Saturday, July 31, 2004
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Best horoscope ever
Week of July 29
My, oh my! What should my superpowers be? What about my nemesis? And let's not forget my costume...
For example, all over London I saw anti-climbing paint signs. And I've yet to see a city that doesn't have signs prohibiting skating and cycling in certain areas. Even in places where you are allowed to go, not every type of shoe is acceptable.
When signs aren't enough, more potent deterrents include the military's Mobility Denial System: "once applied, the material will degrade or impair the adversary's ability to move." (via) And if you wanted to go even further in that direction, tasers and rubber bullets are used to stop people (usually) without killing them.
Coming at the question from a different direction, I've been thinking about how photographs stabilise the movement (arguably the essence) of parkour and skateboarding. And even how old daguerreotypes were incapable of capturing movement.
But mostly I've been thinking about how settled people have historically reacted to nomads. For example, under the Israeli state the life of the Bedouin has changed dramatically, and the Irish government has long tried to fix the itinerant problem associated with Irish Traveller culture. Mongolian nomads are increasingly moving to the city, but urban infrastructure and policy - as well as nomadic cultural values - are not adapting well to this shift.
The current global migrant labour force also embodies a range of social, political and economic inequalities. In places like South Africa, migrant labour involves unique interplays between urban and rural life. And women from the developing world provide the majority of domestic labour in the industrialised world. All over the world, migrant labourers continue to struggle for the same human rights extended to more settled peoples.
I don't quite know where I'm going with this yet, except to remind myself that the liberating rhetoric of mobile technologies completely avoids the frictions that exist between mobile and settled ways of life. And that means we're glossing over - even hiding - something that has a significant impact on people everywhere.
Rubrics for user experience design
I doubt that Nielsen, Norman, and a thousand monkeys with typewriters and HCI degrees would ever improve on that.
So interesting I wish he'd explained more about what each entails - especially since ambiguity (one of my favourites) is missing.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
The front-page contains such beauties as The Battle About Money, the Latin Jungle, excerpts from The Sheltering Sky and gentle personal musings.
And I could get lost for days in the archives.
No rest for the wicked
review two papers
super-fast-like 'cuz they're already overdue
then answer email
and take solace in knowing you resisted the urge to procrastinate by writing this list in haiku
Profilo di un amico italiano
August is for work, then play
I will be spending a week or so visiting family and friends, and then returning home to take the rest of the month off. I plan to celebrate my 32nd birthday in style and get in some very-much-needed relaxation before the fall term -- and the final push to finish my dissertation -- begins.
After the conferences it will probably get a bit quiet around here, although I am really enjoying blogging at Space and Culture these days, and will likely keep that up.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
DEVO Underwear & Packaging
"You can't do without packaging, but you can do something with the package once it's done its job. This entry shows a clear, intelligent way out of the looming threat of being engulfed by our waste. It provides hope and uses good form while doing so!"
If you deal in camels, make the doors high.
Only stretch your foot to the length of your blanket.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
Enid is my hero
Ein elektronischer musik bau spiel automat
Hmm. City of Sound, anyone?
Ubicomp and Situationism
Now I'm not trying to be difficult, but I am concerned that some people outside the social sciences and humanities are taking these critiques of everyday life out of context. What I mean is that terms like subjectivity, reflexivity, performativity, sociality, culture, collective action, ethics, practice, difference, city, urban, production, consumption - and even everyday life - come with problematic histories of their own. They are not givens and there are large bodies of literature that are being overlooked.
But I also don't mean to suggest that there isn't good work out there. For example, Rune Huvendick Jensen and Tau Ulv Lenskjold recently presented Designing for social friction: Exploring ubiquitous computing as means of cultural interventions in urban space (pdf), which is quite interesting despite a few obscurities, over-generalisations and limited perspective.
What remains most unclear in the projects and discussions that come to mind is how designers and technologists are dealing with critical theory and notions of strategic or tactical cultural intervention. Is it enough to say that a given ubiquitous computing application allows people to produce their own content or experience the city on their own terms? Who provides this technology in the first place? Who uses it? And for what? The technology itself still seems to be considered neutral, and the vision of social and cultural (inter)action is most often utopian.
I'd be most interested to hear from designers working with Situationist theory or other critiques of everyday life. What are the benefits of such approaches? What are the differences between critical design and critical technologies? What types of social and cultural critique become possible, or desirable?
Friday, July 23, 2004
August is for hacking
Hackers and Tinkerers: Amateur Ways of Doing Technology
Cool. As part of the Hackers and Tinkerers session, Jofish will be presenting his research on William G. Broughton: One Radio Ham (pdf).
present this work in the context of current work on the amateur, and give brief
biographies of both William G. Broughton and his father, Henry P. Broughton. I present the logbook as a historical tool for understanding the life of a ham, and show evidence of use for both technical, ham-related use of the logbook, and use for other aspects of a ham's life. I then track one particular story through the logbook. I look at the role of the entries in the logbook in Broughton's identity creation, and identify "ham identity" as distinct from but related to "technical identity" and "geek identity".
Fascinating stuff for anyone interested in wireless identities and practices. I also recommend taking a look at his paper Hacking: An underrepresented practice in STS (pdf), in which Jofish discusses how computer hackers, early rural automobile users and radio amateurs have opened up technological black boxes to become agents of technological change. He argues that it is precisely their irreverent attitude towards technology that challenges traditional (reverent) relationships between producers, consumers and technologies.
Science, Technology and Society
26-28 August 2004, École des Mines, Paris
Spacing, Timing and Organizing
Mobile phones across cultures
The story also touches on the material or tactile aspects of mobile phones:
I'm rather curious to know how the researcher came to her conclusions on people's motivations - something that is notoriously difficult to get at - and if these interpretations are the same across the cultures studied.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
I've always wanted to talk with this guy
If you could talk with anyone in a painting, who would it be?
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Introducing new technologies
But what are the lessons here that can be applied to current concerns about camera phones, online distribution and other potential invasions of privacy?
NYC, October 1-3, 2004
Street Talk: Urban Computing - Part IV
Ken Anderson mesmerised me with his ode to Beat poetry: City, act of joy. City, act of power. City, act of energy. City, act of hope. City, desolation. City, gesture of greed. Brilliant.
Margot Jacobs presented on the Play research studio, Tejp and Sonic City - some of my dissertation case studies - and reminded me how much I like the idea of parasiting found objects in the city.
Michele Chang presented on the amazingly fun-looking Digital Street Game currently running online and on the streets of NYC. Advocating that we go beyond "heads-down computing" and working with people's desire for challenge, expression and exploration, the game requires players perform and log street stunts to hang onto turf. Good stuff.
Christina Ray presented on One Block Radius, a fabulous psychogeographic survey of the block where New York's New Museum of Contemporary Art will build a new facility in late 2004.
I'd love to see this happen on all sorts of blocks...
Cassidy Curtis spoke on the Graffiti Archeology Project, which I have blogged before because I really like graffiti, time-lapse photography and the notion of layered cities. When I was in London, I wished that someone was taking photos of the ever-changing billboards in tube stations (including the beautiful phase between adverts where past fragments battled for my attention). And speaking of billboards, Jack Napier gave a fun presentation on the advertising improvement efforts of the Billboard Liberation Front. Those guys rock.
And as if that weren't enough, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Molly and Peter at the after-party. In fact, Peter has made some interesting comments about the "new and cool thing" that is urban computing.
I, for one, have a new appreciation for Intel Research. I didn't believe a bunch of suits would think such an event would be a good idea. And it was. They did a great job. I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to meet and hang out with such brilliant people!
(As for my presentation, well, people seemed to enjoy it. I ranted about our desire to come up with solutions before we've got the questions right. And since I didn't provide any answers, I figured the least I could do for my Urban Computing workshop paper is provide a list of what I think are important concerns. Stay tuned.)
Street Talk: Urban Computing - Part III
Anthony Townsend stated that urban-tech-types don't understand cities. I tend to agree and would add that this problem is compounded by a simultaneous lack of understanding what it means to be urban. The difference between cities and being urban is subtle but important: cities comprise relatively stable places and events, whereas being urban involves relatively mobile practices (rhythms) of everyday life. And since ubicomp seeks to embed itself in everyday life, I think it's pretty important to understand what's already going on there.
Anthony Burke gave an excellent presentation on the practice of urbanism - drawing on De Certeau, Lefebvre and Superstudio, as well as The Simple Life 2: Road Trip and rather parasitic RV caravans. But I think my favourite part of his talk was the notion of urban cooling or making perfectly good leisure space into workspace through mobile computing. It's long been a pet peeve of mine that we seem to ignore that being able to work anywhere, anytime often enough means working everywhere, all-the-time. And who the hell wants to do that?!
Paul Dourish also focussed on how people experience the city, or how the city comprises more than three dimensions, including imaginary places and cartographies. And Peter Lunenfeld closed the day by reminding us that cities have always been about migration (think bridges and tunnels) and that we need to think about our personal engagements with complexity. Interested in play as production rather than consumption (back to performativity), he suggested the concept of mobile cosmopolitanism (as opposed to patriotism) - but I would have liked to hear more on Simmel's notion of cosmopolitanism, as cross-cultural interaction is intimately connected to global politics and economics.
Street Talk: Urban Computing - Part II
So when Jane McGonigal stood up at Street Talk and advocated a set of performative tools to come to know urban space and massively-scaled urban play, I paid attention.
First of all, I should thank her for teaching me a wonderful new word. Pareidolia is the "erroneous or fanciful perception of a pattern or meaning in something that is actually ambiguous or random." Although it is generally used to refer to things like seeing the face of Jesus in tortillas, I instantly recognised it as a strategic concept in my struggles against reductionist systems thinking. I've often suspected pareidolia is at work in Christopher Alexander's and Gregory Bateson's discussions of patterns, and although it is tantamount to sacrilege in certain design circles, I see the too-often uncritical use of their work to also verge on pareidolia (a.k.a. mass delusion or wishful thinking). But I digress.
Jane brought up public pareidolia because misrecognition can be a powerful actor in urban play. Her second tool was the site-specific superhero - one who can see through predetermined structures to spontaneously generate new playful (adaptive?) structures. She also advocated the notion of a benevolent conspiracy to leverage the possibility that play is everywhere and we are a part of it. Her fourth tool was the transparent spectacle - the opposite of "dark play" - where there is no hiding or lack of clarity. And finally, she suggested the idea of desire spots, which comprise desire paths mixed with hot spots.
(I am a bit unclear on this last one, because she brought up the example of "riding" an escalator for fun rather than utility, and I got distracted by memories of Ecuadorian Natives repeatedly riding the escalators on their first trip to the city, and of people in Ottawa riding the new light rail system for pleasure, or just to see where it went.)
Anyway, I was quite taken by her desire to combine ambiguity and certainty - or, more specifically, ambiguous and certain practices as ways to explore what it means to play in urban places. It reminded me of the surprise and disappointment I felt the first time I realised that not everyone wants to participate in participatory design: it seems we often need freedom and constraints to realise our potential, even if we still want to do it ourselves.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Street Talk: Urban Computing - Part I
With Shona Kitchen, Ben worked on the Altavistas project - which includes Edge Town:
Edge Town reminds me of spectacular carchitecture and the more mundane Motorway House. An exploration perhaps more of non-places than of third-spaces, the project still focusses on contested space - or those spaces (and identities) that do not easily easily fit into either/or categories. Hybrid spaces. Voluptuous spaces. A non-place is an ambiguous site: the very type of space that would appear in a pattern language (like a place to wait) but that would also challenge or resist the entire premise of stable structure that underlies patterns. Very interesting.
On a related note, Ben's DATACLIMATES design practice partner is Pedro Sepúlveda Sandoval - who did an amazing PhD project for the RCA:
I really appreciate the focus on resisting surveillance by means other than sousveillance. After all, humans have always sought shelter from oppressive climates and dangerous cultures. In caves, Jews found sanctuary from the Nazis, and while fallout shelters may not have saved people from nuclear devastation, they arguably provided comfort from fear and uncertainty. It should come as no surprise, then, that we will also need safe and quiet reprieves in - and from - our digital landscapes.
Thursday, July 15, 2004
In a couple of hours I am on my way to San Francisco to meet with some more folks at Intel Research Berkeley, and to participate in the Street Talk event I mentioned the other day.
(If I haven't responded to your email, please bear with me. I'm slow, but on it.)
Monday, July 12, 2004
Urban Computing @ Intel Research
There are some interesting folks presenting, and I'm looking forward to hearing the diversity of interests and perspectives. Registration is now closed, but you can attend the after-party and see some projects in action.
Actually, Intel Research is pretty busy on this front these days:
UbiComp in the Urban Frontier is a one day workshop to be held at UbiComp 2004 (position papers are due July 26)
Who will be liable if and when real life fails to follow the rose-tinted script?
But today the BBC reports that the Prince warns of science risks, and he gets my full support:
"What exactly are the risks attached to each of the techniques under discussion, who will bear them, and who will be liable if and when real life fails to follow the rose-tinted script?"
He expressed concern that only an estimated 5% of the EU's nanotechnology research budget is being spent on "examining the environmental, social and ethical dimension."
"That certainly doesn't inspire confidence."
No it doesn't. Actually, it kind of scares me.
Sunday, July 11, 2004
Off camera / on film
Bettie Page waiting to be photographed.
Saturday, July 10, 2004
Against the winds of change
Originally published in 1955, The Chrysalids is a classic example of exploring contemporary fears through futuristic science fiction - but I think John Harrison's introduction is over-optimistic. What I mean is that I'm not sure we have actually realised what he says we have.
Think about the rhetoric around new technologies: we still talk about them as if they are inevitable and somehow outside of our control. We like to say that people will make of them what they will - a seemingly liberating position for both users and designers, but one that simultaneously lacks accountability. I have yet to hear one person tell me that these brave new technological worlds are their responsibility instead of someone (anyone) else's - a position that I believe teeters dangerously between complicity and duplicity, although few are likely to admit that is how they express their agency.
And if you prefer pictures to words, K10K recently pointed at some great vintage paperback cover-art. My favourites are in the Lesbiana (did you know that Satan was a Lesbian?!) and Sleaze Drug categories. Oh wow.
Friday, July 9, 2004
You can think a long time about snuvs and their gloves
- Dr. Seuss, Oh, the THINKS you can THINK!
The Ultra-Condensed Version by Samuel Stoddard is also good.
Man of the moment
Thursday, July 8, 2004
Man could he kiss and I don't mean maybe!
In it, she catalogues the boys she dates. Each entry includes his nicknames, eye and hair colour, height, the sports he plays, and whether he rides a bicycle or drives a car. The stories tell us that William is real cute lookin but can't dance. We learn that Ralph is a good kisser *and* has an adorable mother. And I giggle when I read that LeRoy kisses like a sailor and that Johnnie is a big devil!
Let's see if this works again
article on playful mobilities
article on wearables culture
presentation on urban computing
clean out email inbox
meet with Rob
and remember that the dissertation will not magically finish itself
(if thinly-veiled procrastination is in order, then
essay on these anonymous teenage girl diaries edited by Beatrice Sparks)
Wednesday, July 7, 2004
More than cities (and technologies)
New technology in/as public space
Takuro travels to himself. Nagoya/2014/Takuro/13yearsold __At school T has digital trip class: 2 h/wk he extracts himself from local and confronts himself to far limits. His consciousness gets deeper through the unknown. His social identity in public space develops in virtual space.
Ariadne's Thread. The experience of memory aroused by the city, together with the sense of oblivion caused by the network of transportation constitute the new public domain, thus revitalizing the human encounter.
Sense.8 is a strategy aiming to connect virtual public space and physical public space through the use and abuse of mobile devices by using their direct connection features to communicate and gather information.
SocialControl democratizes surveillance. It makes behavior in public space again subject of human interaction, creating a new kind of open-source legislation. Isn't it time to give control of the public domain back to the people?
New Fields: Public game play through visual layers. Game play areas are part of the public realm. Their variety and thier use are limited and are located on fixed places. Can we add a dynamic layer of game play to expand existing area's and to create (temporary) play fields in the public space?
A bird's eyeview experience to the city. Urban eyes is a service combining 2 natural networks, the CCTV and the pigeon population in a city to provide an alternative, living extension for the view on our surroundings.
Tuesday, July 6, 2004
As much as I will miss having my advisor close, I am so excited for him and can't wait to visit! I enjoyed my undergrad at U of A, and the university is the new home of the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies - whose recent conference CULTUREPOLES: City Spaces, Urban Politics & Metropolitan Theory brought out some really interesting work. Congratulations Rob - have fun!
In the lands of the Ojibwa and Wendat
Thursday, July 1, 2004
The burden of the everyday
I was also thinking that, as much as I love cultural theories of everyday life, I'm sure they'd be stronger if they included the voices of, say, people living in Occupied Palestine - where urgency and joy take on new meaning.
Back next week.