Posts tagged “kevin kelly”

ChittahChattah Quickies

What It’s Like to Experience New Technology After 25 Years in Jail [Gizmodo] – From a Quora thread to a Gizmodo post (and there may be a book deal happening?) here’s a real edge-case user type, someone with almost no exposure to current technology.

Prior to my release from prison, I gave considerable thought to a technology strategy. My wife was used to using Microsoft products, but everything I’d read indicated that Apple products offered a much quicker learning curve. On the day she picked me up she handed me an iPhone 4S. During my first week of liberty, we purchased a MacBook Pro and iMac desktop system. I hoped they would all work seamlessly together. But since my wife wasn’t as comfortable with the Apple products, she insisted that I load them all up with Microsoft products so she could rescue me when I had problems. I’ve had a lot of problems coming up to speed with simple tasks like email, or synching all of my computers together. I’ve also had a problem remembering all of the passwords she assigned to me. I keep arguing that we should use only one password, but that only brings forth her arguments on the dangers of identity theft. Since I met many men in prison who served time for identity theft, I trust that my wife has a point.

The Improbable is the New Normal [The Technium] – What are the consequences of spectacle fatigue (and I don’t mean your eyes and nose feeling sore)? And what does that mean for those who intend to entertain us (say, film and television) with more traditional content? (via Kottke)

The internets are also brimming with improbable feats of performance — someone who can run up a side of a building, or slide down suburban roof tops, or stack up cups faster than you can blink. Not just humans, but pets open doors, ride scooters, and paint pictures. The improbable also includes extraordinary levels of super human achievements: people doing astonishing memory tasks, or imitating all the accents of the world. In these extreme feats we see the super in humans.

Every minute a new impossible thing is uploaded to the internet and that improbable event becomes just one of hundreds of extraordinary events that we’ll see or hear about today. The internet is like a lens which focuses the extraordinary into a beam, and that beam has become our illumination. It compresses the unlikely into a small viewable band of everyday-ness. As long as we are online – which is almost all day many days — we are illuminated by this compressed extraordinariness. It is the new normal.

To the uninformed, the increased prevalence of improbable events will make it easier to believe in impossible things. A steady diet of coincidences makes it easy to believe they are more than just coincidences, right? But to the informed, a slew of improbably events make it clear that the unlikely sequence, the outlier, the black swan event, must be part of the story.

Overthinking It subjects the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn’t deserve – There’s a lot of things being overthought on the site. This example is one of at least two posts (first, and second) where Law and Order episodes were put into a database and then analyzed and analyzed.

Over the entire run of the show, more than a third of all the episodes ended in Guilty verdicts, while another third ended in plea bargains. 80% of episodes ended in solid wins: either Guilty verdicts, plea bargains, or implied victories. That’s not too shabby, considering that the actual NYPD has a homicide clearance rate of about 50%. (Although you have to figure Law & Order isn’t meant to represent every case these detectives investigated; in 20 seasons, I don’t think there was a single murder that didn’t result in an arrest.)

(UPDATE 12/10/12: One of the commenters on Reddit has pointed out that the “clearance rate” has nothing to do with convictions, only arrests. In that case, Law & Order’s clearance rate would be nearly 100%, since even in the rare episodes without a trial somebody usually gets arrested. I guess I’d know this stuff if I had watched The Wire.)

The Fake Shows from Arrested Development are Now Listed on Netflix [Paste] – I love seeing fake products and brands treated like real ones. Reminds me of the in-production Newsreaders, a fake news magazine TV show that originally aired as a special episode of the parody Childrens Hospital (which also had fake promos for NTSF:SD:SUV::, leading to that becoming a real show as well.

Next spring, Netflix will premiere the highly anticipated and currently in-production fourth season of Arrested Development. Along with the rights to the show come the rights to all of the shows within the show, and to tide fans over until next spring Netflix has featured fake listings of Scandalmakers, Wrench, Boyfights and more. There is no actual footage to watch-the links just take you the Arrested Development season one page- but it’s pretty funny seeing the summaries and poster photos listed on Netflix like they belong to actual shows. Also listed are Les Cousins Dangereux, Girls with Low Self-Esteem: Newport Beach, Families with Low Self-Esteem and Mock Trial with J. Reinhold.

Two great presentation – art + games; cyberculture as counterculture

Last week’s BayCHI program featured two exciting (if poorly attended) presentations. First, From Counterculture To Cyberculture: How The Whole Earth Catalog Brought Us Virtual Community by Fred Turner of the Stanford Department of Communication, and Be the Ball by Greg Niemeyer and Joe McKay of UC Berkeley.

Fred Turner gave one of those presentations that lulls me into thinking (for a mere moment) that it’d be fun to go back to school and be exposed to fast-moving big-thinking folks who can stream ideas at my head. His talk was a lot of fun and there’s no way to capture much of it. Maybe the associated book (note comments by Stewart Brand) would be the best suggestion? I haven’t read it but will be curious to hear from anyone who has.

Turner provides a highly synthesized historical/social/cultural perspective on the shift in computer technology (and Silicon Valley as the home for said technology) from a military, hierarchical technology to a green, revolutionary, participatory movement. He focuses on a specific set of folks like Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, John Perry Barlow and the connections between them, as well as the connections they had to other parts of culture (i.e., Barlow and the Dead scene). He referred to Ronald Burt‘s notion of a network entrepreneur as a better model for thinking about how these people all interacted.

With the Whole Earth Catalog going back to the 60s (basically a large format print publication that would catalog many items that would be useful to those living in a commune, from tractors, to tools, to how-to books, to fiction, and much more – interestingly picked up in Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools) setting some sort of foundation, a catalyzing event was a retreat that Brand convened right after the 1984 “Hackers” conference, spawned in part by Stephen Levy’s Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (another point was the inclusion of journalists in these networks was very effective in growing them in just the right way), helped transform the public perception of hackers from destructive geeks to techno-revolutionaries.

He continued to described the creation of The Well, an early online forum that attracted much of this same culture – DeadHeads, Burning Man people, artists, hackers, and so on.

Underlying this great story was some interesting points about social forms of power versus rule forms of power. In other words, granting access or opportunity through merit versus who you know that is like you (and likes you). It was interesting to see what this group could build through those connections, but Turner himself acknowledged that he preferred the rules over the social power. All of which raises some big issues for me; that our culture claims to be merit-based, but clearly is hugely dominated by social power. How could children of presidents end up so prominently in politics if that were not true?

A final quote from Turner: “To be cool in America is to be granted the power to speak.”

For more academic seduction, check out the interesting course taught by Greg Niemeyer at Berkeley, including podcasts.

Along with Joe McKay (who seemed to play an engaged-but-thinks-before-he-speaks-slow-talking Paul Shaffer to Neimeyer’s fast-talking-can’t-slow-down-yet-collaborative David Letterman), they talked about games, but not as game designers, rather as artists. They showed a variety of interactive environments that were playful in nature and maybe illustrative of some point (i.e., the container filled with bamboo that monitors the oxygen flow in the space and generates jazz music where the energy level corresponds to the breathing pace of whoever is ihe space). It was a refreshing way to think about games and seemed to dovetail with John Seabrook’s recent profile of Will Wright in the New Yorker.

I enjoyed their quick personal history of the games they played throughout their life (no mention of Hotel Room Olympics, however, let alone the Ungame) and especially the demo they set up of a simple game where one stands on a platform and simply shifts weight (subtly) to move an on-screen paddle and shoot a ball into hoops that encircle it (hence the talk’s title Be The Ball). We got to try the game (something I’ve never seen at a BayCHI presentation).

Joe made a reference to Snakes and Ladders which was gratifying since I had recently been discussing the Chutes and Ladders title (more common with the Americans I know) versus the Snakes and Ladders that I encountered as a kid in Canada (where Joe also grew up). Wikipedia confirms that this is a US vs. UK difference.

And finally, Joe mentioned that his mother discovered “The Google” but is disappointed not to see new hits for him when she looks up, so hopefully Joe’s mom will find this!

looking forward, looking backward

You can’t look forward without looking backwards. LukeW writes about Web2.0 – a buzzword that some will be sick of already while others have certainly never heard before. Luke’s soundbites are likely only to confuse those outside the geekstream, but I’ll say that to me it refers to (and maybe this is obvious) the next era or (ulp) paradigm shift in dot-com companies. I suspect this meme is connected to the story about Silicon Valley being “back” (in terms of VC money, IPOs, new companies, jobs, and just general dot-com-type excitement).

An important and timely companion to thinking ahead is to look at where we’ve been. Kevin Kelly, writing in Wired, looks back at 10 years of the Internet in We Are The Web. Elsewhere in that issue is an excellent timeline that ironically doesn’t seem to be available online.


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