The Difference of Code Points

What is text on a computer?

A brief introduction to code pages and Unicode is a good overview of code and text.

The point is that on the computer there are just sequences of binary digits. The data doesn’t include the information needed to decode the sequences. (Even the sequencing is coded.) To get recognizable text one needs a lookup table that maps code points to abstract characters and from there to glyphs that look right. To get text you need a system with enough variety to handle the characters you want – it is the difference between the codes that makes text – something the poststructuralists realized at a different register.
Continue reading The Difference of Code Points

Visual Word Recognition

Do we read by just looking at the first and last letter of a word and its length?

Uncle Jazzbeau’s Gallimaufrey: visual word recognition is a blog entry with responses on this subject. It is complete with examples of texts with the middle letters of words scrambled. The idea that the order of the middle letters doesn’t matter is something between an urban legend and the subject of psychology tests.
Continue reading Visual Word Recognition

Plowing the Dark 2, Meaning No End

It’s lights, Ronan. Just lights.

He took a theatrical step toward her. That’s right. He showed her his empty palms, then the backs of his hands. He stood against the north wall of the Cavern, a living silhouette, glowing with a luminous halo. Just lights. But then, what isn’t?” (p. 195)

Virtual Reality is just a fancy version of Plato’s cave. A version that fools us because we know it is virtual, but are in love with our ingenuity.
Continue reading Plowing the Dark 2, Meaning No End

Plowing the Dark of Virtual Realities

Is there a difference between the halucinations of a confined imagination and virtual reality?

This is one thread in Richard Powers’ brilliant historical fiction about 80s VR and politics, Plowing the Dark. Two narrative threads are intertwined in this book: an artist recruited to develop compelling demos for a VR cave being developed at Seattle R&D lab in the mid-80s; and a Lebanese-American who is kidnapped after going to Beirut to teach ESL. The artist reaches back through the history of art (Rousseau, Lascaux cave paintings, and the Hagia Sophia of Byzantium) to create sites for the VR cave. The kidnapped man reaches back through memories until an ex-girlfriend becomes present. Powers reaches back to that moment in the 80s when VR technology was going to be the next paradigm shift.

The first Gulf war brings all this to an end. The war that may have been virtual in popular imagination.
Continue reading Plowing the Dark of Virtual Realities

The Producers, “If you’ve got it flaunt it!”

How would a Broadway production engage the production and consumption of film, theatre, and the imagination in general?

Well, you could make a play of a film about the making of a play that is designed to be so bad that it flops (in order to make lots of money!) You could make musical theatre version of the classic Mel Brooks, The Producers! Of course, the show was a hit, despite ironically stereotyping major groups from Jews, women, gays and, yes, even Nazi sympathizers.
Continue reading The Producers, “If you’ve got it flaunt it!”