[-empyre-] yes, but, well, and...

Andrew Schrock aschrock at usc.edu
Tue May 8 08:17:59 EST 2012

I've been greatly enjoying the discussion thus far, and hope I'm jumping in at an appropriate time. [super quick intro: I'm a USC Annenberg Ph.D student working with Anne at the public interactives research team/PIRT, where we're working on a digital book on tinkering called Ways of the Hand. My perspective comes out of mass communication, micro-sociology, and media studies, which have many resonances with Anne's work] 

I would be curious, following from the mention of Arab Spring, to hear responses from the group about the role of interfaces as they shift towards mobile devices. Scott raised the question about mobilities and mixed-reality interfaces. When I hear "public interactive" I think of public layers that can be punctuated with everyday devices and afford new visibility. Mobile devices are increasingly adopted in developing countries and present a primary mode of going online. So it seems that many concerns raised under the guise of public interactives shift towards different types of devices, even though they are so visibly and functionally different. And even though it is (as Dale reinforces to me) mobile devices are a fundamentally different experience than large screens and other forms of public interactives where people can come together; we shouldn't forget the collectivity question. 

Beyond mobilities lies the "cloud computing" that enables it. Back to Anne's statement of "Our data will move freely, but we will not" (maybe all trapped in megacities.... from home to the coffee shop to work and then home again). The question seems to come back to one of power, reproduction vs. production. It's interesting to me that several recent books on mobile devices in public spaces, although they provide very rich descriptions of relationships with mobile technologies and initial forays into this area over the last decade in the arts, do not coherently address power. Consumer-facing advertisements for "the cloud" paint it as an unencumbering force to take away all the worry of thinking about data -- "To the cloud!" But shouldn't we learn to think about data? To be literate? I'm worried we are getting apoplectic about copyright, but whether a middle-class American can use Oasis as a soundtrack to family videos on YouTube is not the big battle. 

There is a fellow named Curtis Fletcher in the STS cluster at USC who I'm working with on a workshop tentatively titled "The Fate of Interpretation in the Era of Big Data." By which I take to mean, what does it mean to claim that we can capture data and essentially extract questions from it? Be guided by data? Lev Manovich's latest turn is similar, essentially advocating for data to speak for itself and work with computer scientists, not those in the humanities. So "beyond" lies claims of the death of ways of knowing outside of concrete empiricism. 


On May 7, 2012, at 11:39 AM, Scott L. Minneman wrote:

> I don’t remember there being much mystery about where things were headed with the potential for collecting lots of information about us and inferring ad nauseum for purposes of advertising and such.  We saw the advent of recommender systems (and applauded when we discovered a movie or a new band via these mechanisms) and marveled when a search engine seemed to make good sense of the drivel we typed their direction.  Folks jumped at free services in exchange for surrendering their info and eyeballs.
> These days, the algorithms are seemingly trying too hard, or maybe….well.…perhaps they just don’t know me as well as they think they do.  Amazon seldom suggests a purchase I’m interested in, and I actually wish for a switch on Google so it would just stop trying to be clever.  And I’m sorry, friends, but I think I can count on a single hand the number of times when the “personal results” portion of a Google search have yielded anything.  I can no longer tell you to click the third search result…odds are it’s not the same for you.
> As we begin to see bigger corporations (including the biggie) looking seriously about how to directly augment our experience with mixed and virtual stuff, be it with glasses or tablets (or eventually contact lenses and brain stimulation), the slope gets disturbingly slippery.  The world, even if we’re in the same place, at the same time, starts to no longer look the same.  You’re hungry, so you’ve got the “food specials” layer turned on (if you even have control of it, perhaps your Nike “Fuel Band III” has detected that you need some calories and switched on that overlay for you).  The person next to you is a tourist, so they’re subscribing to a “historical landmarks” layer, and their son is playing some mixed reality first-person shooter.  Your views of the world are much different. 
> […and all of them have their peripheral vision blocked by banner ads and never see/hear the bus that runs them over – physics still doesn’t care.]
> I’m seemingly not as worried as Mark about what the powers that be are learning about me.  I’m more worried about how poorly it all works, and about how much stock they seem to be putting into their lame inferences.  What they think I was asking becomes more important that what I really asked.  And then they infer more from our reactions to the junk they put in front of us.  Complicating matters is that our whole culture is highly dependent on shared experiences, and those are in flux and becoming increasingly scarce.
> Not sure where I’m going with this, but I’ll toss it out into the public interactives and interactive publics ring (oooh….there’s a name for a book Anne and I should write).  Hopefully Google won’t re-write it for each of you, in an attempt to relate my text to your recent searches for tips on how to get 3-Stars on the 27th level of Angry Birds Space (or whatever).
> slm
> Scott L. Minneman, PhD
> Professor and Industry Liaison – CCA
> Principal – Onomy Labs, Inc.
> onomy.com & slminneman.com
> 415 505-7234 - cell
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Andrew Schrock
USC Annenberg Doctoral Student
Twitter:	@aschrock
Email: 	aschrock at usc.edu
Phone: 	714.330.6545

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