On NY social devide and public interest algorithms

A) An article about New York´s socio-economic segregation. <here>

I was just thinking that socio-economic factors have influence how strongly you are impacted by algorithms. But in a segregated city you will also find an uneven distribution of the same algorithms because of this. So in any given place you will find more dominant and less dominant algorithms.

Florida, Richard. “Class-Divided Cities: New York Edition.” N.p., 2013. Web.

B) Finding counterbalance on the digital front in public interest. <here>

Wheeler, Tom. “Using ‘Public Interest Algorithms’ to Tackle the Problems Created by Social Media Algorithms.” N.p., 2017. Web


What AR, AI, Algorithms and Automation 4.0 might bring negative is something that is talked about a lot. But what about the positive side?
Ever said “I can’t be in two places at the same time!”. With AR and a robot you might be able.
Ever said “I can’t look into the future!” With Algorithms and AI you might.
Ever said “I ain’t no magician” Any advanced enough technology is indistinguishable from it.
Ever thought ” Should I pick up my kids first or go to the supermarket?” Drones might get you covered.
Ever been neurotic about haven’t turned of your oven? The internet of things helps you out.

I am by far not a blind enthusiast when it comes to the impacts of future technologies, but every now and then, you need to drop some positive light on an issue.

Society, the analogue and digital, and some links

The good thing about being sick in bed is having some time to contemplate and write.

A) Inscribed in any space are the societal mechanisms of its inhabitants. This starts with a city layout that resulted, even if in a faint ancient distance, out of some sort of socio-economical reasoning. At some point a group of people decided that a certain setup might fit their needs best, and layer after layer, cycling through  centuries, generations added on top of it. In that respect, a current state of a city is the build history of its inhabitants. It is the stone engraved record of human decisions we navigate through every day. But with digitalization on the horizont, things will change. In respect to algorithms this will result into distinct forms of space, alliances and disparities, one will be able to recognice in the future, which are not the direct result of human conflict solving, but the mere result of a technoid process, where human decision only shines through a layer of rational mathematical operations. Is it possible to forsee them? To what extend is it possible to describe what impact algorithms on the spatial quality of a city might have? I think for a valuable thesis, these are some of the linchpins to answer first. Also what kind of methodology am I going to apply?

B) What happens when we shift societal memory from physical space to digital? What if we encode more an more information about us not in analogue, haptical and physical entities but digital?  Some months ago I read Alec Ross´s book “The Industries of the future”, a extensive look into future technologies that might shape future societies around the globe. In his fourth chapter ” The weaponization of code” he writes;

On Wednesday, August 15, 2012, a shadowy group linked to the Iranian government attacked Saudi Aramco, the world´s largest energy company. Their weapon of choice, a computer virus. … Like an outbreak of influenca the virus rapidly spread from computer to computer, moving from patient zero to a wide swath of Saudi Aramco´s huge corporate network. … Shamoon [the name of the virus] was designedd to wipe out the memory of Saudi Aramco´s computer system.

I think what a lot of people don´t realize is, that digitalization may erase a huge portion of our collective memory. Digital media is inherently instable, prone do decay and contrary to our perception very temporary. Fileformats, storage media and what I would call the treshhold of perception limits the timespawn a certain set of information is actually accessible. Disregarding what you migh think now, it´s not analogue versus digital, I argue for the synthesis, it´s about how we cultivate, transmigrate, organize and include the digital into our reality and our respective cultural techniques.

And we are not even talking viruses at this point in my argument!

Now you could go ahead and just plainly ignore the whole issue. You could say,”well humans will sort it out for the better”, and from a fatalistic point of view, that´s absolutly legit. Then again, what makes us human and the only reason why humans reached the level we are right now, is because we didn´t just lean back and surf on the waves of faith. We have to develope strategies to solve problems, and it´s due to a certain western lazyness that many people do not.

Hannah Arendt in “Vita Activa” mentioned, that by action we distinguish ourselfs from the others. Our action goes beyond what we anticipate in acting out. But what if those actions are not human any more? Or say, only a human decision of second degree? Shall we still try to incorporate them into our interpersonal relationships? If so, does that extend humanity?

C) Further more I did some online research about NY and its linkage to algorithms.

.) A humorous article about “the algorithm” in the NEW YORKER.

.) The Manhattan adress algorithm <here>. It actually describes in a reverse engineered manner the city layout of this part of New York.

.) An algorithm to calculate the optimal size and ratio for a taxi fleet in a given city, with New York as an example. <here>

.) A shocking article about a poorly coded algorithm in the health care domain <here>

.) Insight into new York´s predictive policing algorithms <here>


The Place

Throughout the last days I came to the conclusion, that I need to narrow down on my subject. Some decisions in life are thoroughly thought through, others just pop up and you know it´s the right one.

So when I woke up today I knew that I will place special emphasis on one city and its relationship to algorithms. And there is actually only one city that I could think about, the city I am thinking about for over a decade. A city that both, fullfil my desires AND the special characteristics for this topic.

New York.

Not sure if I will manage to take a visit in the next 1,5 years, not even sure if that will be necesarry, but we will see.

There are several reasons, why New York is fitting like a glove. One being the stock market, another its density, but the one that sticks out is that about half a year ago, New York decided to create a group to monitor and judge on the different algorithms the city utilizes. Read more about the NEW YORK ALGORITHMIC TASK FORCE <here>.

Reading List

Reading -> 31.07.2018

Toronto´s Quayside project

Read about Toronto´s experiences on developing a smart city project here.

The three main points are.

1. In data-intensive projects, data is the whole game

2. Set your governance policies in advance

3. Focus on data collection, control and use


Blayne Haggart, Zachary Spicer. “What Toronto’s Quayside Project Has Taught Us about Smart Cities and Data.” N.p., 2018. Web.

Religios algorithms

And just as I was about to finish my day, reading, working, some more reading, running,… And about a split second after I posted my last post,  I was listening to OE1. An austrian radio broad cast channel. Topic: ” God and the digital revolution”.

That was the title of an ecumenical meeting in Krems Münster abbey.

Ilona Nord, a theological scientiest laid out one important outline.

Düstere Szenarien von Algorithmen die in Zukunft dem Menschen die Freiheit rauben werden, für Ilona Nord fallen diese Entwürfe, in eine von der Bibel her bekannte literarische Kategorie.”

“Bleak scenarios of future algorithms that take away freedom from men. For Iona Nord those concepts fall into a category of biblical dimension.

To be fair, as I understood it, she didn´t ment it that negative. Actually she had critic upon the common theological concept of digitalization and algorithms.


Today I was thinking about how to strategically position my thesis, which I actually have to hand in by November 2019, to fullfil my desired goals. Yeah, that´s going to be tight but realistically realizable. If I stick to the plan.

I still struggle with a comprehensive outline of my thesis. It´s obvious that there is some kind of connection between society, space and algorithms. You can find it on so many levels. But constructing an academic topic or domain from it is really difficult.

It´s such a fresh topic, that there are no dirt tracks to follow.

Hmmmm. We will find a way.

Space Syntax

Space Syntax, developed by Christopher Alexander and Bill Hillier in the late 70´s, is a computational tool for exploring space and visualising various psychological aspects of space. It was initially designed to help urban planner, but later expanded to smaller spatial problems as well.

It is probably the best known tool and certainly one of the first.


Terry Riley -In C-

Most of the time, our understanding of algorithms circles around quantifiable problems. But that´s to some extend shortsighted.

Listen to Terry Riley´s “InC” <LINK>

From an academic  point of view this is a completly legit algorithmic approach. We will come back to the 60´s and 70´s as the linchpin of a discourse about the relationship between society and digital technologies.