Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Theories of Everything

I know nothing about theoretical particle physics...however, having watched three parts of a series entitled 'The Elegant Universe' I now have a vague understanding and a growing fascination for 'Super Symmetry', 'String Theory', 'M Theory', 'branes', multiple dimensions and the quest to observe 'gravitons' and 'sparticles'.

M Theory was a turning point for String theory...it is a unifying theory that re-connected the five diverse views of strings - M theory (variously stands for Magic, Matrix, Monster or even Murky theory) helps to unite strings as singular unifying theory of the fabric of the universe.


The key problem with String theory is that there is no current way of validating it. It is more like a philosophy than a science. This uncertainty and the blurred lines between theory and true science is always fascinating. The elegant mathematics express a 'possible' world - but does it describe the world as it is? Scientists are in the dark with an increasingly baroque theory which raises more questions than it answers. Just a deliciously interesting area of exploration.

Two labs in the world are attempting to find evidence to support some aspects of String Theory. CERN has built a 27km circular particle accelerator "The Large Hadron Collider'" in order to find some circumstantial evidence to support strings. There are two approaches, to observe 'the absence' of gravitons and to observe 'sparticles' which would prove the idea of Super Symmetry.

The following map shows the location of the LHC:

The instinct to find a singular, elegant theory to explain the fabric of the world around us is surely part of human nature. There have been several chapters in this scientific quest throughout the ages. Until something like the Hadron Collider at CERN can produce some coherant 'proof' - String Theory and its co-dependent ideas will have to remain as philosophy. Perhaps it is the religion of the 21st Century - a bible of physics with its many apostles...

A book like 'The Final Theory' clearly outlines the possibility of Strings being yet another misunderstanding in scientific research...Time will tell...

(Hmmm..thought to self, why on earth does CERN allow public access to a portion of their intranet? For the creators of the web that's a bit odd me thinkst...)

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Works of "Mine-Control"

I discovered the interactive installation works of 'Mine Control' quite by accident. I was doing some user acceptance testing on an iTV application and the video streams happened to be about Mine Control. It was a very distracting work session as I spent most of my time noting the names and dates of the works and finally...found the URL at the end of the video loop.


It's the most playful and enjoyable looking work I've seen since Rokeby's "Very Nervous System". The more I see interactive installations driven by natural human gestures...the more I want to be involved in making work just like it!

Mine Control's range of installations evolve in complexity - the early pieces like 'Sand' are very intuitive and simple..the newer works like 'Calder' include 3D elements with lighting and gravity/velocity in movement. The gestures you need to employ in order to interact successfully with the works also become more structured...fascinating.

It'd be great if they could do a retrospective show here in Sydney!

In The Bubble

Another book for the wish list. John Thackara's "In the Bubble" designing in a complex world.


"At the heart of In the Bubble is a belief, informed by a wealth of real-world examples, that ethics and responsibility can inform design decisions without impeding social and technical innovation."

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Desire Lines

...finally - I discovered a snippet of writing illustrating an idea that I've been thinking about for years. It has a name: Desire Lines. Pathways defined by the footfalls of people who 'use' the landscape...

"...the foot-worn paths that appear in a landscape over time. Called “desire lines,” these trails demonstrate how a landscape’s users choose to move, which is often not on the paved paths. A smart landscape designer will let wanderers create paths through use, and then pave the emerging walkways, ensuring optimal utility."


Thursday, November 04, 2004

Extreme Irony as Political Tool

The Yes Men have the right idea. The only way to feel better about four more years of an insular and arrogant US administration is to harness extreme irony as a form of political protest.

This situationist style duo have done some remarkably strange and interesting things to show their dissent. They are not your average mainstream political protestors...they're more like the homeopathic alternative.

This link covers their 'Support Bush's Ice Age' position paper. They were astonished and depressed to receive so many supporting signatures on their petition...


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Massive Change

I've been keeping my eye on Bruce Mau's 'Massive Change' website...and am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of 'Massive Change' which is coming out in November.


Next stop...another trip to the Arial bookstore in Oxford street for a long browsing session.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Rushkoff's Karma

Another discovery of my day: 'The Feature'. Never travelled there before but, Douglas Rushkoff writes a regular journal for them so I will return! His feature entitled 'Persuasion' illustrates the inherant and continuing failure of advertisers to understand interactive media. The advent of TiVo / PVR respresents a watershed techonology that will have a large impact on traditional TV advertising practices.


I loved Rushkoff's book 'Bull' which summed up the extremes of the .COM era perfectly. There's a great summary of the book at Rushkoff's site:


Postman's 10 Principles of Technology

I copied the following in its long form because I think it respresents an interesting framework by which emergent technologies should be judged.

This list comes from "The End of Education" by the late Neil Postman. (Another book for my ever increasing 'must read' pile).


1. All technological change is a Faustian bargain. For every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage.

2. The advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population. This means that every new technology benefits some and harms others.

3. Embedded in every technology there is a powerful idea, sometimes two or three powerful ideas. Like language itself, a technology predisposes us to favor and value certain perspectives an accomplishments and to subordinate others.

4. A new technology usually makes war against an old technology. It competes with it for time, attention, money, prestige and a "worldview".

5. Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. A new technology does not merely add something; it changes everything.

6. Because of the symbolic forms in which information is encoded, different technologies have different intellectual and emotional biases.

7. Because of the accessibility and speed in which information is encoded, different technologies have different political biases.

8. Because of their physical form, different technologies have different sensory biases.

9. Because of the conditions in which we attend them, different technologies have different social biases.

10. Because of their technical and economic structure, different technologies have different content biases.

Urban Tapestries

Thinking about geo-annotations reminded me of my favourite example of this in action. The work of Proboscis in the UK.


It is really inspiring to see the project is alive and well:


Two flash movies were posted to this site at the end of Sept. '04 which walk through two sample scenarios of use for public authoring. It'll be interesting to see how this phenomenon evolves.


Just discovered another interesting blog citing some of the current 'really big trends' noted from a conference talk by Mike Liebhold at 'New Geography' day 2.

The trends include: Geospatial hypermedia, context aware computing, sentient landscapes, automotive telematics and body extensions. Righto - better read up!

"The future of geo-tagged content doesn't just belong to the coffee shops that will beam unwanted coupons as you walk by (this will inevitably be done, and let's hope it dies a quick death) . This new medium will be most fully realized by people -- they'll use this forthcoming infrastructure, just as they have others in the past, to communicate, connect, and live life in new ways."


Monday, October 25, 2004

Blackbelt Jones

No day or week is ever really complete without a visit to my favourite blog. It's always an education...!


Insitute for Distributed Creativity

On the 1st November I will be attending a presentation at UNSW by Trebor Scholz. His site for the 'IDC' looks very interesting.


"The research of the Institute for Distributed Creativity (IDC) focuses on collaboration in media art, technology, and theory with an emphasis on social contexts. Scholz founded the IDC in May 2004."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

IO Meyer Pizza Night at UNSW

Last Monday I was kindly invited to speak at an informal presentation night at the UNSW. This forum is run by the Media and Communications department.


It was a real treat to present my favourite projects and to talk ideas with a group of people with similar backgrounds and interests. The main theme of my talk was 'Best Moments and the Importance of Play & Collaboration'. I wanted to get to the heart of what makes an interactive media project really work and cited team structures and education as some key ingredients. We had plenty of time for discussion afterwards and I left feeling really refreshed. In the commercial arena there's just too little time for any meaningful explorative discussion. Too often work is driven toward the predictable and toward template generation and often, the most enriching possibilities of good collaborations get swamped by 'process' and production procedures.

Monday, October 11, 2004


Whatever happened to 'OpenAtelier'. John Maeda made an announcement about this concept a couple of years ago and it seems to have stalled. I was really excited about the idea when I first read about it.


All they have posted so far is the 'Treehouse Studio' site - a prototype for the Atelier which is a bit thin so far. It certainly doesn't represent a creative or 'unimaginable space'...as the Aesthetics and Computation group mission statement promises.

"At the MIT media laboratory aesthetics + computation group we work toward the design of advanced system architectures and thought processes to enable the creation of (as yet) unimaginable forms and spaces."

I'll keep coming back until I see something awe inspiring...

Interact1 and the Man from Neen

I received a lovely chatty email from an old friend of mine in the UK, Bob Cotton. He has just put together an exhibition of interactive media in the Barbican in London called 'Interact1'. He is currently developing some interesting interactive TV programme concepts. He's already produced one successful show for BBC2 which was called 'Crisis Command'.

The Interact1 show respresents an interesting cross section of creative works ranging from information to product design:

The item that caught my eye was...the movement/manifesto started by Miltos Manetas who popularised the term 'Neen'.

"The word Manetas wanted was "not exclusively about technology in art, but more about the style, about the psychological landscape," he has explained. "We have two kind of lives now -- a real life and a simulated one. I wanted to give a name to this psychology."

In May 2000, during a packed press conference at the Gagosian Gallery in Manhattan -- and a panel of people like Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker ready to provide (tongue-in-cheek) analysis of the term -- Manetas unveiled the new word. Actually, it was the squeaky, synthetic voice of a Sony Vaio that made the announcement.
The word was "Neen."

In his subsequent
Neen Manifesto, Manetas declared that the term represented "a still undefined generation of visual artists. Some of them may belong to the contemporary art world; others are software creators, web designers and video game directors or animators." He later added: "The identity of a NEENSTER is his state of mind. Because he will publish everything on the web, his state of mind reflects on the public taste. NEENSTERS are public personas."

Glad to see there's still room in this world for media pranksters in the Malcolm Maclaren model...I find it really bizarre that Pinker of all people was present at the opening. Judging by what I've read (The Blank State) Pinker's appreciation of anything to do with contemporary visual or digital art is incredibly limited. Hmmm...strange.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Golan Levin and the Bitform Artists

Media pranksters like Manetas...move aside! Golan Levin should have a movement named after him. Maybe 'flongers' or 'bitformers'.

Golan really represents a rare and special breed of technical creativity...

The Bitforms gallery in New York is an inspiration - just wish there was an equivalent here in Sydney!

I notice too that the physical interface work by 'Bitformer' Daniel Rozin is being featured at the Interact1 show. Someone really needs to curate a show featuring this work here in Aus.

Tipping Point

Just finished reading 'Tipping Point' by Malcolm Gladwell over the weekend. Really interesting concepts outlined in a quick, popularist manner. It makes you reassess all social trends and behaviours in a more analytical way.


"It's that ideas and behavior and messages and products sometimes behave just like outbreaks of infectious disease. They are social epidemics. The Tipping Point is an examination of the social epidemics that surround us."

Cellular Automata

Last Friday night, I was at a barby having this fascinating conversation with a friend* about the history of Cryptography (as you do). It reminded me about a scientist I'd read about and his theories including 'Cellular Automata'...that very complex systems can be generated by simple building blocks.

Delicious and fascinating stuff...all online:

"A New Kind of Science" by Stephen Wolfram.

*Pip Jones - who heads up VictoriaReal here in Sydney...tasty new website at: http://www.victoriareal.com.au


I notice that the 2004 Machinima festival has been delayed 'a few months'...hmm I wonder how long it will take for Machinima to evolve into a richer more widespread artform. I envisage a new tool inspired by Machinima that will become professionalised and used to cut production costs for movie story boarding.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Fibonacci Series in Nature

The innate mathematical spine of pine cones and pineapples...the Fibonacci series...observed and noted originally in 1202. This is a delicious thing and something I wish I'd learnt about at school. I've had an unfortunate and life long inadequacy with mathematics. I came across this sequence and learnt about its significance and observation in the natural world, when I read 'Climbing Mount Improbable' by Richard Dawkins.

"The Fibonacci Series is a sequence of numbers first created by Leonardo Fibonacci in 1202. It is a deceptively simple series, but its ramifications and applications are nearly limitless. It has fascinated and perplexed mathematicians for over 700 years, and nearly everyone who has worked with it has added a new piece to the Fibonacci puzzle, a new tidbit of information about the series and how it works."

It is summed up poetically and cheekily in this site:

...and explained in beginners mathematical terms here:

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Nature of Creativity

This is an excellent illustrated essay by the very unique Hugh MacLeod about the nature of creativity. The observations and commentary are true for creative people in all walks of life. Whether you have spent a decade wrangling with digital media design projects...or writing that great novel - it's both relevant and entertaining.


Vetiver - The Hedge Against Erosion

There are some ideas that seem too simple to be useful. The 'vetiver system' for soil and moisture conservation is one of these ideas. This natural system has been used in over 120 countries throughout the tropics in rain-fed farming areas and has been proven to improve crop yields and to provide a sustainable future for farmers in third world countries. It has been used for the last 50 years and continues to be a great success story.

One thing I can probably guarantee is that you've never heard of it. You can find out all you'd ever want to know about this system from the 'Vetiver Network...this not for profit organisation runs a website which includes links to global gateways and case studies illustrating the Vetiver System at work.


Domestic Anthropomorphism

Philips and Alessi started a wave of product design integrating personable, cutesy and cuddly characteristics that are meant to melt the heart of the typical consumer. The small round spagetti man dental floss dispenser and spewing man toothpaste lid are amongst my favourites.

Somehow...I keep finding myself buying the Alessi 'devil' bottle opener for people as a gift (three times and counting). However, we own none of these items - daft cartoon implements in brightly coloured plastics don't really sway me. Our nearest equivalent is a simple cotton oven mitt, which was cheap and cheerful but provides plenty of personality for our small urban kitchen.

Our oven mitt has a name...testimony to its design it just makes you go all anthropomorphic. (The mitt's name is Nessie). Posted by Hello