When the maps run out

Medium, Dougald Hine, collapsonomics, myth, metaphor, tricksters

There’s something more to say about the work that lies ahead, if it’s seriously the case that we are in territory where archdruids and zine writers and collapse bloggers and mythtellers are the ones who still have maps that seem to make sense. I notice that there is a part of me that would like not to be serious, that would like it to be secretly a bluff, a puffing of the ego, when I say that it feels like there’s a new responsibility landing on the ragtag of thinkers and tinkers and storytellers at the edges, one edge of which I have been part of over these last years. And for sure, this is only one map I’ve been sketching, others will have their own that may or may not overlap. But the way it looks from here tonight, the people who are meant to know how the world works are out of map, shown to be lost in a way that has not been seen in my lifetime, not in countries like these.

via https://medium.com/redrawing-the-maps/when-the-maps-run-out–8cc5f5f4f5e

Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve…

Octavia E. Butler, civilisation, intelligence, earthseed

“Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation. Civilization, like intelligence, may serve well, serve adequately, or fail to serve its adaptive function. When civilization fails to serve, it must disintegrate unless it is acted upon by unifying internal or external forces.”

Octavia E. Butler. Parable of the Sower

What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility…

“What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love.”

Leonard Cohen

Media: End Reporting on Polls

Medium, data, reporting, politics, polls, civic engagement, data and society, danah boyd

We now know that the polls were wrong. Over the last few months, I’ve told numerous reporters and people in the media industry this, but I was generally ignored and dismissed. I wasn’t alone — two computer scientists whom I deeply respect — Jenn Wortman Vaughan and Hanna Wallach — were trying to get an op-ed on prediction and uncertainty into major newspapers, but were repeatedly told that the data was solid. It was not. And it will be increasingly problematic.

via https://points.datasociety.net/media-end-reporting-on-polls-c9b5df705b7f

Here’s one of the most stunning images from the Where We Power chapter of “Overview”. Automated cranes move on tracks at the…


Here’s one of the most stunning images from the Where We Power chapter of “Overview”. Automated cranes move on tracks at the Qinhuangdao Port coal terminal, the largest coal shipping facility in China. From here, approximately 210 million metric tons of coal are transported every year to power plants in the major cities of southern China. That yearly tonnage is roughly equal to the mass of 3.6 billion people.

See more of “Overview” here: http://amzn.to/2aND71C

RIP Forecasting

Medium, forecasting, foresight, Germany, EU, Brexit, trump, 9/11, politics

German weekly Die Zeit did two scenario stories this year, in which they tried to paint pictures of — at that point — unlikely futures. The first one was Brexit; the other one was Trump. For both, reporters tried to talk to politicians, bureaucrats, policy experts, etc. in Germany and the European Union. Most wouldn’t speak to them, and a few only did off the record. They would say that they weren’t allowed to plan for these futures. That not only had no strategy but mostly not even possible scenarios. Our governments went rather unprepared into maybe the two biggest politically relevant events of this year.

via https://medium.com/@jkleske/rip-forecasting–71057d025588/p>

A COP22 Guide to the Mysterious World of Shipping

Medium, shipping, COP22, climate change, environment

Shipping is by far the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly way to move commodities in bulk — moving one ton of cargo by sea emits four times less carbon dioxide than moving it by road, and 100 times less than by air. But that hardly means that the industry is green. If the shipping industry were a country, it would be the sixth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. So why was the shipping industry left out of the Paris Agreement? The simple answer is, it’s hard to pin emissions from shipping on any one country.

via https://psmag.com/a-cop22-guide-to-the-mysterious-world-of-shipping–21fb88c576e3

Entretien avec Scott Smith, Changeist

Medium, changeist, design fiction, design spéculatif, fr, futures, futurs

Un des rôles les plus intéressants du design fiction, du design spéculatif et de tous leurs corrélats, est d’aider à combler une faille significative dans la communication des futurs. Historiquement, à la place des scénarios concrets, on faisait un ensemble de recherches documentaires sur les tendances à venir, on rentrait dans une salle de conférence, on montrait sa présentation, on faisait un rapport et on le remettait aux personnes en charge de prendre les décisions. Pas besoin pour cela de les emmener dans le même monde ou le même état d’esprit que vous, afin de leur donner à voir ces futurs. Donc vous ne créez pas de connexion, d’empathie avec eux. Comme le disaient Bruce Sterling ou Julian Bleecker il y a sept ans : “le design fiction en tant qu’outil de communication permet de créer des interactions et d’engager des discussions sur le futur qui n’existaient pas auparavant. Il aide à rendre ces futurs assez réels pour tout un chacun, de manière à pouvoir engager avec eux une véritable conversation.”

via https://medium.com/design-friction/entretien-avec-scott-smith-changeist-db62f0890

Murat Pak: Designing the Mind of an Online Curator

Medium, bots, aesthetics, Archillect, design, fashion, art, technology, curation, AI, character

From the very beginning, since Archillect was made to find images by following a certain relational structure, I had to trust that Archillect would have a certain character in what she found and shared, which would create an almost personal profile. This is the reason I wanted to present Archillect as a person rather than a random bot. As people perceived Archillect as a character, a personality, they also contributed to the project through the ways they interacted with the project as a result of this perception. This was important to me.

via https://medium.com/@lintropy/murat-pak-designing-the-mind-of-an-online-curator–5785e373127d

“Means Well” Technology and the Internet of Good Intentions

Medium, ndkane, technology, design, scope

Means well technology seems to exist in isolation of how we normalize and understand objects, never quite understanding or using them how the designer wants us to, because we are humans with doubts and fears and cultural ‘stuff’ that often rubs up against the technology that is supposedly meant to help us.

via https://medium.com/thingclash/means-well-technology-and-the-internet-of-good-intentions–3726ad580c9e

Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn’t fear boundaries, but you also should not be afraid of…

Haruki Murakami, boundaries, freedom, importance

“Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn’t fear boundaries, but you also should not be afraid of destroying them. That’s what is most important if you want to be free: respect for and exasperation with boundaries. What’s really important in life is always the things that are secondary.”

Haruki Murakami

The Crap Futures Manifesto: A Preamble


It has been almost a year since we started this modest venture, with the aim of casting a critical eye on corporate dreams and emerging technologies.

To mark the occasion, we’ve been issuing a series of design challenges on Twitter. We thought we might gather some of these challenges into a proper manifesto, a statement of principles. (Manifestos are back in vogue, thanks in no small part to the internet and the ridiculous state of the world.) But how to write a manifesto? Where do you begin?


According to F. T. Marinetti, the leader of Italian Futurism and arguably the greatest manifesto writer of all time, the key ingredients of any manifesto are violence and precision. Manifestos must take no prisoners, they must be bold and direct like the advertisements they imitate. From ‘The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism’ in 1909 to the ‘Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine’ in 1930, Marinetti and his comrades wrote hundreds of manifestos across all subjects.

The problem with the Futurists was that they believed too much in the future. As Marinetti himself put it: ‘Contrary to established practice, we Futurists disregard the example and cautiousness of tradition so that, at all costs, we can invent something new, even though it may be judged by all as madness.’

This single-mindedness is what made the Futurists exciting, but it was also their greatest weakness. They lacked any sort of critical distance, to the point that they became cheerleaders not only for Suffragism (good) but also for war and Fascism (bad), as well as industrial waste, library closures, and other downsides of modernity. Their rivals in London, the Vorticists led by Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound (who called on artists to ‘make it new’ - but not that new), mocked this reverent attitude to technology. They called it  ‘automobilism’, after the leading technology of the pre-war era:

AUTOMOBILISM (Marinetteism) bores us. We don’t want to go about making a hullo-bulloo about motor cars, any more than about knives and forks, elephants or gas-pipes.

Elephants are VERY BIG. Motor cars go quickly.


Also wary of technology and progress were the Dadaists, led by another great manifesto writer, Tristan Tzara. Operating during the carnage of the First World War, Dada came out as ‘definitely against the future’, even calling for the ‘abolition of the future’. Tzara brought an ironic and self-critical gaze to the manifesto’s masculinist posturing, so that while the 1918 manifesto begins with a Marinettian definition:

To put out a manifesto you must want: ABC

to fulminate against 1, 2, 3

to fly into a rage and sharpen your wings to conquer and disseminate little abcs and big abcs, to sign, shout, swear, to organize prose into a form of absolute and irrefutable evidence

It proceeds to tear it all down:

I write a manifesto and I want nothing … and in principle I am against manifestos, as I am also against principles.

Because by 1918 all beliefs were suspect, spent. Everything was bled of meaning.

Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes lies the perfect manifesto: at once direct and assertive, critical and self-aware, not taking itself or the future too seriously while being, beneath it all, deadly serious.

That is basically what Crap Futures is aiming for: a manifesto to mark our first anniversary that is neither too dogmatic nor too ironic. God knows the world has enough of both.

So what do we stand for? Stay tuned to find out. As Valerie Solanas told reporters outside the 13th Precinct in New York on June 3, 1968 after she’d shot Andy Warhol: ‘ Read my manifesto and it will tell you what I am.


F. T. Marinetti; Marinetti’s automobile accident, 1908; Valerie Solanas being taken from court to jail, 1968.

The Universal Right to Capital Income

Yanis-Varoufakis, UBI, UBD, citizens-dividend, economics, labour, politics, capital

So how should society be compensated? Taxation is the wrong answer. Corporations pay taxes in exchange for services the state provides them, not for capital injections that must yield dividends. There is thus a strong case that the commons have a right to a share of the capital stock, and associated dividends, reflecting society’s investment in corporations’ capital. And, because it is impossible to calculate the size of state and social capital crystalized in any firm, we can decide how much of its capital stock the public should own only by means of a political mechanism. A simple policy would be to enact legislation requiring that a percentage of capital stock (shares) from every initial public offering (IPO) be channeled into a Commons Capital Depository, with the associated dividends funding a universal basic dividend (UBD). This UBD should, and can be, entirely independent of welfare payments, unemployment insurance, and so forth, thus ameliorating the concern that it would replace the welfare state, which embodies the concept of reciprocity between waged workers and the unemployed. Fear of machines that can liberate us from drudgery is a symptom of a timid and divided society. The Luddites are among the most misunderstood historical actors. Their vandalism of machinery was a protest not against automation, but against social arrangements that deprived them of life prospects in the face of technological innovation. Our societies must embrace the rise of the machines, but ensure that they contribute to shared prosperity by granting every citizen property rights over them, yielding a UBD.

via https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/basic-income-funded-by-capital-income-by-yanis-varoufakis–2016–10

Digital Life aims to make a 3D scan of every animal species on Earth The Beastcam is made up of 10 fixed arms with three Canon…


Digital Life aims to make a 3D scan of every animal species on Earth

The Beastcam is made up of 10 fixed arms with three Canon G16 cameras attached to each one, and a platform in the middle for the subject to sit on, or where that’s not possible, a more portable, handheld version can be passed over the animal to take the shot. All of the cameras take photos of the animal simultaneously, before off-the-shelf software stitches them together into a 3D model.

Watching airplane contrails overhead, you may have noticed them transform into a daisy chain of distorted rings. This is an…


Watching airplane contrails overhead, you may have noticed them transform into a daisy chain of distorted rings. This is an effect known as the Crow instability. The contrails themselves are the airplane’s wingtip vortices, made visible by water vapor condensed out of the engine exhaust. These two initially parallel vortex lines spin in opposite directions. A slight crosswind can disturb the initially straight lines, causing them to become wavy. This waviness increases over time until the vortex lines almost touch. Then the vortices pinch off and reconnect into a line of vortex rings that slowly dissipate. Be sure to check out the full-resolution version of this animation for maximum effect. (Image credit: J. Hertzberg, source)

History of the ellipsis


A couple recent articles about the history of the ellipsis, drawing on the new book Ellipsis in English Literature: Signs of Omission by Anne Toner, which I have not read yet but looks interesting.

From the Guardian:

“There is no play printed before Kyffin’s Andria and listed in WW Greg’s Bibliography of English Printed Drama that marks unfinished sentences in this way. This is not to say that these were the first ellipses in English print. There are appearances of the mark earlier in the 1580s. Henry Woudhuysen has identified dashes in letters printed in 1580 and 1585, where in both cases the mark occurs as part of an informal, conversational style.”

But drama was “especially important” in the evolution of the ellipsis, according to Toner, being the literary form “that is connected in the most concentrated way with speech as it is spoken”. And after its appearance in the 1588 Andria, the punctuation mark quickly caught on. […]

Embraced by writers from Percy Shelley to Virginia Woolf, it was in the novel that the ellipsis “proliferated most spectacularly”, according to Toner. She points to Ford Madox Ford and Joseph Conrad’s use of ellipses more than 400 times in their 1901 novel The Inheritors. Ford said that the writers were aiming to capture “the sort of indefiniteness that is characteristic of all human conversations, and particularly of all English conversations, that are almost always conducted entirely by means of allusions and unfinished sentences”.

From Slate:

In medieval manuscripts, we find a mark—sometimes called subpuncting or underdotting—that is used to indicate the omission of a word or phrase, usually when that word or phrase has been copied erroneously. This omission mark involves placing a series of dots under the word that is to be omitted. The image below shows an erroneous word, blotted out and subpuncted: