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Columnists

Crowdsourcing the world

When Vancouverites gathered at the W2 Media Arts Centre for the second Fresh Media Remixology social, myself and the other organizers expected that conversations would be focused on crowdsourced media making. What we didn't anticipate was that attendees would have a hunger to talk about the implications of what this new form of media is making in other spheres of society.

We shouldn't have been surprised. After all, several of us conceptualized the Remixology series as something that would forward the idea of remixing our roles and society at large (society as an open platform). But it was a surprise nonetheless.

Columnists

Learning from nature's design

Admit it, it's been quite a summer. Epic rains flooding swaths of Pakistan and China, fires ravaging Russia, while on this continent the plague of viscous black death has seeped into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's barely capped Deepwater Horizon, its true toll unlikely ever to be fully tallied.

Tragedy poses the basic questions: What is life really all about? Is nature trying to tell us something?

Funny you should ask.

The young discipline of biomimicry is coming into being based on a deep biological read of exactly these two questions. The good news is that this approach opens the door to radically hopeful new solutions to profound human problems.

Columnists

Is Canada a mobile laggard?

There is something uniquely powerful about everyday people having access to the Internet from tiny devices in their pocket. That ubiquitous access to each other creates possibilities that are worth fighting for and saving. The mobile and wireless accessed Internet, combined with emerging open web and open data applications, has the potential to usher in a new era of connectedness, and with it dramatic changes to social practices and institutions. If we get digital public policy right, Canada could become a leader in mobile communications, leading to empowerment, job creation and new forms of entrepreneurialism, expression and social change.

Columnists

Consumer electronics and the miracle of materials

Photo: Kenny Louie/flickr

Who, three decades ago, would have imagined that the materials that would change consumer electronics would be glass, ABS plastic, sapphire, graphite and aluminum?

Back then folks might have said silicon, tin and polypropylene, since that's what made up the majority of cheap computers, cassette decks and mobile phones. Back then, most consumer electronics weren't cheap, they just looked it. High-end materials and elegant industrial design went into luxury cars and watches, not video consoles and desktop computers. 

Columnists

Photographs and the illusion of the frozen moment

Photo: remediate.this/flickr

What's a photograph? If you answered: "a moment in time captured on film or as a digital image" your answer would only be right for the last hundred years or so. Back in 1839, when the Daguerreotype process was announced to the world, an exposure on a glass positive would take 20-30 minutes. When, two years later, Henry Fox Talbot introduced his calotype method of creating a film negative, the exposures were shorter, but still measured in minutes, not seconds or fractions of a second.

To the Cloud: Big Data in a Turbulent World -- book launch with Vincent Mosco

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Location

Octopus Books at 25One Community
2nd floor, 251 Bank St.
Ottawa, ON
Canada
45° 24' 58.86" N, 75° 41' 48.9732" W

In the wake of revelations about National Security Agency activities—many of which occur “in the cloud”—this book offers both enlightenment and a critical view. Cloud computing and big data are arguably the most significant forces in information technology today. In clear prose, To the Cloud explores where the cloud originated, what it means, and how important it is for business, government, and citizens. It describes the intense competition among cloud companies like Amazon and Google, the spread of the cloud to government agencies like the controversial NSA, and the astounding growth of entire cloud cities in China.

Columnists

We can't get no satisfication: Computer systems, complexity and human nature

Photo: Phoenix Dark-Knight/flickr

Human beings are odd creatures. Example: we satisfice. We exhibit that tendency when we discover a way of doing things that is, however awkward and convoluted, strangely comforting over time.

Relatives who get to the google.com home page by searching Yahoo for Google are satisficing. No matter how often you explain you could just enter the URL directly, they will continue with their familiar routine. We are creatures of habit, no matter how wonky and convoluted that habit might be. But, and here again is evidence of our oddness, we route around the complexity imposed by others.

Columnists

Scaling the rich media mountain

Photo: Scott Maxworthy/flickr

The PDF was invented 21 years ago. That means that a vast majority of the content that companies put online would have been right at home back when I Will Always Love You was in the Billboard Top Ten. It's like two decades of technology never existed. Why?

One of the main reasons is a lack of time. It's far faster to generate a PDF of a report than to make the effort to produce rich, interactive media more appropriate for online and mobile devices. 

So, clearly companies need to think through how their rich media production is scalable and sustainable given the organization's capacity. Either that or keep producing content as if the advances of the last 20 years never happened. 

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