Saturday, April 29, 2006

I txt, therefore I am

As part of Carleton's Enrichment Mini-Course Program, I'm super excited about getting to spend all next week with a bunch of grade 8 and 9 students investigating mobile phones and everyday life.

You can see what we'll be up to in the i txt, therefore i am blog.

At what point does collaboration cease to be reciprocal and simply become appropriation?

When I started blogging my research four years ago, I remember running into other academics both online and offline who thought it wasn't a good idea to share my findings so freely. I remember thinking how sad it was that they were so attached to the idea of intellectual property and their own career advancement. I've since abandoned such self-righteousness, but stand behind my desire to be the kind of academic who shared everything - what I read, what I thought, what I wrote.

I wanted other academics to borrow and build on my work. I trusted them to give credit where credit was due, to return the favour by sharing their own research. And you know what? They did. They do. I haven't lost control of my research and I've had the absolute pleasure of getting to work with, and learn from, some really incredible scholars.

But I didn't start blogging just for other academics. I had lofty - if terribly naive - dreams of becoming some sort of public intellectual. I wanted to exceed the fortifications of the Ivory Tower with every post, damn it! I wanted to give back as much as I could to the people who had funded my research. I wanted to be held accountable.

I especially wanted to learn from non-academics, and share with them what I had learned from my own encounters. I was attracted to the cultures of collaboration and sharing I witnessed online. I found kindred spirits and made friends who have been instrumental in shaping my thinking and writing. It's been good, for sure, but I've also learned an important lesson: not everyone understands or values reciprocity in the same ways. In other words, not all sharing is created equal. At first I thought it was simply a case of some people taking more than they give. But now I think it's more than that: I think it's a cultural difference.

I've written many times, here and elsewhere, that I question the kind of reciprocity at work when a small group of people profit from the work of many others. (And don't even get me started on individuals who profit from the not-for-profit work conducted by academics and others, and that includes accumulating and leveraging social capital from recommendations and the like.)

In the past I would have considered these things amongst the ill effects of capitalism, but now I think it's a bit more complicated than that. After all, some of this labour is actually being done for free. Out of love even, like with Flickr or any number of mod communities. The DIY ethic, in fact, is based on the power of creative re-use and re-appropriation. But these terms are now being tossed around in software and hardware development like organisations and companies only care about democratic participation, and not profitability.

Jean Burgess knows much more about mass amateurisation and vernacular creativity than I do, so I hope she can help me out here: At what point are labour and love exploited? When does collaboration become appropriation?

Friday, April 28, 2006

The not-so-secret lives of objects

Have You Been Out Today?
The Life of a Pen
"I had an idea a while ago to take one new pen and use it exclusively in a new sketchbook until the last drop of ink had departed its valiant, ragged fibre tip. The pen may not be used outside of its dedicated book and the book may not be marked with any other pen (at least not until this one's dead and gone). No pencilling allowed, no proper work, just aimless doodling like I used to do a lot of but don't so much any more. Them's the rules."

Life of a Pen Page Eight
"Nobly ignoring my prophecies of imminent demise some time ago the pen soldiers on heroically..."

Life of a Pen Page Twelve
"Just getting over a monster cold which may have contributed to the dark tone of this page, though it's at least as much to do with the state of the pen: as it's drying out it lends itself more to scritchy scratchy shading."

Life of a Pen Page Nineteen
"It really must nearly be over now. The fibre tip is worn down to less than 0.5mm long. Maybe the ink will run out first but surely another page or two will see off the last remains of the tip. In the meantime, it draws on..."

Yesterday: Life of a Pen Page Twenty-Three...

(via)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Crafting design

"I think the radicalness of design has everything to do with the ability to engage participation. What if design were used as a tool for civic discourse? What if it produced unrest, dissatisfaction with things as they are? What if it were used to engage people, even stirring them to the point of anger? If you don't like the rules of the game, it's your responsibility to break them. Use the democratic process to bring a hell of a lot of people with you."

- Maurice Cox

This and more interesting discussion around the relationships between design and craft at Core 77: Radical Craft: The Second Art Center Design Conference

The connection between craft and design also reminds me of Andrea Tung's Making Things blog, in which she expresses herself as fashion designer, crafty knitter, yarn-marker, fibre designer and entrepreneur - all by way of gorgeous things (like Sandra Backlund's clothes).

It's a Ray Fenwick day

Cancelled IV

If it weren't for The Hall of Best Knowledge I don't know how I'd make it through some teaching experiences. Imagine the things that students say. After final grades are assigned. (Click for larger image.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Unintended feminisms?

soft porn

I don't think I'd find this hooked rug anywhere near as compelling if it weren't photographed in use - but there's just something properly perverse about a dark-haired domestic worker vaccuuming over the breasts of a blond porno chick.

from soft porn art by whitney lee (via)

Towards mobile space as feminine space

Molly Steenson's research at Yale School of Architecture is shaping up very nicely. Her first thesis-related paper is a bit of a jumble of ideas, but The Excitable Crowd: Characterizing Social, Mobile Space (pdf) starts with this interesting question: "Where mobile technology is concerned, might mobility be more feminine than masculine?"

I've long argued that mobility and flow are feminine in their voluptuousness and leakages, and I think it's great that Molly is challenging the idea that technologies are always already masculine. The first part of the essay takes a closer look at how women use mobile phones to feel secure in urban spaces. Molly discusses a UK ad campaign that warns women against showing off their phones in public because it draws thieves, and she wonders what effect that might have on women who show off their phones precisely as a means of creating personal space and security. It's a good question, but I think the matter of risk has to be better sorted before this argument can go any further. For example, how are mobile technologies active in creating and maintaining these urban risks? How do we make arguments for feminised/feminist spaces and technologies that avoid at-risk or potential-victim characterisations of women?

Molly goes on to discuss how Japanese women and girls use their mobile phones to create personal space in public, but it's not clear to me how phones are cute and subversive when they use them but creepy and oppressive when older men use them. I wonder how they are complicit in the creation and maintenance of certain urban risks - it seems a bit off that women and girls have the power to protect themselves from a threat that only they are able to create. I'm not sure that De Certeau would consider that a good tactic! But I haven't read Kenichi Fujimoto's article so maybe I'm missing the whole point.

The next example of how mobile spaces and technologies are feminine involves Molly's discussion of what has been called 'micro-organisation' and 'hyper-organisation'. She points out that women tend to use their mobile phones for social networking - staying in touch with friends and family, arranging meetings, etc. - more than men do. Molly argues that mobile technologies and services have been instrumental in creating and maintaining social capital in urban spaces, and that much of this social capital is being accumulated by, and shared between, women. Very interesting, but again I think the question of social capital deserves greater exploration, especially since the first truly ubiquitous locative or mobile media will most likely be some form of advertising, and this may only better position women as consumers. The desire to create instruments or devices that coordinate and organise our lives has also always been a part of feminist critiques of science and technology, and Molly's example raises questions about what kind of feminism only masters or reappropriates masculine designs.

The final part of Molly's argument addresses how women are using mobile phones in non-industrialised countries. She takes the idea of social capital and argues that it can help put financial capital into the hands of poor women through 'micro-entrepreneurship' practices. (Molly, have you checked out Bourdieu on the kinds and conversions of capital?) I have to admit that I'm highly sceptical of technology in development - especially because it almost always starts with a disclaimer that technology can not fix the world. But Molly raises some good points, and I think we're still really struggling to understand emerging international economies and organisations so open engagement is crucial.

Needless to say, I got all giddy when the paper turned to spatial and cultural theory, although this is probably the section I'm hardest on. Molly defines her understanding of architecture and mobility along the lines of Lefebvre, De Certeau and Latour: space as practice, production and representation. I'm not sure I follow her interpretation of Lefebvre's space of production - she seems to mobilise a network metaphor where I think a protocol metaphor would be much more appropriate. But I was super happy to be reminded of the idea that maps (Lefebvre's representations of space) "will eventually be broken up by the inconsistencies of the governing rules of spatial practice". Nonetheless, I also think her interpretation of representational space requires a little more critical reflection. If it is indeed a sort of field-of-play, it's worthwhile to look at Bourdieu's fields and note how they differ from networks or flows, and to assess the political (as well as gendered) implications.

Moving on to De Certeau, Molly calls on his concepts of strategies and tactics to understand spatial practice, and makes explicit the political dimensions that were a bit overlooked in her use of Lefebvre. This section could have provided a way to flesh out some of her assumptions about space, gender and power but she does argue that "in mobility, the tactic claims space by doing what the strategy does not expect" and we've ultimately got mobility as anti-structure or hybrid space (which has consequences for any argument involving masculine OR feminine concepts). So enter Latour, and Molly extends hybrid space to include networks and assemblies. However, she calls upon his dingpolitik, without actually discussing the political implications and their connections to Lefebvre and De Certeau. The paper then ends rather abruptly as Molly raises the tendency towards universal explanations of space in the works of Lefebvre and Deleuze, and wonders if notions of mobile space either challenge or uphold them. The reader is left with the Big Question: "what is mobile space?" and I guess we'll find out what she thinks when her thesis is done.

There are some really great kernels of ideas here, but I expected the paper to ask more questions in order to give the reader a sense of what the broader thesis project was actually going to address. As it stands, I'm neither sure of where she stands, nor where she wants to go. (Maybe it would have helped if all the theoretical discussion came first and each of the examples applied these ways of thinking and actually offered critiques?) But she's definitely doing something right and I definitely want to stay along for the ride!

Now, all I want to know is why she chose that title ... Mobile vulgus indeed ;)

RIP Raúl Corrales

Dos Trabucos, Raul Corrales, Cuba, 1960

Dos trabucos, 1960

"When there is no longer misery in Cuba, you’re going to starve to death."

- Alberto Korda to Raúl Corrales

See also:

Guardian obituary: Raúl Corrales - Gifted photographer who documented the Cuban revolution with subtlety and style

Radio Habana Cuba - Photo gallery

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Machine guns and jackhammers

knitted jackhammer

Extreme Craft sez: "Theresa Honeywell is tougher than you. Her work reflects her interests in the 'manly arts' with a feminine twist." Damn straight.

knitted machine gun

(via)

Big Love!

I'm a big fan of HBO's Big Love. I started watching the show because I wanted to know how they were going to deal with the question of plural marriage. Would they take the easy route and condemn it? Would they create characters and scenarios complex enough to resist snap judgments? Would they humanise and idealise it?

In my mind, there's nothing inherently right or wrong about polygamy, any more than there's something inherently right or wrong about monogamy. Personally, I don't much care if someone is monogamous or polygamous, although I prefer monogamy for myself. I am, however, completely fascinated by the power relations in both kinds of relationships. And I do care about excesses, transgressions and abuses of power in any relationship.

Just think about it: Western romantic monogamy is not only the least common type of pair-bonding or marriage in the world, it's actually a rather ambivalent and contradictory practice that hints at unresolved tensions between sex, gender, class, public and private life. Mistresses, concubines, courtesans and prostitutes regularly supplement formal monogamy - at least in private, but sometimes also publically. At the same time, these practices are highly gendered: it remains more common, or at least more public, that men are the tolerated adulterers, the women who sleep with them are the sinners, and the wives are the powerless victims. Historically, no special words were used to describe a woman whose husband committed adultery (it was already part of her linguistic status) but a man whose wife committed adultery earned the shameful (public) title of cuckold. In some monogamous cultures it's still not possible for a man to rape his wife, and in others, only women are punished for extra-marital relations, including ones forced upon her, as in the case of rape. In other places, both men and women face prosecution for extra-marital relations, even if they both consent.

It's easy to see then how little space is left for public explorations or expressions of different kinds of relationships, including same-sex marriage or 'open marriages' and 'polyamorous' relationships - all of which involve monogamy while simultaneously redefining it. We also know how Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions are often conflicted and contradictory about sex in general, and while the ideal-of-monogamy can be productively distinguished from monogamy-in-practice, neither myth nor reality implies or compels stable, egalitarian or non-hierarchical relations. Put simply: monogamy is fraught with power struggles and inequalities no less so than polygamy. (And actually, I don't think the two can usefully be separated or disconnected from each other anyway.)

In Victorian times, Lewis Henry Morgan, an early and influential evolutionary anthropologist considered promiscuity to be "the lowest conceivable stage of barbarism in which mankind could be found". But Europe's great men - the explorers, the conquerors - had already returned with tales of harems and geishas, forever exoticising and idealising polygamy - or more specifically polygyny - in the Western male erotic imagination. Even simple prostitution became an act of male connoisseurship, not least because purchasing the services of a call-girl versus a street hooker is considered a marker of class and morals - perhaps most notably if gentlemen are seen to be slumming or if prostitution involves rescue. So it's against this backdrop that any story of plural marriage or polyamory necessarily takes shape, and my interest lies specifically in the historical tendency towards polygyny rather than polyandry, and how this shapes the lives of women.

In Big Love, the audience is encouraged to sympathise with - if not overtly condone - the type of polygyny practiced by Bill's family, and to disapprove of - if not overtly condemn - the kind of polygyny practiced by Roman's family. Bill is presented as a good man, a kind man, a man who loves - and is loved by - Barb, Nicki, Margene and their seven children. In Bill's family, plural marriage is seen to be a worthwhile struggle for everyone. On the other hand, Roman is presented as powerful but corrupt and abusive, an older man with 17 wives, 31 children and 187 grandchildren. This plural marriage manifests itself most poignantly in the bitter defeat of his fourth wife Adaleen, the dubious circumstances under which Bill married Roman and Adaleen's daughter Nicki, and the righteous manipulations of 14-year-old wife-to-be Rhonda.

Of course, it's not quite that simple. In Big Love, polygamy - like any kind of social relationship - involves shifting relations of power. The audience witnesses Bill's benefits as patriarch, and his burdens. The women are in turn victimised and powerful, admirable and pathetic. We are introduced to characters who blindly submit to the practice, others who struggle to make it work, some who are ambivalent, and others still who openly condemn it. The characters and their values compete and cooperate with each other. And despite the richness of everyday experiences afforded to these people, not once does polygamy appear to be 'normal'. Even its most banal expressions take place within an always broader context of conflicting values and experiences.

In each episode we get a glimpse of how isolating the polygamist lifestyle can be. Where polygamy is illegal, the first wife and her children are the only family that can be publically recognised. This means that as second and third wives, Nicki and Margene can only exert their power as wives and mothers in private or domestic settings, and this seems to compel Nicki to treacheries and Margie to intimacies that put the whole family at risk. Everyone is constantly looking out for neighbours and co-workers that would report them to the police, and social interactions are almost exclusively limited to those within the family. (This sense of inclusion also relies on the exclusion of their extended families.) It's impossible to forget while you watch Big Love that these polygamous lives are playing out where monogamy predominates, and so it often seems a sad and lonely life.

Take the episode in which Bill and his first wife Barb have an affair. According to a schedule the wives collectively agree upon, Bill spends one day (and one day only) with each wife in rotation. This allows for some sort of temporary monogamy, which also forms sub-family groupings within the larger family structure. These boundaries within the family are both physical (each wife has her own house) and social (no sex with Bill in another wife's house or during another wife's time) . So when Bill and Barb start seeing each other outside the schedule, and Barb confesses her excitement to a polygamous girlfriend, the friend plainly counsels against getting her hopes up because Bill isn't going to leave his wives for her. (This kind of conservative polygamy should be distinguished from, say, more liberal forms of monogamous swinging or group sex in hetero porn, I think.)

In the third episode, there's a brilliant scene between young bride-to-be Rhonda, and Bill and Barb's 16-year-old daughter Sarah. Sarah asks Rhonda what it's like to be married, and Rhonda corrects her by saying it's just a "pre-marriage placement" to get around the law until she's 16. She insists that she wasn't forced and that Roman is nice to her - which reassures Sarah and the audience that this isn't a case of pedophilia or child abuse. Then she comments, with a knowing smile, on how much the other wives envy the attention she gets because she's younger and prettier. When Sarah remains sceptical, Rhonda calmly states that "the greatest freedom we have is obedience" and I almost fall out of my chair. (Because it's true - and that horrifies me. Even when I know that conformity is not always a problem, I don't admire it. As you can probably imagine, this leads to several political and ethical constraints that I wouldn't otherwise support, but there you have it.)

Now I look forward to watching Big Love because I find all the female characters to be utterly believable, if not always likeable, and that's a pretty rare and beautiful thing in my experience. Barb breaks my heart and Nicki makes me angry. Sarah's character may be the only one I really identify with, and I probably like Bill's mother Lois and his third wife Margie the most because they seem the most excessive or difficult to contain. In any case, these women demonstrate more complexity of character than I have seen on any screen in a long time. And if we've ever wondered what it would be like to slip out of our monogamous bindings, their stories probably offer more truths than we might want to believe. Damn good stuff.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The line between fiction and fact

Pi Patel and Richard Parker being hit by flying fishes
"Words, processed, become images; images, processed, become words. A neat, essential balance, whose fulcrum is the versatile eye."
- Yann Martel


Tomislav Torjanac won the competition, but I still think Andrea Offermann best captured the book's peculiar intensities.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Technology, sex and bugs, Or, Blessed be the religious scholars

Trevor - Do you think I have any chance of scoring a position in a divinity school or religious studies department? Then I could work with people like you and Jeremy Biles on virtuality and fetishism in new technologies...

I mean, check out "I, Insect, or Bataille and the Crush Freaks" (pdf)

It's a brilliant look at bug-crushing* as part atrocity exhibition and part technophilia:

"It is not difficult to see why insects make such apt metaphors for technology. Their highly organized labor, machine-like movements, and apparently imputrescible exoskeletons all liken them to machines. Moreover, the virtual indistinguishability to the human eye of, say, one ant from another in a colony perfectly describes the anxiety-provoking typicality associated with the increasing intimacy of humans and machines. This living metaphor has thus become a metaphor for vital declivity; the insect, a symbol of the machine, is also the machinic harbinger of death. The movement from organic to mechanical is literalized in the many recent occasions of technology mimicking insects, as in the mounting production of entomorphic robots. If the insect is a metaphor for machinery, it is now also its literal embodiment–both a model of technology, and a model for technology ...

This fetish operates on the literalization of the bug-machine analogy, and allows the crush freak to master the anxieties produced by machine culture through an indulgence in the ecstasies of technology ... Serial violence, spectacularly executed and compulsively reproduced, not only reenacts the violent penetration of the body or psyche by external forces; at the same time it grants what it had first sought to suture up: open interiors, visible insides–thus an evacuation of innards that would otherwise remain vacuous, meaningless ...

In my discussion of Bataille, I pointed out that sacrificial killing and perverse sexuality elicit a bursting of the boundaries that define the self, and that in masochistically identifying with the victim or the other, the sacrificer/lover participates in a form of non-productive expenditure, an explosive depletion of the self. Following these same lines, Vilencia’s perverse rites, combining sexual pleasure and death, at once assume and transgress normal, or normative, sexual behavior, predicated on reproduction. Indeed, it is in recording his insect sacrifices that Vilencia is able to reconfigure sexual reproduction as mechanical reproduction; thus 'Squish Productions' treats copulation as commerce–a sterile productivity at once profitable and perverse."

* Some crush freaks prefer frogs or cute rodents and I think that's cruel. Not that I think it's okay to kill bugs, but it is less offensive to me.

(hunted down after reading this post at textually)

From the archives:
What socio-technology can learn from theology (Jan 04)
Prayer is taking place, or, Becoming together (Apr 06)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sweet!


Look for Julie Kientz and friends next to the CHI registration tables, or better yet, contact her if you wanna get in on the action!

(thanks danah)

No maggot lonely

"He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going, and the more he grinds my nose in the shit, the more I am grateful to him. He's not fucking me about, he's not leading me up any garden path, he's not slipping me a wink, he's not flogging me a remedy or a path or a revelation or a basinful of breadcrumbs, he's not selling me anything I don't want to buy — he doesn't give a bollock whether I buy or not — he hasn't got his hand over his heart. Well, I'll buy his goods, hook, line and sinker, because he leaves no stone unturned and no maggot lonely. He brings forth a body of beauty."

- Harold Pinter on Samuel Beckett

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wi-Fi by the people, for the people?

So I'm trying to get my thoughts together on wireless community access, citizen-oriented content and public authoring.

IFTF's Anthony Townsend recently posted on guaranteeing citizens’ role as content providers:

The directions of current municipal projects...are unwittingly viewing the wireless network as a means to escape local communities, and as a one-way street for advertisers to subsidize the network’s operating costs. Therefore, in order to guarantee that municipal wireless networks will enhance citizen’s roles as content providers, cities should:

• Require that wireless franchisees provide significant community access to wireless captive portal pages and splash pages. Ownership, control and access to this resource can be organized in any number of ways – having local students document and chronicle local events and other open content authoring models.

• Cities should demand access to any future advertising channel deployed on ad-supported municipal networks for public service announcement-type content.

I have no idea what he means by "a means to escape local communities" but the advertising bit seems straight forward and expected. It also strikes me as rather obvious that community access should be part of any telecommunications infrastructure discussion: this is, after all, a question of technological citizenship and we still need to address the politics and ethics of 'allowing' others to speak.

But much more interesting to me are comments by Michael Lenczner of Montreal-based community-wireless project Île Sans Fil . He's worried about the effect of ISF and has some interesting thoughts on how access does not = good. Michael also points to the value of non-technologised public spaces such as Concordia's University of the Streets. And Ulises Mejias makes some crucial observations about the commodification and management of social knowledge that deserve further exploration.

See also:

Langdon Winner on Technological Euphoria and Contemporary Citizenship
Leah Bradshaw on Technology and Political Education
Graham Longford on Pedagogies of Digital Citizenship and the Politics of Code

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

By Any Media Necessary

The Upgrade! Montréal - Tactical Media
Hexagram - UQAM – 209 Ste-Catherine E.
April 27th, 2006

"A show-and-tell on tactical media & tactical art, where practitioners work in-between art and politics in order to momentarily occupy and infiltrate structures of mass media & culture."

As if missing CHI weren't bad enough, here's another reason to be disappointed that I can't afford to go to Montréal next week. Sigh.

A visual education too



"Inexpensive Penguins provided a crash course in world literature and the publisher's Pelicans told you everything you might need to know about history, politics, sociology and film. The remarkable thing about these paperbacks is that they offered a visual education, too."

From Underneath the covers

Also:

Penguin By Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005
V&A - 70 Years of Penguin Design
Happy Birthday Penguin
Penguin Classics history

Allow us to judge a book by its cover
"Those who revere first editions and pretty covers, who worry about sun damage to spines and despise pencil notes in margins, are courtly lovers. Those who split open books as if they were ripe fruit, who dog-ear pages and use paperbacks as table mats, are carnal lovers."

updated 18.04.06

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Design critique

Great article by Rick Poynor in the March issue of icon: The Death of the Critic

In assessing the current state of design criticism (not design journalism), he takes a look at three different kinds of design criticism as well as what I would call design critique. From my perspective, there are several differences, but the crucial one is that design criticism comes from within the practice and design critique comes from outsiders. As Poynor explains:

"The final category of criticism takes a more questioning and sometimes even hostile view of the subject. This is the cultural studies approach. It treats cultural production as a form of evidence, taking these phenomena apart to discover what they reveal about society, and viewing the subject matter through particular lenses: feminism, racism, consumerism, sustainability. Design, as a primarily commercial endeavour, makes a particularly good subject for this type of analysis and unmasking. The problem, from a designer's point of view, is that this form of design commentary can be deeply sceptical about many things that a working professional takes for granted. Designers who read it are often confronted with two bald alternatives: feel bad about what you are doing or change your ways. Combative, campaigning criticism - Naomi Klein's No Logo is the best known recent example - is more likely to come from outside the design world."

Brilliant - I finally understand why some designers get so pissed off with me. And if this is what it means to be arrogant and elitist, I renew my commitment to design critique! Just kidding. But that idea points at something of particular interest to me: how individual and cultural differences get negotiated.

I mean, clearly I stand behind being sceptical rather than taking things for granted, and clearly I believe that critical thinking is a fundamental skill for everyday life. Put otherwise, I believe that life is political. I ask myself and my students who we want to be at the end of the day, and if we're willing to accept the consequences of our decisions. I especially value critique when it compels people (including me) to strongly react and defend against change. I believe it is always already more constructive than de(con)structive. In my mind, it isn't about guilt, shame or feeling bad about what we do--it's about honesty, compassion and responsibility. But I seriously object to certain business practices that seem to channel current design and design-thinking, and I know there are designers out there who agree. What seems to be lacking though is any sort of shared commitment to actually do something about it. To change the ways we teach our students, the ways we manage our projects and teams, the goals our businesses and organisations set...

Take Poynor's comments on Ian Nairn's 1955 Outrage issue of the Architectural Review:

"What is remarkable about Outrage is its controlled anger and passion. The purpose of criticism here is to force open people's eyes, to change opinion and make a difference...To produce a scorching critique like this you need profound idealism and a shared sense of what matters, and we have lost this now...Many people find it harder to feel such a keen sense of outrage today because they have ceased to believe that it's likely to have much effect. What counts is to find ways of accommodating things as they are and of making whatever practical interventions you can lever, though these aren't expected to bring about fundamental change."

Is this true? Is today's outrage only another commodity? Have critiques been replaced by catalogues and congratulations?

Poynor concludes:

"I would say we have a problem. We desperately need criticism. It's a vital part of the development of any creative discipline. It helps to shape the way practitioners think about their work and it plays a crucial role in fostering critical reflection among design students. Conducted convincingly, design criticism might even establish design in the public's consciousness - at last - as an activity that has a little more to it than dreaming up cool things to buy in the shops."

Hear hear! And while we're at it, how do 'by-and-for the people' technologies and media help to construct who 'the people' actually are and what they can do? Who benefits from this and in which ways?

(article via Design Observer)

Quote of the day

creativity/machine:

"We have a lot to learn from the practices of late adopters, as well as those of the thoughtful, the sceptical, and the reluctant. We should watch them. We should listen."

Actually, the whole post is interesting, and this reminds me that when I finally have the means to start my Slow Project, Jean is the first person I'll recruit.

Miracles

The Miracle of Cephalopodization

"The cephalopods, formless, tentacled animals, are a significant incarnation of the monsters that tend to symbolize the spirits of the infernal regions. Their ink represents darkness. But used as a culinary ingredient, the fluid also makes for a magnificent sauce used in flavouring paellas and other rice dishes. The Nootka Indians of Vancouver believe that the squid was the first to possess the secret of fire. As the lore goes, several Nootka warriors stole this secret from the creature; the squid subsequently took legal action, but the judicial system was exasperatingly slow and the squid turned into a jellyfish, or medusa. In all known cosmogonies the medusa has bared a negative reputation; it is antisocial, aggressive, and goes hysterical whenever someone enters its den. With its head ringed of serpents, the mere sight of the Gorgon was enough to turn an enemy to stone. The jellyfish provided H. R. Geiger with the inspiration for his Alien, and Vilém Flusser for his Vampiroteutus Infernalis. At Valhamönde Senator Tessek directed the miracle of cephalopod transmutation as a transition to a distorted image of the self, although this is denied by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which all favour a linear rather than a cyclical conception of time."

Joan Fontcuberta - Miracles & Co.

(via)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

That's Dr. Dinka to you

Congratulations David - here's looking at you babe!

I can't believe you finished before me, you bastard! Now it's your turn to keep me company while I finish...

Everywhere expertise and concern

Everyware is becoming ubiquitous, and we get a glimpse of the kinds of expertise and concerns Adam Greenfield sees leading the way.

WorldChanging's Jon Lebkowsky interviews Adam about how and why he got into ubicomp:

AG: "It was a sense that there wasn't really anything out there for people...And yet, despite this extraordinary expansion in the number of people who would be affected by this particular information technology, nobody was talking about it in anything but an academic and technical voice. Sure, there was 7-10 years worth of literature out there. There had been Pervasive conferences and ubiquitous conferences. But there was nothing yet that targeted the smart generalist or the general readership. And that struck me as profoundly wrong. So I bootstrapped myself. Despite not having a background in it, despite not having any sort of engineering background whatever, I went to a couple of Ubicomp conferences and did a whole bunch of research."

Adam, in No boundaries: The challenge of ubiquitous design, on the kinds of expertise still needed:

"I think of everyware not so much as a computing challenge, but as a social challenge. The consequences of endowing the objects and surfaces of everyday life with processing power will are much bigger than a single industry. Based though it may be on the widely distributed deployment of microprocessors, the concepts most useful for understanding everyware will be those drawn from the study of social and cultural evolution...The role of designer assumes a new importance in this context—a new responsibility for ensuring that, wherever possible, the ubiquitous systems we make together improve (or at the very least do not unduly burden) the everyday lives of their users. But if everyware calls upon its designers to act with unusual delicacy, and above all compassion for the needs of a hugely enlarged and diversified user base, it also presents rich opportunities for personal development and growth on the part of those designers. Everyware extends our efforts in that beautiful, endlessly intriguing, occasionally exasperating, place where we all live and breathe."

I changed my mind: an autoethnographic moment

The PLAN event in February 2005 was a turning point in my dissertation. I thought I had it pretty much figured out, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks: I'd downplayed or pushed aside differences between academic, corporate, art, engineering and design cultures because I'd been trying to be diplomatic.

(Cue Bjork singing "I thought I could organise freedom; how Scandinavian of me...")

Online/offline conversations about my research interests with so many non-academics had forced me to try new ways of communicating, and the role I'd most often felt compelled to play is what I call the "good academic". You know, against the Ivory Tower, for the People. I believed that anti-intellectualism didn't exist among intelligent people of any class. I believed that we could - and should - forge common ground.

But over the past several years I'd become particularly sensitive to accusations of elitism or arrogance, which are never pleasant but have particular effects if you're a woman. (What passes as confidence in men is still too often perceived as arrogance in women. And even when men are considered to be arrogant, strategies of dealing with the 'problem' are significantly different than dealing with arrogant women. Add to this more individual or idiosyncratic masculine and feminine reactions to intelligent and powerful women, and the situation can get quite messy.) In any case, I believed that accusations of elitism or arrogance indicated my failure to be a "good academic" and undermined my status as a "good woman". So, with a big grin and a fuck-you, I changed my mind. (It's an easy thing to do when you're not at home.)

The change made things hard and harder. But I started to rally for multiplicity instead of homogeneity. I wanted to belong to "the race of words, which homes are built with" and to "get free of myself". I chose to be guided by Deleuzian ethics. I recognised writing my blog as a method of inquiry and began to see my dissertation as writing to get free of myself.

In defence of my tribe, I claimed that to critique something is not to dismiss or destroy it. I said that to critique something is to see how it changes, or how it can be changed. I considered it valuable, an ethical imperative even, and so I looked to hope, passion and love for guidance. I entered into the fray of research and design ethics and I asserted difference without authority.

I imagined myself on a recursive voyage. I absurdly - and as it turns out quite falsely - declared my voyage here complete. Actually, I still struggled to find my dissertation voice. I felt stretched and twisted. I also struggled to find my professional voice. I still wondered how different people and interests could work together. I still looked to how others were doing it.

I started to prepare for teaching. I got better at describing collective values, and I got better at defining what it means to belong with others. I spoke about transduction and protocol to cultural studies types. I wrote a paper with a designer about what I learned as an archaeologist. I was engaging more difference, but not enough had changed yet. It seems that I still sought revolutionary practice.

I hung out with designers in Berlin and told them that I was looking for convergence without consensus. I challenged us to account for, and be accountable to, precisely those interests that conflict with, or seem irrelevant to, our own. Ironically, for some that very position was a perfect indicator of academic impracticality and arrogance. So no worry of consensus, or convergence either. I lost a little hope.

I returned and re-doubled my efforts. I worked through new ideas and practices, both online and with my students. I began to see more co-option than collaboration in certain relationships, and began to avoid them. I felt more at home with people seeking different perspectives, and I actively sought out different kinds of people committed to different kinds of reciprocal relations. I felt hope again.

Now I have to finish my dissertation. I have to make all this stop. Or pretend that it has stopped. Or something. I have to turn this process into a product. And I'm stalling because I don't want it to end. I want this post to be a part of it. But where can I go from there?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dissertating through blogging

What issues of authorial voice and time arise in the process of writing a dissertation that incorporates some of the blog posts that comprise(d) part of the dissertation process?

The time bit is still troubling me, but following Bakhtin, is there not a "plurality of independent and unmerged voices and consciousnesses, a genuine polphony of fully valid voices"?

"[T]here is no finalizing, explanatory word; the voices of the characters and that of the narrator engage in an unfinished dialogue...[T]he dialogue of the polyphonic novel is authentic only insofar as it represents an engagement in which, in various ways, the discourses of self and other interpenetrate each other...So in Bahktin's conception, Dostoevsky's novels are inhabited, not by the many independent individuals of classical liberalism, but by characters whose truth only emerges in contact with, or anticipation of, another's truth" (Dentith 1995:42-44).

It's easy to see my blog as a collection of polyphonic texts: there are many voices present (and even more absent). Both my sense of subjects (my dissertation research and my blog) and of subjectivities (what it means to me to do research, to keep a blog) have been shaped here over the past four years, and only ever in relation to other subjects/subjectivities. This is an important part of my-becoming-PhD, but how can I tell this story?

If I cull my archives chronologically and present a linear narrative of my research experience and educational journey, it quickly becomes appparent that although the posts may be ordered chronologically, the content within each post travels forwards, backwards and sideways in time. Rather than revealing some sort of sequential march towards my research conclusions or change in professional status, I most often seem to take one step forward, two steps back, and always a few to the side before going forward again from another place. I repeat myself, I contradict myself, I change my mind. I speak in first-person and third-person, as blind and as omniscient. I try out the voice of authority, get a feel for self-deprecation. I play, and it's not always fun.

My research subject isn't easily contained either. There are many different texts and images from many different contexts that have been mobilised. Many too have been abandoned, or forgotten or had their links amputated. Some appear enshrined in my dissertation; some do not. There are also many readers of these texts and images, and even though so few are known to me, I still (re) act with those present and absent. Some leave comments, some link to me, some send email, some talk to me at conferences, but most never approach me. What kind of community is this?

How can I write in the present, about these posts made in the past that also perform multiple pasts, presents and possible futures?

"Our stories are the masks through which we can be seen, and with every telling we stop the flood and swirl of thought so someone can get a glimpse of us, and maybe catch us if they can." (Grumet 1987 as cited in Alvermann)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Research as writing as research: voice and time

William G. Tierney, 1997, "Lost in Translation: Time and Voice in Qualitative Research," in Representation and the text: re-framing the narrative voice, edited by William G. Tierney and Yvonna S. Lincoln, pp.23-36, Albany: SUNY Press.

VOICE

I, the interviewer

"Another form for the author is to enter the text as a researcher who provides the reader with partial transcripts from the interview protocol. What one finds in this text is again the stable presence of a researcher; readers are ostensibly able to be as close to the data as is possible: we read the transcripts." (p.26)

Example #1

AA: Do you carry guns? Why yes or no?

Amer: Yes, I like to have guns because we have to defend ourselves. I am not scared of machine guns.

Example #2

Student: I know for myself, living here as the only black RA [Resident Assistant]in this building, the things that happen to me that I can say have to do with my race or my sex, it's the racism that comes out first.

Interviewer: Yes, I know exactly what you mean. Throughout my life I've always felt that when I walk into a room where there are mostly white people, I'm first seen as a black, then as a woman.

"Although the narrative style is similar, there are also significant differences. In effect, the author has three voices. One voice is the 'I'—'as we talked further.' The second voice is 'the interviewer.' Indeed, unlike the first example where the author's initials are presented, we read the role rather than the individual—'the interviewer.' And yet the author also enters the text not simply to move the action along as a narrator, but also to present a human side to the discourse—'I know exactly what you mean.' Thus, in this text, the author offers three different identities—narrator, interviewer, participant." (p.26-27)

I, the omniscient narrator

"What occurs in these texts is that we again see a stable narrator—or rather do not see, but hear the action move along in a singular narrative fashion." (p.27)

TIME

linear time & disjunctive time

"One way [linear] to express the events in a text is chronologically, so that the reader discovers a beginning, a middle and an end. The manner in which an author presents him or her self in the text often coincides with the temporal nature of the text...A more commonplace way [disjunctive] for the author to deal with time is to disregard it...These kinds of comments assume that the temporal nature of the data is unimportant. This form of comment is the temporal equivalent of the omniscient narrator."

disjunctive and linear time, present tense

Present tense and linear time "calls for a willing suspension of disbelief; like all listeners, we know that the storyteller knows the end of the story. The story already has happened. But we join in a sense of disbelief because we want to be told how the story ends. When disjunctive time is used in the present tense...the reader is aware that the story has concluded; we do not need a sense of disbelief." (p.29)

disjunctive and linear time, past tense

"Here we learn that the action has happened and the author is retelling the story. We again do not need to suspend disbelief because we are not expected to be involved in the text. The past tense can be used with either linear or disjunctive time." (p.29)

[...]

"What we learn, then, is that the proposition of time in our qualitative texts seems to be either-or. We use either the present or the past. Time either unfolds chronologically or is irrelevant." (p.30)

Sunday morning gazette

The Cultivation of Idiosyncracy. (Thanks jaceee!)

Making the case for neologisms: Screensucking. EMV. Frazzing. Gemmelsmerch. Spammified. Cellopain. Regurgimailer. Reverberon. Logonorrhea. Bluetooth fairy. "A world transforming itself at an almost cancerous pace requires an exponentially new vocabulary." And people love chaos because it gives them the chance to bring it to order.

Jodi Dean looks to amputees to understand wholeness, excess and lack. And Thorstein Veblen on The Barbarian Status of Women, circa 1898.

Mr. Potter’s Curious Dioramas and more exotica from Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society: The Piraha "have no creation myths, tell no fictional stories and have no art". See, no such thing as cultural universals.

The debate over public shaming goes mobile. Take a picture and put it on flickr--it'll last even longer! (via) Maybe all we need to do is discourage the bad behaviour with "an unpleasant sticky substance"?

"Virtuous stewards treat nations and tribes as enduring entities with sacred rights to time-honoured legacies." Is this resisting mobility? MigMap: Mapping European Politics on Migration: Places and Practices (via critical spatial practice) But what are museums for anyway?

Obituary: Stanislaw Lem. Solaris. Microworlds. Tale of the Computer that Fought a Dragon.

Public intellectuals are thriving in the United States. Merde! Who's plotting the assassinations this time?

Roots of the Rúntur looks at the changing lives of Icelandic fishing communities. Apparently teenagers there look like magazine models and spend a lot of time in their cars. (via wmmna)

What those numbered stickers on your fruit and veg mean: "Conventionally grown has four digits; organically grown has five and starts with a nine; genetically engineered has five numbers and starts with an eight."

If teenagers prefer MySpace to diaries tucked between mattresses and notes stuffed in old books, does this mean we'll no longer find hard confirmations like Duran Duran Rules? And is it the lack of physical presence or the public-ness of online journals that lead mothers to wonder if it's not okay to peek?

"Alex acknowledged that his people had settled there for several years, but he didn't describe it as a place they had lived. 'Here,' he said simply, 'is where we survived'."

iheartbacon.com (via things) And what do you get when you cross a wonderful, magical animal and a gummi Venus de Milo? Why bacon gummies, of course. Update: These are the best bandages I've ever seen.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

I love your sparking eyes...

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Crashing CHI

I've finally come to terms with the fact that I can't afford to register for CHI and I'll simply have to crash the conference.

I'm supposed to participate in a great-sounding workshop - here's my position paper on forgetting - that I agreed to attend before I found out how much it costs. The extra annoying bit is that this will be the cheapest CHI I'll ever be able to attend. It's in Montreal, I've a place to stay, and I qualify for student price. But the cheapest price is still US$595 for a one-day workshop and one day of the (4 day) conference. (According to Jofish's post to SIGCHI, the fees just keep going up and up.) And it would still cost me another couple of hundred for transportation and food. That's this month's rent and then some! But this is about more than me:

"HCI, more than many fields, recognizes the importance of interdisciplinarity. I believe that [sic] year's emphasis on the different HCI Communities is an effort to open up CHI to those with different interests within the larger field. I know that as a workshop co-chair, we were encouraged to use the workshop as a way to attract people to CHI who might not normally come. But with fees at the levels they are, it's a very hard sell. Fees at the levels they are exclude not just my colleagues in the arts, in anthropology, science and technology studies and the humanities in general, but pose a significant barrier to any participation from practitioners or researchers in India, or China, or Russia, say."

Like Jofish says, neither my department nor faculty can pay these fees either. And if one doesn't have a credit card, or wish to go into debt, there are no other options. And that doesn't even begin to address barriers to travelling across the world...

Paul Dourish follows Jofish's comments:

"CHI's change in fee structure is not merely a fiscal decision; it is a major change in policy about the conference and what we want it to be. I and my students were already committed to attending CHI -- because we are all making contributions to the program in the form of workshops, papers, etc -- and so this year's major hike in fees is something that we are just going to have to live with. Next year, though, I expect -- for the first time since I started attending the conference in 1991 -- to be targeting other venues and encouraging my students to do the same. If CHI is not a venue that academic researchers can afford to attend, and if in consequence people send their papers elsewhere and the submission rates fall, the program is going to change in character and prestige considerably."

This is about community-building, it's about who's going to have a participatory role in imagining and making new technologies and who isn't. So let's talk "community".

Unlike Jofish and Paul, I don't really consider myself part of the "CHI community". Or rather, what community exists between us is one of shared interests rather than direct interaction or participation. I've never attended a CHI conference and my paper and workshop submissions have been called "unprofessional", "novice" and, more than once, "irrelevant". (I admit to being surprised when my workshop paper was accepted this year.) But comments on my work from important-HCI-types have also been quite positive, even when they almost exclusively end with something like "This is so different!"

And so here's the crux of the matter: the "CHI-community", like most other "communities", is based on familiarity, too often not knowing how to deal with difference or the unknown except to ignore or exclude it.

But I believe that community is a process not a product. Part of what I talked about at Yale Architecture last week was how community is a really ambiguous term, or rather how differently it has been defined and desired. Rather than viewing community as either a point of departure or as a place to return, I see it as something we do every day. Agamben's means without end. In a way, then, I'm not part of the "CHI community" because I don't think it exists. Or rather, I don't think it's a fait accompli. And that means we can change it.

If I crash CHI, what's the worst they can do to me? Throw me out? It's where I'll be anyway - handing out open research manifestos to the paying customers.

Friday, April 7, 2006

"I want to start with a number of slides about moving cities..."

We are going to do bad things but we are not bad people



The Supremacist by Pierre La Police

"The Supremacist would appear to be a sort of immobile film, or rather a random movie trailer with the particularity of straying a little further from the meaning of the film with each image. Visual details of the most extreme incoherence come to flirt with a handful of lost sayings which seem in some cases to only have meaning by accident..."

via wood s lot

Woo! Patriarchy!

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Prayer is taking place, or, Becoming together

Building on Patricia Lather's voluptuous validity and John Law's mess and method, I've been working on writing up my dissertation's "methodological framework" in a way that doesn't violate exactly what I'm talking about. The very requirement of including a chapter on methodology interferes with what I'm trying to think and say and do. It's very frustrating and I feel suffocated and anti-social while I work on this.

So I'm reading a novel about Fenlanders and I'm trying out metaphors of siltation, of flow, of reclamation. They hint at mobility. They hint at power. They hint at socio-technical obduracy as an obstacle to socio-technical change. They also hint at some sort of absurd Sisyphean situation, or a scene that ends with "'Well? Shall we go?' 'Yes, let's go.' They do not move." They also hint at the actual process of writing my dissertation. They look more like blog posts, a constant flow with the occasional one exceeding its confines--its structures and locations--by (be)coming together with others.

Chapter 6 in After Method is dedicated to non-conventional forms. Law basically claims that "method assemblages" craft otherness or create difference, precisely in their "condensing [of] particular patterns and repetitions whilst ignoring others". (Nothing new here: a boundary argument.) But then he spends several pages discussing Quaker assemblies and I get really interested. Law writes about how Quaker meetings "break down the boundaries round the person so that he or she can be 'used' by the spiritual." Saturated. Overflowed. Exceeded. As the Quakers have described: "In such an experience the brittle bounds of our selfhood seem softened, and instead of saying 'I pray' or 'He prays' it becomes better to say 'Prayer is taking place'."

(The second meaning of prayer in the OED is 'one who prays'. Pray-er. Coming together through asking rather than telling. Latour's matter-of-concern, not matter-of-fact.)

In the Quaker world, and everyday life in other Anabaptist communities, the sacred and the profane (be)come together. And after chatting with Trevor this morning, I have to wonder if this isn't also a rather lovely example of Nancy's being singular plural? So, as Law then suggests, the question*--and I think our broader challenge--is "how to live it; how to know it; and how to tell it."

I'm not any closer today to knowing how to tell it or how to write it beyond what I have just written above, but I've always admired Lucretia Mott's sense of how to live it and know it:

"In 1840, a World's Anti-slavery Convention was called in London. Women from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, were delegates to that convention. I was one of the number; but, on our arrival in England, our credentials were not accepted because we were women. We were, however, treated with great courtesy and attention, as strangers, and as women, were admitted to chosen seats as spectators and listeners, while our right of membership was denied--we were voted out. This brought the Woman question more into view, and an increase of interest in the subject has been the result. In this work, too, I have engaged heart and hand, as my labors, travels, and public discourses evince. The misrepresentation, ridicule, and abuse heaped upon this, as well as other reforms, do not, in the least, deter me from my duty. To those, whose name is cast out as evil for the truth's sake, it is a small thing to be judged of man's judgement."

*Latour more annoyingly, um, assembles this question: "What if we had to imagine not an assembly of assemblies, not even an assembly of ways of assembling, but an assembly of ways of dissembling?"

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Made for city life

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Efficient society

Alain Reno - La société efficiente

Alain Reno - La société efficiente (via)

Safe passage

Brilliant: Amtrak Quiet Car Service

"Many trains feature Quiet Car service, intended to provide a peaceful, quiet atmosphere for those who want to work or rest without distraction.

To help ensure that our Quiet Cars live up to their name, please follow the guidelines below.

No Talking, Please: Customers must strictly limit conversation and speak only in quiet, subdued tones. If you'd like to carry on an extended conversation, please relocate to another car.

Mute Your Device: Customers may not use any devices making noise, including:

* cellular phones
* pagers
* handheld games without headphones
* laptop computers with audible features enabled
* portable CD or DVD players without headphones

Customers using headphones must keep the volume low enough so that the audio cannot be heard by neighboring passengers.

Amtrak personnel may ask passengers who fail to follow these guidelines to relocate to another car."

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Catching up

Today was our last class for the term and, super geek that I am, I'm actually looking forward to reading my fourth year students' final projects. Inspired by Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, I came up with Chloe in Ottawa and Leonia in Ottawa. After so much emphasis on academic literature and research, my students were a bit surprised they were being asked to conduct public observations and write a personal narrative, but in the end they seemed to have enjoyed it a great deal.

And just because I didn't mention it sooner doesn't mean I didn't have a wonderful time visiting Yale - what an impressive bunch of graduate students! (Special thanks to Joy and Leslie for inviting me.)

I was told my presentation went well - more to follow on the talk itself - and I certainly got some good questions and feedback. (Note to Ruth: I've finally reached the point where I can speak with depth and breadth for over an hour, and without notes, but still not as well as you!)

A special highlight was lunch with Dolores Hayden and a group of wicked smart female grad students, and our discussion about current challenges to feminism. (I'm most grateful to have been reminded that any attempt to change the world involves setbacks and backlashes as well as triumphs, and that is precisely why we must not become complacent.)

I mean, how cool is that? I get to meet and have lunch with one of my favourite scholars of space and culture and we get to talk about the place of women. (And it came with a fantastic mushroom soup.) Special thanks also to Molly and Enrique for their excellent company and hospitality in New Haven, and to all the others who kept me smiling the whole time I was there. (Note to Molly: I have to come back to visit the Peabody. Before you leave.)

But right now there is something else I really should be finishing. (It's on the way, Matt, I swear.)

Monday, April 3, 2006

Sunday morning gazette

There appear to be strange connections between nomadic marriage practices and genetic mutations. And despite people's discomfort with non-traditional families, HBO pushes forward with their new drama about the everyday lives of a polygamist family.

It also seems the over-privileged and shallow are attempting to take over what it means to be an adult. On the other hand, what's to gain from not buying in a society dominated by consumption? Perhaps a world where objects are more than commodities?

Caterina and Stewart are right: we are experiencing a culture of generosity and there is something truly beautiful about building a place for the eyes of the world. And Tom is right that social media encourage people getting back more than they put in. But when Yahoo explains exactly why they were impressed by Flickr, it's kind of hard to miss that financial profit and wealth aren't amongst the things being shared.

Glen Fuller takes a critical look at how "subcultural media manipulate and exploit the affects of an enthusiasm (or interest), not as a means directed to an ends, but as a way to generate activity".

I've been trying out the Perec exercises Matt posted, and I much prefer the idea that designers are social engineers instead of slaves to industry. It gives designers enough agency to be able to take responsibility, and be accountable for the worlds they shape.

How to Make the Invisible Stay Invisible: Three Case Studies in Micropolitical Engineering (pdf) by Catherine D'Ignazio

In Anthropology Among the Disciplines, Rena Lederman is taking a closer look at the differences between disciplines and why anthropologists might not like non-anthropologists claiming the title (via). Now before a certain friend again accuses me of being elitist and arrogant, my claim isn't one of superiority, authority or right of use, but rather one of acknowledging and respecting difference. In related news, danah boyd has apparently become a cultural anthropologist.

Planet of Slums sounds good. And maybe more interesting on tactical levels than Shadow Cities, although Squattercity often has good stories. But has anyone else ever wondered about the ethics of using slums as aesthetic inspiration?

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