Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Great Canadians

Six weeks ago, the CBC asked Who is the Greatest Canadian?

Over a hundred and forty thousand nominations from across the country were narrowed down to ten contenders, and tonight Canadians voted for Tommy Douglas.

"Tommy Douglas was the most influential politician never to be elected Prime Minister. He pursued his radical ideas relentlessly until they became so mainstream rival politicians claimed them as their own. Called a communist and threatened by in-party fighting, Douglas battled hard to bring the New Democratic Party to legitimacy in its first ten years. He was often criticized for his singular idealism but through it all Douglas was undeterred, convinced that he was helping to create a better, more humane society."

I love my country.

PS - also check out Rick Mercer's interview with new MP and Conservative Health Critic Steven Fletcher. Not only does Steven support universal healthcare (see above quote) but he gets to use really cool technologies!

Bush is just another word for cunt

Situationniste tract de mai 1968

The American President and entourage arrive in our fair city tomorrow. The CBC asks if we are a continent divided, and we assume this is a rhetorical question. No To Bush protesters and police prepare for the visit, while the city keeps the streets looking good by postponing downtown garbage collection until Thursday. It is unknown what they plan to do with the homeless.

Toys are for play socialisation

In the 80s, Fisher-Price encouraged the next generation of McJob workers with their play food and restaurants.

Today, Little Tikes encourages kids to accept - and expect - RFID-enabled food in their kitchen of the future.

(via)

Lofty goals

Urban renewal, the wireless way

"So-called 'urban computing' means much more than bringing your Centrino laptop to Starbucks and logging on to Amazon.com. Instead, cutting-edge mobile and wireless services emphasize proximity over connectivity, the local over the global and the here and now rather than anytime, anywhere. Computer geeks suddenly turned urban theorists, many of today's technologists harbor even loftier goals for mobile research agendas: to enhance the image of the city itself -- the patterns, the complexities and, above all, the sheer serendipity of the urban landscape ...

Ultimately, the reaction of the urban design and planning community to telecommunications trends raises the question: Who is the driving force behind the 21st century digital city? The correct answer is not the Project for Public Spaces -- or any planning organization, for that matter. Think of it this way, says Townsend. 'Intel is the General Motors of the 21st century. It's very influential.' Backed by the big bucks, technology researchers are devouring tomes related to the theory of place. For their part, (underfunded) planners have yet to develop a comprehensive approach to emerging mobile and wireless technologies."

Townsend's comments about Intel cracked me up - and the article definitely cites the big players: Intel's Urban Atmospheres and Place Lab, Seoul's Digital Media City and "Hewlett Packard's Urban Tapestries project in Bristol, U.K." (Oops! Presumably this is a mash-up of HP's Mobile Bristol project and Proboscis' Urban Tapestries project?) And despite giggling at the "geek turned urban theorist" scenario - I imagined Benjamin's hefty Arcades Project replacing the featherlight laptop as the most-toted geek object - I wondered if this was true. After all, I know many of these people and they're not posers. Nonetheless I am often enough annoyed by sloppy borrowing from unfamiliar disciplines. And it's important to note that much of the urban and cultural theory being cited is explicitly critical and in opposition to the interests of big business. I also know that companies like Intel and HP will be amongst the first to commercialise these technologies, and in the process, commodify some or all of the social practices cited as inspiration. It will be very interesting to see how - or if - these contradictory values get resolved. It also would have been interesting if the article mentioned more artistic explorations in this space that provide fruitful counter-points to the large-scale corporate examples. Nonetheless, I really appreciated this comment:

"Urban telecommunications strategy needs to do more than plan for 'lead users,' says [urban planner Scott Page]. 'You want to be feasible, not utopian, not just throw out a bunch of ideas and hope that everyone is going to own a cellphone in five years,' he says, 'because that's not going to be the case'."

Companies like Intel and HP project market saturation and work hard to make it happen - but the actuality of global pervasiveness has yet to be seen. After four years of researching this, I am convinced of only one thing: we have mistaken the myths and virtualities of ubicomp for the actualities of technological development, political support and cultural uptake. And much to my surprise, it was the corporate interviewees who helped me realise this.

Monday, November 29, 2004

From humanism to humanitarianism

So I've been wondering what happens to humanism in a post-human (c.f. Hayles) world. And, geek that I am, I immediately go to the dictionary to make sure I know what things mean.

human: of or characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines. Origin ME humaine, from L. humanus, homo

humane: compassionate or benevolent; inflicting the minimum of pain. Origin ME, the 18th century form of human, humaine

humanize: make more humane; give a human character to.

humanoid: having an appearance or character resembling that of a human.

humanism: a rationalistic outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters; a Renaissance cultural movement which turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought.

humanitarian: concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare.

First of all, I recognise that there are many kinds of humanism, and I'm specifically referring to one kind of posthumanism (and one that definitely shouldn't be confused with transhumanism). Now that gets dodgy, so I try to clarify.

When I think of humanism, I think of the philosophies that hold that "reason and science are the soundest means for investigating claims of truth; that all ideas, values, myths, and social systems are based on human experience; and that free thought thrives best in free, democratic societies." These ways of thinking are historically bound to particular types of scholarship that are the foundations of both the Renaissance and a liberal arts education like my own.

Two elements of humanism interest me the most: the focus on rationality and the focus on individualism. From what I understand, the Greek philosopher Epicurus taught, amongst other things, that pleasure makes humans happy. While certainly suggesting that "people only act according to what they find pleasurable and in their self-interest", Epicureans were referring to the sort of pleasure that comes from avoiding everyday passions and delights in favour of the more lasting aspects of a virtuous life. But this focus on self-interest is what's most interesting to me because it provided the foundation for Western civilisation's belief in free will, individual rights, democracy and capitalism. Futhermore, the scientific revolution was greatly influenced by the combination - and exaltation - of the principles of individualism and rationality.

Now I find myself stuck. Personally, I do not hold individualism and rationality amongst the most important aspects - let alone defining characteristics - of being human. In fact, anthropological fieldwork in aboriginal communities taught me that there are places and ways of living where these concepts are almost entirely meaningless except in, for example, their ability to explain why I was there studying those people instead of the other way around. Because of these experiences I find it very easy to imagine a posthuman world where our assumptions about individualism and rationality are challenged.

Hayles discusses why we may fear the posthuman - at best it suggests redefining what it means to be human and, at worst, it suggests that humans will be replaced by something else (intelligent machines, for instance). Either way, it changes how we understand what it means to be human. In the former case, Hayles suggests that our understandings of humanity may have only ever been true for the privileged few who had the power, wealth and leisure time to conceptualise themselves as autonomous beings. Hayles continues to argue that we might be able to mitigate the fear of becoming enslaved or obsolete by understanding that there is a limit to how seamlessly humans can be articulated with machines because our embodied experiences are fundamentally different.

The redefinition of the human does not scare or worry me. In fact, I might be inclined to extend Latour and say we have never been human. Neither does losing the belief in the supremacy of individualism or rationality bother me. Actually, I find it somehow comforting. So why do I keep thinking about this?

Is it my fear that there are as many kinds of posthumanism as there are humanism? Some of these ideas - and none more so than the ones that proclaim to be humane - enrage and frighten me to the point that I find myself wanting to defend a humanity I don't even believe exists! In the end, I think what I really want to hold on to - whether or not we are entering a posthuman world - is a sense of humanitarianism. I am, first and last and always, concerned about the welfare of people, all kinds of people.

And that leaves me with a new question: what happens to humanitarianism in a posthuman world?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Digital traces

Issue 18: GHOST is the last issue of the journal HorizonZero - or rather a final performance before it changes shape.

Bruce Sterling writes On Dead Media and Never Realized Media Histories:

"I would like to convince you that, although it does have many arcane and fantastic aspects, the subject of dead media is not a remote one. Media obsolescence is an ongoing civilizational process with broad implications that ought to be intimately familiar to anyone in this room. People involved in digital culture have made our bed, and now we are lying in it. We imagined that our bed was a clean, abstract, mathematical, Euclidean , platonic, computer science, rational, electronic kind of bed. But we were deceiving ourselves. The bed of digital culture is a very rumpled, dirty, makeshift, anarchic kind of bed. It smells of viruses and worms. And it is surrounded by vast, ever growing heaps of our discarded trash. The sheets are owned by other people, and they want us to rent that mattress by the hour. The digital media industry - the computer industry - looks and acts a whole lot like other forms of highly polluting, poorly regulated industries. It's got robber barons, and corruption and pollution, and rampant speculation, and, well, many other classical technical phenomena that one can easily recognize from the wildcat boom days of aviation, or automobiles, or railroads, or nuclear power ... We lack a good methodology with which to recognize our technology's engagement with the passage of time. We lack a proper long-term view. And this lack of insight leads us to repeat ourselves..."

And Hervé Fischer muses On the Sophisticated Fragility of Digitized Memory:

"The 'proper forms' of the associations and configurations of ideas or references which traditionally produced meaning (if only at an elementary behaviourist level of thought) are diluted and disappear in the leaps of the hypertext, becoming nothing more than heaps of knowledge fragments, granules that can be detached from the things to which they are tied. This new paradigm of information and thought in fragmented capsules, in detached pieces which can be endlessly recombined according to chance or necessity (another paradigm of modern science), imperils the stability of memory. This destructuring of meaning, of the 'proper forms' of associative logic, corresponds to our new mental structures in the digital age, but also to the present day patchwork or hybridization of cultures. In addition, it contributes to the dissolution of forms of memory, much like the reduction of cathedrals to unnumbered bricks or stones, by rendering superficial memory fragile. Syntax is a structure that is essential to memory, whether superficial, rational, or biographical (as Marcel Proust illustrated so well in In Search of Lost Time): it is, precisely, what the non-linearity of the hypertext destroys. Memory does not proceed by the accumulation or collage of fragments, but according to a structuring, aggregative grammar; according to already-visited configurations. It is like reading: up to a certain point, it is complete. The fragmentation of knowledge and memory go together. This brings into play a post-rationalist cognitive revolution, expressing the crisis of postmodernity. It may be audaciously creative, but it is also very risky..."

Mobile Audience

Martin Rieser has started a new blog to accompany his upcoming edited volume The Mobile Audience: Art and New Located Technologies of the Screen, to be published in 2005 by the BFI.

Looks good.

Aaaarrgg!

Words cannot express the rage I feel after spending 55 minutes arguing with the University and the Royal Bank student loan office about why I should not have to pay $964 on December 1st *and* doing this every fall for the past four years. Apparently having done exactly what I was supposed to in September counts for shit. Oh yeah. They suck ass.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Lost in space

In browsing Matt Webb's always interesting mini links, I'm reminded of Bill Hillier's theories on space syntax.

"Space is a lawful thing," Hillier says. I cringe. Space is the machine. I cringe again.

Hillier and Hanson were very popular when I worked as an archaeologist, although I found their theories on the social logic of space to be resoundly inapplicable in cross-cultural contexts. Pre-columbian architecture and settlement planning just weren't amenable to being seen as "objects" with "laws" no matter how hard I tried to fit them into those models. I just don't agree that the goal should be, as Hillier suggests, to "control complexity". While control systems may sound lovely when dealing with machines and other objects, controlling people and cultural diversity has historically been much more sinister and heart-breaking. And that's only one of many objections I can raise.

But it's exactly these kinds of structural-functionalist thinking that appeal to studies in cybernetics and informatics and pattern languages - despite the fact that in the 80s anthropologists and sociologists pretty much discredited and abandoned these ways of understanding social and cultural interaction. Really. People, it was argued, are not machines, not objects, not predictable. And yet, when trying to understand technology, we most often use models that advertently - or inadvertently - render people in precisely those ways.

**

When I was born in Malta, my father was working in Libya. Upon hearing that he had a new daughter, the Bedouin with whom my dad shared coffee and went falconing, presented him with a traditional wool rug woven in natural colours of black and brown and beige. If I had been a boy, the rug would have been brilliant blues and reds. These carpets embody both physical and cultural spaces. A Bedouin carries her rug with her wherever she goes, and while the nomad's rug is always mobile, when laid on the floor of a tent embodies stability of place, the space of home. The gendered colour schemes and tribal patterns also embody stability of identity in a culture constantly on the move.

In thirty-two years, my rug has been on four separate continents, crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans many times. Currently it lies at the foot of my bed, a daily testament to my history, both mobile and stable. Sometimes I lay on it and imagine the worlds embedded in its threads and patterns. What stories my carpet could tell! Its space is both narrowly circumscribed by its physical dimensions and far-reaching in its lived experience. In it, I can see where I have been and where I am, as well as who I have been and who I am.

I love this tension between mobility and stability, the local and the global. This sort of complexity cannot be easily modelled, nor reduced to either structure or function.

Hillier would tell you about the object that is my rug. I have told you about the subjects that are my rug. Quite different spaces, no?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Mixed bag

MP3 Wednesdays

Rocket 69 - Todd Rhodes with Connee Allen, 1951

Drill Daddy Drill - Dorothy Ellis, 1952

Filthy sweet. Brilliant.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Controlling wireless

Consumers, prosumers, brands and identities

I'm finding recent discussions of branding, consumption and "prosumption" pretty interesting.

Wired: The Decline of Brands. "Sure, there are more brands than ever. But they're taking a beating - or, even worse, being ignored. Who's to blame? A new breed of hyperinformed superconsumers."

The Prosumers Have Arrived "and Will Be Out in Full Force This Holiday Season, According to Context-Based Research Group" (via)

Cory Doctorow comments from a property perspective. And Things Magazine weighs in with some critical thinking.

I tend to agree that the "prosumer" label ironically smacks of branding-guru-speak, but it also smacks of the "RFID-on-all-products-will-allow-me-to-make-better-informed-purchases-and-therefore-stick-it-to-the-man" and other non-ironic utopian, technological, democratic discourses I keep reading.

Thanks also to Things for pointing at Eye magazine's special issue on brand madness and Design Observer's discussion of Nick Bell's implication (indictment?) of designers in The Steamroller of Branding.

I'm also more interested in Terry Eagleton's Fresh Look at Wally Olins's Highly Regarded Branding Manual - but perhaps not for the same reasons. I groaned when the "fresh look" concluded with this statement:

"'Brands', argues Wally Olins in On Brand, 'represent identity.' It may be that he himself only knows who he is because of his brand of underpants, but the more discerning among us have not yet been reduced to this tragic condition. To avert any such dreadful fate, the reader would be well advised to give this pile of cold-hearted cynicism a miss and buy Naomi Klein's No Logo instead."

Brands may not represent identity, but they certainly act in our performances of individual and group identities, including No Logo anti-brand identities and "I-am-impervious-to-the-power-of-brands" prosumer identities.

Whether or not you support brands and branding, prosumption is not really a critique of consumption or consumerism. Marketers may have overestimated the importance of brands in terms of loyalty and sales, but saying that consumers have more power because they have more information is a dodgy claim. Power to do what? Buy what we want? Versus what? Buying what we are told to buy? When did we ever do that? And power to be who? People never identified with purchased goods? Non-consumers? I don't think so.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

SITEspecific

Alison Sant and Elizabeth Goodman have been teaching a course on wireless networks and site-specific art at the San Francisco Art Institute - and it looks great!

"SITEspecific is a class that will examine the notion of site as a space that is practiced or performed. Digital networks and wireless technologies are shifting the contemporary notion of urban place. As public and private, local and global are collapsed by the infiltration of portable electronics and the invisible boundaries of wireless connectivity, the mapping of the urban environment is increasingly complex. The class will examine the changing notions of urban space as an opportunity for intervention.

Through a series of readings, guest lectures, discussions, and experiments we will examine the interface between technology, site-specific art, and the urban landscape. We will also draw upon analog and digital examples exploring the ways in which artists have explored and mapped notions of site ranging from the Situationists, Robert Smithson, and Gordon Matta Clark to contemporary new media projects including Locative Media and Ground Control. In addition, we will investigate ways in which the strategies of the Happening or the Situationist Dérive can inform projects utilizing portable technologies including the camera phone, GPS, and WiFi networks."

You can check out the syllabus and lectures notes, as well as the class blog. And if you ask really nice, Liz will send you the readings.

Embodied

If Derrida were a verb, then that's what happened to Webb the other night. Brilliant.

And now he's got a question:

"The way Derrida operates inside language instead of over it, I want a philosophy (or rather, a way of doing philosophy) which is of embodiment (embodiment of all kinds, including the nonhuman) instead of happening over it. Where can I find that? What can I do? Where can I start?"

My quick answer?

There's always The Phenomenology of Perception. But The Body in Pain really made me think about when language fails, and Dangerous Emotions is a hell of a read.

And, really, to do philosophy is to live life.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The truth about pop-tarts and hurricanes

What Wal-Mart Knows About Customers' Habits got linked all over the place, but no one seems to have noticed how sloppy the New York Times is getting with their research.

Not only did they grossly underestimate the size of the internet in terabytes, they overlooked the most likely reason that strawberry Pop-Tart sales increase before hurricanes.

Thanks Jason!

Personal

Friends in Sweden and Finland have sent pictures of the first snow, and I find myself perversely pleased that although the leaves have fallen, it still hasn't snowed here yet and it hovers around a balmy 8 degrees at mid-day. Perhaps we will have a mild winter...

Nonetheless, I find myself indoors most days - marking papers and preparing for the courses I teach in January. I haven't worked on my own research in a couple of weeks but it continues to swirl around in my dreams at night.

I've been listening to a lot of Cat Power and reading Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife - both of which seem to suit my moods of late quite perfectly.

The days seem both too long and too short.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Social/Tools

ZeroDegrees is sponsoring a new blog project - The Operating Manual for Social Tools - where paid contributors discuss, well, social "tools" like "social networking software".

In considering the goals of social network modeling danah boyd offers an interesting way to approach social networks, although I disagree that anthropological or sociological (or even cultural studies for that matter) perspectives are as homogenous and clear-cut as she suggests. I appreciate her desire/need to position herself as other to designers and engineers, but we do comprise an unruly bunch with divergent interests and interpretive frameworks.

For example, while the overall desire to stress the importance of people in sociability first, technology second certainly resonates with my own work, I take issue with the claim that "the tool is not a primary actor in sociability, but a tool that mediates. People should not be framed in terms of the tool, but the tool framed in terms of their use."

I've always disliked the characterisation of technologies as tools, "mere" or otherwise, separate from us and somehow meaningless (i.e. neutral) until we use them. In our desire to stress the importance of people, we risk positioning the social in the same sort of rarified way we find so unsatisfactory in current conceptions of technology. This is the same mistake made by unflinching social constructionists in the "science-wars" and I believe this sort of absolutism risks creating a similar backlash against certain qualitative perspectives.

Put otherwise, I don't think we can dismantle the master's house with the master's tools. Whether exalting technology over people, or people over technology, we are not moving beyond the binaries that are currently limiting us. We need to find ways of entirely reconceptualising the relationships between people and technologies: ways that allow for greater slippage between categories and allow us to redefine both technological and social agency.

I despise Wal*mart

Having stood atop the Pyramid of the Sun at ancient Teotihuacan, in awe of the vast and stunning metropolis that has dominated the skyline for thousands of years, I could weep at the mere thought of the Wal-Mart that opens next month only 1.6 km away.

I'm appalled that "the national anthropology institute that oversees the ruins says the building poses no threat." And it's most certainly no consolation that "a small altar unearthed during the construction of the Wal-Mart store will be preserved in its parking lot."

When it was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, the ICOMOS Advisory Body Evaluation stated:

"Very special protection ought to be given to this unique property. At an hour's drive from Mexico City, the beautiful valley of Teotihuacan is choice prey both to heavy development projects and unbridled urbanization ... [ICOMOS has] noted with satisfaction that the Government of the State of Mexico is fully aware of this critical situation."

But Wal*mart says:

"Don't small towns have the right to have access to the same level of quality goods that Mexicans have in larger cities? Today, residents of Teotihuacan have to travel 15 miles to get to the closest department store."

Well then. I guess that settles it. Shopping wins.

MP3 Wednesdays

Only Shallow - My Bloody Valentine, 1991

This is what crushes feel like to me. Lush.

Obscene and Pornographic Art - Bongwater, 1991

"Just then three suffragettes descend from the sky on an old-fashioned wooden Deus Ex Machina, singing..."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Mobile Manhattan

I can barely keep up any more! Seems that mobile technology, art, and the urban environment continue to be a hot threesome into 2005:

Downtown Digital Futures

"From wireless internet access in public parks to the on-going debates about surveillance and emergency preparedness, new communication technologies are central to the re-invention of downtown New York. Foregrounding the critical and creative role that arts and culture play in these new developments, LMCC presents Downtown Digital Futures, a multi-year program of public art events, performances, artists' talks and conferences. Downtown Digital Futures provides a platform to creatively interpret and transform the experience of new technologies and imagine fresh possibilities for the city's future."

(via)

Working over-time

BBC News: Workers breaking office shackles

"For many firms the good news about wireless and broadband technologies is that they can reach staff at any time and in any place. For many employees the reverse might be true."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

File under superheroes & place

Devices of Design

I'm not sure if there are still spaces available, but Devices of Design takes place in Montreal this Thursday, the 18th.

"The colloquium opens up a discussion about the relationship between the tools and techniques of design on the one hand, and modes of perceiving and conceiving architecture on the other hand. The colloquium and roundtable discussion are conceived as preliminary steps in a longer-range effort to address the crucial archival and conservation problems that have arisen with respect to the new-media artifacts being generated by architects throughout the world. The question of how to handle, archive, and preserve new-media artifacts presupposes a more fundamental question of what to preserve and why. One point of departure in this regard is the issue of what ultimately distinguishes contemporary architectural projects from those of the past, and what this has to do with the devices of design."

You can catch Greg Lynn speaking on Going Primitive, Peter Galison on Epistemic Machines and Giles Lane on the City of Memory, amongst others.

Elsewhere and otherwise

Tom Igoe: "Don't start by assuming the technology. Start by assuming the action, and looking for a technology to sense the action..." (via Liz)

Frank Zappa: "What I do is composition." (via Krista)

American Modern: the foundation of Western Civilization by Francesca Bray

"We live in a 'technological age'. But which technologies have played the most important roles in producing our modern civilization? Which have most radically transformed our lives? Industrial engineering, the space research program, computers and communications technology? Of course, yet certain unobtrusive everyday technologies have been just as fundamental in producing the modern self: try to imagine your life without the toilet..."

(via Simon)

Designed

Design Engaged done.

Adam, Dan, Molly and Fabio were impressed, but I'm no closer to actually knowing what went on. Sigh.

Okay, that's not true.

In addition to Timo's presentation on Spatial Memory, he's posted notes from the first day.

Matt also posted his presentation Being in the world: The long-now of RFID.

Thomas Vander Wal posted his presentation, That Syncing Feeling.

Mike Kuniavsky posted his notes for Talking, walking and chewing gum: the complexity of life and what it means for design.

And, I could swear that Andrew, amidst organising and putting on the event, managed to post his presentation - but now I can't find it.

Thanks guys! This is so much more useful to me than the photos, although it's always nice to see friends. And, yes, I will try to patiently wait for the rest. Especially presentations by Schulze, Webb and amico mio Signor Sergio.

Update: Matt Webb has also posted his presentation and notes.

Chris' photos, notes and presentation. (Damn - that Westvleteren sounds good!)

Another update: Andrew has posted links to all the presentations. Cheers.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

A Canadian renaissance?

I don't normally get excited about the administration of universities, but this news fills me with an almost overwhelming sense of pride and hopefulness.

In July 2005, Dr. Indira Samarasekera will become the 12th President of my alma mater, the University of Alberta, and the first woman university president in Alberta.

Currently the VP Research at UBC, the Sri Lankan-born Samarasekera is a reknown metallurgical processes engineer, and her many honours include being an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Among her priorities as the new president, Samarasekera plans to address inadequate university funding - especially in the social sciences, humanities and arts:

"Samarasekera said she hopes to see a 'creative climate where risk-taking and creative research are not only supported, but fostered' ...'My education, being an engineer, was sadly lacking in the humanities,' she said, noting that the importance of the arts, humanities and social sciences cannot be overstated. Well-rounded students are conversant in many disciplines, she said. The university will educate leaders of tomorrow and will be positioned as 'a global think tank'."

In today's (subscription only) Globe and Mail, Samarasekera is also quoted as saying:

"You cannot become complacent. You have to be thinking, 'How can we make this better? Are we exceeding standards, as opposed to meeting them?' ... The social sciences, the humanities and the arts will enjoy a renaissance in the 21st century... They have been underfunded for too long."

I hope she keeps her word, and I certainly look forward to witnessing her accomplishments over the next five years.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Engaging design

Right now a bunch of friends, colleagues and otherwise brilliant people are gathered in Amsterdam for the first day of Design Engaged.

What I want to know is who's blogging it? And where can I get copies of the presentations?

Go-go politico

Quinn is so right: Mosh was really good, and White America is even better.

Friday, November 12, 2004

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- John McCrae, 1915

Remembrance Day

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Living versus looking

So I've been thinking more about critical design.

In this month's issue, Metropolis magazine profiled the American contribution to the Saint-Etienne Biennale - Value Meal: Design and (over)Eating. Socially-aware design? Sure. Ironic? Maybe. Critical? Not really.

I read (and enjoy) the magazine every month, and while it avoids the blatant fetishism of, say, wallpaper*, I often enough roll my eyes at its love of surface. Now the magazine's best content, not surprisingly, can only be found in print and this issue is no exception. If the biennale entries are only pseudo-critical, then the interview with Bill Stumpf about his mid-70s research in Julia Child's kitchen fleshes out what critical design really involves.

[Aside: I'll admit I'm a bit biased because I think that Julia Child was super cool. I mean, did you know she was also a spy?! And in a country obsessed with losing weight, Child opposed stoopid diets and instead advocated smaller portions and regular exercise. Right on.]

Anyway, Stumpf explains that design school at the time hadn't covered the actual behaviour of people with products and he wanted to better understand the "relationship between tools and the people who master them." Apparently he just called Child up and asked if he could come study her kitchen, and she was thrilled that someone was "interested in the process."

Here's a (lengthy) excerpt of what he says he did and learned there:

"We spent four days at her house in Cambridge. I interviewed her. We sketched her kitchen, measured it, photographed it, and conducted an inventory of all the objects in it. So it became like a design anatomy. It was like walking into an operating room and analyzing every tool - what it was, why it was there. We would ask questions like, 'Why are your lids so far away from the stove?' And she would say, 'Well, you know, a person needs exercise. I don't like standing in one place and cooking.' So everything that I was thinking from an efficiency and design standpoint, she blew holes in it. We drew the kitchen as an exercise in understanding the complexity of the space. It included not just the main kitchen but a room for china, another one for tools, and a pantry as well ...

I was thrilled with what I saw. I found a person who had a much more comprehensive view of design than I had ever encountered ... Julia was more than a cook; she had these ideas about where to be in a space while doing other things. She had a view of cooking that was essentially social ...

After meeting her I thought, My God, what a remarkable person! She set me back on my heels on how to approach design. I didn't have the words for it at the time, but ever since then I've been dedicated to Julia's approach, which is about mastering and celebrating the arts of daily living. Unfortunately we don't have a research base in our country that studies the basic living arts, like sleeping, shopping, loving, working, cooking ...

[Design] is about living - about living versus looking. I don't understand this idea of looking your way through life ... Too much of American life is rooted in uniform rote behaviors. Julia helped knock me loose of that ... If you've ever been in a good woodworker's shop or a photographer's studio, there's a kind of rootedness in these places that is not overridden by form ... [To get beyond this as a designer] you live part of your life as the Dutch did in the seventeenth century - as an experiment ... It's not about designing objects differently but about honoring the arts of daily living in fresh ways ..."

As a social anthropologist, I take for granted what Stumpf exalts. This everyday life is exactly what ethnographers and cultural studies seek to describe, and it was with this focus that some of the best critiques of everyday life - including living and cooking - were formulated. By focussing on the mundane and the taken-for-granted, these types of research move beyond surface, and critique the social and cultural status quo. Stumpf describes this process as a shift from looking to living, and as much as I take heart in his appreciation for these perspectives in design contexts, I suspect that the potential contribution of critical ethnography and cultural studies remains underestimated. And ultimately, I believe it is people, not design, who suffer for that.

MP3 Wednesdays

C'mon Come On (Loose An Endless Longing) - A Silver Mt. Zion

They put on a brilliant show and are on tour in the UK & Ireland in December.

XVI - Shellac

They are also on tour in the UK & Ireland at the end of November, including a London show with Electrelane that should be sweet.

Update: After Shellac played London, Rob da Bank - now hosting the John Peel Show - broadcast a very nice 49-minute long session that you can listen to. (Thanks things!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Not all ethics are created equal

WorldChanging announces the formation of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, "a new organization dedicated to the responsible, constructive examination of 'human enhancement technologies' -- the biological, informational, and social technologies allowing us to live happier, healthier lives."

Sounds good, but here's the interesting part:

"WorldChanging readers (and contributors!) may not agree with some of the positions and arguments adopted by IEET, but should appreciate its purpose: to promote the ethical use of technologies to expand human capabilities."

No offense, but purpose is not enough when we're talking ethics. You know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and all...

The IEET "works closely" with the World Transhumanist Association. And far be it from me to say I know better than an Oxford philosopher, but transhumanism really weirds me out.

No, I don't think it's dangerous in the same ways that, say, Francis Fukuyama claims, or that certain scientific research should be entirely prohibited, but as an ethical position it is not a given.

So, while I certainly support greater attention to the ethics of technological development, I would - and should - be careful to define what those ethics are. Otherwise the IEET might appear to represent all ethical positions instead of just their own.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

The emperor gets new clothes

Italian design firm Leftloft shows us what it takes to give the legendary Moleskine notebooks new clothes. (via)

I particularly like the way they focussed on the object itself, leaving the user an open-ended construct:

"Systems for representing the modes of application for various models were examined. The original idea was to represent the destinees through symbols, but was later rejected to avoid shades of caricature. In the end the choice was a symbolic representation of the object itself, each object differentiated according to its function, highlighting the extreme pragmatism of the product."

I also like the "punctuation" rationale behind the new display systems:

"The things which give writing its pauses and rhythm are punctuation marks. We therefore had the notion of giving rhythm to moleskine in the same way as words. The diacritical call for pause also serves to exalt the concept of pause itself as a moment fundamental to creativity, the moment in which we break with conventions in order to explore fresh, unthought of solutions."

Well done.

Some quick thoughts on comments

Last week I disabled comments on my blog because it was a pain in the ass to delete the spam every morning. Now I see that Holger has made some changes to the script to keep the bots away, but before I see if that works, I thought I'd mention the difference no comments has made.

Most notably, I got lots of email. Way more than usual. And none from the folks who most often comment here. This made me wonder about the qualitative differences between (private) email and (public) comments. Is it just that some people are exhibitionists and others voyeurs? I don't think so.

I mean, I understand that the content recently might have compelled different comments or lack thereof - but that doesn't account for why so many people sent email and why those people had, to the best of my recollection, never before commented here. And it doesn't account for the silence of (semi)regular commentators.

If you have any ideas or thoughts on this - please email me.

Won't you be my neighbour?

Neighbornode - a project by John Geraci

"Neighbornodes are group message boards on wireless nodes, placed in residential areas and open to the public ... Neigbornode was developed because the Internet, while really good at connecting people half-way around the world, is really bad at connecting people who live across the street from each other (or a block from each other, or two blocks from each other) ... On Neighbornode you're not posting to enormous numbers of random people, as you might on more general message boards, but you are reaching the people in your immediate vicinity, and you are sure that these people will see your message ...

Want to set up a Neighbornode of your own? It's easy - anyone can set up and operate a Neighbornode anywhere in the world for members of their community to use."

(via)

Along these lines, Geraci and Dana Spiegel led workshops on building community wireless hotspots at Spectropolis, and John also presented Community and Boundary in the Age of Mobile Computing at the Ubicomp 2004 Ubicomp in the Urban Frontier workshop:

"[T]oday's communities are no longer confined to being either purely physical or purely virtual in nature. More and more, communities are choosing to define themselves as both physical and virtual at once ... The dichotomy of physical-versus-virtual has broken down. In this situation, location becomes more relevant in the web-based world (where before it had no bearing), and less relevant (or at least less crucial) in the world of physicality.

What we are left with is a complex overlapping of community upon community, with no borders to be found. Communities become less a series of discrete objects and more a series of interwoven social threads. You take your neighborhood with you to work, you take your entire group of friends with you to your café, you take the café to school. In this sort of world, where physical and virtual are conflated, active participation in any community is decided largely at the whim of the individual, without other traditionally limiting factors coming to bear. Able to participate in multiple communities simultaneously, the individual becomes a real-time link between groups separated in space, while these groups thus become joined together by the individuals participating in them."

While I certainly appreciate characterising communities as social threads (practices) instead of as discrete objects, and I believe that physical and virtual worlds indeed overlap, I am very suspicious of the notion that any technology will dissolve social boundaries. Not only does this suggest that borders and boundaries are inherently oppressive - which they are not - but it also implies that they are weak enough to disappear without being missed. And clearly, Neighbornode envisions some sort of locally bounded community of neighbours.

There is also something else here that troubles me, but I'm not sure I can properly explain it yet. It has to do with underlying assumptions about individuals and groups, and how they relate. This weirdness (see how articulate I can be?!) also appears in most social software and social network discussions, and has something to do with mutually exclusive categories and systems-thinking... I'll have to get back to that another time.

Other by another name

On the cultstud-l mailing list, Victor Kulkosky astutely asks:

"Shouldn't cultural studies and progressives in general be on guard against crude stereotyping and sweeping statements that begin with statements such as 'The entire right-wing movement is clearly ...'?

If we really believe in acknowledging the other, ALL others, as 'another I with equal rights and responsibilities,' (Bakhtin) then we would do better to avoid simplifying those we consider in the oppossing camp or camps. Otherwise, we are doing just what we accuse the 'other' side of doing: demonizing the 'enemy.' Instead of the liberal, elitist, nihilistically relativist, fetus-eating Sodomite Devil, we substitute the trailer-trash, Bible-thumping, cousin-marrying, homophobic, etc. Devil of the right. If we're going to stoop to this level, then why is one side more privileged than the other? ...

I may sound like a broken record, but I'd like to see CS better witness (to borrow from Kelly Oliver) those who strive to live their religious beliefs and who can become allies, even though they don't use the CS vocabulary. Religion isn't the enemy, nor even the Other. The enemy, or maybe opponent is a better word, is/are those who would use religion to bring out the worst in people, rather than the best..."

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Sigh

Half rain, half snow, a trecherous wind and a horribly aching back leads me to think the only way to spend the day is watching movies under the duvet and letting Enid Coleslaw's purrs heal my sore muscles and bones.

Friday, November 5, 2004

(Non)Critical Design?

A new issue of Design Philosophy Papers is out, and Anne-Marie Willis asks why design researchers and academics on the PhD Design List aren't working on issues like design and cultural difference, design and sustainability, design and technology, or even user-centred design. She concludes:

"Avoidance of difficulty or unpleasantness; disavowal of extreme situations; retreat into distraction — these appear to be the hallmarks of the fast-encroaching New Dark Ages. Anyone want to take this on?"

In response, John Thackara (in the November Doors of Perception Report) predictably slams academics and exalts, well, I'm not exactly sure:

"Academics are condemned by their business model to be inward-looking and self-referential - but, out in the world, a lot of exciting design creativity is bubbling up. We need to focus on that."

Since no one likes ivory-tower academics, they're a too-easy target. And surely intelligent and insightful non-academics like Thackara understand the value of using examples to make a point?

I can't be the only one who thinks hers is a valid question - where is the best of today's critical design?

Later in the same report Thackara points at the interesting-sounding Spark! Design and Locality book, as well as the System Disruption and Viper Basel events - all of which look like good candidates, and not lacking in academic involvement or interest.

UPDATE: Carl DiSalvo - a fabulously interesting PhD Design Candidate at Carnegie Mellon - writes to say "I think one of the problems in answering the question is that it is unclear what constitutes critical design. As you have pointed out in the past, much of critical design is not critical - it might be confrontational, it is often 'conceptual' - but not necessarily critical. That being said, I would vote for the obvious, Dunne and Raby. It would seem that academic design is the place for critical design, I just don't see it being a sustained practice in professional 'out in the world' practice. Also I'm not sure if issues like 'design and cultural difference, design and sustainability, design and technology, or even user-centered design' constitute critical design. These issues certainly are engaged in professional 'out in the world' practice, but not necessarily in any critical manner. For example, I'm reminded of seeing a well-known sustainable architect speaking about how he designed an eco-appropriate Ford plant in the Amazon, and being valorized by designers for his 'social conscientiousness' - it was baffling."

Good points. (I cringe when I think about someone being congratulated for building a Ford plant in the Amazon!) Carl's dissertation is "concerned with the roles and responsibilities of design in the distribution of agency between people and products" and he currently works with CMU's Project on People and Robots. In the past he was involved with the (critical-in-the-way-we-mean) Predatory Lending Garments performance.

Do Make Say Think

Listen up.

If you live in (or near) Montreal you can go see Do Make Say Think - live tonight and tomorrow night at La Sala Rossa.

It's all in the presentation

CNN represents American election results as red or blue while Jeff Culver (via) paints a more nuanced country of purples.

And after the initial shock wears off, I hope that my American friends will follow hopeful advice like this and this.

Call for Papers - Urban and Rural Flows and Counterflows

Splendid Isolation: Urban and Rural Flows and Counterflows in Electronic Music and Related Media
February 10-12, 2005, Berlin, Germany
Held in conjunction with club transmediale.05

"The relationship between communication technologies and the city has been a long and complicated one, where the density of communicative activity has often been taken as defining characteristic of urban life. By contrast, rural areas have been idealized and marked by the relative absence of these technologies, a perception which tends to obscure the social and spatial consequences of communication technologies in rural areas. Out of this dichotomous set of associations has emerged a constellation of forces, ideas, images and experiences which have defined both the city and rural zones in unique and singular ways.

The history of art and music bears many traces of this productive tension, in which being immersed in city life and rural hermitage act as polar opposites. Popular music has been identified with contrapuntal movements that fluctuate between the celebration and derogation of both the rural and the urban. Within this interplay, various technologies, in particular electronic communication, have provided the principle forms of mediation between urban and rural areas, bridging and binding people and places in multiple ways and creating new hybrid territories situated within a shared mediasphere. In this context, the challenges of cultural production in and between rural and urban regions continue to be inflected by the specific demands of electronic/digital production, distribution and consumption.

This conference intends to address topics relating to the many debates and discourses produced by the intersection of cultural production, electronic arts/media, and social relations in urban and rural settings. We encourage artists, practitioners, journalists, writers and academics to participate in what promises to be provocative conference. In keeping with the overall themes of transmediale and club transmediale [BASICS], which investigate the aesthetic and ethical foundations of a hyper-potential culture, papers should address, but need not be restricted to, the following frameworks:

* (Exo/Endo)Polis: electronic music, urban/ruraldynamics, and cultural politics
* Refashioning Networks: circuits, nodes,communities, scenes and subcultures and extended milieu
* Mediations: the rural/urban digital nexus,imagining/ representing nature in the city/the city in nature; electronicmusic and the experience of nature
* Counterflows: fluctuating movements betweenurban and rural music subcultures
* The Best of Both worlds: bridging theurban/rural divide
* Splendid Isolation: productivity betweenseclusion, media networking and boredom; sound cultures beyond the majormetropoles
* Perforating the Mainstream: marketing themargin
* Opposing Urbanity: f(r)actions of ruralsubcultures in the metropolis
* The City and Its Other: critiques from thecentre and periphery, speaking from and to rural and urban perspectives"

Abstracts should be no longer than 250 words and are due by November 15, 2004. Panel proposals are also welcome. Please submit them to: conference@transmediale.de

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Collaborative design

I've been told that our Design For Hackability panel (from DIS2004) was cited by Liz Sanders in her Information, Inspiration and Co-Creation keynote at last month's About, With and For conference. It's nice to hear that people continue to find it interesting and useful - and I'd like to again thank the panelists who made it so.

Other interesting presentations from the conference include Design Hermeneutics, Western Culture Safaris and Redesigning the Civic Experience.

Multi-disciplinarity and collaboration are good.

Learning that hope was finally lost...

MP3 Wednesdays

Jolene - Dolly Parton, 1974

I'm sure it's hopelessly uncool to like Dolly Parton, but this tale of everyday feminine desperation and pride really gets under my skin.

Baby's On Fire - Brian Eno, 1974

Two chords and a much more surreal approach to the desperation of women. Brilliant.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

On crowds

"Members of a community, not elements of a collectivity, they were not moved by mass feeling; there were as many emotions there as there were people..."

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

Gil Elvgren (USA) - It's Up To You - 1960

Gil Elvgren, It's Up To You, 1960

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Comments out

Comments have been disabled until I figure out what to do about the vast quantities of comment spam I keep deleting. Sigh.

Excellent news

My friend, and constant source of inspiration, Jonah Brucker-Cohen is feeling better after a most hectic past month or so. Still sending good vibes his way, I can't wait to see him all feisty again! PS - love to Kaki too :)

Because not everything is best understood quantitatively

The First International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
May 5-7, 2005

"The theme of the First International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry focuses on 'Qualitative Inquiry in a Time of Global Uncertainty.' We call on the international community of interpretive scholars to gather together in common purpose to address the implications of the recent attempts by federal governments and their agencies to define what is 'good science', and what constitutes 'good scholarship'. Around the globe governments are attempting to regulate interpretive inquiry by enforcing bio-medical, evidence-based models of research.

These regulatory activities raise basic philosophical, epistemological, political and pedagogical issues for scholarship and freedom of speech in the academy. Their effects are interdisciplinary. They cut across the fields of educational and policy research, the humanities, communications, health and social science, social welfare, business and law.

The mission of the First International Congress is to provide a forum for these critical conversations, to build and expand the already robust tradition of Qualitative Inquiry. This congress gathers together vibrant strands of qualitative research to produce innovative futures. We seek to generate lively, critical debate, foster contacts and the exchange ideas, and draw inspiration from each other. We encourage international participation from different countries, disciplines and cultural backgrounds, as well as from a wide range of research areas."

Looking over my shelves, these are the books on qualitative research that I've most enjoyed and found useful, recently and over the years:

Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco
Anthropology as Cultural Critique
The Predicament of Culture
Interpretation of Cultures
The Ethnographic Imagination
The Ethnographer's Eye

Doing Critical Ethnography
Interpretive Ethnography
Performance Ethnography
Auto/Ethnography: Rewriting the Self and the Social
The Vulnerable Observer
Ethnographically Speaking

Handbook of Qualitative Research
Feminism and Method
The Ethnographic Interview
Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes
Tales of the Field
Writing the New Ethnography
Composing Ethnography

Current reading

Elias Canetti's Counter-Image of Society: Crowds, Power, Transformation
by Johann P. Arnason & David Roberts

"Elias Canetti's significance as a seminal cultural critic has not been adequately recognized. His distinctive anti-systematic form of theorizing, which cuts across the customary boundaries between genres and between imagination and theory, confronts the interpreter with particular difficulties. If the award of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1981 has assured his place in literary history, his place in the history of social and political thought is still undetermined.

The present study has a double aim. On the one hand, it seeks to draw out the counter-image of human existence, history, and society that informs Canetti's critique of the modern world and its sciences. On the other, it seeks to open up his hermetic oeuvre by tracing his cryptic and often concealed dialogue with major figures within the Western tradition such as Hobbes, Durkheim, and Freud, and through comparison with contemporaries sich as Adorno, Arendt, and Elias. Here in particular the authors ask how his alternative vision of man and society relates to important themes of twentieth-century social and civilizational thought at the same time as it calls into question the evolutionary and functionalist assumptions of the social and human sciences.

In a series of interrelated analyses of Auto da Fe, Crowds and Power, and the aphorisms, the authors elucidate key aspects of Canetti's interrogation of human existence and human history across five thematic complexes: individual and social psychology, totalitarian politics, religion and politics, theories of society, and power and culture. Canetti's Counter-Image of Society traces the movement of Canetti's thought from an apocalyptic sense of crisis to his search for cultural resources to set against the holocaust of European civilization."

I am curious to see how this reading of the crowd relates to Virno's reading of the multitude...

On engineering

From an interview with Luciana Parisi:

Matthew Fuller: You use the word 'engineering' a number of times, as a process that sorts things out, arranges, modifies and moves materials. But this is done without the figure of the engineer, as something self-organising. When you turn in the chapter on Biodigital Sex the figure of engineering is somehow doubled. It occurs again in the guise of capital-intensive military, pharmaceutical and medical organisations deploying engineers who employ analytical and instrumental techniques in order to ensure that matter does not self-organise but that it operates according to plan, becomes a standard object. How do you see these two forms interacting?

Luciana Parisi: Engineering as you say entails a process of selection, organization and modification, which is not piloted by an ultimate designer. Its self-organization however has not to be attributed to a sort of autopoietic system, where distinct parts sustain the whole. To some extent, I have a conceptual problem with autopoiesis as it still presupposes a certain subjection of the parts to the whole with a limited capacity for them to feedback on it. On the contrary, my use of the word engineering entails a double or mutual process whereby each actualized organization becomes a modifying dimension of the whole. Now a key notion that may help to understand how I discriminate between engineering dynamics and the intensive capitalist investment in the engineering of molecular life is the notion of selection.

In Darwinism and neo-Darwinism the notion of selection has a negative attribute - i.e. it entails elimination or negative force. The function of selection employed by engineers in the manufacturing of genetic drugs, cells and tissues indeed implies that ill-fitted genetic structures will not be able to sustain themselves and will eventually - or naturally in their jargon - die. In other cases, the selective function may also imply that the ill-fitted traits are pre-established and therefore easy to eliminate once they have emerged as it happens in the now acknowledged realm of biocomputing where the recoding of genes, proteins and sequences enables a rematerialization of molecular life in vitro. Indeed this rematerialization together with the preselection of best and ill-fitted traits will lead us to the conclusion that there is an engineer, a designer of life in the world of biotechnologies or, even more so nanotechnology.

As I said the key point lies in the notion and real (read virtual) function of selection. From Bergson to Simondon, Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari the process of selection has been turned in a dynamics of production of the new. Selection far from eliminating deviances entails a mutual change of ecological relations (between the organism, environment and pressures) unleashing a virtual force impinging on the relation between the organism and its environment whereby their mutual capacity to change remains indeterminate. In other words, selection even when predeterminate cannot escape unleashing its residual effects in the region of relations (at the threshold of critical joint between one phase and the other) in which it has operated. In this sense, the planning and standardization of an object cannot exhaust the capacity of that object to catalyze a change in its proximate environmental relations.

Thus, I see engineering assemblages and their use in the capital-intensive military, pharmaceutical and medical organizations in direct contact as if undergoing a new symbiotic merging. I mean that the use of engineering assemblages cannot occur without ecological consequences on a planetary scale - and without acknowledging the technoscientific capitalist responsibility of accelerating unexpected mutations in an interdependent ecology of relations. The work of engineers therefore is not independent from the consequences of ecological self-organizations. On the contrary, it is as if engineers were directly called in to experiment with the evolutionary capacities of the body. From another point of view however, it is clear that the investment in biotech and even more so in nanotech is linked to a paradigm of control, adjustment and optimization of engineering assemblages.

Since the first wave of cybernetics, control remains the most difficult of strategies to manage populations and their environment. Control indeed cannot occur without the unexpected phase of becoming. Its affective power cannot impinge without facing the indeterminate capacities of a body of relations to change - to engineer a new dimension of the whole modifying its conditions with the rest of parts.

Monday, November 1, 2004

Oidhche Shamhna Shona / Oíche Samhain

Samhain marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter:

"Oidhche Shamhna, or Samhain's Eve, was believed to be a gap in time. Ancient Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. This break in reality not only provided a link between the worlds, but also dissolved the structure of society for the night."

Halloween continues to be a liminal space and time - especially for children. For one special night we change the rules: we tell them to pretend to be someone they are not, to wander the streets at night, to knock on doors of people they don't know, to take candy from strangers, and even to play tricks.

Enjoy!

Cuimhnich air na daoine o'n d'thàinig thu.

CC Copyright 2001-2009 by Anne Galloway. Some rights reserved. Powered by Blogger and hosted by Dreamhost.