Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Subjective Validation

"Remember, your capacity to fool yourself is greater than the abilities of any conjurer, and conjurers come in many guises.

You are a creature impelled to hope, yearning for answers. As you attempt to make sense of the world you focus on what falls into place and neglect that which doesn’t fit, and there is so much in life which does not fit.

When you see a set of horoscopes, read all of them.

When someone claims they can see into your heart, realize all our hearts are much the same."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rich-Guy Ghetto Cults

Interview with Bruce Sterling

"I'd also like to point out that large financial centers in certain cities around the planet are certainly going to kill millions of us by destroying our social safety networks in the name of their imaginary financial efficiency. You're a thousand times more likely to die because of what some urban banker did in 2008 than from what some Afghan-based terrorist did in 2001. *Financiers live in small, panicky urban cloisters, severely detached from the rest of mankind. They are living today in rich-guy ghetto cults. They are truly dangerous to our well-being, and they are getting worse and more extremist, not better and more reasonable. You're not gonna realize this havoc till you see your elderly Mom coughing in an emergency ward, but she's going there for a reason." -- Bruce Sterling

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tom Waits Interviews Himself

Q: What’s wrong with the world?
A: We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley’s dog made $12 million last year… and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio, made $30,000. It’s just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Predictably Irrational

This guy, Dan Ariely, having survived third-degree burns over seventy percent of his body and a contaminated blood transfusion that left him with liver disease, endured the medication that would eventually save his life but cause him to suffer debilitating side effects by conditioning his irrational self to associate taking the medication with his favourite past-time -- watching movies. Incredible story. And his message is important: "man the rational animal" is a misnomer. We would do better to acknowledge how predictably irrational we are, and use that to our advantage.

In this CBC Quirks and Quarks interview, June 5: The Upside of Irrationality, Ariely addresses human empathy when it comes to large scale crisis and the 'identifiable victim effect'. Stalin said "One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic." Mother Teresa said, "If I look at the masses, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will". One child falls down a well and there is more news coverage in forty hours than Rwanda and Darfur put together. Big, statistical problems mute us. When people 'feel' sympathy for a victim they care and are willing to take action. But when people have to 'think' about a crisis they are far less willing to do so.

Climate change. How do we get people to care about a crisis that is more abstract, less immediate, and in the long-term future? Lame attempts at eliciting sympathy for polar bears or displaced Northern coastal communities? The problem is far more crucial than this. Ariely suggests "reward substitution" to get people to do things for global warming AS IF they care. Playing to the irrational ego toward a rational end. I suspect 'game design' may become important in this respect -- marketers and large corporations designing recreational or consumer driven activity that draws on cognitive surplus, immediately satisfies the irrational, selfish ego, yet somehow contributes to effecting change and benefiting society.

Responsive Cities

Ben Cerveny from Stamen on how urban scale computational infrastructure could transform everyday life in the city. The city, as a social environment, is a medium of collaborative performance through which the individual writes desire with the 'handles' of mobile, ubiquitous computing. One important point he raises towards the end is the convergence of 'code' and 'law' in the provisioning of services in public space. Provisioning is scarier than surveillance. It is one thing to have a law against playing your boombox in the park after curfew -- a 'soft law' that can be broken despite the surveillance technology to dissuade one from doing so -- and 'hard code' that, for example, would give permissions to technological services to only certain individuals at certain times.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Responsive Architecture & The Dilettante

Philip Beesley designs immersive environments. Vast, synthetic, crystalline structures that respond to our presence, promoting responsive sensitivity and interaction between us and our environment on a mutual level, subverting the historical stance toward landscape as a dead materiality to be hammered out and mastered.

Towards the end, an important question is raised regarding the value of being multi-disciplinary, a risky space where one can have superficial knowledge of many things and have to face the difficulty of fostering confidence in navigating generalism, synthesizing disparate areas of knowledge, and still achieving some kind of substance.

Interview with Philip Beesley @ CBC Spark

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jonathan Blow 'Design Reboot' 2007

"I want to see that Golden Age. I want to see us harness this power to transform society that Daniel [Radosh] also wants to see ...

I'm a designer now, because once a long time ago I was a gamer. I was a little kid who loved games. I played a lot of games. And I feel like I've grown up. I'm a smarter, wiser, more experienced person now. Games are a lot bigger but they haven't really grown. They haven't kept pace with me.

As a player, I have this desire to be transformed ... but I'm not getting it. At least, not most of the time. I get very frustrated by games ... [it] doesn't have anything fundamentally valuable to me that any other game hasn't always given me. I still love games, but it's frustrating. And I think that we can do a lot better ...

So, I'm encouraging all of us to make things that are worth while, or deep, or interesting. But what is worth while? That's a very subjective question. And surely your ideas about that are different from mine, and the games I would make left to my own devices would be very different from what you make ... But with all of our different ideas of what's worth while, we can at least hold the intention to make our games embody those ideas, to be worthwhile. And if you respect the player's potential to live a higher quality life, and not treat players as somebody from whom we're trying to siphon money or attention or fame. And if we do that, for a while, and get good at it, and are diligent, players will feel it, they'll feel the difference, we'll broaden our market, and if we get good enough at it, then someday we'll be able to see where that next step is, to build games up to their full potential." -- Jonathan Blow

The Metaphysics Videogame

The Metaphysics Videogame

"(3) Videogames are the popular medium of the 21st century

This is a contentious point, but I believe it is true. If film was the medium of the 20th century, then videogames are the medium of the 21st. It is not the web, because the web is just a delivery channel, just a piece of plumbing for delivering bits. It's what those bits do that matters. And despite the massive adoption of online communications, what the web mostly does is to remediate existing media. We read text. We look at photographs. We watch videos. In the terms of McLuhan's tetrad, the web reverses into every legacy medium at its worst: top ten lists, sound bites, gossip, pornography, curiosity, schlock.

But videogames resist the trends of simplification and ease that characterize contemporary media. They are software instead of bundles of digitized books and pictures and films. They are hard to use rather than easy, and yet we praise them when they are difficult and disparage them when they are simple. They take earnest advantage of the microprocessors that are the "brains" of the machines you are using at this moment, rather than the dumb terminals that are its system of distribution.

The point is not that books or painting or film or anything else is dying; history shows that such things never die, even if they do change. The point is that the era of linear media is giving way to the era of random-access media; the era of viewed media is giving way to the era of operated media; and the era of declarative media is giving way to the era of procedural media. Anyone who doesn't want to be a part of that change, at its source, is a fool or a coward..." -- Ian Bogost

McLuhan's Brain

"Marshall McLuhan’s brain was fueled by fresh blood from the heart through not one but two arteries at the base of his skull, a trait in the mammalian world found mostly in cats and rarely in human beings ... Why mention this medical information? To establish that Marshall was not merely different but very different, and it wasn’t simply in the way he thought; rather, it was because of the biological mechanisms that made and allowed him to think what he thought."

Inside McLuhan’s Head: An exclusive excerpt from Douglas Coupland’s biography of Marshall McLuhan

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Slow vs Fast Media

Great observation in the context of a critique on slow 'Contemplative Cinema' vs the superficiality of fast, Hollywood flicks, but applicable to New Media in general...

"It’s very consoling and self-congratulatory for old-line cinephiles (a group in which I fully include myself) to tell ourselves the story that the current cultural landscape’s insistence on rapidity and speed and instantaneous gratification is a monstrous aberration, and that we are maintaining truer values when we strive to slow everything down. But this is a lie. You cannot change a situation if you are unwilling to have anything to do with it, if you are so concerned with keeping your hands clean and avoiding complicity that you simply retreat into fantasies of the good old days. To my mind, this is what Slow Cinema is doing; and Nick James is entirely right to find it unsatisfactory, and to look instead for new, “more active forms of rebellion.” And we are likely to find these as often in exploitation cinema as in art cinema; but in any case, in movies that engage with the new media landscape, and the new socio-economic landscape, rather than fleeing them in dreams of “learn[ing] in to find the content behind the appearance of emptiness.”

-- Steven Shaviro

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A New Quotidian

"The Future, capital-F, be it crystalline city on the hill or radioactive post-nuclear wasteland, is gone. Ahead of us, there is merely…more stuff. Events. Some tending to the crystalline, some to the wasteland-y. Stuff: the mixed bag of the quotidian.

Please don’t mistake this for one of those “after us, the deluge” moments on my part. I’ve always found those appalling, and most particularly when uttered by aging futurists, who of all people should know better. This newfound state of No Future is, in my opinion, a very good thing. It indicates a kind of maturity, an understanding that every future is someone else’s past, every present someone else’s future. Upon arriving in the capital-F Future, we discover it, invariably, to be the lower-case now...

...that dawning recognition that the future, be it capital-T Tomorrow or just tomorrow, Friday, just means more stuff, however peculiar and unexpected. A new quotidian. Somebody’s future, somebody else’s past."