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Conf #3: Thurs 12th June – Symposium

The full day LIVE Transmissions: Critical conversations in crafting, performing and making symposium was held in 310NX Road as per the sewing workshop the day before. It was an invite-only event that brought together a total of 32 amazing people from last year’s symposium along with some new faces. Everyone was there because they are engaged in complex, challenging, material and often collaborative work in a range of media that pushes at the edges of conventional knowledge production and exchange across disciplines located in and outside academia. (A full list of participants is here).

As per usual the range and quality of work was exciting and eclectic – we watched films on dance, weaving and many forms of craftivism. Some people recited poetry, performed fiction and unrolled storytelling graphs, while others demonstrated environment sensing devices, birdcams and even specially made trousers to enable women to pee standing up. We heard about the use of drones as a sociological method to fly above remote Polish villages, of embroidered letters as a form of political networking, of failed 3D printed objects in London Hacker Spaces and mobile phone repair practices in Kampala. And so much more……

What was really exciting and productive about this event for me (and I’ve heard similar from others) is the opportunity it enabled to talk about shared issues, concerns and ideas across a whole range of disciplinary backgrounds and experience. In no particular order, we had artists, filmmakers, sociologists, anthropologists, craftivists, designers, technologists, poets, writers, computer scientists, curators and, of course, many of us occupied more than one identity.

People travelled from Madrid, Copenhagen, Malmö, Vienna, California, New York, Brussels, Edinburgh, Lancaster, Oxford, Cambridge and across various bits of London. THANKYOU to everyone for their travel, time, attention and ongoing commitment to the project. It was an amazing day!

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The event was held in a small but interesting space for a group of people to get together to talk, present and perform ideas. Although the structure of the day was largely comprised of site specific multi-media knowledge transfer in the form of talk, performance, film, sound and objects, the nature of 310NX Road (the shop structure and its location on a very busy road) meant that the urban context was an active participant as well.

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The event was divided into three main sections.

I tried to reduce the number of presenters from last year so to create more space for networking and discussion. There were two themed sessions of talks  I. POLITICS of MAKING and II. PRACTICES of ENTANGLEMENT. Each was made up of two presenters and a chair. The afternoon session III. MA Visual Sociology featured short sessions from Goldsmiths students who showcased their cutting-edge practice.

Throughout the day, in between sessions, there were short LIVE Transmissions sessions I, II, III. Everyone was invited to bring an example of ‘live transmission’ in their work, to briefly speak about it (<5min) and curate it with other things to create a growing mini-exhibition through the day. This was an important means through which a wide variety of voices could be heard and projects discussed. By the end of the day this meant that we heard about the work and practice of 26 people : )

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transmissions table As per past events we focused on having good food for lunch as well as lots of snacks available throughout the day and the sunny garden provided a nice space to relax and chat between sessions.

The following overview/write-up is an attempt to capture just some of the many ideas shared, generated and discussed during the day while remaining mindful of the ‘liveness’ of the event which cannot be fully captured. As a result I do not attempt to present a coherent polished or finished documentation. Nevertheless it is quite textured for the purpose of enriching our developing network and also keeping with the idea of rendering visible the labour processes through which knowledge is created, the messy material mechanisms of production and modes of circulation.

Feedback, ideas, suggestions, criticisms or thoughts about potential collaborative experiments welcome!

 

LIVE TRANSMISSIONS  I 

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Laura Watts | Associate Professor, ITU 

Transmissions - laura - booksLaura kicked off the session by talking about the art books that she makes as part of her research practice. She is an a feminist STS ethnographer and poet. She brought in two books: ‘Data Stories’ is written in collaboration with Dawn Nafus, an anthropologist at Intel, for the purpose to finding new ways of engaging with software engineers at Intel. It is an inventive format that folds out, with a poster and can be played with.  ‘Orkney Futures’ documents a remote Scottish island that is also a world centre for wave and tide power – so you have a space age industry  developing in a place where there are 20,000 farmers.

Laura has been working in Orkney for seven years doing ethnographic research. Throughout this time she has been searching for a voice for the hard work locals are doing to make futures, because there are many futures. The book is a co-produced collection of the future of Orkney by many different people – artists, school children, locals, farmers etc. It was curated as a poem and Laura finished by reciting the one of the pieces in the book - ‘If’.

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Alex Taylor | Researcher, Microsoft Cambridge 

transmissions - alex objectsAlex showed us an arduino node from a network that senses air quality. It is part of a set of technical network that is distributed along a street in Cambridge called Tennison Road. There are eight of them in location sensing the air quality in the street. It is part of a network for displaying data  - pie charts and graphs on the street will represent the data. There is also a thermal tracker will measure the flow of traffic, number and density of traffic. It is a technical infrastructure but it is motivated by the concerns of street residents. It is evocative of what and how data comes to matter to people and how a group imagines its future.

In many ways this is a technical network that is embedded in a street which tells very little about the street but it is is entirely motivated community have motivated by what concerns that street and like Laura tells us what data might come to matter in a street and how a street might come to image its future. These are some of the people who live on the street. They are a community who have motivated all of these networks and there are many of them – layers upon layers, intertwined and entailed – to the point where it is no longer a technical network. It is a network of people, of things, of senses, of devices and companies… and I work on this street, so I’m not going anywhere. I am part of this network. We are embedded in networks of imagining the future… we might start with simple crude senses that we have all seen before but these are entangled in transmissions of imagining new futures where data might come to matter in different ways.

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Anna Hickey-Moody | Senior Lecturer, Arts Practice and Learning, Goldsmiths

Anna talked about her work on disability, the body and performance. Her work is sourced from dancers experiences and their movement phrases are responses to their lives, lived experiences, and embodied particularities.

The idea is that by making these physical statements are ways of transmitting quite intimate lived experiences of having a disability that stand alongside other tropes of disability that might constitute public discourses especially around disabled bodies. This produces dance text that tell stories about disabilities yet they ‘refuse dominant discourses that offer different style or a particular type of social entanglement that run contrary to other forms of relationships that are invited by public culture.

Anna shared with us a video excerpt of a dance performance to demonstrate these ideas of transmission and entanglement.

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Session I
THE POLITICS OF MAKING

stripesJulia Bryan-Wilson | Associate Professor, Modern and Contemporary Art, History of Art, Berkeley

Julia started her talk with a video clip of Gabriel Craig performing ‘The Gospel according to Craft’ in which he stands on a soap box on a street corner asking the public is they have ‘accepted craft as a road to personal road to salvation’. Julia discussed how the ideals of craft to deliver us from the evils of capitalism and consumption practices intersects with a fervour of the growth of DIY ethos and craft which has brought together artists, makers and activists – forging  craft and activism into craftivism. Yet, craft of course is also big business.

Independent online retailer Etsy which sell mostly handmade items was predicted to bring in $50million in revenue in 2014. Etsy’s tagline is ‘Shopping for Meaning’ – a slogan that brings together consumerism and craft as it implies a search for cultural significance through the creation and acquisition of objects.

 Julia asked – How people are negotiating the promise of salvation, meaning making, anti-capitalist resistance, consumerism and entrepreneurialism? How do craft objects such as the rainbow flag and pottery objects become interwoven with cultural, historical, political and gendered themes? Julia enriched and complicated these questions with an array of fascinating examples. She also brought them to bear on ideas about affective labour in craft and its  strong connections to the domestic context, the politics of bodies and skill.

How do bodies, most critically hands, which in discussions of craft mnemonically stand in for bodies, shape craft?  Crafters often describe the pleasure in engaging directly with their materials, whether wood or scrapbooking supplies. Crafting becomes almost an erotic or sensual encounter with matters as mediated by the hand. A tactile delight in the touches, textures and the sensations that also change the very nature of how we think and process information…. For many converts to the so called church of craft these terms describe the immersive corporeal process of bodily making. But within the context of contemporary culture there is a spectrum of crafting bodies to consider – ones marked by race, region, gender, sexuality, age and class. And not all of them revel in the procedures of making by hand. These bodies have vastly unequal levels of access to capital, to privilege and to power. So that the women hand sewing uniforms onto GI Joe dolls in the Pearl River Region of China on a 16 hour a day work shift might have a very different understanding of the intersection of bodies, production and craft.

 

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Janis Jefferies | Artist, writer and curator | Professor of Visual Arts in the Department of Computing, Goldsmiths

Janis discussed and presented a range of emergent forms of knowledge practice with the aim to take up some of the challenges and opportunities offered  by knowledge production. A core question: How is contemporary art practice being rethought, remade, redone within certain theoretical and practical discourses?  Janis drew on Richard Serra’s ‘Verb List Compilation Actions to Relate to Oneself’, Grant Kester’s 2004 ‘Conversation pieces’,  Jacques Ranciere’s 2007 ‘Emancipation of the spectator’ and Anne Wilson’s 2012 ‘Walking the Warp’ amongst others.

Janis shared a project she was involved in called ‘How to do things with academia‘ which was part of a doctoral training seminar that had been running for several years with people from Goldsmiths, University of Copenhagen and Berlin. In place of a series of conventional papers it provided a practice based intervention.  It became an occasion to practically create new practices, new types of knowledge production that were eventually verbalised and performed in the form of a manual… By utilising the format of the manual as a production drive the outcome of the symposium was a reflection of a process of learning the so called step-by-step that is demanded by the manual and the relationship between the thorny issue of what is practice and what is theory.

The workshop was created from the Richard Serra’s verb list. While the verbal list enabled Sierra to explore freely before committing to what he was going to make, before the thing was made, the premise of the academic project was to explore entwined movement, text, thought, action and practice that could be transferred within and beyond academia.

Janis provided many powerful examples, including Anne’s Wilson’s 2012 weaving work – Walking the Warp - which was performed in Manchester without technology, textiles or thread and using only a gestured vocabulary of weaving in space.

The performers wind invisible bobbins and walk an invisible warp, increasing speed and intensity over the course of the performance with references to the speed to industrial production. Through these movements the act of weaving is performed but without any material evidence of the act of weaving. In Wilson’s performance the body enacts the very absence of the textiles and by extension the textile industry. 

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Session I
QUESTION/ COMMENTS 

session 1 panelJulia, Janis and Nina assembled chairs at the front of the room to discuss the first session on The Politics of Making which had raised a plethora of craft themes related to politics, art, institutions, memory of making, histories, practice, the body, labour gender race and more.

- The labour of making knowledge. How do we hold on the making process as method, output and transmission. Is it possible? Should we?

The transparency of transmitting the process – ie. performances and workshops – are a form of holding onto it. It is also somewhat impossible as it writes itself out in the nature of the materiality itself.  Craft is always getting forgotten and rediscovered. It is perpetual. We should also hold onto the pain and the drudgery. It is not just a story of pure bliss. It is also a story of craft wounds, pin scratches and achey backs. These points are often overlooked  - as if the handmade is some kind of refuge from immaterial labour. The story is more complex than that.

Making memories is an important is part of what we are doing.

- How do we engage with the idea of accumulating knowledge?

Conversations are an important part of the labour of making. These moments don’t translate into funding applications or policy documents. How do we acknowledge the methods that may not stay but matter a lot. There is a strong heritage of commitment to things not staying.

- What are the strengths and weakness of craftivism?

Like anything, craft is process like any other. One of its strengths lies in its unruliness. It is not necessarily a force for good. It is a way of making things. Like all forms of making things it can be used and interpreted for many reasons. One of the reasons people want craft to be this way is as a response to the commercial marketplace.

- There are multiple tensions of craft narrative, not necessarily something intrinsically good or bad.  How do you knit yourself back into your work? How do you want to re-make your work?

Julia responded saying she struggles with this, as she wants to be a great skeptic about craftivism and is also very moved by many of the practices aligned with craftivism. One way that she avoids general sweeping statements is to stay with the material and lead with examples. It is about specificity. This is more detailed and rigorous. She also draws on queer and feminist theory which helps with positionality and specificity.

- What happens if the boundary that is drawn around craft includes digital craft? The academic talk is a craft – it is crafted with our hands – what is the specificity of what is being called craft? How do we place craft in these different realms?

Janis thinks of craft as a verb – to craft – then its always on the move. It is about re-enactments, re-stagings. You can think about crafting in all kinds of disciplinary contexts. There are also many different tools of production that deploy different ways of using the hand to release different kinds of ways of making. An example is the current cult of 3D printing.

Julia argued that one to think of craft not as a refuge but a motor. The online craft world is a means through which people are learning to craft, to knit to do all sorts of things. They are not separate but co-exist, entangle. The sharing of on and off line knowledge is not in opposition.

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LUNCHTIME!

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We spilled into the very urban garden for lunch and relaxed chat.

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LIVE TRANSMISSION  II

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Åsa Ståhl and Kristina Lindström | School of Arts & Communication, Malmö University

 Tranmissions - asa objecttransmissions - asa object 3 transmissions - asa objects2Åsa and Kristina volunteered to do their ‘Live Transmission’ straight after lunch. They presented a project called ‘X Front’ which started with a question – How do grown up women learn to stand up and pee?  It explored the kinds of clothes one might need as a woman to stand up to do this. They ran workshops and re-purposed existing clothing – such as t-shirts and jumpers – and also made garments from scratch.

Åsa and Kristina talked about different types of transmissions of knowledge produced from these making (and wearing) practices such as when you wear different versions of these garments you perform different kinds of work and catalyse different responses – people were asking what is happening here? They brought two of these garments to the symposium and shared a series of photos of women wearing and using them in context.

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Lara Houston | Sociology, University of Lancaster

Tranmissions - lara object Lara presented a live transmission on her work about mobile phone repair in Kampala. She brought a ‘Chinese Phone’ with a universal battery and talked us through the process of making this battery fit different phones. She did this via the use of a series of printed photos from her fieldwork and a version of the phone. She talked about how she felt there were many  ways of transmitting and entangling in her work and is interested in how a study of repair focuses on the possibility of live transmissions and how in embodied work like this can become part of my sociological practice. 

She is interested in acts of repair like this in comparison to other places that are popping up such as the Repair Cafe which are more community group based. These are very different transmissions of repair just as there are multiple versions and ideas of craft. Lara is interested in drawing out the complexities and entangled notions of repair in her work.

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Bernd Kräftner | Principal Investigator, Shared Inc | Senior Lecturer, University of Applied Arts Department of Science and Art, Vienna

transmissions - barnd objectBernd told the group a story about the hare and the hedgehog. He met the hare at home for people in a vegetative state or unresponsive wakefulness syndrome state where he is doing fieldwork. The hare was visiting his friend the hedgehog – and their relationship is  not about a race at all but about a relationship – they loved each other –  but sadly the hedgehog had been involved in a  server accident and he had a brain injury and was in a vegetative state.

The hare visited him daily and would do things to cheer him up and try to help him to recover. But he was concerned that his emotional welbeing might affect the hedgehog. He questioned why the hedgehog’s wellbeing was constantly monitored by the doctors – and asked if perhaps it might have something to do with visitors’s wellbeing too. So he turned it around and he devised a protocol for measuring his mood – to diagnose himself.

The hare measured his emotional and physical wellbeing via a specially designed technical glove device which gathered this data throughout the day. Bernd unrolled a huge complex diagram that documented the hare’s mood throughout one day. Bernd told us that he is exploring the relations between the hare and the hedgehog with the aim of taking all these kinds of things and working on a family album to try to enrich understandings of states and relationships.

Transmissions - bernd

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Sarah Corbett | Founder of Craftivist Collective 

Sarah has a background in campaigning and learnt to craft from youtube. She is interested in how craft connects to global issues and can help to create networks and relationships between people, can be a lovely way of getting people excited and thinking it is possible to change the world. She brought a replica of a hand stitched handkerchief which she gave to a local politician whom she said would not communicate with her over key issues that she felt passionate about. Craft helped Sarah connect with this politician in a positive respectful way.

transmissions - sarah object - crop transmissions - sarah

Session II
THE PRACTICE OF ENTANGLEMENT

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Zoe López Mediero, Azucena Klett and Arroyo | Curator and Researcher, Intermediae  | and Olga Fernandez Lopez | History & Theory of Art Department, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

Talk - intermediaeZoe, Azucena and Olga collectively presented their transdisciplinary collaborative research work. They have backgrounds in fine art, philosophy and the history of art and work in the contexts of social media, activism, urban context and policy in Madrid.

Intermedia is a city council funded collective chosen to test different institutional hypothesis, enabling what we like to call an open code working dynamics, oriented to a more democratic, horizontal and public production of culture. They way they do this is by aiming to become-others through a process of contact and listening. Instead of an institution that curates, produces or makes, it is an institution that is curated, is produced or is made, enabling the redistribution of agencies and the sharing of responsibilities in the construction of a cultural space.

Intermedia are interested in testing how they might present their work in an academic context and the field of humanities and also how academia might be affected by different kinds of collaborative practices.

We have chosen the neologism de-cast (or de-casting) to suggest an institutional “unmolding”, that is to say to think about the possibility, the one hundred or more methodologies, that can be tested to break the mold that bounds cultural institutions. We would also like to evoke the idea of a theatrical casting taking place in the institutions that could reverse the pre-assigned roles of the agents usually involved in them. From independent agents to a networks of agents - Zoe,

They presented a range of independent initiatives and networked organisations who have changed their practice to work in and on collective participatory projects in public space. They discussed social-artistic movements and how there has been a redefinition of what is a public space. There has also been a redistribution of responsibilities, knowledge and ownership of public space which has resulted in self organising networks drawing on open source models to begin to experimentally ‘run’ urban sites.

Examples of projects include:

Hacenderas  - of a citizen “parliament” that once a month discuss concrete neighbourhood difficulties, that we address through committees.

City kitchen - monthly “co-working tables” in which citizens, professionals and civil servants shared strategies and models of activation of public space.

Core questions that inform their practice:
Are we in a threshold of overcoming certain “modern” ways of understanding cultural institutions, citizen participation and the autonomy of art? What type of citizen parliaments are being tested in these projects? Is this kind of distributed network being operative? What would be the modes in which to include a radical heterogeneity of political subjects and objects? What new forms of governance are being tested? What could be the meaning and function of a public experimental art centre within a model of distributed network?

intermediae

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Jennifer Gabrys and Nerea Calvillo | Sociology, Goldsmiths

Citizen Sensing is an ERC project at Goldsmiths run by Jennifer that looks at how environmental senses are increasingly appearing in environments as ways of looking at environmental change but also being scaled up to citizen engaged activities who were using easily available technologies to better understand what was happening in their environments.

Practice is a way of researching new technologies, to analyse as well as create new technologies. They set out to ask a lot of questions - what are these environmental sensing engagements in terms of the imaginaries of environmental citizenship? What does it mean to have this technologically led engagement? What are the trajectories of these initiatives in that they imagine may lead to actions? How might having data somehow change the air quality? How do they articulate an environmental relationality? What does it mean to see sites in terms of data gathering?

Part of the project is about looking at existing environmental monitoring practices as well as new technologies. They are also looking at how these technologies are moving into urban settings – imaginaries and implemented sensing networks in situ (ie. London underground senses). A further part of the method involves building kits and holding workshops, trying out the devices and asking – what does it mean to DIY? What kinds of skills, capacities and labour is involved and what kinds of communities do you entangle with as a result of using these devices? Jennifer and her research team are testing claims of these off-the-shelf technologies. In many cases the claims do not match the practical realities.

Talk - jennifertalk - nerea - listeners

Nerea presented one particular sensing device and the linked phone app which she had been using to record the air, sound and heat quality in walks undertaken around local area. She told us how it often captured unintended data - an interesting entanglement – such as when it overheated internally or captured the noise of leaves as higher than local traffic. The design of the kits are also interesting in that sometimes they operate to overheat the device and there are limited nature of instructions available to troubleshoot these issues.

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Session II
QUESTIONS/ COMMENTS 

Alex Taylor joined the speakers at the front of the room to chair the discussion on the practice of entanglements. He talked about being inspired by both projects because they were actively doing many of the entangled things that STS often talks and grapples with.

- A lot of materials today have been urban centric and very particular views related to particular places. This is a question about local expertise – different levels as it relates to tech in each project – and also about how it relates to places and people? Why do some projects come to life in certain places?

Jennifer responded by saying that they try not to work to closely in categories of amateur and professional. Different people work with different levels of kit. Many people fumble around and respond to demands being made on them in different contexts. Other forms of expertise come from people moving into different fields -such as public health – and develop different responses of data and publics and discourse. Its about relationships between kinds of expertise – not a singular response but about taking on different capacities when needed. A shifting landscape of entanglements.

- How do you think about citizen science? And (thinking about how a sociologist might walk with a device) how is data an atmosphere?

The term is problematic, provocative and deliberately chosen as the title of project and this particular practice. It is a project therefore that reviews, analyses, critiques, participates and observes. Part of the investigation is to push at the idea of the narrowly drawn contour of what constitutes a citizen and the practices involved in this. How do technologies become enrolled in this? What are the limitations? How is this potentially problematic?

- How do you think about these devices after their use? – ie. the loop constructed by purchasing a device that senses how badly the world is polluted that will itself become part of the problem.

This  issue relates to Jennifer’s first book ‘Digital Rubbish: a natural history of electronics. For this new project they have been scavenging waste to build their sensing devices and working with recycled materials. They are very aware that everything they build has an environmental footprint, a labour footprint, draws on energy, its past manufacturing history and its future life. She said that they haven’t drawn on much material yet but it is something they will have to grapple more on as the project develops. One response has been a move to more analogue devices as the new digital ones as as problematic as they are empowering. They invite us to rethink what it means to use monitoring as a practice of engaging with environmental change.

- A question of expectation. What is the expectation if people offer this labour? If there is a frustration of things not changing, what is the impact on people? How do they manage expectations – of devices, practices and imaginings?

It is a major issue with fracking for example. There is a double bind: people feel they brought it on themselves from selling the rights to frack their land, yet there is also an expectation that the data might have an impact. Communities work with health experts to address key agendas and policy makers but there is also a lot of bad data out there or data that doesn’t have the impact that people would like it to have. It is about the expectations of data. Many people have tried everything and have discovered that personal accounts are not work much so many hope that data will somehow mean more. We want to challenge the capacity of the data to provide ‘real evidence’.

- Does the focus on data somehow delegitimise the value of personal accounts? Does it reinforce the idea that personal experience is worthless? Is it possible to turn personal experiences into data rather than saying that data is outside of bodies?

No. Jennifer has written on this about how these issues of experience can brought into ideas of what matters or counts as data and this might then have a different relationship to what data is if as a citizen you go into court that instigates different actions. There are no singular ways of thinking about and doing data. This is also a community that is fed up with doing diaries. They want to do something. It is interesting having these conversations. They are also working with health experts and medical doctors and are interested in other ways of mobilising their concerns.

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AFTERNOON TEA

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Again we moved into the back room and outside for coffee, tea, biscuits and fresh air.

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Throughout the day Rachel, Britt and I were busy finishing garments for the exhibition opening the next day. The entailed a lot of hand sewing hems, attaching buttons and the somewhat curious making of leggings ‘festooned’ with ribbons for one of the patented garments. To be sewing and crafting during critical conversations about crafting, making and performing data added another layer to the day. (And some people like Sarah joined in with their own sewing!)

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LIVE TRANSMISSION III

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Li Jönsson | Interaction Design, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts  School of Architecture, Conservation and Design

 Transmissions objectLi discussed a series of devices from her design experiments in her nearly finished PhD called Urban Animals and Us which explores relationships between animals -in this case birds – and senior citizens in a local residential home. There are a number of different devices – a Bird Flute that enabled people to call out to birds in the environment around the home. In this way they became more bird like themselves.

A BirdCam was also designed in the project. It is an interface for birds to photograph the practices of the people inside the home. This is the device that Li showed the group. It is made from off the shelf components, it has a spy camera built into it. The user simply adds food. The birds pick up the Birdcam and the resulting footage provides a completely different perspective on urban life – a bird view of the city.

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Jen Southern | Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts

Jen’s practice combines sociology and fine arts. The object she brought is a speculative app. We thought it would be interesting to GPS map you and your social network at the same time. It was made prior to apps like Four Square etc. Jen and her team were interested to see what people would use it for and gave it to different groups to monitor how they were experiencing different parts of the city.

One group wanted to map noise pollution and GPS mapped each other walking from a central point until they could not longer hear the noise. When they came back together they then speculated on why and where people had stopped at different distances. It triggered conversations about what each meant and experienced as sound pollution. They would project the data onto a wall and people would annotate what they had experienced at different times. This was a form of collaborative analysis.

The app was also available on the app store so people downloaded it all over the world. Jen and her team contacted many of these users to find out what they were using it for and created data portraits.

We think of it as a way of making GPS as a technology that people can play with in an app that is slightly more visible than it is in our everyday life.

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Phil Thomas |  PhD Visual Sociology, Goldsmiths

Phil isa first year Visual Sociology PhD student and her work is on the politics of the claim to realism and discourses about crime and focusing on UK and US realist criminology. She also writes fiction and she is developing participatory writing exchange project. She recently prepared a piece for Goldsmiths event –  The Future of Art is Urban. Today she performed it live – ‘Grand Design’.

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Session III MA VISUAL SOCIOLOGY STUDENT PRESENTATIONS

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Beckie Coleman, the course convenor and lecturer on the MA Visual Sociology at Goldsmiths, introduced the third and final session of the day. The course is in its first year, designed to explore visual methods and ways of engaging with the social world but also to push what we might mean by the visual into thinking about things like atmosphere, how sociology might be performed and performative.

Following on the style Speed Methods talks at the last conference and the Live Transmissions sessions this time, we invited MA Visual Sociology students to show and tell their current work-in-progress and invited comments and feedback from the group. The students who presented had been awarded small bursaries from the Transmissions & Entanglements project to help with their final dissertations and final show and more broadly to further support and encourage experimental and provocative forms of sociology.

Roz Mortimer | MA Visual Sociology 

Roz is developing work she has been doing in Southern Poland for a few years. Focusing on areas of mass graves, she is working with people who either witnessed the massacres or who live with memory of trauma and memory. In particular she has been interested in one particular local story of a woman who refused to die. She has written more about this project here. She plans on exploring haunting through film and has been experimenting with how to represent and translate trauma and collapse time. She has used pin hole cameras and digital cameras, but her frustration has been that the cameras have always been from a human perspective. So she has been thinking about how to visualise a more spectral presence. She is purchasing, with help from the bursary, a drone camera to fly above specific sites.

Roz presentation

Marina Silva | MA Visual Sociology

Marina is using the MA to explore a project on visual culture of everyday urban environments in depth. She is from São Paulo and has a design background. In 2007 a law was passed in the city to remove all ‘visual pollution from the urban landscape’. This meant that it was illegal to advertise in the city. It raises fascinating questions: What is beauty? What is the role of the city? What is and isn’t pollution? Where has the ‘visual pollution’ gone as a result of being ‘cleaned’ from the street’? Marina showed pictures from a local photographer who has documented the structures left from the advertising industry – empty frames, signs etc . She talked about the comments linked to his images that debate the nature of advertising versus communication and express a spectrum of responses from joy at the cleaner, more beautiful city to disgust at the heavy handed nature of state control.

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Katie Knapp | MA Visual Sociology 

Katie is from advertising and communications background and grew up in agriculture and farming cultures. Her project is about how society visualises farming. She is struck by the overlaps, complexity and entanglement with how the media, lobby groups, consumers and farmers often use the same images to represent the production of food and yet put forward conflicting messages. She is interested in how people curate a visual of farming – different scenarios – and curate this into an object as a final piece of work.

student - katie

Ali Eisa | MA Visual Sociology 

Ali talked about the end of year MA Visual Sociology show in September which provides an opportunity for students to showcase the work they have been doing to the public, prospective students and also in relation to each other – the bursary is helping to support this event. This is a critically important event because although the course requires students to hand in a written text, the process by which they have made and expressed their work in other forms has greatly informed their processes, methods and understandings of Visual Sociology. It also deepens and enriches their exhibition and curation skills for ways of making their work open to a range of publics. Ali also talked about his own work which ethnographically explores hacker space culture and in particular things that don’t work. He passed around a 3D object that its maker considered a failure and yet talked about how other discussions with people revealed that it could be so many other things – ie. a part for a space ship!

student - ali2Student - ali

 

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Session III QUESTIONS/ COMMENTS 

- What exactly is Visual Sociology? How are you imagining the visual in sociology – is it creative, or pertaining to optics?

All the students are from backgrounds – design, communications, advertising, film –  that have the visual deeply embedded within it. Having visual added to sociology is something they have debated throughout the year. The course equips students to interrogate the visual and and how they situate what they are already engaged in, in a sociological contexts. It could be viewed more about inventive approaches to the social than just visual.

- Why do the visual histories of the future look the same? – ie. The fixity of the kinds of shapes in Thingyverse. Why do we imagine the future in specific ways – the similarities and lack of flexibility?

Ali talked about the homogeneity of 3D printed objects and his curiosity to explore the themes that emerge. He is interested in craft, consumption and technology and especially ideas of customisation which is a dominant theme in 3D printing.

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To The Pub!

Annoyingly I didn’t make it to the pub after the event due to having to run about in prep for the next night’s event, but I heard that it was good and networking continued over beer. Thankyou to everyone for making Live Transmissions a terrifically stimulating and memorable event.

Till next time…… : )

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