I wanted to write about the fiasco surrounding Iowa Caucus app beyond its technological failures — as how every technological failure should be analysed — but I figured I wasn’t really prepared in terms of materials, so perhaps I am going to hold off on the post for another day.
I just finished re-reading architect Marwa al-Sabouni’s The Battle for Home, in which she writes about how architecture has played a slow unravelling of Syrian cities’ social fabric, as the country plunges itself into destruction following the years of civil war. I don’t normally read architecture books — a large mistake — as I felt books on architecture and built environment that I was exposed to during design school often focus on aesthetic values and lack social perspectives. This is the gap of which al-Sabouni highlighted in her very book — where she brings together her first-hand experience of growing up in her war-ravaged hometown, Homs, through contextual lenses of urban planning and politics, forced displacement, heritage, and the effects of refugee crisis — and how architecture could help reverse the damage. I am also especially drawn to how al-Sabouni highlighted the discontinuity between the architectural pedagogy in her country and the actual needs of the city (plus how politics and corruption could influence the whole decision of built environment) — a set of uncomfortable truths which are not alien in many countries as well (a friend wrote a doctoral research on exactly this kind of disparity in the scope of my own country). I feel that this book is severely underrated and I would recommend everyone to read it. My review does not do justice of how intelligently, thoughtfully, and empathetically written this book is — so if you want to know more, Zeina Elcheikh has written a more eloquent one.
In my tabs:
- The neuroscience of picking a presidential candidate.
- “‘Approaches to employee monitoring are starting to look more like consumer marketing, where you have segmenting and targeting,’ Mateescu says. ‘You have HR professionals saying things like, we want to know our employees as well as we know our customers.'” In 20 years, your boss may track your every glance, keystroke, and heartbeat. This is completely, fine. /s
- NASA is working with Australian firm Akin to develop an AI that could one day provide emotional support for astronauts on deep-space missions, beyond tasks like maintaining temperature or figuring out technical problems. Uhm, OK.
- Focusing on one particular identification method misconstrues the nature of the surveillance society we’re in the process of building. We’re missing the point.
- “Photographs have been a way to cheat death, or at least to declare the illusion of immortality through lasting visual evidence” A lovely reflection on encountering images of deceased loved ones on Google Street View.
- Feeling anxious over this burnout list itself, but this is a good list of enemies we must identify before letting them take over us — at the same time being fully aware that burnout is never an individual problem.
- Last week it was the Sun, this week it was the Moon (no, this is not poetry).
- Reading: Finished Emily Carroll’s horror graphic novel, Through the Woods. Starting Louis de Bernieres’ Birds Without Wings, a historical fiction set in the final days of the Ottoman empire and the eve of World War I.
- Listening: The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby, from American harpist Dorothy Ashby.
- Viewing: This performance by artist Simon Weckert, where he hacks Google’s traffic jam algorithm by walking on empty streets with a dozen phones using Google Maps directions. As a result, more streets were emptied as Google reroutes other cars to avoid the jam.
- Food & Drinks: It’s a feast today! We had chicken mandi and fattoush salad, and washed it down with a hot cup of Al-Kbous tea infused with ginger and cardamom.