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Fionnáin

fionnain@bookwyrm.social

Joined 1 year ago

I arrange things into artworks, including paint, wood, plastic, raspberry pi, people, words, dialogues, arduino, sensors, web tech, light and code.

I use words other people have written to help guide these projects, so I read as often as I can. Most of what I read is literature (fiction) or nonfiction on philosophy, art theory, ethics and technology.

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Fionnáin's books

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Thirteen Ways to Smell a Tree (Paperback, 2022, Octopus Publishing Group) No rating

Just as diesel fumes flow into our blood and cells from the lungs, so, too, do the aromas of these trees. As the floral scent enters and embraces us, the trees lay a calming green hand on anxiety's brow, tranquilize the neural pathways of pain, and weave their aromas into the fractures in our central nervous system. We breathe the tree, no longer dis-eased.

Thirteen Ways to Smell a Tree by 

In a section about the scent of the American basswood in Harlem when it flowers. For one week every year the smell overpowers the fumes of petrol, diesel, coal and other fossil fuels in the inner-city air.

Atlas of AI (2021, Yale University Press) 5 stars

The hidden costs of artificial intelligence, from natural resources and labor to privacy, equality, and …

The master-slave metaphor is riddled throughout engineering and computation. One of the earliest uses of this racist metaphor dates back to 1904 describing astronomical clocks in a Cape Town observatory. But it wasn't until the 1960s that the master-slave terminology spread, particularly after it was used in computing, starting with the Dartmouth timesharing system...The problematic implication that control is equivalent to intelligence would continue to shape the AI field for decades. And as Ron Eglash has argued, the phrasing has a strong echo of the pre-Civil War discourse on runaway slaves.

Atlas of AI by 

A dive into computing etymology as part of a broader discussion on labour and automation.

Surfacing (Hardcover, 2019, Sort of Books) No rating

But then again, maybe it showed how readily, in this unfixed place, the visible shifts. Transformation is possible. A bear can become a bird. A sea can vanish, rivers change course. The past can spill out of the earth, become the present.

Surfacing by 

In a section where Jamie mistakes a shape on the landscape for a bear. It turns out to be a raven. She is working on an archaeological dig in the Alaskan tundra, and is referencing this landscape.

The Barefoot Woman (Paperback, 2018, Archipelago) 3 stars

On Living

3 stars

This memoir is my introduction to author Scholastique Mukasonga, instead of one of her more famous works of fiction. It is a book about life, and about lives lived. It is written about her childhood, before the massacre in Rwanda in 1967, at a time when her family was living essentially in a labour camp.

Despite the heartbreaking backdrop, the moments of happiness shine through. Mukasonga also manages a critique of western principles and a conversation on the myths of progress and tradition. In the end it is short and touching, and ultimately sad.

The Barefoot Woman (Paperback, 2018, Archipelago) 3 stars

But there were other stories. Stories that weren't ours, stories we didn't tell around the fire. Stories that were like the toxic drugs concocted by poisoners, stories heavy with hatred, heavy with death. The stories told by the white people, the Bazungu.

The Bazungu had unleashed all the insatiable monsters of nightmares on the Tutsis. They held up the distorting mirrors of their untruths, and in the name of their science and their religion, we were made to see ourselves in the malevolent double their fantasies had given birth to.

The Barefoot Woman by ,

The Barefoot Woman (Paperback, 2018, Archipelago) 3 stars

I was greatly surprised when I heard sweet potatoes, corn, and beans had come to us from America. What roads had those plants taken to get all the way to Rwanda? I never heard an answer.

The Barefoot Woman by ,

Something I've often puzzled over, the plants that dominate diets around the world that had origins in the American continent. I like how this question was asked as "what roads had those plants taken?"

Multispecies Storytelling in Intermedial Practices (Paperback, punctum books, Earth, Milky Way) No rating

Multispecies Storytelling in Intermedial Practices is a speculative endeavor asking how we may represent, relay, …

Many of us are now over-nourished and, despite an unprecedented cornucopia of other foodstuffs to choose from, the majority of us opt to indulge in an ever-growing amount of dairy products and meat. This situation of harm is made possible by a deficit of human sympathy for other creatures, which enables us to “overlook the enormity of animal suffering.”5 Addressing the growing human, environmental, and animal injustices of industrialized meat production requires us to shift both our eating habits and our sympathies by rekindling relationships of kinship and care with the animals we are reliant upon.

Multispecies Storytelling in Intermedial Practices by ,

From the chapter 'The Laudable Cow: Poetics of Human/Cattle Relationships' by Emily McGiffin, pp77-96

Built by Animals (2007, Oxford University Press, USA) 3 stars

From termite mounds and caterpillar cocoons to the elaborate nests of social birds and the …

Well constructed but lacking style

3 stars

This book does essentially exactly what its title promises: It maps a litany of different methods of building by creatures, from microscopic bacteria to primates to termites to beavers to crows. As an overview of the methods employed, it is thorough and enjoyable, if a little dry.

An easy complaint with the book is that, while it regularly advises against human-centric thinking (such as comparing the building methods of animals to that of humans), often in the same paragraph, Hansell uses humanist ideas to confirm his own biases about nonhuman construction. He creates comparisons between primate 'intelligence' and human, but never acknowledges other possible forms of intelligence. This comes to a fore in a chapter on the use of tools, where there is little quarter given to experimental or non-western theories on non-human behaviours, instead insisting on traditional western thought about how brain size affects behaviour. This positioning is a …

A grain of wheat (1986, Heinemann Educational) 4 stars

The tumour of imperialism

4 stars

A tale of people livong in a time of massive transition as Kenya gains 'Uhuru', independence from the British Empire. Ngugi wa Thiong'o wrote this book only a short time after Kenyan independence, which is amazing because it carries so much sympathy and distance that it could have been written today. Added to this, the characters and storytelling is also very modern and seems more like an ethereal novel of the early 2000s. The complexity of violence both in imperialism and in its removal is bittersweet, touching and enriching.

The characters and dialogue is brilliantly sharp, and the motivations and actions both realistic and dreamlike, but what is most striking is the empathy that Ngugi wa Thiong'o manifests for all parties, even those who commit atrocious deeds. This empathy is something that many struggle with even 100 years on from bitter periods of imperial rule. The only flaw in the …