Block Chains for News

July 18th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Anil Dash’s piece on applying an underlying concept of Bitcoin to track digital art has me thinking about the potential applications of  block chains for news. As he writes:

What the technology behind Bitcoin enables, in short, is the ability to track online trading of a digital object, without relying on any one central authority, by using the block chain as the ledger of transactions.

What if we built a block chain system for news? Recording and verifying facts, data, updates, quotes, people, etc like the Bitcoin protocol tracks transactions in a database that no one owns, but of which everyone always has the same copy. (Update: This is meant more as “inspired by block chains,” but it would be different kind of system because we’re not dealing with transferring or owning the units.)

How useful would that be in the reporting and dissemination of information? With all the noise introduced during breaking news and even long, complex story arcs, it seems like there’s a lot of potential here.

The nature and task of art is different from news, but there’s much we can learn (stay tuned for more posts on that topic). Consider this from Anil’s piece:

Reblogging is essential to getting the word out for many digital artists, but potentially devastating to the value of the very work it is promoting. What’s been missing, then, are the instruments that physical artists have used to invent value around their work for centuries — provenance and verification.

Think of these two key terms he uses.

Provenance. 

Verification.

In the context of news, provenance could be the source of information — or it could be who first reported something. Verification, of course, is already a common term.

The next question then is: What instruments do we have to give our work value?

Not methods. Instruments.

All this — you guessed it — also makes me think of GitHub for News (more here). That idea would make tracking updates, contributions, feedback and even facts more structured by incorporating them in a versioning system like git.

Neither GitHub for News nor Block Chains for News would solve all the problems they aim to tackle. Anil’s piece smartly notes in the art realm:

as with any new idea, it can be difficult to reckon with the implications. Steven Melendez asserted that monegraph could “eradicate fake digital art”, when this is exactly backwards. In fact monegraph makes it possible to have “fake digital art”, because prior to this we had no consistent way of defining an “original”.

So, where should we start?

UPDATE: More discussion and explanation…

PoW = proof of work

Also, just for fun and more Bitcoin background: By reading this article, you’re mining bitcoins

Jorge Luis Borges on “the task of art”

April 20th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

“The task of art is to transform what is continuously happening to us, to transform all these things into symbols, into music, into something that can last in man’s memory. That is our duty. If we don’t fulfill it, we feel unhappy. A writer or any artist has the joyful duty to transform all that into symbols. These symbols could be colors, forms or sounds. For a poet, the symbols are sounds and also words, fables, stories, poetry. The work of a poet never ends. It has nothing to do with working hours. You are continuously receiving things from the external world. These must be transformed, and eventually will be transformed. This revelation can appear anytime. A poet never rests. He’s always working, even when he dreams.”

View on YouTube

Of aquariums and arcades: John Cage and Walter Benjamin

March 20th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

An interesting remark in the preface to avant-garde composer John Cage’s 1969 book, Notations:

A precedent for the absence of information which characterizes this book is the contemporary aquarium (no longer a dark hallway with each species in its own illuminated tank separated from the others and named in Latin): a large glass house with all the fish in it swimming as in an ocean.

This aquarium metaphor immediately reminded me of another work: Walter Benjamin‘s Arcades Project.

Both represent examples of literary montage — collections where the author’s primary contribution is the compilation of materials for the works.

In the case of Notations, Cage assembled a complete compendium of graphical music scores submitted by composers. For the unfinished effort known as The Arcades Project, Benjamin researched and cited works to create, in a way, his own arcade: an arrangement of windows into 19th century France for the reader to stroll through and explore.

What are similar examples of this that you’ve seen?

View the full Notations book on Archive.org:

Path of discovery

I first learned about Notations (and John Cage, though I had to formally discover him independently more than a year later) by reading Theresa Sauer’s Notations 21. I came upon that  and purchased it after being captivated by a post on Brain Pickings. (Although only very expensive re-sell or used copies are on Amazon, it appears to still be available directly from Sauer for $34.)

As for The Arcades Project, Max Fenton featured it during his week of the Snarkmarket Seminar in March 2013. He also kindly gave me a copy of the book (thanks again!) during the in-person gathering last November,  which I reciprocated by giving him a copy of Marjorie Perloff’s Unoriginal Genius.

And, to close the loop: I knew Max was interested in Kenneth Goldsmith, whom I learned about when fellow seminarian Tim Carmody recommended Uncreative Writing. Goldsmith, who references Unoriginal Genius early on in Uncreative Writing, helped bring Cage to my attention and rediscover the Notations connection.

Seinfeld’s “nothing” and John Cage’s “silence”

March 12th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Seinfeld called itself a “show about nothing.” The following video (via Lauren Rabaino) captures this cleverly by compiling moments of “nothing.”

As I watched, the stark “nothingess” compressed together in such a literal way reminded me of John Cage‘s concept of “silence.”

The experimental composer’s piece 4’33” is generally referred to as his “silent” piece. But, like Seinfeld, it is — despite its label — not silent at all.
For Cage, it’s about the shifting the focus from the performer to the audience and sounds of the environment in which the piece is performed.

With the general Seinfeld-Cage connection in mind, I thought:

Doing a quick search after this, I found that Joel Garten previously made a similar connection in a piece about MoMA’s current Cage exhibit.

As a longtime Seinfeld fan and someone who visited that Cage earlier this year, I never made the connection until sparks by that video.

Searching further, I found the connection to be even stronger when I stumbled across Cage’s 1949 “Lectures on Nothing:”

I have nothing to say and I am saying it

Nothing!

Let me know if you’ve seen anything about this connection before. I’d be very interested to read more or hear your thoughts.

P.S. Speaking of Cage, who used indeterminacy (a.k.a. chance operations) in his music, I’m also very interested to know if anyone has written about chance in Mallarmé’s poem Un coup de des as it relates to Forrest Gump:

#ONA13 workshop materials: Using WordPress to Structure your Beat

October 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Materials from the structure your beat session that Stephanie Yiu, Connor Jennings and I presented.

Examples

Politifact

http://www.politifact.com/ (using Django for structure)

- statements

- people (politicians and now pudits)

- legislative bills

- commercials

- states

- true/false spectrum of fact checks

Technically Philly

http://technical.ly/philly/

http://technical.ly/philly/directory/ (uses WordPress)

- people

- organizations

- projects

- expertise

Homicide Watch

http://homicidewatch.org/ (uses Django for structure, WordPress for posts)

Kaiser Family Foundation

has 30+ Custom Post Types that allow for faceting when you search their site:

http://kff.org/search/?s=vaccinations

They combined 10 years of content across 10 CMSes into WordPress:

http://vip.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/kaiser-family-foundation-bringing-20-years-of-data-into-wordpress/

The structured data allows them to generate these maps of State and Global Health Indicators.

http://kff.org/statedata/

http://kff.org/global-indicator/malaria-deaths/#map

General types

  • Crime

  • Education

  • Government

  • Transportation

  • Business

  • Entertainment

  • Arts

  • Restaurants

  • Food/recipes

  • Sports

  • Obits

  • Anything!

How can WordPress help?

Custom post types

http://codex.wordpress.org/Post_Types

http://wp.smashingmagazine.com/2012/11/08/complete-guide-custom-post-types/

Custom meta boxes

http://codex.wordpress.org/Function_Reference/add_meta_box

http://wp.smashingmagazine.com/2011/10/04/create-custom-post-meta-boxes-wordpress/

Plugin

http://wordpress.org/plugins/meta-box

Custom fields

http://codex.wordpress.org/Custom_Fields

Custom taxonomies

http://codex.wordpress.org/Taxonomies

http://wp.smashingmagazine.com/2012/01/04/create-custom-taxonomies-wordpress/

Misc

http://wordpress.org/plugins/post-meta/

http://www.advancedcustomfields.com/

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