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Notes for a lighthouse artistic director

A good few years back I was asked by a friend to chat about ideas to help launch the Brighton Photo Biennial, something including mobile phones and the city. I had a few chats with the people involved but my slightly strange vision of turning the city skyline of Brighton into something more like Akira’s Neo-Tokyo didn’t really work.

Within Brighton though is a beacon of creativity, and what the creative response means to a community, multiple communities, how they can intersect and share as well as have their own identities. The Lighthouse is a creative cultural institution and for years now it has been promoting, supporting and commissioning challenging, creative, cultural work on the current state of the world.

The most current artistic Director, Juha van’t Zelfde is about to move on, so an opportunity now exists for someone new to take the artistic direction of this institution into a new age.

Right now, in the world as it is now, I want to imagine how an institution could start to evolve itself to support the critical art and communcations landscape of the urban environmnet, to be a beacon of hope to so many people, not just in this country but across the channel into europe and beyond, not as an imposer but as a cultural learner and reflector, a new institution to help weave the new needs for interlectual and critical thinking back into the fabric of our modern lives. To use the urban fabric of a city in ways that have not before, to enhance the safety of the communities and their ability to talk and share with each other, to discuss, argue and agree, to

This isn’t an artistic manifesto for such a new director to do, its my grab bag of ideas that might just stimulate better ones in shaping what this institution can and will mean to so many people.

Progaganda & News

Right now, the culture of trust around news is broken, the words fake news bandied about and basic fact checking ignored. Even the concept of a fact appears to have been brought into question. We live in both a world of Newspeak from 1984 but also the numbing entertainment pacification industry of Brave New World. Language is quickly subverted and broken. Propaganda, advertising even art brought into play to create the spaces of obviously broken ‘knowledge’ yet no matter how much the hollowness of the representation of reality is questioned it continues to be accepted.

In the UK, the press is more right wing, reactionary and delivering the agenedas of rich owners that almost any other western country.

Can this be changed?

Can a ciy, which is possibly the new political power block reject these agendas and create new spaces of information, discourse and communication?

Juha’s work at Lighthouse has started to look at propaganda in its new forms, the next step is to take the counter actions into the streets and pave the city with a new way of understanding and reading the news.

In some of the ways I have started to talk about with new news labs, to make the processes of journalism more transparent, to present stories alongside analysis, to show ownership and influence and interests and for a city to shun the wrong and the bigoted. Liverpool still shuns the Sun because of the way that paper treated the Liverpool fans over Hillsborough, yet that paper across the rest of the country pedals its lies, as do many others. Can critical spaces be created that do not welcome these papers?

In 2004, Dan Gillmor said ‘We, The Media’ yet if we look at ourselves should we be proud or ashamed of that media. Can we develop new norms?

Lighthouse is well placed, its network is across all media, across all kinds of creative practice. In theory if someone walked in that door with an idea, Lighthouse and the amazing team that works there could connect the relevant people to make it happen. This is such a valuable community resource, a route for enabling and amplifying the voices of those who are being ignored and sidelined.

Lighthouse does a lot of community and charity work and hopefully the new Artistic Director will support and enhance this, creating new oppotunities to involve these communities and to open access to the worlds of media and cultural industry which might previoulsy have been closed to many.

Could they support the likes of Arts Emergency, Anti-University and others in opening up access and support networks to those that want to study liberal arts, creative work. Can the work they do already in supporting Maker communities further push the reach of these spaces and activities into different classes, for example how to include the elderly or even support the work of Design Against Crime in developing the concept of creative and design teaching in prisons.

I am looking forwards to what happens with this beacon by the coast, i’m putting a lot of hopes into it.

a public news lab

A proposal

Embed the new news room within a local community. Use design to create an inviting space to allow people to experience and participate in the discovery and production of news.

The proposal is to develop a physical space, open to all that is focused on news.

A number of props and tools can be developed and deployed in the space including:

The Issues Board

A space for people to add their issues and concerns

News Clippings

Encourage visitors to select their story of interest, add their thoughts

News Tree

Who owns / makes the news, visualisations to show how the news industry works, locally and nationally.

 

In many ways similar to the GlassRoom in NYC recently, a space to explore data and privacy, The News Room should be about what news is, what data is, what are facts , what is journalism and storytelling. It can be quite broad, images to words.

A physical space can host events, including:

Hacks/Hackers – A regular meetup.

A 1000 Words – invite people to talk about a single image and what it means, to them, to the world.

 

The (in)securities of everyday life.

I am revisiting a question I was asking myself a while back, what do some words mean to people. Words that feature heavily in the current narrative of our world.

  • Privacy
  • Security
  • Power
  • Protection
  • Intimacy
  • Trust
  • Community
  • Privilege

If nothing else just the fact that the English / Western language dominates the conversation in IT and the west (with Privacy Policies and the like). So I want to ask you what does one of these words actually mean to you.

You can fill in a form here: https://geocontrol.typeform.com/to/XDow8q

You just describe one word per submission, you don’t have to do each word, you can do it as often as you like, you don’t need to leave a name and email, just tell me what that word means to you.

I hope to create a small body of work, using photography, from this initial question, so if you do leave an email I may be in touch to discuss that, but otherwise your name and contact details will not be used for anything else.

Please let me know what these words mean to you and ask others to do the same.

A small research project proposal

In the current climate, it is quite reasonable for someone to decide that they need to secure their digital environment. In fact there are plenty of good reasons for doing this anyway and there are many occupations where such thinking about security should be part of the job. What I want to pose is the idea that someone, anyone decides that they want to do this.

Now I want to set some constraints, they are not overly technically savvy. They do not live in the computer science world. They know how to use a computer and more specifically have been exposed to systems and tools such as Tor and Qubes.

But given this if they had to go and buy equipment from the highstreet, what would they pick? How can they evaluate what they need to do to protect themselves online? Do they need Qubes or is it best for them to know secure practice on Windows and if they did need something like Qubes how do they evaluate hardware in the shops against the hardware support list as published on the qubes website.

As a project this would cover a wide range of disciplines, from understanding the technical abilities and compatibilities (and possible risks) from off the shelf, domestic hardware through to technical and social guidance on how to secure your digital life.

Co-Op Kit

What is the minimal technology set that could be made available online to allow you to create a Co-op based service?

That is the basic question that I think I am trying to ask right now and most of it is probably out there just not collected together. So how can it be brought together?

Lets say, ok, lets say I want to create a co-op uber type service. Taxi service for an area, a community of location. What would you need to design such a service, what are the core technical enablers to quickly get from paper to service.

I know that there are uber style co-ops out there already and lots of pondering on what an co-op uber would look like. Part of the question is, is it a federation of local ubercoops or a larger entity that works locally? Uber is mostly what it is because it got investment (which expects a healthy return on that investment) to quickly get running in lots of places, scale. It has to channel the money back into the central point to return on that investment. An Uber co-op, well money would stay within the community.

(In fact from a quick search this post http://helloideas.com/ideas/what-might-coop-uber-look-or-should-we-be-thinking-bigger discusses this in some interesting detail).

I’m just wondering where in the tech bits we can grab some common infrastructure, then build the unique bits of a service and roll it out, to the benefit of all, maybe by community, it would allow it to get to the scale it needs to be.

Peer Economy Research Proposal

[For many reasons I can’t go into my current affiliation would not be able to help me get this proposal in and fully signed off for the FuseLabs current call.

So I thought I would post it here, its still a draft as I can’t submit it but think that its an interesting problem that could do with investigation.

If you know of any links or work that should be looked at regarding this (either bits already done, or work that could relate) then please leave a comment.

I’ll try and do the work as and when I can, or when some funding for time can be found. If anyone else can do it then please let me know what you find out:]

Proposal for FuseLabs Research 2015 Peer Economy Research Awards

The language of the Peer Economy is one of sharing, sustainability and resilience. It is targetted at users who believe in a community, yet one who sees all items as a commodity.

Whereas before we would have looked at an object and when it was not in use it would remain in a number of possible states:

  1. Ornamental
  2. Functional – Potential
  3. Functional – Dormant

Many of the platforms that are now described as part of the Peer or Sharing economy try to make use of these objects so that they remain in these other states for less time.

In the process many of these platforms assign a value to these objects, so that there can be some kind of transaction in return for the use of the object.

This project aims to prepare a number of mappings of this economy, to examine the physicality of the organisations, users and objects across the globe and understand the boundaries of the communities of presence for the objects.

It also aims to map the flows within the platforms, of the data and interactions as well as the financial flows. Where does capital, the value designated within the objects end up?

Finally we look at the language used in description of the platform, particiaption (e.g. terms of service, policies and sign-up forms).

This is then presneted as an atlas of the Peer Economy, where necessary noting the potential mappings into the exitsing capitalism markets, where the perception of sharing and peer may differ from other uses.

 

Asset Mapping – a small experiment

Asset mapping is a thing. Creating catalogues of the assets that are a part of a community is a vital and useful thing. From the creation of this knowledge of what is out there, methods of sharing and supporting can be implemented.

Community Asset Mapping as an approach to development was developed by John Kretzmann and John McKnight, the assets do not really have a spatial quality, the mapping is more a cataloging and classifying.

There are a number of platforms and services that are designed around doing this mapping or cataloging but as an experiment I was thinking it might be useful to try something new.

If we use the hashtag #assetmapgazeteer and tweet an asset from your community. Name (URL? not every asset will have one of these),  a postcode/zipcode/location identifier and country identifier (e.g. UK, US, FR, IR, etc.)

As we get a set of example tweets, we will look at different ways of gathering, sharing and linking the data.  Maybe trying to link people who talk about the same or similar assets, yes create a general spatial map but also lets see if we can create more conceptual maps of these assets, identify the gaps.

 

an echo study group

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society has posted a call for participants in a study group on Catastrophic Risk: Technologies and Policy.

From the webpage:

Technology empowers, for both good and bad. A broad history of “attack” technologies shows trends of empowerment, as individuals wield ever more destructive power. The natural endgame is a nuclear bomb in everybody’s back pocket, or a bio-printer that can drop a species. And then what? Is society even possible when the most extreme individual can kill everyone else? Is totalitarian control the only way to prevent human devastation, or are there other possibilities? And how realistic are these scenarios, anyway? In this class, we’ll discuss technologies like cyber, bio, nanotech, artificial intelligence, and autonomous drones; security technologies and policies for catastrophic risk; and more. Is the reason we’ve never met any extraterrestrials that natural selection dictates that any species achieving a sufficiently advanced technology level inevitably exterminates itself?

The group will be convened by Bruce Schneier and is open to students and non-students. They are aiming for a particiaption group of around 16-20 people. If you are interested and in the Harvard area, then the page has details on how to register your interest in participation.

I am not in the area sadly, but very interested in the topic and what outcomes and possible future projects and papers may come from such a study group so I have proposed to host a parallel group in London.

We will aim to hold meetings around the same time, or at least the same day, so that when we have finished, some of our notes, thoughts and outcomes will be available online for the US group to look at.

I expect that we will have a different approach and our participants will be from different groups. I am currently a research fellow at Central Saint Martins school of Art and Design, working in the Design Against Crime research unit. My critical approach to this will bring different inputs than say someone from UCL or Imperial (who hopefully would also take part).

As with the Harvard group, this will be open to students, academics and non-students / academics.

If you are interested in taking part, then email me mark@geekyoto.com with some details on your background and why you would like to take part by August 20th, 2015.

The dates for the US study group are:

  • 14 September
  • 28 September
  • 5 October
  • 19 October
  • 2 November
  • 16 November

In the evening, (5pm – 7pm). We will be aiming to stay close to these dates as well, though actual date, times and venue are to be confirmed. It will be held in central London.

a new artwork

*in progress*

I have had this model of a drone for a while now, an Italeri 1/72 RQ-1 Predator.

The final aim has been to mount it like the victorian collectors of insects, and start to present the machinic Phylum in this victorian, museum style.

I have finally put it into a frame.

 

From the collection. #themachinicphylum

A photo posted by @geocontrol on

and I expect to hang it on my wall shortly, i doubt it will be in a gallery near you anytime soon though.