Thursday, April 12, 2007

Beklager, jeg snakker ikke norsk - and other messes

My god, Oslo is a beautiful city. The sun is shining, Timo and I are having lunch, preparing our lectures for this evening. He'll be talking about the Touch project, and I'll be talking about how messy places layered with digital information can really be. John Law has written extensively on mess in social science research, and I couldn't agree more that "dominant approaches...cannot know mess, except in their aporias, as they try to make the world clean and neat." Unsurprisingly, these kinds of methodological issues are also prevalent in the research, engineering and design of pervasive computing. But just as social and cultural life isn't neat and clean, networks and other technological systems fail.

I've been writing about messy technosocial assemblages for the past five or so years, and in the field of HCI, Matthew Chalmers and colleagues have long focussed on technological glitches - their research is concerned with practical uncertainties and inaccuracies, as well as "opportunistic presentations that may be...discordant, deliberately leading users to pause or reflect" - and Genevieve Bell and Paul Dourish recently wrote on messiness as alternative ubicomp. Timo was also telling me about Fabien Girardin's presentation at LIFT a few months ago, and this is all a very good sign, I think.

But tonight I'll be using Chris Jordan's iconic images of consumption and disposal in order to speak about 'layers' in terms of the politics of accumulation and excess.

More on that and other things later.

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