Museum of Contemporary Commodities – Exhibition Rd, Kensington 24-27 Aug.

Next week, in advance of the RGS-IBG annual conference, the Museum of Contemporary Commodities (MoCC) will join the other museums in South Kensington on Exhibition Rd. MoCC is the brainchild of artist-activist-researcher Paula Crutchlow and promises to build on the provocative and inspiring work undertaken as part of the project over the last three years. I strongly encourage anyone in London next week to pop into the Royal Geographical Society to take a look.

I’m very privileged to be on Paula’s PhD committee. This is fantastic work – even if you cannot make it to Exhibition Rd, please do look at the MoCC website.

Museum of Contemporary Commodities: valuing what we buy today as the heritage of tomorrow

Museum of Contemporary Commodities at the Royal Geographical Society, London.The Museum of Contemporary Commodities (MoCC) is an art-geography research and exhibition project investigating the deep links between data, trade, place and values that shape our everyday lives. This lively set of digital activities will be hosted in the Pavilion at RGS-IBG. Staffed by our friendly MoCC Invigilators, you will be able to browse the most valued exhibits, take our quiz, add something to the museum yourself and consult with the updated Mikayla 3.0 – our networked talking doll guide to all things MoCC. Two research and conversation events will also contribute to our continuing public conversations around the deep connections between data, trade, place and values.

All the events are free to attend. All are welcome. Please join us to re-value contemporary commodity culture one thing at time!

Exhibition open: Thursday 24 August-Sunday 27 August 2017, 10.00am-4.00pm

Additional events on Friday 25 August:

Data walkshop with data activist Alison Powell, LSE: 10.00am-12.30pm
Building on MoCC walkshops in Finsbury Park and Exeter, Alison will be investigating data mediations in the direct vicinity of the RGS-IBG through a process of rapid group ethnography. No experience necessary. Please book here.

Our Future Heritage: curating contemporary commodity cultures: 2.00pm-4.00pm
A public conversation event hosted in the Museum of Contemporary Commodities shop-gallery space at the RGS-IBG. With contributions from: MoCC co-founders Paula Crutchlow and Ian Cook, Senior Curator V&A Corrinna Gardner, Cultural Geographer Merle Patchett, Music Sociologist Lee Marshall, and researcher, publisher and curator D-M Withers. Please book here.

MoCC was co-founded by artist-researcher Paula Crutchlow from Blind Ditch and Geographer Ian Cook from followthethings.com and University of Exeter. The project is being developed in partnership with Furtherfieldand a growing number of artists, academics, technologists and members of the public.

Our early prototypes and events have been kindly supported by All Change Arts, Islington Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot Women’s Group, Islington Council, Exeter City Council, Art Week Exeter, Exeter Scrapstore, Exeter Phoenix, Exeter CVS, St Sidwells Community Centre, Exeter Library, Art Week Exeter. With many thanks to the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) for their support with this 2017 exhibition. MoCC is funded by Arts Council England, University of Exeter and the Economic and Social Science Research Council.

To find out more, please visit http://www.moccguide.net/ or follow MoCC on Twitter at @moccofficial and on Instagram at @moccguidemikayla

The ambiguity of sharing images

Two tweets, about 12 hours apart. It seems to me, in an entirely unsystematic, morning coffee kind of analysis, that the two posts demonstrate something of the ambiguity of image sharing practices and circulation of images (on Twitter)… at least in my experience of one platform, Twitter.

The “Grease” tweet, through humour, attempts to comment on contemporary geopolitics. The veracity (or not) of the image possibly doesn’t matter.

The ‘fact check’ nature of the later tweet directly addresses the (lack of) authenticity of the image itself. Showing the ‘original’.

So there’s something about ‘fakeness’ of media, the politics of circulation, something about simulacrum and the convening of publics and maybe something about the ambivalence of image making and sharing practices that falls within the “meme” discourse.

In discussing her work as part of the RGS-IBG ‘digital geographies’ working group symposium about 10 days ago, Gillian Rose discussed the ways in which we may or may not malign the ‘everydayness’ of photographic or image practices and why it remains necessary to study and engage with the everyday practices of meaning-making (there’s a course for this, co-convened by Gillian).

This perhaps prompts some questions about the above tweets. For example, what is it we can or might want to say about the images themselves, their circulation and how they fit into wider, everyday, meaning-making practices? The doctored image fits into a particular aesthetic of ‘memes’ and is contextualised in text in the post, which also goes for the ‘fact check’ tweet too, in a way. How do we interpret the (likely) different intentions behind the thousands of retweets of the above? How might we capture the ‘polymedia’ (following Miller et al.) lives of such images? (Is that even possible?) How might we interrogate what I’m suggesting is the ambivalence of ‘sharing’? I suggest this cannot be served by the mass analysis of image corpora (following Manovich), nor is it really reducible to the ‘attention economy’ – it’s not only about the labour of sharing or the advertising it enables. Instead, I guess what I’m fumbling towards is asking for the analysis of the circulation practices for (copies of) a single image within a network (which may or may not span different platforms).

The danger, I increasingly feel, is that we all-too-quickly resort to super-imposing onto these case studies our ontotheological or ideological meta-narratives – so, it may ‘really’ be about affect, neoliberalism and so on… except of course, it isn’t only about those things, and while they may be important analytical frames they may not address the questions we’re interested in, or should be, posing. I’m not saying such framings are wrong, I’m saying they’re not the only frames of analysis.

All of this leads me to confess that I am beginning to wonder if our ‘digital methods‘ (following Rogers and others) are really up to this sort of task… As yet I’ve not read anything to convince me otherwise, which actually sort of surprises me. The closest I’ve got is the media ethnography work of the outstanding Why We Post project – but, of course, that isn’t particularly a “digital” method, which maybe says something (maybe about my own bias). I’d be interested to know if anyone has any thoughts.

A further thing I wonder is whether or not these sorts of practices will remain stable enough for long enough to warrant the ‘slower’, considered, kinds of research that might enable us to begin to get at answers to my all-too-general, or misplaced, questions above. I remain haunted by undergraduate and masters research into now-defunct platforms and styles of media use… friendster and myspace anyone?

Some relevant links:

A communications primer – Eames

Via dmf.

Or “information theory for beginners”, maybe… A heavily stylised interpretation of Shannon’s information theory for IBM, by the Eames’, which may be of interest to those of a cybernetic persuasion.

… it’s a testament to the work of the US mathematician and ‘father of information theory’ Claude Shannon (1916-2001) that his model of communication, laid out in his landmark book A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949), is still so broadly applicable.

Working from Shannon’s book, in 1953 the iconic husband-and-wife design team Ray and Charles Eames created the short film A Communications Primer for IBM, intending to ‘interpret and present current ideas on communications theory to architects and planners in an understandable way, and encourage their use as tools in planning and design’. Released at the dawn of the personal computer age, the film’s exploration of symbols, signals and ‘noise’ remains thoroughly – almost stunningly – relevant when viewed some 64 years later.

Responsive media

personal media

It’s interesting to compare competing interpretations of the same ‘vision’ for our near-future everyday media experience. They more or less circle around a series of themes that have been a staple of science fiction for some time: media are in the everyday environment and they respond to us, to varying degrees personally.

On the one-hand some tech enthusiasts/developers present ideas such as “responsive media“, a vision put forward by a former head of ubiquitous computing at Xerox PARC, Bo Begole. On the other hand, sceptics have, for quite some time, presented us with dystopian and/or ‘critical’ reflections on the kinds of ethical and political(economic) ills such ideas might mete out upon us (more often than not from a broadly Marxian perspective), recently expressed in Adam Greenfield’s op-ed for the Graun (publicising his new book “Radical Technologies”).

It’s not like there aren’t plenty of start-ups, and bigger companies (Begole now works for Huawei), trying to more-or-less make the things that science fiction books and films (often derived in some way from Phillip K Dick’s oeuvre) present as insidious and nightmarish. Here I can unfairly pick upon two quick examples: the Channel 4 “world’s first personalised advert” (see the video above) and OfferMoments:

While it may be true that many new inventors are subconsciously inspired by the science fiction of their childhoods, this form of inspiration is hardly seen in the world of outdoor media. Not so for OfferMoments – a company offering facial recognition-powered, programmatically-sold billboard tech directly inspired by the 2002 thriller, Minority Report.

I’ve discussed this in probably too-prosaic terms as a ‘politics of anticipation’, but this, by Audrey Watters (originally about EdTech), seems pretty incisive to me:

if you repeat this fantasy, these predictions often enough, if you repeat it in front of powerful investors, university administrators, politicians, journalists, then the fantasy becomes factualized. (Not factual. Not true. But “truthy,” to borrow from Stephen Colbert’s notion of “truthiness.”) So you repeat the fantasy in order to direct and to control the future. Because this is key: the fantasy then becomes the basis for decision-making.

I have come to think this has produced a kind of orientation towards particular ideas and ideals around automation, which I’ve variously been discussing (in the brief moments in which I manage to do research) as an ‘algorithmic’ and more recently an ‘automativeimagination (in the manner in which we, geographers, talk about a ‘geographical imagination’).

CFP> “VIRAL/GLOBAL Popular Culture and Social Media: An International Perspective” 13th Sept 17 CAMRI

Via Tony Sampson.

“VIRAL/GLOBAL Popular Culture and Social Media: An International Perspective” The University of Westminster Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), Sept 13th 2017

Date:
13 September 2017
Time: 9:00am to 7:00pm
Location: 309 Regent Street Regent Campus, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2HW – View map

Gone-Viral-event-main-photo

Conference organised by the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI)

Keynote Panel

  • Nancy Baym 
  • Emily Keightley
  • Dave Morley (TBC)
  • Tony D Sampson
  • Paddy Scannell

This interdisciplinary conference aims to examine how and why everyday popular culture is produced and consumed on digital platforms. There is increasing interest in studying and discussing the linkages between popular cultural and social media, yet there exist important gaps when comparing such cultural phenomena and modes of consumption in a global, non-west-centric context. The conference addresses a significant gap in theoretical and empirical work on social media by focusing on the politics of digital cultures from below and in the context of everyday life. To use Raymond Williams’s phrase, we seek to rethink digital viral cultures as ‘a whole way of life’; how ‘ordinary’, everyday digital acts can amount to forms of ‘politicity’ that can redefine experience and what is possible.

The conference will examine how social media users engage with cultural products in digital platforms. We will also be assessing how the relationship between social media and popular cultural phenomena generate different meanings and experiences.

The conference engages with the following key questions:

  • How do online users in different global contexts engage with viral/popular cultures?
  • How can the comparative analysis of different global contexts help us contribute to theorising emergent viral cultures in the age of social media?
  • How do viral digital cultures redefine our experience of self and the world?

We welcome papers from scholars that will engage critically with particular aspects of online popular cultures. Themes may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Analysing viral media texts: method and theory
  • Theorising virality: new/old concepts
  • Rethinking popular culture in the age of social media
  • Social media, politicity and the viral
  • The political economy of viral cultures
  • Memes, appropriation, collage, virality and trash aesthetics
  • Making/doing/being/consuming viral texts
  • Hybrid strategies of anti-politics in digital media
  • Viral news/Fake news
  • Non-mainstream music, protest, and political discussion
  • Capitalism and viral marketing

PROGRAMME AND REGISTRATION

This one-day conference, taking place on Wednesday, 13th of September 2017, will consist of a keynote panel and panel sessions. The fee for registration for all participants, including presenters, will be £40, with a concessionary rate of £15 for students, to cover all conference documentation, refreshments and administration costs.

DEADLINE FOR ABSTRACTS

The deadline for abstracts is Monday 10 July 2017. Successful applicants will be notified by Monday 17 July of 2017. Abstracts should be 250 words. They must include the presenter’s name, affiliation, email and postal address, together with the title of the paper and a 150-word biographical note on the presenter. Please send all these items together in a single Word file, not as pdf, and entitle the file and message with ‘CAMRI 2017’ followed by your surname. The file should be sent by email to Events Coordinator Karen Foster at har-events@westminster.ac.uk

Original: https://www.westminster.ac.uk/call-for-papers-viral-global-popular-cultures-and-social-media-an-international-perspective

How and why is children’s digital data being harvested?

Nice post by Huw Davies, which is worth a quick read (its fairly short)…

We need to ask what would data capture and management look like if it is guided by a children’s framework such as this one developed here by Sonia Livingstone and endorsed by the Children’s Commissioner here. Perhaps only companies that complied with strong security and anonymisation procedures would be licenced to trade in UK? Given the financial drivers at work, an ideal solution would possibly make better regulation a commerical incentive. We will be exploring these and other similar questions that emerge over the coming months.

Through a data broker darkly…

Here’s an exercise to do, as a non-specialist, for yourself or maybe as part of a classroom activity: discuss what Facebook (data brokers, credit checkers etc etc.) might know about me/us/you, how accurate the data/information might be, and what that means to our lives.

One of the persistent themes of how we tell stories about the ‘information society’, ‘big data’, corporate surveillance and so on is the extent of the data held about each and every one of us. Lots of stories are told on the back of that and there are, of course, real life consequences to inaccuracies.

Nevertheless, an interesting way of starting the exercise above is to compare and contrast the following two articles:

Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life:

The exploitation of personal information has become a multi-billion industry. Yet only the tip of the iceberg of today’s pervasive digital tracking is visible; much of it occurs in the background and remains opaque to most of us.

I Bought a Report on Everything That’s Known About Me Online:

If you like percentages, nearly 50 percent of the data in the report about me was incorrect. Even the zip code listed does not match that of my permanent address in the U.S.; it shows instead the zip code of an apartment where I lived several years ago. Many data points were so out of date as to be useless for marketing—or nefarious—purposes: My occupation is listed as “student”; my net worth does not take into account my really rather impressive student loan debt. And the information that is accurate, including my age and aforementioned net worth (when adjusted for the student debt), is presented in wide ranges.

Of course, it does not matter if the data is correct – those inaccuracies have real-world consequences, and the granularity of the accuracy only matters in certain circumstances. So, thinking about how and why the data captured about us matters, what it might facilitate – allow or prevent us or those around us doing seems like an interesting activity to occupy thirty minutes or so…

Reblog> CFP – Online Vitriol: Advocacy, Violence, and the Transforming Power of Social Media

Call for Papers

Online Vitriol: Advocacy, Violence, and the Transforming Power of Social Media

A Joint Conference of the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture & the Zentrum für Medien und Interaktivität, Giessen, Germany
Wednesday June 29th – Saturday July 1st, 2017 (optional opening lecture by dr. Sarah Kendzior on the evening of June 28th)
For whom:
Researchers in the fields of culture and (digital) media, and related fields

Professionals dealing with online advocacy and social media presence of their organization

Journalists and others dealing with social media and (violent) online discourse

PhD and MA students in culture and media studies

Conference aim:
To employ our collective knowledge, experience, research and intelligence to arrive at a conceptual and practical understanding of the medial and cultural dynamics of online vitriol.

To work towards “A Rough Guide to Online Vitriol: Dealing with Violence and Activism on Social Media in Theory and Practice” (working title). To be published later.

Social media have become inescapable, and they have an overwhelming impact on sociality and public life. Platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram give rise to a diverse range of discourses and communication styles. This conference wants to understand the power of social media, not only – as it has often been perceived – as democratizing, but also as powerful vehicles for politically driven bullying and violence. Relevant to people, organizations, and other agents across twenty-first-century society, this topic is increasingly studied from a range of disciplines and perspectives. Virtually everyone has to deal with social media and the discourses it enables and produces. But while the technology exists and seems at first sight intuitively accessible, the agency, dynamics and ethics of social media platforms are not yet well-understood.
‘Trolls for Trump’, online virus ‘scares’, fake news – social media discourse has become a formidable, yet elusive, political force. This conference wants to begin to address some of the issues around the power of online vitriol, by studying discourses, metaphors, media dynamics, and framing on social media. What is it? How does it work? What does it do? And how can it be addressed or countered?
To fruitfully question the political impact of contemporary communication structures and discourses, the conference goes beyond the traditional presenter/audience dichotomy. Instead, it works towards producing a book for academics and professionals confronted with social media violence, provisionally titled “A Rough Guide to Online Vitriol: Dealing with Violence and Advocacy on Social Media in Theory and Practice”. The conference combines academic theorizing with perspectives from professionals active in media, communication, the public sector and journalism, so as to arrive at conceptually rigorous and useful conclusions to guide our own and our organizations’ use of social media.
Possible topics
Bringing together media and communication specialists from various professions (e.g. public sector, press, NGOs) and cultural and media studies students and scholars, the aim is to create crosspollination between theoretical approaches from cultural and media studies on the one hand, and practical challenges and experiences ‘from the field’ on the other.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
Privacy and surveillance through social media platforms

Liveness and online temporalities

Tweeting while female

Clickbait as political activism

Shares, likes, profile clicks and other platform-specific metrics

The impact of Facebook’s platform structure and changing algorithms on what can be expressed

‘Communicative capitalism’ and the dynamics of online virality

Politics of trolling and reporting

Representing social media in popular culture

How ‘new’ are online communication practices?

Framing narratives and ideals in a potentially hostile environment

Practical
The conference is free of charge. However, we ask that, during the conference, all participants agree to be offline, and try to be fully present and contemplative.
We welcome proposals of papers, case studies, ideas, and discussion topics from scholars and professionals in the listed fields, as well as related areas of specialization. Please submit a 300-word abstract and a short biography (100 words) to Sara Polak (s.a.polak@hum.leidenuniv.nl), Rahel Schmitz (rahel.schmitz@gcsc.uni-giessen.de), and Ann-Marie Riesner (ann.m.riesner@gcsc.uni-giessen.de) by May 15th, 2017.

A ‘new realism’ and post-truth

In a recording of a very lively double-header presentation by Maurizio Ferraris and Martin Scherzinger which has been podcast by Data & Society there’s some interesting discussion of Ferraris’ formulation of a ‘new realism‘ (which is sort of sympathetic to but perhaps distinct from speculative realisms) in relation to how we might understand ‘truth’ and truth claims and so how we might understand how ‘understanding’ works in relation digitally mediation.

Both Ferraris and Scherzinger are entertaining speakers but Scherzinger in particular offers some very incisive comments around how we can understand the sorts of manoeuvres different people are making around the constitutions and discussion of ‘theory’ (taken in its most general understanding).

Anyway… it’s an interesting listen:

Post-Truth and New Realities: Algorithms, Alternative Facts, and Digital Ethics

Reblog> Accident tourist – driverless cars and ethics

An interesting and well-written piece over on Cyborgology by Maya from Tactical Tech Collective (amongst many other things!)

I particularly like these bits copied below, but please read the whole post.

Accident Tourist: Driverless car crashes, ethics, machine learning

…I imagine what it may be like to arrive on the scene of  a driverless car crash, and the kinds of maps I’d draw to understand what happened. Scenario planning is one way in which ‘unthinkable futures’ may be planned for.

The ‘scenario’ is a phenomenon that became prominent during the Korean War, and through the following decades of the Cold War, to allow the US army to plan its strategy in the event of nuclear disaster. Peter Galison describes scenarios as a “literature of future war” “located somewhere between a story outline and ever more sophisticated role-playing war games”, “a staple of the new futurism”. Since then scenario-planning has been adopted by a range of organisations, and features in the modelling of risk and to identify errors. Galison cites the Boston Group as having written a scenario – their very first one-  in which feminist epistemologists, historians, and philosophers of science running amok might present a threat to the release of radioactive waste from the Cold War (“A Feminist World, 2091”).

The applications of the Trolley Problem to driverless car crashes are a sort of scenario planning exercise. Now familiar to most readers of mainstream technology reporting, the Trolley problem is presented as a series of hypothetical situations with different outcomes derived from a pitting of consequentialism against deontological ethicsTrolley Problems are constructed as either/or scenarios where a single choice must be made.

[…]

What the Trolley Problem scenario and the applications of machine learning in driving suggest is that we’re seeing a shift in how ethics is being constructed: from accounting for crashes after the fact, to pre-empting them (though, the automotive industry has been using computer simulated crash modeling for over twenty years); from ethics that is about values, or reasoning, to ethics as based on datasets of correct responses, and, crucially, of ethics as the outcome of software engineering. Specifically in the context of driverless cars, there is the shift from ethics as a framework of “values for living well and dying well”, as Gregoire Chamayou puts it, to a framework for “killing well”, or ‘necroethics’.

Perhaps the unthinkable scenario to confront is that  ethics is not a machine-learned response, nor an end-point, but as a series of socio-technical, technical, human, and post-human relationships, ontologies, and exchanges. These challenging and intriguing scenarios are yet to be mapped.

Coincidentally, in the latest Machine Ethics podcast (which I participated in a while ago), Joanna Bryson discusses these issues about the bases for deriving ethics in relation to AI, which is quite interesting.