September 2012

The Distributed Library Project

The Distributed Library Project ontology visualised by Jo Walsh

The Distributed Library Project enabled people to share their books with their neighbourhood.

dlp-screenshotThe project involved developing a website where people could catalogue, lend and borrow from collections of each other’s books, flyers, zines, videos and other ephemera that may have fallen out of print or had never made it into official circulation.

The DLP grew into a network of unique, often obscure collections from social centres, people’s homes, underground cinemas, and other hidden archives around the UK, while the Free Software we built enabled the setting up of sister distributed library catalogues from San Francisco to Islamabad.

The Distributed Library Project ontology visualised by Jo Walsh
The Distributed Library ontology visualised by Jo Walsh


Credits & Links


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World Summit for Free Information Infrastructures

wsfii-draft-t-shirt-julian-badge (WSFII) was a gathering of DIY infrastructure enthusiasts from around the world. WSFII marked the culmination of a series of meetings of Free Wireless Network communities that had sprung up in the wake of the deregulation of the 2.4Ghz citizen wifi spectrum in the 90s. Tinkerers, engineers, artists, community groups and activists had found new ways to use, interpret and deploy technologies on this newly opened bandwidth, and had begun to network internationally. WSFII reinforced the diffusion of this network into a broader ecosystem of complimentary approaches to the self-provision of communication, energy and societal infrastructures. The two-day summit included tracks on Free (as in speech) Money, Open Scientific Data, Free Networks, Free Hardware, Open Licensing, and Creative Commons.     4 One of the most interesting infrastructures created and used at WSFII was ‘The Lime’ community currency. Peter Brownell designed and printed up this event currency especially for WSFII, which was accepted as legal tender in local shops, cafés, pubs and even in the local illicit bar. 10% of whatever was spent in Limes during WSFII was kicked back to the bank, which funded the entire event. WSFII featured the first OKCon (the annual meeting of the Open Knowledge Foundation), and played host to the first  BookSprint, Wireless Networking for Development.

Credits & Links

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The Pragmatics of Aesthetic Assessment in Conversation

Here’s the presentation I just gave at Semdial 2012 in Paris.

Here’s the accompanying paper.
The Pragmatics of Aesthetic Assessments in Conversation
From the proceedings of Semdial 2012.


Judgements of taste are an intrinsic part of everyday conversational interactions: people make assessments and agree and disagree with them as a core part of how they participate in activities, create and share knowledge, and manage their relationships with one another. However, these conversational assessments can seem resistant to some forms of analysis in ways that are summed up neatly in the Scholastic idiom “there’s no accounting for taste”.

This paper approaches the difficulty of analysing judgements of taste in dialogue by looking at them in terms of the pragmatics of talk-in-interaction. An as-yet-unanalysed example of a conversation about an artwork is drawn from Anita Pomerantz’ seminal Conversation Analytic (CA) paper on conversational assessments, and examined in order to build up a picture of the mechanisms people use when making aesthetic assessments.

This analysis suggests that seemingly high-level aesthetic judgements are accomplished using the same ordinary mechanisms of conversational assessment ubiquitous in everyday talk. Some curious features of topic shifting within assessments are discussed, highlighting some methodological issues for this use of CA, and further research into naturalistic aesthetic assessment is proposed.

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Of the Association of Ideas

Were the loosest and freest conversation to be transcribed, there would immediately be observed something which connected it in all its transitions. Or where this is wanting, the person who broke the thread of discourse might still inform you, that there had secretly revolved in his mind a succession of thought, which had gradually led him from the subject of conversation.

Section III of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume

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