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30 Oct 17:45

Speculative Civics: A Lunch Talk With Carl DiSalvo

by kanarinka

omg I cannot wait to read this book, it is at the top of my stack when I get home.

Carl DiSalvo (@cdisalvo) an Associate Professor in the Digital Media Program in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology. At Georgia Tech he established The Public Design Workshop, a design research studio that explores socially-engaged design practices and civic media. 

This talk is co-sponsored by the Center for Civic Media at MIT and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College on October 30, 2014. Liveblog by Catherine D'Ignazio, Erhardt Graeff, and Adrienne Debigare.

Catherine D'Ignazio introduces Carl DiSalvo and his work as uniting art, design, design research, and civic media. This talk coincides with the Civic Art Initiative and the question of what speculative thinking and the imagination's role is in civic life.

Carl will present some of his recent work, give us a specific example and present us with questions at the end for discussion. Some aspects of the work are exciting and some aspects are challenging. His work revolves around one big question - "How do we do democracy in the 21st century?" Democracy is something that we do actively. What is the role of design in democracy and how can it enable or thwart how we practice democracy.

He thinks he will spend decades answering this question. How do we narrow this down to approach it? Are there multiple kinds of democracy? Are there different characteristics of democracy that require different kinds of design? His first book - Adversarial Design - you have a lot of examples in support of design as consensus but what about examples of design as contestation?

Adversarial Design book cover

He has been working on design as related to civics. There is the landscape of civic technology - he shows an image from the Knight Foundation report. These technologies end up as apps, systems, and ways for citizens to exchange information with their governments. Are these new forms of civics? Or just familiar mechanisms delivered in new channels?

His background in design comes less from technology and more from design practice informed by the arts. Speculative design - for example the recent book by Dunne and Raby - has respawned a practice of critical design.

Walking Cities

He shows an image from the group Archigram called "Walking Cities." Archigram produced paper architecture. It was conceptual and used the tools of the time like collage and drawing. In this case - the question is What happens when we combine cities with robots? It may look quaint but it was a real provocation at the time. This is one way in which speculation comes into the role of civics.

He shows Raphael’s The School of Athens (16th C.) to illustrate Plato's book The Republic. This is a meditation around the "right" kind of civics. Another example is the project "Park(ing) Day" by Rebar. You rent a parking meter and you install a park there. What's interesting about this is that it's a different way to think about civics and design. It's not permanent city planning. it's temporary. Gives us an opportunity to use the city differently for a small period of time. This plays out differently in different contexts. For example, people in Atlanta get angry.

Speculative Civics What are projects that engage in speculation about what civics might be? What's different about this? The question is:

When is democracy?

The Philly 311 project, for example, is about democracy now. I can report my pothole now. I can comment on city infrastructure in the moment. We design for democracy in the now. The other projects are not fully in the now. Even Parking Day which takes place in a moment is a gesture towards what the city could be in the future. Archigram is about the future.

Part of the work of democracy is imagining the conditions and experiences of participation. Imagining Futures -- this might be a core thing that designers do. This is a big question that motivates his work.

A Project About Foraging

He shifts to talking about foraging. You might forage for apples on public apple trees. You can forage for mushrooms. You might forage for berries. He shows an image of a woman out collecting berries. There are three ways to characterize foraging:

  1. Foraging for ourselves
  2. Foraging to sell
  3. Foraging for a civic purpose

Concrete Jungle in Georgia forage to give food to the needy. They discuss their foraging activities as service provisioning for local food banks. It's a way of increasing the food resiliency and security of a community. They collect food in bags and put it in a truck and send it back to the food banks. They mainly collect apples. Foraging in this way is participating in a service provision to those in need, but it falls out of our normal considerations of both foraging and civics.

Georgia Tech built them an app but the group came back to them afterwards and said, "We really want a drone." Carl was a little taken aback.

Drones for Foraging This spawned the Drones for Foraging project. One of the challenges Concrete Jungle has is that they have to know where to go and what is the right time to pick. The apples have to be ripe. Foraging has a hipster cast about it but it's really a boring logistics problem. They wanted to see if drones could be used to monitor apple trees in one quadrant of the city.

The idea of using drones for agriculture is not new. They are regularly used in industrial agriculture. Farmers higher companies that do drone services. Then another company does the data analysis. They are almost exclusively used for industrial scale agriculture. He shows a picture of a farmer with a yellow and orange drone.

For the past year, they have been flying drones in and around Atlanta on fruit scouting missions. Foragers will learn to pilot the drone and fly it through the areas where they might pick food.

Image Detection software

They have also been asking "What kinds of support systems would be needed to support this practice?" To begin, they wanted to be able to use the drone to detect apples on apple trees. Though the accuracy non-optimal, as a design research experiment it became fascinating to try to describe "appleness." They explored the possibilities and limitations of their drone platform, Parrot Drone, a cheap $400 drone by attempting to detect color differences. Then, they used some open imaging tools to count apples as part of an experiment to see what it would take to move this platform from industrial agriculture to small-scale agriculture.

What has been revealed?

There are shifting scales of practice and shifting scales of technology. Shifting from industrial agriculture to foraging, what's noticeable is that the visual orientation of the drone changes. Flying overhead and measuring large scale fields is very different than flying through city streets and looking at things at a different scale.

It also makes us think about where the work is being done. We are a school of communications and humanities - we are interested in how we talk about and theorize these things. This prompts them to think about the fields of capital and the fields of civics differently.


They are starting to describe foraging as post-capitalist practice (J.K. Gibson-Graham). Post-capitalist situation has parallel markets and labor, informal and community economies.

Can you also conceive of foraging as a kind of post-civics, with parallel systems of service provisioning and care? They are looking at the work of Henry Jenkins, Boler and Ratto, Department of Homeland Security's work on the Occupy Sandy movement considering it as an extra-state practice.

He describes the role of design as a means for adjusting scale. How do you adjust between scales? You can't just take a giant robot tractor and have it work on small-scale. How do you do that from every aspect -- interactions, user experiences, device ecologies, features, sensors & hardware?

Design can also be thought of as a "breaching experiment" to practices. So you are not "solving a problem" but rather you are experimenting with the problem. What the drone did is that it elicited things - people talked about habits and practices. It becomes a kind of magical object. You might have had those conversations without the drone but it served as an evocative object that elicited them. Desires, values and politics are potentially revealed through this process.

One of his closing questions is "Who is this work for?" He doesn't have a good answer for this. Many of the answers he might give are a problem. We might say the work is for (1) the users and it's about providing toolsets. The foragers now have a new tool and that would solve the design problem. But then it doesn't make sense as a research problem. You are just doing service providing for audience that normally doesn't get design & tech services.You could say (2) it's for designers. But in talking to folks at design firms they are not engaged in this practice. (3) It could be for industry. Intel is actually supporting all this work. They want to know how to redesign chips. What are future uses of platforms that they are not thinking about? How is a chip making company going to approach that? So they invest in research projects with foragers is they want to know if hobbyist drone people are around then how do those smaller-scale chipsets get designed. But then he reflects on whether the greatest impact is on the design of chips and then does that help with democracy?

You could say (4) it's for policy. Carl received an email from his associate dean of research told him he had to stop flying his drone NOW. The FAA will take the license to fly from the entire institute if you’re caught flying without a license. BUT the foragers can fly the drone. The FAA rule applies to those with a commercial practice and because Concrete Jungle gives their food away, they go through a loophole. This was fascinating to the Intel policy folks: what happens in a near future when average people want to put semi-autonomous sensor-laden tools in the world? Design research also becomes a probe here to policy potentially. Everyone should note that Carl does not fly drones anymore. (5) Another possible audience - social science or (6) Design Research as a Field - it's not clear it is a field or if we produce this knowledge who it's for.

The final way is where it connects back to art: (7) Contributing to a Social Imaginary: you are producing a vision of the future that is different than the present. This is something we normally expect of art rather than design. We can use our capacities as designers to model the future even though we don't know how exactly it will come about.

We should be answerable to something. If not, then it becomes too much like play.


Kate Krontiris: She appreciates the emphasis on imagination because it's so hard to imagine something other than status quo. She wants to understanding foraging as civic act. The Concrete Jungle people pull fruit from public and private trees. Are they involved with maintaining the trees for future crops? Is it mostly consumptive? What is their practice?

Carl: It's a great question. It's not something that they have ever talked about. They talk about caring for the trees. They maintain a private map with trees in people's yards. But maintaining the tree itself is not something they have talked about.

Kate: But what is civics? Is it because they don't sell it? That's what makes it civic.

Carl: It challenges our notion of civics. One of the things I think counts as civics is service provisioning for public life. They are contributing to that. To food security. By providing them with fresh fruits when they may not have them.

Jude: Curious about parking day. Have you observed how maybe these practices correlate to gentrification? How did they come to you and say they need a drone?

Carl: The relation of parking day to gentrification is a great question. I agree with you that thinking about these projects that claim to take over the city need to be considered. The folks from Concrete Jungle are cognizant of how they fit in the community. Their festival cider fest takes apples that people don't want to eat and they press them into cider and give it away. The audience is half their friends and half from the neighborhood.

How do they come and ask for a drone? They are a volunteer org and their core membership is 4-6 people who have different backgrounds - tech, biology, teaching. They are interested in taking risks. I think they knew about drones in agriculture and they knew we'd be open to it. Carl's first response was no, you don't need a drone. It was their idea. Now they've moved into instrumenting the apple tree directly.

Saul: Design as probe for policy. Cambridge decided last week it needed a drone policy. There was a viral video of a drone here being knocked out of the sky by a hawk. Framing this around imagination is interesting. Because the city is not interested in drones as imaginary space.

Carl: They have permission to fly on the grounds that are private property. The only time we ran into issues was on and around campus. The first time they flew it outside the building they are housed, security came in and said you can't do that—you'll hit someone in this public square. We have all these viral videos now: drones with bees, another where one fell on a triathlete. So maybe the public conversation has changed.

You could say that these regulations are ridiculous affecting a $400 drone. But you could easily imagine that drone falling on the public highway next to Georgia Tech and creating all sorts of problems.

I think drones are really exciting for citizen journalism, and that's where I worry about the limitations imposed on them.

Chelsea: Expressing concerns about fetishizing technology. How do you address that through the process and avoid that empty innovation adoption?

Carl: I agree with you about the technology thing. I must say I am in a digital media department and many colleagues think that digital component is primary. There are plenty of examples where paper-based versions of what we do may be more appropriate. When we work with communities, we try to let them lead with the choice of technology. There are times as experts that we have a responsibility to tell community members they aren't making the right choice. We can also tweak how we approach technologies when we use them. We can embrace the fetishization of certain technologies and push them in different directions.

Don Blair: I want to import all the questions you mentioned at the end to the DIY science / citizen monitoring space I am in. To make this more relevant to my work, I want to know how would things shift if rather than foraging on behalf of a food bank that they were foraging on behalf of themselves for caloric intake. Would you have thought about it differently? We are developing water qualities monitors. It's one thing to imagine what a citizen water monitoring project might look like and different if citizens are worried about some specific contaminant in their own drinking water.

Carl: People we talked to who do foraging for sustenance, don't need these technologies. They know where the food is and they don't need to monitor it. One of the characteristics of this project is that this is a "lower-stakes civics." It's not lower stakes for those who are hungry. But it's a different kind of relationship than the water quality monitoring.

In a short period of time, we have gone from imagining what an instrumented environment might look like to Kickstarter projects that produce these instruments for wide use. I remember CHI papers from 10 years ago that suggest we could instrument the environment and now we can.

Catherine: I think Don is pointing out that often times these citizen science experiments don't work. And there is still a disconnect from what is promised and what is possible.

Carl: Is this more or less real than drones for foraging? I think the context is more real.

Experimenting with drones does not affect their current practice. Georgia Tech research is doing this experiment, but it does not stop them from collecting apples across the city.

Catherine: How is the Walking Cities project different from the Drones for Foraging? The Walking Cities just need to show their images; their goal is to put a speculative idea into the social imaginary. But when you start doing this in the embodied world you run up against real policies and risk. When projects are operating in the real and bring in the social imaginary, does the fact that they are real diminish their speculative power, or is there something valuable about the embodied real-world aspect?

Carl: I have gotten that question before. The work of Archigram and Dunne and Raby are about the production of images and models that are non-functional. Is there a value of keeping some notion of speculation separate from some reality? Yes.

But there is something interesting about expanding what we see in our engagement with speculation. Architects in the 60s simply made drawings. Kickstarter could be a platform for speculative fiction—the way they put forward their short pitch videos to capture our imagination.

I like it when some aspect of my work hits the real world. "I just flew another drone into a tree." or Park(ing) Day is delimited by "how many quarters I have in my pocket." Drones for Foraging are not completely divorced from working in the real city, and they have technical limitations like only working for 20 minutes at time. And I enjoy thinking about those constraints.

Catherine: Speculative fiction may serve a research and development role for various organizations: companies, journalists, etc. Maybe the use of these drones serve as R&D for foragers.

Carl: That's a great idea. But journalists have an industry. Now what's the public forum where we share that information? We've created all this knowledge but we don't have the infrastructure by which to share the ideas. Maybe this is part of our responsibility as academics where we don't create the same thing over and over again?

Yu Wang: You haven't talked about what benefits this presents to the foragers.

Carl: There is nothing in place that impacts the foragers ability to do their work. For all of our projects we use a co-design process with the communities we are working with. This proceeds through a conversation about "what's next?" We have moved beyond the drones because they don't present a solution to them.

And the imagination being produced is not ours alone as researchers. The project would not exist without them.

We say maybe "empathy is a horrible idea" for civic work because it makes the person you are working with "the other." It's not that there are foragers and there are us, but now we are foragers too and identify by that label.

The two groups don't exist - we are one group together.

29 Oct 20:00

C-3PO Learns the Language of Street Art


I imagine things like this are printed on the lining of all of Rosalind's clothing.

C-3PO Learns the Language of Street Art

Submitted by: (via Albotas)

28 Oct 16:01

escape from jail directory


I once saw a rescue horse on a lunge line spook, jump straight up in the air, land on its nose, and die. It was pretty fucked up.

by cjgrin

27 Oct 18:56

Soft, distributed review of public spaces: Making Twitter safe

by metasj

Successful communities have learned a few things about how to maintain healthy public spaces. We could use a handbook for community designers gathering effective practices. It is a mark of the youth of interpublic spaces that spaces such as Twitter and Instagram [not to mention niche spaces like Wikipedia, and platforms like WordPress] rarely have architects dedicated to designing and refining this aspect of their structure, toolchains, and workflows.

Some say that ‘overly’ public spaces enable widespread abuse and harassment. But the “publicness” of large digital spaces can help make them more welcoming in ways than physical ones – where it is harder to remove graffiti or eggs from homes or buildings – and niche ones – where clique formation and systemic bias can dominate. For instance, here are a few ‘soft’ (reversible, auditable, post-hoc) tools that let a mixed ecosystem review and maintain their own areas in a broad public space:

Allow participants to change the visibility of comments:  Let each control what they see, and promote or flag it for others.

  • Allow blacklists and whitelists, in a way that lets people block out harassers or keywords entirely if they wish. Make it easy to see what has been hidden.
  • Rating (both average and variance) and tags for abuse or controversy can allow for locally flexible display.  Some simple models make this hard to game.
  • Allow things to be incrementally hidden from view.  Group feedback is more useful when the result is a spectrum.

Increase the efficiency ratio of moderation and distribute it: automate review, filter and slow down abuse.

  • Tag contributors by their level of community investment. Many who spam or harass try to cloak in new or fake identities.
  • Maintain automated tools to catch and limit abusive input. There’s a spectrum of response: from letting only the poster and moderators see the input (cocooning), to tagging and not showing by default (thresholding), to simply tagging as suspect (flagging).
  • Make these and other tags available to the community to use in their own preferences and review tools
  • For dedicated abuse: hook into penalties that make it more costly for those committed to spoofing the system.

You can’t make everyone safe all of the time, but can dial down behavior that is socially unwelcome (by any significant subgroup) by a couple of magnitudes.  Of course these ideas are simple and only work so far.  For instance, in a society at civil war, where each half are literally threatened by the sober political and practical discussions of the other half, public speech may simply not be safe.

26 Oct 04:00

October 26, 2014

Thanks everyone for a glorious BAHFest West! Many people asked when we'll do more, and when we'll open up submissions. For that information, just stay tuned to our facebook page!
27 Oct 19:01

after I try to get consensus before doing


With love and heartbreak and snark and more love.

25 Oct 15:57

"When the cops kill people of color that is simply the normal...

"When the cops kill people of color that is simply the normal operation of a racist institution in a grossly unequal society. That’s the job that police are put there to do … Our efforts, then, should not be directed toward fixing this institution—but toward destroying it. As we make our demands and plan our campaigns, this ultimate goal must always be kept in mind. We should pursue changes that de-legitimize, demoralize, discredit, and disempower the police and which, correspondingly, energize, embolden, and empower the community. When we demand justice, let us be clear that it is not the justice of the courts and the government, but the justice that abolishes courts and government that is required. Our very demands should be a form of attack.”

—Kristian WIlliams, FIRE THE COPS!

25 Oct 03:09



via Rosalind.


DIRECTOR: do you mean your stunt double



A Movie Star Names Things" - Mallory Ortberg

I actually literally can’t with this.

(via knottahooker)

23 Oct 19:01

As a board member, "Sure I've got time to help plan some events"

10 Oct 23:42

"Post-civilized thought is based on three simple premises: 1. This civilization is, from its..."

“Post-civilized thought is based on three simple premises:

1. This civilization is, from its foundation, unsustainable. It probably cannot be salvaged, and, what’s more, it would be undesirable to do so.

2. It is neither possible, nor desirable, to return to a pre-civilized state of being.

3. It is therefore desirable to imagine and enact a post-civilized culture.”

- Strangers In a Tangled Wilderness (Post-Civ!: A Brief Philosophical and Political Introduction to the Concept of Post-civilization)
12 Oct 19:22

DGAF: four simple letters to help you be more productive

by magpie

Everything You Know About Creativity Is Wrong.

I get asked somewhat regularly how I manage my output of creative works, including zines, novels, magazines, albums, comics, photo books, jewelry, tintypes, and stuff no one knows was me so I’m not telling. What’s my secret?

Four letters. DGAF.

Don’t Give A Fuck.

Don’t give yourself deadlines. Don’t push yourself. Don’t be goal-oriented. Don’t cater to or research your audience. Don’t give a fuck. One day we’ll all be dead.

The reason I’m as productive as I am is that I got into punk. Not the music—well, the music too—but the culture. The culture of DIY anarchy. I wrote fiction because I wanted to. I drew comics and gave them away because it was fulfilling. I wrote zines because fuck it.

For ten years this was enough for me. I got books published because it’s awesome to get your books published (or to publish them yourselves!). I went on speaking tours because fuck yeah. My friends and I started a publishing collective because why not.

Art is the excrement of action. Art is the record of a thing having been done. Art is just a fucking tombstone—it’s a marker that says “art was made” the same as a marker that says “this person once lived.”

Awesomeness, fuck yeah, and why not. Those are three good reasons to be productive. Money is an unfortunate-but-sometimes-necessary reason. Fame is a shitty one. Seriously, fame is shit. Take if from someone who has seen just the tiniest bit of it: fuck fame. It’s okay to hate someone who is motivated by fame. It’s okay to hate yourself for being motivated by fame (recognition among peers is distinct from this, as I will address later).

I was being hyperproductive, for years, just because I wanted to be. And then one day, when yet another “thing I do for money” dried up, I thought “well, I do make tons of things. Maybe I should start selling them.”

And I went through the process of monetizing more of my interests. Hobbies became side incomes. Writing went from one of the things I do the most to being my career. And anxiety hit. Pretty much right away. Worse than I’ve ever had it. Crippling goddam anxiety. Because trying to do things “right” is fucking stressful. And to be avoided whenever possible.

You know what I did to try to deal with my anxiety? I looked up all the ways the internet says to deal with it and then I signed up for a site that gives you points if you do the things you say you’re going to and reprimands you if you don’t. So I made myself a rigid schedule. Exercise every day. Eat at least the following number of servings of vegetables every day. Take vitamins every day. Write 1,000 words every day. Practice Spanish every day. Et cetera. Every day I’d check off all the boxes, do all the things.

Conventional wisdom can eat a bag of shit. Setting goals and deadlines for all my healthy, stress-reducing activities just made my life worse.

And as soon as art became a “hustle” my productivity dropped dramatically. I’d make enough jewelry to post to etsy and then fuck off on the internet. I started being a procrastinator. A lot of things seem better to me than writing a novel when I’m trying to write a novel because I want a mainstream publisher to pay me for it when I’m done. But when I was just writing whatever the fuck I wanted (and learning to do it well because that’s fun too), I wrote because I wanted to goddam write.

I stopped shooting tintypes because breathing in poisons to shoot portraits for customers isn’t fulfilling in the same was as breathing in poisons to shoot portraits because holy shit I can make permanent images appear on a fucking piece of metal by doing some crazy alchemy that involves ether. I stopped doing it because it became work. If I wanted to do it “right,” and make my living at it, I’d have to promote myself and my work. I love going to steampunk conventions, but I’d probably need to buy a civil war re-enactors outfit and start shooting at re-enactments. And I don’t want to.

As soon as I decided I don’t give a fuck about whether or not my jewelry sells, I started making more of it again, and more different types. As soon as I decided that trying to make tons of money off of selling $1.50 buttons is stupid, I stopped stressing about it and I don’t mind making buttons again.

Forgetting about capitalizing on my work has meant letting go of stress. (And, yes, since we still live in a bullshit capitalist society, it’s meant that I’ve got to keep doing shit I know is work—like designing books for publishers or washing dishes or whatever. But I just know that’s work and I do it.)

Weirdly, I’ve also found that I can kind of DGAF my way through capitalizing on some of my crafts, too. I’m not saying don’t sell the things you make, I’m saying try not to stress about that aspect so hard because it’ll fuck up your work anyway.

Deadlines stifle creativity at least as often as they bolster it. If a deadline is stifling, drop it.

Free yourself from goal-oriented thinking. Goals exist solely to inform the process. I will argue that this is universal. (Because arguing it’s universal seems like an enjoyable thing to do. Maybe it’s not universal. Fuck if I know.) For example: the point of painting is to paint, not to have a painting. Art is the excrement of action. Art is the record of a thing having been done. Art is just a fucking tombstone—it’s a marker that says “art was made” the same as a marker that says “this person once lived.” Don’t get me wrong—art, the product, is also awesome. And thinking about the effect the finished product will have on people can help you have a more awesome time making it.

As you might have noticed, DGAF isn’t a “how to be rich and famous” solution. Quite the opposite. It’s just how to be productive.

Money is a terrible motivator for art. (It’s also a terrible motivator for science. And determining who lives and who dies. Actually money is a terrible motivator for pretty much everything besides supporting yourself.) It’s why we live in a world of derivative art: people make what they think will sell instead of what they believe in or want to.

I do not believe that people who are motivated by money to make art are bad people or hacks or whatever-the-fuck. I do it. Plenty of my favorite people do it. I’m just annoyed that the world is set up so that that’s a thing we feel drawn to do.

Fame is a terrible motivator for art. I do believe that people who are motivated by fame are bad people or hacks or whatever-the-fuck. However, in the modern era where everyone is a freelancer and we’re all “liberated” as artists in that we have to be constantly fucking selling some bullshit manufactured image of ourselves, a professional artist has to be working towards some level of fame in order to eat food on a regular basis. Fame-as-strategy-towards-eating-burritos-and-having-health-insurance is perfectly reasonable. Fame-because-I-want-to-be-famous-and-have-skewed-power-dynamics-with-everyone-I-ever-meet-ever, well, there’s a reason we have words like “shitlord” in english. (Actually, my spellcheck doesn’t think we do have the word “shitlord” in english, but what does it know.)

Power dynamics are the different levels of power between two or more people. Fame is kind of just the word for “skewed power dynamics.” Famous people have more power than other people in most social interactions. And unequal exchanges are less fulfilling for everyone involved. Seriously. Fame and its attendant power imbalances are, in the hands of the best people, hurdles that need to be jumped every single goddam time you enter a friendship or romantic relationship with someone. In the hands of most people (read: the worst people), fame grants power over other people.

Fame and its attendant power imbalances are, in the hands of the best people, hurdles that need to be jumped every single goddam time you enter a friendship or romantic relationship with someone. In the hands of most people (read: the worst people), fame grants power over other people.

If there’s a not-shitty version of fame, it’s recognition among peers. Like, “good on you, you fucking killed it on that guitar solo, and hearing your band play meant a lot to me. But you’re on the same level as me of course because we’re both just people. You’re great at guitar and I’m a fucking marine biologist or a stay-at-home parent or some other at-least-as-hard thing.”

I have no idea how to foster “recognition among peers” and dismantle fame. But I have a feeling it involves destroying all the intersecting power hierarchies our society. So if you want a world where you can be recognized for doing awesome shit without it fucking up your life, you probably need to dismantle patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, the state, and all that shit.

Look, aren’t you proud? I turned a “how to be productive” article into arguments for anarchism.

Disclaimer at the end where you won’t read it because you’ve already made up your mind that I’m a bad person who doesn’t know what they’re talking about: Yes, I understand this won’t work for everyone. I also understand why daily word count goals help people finish novels. But the internet is full enough of advice about all the ways to fucking kill yourself with stress. And since DGAF has been so effective for me, I’m willing to bet it’s effective for some other folks out there too.

Okay, actually, to be real, I wrote this article because I needed to read it just now. And if other people get something out of it, awesome.

23 Oct 15:00

Ello Formally Promises To Remain Ad-Free, Raises $5.5M

by timothy
Social media site Ello is presented as the anti-Facebook, promising an ad-free social network, and that they won't sell private data. Today, they've also announced that Ello has become a Public Benefit Corporation, and that the site's anti-advertising promise has been enshrined in a corporate charter. The BBC reports on the restrictions that Ello has therefore entered into, which mean the site cannot, for monetary gain, Sell user-specific data to a third party Enter into an agreement to display paid advertising on behalf of a third party; and In the event of an acquisition or asset transfer, the Company shall require any acquiring entity to adopt these requirements with respect to the operation of Ello or its assets. While that might turn off some potential revenue flows (the company says it will make money by selling optional features), as the linked article points out, it hasn't turned off investors; Ello has now raised $5.5 million from investors.

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Read more of this story at Slashdot.

21 Oct 22:11

Just a random assortment of cop cars on fire, nbd.

Just a random assortment of cop cars on fire, nbd.

23 Oct 00:40

How to Identify Gender in Datasets at Large Scales, Ethically and Responsibly

by natematias

A practical guide to methods and ethics of gender identification

For the past three years, I've been using methods to identify gender in large datasets to support research, design, and data journalism, supported by the Knight Foundation, with an amazing group of collaborators. In my Master's thesis, used these techniques to support inclusion of women in citizen journalism, the news, and collective aciton online. Last February, I was invited to give a talk about my work at the MIT Symposium on Gender and Technology, hosted by the MIT Program in Women's and Gender Studies. I have finally written the first part of the talk, a practical guide to methods and ethics of gender identification approaches.

If you just want to get started analyzing gender in your dataset, I suggest the Open Gender Tracker libraries for Ruby (by Jeremy Merrill), Python (by Marcos Vanetta), and R (by Adam Hyland and Irene Ros). To find out why, read on.

Other posts in this loose series (not all by me) include:

Why Do Gender Metrics Matter?

This June, the feminist hackerspace Double Union launched one of my favorite diversity data websites: (code on github). The site shows a list of tech companies who have released information about the demographics of their employees, inviting viewers to thank them or pressure them based on what they have released. The site reminds us that:

"Open diversity data will make it easier for everyone to better understand the diversity landscape and work toward solutions."

Tech companies have faced substantial pressure this year for their need to improve inclusion. Social justice advocates and professional groups have long advocated for diversity in institutions, whether it's groups like Catalyst arguing for women on boards, the American Society of Newspaper Editors working towards demographic parity in the news, or MIT's gender equity project working to foster inclusion in academia. In each case, metrics are a critical bedrock of change, revealing areas of improvement and tracking progress.

Online, where collective action isn't fully controlled by institutions, institutional policies for inclusion are less powerful. That's why Yonatan, Matt, and I created Tally for the mentorship organization Gender Avenger, who use crowdsourced metrics on panel speakers to support conference organizers (see Ashe Dryden's tips for organizers). Emma Pierson used a gorgeous data analysis to prove that women in competitive debate are under-scored, and that difference in experiences don't fully explain the gender gap in scores. Emma has also studied ways that men dominate New York Times comments, analyzing almost a million comments to look at women's participation. By analyzing data, Emma also found patterns where women were welcomed even in cases where they were the minority. Data on open source communities (pdf, and here) and on gender in Wikipedia (here, here, here) offer ongoing insight on evolving disparities and differences in online platforms.

Data can also support real-time systems for diverse participation. The Conversation Clock (pdf) by Karrie Karahalios (see also Visiphone) and Tony Bergstrom offers visual feedback to interrupters (often men) to remind people in a conversation to listen. The FollowBias project that Sarah Szalavitz and I created does something similar for social media, helping users monitor and adjust the diversity of who they pay attention to. I've also prototyped a "gender check" for text editors that allows writers to monitor the diversity of their content before they publish (something I've just learned was also tried by German computer scientists in 2004).

Techniques for Collecting Large-Scale Gender Data

Ask People their Gender and Sexuality On a Form

The simplest way to collect gender data is to ask people. Facebook, for example, asks people their sex, their gender expression (learn more about the distinction), and who they are interested in, even though only some of that information is available through their API for demographic targeting by third parties (custom gender pronouns are hidden from advertisers).

Although the best method involves asking people to self-identify and choose how to be represented in your data, this option is usually only available to companies, online platforms, or conference organizers who think in advance about diversity. If you're lucky enough to be able to collect gender information about the group you want to know more about, read the Human Rights Campaign guide to collecting transgender inclusive data (more about HRC's categories). CMU PhD student Chris Martens has also pointed out Sarah Dopp's post "designing a better drop-down post for gender," which discusses the issues in greater detail than the HRC and suggests some clever design approaches.

If you don't make gender a required field, or if you issue an opt-in survey, you should expect your results to skew male: opt-in surveys tend to under-count women. Last year, research by Mako Hill and Aaron Shaw demonstrated that on Wikipedia, "the proportion of female US adult editors was 27.5% higher than the original study reported (22.7%, versus 17.8%), and that the total proportion of female editors was 26.8% higher (16.1%, versus 12.7%)." They have published source code to help web platforms weight their survey results based on readership demographics.

Ask People to Guess Someone Else's Gender

Most often, we're analyzing datasets without gender data. News publishers, for example, do often keep information about the gender of their journalists (for the ASNE newsroom census), but they don't release gender information on individual journalists. For decades, advocacy groups have relied on people to guess the gender of journalists from their names. The Global Media Monitoring Project examines a sample of journalism in over a hundred countries, asking volunteers to identify the likely gender of contributors. By asking more than one person to look at each name, the GMMP uses inter-coder reliability measures to ensure higher quality results. Other groups that use this method include VIDA Women in Literary Arts, Op Ed Project, and the UK's Women in Journalism have used similar methods in the past as well.

The quality of name-based guessing can be enhanced with photo-based guessing, a method I used in my 2012 work with the Guardian, and which Derek Ruth's team at McGill has systematized and evaluated extensively(pdf). With this method, Google image searches or Twitter profiles are shown to people, who determine whether that person presents male, female, or unknown. Here's what volunteers see in one Google Spreadsheets system I've developed: for each name+organization combination, coders click on a Google image search link and enter in their judgment of the person's gender, if they see more than two images of the same person.

Sometimes people are in the room. The Tally app that I prototyped for Gender Avenger, which was turned into production quality software by Yonatan Kogan and Matt Stempeck, relies on participants at a conference to count the people on a panel and enter information into a mobile website.

Is any of this ethical? After all, we're asking people to make judgments about other people's identity based on their names or physical appearance. It's also difficult to account for queer identities with this method. Faced with this difficulty, activists and researchers tend to respond by aknowledging the limitations of these methods, avoidng claims about individuals, and fitting their work within broader efforts on inclusion and social justice.

Automatically Guess Gender from Names

Surveys and human coding will never be able to function in real-time or at scale (the Global Media Monitoring project took 5 years to analyze 16,000 media items). To do that, we turn to automated methods. The simplest approach is to use historical birth records to estimate the likely sex of a first name. My colleagues at Bocoup and I, who were funded by the Knight Foundation to create Open Gender Tracker, have written about these methods extensively. Here are some of the best places to learn more about this method:

When using one of these systems, it is critical to know as much as possible about the source of the names and the accuracy of a given dataset for a particular population. In our global names dataset, we've observed large differences between UK and US names. Some libraries, which don't document the source of their names, could be offering highly inaccurate results at high levels of confidence. Like the GendRE api, a commercial product, Open Gender Tracker allows you to specify the region of your study to achieve greater accuracy.

Other similar libraries include Lincoln Mullen's gender R package (which has a less comprehensive but well documented dataset than Open Gender Tracker) and The Sex Machine python package, whose data source is not well documented.

Combine Automated Methods with Human Judgment

For publishable research, I always encourage a combination of automated methods with human judgment. In this approach, we use Open Gender Tracker to offer inferred sex for as many people as possible. We then ask humans to guess gender from photos for a sample of all names, in order to identify how accurate the Open Gender Tracker is for that particular set of names. In some cases where individual-level accuracy is needed, we optimize the cost of human coding by asking volunteers or Turkers if they disagree with the automated system's judgment, for a very large sample or potentially the whole dataset.

Combining Automated, Human Judgment, and Self-Representation

The most flexible and fair approach would support large-scale analysis while also inviting people to choose how their sex and gender presentation will be stored in the system. Together with the MediaCloud team and some advice from mySociety, we're adapting the PopIt system to publish information about the demographics of public figures. Where possible, an automated algorithm will offer its judgment. We will ask volunteers to offer their judgment. Finally, we will invite the person to check in to the system themselves, to correct their inferred gender or to adjust their privacy in our research.

It's rare for online services to offer non-binary gender identites, something that may change with Facebook's recent update to gender identity and pronoun options. Our plan with PopIt is to offer multiple levels of confidence and privacy in datasets where information on queer identies may support ethically-designed research. With that data, we should be able to expand research on diversity and inclusion to extend well beyond gender binaries.

Inferring Gender from Content

In some cases, it's possible to infer gender from content. In the first kind of research, used by Joseph Reagle and Lauren Rhue in their study of Wikipedia biographies, gendered pronouns are used to detect articles about women and men. They used this method to compare Wikipedia's coverage of women to other encyclopedias, including Britannica. Sophie Diehl and I also used this in our project to link New York Times obituaries to Wikipedia articles, identifying the likely gender of obituaries to a very high accuracy.

Occasionally, languages include features that identify the gender of the speaker or the object of a comment. McGill undergrad Morgane Ciot, along with Derek Ruths, did a fascinating study that successfully used this method to detect the gender of Twitter accounts (paper pdf here).

A third area of research attempts to identify male and female writers based on the style of their language. Research on novels and articles suggested that this might be the case. More recent work on Twitter has also suggested that Twitter account gender may be identifiable by their patterns of language and who they follow. They also noticed that not everyone follows typical gender norms, showing that across different topics, detectable differences often "defy population-level gender patterns."

Although this work is interesting, I choose to avoid it because my research focuses on identifying people who defy norms-- remarkable people who use their voices in public despite being under-represented. Twitter itself does use content analysis (plus names) to identify the gender of their users for analytics and targeted advertising. Many social media gender detection systems combine many factors (see also this report) in order to attain high accuracy levels. Glenn Fleishman recently wrote a summary of automated content-analysis gender inference for BoingBoing.

Inferring Gender from Behavior

Your behavior on social networks, including your friendship network, can also reveal things about gender. In one paper I find troubling, researchers have been able to identify gay men at MIT from their friendship network, even when they kept that information private. I personally avoid using these kinds of techniques in my research, on ethical grounds.

Inferring Ethnicity and Race

Ethnicity and race are much harder to infer from names or photos. Although techniques do exist to identify ethnicity from names (see this 2010 paper by Chang, Rosenn, Backstrom, and Marlow that incorporates names and relationships), the accuracy varies by ethnicity/race, and the census is thinking about redesigning their race and ethnicity categories to deal with problems. Although tempted by the opportunity to include measures of intersectionality in my research, I haven't yet gone down this rabbit hole in my own work. Photos are an emerging source for analysis of race and ethnicity. Although it's not a thoroughly developed area, photos from social networks have been used to train ethnicity facial-recognition detectors (here, here, and here).

Privacy and Ethics

Quantitative studies of underrepresented groups involves carrying a huge imbalance of power with people who already have problems with power. When doing quantitative work on gender, whether binary or not, it's important to keep the following things in mind:

  • Always work in conversation with people from the community you're studying so they can question or encourage your work as needed. In my work on the media, I'm deeply grateful for all the social justice orgs, professional organizations, and journalists who have helped me think through these issues. If possible, I try to design together with the people who are affected by my work, and I'm very inspired by Jill Dimond's approach to Feminist HCI (pdf).
  • Consider the harms that could occur for the people you're working with. Actions that seem like a good idea can have unexpected consequences. For example, danah boyd's talk about the power of fear in Networked Publics helped me understand that transparency can often hurt the most vulnerable, a perspective that has helped me avoid mistakes in my design work
  • Quantitative analyses that occur without the knowledge or consent of people involve a very serious power and voice imbalance that should not be done without careful thought and consultation. A good rule of thumb, from Sunil Abraham, is that the greater the power of a person, the greater transparency is acceptable. For my research on journalists and other public figures, I'm building on decades of feminism that has considered this form of transparency justifiable.
  • Support people's agency and privacy. Data about the gender of an individual can have serious consequences for people if shared in the wrong context, especially since obscuring someone's gender may be the best means to ensure fairness. In the FollowBias system, Sarah Szalavitz and I stuck with gender binaries for this reason -- if we had allowed people to note the non-binary genders of their friends, someone could have been outed against their will.

The ideological limitations of data activism

In my talk at the MIT Gender and Technology symposium, I wondered alout whether the above algorithms were actually pulling me towards non-intersectional feminist activism that focuses primarily on white women who are public figures. I think it's a very real risk. Yet since then, I've seen projects like the Texas Tribune Gender Wage Gap interactive (article here), which used Open Gender Tracker to look at wage gaps across all state employees, not just the highly paid ones. At the moment, we're just learning how to use this data to support social change, so we're in no risk of over-emphasizing metrics. Yet even as we implement the above methods, it's important to retain a critical perspective and a focus on the change that matters.


20 Oct 07:16

Weaponized Social

by bl00

I want to give special thanks to Meredith (@maradydd), Sam (@metasj), and the Berkman crew (@berkmancenter) for help in parsing all these complicated ideas. I’m forever grateful for our conversations.

The existing harms of social scripts we ran while in smaller, geographically-constrained groups are being amplified due to network effect. Tiny unchecked errors, scaled, become large harms as people find ways to exploit them, in life just as in software.

I propose we hold a 2-day event to understand “weaponized social” historically, tangentially, neurochemically, and technically — and to arrive at ongoing ways of addressing them. These challenges are not new, they are simply arising in space we consider new. Given the erosion of trust online, I see meeting in person as vital to rebuilding trust. You can suggest when and where the event takes place via


There was a time when the hacker and academic circles I run in had the default assumption of “it’s better to have your idea broken by your friends than by someone else.” The implicit assumption being that we’d build even better ideas, together. I *hate* that loving dissent is disappearing from my corners of the internet, when I used to dream it would spread. I hate that there’s a vanishing chance I can reasonably assume a trolling comment online is social commentary from an yet-to-be-known compatriot dealing with the same bizarre issues of a system that I am; but rather must now deal with such as a potential precursor to having to leave my home based on legitimate death and rape threats. I hate that some of my intelligent male-shaped or nuero-atypical friends are scared to join conversations online for fear of being severely and permanently ostracized for slight missteps. I hate that some of my intelligent female-shaped friends feel unwelcome online – yes, because of “trolls” who often happen to be self-male-identified, but ALSO  because of an incredibly strange practice of women belittling each other. I hate that I only know how to speak to these issues in a gender-focused way, despite knowing damn well race and class come strongly into play, and having the sinking suspicion that cohorts don’t feel safe calling me out. I hate that nearly all my lovely friends of all genders feel unwanted and unsafe because they and others happen to be organisms interested in sex, and respond to culturally indoctrinated shame (in response as well as in self-assessment) by pinning problems on the tangible other, building self-fulfilling prophesies of distrust and violence. And I hate that we’re driving each other off pro-social paths, making taking an anti-social one more likely. I’m sick of these social scripts we’re auto-running, and I’m set on returning to lovingly breaking my friends’ ideas, and us examining and strengthening those ideas together. Please join me in this act for this event, the surrounding ideas, and the rest of life.

Since online conversation is currently so focused on gender divides, let’s look at that for a moment. This proposed re-scripting is complicated by women being socialized to understand men, to reach out to them, to be accommodating. In a desire to NOT run dis-equalizing social scripts, we as female-types are instead falling into scripts of victimization and back stabbing/”you’re doing feminism wrong.” I’d consider the former set worth embracing as human, the latter to be consciously left to the wayside. Those socialized to be masculine have social scripts they’re bucking and/or selecting, too. Scripts about being protective, and reliable, and strong. Scripts about being stoic, and angry, and omnipotent. But such re-scripting is entirely doable, and we should hear from people about why these cycles happen, and how other disciplines have escaped cycles and built new scripts. Attendees will be trusting me that other attendees are here in good faith, a meatspace web of trust, and that means attendees will be vetted. We will talk about difficult things, and we will set an example of doing so with an interest in begin tough on ideas but kind to people. There will come a time that we can expect every human to stand open but unwavering; but personal, cutural, and institutional histories matter. Violence across these has left a wake of torn-down individuals, and in this space everyone will be expected to be kind.

The re-writing of scripts has proven powerful and useful in other spaces. There are communities in conflict zones which refuse to adopt the identities of victim nor aggressor, instead providing pockets of increased stablity in tumultuous geographies. They do this not out of pacifism, but because that particular conflict doesn’t work for them. We see things like Popehat emerge to offer a way out of victimhood and isolation in being targeted by unparsable legal threats. We see groups like Strike Debt question entire financial structures, providing paths to visible solidarity in otherwise isolating systems. Others have shown it is possible to forge new paths, many in more dangerous and complex situations than what we face. Let’s learn from them.

If you’d like to contribute suggestions to who should be invited to speak, examples to look at, or even helping with the event itself, please be in touch!


  • I am a big believer in the gathering of amazing folk (ohai) to explore possibilities, discuss, frame plans, and commit to action in group response. Location and date selection currently occuring at
  • This event will be focused primarily on action. While every story is important context (a society is made up of the individuals within it), and every person’s experience is legitimate, the event will not hold time for commiseration. We’ll maintain the right to refocus discussion on actionability if story-holes are fallen into. A nearby, quiet pub will be booked each evening to provide space for those stories. We hope you’ll tell and examine them in the same good faith as the event.
  • Just as self-defense classes for women do not address the issue of rape (these are a stop gap at the individual level to a systemic problem), creating online toolkits to respond to trolling attacks are a way to help people feel safer and empowered. This is great for the individual stop gap, and this event will include understanding these tools, but the main purpose is to re-script ourselves and the people we interact with such that these stop gaps might not be necessary at some point.
  • Nuanced conversation is falling to the wayside in the current mess. At this event, and in the surrounding context, dissent and disagreement are encouraged. Debate which derails the conversation is not. Critique is a vital part of solidarity in a growing movement, to prevent  stagnation and laws of oligarchy, and we’ll practice questioning in good faith at the event.
  • I will be wrong about things. I will misstep. So will you. I will trust you to lovingly call me out, in a way that I learn not just the specific but the context. I will trust that you want me to to do the same.
  • We’ll operate on “rules work down, rights work up.” – we each have a right to dignity. Forming rules around how to make that work lead to a paper-mache monster of unknowable core values.
  • We will also want to know what initiatives work towards achieving equal representation, and in what contexts. Using tools like Gender Tracker (quantitative) and ongoing conversational space (qualitative), we’ll take baseline and ongoing data in areas directly adjacent to the initiatives schemed up at the event, as well as some control groups.

About Such an Event / Schedule Components

  • Talks from people who have successes in other fields. Popehat, Opting Out of War, neuroscience about the brain in stress
  • Workshops around reframing tactics – what works, what doesn’t, how to improve.
  • Working groups around different topics and aspects, as listed below in “possible projects.”


  • Overview packets, including ways to find and ask if people want to join
  • Plans for dissemination and examination of techniques for loop-back
  • Informed and empowered attendees altering their social groups and interactions

Farmer’s Market

A “farmer’s market” in this context is a quick building of resources around each of these ideas. Usually a big piece of paper laid out into topical grid, with attendees putting up post-it notes with details.

  • Community policies that handle responses to abuse well, while encouraging dissent (rules work down, rights work up)
  • List of forums and platforms that need to adopt policies/platforms
  • What groups are possible to alter? What should we abandon? Create?
  • What is success? More vulnerable people feel safer, the tone of discourse changes, better response when trouble comes?

Breakout Groups

breakout topics would be curated, including prepared facilitators, with gaps for emerging topics.

  • Dangers of doing this wrong – resulting or deserving of surveillance state
  • Censorship and penalizing people for what they say
  • How do we have “hey I don’t agree with you” in a civil/civic way?
  • Difference between “I’ll shoot up your school” and “I’ll kill you” and  what is joking, what isn’t, etc.
  • Understanding technical structures – bot nets and sock puppets. Use the tool to identify the class of IPs being used in an attack
  • Men who are wary of feminism, and what that means
  • Women who are wary of feminism, and what that means

 Possible Projects

Framed around how to implement robust but nimble processes that we can turn to address manifestations of power inequities

  • How-to on responding differently when people are scripting
  • Implement better conflict resolution (while safe for dissent) tools online – generate negative press stories about the platform as well as the people
  • Defining nuance / danger status / how to respond to each in a more granular way
  • How to put pressure on the surrounding social groups of people who are being dangerous?
  • How to embrace play/fun trolling
  • Policies at different levels – gov regulation, platform regulation,  community self-regulation. If you want to support a healthy community,  commit to this.
  • Scripts to help people self-regulate their communities – track for people they should reach out to.
  • Wikipedia pages / Wikimedia pattern repository
  • Create language to communicate social justice ideas to people who have never heard of them

End with Speed Geek Around the Project Outputs

22 Oct 09:03

We like small details.

We like small details.

21 Oct 16:29

We don’t give a shit. 

We don’t give a shit. 

14 Oct 17:00

When confronted with vulnerabilities, vendor tells me "but banks and governments use this"

by anonymous submission

18 Oct 17:01

When nontechnical management is confident they know better than the 10 year infosec veteran.

by viss

13 Oct 15:34

Framework for Consent Policies

by willowbl00

I recently got back from Budapest for the Engine Room’s Responsible Data Forum. It took place in the Open Society Archive, which was full of heart breaking and wondrous things. Things like the transcripts and translations from Radio Free Europe’s listening in on radio from the other side of the Iron Curtain to be able to respond via their own broadcast, a sort of strange conversation in broadcast mode. And pictures stolen and then found from repositories of censored developed film. At the event, we talked about harm stories, and about security first aid kits, and about all sorts of other things. The group I spent the most time working with built on work started at Stanford, around frameworks for consent policies. We started an overview of why consent matters, in case members of your organization aren’t sure why to use the framework. It includes a checklist against which to compare your study, campaign, or program. And of course I did a canvas drawing for it, inspired by the business model design canvas.

I’m headed to Nairobi on Monday for a month, to primarily work with the Kenyan Red Cross, but I’ll also be attending the Consent-focused Engine Room RDF there. I’d love to get your feedback on what we worked on, how to change it / better it, if it’s useful to you in it current format, etc. The documents are open for comments, as is the wiki talk page.

This checklist is designed to help projects that include an element of data collection to develop appropriate consent policies and practices. The checklist can be especially useful for projects using digital or mobile tools to collect, store or publish data, yet understand the importance of seeking the informed consent of individuals involved (the data subjects). This checklist does not address the additional considerations that would be necessary when obtaining the consent of groups or communities nor on how to approach consent in situations where there is no connection to the data subject.

How to use it:

This checklist is intended for use by project coordinators, and can ground conversations with management and project staff in order to identify risks and mitigation strategies during project design or implementation. It should ideally be used with the input of data subjects. All recommendations in this checklist include suggestions of issues and questions to consider when designing a consent policy and making related decisions, and should therefore be used as a guide to developing project specific consent policies.

18 Oct 17:41



via Rosalind. Cannot possibly like hard enough.

11 Oct 21:17

A Flag of Last Resort

by bl00

18 Oct 19:14

To Carry Our Stories With Us

by bl00

Intense dreams last night in Nairobi.

Dreams of safe havens with story-checks before you could enter, only the most widely acknowledged versions of stories and their tellers allowed in. We began inscribing the truths we had lived in our skin, to meet in dark back rooms to reconstruct our history in these new places.

15 Oct 20:19

superhappyanarcho: now with 100% more Actually-Happening! The...




now with 100% more Actually-Happening! The Red & Black had to cancel the first try at this last month (they’ve been going through a rough time). But they rescheduled and now the art show is happening this Saturday and will include:

-the 10th anniversary of our DIY publisher, Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness

-the release of the 10th anniversary issue of SHAFP, #17! the first new issue in years!

-vegan cake! (I hope.)

come hang out with me so I’m not eating vegan cake all by myself!

16 Oct 19:01

how did you end up part of the secret cabal running things?

13 Oct 21:30

blakanubis: This is why I send my kids to private wizarding...


Rosalind of Arden, back in the day.


This is why I send my kids to private wizarding school…

12 Oct 12:00

Droids in Love Could Use These Wedding Rings


and suddenly, Rosalind considers getting married.. or at least just wearing more jewelry...

Droids in Love Could Use These Wedding Rings

Submitted by: (via Juan Hidalgo Jewels)

Tagged: rings , design , wedding
13 Oct 00:54



I don't know firehose well enough to know if this is representative or enjoyable, but I hope to some day.

12 Oct 19:36

We jump right into it.

We jump right into it.

11 Oct 15:02

Framework for Consent Policies

by willowbl00

I recently got back from Budapest for the Engine Room's Responsible Data Forum. It took place in the Open Society Archive, which was full of heart breaking and wondrous things. Things like the transcripts and translations from Radio Free Europe's listening in on radio from the other side of the Iron Curtain to be able to respond via their own broadcast, a sort of strange conversation in broadcast mode. And pictures stolen and then found from repositories of censored developed film. At the event, we talked about harm stories, and about security first aid kits, and about all sorts of other things. The group I spent the most time working with built on work started at Stanford, around frameworks for consent policies. We started an overview of why consent matters, in case members of your organization aren't sure why to use the framework. It includes a checklist against which to compare your study, campaign, or program. And of course I did a canvas drawing for it, inspired by the business model design canvas.

I'm headed to Nairobi on Monday for a month, to primarily work with the Kenyan Red Cross, but I'll also be attending the Consent-focused Engine Room RDF there. I'd love to get your feedback on what we worked on, how to change it / better it, if it's useful to you in it current format, etc. The documents are open for comments, as is the wiki talk page.

This checklist is designed to help projects that include an element of data collection to develop appropriate consent policies and practices. The checklist can be especially useful for projects using digital or mobile tools to collect, store or publish data, yet understand the importance of seeking the informed consent of individuals involved (the data subjects). This checklist does not address the additional considerations that would be necessary when obtaining the consent of groups or communities nor on how to approach consent in situations where there is no connection to the data subject.

How to use it:

This checklist is intended for use by project coordinators, and can ground conversations with management and project staff in order to identify risks and mitigation strategies during project design or implementation. It should ideally be used with the input of data subjects. All recommendations in this checklist include suggestions of issues and questions to consider when designing a consent policy and making related decisions, and should therefore be used as a guide to developing project specific consent policies.