Saturday, March 27, 2004
Friday, March 26, 2004
See also parasitoid life, parasitic computing and power harvesting. And Joey was telling me about some weird little robotic parasites that jump up and attach themselves to your pant-legs. But I forget the details.
Apparently my dissertation covers the next big step forward for computing. Well then.
Danny O'Brien muses on the everyday-ness of network etiquette.
MIT brings us Serendipity. I agree with Will that it must be ironically titled.
And I suspect we will live to regret this love affair.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Sweet. My message is in the politics section ;)
For example, I stand behind the idea that social relationships are far more complex than "friend" or "not-friend" but it never occurred to me that anyone would then try to come up with a broader but still definitive and static set of relations. Formal (machine-readable? predictive?) ontologies really weird me out; they conflict with pretty much everything I understand as a sociologist and anthropologist about social and cultural interaction.
But then I remembered how often I have to come back to the historical influence of cybernetic systems thinking on our understandings of networks and cities - and how that seriously limits the ways we are currently able to engage the social and cultural implications of wireless and ubiquitous technologies on daily life in urban spaces.
And, as Clay Shirky points out, historical debates in artificial intelligence (and, I would add, cognitive science) similarly limit the ways in which we are able to engage questions of social intelligence.
Of course I don't mean to suggest that the varied approaches to cybernetics or AI are wrong - but they do often embody fundamentally different paradigms of what it means to be social, and what comprises cultural practice, than used by many sociologists and anthropologists. I also do not mean to suggest these differences are irreconcilable - people like Paul Dourish are trying to bridge the gap in many ways - but I do want to suggest that we ignore them at our peril.
In 1605, Francis Bacon wrote that critical thinking involves:
By acknowledging our own contexts and making a genuine effort to understand and accomodate other paradigms and problematics, we are unable to pretend that our understandings (and technologies) are value-free or unrelated to broader relations of culture, power and history.
And that, I believe, is our responsibility and our challenge...
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Searching for superheroes in winter
Since reading about the Guardians of the North, I also find myself spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about what power I would most want if I were a superhero. (Shape-shifting or invisibility? And what does that say about my obsessions with materiality?)
I think of (super)heroes - from Gilgamesh to Wonder Woman - and how they have always helped us negotiate ourselves and our places in the world by taking on the BIG questions. I think about how I idealise and long for superheroes in my daily life.
I wonder how our fantasies are related to our memories, and where HOPE comes into play? I want to know what it means to miss someone we have never met, or a place we have never visited.
When I think of all the words I long to say (there are moments they consume me) and I remember why I will not and cannot utter them, I wonder what happens when we amplify those whispers in the dark? (via)
And as work proceeds on my Forgetting Machine, I dwell on projects like Jim Campbell's Memory Works installation (via):
And I imagine what kind of superhero duo REMEMBERING and FORGETTING would make...
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
I am less crazy now. Regaining a sense of action. Like pushing through the mud after a storm.
Sunday, March 21, 2004
On the scale of the infinitely small
When we die, will our houses die with us? Gathering the Echoes - science fiction by Jean-Louis Trudel
Saturday, March 20, 2004
New Dead City
Nautilus Memorium is the most brilliant social networking site concept I have ever seen. A bit tongue-in-cheek, the project is also profoundly sociable and intimate - based far more on quality than on quantity of relationship.
With Nautilus Memorium, people can create profiles of departed loved ones as a practice of memorial or remembrance - and perhaps take solace in helping them find quality companionship in the afterlife. In addition to submitting a biographical description for each soul you add, you are prompted to rank personal characteristics such as vitality and patience, as well as the characteristics they might look for in their companions. This information is used to indicate inter-personal affinities and individual souls, represented as glowing stars, cluster on screen - like constellations and galaxies of the dead. And, of course, this means that each time you visit your loved ones, you can meet their new friends.
This also reminds me of Eusapia, one of Calvino's invisible cities:
They say that every time they go below they find something changed in the lower Eusapia; the dead make innovations in their city; not many, but surely the fruit of sober reflection, not passing whims. From one year to the next, they say, the Eusapia of the dead becomes unrecognizable. And the living, to keep up with them, also want to do everything that the hooded brothers tell them about the novelties of the dead. So the Eusapia of the living has taken on copying its underground copy.
They say that this has not just begun to happen: actually it was the dead who built the upper Eusapia, in the image of their city. They say that in the twin cities there is no longer any way of knowing who is alive and who is dead.
Which in turn reminds me that the most sociable and intimate technologies will be those that involve a lot of slippage...
This and that, anthropology and technology
Where computers go to die
Simon (?) at Ideas Bazaar on Clay Shirky's relationships:
Hear, hear! See also Socio-technical Kin.
Technoanimism & Ubicomp. Unlike Howard, I don't like the phrase technoanimism; it reminds me of the ill-named modern primitives. He also points to Mike Kuniavsky's essay on ubicomp and animism, which I think is interesting, but a bit off:
First, why would we want to explain our interaction with technology in purely functional ways? Second, do people really practice animism only when they lack functional models for interpretation? That seems to suggest that animist understandings are somehow disfunctional or (yikes) primitive. And third, does not anthropomorphism require the transposition of human qualities onto an inanimate object? My understanding is that animism does not start from the premise that objects are inanimate. And anyway, all this relies on some weird distinctions between us and our technologies that I don't think exist in practice - but that's something else for another time.
The Buggles and Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Thursday, March 18, 2004
We were just at the price rossi stirling + matta-clark exhibit, and I was most impressed by the sketches and pamphlets for Price's Fun Palace and other explorations of indeterminate architecture: "The Fun Palace was not a building in any conventional sense, but was instead a socially interactive machine, highly adaptable to the shifting cultural and social conditions of time and place."
The portrayal of Matta Clark's Anarchitecture was also fascinating and the photomontages - like Conical Intersect - were gorgeous.
Tying this back to yesterday's post, see Entropy, Robert Smithson & Matta-Clark, and I am reminded of Chris Dercon's essay Misusing public space.
I also picked up a few books, and suddenly regret not being able to knit and read at the same time.
But I think it's almost time for cocktails...
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
On interconnections of art, science and technology
In Abort, Retry, Fail, Simon Ford looks at early computer art - as it resurfaces through projects like CACHe, DAM and others - and some of the tensions between artists and technologists. In contrast to seminal, and largely utopian, British exhibitions like 1968's Cybernetic Serendipity, Ford writes:
Ford also points out that at a time when the cost of computing was prohibitive, and access was limited, collaborations between artists and technologists almost always required the sponsorship of big business. Along these lines, Andrew Pickering also takes an interesting look at cybernetics as science, technology, art, entertainment and business in The Tortoise Against Modernity (pdf), as well as at the work of Ross Ashby, Stafford Beer and Gordon Pask in Cybernetics and the Mangle (pdf).
Ford continues to question the potential of such collaborations by calling on the Situationist Raoul Vaneigem, who wrote on technology and its mediated use:
In Museum Epidemiology, Betti Marenko "considers the possibilities for art to subvert techniques of science without being contaminated by them." In last year's CleanRooms exhibit at the London Natural History Museum, artists - including the Critical Art Ensemble, Brandon Ballengée and Gina Czarnecki - engaged some of the ethical issues associated with biotechnology, but Marenko asks:
So where does that leave us? In Just Sugaring the Pill?, Miria Swain asks:
All I will add to this is that our current socio-technological imbroglios call for the same thing Robert Smithson advocated thirty-five years ago: greater critical awareness on the part of science and technology. Without it, we remain at the mercy of our machines.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Bound to Montréal
I'm going to hang out with the fabulous Joey Berzowska, meet some interesting-sounding people with whom I will be in a workshop at the end of April, visit the out of the box exhibition at the CCA, buy too many books in the wonderful bookstore there, and drink cocktails in the late afternoon.
For three or four hours on Thursday night I will be taking over Joey's Second Skin and Soft Wear course at Concordia to, amongst other things, get people talking about intimate and playful technologies. This gig is open to the public and you are most welcome to join us. Of course, if you would otherwise like to get together in Montréal on Wednesday or Thursday, just let me know.
Monday, March 15, 2004
Sunday, March 14, 2004
The world at play
I LOVE THIS. Science in action. Perform or else.
Saturday, March 13, 2004
Working at everyday life
I always thought that work is never just work...
Welcome to Paterson, New Jersey, cradle of the Industrial Revolution in America and the largest silk manufacturing center in the nation. Here you can see and listen to the people who take care of nails and hair in life and death, people who work with machinery, people who, after work, make clothes for themselves and others, people who come from places far away, people who prepare food, people who read palms - and just about everyone else.
(cross posted to space and culture)
Friday, March 12, 2004
(Katherine points out that one of the creators behind this project is Laura Beloff, who also created HAME, an "interactive installation with sounds and stereographic video-projection on sculptural objects" - about desire, hysteria, frustration and boredom.)
A different take on wearables comes from the BLEEX project - which serves up bionic legs for soldiers.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Tuesday, March 9, 2004
Today is International Women's Day
--Abigail Scott Duniway, suffrage organiser
Monday, March 8, 2004
Sunday morning reading
Saturday, March 6, 2004
I could write about the contract I am working - about open source technology implementations.
Or I could write about listening to My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain - about gentle noise.
I could also write about the proposal and articles I am writing - about hackability, playfulness, mobility and cities.
But really, I have nothing to say.
Update 12/03/04: Sweet. My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields first interview for 12 years. (via)
My MA thesis is here - all 259 pages of it, including lots of pictures (despite not including two). And man, does that abstract ever make it sound
Open sound systems
Friday, March 5, 2004
The power of place
"We have still not had a death," he said. "A person does not belong to a place until there is someone dead under the ground."
Xeni Jardin writes:
And Elena writes:
(last link via Warren Ellis)
In praise of strong monosyllabic words
Well done! But then, I've always liked the word. (Sorry, Mum.)
Thursday, March 4, 2004
All locative, all the time
Well worth a read.
The Locative Media Lab (in its bewildering number of incarnations) brings a bunch of super bright and creative people to the task of augmented reality. In addition to Marc and Anselm, Karlis Kalnins and Jason Harlan are Locative folks. (I participated in a panel with Marc, Jason and Karlis last fall.) As is Joshua Schachter - of muxway / del.icio.us / geourl fame. Joshua presented at ETCon, as did Jo Walsh - the person behind spacenamespace - and yet another of the Locative mesh. And then there's Wilfried Hou Je Bek - of the super-fine social fiction projects and blog, and Ben Russell - of headmap notoriety - responsible for some of my favourite work on mobile technologies.
These and other good people are also active on the geowanking list.
Still other people & events, all grooving on things mobile?
digifest 2004: On The Move
Psy-Geo-Conflux 2004 / 2003
Kate Armstrong and PING
P r e / a m b l e 2003
Transcendent Interactions: Collaborative Contexts and Relationship-Based Computing
Valuable social bits:
Valuable design bits:
Good stuff. And since my dissertation looks at playful mobilities, I will come back to related ideas in the coming months.
Update 04/03/04: Drawing on this post by Bill Burnham, Diego looks at the problem of "pure-play" social networking apps - or applications with "no stated purpose beyond the network itself." I've often thought that is a distinct flaw in social networking sites but I wish it wasn't characterised as "pure-play." It makes playfulness and creativity sound entirely frivolous and non-productive, and maintains a peculiar distinction between work and leisure. At the same time, I understand play to be more generative or performative than productive, and a process or practice to be distinguished from games or entertainment. That's not to say there isn't overlap (and in many languages no distinction whatsoever) but games have something to do with rules (including breaking them), and I think the concept of play is more ambiguous.
Wednesday, March 3, 2004
What do we do with technologies beyond our control?
Despite no reports of misuse, camera phones are seen to be a nuisance around school, as well as potentially contributing to the circulation of child pornography ("If you can capture the image you can distribute it ... Once the image is out it can be used and misused.").
But here's the social clincher:
Frankly, I'm not all that interested in whether their actions are appropriate or not. But I am interested in how people actually react to potential risks. This is how some people are engaging new technologies and the increasing interconnectedness of people and information - whether we think it is reasonable or not. And I'd like to try to understand their concerns - before camera phones are ubiquitous and surveillance is no longer limited to the powers that be.
In this case, the objection seems to involve not knowing if we are interacting with technology - something intimately related to notions of the disappearing computer and invisible interfaces. If you can't see the camera, then you can't react to it. Technology risks becoming something done to you, rather than something done with you. The importance of social agency - or people's ability to act and take action - cannot be overstated. And before people say that technology is either good or bad, or that camera phones are both good and bad because they help people topple oppressive governments as well violate our privacy - I think that we should consider what people are enabled and supported to do with new technologies, and what they are not.
Who has what kinds of control in which situations? How does the design of an application or device help create these power relations? I don't have all the answers, but these are questions I ask every day as I write my dissertation.
And while we're on about technologies and control, Biella reports that her research on The Re-localization of Intellectual Property Rights and the Rise of Expressive Rights among Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Hackers is going really well. You should be able to find me and Biella hanging out at the HOPE conference in July in NYC - more on the last one here - chatting up hackers about social ethics and technology :)
You can feel my lips undress your eyes
Tuesday, March 2, 2004
Ethics and computer science
The ethical "case studies" included software piracy and privacy issues for data mining and database security - the two topics I most often hear technologists bring up as evidence they are aware of social issues and computing. But, really, the question of social ethics is much broader than that and I, for one, would like to see greater exploration of ethics and the role of computing in daily life.
In an opinion piece, Don Gotterbarn suggests that one reason computer scientists should consider social issues is because their actions directly impact other people, and with power comes responsibility. Pretty reasonable and straightforward. Unfortunately, in order to make this point he rallies a bunch of catastrophes and implies that people's very lives are on the line. Which is sometimes true, and always important. But without any discussion of more mundane or everyday impacts that computing (in its multitude of forms) has on people's quality of life, it is hard to convince a computer scientist working outside DARPA why she should care about doing the very best she can. And it makes it harder still to convince anyone creating and building and pushing new technologies that the ethical reach of their work is simultaneously much closer and farther reaching than they might suppose.
Identity and place
Here are some of the core research questions:
And although I'm not sure they managed to answer their questions, they do report some interesting finds:
It is clear that respondents used UT in order to negotiate boundaries and mark their territories, stake claims and identify their personal preferences ... In this sense, public authoring promotes a sense of control not only over users' territories, but also over their boundaries and their own role in those territories.
This suggests important connections between the construction of identity and place - something that is intimately connected to power and everyday life, but not entirely reducible to issues of privacy or trust or accuracy (which often seem to be more related to consumption than production). But I'll have to think on this some more...
But it would be nice if the little screen on the front of my clamshell acted like an always-open porthole, providing a limited, fleeting glimpse of a larger sea of social communications. I may not always have the time to read messages or participate, but its nice to hear my friends as a low murmur of conversation underlying the main activities of my day. Because that's what I did with shells when I was a little girl. I put them to my ear and listened for the ocean.
In other worlds, Downing Street Says summarises the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman's daily briefings and allows people to discuss the UK's goings on. Kind of like an interactive and communal CPAC - and I think it might be an interesting way to get young people more interested in politics. Right on. (via iWire)
The Deliberately Concealed Garments Project - clothing found hidden in buildings - is oddly fascinating. (via mefi)
And for fun, Invader Fractal. Mmmm. (via reblog)