Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Boston-bound

I'm heading off to Boston early in the morning, and tomorrow evening I will be moderating the final panel on networked art in public spaces at Floating Points 2.

To get things going I will ask Julian Bleecker, Elizabeth Goodman, Teri Rueb and Andrew Shoben the following question(s):

Isabelle Stengers has described the creative enterprise as an "adventure of hope" - inherently political processes in which we resist the probable and fully engage the possible. And Chantal Mouffe has pointed to other "social imaginaries" crucial in revitalising an everyday politics of hope. What kind of hope do you see in networked public space? How do you see hope acting in your work? What possibilities and imaginaries drive you?

For anyone interested, our discussion will be webcast live and then archived on the Floating Points web site.

I'm also looking forward to some calm and quiet, so I've decided not to bring my laptop. This means I won't be checking my email anytime between tomorrow and Saturday, so if anyone needs anything it's probably best to ask now.

Feeling

"'Permit me to ask you to feel and be felt by my friend Mr. So-and-so' -- is still, among the more old-fashioned of our country gentlemen in districts remote from towns, the customary formula for a Flatland introduction. But in the towns, and among men of business, the words 'be felt by' are omitted and the sentence is abbreviated to, 'Let me ask you to feel Mr. So-and-so'; although it is assumed, of course, that the 'feeling' is to be reciprocal..."

-- Edwin Abbott's Flatland, Section 5, Of our methods of recognizing one another

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The unruly and the anonymous

Society for Social Studies of Science
2005 Annual Meeting
October 20-22, 2005
Pasadena, California

"THE REPRESENTATION OF CONTROVERSIAL OBJECTS: NEW METHODS OF DISPLAYING THE UNRULY AND THE ANOMALOUS IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY STUDIES

The program committee invites contributions that explore unruly objects in science and technology -- including controversial, invisible, secret, or anomalous things. We are especially interested in showcasing new forms of representation and display, and welcome experimentation with theory, method, and conferencing modes."

DEADLINE 1 MAY 2005 - Submission details

Monday, April 25, 2005

Global/local

The contemporary media may well provide us with a secondhand sense of the 'global familiar' and also with what we might describe as a set of 'secondhand emotions' about them. But we should still remember that, nonetheless, whatever range of imagery they may be familiar with, for most viewers, their 'horizons of action' – that sense of the scale on which they can act meaningfully in the world – are still very limited. Moreover, despite all the talk of 'postmodern nomadology', so is most people’s actual experience of geographical mobility. Thus, global cultural forms still have to be made sense of within the context of what, for many people, are still very local forms of life."

David Morley, 2003. What's Home Got To Do With It? : Contradictory dynamics in the domestication of technology and the dislocation of domesticity, European Journal of Cultural Studies 6(4): 435-458.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Y : a dingier colour than I

Foe posts on AS Byatt's "encounters with science" - which simultaneously fascinates and saddens me - and refers to Francis Galton's 1883 Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development.

In it, he discusses such weighty topics as intellectual differences and our gregarious and slavish instincts. Obviously I'll pass on trusting this guy's interpretations (and their social consequences) but Foe points at his discussion on how numerals can be represented as colours, and it's really fascinating.

Colour Representation
Number-Forms

"Persons who are imaginative almost invariably think of numerals in some form of visual imagery... The pattern or 'Form' in which the numerals are seen is by no means the same in different persons, but assumes the most grotesque variety of shapes, which run in all sorts of angles, bends, curves, and zigzags..."

In Colour Associations, Galton provides anecdotal evidence for each of the figures below. For example:

"Numerals are occasionally seen in Arabic or other figures, not disposed in any particular Form, but coloured... Figs. 66, 67 illustrate the gorgeousness of the mental imagery of some favoured persons... The upper row of Fig. 69 shows the various shades of brown, ssociated with different pronunciations of the letter A..."

Francis Galton, Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development, 1883

He also describes the synaesthetics:

"The seers are invariably most minute in their description of the precise tint and hue of the colour. They are never satisfied, for instance, with saying 'blue,' but will take a great deal of trouble to express or to match the particular blue they mean... no two people agree, or hardly ever do so, as to the colour they associate with the same sound...

'When I think of Wednesday I see a kind of oval flat wash of yellow emerald green; for Tuesday, a gray sky colour; for Thursday, a brown-red irregular polygon; and a dull yellow smudge for Friday.'"

And if you're a social history of science geek, it's amazing again. Galton's theory and methodology are thoroughly explained: from the variety of human nature ("the instincts and faculties of different men and races differ in a variety of ways almost as profoundly as those of animals in different cages of the Zoological Gardens") to statistical methods ("the possibility of doing this is based on the constancy and continuity with which objects of the same species are found to vary"), composite portraiture ("the effect is to bring into evidence all the traits in which there is agreement, and to leave but a ghost of a trace of individual peculiarities") and its description, and the observed order of events ("the conditions that direct the order of the whole of the living world around us, are marked by their persistence in improving the birthright of successive generations").

Friday, April 22, 2005

And that's why they are completely persecuted

Chatting with Nicolas, he reminded me of L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze:

A comme animal - B comme boisson - C comme culture - D comme désir - E comme enfance - F comme fidélité - G comme gauche - H comme histoire de la philosophie - I comme idée - J comme joie - K comme Kant - L comme littérature - M comme maladie - N comme Neurologie - O comme opéra - P comme professeur - Q comme question - R comme résistance - S comme style - T comme tennis - U comme un - V comme voyage - W comme Wittgenstein - X comme inconnue - Y est indicible - Z comme zigzag

Charles Stivale provides an excellent summary in English, although L'Abécédaire often reminds me more of a bestiary than a primer.

In A Thousand Plateaus' Treatise on Nomadology (also), we learn that "it is false to define the nomad by movement" - and that movement should be distinguished from speed - but the implications are perhaps made clearer when he and Parnet discuss V comme voyage :

"Parnet stated the term 'nomad,' and Deleuze admits that he has been quite fascinated with nomads, but these are people quite precisely who don't travel. Those who travel are emigrants, and there can certainly be perfectly respectable people who are forced to travel, exiled people, emigrants. This is a kind of trip that it is not even a question of ridiculing because these are sacred forms of travel, forced travel. But nomads don't travel, says Deleuze. Literally, they stay put completely - ils restent immobiles - all the specialists on nomads say this. It's because nomads don't want to leave, because they grip hold of the earth, their land. Their land becomes deserted and they grip hold of it, they can only nomadize on their land, and it's by dint of wanting to stay on their land that they nomadize. So in a sense, one can say that nothing is more immobile than a nomad, that nothing travels less than a nomad. It's because they don't want to leave that they are nomad. And that's why they are completely persecuted."

Innovation and invention

NY Times - Innovation Moves From the Laboratory to the Bike Trail and the Kitchen

"[A] lot of significant innovations do not come from people trying to figure out what customers may want. They come from the users themselves, who know exactly what they want but cannot get it in existing products ... Because users are often quite different from each other, their innovation, by definition, accommodates variety ... 'Users are designing exactly what they want for themselves; they have only a market of one to serve,' Professor von Hippel said in an interview. 'Manufacturers are trying to fit their existing investments and existing solution types to the largest market possible'."

Read Democratizing Innovation by Eric Von Hippel, MIT Press, 2005

Also:

Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths College

This relationship in words

A few years ago I wrote that "I have a strong attraction to the staccato movement of the email conversation, caused by message lag-time. All that groping about, anticipating articulation, time to imagine... It gives me a sensual pleasure I have never felt while chatting in real-time (or in real-space for that matter)."

I still feel this way and although I may not live in the time when ladies had letter-cases - sigh - I adore being able to linger over someone else's words. I'm also drawn to the kind of intimacy that comes from speaking or writing to people who never hear us.

In the past, one of the only ways lovers kept in touch was through hand-delivered letters. Relationships in words, or what I think of as love's non-places, may not be new but the ability to stay in that space or to keep it all instantaneous may be.

Far Apart but Intensely Connected

"Julia Steinmetz and Michael Mandiberg live on opposite sides of the United States, but are in constant contact -- courtesy of their unlimited cell-phone plan. The couple spends hours 'together' each day, talking, messaging and, yes, even sleeping on the phone...

'With the absence of not getting to sleep next to each other, I probably do have as much contact as I had before,' Steinmetz said. 'It just becomes a more different kind of contact ... it becomes this relationship in words.'

There can be drawbacks to so much long-distance contact. Mandiberg admits his constant communication with Steinmetz has hampered him from really starting his life in New York... And though they're not together physically, the way they keep in touch means they live almost on Mountain time, somewhere between Los Angeles and New York, Mandiberg said."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Motörhead

A friend telling me about Monday night's Motörhead concert in Edmonton:

"I assume that was Lemmy up there. I wasn't able to get close enough to see. Judging soley on attire, mannerisms, body type and grooming it was Lemmy, but he's had himself cloned and about 10 of those clones were in the audience. Perhaps one was on stage, too.

From the concert, I realized three things:

1. I haven't heard anything that Motörhead has released in the last 15 years
2. They're sick to death of everything they released in the first 15 years
3. I actually wanted to see a Motörhead tribute band."

Hmm. Maybe now I can stop having these ridiculous discussions with myself about missing the Motörhead show in town next week while I moderate the final Floating Points panel in Boston.

And if I could stop thinking about Motörhead long enough to stop laughing, I might actually be able to listen to Jon Udell narrate the evolution of Wikipedia's awesome Heavy metal umlaut page.

MP3 Wednesdays

P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up) - Parliament, Mothership Connection, 1976

It doesn't get much better than this.

start capitalist-luddite transmission

When you like the music here buy the album! Lately I shop at cheapthrills, insound and RYKODISC, but shop wherever your heart desires. And don't get so caught up in sexy digital curatorship that you forget to visit new & used record shops whenever you get the chance--the material culture of music is really brilliant.

end capitalist-luddite transmission

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Google girls

Google recruiting for chicks. Wow.

At Google things happen. People are smart and problems are interesting. There are lots of multicultural women, so you'll never be alone. And if that isn't enough, may we remind you that working at Google is also pleasant?

But watch out for that non-intellectual appetite: when you're not attending tech-talks with the boys, you're likely to be eating the amazing food and putting on the dreaded Google 15 (pounds). Thank goodness Google also has a gym so you can work that ass off!

If you're just coming out of school, we'll make sure you have an easy transition! You can work flexible hours, find a female mentor and Google's belief in the importance of work/life balance means you get laundromats - but guys, Don't steal the Undies!! - and excellent child care so the whole family can actually live at Google while you work. And, while we're making your work/life so great, why don't you also take 20% (but not 21%) of your work-time to engage in personal projects? Maybe even start a girls' club!

So adventurous-women-geeks, if you're looking for a place that embodies the culture, philosophy and personality of the company's founders - and really, who can resist a man that understands high heels?! - then Go Google!

OK. It's not really that bad. And I'm sure those Google chicks are cool. But really, wow.

Pet peeve # 563

When students think the only possible reason you don't have their paper marked is because you're trying to torment them.

Making, not sorting

"Why should most of the members of a society accept the passivity and reactivity of sorting [the world] instead of determining how and what gets made in the first place?"

--Sande Cohen, Reading Science Studies Writing

Ethical guidelines as alibis

Biella Coleman, in her dissertation on the Debian Linux project, offers up Bakhtin in her discussion of ethics and crisis--and I am reminded why ethical codes and standards make me so uncomfortable:

"In Toward a Philosophy of the Act M.M. Bakhtin offers an ethical theory of action that repudiates the implications embedded in formalistic theories of ethics. He is especially critical of Immanuel Kant's Enlightenment formulation of the categorical imperative for it requires what he interprets as a suspect allegiance to universally conceived theoretical precepts. What Bakhtin finds onerous in Kant's philosophical formulations is its purism and utopianism; there is a danger in the very idea that one could ever formulate a set of precepts that stand above time and place. An over allegiance to theoretical precepts, Bakhtin argues, disables and misdirects responsibility for it directs it toward a 'formula of pure theoreticism' (1997: 27) instead of channeling toward a more productive realm?an active confrontation with the living moment in it full-blooded complexity. The effect of such 'acts of abstraction' Bakhtin says is to be 'controlled by .. autonomous laws' in which people are 'no longer present in it as individually and answerable active human beings' (1997: 7)...

What Bakhtin helps us think about are the dangers and limits that inhere in an over-reliance on codified legal or ethical precepts, especially ones that posit themselves as universally relevant. For Bakhtin the most problematic aspect of abstracted formal ethics is that they provide a false sense of security, 'an alibi' for actual ethical being, one that downplays the necessity of working toward solutions and the inherent risk and conflict of making ethical decisions. The hard labor of ethics, its demanding phenomenology, is an outgrowth of taking risks and especially putting in the effort to engage with others and choosing to confront the unique situation at hand."

My dissertation also calls on Bakhtin's position on ethics, but what really appeals to me here is Biella's focus on the "labour" of ethics and the understanding that an ethical life (however one defines it) is constant hard work. A codified set of universal rules or guidelines may have the best of intentions, but emerges already crippled in its ability to negotiate everyday risks and adapt to changing circumstances. As she points out, crisis is particularly fruitful for engaging others and renewing our ethics but, in times of crisis, people "sometimes cling too literally to codified norms" and action can too easily be supplanted by abstraction.

Bringing this back into technological terms, I remember that technologies have rarely, if ever, emerged as anticipated or predicted--and so establishing ethical guidelines for technologies that don't actually exist seems particularly dangerous to me.

Update (later) - Prompted by recent comments I thought I should mention that when I wrote this I wasn't thinking of, or referring to, Adam Greenfield's ethical guidelines for ubicomp. And actually, now that I do think about them, he raises some interesting points and I'd really like to see more discussion about what might constitute an ethics for pervasive computing. Especially given Bakhtin's reservations.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Smutty French feminist theory for a Friday afternoon

From Luce Irigaray, When Our Lips Speak Together, Signs 6, 1977

"Speak just the same. Because your language doesn't follow just one thread, one course, or one pattern, we are in luck. You speak from everywhere at the same time. You touch me whole at the same time. In all senses. Why only one song, one discourse, one text at a time? ...

Kiss me. Two lips kiss two lips, and openness is ours again. Our "world". Between us, the movement from inside to outside, from outside to inside, knows no limits. It is without end. These are exchanges that no mark, no mouth can ever stop. Between us, the house has no walls, the clearing no enclosure, language no circularity. You kiss me, and the world enlarges until the horizon vanishes. Are we unsatisfied? Yes, if that means we are never finished. If our pleasure consists of moving and being moved by each other, endlessly. Always in movement, this openness is neither spent nor sated...

Don't fret about the "right" word. There is none. No truth between our lips. Everything has the right to be. Everything is worth exchanging, without privileges or refusals. Exchange? Everything can be exchanged when nothing is bought. Between us, there are no owners and no purchasers, no determinable objects and no prices. Our bodies are enriched by our mutual pleasure. Our abundance is inexhaustible: it knows neither want nor plenty. When we give ourselves "all", without holding back or hoarding, our exchanges have no terms. How to say this? The language we know is so limited...

You'll say to me, why talk? We feel the same thing at the same time. Aren't my hands, my eyes, my mouth, my lips, my body enough for you? Isn't what they say to you sufficient? I could say yes, but that would be too easy. It has been said too often to reassure you/us.

If we don't invent a language, if we don't find our body's language, its gestures will be too few to accompany our story. When we become tired of the same ones, we'll keep our desires secret, unrealized. Asleep again, dissatisfied, we will be turned over to the words of men - who have claimed to "know" for a long time. But not our body. Thus seduced, allured, fascinated, ecstatic over our becoming, we will be paralyzed. Deprived of our movements. Frozen, although we are made for endless change. Without leaps or falls, and without repetition."

Socialising technology (a.k.a. "a proliferation of hybrids")

There are two adverts--plus a picture of a gate--that I've taped to the wall behind my monitor.

The first one is for the #19 Allsteel and features the large caption, "I AM PART HUMAN". The second is for the Nokia Medallion I, and features a glossy 20-something boy and girl wearing pictures of each other around their necks. Both ads are very sexy. And the products are useful in their own ways.

The Allsteel chair--there are no people in this ad--looks like a vaguely inhumane Wallpaper* biomorphic version of Stelarc's exoskeleton, and I struggle to imagine it making contact with flesh. I wonder at what stage the chair becomes "part human", when it becomes an "I"?

The Nokia jewellery advert is mostly people. Close-ups of faces, direct gazes, desire. The connection between these two is given an image-double, they become twice as connected and yet also ghost images of each other. The caption reads "Jewellery reinvented" and I wonder at what stage the jewellery becomes "part human" or when it becomes an "I"?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Software and sociality

Interesting post from Jyri Engeström on what he sees as :

"a profound confusion about the nature of sociality, which was partly brought about by recent use of the term 'social network' by Albert Laszlo-Barabasi and Mark Buchanan in the popular science world, and Clay Shirky and others in the social software world. These authors build on the definition of the social network as 'a map of the relationships between individuals' ... The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They're not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object."

"The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people." Yes, exactly!! This is related to my recent gripes about a tendency towards modelling people in functional, essential or systemic terms. You know, very machinic. And in part it's a problem connected to the use of discrete and singular categories. For example: social interaction is only about people, systems are only about (open or closed) systemic relations, etc.

The post I linked above gives a nice overview of 'object-centred sociality' or what Karin Knorr Cetina calls 'objectual practice'. He's interested in 'socio-material networks', or just 'activities' or 'practices' instead of social networks. I get that--I also focus a lot on practice or what we do rather than what we think. And I see a lot of what we do having little or nothing to do with functionality or systems.

But here's where I get really interested. In the post Jyri writes "in my experience, developers intuitively 'get' the object-centered sociality way of thinking about social life". Oh, I want to know more! I've had many conversations with programmers about these perspectives on sociality, and I've more often than not heard the coder exclaim "Of course! Like object-oriented programming!" Um, well, only sort-of.

Now Russ Beattie was totally impressed by Jyri's post, and what he says reminds me of conversations I've had with my friends Bob and Diego. And I think they really do get it - or more specifically they get that some things we do just aren't amenable to code. They get that when it comes to people, code is limiting but not determining. I also think that most, if not all, people take for granted that we're linked together through things. And I'm interested in what constitutes these things and how they connect--because it is in those definitions and relations that code takes shape.

For different social and cultural takes, Adrian Mackenzie has done some really interesting work on software and sociality, and my students liked Steve Graham's discussions of the software-sorted society. And now there's also a growing body of design and innovation studies: Jyri's PhD sounds fascinating, as does Alex Wilkie's doctoral project.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pedagogy

"I’d like to say to us as educators: poor are those among us who lose their capacity to dream, to create their courage to denounce and announce..."

Paolo Freire was pretty hardcore but I like him.

Searching For Paulo Freire: Classnotes For My Students by Amardo Rodriguez

"I come to teaching with all of my being. My devotion to you is complete. For me, teaching is about something you are, something you embody. Thus I have no techniques, no strategies, no skills, no drills, no exercises that tend to work in conveying various ideas and concepts. Instead, my focus is on how I enter the classroom as a human being..."

Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing: The Paradox of Critical Pedagogy by Becky Flores

"The question for critical pedagogues, therefore, becomes not so much one of revealing the injustices or oppressions in the world – as if students are nothing more than unenlightened members of the masses who simply need to be told false truths – but to interrogate existing truths to consider them in alternative ways we may never before have thought possible."

Gazette

One of my favourite gazettes - simultaneously frivolous and serious - was presented by Cyrano de Bergerac to Roxanne, shortly before he dies. Mine aren't beautiful and clever like that, but I love writing them because they encourage me to think differently about what I have accomplished and what still needs to be done.

**

My days are spent wrapping up all my teaching obligations. Papers to mark. Final grades to submit.

The decision has been made to take the summer off from university and return to defend my dissertation in the fall when I have funding. A little surprising is how this delay comes with solid benefits.

In the meantime I'm looking for summer employment. Consulting work. Baking bagels. Whatever. Rent is due.

I've also begun applying for post-PhD academic positions. With dual UK & Canadian citizenship, some places look better than others.

I've got a couple of trips to Montreal, and trips to Boston and New York City planned over the next few months. With any sort of luck, I'll get back to London as well.

Otherwise, I'm looking forward to reading more novels and wearing sandals and writing about other things and crafting and sunshine and friends and warmth and barbeques and moving my body more.

MP3 Wednesdays

Fried Neckbones and Some Home Fries - Willie Bobo, 1966

Sweet Tater Pie - Mongo Santamaria, 1964

Sensual pleasures.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Defining ubicomp

Continuing my look at how people are defining ubiquitous computing:

Mike Kuniavsky, in this recent IA Summit presentation, discusses what designers need to keep in mind when it comes to ubicomp:

"A phone is the way that someone uses it, the collection of data that's on it, the user's relationship to it and the system it provides access to. It's the network of people who are using it and it's a physical manifestation of a service...

We can no longer think of the things in isolation. Ubicomp devices provide access to larger systems and need to be designed alongside those systems. The design of the system becomes as important as the device...

The mechanical relationship that a motor has with the tool that it's part of is much easier to grasp than the information processing relationship a computer has with the ubicomp tool it's part of. The relationship becomes animist, a projection of psychology onto our electronics... [And] we may move from treating them as assistants to superintendents, parents or minor deities."

As I've written before, I think the animist take is a bit off, but I do think there is much to be gleaned from more nuanced understandings of anthropomorphism and delegation - and how they relate to morality. But really, I just want to know more about how he is defining and using "network" and "system" - and how that impacts relations between people and technology.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

"A new world of self-organising devices that will make our lives more pleasant and productive"

Rodney Brooks has a dream - and a $20M, 5-year joint research project to make it come true.

MIT CSAIL and Quanta Computer partner on next major computing platform (press release)

"TParty will address one of the most frustrating aspects of today's computing landscape: More than three decades after the emergence of personal computers, we are increasingly relying on 'smart' portable devices to deliver much of the information and services that we need in our daily lives. Unfortunately, in the current device-centric world, each one of us is responsible for integrating these new devices into our personal information environment. As a result, users are forced to manage information transfers, configurations, security, maintenance, upgrades, backups, and more.

The goal of TParty is to create new systems for the development and seamless delivery of information services in a world of smart devices and sensors. This will require reengineering and an extension of the underlying technical infrastructure, the creation of new interfaces, and exploring new ways of managing and accessing information."

(via)

The rhetoric here is amazing and I edge closer and closer to believing that "human-centred computing" is nothing more than marketing. Exactly what human values are being celebrated when the goal is for users to understand even less about how computers are working for, around, and against us?

Physical annotation

Lauren Greenfield's Girl Culture

"These photographs are about the popular culture we share and the way the culture leaves its imprint on individuals in their most public and private moments ... In this work, I have been drawn to the pathological in the everyday ... [and] I am interested in how girls’ feelings... are expressed in physical ways."

Girl Culture, Lauren Greenfield

Alli, Annie, Hannah, and Berit, all 13, before the first big party of the seventh grade.

Girl Culture, Lauren Greenfield

Danielle, 13, gets measured as Michelle, 13, waits for the final weigh-in on the last day of the weight-loss camp.

City engaged

So the Engaging the City workshop at CHI happened last week, and I haven't seen any notes on it. But the position papers are online and a few caught my attention:

Timo Arnall - Marking in Public Space (pdf)
Chris Beckmann - Coin-operated Public Space Annotation (pdf)
John Geraci - Street Lamps, Trees and Mailboxes (pdf)
Amanda Williams and Eric Baumer - Exploring Shopping Malls as Sites of Suburban Computing (pdf)

I'm completely fascinated by how non-anthropologists observe and interact, and how that influences their interpretations of what they see and do. Even though not all ethnography is anthropological -- I don't know a single anthropologist who wouldn't cringe upon hearing that "the task of an ethnographer is to find the bizarre and fascinating in the ordinary" -- there's some good work in the papers above.

But the more I see designers & computer scientists doing ethnographic research the more I notice a strange disconnect between method and theory, and in worse case scenarios, ethnography is nothing more than scrapbooking. After all, how data are collected and interpreted make all the difference in the world, and it's a bit funny how -- despite all the talk of human agency -- social interaction and the urban always seem to emerge as some sort of designable, programmable system.

Monday, April 11, 2005

You Kill Time

You Kill Time, Barbara Kruger

Saturday, April 9, 2005

The places of locative media

Karlis Kalnins said that "Locative is a case, not a place" - which sounds catchy but confuses me.

If the locative case "indicates a final location of action or a time of the action" then how is 'locative' not a place? From what I gather, Karlis was trying to introduce the concept of time, but I've never seen a definition of location that excludes time. Location and its most common synonym, situation, are always already space-time coordinates.

To me, what makes the locative case most interesting is how it expresses the cessation of movement, or the end of mobility. So side-stepping the disciplinary society vs. society of control debate, I'm intrigued by the tension that exists when mobile technologies are used to stabilise or freeze relations.

[Note to self: find out if anyone has discussed locative media representations in terms of diagrams, indexes, signs, icons and/or symbols. See A Thousand Plateaus p. 142 for definitions]

And I'm not sure exactly how this is related, but I keep thinking about this NY Times story about people taking pictures of the Pope:

"In the past, pilgrims would take away with them a relic, like a piece of cloth on the saint's body. Here there's been the transposition to a level of unreality. They're bringing home a digital relic ... With the cameras of the world focused on it, St. Peter's has become the sancta sanctorum of the digital world. While they're waiting in line they could be chanting or praying but instead they're taking pictures because they're caught in a parallel event."

Friday, April 8, 2005

Fighting the 'atrophy of feeling'

"The truth is I am escaping discussions, because I no longer believe Marxism is a solution to the miseries of the world. Because it does not cure man of violence. And it is only a solution to material needs. In the process, as in the process of American pragmatism, all other values are destroyed. Both countries exclude spiritual needs. America is in even greater danger because of its cult of toughness, its hatred of sensitivity, and someday it may have to pay a terrible price for this, because atrophy of feeling creates criminals."

- Anais Nin, April 1940, New York City (The Diary of Anais Nin Volume Three, 1939-1944:28)

Merci Tobias!

Wearables

FROM SILK TO MICROCONTROLLERS

Katherine Moriwaki interviews Joey Berzowska on designing fashion, technology, and memory-rich garments.

"What interests me more than anything is the playful aspect of electronic textiles and reactive garments. I love the unexpected and the bizarre. I love the stuff that challenges social boundaries and makes us question how we relate to one another (in our increasingly wireless culture). I think it is great to have a skirt that shows when you've been groped (and how hard), not because you necessarily want to broadcast this to the world, but because it is one of these embodied experiences that are becoming less and less associated with definitions of intimacy (in a culture of wireless connectivity)...

The term 'memory industry' is being used to describe western society's growing interest in various gadgets that help commit to computerized memory all of the things that we otherwise might forget, such as appointments, commitments, and other important life details... Memory-rich research, on the other hand, deals with memory as it relates to the body and the interaction between people through the use of their bodies. It is important to develop wearable technologies that challenge social structures and assumptions in relation to embodied interaction (or concepts of knowledge). These interactions have developed under specific cultural, historical and social contexts."

via 21f

Networked art in public spaces

Near the end of the month I'll be moderating the closing panel for Floating Points 2 -- and I'm looking forward to discussion among panelists Julian Bleecker, Elizabeth Goodman, Teri Rueb and Andrew Shoben.

Any questions that you would ask them?

It's a fact

I love really huge things and really tiny things.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

I theorise about emotionality instead of saying why every so often today I start crying

Yesterday, Mrs. Trach, her daughter Lily and three sons - Gary, Danny and Sunny - burned to death in an apartment fire. They were survived by Mr. Trach, son-in-law Mr. Svay and 14 month-old grandson Sipheng, all in critical condition.

Mr. and Mrs. Trach and their daughter fled Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge years and spent three years in a refugee camp on the Thai border before gaining entry to Canada and eventually buying the Mekong Grocery down the street from us.

I only know the family from shopping in their store but I find this almost unbearably sad.

Donations to assist the surviving family members can be made by cash, or cheques made out to the Cambodian Family Support Fund, care of the Somerset West Community Health Centre, 55 Eccles Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1R 6S3.

Revolution and sensual expression

So right now I'm kind of obsessed with honouring bodies and emotionality: longing, joy, rage, passion, despair, pleasure, exhaustion, love, boredom, hope, seduction, fear, solitude... And when I asked Rob why theories of everyday life don't deal more with the emotional he looked at me and said, matter-of-factly, "Well, they're supposed to." I was then left wondering if I had missed something crucial or if what I had come across hadn't satisfied me.

"Just as 35-millimeter film refuses to let an image pass through without unmistakably marking each picture with a trace of the materials from which it came, soul music is indelibly marked by what Roland Barthes has called 'the grain of the voice'. The singers make simultaneously throaty, growly, breathy and sweet sounds, forcing the listener to pay attention to the way bodies work to create them. Hearing a record like Aretha Franklin's rendition of 'Amazing Grace,' you can feel the vocal chords flexing, the lungs heaving, the tongue stretching, the throat pushing...

In the 50s and 60s... white outsiders to the world of soul music worried about the overt physicality lurking in the grooves of these records ... [while] urban black nationalists like Amiri Baraka denounced the music as silly and insincere, even suggesting its sensuality was a kind of corporate-funded, community-sanctioned prostitution. Baraka himself preferred avant-garde jazz, charging that the new music... was heroic, independent, and, unlike soul, resistant to commercial commodification.

[Today] R&B is always already discussed and understood in contrast to hip-hop, which is supposedly revolutionary, authentic, honest and smart... I want to focus on... reasons why people think hip-hop is political and R&B is inconsequential, reasons that have to do with who's singing and what they're singing about. In R&B songs, [female] vocalists often... focus on private, intimate situations... [Male] hip-hop, on the other hand, is paradigmatically public. Where hip-hop respects, appropriates, manipulates and remixes traditional black music, contemporary R&B reverentially updates it, preserving the genre's historical emphasis on vocal virtuosity and its elaboration of lyrical themes that deal primarily with love, often through elegant techniques of indirection... It's popular because it continues to serve as a place where singers can be sensitive, romantic, erotic and sentimental - all, believe it or not, vitally human values."

-- Steffani Jemison, Keep on Pushin', in Bitch 23: Winter 2004.

Le Révolution tranquille - Quiet Revolution - in Québéc fascinates me not primarily because of its (interesting enough) politics, but because profound social changes occurred in public and private - at the level of the everyday - without violence and only in a short time. I also read somewhere that as new identities and practices became possible, there was a sort of creative outpouring in music, theatre, literature, art, film, cuisine. I like this connection between revolution and sensual expression.

MP3 Wednesdays

I Saw an X-Ray of a Girl Passing Gas

John E. Smoke

Both from the Butthole Surfers' 1988 Hairway to Steven

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Doors of Perception

There's always something interesting in the monthly Doors of Perception Report:

"Upon arriving in Delhi, Garrick Jones told me how intrigued he had been by the Duchamp-related theme of Doors 8. Marcel Duchamp's concept of 'infra-thin' - an 'invisible and intangible separation between two things, a space in which the possible impies the becoming' - struck him as highly appropriate. I was forced, at this point, to confess to Garrick that the Duchamp reference was new to me."

"By what right do we swan around a city capturing information about peoples lives? If we are to exchange value - rather than just take it, or act like cultural tourists - what do we have to offer? ... Nandi was critical of the 'dive bombing' method in which people land in places cold, and start filming things that they see, but have no way of understanding. Jogi Panghaal countered that fresh eyes can reveal hidden value and thus mobilise neglected local resources. Visiting designers can act like mirrors, reflecting things about a situation that local people no longer notice or value. Shamefully, too many visiting designers promise local people they will do this, but never get around to sharing their conclusions and documentation."

"One takeaway from Doors 8 was an understanding that enabling platforms for social innovation need to meet three criteria: they should creatively engage the people they are intended for; they should help people to evaluate the new against the old; and they should help local people retain control over their own resources."

And where hackability plays to some, re-mix plays to others:

"One 'Aha!' moment in Delhi was the realisation that re-mix is not just about new music and vj-ing. Re:mix also signals a broader cultural shift away from the preoccupation with individual authorship that has rendered art (and management) so tiresome in recent times. In architecture circles, the concept of 'recombinant design' has been doing the rounds - but re-mix, as flagged by Joi Ito, is a better word."

*anne thinking

...would my students be offended if I invited a bunch of friends over, got drunk, and we all marked their papers between immoderate and immodest pantomimes of the content?

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