Katrina and Bruce

As Hurricane Katrina makes ‘landfall’, this from the Viridian Design mailing list’s Bruce Sterling:

In the meantime, however, humanity’s incapacity to recognize and deal with its own peril is becoming eerie. And hilarious. Granted, this situation is not going to feel all chucklesome if you’re shivering in the New Orleans Superdome while its parking lots sink underwater, but that awesome mayhem is just the Southern Gothic version of our planet’s rapidly increasing woes. Here comes America’s worst storm ever, yet nobody on this plethora of satellites whispers the obvious: “climate change.” It’s catastrophic. It’s also surreal. A perfect placement for science fiction as political satire.

Watching the CNN coverage is surreal, he’s right.

They are covering it like a sports event – and inventing a psuedoscientific argot of catastophe as they go along: “wobble factor”, “cone of possibility” etc.


Update: AD calls out BS on his apparent glee.

Web 5.5

A long and interesting critique at Abstract Dynamics of the changing nature of privilege, control and access to the web that “web 2.0” seems to be creating.

What really separates the “Web 2.0” from the “web” is the professionalism, the striation between the insiders and the users. When the web first started any motivated individual with an internet connection could join in the building. HTML took an hour or two to learn, and anyone could build. In the Web 2.0 they don’t talk about anyone building sites, they talk about anyone publishing content. What’s left unsaid is that when doing so they’ll probably be using someone else’s software. Blogger, TypePad, or if they are bit more technical maybe WordPress or Movable Type. It might be getting easier to publish, but its getting harder and harder to build the publishing tools. What’s emerging is a power relationship, the insiders who build the technology and the outsiders who just use it.

He’s also tired of the Web2.0 monicker:

Are the internet hypelords getting a bit tired? There’s this funny whiff of déjà vu that comes along with the latest and greatest buzzword: Web 2.0. Web 2.0? Wasn’t that like 1995? Don’t they remember that Business 2.0 magazine? Or remember how all the big companies have stopped using version numbers for software and instead hired professional marketers to make even blander and more confusing names? I hear “Web 2.0” and immediately smell yet another hit off the dotcom crackpipe…

Personally, I’m now just going to be refering to Web5.5

It has a whiff of the crufty, featuritis midlife of mainstream applications (Quark, Wordperfect, etc) which renders it pleasingly mundane and irrevocably intertwined with the work-a-day world.

Web 5.5 comes with a couple of giant manuals in binders and a little plastic overlay to put abouve your function keys.

It’s been 10 years between Web1.0 and Web2.0 – so expect Web5.5 sometime around 2035.

Along with space elevators.

Update: a response to the AD essay by Michal Migurski


From John Hagel’s site:

“JSB and I have been exposed to the dark side of … new technology. JSB has even coined a name for it – he calls it ‘Berrybite”, merging Blackberry with soundbite.

Both JSB and I have had experiences where documents we sent were read by people on a Blackberry or Treo. They weren’t long documents – basically the equivalent of two or three pages of text. The recipients were initially highly critical of the material. But, when we pressed them to read the documents again, they came back after reading them more carefully on a PC or in print form and apologized for their initial reactions. They said the material was excellent and they didn’t really understand why they had such a negative initial reaction.

Well, we think we know why initial reactions were so negative. The Blackberry or Treo is not conducive to a careful read – it encourages skimming. It also encourages people to find a quick way to capture what is in the document and then move on to the next message. As a result, people tend to try to fit these documents into familiar categories based on some key words rather than thinking deeply about the topic and absorbing new perspectives. It also doesn’t help that documents on these devices are typically accessed in environments with lots of distractions – meeting rooms, airports, automobiles, etc. – making it difficult to concentrate on the message at hand.”

Both Foe and myself were discussing this a while ago – she had a client who’s organisation was addicted to their crackberries; and in Nokia a lot of the management use communicators more than laptops due to their schedules. We have both experienced firsthand exactly what John Hagel and JSB (John Seely-Brown?) describe above.

Aside from the oft-mentioned ‘Constant Partial Attention’ that the thumbwheel fruit-machine fosters – Blackberries and other mobile email systems (anecdotally at least) seem to encourage ‘Seagull’-style management, a display of communication and ‘progress’ where in reality there is little.

Berrybites aren’t confined to work or email either – I remember Michael Kieslinger and Molly Steenson’s presentation to Etech 2004 about a group of SMS users arranging a social occasion. A plan was mooted by an individual to the group – something like 120 texts and 2 hours later – nothing about that original plan had changed.

As a non-Blackberry/push email user I have a morbid fascination with what their usage does to people and projects. Has the organisational atom of thought in corporations shrunk from a Powerpoint bullet to Berrybite?

We have a long history of studying the effects our intertwined tools and media have on the way we act and interact, but perhaps because what we call ’email’ pours seamlessly from container to container we imagine we don’t have to modify anything about our behaviour – that nothing about our relationship with that media has changed other than we can receive it anywhere.

First to solve this might not get rich, but they might have a less stressful life.

Ghost Town

World Of Stuart visits the ghost village of Imber in Wiltshire:

In the winter of 1943, the War Office informed the inhabitants of the small Wiltshire village of Imber that their home was being requisitioned for the war effort. With the D-Day landings just a few months away, the government needed places to train American troops for the sort of house-to-house fighting that they expected to encounter in Nazi-occupied Europe, and presumably because of its location in the middle of Salisbury Plain, Imber was an ideal candidate. The villagers were given a month to evacuate, and told they’d be allowed back when the war was over. They never were.

[via Kieron Gillen]

The Grim Meathook Future

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Joshua Ellis, republished by Jim Rossignol:

“Feeding poor people is useful tech, but it’s not very sexy and it won’t get you on the cover of Wired. Talk about it too much and you sound like an earnest hippie. So nobody wants to do that.

“They want to make cell phones that can scan your personal measurements and send them real-time to potential sex partners. Because, you know, the f*cking Japanese teenagers love it, and Japanese teenagers are clearly the smartest people on the planet.

“The upshot of all of this is that the Future gets divided; the cute, insulated future that Joi Ito and Cory Doctorow and you and I inhabit, and the grim meathook future that most of the world is facing, in which they watch their squats and under-developed fields get turned into a giant game of Counterstrike between crazy faith-ridden jihadist motherf*ckers and crazy faith-ridden American redneck motherf*ckers, each doing their best to turn the entire world into one type of fascist nightmare or another.

“Of course, nobody really wants to talk about that future, because it’s depressing and not fun and doesn’t have Fischerspooner doing the soundtrack. So everybody pretends they don’t know what the future holds, when the unfortunate fact is that — unless we start paying very serious attention — it holds what the past holds: a great deal of extreme boredom punctuated by occasional horror and the odd moment of grace.”