28 Jul

Decline of Western Civilization

Joel Kotkin writing in the Washington Post about the inevitable decline of the modern city:  He argues that cities have been losing population since 2000 as a direct result of terrorism concerns. 

The kinds of policies needed to secure their safety may pose a serious dilemma for great cities that have been built upon the values of openness, freedom of movement, privacy, tolerance and due process. Yet to survive, these same cities may now need to shift their primary focus to protecting their people, their commerce and their future against those who seek to undermine and even, ultimately, destroy them.

27 Jul

Continuous Computing

An interesting "discovery" of mobile technology from Technology Review:

Constant connectivity has changed what it means to participate in a conference or any other gathering. Using chat rooms, blogs, wikis,

Wikis: Web pages that allow users to add content or edit existing content.

sites, and other technologies, people at real-world meetings can now
tap into an electronic swirl of commentary and interpretation by other
participants–the "back channel" mentioned by Campbell. There are
trade-offs: this new information stream can indeed draw attention away
from the here and now. But many people seem willing to make them,
pleased by the productivity they gain in circumstances where they’d
otherwise be cut off from their offices or homes. There is meaning in
all of this. After a decade of hype about "mobility," personal
computing has finally and irreversibly cut its bonds to the desktop and
has moved into devices we can carry everywhere. We’re using this newly
portable computing power to connect with others in ways no one
predicted–and we won’t be easily parted from our new tools.

27 Jul

The Temporary Autonomous Zone

Some great reflections from the Temporary Autonomous Zone.  This is from the section on the Psychotopology of Everyday Life.  The declaration that insurgency is open and revolution dead speaks to the existence of a territory void of potentiality. 

The second generating force behind the TAZ springs from the
historical development I call "the closure of the map." The
last bit of Earth unclaimed by any nation-state was eaten up
in 1899. Ours is the first century without
terra incognita, without a frontier. Nationality is the
highest principle of world governance–not one speck of rock
in the South Seas can be left open, not one remote valley,
not even the Moon and planets. This is the apotheosis of
"territorial gangsterism." Not one square inch of Earth goes
unpoliced or untaxed…in theory.

The "map" is a political abstract grid, a gigantic con
enforced by the carrot/stick conditioning of the "Expert"
State, until for most of us the map becomes the territory-
-no longer "Turtle Island," but "the USA." And yet because
the map is an abstraction it cannot cover Earth with 1:1
accuracy. Within the fractal complexities of actual
geography the map can see only dimensional grids. Hidden
enfolded immensities escape the measuring rod. The map is
not accurate; the map cannot be accurate.

So–Revolution is closed, but insurgency is open. For the
time being we concentrate our force on temporary "power
surges," avoiding all entanglements with "permanent

27 Jul


User-illusion, a term dreamt up by the good people at Xerox PARC desribes the manifestation of metaphors in the experience of interface.  For instance, desktop, rooms, shopping cart, etc, are illusory metaphors that make the interface legible.  I wonder if calling the experience of metaphors illusory is accurate.  It would imply that there is a possibility of experiencing interface outside of metaphor, that there is such a thing as "authentic user experience." 

It has become increasingly clear to me lately that all interaction with space is mediated through interface.  There is a framework (cultural, logical) that every user carries into every interaction.  User-illusion suggests that interaction is possible without interface.  It seems high time that we abandon the notion of illusion in describing interface; every interaction is mediated, but not every interaction is illusory.  By altering perception or background or design, I can manipulate a user’s experience. This is true with video games just as its true with the neighborhood park. 

25 Jul


“We become observers through recursively generating representations of our interactions, and by interacting with several representations simultaneously we generate relations with the representations of which we can then interact and repeat this process recursively, thus remaining in a domain of interactions always larger than that of the representation.” (Maturna and Verela, Autopoiesis and Cognition: the realization of the living, 14). 

It seems like they’re describing an interface here.  Interface allows the user to interact with representations in a domain that is always larger than representation.  This sentence also places the dynamics of the system with the processs of interaction and not the result of those same interactions. 

22 Jul

Modernist Cartography

Jorge Luis Borges’ story "Of Exactitude in Science" tells the story of a King who orders a map made of his kingdom with a 1:1 ration.  The map is made to overlay the territory.  When you consider some digital cartography projects, including PdPal, it seems as though artists working in locative media of one sort or another are engaged in a similar modernist impulse to define the territory by overlaying a map.  Through the construction of a complete map, the ambiguity of the territory recedes.  While the digital versions of Borges’ story creates a malleable document, space is converted to a document nonetheless.

Seeing this contemporary work in light of Borges’ instead of Debord, as many people prefer, it gives the work a bit more historical consistency.  The new cartography is the realization of a rather modernist impulse towards the gestamtkunstwerk.