Non-Citizens doing Citizen Science

Part 1: Non-Citizens

The enthusiasm for citizen science as a strong approach to involve the public in science and or the public doing science, led to many discussions with my colleagues at the Citizenlab of the University of Twente on what citizen science is. In this blogpost I want to share some of my personal thoughts on citizen science by first defining the terms citizenship and citizen. To do so I will refer to Ariella Azoulay’s book; The civil contract of photography, which will also explain the origin of the title Non-Citizens doing Citizen Science.

For Azoulay, the use of the terms citizenship and citizens should be understood in a social context around relationships between individuals, beyond the boundaries of a nation-state. She disputes the discourse of citizenship as being something that you can own because you are protected by the authority within the borders of the nation-state. It is not only the boundaries of a nation-state that determines whether a person is a citizen, but also the way in which a government groups citizens thereby creating ‘the other’. As soon as there is a protective shield around some of the citizens, a dividing line between them and others is created. The status of ‘the others’ causes a separate group of non-citizens with compromised civil status within the group of citizens.

Azoulay talks about the so-called ‘impaired civic’ status of this group, whose citizenship has been deprived, that will determine the way in which all citizens are governed. After all, ‘the others’, the non-citizens, are ruled with the same (violent) force. In this way, not only the fragile status of the non-citizen is at stake, but also the status of the citizen. For Azoulay the existence alone of non-citizens, groups of people that are ignored and/or systematically exposed to violence by a ruling power or people that get stuck between nation-states, renders the necessity to reconsider the concept and practice of citizenship.

Azoulay is emphatically concerned with the relationship or repairing the disrupted relationship between citizens. The cooperation and solidarity between citizens, separate from the nation-state, guarantees a force that can draw on the power of a violent authority. It is in the disconnecting of the power of the people from the power of the ruling authority, the potential to (re) open political actions emerges. Azoulay derives the possibility of such disconnection from the structure or design of the various social contract theories. These contract theories generally exist, she says, of two stages. The first phase involves the formation of a political community. This formation establishes an obligation between the participants themselves. The community thereby provides itself with some form of authority. During the second phase, the participants cede their right to exercise political authority to their representatives, the sovereign government. The power of citizenship, according to Azoulay, lays in the first phase; the formation of a political community which establishes an obligation between the participants and thereby providing some form of authority. This also explains why Azoulay’s interest in the discourse on citizenship is not in the way in which sovereign decisions can be accounted for and limited.

It is in the conditions of being visible through photography that Azoulay foresees an active role in bringing about reforms in a society. These conditions will have to affect our consciousness with respect to the other. In Azoulay’s case, the other in need who makes an appeal via a photo to everyone who takes part in photography. By addressing others to stop ongoing violence or in the position of an addressee, anyone can still be a citizen within a photographic community. Anyone in the sense of people who are or are not represented by an authority, the citizen and non-citizen.

I won’t go further into Azoulay’s view concerning a civil contract of photography, but I will use her vision on citizenship and citizens placing both terms within a social context around relationships between individuals and their role of participants in a political and social community with an obligation towards each other that provides some form of authority. On the one hand Azoulay’s vision offers the broad range of citizens and non-citizens that will bring insights on doing science to the establish some form of change, from society bottom up. Second it will provide a specific perspective on the role of citizen science as an empowering tool.

Sources:
Azoulay, A. The civil contract of photography. (TCCP) Zone books, New York. (2008)
DriescheVanDen, C. Een burgerlijk contract zichtbaar gemaakt. Hypothese van fotografisch burgerschap. Philosophy master thesis at Tilburg University. (2013)

Part 2: Can non-citizen do citizen science?

Speculative by Design: criticism and fiction.

“…many oppressive relations result not from people having mistaken ideological beliefs, but from living in material circumstances that provide no alternative.” (Levy-Bryant. Onto-cartography, An ontology of machines and media. Edinburgh University Press. 2007)

When we talk about critical design, we mostly refer to a design method that improves products through a carefully chosen political and ethical attitude. On the other hand, speculative design as a form of critical resistance is concerned with making alternative structures of circumstances in daily life visible, aiming to create radical change. The difference between these two design methods lays in the vision on what design can do: improving products by reflection or offering an alternative perspective on societal issues. The latter vision implies that speculative design must be able to change the existing perception of what is considered ‘normal’ by large groups of people. Hence, creating a political element within design that goes beyond moral arguments in the vein of designing with ‘good intentions’. So how do we assess the political element of the outcome within the speculative design method when we talk about the quality of design?

Only by investigating a societal problem that is worked through over a longer period of time, in a constant loop between experience, interaction and insights from technology (as a product or service), does a measurable political evidence arise. As a result, not the designer but the influence of technology in the domain of social relations, will have to be able to offer new perspectives on political issues. Hence, speculative design needs to be approached from the technology consumed in the contemporary capitalist economy rather than the design process or the designer as creator. And because we can only see in retrospect whether there was a change, the historical origin of design will have to answer the question whether design contributed to a critical resistance during the process of societal change. The question remains whether the method of speculative design can claim its right to change.

Shaping Responsible Futures @ DesignLab UT

Transdisciplinary Master-Insert Programme Shaping Responsible Futures.

MasterInsertUT

Are you an engaged UT master student? Would you like to learn how to shape desirable futures for others and with others? Are you looking for new ways to develop yourself personally and professionally? Do you want to work with students from various disciplines on tackling societal challenges?

If YES, DesignLab invites you to apply for the Transdisciplinary Master-Insert Programme Shaping Responsible Futures. This academic programme will be taught by enthusiastic academics from all over the university, and will involve working in transdisciplinary teams on addressing complex societal challenges.

Source: University Twente DesignLab

Art workshops for ‘Hallo Europa’!

logo hallo europa

‘Hallo Europa’ is an initiative by Crista van Dee in collaboration with the province of Gelderland in the Netherlands.
Christa is ‘Ontgrenzer’ (‘Noborder’) by profession in which she works together with young people in the context of 75 years of freedom in Europe.

Students from the Achterhoek (NL) and North Rhine-Westphalia (DE) have been invited to create a joint work of art concerning the question of how we can maintain peace. During this project students will meet about six times. The ultimate goal is to get to know each other, collaborate and build a lasting relationship.

To gain inspiration for the joint artwork the students visited the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. To help them to get started I was asked to create assignments to get acquainted with various types of art, to link SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) to a work of art and to learn how to look at art using Cloudwatching. All assignments were performed and discussed in a duo or trio.

Although the students are of different ages and educational levels, they immediately get started. In the first assignment, students together choose an SDG that appeals to them, for example ‘no poverty’, and then look for a work of art that this SDG conveys.
SDGs
In a short time, discussions are started in both German and Dutch about why there is a link between the SDG and the artwork. At the end of the discussion they sketch the chosen work. Everyone makes their own sketch so they inspire each other again.

ZittendeLL

With the help of two postcard assignments, two works of art are deeply studied and the artist’s choice of material encourages thinking and sketching.
During the last assignment the students will look at abstract art by discovering shapes with the help of Cloudwatching. They were guided by two questions; what are the shapes that I see and why does that appeal to me? In this way getting acquainted with abstract art is easily accessible because everything they discover is good, no errors possible in these assignments.

TweeLL

At the end of the day, the students went home with a pile of sketches, varying from very detailed sketches to quick experiments with drawing. The new insights they gattered will help them to work together while creating their own artwork in March. I am looking forward to seeing the result!

Let’s Play: The art of the digital (Nov 2, 2019)

Let’s Play, The art of the digital: This weekend during Amsterdam Museumnacht young artists and designers show their digital artworks in the subway stations Weesperplein, Waterlooplein and Central Station in Amsterdam. These stations form a digital art gallery with moving and soundless artworks. Information about the art works and artists is shown using Augmented Reality.

One of our CMD students Victor Zumpolle was selected to show his work “Blokje om”! His work will be shown at the Weesperplein subway station on 2 November from 7 p.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a prize-giving ceremony for the artworks at 1:00 AM. You can vote via the Let’s Play Art Gallery app.

Zumpolle_BlokjeOm
“Blokje om” by Victor Zumpolle

Playing with light by Utterback

Human movement on camera in a public space creates the visual input, followed by writing software that creates the visual output. This is basically the process that Camille Utterback uses to then integrate forms, created by ink and pencil drawings, with human movement. These forms appear and disappear on a screen based on the movements made by an audience. Once this happens an almost circular process of movement, forms and again movement is created. To keep this process going the audience has to embrace vulnerability in order to visualize the movement on the screen, trying to maintain control. All of this is supported by technology what leads to the question where we can put the matter of control.

(WIRED. (2009, October 20), Interactive art: Playing with light [YouTube]. Via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-lOAoWcAV8)

Life in art, art in life.

Art, for me, is thinking about and responding to life or better ‘the whole existence’. The work of former artist Tehching Hsieh helps us to navigate through the universal circumstances of human life. His performances investigate ‘the whole existence’ by cutting up the passing of time into components and variables. In his artwork called One year performance you see him punch a time clock every hour on the hour for exactly one year. By dividing his life into units, giving his life mathematical parameters, he visualizes the passing of time.

Tehching Hsieh on One year performance: “One year is the human calculation of life, in basically one unit. And this (Wasting time) is the earth around the sun-one year. So it’s a very good way in a piece of art to talk about what life means. To me, in my philosophy of my whole life’s work. I would say life is a life sentence. Life is passing time. Life is free thinking.”
(DasPlatforms. (2014, April 30). Tehching Hsieh – One Year Performance 1980 – 1981 [YouTube]. Via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvebnkjwTeU)

Although he talks about his work as a philosophy it is interesting that he starts from non-philosophical situations in his performances; living on the streets of New York, tying himself to a fellow artist for a year, jumping out of a window from the second floor of a  building and voluntary isolation. All these  performances show how Tehching Hsieh tries to find freedom. Today he has found his freedom: “I don’t do art anymore. I no longer feel creative. I don’t want to do what the art world expects me to do. This is my exit. This is my freedom.”
(Marks, K,. (2014, April 30), Tehching Hsieh: the man who didn’t go to bed for a year. Via The Guardian)

(FACTLiverpool. (2010, October 28), Tehching Hsieh – One Year Performance 1980 — 1981 (Time Clock Piece) [YouTube]. Via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90izVR2Kip0)

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Art that creates restlessness

Pors & Rao on their artwork at the Setouchi Triennale 2016 “Someone’s Coming”: “We had an idea of these empty canvases whose only state of being is to wait for someone to come; perhaps to look at them, or make them an image, or as a preconscious entity to be born in someone’s mind. As the shed is accessible only during low tide, we thought this idea of waiting for someone to come was quite fitting for this abandoned space. Inside the installation appears as a pristine, maze-like gallery with blank canvases hanging around the edges of the walls. They have these cartoonish patches and repair-work, as if they have been around for a while, and when someone enters the space, they peek around the corner to see what’s coming. If you stand in front of a canvas it doesn’t move, but canvases around the nearest corners will peek out. This creates restlessness in the space where one’s attention is continuously drawn towards what is around the next corner.” (Interview Pors & Rao by David Billa August 15, 2016)

Karin van den Driesche

Man made earthquakes in Eindhoven

How do people respond to the infringement of nature caused by man itself? This question is the drive behind the artworks of Danish artist Sissel Marie Tonn. For Tonn the Netherlands is especially interesting for investigating this question because of its history of overlap between culture and nature. This history resonates in the saying “God created the earth but the Dutch created the Netherlands”. At the Van Abbemuseum Tonn created an interactive artwork of an intimate archive of all the man made earthquakes in Groningen. Tonn’s goal is to transfer the experience of an earthquake rather than to provide information about it. This experience should not only encourage people to become curious but also inspire them to come up with a better solution for the problem. Last Saturday I experienced for the first time how an earthquake feels. The 12 sensations of the installation felt eerie and waiting for the next shock was nerve wrecking even within the save environment of ‘Het oog’ in the Van Abbemuseum. I asked Tonn whether the NAM had visited her artwork but they told her they weren’t interested.

Karin van den Driesche