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.

Published Modelling Biology – working through (in-)stabilities and frictions

Just had our paper on Com­pu­ta­tion­al Biol­o­gy pub­lished in the online jour­nal Com­pu­ta­tion­al Cul­ture.
Alex S. Tay­lor, Jas­min Fish­er, Byron Cook, Samin Ish­ti­aq and Nir Piter­man (2014) Mod­el­ling Biol­o­gy – work­ing through (in-)stabilities and fric­tions. Com­pu­ta­tion­al Cul­ture, 1 (4).
Abstract: Com­pu­ta­tion­al biol­o­gy is a nascent field reliant on soft­ware cod­ing and mod­el­ling to pro­duce insights into bio­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­na. Extreme claims cast it as a field set to replace con­ven­tion­al forms of exper­i­men­tal biol­o­gy, see­ing soft­ware mod­el­ling as a (more con­ve­nient) proxy for bench-work in the wet-lab. In this arti­cle, we deep­en and com­pli­cate the rela­tions between com­pu­ta­tion and sci­en­tif­ic ways of know­ing by dis­cussing a com­pu­ta­tion­al biol­o­gy tool, BMA, that mod­els gene reg­u­la­to­ry net­works. We detail the insta­bil­i­ties and fric­tions that sur­face when com­pu­ta­tion is incor­po­rat­ed into sci­en­tif­ic prac­tice, fram­ing the ten­sions as part of knowing-in-progress—the prac­ti­cal back and forth in work­ing things out. The work exem­pli­fies how soft­ware studies—and care­ful atten­tion to the mate­ri­al­i­ties of computation—can shed light on the emerg­ing sci­ences that rely on cod­ing and com­pu­ta­tion. Fur­ther, it puts to work a stand­point that sees com­pu­ta­tion as tight­ly entan­gled with forms of sci­en­tif­ic know­ing and doing, rather than a whole­sale replace­ment of them.

Reading The “sentient” city and what it may portend

A ram­bling piece in Big Data & Soci­ety by Nigel Thrift: The ‘sen­tient’ city and what it may por­tend.
Was­n’t expect­ing the digres­sion into spir­its and per­for­mance art, but I do like Thrift’s con­tin­u­al efforts to write about expan­sive human/agent capac­i­ties and extend­ing the .

…the claim is being made that, as com­pu­ta­tion­al objects have devel­oped, cities are able to take on new forms of vital­i­ty (Stern, 2010), forms of vital­i­ty which can devel­op over time. Per­haps one way in which we might con­sid­er this ques- tion is pre­cise­ly through look­ing at how vital­i­ty dev­el- ops when com­pu­ta­tion­al things are explic­it­ly includ­ed in the con­tours of expe­ri­ence. Then it becomes clear that it has only grad­u­al­ly arisen, line by line, algo­rithm by algo­rithm, pro­gram by program.

Thirft, N. (2014). The “sen­tient” city and what it may por­tend. Big Data & Soci­ety, 1(1).