Archive

Geography

I really enjoyed Andrew’s book. I thought I knew about the structure (and structures) of the Internet, but this is is a detailed, critical and fun illumination which quickly proved me mistaken. It’s also a travel book, about an unreal place that spans/permeates real places, lives, spaces. And a wonderful one at that. Highly recommended.

(My emboldening below)

Everything you do online travels through a tube. Inside those tubes (by and large) are glass fibers. Inside those fibers is light. Encoded in that light is, increasingly, us. [Location 94]

The Internet is everywhere; the Internet is nowhere. But indubitably, as invisible as the logical might seem, its physical counterpart is always there. [Location 276]

TeleGeography in Washington was asking a computer science department in Denmark to show how it was connected to a university in Poland. It was like a spotlight in Scandinavia shining on twenty-five hundred different places around the world, and reporting back on the unique reflections. [Location 418]

You can demarcate a place on a map, pinpoint its latitude and longitude with global positioning satellites, and kick the very real dirt of its very real ground. But that’s inevitably going to be only half its story. The other half of the story comes from us, from the stories we tell about a place and our experience of it. [Location 485]

“If you brought a sophisticated customer into the data center and they saw how clean and pretty the place looked—and slick and cyberrific and awesome—it closed deals,” said Adelson. [Location 1211]

But it wasn’t the machine’s mystery or power that terrified Adams most. It was how clearly it signified a “break of continuity,” as he puts it. The dynamo declared that his life had now been lived in two different ages, the ancient and the modern. It made the world new. [Location 1826]

He counted off the zeros on the screen. “This point is the millisecond … this point is the microsecond … and this one is usually expressed as nanoseconds, or billionths of a second.” I mulled all the zeros on the screen for a moment. And when I looked up, everything was different. The cars rushing by outside on Highway 87 seemed filled with millions of computational processes per second—their radios, cell phones, watches, and GPSs buzzing inside of them. Everything around me looked alive in a new way: the desktop PCs, the LCD projector, the door locks, the fire alarms, and the desk lamps. [Location 2045]

Nearly universally, they wore black T-shirts and zip-up hooded sweatshirts, handy for spending long hours on the hard floor of the server rooms, facing the dry exhaust blast of an enormous router.[ocation 2378]

The Internet “cloud,” and even each piece of the cloud, was a real, specific place—an obvious reality that was only strange because of the instantaneity with which we constantly communicate with these places. [Location 3159]

The Internet had no master plan, and—aesthetically speaking—no master hand. There wasn’t an Isambard Kingdom Brunel—the Victorian engineer of Paddington Station and the Great Eastern cable ship—thinking grandly about the way all the pieces fit together, and celebrating their technological accomplishment at every opportunity. On the Internet there were only the places in between, places like this, trying to disappear [location 3183]

The emphasis wasn’t on the journey; the journey pretended not to exist. But obviously it did. [location 3186]

“Want to see how this shit really works?” he asked. “This has nothing to do with clouds. If you blew the ‘cloud’ away, you know what would be there?” Patchett asked. “This. This is the cloud. All of those buildings like this around the planet create the cloud. The cloud is a building. It works like a factory. Bits come in, they get massaged and put together in the right way, then packaged up and sent out. But everybody you see on this site has one job, that’s to keep these servers right here alive at all times.” [location 3268]

“If you lose rural America, you lose your infrastructure and your food. It’s incumbent for us to wire everybody, not just urban America. The 20 percent of the people living on 80 percent of the land will be left behind. Without what rural America provides to urban America, urban America couldn’t exist. And vice versa. We have this partnership.” [location 3299]

I’m attempting to make a map style for possible use in Dopplr that follows the principles outlined in Kevin Lynch’s "Image of the City".

Lynch contended that we make legible mental maps of the city with 5 types of object: paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks.

I’m trying to make a style that emphasises these, and eschews the ‘satnav’ style car-oriented mapping. It must be noted that this is a style that works most effectively at city-scale zoom levels, which it’s intended for. It looks pretty useless at country-scale.

I’m really enjoying using the Cloudmade editor, and it’s intriguing to think of the presentation of maps with dynamic/swapping styles that are fitting for certain contexts of scale, rather than the same scheme all the way from satellite to street view (no pun intended…)

Bldgblog
Bartlett
23.1.08

RAW NOTES:

Free software and access = no obligation so feeds enthusiasm ?like sunlight or vitamin c?
(He speaks very fast in a NE USA accent this is not going to be a transcript)

Archigram x Ballard x Philadelphia x depression x claustrophobia = start of bldgblog

A catalogue of enjoyment.

Changed his life.
> Map of climate zones in europe projected in europe 2071 from the guardian
How do design climate-appropriately for a rapidly changing climate? What is site-specificity in this dynamic context?

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Refs “solastaglia” cf. Collision Detection (http://www.collisiondetection.net/mt/archives/2005/12/solastalgia.html) – climate-change melancholy. Losing a homeland without moving anywhere
Will future pharma companies sell you pill to combat climate change
Obsessed by the fact that the earth is becoming unearthly
Showing projected maps of the future coastline is in some senses “adventure tourism”
Be aware of the risks of showing these images – might be exciting rather than prohibitive

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Quotes from “The Drowned World”
> Shows billboard architecture
Could climate change refugees be clinging to billboards on the hammersmith flyover?

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

> Battleship island, japan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashima_Island

> Bannermans island: private home of the world’s biggest arms dealer at the time of the spanish-american war

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bannerman’s_Castle

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Rumour was that he used faulty cannons as rebar-the thoughts of turning weapons into architecture is exciting
> Island fortress of the coast of india
> Maunsell towers off whitstable – influence for archigram
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maunsell_Forts

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Texas tower off the coast of new jersey – post-war
http://www.radomes.org/museum/documents/TexasTower.html

> Oilrigs by statoil
– Man standing on the seabed
Costs about the same as flat in downtown manhattan / camden designed by rogers
The premium offshore oil-rig market could be tapped into
Dubai terraforming
– The thing that you don’t realise is the scale
Dubai is very disappointing, very boring. Invest that much money and all you can come with is dumb homes for sports-stars? That much hubris, time, money and slave labour? And that?s all you come with? Islands in the shape of a palm tree?

> Artifical reefs – what if archigram had been active in this area?

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

- Looks remarkable looks like chinese armillary spheres- jesuit astronomy instruments
– The reef has a brand on it.
– In 300yrs when this is a “quote/unquote” a natural object – someone will find a logo.
– Sovereign control of undersea structures: there is a feature under the sea between china and japan. Japanese are cultivating coral in order to grow an island so that they can make the territory claim.
What do artificial islands imply for the future of sovereign territory: is the future of colonialism reef science?

George Perec: worms/table/epoxy
http://www.amazon.com/Life-Users-Manual-Georges-Perec/dp/0879237511
China Mieville: slow sculpture
http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/sciencefiction/0,,1312147,00.html
http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2006/01/demolition-sculptures-or-sandblasting.html

The evolution of the landmass of north america >california is not solid ground – it is “the remnants of islands, former continents, lost indonesias”

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Google Earth: Ron blakey geology maps

http://tinyurl.com/223rmr

San andreas fault is itself an assemblage of microfaults

Taipei 101 is activating the surface of the earth – causing minor tectonic faults – is it a long term weapon?

The interaction between architecture, weight and the earth’s surface could be further explored
The more people move to LA and build, the safer it will be to live there. The anti-taipei101. Pin the earth down.
We could be massaging the tension out of the earth surface with traffic.

A view to a kill – christopher walken and “terrestrial weaponisation”

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

US military: “Earthquake Array”

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

The us military is the real Archigram.

Modular, portable cities, temporary structures, flexible autonomous cities
Dungeon instancing/sharding: in WoW – what are the implications of that for architecture. If you had billions of dollars and very nimble stagehands you could perhaps achieve this effect in the physical world. If I walk into the same building 5 mins later to you? Is it the same?

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Subterranea Brittanica
http://www.subbrit.org.uk/
Where have all the trapdoors gone? Why doesn?t pret-a-manger have trapdoors?
Border tunnels – hidden entrances in cargo containers on the border. Crosses through sovereign space into a store front in mexico. “The border is filigreed with this sort of thing. Landscape experiences that are not available to you if you are law-abiding”
Ground-penetrating radar – non invasive archeology

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

Underground cities could be faked? if you hack the GPR?
Biking under london from bethnal green to whitehall – in the 80s?
Urban exploration: burgeoning
Michael Cook/toronto: interview on bldgblog
http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2007/08/drains-of-canada-interview-with-michael.html
Different tunnel technology sound different – you can almost sonically-navigate around

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

From underworld to offworld
Mars rovers are the landscape photographers of the future
The new landscapes of the sublime are off-world
Kim Stanley Robinson: comparative planetology is a new thought process for humans.
We’re exporting a earth-centric template onto the other.

Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG at The Bartlett

> Columbia hills complex of mars of memorial sites for dead astronauts
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4143223/
“Mars is becoming earth through our melancholy”
Mars analogue site is being constructed on earth: mars conditions and appearance.
We are making mars like earth and earth like mars, either deliberately on a small scale like this or accidentally on a large scale through climate change :

These are interesting times – “The Earth is becoming unearthly”

Gates' telescope

While this might be a typically hilarious technocratic and somewhat bloodless statement by Bill Gates, you have to admire the project itself:

‘”LSST is truly an internet telescope which will put terabytes of data each night into the hands of anyone that wants to explore it. [It is] a shared resource for all humanity – the ultimate network peripheral device to explore the universe,” he said.’

Gates gives $10m, Charles Simonyi gives 20$m. Various other software billionaires are exploring the human genome, or building space programmes.

In the past I’ve somewhat facetiously wondered what would happen if the BBC used it’s annual billions to move into space exploration, creating entertainments as spin-off.

A question I asked Max and Jack in the pub before Christmas was – what if these ‘exploratory billionaires’ made a land-grab for the public-service broadcaster’s territory instead?

Gates after all already owns Corbis etc., Google is mapping and measuring the Earth constantly for representation. While these are definitely for-profit enterprises, what if Larry and Sergey et al decided not to settle for just Google Earth but go after “Planet Earth” also?

If Google decided to beat the BBC’s Natural History Unit at it’s own game, what would be the result?

What if they decided to devote technology, money, phd’s and determination to mapping, recording, simulating, visualising and telling stories of the natural world with data rather than film. A kind of Quokka-for-nature, might be one possible outcome I guess.

What if they offered all of the data and assets they gather to scientists, students, schoolkids, storytellers with an open license? What if they gave it to games developers, educators, exhibitions to be used in playful, interactive, engaging ways?

Currently in the domain of natural history, there are efforts to build a ‘commons of content’ such as ARKive that are, pretty good, (although the Terms of Service are not exactly inviting) but you can’t help thinking if someone of the GOOG mindset and resource-base got their hands on it, it would be truly, literally awe-inspiring.

I guess the thrust of my question is what happens when software people with serious resources behind them get very, very serious about what’s traditionally seen as the preserve of ‘content’ or ‘editorial’.

Often at ‘content companies’, especially notable public-service broadcasters (ahem) – the great teams taking technical, systemic approaches to knowledge are indulged and somewhat encouraged at early stages, but if there is a spark of promise then ‘of course someone editorial will be brought in’ above them.

This does not often end well.

The troubling thought, that even in core areas of expertise with glorious heritage such as natural history, we’ll see that public-service broadcasters can, and will get dis-intermediated in a world where data is played with as much as stories are told.

Based on the rise of ‘exploratory philanthopy’ that aims to create “a shared resource for all humanity” as evidenced in quotes like Gate’s above, this might not be a bad thing…

gmm

Many have commented on Google’s new version of Google Mobile Maps, and specifically it’s “My Location” feature.

Carlo Longino homes in on the fact that it provides, finally, a somewhat humane and useful basis for a lot of the location-based services use-cases that mobile service providers and product marketers have salivated over for around a decade.

“I know my own zip code, but I don’t know its boundaries, nor do I know any others here in Vegas. So if I’m out looking for something, I’ve got little idea where to start. That’s the big problem with local search – we tend to spend a lot of our time in the same places, and we get to know them. We’re most likely to use search when we’re in an unfamiliar area – but often our unfamiliarity with the area precludes us from even being able to divine a starting point for our search. You don’t necessarily need GPS to get a starting point, as this new feature highlights.”

GMMv2.0 is sufficiently-advanced technology, not because of the concept behind it (location via cell network is pretty known) but the sheer, apparent quality of execution, simplicity and joy injected into the thing. This is something till now missing from most if not all mobile software, especially Symbian software.

Janne once said to me: “no-one codes symbian apps for fun”, and it shows. It’s enough to get the things working for most developers, and as they’re mostly doing it for a salary rather than fun, they walk away before the joy gets injected, or don’t argue when it gets de-scoped.

GMMv2.0 has some of the lovely touches that we’ve seen from the iPhone implementation carried over – like the location pins dropping into place with a little restitutional bounce. Just. So. It seems quicker and more focussed that v1.0, with location search features working to give the bare-bones info right there on the map rather than breaking-frame to a dialog.

The main, huge, thing though is MyLocation.

Chris gave a talk a few years ago at Etech 2004 called “35 ways to find your location”
, which argued against relying on GPS and ‘satnav’ metaphors for location services.

I don’t know if they downloaded his presentation in Mountain View, but GMMv2.0 delivers on Chris’s vision by not only using cellular location fiding, but how it interprets and displays it. By ditching the assumption that all location tasks are about a -> b in a car, and presenting a fuzzy, more-humane interpretation of your location – it gives a wonderful foundation for wayfinding, particularly while walking, which hopefully they’ll build on.

In other possible advantages that “Do not use while driving” gives you is it become a resource you can use indoors, where I’d guess 90% discussions about where to go and what to do actually happen, and where 90% of GPS’s won’t ever work.

Other contenders in the mobile wayfinding world seem to be pursuing interfaces built on the metaphors and assumptions of the car-bound “satnav” world e.g. Nokia Maps. Probably as a side-effect of most of their senior management driving to work in suburban technology parks everyday!

Actually, Nokia Maps (at least the last version I used, I switched to GMM and haven’t returned) does something even more bizarre when it starts up and shows you a view of the entire earth’s globe from orbit! I cannot think of a less user-centred, task-appropriate entry point into an application!

Very silly.

The Google mobile team are to be congratulated not only for technical innovation in GMMv2.0, but also having the user-experience savvy to step beyond established cliche in a hot area and think in a context-sensitive, user-centred way about the problem.

As Carlo says:

“I continue to be slightly amazed at the speed with which Google gets these apps and services out, and the overall quality of them, though I guess it’s a testament to the amount of resources they’re throwing at mobile these days.”

Can’t wait to see what’s next.

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