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high fructose corn syrup

Apparently, Americans consume a whole bunch of it.

In the spirit of end-of-the-semester blog-posting, check this out.

So, Americans drink more bottled water than beer, are more likely to get whacked by a wheelchair than run over by a lawnmowers, and are only slightly more likely to get into an accident with a bicycle than with a bed...

Hmm. That bed one makes me suspicious.

But! Still more: "Adolescents and adults now spend, on average, more than 64 days a year watching television, 41 days listening to the radio and a little over a week using the Internet. Among adults, 97 million Internet users sought news online last year, 92 million bought a product, 91 million made a travel reservation, 16 million used a social or professional networking site and 13 million created a blog."

More and More (Media)tion

As if we needed even more technology to mediate the world for us, someone has come up with the ambient walkman. Basically, the product is a pair of headphones which sample ambient noise and turn it into some form of music. Its creator prefers to style it "The Ambient Addition," which frankly I find insufferable. The idea that we need even more mediation seems ridiculous to me. I suppose that the technology represents a somewhat cool achievement, but I'm at a loss to understand why anyone would want to listen to an approximation of music created by the birds, the bees, and those jackhammers down the street (although I suppose that combination would be pretty wild).

Update from the Digital Art Department

Last night I went to watch the Digital Art and Computer-Programming Art classes present their final semester projects. I was curious to see what would come out of a semester of focusing on the technology rather than the theory. The Digital Art students' projects' took the form of increasingly bizarre powerpoint presentations. What I was really struck by in their presentations was the ability to manipulate the expectations of the viewer. We computer users are so programmed in what to expect from a machine--that it will only react when we click something, that when you exit out of a window it's gone and won't come back again, that the screen will only react in certain ways. Thus, it is jarring when those expectations are not met, like, for example, when a window starts shaking for no reason, or collapses then reopens randomly a few seconds later. These techniques could be valuable tools for an internet artist. There really is the ability to scare a computer user, to surprise them with something totally unexpected.

Who's Sitting in Birkert's Tub?

In response to the early brouhaha over etext, Sven Birkerts wrote The Gutenberg Elegies,

WHypertext.

Etext has many advantages which were much discussed in

How Signs Swim - a Runt History

Media gets replaced or supplanted when folks find better ways. But media don't deliver message equally, so replacement is incomplete.

Sometimes replacement is almost total

On Lines

I'm under the impression that I have some kind of theory that in some rough way explains how etext functions. Experience suggests that someone should disabuse me before I walk in front of a bus.

Before it hits, I will try to assemble sources relevant to my posts in comments to the posts themselves so as to not weigh things down too drastically.

The main lines run like this (read them fortissimo in your most strident McLuhan tones, please) ==>

Technology on the Campaign Trail

So election day is this Tuesday, and there's this interesting article in The Washington Post Outlook section today called You Tube? It's So Yesterday about what the authors think some new uses of technology in politics will be in the somewhat near future.

They give a lot of examples, but three in particular were really interesting (and pertinent to this class.) The first is their discussion of the incredible popularity of MMORPGs and how they have already started to play a role (no pun intended!) in politics. Here's a (longish, but fun) quotation:

Web Science

There was an article in the New York Times today about how MIT and the University of Southampton in Britain announced today that they are starting a joint Web science program at their schools. The gist of the article is that the web is becoming more important these days, and that an academic understanding of the web and technology doesn't merely involve knowledge in computer science but also study of social behavior and networks online.

This seems pretty relevant to our class and this blog. There were a few blog posts here and there and others that have talked about privacy online and in blogs, with references to access of information and the very public nature of very personal information. We usually talk about privacy in terms of creepiness and stumbling upon information that we feel like we should not be seeing even if it's public domain. It's appropriate that when Web Science becomes an actual field of academic study, that will be one of the main areas of research, since it is such a huge and controversial topic. I just think it's pretty cool that this new field will be so interdisciplinary. It's a step in the right direction, since I feel like when most people think about web-science they're thinking strictly in terms of the computer technology aspects of it but now, with such programs in place, people will be more aware of the sociological aspects of the web.

Resisting temptation

I've been browsing the internet instead of working, so I suppose I best turn the effort into work. A web page that I visit fairly frequently is PopMatters, a site devoted to pop cultural criticism. It's a warmer, fuzzier, more inclusive Pitchfork, the main downside of which being its often unbelievably sappy contributors, who have the tendency to write book reports instead of critical pieces.

Two recent columns (which I happened to read just now) escape this trap. Both draw upon nostalgia, but they go on to make arguments that I'm inclined to agree with, and which have enough relevance to the subject of our course that I was inspired to blog.