Archive for the 'Society' Category

The Internet’s Own Boy

Monday 31 August, 6pm, Barnes Lecture Theatre.
A screening of The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

The film follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

Highly recommended. Chance for a monday night catch-up.

Also note the Art School I/O excellent summer courses.

Editorial Bang

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The following article, by Rick Poyner, may be of interest to anyone doing the ‘editorial’ brief in graphics at the moment.

“Bang’s startlingly unorthodox art direction raises questions about why mainstream women’s magazines look as they do, and about the manipulative view of their readers that these doggedly persistent publishing and design conventions so readily enshrine.”

Eyes Wide Open

I’m interested in the links between projects like Médor (link via Eric of OSP), and recent discussions in Scotland about independent investigative journalism. This was the subject of a really interesting discussion that Bella Caledonia hosted just prior to the referendum, and something that the Scottish Inquirer are, amongst others, looking to develop further. Peter Geohagan is also interesting to follow on these topics.

The Pedagogy of Negating the Institution

“As market logic moulds institutions of learning, treatment and therapy ever more brazenly, co-founder of the Cophenhagen Free University, Jakob Jakobsen, resuscitates some radical histories of deinstitutionalisation, in psychiatry and education, to learn valuable anti-lessons in negation and resistance.”

via Mute.

Buchenwald and the Bauhaus

The Radio 4 series ‘Germany’, by Neil MacGregor, has been fascinating, but At the Buchenwald Gate provides particularly interesting questions about the possibility for a subversive role for typography in the face of inhumanity on an almost unimaginable scale. Listening to the full episode, (via that link there), some of the nuances of this situation are drawn out.

Other design related episodes look at the role of the Bauhuas, and German’s modernist designers, architects and artists, in shaping our contemporary understanding of ‘modern’ design. Recommended. (Thanks to Penny Anderson for the tip off).

Critical Practise

If you’re in the Netherlands before the 18 Jan 2015, this exhibition (reported in Eye) exploring the work of Jan Van Toorn would be worth seeking out. I’m intrigued by the structural attempt to create a ‘taxonomy of practise’, (and have reservations about this type of way of viewing design), but it will no doubt be a useful prompt to some more nuanced discussions.

Dying, Designing

Ivor Williams will be Charting Better Ways to Die at the Architectural Association (London) on Friday.

To explore, amongst other things, ideas about the way we identify futures as “probable”, “preferable”, “plausible” and “possible”, join Ivor here.

Plan B

Norway’s New Banknotes (see also)

Real-time times two

Recently I have been hooked on two websites which are (un)related real-time updates of digital (mis)communication.

The first is a site created by Norse, an internet attack intelligence agancy (very Neuromancer but without the rastas in space). The site is a real-time visualisation of a small percentage (apparently <1%) of cyber attacks. It shows where the attacks originate, where is being targeted and the type of attack. It is pretty incredible. If you watch it for long enough you’ll see the map quieten down and then, boom, a massive coordinated attack will fire off. Usually against the USA.

The second site is a real-time visualisation of every emoji being used on twitter. I find it mesmerising. It follows on from an article I read in The Observer last weekend which was interested in the popularity of Emoji and how it has become a ubiquitous virtual language, with pictograms replacing words and combinations of these symbols replacing whole sentences but adding a multitude of increased interpretations. As the author of the article writes at the end of the article, “Barthes would have had a field day.”

Both of the sites are socially interesting and although at first glance I think it seems that the Norse one is the more ‘important’ of the two, I am fascinated by the Emoji one and by the questions it raises about how we communicate digitally, why are we always more drawn towards using pictures (pun intended), what does this mean for words and writing, is the majority of written language superfluous to communicative needs, can we call emoji a recognised language in its own right, and how would a shift towards a pictorial-based language system affect things like journalism, poetry, books etc, and physical interaction? Its a highly unlikely thing to happen but it is interesting to think about.

http://map.ipviking.com/

http://www.emojitracker.com/

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/aug/31/emoji-became-first-global-language

 

It’s sunny in Dundee mostly

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Tentsmuir WW2 Coastal Defences

In the spirit of inter-institutional caring and sharing:

MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES

Preview: Thursday 27th March 7pm
Exhibition Open: Friday 28th March 12 – 4pm, Saturday 29th March 12 – 4pm

The White Room project space, Tin Roof Studios. 38-40 Bellfield Street
Dundee DD1 5JD

Presenting an exhibition of work created by 3rd year Illustration Students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

Come along to our show! It consists of hand printed posters and set designs for a series of imagined theatrical adaptations of plays exploring climate change, sustainability, urban planning and related social and political issues.

Exploring subjects such as:
Hydro Fracking, Gentrification, Micro-topias, Climate Activism, Nuclear waste disposal, Nuclear War, Social Housing, The melting ice caps, Surveillance, Community Gardening.

For more information please visit:
https://www.facebook.com/manufacturedlandscapes

Reading the Signs

This is very interesting, both in what it is about, and as a form of design research.

Business as Unusual

GSA occupies an interesting space in Higher Education. It is (very) small by HE standards, and based in Scotland (where tuition fees, for Scottish students at least, don’t yet exist), on the fringes of Europe and the UK, in a city that has a well connected thriving artistic community. It is a designated SSI (Small Specialist Institution – though current director Tom Inns suggests this could be reframed as Specialist Studio Institution), so it’s interesting to think about how organisational logics have an impact on the nature of educational experiences. Some schools of organisational theory suggests that all expanding, complex organisations will grow to the point where they only serve themselves. This is a problem inherent in all public-facing organisations, as discussed in Ivan Illich’s De-Schooling Society. He suggests that this drive towards institutionalism “undermines people – it diminishes their confidence in themselves, and in their capacity to solve problems… It kills convivial relationships … kills creativity”. In the same text, Illich also suggests that “most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting”, and this too cuts to the heart of the art school issue.

Why are we seeing a resurgence of interest in alternative educational experiences, at the same time as the emergence of the MOOC? In the emerging technological landscape, GSA might as well give away all its course content. Alone it is valueless. It would (and will) get devoured – lost in a second – in the race to the bottom of the free open content paradigm. What do these phenomena tell us about the way GSA could find a place for itself in the world? Where does the value lie? Surely its in the ‘meaningful setting’ of the studio, peopled by driven independent students, assisted by staff who are equally able to respond to the studio as the locus of activity – projects, talks, workshops, visitors – looking out of the institution and connecting to the world outside. We’re running a version of the Parallel School in Glasgow soon, and hopefully we might be able to air some of these issues, in an environment of self-directed learning that eschews the hierarchies and accountability, modularisation and commodification that seems to increasingly dominate the mainstream.

And I’ve posted it before, so will post it again (apologies), but the video from Stewart Lee below is very good. While I’m aware that I sound conspiratorial in tone (yes, I know), the pervasive creep of conservatism (with a small ‘c’, not the political party, though there is a big overlap in that particular venn diagram) is best countered locally, where the urge to homogenise, unitise and compartmentalise is as present, if slightly less well signposted, as it is in the policies of an austerity government. Momus, at a talk he did at GSA a few years ago, talked of the ‘delirious’ and the ‘pragmatic’, as two counter forces at work in modern society. Pragmatism has become the ruling logic of our current political debate, the trump card of the reductivists, and is as evident in education as it is elsewhere. The position GSA occupies enables it to say no to business as usual, if it wants to.

Urge

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I haven’t urged anyone to do anything in a while, so I urge you to read New Practice – an urgent, (in the political sense), final-year project by Thom Swann, a student at Kingston University.

A future beyond capitalism?

The always great Dan Hancox talking about an alternative to capitalism by looking at the social-democratic and cooperative village of Marinaleda, Spain. Worth a listen if you have any interest in ways to address inequality and redistribution of wealth within society, both globally and nationally.

Beauty is in the Stack: Michael Oswell and Scott King

Beauty is in the Stack: Michael Oswell and Scott King... Tickets, Glasgow - Eventbrite

Beauty is in the Stack: Michael Oswell and Scott King.

Part of the preview events for It’s Not Very Nice That, a forthcoming exhibition at the Lighthouse, Michael Oswell and Scott King will discuss their recent projects. This talk is the first in a series of events that run alongside the exhibition, and which will be posted on itsnotverynicethat.com, when the organiser gets organised.

The exhibition opening follows the talk, to which everyone is very much invited.

Supported by the Design School, Glasgow School of Art

This event will take place in Gallery 1 at the Lighthouse. Doors 5:30pm.

Image: Libcom Anniversary Poster (Michael Oswell)

Crèche Course

This RCA campaign/event looks interesting. They say;
Nurseries in art schools
Childcare in art schools
Parents in art schools —
Where we were
Where we are
Where we want to be.

I say; Kids would love the Reid building. And it’s a good title they’ve thought of.

Political Colours

In an idle moment, and spurred on by Malcolm showing me a faux-letterpress pro-independence poster, I thought it might be interesting to look at the other design indicators currently being deployed by the two sides in the independence debate.

First up are the new year broadcasts by the ‘Better Together” campaign and the current Scottish Government.

salmond

darling

Both deploy a fairly traditional set up, talking to camera, though Alec Salmond’s video is intercut with more footage. Alistair Darling is set up in the corner of (presumably) his living room, while Salmond has opted for a more evocative setting of an exhibition on Scottish history, presumably trying to promote a sense of trustworthy erudition, and the idea that Scottish folk invented everything, ever. The typography is unremarkable, Salmond opting for the system default ‘Verdana’, by Matthew Carter, and the Better Together campaign going for a passable though ultimately forgettable modern slab serif/sans combo.

But maybe we need to dig a little deeper. What better tool to do this than the Gaussian Blur function of Adobe Photoshop CS6. Passing these two images through a Gaussian filter set to 18.9 (18/9/2014 being the date of the referendum of course, such is the conceptual integrity of this post), we get the following results:

salmond_blur

darling_blur

What is immediately apparent is that both deploy a little blue/white in the bottom right corners, though more striking is the fact that Darling’s slightly creepy green and red stocking/jesters hat still makes its presence felt, even through the Gaussian fog. Salmond looks like he is standing next to the very edge of a big Union Jack.

Finally this is what the images look like with the classic 50% opacity overlay, perhaps not better together.

devo_max

Addendum: In other news, and in another project that I will probably never get round to doing, I’d like to make a new responsive Scottish web typeface in three weights: Devo, Devo-Max and Indy. This would be a web-only typeface that responds automatically to currently polling and adjusts its own weight. As per usual I don’t have the faintest idea how to achieve this technically, so any pointers welcome.

Inspiration, Manipulation

“We’ll have Google Glass, but we’ll still have ‘business-casual'”

This video is currently doing the rounds. Bratton is perhaps saying what we all think and feel, but after initially faltering a little, does it in a very convincing and coherent way. A slight tangent, but wonder if it’s linked in some way to this article, many parts of which I disagree with: Why being nice in the online world is no bad thing.

Open!

One of my favourite journals – Open! – which recently ceased in its print form due to funding cuts by the Dutch government, has only gone and reimagined itself in amazing website form.

Takuro

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Vis Com Des person James Bettney has set up Takuro as a vehicle to work with widows in Nepal, (who can be ostracised from society following the death of their husbands), assisting them in establishing sustainable employment.

2 products are ready to launch on Kickstarter at the end of this month; a waxed canvas roll-top rucksack in 3 colours, (Gold, Green or Black) and a 100% cashmere scarf in 4 different colours.

James undertook an extended visit to Nepal during his degree, reflected in work he did while at GSA.