Author Archives: mdimopoulos

One million books brought online to blind, cixelsyd..

Here is an interesting story about adaptive technology and digital books…

A new service being announced Thursday by the nonprofit Internet Archive in San Francisco is trying to change that. The group has hired hundreds of people to scan thousands of books into its digital database — more than doubling the titles available to people who aren’t able to read a hard copy.

The Black Hole of Media

I thought the idea between the split of technological delivery systems and media as cultural systems is an interesting distinction Jenkins makes in the introduction. The dead media project, various writing machines and the internet wayback machine are all great examples of this idea of a delivery/cultural system. This is not a new idea however if we consider the ancient Greeks oral history system of transmitting cultural values as a kind of delivery and cultural system.

Interface This!

I was reading this article at EFF and it reminded me about the discussion of interfaces we had in class… what do we mean when we say interface and how are we being trained with all the interfaces we use as a daily basis etc etc.

“…As Conti describes it, a good interface is meant to help users achieve their goals as easily as possible. But an “evil” interface is meant to trick users into doing things they don’t want to. Conti’s examples include aggressive pop-up ads, malware that masquerades as anti-virus software, and pre-checked checkboxes for unwanted “special offers”…”

Embracing the digital book

Here is a interesting take on the digital book that includes a little bit of crowd-sourcing

Let’s not talk about video integration.
Or new ‘interface paradigms.’
These aren’t CD-ROMs from 1993.

Let’s talk about text.
Let’s talk about the digital book.

Metadata Mindfield

I found Fitzpatrick’s short section on metadata particularly fascinating. As someone who thinks a lot about metadata and its construction, I am always looking for new insight into this subject of study. Fitzpatrick raises two important points which directly impact the creation and future of metadata, “One of the problems that metadata poses for the future of digital publishing lies precisely in the difficulty of making maps of future terrain,” and “…the production of the set of metadata, as the production of any map, is always an interpretive act, indicating what the map-maker has found to be significant about the terrain.” One of the challenges with metadata is what to record and how to record it. If you record too much data you run the risk of the 1:1 map problem or as I like to call it the Ulysses dilemma where the key text is bigger than the original; conversely, if you record too little data it becomes useless or at the very least unhelpful. The issue then becomes how to record it i.e. what format will be extensible and robust enough to be around in 1, 10, 100 years.

Take the mess-o-metadata that is google books and scholar. They don’t even use the majority of the already existing MARC records supplied to them by the libraries they work with today. Instead, they are using an extreme form of mplp to get the data in and worry about the metadata (and copyright issues) later. The question remains if it will pay off for them.

Another issue related to metadata is controlled vocabulary which as an interpretive act can be contentious depending on what is being described. I know the LCSH has seen its far share of detractors for its glacial pace in adapting to change. This is one of the many reasons, among others, for competing standards to emerge like CCO, AAT and DACS.

I would, however, have liked a mention of the crosswalks that are surfacing of late between the various metadata schemes like CDWA Lite, MARC, EAD and Dublin Core.

All your base, indeed.

This might be of interest to some…

Today, Facebook removed its users’ ability to control who can see their own interests and personal information. Certain parts of users’ profiles, “including your current city, hometown, education and work, and likes and interests” will now be transformed into “connections,” meaning that they will be shared publicly. If you don’t want these parts of your profile to be made public, your only option is to delete them.

The ‘other’ white meat?

Reading Frank Schaap’s Disaggregation, Technology, and Masculinity, I was a little dismayed but not entirely surprised when the author, “found that role-players largely rely on conventional and socially legible expressions of masculinity and femininity to enact their characters, while developing finely tuned mechanisms for reading one another’s performances for cues about the player’s real-life gender” (239). It has always been my belief that the way any particular society perceives and reinforces gender types (although not gender itself) is an entirely performative act as it seems to be the case in Schaap’s findings.

I think mmorpg’s like WoW are missing a great opportunity to rewrite the digital body. It has been awhile since I have looked into the characterization but I am going to assume that every class/race has a gendered choice and I wonder why no other option exists. If it is indeed set in a fantasy role-playing universe then why not create a class/race that is non-gendered? Of course, Nakamura and other readings from this seminar as well as the demographics and economy of the game itself provide the answer to this question. I can only hope that with the continuing evolution and success of the mmorpg that the use of monolithic masculinity as an othering force will begin to grey around the edges (241).

The spectacle of the spectator

In white’s introduction on ‘not photography’ the author suggests that ,”the spectator is encouraged to view realistically rendered web site images as if they were photographs,” leading up the idea that, “many spectators equate photographs and photolike forms with what they represent” (147). Or in so many words a picture is worth a thousand words or in the case of digital photography a thousand bytes. I found this chapter particularly fascinating for the way in which it interrogates spectatorship and the instability of the image in digital culture.

Setting aside a long diatribe about reader-response and reception theory, the question that has always been in my mind as an amateur photographer is one of mediation. As Alan Trachtenberg and others have suggested is that the photo and its role in western society encourages the viewer to ignore its long gaze and the lens of production in order to overlook the fact that is not unmediated (153). It seems that as a culture we prize the evidentiary and aesthetic value of such a medium yet we somehow compartmentalize this aspect when it is subverted by a “photoshopped meme”. The simple technology of red-eye reduction which happens automatically in most digital cameras and the use of dodge and burn techniques in the darkroom belie the ‘real-ness’ of such a medium. Is a photo of a photo hanging in a museum valued the same as the original?

Digital Will

Curious about what happens to your digital presence after you die? Watch an interview with the founders of on Rocketboom. Interesting stuff indeed. Is your digital body an asset? Would you pay for such a  service? Personally, I already have a codicil in my will delineating online assets. Anyone else?

Smart or S-mart

I have always been interested in the anthropomorphization of the word ‘smart’ and its use or connotation when applied to computing. Lister tells us that smart houses, intelligent domestic appliances, black box edutainment systems and personal post-web info-sumerism portals are all the rage in futurist circles (223 -239). What makes these houses ‘smart’ and these appliances ‘intelligent’? Ability to follow simple pre-programmed hierarchical decision trees and the element of interactivity? Isn’t that essentially what a computer does now? Then why don’t we call the computers we use today ‘smart’ : Why don’t we call other devices with complex microprocessors like microwaves ‘smart’. Does this conversely mean that all other houses and appliances are ‘dumb’? The choice and application of vocabulary revolving around this issue is an interesting one to ponder and it leaves me thinking… is it a case of projecting our own egos, hopes and fears or is it just a matter of garbage in/garbage out in the post- industrial consumer dream.

These smart meters don’t seem very smart to me