This week → The Captured City ⊗ Against Economics ⊗ Reimagining Privacy Online Through A Spectrum of Intimacy ⊗ The internet we lost
A year ago → We Are All Bewildered Machines.
Jathan Sadowski at Real Life magazine coining the term Captured City to reframe the smart city. He argues that the smart city should be seen as a “socio-technical imaginary,” a form of fiction meant to wrap a positive vision of the city over a particular model of municipal development and governance. The author goes over some of the examples and articles about failures and excesses of smart cities, covers the Domain Awareness System (a joint venture between the New York Police Department and Microsoft), and Amazon’s Ring cameras installed with the collaboration of police forces. Overall, an interesting read and very valid points and worries about the model. I reckon though that even though the endpoint of military-like surveillance is correct, Sadowski makes it sound like a grand plan of transforming cities into militarized compounds. I think it is providers injecting tech everywhere to optimize cities and capture revenue streams… which happens to provide a panopticon useful for the military and/or authoritarians.
They are also selling the ideological backdrop that justifies them. This entails constructing a narrative — simultaneously aimed at convincing planners, politicians, and the public — about the crises that cities face, the changes that are necessary, and the benefits that will come by letting corporations take the reins. […]
These technologies treated the city like a battlespace, redeploying information systems originally created for military purposes for urban policing. Sensors, cameras, and other networked surveillance systems gather intelligence through quasi-militaristic methods to feed another set of systems capable of deploying resources in response. […]
The captured city, as this suite of surveillance and analytics suggests, is captured in two interrelated senses: as data and territory. The web of surveillance systems built and operated by the military-industrial complex accomplish the data capture, which enables the police to better capture the city’s territory, maintaining a data dragnet across the city and keeping tabs on targeted groups. The goal is to enmesh the city so tightly in these systems, to make them such a critical part of the urban infrastructure, that the two can never be disentangled. […]
Escaping the captured city will require a similar siege of resistance to dismantle the many layers of technological and ideological infrastructure. It will require us to target with ruthless criticism the producers and users of surveillance systems, the supply and demand for urban control. It will require us to know our enemies and name them as such.
Also → Not that I’m doubting the military will be using every possible means to collect biometric data. To wit: This Is How the U.S. Military’s Massive Facial Recognition System Works.
That weapon is a vast database, packed with millions of images of faces, irises, fingerprints, and DNA data — a biometric dragnet of anyone who has come in contact with the U.S. military abroad. The 7.4 million identities in the database range from suspected terrorists in active military zones to allied soldiers training with U.S. forces.
David Graeber, reviewing Robert Skidelsky’s Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics for The New York Review of Books. Before getting to the book itself, there is a long introduction / explainer concerning the recent history of economics, “heterodox” theories of economics, how money is made, by whom, and to what end. He then gets into Skidelsky and views it as “one of the most significant books to come out of the UK in recent years.”
The TL;DR might be: mainstream economic theory and application moves very slowly, and often keep thinking the same thing for decades, even in the face of copious contradictory evidence and multiple economic catastrophes. It is also wholly unfit for today’s planetary challenges.
There are way too many interesting passages in there to properly summarize, you should have a read of the whole thing.
McDonnell’s office—and Labour youth support groups—have been holding workshops and floating policy initiatives on everything from a four-day workweek and universal basic income to a Green Industrial Revolution and “Fully Automated Luxury Communism,” and inviting heterodox economists to take part in popular education initiatives aimed at transforming conceptions of how the economy really works. […]
Is money best conceived of as a physical commodity, a precious substance used to facilitate exchange, or is it better to see money primarily as a credit, a bookkeeping method or circulating IOU—in any case, a social arrangement? […]
In fact, there’s absolutely no reason a modern state should fund itself primarily by appropriating a proportion of each citizen’s earnings. There are plenty of other ways to go about it. Many—such as land, wealth, commercial, or consumer taxes (any of which can be made more or less progressive)—are considerably more efficient, since creating a bureaucratic apparatus capable of monitoring citizens’ personal affairs to the degree required by an income tax system is itself enormously expensive. But this misses the real point: income tax is supposed to be intrusive and exasperating. It is meant to feel at least a little bit unfair. Like so much of classical liberalism (and contemporary neoliberalism), it is an ingenious political sleight of hand—an expansion of the bureaucratic state that also allows its leaders to pretend to advocate for small government. […]
Economic theory as it exists increasingly resembles a shed full of broken tools. This is not to say there are no useful insights here, but fundamentally the existing discipline is designed to solve another century’s problems. The problem of how to determine the optimal distribution of work and resources to create high levels of economic growth is simply not the same problem we are now facing: i.e., how to deal with increasing technological productivity, decreasing real demand for labor, and the effective management of care work, without also destroying the Earth. […]
An essay by Caroline Sinders and Hyphen Labs, based on their Higher Resolution exhibition for the Tate museum’s Tate Exchange program. On the concept of gradients of intimacy, how privacy online is often an on/off switch, while the way it actually works offline is much more varied and contextual; on the need for places and ways to move within such a gradient. Building on ideas by Michelle Cortese and Edward T. Hall, they worked on four privacy and intimacy metaphors: the town hall, the park bench, the living room, and the loo. Very adjacent and useful to think upon alongside Maciej Cegłowski’s The New Wilderness where he introduced the idea of “ambient privacy,” the society level intersection of everyone’s individual privacies (see my comment and select quotes in Sentiers No.86).
The lack of privacy gradients in the design of our social networks, online communication platforms, and apps facilitates everything from harassment to violations of user privacy. […]
Privacy manifested through designing better channels of intimacy—like platfoms design that allows for the engagement of smaller groups (i.e. private Slack channels or Facebook groups) or settings that allow users to share information with less people—are as important for protecting users as privacy and security protocols. […]
Proxemics, a term coined by anthropologist Edward T. Hall, defines the relationships between a person and their identity, their surroundings, and the social norms of the community around a person or individual. There are four zones in proxemics: the intimate, the personal, the social, and the public space. […]
Anil Dash interviewed on The Weeds podcast. Riffing off the interview: one of the things which drew my attention is when Dash talks about Facebook and Google vs the media, he talks about the ad market being made more efficient. It’s something we don’t think about often enough; the companies say they optimize but the media often use a tone almost like that revenu was stolen from them. It wasn’t, they made a living from a broken model and efficiencies took the advertisers elsewhere. It’s not coming back, however much people scream about FB and G taking all the revenue. Nothing new there, just found it interesting the Dash uses the language of the “side” he’s not on, which makes for a better argument, imho.
He also talks about Facebook almost as a lowest common denominator; the easy place to get stuff up online, but being slowly replaced by other platforms where communities move to. It reminds me of AOL, which for many was the easiest way to originally go online but as people got more fluent in “internet stuff” and other options in turn got easier, the company slowly shrank to nothing. Facebook is far form that, but losing ground in various areas.
- 🇨🇦 🌊 💨 The impact of the climate crisis are getting easier and easier to see. Two shoreline examples in Canada: Quebec’s islands are crumbling and This Arctic Community Is Literally Falling Into the Ocean.
- 🎉 👀 🇺🇸 Federal Court Rules Suspicionless Searches of Travelers’ Phones and Laptops Unconstitutional. “In a major victory for privacy rights at the border, a federal court in Boston ruled today that suspicionless searches of travelers’ electronic devices by federal agents at airports and other U.S. ports of entry are unconstitutional. ”
- 🤯 A natural biomolecule has been measured acting like a quantum wave for the first time. “thanks to the work of Armin Shayeghi at the University of Vienna and a few colleagues, who for the first time, have demonstrated quantum interference in molecules of gramicidin, a natural antibiotic made up of 15 amino acids. Their work paves the way for the study of the quantum properties of biomolecules and sets the scene for experiments that exploit the quantum nature of enzymes, DNA, and perhaps one day simple life forms such as viruses.”
- 🤔 💻 The GitHub Archive Program will safely store every public GitHub repo for 1,000 years in the Arctic World Archive in Svalbard, Norway. “GitHub is partnering with the Long Now Foundation, the Internet Archive, the Software Heritage Foundation, Arctic World Archive, Microsoft Research, the Bodleian Library, and Stanford Libraries to ensure the long-term preservation of the world’s open source software. We will protect this priceless knowledge by storing multiple copies, on an ongoing basis, across various data formats and locations, incluspanding a very-long-term archive designed to last at least 1,000 years.”
- 🇳🇿 New Zealand passes historic zero carbon bill with near unanimous bipartisan support. “The legislation establishes New Zealand as one of the few countries in the world with a legislated commitment to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, with the New Zealand bill committing to establishing policies consistent with limiting global warming to just 1.5°C.”
- 🇩🇪 🇪🇬 A German Museum Tried To Hide This Stunning 3D Scan of an Iconic Egyptian Artifact. “After a three-year freedom of information campaign, everyone can finally see the Egyptian Museum of Berlin’s official scan of the Bust of Nefertiti.”
- 🌞 Moth-Poulsen’s Energy-Trapping Molecule Could Solve Solar Storage. “Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg have figured out how to harness the energy and keep it in reserve so it can be released on demand in the form of heat—even decades after it was captured. The innovations include an energy-trapping molecule, a storage system that promises to outperform traditional batteries, at least when it comes to heating, and an energy-storing laminate coating that can be applied to windows and textiles. ”