Digital Media and Human-Machine Interaction

Just out from Aracne Editore in Italy:

I Media Digitali e l’Interazione Uomo-Macchina

edited and coordinated by Simone Arcagni. In the book you can find the article

“Il Terzo Infoscape. Dati, informazioni e saperi nella città e nuovi paradigmi di interazione urbana”

contributed by Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico.

The book features contributions by:

Leandro Agrò, Stefania Antonioni, Sebastiano Bagnara, Ornella Costanzo, Luigi Galluccio, Salvatore Iaconesi, Mirko Lino, Giulio Lughi, Giusy Mandalà, Alberto Marinelli, Tatiana Mazali, Graziella Mazzoli, Vanessa Michielon, Sara Monaci,Annamaria Monteverdi, Domenico Morreale, Oriana Persico, Simone Pozzi,Andrea Resmini, Mario Ricciardi, Domenico Sciajno, Gabriella Taddeo, Luca Tremolada

i Media Digitali e l'Interazione Uomo Macchina

i Media Digitali e l’Interazione Uomo Macchina

Our contribution may be cited as:

  • Iaconesi, S.; Persico, O. (2015) “Il Terzo Infoscape. Dati, informazioni e saperi nella città e nuovi paradigmi di interazione urbana” in Arcagni, S. (ed.) I Media Digitali e l’Interazione Uomo-Macchina (p. 139-168). Roma: Aracne Editore.

100 Women who are co-creating the P2P society

Who are the women who are co-creating the P2P Society?

Luckily, they are many.

Today, the P2P Foundation has featured one of them: our very own Oriana Persico, aka penelope.di.pixel.

From the Italian Senate, to cyber-ecology, passing through arts and scientific research, Penelope explores the many faces of innovation through imagination.

You can read the full interview here:

100 Women who are co-creating the P2P Society – Oriana Persico of Art is Open Source

“Representative elected institutions are progressively loosing sense: the sense of being connected to the organism they live in and are part of and work for – society. This is perhaps why we are barely embarrassed to talk about politics or define something as “political”: we are speaking about the pathology of representative systems more than the actual thing. We can speculate if representative institutions are pathological from their very roots […], but politics is a larger subject concerning our relations to power, the directions we want to choose among the possible and desired futures (as individuals and society), and how we organize ourselves to make it happen.”

Penelope di Pixel

Penelope di Pixel

Ubiquitous Commons at the STARTS Symposium in Brussels, June 2015

from Ubiquitous Commons at the STARTS Symposium in Brussels, June 2015

Ubiquitous Commons will be at the STARTS Symposium in Brussels, on June 22-23 2015.

Promoted by ICT Art Connect, STARTS begins to explore opportunities for piloting cross-sectorial collaboration to enhance and promote innovation. To foster such collaboration, the European Commission is launching its STARTS –S&T&ARTS programme.

In the STARTS symposium, we will explore the catalytic role of the Arts for innovation in business, industry and society and how to foster it. Possible synergies will be analyzed from an entrepreneurial, technological, scientific, social, and artistic angle. Already existing collaboration of S&T with the Arts in European Commission funded projects will be particularly highlighted.

You can find the program and indications on how to get there, HERE.

Ubiquitous Commons will be featured on Monday 22nd, in the 13:30-15:15 Data and Society panel, together with Jaromil RojoDomenico VicinanzaMarleen StikkerFilippo GianettaRoel Roscam Abbing and Teresa Dillon.

3 days in London with Human Ecosystems, La Cura and Ubiquitous Commons: report

From June 3rd to Jun 5th, a series of events organized by the Big Social Data Research Group at King’s College in collaboration with Citizen Biomedicin Research Group and the Open Data Institute,  engaged AOS in a workshop, a lecture and a public talk.

Below a report from the three events.

1. June 3rd: “Playing with data in the Ubiquitous Commons” – workshop

A one-day hands-on workshop hosted by the Big Social Data Research Group at King’s College.

Human Ecosystems Workshop - King's College, London

Human Ecosystems Workshop – King’s College, London

During the morning session we introduced and explored with participants a series of  key concepts, in particular:

  • the conceptual frame of the Human Ecosystems project, describing how multiple types of public data coming from social networks, sensors, open data sources, energy use, census and more can be captured, processed using multiple techniques (from Natural Language Processing, to Machine Learning, Network Analysis, Emotional Analysis and Geographic Analysis) to produce a set of large Data Commons, which can be used for multiple purposes including research, policy making, citizen action, collaboration, participatory and peer-to-peer organizational models, development of novel forms of economies, creation of services, artworks, designs, information visualizations, interactive experiences, digital toys, data-reactive devices and more;
  • the concept of the Relational Ecosystem, describing how these massive data capturing techniques can lead to forming large linked data patterns which, in turn, lead to the possibility to understand how communities form and transform over time and place, by understanding information, knowledge, opinion, emotion and behavior flows in cities. We also focused on the many characteristics of these human networks and of their participants, including their characterization as influencers, experts, hubs, bridges among different communities, and the ways in which to create new characterizations, using network science;
  • the many implications of these practices, at levels which are social, political, economic, exploring the resulting modifications of the factual and perceived concepts of public, private and intimate spheres, and the further transformations to citizens’ awareness and action which could be brought on by the availability of such a large Data Commons, and of the tools to use it, of the related education processes, of the information visualizations and on the participatory practices which could develop.
Human Ecosystems Workshop - King's College, London

Human Ecosystems Workshop – King’s College, London

Human Ecosystems Workshop - King's College, London

Human Ecosystems Workshop – King’s College, London

During the afternoon session:

  • a series of tools from the Human Ecosystems platform was installed, giving participants the possibility to autonomously start their own data harvesting processes;
  • a complete social network harvesting process for the city of London was started. The group watched the results using a variety of information visualizations which are present in the current HE toolkits (geographic, relational, networked, time-based, artistic, and more). We explored the principal steps which are required to create new ones (the structure of the data sources in the commons produced through Human Ecosystems, the many tools, libraries and Human Ecosystems API calls which can be used for this purpose).
  • we finally focused on some of the participants’ projects and activities to suggest ways in which the Human Ecosystems could be used in their cases, also establishing a number of possible partnerships and opportunities which need to be explored further.
Human Ecosystems Workshop - King's College, London

Human Ecosystems Workshop – King’s College, London

Human Ecosystems Workshop - King's College, London

Human Ecosystems Workshop – King’s College, London

Human Ecosystems Workshop, King's College: capturing London

Human Ecosystems Workshop, King’s College: capturing London

2. June 4th: “La Cura, an Open Source Cure for Cancer” – lecture and conversation

A 2 hours lecture hosted by the Citizen Biomedicine Research Group which involved us and the participant in deep and stimulating conversation exploring:

  • The unfolding of the facts and implications of “La Cura”, from the events which led to its beginning, its artistic elements, the metaphors of data as a connecting tissue for society, the biopolitical aspects of data and Big Data, the social interaction, collaboration and participation aspects of La Cura, the media and communication aspects of the project;
  • The rituals of hacking (understanding systems, generating knowledge, making knowledge available, provoke unexpected usages) and their implications on medicine;
  • The rituals of re-appropriation of data, an the consequent transition from data-subject to the holistic interpretation of human being, in which data becomes an opportunity for interconnection, interaction and participation of the entire society;
  • The role of arts, design, creativity and transgression, as radical innovators, as creators of new, unexpected spaces for social construction of conscience, as multipliers of perceived possible futures, and as tools to explore desirable, preferrable futures;
  • The comparison of “La Cura” to other experiences (like, for example, cancer bloggers, cancer and social networks) and services (like “Patients Like Me”).
La Cura: lecture at King's College Citizens  Biomedicine Research Group

La Cura: lecture at King’s College Citizens Biomedicine Research Group

Among the results, the conversation collaboratively described a tentative scenario in which experiences like “La Cura” and more encoded, industrialized ones like “Patients Like Me” could come together and co-exist according to an ecosystemic approach to suggest new scenarios for the collaborative and participative production of science, social and political actions, economies, activism, and peer-to-peer operative models.

3. 5th June: “Ubiquitous Commons” – public talk

Hosted by the ODI – Open Data Institute, the talk involved a very diverse audience, including hackers, lawyers, organizations, enterprises, developers, architects, urban planners, Internet of Things enthusiasts and experts.

Ubiquitous Commons talk at ODI - Open Data Institute (London)

Ubiquitous Commons talk at ODI – Open Data Institute (London)

During the discussion we:

  • Explored the scenario leading to the creation of the Ubiquitous Commons: conscious/unconscious ubiquitousproduction of data; impossibility to understand what data we generate, and how it is used; impossibility to express ho we want our data to be used; impossibility to track how our data is used; impossibility to autonomously or collaboratively enact individual or participatory practices for data generation and usage, in inclusive ways;
  • Explored the Ubiquitous Commons architecture: externalize data access mechanism from operators (social networks, IoT, domotics, biotech, wearables…) onto a peer-to-peer environment (Blockchain), using encryption and a legal/technological protocol;
  • Explored the possibility to create data commons using the Ubiquitous Commons identity model (individual, collective, anonymous, nomadic and temporary types of identity);
  • Explored the legal, political, social, economic, creative implications of the model.
  • Discussed possible usage scenarios and novel economic models.
  • Discussed technical/technological implications;
  • Expressed a call to action for interested parties to join the initiative (legal, technical/technological, use cases, adoption communties).
Ubiquitous Commons talk at ODI - Open Data Institute (London)

Ubiquitous Commons talk at ODI – Open Data Institute (London)

Ubiquitous Commons talk at ODI - Open Data Institute (London)

Ubiquitous Commons talk at ODI – Open Data Institute (London)

Special thanks to Mark Coté, Tobias Blanke, Barbara Prainsack, Lorenzo Del Savio, Jennifer, Giles Greenway for the wonderful hospitality and to make all of it happen. 

Conflict and Transgression

This post appeared in Italian on CheFare: Conflitto e trasgressione: Anonymous all’Unione Europea

Bruxelles, February 2015. NetFutures 2015

A series of interesting discussions are going on In the post industrial building of The Egg, the congress center few steps away from Gare Du Midi: smart cities, Internet of Things, social innovation, cloud and, in general, all those scenarios according to which the network – in all of its ubiquitous manifestations – will lead Europe into the future.

In a small room, hosting the CAPS (Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability) program’s plenary session, an unexpected collective laugh explodes, followed by a moment of slightly embarrassed silence.

The scenario: we have been invited to talk about Ubiquitous Commons, the research project with which we are creating a set of legal and technological tools that can be used to mitigate the enormous power imbalance which currently characterises the relations between data-subjects (those subjects who, consciously or unconsciously, produce data and information in their daily lives) and operators (Facebook, Google, cloud operators, large Big Data aggregators…): people don’t know (and can’t know) which data/information they generate and are harvested, and operators can substantially do whatever they want, buying and selling people thousands of times each second, transforming us into guinea pigs for social and cognitive experiments, and deciding with a few clicks the destiny of information and freedoms for a large part of the planet.

Fabrizio Sestini, CAPS creator and leader, a few minutes beforehand, while illustrating the program’s innovations for the next few years, highlighted an important fact: it appears evident how supporting and financing only large and well-known organisations and consortiums is not enough anymore. What is needed are ways in which to also support informality, emergence, the impermanent, and peer-to-peer. How is it possible? Mr. Sestini asks for the collaboration of the participants to discover solutions.

Fast forward: it’s presentation time. Right after Sestini’s statement – which, for us, is important, fundamental – we added a slide to our presentation, describing the partners of the Ubiquitous Commons initiative.

When we get there, we start the list: “… and thus these are the participants to the initiative: University X, Department Y, Research Center Z… and Anonymous.”
Pause.

Anonymous.

Pause.

We throw in some humour, to make sure that people have received the message: “And, thus, also considered Mr. Sestini’s statement, to understand how an organisation such as Anonymous could participate to an Horizon2020 call.”

Laughter in the audience.

Silence.

Winks.

Go on with the other slides.

The theme is not really taken seriously. Perhaps it suggested in people’s imaginations strange cinematic scenes of peculiar groups of masked people presenting themselves at the doors of the European Commission to claim the payment in Bitcoins of the freshly obtained Horizon2020 funding with the “Anonymous Social Innovation” project proposal.

For us, this theme is of central importance, as it directly confronts a subject matter which is a fundamental concern for any innovation process: conflict and transgression.

But let’s step back in time for a while.

We’re always in Brussels. Always at the European Commission. It is September 2014, at the High Level Group Meeting on Smart Cities. Rem Koolhaas, from the stage, tells how, with the coming about of the “market”, in the 70s, the city has become an enormously less adventurous and more predictable place.

According to him, this is the place where all the apocalyptic effects of climate change, of the ageing of society, of water and energy find supposed solutions in smart cities, to the sound of sensors, drones, Internet of Things and efficiency.

Specific consideration is given to the visual language dedicated to the citizens of the smart city.

We quote here this part of his intervention:

When we look at the visual language through which the smart city is represented, it is typically with simplistic, child-like rounded edges and bright colours. The citizens the smart city claims to serve are treated like infants. We are fed cute icons of urban life, integrated with harmless devices, cohering into pleasant diagrams in which citizens and business are surrounded by more and more circles of service that create bubbles of control. Why do smart cities offer only improvement? Where is the possibility of transgression?

Transgression

This term defines multiple different concepts.

Here we refer to its sociological understanding, according to which we transgress whenever we infringing a certain social norm.

Transgression implies going beyond a boundary, a limit, but also its existence. As described by Bataille in Eroticism: “Transgression opens the doors towards what is beyond the limits of what is usually observed, preserving them.”

There is little space for transgression in this age of smart (smart cities, smart communities), of innovation and creativity. Thus, there is little space for conflict.

The creative class has already been absorbed by the industry. Hackers, makers, startuppers and the other human profiles in the new scenario create the ranks of the new research laboratories and of the production lines of the industrial complex. They are the unexpected blue collars of this type of industry, perfectly encoded in the new models of labour and production.

This economy relates to an industry which has understood creative thinking as its pre-requisite, as highlighted by Pine and Gilmore in their Experience Economy. There is no doubt, from the point of view of the architectures of power, on who runs the show.

Troublemakers, in this scenario, are precious commodities.

Enzensberger used this exact word in his Industrialization of the Mind essay in 1962.

According to his thesis, the cultural industry lives in a state of paradox: it cannot produce its own product (conscience), as conscience is a social product and, thus, it can only be induced and reproduced by them.

A sterile industry follows from this, in which the larger part of production is of the derivative type, and in which only a limited few (the troublemakers) are able to really innovate.

This is not sustainable for the industrial complex, which, thus, has perfectly learned how to deal with conflict, using all sorts of techniques: from violence; to financial pressure; to media exposure and display; to cooptation.

In a few words: encoding, recruiting, aestheticising.

Subversive action has already been internalised by the market, under the form of instruments for the creation of value, to increase sales and for marketing. This is clear, for example, when we consider the linguistic (and, thus, perceptive and operative) transformation of the word “hacker”.

In his “Preface to Transgression” (on Bataille: a Critical Reader, by Bolling and Wilson) Foucault explains how transgressions forces limits, boundaries and norms to recognise themselves, requiring them to deal with their imminent disappearance.

Transgression creates a space, and innovates

Elizabeth Grosz defines this process as spatial excess, a new dimension which is able to go beyond preconceptions, prejudices and worries about utility, “beyond the relevance for the present, looking towards the future.” The revelation and discovery of this excess depends on the possibility for transgression.

Excess is in the “problematic”, which is full of potential.

The clandestine, the unacknowledged, the unofficial find their survival – beyond crime – in the transgression of social norms and limits. Those same limits which have excluded them in the first place. The recycle trash, appropriate spaces, invent communication channels, create styles, fashions and trends. They don’t cross borders: they move on them. Moving, they innovate.

Movement

De Certeau, Lefebvre, Maturana, Bateson, Bhabha and other show how this system is a cybernetic system of the second order.

Citizens continuously re-program their space, appropriating, hybridising, creating relations, reactions and transformation in the system.

Systematic transgression creates innovation.

Using a term from Massimo Canevacci Ribeiro: it is the methodological undiscipline.

The conflict as represented in the spectacle (by all participants, conflictual ones included) is not the one which innovates: the one with violence, molotov bottles, batons.

It is rather the polyphonic and undisciplined stride of myriads of uncoordinated individualities, actuating their own style of spatial re-appropriation (both physical and digital), continuously creating conflict, transgression and movement along and across boundaries and interstices.

The industrial complex has already reacted to this scenario, trying to resolve Enzensberger’s paradox intervening on languages and imagination, by encoding the roles of troublemakers.

For example, it is interesting to note the Italian case of Telecom Italia, whose ascent in the arena of digital cultures began with digital arts. With Venice’s Future Centre and initiatives such as RomaEuropa Web Factory, they opened up the way to the encoding of digital troublemaking, establishing de facto the rise of the new class of creative blue collars.

(In fact, one of our first interventions in this sense was through the RomaEuropa FakeFactory collective performance.)

Of course, this type of path is present across the whole world: cultural institutes, “factories” for digital arts, workshops for creativity flourish everywhere. Linguistic metaphors are in plain view. Spaces and events are created (co-working spaces, incubators, hackathons). Creatives are co-opted (makers and hackers). They are transformed in precarious research labs (startups, incubators, fablabs). Value and scalability/replicability are created (acceleration). The few good ideas are taken and sold (exits), generating profit.

This model, which is potentially virtuous, has a number of disadvantages, most of them at the level of the social and political discussion.

On the one hand it quickly comes back to the paradox of the creative industry: by encoding, conflict and transgression are integrated and, this, unable to innovate.

On the other hand, it creates precariety, by dumping business risks.

The initial funding of about 20 thousand euros (or similar amounts) for a startup are much inferior of the risk of hiring a single researcher. Large operators place the calls for proposals; they receive proposals from groups of precarious workers, offering their idea; the accurately select the most feasible ones, and the ones which are more in line with their business strategies (in direct and indirect ways); they give out the small capital; the incubate, instructing teams on reference imaginaries and work methodology; if something goes wrong, they spend much less that what they would have spent for a single employee, but having extracted from this cost a whole team, working day and night, without contributions, social security, holiday leaves, benefits, overtime, unions, and so on; if everything goes as expected they perform exits of which they will have a share, which will be higher than what they would have earned through other industrial or financial investments.

On top of that, by doing this they become able to promote the social imagination formats which are useful for the cultural infiltration of their business: innovation becomes the chase for a single form of future, instead of opening up to the opportunity of a plurality of possible futures. They typically promote optic fiber, sensors, robots and all of the other products, services and approaches of the industry financing the initiative.

Furthermore, this model promotes large differences and inequality in the distribution of wealth: the imaginary heroic startupper; the culture of failure; the “billion dollar startup”. They look like a lottery, more that resembling a model for fair distribution of wealth.

Technology’s role, in all of this, is banalised, reducing the complexity of the perception of how it could be possible to find solutions to the planet’s major problems.

Technology becomes a fetish which can be a per se guarantee for solution for energetic, environmental and social problems. It becomes perceived how small groups of people, by coming together for 24 hours of hackathon, can produce an App or a website to confront with large issues which are political, social and cultural, not certainly technical.

This obviously is reductionist and simplistic.

In times of crisis, this potentially becomes an apocalyptic scenario. When education, institutional initiatives, arts and cultural expense become flooded with these types of initiatives – with the “hour of coding” becoming more important than philosophy, just to mention one –, it becomes immediately clear who holds the strings of this process, supporting their own strategies.

And, going, back to the initial question: how can preserve the possibility for conflict and transgression, to maintain all of their positive effects on the world, starting from the possibility for critical visions, and the consequent possibilistic opening to the perception of a multiplicity of futures and imaginaries?

To look for a possible answer, it can be useful to adopt the metaphor of the garden.
In his Moving Garden, Gilles Clément explores the possibility for a new type of garden, emergent, mobile and in perennial mutation, which lives in friches, the abandoned, uncultivated lands, those which history denounces as the loss of power of man over nature.

“What if we lay a different gaze on them? Could they not be the new blank pages which we need?”

On the one hand, historically, form – controlled form – was considered powerful in protecting us from the diabolical residues of the unknown.

On the other hand “friches have nothing to do with dying and decay. In their beds species abandon themselves to invention. Walking in friches is a continuous process of self-interrogation. […] Could this great power of reclaiming and conquering space not be placed at the service of the garden? and of which garden?”

The Third Landscape is a moving challenge, with mutating borders and boundaries, in a state of perennial conversation. It is the weeds which grow in-between bricks and train tracks. It is the natural space of our cities which has not yet been encoded.

In our cities, the largest part of biodiversity is found in the Third Landscape. It is an interconnective tissue, composed by residual spaces, which resist government and form. In this, it is transgressive. It is a multiplication of narratives. It is not a property, but a possibilistic space for the future.

If John Barrell spoke about the “dark side of landscape”, alluding at its controlled forms as imposition of the point of view of a single social class, Clément speaks about a “light side”: the Third Landscape is not an exclusive model, but an inclusive one; it is a “shared fragment of a collective conscience.” It is a mutating transgression, which operates in emergent ways through multiple points of view and intentionalities. It is a syncretic map which evolves together to the mutations of the residential, industrial and commercial areas of the city.

It is the geography of the mutation of the city.

Clément openly speaks about the need to educate a new type of gaze, to be able to understand the importance and valence of the Third Landscape: a new possibility for vision and for knowledge dissemination in natural urban environments.

In synthesis: the need for new aesthetics, new sensibilities

This is a potentially revolutionary point of view, opening up to the possibility to perceive emergence, conflict, transgression, and to transform it into a form of shared knowledge,

The same type of discourse can be made, for example, starting from Marco Casagrande‘s considerations on ruins, intended as the progressive reunion of objects and architectures to nature.

If, on the one hand, ruins represent a loss of power from human beings to nature, on the other hand, according to different aesthetics, they represent the life of the city, demonstrating its usages and non-usages: the action (and non-action) of human beings leads buildings into a different state, transforming them into ruins and, thus, producing the evidence of their and nature’s history.

Ruins, to all effect, constitute a shared, extremely usable and accessible source of knowledge and information.

According to Casagrande, the Third Generation City is the ruin of the industrial city, and becomes real when it recognizes its own local knowledge, becoming part of nature.

It is possible to search for solutions in these types of metaphors. How?

A new aesthetic system is needed, a new sensibility, which allows to recognize the value (and, thus, to directly support) of the continuous stratification, in our cities (and, in general, in the environment) of the unconscious, of the transgressive, of the conflict, of the different, to attribute value to it, as a new construction material which is able to innovate and to preserve history and knowledge, and to transform spaces and processes.

From Bhabha’s and Soja’s Third Space, to Clément’s Third Landscape, to Casagrande’s Third Generation City, to Pistoletto’s Third Paradise, to our Third Infoscape, alluding at its informational manifestations.

A new aesthetics, a new sensibility, a new imagination, corresponding to the possibility for institutions with a new form: ecosystemic; not only responsible for strategies, but also for the possibility for the emergence of tactics, transgressions and conflicts.

Not only “normative actuators and certifiers”, but also – and most of all – direct and responsible supporters of the environment in which transgression and conflict may take place, as a form of emergent, shared knowledge.

Going back to Clément;s metaphor, together with the imagination for a new type of garden, we need a new conception of gardner:

“it is hard to imagine which aspect these gardens will assume, in which existence is expected to assume no form. From my point of view, gardens of this kind should not be judged on account of their form, but, rather, on the basis of their capacity to generate and translate a certain joy of existence.”