Article in Design Issues

Design Issues, Sum­mer 2017, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 25 – 36

Cover art for Design Issues, 33 (3) 2017

ABSTRACT — In his 2015 Research Through Design pro­voca­tion, Tim Ingold invites his audi­ence to think with string, lines, and mesh­works. In this art­icle I use Ingold’s con­cepts to explore an ori­ent­a­tion to design — one that threads through both Ingold’s ideas and Vin­ciane Despret’s vivid and mov­ing accounts of human-animal rela­tions. This is a think­ing and doing” through design that seeks to be expans­ive to the capa­cit­ies of humans and non-humans in rela­tion to one another.
I’m so pleased to finally have this art­icle pub­lished in Design Issues, and very grate­ful to Abi­gail Dur­rant, John Vines, Jayne Wal­lace, and Joyce Yee for all their help with edit­ing my text and the Spe­cial Issue: Research Through Design: Twenty-First Cen­tury Makers and Mater­i­al­it­ies.

In my con­tri­bu­tion, I’ve reflec­ted on Tim Ingold’s pro­voca­tion at the Bien­ni­al Research Through Design con­fer­ence, and tried to play around with open­ing up a more gen­er­at­ive kind of design. My exper­i­ment has been to put Ingold’s ideas of lines and mesh­works in con­ver­sa­tion with Vin­ciane Despret’s uplift­ing stor­ies of anim­als and becom­ings. A strange mix, but one that for me at least raises plenty of inter­est­ing ques­tions — and isn’t it more ques­tions we need?!

For an early draft of the art­icle see:  What lines, rats and sheep can tell us, Design Issues 2017

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.

Platypus blog post

The Com­mit­tee for the Anthro­po­logy of Sci­ence, Tech­no­logy & Com­put­ing (CASTAC) and Rebekah Cul­pit kindly gave me the oppor­tun­ity to write a piece for Platy­pus (the CASTAC blog).

Titled Becom­ing More Cap­able”, the blog post sketches out some of the early ideas I’ve been think­ing with in con­nec­tion to dis/ability. Spe­cific­ally, it takes up a gen­er­at­ive (fem­in­ist inspired) pos­i­tion, that under­stands cap­ab­il­ity as col­lect­ively achieved, as a becoming-with’. The Platy­pus post is here, or see a longer un-edited ver­sion below.

We need to exer­cise the ima­gin­a­tion in order to elbow away at the con­di­tions of im/possibility.

Ingunn Moser & John Law (1999: 174)

What is it to be cap­able? How might we elbow away the con­di­tions that lim­it abil­ity, to become more cap­able? (more…)

Paper at 4S 2017

I’m thrilled to have our paper sub­mis­sion accep­ted to the . Cyn­thia Ben­nett and I will be busily pre­par­ing our paper for the always amaz­ing event, this year in August/September in Boston.

A care for being
more (cap-)able

Cyn­thia Ben­nett and Alex Taylor

In this paper, we begin with Ingunn Moser’s and Maria Puig de la Bellacasa’s gen­er­at­ive notions of care and use them to expand how we under­stand cap­ab­il­ity. Draw­ing on field­work with blind and vis­ion impaired people, we turn our atten­tion to a mater­i­ally enacted, unfold­ing sense-ability’. This is a sens­ing that puts (cap)ability and care togeth­er, that under­stands seeing-in-the-world’ as a prac­tic­al affair that is, at once, know­ing, effect­ing and affect­ing with oth­ers (humans or oth­er­wise). Thus, we show not only that care can con­test an instru­ment­al­ism’ in forms of know­ing and doing — by re-affecting objec­ti­fied worlds’ (Puig de la Bel­lacasa, 2011: 98) — but also give a great­er clar­ity to how care can be, in prac­tice, entangled in prac­tice. This sense-ability seeks to be act­ive, enliven­ing how we become cap­able; it is figured to be worked with, not finite and dic­tated by assumed bod­ily lim­its, but open to becoming-with and becoming-more. Bor­row­ing from Vin­ciane Despret, this sense-ability is to gain a body that does more things, that feels oth­er events, and that is more and more able…” (2004: 120).

Despret, V. (2004). The Body We Care For: Fig­ures of Anthropo-zoo-genesis. Body & Soci­ety, 10(2 – 3), 111 – 134.

Moser, I. (2011). Demen­tia and the Lim­its to Life. ST&HV, 36(5), 704 – 722.

Puig de la Bel­lacasa, M. (2011). Mat­ters of Care in Tech­nos­cience. Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 41(1), 85 – 106.

4S is the Soci­ety for the Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence. The annu­al meet­ing details are here.

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.

An exten­ded engage­ment with a com­munity and its data

Arrow
Arrow

 
Abstract

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.

Paper presented at 4S/EASST meeting

At the com­bined 4S/EASST meet­ing this year, Sarah Kem­ber and I presen­ted a paper titled:

Writerly (ac)counts of finite flour­ish­ings and pos­sibly bet­ter ways of being together

As Sarah’s intro­duc­tion to the paper out­lined, our co-writings were an attempt to think with the emer­ging strategies of fem­in­ist count­ing, account­ing and re-counting.

Below, I present my part to the co-authered piece. It’s long, so I put it here more for the record than any expect­a­tion it will be read. I must add that the ideas I present draw on work done by . Without her energy and always thought­ful invest­ment in the field site, this reflec­tion would not have been pos­sible: (more…)

... work­ing from Newcastle’s Open Lab

Artificial Intelligence: asking the right questions

Children with robot in vintage styled photo.

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. (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.

HCI, Com­munity Build­ing’ and Change

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

Abstract
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.

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…)