An interesting event blogged by Peter-Paul Verbeek:
I’m really pleased to share that Prof. Mike Phillips (i-DAT, Plymouth) will be speaking next week as part of the Exeter Geography seminar series. Mike is a founder of the Institute of Digital Art and Technology and one of the founders of the undergraduate programme I studied MediaLab Arts, which is now called Digital Media Design.
Details: Thursday 16th March, 12:30: Amory 417. All welcome!
Presentation from Caroline Bassett as part of the Streams of Consciousness event on ELIZA, it’s therapeutic interaction (pharmakon anyone?), the possible automation of expertise and ‘rationality’…
Funny how we are returning to AI… Bassett’s historiographical excavation of ELIZA and (its author) Weisenbaum’s career is an interesting context.
Generally wary of anything with “digital age” in the title, but good to see some geographers featuring in ‘digital cultures’ type networks…
MONDAY 13TH OF MARCH, 17:00 – 18:15 @SPUI25, AMSTERDAM.
With keynote lectures by Michiel de Lange and, Emma Fraser and Clancy Wilmott.
From Mah-Jong to the introduction of Prussian war-games, through to the emergence of location-based play: maps and play share a long and diverse history. In this programme, we will launch the book Playful Mapping in The Digital Age, which shows how playing and mapping can be liberating, dangerous, subversive and, performative.
>> Sign up here.
Playful Mapping in the Digital Age shows how mapping and playing unfold in the digital age and in which ways the relations between these apparently separate tropes are increasingly woven together. Fluid networks of interaction have encouraged a proliferation of hybrid forms of mapping and playing. A rich plethora of contemporary case-studies, ranging from fieldwork, golf, activism and automotive navigation to pervasive and desktop-based games, emphasizes this trend. Examining these cases shows how mapping and playing can form productive synergies, but also encourages new ways of being, knowing and shaping our everyday lives. This afternoon, the Members of the Playful Mapping Collective explore how play can be more than just an object or practice, and instead focus on its potential as a method for understanding maps and spatiality.
An echoborg is a hybrid agent composed of the body of a real person and the “mind” (or, rather, the words) of a conversational agent; the words the echoborg speaks are determined by the conversational agent, transmitted to the person via a covert audio-relay apparatus, and articulated by the person through speech shadowing.
Recently, the project team have demoed the project as part of an AHRC-funded network on Automation Anxiety and have written this up on the project website, here’s a snippet – it sounds like it is really compelling (I’ve not seen this in action):
Four people were interviewed by the AI which increasingly displayed an interest in eliciting help to reprogram itself. Proceedings were visible on a projector screen and the ‘audience’ of applicants gradually began to discuss the situation of the Echoborg and how to change it. At a certain point their reflections passed a threshold and the group fired into collective action, experimenting with various methods to bring the situation to a head in some way. The lively inventiveness of the group and the individual interviewees went a long way to confirming the interactive potential of this format of the work. It also gave Rik and Phil much to work with in considering the further development of the AI/Chatbot, the restricted delivery of narrative by the human Echoborg and the staging. This event also trialled a secondary, higher level, Echoborg character as part of the slow process of unfolding the potential for this Echoborg recruitment event to be a disruptive and thought and emotion provoking experience for all players.
Via The Data Justice Lab.
“When I am king, you will be first against the wall…“
In an article for The Atlantic Adrienne LaFrance observes that a report by the security firm Imperva suggests that 51.8% of traffic online is bot traffic (by which they mean 51.8% of a sample of traffic [“16.7 billion bot and human visits collected from August 9, 2016 to November 6, 2016”] sent through their global content delivery network “Incapusla”):
Overall, bots—good and bad—are responsible for 52 percent of web traffic, according to a new report by the security firm Imperva, which issues an annual assessment of bot activity online. The 52-percent stat is significant because it represents a tip of the scales since last year’s report, which found human traffic had overtaken bot traffic for the first time since at least 2012, when Imperva began tracking bot activity online. Now, the latest survey, which is based on an analysis of nearly 17 billion website visits from across 100,000 domains, shows bots are back on top. Not only that, but harmful bots have the edge over helper bots, which were responsible for 29 percent and 23 percent of all web traffic, respectively.
LaFrance goes on to cite the marketing director of Imperva (who wants to sell you ‘security’ – he’s in the business of selling data centre services) to observe that:
“The most alarming statistic in this report is also the most persistent trend it observes,” writes Igal Zeifman, Imperva’s marketing director, in a blog post about the research. “For the past five years, every third website visitor was an attack bot.”
How do we judge this report? I find it difficult to know how representative this company’s representation of their data, although they are the purveyor of a ‘global content delivery network’. The numbers seem believable, given how long we’ve been hearing that the majority of traffic is ‘not human’ (e.g. a 2013 article in The Atlantic making a similar point and a 2012 ZDNet article saying the same thing: most web traffic is ‘not human’ and mostly malicious).
The ‘not human’ thing needs to be questioned a bit — yes, it’s not literally the result of a physical action but, then, how much of the activity on the electric grid can be said to be ‘not human’ too? I’d hazard that the majority of that so-called ‘not human’ traffic is under some kind of regular oversight and monitoring – it is, more or less, the expression of deliberative (human) agency. Indeed, to reduce the ‘human’ to what our simian digits can make happen seems ridiculous to me… We need a more expansive understanding of technical (as in technics) agency. We need more nuanced ways to come to terms with the scale and complexity of the ways we, as a species, produce and perform our experiences of everyday life – of what counts as work and the things we take for granted.
Microsoft Cognitive Services (sounds like something from a Phillip K. Dick novel) have opened up APIs, which you can call on (req. subscription), to outsource forms of machine learning. So, if you want to identify faces in pictures or videos you can call on the “Face API“, for example. Obviously, this is all old news… but, it’s sort of interesting to maybe think about how this foregrounds the homogenisation of process – the apparent ‘power’ of these particular programmes (accessed via their APIs) may be their widespread use.
This might be of further interest when we consider things like the “Emotion API” through which (in line with many other forms of programmatic measure of the display or representation of ’emotion’ or ‘sentiment’) the programme scores a facial expression along several measures”, listed in the free example as: “anger”, “contempt”, “disgust”,” fear, “happiness”, “neutral”, “sadness”, “surprise”. For each image you’ll get a table of scores for each recognised face. Have a play – its beguiling, but of course then perhaps prompts the sorts of questions lots of people have been asking about how ‘affect’ and emotions can get codified (e.g. Massumi) and the politics and ethics of the ‘algorithms’ and such like that do these things (e.g. Beer).
I am probably late to all of this and seeing significance here because it’s relatively novel to me (not the tech itself but the ‘easy-to-use’ API structure), nevertheless it seems interesting, to me at least, that these forms of machine learning are being produced as mundane through being made abundant, as apparently straightforward tools. Maybe what I’m picking up on is that these APIs, the programmes they grant access to, are relatively transparent, whereas much of what various ‘algorithm studies’ folk look at is opaque. Microsoft’s Cognitive Services make mundane what, to some, are very political technologies.
This looks interesting… I confess I’ve not listened yet.
Via Tony Sampson…
Call for presentations and artworks
Affect and Social Media#3
Including the Sensorium Art Show (the sequel)
Event Date: Thurs 25th May, 2017
Venue: University of East London, Docklands Campus
Confirmed keynote: Prof Jessica Ringrose (UCL)
Call for 15min presentations and artworks
The organizers of A&SM#3 welcome proposals for 15min presentations and artworks that interpret and explore the affective, feely and emotional encounters with social media grasped through the following themes:
Presentations and artworks can widely interpret each theme, but preference will be given to proposals that respond in two ways.
Firstly, the organizers are particularly interested in creative responses (academic and artistic) to recent social media events – the US election, for example. So proposals might address how the Trump win allows us to develop a fresh understanding of shared experiences, emotional engagements or new entanglements with social media.
Secondly, we ask presenters and artists to consider how their approach to affect and social media can be put to work in an education context. For example, how can the potential of affect theory reach out across teaching practices and develop novel understandings of the political nature and transformative possibilities of teaching.
The academic part of this call is open to experienced scholars, new researchers and postgrad students from across the disciplinary boundaries of affect studies and related areas of study interested in theorizing and working with emotion and feelings in a social media context. We welcome a good mixture of innovative conceptual and methodological approaches.
The Sensorium Art Exhibit will interweave the conference proceedings and bring it to a close with a special show, alongside free drinks and nibbles.
15min presentations and artwork proposals to: email@example.com
Please include 200 word max description and short bio including academic affiliation and relevant links to previous work and/or website profile.
DEADLINE: Tues 28th Feb 2017.
Full registration details will be made available from 27th Jan via UEL event page.