Friday, December 25, 2009

The Librareome Project

The kindle store doesn't have any books. (100 years of solitude, house of leaves, midnight's children, anything by Borges, gravity's rainbow...)

just an empty skeleton. corporate b_ll$5*t.

We had better not forget the Library.

[Being able to pull up definitions of any word is cool. So is being able to download "previews" for free. Having 40 books in my backpack isn't bad. I'm just... worried about what won't get picked up because the publishers don't predict profitability.]

Borges? Really guys?!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Black Whole

[I'm sitting here reading my Major Advisor's most recent article and feeling two things.

1) An overwhelming sense of Attention Deficit. I want to be browsing my favorite sites instead (eating mental sugar), playing games, overstimulating myself.

2) The sites I visit are somehow less exciting than they used to be. I go to them because they're easy, because it takes virtually NO willpower to enjoy them.

I just wanna absorb.

So I'm struggling to read through [my advisor's] writing. It's detailed, methodical, logical. I feel like a 2nd grader trying to enjoy the dictionary. It's not his fault, it's my own. His essay is trying to describe the reasons for why I feel driven to browse the web as I do, but mental habits produced by years of browsing make it difficult for me to understand what he's getting at. At this rate it's pretty easy to imagine a time when I might be unable to understand a commentary on the deficiencies in modern cognition due to the deficiencies being described.

He writes:

"We visit the same sites each day, settle into familiar and comfortable habits of browsing. But it was not always so. Twelve years ago you did not browse but surfed the Web. Surfing is active, thrilling and risky. The waves carry you where they will, and the water may even overwhelm you. The experience of surfing the Web used to be an unpredictable and exciting one; the next link led who-knows-where. "

But it isn't like that anymore. Geocities was taken down last week, sites are becoming more standardized. There isn't as much risk, as much mystery as I experienced as a child hopping from keyword to keyword.

Right now I'm writing about an article I haven't finished reading. Where's that tab....? I have 34 open. What?

Whenever I spend the time to actually sit down and read something
great, I become overwhelmed by the number of remarkable ideas buried underneath the garble of dated prose I encounter. I want to take every little snippet of clairty and type it into twitter where my less patient peers might gobble-up and reproduce the abbreviated idea. Does this mean I'm simply underexposed to good ideas, or has my hop-skip-jumping from concept to concept given me a better ability to see the far reaching implications of the singular "good idea"?

Does the same thing happen to the physical world as we master and commercialize it?
Maybe, though I don't think my generation gets out enough to have reached that point.

"A dozen years on and the risky thrill of surfing has given way to the bourgeois fantasy of browsing. Idling one's way along the aisles, one peruses goods which for their part offer no resistance, no threat, and very little surprise."]

I stopped writing this post for some reason a month ago. I must have been distracted by something. 我要學中文可十想謝。Found an email I sent in response, where his ideas are discussed further. Please take the time to power through his essay, here.

[Dear Professor X,
I have finished reading your article and thought I would share some of my thoughts. My favorite bit is found in your abstract conclusion. You hammer on a very important chord. I quote so you don't have to go searching for what I'm talking about:

"When Eve eats the first apple, man discovers his humanity: alienation from nature and from God is the human condition, but the Fall is also the condition of freedom and responsibility. Wozniak dreams the undoing of the Fall; this time the first Apples, rather than leaving you to your own devices, let you know what you want, resubmit humans to a nature and thus to a (digital) God who rules that nature. After all, the computer that tells you what you want provides not only your desire but also its satisfaction: the black whole."

"The black whole." The thing we reach for, are drawn towards with every click. I think this is a very important idea and I wish only that you would flesh it out for me. The subjective levelling-out that you point to might be more dangerous than you reveal. You hint at it:

"Exciting and powerful, interactivity is thus also dangerous, for it threatens to dissolve actors and medium."

I wonder how you think such this system will or could perpetuate itself. I don't think it can! Wouldn't we reach a point at which... the division becomes indiscernible? What would such a scenario look and feel like? We are clearly heading towards this
black whole, drawn there. But is every form of web 2.0 a symptom or can the destructive be parsed out from that which is not? What is the opposite of "the black whole?"

You hint at the existence of such an opposite when you say:

"Self-expression and thus also self-recognition become the defining experiences of Web 2.0, such that the Web is both mediate and immediate at the same time. How far does this paradox extend?"

Perhaps only technologies within which the user does
not have a subjective representation are safe. Facebook, WoW, Email... technologies which alter/ abstract / amplify/ distort the subject... are worse than those that do not? Can anything we interact with on a computer avoid affecting our subjectivity?

So you ask how far the paradox extends; perhaps we can only guess: How far could it? How close are we to the limit if there is one? Which technologies bring us closest?

My guess: It goes to the brain stem, to the basic drives behind every human action (understanding of death, sexual drive, self-awareness). I see the black whole as a point where we no longer have individual will, where we can be swayed by outside media/inputs/forces into action without question. Where we prefer to be.

When? 100 years. Worst current symptom? MMORPG's.

Because MMO's take a human subject and reduce it to a series of menus. (
"Each user gets to assent to those expressions that suit her, authorship having disappeared in favor of selection, a menu-driven collective creativity.") This feels good, allows us to feel secure in a way. With menus we know we cannot make a bad choice, but in reality we cannot make a choice at all. As the computer comes to "know what we want," we can no longer see the menus. They feel too good.

Which leads to my only disagreement. You say:
"Linking, which was only a marginally revolutionary possibility even in Rosenberg's account, has now become simply a normal experience and no longer destabilizes the reader."

Yet I think that hyperlinks still destabilize the reader's subjectivity, fracturing it. The difference is that this destabilization now pases unnoticed; users are no longer as shocked into a reflexive awareness of what they are doing. It's just the hum of "browsing." Menu selecting.

The Paradox of Choice.]

We don't like having to make decisions. Actively reading heavy text involves many. Did you make it this far?


Monday, November 16, 2009

Skype Metaphysics in 30 seconds.

Raven: can i be in more than two places at once, and be relaying different messages to different people at the same time?
Dr. Cosmos: no
Dr. Cosmos: you can only jump quickly
Dr. Cosmos: or have simulations of your thoughts act for you
Dr. Cosmos: : D
Raven: what if the other groups asked me opposite questions
Raven: and i answered "yes"
Raven: the other people with whom i was communicating
Raven: obviously i could do that
Dr. Cosmos: in this example each of your messages would themselves be a simulation of your original intent
Dr. Cosmos: like words in a book.
Dr. Cosmos: and each of them would ony "be" with you in their understanding of what you had thought at the moment you thought it.
Dr. Comos: if they even did that
Dr. Comos: Im not sure that you're really "here"
Raven: i am there
Dr. Comos: you are imagining that you are
Dr. Comos: hallucinating
Dr. Comos: assisted in your effort by the images on your screen
Raven: that's what you learn in Perception though... seeing me on a screen and being able to talk to me in real time is the same thing as me being there.
Raven: just imagine that this screen has perfect image quality
Dr. Comos: right
Raven: and it's so big that it reaches beyond your field of vision
Raven: and the audio is perfect
Dr. Comos: a perfect simulation would become the thing it tried to represent
Dr. Comos: i feel you
Raven: ok
Dr. Cosmos: though I feel that your conscious mind can only truly apply itself to one question, one place at a time.
Dr. Comos: surely you can have thoughts under the surface, or echoes in other places
Dr. Comos: but to "be" somewhere
Dr. Comos: i dont know
Dr. Comos: maybe I'm romantic

Someone who knows more than we do about the nature of everything would probably have more than a few things to point out:

1) To think that our understanding of the words "space" and "time" allow us to come close to understanding what's up is laughable.
2) Everything is a hallucination. You're "seeing" what the graphics card in your brain tells you you're seeing. So every sensation is a simulation. Even the buddha experienced a simulation, albeit one of stunning clarity.

I still believe that is only possible to "Be" (as deeply or sincerely as any human being can really "be") in one place at any given instant. I think we jump around.

If you break it apart it's something else.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Mom Has Facebook

You know, at first Facebook was just a playground; our generation grew up doing whatever we wanted here and figuring out how it works alone. I would have thought having parents online would... kill it. But their presence is proving to be, nice?

They (old people) complete things socially. The immigration of physical society onto... whatever facebook is... it's over. Sure there are parts of the world still left unconnected, but the generational void that we (born 1985-1995) have experienced since AOL 1.0 is closed. The whole gang is here, and you can bet my kids will be here too.

The "groups" we are forming are going to begin to consolidate into something more... useful? marketable? powerful?

Thing is, this facebook connection is TOO nice; too easy now. My "social network" is at arms length at all times.

We are going to become tribal. Close-knit emotionally but separated physically.

but will these networked tribes FEEL the same way the real ones used to? I've taken a digital break with my SigO because the interactions through 1's and 0's feel too... hollow.

So yeah it's nice to hear from my mom more often, but it's sad that my kids might not know what it means to really miss someone.

ps: How in the hell is Facebook building my news feed? They've recently revamped it. I'm only getting certain people... people I pay attention to. Big brother is blue and useful.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Everyone Would Rather Be Lucid Dreaming

My dreams have been somewhat shattered. Somewhat. There is a strange tension that pervades The International Symposium On Augmented and Mixed Reality (2009). It's like there are 400 children who have been told to go to sleep the night before Christmas, except there might never be any presents. AR just might be hype and never really happen. Nobody knows, and there's a lot of squirming going on.

Plus there are 400 children vying for one gift under the tree.


There will most likely emerge a monopoly within the AR industry, it's prophesized by the nature of the technology. The augmentations will have to be hosted and edited from a central point. Whoever hosts that will have to design a popular world, a first app that uses glasses (head mounted displays) with controllers (gloves?) properly and attracts the first wave of users large enough to matter.

They say that this emergent company will be whoever hosts the best "points of interest," the most useful geographically-tagged information datums. An unspoken understanding from deep within the Orlando Downtown Marriot: whoever figures this out will make billions of dollars.


And the tension that pervades the building exists because of the buzz. AR IS SO COOL. Well what if they don't pull it off? Honestly it probably won't be these guys who do pull it off. Apple or Google could just as easily (maybe more easily!) become the super-emergent billion dollar AR host everyone is lucid dreaming about. Why haven't they made the move yet? Why aren't they at this conference?

I have yet to meet any other game designers. People want to figure out how to build a "facebook for AR." They want to know: how do you get people to start tagging places and contributing information and feeding the host company piles and piles of personal data so they can go and sell all of it off to....

sorry. Fun secret cosmos fact: The killer app is going to be a game. It'll be a pervasive MMO that allows people to change how they look, interact with interesting narratives and cooperate/compete socially.

How do I know? Because I'm their target audience. Because humans are very simple and we just want to engage in systems of reward. Games are invented systems of want and need. "I NEED TO CHECK FACEBOOK." No you don't, that need was presented by the technology and you have bought into it's system of social rewards. Games. Play. Design. Fun. Discovery.

These people are... mmmf. Don't get me wrong: lot's of cool tech. Surgeons can operate on people who are thousands of miles away by projecting remote visuals. Some of the demo's are mind-blowing.

I tried on some lightweight glasses that perfectly overlay 3D objects: coolest damn thing I've experienced in awhile. $250. And the guys who make them were the most interesting to talk to so far. They're building these things so people will make the kinds of games Nick and I are talking about. This is 100% doable. It'll be tough, but the tech is there. We can get an API dev kit for the glasses. That's all I needed to know.

All the buzz about stepping away from reality... people seem to have lost touch with something. Maybe I have too? We so badly want to just play around somewhere other than the Downtown Orlando Marriot.

But as we chase improvements to reality (make things faster, more beautiful, more immersive, more informative) we improve along lines of human desire that are one-directional. It's a straight road away from physical existence and these kids are sprinting down it. Eventually they'll want to go back. Maybe some of them already do and that's what I'm picking up on. The atmosphere of headlong illusion makes me reassess the things I believe in, the things that tie me to this world and make it worth playing out as a real person.

I miss her.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I sleep as late as I want to biologically. No stabs from digital alarms, please.

Let go of time for a time.

Spend minutes opening my eyes. Further minutes feeling the sun. I pick up a book kept close and read a chapter slow.

First time in awhile.

Slower, better. I am getting more done by not going as fast.

Then... I open iTunes. Tokyo Police Club? I should download all their stuff. Skype chirps. did you get my email? No, let me check after-Facebook- wall post I'd like to bury under a good link, what can I find that's entertaining enough for my... friends? My breathing shortens. I let the music turn off searching for youtube music videos to share with strangers, hope the strangers like it so they like listening to what I say I listen I sit in my bed in silence. My perfectly long day begins to thin out, but I catch myself.

The things I need to do, need to be done slowly.
The tools I have to manipulate this machine aren't yet in rhythm with my body or my mind.

Maybe someday...
But not now.

I am at the border between two kinds of pace.

[two hours pass, I write again] Am I? Does the tech have anything to do with mental pacing? The mind fractures fine without digital aid. Friends enter the room, a conversation begins, food distracts. Gmail opens in response to a conversation. Fractures.

[an hour passes] when am I going to post this? By now there are enough mental applications running in the background, doing the same things to my sense of time and place as the 23 tabs in firefox that _a part of me knows_ are open on the other side of the room. A phone call with my sister seems jagged because I'm busy making notes to record the sensation later here for....

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rewards Are Like Steroids (If Everyone is Watching.)

this post is a rant. you will not find many like it here but I mean this one and here it is:

Barack has won the Nobel Prize. The award was given so that he might gain some political clout for future peacekeeping efforts. Why should we care if he doesn't "really deserve it"?

Whatever media you take in defines your reality. By telling us what's going on with our government, the news shapes what we think is going on. No? Yes. We listen! "This happened today, this did not."

Such a system makes it economically advantageous for both sides (CNN, you) to create centralized celebrities like Obama. Making an equally compelling character out of every member of congress would use up too many resources, too many scriptwriters.

So they have fashioned a global hero for us.

We have inadvertently designed our current system of political discourse (power/memetic transfer) in a manner that is more centralized than we can admit. Bush couldn't handle the pressure that comes with it: he folded under our eyes.

Obama now stands in the center of a telecommunicative forum that is only beginning to grow in its power and scope. Every computer screen on the planet sits facing him, eyes wide. He is what we will listen to because he is all that we make time to listen to.
By making Obama our only source for _____... we hand him everything.

What does he give us? Hope? Information? Orders?

I'm not one to pick sides, but men are still dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. More catch bombs from remote drones in Pakistan than did under Bush. Nothing is being done about the slaughter in Africa.
Guantanamo stays open. Rarara... yet we thank our hero for "peacekeeping." Of course these are difficult issues and no one person could possibly fix all of it...

And yet we expect him to. We gave him the award so he would. Our perceptions of real world affairs blurr with the hum of telescreens as important men thank our man for "a new climate in international politics."

That climate only exists in print, between broadband nodes, tweeting out of telephones or flashing across overused laptop screens.

Nothing is being done, but we thank him for
playing along with us.

The media hands us stories that are cut and formed like lego bricks. It's what they do. Eye-catching and easily added to our collection we can only nod in agreement and throw what we will into our given "political reality." Hey! Mine's a dinosaur! I need to go buy some more preformed world understandings so I can really delude myself...

(cable gets charged monthly, don't worry)

"Okay okay, whatever, let the masses nod along," you might say, "I'm educated and I know what's going on so that's okay!" Ah, but powerful networks of noddings can be directed anywhere with enough spin; they hold power:

"Iraq caused 9/11!" boom

So who is pointing our eyes toward this new Hero in the first place? Who designs avenues of information trade? They're people trying to make MONEY. Employees at places like are hired to build a reality for you to watch and paid to keep you watching.
... just scared enough to need a hero, just happy enough not to act.

I feel as though I am no longer involved in what's going on in my country. We're a generation of observers, of watchers. Not doers.

Nod... nod.... nod.

From Satire X of the Roman poet Juvenal (c A.D.200):

"… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses"

bread is still our bread, cable our circus. Obama? He's a famous Lion Tamer standing in the middle of the ring who has yet to place his head anywhere sharp. Who can blame him?

So he stands there between reruns of friends and the weather channel and we listen for a few moments before changing the channel, assured that he's keeping us safe.

We need to get out of our tent and go put out some fires. The Visigoths are coming and no one remembers how to fight. Ask the lion tamer to do something quick or to give you your money back.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hidden meaning?

In gaming, this is the symbol for half-life 2, one of the greatest/most popular works in recent years.

In Chinese, this is the character ren (second tone), which stands for "person" or "people." Or just "man" sometimes:
So the HL2 logo is the inverse of the symbol for "man" because the player has to topple an oppressive alien government and free humanity from mental slavery! SEE?!

or... the logo is just a lambda.

Meaning is always an invention.

Friday, October 2, 2009

In short:

By studying the way in which game systems can be designed to control and influence their users, we should come to better understand how “design,” modern society and new media forms will coalesce into avenues of exclusive power.

Quote me.

!go too fast

“Doing everything by hand has the advantage that you understand every step. It takes longer, but it gives you the feeling that you understand what you’re doing. A computer relieves you of a lot of the work, but it often takes away the possibility to trace each and every step.”

(good find magstar)

Thursday, September 24, 2009


So if I post about the AR conference in my new academic group's website I get a badge to wear.

I want the badge:

Submitted by Brendan Scully on Sep 24, 2009, 05:07 PM


I'm rarely in a conversation for long before "Augmented Reality" comes up; it's a bit of a problem:

"Alternate Realities? What are you talking about?"

"Well you take a QR code and use it to orient a digital camera in real space so that you can lay 3D objects and information over the real world."

"Why would you do that?"

"You can create interactive forms of media, change the aesthetics of your surroundings, access useful location-specific data without..."

"You're crazy!"

I have a dream. I dream of being in a room with people who are not only aware of, but made excited by the prospect of emerging AR and MR technologies.

Luckily for me, such a room will exist October 19th-22nd at The International Symposium on Augmented and Mixed Reality.

I cordially invite all HASTAC members to join me as we represent humanistic and academic interests in a forum traditionally dominated by technological and engineering-oriented discourse. Let's bring some thoughtful concern to this truly exciting branch of interactive media.

For the first time this year, ISMAR will feature an "Arts and Humanities" section in their conference:

"The ISMAR 2009 Arts, Media and Humanities Program will present the breadth and depth of the Mixed and Augmented Reality research and application.

The program will include:

- research presentations,
- discussion panels,
- keynote speakers from Arts, Media and Humanities,
- hands-on demonstrations,
- interactive participation,

As representatives of HASTAC, we will attend these discussions and demonstrations with a passion to contribute and an eye for academic quality.

Most importantly, we can try to ensure that those intimately involved in AR recognize the potential influences reality modification could have on the arts, our society and human thought over time. This isn't just a fad, it's the internet coming to bear on physical reality.

So join me to ask some questions, or email me if you have any questions or interests that you'd like to have represented at the conference.

So I wasn't really sure how to sell it. I have no idea why I'm going, I have no idea what it will be like or where the tech really is in its development. Giving the academics an opportunity to criticize felt like a good tactic for recruitment...but I also believed it.

We need to ask them questions they can't yet answer. There is no "them." Just us. The tech isn't at a point where it can really be shown as dangerous. We have to dream ahead. How things come together... will determine everything. Is discourse and guesswork part of the development of a new, profit-driven technology?

Only if it affects the market.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Like A Needle

Coding is a nice way to get to know computers. Writing is a better way to know yourself.

I had to submit a long bio to the HASTAC ("haystack") site, which was the usual discussion of "digital humanities" and "warjammers" and might have sounded impressive if I'd ever really done anything.

(have any of these people? or is the whole thing just an idea-grab?)

So the site is going live soon at and they asked me for a "short bio" in addition to my "long bio." So... I gave them this:

Level 21 Digital Humanities Major (Dartmouth)
Level 68 Bear Shaman (Age of Conan)
Level 60 Tauren Warrior (WoW)
Level 35 Fire Blaster (City of Heroes)
Level 79 Ranger (Runescape)

I'm ready to ask hard questions about where the human desire to role-play and the future progress of augmented reality technology will leave thought, society and law.

Any interest in the evolution of gaming into Reality Design or Civic Ludology? Send me a tell at

True, I made up the terms "Reality Design" and "Civic Ludology," but spend enough time playing games and even more time watching the increasing effect of media on public consciousness and you'll begin to realize that governments implement "level design." Guru's strive for "immersion." Every desire-based human system of action can be understood, criticized and improved upon as a game-system.

In short: Political Philosophy and Game Design are close cousins. The former is written to be noticed and heralded if perfect while the latter strives to pass unnoticed by those whom it governs.

HASTAC should be a wonderful step towards educating and connecting the kinds of sociological, anthropological and psychological system designers we will need in the augmented world soon to come.

To be even shorter: let's avoid 1984.

@Copyleft Brendan Scully 2009

Okay so that was a tad rash. Maybe the 1984 comment will lose me some credibility, but I meant it. Big brother was a game designer. Or maybe he was the in-game avatar used by the team of social designers. Maybe using copyleft will make me sound like a tool. I probably misused it and will shortly become subject to lawsuit. Look, I just want credit for my inner demons; I really threw it all out there for these "teachers" to pick at.

To be honest (real talk): I'm fishing for someone who might have a clue as to what I'm talking about. Hopefully they'll find this blog. Hopefully they'll like it. Ideally they'll send a helicopter over to my house, tell me about the global anti-ignorance task force they've been setting up in Amsterdam and ask me to come spend some time telling people what to do.

While playing Champions Online...

Maybe to be an academic you have to be a hypocrite. Spanish professors at Dartmouth love spanish so much they chose... not to live in Spain. I loathe the internet, so that's why I'm here typing...

Anyway let's hope someone at HASTAC can give me a push in a direction. A taskforce can consist of one person, a small task and any sort of action. I'd hate to have to just go into augmented advertising when I graduate... (shh, you know I wouldn't.) God help us all if I go into advertising. I will do well and the world will not.

I meant what I said in that bio though, and through writing (thank you, writing) I realized something new: political philosophy and game design are really the same fight over minds and happiness. Thing is, the philosophers wanted citizens to talk about their issues, their own systems: who should get what, why, how? Game designers would rather you have a good time and ignore the system that gave it to you.

One is driven by scarcity and the other isn't. So I guess we just have to wait for the singularity to do away with scarcity and then we'll just design our own games and.... goodbye world.

We need Real-World Role Playing Games. Where you give people classes and quests that help the world out.

yeah, that'd be cool. Or it'd be bad like a totalitarian nightmare. Depends how we design the thing, depends how we sell it. Plato's Republic was a just game spec:

People made out of gold get to be scholars,

People made out of silver become warriors,

People made out of bronze do the labor,

Plato rules over it all because he knows best (philosopher king status)

The whole thing is a noble lie (an arbitrary rule set built for the purpose of pleasure, a game system)

So which philosopher had the fairest game in mind? The most fun? Maybe different games are more enjoyable for different people. Hmm...

Does there always have to be moderator? (in-game watchdogs who maintain the game system) Does there always have to be a single government, or can different systems exist in the same physical area, with different people taking part in the "roles" they choose?

Augmented reality could give us something like this going on in the same city:

"What game are you playing today, bob?"

"I think I'm gonna go make some horseshoes on my 68 blacksmith in Dragon Land"

"Cool I'm going to go lie on the beach in Commu-topia"

In WoW the mods are human.

In our world, maybe it's G_d. Maybe we err by trying to do H_s job for him. Maybe the only way for our race to become H_m is through trial and error.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


So I've been sitting around and doing a lot of drugs.

The newest high is called Champions Online.

Thing is, my tolerance is starting to build up. I enjoy my friend who I play with, I love the fantasy of being a superhero (although who knows what sorts of power complexes that satisfies)

Playing these games, hour after hour... I can see now how the creators lock their players into a chain of goals. One quest leads to another, success never achievable but always within a players grasp.

It's frustrating. On its most basic, bottom level playing these games leaves me frustrated with myself and with the world I have to return to.

I am not really helping anyone through my actions. My dogs remain unwalked. I forgot. I didn't care. It would be one thing if I could actually escape into another world, one that I could taste and feel, and exercise there with my friends.

But these are just poor simulations. My body is stiff from sitting. I can tell that I have not been breathing fully. I am tired and sad to go to work (as a food runner from 5 to midnight).

Thing is: being hollowed out feels good when they make us hold such weights within.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Warjamming / Realityjamming

The documentary we shot during the Warjammers MMORPG addiction experiment has been put up on youtube (thanks anna). Looking back, I REALLY value what we did.

Didn't get much support, didn't succeed in becoming addicted,

...learned a lot about the way things work in academia and the un-force-able nature of play.

I took a good two weeks off from touching a computer. Again, the effect was profound. I slept better, thought better and felt better when I wasn't wired in. Computers accelerate the mind and split it into a thousand places (if you know how to find the information and how to scan it fast enough). Useless garbage...

Yet without a laptop I also do about 5% as much. I am trained to write / research / think with this tablet as a guiding force. Way fast, very extensive.... incredibly limited in ways I am only beginning to realize. So What's the next step?

Learning how to program.

haha. yeah, close the window. Who the hell cares about programming? People turn away from it, laugh at it. They fear it. But that's why I'm going in. "I am a designer" is often just an excuse for not being willing to figure out how things work on a basic level. NO ONE in our society has any idea how their computers are really working.

This whole time spent looking at a Digital Humanity and I never took coding seriously, never thought I could. I was scared away from it by a hostile intro to compsci prof, by the stigma. I spent 2 years studying that fear, looking at what computers were doing to me.

So now I'm getting my hands dirty, seeing what I can do to it. Logic logic logic. It's beautifully different from how I am used to thinking. It seems like every programmer I've met has let go of a certain degree of flexibility (spiritual?). I hope I don't lose touch. But I don't think I have to. Programming is the newest artform, and only a certain kind of person has been willing to engage with it. As the forward in "Foundation ActionScript 3.0" explains:

"Today, we look upon programming as a purely technical pursuit. We talk of a divide between the creative and the technical, and lump programmers in the latter. The programmer is today as the filmmaker was early last century: an artist toiling in relative obscurity, awaiting a code-literate society to appreciate the nuances of her art. Will it take a century to happen? I don't think so."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Design = Creating "There"

[Originally posted on]

The word "design" comes from the German "da", meaning there, and "sein", which means being. So design is simply the way of "there-being" that all humans have.

We see it more as an activity now, the steps that one can take toward improving or strengthening the human condition.

Game designers go a step further.


We are people who construct situations which remodel the human way of "there-being" around new goal structures. We evoke the human sense of being within fictional, simulated environments. We let people fly, swim and build on scales that reality does not permit.

Yet these experiences fail if they do not remain loyal to the basic human sense of being that each player brings to a designed world. Game designers get to build the "there" so as to evoke being, and the "there" we build can be sculpted in ways that evoke certain aspects of the human mind or influence a subtle shift in the human way of being

External circumstances have a direct influence on human conceptions of the self. Thus many basic aspects of humanity (murder, violence, destruction....) become enhanced and rewarded when the goals within a system are mainly combative or competitive. The goal structures that comprise games can be tailored to attract escapism, hallucination, and gamer compulsion for the sake of corporate profit. These experiences can evoke lower aspects of human "being" while repressing higher functions like creativity, community or thoughtfulness. Many games evoke both.

But at Tilt we choose goals that foster education and inspiration. 

Sounds simple but it's pretty hard. It actually might be impossible to build a "there" without it's own bias, it's own tailored agenda that leaves out certain aspects of human "being".

Is it okay to design only for the aspects of human "there-being" with which we agree?

Or does doing so just lead to repression?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Adderall and Hyper-Cognition

Diana emailed out to a short list of students and professors quoting this article.

"But it's not the mind-expanding sixties anymore. Every era, it seems, has its own defining drug. Neuroenhancers are perfectly suited for the anxiety of white-collar competition in a floundering economy. And they have a synergistic relationship with our multiplying digital technologies: the more gadgets we own, the more distracted we become, and the more we need help in order to focus."

(I emailed back)

"Unfortunately there's a direct correlation. Computers give us the ability to do too much. The drugs introduce a compelling form of anxiety, a helpful (false?) sense of purpose in the face of infinite possibility (firefox).

It's like coffee and confidence. English papers become as interesting as dinosaurs in 4th grade.

YET they leave people completely dependent. I've heard speeches from graduating seniors warning against use: "I just can't bring myself to work without it anymore."

But i guess I would say the same about my laptop."


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bionics, human vulnerability and the media

Take a look at how radical new technologies are being presented to us: digestible, friendly. Like some vegan cooking how-to videos.

Robot penguins.

Robot snakes.

Robot us.

"Oh yeah don't mind us, just re-crafting nature to suit our needs. Please invest!"

My new media-immunities are down: I'm actually worried about the swine flu but I'm cool with simulated animals.

The media has a vicegrip on my emotions with this one. The fear is the real contagion. If it meant not having to worry about getting sick, I'd let the biotechnicians do whatever they please, make robot viruses that keep away the ones we didn't create. On one end they have us too scared to ask questions, on the other, too complacent.

We are overpopulated, and the crash is just going to get worse the further we push it away with technology. Five people were diagnosed on campus with swine flu today. They're being given some magical treatment. People are on edge.

And in response to this fear you get people saying, "yeah well, no one cares about AIDS," or "no one talks about Cholera!" Well, no one cares about technology either. I... can't even say for sure what it is about these links that moves me. There's something. Something we're after. Perfection. Self-simulation. Invulnerability. Scary I-Robot kinds of questions should be asked, but when you dress it up like a penguin... who cares?

I'd buy an air-penguin and let it float around my yard. The snake, maybe not. It's all about how things are presented, and that makes me susceptible to infection.

But now that we've built it, now that society is there to be sustained and the technology is so easy to mess around with, we're going to sprint to the end. Till viruses don't matter. Till mortality, pain, hunger... till every fear has been mastered and streamlined with shiny chrome labels and gadget-laden life preservers. Until that point, the media had better keep our hands and feet inside the tram.

"But why? it's more fun with your hands in the air, it's more scary!"
"Hey kid look its the swine flu!"

you got me.
scared and stupid.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Twitter =

[a draft I found, posting it finally jan 2010]

Why is twitter valuable? Because if you use it the right way, if you don't talk about yourself and succinctly post good ideas over time, then future employers will have a record of your creative identity. They'll be able to look into the memories your perceptions have bothered to record (the pictures, the articles, the "ah-ha" moments) and assemble an accurate understanding of your personality.

Racism Against Robots (Quickpost)

Sitting in my Philosophy and Computers class. People arguing that computers (AI) will never be creative like humans are. "Computers can't come up with a new way of seeing..."

Going to ask if there's a word for racism against robots. Here we go.

Talked about the infant in a white room experiment: child dies due to lack of stimulus. talked about creativity, my inability to communicate ultraviolet in art because I can't see it. Lamented that we are holding on to identity and authorship. Asked the racism question. Answer I recieve: something like Specism. (species-ism?) Carbon-centrism?

People laugh, but i got the prof's attention. He goes on to read poems written by A.I. and poems written by humans. No one gets them all right.

No one is trying to let go of their self-importance. It's hard, like pushups. We've gotta try harder to accept how cool our existence is even though we might not be IT.

And god damnit, when AI shows up my "wired" generation might not be willing to lighten up.


Text-Based Graphics

D+D has me thinking about visualization; it's just a better way to build fictive space. So here's some interactive fiction Nick Montfort suggested which plays off the same effect:

Varicella by Adam Cadre

Bronze by Emily Short

Aisle by Sam Barlow

Book and Volume by Montfort

Then if you're looking for a multiplayer experience, I've been messing around on DARTmud, which is Everquest meets.... a really good book. I like it more than the single player experiences, but sadly the world is a bit empty now that graphics have taken over:

As if any of us have time for this stuff.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Probably a bad thing to say.

I Played Dungeons and Dragons last night till 4am.

(Stop, wait, listen.... really. It's okay.)

Woke up this morning and the power /electricity had been turned off at my house in the middle of the woods.

The first experience was mind-opening. D+D, at it's best, is more immersive than World of Warcraft or Age of Conan could ever hope to be. You visualize everything: Subjectively perfect graphics and more mental exercise than computer based interactions. We need to retool online experiences to make more positive use of individual personality, humor and identity.

The entire thing also revolves around the group of REAL people you play with, and how willing they are to joke, play-act and openly enjoy the absurd splendor of what they are doing.

People scoff at Dungeons and Dragons, but it is by far the greatest play experience I have had since.... Jail Dodgeball in 7th grade? Yeah, that good.

What's going on in D+D under the hood is so complicated / beautiful. The narrative is controlled by a player, the "Dungeon Master," and our DM enjoyed his experience showing us "what was going on" as much as we did acting it out for him. Both sides relied on each other. Laughter! Personalities! Real life!

It was a glorious revival of oral tradition, old school storytelling with perfectly structured rulesets made the experience honest; things depended on chance but the DM held the final say like a God whose chief interest is good drama.

Sounds like ours...

Anyway, I played as a human paladin... yeah. He rocks. I bought into the narrative, built my character's background as I went. People can be "good" at D+D only to the extent that they add to the story in creative and legitimate ways.

I know I sound like a ranting fanboy, but there really is something profound at work here. Everything that my game design class is stressing, every nuance that I have seen escapist media attempt to cultivate through "coop" modes and "immersion," is pointed towards the effects generated by IRL role-playing.

There's a catch: it was all about the people I played with. Without those social ties, the narrative might have gone differently. I look forward to bringing more people into the circle, but there is a good chance that their presence might pull the rest into self-consciousness, self- doubt: the enemies of good storytelling.

So we wake up and the power and electricity are off. Reality. Had we not paid the rent? What if things stayed like this? What about drinking water, bathrooms, the internet? Suddenly every skill I have becomes useless without electricity. A fear of self preservation filled me, and things became clearer.... literally. My senses became heightened, as if the resolution of my existence came into focus: what did I need to do to survive? what did I need to see?

Now the power and water are back. Maintenance. I can feel myself falling back into the comfort of toilets, electric music, email. But for a moment all I had was my car and the remaining charge in my cell phone.

Luddite adrenaline.

A few days ago I confronted a protesting veteran on the campus green. The audio below reveals some distinct issues that stand between my generation and his (Obama stole the election? Not having a gun license is unconstitutional, retirement taxes are destroying much of the middle class?)

His most useful/legitimate observation: a single EMP could wipe out electronics in the US if you deonated a nuclear device in orbit? Likely or not, we'd be thoroughly hosed. His advice: stock up on food, water, bullets. Apparently since 9/11 bullet factories in the US have been unable to meet demand? All I know is that I'm not prepared. We need to memorize books (which ones?). We need to shield our electronics.We need to build latrines. We need to think about the possibility that this system might just keel over without its blackberries and ethernet cables.

Of course I sound like so many conspiracy nutjobs, maybe I just bought this old guy's story too quickly. OR, maybe thinking about the worst outcome sucks because you aren't ready. I experienced life without tech this morning. It's scary and real and it looks much clearer than this world does.

(I'll post the audio I recorded during his conversation later.)

Suddenly D+D seemed... silly? I have to register my car. I need to pay my cable bill. I need to do work for class.

Nah. I need guns and friends, and good stories to get us through the chaos that might erupt.

So now... I guess I just need guns.

The DM in the real world isn't willing to blur the rules to make things work (thanks will). To the same extent that storytelling and role playing have been numbed and abstracted by digital technology, so too have our real world skills.

Who farms anymore? Who hunts? If the grid goes dark your cities will become dungeons and your party had better be ready for some dragons.

Play a role. Stay open minded.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Remediation" Is Lame

Rather than call something just a "remix" or a "remediation," go ahead and use something more refined:


1. a literary, musical, or artistic piece consisting wholly or chiefly of motifs or techniques borrowed from one or more sources.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Jung with a computer: #1 and #2

(Disclaimer: forgive the discussion of self angst here, be patient)

So Jung understood the duality of his personality in terms of two distinct characters: "#1" and "#2."

#1 was mainstream, productive in the everyday world. Logical and ambitious for academic success, #1 pursued a prestigious lifestyle in relationship to Jung's surrounding society.

#2's personality was much more troubled, concerned more with ontological questions (God, the supernatural, truth) than the goings-on of physical society. #2 liked to brood, to comment, to lament.

Though identifying two personalities helps some people, it often oversimplifies mental conflicts within the individual and can encourage schizophrenia as a crutch for poor performance. Some people can handle it. Either way, this particular distinction is useful because I FEEL THE SAME WAY, and the split is caused by my lifetime use of computers.

If I have a #1 and a #2, the first is concerned with love, the outdoors, food and eastern spirituality: he chills, laughs. #2 is much more ambitious, worried about ontology, angry at society/ arbitrary authority structures and MAINLY EXISTS/SURVIVES ON THE INTERNET.

Now people have had different internet avatars for quite some time, early interactive fiction encouraged the formation of a "screen identity" from the start. But what is happening right now is something different, something more profoundly causal to real life, and I'm not the only one being affected. Not even close.

So I could throw out my laptop and live as #1 and go into teaching or finance and be healthy and happy, drink wine watch movies and be ignorant. Fck that. I have lived more as #2: complaining, thinking about biopolitics and ontology in relation to everything I do. Drug use encourages this perspective. #2 wants to be a savior of society, a more profound Cory Doctorow: Dr. Cosmos the seer. What a jamoke.

People are multifaceted, yet the conflicts that stand between personas can cause discomfort. I'm not going to slip into psychosis like Jung, but the ignorance=bliss split is made especially painful when computers are our main source of information (non-ignorance).

non-linear, non-authorial, non-finite knowledge

If computer use = non-ignorance, must it must also = non-bliss?

If using a computer for long enough (socially) creates a new personality, then MUST any human create a #2 if they want to take part in discourse online?* Who is Cory Doctorow? Who is Perez Hilton? If i let #2 run free, I think he could become a part of that world. I think I would suffer as a person for it.

I am.

Stayed up till 5am scanning websites about virtual reality, talking with a friend in Boston, listening to newly downloaded music... this is how I lived in highschool: perpetually tired, perpetually apathetic about reality and fully engaged in the internet. MMORPG's, 4chan, web comics, web sites, pod casts ---> there's enough to keep me satisfied forever. Hell I never even started hacking or fcking with proxies! I spent my hours in my mind/in front of a computer and I am... smarter for it? Maybe, I know some of sht.

Yet I have little use for the information I've soaked up in my drunken thirst for _____. I woke up at 11 and missed the sunrise.

So who's it going to be? Can we control them both? I highly doubt that everyone is this way, but if you have read this far: ask yourself who/what/why your #2 is. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, tell me how you manage your consumption of information and go for a nice walk. I need a break from academia.


Haha we're so spoiled, so ignorant here.


*(we don't really interact in physical space, making our bodies and our "#1" natural personalities obsolete.)