• "OSTRICH offers a micro environment in which to take a warm and comfortable power nap at ease. It is neither a pillow nor a cushion, nor a bed, nor a garment, but a bit of each at the same time. Its soothing cave-like interior shelters and isolates our head and hands (mind, senses and body) for a few minutes, without needing to leave our desk." want so much
  • "A great deal of what is called `digital art’ is not digital art at all, and it seems many digital artists seem ashamed of the digital.  In digital installation art, the screen and keyboard are literally hidden in a box somewhere, as if words were a point of shame.  The digital source code behind the work is not shown, and all digital output is only viewable by the artist or a technician for debugging purposes.  The experience of the actual work is often entirely analog, the participant moves an arm, and observes an analog movement in response, in sight, sound or motor control.  They may choose to make jerky, discontinuous movements, and get a discontinuous movement in response, but this is far from the complexity of digital language.  This kind of installation forms a hall of mirrors.  You move your arm around and look for how your movement has been contorted."
  • "If I were in London now or in the next few weeks, instead of Frieze I'd probably be getting to these shows." Rod's lists are always good.
  • I've used the Settings plugin a lot, but it's very old and dusty. This is a nice fork of it, ported to Rails 3, and saved for future reference.
  • "In a sense, a child, by definition, shrinks Scribblenauts’ scope. The game’s potential solutions are necessarily limited by vocabulary, so players with a smaller vocabulary have fewer options open to them. But, free of the dry, efficient logic of adulthood, a child’s imagination also opens the game up in ways beyond most adults’ reach."

What else is any fiction?

14 October 2011

Ursula le Guin was recently interviewed in Vice Magazine. It’s an interesting interview – an interview at times a little on the back foot, but honest in their reactions to the responses, which deserves much credit.

But really, it’s all about le Guin’s responses, which are wonderful. And in particular, this response, when asked about the “immense scale” of the many worlds she’s made, and whether or not she really had, in fact, created so many worlds and cultures:

No, no, thank you for saying so, Steve, but if I really had, I would admire myself tremendously. I would be in awe of my own staggeringly great mind. What I did was give the illusion of there being all those different worlds. That’s called art, or fiction, or something. The rule is, you only invent what you have to. And that’s pretty much what’s right in front of the reader. Let’s say it’s an ansible. I do not, in fact, invent the ansible. I do not explain how it works. I cannot, but shhh. I simply present the device as working, and as coming from a society which is far in advance of ours in science and technology, having spaceships that can travel nearly as fast as light, et cetera. And this background or context creates expectation and softens up the readers’ credulity so that they’re willing to “believe in” the ansible—inside the covers of the book. After the ansible had been around for a while, I invented the man who invented it, Shevek, in The Dispossessed. And he and I played around with some pretty neat speculations about time and interval and stuff, which lent more plausibility to the gimmick itself. But all I really invented was a) the idea of an instantaneous transmitter and b) a name for it. The reader does the rest. If you give them enough background/context, they can fill in the gaps. It isn’t just smoke and mirrors. There has to be a coherent vision of how things hang together in that society/culture/world. All the details have to fit together and be thought through as to their implications. But, well… it’s mostly smoke and mirrors. What else is any fiction?

Well, indeed. She has a wonderful, wonderful grasp on the nature of fiction and sf; it’s a great interview.

  • "It’s hard to believe that there was a time when any of these weren’t conventional wisdom, but there was such a time. Unix combines more obvious-in-retrospect engineering design choices than anything else I’ve seen or am likely to see in my lifetime.

    It is impossible — absolutely impossible — to overstate the debt my profession owes to Dennis Ritchie. I’ve been living in a world he helped invent for over thirty years."

  • List of all 58 fonts now in iOS, mainly for reference. (Although, eesh, Zapfino AND Papyrus? Really?)
  • Critical, critical, to the world we live in today.
  • "And all this time I can’t help thinking that this was because I’m working with games. If I was a fimmaker, this is issue would never crop up. But games have to constantly defend their status as a way of creative expression. When creating games, you are by default suspected of either selling out or producing nothing of value what so ever. Or both." Seriously, Vimeo need to sort this out: it's embarrassing, and contrary to the messages they send out.
  • "I wanted to talk about the Occupy $CITY movement here (in fact, that’s where this post started); a protest movement that is not about the event, or the movement through the city, or even the disruption per se. It is protest as part of the fabric of the city; a constant questioning and reassessment of a conversation with both the fabric of the city physically, economically and politically; taking the concept of Wall St and Main St and making it suddenly concrete, forcing a conversation to take place."
  • "If this doesn’t seem like a big issue imagine the state of cinema if film students were only able to study films made in the last two decades? Or if English Literature students no longer have the ability to examine the works of Shakespeare or Twain? What might be lost?" Seriously, companies: stop turning servers off. Processor power is cheap.
  • "Q: I don't imagine that a design meeting with Takahashi is a typical PowerPoint affair.

    A: He has singlehandedly invented the animated GIF as the design spec. It's fucking hilarious." Animated GIF as design spec. Superb. (And: nice interview with Stuart Butterfield about Glitch).

  • "Unlike the iPhone and Android apps, which are built on feeds from the website, this one actually recycles the already-formatted newspaper pages. A script analyses the InDesign files from the printed paper and uses various parameters (page number, physical area and position that a story occupies, headline size, image size etc) to assign a value to the story. The content is then automatically rebuilt according to those values in a new InDesign template for the app.

    It’s not quite the “Robot Mark Porter” that Schulze and Jones imagined in the workshops, but it’s as close as we’re likely to see in my lifetime. Of course robots do not make good subs or designers, so at this stage some humans intervene to refine, improve and add character, particularly to the article pages. Then the InDesign data goes into a digital sausage machine to emerge at the other end as HTML." Niiiiice.

  • "I cannot think of a worse fate: hearing something worse than John Mayer when you have to click on a link that says John Mayer. (Consider clicking on a Google search result for your dentist’s office phone number and getting your ex-girlfriend instead.)" This line is very funny, but the whole post is a shrewd explanation of the importance of resolution, and the fist Facebook makes of it. I hope consumers will discover they care about this more than they thought, too.
  • "It's a debugger for web pages, like FireBug (for FireFox) and Web Inspector (for WebKit-based browsers), except it's designed to work remotely, and in particular, to allow you debug web pages on a mobile device such as a phone." Blimey. That's, um, remarkably useful. Duly noted.

Links & notes for this month