My article in Cabinet and other adventures

Updated: here’s a copy of the piece. But if you possibly can, you really should buy a copy of Cabinet. They’re a non-profit journal dedicated to art, culture and science run by great people.

I couldn’t be more excited about this: this is my article, “Interfaces to the Subterranean,” in the latest issue of Cabinet! I’m delighted to have finally published an article about the Poste Pneumatique — and at that, in one of my very favorite publications. Please do pick up a copy: Cabinet is wonderful. It’s the Infrastructure issue.

Cabinet issue 41 with my article on pneumatic post!

A week ago tomorrow, I arrived in San Francisco, where I’m spending a month. I’m catsitting and writing the first of a few dissertation chapters about Nicholas Negroponte. Tonight, libations and introductions with the Overlap conference folks: tomorrow, we are off to Santa Cruz for the conference. I’m looking forward to conversations and connections and stories with the people there. It’ll be great to attend.

Otherwise, SF is its usual blur of friends new and old. I’m appreciating the conversations and connections, the small worldedness of it all, the wall of fog about to envelope the Mission, the cats that meow at me in the mornings, the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.

Designing Geopolitics: presenting today

A quick note that I’m presenting today at UC-San Diego at Designing Geopolitics. I’m giving a talk called “Intelligence in Search of A Body” on Nicholas Negroponte and the Architecture Machine Group as a part of the session titled, “Data as World, World-Image, World-Making,” with along with two people I admire greatly: Lev Manovich and Kelly Gates. Thank you,  Benjamin Bratton, for having me.

I’m on at 4 p.m. or so and it’s streaming live. Afterwards, there’s a discussion, also streaming live.

All-Nite Grocery! Walt Mink!

Walt Mink was a terrific band from St. Paul in the early 90s. They were named after a psychology professor at Macalester did a great cover of Pink Moon, they did a great couple albums, they were great live…

Thanks to Willfully Obscure, I heard something I’ve not heard since 1992, hanging out with my then boyfriend Andrew, a bike mechanic: their demo tape! Best of all — All-Nite Grocery, their song about going shopping at Rainbow Foods in the middle of the night. “10 Second Head Start!” Listen to it here.  Walt Mink – All Nite Grocery

And if you’re really a Walt Mink fan, visit Willfully Obscure and download the album there (and note that Candice, their beautiful and awesome bassist actually posted in the comments!

A manifesto, a bubble, a monster: poetic episode #1

My last two Saturdays involved reciting poetry out loud in some unusual ways. The first episode: a manifesto, a bubble and a monster.

Two weeks ago, I participated in the Emerging Territories of Movement event at the Storefront for Art and Architecture. I was one of 15 people asked to deliver a manifesto—my group was “Urbanizing Technologies”—to a crowd of about 150 people inside a big, inflated bubble (provided by Raumlabor, one of my favorite architecture/urbanism groups). The day was magical: an exploding day of spring green and sunshine, of listening and arguing and drawing and talking.

I stood on a chair and took the mic in my hand–and realized that I was shaking with adrenaline. I shouted my manifesto, then followed it up with my favorite e.e. cummings poem, one that I’ve (largely) memorized, and that age 18 as a student in Düsseldorf, Germany, I stood on a chair and shouted it to my fellow high school students.

Delivering a manifesto!

Photo by Enrique Ramirez


The manifesto, with the attendant images:
1. Technology always perpetuates the flow of capital: it is inevitable

2. Circulation equals communication

Fortune Magazine, 1939

3. Technologies and transactions always microsize in tandem

4. As they seep into us, they colonize us from the inside out

5. We must hyperbolize and hypermobilize

6. To fight it, we must get small like the tiny technologies

7. We must atomize into a million dusty fragments


Then onward to e.e. cummings. In the middle of it, I noted, “I’m shaking.” I was.

pity this busy monster,manunkind,

not.  Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victum(death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
-electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange;lenses extend

unwish through curving wherewhen until unwish
returns on its unself.
			          A world of made
is not a world of born-pity poor flesh

and trees,poor stars and stones,but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence.  We doctors know

a hopeless case if-listen:there's a hell
of a good universe next door;let's go

Upcoming adventures

from the summer, of course...

I’m sitting at the airport again, about to embark on a five or six stop trip over the next month. Oh my!

Speaking-wise, my first stop is the ACSA (Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture) annual conference in Montreal, one of my favorite cities in the world. I’m giving another paper on Cedric Price and the Oxford Corner House, archival research that I did at the Canadian Centre for Architecture where I spent the month of July.

In just one week, South by Southwest Interactive for my 14th time! Benjamin Bratton and I are doing a panel called “Urban Technology on the Dark Side:” 10 examples of urban technology on the scary, nefarious and strange side.

Also: two separate trips to San Francisco, one for a Cisco Urban Innovation Group event (between Montreal and SXSW), the other for the presentation of the Institute for the Future project I’ve worked on the last six months, and then LA for the major pass-or-fail crit for my thesis students in Art Center’s Graduate Media Design Program.

So: dizzyingly busy, a nice counterpoint to the quiet February I had in Princeton. I’m psyched.


weeknote 21

It’s been very productive month in Princeton, even if I am channeling John Nash in my organizing of little slips of paper in pursuit of the big arguments for my dissertation. I’m interested in what Katherine Hayles refers to as “how information lost its body” and how it gets rematerialized, not in bodies (which is her focus) but in architectural objects and spaces. Ultimately, I’m looking to explain how these broader theories and explanations might be bounced against Christopher Alexander’s design processes, Nicholas Negroponte’s Media Room, the Architecture Machine Group’s Spatial Data Management System projects, and Cedric Price’s building-sized information systems.

Is this where I’m headed? (From A Beautiful Mind. John Nash still lives in Princeton, so it’s not that far a stretch.)

In the course of last week’s reading frenzy, I’ve blown through books by Katherine Hayles, John Johnston, Friedrich Kittler, Donna Haraway, Niklas Luhmann, and Lev Manovich (and more that I can’t remember right now), as well as a bunch of shorter articles. It was an intense amount of material to not just read but parse enough to quote. I then cut up the quotes, recategorized them and put them into new piles. The piles all reside in envelopes, with titles like “embodiment/disembodiment” and “media/medium” and “processing and code” and “modes and operations.” This project isn’t dealing with my archival material or the historical material I have on cybernetics, artificial intelligence and the history of computing in architecture — that’s separate — but it should give me some perspective on the project. Finally, I’m not feeling blocked but rather driven to write, if only to not lose the train of thought I’m following that the hundreds of scraps of paper encapsulate. Unless I go crazy in the process. That’s also possible.

Also up this month: writing a lexicon entry on the computer in architecture for Joan Ockman’s book on the 300 years of architectural pedagogy and writing a piece for the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians  (JSAH) on Papers 2… and that’s in addition to the adventures on which I’m embarking, the subject of my next post.

neb 4.0! happy birthday, dear friend!

bearded me and bunny neb

When I first heard about Neb, I believed he was the Snuffleupagus. My friends told me about him but he was never in town when I was in San Francisco. I believed him to be invisible. Given the many superpowers Neb holds, it would be a viable possibility. But then he materialized at eTech in San Diego in 2004, threw my arms around him and became a passenger in the nebmobile, virtually and when in the same place, zoomingly.

My vocabulary and my world have never quite been the same.

Happy zooming 40th, dear Neb. I’m sorry to miss the party this week but hope you’ll enjoy the NebGreetings from near and far.





Oh the places you’ll see

Lots of travel. Lots of projects. Lots of papers and writing. Lots of arguing with the structure of my dissertation. Lots of airplanes. Lots of mud and melting snow in Princeton, where I sit at my desk right now. It’s the quiet before the storm — I’ll post about what’s coming up in my next post!

Since I last posted, here are some places I’ve been.

Shanghai, China, October 2010

The Bund

Me in a cab under the blue-lit megastructure urban highways

Umeå, Sweden, December 2010 (brr!)

I was a guest at the HUMLab and spoke at the Media Places conference.

Munich (and also Düsseldorf, not pictured), Germany, December 2010

Glühwein with the lovely Magdalen Powers.

Venice, CA, off and on, October 2010–February 2011

Lifeguard houses on Christmas Day

There’s also been Minneapolis (twice to see family), New York (Microsoft Social Computing Symposium), Sacramento, San Francisco and Burbank (Institute for the Future).

I have a tendency to think I’m not getting enough done — probably because the dissertation writing is the hardest part– but I’ve been up to a bunch of things:

  • I was invited to bat for the home team: I gave a paper called “To the first machine that can appreciate the gesture: Nicholas Negroponte and the Architecture Machine” at the Teaching Architecture Practicing Pedagogy conference at Princeton last weekend. Outstanding conference and great community of scholars and ideas on architecture practice and pedagogy. I also lectured on Negroponte as a guest speaker in a proseminar at Princeton in December.
  • Working on a project I love at the Institute for the Future with two people I greatly admire, Anthony Townsend and Jake Dunagan. Lots of travel around California for fascinating conversations, workshops and interviews.
  • Interviewing Nicholas Negroponte for publication in an upcoming book on the 150 year anniversary in the MIT School of Architecture. Was paid an embarrassingly high compliment from the man himself.
  • Finishing a little project on communication systems for a future exhibition.
  • Wrote a short piece in Rumor (Princeton School of Architecture publication) about the Shanghai workshop we conducted, Soft Energy Infrastructure
  • Turned my fascination with and research on pneumatic tubes as an article for Cabinet
  • Continue to advise master’s five students in the exciting Graduate Media Design Program at Art Center in Pasadena. It’s great to be a fly on the wall of their creative processes.

… and still trying to go running and do yoga here and there, to read self-help books and get decent sleep and cook good food. No wonder the blog ends up in last place!