Boldly going with reality TV

The next space tourist could be a member of a boyband, financed by a reality tv production deal.


I know the scientific merit of manned space exploration is debatable, but what about using reality TV to power science forward?

Big Brother 3 has just started here in the UK. People I regard as rational and intelligent individuals are in it’s thrall, anxious to get cable installed specifically to be able to watch the live, uninterrupted feeds of people not doing much of anything all day, everyday.

So, why not live uniterrrupted sponsored coverage of science? 24hr, massively mesmerising feeds of centrifuges spinning, cyclotrons humming, tokamaks and toruses ticking over. It would be great!

Pass the pringles someone, I think i just saw a neutrino flash…

» BBC News | SHOWBIZ | ‘N Sync star ‘fit’ for space

Alex Cox on MPAA vs Innovation

Yes, I think it’s that Alex Cox.

‘MPAA executive Fritz Allaway told Bobbie Johnson, “We have seen our future, and it is terrifying.” I – like a lot of other independent directors and producers – would like to see the future get much more terrifying for Fritz and his pals; with a radical reform of copyright and patent law, and a curbing of behemoths such as AOL/Time/Warner, News International/Fox and Vivendi/ Universal/UIP.

Corporate multinationals, wielding unchecked power, terrify me far more than kids with video cameras. In fact, the latter, such as the Norwegian schoolboy who cracked the DVD code, encourage me greatly: their resourcefulness and creativity – rather than the special pleading and restrictive practices of the MPAA – represent a possible bright future for our industry.’

» Monday May 27, 2002: Media Guardian: But who are the real pirates?

Simon Schama and Eric Hobsbawm on our longing for the “long now”

screengrabs of David Frost interviewing Simon Schama and Eric Hobsbawm on the BBC

Historians Simon Schama and Eric Hobsbawm interviewed by David Frost this past Sunday, were asked about the seeming current popularity of History programming and media in the UK.

SIMON SCHAMA: [in response to Frost’s assertion that “history is the newcookery”] It’s long simmered stew, it’s not fast food. I actually think that history has fed off the restlessness of cyber space, of kind of the frantic, segmented nature of the way we lead our lives. People want to be connected. They want to know where we are, who we are, it gives you a bit of moorings. It slows down time just a little bit, connects you to a longer reach of time. It’s like a, you know, I wouldn’t say it has a sedative effect – you don’t want people to go to sleep, it should be exciting as well – but it’s storytelling and argument, storytelling and thought, and it just does give us a longer span than a five minute segment in which we lead, seem to lead a lot of our life.

DAVID FROST: Eric, do you think that’s true? Do you think that history on television speaks to the restless souls?

ERIC HOBSBAWM: Yes I think it’s a protest against forgetting. I mean our society is geared to make us forget. It’s about today when we enjoy what we ought to; it’s about tomorrow when we have more things to buy, which are different; it’s about today when yesterday’s news is in the dustbin. But human beings don’t want to forget. It’s built in to them.

If you want to watch the programme – then it’s streamed for a week (until the next sunday’s programme) from the page below, where there is also a transcript:


Tom “Tortoise”* Paulin on ‘Attack of the Clones”

Total whacked-out genius.

Let me then put it like this. I remember a political theorist I know in New York, Floyd Weintraub, saying to me, when Bush won in the way he did, that the Republic is strong.

You take the Jedi. They represent the American constitution, the laws of America. This is what Americans have. It is an affirmation of the Republic, and it’s saying, despite the idiocies of our culture and our imperialism, it’s an extraordinary kind of imperial epic.

And Jar-Jar Binks is Abraham Lincoln. I get it all now.

[* Tom Paulin is portrayed as “Tom Tortoise” on the ‘Adam & Joe’ show If you’re not in the UK, try and snaffle some copies of The A&J Show… it’s fantastic]

» BBC: Newsnight:Review: Star Wars Episode II – Attack Of The Clones


Intriguing to think that certain urban forms make certain digital formats more viable.

“For many skeptics, imode-type services will never take off in the U.S, for one simple reason: the car. In Japan, the ubiquitous mass transit system is often cited as a primary reason for imode’s success. The transit system creates a lifestyle full of “microniches” of time. There’s a lot of hanging around nearby bus, subway and train stations, usually waiting for friends or for transport. Imode and its competitors have filled this otherwise empty space with well-received services and cutting-edge handsets…”

» “Will Americans go for mLife?”


Liveblogging the ETCON has been a failure for me so far. I have yet been able to dredge back anything from the experience other than pain and fury at missing things. All thoughts, recollections and conervsations have been spurred or hung on the notes and writings of others.

As Milton Glaser (perhaps paraphrasing Whorf) said at Voice02: “The way you live changes your brain”. I think my coder and writer friends were able to internalise what they typed while they typed because the way they have lived has changed their brain enough to enable them to do so.

My so-called life as a designer means that doodles and dotted lines, boxes and arrows are the atoms of understanding I have to construct in my notebook with a black felt-tip pen.

I need my hypomnemata

What the world needs now..

The UN have published “GEO-3” – the planet’s regular medical.

“The choices this generation makes will be crucial for our descendants, according to a United Nations report.

Published by the UN Environment Programme (Unep), established 30 years ago, the report details some real improvements since then.

But it says the overall trend is adverse, especially in poor countries.

By 2032, it predicts a planet likely to have been largely affected by human hands.”

[More at BBC News | SCI/TECH | Planet at the crossroads]

Okay, cool. If this is true, and I keep my technoidealist beenie-cap on, then it means that we have moved into the stage where fixing the planet is a design problem.

I say we put Brenda Laurel in charge of the design committee. Here’s the transcript [PDF, 30k] of her talk at AIGA:Voice02. She ended with this:

“We are only the victims and servants of business as usual if we choose to be.

This work of transformation which I have come to think of as culture work must be approached carefully but with great conviction and effort.

The tactic of culture work is not straight-ahead revolution; rather it is to inject new genetic material into the culture without activating its immune system. By intervening in the present, we are designing the future.

“Cooperative relationships among strangers”

In reflection, I think there was very little balanced critique of the social effects of the emerging technology at ETCON.

Just as there was a topical centre that was hard to name being described by the subjects and speakers around it there was however a “spiritual centre”, a belief not overtly stated, but was nevertheless being circled I think by almost every speaker (J.C Herz, Clay, Geoff Cohen, Cory and Steven Johnson in particular), and everyone speaking to each other.

This article on the work of Edwin Schlossberg by Steve Heller in Metropolis magazine seems to me to nail that spiritual centre in one phrase: the belief that “cooperative relationships between strangers” are to be encouraged as beneficial to all.

It should perhaps come as no suprise that Schlossberg was a pupil of that arch technoidealist Bucky Fuller…

“Edwin Schlossberg has long dreamed of building an immense high-tech game arena in the middle of Times Square where hundreds of people playing together at any hour would control power grids, move investments, or create structures to revitalize urban spaces.

If this sounds suspiciously like pop-culture utopia, it’s because Schlossberg–the grand master of human interactivity–believes that games and other shared experiences inspire cooperative relationships among strangers.”

I think at the centre of ETCON, powering it, was this nodal-point – an idea burning so brightly we could only look to it’s edges to understand. The belief in the benefit of technologically-enabled cooperative realtionships between stangers. It was Bucky’s technoidealism, coupled like a binary-star to John Nash’s Equilibrium.

I have a strict rule on aeroplanes, which is to only watch films that I would never go and watch in a cinema, or hire/buy on video/DVD. This exposes me to movies my predjudices and/or friends would never let me see. Case in point: “A beautiful mind”. I’m glad I did though, just for the (I’m sure) over-simplified but effective explanation of Nash’s Equilibrium it featured:

“Nash is with a group of friends at a Princeton graduate-student party when he is suddenly struck by an idea that forms the basis of his “rational choice” game theory, a theory for which he would eventually become famous. In a cinematic version of what would become the “Nash Bargaining Solution,” we witness Nash’s friends ogling one extremely beautiful blonde woman and four less-ravishing but still attractive brunettes. The other students all intend to seduce the blonde, and one even alludes to Adam Smith’s theory of zero-sum game competition — the best man wins, and the others are left out in the cold, literally in this case. Nash, in a sudden flash, realizes that the basis of economic theory does not have to be a zero-sum game, but rather one that might assure mutually beneficial outcomes for all the parties involved (what would later become Nash’s “equilibrium” theory). Nash proposes that the students avoid seducing the blonde, since they will get in each others’ way and alienate both the blonde and the brunettes. Instead, by ignoring the blonde and concentrating on the brunettes, each will benefit (except, one supposes, the blonde). By seeing the barren outcome of their zero-sum competitive approach, they can adjust their strategy through cooperative bargaining and each, so to speak, enjoy the fruit of his efforts.”

I’ve been thinking for a while about “the things we try and tell ourselves” through our stories good and bad (film, games, tv, photography, imagery, consumer-design, fashion) about the “innerstructure”. Wonder what else will emerge (no pun intended) while we’re under the influence of the Nash/Fuller binary constellation.

In the last year, we’ve heard politcians and business leaders pepper their speeches with the language of interconnectedness, and at ETCON we heard many use phrases similar to Natalie Jeremijenko‘s “structures of participation” without much expansion on what the best structure would be and why – only that Hollywood was out to stop us before we even start to explore that.

Even though I don’t think our brains could have taken it, maybe we could have got there with another week of the same people expanding on that side of things.

At least we had a start, and we have the blogs as the beginnings of a “structure for participation” to take it further. It’s encouraging that technologists should be so socially aware of the impacts of their field – as opposed maybe to the majority of scientists?

I, for one, am ready to rally behind the banner of Bucky and John…

»Big Fun Cool Things | Metropolis Magazine | May 2002