Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘social web’

10 MARCH, 2011

Lost Roll of Film Finds Its Way Home, Virally

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On lost film, found friendships and the stories we all want to believe could be true.

In January, a man named Todd Bieber made waves with his story of finding a lost roll of film while skiing in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and his quest to find the strangers to whom it belonged. The original video, seemingly engineered for it, went predictably viral:

This week, six weeks after his quest began, Bieber has miraculously found the film owners — lifted by its viral wings, the video apparently made its way to them. In Paris.

Turns out the real photographer was never the two men in the pictures at all. It was their sister — a quiet young student, who was visiting the states, which is the European word for America. Camille’s ex-roommate in New York recognized that several of the shots were taken right outside their apartment, so she sent Camille my video.” ~ Todd Bieber

Admittedly, somewhere between Bieber’s day job as writer and director for the Upright Citizens Brigade, the forced hesitation of his voiceover tone, the all-too-hipster choice of analog film, and the Seinfeld-loving German hostess, we had to wonder whether the whole thing is a hoax. But a big part of us wants to believe it isn’t. And whatever the case, it’s still a beautifully told story of what we all secretly wish to believe: That human kindness makes the world go around, and that we’re all connected in more ways than we could possibly imagine.

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11 FEBRUARY, 2011

Douglas Coupland on Marshall McLuhan’s Prophecy

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We love iconic futurist and media theorist Marshall McLuhan, most famous for popularizing “the medium is the message.” Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!, the newish McLuhan almost-biography by prolific Canadian novelist and design writer Douglas Coupland (of Generation X fame), reveals McLuhan’s genius with unprecedented intimacy and, in the process, engages one of today’s most heated intellectual discussions: How are new media changing the way we think? Half a century before Facebook, Twitter and “information overload,” McLuhan presages the end of print culture and the rise of “electronic inter-dependence” with uncanny accuracy, outlining not only the technological developments of this revolution but the complex shifts in social cognition that it begets.

More than anything, it paints McLuhan as a masterful dot-connector and voracious cross-disciplinary thinker, a curious octopus if you will — the kind of intellectual disposition at the root of our own mission.

One must remember that Marshall arrived at these conclusions not by hanging around, say, NASA or I.B.M., but rather by studying arcane 16th-century Reformation pamphleteers, the writings of James Joyce, and Renaissance perspective drawings. He was a master of pattern recognition, the man who bangs a drum so large that it’s only beaten once every hundred years.” ~ Douglas Coupland

The Medium is The Message

Illustration by Abbott Miller

More than an engrossing read, Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! is an absolute cultural necessity that not only frames the legacy of modern media but projects, with astounding prophetic accuracy, its sociocultural and technological future.

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08 FEBRUARY, 2011

Invisible Cities: A Transmedia Mapping Project

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What social media activity has to do with the literal lay of the land.

In December, the now-infamous map of Facebook friendships revealed an uncanny cartography of the world depicted purely through social relationships data. Now, a project by Christian Marc Schmidt and Liangjie Xia is taking the concept ambitiously further: Invisible Cities is a transmedia mapping project, displaying geocoded activity from social networks like Twitter and Flickr within the context of an actual urban map — a visceral, literal embodiment of something VURB‘s Ben Cerveny has called “the city as a platform,” the idea that cities are informational media and living computational systems for urban society.

By revealing the social networks present within the urban environment, Invisible Cities describes a new kind of city — a city of the mind.”

Individual nodes appear whenever real-time activity takes place and the underlying terrain represents aggregate activity. As data accumulates, the landscape morphs into peaks and valleys that represent highs and lows of data density and information activity — a data topography visualization not dissimilar in concept to Aaron Koblin’s Amsterdam SMS project, and also built with Processing.

The interplay between the aggregate and the real-time recreates the kind of dynamics present within the physical world, where the city is both a vessel for and a product of human activity. It is ultimately a parallel city of intersections, discovery, and memory, and a medium for experiencing the physical environment anew.”

Invisible Cities is available as a free download for Mac OS X and Windows — read the instructions and go play on your own.

via Creators Project

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