Here is a prezi from a lecture I gave at a postgraduate seminar on Actor Network Theory (ANT) and the Internet of Things (iot). The central concept of the talk was however the notion of the heteroclite and why ANT methodologies for world-encountering are useful when tangling with heteroclite objects. I use the heteroclite in the Baconian sense of a monstrous deviation, which by its very entry on stage creates collective entanglements demanding the mobilization of all sorts of dormant or obfuscated networks. For an example of a heteroclite currently being performed think of the Google car and how it deviates from the driver as an actor. I find the heteroclite a fascinating metaphor for dealing with hybrid objects.
I mentioned Gabe Newell’s keynote in an earlier post today but now think it deserves a full post of its own. If you have any interest in the future trajectory of digital media in general, and gaming in particular, this keynote is simply required viewing. It’s full of fascinating off-the-cuff insights about where content platforms are heading that you should just watch it in its entirety. Here’s a few paraphrased choice bits:
The PC ecosystem is expanding and will continue to do so – because it’s open. Open hardware + open software development beats everything else, and particularly the console model.
Linux is a get out of jail free card for the industry [he talks about the gaming industry but I think it equally applies to everyone with a finger in digital media content distribution]. Why? Because it ensures content platform independence.
With virtual goods you have to think what scarcity actually means, and in the process re-imagine what is a game, and what is digital service.
Free to play should be, and will be, the standard for digital content [at least it seams Valve is betting on that big time]. The idea is that users enter the world on their own terms and the developer leverages in-world interactions.
Cloud games are a losing proposition because functionality is centered rather than distributed. How do you distribute functionality around a network? You want to push intelligence towards the ends of the network, not in the middle. Putting functionality in the center of the network is latency inefficient. [This is fascinating and seems to go directly against the trajectory of app stores and the like]
The big value is in open auction houses, free to play worlds, and user generated content. Why? Because ‘customers will always defeat us at generating cool content’.
The future Valve is betting on is one where user generated content means customer-made and operated stores, auction houses, mods, games, quests. [In Valve's future you should be able to generate your own unique quests and sell them to other players, create your own currency, manage your own auction houses and run your own stores - all in the world]
The goal is to avoid curation and focus instead on aggregation. ‘Curation is pre-internet’.
Finally, Valve is working on prediction markets – they call them information discovery mechanisms, and apparently this is where Gabe Newell is personally involved. [This is such a cool implementation of the price discovery concept from Austrian economics].
This is a Prezi from a guest lecture on Disruptive Media I gave last week. The argument is organized around four concept provocations – artificial scarcity, big data, iFeudals, and hive-mind. Each provocation in turn is centered around a digital artifact, where my artifact zero is raw footage from the war in Syria, featuring a tank column dash-cam and a blurry recording from a rebel group attacking the same tank column. I then disassemble this artifact into the four conceptual threads structuring the provocations – the deluge of raw data, the absence/irrelevance of gatekeepers, the inability of content farms [legacy media] to deal with raw data, the power of the hivemind [reddit/4chan] to aggregate and process raw data. These being provocations I don’t provide any summary or an encapsulating framework; instead my coda is a quote from Gabe Newell that really resonated with me. It is from his keynote at the D.I.C.E. summit this year in which he charted a future for gaming built around open auction houses, free-to-play, and user generated content [watch it here], but it equally applies to the scenarios I describe: ‘We can’t compete with our own customers. Our customers have defeated us, not by a little, but by a lot [and that's a good thing].’
How strange when sci-fi shorts made by artists non-aligned with any studio have higher production quality than legacy industry content produced at orders of magnitude the cost. How strange when creativity, production quality, and distribution are less and less associated with vertical organizations from the legacy industry, but are instead distributed often in the unlikeliest of places. Two examples. The Gift is a sci-fi short shot in Russia and directed by Carl E. Rinsch. It blends a gray dystopian future with the modern-day streets of Moscow [I love the militsia Ladas chasing an android on a futuristic bike], and manages to tell more in five minutes than Oblivion in one hour. A lasting image I keep returning to is the unicorn, which we never see, but know that it is desired by humans and robots alike. What could be desired equally by humans and machines at the cost of their lives?
The second short, Rosa is a haunting animation created by comic-artist Jesús Orellana. It reminds me, in spirit if not in realization, of some of the Animatrix shorts – the post-apocalyptic landscape inhabited by cyborg-like creatures, the interface through which the cyborgs interact with reality, and of course the style of the battles. The protagonist and her enemies seem to be of the same species, but while Rosa brings life her enemies are trying to extinguish it. The film is quite poetic in that life is started by a machine, and the place where the machine goes to die is a garden [in the ruins of a Gothic cathedral]. Natura ex machina?
A short set of visuals documenting the build of my first open source hexapod robot – Randall the First. Shout out to ArcBotics for being awesome.
Here’s a list:
Summer. Climbing Cradle Mountain under a roof of clouds. Fivefinger barefoot shoes and sharp rocks do not go so well together.
Unpacking an Arduino starter kit for a project involving a tweeting door. But this is already autumn.
Summer. Away from internet, sociability, strangers asking ‘how are you today’, institutions, serious faces and comic intrigues, all the petty drama of bureaucracy. Instead, books.
Books as an intoxicating pleasure. Drinking in one go Jesse Bullington’s The Folly of the World [not so good, now only faint traces of the epic Brothers Grossbart remain], and Hugh Howey’s Wool [brilliant, delicious, exciting, best scifi cocktail in years]. Then at a leisurely pace Gwendolyn Leick’s Mesopotamia [intended as an overview on Sumerian/Babylonian city life it went sour somehow and now tastes as a textbook], to be followed by a deep breath and Robert Massie’s Peter the Great [fantastic book about a flaneur of singular proportions, to be consumed in large gulps, standing solidly and staring at the moon]. Then as a dessert, even slower, and with a lot of succulent side-reading, Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile [probabilistic theory as philosophy of life, served in a wonderfully the-bar-is-closing sort of way]. Taleb brings closure and understanding. For the strong of spirit however, he could be followed by Ludwig von Mises’ original 1912 edition of Theory of Money and Credit, to be consumed very slowly, preferably before sleeping, with one eye on the eternal.
Autumn. Meetings. Early meetings, late meetings, postponed meetings, important meetings. Workshops too. And seminars. And workshops about grants, the purpose of which is explained in seminars, invitations to which are given at meetings.
Being invited to a meeting by omission. How is that even possible. The institution thinks someone else is doing what they’ve been paying you to be doing all along, and invites that person for a meeting, but then the person tells them that it is you who in fact is doing that, so they then invite you too but during the meeting keep showing ignorance of what is it that you are in fact doing. Invitation by omission.
Bumping into a colleague who complains of divergence. No focus. Must converge.
Teaching convergence to the generation born in the air of excitement surrounding Netscape Navigator. Fun, actually.
Unpacking a hexapod with proximity sensors for eyes. The orange blue-tooth monster. Is his name Randall?
Teaching game cultures to the post-post-console generation. Fun, actually.
Thinking of objects as data. Objects transitioning from a primary reality to liquid assemblages of data in algorithmic space. The tweeting, relentlessly sociable door. Sociable objects.
Where is that von Mises book?
Every time I leave Hong Kong I start planning on going back. It is the kind of city you can fall in love with all over again with each visit. The kind sampled best at night, under the neon lights and fermented tau fu smells of Sai Yeung Choi. As visual homages to Hong Kong go, Gregory Kane’s So Long, My Hong Kong is the best I have seen:
I’ve been interested in 3-D printing projects for the masses such as Makerbot’s Replicator for a while now, but it appears that the most exciting developments in the field are coming from quite an unexpected direction – Disney. Yes, the Mickey Mouse people at Disney Research are apparently serious enough about 3-D printing to work on printable interactive optical devices [research paper] . In other words, Disney are working on printable display electronics – here is the demo: