summing up 63

i am trying to build a jigsaw puzzle which has no lid and is missing half of the pieces. i am unable to show you what it will be, but i can show you some of the pieces and why they matter to me. if you are building a different puzzle, it is possible that these pieces won't mean much to you, maybe they won't fit or they won't fit yet. then again, these might just be the pieces you're looking for. this is summing up, please find previous editions here.

  • is there love in the telematic embrace? by roy ascott. it is the computer that is at the heart of this circulation system, and, like the heart, it works best when least noticed - that is to say, when it becomes invisible. at present, the computer as a physical, material presence is too much with us; it dominates our inventory of tools, instruments, appliances, and apparatus as the ultimate machine. in our artistic and educational environments it is all too solidly there, a computational block to poetry and imagination. it is not transparent, nor is it yet fully understood as pure system, a universal transformative matrix. the computer is not primarily a thing, an object, but a set of behaviors, a system, actually a system of systems. data constitute its lingua franca. it is the agent of the datafield, the constructor of dataspace. where it is seen simply as a screen presenting the pages of an illuminated book, or as an internally lit painting, it is of no artistic value. where its considerable speed of processing is used simply to simulate filmic or photographic representations, it becomes the agent of passive voyeurism. where access to its transformative power is constrained by a typewriter keyboard, the user is forced into the posture of a clerk. the electronic palette, the light pen, and even the mouse bind us to past practices. the power of the computer's presence, particularly the power of the interface to shape language and thought, cannot be overestimated. it may not be an exaggeration to say that the "content" of a telematic art will depend in large measure on the nature of the interface; that is, the kind of configurations and assemblies of image, sound, and text, the kind of restructuring and articulation of environment that telematic interactivity might yield, will be determined by the freedoms and fluidity available at the interface. highly recommended (pdf)
  • on the reliability of programs, by e.w. dijkstra. automatic computers are with us for twenty years and in that period of time they have proved to be extremely flexible and powerful tools, the usage of which seems to be changing the face of the earth (and the moon, for that matter!) in spite of their tremendous influence on nearly every activity whenever they are called to assist, it is my considered opinion that we underestimate the computer's significance for our culture as long as we only view them in their capacity of tools that can be used. they have taught us much more: they have taught us that programming any non-trivial performance is really very difficult and i expect a much more profound influence from the advent of the automatic computer in its capacity of a formidable intellectual challenge which is unequalled in the history of mankind. this opinion is meant as a very practical remark, for it means that unless the scope of this challenge is realized, unless we admit that the tasks ahead are so difficult that even the best of tools and methods will be hardly sufficient, the software failure will remain with us. we may continue to think that programming is not essentially difficult, that it can be done by accurate morons, provided you have enough of them, but then we continue to fool ourselves and no one can do so for a long time unpunished
  • "institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution", the shirky principle
  • if no one reads the manual, that's okay, if you think about it, the technical writer is in an unusual role. users hate the presence of manuals as much as they hate missing manuals. they despise lack of detail yet curse length. if no one reads the help, your position lacks value. if everyone reads the help, you're on a sinking ship. ideally, you want the user interface to be simple enough not to need help. but the more you contribute to this user interface simplicity, the less you're needed
  • 44 engineering management lessons
  • the grain of the material in design, because of the particular characteristics of a specific piece's grain, a design can't simply be imposed on the material. you can "go with the grain" or "go against the grain," but either way you have to understand the grain of the material to successfully design and produce a work. design for technology shouldn't be done separately from the material - it must be done as an intimate and tactile collaboration with the material of technology.