Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘software’

31 JANUARY, 2011

Aaron Koblin on the Digital Renaissance

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We’re big fans of creative technology rock star Aaron Koblin, whose Sheep Market, Bicycle Built for 2,000 and Johnny Cash projects we’ve featured previously.

In this excellent interview, the fine folks of Emergence Collective track Aaron down at Sundance, where he’s working on Google’s Life in a Day crowdsourced film project, and ask him some compelling questions about computational aesthetics, the digital renaissance, and the future of creative technology:

  • Are there networked aesthetics which can be visually identified?
  • How will moving images change in the next 20–30 years?
  • What do you think about this word ‘user-generated content’?
  • Do you identify with the current artistic trend to shift away from product towards process?
  • What indicators are there of a digital renaissance?

We’re seeing what happens when you reach a point where computational resources are no longer the most significant factor in thinking, where we don’t have to bend our will to what we’re able to do. We’re really able to stop thinking about [computational resources] and bend them to our needs and our interests. It lends itself to a complete different type of a creative process, where you can really explore and experiment a lot more freely than one could before. [...] Perhaps most significantly, it lets us create our own limitations, and I think those generally can be a lot more meaningful than the ones arbitrarily put on by the media.” ~ Aaron Koblin

You can find Aaron’s work in a couple of our favorite books on the convergence of computational software and creativity, FORM+CODE and Data Flow 2: Visualizing Information in Graphic Design.

HT @edwardharran

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20 JANUARY, 2011

Reality Is Broken: How Games Make Us Better

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Becoming better versions of ourselves, or how the basic paradigms of gaming culture foster social change.

We’re big fans of game designer and researcher Jane McGonigal, whose insights on gaming for productivity we’ve featured before and whom we had the pleasure of seeing speak at TED 2010. Today marks the release of McGonigal’s debut book, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World — a compelling vision for harnessing the basic paradigms of gaming culture to foster social change. Armed with equal parts passion and empirical evidence, McGonigal debunks a number of myths about and prejudices against gamers to reveal a complex and highly motivated subculture of dedication and collaboration — the very qualities most fundamental to laying the foundation for global happiness.

When we’re in game worlds, [we] become the best version of ourselves, the most likely to help at a moment’s notice, the most likely to stick with a problem as long at it takes, to get up after failure and try again.” ~ Jane McGonigal

Through fascinating examples of how alternate-reality games are already improving our lives, scientific insight into the neurochemical processes that take place in our brains during gaming, and psychology-rooted blueprints for employing the reward systems of gaming to motivate real-life behaviors, McGonigal showcases the incredible potential of gamers and gaming culture to change not only how we live our lives on an individual level, but also how we do business and engage in our communities socially and globally.

For a teaser taste of McGonigal’s visionary insight, don’t miss her excellent TED talk:

The average young person today in a country with a strong gamer culture will have spent 10,000 hours playing online games, by the age of 21. For children in the United States 10,080 hours is the exact amount of time you will spend in school from fifth grade to high school graduation if you have perfect attendance.” ~ Jane McGonigal

We anticipate Reality Is Broken will do for gaming culture what Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog did for the counterculture sustainability movement of the sixties, reining in a new kind of collective awareness and mainstream reverence for a practical ideology that will shape the course of culture for decades to come.

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11 JANUARY, 2011

Retrofuturism Revisited: The Past Imagines the Future

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Flying cars! Spinning buildings! Voice AND color! …or what Disney has to do with Eve.

Last year, we looked at the 2020 Project, which invited some of today’s sharpest thinkers to imagine tomorrow. But how will their visions look to future generations? To get a taste for it, we looked to the past: Here are 6 charming visions for the future, from the past — a delightful exercise in retrofuturism that embodies humanity’s chronic blend of boundless imagination, solipsistic foolishness and hopeless optimism.

THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL

In 1936, Japanese magazine Shonen Club published World Transportation Invention Competition — an illustrated series envisioning the future of transportation, based on concepts by inventors from around the world. From high-speed monorail to tank-like battle boats to a car with spherical wheels, the images embody a fascinating blend of technological urgency and artistic imagination.

Mountain monorail -- Kikuzo Ito, 1936

A powerful airplane propeller balances a precarious-looking two-wheel bodice, while a tail fin keeps the train upright and stable.

sphere-wheeled car -- Reiji Iizuka, 1936

Based on a concept by a German inventor, the vehicle's oversized rubbery tires promise a smoother ride than the conventional tires and act as a cushion in the event of an accident.

WALT DISNEY’S TOMORROWLAND

Last month, we featured Walt Disney’s Man In Space — an entire series of retrofuturist visions for space exploration, part of his Tomorrowland program. In the following mashup, digital artist David Phillips remixes footage from the program to capture Disney’s legendary optimism about the future.

CLOTHING OF THE FUTURE

In the 1930s, Pathetone Weekly asked leading fashion designers to imagine women’s clothing in the year 2000. From an electric belt that adapts the body to climatic changes to a wedding dress made of glass to an electric headlight “to help her find an honest man,” the Eve of tomorrow is as delightfully retrofuturistic as they come.

As for [the man], if he matters at all, there won’t be any shaving, colors, ties or pockets. He’ll be fitted with a telephone, a radio, and containers for coins, keys and candy for cuties.”

Just about describes your average Brooklyn hipster.

Thanks, Meredith

HALLUCINATORY ARCHITECTURE OF THE FUTURE

Dark Roasted Blend, one of our favorite portals for eclectic interestingness, has a wonderful roundup of “hallucinatory architecture of the future” — architectural retrofuturist urbanism that leans on the side of the far-fetched.

More here and here.

VISIONS OF THE FUTURE

Vision as well as sound, oh my! When British telecommunication giant BT imagined the future of communication technology — from videoconferencing to high-definition document transmission — they made their most conceptually innovative proposition, the notion of telecommuting, with a kind of facetiousness most ironic in the context of today’s remote-everything workplace.

Given all these facilities, the businessman will scarcely need to go to his office at all. He can do all his work in the comfort of his own home.”

TELEFUTURE

In 1980, a TV segment entitled Telefuture envisions a world of television-based information services. While at its core lies a fascinating and, in retrospect, remarkably accurate exploration of the exponential progression of technology — including transmedia experiences that even modernity can’t get quite right, like Internet TV — the excitement and language used to describe technologies we now find primitive is a disarming source of amusement. We held it together quite admirably, until the vintage-voiced man described basic 8-bit diversions as “incredibly complex games” — at that point, through tears of laughter, we wonder how his vocabulary of superlatives would hold up against the latest Halo 3 or Guitar Hero.

But don’t think of it just as a receiver of programs from networks or local stations — it’s becoming a central display terminal, able to show pictures from a growing number of electronic sources, including traditional broadcast stations, 40 or more channels of cable television, video cassette recorders with timers to record programs to watch at your convenience, video disc machines that don’t record but play back records of films, specials and so on, and games people play, incredibly complex games now programmed into your sets by small cassettes or cards or memory discs.”

For some quality present-day retrofuturism, we highly recommend What’s Next: Dispatches on the Future of Science — a fantastic, and not necessarily fantastical, anthology of 18 essays by leading scientists across evolutionary biology, anthropology, neuroscience and psychology exploring the future of ethics and the human mind.

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