Empathy, Art or Science?

head of a  papier-mâché model from Dr. Auzoux collection, Smithsonian.From xForums, “the last bastion of intelligent discussion”, via Daily Kos:

That sucks and the guy deserves money but it’s really not the guards fault his spine is made out of paper mache.

If America were Iraq what would it be?, Juan Cole (Informed Comment, 22 September 2004).

What if, from time to time, the US Army besieged Virginia Beach, killing hundreds of armed members of the Christian Soldiers? What if entire platoons of the Christian Soldiers militia holed up in Arlington National Cemetery, and were bombarded by US Air Force warplanes daily, destroying thousands of graves and even pulverizing the Vietnam Memorial over on the Mall? What if the National Council of Churches had to call for a popular march of thousands of believers to converge on the National Cathedral to stop the US Army from demolishing it to get at a rogue band of the Timothy McVeigh Memorial Brigades?

Papier Mâchè spine xrayImagine having a papier mâchè spine…

Anti-Marxist Propaganda Methods

A couple of excerpts from the fascinating Nazi and East German Propaganda archives (see their FAQ), including pre-1933 publications and training materials. Makes for very unsettling reading.

It is nonsense to think that a popular style of speaking (which often turns out to be vulgar) is enough to win sympathy for the speaker in a meeting of workers. The opposite! The Marxist worker can tell what is genuine and what is artificial. When he sees that a speaker has taken on a “popular” style of speaking, or that he wears a shirt without a collar, or rolled up sleeves or other things like that, he becomes reserved and critical. Obviously a workers’ meeting is not a university auditorium. The speech must be simple and clear. But coarse language and shabby clothing generally harm the overall impression, just as do an elevated, lecturing style and elegant dress.

[...]

They want a plausible justification and good reasons for doing what they instinctively feel. For decades the materialist worldview was pumped into them. They learned to evaluate everything from a materialistic and rational perspective. As convinced Marxists, they were ruled by cold, clear reason, not be feelings. Mind and stomach, not heart and soul, were the driving forces behind events. In their heart and soul many of these former Marxist workers are already National Socialists; only their materialism keeps them from breaking with the false gods of the past.

The movement’s speaker has the task of making it easier for Marxist workers to break with the past. He must be ready and able to give these citizens a logical basis for their emotional longing for National Socialism. He can do that only by knowing the Marxist worldview as well as he knows his own. He must be able to deal directly with the ideas of Marxists in the audience. He must be able to handle even the best Marxist discussion speakers.

Leaflet map

The task of putting some of this information on the map is rather daunting, once you actually start wading through a pile of leaflets looking for locations, places, times, contacts details, Web addresses. But I think it can be decentralised, and the folk who make the leaflets, maps and guides for a city have a lot to gain from making their content more machine-accessible and freely share-able. Well, most of them do.





PortCities Bristol Watershed Cinema CITIZINE Colston Hall Decode Bristol International Twinnings Association Bristol Evening Post Venue Days Out Guide 2005 Southbank-Bristol Arts Trail Clifton Suspension Bridge - Free Guided Tours ARAG newsletter - news from the Somali community activePosters - "Connecting pringed matter to a world of on-line content" Depict! "Can you do it in 90 seconds?" Guided Walks of Bristol The Cube Microplex Creative Bristol St Werburghs Community Centre The Bristol China Partnership Relay audio toor "Your gude to council services and city news... and your summer fun events calendar" Ian McNabb plays the Prom, Sat 10th Sept 2005 Southbank Bristol Walkshops - walking workshops with your digital camera At-Bristol Crossing Continents - Stories of migration and the search for a better life (exhibition at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum) Empire and us, at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum Fresh Five - Young People's Film Festival, at the Watershed Bristol Visitor - "The Bristol Tour with live guides and headphones" The Prom (Nov 2004 listings) Bluescreen - open film screenings, at the Cube Microplex Bristol Fairtrade Directory A stroll in the Park - Celebrating 25 years of extraordinary street theatre, Bristol‑based Desperate Men invite you to accompany them on a free promenade and voyage of discovery. Venue Magazine Part-time and Short Courses - Lifelong Learning for the General Public Wessex Trains' pocket guide, available from Uni Bristol for students Bristol University International Affairs Society see Indymedia - 'In light of recent events at the Easton Community Centre we, some of the former staff at the Centre, feel it is important to express our incredible sadness and anger regarding the decision to close the Centre without any community-wide consultation.' Haunted and Hidden Bristol Walking Tour 20p books and the Decorated World Streetmap.co.uk Ordnance Survey - Britain's national mapping agency Bristol c/o Google Maps

20p books and the Decorated World

Anmesty bookshopThe Bristol Amnesty International Group has a bookshop on Gloucester Road. I walk past it and can’t help but beachcomb through the 20p shelf they have in the street, despite the dangerous state of my overloaded bookshelves.

From yesterday’s semi-random purchase, Ernest Bevin – Unskilled Labourer and World Statesman, by Mark Stephens:

There were a number of Socialists who hoped that any serious threat of war would inspire an international general strike. At least they had high hopes that the working people of Britain and Germany would join hands in fraternal unity and refuse to take up arms.

Amongst those who thought this way was Ernest Bevin. Over the weekend while the London Socialists were holding a massive anti-war rally in Trafalgar Square, Bevin was on a soapbox on the Bristol Downs roundly condemning militarism and urging all working people to refuse to do their government’s bidding in the event of war.

[Chapter 3 - First World War]

I didn’t know that. If I hadn’t randomly picked up this book, put 20p through the shop’s letterbox, and idly flipped to page 28, I still wouldn’t know it. We can do better than that.

bristol downs I’ve been to the Bristol Downs hundreds, maybe thousands of times since I moved to Bristol in 1991. There are Web pages about Bevin (Wikipedia), and about the Downs. There are computer markup languages for geography (GML), for data syndication (RSS/Atom), and experiments in combining those two worlds via the Semantic Web. The (very nice) Mobile Bristol Riot! “voice play” shows something of what can be achieved with geo-tagged multimedia content. The big challenge is to combine such approaches, so this world-decorating content can be made by the masses, for the masses, accessible through open standards and protocols. Once that’s done, then we’ll have the problem of figuring out whose decorations to believe. And that’s a healthy kind of a problem to have.

I’ve said before that we need technology to engineer more coincidences in the world:

FOAF was designed as technology to encourage coincidence. You’re walking past a pub… you go to a conference… you’re standing at the barracades… or sitting in an interview… and the last thing you’d expect… a friend of a friend. Everything’s connected. Who’d have thought it?

The idea that it might be within our power to make this world a more co-incidental place… sounds at first, like magic. But really it isn’t. It’s just engineering. In the world of everyday information, people and places are the hubs around which everything else spins. When we can describe locations and people to our poor, simpleminded computers, and tell them about the things people have made and done, then those same machines are surely capable of reminding us when the moment’s right.

Another great example of local data for local people, of the kind of data that we ought to be able to “put on the map” with just a little bit more markup technology, is the Relay project, an audio walking tour of Stokes Croft here in Bristol. I took the liberty of making a version of their page that uses a clientside HTML imagemap to associate their soundclips with areas on the map they provide. How many more tags would we need to add to go from that to geo-tagging the media files themselves? HTML imagemap technology is showing it’s age, but W3C’s more recent work on vector graphics for the Web, SVG has been designed with such issues in mind.

Here’s a concrete goal. Imagine you’re writing a page in Wikipedia in a few year’s time. You’re adding an entry describing Nye Bevin’s soapbox speech on the Bristol Downs prior to the first World War. Imagine you want your description to be accessible to mapping-based sites, digital city sites, location-based mobile phone services, and local historians. What should Wikipedia offer to make your life easier? Presumably some kind of scrolly-clicky map thingumie. And how should it share that data with other sites around the Web, so that the annotation can show up in a thousand relevant Web sites, 3D globe viewers, mobile phones and local guides… rather than be buried inside a 20p book at a charity store? That last little bit is the problem I’m obsessessing on lately. How hard can it be?

A special day for technologists

As Mrs. Nakamura stood watching her neighbour, everything flashed whiter than any white she had ever seen. She did not notice what happened to the man next door; the reflex of a mother set her in motion toward her children. She had taken a single step (the house was 1,350 yards, or three quarters of a mile, from the centre of the explosion) when something picked her up and she seemed to fly into the next room over the raised sleeping platform, pursued by parts of her house.

Timbers fell around her as she landed, and a shower of tiles pommelled her; everything became dark, for she was buried. The debris did not cover her deeply. She rose up and freed herself. She heard a child cry, “Mother, help me!” and saw her youngest – Myeko, the five-year-old – buried up to her breast and unable to move. As Mrs. Nakamura started frantically to claw her way towards the baby, she could see or hear nothing of her other children.

John Hersey, Hiroshima (Part 1, A Noiseless Flash), first published in the New Yorker, August 1946.

This August 6, the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing, is a moment of shared lamentation in which more than 300 thousand souls of A-bomb victims and those who remain behind transcend the boundary between life and death to remember that day. It is also a time of inheritance, of awakening, and of commitment, in which we inherit the commitment of the hibakusha to the abolition of nuclear weapons and realization of genuine world peace, awaken to our individual responsibilities, and recommit ourselves to take action. This new commitment, building on the desires of all war victims and the millions around the world who are sharing this moment, is creating a harmony that is enveloping our planet.

The keynote of this harmony is the hibakusha warning, “No one else should ever suffer as we did,” along with the cornerstone of all religions and bodies of law, “Thou shalt not kill.” [...]

On this, the sixtieth anniversary of the atomic bombing, we seek to comfort the souls of all its victims by declaring that we humbly reaffirm our responsibility never to “repeat the evil.” “Please rest peacefully; for we will not repeat the evil.”

Peace Declaration, Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor, The City of Hiroshima, 6 August 2005.

Return to LambdaMOO

                          ***************************
                          *  Welcome to LambdaMOO!  *
                          ***************************
PLEASE NOTE:
LambdaMOO is a new kind of society, where thousands of people 
voluntarily come together from all over the world.  What these 
people say or do may not always be to your liking; as when visiting
any international city, it is wise to be careful who you associate 
with and what you say. 

The operators of LambdaMOO have provided the materials for 
the buildings of this community, but are not responsible for 
what is said or done in them. 

It’s a long time since I went back to LambdaMOO. Experimenting with the visually lush Google Earth application this week reminded me of nothing more than my first explorations of LambdaMOO. Despite the visual differences and the passing years, both applications offer a virtual globe that can be collaboratively annotated and extended by users, both are a taste of things to come, and both leave a lot unsaid on the topic of Bristol. When Google engineers ponder where to go with KML (mappings to GML, inclusion of style and UI-related markup, etc), I’m sure they’ll be giving some thought to non-graphical interfaces to such data. LambdaMOO, to me, suggests that non-visual (including voice) interfaces could be every bit as compelling as a 3D flyover.

*** Connected ***

The Coat Closet
The closet is a dark, cramped space.  It appears  to be very crowded in here;
 you keep bumping into what feels like coats,  boots, and other people
 (apparently sleeping).  One useful thing that you've  discovered in your
 bumbling about is a metal doorknob set at waist level into  what might be a
 door.  Next to it is a spring lever labeled 'QUIET!'.
There is new news.  Type `news' to read all news or `news new' to read just
 new news.
Type `@tutorial' for an introduction to basic MOOing.  If you have not already
 done so, please type `help manners' and read the text carefully.  It outlines
 the community standard of conduct, which each player is expected to follow
 while in LambdaMOO.

open door

You open the closet door and leave the darkness for the living room, closing
 the door behind you so as not to wake the sleeping people inside.
The Living Room
It is very bright, open, and airy here, with large plate-glass windows looking
 southward over the pool to the gardens beyond.  On the north wall, there is a
 rough stonework fireplace.  The east and west walls are almost completely
 covered with large, well-stocked bookcases.  An exit in the northwest corner
 leads to the kitchen and, in a more northerly direction, to the entrance
 hall.  The door into the coat closet is at the north end of the east wall,
 and at the south end is a sliding glass door leading out onto a wooden deck.
 There are two sets of couches, one clustered around the fireplace and one
 with a view out the windows.
You see Welcome Poster, a fireplace, the living room couch, Helpful Person
 Finder, Cockatoo, The Birthday Machine, and lag meter here.
neural (dozing), lilakay (dozing), Evil (out on his feet), Fred_Smythe
 (dozing), and Ultraviolet_Guest are here.

north

The Entrance Hall
This small foyer is the hub of the currently-occupied portion of the house.
 To the north are the double doors forming the main entrance to the house.
 There is a mirror at about head height on the east wall, just to the right of
 a corridor leading off into the bedroom area.  The south wall is all rough
 stonework, the back of the living room fireplace; at the west end of the wall
 is the opening leading south into the living room and southwest into the
 kitchen.  Finally, to the west is an open archway leading into the dining
 room.
You see mirror at about head height, MOO population meter, Edgar the Footman,
 an antique suit of armour, and a globe here.

enter globe

You step into the globe...
Earth
A big blue-green planet.
This is Mapgrrl, Sparklebunny, Audrey, Boreal, Alista, tiny_ant, Zeddie,
 Pandemonium, mscope, Pasha, and entropygatherer's hometown.
Within Earth you see: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South
 America, and Antarctica.

enter europe

Europe, Earth
Small continent, many countries.
Within Europe you see: England, Italy, Scotland, France, Germany, Russia,
 belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, wales , Gibraltar, Sweden, Austria,
 Spain, Bulgaria, and Praha.

enter england

England, Europe
Heritage UK plc--purveyors of fine shortbread and Princess Di Memorial Plates
 to the rest of the Globe.
Within England you see: London, Kingston, Rainhill, bradford, Winchester,
 Derby, Knebworth, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, Hereford, Newcastle,
 Southampton, Birmingham, Southend-on-Sea, Reading, Devon, Bristol, Watford,
 Rickmansworth, Croxley, and Warwickshire.

enter bristol

Bristol, England
This place isn't very interesting. Perhaps you should describe it, or go
 someplace more interesting.

leave

England, Europe
Heritage UK plc--purveyors of fine shortbread and Princess Di Memorial Plates
 to the rest of the Globe.
Within England you see: London, Kingston, Rainhill, bradford, Winchester,
 Derby, Knebworth, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, Hereford, Newcastle,
 Southampton, Birmingham, Southend-on-Sea, Reading, Devon, Bristol, Watford,
 Rickmansworth, Croxley, and Warwickshire.

enter london

London, England
Earth has not anything to show more fair: dull would he be of soul who could
 pass by a sight so touching in its majesty...
Within London you see: Soho, Westminster Bridge, Camden, West Kensington,
 somerset house, Leytonstone, and Brixton.

enter Brixton

Brixton, London
Whatever you want, you find it here, mate...

Punched up colour

An old debate – how much is it acceptable to “tweak” an image’s colour – resurfaced on BAGnewsNotes. The article drew attention (amongst other things) to the colouring of an image from Iraq:

When I mention this following point, some people take me to task for calling out a standard — if fairly recent — convention used frequently by the NYT. If you’ll notice, this image is super color-saturated. (Just look at how punched up the orange is, or the baby’s clothes.) The effect is to make the image more lush and visually seductive. The net effect is a troubling contradiction between the content and its sensory impact.

What I found interesting was that the original photojournalist Alan Chin showed up in the blog comments, and provided his perspective, as well as a copy of his original photograph and the version that he submitted to the NYTimes (details). The resulting interactions were intelligent and largely non-adversarial, despite the different views of the various posters. Not something you see everyday in such discussions…

An entirely non-photorealistic derrivative of the original image (which I'll take down if asked...