[iDC] A symposium vignette

Dave Chiu dave at d4v3.net
Thu Oct 19 20:32:22 EDT 2006

The Urban Center, immediately across the street from the back of St.  
Paul's Cathedral, is a beautiful old building with brown stone (does  
that make it a brown-stone?), its courtyard festively lit by white  
lights in the trees. Walking into the lobby, we were faced with two  
video cameras (that I could see) of unknown purpose, a registration  
table, and a lecture room set up like a fashion runway show: seats  
set in a horseshoe pattern. A mirror and several large posters cover  
the walls, and a projector stands ready in the center of the room,  
two large speakers (of the electronic kind) flanking the screen,  
podium in the far corner.

I'm here with several friends and know more people scattered  
throughout the audience, but the majority of people are strangers— 
friendly, though, from the sound of their conversations, which  
steadily increases as the room fills to about four-fifths of capacity.

An ill-timed cell phone ring-tone effectively spurs the audience into  
a wave of coat-checking and purse rustling as everyone turns their  
devices off.

Mark Shepard, however, asks everyone to turn them back to vibrate and  
send text messages to feedback at situatedtechnologies.net. As an  
introduction, Mark goes over some basic definitions (always a good  
move to define terms before launching into a day-long symposium!),  
segueing into observations on Micronesian island-navigation, a  
snippet of The Catalogue by Chris Oakley, and cell-phone activity at  
a Madonna conference in Rome. ;)

Standing in front of the podium, Omar Khan takes a more technical  
view, covering locational, ad hoc, multi-hop networks; idiosyncratic  
tools a la Nicholas Negroponte; and the concept of underspecification  
(the Fun Palace). I find myself taking notes on points which I'd like  
him to clarify later, and it seems that, without my noticing, a slow  
trickle of late-comers has practically filled the room.

Finally, Trebor Shultz talks about the few who shape the path of  
technology, some of the larger problems the world faces which  
currently fly below our everyday radar (AIDS, the global south), and  
technological voodoo. As his talk mirrors my interests rather well,  
Trebor has the gears turning in my head. I for one am curious to see  
how the global south intersects with decentralized participation as  
exemplified by Web 2.0 applications.

A round of applause closes the presentations and opens the floor to  
questions. After quite a few more questions and comments than I  
expected, we all move into the lobby for refreshments. Thus ends the  
formal segment of the evening.

Note: If anyone is taking pictures and posting them to Flickr, please  
use the situatedtechnologies tag. If you prefer to look at other  
people's photos, check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/ 


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