Uber running geek

October 31, 2006

Once in a while, I see lithe, beautiful people running along the street with their ipod nanos snugly attached to their arm band, blasting getting-jiggy-with-it music into their ears. Now what if they had a pair of NIKE+ running shoes – the latest offering from Nike that allows you to monitor your running progress? There is a sensor in your shoe that communicates with the receiver that hooks up to the bottom of your ipod nano and while pounding the tarmac, the display on your happy little nano tells you how long you’ve been running, how fast, how far, how many calories burned etc. You can even download the details of your run onto their website, set goals and monitor your progress. Now that is some serious geeky running.

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A neologism is a word, term, or phrase which has been recently created (“coined”) — often to apply to new concepts, or to reshape older terms in newer language form. Neologisms are especially useful in identifying inventions, new phenomena, or old ideas which have taken on a new cultural context. The term e-mail, as used today, would be an example of a neologism.

Bruce Sterling (author, journalist, editor, critic) gave a very short, tight presentation on neologisms and this “semantic battlefield” where no one has any idea what they are really talking about. (I suppose that is the perennial challenge with new things – everyone is just muddling about).

My main takeaway was his story about at engineering professor who split his students into 2 groups: the John Henrys, who had to do all their research in the library and the Baby Hueys who had to do all their research on the net, using amongst other things “bizarre blogger blither”. In the end, “the Baby Hueys were wiping the floor with the John Henrys”

Now, I graduated in 2002 and as much as I hate to use the phrase, “in my time”, then no one had ever heard of using blogs and wikipedia as bonafide sources of research information.

If Willy Wonka had access to liquid nitrogen and lasers, he would be Homaro Cantu. I mean he made me eat printed “paper” – it was some sort of chemical substrate – that tasted like candy floss. Some weird shit is happening.

  1. Who makes the rules?
  2. Won’t you get a lot of crap that way?
  3. How are you going to shift through all that crap?
  4. What is the role of community in a generative system?
  5. How do you move from the traditional model to a generative model?

What is podcasting?

October 27, 2006

A short break from all the Pop!Tech content. I’ve just jumped onto the podcasting bandwagon. Funky little things these podcasts and I will always be eternally grateful for the podcast on “prediction market technologies” that helped me prepare for a last-minute meeting in super-quick time.

So what is a podcast? If you ask a ninja, he will tell you that a podcast is like apple pie for whales. (That is probably the most out-of-context thing to say, ever. But click here and you will understand why.)

Random thoughts on gaming

October 27, 2006

I am still thinking about computer games (and more broadly, computer simulations). At lunch, Ivan remarked that his young nephew was quick to pick up WoW because he basically just got stuck into it and started playing. (I would have probably taken at least one look at the manual). Do playing computer games make you more willing to try out new things and less risk adverse? Now I am absolutely from the theory-first-practical-implications-later school of thought so I really wonder about the implications of gaming that go beyond mere entertainment.

Just do it?

Will Wright: Spore

October 27, 2006

I’ve only ever played 2 computer games:  Worms and Sim City.  So it brought me a great deal of pleasure to listen to Will Wright (creator of Sim City) speak at Pop!Tech.  Now, I’ve always been cynical about computer games.  I have pretty appalling hand-eye coordination so I never got into the whole gaming culture.  And the idea that you spend all that time on something and have nothing to show for it baffles me.

But Will’s demonstration of Spore absolutely blew me away.  At first, Spore seems like a god-game.  You create a little creature, guide it through a couple of generations, it evolves, lives in a little herd community, the herd becomes a society and progresses on towards becoming a space-faring civilization.  The idea is that with a few relatively simple rules, an extremely complex game can develop with every player no longer Bilbo Baggins but rather JRR Tolkien.  Players collectively make the game as you go along and as your little creature roams around in its little virtual world, it has the opportunity to interact with creatures that other players have created (although, this is still a single-player game – multi-player games take this concept to a whole new level).

 As an aside, later at lunch, I had the opportunity to sit with Ivan Marovic.  He is a young Serbian activist and a key figure in the Otpor (”Resistance”) movement.  He spoke at last year’s Pop!Tech on this game he developed called “A Force More Powerful”, which teaches players the tactics of non-violent resistance.  Wow.

With everything online and freely available, the economist in me wonders what kind of meaningful data these games will generate about human behaviour and preferences.  And if the argument goes that violent games cause people to be violent in real life, shouldn’t we make more room for games like “A Force More Powerful” that teach peaceful conflict resolution?  The idea that gaming and social justice can interface in a productive way fascinates me.