“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.

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: (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. (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. (more…)

Reading “Counting, accounting, and accountability: Helen Verran’s relational empiricism”

Just read Martha Ken­ney’s “Count­ing, account­ing, and account­abil­i­ty: Helen Verran’s rela­tion­al empiri­cism”.
The arti­cle is cur­rent­ly avail­able through the Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence Online­First ser­vice. Inten­tion­al­ly or not, it sits nice­ly with oth­er arti­cles brought togeth­er to exam­ine .

Ken­ney, M. (2015). Count­ing, account­ing, and account­abil­i­ty: Helen Ver­ran’s rela­tion­al empiri­cism. Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 1–23.

Ken­ney’s arti­cle is very much a homage to Helen Ver­ran and her won­der­ful book Sci­ence and an African Log­ic. She pays spe­cial atten­tion to Ver­ran’s efforts at decom­po­si­tion and frames these through a lens of account­abil­i­ty. Care is giv­en by Ken­ny to dif­fer­en­ti­ate this kind of account­ing from that of “con­tem­po­rary neo-lib­er­al bureau­cra­cies” that run the risk of strength­en­ing “the aca­d­e­m­ic cul­ture that priv­i­leges cri­tique and rev­e­la­tion over oth­er, more sub­tle and cre­ative, approach­es.” (more…)

See, for exam­ple, Mar­tin, A., Myers, N., & Viseu, A. (2015). The pol­i­tics of care in techno­science. Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 1–17.

Back to interaction (a reply to Barry)

I’m grate­ful to Bar­ry Brown for his com­ments on my short Inter­ac­tions piece, “After Inter­ac­tion”.
Bar­ry, as always, you’ve forced me to think more care­ful­ly about my mean­der­ings. Indeed, my inten­tion was to append a short reply to your com­ment, but your ques­tions have demand­ed more and, pre­dictably, words have got the bet­ter of me. This post, then, is my long-wind­ed response. Thank you for giv­ing me the chance to expand on my thoughts.

First, let me respond to your crit­i­cisms regard­ing the inter­min­glings of humans and non­hu­mans. (more…)

“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.