New term, creatures, design & cultural critique

I can’t believe it’s autumn already! Where did the summer go?

Anyway, here’s what we’ve been up to and a glimpse of what’s to come:

Mata Freshwater (of Grow Your Own Lamb fame) and I have been working on something very creaturely… and sometime before the end of the month, we’ll be adding this final speculative design ethnography scenario to the Counting Sheep website. If you haven’t taken the survey yet, don’t worry, there’s still time to tell us what you think!

I also had the pleasure of a two-week visit with theologian and associate professor of religion, Trevor Bechtel. I first met Trevor at the Digital Genres Conference at the University of Chicago in 2003, and we still share an intellectual interest in technology and a great love of animals. You can check out the fascinating collaborative creative work he does through the Anabaptist Bestiary Project, and Trevor and I spent a lot of time drinking flat whites and talking about speculative design and objects of grace–so I hope we’ll be able to share more about that in the coming months.

As the winner of a VUW Summer Scholarship, Chris Nimmo joined the team to kick off our new project: The Great NZ Cat Controversy. Chris searched all the interwebs to create an archive of online public engagement with Gareth Morgan’s Cats to Go campaign – including articles like “Morgan calls for cats to be wiped out“, Facebook groups like “Cats against Gareth Morgan,” and memes like the one below by Jackson Wood- and then he did a comprehensive discourse analysis of the content. (Hint: it’s all about pets vs pests.)

Gareth Morgan by Jackson Wood

We’ll be creating a project page and making this archive available online soon, but right now we’re looking for someone to create an awesome actor & issue map from his findings–so if you’re interested in working with us, please get in touch. In another month or so, we’ll also get started on the design ethnography phase of the project – so stay tuned for that too.

Otherwise, I’ve been busy thinking and writing and plotting. You can check out this ethnography + design interview with me at Savage Minds, and I’m now drafting something for my much admired Superflux colleagues. On the academic front, I’ve recently submitted some research funding proposals, a journal article, a conference paper, and a workshop proposal, so will hopefully be able to share more about all that shortly.

But most recently, the bulk of my efforts have gone into teaching prep, and this term I’m teaching a third year course on design and cultural critique. I’ve assigned Dunne and Raby‘s new book, Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming as required reading for the course, and am really looking forward to discussing it with students. Course themes include critical theories of everyday life, the critical potential of speculative fiction and design, how to use culture to critique design, and how to use design to critique culture. Students have two major projects to complete: a research essay on what is “critical” about critical design, and a critical design project that embodies their idea of cultural critique. I’m really excited to see what they come up with!

And last, but certainly not least, I’d like to congratulate Catherine Caudwell on submitting her PhD thesis: Into the Furby-verse: The Narrative Production of Electronic Companions. Her examination isn’t until April, but we’re confident that we’ll be calling her Dr Caudwell soon!

Counting Sheep news

Really pleased to note that our first set of Counting Sheep scenarios won the 2013 IoT Internet of Things Editor’s Choice – Best Design Fiction Award! Many thanks and congratulations to the awesome students who worked on the projects: Dani Clode, Mata Freshwater, Hamish McPhail, Peggy Russell, and Lauren Wickens.

And we’re also pretty chuffed to see one of our favourite magazines/websites - Modern Farmer - publish a nice little piece about our work: Using Sheep To Test the Boundaries of Science (No Sheep Were Harmed)

“Down in New Zealand — a country with seven times more sheep than people* — there’s a team of researchers who are very, very interested in your responses. It’s part of a quirky project called Counting Sheep, mapping out the intersection of agriculture, ethics and the very nature of how people answer questions … “By the time most of us hear about a scientific advance, it’s already happened,” Galloway says. “There’s never a chance to put the brakes on, to decide whether it’s something we wanted in the first place.” Counting Sheep started in December with three fictional sheep scenarios. Each one combines an evocative design with a provocative storyline (see below). Anyone can participate in the study — just look over one of the faux-projects, then take a brief survey. The goal is to provoke an instinctive response. Thus far they’ve heard everything from “This is total bullshit!” to “This is the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen!” And how will the results be used? Galloway thinks government and industry could want some insight into the popular psyche, before proceeding with new scientific advances (e.g., do people really want lab lamb?) More importantly, she believes this could upend the way social research is performed.”

Thanks to Jesse Hirsch for writing the article – although my hope is to one day see research like this described as inventive rather than quirky!

 

Counting Sheep speculative design ethnography research

We’re very excited to launch the website for our Counting Sheep design scenario research, starting with three speculative design ethnography projects, and more on the way:

BoneKnitterBoneKnitter (Anne Galloway & Dani Clode)
The BoneKnitter is a dream for slow technology that honours New Zealand’s natural environment and pays tribute to generations of Māori and Pākehā merino growers, shearers and wool handlers. We envision a future where orthopaedic casts are crafted from all natural materials and slowly knitted over broken bones. We see individual casts crafted from the range of natural merino wool colours, both plainly styled and patterned after the topographic contours of the land where the sheep were raised, or the genetic sequence of the sheep that produced the wool. Each cast comes with data histories for each animal, and we are given personal collections of photos and stories to take home.

Grow Your Own LambGrow Your Own Lamb (Anne Galloway & Mata Freshwater)
A revolutionary new service that puts New Zealand consumers in charge of how their meat is produced! Select whether you want your 100% Pure NZ Merino Lamb raised in the paddock (in vivo) or raised in the lab (in vitro), and download the GYoL app so that you can check in on the growing process anywhere, anytime. Then select the actions you want your growers or technicians to take to ensure your meat is just the way you like it. When your lamb is ready, select how you want it slaughtered or harvested, and get the best cuts of meat delivered right to your door. Finally, enjoy your 100% Pure NZ Merino Lamb knowing that it was produced exactly the way you want it.

PermaLambPermaLamb (Anne Galloway & Lauren Wicken)
On 7 June 2019, in an unprecedented show of national cooperation, all of the country’s political parties unanimously voted in favour of creating the NZ Ministry of Science and Heritage. Using well-established transgenics research and recombinant DNA techniques, scientists cross-bred an animal that embodied the behavioural traits of a dog and took on the physical appearance of a lamb for its entire life. Each PermaLamb was also implanted with a full suite of networked identification, location and sensor technologies, enabling it to generate and collect petabytes of data over its lifetime. The National PermaLamb Programme was born.

Please take a look around and share what you find with friends and family.

We also invite you to take part in a short online survey to help us better understand what kinds of science and technology people want – and don’t want – in the future.

If you have any questions about our research, please just email us.

Callaghan Innovation Postgrad Internship Opportunity

In a couple of weeks we’ll be starting The Great NZ Cat Controversy research project with an actor-network mapping and discourse analysis of public media responses to Gareth Morgan’s infamous Cats To Go campaign.

If you’re interested in where we go from there, you might also be interested in this research and design opportunity with local company, and awesome trap designers, Goodnature.*

Position title:
Urban/Peri urban invasive species tool development: Callaghan Innovation Postgrad Internship

Employer:
Goodnature

Application close:
14-Nov-2013 Thursday

Commences:
Dec 2013 – Jan 2014

Employment type:
Contract

Remuneration/ Pay rate:
$30,000 for 6 months

Location:
Wellington

Details:
Goodnature makes automatic traps that are powered by a recyclable 16gram compressed CO2 gas canister which resets the traps up to 24 times. The traps are toxin free and work by striking the skull of the animal with a glass reinforced polymer striker, killing it instantly. Once the pest has been struck, the piston automatically returns, the pest drops to the ground and automatic trap resets immediately. Goodnature traps have met the highest humane standards in independent testing to animal welfare advisory committee guidelines.

Goodnature has a postgraduate internship position available to investigate and support product development initiatives in urban/peri-urban invasive species pest control.

Shhh… The details are top secret, but the internship project involves high-detail end user testing right through to product conceptualisation.

Due to the wide range of tasks within the project the position would be suitable for a postgraduate from industrial design, environment studies, ecological studies or conservation.

The intern will work as part of the Goodnature team in the Goodnature headquarters in Kilbirnie, Wellington.

The intern will have a great time. Truly. It’s mean as working at Goodnature.

Funding requirements of Callaghan Innovation stipulate that eligible interns must be postgraduate and be either completing masters or doctoral studies from science, technology, engineering, design, business or marketing faculties of a New Zealand university by 1 April 2014, or have graduated within the last six months from 1 July 2013 and are not currently employed.

VUW students apply at CareerHub

* Working with us won’t involve trapping anything, so if that’s what gets you excited (no judgement!) you should definitely apply for the internship. If that’s not what excites you most about animal management strategies, then come talk to us :-)

November is Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo)

I’m allergic to joining clubs or movements, and loathe academic productivity imperatives, but I’ve just finished the year’s teaching and have this problem:

A Million Thoughts by Marc Johns

So I’ve decided to find my own way of participating in Academic Writing Month 2013.

First of all, I’ve got some fieldwork to do in November, and since that will continue until teaching starts again in March, I’d really like to establish a sustainable writing routine for the summer. I’ve got some creative writing that needs to be finished in the next couple of weeks, and some journal writing that needs to be sent to peer review by February. I’ve also got a research proposal to draft.

Obviously I can’t get all the journal and proposal writing done in November, but I can definitely get it started. In #AcWriMo-speak that leads me to:

Goal 1: Establish summer writing routine

Goal 2: Edit two short stories

Goal 3: Write one short story

Goal 4: Prepare full draft of one academic article

Goal 5: Draft research project aims, objectives & outcomes

I figure that the first goal is actually the hardest – and most important – for me. I want to block off three hours each weekday morning for writing, making exceptions only when unavoidable. (I also figure this will still allow me to get in at least one hour of academic reading each day!) This schedule could never happen during teaching, so I’ve got fingers (and toes!) crossed I can make it work now. Of course I’m a bit nervous that I’m out of practice and this will feel like going to the gym after holidays: a special kind of torture. So to help me out, I’ll also be participating in weekly Shut Up and Write sessions that my lovely colleagues have organised.

The second and third goals involve creative writing, which I find requires a substantially different mind-set than academic writing even though it’s part of my research. I’ve decided to focus on this first because it has a hard deadline and is mostly done already, and because getting it done should make room in my brain for more traditional academic writing.

The fourth goal is going to test Inger Mewburn’s strategy for How To Write A Journal Article in Seven Days. (I’m actually pretty excited about this task!) And the fifth goal mostly involves getting some thoughts out of my head and onto paper in some sort of structure that is intelligible to others. I’ll need their feedback before I write up the full proposal, and this seems a useful way to start.

With all my goals sorted, I’m left with the “accountability problem.” I can’t bring myself to officially sign up for the month – audit culture saddens me – but I think I can manage weekly #AcWriMo reports on Twitter. And who knows? I might write something here at some point too.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t care if I succeed in all these goals. I know I won’t miss my creative writing deadlines, and the rest will work itself out eventually. Using the month to find a new work rhythm is all I really want, and if this helps in any way I’ll be happy.

Let's Go by Marc Johns

 

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