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August 31, 2007

Language Skills at Wikipedia

Learn Spanish at Wikipedia. (Don't try out the sample conversation on your Spanish teacher. Or customs agents at the border security checkpoint.)

August 28, 2007

Endangered Machinery


Endangered Machinery: The Industrial and Industrial Heritage Photography of Haiko Hebig. Very cool. (Above is from his 12.24.06 entry, "Calmness.")

[via Monoscope]

August 27, 2007

Pile of Index Cards: Low Tech Organization

Hawkexpress has posted his life organization system in a set at Flickr: The Pile of Index Cards.

This is a life tracking system using index cards and dock that built for myself. I call it as Pile of Index Cards, or simply, PoIC. The PoIC system works as a database of information inside/outside of me.

After a while the index cards in the dock consist a code; a copy of my thought, or a cultural genetic code!

The system even has a wiki.

[via Metafilter]

August 26, 2007

4th International Circuit Bending Festival Video

YouTube clips from the 2007 Bent Festival are now online. (Above is a performance by Gunung Sari. This Loud Objects, on-the-fly wires demo is great as well.)

[via bendersanonymous]

August 24, 2007

The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest

Issue 5 is now online:

Arguably, today the act of social networking is commodified more visibly and materially than ever before…This commodification shoudn't hinder us to work in relationship to one another and in a social and political context. Social memory with a sense of history and political demands seems to have undergone an accelerated and profound erasure. This rapid memory loss is facilitated by media consolidation and the plundering of public education programs to fund global mercenary actions.

Eclectic and dense (in a good sort of way). Here's a bit from Stevphen Shukaitis' "Affective Composition and Aesthetics: On Dissolving the Audience and Facilitating the Mob":

The concept of affective composition is formed by bringing together notions of affect with the autonomist notion of class composition. The concept of affect has been developed in a submerged history of philosophy stretching from Spinoza to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (and further developed by such thinkers as Antonio Negri and Genevieve Lloyd) to indicate an increased capacity to affect or to be affected by the world. For Deleuze and Guattari, artistic creation is the domain of affective resonance, where imagination shifts through the interacting bodies. Composition is used here, borrowing from the autonomist Marxist notion of class composition, to indicate the autonomous and collective capacities to change the world through social resistance. As forms of collective capacity and self-organization are increased, strengthened by the circulation of struggles and ideas, the capitalist state attempts to find ways to disperse them or to appropriate these social energies for their own workings. Thus the cycles of the composition, decomposition, and re-composition of struggles are formed. A key insight of autonomist thought is the argument that the struggle itself and the forms of social cooperation it engenders determine the direction of capitalist development. To consider affective composition by examining street or performance art is to examine the capacities they create, and how they contribute to the development of forms of self-organization; this is what the Infernal Noise Brigade describes as “facilitat[ing] the self-actualization of the mob.”

[via Rhizome.org]

History of the Discovery of Cinematography

Extensive and illustrated: The History of The Discovery of Cinematography (900 BC to Muybridge and Chaplin).

[via metafilter.com]

Textbooks and Syllabi for Fall Semester

Those of you wanting to know what textbooks to purchase for my fall sections of COMM341 (Intro to Web Design) or COMM345 (Information Architecture) can find syllabi at the links you just read past. We don't have the syllabus completed for ES305, but there are no required textbooks for that course (just reams of photocopied handouts).

August 23, 2007

Usability Testing Halo 3

Wired covers Halo 3 usability research at Microsoft Labs.

The designers at Bungie Studios, creators of the Halo series, have been tweaking this installment for the past three years. Now it's crunch time, and they need to know: Does Halo 3 rock?

"Is the game fun?" whispers Pagulayan, a compact Filipino man with a long goatee and architect-chic glasses, as we watch the player in the adjacent room. "Do people enjoy it, do they get a sense of speed and purpose?" To answer these questions, Pagulayan runs a testing lab for Bungie that looks more like a psychological research institute than a game studio. The room we're monitoring is wired with video cameras that Pagulayan can swivel around to record the player's expressions or see which buttons they're pressing on the controller. Every moment of onscreen action is being digitally recorded.

Midway through the first level, his test subject stumbles into an area cluttered with boxes, where aliens — chattering little Grunts and howling, towering Brutes — quickly surround her. She's butchered in about 15 seconds. She keeps plowing back into the same battle but gets killed over and over again.

"Here's the problem," Pagulayan mutters, motioning to a computer monitor that shows us the game from the player's perspective. He points to a bunch of grenades lying on the ground. She ought to be picking those up and using them, he says, but the grenades aren't visible enough. "There's a million of them, but she just missed them, dammit. She charged right in." He shakes his head. "That's not acceptable."

August 21, 2007


August 19, 2007

Tango Lesson

Tango Lesson

August 18, 2007

Unsustainable Design

Noisy Decent graphics uses the modern evolution of shaving technologies as a metaphor for de-evolution in design:

I think this example is a metaphor for how marketing departments and brands and designers have managed to make stuff worse using design. And not just worse, but we've actually come full circle and designed a solution that's the complete opposite of the answer.

Some technologies inherently take shuffling, awkward steps toward increased quality: consumer digital cameras, for example, traded image quality for convenience and gained widespread adoption. Eventually, the quality of digital images has increased to the point that the general user (unfortunately, some would say) isn't aware of the lower quality of most digital images compared to film cameras. And then there's the whole issue of what "quality": Sometimes noise in the system is preferable to higher fidelity (despite having several thousand dollars worth of photography gear, some of my favorite images are still those wonky, essentially damaged Holga shots—taken with a $20, plastic lens, 120-format camera).

But design, as NDG points out, often throws out the whole issue of quality (by whatever metric) in favor of simple, increased consumption.

[via Noisy Decent Graphics]

August 17, 2007

A Screaming Came (Very Slowly) Across the Sky

According to the Mercury News, for the last year a set of four, rotating LED wheels atop Adobe tower in San Jose have been sending out a semaphore version of Thomas Pynchon's, The Crying of Lot 49.

[via Boing Boing]

August 16, 2007

"Result of Expressing my Obnoxious Views"


University of Illinois' Digitized Book of the Week is The Prisoner's Hidden Life: Or, Insane Asylums Unveiled: As Demonstrated By The Report of the Investigating Committee of the Legislature of Illinois, Together With Mrs. Packard's Coadjutor's Testimony, documenting a woman's 1860 - 1863 incarceration in a mental institution for expressing "dangerous" religious views.

Harrowing story, although to be honest what caught my eye was the title of the chapter in the scan above.

[via things magazine]

Students and Research Projects

First Monday has an article discussing how students undertake academic research projects. (Summary: Students often don't understand how to evaluate sources, so they tend to seek multiple sources of guidance.) Small sample size (13 participants), but useful.

[via jill/txt]

Sub-Memory Check


Michael Roulier's Sub-Memory Check randomizes video clips and audio. Creepy, in a peaceful sort of way.

This film situates itself between sub-urbanity and sub-terranity, leading us from the gray dust of decomposition towards air and ozone.

(At Roulier's main site, after you click through the Flash intro, link to this piece is at the bottom left.)

[via LensCulture Web Log]


(More Squelchbox on YouTube; Squelchbox home.)

[via Benders Anonymous]

August 14, 2007

Ranting at Buildings

Icon's Fiftieth issue covers the rise and fall (and rise and fall and rise) of the manifesto. Includes 50 manifestos from architects and organizations, including pithy missives by Peter Eisenman, Urban Think Tank, Bruce Mau, Zaha Hadid (who provided a sketch), and (if my math and Icon's claim are correct) 46 more. Here's Greg Lynn's:

Organic design is not just a style. Design, architecture and life will continue to become more and more biological, not merely biomorphic. I look forward to the software that lets us design not just the shape but also the growth and behaviour of animate matter. Designers and architects will continue to proliferate as there is more and more need for design, as we get access to more matter through genetic and biological innovations.

And a part of Peter Eiseman's short Debordian reminder:

Where is architecture’s critical resistance to this process of loss? The crisis of the spectacular demands a call for a new subjectivity, for a subject removed from the passivity induced by the image and engaged by form in close reading.

[via anArchitecture]

August 13, 2007

Leonardo Issue on Locative Media

The latest issue of Leonardo focuses on locative media. Quite a few worthwhile articles, including Leslie Sharp's "Swimming in the Grey Zones: Locating the Other Spaces in Mobile Art." Sharp discusses, among other things, a couple of ghost narratives she's working on:

The 'ghost' is one of those liminal forms that raises questions about embodiment and subjectivity and has a peculiar affinity to being picked up by the machines of technology. In the project for the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, I am creating four separate narratives using night-vision and other footage shot on location in Seoul. In the narrative, the ghost is dug up by well-intentioned development, stirring up memories of place, colonization, and a Brechtian world of grey markets and grey activity. This ghost also inhabits streams – streams that flow down from the mountains and streams of data, searching for places to rest or to haunt, looking for things to play with and taunt. In particular, this ghost longs to haunt our devices of transmission, to produce in these devices an abject space that is uncomfortably close to our bodies. Ghosts are often mischievous; here the ghost also wants to play with errors of signal inaccuracy produced by satellites (usually compensated for by differential error cancellation in GPS), or to get the user to confuse the GPS to produce moments of dis-location.

The ghost itself is always an abject thing – signifying the cast off and suffering. This abjection can spill into the form or space it inhabits, creating a new monstrous space. I have written elsewhere about data space as a new monstrous [16]; in the case of the ghost, the monstrous is conjured by machines of vision and sound and varies according to the nature or properties of transmission: spirit photographs of the nineteenth century, or early telephones and radio seen as the 'devil’s instruments', recent technologies such as night-vision cameras that detect the undetectable, or technologies of transmission that transfer the formless as data and signals.

[via Rhizome.org]

August 10, 2007

PowerPoint for Prototyping

As William Gibson said, the street finds its own uses for things: Maureen Kelly at Boxes and Arrows shows how to use PowerPoint to create interactive website prototypes. It's not the simplest or richest approach, but it looks like it would work in a pinch.

[via Basement.org]

Web Page as Garden Gnome

In her cool essay on the aesthetics of early web design, Olia Lialina quotes Tim Berners-Lee from 1998:

They may call it a home page, but it’s more like the gnome in somebody’s front yard than the home itself.

Lialina discusses 1990s era advances in web design, ranging from animated GIFs (and their related subcategory, animated under construction graphics), animated cursors, and glitter. With many nostalgically disturbing examples. Sort of like seeing a picture of yourself in 1983 with a mullet, although Lialina is more generous and less condescending that current discussions of mullets—or early web design—tend to be.

[via Your Daily Awesome]

Synthesized Zen


Web Zen's weekly post covers odd synths, including a collection of various Texas Instruments Speak & Spell variants, circuit bending, a library of cellphone ring tones, and the eerie and mythical Buddha Machine (above). Bent Sounds hacked toy electronics rocks; be sure to listen to the mp3s.

August 09, 2007

CSS and Blueprint

Most of the CSS I do is pretty ad hoc, which is what makes this so useful: the Blueprint CSS framework. Olav Frihagen Bjørkøy's set of stylesheets focuses on supporting grid layouts on web pages, based on an 50-pixel column. The framework supports objects across multiples of 18 pixels, so it's small enough to be flexible but large enough to be structural (in the design sense, not the coding sense). The 18-pixel typographic baseline also allows things like grid boxes for graphics and type that avoid the unevenness that simple table or CSS layouts often lead to.

Daring Fireball has an interview with Bjørkøy; Game Makker has already posted a (very) brief guide to using Blueprint.

[via Daring Fireball]

August 03, 2007

Peer Pressure on IM

Bobulate's broken windows theory of instant messenger. (Which, now that I think about it, is how language works in general. Because Bobulate's theory only works if you share social force with the people you're talking to.)

[via Daring Fireball]

August 01, 2007

System Messages


Either a program error or I need a new computer. Or both.

Juma's Archive


The website for Juma's Archive went live today. The site is a small portion of an NEA-funded project that Steve Doheny-Farina and I have been working on for the last several years, digitizing avant gardé jazz recordings that Juma Sultan made at (often also performing in) rehearsals, jam sessions, and concerts during the late 1960s and early 1970s, including people like Sonny Simmons, Leon Thomas, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, and more. Kyle Pulver did the site design—we're really happy with it (and more importantly, Juma likes it).

Only a small fraction of the audio, video, and photo archives are up on the site at this point; we're hoping to use the work as a pilot project to gather funding to complete digitization of the rest of the archives.