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digital cartographers, narrative realization. image workers & pixel [re]searchers. emographers. memetic mappers. space cadets. polytopians.
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    Top(OS) Part II - A MetaTopos Scenario
    Project: Polytopia
    The following is a scenario on how I think that a MetaTopos could manifest.


    Our brains act as the glue holding together our multidimensional existence. They're spread across a laptops, cell phones, and a multitude of web services. Personal identity management tools (OpenID, are getting better, and so are our cross-platform synchronization tools, but there is no interface to visualize and interact with all this data in a meaningful, user-friendly, social way.

    The global brain is emerging, as KK says, and each and every one of us is a cell within this organism, and each of these cells have as many synapses as exist in each of their knowledge and social networks. But synapses are continuously made and broken.

    Design techniques for static information are well understood, their descriptions and discourse thorough and well-evolved. But these techniques fail when dynamic information is considered. There is a space of highly complex systems for which we lack deep understanding because few techniques exist for visualization of data whose structure and content are continually changing. To approach these problems, this thesis introduces a visualization process titled Organic Information Design. The resulting systems employ simulated organic properties in an interactive, visually refined environment to glean qualitative facts from large bodies of quantitative data generated by dynamic information sources. - Ben Fry

    The Top(OS) uses natural metaphors to aggregate & visualize activity within the networked context of our existences, and navigation and interaction with it through a GUI (graphical user inferface).


    The Amoeba

    Action creates Form

    Your amoeba's unique shape, contents, form and mechanisms of movement are defined by activity and behavior. You cannot choose what it will look like, though it is possible to shape it's form through specific activity & behavior, for whatever purposes those might be.

    The Culture

    Define your Culture.

    Computing will get powerful enough to visualize ALL activity and information in the the Top(OS) at once, but that alone doesn't make it possible for individuals to manage that quickly changing landscape of activity and information.

    Each of our networks therefore grows according to our current activity, knowledge, and interests. That in turn allows us to view the other networks in which similar information exists.

    The Culture is made of meta-data. It is not spatially located, as in..a specific visual landscape. The Culture is the DNA. The building blocks. Data only takes on form, shape and meaning when applied, connected, or affected to our personal (or collective) network.

    Now that we have an aggregation of our bioperson, extended person, & infoperson, and their networks, how we view the Culture which we inhabit is up to our own definition.

    Rhizomatic Architecture

    In the Top(OS) there are an infinite number and types of entrances and exits.

    Eventually, the Top(OS) interaction interface will exist in full 3d. That means there is no "underground" as is usually referred to in rhizomatic architecture. There is "sub-dimensional" and super-dimensional". Top(OS) is a scalable & zoomable multi-dimensional rhizomatic architecture (in a fractal sort of way).

    The Amoeba Culture is located at the focus point between the dimension we inhabit with our bioperson and those which we inhabit in cyberspace. The breaching point. The point at which it becomes visible. All synapses pass through here.

    If each amoeba is a living, moving organism within the sea of nodes, it is only through the connections that we (or our IA) experience the culture. Each amoeba by default has its own dimension of visualization within the Culture, which can be viewed simply and complexly, like expanding tree menus. It is also connected to all other amoebas which share common nodes.

    Now, let us go into some of the aspects of the Amoeb(OS) Culture and how they enable the already laid down concepts of the Polytopia.


    Multi-dimensional Identity & Content Aggregation

    Each aspect of Activity is a molecule within our cell. Clicking on a molecule directs you through a portal to travel to the original context or dimension, whether it be a local or networked hard drive, computer program installed on your system, social network accessed through a browser, etc.

    Clicking on a molecule can also opens its visualized information structure. These molecules can include (but are not limited to):

    - My Informational Earth (geographical meatspace location, geotagged photos, video & data, travel history, geographical location of friends, etc)
    - social network profiles & activity (Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn)
    - knowledge management tools (Twine, Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon, FriendFeed)
    - Access (Windows, Apple, Linux, SecondLife, WebBrowser, ComputerGame, Nepomuk, etc)

    Top(OS) aggregates the top level into our amoeba form.

    A Facebook (or Twitter, or Twine) profile is a molecule within our amoeba. The complexity of that specific TYPE of molecule is defined, lets say in this case, by how many friends you have. Click on the facebook molecule. Choose to either go to Facebook in it's current web platform, the molecule.

    Choose a visualization of that molecule (one of many, or create your own!) For this instance, let's choose Friend Interaction Visualization.

    Each node, or element, of the molecule is a friend. Activity is color-coded. Red being lowest activity and Violet being the highest, with degradations being dependent on an activity half-life equation (over X amount of time, Violet becomes blue, becomes green, becomes yellow...etc.) The synapses between you and your friends are color coded according to your communication with them. See the directions of un-responded communications. High-activity communication. Then click on any of your friends, and see not just their network of friends and their activity with all of them, but as well see to what other molecules (e.g. friends, groups, photos, infinitum) they have in common with you.

    Check option "expand beyond Facebook". Have a friend who's on LinkedIn, Twitter, Twine, Flickr, etc? Quantam synapses reach out beyond the Facebook molecule and link to the other molecules you have in common. Or in difference.

    There are endless possibilities in the visualization of each molecule, especially when semantic filters are chosen to direct the visualization itself.



    There are two modalities of synapses that must be present (so far). I have not found many examples of the second. They are both equally important.

    1. IBIS (Issue Based Information System)

    Types of synapses include: Responds to, Supports, Objects to, Challenges, Specializes, Expands on, Related to, About, Resolves

    2. ERBIS (Emotional Response Based Information System)

    Types of synapses include inducement of: pleasure, happiness, anger, laughter, sadness, annoyance, thrill, curiosity, disappointment, disgust, depression, inspiration, frustration, sympathy, etc. etc. etc. and "no emotional response'.

    The ERBIS system is complementary to IBIS. It gives real human value and meaning to it. An ERBIS is going to get powerful once interfaces that measure the emotional state of the user become prevalent (e.g. Emotiv) It is a way in which to create relationship between nodes which is not just rational but emotional.



    How does your Amoeba move? How does it collect information? How does it interact with other amoebas? How does your behavior and actions manifest itself in the movements of your Amoeba?

    Zoacodes (see my last post) are a set of behavioral laws that can define our interaction with other amoebas and the Culture itself. Using a Processing-like application, I believe that these Zoacodes could be translated into algorithms for visualized behavior.
    For a list of these Zoacodes, see:


    I believe these Zoacodes set a strong base for Friendship and Relationships in Hyperconnectivity. These are multi-faceted methods of entering into interaction with one another in hyperspace in a meaningful and powerful way.



    The goal of the Semantic web is to make data on the Web available for automated processing by agents. (from wikipedia). It's not just limited to the web. Nepomuk is an open-source software specification that is concerned with the development of a Social Semantic Desktop that enriches and interconnects data from different desktop applications using semantic metadata stored as RDF.

    Intelligent Agents are coming. There are many projects working towards this goal, most notably Siri (see this blog post).

    With the abilities of the semantic web and intelligent agents, we have a way of sorting through the Culture, the information at our disposal, in a deep and meaningful way (using IBIS & ERBIS).

    Our IA, based on our input into semantic search filters, should partner with a visualization browser such as E15, which is based on the concept that the user should have the choice of how to interact with information.

    E15 is an experimental architecture that places the power of presentation of web content into the hands of those that use it. Based on a dynamic, interactive OpenGL-based scripting engine, E15 exposes an entirely new face to web content, freely modifiable by each individual user.

    So now we have a 'smart' sorter of information and a method of visualizing it meaningfully. We have information narratives. Generative knowledge art.

    Lets now tie in Polyethics and Zoacodes. Those give us the ability to apply a behavior to an info narrative and towards the entity who has created it.

    Application: Find another amoeba who's got a similar characteristic as yours. Or find a conflicting one. Or complementary one. Or that's similar in this but different in that. This goes for opinions, too.

    Pick an interaction behavior from the Zoacodes based on your desired result, and SHARE. Whatever form that sharing might take.

    I see a great potential in generative art once it is applied to information semantically. E15 is really a program that allows and encourages generative knowledge art. Processing can also be used to drive the movement of the types of visualizations.

    But how else do we control the flow of information at our disposal?


    Information Filtration

    Food enveloped by the amoeba is stored and digested in vacuoles.

    This applies to any new activity or information. It goes into the stomach, so we can digest it. A pre-digestion can even be applied by our IA, labels and tags can be applied (sort of like auto email archiving). Then we can sort through it at our disposal. Once we digest the information it leaves the Vacuole and takes it place in our node network (which has been ghosted up until digestion). If the information is not sorted for a long time, IA will automatically sort and place undigested information in a special archive (lets face it, we're not going to be short on drive space).

    Need to comb through a large amount of information? Visualize it into a form - lets say a piece of algae - then set semantic filters to narrow down the amount of information - then eat, digest, and discard one plant cell of information at a time.

    The semi-permeable membrane of the amoeba is a learning thing. An extension of our IA. Set your amoeba on a behavior path: Wander. Swim. Flutter. Flagellate. Bump into other amoebas. Set your membrane's filter to absorb certain items and reject others.


    Collective Intelligence

    Amoebas can seek out other amoebas which are genetically similar. They can then clump together to form multi-cellular organisms in which some amoebas will become spores which can be moved to other locations to find more food, or they can become stalks which provide some height for the spores to then spread out. Most would rather be a spore than a stalk. (wikipedia)

    This is it - the creation of multi-minded organisms within the Top(OS). This does not mean that any particular amoeba loses it's individuality. rather, it means that there is the possibility to share resources towards common goals


    Much like Twitter, Top(OS) is based on a realtime timeline. Our amoeba moves through the Culture, views and interacts with other amoebas. How is our privacy protected?

    By default, each amoeba starts off completely opaque to all but the owner of that Amoeba. Versus the opposite of this (when all privacy settings are turned off and must be activated, in this instance, privacy must be deactivated.

    Choose which molecules of your Amoeba you want publicly visible. Choose what aspects of your Amoeba you wish to be visible to whom.

    Your amoeba could wander around collecting things and interfacing with complete anonymity. Although also of interest here is the ability for entering into 'trust' relationships. Lets say, if you want to get some certain amount of information from another Amoeba, they might require that they get some information from you. Entering into a trust relationship on both sides could be required.

    Default Opaque Privacy puts the power of how you decide to deal with your privacy in your hands.



    What happens when no activity occurs on a given topic, or even the cell itself shuts down due to inactivity (or the person behind it) dies?

    In environments which are potentially lethal to the cell, an amoeba may become dormant by forming itself into a ball and secreting a protective membrane to become a microbial cyst. The cell remains in this state until it encounters more favourable conditions. While in cyst form the amoeba will not replicate and may die if unable to emerge for a lengthy period of time.

    I don't think that the information should just disappear - it should just go dormant. The connections between dormant or inactive entities and information should be able to be searchable and linkable.

    With such a flux of information, this activity half-life gives yet another aspect of the self-organizing principle. It could be said that this is a danger, for if something is important but receives no attention or activity, it can be forgotten. There should be a way to search through these dormant items for relevance.


    Case Study: Anymails

    Used with permission of the Author.
    Design & Concept: Carolin Horn Code: Florian Jenett Institute & Advisor: DMI Boston, Prof. Brian Lucid, Prof. Jan Kubasiewicz, Prof. Joe Quackenbush

    Anymails is a visualization of my received emails.
    I have investigated how I can use natural metaphors to visualize my inbox, its structure and attributes. The metaphor of microbes is used. My objective is to offer the user another experience of his email world. - Carolin Horn

    Anymails is the closest natural metaphor visualization system that I have found to date. It is built using Flash and Processing. You can download her thesis, "Natural Metaphor For Information Visuzalization", on her website.



    This is only one possible scenario of a MetaTopos. Using metaphors of biological behavior is limiting, and I am sure that possible future mind habitats will outgrow these metaphors. However what I am interested is the practical building of this habitat as soon as possible.

    There is no reason why we cannot start building a MetaTop(OS) like this now. All the tools and elements are there to create a beta version, to enable us to live in the house while we are building it.

    The Top(OS) must:

    • be free and open source.

    • be installable as a program on any system (windows, mac, linux)

    • have an active beta tester community.

    • have user-contributed functionality.

    • be scalable and self-regulating.

    This is a call out to anyone who believes they can help us further define the system architecture, interaction design, and philosophy of the Top(OS). Please share your questions, comments, concerns, and anything you might so that we may all have a fuller picture of possible future mind habitats.

    I, for one, can't wait to watch my Amoeba swim.

    Sun, Apr 5, 2009  Permanent link
    Categories: polytopia, metaverse, architecture, topos, future
    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    snipe714     Fri, Apr 10, 2009  Permanent link
    A very interesting concept, and a nice presentation. However, I don't believe that Top(OS) needs to be built at this stage, since it will probably slowly emerge at some point in time as an evolution of current technologies, most notably web browsers. Things like Ubiquity and numerous site mashups out there already bring separate web services together. Thus, we can either sit back and enjoy (and wait), or contribute to those projects and help speed things up.

    Also, I think 3D interfaces in a non-3D space (like the monitors we all use) are inefficient, to say the least. E15 looks really cool on that gigantic monitor in their demonstration video, but I think a more efficient (and still visually exceptional) interface can be built in 2D. Processing? I bet the Amoebas would look awesome if coded in 2D Processing...
    notthisbody     Fri, Apr 10, 2009  Permanent link

    Thanks for the link to Ubiquity! This is a step in the right direction. Also, another service that's similar to this is Hyperwords - mentioned in a comment on here on SC.

    I agree with you that 3d interfaces in a non-3d space are inefficient. But in the next few years we're going to see 3d displays fall into the hands of consumers in a big way - personal immersive environments - so its necessary to keep in mind. If the Amoeb(OS) was to be created now, i'm sure the first version would be 2d. And yeah, I agree, Amoeb(OS) would be fantastic if coded in 2d processing :)

    I don't think we yet grasp what's being unlocked with 3d immersive environments. It reminds me of a comment I read somewhere of someone saying that it takes a very good filmmaker to make a movie for multiplexed 3d, because the movement is so real it can make you nauseous.

    I disagree however that isn't necessary to start building the Top(OS) now. I really don't think we should sit back and enjoy and wait. That's passive. Passivity is the thing that must be fought. And all these companies out there have an agenda of one sort or another. I think most are well meaning, but we cannot be sure of their goals & aims.

    How are these tools and functionality going to emerge? Who is going to direct the evolution of this emergence? Not the masses - we see what Facebook is mostly used for. We could let others do this for us, but I would rather be part of a community that would track the tools that they are developing and review, mash-up, & release better tools that include the functionality from multiple sources. I would rather be working on our agenda, based on the development of the Polytopia, than anyone else's.

    There must be a community with a goal that is not linked to the development of any one service from any one entity, organization, or company. I think what we're developing with the Polytopia project is a blueprint for the architecture that we see could work, an enabling architecture, and we should develop the necessary tools towards this aim.

    Aware activity is the name of the game.

    snipe714     Fri, Apr 10, 2009  Permanent link
    Ah, thanks for reminding me about Hyperwords. I completely forgot about that thing!

    I disagree however that isn't necessary to start building the Top(OS) now. I really don't think we should sit back and enjoy and wait. That's passive. Passivity is the thing that must be fought. And all these companies out there have an agenda of one sort or another. I think most are well meaning, but we cannot be sure of their goals & aims.

    Yes, perhaps I didn't phrase that well. I completely agree that one shouldn't just sit and wait, but join a community, interact and create. What I meant by what I said is that the changes are coming, and IMO they are going in the general direction of (web) service convergence. I think Top(OS) should try to steer those developments in the "Polytopia direction" and not reinvent too many wheels along the way.

    Forgive me for being perhaps too technical, but building a real OS is a bit far fetched. Rather, a meta-OS should be built, akin to the modern browser (which I already treat as an OS inside an OS). But what technologies should be used to build it? It would need a very solid UI library at a minimum. The connectivity code (used to interface with our various network resources, or parts of our network persona) can be written in virtually any language.

    Processing really looks natural as a UI choice for the first version of Top(OS). It's portable and easy to program in (sort of). Later iterations of the "OS" can replace it for a more efficient alternative. As for the "glue code" combining our net presence into one entity, anything goes IMO. Personally, I'd do it in Java (portability, available libraries, easily tied to Processing, etc.).

    A viable alternative might be Flash/Actionscript/Adobe Air.

    I'd be very interested to work on a project like that.

    How are these tools and functionality going to emerge?

    They're already emerging! That's what's so cool about it! Ten years ago, open web APIs weren't there at all, you'd have to write a parser for every piece of information you wanted to extract from a website/service. Nowadays all you need to do is send the service a request over HTTP and you have your information right there. The glue is what it's all about. Mashup sites are already doing this, but on a smaller scale, and IMO mainly to prove that it can be done and that it ain't that hard to pull off. (I haven't used any mashup site for more than a couple of minutes.)

    Who is going to direct the evolution of this emergence? Not the masses - we see what Facebook is mostly used for.

    There should be a body of users steering these developments, I agree. However, what you cannot steer is the type of users who use the products of these developments. Facebook is a masterpiece from an engineering point of view, yet most of its users are "ordinary people". But let's not get off track.

    ...but I would rather be part of a community that would track the tools that they are developing and review, mash-up, & release better tools that include the functionality from multiple sources.

    Exactly, me too.

    I'm curious about your opinion on the technical stuff I posted. I don't want to get into any more details, this comment is long enough already. :)
    notthisbody     Sat, Apr 11, 2009  Permanent link
    A metaOS in a browser-type form as you describe it is exactly what we should be heading towards, I think. It should take a form that can be installed on any system, no matter what the OS. We do not need to reinvent the wheel but aggregate useful facets of existing and soon-to-be existing tools.

    I'm not sure about the technical things - I'm not a programmer and do not know what programming language or platform would be best to build the TopOS. I'm glad that you think that it could be done in Processing, but I suppose we'd really have to put together a comprehensive technical body of research about what we need and the interoperability necessities...and choose our tools based on the needs for the functionalities we desire.

    There should be a body of users steering these developments, I agree. However, what you cannot steer is the type of users who use the products of these developments. Facebook is a masterpiece from an engineering point of view, yet most of its users are "ordinary people". But let's not get off track.

    That's why the architecture of the Top(OS) must be well thought out, so that it enables and encourages the 'ordinary' users to go beyond their ordinary use. I don't exactly understand how this would work myself yet. Its make a product a specific way that discourages one type of use and encourages another. its not like the 'product' should be closed off and limit the use, but rather...gets fuzzy at this point. It's a fine line.

    We must remove the barriers and enable, enable, enable the ordinary user to easily access the possibilities of non-superficial uses. Beyond that, it's up to the individual, and the individual can't be forced to use something a particular way, just encouraged. Our architecture must encourage.

    I think there are many who are interested in collaborating in the development of the Top(OS) 0.1 (not necessary in an Amoeba form, but in multiple manifestations). I think we will get started very soon :)