Last Friday

Spending so much time on the Internet, there are certain phenomena I am most certainly aware on an unconscious level, but don’t seem to really register until someone points them out. Such is the case of the #shitpic, the subject of Brian Feldman’s great essay The Triumphant Rise of the Shitpic, which, unlike other -pics, I was relieved to find is a purely metaphoric descriptior of very lo-fi images, tipically of memes, that are usually produced when mobile users take screen captures or photograph screens in order to circunvent the lack of re-sharing or download functions in apps such as Instagram. Doing so adds layers of recompression and degradation that mimic analog properties and ‘age’ a meme as it spreads, up to the point the shittiest pic correlates with the funniest (or at least the most viral) meme.

Nick Douglas has a few more links and comments on the subject, including his contribution to a Journal of Visual Culture issue dedicated to memes, which is refreshingly free to read.

Going in the absolutely opposite direction (#tastypics?), I found these demos of the BPG image format absolutely jawdropping, and I hope BPGs start to replace JPEGs, like, yesterday. However, since BPG images are, very basically, still HEVC frames, I sincerely hope software patents won’t muck everything up and ensure JPEG reign well into the 2030s, allowing generations upon generations of #shitpics to overrun the Internet.

Sunday, December 7th

The Sixth Stage of Grief is Retro-Computing

Paul Ford (again) with a story that is a veritable and emotional tour de force about the loss of an old friend, a friendship that had been cemented on a mutual interest in computing, weaving together personal memories, home computing history and some remarks about emulation.

It’s interesting the experience of an old OS can be as poignant as a personal memento as an old photograph or a personal artifact; nostalgia knows no medium, after all. Old software, though, is not commonly found in shoeboxes in the attic, nor do the platforms to run it. I believe this proves just how critical and thorny some issues of digital preservation are: for retro-computing, at least, does exist — software can be copied to newer media and circuits can be emulated —, but what about retro social networking? Retro-smartphones? We’re probably going to lose this present: in the age of Big Data there’ll be hardly any artifacts for nostagia.

Saturday, November 22nd

Thursday, November 20th

Tuesday, November 11th

Vemödalen (the fear that everything has already been done) from John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows  Studio Daily

While too many forces — most of all family and advertising — try to pass the idea each one of us is special or different and that we should 'express ourselves' or something, it’s always worth reminding that we are not so special. Nobody is; and there is a very real sense of safety in numbers in embracing the possibility of being trite and the clichéd, and in recognizing people similar to us most certainly had the same ideas. This seems like a recipe for conformity, but therein lies the real challenge: not in expressing our (not so) unique selves, but in maintaining critical freedom from the twin desires of fitting in and of being unique.


While we’re on the subject, here’s an amusing scientific paper titled The hipster effect: When anticonformists all look the same (PDF). And so it may be asked, why shouldn’t anticonformists look the same? And why should we care — as long as the anticonformists are true anticonformists?  Boing Boing

Monday, November 3rd

A couple of weeks ago I led a workshop on ‘analog software’ during the FuturePlaces media lab here in Porto. Influenced by Casey Reas’ articulation between creative coding and conceptual art I had expected participants to be interested in sketching procedural graphics on paper or canvas. Instead, I seemed to have struck a deeper chord by mentioning in passing SocialFiction’s .walk. Participants became more interested in ‘coding’ performative behaviour and questioning the way software is eating the world, which was a very welcome surprise.

A more detailed debriefing is up at the FuturePlaces website. Please also be sure to read Sara Moreira's Coding as Cooking essay which is a very interesting personal testimony, relating the Analog Software workshop with the great Frugal Food Challenge we had both attended and had a lot of fun at.

October 31st

October 6th

Tilde.club

As the creator, Paul Ford (also), defines it, "a cool place where people can just hang out and make web pages on the web".

The Tilde Club no longer accepts new members, which is unfortunate but understandable since this is not supposed to be Ello but rather something like an doomed-utopian Geocities, webrings included. And I do think there’s something wonderful about randomly clicking through the webpages Tilde members have been “making on the web” (eg. this page that pulls you beyond the 1990s cyberspace event horizon). As Ford tweeted, it’s refreshing to see people doing things rather than just saying things — which, coming to think of it, would be the core difference between the Early Web and the Centralized & Appified Web of nowadays. 

A triumph for the Indie Web!

September 15th

I spent a week in residence with the Teatroensaio company in the countryside, recording landscapes and interviewing locals in the villages of Famalicão da Serra, Fernão Joanes and Videmonte deep near Serra da Estrela. Some of the material was for the video projections of the Transumância play, and the rest will be edited into a documentary film. More soon!

September 5th