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robertogreco : assembly   5

Stowe Boyd — However problematically the notion of...
"However problematically the notion of “responsibility” has been reappropriated for neoliberal purposes, the concept remains a crucial feature of the critique of accelerating inequality. In the neoliberal morality, each of us is only responsible for ourselves, and not for others, and that responsibility is first and foremost a responsibility to become economically self-sufficient under conditions when self-sufficiency is structurally undermined. Those who cannot afford to pay for health care constitute but one version of a population deemed disposable. And all those who see the increasing gap between rich and poor, who understand themselves to have lost several forms of security and promise, they also understand themselves as abandoned by a government and a political economy that clearly augments wealth for the very few at the expense of the general population. So when people amass on the street, one implication seems clear: they are still here and still there; they persist; they assemble, and so manifest the understanding that their situation is shared, or the beginning of such an understanding. And even when they are not speaking or do not present a set of negotiable demands, the call for justice is being enacted: the bodies assembled “say” “we are not disposable,” whether or not they are using words at the moment; what they say, as it were, is “we are still here, persisting, demanding greater justice, a release from precarity, a possibility of a livable life."
Judith Butler, Notes Toward a Peformative Theory of Assembly (p. 25)

"The Human Spring is coming, I predict 2023. The time when we, the people, actually understand our situation is shared.

Because of the nature of things in the post-everything, postnormal era, we will have to rely on fluidarity – cooperative action around a small set of core issues – rather than the historical solidarity – collective action around a comprehensive platform – but if it is the right 4 or five things, that will be enough."
judithbutler  stoweboyd  neoliberalism  economics  democracy  inequality  justice  socialjustice  precarity  healthcare  health  change  evolution  solidarity  collectivism  care  caring  morality  persistence  assembly 
april 2018 by robertogreco
John Berger: The Nature of Mass Demonstrations (Autumn 1968)
"Seventy years ago (on 6 May 1898) there was a massive demonstration of workers, men and women, in the centre of Milan. The events which led up to it involve too long a history to treat with here. The demonstration was attacked and broken up by the army under the command of General Beccaris. At noon the cavalry charged the crowd: the unarmed workers tried to make barricades: martial law was declared and for three days the army fought against the unarmed.

The official casualty figures were 100 workers killed and 450 wounded. One policeman was killed accidentally by a soldier. There were no army casualties. (Two years later Umberto I was assassinated because after the massacre he publicly congratulated General Beccaris, the ‘butcher of Milan.’)

I have been trying to understand certain aspects of the demonstration in the Corso Venezia on 6 May because of a story I am writing. In the process I came to a few conclusions about demonstrations which may perhaps be more widely applicable.

Mass demonstrations should be distinguished from riots or revolutionary uprisings although, under certain (now rare) circumstances, they may develop into either of the latter. The aims of a riot are usually immediate (the immediacy matching the desperation they express): the seizing of food, the release of prisoners, the destruction of property. The aims of a revolutionary uprising are long-term and comprehensive: they culminate in the taking over of State power. The aims of a demonstration, however, are symbolic: it demonstrates a force that is scarcely used.

A large number of people assemble together in an obvious and already announced public place. They are more or less unarmed. (On 6 May 1898, entirely unarmed.) They present themselves as a target to the forces of repression serving the State authority against whose policies they are protesting.

Theoretically demonstrations are meant to reveal the strength of popular opinion or feeling: theoretically they are an appeal to the democratic conscience of the State. But this presupposes a conscience which is very unlikely to exist.

If the State authority is open to democratic influence, the demonstration will hardly be necessary; if it is not, it is unlikely to be influenced by an empty show of force containing no real threat. (A demonstration in support of an already established alternative State authority – as when Garibaldi entered Naples in 1860 – is a special case and may be immediately effective.)

Demonstrations took place before the principle of democracy was even nominally admitted. The massive early Chartist demonstrations were part of the struggle to obtain such an admission. The crowds who gathered to present their petition to the Tsar in St Petersburg in 1905 were appealing – and presenting themselves as a target – to the ruthless power of an absolute monarchy. In the event – as on so many hundreds of other occasions all over Europe – they were shot down.

It would seem that the true function of demonstrations is not to convince the existing State authority to any significant degree. Such an aim is only a convenient rationalisation.

The truth is that mass demonstrations are rehearsals for revolution: not strategic or even tactical ones, but rehearsals of revolutionary awareness. The delay between the rehearsals and the real performance may be very long: their quality – the intensity of rehearsed awareness – may, on different occasions, vary considerably: but any demonstration which lacks this element of rehearsal is better described as an officially encouraged public spectacle.

A demonstration, however much spontaneity it may contain, is a created event which arbitrarily separates itself from ordinary life. Its value is the result of its artificiality, for therein lies its prophetic, rehearsing possibilities.

A mass demonstration distinguishes itself from other mass crowds because it congregates in public to create its function, instead of forming in response to one: in this, it differs from any assembly of workers within their place of work – even when strike action is involved – or from any crowd of spectators. It is an assembly which challenges what is given by the mere fact of its coming together.

State authorities usually lie about the number of demonstrators involved. The lie, however, makes little difference. (It would only make a significant difference if demonstrations really were an appeal to the democratic conscience of the State.) The importance of the numbers involved is to be found in the direct experience of those taking part in or sympathetically witnessing the demonstration. For them the numbers cease to be numbers and become the evidence of their senses, the conclusions of their imagination. The larger the demonstration, the more powerful and immediate (visible, audible, tangible) a metaphor it becomes for their total collective strength.

I say metaphor because the strength thus grasped transcends the potential strength of those present, and certainly their actual strength as deployed in a demonstration. The more people there are there, the more forcibly they represent to each other and to themselves those who are absent. In this way a mass demonstration simultaneously extends and gives body to an abstraction. Those who take part become more positively aware of how they belong to a class. Belonging to that class ceases to imply a common fate, and implies a common opportunity. They begin to recognise that the function of their class need no longer be limited: that it, too, like the demonstrations itself, can create its own function.

Revolutionary awareness is rehearsed in another way by the choice and effect of location. Demonstrations are essentially urban in character, and they are usually planned to take place as near as possible to some symbolic centre, either civic or national. Their ‘targets’ are seldom the strategic ones – railway stations, barracks, radio stations, airports. A mass demonstration can be interpreted as the symbolic capturing of a city or capital. Again, the symbolism or metaphor is for the benefit of the participants.

The demonstration, an irregular event created by the demonstrators, nevertheless takes place near the city centre, intended for very different uses. The demonstrators interrupt the regular life of the streets they march through or of the open spaces they fill. They ‘cut off these areas, and, not yet having the power to occupy them permanently, they transform them into a temporary stage on which they dramatise the power they still lack.

The demonstrators’ view of the city surrounding their stage also changes. By demonstrating, they manifest a greater freedom and independence – a greater creativity, even although the product is only symbolic – than they can ever achieve individually or collectively when pursuing their regular lives. In their regular pursuits they only modify circumstances; by demonstrating they symbolically oppose their very existence to circumstances.

This creativity may be desperate in origin, and the price to be paid for it high, but it temporarily changes their outlook. They become corporately aware that it is they or those whom they represent who have built the city and who maintain it. They see it through different eyes. They see it as their product, confirming their potential instead of reducing it.

Finally, there is another way in which revolutionary awareness is rehearsed. The demonstrators present themselves as a target to the so-called forces of law and order. Yet the larger the target they present, the stronger they feel. This cannot be explained by the banal principle of ‘strength in numbers,’ any more than by vulgar theories of crowd psychology. The contradiction between their actual vulnerability and their sense of invincibility corresponds to the dilemma which they force upon the State authority.

Either authority must abdicate and allow the crowd to do as it wishes: in which case the symbolic suddenly becomes real, and, even if the crowd’s lack of organisation and preparedness prevents it from consolidating its victory, the event demonstrates the weakness of authority. Or else authority must constrain and disperse the crowd with violence: in which case the undemocratic character of such authority is publicly displayed. The imposed dilemma is between displayed weakness and displayed authoritarianism. (The officially approved and controlled demonstration does not impose the same dilemma: its symbolism is censored: which is why I term it a mere public spectacle.) Almost invariably, authority chooses to use force. The extent of its violence depends upon many factors, but scarcely ever upon the scale of the physical threat offered by the demonstrators. This threat is essentially symbolic. But by attacking the demonstration authority ensures that the symbolic event becomes an historical one: an event to be remembered, to be learnt from, to be avenged.

It is in the nature of a demonstration to provoke violence upon itself. Its provocation may also be violent. But in the end it is bound to suffer more than it inflicts. This is a tactical truth and an historical one. The historical role of demonstrations is to show the injustice, cruelty, irrationality of the existing State authority. Demonstrations are protests of innocence.

But the innocence is of two kinds, which can only be treated as though they were one at a symbolic level. For the purposes of political analysis and the planning of revolutionary action, they must be separated. There is an innocence to be defended and an innocence which must finally be lost: an innocence which derives from justice, and an innocence which is the consequence of a lack of experience.

Demonstrations express political ambitions before the political means necessary to realise them have been created. Demonstrations predict the realisation of their own ambitions and thus may contribute to that realisation, but they cannot themselves achieve them.

The … [more]
johnberger  demonstrations  1968  revolution  massdemonstrations  assembly  democracy  rehearsal  resistance  awareness  practice  authority  authoritarianism  civics  change  law  order  organization  violence 
january 2017 by robertogreco
The Jacob’s Ladder of coding — Medium
"Anecdotes and questions about climbing up and down the ladder of abstraction: Atari, ARM, demoscene, education, creative coding, community, seeking lightness, enlightenment & strange languages"



"With only an hour or two of computer time a week, our learning and progress was largely down to intensive trial & error, daily homework and learning to code and debug with only pencil and paper, whilst trying to be the machine yourself: Playing every step through in our heads (and on paper) over and over until we were confident, the code did as we’d expect, yet, often still failing because of wrong intuitions. Learning this analytical thinking is essential to successful debugging, even today, specifically in languages / environments where no GUI debugger is available. In the late 90s, John Maeda did similar exercises at MIT Media Lab, with students role-playing different parts of a CPU or a whole computer executing a simple process. Later at college, my own CS prof too would often quote Alan Perlis:
“To understand a program you must become both the machine and the program.” — Alan Perlis

Initially we’d only be using the machine largely to just verify our ideas prepared at home (spending the majority of the time typing in/correcting numbers from paper). Through this monastic style of working, we also learned the importance of having the right tools and balance of skills within the group and were responsible to create them ourselves in order to achieve our vision. This important lesson stayed with me throughout (maybe even became) my career so far… Most projects I worked on, especially in the past 15 years, almost exclusively relied on custom-made tooling, which was as much part of the final outcome as the main deliverable to clients. Often times it even was the main deliverable. On the other hand, I’ve also had to learn the hard way that being a largely self-sufficient generalist often is undesired in the modern workplace, which frequently still encourages narrow expertise above all else…

After a few months of convincing my parents to invest all of their saved up and invaluable West-german money to purchase a piece of “Power Without the Price” (a much beloved Atari 800XL) a year before the Wall came down in Berlin, I finally gained daily access to a computer, but was still in a similar situation as before: No more hard west money left to buy a tape nor disk drive from the Intershop, I wasn’t able to save any work (apart from creating paper copies) and so the Atari was largely kept switched on until November 10, 1989, the day after the Berlin Wall was opened and I could buy an XC-12 tape recorder. I too had to choose whether to go the usual route of working with the built-in BASIC language or stick with what I’d learned/taught myself so far, Assembly… In hindsight, am glad I chose the latter, since it proved to be far more useful and transportable knowledge, even today!"



"Lesson learned: Language skills, natural and coded ones, are gateways, opening paths not just for more expression, but also to paths in life.

As is the case today, so it was back then: People tend to organize around specific technological interests, languages and platforms and then stick with them for a long time, for better or worse. Over the years I’ve been part of many such tool-based communities (chronologically: Asm, C, TurboPascal, Director, JS, Flash, Java, Processing, Clojure) and have somewhat turned into a nomad, not being able to ever find a true home in most of them. This might sound judgemental and negative, but really isn’t meant to and these travels through the land of languages and toolkits has given me much food for thought. Having slowly climbed up the ladder of abstraction and spent many years both with low & high level languages, has shown me how much each side of the spectrum can inform and learn from the other (and they really should do more so!). It’s an experience I can highly recommend to anyone attempting to better understand these machines some of us are working with for many hours a day and which impact so much of all our lives. So am extremely grateful to all the kind souls & learning encountered on the way!"



"In the vastly larger open source creative computing demographic of today, the by far biggest groups are tight-knit communities around individual frameworks and languages. There is much these platforms have achieved in terms of output, increasing overall code literacy and turning thousands of people from mere computer users into authors. This is a feat not be underestimated and a Good Thing™! Yet my issue with this siloed general state of affairs is that, apart from a few notable exceptions (especially the more recent arrivals), there’s unfortunately a) not much cross-fertilizing with fundamentally different and/or new ideas in computing going on and b) over time only incremental progress is happening, business as usual, rather than a will to continuously challenge core assumptions among these largest communities about how we talk to machines and how we can do so better. I find it truly sad that many of these popular frameworks rely only on the same old imperative programming language family, philosophy and process, which has been pre-dominant and largely unchanged for the past 30+ years, and their communities also happily avoid or actively reject alternative solutions, which might require fundamental changes to their tools, but which actually could be more suitable and/or powerful to their aims and reach. Some of these platforms have become and act as institutions in their own right and as such also tend to espouse an inward looking approach & philosophy to further cement their status (as owners or pillars?) in their field. This often includes a no-skills-neccessary, we-cater-all-problems promise to their new users, with each community re-inventing the same old wheels in their own image along the way. It’s Not-Invented-Here on a community level: A reliance on insular support ecosystems, libraries & tooling is typical, reducing overall code re-use (at least between communities sharing the same underlying language) and increasing fragmentation. More often than not these platforms equate simplicity with ease (go watch Rich Hickey taking this argument eloquently apart!). The popular prioritization of no pre-requisite knowledge, super shallow learning curves and quick results eventually becomes the main obstacle to later achieve systemic changes, not just in these tools themselves, but also for (creative) coding as discipline at large. Bloatware emerges. Please do forgive if that all sounds harsh, but I simply do believe we can do better!

Every time I talk with others about this topic, I can’t help but think about Snow Crash’s idea of “Language is a virus”. I sometimes do wonder what makes us modern humans, especially those working with computing technology, so fundamentalist and brand-loyal to these often flawed platforms we happen to use? Is it really that we believe there’s no better way? Are we really always only pressed for time? Are we mostly content with Good Enough? Are we just doing what everyone else seems to be doing? Is it status anxiety, a feeling we have to use X to make a living? Are we afraid of unlearning? Is it that learning tech/coding is (still) too hard, too much of an effort, which can only be justified a few times per lifetime? For people who have been in the game long enough and maybe made a name for themselves in their community, is it pride, sentimentality or fear of becoming a complete beginner again? Is it maybe a sign that the way we teach computing and focus on concrete tools too early in order to obtain quick, unrealistically complex results, rather than fundamental (“boring”) knowledge, which is somewhat flawed? Is it our addiction to largely focus on things we can document/celebrate every minor learning step as an achievement in public? This is no stab at educators — much of this systemic behavior is driven by the sheer explosion of (too often similar) choices, demands made by students and policy makers. But I do think we should ask ourselves these questions more often."

[author's tweet: https://twitter.com/toxi/status/676578816572067840 ]
coding  via:tealtan  2015  abstraction  demoscene  education  creativecoding  math  mathematics  howwelearn  typography  design  dennocoil  alanperlis  johnmaeda  criticalthinking  analyticalthinking  basic  programming  assembly  hexcode  georgedyson  computing  computers  atari  amiga  commodore  sinclair  identity  opensource  insularity  simplicity  ease  language  languages  community  communities  processing  flexibility  unschooling  deschooling  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  understanding  bottomup  topdown  karstenschmidt 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Public space, civilization and the self (long) | Speedbird
[Read the whole thing, the pullquotes here are not enough, even though there are many of them.]

"Civilization means providing for everyone’s basic biological needs, among which are shade and some degree of shelter from the elements; clean potable water; and a safe place to use the toilet, and otherwise conduct the rudiments of bodily hygiene. These provisions need to be widely distributed and available throughout the community, situated in a way that allows them to be utilized without undue surveillance (and certainly without shame), and this can only happen under the conditions of relatively uncontrolled access that public space affords."



"Civilization also means being forced to reckon with the consequences of our collective failure to provide such facilities."



"Civilization means acknowledging imperatives beyond the merely commercial. Even putting questions of homelessness to the side, I want to live in a city wise enough to offer its citizens and visitors some respite from the overwhelming pressure toward commercial transaction that otherwise characterizes our shared spaces."



"Civilization means a place to sit down. I myself happen to think that sitting and watching the city go by is one of the great urban pleasures, ever and always its own perfect justification, and that if we’ve seriously gotten to the point that we need to articulate arguments in defense of this act we’re in a good deal more trouble than even I had ever suspected. But as it happens, there are good functional reasons why cities might want to provide pedestrians with abundant free seating easily accessible from the public way."



"Civilization means acknowledging imperatives beyond the frankly functional. You can tell a lot about a society’s conception of itself by looking at the standards it insists on (or, alternately, tolerates) in its public accommodations, beyond the rather low bar of simply being fit for purpose. And there’s something profoundly ennobling about the commitment of collective resources to amenities meant for everyone to use and enjoy — neither to overawe, nor to instill a narrow sectarian pride, but to remind everyone using the space that they are a valued member of a meaningful whole."



"Civilization means accommodating the needs of profoundly different groups."



"civilization means supporting the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition for the redress of grievances."



"Civilization means that each citizen has the right to grow and to become who they are, and it also means that the city is designed and structured in a way that helps them do so."



[My favorite part]

"Sometimes in life, we’re attracted to some endeavor not because we have any particular talent for it, but precisely because it represents a weakness. And so it is with me and the city.

I am a fairly shy person. I grew up physically ungifted: weak, clumsy, unbeautiful, inelegant. I’m saddled with the kind of voice (and manner of speaking) that just seems to set some people’s teeth on edge, the moment I open my mouth. I don’t do well in crowds. I haven’t, historically, had the courage to acknowledge the essential personhood of the others around me, preferring a succession of armored or dismissive poses to the complexity and challenge of engaging them as fully human individuals. It was just more comfortable that way. Of course my entire life is one episode after another of me throwing myself into circumstances in which I wasn’t comfortable, which you can read if so inclined as a desperate attempt to make myself whole by main force, but the fact remains: I preferred life inside my armor. And the seeming wisdom of this was reinscribed by the things I experienced when I first ventured into the American cities of the 1970s, one of which I describe in the video linked here.

But I wanted more. I wanted to venture beyond the safety and sterility of my containment. I wanted to stop dismissing people out of hand. I wanted to feel comfortable anywhere — and for the people I met, reading that comfort, to feel comfortable around me. I wanted to stop sacrificing friends, lovers and opportunities to the fulminating assholeism that goes hand-in-hand with a certain kind of insecurity. And the only thing that seemed to get me even the tiniest bit closer to any of that was being out in the city, on the sidewalks, in the parks, or anywhere else I could test my ability to coexist with others undefended, unarmored and vulnerable. These were relatively safe spaces in which I could practice the art of not constructing everyone else around me as a potential threat to my self-esteem — as something that had to be preëmptively taken down a notch or two — and just letting them be what and who they were.

So all of that stuff in Sennett, about the encounter with implacable urban diversity as an indispensable part of coming to maturity? You better believe I read that very personally. If I am anything but entirely broken as I write this, it’s because the effort it took to manage the experience of urban complexity and difference annealed me. Far too late in life, but thankfully while there was still plenty time for me to enjoy it, my city taught me to be a human being.

Were the others I encountered still, occasionally, obnoxious, self-absorbed, entitled or manifestly interested in making my life more difficult? Of course they were. I’ve already said: this is New York. But by and large, I found truth in the rather anodyne notion that people mostly just want to get along. And so a virtuous cycle kicked in: the degree to which I dropped my character armor was that to which the city began to open itself before me.I do not deny that there is a strong element of privilege in this, and of course it didn’t hurt that New York has become very much safer over the time period I’m describing. But to this day, part of the great pleasure I take from the public places of my city is in noting how very small the voice of panic and flight has become in me when I spend time in them. It’s still there, and it will almost certainly never go away entirely. It’s generally overmastered, though, by the joy I take in simply being with my people, the people of my New York.

We need desperately to become whole, some of us, and public space can do this."



"In practice

Assuming you find any or all of the above convincing, what can you do to act on it?

• Learn about the legal status of public space in your municipality, particularly as regards the full measure of rights you enjoy there. Share that knowledge with others.

• Read everything you can get your hands on. I recommend this book as a useful overview of a few threads of contemporary praxis, but there are thousands of others. (Not all of these will be directly and entirely relevant, but they’re all worth reading.)

• Tease out the commonalities between contemporary forms of public-space activism, whether that activism takes place under the banner of “tactical urbanism,” as part of a longer-standing and more explicitly oppositional tradition, or entirely spontaneously. Work toward building bonds, alliances or coalitions between the individuals and communities involved.

• Engage in that activism yourself, in whatever way feels most natural and appropriate to you. In New York alone, there are literally hundreds of organizations dedicated to these and related issues, from 596 Acres and the Green Guerrillas to the Center for Urban Pedagogy and Transportation Alternatives. Honestly, if you can’t find a group or space convenient to your neighborhood and aligned with your inclinations, you’re probably not looking hard enough. (If community gardens are your particular thing, this is a great resource.)

• Wherever possible, design networked or digital maps, tools, environments and interfaces to surface and highlight available public spaces, and the connections between them and the communities they serve.

• Recover older traditions having to do with the shared use of spatial resources, of which there are far too many to list here. (Some of my favorites: the semi-annual day of neighborhood self-care the Norwegians call the Dugnad, and the shelters called bothies in the Scottish and Irish traditions.) And reflect for a moment on what’s implied by that “far too many to list here”: there happen to be so many distinctive local traditions along these lines because those provisions were recognized as inalienable right throughout most of recorded history, just about everywhere in the West. It’s everything represented by Kanyon and its equivalents that’s anomalous.

• Take in a talk. In New York, the Institute for Public Knowledge regularly hosts high-quality lectures and discussions on everything from public toilets to the design of mobility for democracy. If talking over a meal is more your speed, the Design Trust for Public Space throws regular potluck picnics in public spaces throughout the five boroughs.

• Finally: be a public person. If we make the road by walking, we make the city by citying. You know I believe that civilization depends on it. Be generous, be safe, have fun, and let me know what you discover."
adamgreenfield  urban  urbanism  civilization  cities  2013  self  cv  others  empathy  coexistence  urbanrights  canon  assembly  richardsennett  conviviality  mutualaid 
september 2013 by robertogreco
75 Watt - COHEN VAN BALEN
"A product is designed especially to be made in China. The object’s only function is to choreograph a dance performed by the labourers manufacturing it.

The project seeks to explore the nature of mass-manufacturing products on various scales; from the geo-political context of hyper-fragmented labour to the bio-political condition of the human body on the assembly line. Engineering logic has reduced the factory labourer to a man-machine, through scientific management of every single movement. By shifting the purpose of the labourer’s actions from the efficient production of objects to the performance of choreographed acts, mechanical movement is reinterpreted into dance. What is the value of this artefact that only exists to support the performance of its own creation? And as the product dictates the movement, does it become the subject, rendering the worker the object?

The assembly/dance took place in Zhongshan, China between 10-19 March 2013 and resulted in 40 objects and a film documenting the choreography of their assembly."
via:bopuc  2013  75watt  china  manufacturing  factories  labor  choreography  assembly  objects  cohenvanbalen  art  revitalcohen  tuurvanbalen  biology  technology  design  electronics  dance 
june 2013 by robertogreco

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