Thanks to a note from Willard on Humanist I came across this essay in the London Review of Books, Andrew O’Hagan · The Lives of Ronald Pinn (LRB 8 January 2015). The author decided to develop a false identity and “legend” by using the name of a dead person (Ronald Pinn) who was born around the time he was. This was in response to stories about how UK police had been going undercover since 1968 to infiltrate political groups. The police had been bringing identities back to life so O’Hagan decided to try it. In the process he explored a lot of the dark web including ordering drugs from the Silk Road, ordering guns, getting false IDs and so on.
The essay or biography is well written and poignant. Just before ends the legendary Pinn he meets the original’s mother.
‘Oh, Ronnie,’ she said. ‘There was nobody like him.’
A paper I am a co-author on just came out through Scholarly and Research Communication (Vol. 5, No. 4, 2014). It is titled The Provision of Digital Apparatus for Use in Experimental Interfaceson and Stan Ruecker led the work. It is a nice article that shows a number of prototypes we have developed (actually I only contributed to a couple, but Stan led them.)
The Economist has a nice essay on The future of the book. (Thanks to Lynne for sending this along.) The essay has three interfaces:
A listening interface
A remediated book interface where you can flip pages
A scrolling interface
As much as we have moved beyond skeuomorphic interfaces that carry over design cues from older objects, the book interface is actually attractive. It suits the topic, which is captured in the title of the essay, “From Papyrus to Pixels: The Digital Transformation Has Only Just Begun.”
The content of the essay looks at how books have been remediated over time (from scroll to print) and then discusses the current shifts to ebooks. It points out that the ebook market is not like the digital music market. People still like print books and they don’t like to pick them apart like they do albums. The essay is particularly interesting on the self-publishing phenomenon and how authors are bypassing publishers and stores by publishing through Amazon.
The last chapter talks about audio books, one of the formats of the essay itself, and other formats (like treadmill forms that flash words at speed). This is where they get to the “transformation that has only just begun.”
The other is the site Book Traces where people upload interesting examples of marginal marks. Here is their call for examples:
Readers wrote in their books, and left notes, pictures, letters, flowers, locks of hair, and other things between their pages. We need your help identifying them because many are in danger of being discarded as libraries go digital. Books printed between 1820 and 1923 are at particular risk. Help us prove the value of maintaining rich print collections in our libraries.
Stan drew my attention to Raw an online visualization tool that is simply elegant. You paste in some data, choose the type of chart, drag and drop dimensions to be graphed and bingo. It reminds me of Many Eyes but simpler to use.
I was reading about the Yale Lifestreams project which may have been one of the first life-tracking projects. Lifestreams was developed by Eric Freeman (it was his 1997 PhD project) and David Gelernter. They had some interesting ideas about how the computer should organize your data into streams rather than you having to file stuff. The streams could take advantage of the flow of your life. Here is how lifestream is defined:
A lifestream is a time-ordered stream of documents that functions as a diary of your electronic life; every document you create and every document other people send you is stored in your lifestream.
Freeman and Gelernter tried to commercialize the ideas through Scopeware released by Mirror Worlds. If you search Google Images for Scopeware you can see a number of screenshots that give an idea of how the interface organized files into streams.
Many of their interface ideas seem to have reappeared in things like Apple’s Cover Flow and Time Machine which explains why Mirror Worlds sued Apple (unseccessfully).
What intrigues me is the focus on time and the move away from representations of time as a line that traverses from left to right. In streams you are in time and can swim back like driving down a road to the past.
Stan pointed me to a net site called Selfiexploratory where you can explore selfies with a very neat faceted browsing control panel. The panel lets you restrict the selfies to those where the person looks up or down; or the head is tilted. You can thus explore the database of selfies by pose and other categories.
From Twitter I learned about the Museum of Online Museums. The idea is great. It is part of a site by Coudal Partners, “a design, advertising and interactive studio … as an ongoing experiment in web publishing, design and commerce.” I’m not sure what that means? Will this survive? They also have an enormous Board which seems to be voluntary.
Bill Buxton has made available his collection his Buxton Collection of Interactive Devices. This collection of input and touch devices like chord keyboards, watches, pen computers, and joysticks. I saw some of his collection when at GRAND in 2011 as he mounted a display for CHI 2011 which took place right before.
What is doubly interesting is the Microsoft Silverlight PivotViewer which is for exploring large sets of visual objects. You can explore the Buxton Collection with Pivot if you install Silverlight. Apparently Pivot is discontinued, but you can still try it on the Buxton Collection.
The interface of the PivotViewer reminds me of Stan Ruecker’s work on rich prospect browsing. He developed an interface that always keeps the full set of objects in view while drawing some forward and minimizes others.
John Montague and Luciano Frizzera have designed a cool game that allows people to play at collaboratively completing digital humanities projects. We are now working with GO::DH to make the centers and projects real ones from around the world.