Data Bodies, Social Objects: S1 Art Space Sheffield

Short clip - Ilona Sagar's film Deep Structure
So grate­ful to Ilona Sagar for invit­ing me to join her at Park Hill’s S1 Art­space, in Sheffield. Lau­ra Vaugh­an and I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to respond to her thought pro­vok­ing film Deep Struc­ture, in a con­ver­sa­tion title “Data Bod­ies, Social Objects”.

Lau­ra Vaugh­an’s blog post sets the scene for our conversation.

Cycling on up

I’ve been con­tin­u­ing with my exper­i­men­ta­tions and thoughts on cycling, and in par­tic­u­lar extend­ing my reflec­tions on my first ‘Boris Bike’ jour­ney record­ed in 2014 (see this chap­ter). There’ll hope­ful­ly be more to come in the com­ing months that tie togeth­er the space-times I tra­versed with oth­er records and dif­fer­ent accounts.

A video cap­tured using the now defunct Auto­g­ra­ph­er. It cap­tures me pur­pose­ly cycling beyond the usu­al routes mapped by the rental bikes. from the Aber­feldy Street dock­ing sta­tion out through Newham to Green Street, along The Greenway/Northern Out­fall Sew­er, and then back to Bow.


Newcastle APL Talk

Talk­ing to the good peo­ple at New­castle’s School of Archi­tec­ture, Plan­ning & Land­scape (APL), I got the chance yes­ter­day to devel­op and share my slow­ly evolv­ing thoughts on bike jour­neys, bod­ies and fabulations.

Liv­ing Fruit­ful­ly in/with the con­di­tions of (im-) possibilty


In this talk, I want to revis­it a piece I wrote in 2016. The piece, a chap­ter in Dawn Nafus’ book Quan­ti­fied (2016), was intend­ed as a sto­ry of promise, a fab­u­la­tion about London’s bike rental scheme and how it might be used to re-imag­ine new fig­ur­ings of human-machine rela­tions. Think­ing across, askew, or “athwart” (Hus­tak & Myers 2013), my exper­i­ment­ing with the rela­tion­al capac­i­ties of bicy­cles, a city, (bio)sensing and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of data-every­where, aimed to resist the “agen­cies of homog­e­niza­tion” (Scott 1998) to explore the con­di­tions of pos­si­bil­i­ty for oth­er world­ings (Har­away 2016).

Reflect­ing on this work, I’ve felt a dis­sat­is­fac­tion with my efforts to throw togeth­er mix­tures of data at all scales, with the attempts at thick­en­ing and enliven­ing the rela­tions. It all felt too flat, too lack­ing in vital­i­ty. So, at the risk of appear­ing self indul­gent, this talk will present some ear­ly ideas for a dif­fer­ent sto­ry woven in and through the thick­et of rela­tions. Strug­gling to weave myself into London’s lega­cy with slav­ery and the vio­lent era­sures of bod­ies and agency (Hart­man 2008), I’ll be try­ing to place myself at a much more frag­ile and ten­u­ous junc­ture of space-time, but at the same time still seek­ing to work fruit­ful­ly in/with the con­di­tions of (im-)possibility.

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.

Do data publics work?

I pre­sent­ed at the Data Publics con­fer­ence last week­end, at Lan­cast­er Uni­ver­si­ty. Got lots of help­ful feed­back to some ear­ly thoughts on publics (think­ing with some of my old favourites, Despret, Har­away, Mar­res, Stengers, etc.).
Pro­voked by Vin­ciane Despret’s “W for Work”, in “What would ani­mals say if we asked the right ques­tions?”, my start­ing point was the question:

Are we think­ing well
with data publics?


Vin­ciane Despret (2016). W is for Work. In “What Would Ani­mals Say If We Asked the Right Ques­tions”. Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press: 177–184.

Surfacing Small Worlds through Data-In-Place

Very hap­py to have anoth­er pub­li­ca­tion from the mon­u­men­tal Teni­son Road project, this time in the Jour­nal of Com­put­er-Sup­port­ed Coop­er­a­tive Work (CSCW).

Lind­ley, S.E., Thieme, A., Tay­lor, A.S. et al. (2017). Sur­fac­ing Small Worlds through Data-In-Place. Com­put­er Sup­port­ed Coop­er­a­tive Work.


We present find­ings from a five-week deploy­ment of vot­ing tech­nolo­gies in a city neigh­bour­hood. Draw­ing on Mar­res’ (2012) work on mate­r­i­al par­tic­i­pa­tion and Massey’s (2005) con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion of space as dynam­ic, we designed the deploy­ment such that the tech­nolo­gies (which were sit­u­at­ed in res­i­dents’ homes, on the street, and avail­able online) would work in con­cert, cut­ting across the neigh­bour­hood to make vis­i­ble, jux­ta­pose and draw togeth­er the dif­fer­ent ‘small worlds’ with­in it. We demon­strate how the mate­r­i­al infra­struc­ture of the vot­ing devices set in motion par­tic­u­lar process­es and inter­pre­ta­tions of par­tic­i­pa­tion, putting data in place in a way that had ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the recog­ni­tion of het­ero­gene­ity. We con­clude that redis­trib­ut­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion means not only open­ing up access, so that every­one can par­tic­i­pate, or even pro­vid­ing a mul­ti­tude of vot­ing chan­nels, so that peo­ple can par­tic­i­pate in dif­fer­ent ways. Rather, it means mak­ing vis­i­ble mul­ti­plic­i­ty, chal­leng­ing notions of sim­i­lar­i­ty, and show­ing how dif­fer­ence may be productive.

See more on the CSCW site here. See an ear­ly draft here.

Presenting “Data in place”

We’re pre­sent­ing a paper at CHI this year on Teni­son Road.
Alex S. Tay­lor, Siân Lind­ley, Tim Regan, David Sweeney, Vasilis Vla­chokyr­i­akos, Lil­lie Grainger, Jes­sa Lin­gel (2015), Data-in-Place: Think­ing through the Rela­tions Between Data and Com­mu­ni­ty, CHI 2015.
Here’s the abstract:

We present find­ings from a year-long engage­ment with a street and its com­mu­ni­ty. The work explores how the pro­duc­tion and use of data is bound up with place, both in terms of phys­i­cal and social geog­ra­phy. We detail three strands of the project. First, we con­sid­er how res­i­dents have sought to curate exist­ing data about the street in the form of an archive with phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal com­po­nents. Sec­ond, we report endeav­ours to cap­ture data about the street’s envi­ron­ment, espe­cial­ly of vehi­cle traf­fic. Third, we draw on the pos­si­bil­i­ties afford­ed by tech­nolo­gies for polling opin­ion. We reflect on how these engage­ments have: mate­ri­alised dis­tinc­tive rela­tions between the com­mu­ni­ty and their data; sur­faced flows and con­tours of data, and spa­tial, tem­po­ral and social bound­aries; and enact­ed a mul­ti­plic­i­ty of ‘small worlds’. We con­sid­er how such a con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion of data-in-place is rel­e­vant to the design of technology.

on “Leakiness and creepiness in app space”

I recent­ly had an email exchange with Iri­na Shklovs­ki in which she kind­ly sent me the paper she pre­sent­ed at the CHI con­fer­ence this year. It’s a great paper, with some care­ful­ly thought through insights into the data we pro­duce and (often inad­ver­tent­ly) share when using smart phones. 

Iri­na Shklovs­ki, Scott D. Main­war­ing, Hal­la Hrund Skúladót­tir, and Höskul­dur Borgth­ors­son. 2014. Leak­i­ness and creepi­ness in app space: per­cep­tions of pri­va­cy and mobile app use. In Pro­ceed­ings of the 32nd annu­al ACM con­fer­ence on Human fac­tors in com­put­ing sys­tems (CHI ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2347–2356. 

The paper got me think­ing about some broad­er (and long-stand­ing) issues I’ve been work­ing through myself relat­ed to the researcher’s agen­tial (and often inad­ver­tent) role in empir­i­cal research. What fol­lows are some slight­ly amend­ed com­ments I’ve shared with Iri­na. (more…)

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).