012 :: its been busy!

the main news is probably that grew a beard, went to florence, shaved it off again.

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in addition i’ve done a whole bunch of talks and workshops, this is my talk on ‘seeing the stack’ at the #stacktivism unconference in july.

i also spoke more generally about infrastructure, SCIM and other stuff at the CRESC Annual Conference 2013 in September at ULU. which was in the morning on the SAME DAY as i had tickets to improving reality in brighton. was all busy missions that day

plus all the audio recordings from the #iliw13 event have started to go online. the full audio from the ‘new luddism’ panel is was on is now online :: here

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thoughtmenu the nomadic DIY talk & event collective i helped found last year turned 1 in august. its been a bit different this year as it has has been a year of partnerships.

in april we partnered with the wonderful makerhood,com and put on a thought menu at their making uncovered event. below is a fantastic short documentary that gives a awesome sense of the day

since june and we have been working alongside limewharf to help curate the season of ‘Big Picture Days’. we have two more sessions left – oct & november and I’m excited for both of them.

topic so far have been Swam Coops, Stacktivism, Cyberinsecurity. Topics still to come are ‘Rights’ & ‘Neo-nomads’

we have a new website based on tumblr, to celebrate we been posting the videos from previous talks. As a result I’ve learnt quite a bit about Imovie this year – I planning on doing introduction layers with the speaker and talk names on newer videos soon i reckon. heres the newsletter ::

as i write this my room full of semi-packed in boxes. i’m moving soon and will potentially be broke after bills + rent whilst in the new place. as a result, i have some new projects brewing, one of which (hopefully) will come to fruition before the year is out. i just bought a blue yeti microphone  i’m now all ‘wired for sound’  so its most definitely going to be audio.

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010 : next weekend 20/21 april 2013 – things happening

Sunday 21st – New Luddism :: Immaterial Labour Isn’t Working: Digital Culture, Digital Work, Digital Insurrection.

Immaterial Labour Isn’t Working is a series of talks, workshops, texts and online contributions from key voices – artists, activists, technologists and writers – examining how digital technology is changing our political selves.

i will be speaking on the first sunday evening of the #ILIW13 event at a talk on ‘New Luddism’.

The details of the talk can be found below ::

Who benefits from and is in charge of new technology? What could a life with less rather than more technological innovation be like?

Taking ideas of traditional Luddism as a point for departure, Dougald Hine, Dave King (Luddites200) and Jay Springett will join Huw Lemmey to discuss the possibilities for engaging with new technologies and what our relationships to these technologies have become now that it is increasingly difficult to truly “switch off”.

Dougald Hine  is a writer and social thinker who has been responsible for creating a series of organisations, including the School of Everything, the civic ideas agency Spacemakers, and the Dark Mountain Project,  a cultural forum for investigating the converging crises of climate change, resource scarcity and economic instability.

Luddites200 is an ad hoc group of admirers of the Luddites, radical historians and activists on issues connected to technology.   The group is developing a neo-Luddite politics of technology for the 21st century.  Dave King is a former scientist who has been writing and campaigning on the politics of genetics and reproductive technologies since 1990.

Jay Springett – Jay Springett is a Musician, Photographer, Philosopher, and Luddite. He is concerned primarily with humans, technology, infrastructure, and the unseen intersection points of how these things keep us alive. He specializes in small one-man projects that other people can get involved with. Jay is a member of EdgeRyders (a distributed thinktank incubated by the Council of Europe), co-designer of the visual language of SCIM (Simple Critical Infrastrcuture Maps) –resiliencemaps.org and is a contributer to the Hexayurt Project an open hardware disaster relief shelter. He also co-curates The Thought Menu: a nomadic talks series, and is passionate about DIY culture.

Huw Lemmey is an artist and writer whose work focuses on digital political culture and post-internet art. He is involved in running the Limazulu project space and has co-ordinated the Immaterial Labour Isn’t Working project with Auto Italia.

@dougald / @luddites200 / @thejaymo / @spitzenprodukte

You can get tickets from the eventbrite page here

Saturday 20th – The Thought Menu #5 :: On Making

Yup, we are doing another thought menu!

We have partnered with the great Makerhood.com for Thought Menu #5 and will be putting on an hour of classic thought menu at their event Making Uncovered.

Making Uncovered is an exciting festival of making, art and craft. It’s free to attend, and everyone is welcome – drop in at any time. We have a great collection of speakers for the evening, and really hope you can make it down!

speakers include :: Kelly Angood , Anish Mohammed, Raphael Hefti & Tom Grimsey

Full details can be found at the Making Uncovered site here or you can sign up to the Thought Menu News Letter for details about the event and get info on future events.

You can book your free ticket here.

Exciting times!

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008 : two thousand & twelve

the last few years i have done an end of year roundup thing on twitter. but it’s been a bit of a crazy year, so i wanted to document it somewhere a bit more concrete.

:: edgeryders ::

edgeryders is a crowd sourced think tank focusing particularly on european youth & the precarieat. i was lucky enough in june to be invited to the ‘living on the edge’ conference (#lote) at the council of europe in strasbourg. this was an amazing experience and probably one of the highlights of the year. i met hundreds of engaged & inspiring young people from all over the continent facing challenges both similar & different from my own. in all honesty my ‘blown mind’ is still living with the fallout from that event. i posted my post event thoughts on it at the time.

sadly due to work commitments i missed #lote2 at the european parliament in brussels this past november. it’s my understanding that projects dreamed up at the initial #lote unconference began to form and coalesce. i am particularly interested in the unmonastery & the hacking the 2014 elections projects.

edgeryders was an incredible opportunity. i met some amazing people, but perhaps more importantly: made some really good new friends. above all, if the coe was to give just one reason to justify why it spent its money on the project – it would have to be that it invested in the social capital of hundreds of exceedingly capable individuals from all across the eu.

:: the thought menu ::

the thought menu is a nomadic talks series and was/is the product of a conversation had over drinks in sunny strasbourg at #lote. my co-conspirators were the ever capable and beautiful human beings: gaia marcus & ben vickers

the first four thought menu talks were held at lima zulu project space in august during the two weekends of the olympics. you can read an overview of what went down in the post event newsletter here. thinking now; the theme for this year perhaps has been ‘people’ – some of the people (audience and speakers) i met whilst running the thought menu are also incredible & inspiring people. it has been a pleasure to make their acquaintance – my life is richer for it.

unfortunately: we have all had huge attacks of life during the last period of 2012. the plan as it currently stands is to start the thought menu as a regular event in 2013. we are still looking for venues and speakers. if you fancy giving a talk or lending a hand – please e-mail us here :: thethoughtmenu@gmail.com 

:: growstuff.org ::

another thing that has its roots for me in/from edgeryders. i wrote a post called why isnt there an app for that?? . at some point during the year i saw a tweet mentioning the project from the awesome mr @pozorvlak and i got involved in growstuff.

growstuff is a community of food gardeners working together to build an open source platform to track, share, and discuss edible gardens and sustainable lifestyles. the contributors to this project are a great bunch of people and its been cool to make @skuds acquaintance. i am a big fan of the community rules and the distributed development process, both are due to her passion for community inclusion. the coders have been very patient with me, and i have learnt a little bit of ruby and sysadmin stuff already – learning to code is definitely something i want work on in earnest in 2013.

:: resiliencemaps.org / scim ::

all that time ago, learning about simple critical infrastructure mapping changed the way i think about politics and wider society. the problem however is that vinay’s design skills leave much to be desired. as such: my housemate and i sat down in the evening over a short period this year and designed a visual language. without the nounproject this would have been impossible.

i’m really pleased with how the whole thing turned out, and at some point next year i’ll work on getting them in to a copy of scim as a document. i think it might be a good excuse to try out sourcefabric’s booktype.

:: surviveth.is zine ::

i made a stab at doing something with surviveth.is . i put together a little document, which explains scim using the diagrams above plus @gelada‘s and how to build a hexayurt in one handy one page zine.

i’ve been talking to @jumplogic about sorting out some of the hexayurt documentation in 2013. hopefully we can pull some stuff together before the pre-burning man build season.

– some personal stuff –

:: i bought no new clothes ::

i always try and have a year long project that can be achieved with very little effort. (see here) and this year was to buy no new clothes.

it has actually been a really useful & illuminating experience. but by god do i need some new underwear.. :/ the year long anti-project has taught me a lot about the value of well made clothes. and more importantly has completely changed the way i operate in shops – you walk in to a clothes shop & simply just see past everything.

one of the observations i will take away from this is the oxford shirts i bought for work (in 2011) have lasted excellently. although after 18 months of daily use they are looking a little tired. i think i’m going to put this long life down to the fact i had them fitted at a tailors way back when i got them. clothes off the rack are designed to fit everybody & therefore fits no-one. the extra expense of getting clothes fitted once you have bought them vastly outweighs the costs of wearing ill-fitting clothes. this is something i plan on taking to heart. on the same note. my brogues i have invested in over the last few years are still going strong. i enjoy the ritual of polishing and maintaining them, there are very few objects in my life that require such long term attention. plus taking them to the cobblers in town and having the heel or occasional sole replaced is still more cost effective than buying a new pair, even if you factor in the initial outlay costs 3-4 years on.

i have given at least 4 bags of clothes to charity and i still am in a position where i haven’t worn some of the clothes i have in my room (mainly jumpers as it hasn’t been cold enough to bust out the grandpa knitwear). it has been good to unclutter slightly, and i’m thinking of doing discardia in 2013.

i must say the ability to recognise the quality of stitching and materials in the clothes you are wearing became more important as the year went on. an awareness of your ‘things’ is important, and means that you can catch things before they begin to break down.

which leads me on to –

:: i learned to sew ::

as embarrassing as it sounds, and despite dating an accomplished corsetier for 3.5 years in my early 20’s i’ve never been able to sew/stitch. put a button back on yeah – but not actually you know ‘fix’ anything. no longer!

this year i have learned to fix split seams (damn cycling thighs in skinny jeans and full pockets) fix rips, fix pockets & sew up holes etc. still figuring out what to do with holes in knees of jeans.

youtube has been an invaluable resource in helping me learn what kind of stitch was appropriate for what needed fixing. i guess in olden days you would learn from people in your family by watching. also, the value of picking up a needle and thread (and knowing what to do with them) when you first notice something going awry with your clothes is a skill i will keep with me for the rest of my life.

as a side note i’ve become interested in the idea of shirt making. i’m thinking of experimenting in 2013. not sure how or in what way but it’s on my mind.

:: learnt to lock pick ::

whilst we are on the subject of new skills, i also learnt to single pick locks this year. i can pretty much conquer most padlocks now pretty quickly. but have managed to beat only one door lock with security pins. i’m thinking of getting some ‘practice locks’ next year and putting together a lock board to continue learning/practising. new skill for 2013 has yet to be decided.

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i have also been on a whole bunch of adventures this year: down to Newquay for a week on a second date, went to cambridge for the first time ever and spent a weekend in a fancy hotel in Birmingham which was pretty cool too. plus adventures with the slightly odd wizard i know have been also interesting to say the least.

002: young mechanical turks

so it appears i completely failed at blogging every week but ah well. i’ve been super busy.

at the thoughtmenu in july we were lucky enough to have james bridle speak at the second event where he gave a brief talk introducing the idea of ‘Young Mecanical Turks’

due to our 10min talk rule he unfortunately wasn’t able to fully get to the bones of his conclusion, so the talk was left quite opened ended for interpretation and where he was going, i’m not going to layout his argument here as he is much better placed to make that elsewhere.

however I would like to take his talk to its logical end point, work backwards and at high level talk about how we got there. whilst he was talking, the topic brought to mind this short story by marshal brain that my friend razi linked to on Twitter recently.

please read it

:: thoughts ::

> firstly one must assume that the main character in the story is a participant in a software platform, and not an ’employee’. if he declines a task issued, Manna will provide him another one  – i can imagine there is a small number of vetos an employee is allowed (per day/per week) before they are suspended from the platform and told to go home.

> he is paid per task completed rather than an hourly rate. the software will algorithmically assign enough tasks across his day to earn a living wage.

  • open the cupboard door 30p
  • pull out bucket 20p
  • fill it with water 25p

> with each small and mundane task he performs before he can start, he has to accept a eula of millions of lines of leagalease covering the terms of employment for that specific task.

> by making the user accept a eula with every task, the employer can calculate the amout of insurance need to provided cover to the employee via a task sperciffic risk assessment. (Micro insurance of this kind became common practice after zipcar introduced Google’s self driving car, which requires you to buy insurance on a per journey basis – as self driving cars are MUCH safer than manual drivers their insurence premiums went through the roof)

> there is a long term gamification element in the platform that rewards users XP and allows them to choose and open up skill trees for training purposes (points and skills accumulated on one platform are not transferable to any another)

> bonus points are rewarded if employees complete ‘market tasks’ these are open jobs that are in the job pipe and need doing but have yet to become urgent enough that the software issues an instruction to go do it. the task would start at say £1/£2 and go down in price as time moves on as it becomes more urgent/pressing. employees can bid against each other on ‘market’ tasks: with the job going to the employee that bids the lowest before the time runs out. of course if a young mecanical turk enjoys doing the task the can choose the ‘queue it now’ option which ends the auction instantly at the lowest price possible (bottom end price set by the Manna algorithm) and it gets added to their queue.

> as employees work in the system/on the platform over time they level up and gain accsess to things like days off, dental care and eventually healthcare.

:: workers rights do not exisit in this world ::

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as companies like task rabbit and amazons mechanical turk evolve and combine, the mechanics and legal framework that employment law provides will not be able to move quick enough to keep up with the rate of change. i think the semantic point i made about people being participants in a software platform and not ’employees’ is key here. which is why it is so important that we fight for universal human rights both in the physical sphere and the digital. our identities and personalities are already exploited by a network used by nearly a billion people.

let’s not let the exploitation of our immaterial labour become material.