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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Art Of The Future "The World Future Society--an organization of academics, consultants and planners--is gearing up for its annual conference Friday to Sunday, drawing forward thinkers from as far away as South Korea and Venezuela. Mainstream futurists are not crystal ball gazers or mere science fiction aficionados (though a session is scheduled on "Science Fiction as the Mythology of the Future"). The future may seem unknowable to most mortals, but humans continually plan for what lies beyond the chronological horizon, futurists say. Everything from an environmental impact study to Pentagon war games are forms of future study." Chicago Tribune 07/29/05

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Needed - An Orphange For Forgotten Copyrights? There are thousands of copyrighted works whose copyright holders cannot be found. "Orphan works have led to complications not only in publishing but also in digitizing projects, preservation efforts, and the creation of works like film and video documentaries. This week, at the urging of prominent legal scholars, academic-library organizations, technology companies such as Google and Microsoft, and many other interested parties, the U.S. Copyright Office is holding a series of hearings to determine whether copyright law should change to allow for more liberal use of orphan works." Chronicle of Higher Education 07/25/05

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Revitalization, The Right Way Using the arts to revitalize urban areas is an old trick, of course, but seldom is it really done well, for the simple reason that doing it well isn't all that easy. "A single arts building or initiative can't redirect the tidal forces of urban activity. Instead, it requires the synergistic efforts of government, for-profits, nonprofits, and citizens -- whether working collaboratively, or accidentally, toward a common goal." A new paper from the Brookings Institute aims to break down exactly how successful turnarounds have been achieved, and what the essential steps are for getting there. The Artful Manager (AJ Blogs) 07/27/05

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Reaching For The Sky (Terrorism Be Damned) Following the 9/11 attacks, commentators and prognosticators swore up and down that this would mark the end of the global quest to have the tallest building dominating a city skyline. It hasn't worked out that way. "Architecture buffs revel in the lore of such competition, recalling how the Chrysler Building beat out the Bank of Manhattan tower in 1929 with the last-minute hoisting of a secretly planned stainless steel top. In 1931, of course, the Chrysler was bested by the Empire State Building, which yielded the title to the World Trade Center four decades later... For all the talk about jitters deterring potential tenants of a future Freedom Tower, the 9/11 terrorist attack has done little or nothing to diminish a global appetite to touch the sky." The New York Times 07/27/05

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Our Lives As A Media Event "Almost everything comes to us through some media prism, which, in turn, colours not just our view of this life, but our own self-definition. We are products of immense, often inchoate, media indoctrination. Moreover, the very pattern of life we take for granted, our normality, is hectic, digital and new, quite different in kind from that of even recent generations. You know where you were when Kennedy or Di died or the Twin Towers came toppling down. But does anybody, except those few who were there, on the spot, remember Pearl Harbor? Our lives, as recently as the first half of the 20th century, were different in kind: isolated, unchanging, experiencing great events at a sluggardly distance." The Observer (UK) 07/24/05

Constructing The Virtual Mind "Until very recently, artificial-intelligence researchers believed that modeling the mind was simply a matter of simulating rational cognition, an activity that was seen to be epitomized by strategical games such as chess and go — but over the past decade, computer scientists have come to understand that a virtual mind needs a virtual psychology. To “think” requires not just an ability to carry through a chain of logical inferences; it also requires a mental environment, or psychic context, in which such rationalizations can be given meaning." LAWeekly 07/21/05

Friday, July 22, 2005

Critical Conversation: Critics Under The Stars As the critics' blog wraps up, Fiona Maddocks wonders whether the "star system" forced on many critics by their employers (in which each performance is rated numerically, rather than merely being thoughtfully reviewed) doesn't encourage more extremist views in the critic. "It discourages exploratory debate or, perish the thought, subtlety. It's just another demonstration of the trend to treat reviews chiefly as a consumer service." Critical Conversation (AJ Blog) 07/22/05

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Critical Conversation: Critics Can't Fix Everything Does the classical music industry expect too much from the critics who cover it? "It asks for 'constructive criticism' which, in my experience, is merely a euphemism for good reviews. Then there are complaints that music critics here don't engage with the music as much as they used to in the glory days... but the space for the single-event review has diminished drastically since their days. One can only look with envy at the column inches the New York Times and most of the big-hitting German daily papers still accord to important opera openings or headline concert events. But the fact is, surely, today, that fewer and fewer musical offerings are headline events." Critical Conversation (AJ Blog) 07/21/05

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Why Don't We Value Talent? "Nowadays, if someone is vastly more talented than us, we don't congratulate them - we envy them and resent their success. It seems we don't want heroes we can admire, so much as heroes we can identify with. We want to think we could be like them, and so we make sure to select heroes that are like us. This is the real reason for the astonishing rise of reality TV. We allow halfwits to become celebrities precisely because there is no great gap separating them from us. We can't bear the idea that some people might be better than us, so much better that we could never be like them, no matter how hard we tried. That upsets our democratic ethos, our belief that all people are born equal. But raw talent is not distributed equally... The Guardian (UK) 07/21/05

A Backlash Against Hip? "Just what is hip has become nebulous in a digital age of microtrends, when a cultural blip goes from underground to overexposed in one season. Likewise, the original concept of hip as something outside the purview of the mainstream has been replaced by the hipstream: mainstream cool packaged by corporate marketing departments. The inevitable backlash — not against the bohemian veritas but the sycophantic consumer of cool — is well underway." Los Angeles Times 07/20/05

The Brain's Central Command How is it that the human brain is able to multi-task, processing many pieces of information at the same time? New research suggests that the brain has a central "command center" that controls multiple inputs... Discovery 07/20/05

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Critical Conversation: Do Critics Make The Art? Sydney music critic Peter McCallum observes that great critics don't reult in great art. "The vigorous state of criticism in London may be a better measure of its democracy than of its art, particularly as far as composition is concerned. That isn’t entirely the critic’s fault. Producing the sort of society which values music is more than critics can achieve. It goes to much deeper values built up over time and is particularly complex in a modern metropolis, which, of its nature, has several powerful forces which are somewhat antithetical to art. It also has the critical mass to enable diverse artistic activity to take place but, as we would all be aware, there are also many deadening effects. In the long term it is the art that is important, not the critics. Criticism is a good measure of social a democratic health but that doesn’t automatically imply artistic health." Critical Conversation (AJBlog) 07/19/05

Mind Over Machine? "Researchers at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research program, or Pear, have been attempting to measure the effect of human consciousness on machines since 1979. Using random event generators -- computers that spew random output -- they have participants focus their intent on controlling the machines' output. Out of several million trials, they've detected small but "statistically significant" signs that minds may be able to interact with machines. However, researchers are careful not to claim that minds cause an effect or that they know the nature of the communication." Wired 07/19/05

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Critical Conversation: The Modern Music Critic Is there a fundamental difference in the ways music critics see their roles? Are European classical music critics different from American critics? Are there different expectations of London critics than New York critics? Between critics in the “second cities” of America and those of Europe? Consequently, is the level of public discussion about music different in North America than in Europe? This week, ArtsJournal hosts a discussion among 17 classical music critics from the UK, US, Canada and Australia. Who's got the role of modern music critic figured out? ArtsJournal 07/17/05

Where Have You Gone, Arthur Miller? Julia Keller looks around at an increasingly frightening world full of violence and political grandstanding, and misses the old familiar outrage of playwright Arthur Miller. "We need a writer whose ferocity won't be diminished by concerns for balance or propriety, who won't get sidetracked by niceties. We need someone who will write with unapologetic rage. Yet moral certainty is in bad odor these days. Many see it as the cause of most of the world's problems, from terrorism to less lethal forms of intolerance -- and it's true that a powerful cadre of holier-than-thou politicians is a special menace in America just now. Moral certainty indeed makes for bad public policy. But it makes for great art." Chicago Tribune 07/17/05

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Internet - A Basic City Service? Guess Who Argues No "In hundreds of American communities, public officials have concluded that the Internet is an essential service. They see that their residents are either offered prices that are too high or are not offered services at all. They are aware that while our nation stumbles in high-speed-Internet adoption, other countries make sure consumers can get connected at lower prices." But telecom companies are mounting campaigns to block city service. "They argue that taxpayer-funded competition makes the marketplace unfair (ironic, since those firms owe their dominance to government-granted monopolies). Then they claim that cities are too unsophisticated to pull off such projects (so why are they worried?)." Newsweek 07/13/05

Company Sues Internet History Keeper Over Copyright (Huh?) "The Internet Archive was created in 1996 as the institutional memory of the online world, storing snapshots of ever-changing Web sites and collecting other multimedia artifacts." It's a great historical record and archive for future historians produced as a non-profit service. But now a company is suing the Internet Archive, saying "the access to its old Web pages, stored in the Internet Archive's database, was unauthorized and illegal." The New York Times 07/12/05

But... But... But We Hate The French, Don't We? "The tyranny of name brands. The cult of celebrity. A consumer culture inflamed by advertisers who rely on sex to seduce." It's all just so terribly American, circa 21st century, isn't it? Well, no, it's all so 18th century French, actually, and a new book points out that, despite the current unpopularity of all things French among a certain sector of the American population, much of our current popular culture and its materialist trappings can be traced back to the influence of Louis XIV. The New York Times 07/13/05

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Do-It-Yourselfers Reinvent Gadgets "In the digital era, every consumer-electronics product comes with microchips and software programming, and for a new generation of tech-savvy users, these are the raw materials needed to make a digital toy or appliance do tricks that its creators didn't envision. Sometimes, tinkerers become a consumer electronics maker's unofficial research-and-development team, with innovations winding up as built-in features down the line." Washington Post 07/12/05

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Meat In A Lab? Scientists say that it may be possible to grow meat in a lab, producing as much as the world needs. "With a single cell, you could theoretically produce the world's annual meat supply. And you could do it in a way that's better for the environment and human health. In the long term, this is a very feasible idea." University of Maryland News 07/05

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Giving Up On the Avant Garde? Margo Jefferson has lost interest in the avant garde. "Is a urinal art? Is elephant dung a fit substance for creating art? Can walking be dance? Is sampling or silence or noise music? Are fractured words and stories truer to the shape of our experience than traditional narratives? Will the virtual and simulated realities made possible by the digital age threaten our identities or layer and expand them? At one time all these things were controversial. Now they are familiar. That's why I don't really like to use the words avant-garde anymore. I don't really believe in them right now. They don't take in enough variety." The New York Times 07/08/05

Internet Justice - Can It Go Too Far? A woman's dog poops in the subway and she refuses to clean it up. A fellow passenger takes her picture and posts it on the internet. Soon an internet mob forms, ferreting out details of her life, including where she lives and what she does... "Increasingly, the Internet also is a venue of so-called citizen journalism, in which swarms of surfers mobilize to gather information on what the traditional media isn't covering, or is covering in a way that dissatisfies some people. But what happens when the two converge, and the Internet populace is stirred to action against individuals?" Washington Post 07/07/05

Music On The Brain A study of violinists has shown that mastery of a musical instrument actually causes the human brain to rewire itself to better deal with the demands of the activity. It doesn't mean that musicians are somehow smarter than the average adult, merely that their brains have been wired for greater manual dexterity than non-musicians. The findings can likely be extended to include other specialized areas of human endeavor, such as athletics. Chicago Tribune (Cox) 07/07/05

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

How Computers Decide Where You'll Shop Wondering how companies decide where to locate stores? Now computers decide. "High tech has given a new twist to the old real estate mantra: location, location, location. Ever wonder why sometimes you see two Starbucks coffee shops located within the same block -- or right across the street from each other? It's not by chance. Site selection has been fine-tuned to a digital art. A retailer can now closely analyze all of the sales information that it has to understand the lifestyles and preferences of its customers. Then, companies can combine that info with mapping and demographic software to decide whether it's worthwhile to open a store at a given location." BusinessWeek 07/06/05

The Language of Empire Over the last half-century or so, English has risen to become the dominant global language of the era, spoken as the default in everything from international business transactions to air travel. But achieving a global reach doesn't necessarily give a language long-term staying power, as the Assyrians and the Silk Road traders found out centuries ago. Then again, some languages are kept alive past their political and economic prime by a powerful religious influence. Linguist Nicholas Ostler's new book delves into all of these factors, and aims to sort out what gives a language its power, and what can take that power away in a heartbeat. Chicago Tribune 07/06/05

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Men And Women - Our Brains Are Physically Different "In the prime of life, the cerebral cortex contains 25 billion neurons linked through 164 trillion synapses. Thoughts thread through 7.4 million miles of dendrite fibers and 62,000 miles of axons so compacted that the entire neural network is no larger than a coconut. No two brains are identical, nor are two minds ever the same. Wherever researcher Sandra Witelson looked, she discerned subtle patterns that only gender seemed to explain. Her findings buttress the proposition that basic mental differences between men and women stem in part from physical differences in the brain." Seattle Times (LAT) 07/03/05

Video As Architecture's Building Block Moving images are everywhere these days, and increasingly on the surfaces of our buildings. "It is not hard to envision a day when we will live in chameleon cities, when the radiant skin of all new buildings will be programmed to produce an ever-changing array of colors, messages and shows. The movie in the church courtyard involved the transformation of a plain white wall; architects these days are integrating the evanescent image directly into their designs, using video the way their predecessors used cast iron and stone." Newsday 07/03/05

Sunday, July 3, 2005

New Ideas About How We Think "For decades, the cognitive and neural sciences have treated mental processes as though they involved passing discrete packets of information in a strictly feed-forward fashion from one cognitive module to the next or in a string of individuated binary symbols -- like a digital computer. More recently, however, a growing number of studies support dynamical-systems approaches to the mind. In this model, perception and cognition are mathematically described as a continuous trajectory through a high-dimensional mental space; the neural activation patterns flow back and forth to produce nonlinear, self-organized, emergent properties -- like a biological organism." Cornell News 06/05

Friday, July 1, 2005

How Filesharing Decision Will Chill Innovation Fallout from this week's Supreme Court decision on filesharing? Lawrence Lessig says it will chill innovation over the next decade. "By making it a process that goes through the courts, you've just increased the legal uncertainty around innovation substantially and created great opportunities to defeat legitimate competition. You've shifted an enormous amount of power to those who oppose new types of competitive technologies. Even if in the end, you as the innovator are right, you still spent your money on lawyers instead of on marketing or a new technology." BusinessWeek 07/01/05

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