Monthly Archive for January, 2009

Louis Suarez-Potts: On Escaping the Orgy of Consumerism

Louis Suarez-Potts @ UB

Louis Suarez-Potts’s “The what, why and how (not to mention who) of Open Source — and why it is important” was held at UB North Campus, Clemens 120 on Jan 29th, 2pm. Here’s the event description:

The Digital Humanities Initiative at Buffalo is pleased to announce a lecture by Louis Suárez-Potts, who holds a PhD in English from Berkeley and who is now the community manager at Sun Microsystems for the open source project OpenOffice.org. This promises to be a fascinating presentation from someone who understands both the scholarly concerns of humanists and the rapidly growing prominence of open source approaches to computing.

I got a chance to chat with Louis after the talk, where he stated how monetary-based transactions strips away the emotional aspect of innovation, as opposed to the “love thy neighbor” approach (aka gift economy) which thrives on sharing and transparency of ideas. He agreed with me that the communal innovation approach would be more sustainable on the long run since the user/producer (see Axel Brun’s Produser concept) community could (theoretically) directly address its own needs more effectively than a corporation would.

Louis noted that “[t]he issue is that if you pay somebody money, they do X for that money. If you inspire them to gain value that goes beyond the monetary value ascribed to X, they do that thing, X, plus all that goes beyond and that cannot be easily monetized; an economist would call it an intangible. […] What it comes down to: Open source works regardless of the motivator; and motivators beyond price work even in closed source environments. What counts, then, is engaging people so that the value of their actions and role goes beyond price.”

Now here’s the 40min pre-recorded live stream I shared for folks who couldn’t attend, including the backchannel chat log as well as my raw notes from louis’s talk…
Continue reading ‘Louis Suarez-Potts: On Escaping the Orgy of Consumerism’

Shock & Awesome Show: On digitally mediated sex cultures

"Shock & Awesome Show"

MixieMoxie and Mander have yours truly as a guest on their strange yet fabulous Blog.tv show, Shock & Awesome.

It started with MixieMoxie asking me whether we could “touch the Internet”. Naturally, our two hour talk show started with tele-haptics, but soon dribbled down to tele-dildonics, cybersex and the digital mediation of sex subcultures such as Furries and BDSM in SecondLife.

Aside: Despite leaving after 2hrs, MixieMoxie went on broadcasting and turned it into a six hour marathon chat session! Be sure to check out my previous interview with her as a Zivity model.

“I Google You” by Neil Gaiman

Tonight at 7pm EST, I’ll be making a guest appearance on MixieMoxie‘s “Shock & Awesome Show“.

Mixie, Mander and I, as well as her friends on Blog.tv, will be chatting about “touching the Internet”. We’ll probably go into tele-haptics, which will likely segway into cybersex and eventually BDSM culture. We’ll be filling in the gaps of each other’s knowledge.

While testing out Blog.tv’s co-host feature with Mixie, I got to learn from her friends about a song by Neil Gaiman called “I Google You“. To spice things up, this rendition is performed by bi-sexual cabaret-punk entertainer, Amanda Palmer (hat tip Blake Stacey).

Given that my ex-prof Alex Halavais had recently published “Search Engine Society“, and considering how it is now common practice to judge acquaintances by checking Google, this song was just too good to be true.

Here are the lyrics to “I Google You” by Neil Gaiman:

I Google you
late at night when I don’t know what to do
I find photos
you’ve forgotten
you were in
put up by your friends

I Google you
when the day is done and everything is through
I read your journal
that you kept
that month in France
I’ve watched you dance

And I’m pleased your name is practically unique
it’s only you and
a would-be PhD in Chesapeake
who writes papers on
the structure of the sun
I’ve read each one

I know that I
should let you fade
but there’s that box
and there’s your name
somehow it never makes the pain
grow less or fade or disappear
I think that I should save my soul and
I should crawl back in my hole
But it’s too easy just to fold
and type your name again
I fear
I google you
Whenever I’m alone and feeling blue
And each scrap of information
That I gather
says you’ve got somebody new
And it really shouldn’t matter
ought to blow up my computer
but instead….
I google you

ASIDE: If you recall, I interviewed MixieMoxie just last year about her modeling experience with Zivity.com.

theorycast.54 :: Ardica Moshi Power System

Buffalo’s freezing winter certainly hasn’t brought me down, thanks to the Ardica Moshi Power System. I’ll show you how the Ardica vest works, and chat with project manager / engineer Martin Corpos about their goal of ultimately designing a wearable fuel-cell power system.

Ardica Technologies, traditionally known for developing wearable fuel cells for consumer and military applications, has produced an electronic heated vest with a USB charging port for powering our devices. As a wearable power system, you can see why I’m particularly excited by its potential for always-on netizens like myself.

Ardica Moshi Power System

Fabric Heating
Codenamed the Moshi Power System, a signature feature involves the design of the lithium-ion battery for wearability and energy efficiency. With its slim, flexible lycra/form coated battery pack, any Ardica-enabled jacket would be able to run heat up to 105 degrees. The heating elements are flat and flexible, measuring about 4 x 4 inches and connected to the power source with wires embedded in fabric.

Gadget Charging
At the same time, USB power plugs inside the pockets interfaces with most all popular consumer electronics products, letting us charge personal devices, such as iPhones, while we’re on the move. Depending on power setting, the 25 watt battery system technically lasts three hours on high heat setting and up to eight hours on a lower setting. To overcome the obstacle of power and run time degradation during cold weather use found with traditional alkaline batteries, Ardica has developed a system that utilizes special rechargeable lithium-ion batteries configured to be immune to external temperature conditions down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fuel-Cell Future
To offer greater power density, Ardica is working on patented fuel cell systems and hybrid fuel cell/battery systems. Future-proofing the upcoming line of Ardica-enabled apparel, Ardica’s battery and fuel cell power systems will be interchangeable when Ardica introduces its fuel cell system in 2010. In fact, all Ardica products are going to be flexible enough to allow changes to fit, power, output, voltage and run time to fit the needs of a wide range of customer applications.

How to find Ardica-enabled apparel
Mountain Hardwear is said to be unveiling four “Ardica Enabled” jackets for fall of 2009. The cost of an Ardica-enabled jacket will drive price tags up $35 to $50 from a similar shell. The Ardica power system, which must be purchased separately and then plugged into an Ardica-enabled piece of apparel, will go at $145.

If you’re as into this wearable power solution as I am, stay tuned to http://www.ardica.com. A great overview of the Ardica Moshi Power System can also be found at Outside Blog.

If you were Obama…

Eh Sai!

Obama’s “Yes we can!” slogan roughly translates to “Eh Sai!” in Hokkien. It’s my way of visualizing how an Obama-like campaign could work in Singapore ;)

Go ahead and Obama-fy yourself with a one-word promise for 2009 at http://obamiconme.pastemagazine.com

How Obama could set the stage for Participatory Governance

UB Students watching inauguration
UB Students watching inaugurationUB Students watching inauguration
UB students watching the inauguration at the Capen Undergraduate Library

While the world watches the inauguration of our 44th U.S. president, Barack Obama, those of us fortunate enough to have Internet access were able to express our thoughts alongside numerous live video streams including CNN.com, UStream.tv, Hulu and Joost.

Of particular note was the CNN/Facebook collaboration on their own shared viewing experience. Since both CNN and Facebook were relatively more mainstream than say twitter, more viewers were ready to participate.

CNN.com Live - Facebook
Watch video sample taken by Dusenyao

According to Mashable, CNN served 13.9 million live video streams globally since 6am. More than 200,000 status updates were made at a rate of 3,000 users per minute, through the Facebook integration on CNN.com. Meanwhile, Twitter sees 4 times no. of tweets per minute over the course of the inauguration, peaking when Obama was sworn in as 44th President.

But it doesn’t end there. On a more intense level, we’re seeing a lot more involvement from the citizen journalism perspective, at times such coverage is given equal representation alongside mainstream production. Bottom-up, Qik.com coordinated a special Inauguration 2009 page which aggregated about 122 live videos from around 35 mobile producers today. Top-down, we see how CNN has the “Your View of History” map showing both iReporters and CNN coverage around DC:

CNN.com - Your View of History

From the era of participatory media (i.e. blogs, twitter), have we been primed to take on the more focused task of nation building through participatory governance?

The practice of crowdsourcing has been transitioning from one industry to another. Major corporations such as Dell and Starbucks have been turning to consumers for new ideas. News media agencies such as CNN and Fox News have been soliciting unique coverage from citizen reporters.

Now, virtually moving presence from Change.gov to Whitehouse.gov, the Obama transition team has been setting the pace for citizen participation on government ideas and policies. The most obvious improvement is accessibility for the new White House web site, which is 100% HTML/CSS valid (hat tip Vantan), and now features an official blog with RSS feed which you can easily subscribe to:

The White House Blog
Here’s a before and after screenshot of the Whitehouse.gov web site

While it remains to be seen how citizen participation could be ideally solicited, another front would be to allow open access to government data which could in turn be made more useful by talented individuals among us, as seen in the BART poster I saw in San Francisco:

Build your own BART apps
BART.gov Developer Tools

Barrack Obama, from the elections all the way to his presidency, has been the most connected president to date. As a reminder, his promise on the issue of technology includes 1) Protecting the openness of the internet, 2) Deploying a modern communications infrastructure (reducing digital divide), 3) Improve America’s competitiveness (investing in scientific innovations).

Eh Sai! I’m personally enthusiastic at how America turns out from our era of networked democracy, since this would set the stage for other nations (such as Singapore) to follow. Congratulations America, the world is watching and learning! For fellow Americans, ReadWriteWeb has seven tips to help Obama restore America.

UPDATE 1: CNN is soliciting for photographs of the inauguration to piece together a Photosynth called “The Moment“. FYI, Photosynth is a Microsoft technology that creates 3D spaces from anyone’s 2D photos, giving you the near ability to experience slice of time as if you’re actually there.

UPDATE 2: Megan Taylor of MediaShift has written a more comprehensive piece, “Innovation in Inauguration Coverage

UPDATE 3: Lance Miller wrote about the “pluggable government” and notes how citizens learn to wrangle. By wrangle, he mentions Bruce Sterling’s vision: “Wranglers are the class of people willing to hassle with Spimes. And it is a hassle. An enormous hassle. But its a fruitful hassle. It is the work of progress. Handled correctly, it can undo the harm of the past and enhance what is to come.” — When Blobjects Rule the Earth/SIGGRAPH, Los Angeles, August 2004

Video: Alex’s lecture on Search Engine Society

While waiting for my book to arrive, Prof. Alex Halavais has just shared the first of his many upcoming lectures from his book, Search Engine Society (hat tip Jason Nolan).

As he notes, the common misconception of publications relating to search engines, has been their attribution to the marketing of goods and services through search engines (e.g. search engine optimization or SEO).

Instead, Alex explains that Search Engine Society focuses on the media effects and cultural impact relating to online search engines, which I believe is an issue that has largely been ignored. Just as newspapers once dictated how we perceived the tone of each day, the mechanism (and failings) of search engines immensely affects the way we perceive the world around us.

If you wish to watch more, stay tuned to Alex Halavais’ blog. Here’s an earlier video overview of his Search Engine Society syllabus for 2009. Finally, you can go at your own pace by buying the dead trees version.

Changing the way I use twitter…

Lunch with @KeithBurtis & @jhsu

Over lunch at the classy Black & Blue (map), I finally got @KeithBurtis and @jhsu to see why I was disturbed by the way I was using twitter. There was an imbalance, and I sought to fix it.

As we munched on our lunch special Kobe Beef Burgers, I mentioned how I was losing grip on how personal twitter used to be. As twitter grew in popularity, so did the number of friends and followers I made. I believe that since I was an early adopter of twitter, and taught classes where I had students try twitter, I had exceptional traction which propelled my numbers even higher. Folks looking at the decent follow count might think that I’m actually interesting to follow, and by late 2007, I had crossed the holy 1,000 follower count.

1,000 twitter followers later...

As with blogging, having a larger audience came with a conscious responsibility to share more value with my particular twittersphere. Since I produce content over a variety of services, and since I was lazy, I used third-party twitter services like Twitterfeeder to send my flickr, del.icio.us as well as blog posts from here, automatically as tweets. The key idea was to have my twitter stream consistently (and automatically) productive.


The 5 Stages Of Twitter Acceptance by @rohitbhargavaMr. Tweet Blog

Combined with the ever-handy Socialtoo service, I could get an email report of twitter users who followed and unfollowed me on a nightly basis. I did use Socialtoo’s auto-follows and auto-DMs at first, but that was what trigger the sudden realization of how I was losing my twitter identity: I had become a faceless twitter user. While basic users (including bots) use twitter as a dumping ground for links (sometimes lifestreams), highly engaged users made everything personal by being more conversational; an passage from blogging all over again.

I was using twitter like I was on speed, pumping out hard and fast…. the numbers had seduced me:

Twitter Nutrition Facts
14 Updates/Day
42% Conversation
50% Links
1196 Followers
701 Friends
1.7 Ratio
courtesy of Mr. Tweet

Pragmatically, most would say that the conversation is a signature of being human, which in itself is a value which we cannot yet reproduce mechanically simply by constantly tweeting links. The reward of twitter was that our connections felt alive whenever someone @replies (reciprocates).

In a low-resolution environment of 140 characters, I thought I could get by with being human through a simple machine. On the contrary, twitter was about the celebration of being human, and I had a choice whether to partake in it. The humor, spelling typos and mis-directed links, all added to the texture of twittering much like the beautiful flaws of an oil canvas painting.

Granted everyone has the freedom to tweet as they like, though the cost of which comes in the unfollows. While @jhsu noted how twitter works best for quick, short alerts, @KeithBurtis reminded me that there’s a difference between sharing vs blurting (great article!). We were in agreement to how we tend to get sucked into the game of numbers, where the natural inclination was increase followers/friends across social networking services.

At some point, some of us get jaded. That’s where we fall back into the primal way of communication, herein returning to the close knit friends who tend to reciprocate more so than others. An effort had to be made to save my twitter sanity…

So I began pruning.
Reducing noise, stress.
Remembering less is more.

Keith joked that he did the same, and by removing irrelevant followers, it gave him that fresh hair cut feeling. He used Twitter Karma, which lets you see your followers’ last posts in a glance, amongst other stats. Since I needed to unfollow a ton (bad case of auto-follows), I preferred MyCleenr, which lists followers based on how long ago their last tweets were. Those who haven’t tweeted in more than a year, went straight to the delete bin, while the remaining corpus were visually inspected over time.

As silly as this sounds, now I feel reborn.

I’ve even started blogging in person again. The way I previously used twitter drained away all my love for thinking things through. All I had cared about was fitting everything into 140 characters. Life became too fast, thoughts became too bite-sized. I essentially felt dumb and numb, and it had a larger impact on the way I perceived things than I had realized.

In a Buddhist kind of way, to be happy on twitter, meant making others happy too. And to be true and honest, Keith’s advice was to talk to someone without an agenda. For me, the biggest move was to ignore the numbers and just enjoy life. Just like how some of us used to blog, we could either live it up and be ourselves, or be encumbered by the wants of others, letting the number of unfollows pull you down.

Lastly, be sure to read David Pogue’s experiences with twitter… there’s truly an uncanny resemblance!

A little cameo in “Search Engine Society”

Search Engine Society (Dec 2008)

My ex-professor/mentor Alex Halavais recently published a book which looks at how search engines impact our everyday lives. I’ve yet to receive my copy from Amazon, but here’s why I am reminded how exciting this topic is.

Entitled “Search Engine Society” (Dec 2008), Alex takes a much needed exploration of the social and cultural effects search engines have within the larger context of politics, culture and economics. Those of us who have experienced life in the early Internet era, would understand how how information-sensing online went through an incredible yet rapid evolution. From web rings, to online directories (e.g. the original Yahoo!), to complex search engine algorithms, every step of the way shapes the way we perceive information, and thus the perception of our environment.

Presently, the use of search engines becomes so second-nature, we might have forgotten and consequently fail to imagine how else information could possibly be sorted and made findable. As such, the more time we spend using these search engines, the greater the search engine’s influence on how we perceive the nature of our world. The way hyperlinks on search engines are ranked or censored, gamed or misdirected, all affect how we relate concepts to one another.

In his book, Alex Halavais runs the gamut of identity and society as mediated by search engines:

  • How have search engines changed the way we organize our thoughts about the world, and how we work?
  • What are the ‘search engine wars’, what do they portend for the future of search, and who wins or loses?
  • To what extent does political control of search engines, or the political influence of search engines, affect how they are used, misused, and regulated?
  • Does the search engine help shape our identities and interactions with others, and what implications does this have for privacy?

Incidentally, I made a little cameo in Alex’s book…
For your perusal, I’ve been given permission to share an excerpt from Chapter 8 under “Future Finding” (Page 185 on Amazon Search Inside):

Memory prosthetics

In the film Strange Days (1995) people entertain themselves by reliving the recorded experiences of others. By attaching electrodes to their head, everything they see and feel is recorded for later playback. Even without the brain interface this would necessitate, we are moving closer to the point where all ofour experiences are recorded, accumulated as a personal history. Already, our personal histories, as recorded on our home computers, are searchable by Google, and can be made available to the global collection of data. Those collections are growing much richer, drawing on new ways of recording our lives, and organizing that complexity is staggeringly difficult (Gemmell, Bell, & Lueder 2006).

Kevin Lim is one of many who are gradually becoming cyborgs, recording large portions of their lives. He wears a camera most days, recording his interactions with friends and strangers, while a GPS device tracks his progress through the world. Another camera sits on his desk, sending a live feed to the internet and recording his life from another angle. In this, Mr. Lim is different only in degree from the millions of people who keep public diaries of their everyday lives, and post photos and videos of their experiences. Already, this content makes up a sizable part of the web, and as “life logs” and other technologies for recording our existence grow, the data representing our everyday lives will grow with it.

Those recordings recall the Borges story in which a king orders a map at 1:1 scale to cover his entire country. A recording of our life is of very little value if we can only play it back at its original speed. The idea of a perfect memory is probably more attractive than the reality might be. Russian psychologist Aleksandr Luria (2006) describes the life of a man cursed by a perfect memory, and its crippling effects. Without the ability to easily edit memories of his life experiences, he loses the ability to distinguish events and interact with the world. The solution requires that we capture the moments that we wish to remember, and delete those moments that are best forgotten without too much intervention on our part. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes us a while to know which are which. Search engine technology will be called upon to help us find valuable information in this large data stream, filtering out the normal experience of our lives to extract the most salient features.

It is hard to say whether we want to have a recording of the first glance at our future spouse, or the last conversation we have with a friend before her death. Some things may be best left to our own memories, or just beyond them. But if we are to record our lives, we will want to have search engines that manage our memories in the ways that we want, and share them only when we want them to. We are still far from having the majority of our lives recorded, but automatic metadata and analysis of video and audio recordings remain particularly important.

Some folks have written elaborate reviews for Search Engine Society: Joris van Hoboken who writes about search engines and digital civil rights, as well as Shirley Niemans of New Media and Digital Culture at Utrecht University.

If you’re interested, Amazon has the paperback for around US$16.15. And yes, your Amazon purchase grants me some change towards developing my social cyborg project.

Macworld 2009: BoinxTV – elegant live video production for Mac

I’ve beta-tested it, loved it and even bought myself a sponsored edition for just $97 at Macworld Expo 2009. It’s normally $199 from their web site, with the full version being $499.

Why do I like BoinxTV so much?
Bastian, the video guru at Boinx Software, explains some of the key features of BoinxTV for live video production on the Mac.

BoinxTV’s slick interface, hardware flexibility (see how he uses a midi mixer for channel control), and extensibility (create show templates) won it over for me.

Being real-time means you get to stream shows live (e.g. Ustream.tv via GrabberRaster) with multi-camera support, overlays, chroma keys (for green screen) and more. It also means we get to produce video podcasts on the fly, with literally no need for post-editing over than video encoding for targeted media players.

They’ve just released BoinxTV 1.1 and here’s hoping for a strong user community and support.