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weblog archives
eXTReMe Tracker
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Hypertext as the death of arcana, or how the click killed curiosity. The depth of the internet is, of course, limitless, a bottomless pit of html that can take us off and away on any number of unexpected byways and diversions. Yet is this expectation of diversion flattening out our experience of the physical world? The days of an internet where every stumble was a moment of true discovery are gone forever, perhaps, as curatorial zeal fast overtakes quiet collectomania as the principle online activity.

This post at Tomorrow Museum sums it up, Facebook is worse than AOL: 'Back in the day, AOL had a lot of secret gardens. According to my friend Erin, there was a Spin magazine message board frequented by established rock critics that at an off the index location. A lot of corporations and publications created "channels" which would include chat rooms and message boards. These were about as successful as the businesses with Second Life presences. But some users would take over the dead space and make it their own. Several online friends and I once claimed the message boards for a Canadian radio station long after it was launched and quickly abandoned. Likely the citizens of Second Life do that with virtual ghost town storefronts.'

Remember when GeoCities died? It's a stretched metaphor, but many of those pages will turn into ancient overgrown walls marking strange patterns in the middle of a dense jungle, their purpose almost impossible to decipher. Internet archaeology is just another strand of curatorialism, fed by Archive.org and the perverse attraction of digital kitsch, a medium that gains in curiosity and cute value far quicker than its real-world equivalent. Technological kitsch moves quickly, and digital kitsch even quicker still; the multimedia experiences of the last decade are quaint and laughable, just as we will soon be perversely thrilled by the clunkiness of 2010's attempts at augmented reality.

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Martin Amis on Vladimir Nabokov / art by Paul Tebbott / Lady Gaga, the Illuminati Puppet / more conspiracy; was The London Weekly, a new freesheet in the capital, deliberately intended to be utterly awful? / state of the German magazine scene / Let's Celebrate with Cake / Art 313, odds and ends / what was the first ever hypertext document? The Aspen Movie Map, a sort of proto Google Streetview.

Spacemen: Friends and Foes, post-war paranoia manifested as science fiction presented as fact. Via Ask me-fi. Related, the Samsung Aircruise, a 'clipper in the clouds'. Steampunk meets the contemporary aesthetic / tni SYLLABUS, 'TNI readers curate the internet,' from The New Inquiry / mellabrown, a tumblr / Not until 2027, a tumblr / updownacross, a weblog / turrbull, a weblog / the ARCH+ photostream.

The Spatial Agency Database, architecture, design, theory and movements in biographical form / Up Close and Private, a web publication / After You Left, They Took It Apart: Demolished Paul Rudolph Homes, Photographs by Chris Mottalini / vans in the landscape, at Vans and the places where they were / OPEN Dalston, investigating planning issues in a London borough / Lightning Bolt, an interview.

Roger Ebert writing about Jermyn Street / Mayonaka, a tumblr / a touchscreen electric guitar from Misa / Sliding Lego house / buy a Russian Truck / Printeresting Notebook, a weblog / searching for rare vinyl in West Africa, especially these pictures: I, II. At Voodoo Funk.

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Friday, December 18, 2009


From a post on realistic fighting in space: 'I always imagined that it would be just a huge empty blackness with the other ships too far away to see, the computer would identify and target them, and your ship would fire a cloud of ball bearings at relativistic speeds, which would make them more than capable of destroying any hull encountered. All of this would happen in complete silence and there would be no explosion. The other ship would simply decompress killing anyone in compartments that hadn't been sealed. The only flight that might happen would be the targeted ship accelerating away on an angle in an attempt to minimize contact with the cloud, but no flashy diving and rolling, just a calculated hard burn.' See also Atomic Rocket.

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Immanent in the Manifold City: A Newspaper for Time-Travellers (via Text Patterns) at booktwo.org. The world of 'Walking' Stewart, a ubiquitous figure in what might be termed C19 psychogeography / Philobiblon, a weblog with a broad remit / Surface Noise, a weblog. The 20 shots series is fine / Duck Feeding Class, a weblog / the end of Saab?. We are sad / Matthew Sheret's scrapbook.

Travel Intelligence Blog / the underwhelmer, a tumbler / evocative images in chai wallah's photostream / some people are good at living on the internet: Hail Mary / the end of id magazine / celebrating the art of pulp fiction / Elite's 25th anniversary / the Bliptronic 5000 LED synthesizer.

Thank you to The Bygone Bureau (and especially to the tomorrow museum) for the recent mention.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009


The Ebb of Memory, Kevin Slavin writing on digital archiving and recollection: 'The sharp upswing in all of this record-keeping – both active and passive – are redefining one of the core elements of what it means to be human, namely to remember. We are moving towards a culture that has outsourced this essential quality of existence to machines, to a vast and distributed prosthesis. This infrastructure exists right now, but very soon we’ll be living with the first adult generation whose entire lives are embedded in it.' Concluding: 'For the next generation, it will be impossible to forget it, and harder to remember.' At EDGE.

Icon's editor takes a lie detector test. Every magazine editor should have to do the same / Lynsey Hanley has a 'miserable day as Le Corbusier' / Underground City, about which more on flickr / Vanity Fair turns against its own, an editorial 180 noted at Transracial / huge, image heavy page of retro futurist concepts, many from the former Soviet Union / the Polygraph Museum / irresistable, old maps of London.

Ctrl-N Journal, a cartographic weblog. Highly recommended. See particularly the link to Windows of the Mind, a recent Guardian piece on the subconscious art of domestic psychology, the way placement of windows or walls might upset or enhance your experience of a space.

The Claremont Institute's MissileThreat.com is rich with Clancey-esque scenarios about possible future ICBM attacks on the US. Essential reading for strategic planners in the Axis of Evil. Includes jittery quicktime movies of the Chinese obliterating Los Angeles, a conservative fantasy if ever there was one.

Conditions Magazine, coming soon / Redub reader repackages key articles in a slick format / What We Do is Secret, actually, what we do is collate enormous quantities of visual material about new architecture in Japan and elsewhere / now that's a toolkit / The dieline tackles new water packaging, with an ethical caveat. Could it be true that 'working on new water brands [has] started to seem tantamount to working on cigarettes'? / art by Richard Galpin / art by Holger Lippmann.

Savage Messiah, a website by Laura Oldfield Ford / the Top 30 Failed Technology Predictions, via experts getting it wrong / Vague Terrain, a weblog / art, imagery, fashion, etc., at Mafia Hunt / the Artylizer, yet more visual sharing / above image from Toronto Scientific and Surplus / who needs Amazon when there's the Cosmic Ordering website?

My Year in Outfits at stickers and donuts (high flight) / art by Nathan Abels / Yolanda Bello's frankly rather creepy dolls (also creator of the my first McDonalds doll) / Have Fun with a Lie Detector / we need to help with this / back in pre-credit crunch times (July 2006), the NYT produced a fine piece on Russian style. Reminiscent of Daniela Rosell's photo series Ricas Y Famosas (also featured in Colors).

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009


A few months ago there was an online gallery about the Great American Catalog at tmn, the kind of saturated colour nostalgia that the web does so well. It reminded us to revisit these classic collections of 27 Christmas catalogs at Wishbook's photostream. This is nostalgia so fierce it makes your eyes water; even a world one wasn't necessarily a part of can somehow tug at the memories (the 1975 Sears Christmas Catalog), for example.

In Eccentric Spaces, Robert Harbison writes of John Ruskin's descriptions of Venice, noting how the Victorian critic effectively used the page and the written word to turn the entire city into a museum, weaving an apparently casual path between objects - things - of interest to generate an informed narrative that transcends the static, closed and contrived cabinet-bound world of the museum collection.

So is the internet a city or a museum? The relentless wandering we seem to do all day long along its virtual corridors would imply the latter, but from the early days of an 'information superhighway,' the metaphorical thrust has been for a parallel, virtual urbanism, a 'city of bits'. That analogy certainly implies less coherence than the codified, quantified and curated world of the museum. As Harbison notes in the chapter entitled 'Contracted World: Museums and Catalogues', 'Like the dictionary a museum cannot be enjoyed passively. The spectator must decide what is background and what foreground. Nothing tells him he is not supposed to look at everything; he must learn it is not feasible.'

The museum is an organisational structure that soaks up and reflects its surroundings. More Harbison: 'There was a kind of Victorian museum that imitated luxurious domestic furnishing, filling itself with velvet sofas and heavily carved wooden cases, dark fabrics on the walls setting off statues on pedestals that faced each other as if about to start into life, even sketched each other.' These museums - the domestic wunderkammers (a genre crowned perhaps by Sir John Soane's private masterpiece) - ultimately belong in a minority, overshadowed by the splendour, gravitas and authority of the new grand institutions. Private collections were combined, as at the V and A, and placed within temples to collectomania. The American institution excelled in particular, for, according to Harbison, 'they exist out of the world, cloistered and shut off to a degree not found elsewhere... [with a] need to embody all the possibilities of refinement, to bring in one massive Ark of all the history we haven't had.'

The Victorian museum template is essentially paradisal, rendering the known and unknown world into dioramas that rationalised, explained and chronicled objects through narratives and organisation, often especially constructed for the occasion. For our modern minds, this is not enough - the object can't simply be placed within an imaginary context and expect to be contained. Harbison again: 'Yet many preserved specimens seem to sharpen the division between the past and the present, the saved thing pointing up and clarifying the newness of all the rest.'

Dioramas and other contrivances couldn't contain everything, and were inevitably juxtaposed with cluttered galleries of accumulation. The Victoria and Albert Museum's Cast Courts are a case in point, as are the print rooms which proliferated in the C19. 'Another of the styles which people have by their acquisition imposed on art, the print room, also dilutes the meaning of objects by massing them. With their hundreds of ungainly close albums these places are not correspondent complications of experience to libraries of books.'

So is the internet - the internet of objects, designs, creativity, cataloguing and chronicling - merely a modern day cast court or print room? All 'work' is reduced and resized, hung on the same gallery walls and given the same passing glance, the glancing perusal of the perpetually scrolling museum. Just as the dense clusters of imagery that marked early museums contrasted strongly with the more open, expansive, curated galleries that subsequently evolved, the internet of objects appears increasingly at odds with the internet of connectivity and expanded human horizons. How will we deal with the growing distinction between cabinets within rooms within corridors within buildings within streets within cities?

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