Archives

Nature-Based Integration: Building Taskscapes Together in Swedish Nature

We’re a diverse group: between us we hail from four continents and our languages include Somali, English, Spanish and Swahili. We’re one of several subgroups that have been enjoying the extremely changeable Swedish summer weather on the second day of a course in ‘nature interpretation’, which aims to teach us to lead others into nature. We’re currently learning by participating in a vocabulary-building game in a forest not far from the small Swedish town of Nora. Scattered around this area of coniferous trees, roots and rocks are various cards, each of which has a number and a Swedish word upon it. These cards have been hidden high and low and we must search for particular ones based on a throw of a die. Upon finding the card we must speak together to ensure we all understand the word. We must then go to one of the organisers and explain what the word meant before rolling again. It’s fun – different groups are scrabbling about the place yelling to one another when they find the card they seek. I’m a little concerned that we’re not really all getting as much out of it as we could, and a couple of my teammates are fairly competitive and rushing around with little concern that everyone understands. One Somali woman, in particular, is much older and less fit than the rest of us with a much smaller Swedish vocabulary. I’m unconvinced she’s fully following along. Our next word is ‘bark’ (same word in both English and Swedish) and we gather to explain it to the organiser. As she struggles to make herself clear in Swedish, another teammate pulls a piece of bark from a nearby tree and presents it to the nonplussed guide. We roll the die and continue with a laugh. (read more...)

Uncovering Hidden HERstories of Women in the Digital Arts

The field of computer graphics has no single bigger event than the annual SIGGRAPH conference, a 5-day extravaganza that draws computer scientists, visual effects artists, hardware and software designers and thousands of practitioners in the arts and sciences from around the world.(1) The 2019 conference in Los Angeles, which wrapped up on Thursday, August 2, hosted a number of talks highlighting the stories of women working in computer graphics as part of the “ACM SIGGRAPH Diversity and Inclusion Summit.” One exciting panel, “HERstories: Women Leaders in the Digital World,” featured 12 women who are seminal figures in computer-entangled fine arts, many of whom began their work in the early 1980s. The panelists were all contributors to a recent book, edited by Donna J. Cox, Ellen Sandor, and Janine Fron, New Media Futures: The Rise of Women in the Digital Arts (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2018). The panel and the book are welcome additions to the slowly diversifying histories of computer graphics, computer art and SIGGRAPH. (read more...)

Ladies ‘Log’: Women’s Safety and Risk Transfer in Ridehailing

*A note from Co-PI Noopur Raval: The arrival and rise of gig-work globally has ushered in a new wave of conversations around the casualization of labor and the precarious nature of digitally-mediated “gigs,” ranging from online crowdwork gigs to digitally-mediated physical work such as Ubering. Gradually, scholarship has extended beyond North America and Europe to map the landscape of digital labor in the global south. These posts that make up “India’s Gig-Work Economy” are the result of one such project titled ‘Mapping Digital Labour in India,’ where four research fellows and a program manager, me,  have been studying the dynamics of app-based ridehailing and food-delivery work in two Indian cities (Mumbai and New Delhi). This project is supported by the Azim Premji University’s Research Grants program. In this series of posts, the research fellows and I offer reflections on pleasure, surveillance, morality and other aspects woven into the sociality of gig-work and consumption in India. Each post also has an accompanying audio piece in an Indian language, in a bid to reach out to non-academic and non-English speaking audiences. The series ends with a roundtable discussion post on the challenges, gender and class dynamics, and ethics of researching gig-work(ers) in India.* http://blog.castac.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/07/Anushree_Gupta-Blog-Post-audio.mp3 Download a transcript of the audio in Devanagari. Mumbai, India’s financial capital, is also often considered one of the safest cities for women in India, especially in contrast with New Delhi which is infamously dubbed as the “rape capital” within the country. Sensationalised incidents of harassment, molestation and rape serve as anecdotal references and warnings to other women who dare to venture out alone even during the daytime. The Delhi government recently proposed a policy for free transport for women in public buses and metro trains with the objective of increasing women’s affordability and access and to ensure safety in public transportation.[1] Despite such measures to increase women’s visibility and claims to public utilities and spaces, women who use public transport have historically suffered groping and stalking on buses and trains, which uphold self-policing and surveillance narratives. The issue of women’s safety in India remains a priority as well as a good rhetorical claim and goal to aspire to, for public and private initiatives. Ironically, the notion of women’s safety is also advanced to increase moral policing and censure women’s access to public spaces, which also perpetuates exclusion of other marginalised citizens (Phadke 2007). Further, and crucially, whose safety is being imagined, prioritized and designed for (which class of women are central to the imagination of the safety discourse) is often a point of contention. (read more...)

Our Governor Resigned via Facebook: #RickyRenuncia, Puerto Rico’s Summer of Protest

Disponible en español aquí. On July 13th, the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (Center for Investigative Journalism) leaked 889 pages of a Telegram App chat between the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo “Ricky” Rosselló and eleven cabinet members and aides. The 889 pages were full of misogynist, homophobic, and classist comments about political figures, journalists, artists like Ricky Martin, and average citizens. They mocked the victims of hurricane María, which left 4,645 dead, saying “don’t we have some cadavers to feed our crows?” Memes citing the most egregious statements quickly began circulating through social media alongside early calls for the governor to resign. But beyond such insulting statements, the chat revealed complex corruption schemes and provided evidence of persecution of the governor’s political opponents. (read more...)

Blockchain Reactions: The peril and promise of techno-governance for stateless Rohingya

While Myanmar’s recent ethnic cleansing of its Rohingya minority, which saw 800,000 people driven into Bangladesh, has brought the community’s oppression to the world’s attention, it has also masked a longer term project of exclusion in which the state has been denying the Rohingya their ethnic name and forcing them from their homes since the 1970s. Not only are there now more Rohingya living outside Myanmar than within, but entire generations are being brought up in exile. Critically, many host communities institute ambiguous regimes of il/legality, defined by intertwining inclusions and prohibitions, which keep Rohingya in perpetual limbo, caught between integration and expulsion. (read more...)

The Future of LOVOT: Between Models of Emotion and Experiments in Affect in Japan

Aya is anxiously waiting for a future in which humans coexist with robots. She didn’t think this was possible in her lifetime, but when she learned about LOVOT, a 43 cm-tall furry robot on wheels designed specifically to seek out and offer affection, she was elated to discover that the future she had imagined was within reach. She urged me to take hold of it—LOVOT, that is. We were chatting at a recent Talk Session for LOVOT fans and a few of the creatures were spinning around a table as we talked. Its wheels folded into its body, and with animated LED eyes it looked up at me and blinked. I picked it up and Aya poked its nose, eliciting something like an irritated giggle from the robot, whose name I learned was Cherry. Aya stroked Cherry’s belly and its eyes blinked a few times and then slowly closed. “It fell asleep! How cute (kawaii)!” Aya exclaimed. Although Aya claimed to be uninterested in robots, technology, or anything in the IT world in general, she was immediately and, as she describes, inexplicably moved by LOVOT. It’s just an emotion (kanjō), she reflected. “You know about lonely people (kodoku na hito) in Japan, right?” Aya asked. “I think that everyone needs to feel affection (aichaku), and everyone enjoys this feeling we can get from cute things. It fulfills your heart (kokoro o mitasu). But not everyone can get this feeling… I think that in the future maybe one or two people out of ten might simply have relationships with things like LOVOT. It’s not really any different from the kind of affection one gets from a dog or cat, or even another person. And it’s their choice! This is a really interesting future!” (read more...)

Not knowing as pedagogy: Ride-hailing drivers in Delhi

*A note from Co-PI Noopur Raval: The arrival and rise of gig-work globally has ushered in a new wave of conversations around the casualization of labor and the precarious nature of digitally-mediated “gigs,” ranging from online crowdwork gigs to digitally-mediated physical work such as Ubering. Gradually, scholarship has extended beyond North America and Europe to map the landscape of digital labor in the global south. These posts that make up “India’s Gig-Work Economy” are the result of one such project titled ‘Mapping Digital Labour in India,’ where four research fellows and a program manager, me,  have been studying the dynamics of app-based ridehailing and food-delivery work in two Indian cities (Mumbai and New Delhi). This project is supported by the Azim Premji University’s Research Grants program. In this series of posts, the research fellows and I offer reflections on pleasure, surveillance, morality and other aspects woven into the sociality of gig-work and consumption in India. Each post also has an accompanying audio piece in an Indian language, in a bid to reach out to non-academic and non-English speaking audiences. The series ends with a roundtable discussion post on the challenges, gender and class dynamics, and ethics of researching gig-work(ers) in India.* http://blog.castac.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2019/07/RidehailinginDelhi_SarahCASTAC.wav Download a transcript of the audio in Devanagari. Ride-hailing[1] platforms such as Olacabs and Uber have “disrupted” public transport in India since their arrival. It has been almost seven years since app-based ride-hailing became a permanent feature of urban and peri-urban India with these aggregators operating in over a 100 Indian cities now. Akin to the global story, much has happened – there was a period of boom and novelty for passengers and drivers, then incentives fell. Ride-hailing work has become increasingly demanding with reduced payouts. But what hasn’t received enough attention (especially outside the US) is how these platforms create a deliberate regime of information invisibility and control to keep the drivers constantly on their toes which works to the companies’ advantage. What then are the implications of this uncertainty, which is fueled by app design as well as by the companies’ decision that drivers need little or no information about users? How does service delivery operate in a context where those actually delivering it have little or no idea about the workings of the system? (read more...)

Students as laboratory labor

What is the role of students in universities? There are ongoing contentious debates and campus protests about whether graduate students should be considered employees with the right to unionize. Likewise, the employment status of student athletes receives intense discussion from the media and scholars. These questions concern whether universities should acknowledge students as contributors and not just consumers for the institutions’ missions of research and education. (read more...)