# Sep 21, 2010

“There are interesting parallels in the debates between Williams and McLuhan and those between STS and ANT . . . Williams and many STS traditions can be seen to foreground the social at the expense of an appreciation of the cognitive or esthetic, while McLuhan and some variations of ANT tent to privilege networks and specific media to the exclusion of social and economic structures. There are useful elements to be gleaned from both sides . . . In an age of ‘intelligent agents’ and everyday engagements with various machine-based intelligences, we should take seriously the notion that our perceptual and cognitive facilities may be shifting, even as we understand that these shifts are part and parcel of larger cultural forces.” (8)

Tara McPherson – Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected

“Culture in all its early uses was a noun of process: the tending of something, basically crops or animals. The subsidiary coulter — ploughshare, had travelled by a different linguistic route, from culter, L — ploughshare, culter, OE, to the variant English spellings culter, colter, coulter and as late as eCl7 culture (Webster, Duchess of Malfi, III, ii: ‘hot burning cultures). This provided a further basis for the important next stage of meaning, by metaphor. From eCl6 the tending of natural growth was extended to process of human development, and this, alongside the original meaning in husbandry, was the main sense until lC18 and eC19. Thus More: ‘to the culture and profit of their minds; Bacon: ‘the culture and manurance of minds (1605); Hobbes: ‘a culture of their minds (1651); Johnson: ‘she neglected the culture of her understanding (1759). At various points in this development two crucial changes occurred: first, a degree of habituation to the metaphor, which made the sense of human tending direct; second, an extension of particular processes to a general process, which the word could abstractly carry.”

Raymond Williams, Keywords

“Popular was originally a legal and political term, from popularis, L-belonging to the people. An action popular, from C15, was a legal suit which it was open to anyone to begin. Popular estate and popular government, from C16, referred to a political system constituted or carried on by the whole people, but there was also the sense (cf. COMMON) of ‘low or ‘base. The transition to the predominant modern meaning of ‘widely favored or ‘well-liked is interesting in that it contains a strong element of setting out to gain favor, with a sense of calculation that has not quite disappeared but that is evident in a reinforced phrase like deliberately popular. Most of the men who have left records of the use of the word saw the matter from this point of view, downwards.”

Raymond Williams, Keywords

“From a first-person point of view, intersubjectivity comes in when we undergo acts of empathy. Intersubjective experience is empathic experience; it occurs in the course of our conscious attribution of intentional acts to other subjects, in the course of which we put ourselves into the other one’s shoes. In order to study this kind of experience from the phenomenological attitude, we must bracket our belief in the existence of the respective target of our act-ascription qua experiencing subject and ask ourselves which of our further beliefs justify that existence-belief as well as our act-ascription. It is these further beliefs that make up the rational structure underlying our intersubjective experience. Since it takes phenomenological investigation to lay bare these beliefs, they must be first and foremost unconscious when we experience the world in the natural attitude.

Among the fundamental beliefs thus uncovered by Husserl is the belief (or expectation) that a being that looks and behaves more or less like myself, i.e., displays traits more or less familiar from my own case, will generally perceive things from an egocentric viewpoint similar to my own (“here”, “over there”, “to my left”, “in front of me”, etc.), in the sense that I would roughly look upon things the way he does if I were in his shoes and perceived them from his perspective. This belief allows me to ascribe intentional acts to others immediately or “appresentatively”, i.e., without having to draw an inference, say, by analogy with my own case. So the belief in question must lie quite at the bedrock of my belief-system. It forms a part of the already pregiven (and generally unreflected) intentional background, or “lifeworld” (cf. Crisis), against which my practice of act-ascription and all constitutive achievements based upon that practice make sense in the first place, and in terms of which they get their ultimate justification.”

Edmund Husserl (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

# Aug 19, 2010

“This, and much more, she accepted – for after all living did mean accepting the loss of one joy after another, not even joys in her case – mere possibilities of improvement. She thought of the endless waves of pain that for some reason or other she and her husband had to endure; of the invisible giants hurting her boy in some unimaginable fashion; of the incalculable amount of tenderness contained in the world; of the fate of this tenderness, which is either crushed, or wasted, or transformed into madness; of neglected children humming to themselves in unswept corners; of beautiful weeds that cannot hide from the farmer and helplessly have to watch the shadow of his simian stoop leave mangled flowers in its wake, as the monstrous darkness approaches.”

Vladimir Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols”

Super Mario Sidewalk Speedrun

via Peter Brinson:

Whoever plays such a speedrun knows the levels by heart it’s safe to say. A clear challenge in a game like this is that the frame doesn’t show you what’s a bit to the right until you’re close to it (danger). What’s nice about this piece is that it actualizes the expert player’s memorized map of these levels – laid out on a sidewalk. That effect would be lost if the player weren’t an ace at the game, I think. (USC IMD/Peter Brinson)

Notes on the project by creator Andreas Heikaus:

This video was part of my Bachelor thesis at the University of Applied science and art Hannover. The Super Mario Bros. game, released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, is not longer bound to the television size and get interactive with a new environment. The emphasis of my thesis is on the matchmoving work. It is the process of matching CG elements into live-action footage. (Vimeo)

# Jul 7, 2010

“Last year, the futurologist Stuart Candy visited the department and showed us a wonderful diagram he used to clarify how we think about futures. Rather than one amorphous space of futureness it was divided into Probable, Preferable, Plausible and Possible futures. One of the most interesting zones was Preferable. Of course the very definition of preferable is problematic — who decides? But, although designers shouldn’t decide for everyone else, we can play a significant role in discovering what is and what isn’t desirable.”

Design Interactions→Introduction

ARGFest Panel: City Gaming & Public Art

ARGFest 2010 is just around the corner, and I’m lucky enough to attending as a panelist. I’ll be taking part in a discussion with Anne Dennington, Carl DiSalvo, and Sara Thacher titled, “TransGenre: City Gaming & Public Art.” Here’s the description, written by panel organizer Peggy Weil (see schedule here):

ARGs are not only transmedia, they are TransGenre. Games in general, and city games in particular, have “crossed over” from the cult/gamer and commercial/marketing sectors as celebrated innovations in public art. International art festivals from the Venice Biennale to San Jose’s ZeroOne are commissioning game designers to create site-specific artworks transforming the urban landscape into urban gamescape.

While urban game designers are tech-savvy and urban gamers find themselves in virtual and augmented realities – required to take full advantage of mobile/social networks – games as public art have theatrical roots, particularly in street theater, improv, performance art, club culture and literature.

This panel will address the intersection of city gaming as public art identifying both precedents and opportunities for game designers to create work for public spaces. (ARGFest)

IBM supercomputer “Watson” to appear on Jeopardy

…just don’t count on him to open the pod bay doors:

Technically speaking, Watson wasn’t in the room. It was one floor up and consisted of a roomful of servers working at speeds thousands of times faster than most ordinary desktops. Over its three-year life, Watson stored the content of tens of millions of documents, which it now accessed to answer questions about almost anything. (Watson is not connected to the Internet; like all “Jeopardy!” competitors, it knows only what is already in its “brain.”) During the sparring matches, Watson received the questions as electronic texts at the same moment they were made visible to the human players; to answer a question, Watson spoke in a machine-synthesized voice through a small black speaker on the game-show set. When it answered the Burj clue — “What is Dubai?” (“Jeopardy!” answers must be phrased as questions) — it sounded like a perkier cousin of the computer in the movie “WarGames” that nearly destroyed the world by trying to start a nuclear war.

This time, though, the computer was doing the right thing. Watson won $1,000 (in pretend money, anyway), pulled ahead and eventually defeated Gilmartin and Kolani soundly, winning $18,400 to their $12,000 each.

“Watson,” Crain shouted, “is our new champion!”

It was just the beginning. Over the rest of the day, Watson went on a tear, winning four of six games. It displayed remarkable facility with cultural trivia (“This action flick starring Roy Scheider in a high-tech police helicopter was also briefly a TV series” — “What is ‘Blue Thunder’?”), science (“The greyhound originated more than 5,000 years ago in this African country, where it was used to hunt gazelles” — “What is Egypt?”) and sophisticated wordplay (“Classic candy bar that’s a female Supreme Court justice” — “What is Baby Ruth Ginsburg?”). (New York Times)

Video here.

Incredible archive of 19th century scientific illustrations from the Challenger expedition

The Challenger expedition was an ambitious scientific mission that sought to catalogue the geology and biology of the world’s oceans. Among other achievements, the expedition managed to scoop up bizarre life forms from the deepest parts of the ocean, including from a spot now known as the Challenger Deep, some 35,000 feet underwater (the expedition brought along over 250 kilometers of Italian hemp rope for just this purpose).

The scientists working aboard the Challenger produced voluminous reports, replete with beautiful illustrations and meticulous charts. Browsing through these documents powerfully evokes the sense of adventure and discovery that made the late 19th century so cool. High quality scans of the entirety of this stunning archive can be viewed here.

More: 19thcenturyscience.org