Friday, 19 December 2008

January session - Stiegler

Our meeting in January will start with a look at Bernard Stiegler, French philosopher of technology and media, and how his ideas might fit with some of the ones we are groping towards. We will be helped in this by Patrick Crogan who is editing a special issue of Cultural Politics on the work of Stiegler.

I went to hear Stiegler talk recently at Goldsmiths, and there were a few key things (as far as I understood!) that resonated with some of our group thoughts from our first sesion.
- we all generate metadata unwittingly, and that this should be made a more conscious act. This fits with our thoughts from the first session, where we discussed how to make explicit the hidden algorithms in the software that surrounds us.
- something he said about the relationship between the individual and the collective, and transindividuation, and what takes place when describing the self as "I" , that echoed our brief discussion on the shifting boundaries between public/private and our sense of the private self.

So hopefully after our session in January I will understand it all somewhat better. The experience of listening to Stiegler without knowing his work was that like grasping at thin threads in the wind that I knew I sort of got but then they disappeared in my brain, hopefully to reappear at some point in the future. I have gone back over the notes I scribbled but they make little coherent sense - my task over xmas is to rewrite them and see if that helps. The other speakers were interesting too, and the final keynote was by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, talking on his "Antimonuments and Subsculptures". Brilliant.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Notes from first discussion

1. We decided to meet on a monthly basis in 2009 on a thursday morning, with discussion of a particular theme at each session, kicking off with a presentation by someone on a project or issue of interest.

2. Our objectives are to develop our own critical awareness of issues, and to create a set of questions for designers of pervasive media applications. Also over the course of our discussions we will develop a site for resources, lit. review, and an outline for an event/symposium

3. The overall theme seems to be making visible the invisible - which goes against Mark Weiser's vision of seamless ubiquitous computing with technology enabling our everyday lives in ways that we don't have to be aware of.

4. Exposing the algorithms embedded in software may not change the fact that they are there, but gives individuals the knowledge that they need to make informed decisions about what they are and are not consenting to.

5. Designers of pervasive applications need to be aware of their own assumptions that they are embedding into their applications. There are also decisions to be made about what is regulated internally or externally to the application/software, and what is socially produced by the users.

6. For younger people this may not be such an issue, privacy is a socially constructed notion and varies from culture to culture, generation to generation. Changes in the boundaries of what is public and private can be beneficial for example in cases of domestic abuse where abusers are exposed. So what are the payoffs between surveillance and safety and security? What are the effects of pervasive technologies on boundaries between public/private, community/individual, and what exists in the semi-controlled space between public and private

7. Of interest is the concept of the liberal individual, who these days is caught between web2.0 and governance, which both hold vast sums of data on our behaviour and interactions etc. Our self-delusion about the pretence of anonymity will be lost as we realise that the hope of data overload is no longer realistic. The unconscious interactions that we have everyday with invisible technologies, either with mundane governance or through our patterns of consumption, can be linked together through data mining. This means that our actions are no longer as private as we think. Intelligent awareness on surveillance systems will focus on any behaviour that does not conform to the norm, leading to the possibility that eccentricity will lead to exclusion from society. There needs to be space for disagreement.

8. Making money is more powerful than making war. What will happen when storage and analysis of cctv data enables (information about) our behaviour to be commodified

9. what are the links between surveillance and social cohesion, where we allow cctv because it makes us feel safe, we tend to ignore its presence, but in the future we may be able to practise surveillance on each other and learn more about who is around is, thus developing a sense of understanding out 'neighbours'

10. What should we embed in our systems to move us toward utopia not dystopa?

11. which of the boundaries should we focus on first. between the public and private, sense of self of people who have grown up with mobiles etc, are never perceptually alone?

- What sort of person will develop through this early exposure?

- What sort of city?

12. When does pervasive become intrusive or invasive?

- Empowerment through use of technology?

- Emancipatory or subjugatory?

- What can be predicted?

- What are the payoffs between ease and privacy?