Monday, October 28, 2013

Big Data and the Quantified Self

Big data is in a moment that is pre-Coprenican, (original) world-is-flat, and ‘sail west from Europe for the Orient.’ That is to say that big data is in need of not just descriptive tools, but maps, cartographic representations that help to define, concretize, and conceptualize what exactly big data is and how to think about it.

A conceptual mapping of big data is necessary which would most obviously draw upon basic mapping principles (metaphorically and literally) and epistemological models. For example, one dimension of a big data map is numeracy. In the conceptualization of big data, so far the context has been individuated information, information about individual units, like people (e.g.; personal data), and the tensions between the subject of the data and the user of the data, namely institutions. There is now an emergent category (e.g.; group data), the sense of data arising from and belonging to a group.

The quantified self is a vanguard paradigm for understanding personal data and urban data a similar vanguard paradigm for understanding group data. The quantified self is inherently a big data problem, as manually-tracked ‘small data’ is now being replaced by automatically-collected ‘big data,’ and cloud-based methods are required for data processing, analysis, and storage.

More information: Slides, Blog coverage, Paper

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The New Consciousness: Technology Philosophy learns from Queer Theory

Though they might at first seem unrelated, queer theory connects to technology philosophy in two ways: the general level of the discipline of philosophy and the specificity of content.

First, in the general discipline of philosophy, both queer theory and technology philosophy are areas of innovation in philosophical thought. In thinking innovatively in technology philosophy, it is important to track, understand, and incorporate new developments in philosophical thinking, in this case from the progression of the equality philosophies of decolonialism, feminism, queer theory, and transgender and polyamory rights.

Second, the content of queer theory is of interest to technology philosophy. Some of the relevant topics include:
  • Equality Philosophies:  The potential deployment of equality philosophies in a world with a variety of human and non-human intelligences
  • Consciousness and its Emergence: The emergence of consciousness in a process of awareness, alterity, and translation which could relate to the waking-up of new forms of consciousness 
  • Self-constitution of the Subject: The enlargening understanding of how we are constituted and constitute ourselves as subjects, and how this might change in the future as we have even more interior volition and QS self-direction capability, and at the same time greater competition amongst external influences on the constitution of ourselves as digital subjects with partial or full mindfile upload, where the term subject (currently denoting nicely packaged individual consciousnesses in bodies) could become obsolete 
More information: video, video of text references, video en francais

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What are Concepts and why are they Important?

As the French philosopher Deleuze articulates, the output of the scientist is quantitative characterization, the output of the artist is subjective experience, and the output of the philosopher is concepts. Far from being a dusty old topic of the past, philosophy is as vibrant as ever as there are many possibilities in concept innovation that can facilitate a heightened understanding of the world.

What is a Concept?
We can start by asking what is a concept? The dictionary definition of a concept is an abstract idea, a general notion. However bringing specific concepts to mind might not be something we are familiar with doing on a day-to-day basis. Starting to brainstorm some concepts, there seem to be different kinds...

Concepts: Applying to the Self
Some concepts seem practically applicable to the domain of personal experience, how individuals might understand themselves in relation to the world, concepts like karma, flexibility, acceptance, empowerment, self-actualization, extensibility, justice, self-identity, payback, barriers, rules, deferred gratification, and creating community.

Concepts: Phenomena greater than the Self
Another class of concepts seems applicable to phenomena greater than the self, ideas that model what is going on in the world like sustainability, globalization, digital divide, the bottom of the pyramid, the last mile, plasticity, the occupy movement, wearable electronics, the wireless Internet of things, augmented reality, healthspan, quality of life, and crowdfunding.

Concepts: Philosophical Concepts beyond Self and World to Configure a Range of Thinking
For Deleuze, there is another class of concepts, of philosophical concepts that are more extensive than personal and global concepts - a philosophical concept is not an identity condition or proposition, but a metaphysical construction that defines a range of thinking. Some examples of philosophical concepts are Plato's ideal forms of things, Kant's doctrine of our cognitive faculties, and Descartes’s cogito - the philosophic principle that one's existence is demonstrated by the fact that one thinks. As a branch of philosophy, in technology philosophy too, concepts too are defined in this Deleuzian metaphysical construction that defines and invites a range of thinking, some examples are articulated in A Conceptology of Technology Philosophy - Top 20 Technology Philosophy Concepts.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Extreme Data shapes Future Cities

With over 50% of the planet living in cities as of 2008 growing to an expected 75% by 2050 (when the population is estimated to be 9 billion), seamlessly transitioning to cities-of-the-future should be a key planning goal for every urban area. In some countries like the UK, there are strategic initiatives underway to create Future Cities and Smart Cities that include sponsoring hackathons for citizens to work with open urban data, and in other cases research centers are leading efforts such as the MIT Senseable City Lab using the wireless Internet-of-Things (IOT) to sense the real-time city.

Some of the more familiar recent innovations that are starting to pop-up include smart electricity meters, electric car charging stations, on-demand bicycle transport depots, aspirations for vertical farms, and in public transportation: mobile apps with on-demand schedules, journey-planning, and real-time transport information. As another sign of the times, the Oxford English dictionary added the term Internet-of-things in August 2013.

Extreme Urban Data 
The biggest trend reshaping all aspects of our lives, the Big Data Era, is driving a whole new tier of Future Cities and Smart Cities apps connecting big data, open data, statistical processing, and machine learning to user-friendly apps, web services, and other consumable front-ends. Killer Apps could focus on practical improvements to daily life and resource-use: adaptive lighting, smart waste, pest control, hygiene management, eTolls, transport and traffic management, smart grid, asset tracking, and parking. Killer Apps can also be political – using crowdsourced data and social media scrapings to create tools that are the bottom-up sousveillance antidote to top-down surveillance as envisioned in David Brin’s Transparent Society, for example, companies using social media-sourced data to predict country instability in real-time like Cytora.