Re: [-empyre-] Tactics and Strategies
(Apologies for surfacing late in the conversation...)
Tracey, your remark a few days ago that "your webby accessibility police
hat went on" when Renee told you our Anxiety Monitor used frames, stuck
with me for completely the wrong reasons -- I'll try to come back to
this at the end of this post.
<quote>i guess my question isn't whether continuously going back to the
drawing board is an option, but what information/desires/needs we use to
decide when to reassess/redesign/rework. i think you're right, that
notions of "success" and "failure" are too elusive and problematic to be
tactically useful. Can we discuss what the stakes are in non-zero-sum
I don't know whether this is useful, but I am working on a talk about
Otto Neurath - a Viennese philosopher well known in graphic design
circles for his ISOTYPE / International System Of TYpographic Picture
Education ( http://www.fulltable.com/iso/index.htm ).
It's been interesting to spend time with his work, finding out that
Neurath who I'd always associated with ultra-modernist ideas such as the
desire to standardize visual communication (in a way ISOTYPE formed the
basis for those pictograms helping to make airports navigable by always
looking the same), was in fact developing quite radical ideas about
'processes of constant reworking'.
"We are like sailors who must reconstruct their ship on the open sea but
are never able to start afresh from the bottom. Where a beam is taken
away a new one must be at once put there, and for this the rest of the
ship is used as support. In this way, by using old beams and driftwood,
the ship can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual
reconstruction". (Otto Neurath in: Anti-Spengler, 1921)
The 'we' he refers to are Neurath himself and his fellow-scientists, but
I imagine this metaphor could work for other domains too. If I
understand his position well (I am still far from an expert on his
work), he felt that each statement is provisional and that 'auxiliary
motives' or 'provisional rules' are a way to put things in motion, to be
able to act. Does this relate to your thoughts about the sub-rational, Ryan?
Neurath worked on systems for the display of scientific information
allowing 'the public' to understand those results, so that they could
make decisions based on knowledge, not on sentiments. He seems not that
far from Bruno Latour when he motivates ISOTYPE (he is using Basic
English!) as follows: "...to give simple and clear accounts of
everything as a solid base for our thoughts and acts, and to make us
fully conscious of conditions in which we are living" (Latour: "do we
now have to reveal the real objective and incontrovertible facts hidden
behind the illusion of prejudices")
Neuraths' energy seems relevant still: working against Nazi populism and
rejecting foundationalism - he felt that *because* scientific methods
are fragile and replaceable, practice is necessary.
What is at stake... is difficult to answer, especially in general terms.
I think that to be able to critically engage with the world around, it
is important not to lose contact and that works both ways. "It seems to
involve a kind of opening up of "space" that allows for politics to slip
into our experience, and vice versa, where it always already exists" you
said, Ryan, and this kind of slippage never happens automatically,
however 'natural' it sounds. You need to set yourself up for it, and I
think much of our work is an attempt to make that happen.
So, back to the webby accessibility police ;-):
Strangely enough, google.com is far from 'accessible' -- even when the
lightest of all criteria are applied to it. Google image results are
omitting the required ALT tags for thumbnails, so that visually impaired
users (search-robots for example ;-)) will have no idea what images are
in fact displayed.
On the web text ends up being the most accessible form of data (both
technically and conceptually... no salvation for those with dyslexia!),
it functions as dominant *content*: sorting, searching and archiving
mechanisms all depend on words when it comes to images.
The connection between accessibility and visibility links to a red
thread running through De Geuzen practice since long; many projects
mentioned earlier look at tags and labels in relation to images; playing
with naming and re-naming as a way to (re)appropriate representation
("queering the language - thanks Tracey!).
Images end up on the same page, contexts are mixed; as Renee said:
"unfamiliar territories find itself viewed in unconventional registers".
Google image search explodes (or implodes?) this effect in always taking
images literally. The Anxiety Monitor and the Image Tracer both start
from the fact that networked images can not be visible without the help
of text; the php script putting the Anxiety Monitor in motion is both a
summoning of images and an attempt to exorcise.
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