2.10.2008

mixed-world videoconference

It shouldn’t be too difficult to cook something up that lets a person videoconference with an avatar. With improvements in virtual body language, a person chatting with an avatar might actually look pretty great. Consider how fun/dangerous it would be for kids to talk directly to SpongeBob, not to mention the marketing potential for animated characters in general.

space by the minute

Throughout a 24-hour cycle, furnished urban spaces alternate between vacant and occupied. Meanwhile, urban centers are becoming denser and space is in high demand. So it may become sensible to start renting out space not only by the month or year, but by the hour or minute; kinda like City CarShare. Take telecommuting, which has risen x% in the past x number of years. A database of vacant office space by the hour would cut rent costs for companies with telecommuters, besides being a more efficient use of space.

This might be especially interesting/infeasible if applied to homelessness. It would help homeless people perpetually migrate from one semi-furnished urban space to another, creating a distributed home throughout the city. If nothing else, at any given moment there are probably more vacant parked cars in San Francisco than there are homeless people. But if cityfolk aren’t comfortable with a municipal let-the-homeless-sleep-in-your-car night, there are more (semi-)public venues, e.g. movie theaters between flicks or the tactile dome between birthday parties. Sure we could build funny-looking contraptions, or we could just let the homeless occupy furnished spaces that are already available. Of course this pig would never fly and even if it did, it's just a band-aid. But band-aids are a part of the trajectory, so more people might as well enjoy the view of the bay from an otherwise empty AT&T Park while we're on route to preventative health. (Plus, the sight of homeless people hanging out in AT&T Park would make quite a compelling view in itself.)

Flying pigs aside, space by the smaller-increment-of-time is coming, because the legos are here and all we have to do is make them smaller.

if a tree falls in a forest and nobody’s there to hear it ...

…it doesn’t really matter because we’re still talking about it. And laughing at us is what made the tree fall over in the first place.

So Close Yet So Far Away

“Why talk/twitter/whatever with your long-distance Loved one when you can share some romantic chocolate with them? Announcing So Close Yet So Far Away, a Valentine's Day experiment in tele-intimacy. Tables for two: you across from your date via your laptop. Using videoconference, you two can sit face-to-face and enjoy some luscious chocolate. Together. We provide the chocolate, network connection, and romantic ambiance; you’re responsible for yourself, your partner, and your laptops.”


These words were my invitation to So Close Yet So Far Away, an experiment in tele-intimacy that I organized at UC Berkeley. And an experiment in tele-intimacy it was! Experiment in the sense that it was an initial trial; intimate because the people were few. But it was this smaller-scale setting that allowed it to be experimental. Different people engaged with different media in different ways: some used video and others purely audio; some iChatted and others videoSkyped; some videoSkyped together while sitting across the table from each another; some iChatted with one person on one laptop while videoSkyping with another person on another laptop (video-cheating?); some set their laptops screen-to-screen, allowing their tele-dates to tele-tele-date; some took photos and others video captured; some ate truffles and others ate dates. But we all sat together and communicated with each other and each other’s others. And I even landed a spot in WIRED. So although there are certainly kinks to iron out, I look forward to further exploring the potential of social tele-intimacy. In fact, I aspire to translate it into a career. Check the Facebook profile and comment below for further details...

Another hint of what this might taste like:
video

fireside videochat

Videochat with your political candidate of choice...or at least, feel like you are. Pre-script the candidate’s side of the conversation and then perform the other side Karaoke-style, à la Continuouscity. Just by chatting with candidates and then watching the conversation, even if pre-scripted, you might feel you know them better, and be that much more willing to vote for them. That is, until you find clips online of them the exact same conversation with thousands of other constituents. But I guess that’s what politicking’s about.

cosmology cake

There are lots of Libras and Monkeys besides you. But there aren’t as many Libran Monkeys. And even fewer Libran Monkeys who are ruled by Oyá. If you pile different cosmologies atop each other like a layered cake – sign in horoscopic astrology over animal in Chinese astrology over Orisha in Candomblé, among others – you may learn something new. I bet there's already a Facebook widget for it.

making your first tele-impression

For online daters who value efficiency, why not meet for a tele-drink first? You can check each other out via videoconference, and decide if increasing the bandwidth is worthwhile.

videoconference x bluetooth x touchscreen

Playing the mashup game with these ingredients at a dance club would let you talk to the person you’re tele-dancing with by touching them on the screen.

distribution of resilience


Assume that (our understanding of) the changeability of information in Wikipedia has undergone the trajectory of categories. In other words, it has undergone a trajectory from binary (something either is/isn't information, so all entries are equally subject to change) to spectral (some information is more x [insert metric, e.g. politically charged] than other information, so some entries are more subject to change than others) to typological (there are different types of information, so entries for different types of information have different subjectivities to change). If subjectivity to change sounds too subjective, use the word resilience, then check the history of an entry, and track how often changes have been made. The entry for science has been resilient for a while whereas that for social network has undergone lots of change recently.

The broader question is: how to categorize information into different types? And more specifically: what typology would emerge if information were categorized according to its resilience in Wikipedia? One possibility is information hierarchy, which splits the enchilada into data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. Considering that data is used to generate information, which is used to create knowledge, and so on, wisdom may be the least likely to change. But Wikipedia is only about information. Hmm. Another possibility is Funtowicz & Ravetz’s post-normal science, which splits it up into applied science, professional consultancy, and post-normal science (see image). But again, Wikipedia is about information; not science. (I’m aware that I’m littering this post with Wikipedia links, but if you don’t know the difference between information and science, check the talk pages of both entries in Wikipedia.) Still, these two typologies may be illuminating. Re information hierarchy, could information be categorized into concentric types? And re post-normal science, F&R’s axes of choice are decision stakes and systems uncertainty for science; what would be the relevant axes for information?

Wikipedia has been criticized for advertising itself as the encyclopedia anyone can edit, yet being increasingly resilient to editage; I’d argue that only certain types of information are increasingly resilient. At the net level, there’s a trade-off between editability/dynamism and quality/governance. But if you look at the distribution of resilience across all entries, there certainly is one.

Plus, their resilience to change itself changes through time. The entry for science was malleable, but as Wikipedia's governance system emerged, it has become more resilient, to the point of having been on lockdown at a few points along the way...

carbon-neutral cybersex

The Green Islands Project in Second Life enables virtual landowners to offset the carbon costs of running their sims via renewable energy credits. Translate that into a green cyber-brothel offering carbon-neutral cybersex. Because if you could make cybersex a mechanism for addressing climate change, that would be pretty absurd/spectacular.

covert crowdsourcing

Productive work is increasingly getting rolled into captchas and games. For example, reCaptchas, the next generation of captchas, present two skewed words bisected by a line, both of which were taken from the Internet Archive's project to scan public-domain books. “One word is known to the computer; the other couldn't be read by the Archive's scanners, so when you type it in you're doing a tiny bit of work for the project” (Wired, 06.25.07).

But captchas/games-cum-productivity could get hairy. What if private actors start disguising work as captchas/games in a feat of covert crowdsourcing? What if, in order to pay our bills online, we must unknowingly do work for Wells Fargo; work that their employees were once paid for? When productive work is performed unknowingly, where does economic value go? And might this sci-fi paranoia spawn some kinda ‘Captcha Code of Conduct’?