Another Apple Maps Fail

This time it’s all rather serious. If you’re trying to find the town of Mildura in northwestern Victoria, Australia, you might have some problems. Apple’s iOS 6 marks it a whole 70km away from its actual location. The warning was put out by the state police, here. I always like seeing the comments on news sites when these stories come up though. Here’s a selection from The Guardian:

Don’t worry, the other Very Good features make up for it. Like the 3D view, or the ability to control the GPS with Siri. For example:

“Where the fuck are we, Siri?”
“That abandoned coal mine doesn’t look like a Starbucks, Siri”
“Communicate our whereabouts to the nearest search and rescue chopper, Siri”


Not sure Siri would be able to help much!

Oh for **** sake – why are people stupidly relying on technology that needs batteries, is prone to error and damage. Get a map, you know the paper versions with contours etc


And a great response to the above, here:

@ agir: you mean use paper maps made using the same processes and techniques as electronic maps?
Oh for **** sake – why are people stupidly relying on paper maps that disintegrate in the rain and are difficult to read in high winds, are prone to error and damage. Get a phone, you know the electronic versions with contours etc

both have advantages and disadvantages…

I love it when people assume the paper map doesn’t have faults of its own. Although admittedly, it is rather hot in Australia this time of year so I doubt high winds and downpours are going to cause a problem.

Hackers and anthropology

On Wired today. Great part of the conversation here:

Wired: Did you get grief for not travelling to somewhere exotic?

[Gabriella] Coleman: Yes. All the time. They just kind of laughed at it. They were like, ‘You’re so lucky. You get to be in San Francisco going to cafes and hanging out with hackers. I had to really sweat it out and be in the jungle. It was really difficult.’

Nice connection between the classic anthropology of ‘the jungle’ and Coleman’s work in what counts as her ‘jungle’.

Gamification of Protest

Yesterday I intended to follow up my first post on ‘march dynamics’ with a second on the ‘gamification of protest’. I ended up reading the whole of the fantastic Endres and Senda-Cook (2011) paper, posting a short comment on it, and failing to even consider my second theme of protest and play! Anyway I shall say a few words now.

Following on from Wednesday’s somewhat bodged NUS march, Samuel Carlisle of the protest application Sukey posted a few interesting discussions over on his soundcloud page, here. The first of interest was entitled ‘Gamifying Volunteer Participation’ where Sam talks of auto-assigning roles to online volunteers. This basically means that anyone who’s willing to help out but isn’t at the live demo, can assist in completing lots of little tasks (meta-tagging photos, adding users to the ‘whitelist’, finding trolls to add to the blacklist, mapping facilities etc.) in a service called freenode, an open-source network that helps Sukey distribute these kinds of jobs to eager volunteers. Now, the only problem Sam found with this distributed tasking is that people aren’t always proactive in getting started on a job, whilst nonetheless wanting to help in some way because they feel like they have a particular skill, or specific experience of doing a certain job. So, says Sam, how do you get these people involved? This is where the gamification element comes in, because if people get rewarded for their work they tend to want to continue doing that work, so with the assigning of particular roles (‘tagger’, ‘whitelister’, blacklister’, ‘mapper’ etc.) each group have clearly defined divisions (tag division, whitelist division etc.). This ‘gamification’ dynamic can help in engaging far more people in the application’s workflow, and ultimately, in increasing the efficacy of the Sukey project.

The second clip; ‘Dynamic Random Role Assignment’ discussed bringing this kind of gamified interaction out onto the ground, so that protesters during a demo could, perhaps, be given a specific task to do based on their geographical location. So they mention what Sam calls ‘pseudo-leadership’, although I really want to call it ‘fleadership’ (fleeting-leadership!), where protesters are given a specific, momentary command (‘start chant’, ‘speed up crowd’, ‘direct to X’ etc.). It’s a kind of distributed leadership role that allows protesters to sink back into anonymity once their job is complete (back into ‘civilian mode’ as Sam points out); only to pick it up again should they be called into action. Moreover it allows people who maybe don’t even know each other to coalesce around a set of shared objectives (i.e. on the Sukey platform). Of course, this is presuming the crowd’s a) big enough and b) willing enough to recycle roles. But they’re interesting tactical points nonetheless.

The final discussion, ‘The Art of Gamification for Protest’ follows on from the nascent gamification concepts Sam talks about in clip 1 and 2. It tries to make sense of these gamified elements and suggests splitting online roles into predefined temporal tasks, so that those with a particularly long block of continuous time (a weekend) can do a specific job, whereas those with interstitial but consistent blocks (weeknights, lunch breaks) are assigned others. In other words: “little missions that fit their schedules”. The importance though still lies on it being a ‘fun’ and playful practice, so its about giving users/protesters the choice to engage in certain tasks in order to then reward their involvement (and it not be conceived as a job in the purely work-as-forced-to sense). A way of heightening participation and increasing involvement, enjoyment and togetherness leading up to, and during a protest.

Also: The picture above is taken from Sukey’s Survival Guide for protesters, which is on flickr here and on the Sukey website, here. If you click the image you can also download it as a PDF directly.

An introduction to futures

I’m having a read through Alexander Galloway’s pamphlet series ‘French Theory Today‘ (2010), that resulted from a set of seminars in New York. The series explores a number of contemporary French theorists – Catherine Malabou, Bernard Stiegler, Mehdi Belhaj Kacem, Quentin Meillassoux, and François Laruelle – who are relatively new for English speakers. I’ll admit that this is the first time I’ve come across Malabou or Kacem, but Meillassoux and Laruelle I know. I like to think I’ve got Stiegler fairly well covered too. The second pamphlet has a piece entitled ‘Bernard Stiegler, or Our Thoughts Are With Control’ by Galloway.

There’s a nice introduction to the Stiegler dictionary: grammatization, pharmacological, psychopower, transindividual, organology in there at the start (and in a glossary at the end), and then a conversation that brings in Deleuze and Guattari and finally some questions from participants. One question and answer struck me as notable (18-19):

[Participant 6] For Stiegler, it seems that machines, computers, and text messaging, for instance, are part of the culture industry, and as such, they are primarily negative in that they mechanize the moment of human interaction and recognition. I’m wondering if these machines are directly responsible for the waning of desire and its transformation into drive as he describes it? Moreover, why doesn’t he recognize the possibility that these machines might have the potential to produce something different?

[Galloway] For Stiegler, the relationship between us and our devices, us and techne, typically rests in equilibrium. At any given moment in history, humans will settle into balance with the many technical devices arrayed around them—even simple technologies like fabric (clothing), tools, media, writing materials (pencil, paper), or writing itself. But at certain points in history, the introduction of new devices so disrupts the equilibrium that a new balance cannot be established fast enough. That’s the answer in short. It’s a way to move beyond the problem of saying that certain technologies are normatively good, while others are normatively bad; pencils are good, but cell phones are bad. Instead, it’s an historical relationship. One hundred years from now, cell phones might be perfectly sewn in to the phenomenological life world of the human in a way that is not unhealthy, but by then, a different, negative influence will probably have emerged.

I find the moralistic tone of Stiegler that Galloway enlightens the reader with a little unsettling, although he admits this is difficult to hear in some of his more notable books (presumably Galloway means the Technics series). The issue really revolves around the attention of technology, and whether such an example cultivates rather than destroys attention. But this, for Stiegler (as Galloway points out) is a historical question, one that eludes a transcendental definition. Cell phones for Stiegler aren’t meant to be unendingly ‘bad’, just at a specific moment in time. I’d like to do some more reading  so I could ascertain whether Stiegler believes we can shackle this process into doing what we want it to, say, in re-settling the equilibrium faster than previous technological disruptions. His work on industrial time and our submission to technical systems of space-time suggest we might have some difficulty in doing so, at least individually. Also, Galloway answers another question (20) on what he thinks Stiegler’s response to hackers and open-source programming would be (I do love this kind of question, I mean, the guy’s alive for god sake, I’m sure he’s intimated his view on such a thing!), to which he supposes he wouldn’t a priori think it’s a good or bad thing, but would depend on whether it produces a ‘new subject position’ attentive to care and attention.

Blade Runner

A magazine article by the BBC on the technologies of Blade Runner and Minority Report; 20 and 10 years old today. Available here. Sam Kinsley – a research fellow at DCRC – speaks on ‘anticipatory futures’ here too. Both talk of Spielberg’s use of ‘futurologists’ to integrate possible future technologies into the film.

Touching Space, Placing Touch

Mark Paterson’s edited title Touching Space, Placing Touch with Martin Dodge is to see print this August. Ashgate’s page on the book is here, and includes an eclectic mix of touch-based spatial narratives.

French geographer Anne Volvey’s chapter ‘Fieldwork: how to get in(to) touch’ and Hannah Macpherson’s ‘Guiding visually impaired walking groups’ are of particular interest, and all chapters engage with topics otherwise neglected, or dealt with through standard visual approaches (art, toilets and elephant captivity as themes!).

I’ve tried my best to track down Paterson’s The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and Technologies (2007), a fantastic historical analysis of touch. Chapter 5 entitled ‘Tangible Play, Prosthetic Performance’ sounds promising, and from reading some of Paterson’s other work in Human Geography journals, I’m convinced he’s got some approaches that might well tessellate with a Stieglerian approach. I also notice his PhD supervisor was Nigel Thrift, so there’s a definite link. His blog Senses of Touch is worth heading over too, with Haptic, Blindness and Technology the fulcrum of his research interest.