Thursday, July 19, 2007

This is the result of an experiment where I filmed the view outside my window for a year. The music is by Les Grandes Gueules,

Sunday, July 15, 2007

[[ZEITGEIST]] Harry Potter at the New York Times
While newspapers debate their online strategies, I think a lead has been stolen by the New York Times. I really Like this article, where they have gotten two film critics to discuss all the Harry Potter films. Mousing over the pictures (illustrated) brings them to life, very much like the paintings at Hogwarts, and a tantalising snippit of audio is played. If you like what you hear, you can click on an image and see a minute long item discussing an aspect of the films over some clips. This is to be praised not just for the content but for the interface also.
[[IMMERSIVE]] Video Game Generation Gap - Watch more free videos

Here is an exchange between a teenage child and his parents the illustrates the gulf of understanding created by the computer game generation gap. Particularly interesting is the role the game itself assumes in this dispute. The parents equate videogames with something of no intrinsically value, and which are furthermore dangerously addictive. This discourse seemingly has given them permission to escalate the situation very quickly into conflict. Rather than managing their child's play and setting expectations beforehand about time limits for play. This is not to say that the child is an entirely innocent party here, but (unfortunately for us parents) the burden is on us to manage these situations and set the limits beforehand. Not for the child to superhumanly be able to curtain his interest on cue.

On this topic, I particularly liked this exchange between a parent or an autistic child a educator, because I think it illustrates very well how prejudices about videogames simply get in the way in trying to understand a child.

"[My son] is a video junkie and not in a way that I think anyone would consider healthy, either physically or mentally. "

"This is not a respectful way of talking about your son's passions and joys. You need to reconsider how you view his hobbies and likes and dislikes, because it is through them that learning will happen."

This is the point. Nothing in human development is useless, if the obstacle and reward structure of computer cames is compelling, it is only because it reproduces something in our evolutionary psychology for making progress in life. See, for example, Steven Johnson's argument about this:

"Our brain is wired with “seeking circuitry” and relishes exercising “the regime of competence.” TV shows like “Lost” and video games like “World of Warcraft” are addictive because they reward exploration. Instead of employing narrative arcs, they keep you in a state of being always challenged but not quite overwhelmed as you ascend from skill level to skill level."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

[[ZEITGEIST]] Blaise Aguera y Arcas demonstrates photosynth

Feeling pretty good that I stole a lead on Boing Boing by featuring Hans Rosling on this blog several months ago (Yeah I know it was an older talk and the new one is really worth watching btw). But I though I would draw your attention to another stunning TED presentation. This time it is of a piece of software called photosynth. Photosynth is based on a technology called seedragon which instead of struggling to represent data heavy images by loading them and then interpolating them, seems to be able to rasterize the screen and allocate each image a share of the available real estate of pixels. This means the computer never has to represent more detail than is contained in the pixels on the screen, although the user can dynamically zoom into the images as much as they like. Doesn't this present really exciting possibilities for all virtual world? I means why struggle with clunky 3d representations and distance rendering if all images can be rendered like this. A case in point is Photosynth itself. Photosynth is a dynamic three dimensional representation of seedragon images arranged as a virtual world. In this demonstration its inventor (?) The fabulously named Blaise Aguera y Arcas who wows the TED audience with a virtual Notre Dame Cathedral, constructed out of thousands and thousands of non copyright photographs stored on flickr. As Aguera y Arcas says, this constitutes, in a sense, a representation of the collective memory of humanity. A a memory that what is more can be accessed and explored by anyone using the software. UNFORTUNATELY though photosynth is owned by those kings of the proprietory software , Mircrosoft, and I see from googling photosynth that it is only available to on XP or Vista. Shame that Google were not quicker of the mark with acquiring this one.