Interview with Nora Young on CBC Radio Spark Show

I was interviewed just over a week ago by Nora Young, for the great Spark programme, aired on CBC Radio One.

In short, I try to give Nora a sense of how AI could open up some radically different possibilities if we were able to approach intelligence differently. I try to capture how we might see intelligence not in restrictive human terms (as stable cognitive capacities in the head/mind), but as something always emergent, always enacted and tied to the many unfolding relations we find ourselves entangled in. I see this to be a generative orientation to AI, building on ideas from Donna Haraway, Isabelle Stengers, Vinciane Despret, Sarah Whatmore and many others grappling with the possibilities of us extending our capabilities, of being somehow more-than-human.

If you’re in Canada, the programme is broadcast this coming Sunday afternoon at 1:05 PM local time (in most parts of Canada) and again on Wednesday at 2:05 PM. Alternatively, my segment of the show is available here, titled:

I want to give a special thanks to Marcus Carter and the University of Melbourne’s Social NUI Centre for allowing me to share their amazing work with Orangutans.

Artificial Intelligence: asking the right questions

Children with robot

Nesta kindly invited me to one of their ‘hot topics‘ events a couple of weeks ago to present a provocation on AI and human-computer interaction. They also asked for me to write a few words that they’ve now published on the “TheLong+Short” blog here. I append the original text to my provocation below.

I came across this photo on my computer today (sorry, I’ve looked to see if I can attribute it to someone, but so far failed). It’s a lovely image in it’s own right, playing with a vintage quality to the future, but in this context I think it does invite the question ‘is this the limit of our imaginations?’ I’d like to suggest AI might open us up to so much more. Read more…

Re-making places

At the CHI conference this year, Clara Crivellaro presented this paper on our amazing work at a regeneration site on the outskirts of London. The work touches on many issues that are important to me, from grassroots participation and housing to inventive methods and technoscience’s productive possibilities.

Clara Crivellaro, Alex Taylor, Vasilis Vlachokyriakos, Rob Comber, Bettina Nissen, Peter Wright

We present insights from an extended engagement and design intervention at an urban regeneration site in SE London. We describe the process of designing a walking trail and system for recording and playing back place-specific stories for those living and working on the housing estate, and show how this is set within a wider context of urban renewal, social/affordable housing and “community building”. Like prior work, the research reveals the frictions that arise in participatory engagements with heterogeneous actors. Here we illustrate how material interventions can rearrange existing spatial configurations, making productive the plurality of accounts intrinsic in community life. Through this, we provide an orientation to HCI and design interventions that are concerned with civic engagement and participation in processes of making places.

“The promiscuity of interaction”

This is a brief comment on a meeting Barry Brown and I hosted at Microsoft Research Cambridge, titled .

“Interaction as a a promiscuous concept”: it’s Stuart Reeves’ phrasing that nicely captures the sentiment of our small meeting’s discussions. The collection of short talks and the emphasis given to talking (and not just lecturing), gave rise to a language of critical but positive reflection. Rather than deliberating on an ‘after’ or ‘post’ interaction turn or wave in HCI, interaction was seen to still offer a great deal. The consensus (led by positions from David Kirk, Abi Durrant , Bill Gaver and Stuart) was it provides us with a device or machinery in common, and, conceptually, there remains much to do with the word that keeps us open to new domains and indeed new (design) possibilities. Here, I’m reminded of Isabelle Stengers use of the phrase a “tool for thinking”. It certainly appears interaction (still) provides us with just such a tool.

And yet I felt there was a shared frustration Read more…

See this post as one source for the discussion.
Kindly attended by, Andy Boucher, Barry Brown, Rob Comber, Anna Cox, Abi Durrant, Bill Gaver, Elisa Giaccardi, Kat Jungnickel, Dave Kirk, Airi Lampinen, Eric Laurier, Lucian Leahu, Christian Licoppe, Dave Martin, Mike Michael, Marianna Obrist, Stuart Reeves, Yvonne Rogers, Francesca Salvadori, Anja Thieme, Tony Weiser and Alex Wilkie.
Stuart has posted the notes to his talk here. He has suggested this as a complimentary reading: Anderson, B. and Sharrock, W. (2013). PostModernism, Social Science & Technology.
Abi referenced the piece “Edge Town” by Hooker and Kitchen (2004), in her short talk. She has also suggested E. M. Foster’s ‘The Machine Stops‘ for further reading. As she explains: [t]his is because this novella conveys the ideas we discussed about making-and-describing the macro and micro features of a world (of complex mediated interactions) and, dare I say, the ‘local and global’.  (With the 1:1 scale features of  interaction being the stuff that designers can really work with. It manages to convey the complexity of a socio-technical system through depicting a few moments of relatively simple interaction with ‘the machine’.  The story also presents truly entangled human and non human bodies and their politics, ethics, dependencies, faith — and deals more specifically with implications around transparency within those mediated interactions. This is despite being of it’s time and assuming certain differences between people and the natural world, and ‘man and machine’.
See, Stengers, I. (2013). Introductory notes on an ecology of practices. Cultural Studies Review, 11(1), 183-196.

Reading Sloterdijk’s Spheres, alongside Stengers and Barad

Amanda Windle has kindly invited me to participate in her small seminar:

Informed matters
Digital media materialities.

The seminar is summarised as follows:

Considering Peter Sloterdijk’s rendering of a Heideggerian ‘being-in’ this informal seminar will be a situated reading. The discussion will be located at the Royal Society of the Arts to spatially think through an approach to Peter Sloterdijk’s ‘spherology’ across disciplines. How, where and with what matterings do we embark our daily readings is no trivial matter? Sloterdijk’s writing can both inform and trouble readers and so the adjacent readings from and will open up further questions and provocations. Sloterdijk’s recent publications have been aimed at a design audience (namely architects) and with his media theory the following digital media question will be proposed.  With a broadly experiential and performative approach in mind the discussion will loosely consider spherology in this respect:

  • This formulation opens to the somewhat irreverent question (following Sloterdijk’s own irreverence) of how his thinking can be turned into an app or an application (app displacing application displacing theorisation displacing philosophisation, the last term barely being a word)?
  • How might Sloterdijk’s work be reparatively questioned through a feminist enquiry? How might Sloterdijk’s metaphors engage us intra-actively?

I’ve sketched out my response to the latter: Read more…

Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28(3), 801–831.
Stengers, I. (2013). Introductory notes on an ecology of practices. Cultural Studies Review11(1), 183-196.

Reading “Yes to Life = No to Mining:”…

This striking article from Diane Nelson—in SF Online’s special issue: Life (Un)ltd—has stuck with me over the last few weeks.

Nelson, D. (2013). “Yes to Life = No to Mining:” Counting as Biotechnology in Life (Ltd) Guatemala. The Scholar and Feminist Online, 11(3).

Nelson weaves together a compelling if somewhat bleak story of mining in Guatemala and the impact it is having on small villages and local people. Read more…

On “How Apple is Giving Design a Bad Name”

Thanks to Richard Banks for pointing me towards this piece published on Fast Company’s site by Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini (Tog):

The article is a hard hitting critique of Apple’s current design philosophy. More than this, though, the two long time interaction design gurus set out a clear project for design, one that they see Apple having been instrumental in but now deviating from. Their general argument is, on the face of it, pretty convincing. Yet digging a little deeper it’s one that I have problems with. This post is really an effort to sort things out in my own mind. Read more…