I successfully put down the baby for her late morning nap half an a hour ago. After running quietly around in sock feet trying to do things while she was out cold, I sat down to answer email and messages. As I entered this post into WordPress, she awoke again.)
It’s not easy to respond quickly and at volume using one hand or thumb, though I’ve gotten much better at both over the past five months with a baby daughter.
Over that time, I’ve been struck by how good the voice recognition in iOS on my iPhone has become. I’ve been able to successfully dictate a rough draft of a long article into the email interface and respond to any number of inbound inquiries that way.
That said, neither the soft keyboard nor voice-to-text on the device are a substitute yet for the 15″ keyboard in my MacBook Pro when I want to write at length.
It’s mostly a matter of numbers: I can still type away at more than eighty words per minute on the full-size keyboard, far faster than I can produce accurate text through any method on my smartphone.
Capturing and sharing anything other than text on the powerful device, however, has become trivially easy, from images to video to audio recordings.
The process of “writing” has long since escaped the boundaries of tabulas, slate and papyrus, moving from pens and paper to explode onto typewriters, personal computers and tablets.
Today, I’m thinking about how the bards of today will be able to reclaim the oldest form of storytelling — the spoken word — and apply it in a new context.
As we enter the next decade of rapidly improving gestural and tactile interfaces for connected mobile devices, I wonder how long until the generations that preceded me will be able to leave decades of experience with keyboards behind and simply speak naturally to connected devices to share what they thinking or seeing with family, friends and coworkers.
Economist Paul Krugman seemed to be thinking about something similar this morning, in a blog post on “techno-optimism”, when he commented on the differences between economic and technological stagnation:
…I know it doesn’t show in the productivity numbers yet, but anyone who tracks technology has a strong sense that something big has been happening the past few years, that seemingly intractable problems — like speech recognition, adequate translation, self-driving cars, etc. — are suddenly becoming tractable. Basically, smart machines are getting much better at interacting with the natural environment in all its complexity. And that suggests that Skynet will soon kill us all a real transformative leap is somewhere over the horizon, maybe not this decade, but this generation.
Still, what do I know? But Brynjolfsson and McAfee have a new book — not yet out, but I have a manuscript — making this point with many examples and a lot of analysis.
There remain big questions about how the benefits of this technological surge, if it’s coming, will be distributed. But I think this kind of thing has to be taken into account when we try to imagine the future; I’m a great Gordon admirer, but his techniques necessarily involve extrapolating from the past, and aren’t well suited to picking up what could be a major inflection point.
Almost exactly this time last year, I went to see a book reading by William Gibson, one of the greatest science fiction writers of our time.
After he did a reading from his most recent novel, Zero History, he answered questions from the audience at Politics and Prose, a wonderful independent bookstore in Cleveland Park in Washington, D.C.
Appropriately, given that I filmed the questions and answers and subsequently uploaded the videos to YouTube, one of the questions posed to Gibson was about living in a digital panopticon. BoingBoing recently published an excellent interview with Gibson, if you’d like his most recent thoughts on our historical moment.
Last weekend, I was proud to join a fascinating group of people in the first News Foo out in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m still thinking through what it all meant to me. Covering events in Washington has kept me extremely busy from the moment I returned.
Almost by definition, you can’t go to everything at an unconference. And by definition, an unconference is what you make of it, meaning that if you to a session to happen, you need to propose it. If you don’t like the one you’re in, vote with your feet. The open structure means that everyone will have a different experience, a reality that was reflected in the tweets, blogposts and feedback that have emerged in the days since the first News Foo concluded in Phoenix.
Newsfoo is a variant of Tim O’Reilly’s famed Foo camps, which have a wiki unconference format. People create the sessions as they go, and they camp out together. The social + intellectual experience is a bonding opportunity. There is also, for example, a Sci Foo camp which is consponsored by O’Reilly, Nature mag and Google. Now there is a push to do a Newsfoo, which would bring technologists and journalists together in a high-level discussion, that looks forward rather than back. It would tackle cool problems, both content side and business side.
To expand on that concept, posted before the event, News Foo was a collaboration between O’Reilly Media, Google and the Knight Foundation. Each hour or so, four or five sessions frequently competed for attention, along with freewheeling conversations in hallways, tables and in the open spaces of Arizona State University’s beautiful journalism center. As with every unconference, the attendees created the program and decided which sessions to attend, aggregating or disaggregating themselves.
If you’re interested in other reactions to News Foo, several excellent posts have made their way online since Sunday. I’ll be posting more thoughts on Newsfoo soon, along with book recommendations from the science fiction session.
For those who were not present, a post by Steve Buttry is particularly worth reading, along with the lively dialogue in the comments: “News Foo Camp: Not fully open, but certainly secret.” Buttry reached out to Sarah Winge, who provided a lengthy, informative comment about what Foos are about and how “Friend D.A.” works. If you’re not familiar with either, go check out Steve’s excellent post.
As he notes there, heavy tweeting was discouraged by the organizers, a request supported by the thinking that being “fully present,” freed of the necessary attention that documenting an event accurately requires of a writer, will result in a richer in-person experience for all involved.
Over the course of the weekend, I certainly tweeted much less than I would at the average conference or unconference. But then foo isn’t either.
Futurama’s focus on Apple is, of course, nothing new. Series co-founders David X. Cohen and Matt Groening are both big Apple nerds. We previously chronicled Futurama’s subtle and comical use of Apple and Mac references over here.
The viral Twitworm that creates many zombies is one of the best pop references to botnets and IT security I’ve seen recently, too. And there was one more (seriously geeky) detail that Engadget, Edible Apple and Mashable missed:
“When did the Internet become about losing your privacy?” asks Fry.
The WWW project merges the techniques of information retrieval and hypertext to make an easy but powerful global information system.
The project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone. It aims to allow information sharing within internationally dispersed teams, and the dissemination of information by support groups.
The WWW world consists of documents, and links. Indexes are special documents which, rather than being read, may be searched. The result of such a search is another (“virtual”) document containing links to the documents found. A simple protocol (“HTTP”) is used to allow a browser program to request a keyword search by a remote information server.
The web contains documents in many formats. Those documents which are hypertext, (real or virtual) contain links to other documents, or places within documents. All documents, whether real, virtual or indexes, look similar to the reader and are contained within the same addressing scheme. To follow a link, a reader clicks with a mouse (or types in a number if he or she has no mouse). To search and index, a reader gives keywords (or other search criteria). These are the only operations necessary to access the entire world of data.
Iron Man 2 arrives on May 7. I’m looking forward to it, which is no surprise to fellow scifi geeks who know me. The most recent trailer is embedded above.
Later this year, Tron Legacy will hit theaters, revisiting one of the all-time great scifi virtual worlds. Tron set a new standard for movie special effects. I’m not sure if Tron Legacy will similarly raise the bar, given the cinematic heights that Avatar scaled, but it’s safe to say there will be some fine eye candy on display.
After a long day, I’m happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed watching both of these trailers.
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