Eternal life?

Eternal life is a fairytale. It is not possible to live forever. Or at least, this is the case these days. But what if it really becomes possible to live forever? According to three scientists, Anders Sandberg, Aubrey de Grey and Nick Bostrom, an endless life isn’t far away.

A technique that is developed to better understand the architecture of the brain, is being used to upload contents of the human brain onto a computer.

“Anders Sandberg describe how to scan ultra-thin sections of brain. First, embed the brain in plastic, then use a camera combined with laser beam and diamond blade to capture images of the tissue as it is sliced.”

If this really becomes possible it means that people can die physically but still continue living on a computer. Isn’t this a bit weird?

Sandberg and his collegues are called transhumanists. This is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and ameliorate what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as stupidity, suffering, disease, aging and involuntary death. Some people think these transhumanists are dangerous for the future of humanity. What if ‘the others’ take over?

This whole project raises a lot of questions. Where do digitized brains go to? Do ‘brains’ know they are digitized? What will happen if people can be uploaded to Second Life? Can digitized brains die?

An interview with the three transhumanists can be seen here
A really interesting article about Aubrey de Grey:

Here at MofM we’ve done our share of Google criticism, but I think The Last Psychatrist has one up on us. What Hath Google Wrought is a giant-sized portion of skepticism about the ‘accidental monopoly’, which focuses not just on current problems of data retention but some of the long term (cultural) consequences as well. I’ve posted a few choice quotes below.

First, here’s what is meant by ‘accidental monopoly’:

Consider email: you can choose to use Yahoo! Mail and not GMail because you are worried that Google keeps all Gmails. Fine; but if you email to someone with GMail, Google stores a copy and knows what you wrote, but now also knows your IP and email address; consequently, it knows other sites you’ve visited. Etc.

The data retention issue seems manageable with promises like “Don’t be Evil”, but eventually there will be the problem of liquidation.

Everyone worries about Google’s growth, but who is worrying about its demise? Google has so much data that it actually takes up real estate all over the world. Let’s say Google goes out of business. Who gets all those servers? All that data? Who gets a copy of the world, on the cheap? Whoever it is doesn’t have to give us satellite photos anymore. What can you do with satellite photos that no one else has? Who gets to decide how to control all that data?

My favorite bit, however, is on what else to expect from the narcissistic culture that surrounds, supports and benefits from Google. For instance on parenting:

The focus is on who is monitoring our children. What are they up to?

Well, think about this: your kids are investigating you.

Remember that time when your mom was 19 and she was in that wet t-shirt contest? No? Well, your kids will get to remember yours in AVI format. Oh, and that DUI conviction? Remember that vapid comment you posted on the Daily Kos? (Hint: ten years from now a high school freshman will cringe at its inanity.) And, lo, the IP address search. How did your IP end up on (Yes, the non-profit.)

Did you realize that your future daughter in law will be checking you out? “Billy, did you know eight years ago your Dad…?” This didn’t occur to you? Then I guess it didn’t occur to you that your son’s reply will be, “Sigh. Yeah. I knew.”

Obviously, the problem with dystopias (and their opposites) is that they’re reductive. But when written well, like good science fiction, they’re an index of possibility at any given moment. And if our current moment is defined by its Cartographic Fever, then the dedication to mapping the future seems as useful (and as inevitable) as anything else.

Former UvA New Media students raise massive investment. Foreman Capital, an independent Dutch investment company, and the City of Amsterdam both take a substantial minority stake of € 1.25 million in Fabchannel. Fabchannel, an online entertainment company based in Amsterdam, has grown into the worldwide market leader for the production, distribution and promotion of audiovisual concert recordings. The accession of these two new shareholders will enable Fabchannel to intensify its production, commercial and promotional activities on an international level.

Fabchannel is the largest live music platform in the world. With more than 800 full-length concert recordings permanently online and live webcasts of concerts in Paradiso and Melkweg Amsterdam it brings music fans all over the world the best live performances around. Fabchannel is a guarantee for unique video content of superb quality. Fabchannel is one of a kind in the way it merges content, development and broadcasting. In the past years Fabchannel has proven the strength of this formula, winning awards like the 2006 Webby Award for ‘best music website in the world’ and the Musikexpress Style Award. The trust shown by Foreman and Amsterdam confirms this once again.

About Fabchannel
For years Fabchannel has been frontrunner when it comes to online video technology and music marketing. An amazing example is Fabchannel’s Fabplayer. It is an advanced video player, which allows users to create their own concert channels and embed them into their website, blog, or social networks like Facebook and Myspace. In this way Fabchannel successfully reaches out to a large audience outside of it’s own website. This is exactly where its target group is. And through the video advertising model integrated within the Fabplayer, Fabchannel offers innovative and powerful advertising possibilities. Because of Fabchannel’s revenue share model this creates a win-win situation for record companies and artists.

In the past years Fabchannel has managed to build up a loyal international following: in 2007 Fabchannel already counted 850.000 active users. Now, with the arrival of this powerful alliance, Fabchannel is ready to let the world know it’s there.

Investments in Fabchannel
With the new investment Fabchannel is going to build High Definition video studios in pop venues in the UK, Germany, Spain and the United States. Besides that it will be tuning up sales and marketing efforts and it will be monetizing video advertising, paid downloads and subscription models.
The first step in this international expansion of Fabchannel is to open an office in London, from which the European music, media and advertising market will be served. Together with record companies, advertising agencies and media partners, Fabchannel will continue to develop new (online) marketing tools, new services for its users and of course record even more great concerts to promote artists and live music.

The participation of Foreman Capital and the City of Amsterdam is the beginning of a new chapter in the existence of Fabchannel. Fabchannel’s aim is to grow out into an independent media company and gain a permanent position in the landscape of live music.

About Foreman Capital
Foreman Capital is an independent, Netherlands-based investment company (founded in 2005 by Arent Foch and Guido ter Kuile) that focuses on European companies that are active in trading, production and services, with an annual turnover of 20 – 80 € million.

Foreman invests exclusively using the capital made available by its directors. Through the combination of active involvement, long-term focus and the investment of proprietary capital, Foreman Capital bears the hallmarks of a classic investment company.

About Paradiso
The internationally renowned pop venue Paradiso was founded in 1968 and is located in a former church building, dating back to 1879. All the greats of pop and rock music have played and still play at Paradiso. Paradiso was the initiator of Fabchannel. At the end of the 90’s, Paradiso noticed how the acts they programmed weren’t getting the media attention they deserved and decided to take matters into their own hands by creating an online channel.

Brainstorming is a way to solve problems or come up with innovative new ideas. It enhances the quanity and quality of ideas in group settings. Typical brainstorming instructions prompt group members to generate as many ideas as possible, to evaluate uncritically their own ideas and the ideas of others, and to improve or combine ideas already suggested. A helpful tool during a brainstormsession is the mind map. According to Wikipedia a mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making and writing., and are just a few examples of different user interfaces who bring the concept of mind mapping to the web and allow global brainstorming sessions.

Users can create, manage and share mind maps online and access them anytime, from anywhere. In brainstorming mode, fellow MindMeisters from around the world (or just in different rooms) can simultaneously work on the same mind map – and see each other’s changes as they happen. Using integrated Skype calls, they can throw around new ideas and put them down on “paper” at the same time. (

By using mindmaps people can brainstorm together putting there ideas directly on screen. For example, you can make a mindmap and send invitees an email with a link and give them different types of access. Say you want them to adjust something you can send an open invitation. But you can also work together on the same mindmap at the same time. Every change one person makes will be replicated instantly to the other persons screen and you can easily connect with the other by using for example skype. Thus, these types of user interfaces make it possible to do real-time brainstorming without sitting face-to-face. It is easy to get in contact with different people from all over the world interested in the same subject and to expand knowledge which obviously can result in new ideas which one person could never have thought of.

This web 2.0 tool is ideal when you work with a small group or use it alone, but brainstorming with a large group in this way has some drawbacks. There is of course a loss of social interaction, but there’s also the problem of an overload of ideas. It is possible that the group may generate too many ideas and losses quality because it is so easy to post an idea quickly without giving it much thought. Since there is no verbal participation, the individual may type comments on the keyboard, call out things, start a discussion and change topic. This might disturb the concentration of the group and lead everyone down a different path. The ideas can easily veer of the topic, all by the hand of one person who has started the diversion.

Maybe within time it is possible to find a solution to this kind of problems, but in the meantime the concept of mind mapping as a web 2.0 application is a useful tool to visualize brainstorming sessions.

Notions of ‘virtual community’ and ‘virtual reality’ have been put to rest by locative aspects of the Web in recent years – from flickr maps to Facebook, from questions of legal jurisdiction to problems of national censorship. As much as we may have wanted to enter cyberspace, we now find ourselves clearly back in the here and now. But this move makes it easy to forget that virtual reality itself had to evolve out of previous ‘futures’ of digital media.

One of these was the Community Memory (CM) project held in Berkeley and San Francisco in the early 1970s:

COMMUNITY MEMORY is the name we give to this experimental information service. It is an attempt to harness the power of the computer in the service of the community. We hope to do this by providing a sort of super bulletin board where people can post notices of all sorts and can find the notices posted by others rapidly. (source, emphasis mine)

CM consisted of three public terminals in strategic locations in the Bay area. It worked somewhat like Craig’s List does today, and a lot of people used it to find housing, say, or fellow musicians. The most prominent CM image (as in, the only one I could find) says a lot as well – note the category ‘miscellaneous’ on the huge bulletin board:

A little further reading makes it clear that it is not only the ‘local’ aspect of CM that makes it relevant to today’s Web. One of the close observers of the project, counter-culturalist Michael Rossman, wrote that such a system could eventually be used to differentiate between ‘first-order’ and ‘second-order’ information. For example, he says, in addition to an advertisement for an alternative medicine store, one would also have access to what customers of the store have to say about it. Those accounts could be aggregated to improve decision-making and the efficiency of the system itself.

If Rossman’s ideas sound familiar, it is because he was outlining some of the essential elements of what we now call ‘recommender culture’ on the Web. In other words, his digital future was not so far off from current ones that give a central role to ‘tagging’ and ‘folksonomy’.

America’s housing market is having troubles, oil is getting ridiculously pricy, and good american patriots would rather have euros than their beloved greenback. The impending doom of the internet business market, just like in 2000, is making a buzz on blogs and bookmarking sites. To contribute to this doom scenario, let’s blog about this (song. I just did.)

Update: Download the song (mp3).

On saturday the 15th of December, the first meeting of the Dutch OLPC grassroots group took place.
There were lots of interesting ideas and plans. One of them is trying to get XO’s to the Netherlands in order to start programming. How and when this is going to happen is still uncertain. Check the Wiki for more information and updates.

Christmas time is mostly a homey time. After dinner and cosiness, there is time for a good movie or two. To get you inspired, here is a good list of cyberpunk movies – most of which can be found as streams through or Enjoy.

In general, a search engine is presented as an objective tool, although it is its underlying code which defines the possible outcomes.

An integral part of a search engine is the spelling control which suggests alternative words if it suspects that you have misspelled your search terms, prompting “Did you mean:”. However, since the early days of Usenet, misspellings have been used as a way to overcome censorship. By ignoring the suggested corrections, the misspellings can be a gateway to an alternative world.

When doing a search in the Chinese version of Google on the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Linda Hilfling discovered a temporary loophole out of the Google self-censorship in China. By deliberately spelling Tiananmen incorrectly, she was taken to web-pages where other people had misspelled Tiananmen, and was thereby able to access pictures of demonstrations as well as the legendary image of the student in front of the tank through the sources of incorrect spellings. (( For an example of Google’s censorship, have a look at the now famous image from the New York Times, comparing search results for Tiananmen in and ))

An act of accidental activism – by writing variations like ‘tianamen’ and ‘tiananman’ the isolation politics of the Google spelling corrector was subverted and the Google’ selfcensorship circumvented.

For Impakt, based on a concept of, and together with Linda Hilfling, I made the Misspelling Generator. The Misspelling Generator is a Firefox extension which suggests misspellings for your Google queries – similar to Google’s “Did you mean:”.

Misspelling Generator 0.9 is a Firefox extension intervening within the Google search engine allowing you to search for misspelled deviations of a given search query. The Misspelling Generator is useful for creating simple cryptography, circumventing specific cases of censorship or in general as a means of accessing the ‘grey’ side of the internet, which otherwise is isolated by rigid structures of ‘corrective’ info-culture regimes of search engines like Google.

Whenever the extension is enabled, each query typed in the Google search box will generate misspellings, then queries Google for each of these misspellings, and finally ranks them by number of returns. This all happens in the background – as a user, you will not notice it. Once the extension has done all deviations of the query (typically after 1 to 4 seconds, depending on the length of the query), it will insert the misspellings above the normal Google results – similar to Google’s “Did you mean:”, but now with “Have you tried:” instead. When hovering the mouse over the links, you can see the numbers of search results for each misspelling. Clicking the link will redirect you to the Google page with the results for that specific misspelling.

Although the Misspelling Generator might not be the most effective tool to evade censorship – after all it does multiple queries for possibly sensitive keywords which might ultimately get you jailed, it is useful in spreading awareness about the subject, just as the OpenNet initiative’s comparison between and

Through the preference pane the Misspelling Generator extension allows one to define custom mappings and misspellings. Thus it can also be used for simple cryptography. Mappings can be circulated to evade keyword filtering for e.g. copyrighted content as well.

You can download the Misspelling Generator at

To start off 2008 I’d like to show you some interesting videos by Johnny Chung Lee, a Ph.D. graduate student on human computer interaction. Some of you might have seen this already, but I wanted to post it on MofM nonetheless.

What Lee does is using the Nintendo remote (Wiimote) to create all sorts of different user interfaces. The first video shows a Minority Report-like interface through reflective tape on his fingertips, which reflects the infra-red light and responds to the Wiimote. The second video is a DIY multi-touch digital whiteboard display, also using the Wiimote. And in the last video he demonstrates a 3D virtual reality display, also using the Wiimote and infra-red triggers attached to glasses.

I personally don’t see us using an interface like the first video because I don’t want to wear special gloves and especially because it’s physically unbearable to interface like that all day, but it’s still a nice alternative use of the Wiimote. I would however wear a ridiculous looking hat, if it would produce the same visual effect as the last movie!

I could try and explain all these videos in detail but watching the videos gives you a much better idea…enjoy!

Tracking fingers with the Wii Remote

Low-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard using the Wiimote

Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays using the WiiRemote

Last friday de balie in Amsterdam was host to the fill the gap conference: Mobile revolution, hope or hype? The 5th annual fill the gap conference started of with a short introduction about where the mobile phone is at the moment in Africa. The focus in this introduction was on new ways of use for the mobile phone that are especially created for african use. A good example of this new use can be seen in the possibility to send family or friends money via sms. By sending an sms to a certain number and attaching a certain amount of money to it, the person who receives the sms can go to a local telephone-cash point and collect the money. More on this specific subject can be read on the African Matrix blog.

After this short introduction of where mobile telephones are at the moment in Africa the first speaker was Christoph Stork. Stork is senior researcher for the LINK researchcentre ICT Africa (RIA) in Johannesburg. He talked about the research network of universities and think tanks from 18 African countries from where he did research into the use of mobile phones in SME. One of his conclusions was that; for the mobile to be sustained in Africa one of the most important things is creating bussiness climate. He also found that acces and use have a positive impact on profit in both small, middle and ‘big’ SME’s. This looked quite obvious to most of the people in the room butt Stork defended himself by stating that an important piece of scientific research is showing and proofing the obvious. He closed of his argument that was filled with a lot of different numbers, percentages and calculations by naming the problems that mobile phone users are having at the moment. He talked about problems with the high prices and the low capacity of the networks.

Next up was Lotte Pelckmans from the african studies centre of the University of Leiden. She was on the verge of starting a research on the ways mobile telephones where able to drastically and revolutionary change social relations in Africa. Because the project was still in a starting fase she could not show any interesting outcomes at the moment but she did make the audience aware of the huge importance that Africans attach to their mobile phone. Even if they don’t actually have money to make a phone call they still use their phone in special ways. The obvious examples of this way of telephone use where beeping and flashing. When you are beeping or flashing you only let your telephone ring once in order to let the person on the other end know that you are either thinking of them or that you need them to call you back. In my point of view this is not a typically African thing because I know a lot of young kids in England who use the same way of communicating when they are low on money. Another example that she mentioned that I did find really interesting where the 3 second calls in Mali. According to Pelckmans there is a provider in Mali that has a service in which the first 3 seconds of a call or for free she said she knew a lot of people who used this service by making really short calls and then calling back. These conversations can last up to 2 hours…..

The next speaker that was interviewed was Shafiu Shaibu. Shafiu Shaibu from the SEND Foundation in Ghana is interested in how information resources can transform the life of farmers in north-eastern Ghana. As a soja-bean former he found out personally the importants of knowing the different bean prices from around the country to show where the best proffit can be made. They use uge chalkboards to show all the different prices from around the area. They tried to use internet to exchange the price information butt the cost of the acces via VSAT where to high. He is looking into possibility’s to start using mobile phones for this information exchange because this would be a cheaper form.

Ethan Zuckerman
was the next speaker in line. He stated that it is important to understand why African people are interested in mobile phones. He showed that there are almost 100 million handsets in sub-Saharan African and illustrated the awareness that people have of the mobile phone by showing that 97% or tanzanian people is aware of mobile phone use and is ‘able’ to make a call in case of need. These numbers to me where quite astonishing because they show that although there are a lot of technical and financial problems surrounding mobile telephone use in Africa there is a lot of interest in the medium. People in Africa are aware of the mobile phone and very much willing to use the medium. According to Zuckerman “Mobile is a powerfull tool to make your own media”. In activism it is a really good tool to use. It offers what Zuckerman calls “sousveillance”, which is the bottoms-up new form of surveillance and serves as a powerful new way of exposing and showing ‘Africa’ to the rest of the world.

He also gave an interesting examples of new ways of mobile use. In Africa there are a lot of counter-fit fake medicines available. In most pharmacies you run a great risk of instead of buying the medicines you so desperately need you wind up with a piece of chalk our other fake medicines. Zuckerman was telling about a pharmaceutic company (mPadigree) who dealt with this problem by sealing their medicines with a code that people could sms to a certain number. If the code is correct and not already in use the medicine would be real and usable. This to me once again was a great example of new ways to use mobile phones that could really mean something to help the people in Africa. According to Zuckerman, the most important thing is getting a tool that is available for everyone. With mobile we are not there yet….. but we are closer than ever. The question is if by closing the digital divide we are creating new divides is also an interesting question that Zuckerman touched upon. As a business man you have to have a mobile, if you don’t have one you’re excluded. Does the mobile phone create new divides?

The conference ended with an interview with Kenyan professor Firoze Manji. The interview started with Manji explaining the current situation in his home-country. (There is a great list of bloggers who are blogging about the current Kenyan situation on Manji wanted to make clear that it’s people who make revolutions, and that no technologies ever does. He stated that Pencils have contributed more then mobiles and suggested to do research into the pencil instead of the mobile phone. According to Manji the phone won’t make the difference, its how people use the tools available. After a short discussion between Stork and Manji in which Manji doubted the significance of Stork’s research.

To me, one of the most important and interesting things about these kind of conferences is to see so much people with an interest in ICT in Africa together in one room. People from Hivos, IICD, oneworld, the tropeninstitute and a lot of other organizations where presents and it was interesting to exchange views. For me personally the conference was a big success with a lot of interesting people present.

The closing session of the conference was named video slamming and consisted of screening famous youTube favorites, interviews with video performers Emile Zile Sam Nemeth, Tatiana de la O, and Rosa Menkman and the actual video performances. All this hosted and mc-ed by Sabine Niederer and Michael Stevenson.
Stevenson kicked off the session by raising the question whether youTube has an added value?
Most youTube movies are watched secretly during office hours, in cubicles. But is this not also working, being productive, but in another fashion? The movies shown prove this point. An added value within this context of collective watching, not secretly in your office cubicle, but in a kind of cinema-theater setting.

This worked out really well (good idea for cinemas struggling to get visitors; just show YouTube favorites!). Below a picture of the first movie, of course about cats.

a full list of the movies shown can be found here:
Its oh so quiet Bjork/Cats
zzz is playing grip
Two Girls one cup reaction + commentary
Goto80 Pilgrims Progress
Flying Dog
Blonde Redhead/Miranda July
Two Girls one cup reaction 2
zizek toilet ideology
Kant attack ad
Human Tetris performance
Scorcese and Hitchcock Key to Reserva
Dramatic hamster
Philippines Thriller
aphex twin and Maya Deren
Chris Crocker Leave Britney Alone
Lass Gjertsen – amateur
Dog mix

(thanks Michael and all the contributers for sending in your favorites!)

After this very entertaining session and a short break, the upcoming video performers were interviewed.
First up was Emile Zile. The story behind his performance is a thorough research into shared pictures and movies of the deceased. On sites like Flickr and YouTube, he searched for keywords “miss you” or ” missing you” and showed the pictures on the song “I’ll be missing you”, by Puff Daddy (which is of course originally from Sting).

Next to be interviewed was Sam Nemeth from the Waag Society, He showed some of the first interviews via live web video as one of the many research projects the Waag is into. Nemeth stated the importance of working these technologies and alternative forms of video for both artists and viewers.

Tatiana de la O, who also presented earlier that day on the conference, explained her self-programmed video- slamming application. She used the open-source visual programming platform called PureData Her main drive being the need for more freedom and possibilities in costumizing a video mixing tool and finding new ways of video performancing.
Finally, Rosa Menkman was interviewed. In her master thesis, she is researching the Glitch. A glitch is a ‘so called’ mistake within technology and digital tools. Think of mistakes in HTML code, compilers or codecs, crashing applications, dead links, blue screen errors and so on. While we as users often experience this as an annoying wrongdoing and/or failing of technology, Rosa interprets this in a whole new, eye-opening way, namely as poetry of machinery. In her performance, self-made videos of glitches are shown. The beauty of the glitch and the poetry of machinery became very clear in an aesthetically overwhelming performance.

In sharing some concluding words, the video slamming session gave some content examples of many topics discussed during the conference, where the role of video artists, curators, spectators and copyrighters are now facing the challenge of the crowds and the heavy saturation of (cheap) tools and possibilities for production and distribution of video. Are there still pearls to find in all the rubbish, and is that, then video art? Or do we need to re-think the whole definition of video? The Slamming session showed some very nice aspects and responses of dealing with 2.0 YouTube culture.

All pictures by Anne Helmond

Erkki Huhtamo’s recent work deals with media archeology, an emerging approach he, according to his website, ‘has pioneered (together with others, like Siegfried Zielinski) since the early 1990’s’. At this edition of Sonic Acts, Huhtamo, together with the audience, revisited the concept of the Diorama. The keynote proved to be a valuable trip down memory lane with Huhtamo showing many examples and elaborating on their cultural context.

The Diorama was invented by Jacques Louis Mande Daguerre and Charles Marie Bouton and consisted of fast paintings, which were ‘slightly larger than an iMac screen’. Moreover, paintings were made in such a way that parts were translucent. In the early days, these diorama’s had to be visited and therefore it became a new element of urban landscape. Huhtamo mentions the Paris Diorama in this regard.

But why would the diorama be interesting for us, now, Huhtamo asks himself. Bruce Sterling mentioned the concept of “dead media”, Huhtamo however does not believe media is capable of dying: ‘I believe that it is more a transformation and adaptation. My research deals with understanding the materiality, discursive manifestations and how these layers coexist in culture, as the culture changes and evolves’. One of Huhtamo’s big inspirations to venture into the realm of media archeology, is the fact that artists sometimes seem to be aware of the traditions, go back to these ideas and draw inspiration from them.

In its purely mechanical form, The Diorama is a large viewing machine, an actorless optical illusion theatre, comprised of two main features, being firstly giant translucent and transforming paintings and secondly a mechnically rotating auditorium. Culturally the Diorama provided the world with a new word, a neologism, that many of these new spectacles had. The Diorama is no different, combining “dio” (transparent/through) and “rama” (view). Because it is actorless, Huhtamo sees a valuable connection between the rise of CGI possibilities and the Diorama: ‘Actors are more in the scenery’.

Continuing on the linguistics of the Diorama, Huhtamo mentions Balzac, who picked up a linguistic pattern from the hair salons and the cafes of Paris. Balzac provided his own list of “ramas”, including health-o-rama, frozenrama, soupe-au-rama and the goriorama. Images shown by Huhtamo of various Diorama’s and Daguerre’s paintings are available at R. D. Wood’s MIDLEY essays on the History of early Photography. An interesting development is the portable diorama, like the “desktop” version of the computer, the ‘huge and gigantic’ is eventually brought to the desktop.

Now, Huhtamo continues, ‘we are in the beginning of this dioramic transformation I’m trying to sketch’. Most important for this transformation is that ‘reality is not conceived as given, but as a construct. Reality as a product of new spectacles such as the diorama, panorama, wax museums, paris morgue, etc. This is the culture from which the diorama appears. In turn, Diorama’s themselves start to appear in painting’.

New Spaces and Urban Mobility
The Diorama in an urban context is ‘not like a home, but also not like the city screen outside. It is a place for the flaneur and movement in new spectacles’. Huhtamo mentions various examples of these flaneur-like places, such as the cosmorama. All share that they are about a mobile mode of spectatorship. Huhtamo: ‘The only way of viewing the panorama is to keep on walking / moving. Being physically in motion was taken over by cinema, however, the motion becomes virtual.

The audience is virtually moving with the scenes seen in the cinema’. Huhtamo sees a return to physical movement in the advent of portable devices. Interesting in the mixture of Diorama and movement is also the the idea of the “trottoir roulant”, the moving walkway, which was presented as a novelty in that time at the Paris world fair.It turned Paris into panoramic scene, the platform is enough to define the surroundings and change the identity of the surroundings

The Diorama even shaped its own popstar. Albert Smith travelled around with the moving diorama. His “hit” was ‘The Ascent of Mont Blanc’ which was shown an astonishing 2000 times. Objects used to create a reality effect include dogs and a Swiss chalet. In later years, various people played with the idea of the diorama. Examples of these include the 1939 Futurama by General Motors, which exhibited GM’s utopian vision of the world with streamlined buildings and, of course, as Huhtamo mentions, GM cars. In the futurama, the audience is traveling through the show. It is not static, like the diorama by Daguerre. The Diorama has been revisited.

Report by Twan Eikelenboom –
Photography by –

An interesting panel discussion was held during the mobile city conference “Designing for Mobile Media & Urban Spaces: between Theory and Practice”. The goal is to pose different perspectives on locative media – from practical to theory. Get some people from different disciplines to filter out key issues on how to go from here. The following people took part in the discussion:
– Nicolas Nova (user experience & foresight researcher, Media & Design Lab, Swiss Institute of Technology, Lausanne),
– Rob van Kranenburg (Waag Society Amsterdam)
– Marc Schuilenburg (Free University Amsterdam; Studio Popcorn)
– Joris van Hoytema (BBVH Architects, Baas op Zuid).

As an introduction, one or two slides are presented per person on their vision.
Nicholas: Continuity of experience in locative media. There is an assumption that space is homogeneous. This is not really the case. First slide shows our relation with technology. Technology breaks down, accidents happen and so on Different protocols keep emerging, leaving people clueless about what is happening. Different representations with different level of granularity. Peoples reaction to this is problematic. So, again, visualizations and their impact on perceiving what is happening are of great importance. In a slide about a mapping project wifi antennas, it becomes clear that distribution of antennas is far from homogeneous, so you never have the same access. This affects the experience of media. Holes in networks, in getting content etc.
A solution can be found about teamwork- getting people aware of this behavior of the network.

Rob: Shows a performance artist – picture of somebody driving into the canal with a bike. What about unexpected behavior and poetic autonomy of space. Rob is fearful about strange link between internet and locative media, just mirroring off line and online world. While this space is inherently different. The notion of seemingless-ness is also scary. Do we need screens? Where is the poetry in this space? Hardware vs software – where is the criticisms. There is a huge amount of agency nowadays to the average user. Can he/she handle that?

Joris: How can we use complicated new technology in simple applications where people can really benefit? ‘Baas op zuid’ project is mentioned. This is a platform of meeting and discussing, giving control to the people. Feedback and learning via digital layer. The true challenge is the massive interactiveness – communication both ways. On the other hand, not everyone wants to communicate and be available. He is focussed on the translation of complicated matter to easy-to-use applications.

Nicholas: Participation is very important.
Joris: A huge benefit when you can cater a low-threshold discussion, to re-invent interaction.
Nicholas: It is very problematic to involve large group of people into these kinds of projects.
Joris: We want to reach people in the area online, the bases should be; how can we reach our neighbour digitally? Do you know his ip, his or her email address? Probably not. Why not give every physical space an IP address?
Marc: Wiki-like idea of planning on how to develop a planning. Old ideas of art and design is always the genius. Wisdom of the crowd-argument is mentioned (which is debatable) that we see in smart-mobs and so on. Another aspect is mentioned – no genius anymore, but a senius intelligence and creativity is not bound to an autonomous individual, but via locative media it is mixed.
Rob: it is about agency and hardware and so much about software.

Marc: makes a point about citizenship and locative media. He gives a short intro in what citizenship means? Bound to public space is the original meaning, open-accessible for everyone etc. What consequences does CCTV have? What is still public and how accessible is this space. Public space is losing its coherence archipelago- separated spaces, isolated spaces. These spaces are guarded by locative and fixed media. collapse of this space means we also have to re-think to be a citizen?
Two new notions of citizenship: denizens and marginals. Denizens are people without political rights. Gated communities, own cultural and social rights, no political rights. These right are being replaced by private contracts, guarded by locative media and new media. We have to talk in a more political way about citizens, within encapsulated spaces. What remains out of sight when we undergo this transformation? Then we are left with marginals – digital divides- fallouts. Technology unites, but also divides. In our everyday, it raises questions about control, freedom and citizenship.

Chirstian responds by arguing that these things are not that easily solvable. Communities will evolve in finding a way to solve their social relations and their standards. Now, via property relationships communities are getting social.
Rob: do we still have time for theory and practice in the here and now? We are not in the zone of comfort anymore. There is an urgency.
Marc: the question is not what it is, but rather how does it work?

Joris: as a man of practice is making things rather than theorizing. Addition to the discussion is the consciousness of the technology, and to turn thing towards the good. “Woophy” project is mentioned, which is a feel-good projects. We fill the map of the world with nice pictures. (what do we think is beautiful?). It started when trying to make Google earth. You can travel the world and upload nice pictures, thus filling the world with your vision.
Nicholas: on both points, mobile software and location based services need a kind of serendipity. it is not about people, but again a gated community, with often a techno-geeky vision. There is a paradox between how the services are presented versus only exchange messaging. It shows that there is a problem.

Audience: designers are also not neutral: there was a question of good versus bad in choosing your goals as a designer. Also, is network noise necessarily bad? We (designer red.) constantly make biassed judgment. History of KAI and user studies is mentioned, where 90 % was on students and males. So what does this say about the value of these studies? In locative media, there is a collision between Cartesian versus knowledge traditions – creating participatory actions, re-considering our role as designers is big to-do. Framing the issues.

Rob: lots of experience in interaction design research and teaching. Basically, there is no more interaction, but only residence. How do you design residence. This requires a different mindset. They still design on the last moment. In England, the design council, bringing designers into new processes of technology- development of product-and service companies. Rob thinks we must not overdue the value-thing. For the past ten years, in Holland, the missing link is guts. There is a tendency to disappear into 2.0 and networks. Weiser’s text is really saturated, but we still need people with vision. It is now driven by logistics, control, and functionality, but we miss a vision.
Nicholas: It is sadly the role of designers that HCI started from optimizing functionality work flow etc. and that is boring. People want something else.

Fast Boat to ChinaI am currently reading a lot for my research and an interesting book I finished a few days ago is Fast Boat to China from Andrew Ross. In Fast Boat to China Andrew approaches the global outsourcing trend in a different way than most other writers on this subject (for example Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat). He has taken a surprisingly fresh look by gathering information not only in the countries that are relocating their factories to elsewhere, but mainly from foreign-invested companies based in China. A year long Andrew has interviewed enterprises in Shanghai and the Yangtze Delta.


Excerpt from presentation made for the tutorial German Media Theory under supervision by Geert Lovink

Humboldt University (Berlin) professor Wolfgang Ernst is one of the pioneering scholars of media archeology, a branch of inquiry that he defines as “an archeology of the technological conditions of the sayable and thinkable in culture, an excavation of evidence of how techniques direct human or non-human utterances – without reducing techniques to mere apparatuses (encompassing, for example, the ancient rules of rhetoric as well).” (From interview with Geert Lovink)
For the objectives of media archeology archives are naturally of primary importance, they materialize our current discourse on memory by actively participating on the selection process of what will be stored and discarded. In this way, archives functione like a memory machine, transforming the present into storehouses of the past.
Until very recently, the functioning of this machine was predominantly oriented towards time. Storing cultural memory for very long stretches of time was the primary goal, where the retrieval of the stored information was a separate and a somewhat inferior process.
Any archeological inquiry into such a vast collection of information is bound to be a unique montage, something that is not  recognized and supported by the archival structure itself.
All these propositions, along with the inherent properties of the archive were first challenged with the invention of film and the completely new ability to capture movement. Movement is a crucial element in the functioning of new media, even so that Ernst defines new media as “coming into being only in movement” and by this definition film was the first new medium, first to shift the focus from time to space. But film still had to be stored and accessed like the old time-oriented media. Because of this shortcoming, Ernst argues, the real rapture that we experience today regarding the archives had to wait the introduction of electric media, and especially the computer.
With the computerization of the archive, the document-centered structure of the old gives way to a mathematicized, operative memory that does not differentiate between aural or visual elements. As with all electric media, the new archive requires constant refreshing to stay active but enables the completely new notion of instant feedback. Any piece of information that has been fed into the archive can be retrieved for reuse almost immediately and such immediate access is not space bound.
This new form of archive represents a new understanding of the dominant memory culture where the processes of memorization have never been so similar between the archive and the human memory. Ernst argues that the structure of computer memory is the closest ever to the corresponding human memory processes. When the immediate feedback and constant movement of the new archives are combined, the emerging memory becomes an interactive extension of the present, rather than a praise of the long-gone past.
Such a transformation would shift the focus from a state of constant storage to constant access and Ernst is suggesting a new name to place these new episteme of archives, which is derived from the way science treats electric currents from the beginning; archival field.

With his comprehensive perspective on the computerization of the archive, Wolfgang Ernst’s work on media archeology proves to be very illuminating on all topics related to computer-based storage and access.

For those of us who thought domain name grabbing went out of style in the 1990s.. The Caucus Blog at the New York Times reports that the Republican National Committee has been parking some choice URLs in preparation for the general election:

The day after Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses, the R.N.C. snapped up at least 20 domains related to his candidacy. Some of them may signal the party’s future strategy: and The party has also begun preemptively registering domains that could be used to attack John McCain, like,, and ( was taken.)

The post has a complete list, some of which will annoy supporters of the Democratic candidates. Still, you have to give credit where it is due, and ‘’ ‘’ is actually kind of funny. (update: is funny too, but it is a satire site definitely not owned by the RNC – my mistake.)

In a tutorial by Geert Lovink on German Media Theory we read German uncontemporary media theorists. Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies Volume I and Male Fantasies Volume II, Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power and Friedrich Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter was the shared basis we started with. I read Spheres I: Bubbles by Peter Sloterdijk and gave a presentation about it. Bubbles is part of a trilogy where the German Philosopher develops a theory of Spheres. This post is derived from the presentation I gave in class.

Sloterdijk studied philosophy, Germanistics and history at the University of Munich. He received his PhD from the University of Hamburg. Since 1980 he has published many philosophical works, including the Critique of Cynical Reason. The trilogy Spheres is the philosopher’s magnum opus. The trilogy has not yet been translated in English. Sferen, the book I have read is a Dutch translation of a large part of volume I and II. Some parts are omitted. Volume III is not translated into Dutch.
The trilogy of spheres
Spheres are the spaces where people actually live. I would like to show that human beings have, till today, been misunderstood, because the space where they exist has always been taken for granted, without ever being made conscious and explicit.
And this lieu or space I call a sphere in order to indicate that we are never in fact naked in totality, in a physical or biological environment of some kind, but that we are ourselves space-creating beings, and that we cannot exist otherwise than in these self-animated spaces.
Peter Sloterdijk
Peter Sloterdijk rewrites the history of mankind from a philosophical perspective rather than a scientific one. This philosophical perspective has its roots in metaphysics and religious thought and counters the materialistic approach that has dominated thinking for centuries. The philosophical question Sloterdijk starts of with is: where is man? Instead of addressing ontological questions of the being of man, he addresses the places of human beings. The theory of the Spheres can be viewed as a Grand Narrative, which combines new sociology, psychology, world history and philosophy. In taking this approach he aims to renew psychology from a philosophical perspective, and also renew media theory from a philosophical perspective. He uses a divers range of sources such as religious paintings from the middle ages, Odysseus and the Sirens to an autobiography of Andy Warhol. His style can be characterized by metaphorical transitions, associations with a combination of text types instead of rational arguments. The argument is build up rather unconventional yet the plausibility of his theory is compelling.
It is useful to consider the general structure of the trilogy. The first volume was published in Germany in 1998, the second in 1999, and the last in 2004. Spheres is about spaces of coexistence, spaces commonly overlooked or taken for granted that conceal information crucial to developing an understanding of the human. Sphären I: Blasen (Spheres I: Bubbles) makes up the first part of a Sphere-trilogy in which Sloterdijk rewrites the history of mankind by understanding humans as sphere-producing and sphere-dependent beings. There are small and large spheres. Bubbles deals with the small spheres that form between individuals. In the second volume he moves to the macrospheres of the community, the state. Politics enters the argument in Sphären II: Kosmen, Globen, Reiche (Spheres II: Worlds, Globes, Empires). It contains a criticism of totalitarianism, expanded to include the entire history of advanced civilization. It demonstrates that empire-spheres are false attempts to project small familial spheres onto the social plane. Sphären III: Schaum (Spheres III: Foam) presents a postmodern plan, with which the German Philosopher wants to show how small and large spheres can combine to form a non-repressive, pluralistic whole.
In Spheres I: Bubbles the question “where is man?” is answered by approaching it from a micro level. A human being starts existence within another person, the mother. Sloterdijk argues this first condition of life defines us as human beings: always looking for new microspheres to protect us and resonate with, form relations with. sloterdijk therefore sees the subjects not as individuals, something which can not be divided, or as Deleuze sees subjects as “dividuals”, rather the subject is defined as something that is already divided to begin with and is always looking for a two-oneness.
Leonardo Da Vinci ca. 1510, detail
Chapter 5 is crucial in the argument, following his tendency to do away with mythological and religious narratives by secularizing them, Sloterdijk finds a material correlative to the intuition of an original human wholeness as it is expressed in numerous documents and artifacts in many cultures. The placenta, which nourishes the embryo and is connected to the mother through the umbilical cord, can neither be unambiguously interpreted as the organ of the mother, nor of the child. For Sloterdijk, this placenta presents evidence of a lost wholeness that was constituted dyadically. Using gynealogical terms such as placenta is however something Sloterdijk wants to avoid. It objectifies. It is a separation of subject (fetus) and object (placenta). Sloterdijk therefore employs the term Mit (With) to designate this state, which is hard to describe because of its pre-linguistic origin. The fetus and its placenta are connected to each other, like Orpheus and Eurydice. Together they form a two-oneness. The problem of the history of mankind begins with the excommunication of this first companion. The newborn subject is the mutilated half of an originally rounded being which is whole. At this point, modern individualism enters. The gynecological cutting the umbilical cord brings forth the lonely modern subject. This condition in turn facilitates the formation of totalitarian nations, which is addressed in Spheres II where macrospheres are theorized.
Media theory
On parting, the subject has a new space in which substitutions are possible. The vacant space that the lost primal companion leaves behind in man becomes the starting point for a consistently renewed search for new companions and new substitute spheres. New companions and spheres are constructed through media and can be regarded as substitutions for Mit. Approaching media from this perspective makes media part of the two-oneness instead of an extension of man or a tool. When considering the Web as such, it is a space that is real yet not tangible similar to how Sloterdijk defines spheres in the first place. This view counters material approaches to the Web such as Kittler’s argues in “There Is No Software” that every piece of information on the Web is in the end stored on material hardware. Looking at the Web as a space created by humans from the perspective of Spheres, Web space should not be materially objectified. Media are one form of substitution for Mit and part of the sphere to resonate with and form relations with others. Developing a media theory from a Sphere perspective provides ways to clarify the how and which of the consistency of different existences in shared ether. The challenge might therefore be the operationalization of a method to analyze the object of study from such perspective.
In her thesis Blogging for Engines Anne Helmond argues the blogosphere is constructed through a variety of technically enabled relations between blog software, search engines as well as bloggers. The sphere is not only created with other beings as well as with technology. The blogosphere is a sphere or a substitution of the Mit, that is enabled by technology such as the trackback, pingback and comments and resonates between bloggers as well as engines and blog software. The “I Am Sorry Blog Excuses” is one striking example where it becomes clear that for the blogger, the blog is not an object separated from the subject, rather part of the two-oneness similar to how Sloterdijk has described the placenta not as a separate object but as a state of Mit.
Interfacial spheres
In Bubbles, Sloterdijk contextualizes and develops his theory by looking how spheres can be perceived through history by analyzing a variety of sources such as art works and mythological stories. In chapter 2 on interfacial spheres of intimacy, Sloterdijk replaces the term intersubjectivity with interfacial greenhouse effects that form the human species. Eye contact is not seen as a vacuum or neutral “in-between” but rather following Plato, the interfacial space is viewed as a force field filled with turbulent tension that constructs the face as being-for-the-other-face. He analyzes two sacral frescos by Giotto where he studied interfacial constellations.
Giotto Di Bondone, The Meeting at the Golden Gate ca. 1305, detail
The first one depicts the moment where Joachim and Anna meet after they had a vision they were going to be parents of holy Mary. This moment where they are partners in the shared secret of the other is a moment where an interfacial sphere is created. Giotto represents this by placing both faces in a two-poled aureole. With a nice optical trick a third face appears in this two-poled sphere. The visible-invisible face that emerges refers to the new life that will be in Anna’s body. It is however not the face of a child that emerges from the faces of the future parents and resembles grandchild Jesus rather than their child, Mary.
Giotto Di Bondone, Betrayal of Christ ca. 1304-06, detail
The second fresco of Judas’kiss represents a very different interfacial constellation. It presents an antithetical spherical tension. The antagonism between the two is depicted on three levels. The first is metaphysical, distinguishing between god-man and man by using one single aureole. The second is physiognomic, depicting the distinguished versus the vulgar. The third is the spherological gap between the faces. There is an open sphere-creating force in the eyes of Jesus while Judas is unable to enter the sphere. Instead he selfishly tries to steal entrance. The kiss represents the gesture of someone who wants to enter the love space with the attitude of an outsider. There is no possibility for a shared life in their eyes.

In this chapter Sloterdijk provides a method how to analyze facial expressions as either sphere-producing or anti-spherical. When employed to the to the digital Mit, the interface as Sloterdijk describes it should be distinguished from the interface in interaction design. The sphere-related interface is not a surface. Spheres are the invisible bubbles of relations between individuals that form when information is exchanged and communication. Interfacial analysis from a sphere approach would rather be investigating the depiction of different constellations of the software that enable and constrain certain forms of information exchange and communication. An application like Skype provides ways to create small intimate spheres between two or a small number of people. In an interfacial analysis the possible constellations build into the software such as the use of online status ranging from the Skype Me to the Do Not Disturb can be looked into, as well as the use of emoticons and text employed to create spheres.
For me Sloterdijk’s Bubbles inspired me to look at the medium I am studying for a while now from a novel perspective. I am looking forward to reading volume II and hope that when I finish Boom/SUN decides to translate volume III in Dutch as well.

There’s an article about the upcoming crossmedia event & the multimedia climate of Amsterdam in today’s “PS van de week/Parool”. Unfortunately it has not been published online, but I’ll bring it to class on Monday for those who are interested.

“Het Parool” did publish yesterday’s interview with Philip Rosedale (founder of Second Life) online

Sneakko Peekko

Peekko Chat was launched in January 2006 and put on the notorious Web 2.0 Products and Services list on 1 month later. The start was promising and a new Web 2.0 succes seemed to be born, but what has happened since? Before I answer this question, let me first give a short description of what Peekko Chat is and how it works.


I love Wikipedia, I use it on a regular basis, but I never thought about contributing anything. Why not? I’ve never searched for something that wasn’t there and I’ve never encountered something that I thought was incomplete or incorrect (yet). I also do not feel the urge to enter all my interests or research findings into an entry. There must be Wikipedia freaks who continuously want to add or expand or correct posts. I can see some kind of competition element that might be there, but apparently this is not my kind of game.


I wanted to make a substantial wikipedia contribution and found out that there is no Dutch description about the online webgame Utopia.

Utopia Logo

So I wrote one here –> and subsequently fucked up the URL.

Oh well.


Widgets from Nokia logo

News from Nokia: This company will offer a widget service that will allow clients to download special applications to their mobile phone. I thought this would be an interesting post, since we are using widgets to add tools to our own blogs!

How does it work? A user sends a text message to Nokia and Nokia will send a text message with the software needed back to the user. When this software has been installed the user can make a connection with the Internet to look at the various widgets and download the preferred applications on his mobile phone.

For now the service is free, users will only pay for the data transfer.
Widgets can be downloaded here:

(You can also find more information on this website (In English))


Blog! How the newest media revolution is changing politics, business and culture is a collection of interviews interlaced with a few (short) articles about weblogs. The book is from 2005, which is cool since the subjects talked about are often fresh in your memory, and a slightly more balanced view is given of the blogosphere (as opposed to the over?enthusiastic literature from the earlier blogging days)

However, the book is still generally blatantly enthusiastic. It features two or three articles with a nuanced or reserved tone about the future of blogging, but most of the content is mainly shamelessly celebrating the blogphenomenon. With that said, reading the book could be compared to eating chocolate – you know it’s bad for you, but it tastes so good! As long as the reader keeps in mind where the authors are coming from and that there is no direct voice given to the opposition of the blogosphere, it is a good read and leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling of (careful) optimism and hope.