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Patrick Tierney (M, 32)
Princeton, US
Immortal since Oct 7, 2007
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    Lebbeus Woods. Terrain 2.

    A little know, but incredibly influential and constricting aspect of the Internet (or any networked body of sufficient size), is the protocols used to transport information between nodes of the network. The protocols most people are familiar with are http and html (directly influencing css, javascript, etc). These two protocols completely determine what your experience on the web is like. In other words, if you're looking at a website, it is strictly conforming to http/html. The protocol of http/html, based around a grandmother's recipe catalog, is what forces 95% of the internet into looking like the world's largest magazine collection.

    Presumably we all see deficiencies in this protocol and believe that a Polytopian system is the solution. But, what, exactly, are the problems with the existing state of internet protocols? So far I have identified several deficiencies:

    • Lack of social presence on a "site". If 3000 people are all looking at a website at the same time, you are not aware of any of them.

    • A lack of perspective on the people using the Internet. If I want to see where clusters of people are, I am unable. If a crowd forms around an idea, if they're all listening to a particular feed of data, I am unaware.

    • Lack of a temporal dimension. Why can't I see these people as if it were an hour ago, why can't I visit a site as though it was a month ago, or a certain important date in the past.

    • A lack of communication. Besides a few hacks to http (Facebook, Gmail), I cannot communicate with any of the other viewers of a site.

    • A lack of social search. To use an analogy, when you visit a city for the first time, and are trying to find cafe, the first step is not to look through the yellow pages. Yet this is EXACTLY how the Internet is structured at the moment. Finding a cafe in a new city involves walking around, stumbling into new things, looking at the people cafes, listening to what they're talking about. Search has, and should continue to be, a social dance through space. The Internet must reflect this.

    • Strict hierarchy of media. Http/html favors text above all else (requiring no links, references, tags), followed by images (requiring slightly more work). Other media such as sound and video must be hacked on, and as such cannot be used as liberally as text and images. Vast numbers of other means of communication are ignored (3D models, gestures, collage [ie the links between items as a medium]).

    • Lack of change to the above media. It is impossible to change the contents of a website unless it is specifically hacked to allow it (forums, comment boxes, etc). Changes to video, audio, and images are impossible.



    I am curious what other people see as problems to the existing structure of the World Wide Web and the Internet.

    References:

    1. Galloway, Alexander R. Protocol: how control exists after decentralization. Leonardo Press, 2006.
    Mon, Oct 19, 2009  Permanent link
    Categories: architecture, Virtual Reality, internet
    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    Researchers from the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory at Keio University in Japan have developed a brain-computer interface that enables users to control the movements of Second Life avatars without moving a muscle.

    It's a brain wave scanner, and as the video shows it surprisingly good control over your avatar in Second Life for a device that doesn't need to be glued to your head (though it is a little slow).






    Shuhei Endo has been doing some interesting work with geodesic dome structures. One of his larger projects is the ECO House, a huge bean shaped geodesic dome with grass growing around much of the outside. He said it keeps the inside 10 degrees cooler on the inside without air conditioning (I dont know if it's Celsius or Fahrenheit). The ECO House encloses 9 tennis courts in one snaking bean shape without any obstructing walls or columns. He did a kindergarten in a similar fashion though at a much smaller scale. I like how it makes children sized overhangs.






    Kaichiro Morikawa gave a talk on the Otaku subculture in Japan on Monday. It was primarily an anthropological talk, though near the end he started making some great parallels between the internet, architecture, and user generated content. Otakus are the anime and manga obsessed citizens of Japan, and have created districts in Tokyo with distinct architectural and design styles based on the Otaku's needs and personalities. The buildings in Otaku districts are more private than contemporary buildings, yet also offer places to display user generated content such as fanzines and "garage kits."

    How we design buildings and structure cities is primarily based on global trends (the glass and steel of modernisms for example) or "capitalism translated in to space" (giving the biggest buildings and central locations to rich corporations). These two design methodologies often dont reflect the subtle needs of subcultures. The internet knows this all too well, and it is this feature of the internet that has given rise to so many diverse groups. How can architecture catch up?


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    Recently I've come to appreciate Neuromancer in a whole new way. For the longest time I thought of the book as too abstract and a little slow, as opposed to Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash, which gave so much detail about the Metaverse you could sit down and begin programming it. I always thought the difference was that Gibson couldn't imagine what this virtual reality would be like, so he left it vague.

    As virtual reality is becoming more central to people lives and businesses, I'm beginning to understand one reason why he might have structured the novel in the way he did. For those who aren't familiar with the book, it follows a man who's been neurologically damaged so he cant enter cyberspace. He turns into functioning alcoholic, and much of the book deals with his detachment from the world, living his life in a half waking state.

    Something fundamental about the world we live in today is that as long as you are alive, you exist in three dimensional space, are affected by gravity, and all other forces in our universe. With the rise of virtual reality we will form an attachment to an entirely different space. The character in Neuromance defined himself by cyberspace, he thought in the dimensions of cyberspace. When this was taken away from him he was alive, but didn't exist in his reality. The thought of being in this state make me recognize how ahead of his time Gibson was.


    Sun, Oct 7, 2007  Permanent link
    Categories: Virtual Reality, computers
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