The price of 3D printers is plummeting. Like all complicated pieces of technology it is quickly moving from large, confusing, and expensive to small, simple and cheap. This year has been full of consumer-level 3D printers that are cheaper than some professional grade photo printers. Right now, these little things are capable of making plastic do-dads that are, admittedly, of lesser quality than some dollar store toys. But just like a magic trick, you’re not paying for the physical thing, you’re paying for the ability to do the trick. Design an object in a modeling software suite like SketchUp, convert it into some kind of printer-friendly format, and -so long as it is smaller than a bread box and made out of plastic- you can build whatever you want. 3D printers give an individual the ability to transform bits into atoms. In some ways it is a radical democratization of the means of production. For a fraction of the price of a car, someone can gain the ability to fabricate a relatively wide range of material objects. What are the implications for this new ability? What does it say about the relationship of atoms and bits?
Who decided the Minority Report computer was the goal of 21st century interfaces? Why does anyone think its a good idea? Could you imagine doing a spreadsheet on that thing? And why the hell are they using physical media to transport information? What is so alluring, exactly, about this gigantic computer that requires two (two!) Nintendo Powergloves to operate and can only receive data (apparently) through physical media drives the size of VHS tapes? The resolution looks awful and, since the screens are transparent, I can only assume your computer always has to be up against a blank wall. But none of those things are nearly as important as the human element it ignores. The computer has no soul. Its a sterile interface meant to catch murders (or frame people as such), not share family photos. The obsession with the Minority Report computer is a betrayal of everything that is human about computers.
My first PC was a frankenstein PC running Windows 3.1. I played Sim City and argued with people in AOL chat rooms. My first mac was a bondi blue iMac that ran OS 9, more AOL, and an awfulStar Trek: Voyager-themed first-person shooter. I was 13. In the intervening years, I’ve had several macs and PCs, all of which have seen their fair share of upgrades and OS updates. Even my current computer, which is less than a year old, has seen a full OS upgrade. I am one of those people that like radical changes to graphic user interfaces (GUIs). These changes are a guilty pleasure of mine. Some people watch trashy television, I sign up for a Facebook developer account so I can get timeline before my friends. I know I’m fetishizing the new: it goes against my politics and my professional decorum. I have considered switching to Linux for no other reason than the limitless possibilities of tweaking the GUI. It is no surprise then, that I have already downloaded the Windows 8 release candidate and I am installing it on a virtual machine as I write this paragraph. What is it about GUIs that evoke such strong emotions? While I practically revel in a new icon set, others are dragged into the future kicking and screaming. What is it about GUIs that arouse such strong feelings?
Or, Tosh.0 is Racist, Classist, Homophobic, Sexist, and Just Plain Gross
I’m not really sure where to begin here. Tosh.0, the Comedy Central hit show hosted by Daniel Tosh, is so rife with sophomoric dick jokes (I prefer the classy kind) and heteronormative swill that I contemplated not even writing this post. Unlike Ellen or even It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Tosh.0 is meant to be (as far as I can tell) the refined distillation of a 14-year-old-white boy’s id. The show is half sketch comedy, half sitting with your younger brother while he guzzles an energy drink and laughs at youtube videos of bums fighting. Jezebel has already written about his “lightly touching women’s stomachs while they’re lying down” campaign, andhis fat-shaming caption contest. Both posts deserve your attention, the former for its righteous anger, the latter for its history of the image used in the contest. I went through several pages of videos, looking for good examples of the “-ists” I listed above, but each one was so jam-packed with privilege and hate that I couldn’t pick just one. But if, you have never seen the show and need some mental flagellation, here’s a sexist one about MMA fighting; something called “fat girl gymnastics” (fat shaming with bonus racism); a video that’s actually titled “Racist Moments Montage“; and an even more racist one called, “stereotypes are not always true.” I understand that Daniel Tosh is a comedian, and to argue with one usually means you have already lost the fight, but I think there is a fruitful discussion to be had about how a public figure engages with his or her audience and the sort of behavior they encourage.
Reason #15,926 I love the Internet: it allows us to bypass our insane leaders israelovesiran.com
— allisonkilkenny (@allisonkilkenny) April 22, 2012
Sherry Turkle published an op-ed in the Opinion Pages of the New York Times’ Sunday Review that decries our collective move from “conversation” to “connection.” Its the same argument she made in her latest book Alone Together, and has roots in her previous books Life on the Screen and Second Self. Her argument is straightforward and can be summarized in a few bullet points:
- Our world has more “technology” in it than ever before and it is taking up more and more hours of our day.
- We use this technology to structure/control/select the kinds of conversations we have with certain people.
- These communication technologies compete with “the world around us” in a zero-sum game for our attention.
- We are substituting “real conversations” with shallower, “dumbed-down” connections that give us a false sense of security. Similarly, we are capable of presenting ourselves in a very particular way that hides our faults and exaggerates our better qualities.
Turkle is probably the longest-standing, most outspoken proponent of what we at Cyborgology call digital dualism. The separation of physical and virtual selves and the privileging of one over the other is not only theoretically contradictory, but also empirically unsubstantiated.