Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Locative technologies and everyday urban life

Classes are almost done, and I've way too much to do, but I'm excited about heading to New Haven on Thursday to talk about technology, space and culture for the Contemporary Architectural Discourse Colloquium at Yale School of Architecture.

I posted my abstract earlier, but here it is again, along with select references:


Location-aware technologies such as GPS and RFID are increasingly being used for a variety of European and North American urban spatial-annotation projects. These desires to “tag” the world-around-us, I argue, can be understood as particular intensifications and materialisations of Western political longings for unified community in times of fragmentation and diversity. But what senses of belonging are we presupposing when we attempt to bind collective memories to singular places? And what kind of community is possible when the technologies and protocols that underpin such projects may be understood, following Mackenzie, as 'kludge' or an 'ill-assorted collection of poorly matching parts, forming a distressing whole'? Borrowing concepts from Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Luc Nancy and Marc Augé, I explore tensions between mobility and dwelling, difference and commonality, memory and forgetting. Accordingly, questions concerning political and ethical participation, and the role of affective encounters such as alignments, identifications and appropriations take on special force. Ultimately, it is my position that any kind of technologically-enabled communalism or collective memory that privileges unity and order threatens to undermine the senses of contingency and potentiality necessary for a politics of hope in everyday urban life.

REFERENCES pdfs available for a limited time

Andermatt Conley, Verena. 2002. "Chaosmopolis". Theory, Culture & Society 19(1–2): 127–138.

Bowden, Brett. 2003. "The Perils of Global Citizenship". Citizenship Studies 7(3): 349-362.

Diken, Bülent and Carsten Bagge Laustsen. 2002. "Zones of Indistinction: Security, Terror, and Bare Life". Space and Culture 5(3): 290-307.

Hand, Martin and Barry Sandywell. 2002. "E-topia as Cosmopolis or Citadel: On the Democratizing and De-democratizing Logics of the Internet, or, Toward a Critique of the New Technological Fetishism". Theory, Culture & Society 19(1–2): 197–225.

Lozanovska, Mirjana. 2002. "Architectural Frontier/Spatial Story: The Problematic of Representing the Everyday". Space and Culture 5(2): 140-151.

I'm really looking forward to some good discussion, and will post my draft paper when I get back.

A few observations and unsolicited advice about grad school

1. If you are lucky enough to receive funding for your PhD research, do whatever it takes to get it all done before the funding runs out. Every day after the money runs out is a source of unrelenting stress that wreaks havoc with your mental and physical fitness and interferes with finishing.

2. If you are lucky enough to get the opportunity to develop and teach your own courses, make sure you still set aside time each day to work on your own project. Spending hours every day reading and marking student papers makes it difficult to stay focussed and finish your own work.

3. If you are not lucky enough to be surrounded everyday by interested and supportive colleagues, do whatever you can to build this network outside of the university. Working alone and without encouragement is dehumanising and makes it hard to finish.

3a. If you are not lucky enough to have your supervisor in the same place as you while you try to finish, regularly scheduled videoconferencing is a good option.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Craft of the week

the beatcowboy's Fetus Popple on craftster.org

Superfreak. So sweet.

To bring by hoping

Hope, noun (origin: Old English, from Saxon and Low German)

1. a. Expectation of something desired; desire combined with expectation.

Hope, noun (recorded only in combination, e.g. fenhop, Hopekirk)

1. A piece of enclosed land, e.g. in the midst of fens or marshes or of waste land generally.

2. A small enclosed valley

3. An inlet, small bay, haven

Hope, verb

1. a. To entertain expectation of something desired; to look (mentally) with expectation.

1. b. With to, for: To look for, expect (without implication of desire), obscure

2. To trust, have confidence, obscure

3. To expect with desire, or to desire with expectation; to look forward to (something desired), chiefly poetic, "To hope against hope"

4. To expect or anticipate (without implication of desire); to suppose, think, suspect, obscure

5. To bring by hoping (1720 Lett. fr. Lond. Jrnl. (1721) 60 "Some hope themselves..into a Halter, but few into their Wishes".)


Pandora's Box:

"[Pandora] opened a jar containing every kind of evil, which straightaway flew out among mankind. Only [elpis] remained therein --- a word hardly equivalent to our Hope, but rather meaning 'anticipation of misfortune'."

"Hope is considered an evil in this story because according to Hesiod it implies the control of the future, and since no one can control the future, to have hope is to be deluded. Other people think that Hope being left in the box symbolizes Hope often being humanity's only comfort...There is also a question as to what was Hope, which is good for mankind, doing in a jar full of evils for mankind."


See also: HOPE | PASSION (and belonging)

Sugar, spice, everything nice. Snips, snails, puppy dog tails.

Wired: What You'll Wear in 10 Years

"With the rapid merging of fashion and technology, future brands of haute couture will probably owe more to Cisco Systems than Coco Chanel...But we're not just talking about clothes made with cool fabrics that retain their shapes or better resist stains -- what's known as 'smart clothing.' We're also talking about clothing with new technology incorporated into its design, aka 'wearable technology'...Students at the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believe young men with a keen interest in technology are more likely to embrace wearable technology trends than are women, who will prefer 'computational clothing,' which does not sacrifice its aesthetic value for the sake of technology."

I've always associated the design and production of soft computing, electronic textiles, computational clothing, etc. with women - but not because I assumed girls like pretty things and guys like cool things. I thought maybe the Media Lab was stuck in some sort of weird gender-role time-warp, but it seems that Sony also still thinks that girls like pink or white gadgets and boys like blue or black ones. Sigh.

For more on clothes & tech, see: Forbes.com: Fashions Of The Future and [USED] Clothing

Friday, March 24, 2006

An attempt to get my brain to unclench

Tom Coates used the phrase in the post-title to describe his motivation for making a map of his recent journeys. (Bless him! He's as obsessive-compulsive as I am.) And I think that Katherine and Jonah still keep a rather comprehensive log and map of their travels. For my part, I make lists and maps of my travels whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by them. (You know, in a vain attempt to control the uncontrollable.)

It took my students until nearly end of term to talk about the fact that all our readings on mobility were written by privileged European and North American academics and architects who travel a lot. No modern primitives, today's nomadic elite stop only long enough to capture and project their own movements - or as Meaghan Morris says, to 'memorialise only movement, speed and perpetual circulation'.

Tim Cresswell points out that the nomad is seen as 'unmarked by the traces of class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and geography', but Sally Munt reminds us that our heroic flaneur is not unmarked but rather ambiguous. His masculinity may be affirmed in his gaze, sexualisation and consumption of the city, but it is also threatened by a more feminine passivity that invites the city to inscribe itself upon him. Still, to undermine these privileged experiences of mobility we need only stand them beside the trafficked and traded, the refugee, the detainee, the migrant worker, the urban gypsy, the homeless drunk, the sex-tourist.

Being mobile isn't just about changing social habits - it's part of the trouble with being human these days.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Internet of things reminder

I'm completely swamped with end of term teaching & marking obligations and other deadlines, but as soon as I have some time to dedicate to discussion I'll come back to the following posts & comments:

Naming the Internet of Things (v-2.org)
Naming the Internet of Things (studiesboard)
Disambiguating (?) the terminology (sketch 2) (orangecone)
Freedom's Just Another Word (emptybottle.org)
Naming the Internet of Things, part two: onto logical (v-2.org)

PS to Bruce Sterling: I have a name and it isn't "her".

Stealing time from the realms of work and capital

Bureau of Workplace Interruptions

"We harness interruptive technology to expose the secret possibilities of the workday. As a time-stealing agency, the Bureau of Workplace Interruptions works directly with employees to invisibly insert intimate exchange into the flow of the workday. Our promise is to create interruptions that challenge the needs of our users and the social and economic conditions of the modern workplace.

You know how receiving flowers at work can put a buzz on the rest of the day? So do we. That's why we create surprise, the kind that slices through the banal and opens up new places for your mind to wander. The ruptures we create are temporary spaces for open dialogue, invisible resistance, and general amusement. In short, we hope to invigorate some of the time you spend at work in order to create new experiences and possibilities outside the flow of capital."

(via social design notes)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Internet of things? I Am Woman, Hear Me Shop!

BusinessWeek: I Am Woman, Hear Me Shop (14.02.05)

And my students keep telling me feminism won. Sigh.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Head just above water

I can't take my eyes off Andrea Offermann's submission to an illustration competition for Yann Martel's Life of Pi. I always thought the book deserved illustrations, and several on the shortlist would be gorgeous in the same ways as the novel.


Thursday, March 16, 2006


Today I've got class to teach and papers to mark, but tomorrow morning I'm off to Montreal for a couple of days.

On Thursday I'm scheduled to speak in Joey Berzowska's Second Skin and Software class about critical research and design - and I'm also looking forward to discussing the students' final project proposals on "second skins that are not what they seem". On Friday, I'm looking forward to meeting with some folks from the Digital Cities Project and Hexagram. And last, but not least, I can't wait for my customary visit to the CCA, where the current exhibition - Sense of the City - is "dedicated to the theme of urban phenomena and perceptions which have traditionally been ignored, repressed, or maligned." More when I get back.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Materialising information ≠ enriching relationships

SEARCHSCAPES: MANHATTAN "is an attempt to create a tridimensional map of Manhattan, using existing data from the web. The objective is to compare the city's 'physical spaces' and 'information spaces' ... Taking the metaphor very literally, a specific address is searched on Google (ex: '1 Broadway' + 'New York, NY'). Such a search will bring mostly results that correspond to this specific location. The total number of text results is parsed and then plotted on a map of the physical space. The height of the 'building' on that location will correspond to the number of results found. More results will correspond to higher 'information buildings'. This is an attempt to materialize information: to give it dimension, physicality. This project is an attempt to give 'shape' to the data that we find on the Internet, but not 'quantify'."

Interesting potential, but there's something about the renderings that leaves me wanting. The worst thing about taking-for-granted that our experiences with the city and each other will be "enriched" by more data, by more information, by making the invisible visible, etc., is that we never have to account for or be accountable to how.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Thank you

I've just written, like, a dozen different intros to the list below, but really all I wanna say is that I've found my work--my practice--to be super-challenging of late, and these people, their words, helped every day, lots.

Teaching Carnival
Teaching Carnival #1
Teaching Carnival #2
Teaching Carnival #3
Teaching Carnival #4
Teaching Carnival #5
Teaching Carnival #6

Teaching Carnival #7 forthcoming Mar 15, 2006 stay tuned!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tag: idolatry

This morning drinking coffee and browsing Timo's del.icio.us links (the best I know on ubicomp-y things), I totally fell in love with Rabbit, an animated short by Run Wrake.

1950s educational stickers portray a world in which everything is visibly tagged with its name, turning the landscape into a sort of futuristic version of ladies' embroidery samplers.

This isn't an idle comparison. Embroidery shares much in common with computation, but contributes a unique history as well. Originally a way to collect patterns, embroidery samplers recorded motifs, served for stitch practice, and then later for reference. Embroidery guilds of Medieval times comprised both women and men, and it wasn't until Victorian times that embroidery became inextricably connected with femininity and women's (leisure) work. As performative objects in a girl's education, embroidery samplers stitched worlds together, framing the identities and values of particular subjects and objects - gender, religion, geography, literature, mathematics. They were a way for girls and women to not only master themselves, but also the world around them. Spatial annotation and the internet of things offer similiar means of mastery, and tell us just as much about contemporary cultures of design and computing as embroidery samplers tell us about Victorian cultural relations.

But it's the story of Rabbit that's so good. We're introduced to a young girl and boy who capture and butcher a rabbit - only to have a golden idol pop out of its belly. The idol, like many tricksters, can transform all sorts of objects--even insects into jewels. The children see great potential for wealth, and put out animal carcasses and jam to attract more insects that the idol can transform into further riches. When they have accumulated enough valuable objects to sell, the boy and girl go to town. However, while they're gone the idol gets restless and turns a passing rabbit into a tiger. The tiger ends up eating the idol, and with his death all the children's riches are transformed back into insects. In the end, the tiger reverts to a rabbit and scampers away from the small bodies of the girl and boy, swarmed with insects, writhing and struggling.

If we transfer this fairy tale, this moral play, to a world of augmented reality where everyday objects are tagged and shared, who or what are going to serve as our icons? How will our fetishes - our idolatries - be revealed to us? What will be our fates?

Sunday, March 12, 2006



I tend to like my bog creatures either happier or scarier, but I'm irresistibly drawn to how bogged down this one is.

From 52 Monsters by Luc Latulippe (via)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

It's all about playing in bogs

Archaeologists are really big on studying bog bodies (and the ones I've seen were certainly high on the Pitt Rivers' Scale of Weird-and-Super-Cool). Almost perfectly preserved by the bog environment, these material histories are able to persist through time in ways not possible in most other environments. However, like ground reclaimed in the Fens, what appears solid is actually full of breaches.

Bruce Sterling has posted his Emerging Tech talk and I'm still fixated on his fixation on words. This whole rationale behind coining neologisms interests me, and particularly how he understands terms like 'internet of things', 'spimes', 'theory objects', 'everyware', 'thinglinks' etc. are being mobilised to replace (with varying successes) what he considers to be no-longer-adequate terms like 'ubiquitous computation'. I think he understands perfectly well how much this is all language games and image wars, and he's playing for all it's worth.

But my favourite bit is when he talks about the need for bogs:
"I rather admire [Adam Greenfield's] term 'everyware.' It's certainly more elegant than 'ubicomp,' which is really a verbal disaster as an English noun, or 'ubiquitous computation,' which takes forever to say and is also hard to spell. I think that Everyware is somewhat confusing in verbal speech, though, because it's a pun. If you Google the word 'everyware' you find there's already a company named Everyware. My main critique of the term is that I'm not sure it carries enough new freight with it. It's a nicer name for an older grab-bag. Has this word been prematurely optimized? Is this word going to scale upward when we start really understanding this emergent technology?

Adam Greenfield is trying to speak and think very clearly, and to avoid internecine definitional struggles. As a literary guy, though, I think these definitional struggles are a positive force for good. It's a sign of creative health to be bogged down in internecine definitional struggles. It means we have escaped a previous definitional box. For a technologist, the bog is a rather bad place, because it makes it harder to sell the product. In literature, the bog of definitional struggle is the most fertile area. That is what literature IS, in some sense: it's taming reality with words. Literature means that we are trying to use words to figure out what things mean, and how we should feel about that. So don't destroy the verbal wetlands just because you really like optimized superhighways..."
So we're left to ponder how data and meaning accrete, how naming tends to stabilise things, and how definitional struggles are exactly where we should want to be. (Deja vu? Me too! If not firmly against disambiguation, this is at least convergence without consensus.)

While he notes interesting differences between hype and argot or jargon, Sterling falls short of acknowledging the ramifications of 'object' mis-identification (however transitional) or the implied reality that un-tagged or dis-connected 'objects' are effectively invisible. In this carefully sorted future/present world, Sterling also manages to exclude himself (and his followers) from discussions around similar or related ideas that do not mobilise the same (lest we forget machine-read) terms. In this world, we can be assured that most, if not all, of the discussions that accrete around terms like 'internet of things' involve people with the same interests speaking the same languages, or those with shared cultures, objects and literacies. So what happens to difference and disagreement?

Sterling piggy-backs Kuhn's paradigm shifts when he implies that when enough of the 'right' people (alpha-geeks) agree that a term is no longer useful to their interests, they agree to come up with new 'right' terms (like the ones above). And of course Sterling is most concerned with shifting processes or transitional states: this is where things happen, where things (be)come True. Where many stories are told, but only some persist.

As the man-himself writes:
Mood: celebratory
Now Playing: Hey lazyweb! Make somebody else do it!
Better her than me, boyo

Friday, March 10, 2006

Internet of things: quotes of the day

On how to get research done, write academic books, coin neologisms and still not come up with a convincing or effective story:

Bruce Sterling: [Shaping Things] is my academic book..this is my attempt to go in and contribute something of value to the design discourse.

BusinessWeek: How did you end up as a "Visionary in Residence" at Art Center?

Bruce Sterling: Well, it had a lot to do with science fiction. I'd been trying to write a novel about ubiquitous computation, a science fiction novel, and it's set, you know, in the mid-21st century, and I'm trying to get it down on paper what it's like to work in an actually functional internet of things, and it's really a kind of serious ideational challenge, I mean it's just hard to make it convincing..I was asked to give a Toyota lecture at Art Center, because I knew people in the faculty..and delivered this sort of impassioned rant, saying, look, you know, I think this is gonna break big, and this is why, and I want you designers to kinda like think about this and help me out. What advice can you give me in kinda doing the background for my science fiction novel? And they just sorta stared for a second and said, well, we can't do anything about that but maybe you should join the faculty.

BusinessWeek: Well, did they help you? Did that design insight help clarify what an internet of things would be?

Bruce Sterling: Yeah, I now know a whole lot more about the nuts and bolts of ubiquitous computation. I'm not really that much closer to doing an effective novel about it, but you know...

BusinessWeek: Well, you don't have that novel but you do have Shaping Things. In that new book you talk about these ages of technoculture, I'm sure all of our listeners are familiar with the Stone Age, and the Iron Age, but you introduce a whole new set of ages: of artifacts, the technoculture of machines, technoculture of products, of gizmos.

Bruce Sterling: Well, I'm not sure that sort of formulation is going to catch on, but it seemed to help me some. Of course science fiction writers like to think dramatically in sorta huge spans of history and future...

On choosing your words carefully:
Bruce Sterling: My main problem with the term ubiquitous computation [is that] ubiquitous suggests that it comes from sorta one central broadcasting tower and covers the world like paint. But, in point of fact, systems of this kind are always patchy..It's not a kinda clean year-zero making-over, what happens is that a new and emerging technoculture composts the old one, it just kinda puts a weight on top and kinda crushes down the old habits and old frames of mind until they kinda gradually lose their colour and just turn into a mulch.

BusinessWeek: [You write that spimes are] "regarded as material instantiations of an immaterial system"...

Bruce Sterling: Well, you know that's just a brilliant kinda mimicry of academic-speak on my part. Only a science fiction writer who was also a design professor could have coined a beautiful term like that. It's almost impossible to recite aloud over a podcast, but on a page it just looks like fantastically impressive. It's like you read it and it's like This is just flooding my mind with insight! I have to put this book down! My brain is full!


[Selective transcription of BusinessWeek Online's "Voices of Innovation" podcast: Interview with Bruce Sterling (mp3) (13.12.05)]

Internet of things: working bibliography

14.09.06 See also: A bibliography of Things

List last updated: 13.04.06

If anyone has PRE-2002 sources that refer specifically to "things" in these contexts, we'd love if they were added in the comments. Cheers.

Auto-ID Center: The Networked Physical World: Proposals for Engineering the Next Generation of Computing, Commerce & Automatic-Identification (pdf) (01.10.00)
HP Labs: People, Places, Things: Web Presence for the Real World (pdf) (02.00)

Forbes: The Internet of Things (18.03.02)
Auto-ID Center: Why Technical Breakthroughs Fail: A History of Public Concern with Emerging Technologies (pdf) (01.11.02)

NACS: The Internet of Things (29.01.03)
Auto-ID Center: Public Policy: Understanding Public Opinion (pdf) (01.02.03)
Info World: Chicago show heralds new 'Internet of things' (15.09.03)
Guardian Unlimited Technology: The internet of things (9.10.03)
Digital ID World: RFID and the Internet of Things (pdf) (11.03)
Sun Developer Network: Toward a Global "Internet of Things" (11.11.03)

Computerworld: The State of RFID: Heading Toward a Wireless Internet of Artifacts (11.08.04)
Scientific American: The Internet of Things (10.04)
Business Week: A Machine-To-Machine "Internet Of Things" (26.04.04)
Sterling keynote at SIGGRAPH 04: Keyed to the future (10.08.04)
BusinessWeek: A Vast Web of Tiny Sensors (01.09.04)

Addison-Wesley: RFID: Applications, Security, and Privacy (06.07.05)
CS Monitor: The Web is all around us - even on the walls (07.07.05)
The Boston Globe: The Internet of things (31.07.05)
Bruce Sterling: Shaping Things (09.05)
GovExec.com: An Internet of Things (01.09.05)
IFTF's Future Now: An Internet of Things, or an Internet of Verbs? (02.09.05)
Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre: Spychips (04.10.05)
ITU Internet Reports 2005: The Internet of Things (17.11.05)
BBC News: UN predicts 'internet of things' (17.11.05)
CIO: Next Big Things: Internet of Things (18.11.05)
BusinessWeek Online's "Voices of Innovation" podcast: Interview with Bruce Sterling (mp3) (13.12.05)
IHT: Wireless: Creating Internet of 'Things': A scary, but exciting idea (20.11.05)

MIT Press: Shaping Things MediaWork Pamphlet & John Thackara's WebTake (05? 06?)
Nicolas Nova and Julian Bleecker: Blogjects and the new ecology of things _ lift06 workshop (pdf) (01.02.06)
Julian Bleecker: Why Pigeons that Blog Matter, or: The Internet of Things is not an Internet of Arphids (17.02.06)
Julian Bleecker: Space, Place and Things — New Rules of Tenancy _within_ the Internet of Things (22.02.06)
Julian Bleecker: A Manifesto for Networked Objects — Cohabiting with Pigeons, Arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things (pdf) (26.02.06)
Melanie R. Rieback et al.: RFID Viruses and Worms (02.03.06)
Dataweek: The 'Internet of things' said to be the next technological revolution (08.03.06)
BBC News: Radio tag study revealed at Cebit (10.03.06)
Julian Bleecker: Society of the Spectacle (2.0): Surveillance in the Internet of Things (14.03.06)
Nature: 2020 computing: Everything, everywhere (23.03.06)

Wikipedia: An internet of things (n.d.)
Newsweek: An Internet of Things (n.d.)

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

To Montreal in search of physical memories

Change of plans: I'll be in Montreal this next Thursday and Friday for a few meetings and to visit Joey Berzowska's Second Skin and Soft Wear class. I'm looking forward to hearing about the students' recent design projects in which they had to create a "second skin" that communicates information to another human/animal/object and explores notions of physical memory or traces of presence. If there are other interesting people or places to see, drop me a line and let me know.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

"Mobile, yet tethered to one another"

Jan Chipchase on Ulan Bataar's mobile phone kiosks:

"The first time I ventured onto the street of UB I encountered an individual on the street holding what appeared to be a white landline..My first hunch was that they were selling used phones. As the day wore on, and more sellers were encountered it became apparent that they weren't selling phones, but rather telephony. A number of the so-called white phone sellers offer infrastructure akin to a traditional phone kiosk to support making a call - and this ranged from a wooden stand to hold the phone to a cushioned seat..To be frank it was a little unnerving, to see a white phone customer walking along the street with the white phone seller walking along side them holding the body of the phone, the cable dangling between them. Mobile, yet tethered to one another."

As much as I love this imagery of being tethered, I'm more interested in the photos themselves. (Check them out.) In them I see a woman in fashionable Western dress walking by a kiosk, a man in more traditional Mongolian dress selling the service, and female customers dressed somewhere in-between actually using the phones. I think these are really interesting cultural dynamics and I'm reminded of how much Jan's posts focus on material culture and technological infrastructure rather than on people themselves.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Buba, mi nueva heroína

Buba por José Quintero. En espańol.

A darkly philosophical little Mexican girl's histories and truths - Vol. 2 is especially nice in content and form.


Everything's coming together

Start by making surrealist-inspired manifestos or montages of your research. Choose a public location to geocache your manifesto. (Hide.) Look for manifestos in your neighbourhood. (Seek.) Place-storm spectacularly and report.

By Jane McGonigal

"PlaceStorming is a collaborative, pervasive play scenario that uses mobile network technologies and digital media devices to facilitate, as a public practice, context-aware and location-specific academic research. It asks participants to cite (reference and interpret) and to site (put into a specific, real-world context) each other’s work in playful and spectacular ways.

  • If my academic research were a superhero, what would its mission and superpowers be?

  • Can computer-supported collaborative brainstorming become a significant part of our individual research practices?

  • What is the challenge of our individual research projects? What does it ask its audience to do?

  • What is the public mission of our individual research projects? What do we dream it will accomplish in the real-world? How do we intend it to intervene in the everyday social sphere?

  • How do we want our research to engage crowds and communities—and to what ends, in which locations?

  • Is it possible to cite each others’ work in a more site-specific manner? To use real-world locations as new kind of context for exploring academic theory?

  • PlaceStorming, as a high-performance game, is also an effort to make academic work more 'spectacular,' in a literal sense, that is 'an elaborate display, dramatic and impressive.' Spectacular research will be able, I believe, to capture the attention and imagination of non-academic communities, that is to say the public, in order to better collaborate and communicate with them. This strategy applies equally well to the goal of achieving more meaningful interdisciplinary impact; spectacular interventions could potentially engage a wider range of researchers than would normally be drawn to study or investigate work from a particular academic domain or design industry."

    From the current issue on mobility in Vectors Journal. (via)

    Friday, March 3, 2006

    Hubble as constellation

    Beyond the Beyond: Man, that Hubble is something else: "The Crab Nebula has never looked crabbier. Look at the detailing on that structure. Who would have guessed that the colossal violence of a supernova would have such a filamentary, mineralized quality? It must be puffing apart at something like half the speed of light, yet it's like a geode."

    I think it looks like a clump of moss that's been pulled apart. And, yeah, it's totally amazing that we have pictures like this: such gorgeous examples of our social and cultural imaginaries.

    Sterling gets it in his post title: Man, that Hubble *is* something.

    HubbleSite: Behind the Pictures

    "When you look out your kitchen window, the view outside is framed by the shape of that window. Likewise, Hubble’s view is framed by the instrument making the observation."

    "Hubble can detect all the visible wavelengths of light plus many more that are invisible to human eyes, such as ultraviolet and infrared light...Hubble uses special filters that allow only a certain range of light wavelengths through. Once the unwanted light has been filtered out, the remaining light is recorded...The use of filters allows scientists to study 'invisible' features of objects."

    "Color in Hubble images is used to highlight interesting features of the celestial object being studied. It is added to the separate black-and-white exposures that are combined to make the final image. Creating color images out of the original black-and-white exposures is equal parts art and science. We use color: to depict how an object might look to us if our eyes were as powerful as Hubble; to visualize features of an object that would ordinarily be invisible to the human eye; to bring out an object's subtle details."

    One of the defining features of an inscription, Latour and Woolgar claim, is a black-boxing of the processes that made its production possible. In the Hubble case we get a peek into the black-box of astronomy imaging. We get a glimpse of the constellation that is Hubble: a dynamic and purposeful actor-network of satellites and cameras and laboratories and computers and technicians and methods and dreams.

    Thursday, March 2, 2006

    Design anarchy?

    I lost patience with Adbusters years ago when they became too self-righteous and commercial for my liking, but Kalle Lasn's new book Design Anarchy might be worth a look-see.

    (via Design Observer)

    Playful surveillance

    In preparing this week's lecture on surveillance and risk for my science & tech class, I reread Anders Albrechtslund and Lynsey Dubbeld's The Plays and Arts of Surveillance: Studying Surveillance as Entertainment (pdf). Although I still don't think the authors are terribly successful at making their case, it's such a departure from most surveillance studies that I'm really curious to see what the students think.

    "Surveillance could be considered not just as positively protective, but even as a comical, playful, amusing, enjoyable practice...[I]n this paper we are not concerned with the subverting, critical potential of cultural reflections on surveillance. Rather, our intent is to draw attention to an emerging range of surveillance manifestations the primary purpose of which is to entertain...

    [T]here is a growing area of what could be called ‘surveillance games’ that seems to call for further analysis: games that use data processing technologies to provide or enhance entertainment, thereby appropriating surveillance devices for their own hedonistic purposes. These appropriations suggest that surveillance is not just a steady growing security industry that requires critical debate and extensive academic analysis (important as these are!); surveillance can also serve as a source of enjoyment, pleasure and fun, as is evidenced in the entertainment industry...

    [L]ooking at surveillance from the perspective of the fun it can bring could contribute to developing analyses of how surveillance can come up in unexpected places, such as online gaming communities, and increase our sensitivity for identifying surveillance issues in innocentlooking practices such as board games...Further study of popular culture aspects of surveillance can contribute to an understanding of how we use concepts and metaphors derived from fiction in surveillance analyses."

    Wednesday, March 1, 2006

    "Beefheartian philosopher of technology"

    I was first surprised, then totally impressed, and finally rather embarrassed to only just now learn that Langdon Winner was invited to join Captain Beefheart. Wow.

    Langdon Winner's Automatic Professor Machine

    Having the Technlogy: An Interview with Langdon Winner in The Fourth Door Review (pdf)

    'I'm not even here I just stick around for my friends': The Odyssey of Captain Beefheart by Langdon Winner

    Not all labour is equal

    Anthony Townsend at IFTF's Future Now:

    "Remember all the maquiladoras that popped up on the border to exploit the US-Mexico wage gap in the 1990s? Expect the same thing as Korea tries to stay competitive with China by exploiting and collaborating with the North. What I still don't understand is why capitalists in Israel haven't found a way to mobilize their lobbying power, stabilize the situation long enough, and do the same thing in the West Bank.

    You heard it here first.

    For managers, a Korean paradise - International Herald Tribune"

    I assume he's being sarcastic about Israel, but seriously, a little critical commentary on production and consumption seems more in order than "You heard it here first".

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