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Wednesday, 20 February 2008 - 3:07pm

Text messages as hate speech in Kenya

Just this morning on NPR I heard a story about how the different factions in the recent electoral violence in Kenya were sending hate speech as text messages. Some of the content is simply horrific. This is a sobering reminder that the tools we (I) create can potentially be used for similarly horrible ends…

Wednesday, 13 February 2008 - 3:40pm

Participation in the Second Inclusiva-net Meeting at Medialab-Prado in Madrid

I’m very excited to say that I was selected to be a participant in the upcoming workshop on Digital Networks and Physical Space at Medialab-Prado in Madrid! They selected ten projects to be developed collaboratively during the two-week long workshop, and my mobile media project, now called Fluid Nexus, was chosen as one of the ten. Now there is an open call for collaborators, so if you’re interested in working on this project, or any of the other ones, definitely respond to the call!

Also, the source code for the Fluid Nexis project is now housed at sourceforge. There’s not much there yet, but I have uploaded the first stabs at the code to the svn repository.

Sunday, 3 February 2008 - 9:10pm

The Coninuing Kafka-esque saga of the CAE

From the “CAE Defense Fund Group” on Flickr comes the following semi-sad news. I wish Professor Ferrell were well enough to continue to court battle, but I sympathize entirely with his decision. It is sad that government and public resources have been spent for four years on this travesty of a trial, and I can only hope that Steve Kurtz will be able to prevail in the end. If I had the money I would certainly donate to support the cause. But I can only offer my solidarity.

CAE Defense Fund Press Release


Subject: MON FEB 11-Support Dr. Kurtz’s co-defendant, Dr. Robert Ferrell, in Federal Court

Dear Supporters,

Please come out to support Dr. Kurtz’s co-defendant, Dr. Robert Ferrell, who will be sentenced in Federal Court on Monday, February 11, following his plea deal due to serious illness. (Please see the Press Release below for more information.)

As defense attorney Paul Cambria showed in court on Monday, Drs. Kurtz and Ferrell are innocent. The two defendants committed no crimes whatsoever, neither federal nor petty offenses.

The only crime in this case is the Justice Department’s four year long persecution of two esteemed professors, and the tremendous waste of resources this absurd prosecution has cost the public.

During Professor Kurtz’s hearings supporters have packed the courtroom. Your continuing presence is crucial. We must show the world that outraged people in Buffalo stand at the center of an international movement to oppose this assault on our Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and inquiry.

We must continue our support for Dr. Ferrell. The only fair sentence is no sentence, and a complete dismissal of any and all charges against the defendants.

MONDAYFEB 11 – 12:30 PM**
Judge Arcara’s courtroom
Federal Courthouse
68 Court Street
(adjacent Niagara Square downtown):
http://www4.bfn.org/bah/a/court/64/source/1.html

**IMPORTANT NOTE: There will NOT be a demonstration outside the courthouse at this hearing. If we fill the seats to capacity inside, the proceedings are audible via a speaker system in the hallway, where there is limited seating.

For details of Dr. Ferrell’s plea deal with statements by his wife and daughter, see below.

For WBFO’s Joyce Kryzak interview with his wife, Dr. Dianne Raeke Ferrell:
http://publicbroadcasting.net/wbfo/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1173843

CAE Defense Fund Press Release

Friday, 25 January 2008 - 10:50pm

Making a tumble into the present

Many people have had an account on tumblr for a while now. But I’m getting to it late. Basically tumblr is a service that is designed to let people post short snippets—of text, links, photos, audio, etc.—on a special site, leaving their blog for longer posts. For me, it’s great, as there are a ton of things that I look at during the day, that I’d like to write about, but aren’t worth an entire blog post. Plus, it’s a good way for me to keep track of the myriad things I look at during the day for research and stuff. The ephemera that are too ethereal even to be posted on this blog.

Here it is: zeitkunst.tumblr.com.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008 - 7:24pm

Tunng

I just came across, by accident, an amazing group from the UK called Tunng. People call what they do “folktronica”…I don’t care what the name is, I just love it. They remind me mostly of Efterklang, The Books, and aspects of the new múm.

There’s a pretty cool performance of their’s at Amoeba Music that’s worth your time to watch:

Sunday, 20 January 2008 - 9:03pm

Paper accepted for ISEA!

I’m incredibly happy to write that my paper was accepted for ISEA 2008! ISEA stands for the International Symposium on Electronic Art and is one of the premier new media/digital art/emerging technologies conferences out there. I was bummed that I wasn’t able to go the conference that happened in 2006 in San Jose, but am really excited to be going to the conference this year in Singapore!

My paper is about the fluid networking project I blogged about earlier. The title, as it is right now, is somewhat unwieldy: “Reinterpreting networks of people as fluid for political purposes”. The full abstract is below. I’ll certainly be writing more about this in the coming months, and will hopefully be blogging parts of the conference when I’m there!

Abstract: Social networks have become not only an online artifact used by millions, but also a means of describing real-life interactions between people. Humans as nodes, and social connections between people as edges; the metaphor is the graph or network, inheriting all of the abstracting nature of this mathematical formalism. Even within science and technology studies, and specifically actor-network theory, is there use of the network metaphor to describe complicated assemblages of human and non-human actors. Yet this reappropriation of a computer science term is not without its problems, specifically the way in difference is erased when a human is transformed into a node that is simply like all the others. The network itself is political, as the choice of who is represented is vitally important and too-often ignored.

This paper begins as a critique of network views of reality, starting with the view that to completely represent the world through a graph is an impossible task. I then move into a consideration of actor-network theory, and the ways in which this expansion of the network to include non-human actors is still problematic as a result of the need to make choices of who or what to represent. These joint critiques enable me to see human and non-human assemblages as fluid and ever-forming and breaking. I end with a description of a present project of mine that uses mobile phones as participants in these ad-hoc associations as carriers of data. The mobile phone, via temporary Bluetooth connections, acts to pass messages from one person to another, without a top-down topology, bypassing centralized networks and enabling activists to continue communications surreptitiously, even when access to other technologies, such as the Internet or phone network, are disabled or destroyed. Fluidity becomes an asset with the software designed to take advantage of the movement of people for political purposes.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008 - 3:56am

When things like this happen...

… you begin to wonder what power any individual has over the process anymore.

Kucinich was barred from the NBC debate tonight, as, according to the network, “there are only three viable candidates”. Of course, when you are judge and jury you can decide what number of candidates there are, independent of reality. As many in the NY Times thread rightly point out, it is within NBCs right to decide who to invite or not. But when the networks take on a quasi-governmental role in presenting the debates, and when the candidate has been deemed worthy enough to receive federal election funds, you can’t see this action as anything but undemocratic.

But there’s not much one can do, as there’s no way I have the ability to mount a legal challenge to this on my own. All I can do is complain on my blog, vote for Kucinich if I can (if I get my registration changed in NY soon enough, that is), and bemoan direct attacks on our democratic process. And maybe give people some alternative outlets while I’m at it.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008 - 10:01pm

Making laser-cut snowflake ornaments

This is the first in hopefully a number of posts about various crafty things I’ve made and will make. I’ve mostly been someone who just thinks and writes in my life, i.e., a boring academic. Minus the music playing, of course. But high school and college were filled with the reading of books and sometimes-intriguing, often dulling research papers. Sure I performed experiments, which are a craft of their own, as any STS researcher can tell you. But they didn’t, couldn’t, involve the creativity that shows itself when you try to make things on your own.

Of course I’m making a caricature of myself here, but it’ll have to do.

Anyway, on to the SNOWFLAKES!

I wanted to make something a little bit different for presents this past holiday. Gift cards are no good if you want to get something thoughtful. And being a poor grad student left me with little dough to be able to spend on some things people really wanted. So I decided to make something, to create an item that could be useful for just about anyone: a christmas tree ornament.

I love the snow, and I love snowflakes. Especially when they gather together into piles and piles and feet of snow, covering the trees with white fluff (or slush, depending on the temperature). Snowflakes seemed to be the obvious thing to make, especially since I wanted to use…

A LASER CUTTER !

These things are awesome. They fulfill my childhood dreams of a hyper-, mega-, super- future, filled with lasers that do all of our bidding. And these things exist! I got to use them when I was at the Media Lab, and I still have the ability to cut things with them when I’m in town.

Now is not a good time to get into how much stuff a laser cutter could cut if a laser cutter could cut stuff. But can also be quite green, as you can cut plywood, instead of non-biodegradable items such as plastics and acrylics. You first need to create an outline of what you want to cut. Not being the best drafter in the world, but knowing how to trace, I found some snowflakes online, and using the pen tool in Illustrator, and the selection tool in photoshop, I created some pretty interesting outlines. I like how my unsteady hand, and the imperfections of the selection tool made outlines that aren’t perfect, that have a little wave, non-perfect corners, and asymmetries.

ornament one

ornament two

ornament three

ornament four

I then cut the ornaments out from 1/8” thick plywood and strung them up with some thread. I painted them with winter-appropriate blue acrylic paint on both sides…and I think the colors turned out well! Connected two or three of them together, through the holes of one of the snowflakes, is a good way to make a mobile-like ornament as well.

ornament

ornament

ornament

ornament

ornament

Here are the pdf files for the ornaments: ornament one, ornament two, ornament three, ornament four. I’ve decided to license these designs under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license, which basically means you can use them free of charge for non-commercial purposes, and make changes to them and share them, as long as you use the same license. The ornaments should print out at a good size without any scaling, but since it’s all vector art, feel free to change the size to whatever you might want.

Definitely let me know if you like what you see, or if you end up using them in your own projects!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008 - 10:14pm

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

I have too many of them. And some of them come from others, not me.

I have motivations for them on the back—but you can only see them if you are psychic. Try, really. I dare you.

Maybe I’ll put these in a readable form at some point.

Monday, 7 January 2008 - 11:35pm

Pedagogy and Theater of the Oppressed Conference

I just found out yesterday that there is a conference (in Omaha, NE, nonetheless) about both Pedagogy and Theater of the Oppressed …and that it’s taking place this May. And there are three workshops that are with Augusto Boal and his son, Julian. And one of the workshops is on legislative theater, one of the methods that I am most interested in when it comes to participatory planning and design situations.

If there were ever a conference that I should go to, it’s this one. It’s unlikely I’m going to get the chance again to get such concentrated study in a topic that I have little knowledge about, and that is difficult to pick up and experience on my own (since, by definition, it’s community focused). Of course funding is always a question, but at least there is a call for proposals that might be pertinent…but not much time to construct something, however.

Hmm!

Can I also say how awesome the MIT Press Bookstore in Cambridge is? I went there today, while I was on campus meeting with a friend, to do my usual aimless browsing in their stacks of gorgeous volumes and tomes. But what I especially love about the store, coming from a graduate student, is the hurt and sale book section, where fairly recent titles are available for half off or more. And I was able to snag a copy of The Deliberative Practitioner (once I had reminded myself of the title by going to the full-price urban planning section) for only $12. Part of me feels bad getting a book for this cheap since I will (probably) one day be writing books like this, but it’s really hard to justify some of the costs for academic books on a meager stipend. I really think there is something to providing lots of your work for free in an open manner (and this includes books), especially when the work is funded by taxpayers in the first place. Not that in the future I wouldn’t want to provide a book for sale as well; I just think there should be multiple ways of getting at the work, and at varying price points. A la Radiohead.

But this might just be the idealistic talk of a young’n at work.

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