Sunday, March 25, 2007

Another year older but she still prefers fairy cakes!

Where the heart is

Every time I return back home to Yorkshire I try to take some pictures that capture my love for the place that I grew up in. I don't think I'm going to succeed. The landscapes that surround my home are stunning, empty expanses that can not be captured within the viewfinder of my camera and it frustrates me. I can try to explain to you how the South just does not pull on my heart strings the way that the North does, but unless I can take you there I can't.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

My Avatar, My Self?

avatar - the manifestation of a Hindu deity (especially Vishnu) in human or superhuman or animal form; "the Buddha is considered an avatar of the god Vishnu"

I attended an interesting talk last week by Luciano Floridi entitled “The image, virtual and the real”. Floridi’s focus was “Avatars”, digital beings that are often portrayed as virtual representations of ourselves living online in Metaverses (Stephenson, Snow Crash) such as Second Life and Warcraft. Floridi argues that rather than being ego-polietic (ego=I, Polietic=construction) avatars are a movement away from imaging ourselves towards imagining ourselves; that avatars are not narcissistic representations; they are not an image of ourselves. After all, why exist as yourself in the shitty world you exist in if you can create an alter-ego, build an environment you have always wanted to roam, where you can be who you want to be, carry out your fantasies, and step away from the self? Is the digital age signalling a time when we are no longer obsessed with representing ourselves online and actually make a conscious move to disassociate with ourselves in the virtual world?

At an extreme it is almost possible to eliminate your own manifestation (users who reduce their avatars to 1 pixel and name’s as one character, almost invisible). However, I see avatars as something like having a controllable multiple personality, although users are not always fully conscious of exactly what they are expressing about their personality via their avatars. It's the same for the dreamer. Every visual element in the dream may be a representation of some aspect of the dreamer's identity. Each character and object in the dream is a split off or dissociated component of the self - but the dreamer is not fully aware of this. In the Metaverse we can be shape-shifters, omnipotent, express and experiment with various aspects of identity that we could not do in the “real world”. The avatar question is not about who we are but who we can be.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Doing the mash

Yesterday I went to a talk on "mashups". Mashing, in techy speak, is when content from more than one source is combined into an integral experience, so for instance feeding in flickr photos or an rss feed into blogger or another website. Fd's flicker toys, which I'm always blogging about, also "mash" as they use the Flickr API to feed in photos and search flickr to create snazzy photo art or perform other functions. Flickr seems to be one of the "in" things to mash at the moment and funky little programs are cropping up all over the place. For instance tagnautica is a browser that allows users to explore the huge flickr image collection by using tags as keywords to classify images, meanwhile the retrievr sketching search engine is an impressive gizmo that allows users to search and explore Flickr images by drawing rough sketches.

Mashing creates many possibilites - we can extract certain types of data from a database such as < date > or < location > and create timelines of events or place markers onto a map (see google maps). Mashups, as of today, are mostly a programmer's affair although there are some tools such as MapBuilder that can help you create basic maps without coding. I'm going to give it a shot though, it's very "in" in the world of Web 2.0 (if you believe in that kind of thing Mr Berners Lee).

Further Info
The Programmable Web
Information Aesthetics

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bead Art

Not too sure about fd Flickr's new toy "Bead Art" - choose a photo and turn it into beads. Hmmm.