Birthday weekend. Buh.
I know, I don’t update much. Imagine I write for picturesforsadchildren, or better yet, imagine that I’m a homeless man. You might not find me updating often, but when you do, I don’t go away. I just grab your hand and keep updating. No offense, homeless.
Anyone else remember when this blog was a legitimate outlet for my research on Henrik Ibsen. Buh. Lulz.
Listening to: The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!), The Decemberists
Taken from an assignment for my creative non-fiction course, I give you a legitimate nod to the death of GeoCities. Names have been altered for… privacy or whatever. I don’t think it helps.
This week marked the passing of a very dear friend of mine. I am speaking, of course, of GeoCities.com, which closed its servers on October 26th, effectively removing itself from the internet. The original idea had been that of an internet “city,” connecting users’ pages by content and theme, making it the first social networking sites in existence on the internet. As I recall, I had real estate in the Area51 neighborhood, the place for science fiction and fantasy.
Yahoo acquired the site about ten years ago, just a year or two before I signed up. If I knew I had been investing in a declining property, maybe I would have set my sights elsewhere. Of course, it wasn’t much of an investment. The site was free. The start-up costs were only what I made my parents pay on the monthly internet bill. Of course, back in those days, that cost was tied into the phone bill, but that’s neither here nor there.
Some of us got more entrenched than others. Ducky started spiraling towards true programming, later forgoing college to start his own business instead. Zimbo abandoned the web for bowling and Nascar. Putman took up tennis and pot. Steve and I started using our web pages for evil: springboards into the realm of online role-playing. Most people might not admit to playing D&D, and I’m quite thankful for the veil the internet provided in that regard. Maybe it’s no surprise that the two of us ended up at the University of Illinois. He’s in the communications department, and I’m majoring in creative writing (with a side of Scandinavian studies, but that’s hardly relevant, except that Scandinavia, like the internet, is a dark and depressing place).
Despite our eventual digressions, we shared this common root: the internet. Our group of friends had an internet footprint, we were legit. We didn’t think at the time that we were cutting ourselves off from the world, from “real” people, no – we existed in that online space. Inside jokes littered our pages, secret links between pages marked our knowledge and the “in-ness” of our group. Oh, and none of our pages would be complete without the classic addition of the “under construction” graphics so indicative of the day. We were internet pioneers.
GeoCities gave us a place to be the nerds that we were (read “are”). Playing with HTML was such an exclusive kind of fun. No one else we knew were as savvy as us, and we had the pride of telling people “I have a website, you know. Just… something to think about.” Insert smug wink at your own discretion.
Really, we just had no friends but the internet. We sat for nights on end in one or another of our basements at the computer, coding, playing Gauntlet Dark Legacy, and drinking Mountain Dew (ouch stereotypes). But without GeoCities, we would have had no place at all. So, when I heard that GeoCities shut down, my heart missed a beat. How many children may never find friends because they are too nerdy to leave their basements? Yeah, I guess Facebook makes that easier nowadays, but that’s cheating. Yahoo has done the the world a disservice in erasing GeoCities history and barring nerdy possibility. For shame, Yahoo, for shame. And to the home of my nerd-driven youth: may you rest in peace.
Listening to: Wildcat, Ratatat
I knew you once. You will be remembered.
Listening to: Apocalypse Please, Muse
Hey, it’s a comic!
Sorry it’s not all “properly colored” or whatever. I don’t have a scanner. I’m sick. Shut up.
Listening to: The Prime Time of Your Life, Daft Punk
Hello world! I’ve been sick for the past few days. Buh. Anyway, I’m still alive. Here’s the latest blog assignment.
FREQUENT UPDATES: Pick either an acquaintance you don’t know that well or a parent. In a 24 hour period dramatically increase the amount of information you send this person using a text-based mobile communication technology that you know they can receive (like IM on your phone, text/SMS, or e-mail on your phone/PDA). For example, you could communicate with them every time you do anything (“hi I am getting on the bus”, “arrived in class,” “class is boring,” “having lunch,” “talking with friend.”) Describe the reactions.
Pick three people and text them incessantly throughout the day, then compare their reactions to the frequent updates. Each person was selected based on the availability of their phone number in my list of contacts, the frequency of which I normally communicate with them, and also a number of other personal criteria which I cannot, for sake of anonymity, get into. As a result, we have persons A, B, and C.
First, I’d like to show a few excerpts, then explain my findings.
me: just woke up.. need water
A: Who is this??
A: why hello garrett haha
me: sorry, I fell asleep again. hello afternoon!
A: How re ya?
me: good– I just put on my socks
me: [my friend] & I just high-fived. time for videogames…
A: I’m diggin the play by play. Say hello to [my friend] for me. game of choice?
me: oblivion on my computer & fallout 3 on the ps3.
A: I’m about to spend my saturday playing a different kind of game. The kind called acid.
me: ooh. now I am eating a piece of pizza.
B: What kind of pizza
me: it is cheesey. and has peppers on it.
me: just got outta the shower
B: Whats with all the updates
me: switched off the videogames, just hangin out now discussin dinner plans
me: hittin up the grocery store for ingredients (we’re makin Swedish meatballs)
B: Dude… Seriously! Hahaha whaaaat is this aboor
me: eatin my tasty tasty dinner now
me: meatballs were gonna take too long so we made rice&beans instead
me: drinkin my first cup of coffee during the day (no wonder I had a headache today!)
B: Oh, boy, the suspense
me: gettin ready to go out
C: I’m eating dinner with my sister then getting ready to in drinking. Woot.
me: brushing my teeth
me: jacket on, out the door, and in the car
me: finding parking…
me: at a play
me: doublefeature, actually: “tape” and “the Indian wants the Bronx”?
C: Just got back from dinner. Now time to watch some tv then drinking..
me: plays are out — heading back to my friend’s place
C: Hehe. Have a good night.
As you can see, I received varied reactions. While they all seemed confused in general about my play by play, each played back differently. Person A apparently no longer had my number, but was quick to discover my identity. It seems that my updates, though they came out of the blue, were made with purpose. I gave no explanation, and yet my updatees became ever more convinced that I did indeed have purpose in my messages. As Person B demonstrates, there is demand for explanation, but only a resigned interaction. None of these persons ended communication entirely. They must have felt compelled to respond, even though the majority of the updates were extremely one-sided. I never asked about their days, simply marched forth with updates of my own. Though these updates were one-sided, the norms of communication nevertheless nudged their way into communication. Person C, without being prompted, reacted to my frequent updates with updates of his/her own.
Cellphones seem to have their own sort of social expectations. While home phones never used to have caller-id, we now expect this feature as part of the telephone technology. On the flip-side, people also expect people to know who it is that is calling. I had not expected an acquaintance to have lost my number, yet I carried through with the experiment without explanation. This reminded me how one-sided I was being in the experiment. This was contrary to the whole idea of “communications” technologies. Phones are meant to be a medium between two people, not from one person to another. Even the messaging system on my iPhone is built for this, displaying text messages to and from on the same screen like in an instant-messaging conversation. People were not expecting Twitter updates to be coming to them on their cellphones (though I understand some people do this) via text message.
All this brought me to a few interesting points about texting & cell-phones in general:
1) People expect to know who they are talking to.
2) People expect communication to be two-sided.
3) People expect communication to match the medium. Though I was communicating via cellphone, person C later stated, “You basically did Twitter.”
All in all, both myself and my subjects were extremely entertained by the experiment. It revealed a few interesting nuances of communication and got me in touch with some people that I normally wouldn’t be talking to.
Breaking norms might be a little bit awkward, but it can lead to some laughs in the end.
Listening to: The Scientist, Coldplay
Another assigned blog post for my communications course. This time, the assignment was to take an analog concept and describe how it has become digitized. I took this to a radical extreme. Judge for yourself.
“On Digitized Time.”
Dictionary.com defines “analog” as something “of or pertaining to a mechanism that represents data by measurement of a continuous physical variable, as voltage or pressure.” Common examples of these analog mechanisms include paintings, drawings, songs, and even the more obscure experience of human emotions. These things operate in a continuous realm of existence, where infinite intricacies of variation are limited only by the imagination. In my exploration of digitization, I decided to approach the subject without limitation. Perhaps I digress from the prompt, but I must.
I bought a clock today. It is not the first clock I have owned, nor do I imagine that it will be the last. This particular clock is a wall clock to hang in the living room of my apartment. I already have another clock in my room – my alarm clock. My new clock shows time by hands; my alarm clock shows time by numbers. Commonly, these clocks are referred to in opposition: one analog, one digital. It is here that I must break from limitation.
Consider the concept of “time.” Time is a mechanism of existence that is represented by continuous physical variables: matter manifested as rocks, plants, animals, and the unique category of humanity. In this way, time is in itself an analog mechanism. Time exists continually. We cannot stop, replay, or skip it. We can, however, digitize its passing.
There exists naturally a representation of this passage in the rotation and orbit of the the earth around the sun. To us, the sun goes up; the sun goes down. We experience day and night by this process and can in effect understand our interaction with time in two discrete units. With the first division made in nature, the process of humanity’s digitization of time had begun – and was based on rotation.
By seeing time as a rotation, it is not hard to separate the day into recurring samples. We see the sun rise, apex, and set. Though the intervals between each of these events changes by season, the process itself is seen day in and day out. Humanity, in its infinite wisdom, sought to standardize this process. Since the days are based on rotation, the method of representing the passing of days is logically also based on rotation. By representing time as a circle, it is easy to quantize parts of the day in equal and symmetrical parts. One division exists horizontally: day and night. Another division exists vertically: apex and nadir. From there, we ended up with 12 points altogether to represent points of time during the day.
This plotted circle is then converted into a clock, a device most people would think of as analog. Gears drive hands across the face of the plot to represent current time in relation to the earth’s rotation. As the gears turn their teeth, represented time ticks out at distinct sample rates. This representation is commonly quantized by hour, minute, and second. In this way, the plotted circle can be converted to what is commonly known as the digital format. By abandoning the manifestation of rotation, time can be simply represented as numbers.
These numbers are a high-fidelity code. Though the concept of time goes much beyond a simple rotation, for our purposes here on earth we could hardly have anything more practical. Clocks give structure to the day, and though the most digitized format of time abandons the physical representation of rotation, the way that the hours reset on a 12 or 24 hour basis keeps the idea intact. While a more accurate representation of time might be based in a linear fashion, the way we experience it through our days makes it practical to keep this cyclical view.
There is also little value to be gained from digitizing this representation further. The current standard units of time deal fairly accurately with our ability to experience moments, seconds being the smallest of them. In cases of competition, however, this digitization has become of great importance. With smaller units we may judge better who finished first in a race, for example. Oddly, the more we digitize time, the more we strive for perfection – and all the while the ultimate perfection of time already exists in an analog stream outside of the ticking world.
Final note: I will be visiting my buddy Kyle this weekend in Bloomington for another round of video games, nonsense, homework, and yes – we’ll be getting a handle on this webcomic idea I went and came up with. So uh, wish us luck.
Listening to: Morgonstunden, Promoe