Technology and culture are intertwined. It's important to work with the materiality of technology. It's important to investigate materials when designing digital and technological objects. Revealing the invisible side of algorithms, for example: how RFID or GPS inhabits space. Working with or understanding materials can give people a sense of agency.

Designers should work communicatively. We need to develop new metaphors to understand how people understand technology.

RFID as seamless enabler of frictionless capitalis


  • Anne Balsamo. “Designing Culture”
  • Donald Schön. Designers have a reflective conversation with materials
  • Ezio Manzini. material is the intersection between what is thinkable and what's possible
  • Bruce Sterling. “User Stockholm Syndrome”
  • Kirby. Labcoats in Holywood (on the relationship between cinema and technology)
  • Frank and Lilian Gilbreth. Time and Motion studies. Light painting and ergonomics in 1914
  • S. Doll, C. Bartle: Immaterial (Ghost in the field)

Infrastructure technology has an abstract logic. It is built through recipes, replicable

Space can be understood as technology: infrastructure space, with the power of software - an operating system for shaping the city. Seeing buildings as active forms, the building as doing something.

Extrastatecraft is driven by irrationality. Freezone as software for producing cities. Incentivized urbanism. EPZ and BIP

How to hack the infrastructure space? Architects should learn to read the patterns of disposition of space, not in its object form, but its active form. Space can be seen as carrier of information, a time released growth protocol, an instruction.

Free zones are based on governance modelled on pirate enclaves that now swallow whole cities (Singapore, Dubai, Astana (entire capital as Free Zone - in a paleo-Ghengis contest with Dubai). Now used as software to design cities, as incentivised urbanism. Is it possible to transplant some of the incentives into existing cities, bringing the zone back into law, creating a different masterplan), perhaps through contagion? How do microwaves territorialise?

Creating village protocols: lowering travel distances, dialling up broadband, dialling down roads. Africa could be the new contagious spatial software.

How to subtract rather than increase urban development? Link properties to shrink them and reverse development. Introduce contagion into the agricultural (monocultural) model of blueprints of suburbia.

To hack into this system, we need an alternative, extrastatecraft: discrepant, fictional and sly.

Koreshan system: “We live inside out”

Lay lines in 1920s (A. Watkins lines of sight)

Infrastructure is not an agenda but can be seen as a conflict between groups playing out in the city.

Maps as fiction: hidden places on google maps (airfields, military installations)

Maps as narratives of possible invasions (1910, 2nd world war…)

changing reality to suit your maps.

Literary operator: a collaboration with Jeff Noon »

Jeff Noon's micro fiction »

Infrastructure fiction

Change thinking that infrastructure is “Someone else's problem” (ref. Douglas Adams)

Infrastructure fiction: reflexive macroengineering and design fiction, conceptual modelling (not a literary movement)

Design fiction: in order to be effective it must believe in itself: imagine the problem is already solved and explore implications.

Diegetic prototypes. DRB future is now

Flatpack futures: critique of technology (Scott Smith)

What is infrastructure, where does infrastructure end and technology begin? E.g. powerdrill: the drill-bit is the technology, everything else is in limbo between invisible infrastructure and technology.

Shatter illusions and the rhetoric of futurity.

“Beneath the street, the conduit”

“Think about the box” (rather than thinking outside of it)

People are the most invisible part of any infrastructure. Don't write a story about the bridge, write about the people making and using the bridge…

see transcription at improving realities

Use design to seek out better questions. Ask better questions rather than solving the wrong problems.

Project: E. Colaroid - living colour using synthetic biology (2004 IGEM competition?)

Do we need a new branch on a tree of life for “synthetica”? and related discussion.

The role of fiction is to initiate discussion (e.g. from photosynthesis to electrosynthesis for farming during Mars missions / synthetic aesthetics: we eat what we are)

Space travel research allows for disputable tech to enter mainstream consciousness (will GMO be made ok through space travel?)


  • Synthetic Biology, A primer
  • Season of the void
  • Synthetic Aesthetics

Working with weak signals (impossible, improbable, probable)

Design fiction projects: “Mercenary Cubiclists”, “New Mumbai” (mushrooms as sources of energy)

From Koreshans to protest movements (Occupy) - people don't know what they want, only that they're unhappy. More interesting alternative: Athens wireless metropolitan network: occupying territory through technology.

David Graeber “Practical Utopian's guide to the coming collapse”.

Jon Ronson. “The psychopath test”

1920s Brighton game: (who is Lobby Ladd?): design for a game over the summer, when newspaper sales were low: find the lad and get points (and cash)

Place where you're playing matters (against the “magic circle” game design)

Big data, “Algorithm as annoying friend” or toddlers asking same questions over and over…

“The Boy kings” by Kate Losse.

The concept of the entrepreneur was developed in 1920s & 30s, reaching its high point in the 70s (at the same time as “choose your own adventure” books, e.g City of thieves). There are myths (especially animal myths - “gazelles” and MUPPETS) linked to innovative entrepreneurs, even in policy documents. “Bacon wrapped economy” designed for white young men (in Silicon valley) - living in a hall of mirrors. The link between funders and startups is based on irrational human factors (similar background, clothing, etc.)

Looking at who funds many innovative technologies: the “entrepreneurial” state.

Technologies are hopeful monsters, made monstrous by people and processes.


  • MUPPET acronym & analysis
  • 'The entrepreneurial state' econ paper
  • Technology as 'hopeful monsters'

BBC Creative Archive, 10 years ago, plan to digitise and open up BBC archives (for re-using content as well): planned 1mil hours, now only about 10h available: depressing.

Projects to create platforms for people to tell their own stories: e.g. roofs of bus stops.

How can we tell our stories to really make a difference?

Paper: “The WEIRDest people in the world”

Charismatic megaengineering similar to “charismatic megafauna”

compare and contrast: ↔ info-ladies in Bangladesh

It's a question of 'appropriate' technology (fluid technology)

However: not to confuse morality and appropriateness.

Putting people back into the equation: increasing literacy and transparency; engineering ethics, agency and access: revealing the big thing and giving people the agency to do something about it. What happens if they don't care? How do you get beyond not caring? We should be able to articulate alternatives better.

An abstraction away from the true power of tools (problem w. Facebook/etc+)

Revolution: in sheer numbers, but with the ability to dig down into individual stories.

Open is a myth that should be cracked open (watch out for open but not accessible).

The 'good life' is not unattainable it is unmaimtaimable

Ref anab Jain essay 're. Design fiction and macro engineering

(bidirectional liquid democracy, recruit ppl to help inform/make decisions before delegated votes)

  • improving_reality_2013.txt
  • Last modified: 2013-09-09 10:34
  • by nik