Saturday, August 28, 2004

Small pleasures and glimpsed texts

I've been having a wonderful time offline, mostly because I've had the pleasure of spending each and every day with loved ones and I've become completely smitten with my brilliant and ridiculously good-looking new kitten, named after my hero Enid Coleslaw.

For my birthday, my father gave me a stunning 1959 Minox B subminiature camera and I can't wait to start taking pictures as soon as the crazy 25 ASA - 8x11mm film arrives. I've read Eightball #23 and watched every episode of Freaks and Geeks - and loved every minute of each. To top things off, each day has also come with a kick-ass soundtrack.

But getting back online today pointed me at part two of HorizonZero 16: Wear, which contains my interview with Maggie Orth on aesthetics and technology, as well as Katherine Moriwaki's article, Between the Skin and the Garden. And if you missed Joey Berzowska's article on Intimate Electronics in the first part of the issue, it's well worth a look.

I also see that the papers have been posted for the Ubicomp in the Urban Frontier workshop at Ubicomp 2004 (taking place in a couple of weeks). I won't be making the trip to Nottingham as I'd anticipated, so it's nice to be able to read them. I'd prefer individual papers, but here's the Full Proceedings (PDF). After I've digested the whole lot I'll post my thoughts.

Back next week.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Vacation, all I ever wanted

I have finally (back)posted my conference notes and links - there is plenty to read below - but things will continue to be quiet around here as I spend the next few weeks on vacation, visiting friends and family, celebrating my birthday and enjoying the sun on my skin.

Back at the end of the month!

And until then, as the Cubans say, believe only half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.

Recent reading

Book reviews: Digital Ground:Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology. Interesting.

Extreme Democracy - on things democratic.

Autonomous Zone: The Work-as-Art of Yuri Gitman. Um, that would be Yury Gitman.

The Great Neurotic Art - Steven Shapin on bodies, selves, morality and the Atkins Diet. Oh yeah. (via)

New Scientist: a type of wallpaper that prevents Wi-Fi signals escaping from a building without blocking mobile phone signals has been developed. Hey Jonah - can Wi-Fi Hog route around this?

Monday, August 9, 2004

Inside/Outside summary

Warning: incredibly random thoughts from a lively discussion.

What are the shapes that are useful for us to work with?

Manifolds and fields - understood as generative concepts rather than determinist ontologies or models (or even states).

See also: Deleuze and Guattari's multiplicitÚ, the third principle of the rhizome. [I still believe that the metaphor of the rhizome has been grossly oversimplified and insufficently critiqued in many new media discussions.]

Temporality and memory. Active and generative processes. Recounting a dream; making time.

[See also: Bergson's Matter and Memory]

What about critique?! Politics? Ethics?

[See also: Landing on the Wrong Note: Jazz, Dissonance and Critical Theory and The Limits of Politics in Avant-Garde Jazz]

Never forgetting why we make. Why we live. Not enough to provide a representation of the cracked society, the broken world.

What about affect? Grace? [elegance and beauty of movement or expression] Poeisis? [production, formation, creation]

Or sociality? Spatiality? Presence? Embodiment?

[See also: Poiesis of Spaces]

Pleasure? For whom?

[I am again distracted by the tendency of "user-centred" design to focus on the identities of users, rather than their practices. In other words, who users are (static being) vs. what they do (dynamic becoming). Again, multiplicities and heterogeneity.]

As always, the trip to Banff was worth it - so many interesting and creative people in such a beautiful spot! And much to continue thinking about.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Sensory Understandings / Responsive Metaphors

Inside/Outside continued:

Jenny Tillotson spoke about Second Smart Skin. Fabulous work.

Vincent Leclerc presented his Inflatables Series and
Deflatables Series. Cool.

Anne Niemetz talked about Suspending Disbelief (which is quite fun) and Subtrakt (which is quite powerful).

Immersive Social Interaction

Last night's fashion show was amazing - the dresses and costumes so beautiful! HorizonZero 16: Wear: Smart Clothes, Fashionable Technologies takes a closer look at some of the artists and fashions we saw. Now Inside/Outside continued:

Susan Kozel (meshperformance) spoke about the whisper project and not rendering the invisible visible, but understanding that some things wants to stay invisible. She also said that wearables tap into a desire for body states: stillness, vitality, rest, intimacy, ecstasy/release. And riffing on De Certeau's version of the speech act (enunciation) - wearables might operate within a broad field of movement vocabulary, effect an appropriation of movement patterns, establish a present relative to time and place, and posit a contact with the other in a network of places and relations. Interesting.

Valerie Lamontagne spoke about ubiquity and relational performance. Beginning with performance art and Futurists, she discussed disruptive forums that appeal to a broad public, both anarchic and socially engaged, breaking down categories, bridging disciplines, open-ended and malleable acts. She described ubiquity as omnipresent and undifferentiated, exponentially spreading - McLuhan's "all-at-onceness" - connectivity and social networks, collective action to augment and/or disrupt the everyday. Wonderful examples included Yayoi Kusama, Yoko Ono and Linda Montano, as well as Vsevolod Meyerhol's biomechanics and Nicolai Foregger's mechanical dances. Such beautiful gestures.

Fabian Winkler spoke about responsive social spaces and social aspects of responsive spaces. He exhibited his clink! project and discussed his work on DIELECTRIC.

Magda Wesolkowska talked about improving quality of life for elderly and cognitively disabled people - the forgotten - through social technologies. She began by giving the best definition of disability I have ever heard: a mismatch between people and their environment. (I thought how nice it would be to disable the normal and normalise the disabled.) Drawing on Bachelard's poetics of space, memory, playful presence and "a bit of magic", Madga's PhD research is looking at how participatory design and technologically interactive sociality can change our experiences of disability. Very interesting. And she promised to send me a link to her new blog.

Saturday, August 7, 2004

Topological Desire & Responsive Performance

Inside/Outside continued:

Chris Salter from sponge talked about imaginary spaces where the public can imagine other than which is actual (ie virtual) - as well as responsiveness and resistance between different materialities.

Good stuff.

Sha Xin Wei & Harry Smoak from the Topological Media Lab spoke about the phenomenology of performance & of media (including materiality) - as well as playing in the media of the world and thickening social space. Interesting.

Maja Kuzmanovic talked about several foAM projects that revolve around notions of growing your own worlds (horticulture, not agriculture), subjective transformation of participants, including heightened perceptions of local actions with global reactions, and borrowing from the real to make the "irreal" tangible.

Here are a few of the projects that most impressed me:

Self-supporting structures for temporary, mobile and wearable architecture.

Play~Lab on Open-grown Territories.

Planting gardens in neglected urban spaces, in the cracks of the city.

Psychogeographic adventures.

The Q & A session was also good. We discussed Adorno's work on abstraction (from mathematics to euphoria, utopia, the radical marvelous) plus Benjamin and Brecht (rhizomatic before Deleuze & Guattari) and ecstatic experience like the Dervishes and children's games of vertigo. We also talked about differences between artists and designers - see Duchamp on the role of the user/audience and the power inherent in these relationships.

Architecture/Private and Public Spaces

The morning's highlights from Inside/Outside:

Katheryn Saunders spoke about the nanotech home of the future and interfacing our bodies with our surroundings. More on the Nanoderm project.

Ron Wakkary talked about three notions of context for ambient intelligent environments:

- "external" context as encoded info (from AI, user modelling; stable, definable, ultimately encodable, absolute, reductionist)

- "internal" context as interaction (from Dourish; defined dynamically, arises from activity, a relational property, is situated, system that can foster the creation and representation of context, eg. conversation)

- "integral" - context as evolving system (from Nardi & O'Day; systemic, diverse, co-evolves, has locality, activity theory, foster emergent system that is inclusive of and reliant on people, technology, and non-technology, eg. a library)

Natalie Tan spoke on the place of technology in architecture. After citing Corbusier's "a house is a machine for living in", Buster Keaton's 1922 film The Electric House and Werner Sobek's call that "technology not be installed as an end in itself", she introduced Unseen - her garden project with Marc B÷hlen. IEEE article on pervasive computing in gardens and more on Marc's robotic art.

Sabine Seymour talked about working on a combination of fashion, design, architecture, craft and technology - and the Fashionable Technology Research Consortium.

We're live!

Inside/Outside: Responsive Environments and Ubiquitous Presence
Banff New Media Institute

Ongoing discussions of living architectures, responsive materials and designs, wireless media and the corresponding philosophies, research futures and consumer products.

Agenda here / Live broadcast here

Katherine and I present from 14:00-15:15 MST (EST-2 or GMT-6) this afternoon.

DIS round-up

Conference proceedings are available online (ACM membership required)

More thoughts to follow, but I was especially impressed by the Smart Tea Project - see also:

Making Tea: Iterative Design Through Analogy (PDF)

Within Bounds and Between Domains: Making Tea as neutral territory for design elicitation (PDF)

Breaking the Book: Translating the Chemistry Lab Book into a Pervasive Computing Lab Environment (PDF)

And more on how chemistry Publication@Source differs from, say, physics pre-print archives

[On a vaguely related note, I also picked up the latest Design Issues - Design by Society: Science and Technology Studies and the Social Shaping of Design - more on this later, after I chat with Alex W.]

Also interesting from a social perspective:

Seamful Interweaving: Heterogeneity in the Theory and Design of Interactive Systems (PDF) - see also Matthew Chalmers' A Historical View of Context (PDF)

Andy Crabtree's work on Technomethodology (PDF) - see also Taking Technomethodology Seriously (PDF) and Design in the Absence of Practice

And I am still thinking about the work being done on design patterns for ubicomp - all patterns here.

Other people's notes:

Jonah Brucker-Cohen's report on DIS

Dan Hill's panel presentation

Liz Goodman after DIS

Chris Heathcote's extensive notes on the conference

Peter Merholz on the Design for Hackability panel and thoughts related to the Beyond Human-Centered Design panel

Rashmi Sinha on DIS 2004 and the universe of HCI conferences

Friday, August 6, 2004

Boston - Banff

So, DIS went well. Our panel was great fun - thanks again to Dan, Liz, Lalya and Jonah - and we got some really positive feedback. On the other hand, for the remainder of the conference I heard people using the word "hack" until it pretty much lost all meaning for me. Funny how that works.

As usual, the best part of the conference was conversations with good people. I caught up with friends and made new ones - but there is never enough time to talk to everyone and still maintain one's sanity as an introvert. I also got to take a look at the Stata Centre and walk around Harvard, although Cambridge generally made me feel ill-at-ease. I don't think I've ever been in a place where every single service-worker was a person of colour or obviously a new immigrant. The signs of empire seemed all too alive and well there.

I'll post my paper and panel notes as soon as stoopid Air Canada finds my baggage - but I'm sure there are way better notes already online somewhere.

And yes, I am now in Banff - the mountains restoring me with every breath. Of course it is stunningly beautiful, and although I only got here in time for the last panel of the day, the Responsive Environments and Ubiquitous Presence Summit is looking really good!

But now I should go meet Katherine and talk about our panel tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Homeland Insecurity

Homeland Insecurity Advisory System - Rating the US Government's Threat Level

The Homeland Insecurity Advisory System will provide a comprehensive and effective means to disseminate information regarding the risk of the United States Government to the American people and around the world.

The HIAS, created by Jonah Brucker-Cohen (Under Secretary of the Bureau for Homeland Insecurity), is a public rating system that allows people from across the globe to determine the US Government's Threat Level by collectively rating RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) feeds from major US news sources.

Turning the "Homeland Security" threat level on its head, the system will allow the people to determine the threat condition by rating each major US news source according to its support level for or against the US Government's actions. Finally, the citizens of the world have a voice in determining the threat level of the most dangerous government on the planet. According to Under Secretary Brucker-Cohen, "It is important to identify the threats to our nation resulting from our government-in-action."

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