The Improbable Origins of PowerPoint - IEEE Spectrum
PowerPoint is so ingrained in modern life that the notion of it having a history at all may seem odd. But it does have a very definite lifetime as a commercial product that came onto the scene 30 years ago, in 1987. Remarkably, the founders of the Silicon Valley firm that created PowerPoint did not set out to make presentation software, let alone build a tool that would transform group communication throughout the world. Rather, PowerPoint was a recovery from dashed hopes that pulled a struggling startup back from the brink of failure—and succeeded beyond anything its creators could have imagined.

PowerPoint was not the first software for creating presentations on personal computers. Starting in 1982, roughly a half-dozen other programs [PDF] came on the market before PowerPoint’s 1987 debut. Its eventual domination was not the result of first-mover advantage. What’s more, some of its most familiar features—the central motif of a slide containing text and graphics; bulleted lists; the slideshow; the slide sorter; and even the animated transitions between slides—did not originate with PowerPoint. And yet it’s become the Kleenex or Scotch Tape of presentation software, as a “PowerPoint” has come to mean any presentation created with software....

Apple lavished resources—people and cash alike—to embrace the PARC paradigm with the Lisa and the Macintosh, but not everyone at Apple was happy about that. In particular, those working to maintain the existing Apple II and III lines felt that their efforts were being shortchanged. By 1982, the product marketing manager for the Apple III, Taylor Pohlman, and the software marketing manager for the Apple II and III, Rob Campbell, had had enough. They quit and went into business together, founding the company that would create PowerPoint....

Gaskins and Austin worked closely to conceptualize, design, and specify Forethought’s new product. Gaskins spotted an opportunity in presentation software and believed they could apply the PARC idiom to this application. He envisioned the user creating slides of text and graphics in a graphical, WYSIWYG environment, then outputting them to 35-mm slides, overhead transparencies, or video displays and projectors, and also sharing them electronically through networks and electronic mail. The presentation would spring directly from the mind of the business user, without having to first transit through the corporate art department.... In April 1987, Forethought introduced its new presentation program to the market very much as it had been conceived, but with a different name. Presenter was now PowerPoint 1.0—there are conflicting accounts of the name change—and it was a proverbial overnight success with Macintosh users. ...

While PowerPoint was a success from the start, it nevertheless faced stiff competition, and for several years, Lotus Freelance and Software Publishing’s Harvard Graphics commanded larger market shares. The tipping point for PowerPoint came in 1990, when Microsoft unleashed its bundling strategy and began selling Microsoft Office—which combined Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—as a $1,000 set. Previously, each part had been sold separately for about $500 apiece.
textual_form  presentation  powerpoint  software 
13 hours ago
Cambridge Analytica and the long history of computer science and psychology.
integration of digital media devices and psychological techniques is one of the most underappreciated developments in the history of computing. For more than 50 years, this has been the domain of computer scientists who have approached the brain as a “human processor,” just another a machine to be tinkered with. The work has taken place almost entirely in the domain of computer science, with little input from clinical psychologists, ethicists, or other academic fields interested in the messy details of human social life. ...

Psychological models shaped the development of computers from the very beginning. Kurt Lewin, one of the founders of social psychology, was a participant in the 1946 Macy Conference, a now-legendary gathering of computer scientists and scholars interested in human behavior that helped birth both cybernetics and systems theory. This combination of psychology, systems analysis, and computer science became a hallmark of other Cold-War era research institutes like the RAND Corp. and the Stanford Research Institute. ...

Also in the 1960s, computer scientist Hilary Putnam developed the idea of the “computational theory of mind,” which understood the brain as a computing machine and helped shape the field of cognitive psychology around thinking of brains as “information processors.”...

It was this development—metaphorically understanding brains as computers—that really began to knit psychology and computer science together in the field of human-computer interaction. A critical moment came with the 1983 publication of The Psychology of Human Computer Interaction by three scientists working for the Xerox Corp.’s Palo Alto Research Center—Stuart K. Card, Thomas P. Moran, and Allen Newell. Together, they made up the Applied Information-Processing Psychology Project at PARC, which had an outsized impact on a wide range of developments in personal computing between the 1970s and 1990s. ...

The kind of communication with machines envisioned by the PARC authors was based on understanding the human being as a functional analogue to the computer. The goal of the authors was to “integrate all the units of the human processor to do useful tasks.” These tasks could be processed through the collection of human data: about physiological response rates, movement dynamics, and other processes amenable to the digital languages of computing....

Card and his co-authors had great ambitions for human-computer interaction as a new way to shape our behavior. They called it “an applied psychology” grounded in understanding a human and computer as one single unit through numerical tracking, task analysis, and calculability.... Branches of psychology already dealing with evaluations by number, like psychometricians, found human-computer interaction research especially amenable to their experiments....

Happily, human-computer interaction has changed over the past decade to include a more diverse set of methods and disciplines, including insights from designers, historians, anthropologists, and sociologists. Unfortunately, social media platforms were already up and running under the auspices of computer science as “psychological civil engineering,” via digital means without much input from the social sciences. The humble online quiz... And with Facebook and Twitter performing nearly constant behavioral experiments to test ways their users could be nudged into spending more time on their sites, the amounts of behavioral and psychological data collected by our digital devices is only getting bigger. .... The behavioral, demographic, and personal information Facebook and other social media platforms now collect through what I call algorithmic psychometrics has the sensitivity of medical data, and should be treated as such by regulators around the world.
cognitive_science  brain  processing  computing  methodology 
17 hours ago
2018 | Mimi Zeiger
Dimensions of Citizenship challenges architects and designers to envision what it means to be a citizen today. As transnational flows of capital, digital technologies, and geopolitical transformations expand, conventional notions of citizenship are undermined. How might architecture, then, express today’s rhizomatic and paradoxical conditions of citizenship?

The US Pavilion explores seven spatial scales: Citizen, Civitas, Region, Nation, Globe, Network, and Cosmos.These scales, telescoping from body to city to heavens, broadly position citizenship as a critical global topic.
exhibition  scale 
Strategic Plan 2018 | Brooklyn Public Library
Part One—Now—identifies the Library’s five core principles. At a time of great change for libraries and information services in general, it is important to explicitly identify the high-level goals that define our work, make us who we are, and motivate us to continually improve. BPL’s five core principles are:

To foster literacy and the love of learning
To supply trusted, up-to-date information resources, and guide patrons to the ones they need
To connect residents to educational and economic opportunities
To strengthen relations between residents and promote civic engagement
To provide inclusive and inspirational places
Brooklyn_Public_Library  libraries  literacies 
3 days ago
Treehugger Chapter 01: WAWONA Teaser on Vimeo
The first chapter of Treehugger: Wawona is centred on nature's cathedral, the giant Sequoia from the famous Sequoia National Park (California, USA). Wawona is the (local Native American) Miwok’s word for ‘hoot of an owl’, imitating the sound of the Northern Spotted Owl - believed to be the tree’s spiritual guardian.

Participants are invited to don a VR headset, place their heads into the tree’s knot and be transported into the Sequoia’s secret inner world. The longer you hug the tree, the deeper you drift into ‘treetime’: a hidden dimension that lies just beyond the limit of our senses. Audiences embark on a journey of abstract visualisation, following a single drop of water as it traverses from root to canopy in these enormous living structures.
virtual_reality  non_human 
4 days ago
Consentful Tech Workshop at MozFest 2017 – And Also Too
At the end of October, I had the exciting opportunity to co-facilitate a workshop on Consentful Tech at the 2017 Mozilla Festival in London. Dann Toliver and I wanted to share the content of our recently released zine, “Building Consentful Tech”, while also inviting feedback on the framework we put forward in it and start working on strategies to create a more consentful internet....

“I want to be able to remove my data from social networks.”

Joint copyright
Notice when content or data is related to more than a person to be able to delete?
Customers hold keys to decrypt their data, so if they want to “remove” it, they would destroy the keys and render the data unusable
Designer can confirm/verify that data is deleted by verifying a crypto key
“I need to access social services but my data will be shared across government agencies.”

I’m a city employee, so I can coordinate agencies around better information sharing processes.
I’m a designer so I can encourage transparency & plain language early in the dev. process
“I want to message my friends but the apps want to access all my contacts.”

Delete or memorize all of my contacts
Only hold on to the info for a set period then delete
digital_privacy  ethics 
5 days ago
Ignored By Big Telecom, Detroit's Marginalized Communities Are Building Their Own Internet - Motherboard
Being stuck without access to the internet is often thought of as a problem only for rural America. But even in some of America’s biggest cities, a significant portion of the population can’t get online.

Take Detroit, where 40 percent of the population has no access to the internet—of any kind, not only high speed—at home, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Seventy percent of school-aged children in the city are among those who have no internet access at home. Detroit has one of the most severe digital divides in the country, the FCC says.
infrastructure  wifi  internet  digital_equity  video 
5 days ago
Alison J Clarke - How Things Don’t Work: Victor Papanek and the Humanist Design Agenda on Vimeo
Alison J Clarke
How Things Don’t Work: Victor Papanek and the Humanist Design Agenda
From the ManifestFest, the anniversary of the publication of Ken Garland’s First Things First manifesto, 22-23 November 2014, Warsaw, Poland

Victor Papanek, author of the bestselling book Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (1971) generated a popular polemic and powerful critique so as to inspire a generation of designers to turn their backs on conventional product design. Instead, 1970s design students embraced a political, humanist agenda that placed toys for disadvantaged children, hospital apparatus, and ‘indigenous’ technology for ‘developing countries’ above the mere styling of desirable consumer items. Attacking the corporate ‘Aspen Crowd’ accused of peddling design as an empty utopian practice, Papanek’s clarion call heralded a long overdue manifesto for industrial design: For he sought to expose how things don’t work both in the literal and metaphoric sense. This talk explores the origins of Papanek’s rhetoric and questions just how radical his ideas for change really were, and why they came to hold such an intractable allure.
design  interdisciplinarity  anthropology  ethnography  curriculum 
7 days ago
Designer for the Real World? A Public Lecture by Alison J Clarke on Vimeo
Victor J. Papanek’s book Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change is widely understood as the seminal text of 20th century design activism. This lecture traces the origins of Papanek’s design activism and highlights the urgent need for a broader historical and theoretical analysis of the historiography of social design.

Dr. Alison J. Clarke is Professor of Design History and Theory, at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and Director of the Papanek Foundation. She holds a Masters in Design History from the Royal College of Art and Victoria and Albert Museum, and a doctorate in social anthropology from University College London. She is the author of Design Anthropology: Object Culture in the 21st Century and appears as a design expert for the BBC television series Home and The Genius of Design. She is currently completing a monograph for MIT Press on Victor Papanek and design activism.

Brought to you by MICA's MA in Social Design Visiting Scholar Program, Supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation
design  anthropology  ethnography  everyday_life 
7 days ago
Military Industrial Powerpoint Complex : Free Texts : Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
Military Industrial Powerpoint Complex
United States Military
This collection was a special project originally done as part of the Internet Archive's 20th Anniversary celebration on October 26, 2016 highlighting IA's web archive. The collection consists of all the Powerpoint files (57,489) from the .mil web domain
powerpoint  graphic_design  presentation_images  military_industrial 
7 days ago
Oh No We Are Number One: On Being Ranked 1st In The World
first, regarding the proliferation of all kinds of metrics, rankings, and other performance audits dominating the way institutions of higher learning work today, as it results in an accountability paradox: the more all kinds of ranking systems are used to make universities accountable to the public and the state, the less accountability will actually occur. Second, we have to consider problematic issues regarding the history, organization and methodology of rankings such as the one provided by QS. Of particular concern here is the improbability that any of the 99% of universities around the world will ever make it into the list of ‘top’ ranked institutions. Third, one has to consider the consequences of being ranked — and especially of ending up high in the rankings. Specifically, we should be concerned about the institutional inclination toward reactivity — the idea that people change their behavior in reaction to being evaluated, observed, or measured — and the effect this has on academic freedom....

Although most would agree that some kind of assessment and performance monitoring is useful, overall this system of management facilitated an on-going deprofessionalisation of those who do the teaching and research at the university.

Instead of faculty and students determining the mission and course of the university, control subtly shifts to an ever-expanding body of middle- and senior management, support staff, database and IT specialists, and other bureaucrats. Although these people work generally hard with the best of intentions, they are forced to prop up the bureaucratic system rather than serve the core activities of the university: teaching and research. ... every one can find a ranking somewhere that is somehow meaningful to whatever public relations purpose is bench-marked as important at that particular institution. ...

a gradual loss of academic freedom in favor of ‘playing by the numbers’ and performing to the test: organizing the work and performance of a Department, School, or even an entire university so that it will do better according to whatever performance or accountability metric is thrown at it. For students, increasingly almost everything they do at the university becomes a gradable event, stifling the freedom to just learn, study, research, and explore based on curiosity, serendipity, or inspiration.
academia  higher_education  ranking  quantification  accountability 
8 days ago
You Think You Want Media Literacy… Do You? – Data & Society: Points
For the last year, I’ve been struggling with media literacy. I have a deep level of respect for the primary goal. As Renee Hobbs has written, media literacy is the “active inquiry and critical thinking about the messages we receive and create.” The field talks about the development of competencies or skills to help people analyze, evaluate, and even create media. Media literacy is imagined to be empowering, enabling individuals to have agency and giving them the tools to help create a democratic society. But fundamentally, it is a form of critical thinking that asks people to doubt what they see. And that makes me nervous.

Most media literacy proponents tell me that media literacy doesn’t exist in schools. And it’s true that the ideal version that they’re aiming for definitely doesn’t. But I spent a decade in and out of all sorts of schools in the US, where I quickly learned that a perverted version of media literacy does already exist. Students are asked to distinguish between CNN and Fox. Or to identify bias in a news story. When tech is involved, it often comes in the form of “don’t trust Wikipedia; use Google.” ...

In 2017, sociologist Francesca Tripodi was trying to understand how conservative communities made sense of the seemingly contradictory words coming out of the mouth of the US President. Along her path, she encountered people talking about making sense of The Word when referencing his speeches. She began accompanying people in her study to their bible study groups. Then it clicked. Trained on critically interrogating biblical texts, evangelical conservative communities were not taking Trump’s messages as literal text. They were interpreting their meanings using the same epistemological framework as they approached the bible. Metaphors and constructs matter more than the precision of words....

We’re not living through a crisis about what is true, we’re living through a crisis about how we know whether something is true. We’re not disagreeing about facts, we’re disagreeing about epistemology. The “establishment” version of epistemology is, “We use evidence to arrive at the truth, vetted by independent verification (but trust us when we tell you that it’s all been independently verified by people who were properly skeptical and not the bosom buddies of the people they were supposed to be fact-checking).”
The “alternative facts” epistemological method goes like this: “The ‘independent’ experts who were supposed to be verifying the ‘evidence-based’ truth were actually in bed with the people they were supposed to be fact-checking. In the end, it’s all a matter of faith, then: you either have faith that ‘their’ experts are being truthful, or you have faith that we are. Ask your gut, what version feels more truthful?”...

Let’s be honest — most of us educators are deeply committed to a way of knowing that is rooted in evidence, reason, and fact. But who gets to decide what constitutes a fact? In philosophy circles, social constructivists challenge basic tenets like fact, truth, reason, and evidence. ...

In many Native communities, experience trumps Western science as the key to knowledge. These communities have a different way of understanding topics like weather or climate or medicine. Experience is also used in activist circles as a way of seeking truth and challenging the status quo. Experience-based epistemologies also rely on evidence, but not the kind of evidence that would be recognized or accepted by those in Western scientific communities....

Right now, the conversation around fact-checking has already devolved to suggest that there’s only one truth. And we have to recognize that there are plenty of students who are taught that there’s only one legitimate way of knowing, one accepted worldview. This is particularly dicey at the collegiate level, where us professors have been taught nothing about how to teach across epistemologies....

Many progressive activists ask whether or not the US government commits terrorism in other countries. The ads all came down because they were too political, but RT got what they wanted: an effective ad campaign. They didn’t come across as conservative or liberal, but rather a media entity that was “censored” for asking questions. Furthermore, by covering the fact that they were banned, major news media legitimized their frame under the rubric of “free speech.” Under the assumption that everyone should have the right to know and to decide for themselves....

In their book, “The Ambivalent Internet,”media studies scholars Whitney Phillips and Ryan Milner highlight how a segment of society has become so well-versed at digital communications — memes, GIFs, videos, etc. — that they can use these tools of expression to fundamentally destabilize others’ communication structures and worldviews. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fiction, what’s cruel and what’s a joke. But that’s the point. That is how irony and ambiguity can be weaponized. And for some, the goal is simple: dismantle the very foundations of elite epistemological structures that are so deeply rooted in fact and evidence....

Perhaps you want to encourage people to think critically about how information is constructed, who is paying for it, and what is being left out. Yet, among those whose prior is to not trust a news media institution, among those who see CNN and The New York Times as “fake news,” they’re already there. They’re looking for flaws. It’s not hard to find them. After all, the news industry is made of people in institutions in a society. So when youth are encouraged to be critical of the news media, they come away thinking that the media is lying. Depending on someone’s prior, they may even take what they learn to be proof that the media is in on the conspiracy. That’s where things get very dicey.

Many of my digital media and learning colleagues encourage people to make media to help understand how information is produced. Realistically, many young people have learned these skills outside the classroom as they seek to represent themselves on Instagram, get their friends excited about a meme, or gain followers on YouTube. Many are quite skilled at using media, but to what end? Every day, I watch teenagers produce anti-Semitic and misogynistic content using the same tools that activists use to combat prejudice....

One of the main goals for those who are trying to manipulate media is to pervert the public’s thinking. It’s called gaslighting. Do you trust what is real? One of the best ways to gaslight the public is to troll the media. By getting the news media to be forced into negating frames, they can rely on the fact that people who distrust the media often respond by self-investigating. This is the power of the boomerang effect. And it has a history. After all, the CDC realized that the more news media negated the connection between autism and vaccination, the more the public believed there was something real there....

when you start to empathize with worldviews that are toxic, it’s very hard to stay grounded. It requires deep cognitive strength. Scholars who spend a lot of time trying to understand dangerous worldviews work hard to keep their emotional distance. One very basic tactic is to separate the different signals. Just read the text rather than consume the multimedia presentation of that. Narrow the scope. Actively taking things out of context can be helpful for analysis precisely because it creates a cognitive disconnect. This is the opposite of how most people encourage everyday analysis of media, where the goal is to appreciate the context first. Of course, the trick here is wanting to keep that emotional distance. Most people aren’t looking for that.

I also believe that it’s important to help students truly appreciate epistemological differences. In other words, why do people from different worldviews interpret the same piece of content differently?... What’s common about the different approaches I’m suggesting is that they are designed to be cognitive strengthening exercises, to help students recognize their own fault lines, not the fault lines of the media landscape around them. I can imagine that this too could be called media literacy and if you want to bend your definition that way, I’ll accept it. But the key is to realize the humanity in ourselves and in others. We cannot and should not assert authority over epistemology, but we can encourage our students to be more aware of how interpretation is socially constructed. And to understand how that can be manipulated.
media_literacy  epistemology  pedagogy  propaganda 
8 days ago
Why the PDF Is Secretly the World's Most Important File Format - Motherboard
The Portable Document Format, or PDF, is everywhere. But it's still a format that causes headaches for the average person.

Just take former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who may not be the average person, but who runs into issues with the PDF just like the best of us.

Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s most recent indictment of Manafort noted how the lobbyist and his colleague, Richard Gates, collaborated on modifying a PDF document by converting the document into Word format, changing an amount in the document, then changing it back to a PDF.

This created something called a paper trail, bolstering Mueller’s case against Manafort....

“What industries badly need is a universal way to communicate documents across a wide variety of machine configurations, operating systems and communication networks. These documents should be viewable on any display and should be printable on any modern printers. If this problem can be solved, then the fundamental way people work will change.”
— John E. Warnock, the cofounder of Adobe, discussing his thought process around the need for a simple document format in an essay revealing the existence of The Camelot Project (which is, of course, in PDF format). Warnock, who was also responsible for helping to develop Adobe’s bedrock PostScript document scripting language, noted that PostScript and its sister language Display PostScript was too heavy for most computers being made at the time he wrote his essay, around 1990. ...

Around the time that Warnock and his colleagues at Adobe were trying to figure out the difficult problems of creating a simple file format that could be used to read documents on regular people’s computers, the Internal Revenue Service was dealing with an annual headache that it faced in working with the US Postal Service.

Basically, every year just before tax season, the IRS would mail out tax forms to hundreds of millions of people around the United States. This annual mailing was, during non-Census years, the largest annual mailing that the postal service had to deal with—around 110 million individual mailings annually... “When Acrobat was announced, the world didn’t get it. They didn’t understand how important sending documents around electronically was going to be,” Warnock said in a 2010 interview with Knowledge@Wharton.

But the fact of the matter was, Adobe had the perfect use case already out there in the form of the IRS, not to mention the rest of corporate America....

According to NetworkWorld, the IRS was already distributing tax forms in PDF format in early 1994, a move that helped build broad momentum behind the format.

But one element was missing, and that element was the web, which made the concept of accessing tax documents relatively easy. And by the 1996 tax season, that element was ready to go, as the Internal Revenue Service booted up its web servers—complete with more than 600 documents ready for download in PDF format....

The PDF simplified the hard work of going to Kinko’s, because the file format was able to easily embed assets like fonts and images, streamlining one of the hardest parts of getting a file printed. (Of course, you generally couldn’t make changes in PDF form.) Eventually, the PDF became searchable and even editable.

And most importantly, in the case of the IRS, “fillable.” The IRS quickly created versions of its tax forms that allowed end users to put in their own numbers, and, eventually, even their own signatures.
media_history  documents  pdf  format_studies 
8 days ago
The Quest for a Universal Translator for Old, Obsolete Computer Files - Atlas Obscura
NOT SO VERY LONG AGO, web designers’ ambitions outstripped the infrastructure of the internet, so they had to resort to physical media to help carry their ideas. Dial-up modems were pokey, and the sluggish speed couldn’t handle large images or streaming video. “People did all sorts of projects that were too heavy for the live web,” says Tim Walsh, a digital archivist at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA).

One workaround to make these projects possible was to separate a website from the web. “A simple solution was to simply burn all the the HTML, JavaScript, and other large files to a CD-ROM,” Walsh says....

Some are orphaned because they were made with software that’s now extinct. Others might have been left incompatible by years of updates. Still more may have been created using expensive, specialized, niche software—such as the programs used by special effects studios or video game designers—that’s simply not widely available. In these instances, the databases that the Centre consults might not even be able to identify the file format or the software it came from. ...

For years, many architects and other designers have used a 3-D modeling software called form·Z. The software, Walsh explains, was especially popular for rendering cutting-edge projects in the 1990s and 2000s. Each new release tends to only support files created within the last two versions, meaning that form·Z 8.5 Pro, the current version installed on CCA’s CAD workstations, can’t wrangle decades worth of files created in older versions. ...

To access these complicated files, or to launch some of the sites that lived on CD-ROMs (which may need a certain operating system, browser, or other requirements to open), a user might rig up an emulation environment. An emulator is a proxy: It recreates older hardware and software on a modern-day machine. On occasion, Walsh has made some himself.

When one CCA visitor wanted to take a look at a CD-ROM-based “multimedia website” produced in conjunction with a 1996 exhibition of work by the architect Benjamin Nicholson, Walsh needed to wind back the clock. He tracked down an old license for Windows NT and installed Netscape Navigator and an old version of Adobe Reader. This all enabled decades-old functionality on a two-year-old HP tower.

This strategy works, but it has drawbacks. “These environments are time-intensive to create, will only run on a local computer, and they typically require a lot of technical know-how to set up and use,” Walsh says. Ad hoc emulation is not for the novice or the busy....

RESEARCHERS AT YALE ARE WORKING to solve this problem by creating a kind of digital Rosetta Stone, a universal translator, through an emulation infrastructure that will live online. “A few clicks in your web browser will allow users to open files containing data that would otherwise be lost or corrupted,” said Cochrane, who is now the library’s digital preservation manager. “You’re removing the physical element of it,” says Seth Anderson, the library’s software preservation manager. “It’s a virtual computer running on a server, so it’s not tethered to a desktop.”

Instead of treating each case as a one-off, like digital triage, this team wants to create a virtual, historical computer lab that’s comprehensive and ready for anything. Do you have a CD-ROM that was once stuffed in a sleeve on the cover of a textbook? A snappy virtual machine running Windows 98 might be able to help you out. “We could create any environment that we needed,” Anderson says. The goal is to build an emulation library big enough that there’s a good fit for any potential case—with definitive, clear results. ...

To recreate environments, the team needs hard copies to work from. It’s a bit like an archaeological expedition, an excavation that produces a specimen collection that can be sorted and stored. Over the last few years, the library has been acquiring a collection of “legacy computers.” Researchers scour eBay for desktop PCs from the 1990s, neon-shelled iMacs, and other machines that have long since vanished from the market. They clean up the hard drives, leaving nothing but the original operating system. The next step is to create a disk image of hard drive, copying everything—its data, its processing systems, its quirks—to a virtual replica. “Once that’s set up, you can launch it in an emulated environment,” Anderson says....

The team interviewed 40 people—primarily folks working in archives, libraries, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions—for a preliminary report released last month. In those conversations, licenses emerged as “a big source of heartburn,” Butler says.
digital_preservation  archives  preservation  emulation  software 
8 days ago
Museum Of Obsolete Media
The home for current and obsolete physical media formats, including audio, video, film and data storage. The Museum preserves the memory of those objects that held our memories, and every format listed in the Museum is represented by at least one example in the collection.

The Museum now covers over 480 formats, to assist with their identification and preservation.
media_archaeology  media_history  dead_media 
9 days ago
Dr Jane Birkin (Special Collections Division, University of Southampton) — APPARITION: The (im)materiality of modern surface
In this talk I will discuss an exceptionally decomposed archive object as complex material surface, considered in parallel with its 3D digital counterpart. Disintegration of surface is commonly associated with the archive object, yet it is alien to archival emphasis on the preservation of information. Digital capture through photography is often seen as a way of halting the decay of the material surface, preserving the information it is carrying, whilst protecting it from the hazards of handling.

But what if the purpose of digital capture is not to facilitate reading but to preserve decay through creation of a surrogate surface? I will present the case of the 3D scanning and printing of a tightly folded paper ‘bundle’ from the Wellington papers, in the University of Southampton’s Special Collections. Shipwreck and mould damage left several bundles of historically important letters fragmented and crumbling, and the level of decomposition means that there can be no reading, no handling. For now they are maintained in this state through modern archival storage techniques. They are in archives-speak, ‘closed’ objects (unavailable for researchers)—and they are literally closed, as decay has penetrated through the multiple surfaces and fused them together. As Cornelia Vismann (2008) argues in the case of Alselm Kiefer’s lead books, ‘They are files at a standstill [...] what is one to do with these unreadable tomes other than venerate them as icons of writing and literacy?’ The official ‘what to do’ is to eventually make these letters readable, as has already been done with others: the bundle is teased apart, and each letter is given a new surface as missing areas are filled with paper made from pulp similar to the original, and then strengthened by a layer of size.

The 3D printing process preserves the outer form of the bundle, and the scanning produces a digital fragmentation of its own, paralleling the material disintegration at the edges of the bundle. Multiple surfaces are encountered and discussed through these conservation and scanning processes: the original surface of the bundle; the discrete surface of each letter; the digital file that can be rotated and examined on the surface of a computer screen; and the 3D print. The print itself, although providing a relatively robust material record of a fragile object, is an empty copy of the original. It is pure surface, hollow and bent, a skin with no body inside.
archives  conservation  3D_scanning  ruins  access  objects 
9 days ago
LIBRARYSTACK∎ | Art & Culture Digital Lending Library
Library Stack is an archival repository and bibliographic index of independent ebooks, audio files, videos and digital documents being published within the fields of contemporary art, design, media studies, cinema, architecture and philosophy. We collect serial publications from established platforms and primary source material from artists, authors, designers and cultural thinkers, often including overlooked media such as typefaces, podcasts, 3D models, field recordings and software. Many such independently produced digital art publications are not being archived and are at risk of being lost from the historical record. Library Stack preserves and indexes all works according to Open Archives standards, and exposes them to the global library system through the WorldCat database.
archives  art_books  artists_books  independent_publications  little_magazines 
10 days ago
Want to Change Academic Publishing? Just Say No - The Chronicle of Higher Education
When I became a professor, 20 years ago, I received a request from a woman who lived close to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I taught: Could she come and talk to me about a set of interests she was developing, in the area of my own specialty in anthropology, and get my advice on applying to graduate school? We spoke for about 45 minutes in my office, at the end of which she asked, "How much do I owe you?"

This woman was a therapist who billed by the hour, and she assumed that when you got the benefit of someone's professional expertise for 45 minutes, you paid for it. Although I would expect to pay a lawyer or a therapist for a professional consultation, the idea of paying for a conversation with me seemed bizarre. I explained that professors, especially in the humanities and social sciences, get paid an annual salary and, in return, see it as part of our job to share our knowledge and to mentor others. We had a vocation, not a trade. The life of the mind is not billable.

Today I have less confidence in that answer. When I look at the work I do as an academic social scientist and the remuneration I receive, I see a pattern that makes little sense. This is especially the case with regard to publishing. If I review a book for a newspaper or evaluate a book for a university press, I get paid, but if I referee an article for a journal, I do not. If I publish a book, I get royalties. If I publish an opinion piece in the newspaper, I get a couple of hundred dollars. Once a magazine paid me $5,000 for an article.

But I get paid nothing directly for the most difficult, time-consuming writing I do: peer-reviewed academic articles. In fact a journal that owned the copyright to one of my articles made me pay $400 for permission to reprint my own writing in a book of my essays....

When I became an academic, those inconsistencies made a sort of sense: Academic journals, especially in the social sciences, were published by struggling, nonprofit university presses that could ill afford to pay for content, refereeing, or editing. It was expected that, in the vast consortium that our university system constitutes, our own university would pay our salary, and we would donate our writing and critical-reading skills to the system in return.

The system involved a huge exchange of gifted labor that produced little in the way of profit for publishers and a lot in the way of professional solidarity and interdependence for the participants. The fact that academic journals did not compensate the way commercial magazines and newspapers did only made academic publishing seem less vulgar and more valuable.

But in recent years the academic journals have largely been taken over by for-profit publishing behemoths such as Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley-Blackwell. And quite a profit they make, too: In 2010 Elsevier reported profits of 36 percent on revenues of $3.2-billion. Last year its chief executive, Erik Engstrom, earned $4.6-million....

The open-access debate has focused mainly on the exorbitant fees for-profit publishers charge libraries for bundles of journal subscriptions, but I am struck by what they charge ordinary citizens to read my individual articles....

Another reason the commercial behemoths are so profitable is that their high prices are paired with the free labor of thousands of academic referees like me. Publishers can assure the quality of their products only if highly trained experts examine the articles on the academic production line and pick out the 10 percent to 20 percent that meet the highest standards for excellence. Without this free labor, the publishing companies' entire enterprise would collapse....

So why not try this: If academic work is to be commodified and turned into a source of profit for shareholders and for the 1 percent of the publishing world, then we should give up our archaic notions of unpaid craft labor and insist on professional compensation for our expertise, just as doctors, lawyers, and accountants do.
academia  publishing  labor  open_access  peer_review 
12 days ago
cameron tonkinwise on Twitter: "if you are running a tech-ethics course without any sessions on design (the force of affordances, devices as delegated morality, human-thing-hybridity/prosethetics, social practices, the taste politics of style) you remain
if you are running a tech-ethics course without any sessions on design (the force of affordances, devices as delegated morality, human-thing-hybridity/prosethetics, social practices, the taste politics of style) you remain part of the problem
big_data  data_ethics  design  affordances 
13 days ago
Launching the Data Culture Project – Rahul Bhargava – Medium
The Data Culture Project is a hands-on learning program to kickstart a data culture within your organization. We provide facilitation videos to help you run creative introductions to get people across your organization talking to each other — from IT to marketing to programs to evaluation. These are not boring spreadsheet trainings! Try running our fun activities — one per month works as a brown bag lunch to focus people on a common learning goal. For example, “Sketching a Story” brings people together around basic concepts of quantitative text analysis and visual storytelling. “Asking Good Questions” introduces principles of exploratory data analysis in a fun environment. What’s more, you can use the sample data that we provide, or you can integrate your organization’s data as the topic of conversation and learning.
data  pedagogy 
13 days ago
5G Cell Service Is Coming. Who Decides Where It Goes? - The New York Times
But who gets to decide when, where and how it gets delivered is still a heated fight.

The new technology, known as 5G, delivers wireless internet at far faster speeds than existing cellular connections. But it also requires different hardware to deliver the signals.

Instead of relying on large towers placed far apart, the new signals will come from smaller equipment placed an average of 500 feet apart in neighborhoods and business districts. Much of the equipment will be on streetlights or utility poles, often accompanied by containers the size of refrigerators on the ground. More than 300,000 cell stations now provide wireless connections, and 5G will bring hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — more.

The prospect of their installation has many communities and their officials, from Woodbury, N.Y., to Olympia, Wash., insisting that local governments control the placement and look of the new equipment. They say that the cell stations could clutter neighborhoods with eyesores and cost the communities a lot of potential revenue.
cell_phones  telecommunications  infrastructure  nimbyism  urban_planning 
13 days ago
Ghost Advising - The Chronicle of Higher Education
It has taken me two and a half decades to recognize that my experience of having a senior male nominal adviser and a female (usually more junior) actual adviser is common throughout academe.

In fact, I myself have served in the intervening years as a "ghost adviser" to several graduate students of more senior male professors without recognizing that I was part of that pattern. When I recently asked an online group of female historians whether they had ever served as a ghost adviser for the students of a male colleague, I received more than 100 responses in a matter of hours.

Many offered versions of the same experience: A well-known senior male professor in the department attracts graduate students to work with him because of his scholarly reputation. Students are well aware that being a student of Professor Reputation will help them compete in an extraordinarily challenging academic job market.

But Professor Reputation, it turns out, doesn’t always respond to emails or is too busy to meet regularly with his students. When they send him their written work, they receive cursory comments or none at all.

Desperate for assistance, students turn for help to another faculty member, often a woman. This professor is torn: She wants to help the abandoned student but she knows that, by doing so, she is enabling a system that allows Professor Reputation to continue to burnish his, well, reputation as a producer of fine Ph.D. students while Professor Ghost Adviser will get little if any recognition for the hours she spends improving the work of his student. Professor Ghost Adviser knows that if she refuses to help, the one who gets hurt is the student — not Professor Reputation, who will very likely lay the blame for a weak dissertation on the student.

No matter how limited Professor Reputation’s advising actually is, his graduate students are unlikely to officially switch advisers. They are well aware that their nominal adviser’s stature is perhaps the most valuable currency they have in academe’s guild-like structure. Moreover, switching advisers risks alienating an influential person in the field....

Without a doubt, then, ghost advising is built into a system that grants inordinate status to academic "stars" of all sexes and too often rewards those who prioritize their scholarly productivity to the neglect of their other professional responsibilities. But to claim that ghost advising is entirely a byproduct of structural issues in academe obscures the gendered character of the practice itself.
academia  labor  advising  gender 
13 days ago
Making Art from Global Trade Routes
Known for his cyanotype prints on canvas, Scott-Douglas has spent the majority of his career negotiating the different levels of control an artist can have over his chosen materials. In his previous work, he used a computer algorithm to design patterned motifs to be printed on film and exposed to the sun for fifteen minutes. The idea was to see how an environment could influence art-making practices. Essentially, how far can the artist remove himself from the manufacturing process?...

In ฿o₫៛€$, Scott-Douglas takes a different approach. The gallery space is divided into three sections, with sculptures and paintings overlapping in the first room. The paintings, each part of a larger series entitled Trade Winds (2017), map out global maritime trade routes, weather patterns, and oceanic currents. “I was thinking very much about the way that capitalism, surplus, and accumulation look to quantify and, through the quantification, bring an abstraction to nature, as a way of enforcing class control,” he explained in our walkthrough.

Considering capitalism as the driving force of all trade makes us consider the function of those who monitor the routes of trade ships from remote terminals. In relaying information from one carrier to the next, this monitor effectively controls the ebb and flow of global trade, protocol, and the dispersal of information. Scott-Douglas uses FLEETMON, an industry software that allows boat owners to monitor their flow and progress while they’re working, to extract images of various oceanic phenomena. “I became really interested in using this tool as a way of looking at the ocean and thinking about the way that industry is looking at the ocean,” he states. “I’m not sure that what is on the screen is any less interesting than looking at the ocean. There’s a sort of monotony to both.”...

Whereas Scott-Douglas let the environment shape the artwork in his cyanotype prints, he now reclaims control of his media, using his artwork to influence the viewer’s perception of the environment. Observing the ways in which the ocean is standardized by professionals, the artist screen-grabs the different layers of symbols for wind, waves, and current, prints each image, scans it, and manipulates its colors. “Each color is allocated its own layer,” he says. “Each layer is printed and articulated as a separate print. These have sometimes 16, 20, 30 passes through the printer.” The resulting work has both three-dimensionality and palimpsestic depth. In superimposing layers, he slows down the speed at which this program is to be interacted with and undermines its utilitarian function.
machine_vision  infrastructure  logistics  supply_chain 
14 days ago
Flipping to open access for survival: A librarian’s critical role in transforming a journal | Drabinski | College & Research Libraries News
I will never forget the strangeness of that first meeting, of listening to the befuddlement of very smart people who did not understand what was happening to them. They thought the work of making a journal was simply about collecting interesting ideas and making them available to other interested people. They did not understand the material conditions of journal production, or that a political economy of scholarly publishing governed much of their individual experiences. For scholars outside the library, there is little reason to know this. In their eyes, scholarship is simply the work of reading, researching, and writing. Subscriptions were dropping because people didn’t know about our journal and how great it was, and persuasion would be enough to get librarians to renew subscriptions and keep Radical Teacher afloat. Unfortunately, it had not occurred to any of them that what they were experiencing was in fact not personal but political and economic, the result of structural changes in the knowledge economy producing a set of dynamics that was quickly determining the fate of all journals, including this small socialist one.....

Managing an explicitly radical journal like Radical Teacher, the editors might have been expected to understand scholarship as a material practice. For Marxists, life is produced and reproduced through material conditions. Under capitalism, factors such as surplus labor and the demand for profit constrain these conditions—factors that also play into scholarly publishing as librarians experience it. When the board members didn’t see their labor as such, I felt I should intervene, in order to articulate some of these practices. As a librarian, I understood and was able to explain to the other board members why people weren’t buying our journal.

Ultimately, the decision to move from closed to open access was a response to economic pressures, not political or moral ones. The problem of struggling to pay our production bills brought Radical Teacher to a decision point: we had to find another way. This crisis was an opportunity to lay bare the material conditions of our own production—that paper and ink and server space all cost money, that the market for our product was shrinking, that university presses were paying for their own reproduction through fees they were charging us.

It was also an opportunity to help the board make a decision that would align with their politics....

When I presented to the board as a financial solution the option of the journal going open access with a library publisher, I also argued that it was fundamentally about a social good: increased access to scholarly communication. However, those values presented a barrier to our decision for many board members. Some editors worried that if we were freely and openly available, “anyone could read us,” expressing concerns about the problem of right-wing readers and the potential for cyberbullying. For them, being widely and freely available to everyone was initially a bug, not a feature. Editors believed that paywalls were meant to secure audiences and police the political boundaries of our community of writers and readers. Librarians who negotiate, teach, and build workarounds to paywalls understand them as something else: the infrastructure of securing profit of various kinds for corporations under capitalism....

Taking Radical Teacher open access meant working with scholars until they understood that scholarship requires work beyond the realm of ideas. Even though the Marxist materialists on the board understood on some level that people made the journal with their hands, it was harder for them to see that we were part of a bigger economic structure. This point became clear only when we had to make decisions about the means of our own production. The presence of a librarian was an important part of understanding those decisions as decisions that prevented us from going under altogether and from going with a commercial publisher. Instead, we flipped the journal to an open access model that benefits all of our readers and writers.

One of the most powerful results of our decision to publish as open access was the conversion of a dozen board members, who understood in a new way that their discursive work was embedded in a political economy just as subject to critique as other forms of the neoliberal, capitalist classroom—which the board had been contesting since 1975.
academia  publishing  open_access 
16 days ago
China’s Authoritarian State Has an Edge in Artificial Intelligence Development - WSJ
Can a repressive state, led by a central government specializing in five-year plans and surveillance of its own people, make such a leap? The odds against success look steep. Economic history includes few examples of authoritarian states becoming innovative business leaders. But China aims to make that jump in artificial intelligence—or high-level machine learning—with an unusual approach that can’t be dismissed.

Beijing is bankrolling a big effort in AI, in part, to keep better track of homegrown individuals it considers criminals and dissidents, and to intimidate would-be opponents. That work involves fundamental research in image recognition, data collection and sorting that could have commercial spinoffs in the software used to run complex systems. A city with millions of self-driving cars, for instance, would need data analysis and the ability to recognize, say, that a ball bouncing across the street might be followed by a child chasing it.

“What gives China an edge is there is more of a sense of urgency,” says Paul Triolo, a technology research manager at Eurasia Group.

Last summer, China’s central government published a comprehensive plan for artificial intelligence development that aims to make the nation “the world’s primary AI innovation center” by 2030.

In China such plans aren’t simply blueprints, but indications of central government priorities, which work down to localities, state-owned firms and entrepreneurs. ....

Among the most innovative—and threatening—of the Chinese research involves surveillance. The Wall Street Journal has detailed how Beijing has turned its western Xinjiang region into a warren of facial scanners to track millions of Uighur minorities. Police there use hand-held devices to search smartphones for encrypted chat apps. A new twist: mobile facial-recognition units mounted on eyeglasses that police use to search crowds for fugitives, among other uses.
surveillance  artificial_intelligence  china 
16 days ago
Valuing the Syllabus as Scholarship: A Workshop – HuMetricsHSS
that there are many objects–such as the syllabus–that are critical representations of a scholar’s intellectual labor, and we should better articulate nuanced understandings of what those objects are, what they reveal, and what role they play in the scholarly communication landscape; and second, that the syllabus can serve as an indicator of scholarly impact, such as a vehicle revealing citation networks in the humanities and social sciences, and that perhaps it could more rapidly reflect scholarly impact than other forms of citation analysis and even reveal new indicators of value-based scholarly excellence.

The workshop next week focuses on these two aligned but distinct components.  Participants will first explore the syllabus as an object of scholarship in its own right by examining its formal components and the values embedded or hidden in its construction.  The goal is to develop mechanisms for the instructor to tell a better story about the values and goals they infuse in their syllabus, so as to better articulate a broader understanding of their own scholarly practice. By starting with an articulation of values, we argue, we establish a better baseline for the evaluation of impact based on actual goals rather than proxy indicators.

The second component of the workshop focuses on the syllabus as an indicator of scholarship, revealing more about the authors of works featured in a syllabus, their impact and their influence. As we have argued previously,

“We wondered how the syllabus might enhance citation indicators in the humanities and how such indicators might help us rethink and influence notions of impact that currently favor an article-based intellectual economy. Does the syllabus reveal the circulation of ideas in humanities and social science subjects in more effective ways than traditional citation networks using only articles? Is the syllabus a site of more rapid or even potentially up-to-date scholarship, rather than that reflected in the slow burn of a book three years in the making?”
syllabus  faculty_review  academia  citation 
16 days ago
Driverless cars: mapping the trouble ahead
Please use the sharing tools found via the email icon at the top of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at

The first step in realising this potential, however, is the development of effective digital mapping technologies for self-driving cars. The cumbersome storage of data is just one of the technical issues that are occupying many of the brightest engineering minds in Silicon Valley. Without better 3D maps, the much-hyped self-driving car revolution will be much slower to materialise.
automation  self_driving  mapping  cartography  data  storage 
17 days ago
From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon | openDemocracy
When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale stated, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”

We are familiar with that power in employer-employee relationships, or when a massive firm extracts concessions from suppliers. But what about when a firm presumes to exercise juridical power, not as a party to a conflict, but the authority deciding it? I worry that such scenarios will become all the more common as massive digital platforms exercise more power over our commercial lives....

Human rights and the internet
oD 50.50
Shine A Light

From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon
FRANK PASQUALE 5 January 2018
As digital firms move to displace more government roles over time, from room-letting to transportation to commerce, citizens will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.

Economists tend to characterize the scope of regulation as a simple matter of expanding or contracting state power. But a political economy perspective emphasizes that social relations abhor a power vacuum. When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale stated, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”

We are familiar with that power in employer-employee relationships, or when a massive firm extracts concessions from suppliers. But what about when a firm presumes to exercise juridical power, not as a party to a conflict, but the authority deciding it? I worry that such scenarios will become all the more common as massive digital platforms exercise more power over our commercial lives.

A few weeks ago, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (a think tank affiliated with the Social Democratic Party in Germany) invited me to speak at their Conference on Digital Capitalism. As European authorities develop long-term plans to address the rise of powerful platforms, they want to know: What is new, or particularly challenging, in digital capitalism?

My answer focused on the identity and aspirations of major digital firms. They are no longer market participants. Rather, in their fields, they are market makers, able to exert regulatory control over the terms on which others can sell goods and services. Moreover, they aspire to displace more government roles over time, replacing the logic of territorial sovereignty with functional sovereignty. In functional arenas from room-letting to transportation to commerce, persons will be increasingly subject to corporate, rather than democratic, control.

For example: Who needs city housing regulators when AirBnB can use data-driven methods to effectively regulate room-letting, then house-letting, and eventually urban planning generally? Why not let Amazon have its own jurisdiction or charter city, or establish special judicial procedures for Foxconn? Some vanguardists of functional sovereignty believe online rating systems could replace state occupational licensure—so rather than having government boards credential workers, a platform like LinkedIn could collect star ratings on them....

Amazon’s rise is instructive. As Lina Khan explains, “the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it.” The “everything store” may seem like just another service in the economy—a virtual mall. But when a firm combines tens of millions of customers with a “marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, an auction house…a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space,” as Khan observes, it’s not just another shopping option....

Note that these maneuvers–what Tracey Kaye calls “corporate seduction” via tax and other incentives–are not new. But as they accelerate, they mark a faster transfer of power from state to corporate actors. The mayors are in a weakened position because their tax revenues are not high enough to support high quality municipal services, and now they’re succoring a corporate actor with a long history of fighting to push taxation even lower. Similarly, the more online buyers and sellers are relying on Amazon to do their bidding or settle their disputes, the less power they have relative to Amazon itself.
smart_cities  corporatization  smartcityfables 
18 days ago
Palantir has secretly been using New Orleans to test its predictive policing technology - The Verge
As part of the discovery process in Lewis’ trial, the government turned over more than 60,000 pages of documents detailing evidence gathered against him from confidential informants, ballistics, and other sources — but they made no mention of the NOPD’s partnership with Palantir, according to a source familiar with the 39ers trial.

The program began in 2012 as a partnership between New Orleans Police and Palantir Technologies, a data-mining firm founded with seed money from the CIA’s venture capital firm. According to interviews and documents obtained by The Verge, the initiative was essentially a predictive policing program, similar to the “heat list” in Chicago that purports to predict which people are likely drivers or victims of violence.

The partnership has been extended three times, with the third extension scheduled to expire on February 21st, 2018. The city of New Orleans and Palantir have not responded to questions about the program’s current status.

Predictive policing technology has proven highly controversial wherever it is implemented, but in New Orleans, the program escaped public notice, partly because Palantir established it as a philanthropic relationship with the city through Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s signature NOLA For Life program. Thanks to its philanthropic status, as well as New Orleans’ “strong mayor” model of government, the agreement never passed through a public procurement process....

In fact, key city council members and attorneys contacted by The Verge had no idea that the city had any sort of relationship with Palantir, nor were they aware that Palantir used its program in New Orleans to market its services to another law enforcement agency for a multimillion-dollar contract....

Six years ago, one of the world’s most secretive and powerful tech firms developed a contentious intelligence product in a city that has served as a neoliberal laboratory for everything from charter schools to radical housing reform since Hurricane Katrina. Because the program was never public, important questions about its basic functioning, risk for bias, and overall propriety were never answered....

Prediction is not new territory for Palantir. Since at least 2009, Palantir was used by the Pentagon to predict the location of improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq — a wartime risk-assessment program absent the civil liberties concerns that come with individualized predictive policing. Its commercial software platform, Metropolis, also reportedly uses predictive analytics to help businesses develop consumer markets and streamline investments. But before 2012 with the New Orleans program, there is no publicly available record that Palantir had ventured into predictive policing....

Interest and investment in predictive policing technology accelerated after 2009 when the National Institute of Justice began issuing grants for pilot projects in crime forecasting. Those grants underpin some of the best-known — and most scrutinized — predictive policing efforts in Chicago and Los Angeles. Programs vary, and the algorithms are often proprietary, but they all aim to ingest vast stores of data — geography, criminal records, the weather, social media histories — and make predictions about individuals or places likely to be involved in a crime. In the following years, many startup firms have struggled to monetize the crime-fighting method — most notably PredPol, a California startup whose contract awards have foundered after an initial blitz of publicity in the early 2010s....

“We’re kind of a prototype,” said Matalin. “Unless you’re the cousin of some drug dealer that went bad, you’re going to be okay.”...

The Palantir partnership would have likely received more scrutiny from the city council had it been itemized in a budget, but the council’s approval isn’t required for such a program. The structure of city government in New Orleans is predicated on a “strong mayor” model where the council does not have approval authority over contracts or policies for the city police department.

Cities around the country have recently begun to grapple with the question of if and how municipalities should regulate data sharing and privacy. Some cities like Seattle and Oakland have passed legislation establishing committees to craft guidelines and conduct oversight, while others like New York are discussing what role city councils should play regarding privacy in the digital age....

Palantir’s prediction model in New Orleans used an intelligence technique called social network analysis (or SNA) to draw connections between people, places, cars, weapons, addresses, social media posts, and other indicia in previously siloed databases. Think of the analysis as a practical version of a Mark Lombardi painting that highlights connections between people, places, and events. After entering a query term — like a partial license plate, nickname, address, phone number, or social media handle or post — NOPD’s analyst would review the information scraped by Palantir’s software and determine which individuals are at the greatest risk of either committing violence or becoming a victim, based on their connection to known victims or assailants.

The data on individuals came from information scraped from social media as well as NOPD criminal databases for ballistics, gangs, probation and parole information, jailhouse phone calls, calls for service, the central case management system (i.e., every case NOPD had on record), and the department’s repository of field interview cards. The latter database represents every documented encounter NOPD has with citizens, even those that don’t result in arrests. In 2010, The Times-Picayune revealed that Chief Serpas had mandated that the collection of field interview cards be used as a measure of officer and district performance, resulting in over 70,000 field interview cards filled out in 2011 and 2012. The practice resembled NYPD’s “stop and frisk” program and was instituted with the express purpose of gathering as much intelligence on New Orleanians as possible, regardless of whether or not they committed a crime....If someone had been shot, Serpas explained, Asher would use Palantir’s software to find people associated with them through field interviews or social media data. “This data analysis brings up names and connections between people on FIs [field interview cards], on traffic stops, on victims of reports, reporting victims of crimes together, whatever the case may be...

According to Palantir’s own documentation, Asher and his colleagues ran social network analyses of every victim of a fatal or non-fatal shooting in New Orleans from 2011 through 2013. Through this technique, which Asher dubbed “The NOLA Model,” the city devised a list of roughly 3,900 people who were at the highest risk of being involved in gun violence because of their connection to a previous shooter or victim. “We can identify 30-40% of shooting victims,” Asher claimed at Palantir’s 2014 internal conference. Asher declined repeated requests for an interview.

Theoretically, Asher’s approach is substantially influenced by the research of Andrew Papachristos, a Yale professor who tracked violence as if it were a communicable disease spreading through networks of association. However, since his work was cited as the academic underpinning for crime-forecasting models employed by PredPol and the Chicago Police Department, Papachristos has sought to distance his research from those methods.

Once NOPD generated its list of likely shooters and victims, the police department and social service providers — for the “carrot” side of NOLA For Life — would select people who were either incarcerated or on court supervision for a “call-in meeting.”...

Regardless of the sustainability of New Orleans’ murder reduction, Palantir used its work with the NOPD to solicit large contracts with other American cities. Later, the company won lucrative contracts for predictive programs with foreign governments....

Last year, the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel’s security services used analytics systems that scraped social media and other data to predict potential “lone-wolf” attackers from Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and that Palantir was one of only two technology companies to provide predictive intelligence systems to Israeli security organizations. The New Orleans project is the first reported instance of Palantir using social media data as a part of the company’s social network analysis....

If Palantir’s partnership with New Orleans had been public, the issues of legality, transparency, and propriety could have been hashed out in a public forum during an informed discussion with legislators, law enforcement, the company, and the public. For six years, that never happened.
smart_cities  palantir  prediction  policing  social_network_analysis  methodology 
18 days ago
Public Intellectuals | Generous Thinking
Finally, we must support members of our own academic communities who work in public modes, by recognizing that the work involved is not just public, but also intellectual. Our modes of evaluation and assessment are generally built around a tripartite division among research, teaching, and service, and too often things that don’t meet a relatively narrow set of criteria for what gets considered research are demoted to that last category. As a result, when scholars make the transition to more public prose, the work involved is frequently unrewarded, if not actively derided, back on campus. Writing for the public is often assumed to be less developed, since it probably has not been through academic processes of peer review, but in fact it’s likely to have been far more stringently edited than most scholarly publications, as editors for mainstream publications often work much more closely with writers and their prose than academic editors. This editing process can hone an idea in important ways, clarifying it for both writer and reader. But clarity is too often mistaken for simplicity.
academia  writing  public_scholarship 
18 days ago
Living on the Edge: The Value of Graphic Social Science
I’m a anthropology researcher with a bunch of experience in the field and the workplace. I’ve got a book (or two) I’m working on. Both monographs spend some time exploring the boundaries of mixed media. Both speak in the language to which I am a native. Here is a fresh piece of that work. This is a part of a conclusion to a current manuscript. I hope you’ll forgive references to prior content. On these pages I ask the question: can comics be ethnography?
18 days ago
Conference Programme | Failure in the Archives
How do we respond to the resistance, or worse, the silences and gaps, that we find in the archives? Scholarship tends toward success stories, but this conference seeks presentations from a range of disasters that arise when navigating the depths of the archive: damaged, destroyed, mislabelled, misrepresented materials, forgeries, exaggerated significance, and gaps in the historical record. Overall, the experience of failure in the archive is truly interdisciplinary, skewing the warp and woof of close reading and big data alike, not to mention posing everyday problems for archivists and librarians working on the frontlines to make their collections accessible

We welcome proposals on any aspect of early modern archival work, manuscript or print, covering the period 1500-1750. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

Materials which challenge cataloguing standards
Uncatalogued material – how to find it, how to access it, how to use it
Inaccurate cataloguing – tensions between past and present.
Broken or dispersed collections
Damaged, destroyed, or compromised collections
The ethics of maintaining archives
The ethics of archival research – especially when working with sensitive material
Absences and silences in the archive
Difficulties conserving and preserving materials
Conflicts of information between archival sources
Digitisation and its discontents
Agents in the archives: collectors, archivists, researchers
archives  silence  gaps  absences  epistemology  uncertainty 
19 days ago
Engaging Absence | Thomas Padilla
How might data driven scholarship be conducted in a manner that centers data absence?...

Amalia S. Levi shared Lauren Klein’s The Image of Absence: Archival Silence, Data Visualization, and James Hemings. With this piece, Lauren (1) demonstrates how Digital Humanities techniques can be used to address archival silence (2) and frames challenges that an archive of slavery poses for the Digital Humanities.

Scott Weingart referred to absence as, “more a creative wellspring than a lacuna”, and shared a concise presentation on Fidelity at Scale. Scott raised the notion of a workshop or conference focused on productive explorations of archival absence at scale. I am all in for that. I’d guess that others would be to.

Jer Thorp shared Mimi Onuoha’s On Missing Datasets. With this project, Onuoha calls attention to, “blank spots that exist in spaces that are otherwise data-saturated.” Onuoha is careful to emphasize that “missing” should be understood as, “a lack and an ought: [a space where] something does not exist, but … should.” Onuoha goes on to introduce social factors that can be used to understand why data might not be accounted for. It should come as no surprise that these factors are arrayed against the most vulnerable among us. As a speculative exercise in seeing what isn’t there, Onuoha provides “an incomplete list of missing datasets.”

Ryan Dunn introduced the work of Andy Kirk. Andy shared a presentation on The Design of Nothing. In this presentation Andy provides a principle driven exploration of how to produce data visualizations where, “what is not happening is just as relevant as what is“. It is a kaleidoscopic presentation.

Jacqueline Wernimont shared Morris Eaves The Editorial Void: Notes toward a Study of Oblivion. Eaves presents a lengthy discourse on how to work with a history that, “even in the best imaginable circumstances, comes down edited by the harsh disciplines of purposeful and accidental forces.”

Mitchell Whitelaw flagged the notion of “intrinsic / representative incompleteness” raised by Tim Sherratt’s Seams and edges: Dreams of aggregation, access & discovery in a broken world. In this piece, Sherratt works against the perception of a seamless experience on the web in order to help us see how various people, data, and systems come together to constitute it – an exercise in finding the seams.

Clemens Neudecker shared his and Alastair Dunning’s Representation and Absence in Digital Resources: The Case of Europeana Newspapers. Clemens and Alastair present challenges they encountered addressing absence in the context a large scale historic newspaper digitization effort. How might a user interface for newspapers visually represent absence? How might the user ascertain the representativeness of a subset of digitized newspapers relative to all known holdings – digitized and not digitized?

Cole Crawford and Karl Grossner both reminded me of the amazing work of Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA). CESTA tools like Breve and Palladio help users identify absence in data. This interaction also offered occasion to give a shoutout to Karl’s work with representation of indeterminate temporal data.
archives  interfaces  data  absences  erasure  uncertainty  epistemology 
19 days ago
Tech Envisions the Ultimate Start-Up: An Entire City - The New York Times
In the maddening gap between how this place functions and how inventors and engineers here think it should, many have become enamored with the same idea: What if the people who build circuits and social networks could build cities, too? Wholly new places, designed from scratch and freed from broken policies.

Mr. Huh leads a project begun by the start-up accelerator Y Combinator to explore the creation of new cities. Hundreds applied to work on what looked like “the ultimate full-stack start-up.” Last October, Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet company, announced it would team up with a government agency in Toronto to redevelop a stretch of the city “from the internet up.”

For others in tech — intrigued by word of a proposed smart city in Arizona, a big Bitcoin land grab in Nevada, a special economic zone in Honduras — fantasizing about newly built cities has become a side gig. They dream of utopias with driverless cars, radical property-ownership models, 3-D-printed houses and skyscrapers assembled in days.

While some urban planners roll their eyes, it is true that America’s cities have always been built on someone’s hubris, whether the characters who plotted Manhattan’s street grid, or those who imagined the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Who were these guys who were thinking so big? Then the question is, where are those people now?” said Paul Romer, the former chief economist at the World Bank, whose ideas (and TED talks) on new “charter cities” have influenced some in tech. “Tech types — as much as people might talk about the parochial way they’re approaching it — deserve credit for thinking bigger than anybody in government right now.”

Their interest has an internal logic to it. The tech industry tries to produce better versions of familiar things — cheaper phones, smaller computers, faster chips. But cities like San Francisco don’t seem to be evolving into more efficient versions of themselves. And if you take literally the economist Ed Glaeser’s assertion in “Triumph of the City” that cities are our greatest invention, it ought to be possible to reinvent them....

To planners and architects, all of this sounds like the naïveté of newcomers who are mistaking political problems for engineering puzzles.

Utopian city-building schemes have seldom succeeded. What we really need, they say, is to fix the cities we already have, not to set off in search of new ones....

“It’s very easy to get a sense of déjà vu,” said Nicholas de Monchaux, a designer and Berkeley professor who describes this history in his book “Spacesuit.”

Technologically optimized cities, he says, failed then for the same reason they would be unsuccessful now. Technology can help reduce traffic, or connect you faster to a ride home. “But a city is not at its fundamental level optimizable,” he said. A city’s dynamism derives from its inefficiencies, from people and ideas colliding unpredictably.


It’s also unclear what you’d optimize an entire city for. Technologists describe noble aspirations like “human flourishing” or “quality of life.” But noble goals come into conflict within cities. You could optimize for affordable housing, but then you may create a more crowded city than many residents want. You could design a city so that every home receives sunlight (an idea the Chinese tried). But that might mean the city isn’t dense enough to support diverse restaurants and mass transit.

These trade-offs demand political choices. And so technologists hoping to avoid politics are bound to encounter them again.

Of the techno-urbanists, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs seems to be closest to actually creating something. The company, run out of New York City by the former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, concluded after a year of study that it needed a not-quite-blank slate to truly innovate.
smart_cities  methodology  epistemology 
21 days ago
Extra Doorbells, Satellite Dishes: How Cities Search for People the Census May Miss - The New York Times
“There are certain cues we’re looking for,” said Nicholas Almeida, San Jose’s chief service officer. The city knows that thousands of people are living in units like this, technically illegal, with no recognized address. Their hidden households have extra satellite dishes outside, curtains over basement windows, mail slots in garage doors. Setting aside questions of housing code enforcement, San Jose needs the census to find these residents, too, if the city is going to get its full share of the political power and federal resources tied to the national head count.

Two years out from the census, cities are scrambling to avert an undercount they fear could be unusually large for reasons both political and practical. Across California, the housing crisis means that even more households are doubling up in existing homes and occupying illegal ones. In Houston, many families remain displaced by Hurricane Harvey. In New York, the city has permitted so much new construction that the Census Bureau — compiling address lists now — may miss thousands of units to be completed between now and 2020.

Cities must find all these households before they even get to the second challenge: persuading the people who live in them, many of them immigrants, to participate in the census....

“If you are reluctant to reach out because of your fear that ICE may show up, for fear of being deported, then how do you think people are going to feel when you’re asking them to go online or to respond to an enumerator that’s knocking on your door to fill out a census form?” Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston said. “They’re going to be apprehensive.”

In San Jose, the city will rely on community volunteers this spring to scour neighborhoods where it suspects many families are doubled up or living in unpermitted housing. On the street with the beige garage conversion, Mr. Almeida could point to a clue on nearly every property. Peeking over a fence, he spied another garage with a satellite dish mounted outside. One home had an R.V. that looked to be permanently stationed in a large carport. Across the street, a home zoned for just one unit had a second address posted outside. The home next door had two satellite dishes on the chimney and a third on the garage.

This spring, volunteers will use a texting app the city tested in December to identify these and similar units. The city will then flag them on the Census Bureau’s master address list for San Jose. ...

In New York City, half a dozen workers in the planning department have been similarly canvasing neighborhoods for the last 15 months. Ahead of the 2000 count, the first time the Census Bureau allowed cities to review their addresses, New York found 439,000 units the bureau was missing — the equivalent of 13 percent of the city’s housing stock — mostly in illegal basement, attic and garage apartments revealed by extra doorbells and mailboxes.
methodology  quantification  census 
21 days ago
Anatomic – Max Cooper & Henning M. Lederer on Vimeo
Anatomic – A continuous journey into the human machine

This video is part of the audio-visual live performance „Emergence“ by Max Cooper.
embodiment  body_machine  video 
21 days ago
OMD – Isotype on Vimeo
Based on the amazing work of Gerd Arntz.
Music taken from the forthcoming album "The Punishment of Luxury" by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (

Illustration & Animation by Henning M. Lederer
Label: 100% RECORDS (
music_videos  neurath  infographics  graphic_design 
21 days ago
A collection of text graphics and related works, stretching back thousands of years. Textiles, BBS-graphics, poetry, mosaic, typography, and much more. Collected by Raquel Meyers and Goto80.

Includes formats such as shift-JIS, PETSCII, ASCII, SharpSCII, EBCDIC, ANSI, RTTY, ATASCII, unicode, braille, xbin …

Made for media like videotex, teletext, BBS, buildings, typewriters, clothes, textile, cross-stitch, letterpress, toys, telidon, antiope, print, minitel …

With styles such as animation, typography, mosaic, poetry, text art, χχχ, text mode, advertising, elite, kufic, sloyd …

Putting the emphasis on grids, patterns, emoticons, tiles, tessellations …

From ancient times and the 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s , 2000s, 2010s
21 days ago
It's Nice That | Creative studio Field updates the visual language surrounding AI in its series System Aesthetics
In recent years, the conversation surrounding artificial intelligence has exploded significantly. What was once understood and discussed by an elite few is now a well-known trope in the average household. Despite this, hundreds of articles and advertising campaigns still rely on the visual lineage established in the 1980s with films like Tron, Hackers and The Matrix where “a faceless, hooded figure, types green bits of code into a cryptic-looking terminal, in a dimly lit environment.”

This astute observation was what prompted Field’s “curious and slightly nerdy bunch of people,” to take on the challenge of reinventing this language by visualising the invisible. In its series System Aesthetics the creative studio gives shape, form, colour and movement to a series of algorithms in an attempt to aid greater understanding of how they function.

“There is so much visual language in the world already,” explains Field’s creative director Marcus Wendt, “the only image worth making, in my opinion, is the one that doesn’t exist.” Alongside his ten-strong team (“a colourful bunch of creatives with different backgrounds”), Marcus set about “discovering and exploring these previously unseen, fruitful fields, within the vast space of visual possibility.”...

In some instances, the algorithm itself provided a visual metaphor – for example, a blockchain is a sequence of blocks of information – meaning the challenge was to give them a “compelling form and a fascinating behaviour.” Other times, things were more ambiguous and so the team took inspiration from the scientific language that researchers at Google, Stanford University and elsewhere use to describe their own inventions. However, Marcus describes how where they found a new visuality that interested them, they “rigorously questioned it logically and intuitively, revising the idea until it ‘felt right’.”
presentation_images  artificial_intelligence  algorithms  rhetoric 
21 days ago
MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies Special Collection
Center for Advanced Visual Studies Special Collection
Works, People, About, Search
Welcome to the online repository of MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) Special Collection, part of the Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) Archives and Special Collections.
The CAVS Special Collection documents a nearly 45 year history of collaborative and time-based productions generated by the tenure of over 200 internationally recognized artist-fellows. This digitized, “virtual museum” includes images, publications, posters, documents, portfolios, videos and other materials of historic importance documenting the process of creating art-science-technology projects at CAVS. This site presents experimental ways in which to explore collection materials.
archives  digital_collections  art  media_art  exhibition  sound_art  installation 
22 days ago
Ananya Roy on Twitter: "Graduate seminars are a key site at which we “raise” the men & women who become the next generation of scholars. When we allow masculinist performances, often cast as Theory, to dominate, we reproduce patriarchy."
Graduate seminars are a key site at which we “raise” the men & women who become the next generation of scholars. When we allow masculinist performances, often cast as Theory, to dominate, we reproduce patriarchy.
pedagogy  graduate_education  syllabus 
22 days ago
Topographic Mapping by Photogrammetric Methods (1947) : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
Portrays technical procedures employed by the Topographic Division of the U.S. Geological Survey in making standard topographic quadrangles, featuring the use of the multiplex method of mapping. Technical presentation for engineering students and other scientific personnel.
Produced by the U.S. Geological Survey.
cartography  mapping  cartographic_history  video 
22 days ago
Henry Cooke🗿 on Twitter: "MADE A NEW THING: I Am Running In The Cloud. An experiment for two Echoes. Each repeats a text to the other, introducing new errors on every repetition. A homage to Alvin Lucier, via Oulipo S+7. More here:
MADE A NEW THING: I Am Running In The Cloud. An experiment for two Echoes. Each repeats a text to the other, introducing new errors on every repetition. A homage to Alvin Lucier, via Oulipo S+7.
sound  listening  echo  error  sound_art  lucier 
23 days ago
A Daily Dose of Architecture: Renovating NYPL
Curious about Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle's design for the renovation of the New York Public Library's grand building (officially the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) next to Bryant Park? The $317 million plan was released to the public in November 2017, but the renderings that accompanied the release fail to impress on what exactly is going on. Thankfully the NYPL has a 9-minute film with some snazzy animated illustrations, like the one below, and some words from Mecanoo's Francine Houben. (Note that you'll have to sit through a few minutes of NYPL fluff to get to the architecture parts.)
NYPL  renovation 
24 days ago
City Noise Might Be Making You Sick - The Atlantic
Similar approaches can work today. Instead of punishing individual transportation workers whose trucks may be too old, a more comprehensive solution could target the Department of Transportation, with demands to repave worn roads with the porous asphalt configurations used in Europe to reduce tire noise. Likewise, any move toward using renewable energy sources will result in a quieter environment, as coal and oil extraction are extremely noisy labors. At the local and state level, demanding funding for repairs and improvement to outdated transit infrastructure will greatly reduce the noise caused by trains, cars, and trucks.

Urban-planning approaches to eliminating noise on a city-by-city basis can be as simple as taking a single lane away from cars and giving it to bicycles, people, or green space. Improving, expanding, and properly funding public transit removes cars from the road, both reducing the sound they produce and replacing it with quieter options like trams and high-speed light-rail. In architecture, acoustics should play a greater role in all structures, from mundane apartment buildings to the grandest art museums. Noise control should be a consideration from the very first planning stage, rather than tacked on as an afterthought.
urban_planning  sound_space  noise  sound_design 
25 days ago
Algorithmic Impact Assessments: Toward Accountable Automation in Public Agencies
Automated decision systems are here, and are already being integrated across many core social institutions, reshaping how our criminal justice system works via risk assessment algorithms and predictive policing systems, optimizing energy use in critical infrastructure through AI-driven resource allocation, and changing our educational system through new teacher evaluation tools and student-school matching algorithms. And these are merely what journalists, researchers, and the public record expose — to date, no city in the US has explicitly mandated that its agencies disclose anything about the automated decision systems they have in place or are planning to use...

While these systems are already influencing important decisions, there is still no clear framework in the US to ensure that they are monitored and held accountable.¹ Indeed, even many simple systems operate as “black boxes,” as they are outside the scope of meaningful scrutiny and accountability. This is worrying. If governments continue on this path, they and the public they serve will increasingly lose touch with how decisions have been made, thus rendering them unable to know or respond to bias, errors, or other problems. The urgency of this concern is why AI Now has called for an end to the use of black box systems in core public agencies. Black boxes must not prevent agencies from fulfilling their responsibility to protect basic democratic values, such as fairness and due process, and to guard against threats like illegal discrimination or deprivation of rights.

With this in mind, and drawing on several ongoing research efforts, AI Now is proposing an early-stage framework centered on Algorithmic Impact Assessments (AIAs). This broad approach complements similar domain-specific proposals, like Andrew Selbst’s recent work on Algorithmic Impact Statements in the context of predictive policing systems.
algorithms  accountability  smart_cities  predictive_policing 
25 days ago
Zeynep Çelik Alexander: Architectures of Homogenous Empiricism - YouTube
In Philosophia Botanica, published in 1751, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus provided instructions for the construction of a cabinet to accommodate his botanical specimens. Modest as the architecture of the cabinet was, it made a new kind of empiricism possible: the specimens, which were standardized by being pressed between unattached sheets of paper, could now be arranged and rearranged as the collection grew, as species, genera, or families were added or removed, and even if the theory organizing the overall system became defunct. In the century that followed, Linnaeus’s cabinet informed the architecture of numerous herbaria, whose functioning depended on this homogeneous empiricism of elementary, discrete, and, portable particulars. This paper examines the architecture of the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew in an attempt to understand how it organized not only knowledge but also as labor and capital across the globe. This, after all, was the ingenuity of herbarium architecture: its homogeneous empiricism shaped as much the gardeners who collected specimens in the colonies as the botanists who observed, classified, and named those specimens in the metropole and publics who were educated through displays of “economic botany.”
organization  classification  furniture  archives 
4 weeks ago
China's Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious - The Atlantic
Known by the anodyne name “social credit,” this system is designed to reach into every corner of existence both online and off. It monitors each individual’s consumer behavior, conduct on social networks, and real-world infractions like speeding tickets or quarrels with neighbors. Then it integrates them into a single, algorithmically determined “sincerity” score. Every Chinese citizen receives a literal, numeric index of their trustworthiness and virtue, and this index unlocks, well, everything. In principle, anyway, this one number will determine the opportunities citizens are offered, the freedoms they enjoy, and the privileges they are granted.

This end-to-end grid of social control is still in its prototype stages, but three things are already becoming clear: First, where it has actually been deployed, it has teeth. Second, it has profound implications for the texture of urban life. And finally, there’s nothing so distinctly Chinese about it that it couldn’t be rolled out anywhere else the right conditions obtain. The advent of social credit portends changes both dramatic and consequential for life in cities everywhere—including the one you might call home....

A dominant current of urbanist thought in the West sees order in cities as uncontrived—an emergent outcome of lower-level processes. Canny observers like Georg Simmel, Jane Jacobs, and Richard Sennett hold that virtually everything that makes big-city life what it is—and big-city people who they are—arises from the necessity of negotiating with the millions of others with whom city dwellers share their daily environments. In cities that are set up to afford this kind of interaction, people learn to practice what the sociologist Erving Goffman called “civil inattention.” They acknowledge the presence of others without making any particular claim on them....

As far as the ruling elites of Zhongnanhai are concerned, though, “sincerity construction,” or the process that results in stability and public rectitude, is something far too important to be left to the unplanned interactions of millions of city dwellers. From their point of view, orderliness is paramount, because orderliness makes for stability, and stability makes for continued economic growth. In their 21st-century interpretation of the “mandate of heaven,” the 3,000-year-old doctrine of Chinese imperial rule, only continued economic growth underwrites continued legitimacy....

The social-credit system was based explicitly on a familiar, Western model: the credit score. As a de facto reputation index, your credit score strongly conditions where you can rent, what kind of jobs or educational opportunities you’ll be eligible for, even what mode of travel you use to get around. This one number—formulated by obscure means, by largely unaccountable organizations, then used as a gating mechanism by a profusion of third parties, mostly in secret—has become what it was never meant to be: a general proxy for trustworthiness..

Those who wear virtue on their sleeves further—perhaps by taking public transit consistently instead of driving to work, taking out the recycling regularly, or even denouncing a misbehaving neighbor—might enjoy new benefits, like being able to rent a flat with no deposit, or earning the right to send their children to exclusive schools. This hardly sounds like authoritarianism run amok, and to a certain degree, patriotic Chinese netizens are right to complain when Western critics conflate such nudges toward preferred behavior with actual tyranny....

But the system provides abundantly for sticks as well as carrots. Attend a “subversive” political meeting or religious service, for example, or frequent known haunts of vice, or do under-the-table business with an unregistered, informal enterprise, and the idea is that the network will know about it and respond by curtailing one’s privileges. The state wants its citizens to believe that there’s little point in trying to evade detection of such acts, especially when they are strongly correlated with suspicious sites, either by mobile-phone location data or by China’s extensive national network of facial-recognition-equipped surveillance cameras.
privacy  smart_cities  surveillance  china 
4 weeks ago
Rendering: The Cave of the Digital - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
Throughout this cave, and across the paleo-world of what is now southern Europe, are cave paintings of bodies and figures, people and animals. Not portraits, but points, like the freeze-frame screens that football pundits use on pay TV. Except these drawings are made over millennia, describing some other kind of relationship to time and space. These cave art scenes are pictures of space, of gaps between, of the tension between figures.

The surfaces of the cave narrate stories like celestial constellations. Images are etched, smeared, blown, and drawn onto this undulating, ragged, curved surface so that topography blurs into figures—the surface of a sleeping bison, the neck of a horse conjured by shading applied to a fissure or a bump.

Caves invert the space of the world above ground. In these underground interiors, space is bounded by the earth itself. Yet through the drawings in these concave enclosures, they are rendered into worlds. Representation transforms them into an essential act of architecture—spaces that organize meaning and form. One might even say that these drawings act as the first form of architecture—that the natural cave becomes architecture not through shelter but representation. These were not places to live, after all, but served some other purpose.

Caves are spaces of representation without edges; where the world and the space of the page are the same thing. Drawings whose subject, but also medium, is space. Representation that is applied to the world itself; representation that becomes the world.

Inside the cave, we occupy the drawing just as the drawing occupies and manufactures space. We are not outside observers of an image, but active participants within the space of representation.

Looking closely, there are other specific representational tropes. There are no faces on any of the figures. No sky either; no trees, no rivers, no landscape, no horizon.

They are pictures of the world, but a world that is different to ours; a world whose outlines remain daubed on cave walls but whose meaning we can’t comprehend. Maps whose coordinates have been lost, whose legend no longer makes sense, whose orientations and coordinates obey different rules. Representations whose scale and depth no longer register as they did with their authors....

Space is not a natural phenomenon, but something constructed. Medieval European space, for example, is fundamentally different from Neolithic space. Perspectival space is fundamentally different from Byzantine space. Space is a product of social, economic, and environmental conditions. It provides a specific framework for encounter, relationship, and the production of specific kinds of meaning. Representation is not just a way of recording or depicting space, but the way of constructing it. Spatial representation is not merely pictorial or graphic, but also conceptual....

Erwin Panofsky argues that the invention of linear perspective could only occur at the moment when a particular conception of space—the concept of infinity—emerged.1 He suggests that this idea of the infinite emerged because of a new religious conception of a singular, divine omnipresence. Without this idea of the universe, it would be impossible to conceive of the vanishing point....

To this we might add that the drawing system of perspective, relying as it does on accurate measurement to construct its space, emerged within the highly mercantile contexts of Florence and Venice; places where the measurement of goods was fundamental to the accumulation of wealth.

In other words, perspective brought spiritual divinity and earthy pragmatism together into the same representational space. ...

That Pacioli, a Franciscan friar as well as mathematician, is also credited with the invention of double entry bookkeeping should come as no surprise. “Double entry” is a system of recording transactions in terms of credit and debit; a debit in one account will be offset by a credit in another, so the sum of all debits must be equal to the sum of all credits. Double entry remains the basis of contemporary accounting. It is the space that appears when spreadsheets are opened, just as perspective is the space that appears when Sketchup is fired up and pictorial space for constructed the lonely figure in an empty world.

Both perspective drawing and double entry bookkeeping are systems that seem to help accurately record the world as it is. But at heart, the power that both have is to remake the world according to their own vision. ...

The power of perspective is not only its internal representational mechanism, but how it projects its ideal geometry outwards into the world. Not as a form of recording the world, but of constructing it. Unlike the representational space of the cave, which internalizes the world, perspective is mapped outwards from its vanishing point, beyond the frame of the page and into the world.

One can further argue, along with Hito Steyerl, that concepts which emerge from perspectival space shape geopolitical space:

The use of the horizon to calculate position gave seafarers a sense of orientation, thus also enabling colonialism and the spread of a capitalist global market, but also became an important tool for the construction of the optical paradigms that came to define modernity, the most important paradigm being that of so-called linear perspective....

Just as language constrains what it is possible to say—or perhaps even think—the conventions and genres of representation used to create architecture also set out the terms of its engagement with the world. They may appear to represent space as a simple, “natural” thing, but the possibilities of the space they depict are already contained within them before pen is put to paper, or cursor to page. ...

Attempts to deploy alternative, even Cubist types of architectural space, from Deconstruction to Parametracism, have only served to reinforce traditional representational modes, insofar as their highly complex forms have required the development of hyper accurate software that replicate the spatial constructs of traditional architectural representation. In other words, advanced 3D modeling software have only served to reinforce preexisting forms of representation. ...

This rejection of the technical sophistication of the photorealistic “real” instead embraces a new awkwardness. It finds itself making digital collages that hit Google images hard and proclaim their diverse sources. Instead of complex three dimensionality, they take advantage of Photoshop and Illustrator’s ability to operate in an infinitely layered two-dimensional plane—which, in passing, operates as a native digital space rather than a simulation of the real just as a digital database can operate in nth dimensional space. These drawings accentuate the artificiality of the drawing, sometimes through the use of one point perspective, or by rejecting perspective entirely for a flattened “digital Byzantine.” These, amongst others, are tactics of post-digital architectural drawing. Far more than a stylistic project (though this is always a present danger of representational regimes), they configure an approach to digital culture that turns away from the pixel-perfect simulation of the real to expressly declare the representational quality of the drawing. These drawings accentuate representation’s “representational” quality, eschewing preset realism in order to expose how drawing and seeing are active in constructing the world.
archaeology  caves  writing  space  representation  art_history  perspective  media_architecture 
4 weeks ago
Sidewalk Labs: Google’s Guinea-Pig City in Toronto - The Atlantic
The framework agreement also calls for an “Urban Innovation Institute” at Quayside. Sidewalk’s vision document seems to see it as a quasi-­academic organization, “a place for collaboration and discussion, and an unprecedented opportunity for faculty and students to test their ideas in a real urban environment.” But it doesn’t talk about partnering with any of Toronto’s many universities and colleges. It’s unclear whether this would be an academic research unit subject to an academic ethics review board, or a private resource where researchers would work on Sidewalk’s technology portfolio. Sidewalk’s spokesperson told me the matter had not been settled....

To facilitate those interactions, a public-engagement plan offers many ways Torontonians can engage. They include live-streamed talks, public roundtables, Sidewalk Toronto “pop-up stations,” a “design jam” with architects and planners, and a two-day CivicLabs workshop on “issues like mobility, housing, and inclusion.” Interested citizens can also send their children to a free “Sidewalk Toronto Summer Kids Camp.”....

If the Sidewalk Toronto project were implemented as described in the vision document, the area would become some of the most heavily surveilled real estate on the planet. Sidewalk describes neighborhoods “over-provisioned” with “a broad range of sensors” to “enable parallel experimentation with multiple technology approaches.” Data from these sensors would be stored and processed to feed controls for everything from the ambient temperature of buildings to crosswalk signals to the assigned uses of adaptable private and public spaces. As the Eastern Waterfront is optimized to Sidewalk’s standards, whatever those are, the tech underlying also benefits, primed for redeployment in other locales.

When I asked about data gathering, Lasher responded, “We’re not going to gather up all Torontonians’ data and sell it, we’re not building Sensorville.” But in this case, the sale of resident data might be of less concern than its use. Residents and visitors to the Sidewalk site would provide valuable benefit to Sidewalk, allowing their daily lives to help optimize technology for Sidewalk’s broader commercial venture. Harvesting data from citizens, including children and those in need of affordable housing, is an aspect of the Sidewalk Toronto project that deserves careful thought....

If “ubiquitous sensing” (Sidewalk’s term) is a goal within the Sidewalk Toronto neighborhood, its effects are already being felt in the rest of Toronto. Doctoroff is talking about launching tech pilots “right now” in different locations around the city, beyond Quayside. These pilot projects would let Sidewalk show off its tech and drum up enthusiasm over a long planning cycle. They might also normalize the experience of being a free-range experimental population within the city....

Sidewalk has defined the terms of the conversation, placing government and critics in the position of responding to Sidewalk’s techno-utopian picture book, and casting themselves as enemies of innovation if they dispute it....

The power of storytelling is nothing new to Doctoroff. In Greater Than Ever, his new book on his time in the Bloomberg administration, Doctoroff talks at length about preparing detailed, emotionally affecting presentations to sell city officials and private funders on the idea of a New York Olympic bid in 1996. Doctoroff’s presentation invoked West Side Story, Lincoln Center, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty to convince his audience that “hosting the Olympics could spur New York’s next big leap forward.” Sidewalk’s vision document plucks on similar urban heartstrings, anchoring itself with hand-drawn illustrations of hyper-local Torontonian landmarks and icons. ...

Perhaps it’s more useful to review the vision document less as a promise, and more as a statement of Sidewalk’s urbanist ideology. It offers a blueprint for Alphabet’s idea of a city, whether in Toronto or elsewhere.

Take real estate, for example. The document emphasizes affordable housing and a diversity of planned neighborhoods. But the reconfigurable buildings Sidewalk proposes are structured in a way that seems to preclude long-term, individual ownership of an apartment or a storefront. Residential and commercial spaces appear to be designed for brief, transitional tenancies, built for “ongoing and frequent interior changes around a strong skeletal structure.”...

Sidewalk’s emphasis on pop-up shops, fast-cycling start-ups, and next-gen bazaars doesn’t seem to balance innovation with the routine needs of a livable neighborhood. Sidewalk likes to invoke Jane Jacobs, for whom Toronto was an adopted home, when talking about the benefits of flexible zoning. But Jacobs also emphasized the need to avoid fast turnover in businesses and residences, so that stable neighborhoods could develop. ...

Sidewalk also seems to want to sidestep existing land-use policies to accomplish its goals. It says “outmoded regulations” hold cities back from achieving their full innovative potential. In order for Sidewalk’s “climate-positive,” “adaptable” buildings to be deployed at a large enough scale to be cost-efficient, “a new paradigm in the building code” will be required. Likewise, innovations in transport and energy production “may require substantial forbearances from existing laws and regulations.” Sidewalk advocates “outcome-based” building and zoning codes, a style of regulating construction and development that relies on modeling and real-time monitoring to allow “flexible buildings” to be used for a broad range of uses in real time.... Sidewalk’s “city of the future” might best be compared to a special economic zone, an area of regulatory exemption that allows it to innovate to its heart’s content, beyond the normal laws of its host municipality.
sidewalk_labs  sensors  surveillance  smart_cities  zoning  urban_planning 
4 weeks ago
Don't Skip a Step! Own Your Role as Moderator | HASTAC
Don't disappear!
Everyone looks to a moderator for ground rules for the Q&A, so don't skip over this teachable moment. Let's all pledge to take a minute to explain how the Q&A is going to work. Yes, that means taking up some time, and bringing more attention to ourselves, but after observing tons of panels, I think it's the only way to increase our success rate and revolutionize not just the classroom but academia, one conference at a time. Taking time to structure the Q&A also gives audience members some time to think of good questions, and it makes them aware of your presence as a facilitator. 

What does the audience need to unlearn most?
What I've noticed (as a panelist and as an audience member) is that moderators often call on the first person to raise a hand. We need to stop that. Tell the audience that you will not call on the first person, that you will wait for more hands before you call on anyone. The best questions are often never asked because they come after time for reflection; they're developed later than the first one but the first one is given the most time and freedom. So the first thing everyone needs to unlearn is calling based on order. 
conferences  moderating  advising  academia 
4 weeks ago
There Is No Such Thing as a Smart City - The Atlantic
The digital techniques that smart-city fans adore are flimsy and flashy—and some are even actively pernicious—but they absolutely will be used in cities. They already have an urban heritage. When you bury fiber-optic under the curbs around the town, then you get internet. When you have towers and smartphones, then you get portable ubiquity. When you break up a smartphone into its separate sensors, switches, and little radios, then you get the internet of things.

These tedious yet important digital transformations have been creeping into town for a couple of generations. At this point, they’re pretty much all that urban populations can remember how to do. Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent—these are the true industrial titans of our era. That’s how people make money, that’s how they make war, so of course, it will be how they make cities.

However, the cities of the future won’t be “smart,” or well-engineered, cleverly designed, just, clean, fair, green, sustainable, safe, healthy, affordable, or resilient. They won’t have any particularly higher ethical values of liberty, equality, or fraternity, either. The future smart city will be the internet, the mobile cloud, and a lot of weird paste-on gadgetry, deployed by City Hall, mostly for the sake of making towns more attractive to capital...

That’s why smart cities, in this new digital era of Big Five and China-BAT industry consolidation, drift away from open public websites and popular comments. Instead, they’re adopting that new surveillance-marketing paradigm of “data extractivity.” Why trouble to ask the “citizens” what they want from urban life, when you can accurately surveil the real actions of city’s “users” and decode what they’re actually doing, as opposed to what they vaguely claim they might want to do? ....

The “bad part of town” will be full of algorithms that shuffle you straight from high-school detention into the prison system. The rich part of town will get mirror-glassed limos that breeze through the smart red lights to seamlessly deliver the aristocracy from curb into penthouse.

These aren’t the “best practices” beloved by software engineers; they’re just the standard urban practices, with software layered over. It’s urban design as the barbarian’s varnish on urbanism. People could have it otherwise, technically, if they really wanted it and had the political will, but they don’t. So they won’t get it.
smart_cities  internet_of_things 
4 weeks ago
Untitled Document
Abstract In this article we argue that the medium of the book can be a material and conceptual means, both of criticising capitalism’s commodification of knowledge (for example, in the form of the commercial incorporation of open access by feral and predatory publishers), and of opening up a space for thinking about politics. The book, then, is a political medium. As the history of the artist’s book shows, it can be used to question, intervene in and disturb existing practices and institutions, and even offer radical, counter-institutional alternatives. If the book’s potential to question and disturb existing practices and institutions includes those associated with liberal democracy and the neoliberal knowledge economy (as is apparent from some of the more radical interventions occurring today under the name of open access), it also includes politics and with it the very idea of democracy. In other words, the book is a medium that can (and should) be ‘rethought to serve new ends’ (1); a medium through which politics itself can be rethought in an ongoing manner.
books  material_texts  artists_books 
5 weeks ago
Curating Zim’s intellectual record | The Herald
It is one thing to point out problems as a critic and a whole other domain to take charge and provide the solution. Tinashe Mushakavanhu, a leading Zimbabwean literary critic, earned notoriety for routinely check-listing problems and antagonising cultural institutions during his stint as a columnist. Now he has stepped up to be part of the solution. His new project, Reading Zimbabwe, is a digital repository of Zimbabwe’s intellectual record, currently hosting references to 1 119 Zimbabwean books written by 773 authors published in 114 cities by 311 publishers.

The repository emphasises the fact that truth cannot be determined from a single source and aims to present readers with a complete reference of the country’s literary strivings across categories. Literature Today’s Stanely Mushava (SM) sat down with the curator (TM) for insight into the project....

Reading Zimbabwe was initiated by a writer and a graphic designer. Tinashe Mushakavanhu and Nontsikelelo Mutiti are Zimbabwean born educators. Mushakavanhu has a PhD in English from University of Kent while Mutiti holds an MFA from Yale Art School. They are founding collaborators of Black Chalk, a creative agency that brings together writers, artists, designers, academics, technologists with a mutual interest in publishing and archiving, curating conversations, facilitating teaching residencies and participating in exhibitions. What animates all these activities is the effort to engender a new culture of reading. Between them, they have spent years teaching in Africa, Europe and the US....

The strength of this project is not so much in its wholeness, but in the gaps and patterns it establishes. That exile inspired the project is in itself a significant factor. Exile gives one distance and perspective.

In fact, Reading Zimbabwe was a response to a series of conversations that took place at nightly salons we hosted at our Brooklyn apartment with our own peers after realising that we don’t know what Zimbabwe is. Even though we were interested in American politics and the effects of the Trump presidency, Zimbabwe consumed us. The realisation that we have no official or cultural dress code, we predominantly use English as our lingua franca, and we currently have no official currency concerned us....

For us, Reading Zimbabwe, is more than just an archive or database? — ? it is a platform, a library, a community. We are interested in the evolution of histories and the emerging new narratives around Zimbabwe? — ? as an idea, an imaginary, a place, a people.

We are not interested in one truth, but truths. In order to think about and represent Zimbabwe differently, we need, not only a new set of questions, but new set of tools; new practices and methodologies that allow us to harness the inventiveness, the generative resilience and the agility with which we live....

Zimbabwe was once at the vanguard of African literature but now a book desert. As a country we have not yet fully adopted new technologies and Reading Zimbabwe embraces the digital and social cultures fully. We are rolling out our social media presence, specifically on Twitter, Instagram and SoundCloud....

Reading Zimbabwe started out largely as a virtual project. The ultimate aim now is to build a physical people’s library to complement poorly resourced libraries in Zimbabwe. The People’s Library will double up as a community centre and literary hub. We endeavour to collect most of the books on this site in their physical form and be led to many other relevant books that we still don’t know exist and make them accessible to a community of readers that needs them.
reading  libraries  Africa  little_libraries  archives  archive_art 
5 weeks ago
Reading Zimbabwe | Home
How do we read a country? Who gets to tell or write a country’s stories? How do we come to understand a place and its people? It was these questions that provoked us. The way that knowledge is acquired is not innocent or objective. This virtual archive is devoted in trying to demystify ways of thinking about the democratic rhetoric of independent Zimbabwe. Reading is freedom. Especially at a time in which the values of reading and inwardness are so strenuously challenged, reading is freedom.
Africa  reading  libraries  little_libraries  library_art 
5 weeks ago
DIGLU | Emphase
Design of a lineal font declined in 6 styles. It contains 440 characters + 404 pictograms developed for the analysis and mediation of archaeological finds. The pictograms have a Unicode, allowing the font to be used on all text editors. It was developed as part of a research project of the Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research and is part of the doctoral thesis of Fabienne Kilchör. The police will be available soon on, and other pictograms on other themes will be developed.
language  symbology  symbol  graphic_design  code  archaeology  archives  metadata 
5 weeks ago
If we talk about hurting ‘our’ planet, who exactly is the ‘we’? | Aeon Essays
Confronting the Anthropocene, in Africa and elsewhere, requires fresh sources of imagination. And these sources must be found at the frontlines of planetary transformation – from the urban advocates for cleaner air and water, to intellectuals who challenge European and North American paradigms for studying the world. That’s why Africa plays a huge role not only in our planet’s present, but also in its future, as the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe, the Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and other African scholars have argued. Africa is the continent where population growth is projected to be the highest. It contains 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Some pockets of Africa lie at the forefront of decentralised energy systems (such as solar power) that promise to mitigate climate change. And that’s only for starters.

If the Anthropocene is to have real value as a category of thought and a call to action, it must federate people and places, not just disciplines. It requires thinking from, and with, Africa. ‘They’ are ‘us’, and there is no planetary ‘we’ without them.
anthropocene  planetary_urbanism  globalization 
5 weeks ago
History of the Book
The History of the Book is a networked resource focused on the production and reception of materials related to the history of the book and literacy technologies, broadly conceived. This ongoing project is being developed by Professor Johanna Drucker, working with staff and students based at UCLA to provide an online environment for research and learning. The project is pedagogical in its aims, but also, in its method. Some of the exhibit materials were developed by students in the MLIS program in Information Studies at UCLA, and some by faculty or research scholars.
books  material_texts  book_history 
5 weeks ago
A rare and toxic age – Increment: Energy & Environment
This, perhaps, is where the most heavy-handed of threads runs from the open-pit mines of Inner Mongolia to the content mines of Silicon Valley, and why it is worthwhile to think about them as part of the same continuum: At the end of the day, the dominant business models of networked platforms benefit from the same externalizing of harms as something that happens somewhere else, to someone else, and in service of a greater social good. (Silicon Valley’s namesake is a legacy of this business model: The chip manufacture that defined the San Francisco Peninsula region well into the 1980s bore dozens of toxic environmental harms for a mostly immigrant workforce, and while manufacturing has moved offshore, its toxic waste persists in 19 of the region’s Superfund sites.)...

This is not to say that the tailings dams of Inner Mongolia and the smartphone surveillance made possible in some part by those tailings dams have identical adverse effects on society or landscapes. But they are both models of a particular paradigm of extractive control and power. ...

Systems promised as emancipatory for everyone often have an exploitative, extractive cost borne by someone. While the visible harms and geographies are vastly different, addressing toxic harms requires similar ideological shifts toward viewing those harms as interconnected with their unevenly distributed benefits—a shift toward viewing their repair as a fuller, more holistic pursuit of that promised emancipation.

It also requires a longer historical timeline and analysis than the one afforded by the shallow time scale of our so-called Information Age—a phrase as misleading as the one applied to the rare earths that underpin it. It would be convenient, and poetic, to cast aside the moniker of Information Age for a Rare Age, calling back to the extractive eras of Bronze and Iron to define this relatively brief one. But abandoning the comfort that comes with displacing damage into distant landscapes also means reckoning with the convenient poetry of magic dust and the idea that there is anything unique or rare about an age fueled by colonialist fictions and extractive regimes. If anything about this age is rare, perhaps it is the possibility that our fraught networked systems have finally reached such a unique point, with their environmental and social consequences so visibly intertwined, that they have become impossible to ignore.
geology  media  supply_chain  extraction  mining 
5 weeks ago
21 Years of Peace, 21 Million Documents: Revisiting the Digital Portal to the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional | Tex Libris
How can we process 80 million pages of historical documents?

The question is a philosophical one, about the ability of our minds to conceive of such a large number of documents. The Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (Guatemalan National Police Historical Archive, AHPN) in Guatemala City contains about eighty million documents, or about 135 years of records from the National Police of Guatemala.

According to one estimate, that means the collection requires about three-quarters of a mile worth of shelf space. In comparison, the Gabriel García Márquez collection at the Harry Ransom Center takes up about 33.18 feet of shelf space. The Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa Papers at the Benson Latin American Collection take up about 125 feet.
archives  digitization  genocide  guatemala 
6 weeks ago
What Was Liberal Education? - Los Angeles Review of Books
Crucially, just as is the case with learning language, the actualization of rational powers in general requires socialization, apprenticeship, training, imitation, or, more broadly, education (paideia). One learns how to be a flute player, citizen, scientist, historian, or philosopher, as well as how and why these things matter, only through interaction with others. Interaction — imitation, training, habituation — is central to human flourishing. It is for this reason that Aristotle observes in the Nicomachean Ethics that the right kind of friend — one with whom one shares a friendship of virtue rather than a friendship of convenience (as in business dealings) or a friendship of pleasure (as in drinking buddies) — is a second self or soul. The point is that the actualization of distinctively rational powers takes place here essentially in conversation and interaction, as friends continuously talk about and practice their activities....

What has really happened, since the advent of modern industrial-technical economies and despite their manifold, massive contributions to human productivity, health, and welfare, is the collapse of a form of social life in which paideia was relevant. As Charles Taylor puts it, elaborating a thought of Hegel’s, we have come to live within a form of individualism in which... norms as expressed in public practices cease to hold our allegiance.
education  liberal_arts  Dewey 
7 weeks ago
We often picture archives as rare documents and artifacts—precious and too often unseen collections that preserve our history. But increasingly, concerned citizens, as well as professionals, find themselves desperately grasping the present—tweets, websites, sounds, smells, blood, and bodies—before it vanishes or is furtively swept away. Archives expose past actions that buttress our current crises and hand us tools to dismantle barriers to justice.

In our symposium and linked events, practicing archivists, engaged scholars, and interdisciplinary artists will share projects from guerrilla archiving of climate data to mining corporate records for evidence of organized violence. Join us for three days of lectures, panels, film screenings, and exhibits.
archives  indigenous  preservation  conference 
7 weeks ago
The People's Court | Urban Omnibus
Van Buren and others say restorative justice spaces should feel comfortable and approachable, rather than imposing and authoritative. Peacemaking circles are used for decision making, problem solving, and conflict resolution in different communities, from schools and families to the work place and the criminal legal system. A fundamental tenet of these circles is that each person has a change to speak.
justice  media_architecture  architecture  law 
7 weeks ago
Ursula K. Le Guin: A Rant About "Technology"
Its technology is how a society copes with physical reality: how people get and keep and cook food, how they clothe themselves, what their power sources are (animal? human? water? wind? electricity? other?) what they build with and what they build, their medicine - and so on and on. Perhaps very ethereal people aren't interested in these mundane, bodily matters, but I'm fascinated by them, and I think most of my readers are too.

Technology is the active human interface with the material world.

But the word is consistently misused to mean only the enormously complex and specialised technologies of the past few decades, supported by massive exploitation both of natural and human resources.

This is not an acceptable use of the word. "Technology" and "hi tech" are not synonymous, and a technology that isn't "hi," isn't necessarily "low" in any meaningful sense.
technology  media_history 
7 weeks ago
The Campus Speech Wars | Public Seminar
Put conservative texts on your syllabus when and where they are appropriate. Students are often awakened to a passion for conservatism by compelling authors — Booker T. Washington, Barry Goldwater, Stephen Carter, Ayn Rand, Phyllis Schlafly, William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman are but a few examples of primary texts I have used, but secondary texts are important too. Why shouldn’t students who are liberal, or radical, read these authors? Why shouldn’t they understand the ideological differences in your field? Indeed, many of your conservative students don’t know some of the key authors that their views are grounded in. Having your students talk about their beliefs through a common text is a basic humanities skill.
Don’t refer to conservative views as “unpopular.”  It’s patronizing, it undermines the notion that such views are based on real ideas, and–I hate to tell you–these views are actually popular somewhere, if not in your classroom.
When you do teach conservative texts, don’t tell the class that they need to read them so that they “will know how the enemy thinks.” I can’t tell you how many times a colleague has dismissed some of my syllabus content by making that remark. In fact, see what you can do to eliminate, and
teaching  pedagogy  conservatism 
7 weeks ago
Metrocalypse now: Do smart cities really live up to their names?
Smartness, transformation, and renewal have felt - to put it gently - elusive. In a way, it was instead a year to admire the resilience of our cities against the grand schemes of programmers, policymakers and the high priests of transformation. I say without cynicism that there is no small relief in this. The failure - or at least the postponement - of the grand is also the survival of the ordinary and the everyday; the survival of citizens over cities; of infrastructures of everyday dignity over big, signature, spectacular projects; of incremental change over instantaneous transformation; of the bazaar over the mall, the shared auto over the expressway, survival over smartness.

Yet watching smart cities become familiar, ordinary and blockaded rather than the dramatic disruptions they were meant to be is not a cause for celebration, not even with the darkest sense of humour or the deepest ideological difference. No one wins when public policy stutters. What this moment must become then is, at the very least, an opportunity. The 'we' who read this magazine have a chance, once again, for humility....

In all the time we talked about smartness, he might ask: what all did we not talk about? What is it that we could have been talking about?

We did not talk about the value, for example, of squatting. Slow, incrementally and self-built housing is the primary way in which most urban Indians find, build and occupy space in our cities. ...

We could remind ourselves of the centrality of repair and retrofit that could help us change our relationship to the small 'i' of infrastructure, allowing us to imagine more than just the digital drawings of brand-new, people-less landscapes with glittering bullet trains, expressways and glass buildings. ...

We could take the chance to think about how to consolidate rather than build anew. We could ask how our existing systems of service delivery-whether in health, education, transport, water or sanitation-could be connected with each other instead of ignoring existing (if informal) means of accessing services.
smart_cities  urban_intelligence 
7 weeks ago
Scientists Replicated 100 Psychology Studies, and Fewer Than Half Got the Same Results | Science | Smithsonian
fewer than half of 100 studies published in 2008 in three top psychology journals could be replicated successfully. The international effort included 270 scientists who re-ran other people’s studies as part of The Reproducibility Project: Psychology, led by Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia.

The eye-opening results don’t necessarily mean that those original findings were incorrect or that the scientific process is flawed. When one study finds an effect that a second study can’t replicate, there are several possible reasons, says co-author Cody Christopherson of Southern Oregon University. Study A’s result may be false, or Study B’s results may be false—or there may be some subtle differences in the way the two studies were conducted that impacted the results.

“This project is not evidence that anything is broken. Rather, it’s an example of science doing what science does,” says Christopherson. ...

“Scientific evidence does not rely on trusting the authority of the person who made the discovery,” team member Angela Attwood, a psychology professor at the University of Bristol, said in a statement “Rather, credibility accumulates through independent replication and elaboration of the ideas and evidence.”...

The findings also offered some support for the oft-criticized statistical tool known as the P value, which measures whether a result is significant or due to chance. A higher value means a result is most likely a fluke, while a lower value means the result is statistically significant.

The project analysis showed that a low P value was fairly predictive of which psychology studies could be replicated. Twenty of the 32 original studies with a P value of less than 0.001 could be replicated, for example, while just 2 of the 11 papers with a value greater than 0.04 were successfully replicated.

But Christopherson suspects that most of his co-authors would not want the study to be taken as a ringing endorsement of P values, because they recognize the tool’s limitations...

Unfortunately there are disincentives to pursuing this kind of research, he says: “To get hired and promoted in academia, you must publish original research, so direct replications are rarer. I hope going forward that the universities and funding agencies responsible for incentivizing this research—and the media outlets covering them—will realize that they’ve been part of the problem, and that devaluing replication in this way has created a less stable literature than we’d like.”
methodology  statistics  experimentation  replication 
8 weeks ago
Noora – Tartu, Estonia - Atlas Obscura
Noora, the new main building of the National Archives of Estonia, opened in February 2017. It’s remarkable in many respects. Its walls contain a trove of archived pieces of the past, strung together in a web of storytelling and written records, but the historic records are just one piece of Noora’s appeal....

Noora holds yet another piece of experiential art. A unique audio device called The Lilt is integrated into the building and creates sounds based on the building itself and the movement of the people inside, which are used as activating impulses that initiate musical rhythms from a chord matrix. As people mill about, it gives the piece an unpredictable and labyrinthine nature. It’s as if the archive itself is symbolically giving its own version of history by recording the daily happenings within the building.
media_architecture  estonia  sound_space  archives 
8 weeks ago
What design thinking ultimately offers is not evolution, but the look and feel of progress — great graphics, aesthetically interesting configurations of furniture and space — paired with the familiar, gratifying illusion of efficiency. If structural and institutional problems can be solved through nothing more than brainstorming, then it’s possible for macro-level inputs (textbooks, teacher salaries) to remain the same, while outputs (test scores, customer service) improve. From the perspective of capitalism, this is the only alchemy that matters.... Design Thinking for Educators urges teachers to be optimistic without saying why, and to simply believe the future will be better. The toolkit instructs teachers to have an “abundance mentality,” as if problem-solving is a habit of mind. “Why not start with ‘What if?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong?’” they ask.

There are many reasons to start with “What’s wrong?” That question is, after all, the basis of critical thought. Belief in a better future feels wonderful if you can swing it, but it is passive, irrelevant, and inert without analysis about how to get there. The only people who benefit from the “build now, think later” strategy are those who are empowered by the social relations of the present.

The same people benefit when analysis is abandoned in favor of technical solutions — when the long history of education for liberation, from Freire to the SNCC Freedom Schools to Black Panther schools to today’s Radical Math and Algebra projects (none of them perfect, all of them instructive) is ignored....

Given the data, perhaps it would be more revolutionary, more innovative — more forward-thinking — if, instead of free idea toolkits, IDEO built a system that ensured that every child, rich and poor, had access to these beautiful new schools. There is one simple, elegant solution: make them free and public, and tax rich business owners like Rodríguez-Pastor to pay for them....

But one laptop per child can’t lift communities out of poverty, because technology is not an alternative to wealth redistribution from the top 1 percent to the bottom 99. There is a disconnect between what we imagine technology and education can do, and what they actually do....

For Skinner, as well as for corporate education reformers, knowledge is static and students are passive recipients; efficient transmission of information is the goal of education. And technology is the means by which we make the transmission process faster, cheaper, smarter. Gifted children are best served by moving individually at their own pace, “slow students” move at theirs, all in isolation....

And even in neurotic post-Sputnik America, parents tended to share a belief in the broadly humanist model of education. In 1960, the National Education Association (NEA) found it necessary to release a statement reassuring concerned mothers that while mechanical aids were now part of a modern classroom, they would never be the mode of instruction. “NEA Allays Parent Fears on Robot Teacher” was the headline in the Oakland Tribune....

“Innovation” is almost always invoked by elites to ignore class conflict, to the point that some leftists have come to be wrongly but understandably suspicious of modernization altogether. Experts from Edison onward called enthusiastically for the incorporation of film and radio in classrooms without accounting for the fact that, as historian David Tyack points out, there were still tens of thousands of American schools that lacked electricity well into the 1960s. ...

The fact is, education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It is nothing like building a spaceship. It is a social and political project that the neoliberal imagination insists on innovating out of existence. The most significant challenges faced today in education are not natural obstacles to be overcome by increasing productivity — they are man-made struggles over how resources are allocated....

Khan Academy is a fine way to practice math problems or learn a didactic skill. What it is not is innovative in pedagogy or design. As a system of education it is a failure. It degrades both student and teacher by deemphasizing the importance of interpretation and critique in education, just like design thinking does.

...Gates has called for austerity in public education, repeating the familiar argument that for thirty years we’ve been spending money while performance by American children remains flat. What we need to do, he says, is raise performance without spending more by changing the way money is spent. To that effect, Arne Duncan asked a room full of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors last year, “Can we find ways to scale the amazing teachers we do have?” Systems that “scale” retain quality under an increased workload. Modifying teachers to scale would mean replacing them with robots or computers....

Teachers who encourage resistance are essential sources of support and guidance for kids. People do not learn to think critically and construct meaning in isolation — which is the assumption behind the trend of textbooks that respond individually to each student and allow them to move at their own pace. People argue, discuss, play, experiment, and converse. And, as Delpit writes:

Only those who are authentically and critically literate can become the independently thinking citizens required for any society’s evolution. The opportunity to achieve such levels of literacy is even more critical for those whom the larger society stigmatizes. . . . When people of color are taught to accept uncritically texts and histories that reinforce their marginalized position in society, they easily learn never to question their position.

Learning as a group is not a painless process. A good teacher knows her students well, respects them and earns their respect in return, and challenges them to aim for the highest reaches of what Vygotsky called “the zone of proximal development” — their potential....

When we imagine successful teaching as instruction of X number of people achieving Y level of fluency, we redefine it — whether done by human or machine — from a social (and potentially political) to a merely technical act....

Teachers must continue to be able to help children think critically about the ways that reality is reshaped by technology and changes in the mode of production. How will children who take Google for granted understand research and inquiry?
design_thinking  methodology  education  teaching  pedagogy  neoliberalism  educational_media 
8 weeks ago
How cities can use machine learning to track citizens - Curbed
Whyte’s Street Life Project was a revelation. Whyte offered nuggets not of gold, but of actionable data, which helped shape city policy: peak versus off-peak activity, average densities, walking patterns. Called “one of America’s most influential observers of the city,” Whyte’s insights and hard-earned wisdom informed New York’s 1969 city plan, helped revise its zoning code, and turned once-squalid Bryant Park into a prized public space.

What’s inspiring and a little mind-boggling about Whyte’s process is that until relatively recently, planners still practiced that type of time-consuming manual observation. Infrared cameras and other technologies have been around for years to make data-gathering easier. But often, going beyond surveys, personal observations, and educated guesses required hand counts and film study.

With smartphones in our pockets, and smart city technology increasingly embraced by local leaders, it may seem like we’re already awash in a flood of urban data. But that’s a drizzle next to the oncoming downpour that may radically transform our understanding of cities and how they function. Two rapidly rising technologies—computer vision and machine learning—offer the potential to revolutionize understanding of urban life....

Planners will use all that data to ask questions, and make decisions, about people, says Justin Hollander, a professor at Tufts University who runs the Urban Attitudes Lab and explores the intersection of design and technology. Human-centered design, as pioneered by urbanists such as Jan Gehl, will enter a new phase. It will threaten traditionally analog methods of design, turning planning into more of a science.

“When I worked as an urban planner, we did the best that we could to shape buildings, streets, and sidewalks to meet environmental and economic development goals,” says Hollander. “But we never got into the head of the people who used these spaces.”...

WeWork’s level of vertical integration—the same company designs, remodels, and operates the space—explains why they’ve embraced this technology in ways that standard architecture firms haven’t. As owners, they can react to the data and fix areas that are underperforming, a luxury available to few other designers. They can also anticipate user needs: By feeding data through machine-learning algorithms, they can predict how much a particular proposed meeting room will be used before it’s even built.

Capturing intent, and then creating a circular relationship between designing and building—analysis, design, evaluation, then redesign—suggests how this technology can lead to more human-focused design and urban planning....

As Aggarwala’s company begins outreach, planning, and eventually design for its smart city project in Toronto, the most high-profile effort to build a neighborhood “from the internet up,” he says one of the guiding factors is designing a natural space for pedestrians. Crossings should feel safe. Pavement with embedded LED lights could change color based on changing uses, offering subtle cues. Dynamic wayfinding and signage, which showed directions to coffee shops in the morning, will switch in the evening to highlight nearby restaurants and bars. Adaptive traffic signals will recognize pedestrians, cyclists, and transit vehicles at intersections to improve safety, and an autonomous shuttle might ferry residents across the neighborhood. He wants to design something so interactive and understanding that people will put down their phones....

if changes to the city’s physical landscape are made in parallel with changes in usage and demographics, it would represent a shift in urban planning, policy, and budgeting. A team of researchers from MIT, Harvard, and the National Bureau of Economic Research published a study that used years of Google Street View imagery and machine learning to identify the physical improvements that increased perceptions of neighborhood safety over time (including population density, a higher proportion of college-educated adults, and a higher proportion of Hispanic residents living in the neighborhood). Apply those findings in reverse, and cities could track neighborhoods and adjust to future safety issues before they become serious problems.

“Now, we’ll finally be able to adjust capital plans and budgets with actual data,” he says. “You can win arguments because you have the numbers. In the past, it was just about doing what’s been done in the past, because that’s safe. Nobody could attack you for that, until now.”

Scaling these technologies to the city level, and blanketing an entire neighborhood with cameras and sensors (what Aggarwala and others have described as a “digital layer”), requires extensive infrastructure spending and bandwidth costs. Toronto has the advantage of Sidewalk Labs funding development and data collection—and the privacy concerns that come with a private company gathering unprecedented amounts of information about the public. ...

The company recently designed its own monitor and camera—housed in a PVC pipe, it looks a bit like a cup dispenser—that can be affixed to any utility pole or street sign. A low-cost solution, which recently won an award as one of the top five most promising technologies at the international Smart City Expo World Congress, it’s already been installed in four U.S. cities, with three more regions in the planning stages....

In Numina’s short existence, it’s already helped cities start that data-design feedback loop. In Jacksonville, Florida, a city with one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the U.S., Numina sensors were set up at a dozen intersections. At one site, near a bus station, constant monitoring discovered that, amid the bustle of passengers arriving and boarding, there was one pathway pedestrians repeatedly took to jaywalk. The city thought it might need to redesign the entire intersection. Instead, data showed the most quick and effective fix was creating a mid-block crossing with $30 worth of paint....

Sussman has been focused on figuring out how humans react to architecture on a more unconscious level. By staging photo comparisons, and tracking minute facial reactions, she’s gained a better understanding of the kinds of design that make us happy: active and busy fenestration patterns, like the ones found in Paris and Boston, engage viewers. Symmetry, like the canals of Amsterdam, calms, while large, blank facades, like those found on some Brutalist buildings such as Boston’s City Hall, confuse, since they don’t offer more information when viewers get closer, an innate expectation of our reptile brains.

Hollander, who collaborates with Sussman, has taken this line of experimentation and inquiry even further, with experiments that tested the health and well-being of people in certain areas and neighborhoods.... Using an array of biometrics, including electroencephalograms (EEGs), to measure brain activity and facial analysis, he tracked whether certain improvements and renovations made any difference in how people felt about the buildings....

Aggarwala argues that systems being developed now would actually have much more potential privacy protection than the video projects of William H. Whyte: All they need for analysis is a figure’s outline, which can provide information without compromising anybody’s individual identification. Planners and designers can still create cities and spaces that feel “like any other place, but better,” without violating privacy.

As the physical world becomes more digital, we will find ourselves facing the same issues exploring the sidewalks as we do using a web browser: What’s the right balance between privacy and convenience, or personalization and surveillance?
machine_learning  machine_vision  urban_data  smart_cities  urban_planning 
8 weeks ago
« earlier      
academia acoustics advising aesthetics_of_administration algorithms archaeology architecture archive_art archives art artificial_intelligence audio big_data blogs book_art book_history books branded_places branding cartography cell_phones china cities classification collection collections computing conference craft curating data data_centers data_visualization databases dead_media design design_process design_research digital digital_archives digital_humanities digitization discourse diy drawing ebooks education embodiment epistemology exhibition exhibition_design filetype:pdf film furniture geography geology globalization google graduate_education graphic_design guerilla_urbanism hacking historiography history illustration information information_aesthetics infrastructure installation intellectual_furnishings interaction_design interface interfaces internet koolhaas korea labor landscape language learning lettering liberal_arts libraries library_art listening little_libraries little_magazines locative_media logistics machine_vision magazines making mapping maps marketing material_culture material_texts materiality media media:document media_archaeology media_architecture media_city media_education media_form media_history media_literature media_space media_theory media_workplace media_workspace memory methodology models multimodal_scholarship museums music music_scenes my_work networks new_york newspapers noise notes nypl object_oriented_philosophy objects open_data organization palimpsest paper pedagogy performance periodicals phd photography place pneumatic_tubes poetry popups presentation_images preservation print printing privacy professional_practice public_space public_sphere publication publications publishing radio reading rendering research satellites screen security sensation sensors signs smart_cities smell social_media software sound sound_art sound_design sound_map sound_space sound_studies space storage surveillance sustainability syllabus tactility teaching technology telecommunications telegraph telephone television temporality text_art textual_form theory things tools transportation typewriter typography ums urban_archaeology urban_design urban_form urban_history urban_informatics urban_media urban_planning urban_studies video visualization voice wedding word_art workflow writing zines

Copy this bookmark: