Book Review: How to Survive in a Science Fiction Universe

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional UniverseHow to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

i loved this. It was incredibly high concept. What is there not to like about someone who fixes time travel machines? and accidently witnesses ..well spoiler alert. Let me just say, this is a read over some day.

But here’s another thing. This book is also about melancholia and masculinity. Our un-hero is a straight man in his 30’s who is hiding from the universe in in his time travel fix it ship. His only companions are a smelly virtual dog and his AI girlfriend. And that’s how he’d like it to be. But ironically in being in the time travel business, he inevitably reflects on his life. So ok, the subtext here is aging and masculinity and melancholia, but also a resonant beauty. Ultimately I came out feeling like the universe was beautiful but paradoxical. But that’s just my bias.

One criticism: the links aren’t that great. an attempt at hypertext fiction that just doesn’t work.

View all my reviews

Looking for Japanese Not-Weed

AstroDime member sam smiley is working on her dissertation and this documents a visit to the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Poetic Inquiry (Discard and Replace)

AstroDime is occasionally asked to do arts based qualitative analysis. The work below was for a questionnaire an outside investigator sent to adjunct faculty to one private North American college in 2014,  initially to assess the adjunct faculty needs at that institution. AstroDime noticed the survey was mostly quantitative in nature, and advised the outside investigator who was doing this survey to add an “essay response” in one of their sections. They don’t usually do that because it’s hard for them to analyze. But they took a chance with this.

We used a qualitative coding method called “in-vivo” coding to analyze the response. From that we made a poem. AstroDime recommends poetic inquiry as one means of analyzing these texts. The result of the analysis carries the evocative (Leavy 2008) qualities of QABR (or qualitative arts based research) into the public and outside the ivory tower.

The prompt question we used to code from was this:
What is your primary motivation for supporting a union at [name of university not posted here for confidentiality]

here’s the process and poem below.

DISCARD AND REPLACE

After 10 years I remain a non-entity.
I do a lot of unpaid work in this position.

Nobody has ever set foot in my class to observe my teaching.

I think that adjunct like all faculty deserve a living wage and respect for what we deliver.

I want to be treated like something other than a person to discard and replace at the whim of deans and administration.

I think the exploitation is unconscionable and must be stopped.

I am tired of being treated as an interchangable part.


We are treated like servants.

We are not just cheap labor.

We are training teachers, not babysitters!

We are permanent, not just additional positions.

I would simply like an ounce of security implied in the position despite the fact that I am only an adjunct.

I want pay for teaching.

I want to sense more inclusion and respect from the full time faculty.

I want to be treated as a knowledgeable and respected colleague.

I want inclusion in the community.

I want a greater voice in my department.

I want to see that generations of professors after me are treated with respect and justice.

I do not want to be invisible.

Compiled and coded by AstroDime Transit Authority
————————————————-
HOW THIS WAS DONE:
DATA POEM TITLE: Discard and Replace
Source: Private College in North America. Third Party questionnaire surveys to adjunct faculty. 115 questionnaires received by the date of the coding process.
Coding Category: “Respect for Adjuncts”
Coding Strategy: We highlighted phrases which to me resonated with the ideas of respect for the teaching profession.
Technical Stuff: Another party uploaded all the data from the survey into SaturateApp (http://saturateapp.com). AstroDime created the codes. There are many more codes, more nuts and bolts, but from a poetic perspective, this turned out to be the most compelling to draw out for us. We are not including raw data out of respect and privacy of the participants.

CODES MADE FROM SATURATAPP:

support/technical
support/on campus
support/professional development
support/advancement
support/time
support/communication
support/other

Course models
models/online
models/face to face
models/blended

respect for adjuncts
Intellectual property
job security

compensation/coursework
compensation/photocopy
compensation/parking
compensation/homeoffice
compensation/cloud
compensation/supplies for class
compensation/other
compensation/trainings
compensation/health insurance

Art, critical thinking, ethnography, and STS

Here’s an AstroDime Special Report on the 4S conference (http://4sonline.org) held in San Diego October 9-12, given by AstroDimer sam smiley

My concentration here will be on art and ethnography. I’m not necessarily looking at the big “art and science” question because there are value sets in both the visual arts and in science and technology that are too large for me to break down, and to start by deconstructing those would mean that I would never get down to my personal arts, ethnography and STS detective work.

One session that proved to be important to me was the following:

The work I enjoyed from this panel was Anne Galloway’s ethnographic work with sheep farms, sheep, farmers in New Zealand..and the artwork that has come out of it. It’s truly “situated artwork” and speculative fiction. Her talk was titled “Speculating the Multispecies Internet”.

Her current links for the project are here:

http://www.countingsheep.info

and you can follow her research blog here.

http://www.designculturelab.org/projects/counting-sheep-project-overview/

Another talk from this “Critical Making” panel was on the materiality of data, and making data narratives (Yanni Loukissas and Laura Forlano). I actually found this work (a form of performing data collection in the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, massachusetts) really useful both for STS connections and Qualitative Arts Based Research. They are intersted in “codesigning technoscience” and “hands on ethnography” and do ethnographic scavenger hunts and co-designing workshops. Here is a web site from their recent work in the Arnold Arboretum completed this past June of 2013

http://stsdesignworkshop.tumblr.com/

A note about the organizers of the Critical making panels: The Critical Making movement originates out of the Critical Making Lab in University of Toronto

http://criticalmaking.com/

They put out a great ‘zine called Critical Making

http://www.conceptlab.com/criticalmaking/

The first issue had an insert and parody on MAKE magazine (a sort of commodified DIY guide published by O’Reilly)

I found the concept of critical making really really interesting because it had some of the same critiques of DIY ish “Maker” culture in the U.S that I have thought about..overwhelmingly white, male, and uncritically “making”. The Critical Making group also involves craft in the concept of their work, which I appreciated.  Because when I had followed and read the original MAKE magazines, I noticed that O’Reilly split the concept of craft off from the “maker” concept..(in another magazine called “CRAFT”) effectively reinscribing the gender divide that the “democratizing” MAKEr movement was supposed to bridge. But enough of my ranting..

Back to 4S..another talk that combined the arts and STS for me was actually on another panel..but had a lot in common with the previous aforementioned presentations. It was in the “In Search of ‘lines of flights’  in/to/for/by Latin America and Elsewhere” organized by Ivan da Costa Marques.

Within the first session was a presentation by Wendy Cano (researcher) that involved a collaboration with her sister Frida Cano (artist) in looking at corn as culture, and the uses of trangenic corn.This blog site has really great documentation of the project..an artistic cross cultural exchange on the meaning of corn that took place in Schöppingen, Germany in the spring of 2012. There is a great art book with Wendy’s writing, and also documentation of recipes from that experience. You can find examples in this blog entry: http://fridacano.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/vitamina-t/

My summary from these small samples are this: that the arts in STS can have a few models.. but the most effective models seem to work well with a collaboration of STS methods of research, and artists interested in ethnographic field work.

one model is using art to “co-design” field research such as with the work of Yanni Loukissas and Laura Forlano,

one model is doing critical public art with STS themes such as the work with Wendy and Frida Cano,

one model is somewhat like Anne Galloway’s art and ethnography work.. to create “artifacts” or fictions that result from the research and from collaboration with other artists.

I will close with a totally unrelated post. I was lucky enough to see Donna Haraway present a book Insectopedia by Hugh Raffle. First, I love the book. and I’m not really into bugs.  It has exactly the kind of esoteric bits and pieces I love to follow and file somewhere. Also Haraway’s description of a “tangled coexistence” with insects is totally creepy but real. Donna Haraway talked about digging ticks out of her skin. But somehow it was a lot more poetic.

INVADERS! Dead Man’s Fingers

AstroDime is doing some work with ideas around Invasive Species in Provincetown, and we will have an exhibit at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in June 0f 2013. Part of the work that I (sam smiley) am doing is identifying aquatic invasive species in Provincetown.

The Aquatic Invasive Species group (based in Massachusetts) has provided ID cards for Aquatic Invasive Species.

Here’s a link to the main site:

http://www.mass.gov/czm/invasives/index.htm

and to the ID cards:

http://www.mass.gov/czm/invasives/monitor/id.htm

I decided to share an ID card and also my underwater version of the Invader! It is also known as Codium fragile, Dead Man’s Fingers,  green fleece, green sea fingers, oyster thief, and Sputnik weed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codium_fragile

Dead Man's Fingers

Here’s my version, which I would like to call “Space Invaders”

asteroids from AstroDime Transit on Vimeo.

iCAN development in Mexico, Parte Dos

Here are the inventions of the various “startup groups” who are working on iCAN apps and accessories in Mexico City. AstroDime members are carefully considering these proposals, and we will post the winning proposals on our research page. At the bottom of the page is our “request for proposals”

“No Name Inc.”

Don’t know who is in this group.

1) sticker for any map of a subway in the world (app)
2) app with pen and post-it (app)
3) A little bell attached to the iCAN to show you the new calls (app)
4) Interchangable cans with different colors and designs (accessory)
——————————————
Another group with no name
(Don’t know who is in this group)
1) ReciclArte (con Lupa, GPS, Agenda, y T.P.)
“Sobreviviendo con tu iCAN”
[Ilana what does that mean?]
——————————————
Another group with no name:

1) iCAN study (APP)
-repeat ALOUD an interesting sentence of your homework
-repeat what you listen
-repeat what you listen
-repeat what you listen

2) iSOLO:
-Just hum your favorite song
-make sure your voice is sweet
-if your ear hurts, you are making it bad. If you just fall in love with yourself, record your song and be famous.
——————————————
“Wissard Company”
(don’t know who is in it)
the iORACULO
tells your fortune
(APP)
——————————————
“Gato Ruso”
Tania X. Enriquez Jiménez
Norma Briseño Urbina
Paola E. Nieto Paredes
Eugenia B. Sánchez N. Rubalcaba

1)iStalk (you can spy on your friends)
2) iCanMusic (amplify your music through your iCAN!)
3) iBolsa (make your iCAN portable with all of your apps. (Accessory)
——————————————

“Can Trap Software Development: Making everyday life more practical”
Andrea Nuñez
Valeria Vasquez
Ana Mirales
1) App Retro Calculator: it is an abacus you can incorporate into your iCAN
2) App Radio Can: you can listen to all your favorite music, FM radio, etc. just turn one end of the iCAN and approach it to the speaker
3) App Earthquake alert: if you need to be protected from natural disasters. This app can help you detect earthquakes on time. You just fill your iCAN with water and if you see the surface shaking you know you have to protect yourself.
——————————————
“Chungas”
(Don’t know who is in this group)
1) Two people can speak together with their iCANs right next to each other. So that these two people seem like they talk to each other but they talk alone. The objective is to demonstrate that people don’t listen to each other, only to themselves. [Note: We suggested a magnet so that both iCANS would stick together)

2) iFondo
“Soul of the Party”. People can drink a “fondo” of beer in one can.

3) iSleep or iDuermo
If you want to sleep on the Metro, with iCAN you can. You stretch it out, put one end on your knees, and rest your chin on the other side, and then you can fall into a deep dream.

——————————————
“iKit Store”
Daniella Castro R.
Laura Castellanos

Note: this is primarily accessories

-iChain: keep your iCAN wherever you go
-iMirror: if you always want to look pretty buy this accessory (note, i think it is software -sam)
-iSpeaker: Say aloud your thoughts
-iWatch: straps on to the iCAN. For being on time.
-iDrinking Barrel: use it as a straw!
-iSpy: get noticed of the recent gossip
-iHelium: use helium balloons and listen to your amazing words and then listen to your mouse voice
-iCaps: transform your iCAN into a thermos of your favorite beverage

“Loser Corp”
Introducing the iSmoke. Weed and smoke on one side, infinite happiness on the other.

HERE IS ASTRODIME’S ORIGINAL RFP (request for proposals)

AstroDime commemorates: National Marconi Day

Well, it has been a tough decision, but AstroDime Transit Authority is getting into wireless. Our tin can phone systems are durable and really quite well designed, but our iCAN system has finally outsold our tin can phones.

In honor of our wireless technological achievements, we would like to write a tribute to Guglielmo Marconi,, one of the inventors of wireless communications.

For people on the east coast of the United States, the National Park Service is celebrating an International Marconi Day (as well as a National Junior Ranger Day) on April 25th. This will take place on Marconi Beach on Cape Cod. For more information go to http://www.nps.gov/caco/parknews/cape-cod-national-seashore-to-celebrate-international-marconi-day-and-national-junior-ranger-day-on-april-25.htm

Protest “Protect IP Act”

Check out upcoming U.S. legislation concerning internet censorship based on copyright. For more info go to http://fightforthefuture.org/pipa/.

Occupy Boston Oct 10 2011

sam smiley reporting from AstroDime..
I went Monday October 10..around 4pm to the base camp..it’s really well organized. It reminds me a little of the way Burning Man is set up..less art, but very clear where to go. It has a library, “spirituality tent”, postermaking tent, logistics tent, and more. I brought stencils and chalk and left them at the library tent. I wasn’t there later in the evening for the protests and ensuing arrests.

trusty bike basket with stencils and chalk

trusty bike basket with stencils and chalk

I thought a lot of the impact of social media on this gathering..lots of hand held signs but very few flyers. A media tent. And despite what the mainstream media says, a pretty coherent message..i really don’t think “anarchy” is a good way to describe this, although it is the word that mainstream media and “spinners” of the story are saying. Not everyone is holding the same sign but they generally seem to be there for the same reason..the effect of the economy problems of the U.S. on the largest groups of people, while the ruling class emerges unscathed from any financial disasters.

Here is where I am getting my information:
Twitter is most up to date:
#OccupyBoston

A great news site, I love how they “occupied” the Globe concept.
http://occupybostonglobe.com/

And the Occupy Boston web site proper
http://occupyboston.com/

various posters on a tent

various posters on a tent

nurses poster: heal america tax wall street

I saw lots of these posters

wagon with memorial

Dewey Square Oct 11 4pm

Dewey Square Oct 11 4pm

La Jam del Sur

AstroDime correspondant sam smiley just came back from a trip to Buenos Aires..and in the process was lucky to be invited to a grafiti party and jam in an area neighborhood. All and all, she shot an hour of video. The final version will be on vimeo, and will also be included in INtransit V.7: Ecology/Ecología, as part of “ecología de callejero” or street ecologies.
Here’s an interview with Ariel (Scratch) one of the organizers. He is a DJ, and his cousin, Nelson (Next Graf) is a grafiti artist. Included are photos of the final works.