Via Phoebe Moore. Looks good >>
Another wonderful video from superflux exploring how to think about the kinds of relationships we may or may not have with our ‘smart’ stuff…
The film was commissioned by Mozilla’s Open IoT Studio. The devices in the film are made Loraine Clarke and Martin Skelly from Mozilla’s Open IoT Studio and the University of Dundee.
For more information about the project visit: http://superflux.in/index.php/work/friends-electric/#
Another interesting ‘long form’ essay on the Institute of Network Cultures site. This piece by Anastasia Kubrak and Sander Manse directly addresses some contemporary themes in geographyland – access, ‘digital’-ness, exclusion, ‘rights to the city’, technology & urbanism and ‘verticality’. The piece turns around an exploration of the idea of a ‘zone’ – ‘urban zoning’, ‘special economic zones’, ‘export processing zones’, ‘free economic/enterprise zones’, ‘no-go zones’. Some of this, of course, covers familiar ground for geographers but its interesting to see the argument play out. It seems to resonate, for example, with Matt Wilson’s book New Lines…
Here’s some blockquoted bits (all links are in the original).
We get into an Uber car, and the driver passes by the Kremlin walls, guided by GPS. At the end of the ride, the bill turns out to be three times as expensive than usual. What is the matter? We check the route, and the screen shows that we travelled to an airport outside of Moscow. Impossible. We look again: the moment we approached the Kremlin, our location automatically jumped to Vnukovo. As we learned later, this was caused by a GPS fence set up to confuse and disorient aerial sensors, preventing unwanted drone flyovers.
How can we benefit as citizens from the increase in sensing technologies, remote data-crunching algorithms, leaching geolocation trackers and parasite mapping interfaces? Can the imposed verticality of platform capitalism by some means enrich the surface of the city, and not just exploit it? Maybe our cities deserve a truly augmented reality – reality in which value generated within urban space actually benefits its inhabitants, and is therefore ‘augmented’ in the sense of increased or made greater. Is it possible to consider the extension of zoning not only as an issue, but also as a solution, a way to create room for fairer, more social alternatives? Can we imagine the sprawling of augmented zones today, still of accidental nature, being utilized or artificially designed for purposes other than serving capital?
Gated urban enclaves also proliferate within our ‘normal’ cities, perforating through the existing social fabric. Privatization of urban landscape affects our spatial rights, such as simply the right of passage: luxury stores and guarded residential areas already deny access to the poor and marginalized. But how do these acts of exclusion happen in cities dominated by the logic of platform capitalism? What happens when more tools become available to scan, analyze and reject citizens on the basis of their citizenship or credit score? Accurate user profiles come in handy when security is automated in urban space: surveillance induced by smart technologies, from electronic checkpoints to geofencing, can amplify more exclusion.
This tendency becomes clearly visible with Facebook being able to allow for indirect urban discrimination through targeted advertising. This is triggered by Facebook’s ability to exclude entire social groups from seeing certain ads based on their user profile, so that upscale housing-related ads might be hidden from them, making it harder for them to leave poorer neighborhoods. Meanwhile Uber is charging customers based on the prediction of their wealth, varying prices for rides between richer and poorer areas. This speculation on value enabled by the aggregation of massive amounts of data crystallizes new forms of information inequality in which platforms observe users through a one-way mirror.
If platform economies take the city as a hostage, governmental bodies of the city can seek how to counter privatization on material grounds. The notorious Kremlin’s GPS spoofing fence sends false coordinates to any navigational app within the city center, thereby also disrupting the operation of Uber and Google Maps. Such gaps on the map, blank spaces are usually precoded in spatial software by platforms, and can expel certain technologies from a geographical site, leaving no room for negotiation. Following the example of Free Economic Zones, democratic bodies could gain control over the city again by artificially constructing such spaces of exception. Imagine rigorous cases of hard-line zoning such as geofenced Uber-free Zones, concealed neighborhoods on Airbnb, areas secured from data-mining or user-profile-extraction.
Vertical zoning can alter the very way in which capital manifests itself. The‘Bristol pound’ is an example of city-scale local currency, created specifically to keep added value in circulation within one city. It is accepted by an impressive number of local businesses and for paying monthly wages and taxes. Though the Bristol Pound still circulates in paper, today we can witness a global sprawl of blockchain based community currencies, landing within big cities or even limited to neighborhoods. Remarkably, Colu Local Digital Wallet can be used in Liverpool, the East London area, Tel Aviv and Haifa – areas with a booming tech landscape or strong sense of community.
Following on from my post about the ways we might think about and research ideas of agency in relation to ‘automation’, it so happens that an accessible and interesting comment piece in the Grauniad by Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger was published last week (not being on Twitter means I miss more of these sorts of things perhaps). Here’s a few of relevant lines (all links are from the original):
Most of the headlines about technology in the workplace relate to robots rendering people unemployed. But what if this threat is distracting us from another of the distorting effects of automation? To what extent are we being turned into workers that resemble robots?
Fears about humans becoming like machines go back longer than you might think. The sort of algorithmic management we see in the modern gig economy … has its roots in a management theory developed by Frederick Taylor in the early 20th century.
Technological innovations have made it increasingly easy for managers to quickly and cheaply collect, process, evaluate and act upon massive amounts of information. In our age of big data, Taylorism has spread far beyond the factory floor. The algorithmic management of the gig economy is like time cards on steroids.
It’s not just the intensity of the monitoring that is different. Surveillance is increasingly hidden. In Taylor’s analogue era, workers were acutely aware when they were being observed by management with stopwatches and notebooks. Today management tools are much less visible.
Taylorism starts from the assumption that employees are innate shirkers. While there will always be some who want to game the system and put in as little effort as possible, there are plenty who don’t. When the guiding assumption of management is that employees won’t be productive unless forced to be by constant observation, it engineers low morale and pushes people to act like resources that need to be micromanaged. Too often, we become what we’re expected to be.
From ChinaFile – photos from Photographer Liu Xingzhe documenting Bitcoin ‘mines’ in China.
Photographer Liu Xingzhe traveled to Sichuan’s Ngawa (Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, some 175 miles from the provincial capital of Chengdu, to explore not only the operations of these [Bitcoin] mines, but also the lives of the “miners” who spend their days tending to whirring legions of machines. He also traveled to Shenzhen to see the factories where the world’s finest Bitcoin mining machinery is engineered and produced.
From NY magazine:
I didn’t just buy a sous-vide circulator, I also bought what could very likely turn into a new zombie member of a botnet nobody knows about yet. (A botnet, to refresh your memory, is a group of many disparate internet-enabled computers whose security has been remotely compromised, enabling hackers to network them together and use their combined power for nefarious purposes.)
I do not actually know that my sous-vide circulator will be hacked remotely in order to power a Low Orbit Ion Cannon (popular software for launching a distributed denial-of-service attack used to take websites off the internet temporarily), but if it did happen, I would not be surprised. Oftentimes, the computers — usually very primitive computers of the kind found in security cameras, smart-home light bulbs, and cooking appliances — function normally while these processes run in the background. Perhaps my precision cooker will be attacking a major DNS server while I poach a perfect egg. Or maybe it will help take down a dissident forum as I prepare a cut of steak for the grill. The possibilities are endless.
Here’s an interesting interactive 360Ëš video from the New York Times, which shows something of work in a contemporary Amazon warehouse:
Interesting theme issue from July in the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy & Society” entitled “Sharing Economies? Theories, practices and impacts”.
See the full Table of Contents.
Here’s a snippet from the editorial statement about the issue:
The ten articles that comprise this issue collectively open up significant elements of sharing economies to greater academic reflection and critique. Substantively, they draw on a range of theories, territories and mechanisms to explore sharing economies from across different disciplinary perspectives. Davies, Donald, Gray and Hayes-Knox argue that five key issues emerge: (i) The etymology of sharing and sharing economies; (ii) The differentiated geographies to which sharing economies contribute; (iii) What it means to labour, work and be employed in sharing economies; (iv) The role of the state and others in governing, regulating and shaping the organisation and practice of sharing economies; and (v) the impacts of sharing economies.