No Tech Reader #4

Critical Making

critical makingCritical Making is a handmade book project by Garnet Hertz that explores how hands-on productive work ‐ making ‐ can supplement and extend critical reflection on technology and society.

It works to blend and extend the fields of design, contemporary art, DIY/craft and technological development. It also can be thought of as an appeal to the electronic DIY maker movement to be critically engaged with culture, history and society: after learning to use a 3D printer, making an LED blink or using an Arduino, then what?

The publication has 70 contributors ‐ primarily from contemporary art and academia ‐ and its 352 pages are bound in ten pocket-sized zine-like volumes. The project takes the topic of DIY culture literally by printing an edition of 300 copies on a hacked photocopier with booklets that were manually folded, stapled and cut.

The entire collection is scanned and released online. Illustration: Prototype for a machine that inserts razor blades into apples.

Trash Collecting Water Wheel

baltimore inner harbor water wheel

Picture: Baltimore City

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel collects trash and debris at the outfall of the Jones Falls River, intercepting it before it enters Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. Since it began operating, in May 2014, the water wheel has removed over 250 tons of trash from Baltimore’s waterways.

The machine funnels debris using two long booms and lifts it onto a wide conveyor belt. The refuse is then deposited in a dumpster on a separate platform. The wheel powers a conveyor, which lifts the trash from the river. When the current isn’t going quickly enough, the solar-powered pumps below the wheel push up water and get it spinning again.

The water wheel is part of the Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, which aims to restore Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, making it swimmable by 2020. A second wheel is being crowdfunded.

See & read more:  1 / 2 / 3 / 4. Thanks to Tim Joye.

Related: Boat Mills

Deschooling Society

Quoted from: Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich, 1972:

We cannot begin a reform of education unless we first understand that neither individual learning nor social equality can be enhanced by the ritual of schooling. We cannot go beyond the consumer society unless we first understand that obligatory public schools inevitably reproduce such a society, no matter what is thaught in them…

deschooling societySchool initiates the Myth of Unending Consumption. This modern myth is grounded in the belief that process inevitably produces something of value and, therefore, production necessarily produces demand. School teaches us that instruction produces learning. The existence of schools produces the demand for schooling. Once we have learned to need school, all our activities tend to take the shape of client relationships to other specialized institutions.

Once the self-taught man or woman has been discredited, all nonprofessional activity is rendered suspect. In school we are thaught that valuable learning is the result of attendance; that the value of learning increases with the amount of input; and, finally, that this value can be measured and documented by grades and certificates.

In fact, learning is the human activity which least needs manipulation by others. Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being “with it”, yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.

Once a man or woman has accepted the need for school, he or she is easy prey for other institutions. Once young people have allowed their imaginations to be formed by curricular instruction, they are conditioned to institutional planning of every sort. “Instruction” smothers the horizon of their imagination.

Sail the World’s Largest Viking Ship from Europe to America

viking ship“Draken Harald Hårfagre (that’s “Dragon Harald Fairhair” in English) is a modern interpretation (rather than an accurate replica) of an old Viking longship that was built in Haugesund, Norway, and launched in 2012.

In May next year she will set out on a voyage from Norway to Newfoundland via Iceland and Greenland, and the project organizers have just announced they are accepting applications for volunteer crew.

You need at least two months of free time to do it and presumably should have some sort of useful skill to boost your chances of being selected.

Conditions aboard look to be very Spartan by modern standards, with no shelter except for a tent on deck, but by traditional Viking standards it should be a veritable luxury cruise.”

Read more: Calling all Vikings. More sailboat news.

Self-Driving Cars: a Coming Congestion Disaster?

self driving cars“A suburban father rides his driverless car to work, maybe dropping his daughter off a at school. But rather than park the car downtown, he simply tells it to drive back home to his house in the suburbs. During the day, it runs some other errands for his family.

At 3 pm, it goes to the school to bring his daughter home or chauffeur her to after-school activities. Then it’s time for it to drive back into the city to pick up Dad from work. But then, on a lark, Dad decides to go shopping at a downtown department store after work, so he tells his car to just circle the block for an hour while he shops, before finally hailing it to go home.”

Read more: Self-driving cars: a coming congestion disaster.

Solarpunk

solarpunk22

“It’s hard out here for futurists under 30. As we percolated through our respective nations’ education systems, we were exposed to WorldChanging and TED talks, to artfully-designed green consumerism and sustainable development NGOs. Yet we also grew up with doomsday predictions slated to hit before our expected retirement ages, with the slow but inexorable militarization of metropolitan police departments, with the failure of the existing political order to deal with the existential-but-not-yet-urgent threat of climate change.

Many of us feel it’s unethical to bring children into a world like ours. We have grown up under a shadow, and if we sometimes resemble fungus it should be taken as a credit to our adaptability. We’re solarpunks because the only other options are denial or despair. The promises offered by most Singulatarians and Transhumanists are individualist and unsustainable: How many of them are scoped for a world where energy is not cheap and plentiful, to say nothing of rare earth elements?

Solarpunk is about finding ways to make life more wonderful for us right now, and more importantly for the generations that follow us – i.e., extending human life at the species level, rather than individually. Our future must involve repurposing and creating new things from what we already have (instead of 20th century “destroy it all and build something completely different” modernism). Our futurism is not nihilistic like cyberpunk and it avoids steampunk’s potentially quasi-reactionary tendencies: it is about ingenuity, generativity, independence, and community.

Read more:

Thanks to Edwin Gardner.

Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop

notetaking“Taking notes by hand requires different types of cognitive processing than taking notes on a laptop, and these different processes have consequences for learning. Writing by hand is slower and more cumbersome than typing, and students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture. Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.”

“Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention. By contrast, when typing students can easily produce a written record of the lecture without processing its meaning, as faster typing speeds allow students to transcribe a lecture word for word without devoting much thought to the content.”

Read more: A learning secret: don’t take notes with a laptop. Via The Antioch Review.

Thanks to David Edgerton. Picture credit.

No Tech Reader #3

Garum: Fermented Fish Sauce for the Ancient Roman Masses

garum roman fish sauce

Fish fermentation allowed the ancient Romans to store their fish surplus for long periods, in a time when there were no freezers and fishing was bound to fish migratory patterns. [Read more…]