where is he?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #22
Where is he?
Strange landscape, isn’t it? Where is the lonely wanderer?
    Just leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the 'Leave a comment' at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it's the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I've approved a comment, your next ones won't be held, but published immediately by the system.]

UPDATE and solution (02 April 2012):
That one obviously was way too easy for Mr Rabitsch, our resident connaisseur. Yes, Todd (Kurt Russell) is on Arcadia 234, a planet used for waste disposal on which most of the plot of the 1998 movie ‘Soldier’ takes place. It was directed by Paul W. S. ‘Resident Evil’ Anderson and written by David Peoples. The latter, together with Hampton Fancher, made Philip K. Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ (1968) into the script of ‘Blade Runner’ (Scott 1982). In fact ‘Soldier’ is set in the same universe as ‘Blade Runner’ and a lot of allusions try to establish this. But, and that’s my opinion, the story falls flat and is in no way on par with ‘Blade Runner.’ On the other hand parts of the movie’s visuals succeed in establishing a cyberpunkish ambience—like the magnificent vista with the dumped aircraft carrier above.

ANDERSON, PAUL WILLIAM SCOTT. 1998. Soldier (aka Star force soldier) [motion picture]. Burbank: Warner Bros.
DICK, PHILIP KINDRED. 1968. Do androids dream of electric sheep? New York: Doubleday.
SCOTT, RIDLEY. 1982. Blade runner [motion picture]. Burbank: Warner Brothers.


Scene from 'Cuo wei' aka 'Dislocation' aka 'The Stand-in' (Huang 1986)
The Tamil-movie Endhiran (Shankar 2010) is testimony of the cyberpunk discourse having reached Indian cinema. Nigeria’s Yoruba-language ‘Kajola’ (Akinmolayan 2010) shows the same for Africa‘s largest movie industry.
    ‘Science-fiction film, like the science-fiction story, is an underdeveloped genre in China,’ writes Yingjin Zhang (1998: 297) in the ‘Encyclopedia of Chinese Film’ (Zhang & Xiao 1998). Nevertheless, already during the heyday of canonical [US-] cyberpunk there was a chinese cyberpunk movie—‘Dislocation’ directed by Huang Jianxin (1986).

As with Huang’s first film, Black Cannon Incident [1985], Dislocation uses the science-fiction genre to satirize the workings of bureaucracy. The protagonist, Zhao Shuxin, this time the director of a large department, suffers a series of nightmares. The absurd world that he dreams of signifies China in its socialist heyday, while the everyday world he inhabits represents China’s near future. A corrupt social system everywhere undermines technological innovation. Zhao longs for peace of mind and seeks a high tech solution, which unfortunately backfires.
    In a skyscraper-filled urban setting, an isolated human figure surrounded by microphones and almost buried by files struggles with a socialist bureaucratic phenomenon: endless and meaningless talks and meetings. The use of red filters and shrill noises on the soundtrack reinforce the sense of unbearable conditions. The character wakes up from this operating room nightmare in which medical staff in black uniforms are attempting to kill him.
    Contemplating himself in the mirror inspires Zhao to design a robot. Made in his image, the robot could stand in for him at every boring meeting. The robot should be a mechanical object subject to human instruction by its master. Yet Robot Zhao likes to attend meetings and give talks. It even learns how to smoke and drink. A visual montage of wine cups, cameras, and futuristic buildings, accompanied by the sound of applause, portrays the world the robot comes to enjoy.
    Conflicts between human and machine emerge. During a conversation, robot Zhao expresses its concern that humans issue so many rules they then expect others to obey. Director Zhao warns the machine: ‘You think too much. That’s dangerous’.
    The conflicts escalate as the robot becomes addicted to the systemic corruptions of modern living. Away from its master, it dates Zhao’s girlfriend, seducing her by offering her Zhao’s house key. He humiliates people with threats of violence. When Zhao expresses his desire to assign the robot a job doing work that is too dangerous for humans, the robot rebels by exposing itself in front of its designer. At last, in a final power struggle, Zhao destroys the robot. As Zhao looks again into the mirror, his nightmares begin anew. (Cui 1998: 143)

AKINMOLAYAN, NIYI. 2010. Kajola [motion picture]. Lagos: Adonis Production.
CUI, SHUQIN. 1998. “Dislocation,” in Encyclopedia of chinese film edited by Yingjin Zhang and Zhiwei Xiao, p. 143. London, New York: Routledge.
HUANG, JIANXIN. 1985. Black cannon incident (original title: Hei pao shijian) [motion picture]. Xi’an: Xi’an Film.
HUANG, JIANXIN. 1986. Dislocation (aka The stand-in, original title: Cuo wei, 错位) [motion picture]. Xi’an: Xi’an Film.
SHANKAR. 2010. Endhiran (aka Enthiran aka The robot, original title: எந்திரன்) [motion picture]. Chennai: Sun Pictures.
ZHANG, YINGJIN. 1998. “science fiction film,” in Encyclopedia of chinese film edited by Yingjin Zhang and Zhiwei Xiao, p. 297. London, New York: Routledge.
ZHANG, YINGJIN AND ZHIWEI XIAO (eds.). 1998. Encyclopedia of chinese film. London, New York: Routledge.

playing with videogames

[abstract:] Playing with Videogames documents the richly productive, playful and social cultures of videogaming that support, surround and sustain this most important of digital media forms and yet which remain largely invisible within existing studies. James Newman details the rich array of activities that surround game-playing, charting the vibrant and productive practices of the vast number of videogame players and the extensive ‘shadow’ economy of walkthroughs, FAQs, art, narratives, online discussion boards and fan games, as well as the cultures of cheating, copying and piracy that have emerged.
    Playing with Videogames offers the reader a comprehensive understanding of the meanings of videogames and videogaming within the contemporary media environment.

NEWMAN, JAMES. 2008. Playing with videogames. London, New York: Routledge.

sentry gun redux

Some things won’t lose their fascination—especially when a certain morbidness is involved, as it seems. Just the day before yesterday boingboing’s Mark Frauenfelder pointed to Bob Rudolph’s project sentry gun, an open-source sentry gun controller. Well, seven years ago on xirdalium I reported Aaron Rasmussen’s ‘quintessential sentry gun.’ As far as I can see all his websites meanwhile have vanished—I only found the 2006 article Sentry gun sees, computes and shoots at BU [Boston University] Today, which gives an idea towards where Aaron may have headed, plus refound his original document [lavishly illustrated] How we built the quintessential sentry gun [.pdf | 342KB]. Quite matching: my old article robots and suicide bombing


magic kingdom pilgrimage

[abstract:] This essay explores the proposition that Walt Disney World is an amusement park whose form is borrowed from the pilgrimage center. Bateson, Norbeck, and Turner have shown that play and ritual together comprise a metaprocess of expressive behavior rooted in our mammalian past. Substantively both traditional pilgrimage centers, especially Mecca, and Walt Disney World are analyzed in terms of shared activities, symbols displayed, myths evoked, and tripartite time-space processes of rites of passage. The Magic Kingdom is shown to be a giant limen ritual threshold, which symbolically replicates the baroque capital. To go there is to engage in transcendent make-believe, play which is intended with deadly seriousness. The pilgrimage form has re-emerged as a place for grand play. Finally, the essay speculates that the playful pilgrimage is particularly appropriate to a secular, technologized society in which transition is constant.

MOORE, ALEXANDER. 1980. Walt Disney World: Bounded ritual space and the playful pilgrimage center. Anthropological Quarterly 53(4): 207-218.

material cyberculture

[abstract:] This essay offers a polemical exploration of spatiality in new media culture, one based on a materialist, as opposed to a ‘ virtualist’ paradigm. Its goal is to intervene in the thought processes of liberal-phenomenological cybertheory. The latter tends to see computer users as consumers, rather than producers, within national and global economies. Because of this leisure-consumption orien tation, theories of new media are easily appropriated within ideologies of postindustrial capitalism. This has led to some oversimplified models of spatiality in cybertheory, many of which proceed from the premise that the material world is fast disappearing under the pressures and seductions of the virtual. The article uses methods of visual anthropology to communicate the problems with such as sumptions, and to demonstrate the benefits of materialist analysis. It traces the techniques information and knowledge workers use in fashioning decorative office media displays, known in cyber jargon as ‘geekospheres’. These techniques situate the computer within the labor process, not only as a tool but also as a physical object through which people make statements about work and find ways to define and transgress boundaries between the personal and the institutional, between work and leisure.

MCCARTHY, ANNA. 2002. Cyberculture or material culture? Computers and the social space of work. Ethnofoor 15(1/2): 47-63.

cues in cyberspace

[abstract:] Although the relative paucity of social cues in computer-mediated communication poses problems of the organization of social relations in cyberspace, recent studies have begun to focus on the ways in whicht this deficit is managed. This article contributes to this research by addressing the question of how participants distinguish between contexts in online discourse. Data on cues, and on naming practices in particular, in text-based virtual realities called MOOs illustrate the structure of contexts and the dynamics of contextualizing communication and interaction in cyberspace.

JACOBSON, DAVID. 1996. Contexts and cues in cyberspace: the pragmatics of naming in text-based virtual realities. Journal of Anthropological Research 52(4): 461-479.

corporeal virtual reality

[abstract: ] This paper considers the experience of embodiment in current and (possible) future virtual reality applications. A phenomenological perspective is adopted to explore user embodiment in those virtual reality applications that both do and do not include a visual body (re)presentation (virtual body). Embodiment is viewed from the perspective of sensorial immersion, where issues of gender, race, and culture are all implicated. Accounts of “disrupted” bodies (for example, phantom limb and dissociation of the selffrom the body, paralysis, and objectified bodies) are advanced in order to provide a context for understanding the ways in which embodiment in virtual reality environments may be instantiated. The explicit claim that virtual reality is an embodied experience and can facilitate the radical transfiguration of the body and its sensorial architecture is explored and evaluated.

MURRAY, CRAIG D. AND JUDITH SIXSMITH. 1999. The corporeal body in virtual reality. Ethos 27(3): 315-343.

incapable of what?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #21
What can't he/it do?
What is he/it incapable of? What can’t he/it do in the scene depicted?
    Just leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the 'Leave a comment' at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it's the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I've approved a comment, your next ones won't be held, but published immediately by the system.]

UPDATE and solution (28 March 2012):
Frankly, I do not have the faintest idea of how he could know that, but Alexander Rabitsch correctly stated that the movie is Endhiran [aka Enthiran, original title: எந்திரன்] (Shankar 2010). In India there are two large movie industries; the Hindi-language one bases in Mumbai, formerly Bombay (‘Bollywood’), and the Tamil-language one, based in Chennai, formerly Madras. Endhiran, meaning ‘robot,’ is a 2010 Tamil-movie starring Aishwarya Rai. It’s pure cyberpunk, and at the same time a pure Indian movie—get a taste of it at the official website.
    And here is the solution to the question. The evil scientist makes a test of his creation, the mean looking robot. He activates him and gives him commands:
Scene from 'Endhiran' (Shankar 2010)
But the robot acts clumsy, even hits a table, and the evil scientist exclaims: ‘Shit!’ The machine takes that for a command and replies:
Scene from 'Endhiran' (Shankar 2010)
The clumsiness goes on and finally the robot, after firing a gun, falls to the floor. His creator is upset and makes clear that he doesn’t think much of him:
Scene from 'Endhiran' (Shankar 2010)
Which is returned by quite a tell-tale stare …
Scene from 'Endhiran' (Shankar 2010)

SHANKAR. 2010. Endhiran (aka Enthiran aka The robot, original title: எந்திரன்) [motion picture]. Chennai: Sun Pictures.

turing’s cathedral

Alan Mathison Turing
Here’s the official synopsis of historian of science George Dyson‘s latest book ‘Turing’s Cathedral’ (2012):

“It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence,” twenty-four-year-old Alan Turing announced in 1936. In Turing’s Cathedral, George Dyson focuses on a small group of men and women, led by John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who built one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing’s vision of a Universal Machine. Their work would break the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things—and our universe would never be the same.
    Using five kilobytes of memory (the amount allocated to displaying the cursor on a computer desktop of today), they achieved unprecedented success in both weather prediction and nuclear weapons design, while tackling, in their spare time, problems ranging from the evolution of viruses to the evolution of stars.
    Dyson’s account, both historic and prophetic, sheds important new light on how the digital universe exploded in the aftermath of World War II. The proliferation of both codes and machines was paralleled by two historic developments: the decoding of self-replicating sequences in biology and the invention of the hydrogen bomb. It’s no coincidence that the most destructive and the most constructive of human inventions appeared at exactly the same time.
    How did code take over the world? In retracing how Alan Turing’s one-dimensional model became John von Neumann’s two-dimensional implementation, Turing’s Cathedral offers a series of provocative suggestions as to where the digital universe, now fully three-dimensional, may be heading next.

For complementary reading I wholeheartedly recommend Jack Copeland’s ‘Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park’s Codebreaking Computers’ (2006)!

COPELAND, B. JACK (ed.). 2006. Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park’s codebreaking computers. Oxford: Oxfod University Press.
DYSON, GEORGE. 2012. Turing’s cathedral: The origins of the digital universe. New York: Pantheon Books.
‘Turing’s Cathedral’ via entry at boingboing