Sunday, 27 December 2009

Iceland #1

Millennium People is back, with a new look (pretty sweet), new series of posts, but the same agenda: to examine the spirit of the times, to psychoanalyse the people of the new millennium. Yeah, yeah, you've heard it all before; to the meat in the millennial sandwich...

Iceland is a microcosm for the current global condition. Crippled by the last financial crisis, it is also the home to several of the world's largest glaciers, all of which are quickly disappearing. It is the only country powered by 100% renewable sources, and is one of only two countries permitted to hunt whales (the other is Japan). Down its middle is a ridge formed from the tectonic movement of the European and American plates, shifting against each other at the rate of about 1cm a year. In 20 million years Iceland will be the largest nation in Europe.

Examining the country in terms of energy and sustainability, the development of both global warming and global economic systems has practical applications at a larger scale. Over the next couple of posts Millennium People will recount its exploits to the strange land of Iceland...

Friday, 25 December 2009

seasons greetings millennial peeps

The lights in the next town over – reminding us all about the true spirit of Christmas.

stocking fillers (ho ho ho)

Santa and his elephant, via Minesota Historical Society, see also Sociological Images on Black Pete...

Fill your stockings with this hefty packet of links: arranged in no particular order.

Top 10 people who died too young. Related, Young Gallery (not really, its cool pictures of animals and shit); what breakfast cereal you should eat; related, Cairo: garbage city; the Japanese ex-mining town/modern ruin that is Gunkanjima; abandoned malls (a really good one that); Sustainability is a myth; Badass of the week.

Drawings of Ray guns; tricks of the eye? street installations; like, what even is that thing, in that jar? Thing in a jar; stupid IT questions; DIY converting text to binary; how to dress up like a lego man; emoticons from the 70's made with a typewriter; a weird, but gramatically correct sentence: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Send a postcard from NASA to the International Space Station; Star Trek was the most ripped off film of the year; Retro Junk; Tracing the journey of a single bit; comic about cars and murder; someone once asked me, 'how do you go about drawing the face of someone you've never seen?' Dude, Flashface.

Shrigley's notice; mind over matter; Lem's lost opera; London, now and then; an existential video game that's doing the rounds; the world's first functioning molecular transistor; the future of the World...

The first time I've ever done a fistful and not referenced Things.

Via Norwegian photographer Rune Guneriussen

Thursday, 24 December 2009

unfinished 2009 drafts #1: data visualisation

From top: Dan Hill's 'The Cloud'; 'Sound as object' via Generator X; Toyo Ito's 'Tower of Winds'; Weather Bracelet from The Teeming Void.

This is an unfinished draft from 2009, there are two others which have been chronologically placed into the archive (#2 & #3)...

The precipitation of the digital into the real has been accelerated by a virulent new wave of 'data visualisation', through which digital data and statistics are presented either through real-time displays or objects, mostly made by 'rapid prototyping' (which, as anyone who has ever used the process knows, is far from rapid).

I don’t know if you heard about it already, but Dan Hill (of City of Sound fame) recently posted about his new project: The Cloud. I won’t go into details, nor cast an opinion, but simply group it together with several other projects as examples of a New Millennium Spirit: data visualisation. In times-gone-by the problem was collecting the data, not representing it. Researchers developed speculative manners of presentation (graphs and specialist charts) and then went out into the world to collect the information. What I'm really saying is that modes of data visualisation were propositional about a certain reality.

Today, there exists way too much data: insensible and unreadable. Understandably, the challenge is in creating new ways of presenting that data. Unfortunately, very few of these modes are intuitively comprehensible. In the world of arbitrary employment of technological tools (Za … what was her name?) data visualisation has remained ‘meaningful’. But in reality, it’s just a new tool for the generation of forms and images. And yet there is something rather banal about all these works (with perhaps the exception of Ito – not out of favouritism, but simply because he was so far ahead of his times).

Baudrillard wrote: “It is the difference that constitutes the poetry of the map and the charm of the territory, the magic of the concept and the charm of the real.” This difference belongs to the order of representation. Though it might equally be the order of transduction: the conversion of one physical quality to another (as light to heat, kinetic energy to electricity, magnetic impulses to sound, etc). The map is in some sense a translation of the territory, from a space through the hand & mind onto the page.

Data visualisation is not the same as cartography (although cartography could be seen as a type of data visualisation, it is at its foundation a conceptual visualisation, since our perception of landscape is not a data operation) – the difference is that there is no difference between the source data and the presented data. There is no abstraction of the information, only an abstraction of the presentation of that data. The reification of the digital only produces a physical version of the electronic dross. Nothing about the information has changed, only its mode of presentation.

This goes beyond Baudrillard’s notions of simulacrum and simulation in the sense that his hyperreality had no counterpart in the real. The visualisation of the digital has recently moved from the ethereal to the real – 3d printing, and any number of other manners for turning data into objects. But what is the meaning of these objects? And what are their purposes? A map is a practical document related to the revelation of the real, but a bracelet of the year’s weather?