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.

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.