Monday, March 24, 2008

Underground aesthetics and ethics

SeeShell by Johanna Brewer

"SeeShell is my new project, an augmented Oyster Card (the RFID-enabled Underground ticket) holder which displays, over time, the journeys a rider has taken.

When a user passes their Oyster card (which is inside the SeeShell) over the touch-in point at the gate to the station while they are entering or exiting, the SeeShell, using RFID, senses which station the user just passed through and over time a map of the stations they have visited begins to emerge on their Oyster Card holder.

When you purchase an Oyster card it is not necessary that you give up your identity, but you must register the card if you want to purchase a monthly or yearly pass. Registration allows you to recover a lost or stolen card, but obviously comes with the trade-off of having all of your journeys (which are traceable) linked to your name. The Oyster system already tracks users' journeys but there is no convenient way for the users to access or make use of that data.

By building SeeShell on top of an already existing system, I hope to show how lived patterns of mobility might be leveraged in new ways and placed back into the hands of their creators."

In a paper on underground aesthetics (pdf) for IEEE Pervasive Computing last year, Arianna Bassoli, Johanna Brewer, Karen Martin, Paul Dourish, and Scott Mainwaring explain how Londoners used to give their paper day-travel tickets to strangers at the tube station when they were done travelling for the day and wouldn't need them anymore. They also describe how free newspapers are commonly left behind so that other passengers can read them. While the authors recognise these material objects as "potential interaction points" that "acknowledge current and future passengers," I think they underestimate the ethical implications. Whether or not there is any direct (i.e. conversational) interaction, in both scenarios people act as though they are socially obligated to each other. The ethic of this paper-based aesthetic involves collective action. In political terms, we could call it community or citizenship.

The SeeShell project works within the framework or system afforded by the Oyster card. Since the RFID-based card is a personalised and reusable device, there is no opportunity or need to share it in the same way as the day-travel card example above. We might even go so far as to say that its use encourages personal rather than social relations. By positioning agency in terms of how "users can conveniently access and make use of data," the SeeShell project may indeed offer the individual new means of self-awareness and aesthetic expression. But this kind of parasitic or participatory surveillance does nothing to encourage a social ethic that binds people to each other, or a sense of citizenship that challenges the surveillant assemblage and its atomising effects.

I'm not saying that I don't like the project, or that all projects need to be social and political. What I'm saying is that as new technologies attempt to shift from interaction models to participation models, we might take a closer look at what we mean when we describe design in terms of user empowerment. What kind of agency or power is this?

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

How would you evaluate a chair?

I was just looking at student project proposals for Dori Tunstall's design research methods course, and I was quite impressed by how the following two projects merge the concerns of anthropology, art and design:

Anna Leithauser, MFA Student Graphic Design, The Art of Bookspines (pdf)

The project investigates the use of bookspines as designed objects, as consumer items, and as decorative art. The goal is to study both how bookspines have impacted the design, sales, and evolution of books and how changes in the book industry have affected bookspine design.

Brett Jones, BFA Student Graphic Design, Expensive Sneakers in the Hip Hop Community (pdf)

This project studies the role of the marketing of African-American hip-hop rappers and athletes in making expensive sneakers a necessity and obsession in the African-American hip-hop community.

I was recently asked to explain what I think the connections are between anthropology and design, and I tried to describe how both involve thinking, doing and making.

Objects That Look

"Despite police ‘crackdowns’ and the increasing availability of willing sexual partners online, the canal remains popular with men seeking anonymous and impersonal encounters with other men. During my fieldwork I employed a combination of ethnographic voyeurism and online ethnography to gain an insight into this capricious and difficult to access group. Sketch enabled me to place the witnessed body into a photograph of the empty site, avoiding the ethical, legal and practical complications of recording participants’ identities during ‘the act’. The downside of the technique was that ultimately the other becomes my creation in the collages. However this feels a more honest representation of my experiences and the men’s objectification of each other when cruising."

Michael Atkins, MA Visual Anthropology, University of Manchester

**

Design Anthropology – When opposites attract (pdf) by Werner Sperschneider, Mette Kjærsgaard and Gregers Petersen

"Design anthropology is a point of view: Not our (the designers) point of view not their (the users) point of view, but an additional point of view, a double perspective ... There are different levels of intervention in the field with users, but design is always a social activity. Involvement in situated practice is about people and their activities, and understanding one's social intervention through a piecing-together."

**

"I think there is a role for anthropology along all of the steps of the design process. But of course I would say that. Anthropology can help inspire new designs by providing profiles of users and stories about contexts of use. Anthropologists can play on design teams as designs get developed to sensitize designers to culturally and context specific issues. And finally, anthropologists can evaluate the effectiveness of designs through studies of actual use in context, either prototype, pilot, or after product roll-out."

- Mimi Ito, Interview with Mimi Ito by danah boyd

Today in class we watched Manufactured Landscapes, a documentary on Edward Burtynsky's photos of where things come from. Everyone claimed that technological progress comes with a high price. No one felt they could do anything about it.

Design Education as Applied Anthropology by Anthony Inciong

"Design education for me is an opportunity to connect with the world in a variety of ways. My goal is to exploit a potential – to reveal how an anthropological perspective might be used to raise the potency and relevance of design ... I’m not proposing a creativity-eschewing, scientific study that has us spinning our wheels ... I’m interested in developing a practical method that accounts for our propensities as creative individuals but also facilitates our putting those to use in appropriate ways."

Visualizing Information for Advocacy (pdf) by John Emerson

IxDA video: Ethics of Everyday Design by Gabriel White

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Technological force and social counter-force

'For every technology we embrace, we should require of ourselves an answer to the question, "What counter-force does this thing require from me in order to prevent it from diminishing both me and the social contexts in which I live?"'

The Trouble with Ubiquitous Technology Pushers (Part 2) by Steve Talbott, January 27, 2000

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Affect

"The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief, which is at the heart of all popular religion, that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart." - Richard Adams


Update 05.12.07:Should have actually looked this up before posting. In the comments, Jean-Louis attributes the quote to Walter Lippman which makes much more sense but, sadly, isn't quite as interesting.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A few questions about design ethics

For the past few years I've taught mostly STS classes, and teaching power and everyday life this term has been an interesting shift that's really challenged me to question what might constitute ethical practices of everyday life. For example, I've been following with some interest recent debates about anthropologists consulting for the military. Given historical and current geo-politics I wouldn't do it, but over the years I've heard researchers and designers say everything from "The pay is great!" and "Who else do you think funds this kind of work?!" to "Someone's gonna do it, so it might as well be me!" and "I have no problem with this."

Only a very few have bothered to ask "Doesn't it depend on how the research/consulting is done, and how it's used?" Score for attention to situational rather than universal ethics--but are 'we' really such an individualistic bunch? And at what point can we say that someone subscribes to a standard of ethics but not to ethical practice?

Over at Design Observer, Elizabeth Tunstall has written a piece asking What If Uncle Sam Wanted You? or more specifically, "What if the U.S. Army asked designers to join teams to do 'service design' projects in Afghanistan?" It's worth reading the whole thing for insights into the different perspectives of anthropologists and designers, and then move over to her blog for how she's actually a bit concerned by designers' responses to the article.

I'd wager that for most people attracted to, and trained in, understanding social and cultural interaction, the confounding bit is the value these designers placed on individual choice instead. But as Dori more pointedly asks: "As design seeks to expand its progressive impact on business, government and society, I wonder if we, designers as thinkers, can continue to afford to see ourselves in such individualistic ways."

I think it's interesting, too, that she brings her students into the discussion. Time and time again at conferences and workshops, I've noticed significant differences between those who actively teach and those who do not--especially when it comes to witnessing cultural (including generational) changes. In fact, the classroom is one of the very few places where I encounter difference that I am not allowed to ignore, or to circumscribe in ways that reduces or flattens it to conversations amongst 'equals' - and that is something I believe more designers could stand to do in their own work.

What I mean is that things are changing. My students also see themselves as part of a bigger, more diverse, more unequal, and more interconnected world--and they have different ethical expectations than most of the established practitioners I meet. They have genuine concerns that professional life will involve more ethical standards than ethical practices, and they object to this. Given these and other differences, it's not surprising to have seen their concerns casually dismissed as youthful naivety, and formally opposed as threats to lifetime career interests.

But for me, the more disturbing bit is that these concerns are actually given a lot of lip-service, in much the same ways as ethical guidelines can become ethical alibis for practitioners who ally themselves in abstract, but not concrete ways.

So let's get more specific: Is consulting for the military unethical? Well now it depends, doesn't it? I recently had a very interesting conversation with a scientist who regularly consults for the US military. He argued that the issue should not be if consulting is unethical or not, but rather what kinds of consulting may be unethical. I agreed, and when I asked him for an example he claimed open research as the most important value for scientific research, and explained he would only work on projects that did not involve non-disclosure agreements and proprietary research. For him, closed or restricted knowledge, whether supported by the military or a corporation or the university, was simply "bad" science. And this made me wonder if designers have a sense of "bad" design that might preclude, for example, working on proprietary projects with NDAs?

Historically, design interests have been so well aligned with the logic and desires of capitalism that many a joke has been made about whether design can ever be an ethical practice. But most designers I know don't find these jokes very amusing, and I've never met a designer who enjoys being characterised as a dilettante when it comes to social, political and ethical matters. At the same time, many have become very frustrated at the suggestion that they simply not work with clients they think 'do harm'. They insist: "That's not a very practical option!" which, ironically, returns us to jokes at their expense.

But are design's clients only ever the ones who, for example, require NDAs and create proprietary knowledge? Of course not. Designers do have and make choices every day, but there appear to be rather serious obstacles to seeing these choices as something other than individual or personal matters. And this, of course, makes it very difficult to hold them socially accountable for their actions, or inactions.

In any case, I certainly don't have all the answers and I'd love to hear from students, teachers and design practitioners about any of these things! What do you think?

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Human terrains and other entanglements

After a wonderful visit with friends from London, we're off to Montréal in the morning for the 4S conference -- more on that as it unfolds.

Meanwhile, I was searching academic job postings this morning and was seriously alarmed at how many PSYOP positions were available. This is a difficult topic I don't have time to tackle right now, but I want to collect some links here on the US military's "human terrain teams" and anthropological ethics that I can return to later.

The Military Utility of Understanding Adversary Culture (pdf) by Montgomery McFate
US Army:
- Networds: Terra Incognita and the Case for Ethnographic Intelligence
- The Human Terrain System: A CORDS for the 21st Century
New Yorker: Knowing the enemy
CS Monitor: US Army's strategy in Afghanistan: better anthropology
NY Times: Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones
SF Chronicle: Montgomery McFate's Mission
Boston Globe: Efforts to aid US roil anthropology
Economist: Armies of the future
Savage Minds:
- Anthropologists as Counter-Insurgents
- Some general thoughts about anthropology, interrogation, and torture
- Cultural Dynamics in Interrogation: The FBI At Guantanamo
- Professor Griffin Goes to Baghdad
Antropologi.info:
- More and more anthropologists are recruited to service military operations
- The dangerous militarisation of anthropology
- Anthropology and CIA: "We need more awareness of the political nature and uses of our work"
CAC Review: Anthropology's Dirty Little Colonial Streak?
David Price: Writings on Anthropology's Interactions with Military & Intelligence Agencies
NCA: Pledge of Non-participation in Counter-insurgency

In related news, the 2008 CASCA conference theme is 'Ethnography: Entanglements and Ruptures' with a special symposium on 'The Promise and Perils of an Engaged Anthropology'. Catherine Lutz is giving the keynote talk entitled "Ethnography in an Era of Permanent War" and abstracts for papers and panels can be sent to casca@connect.carleton.ca by October 15th.

UPDATE 02/11/07: David Price's article in CounterPunch - Pilfered Scholarship Devastates General Petraeus's Counterinsurgency Manual - raises serious questions about academic integrity and the role of the University of Chicago Press in publishing the Counterinsurgency Field Manual for the public. (Thanks B!)

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Scientific ethics

The British government's chief scientific advisor has set out a universal ethical code for scientists.

1) Act with skill and care, keep skills up to date
2) Prevent corrupt practice and declare conflicts of interest
3) Respect and acknowledge the work of other scientists
4) Ensure that research is justified and lawful
5) Minimise impacts on people, animals and the environment
6) Discuss issues science raises for society
7) Do not mislead; present evidence honestly

Professor Sir David King: "It's important to look at the relationship between science and the public. If we have a breakthrough, and society is not accepting of that, then we have a problem; so what we need is for scientists to accept the code and follow it [...] We believe if every scientist followed the code, we would improve the quality of science and remove many of the concerns society has about research."

Lib Dem science spokesman Dr Evan Harris: "The seven points in this code are part of what separates researchers from charlatans, medicine from quackery and science from supposition."

So. It seems that scientists and policy makers are still trying to figure out what to do about fiascos like The Fall of Hwang, even if he was on to something useful.

Personally, I struggle to see how scientific authority is under serious threat from lay people - it's still scientists telling the rest of us what they should do and not the other way around - but I appreciate how a manoeuvre like this opens up the opportunity to debate what science is, and should be.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Next stop: Banff

On Saturday I leave for my month or so at the Banff New Media Institute, where I'll be working with Sarat Maharaj, Andreas Broeckmann and a great bunch of resident artists and reseachers for the Reference Check co-production lab.

Each week I'll be facilitating a three-hour workshop on research methods and theories:

WORKSHOP #1: COLLABORATION & RESEARCH ETHICS
Through a set of individual and group activities and discussions, participants will be encouraged to critically explore the values and interests of different research cultures, as well as tackle questions about research collaborations and broader social and cultural ethics.

WORKSHOP #2: CRITICAL CULTURAL STUDIES & QUALITATIVE METHODS I
Through a set of individual and group activities and discussions, participants will be introduced to a range of concerns and issues in critical cultural studies, as well as a variety of related qualitative research methodologies.

WORKSHOP #3: CRITICAL CULTURAL STUDIES & QUALITATIVE METHODS II
Through a set of individual and group activities and discussions, participants will continue to engage select issues in new media and cultural studies research, as well as how different methods of qualitative inquiry can intervene in these matters.

WORKSHOP #4: RESEARCH DOCUMENTATION & DISSEMINATION
Through a set of individual and group activities and discussions, participants will critically evaluate select approaches to research documentation, as well as both historical and emerging forms of individual and collaborative research dissemination.

And each week I'll lead (optional & weather-permitting) fieldtrips around the local area:

FIELDTRIP #1: WALKING AS KNOWING
Meet in front of The Kiln at 9:00am, and we will walk down to the Old Banff Cemetery. Walking around this historical burial ground offers the opportunity to ask questions about spatial history, identity, embodiment, memory and materiality--as well as ways of knowing. We will have lunch at the Main Dining Room at the Banff Centre, and can resume our walk and discussion in the afternoon.

FIELDTRIP #2: A MIS-GUIDE TO DOWNTOWN BANFF
Inspired by Wrights & SitesMis-Guides series of guide-books, we will playfully explore what happens in-between a host of downtown landmarks. Meet in front of The Kiln at 9:00am, and we will walk downtown. We will take a lunch break at Wild Flour: Banff's Artisan Bakery Café in the Bison Courtyard, and can resume our walk and discussion in the afternoon.

FIELDTRIP #3: A MIS-GUIDE TO SULPHUR MOUNTAIN
This time we will explore the mobilities at play in the gondola ride up the mountain, on the observation deck on the summit, and along the boardwalk to Sanson's Peak and its historical weather observatory. Meet in front of The Kiln at 9:00am for van transportation to the Banff Gondola. We will have lunch in the Summit Restaurant on Sulphur Mountain, and can resume our walk and discussion in the afternoon.

FIELDTRIP #4: A SECOND MIS-GUIDE TO DOWNTOWN BANFF
On our final fieldtrip, we will temporarily immerse ourselves in the dreamscape of tourist window-shopping. Meet in front of The Kiln at 9:00am, and we will walk downtown. We will visit the Banff Book & Art Den in the morning and take a lunch break in the park. We can resume our walk and discussion in the afternoon.

I'll be documenting both the workshops and fieldtrips online, and next week I'll be posting information about all the amazing projects people are working on.

Now, maybe I should start thinking about packing...

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

MediaShed +

During my recents visits to the UK, I had the pleasure of hanging out with some of the Mongrel & MediaShed guys, talking about everything from Mass Observation and soldering to the cultural impact of public art and lighting one's farts on fire. (I was the one classy enough to bring that last one up, not them.)

Anyway, a few of their projects strike me as really lovely and unstable balances between the creative and political, or the ethical and aesthetic. I appreciate how they value everyday life beyond technology, and how they manage to be critical without relaxing into dystopian fantasies. They appear to have a genuine curiosity for the people and objects around them, and seem to be most content when simply making stuff with others.

What could, I think, easily slip into a paternalistic or shepherding relationship with the people tends instead towards using technological prosthetics to temporarily assemble publics. (Note to self: How is that related to the Situationist 'Possible Rendez-Vous'?)

Just take their Telephone Trottoire project:

"The aim of the 'Telephone Trottoire' project is to engage the London based Congolese community in issues that affect their day-to-day lives. 'Telephone Trottoire' is based on a new form of 'contagious' telephone application developed by Mongrel and named after the Congolese practice of 'pavement radio' or the passing around of news and gossip between individuals on street corners. In Central Africa people defy media censorship by sharing news and gossip using 'radio trottoire' or 'pavement radio'. Built in collaboration with the radio programmes 'Nostalgie Ya Mboka' and 'Londres Na Biso', 'Telephone Trottoire' encourages London's Congolese community to pass around news stories and discuss them using a unique system of sharing content over the phone. The project engages the Congolese community on their own terms by using systems that draw from their own culture, beliefs and folklore – some stories are intended to provoke, some to entertain and some to educate. All allow listeners to record their own comments and pass the call on to a friend or family member by entering their phone number. Some are true and some are false – after all isn’t this all about gossip – the 'Telephone Trottoire'?"

Or their Video Sniffin' projects:



The Commercial

"When MediaShed members found out about ‘Video Sniffin’ on-line, a term given to the practice of picking up the public signals being broadcast by wireless CCTV, they decided to apply the technology to make a film. Young people from the local YMCA and others used a cheap video receiver from a high street store to ‘sniff’ the streets for CCTV cameras. After finding 24 cameras or ‘hotspots’ they then asked shop owners if they could make a film by acting out in front of their CCTV cameras and recording the signal. The shop owners were very surprised and happy for the young people to create a film this way. The final film was screened on a ‘video sculpture’ of 16 recycled PC monitors at South East Essex College on 29th April. This display was part of the final ‘Being Here’ event – Southend’s recent arts regeneration initiative. These kinds of projects allow people to see how a common technology that is normally used for the surveillance of the same young people can be repurposed by them for creative activities. The project created great interest from the local council and local businesses who positively engaged with the project."



minä olen

"Hijacking the CCTV cameras of municipal buildings in the town of Kokkola, Finland a group of young people from the immigrant class at Kiviniitty Secondary School made a film about their cultural isolation ... This provided the young people with a means of regaining control from the ‘institution’ influencing their future. The final film was installed at Tupakkamakasiini, Pietarsaari City Museum as part of a larger exhibition of Mongrel’s work, and was also displayed at Kokkola Town Hall bringing the heartfelt message to as many local people as possible. The young people, some of whom had only been in the country a matter of weeks, positively enjoyed the opportunity to invade ‘government’ buildings and felt an increased confidence within their surroundings. Additionally the film was used to encourage local ministers to continue to provide regular classes in the young peoples’ own language and culture."

The Duellists

"In March 2007 MediaShed were invited to the Manchester Arndale Shopping Centre to make a film combining free-media with free-running. Parkour or free-running involves fluid uninterrupted movement adapting motion to obstacles in the environment. Like free-media, free-running makes use of and re-enrgises the infrastructure of the city. Free-media film adapts environmental and discarded hardware to make filmmaking accessible to all. Working with Southend based professional parkour breakin' crew Methods of Movement a choreographed performance was filmed in the shopping centre over three consecutive nights. The film was shot using only the existing in-house CCTV network of 160 cameras operated from the central control room, with a soundtrack created entirely from the foundsounds and noises recorded during the performance. The finished film was screened at the Manchester Arndale (10th - 20th May) on the infrastructure plasmas, in an exhibition pod and inside eleven stores as part of a ten day exhibition entitled Art for Shopping Centres."

I have some questions about how they come to their conclusions but mostly I'm impressed by how they blatantly seek affective change. (Or is it affective contagion?)

For example, the material, embodied, performative and productive aspects of their engagement with CCTV allow MediaShed to avoid more distanced intellectual debates on public vs. private, or surveillance vs. sousveillance. Rather than pointing at our docility and predicting our decline into dividuation, there's something creative and hopeful in these projects. And despite their rather earnest charter, it's not particularly idealist or utopian. But it does remind me of what Anna Munster refers to as actualising bodies and abstracting selves, which she also basically applied to Harwood's earlier Uncomfortable Proximity project.

MediaShed projects also rely on old technologies like radio, video, telephone. I think this is important simply because "ultimately, new cultural phenomena rely on encounters with the old," and because these technologies still require people to serve as active broadcasters and receivers.

(I mean, I suspect that part of why RFID or GPS seem so hard to work with critically is because the myths of pervasive computing are so ahistorical, and because the communication model underpinning them practically strips out human intervention. Although I have some concerns about the tyranny of participation, I really don't see "participation" becoming an issue - positively or negatively - for pervasive computing. Current discourse and practice allow it no space, but I think that if we can temporarily converge as publics around it then there's still hope.)

Anyway, good stuff and lots to think about!

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Shepherding the politics of pervasive computing, Part I

The idea that ubicomp would first be picked up - mobilised - by people who value security and convenience has been argued by myself and other academics for years now, although Adam Greenfield has arguably done the best job articulating this in a systematic and accessible way for non-academics. In his article Policing the Convergence of Virtual and Material Worlds, Dion Dennis further fleshes this out when he identifies, following Foucault, an "economic pastorate" or shepherding function for pervasive computing:

"These devices produce continuous technological grist for the shepherd/police. But the shepherd is no longer a deity, a titular head of a church, a teacher or a priest. In a prototypical 'post-human' moment, the shepherd-function has routinely become the task of the mobile digital machinery ... [T]he result of active and formal corporate and governmental 'securitization' initiatives often restructure (and reduce) the creativity and scope of the public commons for purposes of capital extraction and, through an ersatz moral discourse, to tie such extraction to an expansion of political and social control ... As with the criminalization of drugs a generation earlier, economically incentivized political moralists assume the role of shepherds, busily 'selling' a redefinition of the boundaries between the tolerated and intolerable."

I find that last statement to be particularly intriguing because it explicitly ties shepherding to moralising, and I have a decided interest in challenging top-down morals with bottom-up ethics or ethos. More specifically, I've become increasingly concerned with actual strategies and tactics used to promote political action in this arena.

Put otherwise, I think that the shepherding role is not just the formal domain of economic and political elites that Dennis identifies, but also the more informal domain of today's critics of pervasive computing. The pressing problem at hand, as I see it, is that we're not being any less moralising.

In my next post I'll unpack that last claim using examples from a recent presentation I gave, the different responses it inspired, and how I'd like to proceed in doing technosocial critique.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Off for (partially) unknown territories

Well, I'm crossing the ocean again this weekend because of a generous invitation to give the opening keynote at the ENTER_Unknown Territories Conference in Cambridge next week. Here's the short abstract for my talk:

"Where I come from, this is how we do things" and other ethics of collaboration.

Anne Galloway prepares the ground for the conference panels by critically assessing the relations between people’s ethics, aesthetics, world-views and expectations – and the challenges and opportunities posed by cultural difference in collaborative practice. How do we make sense of our actions and the worlds in which we live? What happens when we encounter difference or opposition? What would collaboration without consensus involve? Where do we locate accountability, and to whom and what are we responsible? How can we evaluate the ethics of collaborative work and play?

While the entire conference line-up looks great, I'm particularly looking forward to the following sessions: Toolshift / Mindshift and Uncommon Ground-Creative Encounters Across Disciplines and Sectors, which builds on a new book called Uncommon Ground. I wrote a short essay on seams and scars for the collection and the book launch takes place the night before the conference.

BBC journalist Bill Thompson will also be chairing a session called Control Technology: Knowing Me, Knowing You – Ah ha! that I really want to catch because he said in a recent article that he'll "be making some of the people there feel pretty uncomfortable about their attitude to personal privacy ... [because] there is a danger that the art, like other aspects of control technology, will only serve to dull our senses and dampen our indignation, leading us to feel that the unobserved life is not really worth fighting for." Wow.

As if that's not enough, there are some great sounding workshops too, including the Proboscis Public Authoring Zone and Bricolabs, and a cool 'Local/Food' Picnic Performance at the end. If you're there please come say hello - and if you can't make it, you can always keep up on blogspot, flickr and myspace.

I'll also be in London visiting friends and doing a bit of work a few days before and after the conference, so if you'd like to get together or know of something I shouldn't miss, please just drop me a note.

**UPDATE 1.05.07**
I enjoyed the event and met some really good people, but until I get some breathing room to write up my reflections I'd just note that I was particularly impressed by CRUMB's Bliss Out Centre, which I think should be part of every conference, and Mongrel's MediaShed project. Check them out! And with one unforgettable exception, I received much positive interest in my presentation. I focussed on the anthropological concept of ethos, which means I purposely avoided telling people what they should and should not do. I think this is really important, and I'll post some more thoughts on the topic as soon as I can. Thanks again to the organisers and to everyone for coming out.

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