Btw, since I’ve less time to blog here, most of the things I run across (insights, data points and “weak signals” in a very basic/raw way…) goes to my tumblr called “beta knowledge“
The Open Knowledge Conference (OKCon) 2013 is happening next week in Geneva, Switzerland. An event about Open data and open knowledge conference, running since 2005, it will feature a series of talks, workshops and discussions about the various dimensions of these themes. I took that as an occasion to ask few questions to Hannes Gassert, one of the co-organizer:
NN: What’s OKCon and what are its purposes?
HG: The Open Knowledge Conference is the global gathering of a movement that strives to open up knowledge and make it used and useful. In Geneva, the event is bringing together developers and diplomats, designers and data activists to broaden and deepen the idea of open data. At the same time OKCon marks a major milestone for Switzerland: at the event, Switzerland’s own “data.gov” will be launched at opendata.admin.ch.
I believe that’s a big step for the movement as well as for Switzerland: we don’t have some president saying “I want this”, but a participatory political process touching all levels of governments, and I think that data-driven transparency will eventually emerge as the natural complement to our direct democracy. But I digress.
NN: “Open” culture is here for sometime now, but I always wonder about the difficulties. What’s tough when it comes to Open Knowledge and the use of Open Data?
HG: Openly releasing your pictures, your music or blog posts were personal decisions. Now, as “open” is becoming a movement and a concept as important as “green”, we’re getting into actual politics. When we’re talking about open government data and how, properly done, they foster transparency, accountability and public sector innovation, we’re talking about things we can’t decide on an individual level any more – now we’re talking politics, now we’re talking about data, like spending or crime data for example, whose mastery means actual power.
NN: Are there any areas where open-ness is not possible or relevant? That’s a curious one but it’s an issue I always wonder about because it leads to discussing the pros and cons of that approach.
HG: There’s a clear limit, and it’s given by strict standards of individual privacy. The individual person’s right to “informational self-determination” is paramount. But this is a value to be applied to people, not to corporations or countries. Those too have legitimate interests in secrecy, but they need to be constantly balanced with the public interest.
NN: Open Source and Open Data are interesting but I’m even more intrigued by “Open Knowledge” and open knowledge construction. This is why my tumblr is called “Beta Knowledge” as a way to reflect the idea that our cultural material (science, art, etc.) is always in flux. It also highlights that “releasing knowledge” can be a way to let people do something out of it that is different from the original intention of the persons who created it at first. Can you elaborate on the longer-term consequences of an “Open Knowledge” society?
HG: Open knowledge is what open data becomes when it’s useful, usable and, in the end, actually used – so I’m right with you when it comes to emphasize the empowering aspect of Open Knowledge! “Open” doesn’t mean much if it’s not useful, that is accessible, understandable, meaningful or helpful to solve a real problem, make a relevant point or have an impact on how we think and live. In order to make this actually happen, we will need types of skills, increased data literacy among them, and tools that help turning raw material into knowledge that people can act upon.
Additionally, I do in fact believe that the great power information elites have already today, the great power data analysts, software developers and information visualization experts means great responsibility indeed. There are large groups of highly educated experts both creative and technical that have come to see themselves mainly as “citizens of the internet”. It’s beginning to dawn on everybody that that’s not the case, that real-world realpolitik is indeed shaping both the bits and atoms that make up our world. What we’re seeing in this movement is a chance for these groups to get involved with the society they live in, it’s a chance for an new political awareness. Not using big data and affecting global changes right now perhaps, but using small data, and making a difference right here.
OKCon, in any case, is where many people come together who are committed to bring about those skillsets and toolsets, who are committed to the vision of a global movement building an open knowledge ecosystem. People who want to make a difference. I recommend to come and talk to them. You might be one of them yourself.
Fantastic article about “Grand Theft Auto V” level design. It’s a very interesting account of their process with “location scouts, architectural historians, off-duty police, DJ Pooh and our own research team.” The description about how they dealt with light as well as the diversity of geographical signifier
“Our process has been to block the world in quickly and then collate our reference and build out each part till we hit a good visual bar and a reasonable level of solidity. This is probably where in the past we would have stopped and finished off. Instead, we have done pass after pass of refinement for all sorts of reasons. Simply, does it look good enough? Does it play well enough? Does it feel distinctive? Does it sit well with its surroundings? Does it get across the character of the area we’re trying to create? How does it sit in terms of vistas and general sculptural composition? Do we need more color, contrast, branding, or lighting? Does it feel weathered? Does it have a sense of place and history? Can we layer story over it, whether through ambient, “generalized story” (who lives here, what have they done to the place, who lived here before them, where do they shop, what do they do for fun, do they keep their garden nice, do they have a fetish for gnomes and pink flamingos?) or whether it’s layering our actual story over it: mission detailing, filling out areas that belong to characters, random events or beats, and random characters you might meet. We take all the elements the story and mission guys add and layer more detail over the world based on it.
I know there are bigger games out there geographically, but I don’t think there are in terms of content. I want to stress that not only is this world huge but it’s absolutely handcrafted. Every little bit of this world has had a large number of extremely talented artists pore over it. There’s always something to discover, something weird or interesting to see or interact with. It’s absolutely not a massive, empty world. We’ve considered the placement of every tree. We’ve simply not copied buildings around the map or procedurally generated the terrain to pad it out. It’s all handcrafted, all unique, and we’ve gone over it all again and again and again to make sure there’s enough layering of detail that I don’t think many people will ever see everything we’ve put into the world. That in itself, though, means that most people will have different experiences.“
I also love the way they understand the complexity of spatial experiences (“Even elements like the radio and their ads have an influence on the map.“) and use these kinds of tricks in the game.
Why do I blog this? Fascination towards the recreation of Californian space and the way it’s addressed to engage players.
For people interested in design fictions, the latest issue of Digital Creativity is a special issue about design fiction. It features papers by people like James Auger or Andrew Morrison, Ragnhild Tronstad and Einar Sneve Martinussen. As proposed by the editor of this issue, Derek Hales, in his introduction entitled “Design ﬁctions an introduction and provisional taxonomy”:
“In crafting this issue we were interested in reﬂecting on design ﬁctions as a methodology and on the ways in which ﬁctional constructs, such as future scenarios and ‘diegetic prototypes’ (D. Kirby 2009), might open design discourse. As much as we might perhaps simplistically suggest that the ﬁctions of non-linear narrative, the achronological and asynchronous, have been central to contemporary media design and to media art, we might also say that the convergence of narrative and technology is central to design ﬁctions: as we will see, design ﬁctions exploit the power of media design to craft and deploy compelling visions of the future. Further than this, though, design ﬁctions have become a signiﬁcant means through which designers are exploring the ‘present’ condition of interface culture.“
Why do I blog this? Gathering material about design fiction for the upcoming Laboratory retreat and for next Friday’s workshops in Annecy, France.
Kenneth Goldsmith’s ‘Uncreative Writing” was certainly the best book I’ve read so far in 2013. It’s basically about techniques, which are traditionally thought to be unrelated with literature (word processing, databasing, recycling, appropriation, intentional plagiarism, identity ciphering, the Internet of Things), inspire the reinvention of writing. The author presents and discusses the tactics he put in place in a class he taught at the University of Pennsylvania.
What does it mean practically speaking?
“We retype documents and transcribe audio clips. We make small changes to Wikipedia pages (changing an a to an an or inserting an extra space between words). We hold classes in chat rooms, and entire semesters.
Each semester, for their final paper, I have them purchase a term paper from an online. Each student then must get up and present the paper to the class as if they wrote it themselves, defending it from attacks by the other students. What paper did they choose? Is it possible to defend something you didn’t write? Something, perhaps, you don’t agree with? Convince us. All this, the suppression of self-expression is impossible.
The type of assignment in gives to students are the following: retype five pages with no further explanation, transcribe a short piece of audio, take a film or video that has no screenplay and make one for it, etc.
And why is that important from his perspective?
“The uncreative writer constantly cruises the Web for new language, the cursor sucking up words from untold pages like a stealth encounter.
Where do we go from here? We could take this text and attempt to find patterns that would aid an investigation into the plasticity and mutability of language posing as image. Or we could do a close reading on this text alone, commenting, for example, how curious the row of fifty-one 7s is in the third line or on the random but somewhat even spatial distribution of graphical apples on the page.
because of this new environment, a certain type of book is being written that’s not meant to be read as much as it’s meant to be thought about.
The Web functions both as a site for reading and writing: for writers it’s a vast supply text from which to construct literature; readers function in the same way, hacking a path through the morass of information, ultimately working as much at filtering as reading
Having a computer write poems for you is old hat. What’s new is that, like Wershler and Kennedy, writers are now exploiting the language-based search engines and social networking sites as source text.
the language generated by the Web is a far richer source material—ripe for reframing, remixing, and reprogramming—than anything we could ever invent.
We’ll see how the modernist notions of chance, procedure, repetition, and the aesthetics of boredom dovetail with popular culture to usurp conventional notions of time, place, and identity, all as expressed linguistically.
Digital text [computer code] is the body-double of print, the ghost in the machine. The ghost has become more useful than the real; if we can’t download it, it doesn’t exist.
Words exist for the purpose of détournement: take the most hateful language you can find and neuter it; take the sweetest and make it ugly.“
Why do I blog this? An intense interest in applying these tactics both for writing and other types of design project. The crux issue here is how to manage language in the digital age. I see this as a quite relevant set of tools to craft networked fictions in a compelling way.
Quick update: “Curious Rituals: gestural interactions in the digital everyday”, the book and our short film, was shown few weeks ago in the Logotel’s (In)visible Design – 100 Stories from the Future and Beyond, an exhibition for Milano Design Week 2013. Thanks again Stefano Mattei and Francesca Rizzo!
Besides, it’s now possible to buy the book on lulu.
An interesting quote seen in this NYT article I saw today:
““I’ve been a bit disappointed by the disconnect between New York City’s art world and technology space,” he wrote in an e-mail later. “It’s extremely rare to see start-up people at gallery openings, for instance.”
There are all sorts of plausible explanations: the tech industry is relatively new (especially in New York); its members are young, busy and most did not plod through four years’ worth of liberal arts syllabuses.
But as many in the art world point out, there is no reason new-media moguls cannot get a remedial art education now.“
Why do I blog this? This remark about NYC would totally stand here in the Geneva/Lausanne area. Apart from certain exceptions, I generally feel the same disconnection. Although it’s hard to see what groups we are talking about here (tech moguls, developers, designers, new media artists), I don’t see many connections betweens these different people. When we started Lift a while back, we had intuition that it would be valuable to foster such a mix, and we were right. However, it’s kind of hard, for various reasons. Three of them bother me a lot:
- The importance of silos here in French-speaking Switzerland (and the francophone countries of Europe I would say): with so many “sub-communities” trying to exist, there is a tendency from people to differentiate themselves from others and not try to be part of a community. For instance, the debate about the difference between interaction designers and new media artists can be problematic for that matter. So… if it’s already hard to bring these two together, how can we expect start-up people to go to art exhibit! That being said, I’m sure there are exceptions.
- The idea that technology is for technicians and that it’s some sort of dirty thing that art should not really bother about.
- The fact that art related with digital technologies (video games, new media art pieces…) is part of popular culture, and hence less important than more noble realms of art such as theatre pieces, opera, contemporary dance or literature. Spending time in California for the laboratory activities (and having fun), this looks utterly weird and passé.
I just realized this the tenth year of Pasta and Vinegar! What started as a PhD student notepad is still around. There’s less blogging than it used to be but I still intend to keep this blog running. Weak signals and links are generally posted on beta knowledge, but P&V will still feature longer posts, slide decks and other updates.
Brain-computer interactions is a pet topic I investigate on the side for quite some time; actually since I was an undegrad in Cognitive Sciences back fifteen years ago. In the last ten years, we saw an interesting evolution in terms of hardware possibilities with the advent of headcaps… this led to a novel situation where prototyping interaction was less cumbersome as it used to be. Plus, the availability of software (games, relaxation apps, etc.) also allows to conduct tests and observe the usage of such devices out of the lab. This is a dimension I’m interested in as wearing these devices in public is not neutral (even more than Google glasses?) and lead to weird technical problems (signal noise) or interaction possibilities (why would I need such device when waiting for my bus?).
This kind of down-to-earth/blue-collar-design perspective was actually the topic of my talk at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting 2013 in a session called Advances in Brain-Machine Interfaces: Applications and Implications, along with Miguel Nicolelis, Todd Coleman, Martha J. Farah and Brent Waters.
Why do I blog this? In order to move forward, I’m thinking about a new teaching workshop about this topic next year. The panel as well as the discussion with experts there was quite intriguing and led me to think that there’s a good opportunity in these topics when it comes to design/foresight.
Telesound “sounds” intriguing:
TeleSound is a cute speaker containing over 1,000 sounds that you and your friends can trigger from a smartphone or tablet over the internet.