Bogost’s carpenty meets strange ontography

(I like Dominic Wilcox’s comment about quiet kids and what goes on in their heads). These are a form of ontography where you make machines that are lists because you bring together things in odd ways and reveal other connections and relations between them. (And around 4 minutes where he wants to be able to talk/hear animals, that’s just beautiful.)

What Got Missed or Glossed

As part of our new curriculum the incoming first years have been hearing bits and bobs from all staff about what studios they are teaching, and so on. It was my turn yesterday. Talked about the doco ontography studio and then some things about theory and practice. Then about why come to university. Left a few things out for both of these.

First off I probably gave the impression that craft is not important. It is. Though perhaps not in the way we might first thing – perfect isn’t always best for example. High craft skills comes from a deep tacit knowledge of your stuff. It is a material thinking, which is an ability to think with (not against) the materials you work with. To compose in rectangles and light (cinematography), to craft a well formed sentence (all writing), to ‘listen’ the visual and temporal rhythms in what you are editing to form a ‘good’ edit. To learn this requires theory. A method of being able to reflect critically in the moment of making to inform decisions. The more you read, watch, think about things in your field then the larger your basket of knowledge is and the richer your ability to reflect upon your practice becomes. We already know this, but pretend we don’t. Some of you will be very good musicians, for example. You listen to a lot of music. You read music related stuff. You might be a guitarist and also know, if you paused to think about it, an awful lot about guitars and not just how to play one. This knowledge is not just from practice. It is supported and strengthened by your interest which leads you to read, experiment, rehearse, play, listen to lots of things. This is research.

On the other hand craft without purpose is flashy nothingness. We make in response to ideas, which we might not call ideas, but they are. They work as prompts, things that make us pause and do something in response to this pause and prompt. Theory is the tool we use to begin to understand, identify, describe, and learn about these pauses and prompts. (And some people think this will ‘break the magic’ or the pleasure. Reread the paragraph above. The things you are deeply passionate about you know a lot about. And it is obvious to you that knowing a lot, and learning more, about these things enhances your pleasure, and ability, it doesn’t ‘break’ anything.)

Finally, coming to university. I had written it down in my notebook but missed it. Threshold experiences. What I was getting at was if you treat uni as learning more about something then don’t bother. I think of this as quantitative learning. Just use the internet and your curiosity. University lets you learn some qualitative things. These are the things that, once you learn them, you can’t unlearn them. They change how you think about something. They disrupt what you thought you knew, and once it happens to you, you can’ undo it. That is what university can do for you. That is what a university is for, and that is why it is different to ‘instruction’ or technical education. These might be very specific, or general, but it is creating the opportunity for these threshold experiences that really matter. Content, that’s now just a click away, but this qualitative change, that’s something you do.

cfp: Computing the City

Call For Papers – Special Issue for the Fibreculture Journal – Computing the City

From the website:

Issue Editors: Armin Beverungen and Florian Sprenger
abstract deadline: 20 April, 2015
article deadline: 1 July, 2015
publication aimed for: early 2016

Ubiquitous computing is often referred to as a prime example not only of a new mode of computing, but of a new paradigm of mediation itself. The ‘smart city’ is promoted as its primary site of materialisation: the integration of computational systems with architectural design turns inefficient urban settings into smart cities that manifest as the penultimate value-extraction machines. This themed issue focuses specifically on the pre-history of ubiquitous computing, its status as media infrastructure, its complicity with logistics, as well as its contingent histories and virtual futures. The approach to smart urban environments taken here questions the accustomed self-descriptions of a mediated society as completely new infrastructure of living and dwelling. Town planning has, since the early 20th century, relied on ecological concepts of environmental transformations. By drawing a line from these early urban development plans to todays digital infrastructures, it becomes evident that the current condition of smart cities has to be understood as part of a transition of environments from natural habitats to objects of planning, management and control.