Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Google & Writely / Search wishes...

Found this interesting article in the NYTimes about the ongoing and escalating clash between Google and Microsoft.

Google v. Microsoft Death Match

(My money is on Google. Who wants to make odds?)

The article mentions a new Google acquisition called Writely, which, after a bit of investigation, seems very useful, almost revolutionary. Its a web-based word processor that allows seamless and real-time collaboration. Already professors are using it in their classes for group projects and papers. This seems to be a great resource, and one that could possibly be introduced into future T101 classes!

In regards to the final clues for this class, I wish there was a search engine for pictures. I am no genius on the subject, but wouldn't it be possible to search the web for identical binary codes in different types of image files? I guess different images files save pictures differently, so this would be a hurdle. Of course, this is all motivated by that picture of the woman testifying.

That's all for now, I should probably go finish my papers so I can graduate Saturday!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Second Life Performance

I recently came across this article concerning Second Life (which was the subject of a presentation in class)...

Pitchfork column

Along with the real estate function, this seems to me to be one of the most exciting potentials for this virtual world. Perhaps it heralds a new day when virtual performances become a tried and true way of expanding your fan base. Of course, as the Second Life world grows, it seems reasonable to expect that the relationship between performers and the owners of the venues will follow that path of their relationship in the real world. Eventually each side may have all sorts of agents and booking agents and other intermediary employees and councils. Would Second Life (or any other virtual world) be an advantage at that point?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Virtual Mall

From 4/20/06 (as mentioned earlier, any post with an earlier dating was written in my journal initially, then transferred to this blog at a later date):

I thought today's virtual mall presentation provided some interesting ideas for the future of internet shopping. I think the loss of social interaction in internet shopping is a major issue. Past generations of Americans (and other cultures) have grown up in these meccas of capitalism (see "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" or "Mallrats" for recent examples). They served as an important gathering place for the youth of this country to meet and socialize in a setting less oppressive and more enjoyable than school.

I think the proposed Virtual Mall is a step in the right direction (at least in terms of thinking about the issue), but I doubt it can replicate the actual social experience of hanging at the mall with your friends.

After googling "virtual mall", these were some of the most popular results...



Certainly the proposed Virtual Mall would be a major improvement from the above sites...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Le Cave

From 4/13/06:

While the virtual CAVE concept has been tossed around alot in T101 through discussions and presentations, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the subject. It's not like I don't understand the premise behind it or the difference between a 5 and a 6-wall CAVE. Instead, it seems like I simply cannot visualize what it would be like to be inside the CAVE myself.

This leads to a fundamental problem. It is so hard to visualize myself in the CAVE because there has never been anything quite like it. I have no idea how being surrounded my virtual imagery would feel (as opposed to donning googles and only seeing what is in front of me). How can I support development of the CAVE for various positive uses (medical, engineering, etc.) without truly understanding its potential?

I think this will be the major hurdle as CAVE technology grows. To convince someone of its use they will have to actually step inside the CAVE and experience for themselves.

Gathering Sports Nuggets

From 4/4/06:

Since I don't receive any television stations at my house here in Bloomington, often I turn to the Internet to get my sports information and scores. My preferred site is ESPN.com, but often for live scoring I resort to the league web sites (nfl.com, nba.com, etc.). Why? Because ESPN's current gamecast system is overly clunky and doesn't run smoothly on my computer (obviously ESPN is loosing a customer here). However, for most games that my favorite teams play (Pacers & Colts) I travel to my friends house to view the game live on the television. I imagine that almost any day now I will be able to watch these games from my computer without having to pay outrageous fees.

Which brings me to my next point. Increasingly fans are finding it more enjoyable to watch games from home rather than see them in person. This is in large part due to the wealth of info that you get from TV graphics and (sometimes) commentators. As this trend continues, expect stadiums to start implementing video screens with every seat to offer the same experience to the ticket-holding fan. These interactive displays would hopefully provide up-to-the-second details and stats, and also allow you to check in on other games being played at the same time.

I wonder what these screens would do to the attention of fans at a live game. Would there still be that great collectivity of emotion when a play goes well/horribly wrong?

The Design Culture

From 3/28/06:

So recently we read all about PowerPoint and how it can be seen to stifle meaningful presentations and get in the way of effective communication. However, PowerPoint's interest to me lies its placement in the realm of what I like to call "The Design Culture"

In this digital age we have myriad tools at our disposal, and increasingly people are spending their freetime using these programs to design. From the humble beginnings of Paint, to the latest versions of Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, GarageBand, etc, consumer-grade folk can now spend endless hours of their freetime finding artisitic expression in these digital environments. As for distribution, weblogs provide the perfect place to upload your content wherein it lies waiting to be discovered.

Call me crazy, but I see a connection between this mass enabling of artistic creation and recent popularization of TV shows such as Trading Spaces, What Not to Wear, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, etc. I see the connection as an increased focus on aesthetic design. Where in the past only the upper eschelons of society were priviledged to this type of non-necessary thought and expression, any Tom, Dick or Harry can go down to Target and get what (appears to be at least) a skillfully designed salad bowl and a sharp set of slacks.

Faster Please!

From 3/21/06 (skipped Spring Break Week):

Working on group projects is a staple of any college education. These groups teach us how to work together to accomplish a goal without ripping the heads off of you teammates.

Ok, so maybe I have never had a terrible group experience at this school, but there are times when it can be overwhelmingly frustrating. Take, for example, this classic group member stereotype that I ran into last semester:

"The Uncontactable" - This group member pledges his or her time to the project, only to turn up missing when the work needs to be done. Cell phone calls go straight to voicemail and remain unreturned. Emails seemingly disappear into cyberspace. I've never gone this far, but I am guessing knocks on their front door would be answered by total silence. After your group has met, this person will magically rejoin "the grid" (see earlier post) and apologize with some made-up excuse.

So yes, I have found someone who is capable of totally exiting the grid, and its really really annoying.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Thoughts on Google Earth, etc.

From 3/7/06:

I recently downloaded Google Earth... and subsequently spent the next 6 hours examining every location I've ever been from a bird's eye view.

I find this program to be fascinating, but also the fact that I become so enamored with it. I can't exactly pinpoint the appeal of the thing, but I think it lies in the ability to see the everyday world from a new and exciting viewpoint. We can set markers on our favorite locations and them fly from Bloomington, IN to Sydney, Australia in a matter of seconds, all the while enjoying the space-style view as the world rotates underneath us. Its beautiful.

Anyhow, I found myself systematically examining every location I traveled to last Spring during my semester abroad in London. I set up dozens of markers in each city I traveled to: I stayed at this hostel, I walked to this Cathedral, then down to this spot on the river, then over to this museum, etc. Now I can show anyone who is interested the path of my weekend trips to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, etc. (Although Amsterdam is strangely pixelated for no apparent reason).

Google Earth has become just one more way for me to remember, memorialize and archive the greatest experience of my life (that semester abroad for all those who werent paying attention). It joins the ranks of iPhoto, Final Cut, DVD Studio Pro, iTunes, Facebook, Webshots, etc. as programs and websites I have employed to accomplish this task. These programs and sites make up my own version of iLife (Apple's digital lifestyle program suite). I wonder at what point I am spending too much time digitally remembering this experience, rather than creating new memories to be memorialized at a later date.

Thoughts on Facebook, etc.

From 2/27/06:

Facebook is remaking the youth experience. Everyone from high school to college students and college alumni now spend an increasing amount of their time perusing this addictive website. Students are able to stay in contact with old and distant friends, browse aquaintences' and strangers' photos, and connect with those who share similar interests in the way of music, film, television and literature.

What I find interesting about the site is that so much premium is focused on an individual's tastes in these pop culture mediums. If someone asked you to describe yourself in a few sentences, would you reply with a list of your favorite movies and music artists? Probably not, but that is exactly how we learn about each other on Facebook.

What does it mean that we are able to define ourselves in this way? Are we becoming increasingly dependent upon these aspects of pop culture as personality cues? Do you think you would get along with everyone who also likes "The Royal Tenenbaums" and the Beta Band?

It seems like pop culture is eating itself these days. Whole networks on television regurgitate our societies' pop crushes from the past and present (seen VH1 lately?). And its not reruns they are airing, its shows like I love the 90s where we get humorous sound bites and talking heads waxing nostalgic on everything from Vanilla Ice to those lovely hairy Troll thingies.

Where is this fascination and identification with pop culture leading us?

An Analysis of My Favorite Semi-Artform

from 2/21/06:
(Note: 2nd in a series of postings that had been written earlier in my journal but not uploaded to this blog...)

Who doesn't love making mix CDs? Sure, they were predated by the mix tape (equally fantastic) and have been superceded by the iTunes playlist, but they hold a special place in my heart. Playlists, for one thing, are not inherently shareable with friends, unless of course, you burn it onto a CD for them. Then it becomes a mix CD, and a wonderful way of surprising friends and family with a thoughtful present that introduces them to fantastic tunes. However, I like to think of mix CDs as more than a simple sampler of your favorite tunes.

When creating a mix, you really only have 2 variable to play with: song selection and song order. Therein lies the mystique... these inherent limits upon your creativity in this artform force you to be creative with what you can. Its a beautiful thing, and a force that is equally prevalent in other, more commonlly accepted art forms. Painting mandates paint and canvas, Poetry must be made up of words, etc. Often the beauty of these artforms lies in shifting or stretching what can be done with the modest tools of the form.

Granted, a mix CD is made up of other people's works of art (their songs). But if one carefully selects his tracks and track order, a complete feeling, emotion, and statement can be made that combines and interweaves the works of others. My friend and I have been mailing mix CDs to each other every month this school year, and the results have been prosperous. Sure, we gain new music that neither would have heard on our own, but as the year has progressed the mixes have started embracing themes and emotions as a whole. Gary tackled both science and religion on a set of mixes. I followed a fictional relationship from break-up through emotional resolution. The progression has left us seriously considering our next mix, pondering its contents and song order for weeks before actually committing the thing to material CD.

An Over-Dependent in Paris

From 2/14/06:

Exactly a year ago I was leaving the beautiful metropolis known as Paris, France. After a wonderful long weekend (save for the cold, rainy and generally unpleasant weather), my travel companions and I had to get up at about 4am to walk the 1.5 miles to the train station to catch our train back to London. With our backpacks in tow, we set off into the dark Parisian streets. We were right on schedule and about halfway through our trek when I suddenly realized that I had left my iPod underneath my pillow back at the hostel.

Now as any iPod owner will tell you, the little contraption has a way of becoming your most prized possession. So my decision was an easy one, I was to sprint back to the hostel, wake up the sleeping doorman, grab my iPod and sprint back to the train station in hopes that my train and my friends had not left yet. I propositioned my backpack onto a friend and took off the way I had came.

I'm not going to lie and say that the running was easy. I was pretty well out of good running shape, not to mention that I had been under a general cold-type ailment for the several days. It was still chilly in Paris that time of year, so my layers of fleece had a way of overheating me as I racked up the milage on my atypical morning sprint.

So to make a long story short, I managed to wake up the doorman who was sleeping on his cot in the lobby, race up the flights of stairs and grab my iPod (exactly where I had thought it was), and run the final 1.5 miles to the train station. My girlfriend was calling my name from above as I entered, and my overwhelmed mind took a couple seconds to figure out where the calls were coming from. We rushed onto the train to join our friends and the comments about my exhausted, pale white complexion followed.

Sure, the whole affair provided me with a great story, but it got me wondering what lengths one will go to in order to maintain their highly connected lifestyles. How far would you go to rescue your iPod, cellphone or PDA? Have these technologies become so integral to our daily well being that we cannot fathom a day without them?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Over Saturated on the Highway

The other day I was driving to Iowa City to visit my girlfriend for the weekend. There I was, on I-74, enjoying the fabulous nature of my mix CD when I look down to notice that my low fuel light is on. Whoops. I toggle the display to show "Distance Till Empty" and discover that I have 30 miles worth of gasoline left. Ok, I should have no problem making it to a gas station. I cruise on...

What's that? I hear my cell phone ringing.


It's my girlfriend. We chat. She doesn't believe that I am really driving to Iowa (it had been a surprise). She was pleased. Good stuff. We finish our conversation just as LCD Soundsystem's "Tribulations" comes across my speakers. I turn up the volume and sing along...

"0 DTE" - I read this startling message on my car's LCD display and nearly drove off the highway.

"Holy Shit! Where am I? Where is there gas? Where's my AAA card? How long will this take? How far will I have to walk for gas?"

In a slightly rational panic, I adjusted the display to show estimated miles per gallon as I let off the cruise control and tried to get the most mileage for every remaining molecule of gasoline. A billboard told me there was an exit at mile 159.

"Where am I? Ok, ok, ok... damn! mile 162! 3 miles away! I don't have 3 miles! I have 0!"

I start to calculate how long it would take me to walk the 6 mile round trip. My car keeps moving, and it doesn't seem to be slowing. My thoughts drift, and I find myself starting to sing along once again, only at a much more subdued and unconcious level.

"What am I doing? Singing? I'm about to run out of gas! What's that? The exit ramp! I made it!!"

I inch up the exit ramp, searching for the gas station. I don't see one. The exit is desolate. Just then, the helpful little blue sign says: Conoco, Left, 1 mile.

"1 more mile! And there's a stop sign! I'll never have enough gas to re-accelerate! My car will die right there, then slowly roll back down the ramp and onto the highway and into traffic! Death awaits!!!!"

I stop. I accelerate. I coast down the hill. I pass driveways leading to rural houses with giant front yards. It was the longest mile of my life.

Finally, I see my salvation, gleaming red and yellow in the late afternoon sun. I slowly bring my car to a stop next to a pump. I breathe a sign of relief. I realize that the multitude of media options in my car distracted me from what was most important at that moment in time: getting more gas. I had never felt so uselessly oversaturated by media in my life.

Then I turned up the radio and started singing.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Recycling as Renaissance?

Last Friday night I went to see the DJs Gabriel & Dresden up in Indy. While their set was fantastic and it was a great night, perhaps what most piqued my interested that night was the video art being played along with the music. Being a telecom and cmcl major interested in film and television production, I was intrigued by this inventive format for the moving image (granted, i have seen these videos at clubs before, but for some reason I was particularly engrossed on this particular evening). Large portions of the video art were made up of brief clips from classic movies, television shows, and cartoons. These images would then be repeatedly played forward and backward to make the characters move as if they were dancing. For example, one clip featured a close up of Patrick Swayze from Dirty Dancing which was mirrored vertically. While the technology used at this particular club did not seem to allow the images to adjust to the beat of the music, the video was still an entertaining addition to the DJ set that created a multi-media environment.

Connecting these images with Rushkoff's Internet Renaissance article, I couldn't help but wonder what Rushkoff would this of this recycling of a copyrighted image (I am no expert when it comes to copyright violations, but I could certainly see both sides of an argument involving these video art pieces). What I think is most interesting about these images is that anyone with the slightest knowledge of any rudimentary video editing program has the power to create these videos. With the advent of iMovie and other consumer-friendly video editing programs, this assumption is not off-base. In addition, posting these videos to the internet is equally feasible, and they could easily be made into music videos for previously released songs or for songs created by the user himself (w/ GarageBand for example). It seems to me that these small pieces of video art could be one more example of the DIY content that Rushkoff praises.