The Mobile Phone and the Web in Developing Countries

The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium … as close to a governing body as the Internet has) has a call for papers that makes an interesting proposition: that mobile phones will be the prime means of accessing the web for users in developing countries. See the press release at www.w3.org.
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Network Architecture Lab Established

Why has this blog been so barren lately? Am I giving up on the Net? No! Far from it. I have, however, been a little busy lately. Now that the project is safely established, we can announce that…

AUDC Establishes Network Architecture Lab

@ Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

Formed in 2001, AUDC [Architecture Urbanism Design Collaborative] specializes in research as a form of practice. The AUDC Network Architecture Lab is an experimental unit at Columbia University that embraces the studio and the seminar as venues for architectural analysis and speculation, exploring new forms of research through architecture, text, new media design, film production and environment design.

Specifically, the Network Architecture Lab investigates the impact of computation and communications on architecture and urbanism. What opportunities do programming, telematics, and new media offer architecture? How does the network city affect the building? Who is the subject and what is the object in a world of networked things and spaces? How do transformations in communications reflect and affect the broader socioeconomic milieu? The NetLab seeks to both document this emergent condition and to produce new sites of practice and innovative working methods for architecture in the twenty-first century. Using new media technologies, the lab aims to develop new interfaces to both physical and virtual space.

The NetLab is consciously understood as an interdisciplinary unit, establishing collaborative relationships with other centers both at Columbia and at other institutions.

The NetLab begins operations in September 2006.

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rethinking wikipedia

One of my colleagues at the Institute for the Future of the Book, Ben Vershbow, wrote an intelligent post pointing to a front page New York Times on steps being taken within Wikipedia to deal with controversies over articles.

What Ben’s post and the NY article (which was on the front page) point to is that Wikipedia is bringing back the need to read critically, a skill that was increasingly being lost””?and not only due to the Internet. Moreover, for any good historian, the controversies and the changing nature of the entries on Wikipedia is a great thing, reminding us that knowledge is always in flux and often contested.

Somehow, in our rush to absorb as much information as possible (or is it to surf as much information as possible?), these age old lessons from historiography seem to have been forgotten. Wikipedia is a great thing since it brings them to the fore. And (especially when downloaded to my Treo) it’s so darn handy too! (broken post fixed)
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The Next Googleplex

Is exurbia the next frontier for massive digital infrastructure projects? The New York Times explores the construction of the Googleplex on a remote site in The Dalles, Oregon, on the banks of the Columbia River. Google paid $1.3 million for 30 acres! They’re going to be paying a lot more to hook up fiber to the grid out there. Is this a response to the concentrated nature of telecoms in cities? Of course, if you have sufficient means, any place can be made a command and control center for the global city. Silicon Valley was once farmland as well.

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Is MySpace a Place?

Networked Performance pointed me toward an interview (download in PDF)with Networked Publics speaker Henry Jenkins and Networked Publics friend danah boyd about Myspace. The site, popular with teenagers, has become increasingly controversial as parents and the press raise concerns about the openness of information on the site and the vulnerability this supposedly poses to predators (Henry points out that only .1% of abductions are by strangers) and the behavior of teens towards each other (certainly nothing new, only now in persistent form). In another essay on Identity Production in Networked Culture, danah suggests that Myspace is popular not only because the technology makes new forms of interaction possible, but because older hang-outs such as the mall and the convenience store are prohibiting teens from congregating and roller rinks and burger joints are disappearing.

This begs the question, is Myspace media or is it space? Architecture theorists have long had this thorn in their side. “This will kill that,” wrote Victor Hugo with respect to the book and the building. In the early 1990s, concern about a dwindling public culture and the character of late twentieth century urban space led us to investigate J?ɬºrgen Habermas’s idea of the public sphere. But the public sphere, for Habermas is a forum, something that, for the most part, emerges in media and in the institutions of the state:

The bourgeois public sphere may be conceived above all as the sphere of private people come together as a public; they soon claimed the public sphere regulated from above against the public authorities themselves, to engage them in a debate over the general rules governing relations in the basically privatized but publicly relevant sphere of commodity exchange and social labor. The medium of this political confrontation was peculiar and without historical precedent: people’s public use of their reason (?ɬ?ffentliches R?ɬ§sonnement). In our [German] usage this term (i.e., R?ɬ§sonnement unmistakable preserves the polemical nuances of both sides: simultaneously the invocation of reason and its disdainful disparagement as merely malcontent griping. (Habermas, 27)

Nevertheless, the salon, the café, and the parliament were key places that instituted this kind of discourse, and they succeeded the court, which was explicitly spatial.

But myspace and the new sites of network culture are different from the media of old. If they are””?in general””?not places of rational discourse, they are venues in which publics gather. Is myspace media? Yes. Is it a place, maybe? In my book, MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft definitely are. So do we exclude myspace just because it is not rendered in three dimensions? Are spaces media themselves? Are media spaces? Could be (think of the Seattle Public Library). I don’t have any easy answers on this, even as Anne Friedberg and I work on our essay for the upcoming Networked Publics book.

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NSA Wiretap Documents Revealed

In my article on the Centripetal City, I suggest that the concentration of Internet infrastructure poses a potential terrorist target. But what of the other sort of terror, the Orwellian terror of complete government surveillance, the state of exception created by total war? Network culture may appear to be liberating, but what of this dark underside? In (post-)Soviet America, you don’t Google the NSA, the NSA Googles you!

The scandal over wiretaps by the NSA has been brewing for some time, but yesterday Wired Magazine released documents that detail charges that AT&T built secret rooms in a San Francisco company office in order to cc: traffic from its WorldNet Internet Backbone to the NSA. Read Wired’s story here and view the documents in pdf hereContinue reading “NSA Wiretap Documents Revealed”

Power Mapping

Even as network culture displaces postmodernism, Jameson’s aesthetic of cognitive mapping is flourishing. Critical spatial practice has gathered a huge collection of critical mapping projects and essays about mapping today. And if you haven’t seen it, of course you should visit the essay that Marc Tuters (one of the coiners of the term ‘locative media’) and I wrote for the Networked Publics group, Beyond Locative Media.
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Annenberg Principles on Network Neutrality

The Annenberg Center for Communication, where I am a resident fellow this year recently brought together a group of senior communication experts from industry, academia, and consumer groups to discuss how to begin to bridge differences over the issue of network neutrality. Together, this group developed the Annenberg Principles for Network Neutrality, a set of key points to serve as a base for discussions on the topic in the future.
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