Notes for Against the Smart City by Adam Greenfield

This pamphlet by Adam Greenfield, the first of more is a concise and enjoyable distillation of his politics when it concerns the smart city and also features a number of similarly inclined thinkers:

In this light, the casual contempt for history that is part and parcel of Koolhaas’s generic city and the comparable conceptions of urbanity we find in the canonical smart cities feels particularly glib, adolescent and unsatisfactory.

If a city can even be said to have any such quality as intelligence to begin with, that intelligence is bound to be singular, something that subsists in the unique lifeways, cultures and pragmatic local adaptations that have evolved in a particular place.

What do exist in the world are specific deployments of components from specific vendors, laminated together as particular propositions, and each of these may differ profoundly from other, similar propositions, along all of the axes that condition human interaction with them.

The fact is that the data is never “just” the data, and to assert otherwise is to lend inherently political and interested decisions regarding the act of data collection an unwonted gloss of neutrality and dispassionate scientific objectivity.

They’re too perfectly tuned to the exigencies of a given moment, and generally get caught wrongfooted when the moment shifts.

The sense that citizens themselves may wish to avail themselves directly of the information ostensibly being gathered on their behalf is almost surreally absent from the smart-city literature.

It’s hard to imagine a robustly autonomous community, or a public sphere in any traditional sense, taking root in the soil of a municipality that is owned and operated as a business in the way these places are.

But unquestioned neoliberal assumptions even show up in the smart-city literature in contexts where it makes little or no apparent sense.

the smart city itself, as a coherent object of discourse, arises out of a specific set of conditions produced by late capitalism, under which cities compete against each other as global destinations for capital and talent.

But the results are identical, and at the margins, enthusiasm for the vigor with which an autocratic regime can act can be hard to distinguish from outright apologia for the systematic practice of oppression.

they arise in response to the needs of a great many people of differing proclivities, interacting with one another over reasonably long periods of time.

The same diversification of need and desire that generates a vibrant service ecosystem also makes the city a patchwork of constituencies with wildly divergent conceptions of the good, the just and the proper, virtually guaranteeing the impossibility of satisfying them all at once. But that, too, is part of what we mean when we call something a city.

we shouldn’t fool ourselves that the endeavor is in any way based on an appreciation of the city as a crucible of contested spaces and conflicting constituencies, or of municipal management as the art of balancing their broadly irreconcilable demands.

This, by the way, is entirely intentional: Le Corbusier had consciously designed the Radiant City to “use up tires, wear out road surfaces and gears, and consume oil and gasoline” so as to generate the maximal amount of economically productive activity by way of replacement.

And history teaches us, repeatedly — bludgeoning the point home with a blunt shovel, for those who simply refuse to get the point — that maintenance budgets are among the very first things to go.

And yet the orthodox conception of the smart city says virtually nothing about the prospect that its inhabitants might be equipped with the smartphone.

And while misgivings may in fact be prevalent, there are likely to be relatively few in the bureaucracy who are able to express them forthrightly — that is to say, who are sufficiently comfortable with the technology to understand precisely what is being proposed, sufficiently familiar with the way their city works to convincingly articulate why this is problematic, sufficiently assured of their own position to feel safe in doing so, and sufficiently passionate about the issue to willingly shoulder the risk involved.

The truth is that our cities are already densely and intimately linked with one another, bound together by their own citizens in a constant and mutually-reinforcing traffic in atoms and bits.

We must never lose sight of the idea, though, that another city is possible, a city that harnesses networked information technology toward the lasting empowerment of the people who live in it, give life to it and make it what it is.

Notes from the Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

This was a tremendously enjoyable read. I wonder why my English teacher never pointed us in this literary direction for things to read.

He cursed the “goddamn shitting heat” with such violence and such hatred that it sometimes ruined the atmosphere of the place

everything from wild young Turks who wanted to rip the world in half and start all over again — to tired, beer-bellied old hacks who wanted nothing more than to live out their days in peace before a bunch of lunatics ripped the world in half.

a shoplifting Cuban who carried a gun in his armpit, a half-wit Mexican who molested small children

Vagrant journalists are notorious welshers, and to those who travel in that rootless world, a large unpaid bar tab can be a fashionable burden.

I was a consultant for the cockfighting syndicate

It was a greedy life and I was good at it.

Finally I broke in. “Hey!” I shouted. “What the hell is this? I have to get on that plane!”

When I got to the plane I had to shove past five or six people waiting to board.

Suddenly the old man jumped up and tried to scramble over me like a dog.

After ten minutes of half-hearted listening I suspected I was in a den of hustlers.

Arriving half-drunk in a foreign place is hard on the nerves.

“You’ll turn queer in this place, Kemp — mark my words. This place will turn a man queer and crazy.”

“His penis is pressing on his brain and he can’t think.”

I realized how long it had been since I’d felt like I had the world by the balls,

Suddenly she began to howl: at first I thought I was hurting her, then I realized she was having some sort of extreme orgasm.

“They’re going to kill us all. Come on in after lunch — it should be safe by then.”

wasted hours and frustrated moments and opportunities forever lost because time had eaten so much of my life and I would never get it back.

She was so close to naked, and so apparently unaware of it, that I felt helpless.

He drank incessantly, and by the time it got dark he was steaming drunk and shouting.

Yeamon smiled. “A man never knows when his head might get twisted.”

Tell them that this man Kemp is fleeing St. Louis because he suspects the sack is full of something ugly and he doesn’t want to be put in with it.

On the way down the hill we walked three abreast in the cobblestone street, drunk and laughing and talking like men who knew they would separate at dawn and travel to the far corners of the earth.

He was lewd and corrupt in every way.

There was a time I had been the same way. I wanted it all and I wanted it fast and no obstacle was big enough to put me off. Since then I had learned that some things were bigger than they looked from a distance, and now I was not so sure anymore just what I was going to get or even what I deserved. I was not proud of what I had learned but I never doubted it was worth knowing.

It was terribly sad — not the music itself, but the fact that it was the best they could do.

A ten-year accumulation of these vagrant addresses can weigh on a man like a hex. He begins to feel like the Wandering Jew. That’s the way I felt.

I didn’t want to go anywhere. Yet, when Yeamon talked about moving on, I felt the excitement anyway.

There was an awful suspicion in my mind that I’d finally gone over the hump, and the worst thing about it was that I didn’t feel tragic at all, but only weary, and sort of comfortably detached.

That maddening delusion that a man can lead a decent life without hiring himself out as a Judas Goat.

She seemed oblivious to everything but the music and the freak who led her around the floor.

Lazy intellectualism exposed (probably without consequences)

Funny to come across three pieces today wherein a bunch of fashionable faux-intellectuals are taken apart.

First Franzen in the LRB:

He writes against blogs, yet allows a comparison between Die Fackel and blogs; he writes about the way the internet disturbs the reading experience, but does it in pages bracketed into German and English sections and in notes that confuse me more than anything I read online – that confuse me more than the Talmud. He writes about competition and the work ethic, but never mentions his own Heine: David Foster Wallace, a master of the nuanced citation who managed to be both smarter and more casual, crazier and kinder.

I tore through Freedom for a book club but I never understood the hype. Recently he’s hitchhiking on the anti-internet nostalgia that is so fashionable in 40-somethings which makes him not only suspect but lazy as well. And yes you should read all of DFW and none of Franzen.

Then Gladwell in the New Republic whose stories were amusing to read but who I never could take seriously after the exposition of his corporate shilling.

Now also Diamond in the LRB being taken apart by the esteemed James C. Scott whose writing could inform so much of what passes for political debate in the Netherlands but who seems to be ignored by the fashions of continental academia and the stupidity of our opinion makers.

And last week the exposition in nsfwcorp of Pierre Omidyar as an extremist robber baron (just like every other billionaire out there).

In many regions, Omidyar Network investments have helped fund programs that create worsening conditions for the world’s underclass, widening inequalities, enhancing exploitation, pushing millions of people into crippling debt and supporting anti-poverty programs that, in some cases, resulted in mass-suicide by the rural poor.

This compromises all of the work that Greenwald and colleagues will do under that banner. Of course no reaction from Glenn Greenwald will be forthcoming because of the (partially justified) internet paranoiac way in which he handles criticism.

The lesson here seems simple: if something strikes you as too convenient or too simple to be true, it probably is.

Highlights from Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Reading this book took me quite some time since it arrived in my mailbox some four years ago. I only picked it up after acquiring an epub version of it that I could read in Readmill wherever I happened to find myself (so also really after Readmill launched their iPhone app). It takes some getting into but this book is hugely rewarding and a pleasure.

it was somehow sadistic-seeming, like drilling a peephole in the wall of a handicapped bathroom.

too Canadianly dumb for anything but the brutalest work.

the terrible accident that resulted in all locks being taken off E.T.A. saunas’ doors and the saunas’ maximum temperature being hard-wired down to no more than 50°C.

It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end.

The fish asking about what’s water.

He could just hunker down in the space between each heartbeat and make each heartbeat a wall and live in there. Not let his head look over. What’s unendurable is what his own head could make of it all.

Death says the woman who either knowingly or involuntarily kills you is always someone you love, and she’s always your next life’s mother. This is why Moms are so obsessively loving, why they try so hard no matter what private troubles or issues or addictions they have of their own, why they seem to value your welfare above their own, and why there’s always a slight, like, twinge of selfishness about their obssessive mother-love: they’re trying to make amends for a murder neither of you quite remember, except maybe in dreams.

The rest would be allowed to die for leur rai pays.

It’s like a big wooden spoon keeps pushing him just under the surface of sleep and then spooning him up for something huge to taste him, again and again.

why did she love him when he flang her down and beat her up on a more or less daily basis for fucking years on end.

One of the highest prices of sobriety was not being able to keep from remembering things you didn’t want to remember

he doesn’t have any idea what it means and no reason to be thinking it with roaring force, so the sensation is not only creepy but somehow violating, a sort of lexical rape.

got in some insane drunken limbo-dance challenge with a rival executive and tried to like limbo under a desk or a chair or something insanely low, and got his spine all fucked up in a limbo-lock, maybe permanently

mixed with the sounds of severely fucked-up Canadians returning to whatever passed with Nucks for consciousness and calling for what they called medecins

“could not find his own bottom with both hands and a nautical compass of exacting precision.”

her home’s kitchen, where, apparently despondent, she committed suicide by putting her extremities down the garbage disposal — first one arm and then, kind of miraculously if you think about it, the other arm.

the fact that the Auteur’s belief in a finite world-total of available erections rendered him always either impotent or guilt-ridden.

And at E.T.A. only 16s snapped towels, and only for a year or two, but they went at it with a vengeance, towel-snapping, a brief flared genuflection to jock-stereotype, a stage where there’s this primate-like passion for red-assed bonding in steamy rooms.

You looked into their maps and something was gone.

There may be some persons who are born imprisoned. The irony, of course, being that the very imprisonment that prohibits sadness’s expression must itself feel intensely sad and painful.

The dinner ended in a kind of explosion of goodwill.

until she’d been approached by Orin, who made no secret of the fact that he had balls of unrejectable steel where horrifyingly pretty girls were concerned.

northern Quebec’s La Culte de Baiser Sans Fin

But even the first to quail and jump has jumped. Far beyond prohibited, not to jump at all is regarded as impossible. To “perdre son coeur” and not jump at all is outside le Jeu’s limit. The possibility simply does not exist. It is unthinkable. Only once, in le Jeu du Prochain Train’s extensive oral history, has a miner’s son not jumped, lost his heart and frozen, remaining on his jut as the round’s train passed. This player later drowned.

the precise mechanical specifications of each scheduled train——these are known to the directeurs, they comprise the constants in a game the variables of which are the respective wills of the six ranged along the track, and their estimates of one another’s will to risk all to win.

infamous “Le ]eu du Prochain Train,” and that the A.F.R.’s Root Cult itself was comprised largely or perhaps even entirely of veteran devotees and practitioners of this savage, nihilistic, and mettle testing jeu pour-meme.

“Les jeux pour-memes” formal competitive games whose end is less any sort of “prize” than it is a manner of basic identity: i.e., that is, “game” as metaphysical environment and psychohistorical locus and gestalt.

It turns out the more luridly absorbing the angle of topic you choose, the more people have already been there before you with their footprints to fill and their obscurely academic-type-journal articles to try and absorb and, like, synthesize.

each subsequent reviewing of the Entertainment now would have the price of one digit from the Subject’s extremities.

That we’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for.

It is a level of psychic pain wholly incompatible with human life as we know it. It is a sense of radical and thoroughgoing evil not just as a feature but as the essence of conscious existence. It is a sense of poisoning that pervades the self at the self’s most elementary levels. It is a nausea of the cells and soul. It is an unnumb intuition in which the world is fully rich and animate and un-map-like and also thoroughly painful and malignant and antagonistic to the self, which depressed self It billows on and coagulates around and wraps in Its black folds and absorbs into Itself, so that an almost mystical unity is achieved with a world every constituent of which means painful harm to the self.

We are shown how to fashion masks of ennui and jaded irony at a young age where the face is fictile enough to assume the shape of whatever it wears.

they are doomed, because you cannot both celebrate and suffer, and play is always suffering

on some level you can tell that he views the recipients of his charity not as persons so much as pieces of exercise equipment on which he can develop and demonstrate his own virtue.

the father is crushed into aspic in a freak accident on the Jamaica Way and all opportunities for transgenerational instruction are forever lost

this quality of Look-At-Me-Being-So-Totally-Open-And-Sincere-I-Rise-Above-The-Whole-Disingenuous-Posing-Process-Of-Attracting-Someone-,-And -I-Transcend-The-Common-Disingenuity-In-A-Bar-Herd-In-A-Particularly-Hip-And-Witty-Self-Aware-Way-,-And-If-You-Will-Let-Me-Pick-You-Up-I-Will-Not-Only-Keep – Being – This – Wittily, – Transcendently – Open -, – But – Will – Bring-You – Into – This -World-Of-Social-Falsehood-Transcendence,

it is a pose of poselessness

I know that he erased his own cartography in a grisly way.

Football is pure homophobically repressed nancy-ism, and do not let O. tell you different.

It’s the nature of the game. It’s the machine they’re all dying to throw themselves into.

that night he seemed to be the piece of string by which I hung suspended over hell itself.

with breasts like artillery and a butt like two bulldogs in a bag

This was back when his brother Orin needed only to have sexual intercourse with them instead of getting them to fall so terribly in love with him they’d never be able to want anyone else.

eat with such horrible P.O.W.ish gusto

nobody but Ludditic granola-crunching freaks would call bad what no one can imagine being without.

who looks like one of those people you see in pictures of African famine

a Dial-a-Prayer telephone service for atheists in which the atheist dials the number and the line just rings and rings and no one answers

creepy boys who talked without moving their lower jaw

downing one plastic cup after another of beer-foam until he got so blind drunk his sphincter had failed and he’d not only pissed but also actually shit his pant

when the check arrived, in an extra-long-size envelope to accommodate all the zeroes

At a certain level of abstraction it’s like the brain recoils.’

The fourth horseman stays hidden, of course, like in all quality eschatologies, the unturned card, under wraps till actual game-time.

The only reason she’s never been diagnosed or treated for it is that in her the Disorder doesn’t prevent her from functioning. It all seems to come back to functioning.

Their faces become sexual faces.

the abortive parents who’d left or lost them in the general geopolitical shuffle of mass migration

a suicidal Nuck cult of Nucks that worshipped a form of Russian Roulette that involved jumping in front of trains and seeing which Nuck could come the closest to the train’s front without getting demapped.

eliminating the saliva guy’s map on the spot,

He’d have no problem with looking deep into some bitch’s eyes and looking so sincere it’s like he’s dying inside him.

Lenz has a keen antenna for people like this and their stock is low on his personal exchange.

So after the incident with the flaming cat from hell

There were more chunks of dismantled street lying all over.

What you do is you hide your deep need to hide, and you do this out of the need to appear to other people as if you have the strength not to care how you appear to others.

It’s not necessarily pejorative to compare a cornered bureaucrat to a cornered rat.

As a high-velocity object people can project themselves onto, forgetting their own limitations in the face of the nearly limitless potential someone as young as yourself represents.

This drives me bats. You know this drives me bats.

the essential vagueness about himself that Tavis fought by sort of peeling his skull back and exposing his brain to you without any sort of warning or invitation;

I’d be more than happy to shake hands, even one of those intricate multiple-handed ethnic handshakes if you’ll bear with my inexperience with that sort of handshake

where there are disco-ized Brazilians can cocaine and narcotics ever be far away.

The neural distillate of, say, orgasm, religious enlightenment, ecstatic drugs, shiatsu, a crackling fire on a winter night — the sum of all possible pleasures refined into pure current and deliverable at the flip of a hand-held lever. Thousands of times an hour, at will.

who’s rumored also to attend Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, which engages everyone’s imagination to the max.

It’s all the sort of thing that’s uninteresting unless you’re the one responsible, in which case it’s cholesterol-raisingly stressful and complex

His mother was subsequently involved with a live-in lover, a former Navy M.P. who used to beat her up on a regular schedule, hitting her in the vicinities between groin and breast so that nothing showed.

Gately can’t even start to guess what it would be like to be a sober and drug-free biker. It’s like what would be the point. He imagines these people polishing the hell out of their leather and like playing a lot of really precise pool.

The whole place smells like death no matter what the fuck you do.

You can’t induce a moral sensibility the same way you’d train a rat. The kid has to learn by his own experience how to learn to balance the short- and long-term pursuit of what he wants.’

that congenital plagiarists put so much more work into camouflaging their plagiarism than it would take just to write up an assignment from conceptual scratch. It usually seems like plagiarists aren’t lazy so much as kind of navigationally insecure. They have trouble navigating without a detailed map’s assurance that somebody has been this way before them.

Notes from Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

Another long overdue post with notes from the biography of Colonel John Boyd. This is partially so long overdue because extracting quotes from Readmill is somewhat annoying and the excellent API integration Box of Quotes no longer works.

He quoted Sophocles: “One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been.”

He reacted the only way he knew how: by attacking. The rank or position of his enemy, the size or significance of the institution, none of it mattered. He attacked. And when Boyd attacked, he gave no quarter.

He was a pure man at a time when pure men were needed but so few answered the call.

She hammered into John that as long as he held on to his sense of what was right, and as long as his integrity was inviolate, he was superior to those who had only rank or money.

what is found deep in the bone marrow of a fighter pilot—exaggeration and the belief that a good story is more important than sticking with the bare facts.

Thus, aerial combat favors the bold, those who are not afraid to use the airplane for its true purpose: a gun platform. There is nothing sophisticated about sneaking up on someone and killing him.

The saying of the time was “The more you bleed in peace time, the less you bleed in war.”

He told how to use various tactical combat maneuvers such as the scissors, the high-speed yo-yo, the low-speed yo-yo, the high-G barrel roll, and the vertical rolling scissors to gain the advantage on an opponent.

But what they do has nothing to do with combat flying. It’s all about appearance and not about flying an airplane. I wouldn’t have anything to do with that crowd. All they do is work the cocktail and pussy circuit.”

Heat waves danced on the runway like dervishes.

“The world is divided into hosers and hosees. Your job as fighter pilots is to be a hoser.” A feral grin split his face. He leaned toward the class and added, “I, of course, am the ultimate hoser.”

who talked as if he learned the English language in a New Orleans whore-house.

But he needed Boyd, the maverick: the obstreperous and independent officer who cared more for his work than for his career. Only such a man could save the F-X from being cancelled and prevent the Air Force from being outmaneuvered by the Navy. Only such a man could save the Air Force from itself.

Then Boyd began showing his briefings to Sprey and asking for an opinion. Sprey often ripped the briefs to shreds. And he did it in such a calm and irrefutable manner, reason stacked atop reason, logic atop logic, that it was impossible to disagree. Boyd referred to a Sprey critique as the “Pierre Sprey buzz saw.” But he knew Sprey was making his work stronger and more focused and virtually impervious to attack. “We’ve got to do our homework, Tiger,” Boyd often said to Sprey. “One mistake and they will leverage the hell out of it.”

Very few men were ever invited by Boyd to join forces with him. None ever refused. Each sensed intuitively that he was being offered a rare gift. Each was to pay a terrible price for his friendship with Boyd. Each would have paid more.

It was new and different. And anything new and different is feared by a bureaucracy.

Then he made changes to the paper. It was always fluid.

Burton had a new rule: judge people by what they do and not what they say they will do.

The greatest superpower on earth used almost every arrow in its quiver, everything from multimillion-dollar airplanes to laser-guided bombs to electronic sensors to special-operations forces, and still was defeated by little men in black pajamas using rifles and bicycles.

And when managers lead an army it is their nature to cast blame rather than to accept responsibility.

But some had never heard of Sun Tzu and could not spell “von Clausewitz.” They might have known the names of Douhet or Jomini or von Schlieffen or Fuller or Guderian or Lawrence or Balck, but few knew the theories espoused by these men.

But when he walked out of the Building, he walked into a world of ideas.

Boyd thought analysis could lead to understanding but not to creativity.

He talked of “paralysis by analysis” and said Washington was a city of ten thousand analysts and no synthesizers. “They know more and more about less and less until eventually they know everything about nothing”

To make sure the new reality is both viable and relevant, Boyd said it must be continually refined by verifying its internal consistency and by making sure it matches up with reality. But the very process of making sure the reality is relevant causes mismatches between the new observation and the description of that observation.

The advantage gained from the fast transient suggests that to win in battle a pilot needs to operate at a faster tempo than his enemy. It suggests that he must stay one or two steps ahead of his adversary; he must operate inside his adversary’s time scale.

Generating a rapidly changing environment—that is, engaging in activity that is so quick it is disorienting and appears uncertain or ambiguous to the enemy—inhibits the adversary’s ability to adapt and causes confusion and disorder that, in turn, causes an adversary to overreact or underreact.

They remained ambiguous because Boyd still believed ambiguity created opportunities for unexpected richness.

“Sun Tzu tried to drive his adversary bananas while Clausewitz tried to keep himself from being driven bananas.”

They moved so fast the enemy simply could not understand what was happening and became unglued.

The intent is to shatter cohesion, produce paralysis, and bring about collapse of the adversary by generating confusion, disorder, panic, and chaos. Boyd said war is organic and compared his technique to clipping the nerves, muscles, and tendons of an enemy, thus reducing him to jelly.

But few of those who speak so glibly about the OODA Loop have a true understanding of what it means and what it can do.

Boyd, like Sun Tzu and Napoléon, believed in attacking with “moral conflict”—that is, using actions that increase menace, uncertainty, and mistrust in the enemy while increasing initiative, adaptability, and harmony within friendly forces.

He remembered what Boyd often said: “There are only so many ulcers in the world and it is your job to see that other people get them.”

But those groups often are single-issue groups whose members have no more than a surface knowledge of the military or of defense matters. Because their concerns are frivolous or tangential, they are easily dismissed.

He went in and wrote on the blackboard, “Duty Honor Country.” Then he crossed out the words and under them wrote, “Pride Power Greed.”

Marines are considered both primitive and elitist—primitive because all Marines are basically infantrymen, and elitist because they are so few in number and so good at what they do.

War is ever changing and men are ever fallible. Rigid rules simply won’t work. Teach men to think.”

“So you got your reward; you got kicked in the teeth. That means you were doing good work.

They think the real business of the Pentagon has something to do with defending America. But it does not. The real business of the Pentagon is buying weapons.

And whistle blowers get no respect; they get others to help them do something that they can’t do themselves.

The Army said, “Well, they do exist. But we can’t model them on the computer so we ignore them.”

He was inside their minds and knew how they thought and how they reacted. He could walk into a room of civilian and Army officials and know when the game was afoot. He knew intuitively when and how the adversary would move. Burton had the Fingerspitzengefuhl to move rapidly through the OODA Loop and stay ahead of his adversary, and he found the experience exhilarating.

Each one began with his saying, “I want you to know there is nothing personal in what I am about to do.” And then total devastation.

To make these timely decisions implies that we must be able to form mental concepts of observed reality, as we perceive it, and be able to change these concepts as reality itself appears to change.

Without this unstructuring the creation of a new structure cannot proceed—since the bits and pieces are still tied together as meaning within unchallenged domains or concepts.

The result is a changing and expanding universe of mental concepts matched to a changing and expanding universe of observed reality

Notes from Aramis by Bruno Latour

I finished Aramis (PDF) a couple of weeks ago and this is absolutely essential reading for anybody involved with technology in a wider sense than just technology. It is also quite funny. I look forward to reading more by Bruno Latour, An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence is high on my list and I’ve registered to join his MOOC on the Scientific Humanities.

for life is a state of uncertainty and risk, of fragile adaptation to a past and present environment that the future cannot judge.

The actors come in varying sizes; this is the whole problem with innovation.

A signature on a contract, an endorsement, an agreement stabilizes the relative size of the actors by lending to the provisional definition of alliances the assistance of the law, a law whose weight is enormous because it is entirely formal and because it applies equally to everyone.

Woe betide those who trust the law alone to shelter their projects from random hazards.

Whereas we sociologists have to drag ourselves around everywhere. Our terrains aren’t territories. They have weird borders. They’re networks, rhizomes.

To translate is to betray: ambiguity is part of translation.

The problem is, the innovator has to count on assemblages of things that often have the same uncertain nature as groups of people.

Men and things exchange properties and replace one another; this is what gives technological projects their full savor.

We won’t keep the humans’ physical presence, their caps, their uniforms, or their outspokenness; but we’ll keep some of their knowledge, their abilities, their knowhow.

For a project to materialize, it must at once recruit new allies and at the same time make sure that their recruitment is assured.

To study a technological project, one must constantly move from signs to things, and vice versa.

A technological project is neither realistic nor unrealistic; it takes on reality, or loses it, by degrees.

“But we all know what economic studies are worth.”

The actors don’t have a strategy; they get their battle plans, contra dictory ones, from other actors.

The actors create both their society and their sociology, their language and their metalanguage.

No, because the actors also provide themselves with the means to pass from one point of view to another, and they unify, from their own point of view, and each for himself, the multiplicity of points of view thus deployed. Each constructs his own instrument in order to elaborate a synoptic view. All the actors thus repair, for themselves, the disorder they create by multiplying perspectives.

To survive in a variable-ontology world, the promoters of a technological project have to imagine little bridges that let them temporarily ensure their stability.

research is, as we know, the surest although the most enjoyable way for a company to go bankrupt.

They, too, want to stabilize a certain interpretation of what they are and what they want. And there they are, ordering notes and questionnaires, which accumulate in a file that is soon complicated enough to require new notes, syntheses, and summaries.

The human sciences do not show up as the curtain falls, in order to interpret the phenomenon. They constitute the phenomenon. And the most important human sciences, always overlooked, include accounting, management, economics, the “cameral sciences” (bureau-graphy), and statistics.

And then they reach the height of cruelty and ingratitude: here’s technological prowess that has given engineers hundreds of sleepless nights for ten years, that makes them quake with fright because it may not work, and the customers take it for granted!

The actors are always right, whether they’re multiplying viewpoints or cutting down on them. If we use the adjectives ‘irrational’ and ‘absurd,’ it’s because we haven’t made our own frames of reference supple enough.

Everything happens in defiance of common sense, but there is no common sense for innovations, since they happen, they begin, they invent common sense, the right direction , the correct procedure.”

How can I become a being, an object, a thing-finally a self, yes, a full set, saturated with being-without them, without their agreement, without their coming to terms (since I myself am made from them, flesh of their flesh, a rib extracted from theirs), without their acknowledgment that I am transports, displacements of human beings?

Technology is sociology extended by other means.

Give me the state of things, and I’ll tell you what people can do-this is how technologism talks. Give me the state of human beings, and I’ll tell you how they will form things-this is the watchword of sociology.

The soul of machines constitutes the social element. The body of the social element is constituted by machines.

Our bureaucracy-so widely scorned-is our second brain, as indispensable as the first.

The disorder that is wiped away on one side by describing the tasks meticulously in neat logical trees turns up again on the other side, among the programmers, who are having as much fun as a barrel of monkeys, shooting themselves in the foot, dividing up tasks according to procedures that can’t be described, for their part, in neat logical trees.

Humans and nonhumans take on form by redistributing the competences and performances of the multitude of actors that they hold on to and that hold on to them.

A technology isn’t one single character; it’s a city, it’s a collective, it’s countless.

You can’t give me enough orders, not fast enough, not in time. You have to let me handle things on my own.

Every part of the system is as complicated as the system as a whole. Every plate we unfold is itself made up of plates to be unfolded!

But you’re drawing the wrong lesson. It is not our creative power that we need to curtail; it is our 101le that we need to extend, even to our lesser brothers who did not ask us for life. We acquainted them with existence. We need to acquaint them with love.

They all say the same thing: what the principal actors have put in their mouths! What doormats, these scientific journalists! Always ready to popularize, never to investigate.

They throw money out the window, but they think research means throwing money out the window

You don’t think you have the power? Then don’t expect that Aramis will.

I would have been happy to be something, in the end, anything at all-but first you have to agree among yourselves. I can’t be every thing to everybody. The finest project in the world can’t give more than it has, and what it has is what you give it.