May 15, 2007
some weeks ago, Bryan Alexander at the Infocult-blog pointed to an article about "Twitter Time" which is arguing that it is part of the phenomenon towards ever faster, ever more dense urban forms of life, which at some point may not be sustainable anymore. but i think this idea of "twitter time" is an example of foreseeable shortcut-thinking.
it is true that in some sense "urban life" becomes ubiquituous with electric, and especially digital, media. but it is not necessarily true that "life is ever getting faster". that is the old-fashiones idea of "metropolis", which even Howard Rheingold used again to introduce his "Smart Mobs" book in 2003, when he described his Tokio "Shibuya Epiphany".
but Rheingold quickly changed the scene in this chapter, going to Helsinki, and Helsinki is not a hyper-metropolis at all. but it really may be representative of future "urban spaces" and "urban lifestyle" in the digital era -- more representative than New York or Los Angeles, Tokio or Shanghai. (Jyri Engeström, who was interviewed by Rheingold in 2001, was co-inventor of Jaiku there, a digital lifestream application similar to Twitter.)
twitter may be attention-consuming, but it is not "fast". it is creating the kind of little loose social events we'd like to have in a real-space environment, but now in the digital dimension. it is "urban lifestyle", especially for the overwhelming majority of people who live in neither-really-urban-nor-village-like environments.
it is *not* about an increase in "speed of life" and "information overload". it is part of the greater tendency to *duplicate* the dimension of small events that together make "daily life" into the digital dimension. like, say, meeting people at the university campus, exchanging witty, sarcastic, melancholic comments in the floors, between courses ... or at an office floor in some media company ... it is an "urban lifestyle layer" for non-spaces.
May 10, 2007
Designing micromedia experiences for the Ubiquitous Web 2.0
(just having written this summary for print, i thought i'd share this because it makes some points important to me in a rather plain&simple way ...)
“Working in a field of constant change, information technology designers habitually deal with evolving practices, fluid conventions, and unpredictable uses.” (Brown/Duguid 1994)
“Micromedia” are all about design driving content, not the other way round.
In the most simple form, it means a user to whom a series of very small preconfigured information objects is presented, be it continuously, one shortly after another, or discontinuously, covering longer time spans. Activity here is restricted to low-level interaction with the media device. This may seem simple, even primitive, but it is not quite if the full media context is really taken into account.
This poses two crucial questions: How can micromedia experiences become integrated into the complex context formed by the usage of one device (or the simultaneous usage of multiple devices), by the workflow, by the personal flow of tasks (be it professional or private), and finally by the sociocultural context of the media being used? And what forms of guidance and steering could possibly be designed to feel natural for a micromedia user?
At the moment I see six concepts that are fundamental for designing micromedia experiences. These would certainly need a rather complex discussion, and the following list is giving just some superficial hints, but just to pull the microchunks together for a single look may have some value:
Periphery/casuality: Microlearning applications have to feel peripherous and casual, for being usable in a state of (more or less) “Discontinuous Partial Attention”. Being a “foreground device” that is requiring full focus, the PC can only be simulating periphery and casuality within the main screen: as additional layers and items at the level of the the desktop interface (e.g. widgets, e-mail alerts …) or the browser window. The mobile phone is casual by nature, being a “background device that makes it easy to pop into the foreground for a brief moment before simply falling into the background once more”. Successful micromedia applications must be designed for this kind of unstable, peripherous attention.
Flow: A main challenge is to design microcontent structures in a way that these are not experienced as de-contectualized fragments, but as small particles that over the day are together forming some continuous structure in the user’s mind. This has many facets, but in any case it is important to design for the implicit flow structure of different types of media devices and usage.
Point of Presence: In the microcontent-based Web, stable roles and pre-defined identities become much more unimportant than in a software environment or in the page-based “Web 1.0”. The “Point of Presence” is more of a ‘blank page’, a field of of possible connections, an ‘anything, anytime, anyone’-position waiting for the user to step in. Thus micromedia applications cannot rely on an existing motivation of the user. They have to gain and to manage the user’s attention with every new “micro-impulse”, using skilled user experience design.
Gesture-driven: Micromedia experiences may be conceptualized as a flow of micro-impulses and responding micro-activities. Some activity has to be demanded to draw the user into the application, but at the same time these activities have to be as low-threshold as possible, like for example the thumb-gestures used to navigate the interface of a mobile phone.
Openness: A “feeling of openness” is crucial for a micromedia experience that has “to put the user in the center”. Still this can be created in different ways: on a symbolical level (like the feeling of ‘playing a game’, although the game’s content is not “open” at all), on the level of ‘Continuous Partial Attention’ (easy change of focus between background and foreground) and finally on the level of content (open content, user-generated content).
Simplicity: Microlearning must be experienced as a simple activity on each device. Of course, this always been recognized as a key factor in user-centered design. But media-orientated simplicity is not necessarily the same as usability. Rather it is “perceived simplicity”, which is for a large part an aesthetical quality.
These concepts certainly have to be discussed in detail (more links and some still superficial hints in this paper), but they can be used as a sort of benchmark test for microcontent/micromedia applications in the Web 2.0. Each quality that is lacking is diminishing the micromedia experience.
May 8, 2007
Understanding Micromedia Convergence: On Lifestreams, Semantic Clouds and Hybrid Media Spaces
Abstract for the "Telecommunication Convergence" conference in Budapest. And yes, i know, it is poor English. I just lterally had not a spare minute to work it over yet.
At first, "convergence" seems just to be a "natural" phenomenon driven by new broadband ICT: the bundling of "access pipes", a meta-protocol for transmission (IP), end-devices becoming multi-functional multimedia terminals. This seems to meet with the widely independent development of new "socio-cultural protocols" (Jenkins). Cross-media contents and cross-media experiences seem to fulfil the old immanent promise of electric media: to create a space that "feels like life" by enabling multiple and multi-sensual simultaneous experiences. But the traditional paradigm fails to understand the underlying dynamics of digital media convergence, still being focused on "macromedia": high definition, sensurround, programmed, single focus, time-consuming, requiring a special terminal space, representing a "second life" and an "artificial world". But since 2000, the Web and wireless networked devices have created another type of media that is changing our notion of reality, individuality and identity: "micromedia" (Manovich). Fragmented, distributed and ubiquituous “microcontent” is creating a kind of open "ecology" via all kinds of networked devices: multimedial and multi-sensual, but in low resolution and for partial attention. Not transmissions and programs, but streams, fields, clouds and spaces. In my talk, I will ask about the drivers, the consequences and the possible directions of the micromedia revolution.
April 25, 2007
Divergence: Micromedia vs. High Definition Media
But not everything is converging in the direction of technological singularity, there is also new divergence.
I had noted the divergence of visual vs. audio media, and text-based media vs. AV media.
(These oppositions are intersecting: "Rich Text" is visual, but in a way also digitally stored audio/video files tend to become "text-like" in some ways - browsable, accessable as a file, not just as a time-block ...)
Most notably, micromedia (low definition, small screens, fragmented content, personalized) are diverging from High Definition macromedia (HDTV macro-screens; but also HD Audio - DJ sets for example -, and even "High Definition Print" - more densely written books or journals, as opposed to the casual and fragmentary print media style of newspapers, magazines and "Books On Demand" or "Books of the Season").
convergence#4: media cont.
another way to look at media convergence is the convergence of End Devices:
Smartphones are integrating voice, pictures, txting and Internet/Web, the iPhone is integrating AV-media and Internet/Web, PCs are getting more mobile and are integrating voice and AV-media too. Only the TV doesn't seem to fully integrate the Web, the strategy going instead in the direction of "web-enhanced interactive TV", that is video plus a data layer.
The convergence of end devices is also a convergence of interfaces, most notably of the First Screen (TV), the Second Screen (PC) and the Third Screen (Mobile). But is must be emphasized that the screen is not the only interface type for a converged culture - there may be audio interfaces too (eg. ideal for the audio environment of a car) and other pervasive interfaces for "invisible services" (data triggering actions in the real world, and actions triggering data in the web world).
convergence#3: media convergence
not only is there not enough difference made between technological access and "experiental" access. there is also the convergence of media:
"The term convergence is commonly used in reference to the synergistic combination of voice (and telephony features), data (and productivity applications) and video onto a single network. These previously separate technologies are now able to share resources and interact with each other creating new efficiencies."
So it is voice, data, and video here, apparently seen from a technological perspective, meaning "old voice transmission technologies", "old video broadcasting technologies" and "new IP-based data technologies", while "old" is standing here for non-IP/packet switched.
What about non-telephony audio, by the way? Of course, "data" is a completely different category if understood from a media perspective. There is no data-as-media. A human can hear voices and watch video, but s/he cannot "access data" as such. A human is reading data-as-texts or looking at data-as-pictures, data-as-graphics or data-as-visual-structures. And, of course, increasingly humans are also consuming voice-as-data (podcasts, streaming radio) and video-as-data (YouTube). But still TEXT is the main media type in the data world. (in a wider sense, layouted and integrating embedded graphics/pics)
sorry: permalinks still broken
i will fix this or maybe migrate the mediatope-blog in the next weeks. stay tuned, whoever is still paying attention out there ...
convergence#2: individual access
If a user-centered perspective is taken instead of a technology-centered one, it is clear, that there are three or possibly four different scenarios of convergence:
(1) home scenario
(2) car scenario
(3) street scenario
(4) laptop/blackberry scenario (seated, focused, using full keyboard)
For each scenario there are special mixes of media possible - eg., typical for the home scenario is a visually dominated media mix (TV and/or multimedia Web integrating audio (again TV, radio, telephony) and textual visuality (Web, SMS, even TV texts).
The car scenario is typically audio (radio / mobile phone). The street scenarios are a hybrid of visual/text and audio. Whether visual elements (mobile TV) will play a more than complementary role remains to be seen.
Media-using individuals are feeling different in those scenarios, not only because the media-mix is different, but also because they have different roles/identities too: the At Home Being is different from the Nomad Being (in the street, at some airport/hotel) or from the armoured and in fact immobile Car Being. And the radical Nomad using just the phone (which is experienced as a direct extension of the self) is different from the sedentary Nomad equipped with a "tool device" like a laptop or a Blackberry or a PDA.
So, convergence has to be dicussed under at least 2 perspectives: technological convergence of access channels connecting a given terminating point, and experiental convergence of access to the mind. Experiental convergence is far more interesting, not only for the scholars of media studies and web science, but also for marketers of media services and contents.
This is NOT the same as the opposition between wired and wirelss access, although "wireless access experiences" are indeed thending to feel "more personal" and "less technological".
convergence #1: technological access
Technological convergence is a concept relating to access: according to this there are 4 channels for new digital services to access a home: TV-line, wired telephony, wired internet, wireless cell phones (quadruple play). (These are not all access-possibilities, but the ones that include up-channels. Satellite TV and wireless analog/digital TV/radio broadcasting don't have up-channels yet.)
To be more precise, this is always understood as access to a home, where one or many individuals may live and use the facilities.
But there are other types of access if you define it as
So convergence in the second perspective is different from classic Technological Convergence, because the primary thing is not the infrastructure (channel, line), but the situated mind where media streams converge.
the only means to access all 4 scenarios is mobile access. so mobile access at home is ambivalent - it may feel like a wireless device connected to a fixed line, but it may also feel like nomad connevtivity, the fact that it is happening in a house being only peripheric.
April 24, 2007
Towards a Philosophy of Telecommunication Convergence
i will speak at this conference with the interesting title. indeed kristof nyiri, the conference chair, is quoting Heideggers "zuhandenheit" correlated with the Germen pseudo-English word "handy" for "cell phone". (see the introduction in English.)
i will try to say something about "the place between the phones" (Bruce Sterling, 1991) lifestreams, point of presence, and 'cloudy' microcontent environments ...
April 12, 2007
microcontent foodchain: best practices?
"drowning in the plenitude of microcontent-apps, i would be grateful for exchange and discussion of some possible micro-foodchain/workflow-patterns - personally practiced and/or just theoretical. i'm feeling a bit lost here and still haven't really got my thing together. i suspect you have some more mature techniques and concepts ... anyway, the discussion of apps should be enhanced by the discussion of practices across apps, and of user experiences in a microcontent environment context."
April 5, 2007
semiosphere: the vague boundaries of life
Seventeen definitions of "semiosphere", collected by Kallevi Kull (Tartu School) in the spirit of the late Jurij M. Lotman. see paper for details & quotations. prolegomena for a theory of web 2.0. (because web 2.0 is an emergent theory of life, built by software.)
(1) ‘semiosphere is a textual whole, a text together with other texts that make it a text’.
(neither a sign, an organism, a text, or a culture can exist alone — it always requires another sign, other organisms, texts, cultures, in order to exist, to live)
(2) ‘semiosphere is anything formed from the (endless) web of interpretations’.
(3) ‘semiosphere is the sphere of communication’. It “consists in communication”.
(4) ‘semiosphere is a web of sign processes, or semioses’. "The semiotic point of view is the perspective that results from ... the consequences of one simple realization: the whole of our experience […] is a network or web of sign relations." And this sort of circle, according to which language, in the presence of those who are learning it, precedes itself, teaches itself, and suggests its own deciphering, is perhaps the marvel which defines language.
(5) And not only language, of course, but all varieties of sign systems. “Semiosphere is the set of all interconnected umwelten. Any two umwelten, when communicating, are a part of the same semiosphere”.
(6) ‘semiosphere is the space of semioses’.
(7) The concept of ‘space’ appears to describe an important aspect of the semiosphere, e.g., ‘semiosphere is the space of meaning-generation’.
(8) ‘semiosphere is the space of whole-part relations’. This definition pays attention to the relational dimension of sign, allowing us to state that a sign is aways a part.
(9) ‘semiosphere is where distinguishing occurs, where distinctions are made’. (A tradition in semiotics that uses the idea of Gregory Bateson about information as a ‘difference that makes a difference’)
(10) ‘semiosphere is the space of qualitative diversity’. Indeed, we may state that ‘diversity in a web’ is the main concern of semiotics. "Semiosphere as a space of diversity provides us with the insight into the similarity between various processes of relational
(11) ‘semiosphere is a sphere of healing’. This is because in a non-semiosphere, there is no such condition as ‘healthy’ or ‘ill’ or even ‘broken’. There cannot be ‘errors’ outside the semiosphere.
(12) Unlike the physical world, which manifests a single truthful reality, ‘semiosphere is the world of multiple truths, of multiple worlds’.
(13) “the totality of ‘contrapuntal duets’ forms the sphere of communication — the semiosphere” .
(14) “semiosphere is thus the totality of interconnected signs, a sphere that covers the Earth”. Environment as a physical concept is not the same as semiosphere.
(15) ‘semiosphere as a continuum of culture’ or the space of meaninggeneration
(16) ‘semiosphere is the region of multiple realities’ (or, semiosphere is the world of several realities).
(17) ‘semiosphere is a communicative space of non-translatability’. And semiotics being
the study of non-translatability. (= qualitative diversity) Cf. Lotman (1992): “translation of non-translatable carries the information of highest value”; “Semiotic space occurs for us as a multilayer overlapping of different texts […] of various translatability and of spaces of non-translatability”.
My mother was born in estonia, by the way. Which has nothing to do with it.
April 2, 2007
"When you walk down the street do you subscribe to the thousands of sensory feeds in the information ether? Not at all. You're scanning, skimming, sampling, glancing. As you pass a group of people on the pavement you briefly graze their converation. Each one is transmitting an auditory feed, a podcast you might say. The nearest to you comes into earshot first and then a second. Your Reading List (dynamic OPML file) now contains two feeds. Then a third voice comes into focus. And finally the fourth. As you pass by the first voice wanes and disappears from your Reading List. And eventually they all fade."
using this for creating Grazr feeds for twitter. great entry.
March 26, 2007
Bedford Falls, the Twittering Machine, and the Global Village
Twitter, i wrote, feels like finding myself in a Frank Capra Movie for the digital age, coming back to place I never were. The film i thought of is of course the great "It's A Wonderful Life", presenting the view on a "normal life" and a small town through the eyes of the movie which are at the same time the eyes of an angel, and ending with James Stewart finding an inscription from his guardian angel in a Tom Sawyer book: "Remember no man is a failure who has friends."
It was nominated for some Academy Awards, but reviews were mixed: The New York Times complained that "the weakness of this picture ... is the sentimentality of it—its illusory concept of life. Mr. Capra's nice people are charming, his small town is a quite beguiling place and his pattern for solving problems is most optimistic and facile. But somehow they all resemble theatrical attitudes rather than average realities."
The Imaginary Place Profile of the electronically reinvented village, Bedford Falls, is here, linking to a real town in Upstate New York:"Although the movie was filmed in California, many people speculate that Seneca Falls, NY, was the inspiration for George Bailey's hometown."
So there is a "real place", or at least its digital representation: the profile, the flickered sights. Including a literary quote pointing at the problems of villages and small towns digital media are helping to solve: "In Seneca Falls, my life was comparatively solitary, and the change from Boston was somewhat depressing." (Eighty Years and More, Elizabeth Cady Stanton)
A Google Search for "Twittering Birds" and "Seneca Falls" led to the smart blog "The Cranky Professor", by a college professor doing European Studies, apparently already nearing retirement, blogging on the weather and George Clinton's "Parliament". (I'd never have met poeple like that in real life ...)
On his blog entry remark "The twittering birds wake me at 6.18.", he is linking the birds to to Paul Klee's painting "Twittering Machine".
He seems to have his own digital community around him. Somehow reflecting the current Twitter discussions, a friend comments on the birds: "Some days I'd like to wring their necks. The cacaphony (spelling deliberate) of the crows is the worst."
She has an autobiography at journalscape.com that tells us she "grew up in New England in a small traditional village (a village green, a general store, a gas station and a church)", has a B.A. in Philosophy and minors in Psychology and Geography, is about 60 years old, and is a fan of science fiction, for 40 years, thanks to Arthur C. Clarke.
As I'm just now realizing, that was exactly what McLuhan was saying when he coined the famous term: "The new electronic interdependece recreates the world in the image of a global village." (The Medium is the Massage, p67) The radio, according to him, is the favorite medium of of tribal village culture.
McLuhan seemingly has first mentioned the "Global Village" only some years after Capra's film: "Today with electronics we have discovered that we live in a global village, and the job is to create aglobal city, a center for the village margins." (Letters, p278) I assume this was also connected to David Riesman's study of new mediated community structures in after-war suburbia in "The Lonely Crowd".
And even the angel perspective from the Capra film can be found in his thoughts: "[Electronic man] is transmitted instantly everywhere and has become a disembodied angel" (1971).
So welcome to Twitterville, again. (Or should I say: Twitter Falls?)
(All quotations after W. Terrence Gordon, Marshall McLuhan - Escape into Understanding. A Biography. BasicBooks: New York, NY; 1997.)
March 25, 2007
dylan's mash-up of proust ...
... mark twain & jack london and others in his autobiography. interesting. ridiculous discussion of "plagiarism", though.