Lift 2009

Well, I’ll be sad to miss Lift in Geneva this year. Really sad. But, you shouldn’t be, so I suggest you go if you can, especially if you’re close by anyway, to mitigate large carbon foot stomps. It’ll be a great line up as always, with some great workshops, including this one with Vlad Trifa and Alexandra Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (from!) and Dominique Guinard. They will be running a day-long workshop called “Internet of Things: Next Steps and Visions of the Future. Whoa. I’ll be looking for their observations and conclusions to that one. Dang.

Go here to register and go have a good time. It’s the best conference going that covers technology, culture new weird human social practices and goes along without prattling advertisements disguised as presentations. Plus lots of opportunities to interact with presenters, meet new people and have epic amounts of fondue.
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Locative Play

Ian Bogost‘s and his Persuasive Games operation have introduced an iPhone game called JetSet
— a curious little gem that situates specific locations as the enforced zone for game play.

Very interesting play mechanic — a location-based game that you can basically only play when you’re at any one of a huge list of airports in the world. And, your score (if it’s good enough..) goes up on that airport’s leader board. The only way to play, say — Madrid Barajas International Airport is to go to Madrid Barajas International Airport. You have to physically be at the airport to play and get on that airport’s leader board, get that airport’s “souvenirs” (this game’s equivalent of blue gems), and so forth.

Oh, the game — okay, you’re a security screener dude screening passengers, and the "prohibited" list changes so you’re constantly having to figure out what to remove from the traveler, from the mundane — shoes? hat? water bottles? coffee? to the obscure — bacon? rocks? snakes? robots? pudding cups? hummus? There should be a way to put leader boards up along on my Dopplr page and Dopplr personal annual report!

It’s simple and an exciting play mechanic that’s intimates at the near future of all kinds of interactive experiences as the digital continues to leak out into the real world. Nicely done.
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Interactivos – Medialab-Prado

I’m off to Medialab-Prado where I’ll be participating in the Garage Science, their International Workshop-Seminar that includes an intensive project development workshop (January 28 through February 14, 2009) and a seminar with lectures and public theoretical works presentations (January 28 and 29, 2009). Both the projects and papers have been selected through international open call. I’ll be attending as an instructor/tutor/participant for this last week of the event.

This event is something near-and-dear to the Near Future Laboratory. Garage Science is about the socialization of technoscience along the vector of doing-it-yourself. Whereas most conventionally, things like science and technology are left to the big shots with bloated budgets and too much formal education, it is no longer possible to ignore what the networked society has allowed — people are creating knowledge on their own, circulating it at such a pace that it becomes possible that technoscience is happening in places other than the cordoned-off laboratories and billion euro cyclotrons.

It should not be a surprise that smart people with the will to create new things are doing so. They may have always been, but the networks allow them to find their fellow explorers, share knowledge, encourage one another, learn the bits they need to know — all in their garage, with a bit of kit found on Ebay, low cost equipment and computers and microcontrollers, etc. This is quite a new thing, and is plainly a weak signal of a shift in who plays what part in the production and circulation of ideas. It’s a new knowledge-culture we’re in.

The socialization of technology and the accessibility of information available on the Web make it increasingly easy for anyone to have the possibility of building a home laboratory. Garage science is nothing new but home laboratories are connected now more than ever before. There are home laboratories of all kinds: technology factories, chemistry or biology labs, artists’ studios, places to rehearse, etc.

These home laboratories have a worldwide scope via the Web, which serves as a space for the dissemination of projects and the exchange of knowledge and techniques. These online communities are accompanied by a proliferation of onsite events, such as dorkbots, barcamps and hackmeetings, where people who only knew each other via the Web can meet face to face and share their achievements and experiences.

The communities formed this way provide citizens with the capacity to develop scientific-technical knowledge comparable to what is produced in the major laboratories. “Citizen science” can serve to explore questions such as: How are the foods we eat made? What possibilities exist in biogenetic research? What is the code that makes the machines we use work? How are those machines manufactured? Based on this knowledge, experimental and critical formulations and objects can be produced proposing new paths and goals in these fields.

Interactivos?’09 aims to explore these practices, where art, science and technology meet. We invite the participants to turn medialab into a garage laboratory where low-cost, accessible materials are used to develop objects and installations that combine software, hardware and biology. There’s license to fail!

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Upload Cinema – Visions of a Future

via erwinvanderzande

An interesting proposition — show shorts that are found online, like on YouTube or Vimeo or wherever in a proper, normal, human bricks & mortar theater. That’s what Upload Cinema in Amsterdam does and, darnit..if I was there, I’d go every month.

Update: The viewed films can be seen online now.

On February 2, 2009 they will be showing short films and clips according to the theme “Visions of a Future” which I had the good fortune to be the guest editor and curate, along with a few other folks. Part of the duties I agreed to was to provide some introduction. As I’m not in Amsterdam and am someplace rather warmer and drier, I cobbled together a rash-dash video introduction which doesn’t say much, but sets the mood.

Upload Cinema Visions of a Future Intro from Julian Bleecker on Vimeo.

I had an evening, after a day in the studio, to put this together and I really have no video production skills and, on top of that, my aspirations were pretty high. I thought about what I might say that would tie the event to my design fiction thinking, but that’d mean pulling together a few remarks and I thought it’d be more fun to be fun.

The high concept, which — after a few test compositions and some editing and rendering I realized would take me into the wee hours of the morning — is that the Odyssey from 2001: A Space Odysseyhas a custodian/superintendent who is called Hal and misunderstandings between him and HAL evolve from there when Hal, the Super, overhears Dave and Frank talking about disconnecting HAL.

Anyway..I blame the Porto.

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Cross off one goal on the list of things for 2009. I’ve managed to create a rugged imaging work flow which has all the characteristics of an over-wrought, over-the-top Balkan bureaucracy. Nevertheless, it works for me for the time being, although I’m fairly certain there’s a quagmire of snafus and lost data lurking just around the corner.

I pretty much got annoyed with the pre-packaged image management tools — or dubiously named DAM (digital asset management) tools and protocols. Aperture and Lightroom feel like they’re trying to do too much and have a number of nuisance restrictions on where the actual media goes. Plus, they have these mysterious library files that grow and grow. I mean — I know they’re containers for media and the media’s in there, but that just feels like a recipe for (a) disaster; (b) inability to do incremental backups on just what’s changed so that my backup routine always ends up copying ginormous 4GB+ “libraries” even if I’ve only added one 27kB file. Ridiculous. I could never get used to their all-in-one feel. So, I moved on. I’m not prepared to say this is the be-all-to-end-all routine, but so far it’s working okay. It’ll fail at some point, like a things digital must.

Here’s the drill.

(1) Image ingestion to my Mac from my camera.

(2) I use ImageIngestor. By far, thus far, the better of image ingestion tools. I like that it has macros that allow me to specify how to rename images so I can name them with a human date and time, which will also sort them if I chose to do so in a directory listing. I like that it allows me to cohere the photos with GPX track data that comes from GPS data, should I happen to have that. All around great image ingestion tool.

I tell Image Ingestor to do automatic DNG conversion using the free Adobe DNG Converter. I add a large JPEG preview to the DNG. I instruct Image Ingestor to leave behind backups of the pre-conversion RAW (NEF) files in a shadow directory that I throw out when I notice that they’re there, just in case I frack something up.

(2.5) I sometimes have a good GPS with great sensitivity packed in my bag, shoved in a big pocket or lying in my car somewhere. It’s a Garmin GPSMap 60CSX, which works well without being fussed over. In my opinion, it’s a better solution than the bulky, awkward, cord-y GPS devices that mount on a camera’s flash hot shoe. I’ve tried those. They’re bunk. You can’t change out the batteries, they have middling cold-star fix capabilities, the cable gets tangled up with anything it pleases, they’re plastic, bulk up the camera, make me look weirder than I already do shooting a big DSLR with a Nikon 14mm fisheye. With the Garmin, I have a GPS that’ll take normal, human AA batteries and lets me fiddle with its settings. Someday soon pro DSLRs will have a really good GPS built in that might just work as well as just a normal GPS. For the time being, a normal GPS does exactly what I need it to — give me rough location data that I can assign to images. (Why I do this is as neurotic an obsession as actually putting together an obsessive imaging workflow.)
I use the free HoudahGPS to download GPS tracks over USB from my GPS. (This wasn’t always easy on a Mac. I remember the days when I had to use a serial to USB dongle and GPSBabel to hopefully extract track data.
The GPS tracks, in GPX format files, contain roughly where I was when a photo was taken. Sometimes its off. In the simplest of cases, I can match any things like time difference using Image Ingestor, which allows me to adjust any time differences due to, for example, forgetting to set the correct timezone in the camera’s clock. Otherwise, I have to resort to using GPS Photo Linker, which allows me to go image by image and have GPS Photo Linker adjust or enter location data directly. It’s a bit manual, and slow cause it tries its best to load the image files but does so as if you have all the time in the world — but takes care of inevitable foul ups.

(3) Okay. Now I have a directory hierarchy (year/human month/date) in which are DNG images. What next? Adobe Bridge CS4. Here I can do bridge-y things, like browse the images and make Camera RAW adjustments, or create derivative files, like JPEGs for upload to Flickr. (As it turns out, Picture Sync can take a DNG file and do the JPEG conversion for you before it uploads to your favorite photo service., which saves a step if you use Picture Sync.) You can do keyword tagging and other stuff here in Bridge. The interface is horrid though, so I just use it as a browser for picking images to open in Camera RAW, wherein I make adjustments to my eyeball’s liking. Then..I’m out.

(4) Cataloging. Basically, I’ve done ingestion and adjustments. I don’t linger over either of those, really. I’m not selling photos or taking them at a professional clip. I spend more time pondering how to organize the images, fueled on by a modest fear of not being able to find an image someday. (Ultimately, I think I mostly browse images nostalgically, but someday I may need something for a presentation or whatever.)
Years ago, I was using iView Media Pro quite happily and then I switched to iPhoto without thinking about it too hard. Then I noticed that iPhoto was creating zillions of preview images and generally having its way with my hard disk space, so I gave it the boot and essentially used the Finder and Finder enhancements like Pathfinder and Coverflow to browse directory hierarchies organized by date. Flickr helped too, as a catalog because I was uploading most everything to one place or another.
Well, the new drill has me back to the Microsoft incarnation of iView Media Pro, which they renamed Expression Media 2. It’s iView Media Pro, but newer and, I assume but am likely horribly wrong — better.
What’s it do? Well, it’s a cataloging program that allows for keywording, can handle hierarchical keywords (albeit not particularly well), browsing, publishing — a bunch of crap. Mostly I’m keywording images as best I can and organizing things by named sets as best I can. I’ve pretty much given up on having a controlled vocabulary or regular process. I do what I can — and move along.
What I like about Expression Media 2 is that I can disperse my media where I like. So, when I first have Expression Media 2 scan my ingestion files? I can keyword them and do whatever other “meta” stuff I want and, later, I can move the files using Expression Media 2 to an external drive or elsewhere. The keywords stick with the files, Expression Media 2 just updates where the image goes and, in the situation where an image is offline cause I don’t have the right drive hooked up or whatever — Expression Media 2 lets me know that, and will still show me a lightweight preview.
That’s pretty much what I do in the cataloging part of the workflow. Simple keywording, some categorization tags that EM2 gives you. Then, by the end of the month (there’s only been one month since I’ve done this, so who knows if that’s a rule..) I would have taken all the images in the ingestion directories and had EM2 move them to an external drive with a hierarchy of directory “bins”, each “bin” directory no larger than about 4.7GB — the size of a DVD. The directory bins themselves contain directories that are named roughly as to the content of the images therein. Something like — “Tokyo 2008.” That’s good enough. There are bound to be images that are a bit of an orphan with no ur-topic to assign them a directory. These go into a directory named by the month and year — a kind of catch all for things that have no place.
Downside of EM2 as a cataloging program are a couple of annoyances. The interface is just okay — it can get awkward entering keywords to always have to click to create a new entry rather than just doing comma separated entry really quickly. It offers you a latitude/longitude/altitude field for the IPTC data of an image — but it turns out the canonical place to put that is in the EXIF data, which it, bafflingly, does not allow you to edit. So, you can type in your latitude/longitude/altitude, but many places/sites/tools that actually use that information look for it in the EXIF data, not the IPTC data. Complete fail. I think it’s crazy that the tool locks the EXIF data. They have a reason you can hunt for in the forums but, basically — it’s bone headed.

(5) My photo drive. A 1TB drive that like won’t get close to filling up before its technology is obsolete. It’s just a hierarchy of directories that contain directories that contain images. Each top level directory grows until it contains about a DVDs worth of images, and then I’ll burn it to DVD — although that may just be a waste of time considering that that media decays over time. Probably better to do a hard drive backup, keep a backup drive somewhere else and also backup to an online data service in the “Cloud.”

(6) A mirror of the photo drive that’s a bit smaller. Just for redundancy. I backup from the original every so often.

(7) Cloud storage. I use Jungle Disk to backup my photo drive to Amazon’s S3 cloud. That was a bit of an experiment to get some experience working with this cloud stuff. How well does it work in the workflow? What does it really cost after a couple of months of usage? Stuff like that. Last months charges where $2.28. I transferred in 2.325 GB, transferred out 0.348 GB, made a couple 10’s of thousands of requests to do stuff in the process of transferring in and out of data, and stored 12.611 GB on average over the course of the month. So, I’m okay with that $2.28.
Jungle Disk takes care of the backups, with a bit of fiddling and configuring. Of course, you can basically store anything that can be moved over a TCP/IP connection on the S3 service, so it could also be a system backup, albeit quite slow. I signed up for Jungle Disk Pro, so I can gain access to my files via a web browser, which I’ve only tried once, but I like the peace of mind that suggests. Worth the — whatever..$1 a month.

(7, also) ExifTool. Sometimes I use a set of simple scripts created for viewing and editing Exif data. ExifTool is a programming library written in Perl with a lot of features. I use it to write simple scripts that can run through my photo directories (which are only roughly organized by date) and do some renaming and indexing based on date. It’s something EM2 can do, too. I just like to be able to do it without relying on that.

That’s it. My over-the-top imaging workflow. Really, it’s probably too complex but I geeked out and tooled up.

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Subtly Noted

Saturday January 31 10:54

After passing by this a couple of times walking back from Venice Beach, I can’t help but wonder if this Pepsi advertisement is an allusion to the Obama victory. Without clearly saying so, it may be. I suppose knowing when it went up might help, if I were that interested. in any case, I can’t think of what else in the cultural landscape over the recent months might lead to one thinking — Hooray! Bernie Madoff? $350 billion given away to jackhole bankers? The recently completed building adjacent to the sign that looks like it was done by a barely passing master of architecture grad student?

Saturday January 31 10:52

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