If there’s a problem – yo – I’ll solve it…

Dear Mr. Sterne,

There is a computer in my home which I affectionately refer to as “the OX.” The OX is a beast of a machine that I use to play  the latest and greatest video games. I won’t bore you with the specifics of it’s insides, but rest assured it’s a speedy little machine.

I’ve owned the OX for twenty years.

The OX was first assembled in the summer of 1992.  It could play chess and sported Windows 1.1. Since then I’ve been upgrading the OX slowly, part by part, to keep up with the demands of the latest software.

For the first 10 years or so of the OX’s lifespan, I must admit I wasn’t the best steward to the environment.  If I replaced a part on the OX, the old part would get sent to a bin where it would remain for years before it was thrown away (not recycled).  But something happened around 2002; I got an eBay account.

Now, when I upgrade a part on my computer, I sell the old part on eBay, where it’s life begins anew.  Most of the OX’s insides stay around for about three to four years before I sell them again.  I can do this because I don’t skimp on the quality of the parts that go into my OX.  I think of it like buying the better dog food for my dog, which in turn increases his lifespan and quality of life.  The sale of the old parts helps subsidize the cost of getting new parts and gives the old parts a new home (perhaps a computer called “the MULE”) to live and function, thus extending their life well beyond their years in the OX.

I can’t say what happens to these parts after the next user is done with them.  They may go to the very landfills in which your are concerned; however, the lifespan of the OX’s insides is certainly much longer than what you have described in your chapter. The innards of the OX do not come from a single company, but rather several:

  • The motherboard comes from a company called ASUS.
    • 4 years old
  • The video card: PNY
    • 4 months old
  • The RAMG.Skill
    • 4 years old
  • the case: Antec
    • 12 years old
  • the power supply: Antec
    • 4 years old
  • the processor, Intel
    • 5 months old
  • The hard drive: Western Digital
    • 5 years old
  • the keyboard: Microsoft
    • 5 years old
  • the mouse: Logitech
    • 5 years old

The problem with planned obsolescence is not simply that there isn’t a company that adheres to a model of longevity; there are plenty of computer options out there that allow consumers to upgrade components individually.  Hardware standards don’t change as quickly as your chapter might lead one to believe which is why I’ve had the same computer case for twelve years now, and will probably keep it for another five or six.

Planned obsolescence is certainly a problem, but it’s not a problem that sits solely in the lap of the manufacture.  Spending an extra dollar now on a computer with a little bit more ram or a larger hard drive can extend the lifetime of computer by years, and gives the consumer more money back on their purchase if they choose to sell their device later.  There are more eco-friendly options available to the consumer; however most consumers don’t take the time to educate themselves about those options.

and now I step off my soapbox…

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Back when I wanted to be a rockstar.

Me and my old high school crowd circa 1998.

When I was a teen:

  • I watched Beavis and Butthead. 
  • “Gangsta’s Paradise” was totally my jam for like three months straight.
  • I believed everything I saw in Vh1’s Behind the Music.
  • My logic was guided by hormones much more than I’d like to admit.
  • I was a relative nincompoop compared to who I am now (I’m still a bit of a nincompoop).

Point being, that an analysis of teen migration from one social network to another seems trite on the surface, but I remember the transition from MySpace to Facebook, and I think Boyd might have some valid ideas.

Ye old band playing one of many shows in downtown Nashville. I like to think that my singing was so awesome that the camera girl couldn’t hold the camera strait, but sadly this was not the case.

Back in mid 2000’s, I was using MySpace to promote my music and my girlfriend who was a white upper middle class and attending university was on Facebook. At the time I was a starving musician, barely signed to a label, working in restaurants to make up the difference, and mindful of not associating myself with anything that could damage my “street cred” as a suffering musician.  I saw Facebook as the enemy to everything that I stood for.  MySpace gave us the ability to express ourselves by giving us access to the source code of the page, while Facebook constricted our design choices to whatever Mr. Zuckerburg found appropriate. MySpace was the social network equivalent to the right to free speech.

My perception of MySpace’s street cred in comparison to  Facebook’s blue and white ivory tower seems to reflect the white flight that Boyd describes. I am certainly a byproduct of an upper middle class childhood; however my time in the music world as afforded me some perspective that many of my friends in the picture in the top right have not experienced.

The old Brothers Bentley MySpace page hasn’t been updated since the band broke up in 2007 and that most of the information we had published has disappeared as MySpace has become more “Facebook like” in its organization, leaving only a shell of a page behind. Our MySpace page is as vacant as foreclosed house in a dying neighborhood.

Charlie wrote a thing

There is a website called www.music-map.com where someone can enter a musical artist (with a certain degree of celebrity) and find other artist similar to that artist.  Cake leads to Gorrilaz leads to Beck leads to David Byrne leads to Peter Gabriel leads to Seal leads to George Micheal leads to a list of bands that are often listened to ironically (Michael Mcdonald, Celine Dion, Enrique Iglesias, the Village People, Meat Loaf, etc).  Like Charlie mentioned in his blog relating to Google searches and music, the connections made by music-map are a mix of musical popularity contest (The bands must be of a certain popularity to warrant an addition to the site) and someone or something’s (perhaps an algorithm) assessment of what constitutes what makes a band similar to other bands. We have a share of control in the way this algorithm spits out data.  I’m sure just clicking from one band to the next factors into the algorithm somehow; but we can’t control what the algorithm is, or redefine its rules. Someone else at music-map has done that for us.   movie_narrative_charts_large

My frustrations with the histories that we’ve been reading seem to be addressed with ANT.  Instead of looking at a history of causal relationships (which is inherently linear and filtered through the author(s)), ANT seems to concern itself with simply mapping out the relationships. The XKCD image above is one way of thinking about this. It takes the data of the narrative and displays it objectively.  There are certainly points where the characters converge and seperate. These moments  indicate moments when close analysis might be warranted.  This seems to be a hybrid of the narratives of cause and effect and ANT. In a history class I want to see more of these kinds of visualizations happen.

Hans Rosling has made huge strides in showing the connections that can be discovered by visualizing networks of data in this way. I’ve obsessed over this particular TED talk for a while, and would love to see a history class that primarily uses his data driven tools to uncover the histories that no one is talking about.

A Literacy Narrative (that I thought I published two days ago, but apparently did not).

1985 (age 5)

My first typing experience in the 1980’s was not on a typewriter, but rather when I learned how to type LOAD “BUSTER” to play Ghostbusters on my father’s Commodore 64.

1992 (age 12)

Wrote an autoexec.bat file that eliminated several pieces of software from the boot up sequence of my dad’s old AMD x386, which freed up enough RAM to play ID’s Wolfenstein 3D, and then purchasing more RAM so I could play Doom. 

1993 (age 13)

I built my first computer from spare parts my dad didn’t want. It had a green screen that allowed me to play Chess and write on a computer in the privacy of my own room. I have been upgrading this same system for the past 22 years.  It is now has roughly more processing power than an Xbox One and a PlayStation 4 combined.

2005

Briefly sold my soul to Apple. Fell for the old Justin Long commercials. PowerBook G4, MacBook Pro (Core 2 duo), and MacBook Air (Core 2 Duo).  See previous post about my eventual break up with Justin, err Apple.

2008 (age 28)

Returned to PC building and in a fit of irony, built a computer for my father out of spare parts I didn’t want and charged him $400 for it.

2010 (age 30)

Leave my tech support job at Verizon to study… English?

Present (aging)

I love that we are really getting into the hardware and the ways that Kirshenbaum suggests that we should look at digital storage as inscription rather than ephemeral data storage.  I’ve lived in the kind of space for a very long time.  I like how the discussion of hardware over software refocuses our attention to the physicality of the digital.  They are machines after all.

I know that we’ve read that there “is no software,” but this is only a half truth.  Rather, there is no software, unless you learn how to program, which is why I am so fascinated with game design. Many people have a muddy understanding of what it means to design games. So many seem to think of game design as a lonely programmer sifting through lines of code.  Sure the early days of game design were like this.  Especially the kinds of game design that occurred on the Atari VCS; however the days of sifting through lines of code are starting to disappear to a new drag and drop game design. 

I would argue that design software is quickly becoming the new hardware.  These are the “hardware” that we should be looking at.  How does a design software like WordPress lock us into a certain way of thinking about our text?  What voices are squelched in the formatting options that it limits us too.  What voices are preferred.

RPG Maker is probably one the most accessible game design software out there, but it locks the designer into creating a very specific type of game play experience.  Some game design software offer more creative power, but still seem to be geared toward a single game genre.  Unreal 4 and Unity for example can be made to create all kinds of games, but many of the options available to game designers push them towards creating first person shooter games.

Whew… this is a really long post… I’m stopping now.

Titles are so Web 1.0

On the Meaning of Format.

I used to be fan of Apple Computers; rather I used to be a fan of Apple.  They dropped “computers” from their name several year back as they heralded in the “post pc generation.”

The story of why I left Apple:

I had just published a my first book on Amazon, Multimodal and Meta, and one day I reading over one of the chapters and found a grammatical error. I wanted to update the files on the Amazon server, so I opened up my old MacBook Air and launched Pages.  There was a mandatory update, and in the past such things had not been an issue on the Mac.  After the update, I opened up my file to find all of the images had been stacked on top of each other on the front page.  In a book with at least one image per page, this meant that I would have to reformat the entire book. (introducing the techno-rage monster)

This was when I realized the buying a technology for personal use also meant buying into the philosophy of the company. Buying an Apple means that you indirectly support the political stances of the company. Supporting Apple meant I was supporting the working conditions at Fox-Conn in China; the censorship decisions in App Store; the lack of support for Adobe Flash, which debated originated in skiff between Steve Jobs and Adobe’s CEO.

Politics and technology became inseparable for me.  I started looking at mission statements of different companies, which led me to Ubuntu Linux which I used for years.

Ultimately the pressure sensitive pen on the Microsoft Surface Pro lured me back to Windows. But I’m still waiting for an Ubuntu release specifically made for the Surface Pro 3.

Things React to Things: A Minimalist Understanding of Reacting

Hey y’all,

This caused that; this other thing came into existence, and things were different; some people know things they didn’t before, and now they think about things differently; the iPhone 6s has faster chip than last year’s model; all things considered,Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) was not that bad.

The turtles have nostrils; nothing will ever be the same again.

Sometimes responses are not necessarily about what’s on the page.

I am working my way through McLuhan’s “Telegraph” and it’s causing me to respond in certain way.  So much of our reading has been about how a technology comes into existence and then everything changes and is never the same again.  The difference between before and after seems to be the theme of McLuhan’s work on the telegraph. He describes how, previous to the telegraph, small local newspapers relied on larger newspapers to filter out the important from the unimportant information. Then the telegraph was able to instantly send information across the country and the local newspapers were able to decide for themselves what information was important or not… and things never were the same again…

I’m becoming under-enthused with this formulaic technological narrative.  There must be more to the history of tech.  At first, I thought that Foucault’s “Archeology of History” was a philosophies pipe dream, but the more I’m reading from other historians, Foucault’s methodology is becoming increasingly attractive.

(and a friend just called to tell me he is stranded at the Charlotte airport, so I’m going to have to cut this one short to make the Saturday five o’clock deadline.)

As someone who finds great solace in his fantastical adventures in virtual reality, these issues of temporality in media are certainly not new.  Justin’s example of the Hobbit is actually an inversion of the discussion that usually occurs around game spaces, especially those that have a competitive element to them.  The GameSpot video above outlines these issues incredibly well; however the basic premise is that (as opposed to fixed media like film) players want their game experiences to react as quickly as possible their input. If there is even a sixtieth of a second delay between the pressing of a button and the action on the screen the human mind can distinguish it.

In regards to Frampton’s description of the life and times of Muybridge, I can relate to Muybridge’s pursuit of the capture of space and time. The technology available to Muybridge’s was limited in that it was constrained to photography, which is in fact an incredibly fallible recording apparatus.  Most cameras have a limited focal range which is why some objects appear in focus while others do not. The size and shape of the lens also affects the way this blurring occurs.  Our eyes are essentially pen hole cameras, so the blurring effect (for those of us who don’t need glasses) is relatively minute compared to that of camera with a lens that is six inches in diameter.  This isn’t to say that our eyes are a perfect visual technology, but rather that photography (even as it exists today) does not capture and will never capture a perfect preservation of time.

Dealing with virtual spaces, and virtual actions similar and yet completely different matter.  If we were to simulate a car crash in a supercomputer, our ability to subdivide instantiations is theory limitless.  In such a rendering we can not only control movement but we can also control speed.  A crash that occurs in milliseconds can be simulated over the course of several hours (or days/weeks/months/years provided we have the time, desire, and attention span for such a thing).  In a virtual space we can have infinite control over both the time and the space, and our only limitation is processing power, which is incredibly exciting for me.