596 acres workshop for bronx tech month

itp resident sharon lee de la cruz is co-organizing bronx tech month this month and asked a few folks to present workshops that combine tech with social justice. i’m presenting one on saturday about data and mapping.

half the workshop will focus on 596 acres‘s map of vacant land in new york city. we’ll walk through what 596 is and some of the functionality of the website, including organizing success stories. but in addition to sharing the tool, i’m interested in getting folks to think about how they’d make their own tool using maps and open data sets.

i’m thinking i’ll do a quick demo with an nyc open data set from here >> https://nycplatform.socrata.com/ << and drop it into cartodb. there are a lot of directions we could go from there: i could talk about wireframes and user flows, which i found really helpful in francis’s “designing digital communities” class last semester. or i could talk about the recent propublica story that highlights what’s possible when you start finding discrepancies in data sets.

either way, i want to leave time for folks to brainstorm and sketch together.

i’m also trying to create my presentation using html and reveal.js, both so i can practice and so the website will be available online to folks who might find it useful in the future. we’ll see if i can pull that off by saturday.

UPDATE: workshop is here! i realized as i was presenting it that it’s pretty dense. there’s enough material there to discuss and do activities for a few hours, if you have people break out into groups to brainstorm/sketch along the way. alternatively, it’s definitely possible to just tear through everything, without breakout activities, in 45 minutes or so.

i will talk to anyone

for our second assignment (first was a soundboard), we were supposed to do our own version of steve lambert’s “i will talk with anyone about anything (free)”.

i made these signs and stood outside the nyu student center with the first one.



it was raining, and i did not get much feedback. a few folks took photos. one guy told me hated his graduate program, but it wasn’t law school. he told me the rain created a problem with my sample. maybe he’s a stats or econ guy. at any rate, the rain turned my sign to mush so i went back inside.

then, i posted on my personal facebook page. a friend who’s currently in law school shared the post.

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i tried to post a message & photos on the nyu school of law facebook page, but their settings prevent me from posting photos even if i “like” the page. i ended up posting without photos, and my comment ended up on the left side—under page stats, “about”, “photos”, and “videos”. in terms of location on the page, it takes 2.5 full downward swipes on the mouse to get there. no one will ever see it.

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the columbia law school doesn’t have an official facebook page; the unofficial one doesn’t let you post. there is a “columbia law school” group within the columbia facebook page, but it requires a columbia.edu email address. i looked at the university of washington’s law school page. they don’t let you post at all.

no comment

this is interesting. where are the public fora for this kind of feedback? how do institutions constrain conversations in physical and digital space? how do they use their presence on social media platforms to support the idea that they’re interested in engaging with the public, while, at the same time, limiting the kinds of engagement that are possible?

one way we know we’re asking the right questions in public, in physical space, is that security gets called or the cops come. in digital space, when there isn’t even an opportunity to appear, to be silenced, i wonder how we might signal to each other that we are asking questions at all.

tearing down judy b

the theory nerds broke my damn heart this evening.

for the “performance of politics” class i’m taking with tavia nyong’o and eric lott semester, we are assigned a book a week. the book we discussed this week was judith butler’s notes toward a performative theory of assembly.

butler is dear to me. i am hopelessly uncritical of her work, so basically unable to have a scholarly conversation about it. i remember following the knots of her thought through gender trouble in undergrad. i had never read anything like it. i had never read gender. i had never read or thought queer anything. i watched youtube videos of her lectures and was tickled by her pacing, her patient picking apart in language that was so bizarre but the only language that would work for the thing. she reads like a poet.

a few years later, i read hannah arendt’s eichmann in jerusalem, another life changer. i came to know arendt better through butler. and primo levi. and levinas and benjamin. edward said. i’m doing other reading/thinking at this point in my life, but when i come back to those thinkers, and i definitely will, it will have been because of her. parting ways: jewishness and the critique of zionism led me to jewish voice for peace, an organization that (re)shaped my life in profound ways for the years i lived in seattle.

butler is not as much a theorist for me as a rabbi, a person whose primary concern is how to live ethically, how to be in the world with others in the right way. what it means to do this as a jew. what queerness tells us about this. i am only grateful that she has found better editors or at least clarified things for herself somehow over the years. whatever the thing is that has made her so much more legible, digestible. although sometimes i miss the feeling of rocks in the stomach grinding, roughly, over her ideas.

all of which is to say, it was hard to sit in class tonight and hear very eloquent arguments about why this book is not a book of theory, to wonder why she would choose arendt (so racist! so elitist!), to contest her claims about humanism (she says she’s not a humanist, but she is!), to note the limitations of her thinking about allegiances and coalitions (why didn’t she anything about reparations?). none of which, in the end, is actually off-base at all or even really a threat to what she is or what her thinking is.

first class with anna deveare smith

i’m taking a performance class with anna deveare smith called “personal narratives, global identities.” why? because performing scares me, has always scared me. because in november, after she spoke to our class, i wrote her a very long thing and she wrote me back encouraging me to apply to be in the class and saying:

tell people to sign up who you think
Are risk takers
Have a sense of humor
Get caught in a project they are developing and work hard
Have a life problem to solve
Are generous 
Enjoy  food  ( we eat together sometimes) 
Will talk you honestly re what they think about your work in a challenging but kind way. 

because her compassion and understanding of human nature just radiate from her body and her speech. because she’s rigorous and strategic. because she’s doing important, complicated work in the world.

i’m not allowed to talk about the work we do in class, but it’s powerful, embodied stuff that i’m so excited about.