world wind add-ons

Death StarWorld Wind (see world wind works) was released by NASA as Open Source Software, and quite naturally a world wind community emerged, generating add-ons. See The unofficial unofficial add-ons list, which includes download-links. There is much which can be put to good use, and things beyond. For example the WorldWind 1.3 Deathstar addon—like Skall, the creator, said: “Useless, but somebody had to do it !” That’s absolutely right.


german casemod masters

Alien caseconLast Saturday, 16 April 2005, the 4th German Casemod Masters (DCMM) took place at Dortmund. There were two categories: casemod, meaning the modification of an of-the-peg case, and casecon, meaning the from-the-bottom-up construction of an entirely new and original case. As a third category there was ‘most spectacular casemod’. The latter was not judged by the jury, but by the audience attending. Maico Bensien from Hamburg won the casecon-category with his creation “Alien” depicted here. For me another wonderful example of everything fusing together: pop-culture icon influence, resistance against the industry’s design-dictate, and cultural appropriation of computer hardware in the form of complete reworking. I am happy. See more at modding-faq.


atari archives

Well, back in the 1980s I was in the other camp, because I was a proud owner of a C64—and we somehow looked down on those having an Atari. But that is history, and exactly from that point of view is very worthwhile, as it “makes books, information, and software for Atari and other classic computers available on the Web. Everything here is available with permission of the copyright holders.”


notebook’s roots

Alan Kay's DynabookMobile Magazine has a nice article on The Birth of the Notebook by Christopher Null. The article starts with Alan Kay’s 1968 idea ‘Dynabook’, which saw the light of day only as a mockup made of cardboard (picture from ↵Lees 1980:5), as the necessary technology to make it a real thing just was not yet in existance. The Dynabook was thought for kids [play!] and the field of learning and education—the software was thought to grow with the children. The contents of Alan Kays’s original draft notes at Xerox Parc, which are dated August 1972, are remarkable: “The size should be no larger than a notebook; weight less than 4 lbs; the visual display should be able to present at least 4000 printing quality characters [Did you hear the rumours about Microsoft wanting the next generation of operating systems to sport vector graphics instead of bitmaps for displaying characters?] with contrast ratios approaching that of a book; dynamic graphics of reasonable quality should be possible; there should be removable local file storage of at least one million characters (about 500 ordinary book pages) traded off against several hours of audio (voice/music) files.” (cited from ↵Lees 1980:5-6)

The OsbourneNull’s article goes on covering designs like the ‘Osbourne’ from the 1980s, which looks decidedly strange to our contemporary eyes, but may be inspirational to casemodders searching for the optimal shape of LAN-party machines, and concludes with ‘the 1990s and beyond’, when manufacturers ‘agreed’ on one basic shape for notebooks. Astoundingly enough this shape—to which we all are used to nowadays—comes quite close to Kay’s original design from way back.
hint via entry at infocult



This weblog is meant to fulfil a whole array of purposes. Among those is organizing and structuring my material and thoughts. The magnificent search plugin is an essential part, but categories are nevertheless necessary. Problem is that I have to think up the categories myself, as the software won’t. I asked it to do so, but it stubbornly refuses. In my project’s abstract I already boasted: […] the interpretation of the fieldwork-results will be set into relation to the appropriate parts of the history of technology […]. History of games’n’software is all fine, but the machines themselves and material culture are absolutely vital. In consequence I created the new category hardware.



Wonderful, wonderful, they have done it again. The god of the information age indeed is a trickster. The ‘World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics’ (WMSCI) has accepted a paper submitted by the graduate students Jeremy Stribling, Max Krohn, and Dan Aguayo—of course all three of them home-based at MIT, where hacker-culture was born—called “Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy[.pdf | 709KB]. That’s nearly as good as Alan Sokal’s famous “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” with which Sokal triggered a hard-time for the journal ‘Social Text’ and a hotly debated science-scandal. Thing is, the MITites even pushed it a li’l farther than Sokal, who crafted his hoax of an article meticulously by hand. Stribling et al.’s paper was done by a program called SCIgen, which obviously is able to pass some people’s vision of a Turing-test and more:

SCIgen is a program that generates random Computer Science research papers, including graphs, figures, and citations. It uses a hand-written context-free grammar to form all elements of the papers. Our aim here is to maximize amusement, rather than coherence.

One useful purpose for such a program is to auto-generate submissions to “fake” conferences; that is, conferences with no quality standards, which exist only to make money.

Seemingly WMSCI qualifies to this standards. But even more startling is the case of Vienna-based researchers who sent in some abstracts to the VIDEA-conference. All abstracts were accepted, and it was said that they had been reviewed … one of the sent-in abstracts consisted of the conference’s call for papers itself! Excuse me loosing my temper, but conferences like that are the inverse pendant to plagiarism. I welcome every hoaxer who discloses on-goings like that.

Anyway, with “Rooter” the guys hacked themselves well down to the roots of a degenerated part of the scientific community’s so-called competition. ‘Root’ definitely seems to be a magic word of the IT realm. Remember when Randy Waterhouse, one of the main protagonists in Neal Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon” mistook [<—c'mon bots, harvest this] for the e-mail address of an Unix-overlord? What does the last annotation have to do with the above? Well, nothing—I just took up training for boosting my list of publications: Boasting with weird associations + SCIgen + how-to-talk-postmodern pave the streets of gold to success, I guess.
hint via Anthro-L



The speeding angels of Línea 5
The speeding angelsAnother instance of culturally appropriating the automobile, going well with bososoku, zelda vans, and bedford’s metamorphosis. Good-looking Joanna Michna, who graduated in anthropology together with me here in Munich, has made a great ethnological documentary movie on Colombia’s balineros, called ‘The speeding angels of Línea 5’. I would translate ‘balinero’ as ‘Of the ball bearings’, or less literally: ‘Dances with trucks’. For everybody capable of receiving German television’s infamous ‘third channels’, her film is rebroadcasted—D’oh!—was rebroadcasted yesterday night. Sorry. But! WDR will rebroadcast it again on Thursday 14 April 2005, 08:45-09:30 AM local, that is German time. The early bird catches the truck.

In Colombia there is only one east-west connection viable for heavy trucks, which crosses the Andes and the Central Cordillera’s high passes—the infamous Línea 5. This highway is the country’s most important lifeline. All commodities, e.g. to and fro Buenaventura, Colombia’s vital harbour, are transported via the Línea 5.

Going through sheerly infinite bends and twists, the Línea 5 climbs up to 3200m above sea level—and down again on the other side. Steep serpentines, sudden falls in temperature, and wafts of mist make the transition over the passes extremely dangerous. At this needle’s eye between east and west the balineros live—them of the ball bearings. In there tinkered carts, made of some pieces of lumber and the hotly desired ball bearings, they speed to wherever they can help out or lend a hand. Here Loco is on the road since thirty years, up- and downhill, up to 80km/h fast. The balineros organize the truck traffic, fetch replacement parts, and guard broken down trucks while the drivers are away. Balineros are proud to earn a living by honest work.

15-year-old Felix desperately wants to become a balinero one day. That definitely is his biggest dream. Untill now he does the less honorable jobs, like washing the heavy-load-trucks. But since one year he has gathered all the necessary parts for his own cart. Now finally—after the first ride in his new cart he will join the order of the speeding angels of the Línea 5 …
more at 360°, and at WDR (both in German)


ethnographic skype

pith helmetOftentimes there is a confusion about what anthropological ‘fieldwork’ actually is. Following the dear, self-created myths of the profession the term ‘fieldwork’ (which—as a term and as a concept— has a longer tradition in sociology than in anthropology) is mixed up with the Riversian/Malinowskian paradigm: at least one year abroad + participant observation (roughly sketched). This is not fieldwork in general, but already one specific version of it. Things are made even worse by an utter uncertainty about what ‘participant observation’ (another dear myth of the profession) actually is. For seeing more clearly in this matter I only can recommend Spradley 1980 (sometimes not recommended by colleagues, but I think it to be a good book nevertheless) and Spittler 2001. Me personally, I am an ardent believer in Spittler’s radicalised form of ‘participant observation’, which he calls ‘thick participation’. But in order not to create yet another myth of the profession, one has to follow Spittler’s advice: complement participation by other methods. Systematic observation, quantitative methods like the ethnographic census, running-wild and structured interviews, and whatyouhave—everything the particular context dictates (see this online-available bibliography of anthropological research methods Dow 1992). Especially the ‘ethnographic interview’ is a strong instrument (Spradley 1979—highly recommended by almost every colleague I know). The whole bundle of all the methods used to gather data and insight while sojourning in the field constitutes ‘fieldwork’. Nothing less.

One aim of my project is to transpose anthropology’s rich and powerful methodology to the terra nova online: thick participation plus its weaknesses compensated by other methods like the ethnographic interview.

skypeQuite a number of papers on cyberculture tell us that computer-mediated communication (CMC) is ‘text’ to be read—obviously influenced by interpretative/postmodern currents. This seems plausible, especially as CMC oftentimes manifests itself as the exchange of the written word. But this all too obvious correllation is misleading. Life online has another quality to which the term ‘communication’ does not necessarily hint: action and interaction, the stuff anthropologists embrace. Furthermore is it not true that only text—in the literal sense—finds its way through the Internet-infrastructure. Images, both still and moving, sounds and music, software-applications, and code himself are exchanged lively via a multitude of channels—at least among ‘my people’. This bulk of exchange does not merely constitute communication. It is action. Despite of that, I confess, it is true that the larger part of communication between the members of my community happens through the written word. Set aside the occasional phone calls. But there is skype, a ‘voice over IP’ aka ‘Internet telephony’ no-cost long-distance service.

Phil Shapiro, who “takes an interest in how rich media on the Internet can assist in the creation of social fabric” published Using Skype as a Community Media Production Tool:

Among my favorite public television programs is the Charlie Rose Show. Host Charlie Rose has a knack for getting his interview subjects to share their ideas and views in a way that illuminates the matters at hand. But did you ever stop to think that the only people who appear on his show are celebrities? And that 99 percent of the interesting people in this world are not celebrities?

So, who is going to interview all those people? Answer: the people [and anthropologists!] will interview the people. What tool will they use to create high-quality interviews that can be widely distributed? Skype. How will these interviews be shared? Using all forms of media: the Internet, public access television stations, podcasting and various computer media. […]

As Damien Stolarz has put it, Shapiro provides us with a “Simple hack using Skype as an audio interviewing and archive tool. Instead of needing phone interview recording hardware (which you might not have) you can use computer tools (which you have in abundance).” This contains tremendous possibilities for every trustworthy cyberanthropologist. And if one agrees, that the theory-based generation of new forms of representing anthropological findings and knowledge indeed is a part of cyberanthropology, even more opportunities arise.
via Damien Stolarz‘s entry at o’reilly weblogs