Shared posts

14 Nov 21:21

Dear world: if I work on accessibility for 5 years, can I have it for 50?

by Mel

I’ve been organizing and speaking at conferences for years. I always mainstreamed myself because I didn’t know what conferences would look like if I let myself be deaf. I was afraid they wouldn’t look like anything — that my choices were either to mainstream myself… or not go to conferences at all.

Now that I’ve tried having ASL interpreters and CART at 3 academic conferences, I can confidently say:

  1. Accessibility is a stressful, multi-week/multi-month pain in the butt to set up.
  2. It is so much better than mainstreaming myself that I don’t ever want to go to a conference without accessibility again.

Because you know what people do at conferences? They talk. They meet each other, share ideas, network, eat together, congregate in hallways and exhibit halls and chat. This blew my mind. I used to go to conferences, talk with a few people I already knew in 1:1 situations, deliver my talks, maybe go to a friend’s talk for support, and then collapse in my hotel room and stare at the ceiling.


Dear World: If I spend the next 5 years of my life working on accessibility — helping my colleagues and conferences and institutions and so forth set up things like captioning and interpreters, learning Yet Another Foreign Language (ASL) and getting electronics drilled into my skull (hybrid cochlear implant) and re-learning how to process sound like a baby, tinker with flashing doorbells and reading up on disability theory and making peace with my relationship(s) with d/Deaf culture(s) and coaching friends and family through How To Please Communicate With Mel, and… all these things –

…will you pick up at least some of the burden for the 50+ years of my career (and more importantly, life) after that, so I can rest, and breathe, and be with friends, and maybe — I dunno, raise a family? And write books? And teach, and do the narrative research that I love to do, and play the piano, and have friends (and students!) over for tea and dinner, and see the world, and draw, and… basically do things without having to set up communication logistics for everything in advance, and without being very, very tired from lipreading all the time?

This sounds like such a plaintive, childish thing to ask. But that’s all I’ve got and that’s how I feel — like I want to move within the world, connect with it — and unlike my usual, highly-competent, highly-independent adult self, this is something I can’t do on my own. I rely on other people for accessibility; I rely on hearing colleagues making their dialogues accessible to me, on interpreters translating what they say, on conferences to bring in the services I need to be there and not be exhausted. My own earnestness will not be enough. I need to actually ask the rest of the world for something I cannot pay back.

I don’t think these thoughts are yet entirely formed, and they don’t make sense to me yet, and that’s okay. I’ve mulled around this long enough to put this work-in-progress out there.

24 Nov 05:23

Wall tagged in Shaw, during protests over the murder of...

Wall tagged in Shaw, during protests over the murder of Vonderrit Myers.

(Via Twitter)

24 Nov 19:30

Never email me again.

Never email me again.

24 Nov 04:02

Sabyasachi Couture all of that yes. 

Sabyasachi Couture

all of that yes. 

24 Nov 10:49

sluteverxxx: The Big Fat Quiz of the Year discussing the fact...


The Big Fat Quiz of the Year discussing the fact that Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ is the biggest selling song of 2013 in the UK

24 Nov 11:12

tittymalaysia: dirtycopyclone: tittymalaysia: kbearluna: kay-427: What does a useful lesbian...






What does a useful lesbian look like?


We’ll kill the bug for you AND make you pancakes.


are you guys wearing the same shirt

Yes. Lesbians all have the same plaid that we pass around.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Plaids.

24 Nov 18:54

A Softer World: 1177

buy this comic as a print!
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24 Nov 14:21

A workshop with Kenya Red Cross

by willowbl00

Hi. It's been a bit, so just in case - I'm Willow Brugh, and one of the hats I wear is as a research affiliate at Center for Civic Media. I also wear "digital responder," "fellow at Berkman," "stick figure draw-er," and "faciliatator" hats. I care about how people help people, more directly, across cultures, as equals. This means I often work at the overlap of technology and disaster/humanitarian response through participatory events. I also advise organizations and distributed social groups in how to engage with each other. My month working with KRCS and Climate Centre culminated on Nov 11th in a codesign workshop to explore the work I had done, comment on the current understanding, ensure it was appropriate and accurate, to then decide on next steps together. This was an exercise in not waiting until the last minute to ask people to sign off - it was asking people what they thought during the process, asking for their participation. You can read more about (my personal take on) the set-up over here.

3 points were important to impart during this workshop, to the purpose of improving conditions in Dadaab, which was my purpose of work. 1) making information tangible makes it easier to iterate on that knowledge, 2) there are many ways to make information fun to make and enjoyable to take in, and 3) there are TONs of tools out there that can assist both of these, as well as opening up new paths to engagement with a wider community (either through code or through content creation). As anyone, the attendees were busy with meaningful projects, and so making the most of their time was vital. While I hadn’t had a chance to interview all the important parties for the workshop, having Dr. James Kisia's support meant some still came, so we had a diverse set of individuals at the workshop. I set out with the following objectives:

Long-term objective for this working session: A better curated knowledge base for improving conditions in / responding to needs in refugee camps and informal settlements, especially as extendable to climate change issues. Audience: Refugee response groups, climate change organizations, active citizens.
Mid-term objective from this working session: A thriving platform for the sharing and improvement of information on Dadaab within KRCS. This platform might be technical, process-based, or both. Audience: KRCS Dadaab-focused staff and volunteers.
Short-term objective from this working session: A list of knowledge sets to curate and give to others for streamlined working conditions. Audience: Incoming Dadaab Refugee Operations personnel.

Introductions Matter.

It is easy, in workshops, to lead with titles and roles. But "ice breakers," or interesting introductory questions, can give us a chance to learn more about the people in the room than we would otherwise. These can also "warm up" the participants to think differently than their day-to-day. For this workshop, we used the most intense one I know: "In one to two sentences, say why you do what you do." This also helps focus the conversation on actualities and purpose, rather than on semantics and process. It is important to consciously invest in this step, as it affects the rest of the workshop.


The workshop was a demonstration of how information creation and sharing can work, including live documentation. We went over the rough agenda (as placed on a hackpad, a collaborative document editing tool), the expectations of results, and that it was ok to refocus the conversation if we got too far off track. Because everyone (except me) in the room was familiar with KRCS practices and language, we already had a head start on many workshops I facilitate. When this isn’t the case, it’s important to encourage people to use inclusive language for everyone in the room. Here’s how we framed the day:

Today, we're going to focus on what needs to happen while we’re all in one room, as an exercise in what one platform and method of knowledge transfer and iteration looks like. There will be plenty of room for improvement and refinement, but we’re here to put mechanisms in place for these feedback loops, NOT to get bogged down in it during this precious time. The purpose of modeling this is to model it, not to talk about how it might be modeled.
For any given question, you’re going to answer for you specifically. Be constructively selfish. The methods will mean you can do similar expansion of knowledge in your own groups. We're going to do a LOT in 4 hours (your brevity will allow it to be less), so strap yourselves in and let's get rolling (this is a US analogy for getting ready to ride a roller coaster, not sure if it translates well).

But before we could structure our knowledge, to take action... we had to figure out what knowledge we even had. What I had found was spread through reports, implicit in charts and too-short summaries of initiatives.

Knowledge is Important to Detail.

We took a few minutes to make some sticky notes about what information is important for people to know around us as individuals. This is where the encouragement to focus on Dadaab, as well as to be "constructively selfish" part came in handy - it helped people stay on topic, even though we were still broad at parts. Each sticky note had three areas to it: one set of information they wanted the people around them to have; where that information lived; how others found out about that information.

We then reflected. Someone was surprised at how little information had clearly known housing. Another commented on lack of general knowledge around Dadaab. We talked a little bit about accepting "failure" as an important part of improving and learning. We also talked about the amount of time that goes into learning and sharing new things.

New Options

With this understanding of current status, and a more concrete idea of what needs are, we dove into new options for expressing and sharing information. KRCS is admittedly embedded in the 200 page report accompanied by a 30 page executive summary method of disseminating information. We admitted that these are not necessarily the best way of communicating information -- which is tragic, given the time, energy, and expertise which goes into creating such reports. We looked at some of the animations I make, as a way of story telling.

We also talked about RSS and APIs, automatic updates to other websites and databases based on changes on KRCS's own database or website. While the technical ability to automatically populate to other places, like the UNHCR website, opened up smiles and possibility, the overhead of permissions and new technical infrastructure was also daunting. We sidebarred the conversation for the sake of agenda, and moved on to hearing from 3 groups I invited about their codesign-based, open source tools which would be applicable to integrating residents of Dadaab more into response processes.

  • Ushahidi: A local incident-report mapping platform, Ushahidi has been invested in the local entrepreneurial scene for over 5 years. This tool is in wide use throughout Kenya and other parts of the world.
  • Thicket: An up-and-coming "fuzzy cognitive" processing tool, Thicket is to be used alongside other data inputs/outputs. It visualizes and models the interconnected nature of the system at hand. For our purpose, they produced a visualization of what gender-based violence impacts, and is impacted by.
  • Sahana: a decade-long open source project specific to disaster and humanitarian response. The everything-and-the-kitchen-sink platform is already nominally in use by some parts of KRCS for missing persons.


In the frame of these new paths to expression as well as the accompanying digital channels, we talked about what all this might mean for KRCS. At this point, we had completed the parts of the workshop I could provide structural support for -- at the 2 hour mark! The bulk of participants stuck around for another 2 hours, applying what we had heard about to their own work, discussing what it meant for the larger organization, and to the efforts on which they embark. 3 main takeaways came out of this.

The Take Aways.

We see the path to a self-improving KRCS as being reliant upon knowledge being made apparent, and that knowledge being ingested and subsequently iterated on. To this end, we are taking a three-pronged approach - knowledge creation (summaries of work / stories to tell), knowledge storage and propagation (technical options), and embracing a self-examining culture (cultural shifts).

A Celebration of Documentation

We took the notes from the meeting and made them public (thus how you’re reading this)! Taariq turned around a word cloud from the raw notes with startling rapidity.

We took pictures! KRCS already has a head start on the desire to share and engage, given the popularity and engagement of their Twitter and Facebook pages. This is merely an extension of this.

Dedication to a Cause

We each agreed to make an ingestible-in-5-minutes summary of our work. We each also agreed to review these summaries and provide feedback. Even more than that, we agreed to document the workshop itself in public. This is that. Thanks for reading!

16 Nov 23:00


credit: Alison

22 Nov 19:31

No suitable mode Unfortunately there is no way for you to fix...

No suitable mode

Unfortunately there is no way for you to fix this.

18 Nov 23:01

We eat our veggies.

We eat our veggies.

18 Nov 12:05

rnalfov: “I used to be self conscious about my height, but then...


“I used to be self conscious about my height, but then I thought, fuck that, I’m Harry Potter.” 

19 Nov 06:35

werpiper: aghostforafriend: Bullshit BRILLIANT







20 Nov 05:54


20 Nov 05:54


21 Nov 05:15

sandandglass: Africans respond to the re-release of the charity...


Africans respond to the re-release of the charity song Do They Know It’s Christmas? by One Direction, Bono, Sam Smith and others. 

Abdullahi Halakhe, 31, policy analyst, Kenya

“I think the fundamental problem with the “saving” Africa posture is that it is predicated on the notion that Africa/Africans are agency-less, which for me is problematic because it is the continuation of never-ending paternalistic tendencies towards Africa.

“Also, the idea that Africa needs to be saved in 2014 by washed up C-list pop artists is a perverse example of a messiah complex.”

Robtel Neajai Pailey, 32, PhD researcher, Liberia

“Western charity songs like the one being proposed by Geldof are not only patronising, they’re redundant and unoriginal. Producing an Ebola song now to raise money, nearly one year after the first reported case in Guinea, is belated at best. It reeks of the “white saviour complex” because it negates local efforts that have come before it.”

Dawit Gebreselassie, 26, financial analyst, Ethiopia  

“Ethiopia has for the last few years been trying extremely hard to change its image as a poster child for poverty. It has been trying to depict a new bright image to the world so as to attract tourists and foreign direct investment. But this uphill battle is always hindered when such reminders of the past appear again on the screens of the people that are trying to be persuaded.  

“Africa’s only hope of success against poverty is through sustained, structured and equitable economic growth brought about through things such as investment and tourism. It’s hard to imagine how a few dollars raised every so often can possibly outweigh the damage it does by blemishing the continent’s image.”

Hadiyya Mwapachu, 30, student, Tanzania

“The oft-quoted observation by Marx that “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce” applies here for both its acuteness and how it has become a cliché. The Band Aid songs reflect this pattern. They begin as an attempt to respond to catastrophe and then excise all historical context and specificity.

“The meaning that remains is that one should help as “well tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you”. This erases the history of state actions in fostering armed conflict and the deliberate displacement of civilians. The 1984 and 1989 Ethiopia famine relief editions did not recognise this history. The genocide in South Sudan was also absent in the 2004 version to raise money for Darfur.”

Chitra Nagarajan, 31, human rights activist, Nigeria

“It’s yet another classic sign of white Western saviourism, in this case with celebrities swooping in to “save” the people of Africa. Not only does this take away the agency of people living in African countries who are the ones who actually lead and make change happen, but it perpetuates stereotypes of conflict, poverty and disease as the single story of the continent.”

22 Nov 00:00

capriceandwhimsy: overkil12: ultrafacts: Source More...


for Rosalind.




Source More Ultrafacts

My god. Someone give this pigeon a medal

They did. Her name was “Cher Ami.” She was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Oak Leaf Clusters.

She also lived for half a year after the battle of Verdun, with a wooden leg.

13 Nov 14:04

Networked Mortality

by bl00

Death is different now. In a time of networks and social media, it’s not just having a song remind you of your deceased loved one anymore, it’s Spotify suggesting you listen to their playlists. It’s scrolling just a bit too far too soon and seeing their last shares on Twitter or Facebook. It’s not just figuring out funerals and atom-based belongings granted through wills (or figuring things out there wasn’t any pre-planning), it’s a faceless mass of internet informing you that your friend has died. It’s not just compiling half-finished scrawled songs and old love notes, it’s debating cracking the password for a laptop full of memories. Because the internet and technology haven’t just changed how we live – it’s changed what happens in death. And we can simply be awash in tragedy in these new ways, or we can use those new connections to show our care and values, even through death.

Today the spontaneity of planning, which makes it possible to search for a place to eat with your incoming friend while already out the door, forms habits making the avoidance of planning for death even easier. But after working through the unexpected deaths of a number of networked friends, I have started explicitly planning for the eventuality of my own death, to ease the burden on others. I’ve set up a living will (detailing things like whether I want to be kept on life support — I don’t), a will (what to do with my corpus and my corpse — open them up and share the contents), and mechanisms for notifying the many communities I inhabit, helping them find each other for support. The compartmentalization of online selves otherwise makes discrete and care-full notifications difficult, and sadly the current viable option is mass broadcast.

Because I’m also from the parts of the internet that care about open access and free software, friends and I have taken my death preparations and formed a guide for the bits of postmortem planning other guides may have missed. Based on ideas from open access and information security, it includes topics like how to deal with passwords, contact lists, plans for account deletion while archiving information, and donating one’s body to science in ways that support open research.

This living documentation is called NetworkedMortality, and I hope it helps others to start thinking about and planning for the inevitable, either privately or in this wiki-based and public place. Just as the internet is about creating, storing, and transmitting knowledge, this guide is about contributing to something larger than the individual. It’s about continuing to build the commons, establishing protocols for death in the digital. The sorrow of death need not also be accompanied by confusion over what intentions would have been or who should know what. Funeral home directors and lawyers have helped guide us through the protocols of death in the better-known world. In this new space those steps are considered by Twitter, Facebook, and Google, but I at least would prefer to trust people I know to deal with my wishes more accurately and with more love. We’ll be hosting a “death drill” to test out these new protocols on December 13th from 2p-5p at the Berkman Center.

Too often, we think only about the short term – this quarter, this school year, this laughably short short life span – when considering how we plan as well as what we build. We must instead intentionally look to the public future, and our responsibility as members of that shared story. We must contribute to freely available knowledge which lasts beyond our brief moments. An unavoidable part of life is death. Let’s care for each other, and hold true to our values, through the entirety. Let’s network our mortality, together.


It is possible to speak about death without fear – I hope you can act from this place.  If you are in danger of harming yourself, please get help, rather than indirectly indicating through things like estate planning.

19 Nov 05:00

November 19, 2014

If you want a Science book in a hurry, they're on amazon!
15 Nov 05:50

everythingsbetterwithbisexuals: nokki1: cypheroftyr: tiny-vess...






Tim Gunn on Plus Size Clothing

“Have you seen most of the plus-size sections out there? It’s horrifying. Whoever’s designing for plus-size doesn’t get it. The entire garment needs to be reconceived. You can’t just take a size 8 and make it larger. In my travels, I’ve been an advocate for larger women. I’ve been talking to designers, but only a half-dozen make an effort. Most say, ‘I don’t want a woman who’s a size 10 or 11 wearing my clothes.’ Well, shame on you! It’s not realistic

Love him.

"You can’t just take a size 8 and make it larger."

Praise Jesus and all the saints for him saying this because damn, most “PLUS SIZED” clothing is fugly.

Amen. The plus sized clothing out there is crazy and makes me just…

I’m not surprised he said this. Ever since the first season, when they’ve had to do garments for everyday people who aren’t models, there’s always one designer (at the very least) who flips out as though they’ve never in their life considered that people who aren’t a size 0 might wear their clothes. Tim always looks at them like he wants to drown them in a lake.

16 Nov 00:37

geekerrific: cyberteeth: Chimamamda Ngozi Adiche, We Should...


via Rosalind



Chimamamda Ngozi Adiche, We Should All Be Feminists

The most powerful thing anyone has ever said to me: “You deserve to take up space.” 

14 Nov 05:00

November 14, 2014

14 Nov 05:03

splend42: serlorastyrel: why is no one talking about the...



why is no one talking about the #feministprincessbride hashtag

This makes me so happy

12 Nov 18:00

"Instead of fixing this, we should have a meeting to discuss it..."

by Anonymous

14 Nov 01:14

Sewage systems, Cities, and the Cultivation of Cereals: William Gibson in Conversation with Jonathan ZIttrain

by natematias

This is what happens when I go away. :'-(

Today at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, William Gibson gave a reading, in conversation with Jonathan Zittrain, director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society (where I am a fellow). The event was hosted and organized by Porter Square Books.

"I treat cyberlaw, and my field can be credited to the work of William Gibson" says Jonathan Zittrain. When he read Neuromancer, "it changed me," says Zittrain. He tells us about Theodor Erismann's project to give his students a pair of glasses that inverted their view of the world (inversion goggles). Soon Erismann's student was turning his teacup upside down to catch water that appeared to be falling upward, making it difficult to move around. 10 days into the experiment, something odd happened. The student's brain adjusted, and everything looked right side up, and he could even ride a bicycle. The student had "passed through the portal onto the other side." Zittrain was reminded of that experiment when he read Gibson's latest work, Peripheral, and how the book demands of us that we see an upside-down world without knowing which side is which. When we finish the book, the world around us seems through the looking glass.

At this point, William Gibson comes onstage. "What should we know that we don't know already?" asks JZ. "Nothing that you wouldn't be able to glean from other stories," says Gibson. "This is my chosen medium of existence."

"To what extent do you feel like the place and time you were born in has to do with what we find in your books?" Zittrain asks.

Gibson: it has everything to do with what you find, but I imagine that would be the case with any author. Authors create imagined futures out of the past, and whatever present moment one is composing one's imaginary future in. Somewhere, down in the deep fractal level of this book, there must be a fairly good helping of the early American atomic age, the beginning of television, rocket tailfins. I can tell that it's there -- I don't know how significant that genuinely is.

JZ: "Across more than one book, characters off-screen are shaped by experiences with or on the other end of a military -- soldiers and the imperatives of technology in war are on the margins and center of your work. I know that during Vietnam, you headed to Canada. Is there a connection?"

Gibson: "What you have described as the conditions within my novels could stand as a description of the conditions of the world at large during my lifetime. I've scarcely -- no one in this room has known an era of peace. When was the United States not actively engaged in combat with someone? My fallback defense is that I'm a naturalist; these books are a kind of naturalism committed in an environment that requires the toolkit of speculative fiction to practice naturalism. What would a naturalistic novel written today be like if it didn't take eBay into consideration? Unless you set it in some extraordinary backwater purity, it would fail as a naturalist work."

.@GreatDismal declined to use the altar in this church to read: “It’s my understanding that it’s reserved for Neil Gaiman.” /cc @neilhimself

— Deb Chachra (@debcha) November 14, 2014

JZ: "Given that the size of the palette of which you can choose: past, present, future, one universe, parallel universe, can you explain how you shake out, like a prospector shaking for nuggets, what to put aside and what not?"

Gibson: "When I'm not actually writing, I nonetheless automatically seize on bits of technology novelty that come my way, give them the most cursory examination, and toss them into a hopper that follows me around wherever I go. The hopper gets full within a year or so of not writing a book, and when it's time to write a book, I reach blindly back into the hopper and pull things out. Some of the good ones have combined with things that were tossed into the hopper earlier, and have produced novel configurations. Whether they're in the same shape they're in when I tossed them in, I examine them for the potential to have legs in the future -- what would this gadget look like in 20 years if it was ubiquitous and highly evolved? I've been doing that for so long now that it's quite effortless. It isn't even, for me, terribly exciting. The thing I find exciting is that when I give it to characters in a book, I start to see how they would use it, and who they would become by virtue of having this particular piece of technology. I do tend to think that we are not that which we were prior to television, the automobile, whatever-- back to sewage systems, cities, and the cultivation of cereals -- we are not what we were before any of those things."

JZ: Are we as "pre-next-phase" now as we are "post-cereal?"

Gibson: I definitely see us as pre-next-phase. Without realizing it myself as "the digital" began to emerge into the world somewhat simultaneous to when I wrote fiction, I acquired the habit of lagging slightly back. I'm always a year or two behind whatever the latest consumer widget is. It gives me a wonderful advantage -- I did not become that which uses it, until I have the opportunity to be that which doesn't use it and observe other people using it. That's how I find the yard-stick, the band-width in the given day which I need to have in order to induce cognitive dissonance."

JZ: Of course, if Kirkus reviews, with only a tweet's worth of space is going to say something about one of your books, typically the word is something like "dystopian" or "really dystopian" or "pessimistic" -- I wonder if the stylized debate between Orwell and Huxley, which could be put as "what's going to get us is what we fear" (Orwell) versus "what's going to get us is what we love" (Huxley) -- do you see your work as a vote on one side?"

"ProjectOrionConfiguration" by Uploaded by Georgewilliamherbert 10:59, 10 January 2007 (UTC) - Nuclear Pulse Space Vehicle Study Vol III - Conceptual Vehicle Designs and Operational Systems, Fig 2.1, pp 4.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Gibson: I see both as deceptively sectarian, while I'm striving to be agnostic about emergent technologies. I entertain the idea that emergent technologies are morally neutral until human beings use them for something -- even emergent technologies that we might regard as repugnant may have beneficent uses that we simply didn't stumble upon. Someone's nerve agent may be a discarcinogen, but we won't realize it for 200 years (JZ: that's the most optimistic thing I've heard). Freeman Dyson had the idea of using all the nuclear warheads to fly a starship -- it was a funnel, and you just kept exploding the warheads until you reached Alpha Centauri. JZ: and we can use the nerve agent to brake.

Gibson next reads a chapter," set no more than 15 years from now, in an unnamed town in what is apparently the Southeastern United States. A young woman named Flynne Fisher has gone to a roadhouse to find a man named Macon, who fabbed her pirated smartphone. Flynn's brother runs homeland security, and she's worried that they might be monitoring her smartphone. This is what happens (Chapter 17)


JZ: Luke 4:5 makes a brief appearance -- is that a reference to Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church? Gibson: it may be a schismatic reference, but the DNA is there.

JZ: Given that your work focuses on technological advances, your work grapples with modernity-- characters may reject it, be wounded by it, or be confused by it. Many of the people who populate the world end up cogs in a larger world they don't understand, even if information is just one Wikipedia click away.

Gibson: I don't think of myself as specializing exclusively in what technology does to us. The people who built this church represented a relatively high level of technology compared to where we come from as a species. If you think of technology as a pyramid with, for convenience sake, cultivating cereal at the broadest point, cities above that, and sewage systems above that -- without which cities above a certain size would die, somewhere at the top is the latest iphone. The people who built this church were right up there, by virtue of quite advanced technology. Technology isn't just some new shit that just happened to us. It's been with us as long as we've had written records -- we just happen to view it more complexly and constantly.

JZ: Your books are textured and pack in so much. Are there easter eggs? Gibson: During the composition, I have to make choices between doing things that I assume will lose a certain number of readers, and the tradeoff is that in doing so, a certain number of other readers will experience increased readerly gratification. I make that call on the basis of what I myself would enjoy. As a reader, I liked having to work out how the ground lies in a given universe. The author, if she is rigorous, works out for the reader.


Q: Your characters sometimes surprise you when you're writing. Does that include the language, vernacular, and slang?

Gibson: if they're really working that day, they do surprise me sometimes. They come out with expressions I don't really understand, but sometimes I put words in their mouths.

Q: How exactly would you take something very unusual in modern day life and push it past into the fantastic?

Gibson: When I reached the end of my sixth novel, books I wrote back in the 20th century. Y2K was looming, and when I finished "All Tomorrow's Parties" and realized that what was outside the window was fully as weird as what I had just written. I thought, "I'm working with an 80s yardstick of weirdness, and it hasn't increased that much." The project I came up with to address that was to write the three subsequent books beginning with Pattern Recognition and Zero History. I saw them as speculative novels of the very recent past, each of them set in the year that it was written -- the year prior to its actual publication, as contemporary as I could make them. They were constructed entirely using the toolkit and various modules of creativity that I developed to write the previous six novels. When I finished Zero History, I began to work on what became this. The lazy journalist's lede for The Peripheral is that "he's going back to the future, back to where he started." This couldn't even have been published in 1984, because no one would have had any clue what half of it was about. For me, this is the sequel to the Bigend books: when I put them into the machine of my rusty factor, the stuff that came out was this. I found it alarming.

Q: Rereading Neuromancer, is 2014 what you would have expected?

Gibson: In 1984, I had no personal idea of what the future would be like. I had an idea of the imaginary future of Neuromancer, which I thought of as around 2035. Nothing dates imaginary futures more than dates. As a civilian human walking the street, I don't do that; I don't imagine the future.

Q: I always loved that your novels provide opportunities to imagine what it's like to use technology, and that hearkens back to the beat writers -- how did you overcome the hurdle of imagining the "trips" of the future?

Gibson: in large part, it's a lot of technique. I'm sure that I acquired some technique from various beat writers, particularly Burroughs. I probably acquired technique from them that they didn't know they had. Everything Burroughs thought his work was about ran off me like water off a duck's back. I read Burroughs and it was like hearing the only electric guitar in the world with an effects pedal, and I wanted an effects pedal-- he was some kind of crazy native prose genius, and I wanted to know how to stretch those notes. At his best, he was an extraordinary writer, but I don't think it had anything to do with the dope he took or the recycled surrealist techniques (discovering secret messages from outer space in cut-up literature). He was an excellent prose stylist, and I could cop his style. The beats were remarkable writers in spite of what they said they were doing.

Q: On Twitter, you expressed frustration when London cracked down on Iceberg Mansions?

Gibson: That's because there's an iceberg mansion in this book, it was more convenient to keep the character in the sub-basement of an oligarch's mansion. It was a joke with a long fuse. When I became a science fiction author, I set aside any hope of imagining the future. I knew that when I was writing Neuromancer, I knew that it would experience obsolescence. What I couldn't anticipate that the problem would be all the payphones. If you can't live with that, you will live in eternal pain.

Q: In your latest book, there's no middle class.

Gibson: On evidence of it, there is no middle class in these narrative threads or anything I've ever written, except possibly the last few books. The future observant module in me notes that as an increasing modality in our history. My understanding is that the American middle class peaked in 1967 and hasn't done as well since. In Scandinavian countries, they have this lovely expression: American problems. When they're talking to you, they will say, "this way doesn't have American problems." They explained that their program to have a prosperous middle class and avoid "American problems." They arrived at this because they were either in a situation where they were going to go full Russian or equally bad news opposite.

Q: In the current book, there are a broader palette of genders. When characters show up with a particular gender, how does that make them comfortable in your story?

Gibson: There's a stage early in the process where I open the casting window. It opens on darkness and I leave it open. Characters appear. It's either yea or nea. Sometimes they can be characters from a previous book. If I accept them as themselves, I'm then in the universe of the previous book. Sometimes they're characters from a previous book, and I recast them. As for gender, I don't think I've ever altered the gender of a character who's turned up at the window. They turn up gendered. Then I try to treat them equally. That's been part of my program as a writer since the beginning. I think it's because when I started trying to find interesting examples of contemporary science fiction, I lived close to Seattle. In Seattle, there was a strong feminist SF presence. I met Joanna Russ, Vonda McIntyre, Ursula LeGuinn, and got that message. They had something vital going on that I wasn't getting from the rest of science fiction, drawn to the vitality before I was drawn to the ideology, and I got some of the ideology as well.

Q: Is technology entirely morally neutral?

Gibson: For the purposes of discussing technology's role in the fiction of imaginary futures, it's fair to phrase it the way I phrase it. I answer it this way counter to a hokey argument that the science fiction of my childhood was making to me and its own readers, that Technology is all good, and that we'll be ok, we just need to get some more. The people who invented the telephone pager -- whatever they thought about it, they didn't realize that they would rewrite the map of urban crime. The most powerful negative effects of emergent technologies are usually completely unanticipated by the people who bring about the emergence of that technology -- they didn't dream of it. You go back in time, and there's this Bavarian dude building the internal combustion engine, and you say, "Fritz, don't do it," and he says, "Why?" and you say "it's complicated."

13 Nov 17:16

The Responsive City: Susan Crawford at the MIT Media Lab

by natematias

Also, #allcarrierssuckforever

Today at the Media Lab, we were joined by Susan Crawford, visiting professor at Harvard Law School and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Susan's last book, Captive Audience, focused on net neutrality. Her most recent book, The Responsive City, focuses on ways that cities are using data to support governance.

(this blog post was written by Nathan Matias and Ed Platt

"The most human technology we have is the Internet," Susan tells us. It gives us the ability to talk to the people we need to, when we need to. "I'm very worried about democracy," she tells us. This past midterm election had the lowest voter turnout in 72 years. At the same time as we have all time lows in participation, citizens are worried about issues of surveillance.

Susan is currently teaching the law of surveillance at Harvard. She argues that we are in a time of great transformation citizens can sense, but we may not always understand. Susan is optimistic that it is possible to draw well-informed courses between the privacy issues and the benefits available for human lives using the data we spin off from our actions. She was moved by Obama’s call for substantive open Internet changes, and calls it a real General Patton moment.

Having spent time at international levels and white house level, Susan is now very excited about cities. In 1950, 30% of people in the world lived in cities. Today, more than half do. By 2050, two-thirds of people will. In that context, Susan identifies three key forces: (a) citizens are becoming accustomed to smartphone interaction, (b) local governments face constrained resources, and (c) there's a trust deficit -- governments need to 'show your work' and do small things well, demonstrating that they're actually working for citizens.

Susan shows us images of the vast challenges that no smartphone app could solve, that only government can take on -- climate change, unemployment, transportation, communications infrastructures, and decaying infrastructure. Susan thinks it's important to see cities as "responsive" rather than "smart" cities-- cities that listen and respond to citizens. To set out this vision, Susan has created a "people magazine" of case studies of people using data and technology to make cities more responsive.

Brenna Berman, the CIO of Chicago, has used A/B testing and statistics to optimise inspection of houses for rats. They demonstrated that by looking in 311 data for correlations of rodent locations, they were able to optimise their rodent response. Susan emphasizes the whole stack of technology, from the fiber that connects data, all the way to the data scientists and city managers who take action on data.

  • Algorithms
  • Screens
  • Open Data
  • Sensors
  • Open Fiber

In New York City, Mike Flowers has revolutionized city inspections and used data to forge cooperation across different city units who previously weren't talking. ( compared city government to the tribes he saw while serving in Iraq: different groups have their data and are hesitant to share it with others. Mike has worked to overcome that hesitancy and help different government orgs stitch their data together.

In Boston, Nigel Jacob and Chris Osgood at the office of New Urban Mechanics, have pioneered an approach to fixing public issues that creates a conversation between citizen reporters and the city government. Susan reminds us that people aren't voting because they don't think that the government listens or cares. Groups like New Urban Mechanics are changing that, Susan says.

The environmental movement didn't take off, Susan tells us, until we saw a picture of the earth. If we could see the city better, Susan tells us, and understand that we're all in this together, we can start working together on the common good. Lots of screens and visualizations are important, she says. Examples of this include participatory budgeting and 311 platforms. The city of Buffalo is using 311 to identify hot spots in the city that need greater attention. Another example are civic intermediaries like the Smart Chicago Collaborative, led by Dan O Neil. He says "If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work."
She mentioned civic intermediaries could be the glue of civic engagement.

Responsive governments invite citizens to rate their behavior. She talks about Grade.dc, a project that invites citizens to offer feedback on federal agencies-- something she hopes more cities adopt. In Detroit, the Motor City Mapping project asks citizens to report information about blighted properties, helping the city allocate its resources more effectively.

"If you're sick of politics, work on the city level" says Susan. Cities are hiring people from tech companies to drive efforts towards data driven, responsive cities, Susan tells us. Detroit hired Beth Niblock as CIO and Garlin Gilchrist to direct civic technology.

Susan points out that we can't and shouldn't be utopian about data. At the same time, citizen unease about the use and collection of data raises question. Susan believes we are beyond fighting collection, it’s going to happen. It's important to develop the forensic capacity to understand who's using data for what purpose, to understand the ethics of the use of data, and to develop forms of accountability -- if a public employee misuses data, they should be fired. So far, not one of those policies has been developed to any sophistication at any level. Unless we get these questions right, the public will not these technologies.

Questions and Answers

Ethan: you're always sharing a mix between hope and appropriate skepticism. I think it's fascinating to start this conversation from the idea that we have a crisis in participation and trust. I love the observation that the city might be the space where we might be civic but not political -- that we might be able to let go along ideological lines and work together. My own town, Pittsfield MA, hasn't had a partisan mayor's race in 50 years. You had to tell apart the candidates based on what they said what they were going to do. I think there's enormous hope around this idea. For Media Lab researchers who are interested to instrument and sense a city - and what it means to have a "big blue marble" view of the city - you're speaking in the language we want to hear. I also thought it was interesting that you brought up issues of creepiness.

Your opening example of data was focused on rats, and we don't worry about trapping rats. But those same technologies are being used around the idea of predictive policing. Do we find ourselves algorithmically deciding to intervene before we actually suspect someone. Where do we draw the line?

Susan: This is where responsiveness is important. Yesterday in the New York Times, there was an article about drones that could carry out attacks without human intervention. What's troubling about that is the absence of human policy or agency. Police departments were the first to use predictive analytics because their business model benefitted from incremental advances in where crime might happen and allocating resources to those places. CompStat was first in New York. The answer is always to support visibility, public understanding (including the disparate impact), the rule of law. Just because technology is capable of being abused doesn't mean it will be. That's why it's important to cross-train people in law, policy, and tech. We don't want to give up on technology because of the risk.

Ethan: You have a vision of a wall of screens that show you the city, built on fiber, sensors, visualizations. Who gets to look at the screen? We presumably don't want a system where an algorithm is making a decision to put more patrols on the streets. We don't even want an algorithm determining by itself where we catch the rats -- we want someone looking at the screen making a humane, policy-informed decision.

One of the problems with the Smart City rhetoric is the idea of the screen view -- which is oriented towards a city manager. We also talk about open data, and the hope there is that somehow citizens are going to be involved in this process. Is that screen for the mayor, the employees of the city, or the citizens?

Susan: it's a false assumption that there is one screen. There are many screens. Some screens could be seen by everybody -- maybe it's just a layer of data on all parts of the city that speaks to us as we need it. The city managers will also have their own screens. Experimenting with this is explosively new within city government, and there's something exciting about it that we should celebrate.

Hal Roberts: you present a picture of happy people working effectively in cities. I'm also afraid about this for two reasons. In the Wire, CompStat is misused by the police. Secondly, in the case of public education, I'm worried that school starts focusing on what you can measure rather than what matters.

Susan: Feedback loops can emerge in these systems. One fear is The Wire. The other side is No Child Left Behind, where education stops becoming about increasing human capacity. I respond that humans are cheerful and resilient. We're still learning how to put data in context, to learn how to use it in a way that is appropriate for humans. Rather than saying "don't do it," there are great benefits, and we should use policy to slog through these issues.

Ethan: I think Hal's reference in the Wire was to the notion of a police department that's already being called out on having a high rate of crime, suddenly has a perverse incentive to ignore a wave of murders. This becomes the main plot point late in the show, because the police department needs to show numbers saying that crime numbers are going down. Might highly responsive cities become a panopticon for the employees of the city -- if you find yourself in a place where you have low trust in government and fear that you're going to be voted out, how do you deal with that issue? How do you make sure that the screen is an honest and fair one and remove the incentive to fudge the numbers? Might transparency make it harder to deal with these issues?

Susan: City employees often point out that if people tell them about issues, they would have to fix them, and that without public trust, they don't have the resources. Susan says that her co-author Stephen Goldsmith would argue that it *is* possible, and that trust is the most important part of this. You can avoid corruption by showing transparency. That's why she focuses on trust.

Jason Haas: Is there a degree to which operationalize the way city workers do their jobs might put them in a bound?

Susan: In the beginning of the 20th century, we were worried about corruption and created lots of rules and roles-- these were created by Teddy Roosevelt. People forgot the reason for those rules, they outlived their usefulness. The pendulum that swings back and forth; we need to break through that. By giving people data, it's possible to make available information about the context to empower people to act in context. At the moment, we're so far on the constraint side that I'm not worried about employees losing agency. We need to reform civil service rules and procurement -- issues that are both addressed in the book.

Saul Tannenbaum: Who chooses the sensors, and who chooses the algorithms? All the analytics in the world won't address big issues like incarceration rates or the prison industrial complex. Saul refers to Million Dollar Blocks, a project by Laura Kuran to show areas of New York City where we are spending more than a million dollars a year to incarcerate people. Her argument is that by doing this visualization, we can argue a policy point. Ethan: deciding what to instrument and display could be very different depending on what your goals are.

Susan: I agree and seek opportunities to make plain what was invisible before. To take advantage of projects like Million Dollar blocks, we need data informed policy maker. We need more people informed about policy and data and social justice. Who decides what sensors go out and what data is collected are matters of public policy. In Chicago, each sensor is subject to public deliberation, are swapped out every six months, and automatically contribute to an open data portal. You need leaders who are not afraid to talk about the politics of data, listen to the public, and articulate the benefits.

Matt Carroll: Many cities don't have the resources to do this. What about the small cities?

Susan: I have never run into a more collaborative sector in my live. Chicago, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is developing an open source smart city platform that can take data inputs, map things against a shared map interface, and use that data to make policy decisions, and it has some analytics above it. Chicago wants that tool to be used by every city in America. Chattanooga is a great example of this work: they have fiber, a library that's hosting the data, and the mayor wants to make analytics-informed decisions. Since there are so many open source candidates - you don’t need to buy softwares from big companies - The main gap is in the data scientists who can support this work. With a fiber + data combination, small cities are going to make the leap first. I see an optimistic story for small cities if there's a leader and maybe even a student intern who is excited about these issues.

Participant: How do you propose we solve the problem of not having enough civic engagement?

Susan: If something is more visible to you and you're involved in it, you will care. Cities actually need to respond to pulses coming in from various places -- the worst thing would be if cities said, "we want to co-create things with you" and then didn't actually listen.

Rahul Bhargava: He wants to probe the "engaging communities" part of the subtitle of her book. How are communities engaging with data being collected? Can we move beyond just mapping potholes?

Susan: In Austin - when school data is shared, people’s motion slowed down when they are looking at the shared screen.

Carey Nadeau: Once we get citizen and government participation, that doesn’t directly translate into policy impact. Are there examples of best practices?

Susan: We don’t have enough of that yet. Mapping things like blight do influence policy, but these are very primitive stories. There are some examples - such as mapping toilets in a community in India - where the feedback loop has been tracked, but these examples are rare.

Participant: Asks about lack of responsiveness from the governments themselves.

Susan: Younger people are used to faster response times. Some cities like Barcelona are adjusting to this well. In some cases, the problem becomes the opportunity.

Erhardt: What is the role of private industry in creating a responsive city?

Susan: I like to see more small business bring about flexibility to this field. For now, big giants are driving the crossbow. Private industry, small and local companies are experiencing crisis and opportunity.

Lily Bui: The book discusses defining roles and using data to contextualize those roles. What are the roles that need to be assigned?

Susan: Groups that we see develop can have different roles, and might change over time. Who is the project manager, who is the scheduler, etc. These are roles that could be held by many different people in the real world, and can manifest in a persistent way in a virtual world.

13 Nov 05:24

thewinterotter: I can’t even describe to you what a fucking...


I can’t even describe to you what a fucking delight Elon James White's twitter feed is today. (2 Nov 2014) #DudesGreetingDudes is now trending, pass it on.

13 Nov 06:54

moody-tendencies: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmm...





12 Nov 18:00



Realizing I've been trying to get out of something for 6 months...

credit: Almet

22 Oct 14:15

Floral Chiffon Skull Kimono

by Erin


Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 7.14.57 PM

I found a skull Kimono! And it’s $29.95!

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