All posts by Raetzsch

New Paper: Weaving Seams with data and the Role of Cityapis

Infrastructures are conspicuous for their opacity. They merge into the fabric of the built environment and seem to disappear once they work reliably. They become visible only to experts who build and maintain them, or when they break down. For the rest of us, an infrastructure is embedded in our daily practices, enabling us to do other things. As Geoffrey Bowker and colleagues phrased it, infrastructures are “pervasive enabling resources in network form” (2010: 98). The obscurity of infrastructure is especially worthy of attention and analysis when we talk about networks that are not as easy to identify as roads, water pipes or electric cables. In the context of datafication and smart cities, we also need to look at infrastructures that shape our understanding and potentials to interact with the social, political and economic world around us.

In a paper recently published open access in Big Data & Society, I collaborated with Gabriel Pereira, Lasse Verstergaard and Martin Brynskov from Aarhus University to conceptualize one particular element of network infrastructures in smart cities – application programming interfaces or APIs. In what we term ‘CityAPIs’, different strands of research and criticism are merged to highlight that an object such as an API is far from stable and is subject to different kinds of contestations.

Most basically, an API simply regulates what kind of data or function is available from a host (e.g. a server). It defines data types and ways to query them. An API is mostly not visible to an end user but regulates traffic between computers or applications. Our interest in APIs is connected to the idea that datafication in smart cities creates new ways of ‘seamless integration’ between different data sources. But beyond the buzzword, this seamlessness is the result of massive integration efforts on the social, technological and political levels of cities. Defining how an API makes certain data available is thus a political question that drives the design and implementation of new infrastructures – from traffic and weather monitoring to social and mobile media applications.

In the article we particularly discuss three perspectives on City APIs, which cover the fields of criticism, design and implementation.

  1. Criticism of Proprietary APIs such as social media APIs has foregrounded how certain business models are hardwired into the design and governance of APIs. Using the Twitter Streaming API for research purposes, for example, is possible with some constraint, but not intended by the providers of the API. In this perspective, APIs appear as ‘protocological objects’, to quote Bucher (2013), that regulate data exchanges but also practices of programmers and users.
  2. The design challenges for APIs are addressed in the second part, highlighting that affordances of APIs are negotiated between API producers and API consumers. Creating an API needs to take into account what resources a computer system can offer to an API consumer, and how these are understood. Revealing the ‘intent’ of an API needs to anticipate use cases and disclose in a consistent fashion how particular kinds of data can be queried.
  3. How APIs intersect with urban innovation initiatives, local governance structures and use-based challenges is the subject of the third part. We present analyses of two projects, City SDK and OrganiCity, to highlight that the technological challenge of designing APIs is overshadowed by political and economic considerations about the future uses of social urban data, their governance and transparency, and the potential for citizens to interact with such new infrastructures.

Although this discussion of CityAPIs may seem to be a fairly technical matter, the article highlights that such elements reveal the social, political and economical contestations about digital urban transitions. APIs can be envisioned and designed for many different kinds of seams, their weaving of data into the urban fabric is not limited to improved public service delivery or proprietary business models for big data analytics. They rather challenge us to acknowledge and interrogate the pervasive influence of certain infrastructures on the way we understand and interact with the world around us.

Because an API operates at the level of defining and providing data access that serves as a prerequisite and condition for user-focused applications, its definition and implementation embeds crucial socio-political assumptions in a technological framework that has far-reaching consequences for citizens, city administrators, and developers of applications using social urban data. (p. 5)

Cite As

Raetzsch, Christoph; Pereira, Gabriel; Vestergaard, Lasse S; Brynskov, Martin (2019). “Weaving Seams with Data: Conceptualizing City APIs as Elements of Infrastructures.” Big Data & Society 6(1). https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2053951719827619.

Video Abstract

See our video abstract on the Big Data & Society blog. https://youtu.be/AojKojNdSN0

Additional Readings

API Criticism, Social Media and Infrastructures

  • Preparing the Ground for Infrastructure Studies: Star, Susan Leigh; Ruhleder, Karen (1996). “Steps Toward an Ecology of Infrastructure: Design and Access for Large Information Spaces.” Information Systems Research 7(1): 111-134. https://dx.doi.org/10.1287/isre.7.1.111.
  • Bowker, Geoffrey C.; Baker, Karen; Millerand, Florence; Ribes, David. (2010). “Toward Information Infrastructure Studies: Ways of Knowing in a Networked Environment.” International Handbook of Internet Research, edited by Jeremy Hunsinger; Lisbeth Klastrup; Matthew Allen, 97-117. Dordrecht: Springer. https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9789-8_5.
  • APIs as Protocological Objects: Bucher, Taina (2013). “Objects of Intense Feeling: The Case of the Twitter API.” Computational Culture. A Journal of Software Studies 3. http://computationalculture.net/objects-of-intense-feeling-the-case-of-the-twitter-api/.
  • Mapping the data economy: Bechmann, Anja (2013). “Internet Profiling: The Economy of Data Intraoperability on Facebook and Google.” MedieKultur 29(55): 72-91. https://dx.doi.org/10.7146/mediekultur.v29i55.8070.
  • Platforms as Infrastructures (and vice versa): Plantin, Jean-Christophe; Lagoze, Carl; Edwards, Paul N; Sandvig, Christian (2018). “Infrastructure Studies Meet Platform Studies in the Age of Google and Facebook.” New Media & Society 20(1): 293-310. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1461444816661553.
  • Platform Instances and the Mobile Ecosystem: Nieborg, David B; Helmond, Anne (2018). “The Political Economy of Facebook’s Platformization in the Mobile Ecosystem: Facebook Messenger as a Platform Instance.” Media, Culture & Society 41(2): 196-218. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0163443718818384.
  • Learning with APIs: Mackenzie, Adrian (2018). “From API to AI: Platforms and Their Opacities.” Information, Communication & Society (online first). https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2018.1476569.
  • API Deconstruct as Critical Practice: Snodgrass, Eric; Soon, Winnie (2019). “API Practices and Paradigms: Exploring the Protocological Parameters of APIs as Key Facilitators of Sociotechnical Forms of Exchange.” First Monday 24(2). https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/9553.

Urban Informatics

  • What’s Urban Informatics? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_informatics
  • From Street Computing to Intervention: Robinson, Ricky; Rittenbruch, Markus; Foth, Marcus; Filonik, Daniel; Viller, Stephen (2012). “Street Computing: Towards an Integrated Open Data Application Programming Interface (API) for Cities.” Journal of Urban Technology 19(2): 1-23. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10630732.2012.698064.
  • The Citizen in the Digital City: Foth, Marcus; Brynskov, Martin; Ojala, Timo (eds.) (2015). Citizen’s Right to the Digital City: Urban Interfaces, Activism, and Placemaking. Wiesbaden: Springer.
  • Methods for Participating in the Digital City: Dezuanni, Michael; Foth, Marcus; Mallan, Kerry; Hughes, Hilary (eds.) (2018). Digital Participation Through Social Living Labs: Valuing Local Knowledge, Enhancing Engagement. Amsterdam: Chandos Publishing.

Visualizing and Controlling Data

Urban Data Spaces

  • Data and Space: Dalton, Craig M; Taylor, Linnet; Thatcher (alphabetical), Jim (2016). “Critical Data Studies: A Dialog on Data and Space.” Big Data & Society 3(1). https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2053951716648346.
  • Imaginaries of the Urban Data Space: Hoelzl, Ingrid; Marie, Rémi (2016). “Brave New City: The Image in the Urban Data-Space.” Visual Communication 15(3): 371-391. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1470357216642638.
  • Command of the Land is Command of Data: Graham, Stephen D.N. (2016). “Software-Sorted Geographies.” Progress in Human Geography 29(5): 562-580. https://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0309132505ph568oa.
  • Governing the Pulse of the City: Coletta, Claudio; Kitchin, Rob (2017). “Algorhythmic Governance: Regulating the ‘Heartbeat’ of a City Using the Internet of Things.” Big Data & Society 4(2). https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2053951717742418.
  • Study on Urban Data Spaces, Governance, Use Potentials [on Germany, in German]: Schieferdecker, Ina; Bruns, Lina; Cuno, Silke; Flügge, Matthias; Isakovic, Karsten Klessmann, Jens; Kraft, Volker; Lämmel, Philipp; Stadtkewitz, Dustin Tcholtchev, Nikolay; Lange, Christoph; Imbusch, Benedikt I.; Strauß, Leonie; Vastag, Alex; Flocke, Florian (2018). Urbane Datenräume – Möglichkeiten von Datenaustausch und Zusammenarbeit im Urbanen Raum. Fraunhofer FOKUS, IAIS, IML. https://www.fokus.fraunhofer.de/de/fokus/presse/urbaneDatenraeume-Studie-Datenmanagement_2018_06
  • Summary of the above study in English: Cuno, Silke; Bruns, Lina; Tcholtchev, Nikolay; Lämmel, Philipp; Schieferdecker, Ina (2019). “Data Governance and Sovereignty in Urban Data Spaces Based on Standardized ICT Reference Architectures.” Data 4(1): 16. https://dx.doi.org/10.3390/data4010016.

Experimentation at Scale: Towards Urban Capacity Building for Citizen-Centric Innovation

Cities may be the most complex systems to manage because everyone has an opinion on how to do it best. And many options are always on the table. Instead of dismissing the ones and favoring the others, experimentation promises to provide a structured method of innovation where a large part of stakeholders can get their say, reveal their perception of a problem and commonly work towards a solution. The motto is to experiment locally, involve as many and see where the journey can link you up to other cities and their best practices. But you need to have a set of engagement principles in place to build trust in the process.

This paper presents findings from two projects where experimentation was developed into a viable method of citizen-centric innovation – Dampbusters using the Bristol approach and OrganiCity in Aarhus, London and Santander, building an Experimentation-as-a-Service platform across cities through co-creation. As a central outcome, the paper concludes that experimentation as an approach to innovation is most sustainable, when it has lateral effects: Besides the gains and insights of individual projects, experimentation-as-a-service needs to contribute to an institutional framework within city governance to support new forms of civic and technological capacity building. Start with the OrganiCity playbook and sketch your journey.

The article was part of a special issue on “Urban Informatics: Decoding Urban Complexities Through Data-Sciences”, edited by Nimish Biloria for Smart and Sustainable Built Environment and appeared in 2018.

Core Message

The scalability of urban innovation processes crucially depends on developing systemic capabilities to experiment within cities and in collaborations between cities to establish best practices, standards and ecosystems between actors and institutions.This is an ongoing process in which very different ecologies of actors and approaches for experimentation will likely emerge. A core area of future research and intervention lies in revealing the relation between translocal standards and infrastructures and their individual adoption in cities, their role in shaping actors’ practices around IoT data and community engagement as well as the larger digital transition that affects governance structures across city spaces.(p.160)

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to discuss how experimentation with open Internet of Things data can be institutionalised in an inclusive manner at scale.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach is conceptual, addressing key challenges discussed in the literature on experimental cities. This exposition of the problem of scaling experimentation is anchored in findings from two projects (Dampbusters and OrganiCity), which seek to implement experimentation as a practice of sustainable digital urban development.

Findings

One central finding is that local interventions need transferable frameworks and mechanisms to achieve scaling effects of experimentation as a practice. In addition, experimentation must embed common engagement principles, structures of data and interfaces, and governance principles across use cases to be scaled.

Originality/value

The authors outline how and why experimentation can be a useful approach to address challenges of implementing urban informatics into concrete uses and procedures for co-creation. Based on reports from two projects, the authors develop recommendations for experimentation at scale that reflect the need for engagement principles, the need for common data structures and interfaces, as well as governance principles.

Cite

Brynskov, Martin; Heijnen, Adriënne; Balestrini, Mara; Raetzsch, Christoph (2018). “Experimentation at Scale: Challenges for Making Urban Informatics Work.” Special Issue on “Urban Informatics: Decoding Urban Complexities Through Data-Sciences” (edited by Nimish Biloria). Smart and Sustainable Built Environment 7(1): 150-163. https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/SASBE-10-2017-0054.

The April Playlist

The fatal mistake we have been making is to sacrifice every other form of transportation to the private motorcar—and to offer, as the only long-distance alternative, the airplane. But the fact is that each type of transportation has its special use; and a good transportation policy must seek to improve each type and make the most of it. This cannot be achieved by aiming at high speed or continuous flow alone. If you wish casual opportunities for meeting you neighbors, and for profiting by chance contacts with acquaintances and colleagues, a stroll at two miles an hour in a concentrated area, free from vehicles, will alone meet your need.

(Lewis Mumford, The Highway and the City. 1956. p. 247)

The Bike-friendly City as a Communicative Object

In December 2017, Martin Brynskov and me published a collaborative and exploratory piece on communicative objects. The prompt was a special issue of the Brazilian open access journal Parágrafo, managed and edited by Rafael Grohmann, on “Boundaries of Journalism” (including – inter alia – contributions by Alice Mattoni, Nikki Usher and Rodney Benson). In our article, we address the complexity of a public issue like the bike-friendly city and the various sources of data and media we, as journalism and media scholars, can access to understand processes of public contention. Based on the case study of #Radentscheid in Berlin, we offer a basic contextual framing of communicative objects and develop a typology of such objects. A cornerstone of our article is a discussion of the methodological challenges when investigating public issues through communicative objects, which transgress established disciplinary boundaries and explanatory schemes because they are situated in overlapping social, medial and political contexts.

Abstract

This paper addresses the boundaries of journalism through a perspective of communicative objects. Introduced as a heuristic concept, communicative objects focus attention on the processes and practices of meaning-making inside and outside publics as much as addressing the materiality of these processes that take place in digital and networked media. As more and more platforms and services are developed to involve actors in different socio-cultural settings in forms of public communication, the concept of the communicative object accentuates the materiality and epistemologies of these settings. The article builds on the case study of a citizen’s initiative for a bike-friendly city in Berlin (Germany) to outline methodological inroads and theoretical implications of the communicative object. The aim is to problematize rather than resolve tensions between everyday usage of media technologies, journalistic professional expertise and the practices of meaning-making that exist and evolve outside of journalism. Through the concept we also address new epistemological challenges of analyzing digital media, which emerge as a result of new interaction potentials of communicative objects which we cannot capture in a document-oriented research methodology.

Here you go

Challenging the Boundaries of Journalism through Communicative Objects: Berlin as a Bike-friendly City and #Radentscheid

Cite as

The article was originally published in Portuguese. Please refer to the original source as Raetzsch, Christoph; Brynskov, Martin (2017). “Desafiando as Fronteiras Do Jornalismo Por Meio de Objetos Comunicativos: Berlim Como Uma Cidade Bike-Friendly E #radentscheid [Challenging the Boundaries of Journalism Through Communicative Objects: Berlin as a Bike-Friendly City and #radentscheid].” Parágrafo: Revista Científica de Comunicação Social da FIAM-FAAM 5(2): 110-127. http://revistaseletronicas.fiamfaam.br/index.php/recicofi/article/view/681. Published in English at https://futuremaking.space/blog/challenging-boundaries-journalism-communicative-objects-berlin-bike-friendly-city-radentscheid/

Happy New Year, Everyone

Horizon: The line at which the earth’s surface and the sky appear to meet.

Horizon: The circular boundary of the part of the earth’s surface visible from a particular point, ignoring irregularities and obstructions.

Horizon: A great circle of the celestial sphere, the plane of which passes through the centre of the earth and is parallel to that of the apparent horizon of a place.

Horizon: The limit of a person’s knowledge, experience, or interest.

Definitions taken from Oxford Dictionaries: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/horizon

All images taken at Aarhus coast, at and around Moesgaard beach. Feel free to reuse under Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) . Credit: Christoph Raetzsch (2018).

Connected Learning: Keynote by Mimi Ito

Mimi Ito opened the one-day conference HighTech Human Touch today at Aarhus University  with a keynote on “Fostering Creativity in a Connected Age”. In the early 2000’s, Ito had investigated mobile phone use and youth culture in Japan long before the smart phone became a staple gadget in everyday life in the West. Questions of media literacy and youth cultures, ways of learning with and in media have informed her research and activities ever since. In his introduction, Martin Brynskow asked where insights about future developments were best to be perceivable, whether in the US, Europe or Asia, and whether there are common lessons we can share to build sustainable societies.

Ito opened her talk with the question in what ways expert cultures and citizens (learners, youth, employees …) can interact beyond the established models of formal education.  Her talk addressed the challenges of learning in an era of abundant connectivity and how to leverage the potential of endless information resources and expert cultures for those who are not socially or culturally connected to them. How can learners from diverse background make the most of this environment? All institutions that channel access to information and knowledge, e.g., schools, universities but also administrations, are largely based on different technological conditions of regulated access (and artificial scarcity). But are they ready for this new interconnected age?

Among young people, usage time of media (in whatever form) is on the rise in the US, peeking at around 9 hours a day used for television, gaming (across gender lines), and maintaining social relationships online and offline. While in the early 2000’s, meeting people online (only) was still regarded as a little weird, now, it more common to meet online (first) and (sometimes) take connections to the “real life”. (Pew Research (2015). “Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015“)

What happens when younger, always connected students confront traditional formats of knowledge creation and learning? Engagement in community services and school activities steadily declines from elementary school to high school. In the US, 45% of college students show very little learning in the first two years (See  Arum, Richard; Roksa, Josipa (2011). Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. University of Chicago Press). In addition, expenditure for out-of-school activities is on the rise for high income families but stalls for low-income families. But informal learning in social experiences, creative work, etc. is becoming more and more important for a successful professional life (See Duncan, Greg J.; Murnane, Richard J. (2011). Whither Opportunity?: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

IN THEORY, the abundance of digital resources for learning should encourage a lot of forms of informal learning. THE PROBLEM, of course, is that an abundance of choices overpowers and that highly educated and well-sourced learners are the most likely to take free open online courses. “The rich get richer” and the better educated you are the better you can educate yourself, ITO suggested (See Hansen, John D.; Reich, Justin (2015). “Democratizing Education? Examining Access and Usage Patterns in Massive Open Online Courses.” Science 350(6265): 1245-1248.)

Trying to overcome this digital divide, connected learning as it is championed and developed by ITO and her colleagues at the CL Alliance needs to be embedded in personal interests, (real) opportunities and peer culture. Learning is best achieved when it creates a form of connected learning where all these three elements are strengthened. SO FAR, individual interests and activities remain isolated and detached from schools curricula and formal learning tracks. People who navigate the classic track in institutions successfully, usually also have a very strong network outside of these institutions that supports the path.

Learning for everyone, to be inclusive and to level social inequalities, must connect learning experiences through mentorship and “guide people to opportunities.” Formal schemes for mentorship are more widespread in companies and as a form of career training. MOST MENTORING in school age happens INFORMALLY (through families, networks of friends). Mentoring does not solve all problems of learning and developing a sense of self. But the HUMAN CONNECTION to a mentor makes LEARNING more successful. Learning and creating something together gives it a purpose beyond the formal attainment of grades or degrees. Sharing work and getting recognition for achievements is the single most important factor for successful learning.

Connected Learning Research Network // http://clalliance.com // https://clrn.dmlhub.net/ Affinity Project https://clrn.dmlhub.net/projects/the-affinity-project

Mimi ITO / 伊藤瑞子 // http://www.itofisher.com/mito/

 

Affective Interfaces

I am publishing my notes taken during the workshop Affective Interfaces @ITU Copenhagen, 30 Nov. 2017. Cheers and Thank you to the organizers JONAS Fritsch, SØREN Rasmussen, TORSTEN Andreasen. These are notes looking for an interface with only minor edits for publication // my own views // accents and selections

OPENING

JONAS welcomes roundabout 50 participants to the symposium. Shall address “real-time level Interface events” // “affective modulation” of communication online // Workshop is part of project “Affects, Interfaces, Events” // focus on Affective ENCOUNTERS, TONALITIES, ATTUNEMENTS, CROWDINGS, MODULATIONS

THE INTERFACE was the TOUCHPOINT BETWEEN THE HUMAN AND THE MACHINE (which used to be restricted to a screen). This now changes. EXAMPLES: smartband for EPILEPSY DETECTION by empatica – sense an attack before it happens // MACHINE PERCEPTION: face becomes the interface e.g. in APPLE face recognition // SELF-DRIVING CARS: Where is the interface of that device with the environment?

HOW to analyse “interfaciality”…?

TORSTEN gives a summary of affective dimensions and alienation. Question the interface. “Regime of the interface” ALLOWS to do certain things. “as long as you participate” nothing happens (cf. Alexander Galloway’s Interface Effect). Spectacle of the Interface // affective networks (Jodi Dean) participate instead of acting? // Current capitalism is the endless accumulation and proliferation of affective interfaces. (trace that genealogy back to  Marx, Debord, Agamben [and Torsten]). // Interface as zone of indistinction between human and non-human, action and non-action.

PRESENTATIONS

Cross-Examination: The Izbica Massacre Video
Susan Schuppli Goldsmiths University London)

From Project “Material Witness“: compare the testimony of witnesses to massacres in its affective dimensions in relation to the “glacial” mechanic pace of prosecution process at the ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia].  Address “performance of justice in the architecture of the court as a flawed design problem.” Tapes of the Izbica massacre (made by Liri Loshi) were smuggled in different versions out of Kosovo, occasionally being hidden away, regained, transported and hidden again.

From abstract: “As the tape journeyed through the ICTY it furnished a great deal of insight into its complex legal role as an interface between victims and perpetrators; a relationship organised by the institutional protocols of the court and the affective register of testimony, which included human as well as material witnesses.”

The court proceedings are mediatised in many ways as no material evidence enters the court room without prior digitization. Every evidence is video or/and image, along with recorded testimony and its simultaneous translation in 5 languages. Case for “forensic architecture”. Witnessing decoded. Lack of image stability and graininess attests to its authenticity. At the same time, in a court prosecution, this defect may be a source of doubt. As the video is cited in trial, shown again, stopped, excerpted etc. its force of evidence is continuously questioned and translated into proceedings that reinstate the affective dimensions of the circumstances of its original production. The “material witness” (ie. the tape) with its material-digital defects stands in for the human witness, who can no longer speak. Interested as how violence is recorded across the material strata of the world.

Why is the material defect important?

  • the video is edited for the purposes of the court which is changing its status as an evidential object. The judicial process becomes inscribed in the object
  • its material degradation gives rise to doubt about its evidentiary status (low-tech camcorder aesthetic). How the logic of institutional protocols is inscribed in objects that are supposed to speak for someone else

Reading-Writing the Metainterface Body
Christian Ulrik Andersen & Søren Bro Pold (Aarhus University)

New book: The Metainterface: The Art of Platforms, Cities, and Clouds // Metainterface is “both omnipresent and invisible, universal and intimate, at once embedded in everyday objects and characterized by hidden exchanges of information between objects” (from abstract) // Søren: “We never escape our profile”. Interactivity across platforms creates recommendation systems // TASTE as data-business model // See Linden & Smith 2017 “Two Decades of Recommender Systems at Amazon.com

Or artwork by Benjamin Grosser // “You like my like of your like of my status (2016) — example of datafication of taste and its exposition in randomised, repetitive fashion // “Go Rando” (2017), randomising emotion icons on Facebook profiles — disturbs FB algorithmic observation but also the interaction/communication/self perception of users. Distance between human and algorithmic understanding of “liking” becomes obvious as affective is defined in a specific “quantifiable grammar” that is exposed in Grosser’s endless, mechanistic repetition of a phrase. We have no way to escape the capitalist behavioral schema of metainterface without doing away with the template of interaction. Social networking sites as “parasites to our language”.

Zombification and iPhone bodies: Zombie appendage e.g. Jodi ZYX smart phones embody a particular grammar of physical movement. Apps inscribe these grammars on bodies. The art collective also exposes how an app is tested and becomes accepted for distribution. // “Body Scan” by Erica Scourti (2014)  — connect body images, poetry and meta-search instant results. Body that is sign and signal // intimate and objectified // exposes a machine language sensorium in human language // gender biases and commercial interests are reflected back on to the body. Metainferface as an ideological machine? // Measurement of taste feeds back into the creation of taste and further consumption. cf. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (2016). Updating to Remain the Same. Habitual New Media. MIT Press.

 

AFTERNOON

Activist Sense – Interfacing Affective Relays
Christoph Brunner  (Leuphana University Lüneburg)

Activism at G20 Summit in Hamburg July 2017 as state of exception? A “Modulatory State of Excitement” // protest forms informed by Seattle protests, Prague // Counteraesthetic of the sensible // Aesthetics of Activist Movements: Visualization and Visuals. Flashmob interventions. Technopolitics of Protest

Alternative Media Center (FC/MC) during summit in Hamburg. Activists negotiate media use and communication in situated embedding // Follow  Brian Massumi, (2015). Politics of Affect. “Resistance as bare activity” // operational logic, ie. politics of pre-emption // owning of time (not space) as military strategy // in run-up to summit a discourse of violent threat and pre-emptive actions by authorities escalated toward the event // Violence then actually erupted.

FC/MC creates an alternative information channel, but it also activates the sensing “bodies in alliance” (Judith Butler), while distributing differential signs across the media spectrum. The sensuous interfaces become sense-making elements to feed them back into communication channels // Joint and distributed task of “making of [a] perception” and create the differentials that resonate in space // generate a space of gathering and making (“counter-power” à la Massumi is an emerging quality of experience) // activist body to resonate in a collective body through affect: “Affect is the body as much as it composes the [collective] body.”

Designing into the Unknown: engaging with material and aesthetic uncertainty
Danielle Wilde
  (University of Southern Denmark)

Reporting on PKI Project – poetic kinaesthetic interface. Started with motion captures of different of bodies in unusual positions — that failed because the bodies were moving / / not moving in predefined patterns.

Building on Tim Ingold: how materials get woven into the fabric of people’s lives e.g. (2011). Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. // Ingrid Pollard: qualities of materials emergent in practice cannot always be adequately captured in writing/theory

Use language of weaving in a participatory design process // craft as method, technique and tool to scaffold and open responsive research structure // LOOM stands for the space where experiments with fabrics, shapes, uses and users take place // FABRIC emerging from experiment, patterns // QUALITIES emergent as threshold between material and use, perception and questioning // publics as the HEFT of the LOOM that operates its functions and shapes them. Install a VAN as an open air design research lab in the wild // developing body props to interrupt typical body movement and perception patterns e.g. “Blue Cushions” or “Sleeves”: finding out the limitations of the prop and negotiate around them // blur boundaries of testing and making, break barrier between research and interaction // low threshold of participation // make parts of probes and experiments open to observation, participation by people // perform research

Group as interface – Elements for a Mechanology of Participation
Yuk Hui (Leuphana University Lüneburg)

Following up on (2016). On the Existence of Digital Objects. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Group vs. collective Mechanology is a combination of philosophical thinking and technical knowledge to solve/address social issue // to address social networks like Facebook critically, a new theory of participation is necessary // build on Jacob Moreno against individual as “social atom” – method of “sociometry” // he tried to understand child delinquency through maps of social relations and existence of groups // pattern of the social is invisible, only available through charting (visualisation) of relations // in age of Facebook this charting is a method of driving value generation // a method of social science and management in the 1930’s became a managerial tool in online social networks // now, this is problematic and a critique of FB must start with a reimagination of the social network (and its commodified form) beyond the atomised individual.

Individuation takes place psychologically and socially // follow George Simondon: Society is an ensemble of relations, not a substance. The psychic is always trans-individual (individuation) // Gilles Hanus: L’épreuve du collectif (2016): “collective is an intermediate between the individual and the group”  // distinguish between isolation and solitude, the latter of which is a deliberate looking outward of the individual to be affectuated by others. // Kurt Lewin: theory of group, where it is not a result or product of socialization (ie. unit of society) but a set of relations that effect the individual (as force). “every individual is always in-group and out-group” Group as an interface: moderates the individual and structures the collective // compare moderation in group to mediation and cybernetics // Being in a group is a form of modulation.// see G. Simondon “The Genesis of the Individual” in Crary / Kwinter (1992) Incorporations. Zone Books.

Facebook conceives of groups from logic of atomised individuals that adapt to the logic of networks ie. individuals IN A GROUP // group should be an intermediary in a theory of social networks // groups should become a condition of participation that allows different kinds of behavior // Limit the space of possibilities and decrease contingency of discovery // Wire that into the technical setup of online social networks // See more: Shang, Shang; Hui, Yuk; Hui, Pan; Cuff, Paul; Kulkarni, Sanjeev (2014). Beyond personalization and anonymity.

Media Practice and Performative Publics

Quotidian digital media have fundamentally transformed the ways in which public protest is articulated today. Think of movements like Occupy and the Arab Spring, the protests in Gezi Park in Istanbul and the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Protest is nowadays voiced on the street and online at the same time. Or it originates online and stretches further and further, assuming all kinds of material and collaborative forms. Think of #metoo.

Together with Margreth Lünenborg (FU Berlin) and Susanne Foellmer (Coventry), I have edited “Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches” (Routledge). It is  a collaboration between media and communication studies with dance and theater studies. The case studies cover a wide cultural and geographical terrain – from Mexico to Japan, from German to Greece. A common interest is to develop the notion of media practice and performativity and employ it analytically to these divergent settings.

Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches (Hardback) book cover

The volume presents international case studies on the new dynamics of protest, articulation and community along with two programmatic articles on the role and legacies of performativity.  On the basis of these approaches the contributors show the specific local embeddedness of new forms of publicness that emerge in protest movements. As a tribute to Randy Martin, we reprint his programmatic article “A precarious dance, a derivative sociality“, which originally appeared in The Drama Review (2012; 56(4)).

In our article “From Public Sphere to Performative Publics” Margreth Lünenborg and me argue that

the new public modalities in which performative publics emerge need to be understood in terms of a relinking of materialities, competences and meanings, that are nowadays often transposed from the domain of quotidian user practice to the articulation of communal or collective interests. (p. 28)

What interested us in our article (apart from a critique of public sphere concepts) was the perspective of practice, paying attention to how minute shifts in media, knowledge and meaning over time allow for new public articulations to emerge. THE PUBLIC is no longer there. It’s created. Every day. By everyone. And we need to become more aware of how this happens because the usual suspects (journalists) are no longer the first or only to make it happen. What is now far more common is that speaker and audience positions alternate.

We need to ask, what kinds of discursive positions can become articulated in performative publics and how do these publics emerge and are sustained over time. Nowadays, the structures in which publics emerge are by and large communicative structures, which can be mobilised, adopted and transposed to new contexts as new issues emerge and new actors stand up to speak on their behalf. (p. 29)

See the full list of Contributions

Introduction: Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches (Susanne Foellmer, Margreth Lünenborg, Christoph Raetzsch)

Part I: Framing Media Practices: Theoretical Perspectives

1. From Public Sphere to Performative Publics: Developing Media Practice as an Analytic Model (Margreth Lünenborg/ Christoph Raetzsch)

2. Reframing Modes of Resistance: Performing and Choreographing Protest Through Media Practices (Susanne Foellmer/ Matthias Warstat)

Part II: Approaching Media Practices: Mobilities – Movements – Interventions

3. Mobilising the homeless? A proposal for the concept of banal mobilisation (Maren Hartmann)

4. Gezi Uprising: Performative Democracy and Politics of the Body in an Extended Space of Appearance (Gurur Ertem)

5.Mobilise, justify, accuse – the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood strategies in the context of changing media practices (Carola Richter)

6. The Mechanics of Signification – Making the Story of Embros (Gigu Argyropoulou/ Natascha Siouzouli)

7. “Narco Culture” and Media Practices: Negotiating Gender Identities in Contexts of Violence (Teresa Orozco Martínez/ Martha Zapata Galindo)

8. Performing fragmented realities: Interventionist media practice by LIGNA, Rimini Protokoll and plan b (Patrick Primavesi)

9. Succession or Cessation: The Challenge of New Media for the Japan-Korea Solidarity Movement (Misook Lee)

Afterword: A precarious dance, a derivative sociality (†Randy Martin)

 

  • See more about the book and its contributors
  • Order your review copy  or download the flyer
  • Full reference [Article]: Lünenborg, Margreth; Raetzsch, Christoph. (2018). “From Public Sphere to Performative Publics: Developing Media Practice as an Analytic Model.” Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches, edited by Susanne Foellmer; Margreth Lünenborg; Christoph Raetzsch, 13-35. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Full Reference [Introduction]: Foellmer, Susanne; Lünenborg, Margreth; Raetzsch, Christoph. (2018). “Introduction: Media Practices, Social Movements and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches.” Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches, edited by Susanne Foellmer; Margreth Lünenborg; Christoph Raetzsch, 1-10. Abingdon: Routledge.

 

Ten Good Reasons for Doing Media Theory (again)

I am very happy to be part of the editorial board of Media Theory, a new and fully open access academic journal to be launched in September 2017. Simon Dawes has been networking and arguing and drumming up support for this initiative. And judging from the scope represented in the advisory board, we cover all fields from art history to software studies, from critical theory to philosophy. Thumbs up for an accessible and lively forum that takes open access to a new level. Watch the blog.

From the inaugural issue, here are my ten propositions why we should be doing media theory (again).

  1. Media Theory Is Transnational
  2. Media Theory Is Interdisciplinary
  3. Media Theory Can Be Applied
  4. Theory Has a Context (and a Motivation)
  5. Media Theory Is Not a Field
  6. Debate Needs Positions (but Positions Are Not Everything)
  7. Define Medium/a
  8. Media Are Everywhere (but Not Everything Is Media)
  9. What Media Theory Is Not About
  10. Media Theory Is Open Access

Read more at: http://mediatheoryjournal.org/christoph-raetzsch-10-propositions-for-doing-media-theory-again/

Join: meejatheory on Twitter; Facebook

Journalism Studies beyond Journalism

In 2014, I joined a conference in honor of Michael Schudson at the University of Groningen (NL).  Some of the contributions to that conference are now published in a special issue of Journalism Studies titled “The Unlovable Press? Conversations with Michael Schudson” (edited by Marcel Broersma and Chris Peters).

This is what my article is about:

This article discusses the work of Michael Schudson and encourages research in journalism studies that addresses the formation of publics rather than only journalistic institutions. Reviewing Schudson’s work on the cultural history of modern journalism, the article focuses especially on the relation of journalism to culture and technology.

The first part argues that Schudson’s proficiency in cultural history distinguishes his writings as both profound, witty and appealing for expert and non-expert readers alike. His early works vividly explore the historical contingencies that defined modern journalism as an important site for cultural negotiation over what it means to live in the present.

The second part critically points out Schudson’s reluctance to theorise the relation of journalism to technology, even though he has implicitly interrogated the “content of the form” of modern journalism throughout.

The last part is a plea for an extension of journalism studies to understand processes in which publics are forming today. In regard of a radically pluralised field of public contestation in social media and other online platforms, Schudson’s insistence on the relevance (and privilege) of journalistic institutions should be amended by a methodological renewal to investigate new modes of public articulation—beyond journalism.

Article link: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1461670X.2017.1338151

See the response by Michael Schudson on all articles in the Special Issue: “Second Thoughts: Schudson on Schudson” (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1461670X.2017.1343931). Republished in Schudson, Michael (2018) Why Journalism Still Matters. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Image taken from The People’s Almanac, 1834. New York: David Felt. Double page spread and detail enlargement “Aspects, Holidays, Weather, Remarks, &c.” . Courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA.