structure

Social media and protocol / 1 comment

Social media is the largest mainstream technological development of recent years. While it has undeniably lead to an increase in the interactions we have with others, I would argue that these interactions also inherently seem less meaningful due to more stringent mediation. The latest generation of social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Digg, is characterized by highly formalized, high-frequency content formats—streams of short messages, status updates, short videos, and other forms of content, all apparently aimed towards instant gratification for short attention-spans. It appears that the more structure we impose on communications, the more homogeneous and predictable they become.

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The authority of formlessness / 1 comment

Lebbeus Woods, Same Difference

Lebbeus Woods, Same Difference

Form inevitably creates narrative, disclosing the intent and the hand of the author. Whether linear or non-linear, any narrative contains a particular point of view. On the other hand, formlessness allows for unencumbered individual interpretation. I think of formlessness in its purest state as randomness. The only true opposition to structure, it gives equal importance to each structural entity. It is the only truly democratic (objective) view of information.

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The narrative database

It is almost cliché these days to state that the database is the form of expression of our age. Many have written on this topic, from computer scientists to media theorists, from philosophers to artists. They have examined networks as the means for connecting and accessing related objects from databases, as well as protocol in the structure of the database as undermining the assumed autonomy of the object. In the art world, the separation between content and expression no longer seems controversial—along with protocol, it has become a topic of critique. Yet, despite the growing familiarity with the database, it is perhaps given too much credit as a form of expression. The largest misconception seems to be that the database supplants an author-driven narrative. It is often seen as anti-narrative, anti-hierarchical, when in fact the database itself has inherent narrative qualities.

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Metaphor and analogy in visualization

Curtis Wong of Microsoft’s Next Media Research group describes the architecture of information in three layers of what he calls a contextual pyramid: Engagement, context, and reference. Engagement draws the recipient in, context offers an explanation of the information source, and reference gives the ability to draw conclusions and connects to related resources. Metaphors and analogies are rhetorical devices which are used most often at the level of engagement, and can apply to concepts expressed through any form or medium.

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Visualization as navigation / 1 comment

Stamen Design, Digg Labs Big Spy Visualization

Stamen Design, Digg Labs Big Spy Visualization

Following the train of thought from Browsing informal hierarchies, this post investigates visualization as navigation. When can navigation double as visualization and provide the user with visual cues reflecting the organization of content on a web site or another digital media device? Already in use on many web sites, informal hierarchies have the potential to replace the widely used static, tabular navigation and its often arbitrarily determined categories with a more flexible and adaptive device, one which not only is more effective in orienting users within a particular hierarchy, but is also an iconic representation of the web site itself, providing a distinct visual identity which people will recognize.

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