The weather was absolutely gorgeous my last day in London and I decided to head over to East London for one more round of galleries and to have lunch at a restaurant called Rochelle’s Canteen. I had read about it the week prior in the New York Times Style Magazine. Everything about it sounded magical: the restaurant was built in a converted bike shed that sat inside of an old school, the owners embraced the nose to tail ethos, they used only seasonal produce, etc.
Another point made clear in the New York Times was that the restaurant was hard to find. No precise address given, only the name of the school—“Rochelle School”–and that it was off of Arnold’s Circus. A “circus” of course didn’t make any sense to me as an American but as I deciphered from my map, it was a circular road with a park in the middle and about seven different streets transecting. I started out towards there from the north.
I saw a middle-aged woman, smartly dressed, walking alone with a book in her hand about 20 steps in front of me. She turned onto Calvert Street. So did I. She continued down Calvert until the road forked and turned left. So did I. Were we headed to the same place? She doubled back. I decided to follow. I thought about approaching her but hesitated. I didn’t want to assume that we were both looking for the same thing. We finally reached the “circus.” She slowly made her way around the circle, me about ten steps behind. Then she stopped to consult her book. I asked her, “Are you looking for Rochelle’s Canteen?” She was. We both consulted the entry in her guidebook but it didn’t reveal any more than we already knew about how to find the restaurant.
We continued walking, looking for clues in each building we passed. A school sign, a bike shed. Nothing. She asked how did I hear about it? I told her I read about it in the New York Times. She guffawed, “Well it’s all over now. The secret is out. There might as well be a marquee.” I laughed hesitantly. I changed the subject to art. I told her that I had spent the morning visiting galleries. She had just been to see the Gilbert & George exhibition at White Cube. She suggested that I check out David Hockney at the Royal Academy. There were so many good shows on at the moment. She appeared to revel in that fact.
The conversation returned to the restaurant and she commented, “I love how egalitarian this country is.” I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant by this, and I didn’t ask for clarification. Maybe people from all walks of life can find themselves together at a place like this restaurant and that’s an equalizing factor? She also said that British people are exceptionally polite. She said it should be marketed really – the politeness, especially with the upcoming Olympics. I nodded.
Finally, we spied a “BOYS” entrance sign. This must be it. We approached and found the buzzer for Rochelle’s Canteen. The gray wooden door opened to reveal a secret garden of sorts. It really felt like Eden. The sun shining. People sitting outside on small tables and benches. All smiles. We were both beaming ourselves as we approached the bike shed to see about tables. The waitress went to check.
As she returned, a man (maybe another waiter or the maitre’d) followed swiftly behind. In a snarky tone, he said it was not possible, there were are no more tables that day. Dream crusher. The woman turned to me and said, “That’s a bit of disappointment now, isn’t it?” I concurred.
I started to walk away and then stopped. I thought about being a pushy New Yorker and getting myself a seat. That wouldn’t be polite, though, would it?
I headed towards the entrance, looking wistfully behind me. Next time, I’ll make a booking. The woman lingered a bit behind me. I saw her from across the street. I should have asked her to lunch. I knew of another restaurant nearby (where I was headed). It’s too bad I didn’t… next time?
I thought that when I exited the tube in Bermondsey that I had a fair understanding of how to get to the Design Museum. It’s situated just next to the river. So I’ll just head in that general direction; I knew my cardinal directions. How difficult could it be? Unfortunately as I’ve found in London, nothing is as straightforward (literally) as it seems. The circuitous route I followed led me into a construction site and to an unfamiliar street. I saw two women walking up ahead. They were having an animated conversation and smoking cigarettes. We were the only ones on the street. I felt a little nervous as I passed them up on the left. The first thought that popped into my head was, Would they rob me? I don’t know why my mind immediately went there- perhaps it has to do with growing up in New York, or rather that being in a foreign place is unsettling in itself.
I made it to the main road and pulled out my map. I really didn’t have any clue where I was. The map didn’t help so I put it away. That’s when I heard, “Would you like a haircut?” I turned around to face the two women I had just passed on the road. A little shocked by the proposition (do I have a penchant for attracting hair stylists? is my haircut really that bad?) I quickly replied, “No, no thanks.” Though she continued, “Would you be interested? My salon is just down the road.” I noticed the woman’s nose ring, her hair. It wasn’t styled at all. She had it pulled back in a ponytail. It was not the best endorsement for her skills with scissors, I thought. The other woman’s hair was much more funky. She had purple streaks and an asymmetrical cut that reminded me of my old hairstyle as an undergrad. I declined the offer again, it seemed like a risky proposition. I explained though that I was just in town visiting and on my way to the Design Museum.
However, I was still lost. They offered to walk me part of the way, it was in the same direction as they were headed. We chatted about how much easier it is to navigate New York, since it’s on a grid system. The woman with a nose ring said she’s lived in London all her life and she knows plenty of other Londoners that haven’t a clue where they’re going most of the time. They led me right up to the bridge and directed me down a flight of stairs. The purple-haired woman then gave me specific directions to reach the museum. I was greatly indebted. I would not have been able to find this on my own. I said thanks and they wished me well for the rest of my trip. Part of me was still a bit intrigued by the possibility of getting a haircut, but I continued down the stairs without turning back. This interaction also prompted me to question the assumptions that I make about strangers. In this case, I had completely misread these two women. They had transformed in a matter of minutes from threats into aides. Lesson learned.
After a visit to the Design Museum, I decided to walk over to Spitalfields Market in East London. It was a substantial distance but I didn’t mind. As I passed the Aldgate East station a boy asked me, “Do you know where Fashion Street is?” I told him that I had no idea but that I did have a map! I proceeded to pull it out and find Fashion Street. The only problem was that neither of us knew what road we were on. I told him that we were both headed in the same general direction and that we should just start walking. He asked if I was headed towards some university (I didn’t catch the name) and I told him no, I wasn’t.
As we meandered up the street, we exchanged small talk. We were both from New York. He was here in London for the week checking out Fashion programs. He didn’t want to go to Fashion school in New York because that’s where everyone goes. He had studied music at a university in Minnesota as an undergraduate and spent time in LA working as a graphic designer but couldn’t handle LA anymore. He had just recently returned to New York and that’s when he decided to look into Fashion. He’s interested in both men’s and women’s wear but would like to focus specifically on accessories. He seemed pretty young, maybe in his mid 20s. He dressed pretty casually: white shirt, vest, blue jeans and Nike sneakers. He had his sunglasses propped atop his head. I wasn’t that impressed by what he was wearing. I would have dressed a little more for the part if I was headed over to a school to check out their Fashion course but that’s just me. I told him about my program at NYU, chatting on about interactive art and gesture-based technology. He seemed excited about the prospect of using Kinect (like Xbox? he asked) in art / media projects. His brother is also at NYU but he doesn’t know what he does, maybe political science or economics. He hasn’t spoken to his brother in a few months. I was curious as to why but thought that would overstep the bounds of our first conversation.
I kept checking the map to make sure that we were headed the right way. We were on course. There were a few times when the conversation would drop. He seemed a bit hesitant to go on. Then I would check the map and we’d resume walking and talking. It reminded me of Goffman’s notes on leave-taking. Maybe I was not acknowledging his cues? Perhaps I didn’t establish enough “trust” for him? I’m not sure. I was set on getting him to Fashion Street.
Finally, we had arrived. Or at least, this was as far as he would go. I didn’t even bother to look across the street to see if it was really Fashion Street. He made it a clear definitive stop. He extended his hand and said, “Thanks. I’m Zach by the way. Nice to meet you.” I introduced myself in turn and wished him well. As he walked away he said, “Maybe we’ll see each other again, you never know.” I smiled and nodded. I thought I should look up the university when I get back home. I thought of the google search terms “fashion school fashion st london.” I never did.
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array Telescope (ALMA) is the most expensive ground telescope to date. It costs $1.3 billion dollars. It’s installed in northern Chile’s Chajnantor plateau at an altitude of 16,000 feet. ALMA is an array of 66 high precision antennas and uses radio technology to see some of the coldest and darkest regions of space. The telescope is capable of seeing through cold clouds of dust which traditional infrared/visible light telescopes cannot.
The most complex challenge in capturing astronomical signals is getting all 66 antennas and electronics to work synchronously. The signals received by each individual antenna are then converted to a digital format in order for transmission to the supercomputer. The supercomputer combines the signals to create data useful to the scientists. The degree of accuracy for each of the aforementioned functions seems almost impossible. As they describe on their website, “the path followed from each antenna until it is combined at the central computer must be known with an accuracy equal to the diameter of a human hair (hundredths of a millimeter).”
The images captured are stunning. The photo in the slideshow below captures two galaxies that are about 70 million light years away. The full array of antennas is not currently working but when it does it will be 10 times as powerful as the Hubble. This image was created using just 12 of the antennas so one can only imagine what the imaging will be like when all the antennas are online.
Stories are informed by our senses. We create stories by re-imagining a narrative from sights, sounds, images, words, and smells. These stories are imaginary, real, or a combination of both. What was so compelling and transformative about our visit to the Tenement Museum was the palpable sense of history. One could touch the original banister that had been installed when the tenement was built, feel how tight the quarters would be (with a class of 17 crammed into an apartment), and see how these families lived. It was the place and the objects themselves that invited us to construct our own narratives. Interpret the space. Imagine. For Ryan and I, the tour really piqued our interest but we wanted to know more. What did it feel like to walk in the streets of the Lower East Side? What did it smell like? What did they eat? Since we haven’t figured out how to get Arduino to transport us back in time… we decided to go on a neighborhood exploration. We set out the South Asian section of Jackson Heights, part of an incredibly diverse neighborhood in Queens. Here’s a slideshow of our visit:
For our first data representation assignment, we used data sets from The Guardian Data Store. The morbid person that I am, I chose Mortality Statistics for England & Wales from 2007-2010, honing in on Accidental Deaths. It’s quite an interesting data set to work with and is successful in assuaging any fears that I might be struck by lightning (or bitten by a rat??) and die. Initially, I wanted to use the data for all four years but soon realized that the size of the data set was a little unwieldy for a data visualization novice. I culled it down to a single year, 2007.
I didn’t find it too difficult to import the data into my Processing sketch. The real challenge was how to use that data and display it visually. I had a few ideas in mind.
The next step was figuring out how to translate what I had sketched into Processing. After numerous referrals back to Jer’s MyRandomNumbers tutorial, in class notes and consultations with the residents, I ended up with this:
The second exercise, we had a little more liberty to play around with the data. I thought about applying some sort of consumer lens to the data. Perhaps, what not to buy if you don’t want to die? I thought about store circulars like Target, Best Buy, Toys R’Us. Here’s my attempt at using that model to represent the data:
(to be posted shortly!)
The threat of the ubiquity of cameras as a means of surveillance and state control no longer exists. There’s been a diametric shift of power from the state to the citizen as cameras become increasingly more accessible and technologically advanced. We as individual/citizens no longer need to fear to the dystopic visions of the future portrayed by Bentham, Huxley, Orwell. Even though we haven’t fully escaped the watchful eye(s) of the state, we’re much better equipped these days to combat the state with our own surveillance and monitoring of them.Even if we’re not capturing images or recording with our camera phones (purchased for less than $100), the possibility of being watched is just as threatening and capable of modifying behavior as actual observation.
I don’t know where the future of personal media devices is headed but I’m inspired by a quote from Karim Rashid in the documentary Objectified, “Why do we feel like we need to keep revisiting the archetype over and over and over again? Digital cameras for example, in which their format, proportion, the fact that they’re horizontal rectangles, are modeled off the original silver film camera. So, in turn it’s the film that defines the shape of the camera. All of a sudden our digital cameras have no film. So why on earth do we have the same shape we have?”
I conjecture then:
- It will become increasingly less expensive to provide sophisticated software and hardware,
- the form and/or presentation of the camera will change
- and it will decrease in size
And what I find even more interesting than the way cameras will change (hopefully) the relationship between the citizen and the state, is the way cameras will transform our personal lives.
Will cameras provide yet another data set for us to interrogate our own lives/habits/others? Will it lead us to pathologize self-monitoring to the point where we can no longer function? Turn us all into Narcissus? Perhaps that’s going a little too far… But I do foresee cameras contributing to the deluge of data, propagating across networks/feeds, and maybe also changing the way we communicate with each other (image superceding text).