Friday, October 31, 2003

Belief and desire all the way down

I found Steven Shaviro's weblog in my referrer logs a few weeks ago - and it's a fun read. But his most recent post really delivers the goods:

I’ve been reading some of the books of Gabriel Tarde, a French sociologist of the 1890s, once famous, the intellectual antagonist of Durkheim (but Durkheim won) ... [W]hat he is interested in is not individual psychology, but inter-individual psychology; not interiority, in other words, but relations between - and not even between individuals, so much as among or between smaller units than individuals, sub-individuals ... The reason this is all so brilliant, and so beautifully crazy, is because Tarde simply short-circuits all the bad questions about mediations, representations, and intermediate levels in which social theory has so often been bogged down ... Instead, we are led to ask questions about beliefs and desires, that work on a microscopic or microsocial level, but that are capable of multiplication and amplification of singular and multiple combinations, with a capacity both for radical innovation, and for co-optation and virulent viral replication.

To see how sociologists use Tarde, see Gabriel Tarde and the End of the Social by Bruno Latour - or if you dig the type of evolutionary sociology that Shaviro seems to - Forefathers of Memetics: Gabriel Tarde and the Laws of Imitation by Paul Marsden. And if you read French, here are several good papers on Tarde.

Update: Seems Abe blogged this as well, and adds in some actor-network links.

In praise of the mundane

Jason passes along this editorial, which compares moblogging and the Snapshot Now show at the Angell Gallery in Toronto. But the author doesn't think either is cool - and I think both are.

Congratulations, your algorithm is a boy!

Browsing misbehaving this morning, I found a link to the Gender Genie and had to try it out!

The results:

Hacking the city
as nonfiction: female 130 / male 295
as blog entry: female 0 / male 755
Design for hackability
as nonfiction: female 351 / male 522
as blog entry: female 832 / male 645
UbiComp Reflections II - can ubicomp come out to play?
as non fiction: female 1815 / male 1975
as blog entry: female 1416 / male 2927

According to this Nature article, the original algorithm's "success seems to confirm the stereotypical perception of differences in male and female language use. Crudely put, men talk more about objects, and women more about relationships."

The Gender Genie uses a "simplified" version of the algorithm and seems to have created another textual category - blog entry - which can yield significantly different results from non-fiction and I am curious how that works ...

But get this: Upon being told the writer (me) is female, the Gender Genie replies "That is one butch chick." Hey! Don't make me kick your ass, girlie-man!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

"a stable, enduring and obdurate (though not immutable) world of spatial arrangements, the meaning of which is known in common by members"

Remarks on the social organisation of space and place (pdf)
Andy Crabtree

Abstract. Human conduct is always situated in a particular space or place yet little is understood about the social organisational relationship between space, place and conduct. In pursuing a sociological line of thought, ordinary conceptions of space have been elaborated such that spaces and places are seen as constructions expressly designed to constrain and shape our lives. While there is much to such notions, the embodied practices and interactional competences in and through which space is socially organised in realtime pass by ‘unnoticed’. Drawing on an ethnographic perspective in general, and an ethnomethodological perspective in particular, this paper outlines an approach to the study of the social organisation of space and place from the largely unnoticed point of view of social action.

Keywords. Space, place, social organisation, situated activity, embodied practice, interactional competence, naturalistic inquiry, ethnography, ethnomethodology.

Notes to follow.

Thesis progress

Actually, I just need to remind myself that I do have some idea of what's going on.


NaDa "a reassuring piece of software that does nothing, and does it very well. That's a lot!" (via one of my favourite blogs, via the also excellent

Or how about Birthmark: pictures one - two - three (found after browsing links in Beverly Tang's super-cool blog.)

Or Dan Hill's fabulous Fragment 9 - Fragment 8 - Fragment 7

And what do you get when artists have at computer games?

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Pretty psychogeography

Phil Smith sends word of An Exeter Mis-Guide

An Exeter Mis-Guide is like no other guide you have ever used before. To Exeter. To Anywhere. Rather than telling you where to go and what to see, the Mis-Guide gives you the ways to see the Exeters no one else has found yet. An Exeter Mis-Guide is both a forged passport to your 'other' city and a new way of travelling a very familiar one. An essential part of the toolkit of any 21st Century Exeter survivor.

It is produced by city site-specific artists Wrights & Sites, working with visual artist Tony Weaver.

The page samples make me want a copy! And how far is Exeter from London - can I easily visit in January?

(And funny that it arrived tonight, just as I was writing a paper on our design work in Rome last month - called "From Bovine Horde to Urban Players: Multidisciplinary Interaction Design for Alternative Tourisms".)

FOR SALE: 0100101110110101.ORG

OCT. 27, 2003

As of today, 0100101110110101.ORG gives up control over its own Internet domain name and associated website and E-Mail addresses. now points to an advertisement page of a Internet domain reseller from where it can be purchased for an estimated price of EUR 10,000. as it had previously operated from this URL will cease to exist as soon as the domain will have been sold, and will stop its public interventions over artistic politics. The E-Mail addresses of will be open to any use of their future owners. People contacting us personally will receive a copy of this text.

With its interventions, aimed to make institutions less solid and tenable, and demoralize people who would otherwise fail to have their beliefs called into question. On all these counts, considers its past work a success. On the other hand, there has been a momentum, internal and external, to assimilate into the production logic of the art system. By ultimately selling out, will both affirm and end this status quo.

Man, they did great work. And of course, this should be part of it ;)

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Spaces of flow

Andy Goldsworthy:

Movement, change, light, growth and decay are the lifeblood of nature, the energies that I try to tap through my work. I need the shock of touch, the resistance of place, materials and weather, the earth as my source. Nature is in a state of change and that change is the key to understanding. I want my art to be sensitive and alert to changes in material, season and weather. Each work grows, stays, decays. Process and decay are implicit. Transience in my work reflects what I find in nature.

Thanks Adam.

Aesthetic technologies

The second e-culture fair took place in Amsterdam late last week, and it seems I missed some good stuff:

Fashion Victims | Scentient Beings - Smart Second Skin | SlopeStyle | Whisper

The RemoteHome (Tobi Schneidler) : Via the Internet two homes are connected. In the one home someone wriggles in a chair, and the occupant of the other home is forced into a different posture by the corresponding movements of the arm and foot rests of his or her chair. Or the wall may start bulging in and out in response to the way in which the ‘remote’ person walks through the room. Even when you are not at home, the RemoteBag can keep you posted with shock and light effects. The RemoteHome is an architectural response to our changing ways of living.
StalkShow (Karen Lancel) : What constitutes a safe place for you? StalkShow is about the threat of being unsafe and isolated in the public space. It invites the audience to put a personal face to this threat, to show both its horror and its beauty.
RICHAIR2030 (Shu Lea Cheang) : RICHAIR2030 proposes shared public consumption of wireless bandwidth. In this performance, born again China Dolls on rollerblades, carrying their homemade chiputer lunchboxes, set out on a mission: to pump back the leaked out public wireless bandwidth in RGB codes.

Aware: A flexible platform that operates a spatio-temporal moblog allowing collective contribution and distribution of media.
NobodyHere (Jogchem Niemandsverdriet) : A continually growing network of playful animations, melancholy poems and muddled memos.
Rashomon (Marcus Kirsch) : If computer game characters become more and more ‘realistic’, what will happen to such human attributes as imperfection and spontaneity? In an interactive and playful way, Rashomon explores a possible outcome by giving you the opportunity to become a computer game character.
Face Your World (Jeanne van Heeswijk) : A multi-user game that lets children remodel their own environment into an entirely new world. Through digital cameras they are able to import new elements themselves. These new created worlds are displayed in the public space.

Thanks Katherine!

Update: Great quote taken from an unrelated Globe & Mail article - "It is important now to design for the whole human being, not just the rationalist in us. We are not reviving Art Deco, of course. But we are reviving its spirit."

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Recently browsed

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Code and the Transduction of Space Redux

As promised, here are my notes on Rob Kitchin's talk on the role of software in shaping everyday life. (Abstract here.)

All in all I think their draft paper is quite good - and definitely more cogent than the abstract suggested. But then again, we have shared interests ;)

Hacking the city

Kristoffer Åberg got me thinking again about use value and I need to gather up some disparate thoughts here. I've mentioned before the use-value of space and skateboarding as a way of hacking the city.

And lately I've been thinking a lot about mobilities/moments in time as performed in parkour culture/s - "The art/sport, created by David Belle, in which the participant (or traceur) attempts to move through his or her environment as quickly and fluidly as possible by running, jumping, and climbing past any obstacles that come in their path."

INCITE's Urban Mobilities project looks at space, place and moving across the city as well as how blogging impacts the experience of place - an interesting take on 'writing the city.'

(I will also be presenting something on skating, parkour and hacking the city at the Approaching the City Conference in January.)

Then I think of Sonic City - a system that enables people to create music in real time by walking through and interacting with the urban environment - which positions the city itself as interface. And Kim Cascone's take on the sonification of user interfaces, The Aesthetics of Failure: “Post-Digital” Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music (pdf).

And Walter Benjamin and Michel de Certeau, always de Certeau...

Update 29 October: some good comments and links by Dan Hill.

Friday, October 24, 2003

The virtues of forgetfulness?

Who'd have thought yours truly would be quoted in a Wired News article? I remember talking to Mark Baard - quite a nice guy - and it's interesting what he remembered about me:

Sociologists and anthropologists at the conference also worried that human memory, which can be flexible and forgiving, will be supplanted by the memory banks of ubiquitous computing systems. No human act, no matter how benign or foolish or cruel, will escape the binary memory and cold interpretation of an artificially intelligent computer.

"People are showing me spatulas and frying pans with RFID (radio frequency identification) tags on them, and AI (artificial intelligence) systems that can infer when you're making an omelet," said Carleton University sociologist Anne Galloway. "And that's fine. But think of all the embarrassing things we do that we would like to forget. With everything stored on a disk somewhere, that will be extremely difficult."

Well, that's not quite what I said, but okay. And I have to correct one point: I am only a PhD candidate.

It appears that Mark also talked to my friend Lalya about how Tejp audio tags record only what people want. Update: But I don't think it's fair to say that researchers are "sidestepping the privacy issue by limiting their ubiquitous computing applications to art installations." One of the important things about the Tejp project is its critical perspective - and Glitch confronts privacy quite nicely, I think. It shouldn't be just about surveillence.

Design for hackability

LEGO Design School - Designing with Doors: Open the door to new design possibilities! When is a door not actually a door? Learn about some of the interesting and creative ways to use LEGO doors...

I wish more things were designed so that I can make them be what I want, and I'm not the only one who feels this way. The LEGO Mindstorms community thinks so too. And so do folks in game mod communities. Actually, gamers seem to understand the beauty of hackability better than most.

The more technically-inclined call this end-user configuration. Other people say we can get there by designing with ambiguity in mind. The more poetic simply don't want to lose chances for serendipitous use.

But I want to get back to my original statement, "designed so that I can make them be what I want." First, this should be distinguished from bespoke design - which I don't make at all, but comes to me exactly as I want. I'm talking about giving me cool building blocks, or half-baked ideas, so that I can build something (new) from them.

[Incidentally, I have always wanted to organise a conference on failed designs and faulty ideas, but I have been roundly unsuccessful in convincing others that a "public airing of dirty laundry" can be a good thing. Still, I get excited imagining what we could learn from each other, and the things we could build from that...]

Inventables - New Materials & Technology Resource for Innovative Design - gets closer to what I want. A subscription to the service gets you physical samples of new materials, research findings and design guides every three months. From there you're on your own. Brilliant. But too expensive for the average person.

I imagine something like themed boxes containing open-source materials and code. For example, the SUBVERSION box might contain a selection of tactical media tools that people can put to use in whatever ways they wish.

What I want is to make it easier to afford new technologies and learn how to use them. I want to encourage counter-applications, personal and collective engagement. I want people to gain a sense of ownership and authorship over new technologies. And I want non-designers to teach designers something about creativity, design and use.

Update: Programmable Bricks (Resnick, MIT - became MindStorms) / Beyond Black Boxes:Bringing Transparency and Aesthetics Back to Scientific Investigation, Resnick, Berg, Eisenberg / The Computer Clubhouse:
Technological Fluency in the Inner City
, Resnick, Rusk, Cooke

Thursday, October 23, 2003



1. I saw an inordinate amount of young women in really really tight jeans. (I do not recall this now with any fondness.)

2. I went to a really smart lecture and was really rude when answering what I thought was a really stupid question.

3. I ate some really good curry. I'm thinking that curry is really good with ginger beer.

Room 209

Trevor Bechtel's wife Susan is a very cool teacher - she's set up a blog for her second grade class where they ask questions and people can leave comments.

Here's my favourite question so far: Our class wants to know if all animals are meat we can eat?

I gave the standard anthropological response: it depends on your culture. But the comment that made me laugh out loud was David Weinberger paving the way for a discussion of cannibalism with "Humans are animals, aren't we?". I can't wait to hear if the kids ask more about that one!

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Fantastic game

Weird and beautiful: Samorost by Amanita Design. Wish more games were like this.

Code, Everyday Life and the Transduction of Space

Rob Kitchin will be giving a lecture at the uni tomorrow. Excellent.

Time: 22 October 2003, 14:30
Location: B454 Loeb, Carleton University


Rob Kitchin, Department of Geography and NIRSA, National University of Ireland
Martin Dodge, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London

In this paper we examine the role of code (software) in the spatial formation of collective life. Taking the view that human life and coded technology are folded into one another, we theorise space as ontogenesis. Space, we posit, is constantly being bought into being through a process of transduction - the constant making anew of a domain in reiterative and transformative practices - as an incomplete solution to a relational problem. The relational problem we examine is the ongoing encounter between individuals and environment where the solution, to a greater or lesser extent, is code. Code, we posit, is diversely embedded in collectives as coded objects, coded infrastructure, coded processes and coded assemblages. These objects, infrastructure, processes and assemblages possess technicity, that is, unfolding or evolutive power to make things happen; the ability to mediate, supplement, augment, monitor, regulate, operate, facilitate, produce collective life. We contend that when the technicity of code is operationalised it transduces one of three forms of hybrid spatial formations: code/space, coded space and backgrounded coded space. These formations are contingent, relational, extensible and scaleless, often stretched out across networks of greater or shorter length. We demonstrate the coded transduction of space through three vignettes - each a day in the life of three people living in London, UK, tracing the technical mediation of their interactions, transactions and mobilities. We then discuss how code becomes the relational solution to five different classes of problems - domestic living, travelling, working, communicating, and consuming.

Hybrid Reality: Art, Technology and the Human Factor

I arrived in Montréal for VSMM 2003 last Friday morning and experienced a glorious moment of culture shock as I saw myself surrounded by black turtlenecks, sensuous fabrics and sharp eyeglasses. So not UbiComp ;)

I had the pleasure of participating in a great panel moderated by Marc Tuters (GPSter) on locative media & collaborative cartography.

With the arrival of portable, location-aware networked computing devices, 'collaborative cartography' will enable us to map our physical environments with geo-annotated information. Keeping these technologies within reach, by using open standards and protocols will enable us to map according to our desires; providing artists with tools with which to, effectively, step outside of the box, whereby architectonic space now becomes their canvas.

Marc asked me to introduce the topic, and I briefly discussed everyday life, mobile and wireless technologies in terms of the two things I took away from my conversations at UbiComp: intimacy and play. Intimacy in terms of connectedness, vulnerability and privacy; play in terms of collaboration, identity and subversion. I mentioned Can You See Me Now?, Noderunner, Sonic City & Tejp.

Update: And parkour culture/s. "The art/sport, created by David Belle, in which the participant (or traceur) attempts to move through his or her environment as quickly and fluidly as possible by running, jumping, and climbing past any obstacles that come in their path."

Karlis Kalnins spoke about his work on GPSter, Geograffiti and Songlines - interesting experiments in geo-annotation and collaborative cartography.

Jason Harlan spoke about his Blogmapper project:

Blogmapper lets you associate blog entries with hot spots on a map. When you click on the spots, the entries appear. View the graffiti blog and you'll see exactly what we mean. Blogmapper can be used to map and log anything anywhere, including your travels, and the places and things that interest you. Anyone with access to the web can do this - neither mapping expertise nor software installation is required.

And we also heard from the [murmur] project by Gabe Sawhney, Shawn Micallef and James Roussel. Very nice.

[murmur] is an archival audio project that collects and curates stories set in specific Toronto/Vancouver/Montréal locations. At each of these locations, a [murmur] sign will mark the availability of a story with a telephone number and location code. By using a mobile phone, users are able to listen to the story of that place while engaging in the full physical experience of being there. Some stories suggest that the listener walk around, following a certain path through a place, while others allow a person to wander with both their feet and their gaze.

Since I was only there for the last day, I can't report on the rest of the conference. There appears to have been a bunch of papers on technology and heritage - like using VRML in archaeology to (re)construct cultural remains. I would have loved to have discussed what, exactly, is being mapped in these scenarios. And while there I was also kindly invited to sit on the How Much Information is Enough? Panel. Although quite interesting, we didn't end up talking about this compelling quote in the panel description:

Cyberspace is particularly geared toward the erasure of all non-Western histories. Once a culture has been 'stored' and 'preserved' in digital forms, opened up to anybody who wants to explore it from the comfort of their armchair, then it becomes more real than the real thing. Who needs the arcane and esoteric real thing anyway? In the postmodern world where things have systematically become monuments, nature has been transformed into 'reserve', and knowledge is giving way to information and data, it is only a matter of time before Other people and their cultures become 'models', so many zeros and ones in cyberspace, exotic examples for scholars, voyeurs and other interested parties to load on their machines and look at. Cyberspace is a giant step forward towards museumization of the world: for anything remotely different from Western culture will exist only in digital form. - Z. Sardar 1996

It would have been fun to talk about technology and culture in terms of cabinets of curiosities with the other panelists: Lon Addison, Char Davies, Scott Fisher, Donald Sanders and Bob Stone. But I had a really good time, and also enjoyed conversations with Peter Anders, Joey Berzowska, Sara Diamond, Lorna Roth and others. Cheers everyone!

Update: The Locative Media Lab "explores the possibility that next generation, mobile, location aware devices can transform social, economic and informational relations at the local community level."

To explore these possibilities, Marc Tuters (GPSter) and Ben Russell (headmap) have set up a locative media collaborative blog. Right on.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


One more time ... all CSS ... comments work but links to other sections do not.

Update: Yes, I'm liking this design ;) Everything now working except some links under research & design.

Comments? Suggestions?

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Other intimate and playful technologies at UbiComp?

Tejp: Ubiquitous Computing as Expressive Means of Personalising Public Space (Margot Jacobs, Lalya Gaye, Lars Erik Holmquist)
WiFisense: The Wearable Wireless Network Detector (Milena Iossifova and Ahmi Wolf)
Wall_Fold: The Space Between 0 and 1 (Ruth Ron)
The Spookies (and PLAY researcher Peter Ljunstrand - PLAY is also sponsoring the outside in: emerging expressions, interventions, & participation in public space symposium in Spring 2004 which I would really like to attend)
The Verse-O-Matic (James G. Robinson)
Platypus Amoeba (Ariel Churi, Vivian Wenli Lin, Mallory Whitelaw, Cindy Yang)
Squeeze Me: A Portable Biofeedback Device for Children (Amy Parness, Ed Guttman and Christine Brumback)
Eos Pods: Wireless Devices for Interactive Musical Performances (David Bianciardi, Tom Igoe, Eric Singer)
Wishing Well (Tim Brooke and Margaret Morris)
Context Nuggets: A Smart-Its Game (Michael Beigl, Albert Krohn, Christian Decker, Philip Robinson, Tobias Zimmer, Hans Gellersen, Albrecht Schmidt)
And a bunch of groovy examples of expressive software and ambient media from Sha Xin Wei, Joey Berzowska - who I later met in Montreal - Jill Fantauzza and others.

UbiComp Reflections II - can ubicomp come out to play?

Thanks to Eric Paulos for the lovely question used in the title of the post. I am back home and still digesting my trips to Seattle and Montreal. Before I get to the Hybrid Reality conference, I want to get the UbiComp thoughts out ... I have updated my earlier posts, and discussed other projects in the comments, but want to focus a bit more here on ubicomp, intimacy and play.

The intimate computing workshop organisers talk about intimacy as cognitive and emotional closeness with technology, intimacy as physical closeness with technology, and intimacy through technology. My paper talked about technology as intimacy and intimacy as technology, but everyone seemed to remember it as the paper on the creepy spider-goat.

We spent the morning doing a show-and-tell of the intimate objects brought to the workshop, and the afternoon working on small group design exercises. From these discussions the organisers will compile a manifesto of methods and models for intimate computing, and I will link to it when it becomes available.

Elizabeth Goodman and Marion Misilim presented the Sensing Beds project I blogged some time ago. Marion also does some interesting work in physical computing.

[And now that I think about it, everyone I met at UbiComp who graduated from the ITP at NYU was working on fabulous stuff.]

I was quite struck by a brief demonstration Liz Goodman gave on taking a person's measurements for custom-made clothing. The act of measuring someone's body is quite intimate and ritualised. It involves asking a person to breathe in and out in order to reveal their "true" measurements, which conjured memories of holding in my stomach to appear thinner and how vulnerable I might feel in that situation. Taking measurements also requires getting physically close to a person, putting your arms around them and yet also having to ask them to measure the 'more intimate' parts of their body, such as the inseam. But what struck me the most about this was that Liz's intimate object - the tape measure - was not particularly intimate. For example, she claimed no attachment to the tape itself, and any tape would do. The intimacy of this situation arose not in the object itself, but in the performance of measuring. And yet, I am reluctant to say that the tape measure afforded intimacy, because the object did more than enable or afford a particular action: it both acted in, and enacted, the situational intimacy of measurement-taking. And surely that distinction allows us to approach the design of objects (and technologies in general) with greater intimacy (and embroilment) as well.

I also talked with Yuri Gitman (of noderunner fame) about his latest project Magic Bike - very cool! He talked about the value of play-testing technologies, and recommended Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman's Rules of Play. Yuri also teaches Wireless Art at the Parsons School of Design.

The last day of the conference kicked-off with a great panel on mobile play: blogging, tagging and messaging. Eric Paulos moderated, and made two claims about play: "1) humans seamlessly move in and out of the context of play and 2) when at play, humans employ a separate mental cognition. The scope of their current activity is more ambiguous, and their expectations about people, artifacts, interfaces, tools, etc. are increasingly relaxed. The mind is open up to widely fanciful interpretations, connections and metaphors. The rules of human engagement are completely altered."

I completely agree with the first point, but I'm not sure I get the second because questions of cognition are rather foreign to me. I do, however, disagree with the final point: if play involves learning - as Eric also claims - then clearly play also has something to do with socialisation. When I was little, we "played" Star Wars and I always had to be Princess Leia. I really wanted to be Han Solo but wasn't allowed - and I still remember this kid Matthew who wanted to be Leia but wasn't allowed either. I'm pretty sure when we fought about these things we all learned something about what was considered appropriate gender behaviour, even though I don't believe that either one of us was gay and that was the primary reason given for not being allowed to play the opposite sex character. (Oh, and apparently, neither myself nor Matthew were socially powerful enough to change the situation.) But my point is that the "rules of engagement" weren't altered at all. We had no problem imagining being Star Wars characters, but we weren't able to imagine different gender roles. Socialisation dies hard.

Anyway, I really liked that Eric set up the topic of play as mobile - as active events or practices. As with intimacy, it may be best framed in terms of performativity and performance, embodiment and duration. Eric also asked if playfulness might be used to prevent criticism - as in, are playful technologies excluded from critique? can they "just be fun"? Good question, and short answer: no (the least fun answer of all - and one which makes me think of when Howard Rheingold told me that intellectuals like to dis flash mobs and he wanted to know what we have against other people having fun? I laughed out loud, and stood humbled).

Marc Smith asked how play is instrumental? educational? informal? self-expressive? fun? subversive? He talked about "laminated reality" - nice imagery, no? - game theory, social network analysis and ecosystems of strategies - which reminded me of activity theory, but not de Certeau's "tactics" and Situationism, which I like much more).

And speaking of situationism, Barry Brown began with "under the paving stones ... the beach" or how play is "not a residual category, it's the stuff of life." He's interested in play in work and work in play, and if I remember correctly, he brought up the notion that people "work hard at playing" and he favoured "designing for the boundary" between work and play. Nice.

Nina Wakeford - Director of INCITE - talked about the 73 Urban Journeys project, mobile play and urban space. She started with something that also stuck with me: that sociology cannot impart some sort of sociological wisdom to ubicomp designers to make ubicomp better, but by thinking together about how ubicomp creates social objects and relations we can, together, be more reflexive about what it is we want to know about society and technology. She also brought up the relation between play and power: we've all experienced those contexts where play is clearly inappropriate ("Stop playing!" or less eloquently, and perhaps more honestly, "Stop fucking around!"). Huizinga and Caillois write about play in terms of being "outside" - of work, of utility, of productivity - culturally inappropriate spaces and states. Sutton-Smith writes more about the ambiguous and dynamic nature of play, or culturally liminal spaces - which is what Brown and Wakeford were getting at when they conjured play as in-between spaces and times. And she also brought up the idea that play is always already work, which makes me wonder if it is important to define play in terms of work to lend it greater credibility? and if so, for whom and to what end?

Bill Gaver spoke about everyday play as mutable, self-directed and non-utilitarian (i.e. not task oriented). Playful design would encourage exaggerated or strange roles for people and objects, as well as draw on ambiguity, imprecision and openness to create applications that make the 'how' of their use clear, but leave the 'why' undefined. He also talked about the Presence project - all of which remind me of Design Noir and SoMa's Private Reveries, Public Spaces project.

And finally, the panel raised interesting questions about the relationship between fantasy and the mundane everyday - although my first thought is that the everyday is always already fantastic. They also suggested that there is great freedom to be found in the gaps and breakdowns inherent in ubiquitous technologies, and how interesting play often occurs where play wasn't designed for. Of course.

All in all, I think that UbiComp is maturing. While certainly dominated by white-anglo males, systems thinkers and generally binary people, they/we are starting to ask better questions and there is a lot of really good work being done. I met some wonderfully bright people and particularly enjoyed conversations with Katherine Moriwaki, Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Liz Goodman - who also kept good notes on the whole conference - Lalya Gaye, Tana Green, Ariel Churi, Sha Xin Wei, Elizabeth Churchill, Eric Paulos, Allison Woodruff, Genevieve Bell, Nina Wakeford, Mike Perkowitz, Emilio Mercado, danah boyd, John Cass and others. Cheers everyone.

Friday, October 17, 2003

UbiComp Reflections I - context awareness and privacy

A recurring claim is that security and privacy are central to viable ubicomp. Since security requires the collection of huge amounts of data - think what is necessary for user authentication alone - we are faced with how best to collect, store and administer these data. For example, who will have access to this information? How long will it be stored?

While certainly these are questions of social importance, I don't think it is reasonable - or responsible - to continue developing and deploying these technologies with the attitude that these are purely "social issues" or "policy problems" that have nothing to do with the research and development of ubiquitous computing.

Technology does not exist separately from these issues and problems, and neither do those issues and problems arise only in the use of these technologies. We need to find ways to integrate these concerns into the research and design processes ...

Interesting technological takes on context-awareness and privacy discussed at the conference?

Tim Kindberg and Kan Zhang (HP Labs) work on using the physical properties of lasers to constrain communication channels and allow validated binding of encryption keys to devices for spontaneous and selective secure interactions. Neat-o.

Jeffrey Heer and colleagues in the Group for User Interface Research at Berkeley have developed liquid for context-aware distributed queries. They started from the premise that context data (people, places, objects, activities) are highly distributed and dynamic, and chose to push functionality from applications to infrastructure. Borrowing from database communities, liquid relies on distributed streaming queries and dynamic query re-routing in response to changing contexts. IMHO, this is a really interesting example of social computing: not only did they not model context as if it were immutable, they collaborated with other researchers. Well done.

But my favourite example of responsible computer science came from Carman Neustaedter and Saul Greenberg at the GroupLab - University of Calgary. They developed a privacy-aware camera system for home office workers by working with existing everyday privacy practices. This may seem obvious or overly-simple, but these guys really respect people: their technology built on - instead if interfering with or seeking to replace - verbal and non-verbal behaviours, environmental and cultural mechanisms. And the icing on the cake came during the question period:

Q: Why didn't you use two cameras?
A: Because people don't like lots of cameras pointed at them.
Q: Why didn't you hide them then?
A: Because we have a moral obligation not to do things like that.


Looking more closely along these lines:
Workshop on Ubicomp communities: privacy as boundary negotiation
Towards a Deconstruction of the Privacy Space (pdf), Scott Lederer, Jen Mankoff, Anind Dey
When Trust Does Not Compute – The Role of Trust in Ubiquitous Computing (pdf), Marc Langheinrich

Update: Karen Lancel's Agora Phobia (digitalis) artproject is also very cool: it "invites the audience in a halftransparent, inflatable ISOLATION PILLAR / Free Zone. The Isolation Pillar is placed in crowded, public places like square, museum, theatre and is big enough for 1 computer and 1 person. Agora Phobia (digitalis) invites you in the Isolation Pillar / Free Zone to participate in an internet-dialogue with someone who lives isolated somewhere else, like: someone living in prison, someone who lives in a cloister, a digipersona, a pilgrim, a 'prisoner of war' (POW), somebody dealing with agora phobia."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003


Yesterday ended with all the interactive posters and demos of new and exciting projects in ubiquitous computing - and my general impression was that there were far more platforms than applications.

But here are few posters I immediately liked:

Katherine Moriwaki showed off her awesome Inside/Outside: Embodied Environmental Monitoring handbag. (She's currently working on white PVC and black velvet versions. Mmmm.)

Update: I should talk to Katherine about her City Systems project. We have a shared interest in being-in-motion: space, time, and sociality. I was also freaked out to hear when I learned of Nike Ground - you want to wear it, why shouldn't cities too? (via one of my very favourite blogs - and more at 0100101110101101.ORG - brilliant.)

And then there was AudioBored: a publicly accessible networked answering machine (Jonah Brucker-Cohen & Stefan Agamanolis). Jonah does all sorts of brilliant things, and I especially like WiFi-Hog ;)

Update: Jonah also keeps nice conference/festival reports here. And I've been thinking about why I like WiFi-Hog so much. The ability to use wireless in contrary ways is really important ... say, for example, you are walking down the street in NYC and your wireless device is configured to connect to the strongest signal. A (free) public access point three stories off the ground cannot compete with the (pay service) Verizon signal coming from the closest ground-level phonebooth. I like the idea of being able to block that Verizon signal in protest. (Did I understand correctly, Jonah?)

Finally, TunA: a mobile music experience to foster local interactions was interesting because it takes something that is normally an isolated (and isolating) experience and makes it social.

I think I should visit Dublin ... and I will post on the demos later.

Update: Matt Webb comments on TunA here. (PS Matt - me? contentious? nah. and PLSJ comes from the look I (supposedly) get when pissed off ;)

Dan Hill talks about it here and here - and Matt Jones does too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

It rains a lot in Seattle

UbiComp is going well so far - my workshop yesterday was fascinating. Many good people and ideas that I need to reflect on some more, but what keeps going through my mind today is the performative experience of intimacy. In other words, it seems kind of silly to design "intimate objects" when it is what we do that is intimate, not the things that we have ... But I'll get back to that later.

William Mitchell gave the keynote this morning, and talked about the wireless city. He said that wireless and mobile technologies continue to fragment and recombine urban and regional patterns, as well as building types. This allows for the nomadic occupation of space and creates the need for multi-use space. In addition to more dynamic informational overlays in the city, he said that a true global community is emerging - one based on the recognition of our moral obligations to people far away. But what does this mean for building in the 21st century? He said we need to resist the uniformity of response and commodification of place; that we need to combine local character with global presence; and that we need to create systems of highly differentiated networked spaces, with strong local character, built around people rather than technology, capable of accomodating multiple uses. And - of course - UbiComp will be a great enabler.

His talk was far too utopian for me - there was absolutely no critical awareness or discussion of the social implications.

I asked him: If we are to focus on people rather than technology, which people are we talking about? If being mobile is the way of the future, what will happen to people who are not? And what will ghettos look like in the wireless city?

He had no answers. Well, actually, he said that all technologies have raised these same issues, that these are policy problems ...

Um, okay. Thanks.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Up, up and away!

I'm leaving in the morning for Seattle - to participate in the Intimate Ubiquitous Computing Workshop and hang out at UbiComp 2003 - if you see me there, please say hello!

I will try to post daily updates from the conference, but I really find that live-blogging interferes with my ability to engage the ideas and people in front of me - and that's not cool.

From Seattle, I will be going to Montreal to participate in the Locative Media/Collaborative Cartography Panel at VSMM 2003: Hybrid Reality. Again - if you see me, please say hi.

And finally, it's been a hectic past few days and I apologise for not responding to emails and to those who have commented here recently - especially when the comments were so interesting! Soon though...

Thursday, October 9, 2003

What do bloggers and DJs have in common?

In some notes about a recent iSociety gathering, James Crabtree hinted at the most interesting thing about weblogs that I have heard in ages!

"I'm going to work on my 'bloggers are like DJs' thesis ..."

Tom Dolan responds in the comments with:

"I'm not entirely convinced about the blogging-as-DJs thing. The point of being a DJ is to create a musical narrative that affects other people. Most blogs are just too full of, well, random "stuff". There's also the 'custodial' aspect of being a DJ - you're creating a space for others to interact. I don't know if MT's comments system is quite up to that yet. (Mind you I am not to be trusted in this. I'm developing my own thesis on the future of DJing based on the evolution of the magic lantern - a much closer match.)"

Oh, how I want to know more!

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Doing things with words

Words are peculiar things, and Jill Walker has been on to some good stuff lately.

For example, Jenny Holzer does interesting things with fleeting words and moving concepts:

abstraction is a type of decadence | confusing yourself is a way to stay honest | disgust is the appropriate response to most situations | habitual contempt doesn't reflect a finer sensibility | myth can make reality more intelligible | savor kindness because cruelty is always a possibility later | stasis is a dream state | the idiosyncratic has lost its authority | you are a victim of the rules you live by | you are responsible for constituting the meaning of things | your oldest fears are the worst ones

This reminds me of Barbara Kruger's work - although her explicitly feminist position resonates a bit more with me:

tell us something we don't know | you construct intricate rituals which allow you to touch the skin of other men | you invest in the divinity of the masterpiece | your comfort is my silence | your gaze hits the side of my face | your manias become science | we will undo you | we won't play nature to your culture | who do you think you are?

Jenny Holzer's Inflammatory Essays seem to capture a bit more violence:


And Shelley Jackson takes a different approach again:

Writer Shelley Jackson invites participants in a new work entitled SKIN: a story to be tattooed on readers' bodies, one word at a time ... The text will be published nowhere else, and ... the full text will be known only to participants, who may, but need not choose to establish communication with one another...

From this time on, participants will be known as "words". They are not understood as carriers or agents of the texts they bear, but as its embodiments. As a result, injuries to the printed texts, such as dermabrasion, laser surgery, tattoo cover work or the loss of body parts, will not be considered to alter the work. Only the death of words effaces them from the text. As words die the story will change; when the last word dies the story will also have died. The author will make every effort to attend the funerals of her words.

Jill writes: "I don't think I'll be getting a tattoo myself but I love the idea of this story, and of words that have become flesh. I even love the fact that I'll never read the story, though perhaps one day I might meet one of the words."


Language is fascinating. After all, words do things and speech acts - albeit in limited ways. But mostly I like thinking about the relationships between words, contexts and who we can - and cannot - be.

A mundane, but personal, example might be the joy I feel when with gay male friends. You see, I feel as though I can say anything I want, and that goes a long way towards making me feel as though I can be who I want to be. If I make a sexually-charged comment, they may or may not laugh (a risk that comes with any joke), but they will never hear my words as "I want to sleep with you." They never tell me I am gorgeous (or whatever) while I am explaining something serious or complicated, and they assume that my beauty grows from my intellect and wit. In short, I get to play with the boys rather than for them. And I like myself best in those moments.

What I'm getting at is that the use of particular words or phrases can expand and limit who we are allowed to be/come. A comment like 'HE CAN BEND ME OVER WHENEVER HE LIKES' can simultaneously be an assertion of feminine sexuality, an affront to masculinity, or just plain vulgar. All of those interpretations look at words as representations - but what we often seem to overlook is what kind of person I (may) become when I say those words, or how I embody those words, and how those words perform who I am-in-the-world.

Those words leaving my lips mobilise - and implicate me/us in - a net of relations: I may become a submissive whore, an insatiable beast, an easily dismissed degenerate. Certain men and women may want me, and some may hate themselves for their desire. Others may be repulsed or pity me - feel superior - and some may be unmoved or actively bored. In any of those moments I cannot be a good girl or an intellectual, for example, and others are similarly limited by their responses.

Can you remember situations where you got to be the words that you love? What words were they and who did you become?

Update: And just when you thought I couldn't get any more verbose ... In conversation with my friend David this morning, he said it must be tiring to have men hear "I want to sleep with you" when that is clearly not what I am saying. Of course it is, but more importantly, this doesn't happen all the time, and it has much more to do, I think, with a man's level of maturity rather than with his sexual orientation. I don't mean to suggest that straight men are single-minded and predictable, and neither do I mean to suggest that I am unresistable. Clearly, both positions are laughable. But enough about me. 08/10/03

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

On ethnographic design research

In doing research for an article I am writing, I came across an article by David Gilmour of IDEO - Understanding and Overcoming Resistance to Ethnographic Research Design (ACM Interactions May/June 2002) - which offered this bit of wisdom:

One of the biggest challenges is to get across the different roles of market research and ethnography in the design process ... The critical point is that the two kinds of research are studying the same thing (potential users) in different ways for different purposes, guided by completely different philosophies.

"For different purposes, guided by completely different philosophies" - the eight word explanation for why I feel as though I have entered the Uncanny Valley whenever I read market research! I recognise ethnographic methods like participant observation, but market researchers are not ethnographers.

So what are these different purposes and philosophies? Gilmour suggests that:

Market research is primarily concerned with making business decisions and forecasting sales and quantifying business models. Design research is concerned with enabling design decisions that are rooted in a true understanding of the needs of users rather than in someone's intuitions about what users might need, or in averaged user ratings of desirability of features.

Yes and no. First of all, I'm not sure that is a fair way to categorise all market research, but the fact of the matter is that the results of market research are used to justify business decisions. In my heart and mind, ethnographers do not - should not - answer to business interests. Period.

So who or what should we answer to? People. Users. The everyday lived experiences of all people. Always from a critical perspective, and always with a commitment to building a better world.

But ethnography - and ethnographic design research - is not, as Gilmour also suggests, about finding the truth. It is instead rooted in the actual lives of people - which are messy, unpredictable and difficult to represent. It is about avoiding models and abstractions - grounded in the understanding that there is no such thing as the 'typical user.'

I believe that the primary value of ethnographic design research - as a complement to market research - is to ensure that the purchased product will thrive in the actual everyday lives of users, and in the very best situations, persist because it becomes an important part of our lived experience. In other words, ethnographic design is not about selling things or creating a place for new products. Neither is it about designing for niche-markets.

Not to be left until the end - or just for usability testing - ethnography helps guide and refine the design problem and process from the very beginning. It is as much about designing for particular people, social situations and contexts as it is about stepping back, looking at the big picture and understanding the wide-reaching implications of our decisions.

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Post-Spectacular Cities?

John Thackara on the post-spectacular city and "why it would be foolish to entrust the future of our cities to the creative class."

We now design messages, not interactions. The world is awash in print, and ads, and billboards, and packaging, and spam. Semiotic pollution. Brand intrusion at every turn ... And whom do we have to thank for this semiotic pollution, for the catatonic spaces that despoil our physical and perceptual landscapes? The "creative class". That's who's responsible. In the same way that mill owners optimised mass production, the creative class has optimised the society of the spectacle ... Our cities are over-designed because the creative classes get paid for designing things. 'Creatives' don't get paid for leaving well alone. That's a conundrum we'll need to resolve.

I'm not sure I agree with his assessment of the 'creative class' but I do agree that there is such a practice as over-designing, and it should be avoided. I've often thought that new technologies should be designed according to a principle of non-interference, as in, not interfering with or replacing something that already works well. One of my favourite examples is the dream of a paperless world - as if there were no legitimate reasons why paper had become so pervasive. Why did we seek to - through technology - eliminate paper, rather than finding ways - again through technology - of making it better and using it more efficiently and beautifully?

In retrospect, we got the information age completely wrong. We thought it would be smart to remove people from services ... We also thought we could do without place ... The point is that the information age has been added to the industrial age. Telematic space has been added to Cartesian space. The one did not supplant the other ... And mobile phones and networks do not make the city disappear. On the contrary, they render the city itself more powerful as an interface.

Sure, some people argued that space would become irrelevent in the sense of being able to overcome it (a position not unrelated to the triumph of mind over body and the dissolution of identity in cyberspace) - and if anyone actually believed it at the time, it seems pretty clear now that this has only been partially true. When other people reject spatial metaphors altogether, are they reacting to such limited concepts of space or are there other objections? If some form of embodied interaction is to guide technology design - as I believe it should - then we (and our designs) will be crippled by any rejection of the importance of space in social interaction. Space and time are experiential or phenomenal categories, central to our being-in-the-world. It is this understanding that has lead to reminds me of growing objections to seamless interaction in ubiquitous computing. The dis/locatedness and mobility of wireless technologies is only ever possible because of in tension with certain stabilities, located practices and materialities.

Mobile phone and wireless-enabled gadgets enable us to access people, or resources, or services - just-in-time, and just-in-place. By doping that, they also design away the need for mobility, or much of it. Demand-responsive services, combined with location-awareness, combined with dynamic resource allocation, have the capacity dramatically to reduce the mobility-supporting hardware of a city: its roads, vehicles, malls and car parks.

Hmm. Designing away the need for mobility? I think not. This is not an either/or case, and since we are instead dealing with hybridisation, we need to understand what it might mean to dwell in mobility. To be stable and mobile. We need to keep asking if the types of technologies and services described above will actually solve problems of social exclusion, or merely create more opportunities for social connection. (Those are qualitatively different scenarios.)

But really, what remains most unclear to me is how all of this will create a "post-spectacular" city - one in which we move beyond commodified experiences ...

Thanks Frederique!

Update: I just read The thermodynamics of cooperation (European Conference on CSCW 2003) in which he looks more closely at embodiment, situation and meaning and this time from a clear political position (via Ivan Illich): "Give back to people the capacity to resolve their problems within the network of their own relationships." For some reason this makes me think of Stewart Brand asking: "How can we invest in a future we know is structurally incapable of keeping faith with its past? The digital industries must shift from being the main source of society’s ever-shortening attention span to becoming a reliable guarantor of long-term perspective." And I might take another look at Illich's Tools for Conviviality.

Friday, October 3, 2003


The Intimate Ubiquitous Computing Workshop in which I will be participating has posted a list of presenters and papers. Very cool to be in such diverse and creative company.

Today's reading includes Redesigning Design: An Invitation to a Responsible Future by Klaus Krippendorff (via Empires of the Mind) and a stack of articles on ethnography and participatory design.

And if I lived in the Bay area, this is where I would be at 16:00 - Sonoluminescence: The Star in a Jar, a PARC forum on ultrasonic energy and nonlinear fluid dynamics. No kidding.

Weedy Sociality: public space and technology

Sustainable Arenas for Weedy Sociality | Distributed Wilderness by Maja Kuzmanovic and Sha Xin Wei

With the wide adoption of interactive media the need for active participation has been addressed, while the need for shared physical experiences and responsive, public spaces often remains unanswered. Digital technology and telecommunications technology have often been accused of increasing the isolation of individuals, and rupturing local communities. The urbanism that Guy Debord criticized 30 years ago, "isolated individuals ... recaptured and isolated together," has accelerated to fill a city with people so massively atomized by mobile communication and ubiquitous computers that it is Tourette's syndrome, not schizophrenia that one could argue is the emblematic syndrome of the era. However, integrating these technologies into existing physical public spaces, they could alternatively sustain the emergence of new forms of creative and shared experiences. We believe that some forms of technological development should focus on the interactive shaping of people's perception of culture, rather than promoting passive consumption of cultural artifacts. This is relevant for allowing communities to become active participants in artistic processes, becoming increasingly conscious of their role and responsibilities in shaping their (cultural) future ...

Alternative models of sociality in the public sphere can be encouraged by the usage of media and technologies that:

1. Make the static public spaces malleable, adaptable to the events that take place in them
2. Give physical characteristics to the digital media, allowing a continuous, natural interaction between the physical and the virtual. More specifically, media transformations should appear animate and the interaction with them should be familiar and understandable to the users/participants.
3. Design the pattern tracking so that there is no syntactic filter, moving beyond the valorization of glitch or error. Every gesture, every stroke, every movement should be accepted by the system, with nuanced response.

Fascinating. But what, exactly, do they mean in number 3?

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Intense spaces

Karmen Franinovic wrote to tell me about what she did this summer at FoAM - and it's great. Karmen is an artist currently at Interaction Ivrea, working on her MA thesis (with my friend Molly) and interested in things like play, cities, calm technology/ubiquitous computing, Deleuze & Guattari...

illumine: Exercises in Colloquial Luminescence
This programme of lab-tests, discussions, exhibitions and other experiments looks at luminescence and irridescence to construct responsive environments, objects and communication conduits. A public space made of syncoptic sound-space gaps, darkness and holes waiting for the player to interact with the each other through light dynamics and to define the space from a multiplicity of constellations, in an innocent game in which skill and chance are no longer distinguishable. The instability of the boundaries of the physical space and the low visibility slow down the player's movements, until he adapts his body to the new environment. An apparent space of nothing is grown to incorporate the player into its expanding reality, and reveals its multiple qualities by assigning them to the primary elements of Syncoptic structure, the players. The Here, at each point (x,y), is identified through the z direction - light. The Now builds itself at each point by repetitive rhythms of sound in a continuous domain of space and time. The luminous transit tube is an extension of the gallery space into the surrounding urban space, the region of transformation of the private into the public. The tube will host documentation of the Artist in residence project and information about the constellations and stars and their use in art.

a growing luminous architecture - a virtual zero space to be actuated by the passengers/players and not existing without them - a concavity that cultivates a desire to attach - the possibility to offer hospitality in a world made entirely of convex surfaces, of spherical things which deflect, disperse and impede our interest and our intensity.

And earlier in the year she worked on the KÔNTAKT project:

Kontakt is an interactive installation which focused on making contact which created order out of chaos. This was acheived by making contact (or a chain of contact) between four metal contact points and two pots of water. Four different possiblities of making contact which create 4 different audio tracks or image sequences which play separtely or mixed depending on the amount of contact points triggered. no contact caused a flickering projector and noisy speakers. This piece celebrated collaboration and cooperation, as a singular visitor could not make Kontakt. This piece was realized during the Media Knitting workshop at Deaf 2003. It was installed in the stairwell within the 3 story building. The piece embodied this space and made people exist and move throughout the space to make Kontakt.

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

And in other news ...

Girls and Games

According to Laura Groppe, CEO of the California-based Girls Intelligence Agency, there are more girls than boys online in North America, girls spend more time online than boys, and forty per cent of online game players are girls. Yet the video game industry is dominated by games-makers who are men. And as Groppe explains, this limits development of girl-friendly games: "It just kind of doesn't occur to them that there could be 'play patterns' mixed into what they're doing," she says. "The games that are the fighting games, the adventure games that have some sort of action in them - that's not alienating as a play pattern to girls. Where the alienation comes in is the characters. The [girl] characters are very buxom and scantily clad, and most of the time they are bystanders that don't have much to do with the story."

And there are some interesting comments on Genderplay: Successes and Failures in Character Designs for Videogames at Game Girl Advance.

Personally, I don't go for tits and ass in gameplay but if someone, hint hint, were to make a quality version of Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! I would play.

And in other news ...

Adam Greenfield writes on compassion and the crafting of user experience. (Sally Beardsley, one of the atelier leaders in Rome, also believed in the importance of empathy and what she called the "Good-Grips" approach to design. Hmm ... empathy ... compassion ...)


SoundWalk (CD audio) and Talking Street (cell phone audio) walking tours of NYC ...

and TeleTaxi - Canada's first site-specific interactive art exhibition in a taxicab - "Each taxi system also includes GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, which allows the displayed artwork to change depending on where the taxi is in the city."

(via socialfiction)

WiFI-SM: feel the spectacle of pain

UPDATE 30/09/03 18:35

I just commented on this post at unfogged and thought I would repeat a bit of it here.

I was skeptical of the quote at the top of this post and still posted it without comment. I hassle people who use (what strike me as suspicious) marketing stats, but as soon as the numbers served my interests, I was willing to put aside my skepticism. That's disgusting. Shame on me for being such a hypocrite!

Seriously though, who the hell *is* the Girls Intelligence Agency? Their idea of research creeps me right out. Granted, being creeped out is hardly an intellectual position, but I could muster a defense somehow related to oppressive gender politics and consumption (did you see their client list?). But then again, I have no real reason to doubt it. It certainly sounds probable. And it is interesting. So there you go. (If you know of other research on this, please let me know.)

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