Diigo Bookmarks 07/20/2008 (p.m.)

July 20, 2008 at 5:30 am | In authenticity, links, virtually | Comments Off on Diigo Bookmarks 07/20/2008 (p.m.)
  • Simon Jenkins ponders the seeming paradox that while music cd/ record sales plummet and prices for individual recordings drop as well, live concerts sell out at premium prices. He ponders other, related phenomena, too — readings by writers, lectures, live performances of any kind: all seem to get more attention (and MONEY) than the products themselves.

    He concludes and argues that people are willing to pay for what they want, and that what they want is the real, authentic thing (i.e., the person / author), not another technologically mediated simulacrum.

    Two things: one, if he’s right, this has dire (**) consequences for visual art, unless the visual arts want to devolved strictly into performance art; and two, for those of us who are terrified of public speaking/ public performances, this isn’t comforting news. Some of us like the internet because it preserves our sanguinity (if that’s a word).

    (**) PS: “dire” isn’t the right word. What I meant is that painters and sculptors and crafters, too, are obliged to get out of the way of their product, and the product itself has to speak. So that begs the question, how does it “compete” in a framework that puts a bigger value on immediacy and contact as a verifier of authentic experience? Will contact with the work itself be enough? But if it is, that means that people have to travel to the work (unless the work is in a traveling exhibition), which means you have to move huge numbers of people to allow contact with the work (as opposed to moving only a single person or small group of people to create a “reading,” “concert,” or “festival” situation). For visual art, you’ll have to physically move the masses (unless it’s artwork in a traveling exhibition), but for music, authors, etc., you just move small groups or single individuals.

  • tags: socialcomputing, socialtheory, reality, face_time, business, art_reception, arts

Reading Fred Wilson on the hyperlocal

April 19, 2008 at 11:57 pm | In innovation, local_not_global, ubiquity, urbanism, victoria, virtually, web | Comments Off on Reading Fred Wilson on the hyperlocal

I started reading Fred Wilson back in January when one of outside.in’s blog posts referenced Wilson’s entry, Rethinking The Local Paper. Wilson is a NYC-based venture capitalist/ investor who funds start-ups related to new media, social networking, online technologies, …that sort of thing. He’s also quite brilliant, blogs (A VC – Musings of a VC in NYC) regularly, and has all the relevant “social media” accounts (and uses them to learn things).

In his January post on Rethinking The Local Paper, he wrote about his passion for the hyperlocal, which immediately hooked me. My interests in urbanism, architecture, mobile media, locative media, social media — all that stuff — collide at the local level. I love how these things are creating whole ecosystems, webs of interrelated dependencies: economies. In that entry he wrote:

In fact, the first thing we all need to understand about “hyperlocal” is that this is going to be a long slog. It’s simple enough to put up a search field and ask for a neighborhood name or zip code and return a result. outside.in has been doing that for over a year now. (…) …the results are not that compelling. YET.

The thing that has to happen and will happen, I just don’t know when, is that we are going to program our community newspapers ourselves. (…)

But there just aren’t that many people producing hyperlocal content in a form that is organizable into a new version of a community newspaper. Sure there are many people posting photos and more and more of them will get a geotag as we get gps cameras and better web/camera integration. (…) [but:] Where is the relevance?

The people who need to produce the content are the ones who care about the content (the local events), but how do you make that production compelling to them? As Wilson wrote, “there isn’t enough of an incentive to produce hyperlocal content.”

What could help push an incentive along is …well, money. He gets into some detail in the rest of that entry (so click through to read). It could happen, basically, if the local producer could make some revenue from producing (tall order), but the way he describes it, it’s not impossible. His bet is on the local papers, provided they embrace the idea that they can be platforms for local content:

…this is a collaborative effort. We need everyone and everything we can throw at this problem to make this happen. We need every newspaper in the country to embrace platforms like outside.in and everyblock and showcase their content on the newspaper’s pages. We need to find these local voices and amplify them. And we need to attract more of them. And we need to monetize them for their efforts.

I’m not holding my breath on the local papers here, and would like to pursue some other ideas myself. But that’s all cool, because as Wilson says, it’s going to be a multi-pronged and collaborative effort and “we need everyone and everything we can throw at this problem to make this happen.”

The other day he posted another fascinating idea I’d like to see explored here in a hyperlocal way.  This one involves Twitter. Like about a bazillion other people, I have a Twitter account (I actually opened it just a couple of days before “discovering” Fred Wilson back in January) — but then I let it sit there, “following” no one and being “followed” by none and tweeting nary a note. Frankly, having a Twitter account felt like having some weird virtual Tamagotchi pest, er, I mean pet, that required my ministrations. And I was unwilling to give them. Twittering seemed like a really stupid idea, so I let the account sit idle.

However, after DemoCamp Victoria01, I saw that “tweets” could be interesting from a local perspective, in terms of strengthening connections (and conversations) with other people here. So I tentatively began “following” some Victoria-based folks, which soon expanded to some regional friends, and then naturally had to include a few far-flung geniuses I can’t resist.

But note: for now I’m still keeping my “following” list really really tiny — trying to resist the lure of reading an endless stream of conversation between and with people I feel I have something in common with.  Naturally [sic!], this pristine state won’t last. Promiscuity, linky love, and webbiness is all part and parcel of development online, including of course the development of co-developments, characterized by connections, and things differentiating out from previous …well, differentiations.

Which brings me back to Fred Wilson, who twitters here. (And no, I’m not following him yet, but who am I kidding? The seduction has already started anyway: He’s in my feed reader, so I may as well follow his tweets.) The other day he wrote an entry about Meetups:

I’ve gotten a bit tired of going to events populated by all the usual suspects. I am meeting lots of new people through this blog, tumblr, twitter, etc but I have not been able to say the same thing about the real world events I’ve been attending.

So I’ve decided to do something about that.

One of the things he did (and you’ll just have to click through to read about the other thing, because my blog entry is already too long) is to open a Twitter account for a place, which anyone can “follow” and to which anyone can tweet to say, “hey, I’m going there right now, meet up with me if you’re available.” The place in question is the Shake Shack, and it already has over 100 followers, all of whom will see updates to ShakeShack’s tweets in their Twitter accounts. So, if I were in NYC tomorrow, I could “follow” ShakeShack, send it an @ message that I’m going there for lunch, and then see if any of the other 100+ ShakeShack followers show up — maybe Fred Wilson himself would come!

Of course my question is, what could be the Shake Shack for Victoria? If we ever, ever see nice weather again, I suppose we could create a Twitter account for Red Fish Blue Fish? (Flash mob on the dock!)  Or Sticky Wicket? Or Cook Street Village? (One could easily detail in the @ message which of the 6 coffee shops you’re going to.)

In actual fact, it’s possible to create many places — not even necessarily attached to a specific venue. One could create a “Fort+Douglas” Twitter account, and then specify any favourite watering hole or coffee shop within a 2-3 block radius of that intersection. Or create “CookStreetVillage”; “Old Town”; “Harbour”; “VicWest” (that’d be a good one, with Abebooks and other tech-related companies clustering in the new developments there).

In other words, it’s quite easy to use “frivolous” platforms (which aren’t frivolous at all, really) to knit together actual places and actual people. For my money, that’s a fascinating and valuable thing.

On a related note, read The new oases; Nomadism changes buildings, cities and traffic, in the April 10, 2008 online edition of The Economist.

Mobile City must-reads on locative media and location-based services

April 6, 2008 at 11:38 am | In cities, ubiquity, virtually, web | Comments Off on Mobile City must-reads on locative media and location-based services

The Mobile City blog is on a roll with four fascinating posts on locative media. The first three (from March 29) are by Michiel de Lange, while the fourth (from April 4) is by Tijmen Schep.

In Mobile phone access for Cubans: the “mobile” as rhetorical force de Lange points to a key theme that’s hyped around mobile technology: its alleged ability to deliver freedom. As de Lange writes, even a cursory glance at the news stories reporting on Raul Castro’s lifting of a ban against owning cell phones shows that “a paradigm – with enough people ‘in’ it – inevitably means basic concepts (like ‘mobile’) are accepted as validation and legitimization in themselves for working on them.” The critical distance between what’s getting developed and those who are developing it shrinks, in other words.

Here in Canada we’re soon going to be behind Cuba when it comes to being able to leverage mobile phone technology, as our service providers lock users into silos, corrals, and limitations. So I’m looking at this from both sides: yes, I can cast a critical glance on the rhetoric (I didn’t study the Frankfurt School for nothing), but simultaneously, oh yes, I can get behind the rhetoric, too, as I contemplate outside freedoms from within the walled Canadian garden of telcom service providers.

The next item by de Lange, Hackers attack epilectics forum: crossing digital borders (first reported in Wired Magazine here), is downright creepy, fit for a William Gibson novel perhaps. And yet it’s not science fiction, it’s the real and actual bleeding through of the virtual into the physical:

A cruel yet fascinating example of the blurring between online space and the physical, and how the ‘virtual’ is creeping (or in this case seizing) into the world we formerly knew as ‘real world’. Of course, examples abound of people carrying their online avatars with them outside the (MMORPG) game, or people making hard cash out of virtual real estate, etc. Yet what makes this case special I think is the intention of the attackers to target this specific group in this way, in order to inflict bodily harm on actual persons through digitally mediated ways. No doubt they must have imagined epileptic patients getting fits and seizures behind their computers when crafting their attack. It’ precisely this intentional aspect of breaking out of screen space, stepping outside of the bounded online world with its own rules that thrives on willingly forgetting that there are actual people in flesh and blood sitting behind their screen (in their underwear picking their nose), that makes this a special case.

It is just a matter of time before hackers launch similar attacks on the digital infrastructures of the city, be it the RFID transport system, CCTV surveillance, the various wireless data networks, or any combination. The first attempts are already there. The physical seizure this may cause to the city is hard to imagine now.


I think from here I’ll jump to Tijmen Schep’s post, The cell-phone, which includes a fantastic juxtaposition of a diagram showing a plant cell in cross-section next to a photo of a Star Trek hand-held “communicator,” flipped open and looking for all the world like a cell phone.

Why the connection between Star Trek “fantasy” and plant biology …and cell phones, you ask? Schep’s entry starts with a pointer to How William Shatner changed the world, which is a two-hour documentary that “explains how the concepts created for Star Trek laid the basis for a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy. …during one segment Motorola’s Martin Cooper, proclaimed inventor or the cellphone, claims he got the idea for the phone from those cool communicators captain Kirk and his crew always carried around.” At the same time, as Schep notes by pointing to a March 26 Reuters article (Mobile phone inventor dreams of human embeds), “When Martin Cooper invented the cell phone 35 years ago, he envisioned a world with people so wedded to wireless connections that they would walk around with devices embedded in their bodies.” Hence the clever reference to the plant cell… Talk about bleeding the real and the virtual together into the information body.

And so finally let’s go back another entry by de Lange from March 29, KPN & Hyves cooperate: proximity-based social networking, which is about the Netherlands’ largest telcom, KPN, striking a deal with Holland’s most popular social network Hyves. The idea? To add locational information to text messages sent by Hyves users to one another.

Sounds like a logical idea based on the fact that so many cell phone users almost reflexively tell or answer questions related to where they are. De Lange writes:

KPN customers can switch the service on by first registering for this service on Hyves. Whenever they send a text message containing information about what they are currently doing to a specific number, they will be positioned on a Google Maps application within Hyves, which may be seen by other Hyves users.

This is just another step in the field of LBS (location based services) that telcoms are seemingly desperately trying to develop. LBS had been a buzzword for some time now, but the real “killer-app” hasn’t come up yet. I’m curious to see how this will develop, since these are very strong partners indeed.

But he throws in a couple of caveats worth considering. Questions like “where are you?” and “what are you doing?” are, as he writes, “often just a sign of reciprocal involvement with the life of the other person, a type of mobile gift exchanges.” And by providing a technology that makes the gift redundant, you could end up a party pooper…

Local, global: technology connecting at street level

November 10, 2007 at 12:44 am | In local_not_global, virtually | Comments Off on Local, global: technology connecting at street level

Fascinating entry by Digital Urban: Connected to the World but not to the City – The Local Cloud

At the heart of the argument is the desire for information, to be part of a wired society and to feel connected to the city not only on social and retail level but also architecturally. We want to be able to walk past listed buildings and to tap into local information existing at that location. It comes down to not connecting to the globe or even connecting to information via RFID tags or Bluetooth but local clouds of information.

Local Clouds would provide local services accessible within a small radius around specific points, with tailor made information this would finally allow us to connect to the city at a street level….

This is what I want technology to be able to do for me. It should endow the local, which is felt and experienced and lived immediately, with data that has the same properties.

That’s why I’m fascinated by sites like outside.in — or YourStreet (which I just learned about via MIT’s Technology Review article, Mapping News). I managed to sign up with outside.in and even managed to get a few local sites mapped — even though I’m in Canada, and therefore excluded from the above services, which currently are US-only.

Social networking, version 2.0?

July 31, 2007 at 10:58 pm | In guerilla_politics, links, resources, social_networking, virtually | 2 Comments

Something to explore in greater depth over the coming days: via Cool Hunting, a post by Tim Yu about Social Networking for a Cause. Yu writes:

From corporate-sponsored “Cool Apps” to niche spin-offs like Bakespace, Virb and I’m In Like With You, online communities are still largely about socializing and/or wasting time. Their potential as powerful tools for the greater good—beyond finding out where the party’s at—has been largely untapped, but we managed to find a few. The following are some of the latest and best sites where social networking meets social change.

Yikes, I’ve never even heard of Bakespace, Virb, or I’m In Like With You. After these references to “communities” that are “still largely about socializing and/or wasting time” (um, that sounds familiar…), Yu goes on to list additional sites I’ve also never heard of, but which have a “networking for a cause” spin:

  • Friction TV, described as “a YouTube for social activists, it features largely uncensored content aiming to exercise freedom of speech and catalyze online debate in a social forum”…
  • Nabuur, which “connect(s) experts to people seeking advice from all over the world. From construction workers to math teachers and MBAs, online volunteers from different continents help individuals develop business ideas and finish projects. Projects like building schools and health clinics get a boost from direct assistance via the internet.”
  • HumaniNet: helps solve humanitarian & social problems by sharing GIS “to better map rural locations in need of relief. By sharing GIS developments online, experts and users can implement the latest technologies, which makes getting around uncharted territories to reach people in need a whole lot easier.”
  • Get Miro, an “open-source software for online video. Like Firefox, Miro is developed by a nonprofit organization and driven by the social mission to make it easy for anyone to subscribe and view free internet video on any topic.”
  • H.E.L.P., stands for “Humanitarian Emergency Logistics & Preparedness”; this is “a telemedicine-based online community of physicians and financial donors bringing advanced medical assistance to disaster zones and areas of humanitarian need around the world.”
  • Kiva, which builds on “Muhammad Yunus’ Nobel prize-winning efforts at pioneering a new category of banking known as micro-loans”; Kiva “connects the world’s poorer populations looking to develop unique business ideas to people with disposable incomes while providing a transparent lending platform. Donate as little as $25 dollars to help start a business or simply buy a goat and get repaid.”
  • MAPLight: “highlight(s) the connection between money and politics as a way to promote reform”; by linking campaign contributions and votes, it creates transparency “so that journalists and citizens can hold legislators accountable, customized widgets further enhance functions and research on any issue.”
  • and of course Freecycle (the last one — and only one I had actually heard of before): a “cyber curbside” where you can recycle your stuff and create an online gift economy.

Lots to explore here… My cynical/overly-critical side wonders whether the flip side of obsessive narcissism (exemplified by the old style “social networking” sites) might be the guilt trip (“Do good! Now!”).

Of course, at the end of the day does it matter, if something good did indeed come out of it all?

“Where are you?”

July 29, 2007 at 10:32 pm | In just_so, scenes_victoria, victoria, virtually | 2 Comments

I just came across an article by Kate Greene in the MIT Technology Review, Marking Your Territory, about web-based services that let you keep your friends up-to-date on where you currently are. In particular, the article describes Plazes, a Swiss start-up, which Greene says “lets you leave electronic bread crumbs for friends.” It sounds interesting.

As it happens, I went to the Inner Harbour today to see a display of over 750 Deuce Coupes, part of Northwest Deuce Day, and noticed that many people were on cell phones telling other people where they were.

At one point, I passed one woman walking south on Government Street in front of the Empress, telling someone that she was half-way past the lawn and nearly at the Royal BC Museum, while another woman passed by heading north, telling whoever was on the line that she was heading toward the Information Booth. Both women were literally less than a foot apart, and both were saying essentially the same thing to people they were speaking to on the phone.

Greene quotes a researcher at Yahoo:

“There is a sense that it’s important to find friends and share location with each other,” says Mor Naaman, a research scientist at Yahoo. Indeed, an increasingly common opening question in cell-phone conversations is “Where are you?”

“Where are you?”

“I’m here.”

…You’re sure about that, are you?

I tried this idea out on my offspring, as the women walked past us. I said, “It’s funny, it’s as though the technology is putting us back into place or something.” They looked at me funny. “?” “Well,” I stumbled, “it’s as though all this digital stuff allowed us to have ultra-mobility, but now it’s also tethering us again, sort of like a Post-It or something, sticking us into place. You’re on your phone telling people where you are. You’re stuck.”

They thought this was excessively cerebral and told me so. We continued to look at cars, marvelling at their faces. You could take off in a car like that, and not tell anyone where you are or where you’re going…

PS/Update: It occurs to me that an affair with urban policy‘s recent entry on Bruce Katz’s Washington Post editorial, A Much More Urban America, is apropos here (the link here goes directly to the Brookings Institute source). The blog quotes from Katz’s text:

Thirty years ago, some futurists predicted that the restructuring of the American economy and our technological advances would free and un-anchor us from place, precipitating a mass de-urbanization throughout the nation.

Well, they were wrong. Far from being dead, cities are experiencing a second life, fueled, in part, by their distinctive physical assets: mixed-use downtowns, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, adjoining rivers and lakes, historic buildings and distinctive architecture.

And one person comments on the blog, thus:

“technological advances would free and un-anchor us from place”

Sounds great! I want to be un-anchored from my suburban office job such that I can live in Minneapolis and telecommute.

That speaks to the topic I started with, somehow. Technology is — and isn’t — “un-anchoring” us from place. In a way, it’s placing us very tightly, if somehow differently.

Well, I’m placing myself in sleep mode (I hope). Recently, I had my eyes checked and as the ophthamologist used some sort of gadget to look into my eyeballs, he remarked, “You haven’t been getting much sleep, have you?” Some places are more bloodshot than they should be, I guess!

Letting others colonize the imaginary you is not a good idea…

July 29, 2007 at 11:01 am | In authenticity, business, canada, cities, media, public_relations, virtually | 2 Comments

This is pretty hilarious, but somehow pathetic, too… Those of you who’ve been to Epcot Center in Florida know the set-up: tourists visit “national” pavilions where they are bombarded by various cliches or story-book ideas about the country. Some pavilions are more high-brow than others, stocked with political information, and others are …less “serious,” if that’s the right word. If I recall correctly, some (all?) have restaurants attached that serve up the “typical” cuisine of that country (Norway: smoked fish, for example).

Now, read this (emphases added) and tell me what you think “O Canada,” the film shown in the Canadian pavilion, is telling the hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the globe who trot through there every year. I can’t believe this wasn’t retired years ago…

Outdated Canadian film due for Epcot makeover

Tony Atherton
CanWest News Service

Sunday, July 29, 2007

OTTAWA — The year was 1982. Pierre Trudeau was prime minister, the Jays played at Exhibition Stadium, Vancouver’s False Creek was an industrial wasteland and a film called O Canada! was the star attraction of the Canada Pavilion at the brand-new Epcot Center at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

A quarter of a century later, the 18-minute, 360-degree film is still packing ’em in at Epcot, but its dated and often hokey portrayal of the country has become a painful embarrassment for Canadian tourism officials and for many of the tens of thousands of Canadians who visit the theme park each year.

Ancient footage of the RCMP Musical Ride, flannel-wearing fishermen, fleeting and outdated aerial shots of Canadian cities and voice-overs by actors affecting bad Newfoundland and Quebec accents are all cited in the steady stream of complaints about the film fielded each year by the Canadian Tourism Commission.

Soon, however, Canadian visitors to Epcot may no longer be blushing as bright as Mickey Mouse’s red lederhosen. Seven years after former Canadian Tourism Commission president Jim Watson launched a campaign to have the Disney-made film updated, it seems a new version of O Canada! will debut Aug. 25 — with help from some high-profile Canadians: Gatineau’s Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila and, Disney buffs say, comedian Martin Short.

The folks at Disney won’t confirm or deny rumours that the film is being relaunched next month. Walt Disney Canada spokeswoman Angela Saclamacis will only say “we are expecting some good things over at Epcot … but we’re not prepared to announce anything officially at this time.”

However, an official Disney website notes that the O Canada! film exhibit at the Canada Pavilion — a circular room with nine large screens surrounding an audience pit — will be shut down from Aug. 20-24 for “refurbishment.”

Avila’s manager Jim Campbell, and a spokeswoman for her record company Sony BMG Canada, say the singer has recorded a theme song for the pavilion to be launched next month.

Short, rumoured to be the new film’s onscreen narrator, could not be reached for comment.

The original film, apparently inspired by an enormously popular circular movie created by Canadian director Robert Barclay for the Bell Canada Pavilion at Expo ’67, was largely shot in 1979. The Disney film has been described by Barclay as “a superficial, glib look at the country.”

“It could have been a Wal-Mart commercial,” Barclay told a reporter in 2000. Watson, now Ontario’s minister of health promotion, has said the film represents an American’s stereotypical view of Canada.

O Canada! features snippets of Canadian folk music (including Stan Rogers’ Bluenose) and an overweening 1980s-style pop song called Canada, You’re a Lifetime Journey. Footage shows cars and clothes a generation out of date, and cityscapes that have changed tremendously since 1982. The Toronto footage, for instance, features the CN Tower but not the Rogers Centre (former Sky Dome) which has stood prominently beside the tower for 18 years.

About half of the footage is new in the restyled movie, according to contributors to Disney fan websites and to an unofficial online Disney tour guide. It is not clear who paid for the changes, which Watson once estimated would cost several million dollars.

Over the years, there have been several attempts to bring Disney together with private Canadian investors with an interest in tourism to fund an update. The federal government has previously declined to become involved.

Epcot Center is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World, and the Canada exhibit, which includes the Victoria Gardens (inspired by Victoria’s Butchart Gardens), the Hotel du Canada (based on the Chateau Laurier), some totem poles and an ersatz canyon as well as the O Canada! film, is one of 11 countries showcased at the park.

By showing outdated aerial shots of Canadian cities, the film perpetuates the convenient myth that Canadians live rurally and in wildernesses, but not in cities… The cynic in me wonders whether that wasn’t a convenience not just for Disney’s view of Canada, but also for parochial Canadian government views. And if the movie represents such a stereotypical cliche of Canada, why did Canadians (tourism industry and government) let it rest for so long? Is there not enough imagination in the country to come up with a national image of our own?

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