Archive for the 'Philosophy' Category

“Choice” – RSAnimate with Renata Salecl

Just watched an interesting RSAnimate with Renata Salecl on the topic of the results of overwhelming choices in contemporary capitalism. My thoughts after the break…

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Digital Projection, Spatial Augmented Reality, and Shape Grammar – SIGGRAPH 2008

It’s been an inspiring conference so far. The classes I’ve attended have been excellent. On Monday I attended the half-day course on projectors and spatial augmented reality for (I think) the 4th year running. Ramesh Raskar and Oliver Bimber were fantastic as usual. They were joined this year by Aditi Majumber who spoke about large-format displays and Hendrik Lensch who spoke on computational illumination for 3D scene modeling. One of the things I really get excited about in this class is what Raskar calls RFIG. In essence, this entails adding a photosensor to an RFID tag and then projecting structured light from a handheld projector on the photosensor in order to acquire a relative position for the tagged item. With the unique identifier and the relative position, we can query a database and then project useful information about the identified items directly on the items themselves using our handheld projector. All this is made possible by very small and relatively inexpensive handheld computers with wireless network access and attached projectors. You can check out their work, including the full-text of their book, Spatial Augmented Reality, on the supporting website: Great stuff.
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NMC Symposium on Mashups

I’m attending another excellent New Media Consortium online symposium. This time the topic is educational uses of mashups. As with any subject covered by academics, there’s been significant effort and time spent in the symposium on defining the topic of the symposium itself. Several of the presenters have spent time trying to put a finger on just what a mashup is.

For the most part, the focus is on new tools and structures that combine data from multiple and sometimes disparate sources in novel ways. Often the product is a visually interesting website or Internet-based tool. But, in its broadest sense, almost any cultural artifact can be seen as a mashup. In a real sense, everything that is a cultural product takes the current cultural landscape as a given upon which it can then build, borrowing more or less from previous cultural artifacts. The movement of mashing up and remixing is transforming how we experience culture and its products. And because educational institutions are situated in culture, it is unsurprising that this movement is being embraced by educators. The topic is fascinating from a technological as well as philosophical point of view.

So far, one of my favorite presentations has been “Confessions of a Mashup Un-Artist” by Brian Lamb of the University of British Columbia. Brian’s presentation was itself a masterful mashup, more a live performance employing images, video, music and text than a traditional presentation. In addition, the NMC folks did something really excellent by having Brian perform in Second Life and then streaming the performance out to the web using Adobe Connect. That setup allowed the performance to be recorded, which is how I was able to experience it because I had a class during the actual time the performance was given. Take a peek at what it looked like:

It was absolutely fantastic. Some of the symposium participants really had no idea what to make of it. And many others really got into and started dancing in the amphitheater. Really great stuff.

Detecting perturbations in the global mind in the present and future

Just read an interesting article here on something I had never heard about before. Apparently, there is a group of scientists from various disciplines who have been quietly monitoring a network of blackbox random number generators for about 7 years. It’s a kind of "Electrogaiagram" and the project goes by the playful name EGG. Although this certainly could be seen as just another wacky parapsychology study, I find it interesting on many levels.

The article linked above refers to the statistical analysis the Global Consciousness Project has carried out with respect to momentous events that have had massive impacts on many people. The EGG researchers have seen perturbations in the randomness of the EGGs (the random number generators I mentioned above) that correspond to important global events like the recent tsunami in Asia and the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York, D.C., and Pennsylvania. The perturbations in the randomness of the numbers, according to Dr. Roger Nelson, the primary researcher based at Princeton, represent about a million to one odds that they are mere coincidence. In fact the project has recorded several statistically significant departures from random in the system of EGGs over the past several years, including the funeral of Princess Diana (watched by an estimated 1 billion people world-wide and the passing of the new year in 2000 at major metropolitan areas such as New York and London.

Some readers of this post may have read my musings from last summer on the nature of infinity and light, and I think the EGG project is related in several ways. In the end, the idea of a global consciousness seems very Hegelian to me, especially as Josiah Royce developed Hegel’s metaphysics through Charles Peirce’s Logic and Semiotics in The Problem of Christianity. I’ve been interested in these ideas since they were introduced to me at Loyola in my several philosophy classes on epistemology and American Philosophy with Rev. John Stacer, S.J.–a wonderful teacher.

Dr. Nelson at the Global Consciousness project also refers to the work of Teilhard de Chardin on evolutionary theology, who I was also introduced to by Fr. Stacer at Loyola. For a great speculative treatment of some of the ideas of Teilhard, I’ve always really enjoyed reading and re-reading Julian May’s Galactic Milieu novels–very fun stuff. Put all this together with my readings recently on string theory, relativity, and transfinite mathematics and you get the bubbling pot that is my mind right now.