...really good teaching is about not seeing the world the way that everyone else does...

"Good teachers perceive the world in alternative terms, and they push their students to test out these new, potentially enriching perspectives. Sometimes they do so in ways that are, to say the least, peculiar."
Mark Edmundson, "Geek Lessons" NYT, 2008

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Digging Deeper, Seeing Farther: Supercomputers Alter Science

Computer power not only aids research, it defines the nature of that research: what can be studied, what new questions can be asked, and answered.


Visualized: ring around the world of data center power usage

Facebook may have recently boasted about how energy efficient its data centers are, but it is still Facebook, and that means it consumes plenty of power regardless -- more than anyone else, in fact, according to Peer1's recent survey of the world's most visited websites. As you can see above, that bit of data has also been conveniently visualized by the company in a colorful chart (with a noticeable lack of green), and there's plenty more details where that came from for you to dive into in the infographic linked below.


HUMAN+ explores the technologically enhanced future of our species

What do we mean when we speak about human enhancement? New York University professor Wafaa Bilal recently had a video camera implanted on a titanium base in the back of his skull. Leaving wires dangling awkwardly along his neck, the camera sent images to a remote server every 60 seconds. Students' concerns over their privacy, faced with a teacher who for once really did have eyes in the back of his head, forced Bilal to wear a lens cap while teaching, somewhat defeating the point.

A few months later an infection forced Bilal to remove the camera, and simply wear it around his neck, but he remains keen to have it back in his skull as soon as possible. Why? What is the difference, you might wonder, between a camera strapped to someone's neck and the same camera attached to the skull with a titanium plate? To Bilal, it is all about a demonstration of 'commitment', making the painful surgery and risk of infection worthwhile. Bilal's messy piece of DIY illustrates some of the challenges around popular perceptions of human enhancement.


Beyond Buildings

As It Lives and Breathes

The ground is no longer underfoot. It lives and breathes, surrounding you with tiaras, candelabras, reefs, and stalagmites that pulse, flutter, and ripple in a manner that belies their mineral forms. This is architecture as living jewelry.


The microchip at 50: the end of Moore's Law?

Monday will mark the 50th anniversary of the patent for a silicon integrated circuit, awarded to Robert Noyce, an electronics engineer who was later nicknamed “the mayor of Silicon Valley”.

Decades later we are still living in the revolution that began almost immediately, but there are growing signs that Moore’s Law – the famously accurate prediction that the number of transistors will double every two years – is ready for retirement.


Monday, 25 April 2011

SUSPENSE— International Symposium on Rethinking Research

Wednesday May 4th 2011
Cinema Zuid (Antwerp, Belgium)

Antwerp University Association (AUHA) | Faculty of the Arts

Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp

Sint Lucas University College of Art & Design Antwerp

In the current discourse on research in the arts, artistic research is almost systematically set against the (exact or human) sciences. Research in the arts is generally seen as a deviation from or negation of this scientific, discursive standard, whether desirable or not. This research conference aims to challenge this association by placing non-discursive research centre stage. Different forms of knowing are juxtaposed, not for the sake of hierarchization, but as a means to dynamize, to rethink the notion of research from a different perspective.

In Image et subversion (2005), Stéphane Lojkine (Université de Provence, Aix-Marseille II) discusses "le mystère du sens" ('the mystery of meaning') in relation to the work of art, that cannot be captured immediately by a clear definition or meaning: "[L]e sens de l'oeuvre d'art résiste à l'interprétation" ('the meaning of the artwork resists interpretation') and distinguishes itself in that sense from a utilitarian text such as a user's manual. Lojkine coins the term "suspens" ('suspense') to designate this delay of meaning, of symbolical deciphering. Opposite suspense—as delayed or 'suspended' meaning—stands "sens" ('sense'), the deciphering knowledge of the rational mind. Suspense relates in that context to Jacques Rancière's notion of the "image pensive," an image whose final meaning remains indecisive (Le spectateur émancipé, 2008), or to Jean-Luc Nancy's conception of the image as the presentation of an absence, a displacement and thus of a lack of sense (Au fond des images, 2003).

Suspense is embedded in an "iconic," non-discursive logic that is not necessarily limited to the image in a strict sense, but that can more generally point to a different, non-discursive frame of reference. The image forms "un trou dans le discours" ('a gap in the discourse') and as such is neither formalized, nor (yet) encapsulated in a determining superstructure. According to Lojkine, the potential for subversion lies in the iconic moment of suspense. In the first shock, the instant of non-understanding, that urges us to look again, to reread, rethink, research, the artwork opens up possibilities for subversion. As Jacques Derrida underlines in Psyché: Inventions de l'autre (1998), 'invention' always implies an element of disorder, of illegality, making inroads into the existing discourse, creating alternative passageways.

By linking Lojkine's notion of suspense to research in the arts, this conference aims to raise the question as to how scientific research relates to artistic research and to what extent artistic research, or research in general, can create a space for subversion, for that which commonly slips through the meshes of a well-defined discursive discourse? Further questions that can be addressed are: How can 'suspense' function within an institutional framework? How to engage with the burden of knowing? How to deal with not knowing? How to base research on disorder, on absence or displacement of sense?

Full programme


It is time again to continue our quest for Utopia, to start another round in this extraordinary competition. We are at this point only in the start-up phase of what will be more than a year-long venture into the comtemporary utopian landscape. We would be very happy if you would care to join us by contributing with you essay or short story. Sign up in the form to the right and we will get back to you when it is time to proceed.

The Utopian World Championship (UWC) is an open, global competition in utopian thinking and writing that has been arranged twice since the launch of the first competition in March 2001.


Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Terminators: drone strikes prompt MoD to ponder ethics of killer robots

The growing use of unmanned aircraft in combat situations raises huge moral and legal issues, and threatens to make war more likely as armed robots take over from human beings, according to an internal study by the Ministry of Defence.


Friday, 15 April 2011

Science and Secrets in New York City Playgrounds

A BRONZE dragon. Squares that chime underfoot. A gargantuan seesaw that allows a few children to lift many. And water, water everywhere. Playgrounds just aren’t what they used to be.


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Call for submissions, Conditions Issue #8: Preparing for the Unknown

February 8, 2011
Most of the time forecasts about the future are based on today. Prophecies end up being smaller adjustments of the existing.
By painting a picture of the future you have automatically gone into the trap, consciously or not, acquiring knowledge needed
to fulfill the prediction. What if it’s wrong? The future will always be unknown.

Is it possible to have a long term perspective taking future generations into consideration without knowing about the future?
How do you develop strategies that are adaptable to future unknown?

CONDITIONS believes that education should play a central role in developing these strategies for the unknown future.

Send your visual material, projects, articles or abstracts to submission@conditionsmagazine.com by the 1st of April.
Deadline for final submissions is the 1st of May.

CONDITIONS magazine #8, Preparing for the Unknown

There may be a chance to submit some of the work from the course for consideration at Conditions Magazine, a new and well-executed independent, Scandinavian magazine for architecture and urbanism (and more besides):

CONDITIONS have the pleasure to announce our new collaboration with Skin Designstudio. We are very grateful for their enthusiastic acceptance to design the next issue of CONDITIONS magazine #8, Preparing for the Unknown.


While the first call had a 1st April deadline, it may be possible to submit work by their second deadline – 1 May. I'll inquire if anyone is interested.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Koji Wakayama: Can machines have experiences?

Robots are invading our lives. The robotic revolution has begun without many of us noticing. Where there were just a few computers around just a few decades ago, today there are more microprocessors in the world than people. Even if it appears to be a steady and linear trend in technological development in fact statistics show a progress that is accelerating explosively with an exponential growth begging for our attention. World leading practitioners within A.I. research imagine that in the coming years, the number of robots could also exceed the number of people. Ray Kurzweil predicts that future machines will exceed human capabilities in the next 20 years, exceeding human complexity including our emotional intelligence, and be capable of emotional and spiritual experiences.(1) This statement should not go unnoticed - Experience Designers will be expected to take a role in helping to develop experiences for robots.

Scientists and engineers have made relentless progress in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Development. Their predictions for the next 20 years are as bold as they can be. Driven by both, technological optimism and concern, this research community is envisioning and inacting a future when artificial beings will enter and transform our lives in ways we can't yet imagine. The space for the designer and other practitioners within the creative disciplines to make valuable contributions has been to a large extent been left unexplored. This condition leaves the contemporary designer outside of the discourse and therefore unprepared for tomorrow's complex design challenges. My thesis as an Experience Designer is that we have to account for the experiences of robots if we wish to play a role in the design of some of the most significant experiences in our future.

Read more.

EDG Play Methods 2

Elaboration and extension of existing rules (e.g. table tennis, indoor football etc) to create balance, so that the game continues – with equal opportunities; Iteration & repetition/ritual (Alberto Frigo); Dissemination and Narrativity (John Freyer allmylifeforsale.com); exclusion (Emma); chain of information (e.g. facial expressions) as "Chinese Whispers"/"Broken Telephone"; distortion; pass the human expression (Fernanda); renaming the world and rediscovering it through trust/sightlessness - storytelling and interruption by parenthesis (Mariana); setting yourself free (Sarin, free running/parcour - e.g. MY PLAYGROUND by Kaspar Astrup Schröder); Dogtown and Z-Boys (Emma); appropriation; zombies tag humans (Nandi); surmounting obstacles, teamwork, constraints, goals (survival); physical pursuit and release; conversational traps using forbidden words (Ivan)...

American Journal of Play

Latest issue here.

Scott Eberle on the importance of play

The second of our presenters from Strong, Scott Eberle is the Vice President for Interpretation at Strong. In his fun and fascinating talk, Scott discusses the science behind play, and discoveries that have been made in recent years that show that play is more than a way of introducing skills to youngsters (such as teaching cats to be hunters), but a way in which individuals can relate and interact with each other in fun and enjoyable ways. Please note, I said “individuals”, not “people”. Play is one of the few universals that traverses and even brings together disparate species! In this interesting talk which spans from exhibits of the French civil war on roller skates to rats giggling when tickled, you’ll learn so much about a subject that should be more important in all of our lives…


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Derek Jarmen: Wittgenstein (1993)

"If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done."

Watch Derek Jarmen's Wittgenstein (1993).

Monday, 4 April 2011

Playing with fire

'Some people have this idea that sharks will attack on sight and this is not true at all. My goal is to show people that sharks and humans can under most circumstances share the same space.'

Read more.

"Philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry."

"What is the use of studying philosophy if it doesn't improve your thinking about the important questions of everyday life? It is the pressing question Wittgenstein asked himself throughout his career as a philosopher."

Excerpted from WITTGENSTEIN'S LADDER: POETIC LANGUAGE AND THE STRANGENESS OF THE ORDINARY, by Marjorie Perloff published by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 1996 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.


The limits of empathy

What is it like to be a bat?
by Thomas Nagel

Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem really intractable. Perhaps that is why current discussions of the problem give it little attention or get it obviously wrong. The recent wave of reductionist euphoria has produced several analyses of mental phenomena and mental concepts designed to explain the possibility of some variety of materialism, psychophysical identification, or reduction.1 But the problems dealt with are those common to this type of reduction and other types, and what makes the mind-body problem unique, and unlike the water-H2O problem or the Turing machine-IBM machine problem or the lightning-electrical discharge problem or the gene-DNA problem or the oak tree-hydrocarbon problem, is ignored.


Assignment 1

Title: Hacking the Humanities
Purpose: Apply play to understand and transform philosophical practice
Materials: Extract (free choice) from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, textual interventions (creative-critical method), staging.
Groups: two groups of 2 and 3 students.
Due: 10.00 in E1 Tuesday 5th April 2011

To recap the steps in the assignment:

1. Identify a passage from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations that addresses explicitly or implicitly an area related to course themes (play, games, rule-following etc). Discuss it in your group. Identify the different strategies used in the text (inner dialogue i.e. thinking against the self, invitations to play – "Consider this...Imagine the following....If...Let's pretend....", examples, picturing, hypotheses, performative elements etc). In what ways does the text 'stage' a process of thinking?

2. In order to better understand the text, apply the "textual interventions" technique that we explored on Wednesday in relation to Descartes' "I think therefore I am" (reference - Rob Pope: "Textual Intervention: Critical and Creative Strategies for Literary Studies") by substituting pronouns, verbs, temporality, clauses etc in the existing text. What new versions can you generate by this means? What does the new version tell you about the arguments and 'world view' (assumptions) underpinning the original extract that you selected.

3. Having already identified the dialogic qualities of the text (see 1.) apply a further level of transformation by now assigning roles/speakers/agencies to the dialogue partners in your new version. Find ways to spatialize or materialize these roles – how can the 'argument' now be performed away from the page? Prepare a presentation of up to 15 minutes for Tuesday 10.00 in E1.

4. Explain how (or if) play as a dual creative-critical strategy has given you a different quality of engagement with Wittgenstein's text, particularly in regards the performative quality of his philosophical writing.

Rolf Hughes: The Performance of Uncertainty (discusses Wittgenstein and practical knowledge)
Rolf Hughes: The DROWNING METHOD (discusses Air Trance 16)
Rob Pope: "Textual Intervention: Critical and Creative Strategies for Literary Studies"
EDG Play Publication (2010)

IDEO Method Cards App

51 ways to help you explore new approaches and develop your own

The Method Cards app is released as a free download with 8 cards for you to experience on your iPhone or iTouch. You can purchase the full deck of 51 cards for $4.99 within the application, eliminating the step of having to leave the app to upgrade your experience.

IDEO Method Cards were first released in 2003 as a printed deck intended as inspiration for practicing and aspiring designers, as well as those seeking a creative spark in their work. With more than ten thousand decks in distribution, an IDEA Silver award and continued coverage in the press, we are very proud of the tool’s success in the marketplace. However, as a design tool meant to help people explore new approaches and develop their own, we realized it was time to evolve its form. We wanted to experiment with a mobile platform and make it more readily available to an ecosystem of users who can take this tool to a new level. Thus, the Method Cards iPhone app.