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Monthly Archives: April 2006

Went to the dentist last friday.

I fully comply with the rest-of-the-world’s view of the British relationship with the dental arts, and am completely terrified of going to the little room with the cup of pink rinse.

I asked for recommendations from friends for a dentist who specialised in making people who hadn’t been to the dentist in… a long time… feel more relaxed and happy about the experience.

Mr. Webb told me about his dentist, Dr.Bashar Al-Naher who uses a combination of mild anaesthetic and NLP to induce relaxation and a feeling of security in his patients.

I’ve been lucky enough never to have to have surgery or be in another situation where anaesthesia was employed, so this was a novel experience for me.

Once I’d reached the state of both local and mild general anaesthesia, I had a curious feeling of distance from my body.

I felt as if my conscious mind (in which I seemed together enough to start dissecting the experience) was ‘up on a balcony’ somewhere in my head. I had a distinct feeling that I had retreated to an observation gallery, compartmentalised from my body itself, and even the lower part of my head/face where the action was.

Whilst feeling removed from ‘where the action was’, I started reflecting on ‘Where the action is’, and my previous work with Chris on embodied interaction. I even started thinking about writing this post.

Sometime during this, a small daemon system running somewhere sidled into the balcony where “I” was, and started fretting about all the dissection of the experience I was doing – perhaps fearing the degree of conscious thought going on would let the body (and the pain) in through the back door.

I went back to (un)concentrating on my breathing, and the visualisation that Dr. Al-Naher was leading me through. Happy again, I let the drilling and filling continue…

After the work had been done and I was coming out of the state of anaesthesia I was talking with the dentist, probably quite slowly and deliberately – but definitely ‘back in the room’.

There was a moment where I was aware that my foot was in an uncomfortable or precarious position. Most of the time we wouldn’t give this a microsecond’s conscious thought, and we would just effortlessly readjust the position of our foot.

I felt I had to send a discrete set of instructions down my body to my foot, almost like Flesh-Logo in order to move it.

Of course there are all sorts of flaws with this interpretation, but the temporary compartmentalising of ‘body’ and ‘mind’ that I felt just reinforced the fact that most of the time there is no separation at all.

The experience (apart from making my teeth better) has left me with real conviction the train of thought in Paul Dourish’s book – about the power of embodied interaction to improve our interfaces with technology.

And also, of course, how good my new dentist is – but he probably mindhacked me to say that…

Mike Sugarbaker makes comparisons between Last.fm and Pandora, finding pros and cons in each, and ends up asking why we can’t gene-splice the two together:

“We shouldn’t have to choose between bottom-up and top-down, between cathedral and bazaar – that’s the other thing, that Pandora’s categories were made by experts and presumably applied by professionals, whereas last.fm basically is just the product of what people do anyway, via the site and its associated Audioscrobbler tool.

People say that the top-down, made-by-those-who-know-what’s-good-for-you approach is now outmoded, but in this case it seems to have what folksonomy will never get us: the element of surprise.”

Well, the gene-splice has happened it seems: with PandoraFM (http://pandorafm.real-ity.com/)

I missed this when it made LifeHacker late last month, but this seems like an excellent idea (although there’s still no link through to Bleep. Hummph) – injecting the element of robotic, clinical input into the organic social network. Going to try it for a little while…

What other social networks could benefit by the addition of non-humans?

Often describing what something is not, can be more eloquent than a description of what it is.

Be still like the reed before the storm, young one, while Kermode crys tears of cineaste wisdom that form the dew of truth on the hot, gleaming back of gaming.

At a key moment in Silent Hill, the latest good-looking, badly written schlockbuster to be based on a video game, our heroine is told to memorise a map showing directions to a room which she must reach for reasons that are frankly unmemorable. As actress Radha Mitchell quietly recites her instructions (‘right, left, left, right’) one can briefly imagine an enthusiastic gamer, console in hand, navigating their way through the labyrinthine matrix of the film’s highly acclaimed, computer-generated source. The crucial difference, of course, is that the gamer is in control of the story, deciding which way the wanderer should turn, writing each new chapter as it progresses. ‘The video game is extraordinarily popular,’ enthuses Silent Hill movie producer Samuel Hadida, ‘because each gamer experiences something unique when they play it.’ Not so the poor old movie-goer who is left experiencing the same dreary tosh as every other disgruntled audience member. Without the luxury of a joystick in our hands, the viewer has no chance to make the incoherent on-screen antics any better – or worse. We just sit … and stare.

Aaaand…

Why? Because, unlike cinema, computer gaming is a medium which requires the player to make things up for themselves. An individual game may be laden with ‘plot points’ but its narrative is always up for grabs. It is a format of scenarios rather than stories, elements which can be bolted together in differing orders with varying outcomes. Cinema, on the other hand, is designed for people who like to watch and listen, and who expect the film-maker to get their story straight before the movie reaches the theatres. Viewing a film based on a computer game is like hanging around in an amusement arcade, peering over the shoulders of other people playing video games. It has less to do with story-telling than conceptual shelf-stacking. And it is symptomatic of the painful death of the art of narrative cinema.

Time to join the NGJNUJ, Mark…

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Apart from Kass Schmitt.

She ran the London Marathon yesterday dressed as a sunflower to raise money for hospices.

She’s nearly at her target and if you know her (or if you don’t and just share her love of tractors) then you can donate something here

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Globe of Patents, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

By chance this morning found an excellent mini-exhibition in midtown Manhattan.

“Places & Spaces: Mapping Science” has been curated by Dr. Katy Börner and Deborah MacPherson.

From the website:

“Today, the word “science” encompasses myriad arenas of physical and abstract inquiry. This unique exhibition, at the Healy Hall in midtown Manhattan, uses innovative mapping techniques to physically show what and where science is today, how different branches of science relate to each other and where different branches of study are heading, where cutting edge science is erupting as archipelagos in the oceans of the yet unknown – and – how it all relates back to the physical centers of research. The world of science is turned into a navigable landscape.

Modern mapping imagery has come a long way from Ptolemy. In this stimulating show compelling for all ages and backgrounds, audiences will both visually and tactilely uncover how contemporary scientific thought has expanded. Such visualization of scientific progress is approached through computer-generated relationships, featured on large panels as well through the collaboration of New York based artists W. Bradford Paley, Digital Image Design Incorporated and Columbia University and Ingo Gunther with renowned scientist from the field of scientonometrics: Eugene Garfield, Henry Small, André Skupin, Steven A. Morris, Kevin Boyack and Dick Klavans.”

Scientonometrics! Awesome!!!

It’s a concise, enjoyable and clear exhibit showing concrete examples of what John Thackara might call ‘macroscopes’: artworks, mappings and visualisations of complex interconnected systems (in this case science and intellectual property) that help ‘ordinary folk’ examine the choices they make and those being made for them.

Recommended.

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