Further adventures of Small Pieces

I finally finished reading Small Pieces
Loosely Joined
. It took me quite a while because I was also writing a review
of it for Boxes &Arrows, which should be coming out as soon as they finish gutting and revising it so that it
makes sense. This is a tough book to review in 1500 words, and I cranked out a
wheelbarrow full of other stuff I was trying to say that I ended up taking out.
So, as a supplement, I’m going ahead and putting this very long and winding post.

If you’re interested in more of what I liked and wondered about in the book, read
away. If you really don’t care, that’s fine, it’s the Web! You can click to someplace else.

Continue reading “Further adventures of Small Pieces”

Touch my wiki.

I just updated my bio page at IAwiki: AndrewHinton. I must confess, I haven’t been using wikis as much as I thought I might once I figured them out. But mainly it’s because I haven’t taken the time with them that they require to really make a dent. It’s like a huge communal garden. And I’m not much at gardening. Hell, I’m not much at homeowning either (I just cleaned my gutters after putting it off for a year; one of them is bent in the middle from all the crud it had collected.)
Perhaps I just haven’t encountered a wiki that really sucks me in strongly enough? I honestly grow bored of Information Architecture after a while and want to do something else. If there was a good wiki out there that collaborated on a huge story or narrative world of some kind, that would be excellent. Surely somebody has done that? Anybody know of one? (Comment if so.) I should go looking.

Dropping magnets on the moral compass

CNET has a story today on the latest obsession of our esteemed Representatives in DC: House passes ban on “morphed” erotica.

An excerpt explains: In their April ruling, a 6-3 majority of the justices wrote that Congress’ first try at banning "morphed" porn was akin to prohibiting dirty thoughts. "First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought." Prosecutors argue that the COPPA bill is needed, since otherwise it is too difficult to prove that an actual child was involved in the production of an electronic image on, say, a seized hard drive. .

Here’s another example of how weird the world is getting due to technology, and how morality itself is often shaped by the medium.
Anybody who thinks this is an easy question is missing the big picture (so to speak).
If a picture is worth a thousand words, and the picture is not of something “real,” then what do the words say?
We used to not have to worry about this problem. It was obvious in an analog world, or at least provable with the help of experts, that a photograph had been doctored, or that a film had been edited and lit to fool the eye.
Not so with CG creations. They’re getting better and better. When they show someone doing the physically impossible (like Spiderman) no big deal, because 1) what he’s doing is obviously a trick and 2) it’s not especially illegal or harmful to anyone except street thugs and supervillains.
But take a few minutes to deftly edit the image of 21 year old woman engaged in sexual activity to look like a 16 year old youngster, and even though what you’ve done is somewhat disgusting, it didn’t hurt anyone physically. Yet you could end up in prison. That seems absurd, right?
But how about this… you’re trying to find and prosecute members of a child porn ring. The only physical evidence you have is a bunch of jpegs on a computer showing pictures like the one described above, along with other scenes. The technology has made it so that we cannot assume these pictures are showing the real thing, although in this case based on testimony of others involved you pretty much know it’s really going on.
If you can’t grab this sicko with the evidence in hand, because it’s possible that it’s “morphed”– now what do you do?
I’ve certainly oversimplified this, but the bottom line is that what we have taken as ‘reality’ over the last couple of centuries is being dissolved before our eyes. Even eyewitness testimony and fingerprinting are known now to be much less conclusive than we could previously, comfortably assume.
So, now, how are we going to sort the baddies from the virtual baddies? If only technology could give us a way to see into one another’s hearts?

Dawkins Interview in '95

Wired had an article in 1995 that, bless their enterprising little hearts, is still available lo these many years later online, about Richard Dawkins, Mr. Meme-Coiner himself. Here’s a quote: Dawkins’s revolutionary evolutionary rhetoric has particularly inspired researchers of artificial life. Indeed, Dawkins’s work has created new contexts for exploring genetic algorithms and has sensitized the growing community of artificial-life researchers to the evolutionary dynamics of their software creations. Much as Herbert Simon and Marvin Minsky framed the agenda for artificial intelligence, Richard Dawkins has effectively defined the evolutionary agendas for artificial life. If you want to understand the future of natural and synthetic evolution, you have to read Richard Dawkins.

Now what?

I’ve been using a blog for a couple of years now at drewspace, but it’s pretty limited to the few things Blogger is good at. So I went whole-hog on this here Movable Type extravaganza. But now it almost feels like too much tool for me. Blogger was simple… once I had it figured out, I only had one thing to worry about: posting something now and then to my page. Now with all these other tools available, it’s a little intimidating. MT itself doesn’t come with that much more power on the surface, but it’s much more extensible. Gets me thinking about what it must feel like to companies and departments who spend upwards of a million bucks on a huge new IT tool, only to end up using a fraction of it. (Like getting a Cuisinart, only to end up using it the same way you used your old blender.
For example, I have a category field sitting above the little box I’m typing this into. I haven’t set up any categories yet. Why? Well, I guess I just have no idea what the heck I’m going to categorize and how. I don’t have time for that. I just want to rant on about something and hit a button.
Well, I’m not taking the old blog down for a while, if ever, but I don’t have time to do two of them, so for now I’ll just continue to tweak this memekitchen thing until something clicks for me and I figure out how I’m going to use it. Until then, anybody who stumbled up on this thing is going to have to put up with more of this kind of useless rambling. But heck, that’s what blogs are for, right?