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Monday, January 25, 2010


The age of cross-pollination. Curation Culture, for want of a better term, thrives on cross-pollination. Everything is interesting, and what's more, we've developed the tools and the aesthetics with which to create the deep levels of analysis that would overwhelm a masters thesis from the 80s or 90s. Take this, the Samizdat Drafting Company's One Book, Many Readings loving, obsessive examination of the 'choose your own adventure' books of the 1980s, complete with a remarkable set of animations and the ability to 'play' a book.

It's beautiful and fascinating. Yet content is practically overwhelmed by presentation. The contemporary digital toolset rips the books into their constituent pieces, making kinetic art out of what would once have been created with a set of index cards and an eraser. The site cross-pollinates modern obsessions - retro style and gaming and infographics - to create a dataset that is ultimately more than the sum of its parts, reflecting not so much our interest in the original books but in their role as a source of data.

(There are plenty of places online to find out about CYOA, Fighting Fantasy, etc., including the original company. The Samizdat project's conclusions were that the CYOA books gradually decreased in complexity over time (perversely going against Steven Johnson's contentions in Everything Bad Is Good for You that pop culture is increasingly multi-threaded and dense).)

As part of the analysis, Samizdat draws parallels with the typographic chaos of early web pages gradually giving way to restraint, concluding: 'When a world of new possibilities has just opened, it's hard to find the will for restraint. But, in time, people scale back the more gratuitous uses of this sort of glitz, moving from what's possible to what best suits the material.' In typography, perhaps this rings true, but in all other aspects of online culture, scaling back is not the dominant trend. Instead, information density and manipulation are pushed to the fore, their complexity a virtue and the brave new worlds created by statistic-saturated infographics form yet another spoke in the cut-and-paste culture celebrated by the visual weblog.

Sites like information aesthetics and cool infographics focus on contemporary graph fetishism; the data is almost a secondary consideration to the presentation. Nicholas Felton's 'Annual Reports' are a classic case in point, not only the ur-form of the personal infographic, but a clear precursor to the proliferation of Apps for tracking every aspect of your life.

Up until a few years ago, the information-saturated environment was a visual cue for extreme, dystopian futurism - Blade Runner's looming airship/billboards, or Minority Report's highly targeted augmented reality advertising. The logical conclusion of such a future is rendered in the speculative 'augmented hyper reality' video by Keiichi Matsuda, currently doing the rounds ('Augmented reality may recontextualise the functions of consumerism and architecture, and change in the way in which we operate within it.'). For fans of data density, augmented reality is truly a blessing, a means of overlaying the modern world with the many layers of extraneous data that would otherwise continue to go unseen.

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Other things. Error Gorilla, a tumblr / The Brown Car Blog, pretty self-explanatory / Daniel Simon's work is unashamedly romantic, almost old-fashion in its shiny, fetishistic futurism / Cloudberry Cake Proselytism, cheerleading for old school indie pop / BooBooGBs photostream, old school Hollywood glamour / Burning World, an mp3 blog / make tracks on train tracks. Reminiscent of the great Fisher Price Music Box Record Player (not to be confused with the Fisher Price Phonograph, which could play actual records. More info).

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England's most hated building to be demolished. Surprisingly this is the 'IMAX' in Bournemouth, a piece of waterfront regeneration tat that has long since lost the cinema that gave it its name and currently houses only a KFC. Here's hoping Plymouth's Drake Circus isn't too far behind / related, Confessions of a Conservation Officer / it's nice when ephemera is dovetailed with contemporary practice. Delicious Industries' Reference Box is a good case in point.

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A collection of trade secrets / Photos of 24 abandoned and decayed hotels from around the world / The Soviet Heritage and European Modernism / squatting culture in Barcelona: Squat Barcelona and Usurpa / paintings by Gigi Scaria / Guitars for OK Go by Moritz Waldemeyer.

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British high tech architecture as evidence of 'a na•ve dream of an America which never existed', and now the epitome of contemporary cultural banality, at entschwindet und vergeht. Response at NB and S, mostly on the same page / more commentary: melancholy, sadness and Zaha: 'And this futility just deepensÉ the building is an example of 'Google Earth Urbanism'. That is to say; all this complexity can only really be seen from directly above.'

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