Design Fiction: “Speculative Everything” by Dunne & Raby

book, review, bruces, design, deisng fiction, speculative everything, Dunne & Raby

Much remains unclear. Does “critical design” have “users” or an “audience?” Does it have “patrons” or a “viewership?” Is it a craft, or some form of activism? It’s also unsettled whether its main concerns are, or should be, functional prototypes, diegetic special FX, speculative online videos, design-museum dioramas, or performance art and/or experiential happenings. It’s hard to believe that any designer, however Eamesian and polymathic, will ever be good at doing all these things at once.

A Thousand Words: Writing From Photographs

Casey Cep, writing, photography, images, memory, augmentation, notes, reference

Writing from photographs seems as though it should produce the same effect, sharpening the way we convert experiences and events into prose. I suspect that it also changes not only what we write but how we write it. It’s no coincidence that the rise of the selfie coincides with the age of autobiography.

Optic Nerve

Optic Nerve, GCHQ, Yahoo, webcam, intercept, surveillance, unselected

The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell’s 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ’s existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs. Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ’s servers. The documents describe these users as “unselected” – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.

A partial proteome reference map of the wine lactic acid bacterium Oenococcus oeni ATCC BAA–1163

wine, bacteria, fermentation, proteome, metabolic pathways

Oenococcus oeni is the main lactic acid bacterium that carries out the malolactic fermentation in virtually all red wines and in some white and sparkling wines. Oenococcus oeni possesses an array of metabolic activities that can modify the taste and aromatic properties of wine. There is, therefore, industrial interest in the proteins involved in these metabolic pathways and related transport systems of this bacterium. In this work, we report the characterization of the O. oeni ATCC BAA-1163 proteome.

A Brief History of Drinking in Space

Arts Catalyst, space, drinking, alchol, food, moon, skylab, Bompas & Parr

To date, there has been relatively little consumption of alcohol in space and on the Moon, but that could be set to change. With space tourism taking off, new lunar missions on the horizon and manned expeditions aiming further into space – with all its stresses – could a new era of zero gravity libations be next?

Join Sam Bompas of Bompas & Parr and David Lane of The Gourmand for a speculative look and the past, present and future of alcohol in space. From Buzz Aldrin’s legendary Holy Communion on the Moon to sherry experiments aboard Skylab and ceremonial ‘vodka’ consumption aboard the ISS, we’ll discuss the secret history of a slightly tipsy space age and ask what role our favourite poison will play in the future colonisation of the moon.

The history of invention is not the history of a necessary future to which we must adapt or die, but rather of failed futures,…

“The history of invention is not the history of a necessary future to which we must adapt or die, but rather of failed futures, and of futures firmly fixed in the past. We do not have a history of invention, but instead histories of the invention of only some of the technologies which were later successful”

David Edgerton in’The Shock of the Old

In One Month, Everyone In Iceland Will Own Cryptocurrency

iceland, cryptocurrency, bitcoin, auroracoin, economics

The cryptocurrency craze spun into a new realm of ridiculous with Kanyecoin, Dogecoin, Ron Paul Coin and the bounty of other clone-coins that sprung up to ride the Bitcoin wave. But the latest altcoin to enter the market, Auroracoin, wants to take the futurist trend back to its cryptoanarchist roots. The altcoin was designed specifically for Iceland, and the creator plans to give every citizen of the Nordic country a digital handful of Auroracoins to kickstart their use. Auroracoin is the brainchild of cryptocurrency enthusiast Baldur Friggjar Odinsson, and he’ll be the one distributing pre-mined coins to the entire population of Iceland at midnight on March 25 in a countrywide “airdrop.” Each Icelandic citizen—all 330,000 of them—will receive 31.8 AUC through a digital transaction. Citizens all have a national ID number available through a public database, which will be used to verify their identity.

Crowdworking is often hailed by its boosters as ushering in a new age of work. With the zeal of high-tech preachers, they cast…

Crowdworking is often hailed by its boosters as ushering in a new age of work. With the zeal of high-tech preachers, they cast it as a space in which individualism, choice and self-determination flourish. “CrowdFlower, and others in the crowdsourcing industry, are bringing opportunities to people who never would have had them before, and we operate in a truly egalitarian fashion, where anyone who wants to can do microtasks, no matter their gender, nationality, or socio-economic status, and can do so in a way that is entirely of their choosing and unique to them,” asserts Lukas Biewald, the CEO of CrowdFlower, in an e-mail exchange. (CrowdFlower claims to have “among the largest, if not the largest, crowd” available, with roughly 100,000 workers completing tasks on any given day.)

But if you happen to be a low-end worker doing the Internet’s grunt work, a different vision arises. According to critics, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk may have created the most unregulated labor marketplace that has ever existed. Inside the machine, there is an overabundance of labor, extreme competition among workers, monotonous and repetitive work, exceedingly low pay and a great deal of scamming. In this virtual world, the disparities of power in employment relationships are magnified many times over, and the New Deal may as well have never happened.

As Miriam Cherry, one of the few legal scholars focusing on labor and employment law in the virtual world, has explained: “These technologies are not enabling people to meet their potential; they’re instead exploiting people.” Or, as CrowdFlower’s Biewald told an audience of young tech types in 2010, in a moment of unchecked bluntness: “Before the Internet, it would be really difficult to find someone, sit them down for ten minutes and get them to work for you, and then fire them after those ten minutes. But with technology, you can actually find them, pay them the tiny amount of money, and then get rid of them when you don’t need them anymore.”

How Crowdworkers Became the Ghosts in the Digital Machine | The Nation (vianew-aesthetic)

From Cognitive Biases to Institutional Decay

institutions, agency, politics, engineering, heuristics

The belief that agency can be distributed is hard to internalize even after you’ve been intellectually convinced. I nodded along as I read Mike’s posts last year, but I keep catching myself acting in violation of these beliefs. As an example but without intending to get bogged down in politics, it’s easy to read about congressional corruption and gain a sense that all congressmen are bad people. Then you might read a story about a specific congressman and think, “hmm, he wasn’t so bad.” Ok, so maybe he’s an exception. Or today’s congressmen are more corrupt. But there’s a third possible synthesis that the mind shies away from: perhaps the system made them that way. Perhaps sequences of simple actions that are each beyond reproach can cause the group as a whole to grow hostile toward the people who form it or who caused it to be formed.

Panarchy and pace in the big back loop

panarchy, time, pace layering, reflection, turbulence, innovation, revolt

What can we learn by mapping pace against panarchy? Picture a stack of adaptive cycles, with frantic fashion at the bottom, and nature’s biophysical processes, broad and slow, at the top. Reaching from each cyclic layer down to the next is an arrow labeled “remember,” for memory is an important influence that slower cycles exert on faster ones. And stretching from each cycle up to the next is the arrow “revolt,” representing the actions that, in the time of the back loop – of release and subsequent renewal – can enact structural shifts in the cycles above.

A Handful of Heuristics

resilience, heuristics, adaptive cycle, panarchy, adaptation

The loss of ecological resilience (Holling 1973, 1996) tests the adaptive capacity of the human dimensions of the system. Patterns of abrupt change (Gunderson 2003) are described, in a handful of heuristics, by (1) an adaptive cycle, (2) panarchy, (3) resilience, (4) adaptability, and (5) transformability. The first two describe the dynamics of systems within and across scales, whereas the last three are the properties of social-ecological systems that determine these dynamics. Each is described in the following sections, and together they provide the foundation for the subsequent propositions.

Work It - Jacobin

work, capitalism, exchange, labour, anti-work, doing nothing

The problem that crops up in all discussions of this kind, however, is the ambiguity of the term “work,” particularly in a capitalist society. It has at least three distinct meanings that are relevant. One, it can mean activity that is necessary for the continuation of human civilization, what Engels called “the production and reproduction of the immediate essentials of life.” Two, it can mean the activity that people undertake in exchange for money, in order to secure the means of continued existence. Three, it can mean what Gourevitch is talking about, an activity that requires some kind of discipline and deferred gratification in pursuit of an eventual goal. These three meanings tend to get conflated all the time, even though they all appear seperately in reality. This is the point I’ve tried to make going back to my earliest writing on this topic. “Work” manifests itself in all eight possible permutations of its three meanings.

Wages For Facebook

wages, work, facebook, labour, value, capitalism, exploitation, doing nothing

The difficulties and ambiguities in discussing wages for facebook stem from the reduction of wages for facebook to a thing, a lump of money, instead of viewing it as a political perspective. The difference between these two standpoints is enormous. To view wages for facebook as a thing rather than a perspective is to detach the end result of our struggle from the struggle itself and to miss its significance in demystifying and subverting the role to which we have been confined in capitalist society.

Science is not the Enemy of the Humanities

science, humanities, art, literature, technology, enlightenment (the)

Science has also provided the world with images of sublime beauty: stroboscopically frozen motion, exotic organisms, distant galaxies and outer planets, fluorescing neural circuitry, and a luminous planet Earth rising above the moon’s horizon into the blackness of space. Like great works of art, these are not just pretty pictures but prods to contemplation, which deepen our understanding of what it means to be human and of our place in nature. And contrary to the widespread canard that technology has created a dystopia of deprivation and violence, every global measure of human flourishing is on the rise. The numbers show that after millennia of near-universal poverty, a steadily growing proportion of humanity is surviving the first year of life, going to school, voting in democracies, living in peace, communicating on cell phones, enjoying small luxuries, and surviving to old age. The Green Revolution in agronomy alone saved a billion people from starvation. And if you want examples of true moral greatness, go to Wikipedia and look up the entries for “smallpox” and “rinderpest” (cattle plague). The definitions are in the past tense, indicating that human ingenuity has eradicated two of the cruelest causes of suffering in the history of our kind.

Hunter S. Thompson’s Harrowing, Chemical-Filled Daily Routine

routine, Hunter S. Thompson, food, breakfast, drugs, gonzo

HST outlines his ideal breakfast. It consists of “four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crêpes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned-beef hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert.” All eaten naked and alone. Naturally.

Can an Audacious Plan to Create a New Energy Resource Help Save the Planet?

ITER, fusion, research, science, politics, invesment, energy, accounting

For the machine’s creators, this process—sparking and controlling a self-sustaining synthetic star—will be the culmination of decades of preparation, billions of dollars’ worth of investment, and immeasurable ingenuity, misdirection, recalibration, infighting, heartache, and ridicule. Few engineering feats can compare, in scale, in technical complexity, in ambition or hubris. Even the ITER organization, a makeshift scientific United Nations, assembled eight years ago to construct the machine, is unprecedented. Thirty-five countries, representing more than half the world’s population, are invested in the project, which is so complex to finance that it requires its own currency: the ITER Unit of Account.

Publishers withdraw more than 120 gibberish papers

nature, publishing, peer review, SCIgen, algorithmic writing, computer literature, Springer, IEEE, C

The publishers Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense. Over the past two years, computer scientist Cyril Labbé of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, has catalogued computer-generated papers that made it into more than 30 published conference proceedings between 2008 and 2013. Sixteen appeared in publications by Springer, which is headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, and more than 100 were published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), based in New York. Both publishers, which were privately informed by Labbé, say that they are now removing the papers. Among the works were, for example, a paper published as a proceeding from the 2013 International Conference on Quality, Reliability, Risk, Maintenance, and Safety Engineering, held in Chengdu, China. (The conference website says that all manuscripts are “reviewed for merits and contents”.) The authors of the paper, entitled ‘TIC: a methodology for the construction of e-commerce’, write in the abstract that they “concentrate our efforts on disproving that spreadsheets can be made knowledge-based, empathic, and compact”. (Nature News has attempted to contact the conference organizers and named authors of the paper but received no reply; however at least some of the names belong to real people. The IEEE has now removed the paper).–120-gibberish-papers–1.14763

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

th intercept, JTRIG, GCHQ, Snowden, online, reputation, infiltration, disruption, how to

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.

The mass communication universe is full of these discordant interpretations; I would say that variability of interpretation is…

“The mass communication universe is full of these discordant interpretations; I would say that variability of interpretation is the constant law of mass communications. The messages set out from the Source and arrive in distinct sociological situations, where different codes operate.… And yet I believe it is wrong to consider the battle of man against the technological universe of communication as a strategic affair. It is a matter of tactics.… So for the strategic solution it will be necessary, tomorrow, to employ a guerrilla solution.… The battle for the survival of man as a responsible being in the Communications Era is not to be won where the communication originates, but where it arrives.”

Umberto Eco, ‘Towards a Semiological Guerrilla Warfare’

Truth Is Beauty, and Beauty Can Be Subversive

Ragnar Kjartansson, beauty, aesthetics, Volksbühne, Berlin, Modernism, Romanticism

“Beauty really is a delicate subject in Germany,” Mr. Kjartansson said one morning last week, as he adjusted a scale model of the stage at the Art Deco-era Volksbühne, one of Germany’s largest state-run theaters. “In the name of beauty, the most despicable and disgusting things happened in this city,” he added.

A Rant about ‘Ragnarok 2014’

Ragnarok, publicity, communication, mythology

But Ragnarok is not a joke. It’s a story of terrible fear, annihilation, though with a hope of rebirth. The dread of it runs through many stories in Norse myth - the knowledge that for the gods this destruction will come, inevitably and irrevocably. In Snorri’s Edda, the story is also deeply sad: Ragnarok begins with a family grieving helplessly for their dead son. (Couldn’t fit that in the press release, I guess.) Can we not take that seriously? If nothing else, can we not maintain a basic level of respect for a belief system different from our own? How can we ever hope to understand the Vikings, or any past society, if we turn their mythology into a joke?–2014.html

Can We Avoid a Surveillance State Dystopia?

dystopia, future, cyberpunk, surveilllance, freedom, technology, 1984, brave new world

On the horizon is more technology that will make it even easier for governments to monitor and track everything that citizens do. Yet I’m convinced that, if we’re sufficiently motivated and sufficiently clever, the future can be one of more freedom rather than less. I saw this tweet not so long ago: unless you’re over 60, you weren’t promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. Here you go.

This is bio-cybernetics pure and simple. Adding noise to a communication channel is essential to digital communication. Here the…


This is bio-cybernetics pure and simple. Adding noise to a communication channel is essential to digital communication. Here the same principle is applied to the vagus nerve, a feedback conduit between brain and soma/viscera.

The vagus nerve is a site of interest for the microbiome too - it’s a conduit between your brain and the ecosystem epi-effects of gut bacteria colonies. Active research indicates mood can be modulated by “reprogramming” (in the metaphorical sense) ones microbiome.

This exploit is far more straightforward and so much more biopunk by its close association with the grinding community

Mars One to Muslims: End the fatwa and come fly with us

mars, space travel, fatwa, religion, marketing, mars one

“Mars One respectfully requests GAIAE to cancel the Fatwa and make the greatest Rihla, or journey, of all times open for Muslims too. They can be the first Muslims to witness the signs of God’s creation in heaven, drawing upon the rich culture of travel and exploration of early Islam.”

Creativity is rejected

creativity, psychology, cognitive bias, uncertainty

Even people who say they are looking for creativity react negatively to creative ideas, as demonstrated in a 2011 study from the University of Pennsylvania. Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it’s also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. People’s partiality toward certainty biases them against creative ideas and can interfere with their ability to even recognize creative ideas.

Levels of Excellence

excellence, maths, mathematics, swimming, games, mundanity of excellence

Excellence comes from qualitative changes in behavior, not just quantitative ones. More time practicing is not good enough. Nor is simply moving your arms faster! A low-level breaststroke swimmer does very different things than a top-ranked one. The low-level swimmer tends to pull her arms far back beneath her, kick the legs out very wide without bringing them together at the finish, lift herself high out of the water on the turn, and fail to go underwater for a long ways after the turn. The top-ranked one sculls her arms out to the side and sweeps back in, kicks narrowly with the feet finishing together, stays low on the turns, and goes underwater for a long distance after the turn. They’re completely different!

Don’t be a Glasshole

Glass, google, ethics, instructions, social mediation

Don’t Be creepy or rude (aka, a “Glasshole”). Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass. If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers.

is it is it is it: Bred to be Boring

design, type, new ugly, homogeneity, layout, abundance, ego

There’s no distinction between anything, I find it impossible to tell where one person’s work ends and another’s begins. The desire to stand out, to add any iota of personality to the now so sacrosanct content has been eradicated. Often when I’m sent a link to a prospective employee’s personal website, I honestly don’t know whether I’m looking at a Tumblr of ‘inspiration images’ or their folio site. It’s a sea of clumsily pared down and timid work, conforming to one or another of a small handful of accepted layouts, my particular bugbear being the art gallery pamphlet with a few images randomly placed on the cover, with one word the right way up at the top, the second word rotated 90° at the right hand edge, the third word upside down at the bottom and the fourth word rotated -90° at the left edge. All set in Aperçu or a font with a weird lower case g designed by an ECAL student. Sometimes if I have further knowledge of the work, the designer will claim weeks of heavy research behind it, but I’m not so sure it takes reading countless Hans-Ulrich Obrist tracts to come up with that one.

The Decisive Moment is Dead. Long Live the Constant Moment

photography, history, future, network, panopticon, HCB, decisive moment, continous moment, always on

What if a future decentralized social networking platform allowed everyone to connect their capture node, for the use of any other artist, or just a chosen circle of friends? We already use Google Street View for location scouting. What if it enabled us to change to any angle and scrub back and forth in time as well, and from any “open” node near it, side to side, and from drones above, not just from a single Google car that passed by once? This is the Constant Moment. This is as close to a time machine as we’re likely to get. Great technological leaps will be required to fulfill the furthest reaches of the Constant Moment. Massive gains in the quality of search and organization, not to mention cost of storage, and resolution. Perhaps even some form of a neural interface. But it’s clear to me this is a “when,” not an “if,” and artists need to begin anticipating this future, to inspire and guide the technologists, and to keep up with the military dreamers (it’s been said that in childhood development the destructive urge precedes the creative one by months, as blocks get knocked down long before they get stacked.) To the photographer that still thinks photography mostly means being physically present, crouched behind their Leica, finger poised to capture the classic vision of the Decisive Moment, this coming Constant Moment might be terrifyingly sacrilegious, or perhaps just terrifying, like an insect eye dispassionately staring.