31 Mar

Metageography of the Internet

MediengeographieAn article of mine, entitled “The Metageography of the Internet: Mapping from Web 1.0 to 2.0” was just published in Mediengeographie: Theorie – Analyse – Diskussion.  It’s an amazing collection, with articles from Bruno Latour, Paul Virilio, Lev Manovich, Saskia Sassen, and many more.  Of course, for all of you who don’t speak German, only a few of the articles are actually in English.  Sadly, my ability to converse on a 3rd grade level in German doesn’t allow me to read (or understand) what appear to be fascinating articles.

06 Mar

Industrialization of Information

This recent article in Wired lays out the fascinating phenomenon of the information industry. It describes the massive new server farms cropping up in Oregon to house the petabytes of information for Google (and others) to keep up with the task of copying the rapidly expanding Internet. The article points out that the main problem facing companies like Google that depend on their ability to centralize the Network is not computing speeds or storage, but rather energy consumption. These server farms require so much energy to run that they are likely first to run out of electricity than storage space.

The simple problem of energy consumption leads to a fascinating repetition of industrial growth patterns. Big industry is going to seek out growth areas that supply cheap and easy access to energy. Just as industrial waterfronts are giving way to luxury condominiums, they might soon revert back to industrial warehouses filled with thousands of interlinked CPUs. Perhaps we can expect a new industrial revolution in the near future, with an equally powerful potential to spew noxious fumes and deplete natural resources.

13 Apr

Persistence of Presence (Twitter)

Film is based on an illusion of mobility.  ‘Persistence of Vision’ is the way a number of still frames, when moving very quickly through a machine and separated by a black bar, creates the impression of movement.  Cinematic movement is an illusion that is so successful that we hardly question its authenticity.



It’s for this reason, that I find an interesting correspondence between the primary illusion of cinema and the primary illusion of social media.  But instead of the persistence of vision, we can talk about the persistence of presence.  Consider an application like Twitter – a micro blogging system that encourages users to answer the question "what are you doing?"  (I just wrote a twitter that said I was writing a blog entry about twitter.)  People can then follow other people’s twitters as they periodically declare their activities.  But what’s important about twitter is not the activity, but the declaration of presence.  Regardless of what you’re doing, you’re stating that you’re doing something.  You are present.  Through these periodical instances, trackers construct an illusion of of presence of the person tracked.  While I don’t have constant access to those twitter-ers I track, a comment every few minutes, hours, or even days, assures me of that person’s existence.

05 Dec

Networked Place

This essay, written by Kazys Varnelis and Anne Friedberg, is an introductory statement on the change role of place in network culture.  They break the work up into six sections: place (simultaneous spaces), mobile place (the rise of the tele-cocoon), real virtual worlds, the network and its sociospatial consequences, geospatial web and locative media, and RFID.  The piece is part of a collaborative book to be published by MIT that will incorporate user comments from the website.  It’s quite a good introduction, borrowing from Friedberg’s recently released Virtual Window, and applying it to the always contentious intersection of networks and lived spaces. 
    The conclusion of the piece provides a nice roadmap of where the larger work will go.  It will explore,

"global connections versus local disconnections, the growth of
environments that allow us to enact simultaneous ‘real’ presence while
engaging in networked forms of tele-presence, producing new forms of
tele-cocooning, the emergence of on-line gaming in virtual worlds that
have become, to its users, quite real, the network as a new form
socio-spatial organization, global information (GIS) and global
positioning (GPS) devices that provide mastery over the mappable globe,
RFIDs that keep track of our position, and the position of our things
in this new globally-networked map."

The key question is how people continue to make places central to their personal and community identifications.  But what this introduction doesn’t exactly address is how networks alter the nature of that identification.  In other words, what counts as a lasting connection in a network?  Certainly, a link is not permanent; how might we conceptualize a meaningful link?  Or a meaningful tag?  Or a meaningful cluster? 

Link: Networked Place.

19 Sep

information bomb

I’ve just re-read Paul Virilio’s "Cyberspace Alarm!" essay.  He says something very interesting about the way cyberspace is adjusting contemporary perspectives.  He says in that Virilio kind of way that cyberspace has created a tactile perspective.  To see at a distance, to hear at a distance, are perspectives introduced by the old media.  Cyberspace introduces contact at a distance – or telecontact. 

So, as the world virtualizes, we in fact have the perception of contact with it.  That’s a complicated irony.   One to which we could devote a good deal of time struggling over.  Telecontact for Virilio is absolutely inauthentic.  It is a lie constructed in self-defense as we are disoriented and entangled in cyberspace.  It is, what he calls, a technique of dissuasion – a method of combating the information bomb. 

I’m interested in Virilio’s perspective, but only insofar as he would acknowledge that our new perspective is something other than a lie.  That telecontact is a legitimite desire that does not necessarily replace actual contact, but supplements it.  I take this one step further in an essay I’m working on entitled "Becoming Data".  I suggest that the perspective manufactured by the digital culture is such that we experience ourselves being experienced over networks.  That consciousness is in fact distributed over networks as actions are represented in networks.  I am always consuming other people as I traverse the various vertices of my life; likewise, I am consumed by others by virtue of being in the network.  This is, I argue, the foundation of a new perspective that distributes not only time and space, but consciousness and experience.

03 Aug

Realism Lacks Presence

HaaaaaaaaaaaaCommunicating the body at a distance.  Seems to be all the rage these days.  This project R*Emote Mirror sets up a mirror in New York and another in Seoul.  A full length mirror in each site shows the outline of the remote person’s reflection.  Funny, how video images don’t seem to cut it anymore.  Realism lacks presence.  Abstract representation, or avatar subjectivity, communicates a sense of presence and individuality within the technology.

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.

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.