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{Friday, June 06, 2003}

gripping tyre, hidden driver

Nessun Dorma

Greetings, self-organizing systems!
Kevin Kelly - Out of Control - Chapter 23 - Wholes, Holes, and Spaces
In one fell swoop 35 years ago, Dr. Weyl outlined my whole 1994 book on the breaking science of adaptive, distributed systems and the emergent phenomenon they engender.

June 6 - 8, 2003 - PlaNetwork: Networking A Sustainable Future
Global Systems:
Over the last century, "systems thinking" has allowed scientists, environmentalists, philosophers and technologists to re-conceive the world in terms of holistic networks and emergent properties rather than traditional hierarchies of control. An ecological view of natural and human systems requires such a perspective. How might the Internet enable us to further develop a systems view of both our most pressing problems and their potential solutions?

Up To Half Of Earth's Surface Warming Could Be The Result Of Changes In Land Use
Most scientists think the global warming trend is largely the result of human activities, principally the emission of greenhouse gases from power plants, cars and other sources. Land use change, such as the conversion of undeveloped land to housing or agricultural use, has been seen as an important but much smaller factor in this trend. However, the findings of Kalnay and Cai may force a reassessment of the relative importance of these two factors.

Climate changes making planet greener
"Whether humans have contributed much to the greening trend remains unknown ..."

Rolling Back the 20th Century - William Greider - The Nation, USA, 12 May 2003
"We are a very wealthy (and brutally powerful) nation, so why do people experience so much stress and confinement in their lives, a sense of loss and failure? The answers, I suggest, will lead to a new formulation of what progressives want.
The first place to inquire is not the failures of government but the malformed power relationships of American capitalism -- the terms of employment that reduce many workers to powerless digits, the closely held decisions of finance capital that shape our society, the waste and destruction embedded in our system of mass consumption and production. The goal is, like the right's, to create greater self-fulfillment but as broadly as possible. Self-reliance and individualism can be made meaningful for all only by first reviving the power of collective action."

Only the well fed worry about tomorrow
"If our goal is to improve the world, reducing carbon emissions is most certainly not the most effective way. Kyoto basically costs three to seven times the global development aid budget on doing imperceptible good for the third world. In fact, for the same amount that implementing Kyoto will cost the EU every year, the UN estimates that we could provide every person in the world with access to basic health, education, family planning and water and sanitation services. Wouldn't this be a better way of serving the world?"
Bjorn Lomborg

Freeman Dyson - What a World! - The New York Review of Books, 15 May 2003
"The biosphere is the most complicated of all the things we humans have to deal with. The science of planetary ecology is still young and undeveloped. It is not surprising that honest and well-informed experts can disagree about facts. But beyond the disagreements about facts, there is another deeper disagreement about values. The disagreement about values may be described in an oversimplified way as a disagreement between naturalists and humanists."

The Life and Art of Samuel Bak
Bak refers to his work as an "assembling of broken shards," using the Kabbalistic concept of the broken vessel that must be repaired, Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).

Blair is in thrall to the myth of a monolithic modernity - John Gray
"The belief that modernisation is a unilinear historical process is not new. The neo-conservatives are only the latest in a long line of thinkers. Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill had very different visions of what it means to be modern, but they were at one in believing that it would be the same everywhere."

Tom Ryan - Baby, you can drive my car
In the opening shot of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, John Ford's moving 1962 eulogy to the passing of the Old West, a train chugs across a wooded landscape belching smoke into the sky.
It's a simple image, but poetic simplicity was always Ford's metier, and the painterly scene quietly introduces the film's central theme: should this "iron horse" be embraced as a welcome emissary of the future, transporting into the West a civilisation that will tame the wilderness and mould it into a garden? Or should it be seen as an unwanted intruder, contaminating the air and bringing with it a rapacious capitalism that will deface a virgin land?

Landscapes and life-worlds are always multitemporal

"The triangular tiles of Hidden Lion have covered all of Bembel Rudzuk's stone square, but the pattern has in its turn been so covered by people, by stalls, by booths and tents and awnings that the surge of its action is obscured by the action of every day; the twisting serpents, the shifting pyramids, the appearing and disappearing lions are mostly hidden."
Russell Hoban - Pilgermann (Bloomsbury, London, 2002, page 157)

Epigraph: "a rat became the unit of currency" - Zbigniew Herbert (from the poem "Report from the Besieged City" which DeLillo read at an event in New York City on Oct. 11, 2001.)

Car Stuff: The Automobile in Art at the Flint Institute of Arts
Saturday, July 12, 2003 -- Sunday, August 24, 2003
The exhibit includes Buick Painting with P

Buckminster Fuller: Illusive Mutant Artist - Victoria Vesna
In 1928, Isamu Noguchi planned to do a sculpture portrait of Fuller who suggested that he use the chrome, nickel, and steel alloy that Henry Ford had just used on the radiator grilles of the Model A car. Noguchi wanted to challenge the accepted method of using negative light (shadows) to produce definition, and the chrome, nickel, and steel alloy allowed him to experiment with this notion and create a surface that was absolutely reflective. It remains an early example of the use of industrial materials in art.

The Garden of Forking Paths

The Mask of the Prophet: The Extraordinary Fictions of Jules Verne - by Andrew Martin
Oxford & NY: Oxford UP, 1990 - reviewed by Arthur B. Evans
Science Fiction Studies - no. 54 - Volume 18, Part 2 - July 1991
Martin's often brilliant analysis of [Verne's] novels in the light of Bonaparte and Borges succeeds in revealing the latent tension in Verne's narratives as the author strains to reconcile the irreconcilable: i.e., the bourgeois (Napoleonic) ideology of positivist codification/closure, imperialist expansionism, and strict uniformity of narrative discourse along with its symbiotic yet subversive (Borgesian) counterpart of decategorization/open-endedness, libertarian individuation, and ironic self-parody. In Martin's terms, the former characteristics constitute the hegemony of "Empire," the latter represent "Revolt," and the "Masked Prophet" -- or "The Prophet of the Mask," as Martin suggestively titles his final chapter -- is both the author himself and the Voyages Extraordinaires as literary artifacts from a specific historical era, both of which are disguising themselves to be something they are not. Moreover, as mediators of this ideological and narratological tug-of-war, Verne's novels also symbolize, in a more general sense, the tension-filled dialectical nature of literature itself: i.e., the perpetual interplay between the innovative and the normative, between creation and canon:
"The narrative of the rise and fall, the expansion and fragmentation of empire encapsulates the destiny of all concentrations of power -- political, intellectual, and linguistic.Verne is a condensation of the forces that issue in the great system-builders of his era (Comte, Balzac, Marx) and the de-systematizers (Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Roussel), the metaphysicians and the ironists. The narrow obsessions of the Voyages Extraordinaires attain almost unlimited symbolic power, generating an encyclopaedia of the forking paths of the future, a labyrinth from which we have still not emerged. To speak of Verne is thus in some way to speak of all literature."

Jean Baudrillard - Ballard's Crash
From the classical (and even the cybernetic) viewpoint, technology is an extension of the body. It is the evolved functional capacity of a human organism which allows it both to rival Nature and to triumphantly remold it in its own image. From Marx to McLuhan, one sees the same instrumentalist vision of machines and of language: relays, extensions, media-mediators of a Nature destined ideally to become the organic body. In this "rational" view, the body itself is only a medium.
Inversely, in its baroque and apocalyptic treatment in Crash, technology is the deadly deconstruction of the body - no longer a functional medium, but an extension of death: dismemberment and mutilation, not in the pejorative vision of a lost unity of subject (which is still the perspective of psychoanalysis) but in the explosive vision of a body given over to "symbolic wounds," ...

a time for fear
"... Birds, mammals and insects make the most of urban living in ways so imaginative and unexpected that it's like a silent environmental revolution. London's eeriest Nature Reserve: Abney Cemetery in Stoke Newington, home of blackbirds, mistle thrush, warblers, tawny owls, kestrels (all those rodents!) among the wrecked Victorian grave stones and a gutted church. A Grey heron fishing in a roadside pond near Stamford Hill. Birds of prey hovering above the marshes, along rail tracks and roads, elegant angels of death. Urban foxes, a renegade, motley breed compared to their country brethren, scraping through inner city surburbs, raiding bins, dodging dogs. Swans in regal clusters on the Lee Valley Canal. St James's Park and its mad menagerie of exotic ducks and ghost-faced pelicans and special gulls who can swoop in from 300 metres away to catch bread mid-air ..."

George Steiner
"Proust's only successor is Joseph Needham. A la recherche du temps perdu and Science and Civilization in China represent two prodigiously sustained, controlled flights of the re-creative intellect. They exhibit what Coleridge termed "esemplastic powers," that many-branched coherence of design which builds a great house of language for memory and conjecture to inhabit. The China of Needham's passionate recomposing -- so inwardly shaped before he went in search of its material truth -- is a place as intricate, as lit by dreams, as the way to Combray. Needham's account, in an "interim" essay, of the misreadings and final discovery of the true hexagonal symmetry of the snow-crystal has the same exact savor of manifold revealing as the Narrator's sightings of the steeple at Martinville. Both works are a long dance of the mind."

"Life code" similarities establish relationships between species
"There has been this notion since Aristotle's time of this great chain of being with humans at the top and then less complex life at the bottom. But while that might seem intuitive to some people, it doesn't appear to be borne out by the data."
Dr Wildman

Byron Belitsos - The Coming of the Kosmos
"Since the days of the ancient Greeks, we have learned that the universe has a secret impulse toward the evolution of more inclusive wholes, what Wilber calls holarchy (as opposed to hierarchy). The profound Western tradition emerging out of Pythagoras, and later Plato, named it the Great Chain of Being; equivalents are found in the wisdom traditions of the East as well -- in fact, in all esoteric traditions. In the terms used by one of Wilber's immediate forbears, Teilhard de Chardin, the Kosmos contains layers or concentric spheres of being: the cosmos (the physiosphere), the bios (the biosphere, or Gaia), the psyche (Chardin's famous noosphere), and theos (the divine domain of the Gods described in the world's great religions). But the Kosmos has depth as well as extent: All spheres in the Great Chain must be understood from the inside out (the inner intuition of meanings and values) AND from the outside in (the scientist's perception of outer facts). Blend these, and what you get might be called integral depth-perception."

Information Architecture Summit - Portland, Oregon 21-23 March 2003 Wrapup Part 1
Wayfinding and Navigation in Digital Spaces: Panel
Moderated by Rashmi Sinha, with a panel of Mark Bernstein, Susan Campbell and Andrew Dillon
Dorelle Rabinowitz reports:
After brief introductions, Rashmi started things out by saying that everyone was interested in a lively discussion, and that the panel was designed to bring different perspectives to the table. Mark clearly wanted to provoke audience reaction when he stated that he believes IA is a force of repression. Then he discussed "lies" like clarity, hierarchy, and search, and that the journey is just as important as finding what you are seeking. His key lesson from hypertext literature: prescriptions don't work, structure changes, and cycles are central: "the chorus of a song comes back and it's not a mistake."
Susan's position was almost in direct opposition, that structure is the experience, and that architectural metaphor should be used to guide design. She discussed different design methods (rule-based, patterns, and building blocks) and how these methods relate to different IA examples. Her message: Structure communicates meaning.
Andrew, on the other hand, was uncomfortable with metaphors, and questioned most IA's complete obsession with navigation (which leads to the similarity of so many sites.) The missing link: semantics. His argument: information is about so much more than space, it's about meaning, value, and imagery. It has a shape.
The audience responded to these provocative comments with many discussion points: We have inadequate tools to describe complicated experiences. Why is semantics being ignored (and is it)? We still struggle with dimensions. We talk about navigating when we mean understanding. Of course, time ran out while the panel was responding to these points.

Roy Ascott's Theories of Telematic Art - Edward A. Shanken
"Crucial to Ascott's theory and practice of Telematic Art is the transformation of the viewer into an active participator who collaborates in creating the work, which is never a static product, but always remains in process throughout its duration."

matt jones - on the shape of information
" ... I did a bunch of work when I first rejoined the BBC based upon Kevin Lynch's 1963 "The Image of the City", and how the sprawl of www.bbc.co.uk might become a more "imageable" datapolis.
Lynch's work enables me to reconcile the spatial and semantic approaches, precisely because it studies the semantics of urban space, and how we build our images of the city from them.
Andrew Dillon's presentation zeroes in on this approach as well I believe, with the final slide of the presentation presenting the diagram of a "semantic spatial model" wherein we process our experiences into a shape, a space built of semantic meaning. That great navigational driver of "consistency" does not necessarily support this, rather it is coherence and comprehension; a narrative that can be easily internalised, that is the goal."
matt jones

Rafael Capurro - Towards an information ecology
"We have been used to considering information as something that just exists in our lives, as the atmosphere of a democratic society. But information is not a triviality. It has taken three hundred years to open written knowledge to vast sectors of society. This was not only a technical but also an educational as well as a socio-political process ...
Language is not something added to society, but it is its very essence, i.e. our way of being."

Network Research 2003

"Architecture, whether the wall around Paradise or the Tower of Babel, exhibits the limit at which human and divine agency encounter each other. It registers in the visible world outcomes of that encounter which would otherwise remain intangible."
Gillian Rose

"We had entered an immense traffic jam. From the junction of the motorway and Western Avenue to the ascent ramp of the flyover the traffic lanes were packed with vehicles, windshields leaching out the molten colours of the sun setting above the western suburbs of London. Brake-lights flared in the evening air, glowing in the huge pool of cellulosed bodies. Vaughan sat with one arm out of the passenger window. He slapped the door impatiently, pounding the panel with his fist. To our right the high wall of a double-decker airline coach formed a cliff of faces. The passengers at the windows resembled rows of the dead looking down at us from the galleries of a columbarium. The enormous energy of the twentieth century, enough to drive the planet into a new orbit around a happier star, was being expended to maintain this immense motionless pause."
J.G. Ballard - Crash (New York, Vintage, 1985, page 151)

The Migrating Brain
"Take two spring warblers, one that flies south for the winter and one that doesn't. Teach them to associate food with geography, then measure their brains. What do you find?
You find something very interesting: the two bird brains are different in an essential way. The migratory bird has a heavier hippocampus. And, the migratory bird is a lot better at remembering where the food was than its stay-at-home counterpart.
What does that suggest? One possibility is that learning to navigate causes essential changes in the structure of the brain. Does that in turn cause essential changes in thinking?"
Jay Ingram and David Newland

Social Memory - Cornelius Holtorf
"Traditionally, human memory has been seen as an archive from which specific items can be retrieved in the process of remembering. ... cognitive psychologists, brain specialists, and sociologists have recently proposed that human memory works radically differently from the traditional archive model and is in fact constructed in the human brain ..."

Train of Thoughts - book review
Roy Johnson

Windows and Mirrors
In Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Transparency, Jay David Bolter and Diane Gromala argue that, contrary to Donald Norman's famous dictum, we do not always want our computers to be invisible "information appliances." They say that a computer does not feel like a toaster or a vacuum cleaner; it feels like a medium that is now taking its place beside other media like printing, film, radio, and television. The computer as medium creates new forms and genres for artists and designers; Bolter and Gromala want to show what digital art has to offer to web designers, education technologists, graphic artists, interface designers, HCI experts, and, for that matter, anyone interested in the cultural implications of the digital revolution.
In the early 1990s, the World Wide Web began to shift from purely verbal representation to an experience for the user in which form and content were thoroughly integrated. Designers brought their skills and sensibilities to the Web, as well as a belief that a message was communicated through interplay of words and images. Bolter and Gromala argue that invisibility or transparency is only half the story; the goal of digital design is to establish a rhythm between transparency -- made possible by mastery of techniques -- and reflection -- as the medium itself helps us understand our experience of it.
The book examines recent works of digital art from the Art Gallery at SIGGRAPH 2000. These works, and their inclusion in an important computer conference, show that digital art is relevant to technologists. In fact, digital art can be considered the purest form of experimental design; the examples in this book show that design need not deliver information and then erase itself from our consciousness but can engage us in an interactive experience of form and content.

Google Technology
PigeonRank's success relies primarily on the superior trainability of the domestic pigeon (Columba livia) and its unique capacity to recognize objects regardless of spatial orientation. The common gray pigeon can easily distinguish among items displaying only the minutest differences, an ability that enables it to select relevant web sites from among thousands of similar pages.

OO, Patterns, and Smalltalk
The idea of object orientation is to chunk the design space into objects, each with some well defined behaviour and responsibility, communicating with each other by message passing.

Apples and Pears - September 02, 1996
"The computer is a liquid thing that spreads and spreads, soaking into our business, life and culture.
... Apples and trees, bugs and viruses are changing words in a changing world. They have reshaped themselves with new meaning for a new age. We too need to learn to live like a chameleon, learn something of a new language every day.
Our words are changing and so must we." Gerry McGovern

What color is a chameleon on a mirror?
Kevin Kelly - Out of Control - Chapter 5 - Coevolution

"The important point about the chameleon on the mirror riddle is that the lizard and glass become one system. "Lizardness" and "mirrorness" are encompassed into a larger essence - a "lizard-glass" - which acts differently than either a chameleon or a mirror."

"Medieval life was remarkably unnarcissistic. Common folk had only vague notions of their own image in the broad sense. Their individual and social identities were informed by participating in rituals and traditions rather than by reflection. On the other hand, the modern world is being paved with mirrors. We have ubiquitous TV cameras, and ceaseless daily polling ("63 Percent of Us Are Divorced") to mirror back to us every nuance of our collective action. A steady paper trail of bills, grades, pay stubs, and catalogs helps us create our individual identity. Pervasive digitalization of the approaching future promises clearer, faster, and more omnipresent mirrors. Every consumer becomes both a reflection and reflector, a cause and an effect."

"The Greek philosophers were obsessed with the chain of causality, how the cause of an effect should be traced back in a relay of hops until one reached the Prime Cause. That backward path is the foundation of Western, linear logic. The lizard-glass demonstrates an entirely different logic - the circular causality of the Net. In the realm of recursive reflections, an event is not triggered by a chain of being, but by a field of causes reflecting, bending, mirroring each other in a fun-house nonsense. Rather than cause and control being dispensed in a straight line from its origin, it spreads horizontally, like creeping tide, influencing in roundabout, diffuse ways."

Geeks Without Borders - Steven Johnson
That's the thing about games without frontiers. You never really know when you're playing.

Stephen Bayley reviews Autopia
"There were three geniuses in the early history of the car. The first was Carl Benz, who made the first petrol-engined self-propelling vehicle that farted and spluttered its way around Mannheim, frightening the horses, in 1886. But Benz was an engineer, not an entrepreneur. The democratic - some would say commercial - possibilities of the car were first demonstrated by Henry Ford, a restless Michigan Irish farmboy. Ford was so successful in satisfying the fundamental human demand for mobility that by the Twenties, every American who needed a car had bought a Ford.
Demand slowed, so it was left to Alfred Sloan, who assembled General Motors from a rag-bag of garage businesses, to exploit the idea that if you made cars look desirable - paint them in colours, add features - then people would be excited into new patterns of consumption. When General Motors set up its Art and Color Division, under Cecil B DeMille's neighbour, Harley Earl, in 1927, an amazing new episode in man's aesthetic adventure had begun ...
Today, people learn about expressive form, about light falling on complex surfaces, about colour, shape and telling details, from looking at cars, not from enduring the inane antics of the Turner Prize."

Cybernetics Society Conference 2002 - Ranulph Glanville
"The form of conversation is not a set of linear commands but a circle. It accommodates difference and is, thus, a means by which we may discover the new."

"It is the restless activity that produces the story line. Human beings have been and continue to be profoundly restless. For one reason or another, they are not content with being where they are. They move, or if they stay in place, they seek to rearrange that place. Migration and the in situ transformation of the environment are two major themes -- the two major themes ..."
Yi-Fu Tuan

"Since the goal of the French Revolution was not only to change the old government but to abolish the old kind of society, it had to simultaneously attack all the established powers, eliminate old influences, wipe out traditions, transform mores and practices, and in a way to empty the human mind of all the ideas on which obedience and respect had previously been based. From this came its singularly anarchic character. But now clear away all the debris: you will see an immense central power, which has devoured all the bits of authority and obedience which were formerly divided among a crowd of secondary powers, orders, classes, professions, families, and individuals, scattered throughout society. The world had not seen a similar concentration of power since the fall of the Roman Empire."
Alexis de Tocqueville - The Old Regime and the Revolution
(University of Chicago Press, 1998, page 98)

...beginning in November 63 - with the Kennedy assasination, and a day after it, Delia Derbyshire's Dr Who theme broadcast for the first time.

posted by Andrew 6/06/2003 05:31:00 PM