2003

The Site Has Moved

Please visit Abstract Dynamics at our new home for new updates.
Posted by William Blaze

March 07, 2003

World of Ends

World of Ends is something of the Cluetrain Manifesto part II. Same tone, and same mixture of insite, naivety and marketing speak. In other words worth reading, there are diamonds in the bullshit...

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March 06, 2003

Paint Fast, Young Revolution

The Stencil Revolution is gaining ground with Banksy in lead. Respect.

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March 05, 2003

Uncensored Data

DATA DIARIES is a trip through the real cyberspace. Raw data turned into raw visualization. Information has never looked so good.

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March 04, 2003

Sony Candor

Sony's CEO Unplugged drops the good dirt. Among the gems, Nobuyuki Idei mentions that he'd love to buy the Palm software unit. Then he drops this reality bomb:

The music industry has been spoiled. They have controlled the distribution of music by producing CDs, and thereby have also protected their profits. So they have resisted Internet distribution. Six years ago I asked Sony Music to start working with IBM to figure out how to offer secured distribution of their content over the Net. But nobody in Sony Music would listen. Then about six months ago, they started to panic. They have to change their mindset away from selling albums, and think about selling singles over the Internet for as cheap as possible—even 20 cents or 10 cents—and encourage file-sharing so they can also get micro-payments for these files. The music industry has to re-invent itself, we can no longer control distribution they way we used to.

100% on point, shame the music people can't see as straight as he can.

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Moblogging Mo Hype?

Adam Greenfield proposes aMoblog Conference for Tokyo summertime. Well Tokyo sounds damn enticing, has been for quite some time. Moblogging on the other hand just doesn't sit right with me yet. A handful of smart people (Greenfield, Rhiengold, Ito, Eismann) are really excited about the idea, but I just can't catch their enthusiasm.

What really sets me off is that I seem to be closer to really moblogging then most of the boosters. I've been a nomad for 2 years now, I was one of the few Ricochet customers, I've uploaded files next to drug dealers at 1 am in Washington Square Park, I've had top of the line pda/cell phones for the past few years, I've used them to connect to the web a ton. I've actually posted blog entries from my Treo.

Its not that exciting.

So why are smart people getting so into the idea? A dream I think, its a step towards the mythical ubiquitous computing Xanadu. A hope for more dotcom style euphoria. And maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think taking pictures from a cell phone really is going to get you there. Its not that different then taking a digital picture and uploading later in the day. All it really means is there is less friction in the system. Info gets digital quicker, circulates a bit faster. Done. No revolutions, no ecstasy, just a slow excelleration of the velocity of information.

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March 01, 2003

Deep in the Legal Code

Should the 17th Amendment be repealed? Do you even know what the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution says? I sure didn't. It implemented to the direct election of US Senators. Previously they had been appointed by the various state legislators. The article is a bit of a historical/legal exploration of what happened when this change happened. The short version? Decreased power to the states, and more importantly a major increase in the ability of special interest groups to control Senators. A fascinating look into the legal codes that structure our society. [via unmedia]

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February 28, 2003

While One Hand Waves Iraq..

While making major noise with Iraq it appears that the Bush administration does have a bit of a domestic agenda. Not to improve the economy, but to crack down on the harmless makers of glass pipes. Raids Put Drug-Paraphernalia Traffickers Out of Business is the NYT headline, but word on the streets they mainly went after people selling hand blown artistic glass pipes. Guess the economy isn't bad enough and the feds want to put some more people out of business. 1984 pops up again as the spectre of war distracts us from the oppression in our back yard.

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Mix it Back to the Street

MTV isn't a name usually associated with good journalism but Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry is damn good piece. In the attention based economy music is advertising. As in a song is an advertisement for the artist. And as usual the streets understand first. Wish they got deeper into the shady economics of bootleg distribution. Black market economics, anyone know of a good study or book?

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The Suburbanization of Information (second life)

Just took a half an hour to get a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop (which in Manhattan means Starbucks 98% of the time). Actually sat down and read the physical newspaper for once. Forgot what a pleasure it is to sit down with the paper literally spread in front of you.

What struck me the most was the way I ended up reading articles I never would have come close to online. It felt like riding the New York subways after spending an extend period of time in segregated California towns like San Francisco and LA.

Los Angeles in particular has infrastructure of segregation brilliantly analysized by Mike Davis in _City of Quartz_ and _Ecology of Fear_. Leave your suburban castle, protected from the neighbors by a moat of grass. Jump in your air conditioned car, and if your extra paranoid you'll have an extra gate around the whole community to pass through. Jump on the freeway and move at warp speed over all that great American diversity. No need to look at it at all, be hard to if you tried. You're in a climate controlled environment sealed off from realities of poverty and diversity. Sure you might tip the valet, as you slip into your office, and say high to the Baja Fresh counterperson, but that's the limit to your exposure to people from other cultural groups.

The New York subway on the other hand is a great equalizer. On one side of you is a young millionaire stockbroker, on the other a hard working deliveryman fresh from Guatemala. Across the way a middle aged black PR impresario. Selling batteries and small toys is a man from the Fujian Provence in China. A Dominican couple snuggles together in the loveseats found at the end of each car. Every New York commute is a reminder that America is the land of diversity, the place where people struggle to chase their dreams.

Physical newspapers play a similar mixing role, especially those that strive towards mass market audience. The more people they try to attract, the broader the mix of news stories. Turning the pages and sorting the sections is a constant reinforcement of the diversity of information in the world. We may ignore large chunks of it, but somewhere inside we know that other people actually do care about the sports section, science section, international affairs or the local stories.

As more and more people go online for news, we are losing site of the mix. News aggregators, blogs, email alerts and customizable websites give us a tremendous ability to focus our information. We surround ourselves with the news that we want to hear/see/feel. We can zip around in snug little information cocoons, isolated from the harsh reality of different ways of thinking. Those nasty conflicting viewpoints are relegated to trashbin of somebody else's RSS feed.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm and information junkie and the internet is my main source of info, and will remain so for a while. The ability to focus and amplify our preferred data is a tremendous boost to our ability to learn. But there is a dark side to every advance, one that we need to anticipate and deal with. Lets remember that there is an information world outside our internet bookmarks and Amazon wish lists. And its healthy to get out and stroll through it from time to time.


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Cyberpunk Triumphant (part 2)

Venezuela losing time - literally. So Nauru is off the map and Venezuela is out of time, technology it seems is starting to eat us alive. Venezuela's lowered the frequency of the current in its electric grid, slowing down all plugged in clocks. The irony is so thick you can taste it, and its delicious. Universal time certainly has its uses, but it also puts us into lockstep with a relentless industrial rhythm. It feels good to see time lose a small battle to human nature.

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February 27, 2003

Divergent Emergence

We are not ants! on Stephen Johnson's site is probably the best starting point for the whole "Emergent Democracy" online conversation that Joi Ito launched. I've avoided commenting on it so far because of the ironic fact that this conversation on emergence was divergent to the point that it feels impossible to keep track of where its going. The dialogue is splattered across the web and conference call "happenings" like it was created by an epileptic toddler with a paintball gun.

This interview with Eric Bonabeau cut through the abstraction beautifully. Suddenly it became clear that this sort of divergent behavior is an integral part of the process of emergence. The discussion Ito launched has proceed into all sorts of conversational tangents, paths, whirlpools and eddies. Most won't lead far, but one or two will develop into a strong idea path. The resulting concepts will have no clear author, but there is a good chance the ideas will be strong. The parallels to ants finding the closest food source are strong.

Of course as some people have hollered, humans are not ants. But its equally obvious that we are capable of emergent behavior. Whether you can call the results "intelligent" is another question entirely. The other big unknown is what happens when humans become self aware of our emergent behavior. Do we have the ability to realize our emergent paths and redirect them? It strikes as similar to Asimov's psychohistory and quite frankly I don't think we have the tools to answer the questions yet. That doesn't make it any less fascinating of course. We'll see where it all leads.

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Reconstituted States

Adam Greenfield drops An Open-Source Constitution for Post-National States over on his excellent v-2 site. Tasty food for thought, although to be perfectly honest I'm not quite sure how it relates to the real world. And for god's sake if the goal is to move forward why hold onto the regressive concept of the state?

I've never drank the social contract Kool-Aid. There is something deeply disturbing about the fact that governments somehow are vested with the ability to control everything that goes on with a give territory. And as a reluctant citizen of the Bush-Chaney fiefdom I don't need to venture far to find an example of why vesting large amounts of power in Governments is problematic. If we are looking to build a better way organize society isn't it time we look beyond the state?

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February 26, 2003

Burst a word

I may feel that bloggers have a big time overexaggerated vision of their worth as a media, but the rapid development of blog based datamining tools is pretty impressive. Daypop Top Word Bursts is a pretty cool social indicator. And it also shows just how marginal blogs are at the moment. These are words that a very small subset of the population is talking about, not what people are thinking about in general. Still its a great resource for info junkies like me. Should be interesting to compare to the Lycos 50, Yahoo Buzz Index and random Google droppings.

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February 25, 2003

State of the Remix

Altered State of the Union

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February 23, 2003

White Out

The new White Stripes album, Elephant is loose on the web. What can I say, they are the only brilliant rock and roll artist out there making new music.

First time I heard them was in the Verb cafe in Williamsburg. "Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)". It was almost a shock, first time in years I heard a new rock song I wanted (needed) to know more about. Thought that change was in the air, rock was not dead. Wrong. The White Stripes are rocks last gasp of brilliance, they blow away the rest of the competition by 20 years. And the new album is as good the previous ones. The cleverist lyrics, the masterful electric guitar, no bass. Stripped down raw rock. They mix it up a touch on this one, piano and an occasional bassline. But the essence is the same. "There's No Home For You Here" is the early favorite.

Of course you can't buy it in any stores for more then a month, and thats with a new pushed up release date. The record labels minds must be rotting even further. I couldn't buy this thing if I tried, file sharing is my only recourse. Perhaps the labels are begging us to kill them and put them out of their suffering. Its one thing to have a competitor with better prices and a quicker delivery system, but when the same competitor is beating you to the market by 2 months you know you are in trouble.

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Real Men Know When to Pull Out

wake the world - copyright free anti-war posters

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Data Failure in the Offshore Future

Nauru loses contact with the world. WTF? This is some scifi shit. If William Gibson was right when he said that "the future is already here, itís just not evenly distributed" then we are in for some interesting times in our over mined globally warmed over future.

There was a great article a few years back that gave the full Nauru backstory, phosphate strip mining destroyed the entire ecosystem except for a tiny ring around the coast. The island was turned into a one stop offshore banking capital. Thought it was in Wired, but I can't find it in the archives or through Google, anyone remember where it appeared?

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February 22, 2003

Political Mapage

So you want to know my politics? The Political Compass puts me as being strongly (but not extremely) libertarian (anti-authoritarian) on social/political issues and very close to the center leaning slightly to the right on economic issues. Closest label is anarchist. They're probably 75% right, their labeling system seems a touch dated, not sure my true politics would fit very neatly on their 2-D graph.

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"Pirate" Maps

Where The Pirates Are is another interactive map for today, this one showing "piracy" rates for various countries.

Very interesting and highly informative, despite the fact that it reports some extremely dubious figures. All the "loss" figures are a load of crap. There is no way most people would really be buying all that software and movies at the official prices. How many people who are willing to download Photoshop for free would pay $600 for it? In Pakistan? It hasn't even been proven that file sharing and "piracy" are actually causing any losses at all. Last I checked having a bigger audience/user base was a good thing.

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Underground Distortion

The Real Underground is an excellent interactive map that compares the official London Underground map with the geographic reality. Skip the intro. [ via v-2 ]

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