"new media" entries

Eyebeam Update: Two months after Sandy

Eyebeam is turning the road to recovery into an opportunity for progress, but getting it done will take a whole community.

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the new media and design incubator in NYC, Eyebeam, and the damage they’d suffered in Hurricane Sandy. This week I caught up with Eyebeam executive director Pat Jones to find out what kind of progress has been made in the cleanup.

The three feet of polluted water that flooded Eyebeam’s work and exhibit space on the West Side of Manhattan during the storm had damaged lots of equipment and soaked much of their archive material. Cleaning whatever could be saved and making a priority list for replacing what was lost were the two main challenges of recovery.

Thanks to generous contributions from philanthropic foundations and private companies — such as the Jerome Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Art Dealers Association of America, Time-Warner, and O’Reilly Media — as well as donations from individuals, about half the equipment losses have been covered.

There are still some other funding proposals under consideration, but essentially the equipment recovery process has been one of triage: Eyebeam has tried to replace equipment needed immediately by their artists in residence, as well as some practical pieces like the two scissor lifts required to access lights and other equipment at the top of their two-story exhibit space. Read more…

After the storm: Putting Eyebeam back together

The largest not-for-profit art and technology center in the US was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and you can help

Thanksgiving has come and gone and many of us are busy preparing for the winter holidays. For most of us, Hurricane Sandy is about to become a footnote to a crazy series of news cycles around the 2012 presidential election. But for many individuals and institutions, the cleanup has barely begun.

One of these institutions is the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in New York, a not-for-profit incubator of new media and design. Each year, Eyebeam hosts two groups of residents for five months each, in addition to several fellows for the full year. Almost 250 artists, designers, and technologists have spent time there since Eyebeam first opened in 1997, many of whom we at O’Reilly have known and admired.

Hurricane Sandy brought more than three feet of water, chemicals, and outside debris sweeping into the streets and buildings on the west side of Manhattan. At Eyebeam, this spelled disaster for much of the equipment and archives on their ground floor. The disaster was compounded by the fact that none of this material was covered by flood insurance.

The main space is currently filled with dried-out computers, projectors, mixers and other audio equipment, and two scissor-lifts used for accessing the upper reaches of their 18-foot-high space. Volunteers are looking over and hand-inspecting it all to figure out what can be salvaged; ultimately, they’ll have to find ways to repair, replace, or do without each item.

As for the archives, volunteers have sorted and washed each piece, and begun the task of cataloging what can be preserved. Alumni will be contacted to see if they can provide copies of their work, but most of the material is now very fragile and will need to be digitized and transferred to more stable formats, a time-consuming and expensive process that is expected to take a year or more.

But with all of this comes the opportunity for Eyebeam to reconsider their goals and how they can make their archives available to a wider audience than before. Read more…

Personalization and the future of Digg

A recommendation model could quell competition for Digg's front page

I recently talked to Joe Stump, CTO of SimpleGeo, about a number of topics related to location and databases. However, in the course of the interview, we also got around to discussing Digg. Previous to launching SimpleGeo, Joe was the Chief Architect at Digg, and he has a lot of insight into where the site is heading. We'll be running the rest of the interview soon, but what Joe told me about Digg got me thinking.

Scribd Store a Welcome Addition to Ebook Market (and 650 O'Reilly Titles Included)

The document-sharing site Scribd has launched a new “Scribd Store” selling view and download access to documents and books. As part of the launch, there are now more than 650 O’Reilly ebooks now available for preview and sale in the Scribd store, and all include DRM-free PDF downloads with purchase. (Scribd will soon be adding EPUB as a format, and we’ll make that available as soon as possible.)

Clay Shirky's "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable"

Sometimes Clay Shirky astounds us by articulating something we’ve never thought of, and sometimes he astounds us by telling us something many have thought, but never so clearly and so compellingly. But always, he astounds. Into the first category falls the claim that he made in his keynote at the last Web 2.0 Expo that “the critical technology of the 20th century…was the sitcom.” Who would have thought that so penetrating an analysis could hinge on such a preposterous assertion! (If you haven’t already done so, read the transcript or watch the video.)

Four short links: 27 Feb 2009

Four short links: 27 Feb 2009

The Economist in Chinese, online news, concurrency, and community. Have a great weekend!

  1. Translating the Economist — Andy Baio reports on a Chinese electronic community that, each week, splits up and translates The Economist articles into Chinese. The DIY ethos here, “we want this, it’s not here yet, let’s make it happen”, is tremendous.
  2. Business Models of News — excellent insight into the travails of newspaper business. “In essence to secure the advertising for the print edition, they have in the past completely undermined the business they need to survive in the future. They have told every one of their advertisers that online adverts are not worth paying for.” (via Julie Starr)
  3. Embracing Concurrency — Ignite UK North talk on parallel coding, at a high and clear level, by Michael Sparks of BBC R&D, who is also author of Kamaelia.
  4. Things I’ve Learned From Hacker News — Paul Graham on social and community lessons from running Hacker News. “Probably the most important thing I’ve learned about dilution is that it’s measured more in behavior than users. It’s bad behavior you want to keep out more than bad people. User behavior turns out to be surprisingly malleable. If people are expected to behave well, they tend to; and vice versa.”
Four short links: 26 Feb 2009

Four short links: 26 Feb 2009

Three stories about old-media in new-media age, and some patent goblins to leave a bad taste in your mouth:

  1. The Kindle Swindle — the Authors Guild president argues that the robot voice of the Kindle does away with audiobook royalty streams, lucrative for some titles. Doesn’t mention the vast majority of books for which there is no audiobook. Creators have attempted to regulate use with licenses, but I think the plasticity of bits argues against this being possible for much longer. Now “audiobook”-ness is a feature of the device, not a feature of the retailed artistic work, and the question is not only how to charge for it but whether it makes sense to continue to charge for it. Neil Gaiman, by the way, doesn’t feel the same way as the head of the Author’s Guild.
  2. If You Want to Save Newspapers, Learn to Love Your iPhones — a long Observer piece about the “future of newspapers”, reinvention in the mobile age, subscription models, the curse of Google, etc. Many great quotes, for example: “Google is great for Google, but it’s terrible for content providers, because it divides that content quantitatively rather than qualitatively. And if you are going to get people to pay for content, you have to encourage them to make qualitative decisions about that content.” — Robert Thomson, the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal.
  3. NYT ArticleSkimmer — reminscent, vaguely, of Arts & Letters Daily, the original “big heap o’ content” page. Between this and Big Picture, I’m enjoying the experimentation in online newspaper formats.
  4. Microsoft Sues TomTom Over Patents, Including Linux Kernel — Microsoft patented elements of the FAT filesystem, including the system for representing long filenames on systems that only handle 8.3 filenames like CRAPWARE.EXE. This filesystem is used in pretty much every digital camera and Flash filesystem device, and the TomTom system in question. This Ars Digita article raises the interesting possibility that the Open Invention Network could respond by flexing its patent portfolio muscles and make it clear that nobody wants a battle over patents (except lawyers who are paid by the hour).
Four short links: 11.5 Feb 2009

Four short links: 11.5 Feb 2009

This second Feb 11 post was brought to you by the intersection of timezones and technology. If there’s a third Feb 11 post, I’m changing my name to Bill Murray.

  1. Hacking the Earth — an environmental futurist looks at “geoengineering”, deliberately interfering with the Earth’s systems to terraform the planet. Radical solution to global warming, unwise hubris and immoral act of the highest folly, or all of the above? (via Matt Jones)
  2. Reinvention Draws Near for Newsweek — fascinating look at how Newsweek are refocusing their magazine. “If we don’t have something original to say, we won’t. The drill of chasing the week’s news to add a couple of hard-fought new details is not sustainable.” gives me hope. Newsweek are hoping to target fewer but richer advertisers, essentially a business strategy of tapping existing customers for more. This feels like they’re ceding the contested parts of their business (commodity news stories) and doubling down on the bits that nobody else is fighting for yet (their columnists, pictures, whitespace). What else could they do? Possibly nothing (see Innovator’s Dilemma), but the alternative is figuring out something new that people want and giving them that. Easy to say, hard for anyone to do.
  3. Tinkerkit – a physical computing kit for designers. Arduino-compatible components for rapid prototyping. Sweet!
  4. Stanford University YouTube Channel — short interesting talks by Stanford researchers. Brains on chips, stem cells to fight deafness, and brain imagery are some of the first up there. The talks aren’t condescending or vague, they’re aimed at “a bright and curious audience”, as the Mind Hacks blog post about them put it.

Did you read the book from that movie?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that media is changing the way books are viewed. In fact, video – and YouTube in particular – has already changed how books are sold. Most big fiction releases are heralded by short “book trailers” that give an almost movie-like feel to the contents of the book.

But in a recent article published by the Christian Science Monitor, I was surprised to see that there’s an even more notable link between movies and the sale of books.