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Posts in category 'Book'

30 October 2014

Graphic novel explains our role in the world of Big Data

Terms-of-Service-350x307

Big Data powers the modern world. What do we gain from Big Data? What do we lose? Al Jazeera America examines the role of technology and the implications of sharing personal information in the network’s first graphic novella, Terms of Service: Understanding Our Role in the World of Big Data.

The new comic novella, available on Al Jazeera America’s website at http://projects.aljazeera.com/2014/terms-of-service, is a thought provoking, entertaining field guide to help smart people understand how their personal, and often very private, data is collected and used.

Co-produced by well-known cartoonist Josh Neufeld and Al Jazeera America reporter Michael Keller, Terms of Service is an entertaining feature that follows characters “Josh and Michael” as they journey through the challenges of digital privacy and other issues consumers should be aware of in the “brave new world” of technology and Big Data. The comic attempts to entertain and educate readers while providing a solid foundation for them to begin asking their own questions.

Between social media profiles, browsing histories, discount programs and new tools controlling our energy use, there’s no escape. As we put ourselves into our technology through text messages and photos, and use technology to record new information about ourselves such as FitBit data, what are the questions a smart consumer should be asking? What is the tradeoff between giving up personal data and how that data could be used against you? And what are the technologies that might seem invasive today that five years from now will seem quaint? How do we as technology users keep up with the pace while not letting our data determine who we are?

Michael Keller is a multimedia journalist at Al Jazeera America covering issues at the intersection of technology and civic life. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Newsweek/Daily Beast, and others. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011 and is a research Fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. [mhkeller.com]

Josh Neufeld is a nonfiction cartoonist living in Brooklyn. His previous works include A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone On the Media, and the ongoing series The Vagabonds. Neufeld was a 2012–2013 Knight-Wallace Fellow in Journalism at the University of Michigan. [JoshComix.com]

25 October 2014

Report outlines future of UK social design research

socialdesignfutures

Social Design Futures: HEI Research and the AHRC
By Armstrong, Leah, Jocelyn Bailey, Guy Julier, Lucy Kimbell
University of Brighton and Victoria and Albert Museum
October 2014, 84 pages

The UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has just published a report exploring social design research in the UK.

The report scrutinises the future of social design research at a time when its relevance is growing rapidly as a result of policy shifts towards more open government structures and increased visibility of strategic design thinking and social innovation, and a wider context of economic austerity and digital revolution.

Current and ongoing interest in social design means the field is at a critical point. This ‘social design moment’ presents opportunities for researchers in design and related areas. However, in order to take full advantage of these opportunities, and to support the development of social design research, some challenges must be addressed.

> Press release
> Full report

3 September 2014

[Book] Ethnographic Fieldwork and Digital Culture – A Beginner’s Guide

 

Ethnographic Fieldwork and Digital Culture – A Beginner’s Guide
By Piia Varis
Routledge
February 2015

Abstract

Ethnography, as a holistic approach to societies and cultures, can make a substantial contribution to the study of present-day online environments and our digital culture(s). However, the process of doing ethnography online is far from straight-forward.

This book aims to give a realistic account of what ethnographic research on digital culture is like, describing the whole trajectory of an ethnographic project from planning to finishing stages, including the potential ethical and practical challenges that are specific to this line of research. The discussion in the book will be supported – in the spirit of ethnographic research – by a collection of empirical cases, both illustrating the theoretical and methodological points made, as well as offering a panorama of different forms of analyses and types of data. Accordingly, questions related to data collection will be addressed and tips given as to how to manage the data collected and keep it organised. The book will specifically focus on studying different phenomena on social media and social network sites (e.g. YouTube, Facebook).

Useful for both the beginner researcher and the more experienced one, Ethnographic Fieldwork and Digital Culture gives students and scholars in media studies an accessible guide to the intricacies of conducting ethnographic research online.

Author

Piia Varis is a researcher at the Department of Culture Studies, Tilburg University (the Netherlands), where she also coordinates the research project Transformations of the Public Sphere. She teaches courses on digital culture and ethnographic online research at Tilburg University and University of Luxembourg. She is also a member of the Max Planck Sociolinguistic Diversity Working Group. She received her PhD (English, 2009) from the University of Jyväskylä (Finland), and has since published on e.g. forms of language use and identity online (Varis & Wang 2011; Varis, Wang & Du 2010; Blommaert & Varis 2011; Dong et al. 2012). She is co-editor of Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies (with Jan Blommaert, Massimiliano Spotti & Sanna Lehtonen).

3 September 2014

[Book] Digitized Lives

digitizedlives

Digitized Lives: Culture, Power, and Social Change in the Internet Era
By T.V. Reed
Routledge
June 2014

Abstract

In a remarkably short period of time the Internet and associated digital communication technologies have deeply changed the way millions of people around the globe live their lives. But what is the nature of that impact? In chapters examining a broad range of issues—including sexuality, politics, education, race, gender relations, the environment, and social protest movements—Digitized Lives seeks answers to these central questions: What is truly new about so-called “new media,” and what is just hype? How have our lives been made better or worse by digital communication technologies? In what ways can these devices and practices contribute to a richer cultural landscape and a more sustainable society?

Cutting through the vast—and often contradictory—literature on these topics, Reed avoids both techno-hype and techno-pessimism, offering instead succinct, witty and insightful discussions of how digital communication is impacting our lives and reshaping the major social issues of our era. The book argues that making sense of digitized culture means looking past the glossy surface of techno gear to ask deeper questions about how we can utilize technology to create a more socially, politically, and economically just world.

> Companion website

Author

T. V. Reed is Buchanan Distinguished Professor of American Studies and English at Washington State University. He is the author of The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle.

3 September 2014

[Book] An Ethnography of Wikipedia

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Common Knowledge? An Ethnography of Wikipedia
By Dariusz Jemielniak
Stanford University Press
2014, 312 pages

Abstract

With an emphasis on peer–produced content and collaboration, Wikipedia exemplifies a departure from traditional management and organizational models. This iconic “project” has been variously characterized as a hive mind and an information revolution, attracting millions of new users even as it has been denigrated as anarchic and plagued by misinformation. Has Wikipedia’s structure and inner workings promoted its astonishing growth and enduring public relevance?

In Common Knowledge?, Dariusz Jemielniak draws on his academic expertise and years of active participation within the Wikipedia community to take readers inside the site, illuminating how it functions and deconstructing its distinctive organization. Against a backdrop of misconceptions about its governance, authenticity, and accessibility, Jemielniak delivers the first ethnography of Wikipedia, revealing that it is not entirely at the mercy of the public: instead, it balances open access and power with a unique bureaucracy that takes a page from traditional organizational forms. Along the way, Jemielniak incorporates fascinating cases that highlight the tug of war among the participants as they forge ahead in this pioneering environment.

Author

Dariusz Jemielniak is Associate Professor of Management at Kozminski University in Warsaw, Poland, where he heads the Center for Research on Organizations and Workplaces. Beyond academia, he is a heavily engaged Wikipedian.

Book review [By Roisin Kiberb in Motherboard - Vice]

“The book pulls off a near-impossible double act, serving as both primer and detailed study on the habits of Wikipedians. It presents Wikipedia as a ‘parahierarchy’ thriving on its own conflicts, where even the dense catalogue of house rules is subject to reinterpretation.”

19 July 2014

[Book]: Nursing Research Using Ethnography

9780826134653

Nursing Research Using Ethnography: Qualitative Designs and Methods in Nursing
Mary De Chesnay, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN (Editor)
Pub. Date: 08/28/2014
372 pp., Softcover
Springer
[Amazon]

Ethnography is a qualitative research design that focuses on the study of people to explore cultural phenomena. This concise, “how to” guide to conducting qualitative ethnography research spearheads a new series, Qualitative Designs and Methods, for novice researchers and specialists alike focusing on state-of-the-art methodologies from a nursing perspective. Scholars of qualitative ethnography research review the philosophical basis for choosing ethnography as a research tool and describe in depth its key features and development level. They provide directives on how to solve practical problems related to ethnography research, nursing examples, and discussion of the current state of the art. This includes a comprehensive plan for conducting studies and a discussion of appropriate measures, ethical considerations, and potential problems.

Examples of published ethnography nursing research worldwide, along with author commentary, support the new researcher in making decisions and facing challenges. Each chapter includes objectives, competencies, review questions, critical thinking exercises, and web links for more in-depth research. A practical point of view pervades the book, which is geared to help novice researchers and specialists expand their competencies, engage graduate teachers and students and in-service educators and students, and aid nursing research in larger health institutions.

Key Features:

  • Includes examples of state-of-the-art ethnography nursing research with content analysis
  • Presents a comprehensive plan for conducting studies and appropriate measures, ethical considerations, and potential challenges
  • Describes theoretical underpinnings, key features, and development level
  • Written by ethnography scholars from around the world
19 July 2014

Book: Enchanted Objects

enchantedobjects

Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things
by David Rose
Scribner (July 15, 2014)
July 15, 2014
320 pages
[Amazon]

In the tradition of Who Owns the Future? and The Second Machine Age, David Rose, an MIT Media Lab scientist imagines how everyday objects can intuit our needs and improve our lives.

We are now standing at the precipice of the next transformative development: the Internet of Things. Soon, connected technology will be embedded in hundreds of everyday objects we already use: our cars, wallets, watches, umbrellas, even our trash cans. These objects will respond to our needs, come to know us, and learn to think on our behalf. David Rose calls these devices—which are just beginning to creep into the marketplace—Enchanted Objects.

Some believe the future will look like more of the same—more smartphones, tablets, screens embedded in every conceivable surface. Rose has a different vision: technology that atomizes, combining itself with the objects that make up the very fabric of daily living. Such technology will be woven into the background of our environment, enhancing human relationships and channeling desires for omniscience, long life, and creative expression. The enchanted objects of fairy tales and science fiction will enter real life.

Groundbreaking, timely, and provocative, Enchanted Objects is a blueprint for a better future, where efficient solutions come hand in hand with technology that delights our senses. It is essential reading for designers, technologists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and anyone who wishes to understand the future and stay relevant in the Internet of Things.

David Rose is an award-winning entrepreneur and instructor at the MIT Media Lab, specializing in how digital information interfaces with the physical environment. A former CEO at Vitality, a company that reinvented medication packaging, he founded Ambient Devices, which pioneered technology to embed Internet information in everyday objects like lamps, mirrors, and umbrellas. Currently Rose is the CEO of Ditto Labs, and his work has been featured at New York Museum of Modern Art and in The New York Times, and parodied on The Colbert Report. A frequent speaker at conferences and for corporations, he lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.

New York Times feature on David Rose

Penelope Green has just featured David, his thinking and his work in the New York Times:

“Mr. Rose, a boyish-looking 47-year-old serial entrepreneur who has invented more than a few magical things, including the talking umbrella, that doorbell and the Facebook table, is the author of “Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire and the Internet of Things,” out this week from Scribner. In it, he proposes that the most delightful, successful smart things mimic the qualities found in the magical tools of fantasy and folklore — Excalibur or Sting, the swords of Arthur and Frodo, say, or the talking mirror in “Snow White” — by doing one or two things really well or, as he puts it, by fulfilling “human drives with emotional engagement and élan.” [...]

The smartphone or tablet with its bland, dark screen and multitude of “tiny, inscrutable icons” leaves him cold. Convergence, the great technological design mantra of the oughts, is to Mr. Rose a dystopian horror. He wants to keep his keys, his musical instruments, his wallet and his pens, along with his hand tools, maps, cameras and books. He’d simply like to embed some of those things with special powers.”

31 May 2014

[Book] Foundations for Designing User-Centered Systems

foundations

Foundations for Designing User-Centered Systems: What System Designers Need to Know about People
by Frank E. Ritter, Gordon D Baxter and Elizabeth F. Churchill
Springer, 2014, Paperback
442 p. 108 illus.

Interactive technologies pervade every aspect of modern life. Web sites, mobile devices, household gadgets, automotive controls, aircraft flight decks; everywhere you look, people are interacting with technologies. These interactions are governed by a combination of: the users’ capabilities; the things the users are trying to do; and the context in which they are trying to do them. All of these factors have to be appropriately considered during design if you want your technology to provide your users with a good experience.

Foundations for Designing User-Centered Systems introduces the fundamental human capabilities and characteristics that influence how people use interactive technologies. Organized into four main areas — anthropometrics, behaviour, cognition and social factors — it covers basic research and considers the practical implications of that research on system design. Applying what you learn from this book will help you to design interactive systems that are more usable, more useful and more effective.

The authors have deliberately developed Foundations for Designing User-Centered Systems to appeal to system designers and developers, as well as to students who are taking courses in system design and HCI. The book reflects the authors’ backgrounds in computer science, cognitive science, psychology and human factors. The material in the book is based on their collective experience which adds up to almost 90 years of working in academia and both with, and within, industry; covering domains that include aviation, consumer Internet, defense, eCommerce, enterprise system design, health care, and industrial process control.

9 May 2014

[Book] Handbook of Anthropology in Business

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Handbook of Anthropology in Business
Editors: Rita M. Denny and Patricia L. Sunderland
Left Coast Press
752 pp. / May, 2014

In recent years announcements of the birth of business anthropology have ricocheted around the globe. The first major reference work on this field, the Handbook of Anthropology in Business is a creative production of more than 60 international scholar-practitioners working in universities and corporate settings from high tech to health care. Offering broad coverage of theory and practice around the world, chapters demonstrate the vibrant tensions and innovation that emerge in intersections between anthropology and business and between corporate worlds and the lives of individual scholar-practitioners. Breaking from standard attempts to define scholarly fields as products of fixed consensus, the authors reveal an evolving mosaic of engagement and innovation, offering a paradigm for understanding anthropology in business for years to come.

> Table of contents
> Excerpt

8 April 2014

[Book] A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences

a-web-for-everyone

A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences
by Sarah Horton & Whitney Quesenbery
Rosenfeld Media, 2013
288 pages

In their new book, A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences, Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery make a case for accessibility that begins and ends with people. “We believe that great design starts by thinking about how to make products work for everyone.”

The book is a great resource for those trying to implement accessibility measures without making sacrifices that compromise design or innovation. In this excerpt, you’ll meet the personas (illustrated by Tom Biby) that are referenced throughout the book.

Sarah Horton is a consultant for strategic planning for websites and web applications. She also does accessibility and usability reviews. Sarah started her career in interaction design in 1991 at the Yale Center for Advanced Instructional Media, creating award-winning interactive instructional software. She was an instructional technologist at Dartmouth College for 11 years before becoming director of web strategy and design. As director, she was responsible for planning and developing Dartmouth’s digital environment, and she led a team of user-experience professionals responsible for web and media design, development, and production. More recently, Sarah was Web Strategy Project Lead at Harvard University, responsible for strategy and user experience design for the Harvard Web Publishing Initiative. Sarah is currently Director of Accessible User Experience and Design with The Paciello Group. Sarah is co-author with Patrick Lynch of Web Style Guide, now in its third edition and translated into at least eight languages. She also wrote Web Teaching Guide, which in 2000 won the American Association of Publishers award for best book in computer science. Her third book, Access by Design, combines the disciplines of universal design, accessibility, and usability into guidelines for designing websites that are universally usable.

Whitney Quesenbery is a user researcher, user experience practitioner, and usability expert with a passion for clear communication. She has been in the field for too many years, working with organizations from The Open University to the National Cancer Institute. She enjoys learning about people around the world and using those insights to design products where people matter. Before a little beige computer seduced her into software, usability, and interface design, she was a lighting designer in the theater. Like every other element of the production, lighting has to help tell the story. The scenery, lighting, costumes, direction and acting all have to work together tell the same story. She learned a lot about the craft of storytelling from watching hours of rehearsals. Whitney has served as president of the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA), on the boards of the Center for Plain Language and UXnet, and as a manager of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) Usability and User Experience Community. As a member of two U.S. government advisory committees, she is working to update accessibility requirements and to improve the usability and accessibility of voting systems for U.S. elections. Whitney is a frequent author and presenter in industry events and is a contributor to UXmatters.com. Her first publication on storytelling was a book chapter on “Storytelling and Narrative” in The Personas Lifecycle, by John Pruitt and Tamara Adlin. She’s also proud that her chapter “Dimensions of Usability” in Content and Complexity turns up on so many course reading lists.

27 February 2014

[Book] The Moment of Clarity

the-moment-of-clarity

The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems
by Christian Madsbjerg, Mikkel Rasmussen
Harvard Business Review Press
2014, 224 pages

Traditional problem-solving methods taught in business schools serve us well for some of the everyday challenges of business, but they tend to be ineffective with problems involving a high degree of uncertainty. Why? Because, more often than not, these tools are based on a flawed model of human behavior. And that flawed model is the invisible scaffolding that supports our surveys, our focus groups, our R&D, and much of our long-term strategic planning.

In The Moment of Clarity, Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen examine the business world’s assumptions about human behavior and show how these assumptions can lead businesses off track. But the authors chart a way forward. Using theories and tools from the human sciences—anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and psychology—The Moment of Clarity introduces a practical framework called sensemaking. Sensemaking’s nonlinear problem-solving approach gives executives a better way to understand business challenges involving shifts in human behavior.

This new methodology, a fundamentally different way to think about strategy, is already taking off in Fortune 100 companies around the world. Through compelling case studies and their direct experience with LEGO, Samsung, Adidas, Coloplast, and Intel, Madsbjerg and Rasmussen will show you how to solve problems as diverse as setting company direction, driving growth, improving sales models, understanding the real culture of your organization, and finding your way in new markets.

Over and over again, executives say the same thing after engaging in a process of sensemaking: “Now I see it . . .” This experience—the moment of clarity—has the potential to drive the entire strategic future of your company. Isn’t it time you and your firm started getting people right?

Christian Madsbjerg is one of the founding partners of ReD Associates, an innovation and strategy consultancy. Madsbjerg advises the executive suite of many Fortune 300 companies on top-level strategic issues, integrating sophisticated techniques traditionally used in the human sciences into each company’s problem-solving processes. His work has had a significant impact in the market for each of his clients, and he is known for debunking more traditional market research practices.

Mikkel B. Rasmussen, also a founding partner of ReD Associates, is an expert in innovation and business creativity. As the director of ReD Associates Europe, he works closely with the top management of some of Europe’s most forward-looking companies, including Adidas, LEGO, and Novo Nordisk.

See also:
TEDx talk by Christian Madsbjerg (Oct 25, 2013)
Book review, Financial Times (quite critical, towards the end)

27 February 2014

[Book] The City as Interface

the-city-as-interface

The City as Interface
How New Media Are Changing the City
By Martijn de Waal
nai010 Publishers
2014, 208 pages

Digital and mobile media are changing the way urban life takes shape and how we experience our built environment. On the face of it, this is mainly a practical matter: thanks to these technologies we can organize our lives more conveniently. But the rise of ‘urban media’ also presents us with an important philosophical issue: How do they influence the way that the city functions as a community?

Employing examples of new media uses as well as historical case studies, Martijn de Waal shows how new technologies, on one level, contribute to the further individualization and liberalization of urban society. There is an alternative future scenario, however, in which digital media construct a new definition of the urban public sphere. In the process they also breathe new life into the classical republican ideal of the city as an open, democratic ‘community of strangers’.

Martijn de Waal is a writer, researcher, and strategist based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He is as an assistant professor at the department of media studies at the University of Amsterdam, and co-founder of The Mobile City, a think tank on new media and urban design.

> Read book review by Manu Fernandez

11 February 2014

Tricia Wang’s PhD dissertation — Talking to Strangers: Chinese Youth and Social Media

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Talking to Strangers: Chinese Youth and Social Media
by Tricia Wang
Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology, University of California, San Diego, 2013
Professor Richard Madsen, Chair

Abstract

The sudden availability of social media and open-market capitalism is creating new spaces in China that are shifting norms and behaviors in unexpected ways. This research investigates and explains the phenomena of semi-anonymous interactions among Chinese youth in online communities by introducing a sociological framework called the Elastic Self, which is characterized by the feeling that one’s identity is malleable and involves the trying on of different identities that are beyond the realm of what would be considered normal displays of one’s prescribed self. In informal online spaces, Chinese youth have achieved greater freedom to express heterodox identities without shame or anxiety by forging social bonds with strangers and maintaining distance from people they know, who might seek to enforce conformity to a single identity prescribed by traditional social and political norms.

Through these informal interactions online, Chinese youth are laying the groundwork for a public sphere with social ties based more on friendship than on blood ties or guanxi; on trust, rather than fear; and on self-expression, rather than self-restraint. These changes have potentially transformative power for Chinese society as a whole by altering the way that people perceive and engage with each other on personal and social levels. Under semi-anonymous conditions, Chinese youth are able to overcome the low levels of trust that characterize authoritarian societies and adopt broader forms of social trust that characterize more participatory societies. This increased trust enables youth to enter what I call the Participatory Phase, which is defined by engagement in citizenship practices that expand the public sphere through online debate that can precipitate offline civic participation. To get to that stage, youth must first pass through two critical phases—Exploratory and Trusting—during which they learn how to share information with and socialize with strangers in a low-risk context.

My research reveals that by creating an Elastic Self, Chinese youth find ways to connect to each other and to establish a web of casual trust that extends beyond particularistic guanxi ties and authoritarian institutions. To be clear, this new form of sociality gives youth a way to navigate Chinese society, not to disconnect from or to rebel against it. In doing so, youth are building the infrastructure of a civil society by establishing relationships in which they start out as strangers, thereby bypassing potentially restrictive social labels and structures that could otherwise prevent connection. Through semi-anonymous informal interactions, Chinese youth are primarily seeking to discover their own social world and to create emotional connections—not grand political change. Rather than attempting to revolutionize politics, Chinese youth are using these new forms of social engagement to revolutionize their relationships with themselves and each other.

Even though Chinese youth do not feel that internet censorship is a hindrance in their everyday lives, real name identification policies that limit communication to formal interactions threatens the viability of crucial informal online spaces where Chinese youth have been able to freely explore their identities. The future of the Chinese internet and Chinese society at large rests in this very tension that Chinese youth are negotiating between finding informal spaces where they can present an Elastic Self and formal spaces where they feel compelled to present a prescribed identity. The social and emotional changes catalyzed by the Elastic Self can only persist if the circumstances that allow them to flourish remain unencumbered.

> Download full dissertation
> Tricia’s thank you

Tricia Wang describes herself as a “tech ethnographer“.

Note that Tricia will be giving a talk at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University on Tuesday, February 18 12:30pm EST. It will be live-streamed for those who can’t come and forever archived.

9 February 2014

A review of Adam Greenfield’s Against the Smart City

Masdar City

Chris Carlsson started reading Adam Greenfield’s new book, Against the Smart City, “with the expectation that it would be a critical view of the ways our urban lives have changed during the past half decade with the massive adoption of so-called “smart phones” and the rest of the ubiquitous technosphere.” But it turns out, writes Carlsson, he has “a rather different target in mind. His polemic, delivered by EPUB and kindle only (so far), is directed at a techno-utopian fantasy promulgated by large multinational corporations and their government client-sponsors.”

“The information platforms projected to undergird Smart Cities are to be privately owned. No open source or free software here! “The smart city is a place where the technical platforms on which everyday life is built are privately owned and monetized, and information is reserved exclusively for the use of those willing and able to pay for it.” As Greenfield notes in one chapter, the whole model is based on a neoliberal sensibility in which government is stripped down to its most minimal functionality (primarily policing and systems administration), while as much as possible of the surrounding society is privately owned. Most of what people might do with and for each other is to the greatest extent possible monetized and commodified, to be packaged and sold to the residents (clients) of the new towns. Greenfield has looked carefully at the promises and projections of the various corporate plans and nowhere has he found anything to indicate open access to “disaggregated raw [data] feeds.”

19 January 2014

[Book] Junkyard Planet

junkyardplanet

Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade
by Adam Minter
Bloomsbury Publishing
2013, 304 pages
[Amazon link - video]

Abstract

When you drop your Diet Coke can or yesterday’s newspaper in the recycling bin, where does it go? Probably halfway around the world, to people and places that clean up what you don’t want and turn it into something you can’t wait to buy. In Junkyard Planet, Adam Minter — veteran journalist and son of an American junkyard owner — travels deeply into a vast, often hidden, multibillion-dollar industry that’s transforming our economy and environment.

Minter takes us from back-alley Chinese computer recycling operations to high-tech facilities capable of processing a jumbo jet’s worth of recyclable trash every day. Along the way, we meet an unforgettable cast of characters who’ve figured out how to build fortunes from what we throw away: Leonard Fritz, a young boy “grubbing” in Detroit’s city dumps in the 1930s; Johnson Zeng, a former plastics engineer roaming America in search of scrap; and Homer Lai, an unassuming barber turned scrap titan in Qingyuan, China. Junkyard Planet reveals how “going green” usually means making money—and why that’s often the most sustainable choice, even when the recycling methods aren’t pretty.

With unmatched access to and insight on the junk trade, and the explanatory gifts and an eye for detail worthy of a John McPhee or William Langewiesche, Minter traces the export of America’s recyclables and the massive profits that China and other rising nations earn from it. What emerges is an engaging, colorful, and sometimes troubling tale of consumption, innovation, and the ascent of a developing world that recognizes value where Americans don’t. Junkyard Planet reveals that we might need to learn a smarter way to take out the trash.

Reviews

“Having made the reasonable observation that consumption causes waste even more surely than it causes recycling, Mr. Minter’s pragmatism reasserts itself. “If the goal is a realistic sustainable future,” he writes, “then it’s necessary to take a look at what we can do to lengthen the lives of the products we’re going to buy anyway.” He cites several products that could be made more easily reusable or recyclable. Apple’s MacBook Air, for example, is so meticulously compressed that taking it apart and sorting out its component raw materials is bound to be dauntingly inefficient. Consumers should, Mr. Minter says, object to this kind of planned obsolescence.”
Erica Grieder, Wall Street Journal – Dec 20, 2013

“By 2017, according to the Solving the E-Waste Problem (Step) initiative, a UN-supported project, each person on the planet will discard a third more electronic waste than in 2012, a grand total by then of 64.4m tonnes. Much of it will be shipped from the affluent world to developing countries for cheap reprocessing, a pattern of trade that Step defines as a problem. Adam Minter, a journalist and son of a US scrapyard entrepreneur, would disagree. Minter does not see the global scrap trade as a morality tale of villain and victim, but a vibrant and eco-friendly business, a core component of the world economy.”
Isabel Hilton, The Guardian – 18 January 2014

“As Junkyard Planet shows, the commercial recycling industry does put others’ trash to the most productive use possible. But recycling is no “get out of jail free card” for those who, as Minter puts it, find consuming “more fun than conserving”.”
Sarah Mishkin, Financial Times – January 3, 2014

18 January 2014

[Book] Practical Ethnography

 

Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector
By Sam Ladner
Left Coast Press
April 2014, 200 pages
[Publisher link - Amazon link]

> Download free sample: pdfkindle

Abstract – Ethnography is an increasingly important research method in the private sector, yet ethnographic literature continues to focus on an academic audience. Sam Ladner fills the gap by advancing rigorous ethnographic practice that is tailored to corporate settings where colleagues are not steeped in social theory, research time lines may be days rather than months or years, and research sponsors expect actionable outcomes and recommendations. Ladner provides step-by-step guidance at every turn–covering core methods, research design, using the latest mobile and digital technologies, project and client management, ethics, reporting, and translating your findings into business strategies. This book is the perfect resource for private-sector researchers, designers, and managers seeking robust ethnographic tools or academic researchers hoping to conduct research in corporate settings.

Sam Ladner, PhD, works as both an academic and a practitioner. A sociologist specializing in the social aspects of technological change, she has published articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Time & Society and The Canadian Journal of Communication. Ladner successfully operated her own research firm, Copernicus Consulting, until recently joining Microsoft as a Senior User Researcher in the Microsoft Office division. She served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, where she also taught qualitative research methods as an adjunct professor. She holds a PhD in sociology from York University, an M.A. in communication from Simon Fraser University, and a Bachelor’s of Journalism from University of King’s College.

17 January 2014

[Book] Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for a New Utopia

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Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers and the Quest for a New Utopia
by Anthony M. Townsend
W. W. Norton & Company
October 2013. 400 pages
[Amazon link]

Abstract

An unflinching look at the aspiring city-builders of our smart, mobile, connected future.

We live in a world defined by urbanization and digital ubiquity, where mobile broadband connections outnumber fixed ones, machines dominate a new “internet of things,” and more people live in cities than in the countryside.

In Smart Cities, urbanist and technology expert Anthony Townsend takes a broad historical look at the forces that have shaped the planning and design of cities and information technologies from the rise of the great industrial cities of the nineteenth century to the present. A century ago, the telegraph and the mechanical tabulator were used to tame cities of millions. Today, cellular networks and cloud computing tie together the complex choreography of mega-regions of tens of millions of people.

In response, cities worldwide are deploying technology to address both the timeless challenges of government and the mounting problems posed by human settlements of previously unimaginable size and complexity. In Chicago, GPS sensors on snow plows feed a real-time “plow tracker” map that everyone can access. In Zaragoza, Spain, a “citizen card” can get you on the free city-wide Wi-Fi network, unlock a bike share, check a book out of the library, and pay for your bus ride home. In New York, a guerrilla group of citizen-scientists installed sensors in local sewers to alert you when stormwater runoff overwhelms the system, dumping waste into local waterways.

As technology barons, entrepreneurs, mayors, and an emerging vanguard of civic hackers are trying to shape this new frontier, Smart Cities considers the motivations, aspirations, and shortcomings of them all while offering a new civics to guide our efforts as we build the future together, one click at a time.

Interview

Q. Professor Townsend, a recent favorable review of your new book in The New York Times described you as “the rare technologist who is in the know without being in the tank.” Are you indeed worried that “smart cities” could backfire in some way, compromising privacy, say, rather than helping us address environmental, social, and economic challenges?

A: Absolutely – there are considerable risks going forward. The penultimate chapter of Smart Cities bears the title “Buggy, Brittle and Bugged.” The technological underpinnings of smart cities are extremely complex, yet we are throwing them together at a blistering pace. This is how bugs like Y2K creep in. Design decisions are being made for expedience and cost, not quality and robustness.

Smart cities are also the perfect tool for mass surveillance. As we are finding out in the post-Snowden era, it is actually far worse than even the most paranoid critics feared. All of these risks can be managed, but no one in the smart cities community was really confronting them head on.

12 January 2014

[Book] Design Transitions

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Design Transitions – Inspiring Stories. Global Viewpoints. How design is changing.
By Joyce Yee, Emma Jefferies and Lauren Tan
BIS Publishers
[Book site - Amazon link - selected pages]

Abstract

Design Transitions presents 42 unique and insightful stories of how design is changing around the world. Twelve countries are represented from the perspectives of three different communities: design agencies, organizations embedding design; and design academics.

Design Transitions takes you across the globe in search of the most innovative design practitioners, and their answers to the question ‘How are design practices changing?’ From small practices to vast corporations, the renowned to the lesser known: these are the stories of people working at the fringes of the traditional disciplines of design. They have opened up their design worlds to reveal the methods, tools and thinking behind their inspirational work. Some of the organizations and individuals featured includes: Droog, BERG, Fjord, thinkpublic, FutureGov, Hakuhodo Innovation Lab, DesignThinkers Group, INSITUM, Optimal Usability, frog Asia, Ziba, Banny Banerjee, Ezio Manzini, Carlos Teixeira and Adam Greenfield.

Design Transitions is divided into three sections:

  • Section I: Changing Practices features 25 stories from design practices in a range of disciplines.
  • Section II: New Territories features five organizations introducing and embedding design approaches into their core practice and operations.
  • Section III: Viewpoints features 12 interviews with leading design academics, offering additional insights and a critical perspective on the key themes that have emerged from our case studies and interviews.

Authors

Joyce Yee, PhD is a senior lecturer at UK’s Northumbria University’s Design School, teaching interaction, service and design methodologies across undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Emma Jefferies, PhD is an independent design consultant and founder of Design Doctors.

Lauren Tan, PhD has worked as a designer in various capacities in graphic design, management consulting, service design and social design.

12 January 2014

[Book] The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think

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The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think
by Douglas T. Kenrick and Vladas Griskevicius
Basic Books
September 2013
[Amazon link]

Abstract

Why do three out of four professional football players go bankrupt? How can illiterate jungle dwellers pass a test that tricks Harvard philosophers? And why do billionaires work so hard—only to give their hard-earned money away?

When it comes to making decisions, the classic view is that humans are eminently rational. But growing evidence suggests instead that our choices are often irrational, biased, and occasionally even moronic. Which view is right—or is there another possibility?

In this animated tour of the inner workings of the mind, psychologist Douglas T. Kenrick and business professor Vladas Griskevicius challenge the prevailing views of decision making, and present a new alternative grounded in evolutionary science. By connecting our modern behaviors to their ancestral roots, they reveal that underneath our seemingly foolish tendencies is an exceptionally wise system of decision making.

From investing money to choosing a job, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, our choices are driven by deep-seated evolutionary goals. Because each of us has multiple evolutionary goals, though, new research reveals something radical—there’s more than one “you” making decisions. Although it feels as if there is just one single “self” inside your head, your mind actually contains several different subselves, each one steering you in a different direction when it takes its turn at the controls.

The Rational Animal will transform the way you think about decision making. And along the way, you’ll discover the intimate connections between ovulating strippers, Wall Street financiers, testosterone-crazed skateboarders, Steve Jobs, Elvis Presley, and you.

Related

12 January 2014

[Book] War, Peace, and Human Nature

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War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views
Douglas P. Fry
Oxford University Press
April 2013
[Amazon link]

Abstract

Have humans always waged war? Is warring an ancient evolutionary adaptation or a relatively recent behavior–and what does that tell us about human nature? In War, Peace, and Human Nature, editor Douglas P. Fry brings together leading experts in such fields as evolutionary biology, archaeology, anthropology, and primatology to answer fundamental questions about peace, conflict, and human nature in an evolutionary context. The chapters in this book demonstrate that humans clearly have the capacity to make war, but since war is absent in some cultures, it cannot be viewed as a human universal. And counter to frequent presumption the actual archaeological record reveals the recent emergence of war. It does not typify the ancestral type of human society, the nomadic forager band, and contrary to widespread assumptions, there is little support for the idea that war is ancient or an evolved adaptation. Views of human nature as inherently warlike stem not from the facts but from cultural views embedded in Western thinking.

Drawing upon evolutionary and ecological models; the archaeological record of the origins of war; nomadic forager societies past and present; the value and limitations of primate analogies; and the evolution of agonism, including restraint; the chapters in this interdisciplinary volume refute many popular generalizations and effectively bring scientific objectivity to the culturally and historically controversial subjects of war, peace, and human nature.

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