kottke.org posts about technology
In the New Yorker, Matthew J.X. Malady writes about finding his deceased mother standing outside her house on Google Street View and, more generally, when technology clumsily reminds us of loved ones who are no longer with us.
When I reached my mother's house, that all changed. First, I noticed that a gigantic American flag had been affixed to the mailbox post at the corner of the driveway. That was new. Then I spotted the fire pit in the front yard that my mom and her husband, my stepfather, used for block parties, and the grill on the patio, and my mom's car. And then there she was, out front, walking on the path that leads from the driveway to the home's front door. My mom.
At first I was convinced that it couldn't be her, that I was just seeing things. When's the last time you've spotted someone you know on Google Maps? I never had. And my mother, besides, is no longer alive. It couldn't be her.
Facebook in particular has been dinged for inadvertent algorithmic cruelty, but they have recently been making strides in a better direction. (via @tcarmody)
Karrie Karahalios created a program that interprets conversations and generates real-time visual feedback. A social mirror of sorts.
The "clock" shows the progress of the talk. Three times a second, a color bar pops up showing who was speaking. The louder the speech, the longer the bar. Interruptions are shown as overlapping color bars. Every minute, a new circle of bars is rendered in a visual record akin to the rings of tree trunk.
Referred to as a "conversation clock," it's already been tested with kids with low-functioning autism, teaching them to vocalize. One speech specialist thinks it can help kids with Asperger's, who tend to dominate conversations, learn not to "monologue" so much.
Marriage counselors are also using it to teach your husband how to shut up for five minutes.
I'm a classy roustabout, but I'm not sure I'd want to accessorize my computer with the pink-accented Swarovski Crystal mouse.
By manipulating the design of an item used everyday into a sensual, feminine form, we have created a personal gesture for the urban lifestyle of the working woman.
Kind of the opposite of the more organic, but equally impractical Mouse Mouse.
via design bloom
Sure, it looks like Astro Boy with heartburn, but Kenji Yanobe's Giant Torayan is not the kind of toy you leave with just any kid.
This GIANT TORATAN doll is the ultimate child's weapon, as it sings, dances, breathes fire, and follows only those orders given by children.
Masterminded at Nagoya Institute of Technology, its Command Device uses voice-recognition technology to differentiate between instructions given by adults versus those given by younger evil geniuses.
Half-dragon, half-Mary Poppins, all awesome.
"Vocoders are an instantly recognizable synthesizer sound, having been used in popular music since the 1960s. They allow you to 'talk like a robot', which while fun, is often not musically useful."
This from "Introduction to Vocoders," proves the point that the vocoder does not, in fact, turn a song into music. The voice analyzer/synthesizer system that was originally developed in the 1930s to facilitate early telephony has now become a seemingly inescapable accessory to popular music.
Rapper Ice Cube also awkwardly reflected on the negative effects of vocoders on rap:
"Records sales really not concerned to me as much as doing it my way. And doing the kind of records I want to do. Without some A&R dude trying to tell me to go find T-Pain and get you a voice box. Ya know, all this stupid stuff that they do that mess up a lot of records, mess up a lot of artists."
This clip of T-Pain v. His Vocoder is the audio equipment equivalent of Stephen King's Christine, and it certainly backs up Mr. Cube's claim.
Update: Turns out that the actual device Mr. Pain uses to alter his voice box is referred to as an Auto-Tune, and it's the weapon of choice for Cher, Kanye, and T-Pain, who seems just as oblivious as this author was. The two machines are entirely different.
Thx jason freeman
In response to a push for more tech literacy, British primary schools have proposed a new set of academic standards, including plans to study Twitter.
It seems to be going over fairly well with those at the head of the class. According to John Bangs, of the National Union of Teachers:
"Computer skills and keyboard skills seem to be as important as handwriting in this. Traditional books and written texts are downplayed in response to web-based learning."
Let's hope that history lectures don't devolve into presentations on now-defunct MySpace pages and AOL screen-names.
Speaking of memes, Susan Blackmore theorizes that humans are just machines for propagating them.
Memes are using human brains as their copying machinery. So we need to understand the way human beings work.
Up until very recently in the world of memes, humans did all the varying and selecting. We had machines that copied -- photocopiers, printing presses -- but only very recently do we have artificial machines that also produce the variations, for example (software that) mixes up ideas and produces an essay or neural networks that produce new music and do the selecting. There are machines that will choose which music you listen to. It's all shifting that way because evolution by natural selection is inevitable. There's a shift to the machines doing all of that.
When asked what the future will look like, she says, "it will look like humans are just a minor thing on this planet with masses (of) silicon-based machinery using us to drag stuff out of the ground to build more machines."