“Remaking Digital Futures” — BDFI Panel

Pan­elist on “Remak­ing Dig­i­tal Futures”, Bris­tol Dig­i­tal Futures Insti­tute’s inau­gur­al symposium.

Panel talk: Prototyping AI ethics futures—Rights, access and refusal

Pan­el talk at 1:00pm–2:30pm, 23 June 2021 (BST), in asso­ci­a­tion with Ada Lovelace Insti­tute, The British Acad­e­my and The Arts and Human­i­ties Research coun­cil.

Seminar talk and discussion with Daniela Rosner

I’m real­ly thrilled to have Daniela Ros­ner vis­it­ing us at the Cen­tre for Human-Com­put­er Inter­ac­tion Design (HCID), and espe­cial­ly excit­ed about her HCID sem­i­nar talk. She’ll be expand­ing on ideas from her book “Crit­i­cal Fab­u­la­tions: Rework­ing the Meth­ods and Mar­gins of Design”, and Ann Light will act­ing as dis­cus­sant. For details see this Eventbrite page

Experiments in collective counting

Photo of contributions to self-service publication.

I’m real­ly hap­py to have a short piece by me and Clara Criv­el­laro includ­ed in the pub­li­ca­tion “Self-Ser­vice”, a col­lec­tion of con­tri­bu­tions respond­ing to . Kirsty Hendry and Ilona Sagar pro­duced the pub­li­ca­tion which was exhib­it­ed along­side their film screen­ing at the Glas­gow Inter­na­tion­al Fes­ti­val.

Photo of Experiments in collective counting, from the self-service publication.
Credits, from Experiments in collective counting.

In “Exper­i­ments in col­lec­tive count­ing”, Clara and I write about the (ac)counting prac­tices on an estate in South East Lon­don and our efforts to inter­vene in a res­olute­ly sin­gu­lar log­ic of com­mu­ni­ty and value.

The Peck­ham Exper­i­ment was a social exper­i­ment tar­get­ing health. The Pio­neer Health Foun­da­tion, the lega­cy to the exper­i­ment, describes it as “an inves­ti­ga­tion into the nature of health.” From 1926 to 1950 it was based in Peck­ham, south Lon­don at the Pio­neer Health Cen­tre. For more infor­ma­tion vis­it the Pio­neer Health Foun­da­tion web­site.

From the Picket Line

For those of us in UK acad­e­mia, it’s been impos­si­ble to miss the strikes over the last four weeks, with aca­d­e­mics from across the coun­try stand­ing their ground for a fair and equi­table pen­sion. There are many incred­i­bly detail­ing the devel­op­ments and explain­ing how this is about for a walk of life that just does­n’t have to be sub­ject to the warped val­ues of the Neo-lib­er­al project.

Per­son­al­ly, what I’ve found inspi­ra­tional is the cov­er­age from the pick­et line and the indus­try of oth­ers. Nat­u­ral­ly, there have been the march­es, the ban­ners, and the teach-ins. But, with such gen­er­a­tive care and warmth, what has brought spe­cial cheer to me have been the many out­stand­ing exam­ples of cre­ative impulse: of craft (like that record­ed by Jacob Phelps below), of design (from Kat­ja May, Kat Jung­nick­el, etc. at Gold­smiths), and of poet­ry (no less from the fab­u­lous Michael Rosen).

Giv­en it would be hard to add to all the amaz­ing com­men­tary on the pen­sion strikes, what I want to pay spe­cial homage to here is the dance (and a lit­tle song) from the pick­et line. Brows­ing the not-so-dis­tant twit­ter archive, I’ve tried to dig out a few out the high­lights from the last few weeks that can’t help bring a smile to my face. It must be said, that among all the won­der­ful exam­ples, Lan­cast­er goes gold hands down for the PEF (Pick­et Excel­lence Frame­work), and Imo­gen Tyler deserves a spe­cial award of excel­lence for her unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to impact dis­sem­i­na­tion, Twitter-wide.

Here’s to all the dancers (and musi­cians) on the pick­et line


For exam­ple, from Jason Hick­el, David Ker­nohan, via Medi­um, etc. Karen Gre­go­ry has put togeth­er a list of UCU Strike Read­ings. Lucy Robin­son’s strike scrap­book also deserves a spe­cial mention.

Vienna art, design, and architecture biennale

Anab Jain very kind­ly asked me to con­tribute a short piece to the pro­gramme for the Vien­na art, design, and archi­tec­ture bien­nale.

With the motto:
“Robots. Work. Our Future”

… the Bien­nale sets the devel­op­ments in robot­ics and AI against the future of work and labour. I’ve used this as an invi­ta­tion to con­sid­er two ‘modes’ of capability:

When it comes to judg­ing the capac­i­ties of humans and non­hu­mans, we are drawn to two modes of exis­tence. In one mode, we are com­pelled to see capa­bil­i­ty as resid­ing with­in an actor, as an intrin­sic qual­i­ty of their being. A favourite deter­mi­nant is the brain-weight to body-weight ratio; anoth­er is genet­ic pre­dis­po­si­tion. We have devised all man­ner of tests to iso­late human and non­hu­man capac­i­ties: IQ tests, rats mazes and Tur­ing tests among them. Nat­u­ral­ly, humans come out on top using most counts.
In the sec­ond mode, we observe actors excel in their achieve­ments. We allow our­selves to be sur­prised and delight­ed by exhi­bi­tions of capac­i­ty that exceed our expec­ta­tions (and that con­tra­vene the first mode in so many ways). To find evi­dence of this mode, one need only turn to that vast repos­i­to­ry of record and obser­va­tion, YouTube, and wit­ness the view­ing num­bers for titles like “species [x] and species [y] play­ing togeth­er”, “species [x] and species [y] unlike­ly friends”, and so on. As these titles sug­gest, capa­bil­i­ty is often recog­nised here as accom­plished with others—with oth­er objects, oth­er actors, oth­er critters.
Spec­u­lat­ing on human capacities—on what humans might be capa­ble of and how they might work in the future—I find myself ask­ing, as the ani­mal stud­ies schol­ar Vin­ciane Despret does, which of these modes is ‘more inter­est­ing’ and which ‘makes more inter­est­ing’. Which of these modes invites us to spec­u­late on new fab­u­la­tions of actors of all kinds, of actors becom­ing-with each oth­er, of becom­ing oth­er-than-human­ly-capa­ble, of becom­ing more capable?
I am tak­en by the mode that views capa­bil­i­ty as col­lec­tive­ly achieved and that invites those con­di­tions that enlarge capac­i­ties through on-going inter­min­glings. The future of work, through this mode, will be dic­tat­ed not by the lim­its of being human, but by how we might best attune our­selves with oth­ers, how we might become more capa­ble together.

“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 (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.

“Earthwide projects” at Shifting Borderlands, Aarhus 2015

I was delight­ed to par­tic­i­pate in last mon­th’s “Shift­ing Bor­der­lands” work­shop at the decen­ni­al Aarhus Con­fer­ence: Crit­i­cal Alter­na­tives . What an inspir­ing and mem­o­rable event! My sin­cer­est thanks to the organ­is­ers, Sil­via, Marisa, Lucian, Hrönn and Carl.
The posi­tion papers—from a won­der­ful mix of people—are all online here. My own text was a short but ram­bling piece on some still under­de­vel­oped ideas. I’ve been try­ing to think a lit­tle more crit­i­cal­ly about my role as a aca­d­e­mi­cian and a Microsoft researcher. Pre­dictably, in com­bi­na­tion, the roles raise all sorts of ques­tions and fric­tions for me. Increas­ing­ly, I’ve direct­ed my efforts at think­ing about the worlds I’ve helped to enact and ask­ing whether they are kinds of worlds that I would want to live in.
It’s hard to put it bet­ter than Don­na Haraway:

My piece, “Impact and Count­ing”, is avail­able here.

Har­away, D. (1988). Sit­u­at­ed knowl­edges: The sci­ence ques­tion in fem­i­nism and the priv­i­lege of par­tial per­spec­tive. Fem­i­nist stud­ies, 14(3): 579.

On Counting

Kat Jung­nick­el kind­ly invit­ed me to a two day meet­ing as part of her con­tin­u­ing series of Trans­mis­sions and Entan­gle­ments events. Amidst oth­ers work­ing through new meth­ods and process­es, here’s what I had to say for myself on count­ing:

What is it to count and to be counted?
One way I have made sense of my work over the last 10 years at Microsoft has been to see it as a way of get­ting to grips with count­ing and in some ways com­ing to terms with being counted.


After a tremen­dous about of work with Lara Hous­ton, I’m delight­ed to have final­ly gone live with our data pol­i­cy site: data-policy.info. It attempts to detail, in var­i­ous for­mats and cuts, the dis­cus­sions at the day of dia­logues on data, pol­i­cy and civic life, held at Microsoft Research Cam­bridge. More than this though, we want the site to pro­mote fur­ther dis­cus­sion and expand the ways we might think of the rela­tions between data, social/civic life, and pol­i­cy. For me, the inspi­ra­tion here has been the work a few of us have been doing with Teni­son Road in cam­bridge and a com­mu­ni­ty’s efforts to make sense of and use its data. I’d like to think some­thing small and local could make a dif­fer­ence in these big discussions

Dialogues on data, policy and civic life

Next Tues­day a few of us at Microsoft Research are host­ing a day-long dia­logue to dis­cuss the inter­min­glings of data and social/civic life. We’re bring­ing togeth­er a mix of social the­o­rists, com­men­ta­tors and pol­i­cy advis­ers with the hope of draw­ing out pos­si­bil­i­ties for doing pol­i­cy mak­ing (as well as tech­nol­o­gy design) dif­fer­ent­ly. Our pre­am­ble for the event fol­lows (a print­able PDF can be down­loaded here): (more…)