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Tuesday, July 17, 2007


There's a lack of depth on the internet, a world with an atmosphere just one pixel thick that has reached out across all forms of media and turned everything into a vast, shallow pool that stretches as far as the eye can see. All visual culture is instantly at our fingertips, with the thrill of discovery superseded by a high fructose corn syrup buzz that comes from near-constant, 30fps stimulation.

Computers are facilitating a period of intense cultural introspection. Those retro scans, old car manuals, cover scans, flickr sets (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, you see what we mean), collections of pop culture in all its forms, ostensibly form a window into the past. All this digital nostalgia is inevitably shaping the present, too. Fashion revivals come round quicker, with product design slowly and inexorably following it into a cyclical system - a 'fashion system', as Philippe Starck once said, probably with glee.

As what was once analogue becomes digital, endlessly reproduced and distributed, the digital world is on a mission to become increasingly analogue. The virtual desktop became virtually cluttered within minutes of being invented, when a clever software engineer hid one file underneath another in an ultimately doomed attempt at mimicing the real world behaviour of important documents. GUI design now exists as a form of perpetual distraction, a blinking, sliding collection of slick little vignettes that animate the surfaces (the iPhone being the most obvious example). It might seem like we're drilling down, deeper and deeper into the heart of the machine, the database, the stack of photos, the map, but with each refresh of the screen our tricked retinas fill our brains with a sense of actually

The only upshot to all this augmented analogism is a renewed fetish for the genuinely analogue (the screenprint, or vinyl single, for example), things that have undergone an internet-driven revival. The underlying trend, however, is not for a return to analogue modes of display or data, but for digital to increasingly demonstrate an 'analogue feel'. Recall the friction-less tablet of Microsoft's Surface computer system ('commercially-available', apparently, which is enough for someone to make their own pithy parody). Surface is a glowing pool of personal reminiscences, hot restaurants and business cards that spin, slide, spool and shrink at the command of your fingertips. Computers appear to be doing a great job of mimicking the kind of real world behaviour we all imagine we'd be rather good at - casually fanning out a deck of cards, or photographs, flipping a business card into a colleague's pocket.

What does it all mean? Maybe we're happy with living in simulation. Those people who 'buy the download to listen to, but ... get the vinyl to own' are clinging to the last few bits and pieces that are no longer bits and bytes. Objects are dematerialising, reduced to little square jpgs that you can shuffle through. The imitation of depth and the deluded sense of global cultural immersion is creating a modern flatland that is reducing everything down to one level.

*
Other things. Apologies for the recent lack of posting. Deleted images, via Coudal / Zaha Hadid Blog / Cities in Games / Dresden in Google Earth, via digital urban / the Google Earth Crop Circle Collection / form magazine, the complete archives, including ads. A wonderful resource. Header image comes from here.

'In Los Angeles, sunlit glinting off the sharply angled steel curves of Gehry's Walt Disney Music Hall raises the temperature of neighbors' houses by 15 degrees.' Is this the Architecture of the Absurd? 'How "Genius" Disfigured a Practical Art'. Slideshow / 101 Architects / Love Will Tear Us Apart, 'the 85+ recorded covers of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" mapped in relation to the original recordings by the band.' / where is Event Horizon?

Military Crytozoology: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area." / Out at the Glass House. Will these images be used for a guessing game in years to come? / fine set of almost fungal graffiti / Type in the Sky via Core 77 / how long is a snooze? / Met given real time C-charge data / a collection of esoteric facts.

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