Wednesday, March 30, 2011

X Factor 2011 Denmark - Sarah - "Pokerface" Finalen

I'm loving this. Sarah, 15 yr old lesbian winner of Denmark's X factor is somehow the best embodiment of the Lady Gaga/Madonna meets Pink female power music and gender play that I've seen.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ode to the Brain | Symphony of Science

"Ode to the Brain" is the ninth episode in the Symphony of Science music video series. Through the powerful words of scientists Carl Sagan, Robert Winston, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Jill Bolte Taylor, Bill Nye, and Oliver sacks, it covers different aspects the brain including its evolution, neuron networks, folding, and more. The material sampled for this video comes from Carl Sagan's Cosmos, Jill Bolte Taylor's TED Talk, Vilayanur Ramachandran's TED Talk, Bill Nye's Brain episode, BBC's "The Human Body", Oliver sacks' TED Talk, Discovery Channel's "Human Body: Pushing the Limits", and more. The principal design for the motion graphic at the end was designed by Joe Snodgrass. Check out his record label: Thanks to him!
Special thanks to everybody who's donated to keep the project alive and to those who helped track down the material used in this video.
All rights to clips from Carl Sagan's Cosmos are owned by Druyan-Sagan Associates, Inc., and credit is due to Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steven Soter for the relevant lyrics and audio-visual material.
I love this! Go to the website and enjoy 8 more. Read a bit and donate! He deserves it. Also check out brainpickings who tweeted this link originally. If I haven't persuaded you myself, here's a snippet from the site.
The Symphony of Science is a musical project headed by John Boswell, designed to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form. Here you can watch music videos, download songs, read lyrics and find links relating to the messages conveyed by the music. The project owes its existence in large measure to the classic PBS Series Cosmos, by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steve Soter, as well as all the other featured figures and visuals.
Continuation of the videos relies on generous support from fans and followers. You can make a donation if you wish to contribute support to the project. Thanks to everybody who has donated - enjoy what you find!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Zotero and Scrivener from confectious

Note: the following will be long and kind of technical, and of no interest to anyone who isn't interested in managing lots of references for long-form writing.

I love Scrivener. Love love love it. But I had been unable to figure out how to integrate it with my bibliography management in Zotero, even after multiple Internet searches. This was a problem, as I also love using Zotero, and want to keep supporting the project and its developers. But it was getting increasingly unwieldy to hardcode citation references into Scrivener text by dragging-and-dropping from Zotero -- which was the usual solution suggested. When you start getting into 50 page documents that need to be outputted with different citation styles for different publication venues, manually copying and pasting the citations with each new submission is...frustrating.

Zotero has a plug-in that works with Word to obviate the need for manual copying and pasting, apparently. In that model, you basically add code snippets to your text that list all the citation variables. Then, you can export your doc and transform the snippets into whatever citation format you like. A nice separation of content and presentation layer.

So I figured that maybe there was some obvious technical fix I had missed about replicating that replaceability in Scrivener. Hallelujah, there was. What was confusing me is that there no official Zotero plug-in for Scrivener to manage the conversion between one citation formatting style and other, à la the Word plugin.

However, it turns out that Zotero has a function called RTF Scan essentially does the same thing.

Here's how it works.

You merrily type along in Scrivener, inserting your citations as usual, but in brackets. So, I would reference a work by Bruno Latour published in 2005 as {Latour, 2005}. Then, you export the Scrivener file as an RTF (which is one of the basic options in Scrivener's Export command). Then, you go to Zotero and select the "RTF Scan" option from under the little gear icon. Choose the RTF file you just made. Blammo! It scans the citations in curly brackets and automatically links them to items in your Zotero database. Then it prompts you manually link up citations that it couldn't find.

At the end, you have an RTF file output with all the citations in curly brackets neatly output in whatever format you like (ACM, APA, whatever) which can then be opened in Word or wherever for formatting. This is more convoluted than just using End Note or Zotero with Word, but does allow me to zip along adding citations as I go in Scrivener. And it does what it's supposed to do, which is separate the content layer (Scrivener) from the presentation layer (Word) through a citation transform function.

I cannot believe it took me this long to figure it out, though.

All the information on RTF Scan is, yes, in the manual. It's just not actually put in context of what you'd use RTF Scan for. Which is why I'm writing this up now. I should not have had to read each and every comment to a post on ProfHacker (not to mention fruitlessly trawling both the Zotero and Scrivener forums) to figure out how to hack the two together.

Thank you, liz at! This is just what I've been searching for too! And searching and searching and searching. Now hopefully I can adjust my writing practises to fruitfully use both Zotero and Scrivener (which I love) without manual import and copies. Although I've now got a Papers database to tidy up as well.

Although I'm digital culture, I had also read the paper on MapChat {Churchill, E. and Goodman, E. Mapchat: conversing in place. CHI Extended Abstracts 2008: 3165-3170} and others for some of my earlier university projects.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beyond Culture :: Edward T. Hall


Great suggested reads from Victor at, including The Silent Language, The Hidden Dimension (introducing the term proxemics), The Dance of Life and Hidden Differences.

As I'm Cultural Studies you'd think I'd have run across his work before but culture is broad and deep. Hall is a seminal anthropologist from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Welcome to the Robot State


You'll be seeing me here and there assisting robot ambassadors with all the paperwork humans need to visit the robot state. Passports, visas, permits and vaccinations, that sort of stuff. This gives me an excuse to make cool conceptual robots - artifacts, as it were, like my recent rocket cars rather than serious toy robots for kids competitions. After all, I can't compete with Ishiguro or Honda's Asimo or Hanson's RoboKind or iRobot or Willow Garage but I can be a person asking the questions about why we and robots behave the way we do together. Why do we name robots the way we do and what do our robot's names say about us? Robots have some rights too, you know.

This may help my thesis on robot names and human-robot interaction. But then again, it could be a really great distraction cause I've been itching to build something. For serious updates on the Robot State.

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James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council

2010 Tiptree Award Winner Announced!

The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council is pleased to announce that the 2010 Tiptree Award is being given to Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, by Dubravka Ugresic (Canongate, 2010).


Baba Yaga Laid an Egg
impressed with its power and its grace. Tiptree juror Jessa Crispin explains that the beginning of the book “does not scream science fiction or fantasy. It starts quietly, with a meditation on the author’s aging mother, and the invisibility of the older woman…. But things shift wholly in the second act, with a surreal little tale of three old ladies, newly moneyed, who check into an Eastern European health spa. There’s another revolution in the third act, where what looks like a scholarly examination of the Russian fairy tale hag erupts into a rallying cry for mistreated and invisible women everywhere.”

Crispin notes that the fairy tale figure Baba Yaga is the witch, the hag, the inappropriate wild woman, the marginalized and the despised. She represents inappropriateness, wilderness, and confusion. “She’s appropriate material for Ugresic, who was forced into exile from Croatia for her political beliefs. The jurors feel Baba Yaga Laid an Egg is a splendid representation of this type of woman, so cut out of today’s culture.”


The Honor List is a strong part of the award’s identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list for the rest of the year. This year’s Honor List is:

The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum (Orbit 2010) — noted for a deliciously complicated plot that challenges 21st century Earth attitudes toward transfolk. One juror noted that this book came closest among the honor list to meeting her Tiptree ideal by including a character that not only embodies a challenge to prescribed roles, but also creates a crack in or addition to the structure that carries forward to future generations.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit 2010) — set in a matriarchal society where the privilege and expectations between the sexes are reversed, while the gender roles are different but recognizable (and believable).

“Diana Comet and the Disappearing Lover” by Sandra McDonald (published as “Diana Comet,” Strange Horizons, March 2 & March 9, 2009) — a (true) love story, in which the author does something simple but radical with the identity issues at play.

“Drag Queen Astronaut” by Sandra McDonald (Crossed Genres issue 24, November 2010) — a wonderful exploration (and ultimately an affirmation) of a gender presentation that tends to be ignored or ridiculed.

The Secret Feminist Cabal by Helen Merrick (Aqueduct Press 2009) — an academic look at the history of early feminism in science fiction, science fiction criticism, and fandom that provides a valuable documentation of our beginnings

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW 2010) —A strong female lead character breaks out of restrictive gender roles to change her life, perhaps changing history as a result. A well-written perspective on prejudice and discrimination and the lessons needed to overcome their bonds on our identities and imaginations.

Living with Ghosts by Kari Sperring (DAW 2009) — an unusual perspective in a main character —a feminized man who makes much of his living as an escort/high-class sex worker who sees ghosts when he is not expecting — or expected — to be able to do so. An excellent read.

The Colony by Jillian Weise (Soft Skull Press 2010) — Takes on the idea that pervades our culture that women have to be perfect in order to have sex with men. One juror notes: “I’ve never read a book that made a woman with one leg so sexually normal.” Smart and well written with subtle gender politics.

In addition to the honor list, this year’s jury also compiled the following long list of other works they found worthy of attention:

* Beth Bernobich, Passion Play (Tor 2010)
* Stevie Carroll, “The Monitors” (Echoes of Possibilities, edited by Aleksandr Volnov, Noble Romance Publishing 2010)
* Roxane Gay, “Things I Know About Fairy Tales” (Necessary Fiction, May 13, 2009)
* Frances Hardinge, Gullstruck Island (MacMillan 2009)
* Julia Holmes, Meeks (Small Beer Press 2010)
* Malinda Lo, Ash (Little, Brown 2009)
* Alissa Nutting, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls (Starcherone Books 2010)
* Helen Oyeyemi, White Is for Witching (Doubleday 2009)
* Rachel Swirsky, “Eros, Philia, Agape” (, March 3, 2009)

This year’s jurors were Penny Hill (chair), Euan Bear, Jessa Crispin, Alice Sola Kim, and Lawrence Schimel.

One of my favorite ever authors celebrated here with a great list of book goodies - especially looking forward to the Secret Feminist Cabal by Helen Merrick and "Gullstruck Island" by Frances Hardinge as I loved her earlier book "Fly By Night".

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Struts - sexed up kids' toys

New Struts dolls.

And you thought Bratz dolls were bad. Meet Struts,  the pony dolls with high heels and handbags.
Made by Playmates toys, the dolls are billed as "an attitude and a lifestyle for girls who are on the cutting edge of what's hot in fashion."
"Struts combine a girl's natural fondness of horses and her love for fashion dolls," reads the brands' website. Geared towards girls aged 5-8, they may appeal to girls who have outgrown My little Pony. But are the long lashes and impossibly thin limbs of the Struts sending the wrong message to children?
Psychologist Dale Atkins, quoted on the Today Show website, is concerned about what these kind of dolls say about a girl's own appearance.
“When we have these ridiculous models — sexualized children, and horses with long eyelashes that are flirtatious and all of that — it sets up this ideal of beauty and body image that kids have to pay attention to because they can’t not pay attention to it. And they feel less good as they’re trying to develop a good sense about their own bodies," she says. "The sexualized aspect just makes them feel like they're only good if they are objectified. ... And it's all so subtle, for a child anyway. We parents and adults look at this and say, 'Oh my gosh, this is so blatant, but in fact it's subtle because kids are playing with these things and then they look in the mirror."
This is taking the feminization of the horse (see earlier post) to the extreme. To the extremely bizarrely extreme! Perhaps not so bizarre. The downgrading of the status of the horse which accompanies the rise of other automotive technologies is just being taken to a logical progression. I hypothesize that horsified robots rather than pinkified ones may reopen the gender status of computing technologies.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Heading to HRI2011 : Human Robot Interaction Conference

HRI 2011 is the 6th Annual Conference for basic and applied human-robot interaction research. Scientists from across the world submit their best work and attend HRI to hear the latest theories, data, and videos from the world’s best HRI researchers. Each year, the HRI conference highlights a particular area. The theme of HRI 2011 is Real World HRI. This theme is intended to highlight HRI in which basic scientific research is further tested in real world settings or applied to questions that arise in real world settings. One central aspect of this type of research, in contrast to other realms of applied research, is that it is theoretically driven and feeds back to our theoretical understandings. As such, real world research fortifies our understanding of people, robots, and interaction between the two.

HRI is a single-track, highly selective annual international conference that seeks to showcase the very best interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research in human-robot interaction with roots in social psychology, cognitive science, HCI, human factors, artificial intelligence, robotics, organizational behavior, anthropology and many more, and we invite broad participation.

Conference Topics

  • Socially intelligent robots
  • Robot companions
  • Lifelike robots
  • Assistive (health & personal care) robotics
  • Remote robots
  • Mixed initiative interaction
  • Multi-modal interaction
  • Long term interaction with robots
  • Awareness and monitoring of humans
  • Task allocation and coordination
  • Autonomy and trust
  • Robot-team learning
  • User studies of HRI
  • Experiments on HRI collaboration
  • Ethnography and field studies
  • HRI software architectures
  • HRI foundations
  • Metrics for teamwork
  • HRI group dynamics
  • Individual vs. group HRI
  • Robot intermediaries
  • Risks such as privacy or safety
  • Ethical issues of HRI
  • Organizational/society impact

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Humanoid Robot in Space


I love the mobility options. It really highlights the hidden decisions about when and where human is required. I'm told the head didn't go into space. It was optional. (But I haven't confirmed that). I also appreciate the astromaleness, which you can see in the other pictures from NASA and which pervades the whole crew!

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Digital Humanities meets Robotic Humanities « Following Robots

Digital Humanities meets Robotic Humanities

On Friday December 10, I suggested a new term for our field of research: Robotic Humanities, the deployment of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences traditions in field of robotics (see my slides). Of course this Robot/Arts intersection is not new at all, as Simon Penny will talk about this Friday.

Robotic Humanities was a term of abuse that critical theorist Theodor Adorno used describe the Analytic Philosophy, which started to dominate US philosophy in early chill of the cold war. He argued that robots could be taught to do this kind of philosophy. Adorno’s hostility marked a historic point as the division between narrative / critical and formal / logical traditions became stronger. The division persists in the Humanities today, making Robotic Humanities unlikely. A version of this divide persists in the differences between Humanities and Mechatronic approaches to robotics. Some differences may never be resolved: epistemological understandings about empiricism, quantification and history; political differences about social and institutional power; ethical differences about instrumentalism; aesthetic differences and , and so on.

Nam June Paik works on the Robot K-456

Nam June Paik's Robot K-456

In a shifting cultural terrain, these (apparently) irresolvable differences may actually be a basis for innovative collaborations. A range of Arts, Humanities and Social Science traditions have prima facie efficacy to build connections with robotic research: media, technology studies, performance studies, writing, media arts, philosophy, archaeology, ethnography and so on (see table below). My hunch is that the historical divergence of two broad traditions has created blind-spots in each that leave many problems unexplored. If robots is increasingly present in everyday life, Humanities traditions will be important in negotiating their cultural introduction.

The motivation for mobilising the term ‘Robotic Humanities’ was an invitation to speak at an event ‘Digital Editing, Digital Humanities’, organised by Mark Byron, a colleague in the English Department. Digital Humanities is a relatively new name for an expanded version of quite an old tradition of using digital technologies in literary scholarship. Such work includes literary scholars analysing stylistic patterns algorithmically to discover patterns in the words in a certain author’s work. Others scan in notebooks of great writers, marking up the author’s corrections and annotations to create digital editions. The best of this work finds biographical and creative insights through this process. For example, Margaret Webby presented an analysis of Patrick White’s notebooks to show a direct link between White’s criticisms on seeing Ray Lawler’s play Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (which he describes as banal) and new confronting scenes he wrote for his own play The Ham Funeral.

I can’t imagine that Robotic Humanities will employ robots to conduct humanities research directly (although I can see robots involved in surveillant social science studies). Rather, Humanities researchers have competencies that may support collaborations with engineers, independent uses of robotic technologies, or critical attention to the practices of research and deployment of robotic technologies.

Humanities Discipline Examples of discipline’s relationship to robotics
Design Interface design; hardware design
Media Practice Draw on media practice expertise and media criticism in robotics
Technology Studies Historical and observational studies of human-robot relations, etc
Ethnography Thick description of robotic research and development promise to offer thick descriptions of the cultural practices around engineering of artefacts that have increasingly intimate relationships to people
Performance Studies Understand staging robotic of presence, interaction and (in robotics parlance) ‘emotion’
Writing Dialogue; interface; scripting
Media Arts There is already a significant history in robotic art such as Nam June Paik’s  (1965) Robot K-456 or Simon Penny’s Petit Mal (2006)
Philosophy Ethics; ontology
Archaeology Robotic archaeologists scan, sites( )


Margaret Harris and Elizabeth Webby, ‘Patrick White’s Papers’, Australian Book Review, December 2010, pp. 62-4.

Lemahieu, M., 2002. Postwar Philosophies, Robotic Humanities. CLIO, 32(1), pp.51–61.

I am currently a student in the Digital Culture Program at the University of Sydney, headed by Chris Chesher. At Following Robots, Chris documents, amongst other things, a year at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics and the Centre for Social Robotics.

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