Posted: August 27th, 2011 | 3 Comments »
This piece in The Atlantic by Alexis Madrigal deals with an interesting case in technological evolution: the stabilization of a technical objects, which in this case in the so-called graphing calculator.
The column wonders about the reasons why graphing calculators such as TI-83 did not change that much, unlike teenager gadgets. Some explanations the article surface:
“First, for high school level math classes, the TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus are essentially perfect. After all, the *material* hasn’t changed (much), so if the calculators were good enough for us 10 or 15 years ago, they are still good enough to solve the math problems.
Second, standardized test companies only allow a certain range of calculators to be used. If they got too powerful or complex looking (seriously, the aesthetic is part of it), they could be banned, hurting their sales. Horizontally oriented calculators have been banned by the SAT, even if they have near identical functionality to vertically oriented models.
Third, and this is probably most important, teachers tend to recommend a particular calculator or set of calculators, and the more of their students using the same tool, the easier it is to teach them. That puts a drag on the change in tools because the technological system in which they are deployed militates against rapid change“
Which leads the author to the following conclusion:
“ Some technologies don’t change all that quickly because we don’t need them to. Much as we like to tell the story of The World Changing So Fast, most of it doesn’t. Look at cars or power plants or watches or power strips or paper clips. The changes are in the details, and they come slowly. But that’s ok. More change isn’t necessarily better.“
Why do I blog this? An interesting example of a technical object that seemed to reach a certain plateau. An example to keep up my sleeve for my course about interaction design and technological evolution.
Posted: August 24th, 2011 | Comments Off
Performing a Check-in: Emerging Practices, Norms and ‘Conflicts’ in Location-Sharing Using Foursquare by Cramer, Rost and Holmquist is an interesting paper presented at Mobile HCI2011.
It’s basically a user studies of Foursquare usage, based on in-depth interviews and 47 survey responses, about emerging social practices surrounding location-sharing. Some excerpts I found relevant to my own research in location-based services:
“Users appear to share with both smaller and much larger audiences than imagined. Sharing is sometimes only a byproduct, with ‘check-ins for me’, checking in for rewards, gaming and becoming the mayor, points and badges, life-logging, diversion and voyeuristic uses unimagined in most of the previous location-sharing systems research. A check-in is not always motivated through the desire to ‘perform’ or enhance ones self- presentation. However, performative aspects as in do appear to play a large role in shaping interactions. The roles of spectators and performers are reflected in our participants’ attitudes toward check-ins; and awareness of these roles affects their behavior.
We saw users adapt their check-ins to norms of what they perceive as worthwhile check-ins – and that they to a certain extent expect others to do the same. Many participants checked in at what they perceived as more interesting places and in some cases tried to minimize annoyance to others that may result from check-ins that they thought would appear uninteresting. Both the co-present audience observing the physical act of checking-in and the distant audience that (may) see the resulting check-in is considered. We also see the service, and its ’super users’, sometimes serve as an (disapproving) audience and not only a system to be operated. “
Why do I blog this? These results echo with a similar study we conducted internally last year. What I find relevant in understanding the usage of check-in is simply that I became an important alternative to automatic detection of users’ location. On this very topic, the paper conclusion is worthwhile as it describe the the intrinsically rich value of check-ins and their implications for contextual data collected by sensors:
“our results represent a major shift in the use and perception of location-sharing services. While it may seem that the check-in’s introduction mainly addresses technical issues (including limited battery life and localization limitations), it actually gives the user new ways to express themselves, while at the same time mitigating problematic issues such as privacy. More speculatively looking to the future, our results perhaps may turn out to hold not just for location sharing, but for all kinds of mobile systems that sense and report a user’s context. While many previous user-adaptive mobile systems have relied on automatic and continuous detection and presentation of the user’s state, future users will be used to the social and performative model that foursquare and other check-in based systems represent. Rather than be constantly tracked, users will selectively share their sensor data, be it physiological readings, locations, activity sensors, orsomething else. “
Posted: August 23rd, 2011 | Comments Off
Read in the “Rise and Fall of New Media
” by Lauren Cornell and Kazys Varnelis:
Locative media remained the stuff of demos and art-technology festivals until 2008 when Apple released the GPS-enabled iPhone 3G. Paradoxically, the mass realization of locative media seems to have taken the wind out of its sails as an art form. Although courses on writing apps proliferate in art and architecture programmes, the promise of locative media seems to remain just that: a promise, its transformational ambitions forever enshrined in William Gibson’s Spook Country (2007), a novel which, tellingly, was set not in the future but in the recent past.
Why do I blog this? The quote echoes with my feeling and it’s the second time this week that I encounter such comment about locative media. I actually don’t know what it means about the use of this technology but I guess we’ll see pretty soon how users repurpose such devices and services to their own context and interests.
Posted: August 23rd, 2011 | Comments Off
This fellow, encountered at Monument Valley, AZ two week ago, took plenty of time to install this little camera on his huge SUV, a somewhat robotic eye… (or, more likely, a proxy to capture souvenirs).
A brief chat with him allowed me to understand that he wanted to get an exhaustive view in the park. This led me to think about objects’ viewpoint: the increasing use of this kind of camera (on bike and snowboard more generally) indeed enable to capture visual elements from a very specific angle. The results can be both dramatic or crappy but it’s clearly curious to see the sort of traces produced.
Why do I blog this? This feature actually makes me think about robot perception, or how digitally-enabled artifact can perceive their environment. Of course, in this case, this is only a car with a camera… but I can’t help thinking that this big robotic eye has a curious effect on observers. Perhaps it leads to this “human-robot intersubjectivities“, the ‘signs of life’ that are exhibited by robots and that people perceive and respond to.
Posted: August 22nd, 2011 | Comments Off
An interesting quote found in a NYT piece about Berg London:
“Historically, design has associated itself with utility and problem-solving, but we prefer the landscape of cultural invention, play and excitement,” Mr. Schulze said. “When technology is infinitely complex, and our attention increasingly finite, producing something you can act on and observe at a human and cultural level is hard.”
Posted: August 20th, 2011 | Comments Off
BEYOND LOCATIVE: MEDIA ARTS AFTER THE SPATIAL TURN is a panel at the upcoming ISEA 2011 conference in Istanbul. Chaired by Marc Tuters, it will feature talks by Tristan Thielmann, Mark Shepard and Michiel de Lange:
“In 2006 Varnelis and Tuters published “Beyond Locative Media“, which discussed the emergence of locative media as “the next big thing”. Five years on, with the ubiquity of iphones, locative media has become banal. Locative media had been much anticipated within the media art world, notably at the ISEA conferences in 2004 & 2006 after which it entered popular culture as a trope in William Gibson’s last two novels. Yet while it may have faded from the avant-garde, there is a thriving locative discourse in academic journals, associated with the “spatial turn” in media studies. This panel considers the role of locative media in the arts and humanities discourse. The aforementioned text framed locative media in terms of neo-Situationist tactics which sought to actively imagine an alternate city. While locative practitioners did not share the oppositional politics of their net art precursors, one can not help but wonder if some greater potential for the medium has not perhaps been foreclosed by a participatory culture that suggests little more than reconfiguring ideas from past.“
Why do I blog this? 2011 is surely an interesting moment to pause and wonder about these questions. As mentioned in Mark Shepard’s abstract of his talk:
“While some would attempt to recuperate the term for discourse in the arts and humanities, looking for the “beyond”, “after” or “post-” Locative in an attempt to theorize an historical period of media art practice in order to lay claim to “the next big thing”, others might argue that it’s time to simply FORGET Locative Media – that the creative, theoretical and aesthetic possibilities of location as contextual filter have been exhausted – and that in order to engage the broader and more subtle nuances of contemporary urban, exurban and rural environments, new approaches to context are necessary.“
Those are good issues to consider.
Posted: August 17th, 2011 | Comments Off
Read in the marvelous novel by Thomas Pynchon called “The Crying of Lot 49“:
“She drove into San Narciso on a Sunday, in a rented Impala. Nothing was happening. She looked down a slope, needing to squint for the sunlight, onto avast sprawl of houses which had grown up all together, like a well-tended crop, from the dull brown earth; and she thought of the time she’d opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets, from this high angle, sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. Though she knew even less about radios than about Southern Californians, there were to both out-ward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate. There’d seemed no limit to what the printed circuit could have told her (if she had tried to find out); so in her first minute of San Narciso, a revelational so trembled just past the threshold of her understanding.“
Why do I blog this? No wonder I liked this quote after two weeks driving here and there in the US with such a book in my hands. See also Computer motherboards, citadels and Michel Houellebecq.