Last Wednesday, tried again to capture my thoughts on capability and capacity, this time at the UCL Knowledge Lab (Institute of Education). The recording of the talk is available here.
I had a very generous slot for presenting to some in Design Products at the RCA this week.
In this talk, I want to suggest we have spent too much time working with the limits of capability — the limits of the perceptual apparatus, the limits of cognitive capacities, and the limits of how critters (whether human or nonhuman) interact and relate to one another. Drawing on a feminist technoscience and using examples from recent fieldwork, I’ll aim to show that, together, we make ourselves capable. That capability isn’t limited to some pre-given, individual state, but comes into being through (inter)action, through entangled relations between actors of all kinds. This, I’ll claim, gives us a very different way of thinking about our relations with technology and especially the promise of AI and machine learning. Rather than machines aiming to replicate human capability, I want to propose an expansive project that allows us the chance to imagine something ‘other-than’ finite capabilities, that sees capability as a ‘becoming-with’, and lays open the possibilities for much much more.
Very happy to have another publication from the monumental Tenison Road project, this time in the Journal of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW).
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.
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…)
In short, I try to give Nora a sense of how AI could open up some radically different possibilities if we were able to approach intelligence differently. I try to capture how we might see intelligence not in restrictive human terms (as stable cognitive capacities in the head/mind), but as something always emergent, always enacted and tied to the many unfolding relations we find ourselves entangled in. I see this to be a generative orientation to AI, building on ideas from Donna Haraway, Isabelle Stengers, Vinciane Despret, Sarah Whatmore and many others grappling with the possibilities of us extending our capabilities, of being somehow more-than-human.
If you’re in Canada, the programme is broadcast this coming Sunday afternoon at 1:05 PM local time (in most parts of Canada) and again on Wednesday at 2:05 PM. Alternatively, my segment of the show is available here, titled:
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…)
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.
Clara Crivellaro, Alex Taylor, Vasilis Vlachokyriakos, Rob Comber, Bettina Nissen, Peter Wright
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.
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…)