On My Desk has words and pictures of physical workspaces used by artists and designers. Similar to the earlier Flickr Annotated Workspaces group and the Lifehacker series on workspaces, but focused more on creative media people. (As you might expect, these are an order of magnitude wonkier than typical information workers—in a good sort of way.)
Here's David Carillo's space (check out the fire-hydrant work table):
Chris Dalen at Pitchfork calls for a new Lester Bangs or Hunter Thompson—but with the ability to write about technology, "because pop culture today is primarily a technology story":
I keep hearing the same gripe from the critics of the critics of pop culture: Today's writers eat it. Nobody knows how to cover music, or movies, or video games, or any of the other media that matter. We need someone to swoop in and save us: We need a new Lester Bangs, or a new Hunter S. Thompson-- one of those guys who made criticism and alternative journalism seem so vital back in the 1960s and 70s. Where they hell did they go?
Chuck Klosterman writes in Esquire about the failure of the gaming press to cough up a single critic who embodies whatever Bangs was doing when he told people to listen to the Troggs. Old school fans of music crit watch the field slip into the morass of mp3 blogs, message boards, and kids who just shout, 'Hey, can you YSI that to me?' every time a new album leaks-- and they wonder, what happened to the great critics? They want a tastemaker, a voice of authority, who can put it all in perspective and knock our heads together with his or her crazy-yet-dead-on arguments.
But I think I've found the answer: We don't have a new Bangs or Thompson yet because pop culture today is primarily a technology story. And we don't know how to write about technology."
I think part of the issue here is that technology writing tends to come in two flavors: technophilia and technophobia. It's very rare to find someone who writes perceptively and accessibly about technology who doesn't either fawn over geeky details or demonize technology as the root of all social problems. Thompson and Bangs both loved their various topics, but were also able to see deep within the ugly heart of it, and within themselves.
Wired has a very short interview with Bart Kosko about his new book, Noise [amazon]. The book won't be out for several weeks, so I'm just going on the interview here, but Kosko's main premise is that many types of noise are productive rather than detrimental (in nanotech, digital photography, and environmental background noise). All of which makes sense to me. I usually work on complex projects with very loud music on in the background; I think it keeps me from getting bogged down.
There are, apparently, no commas in Kosko's book. According to the interview, the slow people down. I couldn't tell if he was joking or not, since his comments seem at odds with the premise of the book.
Commas are a kind of channel noise. You’re not getting to the verb fast enough. Why make us wait? The comma is on its way out. Use small words.
[via boing boing]
8 Jul, Fri, 07:39:37 Google: pictures of people spitting up tacos
Here's some rare good news on the IP front: musician and political activist Billy Bragg's campaign to get MySpace to fix their IP-grabbing Terms of Service has apparently succeeded. (A month or so back, MySpace revised their terms of service to let them grab and re-sell—to anyone—user-generated content.) Here's a relevant section of the revised terms:
MySpace.com does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, "Content") that you post to the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain all ownership rights in such Content, and you continue to have the right to use your Content in any way you choose. By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the MySpace Services, you hereby grant to MySpace.com a limited license to use, modify, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on and through the MySpace Services.
Part of what interests me about this recent IP battle (for MySpace and YouTube) is the way that people are starting to understand that IP is an important issue for nearly everyone; IP isn't a simple scam propagated by big media to steal from everyone else—certainly that's big media's goal, but IP is much more complicated than that, and IP reform can restore some crucial balance. But that requires accepting the fact that, in a late-caplitalistic system, ignoring IP rights is foolish and attempting to completely overthrow them is hopeless. Five years ago, many people I know and respect were publicly claiming all IP should be free, and that IP was only ever parasitical. But if you're a knowledge worker—or a hobbyist content creator—limited IP rights are extremely important (note the word "limited" back there—it's a balance). And naively protesting them under the "property is theft" banner is just boneheaded, making it easier for big media to demonize technologies like P2P.
[via boing boing]
This looks promising: According to Create Digital Motion, the upcoming Numark NuVJ control surface bundles ArKaos (OS X or Win) for MIDI control of both music and video (live digital effects, plug-in support, MIDI i/o).
Hook the device to a laptop and digital camera for ... I don't know, whatever kids do with these things at raves, which I only know about from movies since I'm an old person. Looks cool though. Only $300, available in December. The link above includes more specs and some product images.
I wrote an amazingly witty and thoughtful, ten-paragraph post about this, but then MarsEdit crashed, so now you're just stuck with that one-line entry. Here's a bit more:
If you're into Lacan, post-Marxism, cultural theory, etc., go watch it. The Gpod link refers to Zizek as an "academic rock star" and the "Elvis of cultural theory." He wrote the copy of a recent Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue.
Jeopardy ace Ken Jennings posted a tongue-in-cheek open letter to Jeopardy on his weblog, telling the show it needed to be more hip:
What I really wanted to talk to you about was your image. You’ve got a good twenty years on you now, and that’s Trebek-era alone. Times have changed since your debut, but when I watch you, it’s the same-old same-old: the same format, the same patter, the same fonts, the same everything as when I first crushed out on you in fourth grade. You’re like the Dorian Gray of syndication. You seem to think “change” means replacing a blue polyethylene backdrop with a slightly different shade of blue polyethylene backdrop every presidential election or so. Would you mind a few suggestions on how you might really freshen up your act a bit?
Jennings gets progressively weirder after that, with suggestions to have contestants run up and hit buttons on the answer board (like Nickelodeon gameshows) and to add categories like "The Arby's 5-$5.95 Value Menu" and "Skanks from Reality TV Who Got Naked in Men's Magazines," until he gets down to three final tips for modernizing the show:
But here's the punchline: A backlash to Jennings' ungrateful attitude has emerged in the press. Here's the opening of an article in the NY Post:
"Jeopardy!" champ Ken Jennings has emerged from the "Where Are They Now?" shadows to bite the hand that fed him $2.5 million just a short time ago.
Well, the NY Post isn't actually one of my most-valued sources for good journalism, but the US News & World Report has a similar article.
Part of me is hoping that NY Post and US News & World Report are in on the joke, but I'm not optimistic.
15 Jul, Sat, 20:31:14 Google: lyrics viA WILCO CHICAGO ANALYSIS
15 Jul, Sat, 23:47:37 Google: life is essentially useless as life is, explanation
21 Jul, Fri, 19:49:02 Google: myth of fingerprints meaning
21 Jul, Fri, 20:52:54 Google: I shot myself
22 Jul, Sat, 01:59:26 Google: "philadelphia freedom" stream
24 Jul, Mon, 11:16:54 Google: skin scanner from Johnson & Johnson
25 Jul, Tue, 01:29:57 Yahoo: what can people learn from superheroes
According to many sources (including me), this is one of the main tributaries that lead into punk [embedded YouTube video with commentary].
[via Crooks and Liars]
BLDGBLOG has a long, link-filled post about psychoacoustic maps from several carographer/artists that explore the mappings of landscape against audio in different ways. For example, "Psychoacoustic Maps of Milton Keynes" maps environmental colors to sounds (the site includes links to color compilations, audio tracks, and .mov files):
The colours in our environment talk to us in a silent but clear voice. Bright and vibrant colours are perceived as happy and cheerful. In art colour appeals to us in a personal way. The size and combination of coloured surfaces make up compositions that we either love or hate. Large surfaces of colour can seem to pulsate. The relationship between two or three contrasting elements decides the frequency of this pulse. A question I often ask myself is how sound can emulate this sensation. What if the blind person could feel the colours and the composition through a sonic experience. My Psychoacoustic Maps of Milton Keynes explore ways of translating visual compositions into sound environments.
I have composed a series of maps based on colours I like. The maps are visual environments, snapshots of a time of day, a mood or an experience in Milton Keynes. I have built a software that analyses the images and produces sound based on the colours. This forms the basis for the audio compositions that accompany the maps. The psychoacoustic maps are not functional, but they use the geometrical forms of the original city map as a basis for artistic expression.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on networked books, including discussion with McKenzie Wark on GAM3R 7H30RY (an online book posted in draft form for weblog-style open commenting), researchers from the Institute for the Future of the Book, and several university press editors and related folk. Not much new in the article if you've already been following these topics, but it gathers some important issues together. And a couple of bitter exchanges between the old and avant garde.
It's interesting to watch, from the margins (hey, I made a pun), as this slow cultural shift takes place. In many ways, the outlines of it have been inevitable since the rise of the Internet (and pretty clear way before that—Englebart's NLS/Augment, Nelson's Xanadu, or Bush's Memex). Here's Peter Suber's Timeline of the Open Access Movement that documents some of the early incarnations: the first RFC (Request for Comment (1969); USENET (1979); and Steve Harnad's groundbreaking Psycholoquy (1989), which I used to follow when I was in grad school.But forecasting cultural change is always hazy business, and the specifics are still up in the air. A book or a journal article run by different conventions than, say, weblogs or wikis. Some of those differences have decayed into empty tradition, while others have important effects. It's popular to condemn older media as being slow or too conventional (or conversely to deride new media for being all flash and no substance), there are aspects to all those varied articulations that are worth considering: the weblog or the wiki shouldn't simple replace the book. The question things like GAM3R 7H30RY and IFB ask are what aspects should we retain from each medium? How and why do these things function the way they do? How can we participate in their productive mutation?
[via Ray Cha]
The Continuous Partial Attention Wiki, launched by Linda Stone (who also coined the term). CPA is similar to multi-tasking, but differs significantly because it spreads attention across tasks rather than simply switching among them. The wiki's still pretty sparse, but there are links to several magazine articles and conference presentations on the topic.
This is not a new phenomenon. Ironically, attention to it apparently is. In my head, I'm seeing Albert Brooks, in Broadcast News, drinking vodka and frozen, concentrated OJ, reading, singing, and watching William Hurt steal his anchor job on the evening news. "I can sing while I read; I am singing and reading both." (Maybe I wasn't supposed to be considering him as a role model.)
[via Boing Boing]
I've always been a little puzzled over the NYT's employment of hypertext links in many of its articles. There's a tendency to link relatively low-level, obvious things, like names of countries or cities that either (a) are so well-known that I'm not sure who would click the link, or (b) have such a tangential relationship to the main story that I'm not sure who would click on the link.
So here's this link, in an otherwise pretty interesting (to me at least) article, "Chasing the Perfect Taco Up the California Coast" by Cindy Price:
The link takes you to this page at the NYT, which apparently indexes every article about Julia Child the NYT ever published. And there are some interesting articles there, but I'm not sure who follows links like that. Similar links earlier in the same taco article go to geographical places (LA and SF, and another link to California in general). Name-dropping and geographical name-checking are common hypertext opportunities at NYT. (And why link to Julia Child but not David Crosby?)
I guess it's not so much that every link in a hypertext has to be something that I'd, personally, want to follow, but there's something gratuitous about them: they're not motivated by any real interest in the main theme of the story, but just in the fact that it was easy information to link to. The NYT does occasionally provide links I think are useful—in the article above, they link to the weblog tacohunt, for example (recursively, tacohunt now sports a digicam shot of the NYT article in question). But in general I skip over the links the NYT offers because I've come to learn that they're not very interesting or useful.
Which has always been one of the problems of hypertext: Once you give someone the freedom to insert a link into their text, every word looks like a potential link. But the trick is in knowing when "potential" equals "useful" or at least "interesting."
Probably a useful article for a student assignment on the rhetoric of retail: "How Stores are Secretly Using Barry Manilow to Rob You." Retail space is (as you might suspect) an extremely well-researched environment (both inside and out). When I was an undergrad working at a local party store, I used to read the trade magazines about aisle construction and end-cap configuration. And, like nearly everyone, all that canny knowledge goes out of my head whenever I go into a grocery store without a shopping list having skipped breakfast or lunch.
Who hasn't struggled at home to scrub that disgusting cake of wax off of supermarket cucumbers? In addition to extending their shelf life, that wax makes cukes appear a more vibrant green in the produce section. Meanwhile, Red Delicious apples tend to be among the blandest tasting apple variety, but they're still the most popular variety due largely to their bright and pretty red color. Many studies have confirmed that people are drawn to and buy more of vibrantly colored products (of any sort). There is of course an entire science to product packaging that is focused in large part on colors, but even the color of dairy products and meats are "enhanced" through chemical or genetic means because of this color rule.
Beyond the colors of products, extensive testing has also been done on the colors of the walls, floors, fixtures and virtually every other surface inside of chain store to determine which is most "effective." Supermarket store floors are typically kept super-shiny white, for example, because it promotes greater sales -- likely because at a subconscious level people associate it with cleanliness, freshness, and purity.
Apparently, I have some organizational issues.
To begin with, the history of black superheroes is not easily assembled since early on, much of the work was not reported on. There aren't volumes of books out there on the subject, and even if you look at historical books put out by major publishers - the coverage on their own black superheroes is sparse at best.
Also, companies prefer to sweep any negative and stereotypical characters from their past under the rug in order to preserve their images today. Therefore, the search for early black superheroes turns up more negative images than anything else. The history as a whole needs to be looked at in order to fully appreciate the black superheroes being created today.
The site includes a large archive of images and and extensive list of links to articles on black superheroes.
boingboing has an update on the YouTube copyright issue, including a response from YouTube and lots of comments from boingboing readers. Here's YouTube's response:
Your commenters are pretty much correct. YouTube wants to CYA itself in case it flows into new formats with old videos, e.g., cell phone downloads. They don't want to have to go back and relicense all the content in new mediums. And its also true that simply yanking the video will cut off all their rights, which is a powerful weapon to keep them in check.
When the Billy Bragg folks complained about MySpace, it was basically over the same issue, so now that MySpace has responded with some clarity, it might behoove YouTube to do the same.
One thing they could say is that any reproductions, distributions, derivatives, etc. that they make of your work would not be sold separately as a distinct product. This would keep them from burning CDs or DVDs and the like.
YouTube's new terms and conditions now sports a MySpace-like claim of "worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Submissions."
As with MySpace, you still retain copyright—but YouTube also has rights to do just about anything they want with your material; and they can pass those rights on to anyone else they want. Not a big deal for 80% of the videos up there that have (at best) an extremely limited commercial value, or the other 19% that are actually owned by some other copyright holder (and, technically, shouldn't be on YouTube in the first place). Still, who's to say what's commercially valuable? (YouTube is currently being sued by the independent news reporter who owns copyright to footage from the LA riots.)
[via Boing Boing]
ViewDo distributes user-submitted instructional videos formatted for video iPods. Only a few dozen available right now, but the concept looks promising. Here are a few topics covered in the current offerings:
Making a purl stitch
Insert a record into MySQL with Dreamweaver
Install an iPod in an Accord
Make Jack's perfect margaritas
Replace an electrical outlet
Play beginner guitar chords
Juggle 3 objects (cascade style)
Throw a fastball (2-seam or 4-seam)
The site also offers discussion boards and a request list (they're looking for someone who knows how to milk a cow and play beer bong) (not at the same time).
Mark Bernstein has posted a brief video demo of Tinderbox for writing projects, built out of segments shot during Readercon panel with Bernstein, Sarah Smith, and Kathryn Cramer. During the panel, Smith describes her use of the program: "A really powerful way of writing fiction is to conceive of your entire universe as a gigantic database...." (Which is how Tinderbox lets you deal with the real universe as well.)
More info on Tinderbox is available at Eastgate's website.
At McSweeney's Internet Tendency, John Moe has "Notes on 'Sweet Child O' Mine' as Delivered to Axl Rose by His Editor" (my favorite 1990s pop song that starts strong and goes nowhere ... maybe the editor has a point).
Just got your manuscript and demo for the song "Sweet Child O' (sic) Mine." I think we need to talk. As your editor, I am responsible for making your songs as cogent as possible, for helping them reach the high editorial standards your public has come to expect. With this one, I am certainly earning my keep. After several attempts to reach you by phone, I am sending along my notes. Please make appropriate fixes as soon as possible, at which point I can send them to copyediting and proofreading in time for your upcoming studio session.
She's got a smile that, it seems to me—Why equivocate? You weaken your point by framing this as a mere personal observation instead of a fact.
Reminds me of childhood memories—Redundant. You either have a memory or you're reminded of something. You're not reminded of a memory. Heavy-metal fans won't stand for such writing, my friend.
I think I've had the same editor on some projects. And I've always worked on being the Axl Rose of academia: shrieking, moody, loud, abrasive, and with a head full of crazy hair.
Underdog reminded me that today is Hunter Thompson's birthday [wikipedia link]. RIP (damn.)
From Hunter's honorable discharge from the Air Force in 1958:
In summary, this airman, although talented will not be guided by policy.... Sometimes his rebel and superior attitude seems to rub off on other airmen staff members.
I forgot to add on the previous "Now Watching" entry, RIP Joe Strummer (double damn).
The Clash, Live in Tokoyo 
An AP story on the generational shift from email to IM [from Yahoo news].
Chintan Talati, who is 28, often uses instant message with other younger peers at his work, a California-based Web site that provides automotive information to consumers. He prefers IM over e-mail. "It's a way to get a quicker answer," he says.
His baby boomer colleagues don't necessarily share that view — and often find instant messaging overwhelming.
Boyd has found much the same in her research at Berkeley.
"Adults who learn to use IM later have major difficulty talking to more than two people at one time — whereas the teens who grew up on it have no problem talking to a bazillion people at once," Boyd says. "They understand how to negotiate the interruptions a lot better."
Kirah, at Microsoft, even thinks young people's brains work differently because they've grown up with IM, making them more adept at it.
For that reason, she says bosses should go right ahead and use their e-mail — and shouldn't feel threatened by IM.
"Like parents, they try to control their children," she says. "But companies really need to respond to the way people work and communicate."
The focus, she says, should be the outcome.
"Nine to 5 has been replaced with 'Give me a deadline and I will meet your deadline,'" Kirah says of young people's work habits. "They're saying 'I might work until 2 a.m. that night. But I will do it all on my terms.'"
It took me a while to figure this trend out when I first noticed it several years ago. I'd email my students and they wouldn't respond. After a few days, I'd see them in class and mention that I'd emailed them something. They'd shrug and say they didn't check email much, but if I really needed to get ahold of them, I should call their cellphones or IM them. And it's true; I started listing my IM contact info on my syllabi several years ago, I get about twice as many contacts from students over IM than I do by email. (And office hours, forget about them. I keep office hours because I'm required to, but I'm more likely to talk to students over IM or email during my office hours than I am to actually see one of them.)
I've noticed teachers have a tendency to over-value facetime. "I need to see my students," they say. "I can't connect with them unless I can read the expressions on their faces or read their body language; I want to know what they really think." Poppycock. Your just telling yourself this because you're more comfortable face-to-face; it's how you were enculturated to teaching. It's part of the submerged myth that words on a screen or page are less true or honest than words spoken in person. The myth of presence. It's why oral examinations continue to be a crucial part of education, even in programs where the focus is supposedly on "mediated" communication. Sure, here are times when face-to-face is more useful than email or IM or phone, but it's not a hierarchy of value or truth. Sometimes, email or IM are better, either because they're more convenient (and more likely to happen) or because text or some other media are just more effective.
Whatever works. Spork and I talk over IM all the time, frequently when we're both in the house but in different rooms, both at our computers. I guess some people would think that's tragic, but it's not like those conversations necessarily replace facetime, they augment it. Either of us are unlikely to run to the other side of the house and up a flight of stairs just to pass on a one-line joke or other relatively non-important piece of information, but IM fits into the interstices of other work we're doing, letting us carve out a tiny chunk of interaction on the fly.
The music industry has been whining for years about the effects of filesharing on music sales, but I have a hard time working up much sympathy. And successes like iTunes Store sales make it clear that big corporations will find a way to play postmodernist conditions into new markets. But filesharing, coupled with the rise of online music sales, have one effect not much reported on the media: the slow death of indie music stores [NYT article]:
At Norman’s, which is 15 years old and just around the corner from New York’s epicenter of punk, St. Marks Place, shoppers with nose rings and dewy cheeks are not unknown. But they may only be looking to use the automatic teller machine. A pair of teenagers — he with ink-black dyed hair, and she in ragged camouflage shorts — wandered in one evening recently and promptly froze in the doorway, stopped in their tracks by an Isaac Hayes cut from the 70’s.
They had the confused looks of would-be congregants who had stumbled into a church of the wrong denomination; they quickly shuffled off. Most of Norman’s other customers were old enough to remember eight-track tapes. Steven Russo, 53, for instance, was looking for jazz CD’s. Mr. Russo, a high school teacher in Valley Stream, N.Y., said that he values the store for its sense of camaraderie among cognoscenti as much as its selection. “It’s the ability of people to talk to people about the music, to talk to personnel who are knowledgeable,” he said.
I bought my first vinyl at our tiny, rural town's drugstore (the kind of place that served vanilla cokes and strawberry malteds). I think it was a 45 of Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" b/w Elton and John Lennon doing "I Saw Her Standing There" live. I can't say there was a huge sense of "camaraderie among cognoscenti" at Braun's Pharmacy, but the NYT article kind of bummed me out.
Hardboiled detective fiction legend Mickey Spillane dies on Monday. Here's the LA Times obit. And the obligatory thematic quote:
Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.
Often critiqued as crude and simplistic, Spillane ushered in an era of powerful, violent, troubling successors. Reservoir Dogs, for example, riffed on Spillane's Kiss Me Deadly. (There are more than 17,000 hits if you google "tarantino spillane".)
And the Cohen Brother's first film, Blood Simple, which, coincidentally, I was in the middle of watching when I learned about Spillane's death. (I'm right in the middle of that amazingly disturbing roadside scene where Ray buries the I'm-Not-Dead-Yet Julian.)
VisualIDs: Scenery for Dataworlds reports on an experimental program for generating distinctive visual icons for filesystems (or other collections of data). Most operating systems assign default icons based on filetype. So, in the screenshot below, icons indicate the program used to create the file, while filenames distinguish the file contents. The VisualIDs system relies on the fact that people can learn to recognize unfamiliar scenery, and will remember a place's distinctive visual features when they return to it later. (The SIGGRAPH paper [pdf] on this uses the metaphor of locating a restaurant: The first time you visit it, the building may seem new. But if you return to it (especially if you visit several times), the building becomes a familiar, visually recognizable landmark, part of the scenery.)
In the above screenshot from my hard drive, the icons for the actual files are more or less useless—they tell me whether or not the file is for Word or InDesign; when I use this folder, I have to scan for filenames, then sort out which file I need based on what program created it. But note that I've assigned distinctive icons to the most commonly used folders at the left; these also show up in other views, allowing me to more quickly find a folder I need based on its distinctive icon. The VisualIDs project takes that down to the file level, and does it automatically. The VisualID system automatically creates distinctive visual icons, based on a host of factors, to help create memorable scenery in dataspaces. Here are some of their examples:
There's a tradeoff between memorability and speed due to the automation. But since it's done automatically, it's more likely to be done for every file, rather than the ones I decide to manually modify. But one of the core requirements for VisualID is that users can still override the automatic icon, so in the long run, it could be a huge benefit.
[via information aesthetics]
In some sort of agreement with Warner Bros, gaming site IGN is streaming the first 24 minutes of the PK Dick/Richard Linklater/Keanu Reeves movie "A Scanner Darkly" (probably there only temporarily). Looks promising; the opening scene will make your skin crawl (and probably your dog's skin, too).
Paul Brians at Washington State U has a list of Grammar Non-Errors: "Those usages people keep telling you are wrong but which are actually standard in English." They're well thought-out and well-researched.
“Spitting image” should be “spit and image.”
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earlier form was "spitten image,” which may indeed have evolved from “spit and image.” It’s a crude figure of speech: someone else is enough like you to have been spat out by you, made of the very stuff of your body. In the early 20th century the spelling and pronunciation gradually shifted to the less logical “spitting image,” which is now standard. It’s too late to go back. There is no historical basis for the claim sometimes made that the original expression was “spirit and image.”
[via Boing Boing]
Flickr has a new pool on Everyday Information Architecture: images of people structuring their information when it comes as books, CDs, photos, paper notes, etc. It's part of Benjamin Fischer's research for his thesis in information design, so you should contribute:
For a publication (part of my thesis in communication design) on how we find, collect, evaluate and share information I am searching for images of "Everyday Information Architectures". The kind of images I am researching are those of personal design solutions for organizing and structuring everyday life and environment: bookshelves, movie-collections, mind-maps, workplaces, toolboxes, garages, photoboxes, filing cabinets etc.
[via Information Aesthetics]
(This is actually old—from 2005—but I just stumbled over it.) Two researchers at UC-Berkeley, Jon Snydal and Marti Hearst, have developed a prototype application for visualizing improvisation in jazz performances. Here's a link to a page with some material (mostly PDFs from CHI2005) at Jon Snydal's site. From the CHI paper/poster abstract:
ImproViz is a visualization technique for diagramming music that brings to light signature patterns of a jazz musician's improvisational style. ImproViz consists of two parts: (1) melodic landscapes show the general contours of musical phrasing, and (2) harmonic palettes represent the musician's tendency to use a particular combination of notes in a given part of the song. Viewing the jazz standard All Blues through the lens of ImproViz illustrates the contrasting melodic and harmonic styles of three musicians. This analysis uncovers some surprises, such as how Miles Davis played musical ideas that contradicted his own composition. ImproViz offers jazz students a new way to study jazz theory and can also serve as a real-time improvisational aid, allowing a student to borrow the harmonic vocabulary of jazz masters.
Miles Davis broke rules? Who knew? But I could see this as a useful exploration space for people (both students and anyone else) interested in exploring the structure of music composition and performance.
[via information aesthetics]
I guess this is mostly for guitar freaks, but YouTube has several Joe Pass videos, including one of him performing "Blues for Sitges" (shown above).
The link above has pointers to some other video performances, or you can just search YouTube for "Joe Pass" (although latter eventually just deconstructs into videos that have descriptions including "Joe" and "pass", which I guess will eventually end in Superbowl clips).
[via Crooks and Liars]
Discussion about patent filings tends to get tech industry watchers all hot and bothered, but I think they invest too much weight into the patent issues. Here's a clip from a recent article on an Apple patent filing on iPods with speech recognition:
FROM Walkman to Talkman. Not content with changing the world's music-listening habits, Apple has come up with another innovation: the talking iPod.
A new generation of machines will use sophisticated software to convert the names of bands, albums and individual tracks into recognisable speech.
The new iPod will tell you what it is about to play, removing the need for users to look at the screen while selecting music, and making the device safer and easier to use while driving, cycling or in badly-lit locations.
Crucially, the talking machines could give the iPod a badly-needed new competitive edge in the hotly-contested digital music player market.
The iconic machines were last week reported to have lost some of their sheen, with consumers following a series of technical problems and controversy surrounding the working conditions of those who make them. To make matters worse, software giant Microsoft is said to be working on its own iPod-bashing digital music player.
Apple has flatly refused to comment on the design, but a patent lodged by the company in the United States makes clear the sixth generation of iPods will be able to convert those famous text menus into speech.
I'm not picking on this article in particular, since it was one of ten or fifteen weblog or news posts I've seen this week about this Apple patent, and one of many hundred I read every year about similar patents in the tech industry. But it misses the fact that patents, in the computer industry, are simple claims of intellectual property rights. Patents are a license to print money. Some futurist at Apple saw a potential opportunity to connection iPod technology up to voice-recognition, and Apple filed a patent on it. That gives Apple a competitive edge while it explores the technology. And even if they don't actually develop it, the patent application (assuming they win a patent) gives them valuable licensing opportunities if Sony, Microsoft, or another corp decide to develop tech that infringes on the patent.
And, sure, there's a slim chance this tech might show up in the next-generation iPods (Apple would be stupid if it wasn't chasing down tech developments in this area, and clearly this is technically feasible—the question is whether it can be developed at the right pricepoint). It's relatively cheap (several thousand dollar) gamble that at some point the industry might head in this direction.
But is it a sure indicator that I'll be able to just shout, "Give me some Tool, maybe something off Ænima, real loud!" in my car in the next two years? I'll be pleasantly surprised.
(Looking back at this post, I'm sort of hoping I'll be pleasantly surprised.)
This sort of flips the "is design political?" question on its head: Five designers selected as winners of the National Design Award declined to accept their awards at the White House. In a letter to honorary chair Laura Bush's invitation to the awards ceremony, they offered pointed critiques of the Bush administration's use of media design:
Dear Mrs. Bush:
As American designers, we strongly believe our government should support the design profession and applaud the White House sponsorship of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. And as finalists and recipients of the National Design Award in Communication Design we are deeply honored to be selected for this recognition. However, we find ourselves compelled to respectfully decline your invitation to visit the White House on July 10th.
Graphic designers are intimately engaged in the construction of language, both visual and verbal. And while our work often dissects, rearranges, rethinks, questions and plays with language, it is our fundamental belief, and a central tenet of "good" design, that words and images must be used responsibly, especially when the matters articulated are of vital importance to the life of our nation.
We understand that politics often involves high rhetoric and the shading of language for political ends. However it is our belief that the current administration of George W. Bush has used the mass communication of words and images in ways that have seriously harmed the political discourse in America. We therefore feel it would be inconsistent with those values previously stated to accept an award celebrating language and communication, from a representative of an administration that has engaged in a prolonged assault on meaning.
While we have diverse political beliefs, we are united in our rejection of these policies. Through the wide-scale distortion of words (from "Healthy Forests" to "Mission Accomplished") and both the manipulation of media (the photo op) and its suppression (the hidden war casualties), the Bush administration has demonstrated disdain for the responsible use of mass media, language and the intelligence of the American people.
While it may be an insignificant gesture, we stand against these distortions and for the restoration of a civil political dialogue.
The Design Observer post on this includes some interesting discussion, including comments from other winning designers about the value of politicizing the awards, a scan of one of the original invitations (labeled, "Designer Unknown"), and some heated words in the comments section.
09 Jul, Sun, 15:24:36 Google: what is the meaning Paul Simon "The Myth of Fingerprints"
Hey, when you find out, let the rest of us know.
Will Wright (Sims, Spore) and Brian Eno (ambient music god) talk about time, narrative, pattern recognition, scaffolding imagination, etc.. Hosted by Stuart Brand, courtesy of the Long Now Foundation. (Thank you.)
TechEBlog is running a bunch of tech-related top-10 lists, like their strangest computer setups. Includes a Mac setup with three 30-inch LCD panels, one 23-inch, a 17-inch PowerBook, and more (shown below); the list gets kind of weird after that. (Underdog: You can start shopping for my birthday present now.)
I didn't see a master list for all the top 10s at TechEBlog, so here's Gizmodo's compilation; it includes lists for strange cameras, phones, iPod accessories/projects, and custom gaming systems.
Sijosae's DIY Gallery of headphone amps includes more than 70 of the tiny devices he's built. They come in a huge variety of shapes, but here's the obligatory Altoid's tin version:
It's pretty geeky in there—check out the images of accessories and specialized tools (along with a photo essay showing his DIY circuit board etching procedure), but cool anyway (or maybe cool precisely because of the geekiness).p>[via Boing Boing]
Jennie Winhall at CORE77 has a nice, short essay on the politics of design (with pictures). It's not much new for designers who already understand how design is a fundamentally political activity, but I'm planning on using it as an introduction for students (and it's easily applicable to language/writing in general).
Recently, we filmed a day in the life of a mum and two kids as part of a piece of work redesigning public transport. She navigated confusing signage, buses that were impossible to board with a push-chair, endless flights of steps and over-technical ticket machine interfaces. It all gave a clear message to her: you're not wanted here. Politically speaking, design can exclude or include all manner of people in all manner of ways throughout society.
Design is political because it has consequences, and sometimes serious ones. The power of designers is that we can design things to have different consequences. The Butterfly Ballot, of course, was not consciously designed to have the impact it did, but it points to an inescapable question: Are designers responsible for the consequences of their designs?
Has many useful links to other web resources and manifestos as well.
Music Quotes gathers literary quotes and notable lyrics about music. The quotes are categorized, but the full list is just short enough (and interesting enough) to read through the full thing. Ranges from simple lyrics like Lou Reed's explanation of rock (by what it's not):
If it has more than three chords, it's jazz.
to Pavoratti's pithy critique:
Compare music to drinks. Some is like a strong brandy. Some is like a fine wine. The music you're playing sounds like Diet Coke.
to John Cage's cerebral and abstractionist:
I don't solve the puzzle that the mesostic string presents. Instead I write or find a source text which is then used as an oracle. I ask it what word shall I use for this letter and what one for the next, etc. This frees me from memory, taste, likes, and dislikes, By means of Mesolist, a program by Jim Rosenberg, all words that satisfy the mesostic rule are listed. IC [the program that generates the I Ching numbers] then chooses which words in the lists are to be used and gives me all the central words, the position of each in the source material identified by page, line, and column. I then add all the wing words from the source text following of course the rule Mesolist does within the limit of forty-five characters to the right and the same to the left. Then I take out the words I don't want.
and Santayana's reminder:
Music is essentially useless, as life is.
Clint Hocking at Click Nothing discusses how Scott McCloud's extremely smart and witty Understanding Comics can be read through the lens of videogame design, and in the process ends up talking about reading Understanding Comics through the lens of rhetoric:
Imagine if Pong had been called 'Argument'. And instead of squares for paddles, they were shaped like faces in profile. Imagine if instead of a moving square, the 'ball' was a comic-style speech bubble with the word 'Yes' written in it when one player returned it, and the word 'No' written in it when another player returned it. No rule changes. The words 'Yes' and 'No' would be bouncing back and forth from the mouths, occasionally slipping by and not being responded to. It's clear, then, that this simplification of systems represented by Pong could have been about any number of things aside from a racket-based sport. The rules were simple enough that they could in fact represent a huge range of things. If Pong had been called 'Argument', what would its successor look like 34 years later?
Good point. (The whole article is good, but this is the part that intrigued me—it intrigued Koster as well, since he quoted the bit above and that was enough to get me to click through.) People who study rhetoric still spend too much time putting words on pages and screens, and not enough looking at—and doing—other media. I'm not the first person to say this (there are brighter rhetoricians than me who've been trying to get out of alphabetical space for years), but they're still considered outliers, heretics, or (at best) exceptions to the rule that rhetoric studies and produces verbiage. (Hey, I'm not oblivious to the irony of me putting more words up on the screen in trying to make this point. I'm working on it.)
[via Raph Koster's Website]
YouTube clips of Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault debating forms of political power: [part 1] [part 2]. (I was particularly struck by the fact that it looked a lot like John Malkovich debating Peter Sellers.)
Xeni at Boing Boing gathers a couple of good links on the nominations for the "emerging media" category at the Emmys. It's mostly old media names, with multiple nominations for the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Perhaps more oddly than the slant towards newspapers is the fact that television was shut out on the category. The co-chair of the committee for the category observed that,
The traditional networks, if they send somebody out to do a story, essentially their priority for the moment is to service their primary outlet of television[....] Newspapers, I think have always wished they could be in television, but they didn't have a television network. Now they essentially have one: it's called the Web. [source: LA Times article]
So in a weird way, the newspaper industry's dynamic-media envy may make them better suited to thinking about the web.
There will be, I think, much handwringing over the fact that more edgy, new-media-native pieces from organizations or individuals who've never done print or TV or film weren't nominated. But we're talking about the Emmys; it's not like they're going to turn on a dime. Even in the age of the web, it's going to be a long revolution. If you think otherwise, you're not thinking critically about all those Microsoft and Apple ads you've seen.
[via Boing Boing]
Paul's Tips lists "Six Steps for Learning Difficult Subjects Quickly." Concentrates on different ways of bombarding yourself with information from various sources and only memorizing things if you absolutely have to.
They work. At least for certain kinds of learning. Or maybe just certain kinds of people. Like me. I especially like the fact that Paul puts a positive spin on traits like refusing to commit information to memory unless there's a damned good reason.
(This is why they make people wear name badges at conferences—not as a way to help people meet each other, but so I and other symbolic-analysts can avoid having to admit we didn't bother to remember your names. Don't take it personally. I make my family, including both cats and the dog, wear name badges at home.)
A nine-minute animated short by Charles and Ray Eames for the IBM Pavilion at the 1958 World's Fair traces the history of information storage. [This YouTube link also has several other Eames video clips, including the influential Powers of Ten.]
419 Eater recounts email (and FedEx) exchanges with a Nigerian Letter scammer who was convinced to carve a wooden replica of a Commodore 64 in an attempt to win a competition for a fake $150,000 scholarship.
[via Boing Boing]
Robin Murphy interviewed me for the new issue of C&C Online. She put together an interesting array of fragments based on email we sent back and forth as well as some video I shot of myself answering questions. Basically, I just threw a bunch of stuff at Robin, then told her I wanted the interface and structure of the web version to be chaotic—I think she did a nice job. (It was an odd experience—I'm nothing if not egotistical, but writing and talking about myself on camera always feels weird.)
"Woke Up In The West," Jay Farrar, Sebastopol
"On A Foggy Night," Tom Waits, San Diego Folk Festival (1974)
"Alone Together," Chet Baker, Chet
"Evil Vs. Good," Clem Snide, The Ghost Of Fashion
"Misunderstood," Wilco, Live In Chicago (9.20.2003)
"Flight Test," The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
"Takin' A Ride," The Replacements, Studio Sessions Anthology (1980-1991)
"All Around The World Or The Myth Of Fingerprints," Paul Simon, Graceland
"Love," Pharoah Sanders, Thembi
"World Class Fad," Paul Westerberg, Live at the Whiskey [7.20.93]
"Flat Beauty," Robert Pollard, Not In My Airforce
"Lay of the Sunflower," Gov't Mule, The Deep End, Vol. 2
"Fade," Calexico, Live In Bremen [8.30.00]
"A Little Bit Lonesome," Kasey Chambers, Live at Rocky Mountain Folk Fest [8.21.05]
"Too Far Apart," Wilco, A.M.
"Magma," Steve Roach & Robert Rich, Strata