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Being "always on" is being always off, to something.

For The Win
Topic: Arts 7:30 am EDT, May 24, 2010

Cory Doctorow has a new book.

In the virtual future, you must organize to survive.

Mala is a brilliant 15-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the title of "General Robotwalla." In Shenzen, heart of China's industrial boom, Matthew is defying his former bosses to build his own successful gold-farming team. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California, but spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia, a world away. All of these young people, and more, will become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo.

The ruthless forces arrayed against them are willing to use any means to protect their power -- including blackmail, extortion, infiltration, violence, and even murder. To survive, Big Sister's people must out-think the system. This will lead them to devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once -- a Ponzi scheme combined with a brilliant hack that ends up being the biggest, funnest game of all.

John Seely Brown:

Gaming tends to be regarded as a harmless diversion at best, a vile corruptor of youth at worst. But the usual critiques fail to recognize its potential for experiential learning.

It's learning to be -- a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture -- as opposed to learning about.

For The Win

The Shallows
Topic: Technology 7:30 am EDT, May 24, 2010

Nicholas Carr has a new book.

What are the consequences of new habits of mind that abandon sustained immersion and concentration for darting about, snagging bits of information? What is gained and what is lost?

Matthew B. Crawford, author of Shop Class As Soulcraft:

The core of education is this: developing the capacity to concentrate. The fruits of this capacity we call civilization. But all that is finished, perhaps. Welcome to the shallows, where the un-educating of homo sapiens begins. Nicholas Carr does a wonderful job synthesizing the recent cognitive research. In doing so, he gently refutes the ideologists of progress, and shows what is really at stake in the daily habits of our wired lives: the re-constitution of our minds. What emerges for the reader, inexorably, is the suspicion that we have well and truly screwed ourselves.

Winifred Gallagher:

You can't be happy all the time, but you can pretty much focus all the time. That's about as good as it gets.

Neal Stephenson:

There's a gap emerging between the kind of thinking that requires long, uninterrupted, serious concentration on something and superficial surfing behaviour.

Russel Arben Fox:

In becoming jugglers of information we are actually making it -- neurologically, psychologically, structurally -- harder and harder for our own brains to do anything otherwise.

Samantha Power:

There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.

Dave Eggers:

It's just sort of like: 'Why does everything have to be on the screen?'

David Lynch:

Some things we forget. But many things we remember on the mental screen, which is the biggest screen of all.

Daniel Dennett:

We have a population explosion of ideas, but not enough brains to cover them.

The Shallows

Points of View: a tribute to Alan Kay
Topic: Technology 7:30 am EDT, May 24, 2010

A new book.

Points of View is a collection of previously-unpublished essays written to celebrate Alan Kay's 70th birthday. Twenty-nine luminaries from diverse disciplines contributed original material for this book.

Contributors include Ivan Sutherland, Leonard Kleinrock, John Sculley, Nicholas Negroponte, David Reed, Butler Lampson, Doug Lenat, Vint Cert, Mitchel Resnick, Bran Ferren, Bob Lucky, Gordon Bell, and Danny Hillis, and more.

Who is Alan Kay?

Alan Kay is one of the most influential computer scientists of the modern era. His contributions, among many others, include the concept of the personal computer.

From the archive, Alan Kay:

We can't learn to see until we realize we are blind.

I once asked Ivan [Sutherland], 'How is it possible for you to have invented computer graphics, done the first object oriented software system and the first real time constraint solver all by yourself in one year?" And he said "I didn't know it was hard."

At PARC we had a slogan: "Point of view is worth 80 IQ points."

If the children are being instructed in the pink plane, can we teach them to think in the blue plane and live in a pink-plane society?

Points of View: a tribute to Alan Kay

How many things they have!
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:29 am EDT, May 20, 2010

Denise Gershbein:

It's amazing how, when you're alone and things are quiet, hours can seem like days.

Rory Stewart:

Without music, time has a very different quality.

Blaise Pascal:

The sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.

Rivka Galchen:

I prefer the taciturn company of my things. I love my things. I have a great capacity for love, I think.

Winifred Gallagher:

You can't be happy all the time, but you can pretty much focus all the time. That's about as good as it gets.

Norm Augustine:

Ninety percent of the time things will turn out worse than you expect. The other 10 percent of the time you had no right to expect so much.

Peter Drucker:

Futurists always measure their batting average by counting how many things they have predicted that have come true. They never count how many important things come true that they did not predict.

Joe Nocera:

They just want theirs.

Michael Osinski:

Oyster farmers eat lots of oysters, don't they?

California is a place.
Topic: Local Information 7:52 am EDT, May 18, 2010

California is loaded. From Disneyland to farmland, we've got Scientology and superstars, Silicon and silicone, crips and bloods. The border. Krunkin' Clownin' Jerkin'. The surf and the turf. The boom and the bust. California is humanity run amuck and then packaged, branded and sold. California Cuisine, California Love, California Casual, California Gold, California Girls, and of course, California Dreams. If it exists in the world, it exists here and it does so with pizzaz.

Obviously, we love this stuff. That's why we're doing this project. Simply put, California is sensational. And the closer we look the better it gets: words and images, stories and songs, opinions and ideas. This project is ongoing. We hope you like what you see and say so. We plan to post often. So until that day, when we finally float off into the Pacific, California is a place. Stay tuned.

William T. Vollmann:

Across the border, the desert is the same but there are different secrets.

David Lynch, on Interview Project:

It's something that's human,
and you can't stay away from it.

California is a place.

Natalie Merchant | Leave Your Sleep
Topic: Arts 7:52 am EDT, May 18, 2010

Financial Times:

Natalie Merchant's seven-year sleep has blossomed into this double album of poems set to music that traverses the whole range of American vernacular, from Bluegrass to Cajun to miniature chamber music, and beyond.

See also Carla Bruni's No Promises, from 2008.

From the deep archive, circa 2003, long before OK Go:

Natalie Merchant has stepped off the pop treadmill.

Natalie Merchant | Leave Your Sleep

Chapter 3 of the Lady Dior saga : Lady Blue Shanghai
Topic: Arts 7:52 am EDT, May 18, 2010

David Lynch and Marion Cotillard in Shanghai a la Wong Kar Wai.

From the archive, Lynch:

Ideas are like fish. Originality is just the ideas you caught.

Louis Menand:

Ideas are not "out there" waiting to be discovered, but are tools -- like forks and knives and microchips -- that people devise to cope with the world in which they find themselves. Ideas are produced not by individuals, but by groups of individuals -- ideas are social.

Chapter 3 of the Lady Dior saga : Lady Blue Shanghai

How To Destroy Angels
Topic: Arts 7:52 am EDT, May 18, 2010

Trent Reznor:

Rebecca Brock:

She tells me she's ready. She may be small, she says, but she's mean. She outlines her plans for fending off terrorists. She says, "I kind of hope something happens, you know?"

She wears an American flag pin on the lapel of her blazer. She sits on the jump seat, waiting for her life to change.

How To Destroy Angels

The Johnny Cash Project
Topic: Arts 7:52 am EDT, May 18, 2010

Participants may draw their own portrait of Johnny Cash to be integrated into the collective whole.

As people all over the world contribute, the project will continue to evolve and grow, one frame at a time.

See also:

You and 472 other people have the chance to recreate Star Wars: A New Hope.

Always remember:

There are 260 million people in America, and you are one of them.

The Johnny Cash Project

A Suitcase Full Of Cash
Topic: Society 7:41 am EDT, May  6, 2010

danah boyd:

When you think about Facebook, the market has very specific incentives: Encourage people to be public, increase ad revenue. All sorts of other things will happen from there.

Bill Gurley:

Customers seem to really like free as a price point. I suspect they will love "less than free."

Josh Harris:

Everything is free, except the video that we capture of you. That we own.


Big Data is made of people.


Money for me, databases for you.

Michael Osinski:

Oyster farmers eat lots of oysters, don't they?

Denton Gentry:

We might recoil from this, but I suspect it is not something which can be stopped. The technology has reached the point where these things are feasible, and there is a huge economic incentive to do so. A concerted effort to stop it results in the technology being less visible, not absent.


All the time you spend tryin to get back what's been took from you there's more goin out the door. After a while you just try and get a tourniquet on it.

Libby Purves:

There is a thrill in switching off the mobile, taking the bus to somewhere without CCTV and paying cash for your tea. You and your innocence can spend an afternoon alone together, unseen by officialdom.

Erasing David:

David Bond lives in one of the most intrusive surveillance states in the world. He decides to find out how much private companies and the government know about him by putting himself under surveillance and attempting to disappear, a decision that changes his life forever. Leaving his pregnant wife and young child behind, he is tracked across the database state on a chilling journey that forces him to contemplate the meaning of privacy and the loss of it.

Cordelia Dean:

There are those who suggest humanity should collectively decide to turn away from some new technologies as inherently dangerous.

Marc Lacey:

In other words, there has to be a line people will not cross, even for a suitcase full of cash.

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