November 2002

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I signed up for a free login to Gamasutra, and probably should’ve long ago. I’ve been chewing on a bone lately that I keep tripping over and have been for years: that multiplayer games are the purest essence we have of multi-user environments, and that if we watch how problems are solved and conventions are evolved in that realm, we’ll have a better idea of what to expect in the more quotidian worlds of business and community. This Masters Thesis (is it not unbelievably cool that there is a phat gaming site out there that publishes dissertations and theses???) is about collaboration in computer-based communities, and how ‘trust’ enters into the equation. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I have enough of a taste to know this is something I want to share. If you want to read it, you just have to do a very quick and easy signup form, and you can read all the content on the site that you want for free, as far as I can tell. Here’s the article, and a quote follows:
Gamasutra – Masters Thesis: The Architechtures of Trust: Supporting Cooperation in the Computer-Supported Community

This thesis centers on the necessary design conditions for computer-supported cooperation. Social issues pertaining to online interaction are analysed on the basis of existing sociological theory with the specific aim of determining if there are analytically important differences between interaction in offline and online settings. This leads to a description of how knowledge of online dynamics may be used to further cooperation and trust in collaborative computing.

Cyberspace as place.

Even though it’s now 9 years old (and what a long 9 years, given the changes in technology since), Julian Dibbell’s VLS article, The Writer a la Modem, is still a terrific, lucid articulation of what it means to be online. And, I would argue, it’s a point that many of us have forgotten about since then. When the ‘Net became commercialized (only a year or so after this article), the fascination was all about the Web and e-commerce. But now that all that stuff has blown over, what we’re left with is the fundamental issue of “cyberspace” — a term that I’m starting to think needs to come back into vogue. More on this later, but for now I’ll just say that I’m realizing that my own assumptions and beliefs and theories about what Information Architecture is “really” about are informed by my earlier experiences with multi-user dimensions and such. Anyway, Dibbell (who wrote “My Tiny Life” and the infamous article for the Village Voice, A Rape in Cyberspace”), puts things pretty well in this article — here’s an especially good paragraph:

Cyberspace is a place all right, but it is an insistently textual one–insistently and in fact traditionally, for cyberspace’s grand illusion of alternate dimensionality represents not a departure from the nature of writing but a refinement of it. Writing, since its invention, has been a technology of virtual presence, simulating the here-and-nowness of both the writing subject and of whatever conceptual or sensual objects that subject cares to conjure. The technology of cyberspace may dazzle with its newness, but it really only extends the capabilities of an artificial-reality machine older than the Pyramids.

If only my clients would read this and agree… Digital Web Magazine – Features: 99.9% of Websites Are Obsolete

The irony is that no one beside Yahoo’s management cares what Yahoo looks like. The site’s tremendous success is due to the service it provides, not to the beauty of its visual design (which is non-existent).That this otherwise brilliant company wastes untold bandwidth to deliver a look and feel no one admires says everything you need to know about the entrenched mindset of developers who hold “backward compatibility” in higher esteem than reason, usability, or their own profits.

Theses — what a lofty word.

The 25 in question are being hammered even further at places like matt jones | work & thoughts and Yayhooray!.

Chris Locke’s sordid tale of a consulting pitch had me in stitches as I checked email from my warm bed this morning before work. And I needed that today. Because yesterday was an election day, and I live in North Carolina. Check it out: Entropy Gradient Reversals – Faster Horses!

The AIfIA 25 Theses are being hammered to a fine powder at Metafilter | Comments on 21365. Of course, I held my breath for about 30 seconds, then had to log in and respond.

AIfIA Launch

I said why don’t we get together
And call ourselves an institute. — Paul Simon

Monday is the official launch date of something I’ve been covertly involved in for over half a year. The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture.

“Asilomar” means “refuge from the sea” (or maybe “refuge by the sea” — now i’m getting foggy on it) but either way, it comes from the name of the place where some of us stayed this past spring to start getting the organization off the ground. But in a way it’s also about building ways to have respite from the chaos of the sea of information around us. Or perhaps more accurately, ways to channel it, sail on it and navigate by its contours and the way it reflects the stars.

I won’t go on and on about its official purpose and “initiatives” here — plenty of that at the site. For me the most important thing is that the institute means IA is something real, not just a ghostly buzzword hovering between HCI and LIS. I happen to think IA actually much bigger that one slice of a spectrum — my thoughts are somewhat cryptically expressed in the 25 Theses I wrote for the organization, with a lot of inspiration from other members and various sources. There is a key phrase in the 25 Theses and, as it happens, in the Mission page where we take a bold stab at defining IA — “shared information environments.” I took some time last week to unpack that phrase a bit here on Memekitchen.

It’ll be fun to see where all of this leads. In the meantime, if you feel so compelled, sign up to help out on something or become a member. Just check the website — we have cyber-barnraisings going on all over the damn place.

Friday night, our kid was at a sleepover, so we indulged… My wife and I saw Punch-Drunk Love and then right after it went to Secretary. Inbetween we had hot chocolate and cake at the little bistro at the cool theater we go to here.

It was really fascinating to see both of them together like that… a lot of similarities, actually. They’re both about people finding love that doesn’t fit the hollywood-romantic mold, who don’t seem to be merely settling for lowered-expectations geek-love, but who seem to discover another oddball as a real blessing.

Overall, I’d have to say PunchDrunk was more a movie about story and directorial flourish, not so much about characters. But Secretary is really brilliant, and very very character-driven. The leading actress is amazing. She should be up for an oscar — she does incredible character-evolving stuff just with her face in this movie. And Spader is at his best.