Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ten Questions to Ask about Technology

Here are Ten Questions (ok there are more, because some questions are kind of nested) to ask about a new technology tool that help us think about it in its wider cultural context. I am working off of, as usual, Cultural Studies founder Stuart Hall's idea of the circuit of culture, in which production, consumption, regulation, representation, and identity are all mutually informing. When we combine this with the historical trajectory perspective I am always harping on--which puts any given cultural text (game, device, app, film, dvd menu, etc) in a lineage of antecedents, looks for its peak if it has had it yet, and then speculates wildly on what might come next--we will always have a lot to talk about when we talk about any new aspect of technology, beyond the thumbs up/thumbs down reaction from which we might start and then come back to at the end, perhaps more thoughtfully.

Ten questions to ask about a new technology:

1) What is its purpose?

2) What was its analog, if there was one? How does a mediated, digital, or networked version of the tool or technique change it?

3) Who uses it? How? When? Where? Why? Does the use change over time? Do different users use it differently?

4) How does a user learn how to use it?

5) Who makes it? Who profits? How?

6) How is it regulated?

7) How does it spread?

8) Does it create or fill a need?

9) What is the interface? Is it also an object? Or a practice? Both? (think cell phone)

10) How does the user change the technology as he or she uses it? (mods and hacks and appropriations) How does the technology change the user? How does it become part of a person's sense of self?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

McCloud's 6 Steps

Here are Scott McCloud's 6 Steps. You can see them better in the second image, but I love the metaphor of the apple, especially the shiny, hollow one that is all surface! Let's come up with some examples of that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Touchable Holography

I did my project on touchable holography. This is definitely the future of entertainment, not to mention the future of hospitality, gaming, and cleanliness. The technology uses a WiiMote placed above a display rack to track the users hand motion. An airborne ultrasound tactile display is used to create the sensation of touch.

Result: Holographic image that creates tactile feedback, without degrading the image.

This technology is still in its early stages. It was founded and is being developed at the University of Tokyo. This being very new technology, we are only able to manipulate very small holographic projections.

The future of this technology is limitless. This includes uses in video games, 3D CAD (models), hospitals (touch contamination), books, and even adult entertainment.

Holograms could replace the need for making new interfaces for technology, since they could be changed without having to make a new physical product.


Eric Jackowitz

Gestural Computer Interface

Soon enough, we may be searching through data on our computer in the same way Tom Cruise searches through memories/video for evidence of a crime about to be committed in Minority Report. Since the film's 2002 release, many companies have tried to develop similar gestural computer interfaces in the real world. In fact, the science and technology adviser for the film, John Underkoffler, was given a significant amount of money to research the subject for the film, and recently debuted a prototype at TED talks this year. However, such interfaces require an entire room for setup, not to mention expensive screens, gloves and other accessories, rendering them impractical at the moment. Touch screen technology on iPhones and other devices allow for similar zoom and scroll capabilities, but they can be cumbersome and the technology has only been applied to simple apps.

But the future may be closer than we think. This year, at Music Hack Day Boston, a team of hackers created a gestural interface over the course of a weekend that can manipulate MIDI data. The program is called Toscanini, named after an Italian conductor famous for his wild and exuberant gestures. It only requires simple software that can be downloaded for free, and a Texas Instruments watch that sends signals to a receiver that attaches to your computer via USB. This second device only costs $50. While the program is in its alpha stage and has plenty of flaws, it is designed to improved upon and customized by other users. The intended users, in fact, are musicians, dancers, and other artists who will be able to have more intimate and personal control over their work on their computers through movement.

The potential for gestural computer interfaces cannot be overstated. In the next year, a dance troupe wearing the TI watch and Toscanini could create a visual program on the computer that could project a visual display behind them while they dance, responding to their actual movements. Musicians are no longer limited to clicking and dragging, no longer inhibited by the mouse as they work with Logic, ProTools and a myriad of other programs. Later on, it seems that Toscanini and more complex programs like Underkoffler's will meet somewhere in the middle, improving their ability to deal with complex programs while meeting practical needs and budgets in the real world. When that happens, users will be able to organize, render, and view data in the way that is easiest for them, i.e. scanning through photos, videos and music from the visual perspective that they choose -- and there will be an infinite number of ways to choose from. It will make computer use more action, like the Wii has done for video games, and will allow more than one person to work on the same computer at the same time, once they are no longer confined by the mouse. And the gestural computer interface is far from reaching its peak, as it is not widely available. But it is likely the future of human-computer interaction -- if you ask John Underkoffler, all computers will use such interfaces within 5 years.

Minority Report clip:

John Underkoffler @ TED talks:

The Toscanini website:

What Is Watson?

I chose IBM's "BLUE GENE" supercomputer WATSON for my new media example.

WATSON is the world's most advanced "question answering" machine that is due to appear on a special series of Jeopardy! in which it will compete in a computer vs. human contest against the best Jeopardy! players in the world.

Developed by David Ferrucci, IBM's Senior Manager for Semantic Analysis & Integration, WATSON is a three year long project - a computer that has the ability to distinguish exact intended meaning of a question using complex algorithms and search engines to come up with an accurate answer. It's greatest challenge is deciphering meanings of questions that have cultural references or puns. A great example of this was a question actually posed to Watson:

"The name of this hat is elementary, my dear contestant."

Humans readily detect the wordplay here — “elementary, my dear Watson,” is the famous phrase associated with Sherlock Holmes and most would be able to peice together the question to answer what kind of hat the famous detective wore. But for a computer, there's no easy way to identify “elementary, my dear contestant” as wordplay. Matching phrases or different fragments of the sentence, which partly how most modern engines like Google operate these days, isn’t enough. WATSON successfully fills in these gaps in technology and processes human language a step further to produce a correct answer to most any question.

The implications of Watsons capabilities on the future of Artificial Intelligence are limitless. When you consider the idea that what David Ferrucci really developed was a machine capable of thinking for itself, one can assume that if this technology developed further, we might start to see computers that are made with equal intelligence and ability as a human being. A computer could be capable of anything. For hundreds of years great thinkers and writers have speculated on a future world able to be controlled by machines - WATSON is simply a real reminder that for better or worse, this is certainly a possibility!

For more info, you can read the NYTimes article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/magazine/20Computer-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

New media Presentation

Hi All,
My medium of my choice: Video Blogging

- How is it done?: Well, simply you can take any digital visual recording device such as your phone, laptop camera, create a video of something you wish to show, upload it on to various websites that post in publicly, or privately. Allowing for the possibility for millions to see and to comment and re-act to your video.

- Interface: Internet streaming via phone, computer, mp3 etc

- It began in early year 2000 blogging was used for informative reasons, youtube was then founded in February 2005 it allowed bloggers to post and administrate their own videos.

- It's still peaking

- An example: A make-up artist applied for a job as a make up consultant in a beauty boutique store like saks fifth ave or sephora and got rejected, she the decided to do her own make-up tutorials on youtube and after an ever increasing fan base she now does video tutorials for Lancome.

- Video blogging will continue to grow, and increasingly become the new way of informing the general public of all sorts of things such as products, news, procedures etc. Just as simple as posting a link you can send a piece of information to millions within minutes.

Radio Stations and television stations are now using video blogging as a way to help interact more with listeners and viewers

Yahoo! Answers

I decided to talk about Yahoo! Answers for my new media presentation. In 2005, a question and answer page was opened by Yahoo!. http://www.answers.yahoo.com. Users of Yahoo! Answers are able to post their own questions about any subject they want, as well as answer other users' questions. Answering other peoples' questions gets you "points", and your Yahoo! Answers account must have at least 5 points before you can post your own questions. A poster of a question may also review all of the submitted responses to his or her question, and decide which answers is the most helpful, and mark is as "Best Answer". By doing that, when someone else stumbles upon that same question, the chosen "Best Answer" is the answer which is displayed first. Often, you don't even need to post your own question to find out what you need to, because you can just find a page where someone has already asked that same question. Type any question into Google, and the first few search results are guaranteed to include some Yahoo! Answers pages. Users are also able to create avatars for their account. I wouldn't be surprised if at some point in the future, Yahoo! Answers develops the capability to post questions and answers as sound or video as well as text.

Pat Metheny and LEMUR (League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots), recently teamed up to create a robotic orchestra that can be controlled by a single composer. They call it "Orchestrion", and it consists of 40 instruments that can all be controlled remotely from Pat Metheny's guitar. LEMUR used electronically induced coils called solenoids, which can be manipulated easily, to control the machine. Each solenoid corresponds to a MIDI key on ones instrument and there is almost no lag between the time you play your instrument and the time Orchestrion plays. Since Orchestrion uses MIDI it can be used with any of the popular MIDI software such as, abelton live or logic.
Orchestrion, is also a way for Pat Metheny and other composers to experiment with other instruments and see how the work. These robots are also capable of doing certain things that humans are not so it allows Pat Metheny an opportunity to use these instruments differently than ever before.

iPhones (more specifically, apps)

I'm doing my new media presentation on the soaring popularity of iPhones, and "Smart phones" in general. Over the past few years, every viable phone company has released phones with internet capability, and the possibilities have only expanded from there. With the presence of Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and other social networking sites, phone technology has incorporated these with "apps". Apple's iPhone popularized them, but now almost every phone, like the Motorola Droid and the HTC Incredible, has thousands of apps for users to choose from. The aspect I'm touching on in this blog entry is the accessibility of the apps, and how the technology has developed from being an Apple elitist type of club to being open to everyone. Anyone with the programming skills can develop an app and submit it for review. Many of the most popular iPhone apps were developed by people outside of Apple. I think the more popular apps become, the more people will want to get involved and create their own. I theorize that there will be classes integrated into nearly every college (and possibly high school), teaching students how to do basic programming for such applications. The iPhone has made technology like this accessible to so many people, and more importantly, with the user-friendly Apple interface, a once daunting technology now seems fun and simplistic. I think the sky is the limit when it comes to app development, although I guess only time will tell!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Social Networking

Social networks have been around for a while now. For me the social networking sites that have directly or indirectly affected me have been AIM, purevolume, myspace, livejournal, photobucket, youtube, skype, twitter, proartsconnect, and facebook. Facebook is my focus for this presentation. Facebook has many diverse techniques to the medium, this is partially why it is so popular. On facebook the options that you have are combination of AIM's live chatting with people on the other end, twitters ability to post small "status'" for other people to read or comment on, purevolume or myspaces ability to post your music for others to hear, youtubes ability to post videos of yourself, photobuckets ability to post pictures of yourself, and proartsconnect's ability to network with other artists or people in your field. These are all of the factors that facebook uses in order to maintain a successful social network.

Interface's for social networks are all pretty diverse. Photobucket uses pictures to interact both people on each end, AIM uses live messaging through typing on your keyboard, and Livejournal uses non-live messaging through typing on your keyboard. Facebook's interface is a mesh of all these things and more. Primarily facebook seems to be used for live messaging, non-live messages, and picture sharing.

Facebook was created by a few harvard students. It started by only allowing harvard students to use it, then it expanded to select colleges in Boston, then it added high school students, and finally facebook is used by people all around the world that are of the age 13 and up. However, a more specific development of the medium has been facebooks live chat feature. When i personally started to use facebook, the live chat barely worked. Everything else on my computer would slow down, and when i would type, the letters appearing on the screen would lag. Now, the live chat works just as well as AIM.

I would have to say the peak of facebook has been in the past couple of years. For me personally, one of the best facebook features has been the live chat. It tops off all of the other features by offering the OPTION to have live social interactions. However, one of the most used features of facebook is the status comments. Part of the fun in facebook is reading other peoples status updates (or post your own_ about their opinions, thoughts, and factual statements and then commenting on them. So i would have to say the peak would be somewhere in between the live chat feature and the status posts and comments.

With today's technology the future of facebook is almost limitless as far as online social networks go. One feature that I hope facebook eventually offers could be live video chat. Facebook shares features of most other social networking sites, but doesnt not share the same feature of skype, which is live video chat. so we'll have to wait and see if that happens.

Future Vision

My Media Presentation is going to be about the change of how we watch television and what companies are trying to do to continue selling them. For me I'm still trying to get used to this digital and flat screen stuff. I'm still used to an antenna and constantly adjusting it so I can get a clear picture. It would seem these days, that the computer has taken so much control of everything that eventually much of everything we do if not so already will be done on a computer of some kind. The posts I've put up are just some of the things I found of possible future television ideas.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010


For my New Media Presentation, I have chosen to research Peapod, an online delivery service based in Skokie, Illinois. It basically works like a virtual grocery store. You can browse aisles, check out what's on sale, and even see how much you've saved as it calculates your total while you shop. Once you've added enough items to your cart to exceed the limit of $60, you can arrange a time for your order to be delivered. Your groceries are then packed by a personal shopper, if you live in the New England area it is packed at a Stop and Shop. If you live in the DC area, it is packed at a Giant. The groceries can arrive at your home as quickly as within 2 days. Peapod is especially helpful for elderly people who can't go grocery shopping on their own. As far as Peapod's future, it has already gained great success, making the Inc. 500 list of fast-growing privately held U.S. companies, but I personally feel it could gain more success if it lowered its limit of $60 for each customer. Some people don't need that many groceries, yet are incapable of buying them on their own; therefore, Peapod could gain much more business if the limit was even lower. As far as Peapod taking over the entire existence of grocery stores: it will never happen. There will always be a need for grocery stores because we often run into moments in life where we need something "right now" and cannot wait 2 days for it to be delivered. However, I do feel Peapod could take over as the primary method of grocery shopping if more people are informed about its benefits.