The Chipped Looking Glass
Laid to Rest
Doing this weblog has been a great experience for me. Before this course, my opinion of blogs was skeptical at best, but now I see and understand their value. The major step that I took was realizing that blogs were not used just for individuals to muse about their daily lives. There is great potential for using blogs as an intellectual tool, and this lies in the great flexibility that they give to writing. A blog is a place where anything can be written, at any time, and from any place. The internet allows for material to be spread around the world rapidly. These traits embody the fact that blogger’s slogan, “Push-button publishing for the people,” is indeed appropriate.

Writing regularly in this course has prevented me from intellectual stagnation; it is certainly a health thing to regularly think critically and assess issues. Because I have taken to blogging so naturally, I have started my own weblog.

During the course of writing this blog, I had a rocky start, and eventually settled into a mindset of weblogging that worked for me. Toward the middle of the semester, I found it easier to find something in a topic to address, and the writing came more easily.

When I wrote about Walter Benjamin’s Storytelling, I found that I successfully applied his thoughts to modern-day blogging, even though his writing was thick with vocabulary and awkward due to its age. Many of my classmates complained about the difficulty of the reading, but I was not discouraged. I spent extra time with Storytelling, taking notes, and picking my way through his arguments until I could distill them into undertandable thoughts. My argument that what he writes about new media of publishing applies to weblogs may be a tenuous link, but I think that I did a good job in making my point by using examples from his writing and comparing those to blogging.

My post about the High Museum of Art embodies a post where I knew what topic I wanted to examine, and tackled successfully, despite the difficulty of traveling to the museum, and traveling back to campus before being able to organize my thoughts and post. I found this entry so easy because some aspects of the high museum stuck out at me as peculiar, and the reading beforehand about trends in museum style applied well to what I saw there.

One entry that was hard for me to write was this one about Tara McPherson’s Reload. Whenever I begin to talk or write about the internet, my ideas become a hectic, disjointed mash. In this post, I wander into mentioning a weblog author that I read and enjoy, but is mostly unrelated to the issue at hand. I also share a personal experience of my own with using the web that could be considered, at best, vaguely on topic.

My post about etopia is one in which I did a good job expressing an argument concisely and lucidly. The topic is one that in which I have a seemingly endless supply of opinions, and I was able to borrow an idea from a previous post and develop it farther in this one.

Concluding this blog is going to be a big change for me, because it has been such an intense part of my life for this semester. A blog is a great thing to have, and a good place for intelligent discourse when nobody wants to listen. This course has opened my eyes to the wonders of weblogs, and I will continue to use my personal blog in the future. This will probably be the last post to this blog, and the posts on will likely become more academic because I will not be blogging as coursework anymore.

It has been a fun and wild ride, but now it is time to lay this blog to rest.
The failed revolution
In etopia, William Mitchell describes his vision of how the world will change when telecommuting becomes popular and information systems pervade our lives. Although he writes in 2000, Mitchell fails to take into account the possibility that perhaps technology has matured past the point where a telecommuting boom was possible, and that it will never happen.

Employers will always want to see their workers from day to day, and the cubicle dweller paradigm is incompatible with telecommuting. Without even the necessity of looking busy, it will be hard for employers to keep some workers on task. Furthermore, many professions simply cannot be practiced from afar; it would be difficult for a construction worker to simply dial in from home. For these reasons, the fraction of the workforce that can effectively telecommute will never exceed a few percent. William Mitchell’s claims about how cities and suburbs will transmute rely on the assumption that a large fraction can and will telecommute. If even 20% of people in most cities begin telecommuting, it will not result in a change in the urban status quo. More likely those telecommuters will simply be required to adapt to their situation.

If the internet was going to cause as large a change in the world as Mitchell suggests, it would have already happened by the year 2000.
The living internet - Now, now!
Tara McPherson's Reload analyzes the potential that the web has for furthering consumerism and the role in society for which it is destined. What strikes me first about the article is that the web has been quite commonplace for over ten years, yet articles are still being produced (Reload was written in 2002) that consider the internet a developing thing, and discuss what it will eventually become. Trust me, kids, the internet is already everything that it will ever be. It is a chaotic, hectic, and unruly place, where power and fame are distributed in an almost post-apocalyptic way. Somehow, Google has come to power in the last few years, and sooner or later, some other web superpower will surpass Google's presence.

As far as using the web as a profitable medium for business, there is a failed concept called micropayments. The way micropayments work is that content on the internet would be priced small amounts (say, a penny or two for an article) and would be billed to the user automagically upon following a link and verifying the charge. Again, micropayments have failed on the world wide web, for a simple reason, which is elucidated very well by "maddog" McGlichey, who links to other articles about the issue.

Reload uses the interactivity of the web to explain why it is so woven into our lives. The internet, by itself, is a vaguely structured supply of information, and only by routing themselves on a path through it, does it take the linear form of other media. The practice of shaping the abstract internet into a concrete experience, and the feel of rendering the webpages from incomprehensible code on one's own machine gives the internet its liveness. Tara makes the point that this liveness is what makes the web fun to use, and is the experience that companies would have to capture and perfect if they intend to make the internet profitable.

Traditional web browsers tend to be limiting in their interface, making it difficult to fluently follow multiple traces through the internet. I use Safari, which supplies me with a convenient tabbed inteface, allowing my 'trail' through the internet to branch and fork within one browser window. However, the ultimate tendency is for most branches to be cut, or converge together back into one path, and branch again. Although Safari affords me a wider path through the web, it is still a mostly linear experience.
Vision, Cameras, Action!
In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes notes that photography can never be evaluated independently of the subject of the photograph. In no context is it possible to take a picture that is not of something. What he fails to take into account is that painting, often considered the precursor art to photography, is the same way. It would be difficult to find a painting that truly had no subject. Roland makes no mention of this in his writing.

A good observation that Roland makes is that there are three actions that go into the process of photography - taking photographs, being in them, and looking at them. Often when we think of photography we limit ourselves to thinking of photos in a gallery or personal photos without taking into account the entire experience and process that is photography. It is good to have this reminder that there is more thant his to photography. Barthes admits that he has no knowledge of photography as the picture taker, but describes his experiences in the other two roles.

With the invention of chemical photography, the second major method of observing light was born (Roland uses a classification slightly different from mine, in which painting is an intermediate between simple vision and photography). Now, digital photography and CCD capturing devices have produced a third means of recording light. These three methods and their uses are of great interest to astronomers, who must record images of the sky in order to study the object contained therein. In Barthes’ time, however, the utility of photography as a recording mechanism in the sciences had barely been pondered through. As time progressed, those opinions in Camera Lucida would have certainly evolved.
Remember the past, welcome the future
The American Memory Project is an attempt to preserve artwork from America’s past digitally. The collection now contains over 7 million items, including books, journals, sheet music, movies, photos, and even sound recordings. Among the included works are some of the earliest movies made, reaching back as far as the 1920’s. These movies are black and white, silent, and of poor quality. The lack of focus is a result of primitive capturing devices, as well as the inevitable degredation of film over time.

The movies themselves are interesting explorations into what comes as a result of testing the limits of a new technology. The early movies, produced by Thomas Edison, make use of reversing and distorting time as a technique, and begin to show an interest in what can be done through movement of the camera, as seen in the panorama of a prison. In “Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show,” a movie-goer believes that what he sees in the movie is really occuring, and is fooled into attempting to interact with the movie. In that film, we can see the investigation of the capabilities of cinema.

Another point worthy of being raised is that even this early in moviemaking, society wondered about the possibilities of interacting with a movie, something that did not become a technological possibility until the boom of personal computers, at least 60 years later.