If more and more people cast themselves as designers, where does this leave the professionals? Will they disappear? Or will…

“If more and more people cast themselves as designers, where does this leave the professionals? Will they disappear? Or will their influence be gradually eroded? Not if they prove their worth. In this respect, design is not unlike psychology. Lots of us like to think of ourselves as self-taught psychologists, and often use rudimentary psychological techniques when coming to instinctive conclusions about other people’s actions or motives. If we are lucky and observant, our judgements may be correct, but surely they would be more perceptive if we had studied psychology, or were able to draw on the knowledge, discipline and experience acquired from years of professional practice. Much the same can be said of design, just as long as the professionals can match the originality and resourcefulness of Blackbeard, Qin Shihuangdi, Nicholas Owen and other ‘accidental’ designers.”

Rawsthorn, Alice.Hello World: Where Design Meets Life. London: Hamish Hamilton, 2013. (viacarvalhais)

Fifth massive solar farm in Riverside County — this one near Joshua Tree — to sell power to SoCal Edison



Riverside County could soon be getting its fifth massive solar farm.

The 500-megawatt Palen solar project would be built near Desert Center, between Interstate 10 and Joshua Tree National Park. It would join the nearby Desert Sunlight facility — which at 550 megawatts was the world’s largest solar farm when it opened — and three projects near the Arizona border, known as Blythe, McCoy and Genesis.

Palen’s developer, San Diego-based EDF Renewable Energy, has signed a contract to sell the electricity the plant would generate to the region’s major utility, Southern California Edison — a key step before construction can begin. The California Public Utilities Commission is likely to approve that contract later this month. The developer must also wait for Riverside County and the federal Bureau of Land Management to conduct an environmental review, which the agencies expect to finish later this year.

Like many solar plants in the desert, Palen has faced pushback from conservationists and tribal groups, who say the industrial facility would harm fragile ecosystems, destroy Native American artifacts and negatively impact Joshua Tree National Park, which is just eight miles from the project site. Critics have argued Palen would disrupt sand transport habitat critical to Mojave fringe-toed lizards and a corridor used by Agassiz’s desert tortoise, which is considered “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Palen would be located within a 148,000-acre renewable energy zone designated by the Obama administration last year. But David Lamfrom, from the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, said it was never the government’s intention for every acre to get developed. Ecosystem impacts still need to be taken into account, he said.

Fifth massive solar farm in Riverside County — this one near Joshua Tree — to sell power to SoCal Edison

Millions and millions of us are ready. We want to not only build carbon-zero cities and regions but to live the lives that will…

“Millions and millions of us are ready. We want to not only build carbon-zero cities and regions but to live the lives that will make them thrive. We want clean energy, sure; indeed, we demand all energy be clean energy. But generating more clean energy — vital as it is — is only one part of making the world we need. We also need to imagine, design and rapidly build cities where prosperity demands much less energy to begin with and ends up shared with far more of our neighbors: cities of abundant housing in super-insulated green buildings; of walkable neighborhoods, effective transit, shared vehicles and abundant bike lanes; of circular flows of resources and frugal excellence; of breakthrough technologies and worldchanging designs; of lived innovation and community creativity — of more adventure, more fun, and, for fuck’s sake, more beauty.

Beauty matters. The sheer ugliness of the old industrial way of life all around us is something we’re taught not to see. We’re taught not too see its aesthetic ugliness, sure, but even more we are taught to ignore its ugliness of soul, it’s ugliness of purpose, its ugliness of effect. Look away, numb yourself, never speak of it again.

Millions of us do not want to spend our brief spans on Earth contributing to these systems of catastrophic ugliness. We want to live in systems that are beautiful to be a part of, beautiful in their workings, and beautiful for future generations.

We need to demand the freedom build the beautiful. If a new movement today is going to be about anything meaningful, it must be at its very core a fight to build the beautiful, at the scale of the necessary, in the very short time we have left.”

Alex Steffen, “The Last Decade and You” (viasolarpunks)

The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching.



From the first moment settlers in this small nation started pumping water to clear land for farms and houses, water has been the central, existential fact of life in the Netherlands, a daily matter of survival and national identity. No place in Europe is under greater threat than this waterlogged country on the edge of the Continent. Much of the nation sits below sea level and is gradually sinking. Now climate change brings the prospect of rising tides and fiercer storms.

From a Dutch mind-set, climate change is not a hypothetical or a drag on the economy, but an opportunity. While the Trump administration withdraws from the Paris accord, the Dutch are pioneering a singular way forward.

It is, in essence, to let water in, where possible, not hope to subdue Mother Nature: to live with the water, rather than struggle to defeat it. The Dutch devise lakes, garages, parks and plazas that are a boon to daily life but also double as enormous reservoirs for when the seas and rivers spill over. You may wish to pretend that rising seas are a hoax perpetrated by scientists and a gullible news media. Or you can build barriers galore. But in the end, neither will provide adequate defense, the Dutch say.

And what holds true for managing climate change applies to the social fabric, too. Environmental and social resilience should go hand in hand, officials here believe, improving neighborhoods, spreading equity and taming water during catastrophes. Climate adaptation, if addressed head-on and properly, ought to yield a stronger, richer state.

This is the message the Dutch have been taking out into the world. Dutch consultants advising the Bangladeshi authorities about emergency shelters and evacuation routes recently helped reduce the numbers of deaths suffered in recent floods to “hundreds instead of thousands,” according to Mr. Ovink.

The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching.

Rapid Decarbonisation of Industrial Societies (notes from a workshop)

Medium, Dougald Hine, COP21, climate change, humanities, Decarbonisation, Environment, CEMUS

For a hundred years, in an Italian palazzo transplanted to the shores of a Swedish lake, the Sigtuna Foundation has been hosting conversations where people from different worlds meet — artists, scientists, theologians, poets. So it seems an appropriate location for the meeting where I’ve spent the past two days, called by Kevin Anderson, professor of climate leadership at Uppsala University, and known (among other things) for being “the climate scientists who doesn’t fly”. At his invitation, the Centre for Environment and Development Studies at Uppsala (CEMUS) brought a group of twenty of us together to ‘develop and collate insights from the social sciences, humanities and the arts, with the purpose of eliciting a richer picture of the challenges facing rapid societal transformation’ to have a chance of reaching the commitment to limit global warming to 2° made at the Paris COP.

via https://medium.com/@dougald/rapid-decarbonisation-of-industrial-societies-notes-from-a-workshop-b63da8b419b1?source=ifttt————–1

Interview Fall 2015: Human Augmentation and Transhumanism

changeist, transhumanism, augmentation, Paul Graham Raven, Lydia Nicholas, interview, 2015

The topic of transhumanism has been a hot one lately, for reasons that probably stretch from recent surges in bio- and physical computing to questions of economic and political equity that come out of the other end of a global recession. We’re very fortunate that two people with provocative viewpoints agreed to take part: writer, researcher and critic Paul Graham Raven and researcher, writer and anthropologist Lydia Nicholas.

via https://medium.com/phase-change/interview-fall–2015-human-augmentation-and-transhumanism–59845b3e9ea4


N=255. 42% have a primary main objective to do important things.

Sizing up spaces by ear Humans can be trained to use echolocation to estimate the sizes of enclosed spaces. LMU researchers now…


Sizing up spaces by ear

Humans can be trained to use echolocation to estimate the sizes of enclosed spaces. LMU researchers now show that the learning process involves close coordination between sensory and motor cortex.

In principle, humans need not rely solely on vision for orientation. Some blind persons make use of self-generated sounds to estimate their position and orientation in an enclosed space relative to reflecting surfaces. They may tap the ground with a cane or produce clicks with their tongue, as some bat species do, and analyze the echoes to determine their distance to the surrounding walls. Now a team led by Lutz Wiegrebe, a professor in the Department of Biology at LMU, has shown that sighted people can be taught to estimate room size with the help of self-generated clicks. In collaboration with Dr. Virginia L. Flanagin from the German Center for Vertigo and Balance Disorders at the LMU Medical Center, the researchers monitored the activity in different regions of the brains of eleven sighted subjects and one blind person as they executed an echolocation task. The results enabled the team to analyze the neuronal mechanisms involved in echolocation in humans, and appear in the new issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Wiegrebe and his colleagues have developed a technique based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which makes it possible, for the first time, to monitor the process of echolocation by means of self-generated tongue clicks. In the study, this set-up was used to train sighted subjects in echolocation. The researchers first characterized the acoustic properties of a real building – a small chapel with highly reflective surfaces and a long reverberation time. “In effect, we took an acoustic photograph of the chapel, and we were then able to computationally alter the scale of this sound image, which allowed us to compress it or expand the size of the virtual space at will,” Wiegrebe explains. The experimental subjects, fitted with a headset consisting of headphones and a microphone, were placed in the MRI scanner. They were then positioned within the virtual space by means of the signals fed to the headphones. The subjects produced tongue clicks, and the echoes corresponding to virtual spaces of different sizes – derived from the acoustic image – were played to them over the headphones. “All participants learned to perceive even small differences in the size of the space,” Wiegrebe says. Moreover, they were better able to assess the size of the virtual space when they actively produced the tongue clicks than when these were played back to them. In fact, one of the experimental subjects learned to estimate the size of the virtual space to within 4% of its actual size.

The set-up used for the experiment also allowed the neuronal mechanisms involved in echolocation to be characterized with the aid of the MRI scanner. “Echolocation requires a high degree of coupling between the sensory and the motor cortex,” Virginia Flanagin says. The sound waves generated by the tongue clicks are reflected by the surroundings and picked up by both ears, thus activating the sensory (auditory) cortex. In sighted subjects, this is followed shortly afterwards by activation of the motor cortex, which stimulates the tongue and the vocal cords to emit new clicking sounds. Experiments carried out with the congenitally blind participant, on the other hand, revealed that reception of the reflected sounds resulted in the activation of the visual cortex. “That the primary visual cortex can execute auditory tasks is a remarkable testimony to the plasticity of the human brain,” says Wiegrebe. Sighted subjects, on the other hand, exhibited only a relatively weak activation of the visual cortex during the echolocation task.

The researchers now plan to develop a dedicated training program, which enables blind persons to learn how to use tongue clicks for the purpose of echolocation.

“Stratocumulus cumulogenitus homogenitus. Rising thermals from the Prunéřov, Tušimice and Počerady power plants in the Czech…


“Stratocumulus cumulogenitus homogenitus. Rising thermals from the Prunéřov, Tušimice and Počerady power plants in the Czech Republic, have generated Cumulus congestus homogenitus clouds which have spread out to form Stratocumulus at a height of about 2500m. As the Stratocumulus has formed by the spreading of Cumulus, the mother-cloud term cumulogenitus applies. The name homogenitus applies as the clouds formed as a consequence of human activity.”

(via Stunning ‘new’ cloud formations captured in updated atlas – in pictures | Science | The Guardian)

The southern end of Skaftafell National Park in Iceland is pictured in this Overview. The park spans nearly 3000 square miles,…


The southern end of Skaftafell National Park in Iceland is pictured in this Overview. The park spans nearly 3000 square miles, and contains the glacier Skaftafellsjökull seen here. The terrain is very similar to that of the Alps, formed over many years with multiple volcanic eruptions.
63.998452, -17.174032
Instagram: http://bit.ly/2sflUGe
Source imagery: DigitalGlobe

Turla’s watering hole campaign: An updated Firefox extension abusing Instagram

botnet, characters, security, instagram, Britney-Spears

We noticed that this extension was distributed through a compromised Swiss security company website. Unsuspecting visitors to this website were asked to install this malicious extension. The extension is a simple backdoor, but with an interesting way of fetching its C&C domain. The extension uses a bit.ly URL to reach its C&C, but the URL path is nowhere to be found in the extension code. In fact, it will obtain this path by using comments posted on a specific Instagram post. The one that was used in the analyzed sample was a comment about a photo posted to the Britney Spears official Instagram account.

via https://www.welivesecurity.com/2017/06/06/turlas-watering-hole-campaign-updated-firefox-extension-abusing-instagram/

The automated island


(For some background to this discussion of automation in our very eccentric and local context, revisit one of our first posts - ‘The pleasures of prediction’.) 

There’s a spot we often go swimming in Madeira called Ponta Gorda, ‘Fat Point’. It’s like a public swimming pool - in fact it does have a decent saltwater pool - but most people who go there dive straight into the open sea, which gives you the thrill of swimming in very deep water - 2,000 metres close to shore descending to 4,000 metres further out. So the sea is a public swimming pool, and you pay your euro for amenities like the changing rooms and cafe. It’s a good place for lunch or a cold beer when the sun is shining. Umbrellas and sunbeds cost extra, but we prefer to bake on the hot concrete after a cool swim.


Into this idyllic scene comes automation. There’s a person who works in the entrance booth and takes your euro, and adjacent to the booth is a row of turnstiles. Presumably until a couple of years ago you paid your money and went straight in. Since we’ve been going to Ponta Gorda, however, a newer system has been in place: an automated scanning system.

The system is supposed to work like this: first you buy a barcoded ticket or charge your card with the person in the booth; then you scan your ticket, unlocking the turnstile, and you walk through. (The scanner uses that red laser thing to read the barcode.)

What actually happens is this: we arrive at the booth, say hello to the friendly woman who works there - because we all know each other by now - pay for a ticket or charge our card (if we’ve remembered to bring it, which is rare), try to scan the barcode under the laser in the bright midday sun, fail miserably, smile at the woman in the booth to signal our failure, wait as she grabs her keys and comes out of the booth, watch as she tries in vain to scan it several times, exchange sympathetic smiles when she too fails, together blame the sun, stand by while she unlocks the gate at the side, and walk through.

We’re not sure why the automatic gate always fails. Things often don’t work on this island. They remain broken for months or years, and people get used to working around them. The parking garages and supermarket checkouts are the same: there is always someone to help you scan your ticket or purchases because the scanner never works properly. These are de-facto semi-automated systems that require the same human worker they required before the machine was installed. So why have a scanner at all? Who said this was a good idea? What was wrong with the old way?

Well, it’s progress, innit? Unfortunately what may work under ideal conditions in, say, London or Oslo may not necessarily work under less than ideal conditions, and without maintenance support, in Madeira. It’s like those tractors in the Soviet Union under collectivisation that broke down or simply ran out of petrol and were left to rot in the fields. Not to mention the fact that automation is often about efficiency, and efficiency - in terms of saving either time or labour - is not something this sleepy island particularly wants or needs.


People in Madeira are adaptable, they get along fine with less than optimal technology. But significant resources are wasted in the pursuit of Mainland ideas of progress. Then there are the side-effects of automation that are not particular to islanders: deskilling, alienation from labour. Few people actually lose their jobs because the technology can rarely be trusted - but everywhere you see people sitting idle in their work, passive, mere appendages of the machines they are paid to assist. Is this the techno-utopia we were waiting for? Sometimes on the periphery, as Laura Watts said to us recently, small perturbations are felt more distinctly than in the centre.

In his frankly curmudgeonly but still insightful essay ‘Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer’ (1987), Wendell Berry lays out his ‘standards for technological innovation’. There are nine points, and in the third point Berry states that the new device or system ‘should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better’ than the old one. This seems obvious and not too much to ask of a technology, but how well does the automated entrance at Ponta Gorda fulfill that claim?

Berry also has a point, the last in his list, about not replacing or disrupting ‘anything good that already exists’. This includes relationships between people. In other words, solve actual problems - rather than finding just any old place to put a piece of technology you want to sell. Even if the scanners at Ponta Gorda did work, how would eliminating the one human being who is employed to welcome visitors and answer questions improve the system? In Berry’s words, ‘what would be superseded would be not only something, but somebody’. The person who works there is a ‘good that already exists’, a human relationship that should be preserved, especially when her removal from a job would be bought at so little gain.

In the next post we’ll go deeper into a taxonomy of automation. Now we’re going for a swim.

Images:James Auger and Julian Hanna.

Tsushima-trillion letter

type, fotnts, japanese, Tsushima-trillion letter


その実在を主張した《化美津文字》    (via うみほたる)

The most Geo-tagged Place on Earth

Medium, GPS, geography, data, null island, Borges, The Aleph, geotag, glitch

This brings be back to what is likely the most geo-tagged place on earth. It is a place that can be found marked with unambiguous precision on many social media sites or self-crafted mapping projects. The place seems to be relevant in almost any context, and has been tagged and described in an unaccountable number of ways. The place seems to combine many places at once, all sharing the same location — similar to Jorge Luis Borges’ Aleph: “The Aleph’s diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror’s face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe.”

via https://blog.offenhuber.net/the-most-geo-tagged-place-on-earth-fc76758cc505

AlphaGo, in context

Medium, AlphaGo, ML, machine learning, AI, go

AlphaGo is made up of a number of relatively standard techniques: behavior cloning (supervised learning on human demonstration data), reinforcement learning (REINFORCE), value functions, and Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS). However, the way these components are combined is novel and not exactly standard. In particular, AlphaGo uses a SL (supervised learning) policy to initialize the learning of an RL (reinforcement learning) policy that gets perfected with self-play, which they then estimate a value function from, which then plugs into MCTS that (somewhat surprisingly) uses the (worse!, but more diverse) SL policy to sample rollouts. In addition, the policy/value nets are deep neural networks, so getting everything to work properly presents its own unique challenges (e.g. value function is trained in a tricky way to prevent overfitting). On all of these aspects, DeepMind has executed very well. That being said, AlphaGo does not by itself use any fundamental algorithmic breakthroughs in how we approach RL problems.

via https://medium.com/@karpathy/alphago-in-context-c47718cb95a5

The Vatican Opposes Riyadh’s Regional Dominance

vatican, religion, catholicism, wahhabism, 2017

Catholic experts on terrorism consider the official Saudi faith of Wahhabism, an eighteenth-century Salafi movement founded on the peninsula, to be a destabilizing source of extremism. For the Holy See, Wahhabism’s threat is existential: Wahhabi intolerance and money fuel violence against Christians and other communities across the Middle East and beyond. To counter this threat, the Vatican is cultivating relationships with non-Wahabbist Islamic cultural centers such as Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which Francis visited last month. Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, visited Francis in Rome last year, an especially significant development given that Tayeb led a boycott against the Vatican in 2011 after Benedict commented on anti-Christian violence in Egypt. Many hope that the renewed relationship will give new momentum to Christian–Muslim dialogue. Wariness about Wahhabism also applies to Syria, where local Catholic leaders remain skeptical regarding a Saudi-backed regime change. It is a simple calculus: Christian communities, whether Orthodox or Catholic, have been protected by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father Hafez al-Assad before that; Sunni extremism could bring Sharia law and second-class status for Christians.

via https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/saudi-arabia/2017–06–02/why-trump-and-francis-diverge-saudi-arabia

Dust and shadow. Field Notes #1

Medium, FoAM, dust and shadow

We had arrived in the Sonoran desert. A place of desiccated time, layered time, geological, vegetal, human time. Time kneads the Earth’s crust into deep folds, cracks and canyons. Plants lay dormant through cycles of drought or grow slowly for centuries, bursting into blossom after the first rains. Humans come and go. Blown through the ages like tumbleweeds. Things don’t really decay here. They shrivel, dry up or slowly rust, yet remain present, as they gradually erode into dust. A thick, dusty atmosphere of things that were, things that are and things that might be. Densities and intensities coagulating on a larger than human scale, illuminated by stark light or lurking in the deep shadow.

via https://medium.com/@foam/dust-and-shadow-field-notes–1–48e94d02540b

nobody has ever been animist because one is never animist “in general,” always in the terms of an assemblage that produces or…

animism, stengers, magic

“nobody has ever been animist because one is never animist “in general,” always in the terms of an assemblage that produces or enhances metamorphic (magic) transformation in our capacity to affect and be affected – that is also to feel, think, and imagine. Animism may, however, be a name for reclaiming these assemblages because it lures us into feeling that their efficacy is not ours to claim. Against the insistent poisoned passion of dismembering and demystifying, it affirms what it is they all require in order not to devour us – that we are not alone in the world.”

Isabelle Stengers. Reclaiming Animism.

Facebook Goes Full “Black Mirror

Medium, facebook, black mirror, privacy, social capital, china, US, walled gardens

If we give in to the sheer gigantic sweep of Facebook and the convenience it creates, and feed all our collective information into its ever-more-intelligent algorithms; if news is read and messages are sent primarily within the Facebook network so that each of these interactions sows new data points in our profiles; and if we build up thousands upon thousands of these innocuous-seeming interactions over years and years, and those interactions are overlaid with face-recognized images, marketing data from online purchases, browsing histories and, now, GPS-tracked driving data, is this total bartering of privacy worth the buy-in to Zuckerberg’s “supportive,” “safe,” “informed,” “civically engaged,” global community?

via https://thebolditalic.com/facebook-goes-full-black-mirror-how-facebook-is-making-membership-a-prerequisite-to-everyday-e88fb03b0eb9

On Thin Ice


If you’re interested in what’s happening up north in the Arctic with climate change, you’ll appreciate (and enjoy) this article published by Biographic about the Arctic. Good photos, a couple of infographics, and a comprehensive story about the changing ecosystems, militarization (by Russia, mostly), access to oil, politics, and so on.


The melting ice has already turned the region into something of a new frontier, with many nations eyeing its sea routes, its strategic position between Eurasia and North America, and its potentially huge reserves of oil and gas. Indeed, the area north of the Arctic Circle may harbor an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, as well as 44 billion barrels of technically recoverable natural gas liquids. This amounts to 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered stores of these fuels. All that from an area comprising just 6 percent of Earth’s surface, according to a U.S. Geological Survey assessment.

And herein lies the polar paradox: As global warming from burning fossil fuels and other human activities causes sea ice to shrink, it helps open the Arctic to offshore fossil fuel exploration. Should large amounts be discovered and burned, it will be all the more challenging to meet the Paris Agreement goal to keep the rise in global temperatures this century well below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit—and to limit the already-significant impact on this and other regions.

Unanticipated ecological and species changes could also bring major surprises. This has already happened with snow crab ( Chionoecetes opilio) in the Barents Sea, where it is an invasive species. It was discovered there in 1996, and its population has since skyrocketed, creating a whole new fishery. But as an invader that feeds on animals living on the seabed, the crab could significantly alter the composition of bottom-dwellers and thereby disrupt the entire marine ecosystem.

“We’re talking about a huge shift in the Arctic, but we don’t know what the hell is happening,“ Dankel says. “It’s a fascinating, complex perfect storm. It can either come out really great, or everything could go down the shithole.”

On Thin Ice

Dust is everywhere because its source is everything. Its most remote origins in time and space are the Big Bang, collapsing…

dust, time, matter, dirt, milky way, interconnectedness

“Dust is everywhere because its source is everything. Its most remote origins in time and space are the Big Bang, collapsing stars, and the dark line across the center of the Milky Way, which, according to astronomer Donald Brownlee,“is a line of dirt perhaps 65,200 light­ years across, and 3.832 X 1017 miles long.” Here on earth, dust comes from everything under the sun: minerals, seeds, pollen, insects, molds, lichens, and even bacteria. Its sources also include bone, hair, hide, feather, skin, blood, and excrement. And things of human fabrication, too numerous to mention, also cover the earth and all the atmosphere with dust.”

Joseph A. Amato. Dust.

Additivism Workshop: Designing Post-Natural Futures (Athens, 10–11 Jun 2017) 12:00–18:00 - Diplareios School (Theatrou sq 3,…


#Additivism Workshop: Designing Post-Natural Futures (Athens, 10-11 Jun 2017)

12:00-18:00 - Diplareios School (Theatrou sq 3, Athens centre)

This #additivism workshop led by Daniel Rourke and Geraldine Juárez invites us to an exploration of post-natural history, geo-history and Mediterranean world-ecologies, emphasizing critical perspectives driven from the intersection of art, design and activism. #Additivism, which takes 3D fabrication as its critical framework, is a portmanteau of additive and activism that exemplifies radical approaches to collective action, extending from the local through to geological timescales.

In this two day workshop, we will identify and name the epistemic conditions under which “post-nature” emerges and thrives. We will take into account the additive logic of extractivism and its deep legacy in the form of techno-scientific projects such as bio- and geo-engineering. We will consider Mediterranean world-ecologies and imagine structures of knowledge and action able to exist outside or beyond “the Eurocene and Technocene initiated by Europeans.”

What is Post-Nature and how does it relate to Earth’s deep geological time? In what ways could 3D fabrication affect tomorrow’s techno-natural environments? Can radical applications and speculations about its use assist in understanding the planet’s ongoing transformations?

How other kinds of beings see us matters. That other kinds of beings see us changes things. If jaguars also represent us—in ways…

Eduardo Kohn, non-human, thinking, anthropology, forests

“How other kinds of beings see us matters. That other kinds of beings see us changes things. If jaguars also represent us—in ways that can matter vitally to us—then anthropology cannot limit itself just to exploring how people from different societies might happen to represent them as doing so. Such encounters with other kinds of beings force us to recognize the fact that seeing, representing, and perhaps knowing, even thinking, are not exclusively human affairs.”

Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think (2013)

Skateboarding History in 100 Video Clips

Skateboarding, skating, urbanism, skateboarding studies, history


Kingpin reports on the collection of videos that Professor Iain Borden has compiled in his re-write of his seminal academic work on Skateboarding. His new book ‘Skateboarding and the City’ will be published in 2018 and has been brought up to date and also made interactive. In accompanying the book Iain has put together a playlist with classic clips from skateboarding’s past. The playlistis an amazing resource for skateboarding fans and you will find yourself clicking through old favourites and undiscovered gems.

Skateboarding History in 100 Video Clips

Notice the countries involved in this aggressive, but not really scientifically radical project: Germany, Denmark and the…

video link


Notice the countries involved in this aggressive, but not really scientifically radical project: Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. I don’t see the US in here, and I know of nothing being contemplated by the US to match something like this.

Description of this proposed project from Climate Reality:

Three European countries — Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands — are planning to build an artificial island in the North Sea that will be a hub for thousands of offshore turbines. The island would also be home to a solar farm, and could provide clean electricity to up to 80 million Europeans in the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Belgium.

The technical director of the project, Torben Glar Nielsen, says, “Maybe it sounds a bit crazy and science fiction-like, but an island on Dogger Bank could make the wind power of the future a lot cheaper and more effective.” The project will not be simple — but it could pay off big in terms of lowering emissions and delivering power to northwest Europe’s grid.

The neural network will name your next band

char-rnn, band names, music


An important part of starting a new band is choosing an appropriate name. It is crucial that the name be unique, or you could risk at best confusion, and at worst an expensive lawsuit.

The neural network is here to help.

Prof. Mark Riedl of Georgia Tech, who recently provided the world a dataset of all the stories with plot summaries on Wikipedia, (enabling this post on neural net story names) now used his Wikipedia-extraction skills to produce a list of all the bands with listed discographies - about 84,000 in all.

I gave the list to the Char-rnnneural network framework, and it was soon producing unique band names for a variety of genres. Below are examples of its output at various temperature (i.e. creativity) settings.

Temperature 1.1

This is about as high as the creativity setting can go before most of the band names are unpronounceable jumbles. These are some fine band names, highly suitable for whatever the heck their genres are supposed to be.

Spice Green Robinson
Gloome Schronnana
The Freights
Nighty Daggers
The Loveburners of Internal Watch
Foxettes Ratimot Secret singer band
The Dougloco
The Theps
Choconard Leach
Mighty Chipping Baker
Bop Gray (band)

Temperature 1.0

With the creativity turned down a bit, the band names are still weird, but a bit more plausible. Their genres can sometimes be identified.

For example, I think these are probably traditional Irish bands?

The Durks of Audun Green
Sherry of Shinking Feavan
The Shurping Laudst

And these might work as metal bands:

Rabidass (band)
Killerlet (musician)
Brokin’s Killer
Flish Lipe
Girl Dead

These are perhaps a bit less scrutable.

Dr Overhard
The Arce (band)
The Tree Misters
Reilling Ef (rapper)
Flim Brothers
Ching Mage
Nan Edwards (folk singer)
Nittle Bizzy
The Dinlakoposseps
Skins of Space
Michael Porker
The Lost singers
The Nutlet Band
The Rogue Orchestra
The Fuman.A.I.((band)
Vervoly Brown (urtist)
Boohalloid (group)
The Ballening Birds
Lice Stepley

Temperature 0.9

With the creativity turned down a notch further, the band names become even more plausible. You could probably convince me that these exist.

No Andrew Newson
Fuzion (band)
The Wurfywinders
Clay Fights
Berry Stitcher
Something Rothers
The Awl
The Thingsons
Switch’s Rich
Pond Billy
The Hums (band)
Northern Prince (Indian band)
Staff Killer

Temperature 0.6

Turn the creativity down another notch, and we start to edge toward the neural network’s idea of the most quintessential band names. Note that they’re still pretty weird.

Dub Arts
Sheet Rose
Heart Coil
Elliot Horse
Big Love
The Mothers (band)
The Time Stars
Hulls of Girls
Sucken (band)
Electric Sing Show
The Pans
Symphony No. 3 (Dinish band)
Hell Staple (band)
Peter Parker
Bad Head
The Out Cookers
Flower Shankar
The Hat Coles

Temperature 0.3

Now at a creativity setting of only 0.3, almost all the band names are variations on “The [Noun]”.

The Shines
The Deaths
The Dance (band)
The Livers (band)
The Stone Choir
The Shake Man (band)

Another strange thing happens, which is that the proportion of sharks goes way, way up. Apparently the neural network thinks that if you’re going to name a band, you can’t go wrong with sharks.

Johnny Shark
The Shark Charles
Shark Rander
The Shark (band)
Nicole Shark
Shark Gordon
Shark Taylor (musician)
The Shark Singers
Tony Shark

Temperature 0.01

And now we come to the lowest temperature setting, where the neural network’s output consists of the most-quintessential band name, repeated over and over. Throughout most of the training process, this name was “The Stars” and occasionally “The Brothers”, but there was one generation where the neural network repeatedly insisted that there was nothing… nothing more fundamental to music than the banjo-playing skills of:

Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)
Steve Martin (musician)

We live in an era of great turbulence, with economic decline running in paradoxical tandem with technological advance. It is…

Brexit, UK, EU, hookland, Irvine Welsh, chaos, change, politics, uncertainty, silver lining, postnormal

“We live in an era of great turbulence, with economic decline running in paradoxical tandem with technological advance. It is only to be expected that our antiquated institutions haven’t been able to keep up, and our nation states, political parties and supranational bodies are starting to unravel. Politicians now seem perennially in the business of chaos management, and the suspicion must be that this process has only just begun. The inevitable chorus of voices crying out for “a period of stability” sadly misses the point: we aren’t at that place in our history, and trying to impose inertia on those fluid times may only be inviting further discord.”

Irvine Welsh,The beauty beneath Brexit’s bedwetting.