Category Archives: technology

Prophetic or what?

Cleaning up the Desktop led me to this image
Harry Grant Dart 1911
(see larger)
a Harry Grant Dart cartoon snagged from Paleofuture (who got it from Life 1911). Note that the multimedia User is pointing with his left hand to “Son Willie” on the menu, and that a real-time image of Son Willie’s doings is projected (other choices are “The Office”, “Golf Matches”, “Aeroplane Races”, “Theatres”, “Tennis” and so on), and that the sign to the left says “International Wireless Home News Service Events As They Transpire Accurately Recorded”

Some thoughts about the evolution of computing

There’s no doubt that a lot of my life revolves around this machine, before which I spend several hours a day. I’ve been riding this pony since 1992 (when I started building a Gopher presence, soon after I started work as a reference librarian at W&L), or maybe since 1989 when I started playing with HyperCard, or perhaps since 1984 when I bought my first microcomputer (a TI-Pro, still in the barn), or maybe 1979 when I started to play with SYMAP (making maps of demographic data from the Hungarian census of 1900), or maybe 1962 when I first started working with punch cards (as research assistant to Bob Textor in cross-cultural studies). At each of those junctures I had some idea of where I was heading, but the destinations kept changing as new possibilities emerged.
I seem to be in another spate of thinking about the ways the Web is/has been evolving, in the proximal contexts of Licklider‘s Libraries of the Future [1965] (which I’m reading at Gardner’s instigation) and the impending visit of friends with three home-schooled kids (for whom my question is: where does The Computer fit in what they’re doing?)… and reflecting on the many ways in which my life has been tangled up with computers. For at least 45 years I’ve seen them as essential tools for things I needed to do, though generally my imagination has outrun my technical capabilities, and I’ve relied upon the multiple kindnesses of others to assist with practicalities and realize my imaginings. There’s a looooong history of books and articles and Web resources that I’ve been influenced by, and an equally convoluted history of apps I’ve experimented with as I’ve worked at making sense of the potentials. Wish I could reconstruct all the steps…
I started library school in January 1991 with the question What will microcomputers do to libraries? but I certainly didn’t foresee that the most profound effect would be to distribute the end-user’s experience in most information transactions –to make the physical library mostly irrelevant to seeking answers, to enmesh the user in networks composed of nodes that might be on different continents, to make multimedia an everyday experience, and to proffer tools that make the user an active contributor to the construction of distributed knowledge. Two of today’s cases in point:

Harper’s release of 150+ years of full text archive exposes a glorious trove, and the possibility of gathering up David Halberstam’s contributions to the magazine adds a great deal to a resource like Christopher Lydon’s program recorded two days after Halberstam’s death

and

I discover that others who are reading Eco’s Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana have established a Wiki-based annotation project for the book.

At the moment I’m eagerly awaiting the imminent arrival of Dave Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder (publishing tomorrow), listening to Weinberger’s Radio Open Source appearance, keeping an eye on Weinberger’s blog around the book, and still savoring a two-hour podcast of Weinberger’s Social Media Cluster talk of last week.

My Man Bruce

I’m slightly surprised not to have seen much reference to Bruce Sterling’s SXSW Rant this year. I listened to it today and (as usual) found bits of it apposite and provocative. Some good lines even if one doesn’t entirely agree, and/or hadn’t had occasion to think of it that way –a lot to chew on, follow up, explore in more detail. He’s a luvvim/hateim speaker, like Garrison Keillor in that respect (my spouse can’t abide GK, and knows it’s him within ONE syllable, and OFF goes the radio).

Here’s another way to experience Bruce (8:15, and worth it as an Example), and it (as object, and as Example) will make even more SENSE once you’ve listened to the soundbites below:

So on to the SXSW soundbites:

1. broadband eats everything …the old line guys are trying to live on artificial scarcity, pile up the DRM… (0:18)

2. the native Internet generation cares nothing for the proprieties of 20th century media (0:13)

3. you pitch Google and Wikipedia together, and it’s kind of game over for the 80s (0:32)

4. Reformulating the Four Worlds model to reflect new realities: (2:05)

First: global market world (make it in Shenzhen, ship it to…)
Second: governance at all levels
Third: commons-based peer production a new thing, growing fast with profound effects on general population
Fourth: disorder, parts of the world just falling off that don’t have any of this (fastest-growing part of the planet)

5. commons-based peer production more powerful than people give it credit for (0:30)

6. things that are businesses stop being businesses …CraigsList, the profession of journalism and the Global Precariate(1:39)

7. a new world of laptop gypsies, vulnerable to charlatans, ripoff artists, dunderheads, lynch mobs (0:19)

8. on artistic qualities: repurposing of Harry Potter characters, pastiche: Sow’s Ears aren’t Silk (0:48)

9. mashups in vogue, but a raw source of creativity? no musical staying power, pastiche, epiphenomenon (1:08)

10. Lev Manovich’s ‘Soft Cinema’, and powerful compositing tools in people’s hands (1:47)

11. need a new form of media criticism (0:50)

12. using the term ‘blog’…a passing thing? (0:08)

13. style of discourse: Dig This! (0:28)

14. spam as semiotic pollution, machine-generated robbery and gibberish (0:36)

15. broadcast tv as evil medium that debases (1:58)

16. conventional businesses melting like the Arctic (0:46)

There’s more… Go to Bruce Sterling’s SXSW Rant for the link to the whole thing.