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    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Moving on, part II

    I recently mentioned that I would concentrate my blogging efforts together with a team of bloggers at the 3TU.Centre of Ethics and Technology ( However, as this team grew to a size where each contributor would post only 1-2 times per year, I've decided to continue my personal blog. However, in a fit of vanity I ended up purchasing,which will be my main online dwelling from now on. I'll also slowly start moving some of the posts worth keeping over there, so please just disregard this url (I'll probably shut it down as soon as I have moved what's worth keeping)

    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    Moving on...

    This blog has been dormant for a while. Part of the reason is probably, as with many other bloggers, that Twitter has absorbed much of the blogging activity. A more substantial reason is that I have joined a team of bloggers at the 3TU.Centre of Ethics and Technology (, where I plan to start blogging in the near future. It currently contains entries by David Koepsell on patenting genes, Ilse Oosterlaken on the capability approach as applied to technology and design, as well as Claudia Bastia on Ulrich Beck's notion of the risk society. Please subscribe and stay tuned.

    Saturday, January 31, 2009

    A series of furtunate events: The beauty of Internet creativity and hybrid economy

    I've written before about creativity online and the failure of companies trying to stifle this creativity, but felt encouraged to do so again after having looked into the elegant events in the wake of a Stephen Colbert interview with well-known blogger and Stanford professor of law Lawrence Lessig.
    First, a brief background. On his January 8, 2009 show, Stephen Colbert interviewed Lawrence Lessig on the occasion of his recent book, Remix. This is the clip in question:

    One of the main lessons to be drawn from the book is how virtual communities can augment the value of something, how it can take a simple events and make it spiral into a phenomenon that shows both depth and creativity. During the interview, Colbert warned, tounge in cheek, against anyone remixing that interview by adding, say, a funky beat. Needless to say, remixes started showing up on Youtube within hours. Some of them amazingly good. Here's one example (gets better towards the end):

    and another:

    Stephen Colbert was of course "outraged" by all of this, and made a comeback on his January 21 show. The second remix above was featured as one of the examples, and Colbert countered with creating his own remix:

    Colbert added fuel to the fire, however, by adding some rhytmic remarks prone for further remixing, and of course the results followed shortly:

    The fascinating thing about this series of fortunate events is that the point I'm trying to make is the same point that Lessig tried to make in the initial interview -- and Colbert made the point for Lessig better than any words could've done. True creativity in new media arise by allowing millions of creative users to legally shape your work into new products, to stand on eachothers' shoulders, to take a simple concept and see how far it can be pushed. It allows users to shine and it allows the original creator to shine. This is the very basis of hybrid economy. It is the basis for all sorts of communities that take original work and go further with it. It might, legally speaking, be copyright infringment, but any company willing to stubbornly hold on to this paradigm will inevatibaly alienate their users -- and even more so as the old-paradigm users slowly become outnumbered by coming generations of inforgs. Colbert has understood it, and if anything, he is making more money and becoming more popular in the process. It's a win-win situation, and a lose-lose for the Lars Ulrichs and Microsofts of the future (yes, I have become a Microsoft basher).

    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    I'm now a Micro$oft basher!

    Yes, that's supposed to be a tombstone
    I'm not one of those Microsoft bashers, and I'm generally happy with my Vista, Outlook, Windows Mobile setup. Part of the reason why I've been happy with it is because of a splendid initiative called xda-developers. In short, xda-developers is a forum where bright minds spend their creative energy on optimizing Windows Mobile for HTC in its different versions. In particular, HTC has not provided updates from Windows Mobile 6.0 to Windows Mobile 6.1 for many of its devices, and xda-developers have proudly and aptly taken on the challenge of helping out those stuck with older versions. What this entails for many of us is that these devices work as they should. In my case, it meant that I've thrusted myself into the hands of Micrsoft after years of using Open Source alternatives.

    And how do Microsoft respond? By threatening with legal action unless all unofficial versions are removed, citing copyright issues. Sure, there are copyright issues and their legal basis is probably solid. But where is the pragmatism? Where is the bright mind that stops and thinks for a moment, realizing that the creative energy of all these unpaid individuals actually work to Microsoft's advantage? There is no loss of revenue whatsoever because those who use these modified Windows Mobile version, a small group given that it requires some tech savvy, have already paid our licensing fees through purchasing the phone itself. Furthermore,Windows Mobile updates cannot be bought in any way -- it's all up to the developers' whether they decide to provide updates or not, which in HTC's case only happened with very few models.

    I'm outraged at Microsoft right now and will abandon everything that smells of Microsoft. No, I haven't been a Microsoft basher before but I am becoming one -- a completely blind one who will bash all things M$. Now excuse me while I go get a Symbian, Android or Apple phone, re-install Ubuntu, uninstall live messenger, export calendar, email and contacts from Outlook to Google -- and wait for the next opportunity to bash Microsoft some more.

    PS! There's a petition against Microsoft's stupidity here.

    Friday, October 31, 2008

    Music tagging -- or, voluntary involuntary auditory memories

    No, not that kind of music tagging, the kind where you add tags/labels to your mp3 collection. What I want to discuss is a phenomenon that I've tried to be conscious about for quite some time: the act of deliberately forming strong associations between certain pieces of music and a particular place. You're all familiar with what is known as olfactory memory, smells that suddenly take you on a journey down memory lane - in particular childhood/adolescent memories of certain perfumes and foods. The same holds for certain tastes, as described in the now famous Madeleine cake episode in Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time:
    No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place
    The same also holds for music, be it particular sounds or particular sound tracks. These phenomena are sometimes referred to as involuntary memories. What I've been doing on occasion is to try to make these voluntary.

    The phenomenon first occured to me when I read Stephen King's Pet Sematary as a child. This must have been back in 1991-92, because every time I picked up the book, I would listen to Metallica's then recent Black album (you know, the last good one before it all went downhill). After having finished the novel, I noticed that every time I listened to that particular album (in particular, the "Sad but true" song, for some reason), I would be instantly transported to that path leading to the pet cemetary (misspelled Sematary) -- or to the gruesome scene of Zelda.

    Interlude: In writing this I went to search for the Zelda scene and found it on Youtube. I don't know why, but it still sends shivers down my spine and I just very reluctantly finished watching it. Incidentally, Zelda is played by a man, which just makes it even creepier. I still think this is one of the most haunting horror characters invented. Please watch at your own discretion.

    Anyway, after having experienced the tagging of Metallica's Black album onto the Pet Sematary novel, I got curious. Could this phenomenon of involuntary memory be made voluntary? And of course it can. Since then, I've tried to consistently listen to one particular album whenever I travel to somewhere new. Last week I went to Copenhagen, and I consistently listened to Klaus Schulze's Mirage album (a true masterpiece) every day when I walked from my hotel to the conference venue. The result: Now, whenever I listen to Klaus Schulze, memories from Copenhagen will come up. To be fair, it doesn't really bring up explicit memories, but it brings up this undescribable je ne se qua feeling of there-ness (wow, sorry about the collapse into obscurism there). This has become my way of taking photos; my own harmless means of tagging a city. Sadly the snapshot cannot be conveyed, but in some sense, that just adds to the value of it.

    I would really like to come up with a name for this phenomenon. I guess the most precise would be 'voluntary involuntary auditory memory', but I think I'll just refer to it as 'music tagging' for now. 'Music tagging' nicely catches the way in which a city can become tagged by music (although invisible to others), but also that the music itself becomes tagged (labelled) according to its associations. Recommendations for other neologisms (or, indeed, already existing terms) are very much welcome. Until then, happy music tagging.

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Internet killed the video star

    Well, some headlines just lie there dormant, waiting for the right opportunity to become overused. That opportunity is here.

    The phenomenon that prompted the headline is called "Take-Away shows" and is being done to perfection at La Blogotheque. The concept is easy; pick up a camera and a cheap microphone, convince a band that this is the new cool, and shoot an improvised, raw, dogma-like music video on the fly. As the web site states, "what makes the beauty of it is all the little incidents, hesitations, and crazy stuff happening unexpectingly". The results are mixed, as can be expected, but it can be pretty awesome.
    I think the best examples are the sessions with REM -- five videos shot on one night in Athens, GA. Perhaps the main reason why they are supreme to the others is that Michael Stipe is simply not capable of producing sounds that are out of tune. In fact, I was wondering whether it was playback or not on occasion, but it's really not. I particularly recommend "Living well is the best revenge". There is something so refreshing, pure and this-is-what-its-all-about in this video, where the REM guys are crammed into a car, guitars and all, while playing the song to perfection.
    The final song is "Sing for the submarine", where Stipe's haunting voice is augmented by the acoustics inside a silo, while banging his elbow into the silo wall (which looks pretty painful at times). The drummer spontaneously try to break some twigs to produce the necessary rhythm. Not entirely succcesful, but just shows the spontaneity of it all. Incredible stuff!

    The headline is not just an empty play on the title of the famous music video from the launch of MTV. In an era where "live" award shows are delayed to avoid any surprises (such as, god forbid, any wardrobe malfunctions), where music videos are endlessly produced on the same stale format ("all we need is a corridor and some [insert degrading nouns for females]"). Although YouTube is ridiculously over-hyped (and, technologically speaking, services like dailymotion, guba and megavideo are superior), it has brought back spontaneity, instanteneousness, and the importance of conveying a sense of being-there. Although this tends to produce many annoying Internet memes, the upshot might indeed be that it brings back spontaneity. If so, it's all worth it!

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Best comedy sketches

    So, I came across this listing the other day (can't find the link right now) about the top ten comedy sketches of all time. It covered pretty much only US comedy (a lof of Saturday Night Live), and missed some of the best sketches ever -- the ones that literally made me roll on the floor laughing. So here it is, my collection of the best comedy sketches, from the five best comedy shows of all time:

    5. Arrested Development; The Chicken dances

    Arrested development must be the best sitcom ever, yet for some idiotic reason got canned. Although I loved it for its intelligent humour and intricate plots, those are difficult to present as a clip. Luckily, good olf fashioned slapstick and body humour was also a major part of it, and nothing made me laugh harder than the Bluth family's somehwat original takes on the chicken dance, nicely captured in the montage below.

    4. The Fast Show: Arse and coughing

    Although I simply love The Fast Show and can't get enough of the recurring characters, it rarely gives me tears in my eyes. This little bit featuring some unfortunatte tourette-like characters did the trick.

    3. Monty Python: Tinny words
    Well, I could've mentioned so many by Monty Python (the fish slapping dance is another one of my favourites), but this one is relatively unknown, yet so darn funny. Graham Chapman at his very best!

    2. Saturday Night Live: Chris Rock as rapper with toe fetish
    Ok, let's admit it. SNL is 95% crap, which might be the reason why the 5% times they get it right, it makes it into comedy history. Again, I could've mentioned many of the familiar ones (I think "more cow bell" was one the top 10 list I mentioned above), but this is also a rarely seen one, featuring Chris Rock as the most puny rapper ever. When he hits the chorus towards the end, I literally fell of my chair.

    Hmm, I just couldn't find this vid anywhere, except for which is only available within the United states (I guess the SNL copyright hunters are pretty good). If you come across it, be sure to watch it, laugh, then let me know where.

    1. Reeves and Mortimer: Mulligan and O'Hare
    Weird is the only word for British duo Jim Reeves and Vic Mortimer. Often it becomes so surreal that you're left with a smile, albeit a confused and slightly disturbed one (you can see some of this in the intro to Mulligan and O'hare below). Sometimes, they just hit the nail on the head, and there's just no beating their amazing and surreal portrayel of singers Mulligan and O'Hare. Enjoy!

    Please let me know if any of the videoes have been removed.