. Many of these boxes were provided with slant top lids and some were even placed upon stands.
intellectual_furnishings  writing  desks  portable 
15 days ago
Interview with a Photocopier | Datacide
This is one of the distinctive aesthetic openings of the copier. For instance, the way it creates an edge to a shape. It’s never a straight line, every edge reflects in detail the magnetic waves, their interaction with the shape and disposition of the toner particles. The particles of toner themselves are also designed specifically for every copier, the temperatures it uses, the spaces between components.
So this edge, its like some coastline, wrinkled, poking fingers out over its edge. Mark Pawson photocopied these edges, over and over. They split up, broke off from the solid they clung to, span, became islands, grew. With every enlargement they mutated like an evolutionary cycle. This was an artificial life game performed under conditions supplied by the material qualities of the copier. Patches of breeding carbon hooked into an escalating and unpredictable cycle of blobbing and splitting. There’s no bit-mapping, because every point – which is never a point, because it’s never in relation to a gridding – is the absolute size of a particle of the mildly carcenogenic dust ate up and baked on inside the copier.
You look at especially older photocopies and you can see the toner mounded up in pocks and ridges away from the paper. Or some work where the sheet is repeatedly fed through the process, layers like pastry. In ‘John and Other Storys’ and elsewhere, the nine archive of photocopied pages, Graham Harwood used the photocopier’s way of finding an edge to set up patterns. Chester Carlson used repetition to create an opening in the use of his time by the bureaucracy, and also to create an escape-chute in the golden time of the great inventor. There’s an exit route too into the purple velvet lounging garments, luxe cheroots and cold flats to be found in art, that’s Harwood. But the repetition. Take an icon, Winston Churchill, a label off a can of baked beans, some Neue Sachlichkeit muscle-boy flexing on a spanner, a hand up against the platen, pores turned into deep pits of black, bleaches and blotches making up a limb, three-dimensions to a depth of focus of five mill then flattened out flat. Take it, repeat it. Find the edge of the thing. Cut out with scissors, do the same again. Put them in rows, rotate around an axis. Find a space and fill it with miniaturising recursions of the same image until the picture clots together so much that it gets back to blobness.
media_archaeology  photocopiers  copying 
17 days ago
The Crisis in Conservation: Istanbul's Gezi Park between Restoration and Resistance | Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
Among the urban revolts that arose in 2010–13, the Gezi Park protests in Turkey present a particular challenge to architectural history and conservation.1 In the case of the Turkish protests, the central issues were control over a symbolically important public urban space, Gezi Park in Istanbul's Taksim Square, and the power to shape architectural heritage and public memory. Two visions of architectural heritage clashed in Taksim: on one hand, the government's proposed “restoration” of a demolished Ottoman building, which would have both reified a neo-Ottoman political identity and served as a glittering shopping mall; and on the other, the desire of a broad coalition of citizens and civic organizations to conserve an urban public park and its five hundred plane trees. When public revulsion against police violence transformed Gezi in June 2013 with massive demonstrations and millions in seventy-nine cities across Turkey joined in protest, the Gezi Resistance evolved from a rejection of the government's authoritarian vision for heritage restoration and urban renovation into a rejection of the governing bloc's cultural hegemony generally.

It is worth recounting the crisis in conservation in Istanbul's Taksim Square and the culture wars in the years leading up to the Gezi events, a troubled triangle of public architectural heritage, government plans, and civil resistance. In the aftermath of the Gezi events, and of 15 July 2016, when progovernment citizens took to the streets to thwart a military coup, we are left with sobering questions. What are the limits of public participation in architectural conservation and urban historic preservation? Can a coalition of citizens and civic organizations preserve and sustain public architectural heritage against the will of the government, in defiance of the prerogative of its bureaucracy, and brave the violence visited upon the people by the state's police? What happens when the fate …
public_space  turkey  media_architecture  preservation  authoritarianism 
17 days ago
Open Stacks: Making DH Labor Visible ← dh+lib
In this post, I would like to “browse” the DH stack through three different frames: first, the technology stack of globalized computing; second, the social stack that manifests as institutional infrastructure; and finally, the physical library stacks that are a synecdoche for the information architecture that arranges scholarship. I’m curious to explore what these three frames–technological, social, and physical–could offer in terms of different ways to understand and reveal DH labor in the academy. My thoughts here build upon both Shannon Mattern’s idea of library as infrastructure and David Weinberger’s idea of library as platform. Rather than thinking of the library itself as an infrastructure, platform, or stack, I would like to consider what–and who–these concepts hide. As I’ve observed elsewhere, the people who “hack” and “yack” can’t work without the people in the “stack” (or without the people in the library stacks). At a time of political crisis, when the core values of libraries and access to knowledge are being challenged, we need to take responsibility for showing what we do....

Word processing, library automation, and widespread digitization are just three examples of the support labor for traditional scholarly work that Bratton’s globalized technology Stack has absorbed. (And we know that the fruits of that labor are in no way distributed equitably.) ...

When infrastructure is understood as an irrational social formation, emotional labor tends to compensate for a perceived lack of resources. Scholars who are used to the invisibility of traditional library services, for instance, find that digital projects expose hierarchies and bureaucracies that they don’t want to negotiate or even think about, and the DH librarian or one of her colleagues steps in to run interference...

Where are the stacks for a digital project? What does the architecture of the physical stacks — the core collections–suggest about how we might arrange (or derange) our digital scholarship? While libraries might be the organizations on campus best suited to arrange, acquire, and preserve digital scholarship, not all scholars think so, if repository participation rates are any evidence (and they might not be). Scholars may be extrapolating from their experiences with commercial ebook and journal publishers, and we can’t blame them for some apprehension. If publishers can revoke access to digital material at any time, libraries must resist to insure the free exchange of information, and advocate for alternative scholarly economies. As Pyne discusses, digital rights management is the new “chain” that secures books to shelves; unlike the chains that bound medieval codices, “digital chains are just more difficult to see.”
archives  labor  libraries  stack  my_work  digital_rights  infrastructure 
17 days ago
Hello, World! · Handmade Computers
I started in 2011 with the lofty goal of building a computer from scratch. Along the way I learned a lot about how computers work and a little about how humans do too.

Over the next 7 chapters I’d like to share my experiences, learning about the fundamentals of electricity and computation by playing with circuits, making mistakes, and finding a story that’s kept me going....

In the built environment there are also physical loops, infrastructures that move objects and information. At every level of urbanization, from city center to the most remote areas, space is connected through human-scale circuits. From shipping routes to telecommunication networks, the city breathes through these loops, circulating the people, material, and information that bring it to life.

Cities are made by executing urban programs. In her essay An Internet of Things,8 Keller Easterling argues that “activity in a spatial environment is not reliant on the digital environment. It may be enhanced by a code/text-based software, but a spatial software or protocol can be any platform that establishes variables for space as information.” The exchange of culture that flows through a city’s architecture and transportation is the software of contemporary space making. So…

Are cities computers for humans?

While the binary computer executes programs with precision, cities are most often unpredictable, even unquantifiable. I’m reminded of Jacques Tati’s film Playtime, where the choreography of urban life unfolds as programmed chaos and serendipity. If cities are computers for humans, they run buggy software and often fail to compile.

Shannon Mattern critiques notions of the “smart city” that conflate data with memory, and decision with execution. Instead of reducing the city to a computer, she challenges us to “recognize spatial intelligence as sensory and experiential; that consider other species’ ways of knowing; that appreciate the wisdom of local crowds and communities; that acknowledge the information embedded in the city’s facades, flora, statuary, and stairways; that aim to integrate forms of distributed cognition paralleling our brains’ own distributed cognitive processes.”9


Perhaps some qualities of cities are uncomputable, like the unpredictability of the environment or the ungraspable nature of the human mind.
computers  computing_history  materiality  my_work 
17 days ago
10 Challenges for Scholars Writing for Wider Audiences
Scholars often cannot answer the question “So what?” about their own work. And yet a fundamental principle of scholarly work is that it matters in the world. Scholars have a difficult time connecting their work with that world, in showing people why they should care. ...

Passion and generosity are missing from scholarship. One editor we talked to quipped, “Academics are told to smother passion in return for tenure.” But in the crossover and trade-magazine publishing worlds, writing must help readers, not just the writer...

Scholars don’t know what a “market” is, even when they write for a specific scholarly audience. The process of evaluating a work for whom it might reach and why is simply foreign to scholars -- especially humanists. Almost all book proposals include a section on the book’s supposed audience, but it typically gets filled with celebrations of a project’s “uniqueness.” Uniqueness is not necessarily a virtue. Work needs to reach people who have previously been reached by other, similar work. Academics can benefit from thinking of their work as having a market and considering how comparable titles have fared in the marketplace of ideas and books...

Editorial oversight is profoundly missing from scholarship. Not just copyediting, but framing and structure at a high level and line editing at a low level. Many scholars have never encountered this type of editorial effort. Working with professional editors will improve the quality of writing, examples, argumentation, flow, pacing and phrasing. Often this means knowing when and how to cut extraneous material or verbiage
publishing  public_scholarship  academia 
17 days ago
Cosmic Catwalk and the Production of Time - Journal #82 May 2017 - e-flux
As for Benjamin’s angel: I think that the storm is no longer coming from the past. Today the storm is blowing from a future that has been depleted of resources and hope and it is driving people back into the past. People are driven towards the womb—or their assumed origins—not the grave. All these old people trying to look young and jaded are a sign that the storm is blowing from collapsing futures towards a fragmented past..,.

this is neither pro-death nor anti-death. It shows the different functions of death in material economies. But the return of these discussions—which originally culminated around the time of European fascism—not only comes at a time when fascist forces are winning out once more, but is also accompanied by many of the aesthetic/artistic concerns of that time, especially a resurgence of surrealist and animist tendencies. The digital surrealism of recent years (“data as dada”) is just one very scattered example. We can add to this a new emphasis on ritual, sorcery, transgression, and meme magic. In a way, a lot of the ingredients of 1930s surrealism are present once again in the cultural debate; historically, we know that some surrealists went towards supporting communism and others towards supporting fascism, and others again went to the library. This is happening today as we speak within contemporary forms of surrealism, where a similar fracturing is starting to happen. Ten percent of post-internet artists go bro fascist, another ten percent go “nouvelle gauche” (left identitarian ethnoculturalist), twenty percent go communist, and the rest go into ceramics, fermentation, and art fairs....

And just as we see everything changing, fascism too is undergoing major mutations. One of the most important—besides its traditional infatuation with death—is its creation of updated fascist versions of the life sciences and also of digital communication. We can observe an impoverished form of the noosphere in social media, whose fascist potentials are rapidly being expanded: divisiveness, fragmentation, the exploitation of affect, etc. This is definitely not to say that it is not necessary to keep striving for different forms of mediated consciousness, but only that this is just another arena where the fight against fascism needs to take place....

Speaking of the biosphere—and changing topics—there is an example that keeps fascinating me: Steve Bannon actually managed the Biosphere 2 experiment for a while. People were locked into a greenhouse sphere and had to be completely self-sustaining, including the production of food and atmosphere. It was an oligarch-funded experiment, a test for space colonization. Could they produce oxygen? Sustenance? Social bonds? The answer is that it all failed and that cockroaches and ants were the species that turned out to be best adapted to the oligarch space colony....

The question of superintelligence is interesting. I think the singularity people and various post-humanists are very concerned with this. They are also obsessed with transferring human consciousness into computers and resurrecting the dead through the use of something like interpellation algorithms, etc. But this may be on the wrong track because many of these ideas are based on thinking about intelligence, consciousness, memory, and thought, as immaterial phenomena that can be programmed into various types of hardware, like the religious idea that there is a material body and an immaterial soul that can exist separately of the body, enter other things, and so forth....

and I would not worry so much about bringing back people with “ancient” thinking. It seems discriminatory and presumptuous to think that we are now or will be in the future smarter than Socrates or Aristotle and so many others … but separate museum planets are a must!...

The other interesting detail is that Big Brother, arguably the first reality TV show, was based on Biosphere 2 (which already had a large entertainment component, including live broadcasts and The Theatre of all Possibilities, from which crew members were drawn, etc.). Probably one could say that a lot of contemporary politics is modeled on similar aesthetic forms, starting from Berlusconi’s emergence out of trash TV. Certainly Trump is nothing without Celebrity Apprentice. So this was basically bred in the Biosphere as an unforeseen side effect in the wider noosphere. Even if the sphere would have been perfectly sealed, this effect would still have escaped. One wonders what kind of “thing” will “escape” from AI labs, and which unforeseen side effects this will have on the cosmosphere....

In the last few days I was reminded of Gayatri Spivak’s idea of “strategic essentialism.” This is about a tactical politics of identity for oppressed people in a colonial or postcolonial context, sort of like an identity politics in brackets. Now, in many places the brackets have come off and minority identity politics have been appropriated by reactionaries of different kinds in the form of men’s rights, white separatism, and extreme religion. All of these groups pretend to be oppressed minorities in a takeover of 1980s leftist identity politics. So, while in the ’80s “strategic essentialism” may have been a progressive strategy for some (or not), now it definitely isn’t.
death  magic  artificial_intelligence  surrealism  fascism  survivalism 
18 days ago
On Ketamine and Added Value - Journal #82 May 2017 - e-flux
a trend-forecasting group named K-HOLE. Relational aesthetics began to look a lot more like aspirational aesthetics, through the aestheticization of trolling, waste, usage, consumption, and the role played by “artist as consumer.”

To some, art is also an excuse to do things poorly. If an experiment fails, calling the process and its ruins “art” becomes a contingency plan. If an experiment in a structure traditionally considered as being outside of the boundaries of art succeeds, as functional business enterprises in entertainment, tech, food, or fashion, or the murkier realms of logistics or import/export operations, it is acceptable for the experiment to exist as the thing itself. In the case of the failed, or dis-functional, commercial venture as art, the failure can be understood as performed criticality; it reveals delineations otherwise invisible and shows how the mechanisms of commerce function behind the curtain....

There is an ever-expanding gray zone where groups and projects seek to operate as commercial ventures outside the art world proper while retaining the cultural context from which they came. Cynicism reads this retention purely as cultural capital instrumentalized towards individual ends. Generosity counters that these artists seek to support their community through heightened collective visibility and towards collective ends. ...

This can be seen in the emerging model of pop-up shop as group exhibition, or the recent inclusion in biennial exhibitions of fashion labels that do not self-identify their brands or businesses as expanded art practices. These groups are faced with split identities: they are seen by the IRS as small-business owners and operate as such, while also being seen as producers of culture through commercially sold commodities—differentiated from “art objects.”...

Many of these practices retain their position within the art community by operating under a FUBU ethos (For Us By Us), wherein a brand produces specifically for, and for the benefit of, a community of peers, with the aim of providing financial capital, visibility, and broader legitimacy for the group. But within the context of art, these commodities transform viewers into direct consumers. The shirt, the jam, and the vodka function simultaneously as signifiers of taste and signifiers of belonging. While they might not get you thinking about objecthood and phenomenology, they will get you thinking about community and identity...

In 2010, shortly after leaving school, four friends and I self-identified as cultural strategists and created a trend-forecasting group named K-HOLE. “Cultural strategists” seemed broad enough to encompass all of our practices (artist, writer, musician, filmmaker) and whatever else we might eventually mutate into, while internalizing how brands and agencies were likely to perceive our position as twentysomethings in New York City. A K-hole is what happens when you take too much ketamine, a veterinarian tranquilizer and party drug popular before our time in the ’90s. Ketamine provides the sensation of having an externalized view of your body and situation. ...

rather than perform “artists as trend forecasters,” we produced trend reports like those that are sold via subscription for tens of thousands of dollars to corporate clients and advertising agencies. We created the publications in a form we thought would circulate as freely and fluidly as possible—PDF. Unable, perhaps, to fully shed our training in market confrontation and antagonism, we saw the fact that our report was free as an affront to the traditional trend-forecasting model of groups such as WGSN, Stylus, or the Future Laboratory. What we didn’t realize was that the worlds of branding and advertising already had a word for this sort of antagonism: “loss leader.” A loss leader is a product exchanged at a loss to attract customers for the future. ...

We issued our own because we wanted our community of peers to be aware of the strategies that were being used on them as consumers, and that they were parroting back in their own artistic and creative practices. Trend forecasting is a form of armchair sociology that identifies how consumers respond to global sociopolitical and environmental change through pattern recognition. Trends are less about seasonal colors, and more about consumers’ crisis response. Our thought was that the more people are aware of these strategies, the more they can develop tactics based on those strategies and use them towards their own ends, whether in their studio practice or in their plan for survival on Earth....

But as with all well-compensated prophecy, trend forecasting isn’t about seeing the future, not really; it’s about identifying collective anxieties about the future operating in the present. ...

We saw ourselves as living in Mass Indie times, with “Brooklyn” being arguably one of America’s largest cultural exports. The endless list of signifiers pointing to unique individuation leads to isolation, and when no one gets your references, you’re left alone and lonely. Instead of community building, the compulsion of individuation leads to “some Tower of Babel shit,” where “you’ve been working so hard at being precise that the micro-logic of your decisions is only apparent to an ever-narrowing circle of friends.” We termed this approach “Normcore,” which resonated with people experiencing signifier overload and the pressure to be unique. Where our hypothesis was off was that this trend was less a response to fear of isolation and lack of community, and more about exhaustion. ...

we were the tactics: we were invited into the room so that strategists, creative directors, and work-for-hire creative agencies could signify to their C-suite executives and clients that the brand was engaging in radical strategery. They brought us in to provide cultural credibility, not to actually implement our work. ...

It became clear that what constituted trend forecasting “in itself” in the case of K-HOLE was the collective work of immaterial, unlocatable, affective, and knowledge labor. That, and the effusive, intangible, shape-shifting, and value-adding fog of branding....

We were court jesters, hired to tell creative directors and executives about their follies. They were the masochistic kings paying to hear how their messy and often violent business of accumulation disgusted us. But, like the dominatrix or jester, we were still contract workers. ..

The office is not a site of artistic production for me, and in this sense I am not wearing Certeau’s wig as a diversionary tactic. The erasure of complexity in both thought and representation that I witness in my hired work has made me more idealistic about art as a space with the potential to embrace complexity, and to counter the on-demand speed mandated by our culture at large. It has allowed me to distinguish the making of art and a community of artists from the art market....

The mixing of “high and low” points both to self-awareness and being in the know. Lux T-shirts with licensed DSL logos, fashion presentations taking place in White Castle, Pop Rocks on your dessert at Mission Chinese.2 This sincerity has taken precedence over critique or resistance. Somewhere along the line it became acceptable to be authentic, earnest, honest, and sincere, even if the object of this sincerity is a complete celebration of consumerism. The primacy of affect over rational thought has, in large part, led us to our current state of political affairs far beyond the realm of art. Subjective emotional truths are being taken as objective rationality-driven realities....

This brand inclusive art is user generated content. It is not even sponsored content, in which the artist would be paid for posting images of the brand to social media, or paid to incorporate the brand into the artwork itself. Any critique is sublimated, and the artist, like Leslie in season 19 of South Park, doesn’t even know she’s an ad.....

it becomes a question of scale, of knowing one’s own insignificance and finding a form of resistance that doesn’t start to feel like reactionary consumerism. One form of resistance is to go dark, to stop making artwork that can in any way be represented on the platforms that facilitate these forms of recuperation. But even if you as an artist don’t post images of your work on social media, other people might. ... You could embrace chaos and illegibility, creating visual or written work that is non-instrumentalizable, but legible across many parts over a longer period of time. This might mean making work that operates at a different tempo than that of branding and social media, work that occupies multiple sites and forms, work that fights for the complexity of identity (as artist or otherwise) and form, and believes in a creaturely capacity for patience with a maximum dedication to understanding.
art  capitalism  resistance  detournement  branding  strategy  consulting 
18 days ago
Fog or Smoke? Colonial Blindness and the Closure of Representation - Journal #82 May 2017 - e-flux
The modern worlding of the world —which includes the production of objective reality by experimental science, knowledge, and design—coincides with the ruthless elimination and instrumentalizaton of certain creatures by others. This blind spot is the “habit” of coloniality. Habit, according to Elaine Scarry, either closes down sensation entirely or builds up perception as its own interior. Habit creates sentience either by opening or closing the world.3 The habit of coloniality is ingrained in the Western unconscious, predicating universality, progress, betterment, and growth on the eradication of alterity. This is the condition of modernity itself, even as it furnishes the resources for a critique of such systemic destruction....

In Mexico and Latin America, the ordeals of indigenous peoples are known as “environmental conflicts.” Their source is the neoliberal strategy of expropriating “natural resources,” or rather, “the commons.” This strategy has been implemented through the introduction of industrialized agriculture, a system that excludes small producers and destroys sustainability. Such extraction and exploitation of the commons is evident, for example, in mining concessions and in the construction of infrastructure projects like highways, ports, tourist enclaves, trash dumps, and dams designed to centralize energy in big cities and to connect territories rich in “resources” and “cheap labor” to the flows of global exchange. In the past fifteen years alone, the Mexican government has granted twenty-four thousand concessions for open-pit mining. ..

To block these neoliberal processes of capital accumulation, new forms of resistance are emerging. These seek access to and control of the means of subsistence (like land and seeds), and are accompanied by new forms of communal recomposition. Mina Lorena Navarro explains these efforts to defend territory across Latin America as a new sensibility of peoples and their environment, and as the actualization of “non-predatory” lifeworlds against capitalist and extractivist relationships....

These forms of political subjectivation stand in direct opposition to capitalism. Still, they remain other, either because the habit of coloniality perceives them as non-modern, as stubborn remnants of a residual world, or—in what is the opposite valence of the same judgement—because they are romanticized and identified with the “noble savage” by way of this same projection of “prior-ness.” From the romantic point of view, indigenous struggles are regarded as “a road to the future” because, in fighting corporate-led environmental catastrophe, indigenous people are fighting on behalf of all of us.... But this picture of originary peoples helping to “save the future” and shape new forms of worldly cohabitation is highly problematic. Part of the problem is that “environmental justice” struggles remain localized and culturally specific.
indigenous  colonialism  extraction  worlding 
18 days ago
Avant-Garde Cookbooks – Eat Your Sidewalk
foraging for + preparing and eating food was and is our primary form of moving and hence a key developer of many of our most general conceptual frameworks. Thus recipes (especially informal ones) are a key, and unrecognized way of reshaping our thinking. They are the ways in which we record techniques of organizing and reorganizing our everyday modes of being-of-a-world. Recipes: a choreographic suggestion to move, feel , engage and eventually think otherwise. Recipes: experimental philosophy and ecology + embodied political speculation?...,

Recipes are an incomplete glimpse into the continuous collective making of our existing cosmologies....

collected over 3000 recipes from these historical micro-local cookbooks in the pacific Northwest dating from 1885 to 2007 to track the ecological ups and downs of abundance and human fishing practices over the last century (I would give a kidney to see their cookbook collection). Ted Ames, a fisherman up in Maine, and occasional collaborator, won a MacArthur Fellowship for his research based on the everyday stories, recipes and knowledge of local generations of fishermen. With this informal information he was better able to show what historical and contemporary marine ecosystems looked like as opposed to the poor models derived via modern marine sampling techniques.  The micro-regional charity cookbook genre offers a way to see in a much less edited manner what we are up to in our homes, cosmologies and local biomes. For us, these books allow us to meet a recipe without any commentary, and by extension a cosmology that often we do not understand....

the world of ever more complex and complete recipes such as those catalogued in cookbooks like Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine. In these recipes striving to give a complete accounting of how to make a dish they miss the worldmaking and cosmological aspect of cooking.
cookbooks  recipes  textual_form  instructions 
18 days ago
SPURSE » Avant-Garde Cookbooks
community charity cookbooks. You know these, they are usually cheaply printed, often photocopied or bound with a 3-ring binder. They are in the cookbook world at the equivalent distance that is between the church bake sale and Alinea in the restaurant world. They rarely sell and never get any recognition. SPURSE, having over the years done a number of restaurants and researched regional foodways, has amassed a collection...

A quality that I so love in these recipes is that they offer only the most general of an outline of how you should go about making the recipe. There is no attempt to spell out every detail — or even any detail. I don’t think that this is a form of laziness, lack of knowledge or arrogance, it is, I think, the outcome of a profound realization that no recipe can ever offer enough. You need to enter the total complex of practices, the totality of “how.”...

What is being suggested in the Soured Seal Liver recipe? I think it is the seemingly simplest things that matter the most. It is a recipe, like so many in this cookbook where nothing is cooked – by this I mean nothing is transformed using heat. We, in the west, use heat as the primary recipe to produce ourselves as “civilized” aka “not wild”. Heat is what imagine separates us from “the animals.” (We wrote another blog about this and Michael Pollan). So here is a recipe that does not shape us as separate from other creatures. The categories, the cosmology is different. Making a recipe for uncooked “spoiled” raw seal liver will do that to you. ...

Agnes Kiyutelluk’s simple recipe suggests to us something missed by the world of ever more complex and complete recipes such as those catalogued in cookbooks like Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine. In these recipes striving to give a complete accounting of how to make a dish they miss the worldmaking and cosmological aspect of cooking. I suspect that Nathan Myhrvold would be delighted by the novelty of a new process and ingredients but be world-blind to the power of Soured Seal Liver.
recipes  cookbook  textual_form 
18 days ago
The Future of Mapping: An Interview with Clement Valla | Art21 Magazine
“Nothing draws more attention to the temporality of these images than the simple observation that the clouds are disappearing from Google Earth. After all, clouds obscure the surface of the planet so photos with no clouds are privileged. The Universal Texture and its attendant database algorithms are trained on a few basic qualitative traits—no clouds, high contrast, shallow depth, daylight photos.” (Clement Valla, “The Universal Texture,” Rhizome, July 31, 2012.)...

I’m assuming the maps will tend towards the colorful antiseptic: just enough flavor to seem wonderful but no real representation of poverty, war, ecological catastrophe, inequality, or anything no one wants to talk about while shopping for the perfect screen-cleaning solution or trying to get from highly ranked point A to highly starred point B....

The one place I see much of this going is the increasing integration of geographic data, and geo-location functions within the other services of these tech companies, like self-driving cars, mobile platforms, invasive eyewear, and so on. The financial incentive for all this will probably still be based on advertising and monetizing our attention, using the very data we generate while using these services—so, kind of, an infernal loop. Geographic data is just another part of the metadata that we will generate for free to get to use some nifty new techno-thingy, and that will be aggregated, mined, and sold.

My sense is that the big mapping battle between Nokia, Google, Apple, and Microsoft has a lot to do with owning the infrastructure that will collect the most metadata from our devices and cars. I could be wrong, but I almost think the self-driving car is the logical solution to the Streetview car problem: How do we get more Streetview cars? How do we update the map more frequently? How do we know where everyone is on the map? Well, why don’t we stick everyone in a Google car?...

Until people realize their data has actual value and are unwilling to give it up for so-called free services but rather direct their data consciously and politically, it will be increasingly hard for open-source projects that rely on large data sets to compete. Furthermore, the only options seem to be either corporate or open-source, whereas traditional big data and mapping had been the province of governments. Open-source tools could work out extremely well using open, taxpayer-funded, government-produced data. But the scales seem to be tipping in favor of privatized, ad-funded data instead.
cartography  mapping  algorithms  map_art  google  open_street_maps  data_privacy  remote_sensing 
18 days ago
Bureaucracy
Bureaucracy is an ongoing participatory performance project that challenges the audience to consider their relationship to bureaucratic systems by engaging with a constructed bureaucratic apparatus. The performance of Bureaucracy has previously manifested itself as a series of public performances in art galleries, festivals, and as a pop-up in public spaces. It is also manifested through email and physical correspondence that engages participants outside of the actual performances.

Participants in Bureaucracy are required to fully and correctly complete, and then submit for scrutiny, a series of forms in order to become full participants in the performance. By enacting and reenacting essential bureaucratic functions within a bureaucratic apparatus, participants experience a real bureaucratic environment and enact the notional bureaucracy of their imaginations. In doing so, they experience a range of stimuli, emotions and responses that allow a critical consideration of bureaucracies and their role in society.
bureaucracy  paperwork  waiting 
19 days ago
The 'Smart City' Kit That Anyone Can Use - CityLab
But what if citizens themselves could harness the smart city’s sensors and gather their own data, using it to reshape the urban environment in a way that better meets their needs? That’s the intriguing question behind Sensors in a Shoebox, a project to put compact kits of sensors in the hands of Detroit teenagers. Funded by grants from the Knight Cities Challenge and National Science Foundation, it’s a bottom-up approach to urban technology that aims to empower the community, rather than the technocrats. The aim: Help citizens ask questions about their neighborhoods and come up with their own solutions....

The solution Flanigan came up with was a cellular modem, which allows the node to send data directly to the cloud. The modem also has the advantage of requiring less power—a solar panel the size of an LP record sleeve is plenty. Flanigan designed each node to accommodate four sensors, and users can choose from an assortment that includes a thermometer, a humidity sensor, an accelerometer, sensors for particulate matter or ozone to indicate air pollution, or an infrared sensor that can spot humans or animals....

As Flanigan hustles to finish building sensor kits in time for a planned deployment in early June, Jocylen Fox, development services coordinator at the non-profit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, is looking forward to seeing the students’ data. The conservancy is trying to figure out how people are using three-and-a-half miles of parkland and trails along the Detroit River, much of which was until recently surface parking, abandoned piers, and vacant lots. But currently available sensor technology was prohibitively expensive for such a large area; without this project, the conservancy wouldn’t have been able to capture enough data....

“The real goal of this project is to engage young people in identifying problems in their community and learning to do scientific research to work on solutions,” says Elizabeth Moje, dean of Michigan’s School of Education and a lead researcher for Sensors in a Shoebox. “But it’s absolutely something we can imagine going to a much larger scale. Imagine what could have happened in Flint if the average citizen had a water pollution sensor. It’s really important that we develop citizens who are capable of doing this kind of work.”
smart_cities  public_process  public_design  DIY  community  citizen_science 
19 days ago
The Anthropocene | Film
The goal of The Anthropocene Project is to explore a critical point in Earth and human history, and expand awareness of our species’ reach and impact. From awareness comes understanding, and from understanding comes change.
anthropocene  ecology  photography 
21 days ago
Objects Not To Scale: Contemporary Mappa Mundi Of The Surveillance State | SFAQ / NYAQ / LXAQ
When NSA documents released by Edward Snowden first went public, one extremely pointed and particular angle of outrage came not from privacy activists but from designers. Horrified more by the seemingly arbitrary typography choices and clashing colors than dragnet surveillance, some designers took it upon themselves to redesign the slides.1 These criticisms were mostly cheap shots—the PRISM slide deck was never a document designed for public consumption, let alone design critique. I sometimes imagine the people responsible for those slide decks, painstakingly arranging text on top of shapes in Powerpoint and grabbing tech company logos from Google image searches. These weren’t slide decks made by or for designers—they were made by people who, while within incredibly powerful government agencies, still worked in an office environment and probably thought of themselves as office workers.

This idea is disappointing because we expect more of the surveillance state than office software aesthetics. We’ve been trained to expect something flashier, something that conveys the gravity of the situation at hand....

Much of this aesthetic is inherited from the pragmatic designs of computer networking diagrams, which makes the grim ethical and political implications grafted onto these graphics all the more unnerving. But it also at times invokes a kind of broken socialist realism; images that take place in a weird pastiche of the real world. It’s this convergence of the fully functional diagram and the fully rhetorical landscape that gives the military slide presentation its fascinating character....

the way-finding map (at that time known as a portolan map, developed mainly for maritime navigation) and the explicitly political or philosophical map had not yet merged to become the political cartography we know today. And while these mapmakers probably didn’t have precise spatial data, literal way-finding wasn’t the point. What’s perceived as naiveté or a lack of skill in medieval mappa mundi is actually a matter of priorities. As described by cartography historian David Woodward, the medieval form of mappa mundi “not only represents static geography but is also an aggregation of historical information the mapmaker considered important with regard to his audience, with no attempt being made to separate or identify the two types of information.”2

Maps are and always have been more instantiations than reflections of the world, and for the most part what’s determined to be the canonical vision of the world-as-it-is comes down to which mapmaker holds the most power. In a time where we are constantly reminded that the existential threats facing the Western world are diffuse, networked, and operating more in an ideological than a geographic landscape, it makes sense that the state’s visuals of how to combat those threats similarly deem borders, topography, and at times even three-dimensional space irrelevant. The graphics and diagrams associated with military surveillance infrastructure are a kind of contemporary mappa mundi—more a projection of power against and onto the physical landscape than a representation of that landscape’s particular qualities....

Within the trove of Snowden documents, few images refer back to physical geography. Many of the documents visualize various spying programs through network diagrams and flow charts. The iconography of the diagrams is, for the most part, typical of a technical flow chart—cylindrical pancake-stacked databases, desktop computers, arrows and diamonds....

There is something vaguely comforting about the fact that in a period where networked technology seems to mostly fuel an anxiety to move fast and break things, the language for mapping out the network remains static....

More often, the landscapes and maps gesture toward the real world, but exist in weird composite landscapes. In documents (more often from the Army or Navy than the Snowden archive) explicating or promoting other total information awareness frameworks, a recurring mappa mundi form is a snow globe-like projection of a fully networked battlespace. Actors on the ground, in the sky, and beyond the atmosphere connect across this contained landscape. Scale is not really a factor in these landscapes: reaper drones, mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs), and satellites are all roughly of the same size, equivalent nodes in a single network operating simultaneously and tirelessly to create a perfect ecosystem of constantly flowing information. (The fact that these maps portray a flat world presumably needs no further analysis.)...

The irony of using these diagrams and illustrations to explain the reach and capacity of mass surveillance networks is that the entire reason these systems exist is to be able to better visualize and grasp vast quantities of information across vast geographic expanses. Despite allegedly having the capacity to conjure up millions of satellite images and surveillance drone feeds and locations of networked devices in simultaneous real-time, we see clumsy abstractions of that capacity....

There are probably valid technical and practical reasons for choosing diagrams over demonstrations, but it hints at an awkward truth about the fallibility of global surveillance systems. The real world in real-time is always imperfect and uncertain, and operating at the scale of spy agencies means taking in those imperfections and uncertainties at an overwhelming scale and transforming them into actionable facts—whether the facts are there or not... The mappa mundi of surveillance state slide decks illustrate a cosmology as much as they illustrate technical systems. Within that cosmology, real countries become composite any-places, real people become threat icons, and hard ethical decisions become office work....

whether bad design could be itself a kind of subterfuge, a passive-aggressive gesture of resistance intended only for internal critique. While it’s probably an unlikely narrative, it remains at least plausible. The clumsiness and poor design of these graphics makes us uneasy for the same reason that it might allow for a weird kind of hope: it shows that the people behind these systems are as imperfect, fallible, and human as systems themselves, which means perhaps they remain capable of dissent...
graphic_design  cartography  iconography  epistemology  surveillance  aesthetics_of_administration  leaks  archives  rhetoric 
25 days ago
Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft | Christa Kamleithner, Roland Meyer, Julia Weber, Reinhold Martin, Meredith Tenhoor | Feedback Loops
the academic study of architecture as one discipline among others really only begins in the nineteenth century. It accompanies the founding of art history departments in the new research universities in Europe and a bit later, in the United States. Which is one reason that I have been studying the history of those universities: not in order to write a disciplinary (or interdisciplinary) history of architecture, but an architectural history of disciplines.

By architectural I mean a material complex in which architecture, as traditionally defined, links up with other media, like printed books or electric light. Understanding this requires getting at how media operate in general, as well as how particular media operate within specific situations. Rather than limiting ourselves to understanding architecture, then, as one among many disciplines, I would suggest that we redefine it as one among many media. All media belong, in turn, to contingent historical processes interacting with one another. In which case, studying these processes may therefore even require replacing architectural history with media history, while at the same time recognizing that both are simply iterations of history-as-such—not necessarily as studied in history departments, but as a contingent formation in its own right. And so we can speak of intermediality as well as interdisciplinarity....

certain «media theorists» of the time (Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord, most notably) shaped their criticism invisibly around emerging architectural spaces. That particular form of media critique needed built architecture to articulate the dystopian dimensions of a fully technocratic society. My research on this period has made clear to me that the disciplinary boundaries that we might hold up between media and architecture were no more than «other realms» across which ideas and designs had to be translated in order to be constituted as such. Architects draw from and reinterpret media theories; media theorists think through architecture....

Architecture, in this view, is discussed mainly as a medium of organization and distribution – rather than as a medium of representation. ...

Behind this, however, is another distinction that has recurred over the years for media studies as well as for architectural studies. That is the distinction between mass media and technical media. While many modern media such as film, television, or architecture are clearly both at once, emphasizing one or the other aspect has notable consequences. For example, at one point, in dialogue with Samuel Weber’s Mass Mediauras 3 and with other post-Benjaminian scholarship, I found it useful to describe the mid-century curtain wall, typical of post-war corporate architecture, as a «mass medium». But on reflection, that was only possible after having considered the metal-and-glass curtain wall in some detail as a technical system based on modularity. The point, after all, was not just that the curtain wall, like the Hollywood cinema analyzed by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, transmitted messages associated with postwar consumerism, although it did do that. It was that in the end, its actual «message» was rather more structural: the scaleless, gridded patterns that were the source code, or syntax—so to speak—of corporate organization itself, a universal space enabling flexibility, variety and standardization. And as technique, that code operated more on the epistemic plane than it did on the ideological (or semantic) plane that Horkheimer and Adorno associated with «mass deception».....

the very definition of political economy depends on an architectural model, but also that markets – architectural ones, those actually built – become a way of both inventing and testing different modes of political economy. In the long modern period there are many moments in which architecture is primarily understood as a distribution system – or even more broadly a means of managing circulation....

there might be a bit more of a fetishization of data within architectural practice. I hope that the conversations happening among historians can help to situate this use of data and open up more skepticism about the adoption of such models within practice....

Looking at Les Halles in longue durée makes clear that architecture and discourses of political economy depend on each other. The point is not to establish whether architecture has a governmental function, but rather to identify technics and media, especially architecture, through which a particular form of political economy can emerge both discursively and technologically....

Rungis was one of the largest public works projects of its time in France (though it was funded partially through private capital, and was one of the early experiments in the privatization of public infrastructure in postwar France.) It was designed by functionalist architects and planners inspired by avant-garde planning movements of the 1930s, rather than by engineers, as is more typical of such projects. It has an aesthetics. The goal of its design was to make food distribution more efficient, and food less expensive, and it was therefore also a key ingredient of the economic and social transformation of France from a society whose economy depended on necessary goods to one oriented around conspicuous consumption, exports, tourism, and leisure: low food prices were intended to free up room in household budgets for new forms of expenditure. Part of this was to be achieved through regulation, but much of it was to occur through design, both architectural and technological; food sales would be tracked and modulated by early computer systems. Using these early technologies, planners did all they could to eliminate the material resistance of food, to make it as informational as possible. But this was not a new goal spurred by technology – it had been part of the intentions of eighteenth-century market designers as well....

Would you agree that while being «one among many media», one of the specific features of architecture can be found in its special way of combining technical and aesthetic dimensions, spatial organization and visible form?

R.M.: Yes, architecture typically combines these dimensions in different ways. But I should clarify that by aesthetics I mean a mode of cognition, a way of grasping and making sense of the world, more than a philosophy of beauty, image, or artistic feeling. This mode of cognition is embedded in material systems; it is therefore built-in, but historically variable. Hardwired into technical media like architecture, such a mode could also be called mediapolitical, if by politics we mean power relations
media_architecture  institutional_critique  disciplinarity  logistics  information  organization 
25 days ago
HIGH FIDELITY | Landscape Architecture Magazine
...at the site scale, at which a significant portion of landscape practice occurs. At this scale, the substitution of feature surveys or commissioned aerial imaging with freely available satellite-derived GIS data often lowers the quality of spatial information. GIS mapping data interpolated from much larger data sets trades site specificity for expansive coverage, and its accuracy typically has not been verified on the ground. Given that landscape architecture relies on maps in one form or another to interpret, abstract, conceptualize, and ultimately reconfigure the ground, this demotion of ground proofing is highly significant to the discipline.

Enter the drone. Initially introduced to the public as enigmatic appliances of remote warfare, drones rapidly became synonymous with the multirotor camera-equipped consumer devices that increasingly permeate the sky. Despite unresolved privacy concerns, civilian drones now fulfill everyday roles ranging from flyovers of photogenic landmarks to promotional real estate bird’s-eye views. Likewise, many landscape architects routinely deploy drones for site overviews, design visualization, and completed project documentation. And, as previously reported in LAM, drones are also being fitted with experimental payloads that include seed dispersal and fire ignition for forest fuel load management....

Compared to the fidelity of Google Earth and GIS maps, the results are astounding. For the first time in cartographic history, topographic features are mapped down to a level of clarity comparable to the world that we perceive from on the ground....

the usability of automated drone navigation is primed to increase the prevalence of the bird’s-eye view in landscape design visualization. Once prominent in landscape architecture before falling out of favor in the latter part of the 20th century, this oblique angle is already enjoying a digitally propelled resurgence through applications such as Google Earth...

In addition to reviving the bird’s-eye view, the drone heightens the landscape architect’s interaction with the site. Current regulations and technologies require drone operators to escort their equipment to (or nearby) the mapping target. The act of launching the drone upward from the ground reverses the downward zoom of satellite imagery, and places the landscape architect on the site and in the frame of the map. ...

Even in the advent of remote drone dispatching (or the assimilation of drone imagery into Google Earth), the drone’s close relationship with the ground reintroduces a form of fieldwork to the site mapping process. From a near-ground aerial perspective, this thickened fieldwork fulfills the original terms of site surveying, whereby an overview of a landscape is established by working from the inside out (as opposed to from the top down). In rediscovering the role of surveyor—as opposed to mapper—the landscape architect is embedded into the whole process of site delineation. Whereas designers engaged in mapping typically mine satellite, aerial, and spatial data provided by agencies and corporations, drones facilitate unfiltered on-site engagement in the creation of content....

That said, the optical basis of drone mapping is no substitute for the precision of the surveyor’s theodolite. But although inappropriate for design documentation and construction, drone mapping is relevant to many of the other roles in which landscape architects are routinely invested. For preliminary design, community advocacy, or speculative work, the technology provides an accessible window into spatiality and materiality at the scale of the landscape site....

With off-the-shelf satellite imagery, GIS data, and feature surveys all failing to systematically capture the topographic “texture” of the site, students tended toward overscaled and overbearing design interventions. With this site texture now represented in high fidelity, the design proposals are noticeably more specific in their engagement with the complex qualities of the site. Moreover, much as landscape architects have always done, intermittently placing the detailed mapping aside and simplifying the site into key features and tectonics avoids any risk of data overload.

The capacity to spatialize nuanced landscape characteristics evidently affects the designer’s ability to engage these qualities through design. If we extrapolate this and assume widespread participation in drone-based fieldwork, an increase in landscape design strategies that focus on retaining and incorporating the preexisting qualities of a given site is a likely consequence. ...

But this is not to suggest that a renewed focus on site specificity will or should displace the past two fruitful decades of emphasis on large-scale associations, systems, and infrastructures. Rather, the drone and the satellite are most productive coexisting as overlapping scales of engagement with landscape. This is particularly relevant to addressing the persistent division within the discipline between site design and regional planning, cities and regions, and between gardens and landscape. ...

Hypothetically, aerial access to the scale at which humans interact with the public realm also creates a platform for other innovations within landscape architecture. The reinvigoration of the human behavioral side of landscape architecture is one such possible by-product. When coupled with recent advances in mobile technology and the social sciences, it is conceivable that behaviorally based design might undergo a similar digitally propelled renaissance, as occurred with ecologically based design a decade and a half ago....

Given that imagining and actuating landscapes is traditionally the task of landscape architects, everyday participation in drone mapping injects core landscape ethics into the existing culture of image sharing.
landscape  drones  satellites  fieldwork  epistemology  aerial_photography  ground_truthing 
25 days ago
Researchers look to add statistical safeguards to data analysis and visualization software | News from Brown
Modern data visualization software makes it easy for users to explore large datasets in search of interesting correlations and new discoveries. But that ease of use — the ability to ask question after question of a dataset with just a few mouse clicks — comes with a serious pitfall: it increases the likelihood of making false discoveries.

At issue is what statisticians refer to as “multiple hypothesis error.” The problem is essentially this: the more questions someone asks of a dataset, they more likely one is to stumble upon something that looks like a real discovery but is actually just a random fluctuation in the dataset.

A team of researchers from Brown University is working on software to help combat that problem. This week at the SIGMOD2017 conference in Chicago, they presented a new system called QUDE, which adds real-time statistical safeguards to interactive data exploration systems to help reduce false discoveries.

“More and more people are using data exploration software like Tableau and Spark, but most of those users aren’t experts in statistics or machine learning,” said Tim Kraska, an assistant professor of computer science at Brown and a co-author of the research. “There are a lot of statistical mistakes you can make, so we’re developing techniques that help people avoid them.”

Multiple hypothesis testing error is a well-known issue in statistics. In the era of big data and interactive data exploration, the issue has come to a renewed prominence Kraska says.

“These tools make it so easy to query data,” he said. “You can easily test 100 hypotheses in an hour using these visualization tools. Without correcting for multiple hypothesis error, the chances are very good that you’re going to come across a correlation that’s completely bogus.” -- the experience is similar to using any data visualization software, only with color-coded feedback that gives information about statistical significance.
data_visualization  methodology  epistemology  error 
25 days ago
AI can doctor videos to put words in the mouths of speakers | New Scientist
A new system takes a still image of a person and an audio clip, and uses them to create a doctored video of the person speaking the audio. The results are still a little rough around the edges, but the software could soon make realistically fake videos only a single click away.

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

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

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

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

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

The history of “city as lab” gives coherence to the range of public and private actors that adopt the metaphor. They seek recognition as authorities with empirical knowledge and the ability to intervene in unruly cities. They are activated by a bundling of ideas that reminds us of Park’s interest in cities simultaneously as a “truth spot,” a site for experimentation, and an opportunity for legitimizing reform. City-lab enthusiasts want to show that that particular interventions can lead to tangible positive results for residents. “City as laboratory” is a perfect metaphor for progressive improvements to civic life.
cities  urban_planning  laboratories  chicago_school 
28 days ago
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