ASIST2010: Opening plenary

Oct 24 2010 Published by under Conferences

I’m attending ASIST again this year in Pittsburgh. These posts are live blogged so there will be typos, misunderstandings, etc. (including lots of ellipses)   See also the #asist2010 twitter stream.

They’ve really changed how the conference is run this year, which confused me when there were calls for papers. There are now short papers and the workshops and tutorials are separate. Also, the posters are all at the same time. The tracks are a lot different but it turns out that the papers didn’t really fit into tracks because the work is far more integrated.

Keynote: Lucy Suchman, Lancaster University

Restoring Information’s Body

Restoring a sense of materiality in our thinking about information artifacts. (inspired by K Hayles 1992 – how we became post human, how information lost its body). Also Bowker (1993) How to be universal: some cybernetic strategies SSS 23, 107-127. How did the field of cybernetics assert its universal relevance. Cybernetics seen as a superdiscipline that could subsume others. Information can be coherently considered independent from its instantiation in bodies (this is a paraphrase but close).

Her point we need to see information’s body as inseparable from its intelligibility. From chp2 circulating reference in Bruno Latour’s Pandora’s Hope (1999): ‘we always forget that the word “reference” comes from the latin referre, “to bring back”’.

reconfiguration … agency…

from Haraway – language is all figural all about associations that give rise to new meaning so technologies are materialized figurations, how are people and things configured (con like together), how might they be figured together differently.

example from her research from the late ‘80s on ground control for an airline – a lot of co-present work, a lot in the room to control what happens outside of the room…. the information system wasn’t a computer, it was all of the monitors and the interactions and all…

example from her research with civil engineers and all of the meetings and political goals as well as technological issues taken into consideration while working at the cad to design an interchange

examples from medicine – anesthesiology (patient an active participant emitting information that is critically readable through devices), surgical simulation like davinci – surgeons feel more intimately connected to patient’s body- technology mediation doesn’t necessarily mean distance, nothing intrinsic about the introduction of technologies that creates distance – it’s how they are set up and maintained.

modelers …extend their bodies into the prosthetic technologies… (Meyers SSS 2008?)

…. In memoriam for SL Starr (d. 2010) – invisible work  (see her 1991 Silenced work and invisible dialogues in knowledge representation)

Audience Q (Ken Fleischmann) technology mediation medicine vs. warfare. Distance is a bug vs a feature  - not wanted in medicine, perhaps useful in warfare.

A: experience of the operators in Nevada is a research question – is the intelligence good enough? are they able to identify targets well enough? (clearly she doesn’t think so). Doesn’t know how they view distance and how intimate they feel with their remote devices. We have sort of two widely different things in this war – teleoperation vs. suicide bombers who are the weapon.

Q: Julian Warner – Weiner had more of a view of humans “render undo the computer… render unto the human”… should we identify what is irreducibly human?

A: Weiner – social sciences not amenable to being treated cyberneticly – he qualified more than his followers. Delegation of labor to machines – what new configurations do we want to make.

Q: Christine Borgman – how do we respond to this reductionist stuff (her question was much more clever

A: treat the all-singing all-dancing information system as old-fashioned… we now know that socio-technical interaction


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