W.J. Mitchell writes a collection of future scenes reflecting the impact of the digital telecommunication revolution in his book “City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn”. The book has seven chapters, each chapter consisting of a variety of short scenes of general architecture and urbanism. I am posting about this book because it has its own writing styles, historical research, and some ideas that have a short-range perspective that provide only a limited look at the issues associated with the network technologies.
It provides future scenes that parallel familiar existing scenes such as digital networks and the post-industrial mines, field, and factories that we now report to. The ‘Net, like railroad which distribute farmers’ products to market and consumers, is the medium for transferring raw bit materials from suppliers to manufacturers of information. In the bitsphere, meeting forums are now despatialized, disembodied, and dispersed with virtual addresses, aliases, and chameleon personas. As Mitchell suggests, these “electronic agoras” escape traditional measures of identity. Discrimination and marginalization, moreoever, evolves in new forms with the rise of digital hermits and new information and communication access structures, erected in the form of PKI, Kerberos, firewalls, etc. After laying out the metaphor of the new bitsphere upon the template of traditional urbanism, Mitchell explores the emergent outcomes of the information infrastructure. While distance communication is enhanced by new multi-model designs that increase interactivity well beyond traditional situated roles, for example, the dark side of technological advancement thrives in new resurrected forms such as lurking telepimps, telethugs, cyberpunks, and cybercriminals. City of Bits is a presentation of ideas that are compatible with the technological artifacts and their potential role in urbanism.
While reading this book , one question slowly comes to my mind. In this era, the world all wired with Internet, why still people want to move to urban places? Do all datas in the Internet keep the life in same quality as a city? I think the reason why people are still eager to move to the urban cities is that they want to be involved in social networking. Even though the Internet has great functions to socialize, the original datas and socializing are coming from the urban places. Still, online datas and physical world has not been connected deeply yet. Many people anticipate that the next generation of the Internet blur boundaries between physical life and online life.
W.J.Mitchell wrote series of telecommunication relating to physical world. It explains thoroughly how some telecommunications systems operate. I recommend the “City of Bits” as a quick read of great writing that may help to unlock the closed mind to the promises and issues of the electronically-mediated future comprised of ubiquitous intelligence- and telecommunication-enabled artifacts.
Overall, I found the author’s take on the way in which art is consumed in the modern age quite interesting. Although this was originally written in the late 1930s, many of the author’s points can be applied to even today’s society, especially with his comparison of film and paining. I often found myself comparing technology that exists today to that of the author. Additionally, I also couldn’t help but think of how the lives of different artists may have been different if certain technologies or even somewhat modern or democratic social practices were in place in the era in which certain pieces were originally developed.
One of many interesting points is with film. While with modern technology, it is great that we can visually document through video, photography, recordings etc, we are at the whim of whomever is documenting a particular situation. We are stuck with the way in which a situation is framed by the individual doing the capturing; we are only able to view a situation in the way he or she would like us to perceive it. Benjamin says “As compared with painting, filmed behavior lends itself more readily to analysis because of its incomparably more precise statements of the situation.” Although the author noted that he believed film may be a truer representation of the reality, I think that a film can be just as fake or contrived as a surreal painting. The situations created by the director, cameraman and actors may be just as contrived and force the viewers to perceive a certain reality that may not really be able to exist. The author quotes Duhamel’s perception of film, which I agree with somewhat but saying, “I can no longer think what I want to think. My thoughts have been replaced by moving images.” This statement can be applied to modern day news stories as they are portrayed over different media channels. For example, political news coverage will be portrayed differently from MSNBC to Fox due to the political views of those running the stations. Additionally, the news that American citizens are exposed to vs those in other countries may be vastly different in terms of its diversity (i.e. the amount of international news versus local news stories).
I also found it interesting how the author addresses the ritual creation of art and how this may have impacted the way in which individuals developed certain pieces. Depending upon the social climate, it begs the question of whether individuals felt they had the freedom to develop artwork that was more a reflection of the time and situation even if it meant shining a negative light on the government or certain social figures. If individuals had this opportunity, could it have caused social change at an earlier phase than was experienced or could it have had the impact of simply just more accurately depicting the climate or aura of that time. Moreover, what implications could it have had on today’s society?
With regards to the author’s view that paintings were not meant to be viewed collectively, I have to disagree. I think this view is what prevented many truly talented artists from gaining the type of notoriety that would be more similar to those filmmakers and actors of the past and present. Artists such as Picasso were unfortunately unable to take advantage of the opportunity to showcase their works through reproduction. Had this been the case, these artists may have been able to achieve levels of success while alive similar to those in the film industry. Additionally, today, it is much easier for talented artists of the present to gain notoriety and appreciation through use of a combination of old technology with new including photography and social media outlets.
The Structure of the Book
Air Guitar by Dave Hickey one of those “snow ball effect” type of books, that starts off as really slow reflective biographical anecdote, but gradually increase the intensity and pique one’s interest, gradually as one begins to turn the pages. In a sense, the book is structured in such a way that it becomes increasingly more exciting to read almost could be compared to a strum on the guitar from low, the high, back to low, like a sine wave. The formatting of the table of contents is reflective of this. The book was written in a form of an anecdotal pop culture survey of artists over the last 40 to 50 years, that was somewhat biographical at some moments by Dave Hickey. The book will make you think and laugh. I highly reccomend it.
One of the most interesting chapters to read in the book, was entitled “A Rhinestone as Big As the Ritz”. This chapter was an essay on the rise and fall of Liberace, a beloved pianist from the 1960s and 1970s that was often scrutinized for being suspected of being homosexual. The author reflected upon the notable time where William Connor asserted that Liberace was, “…the summit of sex—the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she, and it can ever want… a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love”, as well as other members of the press writing devastating, denigrating things about Liberace. Eventually, Liberace died from contracting HIV.
The authors account of how Liberace’s career rose and fell, was very similar Michael Jackson’s. Michael Jackson was and still is extremely popular all over the world, however due to molestation allegations of young children, his life essentially became a media circus. But essentially, there were two sides to it: There was still the side where people still loved MJ because of his voice, music, dancing, and life, but then, there was the side where the media tore him to pieces and chalked him up to be a weirdo. Ultimately, Michael Jackson eventually dies from taking inappropriately and unethically prescribed drugs by his own private doctor. I also think about the rise and fall of Whitney Houston and how she ultimately dies from drug usage. And then there’s US and UK sensation, Amy Winehouse, who celebrated her own, and was sadly celebrated by the media for her admitted drug and alcohol abuse and singing about it within her music.
At the end of the book there is a chapter in it called Air Guitar, which is identical to the book’s title. As the author states, “People despise critics because people despise weakness, and criticisim is the weakest thing you can do in writing. ”It is the written equivalent of air guitar, flurries of silent, sympathetic gestures with nothing at their heart but the memory of the music” . I wonder sometimes, how much the criticism from the media, and other people in the world, impact these celebrities. The media can be pretty cruel, unbalanced, and evil. With the internet, it is even more so, even quicker and even more widespread. As much money and fame as alot of celebrities have, I wonder how secure and strong these people are within themselves and nonchalant they really are, about what other people say. I suppose the lesson is that talent, fame and money don’t necessarily buy self-confidence or strength of character.
The media, including the news stations, seems that it has alot of impact on what the people like, see, feel, hear, and think. They show the public what they want them to see, and from showing them this fragment of information, to change the way they see things and their view. With sites like MediaTakeOut that show celebrities in some what compromising or “less than optimal manner”. People who look at these sites often look at them for entertainment purposes. While I don’t think anything is wrong with wanting to laugh or being entertained, it is important that one only takes the fragments of verbal, written or visual data as face value, and see how the fragments fit together, in order to make the whole.
ITP is like a good buffet. There are so many food in the restaurant and I have a certain limited time.
If I try to different type of food, it could be good or bad experience, but it would be better when you focus on big main stream. If you try too many different food, you might taste many things, but will be full soon.
Being at ITP is an extraordinary experience in terms of inspiring and encouraging community as well as struggling with writing various types of codes during the semester. First of all, I will retrospect my original goal of attending ITP at the first place. I have studied Fine Art for years, focusing on staged photography, sculpture and installation. However, over the years of presenting works only in galleries space or institution, I felt limited in a way that I don’t have enough audience to talk about it and gallery show format did not satisfy me. In order to fulfill my desire of sharing thoughts and ideas, I decided to move forward to practical implementation such as building a social networking or developing web as well as not losing the interest of creating interactive installation.
My expectation before school and real life at ITP was being met in general, which I am so happy about it, yet there were a couple of things that I was not able to predict. At the time of writing, I can list at least three things that I have realized it hard. Above all, managing all different type of classes, and maintaining focus was not hard to manage. Taking 6 classes was so hard that I cannot maintain my focus on one thing. Even in a day, I had to move back and forth between classes to finish homework and there was not enough room to take a deep breadth on a subject matter. For instance, if I spent a few days with processing, I was getting to forget about the electronics circuit, vice versa. This happened very occasionally whenever I moved to the other subject, and it drove me crazy. I questioned myself whether I was capable of learning complex code or not. Although I found out that there was a group of people struggling with same issues, yet it is somehow hard to keep focusing at one subject matter and get depth of it at the first semester.
Secondarily, collaborating did not come easy to me in many ways. Because of the characteristic of my former majors, photography and sculpture, I got accustomed to work individually and it was hard for me to yield about the reason why we made work as I believe that is the essential part of creating things. I was not able to involve myself enough in a project if I couldn’t find a reason to do it. However, I am totally admitting that I did not put my full effort on communicating with others, convincing my thought and negotiating, which I felt regretful about it. Ironically, doing collaboration with others was the one of the drives that forced me to be in ITP, and I have realized that I need to have a mindset toward collaboration.
In contrast to collaboration perspective, I was also required to do individual work, especially writing code. However I found it very challenging for me to maintain full length of attention in the way that it is intangible media. My initial plan for the first semester was focusing on computational media instead of focusing on physical computing, but I found myself in the shop all the times as I love making things in tangible manner. Compared to the making things, writing code takes significant amount of time, and cannot see the outcome of the work right away unless my code works properly. Being stuck with broken code was terrible moment and could not stay with it for long time. So, I got inclinable to go to the shop to make tangible objects instead of debugging code, but time went by, I had started to feel guilt about not spending enough time on it. Long story short, my lesson of this semester is that the amount of the time I spend on code is proportional to my capabilities of writing code, and I am here not for staying in my comfortable zone, but for marching to new field regardless of how hard it is.
Lastly, I really want to say that this ITP community is truly inspiring community. Through the entire semester, every colleague and all professors are my biggest motivation of working all semester long.
Everyone on the floor is good source of others and is willing to help each other nevertheless they are in the busy mood. Additionally, by watching the progress of people here, I was able to keep maintaining myself focused and staying busier than ever in my life. Furthermore, all professors at ITP are very knowledgeable and accessible to answer our questions. To demonstrate this, I would like to share one of the story that I got impressed so much. For my final physical computing project, I am now working on automatic cat feeder that will be controlled by people over the extension of Internet. However, I was jammed with mechanism at the beginning as I had no idea of making motor controlled open rid, including locking system to prevent my cat to eat foot without permission. For the time being, I tried to figure out how to design a simple and efficient system all the time, even before I lied in my bed. Then, here comes the story. When I worked at the shop, Tom just came to the shop and gave a thing to me, and I did not know that what it was and why he gave that to me. I thought that that would be miscommunication with someone. Then, he explained it that the thing was his automatic cat feeder he had and it did not work with his cat. He thought it would be useful for me in terms of mechanism design built in the machine and would be a prototype for my future cat feeder. I know it is not a big action or something truly meaningful, but that meant something to me as I came from different culture of education.
Generally, I am so happy that I am here!
The title: “A Small World After All?” makes me think of “Six degree of
separation”. This theory not only reveals the hidden fate and mystery
of the Internet, its further application will certainly be treated as
a hidden power of social movement for the Internet.
For “six degree of separation” theory, it can be easier explained that
it is a connection of interpersonal relations. Under this theory, to
get to know an unfamiliar friend among friends of you only needs six
people’s connection. In other words, no matter it is Dan Shiffman,
Clay Shirky, or you have long admired Nancy, Obama, Al; You , in
theory, only need six people’s relationship to get to know him/her!
This theory can be traced back to the 1960s, Mill Gülen design a chain
letter experiment. In 1967 Mill Gülen design a chain letter
experiment. Kashmir Gülen will set chain letters randomly sent to 160
individuals living in Omaha, Nebraska, he put a letter in the name of
a Boston stockbroker, and requires each recipient to bring this letter
to the considered to be close to that stockbroker friend, all the
participants to do the same after receiving the letter. Eventually,
all the letter arrived after five or six steps of the stockbroker. So
he verified their assumptions: any two strangers can establish contact
through a friend of a friend, and the interval between them is no more
In the fall of 2001, Watts (Duncan Watts), a professor of sociology at
Columbia University, set up a study group to begin on the Internet
experiment. Watts establish a “small world” experiment sites, the
endpoints(people) are distributed in 18 different countries (including
a writer in New York, a policeman in Australia and Paris, a librarian,
etc.), voluntary through this web site, e-mailed to relatives and
friends are most likely to achieve the task. As a result, a total of
384 volunteers’ mail arrived at the station of arrival, and e-mail in
six steps or less then passed to the target! Push a bit to the
current world, “Six Degrees of Separation” theory will be an
exceptionally important meaning In the Internet age.
The author mentioned about the Arab Spring in 2009, we all know about
that the Internet played a important role, but why? One of the
important reasons, in my opinion, should be considered because of the
6 degree relationship of Internet. Because of that, people can trust
that information including story, pictures, events comes from
somewhere/ someone unknown but it is trusted. And then, in terms of
reliance, the information of Arab Spring was spreading widely and
It is good to know that Internet has a power to push social movement
besides browsing news, play on-line games and press ‘like’ button.
Here is a speech by Clay Shirky talked about “How Can Social Media
you should also listen about that (or take Clay’s class?) after read
Thanks to this essay, my mind was extremely exploded. I read it one month ago, and since then I try to always observe things around me with two questions:
1) Is it something that really weird or normal? 2) How to make it either weider or more normal?
From this new perspective, I feel the world around me surprisingly changed, as if one of its invisible veils was removed. First, I could tell a sense of normalcy within what I used to feel weird. For example, the impossible constructions. Below is a box made by a magician named Jerry Andrews.
It reminded me M.C. Escher’s famous impossible illustrations, which I used to feel weird, but now I could see the normalcy inside it. For example, this is one of his famous works named Relativity:
When I first saw it, I felt nothing but huge shock, as if there is something wrong with my brain. After seeing lot of his impossible reality works, I felt quiet weird not about his graphic works but his persistence to draw such pictures. But now, with the question “is it really weird or normal”, I found such persistence is not wired but often could be found in those great mind in the world. It’s the curiosity to this world. It’s the brave exploration of the unknown. It’s the same persistence existing in the process of Einstein developing the theory of relativity or Columbus discovering the new world.
Secondly, I caught a sense of wired in most ordinary things. Such as glasses.
See, how wired if animals ware a pair of glasses. As we know, human is a kind of animal, is a part of nature. Why we feel normal to wear the eye ware but feel strange when it worn by the other kind of creatures? Because it is not as normal as we thought.
From other perspective, actually, myopia is a kind of disability just as physical disabilities. But why glasses could became a fashion while splint could not? Because glasses are not as normal as we thought.
In reflection to Scalzi’s “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting there is”, I’m quite surprised that this article had provoked hundreds of people and raised up a dispute. Because usually, the sensitive subject matters are targeted toward minorities with certain gender and race. It seemed like the issue of using the term “privilege” was highly controversial in this context. So, I looked up the word “privilege” and according to Merriam Webster dictionary, it is described as “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.” Instead of using the word “privilege”, it should have been rephrased as “more potential and chances”. Besides describing straight white male as a merely privileged human being, the author ranked different types of people(white male and minorities) into lowest difficulty setting to hardcore setting. At that point, I found this article little disturbing.
Here are the reasons why:
The author’s attempt to address this statement of straight white male being the lowest difficulty setting is unclear. In his defense, Scalzi stated “I do: recognize it, and work to make it so the more difficult settings in life becomes closer to the one I get to run through life on – by making those less difficult, mind you, not making mine more so.” Honestly, his intention did not cross my mind. I just feel like the author is just reiterating the fact that everyone already knows and complaining about the unfairness in life.
The author specifically categorized straight white male (neither white male nor white female) as lowest difficulty setting. Additionally, he classified “gay minority female” as hardcore setting. While I was reading it, I thought that the author is the one who is forming the stereotype against race and sex. Although It is undeniable fact that there are discrimination toward minorities, I believe that race and gender are merely social constructions.
Most of us grew up believing that there is something within us, other than our brain, that makes us who we are- a mind/ a soul or just something not the brain. And for most of us, that belief has religious and cultural grounds. We believe that we perceive, think, act- are conscious because this mysterious force inside of us. But science has always failed to support this theory of “the force”. Science taught us how the neurons & brain cells are responsible for what we do. In this world of scientific observations & calculations, there are some psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists who support the theory – We are not our brains, by carefully analyzing biological observations. Alva Noe, in this book “Out of heads”, explains that “the fact that we think and feel and that a world shows up for us- we need to look at a larger system of which the brain is only one element”. That’s his mantra.
Alva Noe has based his philosophy of consciousness defining consciousness as an experience. He goes on to explain how the environment is a crucial part of our lives; how the scope of our own being is beyond our bodies- our senses are extended beyond the limits of our bodies. Noe’s main point is that, unlike popular belief of scientists, our brain is not a vat system with the rest of the body present just to support it. He goes on to prove how our brains are nothing without the environment they are brought up & living in.
I am one of those persons who have a belief in ‘the force’ within us, but have been trying hard to fit my belief with science. So, reading a theory, which, although doesn’t acknowledge my belief, talks about our non-brain-centered selves with a biological viewpoint was quite refreshing. For most part, I think the text is quite repetitive as if to hammer it in our brains that the environment is responsible for who we are. But there is one observation/theory that struck my mind- that the brain is seriously developed because of the environment. The experiment that shows this:- rewiring of ferrets’ eyes to the part of brain responsible for hearing doesn’t make the ferret hear because of visual signals but rather, see from the auditory part of brain! Many such observations prove that our brain isn’t born with parts having dedicated functions; rather, it is developed that way because of how we are placed in this body & in this world. Simple example being the brain of a newborn- having almost no sense of speech, perception, etc. But this brain gets ‘wired’ by being a part of the world around us. We begin to recognize faces, understand sounds, distinguish touch & smell, after we are introduced to them & constantly with them.
The book was a good read for the experiments that have been carried out in this field. (Reading about experiments on sensory substitution, I started thinking a lot on how the theory can be applied in assistive technologies!) But I was expecting some theories about the human nature to think and act according to will. Why and how do we make the decisions we make. Although the author did make a passing comment on how the whole picture of our lives & surroundings, in present and past, is responsible for our being. This reminded me of what Stephen Hawking says in The Grand Design- to understand the future behaviour of an object, we need to have information about its present and its past states. It felt weird to think about how the past states of the billions of different cells in my body can be used to predict how I’ll act at a moment in the present.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of my favorite books. Over the years, I have thought and written about it from various angles. The imaginative children’s adventure tale (technically not a “fairy-tale” since Alice wakes up making the whole thing a dream), the satirical portrayal of victorian society and the sinister, secret world of Lewis Carroll’s perhaps unwholesome fascination with Alice Liddell are some of the themes which drew me to the book. As I make my own way down the rabbit hole of ITP, I want to take a fresh look at the adventure through the lens of user experience.
Since the moment of entering the unfamiliar world of Wonderland, Alice relies on clues from the environment to find her way. The guidance she receives is for the most part, confusing and misleading, resulting in many errors and frustrations. Miscommunication is one of Lewis Carroll’s favorite themes as he purposefully plays with nonsensical language and situations.
Many misunderstandings arise because characters native to Wonderland take the rules of their world for granted and don’t structure their advice in a way that’s comprehensive to an outsider. Bad user experiences often suffer from the same lack of “new user” awareness.
In the real world of user experience, bad labeling could set the user on a wild goose chase that ends without accomplishment of their goal. The bottle labels in the first room Alice enters are a good example. Unclear, mischievous instructions prevent Alice from entering the beautiful garden right away. Or perhaps this design was cleverer than I describe it, since it sent her on an entertaining adventure around Wonderland.
If you picture Wonderland as a traditional museum, the rabbit falls into the role of a docent / guide. Hard to catch and unhelpful, he symbolizes every museum visitor’s frustrating experience. In this scenario, the Cheshire Cat could be seen as a curator. Illusive with a mocking “better than though” attitude, he floats in and out at will, leaving no room for user-initialized interaction. The chaos at the Dutch’s house is a parallel of a weekend family morning in a poorly designed museum lobby. Analyzing the irrational behavior of the Mad Tea Party could give insight into the madness of a disorganized design process.
And then one day Alice grows up and goes to High School..
“Wake up Alice, wake up! You’re going to be late to school,” said her mother. Wake did Alice do to get ready for school. She now was in high school. She didn’t get too much sleep anymore, her dreams were shorter and days much longer. She liked school, she liked learning but it felt like, like something was missing. She didn’t see her wonderlands anymore; she couldn’t get through mirrors. She had learned a lot in school. She knew that only reflections could be seen in mirrors not wonderlands. She knew rabbits did not run around with a pocket watch talking to themselves. She knew more than that too. She was learning her history, her literature, math and art and so many other things that were very exciting. But she was so caught up with learning that she started wondering whether learning really took place or not. Why did she have to give up one in order to have the other? Why couldn’t Alice wander in wonderland and learn consciously at the same time. She hated the queen yet she was being educated by kings and queens with the same banking concept the queen imposed upon her cards – - yet she called it learning or teaching, being taught. After all wasn’t it the banking concept that led her to question everything. Didn’t she read those books in that system? Continue reading From Alice in Wonderland to Alice in High School