Observations from an airport newstand

4 10 2009

1. Timberlake/Biel are over but she’s not ready to accept it;

2. Nearly every book for sale here is a “#1 NYTimes Bestseller”, so much so the credential no longer has any value for me – it’s just a signifier indicating a book has been published by a major, popular press.



2 10 2009
Turtle Modded Beetle

Turtle Beetle of Win

Today I discovered That Will Buff Out, a site filled with pictures of cars and vehicles in precarious or ridiculous situations. The site is part of the Cheezburger network (this week celebrating two years of popularizing image macros), which has expanded from a few sites, particularly ICHC and IHAH, to 20-odd sites collecting random Internet picture fun. Something about this expansion befuddles me, though it might just be the fact that they’re moving from some unique offerings (ICHC is by far the stand-out site, something of an innovation when it began, and still regularly fun) to a sort of copypasta franchise model that doesn’t seem to have the heart of the original space. Still, I could look at image macros of kittens all day, so I’m not going to rain on anyone’s parade.

Here comes tomorrow: thought-controlled robots

29 09 2009

Time to brush off your requisite “robot overlord” jokes. The Mainichi Daily News reports about the work of Taku Ichikawa of the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo who has developed a ‘Robo-gladiator’ operated by his thoughts.

Building on previous work that developed a wheelchair operable by thoughts, Ichikawa’s 50-centimeter robot is capable of walking, turning right, and stabbing things. Says the excited fourth-year student:

“As this is the first neural signal-controlled combat robot, I hope a lot of people will get to know about it,” said an excited Ichikawa.

Link via Neatorama via Popular Science

On participation

25 09 2009

Van Dijck and Nieborg discussing Forrester’s survey of participation (Groundswell etc):

An interesting detail in these figures is the stratification of income among different types of users: the average income of passive spectators of user-generated content sites is significantly higher than the median income of content creators. In other words, the contingent of spectators and inactives, which is much larger than the 13 percent of actual creators, constitutes an appealing demographic to site owners and advertisers. The active participation and creation of digital content seems to be much less relevant than the crowds they attract: the homogenous term ‘users’ is misleading in that it conceals the difference between active and passive involvement or, put differently, between producers and consumers of user-generated content. Manifestos such as Wikinomics and ‘We-Think’ make one believe that, since every user is an active, creative contributor, the very idea of ‘consumer’ is definitely passé. The term ‘user’ turns out to be a catch-all phrase covering a wide range of behaviour, from merely clicking to blogging and uploading videos. Mass creativity, by and large, is consumptive behaviour by a different name.

– José Van Dijk and David Nieborg, 2009, ‘Wikinomics and its discontents: a critical analysis of Web 2.0 business manifestos’, New Media and Society, 11(5), 855-874.

A popular response to the recognition of this very fact is an attempt to develop continuums, spectrums, and ladders of participation. Such efforts have resulted in some good interrogation of what participation means in the contemporary moment. I can’t help but wonder, however, if a more fruitful path is to avoid trying to group everything under one label, no matter how nuanced, complex, or structured the models are. As Ien Ang wrote once, the challenge with the ratings industry is that it pushes forward a singular proposition of what it means to “watch” television. Even complex models of ‘users’ or ‘participation’ might replicate the same problem.

13 08 2009

Longtime, no ocean

15 07 2009

It’s a somewhat boring story. More on that later, maybe. In the meantime, YouTube is playing funny games with me, so I’m embedding this presentation here. More on that later also. Promise.

Turtle power

10 05 2009

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures