The Map Is Here For You To Use

Sunday February 15, 09:19:01

Tucked away, a map there for me to use.

Departing Madrid early on a Sunday morning, I found this paper map of the Metro, tucked neatly within the seams of a pre-fab wall, ready for re-use. I wondered, who was on their way out of Madrid, thinking that they could not in good conscience throw away their worn map, looking about for a way to pass it along to another visitor.

Another instance of a Thoughtful Act.

Why do I blog this? Sudden interest in observing improvisatory social practices which are signals of a sort, not always of a “service” or designed object to adopt that practice into a commodified instantiation. But sometimes merely a curiosity that helps us better understand who we/people are, like waypoints along a contour of individual and collective humanities.
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One Thing, Done Well

Wednesday February 11, 19:09:39

Two old trades in Madrid, Spain. Sex and smokes. Focused endeavors. No fuss, no muss..err.. Where exactly?

Tuesday February 10, 17:46:12

Sole proprietor. In central Madrid, Spain, near Anton Martin metro, a butcher’s studied hand trims and fillets a ham. I can’t remember the last time I saw a butcher, butcher. Where exactly?

Tuesday February 10, 17:57:08

A store selling nothing but buckles, snaps and handles — largely metal/brass hardware. Madrid, Spain. Where exactly?

Been thinking about the relationship between things over-burdened, trying to do too many things at once, and the elegance and simplicity inherent in doing one thing, and doing it very well. I get a bit miffed and muddled about long lists of features on most any consumer gadget, especially things like telephones and computers — that sort of thing. They lure you end and make distinctions with the other guy based on the number of extra bits and bots listed on the box, often forcing that as the primary decision making criteria. Why would you get the other thing when this thing costs the same and has four extra megabits and two extra, um..things..even if you have no idea why you’d need the extra thing and the megabits?

Tuesday February 10, 10:51:29

Tuesday February 10, 17:42:17

Nothing but knives, scissors, cutlery, razors and sabres. Madrid, Spain. Where exactly?

I’d be happy with only one capability, and that capability done with extra emphasis on the singularity of the task, rather than on all the extra things that I may never need to get into. Or the decision making criteria contoured and cordoned by the nuances of experts and dilettantes. Let the over-users determine what makes good sense, not the marketing wonks.

Why do I blog this? It is interesting to me to think about the movement from single purpose trades to one-stop-shop operations reflect some aspect of consumer culture that is paralleled in the design of over-burdened, multi-purpose devices. Do we want to go one place to have everything done — our butchery, fish market, vegetables and dry goods from Whole Foods, in the same way that we want our iPhones to do email, web, twitter, weather, photos and, oh yeah..make phone calls? And what are the implications of stripping devices down to their core simplicity? What about a phone that makes phone calls..and that’s it? Is there a case to be made for back-to-basics designed experience?
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Deeply Embedded Eating Practices

Monday February 09
Museo del Jamon. Museum and Eatery!

I’m not a nervous pig eater, but I’m also not well-known as a food experimenter. No pink fish or sketchy street food when on the road and, knock-wood, I’ve always managed to avoid any lower gastrointestinal distress while traveling.

It was clear that Spain is a country that loves its meat products, especially Jamon, served in many possible configurations. It was an indulgent treat to basically have it every day, except my last when my system clearly reminded me that there are things called “vegetables” and they are “good for you.”

There are curious casual cafeteria or deli-style eateries where you basically get delicious warm bread, perhaps some cheese and definitely a variety of pig product, coming from cured shanks that have been hanging from the ceiling, you know..curing. There’s a whole system of ranks for the cured pig product, enough to keep the would-be dilettante satisfied and full of conversation about the vagaries of this-or-that curing process, dependent of course on what the animal ate when it was alive, what part of the land it came from, and so on. It’s like wine, or cigars or Finnish Saunas. It’s its own culture with a technical language, enthusiasts who know the great hidden places, and..everyone’s got “a guy” who can get you the special stuff.

Thursday February 12, 11:08:44

Monday February 09

Related, the Vida 11 event? The digital media arts annual in Madrid? Big deal — fancy deal, with lots of furs and stuff? Anyway — it was held in an enormous refabbed facility called Matedoro which was once Madrid’s slaughterhouse. The epic scale of the place is a testament to how much these fine, hospitable Spaniards enjoy their pig products and the image of lots of gimpy, peg-legged pigs is hard to keep from popping into your mind when you’re at a place like the Museo del Jamon, which is a museum, yes..but also an eatery.

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Interactivos – Medialab-Prado

I’m off to Medialab-Prado where I’ll be participating in the Garage Science, their International Workshop-Seminar that includes an intensive project development workshop (January 28 through February 14, 2009) and a seminar with lectures and public theoretical works presentations (January 28 and 29, 2009). Both the projects and papers have been selected through international open call. I’ll be attending as an instructor/tutor/participant for this last week of the event.

This event is something near-and-dear to the Near Future Laboratory. Garage Science is about the socialization of technoscience along the vector of doing-it-yourself. Whereas most conventionally, things like science and technology are left to the big shots with bloated budgets and too much formal education, it is no longer possible to ignore what the networked society has allowed — people are creating knowledge on their own, circulating it at such a pace that it becomes possible that technoscience is happening in places other than the cordoned-off laboratories and billion euro cyclotrons.

It should not be a surprise that smart people with the will to create new things are doing so. They may have always been, but the networks allow them to find their fellow explorers, share knowledge, encourage one another, learn the bits they need to know — all in their garage, with a bit of kit found on Ebay, low cost equipment and computers and microcontrollers, etc. This is quite a new thing, and is plainly a weak signal of a shift in who plays what part in the production and circulation of ideas. It’s a new knowledge-culture we’re in.

The socialization of technology and the accessibility of information available on the Web make it increasingly easy for anyone to have the possibility of building a home laboratory. Garage science is nothing new but home laboratories are connected now more than ever before. There are home laboratories of all kinds: technology factories, chemistry or biology labs, artists’ studios, places to rehearse, etc.

These home laboratories have a worldwide scope via the Web, which serves as a space for the dissemination of projects and the exchange of knowledge and techniques. These online communities are accompanied by a proliferation of onsite events, such as dorkbots, barcamps and hackmeetings, where people who only knew each other via the Web can meet face to face and share their achievements and experiences.

The communities formed this way provide citizens with the capacity to develop scientific-technical knowledge comparable to what is produced in the major laboratories. “Citizen science” can serve to explore questions such as: How are the foods we eat made? What possibilities exist in biogenetic research? What is the code that makes the machines we use work? How are those machines manufactured? Based on this knowledge, experimental and critical formulations and objects can be produced proposing new paths and goals in these fields.

Interactivos?’09 aims to explore these practices, where art, science and technology meet. We invite the participants to turn medialab into a garage laboratory where low-cost, accessible materials are used to develop objects and installations that combine software, hardware and biology. There’s license to fail!

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