All posts made the week commencing Sunday 29 Sep., 2002:

One hundred tiny beautiful Flash pieces, like animated pen and ink sketches. Modern Living [via boingboing].

Splendid. Stepford Lives just now on Channel 4, described far too briefly in The Observer here. Think: Low key photography, stills changing on the screen only every second or two, images recollecting suburbia and product catalogues. The voiceover narrates the normal days of a handful of people, the extremes understated - a drawbridge outside Ted Baker being accidentally activated by a mobile phone, a woman leaving her family to live in a show home - interspersed with oh-so-believably statistics: "23% of all rice cakes are eaten by people with low self-esteem" (quoted in today's Guardian). Think suburban Blue Jam. Think: the infographic music videos we've seen recently. Think of the vivid, visual nature of radio, hinted by the almost hypnotic suggestics of the images. (Radio, I tell you, is an ascendant media, more coherent with the memebulletry of the writing and the interconnectedness of this age than television, which attempts to ignore the bullet, pretend the viewer is in the programme, and confuse the map with the territory.) Wonderful.

In other news today I bought a pair of trousers, a shirt, a tshirt, a jumper and a new pair of trainers that, when I'd cleaned my ankle at home, fortunately fit on both feet, the right shoe untested earlier because of the blood from my blistered foot from my long walk from the tube strike on my sock [while] in the shop. The cd I meant to buy I didn't. I forgot.

Here are some ways messages can be communicated from person to person: speaking; in a book; by Instant Message; on the www; email; television; geography. How do these differ? Ignoring what sort of encoding these different media types contain (the book contains the written word), consider just the nature of the medium.

  • Proxy | The me-proxy is a television set, or the book itself, or a www browser, or an email address.
  • Speaking is listening | Face to face, when somebody speaks you have to listen at the same time. But with a book this isn't true. It's true for television (before video), almost true for IM, less true for email. The www is more difficult.
  • Referencing | If a reference to the message is transmitted instead of the message itself, the content of the message can change and change again every time it's dereferenced. A website can change even if the address is in the hands of someone else, but an email is fixed once it's been sent.
  • Ownership | Relating to referencing, do you own the message? Can it change once you've internalised it once? For a book, for IM: no. But for websites and geography, yes. there's a terminology here too. For changable messages we talk about visiting.
  • Shoutability | Speaking and listening is simultaneous and one-to-one. But shouting is one-to-many. As is tele, and geography (many people can share the same message/location). Email I'd say isn't.

So you see I'm trying to understand what the differences in media are, starting by trying to identify different properties. Firstly, I need a need a word. There's a point of no return for a message, beyond which it's in my brain and understood, a helter-skelter from just after my ears and just inside my eyes to my mental processing centres. It isn't understanding, and it isn't hearing, it's the process of internalising.

Secondly I'm wondering whether all these properties can be expressed in terms of abstraction points. Between the message being internal to person A and being internal to person B, at what points can it be deflected, edited, duplicated, referenced, delayed? In speaking this abstraction point is used once, sound allows a certain kind of broadcast, but that's it. With other media types it's more varied.

Tele has two big points. Initially the message is constructed outside the brain before being transmitted, so many people can work on it. Secondly, a piece of equipment called a television set acts as a proxy for you (and your household), an ear into electromagnetic sounds and pictures, to negate distance. This dimension doesn't have the concept of distance which means that the broadcast tower and all television sets effectively exist at the same point, inside a singularity, so the broadcast can't discriminate between different sets. It does however have the concept of direction, so transmission is one-way.

Geography (and the www) is interesting. A reference to a location can be spread and communicated independently of the location itself. There are even map shops! And that place (or website) can change all the time. Dereferencing the map or the url can reveal a constantly changing database driven 'site, or a geocache.


The Sun Will Explode In Less Than Six Years!

"A miniature replica of a guillotine which he made for his father when he was 15 has pride of place in a glass box. A pair of spectacles which he keeps in the coffin-basket belonged to one of his victims. But on top of the box - bizarrely - is a "Billy the Bass" singing fish". The executioner's tale. And they say exposure to violence doesn't desensitise a person.

Zen gardens imply a tree that isn't there. Horticultural whitespace. Wonderful. Related, embedded spaces [via xblog]; the architectural concept of the positive negative space.

14 Principles of Polite Apps. All based on an interesting premise: "To our human minds, computers behave less like rocks and trees than they do like humans, so we unconsciously treat them like people, even when we '... believe it is not reasonable to do so.' In other words, humans have special instincts that tell them how to behave around other sentient beings, and as soon as any object exhibits sufficient cognitive friction, those instincts kick in and we react as though we were interacting with another sentient human being. This reaction is unconscious and unavoidable".

McCargow's comments about our break-in a few days ago are true in all ways bar one. We do in fact have all of the following: farting gnome; sinister dancing clown; giant cardboard dog's head (wearable). However our estate agent wrote to us saying they wouldn't pay 26 pence to send us a receipt, not the claimed 30p.