What strikes me about both this automaton and the ‘Turk’ is that the point of them is that they’re not human, and yet they’re made in human likeness and to do uniquely human things. Is this a cul-de-sac of humanism?

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Horrible Histories – Napoleon Bonaparte vs The Mechanical Turk

A silly but pithy clip about the Mechanical Turk–more extensively explained here: A Point of View: Chess and 18th Century artificial intelligence. On the one hand, it was the non-humanness of the ‘Turk’ that made it internationally famous…but this would have been down to the ingenuity of the creator (if it had been real) and its chess-playing skills were in fact down to a series of bendy masters (its cyborg mates?). In a kind of way, though, the Turk was also a post-human: an amalgam of the creator, the machine, the chess master inside, the chess board and pieces, the rules of the game, and the expectations/perceptions/suspensions of disbelief of the Turk’s opponents and audience. Without one of these, it wouldn’t have existed as…itself!

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The World of Tomorrow

I don’t advocate watching this whole video (regardless of what a smaller member of my household might say), but for about three minutes starting here: The World of Yesterday; it’s interesting to see a few ideas that have become ubiquitous in science fiction to the extent that they can be casually referenced in a rather innocuous children’s show.

Apart from the cyborg children, robot guards and time machine, what I’m interested in is the off-hand reference to the ‘information age’. Somehow from the perspective of the future, this seems to beg the question: was there less information in the past? is it just that access to the information was limited, and/or that the information was dispersed? is information manufactured (i.e., does this follow on from the ages of machines and technology?), or is it rather collected? what comes after the ‘information age’?

The manufacturing versus collecting, I think, is particularly pertinent to Hayles’ discussion of the nature of information–did the shopping habits of Tesco customers always exist as as unused information, or did the information only come into being when it was collected via clubcards? And was it always material in the form of the products individuals bought, or did it only take material form when recorded in a computer…or printed out for the marketing department?

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The Talking Shoe

Pair this with some Google Goggles and an iWatch and you’ve got the latest spring cyborg! (But do they get along?)

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extreme mash-up

While this is nothing new, it’s interesting in that it’s not just a mash-up of content, it’s a mash-up of a person. It’s not just who owns or creates things, not just a persona or a brand, but an identity and a body. And the uncontainability–the speed at which multiple versions appeared on YouTube–raises further questions of, as the Independent put it in the link above, who owns the dead?

The comments around this are (although predictable in nature) quite illuminating as well, particularly as to whether or not (as Gina has been musing this week) YouTube is really a ‘community’. Certainly the person who posted the video (audreyhepburnarchive) sees their viewers as at least potential members of a kind of community (although the blog and twitter feed are pretty one-directional). This is best seen in the little link that appears at the beginning, encouraging viewers to Like another video in hopes that popular support will get the full version re-released.

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Online Shopping Offline

This has got a bit of a folksy ‘isn’t the internet crazy’ quality; the intended audience seems to be marketers, or maybe web developers, but I wonder if some of the practices that are criticised actually make customers feel safe and ‘looked after’?


Little Einsteins and moving art

Kress argues that images are experienced in the way in which the viewer wants to experience them versus writing, the experience of which is dictated by the author. While this may be true of images (although I think in this case the context is crucial), what about video? He mentions recordings of image and sound near the end of the article, but doesn’t consider the way that any over-time image/sound also dictates how it is experienced.

In this clip we have the Little Einsteins navigating a work of visual art over time; motifs that appear in the art come to life and move around; the designs are paths that they follow. Would Kress say that this takes the power away from the viewer? Does it make a difference that the original artist did not animate their own work, but it was done by Disney?

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Star Trek: alien romance

Technology can also lead us (theoretically) to meet other biological beings that (like the robots in the previous two examples) ought to be treated as human…although in the 1960s this notion may have been a bit more gendered…

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Small Wonder

Like a Gumdrop of the 1950s (dropped into the 1980s), Vicki is one of the many digital beings that we’re encouraged to accept as equally deserving of human rights and affection as her biological acquaintances.

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Where material and symbolic collide?

Tim Berners-Lee and the Olympic salute to pop culture (a nice Barlovian union?)

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