Week 7 — figuring things out as I go along

It’s reading week so this one is thematically all over the place. I’ve mostly been researching to try and define what I want to do for my dissertation. Down to 2 ideas, more on that later. I’ve also been trying to catch up on my LRB backlog. Do people actually read the entire issue AND read books AND have jobs? I certainly cannot.

I’ve also been thinking about how vulnerable this space is for me. I’m continually learning new things and unlearning old things. Sometimes when I think back to opinions I used to have or things I used to say, I’m embarrassed by myself.

So I’m kind of figuring things out as I go along, only now in public. In a year, will I look back on this and be mortified? Are you reading this and thinking “how tf does she think THAT”?

Maybe. But one day I’ll get there 🤞

The politics of large numbers
by Alain Desrosières

Reading bits of this, because (spoilers) one of my dissertation ideas is along these lines.

Statistical tools allow the discovery or creation of entities that support our descriptions of the world and the way we act on it.

I’m especially interested in that line “creation of entities” if entities were people (see also Making up people in Week 4).

But also, love a little trashing on objectivity.

Basing its originality on its autonomy in relation to other languages … scientific language has a contradictory relationship with them. On the one hand it preaches an objectivity, and thereby, a universality which, if this claim is successful, provides points of support and common reference for debates occurring elsewhere; this is the “incontrovertible” aspect of science. On the other hand this authority, which finds its justification in the actual process of objectification and in its strict demands for universality, can only be exercised to the extent that it is partly to the world of action, decision making, and change.

Emoji summary: 🔢 📊 🌏

(Re)framing Big Data: Activating situated knowledges and a feminist ethics of care in social media research
by Naomi Barnes

More dissertation research for option 2. Data + feminism (+ queer).

Data can be both a means to contribute to a more ethical society, but it can just as easily be violent on the subjects who produced the data, as well as those who analyse it...

The article is responding to a paper that I haven’t read yet. But its now on the list, partly because I like this paragraph

Luka and Millette … propose speculation as an ethical methodology that considers how the data and the resulting analysis will translate into diverse and power-differentiated communities. Speculation asks the researcher to consider their own values and biases and unpack their own conceptual frameworks and acknowledge how that positioning shapes the data representations they produce. The authors argue that if researchers situate their knowledge in their own power dynamics, it opens opportunities for gaps to be filled.

And partly because I like Haraway a lot a lot a lot a lot a lot a lot. A LOT! Staying with the Trouble changed my life.

Emoji summary: 📈 ♾ 👩🏼‍⚕

Why I won’t “try on” disability to build empathy in the design process (and you should think twice about it.)
by Amelia Abreu

On Wednesday, I helped organise and run an accessibility empathy workshop for our away morning. The emphasis was definitely on testing the website, not pretending to be disabled, which I think landed on the right side of the point. Still, important for me to consider when and how to do this kind of thing.

Better than any empathy-building exercise, would be to

build equitable human relationships with folks with differing abilities and disabilities.

Equitable, yes. Also, respectful.

We all have people in our lives whose bodies are remarkably different from ours. And it’s through living and critically engaging with diverse groups of people that we’re best able to cultivate empathy generally and constantly, not just selectively and discretely, and to design inclusive solutions that will work better for us all.

And not just for design.

This is a great thread on the topic

Emoji summary: 👓 💻 ♿

Creating visions of futures must involve thinking through the complexities

with Cameron Tonkinwise

If there is one link you read in this week’s missive, make it this one. The article is reason 1-50 on why I’m doing a masters in sociology.

Get ready for spicy

I was however, surprised by how apolitical, if not politically naïve, design as a practice, but also a discourse, was, once I got into it. The idea that design is the mechanism by which political values are materialized into everyday practices (a variant of Latour’s “technology is society made durable” or “morality delegated”) seems still insufficiently understood by design practitioners and educators.

He’s not wrong

Designers are for the most part intolerably arrogant…

I love to be dragged

It still surprises me that most designers have read very few books about design, though there are not many that are both sophisticated and up-to-date.

Yes Cameron, I think this is true. Abolition ftw

Much as I’d like, I can’t just quote the whole thing so maybe just read it yourself.

Emoji summary: 🌶 🔥 🖍


Psychoanalysing Trump, if you are into that kind of thing. Genius or Suicide: Trump’s Death Drive by Judith Butler.

My wager/dream is that he would rather die than pause to feel the shame that passes through him and is externalised as destruction and rage. If he ever registers shame, it may be only in that briefest moment just as it turns outwards, to be expelled into the world around him.

Have you been following the US primaries? I have to be impartial in this country but I’m a Bernie stan. Kind of mad that it goes on for so long, no? Esp when we have just a few short weeks until voting day. Don’t forget to register!

The Greer Method by Mary Beard reviewing Greer’s new book ‘On Rape’. I haven’t read that much Beard, but I like what I’ve read so far. I think because of her nuance. Can’t stand a “universal” statement. My favourite saying is “it depends”. She also does a good drag.

When she writes in the book, ‘the mere suggestion will cause an outcry which is one good reason for making it,’ it is an honest summary of the Greer method.

Madder Men by Hal Foster on Richard Hamilton’s biography, which is actually an autobiography because the author is a pseudonym for Hamilton. I saw Hamilton at the Tate years ago and loved it. This link is mostly an excuse to share one of my favourites, the People series.

Consider the Hedgehog by Katherine Rundell. Delightful!

But, as ever, we are their greatest enemy. Their numbers are falling catastrophically, and have been for decades. The loss of hedgerows, the increase in vast open fields without cover, and death by cars are to blame, alongside the mass use of pesticides and the reduction, thanks to global warming, of their insect prey. … Around this time of year, there is the added risk of hedgehogs taking up residence in bonfires, and, come the fifth of November, being burned alive. If we were not used to hedgehogs – if they existed only in Yosemite or the Okavango Delta – we would surely travel thousands of miles to see them. The least we can do is refrain from setting alight some of the world’s sharpest and gentlest creatures.

All That Gab by James Wolcott on Susan Sontag. I have a confession. I’ve never read a Sontag book. I tried once and didn’t make it past the first essay. Should I try again?

I didn’t know (or forgot) that she was “not-straight”. She also seems insufferable but hilarious.

…the presidential speechwriter Richard Goodwin, who, deploying tricks of the trade learned from a French prostitute, activated Sontag’s first orgasm with a man: ‘“Oh, shit,” she remembered thinking. “Now I’m just like everybody else.”’

A celebration for all those women who love other women. And sadness for those who didn’t feel able to live that openly. Thinking of you, Whitney <3


I had read some critiques when preparing the empathy workshop, but Nick Colley shared the article and the twitter thread with me after. Thanks for your thoughtfulness Nick.

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