This week began the second term with an unexpected announcement that the whole class would fail the final project unless everyone got at least a pass mark. The class was asked their opinions of this new measure and there were mixed views as to whether or not it was fair, or a good idea, and how it would effect the class and the relationship with the teacher. I started to think about Game Theory and what experiments there might be like this, for showing group altruism. It also made met think about a article a little while ago from a pupil accusing a school of violating the Geneva Convention through use of group punishment. After the opinions of the class were gather it was revealed (somewhat unsurprisingly) that this was just an exercise, but it is interesting to still think about. Will anyone in our class fail, and if so why, and what responsibility do we collectively bear?
The lecture this week focused on disobedient objects. The piece which I was most take by was Julian Oliver's Transparency Grenade. I saw him give a talk about this project at EYEO in 2012. It was a really interesting idea, that in order to release data which is "trapped" within corporations and government structures, one could simply toss the transparency grenade and it will connect to the local networks and start publishing information it finds . I'm unsure how effective it is or even could be, but certainly it has some technological abilities to deliver on it's promises, however now in 2019 with increased availability of the data we craved back then we find that often the data is actually of poor quality, incomplete or simply never existed.
We were asked to think of an everyday technology object and then think of intervention using disobedient technology that we could make. Our group chose “stairs” as our object. We thought about the status symbol that stairs can represent, many grand churches, temples and palaces have large staircases both externally and internally as way of elevating the occupants and placing a relative social ordering between those at the top of the stairs and those at the base. There is the adventure of climbing (or descending) stairs in to the unknown, spiral staircases being an exemplar of this as one can't see where they lead. Often the early purpose of stairs was to make more floors of a building available, so in that sense they were an economic investment to make better use of land availability. Now often buildings are designed to remove the need for stairs as much as possible, we thought of examples such as airport terminals, where it's possible to walk great distances and never need to use stairs to reach your gate, we also thought about Ikea where the stairs represent a barrier or gateway as you pass from the upstairs showroom to the ground floor warehouse. The key technology however for stairs is the escalator or moving staircase.
An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience. — Mitch Hedberg
We also thought about fitness apps which track counting steps and also stairs (although usually reported as flights climbed, which was unclear to us how high a flight might be. It seemed interesting that technology started by building moving staircases to reduce our exertion, and then later technology is used to encourage us to be fitter by taking the stairs. The disobedient intervention therefore we clustered around was a set of escalators that will actually reverse direction to make you need to climb more than if you had taken static stairs. Perhaps it could communicate with your fitted tracker to ensure that you meet your weekly goal, although from a technology point of view I'm not sure if this would work as I think it relies on the acceleration of climbing stairs, and going up an escalator which is moving against you might have some confusing dynamics.
This week I visited the In The Dark show at the Cello Factory which was a collection of works from the Computer Arts Society and Lumen Prize. Our classmate Ziwei Wu was exhibiting and it was great to see many varied works. As it was opening night it was a bit too crowded to really appreciate them, and as a friend said “if you want to see the art, avoid the preview”.