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December 05, 2008

Dissertation as Interpretive Dance

Gonzo Labs/AAAS asked PhD students to translate their dissertations into interpretative dances, then post the performances to YouTube. Here are the winners.

Above is Vince LiCata's Resolving Pathways of Functional Coupling in Human Hemoglobin Using Quantitative Low Temperature Isoelectric Focusing of Asymmetric Mutant Hybrids, which Randi Zuckerberg describes as falling "somewhere between a prayer, a baseball game, and a round of Kumbaya."

[via metafilter.com]

November 20, 2008

Cody Walks

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A friend's son (named "Cody," as you've probably figured out) is walking from San Diego to "as far east as I can" to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. Check out his weblog then donate.

August 04, 2008

Legibility as a matter of perspective

Apparently using only paint and careful design, Axel Peemöller designed carpark signage that looks amazingly distorted and illegible—except for at specific vantage points, when large, colored letters spelling directions such as "In" and "Up" stand out like huge holograms for drivers.

[via Daring Fireball]

Ambient Lapse

Kyle McDonald at MIT has created a bunch of interesting audio/video/music Processing apps, including the Ambient Lapse program shown above (which uses both Processing and SoundStretch).

"Ambient Lapse" is a simple technique for capturing the ambiance of spaces, especially their color and spectral characteristics. It operates on a principle similar to long-exposure time-lapse, but allows exposures to overlap. Instead of producing momentary bursts of specific images, individual objects and well-defined perspectives, we're given vague impressions.

[via createdigitalmusic.com]

July 15, 2008

The Letters of Stanley Kubrick

The Telegraph reprints some of Kubrick's letters.

DR STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB, 1964 (with Peter Sellers as Dr Strangelove)

In pre-production, and casting matters arise, but Kubrick ever has his eye on the money.

November 19, 1962

To James Harris, producer

Thanks very much for the Gene Kelly matter. I think he’ll be a fabulous off-beat choice if we can work things out with him. Please try to create the impression in his mind that we’re very tight on money (we are).

They also have an interview with Christiane Kubrick (+ some video) about the controversy surrounding the release of A Clockwork Orange that's worth a look.

[via Daring Fireball]

July 14, 2008

Birds

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Video of a mesmerizing but seriously creepy flock of birds.

[via Boing Boing]

July 09, 2008

Tracking Shots

laboratory101 has a short history of the tracking shot, complete with YouTube clips. Touch of Evil, Goodfellas, Boogie Nights, The Player (the initial tracking shot of which is itself a history of tracking shots), and of course The Russian Ark (trailer above), which is one 90-minute tracking shot.

May 27, 2008

Sonic Camera


Sonic Camera from dimitre on Vimeo.

Sonic Camera, a Processing program.

[via Everyone Forever]

May 20, 2008

Five Themes for Interaction Design

Dan Saffer points to a slightly old but still very useful-looking paper about embodied interaction design and re-thinking the current, relatively thin approach to how people interact with computers (and other work technologies/environments): "How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design" [pdf]. Here's a summary from the article's introduction:

This paper presents five themes that we believe are particularly salient for designing and evaluating interactive systems. The first, thinking through doing, describes how thought (mind) and action (body) are deeply integrated and how they co-produce learning and reasoning. The second, performance, describes the rich actions our bodies are capable of, and how physical action can be both faster and more nuanced than symbolic cognition. The first two themes primarily address individual corporeality; the next two are primarily concerned with the social affordances. Visibility describes the role of artifacts in collaboration and cooperation. Risk explores how the uncertainty and risk of physical co-presence shapes interpersonal and human-computer interactions. The final theme, thickness of practice, suggests that because the pursuit of digital verisimilitude is more difficult than it might seem, embodied interaction is a more prudent path.

[via O Danny Boy]

May 16, 2008

Terminal Jetlag

things magazine notes this odd story, a small chunk of an NYT article by Pico Iyer on jet lag:

One day in 1971, a woman called Sarah Krasnoff made off with her 14-year-old grandson, who was caught up in an unseemly custody dispute, and took him into the sky. In a plane, she knew, they were subject to no laws, and if they never stopped moving, the law could never catch up with them. They flew from New York to Amsterdam. When they arrived, they turned around and flew from Amsterdam to New York. Then they flew from New York to Amsterdam again, and from Amsterdam to New York, again and again and again, month after month.

They took about 160 flights in all, one after the other, according to the stage piece ''Jet Lag.'' They saw 22 movies an average of seven times each. They ate lunch again and again and turned their watches six hours forward, then six hours back. The whole fugitive enterprise ended when Krasnoff, 74, finally collapsed and died, the victim, doctors could only suppose, of terminal jet lag.

As Iyer notes, Krasnoff and grandson's story shows up in Jet Lag, a play by Jessica Chalmers. (Surprising that there's not already a DeLillo or Ballard novel or short story about about Krasnoff....)

[via things magazine]

May 13, 2008

The Evolution of Game Controllers

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Pasta&Vinegar compiles several key resources (w/images) on the evolution of game controllers. Above is a snip from Sock Master's Controller Family Tree.

[via Pasta&Vinegar]

May 09, 2008

Obtrusive Design

psycho.gif

Roglok posts a handful of psychoactive wallpapers, animated GIF images that pretty much negate the idea of "wallpaper" as something that sits in the background. The one above is a just a static screenshot—imagine it flickering wildly. Or visit the site. (NSF, it probably goes without saying, epileptics.)

Welcome to my jazzy collection of Psychoactive Wallpapers.

My aim in this project is to generate static and animated .gif images with a low filesize that provide interesting visual effects.

I am inspired by the Structural Film movement of the 60's and 70's as well as stereographic 3d images and early webdesign..

Use these on your website and you could give even a MySpace page a run for the money in the Annoying Design Award.

[via Rhizome.org]

April 09, 2008

The Opening Shots Project

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The Opening Shots Project collects analyses of opening shots from movies. Jim Emmer's list includes some basic theory and language for analysis, then offers a slew of analyses (including visual, audio, and thematic aspects), including Slackers, Altered States, Fight Club, Star Wars, and a few dozen more. Here's a small portion of the discussion of Day for Night (above):

A bus crosses the frame from left to right and we follow a woman in red walking from right to left, who stops to get a magazine. Notice the curves and circles that establish a pattern for the shot -- the curb, the kiosk, the fountain.

[update: Bonnie discusses some additional material (w/YouTube clips) from the opening Scenes of Lolita]

[via metafilter.com]

March 07, 2008

City as videogame, city as text

Mirror's Edge, an XBox 360 game in development by DICE, involves a parkour courier named Faith, who is pursued by by agents as she runs the city attempting to deliver a package. As Greg Smith points out at Serial Consign, as with parkour in general, the videogame ends up reading the city as text.

What immediately caught my attention about these preliminary screenshots is manner in which architecture elements are demarcated. As per her training in "the art of displacement" Faith possess an innate ability for reading the geometry of her surroundings and this translates into a playing field where the objects, surfaces and assemblies that comprise the city are colour coded according to accessibility. When considered in this manner, the city becomes a giant text and, fittingly, play revolves around spatial problem solving and wayfinding rather than trigger finger virtuosity. [see my previous post Ways of Seeing Digital Space for more thoughts on provocative representations of space in gaming]

All of which maps to the larger cultural shift towards repurposing: cross-programming in architecture, remixes in music, collage in art, etc. Perhaps more importantly, once we accept that postmodernism (or whatever you want to call it) offers the possibility to read anything as a text (an advertisement, a building, a cultural movement), it's only a short hop to seizing the ability to rewrite those texts.

March 03, 2008

Rise of the VJ

Vague Terrain devotes issue 09 to the rise of the vj. Video interviews, discussions of synaesthesia, wallpaper vs. fine art, and strange things.

The energy behind the growing practice of audiovisual performance is intriguing; what is it that sparks the passions for creators and theorists working within this art form? The diversity of the concepts, techniques, and aesthetic qualities is remarkable, suggesting that this practice is not rooted in any one particular mindset, but instead, emerges from a wide range of trajectories that are converging within a contemporary form of media based performance art. However, live video mixing performances certainly address a hunger for immersive and synaesthetic sensory experiences where aural and visual elements work together to create a whole that is something beyond the sum of the parts. To experience the live performance of a talented VJ (or live cinema artist, if you prefer) alongside the talent of an innovative sound artist is a treat indeed; the senses are enveloped and the mind is tantalized into a world being spun into existence on the spot. Perhaps it is this feeling of immediacy and immersion that is so rewarding for performers and audiences alike. Perhaps it is the intense bombardment of the senses that does it. Or perhaps it is the richness of the dialogue between technology, spatial architecture, and human expression that speaks to us so powerfully.

[via serial consign - design / research]

December 17, 2007

Light

Long Exposure

November 03, 2007

Pac-Man Meets Zork

Pac-Txt.

You awaken in a large complex, slightly disoriented. Glowing dots hover mouth level near you in every direction. Off in the distance you hear the faint howling of what you can only imagine must be some sort of ghost or several ghosts.

[via Super Colossal]

October 16, 2007

Icastic Visualizing Time Database

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How people visualize the passage of time. You can scan and submit your own.

[via information aesthetics]

October 13, 2007

Janice Caswell: Memory Landscape

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Janice Caswell's work (wall drawings, works on paper) follows people's memories of movement through geographies:

My drawings and installations represent mental maps, an investigation of the mind's peculiar ways of organizing memories. I attempt to trace the edges of recalled experience, plotting the movement of bodies and consciousness through time and space.

[via information aesthetics]

Deconstructivist Architecture (Real and Symbolic)

things magazine, a place I normally crib individual links from, has an interesting (link-filled) post, We Can Never Look at Fractured Facades, on the 1970 Greenwich Village Explosion (a Weatherman bomb factory accident), MoMA's 1988, Daniel Libeskind, and the contradictory symbolism of appreciating/fearing/commemorating deconstructivist architecture.

[via things magazine]

October 11, 2007

Magnetic Migration Music

Found/made audio objects: Magnetic Migration Music collects fragments of found audio tape from city streets in London and other locations, short impromptu interviews, and other audio ephemera. Sort of difficult to describe (even after having read the website and listened to sample assemblages), but interesting.

Have you noticed that there are fragments of audiotape flapping in the wind?

Strands can be found all over the world, in gutters, snagged on trees, wherever tape players have ventured it seems they have chewed, snarled and spat too.

These fragments create a shifting inaudible soundscape. Some of the strands have travelled far, they are worn and battered but can be re-spooled, and listened to.

[via things magazine]

September 14, 2007

Flick, Scroll, and Virtual Objects

I finally replaced my ailing cellphone (held together by strips of yellow duct tape) with an iPhone. Which I like a lot. But I just noticed an oddity about the interface: The "flick" gesture on the iPhone that I use to scroll up and down pages has the opposite effect of the trackpad scroll feature on my MacBook Pro: To scroll down a long page on the iPhone, I put a finger on the screen and flick upward. In OS X, to scroll down a long page I put two fingers on the trackpad and move then downward. Either way is fine—in fact, I've been using the flick gesture on the iPhone for nearly a week now and hadn't even noticed that I was using a different gesture than the one I've been using on my computer for the last several years.

There are logical reasons behind either gesture direction. The iPhone's flick up corresponds to the realworld equivalent of moving a physical piece of paper up or down. OS X's flick down corresponds to re-centering a moving window over a static piece of paper (or, in a more recent/immediate precedent, corresponds to moving the on-screen elevator-in-scrollbar up or down in the supposed moving window over static object). I'm curious about the point at which the iPhone designers realized (and I'm assuming they did-they're apparently slightly intelligent and perceptive) that the conceptual models of the two spaces contradicted each other.

(I just realized that the iPhone's flick gesture might be modeled more on the "grabber" hand in applications like Photoshop (an application in which a user can use the grabber hand to move around iPhone-like, or the document window scrollbars to move more OS X-like. It's strange to watch the functionality of these virtual/spatial metaphors run into each other, like fast glaciers.)

August 24, 2007

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]

July 06, 2007

Against Resting in Public Spaces

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The anti-sit provides photographic examples of devices used to keep loiterers from sitting on ledges, pipes, and another structures in public spaces.

[via things magazine]

July 04, 2007

Carrying Cellphones

Jan Chipchase's Where's the Phone? reports empirical research on how people carry their cellphones around. Which is more interesting than it sounds. At least to me.

Each street research team includes an interviewer and a photographer, with multiple teams typically working concurrently to collect data from between 100 and 200 participants over a 3 day period. Mixed gender research teams were used in all cities except Tehran and Delhi where local norms dictated a gender split. The studies generate a mixture of quantitative statistical data covering age, gender and phone location that is supported by richer data including photographs of the phone, its carrying position and the phone owner. Phones were photographed both in and out of the carrying location. In later studies particular emphasis was placed on collecting photographic evidence of physical phone personalisation - straps, the use of protective covers and other adornments, plus the same for keys and money - this data being used to support related studies on personalisation.

[via things magazine]

June 30, 2007

Blur

Blur

June 26, 2007

Mob Rule: Modeling Crowd Behavior in Urban Spaces

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Paul Torrens, among other interesting things, builds computer models of crowd behaviors in urban spaces. The images and video are creepy, in a cool way (at least if you're like me, and creepy in a way that you think of as sort of cool; YMMV).

Nowhere is this more relevant than at the micro-scale, on the streets, in and around our downtowns, and among the crowds of people that populate and energize the urban core. A new appreciation of urban geography is gathering steam, an urban geography of the micro-scale, where pedestrians swarm in social and anti-social networks; where innovative Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) are being deployed at street-level, digitally-enabling crowds through networked computing. Embedded in urban infrastructure and in the very products we consume, the same technology allows cities to think about—and process—the people that pulse through them.

The link above also has downloadable video of time-based simulations, PDFs of his research publications on the topic, and diagrams (showing things like chokepoints and jam formation). Torrens' main site lists other projects in modeling and analysis, including work on residential relocation, urban sprawl, and more.

[via Pruned]

May 24, 2007

Scenes from the Burlington Airport

Last Monday morning, at 6 am (!) at the Burlington airport's security checkpoint, I dutifully put my coat, my shoes, my wallet, my loose change, my two carry-on bags, and my Ziplock baggie holding all my sub-3-oz toiletries for easy inspection onto the x-ray conveyor belt. The first screening guy (with rubber gloves on) holds up the Ziplock baggie and shouts to the guy at the end of the line, "More than 3 oz!"

The second guy comes over to get the bag (pulling on rubber gloves), and pulls out the tube of Tom's of Main toothpaste that has like an ounce of toothpaste in it. (Backstory: The tube of toothpaste was on the counter before I left, and I figured an ounce of toothpaste would get me through three days.) He holds up the tube of toothpaste, which has had the end part of the tube rolled up over and over until there was this little ounce of toothpaste left in it. Looks sort of pathetic.

"This container holds eight ounces."

I can't come up with a response, so I look at him in a sort of "Of course!" kind of way.

The security guy gets an embarrassed look on his face, and says, "I know there's only a little bit of toothpaste left, but the container could hold eight ounces.

I start to point out that the TSA-mandated Ziplock baggie my toiletries are in—the TSA-mandated Ziplock baggies that the other 300 people in line are also using—could hold 32 freaking ounces of liquid.

Then in that "life flashes before my eyes/Fox News Live Coverage of the Toothpaste Bomber Trial" way, I say, "You can confiscate that."

May 03, 2007

John Cage: Water Walk (vintage TV)

From WFMU, a youngish John Cage on the gameshow I've Got a Secret performs Water Walk with bathtub, blender, five unpowered radios, a blender, and more. (The radios weren't plugged in, according to the host and Cage, due to a union dispute about which crew could handle the radios.)

[via Your Daily Awesome]

April 22, 2007

Playground Design

Metafilter has a great, short post of links to material on playground design. Here's a clip from a linked Metropolis article by Linda Baker:

Creative-playground designers, many of whom prefer to carefully edit their use of equipment for psychological and aesthetic reasons, cite another benefit of the practice: reduced costs. “When money is tight, it makes sense to take advantage of existing features—natural rain and water courses, hills, views good and bad, adjacent land uses and neighbors—and turn them into play and learning opportunities,” says Ron King, a New Hampshire–based landscape architect and certified playground-safety inspector who is introducing Danish-style plans to American schools and child-care centers. A signature effort, completed last summer at Bedford Memorial Elementary School, includes a ten-foot “mountain” fronted by a boulder climbing wall, a stream (or “leaping chasm”), and winding paths with fairy-tale-like arbors. “The play is not prescribed, so the kids have more opportunities to problem solve and use their imaginations,” says Leslie Fredette, a second-grade teacher. The project has also transformed the school playground into a space for the whole community to gather and exercise. “It’s really gratifying to see all the people here on the weekend,” she says.

[via metafilter.com]

February 24, 2007

Typography: What Does Marsellus Wallace Look Like?

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This is the most brilliant piece of typographic motion I have seen in a long time (maybe since the opening credits to Se7en): What Does Marsellus Wallace Look Like (.mov link, NSFW) riffs on the Pulp Fiction scene, early in the movie, where Samuel L. Jackson interrogates that kid who he and John Travolta have been sent to deal with. (I haven’t seen Helvetica, The Movie yet, though, so that may soon occupy my top spot.)

The boingboing post on this also includes several related items.

February 18, 2007

Videogames of the 1980s: Long Exposures

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Rosemarie Fiore takes time-exposure images of videogames from the 1980s. They're extremely cool looking. Above is a shot from Tempest [Wikipedia link] (a game I spent hundreds of dollars worth of tokens on when I was high school).

[via information aesthetics]

February 17, 2007

Raph Koster: "But is it art?"

Raph Koster riffs in some wonderful ways on ludology vs. narrative in Ferry Halim's "High Delivery":

To me, this is a great example of how the underlying meaning of mechanics (lack of control, impossibility of completing a task) can be reinforced and thematized by a well-chosen metaphor. This is a mechanic that games generally don’t go near. “Difficult controls” is seen as anathema to good gameplay usually (though some games, like Marble Blast Ultra and similar, are of course entirely driven by the challenge of mastering controls).

Hint: Your cursor controls a breeze that pushes the balloon around (up, down, left, right). And turn the sound up—it's a very fitting atmospheric track.

[via Raph's Website]

January 26, 2007

Architecture in QuickTime VR

Columbia University's Real?Virtual has an impressive set of QuickTime VR architectural shots and interactive plan views from various historical/cultral works, including a first-century Roman ampitheater in Sicily, Le Corbusier's Church of Notre Dame du Haut, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, and the Shehzade Mosque in Istanbul. Site navigation is a little wonky, but worth exploring.

[via things magazine]

January 23, 2007

Urbanity, Virtuality, Architecture

Pop-Up City at studioPoPcorn riffs on the connections between virtual and urban living in a series of short meditations on multimediality, virtuality, connectivity, and more.

Interactivity

Being in the city means having a continuous interaction with our environment. Interactivity has become our very essence. New York rap star Fat Joe has been wrong all the time when he said we should all ‘lean back’. Now, we lean forward – over our keyboards, cellphones and game-consoles – embracing technology in a post-paranoic state of mind. No mobile phone: no business. No laptop: no friends. We have to look for points where closed structures are combined with each other. The urban appears in nodes where systems move into one and other; a void in which closed structures open up. Always related to a three-dimensional space, interactivity marks the very access point of urbanity. It is an entrance to different spatial settings, spheres or virtual neighbourhoods. Urbanism now means interactive systems are mutually influencing each other. It shows how they are detaching themselves from their physical context to start to function independently. Therefore interactivity should be approached in relation to a social context. In that way, architecture will be a connection that allows us to move from one closed off environment to the other. Refraining some and allowing other people access to a certain point will become the most important function of architecture in this version of the future.

[via things magazine]

January 12, 2007

Airports, Architecture, and Subjects

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Air travel used to be about the future, a heterotopia apart from the everyday, the space in which one magically moved outside space. See, for example, Alastair Gordon's wonderful history, Naked Airport:

It was my cousin's last day in America--August 26, 1964--and he wanted to see the World's Fair before flying back to London. My father drove us in his Buick to Flushing Meadow. The sky over Long Island was tempered blue and streaked with contrails. We bought tickets for General Motor's Futurama exhibit and rode around a miniature landscape that showed what life would be like in the future. My cousin and I were disappointed. There was something hoaky about the whole fair and the so-called future seemed frankly shabby.

After the fair, we drove south a few miles on the Van Wyck Expressway and reached the periphery of Idelwild, which is what my father still called the airport, although it had been renamed John F. Kennedy International the year before. We glided along freshly paved overpasses and beneath the signs bearing candy-colored numbers. The terminals were strung out like pavilions around the looping roadway and it felt as if we were back at the fair. There was the flashy stained glass entry to American Airlines, the flying saucer roof of Pan Am, and the endless glass facade of the arrivals building. Then we parked in front of the TWA terminal and walked inside.

I had seen photographs of the bird-like structure, but none had done it justice. The interior was a continuously flowing surface of cast concrete. There were no sharp corners, no right angles, no dull flat ceilings. The building was topsy-turvy--in some places the walls swooped down to become floor, while other parts curved above our heads like ocean waves about to break yet were somehow frozen in place. Between the vaults were gaping ellipses of glass through which you might see a tailfin or a passing cloud. I was only twelve and knew nothing about architecture, but the pavilions at the Worlds Fair seemed stodgy in comparison. This wasn't pretending to be the future; this was the future. Those were real Boeing 707's sitting on the tarmac.

The air was charged with anticipation. Pilots stepped through pools of milky light. Beautiful stewardesses trailed behind them wearing trim red outfits and perfectly straight stockings seams. The ambient lighting; the flirtatious smiles, the lipstick red carpet and uniforms; the cushioned benches and steel railings curving around the mezzanine--all conspired to work on the senses. Even the clock that hung from the ceiling had a sensually globular shape. We sat in an oversized conversation pit, beneath a panoramic screen of glass, and watched the service vehicles scoot between the planes. "This is unbelievably cool," said my cousin in a hushed, almost reverential tone.

Now we're just so many cattle that may or may not carry some sort of contamination.

tsa.jpg

Matt Blaze's Exhaustive Search weblog has a brief piece about the intrusiveness and awkwardness of airport security and architecture—and a link to the TSA Airport Security Guidelines [333-page PDF].

3. Sterile Area
At an airport with a security program under 49 CFR 1542, the "sterile" area of the terminal typically refers to the area between the security screening checkpoint and the loading bridge and/or hold room door. The sterile area is controlled by inspecting persons and property in accordance with the TSA-approved airport security program (ASP). The primary objective of a sterile area is to provide a passenger bolding and containment area....

A Boing-Boing post on Blaze and the TSA guidelines also links to Patrick Smith's Ask The Pilot article in Salon on the same topic, a piece that's funny and depressing at the same time:

Item 4 must be placed in separate tray, alone. Item 5 goes in a round plastic dish, also by itself. Items 1, 2 and 3 are piled together in a third tray. But not so fast, as a guard warns me not bury my shoes beneath the other items. He recommends I place them separately on the belt, or in yet another tray. So there I am, one person, with four separate trays of belongings. And after those belongings are X-rayed, it's time to:

1) Put my coat back on
2) Put my shoes back on
3) Repack the computer
4) Repack the approved, 1-quart-size zip-lock bag
5) Strap on my backpack

All of this with no chair or table, elbow to elbow with a dozen other people all doing the same thing. I'm trying to grab my stuff as more and more bins come clattering down the rollers. I can't find my shoes, and I have no idea where my passport is.

[via Boing Boing]

January 09, 2007

Anarchy, Control, and Collaboration

The weblog Architectures of Control discusses several approaches to automotive traffic management, including "shared spaces" approaches being adopted by some European communities that do away with signage. Surprisingly (especially if you're used to being explicitly told what to do by stop signs and direction arrows as you drive), removing traffic signs makes drivers act more, rather than less, responsibly.

One of the simplest consequences of the shared space situations I’ve come across (whether deliberately planned implementations such as at Seven Dials, shown above, or just narrow old streets or village layouts where traffic and pedestrians have always mixed) is that drivers and pedestrians, and drivers and other drivers start to make eye contact with each other to determine who should have priority, or to determine each other’s intentions. Eye contact leads to empathy; empathy leads to respect for other types of road users; respect leads to better understanding of the situation and better handling of similar situations in future. Shared space forces all of us (pedestrians, cyclists and drivers) to try to understand what’s going on from others’ points of view. We learn to grok the situation. And that can’t be bad.

This strategy has interesting implications for other social situations. Would this work in, for example, checkout lines in grocery stores? It's not uncommon to see someone with a cartload of groceries let the person behind them with a loaf of bread go first. But it's also not uncommon to see someone with twenty items get in the ten items or less line. And when I'm deciding whether or not to let the person behind me with way fewer items go ahead of me, I also ask myself why they're not in the correect line—the express lane. Would removing the explicit signs generate more empathy? Or more stupidity?

Results, I'm guessing, would fluctuate a lot. I've taught classes where the students responded to open structures very well, and I've taught classes where another group of students balked at assuming any responsibility for their own learning. And I'll be damned if I can easily predict which way it's going to go for a particular class.

To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is a way to control him.

— Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

[via Architectures of Control]

January 08, 2007

Location-Based Narrative

The Interpretive Engine tells a story in three chapters, one of which you can read online from anywhere; the other two must be read within range of a wifi connection at specific geographical locations (one in Santa Fe, the other in Fresno).

The early history of the telecommunications and transportation industries inspires this story, told by 6 characters. In the Industrial Era communications, navigation, and transportation systems existed side by side in an interdependent network. These technologies as well as the profound philosophical, theological, and social shifts that ushered them in figure prominently in this story.

Characters include The Hungry Ghost, who worked in the Bureau of Time and wanders between 1884 and the present; her Guardian; children contemplating the meaning of time and space, and a Narrator.

The characters are accessed through 1885 and 1950 maps of Fresno. You are represented in the middle of the map interface at all times by an asterisk-like symbol. Simply use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate around the map and trigger the characters in the story. Your symbol must collide with other Character symbols to trigger audio content. The various characters can be recognized by the icon representing them on the map.

[via things magazine]

January 04, 2007

Archive: Skatepunk

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To commemorate their 25th anniversary, the long-running skatepunk magazine Thrasher is posting their first 12 issues (staring in December 1981) online.

Interesting reading whether you're a real skateboarder, a poser, or just watched one of the versions of Lords of Dogtown.

One of my earliest near-death experiences, from around 1975: Holding on the seatpost of my friend's Schwinn 10-speed while I crouched on skateboard just to the left of his rear wheel, as he pedaled up to 30 mph downhill on Walnut St. He pulled off to the right halfway down the hill and I went straight. At some vague point just before the bottom of the hill, I hit a piece of gravel and the board (now far behind me) stopped abruptly. I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me, my nose about eight inches off the ground, for fifteen feet before I went down and ground asphalt through the shirt on my back for an additional ten feet. I ended up on my back bleeding, laughing, and crying about five feet short of rush hour traffic on Michigan Ave. Halfpipes? Who needs halfpipes when you have sheer clumsiness and stupidity for excitement?

[via Boing Boing]

January 01, 2007

JG Ballard: Rattling People's Cages

I think I missed this in the several-month hiatus between the Datacloud weblog and Workspace, but the always-interesting Ballardian scored an excellent interview with J.G. Ballard: "Rattling People's Cages. Here's a clip:

[Interviewer] According to Collins, ‘Ballardian’ is defined as ‘resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in JG Ballard’s novels & stories, esp. dystopian modernity’. But surely your writing is far too playful to be branded dystopian. I find your characters and situations affirming, for all the darkness they willingly surround themselves with.

[Ballard] I’m glad you said that. I think my work is superficially dystopian, in some respects, but I’m trying to, as you say, affirm a more positive worldview. I lived through more than two-thirds of the last century, which was one of the grimmest epochs in human history — a time of unparalleled human violence and cruelty. Most my writing was about the 20th century, and anyone writing about the 20th century writes in a dystopian mode without making any effort at all — it just comes with the box of paintbrushes.

You know, to be a human being is quite a role to play. Each of us wakes up in the morning and we inhabit a very dangerous creature capable of brilliance in many ways, but capable also of huge self-destructive episodes. And we live with this dangerous creature every minute we’re awake. Something like The Atrocity Exhibition sums up my fiction: the attempt by a rather wounded character — in this case, a psychiatrist having a nervous breakdown; there are similar figures throughout the rest of my fiction — to make something positive out of the chaos that surrounds him, to create some sort of positive mythology that can sustain one’s confidence in the world. Even something like Kingdom Come is affirmative, where I show a clear and present danger being dealt with, and one of the key figures responsible realising the error of his ways. So in that respect, I agree with you completely: my fiction is affirmative.

[via Ballardian]

December 27, 2006

What eCommerce Really Looks Like

The Web seems, to most of us, like a substance-less space, bits rather than bricks. But in large part, when you come down to it, it's bricks (and books and CDs and PlayStations) landing with a substantial thud on the bottom line.

Here's an Amazon UK facility during the Christmas rush.

amazon.jpg

[via Gizmodo]

Simulations and Education

Phillip Scuderi at the escapist posts "Maxis: Reflections on the Early Years." Maxis, if you're not old like me, is the company that released Will Wright's SimEarth in 1990. Simulations were relatively rare in gaming at that point, and Maxis had this to say in the manual for SimEarth:

SimCity is the first of a new type of entertainment/education software, called system simulations. We provide you with a set of rules and tools that describe, create, and control a system.

Maxis' manuals were only somewhat functional (the basics of the games were easy to figure out from the interface). As Scuderi points out, the manuals presented sweeping backstories, complex (and incomplete) theories that helped drive gameplay. The manuals included essays about Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis (nearly fifty pages in the manual, including a brief essay by Lovelock himself) or information about ant communication and myth in the SimAnt manual.