January 20, 15
Are ‘Smart Cities’ Smart Enough?
Stephane Roche, Nashid Nabian, Kristian Kloekl, and Carlo Ratti
Urban Computing and its Disconnects
Adam Greenfield and Mark Shepard
To what extent does an effect need to be unpredicted to be a response rather than reaction? How many alternative effects need to be possible? If an effect is one of many options to a condition is it a response?
As city populations grow there need be new systems to organize, house, and govern people. The significant expansion of peoples cannot necessarily be adequately responded to by the structures of existing government. The cultural individualization of peoples using portable personal computers can be compatible with acts of self-monitorization through self-sensing, however, the result of self-sensing can not necessarily be significant unless the results of a populations health conditions be pooled together with corresponding data for environmental conditions in order to find patterns for causes so that solutions can be more properly rooted. But how can people feel comfortable giving their bodily and locational data to a ruling party without feeling vulnerable? Can systems of collecting data be made transparent? If the city is run by data, societies will need to be educated in the matter as they are in other subjects. If a society is educated about environmental and bodily data inputs can it be more aware if its impacts? owHow How can the presence of “ambient informatics” benefit rather than distract society?
Whether ambient informatics and city sensing will benefit or endanger society, or both, it is an inevitable condition of humanities evolution as cultural interconnectedness with personal computation and communication devices rises. Information designers, architects, media analysts, technologists, and other thinkers and makers of society a like need to confront their potential role in the revolutionization of humanity.
The two essays discuss the systematic implements of computer programs graphic and web design. The concept of “default” system is reoccurring, Rob describing its actuality and Allen providing a solution called “tailoring” or editorial design. This idea sort of agrees with Rob, in that is suggests a program that is made to be overridden. A way of designing, similar in process to consumer engineering, that is to be altered optimally. The thing is, however, that this still does not get so close to confronting the issues Rob brings forward about systems of the design programs themselves, such as InDesign, Illustrator, etc. So Allen’s case gets half way there with “tailoring” individual web pages to suit its own content, and creating a system that can be tailored conveniently. It is the tailoring that may still be individually subject to default systems of design, and therefore is but a small solution that will not satisfy those who think more radically and passionately. Allen makes logical points but it seems these points are not nearly innovative enough to empower design and the designer and free him from the grid, nor template design, which I believe is default by nature. It is skeletal and barren of the very empowerment design is in need of, if it is to ever break free from advertisemental cliché and democratic surrender. The democratization of art, and design, degrades it to a point of amateur visuals designed by anyone who can get others to agree to actually use it. From there the billboard effect comes into play, and the viewers become passive and the views become hollow enterprises, like the face of a dictator decorating the streets where air used to be. A classic way to address the conservation of safe democratic design, would be to analyze it from within. To begin with the program which today, is the heart of design. When are we defaulting? What is not default? What happens when design is separated from exterior content and becomes its own content?
Cyberspace is a real place. How close to reality must it become in order to be indistinguishable? If people are to enjoy virtual worlds more than the origonal world, can they stay there? It is evident the goal of virtual reality and cyberspace is to continue to evolve forever, or until it reaches a stage that requires something else entirely. When cyberspace becomes livable will people be responsible for their actions towards cyber people? Or cyber nature? Could people begin to go to work in these places? Could different realities be for different people with different ways and different government? Can you die in cyberspace? Can you experience feelings that are unfeelable? This type of virtual reality, on a simpler note, could allow for a whole new genre of art. Pursuing the motif of viewer to artwork/artist interaction this medium allows for the artist to express himself in ways previously unconceivable. But if the artist is not writing the program, but simply using it, is he less responsible for the artwork than otherwise? Being it takes decades for these programs to be developed, and they continue to build perhaps infinitely, this question may have a simpler answer. The artist is responsible for the product, which is the artwork. The program is an artwork in its own right; separate and interconnected to every product it produces. Products of the virtual programming are different from other artistic products. It is a different experience, one in which the viewer becomes completely and literally submerged in the work in the form of experience. In this way, the interactor is completely connected to the work. Because these technologies develop gradually, the audience becomes accustomed to the advances and do not feel alienation towards its capacity. Even if the interactor has no idea how the program functions he can enjoy it anyhow. The physical interaction and hyper-sensory experience of a cyberspace reality is enough to engulf the participants. It may ironically be a different case for the earlier invention of Harold Cohen’s AARON. Because this little robot creates drawings that recall primal visual language or doodles, there is juxtaposition between form and function. A robot, which serves as a futuristic icon, takes on the activity of a primal being, or even a human. In the cyberspace realities, the program does what a human cannot; reach the intangible, pursue function infinitely. In this case, cyberspace becomes exactly what it seems a computer should do, whereas the AARON does the opposite. I find this contrast between form and function magnificent. The activity of the robot is performative, unexpected, and visually compelling. Perhaps the doodles become more valuable when made by the AARON than if they were made by a human. Although the human made the AARON, they both become responsible for the outcome. Similarly, as Sol LeWitt created a process for an outcome and presented it in the form of directions, which a group of artists would follow. The directions were designed to have seemingly infinite variations, depending on the draftsmen’s decisions. In order to do this Sol LeWitt had to make the directions specific in some areas and open-ended in others. For example he designated a location for a point to be located in relation to the wall, such as to make a line from the center of the right edge of the wall to the point in the middle of the center of the top edge of the wall. Depending on the dimensions of the wall, this line would vary. He would also often specify the starting point of a line or shape, but not where it ends, leaving it up to the draftsmen and therefore allowing chance to become part of the final product. This is similar to the nature of AARON, in that it is developed from combinations of information that can be performed in almost infinite ways. Both are structures for spontaneous systems of action. Each drawing is fresh and self reliant, unraveling nature and turning it into something concrete and systematized to produce spontaneous results—like the universe.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have a theory on the systems of the universe. The theory I will interpret will be applicable to all we know to exist. And in regard to the human race, I believe, it proves most accurate, the nature of our social beings. We are social beings governed by implicit and explicit social laws; these laws create social constructs and it is from this sort of order that we derive definitions for a democracy. I will pursue our current historical condition and, further, the state, or order, of our ‘democracy’, focusing on the case of Citizens United. By observing larger picture, I deduce and apply my reason to the smaller that is the people, and when there are people, there is justice to be conceived and demanded. As human beings it seems most evident that our social and cultural influences tend to dominate how we interact with our environment. The role of instinctual behavior has become second-rate to the demands of us as social beings. This can be recognized in the proliferation and overwhelming presence of the news media and role of digital and social media platforms in our daily life. We have become, in a sense, global beings, in that we can travel quickly and communicate globally almost instantly. The interconnectedness of our world should imply a certain responsibility. That is to say, if we are to minimize the geographic gap of our neighbors, should not our actions reflect an ever more important recognition of moral understanding and communal attitude. In an increasingly ‘social’ world, it should be our duty to maintain a kindness and generosity and support, be it economically, politically, socially, to all of humankind. There is, however, a supreme instinctual factor that can be argued, governs human response to his or her environment. According to evolutionary scientists this claim would be ‘survival of the fittest’; in this case one acts to ensure survival. Of course, as highly developed beings, survival isn’t limited to circumstances of life or death. Pleasure and desire can be considered versions of our survival. And in the achievement of such pleasures or desires it is sometimes the case that one individual will sacrifice the needs of another. So, here are two conflicting natures, that to be communal, and that of the individual. And it is upon these opposites that a system functions. And so, the nature of a system is that of positives and negatives, common and solo, and so ultimately, creation and destruction. As a basic theory of science states that matter can be neither created nor destroyed but changes form- as plants turn to soil in a compost or water to vapor in the sky. The world is fed on the energy of destruction, therefore that matter must be destroyed to be created, can be applicable by its opposition. With this understood, it would seem that matter can cease to exist in its particular composition as we can know it to be, but upon doing so is transformed into another, which is perhaps no longer identifiable as the former. For reasons such as theories of evolution and survival of the fittest, and what history can tell us about natures of men, some most horrifying, in cases that can turn men and women faithless for their kind, such as those who have lived to see war, it seems evident another factor of our common being is the division between good and evil, or more simply good and bad. This distinction is perhaps the most instinctual of any other and the most essential to survival, because it enables one to respond in pursuit of the good and prevention of the bad. It is the particular experiences a person has and how he or she responds to them in respect to context that constructs the disposition of an individual, and because people have infinite accumulations of experience that are unique in absolute perspective, individuals may assume complete and special characters, true to only themselves. This can be only partly true, however, in regards to an absolute persona, because although we can come to understand a particular identity as a result of our response inclinations, this identity is a construction of the limited conditions in which the person experience, and so because each encounter occurs within unpredictable contexts, no person can be identified as absolute, but rather malleable through time, and therefore not confound by the pre notions of him or her self, but boundless as far as he or she can understand the nature of the self, which is ultimately free and experientially spontaneous. In regards to this, I will add that knowledge and reason can alter how a person observes and reacts to a given contexts. And because I can now speak unreservedly on the topic of religion, the liberty we now have, my dear ladies and gentlemen, to develop our beliefs as information is fed to us, cumulatively and advancingly, and because we are not bound to believe that a God Almighty has power over beings and that it is to him we serve, but that we have the power to choose how we conduct our selves and we can serve and love each other rather than a God who evidentially has become an outdated belief amongst our youths, for knowledge and freedom of belief and speech has allowed them to perceive with reason. And to know that we are not pure and constant beings but a continuing result of experience whose actions are a result of contextual factors which deems us free, in an ultimate way, not restricted by a character we assume or come to understand, only our experience, but that freedom presents itself in all that we can come to experience in our presents and futures, and therefore we can change and grow limitlessly, and ultimately evolve as individuals, and communities, and as a species which is bound to evolve and perhaps ideally for the better rather than the worse so that human existence may persist rather than destruct into extinction. And it is here that lye a system that runs on spontaneity and a certain balance positives and negatives of all it encompasses, that is not guaranteed to exist at any length in the identifiable form as it is known to us, but may destruct and subsist in another construct of formulated matter. And so it is when a system becomes defective that it is possible to revive, which can be paralleled to that of a social system, in that when its condition becomes deficient for the means of the people and begins to fail, such as economically or unjustly, that enables and encourages a reform. For when a system demises another can arise. This relation of positive and negative can be applied in just the opposite way, as well. As in, the nature by which a recession can harm a system, as can inflation. Either extreme can lead to a crash, and so inevitably to a restoration. Depending how severely a system has deconstructed, it will be more or less recognizable in its resemblance. This applies to that of the social system, on a collective and individual basis, in the condition of our United States today. A country that is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy, in which the ruling minority of wealthy politicians and corporations hold the power and act to benefit them selves and acquire more than can satisfy their inflating desires. It is not as simple as this, of course, for I do not deny there are good individuals amongst this group that have and continue to serve our country and others nobly and bravely, which is why our system is still functioning. The conflict of interest amongst all people is a natural entity of our species, and it is the ruling party’s inherent responsibility to pursue what is good for a common interest, that which can be seen as food, shelter, health, and happiness. It is not, however, a responsibility of the instinct, for the instinct is not communal, but personal, and it gives liberties and can justify actions that are against a social conduct. I believe that justice is a concept we can comprehend and fight for but it only exists upon attaining it, in parts, and likely does not exist, in this definition, unanimously, though it can be dreamed of in this way. And for our government, of which I believe should be destroyed and recreated, has deemed itself corrupt and unworthy to rule, acting for itself and the gain of individual wealth rather than the people, the many. And has gone so far to do so as to pass legislations that give advantage to none other than itself and large corporations, so we are no longer a democracy but an oligarchy, ruled by large and grossly wealthy corporations and corrupted politicians, where the president no longer has the power to make moral decisions for they are vetoed by senators who have been bribed. And on this note, ladies and gentlemen, I shall discuss the Citizens United case in which these large corporations can be treated like an individual person, which is not true, in terms of donations, or rather bribes to politicians in return for legislative favors that could benefit the companies in acquiring more wealth and misused power. It is this combination of government and business that has lead to the demise and corruption of our democracy no longer. So with this current situation, one may question whether a person truly have any obligations to others, and I would respond that an individual have not any responsibility other than his or her self, and therefore neither do any individuals of a ruling party as well. With this said, any man or woman can conduct life as he or she pleases and as a result can expect any revenge upon his or her self or loved ones as the opposing person or persons see fit. And when this disruption occurs in a social system, when enough people are affected and there is a common interest, they may ban together and fight for their justice. So it would seem that this desire to help ones self in spite or disregard of others would make a person’s instinct overrule that of social beings. Our ability to feel, perhaps, is what unites men and women and makes harmony attainable. For example, what is it that makes a person feel good when doing a good deed for another? Do good feelings transcend themselves from person to person, in the act of helping? I believe they do. For if this wasn’t so, I do not see why anyone would help those who need it, unless it ensured their own survival or welfare. Which is likely the case for some, who others would deem selfish or cruel individuals. If a person can feel the happiness and good feelings from another, then he one can also feel the pain or bad feelings of another. And this ability to feel what others feel, which becomes a personal feeling from that of others, is what makes us social beings, with inflicted emotions from the observation or knowledge of the condition of others. And with these feelings people reach out to those in need and the people’s struggle becomes our own and their antagonist alike. And it is these people who fight for justice, those who can hear the cries from the ghettos and forests, people hidden in the shadows of cities and commerce, and begin to grow angry until their heart is flaming and demand justice for they cannot rest until the cries, which grow louder and louder in the soul, cease, and this effort becomes their own, for the justice of others and themselves for as these people can feel the pain of others, it becomes their pain and therefore in fighting to relieve the others, they are fighting to relieve their own and it is this that holds the most power. It is the cries that scream and burn the loudest in the presence of anger. And when enough people are screaming with raging souls, a war for justice ignites and if the war is won a revolution can occur, making the pursuit of justice possible yet again, but if they do not, the system continues, wounded but never defeated, for a system can be neither created nor destroyed, but transformed.
Since its invention, the computer has increasingly become an essential part of this world. It is a device that runs on a language of its own, quantifiable only by its own doing. Of course, people wrote these programs, but ever since the invention of numerical representation, the computer has taken on a mind of its own. Numerical representation can be compared to the standardization of parts. Paradoxically it was thought that this would allow for “individual customization” rather than “mass standardization.” It is relatively unclear which has occurred. This is because it is interwoven so deeply into our lives. Computers have become virtual realities disguised as tools for our manipulation. Modularity has reduced data to its smallest element allowing for information to be dissected and manipulated without affecting other information. Information becomes self sufficient and free from hierarchical reins. Data is now non-linear, allowing for users to brows through information seemingly infinitely. This sounds like “individual customization,” but is it? Perhaps it would be if it was not pre-existing data the user is roaming through. Perhaps a software program that invented data only when it was in use would allow for true individual customization and free choice. The internet is so interlaced with the data of the physical world that is becomes indistinguishable. All activity on the web acts differently than activity in the real world. There is no decay, information is stored, analyzed, and used to determine future activity. Chance becomes manipulated. History is active and present is reactive upon it. By programming software to adhere to peoples past actions limits people to choices that confine them to calculations based on the past action, making customization impossible. If something is customized it is chosen from all possibilities, rather than subjective ones. However, this subjective nature of the computer is not much unlike our own. The difference is unified programming. If people wrote their own programs to create data through use, then the data would be free of mass subjectivity and be instead personally subjective. This would allow for individuality of the most extreme sorts. That is, if people need computers for this purpose. Would it be safer for a computer to be lucidly impersonal? Is the façade of personalization the danger to mass culture standardization? For example, older video games did not try to pass for real life. The difference between video game and reality was clear. With virtual reality games it is unclear how much responsibility players have in the outcome of the game. Players can feel empowered by the results they achieve because it is comparable to real life situations. But it is actually not, and this is where culture may become infected. It is when people feel personally attached to their technology and attempt to simulate life through it that culture becomes digitalized and therefore becomes part of the pre-programming through participation. The illusion of ‘personal customization’ as the product of interactive programming feeds society with the belief that they have excessive wants and only more pre-determined choices can free them from the boredom of less pre-determined choice. Perhaps if society was able to control its excessive material fetish, digitalization could allow for more accurate production of goods and services based on the needs of societies, converted to digital form that functions separate from human manipulation eventually allowing for people to cease capital labor. Could digitalism be more suitable for new media culture than an obese oligarchy?