November 26, 2005
There is no here here
When Google calculates its search results it gives considerable weight to the phrases used to link to a given page. If millions of people decided to hyperlink the phrase "retard" to this site, it'd probably show up first in a search for this word. While the process is occasionally hackable, most famously in case of "failure" which returns George Bush as its first result, for the most part it works well. Unless that is, you are interested in "here".
Here falls apart online because it actually means there, as in "anywhere but here". If a shopkeeper says "you can find it here" it means "stay", or if you are talking over a network "come". If a webpage says "you can can find it here" it means go, follow the link, bye. Here is the generic hyperlink, a word that can be used to send you anywhere on the internet. But most hyperlinks have meaning, and people tend to use those meanings as the link text. Here represents those links that people don't feel the need to vest with a meaning, but perhaps want to vest with some force, they want you to "go here" (or really go there) rather than be interested in what the link actually means.
Googling here of course returns an ordered list. A list of the most popular web plugins it turns out. Adobe Acrobat comes in first. Is it because they are the most popular, or because pdf files are distributed throughout sites, where as something like Flash (number 3) only stops you at the gates, you get one chance to download flash per site, all or nothing at all. Real Player takes second, a testimony to their fierce propagation of incompetent software. They are popular because media companies are afraid of what is possible here on the internet. If here and there mean the same thing, where does the media company intercede to make their profit? Apple comes in forth with their QuickTime software, they actually understand that here and there are indeed the same place, its called your computer and if you want to make a profit the best way is by controlling the hardware. It is only at fifth place, with MapQuest, that here becomes meaningful, an actual result. Netscape and Internet Explorer, come in sixth and seventh respectively. Netscape I suspect gets more links because it has more need to get there; IE is already here, installed with the operating system. Like Apple, Microsofts power lies at the root, the ability to be both here and there online.
Google, like the internet itself draws its power from being neither here, nor there, but inbetween everywhere at once, immanent. There is no here there, only results, only meanings.
November 24, 2005
Metataggers: Digital Graffiti / Empire / Archives
There are certain digital thresholds of history, points in which the type and amount of data available via computers and their networks changes radically. The point in which magazine and news articles are available via Lexus/Nexus for example, or the points in which archive.org started archiving the internet and DejaNews (now part of Google) started archiving the usenet.
It's not quite as clear a line, but I have a feeling one day the point in which everything started to get blogged will mark another such transition. Case to point I started digging around for the web evidence of a show I did back all of 3 years ago, september 2002. Neither archive.org nor google revealed the precise material I wanted, the gallery's original web page for the show. Instead I found a short post on evhead.com, the blog of Evan Williams founder of Blogger. I guess that's worth some geek cred... In anycase if something soon won't exist unless its been blogged, I best document this thing...
Metaggers: Digital Graffiti was the name, featuring the art of Shep Fairey, Paul Miller and 47 which at the time was me, [sic] and Ethan Eismann. Among the pieces I had in it was "Empire" which you can view "after the fold" for this entry.
November 21, 2005
There are at least 3 key functions to powerpoint presentations and they are often in conflict.
The main one is to create a good presentation. Something like what Steve Jobs or Lawrence Lessig do so effortlessly. The problem is they give good presentation anyway, the powerpoint is just there to drive home the argument and provide a visual countepoint for the speaker. Making a Jobsian powerpoint file won't make you a good presenter and if fact if you suck having some of his minimalist slides behind you might hurt you.
The second main function of powerpoint is to create a document that stands on its own. Something people can look at as reference and remember what the presentation was about. These types of presentations sometimes can help poor presenters, and sometimes can provide an awful crutch. If you can't speak in public, having an info rich slide can take the attention and pressure off you a bit, for better or for worse.
The third function of powerpoint, perhaps the key to its success, is that its much better at helping the speaker organize their talk then it is at generating good slideshows. Often what you see on screen are just glorified notecards, a crib sheet projected ten feet high for the world to see. This is a big reason why people like to use powerpoint so much, it forces them to structure and plan the talk. Its also a big reason why the presentations it generates are often such crap.
The tensions between these three functions could be reduced significantly or perhaps eliminated by developing a two faced presentation program. A program that defaults to two slides at one time, one meant for the presenter and another meant for the audience. A note screen and an emphasis screen. In a live context perhaps it be best if the note screen where not a screen at all, but instead get printed out onto note cards. The process of organizing the presentation and the actual presentation itself are no longer one and the same but instead two separate tasks. It means more work, if your goal is just to crap out a mediocre powerpoint, but if you want to make a good one it means less. The real challenge of the software would be effectively managing the relationship between the notes and the slides themselves. Can a software successfully extract the key points of the notes and automate the slide making process? A difficult to unlikely task, making good slides is still a human task. Combining the notes and the slides into on take away document is perhaps slightly easier to automate, but a step, not an answer.