reboot 8

reboot8 is a community event for the practical visionaries who are at the intersection of digital technology and change all around us… 2 days. 400 people. A journey into the interconnectedness of creation, participation, values, openness, decentralization, collaboration, complexity, technology, p2p, humanities, connectedness and many more areas.
Applied towards us as individuals, citizens, teachers, culture workers, entrepreneurs, creators and change makers.

I’ll be at reboot 8.0 in Copenhagen from Thursday to Friday, where Nicolas and I will be presenting on Networked Objects and the New Ecology of Things, and discussing some of the still percolating follow-on from the workshop we organized here at EPFL, which just wrapped up a few minutes ago.

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Games=Art? Games=Play?

I went to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to see the exhibition on digital games & art. The Stedelijk Museum is set in a kind of dockyard floating barge tie-up area near the Centraal Station. My negative sense of direction ultimately delivered me near enough where I saw the preposterously funny mix-and-match of a boat hotel and a chinese restaurant floating barge thing. The Stedelijk Museum is located in a concrete structure that reminded me of an unaccommodating apartment block (co-occupied by Mediamatic, whose personnel were pre-occupied with setting up for an upcoming exhibition).

The entrance consisted of a security gate behind plexiglas, sort of like one might find at a Brooklyn bodega that’s suspicious of all its clientele. A few stories up the dimly lit staircase delivered me to the museum shop, worth browsing for awhile and then onto the actual exhibition through the entrance ramp way thing. 9 euros later, I was in the exhibition.

The exhibition consisted of a number of instances of video game art and attempts at video game art that I found confusing for the lack of cohesion amongst the pieces. Some were sit-and-watch kinds of things — large wall projections of video games with music (not from the games themselves, in one case) where one sits and watches what someone else did in the video game world. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to Rage Against The get the drill. Or Katamari Damacy that you can —— wait for it — play. It all felt rather uncurated. I didn’t quite get it.

The best piece by far was this augmented reality game in which museum goers are able to participate in the exhibition by touching (or punching) at a banner on which was projected live video of other attendees overlaid with some of the canonical video game graphics (scores, flash-bang graphics, twirly pointers). By punching the banner you won points or something by fragging other attendees. I liked this piece because at least it was visceral; which is part of the material of video games; interactive, which is part of the material of video games; playful, which is part of the material of video games; multi-participatory, which is part of the material of video games, and so on. The other pieces? Without a coherent narrative undergirding —why would I be drawn to watch a loop of what someone else did in a video game? Still, in my mind, the canonical piece of this sort — machinema, of a sort, but much more cinematic and authorial, is Eddo Stern’s Shiek Attack, wherein a story is told through a structured visual narrative that uses segments from the artist’s play with the games. Along with a musical track, this piece is truly engaging rather than a gratuitous mash-up of video game technology and a bid at aesthetic substance.

ISEA 2006 Early Bird Registration Open

ISEA2006 Early Bird Registration is only $250.00

Seven days of art and interconnectivity
ZeroOne San Jose/ISEA2006
Downtown San Jose; August 7-13, 2006.

1. Keynote: Raqs Media Collective, New Delhi, India
2. Almost 200 artists from around the world exhibiting and presenting
3. 70 papers and artist presentations during the symposium.
4. Talk-back live and really gain the benefit of the collective knowledge.
5. Workshops and Tours: Wetware Hackers, Free Soil, IBM/Almaden Research Labs, Landstream, From Crisis to Bliss, Computer Vision for Artists, San Jose Remixed-Open Source Interactive Narrative, Signal Process-Sound in Open Space, Transparent City, Social Memory-Documenting ISEA2006.
6. See Survival Research Labs LIVE! Legendary!
7. See Peter Greenaway LIVE! VJ Tour – Tulse Luper

ISEA2006 Early Bird Registration is only $250.00!!!

Click Here to Sign Up

And A FREE COPY of Leonardo, journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, will be distributed to every Early Bird registrant of the ISEA conference (through June 15th). Leonardo 39:4 will be devoted to the work of the seven Pacific Rim working groups, featuring new media educational programs and artists from the Pacific-Asia region. The print issue of the journal, due to be released in conjunction with the symposium, will include statements by artists as well as articles by cultural theorists looking at issues germane to the seven working group topics, plus introductory texts by the working group chairs.

Visit to register.

Playgrounds & Games

I was poking around the RES website last night and stumbled on a short interview with Keita Takahashi, designer of the iconoclastic Katamari Damacy duet of video games, perhaps my favorite, you know — modern video game.

I’m not a huge video gamer. I play when I’m really in need of a momentary diversion. I work at home a large portion of the time, at a whacky stand-up desk because I’m afraid that a sitting desk will absorb me so much that I would never get the umpf to push away and stand up (as was the case when I tried to have a normal human job). But when I want a diversion, I want something frenetic and weird. I can play a couple of rounds of Katamari for 8 minutes a piece and it’s like an alpha-geek’s stretching exercise. Seriously.

Kind of. I Love Katamari because it isn’t it’s own project. I have plenty of those already, and each becomes an excuse not to start a WoW experiment to see what all the noise is about.

Now I read a couple of interviews in the BBC and RES about Keita Takahashi and like the game even more because it embodies the dynamic within video game culture that gives me a bit of dyspepsia.

Takahashi describes how video game design doesn’t wholly capture his attention, which is probably a systemic thing, it sounds like. His approach sounds like that of someone who will always be an iconoclast, wherever he goes — doing what others are not in a particular field or practice culture. When video games are largely about racing, fighting, role-playing or shooting, he makes one on his own that’s about rolling stuff up.

I also appreciate Takahashi’s perspective on how games can become a part of the tactile and tangible experience of being in the normal, human physical world. Somehow, at a normative level, I think that the kinds of social practice norms that can be breeched or experimented with in the experienced environments of the game world need to be worked on within the physical world as well. That is, if games and play can become frameworks for lightly experimenting with new kinds of social formations, and if those new kinds of social formations can become new ways to inhabit the world — that is, co-habit with less of a deliterious impact, and in a more sustainable, life-affirming way

“I realized while making videogames that walking around in a large space with my own legs, touching objects with my own hands, and feeling something with my own body are sensations that are much more fantastic than moving a controller while sitting in one place,” he says. “Videogames are fine, but they seem a bit like a roundabout way of having fun. I also think it’s kind of a drag that they require electricity to play.”

Katamari anticipates the kind of old school playground play that I hope electronic/pervasive games are able to get to. Like, I’d rather have that casual mode of game play that happens while out in the real world, and reflects in some fashion the charisma of local activities or local objects. That, in my opinion, is where the opportunities for pervasive play lie — game & play experiences off of the sofa and in the real world.

This is not a move to fetishize the old playground style of play as much as it is a move to

1) Open up new game design challenges — screens are really last century

2) Get into the more kinesthetic opportunities of play design, created by the plummeting expertise and costs that used to go along with developing novel human-game interfaces. The computer mouse was a project taken up by a large, multi-million dollar research lab. Nowadays, high school kids can make novel game interfaces and interface syntax that couples GPS, or accelerometers or their backyard..with $40 in parts.

Why do I blog this? I love Katamari, but never really delved into the creative brain behind the game and now I did, and this above explains why.

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Winning (and Losing) the First Wired War

[wikilike_img src=|align=thumb tcenter|width=295|caption=|url=] writes on a digital divide, of sorts, that has put a strangle-hold on the theory that with communication, command and control tethered via digital networks, the armed forces of America would be more effective at conquering soverign states. Such is turning out not to be entirely the case. Most of the command units are able to make use of these networks, but evidently their effectivity plummets because units taking care of firing and dodging bullets and IEDs are off the grid, largely. And yesterday I heard a news story about two armored fighting units that could not communicate with each other — despite the fact that they were only a few meters away. Why? Incompatible communications gear. The radios were literally incompatible. Boggling, but maybe not so much considering the proprietary nature of so much of the gear.

To the US Forces pre-breakup AT&T, the insurgency is playing John Draper aka Cap’n Crunch.

Winning (and Losing) the First Wired War:

This war in Iraq was launched on a theory: That, with the right communication and reconnaissance gear, American armed forces would be quicksilver-fast and supremely lethal. A country could be conquered with only a fraction of the soldiers needed in the past.

During the initial invasion in March 2003, this idea of “network-centric warfare” worked more or less as promised — even though most of the frontline troops weren’t wired up. It was enough that the commanders were connected.

But now, more than three years into the Iraq conflict, the network is still largely incomplete. Local command centers have a torrent of information pouring in. But, for soldiers and marines on the ground, this war isn’t any more wired that the last one. “There is a connectivity gap,” a draft Army War College report notes. “Information is not reaching the lowest levels.”

And the insurgency has taken on a hacker sensibility:

And that’s a problem, because the insurgents are stitching together their own communications network. Using throwaway cellphones and anonymous e-mail accounts, these guerrillas rely on a loose web of connections, not a top-down command structure. And they don’t fight in large groups that can be easily tracked by high-tech command posts. They have to be hunted down in dark neighborhoods, found amid thousands of civilians, and taken out one by one.

Why do I blog this? Institutions like the military, while barely prone to the social practice adoptions that one finds in democratic formations, in many ways test some of the directions that open society social practices can go under particular situations. Could this be an indicator of how net neutrality plays out if networks get all gummmed up with non-open standards and proprietary protocols?

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EU Whirlwind

[wikilike_img src=|align=thumb tcenter|width=375|caption=thx gizmpaolo|url=]

* May 22-25 Edinburg
** May 23-24 Empowering the Mobile Web Workshop at WWW2006
** May 24 New Media Scotland discussion with me and Usman Haque. Beehive Inn (18-20 Grassmarket), Edinburgh, Wednesday 24 May, 2006, 6 PM.

The Poker Club is back! Although we are still waiting for our flying cars – join us in the function room of the Beehive Inn as our guests Usman Haque (artist/architect) and Julian Bleecker (technologist/artist/think tank leader) discuss better living through the “internet of things” and “open source architecture”. What are the “internet of things” and “open source architecture”, you ask? Well, follow the hyperlinks provided, and also please join us at the Beehive on the 24th to find out! Space is limited, so aim to arrive on time to ensure a seat.

The Poker Club is sponsored by anCnoc single malt whisky.

About the Poker Club: In a nod to the Scottish Enlightenment, when Adam Smith and David Hume gathered to discuss big ideas over a glass of claret at the original Poker Club, New Media Scotland has launched its own series of events under this venerable name (which refers to a fireplace poker for “stirring things up”, not card games, we’re afraid). These events will be held in the same environment as the original Poker Club – in the pubs of Edinburgh, where there is an endless supply of bar napkins to jot down inspirational notes and ideas. The conversation is lively, and you are encouraged to cut in with your questions and comments. At the Poker Club, everything is up for debate and discussion!

* May 26-28 Amsterdam
** Visiting colleagues for the upcoming Amsterdam Cross Media Week

* May 29-31 Geneva/Lausanne
** Second Blogject Workshop at EPFL!

* June 1-2 Copenhagen
** reboot8.0 to present results (gulp..) from the Second Blogject Workshop.

* June 3-5 Berlin
** recovery, relax and meet up with Andreas, Regine and Silvia

Augmented Objects Workshop: Ubicomp 2006 CfP

This Ubicomp 2006 workshop looks to be asking questions related to networked objects and the digital environments that would obtain when you have physical space inhabited by informatically chatty Things. It would be fun to attend this one!

Interaction Design for Augmented Objects: Making Ubicomp Approachable

Submission deadline is June 16, 2006.

Workshop date is September 17, 2006.

Interaction Design for Augmented Objects

For more than a decade the Ubicomp community has worked on the problem of distributing computational power into the environment. One strategy to achieve this goal is to augment items already present in our everyday environment. Approaches that incorporate commonly used objects range from enriching these objects with new functionalities, to using them as a means to trigger the presentation of extra information to the user. The meaning of objects is often related to the history and ritual of their use: interaction design should augment daily gestures as much as the objects themselves, leading to a natural and intuitive interaction paradigm. We believe that using an object or gesture as a basis, or “anchor”, for a new interaction can facilitate intuition and social acceptance, making the Ubicomp paradigm in general more approachable for real users.

The use of everyday objects for Ubicomp opens up different and sometimes contrasting scenarios, each posing interesting questions. Analyzing projects presented by other researchers as well as our own work, we have identified a number of conceptual and practical issues related to the augmentation of items that are common in our everyday lives..

We invite researchers and practitioners from industrial and product design as well as ubiquitous computing to present design concepts, sketches, and critical questions related to the area in the form of a poster. We ask participants to submit a description of their work or idea in 3 to 6 pages in the standard CHI 2006 Extended Abstracts Format, encouraging rich use of illustrations. A maximum of 25 applicants will be selected to participate in the workshop based on a review of their papers by the organizers. The selected papers will be made available on the workshop website to allow participants to familiarize themselves with each other’s work before the event. Accepted participants will be asked to bring to the workshop one of their favorite objects (augmented or not) as a source of inspiration to share with others.

Why do I blog this?
I’m interested in a variety of approaches to figuring out what are the compelling scenarios and goals by which pervasive/ubiquitous environments of networked objects can change the terms of our tenancy within the physical world in such a way as to create more habitable, life-affirming participation practices. This workshop may address such topics as it thinks through the important questions for the approaching Internet of Things.

I also really like their approach to the workshop organization — the use of hands-on hardware-sketching sounds awfully fun!

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Ubicomp 2006 — Call for Demos

The Ubicomp conference’s Demonstrations Program offers an excellent way to showcase tangible results of ubiquitous computing research and development to over 500 attendees from academia and industry. A successful demo communicates ideas and concepts in a powerful way that a regular presentation cannot. We invite you to contribute your vision of the ubicomp experience to the Demonstrations Program at the UbiComp 2006 conference. We particularly encourage demonstrations that include participation by conference attendees and provoke discussion about issues within the field of ubiquitous computing.

We seek proposals for demonstrations of ubiquitous computing technologies across the full milieu of everyday life: office, home, street, park, train, automobile, bedroom, bathroom, work, play, desktop, handheld, worn, public, private, community, individual, shared, and personal. We welcome a wide range of submission from scenarios involving innovative solutions of focused tasks as well as playful pursuits.

Ubicomp 2006 runs from September 17-21, 2006 and is hosted at UC Irvine in Irvine, CA.

Abstract Page limit: 2 pages (ACM SIGCHI conference publications format)

Submission Deadline: June 16, 2006
Acceptance Notification: July 14, 2006
Final Version Due: August 4, 2006

More information

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Approaches To Practice

Sunday March 29, 13.18.40

Professional Statement

My professional goal as an academic is to create wider, public understanding as to the meaning of, and possibilities for, an invigorated, livable technoculture. For the last several years, through scholarship, writing and art-technology projects, I have been primarily focused on the ways that networked digital cultures operate, exist and create meaning. More recently, I have developed a commitment to revealing a deeper sense of the possibilities for actively shaping what that digitally networked world looks like, how it is co-habited by many different kinds of social beings, and how we may co-exist as social beings within it. My goals, in other words, are to make sense of the “new networked age” episteme in such a way as to create a sense that it is possible to shape our world, to “hack it”, into some place that we can inhabit in a life-affirming, sustainable way.

I believe that the world is at a crucial intersection, as always, but this one really matters. There has long been a recognition that digital networks might likely be enablers for worldly change of the most profound and impactful kind. The arguments that undergird this point of view are familiar. The fluency and literacy that a consequential number of people have with its technical underpinnings matters because fluency and literacy amongst a diversity of social formations can yield “new things.” The capacity of individuals to acquire the material skills to create their own technologies that facilitate these social formations is unprecedented. The networks continue to pervade many touch points within the social lives of a diversity of peoples, and pervade many touch points within the physical, geographic world. Such arguments continue, often based upon access, skill, the economics of digital transmission, and so forth. Succinctly, there are far-reaching implications for digital networked publics. The portents for worldly change are provocative.
While the possibility for change is latent within these enabling conditions, the direction that change takes is not entirely clear: knowledge, literacy, techno-savvy DIY-skills may yield a variety of possible worlds, not all of which, on an ethically normative register, are palatable. On the one hand, it is presently conceivable that the new networked age could provide us with a mechanism to make a world that is more habitable, more sustainable and more accepting of cultural and political difference. On the other hand, it is well within the power of the informed imagination to conceive of a digitally networked world that is precisely the opposite.

In sum, it is my professional goal to turn my creative and intellectual energy toward ways to achieve the more life-affirming social world.

My Approach To Scholarship
I hope I can distinguish my scholarship as an interdisciplinary hybrid that knits together my engineering and social sciences background, training and passions. As an engineer, I am fascinated by technology and actively develop such, but I am less interested in doing traditional engineering, such as creating more efficient data storage software, or making faster computer processors. As a social scientist, I like the idea of revealing the complex, imbricated relationship between technology and culture, but I also like to make culture through my technology projects.

The challenge for me in doing interdisciplinary work is that I embody interdisciplinarity. I want to make technology and culture at the same time. I want to do such so as to understand how culture and technology are actually two sides of the same coin, something that social theory reveals fairly well through science and technology studies, and cultural anthropology, and other disciplines as well. While also doing this kind of social theory, I want to make — design, code, build, test, release — the kinds of manifest contributions to new networked worlds that technology, absent social theory, is able to do through traditional engineering practice.

This approach to scholarship is perhaps best encapsulated in what Tara McPherson describes as a “theory object” — an instantiated “thing” that is able to “do” theory in its design, construction and use. Theory objects are embodiments of social theory and social practice, where the “social” is part of the design and construction of the “thing.” In my case, the “theory objects” I would like to construct are instantiations of the research questions my scholarship addresses.

This approach reveals social theory through the creation of technical instrumentalities, or framing theory through the creation of technological systems, or answering questions as to how meaning and social interactions can become embodied within or made possible by a device, software program or engineering practices. For instance, a component of my current book project is an investigation of more serene environments for networked digital social communication. Email, for example, and instant messaging, are seen in some contexts to be persistently nagging utilities that can be disruptive and distracting. Here, the question is around finding livable usage scenarios for IM or email. I am developing a software application that attempts to answer this question, by recasting the way in which we engage our email or interact with our IM buddies. As a “theory object”, this software may succeed or may fail or, more likely it will both succeed and fail, as all technologies and all social theories do. But, through the construction of this software object, it is my intention to both address this research question — what are less disruptive ways to engage digital communications practices. At the same time, by showing the step-by-step design and construction of the object, I can reveal the way that practice gets built into software.