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Max Liters

I just signed up for Nanowrimo. I haven't tried this since my last failure in 2007. I wish I knew where all my previous unfinished nanowrimo novels were...

Erik and I are planning to make our own concrete counter tops for the kitchen. We got the Fu-Teng Cheng books and will watch his instructional video for family movie night this weekend.

My favorite fount of information so far has been this wonderful Instructable. It has a few hundred comments which are full of extra tips and information. While I was reading all of this, I cut and pasted some notes. I figure that it might help someone else if I posted this condensed, organized group of comments. There is surely stuff that I missed, though, and new comments get added all the time, so be sure to read through them all as well.


A cubic yard of concrete weighs 2 ton.

I would calculate a 2 inch thick countertop being about 22 lbs. per square foot.


There is a bagged mix from ZipMixx (GFRC concrete, this is amazing stuff.

Quikrete Countertop Mix--I have used it several times with great results.

There's a guy on the web that sells a great manual on how to make a concrete countertop, he gives you the right mix to buy and he talks about what to do if you are out of the U.S. and can't find the cheaper supplies they have here. his name is Pete Hawes and his website is

I came up with my own concrete recipe that seems to have turned out well. Here's my recipe;

In 5 Gallon Bucket:
1 1/2 Bags Quikrete 5000 Commercial, Measured by Weight (Don't forget to weigh bucket first and subtract from total weight to equal 1/2 bag weight.)

In a Separate 1 Liter Container:
1 Liter Water
2 T. Enflow High Range Water Reducer for Concrete Countertops ($4)

Another Liter of Water

1/10 Bag of Enforce Heavy Duty Fiber ($10?) (I divided the bag of fibers in half and then "eyeballed" 5 equal piles and put them in baggies for later use.)

Put premeasured Quikrete in a wheelbarrow. Add Water Reducer solution a small amount at a time and mix thoroughly. Add more water, a little at a time, until the mixture looks like thick oatmeal. Add fibers a little at a time. Mix thoroughly. Let mix "rest" for 10 minutes. Add a LITTLE (a spray bottle works well) more water and mix to return to the thick oatmeal consistency. You are now ready to pour!

FYI, this makes one square yard of concrete. You can find all of the enCounter products online ( If you choose to use and different brand of water reducer and fibers, just convert the measurements on the bottle to those for 1 square yard and substitute in place of mine above. This can be a little tricky but I was able to do so using the product websites.

as long as it's 5000 psi, it should be fine and the fast setting is what I used as well.


Fiber are used by most professionals, some of us use PVA , nylon or glass as in GFRC (glass fiber reinforced concrete).

I always pour a 1/2" of mix in the mold then put the remainder back in the mixer and add the fibers. By adding the fibers last you eliminate them from poking their little heads out of the finished surface. You can torch them...

Not all reinforcement is the same. Most WWM is already rusting, and rust expands and cracks the Concrete in time. Some are plastic or epoxy coated to help with this issue. My favorite is an additive called PVA fibers (PolyVinyl Alcohol). They form a molecular bond to the calcium, and keep non fatal cracks almost invisible.

Some sort of reinforcement is needed and one of the best is remesh. You can get it at HomeDuh Poe. To suspend in a 2" thick piece, cut some foam or wood blocks 2" or so. Cut the grid about 1.5" short all around the mold. Lay the wire grid on the blocks that you have spread out in the mold. Now use drywall screws about 1.5" in length and screw them on the outside of the mold by the side pieces. I angle the screws out and leave about 3/4" sticking out. Then take some tie wire and wrap around the wire remesh, then over the side to the screw, wrap firm not tight. I usually do one on each side then I can pull enough to just suspend the remesh. I will usually tie the grid up about 18"-20" apart. After it is tied up and tight, then remove blocks It will stay in about the middle or higher. Ideally you want the reinforcement in the bottom 1/3 of the finished slab (right side up). I do not use rebar but instead I use allthread or threaded rod.

Chicken wire is good, but a fiberglass screed might be better for structural integrity. The weave is tighter and less deformable than metal in the tensile department. But of course chicken wire is probably cheaper and more readily available.


Use spray adhesive to attcach things you wish to inset to the mold before pouring.

I would advise (well, actually, the concrete professional I've been working with advises) not to use aluminum with concrete, they're not very compatible both chemically and due to thermal expansion differential issues.Stainless steel is the way to go for an insert, it's coefficient of expansion is closer to concrete and it's chemically non-reactive for the most part with concrete.

DO Not Use aluminum because it will eventually react with the cement in the concrete. A better choice would be stainless steel, brass, or copper.
the lye in concrete will eventually eat away the aluminum insert you put in the sink piece, stainless steel or brass are recommended. Both can be picked up at metal supply stores.

The glass is an awesome affect, if you're not gluing it down first I recommend adding like 50% more to make up for migration. For my next project I want to swirl 2 colors of concrete together.


The biggest thing is patience and prep work. Molds are THE most important part.

I spent a week just getting the forms made and caulked

Mold materials


If you build your mold out of a shiny material, like plexiglass, you do not have to grind the countertop. It will come out of the mold as shiny as the plastic. It is amazing how precisely the concrete will pick up every detail in the mold. It will even pick up a fingerprint if you get one on the plastic mold material.


One disadvantage of using Plexiglas is that it scratches.  For a DIYer Melamine is still the best bet. As a professional I use several different pour surfaces yet  Melamine is still at the top of my list.

I'm testing melamine, acetate, and something called tile board (looks and feels exactly like a white dry erase board). ended up using melamine.
all "melamine" is not the same, the original company stopped making it (that's what I heard) and some finishes will peel off when you flip your mold. Look at the edge and if it feels like paper then I'd go somewhere else. I reuse my mold since I build on top of a full sheet then flip it over. After that if it's in good shape I rip it into strips for sides. There is also a heavy weight plastic sheet that you pour, I haven't tried it yet.


Medium density overlay

MDO (Medium Dentisty Overlay). It has a smooth paper covering. We reuse these sheets. That was used as a stable, flat base. Over that we used a thin plastic sheet that comes in rolls. For the sides we used MDO with a thick tape over it for a smooth finish.

The thin plastic sheet is PETG but any smooth sheet will work. You have to experiment because thin flat sheets will expand and contract with the room temperature.

Building the mold

We screwed the sides in then made it watertight with black latex calk. The reason we used black is so you can see it well in the mold and can make sure you have very clean lines.

The rounded corners were done with pvc The PVC is 2" if i remember correctly, A wanted a certain radius on his corners and I think I had that pipe sitting in my shop. We sanded the edges to make them thin again to reduce sanding. I imagine if you wanted greater or lesser radius any diameter within reason would work. Keeping the PVC in place was a little tricky. We taped and backfilled the spaces to support the corners and keep them as straight as possible.

We used Irwin Bar Clamps to hold everything in place.

You pre-drill the holes and I would follow with a countersink bit. We would then carefully place the screws in with a battery drill set on low torque. The tough part was not drilling to deep into the side of the Melamine which may crack or distort it.

I took the workshop through Cheng Concrete Exchange, and I learned a lot. The things that we did that weren't in the book or DVD were that we spread our black caulk in the corners of the mold with a beveled plexiglas rod, then cleaned up the excess with a straight edge razor blade. I don't know if this saved anytime. The blue tape is time consuming, but so is the razor blade cleaning method. Cheng liked the plexiglas rod at the time I took the workshop. We also used metal angle brackets to brace the outside of the mold to the table. For final vibration, we were told that at home, we could use a Saw-Zall without its blade placed againts the sides of the mold. We had 2 of them going, and they worked well.

There was no glue used. We screwed the sides in then made it watertight with black latex calk. The reason we used black is so you can see it well in the mold and can make sure you have very clean lines. White blends in so well that you wouldn't be able to see how clean a job you did.

Do you think it would be possible to incorporate a backsplash in the concrete mold or would it need to be a separate piece of material, cast independently?
Absolutely, it just has to be integrated into the mold. Cheng's Book goes into detail on this, as well as many other options you might not think of - like integrating a removable cutting board into the counter or adding a piece of rough cut marble into it for the perfect area to roll out dough and pastry.


They don't recommend making them any thinner than 1.5", mainly because you could get a "ghosting" effect from the wire mesh you need to put in it for support.

Vibrating the mold

When I worked for a concrete solutions outfit we added 'sulfur fume' to each batch for a creamier, more even result with less pitting/bubbles at the initial pour. We also used industrial vibrators and shake tables to eliminate 99% of air bubbles (although many people prefer to leave the pitts and air for a more industrial look). Also something to consider is using an even bead of caulk inside the mold to give the piece a rounded edge when stripped.

Lubricating the mold

Use vegetable spray (pam) or form release.

After cleaning your molds and preping to pour, use a cooking oil or spray butter on the inside of the molds, this helps to release them after the pour.

When I first started I sprayed the molds with Pam. Worked great, now I use a form release.


You never push the concrete around in the mold.  You put in clumps (piles) and vibrate the mold to make it flow.  You can pound the bottom of the mold with rubber hammers or use a commercial vibration table.

Pour in Place?

Here is a link to how we poured our countertops in place using the 'bullnose' edge forms: We did not polish ours since I didn't want to make a complete mess of the house

Pour in place (in the trade it's called CIP, cast in place)is not necessarily without it's own difficulties. Tom Ralston has DVDs and books on CIP.

I have only seen it poured IN PLACE..... In other words, supported and framed on top of the counters, then poured and finished. Cuts out all the backbreaking moving of the slabs (and the dropping of said slabs). Really, it's the only way that makes sense to me.....but that's just me.

Have you taken into consideration the gallons and gallons of spraying water that comes from wet grinding and polishing the counter? If you want a rough or very matte finish (and also very porous - more stains), then maybe poured in place makes sense, but if you want a very polished appearance, you will have major water issues. Moving the counters only happens within minutes. Wet grinding with spraying gallons of water lasts upwards of 20 hours. To each his own...


I want to dye two different batches and pour them into the counter mold from opposite ends so they meet in the middle and blend together naturally.

2 shades that were placed in the mold and then vibrated together giving a marbled look.


About the curing concrete, the best way is to pour some water on top (slowly) and cover the concrete with plastic and if the water evaporates put add more water. As mentioned before, might sound crazy but you can even cure concrete underwater with great results.

Portland cement is not like Elmer's glue, which becomes liquid by dissolving in water, and solidifies as it dries.

Rather, it's like epoxy; it undergoes a chemical reaction as it cures. The hardener, in this case, happens to be water. That's why I said "to hydrate" earlier: the *anhydrous* form of the chemicals in cement are a loose powder, but the *hydrated* form is a solid block of stone.

This is why high heat destroys concrete: it drives out the water, and returns it to a powdery, anhydrous state.

The cracking you mentioned doesn't come from too-rapid drying; rather, it comes from incomplete hydration, similar to epoxy with too little hardener mixed in. You can dry concrete in the sun if you keep sprinklers on it. Similarly, you can cast concrete underwater without any problem.


Your tops should release easily, if not just pull up with steady pressure and use compressed air between the melli and the countertop. How long were they in the mold? 3 days is more then enough, with the mix design I use I flip in 12 hours.


I filled the holes on the surface with a sparkly epoxy.


Protecting yourself is never overkill!

Wear not just a mask, aka a cheapo white one, wear a respirator type mask - or a particulate mask. I teach sculpture - this is not something you want to inhale in any amount and the cheap masks don't protect you.

3m makes a line of disposable masks rated for all sorts of things that are regarded as "respirator-only" territory. They aren't the same thing as what you are referring to as the "cheapo white ones" but they are a heck of a lot less expensive at 3-4 bucks each than a good respirator at $50+, so technically they are pretty cheap and most of the particulate masks are white or gray. (Some of the vapor masks are different colors though) Also if you do jump for a respirator get one that has the standard-size screw-in cans and replaceable one-way valves. These are generally a bit more expensive but a lot of cheaper respirators use proprietary filter cartridges that either become impossible to find after a while, lock you into a single source for replacements, or don't give you the selection of filters you might need in the future.

Make sure your grinder is a variable speed. The discs are expensive and you will benefit from the slower speeds. definitely under 4k rpm and right about 2500 is what I am discovering.

To polish start with 400 but don't polish past 800 if you applying a topical sealer it need to be able to grip or biet on to the surface.

A 400 grit is the last pad that is considered a grinding pad, so I would say start polishing with an 800.

I got a tip from one of the commenters here that I could do some light grinding with my wet sander without making a mess in my kitchen. Basically, you take 2" painter's tape and wrap the edges so you have a protective "lip" to hold water in. Then you use a spray bottle to control the amount of water instead of hooking the grinder to a hose.

The more you grind down, the more aggregate is exposed, so since I spent a good amount of time grinding, alot of the smaller aggregate was exposed.

You have to be careful grinding ovals like that because you can cause gashes with the lower grit pads. I suggest just using a light touch and also remember that you may not get the exact same shine off of the inside, but as long as the top of the countertop is done right, you won't notice the insides if they have a bit more of a matte finish.

If you don't want to go with a true wet grinder/polisher, I'd suggest an air sander. Of course, you'll need a big air compressor to run it, but at least you won't have to worry about using water with electricity of a standard grinder.

You know there is no law of air compressors that says you have to get all of your output from a single monster tank/compressor. Getting to 9scfm@90psi is not that hard given two or three of the little guys.

Well I am by no means an expert, but without getting into the nitty gritty it's really fairly simple. The first thing to remember is that the ratings on compressors are (generally) sustained SCFM -- ie how much air the compressor itself can deliver. When you add a tank to a compressor you get two benefits: 1) The assembly can deliver a higher SCFM than the sustained rating for "burst" work (this is why your pancake compressor can drive a roofing nailer) and 2) The compressor doesn't have to run constantly. So, if you were only going to use a tool that requires 9scfm for a few seconds every minute you wouldn't need a 9scfm compressor to use it. Unfortunately for a grinder you need the sustained duty, so tank size is actually quite unimportant. I guess I should have included an example for plumbing compressors together -- I can't find much about it online (there is not a step-by-step or anything) but people frequently do this and it is very simple. You basically just put a tee fitting between each tank and its regulator and plumb them together with a high pressure hose. This gives you increased total tank volume (burst scfm) and the advantage of having two compressors that can keep it full (sustained scfm). You can use a high pressure valve on each fitting so you can disconnect them when necessary. There is flex hose that is rated for pressures high enough to use without being regulated down to 90psi or less but be sure yo do not use a 90psi rated hose on this 120+psi air! You also want to make sure your compressors have similarly rated pressure tanks. Do not plumb a compressor that shuts of at 150 psi into a tank that is designed for one that shuts down at 120psi unless you can adjust the 150psi compressor to limit at 120psi. Hope that makes sense.


Concrete is VERY sensitive to citrus.  Citrus etches the concrete and requires repolishing and waxing. A regular coat of wax will help, but it is more sensitive than granite.

There are many new concrete countertop sealers that are not for the novice. Some involve a mix design that requires additives that are very expensive, others a $3000 UV light to cure them. As concrete becomes more popular we see more user friendly sealers that will help us all.

Hi all. I am a professional countertop restoration specialist and I reccomend using stonetec waterbased dealer (I am NOT an employee of them or affiliated with them) I use the whole line of their products on a day to day basis. Insofar as wax is concerned I use Cheng's wax availabe at his website

For a wax finish contact and use his wax. Or go to a True Value Hardware Store and get some Trewax it is a furniture wax with carnauba in it.

Waxing just makes the countertop more resistant to stains, although even with wax applied, things such as citrus, wine, etc. will still stain if left on the countertop for more than 15 to 30 minutes. Over time, however, the stains form a patina on the countertop which makes concrete very unique and desirable. I've read where some people say that their countertops look better after several years of forming a patina than they did when they were brand new. Wax also adds a sheen to your countertops which will wear away if not applied every 30 days.

It has been well over a year and I haven't been good at all about waxing it every month. At first I was freaked out, mainly by citrus stains, because they actually etch into the concrete. But over time it really has formed a patina that is looking much better.

Water glass (Sodium silicate) painted onto the surface, will help quite a bit. I'm not sure it will make the concrete completely impervious, but it's permanent until the surface of the concrete wears away.

There are polyurethane finishes that you can use on concrete that produce an ultra-high sheen, however they will burn if hot pans are put on them. They also wear off and every few years you have to strip them and re-apply. After taking this into consideration, I chose to rub wax on mine once a month.

Ever thought of a resin overlay? Clear polyester or epoxy? there are many resins approved by the FDA for use on food surfaces...laid over an unfinished piece and then polished smooth could provide some dramatic looks.. most resins are self-leveling and very easy to apply. They require almost no prep as the stick to almost everything (too well sometimes) and you can usually just pour a batch onto your project and lightly brush around to coat it nice and thick. A couple of applications while its still wet isn't bad. just let it flow over the sides and drip.. essentialy drench the piece, obviously cover the floor well wih plastic. When it gels up and the drips turn into stalactites, you can use a sharp blade to run under the edges and cut them off. Applying it wet like this makes it look like water and ultra clear. Just a tip.

There are also some densifiers (penetrating sealers) that are pretty killer for sealing/strengthening concrete. Check out for ideas!


Most all modern cabinets can support concrete countertops without a sub-top to distribute the weight. I always install directly on the cabinet bases. If you want to put a sub-top on then trim the raw edge with a strip of wood molding stained to match the cabinets. With the overhang of the top any slight miss match in color won't be noticed.

Since the counter weighed in at 200+ lbs., I wanted to reinforce my cabinetry. So what I did was create a frame around the inside perimeter of the cabinet with 1x5's, then cut the melamine board I used for the form to fit recessed inside and flush with the top of the cabinet. I then mounted the melamine to the 1x5's, layed the counter on top and traced my sink holes and faucet holes. I then cut the melamine with a jigsaw to fit the sinks and have cutouts for the faucets. Then I treated the sink as a drop in on the melamine, securing it with caulk, and installed the counter on top to create the undermount.

I did add some support to the ikea cabinets where needed. The center island does have a 1/2 plywood support running down the center to increase the support. 2A in fact bought a floor jack and placed it in the basement under the center aisle to help support the floor. You'll realize just how heavy concrete is when you go to put it in place. Support will save you grief in the long run.

You could use the Ikea legs for the initial setup but then use 1/2in. and or 3/4in. plywood to support the load. Now would be the time to level your floor with self leveling cement. Ask a tile setter what he uses. I have been doing concrete countertops for about five years and only install on good custom bases or build my own metal stands

I'm wondering about clipping the wires that support the internal mesh. I don't recall you mentioning this step, I did mine after the final pour and a little action with the rubber mallet. I couldn't figure how to screed with the wires in the way so I hope it didn't sink to the bottom ("top").

You did right by cutting the wires before you screed. The cage will stay in place once you surround it with concrete.


All of the countertops that I poured (one countertop isn't pictured) came up to about 36 square feet @ 2" thickness, which came to 6 cubic feet of concrete. This is alot of countertop space, so you're countertop could cost less depending on the size of your kitchen. This is a fairly comprehensive list and I didn't include the cost of the grinder in my estimate of less than $800. If you add up everything except the grinder, it comes to $792. Depending on how you finish the countertop and whether you need to support your cabinets and floors, you can include the grinder in the estimate and still come in less than $900. Cheng Kits, Slurry, Glass + Sealer - $230 Melamine - $100 9 Bags Quickrete 5000 - $72 Cement Mixer Rental - $50 Aluminum and Galvanized steel - $60 3/4" Plywood for adding support to the cabinets and tops - $90 Steel Supports for the basement- $60 Screws, Caulk, Epoxy, Wire Mesh, PVC, Styrofoam, other misc. - $60 Hellcat Grinder - $270 Diamond Pads - $70 As you can see, the Cheng supplies were one of the biggest expenses. If you'd like to experiment, you could really get the cost down. I knew that I couldn't afford the time or money to redo the countertops, so I spent the extra cash....let's just call it "insurance".

If I were to do the countertops again, I would estimate that it would take me a day to build the molds, a day and a half for mold preparation and pouring, two days for grinding, slurry, and polishing, and a half day for installation, sealing, waxing. I'd guess about 48 hours of work spread over a 2 to 3 week time period.


To attach an undermount, depends on the style of hardware with the sink. most of the time you use the hardware that is supplied, most are designed to mount to granite and if properly mixed and cured, those pieces will work. if unsure of how strong your mix is, good old epoxy. when mounting the sink, just epoxy the underside of the counter, and position sink, then use scrap wood to prop the sink up between the base of cabinet and top.


I've been thinking about getting into fishing again for a long time now. I even bought a rod and reel several years ago while on vacation and never used it.

Here in Germany, in order to get a fishing license, you have to take a course and pass an exam, much like it has been since I was a kid to get a hunting license in Iowa. I have fond memories of my Iowa Hunter Safety Course and I could really use some more practice speaking German, so I think I am going to sign myself up for a course with a local fishing club, in August. The June and July courses, unfortunately, are already all booked up.

The fishing club I found close to home, where I plan to do my course, is called the German Anglers' Federation. I have to pop in there on Tuesday and sign up before the course is all full.

Here's the paperwork I am expected to pull together when I want to apply for my license:

Proof that I passed the fishing test or an old fishing license or a membership card from a fishing club dating prior to April 30, 1995
A valid personal ID or passport and proof of address
One passport photo
An application form

I can get lost in places where other mortals find it impossible. I get disoriented popping in and out of the corner store. I take the bus in the wrong direction. Whenever I try to guess which way is the right way to go, I get it wrong. I've been thinking for years about ways to fix this problem. I have strategies that work. When I have to go somewhere new, I figure in extra time for being lost. I always have a map. And a compass. I find a route and I take it exactly the same way every time without ever deviating (deviating from the route is usually a disaster for me). I have a gps in my phone.

None of these strategies really solves the root problem, though. None of them improves my sense of direction.

I had heard about experiments using strong magnets in a belt or ankle bracelet which would pull you toward North at all times, theoretically giving you augmented proprioception. I am pretty sure that such a belt would not go with all of my outfits, so that's clearly not reasonable solution for me. (Proprioception is the sense of where you are in space, and one of my favorite words because it was one that I was missing for a long time.)

I've also thought about using a cell phone compass to make a vibration just for a second, every time your bearing is North, to teach you which streets you walk on go which direction.

Back in January, Radiolab did a show called Lost & Found. It aired on my birthday, as a matter of fact.

One of the segments in the show was about scientists who are starting to study people who have unbelievable gaps in their sense of orientation (some even worse than me). Conclusion: we all have brain damage. Listen to the show for more interesting details.

Another segment of the show was about languages which use cardinal points to organize things and orient instead of using left and right. A woman who lived with a group of people studying one of these languages described how, after many months of living there and studying the language, she suddenly saw herself from a bird's eye view. When she excitedly told the villagers that this had happened to her, they were all a little dumbfounded. They didn't know that it was possible to go through life without this kind of picture of the world as a natural part of your mindscape. They wondered how the poor woman had ever managed to survive childhood.

This gave me an idea for an experiment. From now on, I am going to try to stop thinking in left and right and start thinking in cardinal points. I think it might help me overcome my brain damage! I already carry a compass (and a map) everywhere I go. I've carried a map my whole adult life. I added the compass maybe 10 years ago. With a map and a compass and some calm and patience you can get unlost most of the time. If you get off the map, the compass can usually help you get back onto it.

So now, when I stop into a corner store while on a Saturday evening stroll, I won't pause in front of the door to make a mental note that the store was on my left when I went into it. Instead, I will make a mental note that I had been walking southeast.

First warm day of the year

A couple guys watching hockey in their back garden in Friedrichshain.

Kelvin Bruce, WTF?

Recently, someone (or some bot, more likely) used my email address to create a profile for KelvinBruce77. The profile is for a man seeking a woman, in Los Angeles. The profile is completely empty, but he still somehow gets "matches."

Screen shot 2011 03 28 at 09 40 11

My first thought was to contact and tell them about this weird error. But of course, these are noreply emails and frankly, I can't be bothered to hunt down their customer service.

So, my next thought was to close the account and be done with it. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an easy way to cancel the account. You can only "deactivate" it, a la Facebook. All it takes to reactivate is to log in with your password (which, luckily for me, was sent to me in plain text via email).

Screen shot 2011 03 28 at 09 51 49

It occurred to me that whatever bot created the profile could also reactivate it using the password I have. So, I first have to change the password on the account before I can "deactivate" it. I also changed the email address to ""

This sucked.

What's With the Magic?

I was just listening to some TED talks while puttering around the house and clicked on the enticing filter, "Rated jaw-dropping."

It struck me immediately that about a quarter of the talks on the front page of this category have the word "magic" in their titles.


Interestingly, if your search the site for "magic" only 7 of the talks in the first 30 results have the word in the title.

Does having the word "magic" in your title make it more likely that people will rate your talk as "jaw-dropping?" Is the word "magic" somehow important in TED's jaw-droppingness algorithm?

Cocities: Last Impressions

I was only able to go to the Saturday talks in the CoCities conference. By all accounts, I seriously missed out on Sunday.

I wanted to write a nice wrap up of the ideas that I thought were hottest, but the weekend is over and all of the time has been sucked into a black hole of real life.

This was a great conference. I was really impressed by the organization. Especially the splendid quantity of outlets! Most importantly, the talks were excellent and the conversation was even better.

Here are the only three things I would improve for next year:
Coffee. There was a bit of a caffein distribution bottleneck. One of the organizers, Peter Bihr, told me his tale of woe, how they had tried so valiantly to have wonderful coffee, but were thwarted at every turn. I suggest that a simple self-serve coffee system can be all right, but everyone knows I am not a coffee person. I only drink it therapeutically.

Balance in topics. One data geek would do nicely. I am a data lover myself, but I having three talks (four, depending on how you count) about data collection and use means that there were topics that didn't get the attention they deserve. Which brings me to...

Sustainability. This is a big piece that was not talked about satisfactorily. Sure, the smart office building is in this realm, but it would have been really good to hear something about how technology is used to keep cars out of cities, or how technology is used to the benefit of urban agriculture. What is the place of nature in the city?

Warren Ellis
Mostly a science fiction writer

Screen shot 2011 02 27 at 16 18 08

No slides! Hooray!

Roadside Picnic is a Russian Sci-fi novel. Science fiction exists to cast a shadow over the present. We are haunted by what has not yet happened, especially so at this conference. The film based on the novel Roadside Picnic is called Stalker. What had not yet happened was Chernobyl.

The "Zone of Alienation" is what the Chernobyl area is called.
in 2003 there was a report that there are a couple cafes inside the zone. Bread and Vodka remain as currency for Chernobyl.

The Cafe in the Chernobyl Zone

The present is influenced by the future.

Ghost hunters are very technical people. They roam around with electromagnetic field readers.
20 years ago, William Burroughs was asserting that the human soul is an electromagnetic field. Science fiction haunting the future. (I bet you could find a Greek talking about the soul as an electromagnetic field.)

Archaeoacoustics is the study of old sounds (mmmmmmmm. Lovely idea. Looking on Wikipedia, it is an even more poetic discipline than it sounds at first. It's trying to read ancient clay objects as if they were vinyl records.)

UFOs are stress imagery.

Fault lines and electromagnetic fields create ghosts of the future. (lovely idea)

The future oozes up through cracks in the ground.
Mirages in time, reflections of the future.
Every city street is an electromagnetic cauldron.

RFID tags create huge electromagnetic fields. It's surprising.
(I guess that he is insinuating that we are unwittingly creating a conscious-altering environment for ourselves. Interesting idea, probably at least partly true.)
Experience-inducing fields.

AR to visualize the spirit track.

Ghost boxes are electromagnetic devices for communicating with ghosts through radio waves. Conversations with things that are not alive. We all do that regularly, with our sensors and devices and all.

Mostly, we are giving the gift of the digital city to our ruling classes (inviting fascism, as I was thinking earlier today)
We are depending on these incompetent people without vision to design our digital infrastructures. Sometimes the authorities are so incompetent that they are benign. Governments are not good at technology, which sometimes works to our advantage.

Don't give the keys to our digital infrastructure away.
People like the ones at this conference will create these concepts and these structures, but if we give them over to government and authority, they will turn around and guillotine us with them.

Don't get carried away.
Whose streets are these?
Our streets.

(I love how this closing keynote was in many ways a through-the-looking-glass version of the opening keynote. Well done.)

Dietmar Offenhuber

In the 1990s, we thought that the future would be virtual. No more travel. The death of the cities was predicted. Previously, Frank Lloyd Wright thought that telecommunications would spell the end of cities. But exactly the opposite has happened. Cities are our future. Urbanization is continuing and accelerating.

The SENSEable City Lab
Not architecture
Not a media lab
It's in an Urban Studies dept.

Kevin Lynch theorized that there are 5 elements needed to map urban environments:


Urban studies, research, and proliferation of data:
There is an idea that data is just out there and all we have to do is visualize it. But also important is who collects the data, where and when is it collected, how does it relate to reality in general. How do we generate and use data in this context?

Connections, Venice Biennale Project, 2006
They took a real-time telecommunications data set. The data visualization is shaped by privacy concerns; the data is aggregated and corsened to protect people's privacy.

Phone data can be used to find out things about locals vs tourists, cars vs pedestrians. For example, if we know where the pedestrians are, we can send the busses to them instead of making the pedestrians chase the busses.

(Is it wrong that I get tired of how data visualizations all look similar? It's the tools dictating the visualization. More questions of representation and how our tools and our culture--and our tools as part of our culture--dictate what we see in a normative, negative way.)

The New York Talk Exchange
How does NY relate to the rest of the world?

(Erik Hogan's--not sure of name--visualizations are a bit fresher-looking. Cool that this is shown right after I said I was getting bored. It's like the good karma fairy was listening!)

How does globalization unfold on the neighborhood level? In Brooklyn, you can see how immigrant families use their cell phones. They did an ethnographic study on how immigrants use their cell phones. There are many social implications to this work.

Trash Track, 2009

This is an example where generating the data itself is very hard and expensive.

In this case, there was no data set. Global supply chains are highly automated and tracked, but at the other end of the system, for trash removal, this is not the case. Citizens know little about what happens to their trash. Even the professionals in the waste management field have spotty knowledge about how the system works. The data sets break down at the intersections when trash moves from one company to another, one process to another. This allows for abuses, like the international trade of electronic waste.

They decided to follow individual items from pick up to end. Using rfid was not possible because there is no ifrastructure to read and follow them. They used active location sensors which could transmit their location through the phone network, using cell id and gps. They recruited 500 volunteers.

Volunteers each gave 20 objects to donate in Seattle.
The tagging process was a nasty business, how to keep the sensor attached to the objects? They had to protect the sensors with insulation foam.

Volunteers then could follow the objects in real time.

They followed the items for 6 months and finished with a map of 3k objects. The electronics and hazardous waste travels most. Sometimes the trajectories are erratic. We see that some electronic waste traveled across the country and back to get to the same end spot as another piece of waste that traveled directly. This shows where there is room for improved efficiency.

There is EPA data showing landfills and recycling centers. When mapped, it mirrors population density and rural populations. They mapped the sensor data with the landfill data.

Another aspect was to observe the volunteers. They followed the items on their own. People understand very well how to read a gps trace.

Copenhagen Wheel, 2009
There are more bikes than people in Copenhagen, and the city is aiming to replace vehicle traffic with bikes.

They wanted to use bikes as sensors, but they didn't want to attach a lot of sensors to bikes or riders. They wanted something compact. So, they designed a sensor wheel that could be attached to any bike. The back wheel has a motor to support your bike efforts and also senses air quality, noise, etc.

You can't have air quality and noise sensors at knee level, so they are rethinking this thing now.

At this time there are 50 bikes in production. You can access your own data collected by smartphone application or web. You can choose to share your data or not. In return for collecting this data, you get real-time feedback about your behavior, road conditions, traffic, etc.


Models of data collecting are very important to think about.

Cocities: City Analytics

Matt Biddulph

How does big data connect theories about cities to results and to products we can actually make?

We build our understanding about systems by making models. The problem with models is that to make them work we simplify to falsehood.

All models are wrong but some are useful.

We are at the end of theory. The science of the future will not make progress by making models. Instead of making models, we can now gather data from the real world and analyze the real world.

People are city biology. People make cities too complicated to model. When you look at the movement of bikes around London, it looks like a city breathing.

The street is platform. We can't see all the data that is in the street. We can't measure them. Mobile devices are the city sensors. Phones are packed full of sensors. Phones are no longer blind, they are networked and smart.

The flip side to having all this data is how to process it and make it useful. At some point you can't process all the data you collect with the power you have. Google is trying to tackle this problem on the web. Indexing billions of web pages and data sets.

Take some data, map it, then reduce it.
The mapping and the reducing stage can be broken up and done in parallel. Turn the problem into something piecemeal and manageable. Add more machines as you have more data, so that it scales.

(Why do we need to process all of the data. Scaling to the size of the world sounds like a fool's errand. Whatever happened to the sample? Processing more data than you need just because you can is idiotic. I'd like to understand in which situations the use of big data is really useful and productive and in which situations it is geek masturbation... Not that I am against such a thing all the time, but I do think it is important to be honest about what we are doing and why.)

Can the phone be our sole source of data? (I don't understand this question. It can be, sure. Should it be? Why should it be?) Does the information translate back into useful and desirable data? Can I get a feel for a city I have never been to because of the data we've sifted and sorted from mobile phones?

We wanted to test the data to see if we can observe patterns and structures that we can show to be true.

For example, we looked at search patterns. What did people look for and where were they when they looked for it? We discovered that people search for Ikea on their phones when they are near Ikea, and we also saw Prenzlauerberger yuppies looking for Ikea from home. Also, we saw a spike on Saturday.

(The real question then is how does this information get back to the user in a way that is beneficial to her and not just helping a corporation to learn how to target advertising.)

When you search you are revealing your goals, but in a mobile phone, we also have a lot more passive context.

The Starbucks index. By processing POI data, we can tell you meaningful things about where you are now. For example, we can tell you how Starbucksy an area is.

If we look at how many times each map tile on is loaded, we get an attention map of the world. Which parts of the city do people care about? If we look at patterns from the use of the drive navigation application, we see something else. We see where people who don't know their way around are going and when. Commuter data would be different.

You can use cities you know to check the viability of the data sets so that you can also make predictions about cities you don't know. Validating common-sense predictions.

Design with data... where is the product... how do we make it make sense?

Mike Kuniavsky "Smart Things" is a good book

What happens when the intelligence of the web is embedded in stuff in the real world? Information has a grain and different kinds of data are appropriate for different products. Data as a new raw material (love).


Question: I want a company to store my data and give it back to me so I can use it with another service. (Oh, God yes!)

Matt's response, from a personal point of view, not Nokia's. His personal philosophy is that yes, this should be the case. You should be able to get your data out.

(I didn't like it when Matt prefaced that statement by saying that he works at Nokia because his start up was acquired. That may be how he got there, but if that is why he's still there, he should get another job. Anyhow, It was an uncomfortable question and he handled it with aplomb overall.)

Cocities: The Living City

Anil Bawa-Cavia
Social technologist, former last fm developer

His previous work at last FM was about big data, mapping, and collaborative filters.

Living cities are mostly invisible.
We think of cities as what is visible: roads, buildings, infrastructure. But cities are also made of flows and interactions: Poeple, goods, vehicles, etc. What are the interactions between these duel entities?

The living city is unplanned and is in conflict with the planned pavement. Everything unplanned is the living city.

Desire paths of data.


Thinking about the social life of the city, they analyzed data from Foursquare (that's a pretty specific subset of citizens) When you visualize this data, you see social hubs and walkable cells. Most people are happy to walk 7 minutes.

You can use this data to compare the social lives of different cities (so far, this data is not telling me anything I didn't already know about Manhattan, London, or Paris. Srsly. Anybody living there could have drawn these maps without any data set whatsoever.)

Cities feel fragmented when you can't walk from A to B.

Paris has fewer big clusters. It is more continuous than NY or London. Parisian foursquare users don't cross the Perif' (Nobody does. Again, nothing new to anybody who lives in Paris)

They were given access to cell phone data to study. They mapped out who is calling whom most. This is an example of a way of redrawing boundaries.(Now this is interesting!) Communication boundaries rather than political boundaries. (You know I love everything that hits political boundaries with the fuzzy warmness of more meaningful boundaries.)

You can find ways of making real pictures of neighborhoods.

He showed a beautiful animated map of the London bus system. When you look at this, you see the historical center of the system affecting the flow still today.

Build a macroscope. Take a step back and see the city as a single entity.

Mapping the subway data shows how the city moves, Synchronized in the morning rush hour, less at night.
(really lovely visualization here). This comes from rfid data from people using train cards. They have 2 million public samples and they also get extra research data. 300 million trips. (Wow)

They also looked at real-time bike share data. Volumes of flows, which bike stations are full and which are empty when.

(I would like to hear more concrete examples of how this big data modeling is used to solve real concrete problems or discover real useful conclusions that surprise us or are counter-intuitive. So far, the data is only reinforcing for the most part what any regular member of the living city knows intuitively. The pictures are pretty and all, but... I do want to know what the purpose is. Also, when is processing the data worth the effort is what I am wondering. If it only tells you what you already know, how is it useful? In predicting things about places you don't know? Maybe. Anil gave a good concrete example of using the public transit data to minimize system disruptions, but his real answer was that he is a researcher so it is not his responsibility to find applications for the information. That is up to engineers, designers, and industry.)

Making the living city tangible and knowable is their goal. When we know the living city, we can make the infrastructure responsive to it.

(This is an interesting goal, and a pretty good one on its surface. I do have the feeling that there is a tendency to say, "Here's data! What can we do with it?" instead of saying, "Here is an urban failure! What kind of data could help me fix it?" I'm a pragmatic designer-person, so this rubs me the wrong way.)

Ton Zijlstra
Networked Living, open government, giving skills and tools to the people.

Spice up your city-Just Add Open Government (slideshare)

Cities are unpredictable, but recognizable at the same time. They are complex, adaptive systems. Serendipity. Creativity. Excitement.

Government, on the other hand, feels boring. Open government is not about opening up concrete silos, or mere transparency. What this is really about is the same kind of digital disruption that changed the music industry. If government doesn't open from the inside, it will be opened from the outside.

Participation and Open Data
This is not about town hall meetings followed by representational action. Participation is really about living in your community. Urban farming, for example. There were no grocery stores in inner-city Detroit which sold fresh vegetables, so people started growing vegetables in the middle of the city. That is participation.

Opening public data. This data could be used in many other ways. This is about tapping an abundant resource which nobody has access to. This is big data.

(Weird that he is using a Flickr api project to illustrate a point about open government data. Isn't there a great government data visualization example?)

EU documents are used to train google translator.

PSI-->Beurocrats for public data. It already is the law that public data should be usable, but practice does not always follow. Problem: open standards, machine-readability.

Participation is the path to data reuse. Government as a platform.

Your local environment is your natural place of action. Examples: data about health inspection reports are connected to restaurants in a usable way. Citizens report civic issues or suggestions on a map.

Data often gets used in a useless way, to tell you nothing new or to make pretty pictures with no real readable information at all. Zijlstra calls this "flat" use of data.

It gets really interesting when you COMBINE data sets. (hells ya)
Example of cholera outbreaks and water sources on a map of London to discover the contamination source (this is a pre-digital example, so maybe the machine-readable bit is not really important)

Citizen-generated noise-pollution grid example. Private citizens sharing data is interesting.

Corporations are also starting to share data about the provenance of their ingredients.

The point is, that when government opens its data, it encourages private citizens and corporations to augment and add to that data.

In Rotterdam, you can get an alert from a particular air quality sensor and set your own sensitivity. It helps you decide when it is safe for you to go out in a meaningful way.

We feed data into devices which act on the environment and then create their own data sets and feed them back into the system. (some examples would have been nice here. The one he gave was a bit slippery for me)

"What's the problem I want to address," is the first question. Finding the data and building the way to use it should follow from that. Start with your sphere of influence and your own problems. Figure out what kind of data you need and then go to the government and get it. All you need is a single civil servant who is interested in what you are doing. It's people, not government. People are easy to approach (this is the most important point!)


Question about Wikileaks
Wikileaks is what happens when government is not responsive.
Government should do its own leaking.

Question: How do you get data into government? How do you get government to use the data you create?
It can be very difficult when the citizen data doesn't tell the story that the government is interested in telling.

Cocities: Smart Cars

Pitt Moos, Smart Car marketing guy.

Mr. Moos is wearing some hott leather pants. I missed the beginning of this talk coming back late for lunch.
He's giving us the history of Smart cars, what they've learned.

There are a lot of complications with electric cars. Difficulties in crossing borders. (Not much talk about how dirty electricity really can be. Batteries, new technology, etc. Battery technology is one of the hardest and most important keys to our future. That would be a great talk for this conference.)

Cars can be charged at any 220 V household plug. The infrastructure is, in fact, already there. You can charge it overnight at home. 8 hours is long enough.

Getting in to China is difficult because they don't like to let foreign technology in.

Car to Go started in Ulm. This is Smart's own car sharing service. Pay by the minute. 80% of the rides people make are when they discover a car and then think of an errand they can do. (For the moment this works with non-electric cars. Electric cars will be less flexible.)

Paris wants an electric car sharing system by 2012. Smart lost the bid, but the system will be coming.

Smart is also working on cars and mopeds for individual mobility in cities.

The appearance of the Smart car is dictated to a great deal by its size. They do plan to make a four-seater. The 1.2 million current customers are very happy with the current look.

Cocities: Smart Homes

Georgina Voss
Homesense Project

Smarter Homes

Robot butlers, interactive coaters, etc.
Smart homes have failed. They were thought of in the 1950s, but we are still waiting. Smart homes so far have been prescriptive, the house as a technological system. The people inside have been left out. The living space is missing. The people shift around the tech instead of the tech shifting around the living.

Evolution of technology in the home.

The emerging middle classes can't afford servants and electricity becomes usable. Technology is built to replace the help.

Central heating, electricity. Devices creep in and shape the behavior of people in the home. The idea is to have more free time, but when you have increased domestic tech, you are expected to have an immaculate home all the time. It backfires. You have to do more work to keep up appearances.

Women move out to work and devices come to fill in. Toasters, kettles, etc. We see the rise of the gadget, central heating, larger systems in the house.

Computers. The workplace moves into the house. The barriers between home and work are broken.

Technology has moved into the home, but not in a bigger, networked way.

Technology will not save you. The equipment is too hard to maintain. What if you smart house system breaks down or malfunctions? It's bad enough when your smart phone doesn't work properly, what if the system that is broken is one that is feeding you and controlling the heat and air quality of your home?

Smart home technology is often based on what has been done in smart offices, but families do not function like companies. They do not have IT departments (excellent point!) Also, families evlolve. Needs change as children grow. It's not static. Family members do not agree on what the right environment is.

Another problem is that most of us are living in old, existing housing. Making an old building smart is hard. We have to work with what we've got. Also, this stuff is expensive!

People like homes. They don't really want perfection. We love creaks and personal space.

How can people make their homes smarter? Forget top-down design? They took 6 houses across Europe: apartments, houses, rented, owned, housemates, children, alone... but no cats? They put together a standard arduino kit (WANT, NEED!!!!!) Then they paired the homes with local experts who can teach how to use the kits.

They are about a month from the end of the project now.

One thing the people built was a sound detector to let you know when you are getting too loud for the neighbors. (Could be interesting to have the music turn itself down automatically at 10 pm) People designed answers to very specific problems. A coaster that reminds you to take a break from work, for example.

Bottom-up design allows for iteration. Different homes have different needs.

(At first I was very excited about this project, but when I saw the lame examples of what they are actually doing, I was really disappointed. It's not particularly visionary. Nothing that any old person with an Arduino can't do. I think the real reason that the smart home has failed is that all the technology is prorietary. You can't make your toaster talk to your alarm clock because there is no Open Source protocol. Srsly.)

Note: Chris Musgrave pointed me to WeBrick as an example of an existing open protocol for smart homes. Thanks!

Dannie Jost

Normative Aspects of Structures
Norm creating structures

Works at the World Trade Institute
Physicists, international law program
she bridges natural science and law in the perspective of international trade law

legal philosophies and natural science theories


Don't see the point of writing or speaking more clearly than I think (quote Niels Bohr)

There is no such thing as a structure, really.

I see architecture as a part of agriculture, but that's my problem.

Questions of representation

There is no space. It is all construction.
No orgasm, No cognition, all construction.

the process of cognition is egocentric not geocentric
mediates information into knowledge

So, what is there? There is information.

Folk Theories. All our theories are based on some experience and expectations, but not on reality.
They are robust for their cultural acceptance, not their truth.

We do not know where we are going.
It's an iterative process and not predictable.

Futurists and forecasts fail because of incompleteness in our knowledge.
We don't know much.
We have theory.
We have action.

Julie Cohen
attention to bounderies and permissions between networked and embodied space
changes in spatial production of power

politics is how we interact with each other.

contributors to this talk:
Mira Burri
Thomas Cottier
Maria Ana Corvaglia


Learning is experiential. You can transmit knowledge but you can't store it. Knowledge is cultural and collective.

Information has no expectations. Information does not shape our expectations. The normative aspects of structures are there all over. You create the structures and they have consequences.

Yay!! Great lady!!

Vini Tiet

Green buildings=very important
How do you do green buildings?
Lo-tech or hi-tech
lo=tech is thinking about how you build in a basic way
hi-tech is using sensors, etc

Franco-German office building in Munich
Glass Coffer
2 functions
aesthetic chessboard appearance
technical so windows can be opened even though it is near a road (acoustic)
and to have blinds for light

It is a DGNB certified building
have to think about the whole life cycle of the building
use, comfort, accessibility, air quality

The most green buildings are flexible. Something that will not have to be torn down in 50 years.
With this building, they first designed it so that you don't take up too much floor space holding up the building
Ceiling heats and cools
Batteryless, wireless motion sensors (you power the button by pushing on it.
Partitions are moveable so you don't have to throw them away.

The building generates huge amounts of data
the blinds can be changed in angle and height.
Measure light and blind angle to optimize according to the light outside
This reduces cooling costs dramatically
The blind goes down automatically when the sun is shining, but opens enough so you don't have to turn on the lights (before the need for turning on lights cancelled the saving in putting down the lights)

12k sensors in the building. 800 people in the building.
That's a lot of data to handle
Almost too much data.
Efficient programming of buildings is still in its infancy.

All protocols are closed.
All the data handling models are proprietary.
This kills innovation.

Yet, there is a big energy saving and economic incentive to let buildings be intelligent.

OPC tries to make an open interface for buildings. The closed structure makes huge cost barriers to entry.

Sami Niemelä
works with Greenfield
this guy works at "the fuzzy end of design"

Working on the now to the near future
screens in Helsinki Clearstream and the city together
They are supposed to give useful information
most screens are in pedestrian spaces, but they are not well
static maps on one side and ads on the other
the bluescreen of death is a common sight on screens like this in public spaces everywhere

design with the larger context in mind
chair in a room room is a building building in a city and so on

Also, design for the smaller context.

designing urban informatics is complex
there is never one single soilution, but several complicated solutions

paths edges districts landscapes landmarks
but also interfaces services data platforms connected objects infrastructures

And don't forget time.

Now-->daily-->never use

Maps can tell us where we are now. Can they tell us where we sill be in 10 minutes? How often I am going to be there?

How can locals get new value from their cities?

Shadow Cities--iphone game coming soon.
It's a layer on top of the city
gameplay happens on the map

How does the place I am now feel to me?

The Near Future
from the perspective of screens
the context of input
output is more variable, but input depends on the mobile device.
mobile phones are more personal
urban screens are not private.

How long you use different screens is also variable.
Street screens are not very inviting
computers suck us in
game play engages you over time when it is done well

Multiuser Proxemics
How can multiple users use the same screen simultaneously?

Where does the commercial information go? Can we mix public screens and commercial screens?
The UK Cross Rail service has been designed to make the difference between navigation, wayfinding, and commercial space clearly delimited.

Urban informatics, where to put them?
Project in a nature reservoir
Bad idea. Nobody wants that in a nature reservoir.

Polite and Curious
Design public screens that are polite.
Systems with a tone of voice
Systems with a personality
(me: systems always have personality and tone of voice, whether they are designed or not. Unfortunately when they are not explicitly designed, they often have shitty, asshole personalities)

Why does Watson have such a crap avatar?

Yahoo Talk Like a Person design template (me: I didn't know about this. My pet project at work!)

The Service Avatar

Be as smart as a puppy
The interaction shouldn't be human, but should be alive.

Party in Your Mouth

Nanotechnology is going to be a great enabler. Soon anything will potentially be a service avatar. screens will be everywhereç

When everything is connected, it might be time to do the opposite. Design systems that are only there when we need them, that are not in our way. Just enough is more.

(me: right on, brother. This is my favorite guy so far.)

Juha van't Zelfde
cultural entrepreneur

Vurb foundation, built a prototype that gives you access to public objects
potentially, access to all kinds of networked systems
example, control the lighting in a nightclub (me: a nightclub is not a public space)

Interest in abandoned and repurposed spaces, like everyone.
How to navigate through a city in an analog way, in 2000, 2001

How can you use cell phones and social networks to get people more engaged in an event, help them navigate through the urban space

Online events
All work for the Amsterdam museum. Some large and some smaller-scale projects.

How can you make audiences cross over from one type of event to another
How do you bring it to the basic interface, simplify?
This kind of thinking led to the founding of his own company called Non-Fiction

Translate informal high-tech stuff for traditional, old-style institutions (museums, concert halls, etc.)
Cultural hardware (me: love this idea)

Offline networking and collaborative efforts
140 portraits in a castle.
photocopied them and posted them on the floor. Used them as an image cloud.
Then audience members made a collaborative crowd-sourced exhibition based on this.

Me: The real virtuality of virtual reality

Amsterdam 2020 project.
Asked people to post what they would tweet in 2020.
Get 6-7 threads about the future of Amsterdam

Land art (Almere). Pull people in to interact wiht the physical landscape art, generate data by doing so, which itself generates new art.

Cerveny, Burke, and van't Zelfde founded Vurb to work on how to make public spaces interactive.

How can you get into systems that are there.
For example, bollards in the the street.
How can they be more open and accessible?
service discovery in public spaces
collaboratively mediated

current focus: real-time data transmission
urbanode wants to allow more control by people for the networked public space hardware. (lighting, audio) demo was done in a night club with lighting.

(me: Do people want to control this kind of thing with a remote control? I think people are more interested in things happening automagically. We want sensors to read our minds and control the lighting according to our deep desires while we dance. Who wants to remote control the lighting during a concert? That's what the light engineer is for...

I realize that this is not the point exactly, but I do think it is an important point. I think we need to move away from settings and more toward using the meta data)

On public objects: Connected things and civic responsibilities in the networked city
Adam Greenfield, Urbanscale
The place of public objects in...

Urbanscale, NY. Design for networked cities
Stay close to the frustrations and heartbreaks of the user in dealing with interface of everyday life

techno determinism vs social constructionism
Does tech create culture or does culture create tech?

Robert Moses
mid 20th century
modern infrastructure in NYC
pushed through by his own will (much like Paris)

some say Moses inscribed his own racism into the highway system.
Overpasses were built to be too low for busses.
If they couldn't get through, then poor people can't get into the city

Parks and stuff are built inside the ring of overpasses.

Be careful how we design our own prejudices into our technological systems.

On the other hand, technology has a way of growing around these prejudices. Technology has its own intent.
(me: What does technology want?

Now we are looking at objets that record, monitor, act on information in a way that can be very deterministic.

networked technologies Greenfield finds difficult
Traffic sensor. Flashes blue light when it senses a bicycle or pedestrian.
Not networked, not gathering persistence information.
This is the kind of thing nobody has much of a problem with.

Sensor-equipped ad in Seoul.
Red carpet in the subway. When you walk by, flash bulbs go off for the Paparazzi.
intention is to make you feel
Greenfield sees this as an unwelcome intrusion, but it's temporary, not networked, etc.
Not useful, but not horrible.
Touch vending machine, Tokyo
Does not display all products. It has a camera and analyses your age and stuff.
Greenfield finds that problematic because he doesn't want to accept that

Video billboard with a small camera in the frame. Hidden.
The analytics package tries to gauge your reaction to it. Male or female, are you paying attention to it or not, what age are you?
Even if you are not paying attention you are generating value

You generate value for someone else without your consent simply by using public space. This is problematic.

A commercial entity is deriving profit from your participation in public space.
We should all share in the profit of public space
Also, it is terribly normative.

His problem: targeting too good
My problem: targeting not good enough bc too normative

Wellington cameras installation was voted on, but to upgrade the software with facial recognition was not.
Citizens tend to focus on hardware

Proposal: New jurisprudence of public spaces.
Make data streams collected in public spaces OPEN. APIs, read/write privileges.
Nonrivalrous and nonexcludable. No way to put a paywall around them, no way to prevent another person using the same data.

Problem: More vulnerable to attack and exploitation. Greenfield assumes that the benefits will outweigh this danger

New etiquettes, protocols. Who has priority access? This is another burden.

Public space is at risk. Private and commecial interests are taking over.
People move through space in a bubble more and more.
We need spaces of solidarity and mutuality.

Democracy happens and is seen to happen in the public sphere.

We need to make sure that we end up with a smart city that we are happy living in.

Latour: We inscribe ou prejudices into uor systems
Winner: Our systems
Lessig: Code is law


Some examples of open public networked systems
Zipcar, City Car Share, Bike Sharing are examples of networking an existing class of objects.
(me: But this is not an open data source. How cool would it be if public bike sharing data was open and usable by all? Pretty cool.)
Megahouse--> They take vacant rooms and put them online for people to schedule, like a conference room. Nice. Megahouse sees this as a commercial exchange. Greenberg wants non-commercial shared use as well (me: dream on).

austrian brunch joint

I think I am going to take tomorrow off of blog posting and such. I have been doing my best to be a cyborg the past three days. ALWAYS CONNECTED!!

The effects of this have been multiple.
1. I have made some blog posts I would not have made if I hadn't been writing them in the moment.
2. I have published some really unstructured notes on my blog that may not be at all interesting to anyone.
3. I've started using the audio recorder on my phone.
4. I might better remember some of the stuff I've been to. There is a bit of sensory overload and the blogging is something I can go back to. My plan is to publish notes in real time and them use the notes to write my thoughts later. Right now I am so tired of writing that I have serious doubts about doing anything of the sort. Maybe over the weeks (and weeks) to come. I've got a lot of information to process and use.
5. I haven't spoken to anyone at the festival, except for people I already know.

Tomorrow will be my talk-to-strangers day. I'm going to leave the lappy at home and only bring the ipad. Sunday I scale down to only my phone. (I can still blog from my phone, actually). The reason I will bring the ipad is to more easily access Flickr, which can be a good way to talk to strangers at the festival. I've gained a few Twitter followers today tweeting with the #Transmediale hashtag. Maybe I will make a new friend via Twitter.

I find it surprising how little Twitter action there is here. You would think that at an event like this, there would be a lot more action. Maybe I'm using the wrong hashtag. #transmediale vs #tm11. #tm11 is so much shorter. I'm an idiot.

One of my ideas for tomorrow is to do a series of photos of the people who are here. A documentation that will help me talk to strangers.

I have a headache. The noise here is intense.

Tim Etchells (UK)

Adrian Heathfield (UK)
performance workshops
professer in London

moderated by Clare Colker (Germany)

I'm really looking forward to this talk, because I expect it to mainly be about the ways that mobile networks change the meaning of presence. What is here and what does it mean to be here.

I've been here since noon today and have been writing notes on talks the past 5 hours. I am totally knackered. It's an interesting experiment to be trying to do all of this live publishing. I've never felt more like a cyborg!

I just wish I had brought a fork to eat my salad with.

Transmediale Description

The site of the actions could be an LCD-monitor or a screen, a stage, a website, a gallery, a street or a private room. There will be an encounter in each work or project. This encounter sets off the process of an event’s unfolding and its consequences, and an exploration of the dynamic relationship between the work and the viewer. The mechanisms and economics of these processes – the process of revealing and concealing, of construction and deconstruction, of appearance and disappearance – are the focus of this discussion (Track 1). Against the backdrop of an increasingly mobile culture, participants discuss physical co-presence as a common space of mutual experience.

Notes Will present art and performance pieces to each other
social space digital and mobile media
new form of co-presence
presence in absence
Informational space over physical space
Body present here, but also present digitally elsewhere
How does it affect how we perceive presence and reality?

Tim on the right, Adrian on the left.

Tim shows the first piece.
artist: Franco B, Action 398
video piece

each audience member has a 2-minute encouter in a closed room. You take a ticket and then you go into the space and have your encounter. The structure of the encounter is framed. Franco is seeing people for two minutes for a whole day or sometimes several days. He also uses his physicality (he is bleeding and naked and painted white).
1999(?) or so.

No sound
dog cone around his neck
Franco looks sad and exhausted. I would be too
If I was naked, bleading, painted white, and wearing a dog cone
The other person having the encounter is not filmed at all.

We constantly perform ourselves out
in a social context we are diversly situated
in this work, you go into an alien, disconnected space for 2 minutes
your bodily presence and sensory presence are the only tools through which to encounter the person
the performance space is a space of abstinence

"It's a simple encouter with another person." (WTF is simple about meeting another person who is painted white, bleeding, naked, and wearing a dog cone? That's absurd)

Every person who goes in experiences something different depending on what they are willing to put into the moment. Some will talk to him. Some touch him. Some stay by the wall. Different people construct the encounter in different ways.

There is a lot of negotiation with Franco's eyes. Even though you are in the same space, you have a hard time locating him and yourself in terms of what is going on and what you think about it.

Question to Adrian: What is the complexity of an encounter like this?

The piece is a kind of clearing out of the noise of the multiple interfacaes of contemporary interactions. Elemental copresence. Adrian doesn't see the piece exactly that way. It also brings us back to self and to simple from of two. the lingering question... the notiion of the one to one performance has been so big in the past 10-15 years. How does something that is a big part of so much performance practice (the institution of convening in a common space) be somehow avoided?

This piece, in contrary to other one to one performances, avoids the complex avoidance of the social because of its focus on pain and where it fits into subjective relation. You have a paradox of the experience of pain. Empathy and connection vs incomprehension and the impossibility of sharing. This paradox overshadows everything else for the spectator.

Adrian feels ambiguous about one to one performance.

next piece
Ching She
One-year performance

Started the performance bald and allowed the hair to grow back to
constraints or parameters around his actions over a year
carried out his life as an art project based on these rules for the whole year.

Conditions of presence
intermediale aesthetic gesture
punched a worker's time clock on the hour every hour for an entire year
shitty sleep schedule
couldn't move too far from the punch clock

After punching clock, took one single frame of himself on 16mm standing by the clock
6 minute film=one year

meeting place btw durational performance, the photograph, and film
the piece is a converastion btw these technologies folded into each other through the work. They are all the work.

this guy's hair grows slowly
black t shirt white t shirt no t shirt

discipline of capitalism on the body
performance of subjection
monitoring and accounting
the orders of visibility
exposing the conjunction of the orders of capital and the orders of the visible

old piece, but predictive in questions of surveillance

a kind of mugshot for the order of visibility
temporarity and atemporality
the piece doesn't belong to any particular time.

I take it back. His hair is getting really long.

A feeling of excess or waste
it seems to operate a critique of capital and visibility
the multiplicities of lived duration
flux, flow, constant differentiation that is part of the experience of time

oscillating, vibrating presence and absence constantly intertwined.

Tim asks a question:
This artist's work has a potent sense of what is missing from the document. How does the duration unfold that? The performance that lasts a year puts it in another category. Talk about that

Some of the documentary strategies were evolved late in the works. Yet in a sense they are the thing that make the works exist now.
map of his walk around NY

These guys are not very entertaining.

Adrian asks a question
what is the relation btw this kind of task based duration and your sustained spectacle and large collaborative performances.

I have to admit, it's a bit of a circle jerk.

Uses extended duration to put pressure on and break down the community of people gathered, performers and performers. Break down the control with duration.

One of his works lasts 6 hours. Improvised work where the people ask each other questions. Audience comes and goes as they please, but the performers stay. You present yourself, try to make a good account of yourself, but that evaporates over time. Stage management, posture, diction, etc, disintegrate. Your ability to answer these questions is lost in exhaustion.

Does something with your visibility and vulnerability. Same happens when the audience stays a long time.

In this case, the duration is about pressure (me: But the same with the Chinese piece. He couldn't sleep for an hour at a time because he punched the clock. But he didn't subject the audience to it. The amazing thing that is missing from the video is the visualization of the stress and exhaustion he must have suffered. You don't see it a bit.

Next piece

Tim is now showing his own work? I guess that is easier.

Neon piece of the words "GET OUT"
Have I seen this before, or is there another artist who is doing very similar work?
I don't recognize Tim's name.

Instruction-based piece.

Everyone obeyed this sign, as everyone had to eventually leave the room.

Showing a log of a performance made for mobile phone in 2000 "surrender control"
2009 "39 or so to do"
It's the Here game on your phone

Over a fixed period, you got instructional text messages.
It's an invitation to other people to do things
the people can follow or not follow
the not being sure of whether the instructions are followed is interesting
the things are very vague, nt theatrical. Slight steers or suggestions
Take your pulse
change your plans
Give something away
Be clumsy
make things symmetrical
be the fool
look up at the sky (I should set a daily calendar alarm for that. I keep forgetting lately to look up at the sky.)

It unfolds over a long period of time but doesn't demand your attention all the time
taps you on the shoulder

How do you convene a space of risk
testing of personal and social limits
how does it relate to different forms and conventions of media?

People are pouring out of the auditorium. I wonder if there is something awesome going on somewhere else or if they are just all bored stiff by the way these guys are going on.

language as a tool that invites the participant to unpack the language and make something (image, action, whatever) Language has a great capacity to make pictures and to make things happen.

Reading a collection of words is a creative activity. An unpacking, building You become complicit in the images you summon out of language deferred authorship. You can place something on the table with language and let others add themselves to turn it into something.

On hour into this talk. People leaving in droves.

Adrian's turn, showing a painting. I didn't catch the artist.
Now a video

the force of gesture
don't know what people are doing with their hands

me: "haptic," my ass. This is a film.

weird, floating, magical plane of representation somewhere btw a printing press and a book their complex relation to thie plane(s)

what does it mean to touch and be touched
what is copresence
we think of it as an absolute tangible contact
but in these pieces, touch is also about not touching
oscillation, withdrawel and contact

Panel conversation
bodily presence and film presence and mediated experience

I used to enjoy this kind of conversation a lot more. I wonder what happened to me. It's interesting how some of the people in the audience are also so fluent in academese. I was hoping that they were more going to talk about the definition of presence in real life, even if they used art as a jumping-off point.

Notes. Unfortunately, I won't be able to stay for the whole thing, because it overlaps with the second keynote.
Description from the festival website:

The increase in public attention towards the creative industries has moved creative enterprises and their codes of conduct from the periphery to center stage. With this heightened interest comes a rapid growth in communication between the “old economy” policy makers and creative entrepreneurs. Shapeshifters sees a huge potential to install new investment models and utilize resources for the common good.

But implicit beliefs can limit opportunities to build and sustain business relations in these new business systems. For it to work, there is a need to look more closely at the complex cultural DNA of creative companies. Shapeshifters has been working on a global research project since 2006 in order to develop a new mapping of Creative Tribes and Value Zones and shape more sustainable connections between creatives and investors.

  In this workshop, the following research findings will be presented to the public the first time ever:
* A new business map: Value Zones and New Social Territories in the Creative Sector
* Social Tools: A Cultural Due Diligence for the creative industries
* The meaning of market intelligence in the matchmaking between "Money" and "Meaning"


Innovations in finance, social finance
1. Banking
2. Entrepreneurship and capital raising
3. Individual investment in art and music

A lot more people in the audience are looking for investment than people who have investors.

Shapeshifters meets artists all over the world.
People operate in diff zones
capital giver vs capital user
interesting connection between these people
big diff if they talk about money or rather passions and driving forces
we are looking for like minds that can lead to investment relations
Can be anything
How do these like-minded people meet?

That is why they started to create a map.
DNA report helps investors understand what they get out of funding creative ventures

The Bankers
Hans-Paul Muller?

Helped marginalized people get bank accounts.
Andrea is into electronic banking. How a bank can adress loans in a new way.
The bank they work for is Qb? Cute bee? It is way too loud in here and they don't have any supporting graphics. Could be?
started 3 years ago. Started with microfinancing and a mobile transaction system for areas where there were no normal banks.
want to finance social businesses. This is missing in central and Eastern Europe.

Erste Bank Group, Erste Foundation started in Vienna 200 years ago. Erste Ost. Sparkasse. Provide banking services to people who could at that time access banks at all (housekeepers, farmers, etc). It was a social business. Help people save money for if something happened to them.

The social dimension remains in Erste foundation.

The bank is an institution that enables things to happen in a society.

cultural or social projects are often not about profit. How can you provide financial services to businesses that are not concerned with profit?
It is hard for a bank to do that, which is why Would be (?) was established. The financial side has to work somehow. It's not a foundation or a donations system. The money has to come back to the investors. You don't have to turn a huge profit, but you have to be able to repay your loan.

Now the problem is that banks do not understand the profitability of social entrepreneurship, and that is what these guys are working on--educating banks and bankers about the benefits of financing social entrepreneurship.

They offer support on how to approach and present to banks. They also give the entrepreneurs business advice. How to know if your idea is sustainable and how to change it if it is not so that you can repay your loans. The education process goes in both ways.

Social integration award
central and Eastern Europe
every two years

How can we connect the winners and the shortlisted non-winners? How to create a social entrepreneur's socialnetwork.

They made a map of 100 organizations. The organizations are clustered by city. (not bad)
Each point on the map has a video about the project and some contact information.
They're using open street maps for this.
The Social Integration Network
Starting with a map.

Is there any service for organizations not in Eastern Europe?
There are projects underway in Germany
Coworking space for social entrepreneurs in Vienna and all over the world
The organization is called GOOD BEE.

They're microfinancing microfinance. But of course, not only.
I gotta take a break before the second keynote... need sandwich.

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