3D printing: does the revolution look vintage already?

Nice overview of 3D-printing:

Hat tip to Bruce Sterling on Beyond the Beyond. I liked his comment:

Really makes one anticipate 3d printing in 2022, when all this contemporary stuff looks charmingly crude and tentative. Very “early teens.”

So does our revolution look vintage now already? More about all this during the MetaMeets conference (November 30, December 1, ‘s-Hertogenbosch,The Netherlands): “The Art of Creation : Virtuality meets Reality”. If there really is a Makers revolution going on, how can we support that and profit from it in virtual environments?

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Old texts make us dream and build the future

I just finished the first session of Howard Rheingold’s online Think-Know course. It seems the participants are an amazing group of people dispersed over several continents. The next weeks we’ll dive into both the theoretical-historical background of intellect augmentation and the practical skills of personal knowledge management.

We’ve been reading Rheingold’s Tools for Thought (available online), As we may think (Vannevar Bush), Augmenting Human Intellect: a conceptual framework (Douglas Engelbart) and Man-Computer Symbiosis (JCR Licklider). Dates of publication: first edition of Tools for Thought was in 1985, As We May Think was published in 1945, Man-Computer Symbiosis in 1960 and Augmenting Human Intellect in 1962.

Why bother reading those old texts about a fast-moving technology? My personal opinion: because we don’t move that very fast. We tend to use new technology to repeat old formats. We had print books, we’ll make ebooks now which try to be as print book-like as possible. We have print newspapers, well, even this day and age newspapers online try to imitate their print look and feel. It’s like the fledgling movie industry once was, trying to capture theater pieces rather than making actual movies.

The visionaries, living during the Second World War or during the Cold War, were convinced the world becomes very dangerous and moves very fast and in very complex ways. How can we humans cope with that, avoiding some horrible self-destruction? How can we make sense of the floods of information, data and noise? Those daring intellectuals dreamed up very new ways to read, write and collaborate – in fact, new ways to think. They were often too far ahead to be of much interest to commercial corporations, but the military were more than interested as they realized what was at stake.

How do we design interfaces which allow for new, in-depth, inspiring thought and collaboration? I think that data journalism, liveblogging, fluid and stream-like coverage, 3D visualization, local and contextual meaning, crap detection, filters and curation point the way to radical change, as do the artful organization of personal learning networks and tools such as combined databases/mindmaps. All this being made possible by ever-increasing computational power (raw power, but also ever more sophisticated software) and by the ever-shrinking devices we carry around (and which make our mind-amplifying electronic tools ubiquitous and hardly visible).

This course also makes us actually experiment with all this – for instance inciting us to collectively mindmap in real-time even though we are geographically totally dispersed. Here you see our raw mindmap (we’ll straighten it out during the coming days):

our course mindmap

If you want more ‘old’ but extremely inspiring texts about mind-amplifying tools: the New Media Reader (MIT) is a must-read

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A VC: Second Screen, Third Screen, …

Fred Wilson on A VC about his debate-watching experience. He is in need of lots and lots of screens. Or of better aggregation and filtering. How do we represent the abundant and real-time information so that we can cope better with a fast-moving world? 

“I had the #debates feed on my personal Nexus 7. I had John Heilemann’s twitter feed on my phone. I had Tumblr going on my laptop. And I had CNN on the family room Nexus 7. And I was actually watching the debate first and foremost.”
via Diigo http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2012/10/second-screen-third-screen-.html

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Liveblogging going full circle: Circa News

Cir.ca is an interesting mobile news app. As Online Journalism Blog says:

It’s a simple idea: look at the latest news, pick stories you want to follow, and get a notification when something new happens on that story.

The key difference is that updates are not delivered as traditional articles, but as bitesize updates. In other words, as a liveblog would.

You can read a complete story, but then you can ask to get notifications for new chunks of information – liveblog-wise – rather than getting newly drafted stories which irritatingly repeat what you know already. Liveblogging often starts from a mobile device, in this case the stories are also published in a mobile-native way – going full circle, but also allowing for sharing the story either completely or just a particular ‘point’. The whole news-reading experience on this app just seems fluid. It also reminds me of the ‘living stories‘ idea introduced by Google (complete coverage of an on-going story being gathered together on one URL).

The post on Online Journalism gives some other examples of innovative liveblogging. The author, Paul Bradshaw, also analyzes this trend in his book Model for the 21st Century Newsroom Redux.
Also have a look at TechCrunch about this app (‘Circa’s New iOS App Will Change The Way You Consume News’).

Site of the Circa News app

Site of the Circa News app

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Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace

And today is Ada Lovelace Day: “Ada Lovelace Day is about sharing stories of women — whether engineers, scientists, technologists or mathematicians — who have inspired you to become who you are today. The aim is to create new role models for girls and women in these male-dominated fields.”

Read also chapter two in Howard Rheingold’s Tools for Thought, The First Programmer Was a Lady:

Over a hundred years before a monstrous array of vacuum tubes surged into history in an overheated room in Pennsylvania, a properly attired Victorian Gentleman demonstrated an elegant little mechanism of wood and brass in a London drawing room. One of the ladies attending this demonstration brought along the daughter of a friend. She was a teenager with long dark hair, a talent for mathematics, and a weakness for wagering on horse races. When she took a close look at the device and realized what this older gentleman was trying to do, she surprised them all by joining him in an enterprise that might have altered history, had they succeeded. (…)

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‘We live in a culture of real virtuality’

The famous sociologist Manuel Castells in an interview by Paul Mason (BBC): 

“With Facebook and with all these social networks what happened is that we live constantly networked. We live in a culture of not virtual reality, but real virtuality because our virtuality, meaning the internet networks, the images are a fundamental part of our reality. We cannot live outside this construction of ourselves in the networks of communication.”

Ever wondered why people try to redefine themselves by nationalism, regionalism, membership of small subcultures, even though the world is globalizing fast? I think Castells has some anwers on that too: 

“The more we are connected to everything and everybody and every activity, the more we need to know who we are. Unless I know who I am, I don’t know where I am in the world, because then I am a consumer, I am taken by the market, I am taken by the media.

“And therefore people decide that they are going to be different. But to do that, they have to identify themselves as individuals, as collectives, as nations, as genders, all these categories that sociologists have already constructed time ago.”

Castells explains how people in this crisis engage in co-operative or non-profit work. It’s a kind of ‘non-capitalism’. 

Putting now on my list: his new book Aftermath. 

via Diigo http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-19932562

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Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong – The Atlantic

Alexis C. Madrigal explains: 
“For one, I spent most of the 90s as a teenager in rural Washington and my web was highly, highly social. We had instant messenger and chat rooms and ICQ and USENET forums and email. ”

It’s important to have the history of the web right. The internet was social long before Twitter and Facebook came along. It still is social independently of those huge networks (one could also include massively multiplayer online games in the analysis of the ‘dark social’). 
via Diigo http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/dark-social-we-have-the-whole-history-of-the-web-wrong/263523/

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Pentagon’s Plan X: how it could change cyberwarfare – CSMonitor.com

“The same Pentagon futurologists who helped create the Internet are about to begin a new era of cyberwarfare.
For years, the Pentagon has been open and adamant about the nation’s need to defend itself against cyberattack, but its ability and desire to attack enemies with cyberweapons has been cloaked in mystery.

Next week, however, the Pentagon’s Defense Advance Research Products Agency (DARPA) will launch Plan X – an effort to improve the offensive cyberwarfare capabilities “needed to dominate the cyber battlespace,” according to an announcement for the workshop.”

It gives a strange feeling, reading this, not because I’m surprised about the importance of these issues, but because I’m reading Howard Rheingold’s Tools for Thought about the history of ‘mind amplifying machines’ as computers are being called. It’s pretty obvious how major breakthroughs became possible in the context of the Second World War and the Cold War. 

Will this new cycle in research and financing lead to more mind-amplifying stuff, or to mayhem and horror? 
via Diigo http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2012/1012/Pentagon-s-Plan-X-how-it-could-change-cyberwarfare

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In search of… metacognition amplifiers

I’m gearing up for Howard Rheingold’s course about Think-Know Tools and so I read his latest book, Mind Amplifier.
I’m starting to become a bit of a veteran in Rheingold courses, so I was not surprised to read about the notion of literacies, of designs for improved collective action and about metacognition. However, there were some parts which seem to indicate new developments.
I’ll give some quotes to illustrate this:

What if automated tutoring and testing systems, such as those being deployed for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), could be used for self-reflection on the learning process – a metacognition amplifier?

In his book Net Smart explains that metacognition is the function which helps us think about our thinking – it’s an important element helping us to gain control of our lives online.
Rheingold is not ‘only’ the guy who was the first to use the words ‘virtual community’. He has a deep interest in the history of computing, for instance his book Tools for Thought (text available online) is about the history of computers which he considers as being mind-amplifying technology.
Reading the old texts of the visionaries makes it obvious that there is a lot which has not yet been realized. Rheingold:

It’s time to consider what technology we want to create using the autocatalysis of human pattern recognition, human-machine abstraction, and computer graphics modeling capabilities.

Of course there is a very fundamental social dimension to all this. A last quote reflecting his thoughts about this:

When the human aptitude for mind-extension is plugged into specially designed computational mind-amplifiers and joined to one another through the many-to-many capabilities of networked media, new forms of social cognition begin to flourish.

One could imagine many ambitious research programs about all this. I’ll post about our proceedings during the course, which will start the next week.

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Vision | Fluid Interfaces

“Our group designs new interfaces that integrate digital content in people’s lives in more fluid and seamless ways. Our aim is to make it easier and more intuitive to benefit from the wealth of useful digital information and services. ”

Pattie Maes and her group at MIT, lots of fascinating projects here, often making me think ‘why isn’t this ubiquitous right now already?’ One of the reasons might be ‘the economy, stupid’ – like the idea of being able to swipe a file from one mobile app to another, seamlessly. 

But eventually we’ll get there. The future is fluid. 

via Diigo http://fluid.media.mit.edu/vision.html

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