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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Posts tagged "computers"

May 27, 2014
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Anyone who works with computers learns to fear their capacity to forget. Like so many things with computers, memory is strictly binary. There is either perfect recall or total oblivion, with nothing in between. It doesn’t matter how important or trivial the information is. The computer can forget anything in an instant. If it remembers, it remembers for keeps. This doesn’t map well onto human experience of memory, which is fuzzy. We don’t remember anything with perfect fidelity, but we’re also not at risk of waking up having forgotten our own name. Memories tend to fade with time, and we remember only the more salient events.

Apr 25, 2014
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I like to see wet ink. A computer leaves me unable to do what I live for: to find something unexpected.

Dec 03, 2013
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I am so sorry to have deranged you for so small a matter.

Using the internet = constantly being interrupted = derangement

I am so sorry to have deranged you for so small a matter.

Using the internet = constantly being interrupted = derangement

Apr 29, 2013
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Computers are dumb. They only know what you tell them.
— Seth Brundle, The Fly

Jan 07, 2013
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Ellen Ullman, Close To The Machine


  I’M UPSET, SO I’M TAKING APART MY COMPUTERS. If I were a poet, I’d get drunk and yell at the people I love. As it is, I’m gutting my machines.


Ullman, a writer and a computer programmer, wrote this in 1997, back when the internet and start-up culture were brand new, but so much of it seems like it could’ve been written yesterday. As Jaron Lanier writes in the introduction, “Here was a computer nerd who could write.”


  To see clearly you have to have the access of an insider, but also be an outsider. You have to be right there and still have enough distance to see. Ullman had just the right mix of there and not there when she wrote this book. She was attached to Silicon Valley, but at a bit of distance, living in San Francisco. And she is a grown-up woman in a culture favoring youth, in a world where women programmers were all too rare.


It’s no surprise that Lanier wrote the introduction for the rerelease — sections of the book feel like they could’ve come straight from You Are Not A Gadget. (Remember: this was written 15 years ago!)


  [I]t would not be the “content makers”— the artists, writers, multimedia makers— who would be making the money. Of course, the ones making the money would be the owners of the transaction itself. The new breed of entrepreneur: Net landlord. Content is worthless, art is just an excuse to get someone to click; meanwhile, artists watch their work circumnavigate the globe while “value arbitrageurs,” the Brians of the world, pick off a fractional cent at every click, making a fortune.


Or:


  We think we are creating the system for our own purposes. We believe we are making it in our own image. We call the microprocessor the “brain”; we say the machine has “memory.” But the computer is not really like us. It is a projection of a very slim part of ourselves: that portion devoted to logic, order, rule, and clarity. It is as if we took the game of chess and declared it the highest order of human existence. We place this small projection of ourselves all around us, and we make ourselves reliant on it. To keep information, buy gas, save money, write a letter— we can’t live without it any longer. The only problem is this: the more we surround ourselves with a narrowed notion of existence, the more narrow existence becomes. We conform to the range of motion the system allows. We must be more orderly, more logical. Answer the question, Yes or No, OK or Cancel.


Or:


  When I watch the users try the Internet, it slowly becomes clear to me that the Net represents the ultimate dumbing-down of the computer… The spreadsheet and the word processor— two tools empty of information, two little programs sitting patiently and passively for their human owners to put something interesting into them. Now, fifteen years later, the Internet browser is the program creating the second generation of the personal computer. The browser—a click-click baby tool for searching the Web, where everything of interest already resides.


My favorite passages are about how weird it is to freelance. (I write while wearing sweatpants and typing frantically while my son takes a nap.)

How your sense of time gets lost:


  As every artist knows, every writer and homebound mother, if you are not careful, your day— without boundaries as it is— can just leak away. Sundown can find all your efforts puddled around you, everything underway, nothing accomplished.


How when you work where you live, your boundaries are destroyed:


  My work hours have leaked into all parts of the day and week. Eight in the morning, ten at night, Saturday at noon, Sundays: I am never not working. Even when I’m not actually doing something that could be called work, I might get started any minute… Delivery guys love us: We’re the new housewives. We’re always home…. Am I earning a living, I wonder, or just trying to fill a very large, self-made solitude?


How your sense of space gets lost:


  The sense that I am in the middle of the world and anything might happen to me here. How will all this happen to me, once I am safe at home, and everything has been flattened to two dimensions, a screen, a keyboard, and a mouse?


How weird it is to have a digital identity:


  [H]aving a Web page has become the way we must prove our existence. We have a “presence” on the Web: we are therefore real. Click here to learn all about Project Jerry. Here are our hours and services. Come use us, we say. In the end, we simply do what everyone else does on the Net: we advertise.


And how you often dream about going back to the “security, routine, and camaraderie of the office”.

Really great read. Recommended.

(Thanks Robin Sloan and Paul Ford.)

Ellen Ullman, Close To The Machine

I’M UPSET, SO I’M TAKING APART MY COMPUTERS. If I were a poet, I’d get drunk and yell at the people I love. As it is, I’m gutting my machines.

Ullman, a writer and a computer programmer, wrote this in 1997, back when the internet and start-up culture were brand new, but so much of it seems like it could’ve been written yesterday. As Jaron Lanier writes in the introduction, “Here was a computer nerd who could write.”

To see clearly you have to have the access of an insider, but also be an outsider. You have to be right there and still have enough distance to see. Ullman had just the right mix of there and not there when she wrote this book. She was attached to Silicon Valley, but at a bit of distance, living in San Francisco. And she is a grown-up woman in a culture favoring youth, in a world where women programmers were all too rare.

It’s no surprise that Lanier wrote the introduction for the rerelease — sections of the book feel like they could’ve come straight from You Are Not A Gadget. (Remember: this was written 15 years ago!)

[I]t would not be the “content makers”— the artists, writers, multimedia makers— who would be making the money. Of course, the ones making the money would be the owners of the transaction itself. The new breed of entrepreneur: Net landlord. Content is worthless, art is just an excuse to get someone to click; meanwhile, artists watch their work circumnavigate the globe while “value arbitrageurs,” the Brians of the world, pick off a fractional cent at every click, making a fortune.

Or:

We think we are creating the system for our own purposes. We believe we are making it in our own image. We call the microprocessor the “brain”; we say the machine has “memory.” But the computer is not really like us. It is a projection of a very slim part of ourselves: that portion devoted to logic, order, rule, and clarity. It is as if we took the game of chess and declared it the highest order of human existence. We place this small projection of ourselves all around us, and we make ourselves reliant on it. To keep information, buy gas, save money, write a letter— we can’t live without it any longer. The only problem is this: the more we surround ourselves with a narrowed notion of existence, the more narrow existence becomes. We conform to the range of motion the system allows. We must be more orderly, more logical. Answer the question, Yes or No, OK or Cancel.

Or:

When I watch the users try the Internet, it slowly becomes clear to me that the Net represents the ultimate dumbing-down of the computer… The spreadsheet and the word processor— two tools empty of information, two little programs sitting patiently and passively for their human owners to put something interesting into them. Now, fifteen years later, the Internet browser is the program creating the second generation of the personal computer. The browser—a click-click baby tool for searching the Web, where everything of interest already resides.

My favorite passages are about how weird it is to freelance. (I write while wearing sweatpants and typing frantically while my son takes a nap.)

How your sense of time gets lost:

As every artist knows, every writer and homebound mother, if you are not careful, your day— without boundaries as it is— can just leak away. Sundown can find all your efforts puddled around you, everything underway, nothing accomplished.

How when you work where you live, your boundaries are destroyed:

My work hours have leaked into all parts of the day and week. Eight in the morning, ten at night, Saturday at noon, Sundays: I am never not working. Even when I’m not actually doing something that could be called work, I might get started any minute… Delivery guys love us: We’re the new housewives. We’re always home…. Am I earning a living, I wonder, or just trying to fill a very large, self-made solitude?

How your sense of space gets lost:

The sense that I am in the middle of the world and anything might happen to me here. How will all this happen to me, once I am safe at home, and everything has been flattened to two dimensions, a screen, a keyboard, and a mouse?

How weird it is to have a digital identity:

[H]aving a Web page has become the way we must prove our existence. We have a “presence” on the Web: we are therefore real. Click here to learn all about Project Jerry. Here are our hours and services. Come use us, we say. In the end, we simply do what everyone else does on the Net: we advertise.

And how you often dream about going back to the “security, routine, and camaraderie of the office”.

Really great read. Recommended.

(Thanks Robin Sloan and Paul Ford.)

Nov 23, 2012
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That machine on my desk is for typing out, not composing.

Feb 14, 2012
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Catching up on several months worth of American Elf: the Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka.

And guess what? James is now on Tumblr!

Catching up on several months worth of American Elf: the Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka.

And guess what? James is now on Tumblr!

Nov 17, 2011
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One reason I make sculpture is that I have stared long enough at the glowing flat rectangles of computer screens…. The touchscreen has no texture variation, has no physical surface information, is dead flat, reflects ambient light noise, and features oily fingerprint debris when seen at a raking angle… Let us give more time for doing physical things in the real world and less time for staring at (and touching) the glowing flat rectangle. Plant a plant, walk the dogs, read a real book, go to the opera. Or hammer glowing hot metal in a blacksmith shop…
— Edward Tufte, "Touchscreens have no hand"

Nov 10, 2011
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"Images under glass"

Speaking of collage, an interesting juxtaposition this morning: after I learn about Mixel, an iPad app that lets you create collages and share them, and after I play with it a few minutes and think, but I like the crunch of the scissors and the smell of the glue when I’m making my collages, I come across Bret Victor’s "A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design," in which he examines the role of the hand in interaction design:

Take out your favorite Magical And Revolutionary Technology Device. Use it for a bit. What did you feel? Did it feel glassy? Did it have no connection whatsoever with the task you were performing? I call this technology Pictures Under Glass.

Pictures under glass. Sounds like Stanley Donwood:

Computers don’t seem real to me because there’s a sheet of glass between you and whatever is happening. You never really get to touch anything that you’re doing…

Just saying: love the social/democratic/remix edge of Mixel, but I can’t imagine I’ll be getting rid of my scissors and glue sticks any time soon…

"Images under glass"

Speaking of collage, an interesting juxtaposition this morning: after I learn about Mixel, an iPad app that lets you create collages and share them, and after I play with it a few minutes and think, but I like the crunch of the scissors and the smell of the glue when I’m making my collages, I come across Bret Victor’s "A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design," in which he examines the role of the hand in interaction design:

Take out your favorite Magical And Revolutionary Technology Device. Use it for a bit. What did you feel? Did it feel glassy? Did it have no connection whatsoever with the task you were performing? I call this technology Pictures Under Glass.

Pictures under glass. Sounds like Stanley Donwood:

Computers don’t seem real to me because there’s a sheet of glass between you and whatever is happening. You never really get to touch anything that you’re doing…

Just saying: love the social/democratic/remix edge of Mixel, but I can’t imagine I’ll be getting rid of my scissors and glue sticks any time soon…

Oct 18, 2011
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