May 17, 2014

thingful:

Thingful around the world!

May 12, 2013
March 22, 2013

In Praise of Messy Cities / Grub Street & the super wicked

Notes from my talk at Future Everything March 21 2013

 

Intro

  • cosm/pachube: making data public »> public making data: important to measure
  • i’ve done data and spectacles »> this is a critique of data spectatorship

Cities & open data

  • data.gov; socrata
  • why data? claims of efficiency, convenience & security
  • why open? claims of transparency, shifting the balance of power, reducing uncertainty, conflict, etc

The problems…

  • assumes if we had enough data we could make perfect decisions
  • Enlightenment claims to rationality leads to paradigm of data > info> knowledge > wisdom
  • attempt to understand, explain, control »> “It’s not me, it’s the data, which is impartial”
  • Borges metaphors: map, library, encyclopedia »> implies infinite data, merely need an index and our problems will be solved
  • hackathons »> someone else is going to solve it, assumption that ‘the solution resides in the data’
  • often only the least controversial data is ‘opened’ »> transportation data, not wikileaks (japan has efficient transport and has done for decades, not an open data/technology issue)
  • if risky/controversial/useful data is liberated…. aaron schwartz, bradley manning, andrew “weev” auernheimer
  • is ‘open data’ just letting off steam? 
  • society of the data spectacle, discourages participation, no accounting for the curator of the data, their goals, or the feedback mechanisms for propagating the principles
  • morozov cites insurance survey: open crime stats leading to real estate price drop leads to people refraining from reporting crime; prisoners dilemma: who opens first gets penalised
  • ‘inactivists’ - Russell Ackoff »> ‘mess’ "Systems, Messes & Interactive Planning" PDF

 

"Every problem interacts with other problems and is therefore part of a set of interrelated problems, a system of problems…. I choose to call such a system a mess." Russell L. Ackoff

 

  • city is a mess. not infrastructure. data infrastructure. praying to the algorithm god isn’t going to solve this.
  • cities are super wicked (not a negative assessment)

 

Rittel and Webber’s 1973 formulation of wicked problems in social policy planning specified ten characteristics:

  1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem (defining wicked problems is itself a wicked problem).
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better or worse.
  4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.
  5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a “one-shot operation”; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly.
  6. Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
  8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.
  9. The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem’s resolution.
  10. The planner has no right to be wrong (planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate).

Conklin later generalized the concept of problem wickedness to areas other than planning and policy. The defining characteristics are:[4]

  1. The problem is not understood until after the formulation of a solution.
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong.
  4. Every wicked problem is essentially novel and unique.
  5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a ‘one shot operation.’
  6. Wicked problems have no given alternative solutions.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem

 

 

Alternatives

image

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Grub_street_map.jpg

  • hacks:  poets, pamphleteers and libellists, poking their noses at authority

image

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GrubStreet-London_300dpi.jpg

 

image

From Grub-Street Journal, October 30, 1732: the “art and mystery” of printing in the “literatory” of publisher Edmund Curll

  • think of Grub St as 18c ‘Private Eye’ »> french revolution 1789-1799 & the Great Reform Act of 1832 »> representative government instead of authoritarianism »> discussion, creation & extension of civil rights

 

And while [the philosophes] grew fat in Voltaire’s church, the revolutionary spirit passed to the lean and hungry men of Grub Street, to the cultural pariahs who, through poverty and humiliation, produced the Jacobinical version of Rousseauism. The crude pamphleteering of Grub Street was revolutionary in feeling as well as in message. It expressed the passion of men who hated the Old Regime in their guts, who ached with hatred of it. It was from such visceral hatred, not from the refined abstractions of the contented cultural elite, that the extreme Jacobin revolution found its authentic voice

The Literary Underground of the Old RegimeBy Robert Darnton

  • the great unwashed »> the great uncalibrated; all part of the data collection process, no matter how messy; not simply acting as subjects of the measurements or passive receivers of the wisdom contained therein
  • processes of measurement »> construct understandings of our environment »> build up intuitions about how we may affect it »> question the standards of evidence of others.
  • ‘rubbish is the root of virtuosity’: Grub City would be inhabited by people crafting & performing data ‘badly’

SO… Call to action

  • mock the rationalising, homogenising attempts of our managers
  • reject infrastructures, homogeneity, the data-deity
  • embrace super wicked urban problems, don’t reverse-engineer problems based on existing solutions
  • rewrite the explanations, understandings & attempts to control
  • thrive on contradictions, even collaboration does not need consensus
  • build a messy city, for it’s only in a messy city that we will find the richness that makes cities that are worth living in
  • Long live Grub City!

June 20, 2012

Notes from my talk at the Open IoT Assembly, June 16-17 2012

- why are we here at the Open Internet of Things Assembly, what are we all trying to do?

- one view, the Cosm firehose: data data data

- problem comes when people think that this equates to ‘knowledge’ (Wisdom/Knowledge/Info/Data paradigm)

- enlightenment project, rationality — if we know the universe we can control it

  • assumes that the universe is knowable; so let’s attempt to know every last quadrant of our world
  • there’s the belief that if you can just tame the deluge certainty will ensue…

- This fetish of the firehose has shaky foundations:

  • belief that there are a finite set of knowable parameters
  • control, dominion & certainty (aaron straup cope refers to ‘a thinly veiled god fantasy’)
  • impartiality, freedom from ethical decisions (‘it’s not me it’s in the data’)

- the spectacularisation of data, revelling in complexity only so that ‘experts’ can rescue us from the cacophony: scientists, urban planners, yes, even artists

- the concerning thing about this neo-postivism is when it’s applied to the design and manipulation of our cities because these processes have their own ‘god fantasies’:

  • efficiency (those big biz initiatives that use “Smart” throughout their PR material)
  • predictability
  • homogeneity
  • all the things that go counter to the sustainability of what makes a city a city
  • social goals that rarely have anything to do with technology and sound suspiciously like the sorts of things urban planners were saying in the 50s and 60s when they gave us highways and highrises/tower blocks

- The alternative is to look not at the data, but at the people that are deciding to create the data and the processes they’re using — not “making data public” but the public making data. 

- think of a learning/teaching paradigm (rather than knowledge); activity rather that state

- crafting data (or crofting as Andrew Back understood it), impingeing, prodding the universe/acting upon your world

  • infinite parameters, the questions you ask, creative act
  • things that can’t be ‘measured’
  • things you don’t know about
  • different ways to measure, techniques, technologies, contexts 

- people conducting experiments & making hypotheses about the world and, because they themselves have been measuring, being able to evaluate the changes that ensue from their actions (energy, air quality egg)

- crafting data means going through those same processes that so-called ‘scientists’ go through 

  • identifying patterns & outliers
  • understanding dynamic range
  • accuracy, reliability
  • importance of context
  • standards of evidence, particularly important in climate change

- discovering and sharing:

  • dealing with heterogeneity
  • oversight
  • formats
  • meta-data
  • licenses 

- take a step beyond, people as sensors (engines for computing complexity), not quantified self but quantified and qualified selves, instrumenting the world to give it a voice.

- embrace the complexity

- i don’t believe we can deal with the world’s challenges through reductivist solutions extracted from an oracle-like data-pool (it was probably reductivism that created the problems in the first place).

- the issues and challenges of our world, which have indefinite parameters, demand creative propositions that are probably so complex that they require:

  • cooperation between people who don’t agree with one another, who have no consensus — but collaboration doesn’t need consensus
  • people who have understandings they cannot explain to each other, 
  • insights that are necessarily so intricate that they will take more than one person to tell the stories
September 27, 2011

Flightpath Toronto - wings wings wings

 

Flightpath Toronto - wings wings wings

Flightpath Toronto - birds… what it’s all about

 

Flightpath Toronto - wings wings wings

September 25, 2011

Flightpath Toronto - wingset production

August 14, 2011
 
Mycorrhizal Networks


 
Dr. Simard writes:
Mycorrhizal fungi form obligate symbioses with trees, where the tree supplies the fungus with carbohydrate energy in return for water and nutrients the fungal mycelia gather from the soil; mycorrhizal networks form when mycelia connect the roots of two or more plants of the same or different species. 
……
Mycorrhizal networks may be critical in helping forest ecosystems deal with climate change. Maintaining the biological webs that stabilize forests may help conserve genetic resources for future tree migrations, ensure that forest carbon stocks remain intact on the landscape, and conserve species diversity. 

http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/potd/2010/03/mycorrhizal_networks.php

Mycorrhizal Networks

Dr. Simard writes:

Mycorrhizal fungi form obligate symbioses with trees, where the tree supplies the fungus with carbohydrate energy in return for water and nutrients the fungal mycelia gather from the soil; mycorrhizal networks form when mycelia connect the roots of two or more plants of the same or different species. 

……

Mycorrhizal networks may be critical in helping forest ecosystems deal with climate change. Maintaining the biological webs that stabilize forests may help conserve genetic resources for future tree migrations, ensure that forest carbon stocks remain intact on the landscape, and conserve species diversity. 

http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/potd/2010/03/mycorrhizal_networks.php