Bleecker and Haque at Poker Club

Thanks to John Marshall (check out his excellent Designed Objects blog) for blogging the latest Poker Club event so I didn’t have to! The following is crossposted from John’s blog, with my commentary in italics.

The Poker Club at the Beehive Inn in Edinburgh featured Usman Haque (artist/architect) and Julian Bleecker (technologist/artist/think tank leader) to discuss the “internet of things” and “open source architecture”. Hosted by New Media Scotland.

Both presenters took us through a short run down of their work and then there was a lively exchange between everyone present. Hopefully there will be a podcast from New Media Scotland in the near future.

Haque’s presentation was broken into three categories: Invisible Stuff, Collaborative Stuff (produced by non experts – or vernacular creativity) and Social Space. He talked about Architecture as an operating system for the collaborative production of space. He stressed the importance of the necessity of the system (whether an augmented object or space) to have the capacity to build ‘its’ own perceptual categories. Several examples of previous and current work were shown.

Bleecker started with the question ‘Is life hackable?’ He characterised the upsurge of activity as a renewed or second order humanism. The term ‘change agents’ was used and it was pointed out that these are no longer well positioned parties such as New York Times reporters. Several projects were shown which showed how digital networks can shape physical activities in a sort of network practice – social practice continuum. It was stressed that we’re not just talking about data transactions. In an eloquent analogy, Julian also observed that not only are we no longer reliant on major corporations for information because of the blogging revolution, but also we could become accustomed to receiving data from unconventional sources – a pigeon wired up with sensors that output to an RSS feed could tell us more about weather, air quality, etc. than a typical source of meterological data.

Some interesting points that came up in the discussion:
– We are surrounded by invisible information, how do we make this visible or legible?
– Technology extends the zone of our perception/agency.
Is the web of objects the end of subjectivity or a new beginning for subjectivity?
– The role of human beings as filters.
– Do we need to agree on the tags that we use to filter the onslaught of incoming information?

The issues emerging for me are what do we mean by ‘understanding’ in relation to all the information we have access to and how do we have agency within it? One thing that came up over and over was the spatial or prepositional nature of our relationship to the digital networked public. As Bleeker points out in Why Things Matter (PDF download) are we ‘on’ or ‘in’ the network?