Tuesday, March 27, 2012

freight tubes of the future

Thanks to Andy for sending me this picture from Retronaut, of the 1920s city of the future, complete with freight tubes:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

as winter slides into spring

It seems only fitting to mark the changes of the seasons with some beautiful microscopic slides. Two years ago I was fascinated by the nonist's exquisite microscopic specimens. Now I have discovered Wilson Bentley's 1880s microscope-photographs of the ephemeral, melting, delicate snowflake:

Images from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

london tubes

I am going to London in April. After four months now of living in England I am itching to visit the nation's capital, my mouth watering already for London restaurant meals and the coffee I hear some Melbourne baristas are brewing in Antipodean cafes, as well as the galleries, the museums etc etc. Oh yes, and the excellent conference I am attending on genetics!

Think London and you think underground. Or 'the tube'. The iconically represented networked system of transportation is now synonymous with the city. In Flesh and Stone, Richard Sennett describes the London Underground as both an artery and a vein, transforming the social condition of Londoners by allowing them to live further outside the city centre, facilitating mass consumption, and supposedly creating a more "mixed" city.

It is because of the human blood like flows of people however that Sennett proposes that the city was not mixed but rather that human contact between the classes was limited. During the day, the arteries took people below ground into the heart of the city, creating density by daylight, while at night the subterranean channels emptied the masses from the centre, leaving a sparsely populated city.

Tubes and vessels, pipes and lungs: the circulatory system and respiratory system are often used to describe urban flows of transportation, communication and other forms of movement. What does it mean to use these medical metaphors? Particularly in contexts such as hospitals, if we want to describe pneumatic tube systems in this way, where vessles, arterioles, air sacs and tracheas take on a particular clinical relevance? The metaphors we use tell us something about norms, attitudes, values and so forth, and this is something I have previously explored, and will continue to explore, when thinking about pneumatic tubes.

Image from Roger Wollstadt's Flikr photostream.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

sketches of the future

Do you find yourself drawing on napkins, keeping sketchbooks, pencilling in the margins of your fieldnotes or doodling while on the phone?
If so, this you will be interested in this sketching workshop:
We are seeking people who use sketching—for developing greater understanding, for conveying ideas as they are being formed, for communicating fully formed ideas, or for other reasons—to participate in a workshop to better understand the varied roles of sketching in design, research, and practice. Participants from all fields, with any skill level or experience in sketching, are welcome and encouraged. We are interested in how design methods are being adopted, adapted, and appropriated in various disciplines, using sketching as a concrete example and focal starting point. This workshop will therefore assemble a diverse group of participants to explore the methodological, epistemological, and practical issues, such as the tension between artifact production and knowledge production, that can arise in such work.

The workshop will involve presentations and discussions on the evolution and incorporation of design methods in a variety of disciplines, as well as hands-on sketching activities that will give participants the opportunity to try out a variety of sketching methods. This workshop seeks to document some of the myriad ways in which design methods, including but not limited to sketching, are being combined with approaches from other disciplines. Participants will also be encouraged to engage in a reflective dialogue examining the ramifications of these methodological crossovers and hybrids, both on the individuals involved and on their respective fields.

Potential attendees should submit a sketch and a statement. The sketch should come from their own work, though it need not be a sketch they have made, simply one they use. The sketch can take any form and is not limited to freehand drawings. The statement, up to 2 pages in DIS conference format, should describe the role that sketching plays in their work, using the submitted sketch as an example. Strong statements will reflect on the methodological issues in, and the implications of, using sketching in the author’s own field of work.

Submissions may be sent via email to the organizers (ericpsb and mkh46, both at cornell.edu). Submission Deadline: March 23, 2012Notification: April 6, 2012Workshop Date: June 11, 2012
For more information visit the workshop website.

Which reminds me, next on my reading list is Andrew Pickering's The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future, because it has been recommended, because Pickering resides at my university, and because it has a great title!

Image drawn by, and used with kind permission of my dad, John Harris.