“Extreme Inscription: New Media, Magnetic Media, and the Limits of Writing.” March 5 at the Library of Congress; follow the link for details. I’ll be presenting some of my work on hard drives from my book.
Two equally excellent pieces that crossed my screen in the last day:
Nick Montfort, “Continuous Paper.”
Ed Ayers and Charles M. Grisham, “Why IT Has Not Paid Off as We Hoped (Yet),” EDUCAUSE Review 38.6.
Amit Kumar and I are pleased to announce the release of the Virtual Lightbox 2.0 (screenshot).
Written in Java, the Lightbox is an inline browser applet for image comparison and manipulation. Users can import images into the applet’s display area, arrange them in any configuration simply by clicking and dragging, magnify them, and apply basic image processing. The Lightbox will be of potential interest to anyone presenting images on the Web in a context where active comparison—what John Unsworth calls a “scholarly primitive”—is desirable:
New features in version 2.0 include: compatability with Macintosh OS X; the ability to save and re-open the contents of the applet in any state; the ability to add images from a local file system to the applet’s current display; mouseover captions for the images; improved behaviors for image movement; and numerous other small fixes and enhancements.
The Virtual Lightbox is both free and open source, available under the terms and conditions of the GNU General Public License. It has been developed with the ongoing support of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). Feedback and comments welcome: email@example.com
Bruno Latour’s 1999 book Paris: The Invisible City is now available online as a “sociological web opera.” Based on a collaboration with Flash artist Patricia Reed and photography by Emilie Hermant, the announcement describes it as a “transformed” book, “the first social theory book that makes full use of the web possibilities.” Available in French and English.
Well, today’s my one year. When I started MGK last February the DC area was buried in snow and I really had no idea how any of this would turn out: what I would say, who might read, whether the blog would last. 228 entries (and 400-something comments) later I can easily say it’s been time and keystrokes well spent.
Relax, I’m not going to bore anyone with long-winded reflections; but blogging’s brought new friends (and some old friendships renewed), new colleagues, new networks, and new ideas.
Things have been a little quiet around here lately—a lot of my blogging time is going into my course blogs, which folks are welcome to peruse—but in the mean time know that I appreciate anyone who’s ever taken the time to read something I wrote, let alone left a comment or a ping. Thanks, and here’s to 365 more days of blogging!
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Just three degrees of separation: not only is this CNN.com article on how a barrel of M&M candies led to breakthroughs in understanding how non-spheretical shapes fit together interesting reading, but Salvatore Torquato, one of the Princeton physicists named (and pictured), is the brother of my very good friend John (who you can find on my blogroll)!
Kari: What did we do before the Web?
Matt (thinks): I guess we watched television.
So now the Washington Post has required registration. Sigh. Like barbed wire fencing in the open range, registration is quickly becoming not the exception but the norm on the Web. How many times do I have to make up the same information about my gender and zip code? How many times do I have to put my surfing on hold to await a “confirmation email”? Hello, standards anyone? Surely someone’s created a secure online registry where users can enter personal information to their comfort level which can then be fed back out to individual sites upon request—instead of individual users manually filling out one idiosyncratic Web form after another?
A simple example of a formal system, from Douglas R. Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach:
Three potential characters in this formal system: M, I, U.
Begin with the state MI.
Can you get the system to the state MU using only these four transformations (any combination, as many times as needed)?
Haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but today’s NYT Magazine has a very long article on the “virus underground”. Anyone who has read it want to weigh in?
Via Ed Chang in my graduate class this semester comes Psymon, a whimsical but informative look at this history of printing which announces itself as follows:
World Wide Web pages bound by hand using traditional methods as passed down from generation to generation by the old masters. Only the finest materials are chosen by our shop to ensure that our publications will stand the test of time, and we still take care to sew, glue and bind all of our scrupulously selected codes and scripts by hand, thereby ensuring that our sites receive nothing but the most personal, intimate attention, all reflected in the quality of our workmanship, with each endeavour being a truly unique creation to be displayed with pride in any library or forum.
Actually, when I first glanced at this language, I thought Psymon was a service for taking actual Web pages, printing them on fine paper, and then making hand-bound codex volumes out of them. Which leads me to ask, why isn’t there anyone out there doing that? Or it wouldn’t surprise me if in fact there was. For the netizen who has everything: his or her Web pages in a leather-bound volume suitable for reading in the proverbial bathtub.
The College of Arts and Humanities here has started a new educational technology newsletter which takes the form of an MT blog. It’s exciting to see blogs beginning to make institutional inroads like this, at least when it’s your institution. Oh, and they were kind enough to mention one of my spring classes.
I said the following:
I find Movable Type blogging more flexible, easier to maintain, and more
aesthetically attractive than regular courseware. Since everything on the site—the syllabus, assignments, discussion topics, etc.—is built around individual blog entries, cross-referencing and linking them is effortless. Everything is also open to student comment; we’re only a little more than a week into the semester and the blog already has over 50 student-authored contributions. Students, I’d imagine, find the blog less intrusive than constant course-related email in their inbox, and they get to see their ideas instantly “published” on the Web. Moreover, since the blog, unlike many courseware systems, is itself part of the open Web, the possibility exists that others—the general public, colleagues of mine in related fields at other institutions—can read, comment, and interact with the students (this has also happened). The site as you see it is a mixture of a standard Movable Type installation, a set of wonderful, free courseware templates designed by Elizabeth Lane Lawley at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and some further refinement and tinkering of my own. If more courses at UMD had blogs they would quickly begin to cross-pollinate and we would see exciting new webs of knowledge spreading through the campus’ cyberspace.
The email system I use is having a really bad day; if you’ve sent me mail and it’s time-sensitive you might want to try to reach me by phone instead. I’ll be in my office: 301-405-9650. Or you can leave a message for me here (if you don’t mind the whole blogosphere reading it ;-)
Also, if you haven’t had a reply from me in the next 24 hours you might want to resend the original message.
Joseph Viscomi’s authoritative, illustrated account of Blake’s “Illuminated Printing,” now online as part of the free William Blake Archive. A must for anyone interested in printing or the graphic arts. And an elegant reminder that sometimes the simplest things about a new medium are the best: “While the text remains the same, the electronic version has 95 illustrations versus 9 in the printed version.”
A while back I wrote:
My fantasy setup of the future might look and feel something like this: a rectangle of thin plastic, perhaps 3 x 4 feet, which I carry around rolled up under my arm. I can unfurl it on any tabletop or flat surface, even the sidewalk. The plastic sheet is actually an LCD screen, with an embedded wireless uplink to the Web: the desktop browser has become a magic carpet. Applications, both local and remote, appear on the screen, like the tiles of a mosaic. I move them about physically, dragging, shrinking, or enlarging them with my hands, pushing and pulling them through the information space. Text entry is primarily by voice recognition. The keyboard, when needed, is a holographic projection coupled to a motion tracker. Data is stored to a miniature hard drive I keep on my keychain.
And now the Washington Post has this. Apparently electronic paper, or something very like it, has arrived. “[A]fter years of unabashed hype and dashed hopes, truly flexible displays are at last being ramped up to commercial production.”