Designing for millennia – why danger signs cannot last forever

The jolly roger, or death's head, symbol on a building

Biohazard symbols

A short watch, the video above that speaks in some ways to my recent posting of the CFP for the Memories of the Future event. The podcast 99-percent Invisible have created this ~ 7-min. video on the development of standardised warning signs like these (image on the left).

It also briefly discusses how those charged with securing nuclear waste facilities in the USA have considered how we might leave legible warnings to people thousands of years in the future.

Event > Data Feminism with Lauren Klein (at KCL)

Melba Roy

This event looks really interesting!

Via Pip Thornton.

Data Feminism

Lauren Klein, Assistant Professor, Georgia Tech

How might we draw on feminist critical thought to reimagine data practices and data work? Join us for a public talk with Lauren Klein (Assistant Professor, Georgia Tech) to discuss her recent work on data feminism. Hosted by Jonathan Gray at the Department for Digital Humanities at King’s College London.

With their ability to depict hundreds, thousands, and sometimes even millions of relationships at a single glance, visualizations of data can dazzle, inform, and persuade. It is precisely this power that makes it worth asking: “Visualization by whom? For whom? In whose interest? Informed by whose values?” These are some of the questions that emerge from what we call data feminism, a way of thinking about data and its visualization that is informed by the past several decades of feminist critical thought. Data feminism prompts questions about how, for instance, challenges to the male/female binary can also help challenge other binary and hierarchical classification systems. It encourages us to ask how the concept of invisible labor can help to expose the invisible forms of labor associated with data work. And it points to how an understanding of affective and embodied knowledge can help to expand the notion of what constitutes data and what does not. Using visualization as a starting point, this talk works backwards through the data-processing pipeline in order to show how a feminist approach to thinking about data not only exposes how power and privilege presently operate in visualization work, but also suggests how different design principles can help to mitigate inequality and work towards justice.

Lauren Klein is an assistant professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech, where she also directs the Digital Humanities Lab. With Matthew Gold, she editsDebates in the Digital Humanities (University of Minnesota Press), a hybrid print/digital publication stream that explores debates in the field as they emerge. Her literary monograph,Matters of Taste: Eating, Aesthetics, and the Early American Archive, is forthcoming from Minnesota in Spring 2019. She is also at work on two new projects: Data Feminism, co-authored with Catherine D’Ignazio, and under contract with MIT Press, which distills key lessons from feminist theory into a set of principles for the design and interpretation of data visualizations, and Data by Design, which provides an interactive history of data visualization from the eighteenth century to the present.

Reblog> (video): Gillian Rose – Tweeting the Smart City

Smart City visualisation

Via The Programmable City.

Seminar 2 (video): Gillian Rose – Tweeting the Smart City

We are delighted to share the video of our second seminar in our 2017/18 series, entitled Tweeting the Smart City: The Affective Enactments of the Smart City on Social Media given by Professor Gillian Rose from Oxford University on the 26th October 2017 and co-hosted with the Geography Department at Maynooth University.Abstract
Digital technologies of various kinds are now the means through which many cities are made visible and their spatialities negotiated. From casual snaps shared on Instagram to elaborate photo-realistic visualisations, digital technologies for making, distributing and viewing cities are more and more pervasive. This talk will explore some of the implications of that digital mediation of urban spaces. What forms of urban life are being made visible in these digitally mediated cities, and how? Through what configurations of temporality, spatiality and embodiment? And how should that picturing be theorised? Drawing on recent work on the visualisation of so-called ‘smart cities’ on social media, the lecture will suggest the scale and pervasiveness of digital imagery now means that notions of ‘representation’ have to be rethought. Cities and their inhabitants are increasingly mediated through a febrile cloud of streaming image files; as well as representing cities, this cloud also operationalises particular, affective ways of being urban. The lecture will explore some of the implications of this shift for both theory and method as well as critique.

Investigating Google’s revolving door with governments – Tactical Tech Collective

Some really interesting work from the Tactical Team looking at the ways in which different people and their skills and knowledges move in and out of government and the ‘Alphabet empire’. Worth a full read, but here’s a snippet to whet the appetite…

The Alphabet Empire by Tactical Tech and La Loma as shown in The Glass Room in New York. Based on openly available information, this 3-D infographic combines a quote from its chairman, Eric Schmidt, with a mapping of its acquisitions and investments.
By Google’s own admission, the company, like many others, cultivates close relationships with governmental bodies and public officials. Google disclosed that in 2015 it spent over €4 million on lobbying the European Union – considerably more than the €1 million on lobbying spent just three years previously in 2012.

But some of Google’s relationships with public bodies and officials come with a smaller price tag: Over the past ten years at least 80 people have been identified to have moved jobs between Google and European governments.

It’s this “revolving door” that formed the basis of our investigation. We started out with a number of questions: who were these people who had moved from Google to government or vice versa? Where exactly did they move from and to, and when? And most importantly how many of these questions could we find answers to using open, publicly-available information?

Here’s what we learned, and how we did it.

“At play on the field of ghosts” – James Bridle on code/spaces of competitive sport

Reflecting upon the increasing instrumentation of the sporting field off play, for spectating, e.g. the ‘Hanwha chickens‘, and for the judgement of rules, e.g. ‘HawkEye’, James Bridle has written a nice piece on Medium about how the idea/ideal of ‘sport’ may be getting translated into something else…

This distinction between the actuality of the event and the fidelity of its recreation is narrow and could easily be dismissed as just another conjuration of spectacular TV coverage, were its remit limited to mere representation. But in the hyper-competitive domain of sports, lubricated with broadcasting and gambling dollars, recreation turns into prediction, and representation into judgement. The distinction between what is seen and what occurs becomes crucial.

More and more, the practice of human adjudication in sports is being crowded out by the supposed superiority of machine perception; a perception which is based on the recreation and prediction of real events, rather than their explicit witnessing. Since 2001, the Hawk-Eye computer system has become increasingly ubiquitous in major sporting competitions, combining machine vision with motion analysis to not only declare where precisely a ball touched or crossed a line, but where the ball would have gone if it were not rudely interrupted.

Contested Cities conference ~ July 2016, Madrid

Saw this via Gillian Rose on Twitter, looks interesting!

As part of our upcoming Conference in Madrid (July 4-7, 2016), the Contested Cities network and its partners invites contributions for a radical mixed- and multi-media exploration of contestation and cities. Our goal is simple – to challenge people everywhere to see cities and the struggle for their past, present and future in a new light, and to do so by gathering an international set of creative projects in one place. We think we can do that in part by using all of the new audio and visual tools at our disposal. We have some ideas ourselves, but are looking globally for those who want to join in.
We encourage and actively seek contributions from amateurs and professionals alike – expert videographers who may be amateur urbanists, expert urbanists who are amateur photographers, people who wear multiple hats comfortably, data visualization nerds, map geeks, audioheads, visual artists and everyone in between. If you are someone new to both thinking about cities and visualizing them, and simply had a moment of inspiration and now have a provocative project they want to show someone, send us your project! 
Accepted projects will be shown via slideshow at the Congress, and we hope to invite some of the best submissions for an international book project. We may also build a web version, but will ask permission before posting your work.
All “authors” will be invited to attend, but alas we cannot cover registration fees. There is no fee for submission.

Gillian Rose on the shared visual imagination of drones / smart cities – great post

Gillian Rose has blogged about Derek Gregory’s recent lecture(s?) at Cambridge, which sounded interesting and provocative. It’s a great blogpost – I encourage people to read it.

I hadn’t thought of the similarities of visual imagination, or (systems of) visuality, across and between (military) drones and ‘smart cities’, but Gillian’s points make sense.

I was struck especially by this great point:

advocates of both smart cities and drone warfare share an absence of historical narrative so that their technologies can be seen as new, modern, better and more desirable.  (Which of course conveniently ignores various histories of failure, imprecision, rejection and unreliability.)

This seems especially important, and is a tactic/ approach shared by the kinds of computing R&D that I’ve studied and written about… it’s that lack of historical narrative ~ the ‘any-when’-ness, that facilitates some of the ways in which computing researchers have employed particular kinds of visual grammar to render particular kinds of possible future (in the) present.

Anyway – have a read

Reblog> exhibitions visualising digital data

Some great observations by Gillian Rose on her blog about exhibitions visualising data and some healthy scepticism ~ which I share!

exhibitions visualising digital data


One’s at Somerset House in London, focussing on data and called Big Bang Data, until the end of February.

Another is called Animated Wonderworlds at the Museum fur Gestaltung Schaudepotin Zurich.  It’s curated by Suzanne Buchan and runs til 10 January.  I was hoping to get to this one, but my plans were scuppered so I’ve had to make do with the exhibition catalogue and a YouTube video.  It’s focussed on animation rather than on digital data specifically but does include some data visualisations, and the catalogue has a great essay by Suzanne, which talks about just how pervasive digital animations are now.

And the third is at the Institute for Unstable Media (what a great name – though I guess all institutes are made of unstable media”¦) in Rotterdam.  Its title is Data in the 21st Century and it’s on until 14 February, exploring the frictions between ‘data’ and ‘reality’, according to its homepage.

As I haven’t actually been to any of these shows, this is more of a hand-wave than a proper blog post.  Interesting, though, that there’s so much work by artists, designers and digital humanists (Lev Manovich features in all but Digital Wonderlands, I think) using visualisations to interrogate data.  The claim that data – especially the big data sets generated by so much of the digital infrastructure of everyday life now – is understood more easily if it’s visualised is one that’s made very often.  I’m not so sure.  As others (like Johanna Drucker) have worried, once data is visualised, certain questions about it are prioritised over others.  A visualisation (as Suzanne Buchan argues about animations) invite affective responses, they let us “see the unseeable”, to quote Suzanne, and we can get carried away into their beautiful, glowing worlds.  That can be a wonderful thing.  But it also makes the robustness of the data, and the process of visualisation (both the technical process and the labour process) much harder to see, in fact.  Making something visible always seems to entail making something else much less visible.