Lean methodology and technology

Lean startup methodology is the most interesting methodological shift in transferring technology to use of the century, in combination with changes in the technological scaffold that make this possible.

outline what this means?

And of course, it’s simply a combination of scientific method, sociology, or design, in business language.

What is human-robot metacommunication?

Chris Chesher, Unversity of Sydney, describes the conceptual challenges that robotics poses for media and communication studies. While this is still in press and subject to change, I found that this list is something I will want to refer to again! The transition from broadcast media to the internet and mobile media is complicated. Just as some theoretical models have emerged to understand computers, a ‘universal’ medium, the rise of robotics is going to create new layers of differentiation.

a. Robots are explicitly quasi-others, challenging traditional Humanist taboos against the agency and anthropomorphism of objects.

b. Robots have physical particularity, presence and autonomous activity, in contrast to other media such as printed, audio and screen-based media, which tend to be positioned as transparent and standardised and mass-produced media.

c. Robots use multimodal elements (movements, sound, screens, ’emotion’) that aspire to create meanings that combine several media (facial expressions, movement relative to personal space, speech and so on).

d. Robots work with greater degrees of feedback than traditional computers. Robots perceive and interpret user actions, and modify their behavior within cybernetic loops.

I think that there may need also to be a separation between the metacommunication of robot as human proxy and the very specific and asymmetric human-robot and robot-human communication. Chris Chesher is one of the few theorists I’m aware of who attempts to deconstruct what a robot communication is.

[image of Waseda Talker 2007 – one of a series replicating human vocal production ]

Secret Life of Pronouns

Image

“The Secret Life of Pronouns” by James W. Pennebaker is a book I wish I’d read before finishing my thesis. It makes a strong case for words having the power to reflect changes in our society and perhaps even be transformative. Sometimes highly relevant work is just too many disciplines away from your research area for it to register. (I felt the same way on discovering the work that Joanna J. Bryson was doing in the AI and philosophy areas on robot ethics and robots as slaves.)

Why was this relevant to me? My thesis was that analyzing the names we gave robots, particularly research robots in competitions rather than consumer products, illustrated the underlying social relations we have with robots and my conclusion was that we treat robots as slaves based on robot names having most similarity to 18th century slave names, rather than pet names, gadget names or personal names. My background is cultural theory, which analyzes objects and relations as texts and communications.

James W. Pennebaker is a social psychologist, the Regents Centennial Liberal Arts Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, and highly cited author of 10 books and almost 300 scientific articles. The Secret Life of Pronouns describes a large long term research project that connects the way we use small functional words with the way we behave and are positioned in the world, our ‘social and psychological processes’.

“The smallest, most commonly used, most forgettable words serve as windows into our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The ways people use pronouns, articles, and other everyday words are linked to their personality, honesty, social skills, and intentions…. Using computerized text analyses on hundreds of thousands of letters, poems, books, blogs, Tweets, conversations, and other texts, it is possible to begin to read people’s hearts and minds in ways they can’t do themselves.”

The Secret Life of Pronouns is one of the new breed of big data scientific research projects. Using computation power and masses of data, the researchers are able to transform subtle social differences into significant correlations and robust data sets. We still argue over whether or not gender or class exist, or more precisely, we usually agree that they exist but risk being labelled polemical when we attempt to label something as gender or class related. So many other factors are more overt and specific to the group/people.

While there is always a trade off between large scale quantitative research and in depth qualitative work, it is very compelling to be able to say that something was studied over millions of people or thousands of cities. If a finding is true across all of these diverse groups then we may start to see the real nature of gender, class and other culturally constructed identities. We might be able to see if things change, in which ways and whether or not changes are beneficial, although that is still a highly subjective measure!

Some of Pennebaker’s findings include that women and men really do use language differently, and that most authors can be identified as male or female regardless of their characters’ genders. Even author authenticity has a good chance of being detected, whether Beatles songs or the Federalist papers. How couples or groups relate to each other shows in word use mirroring and can predict longevity of relationships and productivity of work teams. Ultimately, social cohesion is reflected in language styles, which like accents, can be highly localized and a subtle indicator of status and group belonging. People seem to be very good at utilizing these communicative techniques without thinking about it.

“The magic of this project is not about the links between income distributions and social patterns in cities. Rather, it shows how words in the most mundane of places can reveal important information about a community’s social ties. All groups, whether families, work groups, companies, or entire cities, leave trails of their social and psychological lives behind in the words their members use in communicating with each other. Words are one of the human-made elements that connect our thoughts and ideas across people. By tracking our words, we get a sense of the social fabric.” [p.243 ‘The Secret Life of Pronouns’ by Pennebaker, J. W. Bloomsbury Press NY 2011]

Robots, Code and Stuff

FAKE GRIMLOCK is my new favorite reading (along with The Bloggess and xkcd), because what he says makes a lot of sense. It also drips with sarcasm, awesomeness and blood. Many technology luminaries (like Eric Ries, Brad Feld, Fred Wilson and CNN) have noticed that FAKE GRIMLOCK carves through all the cream and gets straight to the coffee.

FAKE GRIMLOCK connects code and effect in a way reminiscent of Latour’s ‘Where are the Missing Masses, sociology of a few mundane objects’. Latour’s call has become a slogan for the need to reinsert the matter or ‘stuff’ of science and society back into a social constructivist STS or sociology [1]. Code is an object and objects shape us as much as we shape them.

We are changing society right here – punching code through the walls of the world. But all too often the vision is just personal or commercial success.

“STARTUP IS MAKE FIST OF CODE, PUT IT THROUGH THE WORLD. VISION IS PUT FIST IN RIGHT PLACE, BREAK WORLD IN HALF.”

Roadblocks of gender, race and class are still huge. Sometimes technological advancement is just making bigger roadblocks. Startup philosophy, which emphasizes the individual, is often powerless before huge areas of fail. We aren’t all giant robot dinosaurs and sometimes we don’t share the same visions. For example, feminism is a great conversation killer, because not a lot has changed in last 50 years. Seriously – this 1991 MIT report by Ellen Spertus is still accurate. That’s depressing. It’s great to celebrate awesome women engineers and ceos, but important to point out the systematic obstacles women face in the tech and startup worlds.

Fake Grimlock’s irresistible awesome is up against some pretty immoveable objects, but at least reading @fakegrimlock makes me feel like a raging fury in a good way.

1. Latour, Bruno 1992. Where are the missing masses, sociology of a few mundane artefacts application/pdf icon In Shaping Technology-Building Society. Studies in Sociotechnical Change, Wiebe Bijker and John Law (editors), MIT Press, Cambridge Mass. pp. 225-259, 1992 [new expanded and revised version of article (35). Republication in the reader Johnson, Deborah J., and Jameson M Wetmore, eds. Technology and Society, Building Our Sociotechnical Future. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2008 pp. 151-180]

Internet Blackout

So you shouldn’t even be looking at this… but just in case you want to know more: sopastrike.com or just google it!

The page http://www.sopastrike.com/ is on strike today to fight the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Today, we are striking against censorship. Join us in this historic moment: tell Congress to stop this bill now!

I am writing to you as a voter in your district. I urge you to oppose the Senate version of S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act. The PROTECT IP Act is dangerous, ineffective, and short-sighted. The House version — just introduced by Rep. Goodlatte — is far worse.Over coming days you’ll be hearing from the many businesses, advocacy
organizations, and ordinary Americans who oppose this legislation because of the myriad ways in which it will stifle free speech and innovation. We hope you’ll take our concerns to heart and oppose this legislation.

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The First Robot Manifesto of Rights

First Robot Manifesto of Rights
I call upon us to stop unthinking anthropomorphism of robots. Robots are still coming into being. Our casual humanising of robotics is colonising, reinforcing dominant social structures of gender, race and class. We see only what looks like us. We blind ourselves to potential. We should rather refer to all robots as ‘ze’, ‘zey’ and ‘zem’, unless there is a specific reason to imitate a gendered human response. Robot names should be more fluid, not fix identity as faux humans. Robots and non human organisms should have zer/their right to existence formally recognized as more than just the sum of our interaction with zem/them. Robots are uniquely situated, as designed organisms or mechanisms, to free us from the chains of humanity, not replicate them.

797px-Karin-schaefer-puppet-museum-modern-art-salzburg

This is the seed of the first robot manifesto of rights. There are many people who have expressed these ideas in more nuanced ways, from Isaac Asimov to Joseph Weizenbaum, who created ELIZA in the 1960s and wrote Computer Power and Human Reason, to Donna Haraway’s work on covering the range of simians, cyborgs, women, engineered and companion animals. More recently, roboethics is the topic of many conferences, books and committees. It’s time to discuss our co-existence.