Author Archives: Jeremy

NGA’s “Map of the World” not exactly open

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), America’s biggest geography spy agency, has posted an invitation on its media PR page to hear about its “Map of the World” project.

If you’d like to know more about this, the NGA starts off by noting:

Collaboration with industry and academia is critical to the NGA mission, our customers and our strategic partnerships.

Thinking of signing up to learn more? Maybe not:

Except for a one-hour unclassified information session, this event is limited to U.S. citizens holding top secret clearances.

Remember we pay the NGA at least $4.9 billion per year. It seems “industry” and “academia” can only take part by becoming part of the intelligence community.

Derek Gregory: The radio-controlled television plane

Derek Gregory’s latest blog post The radio-controlled television plane, discusses a truly extraordinary proposal first made in 1924 and then republished in 1931.

…the military operation of a ‘radio-controlled television plane’, directed by radio and navigated using ‘electric eyes’ that would enable ‘the control operator, although 50, 100 or possibly 500 miles away, [to] see exactly what goes on around the plane, just the same as if he himself were seated in the cockpit; with the further advantage that, sitting before a screen, he can scan six directions all at once, which no human aviator can do.

See the crazy illustration he dug up:

What makes this additionally remarkable is that the article was by Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967), the well-known science fiction writer and magazine publisher. Gernsback is the American sf figure; as Derek notes the Hugo award (the Oscar of the sf world) is named after him. He also coined the word “scientifiction” and then “science fiction” itself in 1929. He published the first true sf magazine of the so-called “Golden Age” of science fiction, namely Amazing stories, in 1926.

Gernsback was himself awarded the Hugo in 1960 as the “father of science fiction.”

As a member of sf fandom in Britain in the early 1980s I can say that Gernsback was still a key figure in the history of sf among fans. This is what brings Derek’s story home to me personally. That Gernsback was a key figure in the long history of unmanned aircraft is not out of character, although the story Derek discusses is incredible (see the other image of Gernsback wearing remote control goggles, or even Googles).

If you’ve ever read any books by E.E. “Doc” Smith, an author I believe he discovered, which feature noble Randians deploying planetary weaponry against insidious aliens etc etc, you’ll have seen this intersection of the military, the American Way, machismo, and technology up close.

You can read more about Gernsback at the SF Encylopedia, from which I’ve drawn some information above.

“Amazing” stuff.

via Derek Gregory: The radio-controlled television plane.

Google Earth dying?

Frank Taylor, who runs the well-regarded Google Earth Blog has posted his concerns about the decreasing support for Google Earth desktop, and the fact that it may be dying a slow death.

There are a number of reasons to be concerned with this in my view, even as we might feel reassured that Google incorporates some aspects of Google Earth into Google maps.

Note that even then Google Maps may switch you forcibly into “Lite Mode” which does not support Google Earth. On my relatively powerful desktop with good Internet connection I can only run Lite Mode. (If I go to I can enter “Earth mode”–it’s not clear why there are two different browser versions.)

One concern is that GE is great for educational uses, and its KML file format great for sharing maps and map services in the classroom. I’ve used GE in multiple mapping and GIS classes and students find it easy and attractive to use. GE is a “gateway drug” to more fully featured mapping and GIS!

Taylor speculates on a second concern that may be driving this–monetization of other products and a relative decline in interest in GE. This speaks to a decreasing interest in innovative geovisualization.

Google Earth is not dead (and GEB just noted new imagery was pushed out for Google Earth). Other Google projects like Project Tango (3D mapping of space, like an interior StreetView, are tantalizing but some way off just yet.

Many of our current students have grown up with GE (it’s been around since 2005 and came to fame during Hurricane Katrina). But I’m going to start looking for alternatives for my classroom.

Senchyne replies to Kristof–Inside Higher Ed

Thoughtful piece by Jonathan Senchyne in IHE. The immediate context is the NYT piece by Nicholas Kristof last week on academics not participating in the public sphere sufficiently (a piece that’s already received a lot of push-back).

But the longer part of the article discusses a elitist (and very expensive) NYT conference on the virtual university and such developments as “thinkfluencers” and the marketization of “education.”

Just who does the New York Times turn to for higher ed expertise? (essay) | Inside Higher Ed.

What is resilience?

Interesting alternatives if not contradictions in understanding “resilience” in recent publications.

Stephanie Wakefield & Bruce Braun understand resilience as a Foucauldian dispositif (apparatus):

we understand resilience as a mode of governing the ‘ecological’ city.

In Resilient Life, a new book by Brad Evans and Julian Reid, they also think of it as a mode of governing:

‘resilience’ … is becoming a key term of art for governing planetary life in the 21st Century…

But the book is then blurbed as follows:

Resilience, they argue, is a neo-liberal deceit that works by disempowering endangered populations of autonomous agency.

My interest here is not so much whether this is an accurate summation of their book (which is not yet out) but that the discourse of resilience is framed as disempowering (the word used is “nihilistic”).

I wrote about this last year here, in the context of Neocleous’ piece in Radical Philosophy who argued that we need to “resist resilience”:

In [Neocleous'] view, “resilience is by definition against resistance. Resilience wants acquiescence.”

It is therefore politically disempowering (nihilistic?) and should in turn be resisted. (This task is made more urgent for Neocleous by his claim that resilience is gaining traction as a replacement for “sustainability”.)

Identifying resilience with dispositif still leaves open the question of how to interpret it and how to position critique with regard to its effects. Neocleous equates resilience with “acquiescence,” the Evans and Reid book is promoted with the term “nihilistic.”

But as Kara Hoover reminds us:

In anthropology, system (cultural) responses to change tend to interpreted two ways: either system collapse or assimilation. Resilience of a cultural system signals internal strength and cohesion….Perhaps within the confines of social theory, resilience needs to be understood as an internal mechanism for maintaining group cohesion–from an anthropological perspective, internal coherency is the starting point for a group to overcome external shocks and stresses.

Is it too simple then to say Neocleous = “acquiescence”, Evans/Reid blurb = “nihilism,” both = disempowerment; ecology and anthropology = “coherence,” both = rallying point for political activism? If this is correct, then Neocleous and Evans & Reid are disempowering themselves.

For Wakefield and Braun the object is not to turn away from or reject resilience:

the goal in these papers is also to begin to imagine how such a dispositif might be inhabited, occupied, appropriated, or experimented with as part of a new politics of and for the Anthropocene.


There is no secret to be revealed, no foundation or ground that can be uncovered and returned to. Instead, we argue that the task of thought is to locate ourselves within this world, mapping it so as to get to know it, to construct other lines that, in their
elaboration and connections, take the map with them. Like hackers, we must get to know the
network from within and try to locate its exploits.

This gap or contradiction, if I’ve identified it reasonably, might remind us of a similar issue regarding Foucault’s notions of power. That is, that when Foucault says that there is no outside of power, for many writers this became a reason to interpret power as a negative. But Foucault is clear that power is productive; it produces subjects. So how should we problematize (to use a word Foucault placed into circulation with some hesitation) resilience, specifically resilience as dispositif?

Here’s Wakefield and Braun on this question:

We argue that a critical mistake is made whenever we imagine a dispositif as a coherent and unified totality. Or, when we evaluate a dispositif in moral terms as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Fair warning then, and doubly so.

Notes on Agamben’s theory of destituent power


Extremely useful comments by Philippe on Agamben, security and power.

Originally posted on Society and Space - Environment and Planning D:

CHRONOS_2013_Agamben_Lecture_Athens-620x465 Philippe Theophanidis has put together some useful notes on Agamben’s theory of destituent power at the Aphelis blog . These are based on a lecture delivered in Greece which shares some common material with the longer piece translated in the current issue of Society and Space . The  Society and Space article is part of a theme section, all of which is open access for a month, along with some permanently open access material on this site .

As Philippe suggests:

The Athens lecture… represents a very good complement to this more elaborate essay, especially in regard to the treatment it offers on the topics of security and biometric technologies.

His post is useful in talking about the differences and similarities between the texts, and summarising some of the key arguments.

View original

Society and Space special section: Technology, Government and the Resilient City

Great looking special section of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.

Looking forward to reading this, especially the Wakefield & Braun editorial on governing the resilient city, and the Gabrys piece on smart cities as sustainable cities. We just had Joel Wainwright here at UK on climate Leviathan, and Braun will be here in Feb/March for DOPE.

Theme section – A New Apparatus: Technology, Government and the Resilient City.

Clare O’Farrell: Bibliography of work on Foucault and education

Clare O’Farrell has uploaded a nearly 50-page long bibliography of works on Foucault and education (construed broadly).

Bibliography of work on Foucault and education.

New photos from Phantom 2 drone

Yesterday I tested the Phantom 2 drone with an old GoPro Hero camera.

1798506_10153808055720414_818631986_n 1897948_10153808049285414_1807580773_n 1898238_10153808045310414_1549708889_n

Flying above my neighborhood on a snowy winter day. Can you see me?

The lens distortion (fisheye) of the camera is quite apparent and a major disadvantage for serious photography. The advantage however of using the GoPro is that the gimbal on the drone is specifically designed to accept the GoPro camera.

This morning I received the GoPro Hero3 Silver Edition. This is a lighter and more powerful camera, which still has a fisheye effect (sporty types seem to desire this). However, Adobe CS6 and Camera Raw 8.3 can correct most of the distortion as shown below.


Before and after lens correction.

These images were taken on the “Medium” angle setting (5MP). This edition can take 11mp images, but at that setting is limited to wide-angle images unfortunately. (Also it doesn’t come with a micro SD card so I’m using the one from my phone temporarily. I need one with a speed rating of at least 10 if I need to automatically take pics more often than every 2 seconds, which will cost about $13).

Other small cameras and gimbals are possible, but these were the options that gave me the most common combinations and would get me in the air the most readily.

Update: here’s a shot out the window before and after lens and color correction was applied (and some cropping of the image).

DCIM101GOPRO   window after

Foucault “Discourse and Truth. The Problematization of Parrhesia”

Foucault parrhesia cover   Pages from Foucault Parrhesia


Does anyone know if Foucault’s 1983 lecture series “Discourse and Truth the Problematization of Parrhesia” has ever been put online in the above format? I don’t mean the audio lectures, the book Fearless Speech or the adapted text (missing Pearson’s crucial critical notes) at! I mean as above.

Maybe it shouldn’t be online, but I was just wondering.