Data Drabbles: 30.11.16


On Wednesday 30th November I facilitated a thought experiment on Data Politics and Markets in response to a research workshop organised by Dr. Rachel O’Dwyer (CONNECT) and Dr. Aphra Kerr (Maynooth University).

The research workshop was framed by the topics of Data Politics, Data Markets and the Internet of Things:

This topic raises critical social questions in relation to dataveillance, civic agency and citizenship. These include basic requests for factual information about a relatively new space, exploratory research questions about data ownership, data ethics, and the politics of automated transactions and trades in data and methodological questions about how we map this space and produce transdisciplinary research.

The research workshop was broken into two parts, morning and afternoon. The focus of the morning session was to outline a ‘State of the Art’ in relation to the topics of Data Politics, Data Markets, and IoT. It was about laying out some facts about these interpenetrating matters.

This research workshop aims to foster interdisciplinary dialogue by bringing together researchers from the fields of engineering, computer science and mathematics who are currently working on IoT projects with researchers from the social sciences, including sociology, geography, business and law.

The underlying purpose of the afternoons session was a framed as a thought experiment that might facilitate thoughtful interdisciplinary conversations within the time constraints of an hour and a half. First, I drew upon Donna Haraway’s philosophy of ‘Staying with the Trouble‘ as a way of framing the relationships between multi- inter- and transdisciplinarity.


Secondly, I framed a conversational/writing exercise called Data Drabbles. (This is very much in keeping with my research framework for transdisciplinary dialogue called Engineering Fictions). A Drabble is a short piece of fiction (or descriptive writing), usually 100 words in length, whose purpose is to concisely convey information about some scenario in an interesting and meaningful way for the reader. A Data Drabble is the same, except the topic of ‘data’ infuses what is discussed, dreamed up, described, etc.

In any cross-cultural or cross-disciplinary work, language and vocabulary matters. It’s certainly not the only thing that matters, but it’s the aspect I’m interested in. Words matter just as words work. This thought experiment, to write ‘data drabbles’, focused upon the topic of Data Markets. In order to stay with the trouble of data markets, all of us gathered in the room for the research workshop had to come to terms, to share language and meaning.

The rules for devising a data drabble in this instance were as follows:


The group of 25 or so researchers was divided into groups of five or so. We spent the best part of an hour working on the data drabbles in our groups. Feedback from the drabblers told me that much of the time was spent teasing out some agreement about what constitutes a data market. Only then could any further description/diagramming of stakeholders take place.

Which emphasises the challenge of inter and transdisciplinary work of all kinds very well – the struggle to come to terms with each other in a respectful way that is supportive and generative of communication and creativity.


This thought experiment was less about writing a good piece of fiction and more about enacting a model of transdisicplinarity. However, some compelling pieces of writing emerged, some of which I will post here later, with permission.

There were many differences at play in the room, as well as many commonalities. The challenge remains to “take our differences and make them strengths” as Audre Lorde advises. Some of the interests and desires at work within the group were outlined in their application to the workshop, collected up as data through the online forms and shared with the workshop organisers and facilitators. I made an anonymous slide of some of these and showed them back to the group, before we continued with the thought experiment.

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The Centre for Dying on Stage 2016

First Glue/Stage Business – Magnetic Mountain Scene, Image courtesy of Alex Miritziu, 2016

A group of strangers, international artists with diverse backgrounds and practices, came together to exchange ideas underpinned by a shared interest in matters of life and death, performance and disappearance.

Working under the aegis of The Centre For Dying On Stage, and based between Cow House Studios, Rathnure, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, the five participating artists assembled on residency for five weeks of developing ideas, texts and gestures before performing their findings live on stage.

Participating artists Jessica Foley, Marjorie Potiron & Lisa Hoffmann, Steven Randall, and Alex Mirutziu AKA The Artist and Himself at 29 (TAH29), and curator Kate Strain are delighted to present this experimental performance work at Wexford Arts Centre, on 12 November 2016.

It costs the Earth to Grow Up…

Every human being has paid the earth to grow up, most people don’t grow up. It’s so damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honour their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children… But they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older.

But to grow up costs the Earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up and the space you occupy. Grow up. Serious business.

And what it costs to love and to lose. To dare and to fail. And maybe even more to succeed. What it costs in truth, not superficial, anybody can do that, I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. And I’m just telling a very simple story.

Maya Angelou [quote starts @ 17.50mins]

Maya Angelou in conversation with George Plimpton, part of a collaboration between 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center and The Paris Review, was recorded live at 92Y on January 11, 1988.

NOTES: Vulnerability and Resistance


Rethink dependancy-vulnerability as relationality: a means of resistance. Biopolitical, ontological management, reconsider interdependancy. (The tone of the introduction tips into that of a church sermon, the crowd is piqued and warm and bumbling. We gasp when the connection fails, we laugh and roar into the silence, then we hear the church voice again and drop quiet.) “In our Precarious times…” she says, “We surely know… those who gather to resist” RISK BODILY HARM.

Resistance goes with Confrontation. “Agentic acts of Resistance”. Vulnerability first. What when Infrastructure fails? Failing Infrastructure. Not knowing where support might come from… How do we understand that condition of life? “When infrastructure fails Vulnerability comes to the fore”. She asks “Does resistance require overcoming vulnerability?” Think of all those temporary shelters, the refugee camps on the borders. Syria. Struggling for resources and infrastructures and work that is paid.

The street. A public good. For which people fight. Think of the community school in Birr, designed around the Street. Platforms for Politics. Material Conditions for Speaking and Assembly. Are these Platforms Ready? Securitarian – Authoritarian rule.

Vulnerability as a Mobilising Force for political action. [I think of Grey Space. A street space on the 4th floor landing of our building, our Rambling House… it will be a mobile street space.] Spaces of appearance: material conditions for gathering. Making and presenting infrastructural conditions. Politics and Architecture. “My task is to…” she says. Public space where mobility is supported. Work places as political spaces. The exercise of freedom and material conditions for such freedoms. Rehearsing politics.

No one moves without a supportive environment and technologies. Disability Studies shows us this. A body supported – the body at work. Mobilisations presuppose a body that requires support.

[The word of the day today was ‘Succour’. All day.]

Dependance on other bodies and networks of support. The political meaning of the human body in its vulnerability. Understand these relations. A network of relations. corporeal relations.

She talks about Linguistic vulnerability – speech acts. Being named. We can and do ask am I that name? AM I THAT NAME? “She would laugh when she made that point”. Opening spaces for desire. Deviation. Queer. A movement of thought and language. Core-reality – masked and facilitated the operation of a norm. Gender norms.

The dual dimension. Language acting upon us when we act. Gender assignment. “Choice in fact comes rather late in the process of performativity’. Swerves and Derrida. The powerful citational force of gender norms. Acted upon and conditions for acting. [Radical freedom within constraints?] “An unwilled receptivity”. [I can’t help it] Enactment and reproduction in the realm of being AFFECTED. Deviant and Deviating.

The point was to RELAX. not the same as transcending. or abolishing them. The purpose? Living a more livable life.

Categories and Strategies. The speech act. Actions of the norm. The norm is interpollated, treated, hailed, formed. “Finding a queer way and becoming an agent are somehow linked.”

Interpollating and Infrastructural forms. We cannot talk about a body without talking about what supports that body. A body is less an entity than a relation. [take that gertrude stein!] Constituting dimensions. We live within these dimensions. they are non-transcendant but we can relax within these conditions. [As yer man would say, ‘Lighten up!’]

“Where we find ourselves radically unsupported under conditions of precarity we ourselves decompose and to an extent, we fall.” DE-COMPOSE. All action requires support.

Illegitimate constraints. “The question is how to replenish.”

The institution of the prison – continues the work of slavery. It is slavery by other means.

Feminism destabilised institutions that reproduce inequality and injustices – resisting police power. They say we are ‘unrealistic’ or ‘ungrateful’ – the accuse us of ‘attacking the soul of man’. Pussy Riot. A masculinist norm or a norm of racial privilege. “I’m only suggesting… it should continue to be actively criticised.”

Infrastructure understood complexly. To foreground ways in which we are vulnerable. “Vulnerability brings up the question of exit”. Theoretical consideration of its uses. Vulnerability is not the opposite of resistance. It can produce resistance. Does it shore up paternalistic power? Does Vulnerability discourse do that? A fear that “It will be captured by the term”…”Okay, I’m not interested in that”… “I’m smuggling in…” What about the power of those who are oppressed? Dismantling by subjugated people – we don’t overcome vulnerability – we don’t become in-vulnerable.

Now, colonial states claim they are vulnerable to attack from ex-colonies. Under attack. We’re vulnerable. Opposition does not remove vulnerability. Psycho analytic fools? Do we become complicit with a politics we do not condone? If we impose vulnerability in the name of agency? Aesthetics and Ethics? Receptivity and Impressionability – was we act we are acted upon.

Sovereignty is masculinist. “The posture of control that seeks to cloak the fault lines in the self. We are quite in spite of ourselves affected by discourse that we never chose.” Discourse and power. A kind of illusion of sovereignity. Being exposed and agentic at the same time. Vulnerability as a form of power that deplete paternalistic power of its power. This is another model. Moves another way. Undoing of a binary. A feminist task.

Outbreaks of Care or Getting in touch with our feelings. This stuff is linked to paternalistic rubbish.

Vulnerability is a relation to a field of forces. It’s not a mood. It’s a relationship — receptivity and responsiveness become the basis for mobilising vulnerability rather than engaging in its destructive denial.

We must resist.

[Notes from Judith Butlers talk at Trinity College Dublin on Thursday 5th February 2015.]

Voice & Words

If Capitalism operates a mono-logic (exponential profit at all costs) through myriad forms;

Then Consumerism operates a mono-logic (accumulation at all costs) through myriad forms;

Else Cultural Democracy operates through a singular form of myriad logics;

If we are not prepared to listen within the din of cultural democracy, how can we complain of our submission to capitalism? We who have power are responsible. We who have power are most susceptible to the illusion that there exists an ‘outside’ or an ‘over-there’ to the cacophony.

“O what is it in me that makes me tremble so at voices?

Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her I shall follow,

As the water follows the moon, silently, with fluid steps, anywhere around the globe.

All waits for the right voices;

Where is the practis’d and perfect organ? where is the develop’d soul?

For I see every word utter’d thence has deeper, sweeter, new sounds,

impossible on less terms.”

I have re-covered a compass. A reminder. That I am not alone in the matter of mattering. Whitman.

Whitman knew all of it, before we took to the skies and made buddies with the clouds. Sky-buddies. He could see it coming. His resistance was love. Sympathy. Lyric. Hope. Unclosed souls against the Soul-Blindness. There are no more minerals left for the gadgets you desire. And the labs are inventing new materials now to fill in the craters. Poor crators.

Speak to me in the right voice. And I will follow. He says. The Markets speak a mono-logic: profit at all costs; protect the stakeholders. The players speak a lip-service, that induces double-bind anxieties. No amount of cleverness will save you once you listen to that babble. Don’t let it in!

Who are the right voices? The voice is the form, and the content is myriad, fluid, kaleidoscopic… the voice is the form. Picture voice. Line voice. Video Voice. Heart voice. Body voice. Song voice. Plastic Voice. Mouth voice. Hear voice. Movie voice. Silent voice. Wind voice. Ocean voice. River voice.

“I see brains and lips closed, tympans and temples unstruck,

Until that comes which has the quality to strike and to unclose,

Until that comes which has the quality to bring forth what lies

slumbering forever ready in all words.”

He says. Christian mission? Sounds like. But no. Hear more. To UnClose. The UnClosers work that prosody! That won’t do the mono-logic. At all at all.

“Vocalism, measure, concentration, determination, and the divine power to speak words;”

Holier than thou?


Survivalist Fictions…

Question: What, if anything, significantly differentiates a Christian Identity group from an Islamic extremist group (other than the difference in religion)?

Answer: The differences are sociological, not religious. Religion has little to do with either of these groups. The extremist hijackers of September 11 were no more “Islamic” than are violent Identity racists and anti-Semites “Christian.” These self-serving ideologues do disservice to two of the world’s great systems of spiritual understanding and moral order. Identity is a historic fiction justifying entrenched power inequities between the developed and developing nations, and race-based stratification intranationally, but Identity has little influence. Modern Western society tolerates a high degree of diversity in personal belief and expression while providing technical means—public access television, a reliable public postal system, and the internet—to disseminate virtually any and all claims, constructs, or notions uncensored. In this busy marketplace of ideas Identity is uncompetitive, easily overcome by commercial entertainment and the better organized moral entrepreneuring of more sophisticated special interest groups from Mothers Against Drunk Driving to the National Rifle Association. In the United States, fostering this competition is intentional. Freedom of expression is guaranteed while church (and synagogue and temple and mosque) are separated from government by constitutional fiat. But imagine different conditions: economic flaccidity, the ravages and refugees of protracted military and civil conflicts, underdevelopment, tribal factions. Add a weak ineffectual central government bent on imposing a state religion by actively insulating its populous from alternative forms of sense-making, enforcing scriptural dress codes and ritual performances by law (even eliminating moral competition from sandstone Buddhas). In these repressive conditions, pseudo-Islamic extremists peddle a perverse hope—not for now but later—the notion of celestial afterlife for all who die as martyrs in defense of faith. When this message is ardently urged, when alternatives are unthinkable or unknown, when the warrior death is presented as a glorious achievement for the individual and community, a very, very few sink to the occasion and take bloody suicidal action. But most do not in spite of training, propagandizing, and passionate pleas. Fewer yet would in the absence of grinding poverty, uneven justice, and roadblocks to learning.

An Interview with Richard G. Mitchell Jr. author of Dancing at Armageddon: Survivalism and Chaos in Modern Times.


Did you know that Jules Verne lived in Amiens, North France? 

There’s a street near here, a road really, called Amiens St. I wonder if its not the same place? Amiens. It was completely bombarded during the wars. World war one and two. I know all this just because I came across a little booklet of postcards called Amiens: Apres la Bombardment. They made postcards of the devastation…

For people to send?

That’s the thing, postcards are meant to be sent around aren’t they? They aren’t always. They become collectors items. I own the postcards now. I’ve collected them. And I’ll start looking into Amiens now. I might even go and visit the place. And take a look at Jules Verne’s old house. Start reading his books….

He used to write between the morning hours of 5am and 11am. 

I wonder what time he went to sleep at? I wonder did he stumble out of bed the way I do, bleary eyed and thick headed, and would he put pen to paper before he’d even woken up? Were they all his dreams? The floating Island? Journey to the centre of the earth?

He travelled more than most of that time. The late 1800’s. 

Is that the Edwardian period? Is that my new fascination? Who was Edward?

I will visit Amiens.

Why not. It’s not far, north of paris, one could get a Ferry and train there. Foot passenger. I was in a cafe the other day and heard an exchange between the waitress and my friend. The waitress had been on yoga retreats with my friend. She’d been away, my friend had noticed. The waitress said she had been doing the Camino. The long walk. Ambition. Desire. Motivation…

I am motivated by stories I haven’t yet encountered, by places and histories that might offer my imagination some nourishment. My dreams are formed of possibilities and disasters.



A couple marches toward the ocean, trailing a stream of salt. A straight road. A blue horizon. An estate agent propped into the craggy hillside. Glass walls. Young couples sitting in lecture style theatre seats chatting to the sales people. A basket of cocktail sausages wrapped in dim sum skins. Steaming hot. An hour or more of a walk. A dusty white streak along the tarmac. The blue ocean. The young couple. The sense of commitment.


She never came anywhere with us. She never brought us anywhere. She just sat. Mulling. I was down in the basement doing laundry. She was organising a cocktail party. One of several. All week, cocktails. The freeze-thaw action of social etiquette, or putting on a show. Dark and Disappointing. Always. I have too much change in my pocket.


It’s all been going very well. People have gotten involved and are throwing themselves into it. Full support. Full cooperation. Then they sent out a flyer. And all the language changed. It wasn’t mine anymore. It was described as a form. And it wasn’t mine anymore. And I hadn’t admitted this to myself. That this was mine. That I shaped it. That I needed it . That I developed through it. And I kept it up after she was gone. I did. She had some success but the people on that side of things don’t seem to commit to anyone else’s time. And why would they? And now I’m the same. They have changed the shape of it.


I want to go back to sleep. I want to go back to sleep.

Recognising a Commons…

The Provisional University have a series of talks documented on their website which were presented at their event “Struggles in Common” which took place on May 18th, 2013. One of these is given by Séoidin O’Sullivan, an artist and activist who is working with CTVR/CONNECT to develop a ‘Grey Space’ for researchers within the telecommunications research centre at Dunlop Oriel House. We’ve invited her and her collaborator Karol O’Mahony to articulate an evolution of ‘Seating System’. This should be completed early in 2015.

The talk that Séoidin gives is valuable as an insight into the activist motivations underpinning her broad practice. In this talk she is speaking about a community garden which she helped to establish in the Rialto area of Dublin City. It’s really interesting for me, as the (neophyte) commissioner of ‘Grey Space’ at Dunlop Oriel House, to hear Séoidin speak of nature as generous and abundant. This echo’s CTVR/CONNECT”s director Linda Doyle’s expression of ‘managing resources into abundance’, rather than into scarcity. The Commons is everywhere. Séoidin’s work aims at generating recognition of the commons. It is difficult to see. It is invisible, intangible, yet powerful. The Electromagnetic Spectrum is a literal-metaphor of the Commons. The struggles ongoing in that ‘territory’ echo the struggles of workers like Séoidin and others, who are drawing attention to enclosure and the dispossession of the commons.

Listen & Watch:

Struggles in Common – Provisional University

Linda Doyle  – TEDx talk