“It was one of the most interesting fads of the night, or at least the early part of the night.”

R. A. Lafferty’s crisply-written short story, “Slow Tuesday Night” (1965), envisions an oddly-familiar world of frenetic hustle where up-to-the-second “trend indicators” chart the fates of fads, fortunes, and families. A mini-masterpiece of time distortion science fiction, this classic short story (along with the rest of Lafferty’s delightful oeuvre) is not to be missed:

Freddy rented an office and had it furnished. This took one minute, negotiation, selection and installation being almost instantaneous. Then he invented the manus module; that took another minute. He then had it manufactured and marketed; in three minutes it was in the hands of key buyers.

It caught on. It was an attractive module. The flow of orders began within thirty seconds. By ten minutes after eight every important person had one of the new manus modules, and the trend had been set. The module began to sell in the millions. It was one of the most interesting fads of the night, or at least the early part of the night. (baenebooks.com)

Read the whole story at Baene Books, or download a .pdf copy here.

# Jun 30, 2014

“If there is but one world, it embraces a multiplicity of contrasting aspects; if there are many worlds, the collection of them all is one. The one world may be taken as many, or the many worlds taken as one; whether one or many depends on the way of taking.”

Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking (1978, 2)

# Jun 23, 2014

“The distinction between creative and empowering cybersituations vs. (pseudo)interactive and disempowering spectacle is . . . often difficult to make, but we believe that some such distinction is necessary in order to provide critical perspectives on and alternatives to the forms of interactive spectacle now evolving. While pseudo-interaction provides escape into an ersatz (virtual) reality, constructing cybersituations enable individuals to create and interact more productively with others in their everyday lives and to struggle to transform culture and society, generating new spaces of connection, freedom, and creativity. Constructing cybersituations thus provides potential articulations between cyberworld and the real world, while pseudo-interaction merely entangles one ever deeper in the matrices of escapism and corporate entertainment.”

Steve Best and Douglas Kellner, “Debord, Cybersituations, and the Interactive Spectacle”

Different Games: Playing With Reality

Talk delivered at Different Games 2014. Explores how games “play with reality,” opening various avenues for inquiry around notions of environment and situation. Makes reference to Sartre, Goffman, and Baron Von Haussmann, among others, and offers up the following definition for game: “Games are semi-regulated situations that unfold over time and resolve based on the creative participation of one or more players.”

Future Factories and Futurematic

The Situation Lab invites you to take part in two upcoming events with award-winning New York City-based design collective, The Extrapolation Factory.

Founded by designers Elliott P. Montgomery and Chris Woebken, the Extrapolation Factory sets out to “explore the value of rapidly imagined, prototyped, deployed and evaluated visions of possible futures on an extended time scale.” In 2013, they won the Core77 award in the Speculative Design category for their project 99 cent futures, in which they held a design jam to create speculative products from the discount store of the future. When an exhibition incorporating 99 cent futures opened in China last December, CNN published this report.

Continue reading

# Jan 19, 2014

“In participatory situations, game structure replaces aesthetics. Instead of events being worked out beforehand, there is a “game plan,” a set of objectives, moves, and rules that are generally known or explained. The game plan is flexible, adapting to changing situations. . . [In 1969,] I formulated three rules of participation:

  1. The audience is in a living space and a living situation. Things may happen to and with them as well as ‘in front’ of them.
  2. When a performer invites participation, he must be prepared to accept and deal with the spectator’s reactions.
  3. Participation should not be gratuitous.”

- Richard Schechner, Environmental Theater. Applause Books, New York, 1973. 78.

# Jan 13, 2014

“A cognitive system is a system whose organization defines a domain of interactions in which it can act with relevance to the maintenance of itself, and the process of cognition is the actual (inductive) acting or behaving in this domain. Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition. This statement is valid for all organisms, with and without a nervous system.”

- Humberto Maturana, Biology and Cognition (1970)

FPOU: a comic provocation about the future of postsecondary education

This faux infomercial, currently airing without disclaimer at 4am on US cable network Adult Swim, takes some smart and merciless shots at MOOCs, gamification, and, of course, for-profit online “universities”. The level of detail here is impressive: pausing reveals hilariously complete mockups of user interfaces for things like managing “ThoughtCoins”, reporting other students for fraud, customizing shoddy Second Life-style virtual classroom avatars, and cashing in academic credits for sandwiches. “Whenever I want to learn something,” exclaims one of the breathless interview subjects, “I just buy some more ThoughtCoins and download some more facts.” The dystopia implied by the satire here should serve as a cautionary touchstone for anyone interested in exploring the roles privatization and technology will play in the future of education.

Created by Wild Aggressive Dog.

Hat tip: Sarah Brin.

# Sep 30, 2013

“The rules just kind of got there. They don’t make any kind of sense except in terms of themselves. But when you start to exercise those rules, all sorts of processes start to happen and you start to find out all sorts of stuff about people. In astrology the rules happen to be about stars and planets, but they could be about ducks and drakes for all the difference it would make. It’s just a way of thinking about a problem which lets the shape of that problem begin to emerge. The more rules, the tinier the rules, the more arbitrary they are, the better. It’s like throwing a handful of fine graphite dust on a piece of paper to see where the hidden indentations are. It lets you see the words that were written on the piece of paper above it that’s now been taken away and hidden. The graphite’s not important. It’s just the means of revealing their indentations. So you see, astrology’s nothing to do with astronomy. It’s just to do with people thinking about people.”

-Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (via Kars)