‘The privacy paradox’ by D.J. Solove

The ‘paradox’ refers to the cases where people share personal information even when they attest to highly valuing their privacy. This article originally points to a series of studies where individuals chose to disclose personal information in order to gain either a small discount or for no reason at all. The author discusses two arguments: the ‘behavior valuation argument’ [when people’s behavior is used to measure how much people value privacy (revealed preferences) instead of attitudes (stated preferences)] and the exact opposite: the ‘behavior distortion argument’ (when behavior does not reliably reflect people’s preferences) only to deny both. In fact, Solove argues there is no paradox at all. “The privacy paradox,” he says, “emerges from conflated issues, unwarranted generalizations, and leaps in logic.” Full article available here

James Wines: “Future architecture should become invisible”

High-Rise of Homes, 1981. Image available here

Art and eco-design belong together, the idea of ​​the building itself becomes the object of art (…) people never want an aesthetically inferior building near them (…) most eco-friendly architecture is really quite ugly (…) the ecological challenges are extremely complex (…) One of the goals of architecture for the post-pandemic era must be to stop forcing people into a world where everything is decided for them (…) The greening of buildings should be a collective design process in which choice, chance and change work together (…) If architects and designers want to continue to play a role in the future, they have to adapt their aesthetic values ​​to these changed conditions: what we actually need now is invisible architecture

Full interview of James Wines, available here

Digital citizenship, digital rights and digital literacy

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The ‘digital’ as an influence in each field: “each time the ‘digital’ is used as a modifier or as a
qualifying term in any of the senses suggested above, it exerts a normative effect.” Digital poses as progress, develop, change; it implies the transformation of current practices at a fundamental level, but it also stands for machinist, automated and impersonal.

Digital Citizenship: the right to participate online or how the digital facilitates new forms of participation, “digital acts involve interpreting multiple streams of local and global information, and, in the age of datafication, anticipating unknown consequences.” However, marginalized groups still struggle to be included, digital citizens are less reliant to the nation state for democratic expression, while at the same time, new forms of discipline made possible because of ‘digital’ increase control over citizens. Digital Rights: intended here as protection against ‘standard threats’: there is an inherent tension between free exchange of ideas and protection of abuse or harassment. There is a discrepancy between the universalized human subject and the locally situated one. Digital rights for some actors can be thus overlooked, they have a strong reliance on institutions rather than states, however, they bring context. Digital Literacy: intended as knowledge assembly, however, literacy is ‘an established frame in response to changes in communications that normalizes and explains the relationships between individuals and society.” New strands of literacy have emerged due to datafication like ‘critical data literacy’. These in turn provide a foundation for the both digital citizenship and rights.

So what is their common ground? Promoting agency in the digital context by enhancing the individuals’ power to change the world. However, there are limits to bottom-up collective responses. Future research should test their limits and to also consider how they can resist the pervasive aspects of control.

Reference

Pangrazio, L. & Sefton-Green, J. (2021). Digital Rights, Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy: What’s the Difference?. In Journal of New Approaches in Education Research 10 (1), 15-27. Full paper available here. (First seen in Stephen Downes blog)

PhD position – Circular Community Challenges

Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment has created 12 new positions for PhD researchers. For information on the topics please visit the vacancies webpage.

I am happy to announce I will be supervising one of them along with a team of excellent colleagues. The topic considers the social relevance of circularity and its potential in driving participatory planning or -better yet- self-organisation processes at community scale. You will be involved in real-life experimentation and analytical prototyping through an anthropological approach. You will help plan, coordinate, and monitor circular initiatives at neighborhood scale in collaboration with locals. Furthermore, you will be part of a series of design workshops that will explore design with locally harvested materials and how that ultimately affects the designers’ role.

Deadline for application is 19/02/2021. For more information on Circular Community Challenges please visit this page

Science-Technology-Society (STS) Research

De Haagse magistraat in 1647 by Cornelis Jonsson (Jansz.) van Ceulen/ Image available here

STS addresses the role of deliberative democracy and citizen participation in science and technology management where boundary organisations* can play an important role: traditional forms of deliberation have failed to engage forms of emotive and affective storytelling to make dialogue more inclusive or minority cultures and worldviews/ There are many technologies of deliberation: consensus conferences; citizen juries; participatory budgeting; science shops and deliberative polls/ these are more focused on citizen appraisals than citizen-based initiatives/ focus has turned to the three areas of concern:

01 micropolitics of deliberation: concerned about how issues are framed-design and facilitation of processes-recruitment of participants-management of consensus and about issues of representation and inclusivity/ Deliberation organizers often aim for a demographic, rather than political, sampling of community members/ An inclusive deliberative process accounts for both demographic and social group representation/ inclusive deliberation requires formal opportunities to speak, as well as diverse communication styles that include ‘‘other’’ ways of cultural knowing like music and dance (Young, 2008)

02 macro policy impacts: measuring impacts of deliberation on policy processes/ it is difficult to connect citizen deliberation with meaningful global policy

03 reassessing the role of substantive engagement: citizens engaged as subjects rather than as objects of discourse/ consider the direct short-term policy impacts, but also the personal and social impacts of ‘‘learning, thinking and talking’’ together/ the goal should be ‘‘to make explicit the plurality of reasons, culturally embedded assumptions and socially contingent knowledge ways that can inform collective action’’/ work on reducing the epistemic distance of objects and processes under debate’/ scholars must create tactile spaces where participants can see, taste, touch, smell and hear for themselves the phenomena around which knowledge claims are being made

*boundary organization is a formal body jointly generated by the scientific and political communities to coordinate different purposes and promote consistent boundaries and mutually incomprehensible interactions (…) Guston put forward the idea of boundary organizations to stabilize the boundary between scientists and policymakers (…) Boundary organization serves as a secure space can be established through good relations and procedures for negotiating disputes (wiki)

Reference

Phadke, R., manning C. & Burlager, S. (2015). Making it personal: Diversity and deliberation in climate adaptation planning. In Climate Risk Management 9, 62-76

What is community?

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Andersen (imagined communities): power of nationalism to define and prescribe a sense of community that transcends physical nature, but is located in mind and heart

Wenger (communities of practice): community is about working together as a practice

Nursey-Bray: community has been defined as a place; as in a territory or place-based community where people have something in common, or there is a shared geography

Cohen: communities are formed via attachment, and they are communities of meaning

Tonnie: community related to gemeinschaft, thus a group of people that share common bonds around traditions, beliefs or objectives

Bartle: community as a collection of human individuals organised as a socio-cultural system within six dimensions relevant to community and culture (i) technological, (ii) economic. (iii) political, (iv) institutional (social), (v) aesthetic-value amd (vi) belief-conceptual.

Lee-Newby: community as a set of interrelationships among social institutions in a locality

Kaufman: community is first a place and second a configuration as a way of life, both as to how people do things and what they want, to say their institutions and goals

Johnson: community as a collection of people who share a common territory and meet their basic and social needs through interaction with one another

Reference

Nursey-Bray, M. (2020). Community Engagement: What is it?. In Dominique Hes, Christina Hernandez-Santin (Eds.) Placemaking Fundamentals for the Built Environment, Melbourne, Australia: Palgrave macmillan, pp. 83-105

Associology Uncertainties

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First source of uncertainties: No Group, Only Group Formation | Intermediaries versus Mediators | Intermediaries: is what transports meaning or force without transformation/ defining input is enough to define output | Mediators: they transform, translate, distort and modify the meaning or the elements they are supposed to carry/ their input is never a good predictor of their output. (Groups are made)

Second source of uncertainties: Action is overtaken | Who and what is acting when we act? Actor is not the source of an action but ‘the moving target of a vast array of entities swarming toward it.’ An actor on stage is never alone in acting. By definition action is dislocated (…) Just as actors are constantly engaged by others in group formation and destruction (the first uncertainty), they engage in providing controversial accounts for their actions as well as for those of others (…) Will we have the courage not to substitute an unknown expression for a well-known one? (…) We have to resist pretending that actors have only a language while the analyst possesses the metalanguage in which the first is ‘embedded’. (agencies are explored)

Third source of uncertainties: Objects too have agency | power, like society, is the final result of a process and not a reservoir, a stock, or a capital that will automatically provide an explanation. Power and domination have to be produced, made up, composed (…) the flagrant asymmetry of resources does not mean that they are generated by social asymmetries. (Social) is an association between entities which are in no way recognizable as being social in the ordinary manner, except during the brief moment when they are reshuffled together (…) what is new is that objects are suddenly highlighted not only as being full-blown actors, but also as what explains the contrasted landscape we started with, the overarching powers of society, the huge asymmetries, the crushing exercise of power (…) objects overflow their makers, intermediaries become mediators. (objects play a role: they become from intermediaries to mediators)

Fourth source of uncertainties: Matters of Fact vs Matters of Concern|Even more so than in art, architecture, and engineering, science offered the most extreme cases of complete artificiality and complete objectivity moving in parallel (…) we began using the expression ‘construction of facts’ to describe the striking phenomenon of artificiality and reality marching in step (…) for other colleagues in the social as well as natural sciences the word construction meant something entirely different: made up and false (…) Objects of science may explain the social, not the other way around (…) ‘factors’ are unable to transport any action through any event reduced to the status of intermediary (…) a concatenation of mediators does not trace the same connections and does not require the same type of explanations as a retinue of intermediaries transporting a cause (…) the word ‘translation’ now takes on a somewhat specialized meaning: a relation that does not transport causality but induces two mediators into coexisting (…) there is no society, no social realm, and no social ties, but there exist translations between mediators that may generate traceable associations (…) How could a fact be that solid if it is also fabricated? (…) The discussion begins to shift for good when one introduces not matters of fact, but what I now call matters of concern (…) It is the thing itself that has been allowed to be deployed as multiple and thus allowed to be grasped through different viewpoints, before being possibly unified in some later stage depending on the abilities of the collective to unify them (…) Once you learn how to respect shifting ontologies, you can tackle more difficult entities for which the question of reality has been simply squeezed out of existence by the weight of social explanations

Fifth (and final) source of uncertainties: Writing Down Risky Accounts (networks)|namely an uncertainty about the study itself: bring into the foreground the very making of reports (…) A text, in our definition of social science, is thus a test on how many actors the writer is able to treat as mediators and how far he or she is able to achieve the social (…) (The Network) is nothing more than an indicator of the quality of a text about the topics at hand.It qualifies its objectivity, that is, the ability of each actor to make other actors do unexpected things. A good text elicits networks of actors when it allows the writer to trace a set of relations defined as so many translations (…) So, network is an expression to check how much energy, movement, and specificity our own reports are able to capture (…) The fact is that no one has the answers—this is why they have to be collectively staged, stabilized, and revised (…) Assembled around the ‘laboratory’ of the text, authors as well as readers may begin to render visible the two mechanisms that account for the plurality of associations to be taken into account and for the stabilization or unification of the world they wish to live in (…) We, the little ants, should not settle for heaven or hell, as there are plenty of things on this earth to munch our way through.

Reference

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Full text available here

the Whole Earth Catalog and the WELL: back to the future

Image available here

These two resources, read in parallel, offer a fascinating read. I have mentioned the Whole Earth Catalog before when discussing ecological architecture, but up to now I hadn’t quite investigated what it was about. Fred Turner’s article ‘Where the Counterculture Met the New Economy’ discusses the Whole Earth catalog in detail and how Stewart Brand -the catalog’s master mind- sought to establish a common ground for all dispersed individuals living in communals in the 1960’s by offering a venue where they could communicate and form a single social network. These individuals had stepped away from agonistic politics and the bureaucratic myth of ‘objective consciousness’ and sought to change the world by establishing exemplary communities and change the consciousness of individuals.

The catalog presented reviews of hand tools, books and magazines arrayed in categories (..) It also established a relationship between informational technology, economic activity and alternative forms of community that would outlast the counterculture itself and become a key feature of the digital world

The catalog aimed at creating ‘a countercultural style of consumerism’ by making product suggestions but also to ways of thinking and speaking; a transformation of the self. Personal power believed Brand, develops from the power of the individual to conduct his own education and environment.

After the significant success of WEC (the catalog was fully operational for ten years after which Brand continued to publish additional versions), back in the 1980’s when Brand was approached by Larry Brilliant (founder of Network Technologies International) to help him promote computer conferencing systems, Brand came up with the idea of WELL. By now an online platform (a bulletin-board system then), WELL is based on the countercultural conception of community to create a network forum.

Brand wanted The Well to appeal not just to the Whole Earth crowd but to a wider audience: he wanted hackers, he wanted journalists (…) At the same time, he had a hunch that, in addition to electronic dialog, there should be a strong face-to-face element to The Well (…) He sensed that the most interesting possibility to arise from knitting electronic dialog into the fabric of everyday life would lie not in championing either the virtual or the human-contact model but rather in finding the place where they overlapped (…) But probably the most important of Brand’s early convictions for The Well was that people should take responsibility for what they said

For many members of the WELL, on-line collaboration offered a chance to revivify the spirit of the counterculture farms while also establishing and supporting a new type of individual professional, one that cultivated professional and interpersonal networks and key sources for future employment. The latter was directly related to the changes in 1980’s company culture and the dismantling of hierarchical systems towards the formation of corporations. WELL technology and thematics supported this new type of individual. Interactivity was instantaneous and yet collective: it was possible to exchange smaller, time-sensitive
pieces of information, ranging from data on a not-yet-announced technology to a bit of gossip and the forum could enhance the reputations of its users.

I keep that WELL has been ‘a non-hierarchically organized social form in which scattered individuals are linked to one another by an information technology and through it the experience of a shared mindset.’ As web communication had not yet been centralised, these forms of network exchange were the first manifestations of networked online learning communities: people learned from each other. Whilst WELL perhaps focused more in the interaction part than content sharing, and despite its shortcomings, it represented a more democratic medium for co-existence where everybody had a name and were accountable for what they believed and wrote. Thus we come to the second part of the title ‘back to the future’: on our way ahead we fell behind on what made networked communication so alluring in the first place. The possibility to openly speak our minds but to also stand up for and take responsibility for what we are saying.

References

Turner, F. (2005). Where the Counterculture Met the New Economy. The WELL and the Origins of Virtual Community, Technology and Culture 46 (3), pp. 485-512. Full paper available here

Hafner, K. (1997). The Epic Saga of The Well: The World’s Most Influential Online Community (And It’s Not AOL). The Wire magazine. Full article available here

EAR36 – Format matters

Last minute gift from Edinburgh Architecture Research (EAR) Journal just before 2020 ends. This is an article written back in 2017 discussing the application of the Cooperative Studio format at undergraduate level. It’s true that my PhD research became even more relevant due to corona and the emergency of distant education, but I’d like to think that transformational blending and networked learning in architectural education are more that mere trends imposed by the current conditions. In fact, their relevance emerges mostly from changes in the process of learning itself and the current models for creating knowledge and meaning.

The Systems Innovation Platform

The platform presents viewer with an understanding of how innovative systems can emerge by way of employing systems thinking and new technologies for tackling complex problems. It monitors and explains the restructuring of existing units into new organisational forms that bring transformative change into a complex system.

Platform is available here

Horizon2020 Program SoPHIA: First Research Findings

SoPHIA is an ongoing Horizon2020 program that aims to promote collective reflection within the cultural and political sector in Europe on the impact assessment and quality of interventions in European historical environment and cultural heritage at urban level. Consortium comprises of Roma Tre University (project leader), Interarts, the European Museum Academy (EMA), EDUCULT, the National Technical University of Athens, the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) and the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO). However, SoPHIA’s goal is to create a broad community of practice and therefore, is supported by a large number of renowned professionals working in the field of cultural heritage who act as members of SoPHIA’s Advisory Board and an equally impressive number of stakeholders directly or indirectly related to the objectives of the program.

The National Technical University of Athens led the first stage of this project and I am very happy and proud to have also been part!
Here are the first stage research findings along with keynotes from the Athens workshop that was held online last summer (due to corona). Stay tuned to SoPHIA’s official website for more information.