Weeknotes 128; epistemic coup and other systemic changes

I don’t think I gonna say anything about GameStop here. Or do I need to try to look at it from a more human-tech-relation? The wandering and getting lost, or the new ‘weapons’ we have to break institutions. It might segway to the interesting essay of Shoshana Zuboff on epistemic coup; I really like here analyses on the stages of the coup and the recognition of the current state of epistemic chaos. It is a much better wording of my couple of sentences on the algorithmic system failure I noted last week. There is a tendency with thinkers to see the dismantling of capitalism as a society and economic structural thing, set apart from political colors. Benedict Evans is writing about the great unbundling in his yearly core presentation. They are kind of the same drivers.

To bring it home to last week, I was happy to be part of the Midterm Review Panel of Master Digital Design of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. It started 4 years ago to create a school for stunning designs; it soon developed into a place to educate critical designers. And this is also the route for the whole of the creative faculty, seconded by the professors of practice Kate Raworth and Marleen Stikker, who both are known for rethinking the (digital & economic) system. The master has done a good job the last 4 years and is promising to get even better with Gabriele Ferri’s plans, the new head of the program.

For me, it is highly relevant. It is one of the guiding principles to look at the Cities of Things research; what is happening on a structural level, what does the city look like? How will we design governance if we are not living exclusively as humans in the city? I might forget to share the presentation of Elisa Giaccardi last week where she has the very true observation: “Agency should be foundational to our understanding and crafting of autonomous technologies as was once was the notion of function to our understanding of tools.“

Let me quickly mention two project-websites of the student teams (WePredikt and WeConnect) that have been working on Things That Predict last semester at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. They did both a great job translating the rather abstract assignment into interesting design explorations; for a mental health coach, a sleep coach can.

Before diving into the news, let me congratulate Thijs Turel on opening the AMS Responsible Sensing Lab. I participated in Marcel and Kars’ nice workshop to introduce some aspects of transparency when designing Citizen Interactions for Urban Sensing Systems. Time was too short to dive into depth, but it was good to see the current projects.

I also listened to the lecture and discussion on the State of the Internet on Inclusive AI. Or, in other words: do you agree that the best way to reach equality is to respect differences? You can rewatch it here (in Dutch). And finally, I attended part of the minor Interactive Environments presentations with some nice explorations on how to make social distancing into a social experience. Check the 5 projects here.

On to some interesting ‘articles’ of last week.

On robotic relations

Robot that looks like a bin bag can understand what a hug is 
I like this kind of experiment. I still think that it is not the same as human touch and that is better. It can contribute to a way to connect to the robot.“Translucent robots with cameras inside can detect human touch and differentiate between prods, strokes or hugs, which can help us communicate with them non-verbally”
That cute robot cop can instantly work out who you are 
We have seen a lot of useful and friendly robots popping up lately. Time for a nasty one, or at least one with nasty potential.“They look so friendly, as they roll along your shopping mall. Some, though, are concerned about what robot cops are really up to.”
take a look at what a virgin hyperloop journey might look like in 2030
It makes sense how these logistics are designed. Virgin is sketching their view on the hyperloop journey, from arriving at the portal to boarding the pod.

And the big picture

The Great Unbundling — Benedict Evans
The yearly presentation of Benedict Evans is in line with other thinkers to move away from technocentric bundling strategies. Slow down and unbundle!
The Coup We Are Not Talking About
“We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we cannot have both.” a great opinion piece by Shoshana Zuboff on the four stages of the epistemic coup and the three ways out.
Future Schlock — Real Life
“Utopia can be found in the rejection of the utopian dreams of tech companies”
Utopian dreams are often driven by economics rather than societal improvements. It should be possible to bring in different drivers.
Rituals for kings, stem cells, and Zoom calls (Interconnected)
Some nice thoughts on us list in translation between the actual and the virtual: “The same oblong button can save a document or commit to swinging into action a factory in China, and that’s the power and also the flatness of computing. Perhaps part of the weirdness of virtual life and virtual work is this flatness, an almost imperceptible distance from concrete reality, a vague but continuous discombobulation, felt below the surface for nine months now.”
Virtual x Concrete = Actual

And what to expect for the coming week

Not many events on the calendar. I might join the AiTech Agora session on Hybrid Intelligence for high-quality large-scale deliberation.

I might also check this session organized by MAB20 (Media Architecture Biennale) Wednesday evening on Designing Restorative Environments: Moving Beyond COVID-19 with ao Usman Haque.

And I will check out Clubhouse, the new hype, for instance with the NWSH Clubhouse of David Mattin and Monique van Dusseldorp. And I am curious how many will join the Clubhouse chat with Elon Musk in half an hour… Let you know next week!

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I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.

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