Excerpt from a Friday post by Fast Company blogger Clay Dillow:
But to call Kalkin subversive misses the point. Consider this artist one of the most daring remix artists now pushing at the edges of today’s data-rich culture. Where online satire now has remixer Andrew Fillipone [Charlie Rose by Samuel Beckett] and new-wave graphic art has Shepard Fairey [poster remix artist and creator of the iconic Obama Hope poster], architecture has Kalkin. “Some of the remix stuff is amazing,” says Kalkin, who buys surplus shipping containers from the ports of New Jersey for $1,500 to $2,000 each, then remixes and upcycles them into high-end glamour projects like the 12-container, $500,000 Adriance House in northern Maine and Kalkin House at Vermont’s Shelbourne Museum to a new, 12-story, midrise condo project in downtown Salt Lake City.
Sure, Kalkin isn’t the only person using shipping containers to create inexpensive, recyclable housing: Lot-Ek, for one, began offering recycled containers a decade ago as an alternative to chrome-and-glass modernism. But Kalkin is, by far, the most imaginative of the container architects—if not the most philosophical. “I have a fascination with ambiguity…with bending the rules,” says Kalkin, who studied philosophy and linguistics as an undergraduate, specializing in the ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein. “In my work, what I like about the use of shipping containers in that it affords a chance to successfully play with people’s expectations and violate their sense of expectation to create surprises. That’s neurologically how we derive pleasure from music; I think it’s the same operation here, with these Quik House projects. The result is so convincing and so exclamatory and so surprising and, like, Whoa! It is all kind of wonderful because of that.”
Kalkin’s love of re-contextualization also is obvious in his lectures: at CUSP in Chicago last fall, he shared one of his favorite examples of remix from the world of entertainment—60s crooner Paul Anka’s rendering of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. Anka doesn’t simply “cover” the Nirvana hit, Kalkin says. “It’s a perfectly unexpected corollary to the grunge thing. Cobain would have never been caught in the same universe as Paul Anka but here’s this orbital leap that works so well when joined that it’s beautiful”—kind of like what Kalkin attempts with his work: new visual and structural dialogues between the old and the new; the organic and synthetic, between one set of ideas and another.
While the downturned economy has all but put a stop to Kalkin’s high-end creations [a recent project to build a Unitarian Church out of containers was dropped, along with some pricey renovations involving some brownstones in Manhattan] the low-rise economy has begun celebrating his work: he was recently asked to build 50 units of affordable container housing in Newark, not far from the docks that supply his stash of materials. And Kalkin is especially excited that his drawing-board designs for refugee dwellings in New Orleans and Afghanistan, featured in his new book, are also getting renewed attention. “In rich countries, containers are constantly going out filled with stuff to places that don’t have stuff or that don’t have anything to ship back, so these containers end up stuck there, as a kind of scrap,” Kalkin says. “There’s an economic asymmetry that makes sure you always have these dead-ends and backlogs of these containers, and they’re usually in economically disadvantaged areas where housing is scarce to begin with. So it actually works, by some mistaken formula, that these things end up in poor areas. The possibilities are terribly exciting."
(This post first appeared on PopTech and is being reposted here with permission)
(Photograph of Adam Kalkin's shipping container house: Peter Aaron/Esto)
The goal: to learn about the behaviors of social networks and the types of people who influence their dynamics the most. “We weren’t able to measure this stuff at such a large scale before smart phones,” says Pentland, the author of the recent book, Honest Signals, and the chief of the Human Dynamics Lab at MIT. “By using data from mobile phones, electronic ID badges, or digital media—what I call ‘honest signals’—we can create a God’s-eye view of how people in organizations interact,” Pentland says. "We can even see the rhythms of interaction for everyone in a city.” Mining mobile data this way would be useful, he says, for tracking such things as flu outbreaks and traffic patterns. (See video here)
Pentland calls this new field of dynamic data “reality mining.” Along with Columbia University Chief Scientist Tony Jebara and a half-dozen other location-awareness technologists and researchers, Pentland co-founded Manhattan-based startup Sense Networks a couple of years ago to make commercial use of the data: the company’s Citysense application for iPhones and BlackBerries is one of the company’s first commercial applications of the research. For now, it’s a free download that shows which areas of San Francisco are the No. 1 hotspots for nightlife—where most people are going or gathering at any given time.
“Half of the people in the world have cell phones and are creating data, tons of it now,” says Sense CEO and Co-founder Greg Skibiski. “This data, in a few years, will be the lingua franca of the entire planet about how people move around globally. We believe location data is the best descriptor of who is a human being.” Adds Pentland: “The motion detectors in your iPhone, for example, know if you’re sitting or walking. Web 2.0 stuff is nice but reality-mining is different.”
To be sure, reality mining raises red flags among privacy advocates. Writer Howard Rheingold says: "The same technology that could let you know if a good Chinese restaurant or old friend is in the vicinity could also betray your location to a totalitarian government, neighborhood spammers, and your vindictive ex-spouse.”
But that's why Pentland and Sense Networks are now pushing what they call a New Deal on Data —an informal privacy pact for the mobile Net set that Pentland unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. “People always say, what about my privacy? But what if privacy can go beyond that? Pentland queries. "Like what about data ownership?” The New Deal on Data, Skibiski says, is based on old English common law tenets that give indivdiuals the right of poessession, use, and disposal. "If you’re a company and you're keeping people's location data, your customers should own their own data and have a say over whether they should be destroyed. It's something we all [in the geo-location industry] should be working towards.”
But are they? So far, says Skibiski, MySpace adheres to it and Facebook is considering it. Nokia, which is working with movie theaters in geo-location experiments to measure theater attendance patterns, also supports the proposal. “There’s a need for some guidance here, absolutely, so as to protect against abuse—but most companies get it, I think," says McDowell, who is leading a Nokia experiment for Remax, the real estate company, to enable people to point their iPhones at a house that’s for sale and get information about its dimensions. “I don’t want to know if you’re visiting your girlfriend," she says. "I just want to know if you are driving down the highway at a certain speed so I can predict traffic flows in a region.”
For more on the new world of geo-location services, check out Mathew Honan’s recent take for Wired on the promise and the perils of context-aware devices.
(This post first appeared on PopTech and is being reposted here with permission)
(Illustration by AskinTulayOver for istock.com)
Labels: alex pentland, citysense, Facebook, geolocation, honest signals, location-awareness, marcia stepanek, milken global forum 2009, new deal on data, privacy, reality mining, sense networks, social media
“Every medium has a signature and for television, it is image. For the Internet, it’s the ability to converse,” said Jason Calacanis, a Net entrepreneur and cofounder and CEO of Mahalo.com. “…Clearly, Obama is better suited for this medium; Democrats and more libertarian people are more suited for it, too. The Net represents a very bad trend for conservatives because they tend to have more extreme, intolerant, non-conversational positions on things. They tend not to do so well online because they can’t converse. The whole point of the Internet is to discuss it, fight it, to have a whole threaded message. The winners of elections now will be the ones able to keep the conversation going and to engage the largest number of people. You have this massive paradigm shift occurring right now, between people who can converse and those not willing to do so. It sort of transcends politics and gets into something even more Socratic in nature.”
Mindy Finn, whose Washington, D.C.-based political strategy firm, Engage, advises Republican candidates, says her firm won’t work with candidates who aren’t philosophically or naturally skewed toward online collaboration and the wisdom of the crowd. “There are certain candidates, frankly, who have come to us and we don’t tell them straight out why we are not going to work with them—but we won’t because we know they’re not going to be successful online,” she said. “They ask me, did we lose because of the Internet? I respond with a big fat no. People didn’t lose because of the Internet. They lost because they were seen as being out of touch…and not understanding the way that people are communicating now via the Internet and via mobile and in groups.”
But the GOP didn’t have a monopoly on social media illiteracy this past election. Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum and PopTech Advisory board member, said Hillary Clinton stumbled with a video called Hillary and the Band, an unsuccessful response to the famous will.i.am video made by Obama’s supporters and this one, Dear Mr. President, made by the supporters of John McCain. “In the beginning of the Hillary video, there was this one throw-away line, a young man who says, ‘The blogs went crazy.’ No 25-year-old would ever say the blogs went crazy. Only a 55-year-old writing a script —writing what he or she thinks a 25-year-old would say—would write a line like that.” The result: the video became a “punching bag example” of inauthenticity and online illiteracy, “an effort by a political candidate to try to mold the message to an erroneous perception of what the audience is and how it communicates.” Added Scott Goodstein, a mobile Internet expert who worked on the Obama campaign’s new media team: “When Hillary’s campaign consultants said it looked like the Obama campaign resembled the face of Facebook, the thing they didn’t understand is that the fastest growing segment of Facebook right now is over-50 women. And the Barack Obama Facebook group has doubled since the campaign. People want information.”
But the social media lessons about blogs and mobile engagement that surfaced out of the past election, panelists agreed, will seem small compared to the changes that lie ahead. Far more significantly, panelists agreed, the Web is accelerating civic discourse to speeds that traditional politicians will find hard to match. The Web, they said, is already threatening to render some of the ways in which we currently govern obsolete.
Example: The citizen group called One Million Voices Against FARC, a Facebook group which organized a grassroots campaign in February 2008 to repudiate FARC guerrillas, empowering more than 12 million people to take to the streets in some 190 cities around the world. “We are living in a post-partisan era in which social media tools are allowing people to find the interests they care about the most,” Rasiej said. “People will be able to find each other faster than they will be led by political parties and political movements, and this has already begun to change the political dynamics of the entire planet. Applying technology to politics and expecting it to stay the same is like applying technology to the record industry and expecting it to stay the same. It doesn’t happen that way.
“…I predict that in 40 or 50 years, we won’t have Congress as we know it today,” Rasiej added, saying the ecosystem of how we identify people to lead us is changing dramatically. “Wikipedia is a great example of our new kinds of representatives, people who have built reputations because they know a great deal about one subject or another and have been identified by the crowd as knowing more than others about a subject. If you think about how our Constitution works and how our Congress works, it’s oriented around the fact that we elected these people because they are supposed to get into details and understand the issues that matter to us more than we do. But the reality is that they spend 95% of their time raising money just to keep themselves in office and actually don’t know more about the issues than we do. These new social media tools are going to create a new set of dynamics where we’re going to be able to identify the people who know the most about the issues that matter to us faster than our elections are going to be able to elect them.”
For more on politics and technology, check out the schedule for this year's Personal Democracy Forum, called We.gov, to be held June 29 and 30 in Manhattan.
(This post first appeared on PopTech and is being reposted here with permission):(Photomosaic image by tsevis via Flickr)