Error: The Art of G/itch

http://media.spicynodes.org/display.swf?id=7855b79222374bd71cb6178958c5d85b&nodemapID=134375

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Kinect Demo Amsterdam

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Kinecting the dots!

In the light of the recent release (and in some places upcoming) of the Xbox 360 Kinect, I thought it would be interesting see just how far consoles and controllers have progressed in the last four decades. I’ve posted some videos and a link here for anyone with an interest in video game history or human-computer-interaction (HCI) to see the evolution (albeit mostly through video).

1. Console & controller hardware evolution (some omissions but still good):

2. Fantastic site for a more detailed decade by decade overview of the history of video game consoles. http://www.videogameconsolelibrary.com

3. 2010: Latest trends in wireless game controllers after Wii:

PlayStation 3 Move:

Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect:

Looking forward to seeing how the Kinect works with more interesting games rather than the ones demonstrated. I have to say, while the Move looks interesting, the shift towards controller free gaming seems to have much more potential.

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A Tale of Two Books: Print Vs Digital

Imagine the scene, it’s Christmas, little Billy rushes downstairs and throws himself on the presents under the tree. He reaches out and snatches up what he thinks is the new Larry Botter book and rips off the paper in a frenzy … but what’s this! It’s a *bleep* eReader, not Larry Botter and the Snark of Wisdom! All hell breaks loose, he wanted the limited edition by May. K. Howling, now how’s that supposed to happen with an eReader!

Creative Commons License

With works of fiction, we are taken on emotional journeys through the compelling power of storytelling. For many people this intense experience instills a great love or passion for not only the story or content, but also for the physical conduit of the experience itself. How many readers do you know that collect works of a particular author, treating the books as if they were precious treasures. For these people, the physical book itself becomes a portal to a certain sentiment or feeling. The printed book can, as such, be said to possess an aura or become imbued with a certain mystique, and over time the book can age which adds to this sense of nostalgia. How will new books fare in the transition to the digital dimension? What will replace the desire people have for collecting certain series of books, first editions, limitied editions, signed copies for example? Or will eBooks do away with the printed version? What about the licensing of books, will we be able to digitally ‘lend’ a book to a friend?

History has already seen a long evolution of the book – from cuniform stone tablets, Chinese woodblock tablets, papyrus, illuminated manuscript to printed versions that has been around since Gutenberg’s first bibles were output from the printing press in 1440. The eReader may look to be the next step in the evolution of the book and one that brings it into the digital age, however, there are quite a few issues with the transition from print to purely digital form. While the eReader, at this stage, is perhaps more suitable for academic or technical content I think the full transition to digital for fiction and art books will not be so rapid. There are a number of factors, both technically and culturally, which impact on this digital shift.

At present, the most obvious benefit of the eReader is that you can upload a number of books onto it at any one time. Students rejoice, instead of dragging a bag the weight of a small elephant to Uni they can now bring extra sandwiches. Actually, strike that, at over $100 for the cheapest eReader it’s not every student that can afford to own one. Another problem that may arise with the advent of the academic eBook is the issue of licensing. What’s to stop students from trading books? Will the school, university or educational institute share eBooks? Is strict Digital Rights Management (DRM) control really the best solution for these virtual products? This matter is still in hot debate. However, according to online retailer eBook.com (DRM) means that all books sold cannot presently be transferred.

‘…you promise not to reproduce, transmit, make available, adapt, modify, frame (by whatever means), link to, forward, create derivative works based upon, distribute, disseminate, sell, publish, sublicense, or in any way commingle the Content with other third party content, do any other act of copyright, or otherwise use any of the material on the site without first obtaining the written permission of eBooks.com (corp@eBooks.com), or unless specifically permitted by the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) or similar copyright legislation.’

The beauty of regular books is that we can borrow, lend or resell them without fear of legal entanglement. However, digital book formats can be downloaded from anywhere there is an internet connection which makes access to them more convenient, particularly in the educational sector where instant access to specialised knowledge may be required. The benefits of eBooks for academic use are many i.e. no printing costs, shipping fees or waiting for delivery. Academic and technical eBooks can also be used for quick reference from any location with your eReader. At this stage however, eReaders like Kindle only display in black and white so it is still not ideal for eBooks which may require colour display. Asus announced this year that they plan to enter the market by offering a full colour eReader with 6 inch screen, Wifi and 122 hours of battery life. The price is yet to be decided but we can assume that it will be very expensive given that it uses cutting edge OLED technology.  eReaders are undeniably becoming more sophisticated and with the advent of colour displays on the market older models will no doubt become more affordable.

Currently the eReader is restricted by monochrome display and their relatively small size. While this may be sufficient for most academic or works of narrative fiction, it cannot possibly seek to satisfy the needs of other segment in the publishing sector i.e. art or photography books. For more illustrative books where the emphasis is on displaying predominantly visual content or more abstract concepts, problems will certainly arise. There are also special print formats for limited editions that require more specialised and tactile printing processes such as embossing, foil or leaf etc. In my opinion this niche area will continue to produce printed books for the forseeable future. This segment is more fine art and craftsmanship or presentation is emphasised over mass-distribution. Perhaps they may also create eBooks but these may be supplementary or secondary to the original art books.

Another issue we encounter is children’s books. Very young children learn by interaction and as such require a more tactile approach to early learning. These books cannot become digitalised at this stage – how would a pop-up book or the fabric book work in a non-tactile eReader? Of course other children’s book could be fun in a digital form, particularly in the future when the eReader becomes more interactive and sophisticated.

Finally, let us come full circle to the issue of the author. How will digitalization impact on their craft? If the music industry is anything to go by, piracy is a major issue that could cost the author the fruits of their creative labour. According to CNNTech.com, Dan Browne’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ sold more digital copies than hardback. However, pirate copies of the novel were available to download for free within days.

‘On Amazon.com, the book sold more digital copies for the Kindle e-reader in its first few days than hardback editions. This was seen as something of a paradigm shift in the publishing industry, but it also may have come at a cost. Less than 24 hours after its release, pirated digital copies of the novel were found on file-sharing sites such as Rapidshare and BitTorrent. Within days, it had been downloaded for free more than 100,000 times.’

Unlike musicians, authors can’t exactly counter this growing problem by going on tour and earning an income through live performances and selling merchandise. This issue highlights the urgent need within the eBook publishing industry to come up with more innovation and open-minded solution.

In conclusion, while there are many benefits to purchasing eBooks, including instant availability, reduced content cost, portability and ease of access there are still many issues that impede the speed of the transition to digital format. These issues are piracy, licensing, tactility, current eReader technological limitations (display and size) and in the case of some genres the emotional attachment people have to the printed book. In the end, as technology evolves many of these issues will no doubt be resolved quickly. Perhaps we will see new generations of children who will become equally attached to next generation eReaders, as for myself, I won’t be buying one anytime soon.

Image

Image by Yanieck Mariani (Creative Commons License)

References

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Wikipedia, we have a Google refresh problem!

What did the web crawler say to Wikipedia? I’ll update you later!

So the question is … just how much later?! I’m wondering because there seems to be a discrepancy between just how fast Wikipedia bots/editors seem to shoot down vandals and how fast Google actually refreshes information to reflect this correction in the search engine.

Today I was doing some research on new game technology and in particular, on a famous game developer who is showcasing it. I typed in my request in Google search engine and up pops a link to the developer’s Wikipedia page. Except it wasn’t quite how I’d imagined the page information to appear in a search engine.

Note: I have removed the developer’s identity for fear of aiding the vandal in his/her smear campaign. The screenshot demonstrates the nature of the problem.

Wow!! This must be so frustrating for those extremely on the ball editors at Wikipedia, imagine shooting down the bad guys only to be taunted by fragments of their evil deed in the inaccessible cached space in search engines. Not to mention the prolonged embarrassment of  the individual who has been the target for the vandalism.

So where does the problem lie? With the search engine information refresh rate. Search engines use web crawling agents to read pages on World Wide Web and extract the keywords. Google also stores a cached version of most of the pages that can be viewed even if the original page is down.

Content on the Web tends to be very dynamic by nature as information is continually modified, added and deleted. The data that search engines store becomes outdated very quickly. To try to prevent these discrepancies, web pages are scanned periodically, this can be once a day, a week, a month – depending on the information provided by the site administrator or search engines statistics. This creates a gap in which we still can see the old content, already removed from the original page, and we still can find a link to it using keywords based on the old content. In this case, if I typed in three inappropriate words the vandal used, the developer in question will appear first on the list (and funnily enough on top of “sexy stripper” who was below).

So can this problem be solved? Is there a way for Wikipedia editors or users to mark a page to be refreshed sooner? That’s a question for Google (in this case) and other search engines as this feature seems to be missing. As of writing this article the issue has already existed for two days and still has not refreshed to reflect the changes.

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Incredible Mixed Reality Spectacle in Prague

Prepare to have your socks officially blown off. I just stumbled across the following project and was absolutely astounded at the beauty and brilliance of the this piece of mixed reality artwork. The Macula have used a technique called video mapping to transform the 600-year-old Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square in Prague into a blended interface that recreates the history of the clock using the clock itself! Absolutely stunning!

(Note: Unfortunately WordPress will not allow iframes so I can’t post the original high quality video (which I recommend) go to  http://vimeo.com/15749093.) Or just watch the youtube version here.

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What’s got the Greater Manchester Police all aTwitter today?

Discard your police scanner, since 5am this morning and for 24 hours only, the Greater Manchester Police have been logging every incident live on Twitter. What’s got them all atwitter? According to their website they want to raise the public’s awareness of ‘the complexities of modern policing, which often aren’t fully appreciated.’[1] By publishing events real-time as they unfold they hope to give the general public insight into how social issues are increasingly taking up a large proportion of their duties and draining public funds.
It’s interesting to see a police force like the Greater Manchester Police using social media tools like Twitter in order to engage and inform the public (even as a PR case). In fact, it might interest you (or not) to know there are quite a number of law enforcement agencies using social media such as Twitter and Facebook as a way to foster public relationships and build networks with the aim of tackling crime and trying to solve social problems.

(Click image to view or visit http://twitter.com/gmp24_1)

The West Midland’s Police have adapted their public website to make better use of social media, in a BBC interview Inspector Mark Payne stated:

“We want to talk to people and allow people to talk to influence the way we police. Print media is shrinking and losing some of its traditional audience. This is not about abandoning the traditional ways. More and more people are using social media to communicate and, if that’s where people are talking, that’s where we need to go.”[2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social media no doubt allows for greater communication, visibility and interaction with the police force and this social extension into new media has already helped solve crime, but will this 24 hour Twitter PR exercise really help the Greater Manchester Police with their budget? Let’s hope so! It certainly has helped them gain followers. Of the three live feeds Twitter 24_1 has 17,368 followers 24_2 has 9,833 and 24_3 has 9,302.

To view the 24 hour live feeds visit any of the three alternating sites:
1. http://twitter.com/gmp24_1
2. http://twitter.com/gmp24_2
3. http://twitter.com/gmp24_3

References

[1] http://www.gmp.police.uk/mainsite/pages/42B60B1DA0B3A6B1802577BC00184C53.htm
[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8363064.stm
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Who’s Following the Tweetless Tweeter?

Just another case of the blind following the blind?

This week I bit the bullet and added Twitter to my list of social media apps. I didn’t want to do it …I hate the idea of Twitter, but I had to ask myself the question, what kind of researcher would I be if I didn’t try to understand the nature of the bird/beast I had been asked to write about? So enter Twitter, for the time being at least, to my arsenal of social media tools. A new ingredient or page has been added to my social cookbook.

The very name ‘Twitter’ holds, for me at least, the connotation of something trivial, fluttery and harmless. Surprisingly, Twitter has the potential to contribute significantly to journalism, it’s real time updating system means events unfolding across the world can act as an early warning systems or offer continuous updates. A case in point is the Gaza flotilla incident in June 2010, many watched online as events unfolded, Twitter playing no small part in the reportage. In spite of this, Twitter is still more a place for self-publicists on a ‘micro-becomes-macro’ scale. A place where your proverbial 2 cents worth could possibly reap you untold rewards, popularity, publicity, potential fame etcetera.

In this age of social media there seems to be an almost manic drive towards social validation, inclusion and relevance. This is becoming more evident since the advent of web 2.0. The shift away from anonymity and privacy and towards a more open and social internet has come about through greater reciprocity and interaction. The ability to create, customize and share within increasingly social or collaborative spaces has played a pivotal role in this change. Why should we seek social validation here as opposed to what Heim calls the ‘primary’ world? Is the desire to stand out so strong that we would leave ourselves open so publicly? Is it a purely creative impulse? What is with this obsessive compulsiveness to keep track of email, facebook and twitter updates? We can increasingly see this state of self-subjectification that Foucault described, we feel the compulsion to self-regulate by holding a mirror up against our peers, family and others. I am starting to feel like a smoker again, except I have replaced that habit with another, the urge to check my phone or computer frequently for incoming messages. Are we that hungry for social gratification and instant fixes of bite-sized information? Why does someone feel the need to publicly share their every move or thought and why do people feel the desire to know? The politics of social media is at play, do you ‘add’ for quality, quantity, pity? Is it narcissism or curiosity – both? Where exactly does Twitter fit into this pantheon of social media icons?

Forgive me for being so pessimistic, but I abhor anything that reduces people to ‘followers’ and asks you to ‘follow’ someone. In the space of 30 minutes of joining Twitter I had people following me? Who are they? I don’t know them so what was their motivation in ‘following’ me? Did they expected me to ‘follow’ them in return? According to Twitter statistics 41% og twitter account holders are tweetless! So who are these strange Tweetless tweeters following another tweetless tweeter? It’s all very strange. The only thing I can think of is that they are either trying to amass a fan base or they are marketers.

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The Inkscape Trial

As part of my New Media class I’ve been asked to had a bash at using Inkscape to create some digital artwork. I’ve always used Adobe packages so it was hard to get my head around using Inkscape at first. The layout is different, so it took a bit of work to try and locate all the tools I’m used to working with. I am still having trouble with the gradient filter and a few other favourite tools but as with anything new, it takes awhile to adjust but that’s not always a bad thing. One thing I actually found great was the pen tool (when I finally worked out how to use it!), while I found it frustrating at first I realised that the pen had a number of extra options which were very useful and easy to use. While Inkscape is not as intuitive or user friendly as Adobe Illustrator, it’s definitely worth playing around with as a free package.

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Ah Dr. Blofeld, I’ve been expecting you!

Well not quite you …

When I wrote my article in Wikipedia about Suzhou Creek Art District in Shanghai, I really hadn’t expected to encounter Dr. Blofeld coming out of hiding from his Himalayan retreat to edit my category listing! Au contraire, I had expected perhaps a bot or two … but Dr. Blofeld and his odd-eyed furry feline, well that’s original! If that’s not strange enough, in the space of 5 minutes of posting my original entry, I was pulled up for category misdemeanour 1.01 by none other than a fellow of the mysterious sounding Order of the Superior Scribe of Wikipedia (imagine metallic rasping voiceover here). Oh dear, things are getting serious around here! I am taken to task by two rather unusual encyclopedia copy editors. Hmmm this all smells very theatrical and game-like to me. Ok Bond, let’s just take a quick look at the files …

IGorman - Wiki Changes
IGorman – Wiki Changes

Hmm intriguing, Dr Blofeld likes to copy edit entries on James Bond and Asia. Meanwhile, the user file on Slon02 reads like an end of level game progress chart. This is fascinating stuff, I’m reminded of Jane McGonigal’s (Institute for the Future) TED talk on video games . McGonigal’s hypothesis on how we can leverage gaming skills to tackle real problems comes into focus when you look at the volunteers’ ranking system for Wikipedia. While Wikipedia are not utilising gaming skills as such, they are using a game style strategy such as the level-up, title and reward system to motivate volunteers into fighting the good fight against bad grammar and Wikipedic vandalism. Barnstars can be earned in competitions such as the ‘Guild of Copy Editors July 2010 Backlog Drive’ for which Slon02 displays a badge of ‘Most Articles Completed on the First Day’ on his user page.

Slon02-Leaderboard

Needless to say, there has been much debate over the drop or decline in the numbers of editors of the English Wikipedia. The difficulty in finding a new topic to write about means that only very new or niche articles are yet to be included for editing, so it’s no wonder that many volunteers have called it a day. However, my introduction to Dr. Blofeld and Slon02 left me with no doubt that the hardcore volunteers that remain are seriously committed to their craft and won’t jump ship too soon. I myself, as a Wikipedia newbie, am seriously tempted to edit such gems as ‘Fishballs’ and ‘Raaj the Showman’!

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