Thursday, September 1, 2011

Daniel Bennett - Reading Response 1

In the their published series of conversations, “Situated Technologies Pamphlets 3: Suspicious Images, Latent Interfaces, “ Benjamin H. Bratton and Natalie Jeremijenko attempt to “explore the implications of ubiquitous computing for architecture and urbanism: how our experience of space and the choices we make within it are affected by a range of mobile, pervasive, embedded, or otherwise “situated” technologies." The impetuous of the discussion is how to reassign agency to various groups to collect, analyze and implement various forms of data.

The authors begin by noticing a flaw within the way data can be misrepresented in it’s display through various visualizations. The data itself at it’s current state is flawed, data that is presented “without asking how the data is generated, who collected it and under what conditions. That is, what does the data actually represent? The criticism of how the data is produced is left out.” The breakdown is that the majority of data sets (especially in health and environmental areas are only amassed when they are need for research to a solution. Having said this, the research is conducted by “non-experts” and the wrong agendas are being considered during collection. So as we dig we find the problem lies deeper than the visualizations of this data, or that the data is gleaned without proper consideration. It can go as deep as why/how the data is required and who sets this collection into action, those in position to say we need collection (which in itself colors the data before it’s even considered HOW to collect the data).

They identify the status quo of public agents that are elected (or are un/officially represented) by peoples or organizations that have an inherent agenda. The two identify this problem as a loss of participation in the choice of change/observance by electing someone to make a decision, saying that by voting you are giving up your right to affect a change in those decisions.

“Democracy of representation or representation of democracy.” Particularly Jeremijenko believes that those inhabiting the space should be collecting the data that affects themselves, “those with less purchasing power have less agency to affect the public space and act upon environmental issues that are immediately important to them.” She calls it a bottom-up approach. This data can be analyzed by the artist/analyst to mitigate what is actually being represented. “I have always defended both the amateur and the role of the artist in complex technical phenomena, in biotech [other field listed]” she says, which has a history in current art/action projects. Steve Kurtz and Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) have drawn attention to genetically modified food (Free Range Grain), genetic research and use among others. As a side, Kurtz stood trial and was acquitted because of his use of material.

Both Bratton and Jeremijenko believe there is an immense usefulness in having the public sector collect information. While I do think it is a crucial role the citizens of a locale perform, I believe it should first be organized and mitigated by an artist. This leads to a social trending that puts the research ahead of dredging through what a group of data is suggestion simply by initial analysis. This could be akin to a scientific method approach: hypothesize, predict, test, evaluate/improve, resolution.

An example of this “middle down, then back up” approach can be seen in research initiated by Microsoft called photosynth (TED talk, Important info @ 3:30). All the photographs on are tagged with metadata (informational data added to networked content). Photosynth marries these interconnected packets of content to form a much broader and complete view of our world. By another user linking to my content it then enriches my content itself. From these spaces purposed by artists, viewers can participate and see what is happening though action. This could be an example of as Bratton cites, “image of the collective …They are political images, and forms of “post- social” collective representation.” Through the collective we can both produce and observe what social trends are actually occurring.

An interesting check and artist could provide between taxpayers and legislators is one of ethical supervisor. An example of homeless-proof public structures could be altered, maybe instead of the homeless sleeping on benches as a problem, you could address the homeless population's struggles in your community.

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