Thursday, July 31, 2003

digital space: evolving models and interactive environments

Sonia Cillari is doing some cool work in digital architectural design:

> Spatiality is not a homogeneous exterior, an inert receiver of entities and forms. Spatiality is a generator of forms.

> Movement comes before space. It constitutes spatiality.

> To investigate spatial complexity we need to generate evolving and interactive models, to work out their no lineal behaviors and movement process.

These projects explore the application of dynamic methods to design architectural models in digital environments. Against the rationalist notion of objective space, the aim is to investigate implications of architectural form in relation to space and time multidirectional parameters, considering digital spatiality an environment not receiving but instead generator of forms.

Thanks Molly!


Got kickass news yesterday - I'm off to Rome at the end of August for two weeks to attend the Convivio summer school. Special thanks go to Alan Munro for his generous support - Cheers!

The community culture, on which the vision of Convivio is rooted, is founded on radical innovation based on the union of design, technology and people. In the future, we will see it growing and becoming diverse enough to act as a Europe-centred catalytic structure for those designing, implementing and evaluating new products and services that will impact on people's everyday work and domestic lives in significant ways. With the increase in both the size and the diversity of the community, it is time for a new network infrastructure to be put in place. The community needs to be involved in visionary anticipation, research and prototype demonstration, stakeholder community integration, and open discussion of perspectives and implications. The openness of the new Network will stretch beyond the community itself and include all actors targeted by the Network or attracted to it through shared interests - though not necessarily through shared opinions.

Interaction Design is still a dynamic research field where new concepts and new ideas are continuously proposed and discussed to cope with technological innovation and with the emerging needs of both social and professional communities. We think that it is now time to offer to young designers, educated in computer science and engineering, social science and ethnography, and industrial design, working in both universities and private companies, the occasion to develop their interaction design competence. The Interaction Design Summer School promoted by the Convivio network has this aim.

The theme chosen for the 2003 Interaction Design Summer School is Mixed Realities. Its main focus will be, on one hand, on new approaches to user-centred design capable to develop cooperation between diverse cultures in the design process, on the other, on the creation of new mixed, virtual or augmented places where (communities of) people living at a distance can share experiences, interact and cooperate.

We think that the emphasis on the user aspects of the design process is an important point for educating interaction designers who will be capable to design and develop useful and successful applications. This initiative promotes convergence in the IT world and stimulate creativeness with a bottom-up approach. The future of the technology relies on the multidisciplinary approach and on the direct involvement of the users. Information and communication technologies shape space and reality, so Mixed Realities is one of the most relevant themes in the design of new appliances.

Innovation does not simply mean to follow a technology-driven design to cope with the introduction of new technologies, but just the opposite: to tailor technological development to its needed use by communities through multidisciplinary design.

What a stunning city in which to explore virtual and augmented places ...

Not only am I looking forward to the people I will meet there, but I get to see my friends Fabio and Molly. Yay!

And of potential interest to other tech researchers and designers, Convivio is part of the EC's Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) initiative - which allows you to submit your ideas for new multidisciplinary research. Cool.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The body as wearable device

"It's not so much about enhancing the body but rather constructing, experiencing and being able to articulate alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with technology - ultimately exploring alternate kinds of embodiment."

Artist seeks internet-enabled third ear

Civil disobedience and the excitable crowd

Postmortem analyses of crowding disasters have shown that the pressure of throbbing mobs can bend steel girders and push over brick walls.

Christian Nold's Mobile Vulgus: turning the crowd itself into an oppositional tool and reclaiming the mobility of the crowd as a physical force for change.

Using police strategies and crowd simulations to inspire protest tactics, Nold relies on the excitability of crowds and offers tools for civil disobedience including sonic vibration for material disturbance.

Brings to mind Canetti's brilliant account of Crowds and Power:

"The crowd is open so long as its growth is not impeded; it is closed when its growth is limited… The stagnating crowd lives for its discharge… the process here starts not with equality but with density… In the rhythmic crowd… density and equality coincide from the beginning. Everything here depends on movement."

The rhythmic, or throbbing crowd is characterised by a specific state of communal excitement: "the means of achieving this state was first of all the rhythm of their feet, repeating and multiplied," not moving, but gathering intensity at one place and creating frenzy.

More than flash mobs and redefining smart mobs.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

HCI, the Arts and the Humanities

Super-interesting-computer-scientist Alan Dix writes to say he recently attended this HCI workshop at the University of York.

This innovative workshop will explore the potential contribution to HCI of approaches from branches of the Arts and Humanities, including but not limited to: literary and cultural studies, critical theory, semiotics and film theory.

Papers of note:

Mark Blythe, The Magpie goes shopping: Tools from critical theory (pdf)
Christina Carini, Immersive game play and the concept of flow (pdf)
Richard Coyne and Pedro Rebelo, Resisting the Seamless Interface (pdf)
Alan Dix, Called XXXX while waiting for a title (pdf)
John McCarthy and Peter Wright, Bakhtin, Novelistic Imagination, and HCI Experience (pdf)

Saturday, July 26, 2003

After Panopticism

Via smartmobs: Surveillance & Society 1(3) July 2003 Foucault and Panopticism Revisited

And let's move straight to the interesting stuff - what comes after Foucault.

Sean P. Hier, Probing the Surveillant Assemblage: on the dialectics of surveillance practices as processes of social control (pdf)

Michalis Lianos, Social Control after Foucault (pdf)

Friday, July 25, 2003

Moving City

O Olhar Passageiro - Porto Alegre BrasilBy way of betacorpo comes O Olhar Passageiro - Passenger's Eye.

Pinhole camera images of Porto Alegre, Brasil, are being displayed in the city's buses, creating moving exhibits of the surrounding architectural landscape.

Beautiful tension between the mobile and stable city.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Hectic days

Contract work. Clients. Beta deadline approaching at the speed of light. Glitches. Not enough sleep. Or exercise. Too much coffee. Stress. Unpleasant. Link now. Comment later. Sensors guard privacy (via smartmobs' always interesting coverage of the era of sentient things). And Boktai - the first ever videogame that incorporates sunlight into its gameplay (via mattjones).

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Digital Patina

Via The Feature, Eric Paulos at the Berkeley Intel Research Lab is working on a project called Digital Patina:

First, consider what a non-digital patina means. Whenever human beings occupy or pass through a physical space, the surfaces of objects in that space begin to take on a patina of stickers, graffiti, tagging, scuffs, wads of discarded gum, and other signs of human activity and communication. Paulos says that all of these things are much more than signs of wear and tear. They're actually valuable markers conveying vital information that people subconsciously rely on for operating in their environment.

Paulos wants to add an additional layer of wireless digital information over this existing layer of physical markers. This is what he calls the Digital Patina. One of the first examples of this, he thinks, will be the use of RFID tags to leave messages for other people who visit a public space ... Paulos isn't so concerned about coming up with a killer app for RFID tags. What Paulos wants to do is develop a digital tagging system and hand out tags to people and see what uses they create for them. His philosophy could be summed up as, "build it and they will play with it." "People are naturally ludic," says Paulos. "They switch between work and play."

See also Familiar Stranger (with Elizabeth Goodman)

The research goal is to identify the properties and phenomenon of the familiar stranger relationships we currently observe in public places. From that study, we will be looking to design tools and techniques that play into similar roles of the familiar stranger with modern wireless technologies.

Globalisation and the Everyday City

Craig Bellamy's PhD thesis (via nettime)

This is a project that seeks to offer a speculative encounter with the set of ideas called 'globalisation' through utilising some of the new tools offered to researchers. I have recorded a bunch of people in the suburb where I live commenting on the things that they like in the area, and the things they dislike. I have asked people what they identify with in the suburb, how this has changed over time, and what they see as negative or positive changes. Succinctly, the raison d'être of the project is to create an oral history archive of Fitzroy in a period of rapid change and to try and understand some of these changes.

Apart from drawing upon ethnographic and historical approaches in the selection of the people, it could also be described as flâneurie, both in a local sense and perhaps even in a 'global' sense. This is the local flâneurie of a small inner-city suburb where walking is the norm, versus the global flâneurie of the Internet where individuals 'surf' sometimes in a haphazard and random way to look for things that may not even be there.

Two for two

Animal cams offer strange world views. Artist Sam Easterson's "Animal, Vegetable, Video" project offers a bizarre take on the reality TV craze: the world as seen by a buffalo, tarantula, armadillo or even a lowly tumbleweed.

World's poor to get own search engine. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing a search engine designed for people with a slow net connection.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

What you don't know can hurt you

Check out Elizabeth Goodman's slightly creepy and quite lovely Sensing Beds project:

The Sensing Beds domesticate communications devices by placing them in the intimate space of the bedroom. As an experiment in telepresence, they bridge the physical distance between two people who would normally share a bed, but find themselves sleeping apart. Sensors located in one mattress pad track the position of its occupant and transmit that data to the other bed where the position data is used to activate heating pads at the same coordinates. Each sleeper thus feels the ghostly warmth of the absent partner’s body in the other bed ...

The Sensing Beds are deliberately limited in the data they sample. They do not recognize who is in the bed, or whether the bed's owner is in the room. Their heat may be a comforting reminder of a lover's presence — or perhaps create insecurity. Predictable data is comforting, while differences (Why is the entire bed warm? Why has the bed been cool all night?) in routine can bring distrust. Sometimes ambiguous data is more disturbing than no knowledge at all. Knowing more about your partner may not always make you happy.

I think I prefer intimate technologies that conjure fear and danger, and not just comfort. They seem more honest.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Open-ended gameplay

GameSpot reviews real life: "Volumes have already been written about real life, the most accessible and most widely accepted massively multiplayer online role-playing game to date. Featuring believable characters, plenty of lasting appeal, and a lot of challenge and variety, real life is absolutely recommendable to those who've grown weary of all the cookie-cutter games that have tried to emulate its popularity--or to just about anyone, really."

(via Stewart Butterfield)

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Shaping sounds

I love bakteria. Via soundtoys.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

On space and practice

From Dennis Kaspori comes A Communism of ideas: Towards an open-source architectural practice.

Accordingly, architectural practice needs to be turned inside-out. Architects should no longer look inwards in search of the essence of architecture. They should also cease harking back nostalgically to past times, when the architect was still a master builder. Architecture must look outwards and forwards, in search of the countless opportunities offered by these turbulent times of political and economic instability. The search for the essence of architecture will have to make way for the question of what architecture can mean for the contemporary network society. It is time for a collectively organized renewal of architectural practice ...

For inspiration, Kaspori cites Nicolas Bourriaud:

‘In the face of the economic abstraction that makes daily life unreal, or an absolute weapon of techno-market power, artists reactivate forms by inhabiting them, pirating private property and copyrights, brands and products, museum-bound forms and signatures. If the downloading of forms (these samplings and remakes) represents important concerns today, it is because these forms urge us to consider global culture as a toolbox, an open narrative space rather than a univocal narrative and a product line.’

Within this perspective, the artist is a kind of hacker, changing existing social and economic systems by entering them and manipulating them: ‘In this way, social objects, from habits to institutions through the most banal structures, are pulled from their inertia. By slipping into the functional universe, art revives these objects or reveals their absurdity' ...

There is much that could still be said about architecture and space in terms of Bourriaud's postproduction, but by comparing artists/architects to hackers, Kaspori is able to advocate the use-value of architecture and propose an open-source (bazaar) model for architectural practice and participatory design - as means to reinvigorate architecture and to create buildings that benefit people. Interesting. The essay also suggests many possible routes of exploration for the design of habitable spaces - including virtual ones. Thanks!

Of tangential interest is SONIC PROCESS: a New Geography of Sounds, "the Centre Pompidou’s first exhibition on electronic music. It attempts to examine the relationship between the visual arts and electronic music-making today. " (An exhibition catalog-of-sorts is also available.)

The word «Sonic» encompasses the study of sound waves, but also musical experimentation realized with new electronic means, thus emphasizing the creative flux between these two territories with officially recognized boundaries. «Process» emphasizes the new autonomous processes of creation, production, as well as distribution outside the usual economical networks. «Sonic Process» follows the explorations undertaken in new places for performance, experimentation, and distribution of electronic music and attempts to map out this new geography. With no claim to being exhaustive, it nonetheless throws into relief certain sites, cities, and artistic capitals, and makes emerge a topology of exchanges and trajectories. (pdf)

And Tobias writes from Montréal that he has "pulled together a few forces in this city -- the McGill arm of the Culture of Cities Project, the Société des Arts Technologiques, and sound-artist Alexis Bhagat from NYC -- to re.mix academic approaches to the city, performative on and via the city, and the SAT crew of New Media and electronic artists ... into one digital dump. Here it is." Very cool!

Monday, July 14, 2003

Semantic algorithms and then some

Last week, Anselm Hook was kind enough to share a draft paper on the headmap open geosemantic search engine he's been working on. Finding Patterns in Space "presents a simple embeddable semantic search engine with source code and discusses its applications for helping filtering knowledge on the semantic web." Very interesting. Thanks Anselm!

Possibly the most interesting application is simply to act as a personal filter for geotagged content. As discussed in the introduction likely one can expect in the near future to be bombarded with geotagged notes. Disambiguating between signal and noise here may be crucial to the growth of geotagging.

I'm especially interested in the noise that will come with digitally annotated city spaces, but remain ambivalent about the possibility of semantic algorithms to improve our interactions with pervasive computing.

Something about Engelbart's augmentation of human intellect bothers me. It relies too much on notions of cybernetic control and rules-based systems. Sociality just doesn't work that way, and I worry about what we will lose in the process of gaining new connections. But this requires much more thought than I am able to give at the moment.

Things around here will be pretty quiet over the next two weeks as contract work takes over and I get a beta site ready for user testing. If I owe you an email response, please know that I haven't forgotten and it is coming.

Ubicomp & Everyday Life

I have finished the final revisions on my ubicomp draft paper and submitted it for publication under the title Intimations of Everyday Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City.

Changes: Part I shortened/Part II expanded/Part III rewritten with significant changes. If you would like a copy, please contact me.

Final TOC:

Part I
The Social Origins of Ubiquitous Computing
Ubiquitous Computing versus Virtual Reality
Ubiquitous Computing as Calm Technology
Part II
Current Ubiquitous Computing
Context-Aware Computing
Hybrid Worlds: Between Physical and Virtual Spaces
Amplified and Annotated City Spaces
Amble Time
Sonic City
Texting Glances
Urban Tapestries

Part III
Beyond Structure: Spatialisation, Temporalisation & Everyday Life
Technology as Everyday Transductions and Flows
Ubiquitous Computing, Power and Everyday Life

Special thanks to Rob Shields, Greg Seigworth, Michael Gardiner, Bonnie Nardi and Howard Rheingold for their constructive criticism and I am grateful to many others for their valuable comments and suggestions.

Friday, July 11, 2003

On design

THEORY (via headmap)

... permeable cells and hard cells. Hard cells are what you get when you don't code in flow and difference and time and openness.

these hard cells are no way to live a life, and blogging patterns sometimes look a lot like flies in a (moving) jar

It's not clear that we want to mimic the purposeful, unreflective, uninclusive (always connected to mirrors of our selves and our worldview), stressful, and ultimately slightly paranoid mode of being encoded into our emergency services. Coding a different social reality requires acknowledging this trend towards the reactive, self referential, the self-similar and insular.

PRACTICE (via Jonathan Jaynes)

Our goal during the customer interviews and testing was to validate a task matrix that would be used inform the navigation and architecture of a redesigned software application.

Our methodology for testing included performing a Card Sort exercise and an Affinity Diagram exercise with each participant.

Instructive frameworks ... [gather] expert knowledge about how items should be organized and creating a model based on that knowledge, multiple users are provided a consistent resource that serves as a strong and recognizable foundation as they navigate through a space.

Natural frameworks ... [allow] us to determine the relative strength of perceived relationships between the groupings and enables us to consider these perceptions when formulating a new task matrix that more closely matches how people are actually thinking and working.

When I grow up I wanna be a Superinventor

I'm so excited. I just ordered this. And because I'm a geek, I will post everything I build ;)

Just one of those mornings

A truly heartening story - too bad it shows up as "weird" news.

This site and this site are nothing short of horrifying. (via mefi)

One of my pet peeves is the sloppy use of the word "vagina". That's my vulva, dammit. On Stonehenge and female anatomy.

Heh heh.

Thursday, July 10, 2003


Yesterday morning I remembered why I still love Slashdot.

And now I've finally made it through all the Auto-ID Center "confidential" RFID marketing and communications documents recently uncovered by CASPIAN. (Scroll down the CASPIAN main page for an up-to-date list of mirror links and responses to the original press release.)

My father always tells me that the "average" person doesn't have the "leisure time" necessary to read things like this, to which I have always cynically replied that it is more a problem of priority, since people seem to find plenty of time to watch television. OK. Of course I know it's not that simple, and I speak from a position where, in fact, I do have the time to read every one of these documents.

But I really wish that everyone would read these documents. Or at least the ones listed in the press release.

Among the "confidential" documents available on the web site are slide shows discussing the need to "pacify" citizens who might question the wisdom of the Center's stated goal to tag and track every item on the planet.

Um, what?

Despite the overwhelming evidence of negative consumer attitudes toward RFID technology revealed in its internal documents, the Auto-ID Center hopes that consumers will be "apathetic" and "resign themselves to the inevitability of it" instead of acting on their concerns.

Oh. And if that doesn't work?

PR firm Fleischman-Hillard ... suggests a variety of strategies to help the Auto-ID Center "drive adoption" and "neutralize opposition," including the possibility of renaming the tracking devices "green tags."

Damn. That's offensive.

Dot walk

If you didn't hear about it earlier this year, socialfiction's dot walk project (an extension of their generative psychogeography project) is very interesting: "The technology will find uses for the street on its own."

Generative psychogeography, walking on algorithms as a means to explore the city, translates ideas from computer science to the real world. The next logical challenge was to start utilising the latent power of these algorithms in a scheme much more complex: the construction of a UPC (Universal Psychogeographical Computer). This peripatetic computer is platform independent & can put any street-pattern to work as a switchboard or an abacus. The UPC is operated unconsciously by interacting swarms of psychogeographical agents. In theory the UPC is able to do anything a normal computer does, artificial intelligence included.

Today, Wilfried Hou Je Bek kindly passes along this new article on witnessing a dot walk happening: STRANGER THAN ANY PYNCHON CONSPIRACY [Aaahhh] ubiquitous computing in .walk. Amazing!

And given my recent post on Native Andean concepts of space-time, I was thrilled to find (in the dot walk resources section) these examples of languages and/or ancient computers, including Aymara socio-linguistics and Inka khipu.

Pretty wearable

Katherine Moriwaki is a PhD candidate in the Networks and Telecommunications Research Group (NTRG), University of Dublin, Trinity College - some of the researchers involved in the Texting Glances project I blogged some months ago and included in my recent paper on ubicomp and the city.

Katherine has designed some subversive garments that are very cool:

Recoil was inspired by dense urban environments and the micro-spaces people occupy during daily travel. Small, powerful magnets are embedded into everyday clothing, causing unexpected and sometimes uncomfortable physical connections between people and objects.

A "Strap-on" Mobile Phone. One that combines the illicit pleasure of auto-erotic stimulation with persistent fears of the harmful long-term effects of mobile devices. The finished M-STRAP will be integrated into regular garments, the first being a pair of unisex pants.

And some that are pretty:

Radius is part of an ongoing project titled "Network of Three." The first in a series of soon to be networked garments, Radius currently translates the movement of its wearer into a light array which is displayed across the garment surface. Individually Radius serves as a conduit through which personal self-expression can manifest. When eventually integrated into a (future) network of responsive garments Radius will function as an network node facilitating and visualizing data exchange.

And if you are a member of you can check out her 2002 article, The Future of Wearables, which discusses how art and fashion are making wearable technologies more beautiful and expressive. This is something I've written about here many times, and it still makes me smile to think that some of the best hardcore tech design is being done by women who didn't believe that Borgs were an adequate model for wearable computing. Sweet!

Wednesday, July 9, 2003


I love finding gems in my referrer logs! Meet Melanie Goux and the gorgeously-designed Melanie is a woman after my own heart: she's a motion graphic designer, has good taste in weblogs and keeps a really interesting weekly blog herself. And if that's not enough, she also likes Calder mobiles and stabiles, loves her dog, and seems to really like Canadians. Cool.

On privacy

Although it's now a bit dated, Brooke Singer's Against Data Determinism in a Networked World is worth another look and the following sections continue to raise interesting questions:

Beyond Privacy

Heiddegger and Understanding the Data-Self as Being-in-the-World

Data Poesis and Resisting Dataveillance through Art Practice: Introduction

[via Heckler & Coch]

Bodies in motion, or why semes are more interesting than memes

I have precious little first-hand experience with techno and rave culture. I assumed that generations were becoming shorter and shorter, and I had missed my in, so to speak. As it turns out, it's just not my sort of scene. But it's interesting and I like reading about it.

From tobias c. van Veen comes Hearing Difference: The Seme. Conference Paper. July 6, 2003. International Conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), Montréal.

If, in the age of the subculture, concepts travelled as memes through the fledgling networks, as concepts to be remixed into new contexts, and where the concept was about the application of the content, then today the concept is the network. In fact the network is both concept and context, and the meme is only the static concept within the network's transactions. The active idea that expresses itself as a force is the seme. What matters is not the meme, but the point at which the meme becomes inverted, where the idea is no longer sampled into different contexts, but the context is sampled into different ideas, and where the context itself is already the network. The seme is the point at which the meme is forced to undergo a translation and an extroversion at the limit of its identity by the force of its trajectory, the act of its self-sampling. The inversion of its innards now expresses the trajectory of its form. The seme thus comes to express the force of form in the stitching of the network to the content of the meme. The seme is the meme of the power of dissemination. It's the name we give to the transformational properties of the network, where the network forms the content. The seme is the theoretical framework in which the practical forces of contemporary microcultures express themselves. It is not an idea-thing that travels, like the dualist concept of meme, but the point at which the thing, at the moment of its translation or transformation at becoming something other to itself, undergoes a forceful expression of the path of its movement, its network. The seme demonstrates the digital network of transduction. If we may sample Brian Massumi: "There is no inside as such for anything to be in, interiority being only a particular relationship to the exterior to itself (infolding)."

Very nice.

I also found myself reading his paper: It's Not A Rave—the 15 Minute Mix (pdf).

What I would like to do is to scratch the title and offer some explanation as to the scenario and politics of the type of research I am performing through rave culture. At stake is the differentiation of such a project from narratives of celebration and the schematizing of "resistant" social and bodily practices ...

1. The dancing-body as the event in motion.
2. The affect of sound.
3. The temporarity of both event and body.

These three aspects of rave culture—focused as they are on the body in movement and of the event in movement in a temporary, sonic milieu—gesture toward a set of practices that continuously undermine structural understandings of the social, the spatial, the temporal, and the political. How does one become sociable with sound, perform and act in sonic society, enter into the spun out world of the speaker? How do we understand a "politics of rave culture" when the very terrain of the political is remixed through the mobile dancing body and the transient event whose currencies are the ever changing refrains of repetitive beats? What are we to make of a politics that can only be called "political" insofar as it questions the static peripheries of the polis, indeed, of the material city and its laws, curfews, accepted places and sites of play and pleasure as well as its metaphysical and theosophical constructions? How do we turn an ear to practices that transform scratch the conditions of possibility and impossibility of the political, the community, and the building blocks of these discourses, the polis and the subject?

UPDATE 10/07/03 : Tobias continues with the slithering seme. He doesn't seem to be describing just any kind of slithering, but something akin to the movement of the sidewinder. But I find the language of this post a bit dense, and will have to think some more on it ... is he suggesting autopoeisis? lines of flight? and what's this about "seams" not "semes"?

Tuesday, July 8, 2003


Via nettime, Mapping territory by Rob van Kranenburg

Postmodern theory, open source coding and multimedia channeling promised the production of a new, hybrid space, only to deliver the content convergence of media channels. And yet, I claim that we are in the progress of witnessing the realization of such a new space. In places where computational processes disappear into the background - into everyday objects - both my reality and me as subject become contested in concrete daily situations and activities. Buildings, cars, consumer products, and people become information spaces by transmitting all kinds of data through Radio Frequency Tags that are rapidly replacing the barcode. We are entering a land where the environment has become the interface, where we must learn anew how to make sense.

As 'nature' and 'technology' become hybrid spheres, people become 'tags', or ghosts. What is the role and place of design in these information spaces that are mediated with computational processes that generate not data (linked to other data) - the kind of communicative process that we are familiar with - but information (linked to other information)? The design challenge lies in confronting the move from interaction as a key term to resonance as an interpretative framework. Resonance refers most aptly to the way we relate to things, people, ideas in a connected environment. Interaction presupposes an ideal setting, agency and response. But mediation -the core business of interaction - is no longer a relationship. It has become the default position. The role of design lies in making visible what is not visible as such, creating seismographs - ways of reading the flowing surface realities of both digital and analogue data - ways of reading them, as they will surely read us.

Hmm. I sense common interests.

Intimacy bound

In preparation for my submission to the Intimate Ubiquitous Computing workshop at Ubicomp, I looked up "intimate."

Function: adjective
Etymology: alteration of obsolete intime, from Latin intimus innermost
Date: 1632
1 a : INTRINSIC, ESSENTIAL b : belonging to or characterizing one's deepest nature
2 : marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity

Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle French intrinsique internal, from Late Latin intrinsecus, from Latin, adverb, inwardly; akin to Latin intra within
Date: 1642

Function: prefix
Etymology: Late Latin, from Latin intra, from (assumed) Old Latin interus, adjective, inward
1 a : within; b : during; c : between layers of

Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle French & Latin; Middle French, from Latin, comparative of (assumed) Old Latin interus inward, on the inside; akin to Latin inter
Date: 15th century
1 : lying, occurring, or functioning within the limiting boundaries

Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English internalle, from Latin internus; akin to Latin inter between
Date: 15th century
1 : existing or situated within the limits or surface of something

Function: prefix
Etymology: Middle English inter-, enter-, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French inter-, entre-, from Latin inter-, from inter; akin to Old High German untar among, Greek enteron intestine, Old English in in
1 : between : among : in the midst

Latin Comparisons:
Positive: in, intra
Comparative: interior, interius
Superlative: intimus

Hmm. Having always considered intimacy to be rather messy, I was a bit surprised to see that its definition relies on containment and fixity. The only sense of movement (or leakiness) that I can find is with "intimate" as a transitive verb meaning "to make known," or moving from unknown to known. And that's suggestive of other things again ...

Staying in touch with old loves

Via Matt Jones comes the excellent, if infrequently updated, Heckler & Coch. Now I admit I was successfully seduced by this blog for one simple reason: I used to live Inka ethnohistory, archaeology, textiles and architecture, and Andrew recently posted a bunch of links on Inka khipu. On what?

Cracking the Khipu Code: The Inca have often been described as the only major Bronze Age civilization without a written language. In recent years, however, researchers have increasingly come to doubt this conclusion. Many now think that although khipu probably began as accounting tools, they had evolved into a writing system--a kind of three-dimensional binary code, unlike any other on Earth--by the time the Spanish arrived ... Yet the quest to understand khipu faces a serious obstacle: No one can read them.

All known writing systems used for ordinary communication employ instruments to paint or inscribe on flat surfaces. Khipu, by contrast, are three-dimensional arrays of knots. They consist of a primary cord, usually 0.5 to 0.7 centimeters in diameter, to which are tied thinner "pendant" strings--typically more than 100 and on occasion as many as 1500. The pendant strings, which sometimes have subsidiary strings attached, bear clusters of knots.

[In 1923] Locke showed that the numerical khipu were hierarchical, decimal arrays, with the knots used to record 1's on the lowest level of each string. Other knots were tied on successively higher levels in a decimal "place value" system to represent 10s, 100s, 1000s, and so on. "The mystery has been dispelled," exulted archaeologist Charles W. Mead after Locke's discovery. "We now know the quipu for just what it was in prehistoric times ... simply an instrument for recording numbers."

But in 1997, William J. Conklin, a research associate at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., suggested that knots were only part of the khipu system. "When I started looking at khipu," says Conklin, perhaps the first textile specialist to investigate them, "I saw this complex spinning and plying and color-coding, in which every thread was made in a complex way. I realized that 90% of the information was put into the string before the knot was made."

Taking off from this insight, [Gary] Urton proposes that khipu makers made use of the nature of spinning and weaving by assigning values to a series of binary choices, including the type of material (cotton or wool), the spin and ply direction of the string (which he describes as "S" or "Z" after the "slant" of the threads), the direction (recto or verso) of the knot attaching the pendant string to the primary, and the direction of slant of the main axis of each knot itself (S or Z). As a result, he says, each knot is a "seven-bit binary array," although the term is inexact because khipu had at least 24 possible string colors. Each array encoded one of 26 x 24 potential "information units"--a total of 1536, somewhat more than the estimated 1000 to 1500 Sumerian cuneiform signs and more than twice the approximately 600 to 800 Egyptian and Maya hieroglyphic symbols. In Urton's view, the khipu not only were a form of writing, but "like the coding systems used in present-day computer language, [they were] structured primarily as a binary code."

If Urton is right, khipu were unique. They were the world's sole intrinsically three- dimensional "written" documents (Braille is a translation of writing on paper) and the only ones to use a binary system for ordinary communication. In addition, they may have been among the few examples of "semasiographic" writing: texts that, like mathematical or dance notation but unlike written English, Chinese, and Maya, are not representations of spoken language. "A system of symbols does not have to replicate speech to communicate narrative," explains Catherine Julien, a historian of Andean cultures at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.

Knotted string communication, however anomalous to Euro-American eyes, has deep roots in Andean culture. Khipu were but one aspect of what Heather Lechtman, an archaeologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology, describes as "a technological environment in which people solved basic engineering problems through the manipulation of fibers." In Andean cultures, Lechtman says, textiles--ranging from elaborately patterned bags and tunics to missile-hurling slings and suspension bridges--were "how people both communicated messages of all sorts and created tools." Similarly, Urton explains, binary oppositions were a hallmark of the region's peoples, who lived in societies "typified to an extraordinary degree by dual organization," from the division of town populations into "upper" and "lower" moieties to the arrangement of poetry into dyadic units. In this environment, he says, "khipu would be familiar."

But this grander view of khipu as written narrative also has its critics. "Due to cultural evolutionary theory, people have decided that cultures are not really any good unless they have writing," says Patricia J. Lyon of the Institute of Andean Studies in Berkeley, California. "People feel this great need to pump up the Inca by indicating that the khipu were writing." Agreeing with the 17th century Jesuit chronicler Bernabé Cobo, Lyon believes that khipu "were mnemonic devices, no matter what you dream up."

Even some of Urton's supporters are cautious about his interpretation. Conklin, for instance, agrees that the khipu were charged with meaning, but he worries that the analogy to computer language may not fit. "The Andean concept of duality is different than ours," he says. Whereas each 1 or 0 in a binary display is completely independent, the Andean dualities "are like the ebb and flow of a tide: opposing, interacting aspects of a single phenomenon." In his view, understanding khipu will require finding "a way other than our independent zero and one to express Andean dualism." Still, he says, Urton's work "is the first attempt to push khipu forward since Leland Locke."

It's the last paragraph that really caught my eye. A chapter of my MA thesis looked at Native Andean concepts of space and time in terms of what I would now articulate as FLOW. Different from binary. Interesting. For four years I've told myself I should write a paper about Quechua & Aymara notions of space-time (of performance, myth and dialectics) and what this has to do with understanding computing ...

(I also keep a running list of new and favourite books on the Inka.)

Monday, July 7, 2003

On generating collective memory

Why share the preface to A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard (see below)?

Well, it's true that I just think the collection has a brilliant premise, and the stories are beautiful. But really what I'd like to see is it inspire some sort of collective digital equivalent.

I imagine all the people who pass through a public plaza, talking to each other and amongst themselves, bits and pieces of a thousand life stories uttered and forgotten. And I imagine being able to leave my own stories, and hear tales built from the many other fragments left behind. Individual memories would be used to create new collective fictions, and the past would leak into the future. The plaza would be a space of possibilities.

I imagine coders coming up with novel ways of combining these fragments, using Bowles' strategy for inspiration. I imagine whispered audio and glimpsed text messages. I imagine not merely collecting individual memories, but GENERATING COLLECTIVE MEMORY.

I dunno. That's as far as I've got. Someone else care to take it further?

Making Memories in Morocco

One of my favourite books is Paul Bowles' short story collection, A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard. (His beautiful reading of it is also available on CD.)

This is the entire preface:

Moroccan kif-smokers like to speak of "two worlds", the one ruled by inexorable natural laws, and the other, the kif world, in which each person perceives "reality" according to the projections of his own essence, the state of consciousness in which the elements of the physical universe are automatically rearranged by cannabis to suit the requirements of the individual. These distorted variations in themselves generally are of scant interest to anyone but the subject at the time he is experiencing them. An intelligent smoker, nevertheless, can aid in directing the process of deformation in such a way that the results will have value to him in his daily life. If he has faith in the accuracy of his interpretations, he will accept them as decisive, and use them to determine a subsequent plan of action. Thus, for a dedicated smoker, the passage to the "other world" is often a pilgrimage undertaken for the express purpose of oracular consultation.

In 1960 I began to experiment with the idea of constructing stories whose subject matter would consist of disparate elements and unrelated characters taken directly from life and fitted together as in a mosaic. The problem was to create a story line which would make each arbitrarily chosen episode compatible with the others, to make each one lead to the next with a semblance of naturalness. I believed that through the intermediary of kif the barriers separating the unrelated elements might be destroyed, and the disconnected episodes forced into a symbiotic relationship. I listed a group of incidents and situations I had either witnessed or heard about that year.

A. had an old grudge against B. When B. was made a policeman, A. sent money to him, seeing to it that B.'s superior was made aware of the gift. B. was reprimanded and given a post in the Sahara.

C. acquired an old pair of shoes from D. When he had them resoled he discovered that he could no longer get them on. As a result he quarreled with D.

In another personal feud, E. consulted with a witch to help him deal with his enemy F. Finding his kitten dead with a needle in its stomach, G. decided that it had been killed because he had named it Mimi.

H. slipped a ring over the head of a stray bird, and the bird flew away with it.

I. although brought up as a Jilali, hated and feared the Jilali.

J. ate so many cactus fruit that the peelings covered his gun and he was unable to find it.

K. frightened a Jewish woman by leaving the ingredients of magic on her doorstep.

This constituted the bulk of the factual material I gave myself to work with. To get three stories out of it, I combined A., B., G. and K. (for A Friend of the World); and C., D., and H. (for The Story of Lahcen and Idir; and E., F., I. and J. (for The Wind at Beni Midar). No one of the actual situations had anything to do with kif, but by providing kif-directed motivations I was able to use cannabis both as solvent and solder in the construction.

He of the Assembly has no factual anchors apart from three hermetic statements made to me that year by a kif-smoker in Marrakech: "The eye wants to sleep, but the head is no mattress," "The earth trembles and the sky is afraid, and the two eyes are not brothers," and "A pipe of kif before breakfast gives a man the strength of a hundred camels in the courtyard." He uttered these apocalyptic sentences, but steadfastly refused to shed any light on their meanings or possible applications. This impelled me to invent a story about him in which he would furnish the meanings. Here the content of each paragraph is determined by its point of view. There are seven paragraphs, arranged in a simple pattern: imagine the cross-section of a pyramidal structure of four steps, where steps 1 and 7 are at the same level, likewise 2 and 6, and 3 and 5, with 4 at the top. In paragraphs 1 and 7 He of the Assembly and Ben Tajah are seen together. 2 and 6 are seen by Ben Tajah, and 3 and 5 by He of the Assembly, and 4 consists of He of the Assembly's interior monologue.

Poetics of Space

Via Jean Chu comes CityPoems: Fifty million text messages are sent every day in Britain. We use them to organise our lives, gossip and even flirt. And we take our mobile phones everywhere. They have become like books with an unlimited number of blank pages waiting to be filled. CityPoems uses text messages to write the biography of a city.

Via Digital Yorkshire, CityPoems encourage people to try their hand at poetry, using their mobile phones to tell others about a personal landmark or just to reflect on life in Leeds ... In order to view the poems, a network of up to 30 signs called ‘PoemPoints’ set up around Leeds, display a unique key number. When this key number is sent as a text message a free poem relating to the location will be sent back to the reader’s mobile phone by SMS.

Call for Papers

"The theme for the Winter 2003 special issue of Post Identity is "Identifying New Media." We are looking for submissions that theorize how new media forms (DVDs; e-books; Internet blogs, digital archives, interactive gaming; etc.) are changing cultural and academic understandings of identity and authorship, and/or how new media might provide models for new forms of scholarship. We especially are interested in experimental work that performs its theory, such as essays or projects that offer alternative models to the standard academic essay. We are interested in the relationship between the form and content of academic discourse, and the ways in which this discourse might evolve in light of the new media scene."

Sunday, July 6, 2003

Ubiquitous Computing and the City - Part 2

Thanks to everyone who offered comments and suggestions on the draft paper I recently posted!

According to feedback, I am currently working on the final revisions and I want to note the main problems and some random thoughts and references that are guiding my revisions:

First, the draft tends to gloss over the (potential) role of ubiquitous computing in >> SOCIAL CONTROL.


Negotiations - Gilles Deleuze
Postscript on the Societies of Control - Gilles Deleuze

Although there remain disciplinary social institutions, we have moved away from a disciplinary society (following Foucault) and towards a more pervasive and intrusive society of control manifested in multitudes of interconnected networks. Rathering than molding behaviour through segregation and fixing, societies of control modulate interactions by integrating and organising difference.

Pandora's Hope - Bruno Latour

A collective of humans and non-humans: "an increasingly large number of humans are mixed with an increasingly large number of nonhumans, to the point that, today, the whole planet is engaged in the making of politics, law, and soon, I suspect, morality ... The nasty problem we now have to deal with is that, unfortunately, we do not have a definition of politics that can answer the specifications of this nonmodern history" (214).

Empire - Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri

Empire is inhabited by the multitude: a hybrid of machines, communications networks and people. The multitude creates the network of communications, the means of production, and the product.

"The commons is the incarnation, the production and the liberation of the multitude." (303)
"Empire is characterized by the close promiximity of extremely unequal populations." (336)

(Something about Empire is too utopian, too Marxist for me ... )

See also 1000 Years of War: CTHEORY Interview with Manuel De Landa (One of my pet peeves is the claim that De Landa "makes sense" of Deleuze and Latour. His are very selective readings, and his realist, causal explanations are not entirely compatible. In this interview, De Landa distances himself from the two theorists.)

+ Lessig, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World

+ Natural Born Cyborgs? Andy Clark (on cognitive extension and bad cyborgs)


Association for Automatic Identification and Data Capture Technologies - RFID info page

RFID tags: Big Brother in small packages - Declan McCullagh, CNET


Steve Mann and sousveillance

Resistance to surveillance society through sousveillance. "Sousveillance (roughly French for undersight) is the opposite of surveillance (roughly French for oversight). But by "sousveillance'', I'm not suggesting that the cameras be mounted on the floor, looking up, rather than being on the ceiling looking down like they are now. Rather, I am suggesting that the cameras be mounted on people in low places, rather than upon buildings and establishments in high places. Thus the "under'' (sight) means from down under in the hierarchy, rather than physically as in "underneath'' the floor."

(Something about this isn't quite right. He states that when surveillance is put in the hands of the people, the monopoly on surveillance is destroyed. But that doesn't resolve the problem of never-ending surveillance. Sousveillance is impotent in a control - rather than surveillance - society. And there's also the matter of whether we can bring down the master's house with the master's tools...)

Everyday Privacy in Ubiquitous Computing Environments (pdf) - Scott Lederer, Anind K. Dey, Jennifer Mankoff

Privacy Invasions in Ubiquitous Computing (pdf) - Marc Langheinrich

Making Ubiquitous Computing Visible (pdf) - Elizabeth D. Mynatt and David Nguyen

Privacy Mirrors: Understanding and Shaping Socio-technical Ubiquitous Computing Systems (pdf) - David H. Nguyen and Elizabeth D. Mynatt

Designing for Serendipity: Supporting End-User Configuration of Ubiquitous Computing Environments (pdf) - Mark Newman et al.

Second, there is little discussion of >> CONSUMPTION & COMMODIFICATION. How will Ubicomp manifest itself to "the masses" or become popularised? By including the Amble Time project (used in earlier iterations but removed in the draft) the discussion of Ubicomp can be extended to include using the technology as a form of interactive advertising and/or commodified tourism bringing us ever closer to sites of consumption. Need to think more about this ...

+ Feed, M. T. Anderson (distopia & consumerism)

Third, there is little discussion of the ability of Ubicomp to serve as a >> CRITIQUE OF EVERYDAY LIFE. Both Sonic City and Tejp offer some critique by drawing attention to social interactions (and mobile technology use) that have become mundane, but little additional attention is paid to the ability of Ubicomp to challenge our understanding of public spaces and/or to engage citizens in social critique. And surely it must be able to go beyond what Mann suggests. How to resist control in control society? Need to think more about this too ... Should look again at Play research on Slow Technology - "a design agenda for technology aimed at reflection and moments of mental rest rather than efficiency in performance. It is an investigation of the expressiveness of computational technology as design material with focus on time as a central design variable." This will also allow a more critical discussion of the speed of everyday life and the politics of real time (following Virilio).

will be too long if all this is added. edit and tighten. rearrange/redistribute the parts and their order.

Saturday, July 5, 2003

Interactive textiles

Newsweek reports on wearing wires - and the work of Sundaresan Jayaraman, an engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Textile and Fiber Engineering.

Just don’t call Jayaraman’s invention an e-textile. “E-textiles are so passive and passe,” he says. The future, he says, belongs to i-textiles—”i” for interactive. Jayaraman wants his computerized clothes to communicate with other separately wired apparel to form a more efficient network. The theory is that each fabric shouldn’t try to be all things to all people; rather, it should work like a personal computer’s motherboard—a printed circuit board that contains only those things fundamental to the machine’s operation, such as the power supply, the central processing unit and a bit of memory ... The technology’s toughest test will come from the consumer market, where the rule of fashion is unforgiving. “The user shouldn’t know when he’s wearing an electronic textile,” says Jayaraman, and the wearer shouldn’t have to be a “rocket scientist” to use it. To achieve such blissful invisibility, each garment will at first handle only a few functions.

Electronic textiles. Interactive fabrics. Intelligent fibres. On intimate technologies and emerging textiles.

[via smartmobs]

Friday, July 4, 2003

On the virtual: cognitive science meets cultural theory

The ever-insightful Matt Webb has been reading and quoting from some of my favourite books recently. First, he made available his notes on Deleuze & Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus - and it's both fascinating and heartening to see what someone with a cog-sci background takes from the book. (Incidentally, Abe Burmeister has also been reading ATP, and notes "Of course D&G are so dense you could probably find traces of anything in their work. It's sort of like the bible, whatever you want is in there ...")

But most recently, Matt's taken up a short history of the virtual and cyberspace as a paratactic aggregate. And given my studies, how could I not be impressed? But let's take a closer look.

So the virtual worlds constitute a strand of thought that stretches back through history, a mindset that produces and complexifies a whole series of worlds, the latest being cyberspace ...

Yes. But since I'm not a cognitive scientist, I would replace the word "thought" with "practice" and "mindset" with "social practices" (or "cultural rituals" or even the more obfuscated "performances").

... and virtual meaning these aren't within the real world: A virtual world has to be brought into being by explicit statements (this means this, that means that), as with cyberspace which itself is an offshoot of cybernetics, and so the statements are cybernetic feedback loops: this means (read: causes) this, that means (read: causes) that.

OK. But virtual worlds are REAL, if not material, so it's more precise to claim that the virtual may be ACTUALISED (made actual or "brought into being"). In this sense, the VIRTUAL is always already possible or potential until it is actualised through EXPRESSIONS (see Massumi's Shock to Thought and Hallnäs & Redström's From Use to Presence).

The design of the virtual world must now therefore take its clues from humanity's interfaces with the pre-existing universe, and build in equivalents. The virtual world may then re-merge with (deterritorialize back into) the real world.

OK. And quoting Feyerband's excellent critique of Kuhn:

Not every feature of an archaic list has representational value just as not every feature of a written sentence plays a role in articulating the content.

Not every-thing (space or time) has REPRESENTATIONAL value. Yes again. This is where PERFORMATIVITY comes in; there is the space of potential(ity) rather than of actual(ity). (In D&G, this manifests itself in the Body Without Organs.) But Matt is really on to something when he suggests (and please tell me if I am reading too much into this) that cyberspace is a peculiar conflict of representation and performance (a desiring machine?):

Cyberspace is still a paratactic aggregate. This is a bad thing -- this particular manifestation of the virtual worlds is now complex enough to shape thoughts, but tyrannised by the minority who are the only ones able able to state the propositions to shape it ... Cyberspace is characterised by parataxis - defn: "The mere ranging of propositions one after another, without indicating their connection or interdependence; -- opposed to syntax".

But here's where Matt loses me: He appears to be suggesting territorialisation and de-territorialisation, but something makes me think that when Matt writes about the need to "return" to the "real world" he is referring to what exists after RE-territorialisation, and re-territorialisation can be OPPRESSIVE. The space of FLOW is de-territorialised, full of potential (and risk), and it is that space I am interested in exploring. I am interested in technologies that do not seek to re-territorialise, or to maintain the status quo. I would think that the more de-territorialised space our technologies create, the more chance we have to make them do what we want ...

People, place and information

Adam Greenfield has posted the presentation he will be giving at the First International Moblogging Conference day after tomorrow.

In Whatever happened to serendipity? Adam writes:

I think moblogs are what happen at the intersection of people, place, and information, and I think they spontaneously arise almost immediately, any time a means exists to harness these three ingredients together ... Now imagine for a moment that the city is overlayered with a palimpsest of user-created tags, and everyone in the city over the age of five has a cheap, easy-to-use device that affords publishing, browsing, searching and filtering from among same. What does it look like when you can stand in a given location, press a single button on this device, and avail yourself of the collective experience of everyone else who's occupied that same spot?

People who read this site know how much I like the idea of cities digitally layered with human experience - it is my dissertation research after all - but I've always been concerned that ubiquitous computing (and let's include moblogging here for now) will most likely serve to bring us closer to sites of consumption. And while I have no objection, per se, to buying things, I do have problems with the increasing commodification of social and cultural experience (think shopping malls, theme parks, etc.). But Adam astutely adds something else to this familiar problematic: the risk of losing serendipitous experience and connection.

... In this world where we're all issued the keys to the city as soon as we're old enough to grasp a palm-sized device, there's precious little room for accident. There's not much incentive to go offline and stumble around blindly, regardless of the intangible benefits that may accrue to those who do so. And the self-selection gradient that results in streets that are known for diamond merchants and neighborhoods that are devoted to consumer electronics - in short, the frequently-ungentle osmosis that has shaped our gathering places for centuries, for better and just as often for worse - only becomes reinforced.

This reminds me of our desire to PLAY, to GROPE around, to MANIPULATE (in the sense of shaping by hand) ... After all, we don't just discover places, we CREATE them, we MAKE THEM UP. And I'm afraid I'm just not impressed by any technology that limits our ability to do so. Adam conjures this in terms of Situationist dérive - or DRIFTING - and it is through related critiques of everyday life that I believe ubiquitous computing, and moblogging, will succeed.

So here's wishing the conference goes well. Cheers Adam.

Thursday, July 3, 2003

When virtual worlds chafe

After spending a wonderful Canada Day with good friends, plenty of sunshine, beer and bbq, I was not exactly happy to return online this morning ;) However, I've since gone for a long walk and had a massage, so everything is good!

It seems that after leaving comments here the other day, Frank Paynter posted these thoughts and comments on his own site.

Although I have witnessed it on his site and elsewhere, Frank's overt hostility towards the humanities and social sciences in general, and to what he calls "postmodernism" in particular, confuses me. And it makes me wonder why he even reads sites dedicated to these subjects. I also suspect that there is nothing I can say that might temper his position or encourage genuine dialogue.

I will, however, say this: the abstract and paper I recently posted were submitted for particular academic publications and audiences. That I shared them with a broader audience here does not change that fact. Some readers write that my comments lack appropriate nuance and complexity, while others write that my posts are inexcusably exclusionary. But there's no pleasing everyone, and if I decided anything during last week's conversation, it is that I can only write what I know and find interesting. And you're welcome to come along for the ride, if you like.

And now for a good laugh: Andie passes along this gem from the Onion. Damn funny!

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Resonances and Everyday Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City

For those interested in Ubicomp, I've posted a draft copy of a paper I submitted for a special issue of Cultural Studies, and I welcome any feedback. Cheers.

Resonances and Everyday Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City


Ubiquitous computing seeks to embed computers into our everyday lives in such ways as to render them invisible and allow them to be taken for granted, and social and cultural theories of everyday life have always been interested in rendering the invisible visible and exposing the mundane. Despite these related concerns, social and cultural studies have been almost entirely absent in discussions of the design of ubiquitous technologies. This essay seeks to introduce researchers in both fields to each other, and begin to explore the ways in which collaboration might proceed. By exploring mobile and ubiquitous technologies currently being used to augment our experiences of the city, this paper investigates notions of sociality, spatialisation and temporalisation as central to our experiences of everyday life, and therefore of interest to the design of ubiquitous computing.

Update 3 July/03: Thanks to everyone who has written me with their comments and suggestions, and to those who have linked it at their own sites - I am fortunate to have very bright and kind readers. I look forward to continuing our conversations here or by email.

Weblogs as liminal spaces

Below is the abstract I submitted for the Into the Blogosphere CFP I mentioned last week.


We can view weblogs as enabling revolutionary possibilities for communication, or as merely the latest iteration of more than a decade of online self-publishing. However, following post-structural approaches, and especially those of Deleuze and Guattari, we may shift analysis away from such totalising explanations or representations, and towards notions of decentralised performativity and relationality. This shift forces us to examine the spaces in-between which have traditionally been glossed over as void. Historically, anthropologists have referred to the spaces in-between as liminal spaces, thresholds or transitions from one state or space to another. Accordingly, liminality has been understood to perform boundaries, as well as beginnings, becomings, and similar forms of cultural transition or mobility.

This paper applies notions of performativity and relationality to articulate weblogs as liminal spaces, or spaces of flow. In this way, weblogs may be understood as socio-technical assemblages that negotiate relations between virtuality, actuality, distance, proximity, past, present and future. In other words, weblogs create particular spaces and times in which social activity may, and does, occur. Taking an auto-ethnographic approach, this paper examines the author’s own weblog as a social and technological space between online academic and design communities, where boundaries between subjects are blurred, and both individual and collective meaning and identity struggle to emerge. In particular, this paper addresses the role of comments and archives in delineating specific spaces and times of interaction while also creating what might be described as the never-ending weblog.

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