Weeknotes 176; dive in urban design

Welcome back. In this weekly update again an overview of articles I think are interesting reads. Potentially. And some looking back and ahead to events and other happenings. Closing with a paper.

Updates from last week

Last week I was happy to meet with a lot of partners in the MUC AMS project and tune the expectations and plans. We aim for a session in March in Amsterdam and May in Munich, if all is going well of course. Drop me a line if you are not on the mailing lists but like to be involved in the field lab activities in any form. Or just are curious.

I had some other meetings learning about interesting initiatives and was interviewed on the future of urban mobility for a local newspaper.

The session on Web3 by Sensemakers was very nice. It also confirmed the notion that web3 is still being shaped and is leaning heavenly on the financial side of being ‘owner’. A different type of ownership mixing stake and co-shaping is still something to explore. I took the moment to secure iskandr.eth and discover again the high amounts of gas fee you still need for every mutation on web3.

In the sessions on cooperations versus collectives building the city on Monday some of these topics were well addressed too. And some of the problems that emerged as we only see citizens as clients, even by municipalities.

Plans for this week

Not too many events happening this week, at least not on my calendar. London IoT is online again this evening (Tuesday). I will try to check out the winter webinar on bike-sharing. If you are into LoraWAN tech TTN organizes a small event this Friday.

Apply for the Low Carbon Institute summer virtual residency if you are into this topic and have time for a deep dive. I did visit some sessions and saw some of the outcomes that were very nice.

Check out the new book of James Bridle. Ways of Being, beyond human intelligence. Not yet there, but great to look forward to.

News of last week

Deep dive on design for urban technology, more web3 critique and robot galore of the week…

What Does it Mean to Design Urban Technology? 
INFRASTRUCTURE – “A new degree program in Urban Technology at University of Michigan combines urbanism, technology, and design. But what does design mean in this context?”Interesting piece around the lines of framing and value-centered design.
Abuse and harassment on the blockchain
CRYPTO – “In order to responsibly develop new technologies, it is critical to ask “how will this be used for evil?””Looking at abuse and harassment based on blockchain anonymity, good to be aware of that. And not only aware, design to prevent.
Station Identification
ROBOTICS – “When trying to understand the interactions of non-human organisms, it is easy to flip between these two perspectives: that of the inanimate behavior of pre-programmed robots on the one hand, and that of rich, lived, human experience on the other.”I have some books on my shelf now to dive into the Funghi inspiration….
Web3 and Lexit // Cennydd Bowles
INFRASTRUCTURE – More critical notes with web3 by the always clever Bowles; ‘I’m into web3 because together we can topple the hegemony of Big Tech’ and ‘I’m into web3 because I can make shit-tons of untraceable, untaxable profit’ are going to come into direct conflict, and my money’s on the latter winning out because money usually does.
Web3: A Map in Search of Territory
CRYPTO – More critical notes on Web3, now by well-known tech critic Morozov. “Web3 is self-referential in the extreme. The value of the tokens is expected to grow as everything is to become more liquid and interconnected: tokens from one DAO will be valuable in another; more activities will be fractionalized; more institutions will turn into DAOs; more objects into NFTs…”
Introducing Opera’s new Web3 initiative: Crypto Browser Project 
CRYPTO – We’ve seen it before: Opera trying to leap forward with their browser functionality. See if this holds: “The beta version of the Opera Crypto Browser Project is a dedicated Web3 browser for Android, Windows and Mac to shape the next generation of the Web.”
I went to a ‘rave’ in the ‘metaverse.’ It felt like I was playing a game without anything to do.
INFRASTRUCTURE – Hell of a clickbaity heading… “Rather than accessing it as a standalone game, “Decentraland” is a browser-based virtual world. Instead of a shared virtual space, it’s instanced into individual worlds owned and operated by users that go for thousands of dollars.“
Designing the Future of Food
SYSTEMS – Are algae future food? Is it automated food production heaven or are there some caveats still?
An exploratory study on integrated logistics and mobility hubs
HUBS – “A thesis by TU Delft student Israe Chetouani investigates the knowledge gap by investigating whether and under what conditions logistics functions can be added to mobility hubs.”
Former SpaceX engineers to turn freight trains into autonomous EVs
INFRASTRUCTURE – “The future of freight is rail”. The nice part here is the atomizing of container transport that is in line with the atomizing character of containers as a concept. “Three former SpaceX engineers have launched a startup to replace traditional freight trains with autonomous, battery-powered railcars.”
‘cocobo’ robot uses AI to ensure peace and security in public spaces of japan
ROBOTICS – Do you feel safer? “security company SECOM introduces ‘cocobo’, a robot designed to ensure peace and safety in the public spaces of japan.”
From smart goggles to electric jumpsuits: How athletes are pushing boundaries with the help of wearable tech
HUMAN TECH – “Smart Swim Goggles and the Catapult One system are among the wearable technologies helping athletes go the extra mile.”Boosted humanity, tech as a partner for co-performance.
TrainerRoad Adaptive Training Review: The Future of Faster
HUMANOID – Once in a while you are surprised that something is not invented and productized before.. “a system that creates goal-based training plans that are updated daily using machine intelligence software that responds to the rider’s unique strengths, weaknesses, and scheduling constraints.”
Designing multiplayer apps with patterns from architecture 
INFRASTRUCTURE – nice thought trains again. What can we learn from architectural design patterns for multiplayer digital environments?
Now You Can Rent a Robot Worker—for Less Than Paying a Human
ROBOTICS – Is the Mechanical Turk concept finally becoming reality. Not as a concept but for real; “Automation is reaching more companies, imperiling some jobs and changing the nature of others.”
are you curious about what a car-free berlin would look like?
CITIES – This looks like a cool way of co-design… “an initiative from 50,000 Berliners envisions berlin as a car-free city, where cyclists, pedestrians and children will take over the streets.”
Autopilot Crash Results In Felony Charges for Tesla Driver, a First for Driver-Assistance Tech
AUTONOMOUS – “The driver was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter after two people were killed by the Tesla when Autopilot was engaged.”The report is giving the impression this is special, but I was under the impression that with level 2 autonomous driving the driver always remains responsible…
Tesla Has ‘Assertive’ Self-Driving Mode
AUTONOMOUS – Mimicking human behavior with autonomous cars will lead us nowhere. Do we need to find a different type of car or is there more to say? “The awful truth is that, if we are going to get anywhere close to those targets, we can’t be chasing autonomous cars or electric cars, but we have to promote alternatives to cars.”
Google is building an AR headset
INFRASTRUCTURE – Let’s hope it will make Glass forget. “Project Iris marks a return to a hardware category that Google has a long and checkered history in”Project Iris is an AR glasses, a family of ultra-high-resolution video chat booths.
Nation’s 1st skiing robot aces tests
ROBOTICS – Is this the solution if there is a covid-outbreak during the winter games?“A six-limbed skiing robot attained a speed of more than 36 kilometers per hour over 400 meters on an 18-degree snow track in recently completed tests in Shenyang, Liaoning province.”
seattle NFT museum opens its doors to blockchain enthusiasts
CRYPTO – Sure. “Seattle NFT museum — and the world’s first — opened its doors to the public inviting NFT enthusiasts to immerse into a digital world.”If you see a museum experience as taking part in the curated world of the museum, this makes a lot of sense.I think I will make a playlist with NFT classics on my electric objects screen..
Twitter’s New NFT Feature is an Annoying Show-off of Crypto Wealth
CRYPTO – Better said here. Good for the Opensea platform. 

Paper of the week

Kars Alfrink is doing an interesting PhD research into the topic of contestable AI. Last week he updated his bibliography with key publications on his project website.

These are works we have used in our research. In particular these all capture actionable elements that contribute to the contestability of AI systems, either on the level of system features, or development practices.”

Looking at the list I saw a paper of Kate Crawford

Crawford, K. (2016). Can an algorithm be agonistic? Ten scenes from life in calculated publics. 

Science, Technology, & Human Values41(1), 77-92.“This paper explores how political theory may help us map algorithmic logics against different visions of the political. Drawing on Chantal Mouffe’s theories of agonistic pluralism, this paper depicts algorithms in public life in ten distinct scenes, in order to ask the question, what kinds of politics do they instantiate?”

A super interesting topic, but let me point you to another publication she did with Vladan Joler: Anatomy of AI. It has a bit different format than a normal paper but I remembered that it is a very well composed and visualized overview of AI systems based on the deconstruction of an Amazon Echo

Crawford, K., & Joler, V. (2018). Anatomy of an AI System. 

Retrieved September18, 2018.“At this moment in the 21st century, we see a new form of extractivism that is well underway: one that reaches into the furthest corners of the biosphere and the deepest layers of human cognitive and affective being. Many of the assumptions about human life made by machine learning systems are narrow, normative and laden with error. Yet they are inscribing and building those assumptions into a new world, and will increasingly play a role in how opportunities, wealth, and knowledge are distributed.”

See you 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.