technology

Making the most of making the media

For years, though, as I hinted in a post last Spring, I've danced with another city. Over the past week, the motions became more certain, thanks in part to the energy I tapped into at the We Make the Media Conference at the University of Oregon's Turnbull Portland Center. When it comes to Saturday's conference, I've had to take some time to digest, get back home, and prepare my next steps. They include returning to Portland very soon — and more permanently — in part to join the community of mediamakers who emerged at the conference.

I want to reiterate this word “community.” For whatever it's worth, however hokey it might be dismissed as, I found community on Saturday. In a way I haven't been able to say for quite some time, I've found my people, at least my people for this moment. Perhaps I'm just famished, but I just haven't found these people in Los Angeles.

I'm emphasizing this for a reason. For all the critiques I have of We Make the Media, and all the many more already so eloquently articulated by other thinkers (Click here for a list of the reflections I've found, some of which I'm responding to here), I'm stunned by how, a few days later, I remain invigorated by the event. Like Abraham Hyatt and many others, I left the event quite drained, but now feel energized. Though the event may not have gone in the direction organizers hoped, perhaps it was a success anyhow.

Blurring the lines: Virtual human research promises real-world impacts

Backchannels evolve through time, and they are differentiated by culture. They frame our words. But while these backchannels come to us almost as easily as breathing and are as much a product of thousands of years of history as art and music and religion, they're foreign to computers. Scientists could program the whole of the Oxford English Dictionary and countless combinations of “heuristics” — or problem solving formulas — for proper grammar and machines would still have trouble learning this natural language. The notion that virtual humans might have unscripted conversations with humans and one another may seem like science fiction. Real humans themselves often struggle to communicate with one another; whether we're participating in complex international negotiations or wooing a mate we weave a quilt of words and body language meant to express our needs and desires. Computers communicate in strings of ones and zeros, a vocabulary of closed and open circuits determining how they “decide” to run programs. They have no other culture, no thousands of years of history to determine their identity.

Will Going Green be the Next Way We Go Bust?

Whether or not green is the new black, more and more Americans are reaching for ecologically-shaded opportunities as they try to spin their fortunes out of the red. With enthusiasm echoing the early days of the dot-com boom and the heady days of sub prime loans and home flipping, would-be entrepreneurs are starting to gamble that the solution to their economic puzzles is spelled e-n-v-i-r-o-n-m-e-n-t. But are they kidding themselves? Will a wind turbine manufacturer or biofuel harvester generate stock prices beyond everyone's wildest expectations, only to tumble like the next Enron? Will green investment lead to gold, or more empty pockets?