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Game|Life Podcast Presents the Games of PAX Prime 2013

Wired - Game Life - Fri, 09/06/2013 - 14:13
We run down the best games we found at Penny Arcade Expo last weekend on this week's Game|Life Podcast.

Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids

We Make Money Not Art - Fri, 09/06/2013 - 13:45

Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids, by writer, illustrator, and skeptic Daniel Loxton and paleontologist, geologist, and author Donald R. Prothero; Foreword by science writer and historian of science Michael Shermer.

Available on Amazon USA and UK.

Publisher Columbia University Press writes: Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero have written an entertaining, educational, and definitive text on cryptids, presenting the arguments both for and against their existence and systematically challenging the pseudoscience that perpetuates their myths. After examining the nature of science and pseudoscience and their relation to cryptozoology, Loxton and Prothero take on Bigfoot; the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, and its cross-cultural incarnations; the Loch Ness monster and its highly publicized sightings; the evolution of the Great Sea Serpent; and Mokele Mbembe, or the Congo dinosaur. They conclude with an analysis of the psychology behind the persistent belief in paranormal phenomena, identifying the major players in cryptozoology, discussing the character of its subculture, and considering the challenge it poses to clear and critical thinking in our increasingly complex world.

The Patterson-Gimlin film is a short motion picture of a "Bigfoot", that was supposedly filmed on October 20, 1967, by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, in California

Leonard Nimoy narrates the episode dedicated to Bigfoot in the TV series In Search Of...

Abominable Science! was supposed to be a harmless, laid-back and jolly lecture. I knew nothing of the Great Sea Serpent, the Mokele Mbembe, i had barely heard of Bigfoot and the Yeti but i'm quite the fan of Nessie. So surely, this book should have been an inoffensive ride. No one believe in those monsters, right?

Wrong! Daniel Loxton reveals that when asked "Do you think Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) is real?" in a 2012 poll, 7 percent of American respondents answered that Bigfoot "Definitely is real," and 22% said Bigfoot "Probably is real." Don't snort! i just found out that 24% readers of The Guardian (at least the ones who bothered to participate to the poll) believe in the existence of the creature.

I grew even more uncomfortable when i read in the book that Young Earth creationists are actively looking for surviving dinosaurs in the hope that the discovery of an Apatosaurous-like animal in Congo will bring the definite proof that the theory of evolution is a big fantasy.

Abominable Science! is as much about absurd creatures as it is about pseudoscientists making radical claims about the world, writing off evidence-based research and undermining the teaching of science in the process.

In an interview about the book, Donald R. Prothero said: "To me, the sad aspect of cryptozoology is that they practice "sham science": they adopt the trappings of science (fancy cameras and sound recording equipment, night-vision goggles, camera traps, sonar, other devices) without following the methods of science, especially the idea of testing and shooting down hypotheses that have failed, and getting rid of ideas when they have been decisively debunked. This indeed reflects badly on the scientific literacy of Americans, since they don't understand that science is not about white lab coats and bubbling beakers. It is about the methods you use to investigate claims, and the willingness to admit you're wrong and throw out bad ideas when they fail."

Image released by "Bigfoot's" finders at a press conference in August 2008

The press isn't doing a great job for the advance of science and human progress either when they cover stories such as the one that made the headlines a few years ago when a policeman and a former corrections officer claimed that they had discovered the body of Bigfoot. Media outlets, from CNN to BBC, reported the news which, unsurprisingly, was a hoax.

Prothero wrote some of the chapters in the books. Loxton wrote the rest. The scientist is inflexible in his belief that giving too much credit to the existence of those monsters does more harm than good. Loxton, however, is more tolerant. He has learnt that these fantastical creatures do not exist but he is still much seduced by the stories that surround them.

And indeed the book contains plenty of interesting stories:

This 1951 photograph of a purported Yeti footprint was auctioned off at Christie's London for £3,500.

Eric Earle Shipton, Yeti footprints in the Menlung Basin, 1951

This famous photograph of the monster of the Loch Ness was taken by Colonel Robert Wilson in April, 1934. He later admitted that he had built a small model monster around a toy submarine.

Robert Wilson, Nessie, 1934

There have been plenty of Nessie "sightings: throughout history. One of my favourite is the one that 'shows' Nessie on Google Earth. But the more sophisticated the technology, the less evidence was found of the existence of those monsters. In 1987, for example, Operation Deepscan took place. Twenty-four boats equipped with echosounder equipment were deployed across the whole width of the loch and they simultaneously sent out acoustic waves.

Operation Deepscan, 1987

Amusingly, some theories propose that the monster is actually a camel able to stay for long periods of time in and under water.

Other believe that Nessie is a survivant variant of the Plesiosaurus. Just like the Zuiyo-maru creature, a carcass caught by the Japanese fishing trawler Zuiyō Maru off the coast of New Zealand in 1977. Analysis later indicated it was most likely the decomposed carcass of a basking shark.

Photograph of the front of the Zuiyo-maru carcass. Taken by Michihiko Yano, April 25, 1977

I also liked to follow the hunt for the Mokele-mbembe which Americans and Europeans have been searching for in Congo, often to the dismay of local populations. The creature is believed to be a surviving brontosaurus.

Daniel Loxton's drawing of the Yeti included in Abominable Science!

Interview with the authors.

Categories: New Media News

1980s Digital Experiments by Mechthild Schmidt Feist

Rhizome.org - Fri, 09/06/2013 - 11:23

Still images from computer graphics reel by Mechthild Schmidt Feist (1985).

This summer, the New Museum's exhibition XFR STN (organized with Rhizome's collaboration) has been functioning as an open-access media conservation station; the material conserved as part of this project are steadily being made available on Archive.org. (The project concludes this weekend, with a symposium tomorrow featuring luminaries from the world of conservation as well as computer arts pioneer Lillian Schwartz.)

The latest XFR STN treasure to catch our eye is from Mechthild Schmidt Feist. Feist brought in a number of works from the 1980s and 1990s, including this charming reel of graphics experiments from 1985. The description she provided mentions that at least some of these were created with the Vidifont, a digital video graphics system initially developed by CBS to display onscreen text during the 1968 elections and subsequently developed as hardware capabilities improved. 

While you're at it, also check out the rather hypnotic Stochastic Dance (1992-4), a video of a dance sequence choreographed by RUSH dance according to stochastic principles, with effects added using the Quantel Paintbox (the tool David Hockney used to make his first digital painting).

Categories: New Media News

TED: Alexa Meade: Your body is my canvas - Alexa Meade (2013)

TED - Fri, 09/06/2013 - 11:12
Alexa Meade takes an innovative approach to art. Not for her a life of sketching and stretching canvases. Instead, she selects a topic and then paints it--literally. She covers everything in a scene--people, chairs, food, you name it--in a mask of paint that mimics what's below it. In this eye-opening talk Meade shows off photographs of some of the more outlandish results, and shares a new project involving people, paint and milk.
Categories: New Media News

Banned ‘Throw Your Phone’ Game Knows if You’re Cheating

Wired - Game Life - Fri, 09/06/2013 - 06:30
A new app encourages players to throw their phones as high as possible, then records the peak height reached. Here's how it works.

Thomas M. Disch's "Endzone"

Rhizome.org - Thu, 09/05/2013 - 12:00

Ariel Hameon, Science fiction author Thomas M. Disch at South Street Seaport (2008). Via Flickr. June 3, 2008. Some rights reserved.

"This Journal is a memorial. New entries cannot be posted to it." So reads the banner above Thomas M. Disch's Endzone, a LiveJournal kept from April 26, 2006 until July 2, 2008, two days before Disch's death. Disch left behind a prolific output of poetry, criticism, libretti, plays, film treatments, and text for computer games, but it is a series of highly-stylized and vicious fictions presenting a hopeless America as stand-in for mankind for which he is primarily remembered. His novels Camp Concentration (1968) and 334 (1972) are twin high points of New Wave science fiction. The former prefigures David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress in its referential narrative; the latter is a scabrous satire of the social novel circa 2025. Endzone does not live up to the stylistic mastery of its precursors; as its author's first encounter with what may be considered a bastard form, it is at times near amateur in composition. It is also xenophobic, vindictive, full of doggerel and despair, and altogether difficult to endure. Despite its shortcomings, though, Endzone should be considered Disch's final work, if only for its brinksmanship with his career-long obsession with death.

As fellow author and critic John Clute has observed, Disch treated death "as a game, deadly of course, but beauteous" throughout his entire career. His first novel The Genocides (1965) ends with the extinction of the human race. 334's (1972) final monologue is in the form of a verbal application for euthanasia. Death is explicitly referenced in the titles of Endzone and his 1973 story collection Getting Into Death. In The M.D.: A Horror Story (1991), a god strikes a bargain with a preteen unable to grasp its grave consequences. Here is Disch's worldview in miniature: we are doomed by forces we have no conception of, forces which invariably bring out the worst in us. The M.D. is part of Disch's Supernatural Minnesota quartet which takes place in a mid-American landscape where supernatural forces manipulate humans via desire, hate, and despair, and God is understood only through his absence. The best thing that can happen when you're in a Tom Disch book is to die and die fast.

Disch died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 4, 2008, and, if one so desires, Endzone can be read as a suicide letter. But then, so could his entire body of work; the reduction of any writer's output, whether it be that of Sarah Kane, David Foster Wallace or Hunter S. Thompson, to an explanation of his or her suicide divests it of intention and frisson. It reduces the novelist to a patient of post-mortem psychotherapy. Clute, reversing this impulse, wrote that Disch took his own life "to demonstrate that he really had meant what he had been saying over [his] career."

Disch had a wealth of travails: sciatica, diabetes, the recent death of Charles Naylor, his partner of some thirty years, the flooding and subsequent uninhabitable nature of their house in upstate New York, difficulty in walking, near-obesity, the constant threat of eviction, arthritis, and the not entirely unfounded conception that his place in the publishing world had, and would continue, to diminish. Endzone seldom deals with these sufferings explicitly, but the few glimpses Disch offers of life in his apartment off Union Square are more terrifying than his more morbid poetry ("I love dead men, and I will engulf/ every pound you can push into me.") An excursion of a few blocks begins with "I actually managed to get out of the house." An offhand mention is made of how he can longer eat candy bars. The final post imagines starving to death after being priced out of Manhattan grocery stores. A rare journal-like entry, improperly indented and sandwiched between two poems, reads, "April 4. Another gray day. Can't find the energy to get the laundry down to the laundry room. The sciatica just won't go away."

At times, Endzone seems like a different kind of memorial, one to Naylor, eulogized by Disch in a series of poems tentatively titled the Winter Poems (many would eventually be published as Winter Journey in 2010). The six-line tantrum of "Eat Your Vegetables" shows Naylor "waiting to die with the schooled patience/ of a civilized person accustomed/ to standing in line". In "The Deaccessioning IV: Bookmarks," the dead lover is evoked through a ticket stub found in an old volume and suddenly "it was though he were there in the park,/ age 25, dying in my arms." Others are less successful. Disch makes clear that what appears in Endzone is not quite poetry but rather "[j]ournal entries or musings in an elevated language." Several almost-poems have different typefaces, suggesting they've been pasted from a word processing program, but most feel as if they were composed on the LiveJournal platform, then posted hot and fresh and reeking. In one, Disch references a typo in the post's title, leaving it uncorrected.

Comments offer edits and praise for the almost-poetry, and sympathy for Disch's personal trails. Responses to Disch's xenophobic rants are overwhelmingly disapproving yet muted, perhaps best represented by, "I'm hesitant to say anything, but..." Referencing his extensive travels, Disch states "[a]ny xenophobia you may discern in me has been earned." Yet his tirades seem to reflect the insular viewpoints of The Rush Limbaugh Show or The Drudge Report, the latter of which Disch often references. While Disch was a (very) vocal atheist, he singles out Islam routinely for its supposed barbarism. He suggests the international community should "[l]et everyone in Darfur kill everyone else" and that Muslims should be made to take segregated flights. It is difficult to tell how much of this is merely provocation. Instead of the then-embryonic wall between Mexico and America, Disch proposes to "kill [immigrants] as they enter"; it is hard to take this as anything but Swiftian. His hatred of George W. Bush is expressed loudly, and his short stories "The White Man" (2004) and "The Asian Shore" (1970)—in which a visiting American author gradually transforms into a Turk—reveal a far more complex portrait of xenophobia than Endzone would suggest him capable of.

Most industry professionals knew better at this point than to engage with Disch, especially on his home turf.  As Patrick Nielsen Hayden, one of the many who stopped reading Endzone in disgust, noted in his obituary, Disch "played the game of literary politics hard, and sometimes lost badly." Disch started referring to himself as God in late 2006, a conceit from his final novel The Word of God in which the authorial voice declares, "All my justice shall be poetic." In Endzone, Disch gloats over the death of the critic Algis Budrys and mocks his former editor Linda Rosenberg in verse. Philip K. Dick is encouraged to "rot in hell," ostensibly for Dick's 1972 letter to the FBI claiming Camp Concentration contained coded "anti-American" material. Disch crows that he will never allow the republication of The American Shore, Samuel R. Delany's book length exegesis on a single story from 334, due to perceived attacks on Disch's career as SF critic.

One of the few who never gave up on Disch was John Crowley, author of Little, Big and The AEgypt Cycle, whose blogging on LiveJournal directly led to Endzone. In the comments Crowley constantly challenges Disch's belief in his own bile ("What's sweet about your gall is how evenly it is sprayed about.") and in doing so raises questions about whether he is interacting with Tom Disch the man, or tomsdisch the authorial voice of Endzone. On one of the rare occasions when Crowley blows his top, he cuts through the layers of performance and irony: "I suspect it's YOU who enjoy the spectacle of ruination and abomination..." Either way, it is Crowley and his arguments for compassion and kindness which offer what little succor there is in the proceedings.

As Giovanni Tiso has written, "...a blog doesn't become a text until somebody puts an end to it." Since a blog can always be modified, it is never "quite fully in existence." (Disch cleared away posts and poems "if not exactly deadwood not really deserving posterity's attention.") Ended blogs are thus like dead authors; they are ready to be explained. Tiso posits destruction as an antidote. Disch, however, left Endzone undeleted; this is not a case of Max Brod refusing to burn Kafka's papers.

The central impulse behind the rapidly growing use of social media memorials may be to offer survivors an ongoing connection with the dead. Facebook encourages users to post on the memorialized pages of the dead. The post-mortem Twitter service LivesOn adapts "to the living users' habits and preferences, eventually becoming their digital twin" so as to perpetuate their "digital legacy." Both approaches ensure that the deceased continue to pop up in the timelines of the living. Disch's penultimate post imagines an anthology composed of missives to authors "safely dead." Post-mortem, the comments began to fill with letters to Disch, mostly expressing the frustration that their authors will never meet Disch. The gulf between writer and audience presented is vast. Any sense of connection Endzone offers has to be gleaned from its static texts; Disch is indeed safely dead.  

The rhetoric of social-media afterlife agencies can sound downright Kurzweilian; their proposed replication of human consciousness in the digital is certainly more basic "than a frozen head," but the same impulse is there. Endzone did not prefigure this trend but rather allowed its author to engage with a literary form he did not quite understand, one just as flawed and imprecise as more traditional forms. In this, Crowley’s suspicions are correct: the tomsdisch of Endzone, the miniature icon with its blank humanoid face, is no more Thomas M. Disch than the authorial voice of The Waves is Virginia Woolf. We would do well to remember this when viewing the memorial Facebook pages of our loved ones or imaging the analyzation, by humans or bots, of our Twitter timelines after our own deaths.


Categories: New Media News

TED: Chrystia Freeland: The rise of the new global super-rich - Chrystia Freeland (2013)

TED - Thu, 09/05/2013 - 11:00
Technology is advancing in leaps and bounds -- and so is economic inequality, says writer Chrystia Freeland. In an impassioned talk, she charts the rise of a new class of plutocrats (those who are extremely powerful because they are extremely wealthy), and suggests that globalization and new technology are actually fueling, rather than closing, the global income gap. Freeland lays out three problems with plutocracy … and one glimmer of hope.
Categories: New Media News

Game Collectors Pose With Their Greatest Treasures

Wired - Game Life - Thu, 09/05/2013 - 09:30
The Retrogame Roadshow panel at Penny Arcade Expo was host to a variety of rare gaming memorabilia worth thousands of dollars.

A Letter to Jennifer Knoll

Rhizome.org - Thu, 09/05/2013 - 09:30

Constant Dullaart, Jennifer_in_Paradise (2013). Restored digital image re-distributed online with stenographically encrypted message.

Dear Jennifer,

Sometime in 1987, you were sitting on a beach in Bora Bora, looking at To'opua island, enjoying a holiday with a very serious boyfriend. The serious boyfriend, John, took a photograph of you sitting on the beach, not wearing your bikini top. John later became your husband and father to your children Sarah, Lisa, Alex and Jane.

This photograph of a beautiful moment in your personal history has also become a part of my history, and that of many other people; it has even shaped our outlooks on the world at large. John's image of you became the first image to be publicly altered by the most influential image manipulation program ever. Of course, this is why I know the names of your children, and this is also why I know about the cool things you do trying to get a .green top level domain name to promote environmental sustainability. (Although, personally, I believe that the importance of the domain name has been reduced to a nostalgic, poetic value).

I still wonder if you felt the world change there on that beach. The fact that reality would be more moldable, that normal people could change their history, brighten up their past, and put twirl effects on their faces? That holiday image was distributed with the first demo editions of Photoshop, and your intimate beach moment became the reality for many people to play with. Two Jennifers, no Jennifer, less clouds, etc. In essence, it was the very first photoshop meme—but now the image is nowhere to be found online.

Did John ask you if he could use the image? Did you enjoy seeing yourself on the screen as much as he did? Did you think you would be the muse that would inspire so much contemporary image making? Did you ever print out the image? Would you be willing to share it with me, and so, the other people for whom it took on such an unexpected significance? Shouldn’t the Smithsonian have the negative of that image, not to mention digital backups of its endless variations?

All these questions have made me decide to redistribute the image ‘jennifer in paradise’ as well as I can, somewhat as an artist, somewhat as a digital archeologist, restoring what few traces of it I could find. It was sad to realize this blurry screen grab was the closest I could get to the image, but beautiful at the same time. How often do you find an important image that is not online in several different sizes already?

I have two exhibitions opening this coming Saturday in Berlin, Germany. Both of them are called Jennifer in Paradise. And you, or at least your depiction, play a central part in these exhibitions. A faint, blurry, pixelated focal point. To celebrate the time that you were young, and the world was young, as it still naïvely believed in the authenticity of the photograph.

Sometimes, when I am anxious about the future of our surveilled, computer-mediated world, when I worry about cultural imperialism and the politics behind software design, I imagine myself traveling back in time. just like the Terminator, to that important moment in technological world history, there on the beach in Bora Bora. And just sit there with you, watching the tide roll away.



Constant Dullaart

Categories: New Media News

What Sega’s Dreamcast Had in Common With 1920s French Architecture

Wired - Game Life - Thu, 09/05/2013 - 06:30
If we want to know why Sega's Shenmue was a multi-million dollar flop, might we find a useful metaphor in early 20th century French urbanism?

Disobedience Archive (The Republic)

We Make Money Not Art - Wed, 09/04/2013 - 13:10

Oliver Ressler, Politics thwarting the logic of rule, 2005

Disobedience Archive (The Republic). Exhibition view. Photo Castello di Rivoli

I caught the last weekend of the exhibition Disobedience Archive at Castello di Rivoli.

Disobedience Archive is a video collection which explores four decades of social disobedience: from the uprising in Italy in 1977 to the anti-globalization protests and to the insurrections in the Middle East.

The Castello di Rivoli is a stunning contemporary art museum a few kilometers away from Turin. The exhibition had a theme i'm particularly interested in. The works brought together were worth the trip to Rivoli. So far so good. Except that Disobedience Archive (The Republic) was an extremely frustrating exhibition. Videos that were made to inspire people to question, contest and discuss suffer from being hosted into a grand castle located in a provincial town. Rivoli might be one of the most prestigious contemporary art centers in Europe but the well-earned title is not enough to attract the crowds. When i visited the show, on a Saturday afternoon, the rooms were almost empty.

Still, splendid castle to spend an afternoon:

Photo Castello di Rivoli

Photo Castello di Rivoli

This one is part of the collection of the museum. It has nothing to do with Disobedience Archive but how could i resist adding it:

Maurizio Cattelan, Novecento, 1997. Photo Castello di Rivoli

But let's get back to my grievances about the exhibition. The whole setting was as unappealing as possible: aside from a stern broadsheet at the entrance of the show, there is no information to give context and meaning to the works. The chairs to view the videos -some of which are over an hour long- are remarkably uncomfortable. There are too many videos to see in one visit and i'm not sure many people are ready to shell out 6.50 euros each time they want to come back and watch the films they had missed on their first visit.

There is a website for the video archive. It contains no video at all.

A frustrating exhibition thus. I would have liked everybody to spend hours watching the videos but i can't blame anyone for not doing so. This was a show that only the 'intellectual elite' would have seen. It shouldn't have been. Still, i'm glad i fancied myself as being part of that 'cultural elite' because the content was exceptional.

Disobedience Archive (The Republic). Exhibition view. Photo Castello di Rivoli

The archive is divided into nine sections: 1977 The Italian Exit looks at the revolutionary movements in Italy in the 1970s, with a focus on 1977, year of large-scale violent confrontations with a reactionary state. Protesting Capitalist Globalization documents or comments on the new social wave against globalization. Reclaim the Streets presents proposals to create autonomous social spaces through experimental forms of education, community, urbanism and architecture. Bioresistence and Society of Control refers to Foucault's analysis of the ways the operations of power extend beyond the institutions of state. Argentina Fabrica Social explores the political and economic crisis that stretched from the 2001 uprising to the election of Néstor Kirchner. Disobedience East brings together videos of political and activist art from post-communist Europe. Disobedience University shows alternative practices and strategies in which consumption is seen as a form of co-realization and collaboration. The Arab Dissent tries to raise questions about changes and antagonism in the Middle East. Gender Politics suggest the destruction of gender identity.

The show counts 57 videos. I wish i could link to all of them but only a handful can be viewed online. Here's my very subjective selection.

Unsurprisingly i made a beeline for the section entitled Bioresistence and Society of Control as it focused on issues encountered within prisons and asylum centers, on bacteriological experiments in warfare programmes and on other strategies deployed in the modern state to regulate and control life.

Genterra, Critical Art Ensemble, 2002

The Critical Art Ensemble had 3 films in the show. One of them was GenTerra, a collaboration with Beatriz da Costa. The video documents a participatory "theater" performance that gave the public an opportunity to get a more critical and hands-on understanding of transgenic organisms in relation to environmental and health exposure.

Ashley Hunt, Corrections, 2001

No video for Ashley Hunt's work, alas! In Corrections, the artist investigated the privatization of the prison system in the United States, exposing the role of the penal institution in preserving racial and economic divisions within society.

Angela Melitopoulos, The Cell - Toni Negri and the Prison (Prologue)

Angela Melitopoulos filmed three interviews with sociologist and philosopher Antonio Negri. The first in 1997 while he was in exile in Paris, the second in 1998 in the cell of Rebibbia prison in Rome, and the final one in 2003 in Rome, after his release.

Negri's report on his life as a prisoner describes new forms of control in the penal system, the psyche and mentality of prisoners, and forms of resistance with which he was able to retain "the freedom of his spirit".

One of the highlights of Disobedience East is a film by Harun Farocki & Andrei Ujica.

Harun Farocki & Andrei Ujica, Videograms of a Revolution, 1992 (short extract)

Videograms of a Revolution uses -professional and amateur- video archives to examine the role of television in the infolding and understanding of the 1989 Romanian revolution. 'Demonstrators occupied the tv station in Bucharest and broadcast continuously for 120 hours, thereby establishing the tv studio as a new historical site.'

Half of the videos in the section The Arab Dissent were dedicated to the occupation of Palestine.

Khaled Jarrar, Infiltrators (Trailer), 2012

Khaled Jarrar's Infiltrators follows individuals and groups as they are looking for gaps in the seven meter high wall that separates the Palestinian territories from Israel.

I only saw one film in the Disobedience University selection and i think i struck gold with that one:

Eyal Sivan, ITGABER. He Will Overcome, 1993. On science and values

Eyal Sivan, ITGABER. He Will Overcome, 1993. On State and laws

According to professor Yeshyahu Leibowitz, "the honest man should know that he should never respect the law too closely". Israeli filmmaker and critic Eyal Sivan sat down with the philosopher and listened to him talk about ethics, science, values, but also about State, religion, law and human responsibility.

Even though Leibowitz took part of in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, he openly criticized the politics of the State of Israel, in the name of a Jewish tradition of responsibility and divine law. During the conversation, the philosopher expresses his support and solidarity with the Israeli soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories.

The 57 videos were accompanied by two thematic rooms. The opening one contained artworks and archive documents related to the student and workers protests in the Italy of the 1970s. Again, a bit of context and explanations would have been welcome.

Photo from La Stampa

Photo from La Stampa

Disobedience Archive (The Republic). Exhibition view. Photo Castello di Rivoli

The final room amassed books, props and other objects associated with political and social dissent in first decade of the 21st century. Works by Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas, Superflex, Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, Oliver Ressler, Arseniy Zhilyaev, Critical Art Ensemble, etc. It should have been a fascinating, informative and inspiring display. Alas, and I'm going to repeat myself, short texts about their meaning and significance would not have been superfluous (the ones in the broadsheet/guide of the exhibition were a bit too general.)

Disobedience Archive (The Republic). Exhibition view. Photo Castello di Rivoli

Disobedience Archive (The Republic). Exhibition view. Photo Castello di Rivoli

Photo from La Stampa

Photo from La Stampa

Disobedience Archive (The Republic). Exhibition view. Photo Castello di Rivoli

Photo from La Stampa

Categories: New Media News

The Week Ahead: Back-to-School Edition

Rhizome.org - Wed, 09/04/2013 - 11:30


Apple 1 replica, Franklin Ace 1000 (Apple II clone), Apple ///, Apple IIe. Media Archaeology Lab early Apple Computer collection.

A roundup of opportunities and goings-on from Rhizome's community.   Chicago Technoromanticism, curated by Alfredo Salazar-Caro, opens on September 6th at Jean Albano Gallery. The exhibition investigates online culture and image making through an In Real Life experience. The exhibition is to include works by Theodore Darst, Paul Hertz and Kim Asendorf.   Boston Mathematical Rhymes is a group show produced by Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Operational and Curatorial Research and Boston Cyberarts. The opening reception will take place at Boston Cyberarts Gallery in Jamaica Plain on Spetember 5th. Exhibiting artists include Manfred Moher and Casey Reas.    New York    Sept 7: The New School will host Something in the Air: Artist talk about interventionist strategies in Augmented Reality Art. In addition to a screening of artworks, there will be a discussion including founding members of the augmented reality group Manifest.AR.   Sept 7: Opening of a two person exhibition of new works by Clara Gannis and Justin Petropoulos at Transfer Gallery.   Sept 7: For a symposium marking the conclusion of the open-access media conservation project XFR STN, Rhizome has organized a panel titled "Born Digital: Conservation in the Computer Age" to take place on Saturday at the New Museum. The panel features digital humanities scholars Matthew Kirschenbaum and Lori Emerson as well as a special appearance by computer arts pioneer Lillian Schwartz.   London   Sept 9: Opening reception at The White Building for artists Cornford & Cross' new installation The White Bear Effect, examining the relationship between sports and large-scale LED screens. The exhibition is commissioned as part of the exhibition Everything Flows.   Opportunities   Sept 14: 2014 Animation Artist in Residence: Open Call for non-Japanese citizens. Deadline is September 9th. Organized by the Japanese governmental institution Agency for Cultural Affairs.   Jobs  

City College of New York seeks a College Laboratory Technician - Digital Media Art. Deadline: 9/13.

The University at Buffalo, Department of Media Study, invites applications for an Assistant/Associate Professor position in Media Theory. Deadline: 10/12.

Film and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) invites applications for a faculty position in social documentary production at the Assistant Professor (tenure-track) level. Deadline: 10/14.

Categories: New Media News

TED: Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend - Kelly McGonigal (2013)

TED - Wed, 09/04/2013 - 10:59
Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.
Categories: New Media News

Rhizome's Seven on Seven at the Barbican Centre, London on October 27, 2013

Rhizome.org - Wed, 09/04/2013 - 10:20

Europeans: one of Rhizome's flagship programs, Seven on Seven, is on the move. We're pleased to announce that the first international edition of the event is to be held at the Barbican Centre, London, on October 27, 2013.

Seven on Seven brings together luminaries from the fields of art and technology to work together for one day, in pairs, to create new projects – be they applications, concepts, artworks, products, or whatever they imagine. The results are unveiled the following day at the public conference.

Previously hosted with Rhizome's affiliate the New Museum, Seven on Seven has drawn sell-out crowds for the past four years, serving as an important meeting point between disciplines. Previous participants have included Dennis Crowley (Foursquare co-founder), David Karp (Tumblr founder) and the late internet activist Aaron Swartz, along with artists Jill Magid, Ryan Trecartin and Taryn Simon.

The participants in the London edition of Seven on Seven will be announced on October 1st, with early bird tickets on sale for £25 until then.

More information is available on the Seven on Seven website. Tickets are available directly from the Barbican Centre's website.

Rhizome's Seven On Seven, an event organized by Rhizome at the Barbican. Supported by betaworks, Wieden+Kennedy and South Place Hotel.


Seven on Seven 2012's keynote from Douglas Rushkoff provides a powerful introduction to the event

Categories: New Media News

TED: Adam Spencer: Why I fell in love with monster prime numbers - Adam Spencer (2013)

TED - Tue, 09/03/2013 - 11:07
They're millions of digits long, and it takes an army of mathematicians and machines to hunt them down -- what's not to love about monster primes? Adam Spencer, comedian and lifelong math geek, shares his passion for these odd numbers, and for the mysterious magic of math.
Categories: New Media News

Vessels, a fleet of robots with unpredictable behaviour

We Make Money Not Art - Mon, 09/02/2013 - 13:49

Image courtesy LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (Art and Industrial Creation Centre)/Paula Andrés

Image courtesy the artists

Sofian Audry, Stephen Kelly and Samuel St-Aubin started working on Vessels in 2010. The aquatic installation is a fleet of 50 autonomous robots that gradually build up their own micro system by interacting with each other and by collecting and interpreting data related to water and air quality, temperature, ambient light, sound, etc.

However, the robots do not simply process scientific readings, they also communicate through behaviours and interactions. For example, an increase in temperature sensed by one agent may cause it to act more aggressively, with erratic or irrational (random) movements. This change in behaviour will influence its neighbouring agents, who may respond with relative changes to their own behaviour. These agents will in turn influence their neighbours, thus creating a ripple effect of actions.

The ecosystem is thus generated over time by the robots themselves and by their particular environment.

Photo Beatriz Orviz, LABoral

Image courtesy LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (Art and Industrial Creation Centre)/Paula Andrés

Samuel, Sofian and Stephen have just spent the Summer improving and researching Vessels as part of their artistic residence in Platform 0 at LABoral Centro de Arte.

Since i was curious about those luminous little robots in a white swimming pool, i asked the artists to talk to us about the work:

Hi Samuel, Sofian and Stephen! I read on Laboral's blog that your artistic residency is based on the Vessels project. So what will the residency consist of exactly? Are you going to make Vessels more sophisticated? Or build on it to make an entirely different project? Or investigate another aspect of the installation?

We started the Vessels project in 2010 at the Center for Art Tapes, where the concept and technical structure was initiated within two fairly brief 2-week residencies. Since then, we've spent time fine tuning various aspects of the work to better withstand real-world environments. For example, we had to abandon our original design with air propulsion because it was too energy-consuming and would easily catch in the wind. The version we are currently working on is the third prototype and works with water propulsion. We validated the final design of the electronic boards last winter during a short residency at the Perte de Signal art center.

The goal of the LABoral residency was to assemble the first large group of robots with our new technical improvements, to finalize the material/aesthetic design and to make a first working version of the software. Because we ran into all kinds of technical problems, we decided to put less effort on the material design and more on the software. Thus we spent a large portion of our time at LABoral developing the behaviour of the robot collective.

Vessels at Nocturne 2010 (Public Garden location) in Halifax, Canada. Photo credit: Mat Dunlap

Vessels is a fleet of 50 aquatic vehicles. That is a lot of robots. So first of all, why did you need to build so many robots? And how big are they exactly? i suspect that they will also need a large area to float around...

When we did our presentation in Halifax, we had about a dozen of robots and we felt it was hard for them to occupy an outdoor space, given their relatively small size (about 20-25 cm in diameter depending on the version). They looked kind of lost. By scaling up their population, we believe we can give a real presence to the installation in large natural environments such as lakes and ponds.

Also, we are interested in the kind of behaviors that can emerge from the interaction between a massive group of autonomous robots, which is something that has not been fully explored in the art world. A lot of work in robotic art has been done on singular robots or small assemblies of big robots but not so much with large groups of small, autonomous robotic agents. In the past decade, a lot of research in the scientific world has been carried out involving swarm robotics and multi-agent collaboration, with encouraging results. Behavioural diversity is something we're interested in exploring with Vessels, and more robots means more potential diversity within the 'population'.

Finally, we felt like 50 robots would give us more flexibility. For instance, we could show two groups of 25 robots at the same time in two different spots in a city, or even in different cities. Because the robots will react to their immediate environment, they will behave differently in the different contexts they are put in.

Image courtesy the artists

Image courtesy LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (Art and Industrial Creation Centre)/Paula Andrés

Is Vessels a group of identical robots? Do they all start with the same set of sensors?

Almost. All the robots have more or less the same "body". They each have a pair of distance sensors, a compass, a directional IR communication system, a pair of underwater pumps for propulsion, a set of LEDs, an onboard real-time clock and some external flash memory for data logging. They will also be using the exact same software.

Their only difference lies in the fact that each bot will eventually be equipped with a unique "environmental" sensor. Each robot has an external, pluggable "card" that we designed to take care of sound production and accommodate this unique sensor. For instance, one robot can be able to measure air temperature, while another one will know about the air pressure, another one about the pH of water, and so on. This sensor will give the robot its "personality", so to speak. They will react to their own sensor in a specific way and their reaction will influence the actions of other robots. The idea is that by putting the same group of robots in different settings (i.e. with different environmental conditions) they will produce a distinctive collective behavior.

But we're still a long way from that! In the version that we produced at LABoral, we don't yet have these environmental sensors. We focused more on establishing the software framework that will enable individual personalities AND group behaviors.

Samuel St-Aubin and Sofian Audry at work in LABoral

Image courtesy LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (Art and Industrial Creation Centre)

Image courtesy LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (Art and Industrial Creation Centre)

Photo courtesy of the artists

Each aquatic vehicle learns and develops a behavior through Reinforcement Learning and "Over an extended process of trial and error, RL makes it possible for computers to do things that they were not explicitly programmed to do."

If i understood correctly you do not have complete control over what the robots learn and how they evolve. So have they surprised you in the way they learn, interact, behave?

We've just begun to implement learning for individual robots in very simple tasks. We did some small experiments with Reinforcement Learning in which we were able to get a robot to learn how to go straight, which is not an easy task for these round-shaped robots (they tend to spin easily!) At this point we're taking baby steps with learning, so we have yet to see the implications of the entire population of robots with learned behaviours.

Since we wanted to build a first version that "worked" somehow, in terms of the robots going around the surface of water, being able to move straight, approaching one another, etc. we had to work at a much higher level. We thus let the learning stuff aside for a start and decided to work using an Artificial Intelligence approach that is currently very popular in the video game industry for the design of intelligent behaviors. This method, known as Behavior Trees, allows the design of complex, hierarchical behaviors. It makes it easy to design priorities for the robot and to allow it to try different strategies to achieve its goals (or fulfill its desires if you prefer). For example, in our current implementation, the robots move around freely, but when they hit an obstacle they interrupt their moving and try to avoid getting stuck. They also interrupt their behavior when they receive a message from another robot, which might change what they are doing at that moment.

Machine learning methods such as Reinforcement Learning and Genetic Programming are tricky, especially in the context of creating an artwork. They're optimization techniques, so they work well when one tries to solve a specific problem like 'how to navigate in a straight line'. But in an artistic context, the problems are blurry, so we have to invent new methodologies. For example, you can achieve interesting results by playing with the reward functions of the agents, such as what Sofian did last year at LABoral as part of the installation/performance n-Polytope by Chris Salter and collaborators. Also, the process of learning itself has sometimes a very interesting aesthetic value. So, the current focus of our research is how to use machine learning as a critical tool, helping the robots learn behaviours with respect to their environment that might eventually surprise us.

Image courtesy LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (Art and Industrial Creation Centre)

The spectator plays a role in the work. Can you explain it how the public might be involved in and maybe even influence the installation?

Although the environment sensor of some of the robots might be influenced directly by the audience (e.g. if some of them have microphones or light detectors), the installation is not meant to be interactive per se. We see it more as a piece you experience through indirect, slow interaction, where the bots are simply added to our existing ecosystem, responding to it. We hope the audience will respond to it by projecting their own cultural references on the robots, that they will recognize themselves in them.

On another level, we'd like the audience to begin to ask themselves questions. Why are the robots grouping together? Why is this robot making that sound? Why are they so hectic now while they were calm a minute ago? How does that relate to the site they're currently swimming on?

Any upcoming project, exhibition, field of research you'd like to share with us?

Samuel will be attending the Bozar Electronic Art Festival (BEAF) in Brussels from September 25 to 29. Stephen just finished a major work titled Patch at Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS/CA) with robotic agents that react to the presence of students in classrooms. Sofian's underwater artificial life installation Plasmosis is still running at the marina of Carleton-sur-Mer until September 7th (QC/CA). We are also trying to organize another research residency next year for Vessels but we have no definite plan yet.

Thanks Sofian, Stephen and Samuel!

Categories: New Media News

“Constellations Over Playas” by Joseph Moore and Stephanie Vella

Networked Performance Blog - Mon, 09/02/2013 - 13:03

Turbulence Commission: Constellations Over Playas by Joseph Moore and Stephanie Vella:

Since 2003 the United States has enacted simulated terrorist attacks against the abandoned mining town, Playas, New Mexico. Constellations Over Playas proposes that we look at this place as an imaginary stage for the dramatization and repetition of collective traumas, a stage where the recreation of the past is used to control the future. Constellations generates iterations of associative networks pulled from the source material the artists have accumulated on their journeys through the area, providing an ephemeral travelogue through the colonial, material, military, imaginary, and cinematic trails that intersect with their investigations of Playas.

Constellations Over Playas is a 2013 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. for its Turbulence website. It was funded by the Jerome Foundation. Additional funding was received from the Research Foundation of the City University of New York. Special Thanks to the staff of the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center for their hospitality and knowledge.


JOSEPH MOORE is an artist and Assistant Professor of Art at the City College of New York. His work investigates topics such as perception, interpretation, and similarity. He has exhibited as a solo artist and in collaboration with the collectives ShiftSpace.org and Future Archaeology in venues such as The New Museum, SFMOMA, STUK Kunstencentrum in Leuven, Eastern Bloc in Quebec, and other venues. He is a graduate of The Atlanta College of Art and Bennington College.

STEPHANIE VELLA is a PhD student in Theatre at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York where she researches European theatrical modernism and its engagement with spatial, temporal, and racial otherness in primitivism, classicism, and orientalism. She is also the Artistic Director of the collaborative performance ensemble, Impossible Bottle. She has previously studied at Bennington College, the Moscow Art Theatre, and Brooklyn College.

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Categories: New Media News

PAX Prime Liveblog — Day 4

Wired - Game Life - Mon, 09/02/2013 - 12:00
Our wall-to-wall coverage of PAX Prime continues for the fourth and final day.

Turbulence Spotlight: “MUPS” by Jhave

Networked Performance Blog - Mon, 09/02/2013 - 10:03

Turbulence Spotlight: MUPS by Jhave:

MUPS (MashUPs) is an online sonic mashup engine specifically designed to allow spoken-word poetry mp3s to interweave simultaneously as if a group of performers were speaking together. MUPS has been seeded with MUPS 1260 audio poems from the PennSound archives; it can play up to 32 streams simultaneously. In spite of the playful tone of the introduction, MUPS is intended as a digital augmentation in the study of prosody. As computational analysis advances it is feasible to foresee cultural heritage archives such as PennSound operating as sites where digital tools permit innovative explorations into the evolution of poetics.

JHAVE is a digital-poet who teaches in the School of Creative Media at the City University of Hong Kong. His work focuses on combinatorial poetics, and multimedia poetry. He exhibits and performs kinetic multimedia spoken-screen lecture-poems internationally. Since 1999, he has published language-art online (not paper) at www.glia.ca.

Categories: New Media News

“Slide Stories” by Annette Weintraub

Networked Performance Blog - Mon, 09/02/2013 - 09:05

Turbulence Spotlight: Slide Stories by Annette Weintraub [For desktop, iPad or iPhone]:

Slide Stories is a moving mediation through a City in which physical space collapses into surface incident and erodes the boundaries of real and simulated space. As Henri Lefebvre writes, “the space of a (social) order is hidden in the order of space.”

ANNETTE WEINTRAUB works with architecture as visual language and the symbolism of space. She is interested in the poetics of space and focuses upon the changing urban landscape, the disappearance of public space, and she examines how our sense of place shapes emotion and action. Slide Stories is a continuation of her work embedding narrative in urban space.

Categories: New Media News
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